Wednesday, November 15

end of the journey

Climbing a mountain is challenging. Sometimes I believe it's a harder mental battle than a physical one. They say that your mind will give up faster than your body ever will. Standing at the base of a mountain is daunting...thrilling...overwhelming...anxiety causing...terrifying. Standing at the base of a mountain and looking up, all you see is the work that you have to do to get over it. Standing at the base of the mountain is filled with doubt, questions and hesitations.

The funny thing about a mountain is that once you get to the top, you forget all those doubts, questions and hesitations. You've done it. You're at the top. You conquered the mountain. And all that fear, all that negative self talk, all that doubt suddenly turns into a emphatic, "I did that". 
I conquered the mountain. I survived. I made it. I can do this. The doubt turns into affirmation and the fears that once held you captive at the base are the exclamations of encouragement at the top. 

At the base of a mountain, it looks huge. Unconquerable. Untamable. A beast. Formidable. Terrifying. But at the top? Your perspective changes and suddenly everything seems very small. Remember the trails you were struggling to climb? Well now they're little rivers cascading down the slopes. Those rocks and roots that kept tripping you up? They're specs in your rear view mirror.

One of the best parts about climbing a mountain however, is sitting at the top and taking it all in. Stop. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Soak it in. This moment at the top, to sit and just be is the climactic ending to a journey that seemed unimaginable in the beginning. It's healing and therapeutic to just sit and be with yourself, your thoughts and your inner voice. Like Jackson Kiddard said : go to your fears. Sit with them. Stare at them. Your fears are your friend. Their only job is to show you undeveloped parts of yourself that you need to cultivate to live a happy life. The more you do the things you're most afraid of doing, the more life opens up. Embrace your fears and your fears will embrace you.

I sit on top of this mountain embracing the fear. The girl that stood at the foot of the mountain is not the same girl who sits on top looking at how far she has come. In fact, they're two different people entirely. The fears that held one back are the rocks in which the other stepped on. On the way to the top I've found pain and I've found healing. I've wrestled with questions and found answers. I've cried and I've laughed. Yet at the top, sitting here and looking out, I see new mountains ahead of me. But I know that just like this mountain, with a little gumption, a bit of faith, and a whole lot of God's grace I'll be able to conquer those mountains too and sit back and realize that they weren't as terrifying as I thought they were afterall.

Sunday, August 20

What I Packed for Glacier National Park

For how much traveling I do, packing is definitely not one of my strongest gifts. When it comes to a work trip it's pretty simple on what to pack as I'll be in business meetings most of the day. However, when it comes to an actual fun trip + vacation I tend to either horrible underpack or outrageously overpack.  One of the techniques I've adapted to help this battle of the suitcase is to pre-plan my outfits. Yes yes, this may sound ridiculously type-A but it actually helps determine what you really need.

First, take I take out everything I want to bring: I either lay it out on my bed or in the spare bedroom. Then I bring out all the shoes I want to bring. My philosophy is to BUILD FROM THE GROUND UP!! Ladies especially, we can bring 10 pairs of shoes for a 5 day trip; so start building your outfits up from shoes to the head. 

Pick the first pair of shoes you know you need to bring and start building some outfits from there. My rule is if I can only wear 1 or 2 outfits with that pair of shoes, it's out (unless of course you know you're going to a wedding or a special event where you need heels- that of course is an exception). From there I just start building outfits and trying to reuse as many items as possible to reduce space and unnecessary items in my suitcase. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Anyways- back to the matter at hand: packing for Glacier National Park. We went to Montana to Glacier National Park for an 8-day adventure. Here is what I ended up bringing to help give you an idea for your own packing list:

Shoes: 1 pair of hiking shoes, 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of slip on Sperry's 

2 hats + 2 headbands

4 pairs of 3/4 length workout pants + 1 pair of workout shorts

5 sports bras + 1 (not pictured) normal bra

5 athletic tank tops + 1 athletic t-shirt

2 long-sleeved athletic zip-ups

1 insulated North Face + 1 cotton Nike hoodie + 1 rain jacket (not pictured)

2 scarves

1 set of PJs (brought both shorts and long pants) - forgot to take a picture

2 bathing suits + 1 pair of water shorts

3 pants: 1 pair of jeans + 1 pair of shorts + 1 pair of lounge pants

6 casual tops + 1 cardigan 

Socks + underwear (not pictured)

We went to Glacier in mid-August and the weather was still all over the place. The day time in town it was in the 80s and at night it would get down to the 50s and 60s. Yet hiking, it would be 70 one minute, raining  and cold the next, and then cloudy and freezing at the top of the summit. 

Check out my next post for some tips for your visit to Glacier National Park!

Thursday, August 10

Job 9: Suffering but not Broken

Job’s anguish and desperateness stirs a deep sense of pain in my soul. To feel so close to someone, to deeply love them, and they appear to turn their back on you. I think any woman who has experienced a heartbreak, break-up, or divorce can identity with the utter torment that must’ve been running through his soul like a virus. As women who are intricately created to be emotional beings, it’s no wonder so many of us can sympathize with Job. I find that when I’m in seasons of despair and anguish I will play that emotional head game that Job could’ve gotten trapped in: What did I do to deserve this? What offense did I commit against God? How can I ever survive? I am obviously unforgivable.

However my understanding of God’s character has transformed through our relationship. Like any relationship there are many stages: excitement, getting to know one another, contentment, ups and downs along the way, re-learning one another and so forth. I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child. I though like a child. I understood like a child. Now I am a man. I do not act like a child anymore” (NLV). My relationship has changed with God from being a ‘newborn’ Christian and therefore my understanding of who God is and our relationship. As I grow and my mind has expanded, I have been able to understand God in a whole new way…it’s almost like exploring a new city- every little thing is exciting and scary and wonderful!

When I was a child, I saw God as this ominous big fluffy cloud. Untouchable but present and evident. Through the ups and downs of my life I’ve seen him as a commanding authoritarian (do not do this, do not do that), a protector from potentially devastating situations, a supernatural healer, and even a loving dad-figure. Maybe you see Him in one of these ways right now. The thing is though, he isn’t one of these ‘hats’; he just is.

He is present (even when you don’t see him). He is protecting (even when it doesn’t feel like it). He is directing (even when you don’t know where to go). He is loving (when you feel unlovable). He is the healer (when doctors tell you nothing is wrong with you). He is a dad (to all sons and daughters). He is YOURS. He is yours, and you are His. Together you get to evolve and change your relationship. Who said there was a right or wrong way to see God? There isn’t! There is only one rule in this relationship,  and that is to L-O-V-E. Job had to go seek a mediator to understand God’s love for us, but we don’t even need to go anywhere- Jesus (THE Mediator) is in our hearts.

Saturday, August 5

Searching for Answers: Job 8

Job 8: Searching for Answers

|| Job 8:5-7||

But if you will seek God earnestly
    and plead with the Almighty,

if you are pure and upright,

    even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
    and restore you to your prosperous state.
 Your beginnings will seem humble,
    so prosperous will your future be.

I don't know about you, but I constantly seek advice. When there's a decision at work I seek the guidance of my boss. When I can't decide on a life decision I'll usually call my parents for their insight. If I'm struggling with a relationship with a guy I'll call my best friends and have girl talk! It's just human nature to want the opinion and advice of others. 

In Job's situation, he was receiving unsolicited advice from his "friend" Bildad. Bildad and his cohorts were lecturing Job and giving him their opinion of why he was encountering such suffering and persecution. Bildad's advice here in 5-7 (in that context) is an insult to Job. Job was a man after God, a man who continually sought the Lord. Bildad and his other guys thought Job had turned his back on the Lord and felt they had the right (or duty) to tell him what was up. Although this was poor advice for Job's situation (he was living for the Lord and seeking God)...I think that this scripture serves as a reminder to us: SEEK GOD FIRST IN EVERY SITUATION. 

I saw a quote once that said "have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it" and it really made me think; how many times do I talk talk talk to friends/family/colleagues and never pray about the situation?! Ouch. I can recount many times where that was the case. Job 8 reminds me that if I want advice, if I really am searching for God's wisdom, I need to go to His Word first. If I want to know what to do, I need to pray boldly and intentionally. He literally has all the answers, all we have to do is come before Him, seek Him, read His Word, listen for His voice, feel the moving of His spirit. 

I know it goes against our human nature to do that, but as I've come to bring my prayers and decisions boldly before the Lord, it's become more and more second nature. Is there something you're searching for today? Have you talked something to death but haven't prayed about it? What are you waiting on God to answer? Take 5 minutes to write or talk it out with Him. Pray boldly and ask for His guidance. 

Friday, August 4

Job 7: Dealing with Suffering

|| Job 7: 20-21 ||

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
    you who see everything we do?
Why have you made me your target?
    Have I become a burden to you?
 Why do you not pardon my offenses
    and forgive my sins?
For I will soon lie down in the dust;
    you will search for me, but I will be no more.

Q: How do you respond to suffering when it enters your life? What stands out to you from Job 7?

To be honest, I don’t handle suffering well. I usually have two responses: anger or depression. I find that I become bitter and angry or else I become down and mope about. Not the most ‘Christian-like’ response eh, but it’s the truth. Sometimes as I’m walking through difficulty I get frustrated and annoyed at having to face yet another struggle, another issue, another adversary. I look around and others don’t seem to be struggling or suffering; their lives seem to be walking through fields of flowers and I’m rowing a boat in a storm. I’ll throw my hands up in anger and ask “why me God?!”.

Then on the flip side of that, I can get into the lows and sadness and sit in pitty-partyville. I feel so downcast and discouraged that I mope around a bit, disheartened that I’m left to face this struggle. It’s a very isolating feeling. I can get so in my head and wrap myself up in a cocoon of lies that is about as self-destructive as it is depressing.

For years I felt like I was suffering in this season called ‘singleness’. I felt abandoned on an island of solitude as my closest friends have sailed off on USS Marriage and I’m left looking for a ship, a boat or heck even a dingy!! Ha. Yet a message from Pastor Steven Furtick called “IT HAD TO HAPPEN” changed my entire perspective. As I’ve been standing longing on the beach looking off at the horizon, there is an entire island behind me that could use my attention. I’ve been so focused on being stuck on this island, but God didn’t abandon me here, he PLACED me here. He placed me in ‘singleness’ because there is a mission I need to accomplish. There is a task at hand, His purpose, that He wants me to fulfill. I can look at this season as suffering or I can look at this station as a mission. In the last few weeks I’ve decided to change the agony of my heart from suffering to the joy of learning and teaching moments of the mission.

My outlook has changed and hence my attitude has changed, but even more life-changing is the fact that my perspective has changed. My “suffering” is how God is using me in this station of life. I look at the struggles I face now as learning moments; I go in and ask Him “Alright God, what can I learn? Reveal to me Your purpose for this moment. Guide me through this moment because my strength won’t carry myself”. I know there is some heart-breaking and devastating suffering out there, but I hope this encourages someone that your suffering is not in vain. You are not stuck, you are stationed sister!!

Thursday, August 3

Job 6: That Instagram Lie

Everyone goes through hard times- even the women we follow on IG who appear to have it all together & have the most picture-perfect life. But don't be fooled, because begins that perfectly backed quiche and smiling kids is a disastrous kitchen, screaming kids who didn't want to get dressed, cellulite legs, and doubt that is breath-taking. We're ALL human and we all have issues, struggles, depression, doubt, fears, trials, devastation and anger.

I hated the idea "Proverbs 31" woman for so long. Know why? Because I always felt like a failure in comparison. I never felt holy enough, pure enough, kind enough, patient enough. I lose my temper when someone cuts me off driving, I get hangry more than I should, and sometimes you'll hear a curse word slip through my lips (sorry, but it's true). I felt like the Proverbs 31 woman was one of those IG women I follow-- beautiful and idealistic but not true and realistic for me. But then God revealed to me -

|| you are enough ||

Simple but powerful. In my 16 month journey of healing I have discovered SO many truths that confirm God's truths in my life. He has wrapped me in a blanket of truth, the shield of truth actually, and every day that blanket becomes more of my flesh than just a decorative piece.

Being wrapped in God's Truth is a shield against the worlds truths (aka the IG life). If we can wrap ourselves in that Truth (big T truth), then even when our foundation crumbles, when IG threatens to make us doubt and feel discouraged, we can wrap it a little tighter around our shoulders and stand up in the assurance that God is on our side, He will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Friday, July 28

I'm Stationed not Stuck

Do you ever feel like you're stuck in a season of life? Do you ever feel like you've prayed to God to remove you from this particular season yet you find yourself still stuck in the middle? I know I have. I've watched countless friends enter into relationships, become engaged, get married and now start families and yet I'm still 'stuck' here. I've prayed that God bring me out of this season for many years but He has chosen to keep me here. It really made me start to wonder if this was just supposed to be my lot in life. 

Now my life is completely fulfilled as it is, just because I am not married does not mean my life is any less of value. I have been incredibly blessed to have a life that has been full of wonderful experiences! Due to the fact that I am single I have had the freedom to travel extensively, take up new hobbies, and even gain another degree...opportunities that would be more difficult if I was committed to a relationship. That being said, there was (and still is) a desire on my heart to have more. As a young girl I always dreamed of the day where I would be married and have my own home and family. I've waited for the Lord to bring the right one into my life, but it just hasn't happened. I've always looked at this situation as being "stuck" but a recent message by Pastor Steven Furtick has changed my view of this season. I'm not "stuck" here, I'm "stationed" here.

This totally changed my perspective. It may not be Christianly to admit but often I felt abandoned by God in my singledom; I felt like I did something wrong to be 'punished' and left in this season alone. Is that wrong to admit? Maybe so. Nevertheless, I felt like I was stuck in this season of abandonment from God. Yet Pastor Steven's message completely changed my perspective on this season. What if instead of being 'stuck' in this place of singledom, God has stationed me here for a greater purpose? What if God has placed me here to be a warrior in His kingdom?

This perspective and these questions have changed the way I look at where God has called me. What does He want me to do in this station? What is my purpose? What do I need to accomplish? The military are stationed in one place until they have finished their mission, and now I believe that is exactly what God has placed me in this season of singleness! During my quiet time this past week I've implored God to show me the purpose of this station. 

If you feel like God has stationed you in a season, I encourage you to pray to Him to reveal to you His calling for you. Lord, I ask that you show me your purpose for this season in my life. What do you want me to accomplish? Who do you want me to reach? What do you want me to cultivate? How can I better serve the Kingdom in this station of life? Use me for your will, show me the plans and purpose you have for my life. The Lord has shown me a few things He'd like me to accomplish this season and it has given me a new outlook on the time I've been gifted by God. 

If you've been stationed in a season and just don't understand why, I hope this helps you. I hope that you find a new vigor and expectation for this station. Let us be warriors of God and expectant of the lessons, blessings and purpose in your season. 

Friday, June 23

Liked and Lonely

How many likes did you get on your last Instagram post? What about on your new Facebook profile picture? Do you remember how many people commented on your last post? We're a very "liked" society. If we're not careful, we can get caught up in basing our worth and value in the likes  by others (and often thee others are strangers or people we barely know). How is it then, that we can be "liked" by so many  people yet still feel lonely? How come we fill our Facebook event calendar with "interested" stars but when it comes to actually going out you can't find anyone to go with you? Or what about when you're having a rough day and need someone to talk to, can you call the last person who liked your post? Probably not because we're liked and lonely.

I admit it: I have placed a lot of my self-worth and value in whether or not people like me. Do the popular girls in high school invite me to their parties? Does that University want to accept me into their school? Will the super cute guy down the hall notice me? Will the company I interview with hire me? I have always been wrapped up in one way or another if people "like" me. I wanted to be liked so badly and even when I was affirmed and 'liked' by others, I still felt horribly alone.

I had some great friends in high school but still struggled with self esteem and worth. In college I was involved in clubs and sports and even a sorority but still struggled with confidence and depression. I thought that once I graduated and started my 'real' life it would be better, I would be happy and have wonderful friends and wouldn't face the throngs of loneliness. Well let me tell you, as a woman in her late 20s, I still feel liked and lonely. This isn't  something I'm going through alone, and do you want to know why...because I see women all around  me struggling with this epidemic in silence too.

The epidemic
Look around you; sit in an airport or Starbucks without your cellphone or laptop in your hand. I dare you for thirty minutes to not be plugged into something and just observe. Our technology is our defense mechanism, our walls. If we appear busy, no one will notice that we're ______ [fill in the blank with the thing you're dealing with, the emotions you're feeling, the issue you're avoiding]. I bet I know how you'll feel as well: UNCOMFORTABLE. Being vulnerable is so uncomfortable and awkward and that is exactly why after about ten minutes of sitting unplugged you'll start itching for the safety net of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. It's uncomfortable to be without your safety shield; the one that can deflect a situation and allows you to shut yourself off to the world. It's uncomfortable--- but so is being lonely ladies!

I am going to have an honest moment here: I am miserably lonely. If you look at my IG profile you wouldn't guess it but that's because it's a P-R-O-F-I-L-E! It's my highlight reel not reality. (Another newsflash, probably 99.9% of my pictures are edited #ILoveThatValenciaFilter). My career allows me the incredible opportunity to travel the country for a living and it's an amazing adventure but it can be quite the lonely affair. I fly by myself, I travel by myself, I eat by myself, I adventure by myself. There are times where I love the solitude and don't cross me because I'm one tough-butt-independent-woman-solo-traveler but still it gets lonely out there. 

I long for real friendships and relationships but it's been really hard to cultivate these meaningful relationships. Anyone else out there feel the same? I have hundreds of virtual "friends" but months ago when I was having an incredibly difficult day, I scrolled through my contact list and literally felt like I couldn't call one single friend in that list. How can that be?! I was devastated. In a moment where I needed someone the most, I had no one to call on. I was completely friendless in a "friend"-filled world. I realized that there was this epidemic around me and I was involved in it as well. I've become so numb to the virtual world of friendship that I realized I wasn't sure how to cultivate real friendships around me.

The cure
I don't know a cure, so if you're looking for a 3-step prescription plan you unfortunately won't find one here. Unfortunately, I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I started volunteering at a charity, a got involved in an association at work, I joined a new church, I joined a Bible study, I've put my phone away at the coffee shop and yet I'm still sitting here liked and lonely. I know that these enriching friendships are out there because I see other women in them. I know that God places people in our lives for specific seasons and reasons. I also know that Satan's main goal is to keep us isolated and lonely. If Satan can keep us separated and feeling alone, we won't be able to flourish and live out God's plan for our lives. 

I wonder though, if there was a way for us women to come together to connect and really form relationships how the world would change? This isn't just a disease that affects the Millennial generation or those women who are using social media- it knows no age or socioeconomic or race limitation [and  on that same thought, I'm sure men go through these same things but I'm just speaking from a female perspective]. Women in their 70s who have lost their husband and suddenly feeling very alone in the world are feeling the same thing as those of us in our late 20s, 40s and 50s. What if these women banded together and took a stand against Satan's attempts to isolate and devour us in depression? What if we created a Sisterhood of women who decide enough is enough, we are done being LIKED AND LONELY and are ready to be LOVED AND LIVING? I think it'd be a life changer for all of us living in loneliness in a liked-age.

Sunday, June 18

One Year Debt Plan: How I Paid off $24,000 in One Year

Tackling debt is no easy matter. It's also a bit of a daunting matter. About a year ago I decided I didn't want to be a slave to debt the rest of my life; I wanted to live in financial freedom but wasn't quite sure where to begin. I am by no means a financial expert or super experienced in the intricate details of finances but I do know what God says about being a good steward. Two verses that really encouraged me to start this journey were:

Luke 14:13-14 | "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money"

1 Timothy 6:10 | "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs

God has called us to be good stewards of our gifts and resources. I wanted to be faithful with the finances God has given to me. I wanted to live a life in which I could give where God has called me to and not be stressed out about paying the bills. So I decided to take some steps towards setting myself up for a life of financial freedom. Here are some of the tools and tips I used to help pay off about $24,000 of debt in one year.

1. Moved home
The biggest blessing in my journey has been moving home. My parents were amazing to let me come home and live without paying rent for a few years to help me get on my feet. Now, I know that either that isn't an option for everyone and/or it sounds miserable, but it has been the biggest blessing in saving money. Rent can be incredibly expensive, so being able to move home and save that rent money has been instrumental. 

2. Weekly debt payment
At my company we get paid every week so every Friday morning I sat down and budgeted and paid my bills. I was incredibly aggressive on the payments of my debt (car loan, credit cards and student loans). By paying every week, I was able to cut down on some of the Interest as opposed to doing my previous monthly payments. Even if you get paid once a month, calculate how much interest you would save if you pay once a week smaller increments versus one large payment a month. 

I loosely followed Dave Ramsey's 'snowball theory' on paying off debt. His idea is to attack the smallest debt firsts. Once that debt is paid off, roll that amount you're paying and any extra into the next smallest debt. So lets say you're putting $50 towards your $500 credit card debt a week. Once you're finished paying off that $500, take that $50 you've been paying and start paying your next smallest debt. Is there an additional amount you can add to that payment? Can you spare $55 or $70 maybe? His idea is that you keep rolling your amount towards the next smallest debt. 

I pre-planned in an Excel worksheet what I would pay each week ahead of time so I had an idea of what I would be paying and the projected date of pay off. I found that this was helpful to visualize an end-date and help me strive towards making those payments.

PS: Dave Ramsey is an amazing resource and wrote "Financial Freedom". Check out his website for his classes, curriculum and texts.

3. Live off $100 a week
Speaking of Dave Ramsey, I loosely followed his idea of the envelope system. To learn more about the envelope system, read here. My adaption to his method was instead of budgeting $30 for gas and $70 for groceries and putting it in an envelope, I just lumped it all into one envelope. For the past year I've loosely lived on $100 a week in cash. It sounds strict, and that's because it was. That $100 was cash in my wallet that I allowed myself to use during the week for anything other than my bills.  It included: gas money, going out to eat, Target runs for necessities, gifts or just other spending money. It takes a lot of discipline to live off $100 a week, there are times when I had to say no to going out to eat with friends or stopping into TJ Maxx because I knew I only had a few dollars left. Any extra cash I would carry over to the next week for "extra" money.

Now there were times I would have to use my debit card online for things, but I would just budget that into the following week's budget. If I had to pay $30 for something on Amazon, the next week I would only take $70 out of the ATM. It was a give-and-take.

4.  Cash is KING 
Like I said before, I lived on cash. 95% of the time I used cash for things. I would take $100 of cash out of the ATM on Friday and that would be my 'extra' money for the rest of the week. By using cash I was able to physically see how much I was spending and how much I had left for the week. When you're using a card it's easy to swipe mindlessly; but cash makes you really stop and think if it's worth it. 

I did keep one credit card on hand for emergency purposes. Over the year there were definite times I had to use it because a purchase was over $100 or close to my limit for the week. I just made a point to pay off the card within that week or the next. Again, it just takes discipline to be diligent to not use plastic all the time when we live in such plastic society 

5. Keep the change.
Some people claim they hate to carry cash because they hate the change. What I did was get a large mason jar and every day I'd dump any change I collected into that mason jar. All that change adds up, so don't let it go to waste! I saved up all my changed and cash it in towards the holiday season, viola- a few hundred extra bucks for holiday shopping!

6. Reward Programs
I signed up for basically any and all rewards programs. Bing (the search engine) has a rewards program where you earn points with every search you do, and with those points you can turn them into gift cards. This is how I get my Starbucks fix! After earning 2,000 points (usually takes me about 2-3 weeks) I get a free $5 gift certificate which means a free latte for moi! 

I also signed up for the rewards programs and/or email notifications for all the shops I go to frequently. They send out discounts, coupons and freebie codes frequently so I'm able to still go to Anthropologie occasionally and purchase a cute top but I just do it when I get the 20% email. 

7. Plan for special occasions
You know when birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries are coming--- put them in your calendar and plan ahead! You know your best friend's birthday is going to come around every March, so plan ahead! Buy her card when you have a coupon to Hallmark and a birthday gift a few weeks before. Spread the spending out over a few weeks so you're not cramming it all into one week.

Again,I am by no means a financial expert but these are some of the tricks and tips I implemented into my life that really made a difference. It's been a learning curve, trying to save and pay off debt in such an aggressive manner. Lord willing, I will be 100% debt free in the next year. I want to be able to use my talents and gifts for the Lord and not have to worry about the financial aspects. As one of my favorites, Lara Casey, always says... little by little, progress adds up. So start today! Start small. It's okay to grow slow as Lara says. I pray that this helps you take a small step towards your own financial freedom path. Comment below with any questions you may have and I'll try to point you in the best direction!

Monday, May 29

Summer 2017 Goals #CultivateWhatMatters

Well Memorial Day is officially upon us and that means it's the unofficial official start of S-U-M-M-E-R. Yes, it is finally upon us! Break out the sunscreen, the watermelon and the sandals because winter (hopefully) is gone. 
I recently took part of a podcast with the fabulous Lara Casey who is the fabulous mastermind behind Cultivate What Matters and the Powersheets. She went over her top 10 tips for setting summer goals. Setting summer goals is not about having this "perfect" summer out of a movie script; it's about being intentional what your intentions. What do you want to achieve? What do you value? What are going to be the important things at the end of the day?

I've loved changing from a 'to do' mentality to a 'what matters' mentality. Will it matter more if I wash my car on the weekend or if I spend some quality time with a friend? At the end of the day will I find my joy in checking Facebook or hand-writing a note to a friend? Restructuring my mentality has been a shift, but a refreshing one at that. 

If you want to find out more about Summer Goals, check out Lara's blog here and here. I thought i'd just take a few minutes and share some of my summer goals to make Summer 2017 a joy-filled and life-giving season. Maybe you can relate to some of these goals, or they'll inspire some other goals to pursue. 

1. Read a book (just for fun)

2. Reconnect with nature - going for a hike, a bike around a lake, paddle boarding, or just some outdoor yoga at least once a week

3. Get to the beach - I only live a few hours from the beach and I've decided it's ridiculous that I don't take more advantage of it!

4. No Instagram at night - I crawl into bed at a decent time and before I know it, an hour has passed by of mindless scrolling through Instagram. I'm making it a point to not mindless scroll at night.

5. Take up a joyful hobby - I have neglected doing things that are fun and give me joy such as horseback riding, dancing, and writing. I'm making a conscious effort to start one of these again

I'm keeping my goals simple but joy-filled. I want to be intentional with my time, energy and friendships this summer. It doesn't need to take long, but take a bit of time to write down (physically write down) some of your goals. Once you write them down, you're more likely to accomplish them! Share in the comments how you want to spend your summer!

Monday, May 22

Quick Trip to Tampa

Itinerary for a 2-day weekend in Tampa

If you're looking for a quick weekend getaway, Tampa is an awesome place to explore, get a little sand in your toes, and taste some of that authentic Cuban flavor. I recently flew down to Tampa for a quick trip, and really loved this laid back but totally filling itinerary.


I landed in Tampa during mid afternoon and rented a car for the weekend. To find a good deal on a rental car, I use to search and sort for the best options for my trip. Instead of going to the hotel to check in, I decided to drive around Tampa to get a lay of the land. I drove downtown by the convention center and found this fun area by the water called The Sail Pavilion. There were tons of people there for happy hour sipping on fruity cocktails, playing life-size Jenga and corn hole as well as people sitting on the dock and paddle boarding.

Photo credit: Facebook
Tip: Parking is limited by the Pavilion. There is a parking garage by the Convention center and a parking deck by the hotel across the bridge. You can pay to park at either of those locations and it's a short walk to the Sail Pavilion.

After having a cocktail and soaking up a few rays, I went down to Ybor City which was just about a 5-minute drive from 'downtown Tampa'. It's definitely got a Cuban flare. It's really seeing an up-and-coming vibe with lots of bars, restaurants and clubs at night. Don't venture too far off the main drag though, it can get a bit dodgy.

Ybor City Streets

I parked on the street and just walked around the streets absorbing it in. You can definitely tell there is a college presence in the town, very geared towards partying and drinking but nonetheless, there are still some cool spots to stop and snap a picture of some photo murals and random roosters running around.

I decided to come back to Ybor City for dinner but wanted to go check into my hotel and change. For dinner I'd suggest to head to the famous Columbia restaurant for some classic Cuban flavors and entertainment.
Columbia Restaurant
Gaspar's Grotto
 Or if you're looking for something a little more casual with live music, check out Gaspar's Grotto. You'll find your typical bar food with a Cuban flare- definitely sit outside for some chill vibes and sounds. 


One of my favorite spots for brunch in Tampa is the Oxford Exchange. It's absolutely charming inside and the food is fabulous. I had the lavendar earl gray lemonade last time and it was like springtime in a drink. Get there early though, as they are quite popular and get full quickly. 

Photo credit: Google
After brunch you can spend time shopping around the Oxford Exchange and stock up on unique and ecclectic items such as books, jewelry, kitchen towels, candles and local-made goods. 

After a little shopping and bumming around, it'd be a perfect time to go back towards the Sail Pavilion and rent a paddle board, a 2-passenger boat, or hitch a ride on the water taxi for a view of Tampa by the water. 

Once you've worked off your breakfast-- it's time to eat again! If you want an authentic and local Cuban sandwhich, look no further than Brocato's. Whenever we come to Tampa, we have to stop here. It's truly a whole-in-the-wall-nothing kind of place but there is always a ridiculously long line. Order inside and then grab a bunch of napkins and a picnic table under the shaded shed and enjoy. 

After lunch take the short drive to Clearwater Beach and soak up some sandy rays. Clearwater is an adorable ocean town. Be patient getting onto the island because there is always traffic. Grab a public parking spot, your towel, a water bottle and sun screen and park your rear in the sand. 

After hanging at the beach in the afternoon, head back to your hotel to change and for dinner head to Whiskey Joe's. It's a tiki-inspired restaurant with an awesome view. You can have dinner inside or on the outside deck and then after dinner head down to the sandy tiki pit for a spot by the firepit on the water. It's the perfect way to end an evening! 


Grab a coffee and some fresh fruit and head out to the Manatee Viewing Center in the morning.
Physical address: 6990 Dicman Rd. Apollo Beach, FL 33572
It's literally right next to a power plant, so it may seem like you're driving into a place you're not supposed to be...but you'll be ok! Depending on the time of the year you may or may not see the manatee's in action but it's still a pretty view and hey, it's free (donations welcomed). There is a nice little walking path around the area to spot nature and learn more about the Florida ecosystem that is worth a leisurely stroll!

Finally before your flight in the afternoon, go to the Wat Mongkolratanaram Temple and food market. It's one of the coolest things I've stumbled across while visiting Tampa over the years. It's a Thai temple but on Sunday there is also a Thai food market right on the river. Tons of Thai vendors are there with traditional food, drinks and crafts for you to enjoy. Bring cash! 

Enjoy your time in the Tampa area! Let me know if you have hit up any of these spots.