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Be You, Bravely: Rachel of Our Yellow Door

Get ready, y'all. This lovely lady was such a sweet surprise this summer and I know you'll soon think the same thing! Today's Be You, Bravely feature is Rachel Nordgren who blogs over at Our Yellow Door. I had the pleasure of participating in her Singleness Series (which is still in session and I highly recommend!) and I was overjoyed when she agreed to share on Brave Love. Get to know her a little better below then hop on over to Our Yellow Door to show her some love!

Who are you, my dear?
I’m Rachel Nordgren…a Jesus-loving, coffee-drinking, simplicity-seeking, belly-laugh-loving, happily-newly-married woman living smack dab in the middle of the country with a super fluffy sweetheart of a dog named Banjo and the cat my husband wanted. My husband’s name is Hans. Clarification - he’s USA born and raised, his family is just really proud of their Swedish heritage. He follows Jesus, works hard, and loves me fiercely.  

What does it mean to be you, bravely?
To bravely be myself, I need to be running after God's approval, not the approval of others. He created me, died for me, conquered death for me, and loves me regardless of my "performance". He knows me intimately, He created me for a purpose, and He is most glorified when I am fulfilling that purpose. In the past, people have tried to fit me into the purposes they had for me, or the purposes they thought I should fulfill. There was no freedom in that, only a lot of disappointment and depression. I cannot live to build the kingdoms of men, but instead the kingdom of God. I've learned to set boundaries with people and to say no when they were calling me to do things that God had not called me to do. 

If you could have a heart-to-heart with younger you, what would you say?
Oh my. I would tell myself is to be seeking after God wholeheartedly, and with a pure heart. As a younger woman, I was positively obsessed with finding a husband. I spent so many years trying to coerce God into giving me a spouse, thinking that my "Good Christian Girl" behavior would earn me the relationship I wanted. Jesus wasn't the first love of my heart, and even worse, I was trying to manipulate Him. YUCK. I would tell my younger self that Jesus is truly better, that He will truly satisfy, and that He will truly provide for all my needs. I would tell myself to focus on my relationship with Him, and forget about a relationship with a man until Jesus decided I was ready. 

What is encouraging you this week?
The knowledge that every new dawn means that God has things for me to learn and accomplish. He's not finished with me yet, and that encourages my heart so much!  

Just for fun, what are 3 must have's?
 - Coffee (sometimes I honestly worry that coffee is an idol in my life...)
- My Binder (it contains my blogging notes + calendar and Lara Casey #PowerSheets)
- Fresh Flowers (they add so much cheer to a space!)

  Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Didn't you just love Rachel? She is a true gem and I know Our Yellow Door will soon be a favorite of yours, too. Happy Wednesday, y'all!

Q&A Day | You asked, I answered!

Today is the day, my friends. Last week I took a cue from Lauren and opened the blog up for your questions. Through e-mail, Twitter, Instagram, and more I was sent over a dozen questions you curious gals wanted me to answer. I combined a few and did my best to answer them thoroughly without writing a full novel but... well, I'll stop my blabbering and hop right in I think. Enjoy!

What would you name the autobiography of your life?
Great question! I have to admit I was excited about answering this one, and it may have taken me the longest to answer! Based on where my journey has taken me in my 23 young years of life, I might call it Deep in the Heart, a nod to the classic Lone Star anthem since it would largely be about life in small town Texas and the major lessons learned through the years. 

The other title that came to mind was Grace, Grace. It is a phrase I first heard in my college ministry at Baylor and have come to love. To me it means there is always grace; grace for me in my mistakes, grace to take big risks, and grace for others no matter what the circumstances. In the Amplified Bible grace is defined as the loving-kindness, mercy, and unmerited favor of God, and boy do I need that in my life! I want to live by a standard of grace, not perfection, and extend it to others as often as possible.

What are your go-to tips for confidence? 
Learning to be confident in my own skin and skills is something I am still learning. I think true confidence comes from being secure in who God says you are instead of being caught up in what others might think or say.  I recently read a book called Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke which is about finding that identity and walking out in your unique gifts and callings, secure in His love. In it is a list of "Things God Says About You" that rocked my world, each supported with scripture. 
  • You were made in His image. (Genesis 1:27)
  • You are His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
  • His plans for you are for good, to give you hope (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He is your providor, and He will meet your needs (Matthew 6:31-33)
Also never underestimate the power of the perfect shade of red lipstick and a classic black dress ;)

What do you fear the most?
That's easy. Heights. Dark water. Being outside alone at night. Spiders.
Actually, if I'm being completely honest, I struggle with the fear of missing out on God's will for my life. I so want to be in control, and I have this picture-perfect idea of what my future could and should be like, but I am often afraid that in seeking these desires/dreams I might miss what He is really calling me to do. Over dinner with a friend I shared my big heart dreams and that "perfect plan," and she looked at me with kind eyes to ask, "What if God has bigger dreams than that for you?" It was startling, but exciting too. My prayer these days is that I would say a daily yes, remaining willing to pursue the dreams He has for me, even if it throws me off my own "pre-determined" path.

How do you set a blogging schedule and stick to it? What is your process for coming up with ideas? A few days ahead? The night before? A month before?
I finally found a system that works! You know, when I use it ;) I use a combination of planning worksheets: this calendar, a planner from this library, and this planner, too. I typically don't have the time to write and post each morning, so pre-scheduling seems to work best for me. Sundays are my usual planning/production days. When a post is written, formatted, and scheduled, I highlight it on my check list and overview the rest of the week. Earlier in the summer, I had two full months scheduled out, Monday through Friday full each week. I did not actually post that many times, but I am learning there is space for grace. My calendars have scratch outs and arrows all over them as I re-route posts when I skip them. As far as coming up with post ideas, I am all over the place. I keep a running list on my phone of things that happen or phrases that stick out, topics I read elsewhere or think of spur of the moment.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of Brave Love?
Ah! I've got some big dreams for my corner of the internet! I want this to be a place that women can gather for encouragement and community, no matter what the numbers look like. I would love for this blog to remain an outlet where I can share my heart and story through each season. I've got big hopes of being a mommy blogger some day, Lord willing! ;)  But most of all, I want to learn to live Brave Love as I write it. I shared the vision behind the name here and I want to go back to it time and time again, seeking the Lord's heart for this place and letting Him grow it along the way.

How did you come up with your button design? And when do you think is a good time to start sponsoring/offering sponsorships? 
The button? I made myself dizzy in photoshop one night trying out different ideas. This was a happy accident! I think photoshop can be daunting to new users, but it really is not too difficult to navigate. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to share some simple tutorials. We'll see :)

Sponsorships is something that may be undergoing construction on this blog in the near future. Up to this point, I have offered button swaps or have added the buttons of blogs I regularly read for easy access. I know there are blogs out there with much greater followings and smaller followings that incorporate paid sponsorships. I have paid to sponsor blogs a handful of times and have learned a lot along the way.  I am more willing to sponsor someone that has a specific number of Twitter shout outs or page shares, featured posts, etc. that will get my blog out there to a large audience. If I merely want my button to sit on a sidebar, I have swapping options elsewhere. I don't know if this clarified anything, but it is where I stand these days.

When are you going to do another link up?
Very soon, in fact! Mark your calendars, friends. The Blog-tember Challenge will begin September 1st! I will have more details later in August as well as prompt for this blog-every-day challenge. Hopefully I will have a few co-hosts on board to make this the best link up possible :)

Who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite books?
This is much harder to answer than you might think! I am currently reading Let's All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs and Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury. So far, so good! As far as favorite authors, I would recommend anything by Gilbert Morris, Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Beth Moore. My recent reads and recommendations include:

  • Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke
  • Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
  • Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Book Thief by Markus Suzak

My all time favorite books would have to be Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, Edge of Honor and The Appomattox Saga by Gilbert Morris, and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.

What has been your favorite thing about summertime? 
The change of pace has been wonderful, and I cannot describe how nice it is to be home! I have been going stir-crazy from time to time, but my schedule is so flexible that I've taken several spontaneous trips to see friends and kept myself busy. I have finally caught up on the rest I was not getting before I left Seattle, and kicked a lingering sickness and back pain to the curb. This summer has brought the rest and relaxation I needed before diving into grad school.

What is a dream of your heart? A big dream (like writing a book or winning American Idol)!
Funny you should mention those... I need to go back and add "singing by myself" to my fears list ;) But writing a book is actually a big dream of mine! I have several books I want to write, fiction and non-fiction, most of which I have been outlining for years. I have an entire series set in the Civil War mapped out in a notebook somewhere, and this weekend I started putting an idea into charts and plot diagrams that has been on my mind for several weeks. I could use prayer in this arena, actually. I can already tell the trap of comparison and fear of failure trying to halt me in my tracks before I take the first steps. I am excited to write for the first time in a while and I want to see this through!

Thanks again for your questions, friends! I hope I did them justice. And thanks for sticking through to the end. That became much lengthier than anticipated. Have a happy Monday, everyone!

Q & A with Brave Love

Hello and welcome to my new friends and followers! It has been a crazy few weeks in my world, and I am delighted to be sharing with so many of you. Last night on Instagram, I shared an opportunity for YOU lovely gals (and guys if you're out there!) to send any and all questions my way for a little Q&A session on Monday. 

I wanted to treat this as a chance to share more of my story with you, and to have some fun while doing it. Ask me anything! Feel free to ask about blogging, faith, Seattle... anything you like.  :)

Here is your chance, friends. Ask away! 
Then check back Monday for my answers :)

100 Happy Days (Final Recap)!

You may recall that earlier in the year I started the 100 Happy Days Challenge. I took the plunge and decided to document 100 happy days via Instagram, taking time to pause each day and find something that made me smile. You may not recall that I have yet to post the final recap! AHH! Have no fear! I am here to take care of that... little... forgotten... detail.  The challenge came to a close just days before I moved from Seattle to Texas, and it is chock full of friends, footpaths, and funny Peter Pan moments. I highly encourage you to take the challenge! Gratefulness makes all the difference. I've included previous recaps below, and I hope you enjoy the final set!

Follow my adventures on Instagram: baileyjeanrobert.

76. It's always a happy mail day when goodies for my Project Life album arrive.
77. The cutest fingers of the little girl I babysit. She is precious!
78. Afternoon prop-making means sewing gluing together the cutest pirate flag around.
79. I love my journaling Bible more and more each time I use it.
80. The flowers in my neighborhood are the prettiest.
81. When running around the lake, inspiration can hit at any moment.
82. These kids will always have a special place in my heart! Peter Pan couldn't have been more fun!
83. My thoughtful Lifegroup (+ my roommate!) came to see Peter Pan's closing show.
84. I can't tell you how blessed I am to be friends with this guy! Luis was a gift to have in Seattle!
85. Happy Father's Day to the best dad around!
86. More beautiful colors to be found on my walk to Green Lake.
87. Beautiful artwork from Hobby Lobby; if only I could pick a dream to follow ;)
88. "You are beautifully created and intentionally placed." Amen!
89. My kids from Peter Pan signed a poster for me and surprised me at school. Such sweethearts!
90. Luis and I found our way around Elliot Bay Books. I wanted to do so for weeks!
91. Evan and I matched all too perfectly. Isn't he sweet?!
92. Sunsets on the beach never get old in Seattle.
93. Only one flower stood strong two weeks after Peter Pan ended.
94. I took some time to admire the flowers along my path to Green Lake. There are so many!
95. A little wisdom from Ann Voskamp goes a long way.
96. I played tourist with Mel and her girls, visiting the Space Needle for the first time!
97. A gold pen and my Women's Study Bible are two of my favorite things.
98. The Studio App makes beautiful images, including much-needed reminders.
99. A Sunday full of street markets, great friends, and quality time at my favorite coffee shop.
100. A sweet friend gave me a beautiful copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare just before I moved. My community supported me 110% and I miss them 110% of the time.

Why not give the 100 Happy Days Challenge a try? I missed a few days here and there, but it was still SO worth it! Let me know if you do so I can follow along! ;)

Not Your Ordinary Tuesday

Tuesday, I think you are all too often taken for granted. We loath Mondays, Wednesday deserves a cheer for marking the halfway point, Thursday is practically the weekend, and by Friday we're all set to party. But what about good ol' Tuesday? Ever faithful Tuesday. I'm a big fan, and I'd go as far to say it's my favorite day of the week. You can do anything on a Tuesday.

This Tuesday I want to share with you a little of what is inspiring me this summer. I dream of brunching over the news, drowning in hydrangeas and hand lettering. I am actually spending a lazy day at the art museum in my favorite green army vest, and if I'm feeling really crazy I may just take a ride on the carousel in the park. This Tuesday I plan to take it slow, enjoy the quiet, embrace the white space, and wander the halls of the DMA to the sound of my favorite movie scores. This Tuesday will be far from ordinary.

**Some of you may have seen this beauty yesterday. Oops! 
That's what I get for burning the 2:00am midnight oil and trying to schedule posts.

What are you doing on this extraordinary Tuesday? 
What is inspiring you today?

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101 Goals in 1001 Days || UPDATE #1

Earlier this year, I shared my list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days and have been checking them off like a mad woman ever since! Okay, okay, I've been checking them off every now and again and it feels so good! Who would have thought I would knock out 20 in the first six months?? Certainly not me. My 1001 days started on January 1st of this year and runs until September 27, 2016. I try to add at least one or two items from my list to my goals each month, and so far it has definitely helped! Below are a few of my favorites.

Follow along on Instagram: baileyjeanrobert! The rest aren't this grainy ;)

#55. Celebrate turning 23! Thank you for your sweet birthday wishes! I was overwhelmed by the kind notes, comments, texts, and the like sent my way last Wednesday :) I am more positive than ever that this year will be the best one yet! To celebrate, I spent the evening at my grandparents for our traditional spaghetti dinner, and my best friend was in town from Louisiana which made it all the more special! At dinner the following night with some friends from college, Michael requested that our waitress be especially embarrassing and gather anyone she could to sing me a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday. I'm sure the rest of The Cheesecake Factory's patrons enjoyed it as much as I did.

#75. Sell/donate the excess. When I was preparing to move to Texas, I quickly realized not everything would fit in my tiny red VW Beetle. I went through my closet and room, gathering boxes of unworn or little used clothes and decor and hosted my own living room sale for friends and roommates. Bailey's Bargain Barn as we jokingly called it was a success! Most items went for $3 and I was more than happy to send them off to my girlfriends' closets when they couldn't stay in my own. I ended up donating the left overs to Goodwill and Value Village (even spotting an item I bought for $4 being sold for over $20!) and I still have several boxes of my belongings being shipped to me from Seattle. Even so, it felt great to lessen the load.

Find the PowerSheets here!

#27. Follow my Lara Casey PowerSheets. This is a little premature, but at the end of July I will have completed my first set of PowerSheets! These goal setting work sheets walk you through six months of sticking to your core and making what matters happen. I bought a set last summer and only tackled one month. This year, they will be complete! It's all about progress, not perfection, and I have to say even though many a box went unchecked, the progress was remarkable! I also got to beta test the next set; get excited, y'all!

#33. Host a Blog Series, blogging every day for one month. Does anyone remember the Blog Everyday in February challenge? Boy, do I remember it! I also remember traveling 14/28 days that month for grad school interviews and a family vacation. A great time to have to post every day, am I right? Haha, oh that was a lesson learned the hard way (and that was prompt #16, I think!). I'm thinking about doing it again later this year. Anyone interested??

#74. Read 15 books/15 plays in 12 months! This one is a work in progress, but I thought I would share what I've read so far! I should have made it a larger number, so I may be changing it as I'm nearly through all the books! The plays on the other hand... I need to catch up ASAP.

Books (13/15)
The Fault in Our Stars
The Book Thief
Four: A Divergent Collection
The Notebook
Bridge to Haven
Finally & Forever
You Were Made for a God-Sized Dream*
Spoken For*
A Million Little Ways*

*Currently reading or almost finished. 
They totally count as I am always in the middle of at least three books ;)

Have you made your list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days? 
Or do you have any book recommendations? 
My 15 may turn into 25 to up the challenge ;)
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Happy Birthday to Me, I'm Feelin' 23!

Happy Wednesday everyone! I don't know about you, but I'm no longer feeling 22! You know I had to go there ;) Today I turn the big 2-3 and boy does that number excite me. I'm in my twenties, y'all! For a while 23 scared me. I knew so many people who were settled by 23, successful by 23, changing the world by 23 and in comparison I felt way behind (ah, those dangerous words -in comparison- they get me every time). I mean, come on, Leo and Kate were filming TITANIC at 23! So what am I doing? How am I making waves and rocking the boat? I'm stepping out into the water in full faith, or I hope to every day I'm able, trusting God that year 23 will be the best year yet. Who's excited? I know I am!

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What Kind of Blogger Am I?

"How did you start blogging?" is a question I am asked frequently. I used to be shy about admitting that I wrote a blog, and when I began it was largely for personal use. My knuckles would give way before my pen could catch up with my racing mind when I journaled, so I took my typing skills and put them to work. Xanga posts turned to Myspace notes which in turn became a Blogger page. I ranted, I raved, I tried to make sense of a tired heart, and words flowed. How did I start blogging? I simply started writing. 

"How do I start a blog?" is a frequent follower. I cannot tell you how delighted I am when a friend says they want to start their own and asks for advice! I am no expert, but I've been around the blogosphere for going on 5 years now, and I love it. After graduating from college and moving across the country, I value the blogs of my friends so much more as it is a great way to connect from afar. Anyone can blog, and I think everyone should if they so desire!

"What kind of blogger are you?" Out of all of the questions and e-mails, this is the one that stumped me most recently. I watched the blinking line on the screen and found myself at a loss for the right title, the perfect label, for what I do.

"What kind of blogger are you?" People want to put blogs into boxes, and it is easy to do. I have the fashion blogs that I check every so often and the inspirational/faith blogs I go to for encouragement. The newlywed blogs are a fun getaway for the day, and the DIY blogs get my creative juices going. But where do I fit? Where do I want to be?

Aha! "What kind of blogger do I want to be?" That is the question I am now asking.

There are days I can't wait to be the mom blogger. My besties in the blogging world are design and newlywed bloggers. Sometimes I'm the blogger who Instagrams more in a week than I've blogged in a month. Other times I want to pour out my heart and soul but my fingers stand still on the keys. What kind of blogger do I want to be? is a hard question to answer because I want to be all of them!

And you know what?
That is A-Okay.

Would I like to earn a living by blogging? Sure!
Do I want to be nifty and thrifty and DIY it up on the daily? Absolutely.
How about wedding planning and the like? If my season comes, of course.
Outfit posts and make-up ideas? Why not?
The list could go on and on. In fact, my list does go on and on.

I have spent far too long comparing and criticizing, and it caused me to forget why I started blogging to begin with. Oh, look. We're back at question #1 with a slight alteration: "How Why did you begin blogging?"

Now I have my answer. I want to get back to the why.
I want to be a blogger who is unafraid to share my heart. 
I want to be a blogger who can create pretty graphics on a whim.
I want to be a blogger who supports and celebrates other bloggers.
I want to be a blogger who personally connects with readers.
I want to be a blogger who is not consumed by the numbers.
I want to be a blogger who is true to the heart of Brave Love.
I want to be a blogger who speaks life, speaks love, and speaks truth.

That is who I want to be. Will you hold me to that? 

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A Weekend in Wacotown

Hello, hello, from Waco! I am back in the capitol of Baylor Nation --according to the newest billboard towering over my beautiful school-- and loving every minute of it.  Last Friday I packed my bags and made the familiar drive to Wacotown. Y'all, this city is hoppin'! It has changed so much and is really on the map. Thanks to Baylor's rising fame (aka a Heisman trophy winner and Big XII championship, among other things), it is no longer just a pit stop for lunch on the way to Austin. It is the home of HGTV's latest hit Fixer Upper and holds much of my heart. I couldn't wait to pop down and see my friends :)

I got into town around  Friday midday and met up with my old roommate and sweet friend, Alyssa. We went downtown to one of the new food trucks where another former roommate of mine works; it's called Club Sandwich but it serves tacos and is run by a hilarious Asian man. Check it out if you're in town! I was also positively melting from the heat so we camped out at Common Grounds for a study break/blogging session and Arnold Palmers. 

Earlier I mentioned the new show Fixer Upper, a HGTV hit based in Waco, run by a couple who goes to my old church. She has a blog, The Magnolia Mom, as well as a shop here in town. If only I was buying a home and had change to spare. Maybe someday! Alyssa and I swung by the shop and I wanted everything! I especially loved their tables cape with the greenery and mini chalkboards. You may see those again ;) For now, I will gladly wait until I am in my new place. I have no idea what will actually fit (or what's hiding in my storage room).

Saturday morning was the farmers market, and it has BLOWN UP since last year! We spotted Baylor president and legend Ken Starr, made the rounds to see everything available, and ended up at Co-Town Crepes. Strawberry and nutella always hits the spot. Spending time with Lyss and Kristen is always a treat, and I wish I lived just up stairs again. We were in Lifegroup together for three years and roommates for one. Can't I take them to OSU with me?

The highlight? Baby goats! One of the vendors had two baby goats for sale and they were ADORABLE. They bleated and I swooned, and when I held this little one he snuggled into my chest and I never wanted to let go. Isn't he precious??

A stop in Waco wouldn't be complete without a trip to Roots and Spice Village. If you're craving the Anthro vibe, Roots is the place to be. They have a great green and gold section (sic 'em bears!), cute clothes, and nifty kitchen gadgets. The prices beat Anthropologie and it's much more convenient than the two hour drive. 

Above are just a few bits and bobs from Roots. I'm always drawn to pretty cookbooks even though I rarely cook myself. After a trip to Roots, I met up with Trey for lunch and Nate for dinner. Waco summers are funny, either chock full of activity or absolutely deserted. I was so glad to catch up with great friends while I was here. They are the definition of refreshing.

Sunday meant the 10:00 service at Antioch Community Church (home sweet home!) followed by a trip to Ikea with Courtney. My wish list is ever-growing but I restricted myself to a small gold frame for one of Lara Casey's desk prints. It's the perfect size. Ikea is easy to get lost in, so I'm always glad to have company. Court is one of the funniest people I know and I'm so proud of her! She's going places, let me tell ya. 

The afternoon came to an end and I headed back up to Waco in time for a much needed nap before dinner. Alyssa, Kristen, Nate and I went to Cracker Barrel for an early birthday celebration (it's this Wednesday!) and we finished the meal with quality time in the front porch rockers and a game of checkers.  A relaxed evening was just what I needed.

Today I've got breakfast and coffee dates with a few Waco favorites before making my way back home. This little town is one that will always feel like home, and I know I'll be back soon. If you've never been, put it on your list. The capitol of Baylor Nation sure is a beauty.

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Adventures in Discovery Park

A few weeks ago, my sweet friend Stefanie and I took off on an adventure. We'd been chatting about doing a portrait session to get a few new "head shots" for my blog and portfolio website, but we kept having to reschedule. Tuesday we tossed plans to see XMen out the window and headed out to Discovery Park. I had only been once before, to celebrate my birthday last summer, and to my amazement there were pockets of pretty places every where you looked! If you're ever in the Seattle area, you should definitely check it out.

Stef is not only an encouraging, hilarious, and faithful woman of God, but also a stellar photographer. You should check out her Instagram account and follow right away ;) We traipsed through the knee-high grass during golden hour, being followed by joggers, bicyclers, and the biggest mosquitos I've ever seen. Okay, the biggest mosquitos I've seen in the PNW. (Everything really is bigger in Texas, including the bugs. Yuck.

The lovely Stefanie put up with my awkward and silly self and used her creative genius to snag the shots. We hid my chipping fingernails, I whipped my hair back and forth in the sun, and somehow she convinced me to lay down in the grassy meadow we stumbled upon. (Need I remind you I wouldn't walk barefoot in grass until college let alone lay down in it! She was a trooper putting up with me.) I've only been given a glimpse/sneak peak, but I love it already!

But you know what I noticed as soon as she posted this picture? I started picking out my flaws. I noted this element and that, criticizing my appearance and getting down on myself for one reason or another (listing the specifics would do no one any good) and somewhere along the way I skid to a grinding halt. Why do we do that? Why do we pick ourselves apart and struggle to take compliments? Why do we hold ourselves to society's ever-changing standard of beauty and resign ourselves to life with a less-than-enough mentality? I do it constantly, and I know I'm not the only one. 

Somewhere along the way, society decided that we had to change, that we had to become a certain type to be enough. To be accepted. To be liked. To be loved, even.  Friends, I want to tell you that is 100% false. You were made by the Master Creator. You were given gifts and talents uniquely purposed for your time on this earth. He delights in the way your hair falls in front of your eyes and has numbered each strand. The curve of your lips and the silhouette of your figure were carefully crafted by the original Sculptor.

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you." 
Song of Solomon 4:7

Altogether. Not one part of you or another. You are altogether beautiful. Your figure, your smile, your nervous habits, and your secret dance moves. You are altogether beautiful. The way you laugh, the way you cry, the way you crinkle your nose when you think. You are altogether beautiful. 

Anywhere you think you lack, invite the Lord to shine His light. Ask Him what He loves about you, then wait and listen. Let Him romance you with scripture and woo you with worship music. Bask in the knowledge that you are enough. He came to this earth to make fill the void, declaring you worthy and righteous and perfect in Him. You are enough. And don't you forget it.

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Be You, Bravely: Victoria of Happily Ever Strader

The Be You, Bravely series took a break while I was making the big move, but today it is back in action! Below you will meet the sweet Victoria of Happily Ever Strader and get to know that heart of hers I'm blessed to call a sister-soul! Recently she and her hubby took a dream trip to Europe for three weeks, and the towering picture of Big Ben is triggering my wanderlust ;) Be sure to say hello to Victoria and bask in the prettiness below. 


Who are you, my dear?

Hi! I'm Victoria Strader. I was born in Paris, France to British parents but somehow ended up living deep in the heart of Texas. I'm so thankful for the unique blend that builds my heritage. I love Kate Middleton and Southern Living magazine equally. :) I married my precious high school crush turned college sweetheart, Ben, in December 2012. He is a middle school coach and I'm a realtor. We are passionate about having a weekly date night and praying together at bedtime. Interior design is one of my favorite things, I'm passionate about loving people by having a clean, welcoming, and beautiful home. I live each day trying to serve and love Jesus and those around me, and to treat others with the grace I have received from Him. I blog at Happily Ever Strader and Instagram: @victoriastrader

What does it mean to be you, bravely? 

Let me let you in on a little secret. I'm not brave. Not even a little bit. But when I look back on the past year or so of my life, I see a few things. I notice that I've broken out from the mold a bit on a few decisions. I see that I've tried some new things that have always terrified me. Little old me? HOW? As I gain more and more perspective on life (at my ripe young age of 23.. I know... HA!) I have learned to try and take myself less seriously. "Failure" doesn't mean the end.. and doesn't necessarily mean failure. I think that for a long time I have feared being "foolish" for one reason or another. A family member once heard that fear and encouraged me to look up what the bible says about being a fool. It's nothing to do with making a decision a little bit different than other people. That makes me a little bit brave. Knowing that the Lord created me with specific desires and passions makes me a little bit brave. The precious encouragement that I receive daily from my sweet husband makes me brave. (I'm telling you.. if I told him today I want to become a traveling circus clown he'd ask where we need to sign up to get me in clown classes. I married the best man!!!) I have come to believe that living life in a way that makes Jesus the main character, and not me.. makes me a little bit braver. And in the end, every day is a new day. Why not try something a little different or tell someone your convictions? If you believe it, live it. :)

If you could have a heart-to-heart with younger you, what would you say?

Oh lordy! I've spent so many years of my life in fear and guilt and worry. I have let the opinions of others control me so much more than is healthy. Young me needs to have a reminder that the cross covers up ever bit of guilt and shame and fear more than I can even fathom. I am not a slave to these things because of Jesus's death for me. Nothing defines me outside of that great love and my overwhelming gratitude to Him.

What is encouraging you this week?

Let's be silly here for a second.. our english bulldog, Matilda. I have never been a dog person but I am truly obsessed with our pup! I do the majority of my work out of our home, and this little girly keeps me company and always makes me feel loved. I never thought that a dog would bring me joy but I seriously love her so much. Her company and devotion encourages me on the simplest level!

Just for fun, what are 3 must have's?

My Swiffer Vaccum. If you have hardwood flooring, you need this little baby. It's basically replaced sweeping that seems constant in rooms without carpet. I love nothing more than a clean home and this product saves so much time and energy. It simplifies my cleaning routine and I will shout it on the rooftops.... I LOVE YOU SWIFFER VAC!

Revlon Balm Stains. In the past 6 months or so... I've thought a lot about the importance of femininity and feeling beautiful. There is probably a lot to discuss and work through there, but what I'm saying is. Every girl needs a lip color that makes you feel extra spiffy. For years and years I thought everything but chapstick was weird... but it's not. This stain goes on like a chapstick and stains so I can still kiss my husband without leaving behind a mark. ;) If you're feeling a bit more fancy, YSL lipsticks are also worth every penny.

Candles. I cannot get enough. It is amazing how much these small little things can make me so happy and relaxed. I love volupsa brand, illume, and bath and body works (never buy unless they are on sale 2 for $22!)
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The Beginner's Guide to First Monday Canton

Perhaps the best kept secret of the Dallas area is First Monday Trade Days. This is giant "flea market" is over 100 years old, and it takes place the weekend before the first Monday of the month. It runs Thursday through Sunday and vendors from all over the US set up shop for thousands of shoppers who drive out to Canton, Texas from equally as far and wide. Mom and I used to go every month, but now our visits are few and far between because of distance. 

Last Saturday, we took the plunge and drove the short half hour to First Monday. Typically we go on a Thursday, the first day of the shopping weekend, because it is less crowded. We also usually avoid going in the summer months because Texas is H-O-T. Since it was a holiday weekend, we knew it would be one of two things: ridiculously overcrowded or surprisingly sparse. Thankfully it was the second and our trip was truly enjoyable. A light breeze kept the scalding heat away, such a blessing for this weakling fresh out of the sunless Seattle skies.

This is one of the pavilions Mom and I frequent. First Monday spans over 100 acres and welcomes over 6,000 vendors! You can find everything from Grandma's garage sale to "As Seen on TV" miracles. This particular pavilion has three rows of shops on either side, and the covering is coveted. I wish I had taken more pictures of the shops because I can't do them justice otherwise. Many of my our antiques and decor have come from Canton over the years. Dad always knows to be on standby if we call and ask for the trailer ;) 

The Beginner's Guide to First Monday Canton:

1. Wear comfortable shoesClose-toed shoes, preferably. You don't want to get run over by a buggy or stub your toe on the pavement. Believe me.

2. Dress for the weather. In summer, wear sunscreen and a lot of it. In the winter, wear layers. You'll be out in the open most of the time.

3. Visit on Thursday or Friday. You'll get first pick of the treasures and the crowds won't be too bad. Most Saturdays there is barely room to walk.

4. Plan to spend a full day and get there early. Mom and I shop from 8am to at least noon, but it's because we've narrowed it down to our favorite places. You could come every day of the weekend and still not see it all. 

5. If you love it, go for it! There are plenty of one-of-a-kind items, and there is no guarantee it will be there when you pass back through.

6. Bring cash and a checkbook/debit card. Many vendors do take credit cards but the smaller ones will be cash only. There are ATM's scattered, but it's best to have cash on hand. You also have to pay to park, cash only.

Say hello to the star of the show, Old Faithful, the classic Canton buggy. Mom has had this since before I was born, and they are the thing to bring to First Monday. If you don't come often enough to buy your own, they are for rent in several of the Arbors (You can also rent motorized scooters with a canopy and drink holders... but you don't want to be one of those people... besides, they don't always fit in the booths).

Our secret is in the wheels. Dad put on old wheelbarrow wheels some time ago and our cart makes it over the gravel and uneven terrain like a champ. You can customize your buggy bag, with plenty pretty patterns for sale around the market, and we have updated ours once or twice. I look forward to someday having my own Canton buggy, but I think that means I'll have to make my own purchases, and I'm in no hurry! (Thanks, Mom!)

There was no way I was leaving without a shot of this beauty! I don't think it was for sale, but these vendors go ALL OUT. You can truly find anything your heart desires at Canton. There is even Dog Alley, a specific area for dog breeders to bring their pups. It's not the nicest part of the market, but  there are puppies galore! Who doesn't love that?

This is Mom's favorite place to stop. In the summer, a frozen coffee cools us down and in the winter, gourmet hot chocolate warms us up. They give out free samples and it is located in the center of the biggest Arbor. Just down the way from it is a row of "store front" restaurants, and you can even find state fair favorites. Don't go too crazy on the funnel cakes, though. You still have to trek across the world to get back to your car.

My favorite purchase of the day is my monogrammed market tote! The pattern is a shining gold and I got the zip pouch to match. Cindy's is my new favorite vendor and it is the first one we go to upon arrival. They do t-shirts, tanks, tumblers, door signs, and purses of all shapes, sizes, and colors. We pop in when they open at 8, place our order, and it is ready for pick up by the time we leave at noon. Usually. Definitely seek her out if you go!

If anyone is in the Dallas area and wants to take a trip sometime, hit me up! There are plenty of treasures to go around. And if you know of any other flea markets out there, do tell :)
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Countdown to 23 | A Birthday Wish List

I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' twenty-two... at least for another week ;)  The big 2-3 is coming up on the 16th and it will be my first birthday spent at home in 5 years! Don't get me wrong, being at Baylor Line Camp for my 18th and in Paris, France for my 21st is pretty tough to beat, but I am thrilled to spend this birthday at home. We will do the traditional dinner at my grandmother's house: her famous spaghetti, a classic chocolate cake, and BlueBell's home-made vanilla ice cream. 

My parents bought my birthday present early, way back in March when I was working at Anthropologie and we had a special sale on home goods. Some shiny new dishes for my apartment are carefully tucked away until August; I just love to look at them! Even so, that doesn't keep me from daydreaming. Below are things on my wish list, for birthday, Christmas, pay-day, whatever.   You'll have to tell me what your favorite is, I'm having such a hard time choosing!

Links to each item can be found above!

What do you think? Anything I should grab right away? I'm also thinking about doing a fun birthday giveaway, and you might spot one or two of these items so stay tuned! ;)

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Happy 5th of July!

I hope everyone had a relaxed and enjoyable Independence Day! I am happily, finally in Texas after several delays moved our arrival to 2:36AM yesterday morning. I spent a lot of quality time in the Denver airport, let me tell ya. I was eager to get home and get to bed for the annual Young family reunion at my Great Aunt Barbara's. It was a smaller crowd than usual this year as well as my first time in 3 summers to attend, but I loved every minute.

The food was great, the company delightful, and the hot dog eating contest my cousins were watching was horrifying. Who in their right mind eats 69 hotdogs in 10 minutes?! That I'll never understand... Today Mom and I are walking off all the food we ate by going to First Monday Canton. I will probably melt in the heat --or burn to a crisp-- and you'll hear all about this gem of a flea market on Monday (I love it so much that it's up there with Disney World, and that is saying something). For now, happy 5th! Enjoy your long weekend :)

Isn't my little sister gorgeous?! 
Also, props to you if you see the resemblance. We never do ;)

REMINDER:  Don't forget to check out my post at Our Yellow Door about being single and thriving. It is the first guest post of Rachel's singleness series, and there are many more wonderful ladies sharing in the weeks to come! Hop on over to her blog to read my thoughts on the subject so near and dear to my heart, and to find out how beautiful dishes and Jesus are keeping me going!

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Goodbye Seattle, Hello Texas

Today is the day, my friends! Today is the day my season in Seattle comes to an end and a new adventure begins. This time last year I was barely getting my feet wet in the goodness God had for me here, and now it is time to say my farewells and begin the journey south. 

The places I will see today are near and dear to my heart.
Texas is home. It is my comfort zone, my family, my safe place. 
Seattle was my adventure. It was my unknown, my leap of faith, my big surprise.
Oklahoma is my future. It is my next step, my newest destination, my place to trust. 

Last night at Lifegroup, my friends asked what I would miss the most about Seattle. They are the answer to their question. Over the past year I have made dozens of new friends; I have met sister-souls and brave brothers who I will miss dearly. They encouraged me, welcomed me, supported me, and continue to do so even though my path is changing directions. It has been a bittersweet process  making the decision to leave, and these people have celebrated me so well on my way out the door.

Monday night was a bonfire on the beach. We made s'mores, soaked in the sun, relaxed in the sand, and cooked hot dogs with crescent rolls over open flames. At one point everyone gathered in a circle, taking the time to share what they think of me and encourage me out loud. I wanted to melt into the ground, I felt so blessed! No tears from me yet, though. Those will come next week ;) As the sun set over the mountains, the moon following close behind, a small group of us remained. Zach broke out his guitar and we spent the next half hour singing worship songs, resting in the moment, and watching lanterns rise into the sky. It was a magical send off!

But my week had only just begun! On Tuesday, Emily came over mid-afternoon and I watched the Sound of Music for the first time. I know, I know... but better late than never? It was a much needed break from packing, plus I'm now dreaming of dancing through Austria and having seven children. It could happen right? 

The afternoon turned to evening which sent me walking the three blocks to Green lake for the last time. Sarah and I relaxed in the grass for a picnic, much like we did my first week in Seattle last summer. Over a sweet and savory meal, we reminisced over this year and marveled at the things God has done in our lives. He is ever-faithful, amen?! 

Today I will finish packing my car, stuffing bags, boxes, hopes, and plans into my tiny Beetle, and my dad will begin the 4 day drive. I will then heave my suitcases into Sarah's back seat and take off for the airport, lifting off a few hours later for home. There is so much to process, so many stories to share, and I have so enjoyed journeying with YOU this year, too.  You are just as much a part of my story as the rest of them :)

Wish me luck in the move!

SIDE NOTE:  I am also blogging today at Our Yellow Door about being single and thriving. Rachel is hosting a series on singleness, and I was honored when she asked me to be part of the team! Hop on over to her blog to read my thoughts on the subject so near and dear to my heart, and to find out how dishes and dating work together in that conversation ;)

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A Cross-Country Countdown

For the past 10 days, I've been on the count down. Each day I have been drawing closer and closer to the day that I would pack my bags (aka stuff my car to the brim) and move back to Texas. I am ONE day away and have a certain song from Annie stuck in my head. I'll leave you to guess which one ;)

Last year I did a 10 day countdown leading up to my move to Seattle, but I wanted to mix it up this go around. Each day I listed something I was thankful for or would miss about Seattle. It was tough narrowing it down to 10 things! The countdown is recapped below, and I became even more grateful for each of these as I read them.

Texas, I will see you tomorrow. Seattle, I will see you again soon.
The adventure is just beginning.

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