Tropical Paradise: A Photo Diary

Recently I took a little trip to an island paradise, and wanted to share a few of those tropical memories with you! We enjoyed time walking the beaches, swimming in the infinity pools, sailing in the mornings, savoring the fresh catch at lunch, and the beautiful crystal- clear water of the islands. It is such an oasis to be in the middle of the ocean with the trade winds blowing, the palm trees swaying, and the kindness of island hospitality to soak up along with the sunshine. It was hard to leave and return to reality, but I arrived home feeling refreshed and relaxed. Here's a bit of a photo diary of the trip; take a little escape with me...


3 Keys to A Balanced, Extraordinary Life

Life is all about balance. We talk about a balanced diet, a balancing act of time and priorities, the balance between work and play..etc. As summer begins to come to a close and the new school year begins (hello, master's program!) it is of interest to me to understand how to effectively manage both my time and other areas of my life in order to achieve my greatest potential. There are many philosophies that talk about ways to categorize life and the different aspects of it. While I certainly don't claim to know everything, or to have achieved perfect balance in my life, I recently did some study and teaching on things I discovered through examining my own life, and thought it would be of interest to share with you.

We all want to live incredible lives. We're not called to be "normal", we're called to become extraordinary, and an extraordinary life is really all about whole living, being balanced and complete as a person in all areas of life.

There are three main areas to life:
1. Mind
2. Body
3. Spirit

Philippians 4:8 says, "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." (MSG)

    What does this mean? The things that you think about will determine the course of your life. Here's the deal: What you watch, read and listen to will affect your life, regardless of whether or not you're conscious of it. I challenge you to be intentional and strategic about what you allow into your mind. We've all heard the phrase, "garbage in, garbage out", and while it's cliche, it's very true.
I have many friends who watch all kinds of movies--and they say all the time, "it doesn't affect me", and perhaps they are right in the sense that they may have become de-sensitized to all the violence or profanity or other content, but that information still goes into the subconscious as material for the mind to work on. One of the things that's been beneficial to me in this process is to ask myself what kind of lifestyle I wanted, and then to step back, and honestly analyze where I was and what changes needed to be made in this area in order to begin moving toward the life I want.
    We are all individuals, and each person's idea of who and where they want to be in life is very different, so choose what works for you. Personally, I didn't grow up watching TV, and to this day have continued this habit as I feel that it is a distraction and full of content that isn't consistent with where I am going. (you can read more of my thoughts on that here) Negative thoughts, people and information are easily accessible, and if that's not the kind of influences you want directing your life, then it's best to become diligent in monitoring that. Remember, thoughts become feelings which turn into emotions and those emotions, when acted upon, create results. Be aware of what you allow into your mind, and what you think about.

James 2:17 says, "Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup?--where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?"(MSG)

    We live in a culture that thrives on procrastination. It's so easy to say, 'Oh, I'll just do it later/tomorrow/when I have time..' and then somehow we push things back until they reach the bottom of the "to-do list" and perhaps never make it off. Do you know someone who wants to change something? (Maybe it's getting better grades, losing weight, getting to sleep earlier, change in career..) What would happen if all this person does is simply tell people they are going to change, yet never make the first step of action? Nothing. If we want to change, we need to start changing our habits. John Maxwell, in his latest book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, (a great read, and HIGHLY recommended!!) talks about how the secret to success is found in our daily routines. We see action when we begin to examine the things we do all the time and make adjustments.
    Recently, I have been studying the topic of integrity, and over the course of the summer was blessed to receive more teaching and information that further confirmed what God had been revealing to me about this subject. Integrity is often thought of as the things you do when no one is looking, but really, integrity is about what you do when you are in front of others, in a place of leadership, AND when you are alone. Integrity is consistency...what you say you do, and what you really do should be the same. Instead of just talking about doing something, let's take the necessary action steps to begin doing.

Whole, balanced living also means caring for the body you've been given. We only get one physical body, and scripture calls it the 'temple of the Holy Spirit'. Care for yourself by eating right, drinking enough water, getting exercise and creating those healthy habits. You act your best when you feel your best!

Finally, the most important part of whole, balanced living is your Spirit

Colossians 1:9 says, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives." (NIV)

We all want to know God's will for our lives, and if you haven't asked that question of life purpose yet, you will. Part of being in that will is becoming like Christ and joining him in his work. How do we know where God wants us to be? Begin by growing and developing your spirit which is the heartbeat of your life. Strengthening your spirit will, in turn, affect and help to balance the other areas of your life.

-Invest time in your relationship with God. 
Like any other relationship we have with another person, it's important to talk to them, spend time together, to know their likes and dislikes..etc. A relationship with God works the same way; we need to talk to Him, get to know what He delights in and also what breaks His heart.

-Here are a few practical, Spirit-building habits:
1. Church: Do more than just show up. Listen to what God is trying to tell you for your life, and be engaged in the message.
2. Community: Do life with other people. We need others to surround us to encourage, inspire and enjoy life together. You are not an island or a hermit, and you (and I) need people.
3. Quiet Time/Devotions: The best way to get to know God is to invest time with Him. Start a prayer journal, read a verse or two in scripture and think about how it can apply to your life.
4. Prayer: Communication with God=a life that is successful.
5. Worship: It's amazing what some worship can do to totally revolutionize your perspective and attitude. Put on some music and really worship the One who created you.
6. Tithing: Give of your time, talent and resources. It's not just a financial decision, get out into the community and help through an outreach project, serve at church, take time to listen when someone needs help, and if you do have a job, tithe off your income. Here's the deal: you can't out-give God. Test Him and see if He doesn't open up a floodgate of blessing upon your life when you give the best of your life to Him.

Whole, balanced living means an extraordinary life, but that's not to say that it is easy, quick, or without challenge. It is always a challenge, and making changes is often a painful or uncomfortable process; however, the results are SO worth the temporary discomfort. I challenge you to leave "normal" behind, and follow adventure. You see, God is already at work...the question is 'will you join Him?' You don't have to have all the answers, you just have to get involved. You were born into this time for a reason, and have been called to greatness. If God had wanted someone else to do what He's called you to do, He would have chosen them to live your life instead.

God says, "I have come so that you may have life, and life abundant."
Abundant life is not normal. Abundant life is extraordinary.
Let's live it.


Styled: TT x Firmoo

(Top: F21, Denim: Old Navy-- (on sale too!!), Sunglasses: Firmoo c/o, Shoes: Worthington, 
Earrings: Kate Spade, Bangle: Lilly Pulitzer, Watch: Michael Kors)

I have finally found them...after months and months of searching endlessly. Tah-dah! I present the perfect boyfriend jeans. (cue the hallelujah chorus) Ok, ok all joking aside, this pair of jeans is seriously awesome. It's kind of a challenge to find a pair of boyfriend jeans that isn't too baggy and shapeless and sans major rips. I'm all for a little distressed denim, but wow, no thanks to the large holes in the knees. I can put them there myself, no need to purchase them that way. This silhouette paired with a simple graphic tee is a recipe for simple, chic style, and a great way to begin the transition into---dare I say it?--fall fashion. Anyway, along with the excitement that comes from finding the perfect pant, I also am thrilled about these ever- so- slightly Holly Golightly-esqe sunglasses that Firmoo sent over. I love a great cat eye shape, and these are so chic in an understated, glamorous way that makes one wonder if it's a celeb hiding behind those frames. If you haven't taken a glance at the multitude of glasses options Firmoo has, it's time to do so. Oh, and did I mention your first pair is free?! Yeah, you heard correctly. Head on over and grab a pair. I think you'll love them!


La Vie Boheme

Oh how I just adore summer! It’s full of easy days spent soaking up the sun, enjoying time with good friends, pool parties, vacation, and sun-kissed skin. One of my favorite things to do during this time of year is to grab some friends and host a dinner party al fresco. I think the best place for a beach bash is anywhere with a view of the water, or right on the beach if you can! While a pretty dinner party may sound complicated, this bohemian-inspired, summer soiree is very simple to put together, leaving you plenty of time to soak up the last rays of sun as you watch the sunset. Here’s your go-to handbook for hosting your own summer party!

Decorate: I love the idea of playing with color and infusing a little free-spirited, boho feel to the decor of a beach bash, so inspired by the two, I chose a color palate in shades of green, cobalt, and aqua. Instead of a traditional place setting, things got a beachy, island vibe with some woven place mats and dark wicker drink holders, and I swapped out a tablecloth for a beach blanket. When you’re going to the beach, it’s best to keep things simple and multi-purpose so you don’t have to lug a lot of things out there, so I used the fresh fruit as part of the “table decor” as well as for snacking, and interspersed a few small lanterns in soft creme to give a little light as the sun set. Individual bowls at each guest’s spot made for easy serving and guests could choose from a buffet of different finger foods, perfect for a lazy afternoon that turns into evening on the beach. Remember to bring along a small garbage bag for easy and fuss-free clean up afterwards!  

Dress: Beach parties are the perfect excuse to bring out the breezy, bohemian style, and it’s such fun for your guests to participate in dressing the part! Colorful bathing suits, maxi dresses, layered up jewels, long earrings, and flowing tops paired with shorts make for comfortable and free-spirited ensembles. Summer is also a great time to try out new braided hairstyles and to rock loose, mermaid waves. For a simple DIY beach-inspired ‘do, combine a bit of sea salt with some water and spritz on semi-damp hair. Let your hair dry naturally and then touch up any ends or pieces with a curling wand. Voila!, Mermaid hair achieved. 

Eat: When things heat up, the last thing you want is a heavy meal, or things that could melt in the sun. Choose your menu according to the time of day that you’re hosting your party, and always check with your guests to ensure that any special dietary needs are accounted for. Since this was an afternoon of fun by the sea, I decided that an array of different snack foods was best, accompanied by a flavorful quinoa salad. Check with your local grocery store and pick up some of the fresh fruits in season to ensure the best and sweetest taste! Strawberries, orange slices and large juicy wedges of watermelon all looked delicious and were perfect for the warm afternoon! In addition to the fruit, some delicate and crispy coconut cookies were a delightful, tropical compliment. Hydration is key in the soaring temperatures, and guests were greeted with a cold, sparkling water in flavors like Pink Grapefruit and Blueberry Lemon. I always enjoy serving fun, fizzy drinks like a sparkling flavored water or lemonade as a peppy addition to the menu! My local gourmet market had created this delicious and colorful quinoa salad, so for convenience sake, I chose to pick some up on the way to the beach, but if you’d like to create your own, it’s easy and fun to experiment with adding some freshly chopped veggies and dried fruits to your quinoa for added flavor. 

As the late afternoon light slowly fades to evening’s glow and sparkles upon the water, enjoy the laughter, mingling conversation, and don’t forget to play in the waves a little! Enjoy summer’s easy, peaceful days, the company of good friends, the sound of the sea, and celebrate this beautiful season! Cheers!

(Piece first published in Lydia Mag for Summer 2014: read full article here)

Event Styling: Candice 
Photography: Ashley Holstein Photography
Models: Lauren, Lawson, Olivia, Candice


Summer Style Files: Devon Alana

It's always fun to host friends here on my blog, and Devon Alana is one of those lovely people who went from blog to real life friend, and it's a treat to have her here to share some casual, summer style with you! Devon is a talented blogger and designer whose Etsy store is just brimming with darling pieces you'll want to add to your wardrobe. Today she's styled the ever-popular America tank, and no doubt you'll want to swing by her shop to pick one up, and grab a monogrammed accessory while you're at it! 

Whether you're heading to the beach, packing up the car and hitting the road, or just kicking back with a good book and lemonade, you'll love this fun, printed tank! Devon has styled it with casual, acid washed denim cutoffs, classic white Converse and a stack of gold bangles. At this point of the summer it's all about that easy, breezy feel and effortless dressing, and this look fits right in. Thanks for sharing your style with us, Devon! xx


Welcome Back

Hello, hello! I'm back from a bit of a hiatus from the blog world. This photo pretty much sums up the wonderful weeks that turned into months, and friends that turned into family. What an incredible summer experience of training leaders from all across the world with this team, and growing into more of the calling God has for my life. I'm back with lots of sweet memories, stories and a whole lot of inspiration. There's going to be some exciting changes and projects happening here on the blog in the next few months, and I hope you'll join me for the adventure :) Can't wait to share more...stay tuned!

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