I’ll be happier when…

Friends, have you ever said something like this?

I’ll be happier when it’s Spring and the cold weather isn’t bringing me down.

I’ll be happier when I’m finished with graduate school.

I’ll be happier when he finally proposes.

I’ll be happier when we’re expecting a baby.

I’ll be happier when I’m away on vacation.

I’ll be happier when exams are over.

I’ll be happier when my husband starts loving me in this way.

I’ll be happier when I hit a new PR.

I’ll be happier when I find a different job.

I’ll be happier when we’re out of this apartment and into a real house.

If you’re anything like me, we confess I’ll-be-happier-whens in our hearts almost daily. 

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Despite being blessed with countless good things in life (literally, too much to even count), I have not appreciated them. I’ve been stuck with a future-minded mentality lately. I tell myself that I’ll be happier when we’re not in a season of transition, when we travel, when I make more money, when I’m training for a marathon again. The list is endless if I’m not careful.

I’ve been in my current season of transition for two months, and I want to get out of it. I have spent so much time wanting to be somewhere else rather than appreciating where I am. Sometimes, I allow myself to get so caught up in the future, so set on how much better things are going to be once life settles down, that I miss the beauty all around me. There is so much good in the here and now, and I am afraid I will miss all of it if I’m so focused on what’s missing, what’s next.

I have a feeling that I’m not alone here. What is it that you’re waiting on? What is it that you’ve convinced yourself will make you happier? Is it finding your new house? Getting a new job? Having a stronger marriage?

The hard truth is that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Heck, we’re not even guaranteed ten minutes from now.

Let’s trust in a God who gives us our minutes and our days, who controls all seasons and all timing. There is a reason that we’re in the season that we’re in, and there’s a reason why we haven’t been given the next one yet. Maybe there’s a friend waiting for you in your graduate school who you have yet to meet. Maybe there’s some growing or learning that you need to do before he proposes. Maybe you’re not meant to get pregnant, maybe you’re called to the miracle of adoption. Maybe you’re not ready to hit a new PR, but needed to appreciate the gifts and goals that you’ve already achieved. Maybe there’s actually something that you can be doing to love your husband better. Maybe you’re not out of your apartment building yet, because there’s a hurting family next door who needs somebody to lean on.

Maybe God has you where you are right now, because there’s just so much that He wants to give you. So many ways that He wants to love you in the here and now.

I’ll be happier when I start savoring my season. Will you join me?

 

 

 

 

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Lately: January

People. How is it nearly February already? I’m still trying to catch up, writing “2015” at the top of all of my letters and figuring out just how exactly these resolutions are going to be attainable.

I wish that I had more time to write these days, but life has just been plain ol’ crazy. Big things are happening for our little fam – more to come about that soon, promise.

My dear friend Gwen (happy birthday!) said that she enjoyed reading this series – it’s a great reminder of how easily we can give ourselves the gift of journaling and jotting memories down, no matter how busy we are. I love doing Latelys/Currentlys because it gives me a chance to sit for just a second, reflect, and later, look back on what this little season was like.

I encourage you to do this too, friend. Either on a blog, in a Word document, or in that journal way, way up on your bookcase that you’ve been meaning to dust off…take the time to savor the little things that are making up your world these days. Give yourself the gift of ten minutes.

I hope you’ve been having the happiest and coziest of Januaries. Lately, I’ve been…

Making: slow mornings + quiet time a priority.
Cooking: vegan as often as possible.
Drinking: homemade matcha lattes instead of coffee. Y’all. I AM A BELIEVER.

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Reading: Still Alice. (AKA, w e e p i n g all of the time.)
Wanting: warmer weather.
Looking: for an SUV!
Playing: a lot of Kodaline. Particularly, this.
Wasting: as little as possible. We’re all about the minimalism and simplicity these days.
Wishing: for a snow day!
Waiting: for tomorrow night’s concert date with my mama.
Loving: time with girlfriends. Especially grateful for you – Taylor, Laura, and Abby!
Hoping: for a phone call with some good news.
Marveling: at God’s goodness. Far beyond what I deserve.
Needing: to get some long runs in. Where are you, warm weather? Where are you, motivation to run even in the freezing cold?
Smelling: eucalyptus + spearmint lotion.
Wearing: Dresses and boots, boots and dresses. Pants are not really my pals these days.
Noticing: we’re getting a little more into the beautiful swing of things four months into marriage. We got this, bud.
BookmarkingThe Chic Site.
Feeling: very, very grateful. And excited. And impatient. And #allthefeels.

 

Heart-to-Heart Hump Day: Nicole of 314 Productions

Ladies, meet sweet and beautiful Nicole of 314 Productions and Bloom the Blog. I’ve been following her work for years – not only is she crazy talented, but she has a bravery and vulnerability about her that is so refreshing to see in a world that seems to always be full of people “having it all together”. I love that Nicole is always free to open up to share about her faith through the hills and valleys of life. In being brave and vulnerable, she gives permission to others to do the same.

In this interview, we covered marriage, being called to create, (and that it’s 100% fine if you’re not called to create)and even finding joy and strengthening faith in the midst of infertility. I hope that Nicole’s words will be a big encouragement to you today! Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Hi Nicole, thanks so much for joining me for Heart-to-Heart Hump Days! I’ve been reading your blog for years, so it’s really fun to get the chance to have a “virtual” coffee date with you. For those who might not have stumbled upon Bloom before, please tell everyone about yourself! 

My name is Nicole Cole (yep, that’s for real!) and I live just outside of Memphis, TN in a little Mississippi town.  I spend my days in my home office running our videography and photography business, 314 Productions.  In the evenings you’ll usually find me snuggled up on the couch with my husband Tyler and our two fur-babies, Bella and Beaumont!

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I love reading your posts about marriage – especially about finding joy, even when         it’s not perfect like all of the romantic comedies. What’s something that God’s been teaching you about marriage lately?

In the past couple of weeks the Lord has really been putting the word “honor” on my heart.  In all relationships, it is so easy to focus on self.  I’ve learned marriage is the biggest relationship in my life that shows my tendency towards sin and to make things about me.  Over the past few weeks the Lord has been reminding me to honor Ty.  To put him first, to choose his well-being over mine, to listen to his opinion while I stay silent.  I’ve been reminded to honor him in my actions, in my attitude, and in the way that I talk to him.  I’m finding out that really being intentional to honor him makes my love for him grow, my desire to pray for him increase, and my relationship with God more submissive. “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10 

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Tell us about the business that you own and operate with Tyler, 314 Productions.

314 Productions is the videography and photography business that I have the joy of pursuing with my husband.  314 Productions is our baby!  I’ve always been really interested in photography and was the only high school gal who carried around a DSLR wherever she went.  Fast forward to 2013, our wedding year!  I had seen a friend’s short video documenting her holiday season with her family and I thought that video would be a great idea to really document our honeymoon.  I nervously pitched the idea to Ty and expected him to think it was kind of strange, but he was all over it.  Over the course of our honeymoon we took our camera everywhere!  While we were editing some of the video in bed on one of our last mornings, Tyler said, “Wouldn’t this be cool if we could do this as a job?” I immediately laughed it off.  No, never!  That wouldn’t be a stable income, how would we ever find clients?  No way.  This could never happen. I was going to be a teacher, we were going to have a predictable life, and everything would be good.  But God started to turn those plans completely around.  314 Productions is HIS story!  

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How did you know that teaching wasn’t the right fit for you, even after all of the time put into your education, training, and work? Was this a scary leap for you to take?

In the fall of 2012 I started to feel like education wasn’t “it” for me.  I was starting my senior year of college with student teaching ahead of me and all of a sudden it just didn’t fit anymore.  I grew up knowing I would be a teacher.  There was never another option for me!  I went into college passionate and excited and ready to teach.  And then one day I just felt like there was more.  After our honeymoon (and first video!) in March of 2013, I started to think about what I could possibly do instead of teach.  I coordinated a wedding, worked with a photographer, and I even did florals!  Still, nothing seemed to fit.  We continued to play around with video throughout the summer and in August a photographer friend of ours got us our first wedding.  We rented all our equipment and showed up at a wedding without a CLUE of what we were doing!  By the sheer grace of God, we got through that wedding day and still had a desire to do it again.  🙂  In October of 2013 we launched our Facebook page and we went on in 2014 to film over 20 weddings in our first year of business.  Y’all, this doesn’t just happen.  This is God’s favor all over us and we are so humbled that He would use us like He has.

I can’t really describe “how” I knew education wasn’t a right fit for me.  I just truly felt the Lord calling me into something different.  I taught second grade in the 2013-2014 school year and then I was the librarian at my small private school for the 2014-2015 school year.  After school ended in May of 2015, I went full time with our business.  I still LOVE thinking back on the time I spent in the classroom and I know that the Lord has blessed me with the ability to teach.  Now, I am just doing that in other ways.  But, you’ll hear more about that in the coming months. 😉

What do you love most about your business? 

What I love most about our business is the fact that I get to do it with my husband.  It’s been incredible for our marriage as we’ve entered into this season of doing business together.  We’ve had to learn new ways to solve problems and we’ve had to be quicker to say “I’m sorry” when we’ve gotten frustrated or acted disrespectfully towards one another.  Jesus has used it so much in our marriage and I am so grateful.

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Now that you’ve been through the process, what would your advice be to the dreamers out there who feel called to create or start a new venture, something much different than what they’re doing now?

DO IT!  Take the leap and try it.  I’m a perfectionist so starting a business has been incredibly challenging for me.  No one has the perfect business and CERTAINLY no one starts a business without making a thousand mistakes.  Don’t be afraid of failing.  Lord knows we’ve failed a LOT.  Be humble, work hard, and do the things you’ve been called to do.  Failure will happen, but that doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to be doing what you’re doing!

I want to take a minute to share something that I think needs to be said.  If you’re not in a place of dreaming up a new business or starting something new THAT’S OKAY.  I feel like “dreamers” have somehow become better in our society.  Someone who is pursuing a business or “following their dreams” is living a better life than someone who works in an office, is a teacher, or is a mom who stays home with her kids.  We are all created with purpose.  We all have unique skills and passions and callings that the Lord has placed on our lives.  Living boldly, living with passion, and living out God’s calling is NOT synonymous with starting a business.  You can live boldly, love loudly, and serve wholeheartedly as you enter a room of 27 kindergarteners, sit behind a desk looking at numbers all day, or chase around your babies at home.  Having a 9-5 job doesn’t mean an ordinary life.  If we love Jesus, it shouldn’t matter WHAT our job title is, we should be living extraordinary lives.  Because we have a God who sent His son Jesus to put on flesh, dwell among man, and take on every ounce of wrath that we deserved.  We live free from the curse of sin and the punishment for our wickedness.  This should compel us to live lives that are far from ordinary. Wherever you are today, you can live boldly!  

Man, that was great to hear! I’m so glad you spoke up about that. You’re right – that’s totally okay! Each woman is called to her own unique purpose.

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One thing I’ve truly admired about you over the past few months is your willingness to write about your journey of trying to get pregnant. Despite it being a painful and challenging season, what joy and positives have come from it?

“Painful and challenging” seems light in comparison to how I’ve felt.  Infertility is a strange beast who has opened up some dark areas of my heart and exposed so much sin.  Everyday brings about new challenges, but through it all the Lord has stood before me so faithfully.  I have seen Jesus like I’ve never seen Him before.  I’ve seen my sin like I’ve never seen it before.  I’ve felt brokenness like I’ve never felt it before.  I have been completely wrecked, but Jesus has been faithful each day.  My relationship with Jesus is so much different than it was before infertility.  Because of that I wouldn’t change one day of this.  Jesus is worth all the infertility.  Even when I have to repeat that to myself a thousand times a day.  He is worth it.

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Apart from my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my husband has changed so much.  Infertility is hard on a marriage.  If the Lord wills for this season to go on for years, I can only imagine how much my older self will resonate with that sentence.  It’s hard, but it has also been sweet.  Ty has carried me, literally carried me, on some of my hardest days.  There’s an intimacy in our marriage that is sweet and special and I am so glad that we’ve experienced this together.  

Do you have any words of encouragement for other women who may be experiencing the same struggle?

Sister, I cry with you.  I cry for you.  I know that it’s hard.  But, let’s look upward and outward together.  Let’s raise our hands to Jesus and let Him carry us through.  Let’s let go of our dreams and desires because what He has for us will truly be so much better, even if that sentence feels like bitter wine in our mouths.  Beg the Lord to restore to you the joy of His salvation (Psalm 53:12) and keep your eyes on Him.

If you need someone to talk to, someone to be real with, or someone to just cuss at out of anger (God already knows it!  Might as well be honest!), email me. 🙂  bloomtheblog@gmail.com

What advice do you have for friends of women in this position, who may want to provide comfort and hope, but don’t know where to start?

I feel like I could say a million things here, but I’ll just stick with the big stuff.  If you have a friend who is struggling, please don’t quote popular scripture or share pat spiritual answers.  “All in God’s timing” or “everything happens for a reason” might be true, but your friend will probably just want to cuss at you and perhaps through a heavy objects towards your face instead of thanking you for your wisdom. 😉  We KNOW that God’s timing is good.  We KNOW that the Lord has a reason for every single day of our waiting.  Instead of trying to give answers, ask questions.  Ask about her relationship with Christ, where she is struggling, and where she needs prayer.  Talk to her about your own sin struggles and where you are with Jesus.  By all means, CHALLENGE your friend to seek the scriptures.  Challenge her to step out of the fear and sadness and hold onto the promises of scripture.  Often times we DO need that hard, honest word.  And when all else fails, give her a hug, tell her you love her, and share a pint of ice cream on the couch as you watch tv.

If you could take a road trip to anywhere in the country this coming weekend, where would it be, and why?

I would love to be in the snowy mountains of Colorado!  Here in Mississippi everything is FLAT AS A PANCAKE.  So seeing some mountains (and snow!) would do this girl some good. 😉

What are three things in life that you’re loving right now? 

Right now I’m loving my whatever is lovely coloring book, this quinoa enchilada crockpot recipe, and these super comfy pajamas!

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Wow, your open heart and honesty did some serious good for my soul.    

Anyone else? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you so much for sharing your life and faith with us, Nicole!

To stay in touch with Nicole, visit her blog, Bloom.

Check back each Wednesday for #HearttoHeartHumpDays, featuring interviews with inspiring women of all ages & stages as they chase big, brave, and beautiful adventures. Coming soon: Taylor Tippett!

Lines on our faces, calluses on our hands

“Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a sliver of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich when it contains a splinter of sadness. Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.

– Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Friends. Something horrific happened. On Wednesday night, I shockingly found and angrily plucked a gray hair out of my head. I AM TWENTY-FOUR YEARS OLD. Barely 24, at that. I am not the premature silver fox American Idol winner of 2006. I looked in the mirror in disbelief and thought, most assuredly, in all of my human vanity and ego, that this early-to-the-party gray hair was quite possibly the worst thing to ever happen to me.

Okay, reality check. I was grumpy for about two minutes before my brain settled with my soul. I had one gray hair, and my mom told me some time ago that if you pluck it, it will just grow back anyway, those pesky little things. This gray hair, though rogue and acting out alone, was a reminder that I’m changing each day, growing older each minute, despite my youth and my false sense of invincibility that everyone has in their twenties.

Last night, I finished the book Bittersweet: Thoughts on Grace, Change, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist, with tears in my eyes and a new-found resolve in my heart. I’ve been reading Shauna’s devotional for the past few months, and I knew I just needed more of her wisdom, perspective, and relatable anecdotes. I devoured it over the past week, frequently nudging Chad or running down to the living room to tell him: “Babe! I have to read this paragraph to you!” And he loved it too, because each sentence brought hope and power and a lot of laughs, sometimes a tear. It rocked. my. world.

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I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that if you’re like me, and sometimes wrestle with how you can be both joyful and sorrowful at the same time, going through a hard season but celebrating the day-to-day, or if you’re faced with questions about the future and exactly what your purpose in this big, bad world: run like Forrest Gump to the library or the nearest Barnes & Noble and get your hands on this baby. It was everything I’ve been needing to hear for years. I don’t know where you are in this season: studying or working, single or married, painfully waiting or gratefully celebrating, joyful or sorrowful, maybe a little bit of both. But I’m willing to bet that like me, you’re a little scared of the change that always seems to be happening in life, never slowing down, the inevitability of going through tough seasons of refinement.

The bitter and the sweet in life is something beautiful. I’ve got ugly calluses on my hands that are so rough and cracked, I consider the day a win if I didn’t have to shake hands with anyone at work. But, these ugly rips are from something challenging I’ve been pursuing lately: gripping bars, lifting weights, struggling through pullups. It’s not a pretty sight, on my hands, or watching me flail on the gymanstics bar – and I’m not very confident about it. It’s a painful, refining season of learning something new. But the beautiful thing is that I’m trying something new, out of my comfort zone, fighting to get stronger on the inside and the out. It’s both ugly and beautiful at the same time. Change always seems to be that way, doesn’t it?

And folks, call me a walking anti-aging cream commercial, but I’ve got some early lines on my face. Two tiny worry lines between my eyes, from years persistent anxiety, doubt, and fear.  But you know what? I don’t scrunch my face so much these days. I’ve been overcoming that crippling worry over the past few years and I’m living with a little more peace and faith each day. Ugly lines, beautiful story. Bitter, and yet so sweet.

On Wednesday night, after my brief and vain wallowing was over, it dawned on me that this gray hair was kind of a gift. One teeny, tiny, reminder of the slow and gradual change that’s taking place, when every thing around it looks exactly the same. When it grows back, like my mom swore that it will, I might not pluck it. I might just let it stay. Because that’s kind of how life is, isn’t it? We can try to fight the change, try to outrun and ignore the messy parts of our life – but we’ll always come back to it again, being molded and shaped, with change over time, into exactly who we were designed to be.

I just might be thankful for that rebel gray hair after all. A picture of constant grace, inevitable change and learning the hard way to see the good in all of it.

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Heart-to-Heart Hump Day: Laura Jean Gilleland

Happy Wednesday, ladies!

I’ve had the privilege of chatting with and getting to know Laura Jean Gilleland, a Minnesota-based writer, explorer, events planner, but above all – a truly beautiful and inspiring woman. I hope you’ll enjoy our interview today!

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Welcome to Stay Great My Girl, Laura Jean! I’m so happy to get to chat with you today.

Your abundant joy and love for life shared through your blog is contagious – you are a light in a too often dark world, and I wanted to share that gift with my readers today. Let’s start off by telling them a bit about who you are and who (and what) you love.

Hello, friends! My name is Laura and it is a joy to be with you today. A few of the things I love the most are Chipotle chicken burrito bowls (with extra corn, of course), the great outdoors, snail mail, and my sweet husband Jacob. I work as an event planner for a local college and am the creative behind According to Laura Jean.

What is According to Laura Jean, and how did it start?

According to Laura Jean is a positive online space that encourages living a simple and creative life, sharing real, authentic stories that inspire and focusing on people and the growth of a genuine community. I started blogging in 2011 when I was a camp counselor out of state. It was a way to keep my friends and family informed of everything that was happening. After that summer, I kept up with my blog and it has slowly transformed into what it is today.

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I really love how candid you are about your journey with Alopecia Universalis. For those unfamiliar, can you please explain what Alopecia is? When did it come into your life?

Alopecia is an auto-immune disease that attacks hair follicles and prevents hair growth. In simple terms, I say that it is somewhat like I am allergic to my hair. There is no known cause or cure for Alopecia. I have Alopecia Universalis, the most severe type, and have no hair on my entire body. Ladies, you should be jealous as I don’t have to shave my legs or armpits! It’s the small things in life, right? I was diagnosed with Alopecia in the sixth grade and lost all of my hair within two months of being diagnosed.

Many women struggle with insecurity and feel like they just can’t possibly measure up to the world’s standard of beauty (my hand is raised, too). Everywhere we turn, we seem to be constantly be reminded of our flaws and imperfections; always reminded of what we lack and what we need to be “enough”. If this were a coffee date, what would you tell a friend who fears the mirror, struggling to see herself as beautiful?

Oh friend, I am right there with you. My biggest piece of encouragement is to simply be yourself. The longer you try to act or be like someone else, the further you are running from the beauty you behold. If you embrace who you are physically, mentally, socially and emotionally, you will grow in confidence of who you were created to be.

Why do you think so many women struggle with insecurity today?

The world has placed huge demands and expectations on what beauty is and what it is not, especially for women. I am constantly frustrated by messages that are told to girls from a very young age and engrained in our brains. We are always told to be more and do more instead of resting in grace and loving ourselves for who we are. It is a terrible cycle and I truly believe it is up to us, as women, to spread the truth about beauty and confidence.

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What has helped you to gain such confidence and strength, despite what some may see as a challenge?

To be honest, I cannot pinpoint one exact moment or memory where I transitioned to a life of confidence and strength. When I was first diagnosed with Alopecia, I hid behind old-lady looking wigs and lots of makeup. I was so embarrassed and ashamed for my appearance. By the grace of God, I began to realize that I could be beautiful even without hair. Day to day I accept who I am and how I am feeling and live life to the fullest.

2015 was a big year for you – you and your husband made the big move from Iowa to Minnesota! What was the best part about that transition? What was the hardest?

Yes! We love Minnesota and it was such a good transition for us. The best part of our move is that we are back home where we grew up. We have many friends and family here and it is such a joy to see them more often. We are also very partial to the outdoor adventures Minnesota has to offer, no matter what the season. The hardest part was leaving behind so many loved ones we grew close to the last five years. We made amazing friends, coworkers and neighbors. It gives us the perfect excuse to visit!!

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I’ve never been to Minnesota, but I’m told it’s both freezing and wonderful. Tell us a bit what your daily life looks like in the Twin Cities.

You are right — Minnesota is both freezing and wonderful. I love that Minnesota experiences all four seasons in their purest form, but it is currently -10 degrees and so frigid. When I am not working as an event planner, I spend a lot of time at local coffee shops doing blog work and spending time with friends. My husband and I go camping and backpacking a lot and spend quite a bit of time going for walk, snowshoeing or canoeing.

Are you into New Year’s Resolutions? What are some current goals that you’re working on?

I wouldn’t say I am super excited about New Year’s resolutions, but I am also not against them. I am a fairly reflective person and it is important to me to hold onto memories. Each month we record memories in our marriage memory journal and read through them on New Year’s Eve. My main goal right now is to seek balance in everyday life. It is easy for my job to consume me or to get burnt out from blogging. I want to find the sweet spot of putting my best foot forward, but also giving myself grace.

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Just for fun – what are 3 things that you’re loving right now?

For Christmas I received the book Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. It is such a good read and I highly recommend it to everyone! I am also obsessing over the show Hart of Dixie. I started watching it somewhat as a joke, but now I am hooked. It is on Netflix, which is a double win! And Instagram has always been a love of mine from the very beginning. I love, love, love connecting to people through photos and creating a community out of Instagram. Come follow along!

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Thank you, Laura Jean! So fun talking with you and being reminded about true beauty.

Friends, I know you are going to love Laura Jean’s perspective, words, and snapshots of daily life – be sure to check out According to Laura Jean!

Check back each Wednesday for #HearttoHeartHumpDays, featuring interviews with inspiring women of all ages & stages as they chase big, brave, and beautiful adventures. Still to come in January: Nicole Cole & Taylor Tippett.

 The Sweetest Place on Earth

This past weekend, Chad and I were fortunate enough to pack our bags, fill up the gas tank, and take a beautiful drive two hours into Pennsylvania farm country to arrive for the weekend in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This was all made possible by a few of my aunts and uncles, who had the genius idea of gifting us with a generous gift card to BedandBreakfast.com. (What a fun wedding gift idea!) It came at a perfect time, because we have both been under quite a bit of stress lately with work and have been feeling the winter blues for sure. It was the perfect escape that we needed to refresh and reset! For us, it felt like a mini mini mini second honeymoon. I’m so grateful to have had that time with my man.

When planning our winter getaway, we settled on Hershey because it’s one of those unique towns that feels so different from where we live, but that is still close enough that we can drive to it. For those not from the area, yes, this is totally Hershey, PA as in Hershey Bars, Reese’s, Hershey Kisses, and all other varieties of candy goodness. Safe to say that we are still crashing from all of the sugary samples and treats we devoured this weekend. 🙂

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Neither of us have been to Hershey since we were kids, so it was so much fun to get to experience Hershey as adults. Throughout the entire weekend, there was a great mix of both families and adults – plenty to do for all ages! If you’re an adult and will eat copious amounts of chocolate like us, I like you. If you’re an adult but you’re too cool and too grownup to eat copious amounts of chocolate like us, I still like you, but I think you’re weird.

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The very best part  of the entire weekend was the B&B where we stayed (and never wanted to leave), The Inn at Westwynd Farm in nearby Hummelstown, PA. We chose this inn specifically because there are twenty horses on the beautiful 32-acre property. It felt like the perfect retreat, nestled with everything we love: big breakfasts, horses, strong coffee, and the sweetest couple we’ve ever met: Frank & Carolyn Troxell. Frank and Carolyn turned their family farmhouse into a B&B 13 years ago, when all of their children grew up and moved out – leaving them to be empty nesters. You can tell that they are parents and nurturers at heart – they were incredibly welcoming, attentive, and accommodating – and they always left us fresh baked brownies (‘with extra chocolate chips!’, Carolyn enticed).

The Troxells added on additions and renovations to the original farmhouse, and they now host hundreds each year at their sprawling, spacious home that they’ve decorated so beautifully with equine antiques and fireplaces and old books galore.

  
  
 Perhaps the sweetest touch was that the home was still decorated for Christmas! Trees, lights, red and green in every room – I love that they wanted to keep the Christmas magic going for as long as possible. We loved being treated to a big breakfast each morning, than cozying up by the fireplace to read side-by-side with no set time to be anywhere. (Chad’s not a reader, but he found a good book that he can’t put down, so you know that this is basically my #dreamlife.) Even though the weather was quite dreary all weekend, this B&B still looked like a little piece of Heaven on earth. If you find yourself in Hershey, PA, or just in need of a retreat to slow down and refresh for a bit – I highly recommend staying with the Troxells at The Inn at Westwynd Farm!
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When we weren’t resting at the farm or chasing their ponies and pups around – we ventured off into Hershey for some fun, nightlife, and of course – chocolate.

We asked Frank for recommendations of where to eat dinner the first night, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with his choice – The Mill. Delicious food, great drinks, and such a fun atmosphere, as Chad said “It looks like Joanna Gaines in here.”


If you go: I highly recommend ordering the Winter Mule. Though I’ll take a mule pretty much anywhere they’re offered (I’m such a sucker for those adorable mugs), this one had to be the most delicious I’ve had yet.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we spent some time wandering around the farm and playing with the horses, dogs, and alpacas Taco & Paco, on the farm. This might’ve been my favorite part of the whole weekend. I didn’t get Chad to pet a horse, but he did stand about one foot away and let the horse sniff him, so, WE’RE MAKING HUGE STRIDES. 🙂

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I’m not sure if this was Paco or Taco, BUT – Chad loved these little guys with all of his heart, and they loved staring at him. He couldn’t stop snapping this one’s photo and laughing at his snaggle tooth.
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Sweet old pup who showed us around the barn!

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We ventured off the farm, put on our fanny packs, and did tourism the best way we know how: TOURS! Okay, no, we didn’t actually put on fanny packs, but I kind of wish we had them.

First stop: Chocolate World. With a name like that, my heart just leaps. Again, we hadn’t been here since we were kids, so it was really fun to do the silly yet wonderful Chocolate Tour. Anyone else remember those singing cows and the spinning floor? We couldn’t stop laughing.

  

We had an amazing lunch (Strawberries and pineapple in a wrap? Yes, please.) at the Chocolate Avenue Grill in Hershey. Yep, all of the streets really are chocolate related, and are lined with Hershey Kisses instead of street lights. This little town is Disney of the Mid-Atlantic, I swear. The service at the Grill was fantastic and we loved our lunches! If you go, be sure to try the Zoe Wrap and the Gremolata Wings.
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Next, we got our tickets for The Hershey Trolley Tour! Touristy though it may be, it was super fun and very eye-opening! Our guide, Tim, was an absolute hoot with his really, really epic puns.

The tour lasted about an hour and a half and took us all over Hershey, learning about it’s founder, Milton and the great work that he and his wife did for The Milton Hershey School for at-risk youth. His story was actually quite eye-opening and very impressive. After the tour, we found that we had gained so much respect and admiration for good ol’ Milton and the entire Hershey company. Which is a bit concerning, because this will make it way harder to resist buying Reese’s at the office vending machine. It’s for the kids, right?

 

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Chad dared me that I wouldn’t sit on the trolley even though it advised to KEEP OFF. Like my good pal Simba always said, I laugh in the face of danger. Married & wild, over here.

After the tour, we spent some time wandering around The Hotel Hershey – the landmark luxury hotel nearby. Despite it being foggy and gray, it was so much fun, and such a beautiful building! It was built in the early 1933, but it felt like something straight out of a Fitzgerald novel.

 

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We went back to the farm to unwind for a bit. Did I mention that Carolyn & Frank keep a constant supply of wine and beer? Hallelujah. Do you need any more reasons to  We curled up by the fireplace again (not complaining) and relaxed with our books and some good, sweet Red. (Oh, and more extra chocolate chip brownies.)

We had heard wonderful things about Troegs Independent Brewing from both locals and tourists, and Chad’s a huge fan, so we set off there for dinner. We sampled their year round beers and I HAD THE BIGGEST GRILLED CHEESE OF MY WHOLE LIFE. This little square doesn’t do it justice, but I promise that each half was bigger than my face. If you go, please please please do yourself a favor and try it. It’s paired with the most delicious tomato soup, too!

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Chad’s chow. Nothing like good, comforting, indulgent brewery food.

 

The brewery had a really fun, upbeat atmosphere – and it was packed! If you’re headed to Hershey for an adult weekend, you have to promise me that you’ll put a stop at Troegs’ on the top of your list.

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On Sunday morning, we had one last delicious breakfast (quiche and blueberry bread…mmmm) at Westwynd Farm and set out for the journey home. We were so sad to leave our little weekend home and promised we’d be back someday. Thank you, Carolyn and Frank, for such a lovely stay!



On the way home, we stopped at a Pennsylvania classic for some shoo-fly and whoopie pies. If you know, then you know. If you don’t know, then I just feel really sorry for you.

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Have you been on any fun adventures lately? Are you planning any upcoming trips? 

Tell me about your best getaways in the comments section!

Heart-to-Heart Hump Day: Chelsy Cork

Happy Wednesday!

I’m so excited to introduce you to my new friend and longtime #wcw, Chelsy Cork. During a particularly uninspiring season of my running journey, my good friend/training partner Abby recommended following Chelsy’s quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon through Fit and Faithful Fitness Consulting for a bit of inspiration. (Spoiler alert: she totally did it and will be running Boston in April!) Not only is she a talented runner, but she also designs and sells her own running apparel, has conquered ultramarathons, travels and camps in a van with her husband, creates healthy recipes, and writes so beautifully. Chelsy brings much joy to the internet through her love for running, heart for God, and knack for empowering others. Her positivity and drive for success is so contagious, I just had to ask her to share that with all of us today.

Warning: You may have the strong desire to sign up for a marathon after reading this interview. Don’t fight it.

Charlotte: Hi, Chelsy! Thanks for joining me. It’s been so fun to see your running journey over the past year. Your presence on the internet makes the world a little brighter, and now I’m so glad that my readers will get to see that, too. Let’s pretend that we’re all meeting up for a group run together for the first time, shall we? Before we hit the trails, please tell everyone a little bit about who you are.

Chelsy: Hi Charlotte! I am really excited you asked me to be part of your Heart-to-Heart series. A little about myself? I love Jesus, my husband, my dogs, and running. My husband and I live in Waco, Texas (home of Fixer Upper on HGTV) and have been married just under five years – about as long as I’ve been a runner. Meeting him and beginning to run coincided in my life, and the passion just grew from there – for both.

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Have you always been a runner? What made you fall in love with the sport?

Oh, no no no. Growing up I participated in several sports, but I was more of the “bench-warmer” type. I think a lot of endurance runners do not begin running until later in life when they are searching for a way to stay in shape. Running wasn’t love-at-first-sight for me. It was hard and impossible at times. My reasons for running have evolved over the years and eventually my feelings toward it did too. I love the challenges it brings and there is really no limit to what you can accomplish. I believe God brought running into my life when I was lost and searching for purpose and passion.

What was the catalyst that caused you to launch your online platform, Fit and Faithful?

I began Fit & Faithful after finding the online community of runners and fitness enthusiasts on Instagram. It’s really such an encouraging community that has formed and I am so thankful for it. I had really been praying for God to use this passion for running and fitness that He had given me. I wanted to spread the love of Christ within this community, so Fit & Faithful was created. You can read about how God really moved in my life and lead me down this path in my blog post here. Officially, Fit & Faithful is a business and I sell faith-based running shirts, but it is more so a hobby – a way to share my passion and the story of salvation through Christ.

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What are your secrets to balancing a jam-packed training schedule, a full-time job, your business/blog, and married life? I’m going to start calling you Wonder Woman.

Oh goodness, when you say it that way it does sound jam-packed. Fortunately, I married a man who loves cycling as much as I love running so we understand each other’s training and racing schedules. It’s much easier to wake up for a morning run when he is also heading out for a ride. Sharing in these similar hobbies has been a blessing and a way for us to bond and spend time together. We spend most of our weekends traveling in our converted camper van to differents races. We both work full-time and luckily for the same company so I get to pop into his office on occasion to see him throughout the day. As far as my business and blogging, this tends to fall to the wayside when life gets busy. As much as I would love to blog regularly and really expand Fit & Faithful, I know now is not the season for this. Some days I just need to unplug from social media and the work behind Fit & Faithful.

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You’ve got quite an impressive Race ResumeWhich race has been your favorite?

There are two races that I will remember and cherish forever.

  • Miracle Match Marathon 2015: The Miracle Match Marathon is one of my favorite races because it is in my hometown of Waco. I ran this race in 2015 with my best running buddies and we just chatted the whole time. We finished second and third overall with our other running buddy finishing first. We shared the podium and this is one of my favorite pictures of all times! It was such a fun day!
  • Dallas Marathon 2014: The Dallas Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first marathon to run in 2010 and also my first marathon to qualify for Boston in 2014. The race I finally qualified for Boston was just a perfect day!. My friends were running, my family was at the finish line, and Ryan Hall handed me my finisher medal. I couldn’t have imagined a better experience, in fact, I never imagined I’d actually be able to qualify. Afterall, my first marathon took me over 5 and half hours to finish. (Read my race recap here.   
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Crossing the finish line of the Dallas Marathon with a BQ!

You’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon – congratulations! What are you most looking forward to about running that prestigious race for the first time?

I am most looking forward to the people I will finally be able to meet. One thing I love about social media, is it brings us all a little closer and we can share in life. I have met some incredible women online and several will be in Boston. So we can finally become “real-life friends”, as I like to call it. I have also heard such wonderful things about the crowd support and just the overall experience. I don’t want to miss a single second of it. Plus, I’ve never been to the city and I can’t think of a better way to get to see the sights.

What do you anticipate to be a challenge for Boston – either during the race, or during the training?

I think my biggest challenge will be to relax in the race and take in the experience. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2014 too focused on a time goal. I feel like I missed out on the course and the race itself just a little bit. I don’t want this to happen again in Boston. I want to remember it all and not let my competitive nature get the best of me – which is why I have not set any goals or expectations for this race.

As if qualifying for Boston weren’t impressive enough – you’re mastering trail marathons and ultramarathons, too! What is it about those gritty, challenging races that you love?

I have fallen in love with ultramarathons in the trails. Although longer than a marathon, they are much more relaxed. The atmosphere is so laid back and you can really make it your race, or rather your adventure. You walk, linger and chat at aid stations, and just take it step by step. It’s much more social and easy-going. I also love the mental challenge of tackling a huge distance like 50 miles and I would love to do a 100 miler one day.

Do you have any advice for women who want to “become” runners but feel lost, unsure, and maybe a little insecure about getting started?

Oh, do I. Only a few short years ago, I wanted to “become” a runner and had not a clue where to start. I will say this over and over again – have patience! Although social media is great for encouragement, inspiration, and support, we also tend to use it as a measuring stick. We see these women out running these speedy paces, long distances, or complicated workouts and feel like we should be doing this too. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a comparison trap which tends to make us feel even more lost, unsure, and insecure. My biggest piece of advice is to have patience and don’t compare your own journey. Building endurance takes time but persistence and patience will get you to your goals.

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Just for fun, what are three things that you’re loving right now? 

I am really loving life pre-kids. My husband and I definitely want to have a family someday, but we also want to have some adventures first. We converted a cargo van this past summer into a camper and spent a week living out of it all over Colorado. I want memories like these with him before we have little ones tagging along. We are planning a roadtrip this summer through Tennessee.

The book Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner has been an incredible read. I have a bit of a strong personality which fares well in my training but can be a little much in my life and marriage. This book has really opened my eyes to use my God-given fierceness for good and not evil. That’s a little exaggerating, but it’s a book that encourages you to live selflessly, in love and in God’s Truth.

I am slightly obsessed with pancakes right now. I created this super simple 4-ingredient recipe that is basically oatmeal in the form of a pancake. You can find the recipe here. The recipe is vegan and gluten-free and so hearty, healthy, and delicious.

(Char’s note – I tried these pancakes out for myself just this weekend – and she’s right – they are so delicious and simple!)

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So grateful for you, Chelsy! Many thanks for taking the time to share your passion, running tips, and your faith with us.

To stay up to date with Chelsy’s races and blog features (like tips on goal setting and recipes), visit Fit & Faithful.  Cheer Chelsy on along her road to Boston and follow every mile via Instagram: @fitandfaithfulfc.

Check back each Wednesday for #HearttoHeartHumpDays, featuring interviews with inspiring women of all ages & stages as they chase big, brave, and beautiful adventures.