Testimony Tuesday: Intention

Living with intention. It seems like such a simple concept, one that we all should want to adhere to so naturally. Of course, we want to be intentional — about our lives, our love, our faith, our families. Without intention, what’s the point, really?

And yet, it feels like, so often, intention can slip through the seams, for whatever reason. Life becomes more routine, more automatic… and, in turn, inherently less intentional.

I’ve been trying to be better at this but I’ll admit that even on my best days, there are moments where I feel as if I’m on autopilot. It’s little things: driving to work each morning, plowing through some everyday tasks, putting those miles in on the treadmill. I feel myself slipping away into the obligation of life, as opposed to relishing in its glory.

Now, let me preface all of this with the notion that this is by no means a bad thing. I think we can slip in and out of intention purely out of happiness, and if I’m honest, I can attribute the sweet happiness that I’ve been filled with lately to my zoned out episodes. Life is so good – there’s not much to worry about… which, sometimes, leads to not having a whole lot to think about. That said, there’s a difference, I feel like, between zoning out and becoming a robot, and I feel as if all too often, we tread that line so carefully that it blurs.

And yet, we shouldn’t. We should look at each moment that is gifted to us as something to use, something to create with, something to glorify. It’s not complicated; in fact, it’s really quite simple. It’s our own complication that I feel leads us to that “zoning out,” that autopilot, that unintentional mode.

God calls us to intention so obviously and so simply, and yet, at least for me, it often feels like the easiest thing to overlook.

So, whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31

It’s that simple.

Lately, I’ve tried to find little ways to live more intentionally, to be more present. I’m trying to pull myself out of my own head, my own routine, and focus on what’s given to me, what’s put right in front of me, what life should be about.

Whether it’s putting the phone down, or making the most of my morning commute… whether it’s finding a few extra moments to speak with the Lord or an extra second spent listening to someone I love – and I mean really listening. I find the more I focus, the more I feel, and the more I appreciate.. It’s funny, really, because I feel like God’s calling to me in the simplest of ways, and yet I’m sitting here complicating everything. All He’s been asking me, I realized, is this:

Pay attention, intentionally.

Pay attention to what He provides, and how. Pay attention to His little messages and His larger signs. Pay attention to the beautiful people that He put on this earth to love and support and care for and enjoy. Pay attention to the mountains He made, the wind he whistles, the Earth He created. Take your mind out of the distractions of everyday life – focus more wholly, more intently, more intentionally on the ethereal one.

Little by little, I’ve felt myself adhere more to this simple calling He has given me. I’ve tried to be intentionally intentional, and in that intent, I’ve found so much simple happiness, simple glory.

Happiness – in life, in the Lord, in love – does not need to be a series of complications or distractions or achievements. It merely needs to be intentional.

2 Years, 2 Lessons, 2 Words

Facebook memories are wild, y’all. Mine keep popping up to remind me that 2 years ago, I graduated from college.

Two years!? Are you kidding me?! 

On the one hand, it doesn’t feel like that’s even remotely possible. I still feel like a baby adult, just barely sprung from the comforts of college, with not nearly enough of this “real world” thing figured out to have been away from school so long.

(And, yes, I do realize that 2 years is really not that long in the grand scheme of things. But in the short-term, that feels pretty long-term.)

As I’ve reflected on the many, many pictures that Facebook has brought back to life, and as I’ve perused through the many, many other pictures of those younger than me in caps and gowns, I’ve also reflected on what I’ve learned in the past two years. I don’t know if there’s an adequate way to sum it all up, because if there’s a blanket theme here, it’s that these first couple of years truly on your own are so incredibly instrumental. I have learned more in the past twenty-four months than I ever could have expected. It’s true what they say: you never really do stop learning. It’s just that the lessons change.

However, I am going to ever-so-humbly attempt to sum up the countless lessons I’ve learned since graduating with two words. It’s two words for two main lessons learned in the past two years:

Speak up. 

These words, I’ve discovered, can be applied to the two main facets of life post-graduation: professional and personal.

Professionally, this one is probably pretty obvious, and I likely sound like a broken record of any professional development course for young professionals. I was told this so many times when I leapt into the full-time world. “Speak up,” they told me, “make your voice heard.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but that concept is incredibly intimidating, especially for a fresh graduate. It’s likely your first full-time job in your chosen profession, and you’re likely nervous, and you’re most definitely still figuring things out.

And there everyone is, telling you to speak up.

Well, I hate to tell you this… but they’re right.

It’s not, however, just speaking up about the big things. It’s not necessarily throwing out some wild and crazy radical idea that is going to entirely change the trajectory of a project or an account (although, sometimes, it is). Sometimes, it’s just as important to speak up about the little things. Don’t let the smallest things go unnoticed – point it out. Now, keep in mind I speak from the role of a PR professional here, but I’m sure there’s parallel ways to apply this concept. Don’t let an extra apostrophe go unmarked, just because it’s in a release written by someone above you. If you think a particular sentence is worded strangely, say something. If you notice that there’s a hashtag getting more use than the one that’s in that social post, suggest it. Speaking up doesn’t need to always be monumental. It can be small – sometimes, the quietest behind-the-scenes voices are the loudest.

That said, it’s also important to speak up about your professional needs. Do you need a little extra guidance on something? Would you feel better if someone reread that email for the fifth time before you hit “send” for the client? There is no harm in asking. The worst thing they’ll ever say is no.

The same thing goes for your personal life. Speak up. In some ways, I feel like this can be even more intimidating in your personal circle. Opinions are everywhere and the internet has just given us an even louder void to shout into (I can say that – this blog is one of those voices.)

But it’s so important to let your own voice be heard… especially by yourself.

College is a wonderful time for gaining knowledge, but it’s when you start to apply that knowledge that you really figure out what you think about it. Don’t get me wrong – I think a lot of our core opinions are formed in school and in what we learn from school, but as with anything you learn, it’s when you apply it that it really begins to click (or so they used to tell me in math class.)

Speaking up in your personal circle also encourages healthy conversation, and sometimes debate. It’s important to know the opinions of those you love most, and how to get past disagreements… because inevitably, there will be some, even about the smallest of things but more likely about the big ones.

Beyond opinions, though, it’s so important to speak up and just tell them you love them… or that you’re mad at them… when you want to spend more time with them… when you need a little space. Verbalizing our heartfelt thoughts and genuinely formed opinions is a crucial element of adult relationships, and as an adult, those relationships are an essential part of thriving.

So speak up. It’s the two-word phrase that I can offer to any graduate. Be it personally or professionally, just make sure that your voice is heard.

It matters.

So do you.

Oh, and congratulations.

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Daughter on a Budget

In case you needed the reminder, Mother’s Day is this weekend. (Hopefully you already knew that.)

I love Mother’s Day, mainly because I love my mom. I think it’s pretty cool to have a whole day to celebrate her and all of the amazing things she has done for me. Seriously, my mom and I are a weird brand of close that I couldn’t be more grateful for. She’s my rock and my role model, my best adviser and my best friend, all rolled into one. I wouldn’t trade her, or the fact that my friends have a habit of hanging out with her without me (ahem, Shining Twin shout out), for anything.

That said, my mom and I usually celebrate by simply spending time together, and in my family’s typical fashion, we don’t always do it on the day itself. Regardless of how you’re celebrating, I figured I’d write a little round up if you’re scrounging for a good gift for your sweet mama. After all, what do you get the woman who gave you everything? Even if you’re on a budget, there’s still something that can show your token of appreciation for you lady you love most.

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Note: The rest of this post contains affiliate links – if you click through any of the links in the post below & make a purchase, I may receive compensation, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Under $5: A Coffee Date
Nothing beats spending time together, so if you’re on a tight budget, ask Mom out for a cup of coffee. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it would be so, so appreciated. After all, Mother’s Day doesn’t need to be fancy. It’s all about showing Mom how much you appreciate her.

And, if you have a coffee-loving Mom like I do and can spend a little extra for her to have her own new mug for that coffee date, get her something cute and quirky, like this “best mom ever” mug.

Under $15: A Framed Photo
I’m a bit partial to this one because I love pictures. Given the option of photos or art, I’ll pick photos every time, and not just any photos, but those of people I love. I just don’t think there’s better decor than memories, and I bet your mother would agree. Snag a cute frame, like this pretty rustic wood one, and print out your favorite photo of you and Mom – better yet, make it a throwback!

Under $25: A Charming Charm
You can’t go wrong with jewelry, and you don’t have to go too crazy with the price. Take a look at this gorgeous wave necklace from PuraVida. It’ll add a touch of seaside sparkle to any outfit Mom wears! (Psst: Use the code SEVENAFTERSEVEN20 for a 20% discount!)

Under $35: A Nice Bottle of Wine 
How often does your mom really indulge in something like some really good wine? Even if she does it fairly often, there’s nothing that says “special” more than something more than her day-to-day Chardonnay.

Bonus points: get her a cute little wine stopper in case she doesn’t finish the bottle (or, better yet, offer to help her with that so you don’t need the stopper!)

Under $45: Take Her To Brunch
Bump the whole “breakfast in bed” thing you used to to when you were younger up a notch, and take her to a nice brunch. If you want to avoid the Sunday morning crowd, there’s nothing wrong with doing it the day before or after (trust me, in my family, we’re pros at not celebrating things on the correct day).

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If you’re in the Phoenix area, I’ve previously rounded up my 5 favorite brunch spots, in case you need some inspiration!

But, let’s be honest. It doesn’t matter what you get your mom: the important thing is showing her, somehow, just how much you love her.

PS: If my mom’s reading this – thanks for being the best. I’m seriously the luckiest daughter on the planet to have a Lorelai like you.

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The Sweetest Thing

Millennial friendship is such an anomaly, if you ask me. On one hand, we still very much have the “keeping up with the Jones’” competitive attitude of generations past – look at my new job, new fiancé, new baby, new dog (but no new house, as we are too busy buying avocado toast). On the other hand, we’re the generation throwing convention to the wind, and known for being excruciatingly supportive of it – oh, you want to quit your job to go drive around the US in an air stream trailer? TOTALLY, I’m so into your free spirit!

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

That said, millennial friendship can be hard to strike a balance… to find the sweet spot, if you will.

Friendship is a balance of giving deep life advice with an edge of realness, and advising that you buy plane tickets you can’t afford just in the name of life experiences.

It’s a sweet spot somewhere between chatting about work over wine and charcuterie, and diving into a ball pit a The Art of Ice Cream Experience for the sake of an Instagram.

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

It’s being real when it counts, and offering to take a million photos to get the “picture perfect” shot when it doesn’t.

It’s about showing up when you’re expected, and even when you’re not, while also respecting the inevitable boundaries of our always-on, career-driven millennial culture.

Friendship knows when to blindly support and when to offer a word of caution. That said, it’s also respecting where and when your opinion is warranted.

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Photo taken at the Art of Ice Cream Experience.

It’s a game of chance. It’s not easy, but relationships between humans inherently aren’t. It’s just as much about finding the sweet spot and recognizing our own humanity and humility, and that of others. It’s knowing that we are all going through life, which is full of twists and turns and mistakes and glorious moments, and knowing how much sweeter it is to do that with a few good friends by your side.

Testimony Tuesday: Getting It

I remember the moment I understood it so clearly. The it I refer to is, of course, the entire point of our beliefs. The moment I understood the glory, the mercy, and the grace of the sacrifice, resurrection and ascension are so deeply ingrained in me, because it was literally a life-altering moment.

People use the phrase “come to Jesus moment” lightly – but in truth, when you finally understand it, that’s exactly what it is.

Perhaps this is on my mind because this past weekend was, of course, Easter. During the service, my pastor spoke about pre-Resurrection Paul and post-Resurrection Paul, and how there is a pre- and post-Resurrection person in all of us.

And he’s right.

But it’s more than just having a moment of understanding. I’ve believed in, loved, and followed the Lord for most of my life. I was raised in the church. I understood what I was being taught in Sunday school, and it all made sense to me. I got it, in a historical and factual sense.

Yet it wasn’t until that particular moment when I actually believed. I felt the Lord reach out and touch my heart and say to me: “This is what it’s all about. This is why I sent my Son, this is what his death and rising mean, and this is what awaits you, too.”

I can’t tell you how to find meaning in the Lord… you just have to be open to it. If there’s anything I’ve learned when looking back at my own pre- and post-Resurrection self, it’s that only one thing changed to give me that moment: my mind. I stopped looking at my faith like something textbook, because it’s not. The Lord’s love for us is reckless and uninhibited, and our trust in him… our openness to him… should be the exact same way.

40 Days Without Netflix: An Update

If you remember, I decided to give up Netflix for Lent this year. It was an effort to stop zoning out and be more productive with my 24 hours.

I’m proud to say that I succeeded… mostly. There was one night that the boy got stuck working really late and we had plans, so I curled up with a glass of red wine and Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and (ugh) Ross.

Besides that, though, I successfully stayed away from Netflix for the duration of Lent. And, honestly, I didn’t really miss it. (That said, I did definitely turn it on today just because I could.)

Anyways.

Instead of coming home, working out, and flopping down on the couch, I did exactly what I intended to do. I spent time doing things that are more “productive.” I read several books; I wrote a lot, both for the blog and the novel I’m working on; I spent time in the Word and made my way through a Lent study. And while it did all feel good, there were days that I was so brain dead that I just wanted to do nothing… but I’m really bad at legitimately doing nothing. Hence where the Netflix binging comes in.

Overall, it was a good experiment. In the end, I’m glad I did it and I think it will motivate me to watch less mindless TV. After all, I didn’t really miss it, except for when I was exhausted. But at the same time that I learned that I certainly can be more productive with my after work hours, I also realized that sometimes, it’s perfectly okay to zone out in front of the TV, and that doing so shouldn’t always be looked at as “unproductive.” Just as with eating chocolate vs. eating carrots, there’s a balance involved. Some days, if you’re feeling the productive energy, avoid the TV. Other days, if you’re just burnt out, the sofa is exactly the spot to be.

That said, tonight, the couch is calling my name. I wish you all a very happy Easter weekend! I hope it’s filled with chocolate bunnies and celebration of the miracle that is Easter!

Testimony Tuesday: Making Time

Time.

In some ways, I’m great at managing it. I am a scheduler, a planner, an always-show-up-10-minutes-early-er.

In other ways, I know I fail. I am not so great at prioritizing, and I have a terrible tendency to double-book myself, because I’m not so great at saying “no.”

In the hecticness, I’ve realized that there are thing I need to make time for. I need to make time for exercise, I need to make time for my relationship, I need to make time for friendships.

I need to make time for God.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders,
making the best use of the time.
– Colossians 4:5

I’ve struggled with this lately, but as is usually the case, when I find myself struggling, I also find myself actively correcting. And so, that is what I have done lately. Or at the very least, what I have tried to do.

When I can’t make it to small group (which has been discouragingly often) I set aside some time to sit and be in the Word. Surprisingly (or, probably not so much so, as we know there is a plan for it all), each time I do this, I feel more connected with the Lord than I may have had I gone to group, which tends to feel much more like a social obligation than a spiritual one.

I’ve been working through a weekly Lent study, which has had me committed to about an hour with my Bible and my journal, whenever I can fit it in.

And that’s the catch, I think I’m realizing. Whenever I can fit it in. I schedule out my workouts according to what the rest of my week looks like. I schedule my dates, my happy hours, my family dinners. Why shouldn’t I schedule my time with God?

Maybe someday it will come much more second nature — and I pray that it does. But for now, I must make time for God intentionally, just as I would make time for any other relationship in life.

I’m still learning how to be a better Christian, and I’m still growing in my relationship with the Lord, and I am coming to accept that I have my faults, and that even more so, that is perfectly okay.

Happy Tuesday.