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Last September on one of those beautiful last days of Fall I planted a small flower garden including 44 double tulip bulbs.   This winter on the frigid below zero days I imagined the small bulbs nestled below the snow, deepening their roots and waiting to bloom.  After a long 6 months they have finally begun to poke through the ground and soon they will be blooming in stunning purple, pink and white ruffled petal, adorning my kitchen table or left on the doorstep of a treasured friend or neighbor.  After a cold, seemingly endless winter, Spring and fresh tulips are a wonderful gift.

A season of waiting can feel like an endless winter.  On the surface it can appear like nothing is changing, but just like those little tulip bulbs, God is working through every season. What God does in the waiting is just as important than what we are waiting for.  Ecclesiasties 3 remind us, there is a purpose and time for everything.  Every season holds beauty meant to be savored.

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To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot
A time to destroy and a time to heal
A time to tear down and a time to rebuild
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance…
And he has made EVERYTHING beautiful in its time

The season I am in right now is a gift. Quiet mornings filled with truth and grace, last minute road trips to visit friends, long and unhurried conversations over coffee (or wine), and the joy of pouring your heart and soul into serving the least of these are all precious gifts of my single years. This time is building a firm foundation and preparing me for whatever will be next.   I am growing and changing in the waiting.

There are days my heart aches for a house full of kiddos and a best friend & love to share this adventure of life with.  As much as I desire that life, it’s not where God has me right now. I don’t know if my future will include marriage and mamma-hood but I trust that each new season will be filled with beautiful gifts.  I am choosing to savor this season and to be fully content where He has me.

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I have a simple & darling little DIY project in store for you that will get you in the mood for spring.  This past weekend our family gathered to celebrate Easter and I was in charge of a simple craft.  If you know me at all you’ll know I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug pretty bad so I combined my love for crafts and gardening into one simple little project: Herb Garden in a box.

 

IMG_3078Supplies:

Peat Pots

*You can purchase them at a local garden supply store or target)

Cardboard egg cartons

Seed packets

*Make sure you grab ones that do well with transplanting.  I used Dark Opal Basil, Sweet Basil, Lavender, Oregano, Nasturtiums, and Parsley.

Printable label, stickers and craft supplies for decorating

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-Rehydrate the peat by soaking them in warm water (or use the directions on the box). It’s amazing to see these little discs turn into beautiful, fluffy soil. While you are waiting use a sharp scissors to cut your egg cartons in half.

-After your pots of expanded, place them into the carton and then it’s time to dig in the dirt!!   Using your finger or a toothpick create a well 1/4 ” deep in each pod and add your seeds.  For the larger seeds (beans, nasturtiums) add 1-2 and for smaller seeds (herbs) plant 3-4 per pod.

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-We got a bit creative and made tiny flags (using this paper punch, toothpicks and washi tape) to make sure we didn’t forget was planted!  You can use stickers, colored pencils or other fun craft supplies to create your own plan maker masterpieces!

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-Once your seeds are all planted give them another mist of water from a spray bottle and place them in a warm, dark spot.  Seeds don’t need light to sprout.

-After your seedlings begin to sprout and two tiny leaves appear, set them in a sunny window (south facing will make them the happiest) and keep them well hydrated and watch them grow.

-In a few weeks you’ll have beautiful little plants ready to be put in the ground.  Make sure you plant 2 weeks after the last potential frost (generally the week after Mother’s day in Wisconsin)

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I’m already anticipating the pestos, lavender lemonade and other treats I’ll cook up this summer.  Happy planting friends!

Image-1 (6)Recently, I was at a coffee shop with a group of new people and one of them asked the seemingly innocent question: “Tell me about yourself?”

 

I don’t remember my exact answer but it probably when something like this “Hi, I’m Emily a single gal from Wisconsin. I work at a non-profit and absolutely love what I do. I like to kayak, garden, bake anything with chocolate and books are my love language.”

 

My job title, likes and where I am from are a part of my story but they aren’t the whole story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I should have shared my innermost struggles and secrets with these new friends. In the chaos of that coffee shop, I was reminded that who I am is much more than what I’ve accomplished.

 

That morning in the coffee shop wasn’t my first encounter with a misplaced identity. Several years ago I experienced a season of waiting. I had recently left my dream job and moved back to my hometown. I began searching for a job, and it took a LOT longer than I expected. Weeks became months and months became almost two years of of volunteering, searching and waiting. My resume was full and it looked like I had everything employers were seeking. Yet, there I was without a full time job.

 

I can honestly look back and say that those years were not wasted. God’s plans and timing where better than I could have asked or imagine. In that season of serving I learned that my identity isn’t rooted in accomplishments, a job title, or degree.  These things are good gifts but they are all temporary and will one day fade away. Would your purpose change because you lost your job? I love what I do, but creating events for children with special needs is what I do, it’s not who I am.

 

True identity is more about whose you are then what you do.  

 

1 Peter 2:9 says that we are chosen, blessed, beloved, and created to share His light and love to those around us. Ephesians 1: 1-14 reminds us that in Christ and because of his lavish grace we are faithful, blessed, chosen, made blameless, adopted, redeemed and forgiven. He calls us, not because of what we have done but because what he has done for us. The freedom of the gospel is that our identity is made complete through Christ.

 

When you are lacking courage or confidence, have hope that the only title you need is daughter of the most High King.

 

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The past months have been a journey of contentment.  I’m learning to take delight right where I am, with what I have. God has been actively teaching me that happiness does not come from stuff or even from relationships, but from resting in Him.

To often I’ve logged onto Instagram (or Pinterest or Facebook) and held my life up to everyone’s highlight reel. Instead of rejoicing with them, I’ve logged off feeling unsettled and discontent. Social media is a wonderful thing. I’ve met some of my dearest friends through Influence Network , Make it Happen and She Reads Truth communities. But, it’s also revealed a part of my heart that desperately needs His grace.

“I have learned the secret to being content. I know what it is to be in need and to have plenty, whether well fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. I can do all thing through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4: 12-13 

When I’m leaning on my own will instead of God’s grace, I look at a picture of a beautifully remodeled kitchen and wish that not only my kitchen but my whole home was bigger, better, and sparkling new. But, when I filter that same image through grace, it inspires me to break out the fancy dishes and invite a friend over for dinner. God’s strength allows me to have a heart of contentment, whatever the circumstance.

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I’ve been reading through a small devotional focused on contentment and this quote reminded me that choosing contentment begins with gratitude, taking account of the abundant gifts that he has blessed with us.

 

Contentment comes as we wait on God’s timetable and as we trust that what he provides in our lack is really all we need until he provides something else – Lydia Brownback

 

I’m learning that gratitude is woven closely with contentment. Contentment doesn’t just happen overnight, it’s a journey of gratitude. When I’m living out of a heart of comparison not contentment I over look all that I’ve been given in this season. A tight knit family. Fresh flowers. Meaningful work. A cozy home. Strong coffee. Worship. Time to invest in friendships. Cooking a healthy meal. Family. Road trips. Wildlife in Wisconsin. Seed catalogues. Laughter. Adventure.

Taking joy in the little things is true contentment. What little joys are you grateful for today?

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been in a sweet season of renewal and reflection over the past few weeks.  It’s half way through the month of January, and yet I’m still reflecting on the past year. 2014 was a year of growth, faith, trust and stepping out into my calling.

I’m currently working through my goals for 2015 using my amazing friend Lara’s Powersheets and Goal Planning Posts–if you need some encouragement for the new year (or the new month) go linger for a few moments on her site.  You won’t regret it!

 

One of the exercises is writing a list of what worked and what didn’t work over the past year and then reflecting on the lessons you learned.  As I worked through the exercise, I was equally humbled and amazed.  2014 was a HARD year but His grace refined me.

I want to be honest share what God taught me in 2014.

Lessons I learned from what DIDN’T Work

-Comparison is not just the thief of joy–it is the thief of everything good.  When I compare my journey against another it shifts my eyes from what God has blessed me with.  I need to kick comparison in 2015.  STOP. PRAY. GIVE THANKS.

-Nothing on this earth can provide true contentment and satisfaction like a relationship with the Lord.  No frivolous spending, hallmark movie, new book, latest fashion or relationship can fill my heart with joy like his presence.  In his presence there is FULLNESS of JOY!

-My actions and words begin with my thoughts.  If I allow myself to dwell on untruth I become a bitter and discontent woman.  However, when I rely on God’s Grace to think on what is true, pure, and lovely my actions and words reflect His Glory and love to the world around me.

Lessons I learned from what DID Work

-I can be a women of discipline. God’s grace allows me to accomplish what I could NEVER do alone.  I was stretched physically and emotionally over the last year and am now seeing the fruit of this growth!

-We are created for community.  God created me uniquely to help build and deepen relationships.  I cannot invest deeply in everyone but I can follow Jesus’ example and use my influence to point other’s to my Father.

-Graceful leadership is service!!  Doing the hard things that nobody wants to do, serving joyfully and being consistent in the small things refines us and grows us to become more like Christ.  Like it says in Romans, perseverance shapes character, character turns into hope.

-There are days when you want to call it quit and become a barista or move to a different country.  But rest in His grace and press on. Those hard days are the classroom where God graciously shapes you into the women he created you to be.

Cheers to an intentional 2015!

GiveHope

Sharing more from my talk at Sister of Stone’s Fall Retreat on Encouragement.  Sisters, encouragement is a gift we all have been given. We are called to encourage other build each other up.  Each of us, not just those who have the gift of  God’s grace and presence is revealed through the encouragement of others.

When I was preparing for my talk and studying the topic of encouragement I began by opening up good old Webster’s dictionary and looking up the definition.

en·cour·age·ment
inˈkərijmənt,enˈkərijmənt/
noun
 
  1. the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.

And that is when it hit me, encouragement is not just saying pretty words or telling someone how wonderful they are.  True, authentic encouragement runs deeper then that-to builds up others towards Christ. If our ultimate hope is in Christ (Ps. 31:24), an encourager will point her sister or brother to christ with their words and actions.  A true friend won’t just tell you what you want to hear but gently and graciously direct you towards truth.

I have a darling friend and mentor who I go to when I need a bit of sound advice and encouragement. She is always ready with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and some sound advice.  She will sit, listen and then speak truth into my life. It’s not always what I want to hear, but she ALWAYS points me back to my savior through prayer and scripture.

If we desire to be women that speak life and give hope, we need to begin by being rooted in truth yourself.  Spend time in the word, soaking up scripture and God will use you to point others towards him.

This morning in my devotional on hospitality and it shared the importance of preparing our hearts before we prepare our homes.  The author used the familiar story of Mary and Martha but had a new twist.

“…Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching”  Luke 10:39

Before we open our lives to people, before we give encouragement or speak truth it’s crucial that we sit and prepare our hearts before the Lord. Learn from him how to love those who are hard to love, cry out for wisdom to share and allow His on abundant grace to give true hope to all you meet.

 

 

 

Influence Community Group--oh how I love these beautiful women!

Influence Community Group–oh how I love these beautiful women!

 

At the end on September I attended the Influence Conference in Indianapolis, IN.  The Influence Network is an amazing group of women who love the Lord and strive to seek him in every area of their life, you can find out more here.  This year was the second year I attended the conference and I was beyond grateful for time to learn, grow and laugh with like minded women.  I’m still digging into what God taught me over those three days, expect a recap soon.

I wanted to create a little something for my roomies and friends just as a way to say thank you for their friendship and how they have encouraged me over the last year. I used some darling, old bottles and gathered some craft supplies I had on hand to create a little fall-inspired gift.

 

 

 

IMG_2241Supplies:

Vintage bottles or vases from the dollar store

Twine

Fabric or Lace Ribbon (I used 1.5 Inch thick ribbon from Hobby Lobby)

Billy Balls (I am obsessed with these darling dried flowers)

Craft Punch (This flag punch from TomKat Studios has SO many uses)

Mini Clothes Pins

Stamps and Ink

 

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Step One- Be creative and decorate your bottle.

Take a few moments and think about the person you are creating it for. Do they appreciate simple beauty?  What is are favorite colors and textures?  What reminds you of them?

I wrapped a bit of lace ribbon around the middle and tide with some twine. I love how the combination of rustic and feminine turned out.

 

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Step Two- Create a simple tag using stamps and kraft paper.

Again, use your creativity. The sky is the limit, add a favorite phrase or quote or a simple and thoughtful word.

I’ve been loving these inspiration quotes lately:

I’m so grateful there’s you in this world

Choose Joy

You know those things you’ve always wanted to do, go do them.

Bloom where you are planted.

 

 

Step Three- Wrap a bit of twin around the neck of the bottle and attach your tag

Step Four-Arrange the Billy Balls or other dried flower.  Next year, I’m definitely growing these fun flowers!  I love how whimsical they are. 

Voila, a simple and thoughtful fall inspired gift.

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EncouragementPart One of Three:

Last month I had the joy to speak at the Sister’s of Stone Fall Women’s Retreat about something I believe so so strong in-using our words to encourage one another!  My prayer in the weeks leading up to the retreat my prayer was that it would be about HIM and not me.

God answered my prayer, but not in the way I expected.  The evening before the talk my sweet sister was admitted to the ICU. (Praise Jesus she is out of the hospital and doing MUCH better now!) My big plan to spend the afternoon smoothing out the wrinkles in my talk and make sure I had funny and engaging stories that illustrated my speaking points was replaced with time with an evening at the hospital and time with my brave sister and amazing family.  God’s grace allowed me to share from my heart and I was greatly reminded that HIS power is truly made perfect in weakness. That morning my words may not have been eloquent or refined, but I have no doubt that they were from Him.  Friend, God is able to use your messy bits to speak truth and life.

SpeakLife

Proverbs 18:21 says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Every day we have the opportunity to speak encouragement or bring destruction with our words.   When I was younger, my parents would always have us say three nice things for every negative thing we said about our sibling.  We would roll our eyes (sorry mom!) and my brother would almost alway reply with “I like your hair, shoes and clothes.”  Hilarious, yes, but the greatest lesson was that our relationships with each other mattered too much to be destroyed by a few careless words.

So, if our tongue has the power to bring life or death, how do we speak life??  Your words begin with your thoughts “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. FOR THE MOUTH SPEAKS WHAT THE HEART IS FULL OF!”

When you first meet someone, are your first thoughts ones of jealously, judgement, or comparison or are they thoughts of support, hope and courage?

”Watch your thoughts for they become words. What your words for they become actions. Watch your actions because they become your habits, watch your habits for they become your character” –Margaret Thatcher

The amazing thing is that we don’t have to rely on our own power to control our thoughts or words.  When we choose to rely on God’s sufficient grace, his power transforms our thoughts and words from ugly to beautiful. If we are going to be women of encouragement, we need to take captive every negative thought and champion each other with not only our words but our thoughts.

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Authentic encouragement meets people where they are at. I’ve struggled with this one so many times, when I’ve been frustrated in relationships it’s because I’m holding that person up to some ridiculous standard, not a standard of love and grace.  The simple prayer “Lord, help me to see others as you see them.” will break your heart for the people in your path. When you see the heartbreak, struggles, gifts, talents and joys of those in your life you meet them where they are and your encouragement is authentic. Cheer them on, affirm their talents, and champion their dreams!

Most importantly, encourage out of LOVE not obligation.  We are called to encourage one another, to use our words to build one another up, but more then that we are called to love. Let your words show your love.  Speak Life.

 

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If you’ve known me for any length of time, it’s no secret that Autumn is my favorite time of year.  All year I wait for the season of coziness and dream up ways to include pumpkin (or butternut squash) into every meal.

This past weekend my sweet Mamma came over and helped to decorate my little cottage for the season.  I wish I could invite you all over for a cup of cider and a pumpkin spice donut.  We would don our hats, scarves and boots and take a walk around the lake to view the gorgeous changing leaves, we would talk about what God is doing in our lives and spend time enjoying each others company in the autumn sunshine.

Instead I invite you to put on your coziest sweater, pour a mug of your favorite hot beverages (have you discovered Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea…it’s fall in a cup ya’ll!)  and take a little fall tour of my autumn cottage.IMG_2208

Welcome to my little cottage.  The corn stalks & funky pumpkins my mamma and I scored at a local farm stands “Clear Out Sale”.  Perfect for my late fall decorating!

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The wreath on the door is one I made several years ago with friends at a craft night.  I love the lace and felt flowers and rich fall colors.

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Since this picture I’ve added a cute little carved pumpkin to my step.  We had pumpkin carving this last weekend and I made a mason jar inspired pumpkin.  I think it turned out darling…

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Right inside my door is a vintage mustard mantle and I added a few fall touches.  The E was made at cousin’s weekend this past September.  It took a while to wrap the twine around but I think the finished product was worth it.

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My shabby chic $50 dollar hut has served me well over the last year. It’s the perfect make-shift bar, dessert table or place to display seasonal vignettes.

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My mom brought over this beautiful print with one of my favorite quotes from Anne of Green Gables.  You can find this and other darling prints here. 

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I’ll leave you with my autumn table scape. A vintage table runner, pumpkins and $5 boquet from the farmer’s market turns my childhood table into a scene reflective of autumn’s beauty.

 

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into my Autumn cottage!  Happy fall friends <3

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The changing leaves, cozy sweaters, pumpkins at the market and cooler evenings mean one thing, fall is in the air. The evenings are growing longer and brings a slowing down from the rushed pace of Summer.

This past summers has been FULL!  Full of sunshine, hard decisions, lingering days at the cottage, adventure, challenges, grace, leaps of faith and most importantly growth.  There were moments when I was tempted to call it a day and settle for different, perhaps easier path.  Every obstacle made me question the path God is calling me to.  When you are chasing after a God-sized dream, hard days will come and come often. God is refining and growing you through his abundant, sufficient grace.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Stop for a moment and read that verse, soak in the truth of those words.  In a world that glorifies perfection, hustle, power, and success those words breath life.  The areas you struggle with the most are where God will use you for his glory. Weakness makes room for God’s power to work in our lives.   His grace allows us to learn, grow, and trust.

This past summer my small group studied the book of James.  This small and powerful book, penned by Jesus’ half-brother quickly became a favorite of mine.  In James 1:2-5 he writes “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  When hard days hit, we don’t have to grin and bear, God’s grace allows us to take joy in the moments of refinement.  The moments where I’ve wanted to give up, stop trying and settle for an easier life, that is exactly where I’m being stretched to the God-sized dream.  Each hard day is an opportunity for God to refine my heart and stretch my faith to this God-sized dream.  To empty it of pride, fear, and striving and to gently remind me that the true point of it all is to love Him and love His people.

Sweet friend, growth and change are hard, remember you can do ALL things through Him who gives you strength.  Image-1 (3)