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Making SEPTEMBER Happen

Happy almost-September! It's going to be a big month in many ways, and with The Blog-tember Challenge starting TOMORROW I thought I'd share my goals a day early. I remembered over the weekend that it was time to take on the next month's PowerSheets and became positively giddy.

Intentional goal-setting has greatly shaped my days and dreams over the past two years, and I cannot recommend Lara Casey's PowerSheets enough. She's coming out with a new set for the new year in November, with lots of fun updates, different color options, and STICKERS! You won't want to miss them.

August Goals:

1. Finish the Seattle season well.  YES! I may have been sick my last two weeks in town, but it wrapped up so nicely: a downtown adventure and the TAYLOR SWIFT concert with Emily, dinner with friends my last night, church at Mosaic and lunch with everyone afterward, and a successful (though sick) final week of camp. I miss these people so much already, but I have peace about closing the door on that chapter.
2. Settle back in at OSU. Done and done. I've been back in town for three weeks, and I've finally finished unpacking, doing laundry, and hanging my gallery wall. The latter only took me a year to finally decide how to hang it. It feels good to be back though I'm still finding a rhythm.
3. Start Almost, Maine with a bangI'd say this can be checkced off! We held auditions the first week of classes and started rehearsals last Monday. We have just over a month until the show opens, and I'm already having a blast with my team. There has not been a rehearsal that hasn't left me laughing so hard I cried.
4. Continue the Contentment Challenge. Er. It worked. For a while. My bad spending habits seemed to have been showcased last month, especially once I got back to Oklahoma. All those things I "needed" for school and for my apartment? I probably didn't. But there is grace. Praise the Lord for grace.
5. Follow the Write the Word Journal. I absolutely LOVE my journal. Each day there's a space for a grateful list, a specific scripture to write out/draw/doodle/reflect on, and a full page for your heart's ramblings. I don't do it every day, but it's been several times a week since I picked it up, and I hope to continue. She's almost sold out so hurry and get yours!
6. Find a routine of getting active that WORKS. I think I've actually found a way to make this happen. With homework finished on the weekends, I can use my long lunch breaks to head to the gym. I'm also reserving Netflix for the gym/weekends only so maybe that will be good incentive. I only went a couple times during the first week of classes, but I hit 10,000 daily steps several times and hope to keep that going, too!
7. Clear the clutter + don't bring more in. I have a box to go to Goodwill in my trunk, and more purging to do that's for sure, but I didn't quite hold up the latter half of the bargain.
8. Blog + Instagram with intention NOT obsession. I took a social media free weekend this weekend and BOY was it tough! I kept opening the mail app that had slid into Instagram's place when I cleared it from my phone, and that certainly tells me how often I am on it. Even so, I have had so much more fun and found more joy in Instagram by connecting with the Illustrated Faith community and sharing my heart rather than just things. It is certainly shaping my view of it.
9. Write the words He gives me. I would pair this with the goal above. Words came and inspiration struck more often than it has in a long time, and it usually ended up on Instagram. I still have a burning desire to write more, and I hope to cultivate and listen to His voice on that in this coming month.

Now for September's goals. They are a doozy! I have several weekends of travel and theatre responsibilities in the weeks ahead, but I cannot wait to make some of these things happen! This month, no matter the craziness that comes, I want to enjoy it and make the most of it, and I would love for you to join me! In an effort to savor my season I am going to use the monthly hashtag from last year: #savorSeptember. You are welcome to follow along on Instagram and tag your own photos with it, too!

September Goals:

1. Host The 2nd Annual Blog-tember Challenge.  Tomorrow! Tomorrow! The challenge starts tomorrow! I have been writing like a mad woman, prepping for the posts ahead, and I have had such sweet feedback from gals getting involved. I cannot wait to connect with you all!
2. Attend The Influence Conference. This has been on my calendar since LAST September and it is two short weeks away. Are you going?! I am practically jumping out of my skin in excitement to finally meet some of my blogging/Instagram friends in person and to hear the wisdom from the speakers this go around. Let me know if you're going, I'd love to connect!
3. Direct Almost, Maine intentionally + thoughtfully. If I'm not careful, this rehearsal schedule could run away with me. I want to be excited each day as I go and intentional about how I conduct myself and my rehearsals. It is a beautiful play and I want to share it well.
4. Spend quality time with family. When I came home from Seattle, I landed in Dallas on a Tuesday night and had to be back at OSU the following afternoon, which left very little time for family. I had dinner with my mom and sister, lunch with my grandparents and brother the following day on my way out of town, but didn't see my dad at all. The long Labor Day weekend means quality time with the lot of them and a late (late late late) birthday dinner at my grandparents. I'm so looking forward to it!
5. Dig into the Old Testament with Alex. One of my sweet friends here at OSU and I are diving into the Old Testament this semester, taking a closer look at the figures we've heard of for so long. I'm praying that scripture and these familiar tales really come alive in a new way. I have a commentary I'm using alongside a few different Bible versions, but if you have any favorite resources for studying the Old Testament, let me know!
6. Get active! When I worked on my next set of PowerSheets for this latter half of the year, I chose the word ACTIVE to describe how I want to be in the weeks to come. I literally want to get active about taking care of my physical health, taking dance classes, getting to the gym, 10,000 daily steps, and so on, and I think I've found a routine that will work.
7. The Contentment Challenge. This has been SO challenging. It was initially labeled "Continue The Contentment Challenge" but I don't think I've followed it well enough to deserve the word "continue". It's more like starting from scratch with new tactics. I've given myself $20 for each week to spend eating out or on a treat during the week, reserving any eating out/events for the weekend only if connecting with other people during it. Otherwise, I have plenty and I am good to go with what I already have at home.
8. Get homework done ahead of time. My weekends are now to include prepping for the coming week. I find that I am so much less stressed and have more time to sleep and relax when I have the homework taken care of on the weekend. No more going to bed to procrastinate, promising myself to get up early and finish in the morning. That always results in a few too many snooze button hits and scrambling to piece things together. Not this month. Not this YEAR. I plan to get ahead.
9. Read 5 books. I don't think my "100 Books/Plays in a Year" goal is going to happen unless I'm dedicated, and I've already set aside 4/5 for this month: Simply Tuesday, Hugo & Rose, Wild in the Hollow, Dancing Through Life, and Girl Meets Change. 

Okay, September, do your worst (or really YOUR BEST)! I can take it. From The Blog-tember Challenge and The Influence Conference to daily goals of working out and reading, I think it is going to be plenty full.

Now what about you?
What do YOU want to make happen in September?
PS. September is the BEST MONTH to sponsor Brave Love Blog! Why?! With The Blog-tember Challenge, I get the most traffic on and around my blog that I will all year! You don't want to miss this chance to get some new followers out of the deal :) 
For sponsoring details, CLICK HERE.

Currently in August

With The Blog-tember Challenge on the horizon and grad school back in full force, a "currently" post is all I have time for today, but you know I love them :) There is a similar post tucked into the Challenge, so feel free to save this list for your use on September 12. 

Reading... Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman and The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. Both lingering from my summer reading list, and both so good!
Playing... catch up on sleep. Can it be the weekend already?
Watching... Bones! This show is ADDICTING and an emotional roller coaster!
Trying... to stay on top of homework. I prepped some over the weekend and have plenty more to do.
Cooking... chicken and asparagus. Again and again. Keeping it simple seems to work.
Eating... the Reeces mini's I hid in my desk. Nothing like a midday or midnight snack.
Drinking... Diet Snapple peach tea. Y'all, this is some good stuff.
Calling... all of my actors by their character names, mixing those up too. #directorproblems
Texting... with Katie about all the things and Ellie about all the Bones freak outs ;)
Pinning... Christmas decorations. It's never too soon!
Tweeting... with my Influence Network gals. The conference is OH SO SOON!
Going... to the Influence Conference next month! I am EXPLODING with excitement as the countdown continues!
Loving... spending time painting in my journaling Bible. Follow the journey HERE.
Hating... the heat. Fall cannot come soon enough.
Discovering... that the procrastination habit is hard to kick, but I want it to GO AWAY.
Thinking... about Almost, Maine. There is a to-do list a mile long for this show with my name on it.
Feeling... like I could sleep for a week Anyone else?
Hoping (for)... a productive and peaceful week. We made it halfway! Only 2 days to go.
Listening (to)... Joy Williams's new album. GO. LISTEN. NOW.
Celebrating... the start of my second year of grad school. Woohoo!
Smelling... one of my favorite essential oil combos in the diffuser: Christmas Spirit + Lavender.
Ordering... Essential Oil refills! I have run out of some of my favorites, and finally got around to ordering the next batch. If you're interested in Essential Oils, check out my post HERE!
Thanking... Emily Ley + her team. They featured my pic and I got 100+ new friends on Insta yesterday!
Considering... where I want this blog to go in the future. I've got some big dreams, y'all.
Starting... to plan posts for The Blog-tember Challenge! So excited this kicks off next week.
Finishing... the two books listed above! I just can't put them down!

What are YOU up to currently?

The 2015 Blog-tember Challenge

It's almost that time of year again! While August brings the start of school, severe Texas heat, and bouquets of sharpened pencils, September will bring an altogether different treat. Last year I hosted two month long blogging challenges; the first in February when I spent 14/28 days traveling (yikes!) then again in September, shortly after starting grad school (prime time, right?). So now, without further ado may I introduce

  The 2nd Annual Blog-tember Challenge! 
September 1 - 30, 2015

The Blog-tember Challenge is a daily link up that will begin September 1st. Below I have provided a prompt for every day of the upcoming month and each day you will be able to link up with everyone participating. I wanted to share these ahead of time so you can write whenever you'd like! I know I'll be prepping most of them beforehand. #gradschoolproblems

The Blog-tember Daily Prompts:
Tuesday, Sept. 1: Introduce yourself however you like! Pics, vlog, collage, your choice :)
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Describe your ideal day. Where would you go and what would you do?
Thursday, Sept. 3: Create a collage or inspiration/mood board that describes your blog.
Friday, Sept. 4: What are you passionate about?
Saturday, Sept. 5: Put your iTunes/music player on shuffle and share the first 10 songs that play.
Sunday, Sept. 6: Share your style. What fashion trends do you love, frequent, or avoid?
Monday, Sept. 7: Tell us about your blog name. Where did it come from?
Tuesday, Sept. 8: Tell us about your favorite season. Why is it your favorite and what does it say about you?
Wednesday, Sept. 9: Write a letter to sixteen-year-old you. Any advice or funny stories?
Thursday, Sept. 10: 10 items off your bucket list. If you haven't made one, now's a good time to start!
Friday, Sept. 11: It's a Friday night and you decide to stay in. What do you do?
Saturday, Sept. 12: What are you up to currently? I have examples here and here.
Sunday, Sept. 13: Create a collage or inspiration/mood board for this season in your life.
Monday, Sept. 14: The 5 books that have impacted your life the most.
Tuesday, Sept. 15: What's in your bag? Pick up your purse and peruse its contents, then share with us!
Wednesday, Sept. 16: The real you vs. the online you. Are they the same or different?
Thursday, Sept. 17: Just for fun, your latest obsession. What can you not get enough of these days?
Friday, Sept. 18: Record a VLOG! It can be about anything you'd like!
Saturday, Sept. 19: Tell us about one of the best days of your life.
Sunday, Sept. 20: It's guilty pleasure time! Shows, books, songs, foods, whatever it may be.
Monday, Sept. 21: A favorite quote/expression and how it has impacted you.
Tuesday, Sept. 22: Get creative! Sketch, paint, dance, play music, whatever then give us a glimpse.
Wednesday, Sept. 23: Grab a guest post. Recruit a friend or fellow blogger to share on your space for the day.
Thursday, Sept. 24: Shout out five of your favorite bloggers. Who are your regular reads?
Friday, Sept. 25: Three songs you are connecting with right now.
Saturday, Sept. 26: What's on your to-reading list, and what have you recently read? 
Sunday, Sept. 27: What's on your wish list? Be sure to include links so we can shop too ;)
Monday, Sept. 28: A day in the life. Take us through it with you.
Tuesday, Sept. 29: Write your own list of 10 blog topics to inspire us next month.
Wednesday, Sept. 30: A farewell coffee date. Take some time to breath, sip a warm drink, and share with your new blogging buddies. If you'd like a prompt: how did the Blog-tember Challenge go for you? Any surprises? What was your favorite prompt, or what would you like to see included next time?

And now the invitation. Won't you join me for the #blogtemberchallenge?  I know the idea of posting every day can seem overwhelming, but with a little planning it can be totally manageable. Feel free to follow one of the prompts, all of the prompts, or none of them. Some have followed the challenge Monday through Friday, taking weekends off, but do whatever you like! The main goal is to get us all writing together, and we may as well learn more about our favorite bloggers and get to know new ones while we do it!

There really are no rules to this. I have provided a button that links back to the prompt page for ease of access, and I will offer a link-up at the end of each of my posts. If you share your posts on Twitter or Instagram, be sure to hashtag #blogtemberchallenge so we can all follow along! If you're in, let your readers know what's coming up and give them the opportunity to join in as well.

Report back here on Monday, September 1, with your first update! 

Illustrated Faith | Tabs & Techniques

I am always curious about the ways that different people study scripture. Growing up in private Christian elementary schools and attending Sunday school every week, I knew my way around the Bible quite well by age ten. I was a pro at Sword drills in Awanas (we'd race to see who could find a verse the fastest) and I had my Bible tabbed, highlighted, and underlined with pride. But that's just it. I knew the Bible stories backwards and forwards but over time the scripture became old hat. Something to volunteer to read aloud at Bible study and to spout with pride. 

In college things started to change, and I am so thankful for the sweet friends and community that encouraged me to dive in daily and believe that it is a living and relevant gift from God. However, being the routine girl that I am I would set up a study format, follow it for a while, then be desperate for a way to mix it up. 

When I discovered Shanna Noel's instagram and how she used her journaling Bible, I was fascinated! Her idea of Illustrated Faith appealed to my creative side while also opening the door to a new way to spend time in the Word. I'll admit, I bought a journaling Bible then left it alone for months, too scared to actually put paint to page.  

I've been painting for a few months now, though I left my supplies in Oklahoma over the summer, so this weekend was my first time back at it in a while. I bought a tab punch and stickers to make custom tabs for the Bible, watercoloring pages from my actual journal before punching them. It took A LOT longer than I expected to make and attach those tabs. But hey, I'm now on season 6 of Bones ;) I may have had to take a break because I was WEEPING over several episodes. 

The tab punch is by We R Memory Keepers and is currently on sale at Hobby Lobby, as are the coordinating tab stickers. You can make them out of any paper material, customizing as you like. I stuck with the watercolor look for the books of the Bible, but I've started using other scraps for subjects or specific verses.

My favorite thing is to paint objects from around my apartment or that I see regularly in daily life. It helps me connect the verses with what I see most frequently, making them easier to memorize and keep in mind throughout the day. My journaling Bible is an ESV single column Bible with a leather binding, but I'll typically write in the verse in a different version to have a couple on hand.

The Anthro candle-esque sketch above is one of my most recent favorites. Now for the rest of the weekend's work :)

This one is actually from earlier in the summer. I started it before I left for Seattle and just finished it on Saturday. One of my favorite verses with a few of my favorite things: giant balloons with tassels!  How much more festive can you get? The watercolor set is a Simply Artistic set from Michael's. I'm slowly breaking it in.

If you're curious about Bible journaling I'd suggest checking out the following hashtags on Instagram: #biblejournaling #illustratedfaith #journalingbible and #documentedfaith. I scroll on the regular for inspiration; I love seeing how people connect with scripture.

Have you tried Bible journaling? 
What's your favorite way to connect with the Word?

Sweet Tea for Two | August

If you and I went on a coffee date, I'd take you to McAlister's or Chick-fil-a. I know, I know, it's not coffee, but I'm more of a hot chocolate girl and there's no way I'm ordering that in this heat. Instead, we'd sip our sweet teas and tuck into a booth in the back. If we're close to the play room, I'd get distracted watching the kiddos romp and roll, and I'd blame it on missing my Seattle family. Living with five littles under age seven puts the kid radar on HIGH so I'm constantly checking to make sure everyone is present, playing nicely, and not hanging precariously from the play structure.

So, let me rephrase: If you and I sat down for sweet tea I'd smile, sigh, and sink into my seat before taking a sip. I'd tell you about my summer and how I can't believe it's already gone. My Seattle season came and went in the blink of an eye, two months gone in a flash, and the reality of grad school year two approaching is both exciting and frightening. The ever-future-minded me would gush about my upcoming show, classes, and responsibility, while rattling off a list of possibilities for post-grad life. Gotta get myself a big girl job and start paying off these loans. Oh wait, I have to graduate first. Which means I have to start the school year first. And I have a few days before that starts so praise the Lord!

If you and I sat down for sweet tea I'd tell you that my new favorite stress reliever is my journaling Bible. I picked up the creative scripture study technique last semester but put it on pause when I left my journaling Bible behind this summer. Now that I'm back, it has been so fun to dive into the Word and let it resonate with me. Gals like Shanna Noel are so creative and do some wildly beautiful journaling, but for now I'm sticking mostly to simple watercolor pictures. Relating objects I find around my house or in the day-to-day helps verses stick. Now every time I see the classic Anthro Volcano candle, I'll think of 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

If you and I sat down for sweet tea I'd complain about my apartment, but just for a quick second. I LOVE living where I do, and it is so nice settling back in and decorating the place to make it fresh, but I am NOT a fan of the water smelling like rotten eggs for three days now. No sir, no ma'am, no thank you. The land around my building is in perpetual construction, and I have become the property manager's nightmare with daily e-mails. And I'm also that person who leaves notes on people's cars when they park in my assigned spot in the garage; they have the perfect combination of sweetness, snark, and a smiley face, so it's okay right?

If you and I sat down for sweet tea I'd admit that I've become OBSESSED with Bones! Like I needed to get hooked on a television series when my show is about to start. I gave it a try during finals week (a genius decision, I know) when I finished Criminal Minds, and I've been powering through the first five seasons all summer. But, knowing myself, I'm going to have to go to a weekends only rule when classes start. Ain't nobody got time to binge watch four episodes after rehearsal. At least I don't. 

If you and I sat down for sweet tea I'd have to tell you I'm worried about loneliness. Not in the "I hate being single and feel forever alone" sort of way, but in the "I know myself and how I can turn into a lone island during school" sort of way. Saying goodbye to friends from Seattle is hard. Coming back to school without the gals I was closest to last year is hard. Looking at my schedule for the next two months feels hard. And I know myself enough to know that I can throw up walls and hibernate when taking the initiative with new friends or sorta-friends becomes hard. Friendships change as we change, especially when transition is a constant part of the equation. I'm worried about loneliness, but I'm also thankful for the people God has put in my corner: classmates, blog friends, family, and more. They're there even when it's hard to remember sometimes.

What about YOU, friend? How is your world and your heart today?
Grab a glass of sweet tea and tell me all about it :)

*Borrowed the coffee date idea from the lovely Amber. Check out her site and shop!

Making AUGUST Happen

Remember that time I planned to post my goals on August 1st and on good ol' August 1st I came down with the plague? Okay, okay, it wasn't the plague, but boy was it a doozy of a respiratory infection that knocked me off my feet FOR SURE! I spent the first week of August fighting through a fever to teach summer camp to a troop of 5-9 year olds, trekking through a garden while attempting to sing and direct a show with no voice. YIKES. Needless to say, I went straight to bed as soon as I got home everyday and blogging did not happen. 

Now that I've had time to rest (and a doctor who finally said it was more than a summer cold!) I have my wits about me! I say it every month, but I'll say it again, WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?! My two months in Seattle come to a close today, and I head back for the homeland in the morning. The time here has been so sweet and refreshing, so different than I expected but still so good, and I'm more than a little bummed to leave it behind.

I also have to say that writing out these goals have made me more than a little excited about the month of August! There are big things ahead y'all! I thrive on routine and I'll be back in the flow of school before we know it. 

Aren't these campers the cutest?! During our pirates camp we had a mystery to solve!

July Goals:

1. Read 5+ books. Check, check, and check: Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Lizzy & Jane, The Better Life, Alias Hook, and Passion & Purpose. I had hoped to read more but meeting the goal of 5 works for me. See my full library list HERE
2. Turn 24 and celebrate it well! Done deal. Twenty-four sounds so much older than twenty-three, but I hope to own it and have the best year yet! My campers made me a crown, I took the littles to see the Minions movie, and then went out for dinner and ice cream with friends from church. What a day! 
3. Co-host the #AnInspiredSeason series. Hoorah! So some of them didn't make it into blog posts, but I so loved following the hashtag and connecting with the gals involved.
4. Money in the bank! Mhm! Not as much as I'd like, but hey, it's a start!
5. Write my play analysis for Almost, Maine. We'll come back to this one.
6. Be saturated in scripture and dedicate time to prayer.  Hoping to continue the daily practice even as transition is up ahead. It makes such a difference!
7. Get active! I went to dance class a few times, but according to my Fitbit doing choreography and running theatre camps act as "active minutes." I'll take 'em!
8. See good theatre! Check and check! I saw Wicked (for the 5th time) and As You Like It a few Sundays ago. Definitely good theatre. 
9. The Contentment Challenge. Progress has been made! I slipped up once or twice, but I can see/feel a definite change. Hopefully it will continue in the months to come.

July disappeared before I had time to blink, so I'm not entirely upset that some of these goals weren't completed, and I'm rather impressed with the ones that were! Now for this month.

August Goals:

1. Finish the Seattle season well.  Today is my last day in The Emerald City, and I have to say this one may be checked off already! Last week was my final camp and even though I was under the weather it was a success, AND I made time for Lifegroup and friends! Plus Saturday was THE BEST as it included the TAYLOR SWIFT concert! So yes, #1 can be checked off already!
2. Settle back in at OSU. It's back to Cowboy territory in a few days, and I'm eager to get settled in at my apartment, unpack, and take on the new semester.
3. Start Almost, Maine with a bang! Y'all, I am SO excited for this show! It is full of beautiful (and sad) love stories, and I cannot wait to put together my creative team! I made my first purchase for the set (call me crazy for ordering 400 paint sticks... with more to come...) and have been doodling and writing for days.
4. Continue the Contentment Challenge. YES. This has to happen. I've found that the less I spend on myself, the more I save and the more joy I have in gifting to others. I want to use my money wisely and honor my parents by how I spend (and save) this month. After my weekend splurge on TSwift, I'm ready to get back at it.
5. Follow the Write the Word Journal. Have you seen these yet?? Lara Casey --you know she's my fave-- came out with these journals in which each day there's a space for a grateful list, a specific scripture to write out/draw/doodle/reflect on, and a full page for your heart's ramblings. I LOVE this form of scripture study! Speaking of gifting things from the goal above, I've already picked up a few to give away! 
6. Find a routine of getting active that WORKS. Notice I didn't put a specific number here, though I know how many days a week I'm shooting for. I hit my first 10,000 steps in a day for my Fitibit the other day and got SO EXCITED! I'm also hoping to limit my Netflix binging to one episode on the treadmill at the gym like I did last year. This go-around it's about finding something I can do and do consistently. We'll see how it goes. 
7. Clear the clutter + don't bring more in. This should be partnered with The Contentment Challenge. You know it's going to be a white knuckled drive past Home Goods on my way to school this week. Once I'm at OSU, the temptation is lessened, but that hardly keeps me from TJMaxx for long. BUT I will be victorious! I shouldn't have time to shop anyway ;) I want to go through what I have and get rid of the excess, while keeping the extras OUT.
8. Blog + Instagram with intention NOT obsession. I'm addicted. That I can and will readily admit. This month I want to limit my time spent on Instagram; less *scrollscrollscroll* more intentional commenting and connecting with the people that matter to me. I am also THRILLED to announce that The Blog-tember Challenge is returning next month, so I want to prep my posts and be ready to go ahead of time. These things always roll around on my busiest months. Sheesh. Stay tuned for more details!
9. Write the words He gives me. Along with blogging intentionally, I really want to press into prayer and scripture this month about the vision + purpose behind the blog, and explore some of the ideas I have had over the summer. But I want to write what the Lord wants me to write, doing it out of a place of being rooted in Him. I cannot wait to see where He takes me.

August in a nutshell! Of course, I set all of these goals from a cozy coffee shop in Seattle, knowing full well that in the heat and the hurry of Oklahoma life things could TOTALLY change! Either way, I'm giving it a go!

So come on, August, let's do this. Now what about you?
What do YOU want to make happen in August?