Monday, December 16, 2013

Pardot Love + Christmas #ftw

Days like these lead to...
Nights like this lead to
Love like ours.
You light the spark in my bonfire heart.
People like us—we don’t
Need that much, just some-
One that starts,
Starts the spark in our bonfire hearts

James Blunt - Bonfire Heart

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let's be intentional.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. Maria Robinson

Everyone always starts the new year with such zeal to do things better. To be kinder or make healthier choices. And its probably important that we re-visit those intentions before the year's end. Rather than waiting to re-evaluate when we can do nothing about it. 

And in all honesty, I don't actually make any New Year's resolutions. I have things that I want to be mindful of or more intentional about, but rarely do I write down some hard and fast action items. Which Patrick some would argue that I would never actually do the things that aren't 'actionable', but that's not true for me. And you have Marcy to thank for that. 

My one original "intention" for this past year has been this:

What you allow is what will continue. If you allow someone to talk to you in a way that hurts you, that's your fault. You have the capacity to stand up for yourself and dictate what atmosphere you allow to exist around you. Does that mean that those conversations with others are always received warmly? Of course not. They most often times aren't. BUT, its in the standing up for yourself that you put a separation between what you value and what you don't. You're putting a stake in the ground and declaring to the world who you are and will be. This is hard. But it also removes any opportunity for you to see yourself as a victim to your surroundings, and that, my friends, is powerful. 

This article also has proved to be a killer motivator for me. However, it's moreso a list of things to stop doing. But my favorites are (with commentary from the author):

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. - The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.  

Stop blaming others for your troubles. - The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you're going through, you deny responsibility - you give others power over that part of your life.  

Stop running from your problems. - Face them head on. No, that won't be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren't supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That's not how we're made. In fact, we're made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that's the whole purpose of living - to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.  

Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. - If you're not happy with who you are on the inside, you won't be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. 

So let's be more intentional with ourselves this year. Do hard things if they're good for you, and know that we are powerful and wonderful people. Be blessed my friends. Much love to you.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My love waits there in San Francisco

This past week was spent in the stunning city of San Francisco (thanks to Marc Benioff). Getting to explore San Francisco with some of your best friends is one of the greatest privileges I could ever ask for. I'd bore you with the details, but the pictures are going to be better than any writing could ever express. Enjoy!

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care

My love waits there in San Francisco
Above the blue and windy sea
When I come home to you, San Francisco
Your golden sun will shine for me

- Tony Bennett

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beauty Products and My 3 Favorite Ways to Save on Them

Almost a year ago, I had the blunt realization that I hadn't changed my make-up regiment in years. I just assumed that what worked at one point for my skin was always going to work. Now, I don't know that what I was doing was bad. But there were still things about my skin and make-up that I didn't love, and that I didn't realize I could very easily improve upon. 

So thus began the journey of hours in Sephora, month after month of Birchbox (oh, the torture), and reading about great products for different types of skin. I don't know that what I've found is perfect, but I promise you this, I feel 100 times better about my skin and what it wears every day. Here are some of my faves that I've found over the last few months:

1. Smashbox Photo Finish Primer: This goes over your moisturizer, but under your make-up. It's a primer that is oil free, and keeps a barrier between your make-up and your skin. It also creates a really smooth surface for your make-up. The great thing about this is that it comes in a sample size, so you can try it for a few weeks (yes, it's a generous sample size) and see how you like it. 

2. Smashbox Color Correcting Primer: My skin has a ton of red in it, and gets splotchy in the worst places (not that beautiful cheek flush that I have always hoped I'd have). This color correcting primer removes all the redness from your skin. It made me look a little bit ghostly at first, but once you add your make-up on top of it, you'd never know. This is not oil free, so I have to be careful with the season that I wear it in, but winter tends to be pretty safe for non oil free products, and its also the time of year that my face wears its redness like a badge. This also comes in a sample size.

3. Put a Lid on it Eyelid Primer: My eyelids are one of the most oily parts of my skin, and this primer is THE BOMB. With this, my eyeshadow never creases, and it stays put for hours. I've been using this Birchbox sample for weeks because you only need such a small amount on each eyelid. 

4. they're REAL mascara by Benefit: This came in a sample bag I got from Sephora, and I went out the next day and bought the full size. It was that good. It looked like I had an eyelash primer on, and had used several coats of mascara after only one swipe of the wand. If you're not a big make-up wearer, but still want to look bright and alert, this should be at the top of your list. Go to Ulta or Sephora and try it out. You will never be the same.

5. Maybelline Radiant concealer: I use this under my eyes. Its really cheap, I get it from Target, and it brightens my eyes with just a touch of shimmer. Easy peasy.

6. MAC's Plumful lip stick: I went into MAC the other day to recycle a couple of my used make-up containers. When you trade in 6 old containers (blush, powder, eyeshadow, etc.) you get a free lipstick. I told the worker that I wanted red, but I have a lot of red in my skin, so I didn't want something that clashes. But I did want something bold. So I came away with this. It is red, but with more of a raspberry tint, and I love it. I put it on and knew that it was the right one for me. 

7. Stila BB Cream: This is a great color correcting beauty balm. I had gotten a sample of a Stila CC Cream that I liked, but wanted a little more coverage, and wanted it to look a little less obvious on my skin. So I spent some time in Ulta, trying on tons of different BB and CC creams, and came away with this one as my favorite. Its really light, but provides great coverage. Its also oil free and really helps reduce the redness in my skin. 

8. ELF lip stain in Rich Red: This is definitely a red lipstick (see below). And it stays on for hours, and doesn't even come off on drinking glasses. It was a bold choice, but for $3, I had to try it. And I get so many compliments on it. Target really comes thru with their ELF collection. 

So, if you're like me, you want to know 'How do I try different products without breaking the bank?' And that, I actually have an answer to. Here are three ways to get a lot for your money in terms of beauty products:

1. MAC's recycle program: for every 6 used containers you bring in, you get a free lipstick or gloss. For someone like me who has used MAC for years, I have tons of blushes, eye shadows, powders, etc. that I used most of but never finished. Either I bought it for a summer that I was really tan, or I used enough of it to just buy a new and fresh one. And at the end of the day, you only need a few great lipsticks. So this is easy, especially if you're already buying the products. 

2. Points: When you buy products from Sephora, Ulta or Birchbox, you get points for every purchase. I've found that at Birchbox, this pays off really well. With every Birchbox purchase, you get a certain amount of points added to your account. So when you get a sample in the mail that you love, you can usually buy the full-sized product for nothing by cashing in your points. I got this detangler for free, and refill my sample bottle to travel with. *This really pays off when you buy gifts for others as well (consider the holidays to give the women in your life some new make-up products, and earn extra points around Christmas to buy some things for you too!)

3. Gift packs: Places like Sephora offer a variety of free samples when you buy something full-sized. I had tried the Smashbox primer a few months ago, and had been meaning to swing into the store to pick up the full-sized bottle. Online one day I saw that if you spent $25, you could pick one of four gift bags with a bunch of samples. So I got to pick the gift bag that I wanted, which included a perfume, mascara, eyelash topcoat, a CC cream, and a few other items. The samples also came with a make-up bag as well:

So as you can see, you definitely don't have to break the bank. But it does take a little bit of time to earn points for buying/doing different things, but I've gotten to try at least 50 products that I didn't buy, just by using one of the 3 tips listed above. 

So enjoy your holiday season, and don't be afraid to break out of your old routine! It might pay off more than you expect. 

Happy shopping!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Baby West: Our Greatest Expectation

Babies. Who would have thought that the journey to parenthood would be fraught with so many emotions? Well, I didn't. And I wish I was one of those women that handled the whole process gracefully and with full faith, but I didn't. I threw tantrums. A lot of them.

To be honest, it has been a long and arduous process. We live in such an immediate gratification culture, it was hard to have to really fight for something. To pray for it, believe for it, ask for encouragement and support, and then ask again when almost two years later it still hasn't happened. And I can't articulate how grateful I am for those that have really stuck with us through the journey. I feel like this is just as much their baby as it is ours, because they prayed when we were tired of praying. And they brought us encouragement when the road seemed to only get darker. And its because of their love that we have made it to this place. It is true what they say: The darker the night, the brighter the day.

So all that to say, here are some glimpses of our last few weeks of incredible joy and elation:

*     *     *     *     *

We found out we were pregnant the day I got back from Kenya (September 14), which meant that we got pregnant in August. The day we told our small group at church, my sweet friend Abbey showed me this entry in her journal from early August. Our birthdays are May 26 and June 1, and the baby is due May 16.

When HaRim left America, he gave us this letter to give to our future baby. We waited until we were pregnant to open it, and we laughed and cried when we read it. HaRim is just such a blessing to our family, and knowing that he believed for and loved our baby for so long makes our connection to him so much stronger.

Our jellybean-sized baby at our first ultrasound.

We told our offices after our 12-week appointment, which happened to be Halloween. My office has a costume contest and parade each year so I stood in line to announce my 'costume.' When it was my turn, I held up my makeshift pregnancy test and said "I am a positive pregnancy test!" And there were crickets. Awkward, silent crickets. So Susan said 'Explain more!', so I held the sign up higher and said "Which means...I'm PREGNANT!" And the office just erupted in cheers and clapping. I had prayed that it would be received well at work, and everyone's response GREATLY exceeded my expectations.

The cards and text messages and voicemails and phone calls we have received has been unbelievable. Never have I felt so deeply loved and celebrated in my whole life.

And now for some of the pregnancy reveal shots we had taken by our amazingly talented friend Daniel:

So a BIG thank you goes out to every single person that has loved us, encouraged us, prayed for us, given us advice, or just made themselves available to listen over the last two years. We are grateful for YOU and couldn't have gotten to this place without you. We love you so flippin' much, you have no idea.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Unlocking Doors

"Don't reduce your life to accommodate your fears."

This is one of the most true statements I've heard in a long time. How often do we decide not to do something new or hard, just because we're afraid? I'm the most guilty out of any. But I don't want to be. I want to be bold, and face my fears head on. And I want you to do the same. 

Because what if every time we ignored a fear, it got smaller? And what if that created a cycle where we stopped noticing them or asking them what they think? How much more full and abundant would our lives be? 

So let us all stop being afraid. And do hard things because those are actually what we want. Not because fear says no, but because our heart declares a resounding a joyful yes

And that yes will unlock hundreds of doors that fear never would.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hostages and Color

Since I've been back from Kenya, I've had tons of people ask me how I feel about the hostage situation that happened in Nairobi in the days after I left. Where people were being shot or taken hostage in a popular city mall by a group of Somalis. Was I near a mall? Did I go to Nairobi? Was I nervous that I could have been affected by a similar situation? Will I ever go back? Is Kenya dangerous? Would I recommend it as a place to travel? 

The answers are all yes.

And yes, those stories are very real, and yes, they happen all over the world. And unfortunately those are the stories that people hear that keep them from going to places that need them. In my opinion, and please take this with a grain of salt, if you're worried about these types of things happening, then you'll never go anywhere. Because they happen all the time, in every city, and there is always a possibility that you'll be too close. Always.

But that's why you travel smart. Stick with locals, register your trip with the State Department, keep up with the news, and have emergency plans in place. To me, its always worth these small inconveniences to have amazingly life-changing experiences. And there are countless blogs and books and resources that you can access to help you be as knowledgeable as possible before a trip. You never know how small your world is until you get outside of it and see the lives of others. Don't miss out on seeing it because you're afraid. 

*     *     *     *     *

Okay, enough serious. Last weekend Patrick and I ran the Color Run. And yes, "The happiest 5k on the planet" is one of the truest taglines I've ever heard. And I hate running. And think I should be richly rewarded for every minute I spend doing it. But in the case of the Color Run, I did feel rewarded. And celebrated. Because who doesn't want to be covered in hot pink, blue, yellow and orange every quarter mile, and have a dj blaring rap music throughout the whole course? It was my dream run. But seriously, you guys HAVE to do this run. Its amazing.

And while we're on a high note, I figured I'd go on and confess that this run was my ONE form of exercise since returning from Kenya. I do walk the dog on occasion, but that can't possibly count. But I am just so tired. And busy. And its soooo much easier to watch New Girl than it is to work out. I need some motivation!!

In other news, I will say that I'm reading Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, and it is HILARIOUS. I'd encourage you to check it out. Also, read the Bitter Veil. Its not everyone's style, but if you even come close to thinking it is your style, then I will go on and just say that it is. And will accept the repercussions of that statement. Great read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Speaking Life into the Dust

If you want to know the answer
 to the bigger question– what’s God’s plan for the whole world?
Buckle up: it’s us.
Bob Goff

To me, this trip felt different than any other. And to be honest it has been the first time in a year and a half where I actually felt like I had something to give. Counseling has made me feel like even the good and beautiful things about me have been stripped down to the bone.  But somewhere along the way, the walls started getting rebuilt, and layers of skin and muscle started forming. And it was this trip to Kenya that showed me who I have grown up to be. 

I don't feel like I grew up watching healthy, authentic female relationships. I've always longed for examples of those things, because I want to know how to be strong and courageous, yet intimate and kind. And not knowing what that looked like for me has made me feel somewhat aimless. But as the Lord stripped down, and began the process of restoring the ruins of my heart, I would catch glimpses of the 'grown-up' me. The one that isn't afraid to cry, or ask for prayer, or share what is really going on in my heart. I've always feared the judgement over those things, but at the end of the day, I think those are the things that make me stand out. 

The group of women I was with in Kenya helped me see that I already am. I might feel in progress, but I'm not any longer. I know exactly who I am, and I am free to be that. Not who someone else is, but who I am. I've watched for years and years, not realizing that God was stitching and breathing into my lungs and whispering to my heart that I already am. I am complete. And I am fully and abundantly loved, and I am free to give and to love well, and to be strength for someone else.

And that is what I got to do in Kenya. Be strength for other women, empower them, and speak life into the dust. 

And I am so grateful for this great well of experience.