Saying Goodbye to my 20’s!

#30/30

I’m writing this post on May 4th, 2017 at 10:30PM, my 30th post of 30 posts, just right before I turn 30 in an hour and a half. It feels slightly surreal ending a decade and entering into another.

Here’s my top ten of my 20’s:

  1. Moving 8 times within 10 years!
  2. Going to my dream school, Southeastern University.
  3. Backpacking Europe with Amy & Starting Bird’s Nest. From that, discovering a new passion for writing.
  4. Traveling to other countries like Israel, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bali, Thailand, and China!
  5. Pursuing my Master of Divinity at Wake Forest School of Divinity and being so so so happy to finish school!
  6. Eleanor, because that’s my girl.
  7. Moving to Charleston without a job or place to live, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in my 20’s.
  8. Of my 20’s, I think 26 is still my favorite year.
  9. Working in hospice was one of the most valuable experiences I’ve had. Learning as a young person to live an abundant life without regrets, centered around Jesus, has been life changing.
  10. The biggest decision I made as a 20-something: Michael & getting back together, engaged, and married!

What a decade! I am so incredibly blessed. There’s been hard seasons- seasons of depression, a lot of work with school, and growing in everyway possible- but all of it has been a sheer gift from a loving and faithful God. I’m so blessed to have the family and friends I do, the community I have both near and far, and that I get to live this life. It’s humbling.

Cheers to my 20’s!

My Thoughts on Facebook Challenges (I’m looking at you, Love Your Spouse Challenge!)

I always see the trendy challenges going around on Facebook. You know them. Two years ago it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Someone would have them record dumping a bucket ice cold water on themselves to bring awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. If you got tagged in the post, you were either supposed to dump a bucket of cold H2O on yourself and/or make a donation to the ALS Association. I gotta admit something to you today. My Bali backpacking buddy, Stephanie, challenged me to the ALS challenge. Did I pour freezing water on myself? Nope. Notta. Not even an ice cube down the back. I’m also pretty sure I didn’t give a donation, if this post is about being honest. (Sorry Steph :D!)

So this year comes around and we see wives posting pictures of their husbands for the “Love Your Spouse Challenge”. From what I understand, it’s a seven day challenge where one posts memories and pictures with/of their spouse and then tags two people to do the challenge. Welp, I’ve been challenged by my dear Carolina and I smiled and decided to sit another challenge out. (Heh, sorry Carloyn!)

Then…………..

Then my mother-in-law challenged me to the Love Your Spouse Challenge and you bettah believe I’m going to post a picture of how much I love her dear son! Let’s just say you don’t refuse a woman who has given birth to and raised 4 boys and 1 girl!

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So here we are on Day 1 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge and I want to share a picture of where it all started: Homecoming 2003. Apparently it was my Michael’s parents (known affectionally as Momma J and Red) who suggested to Michael that he take me for the homecoming dance! What’s even funnier is that years later, my parents suggested I marry Michael!

Homecoming 2003

Now that leaves me to give you my honest thoughts on these challenges. With all of the fuss over politics, heartbreaking terrorist acts, and racial divisions, we need as much love, positivity, and celebration as possible! One scroll through Facebook has an abundance of opinions, frustrations, and alienations from one another. On the same thread, there are engagements, weddings, baby gender reveals, new job announcements, and vacations left and right.

Cynicism is an easy trap to fall in, often getting annoyed by trends or someone else’s happy news, but the REAL challenge is to celebrate, honor, and embrace all of the GOOD and JOY and LOVE. Amen?! Life is too short and life is too precious to live in pessimism and world-weariness. So friends (and friends of friends), post as many pictures of your sweet baby you want! Keep raising awareness for the organizations you’re passionate about! Shout from the rooftops how much you love your spouse!

I love this reminder from Philippians 4:8:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And now for my final part of the Love Your Spouse Challenge: the part where I get to challenge two more people to participate! Now I’ve noticed the trend is to tag another two women…but I don’t see gender specific rules. So therefore I’d like to see two men post some love for their wives. First up: my own brother Brandon Hawkins!

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For kicks and giggles, the second man I’ll tag to the challenge is none other than my own husband, Michael Smith! Uh huh, yep. Show me some love sweet husband! How do you refuse the woman you share a bed with every night?!

Cheers dear friends! Keep celebrating. Keep tagging. Keep spreading love. Our world desperately needs it. Happy Friday!

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)

October + Sheep + Marriage.

I’ve come across a few great articles over the past week that I’ve read (multiple times) and cannot stop thinking about. Treat yourself and read the full articles! You won’t be disappointed.

Sarah Bessy describing the month of October:

“October feels like a woman who knows her age and rests comfortable in that knowledge, like the woman I want to be someday. Bearing her years like a crown, beautiful but in her own beauty not the borrowed or contrived beauty of past seasons, wise and patient, crisp and alive, a bit tart but restful. October feels kind and strong in equal measure.”

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An amazing story about a sheep named Shrek:

“This is Shrek the sheep. He became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shear (shave) it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just less than ten pounds, with the exception usually reaching fifteen pounds, maximum. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece, simply because he was away from his shepherd.”

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On false expectations for marriage and choosing to love the ever-changing partner:

“[Couples] do not see marriage as two flawed people coming together to create a space of stability, love and consolation, a “haven in a heartless world,” as Christopher Lasch describes it. Rather, they are looking for someone who will accept them as they are, complement their abilities and fulfill their sexual and emotional desires.

‘We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.’”

 

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Happy reading!

Blue Cheese + the Color Red.

In my last post I talk about change and how if things don’t change, they can start to stink. Apparently change is one of my favorite topics on Bird’s Nest because I’ve talked about it a lot… like here and here.

There are some things that I’m confident will never change…like how much I love cat week on Ellen, eating salads (I seriously love them), and the power of endorphins after a great workout.

I’ve also been thinking of things that I used to really dislike. Among that list included foods like blue cheese, peanut butter, bananas, and squash. With an open palate and few tastes of each here and there, now I can’t seem to get enough of those. (Blue cheese, who would have thought?! Peanut butter? A few tablespoons a day, paaaahlease.) cb18d9af96f75e128f8ad90adb9bcb05

(Autumn Salad with Figs + Blue Cheese)

Wearing the color red? No way…hardly any pieces in my closest with that color. Now I can’t stop thinking about how to incorporate it into my fall wardrobe. f71d17d4c5a6db124c8c4e86fbe1348f

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Country music was once nails on a chalkboard for me. Now, I could probably sing along to most of the current radio country hits. Who am I?!!

Another (honest) “dislike” turned to like love: Michael. Yeah, it’s true. After he and I broke up in high school, I could barely stand to be in the same room with him—and considering that “room” was the sanctuary at our home church, I had some major negative vibes going out as I lifted my hands lovingly to God in worship! Oh the irony! My heart changed and what can I say?…I can’t imagine my life without him. 1625630_10201720682290211_4899466001597001571_n I’m still waiting on my taste buds to change on foods like mushrooms…still a bit iffy about avocados, and definitely don’t like tofu. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying them. I’m open. Maybe I just need to taste them a different way, see them (preferably hidden) in something else? Like that banana nut bread with avocados and chia seeds I’ve made in the past, total winner!

Here’s what I’m getting at: Be open. Try new things. Make changes. We just might surprise ourselves and discover how much better our lives are with something we once wrote off, or maybe even someone we once closed the door to. We are creatures made to evolve and transform!

So I’m curious…what foods did you used to hate as a kid but now adore? What about trends or habits that you thought you’d never do but now have become the norm?

Friday Round Up!

TGIF, again! How has your week been? I’ve been feeling both challenged and inspired lately– a refreshing wave to this summer. Here are a few of my latest muses:

1. Her tumbler. Simple + Beautiful.

2. This guy. Seriously, his support and encouragement has been both humbling and empowering.

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3. Woah, mind blown with a poached egg & zucchini noodle recipe. And oh yes, protein coconut flour recipe for pancakes, or my current craving, waffles.

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4. This fire picture so I can make smores…a craving I’ve had for over a year! I mean seriously, someone start up a fire, gimme a stick, some graham crackers, fat gooey marshmallows, and a milk chocolate Hershey bar…ASAP.

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5. These inspirational quotes: dc4a2558ba7cc8267222df59f38cbe51

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33869c402681924c1d72612d767bd61eEnjoy your weekend!

 

The Ache.

As an oxymoron twenty-something, I am sad I live so far from family and childhood friends, but happy to live in a charming city by the beach. I am a hard-working, motivated “Type-A”… but my introverted nature lends me to soaking up countless hours of couch-time perusing Pinterest. I relish my singleness and ability to consider only my schedule, yet equally want that companion to share the sweetness of everyday life together.

Ying-yang.

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Here’s my problem: I want it all

Here’s my real problem: I want it now.

Here’s my really real problem: I want it all, now.

Oprah, in all of her wisdom, says,

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So maybe Oprah figured out the secret to unhappiness before me, but I get it now.

All of this spurred from my boo-hoo session(s) reading Sarah Bessey’s post on The Ache she feels when she writes about not having any more children.

Pause this blog and go read that post. Just come back, yeah?

When I read it, I felt that Ache…but a different Ache that sighed,

Will I get to gaze at my own milk-drunk baby in the wee hours of the night? Wash and fold itty-bitty tiny human clothes? Celebrate the joy of snow days?

I think Sarah nailed it when she defined “The Ache”: the Ache of time passing.

Just one of my Aches is the desire for a baby. I know a lot of other family and friends who have that same Ache. Others feel a different Ache.

Ache for a joyful marriage.

Ache for the disease to heal.

Ache for a rewarding job.

Ache for death to be reversed and to hold a loved one once again.

Ache for peace with body image.

What’s your Ache?

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For most days, I don’t give too much attention to my (multiple) Ache(s). I think if I did, I would be clinically depressed…and I’ve been there—done that—no intention to go back! But ignoring the Ache isn’t the answer either.

I truly do not know how people live happy lives without Jesus. Life is hard, even under great conditions! I think the beauty of Jesus’ life is that it tells a story of shared suffering, of peace, and mostly, of pure love—the healing balm to that Ache.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; [Jesus came] come that [we] may have life, and have it abundantly.”

-John 10:10

There will always be an Ache in our lives…because we can’t have it all at once and we can’t control time, circumstances, or people. The great news is that we aren’t left alone to suffer in the Ache.

Inside the Ache is an invitation: to find God.

I truly believe God is already at the center of that Ache. A loving Creator knows our deepest desires, darkest thoughts, and greatest needs. When I shift perspective from my Ache to trusting God with my life, I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and goodness in the past. In fact, I’m  pretty blown away at God’s grace to guide and bestow so many undeserved blessings upon me. It’s  overwhelming when I think of all that I have to be grateful over.

So friends…

Let us be kind to one another.

Encourage and celebrate lavishly.

Show grace and unconditional love.

Because in the end, we share a common ground of deep Aches, no matter the specifics. Let us find God together and refuse to live in the Ache. The world needs us to show there’s a healing balm of faith, hope, and love that overflows.

Inspiration Nation.

I’ll catch it a little here and there, but I don’t watch the Olymics religiously. Yet when I do, I’m always inspired by the dedication and focus of these athletes. These folk must sip some kind of magic juice day after day to go for their dreams in gold. My juice? Jesus and Pinterest quotes! Sit back and sip up some inspiration for your day!
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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.”

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!