AN INSPIRED SEASON | Resources & Inspiration for Singles

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Thursday, July 23rd. // Who are others you admire WHO are living/celebrating a similar season well? What resources/books/posts have encouraged you?

These amazing ladies are some of my favorites to follow in this season of life, and I’m excited to introduce them!

MEET CARRIE: Carrie’s Instagram is full of colorful encouragement! She has the sweetest, most giving heart, and I’m fairly certain that even though we’ve never met, we could become fast friends, bonding over bright colors, polka dots, and living each day with thankfulness and joy!

MEET NATALIE: Natalie Metrejean has created an incredible devotional for single ladies (see below), and she is daily encouraging other single women to embrace their season and live a full, meaningful life. So lucky to call her a dear friend!

MEET NATALIE (YEP, TWO NATALIES!): Natalie of Good Girl Style is fabulous in so many ways (and another lady I am so lucky to call a friend). She’s stylish with a fantastic flair for vintage, a fellow latte lover and coffee enthusiast, an amazing and inspiring poet, and above all, she loves the Lord in a really brave, beautiful, and faithful way. She’s currently walking through an incredibly tough season, but she still shares with honesty and joy.

MEET BAILEY: Bailey has become such a sweet online friend, and I absolutely adore her heart for living fully and savoring her season. Her blog and Instagram are just chock full of creative inspiration — from books to read, quotes to remember, adventures in life and theatre, and crafty Project Life pages that celebrate God’s goodness and all He is doing in her life. She will encourage you to live, dream, and create with courage!

MEET EMILY: Emily reminds me often what it looks like to be beautifully content in the Lord. She is an encourager, a cheerleader, and such a sweet spirit and friend. You’ll find peace, rest, and inspiration in each of her lovely posts!

MEET ALI: Ali has written some pretty spot-on blog posts about what it’s like to be single in your 30s (see link below). This girl is living proof of how to rock the single life, too! You’ll love following her adventures in food blogging and making the most of life! photo 2

Photo credits: Left to right, top to bottom: Natalie of Good Girl StyleEmilyAliNatalie Metrejean  

Looking for more inspiration? Here are some of my favorite reads and resources for singles:

So, who’s been inspiring you lately? And if you know of other single ladies who are living life to the very fullest, I’d love to be introduced! :)

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AN INSPIRED SEASON | AN INTRODUCTION

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So, here we go! Post #1 in my new An Inspired Season collaboration with Miss Bailey Jean of Brave Love Blog. This was a tough prompt for me, but as I sat in the sunshine at the pool this afternoon, outlining my life in bullet point form, I felt at least a little more ready to tackle this first step toward really praising God for who I am, all He’s already done in my life that’s brought me to this very season, and all that’s still ahead.
Today’s prompt:
Thursday, July 2nd. Introduce yourself by writing your biography as if being interviewed for The New York Times, sharing your history, accomplishments, and where you are right now. Complete it with what you would want it to say in the future (biggest dreams and goals included) in italics.
And now… on to the “interview”!
* * *

She’s all bright colors and polka dots, when we meet at her favorite local coffee shop to talk.

We find a corner table in a spot of sunshine and begin with stories from her childhood. As she sips her creamy iced latte, she shares that she’s been curious for as long as she can remember.

“Growing up, I wanted to try everything — from rock collecting to playing basketball to cheerleading,” she says with a smile. “Learning and trying new things has always interested me.”

And then there were books, of course! So many books!

“I used to get ‘grounded’ from reading as a kid, because I’d get so lost in a book, I wouldn’t finish my chores.” She laughs and shakes her head. “I’m sure my parents were both thrilled and frustrated that I loved books and reading as much as I did.”

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That inquisitive little girl grew up to study magazine journalism in college, where she learned all of the ins and outs of interviewing, fact-checking, and feature writing. What she grew to love most about journalism, though, she says, were the stories, and the way her words could bring them to life.

The summer before her senior year, she packed her bags and headed for New York City, where she spent three months working at a magazine, exploring the city, and wandering around The Strand bookstore.

“That summer was such an awesome adventure for me,” she says. “It challenged me in so many ways and gave me courage and confidence to take risks and pursue dreams, even when they feel completely big and out of reach. I think that summer was definitely foundational for me and helped me find my way in the world of words.”

Following her college graduation, she did exactly what she expected she would: she got a job at a magazine. As an editor at a scrapbooking magazine, she says she felt inspired daily by the stories the scrapbookers were capturing and her part in helping them share those stories with others.

“Being on staff at the magazine only further developed my love of storytelling,” she says, “and, I think, it also got me thinking about the small stories that make up each of our days. I started to develop an interest in telling those stories — and celebrating them in a beautiful and artful way.”

So, she took what she says felt like the next natural step in her creative journey and started a blog.

Her blog, A Place to Dwell, became a colorful Internet home for her own little stories as they unfolded, a place to capture and share about her experiences, her newfound faith, and the creative life she was learning to live.

It was around that time that she also took a collage class and fell in love with visual storytelling.

“Looking back, I can see that so much of who I am today was being formed and discovered in that season,” she says. “I was learning so much about who God had created me to be, and I was able to start really dreaming about where all of those things might take me.”

That season of learning and discovery eventually transitioned into another season of challenge and growth when a troubling economy led her to lose her job at the age of 24.

“I knew God was closing a door, and I felt peace about that, but I also felt a lot of uncertainty and apprehension about what door He would open next and how long it would take Him to open it.”

Even though it was an incredibly difficult time in her life, she says it was a season that truly deepened and refined her faith. And it was also a season of unexpected blessing.

“I got a lot of precious time with my family during that season,” she says, “especially with my grandmother, who passed away in April. I can see what a gift that was now.”

After months of dreaming and praying about  what she might do next and where God might be leading her, she discovered her current world of telling stories through greeting cards.

“I feel pretty lucky that I get to be a part of both the little and big moments in people’s lives, and that I get to help them celebrate those moments,” she says.

She’s also continued to blog, and she says her creative journey as a whole has led her to learn how much living a full and inspired life for God means to her.

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“When I put all of the pieces of my story together so far, I can see how much I value being inspired and inspiring others. I can see that I want  to live an inspiration-filled life, and that I want to help others do the same,” she says.

While she says she is still figuring out what that looks like, she did write an eBook last year all about living an inspired life (appropriately titled An Inspired Life: Living Fully & Creatively in Every Season).

“It had long been a dream of mine to write and publish a book, and so to have the opportunity to do that is an incredible blessing,” she says.

So, what’s next in her inspired life?

She smiles and pauses.

“I really have no idea,” she says, “and I think there’s a lot of beauty and hope and possibility in that. I have a lot of dreams and ideas, of course, but I’ve also learned that God does some of his best work in the unexpected seasons we find ourselves in. I’m going to keep writing, and I’m going to keep creating. And as long as I’m seeking to use the creative gifts God has given me to the very fullest, I think He’ll take care of each and every adventure ahead.”

* * *

Want to jump in and join the An Inspired Season party? Here’s a look at our upcoming prompts! (And you can read more about the collaboration on Bailey’s blog.)

Tuesday, July 7th. Describe your current season in pictures (make a mood board/art collage/whatever)!

Thursday, July 9th. Write a bucket list that’s FOR your current season (focusing on things you can do and want to do in the very near future, rather than dreams for what you hope is ahead).

Tuesday, July 14th. Pick a verse for your season and create something based on it (a blog post, a painting, a poem, anything you’re inspired to make)!

Thursday, July 16th. Take a look back at the past year. What are some highs and lows from this season? What were some surprises? What advice would you give yourself if starting this year/season anew? (Feel free to choose one, any, or all of these questions!)

Tuesday, July 21st. Write about one of the best adventures you’ve had so far in this season.

Thursday, July 23rd. Who are others you admire that are living/celebrating a similar season well? What resources/books/posts have encouraged you?

Tuesday, July 28th. What’s one thing you can do this week to celebrate your season? Set the intention (on Instagram or Facebook) and then do it! Write about the experience.

Thursday, July 30th. Write about something this season of life has taught you.

Making Things Happen: June 2015 Goals

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Wowza, I’ve been away for a bit, haven’t I? I have a lot to figure out when it comes to this little space of mine, but I have some new dreams and ideas I’m excited to explore and share. :) More on that shortly! The reason I’ve been away for so long is it’s been a rough few months (I lost my grandmother in April), so I just haven’t been focusing much on creative pursuits outside of my day job. But I am happy to say that the creative ideas are flowing again, and even though I still miss my grandma every day, the encouragement, love, and support she blessed me with over the years stay right in my heart, bringing comfort, joy, and a beautiful sense of peace. I’ll be honest that I’ve been a bit half-hearted with my powersheets so far this year, but I have been wanting to start posting my goals here and doing a monthly recap to help with motivation and accountabiltity. So, that’s the plan for today’s post. Plus, I miss ya’ll and want to hear about your own goals and adventures and life happenings! :) (Leave me some comments and let’s catch up!) ;) All of that said, here are my June goals (posted just a little late):

MONTHLY GOALS

  • Start exploring, brainstorming, and getting the word out about my new creative venture of helping creative makers and doers tell the stories of their products and businesses (especially local creatives right here in Cleveland). I’m hoping to spread the word via social media and the blog in the next few weeks, as well as by touching base with local creatives at upcoming maker/artist events this summer. YAY! Time to get those business cards ready to pass out! ;) I’ll be putting together a page right here on the blog, too, in order to share more about what I hope to do and how you can work with me.
  • Closet-cleaning and Goodwill donating! Hoping to tackle clothes this month (and art supplies if I’m super ambitious). But that may show up on July’s goal sheet. ;)
  • Plant flowers and herbs with my mom and hang twinkle lights out on the porch. (This is actually already done! Haha Finished the goal before I had time to write this post.) :) It’s super colorful and cozy, and I love it!
  • Brainstorm a list of blog topics and get writing. It is my hope to start posting regularly again, but I want it to be quality content, so I’ll most likely be taking a slow blogging approach and posting about one longer, more in-depth post a week. In between posts, I am hoping to connect with all of my readers right in the comments (and on Instagram, of course!) But I’m looking forward to creating a good balance of living and telling the stories, which is one of my goals this year!
  • Financial – I have a few financial goals I am working toward and am excited to continue to grow as a good steward of the resources God gives.
  • Launch my new women’s Bible study group (we start next week!).

WEEKLY GOALS

  • Gym 2x a week (continue to do both weights and cardio). I can feel myself slowing getting stronger, and it is so encouraging! I have never stuck with a gym routine for more than a few months, so this is a challenge for me, but I am feeling good about the progress I’ve made so far and want to continue to take intentional steps toward being healthier and stronger!
  • Eat more fresh fruits and veggies (and less sugar and processed stuff); I want to cook at least one whole foods meal a week.

DAILY GOALS

  • Do each day’s reading and devotional for She Reads Truth Women in the Word study.
  • Complete my five-minute journal entry (more on that daily practice in an upcoming post).
  • Stick with a daily cleaning routine as much as possible, so my weekends aren’t filled with playing catch-up (15-minutes of cleaning each night does wonders!). ;)
  • Institute Internet/phone-free time after 8 p.m. on weeknights (and spend that time reading a book, doing yoga, or just spending some quiet time with God).
  • Spend 20 minutes in prayer each day.

So, there you have it! My goals for June. Have you set any goals for this month? If so, how’s it going?

Goal-Setting with Lara Casey: My 2015 Goals

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I’m excited to finally share my 2015 goals (they’ve been about a month in the making), and I feel really settled and good about them. I think they are doable, but also stretching. I’m also looking forward to searching for scripture that speaks to each goal. I got the idea from Valerie of Val Marie Paper. (Here’s a great post on doing that, if you’d like to seek scripture for your goals, as well.)

Moving on to the actual goals… :)

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  1. Seek and find God in everything. I want to find and follow Him wholeheartedly, filling my  mind with His truth and thinking about the best, not the worst. I want to memorize scripture and recite His promises DAILY.
  2. Wait on the Lord — especially in my singleness.  I want to lean not on my understanding, but instead, I want to trust Him and look to Him in all things — including dating and singleness (especially dating and singleness?!). I want to remember that those who wait on the Lord will not be put to shame and that waiting on God is always worth it. I want to believe that He is good and that He has a good plan for me. I want to live fully today, with hope for tomorrow.
  3. Make time for creative adventures. Paint, draw, read, write! Create “just because.” I want to take myself on inspiration and creativity dates often, filling my life and heart with what fires me up and points me to Jesus. I want to take classes, explore new art forms, and learn new things. I want to live fully and creatively, thankful that God gave me a creative, inspiration-loving heart.
  4. Spend, save, and give with intention. I want to be wise financially, so I can use  my resources for good and for God.
  5. Find a fitness routine I love and make it a regular part of my week. I want to take care of myself — health, heart, and spirit. I want to practice self-care regularly, so I have energy to go, do, and create everything that God has in mind for me this year. I want to be healthy and whole, so I can love well and bless those in my life.
  6. Continue to simplify my life. Give away what I don’t need and keep only what is useful, meaningful, or inspiring to me.
  7. Be an encourager and a celebrator. I want to mentor and encourage others — online and off. I want to lead a Bible study for college/early career at my church, and I want to write blogs that speak to women who are in that season of life. I want to support my church, my friends, my family, and my city. I want to be a resource and an inspiration for those God connects me with this year.
  8. Use social media and my blog with intention, and continue to evolve and find the focus/niche God has for me. I’ve been blogging for almost eight years, and my blog and experience online have changed pretty dramatically during that time. I want to continue to evaluate the heart  behind what I’m doing and ask the Lord for guidance. I want to focus on community over followers, and God’s heart for what I do over what’s deemed “popular.”
  9. Find the balance between living the stories and telling them.  I want to journal every day, capturing thoughts, dreams, ideas, prayers. I want to get back into the practice of art journaling, too — telling stories with paint and paper. I want to have cell-phone-free time every day, and I want to be intentional about making meaningful memories with friends and family. I want to live in the moment — being fully present — but also make time to capture the good stuff and tell the story God is writing in my life. And that leads me to my final goal…
  10. Be brave in writing and creating. I want to take risks for Him. I want to write and create honestly and vulnerably, and I want to go after big dreams. I want to collaborate with people who inspire me and pitch my ideas to publications I dream to work with. And I want to start taking steps toward my dream of writing books. I’ve got an idea that’s been slowly taking shape, and I want to dig into that this year and see where God might take it — and me.

So, there you have it! My goals for 2015. I’m sure they will evolve as the year goes  on, but I’m looking forward to seeing how God works and moves and orchestrates in each of these areas. I also hope you’ll help hold me accountable to the things I’ve listed here. I’d love to hear about your goals, as well!

Let’s cheer one another on and get excited about all God is going to do!

P.S. I wanted to announce a little something exciting before signing off!

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I’m hosting an online study through the book of Ephesians with a group of amazing ladies this month, and I’d love for you to be a part of it! Go check out Bailey’s blog post today for more details and to get in on the action. (To be honest, my heart has felt a bit disconnected from God the last few months, and I’m so looking forward to diving back into His word and seeking Him wholeheartedly!)

 

Reflecting on 2014 & Looking Ahead: Goal-Setting in 2015

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Hello, friends! It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been a bit unplugged from the blogging world, (although I’ve been hanging out a bit on Instagram), and I’m finding it slightly challenging to dive back into blog writing. So many posts in my head, but where to even start?! ;) My head is a jumble of thoughts and ideas.

But I’m taking the leap today, no matter how rusty I feel! Haha (So please forgive all the rambling that is bound to happen!)

Today, I’m going to jump into posting about the start of my 2015 goal-setting process (I’ve been following Lara Casey’s blog series and using her Powersheets again this year). I’m also currently reading Lara’s book Make It Happen (so good!).

First, let me say that setting goals has been a MUCH slower (and harder) process for me this year than it has been in years past. Last year, I finished all of my Powersheet steps and set my goals by January 1. I was raring to go and couldn’t wait to get things down on paper and make things happen! This year, my mind felt blank when it came to what goals I wanted to set and what the year ahead might look like. I didn’t feel my normal energy or passion or inspiration. I felt quieter, more reflective, and to be honest, more than a little unsure.

But, like Lara wrote in that adorable image above, there’s really nothing magical about January 1. I’m taking my time this year, knowing that my goals will mean more if they aren’t rushed.

One of the first things I did to start my goal-setting process this year was create a Pinterest board for the year. I began pinning inspiring images that captured the way I was feeling about the year ahead, as well as all the stuff that fires me up (one of Lara’s goal-setting steps). I created the vision board below as a reminder to print and paste in my Powersheet binder. I’ll probably hang it above my desk, too. It’s a great little sampling of all the loveliness I’ve been adding to my board, and seeing everything all grouped together like that just makes me smile and feel inspired.

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* all image sources here *

Then yesterday, I took a vacation day and had what I call an inspiration day. I took myself out to brunch at one of my favorite local coffee shops, and surrounded by the chatter of other people and the whir of espresso machines, I sipped on my brown sugar cinnamon latte and began working through my Powersheets. The main focus of yesterday was reflecting on 2014 — both the good and the challenging.

I’m going to share a few highlights here:

  • Community was a huge focus of my year (and one of my 2014 goals), and God definitely worked in that area. He blessed me with quality time with my church friends and family, new creative friendships, and a desire to start ministering to college students. I’ll likely be leading a women’s discipleship group for college women this spring at my church. I also hosted an online book club for my eBook An Inspired Life and connected with so many wonderful women! Thinking about hosting another one in the new year (with some new expanded content)!
  • We celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday and had many meaningful family gatherings this year. I often struggle with my singleness, but it has actually been a gift at times this year, because it has afforded me the opportunity to really pour into my family relationships and soak up extra special time with loved ones.
  • I’ve continued to date with a hopeful, open heart. I do believe God has marriage in mind for me, and while I don’t know why I’m 31 and still waiting, He reminds me often that His plan is always better than mine. God has me in this season for a reason, and I want to embrace it for all that it is, while still having hope for the seasons and adventures still come for me!
  • What I fill my mind with is CRUCIAL. I can choose to fill it with fear, negativity, bitterness, etc., or I can fill it with all that’s lovely, good, and true — the BEST, not the WORST.
  • Investing in my health and wellness is essential (when I said yes to fresh, good food, being active, living in community, and doing what fires me up, I was blessed).
  • Summer was a sweet time of recharging and just enjoying life…I wasn’t worried about creative deadlines or my next big project. I just focused on LIVING. I need more breaks like that and a good balance between living the stories and telling them.
  • Fall brought the chance to attend the Influence Conference again, and I loved being in the midst of that amazing community for the second time! This year’s conference was a much different experience for me than last year’s, but my heart was just in a different, quieter place this year. I think that’s sort of been the theme of my 2014! Quiet and reflective in many ways. And that leads me to my next bullet…
  • I have been less active online these last few months, but I think the break has helped me look ahead to the new year and really ask myself how I will be a part of the Internet in the coming year. I don’t know all the answers yet (although I do have some exciting plans with some fellow blogging friends), but I know that as I press into God, He will reveal each next step.

Just in doing those reflections, I started to feel some goals and hopes begin to take shape in my mind. I’m looking forward to continuing the Powersheets process this afternoon, getting more down on paper and seeing how God uses this process to point me to the path I’ll take in this new year.

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One of the other parts of the goal-setting process, and something I do each year, is choose a focus word for the year. The word I chose for the year was FIND, because I want to find God in everything. I also picked a scripture verse for my year: Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 

And that’s exactly how I want to approach 2015.

I want to seek and find God in everything. And I want to do so wholeheartedly.

In the last few days, I also can’t stop thinking about the word FOLLOW. And I think for whatever reason, God has placed more than just one word on my heart this year. I want to seek and FIND God WHOLEHEARTEDLY, and I want to FOLLOW where He leads, going and doing and creating in line with His heart. So, that is my word (or words?) for 2015, and I look forward to keeping them in mind as I adventure through this brand new year of unknowns.

This was kind of a long post, so thanks for sticking with me! In my next post, I’ll be sharing more about what fires me up (and maybe another vision board), as well as what I’ll be saying YES and NO to in 2015. Just typing all of this out has given me an extra dose of joy, hope, and excitement for what 2015 could hold! :)

Are you setting goals for 2015? I’d love to hear about them! Share them here, or if you’ve blogged about your goals, or started a Pinterest board, leave me a link, so I can check them out.

And if you’re looking for some guidance in your goal-setting, I definitely recommend checking out Lara’s series. Powersheets are sold out until the spring, I believe, but remember, there’s nothing magical about January 1! If they sound like something that would fire up your heart and help you make things happen, definitely check them out! :)

2014 Influence Conference Recap – Be Where You Are and Be All There

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It’s been a few days since I returned from this year’s Influence Conference, and I’ve been processing through everything — the notes, the heart stuff, the “what’s nexts…”

To be honest, I arrived at this year’s conference feeling a little heavy…

When I went the previous year, I went with specific hopes and dreams to explore and specific prayers I wanted to pray. I had an eBook I was about to release to the world, and I was just bursting with excitement for all that was ahead.

I was in a quieter, much more tender place this year.

On the drive into Indy, my friend (and conference roomie!) Holly asked me if I had anything I was hoping to hear from God about (she remembered I went with questions and prayers the year before).

But I didn’t.

“I guess I just want to be a part of God doing something big,” I told her. “I just want to hear from Him.”

After the Black-and-White welcome party hosted by Mocha Club, I started  feeling lighter and more hopeful about all that was ahead. I still wasn’t sure what I hoped to learn or hear from God, but I was sure He would show up.

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In my still-slightly tender and uncertain place, I had a hard time selecting the sessions I wanted to hear the next day (they ALL sounded so good)! ;) And as we began that first day of speakers and workshops, I found myself reading the tweets from the session I wasn’t in, feeling restless and like I was missing out.

But then, all of a sudden, I felt like I was finally hearing from God.

Be where you are and be all there.

Yes.

Be where you are and be all there.

And it wasn’t just about those sessions, it was about life in general. It was about continuing to embrace my current season and live it fully and creatively (exactly the topic I had explored in the eBook I wrote the previous year).

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Later, in Lara Casey’s session, I stood up in front of a room full of more than a hundred women and gave voice to one of my deepest fears. As other women stood up to share their own, walls and tears came down, and I felt God continue to work something out in my heart.

And even though I was at a blogging conference, He wasn’t speaking to me about how to blog better, create more, or find more followers online…He was speaking to me about my life in general and how I’m living it for Him. He was asking me to trust Him more, surrender more, and make even more space for Him to move.

Lara asked us to answer this fill-in-the blank statement: My life is too short not to______. 

During her session, I made notes, but it wasn’t until a few days later that this phrase stuck with me: “My life is too short not to love the story God has for me.”

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It’s such a simple statement but it says SO MUCH.

My life is too short to wait for someday.

My life is too short not to live with purpose — right here, right now.

My life is too short not to pray boldly and with big belief.

My life is too short not to believe that God can do the impossible.

My life is too short not to pay attention to all God is doing.

And my life is too short not to share it…

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This year’s conference was so much different than last year’s, but in the best of ways.

I did leave with new creative ideas and dreams to explore, but I also left with a deeper desire to truly trust God with my story and a hopefulness about all He is capable of doing in my life and in the lives of others.

He’s written all of our stories differently, and there’s goodness and purpose in that. 

And while He may not give us an outline about what comes next, He has gone before us, and He promises to lead the way in love.

* * *

Before I wrap this up, because I just can’t resist, I’ll leave you with this picture from my departing brunch at Cafe Patachou. (Honestly, that needs to be a Sunday Influence tradition from here on out…) WOW, that waffle was amazing! I’m STILL thinking about it! ;)

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If you’d like to learn more about the conference, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have, if you’re wondering if you’d like to attend. (You can also check out this fun video recap from The Busy Budgeting Mama. And, yep, that IS me dancing around at minute 3:34.) ;)

 

Influence Conference Meet & Greet x2

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I love lattes, bright colors, and cute, cozy coffee shops.

Hi, all!

This will be my second time attending The Influence Conference, and I’m so excited to participate in this year’s pre-conference link-up.

(P.S. You can read my recap of last year’s conference, here.)

Moving on to my introduction… :)

I’m Katie, a writer, creator, and polka-dot wearer (see above). ;) I’m also the author of An Inspired Life, a book about living fully and creatively in every season. I love to help others live and tell inspired stories!

What I’m most looking forward to: The prayer suite! I’m so, so excited to spend some intentional time in prayer during the conference. I’m also excited to gather during break time on Saturday (time change to 1:45-2:15, since it looks like the schedule was adjusted a bit) to pray about singleness and marriage. As a 30-something single, I know the ache of waiting, and I want to gather a group together to pray over the singles at the conference, future marriages that God is orchestrating behind the scenes, and for God to use us right where we are. Waiting time is not wasted time! (And even if you’re married and have a heart for singles, I invite you to join us!) Would love for this to be an encouraging time of prayer for all who participate!

What I won’t leave home without: A notebook and a few bright, happy pens for note-taking. This former journalist can’t help but take lots and lots of notes. :)

I look forward to meeting you at the conference. Please don’t wait until next week to say hi, though. Give me a shout on Instagram or Twitter (@aplacetodwell).

See you soon!

I’m Back!

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Hello, friends!

Yay, yippeeeee, I’m back!

Cue the confetti cannons and all the silliness possible for this little blog intro!

Whew, why is the first post after a blogging break so difficult to write? ;)

Anyway, I’m excited to be making my way back into the blogging world after a few months’ break this summer.

I took the summer off, so I could focus on living the stories fully before telling them. I needed to make space for growth, space to really see all the shapes and colors of this season of my life.

I needed to appreciate where I was before I could get excited about where I’m heading next.

This summer has been SO FULL — packed to the brim with adventuring, sunscreen-smeared books, and summer celebrations of all sorts. It’s been full of abiding, and it’s been full of discovering.

I think it’s just what I needed.

God’s been doing some necessary work on my heart, too, growing me in new, important ways, stretching and redefining my trust in Him. I’m grateful for that.

It smells and feels like fall today, and maybe, because of that, it’s the perfect day for me to be writing this post, acknowledging that although summer is coming to a close, there are new days and new adventures ahead.

In the meantime, I’m excited to soak up every last bit of summer — and to start telling some stories.

P.S. The image in this post is the cover of an Instagram album I’m in the process of making. I wanted to make something tangible that celebrated my inspired life and all God’s been doing and teaching. I’m excited to share more about that sometime soon.

Slowing Down & Celebrating Summer

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I’m going about summer a little differently this year.

Last summer was all about my book — writing, creating, producing. And it was good and fulfilling and challenging work that I was so thankful to be doing.

But in a few recent conversations and reflections, I’ve realized that I want this summer to be more about the living, rather than the creating. (And as most writers and artists know, it’s the living that produces the good writing and creating anyway.)

Part of my plan for this summer was inspired by this blog post from Braid Creative. I love the concept of capturing, shaping, and sharing and the way that simple sequence can inspire our art — and even our lives — in lots of ways. In a recent article I read, the author referred to writers as being sort of like professional rememberers. That’s a job description I can totally get behind, and my friends and family can attest that I love capturing moments and memories with my camera or phone whenever we are together. Those little snapshots later become opportunities for stories, blog posts, and even other creative pursuits. They also serve as sweet little reminders of what God’s doing in my life. Capturing, shaping, and sharing helps me more clearly see the work of God in my life.

So, my focus this summer isn’t to blog x number of times per week, or to create this or that. It’s to really focus on what I wrote my eBook about — living fully and creatively right where I am, right where He has me.

I’ll be reading books, shopping farmers markets, and walking and swimming in the sunshine. I’ll be creating memories with friends and family, and I’ll be abiding and resting in Him, making space for Him to recreate and renew me in preparation for the seasons to come.

While I most likely won’t be blogging every week, I’ll continue to capture my adventures on Instagram (follow me @aplacetodwell). And if you’d like to join me in celebrating this summer season and where God has us, use the hashtag #AnInspiredSummer.

(Pssst. I won’t be completely abandoning the blog, of course. I’ll be popping in here from time to time to share snippets and stories from the summer that are inspired by my Instagram updates.)

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So, will you join me?

Cheers to a summer of slowing down, being present, and living fully and creatively for Him!

Using Photoshop Actions: A Review of the New ABM Collection

I have long been a fan of Photoshop Actions. I’ve been using Rad Lab from Totally Rad Actions for a few years now. I love the vast array of looks I can create with actions, as well as the consistency they allow me to achieve with each of my images. Using actions has helped me to establish a certain look for all the photos I use on A Place to Dwell.

I’ve been extremely happy with my Rab Lab actions, and I know they will continue to be a staple in my blogging process, but when I read that the A Beautiful Mess gals had created their own set of actions, I was super excited to give them a try (their photography work and photo editing is some of my favorite in the Blogosphere). Plus, I knew that having a whole new set of actions to play with would be a great creative challenge for me that would breathe some new life into my photography.

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I decided to invest in all three collections, given how often I use Photoshop Actions (every time I create a blog post). Actions were also a huge help in creating my eBook, because they allowed me to achieve a consistent look/feel/tone and style throughout.

I love that the three ABM collections have such variety (from the everyday versatility of The Signature Collection to the moody drama of The Folk Collection to the bright, fresh pops of color offered in The Fresh Collection).

I thought it would be fun to put together this post to show you some examples of photos I’ve edited using actions from each of the three ABM collections. (Little tip: When using actions play around with the opacity. I rarely ever use an action at 100% opacity.)

I’ve also used the guide on the ABM Action site to help me determine which action I might want to play with, depending on the mood I’m trying to create. (And their descriptions are just super fun. For example, here’s their description of Scout from the Folk Collection: Scout—It’s like a hot cup of cocoa for your photos! Inviting and rustic. I mean, who wouldn’t want a hot cup of cocoa for one of their photos, right?! ;)

Playing with the actions gave me an excuse to take new photos, as well as go back and re-edit some old favorites. (Yay!)

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Alice is one of my very favorites from The Fresh Collection. The soft pastel wash it creates is completely dreamy! Using it on this photo of lavender syrup I picked up at a farmers market last spring makes me long for those sunny Saturday mornings spent browsing the market for food and inspiration.

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Hazel added a beautiful warmth to this photo taken during a brunch date with a sweet friend. I love the way it brought out the glow of the twinkle lights and summer sunshine.

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The actions I chose for this photo were selected to create a soft, quiet, contemplative tone. Actions are such a great way to add an extra layer of emotion to your images. They really do help you tell stronger stories with your photography.

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Editing this photo took me back to celebrating my 30th with my nearest and dearest. It feels so cozy and inviting, doesn’t it?! Just like the evening itself! :)

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Aubra is another one of my favorites. It was the perfect choice for these beautiful tulips that are brightening up my living room this week.

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And finally, a photo from earlier this evening. I layered a few different actions to create this look. I wanted the overall effect to be soft, but with a pop of color. (And yes, these dairy-free “Shamrock Shakes” were quite the St. Paddy’s Day treat!) ;)

What are your thoughts on using actions? Do you have any favorites?

P.S. If you have any questions about using actions, I’d be happy to try and answer those, as well. The ABM gals have a great tutorial for their actions on their FAQ page, too.