Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dear Becca.

I recently came across a question in a book that read, 'If you could tell your 20 year old self one thing, what would it be?'.  That stuck with me for a couple weeks.  This isn't the first time I've heard the question or even the first time I've thought about how I would answer.  But if your twenties have been like mine then maybe you'll offer an amen when I say, every year so far has changed me drastically.  So my answer after each additional year changes.

But today, my 27-year-old self would grab my 20-year-old self by the shoulders and say 'fight like hell'.  When I think back to my college years and the first few years of my career I remember being so overwhelmed and intimidated by each step.  I wanted desperately to make my parents proud, to please my friends, to excel at my job, to be a million things to a million people and it was scary.  Going against the grain, trying to do the right thing, and figuring out how to develop the character I desired was a battle.

Now though, I realize how much stronger I was than I gave myself credit for.  This year I finally feel like I've found my footing and discovered my voice.  I'm finally standing up for myself, fighting for what I want, and being unafraid to go against others opinions.  It's freeing in so many ways.

I still want to make my parents proud. I still desire to excel at my career.  I still want to be a wonderful friend, a faithful leader, and the best possible sister and aunt.  None of those desires have changed.  But somewhere along the way I started fighting for what I want and who I want to be.  And it's been the best battle yet.


Monday, January 28, 2013


First off, a very Happy Birthday to my sweet Daddy today - even as I'm away in Africa.

The overwhelming theme of the first few weeks of this year has been friendship.  As I've explored my current relationships and thought through what I want this year to look like in terms of relationships it's occurred to me that what I've learned in the last year is to be steady. Life rocks our relationships from time to time but I've learned in the midst of the ups and downs of the day to day and the turmoil that some relationships enter for a season, what people most need in a friend is for them to be steady.

I've walked through some hard situations with friends the last few months - from trying times in their marriages, to issues of faith, to broken relationships, through betrayals and hurts.  I have learned through these situations to be what I most desire in my friends, there.

Recently I really saw the value in this.  I have found an incredible friend through an unexpected series of circumstances.  I continue to be blown away by how only a few months later he holds such a big piece of my heart and has become one of the first people I want to call - good or bad.  He has broken through my trust barriers and he has walked with me through the ups and downs of this football season, some tough career decisions, big changes in my relationships, and the preparation for this trip to Africa.

I am learning more than ever to be steady.  To be consistent.  To be there.  To be slow to act and but quick to offer a listening ear.

I'm grateful for those who are teaching me this, and those who are letting me learn with them.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

2013: The Theme.

The past three years I have given a theme to the year in January.  2010 was the year of learning discipline.  2011 was a year of relationships.  And 2012 I dubbed the year of experiences, and that it was!

So now, I've spent January really working on a game plan for 2013 and it seems that the end of the month is an appropriate time to choose a theme for this year.  I've deliberated a bit about this year because my goals for this year are a bit all over the place.  There isn't an overwhelming theme for my goals and so this year is a little harder to name.

When I read and reread my goals this year though I realized that what they do have is a common need in order to come to fruition - courage.  I have set lofty goals based on big dreams and they will require that I step outside of my comfort zone and occasionally go for broke. And so, I label 2013 the year to be courageous.  To take risks, to pursue passions, and not to be held back by any fears including one of failure.

Walt Disney once said, 'All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them'.  Well Walt, let's see if you're right.  This year, I'm going for it.  Seems fitting that even as you read this I'm on the other side of the world, in Africa, trying to show a little courage and stretch my comfort zone. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

She Traded Entitlement.

One of the biggest battles of my Christian walk and well adult life in general for me has been a sense of entitlement.  Even with all the Lord has blessed me with I frequently forget that I haven't earned it and I don't deserve it.  It's easy to get caught up in the 'I work hard so I deserve...' or 'I've done the right thing so God should....'.  Last year I read a series of books that rocked those notions to the core and I could sum them up with this quote by Jennie Allen from her life changing book 'Anything': 'She traded entitlement for surrender, and God took her up on it'.

Last year was in so many ways a year of surrender.  A year of unknowns, of awkward situations, of tough decisions, and of hard choices.  But at the root of it all the Lord taught me so much about surrender.  As Dad faced a season as the only remaining coach from the year before, we watched the people we'd grown to think of as family scatter around the US leaving us behind. It felt lonely.  As I fought for what I believed in and it ultimately cost me friendships, it felt like I was missing out on what I deserved.  I had been a good friend, where had that gotten me?  More than that, I stood up for what I believed the Lord had told me too and I suffered for it, how's that work?

Silly Becca, the Lord doesn't promise it'll be easy - in fact, he says it won't.  And that willful twenty-six year old who entered 2012 with big plans and even bigger expectations?  Well, she had to take a few tumbles to realize just how desperately she still needed a Savior.

I share often on this blog my struggles and my quirks.  Bless your hearts, they are usually followed by the sweetest responses defending me (to myself, I might add).  But to each of you whom I love for your kind words and support I must say, you're wrong.  Humility is a battle for me because I work hard and I hold myself to high standards and somehow that leaves me with high expectations of others, of God, and of my circumstances.  But the truth is, hard work or not, what I really deserved was taken from me on the cross and I need to live as a result of that.

Tomorrow I leave for Togo in West Africa.  I agreed to go on this trip with two friends who later had to bail.  So here I am, against my will, going across the world with a bunch of strangers.  It's out of my comfort zone, more than a little overwhelming, and absolutely uncharted territory for me. For the girl who is fearless, this has kept me a little unsteady.  But for a girl who has learned out of pure necessity the need for surrender, this is a daring adventure.  After twenty-six years of straddling the fence between living for the Lord and earning what I wanted - I have finally traded entitlement for surrender. And the Lord has taken me up on it.


Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Reading List.

Another year, another list.  This is 4th year of having a reading goal and my third year (I think) of making a list of what I read on the blog.  This idea was designed to keep me from having to e-mail those of you who want to know what I'm reading individual e-mails with this list.  Here you have access to it and you can check anytime to see what I've read.  I'm going to try to update every week or so with the most recent reads and tell you whether they were worth the read or not.  My advice? Never be afraid to quit a book.  Some books aren't worth reading so more on to one that is.

1. Unsigned - C.C.McKinnon
2. Hopeless - Colleen Hoover
3. 20 Something 20 Everything - Christine Hassler
4. MWF Seeking BFF - Rachel Bertche
5. And the Angels Were Silent - Max Lucado

Friday, January 18, 2013

Circle Makers.

I shared last year that I read a book called 'The Circle Maker', all about prayer.  You should probably take a  second to read or reread that post for this one to make the most sense.  You can find it here.   The book challenged me to pray big and bold prayers and not be afraid to let others know what I'm praying for.

After finishing it I stole my favorite idea from the book and made a little prayer wall on my fridge.  I gave each request it's own post it note on the fridge with the person's name I was praying for and what my specific desires for them were.  Then I dated the bottom right corner of each one as I placed them up there and waited expectantly for the Lord to answer.

On January 5th of this year I took the first post it down and shared my first big victory with my friends via facebook:

It was a sweet, emotional moment for me to be on the sidelines as our coach took the field that game and I snapped this picture as a reminder to myself that the Lord answers prayers.What a blessing it is that Coach Pagano returned to finish the seasons as our coach and that I was there to see it.

This week I wrote a note to my Dad who was unaware that I had been faithfully praying for a miracle playoff appearance and a miraculous healing for his boss these past three months.  I told him a little about the prayer journey and the note that's been on my fridge the last the months and I included that post it for him to keep as a reminder as well.

I hope this post reminds each of you to celebrate answered prayers, to give God the glory in all situations, and to be faithful in submitting your requests to Him.  I look forward to taking the remaining 8 original post its down and passing them on to their rightful owners in the future as well as adding new ones and praying for many of you.

God is so faithful.  Keep making circles.

Chuck Strong!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

20 Everything.

You had to know I would follow up my 20 Something, with a 20 Everything, right?  As I've continued to work my way through this book I've been putting a great amount of thought into what 'everything' is, especially in your twenties.  I will turn 28 later in 2013 and as I near the last part of my 20s I think I've already run my way through the gauntlet of the quarter-life crisis from friendships, finances, firsts, and well, expectation hangovers as Hassler so perfectly describes them.

But as I find myself now, 27, a homeowner with a steady career and a balanced set of old and new friendships I find that I've redefined what 'having it all' might be for me.  Perhaps I did most of that by finding out what it is not.  20 everything isn't about money.  It isn't tangible career success (though that doesn't hurt). It isn't how you look.  It isn't who you know, what you get invited too, your significant other, or your social media popularity.  It isn't more: stuff, people, places, or things.

20 Everything probably looks different for each person and for me it's been been a million little things.  It's been moving back to the city that feels like home.  It's been learning to allow myself a few mistakes now and again.  It's been traveling, seeing, experiencing, and being.  20 Everything has meant being an aunt.  It's been sleeping on an air-mattress til I could afford furniture in my first home.  It's been clipping coupons, tackling debt, and finding my footing.  It has been falling in and out of love.  20 Everything has been big victories, tough losses, high highs, and low lows.  It has been a roller coaster but a worthwhile ride. 20 Everything has been finding my own voice outside of others opinions and expectations.  It has been the big, small, hard, easy, perfect, and chaotic moments of the best decade yet.

Hassler perfectly outlines the struggles we all face in this phase to meet our own expectations and to live up to who our parents, professors, bosses, and friends all thought we'd be as well.  Our 20's are a battle to set up the life we want from here on out.  They are hard work and sometimes crushing disappointments.  But they can be the most rewarding years of our lives.

I for one wasn't sad to leave the college years behind in favor of adulthood.  These past four years have truly been the best yet and I expect it to keep getting better every year.  I've done some of your typical hard 20-something sacrifices like a second job til I paid off school and my car as well the ramen noodle diet when I spent my first few paychecks on clothes instead of budgeting.  In the end though, I wouldn't trade a moment of the struggle to find myself.  Every second has been worth it to get to this, today.

20 Everything is different for each of us but I would argue that most of finding it is realizing that the journey its self is the biggest part.  It's not a place to arrive at, it's the process of getting there.  It truly is the best decade yet.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Strategic Planning.

2013 is going to be an incredible year for me.  In the wake of a tough 2012 I'm focused, prepared, and excited for what this year will hold.  But I recognize that while I accomplished A LOT in 2012 (104 books read, thousands of dollars saved, another year of debt-free living, etc) I also failed to really stay on top of all of my goals.  And so, I'm borrowing an idea from my work.  At the company I work for our directors spend a week before the end of the year doing 'strategic planning' as I'm sure many of your companies do.  During this time they outline their goals for the year and formulate the plan that will get them accomplished.

How is this different then new years resolutions on an individual level, you might ask?  Good question.  Well for one, I'm making this up as I go.  BUT I made my 2013 goal list in November, adapted it in December, and made it a little harder in January.  Now, I'm focused in, I'm working towards them, and I have a plan to keep myself on track this year in not just 1 or 3 areas but in all of them.

I'm making January my month of strategic planning and as I continue to read 20 Something, 20 Everything I'm asking myself tough questions, putting it ALL in writing, and pushing aside other people's expectations and opinions in favor of focusing on getting where I really want to go (now that I'm finally learning where that is).

Every month this year I will be treating myself to a Saturday morning date with Bayshore (my favorite outdoor workout spot) followed by a coffee or breakfast 'time out', to celebrate where I am with my goals/the ones I've completed as well as go back over them and reassess where I am and where I'm going.  I want to make sure that April doesn't show up and I've missed out on 4 months of opportunities to achieve   So, this year I'm getting fully, completely, thoroughly focused and I'm going to stay that way.

My friends frequently mock my love of putting 'block time' and such on my calender for when I need 'me' or 'down' time so I assume they will equally mock my dates with myself. BUT - I honestly couldn't be more excited. Coffee by the bay and a little journaling, reading, goal setting is right up my nerdy little ally.

What are you all doing to get focused this year and how are you going to stay focused in 2013?


Friday, January 11, 2013

Reading Lately.

You may have noticed that I cut back my reading goal for 2013.  People pestered me the last few months of 2012 about how I was possibly going to best a 100 books in a year goal for 2012.  The answer is, I'm probably not.  One of my 2013 goals is to study and take the GRE and so I've cut back my reading goal to 80 books for 2013.  However, I started 2012 with the intention of reading 50 books and I more than doubled my original goal, so, who knows.

Anyway, here's what I've started off 2013 with....

Unsigned was a Kindle read about an unsigned suicide letter a couple receives in the mail.  The letter leads them on a wild ride and to a shocking discovery of events that happened years before to the former owner of their new home.  The plot, while interesting, wasn't perfect executed in my opinion.  I gave this two stars on Goodreads, it didn't wow me.

After devouring Hoovers previous novels (Slammed and Point of Retreat) I anxiously awaited the release of Hopeless.  It didn't come close to the first two for me, but Hoover is a talented right with a gift for creating characters you become attached too.  It was a quick read and I never lost interest.

20 Something/20 Everything has been the inspiration for one post you've already seen from me and one more that you will be seeing by the end of this month.  Full of inspiration this book also did me the great honor of making me feel sane.  Our twenties are tricky, pressure filled years and it was so encouraging to hear others successes and perceived failures as well as get a plan for how to spend my next three years in my 20s making them everything not just something.

Three completed books so far in 2013.  I guess it's time to make me book list for this year.

Happy Friday to all.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Andy Warhol is famous for saying, 'They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself'. That quote began a book I was given for Christmas in which you write an answer to a question everyday for a year, and then you answer it again on the same day each year for the next five.  My Houston-dwelling-bestie gifted me this book and I've had such fun going through it.  Though I'm kind of ready to flash forward 6 years and read all my answers.

Warhol makes a great point because what we put on time, isn't really times responsibility at all, is it?  Time doesn't heal all wounds.  Lost time can be found. Time isn't always money (I mean, I don't get paid to be bored now do I?).  Time does delay and whoever said it doesn't clearly didn't notice is standing still from 3-5pm every workday.

See we push a lot off on time but the truth is, we have to change things.  We choose forgiveness. Sometimes over and over.  We choose to heal.  We're responsible for how we use our time.  We can make our time make us money but it won't do it on it's own.  We're accountable for our use of our time and in that we effect the results.

I need to say something.  Time can be a healthy boundary.  Sometimes we have to take time apart, time to consider,  or time to rest.  Time has a great many benefits but it also has a great many dangers. Many things are easier to walk away from after time than they are to fight for and so we have to choose to change things for ourselves and not leave them up to time.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

If You Made a Goal to Save Money...

You may want to try this out with my friends and I think year.  It's so simple I feel like I should have thought of it myself!  But alas, I found it via Pinterest from this blog.  So I'm just regurgitating other people's wisdom for you this morning.

Just a quickie idea for you all before the end of the first week, wouldn't want you to start out behind. 


Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 7: The Pantry.

In a flash of Pinterest inspiration I decided to reorganize my pantry.  It had always seemed silly to be before to buy crates and things for my pantry but then when I thought about it, it's kind of the soul of your kitchen, isn't it?  The magic happens as the result of the pantry and it's always easier to justify spend money on something that will last - lets be real, I won't have to redo the side of my pantry often, right?

So here's the embarrassing chaos of the before:

Yeah, yikes.

Here's a close up of the transition as I added in some helpful storage:

The crate on the top right holds the loose baking supplies while the left side now has all my normal supplies in canisters.  The red box in the middle of the picture is the new home of my extra spices and flavorings.  I hated having tons and tons of bottles that eventually get scattered all over the shelf.  So, this was my solution.  The after:

Ta da!! I mean, it's a pantry, there's always doing to be SOME chaos.  But as you can see my paper goods also for a crate home (bottom middle shelf) which now houses my abundance of fun paper napkins, plates, plastic ware,  and solo cups.  Also on the bottom you can see that my grocery bags which I reuse have a home and most of my spices have a home on the door (and in the box - I like things spicy apparently).

I love knowing where everything is and having found a home for things.  At first I thought being able to see through the crates would bother me but hey, that's why there is a door, right?

Day Seven - done and done.

(Note: sorry about the cell phone pictures - I know I have a nice camera now so I have no excuses but you're still going to get them).


Friday, January 4, 2013

20 Something.

I love the freshness of a new year.  A new calender.  A new work year (with renewed paid time off to travel).  New goals.  New new new.  New years feel shiny to me. (fine, this seems bipolar after yesterdays post).

My most exciting goal for 2013 is to read through the bible in a year.  I'm doing it with a few of my closest Tampa friends.  One of them came to me a while back and said she felt challenged to do it because she'd never read the entire bible before and as a believer thought that was important.  I agreed to do it with her and two other girls from our bible study excitedly joined in.  Starting that on the first made this year feel hopeful.

In addition I re-up'd my reading challenge for this year and I wanted to start off with something that would get me excited about 2013.  I'd had 20 Something, 20 Everything on my bookshelf for a few months after reading rave reviews on Goodreads.  As I looked through the books I've been stocking up, this seemed to be a good place to start a new year.

The book requires journaling and some 'homework' which is different for me but I'm enjoying the challenge.  On January 1st the assignment required writing out who you are, what do you want, and how do I get what I want.  It was the perfect start to this year to really consider those questions.  One thing I know to be important is priorities and more than ever I see a need to prioritize my time based on what I want to accomplish this year.

The first two chapters had me nodding my agreement and texting Meagan quotes like, ''I feel like I'm supposed to have a devastatingly impressive life before I hit 30'.  After which I texted' I totally get that' and without seeing my text she wrote back 'Amen, I totally get that'.  Hassler hit the nail on the head with this one, the pressure on your 20s has become astronomical and many of us find ourselves trapped in the expectations of other people.

I closed yesterday's reading and continued all morning dwelling on this question: 'Are we so busy designing our lives around others' expectations that we never take time to discover what we truly want?'.  I'm using the first part of this new year to determine just that - what I want.  Who I want to be and the life I want to lead.  As elementary as that sounds, I think most people work towards what they're sure they're supposed to want and not actually what they do want.  I don't want to fall into that trap in my 20s or in any other year of my life.

And hey, I think we all have the chance to live devastatingly impressive lives - we just have to redefine what's impressive.

Three weeks from today I depart for Africa.  I'm determined not to waste my life.  This trip seems to be coming at the perfect time - I feel so prepared and ready to fly across the world with a team of strangers and get my hands dirty for a few days.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

To Endure the Betrayal of False Friends.

One of my favorite writers is Ralph Waldo Emerson (he was a poet, essayist, and lecturer).  He was brilliant.  If you search through his works he is most often quoted for, you will know that he was chalk full of wisdom and I'd be willing to bet a lot like each of us.

My favorite of his quotes is this:

To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

I could blog a day or two for each line of this quote.  Perhaps I have and will continue to steal inspiration from these words.  But today as I bid farewell to 2012 the line I borrowed for my title seems to weigh heaviest on my heart.

2012 was a hard year for me in many ways.  The hardest perhaps has been in the realm of relationships. I ended this year feeling as though 90% of my relationships either greatly increased or greatly decreased in 2012.  I feel indebted for those that have been strengthened this year and especially for new friendships that have sprung up in the midst of trial.  But as I close out 2012 I'm reminded that I have to be grateful for those that have changed in a negative way this year as well.

Emerson says that part of success is to endure the betrayal of false friends.  I have had some of that this year.  One example would be that I received a text message written by a friend, about myself, that was intended for someone else this year.  The content was gossipy but not altogether hurtful.  It was however a glaring reminder to be careful of false friendships.   Not everyone has your best interest at heart and those who will talk to you, will frequently talk about you.  This seems to be made worse if you're a woman.

Perhaps my greatest friendship trials of this year were those that were on my heart when I wrote this untitled post. I didn't realize how perfectly I worded it then when I said 'I will bare the scars of my choice and theirs'.  That rings true as I close this year - 2012 has left it's mark in the form of scars. They seem to be glaring at me as I close a tough year and look forward to 2013 with purpose and clear perspective.  This year was a defining year for me.  This was a year of being the person I've claimed to be and striven to be.

I went on to write in that same post that when we are faced with the end of relationships or when we end a season in them we have to reflect on who we are and who we desire to be.  On that note I wrote this:

I desire to be the kind of friend who's love protects.  I desire to be trustworthy and reliable. I desire to be honest even when it hurts.  I desire to be real. I desire to be gracious and loving. I desire to be like Christ in that I want my love to cover a multitude of sin. I desire to treat others to the gift of grace I have been given. I desire to be a person of character who's walk lines up with their talk. I desire to be uncompromising in my convictions. And I hope to earn respect where I cannot earn approval.

Emerson might have had similar thoughts as he wrote that another aspect of succeeding is to win the respect of honest critics.  We all have to endure criticism and we all have to learn to guard ourselves against those who aren't honest in their critiques as well.  But to earn respect where you cannot earn approval, well, that looks like success to me.

I want to pause to say that whether or not Emerson knew this, we sometimes endure betrayals from real friends as well.  I appreciate more than ever that we're all human and as such we make mistakes.  Mine are many.  And so, I don't believe that every betrayal signals a false friendship, but I do believe that those require the most grace in responding.

I find that I'm ending 2012 with a lot of unresolved feelings.  I'm glad to see it go and I'm ready to welcome 2013 in so many ways.  With that though I realize that you can't run away from the scars of a hard year and that in tough relational years you learn the most about forgiveness, about restoration, and you learn hard lessons about yourself.

I am a grudge holder, which I've confessed more than a time or two. But perhaps worse still, I am a rescuer.  I desperately want to help people and with the start of 2013 I recognize that while there's a place for the people you desire to help and be there for, the majority of your relationship energy and time should be invested in those relationships in which there is a healthy ebb and flow.  And so, I sat and thought hard about the people in my life who challenge me first and foremost in my faith and secondly in other aspects of life.  I thought about the people who encourage me, grow me, push me, and tell me hard truths. I thought about the fact that we become the company we keep and I took a hard look at which of my friendships I wouldn't mind that being true in.  I am refocusing my relationship time and energy this year and looking forward to how the Lord will grow me.

I hope that for each of us, 2013 is a year of successes.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January Project.

Happy New Year!

I hope you all enjoyed the time with your sweet families and friends.  It's officially 2013 and time for me to get back into a routine of some sort (maybe that will include regular blog posts?).  I found a list on Pinterest for an organizational challenge.  Since my life seems to be pretty different from the gal who made it, I've made my own list, adapted loosely from some of her ideas.

Here's what my next 21 days are going to look like (this is leading up to Africa, so now seems like a brilliant time to clean, organize, and PURGE):

Anyone want to join me?