“Spring is Coming”

HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE! Happy New Year! We are already well into 2016 and I haven’t made a single appearance here on Bird’s Nest. I’ve thought of countless posts…like a 2015 recap, our Christmas and New Year’s visit, a few recipes to share, and some of my favorite recent reads… but between binge watching Homeland and House of Cards with Michael, teaching a handful of fitness classes a week (4 Pure Barre classes, 2 Zumba classes, and 1 core class), keeping up with the mounds of laundry and dishwasher loads (how do two people go through so many clothes and dishes everyday??), I haven’t had any writing mojo.

Perhaps I’m recovering a bit from 2015? WHAT.A.YEAR! I lived in Charleston, Richmond, Memphis, and Johnson City. FOUR moves! There was planning a wedding and the most beautiful day I’ve ever lived. We cruised around Alaska and started our marriage with more moves and adjusting to a new city together. I pursued a dream to teach Pure Barre and have been humbled by how much preparation, training, and practice it takes to be an excellent teacher for each class. 10426687_10204937827476830_5670134686419501070_n

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Then there’s been health stuff that’s sidetracked me. Skin spots removed, funky hormone levels, blood taken. It’s been an interesting few rounds of “if-not-that-then-what?” Health and wellness is a journey, ya know what I mean? I’ve felt a little…out of sorts.12227562_10153357006782424_4487242417836674502_n

But then there’s been some really energizing and refreshing moments! I’ve found out that a few of my favorite people are pregnant! Michael surprised me a few weeks ago to Willow Winds, our favorite cabin in Asheville, NC. That was so fun! We just celebrated his birthday and well, Eleanor is cute as ever. My downtime each day has had Amanda Cook’s CD on replay and I’ve enjoyed Nathan Foster’s The Making of an Ordinary Saint. Most of all, God has been faithful to meet me in the day-to-day. I’ve found the Spirit’s companionship in the household chores, the peace of Jesus to calm the nerves before teaching a class, my Creator’s steadfast strength in the doctor’s office. unnamed-312540706_10205066633176892_2741761261667765909_n

When we were hit with a foot of snow a few weeks ago, I was reminded that we go through seasons, always changing and transforming. My favorite quote in Foster’s book talks about winter. He writes,

“During winter, nature is busy. Trees do most of their growing as roots search deep, plumbing the earth in search of nutrients. In a season that seems dormant and asleep, God is active.”

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Feeling a little out-of-sorts, or like my roots are searching deep, I’m assured that this season is the pathway to new life and that God’s words are for us here and now: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). I feel like the end of that verse deserves an exclamation point: Behold, I am making all things new! Like the excitement of a new spring season…warm weather! Bird’s chipping! More sunshine! Flowers and trees in full bloom! Fresh farmers market goodies!  SPRING IS COMING!

All things new! I’m included in that. You, too. Seasons are just seasons–they come and go. Sometimes they’re bitter and frustrating, sometimes they’re warm and nourishing. We strive for balance everyday, but is that even attainable in just one day? Or even in one season? Perhaps balance found when we step back and have a larger hindsight on our journeys? I think when we take that outlook, we see the full picture of moments where we’ve thrived in full-stride balanced with moments of struggle.  unnamed-2

Here’s what I’m saying: Happy Winter! Happy hibernating, searching, and digging deep. Happy struggle and questioning. Happy heartache, stumbling, and failing. You’re right where you are supposed to be. What seems stagnant will soon burst forth with new life! Let go what needs to be shed and make space for what is to come. Take hope and trust in a good and faithful Creator.

Behold, you are being made new.

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Michael & Shea’s Love Story

Well, I’m a wife!

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It hasn’t sunk in yet. We’ve been married for two weeks now and I still feel like I’m going to have to say good-bye to him at any second for him to go back to Memphis and me to Charleston. When we started to date again last May, the reality of long-distance was a slap in the face. We adapted by utilizing FaceTime, phone calls, and texts throughout the days. Not our preference but it was all that we had and could do.

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I knew early on that long-distance would be short-lived…I was going to marry that man! It’s much easier to endure a dreadful long-distance status knowing that it would only be for a temporary season. From the beginning, we were both on the same page when it came to our dating this go around. Without a shadow of doubt, deep peace filled my soul and I was called to marry Michael. I know that may sound strange, but when I dated Michael in high school, I never felt that peace or that “you know that you know” feeling people say when its about the person you’re supposed to marry. I was also 16 and had college and grad school on my mind! He, on the other hand, would call me “The Mrs.”, joke around that we were “absolutely going to get married”, and had more love for me than I knew what to do with. At 17, I remember sitting on my bed writing in a little pink journal, “Lord, give me the same love for Michael that he has for me.” I felt like God say right back to me, “Don’t open a Christmas gift until it’s Christmas day.” I know, weird. It was such a strange phrase, I wrote it down and took it to mean that I wasn’t ready for that kind of love and will one day have that deep love for my future husband. {cue sad music} Shortly after that journal entry, Michael and I broke up as he went to college and I finished high school.

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We took different paths those 10 years we were apart, yet every so often, the inevitable “run-in-to-each other” would occur at church or the gym when we were both in our hometown. He was also a faithful workout buddy to my dad, so that didn’t help when trying to avoid an ex! We each had our share of ups and downs during the decade apart, but I’m 100% convinced the trials and triumphs better prepared us for one another.

Getting reacquainted with Michael is my favorite part of his and my love story. It literally took Divine intervention to get me to even consider dating Michael again…but when God’s the writer of a love story and “peace that goes beyond all understanding” fills the soul and something holy and sacred is created.

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Ready to hear the rest of our love story?! Well, we put together a video to share with our family and friends! We played this at our rehearsal dinner and for all of our guests at the wedding before the ceremony. Finally, I’m giddy to share it with you!

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Our long-distance status is finally nixed and I couldn’t be more grateful for a good Creator to write us the most beautiful love story. Our wedding day was the sweetest celebration I could ever dream of and I’m still on cloud 9. But mostly, I’m so stinkin’ excited that I don’t have to have another sad goodbye with Michael and a lame FaceTime call again. Finally, we are married and get to adventure into the next season of our lives together!

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To watch how the rest of our love story came together, press play below!

Part 2: Farm Engagement Pics!

It’s a surreal feeling knowing that I’m getting married in one month! I just shook my head in disbelief when I re-read that. When I think of all of the family and friends coming to celebrate, I could squeal with delight! I cannot wait to put on that mystery dress (only my mom & I know what it looks like!) and walk down that isle. As I imagine the vows exchanged, I get chills knowing that I’m saying yes to a lifetime with Michael. (Nevermind the fact we haven’t written the vows yet.)

shea-and-michael-charlottesville-virginia-engagement-photographer-58 copyIn fact, there are a ton of details and to-dos left. Like all ya peeps who haven’t RSVP’d…get on it! I have no shame in hunting each of you down and asking for a yay or nay! But the sign paintings…the centerpieces…the seating charts…guest book…meh…they’ll get done. I’m not fussin’ over the details. All I can see and feel is unreserved excitement knowing that May 9th is our wedding day! Or in the social media world… the #MikeSheaDay!

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shea-and-michael-charlottesville-virginia-engagement-photographer-94 copyAs promised, here are a few of our favorite farm engagement pictures by the incredible Meredith Sledge. In case you didn’t catch the gym shots, take a look here. Let me just start the next round of pics with this one that cracks me up every time I see it! It’s our “serious photo-faces”…and his hand…What were we doing?! I think Meredith told Michael to put his hands in his pockets and this is what happened! Gotta love that boy…

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 8.59.43 AMHilarious and completely awkward, right?!

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When I looked through the gallery to pick the photos for this post, I couldn’t help but giggle at all of the many googily-eyes and silly grin I had on my face when looking at Michael. I mean, I look like I’m completely smitten with the boy! Truth is, I am. I am totally enamored with what a gift he is to me and that I get the privilege of doing life with him. I mean…look at that adoration!!!

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Are you tired of me gushing about him? Are you saying to yourself, “Just wait until the honeymoon phase is over?” I hope not. I’m not naïve to Michael’s flaws, nor do I live in an idealist dream of perfection. But I do know that there has never been anyone who has ever loved me more than that boy. I’ve never felt more myself than with anyone else but him. Most importantly, I’ve never been more at peace and confident that Michael is who God has called me to love as my life partner.

shea-and-michael-charlottesville-virginia-engagement-photographer-85 copyMay 9th is going to be a beautiful day. Beyond a day…because it’s just a day… I know I’m about to enter into a lifetime of a beautiful marriage.

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend” –John 15:13 (NIV)

Weekend Review

Hey You!

Did you have a good weekend? What did you do? The weather was amazing here in Charleston, as were the friends I spent time with and the food I created.

My friend Brandy is moving from back to Dallas soon (sad face) so on Friday night she and I went to Sesame for some burgers and caught a late night movie (Best of Me). On Saturday we celebrated her new adventure at The Alley for a little 80s-style bowling. My favorite quote from her this weekend, “I’m convinced the hole in our o-zone layer is from all of the hairspray used in the 80s!”

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I slept in until 9am on Saturday (9am!!!) and had the best breakfast. My version of PB&J old-fashioned oatmeal with hemp heart seeds and pink raspberries (I’ve never seen these before!) annnnnd a slice of whole-grain toast, asparagus, watercress greens, and a poached egg! Now before you go thinking I’m a super chef making poached eggs, I learned from A Pinch of Yum. Sitting on the front porch eating these creations made it even better.

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Other food honorable mentions: I made this kale/pomegranate/walnut/feta/rice salad (amazing) and created a homemade grilled buffalo chicken pizza…lightened up of course ;).

  • 1 multi-grain Flatout
  • 3oz of shredded organic chicken breast mixed w/1 teaspoon of Franks Hot Sauce
  • Nonfat plain Greek Yogurt mixed w/1 teaspoon of ranch seasoning
  • diced celery, orange pepper, garlic
  • 1 slice of low fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles
  • Franks Hot Sauce drizzled

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When I wasn’t hanging with friends or cooking/eating, I hit up Pure Barre for a little lift-tone-burn, went to my neighborhood park to play around with the basketball, and ran a few miles. I smelled that “autumn fire burning” scent and loved every ounce of the sunshine.

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Both the church sermon and my small group discussions were good for the soul. Something that the pastor said has been on repeat in my head all day: “I will experience challenges far beyond my own strength. God doesn’t want me to be contempt or satisfied with past events of God’s faithfulness but practice faith daily in the challenges to see a faithful God.”

Good stuff, yeah?

Have an awesome Monday!

It’s a Good Friday!

Happy Good Friday loved ones!

I seriously cannot believe Easter weekend is upon us. Time is FLYING…it’s a little unnerving if you ask me! This morning I had the chance to take a few minutes, open my journal to give thanks to God for some really wonderful people, events, and details of life. I opened my Bible and randomly found a psalm that was so very fitting for me:

Here are a few pieces of Psalm 30:

2-3 God, my God, I yelled for help
and you put me together.
God, you pulled me out of the grave,
gave me another chance at life
when I was down-and-out.

4-5 All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank [our Creator]!
[God] gets angry once in a while, but across
a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of laughter…

8-10 I called out to you, God;
I laid my case before you: …
So listen! and be kind!
Help me out of this!”

11-12 You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
 I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.”

I love that last part. “I can’t thank you enough.” I’ve shared this before on Bird’s Nest and know I’ll share more, but can still taste the remnants of experiencing some very dark seasons and a painful depression over the past few years. My journal is filled with honest confusion, heartache, and frustration to my Creator. I was made stronger and gained peace. My trust in God to be near was my anchor.

“I can’t thank you enough.”

God is so faithful. I can’t stop saying it. I was in a a dark place but God brought me through it in more ways than I can comprehend!

So fitting for this day…for this weekend. Going through a dark moment (think, Jesus was sweating blood!) to God’s faithfulness being fulfilled (Easter!).

Our culture associates Easter with eggs, chocolate, and of course, bunnies:

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Cute, right?!

I get it! We’d rather have a celebration of cuteness than reality. And the reality of Easter isn’t pretty. It’s filled with questioning God’s abandonment, betrayal, and death. The beauty of Easter proclaims God’s faithfulness, loyalty, and life!

“I can’t thank you enough.”

2012 Highlights.

What a year it’s been!  The first six months were fairly predictable—just like I assumed it’d be. The last six months have stretched me beyond comfortability! I’ve grown more as a person in the past year than I imagined I could. I’m so incredibly GRATEFUL for the really tough moments of rejection, struggle, and frustration. New life, vision, and purpose were birthed in those moments and I can hardly wait to share those dreams with you. 2013 is going to be incredible! (More to come for 2013, especially on the job front, but for now let’s celebrate this past year!)

Here are roughly (but not limited to) 12 highlights of 2012…so many outstanding moments!

1. For example, ALL of the traveling I did!

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[Miami, FL]

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[Cozumel, Mexico]

2. Memorable moments like finally trying brussell spouts (love them) and tried Bikram yoga (didn’t love), going into and out of an 8 ½ month relationship, and Gossip Girl ending. Big stuff for this year!

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That’s not the only change in 2012.

3. I no longer drive my red Honda civic, Roxy. She’s been passed to my younger cousin who I USED TO DRIVE AROUND WHEN SHE WAS 5! *First time I’ve ever truly felt “OLD.”

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4. Speaking of driving…I’ve never been pulled over until 2012…and it just so happens I got pulled over THREE times! (Rolling stop, headlight out, expired tags). Blessed to still claim I’ve never gotten a ticket: 🙂

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5. I finished my 3-year master’s degree. MAJOR WAHOOS!

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6. Keeping up with a consistent fitness routine that included taking body pump, body flow, other core strengthening & cardio pumping classes, as well as teaching Zumba at least 2x per week. Also, having a few new gym buddies made the experience enjoyable and could give me an extra push when I needed it!

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7. Playing “Rachel Ray” with the Junior League. We did a live cooking demo in front of a crowd teaching healthy eating. SO much fun!

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8. I baked my first wedding cake for some dear friends!

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9. I crafted some new creations, like paintings, canvas lettering, cards, wreaths, vases, and my favorite DIY headboard/wall art!

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10. Taking my roomie to her first college game ever! Good thing it was to a game where my Hokies won!

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11. Oh, and I couldn’t forget to mention this year’s autumn. It was BREATHTAKING!

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12. And then there were my nieces! Ohhh my goodness I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun I’ve had as an auntie this year. Amber is now 3 years old and full of personalities and conversations. My sweet baby Elena is now 3 months. I have the best of both worlds with a fun toddler to play with and a baby to cuddle. My heart is so full with love for those girls!

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Sigh. Such a beautiful life and a beautiful year filled with so.much.love. It was hard, yesssss indeeeeed, but I’ve never been stronger as a person. Cheers 2012, you’ve been better to me than I could have dreamed! My gratitude runs deep to a loving God for health, protection, and unconditional grace and love.

Fear, Disappointment, & Vulnerability

We have a natural instinct for self-preservation, comfort, and survival.

Life has a way of shaking every one of those instincts to its raw core, doesn’t it? We strive for legacy, we strive for control in order that we may predict the outcome, and we strive for not only mere survival, but also desire a flourished life full of “everything.”

I graduated in May and it’s now nearing the end of October. Roughly five months of unemployment and just about 10 months of active job searching. Let me be clear when I tell you those natural instincts are VERY REAL.

My humanness tells me take the next job offer, even if it’s only part-time and a slap-in-your-face-pay-for-having-a-master’s-degree. My bank account screams, “SAVE” but my instinct for comfort keeps rearing its head when I desire to go shopping for fall boots…(heh!). My disposition for survival has me constantly on my knees praying to the One who knows what’s coming.

Faith goes exceedingly beyond natural instincts.

But why do we have these natural instincts for self-preservation, comfort, and survival?

I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately. When I strip all of those predispositions down and remove my mask of having it all together, I find that I have these because of 1. Fear 2. Disappointment 3. Vulnerability. They’re all connected.

We fear being vulnerable because we do not want to be disappointed.

I’ve had A LOT of disappointment lately…

  • applying and desiring multiple jobs and hearing “no” after “no
  • an 8½ month relationship coming to an end
  • investing and opening up to a new friend only to be…disappointed.

I heard a TED talk a few weeks on vulnerability by Brené Brown. She made different points like…

  • we numb vulnerability
  • we pretend what we do doesn’t have an effect on others
  • we must let ourselves be seen in order to be whole-hearted and healed individuals

Being vulnerable means… investing in relationships that may or may not work…letting go of certainty…believing “I am enough.”

Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, and compassion.”

When I’m on my deathbed, I want to reflect and see that my life was a full of love, joy, and compassion. Yet fear of disappointment will cause me to toss vulnerability right out the window and put on a “brave” shell.

The truth is, it takes a lot more courage to be vulnerable to God, others, and ourselves than it is to be close-hearted to the past, present, and future. The way I see it…it’s an awfully lonely life to refuse to be vulnerable.

To be brave is to be vulnerable.

When I look at life right now, I am faced with different options for the future. There are a couple of choices that may rock my entire world and kick my “comfortable” life in the butt. (This makes me SQIRM with discomfort!) I’m not sure I am ready to be brave and vulnerable, going where I never thought I’d muster the courage to go, but I’m also not sure if I can afford NOT to be brave. If new steps mean the hope of new love, joy, and compassion…then NOT taking those steps could very well mean the opposite.

No matter how great the person, how beautiful the new city, or how alluring the job’s description…disappointment is inevitable. Will we let it cripple our future or will we let it guide us to heal and move forward, remaining brave to be vulnerable to the uncertainty of “everything”?

I suppose I am writing this post mostly to myself, though I hope you resinate with these words too. Don’t let the fear of being disappointed hinder you from going after your dreams. Don’t let the fear of being vulnerable hinder you from healing. Don’t let the fear of being uncomfortable halt you from growing. Trust in a loving Creator that is always near. Be brave to face a “dead” winter, new life is just a season away. Go and be vulnerable, because baby, the best is yet to come!

8.2%

NPR recently reported that unemployment is at 8.2%. It’s a little more than that if you include myself and the rest of class 2012 who hasn’t filed for unemployed standing. I found out quickly that status from “student” to “unemployed” goes as quick as it takes to walk across a stage!

I’ve kept myself occupied though… traveled to Mexico, celebrated the end of a three-year master’s degree with an awesome graduation party, enjoyed lunches with friends, making homemade cards, writing cover letters and editing my resume, teaching multiple Zumba classes, networked with various nonprofits in Winston, gone to as many body pump and body flow classes as I’ve wanted to in the mornings, had some batsh*t crazy nightmares, and have soaked up the sun to maintain that Mexico tan. All I’m missing is one of these awesome mermaid tails (found on Etsy) to relive my childhood summer pool times by making up mermaid names and acting like a princess of the sea.

A few other thoughts from the Unemployed:

I’ve had to pace myself with RealSimple magazines. In grad school, those babies would pile up for 4-5 months at a time and when Christmas came around or a week of Spring Break would grace, I’d catch up. Now have to learn to savor the next month’s issue.

The new Mumford & Sons CD can not come faster!

Gift cards! I’m pulling out all those gift cards that have been collecting some dust in my wallet and using those as a first option for any shopping/restaurant needs.

Someone come put an internet block on my computer to all Golden Retriever Rescue websites…PRONTO. I keep having these day dreams of owning a Golden Retriever and I hanging out during the day, going on walks, taking trips together…It’s bad, y’all. Real bad.

Truths: 1. God is good, faithful, and loving. 2. The support I feel from loved ones around me is undeniably humbling. 3. This sign sums up a decent life motto:

Marathons of Pretty Little Liars and Friday Night Lights have been a guilty pleasure.

She just keeps getting cuter by the day. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but gahhhh she melts my heart!

 

Well, those are just a few musings. More to come!

“Don’t Give Me What I Want.”

Lord, don’t give me what I want.

I’ve been learning to pray that more.

Y’all, I’ve had a really good and blessed life. I was raised in a loving home, felt accepted and respected at my church and grade school, and have had some travel experiences that some people don’t have in their lifetime. I realize all of this is nothing less than a pure gift from God.

Of course, not every life is perfect without any unmet expectations or hardships (though I wish this weren’t the case!). Without going into detail, I’ve often asked God for different things (such as clarity for the future or even a relationship with different guys from the past) and haven’t gotten that magical “yes” I wanted but often a flat “no” or perhaps worse, many painstakingly long silences.

But it’s those times. Those times when I realize why something didn’t work out or why I didn’t get my way. Most of the time, it’s because God had something so much better planned for me. The Creator provides, and not just on a basic level, but creates, provides, and blesses beyond what I could have dreamt for myself.

The hard part is learning to wait in the silence (oh–and keep my mouth shut from complaining!). Why did I move here? Why am I doing this? Why did I not end up with him? What will the future hold?

“God’s delays aren’t God’s denies.” I have been dwelling on that phrase for a few weeks now (as well as a friend of mine—Hey Joy!) and am taking this to heart to keep trusting in my God to continue to show the faithfulness I’ve experienced so sweetly in my life. I’ve known God to provide in the past; sure enough I can trust my God for the future!

So my prayers have been turning into, “Lord, don’t give me what I want, but instead, what you want to give me.”

Friends, be encouraged along with me that our answers will come! And in the meantime, let’s keep hoping, keep trusting, and keep giving thanks.