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January in Review

I'm trying something new this year, making a monthly review to log what all happened in each of these twelve months! I used to be a diligent journaler, but the days of jotting it all down are few and far between lately. 

January was FULL and fun, packed with friends and getting my fill of good books and television.  I traveled a bit, managed some down time, started our competition show, and started to find a routine or semester #2. Find the highlights below.

I've started a playlist for 2017 HERE if you want to check it out!

Now to take a look at January's monthly goals:

1. Co-host the Deep in the Heart RetreatDone, done, and done! To be honest, I'm SO sad it's over. I wrote all about it HERE, and I'd be lying if I said we aren't already dreaming up next year's getaway.

2. Prepare well for the start of schoolJust how well I prepared, I'm not too sure, but I got things ready and jumped into this second semester right off the bat. I still have a lot to learn (and procrastination has gotta go), but I'm working on it.

3. Register for my teaching certification test. This did not quite happen... and by not quite I mean it didn't. I'm going to have to wait until my next paycheck to get this one checked off the list.

4. Begin directing Proof for UIL One Act PlayYes! The show is blocked, their lines are learned, and the set is coming together. I've also signed us up for a couple of clinics and workshops, and I've started putting together my show binder. It's the real deal (and we have 9 weeks of rehearsal instead of 3.5 this time! Hallelujah)!

5. Go to Theatrefest in Galveston, TexasI spent last Wednesday through Saturday at this event, and it was really so helpful! I was thrilled for a getaway, but not super eager to attend the classes initially, and I'm happy to say some of them surprised me! It left me feeling a bit worn out and over-stimulated --who knew theatre teachers could be so crazy and enthusiastic ;)-- but it was certainly worth the trip. Being by the beach was pretty nice, too!

6. Read 5+ booksBoom! This month I managed to tackle Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner,  Winter and Stars Above by Marissa Meyer, Simplify by Bill Hybels and 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam for the first time, and I re-read Red Queen (that's fun to say!) a second time through. The third book in the series releases in February, so I wanted to make sure that was on this month's list!

7. Complete my Illustrated Faith projects. This one remains to be halfway done. I blogged for Illustrated Faith HERE and HERE, and the next exciting project that launches in February is halfway finished!

8. Meet my January savings goal. Nope. This didn't happen. But I'm learning from my habits this month (thanks to the Mint app) and planning ahead for next month (with Qapital). I also made some bigger purchases, one earlier than expected, namely round trip flights to Seattle and a one-way to Michigan for the summer, plus paying for a hotel for a conference in February, which are one-time expenditures. I'm going to bump up February's savings goal since this month was a bit of a fail.

I finally got back into the blogging swing of things, and it has felt oh so good. Check them out below!

Last but not least this month brought some memorable moments in a number of ways, so I narrowed it down to the top four:

The Goals with Grace devotional kit I wrote for Illustrated Faith launched!

The women's march was incredibly inspiring, and I just loved this girl's gumption.

I stopped in Independence, Texas to visit Old Baylor for the first time in 8 years.

I also discovered Snapchat filters and had a hilarious time trying them all!

January was certainly one for the books, but February, I've got some high hopes for you, too. Off we go!

*Please note, this post contains some affiliate links. They won't cost you a penny more, but they might help this first year teacher to an extra Sonic run after rehearsal ;)

Simplify: January 2017 Goals

Posting goals with only a few days left in the month? Why not? ;) January has been a month brimming with blessings, but it also meant the start of a new semester at school so finding my rhythm has taken a while. It was one of the wisest decisions I could have made to count the first week as a "grace week" to get my bearings and finalize my goals. Like Lara Casey says, "There's nothing magical about January 1st," and this set up gave me space to find what would work and lay the foundation for a good, new year.

I have used the PowerSheets for 3.5 years now, and I was so excited to create my tending list for January. The formatting looks a little different this year, but I think the changes are for the best! The Cultivate What Matters teams continues to refine the pages and processes, and I can't wait to see how they pan out.

I previously shared my 2017 goals and my word of the year, so with those in mind here are my goals for the first month of 2017:

Monthly Goals:
1. Co-host the Deep in the Heart Retreat. This one makes the list because I'm a firm believer in putting events on the calendar/things I'm looking forward to into my goals as a reminder of what I'll make happen each month. I can actually already cross this off the list, and you can read about it HERE.

2. Prepare well for the start of school. January brought the second semester of my first year of teaching, and I had a lot of things that I needed to get ready to go. I want this year to be about planning well ahead of time to put procrastination out of the picture finally and fully.

3. Register for my teaching certification test. I am halfway through my teaching certification, and all that is left is the pedagogy test. I'm actually hoping to register this week!

4. Begin directing Proof for UIL One Act Play. As part of my job as a high school theatre teacher, I have the joy/challenge of directing a show in the spring for our competition. We chose Proof last fall and I started rehearsals the right before school started. We are well on our way!

5. Go to Theatrefest in Galveston, Texas. I'm here as I write this actually! It's a weekend of workshops and professional development by the sea that I've been looking forward to all year long, and here we are!

6. Read 5+ books. My goal is to read 75 books in 2017, so I need to read at least 6-7 books per month to make it. I expect to do a lot of reading this summer, so I'm taking the first few months slower with a goal of 5 books. I've already finished three and I'm halfway though two more. Only a few days left to tackle them!

7. Complete my Illustrated Faith projects. I have a few exciting things in the works with Illustrated Faith that I cannot wait to share more about in the future, but for now I'll keep it pretty vague. I will say I've completed the first major chunk of a project, and I'm waiting for the final details to come back so I can finish the job. Stay tuned!

8. Meet my January savings goal. A major goal for the year is to be more financially responsible, and I have monthly savings goals to help accomplish this task. January's looking to be a little tricky since I've started to purchase plane tickets for my summer travels, but I hope to put the last of it in with my paycheck next week.

I'm also planning to share my weekly and daily goals with you this year to keep myself even more accountable. Some of these directly relate to the above goals or to my yearly goals, and others are smaller tasks I simply want to accomplish as we go.

Weekly Goals:
1. Lesson plans turned in on time.
2. Meal prep for the week on Sunday.
3. Church/Lifegroup/Discipleship/Bible study.
4. Finish a book/play (or 2).
5. Blog 2/3 times.
6. No spending during weekdays.

Daily Goals:

It has already been really encouraging to see the progress that I've made so far this month, and they feel like the most purposeful/practical that my monthly/weekly/daily goals have ever been! I'm also changing the way I check in on these goals with a monthly review, so stay tuned for that on Monday! You'll find my goal progress, some high lights from what all went down in January, as well as a few of my favorite things. I can't wait!

What have you made happen this January?
What goal are you working on this week?

*Please note, this post contains some affiliate links. They won't cost you a penny more, but they might help this first year teacher to an extra Sonic run after rehearsal ;)

Illustrated Faith Craving Connections Kit

Community is a game-changer. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, and I will continue to repeat it and marvel at it because it's SO true! When I found out the February Illustrated Faith kit was going to be about desiring and creating connections, I was over the moon! I had so much fun sharing the kit I wrote last month, so I thought I'd give you a peek into the latest one, Craving Connections, here too!

This time I'm trying something new, revealing the kit in a fun video below. Enjoy!

Another fun fact about the Craving Connection kit is that it parters SO well with the Craving Connection book recently released by (in)courage! With 30 different challenges by 30 different writers. According to DaySpring:
Craving Connection is a journey with (in)courage writers sharing real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges that will encourage you to: 
(1) embrace the desire God has given each of us for connection,  
(2) invest in meaningful relationships, right where God has you, and  
(3) become the friend you wish you had.

The Craving Connection kit comes in the newly re-designed style including all of our favorites: a 14-day devotional, two pages of stickers, a matching stamp set, magnetic bookmark, stamp backer with fun cut-outs, and three tip-ins.

I can't wait to play with it when I get home from my latest trip, and to see how everyone starts making connections!

What's your favorite part of the kit?
Have you spotted the succulents? 
I'm in love!

*Please note, this post contains some affiliate links. They won't cost you a penny more, but they might help this first year teacher to an extra Sonic run after rehearsal ;) Thanks, loves! 

Deep in the Heart Retreat Recap

[Sign generously donated by Adorned Decor on Etsy]

I don't know if you know this, but has been a heart dream of mine for several years to host a retreat for my blogging friends. Over a year ago, Rachel and I shared the dream and tossed it in the "someday" pile, every now and again letting the idea resurface then sink when the timing wasn't right. 

However, last spring we decided the time was going to be right (before we truly knew how oh-so-right it would be) and scheduled what was later titled the Deep in the Heart Retreat for New Year's Eve. 

We brainstormed, we Skyped for hours, we invited a few friends to give it a trial run, and then we scoured AirBnB for the perfect meeting place. At first, the plan was that 10 of us would stay deep in the heart of Texas's hill country for two days. Then when the location changed late in the game, we arranged for 7 of us to camp out in a Fixer Upper in my old college town. 

Then, and before then, and during it all, life happened. A family member was lost unexpectedly, a job offer and move came within a week of one another, the world kept spinning onward for all of us, and several sweet friends could no longer make the journey. One day, we'll all get together I'm sure and look back on the year that passed with fresh perspective, hugs and tears all around. 

This year though, Deep in the Heart allowed four women to get away, dig in, and give 2017 a good talkin' to. Annie, Dana, Rachel, and I dove head first into a much-needed weekend of rest, refreshment, and renewal. 

When I say we stayed in a Fixer Upper, I mean it! We stayed in The German Schmear House from Season 3 of the hit HGTV series, done up by none other than Chip and Joanna Gaines! There was a kitchen island straight from heaven, subway tile and shiplap, a backyard with twinkly lights perfect for popping champagne over pizza, and four bedrooms perfect for these introverts to each have their own space.

Jeff and Sara were wonderful hosts, and it was such a small world knowing that they went to my church and alma mater. We had everything we needed and more in the house, and we made a grocery run when we first got there to do most of the cooking at home over the weekend.

In true blogger fashion, as soon as we got in the house we put our things out of the way and said that no one could unpack or make a mess until we took pictures. We ran up and down the stairs, found the best light, pushed each other out of the way for the perfect shot, and laughter was ringing out within  minutes. We all agreed that staging photos and leaning precariously over kitchen tables or railings felt far less silly when there were other people around doing the same thing!

There were plenty of cozy couches and chairs to curl up in, throw blankets galore, and a perfect music selection to keep us going all weekend. (No really, we were thoroughly impressed with their music library. Kindred spirits for sure!)

Once we got settled in, we promptly found the closest Whataburger (my out-of-staters had a request which we happily obliged) and ate to our hearts' content. We caught up on life, laughed at memes and youtube videos, then we made our way across Waco to a place that still feels like home to me: Baylor University.

Waco has changed a TON since I was in school just three and a half short years ago, the campus too! But it was so fun to give the girls a walking tour around campus, from all the fountains and buildings to the statues and traditions. We sat on the green and gold swings, read all about the time capsule, teetered on the edge of the Baylor seal (don't step on it!), and found an open door into one of the most beautiful buildings on campus.

They marveled at the size, the silly superstitions, and took time to read as many of the quotes on the sidewalk as possible. Annie may or may not have rapped a quote by T.S. Elliot with two backup dancers while I filmed it for my Insta story. And by may or may not I mean she definitely did ;)

We headed back to the house to finish out 2016 lounging around and having heart talks about everything under the sun, saying "Bye, Felicia" with glee to a year that had been so hard on so many of us, and saying a big "Hello out there!" to the promise of 2017.

The next morning we slept in and had a slow morning around the house. Rachel made a breakfast quinoa that was divine, and we spent the first few hours of the new year Bible journaling, working on our goals and planners, reading and relaxing with no real agenda. Naps were had in the afternoon, a quick jaunt to Target made to grab planners for two of the gals, and then it was back to the house for more planning and introverting. 

One thing I loved about the weekend is that there were no real expectations or structure set in place. We were also free to say when we were feeling overwhelmed or tired, and there was plenty of dedicated "quite time" for all of us to recharge on our own.

That night the weather was simply magical, so we made frozen pizzas and had sparkling wine with berries out on the back porch beneath the twinkly lights. No picture could really do it justice, and we all agreed. We had good intentions of going to bed early on the second night.... but I think we saw at least 1:30 am before we shut things down.

Monday morning we got up early to get the house cleaned up and to enjoy one last meal in the house before checking out. I made waffles shaped like the state of Texas (because, duh), and we perched at the beautiful faux-marble bar/island to eat.

Next came the packing of all the things (we brought SO much stuff!) and playing Tetris with my, Annie's, and Dana's things in my small Volkswagen beetle. Somehow we managed to fit it all in, plus the people, and from there we headed to Magnolia Market.

It's become a Waco stable, a hot-spot that people flock to from all over, and the whole thing still makes me laugh. My college town which had nothing in it and nothing to do is now where all my blogging friends want to visit and play tourist. Magnolia Market is pretty spectacular though. I've heard it called the blogger's Disneyland ;)

We managed to find parking pretty close to the Market around lunchtime, and we did our best to weave through the masses when were shopping and enjoying the sunshine. A major thunderstorm actually rolled through the night before and knocked outside the power inside the shop, but that didn't keep us from shopping.

There was a sign out front indicating that all Christmas decor was 75% off, and at first I didn't pay much heed. I wasn't planning to purchase anything. That is, until I saw it. I have been on the hunt for a sign to go on the small wall over a corner of my couch, but everything I loved or that was the right size was SUPER expensive, so when I spotted the "Oh Holy Night" sign for only $42, I jumped on it!

But really. I grabbed that sign so fast and headed straight for the check out line. I didn't even think about how I was supposed to fit it in my car with my friends and all our things. Oops.

A trip to the Market would not be complete without lunch on the lawn from the food trucks with a strawberry and Nutella crepe for desert. There are so many options to choose from in their outdoor eating area, and plenty of covered picnic tables and swings! It was muddy from the storm, but we didn't mind.

Once lunch was over, we wandered around a bit longer, then we made our way into one of the latest additions to the area: the bakery.

Jeff and Sara, our gracious AirBnB hosts, left us some of the cupcakes as a welcome gift, and we knew we had to make a stop before we headed out of town. I think we left with five boxes of cupcakes... don't judge ;)

Inside was just as charming as you'd expect it to be, and the treats themselves were amazing. I'm a fan of Silobration and Shiplap, personally, but there's something for everyone. There are even various pastries and cookies, too!

Somehow we managed to finagle my sign into the car with enough room for Dana and Annie, and then we made our final stop at McAlister's for some sweet tea and a gift exchange. I read an Instagram post by Nicole which shared this post by Stephanie, and I knew this was something the girls and I could all get behind. We picked our gifts and shared our stories with laughter and tears, and I will treasure those moments forever.

The goodbyes however were the hardest part. We had to send Rachel back to Kansas, and I did not want to let that sweet thing go. It helped that we were already talking about next year's Deep in the Heart Retreat and holding each other accountable throughout the year, but a three days with all of my people simply was not enough.

These girls have a huge place in my heart and I will be FOREVER grateful for the time spent ringing in 2017 together. Love y'all lots, friends. Let's do it again soon <3


Simplify to Thrive: My 2017 Goals

Last Monday I shared my word of the year for 2017, SIMPLIFY. But that word would not be complete without the rest of the phrase, the rest of its purpose in my life this year. 

Simplify to thrive.

Simplifying is a good goal, and can be achieved in a number of ways, but there had to be a reason why. I didn't want to just be "on trend" with the hunt for minimalism. I wanted simplify to mean something bigger, to create space and margin in my life so I could really live. I want to simplify so I can thrive.

With this phrase in mind (and with three of my best friends in a cute Fixer Upper in Waco), I dug into my 2017 PowerSheets to set meaningful, achievable goals for the year. In 2016 I set goals by season, and I kicked off the year with 10 goals for January - March. Some of these goals carried on throughout the year, and some of these will reappear below. This year, I have a better view of how things are going to be, since I know where I'll be living and working throughout the year instead of expecting a change come-May like I did last year with graduation. I still expect some of these goals to shift and change with what the year may bring, but for now, here is where I will begin.

My 2017 Goals:

1. Be in the Word and His presence daily.
2. Prioritize my physical health.
3. Practice financial responsibility.
4. Blog consistently + authentically.
5. Simplify to thrive.
6. Become a better teacher.
7. Read 75 books.
8. Make time for joy and gladness.
9. Invest in discipleship, accountability, and community.
10. Savor my season. 

Some are broad, some are specific, and some tie into one another pretty well. I love that the PowerSheets allow me to state these goals then assign specific action steps to each of them to make them more achievable. Every three months there is a "Goals Refresh" section where I will be able to look back at what is working and what isn't, and make adjustments as needed.

For each of these goals, I took the time to write more of the vision/meaning behind them in my journal, and I thought I'd share those with you as well.

1. Be in the Word and His presence daily. Specifically this year I want to study the New Testament and its authors, really understanding the timeline and the journeys of the apostles and Christ's ministry. I want to take time to read scripture either in the morning before school or at night before bed, and pause in my schedule to listen to the Holy Spirit more. 

2. Prioritize my physical health. This was a goal last year that I tended to for a season then let fly out the window. I want to create heart healthy habits that are sustainable and that will help me have the energy and ability to chase the dreams God has for my life. I want to treat my body well and listen to its cues, not looking to food for a treat or escape when things get hard. I want to get active in a way that is feasible with my schedule and fun! I really miss dancing, so taking a ballroom or swing class is on my list.

3. Practice financial responsibility. I am (mostly) financially independent at this time, and I want to become more wise with how I view, spend, and save money. I want to value experiences over things, and I want to get out of debt. I want to put money in savings, travel this summer, and be able to give generously and consistently. I don't want to spend money on trinkets I'll donate to Goodwill in six months or on fast food when I've already purchased GOOD groceries the weekend before. I don't want to room the aisles of Target for a quick fix when I've had a rough day. 

The above three goals are the priorities for the year. Hold me to them ;)

4. Blog consistently + authentically. I want to treat this space with care, digging in deeper than twice a month product reviews and book lists. I want to write from the heart and submit more of my writing elsewhere. I want to create content that is meaningful to me and my readers, here and on my other online avenues, utilizing the platform that I've been given to encourage others and share the gospel. The Blog-tember Challenge will be back in September, and I hope to engage and comment more with those whose blogs I read as well.

5. Simplify to thrive. This means putting my word of the year in action. Read more about it HERE, but with this goal I want to simplify my belongings, my routines, and my schedule. I want to say both no and yes with intention, and I want to thrive instead of functioning in survival mode.

6. Become a better teacher. While I've joked many times that I dream in six different directions at once, I have wrestled with those dreams with the Lord and I feel very clearly that I am to put my all into pursuing teaching theatre until He tells me to do otherwise. It's my first year of teaching high school, and I've already learned so much. This year I want to prepare well, plan with intention, invest in the lives of my students, and always be learning. I want to pray into the places where I lack and look with expectancy for God to show up. I want to spend this year utilizing and exploring my resources, being fully present with my students, throwing procrastination out the window in exchange for being prepared well ahead of time.

7. Read 75 books. Last year I surpassed my goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks, so this year I bumped up the number to encourage myself to read even more. I want to spend more time in the pages of a good novel or in a non-fiction volume that will challenge me instead of scrolling scrolling scrolling the night or day away. I want to read more books about theatre, going back to favorites from college and reading new plays, and I want to study history and habits and women in ministry. I want to re-read old favorites in preparation for the release of several final books in some series, and I want to relive my childhood by diving back into the Harry Potter series before the 10th anniversary of the release of Deathly Hallows arrives in July (10 years! Crazy right?!).

8. Make time for joy and gladness. Lara Casey calls this "doing more of what fires you up," and some might say it's filling your tank. I've only recently learned to value self-care and to understand that I cannot care for others well if I am not taking care of myself. I want to do more things that bring me joy and that delight my heart, so that I may be delightful and a positive presence around others instead of running on empty. The last half of my verse of the year, Isaiah 51:3, says, "...joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song." Yes, and amen!

9. Invest in discipleship, accountability, and community. I've been in my new city for five months, and in that time I've been blessed to find a church, a lifegroup, and a discipleship group. I have also begun a system of accountability with a few friends and plan to see it through. Achieving goals and spiritual growth are great efforts to be taken alone, and you will go exponentially further when surrounded by like-minded people. This year I want to dig roots down deep, not fearing an unknown uprooting in the future, and grow this circle of friends here in town. The online community is wonderful and I have friendships that I value greatly, but I want "face-time" with people I'm living daily life with, too. 

10. Savor my season.  Oh, you. This one means so many things. I want to enjoy this year and squeeze all the life I can out of it. 2016 was rough and I spent much of it under a cloud of negativity and what-ifs and why-don't-I's that made it really hard to savor where I was and what the Lord was doing. This year I want to dive in wholeheartedly, choosing joy, and not wishing away this time. Yes, there are desires of my heart that are yet unmet, and I plan to pray into those places both asking in faith and surrendering (what a lovely tension that is!), but I want to learn more about what it means to truly BE where I am. I want to write Savor Your Season finally, but I'm not going to put a timeline on it. Maybe not even an outline. Yet. I want to write as He leads.  I want to be where He is.  I want to savor every second 2017 has to offer. We'll see how this goes.

There they are! 10 goals for the next 12 months!

In my classes last Monday, I walked my students through the basics of goal setting, and I had each of them write out the sentence, "2017 is the year I will ___________," then fill in the blank in their class journal. The answers ranged from "get a job" to "graduate from high school" to "go to New York City" and beyond. One of my girls (who calls me Ms. Bear)  suggested I write "find Mr. Bear," and I just had to laugh ;) 

So if you're new to goal setting, why not start there? 2017 is the year I will _________________.

For me, 2017 is the year I will simplify to thrive
My goals are what will get me there.
What about you? What are your goals for 2017?
How are you keeping yourself accountable?

52 Books in 52 Weeks (and then some!)

I am proud to say that I officially met and surpassed my 52 Books in 52 Weeks goal for 2016! I absolutely love to read, but never had I put a number on it before. It was so fun to watch my to-read pile grow smaller as my have-read pile grew taller, and I'm pleased to say that most of these were new-to-me reads! I did re-read a few favorites, but the majority were books and plays that I'd never picked up before. 

This year, I'm setting the goal to read 75 books in 2017, and after managing 60+ books/plays I think it's going to be do-able! I'm already in the middle of about six, so January should come in with a strong start.

Before I share this year's to-be-read list, I wanted to look back at the books tackled in 2016. Here we go!

Bailey Jean's 52 Books in 52 Weeks
*In no particular order...
*Favorites noted with +++++ at the end.

1. Restless by Jennie Allen
2. Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
4. The Longing in Me by Sheila Walsh
5. The Selection by Kiera Cass +++++
6. The Elite by Kiera Cass
7. The One by Kiera Cass
8. The Heir by Kiera Cass 
9. The Crown by Kiera Cass
10. Happily Ever After by Kiera Cass
11. Peter and Alice by John Logan +++++
12. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
13. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard +++++
14. Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard
15. Glass Sword by Victoria Ave yard
16. Ah, Wilderness! by Eugene O'Neill

17. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
18. Play With Fire by Bianca Olthoff
19. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist +++++
20. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
21. Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider
22. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo
23. Splendor by Anna Godbersen
24. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
25. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
26. Rumors by Anna Godbersen
27. The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler
28. The Heir (*for a second time) by Kiera Cass
29. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
30. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
31. Envy by Anna Godbersen
32. I Was Blind Dating But Now I See by Stephanie Rische +++++

33. Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington
34. The Finishing School by Valerie Woerner
35.  Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs
36. Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato +++++
37. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
38. I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck
39. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda +++++
40. Wild & Free by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan
41. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
42. Cress by Marissa Meyer +++++
43. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
44. 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
45. The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow
46. Miracle Man by John Hendrix
47. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay +++++
48. Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath

49. How to Catch a Prince (Audible) by Rachel Hauck
50. Princess Ever After (Audible) by Rachel Hauck
51.  A Royal Christmas Wedding (Audible) by Rachel Hauck
52. Once Upon a Prince (Audible) by Rachel Hauck
53. The Wedding Dress (Audible) by Rachel Hauck +++++
54. Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup
55. Pride and Prejudice (Audible) by Jane Austen
56. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
57. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
58. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon +++++
59. I Don't Wait Anymore by Grace Thornton +++++
60. You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth


61. Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson +++++
62. Proof by David Auburn
63. These Shining Lives by Melanie Marnich
64. Enchanted April by Matthew Barber

Honestly, this is missing a LARGE number of plays read in the spring for grad school... but honestly I skimmed most of those so it doesn't really matter ;) I'm quite content to have ended 2016 with (at least if not more than) SIXTY-FOUR books and plays read! 

It was also my first year listening to books through Audible, and I LOVED it! I gave the 30 day free trial a go and fell in love. I've had many long drives back and forth from school to my parents' house, and I could tackle an audiobook in a single round trip. The edition of Pride and Prejudice narrated by Rosamund Pike was probably my favorite. She played Jane Bennet in the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, and her voices are spectacular!

Have you read any of these titles? Any recommendations for this year?
75 books in 2017, here I come!

My 2017 Word of the Year

Every year for the past four years I have chosen a word (or words) of the year to pray through, journal about, and hold as a theme for the 12 months ahead. It has been an incredible journey to look back on, and so interesting to see how these words helped shape the months as they unfolded.

2013 was ADVENTURE and HOPE.

2014 was SURRENDER.

2015 was BRAVE and GOLD.

2016 was BELIEVE.
2017 is SIMPLIFY

Adventure was the year the Lord led me to Seattle, a true adventure I never could have imagined for myself. He provided the hope and the answer to that hope in the form of sweet community, great jobs, and a beautiful new city. It was a reminder that a life held in open hands can lead to incredible things.

Surrender was the year that God re-routed me again, asking me to set down the new life I'd built and move to Oklahoma for graduate school. He told me it would be an isolating season, and while I wanted to run for the hills, by His grace I made it to yet another new city and a new college experience entirely. It was a reminder that He sees the big picture and has goodness in the midst of doubt.

Brave was the year that kept saying yes even when it was hard, choosing to (and praying to) be bold with trust. It held a gift of pure gold as I got to do what I love as the lead in a play that forever changed my life, then in the fall directed a show that means just as much. It was a reminder that God gives us talents and passions for a reason, and He will equip us to take the leaps of faith.

Believe it or not, I never wrote in-depth about my word of the year for last year, but let me tell you it did WORK. I had to choose to believe in the goodness of God many times, as 2016 held many months of highs and lows, hopes unfulfilled and disappointments. It also held answered prayers and glimpses of His grandeur as He showed up again and again along the way. It was a reminder of the basis of my faith, that is FAITH in something we cannot see, TRUSTing in the One above who sees it all.

Simplify hit me at the end of November, and I mean that almost literally.  I usually don't start thinking about my word of the year until mid-to-late December, but one afternoon in November the word landed in my lap like a ton of bricks, nearly knocking the wind out of me. It was that reaction, the I'm-so-terrified-I'm-kind-of-excited moment, that made me certain it was the one.

Simplify is not an easy, passive word.
Simplify is active, a verb that necessitates movement.
Simplify means taking a hard look at what is, and narrowing. Changing. Stripping things away.
Simplify is not a word that has much room in my life these days.

I over-complicated, over-schedule, and over-do it. Frequently. Simplifying means letting go, trimming the excess, choosing less over more. Slow over fast. No over yes. My insides are squirming just thinking about it.

But that's what I wanted for this year, what I needed. Last year, I believed and I saw the Lord answer. This year I want to take what He has given me and steward it well: my time, my people, my job, my passions, my world.

I want to simplify the way I fill my planner, saying yes to what's most important and no to the trivial.
I want to simplify my routines, cultivating good, sustainable habits that will carry me forward.
I want to simplify  my belongings, learning to be content instead of craving what's trendy.
I want to simplify to thrive, operating at my prime not in survival mode any more.

I want to get back to the basics. I want to lift the weight of things and commitments and less-than-the-bests off my shoulders, walking in freedom, rest, and from a cup overflowing not one running on empty.

That's what simplify means to me. That's why I'm excited. That's why I'm nervous.  It is going to take day after day of actively choosing to take things out and put less in. It is going to mean some clean slates and some re-organizing of patterns that have settled in (intentionally or otherwise) that are causing too much noise or sputtering out on their own.

It's going to be uncomfortable, and I know I won't be good at it right away. But, boy, am I excited to jump in!

What about you? Have you chosen a word for the year for 2017?

Goals with Grace | January Illustrated Faith Kit

This has been a long time coming, friends. And by a long time, I mean a looooooooong time. Last spring I was asked by Shanna of Illustrated Faith to be a contributing devotional writer to an upcoming kit, and guess what? THE KIT IS HERE! Goals with Grace released at DaySpring last week, and all the words and dreams and heart eyes have come to life! 

Goals with Grace is a 14 day devotional and Bible journaling kit that focuses on starting 2017 with our eyes on Jesus as we make our plans that will pave the way toward our hopes and dreams. Each day is a new goal-setting prompt and scripture with space to decorate in the journal itself and ideas to get you going in the margins of your Bible. 

It's still a bit surreal to see my face in this thing and to be tagged in pictures of the pages made in the sweet Bible journaling community! Y'all are rockin' it already!

Another exciting thing about the Goals with Grace kit is that this is the first kit featuring the Illustrated Faith re-design! Previously the kits would arrive in small cardboard boxes featuring the devotional, an ink pad, stamp set, sticker, notecards, and a roll of washi tape. NOW the boxes have been redesigned to arrive in pretty envelopes with the following goodies:

  • 14 day devotional
  • washi tape roll
  • stamp set
  • stamp backer with cut-outs
  • 2 sticker sheets
  • 3 tip-ins
  • an encouragement card
  • magnetic bookmark

Now, I can't guarantee that all of these things will be in every kit moving forward, but I'm in love with the changes so far and hope to see them repeated! I think my favorite new additions are the tip-ins, shown above. Tip-ins are pieces of cardstock the size of the wide margins of the standard journaling Bible, and they can be attached with washi, glue, or used as bookmarks that can be removed.

The picked some of the dominant images and phrases from the devotional to put on the tip-ins, and I can't stop playing with them! I definitely plan to use them in a multitude of ways!

Here's a look at my first page done from the first day of the devotional! I couldn't help but trace those sparkly pink sneakers right into the corner!  My biggest prayer for this devotional is that it will point you to Jesus in all of your endeavors. I've learned a lot about goal setting and intentional living from a lot of amazing people, and it has been a joy to share with the Bible journaling community.

Get your copy of Goals with Grace before they sell out! And if you already have one, I'd love to know what you think! Share your posts and pages with the tag #if_goalswithgrace when you do <3

Man, this really is a dream come true. 
Let's get after these goals with grace together!

Note: This post contains some affiliate links. They won't cost you a penny more, but they'll help this teacher survive semester #2 with a Sonic happy hour trip or two ;)