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Jul 31, 2013

Product Review // Cardstore

A few weeks ago, Lauren from Cardstore got in touch with me asking if I'd be interested in checking out the Cardstore site and reviewing a card.  First off, I love doing this type of thing because it often leads me to websites or brands I might not have otherwise known about or used.  Secondly, I'm in love.

Cardstore is an online card shop that allows you to choose from a ton of categories and cards and then customize them by adding and changing text, uploading your own photos, and even scanning in your signature!
I chose the cutest friendship card for National Friendship Day this Sunday.  The ordering process was incredibly easy!  You can save cards that you like as "favorites" as you shop and  then go back to those to choose which one (or ones) you want to buy.  Then, from there, you can customize your card and decide whether to have it shipped to you in a package or directly to the person you're giving it to.  

My card came quickly and was packaged in a slim but sturdy little envelope.  They even included two different envelopes (nice touch!) just in case I messed one up while addressing it.  

Cardstore is definitely a website I'll be returning to, and I highly recommend it! 

Jul 28, 2013

Girl Talk // The Dreams You Don't Talk About



If you've ever had a dream in your life, you know...dreaming can be a scary thing.

Dreams give you a glimpse of what your life could be and ask you to follow them without more than a bold hope and the promise of what could be.

One of the dreams I've had all my life has been to have a marriage like my parents' (they've been married almost 28 years and are the best of friends) and to be able to parent children who grow up knowing that they're loved not only by their family, but even more so by Christ.

But it wasn't until I was in college, and about halfway through, that I felt comfortable talking about that dream with others.

You see, there's a vulnerability to realizing our dreams aloud.  For me, it was the worry of what others might think, that by wanting first and foremost to be a wife and mother, would mean relinquishing my intellect and potential to have a promising career in whatever field I chose.  That I was somehow shedding what so many women have fought so long and hard for in exchange for an apron and minivan.

It's that vulnerability that causes us to hole up our dreams, keeping them hidden for fear of what others might think or say.  No one wants their dreams crushed into a million tiny pieces, and so it's so much easier to hide them away than to risk the voices of insecurity and reality stomp all over them.

AJ and I do a lot of talking about our future.  If I'm being completely transparent with you, I don't know what my dreams are right now.  Sure, that dream for a family is still very present, but beyond that?  I don't know.  I have a degree in education, and I'd love to teach in an elementary classroom.  But I also have a passion for global nonprofit work, a creative energy for photography and design, a love of interior decorating, and a penchant for hosting and planning events.

So if you figure out how to wrap all of that up into one career, let me know.

AJ, on the other hand, has a very specific dream.  He wants to one day work in a studio as a producer or recording engineer.  And in about a month, he's heading to Boston to continue his education at Berklee College of Music as a step toward achieving that dream.

Both of those situations are scary.  Mine, because I just don't know what the next step is.  His, because it requires risk and that bold hope.

At the bottom of it all, though, God desires the best for us.  He gives us dreams and puts people in our path who can encourage us and help us achieve them.  And if you're seeking Jesus in everything you do, then the dreams that are of Him will align with His plan for your life.

No matter how scary your dream is, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is this:  is it worth the risk?  Because there's risk in every part of dreaming: from the time that you realize that you even have a dream to the day that you tell others about it to the moment you begin to work toward making it happen.

If the answer to that question is "yes", then start.  Start talking to others (because there's accountability in that!), start figuring out what you need to do to make it happen, start praying hard.

Too often we rob ourselves of the joy of dreaming because of the fear of failure and judgment.  Don't you think it's time to start chasing your dreams?

Jul 23, 2013

{Pin It} Pretty Interiors & Colorful Clothing

Here's what I've been loving on Pinterest lately!
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Jul 21, 2013

Girl Talk // I Thought I'd Be Married By Now


Before you get excited, thinking this is going to be boy talk, I'm sorry.  It's not.  But I promise it'll still be good. :)

Let me set the scene:  I didn't date through high school, I went to a Christian college, and if no one has ever let you in on this little secret....well, good Christian girls are supposed to meet their good, Christian husbands at their good, Christian college and then get married the summer after graduation and live happily ever.

It's a really great deal...you get an education AND a husband!

But guess what?  I'm out of college.  And grad school.  And I'm not married.  So that little plan of mine didn't really work out.  God is kind of funny that way.

I entered college ready to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a pediatrician.  About halfway through, I realized I didn't like biology, or chemistry, or physics all that much.  So I prayed.  And cried.  And switched my major.

I'm a planner, and my plan was to go to school, do well (which, by my standards, I didn't do that first semester), and graduate a few years later with an offer for med school and a marriage proposal.  Instead, I graduated with a degree in Psychology, a rejection from a teaching fellowship program I thought for sure was my next step, and not even a boyfriend.

Beyond just that degree, I also graduated with amazing life-long friendships, support from an alma mater that I'll always cherish, a ton of awesome memories, and the realization that even though I usually have no idea where it's taking me, God's plan is always so much better.

Trusting God is hard work.  And unfortunately for us humans, we're doomed to struggle with it.  Thanks Adam & Eve.  Ultimately, whether we want to admit it or not, we don't trust God because we're stubborn and we don't really believe that His way is better.  Just like Eve didn't really trust that God wasn't holding out on her and ate the apple anyway, we don't fully trust that we won't miss something great by letting God lead.

It's a lesson I'm still learning.  It's one I learn over and over, day in and day out.  It's one I'm currently learning as I'm waiting to hear from any of the dozen school districts I applied to teach in come fall.  Learning to lean in and fully trust God comes with heartbreak, pain, a fight against human nature, and eventually, release and rest.

I'm going to be totally cliche and just tell you...following the plan that God sets out for your life is so much more rewarding than anything you could ever dream up on your own.  You've heard it before, I know.  But it's so true.  And the closer you are to Him, the closer you are to His heart, the easier it is to follow.

Sometimes, I get the opportunity in youth ministry to sit down with a student who is starting to look at or about to head to college.  They're at this pivotal time in their lives when it feels like the weight of the world is bearing down and they have to have everything figured out.  And my favorite thing to say is "Stop!  Stop trying to have it all figured out and just be.  Let God lead and enjoy the moment.  Invest in relationships, learn about things that interest you, and don't be afraid of change.  Especially if that change comes in the form of transferring or switching your major!"

I thought that when I graduated from college, the constant state of transition would stop.  I was wrong.  But I've learned to see the beauty in the transitional.  It's made me more flexible.  It's made me appreciate the little things more.  And it's made me lean into God more.

So no matter where you are in life, whether you're on the precipice of a big change or you're pretty settled into a life you like, hold it all loosely and listen for God's voice in it.  Because you never know what He's going to ask you to do next.

As always, you know where to find me if you need me.

Jul 18, 2013

Favorite Quotes

I'm a girl who loves quotes.  I love writing them down in scripty font and posting them around my room, around my office, in random books, in notebooks, etc.  I keep a list on my phone of good quotes.  I guess I just like being encouraged and uplifted and challenged when I read them.

So here are a few of my faves for you!
  

Jul 17, 2013

Rainy Days, the Beach, & a Concert

Last week, my family headed down to Ocean City, NJ for a little beach getaway.  My aunt and uncle had rented a beautiful condo two blocks off the sand and had invited us down.  AJ and I drove down on Wednesday evening and my parents joined us on Thursday morning.  I planned (and packed) for three days of sun, sand, ocean, and a tan.  What we got was rain, wind, and more rain.  Big bummer.

But, we had an awesome time anyway.  We played a lot of mini golf (seriously...my dad is a complete champ.  He wins the hole-in-one prize hole like every time), had an Apples to Apples and Mafia game night, and then spent our one sunny day driving through the Jersey coast and Atlantic city and then home to PA.

driving through Philly // on the way to the beach!
on the way home // cousins/couples hanging out on the boardwalk
my parents, AJ & I // with the Shriver's taffy man
my dad and his prize hole free game // visiting Lucy the Elephant in Margate

Then, on Monday night, AJ and I headed back to Philly for a Relient K concert (can you say throwback?!).  These guys were my favorite band when I was in middle school and high school.  I still like them (their newest album dropped two weeks ago and is pretty good), but this concert was more reminiscent of all of the times I stood in line for hours as a teenager with my friends, waiting to see them at grungy Philly venues, and less about their new stuff.  They're so much fun live, Matt Thiessen is just full of witty banter and they're pretty goofy.  We also fell in love with one of their opening bands, The Rocketboys.  So much so that we walked away from the show with a vinyl, CD, and t-shirt!  (for a grand total of $40.  I love when band merch is incredibly cheap)  Anyway, I highly recommend you check them out. They're very chill rock, and their newest album, Build Anyway, is magic.

In other news, I'm a terrible photographer.  I never take my camera anywhere with me anymore and I feel awful about it.  I took it to the beach and it never left my backpack.  I sort of blame my iPhone.  I mean, it fits in my pocket.  I can't say that about my DSLR.  But I really do need to make a better effort to take real, good photos more often.  

Jul 14, 2013

Girl Talk // Why Facebook Leads to Fakeness


Let's face it.  No matter how "real" you think you are, we've all got a little fake in us.

I remember when I was in high school and girls would call one another fake.  They'd say "She's soooo fake, she acts so nice to your face and then stabs you in the back every chance she gets!"  Fake wasn't just a bad thing then, it was downright detestable.  Something everyone was a little bit of, and yet something no one wanted to ever be called.  In some cases, it was the nail in the coffin of a friendship.

When I was in high school, Myspace ruled.  You had to be in college to be on Facebook, so it was pretty awesome and elite and all that.  Twitter wasn't even on the average person's radar.  Instagram...ummm, what?  You were like, way ahead of the game if your phone had internet.  (Crazy to think of what's changed in just 7 years, huh?)  For the most part, if you were going to be fake, you had to do it face-to-face.  Or behind someone's back.  Or both.

Now, not long after the days of xanga (please, someone tell me you had a xanga too...), our world revolves around social media.  And it reeks of fake.

Think about it:  have you ever retaken a photo until you got a shot that showed you in the perfect way?  have you ever revised a tweet because it needed to be just witty enough but not trying too hard?  have you ever crafted a blog post so that your readers will think your life is just peachy?

Yes.  Yes.  and Yes.  I'm so guilty of all of this.  And I'm willing to bet that you are too.  It's probably not intentional, in fact, you might not even realize it, but if you scroll through your Facebook feed, how much of who you really are shows?

I'm not championing being totally transparent on Facebook.  It's not the place to bear all of your innermost thoughts and struggles, and frankly, I think it's fine to want to present yourself in a good light through social media, but I worry about what it does to our real-life relationships.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to stop before saying something to someone and think "did we talk about this...or did I just read it on her blog or Facebook feed?"  How awful!  Social media has us in the habit of feeding our relationships through the web, instead of face-to-face.  And what a shame, because those one-on-one interactions are so much more real, so much more fulfilling, and so much less fake than our Facebook lives.

I think this whole social media thing carries this weird paradox.  On one hand, it's much less authentic than real life, and in other ways, it allows people the freedom to say what they want, when they want, to whomever they want.  Have you ever seen the "To Be Honest" trend pop up in your news feed?  (Confession:  I'm always tempted to like those posts just to see how honest those people are.)  Facebook allows you to scream at the world and be affirmed in it.  But no matter how honest you are in those posts, it's still not really real.

I think we live in a world that moves so quickly and allows for so much fake, and sometimes, it robs us of becoming who we're meant to be.

So here's my challenge, at the end of this little girl talk:
Be real.  
Be authentic.  
Be intentional.  
Dig deep and invest in others in the flesh, not just online.  
Walk away from the computer, put down the phone, and talk.  
Listen.  
Look critically at your presence on social media.  
If you have the space to do it, talk about some mistakes, struggles, things you'd do differently from time to time.  
Look at them as opportunities for growth, and allow others to grow from them too.

I love girl talk, so you know where to find me if you need me.  Let's have coffee.

Jul 9, 2013

Lately {According to Instagram}

a trip to Boston // VBS at church // late-night runs, naps, and sun // catching up with old friends // spending the 4th with family // ministry at the Olivet's Boys & Girls club // convertible cruisin'
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