Some Advice for the Overly Stressed

In it's natural state, life is stressful. All of us deal with feeling stressed and overwhelmed and it's easy to think that, "Once I get __________, I won't be so stressed anymore." Well that's a lie! Stress will never stop trying to get it's grimy paws into you. The key to living in victory over stress is not by getting to the point where you never feel it, but learning to overcome in the midst of it. 

So here are 4 things that I have found helpful when the stress starts to press. If you start implementing just one, I believe you'll see a difference. 

1. Set Yourself Up for Success

How we start the day is very important. It's the first thing we experience and will set to tone for hours to come, whether good or bad. If we have control over it, then we might as well use it to our advantage and start our day intentional. 

Some ways that we can be intentional with our mornings are getting up a little earlier to spend our first few moments with God, getting that a.m. workout in, checking emails, drinking coffee, anything that will set your mood up right and give you that extra kick to take on your day with confidence. What you eat is also important. I like to start my day with a protein shake after a quick workout. That way, all day I'm craving healthy food and working off of natural energy that doesn't crash. 

There's lot's of ways to start your day. Find what works for you and do it over and over again until it becomes a habit (which they say takes 21 days). You'll be amazed at the difference it makes. 

2. Be Thankful

This may seem like it doesn't have much to do with stress, but that is precisely why we spend so much time stressed out! When we take the time to thank God for everything we do have, and not just complain about everything we don't, it positions our hearts at a higher level. We are able to look down on our problems from a new perspective and see how small they really are. 

When we magnify our problems, it's like we're putting our hand over our face and shouting, "This hand is SO big!" But when we move it away from us, it becomes much smaller. It's the same with our problems. Yes, they are real and yes, things are not always fair. But just because something is true doesn't mean that it is TRUTH. When we take time to speak truth into our lives by thanking God for His promises and faithfulness, the issues shrink until they are suddenly not there anymore, or at least at a point where they become insignificant. 

3. Release What Isn't Your Responsibility

This one is much easier said than done. In theory, it seems like common sense, but when the hustle becomes real, most of us start taking things on that were never ours to begin with. When you take on other people's burdens and responsibilities, it will keep you in a constant state of frustration because there is nothing you can do about it. I feel like this can become even more of a challenge when working within a team. It can be easier to take on the responsibility of everyone, even if it means failure, than to let go and not feel like you have total control of the outcome. 

Some things to let go of would be: other people's projects and tasks, people's talents and abilities, people's ideals and opinions, people's successes and failures, people's ambition or lack thereof, false expectations (especially ones created by you), your success, your dreams, your influence. Whaaaaaat? Those last few seem like things we should take responsibility for, right? Wrong! The Christian life is not about what we can do in our own strength, but what God is able to do in spite of our strength. Rest assured, if He put a dream or desire in your heart, he didn't do that so He could dangle it on a fishing line while you struggle to reach it. He wants you to trust Him with the outcome. 

YES, we still put our hands to the tasks at hand and do the best we can with what we've been given. I'm not suggesting we become passive about our dreams and ambition, but I am saying that the burden to make them become a reality is not yours, but God's. That way, when you do reach those places in life, you can point to God and say, "It wasn't me, but all the glory goes to God." That's what it's all about. 

4. Cast Your Cares

This isn't just a sweet scripture that we say when we don't know what to say. It's a command. When sheep are out grazing in a field, they aren't taking turns on "watch duty" to make sure some hungry wolf doesn't come make them his mid-morning snack. No, they don't have a care in the world. Their Shepherd is watching over them and holds their life in his hands. They don't fear because they are His. 

Jesus did not come so that you could take on His burdens. He came so that you could have life and life abundantly! If I were to start taking on the burden of providing for my family, making a living and directing our life, I would be so overwhelmed and stressed. But what is a burden for me is a mantle for my husband because he has been uniquely equipped by God to take on this charge and has a grace to do it well. 

When we try to make our dreams a reality, it becomes a never-ending burden to us, one that crushes and immobilizes our progress. That's why we can be working harder than ever and feel like we're going nowhere. But what's a burden to us is a mantle to Jesus and He wants you to take off that weight and give it to Him. That way, you're free to live life abundantly and spend your days chasing after Him, while He leads you towards you destiny. 


By taking some simple, active steps, you can alleviate so much stress in your life. It certainly won't stop stress from coming, but it will empower you to overcome stress until it's something that just doesn't get to you as easily as it used to. The closer we get to our dreams, the more stress will be waiting for us. It's better we learn now how to properly handle it so that we will be ready to move on to what's important. 

How to Cultivate a Thankful Heart

The holidays are finally here! And with peppermint mochas, first snow, and pumpkin pie, it can also be a time of busyness, commitments, and frustration. It's easy to get wrapped up in your calendar and forget to slow down and remember why we're celebrating in the first place. 

As we walk into a holiday that reminds us to be thankful, it's important that we take the time to realize what this actually means in our everyday, non-holiday lives. Deciding to be thankful is a choice that is determined on where were put our focus.

Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members in one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always].
— Colossians 3:15 AMP

"Deciding and settling questions that arise..." How often do we allow the questions of what should or should not be arise and linger in our minds without deciding and settling truth in it's place? 

When we intentionally set our hearts on what we're thankful for, the things that seem frustrating or annoying become much smaller as our perspective becomes higher. We're able to love others and give of ourselves rather than simply take. We're also able to walk in complete peace of mind during a time when most people are in a constant state of panic and greed. 

So bring on the turkey, stuffing, and family bonding! And when negative thoughts and frustrations start to arise, be intentional about replacing it with something your thankful for, and watch your heart become lighter this holiday season. 

Dealing with Self-Doubt

There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy (God). He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

The battle against self-doubt is something that every human comes up against at some point in our lives. We all deal with negative thoughts and emotions about ourselves and if most of us were honest, we're much harder on ourselves than anyone else would dare to be. But the reality of living outside of this dismal cycle seems a luxury that others may seem to have but never us. Why is it so hard to just give ourselves a break? 

I believe one reason is that the battle is in your mind. I know this concept sounds simple and unhelpful, but if we truly understood this, we wouldn't so easily succumb to every thought, emotion and lie that tried to weasel it's way into our minds. 

I've heard the saying before, "You can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair." Negative thoughts and emotions will come, but it's what we do with those thoughts that matters. Will we think about it, and think about it some more? Maybe it's true? It certainly makes sense looking at my track record.. Maybe I'm thinking it for a reason? 

OF COURSE YOU ARE! The enemy of your soul has no power over you except for what you give over to him in your mind. And he would love nothing more than for you to meditate on those thoughts and emotions for just a little bit longer. The longer you linger there, the harder it seems to shake it off. 

For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart.
— Hebrews 4:12 (AMP)

What we have to do is to learn to separate those negative thoughts and emotions from who we truly are, from our identity. The Word of God is what tells us who we are at our core. When we spend time in the Word, it cuts off anything that we're believing that isn't truth. It "trims the fat" and separates the lies. When you can start recognizing the thought or emotion as a lie, you can now choose to let it go and replace it with truth. Your not owning it anymore; it doesn't belong to you. 

In one of C. S. Lewis' greatest works The Screwtape Letters, a collection of letters are written to a young demon named Wormwood, all signed the same, "Love your affectionate Uncle, Screwtape."  In it, Lewis brilliantly depicts the perspective of evil, and exposes the tactics of the enemy. 

It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

The attacks on your life and in your mind come from the one who sees everything that you could become, and fears you. He will do whatever it takes to keep your mind from realizing what lies within you. When we understand this, negative thoughts and emotions become such trivial things compared to the greater story. After all, you don't attack something that doesn't threaten you. We can truly look at ourselves and say, "Wow, someone must be scared of what I will become." 

With This Ring...

"You may now kiss the bride..." 

Fairytales are great at helping us get together, but what happens after the vows are made, after the cakes been cut, after toasts are given, and after he kisses the bride? It's so easy to get wrapped up in the planning and preparations, the one you love and the beauty of the day, but the love we feel has to be a decision and not just an emotion; one that starts it's own story shortly following happily ever after. 

We've all heard it many times before, often recited at weddings, love is patient, love is kind. But it seemed to hit me in a different sort of way when I read these verses in The Message. 

 

Love never gives up. 

Love cares more for others than self. 

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 

Love doesn't strut, 

Doesn't have a swelled head, 

Doesn't force itself on others, 

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle, 

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 

Puts up with anything, 

Trusts God always, 

Always looks for the best, 

Never looks back, 

But keeps going to the end. 

Love never dies... 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 

 

Oh... so that's what I was agreeing to when I recited my vows in front almost everyone I knew. It's easy to love people when they act lovely; we usually don't even need to decide to love, it's just our naturally reaction. We're so used to a conditional love- I'll act loving towards you when you start acting loving towards me- be what we're not so practiced at is actively loving people when they're not so lovely, especially our spouse. 

It says in the bible that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and I truly believe that it takes faith to step out in love towards someone when you don't feel like it. You have to take your trust off of yourself and out of the comfort zone that you've created, and put it into God's love for you. So that even when it's not reciprocated right away, or ever, your heart can stay at rest. 

Reading the verses above, it becomes more clear to me how our emotions can get us into so much trouble. I feel hurt, I feel wronged, what if they do it again, what if it's not enough, what if I'm not enough? Lies and fears keep us trapped in our emotional state, holding us back from acting on truth, which will in turn set us free from our negative emotions. Anytime you step out in faith, God will always meet you there. He's not in the boat after all, He's out on the water, waiting to see if you'll trust Him for something so much greater to happen in your life. 

Now when I look at my ring, I'll think Him and what He wants me to do and how He wants me to act. Making the decision to love time and time again will open up your life for so much more. We were never meant to live small lives, but rather lives that were so big and expansive that they immediately put to rest not only our own fears, but the fears of others. 

And that's how they would live happily ever after... well, sort of

A Wedding: 6 Ways to Save + A Sneak Peak at Our Wedding Photos

 
Photography by: Kole Impressions

I get it... eloping is cool.

It's one of the latest trends circling around the internet lately and some of my closest friends, and even bridesmaids, have done it. However, since I was old enough to put on my first Cinderella dress, I always knew that I would have a wedding. I would dream of the dress, the flowers, the music, the dancing, and of course, the handsome Prince that would be waiting for me at the end of the isle. 

But for the majority of us dreamers, our imaginations can easily outgrow our budgets and having the "wedding of our dreams" seems like something other girls get but not us. Well, just wipe that nasty thought right out of your head because I am proof that you can create the most magical day of your life and not kill yourself over it either. No matter your budget, here are six simple things to help you in creating your own happily ever after... 

 

1. A Wedding on a Wednesday

I know this sounds weird but please, let me explain. For most venues, the price depends on the day. Saturday is obviously the most expensive, usually followed closely by Sunday, then Friday, and then Monday through Thursday. We booked our wedding on a Wednesday because a) it was the only day available during the time frame we wanted and b) it was less than 1/3 of the Saturday price! We got everything a Saturday wedding would get but for thousands of dollars less. And since a lot of our guests were flying in from out of town anyways, it didn't affect them too much. A lot of people who made the drive even ended up booking a week in Estes Park. Our wedding become the focal point for a lot of well-deserved vacations, which equals... happy guests at your wedding :) 

 

2. Picking Flowers

I learned that this can be one of the major money suckers for a wedding! I was pretty nervous going into my first florist meeting, thinking that I would see all of the beautiful things that I would never be able to afford. However, they were so sweet and helped show me less expensive versions of the flowers I really loved. I LOVE peonies, but of course I do, their like super duper expensive. But have you heard of a Jane Austin rose? (Yes you heard me correctly!) They have light delicate petals just like a peony but for a fraction of the cost. >> There's a blush one right in the front of my bouquet above! 

Also, I incorporated a lot of greenery, which cost WAY less than flowers. And since my whole theme was very enchanted forest like, it looked magical! I also used fake flowers for all of my reception decor. They were way cheaper and complimented all of the real flowers. Pssst.. no one could tell the difference! 

 

3. Choose a Style, Not a Brand

I know it's hard... I myself had been following certain dress designers on Instagram, so sure that I would have a ________ dress no matter what! Then I went dress shopping... 

When I found my perfect dress, it wasn't by any designer I recognized, but I knew it was the right one. I knew the style and the "look" I was going for and everything just sort of fell into place after that. The bridesmaids wore dresses from David's Bridal on sale and the guys outfits I constructed at H&M. I sent them links and told them to wear brown shoes.. done. I had a vision in my mind for the feel I wanted and honestly, I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. Your photos will showcase the overall look and that is what you want to remember. 

 

4. Wedding Cake Realities

This was a no brainer for me. Those three wedding cakes were the most beautiful and delicious cakes I had ever seen and they were from (drumroll please)... your local Whole Foods Bakery. Going to an actual wedding cake bakery can cost you up to a few thousand dollars and that just wasn't worth it to me. Besides, what's more delicious than a fresh cake from Whole Foods? 

I had had my heart set on the Apple Harvest cake which usually doesn't come in till October and with a late September wedding, I was thrilled when I heard that they would have it in time. However, at the last minute, the order got delayed and the nervous manager on the other end of the line helped me come up with a solution that I honestly loved more than the original. We ended up with three circle double layer vegan carrot cakes and one large double layer chocolate sheet cake, all with the famous Maple Glaze Icing. I normally hate icing but this stuff I could eat by the spoonful. They still decorated them like the apple harvest, using cinnamon and cinnamon sticks to give it that fall festive look I really wanted. All in all, it was under $200... enough said. 

 
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5. Focus on the Theme

Our venue was so breathtakingly beautiful, that I really didn't want to take away from it. So, first I thought about what theme/overall feeling do I want at my wedding? For me, I went for a enchanted forest/fairytale feel. I wanted my guests to feel like perhaps they had just wandered into a storybook and didn't want to leave. Knowing this, when it came to decor, I based everything around that "feeling." Sure you may really want to do that photo booth or certain centerpiece that you've had pinned since you graduated high school (personal confession) but you'll be happier the day of if you stick to your original theme. I truly think part of what made our day so magical was that every single little detail complimented the overall look and feel and never felt like it was competing or oddly placed. 

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some of the DIY projects I did for my wedding! 

 

6. Decide What's Important

The last piece of advice I have to give you is to sit down and decide what are the most important aspects to your wedding? What mens the most to you? What are you most willing to do a little splurging on? For me, it was the venue and my dress. We've already discussed how I was able to save on both of those, however, I knew that those were two of the most important purchases to me. Knowing that, it became easier to make decisions on the cake, food, bridal party attire, accessories, etc... When you put your priorities in place right from the start, it will honestly help with the rest of the decision making process, and trust me, there will be PLENTY of decisions! 

 

Everyone told me that the day would fly by before I even had a chance to take it all in. How I remember it, September 28th, 2016 was one of the longest, prettiest, dreamiest, and most perfect days of my life. You will experience your wedding and so will everyone you love. It's truly worth it to put your heart and soul into making it everything you ever dreamed of. You don't have to break your bank to do it either. It just takes a little hard work, planning, creating, and perhaps a little bit of magic. 

All photography by: Kole Impressions