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On Happiness

My five year blogging anniversary is coming up soon. Which means, five years ago, I woke up and realized I had everything I wanted but I wasn’t happy. Not in a something is wrong, UNhappy kind of way – just in a restless, unfulfilled, purpose-less way.

And so I started this blog around the concept of never letting life pass you by, living intentionally, and constantly pursuing happiness. I hoped that blogging would keep me accountable to this pursuit. And, I guess it was successful, as I dedicated an alarmingly selfish amount of my life these last five years to pursing my happiness – to learning, to adventuring, to loving, to eating, to creating, to helping.

Andrus Williams Photography

During my blogging journey, I’ve talked to so many of my peers who face this similar restless feeling. Growing up, my generation was taught that we could do anything, be anyone, change the world. We went to college with ambitious dreams of how we could leave our mark on humanity.

In many ways, we’ve accomplished what we thought we wanted. We’ve entered the career we want. Or we’ve found the spouse and the kids we dreamed of. We’re emerging as the active figures and leaders in our communities and churches. And yet, it doesn’t feel the way we thought it would. So, we desperately cry out to figure out what God’s plan is for our life; what our purpose on this Earth is. Surely, it must be bigger than this.

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I’m currently reading a book – Restless by Jennie Allen – about realizing your purpose, contentment, and happiness, specifically in the context of fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.

As I’ve read it, I’m realizing that for once I actually feel purposeful, settled, and content in this little life I have. I always thought it would be some big finish line I crossed; some big accomplishment. But, it seems it crept up on me without my awareness. (And, how ironic that the most content time in life comes at a time that it is also full of pain and frustration. Never have I better understood the lyrics It is well with my soul.)

It finally hit me that my sense of purpose and happiness came about when I stopped searching so fiercely for it. Instead, it came when I started pursing God before myself. When I stopped worrying about me and my contribution and my legacy and how it all makes me feel.

I used to think of Christianity as hard – so many dos and don’ts, too many rules, and too many things to fail at. As I’ve matured in my relationship with Christ, I so plainly see now how simple his life, death, resurrection made it for us. Love God, love others, go into all the world.

Andrus Williams Photography

That’s it. That’s our purpose on this Earth.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not complicated. And there are a million different ways to fulfill this purpose. It’s going to Ethiopia to feed the hungry; it’s taking dinner to your neighbor. It’s starting a non-profit for at-risk youth; it’s volunteering in your church’s nursery. It’s entering full-time ministry; it’s praying for your community. It’s helping start an orphanage; it’s adopting; it’s raising your kids the best you can. It’s doing – using your time, talents, energy, resources – for God.

Instead of getting tangled up in the details, worrying whether it’s enough, and trying to overcomplicate our purpose – thus losing the purpose and contentment altogether – focus on loving God fervently, loving others always, and going into this world and doing for the Kingdom. However we can, wherever we can, whenever we can.

Purpose

Thank you all for the loving, kind, caring reception to my post a few days ago about Real Life. Everyone’s words and prayers are so appreciated.

Since finding out that we can’t have kids on our own, Russell and I have had to ask ourselves how badly we want kids, what lengths we’re willing to go to get them, and what our life would look like if we don’t have kids. We had talked about these things before we got married and through the years – but the conversations are so much heavier when there’s the weight of reality hanging on them.

I think it’s no coincidence that at the exact same time we’ve been grappling with these questions, we’ve gotten to be involved in the launch of Purpose Coffee and watch it grow.

(If you don’t know what Purpose Coffee is, visit our website for all the info. But, in a nutshell, we import coffee from Thailand, Colombia, and hopefully soon countries in Central America and Africa. We roast the coffee here in Dalhart, you buy it, and then we donate all of the proceeds to fund child wellness projects in the same countries where the coffee beans came from. We’re investing in schools, orphanages, health initiatives, water well projects, and so much more!)

Before we started IVF and whatever other fertility treatments planned for us, I wanted to take time to focus on Purpose Coffee and make a trip solely dedicated to that cause. So, in February, we went to Colombia.

Purpose Coffee Co.It was such an amazing trip – soaking up all of the possibility and good that this new company has. Just what I needed to rejuvenate my soul.

We started the trip in Medellin, where we visited some schools and an orphanage that the proceeds from Purpose Coffee support. We got to see what the needs were – and, even more importantly, we got to meet the people who would benefit. The joyful, smiling faces. The beautiful personalities. The sweet kids whose lives shine with potential.

Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.We ended our trip by venturing into the countryside to visit coffee farms, meet with farmers, and bring back samples of their coffee. It was so interesting and beautiful and restorative and peaceful. And the coffee we brought home ended up being pretty delicious too.

I can’t even begin to describe what comfort and peace our involvement in Purpose Coffee has brought us – to know that even if it turns out that it’s not in our cards to have kids of our own, we can still carry out God’s purpose. That our lives can still have meaning. That we can still make a difference in kids’ lives and help shape their futures.

I know it’s cliche to think that God closes one door and opens a window. But, I’m pretty thankful He does.

Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.Purpose Coffee Co.

 

Real Life

One of my friends texted me that it has been exactly 3 months since my last blog post… And that was several months ago…

I tend to go through blogging dry spells whenever there are negative things going on in my life. I feel inauthentic when I’m in these dry spells, because I’m only sharing the pretty, sparkly, wonderful parts of my life. Painting this picture that all I do is go on vacation and watch pretty sunsets and bake cookies and drink coffee.

I think so many of us are guilty of this – sharing the best parts. The pictures of kids smiling – not the melt downs. Posts about celebrating success – not the work and stress that went into achieving that milestone. Pictures of perfect relationships – and not the work, fights, tears that went into building that bond. And can we really be blamed? Who wants to the world to know about our dirty laundry?

But that “other” part – the unshared part – that is what’s real, raw, vulnerable, deep. That’s where we make real connection with others. That’s where God moves mountains; saves us, transforms us.

I’ve felt convicted lately to step out into my vulnerability. To own and share all parts of my life – not just the pretty. And hopefully, through that, God can work.

Real Life

Real life is messy. And complicated. And overwhelming. It’s tears, and stress, and not knowing how you’re going to get it done, and spilled coffee, and dog hair. Oh, the dog hair everywhere.

And for me, real life right now is infertility. It’s been several months (about since my last blog post) since we got the confirmation of what we had suspected for years. I wouldn’t say I handled it well. At all. I’ve gone through every negative feeling out there. Twice. And then maybe once more.

By holding onto this, I’ve let it rob me of so much.

For months, it robbed me of any hope and optimism. With each piece of bad news, it is easier and easier to sink into the Mind Spiral of the Worst Case Scenario. WebMD didn’t help with that either, I might add.

It has interfered with my friendships and relationships with family. So many people have reached out and offered support – but I just didn’t (don’t?) know how to accept it. In one moment I am so desperate to talk about things, and in the next I am resentful that someone wants me to talk about it. That’s not fair, to anyone.

I’ve let it rob me of the chance to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same struggle. Through my experiences so far, I’ve learned that so many women face infertility. It’s not a lonely battle – even though that’s exactly what it feels like when you’re in the middle of it. Why is this such a hush hush topic? Why do we not feely share it? Why do we condemn our sisters to silently struggle after us?

I’m by no means at the end of this journey. I’m still standing right in the middle, with no clear picture of how things will progress. I definitely know I’m still in for a whole lot of “real life” and all of it’s complications and mess.

But, I hope to do a better job of sharing that real life.

I hope to accept support and to connect and to repair relationships.

I hope to have hope.

But one thing is certain – I’m not holding onto this anymore. It is God’s now – and His opportunity to move mountains, to save, and to transform.

My Zoo of Miscreants

I have a zoo at my house. A zoo of miscreants I lovingly call them. Three dogs. And a cat.

Andrus Williams CreativeMy mom once said that we are one rescue animal away from being those weird animal hoarders you see on the news. But, let’s be clear, Russell and I have a heart for animals – and we’re quite proud of that. It’s one of the few things that we have in common, and it bonds our relationship a little deeper.

People often think we’re weird for placing our animals’ needs above our own wants. Aren’t they just animals, afterall?

But here’s why they are so important to us. They are innocent, loving creatures who look at us as their master. And it is my opportunity and responsibility to love them and care for them the same way my Master loves and cares for me.

Andrus Williams PhotographyThey are daily reminders that God could see me as a dumb, disobedient annoyance who never learns from her mistakes. Instead, He sees me as a precious soul who is worthy of His love, attention, devotion, and time.

When Dezzie starts begging for food at 5 am every morning – I am reminded that when I am sick or tired or hungry, my God comes to my side. He provides, and He comforts. He answers my pleads and begs.

Andrus Williams CreativeAndrus Williams CreativeWhen Max and Eli have tried to run away, I was reminded that when I try to run away and turn my back on God, He moves mountains to seek after me. And when I return, He rejoices and reminds me that He never stopped loving me.

I am not just some animal who He may or may not look after. I am His. He protects me. He teaches me. He disciplines me. He forgives me. He never forsakes me. He takes joy in me. And every day, I have the opportunity to practice displaying that kind of love for this little zoo of miscreants I have.

They are destructive and disobedient; they try to run away; they try to harm themselves; they are needy and demanding; and sometimes they try my very last nerve. But in those moments, I thank God for loving me unconditionally when I act like that too.

Andrus Williams Creative

Creating a Wardrobe | A Stitch Fix Review

This year, I made an unofficial New Years Resolution – and it has stuck way better than any real resolution I’ve ever made. I decided to start trying in life. To put more thought into things. To be intentional.

One of the more fun ways that I decided to start trying in life is in regards to how I dress. I’ve always been a sale shopper – I would buy something simply because it was 75% off, with little regard to how it fit me much less how it fit in my wardrobe. I ended up with a lot of clothes that didn’t really look that great on me and that didn’t match anything else in my closet. I felt like I could hardly put together a complete outfit.

So, I cleaned out my closet. Ruthlessly. Anything that I didn’t absolutely, 100 percent love or have a very specific reason for owning, I got rid of it. It made it so much easier to see the items that I actually do like. Getting dressed in the morning is so much easier.

Closet

And then I started wearing accessories. I’ve always been too cheap to buy jewelry, purses, and other accessories (shoes not included – as you can tell from the above picture!!). So, I finally forced myself to make the investment in a few pieces that I really love and can wear with a lot of different outfits – some Kendra Scott jewelry, a Kate Spade purse, and a belt from B. Whimsy. They’ve each made a huge difference for finishing an outfit.

Jewelry

Last, I signed up for an online personal shopping service, called Stitch Fix. For a $20 styling fee, they send a box with 5 items that a stylist thinks I’ll like and will look good on me, along with a few suggestions on how to wear the clothes. They consult a Pinterest board I created, as well as a style profile that I filled out online. If I keep one of the items, the $20 fee goes toward the purchase price. If I keep all 5 items, then it’s 25% off the entire purchase.

A few weeks ago, I got my 4th Fix. I won’t lie – there have been a few misses along the way. But also some really great pieces! I can tell that the stylists really take my requests and feedback into consideration when picking out what to include in my next Fix.

It is so amazingly fun and convenient to have a box of cute, affordable clothes delivered to my door every month! Stitch Fix Day has quickly become my favorite day of the month!

(Plus, I get a $25 referral credit when my friends sign up! Use this link to learn more: https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3474854)

Black Shirt + NecklaceSweater + Dress Dress

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It has been a long time since I’ve shared a recipe on my blog. So, I’m breaking back into it with my new favorite cookie recipe: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I made these cookies by Center Cut Cook. Having mostly been off of baked goods and sweets for six months, these cookies were a little too sweet for me. So I made a few adjustments, but kept the secret to Center Cut Cook’s cookies – ground oatmeal.

With the oatmeal and chunky peanut butter, these cookies have a nice texture, while remaining chewy and soft. Hope you like them as much as Russell and I do!

OCCcookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/8 cup extra chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

With your mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a food processor or Ninja, pulse the oats until finely ground (about 10-15 seconds in my Ninja). Combine in bowl with other dry ingredients and slowly add to wet ingredients. Mix well.

1/4 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Fold in chocolate chips. I love this brand because they are small so a smaller amount goes a long way in the cookies!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Form ping-pong ball sized dough balls and place on a cookie sheet with non-stick baking mat. Cook for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are no longer glistening and they are starting to turn a light golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow them to cool on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

Makes about 18 cookies.

June 9 | We Live Here

June 5th marked two years of living in Dalhart and living in this house. When we moved in two years ago, I was not excited – to say the least. After renovating the house in Farwell, loving every inch of it, and spending some of the happiest days of my life in that house, it was hard to move into a new house and a new life.

Two years later, this house and city are starting to feel like home.

So, it was fitting that the photo a day prompt a few days ago was “We Live Here.” As I took the photo for that day, I was excited to feel a sense of happiness and peace that this is the stage where my life plays out.

OutsideMeLiving Room

Ordinary

I woke up this morning and decided I needed to take my blog back for me. So, that’s what I’m doing. Right now. With this post.

Last September when I decided to start my own business, I tried to turn my blog and website into more of a business tool to showcase what I was working on. (If you want to see that – you still can, here or on Facebook.) Of course, my personal life still crept into the pages of my blog. But, I felt guilty sharing personal work instead of my business work. I have a dozen personal posts lurking in my Drafts folder that I started before the guilt crept in and I stopped working on them.

So, I’m liberating my blog and reclaiming this little corner of the internet for my soul. My blog used to be a space to explore and share what inspires me. And I need that space back.


This month, I’m trying a photo a day challenge on Instagram. Hopefully I make it more than 5 days (my previous record…) Here’s a photo from the challenge.

June 4, Ordinary :: An ordinary little rose in my ordinary little garden.

Rose

A Tourist in Thailand

My last several blog posts have focused on the mission trip that Russell and I went on over Christmas. I hope it’s clear that my heart and soul were touched and changed forever by the things we saw and the people we met while on the trip.

We were also lucky to spend a few extra days in Thailand, experiencing a little more of the country and culture as tourists.

Bangkok

We flew into Bangkok a day early, before the rest of our group arrived. To say we were the typical tourists is an understatement. We traveled by tuk-tuk, we ate Pad Thai, Russell had some clothes tailored for him in six hours, we saw every Buddha in the city, and we sat in a lot of traffic. If we ever go back, I’ll definitely skip Bangkok. One day was more than enough.

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Chiang Mai

Halfway through our mission trip, we traveled from Yangon, Myanmar to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we had a tourist day since it was New Years Eve. Chiang Mai and the surrounding area were really neat – a must see for anyone traveling to Thailand.

We rode elephants, held baby tigers, and let off lanterns. a.k.a., It was the best day of my life. I don’t think I will ever forget what it feels like to feed an elephant, to pet a tiger, and to release a lantern into the heavens, watching it float away and join the sea of thousands of other lanterns.

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Krabi

After the mission trip finished, Russell and I headed to Krabi island for a little relaxation (and a little too much sun). We took a day-long snorkeling trip to Koh Rok, which had, hands down, the most amazingly beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. I didn’t fully grasp the concept of powdery white sand and crystal clear water until visiting Thailand.

ThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailand had been on my list of dream vacations for years, and I’m so glad to have spent time really getting to see so much of the country, while meeting its people and learning about its fascinating culture (oh, and eating its delicious food!).

Happy Birthday to My Love

Since I met Russell over seven years ago, he has changed me and grown with me so much. He’s changed me from a vegetarian to a meat lover, a city girl to a farm wife, a (slightly oblivious) college girl to a confident business woman… And the list could go on for days.

So many of the characteristics I naturally lack, he excels. Discipline, logic, responsibility, adventure, steadfastness. How amazing that he lets me stand on his shoulders and draw from his strengths.

I like to think I’ve rubbed off a little on him too. He’s more compassionate and understanding, more charitable, and more likely to eat dessert.

From day one of our relationship, I’ve loved that we are so different. We push each other; challenge each other.

Going on a mission trip isn’t something I ever thought Russell would want to do. So, when he casually mentioned he might be interested in going one day, I signed us up immediately. Leading up to the trip, I worried that I might have pushed a little too hard. What if he hated it. What if he was miserable. What if it was hard to play with the kids since we don’t have any kids. What if it was too hard to be around other people constantly for two weeks when we are used to being just us two. What if, what if, what if…

Honestly, I don’t know why I worry at all about that man; he’s a star. He worked hard, painting and helping build a foundation at one of the orphanages.

MyanmarThailandHe played SO well with the kids, showing them his crazy yoga abilities and amazing athleticism. And then he introduced them to Lord of the Rings and iPad minis and Texas Tech. (For the record, Go Frogs!)

MyanmarThailandMyanmarHe earnestly and thoughtfully talked with the orphanage leaders, learning about their farming and sustainability efforts, and sharing ideas for improvement and growth.

MyanmarThailandHe was patient. And loving. And kind. And thoughtful. And protective. And strong. And I fell even more in love with him.

Happy birthday to the best partner in life I could ever ask for. xoxo

Myanmar

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