My, How Time Flies // A Grateful Heart

View of LA from The Getty Center
On Saturday when I woke up and checked Facebook I was reminded, thanks to their “On This Day” feature, that one year ago I was in Los Angeles for what is certainly one of my favorite trips! This was not my first trip to California or Los Angeles by any means, but it was the first time that I visited completely by myself. Like, I rented a car and braved the infamous Los Angeles traffic and the 405 all by myself and lived to tell the tale. Definitely a personal victory.
This time last year, I was still an entertainment blogger and ran a blog that covered films and television news that was related to projects that had been adapted from books. I was very fortunate and had been invited to Los Angeles for the press junket ahead of the release of The Giver, starring Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, and Meryl Streep. Just a couple weeks prior, I had participated in a phone interview with the author herself, Lois Lowry, and at the press junket I was able to interview her face to face along with Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, and Odeya Rush. If you want to hear me be super awkward with Brenton, you can watch that here (I’m at 0:34).
While traveling by yourself may seem kind of sad and lonely, I’ve learned that it’s actually kind of nice. You can go where you want and not have to worry about accommodating anyone else, but I will say that unless you’re a shameless selfie-taker (working on it) then you will come home with a lot of landscape photos and not very many photos that you in them. While in LA, I was able to see a couple of my fellow blogger friends which was wonderful but one the one full day that I had free, I was super pumped to drive out to the Inland Empire aka San Bernardino! I originally wasn’t going to rent a car, but the night before I left I realized I was going to have a full day to myself and that I could drive out to San Bernardino to see some of my family. My dad was raised in San Bernardino and this was actually the first time that I had been back since my dad’s brother and sister passed away. I called my great-aunt to let her know that I’d be driving out and when I got there, I was greeted by her, a couple of my dad’s cousins and two of my great-uncles. Then, I drove to Moreno Valley to see my cousins, the daughters of my late aunt. 
Truthfully, I think what made this trip so memorable was that I was able to do it completely on my own. I paid for my flight, rental car, and arranged for sleeping accommodations at a friend’s apartment. Thanks to my trusty GPS, I navigated the city with ease and I just felt like a real adult for the first time. Even though I don’t do that type of blogging anymore and that chapter of my life has ended, I have so much to be grateful for.
I was invited to this press junket thanks to a friendly word from a PR guy and mutual friend that I met through working with Summit Entertainment for Divergent a few months prior. This same PR guy is the reason that I am heading out to Austin, Texas this Wednesday. He was kind enough to allow me to visit his agency so that I can learn a bit more about what they do now that I am pursuing a masters degree in mass communication. God is so good and was so clearly guiding me through a season that has ultimately led me to where I am today, well before I even knew that I wanted to go back to school at all. 
What are you grateful for today? Share your link as part of Ember Grey‘s Grateful Heart linkup!

A Heart Full of Gratitude

Hello sweet friends! It has been much too long since I have sat down to do a Grateful Heart post as part of Ember Grey’s linkup!

Summer Vacation // This teacher is finally on summer vacation, you guys! This was a long and hard school year and I have been soaking up all of the extra time for fun projects and relaxation. Plus, extra time to spend here, with you, blogging about life lately is just what the doctor ordered.
Travel // I am heading up to Michigan this weekend for some much needed friend time with my dear friend, Sarah and her sweet family! I’m such a travel junkie that airports are some of my favorite places (I’m weird, I know)!
YouTube Vloggers // This may seem a little strange, but I have been loving the opportunity to sit down and catch up with my favorite vloggers. It’s like a reality show, but you know…they’re actual people and super relatable. My favorite planning vlogger is Lisamarie with Paper & Glam, but my favorite beauty vlogger Rachel from Glow of Grace has recently started daily vlogging about life with her sweet family! Their new channel is The Graceful Life! She is super sweet and her vlogs really make you feel like you are a part of the Weiland family!
Project Life // I’ve recently become kind of obsessed with the Project Life method of scrapbooking! It’s a beautiful way of marking time and celebrating all of life’s little moments.

What are you grateful for this week? Sound off in the comments below and don’t forget to join Ember Grey’s link up!

Finding Peace in the Uncertainty

This post is part of The Peony Project’s monthly linkup.

One of the more consistent things in life, I’ve found, is that life is usually in a constant stay of chaos and uncertainty. Perhaps that’s just me and my life, but I’d imagine that this would ring true for a few others as well. For me, there’s the hustle and bustle of juggling work life with school life and somehow trying to fit in my sometimes nonexistent personal life into the mix. If you were to ask me when and where I feel the most peace, I may try very hard not to laugh out loud. Life is stressful and overwhelming, but it’s also something that I truly enjoy…even if I forget to show it sometimes.

So let’s go through a checklist, shall we?

I have a good job as a Pre-K teacher. Sure, it’s a little thankless at times and working with special needs children brings its own unique dynamics to the workplace, but I am still blessed to have employment in this day and age and with kids, which I do love. Check.

I am enrolled in graduate school online through a great university (Go Gators!) and I am pursuing a master’s degree in a field that I am truly passionate about – Mass Communication with a specialization in Social Media. I have always said that I didn’t just want to stop with a Bachelor’s degree and that I wanted to pursue a higher degree and I do feel very blessed to have the opportunity and financial means to do this so soon after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree (in completely unrelated field). Check.

I have an amazing new church home and growing church family to begin doing life with. In the year and a half following my return home after graduating in Spring 2013, I really struggled with not having a circle of close friends within driving distance anymore. My closest friends all lived almost two hours from Charlotte or out-of-state and at the time, I was working both a full-time job as a teacher and a part-time job in retail, consistently working seven days a week, with little time for socializing with folks my own age, much less enriching myself with church each week. Discovering my new church home and finding a small group full of amazing and faith-filled women has done wonders for my heart and soul already just in the almost five months that I’ve been going there. Check.

God has clearly blessed my life with amazing people, experiences, and opportunities…so why do I struggle so much with being at peace with where I am in life?

Quite simply, I am a planner. I tote my beloved Erin Condren Life Planner almost everywhere I go, and I’ve always been the type of person to try and plan/map out every detail of a trip, right down to utilizing Google Street View to get a better idea of where we’re going. Only problem with these kind of tendencies? I consistently find myself looking forward to the future, rather than taking the time to slow down and appreciate where God has me right now.

Right now, I am teaching and slowly but surely working towards that graduate degree that will pave the way for a career change in 2-3 years (see, planner…). This would probably be a bit easier to deal with and work towards if I hadn’t been dealt with quite the challenging first two years of teaching. On my worst days at work, the yearning and longing that I feel for time to speed up so that I can be in any other career is overwhelming. And admittedly I do feel a little ashamed and guilty for admitting that to all of you right now. But it’s the truth. But I am not ready for that career change just yet, no matter how often I yearn for it. Something that is approaching in the more immediate future is the possibility of me changing schools and school districts for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year. I have enjoyed the school where I currently teach very much. I have learned so much amidst the stress and challenging behavior of my kiddos and I have been blessed with the sweetest woman as my assistant and spiritual mentor. While I do feel like it’s time for me to look at other options closer to home (I currently commute 40 minutes, one way), the uncertainty of reentering the job search is nerve-wracking.

As I sat down to reflect on this topic and area of my life ahead of writing this post, the obvious answer for achieving peace and contentment with my current life stage is God. Loving and trusting in Him to continue to provide for me and make clear to me the path or paths that will allow me to learn and grow in the ways that will continue to enable to me to glorify Him in everything that I do. I wasn’t raised with the practice of memorizing scripture, but it is something that I have been working on lately. Two of my favorite verses that I have come across recently and kept close by are from both Matthew and Philippians.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The Art of Giving Up

We’re almost two weeks into the season of Lent and something that has been on my heart lately is the tradition of giving something up. Growing up in a Catholic church, this tradition as well as the abstaining from meat on Fridays is something that I am familiar with and would practice every year. But now that I am in my twenties and kind of rediscovering myself and making my own path in the church, this is an interesting season for me.

For as long as I can remember, I have given up soda every year for Lent. This year, I find myself stopping to think more and more about the true meaning of this practice and how I, and many others, are really missing the mark.

Last week, my sister and I had a conversation about what we were giving up this year. She knew that I was doing my typical soda-fast but she was still debating on what she should do. She made the point that we should be giving up the thing that is keeping us from really spending that quality time with God. This has been something that I’ve been struggling with for the last couple of years, but I’ve always stuck to the soda-fast because it was what was familiar and I didn’t really have to think about it. But shouldn’t I be thinking about it? After all, what’s the big point of giving up something for Lent if it’s really not doing anything for you spiritually?

Sure, giving up soda and the sugar and caffeine that comes along with it is one way to make healthier life choices, but that is a rather selfish act and not one that genuinely draws me closer to Christ. I thought about praying every time I began to crave it, but what became abundantly clear was how I had lost sight of the true purpose of this time in the church.

While I am still holding on to my soda-fast in hopes to prove to myself that I can actually do it (I’ve succumbed to the cravings at least once or twice for the past two or three Lenten seasons), I have added a new challenge for myself. I have been an avid reader my entire life but I have always been drawn to fiction, particularly young adult fiction. I’m in no way giving up that genre, but I have begun to seek out a few non-fiction reads that will hopefully bless my life. I’ve been reading through Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist, which is amazing and I am looking into her other novels now, and will be starting The Best Yes after that. It’s a small gesture, but the genre is a departure from me so I am praying that I continue to be intentional and reflective on these books and their impact on my life.

While the Lent serves as a time for us to draw closer to God and His word, we can’t just look towards the superficial tendencies that fasting in today’s society often brings. Fasting from soda and sweets is healthy, but is it really bringing me closer to Christ? As the name of the Lent study from She Reads Truth says, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.

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