We Are Not Enough

I have wrestled with my worth and value for as long as I can remember. I have measured my own abilities and God given gifts by comparing myself to those who seem to excel more than I could ever dream. I have doubted the ability I have to convey a message, to preach a truth, or to proclaim the gospel with the thought, “someone else is doing it better than I ever could.”

What lies the enemy plants in us that we doubt God’s ability to move through us.

For the past eight months I have been working on my Master’s degree in Marriage and Family therapy through an online, intense program. I have spent hours upon hours reading through textbooks, writing papers, and honestly, feeling isolated as I wonder whether or not I am fulfilling my calling. In these moments, it is hard to feel valuable, that God is working through my role as a student. I realize more and more as I learn through integrative counseling, it is not about us and fixing our own problems, it is about proclaiming our need and dependence on the one who can heal us, Jesus.

I recently (as in today) finished reading an amazing and gripping book that I deeply identified with, not only as someone who has struggled with the need for approval, but as a fellow sinner living in this broken world. In Jennie Allen’s newest book, Nothing to Prove, she eloquently describes the struggle that we all face, the belief that we have to prove ourselves. Whether that is proving ourselves to our family, to friends, or to strangers on the internet, we are ultimately seeking approval from things and people that will never satisfy us. Jennie stated, “To get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit that we aren’t.” How radical a thought this is in a world that claims that we command our own destiny and determine our own paths.

When we declare that we are not enough, we are opening up ourselves to be dependent on God. We are made to be dependent on Him, we are made to worship Him, to seek Him, and to live for Him and with Him. When we are able to recognize that He is enough…

“We can experience true fulfillment. We can live connected with Him and others. We can rest. We can risk for His glory. We can trade fear for hope. We can embrace grace. We can live out our true calling.” -Jennie Allen

While I may always struggle with my own self-doubt, I refuse to embrace the thought that God is not intentional. He has placed each of us here on this earth for a purpose and equipped us to serve Him in a way that no one else can. So, never doubt your ability to minister to others through your occupation, your season as a student, your role as a mother, father, or sibling, or even through your daily interactions. There is no need to prove ourselves, we will never be enough because God always will be.

…………….

“He is waiting. He is waiting and He wants to go crazy through you. You don’t feel like you measure up? Then you are exactly who God is looking for. You are the one. You are the one He is after. He wants you and me: the losers, the broken, the sinful, the ones who know and accept how great is our need of Him. That is how He works. Every single person in the Bible, besides Jesus, was broken, afraid, insecure, fearful, busy, did not have enough time, did not have enough money, did not have enough of anything- but God moved through them to change history.” Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove

 

Be Here Now.

Several months ago, I read a book called, “Cold Tangerines,” by Christian writer and mother, Shauna Niequist. I was immediately captivated by her words, her colorful voice, and her ability to find beauty and God’s grace in the most mundane places. When I found out that her newest book, “Present Over Perfect,” was coming out soon, I immediately was delighted to find another book that I knew would steal my heart. I could not wait one single second to share this book with every person who will read this post.

I began reading last night. I lite some candles, started a warm bath, and added some bubbles: because is there any other way to dive into a good read? When I say Shauna drew me in to her book, I mean I read eighty-nine pages and was forced to stop only when the bath water was completely drained and I was sitting in beautiful silence in an empty tub. But what makes this book so special? Is it the raw and honest way that she uses stories to connect herself with so many other people? Yes. Does her need for busyness and approval so deeply align with my own? Yes. And has her own journey of faith, shaking and imperfect, caused individuals, myself included, to want to grow deeper in relationship with God?–truly asking questions we may be afraid to ask ourselves. Yes, it is all these things and more that allow this book to be an anthem to those who cling to being good at something, those in need of outside approval, and those who seek affirmation.

. . . . . 

We are ingrained to want to be liked by others, for them to think that we have it all together. We shield ourselves from pain, anxieties, and stillness by keeping ourselves busy. Our calendars rule our lives and I am no exception to this. I list every appointment, my exercise schedule, market lists, and social outings. My actions are frequently determined by what I have written on small lines. While there is nothing wrong with organization or planning, it can be dangerous to fall into the busyness trap. One of my all-time favorite saying is a line from a Mumford and Sons song that states, “Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” What are you investing your time in? Do you feel guilty spending time reading or with family instead of being productive at home or for work? Let me say, busyness is not the enemy, but in glorifying it and stuffing your calendars full to the brim, are we really investing our time and energy in the right places?

For these reasons, “Present Over Perfect” has struck such a cord with me. I often struggle with simplicity in a society that screams MORE MORE MORE! We are taught to binge watch, binge eat, and binge shop. Having one job is never enough; we must have a job, hobbies, a spouse, 2.5 kids, and several pets. While I may not be in that stage of life that Shauna is in with two young children and approaching middle age, I still identify with her struggle for slowing down. I, too, desire to leave a legacy marked not solely by accomplishments, but by moments. When I am on my death bed, I do not want to be focusing on how much money is in my bank account, whether or not my appearance is picture perfect, or if my social media has racked up the most likes, I want to look back on the moments and know that I lived my life to the fullest.

So, while I still have seventy-five pages left to gobble up in this book, please let me say how passionately I recommend not only adding this to your reading list, but using it as a challenge to restart your life. I wholeheartedly believe that the white spaces in your calendar can have more impact than those scribbled through and color-coded.

Be Here Now. Be Present. Take In Each Moment.

Now go read and be the person that God is calling you to be. 

 

 

Our Summer Escape 

Two years ago I was set for a study away trip to California during winter break. Bright eyed and beaming, I began planning my trip down the coast of the state through San Francisco and other major bucket list sites. Sadly, a few weeks after applying, the professor leading the trip informed me that there had not been enough interest generated, and therefore the trip would be canceled. I was bummed. 

Having lived in Kentucky my whole life, I have dreamed of going out west. Although I have been fortunate enough to travel to nine countries in Europe as well as to several states in the U.S., including Hawaii, I had not visited the western region of the country. With this interest sparked, I have been determined to fulfill these goals. 

Last July I began dating my boyfriend, Cole. The first week of us getting to know each other happened while Cole was in San Francisco with his best friend for a concert. This further ignited my wanderlust for the West coast. 

Six months into dating we both asserted our need to go to/return to California. Our trip would be June 24-July 3. We saved up, bought the tickets, and excitedly waited for the time to fly out to get here! 

Day One: 

Cole played in a tennis tournament on the rooftop of the downtown SF bay club. The views were rad, he won his first match, and I got seriously burnt. Then, we got lunch at a cute cafe. Followed finally by a trip down to Crissy Field to see the Golden Gate Bridge, one of my top bucket list items and National Parks. 


Day Two: 

We began the day worshipping at Redemption Church, where Cole knows the worship pastor (a fellow WKU grad!). The environment was very welcoming and we really enjoyed the fellowship amongst the city life. It’s a beautiful thing to know that God is alive and at work in this city that is not typically known for spreading the gospel. 
After church, we hiked up to Alamo Square to see the famous Painted Ladies house. It was a sunny day and the houses were awesome! I was hoping to see John Stamos, but alas. (Full House reference for those who were unaware) 


We then went on a city wide bus tour for several hours which crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, roamed through Chinatown, and reached all the way over to the Haight-Asbury district, known as the hub of hippie culture in the 1960s. 

Lastly, we headed down to Ghirardelli Square for some DELCIOUS chocolate and walked up to Lombard Street to see the curviest street in America! 

Day Three: 

The long trek to Yosemite National Park! We drove four hours from SF to Yosemite and headed directly for the Yosemite valley, where my parents visited 30 years ago! We walked around for about two hours just breathing in the history and the perfection that is God’s creation. 

We saw Half-Dome


And Yosemite Falls 


and the Three Brothers 


After a long and tiring day, we made the hour drive to our lodge (probably only five miles as the crow flies). 

Day Four: 

Yosemite National Park! We drove to the top of Glacier Point and hiked for a bit, surprised at the 90 degree temperature in comparison to the 50 degrees in SF. ALSO, how AMAZING is our God to create sights like these for us? 


We then hiked the 2.2 mile trail to Sentinel Dome and were very pleasantly surprised when we encountered a panoramic view of the park from 8,123 feet! 


Day Five: 

While we had planned on going to Sequoia National Park, it was well beyond our driving capacities, we ended up going to a small patch of the giant Sequoias just 45 minutes south of the park: Nelder Grove. We stood next to trees close to 2,000 years old. It was very humbling, indeed. 


We then met up with some of Cole’s friends from IN back in SF for dinner. Again, this world is TINY. (Shout out to Emily and Sam for still being friends with us after watching us dance) 

Day Six: 

Off to wine country we went! We spent the day in Sonoma, California at Kunde Family Winery trying several wines, cheese, and desserts. It was a MUST for me and I definitely enjoyed the beautiful vineyard and delicious wines. 


Day Seven: 

Full day in SF! Cole and I started the morning by eating in Cole Valley! It was obviously necessary for us to go there. We ate at “Crepes on Cole,” and then headed up to Billy Goat Hill to take a picture on the swing over the city, however it was removed. I was crushed. Atleast the views were still good


We then walked around Market Street going to all the stores and then proceeded to walk up some of the steepest hills in SF. Even after weeks of working out, my calves were not prepared. After all the walking, we then made our way to Lombard Street to see the daytime view of the city. Finally, we ended the day by eating at the Cliffhouse overlooking Ocean Beach, the place where Cole was last year when we first began talking. Not even the freezing temperatures could keep us from having fun 


Day Eight: 

Last day in SF! WOAH! We packed it all in on our last day. First we headed down to the Mission District so I could see a super colorful house we had passed the day prior.


We then headed to a super cool coffee shop, Sight Glass, and had breakfast. Following, we went to see the Mosaic steps on 16th avenue (found on Pinterest!) 


And while it was a chilly, windy day, we couldn’t miss heading over to the Marin Headlands to see the view of the city and bridge from the Northside. Winds reached upwards of 40-50 MPH and I deeply regretted forgetting all my winter jackets, but being there made everything else worth it. 


We ended our trip by eating dinner and exploring Saucilito with my parents. 

All in all, the trip was chilly but perfect. I am so thankful I finally got to see these amazing places with my family and my adventure buddy. I can’t wait to see where life takes us next! 


Video courtesy of: Cole Claybourn. 

Many the Miles

Long distance relationships are not built for the weak hearted. Not only do the individuals in the relationship have to trust and respect each other, they have to be willing to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of one another. Distance can make any relationship difficult. Miles are driven, gas tanks are emptied, and goodbyes seem to come all too frequently. Luckily if you find the right person, every mile is worth the drive. 

I have been in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend, Cole, for now ten months. Ten months of dating from two different locations: Kentucky and Indiana. We go weeks without seeing each other, both caught in our everyday routines of work, coaching (Cole), and spending time with friends and family. Each day we do not see one another just becomes another day closer to reuniting. 

While it is tough to live two hours apart, it is also such a blessing. We look forward to each time we see each other, planning out where we will go weekends in advance. The adventures we have been on are just as numerous as some who live in the same city. From hiking, biking, eating all foods, coffee dates, cooking, hammocking, trips to multiple states, and our big trip this summer, California, we are constantly looking forward to something. 

I think one of the most beautiful things that the Lord is teaching us through this season in our lives is the gift of patience. Yes, our long distance relationship is difficult. Yes, we would like to eventually live in the same city and see each other more than twice a month. And yes, we would enjoy not having to plan out each time we see each other. However, we do realize that some have it much worse than us. FaceTime has been such a blessing and I so look forward to receiving a hand written letter in the mail as well. These little things make it all worth it. 

There are many miles between us, but I am thankful for a Lord that provides, an easy parkway to drive, and a man that loves so generously, earnestly, and beautifully. Never settle. Never believe that there are not wonderful guys out there. There are, and they are worth every mile. 

A Few of My Favorite Things

There are many places in this world that hold have captured my heart: Prague, Czech Republic; Bregenz, Austria; Watercolor Beach, Florida; and Nashville, TN just to name a few. Although I am not adventuring across Europe this summer as I did last year, I am thankful to have someone to go on adventures with this summer from Nashville all the way to San Francisco and Yosemite next month! 

As Nashville is one of my favorite places, Cole and I took some time to explore and have a date there this past weekend. I have been planning this day out for a few months, waiting to treat him to thank him for all his support during my contentment challenge. Our first stop was to head to Monnell’s in Germantown for some family-style home cooking. However, the wait was outrageous and apparently everyone had the same idea for brunch. We made the best of the beautiful area and snapped a few pics. 


Plan B: we headed to 12S, a cool area full of delicious foods, unique murals, and friendly people. We ended up eating at the same place we visited for Valentine’s Day: Burger Up, concluding that on the eighth day, God created those burgers and sweet potato fries. 



After waddling out from the restaurant, we walked up and down 12S, talking to people and enjoying the beautiful 65 and sunny, day. In February when we visited last, we tried to go to a local donut place: Five Daughters Bakery, but all the donuts were sold out! This time, it was a must, for me (sweet tooth is real, y’all). I got a vegan strawberry maple glazed donut and it was SO amazing. 


After leaving 12S, we headed to Cumberland Transit to get Cole some hiking boots for our trip to Yosemite! We spent time testing out the options and looking through all their great outdoor apparel. He finally chose some reliable shoes and of course I had to document the moment. 


We then stopped by Centennial Park, right down the road, in anticipation of hanging out in our Eno hammocks. When we got there, we found a music festival with food trucks and lots and lots of people. We walked around the park for a while and enjoyed the music. There was even a flower truck (be still my heart!) and Cole, being the lovely person that he is, got me a sunflower. 

After walking some more, we decided to skip out on hammock time and we rented bikes. 


Lastly, before heading home, we went on a hunt for a mural in the Gulch. This mural was done by Kelsey Montague, the same person who painted several murals we took pictures with in San Antonio, TX. Thankfully we found it and then headed back to BG!


After a fun and busy few hours in Music City, it is safe to say that no matter how often I visit, Nashville will forever have my heart. I look forward to our next visit there and for all the other adventures we are planning in the future. 

Stay Fabulous, Nashville. 

Life Beyond the Contentment Challenge

For those of you just tuning in, for the last three months (February-April 2016) I have quit mindlessly spending. Starting on February 1, I only spent my money on necessary things such as bills (rent, car payments, utilities), groceries (an outrageous amount when you’re only eating at home), and gifts (birthdays, valentine’s day, and “because I love you” gifts.) It has been ten days post-contentment challenge and I cannot believe how quickly those 90 days flew by. While there were many times where all I wanted to do was go out with friends and eat, grab a new pair of running pants, or even get my nails done, I am absolutely so thankful that I stuck it out and finished strong.

While my way of thinking has been transformed, it was not the challenge that changed me but the Lord who softened my heart. Through this period He was able to show me how destructive my spending had been not only to my bank account, but to Him. In my comparison, my coveting, and my greed all I was doing was further fueling the need for more. I would not just buy something because I needed it but was rather fueled by it. By emptying my tank completely, my need for the Lord became more apparent. It is true when they say that if you have the Lord you have everything you need. Yes, I need food, water, and shelter, but if you trust in the Lord to provide those things, He will.

One of the greatest gifts that this season has given me has been learning how to cook. If you had told me just three months ago that I would be cooking and cooking HEALTHY for myself, I probably would not have believed you. I am such a believer in sweets, carbs, and gluten; how could any meal be good without them? Once I began grocery shopping strictly out of need it became interesting to try new recipes and truly challenge myself beyond my previous abilities. From about the second week of the challenge I became ecstatic for the recipe box I was sure to purchase once the 90 days were completed. I am proud to say that I got that recipe box and have written down all the delicious foods that I prepared during those three months.

I want to include them for anyone to try! And please, if you have any recipes that you love, share them with me. [Check out previous blog posts for pictures of the meals]

Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bread

Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Extra Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges

Lemon and Thyme Chicken 

Slow-Cooker Chicken Fajitas

Vegetable Egg Muffins

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Floutas

Homemade Frappuccino

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Black Bean and Corn Tacos

Sweet Potato Bread 

Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Carrot Cake Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting

Vegan Loaded Sweet Potato 

For someone who used to consider boiling pasta as cooking, I have come a LONG way. In addition to these recipes, I made millions of smoothies and other simple meals. Shout out to Aldi, Meijer, and Kroger for becoming my best friends over the past three months.

While cooking and obviously reading took over a huge part of my life during this challenge, I absolutely could not have made it through without the support of my family and my wonderful boyfriend, Cole. He took me out for coffee when I couldn’t buy it for myself, went on many free dates of hiking and adventuring with me, and prayed with me along this entire journey. I am so grateful to have had someone to so ardently believe in me as well as listen to me rant about how long it takes to chop sweet potatoes or how much I have spent at the grocery. I am looking forward to taking him on a date this weekend in Nashville to show my appreciation.

Also, thank you to everyone who has read my blogs, asked me about my challenge, or offered up prayer during this time. Although it may seem silly, the accountability from everyone has been precious to me and I am thankful for it. And a final thank you to my Heavenly Father for guiding me throughout this process, filling my life with beautiful people, and loving me wholeheartedly amidst my lustful nature.  While this challenge may not seem like a big deal to most, this has marked a transition in my life that I know was part of the plan that the Lord has for my life. I pray that as I enter my life post-contentment challenge I may see the purposes that this season has served and continue to live out these lessons that I have learned.

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Contentment Challenge Week #12

86 days, twelve weeks, almost three months, I have gone without. I have lived without Starbucks coffee, I have made it through without purchasing new clothing, I have survived on only necessary things. 

While it may seem like the contentment challenge has been limiting, causing me to sacrifice my habit of shopping or finding community through going out to eat, it has rather been an extremely eye opening and time of growth in my life. As I close the page on this last full week of the contentment challenge and look toward the epilogue, May, I begin to truly see how much this spending fast has changed me. 

So instead of picking apart week #12, criticizing myself for how worldly I am, how much I may complain or compare, I am going to use this last post of my weekly contentment challenge to list the great things that the Lord has done in my life this past week. 

12 blessings week 12 brought: 

  1. Lots of time at work. I work two part time jobs and since I am a personal assistant, when my job for the day is complete, it it finished. So each day brings something new. This past week was especially busy and full and I’m thankful for a larger workload for me to earn more (and save more money!) 
  2. Clean eating! My sweet tooth is always beckoning me to indulge in dessert first. While this doesn’t normally bother me, I have been working out almost everyday for the past two and a half weeks and with that, I have been trying to clean up my eating as well. Besides the little bit of dark chocolate, my eating habits have shifted substantially and I feel myself having more energy and a bigger desire to be up and moving 
  3. Major spring cleaning. Although I have been getting rid of things (clothing, sweets, accessories) through this whole challenge, this past week I pulled every article of clothing I own out of my closet and drawers and got rid of about four bags full. I was holding on to many items I thought were bringing me joy or that I might need in the future. By getting rid of those items, my closet and drawers are lighter and have more space and it will be much easier to move to Louisville in a few months with less items. 
  4. Friend time. It has been difficult to see friends since I have graduated from college. Since most of my friends are still in school, our schedules are often conflicting and I do not get to see them as frequently as I did prior to graduation. This past week I was able to go on a long walk with Ann Lundy, spend a few days at the gym with Shannon, have a movie night at Annie and Liz’s, and meet Caitlin and Isabelle for dinner in Owensboro. 
  5. Unexpected time with Cole. Being in a long distance relationship is tough, thankfully I have a guy that makes every mile worth it. Cole and I had not intended to see each other this weekend. He had to coach a tennis tournament and take a test for his teaching license, so we figured we would go a weekend without seeing each other. On a whim I decided to meet him in Owensboro and then later drive to Evansville to hangout with him for about 24 hours. Thankful we got to see each other. 
  6. The most glorious weather. Temperature reaching up to 83 degrees in April, that is crazy. This past week has been beautiful and warm and the flowers are blooming like crazy. I’m thankful to have been able to wear three dresses and some shorts this past week, allowing my legs to get a little less pasty. 
  7. A good read. I know, I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned books up until now either! This week has been busy, so I only got to read one book, but I highly recommend it. I read Gary Chapman’s (author of The Five Love Languages) book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. This book was definitely interesting for me as a interpersonal communication person and future marriage counselor. It allowed me to be able to learn several important skills for my own relationship maintainence as well as how to counsel others on this topic. 
  8. Long walks. Normally given my schedule I walk or run indoors on a treadmill. This weekend, however, I was able to go on a 2 mile walk around Henderson, KY while Cole was playing in a tennis tournament. Yes, I did watch him play for a little bit before and after my walk. It was so nice to enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the view of the river. I enjoyed finding cool, old houses and plenty of unique places to walk around. It was a nice way to get in exercise and have a good time doing it. 
  9. Birthday cake martini. So if you know me, you know I’m not a big drinker. I mostly like sweet wines, wheat beers, and the occasional cocktail. Well, this weekend I was reunited with some sorority sisters and we each got a unique martini at a classy bar in downtown Owensboro, KY. We tried each other’s drinks and felt like actual adults discussing post grad life and being in the company of young professionals. 
  10. San Francisco Dreaming. For years I have imagined going to the West coast, seeing beautiful cliffs and mountains, and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. This summer that trip is finally becoming a reality and I am SO EXCITED. My boss has approved the dates and I have saved enough money for a plane ticket and then some. All that’s left is to wait. 
  11. A relaxing morning routine. I touched a little on this in my previous post about my morning devotional, but I am NOT a morning person. I never have been and I never will be. However this past week consisted of earlier mornings, time for the gym, quiet time, my coffee, and even a little Netflix. I have truly enjoyed my mornings and will forever hate getting up early, but perhaps if I continue to make getting up a habit, it will become less difficult. 
  12. The light at the end of the challenge. Lastly, this twelfth week has shown me the reality of how far I have come in this challenge. I have less than five days left. While this I exciting, I am also saddened to think about who I was before and how I do not want to return to being that girl. So for these final days of the challenge, may the ideals and patterns of my behavior over these past three months continue well beyond the confines of this challenge. 

Thank you all so much for supporting me and encouraging me. Here’s to the last FIVE DAYS!