Sep 26, 2015

Blog-tember 26 // recent reads, current reads, & to-reads

This girl loves to read, so I was psyched for this blogging prompt for the Blog-tember challenge:

Saturday, Sept. 26: What's on your to-reading list, and what have you recently read? 

Recent Reads

|| September Reads (reviews coming soon) ||

The Chase: Trusting God with Your Happily Ever After by Kyle & Kelsey Kupecky 

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw 
Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle (Book 7) by C.S. Lewis (audiobook) 

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard 

|| August Reads (reviews here) ||

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 5) by C.S. Lewis

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Current Reads

You And Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan


The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with Wisdom of God by Timothy Keller

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller

The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

The Mark of a Man by Elisabeth Elliot

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler

A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy, and Triumph by Sheldon Vanauken

Creative Counterpart: Becoming the Woman, Wife, and Mother You've Longed to Be by Linda Dillow

What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms by Angie Smith

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo


Check out my monthly book reviews and my GoodReads for more of my recent reads and to-reads!

Brave Love Blog

Sep 25, 2015

Blog-Tember 25 // 3 Songs I Am Currently Liking

Today's Blog-Tember challenge is to  share three songs I am currently connecting to.

"You Are The Best Thing"  by Ray LaMontagne
A sweet love song with a retro vibe and a soulful voice, this song has been on repeat during our love story and I've gotten to know and love more of Ray's love songs like Shelter, Forever My Friend, and Hold You In My Arms thanks to Greg (and Pandora). It gets me excited to spend the rest of my life with (apart from God's redeeming love through Jesus) the "best thing that's ever happened to me"and I often find myself singing it to Greg during our visits. 

"Be Thou My Vision" by Kings Kaleidoscope
I loved hearing this super talented group leading worship at church in Seattle 4 years ago and it's so awesome to hear their new music (though their modern renditions of classic hymns are my favorite). They have violins, a cello, trumpet, xylophone and more instruments that bring a unique sound, but their heart for bringing the gospel through their music is the best part. They are the real deal. I love their version of a beloved hymn of mine, "Be Thou My Vision", which has been on my heart in the past months with all the changes that are coming my way with moving to Texas and getting married. Sometimes my prayers consist of these exact words because I want God to be my vision, guiding my every step in what He sees is best. 

"I Are Not Alone" by Kari Jobe 
Through the lonely and stressful  days as well as the joyful days, it is such a great reminder that I am not alone. Jesus is Immanuel, "God with us", and He is faithful and ever-present. 

What are some of the songs you are liking and connecting to?

Brave Love Blog

Sep 24, 2015

blog-tember 24: 5 bloggers I love to follow

Linking up with Blog-tember today to share five of my favorite bloggers. Be sure to visit these lovely ladies in their little corners of the internet . . . you'll be glad you did!

1. Amy from Taking Steps Home
This girl is pretty rad. Whether she's blogging about her recent Ireland & Scotland trip (her photography is amazing), posting about her workout routines and fitness journey that is really inspirational,  listing goals she's aspiring for each month, or sharing heart-moments about struggles & pain, she is raw and honest in her writing. She has wisdom beyond her years, plus determination and spunk. I love following Taking Steps Home!

2. Katie from Hope Engaged 
Katie is such a beautiful soul and I love catching up with her adventures on her blog. I first started following her blog while she was in Nepal serving with her husband in a home protecting girls from slavery. Her heart's cry for those who do not have a voice really caught my attention. She has since been back in the States and pursuing a degree in counseling in which I am confident that she will be a blessing to so many people by bringing hope and truth in many lives. Katie also posts about her many travel adventures and her photography is magazine-worthy! So colorful and vibrant. Be sure to check our her travel page!  I had the sweet blessing of meeting her for lunch February 2014 and it was such a gift! Her faith in God is evident in her honest posts and she is just such a humble, compassionate, others-focused,  beautiful soul! 

3. Kiki from In Its Time 
Kiki has a heart for bringing together Christian women in the blogging world into a community to encourage one another. She does this beautifully through The Circle, a monthly link-up that I have enjoyed so much over the past few years. I love her bits and pieces posts that have links she's loving at the moment, her nature photography that picks up on the small beautiful of life through exquisite  detailed shots, and her wise words of what she is learning in life.

4. Natalie from Heart Stirrings
This girl can write. I get super excited every time I see she's posted anything because I admire her intellectual and creative writing. She writes about theology in an easy-to-understand way that is also profound and soul-searching. She is a natural teacher and her writing is both informative and engaging. I have learned a lot and been very encouraged by her posts in the past. She also is an avid reader and I love reading her book reviews and adding whatever she's reading to my GoodReads to-read list because she has great taste in books :) I've enjoyed a few Skype chats with her and consider her a dear blog buddy!
Some of my favorite posts by Natalie:

Victoria has a super fun lifestyle blog filled with gorgeous photos of traveling adventures , her beautiful home remodel, and everyday happenings. She shares her faith in a beautiful way through her posts, which is always so great to read. She has amazing style to boot . . . I love the way she pairs her outfits in a way that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, and her home design style is also top notch! 


Hop over to all of these fabulous ladies' blogs for some great reads! 
Who are your favorite bloggers?

Brave Love Blog

Sep 21, 2015

blog-tember 21 // quote me

I am linking back up with Blog-tember to share one of my favorite quotes today, compliments of Amy Carmichael . . . 

Amy Carmichael was a giver in the hands of the Ultimate Giver. She served as a Christian missionary in India for 55 years without furlough  until her death in 1951. She started a ministry (Dohnavur Fellowship) that was a refuge for young girls and boys from prostitution, slavery, and illness. Her influence left a mark on the community and her love (which was shown through her words as well as actions) pointed many to Jesus.  Amy wrote many books during her life as a missionary, including my favorites If and Mimosa. I recommend her biography written my Elisabeth Elliot, A Chance To Die:  The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.  If anyone could be called a a "giver", it is she. While in India, Amy gave her time, her resources, and her love to everyone she came in contact with. Her love for God translated into being a giver since He is the Ultimate Giver and she was growing to be more and more like Him daily. She loved and she gave.

I desire that. To be a giver in the hands of the Ultimate Giver, daily learning to give more and more. Not out of obligation or legalism, but out of a heart full of gratitude for what I have been given through Jesus Christ. I want my giving to be a result of what He has done in my life. Whether my time, my resources, my finances, or anything else that God is tugging at my heart, I want to be ready to love through the act of giving. Because, really, how could I say I loved and neglected to give somehow, whether to my fiancĂ©, my family, my friends, or anyone else that God brings into my life? 

Love is not selfish or self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:4). Love gives and gives and gives.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave . . .  " (John 3:16).  God is the Ultimate Giver because He gave His Son Jesus to die for our sin and to make a way for us to be adopted as His children. Jesus, fully God and fully man, gave His life for us. 

This quote reminds me to praise God for being the most amazing Giver of all, and then asking Him to help me develop habits of giving, in whatever way He leads me. 

Brave Love Blog

Sep 18, 2015

No Place Like Home // The Circle Link-Up

Today I am linking up with the sweet Kiki from In Its Time and the rest of The Circle community for September's link up prompt: There's No Place Like Home. This is quite the ironic link-up for me to join since I am in-between homes at the moment. I moved out of my darling little apartment at the end of July and moved into my parents' house until my upcoming wedding next month (!!!).  But I don't quite live at home right now either. After a long trek from Oregon to Texas, I am currently in Texas, unpacking all of my boxes in the apartment that will be Greg and mine after our wedding. I am being hosted by two different friends during my stay in Texas and have been driving to our soon-to-be apartment daily to unpack boxes. So, writing a post on "home" cis a bit comical since I am hopping around from place to place. Instead, I will share some inspiration for my soon-to-be home with my soon-to-be husband :) 

My apartment was very shabby chic and feminine. It suited me just fine, but once Greg and I get married and live together, it's not exactly the look we're going for. Instead, we found a middle ground of my love for elegant rustic with his more practical and minimalist style. We have agreed on a neutral color scheme with natural wood accents. 

Here are some photos, compliments of Pinterest, of what I am imagining.

I love teal, so there will be a hint of it because of a small end-table I brought from my old apartment. I registered for a this floor lamp  that is similar as the one pictured and like the idea of the natural-colored whicker baskets under the coffee table since Greg has a dark wood coffee table with a shelf like below. Some beige curtains like these would add a bit of charm as well.
//  1  //

Here is an idea of the kind of coffee table I would love to find at some point. World Market has one that I think would be perfect, but it costs a pretty penny, so I'm happy with the one we have for now. I have a soft linen-colored loveseat from World Market that I adore and am going to pair it with either burlap  or patterned pillows (like this or this)  for a splash of color. 
// 2 //

For the bedroom, we will have a few pieces of the IKEA Hemnes bedroom furniture set in black-brown. This is a far cry from my white cottage shabby chic look, but I think will look great with a light-colored comforter and sheets.  Some metallics and blues will add some brightness to the darker pieces as well. We'll also have the Billy bookcase from IKEA to hold all of our books.
// 3 //

A few more ideas include wooden "floating"shelves for displaying knick-knacks and framed photos, an herb garden on our balcony, fresh flowers on our dinner table, and (I wish) a real or I'll even settle for a fake fireplace.
Most importantly, however, I desire that our future home is filled with joy and love. I want anyone that steps inside to feel welcomed, comfortable, and loved --- in the end that is far more important than the color of our curtains or the shelves on our wall. I am excited to grow in the art of hospitality and to love those who enter our apartment in a way that they are drawn closer to Jesus. Having a pretty home is an added bonus that is fun to prepare for, but that's the highest priority when I dream about building a life together as a married couple.

"Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay." 
(1 Peter 4:9)

Sep 14, 2015

Blog-tember day 14 // 5 books that most impacted my life

I am linking up for Blog-tember again today for fun prompt for book-lovers:

Monday, Sept. 14: The 5 books that have impacted your life the most.

The Bible
The Bible has impacted my life the most out of any book I have ever read. It was the gateway to understanding God's character, faithfulness, goodness, and unfailing love. The stories are inspiring, the wisdom is profound, the poetic verses of Psalms are encouraging. But it's not just about how it lifts me up or encourages me. Yes, the Bible is made of stories recited on felt boards in Sunday school, but if we just look at each book of the Bible or each story individually, we can miss the Big Story of the Bible, also known as the metanarrative. The Story of a Creator God who, out of His love for us, sent His Son Jesus to come down to redeem and restore a world fallen in sin.  It is about God's love for a broken world and how He brings us back to Himself. It is the greatest story ever told, and it has changed my life. 

The Bible points my wandering heart and mind back to God. It redirects my steps through the Truth in its pages. It is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12), inspired by God to teach, correct, convict, and train us (2 Timothy 3:16). In so many seasons of my life, I have found indescribable joy and peace while reading the Bible that could not compare to anything else. I have also seen my own selfishness and pride while reading it, which has brought me to my knees in repentance. It has brought me a deeper understanding of who God is and how much He loves me. It is God's primary way of speaking to us today and every time I prioritize my time studying the Bible for transformation rather than just information, my understanding of God grows a little at a time. However, there are seasons I do not prioritize it. I lean on the advise of others, I get too carried away with busyness, or I read it from habit rather than an adoration.  My prayer is that I would always treasure the Bible and invite God to tune my heart to hear His still, small voice within the pages of the Bible. 

Everyone has their favorite translations, and I honestly love reading from many translations, but the Bible I usually use the most is my Life Applications Study Bible (NLT) with its plethora of study material and notes. 

Let Me Be A Woman 
Elisabeth Elliot
Written in 1976 as a series of letters for her daughter, Valerie, as a wedding gift, Let Me Be A Woman is a book that dives into what Biblical womanhood looks like and was written in a time when feminism was on the rise. The timeless Biblical wisdom and loving motherly tone is encouraging as well as instructive.  She proclaims that “in order to learn what it means to be a woman, we must start with the One who made her.” And so she does. She shares Biblical teaching on womanhood as well as personal experiences and observations that are useful and inspiring for women in any season of life. 

Let Me Be A Woman helped me to have a better understanding of what Biblical womanhood looks like. I've read it twice so far in my early twenties and hope to get to it again soon after the wedding because it is such a dear book to me, filled with so much wisdom. It helped me see the beauty, depth, and adventure of my unique purpose, role, and responsibility as a woman. Anything written by Elisabeth Elliot is full of wisdom but this book will always be my favorite of hers. 

Redemption: Freed by Jesus from Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry by Mike Wilkerson
Redemption unfolds the Biblical story of the Israelite's Exodus from idolatrous Egypt to the redeemed freedom of the Promised Land. Paralleling the Exodus story with our own need for redemption from modern forms of slavery and idolatry (such as abuse and addiction), Redemption points the reader to seeing what it means to be restored and redeemed by Jesus. It is a powerful book that does not lean on recovery steps, self-improvement, or empty mantras, but rather on God's Word. 

I read Redemption during a season in 2012 when fear and anxiety were starting to cripple my trust in God because they were rooted in a misunderstanding of God's unfailing and redeeming love for me. This book was a powerful tool (along with godly community, prayer, and studying the Bible) that helped me break free from a distorted view of myself and helped me to see that I was a beloved child of God rather than feeling guilt or that I need to earn His love by legalistic works. I was able to see God as a Father who loved me at my worst and loves me evermore. Redemption greatly impacted that season of my life and its truths still echo in my heart whenever fear tries to grip at my heart and mind again.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 
W. Phillip Keller
I grew up in the church, so I heard Psalm 23 countless times, and truth be told, I was a bit bored of it. I could probably recite most of it by memory, but I had no clue the depth beneath its words. Once I read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, it came alive and became one of my favorite psalms. Written by a modern shepherd, it explains the sheep-raising background behind the verses that otherwise, for a city girl like myself, I was completely oblivious to. 

Keller's insight on herding and caring for his sheep helped me understand the deep beauty of Psalm 23 as it described the Good Shepherd (Jesus). It helped me see Jesus' love in a new and profound way as it paralleled a good shepherd's care for his flock with The Good Shepherd's care for us. I have read this small book three times and could pick it up again and learn something new each time. It is that good. 

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible Both with Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin 
Written for women, but applicable for men as well, Women of the Word offers a clear and concise way to study the Bible in a way that it penetrates through the heart and mind. So many Bible studies that are written for women are heavily focused on emotions or story-telling and lacks the in-depth study of the Bible as a metanarrative. Her 5 P's method of Bible study (purpose, perspective, patience, process, prayer) inspires focus  and a new passion in understanding the Bible. 

Women of the World rocked my world last January. It completely changed the ways I study the Bible because it helped me rely more of the Bible rather than other studies, commentaries, and opinions. I began to flip to multiple cross-references (which reminded me of how infallible the Bible is), compared different Bible translations (which helped deepen the meaning behind the verses), search for repeated words and ideas, paraphrase chapters, and pray during my Bible study time. I studied Philippians, Proverbs 31, and Habakkuk using the 5P method (I described this here) and drew so much more understanding out of these books than if I only relied on someone's notes or commentaries. It brought a new love for the Bible and I am excited to continue to use this method of Bible study in the future. 

Runners Up

Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman 
Leslie Ludy
I read this book about 10 years ago and it helped me see the beauty in modesty, feminine grace, and drawing near to the greatest Love of all: Jesus. Each page pointed me to Jesus and His unfailing love. A few of the chapters in particular helped me deal with really hardened areas of my heart and were an important tool in ushering in healing and redemption. I think it is a great book for teenage girls as well as young women in seeing their beauty and purpose as women created in God's image and wholly beloved by Him. 

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption
Katie Davis
Katie Davis left the comforts of her middle-class American life after graduating high school  to live in Uganda where she adopted thirteen young girls and started Amazima Ministries International. She is a selfless young woman who serves wholeheartedly.  Some of the roles of Amazima (and Katie herself) includes providing food, schooling, medical attention, and (most importantly) the gospel to villages in Uganda riddled with malnutrition, disease, and hopelessness. Her humility and reliance on Jesus for all her needs as well as for the unknowns is inspiring and so incredibly beautiful. Kisses from Katie challenged me to evaluate how I am serving others and whether I am daily surrendering my own plans and desires to follow Jesus' example and love others selflessly and sacrificially. (Click here for more of Katie's amazing story!)
Brave Love Blog

Sep 13, 2015

Blog-tember day 13 // collage for this season of life

Today's prompt for Blog-tember is:

Sunday, Sept. 13: Create a collage or inspiration/mood board for this season in your life.

This is a crazy-beautiful season, y'all! I wrote about it on the first day of the Blog-tember Challenge. 
a little bit of crazy 
Crazy because I have officially moved my belongings down to San Antonio where I will live once I get married to my fiancĂ©, Greg (my sweet friends are hosting my during this 2.5 week visit). Crazy because I left my job as a pediatric nurse practitioner since I was moving and I am not on the job hunt. Crazy because I am getting married in a little over a month and there seems like there are still lots of things to get done. Crazy because there are so many unknowns, and for a planner like myself, it can cause fear and worry to creep up.
a whole lot of beautiful
Beautiful because I am marrying the love of my life and we get to adventure this life together for the rest of our days. Beautiful because I get to look for a job where I can grow as a pediatric nurse practitioner and use my hands and heart to serve children in San Antonio. Beautiful because although there are so many unknowns, I can trust that God is holding Greg and I in His everlasting arms, and He'll guide us through the days ahead that we can't yet see. 

Here is a mood board to share what this season is looking and feeling like. It's the last leg of our engagement season and we are getting so excited about our wedding and marriage (as well as Maui for our honeymoon!!).
This season looks a lot like:
<> unpacking and decorating the apartment that will be ours once we are married (we are wanting a neutral-colored rustic theme, which is a compromise for my beloved shabby chic)
<> remembering to "be still" and know God is God through all the changes of this season (Psalms 46:10) , meditating on what selah means, & taking sacred pauses  amidst all the busyness of the season
<> working on my resume, applying for jobs, and interviewing
<> blogging intentionally and sharing what I am learning through all the changes
<> sharing my life with this handsome man named Greg who will soon be my husband!
<> getting used to Texas as a resident rather than a tourist
<> working on improving my health through exercise and clean eating

What does your season look like right now? Starting college, a new job, a new baby on the way? What are the doors that are being opened and the new experiences on your horizon?

Sep 10, 2015

Blog-tember day 10 // bucket list

Joining Blog-tember again today for today's fun prompt: 

Thursday, Sept. 10: 10 items off your bucket list. 

Last summer, I started a "30 by 30" list. With less than a year before I turn the big 3-0, I decided to give myself until the end of my 30th birthday to complete the remaining bucket list. Here are a few that I have yet to cross off my list:

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5  // 6  // 7 // 8  // 9 

1. Pick my violin back up again and take lessons and maybe join a community orchestra.

2. Get back into a sewing class (I took a course in 2010) and make a dress or something I can use as apartment decor or a gift.

3. Take swing dancing lessons with Greg. I'm more of a car and kitchen dancer, so this will be out of my comfort zone, but so fun at the same time!

4. Start a garden balcony. I'd love to have fresh herbs and veggies to use.

5. Get fit by trying a variety of new workouts and methods, including hiking, pilates, hiring a trainer for HIIT, and/or kickboxing.

6. Travel! In the U.S., I'd love to see Colorado and New England (specifically Massachusetts). Greg and I would also love to see Europe. Romania [pictured] would be great so he can experience my birth place and culture, but we're daydreaming of Greenland, Iceland, and France as well.

7. Take an painting class (maybe through Pinot's Palette in San Antonio?)

8. Take a writing class and one day write a book (even if my family is the only ones who read it)

9. Get involved in volunteering in my community and/or going on a medical mission trip

10. Do a "media fast" where I spend atleast 1 week away from social media to help refocus.


What are some things y'all are hoping to cross off your bucket list in the next few years?

Brave Love Blog

Sep 9, 2015

Blog-tember day 9 // Write A Letter to Your 16 year Old Self

Dear Elena, 

First of all, you have some pretty amazing hair. Wear it down and notice how thick it is because it only goes downhill after high school. No, no, who are we kidding, you'll still have awesome hair, but you're in your golden (hair) age right now, so rock it, sista! And since you're rocking, go ahead and rock those thick-rimmed glasses because they'll be in style in a few years. People will actually wear fake glasses. They have a name for them: hipsters. But I am getting ahead of myself ...

While you're looking in the mirror in the morning, stop thinking about all the things you'd like to change. Someone's going to love those very things you want to change. He'll adore them and it'll freak you out at first, but then it'll melt your heart and help you see beyond your insecurities. 

There's a word for you, miss. It's perfectionism. It'll threaten to steal away a lot of joy in your high school years and for many years beyond.  Don't let your unrealistic expectations for yourself rob you of experiencing all the blessings God is bringing into your life right now. It's not about getting the A in English, even though we both know it felt good seeing it after rewriting that same essay three times. You know what? If you fail (which, sorry to break it to you, sister, you will), your parents will still love you and stand by you. Your close friends that know your struggles will not think you're weak or not good enough. Instead, they'll love you even stronger through those times. So, don't be afraid to let go of trying to control things and make everything work the way you think it should. Because even when you're tiptoeing close to 30 years old, you're still going to be re-learning this lesson. 

Trust that God's love for you is deep and it is personal to you. Yes, He loves the whole world, but Elena, I wish you really, really knew . . . He loves you! For all your faults and guilt, your mess-ups and your angry words you'll regret. He loves you deeper than any hurt and stronger than any fear. Stop trying to earn His love because He has already given it to you long ago at the Cross. You're going to try and try because you'll have a warped view of His love. You'll think you're not worthy of His love so you'll try to work for it so that maybe, just maybe, He'll love you too. But, Elena, His love never let you go and will never let you go

You'll go through many adventures, so get ready for the ride! You'll realize you could travel to Europe on your own, but then also realize it's so much more fun with your sisters (yeah, you'll actually want to travel with them one day. It's true. No, I am not out of my mind). You'll see places you've dreamed and read about, and on a train ride from Paris to a little provincial town, you'll catch a glimpse of how incredibly blessed you are. You'll journal about it and remember it because it'll be on your mind for a while. You'll realize that God has been leading you and has not let you go even through many changes ahead of you. And you'll have a song of praise on your lips during that train ride as you look out your window and catch one of your most memorable sunsets. 

You'll have a lot of lonely  days when you watch many of your closest friends meet their future husbands and start their families. You'll wonder if your turn will ever come. Some days you'll feel so alone and sad, but do not give up hope that a man who will love you and treasure you will come into your life. It'll take a while, but there are so many wonderful things that you'll learn and experience before then. You'll look back and treasure your singleness some day because there was a lot of growth, adventure, and friendship. You'll live on your own in Seattle (you should probably start learning to cook right now), graduate with your masters in nursing,  start to live healthier and you'll start to love running (I know, crazy, right?!)

And then, one day, you'll meet him. He'll say something sweet about your accent and you'll be rude and deny that you have an accent (we both know you do). He'll be handsome and funny and you'll really like talking to him that first day. It'll be the most natural conversation. Yes, I know you're terrified of making a fool of yourself in front of boys and you get all shy and stuff, but he'll actually like your goofiness, awkwardness, and even your shyness. I am not lying. This guy is for real. Spoiler alert: He'll ask you to marry him and you'll say yes. He'll be your best friend and your beloved. He'll love you deeper than you could imagine and be more compassionate, intentional, and forgiving than you could ever hope for. And, giiiirl, he is going to be FINE! Yes, ma'am. You're going to get yo' self a handsome mister, yes you are! 

What I want you to know most, though, is that you are loved. In every moment that passes, you are carried in a Love greater than anything written in stories on this earth. Trust in that Love and let the giver of that Love lead your days in the ways He knows is best. God is going to blow your mind with how much He loves you and cares for you. Don't forget it, Elena. Because one day, you'll be getting in a car and driving with your parents 2,000 miles away as they help you move your belongings to your future home. You'll be getting married the following month. You'll be a bit overwhelmed with all the changes because we both know you love your stability and routines. Remember you are loved even through the changes and through the unknowns. God's love is deeper and stronger. 

You got this, Elena. 

Brave Love Blog

Sep 7, 2015

Blog-tember day 7 // story behind my blog name

Today I am joining Blog-tember again to answer today's prompt:

Monday, Sept. 7: Tell us about your blog name. Where did it come from?

Beautiful Hope Blog was born out of a desire to experience and reflect on the hope that comes from Jesus. Originally, I started blogging in 2011 as Beautiful Feet of Hope, which was inspired by Isaiah 52:7 (and cross-referenced in Romans 10:5)   . . .

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion:
 “Your God reigns.”

As a Christian that has been redeemed by Jesus -- given hope when I was hopeless, peace when there was restlessness, good news when I only saw bad news of shame and guilt -- I desire to have beautiful feet that walk in the valleys as well as the mountains "publishing" the good news found in Jesus. I desire to show the beauty of hope throughout my everyday, be it while I am typing a blog post in the wee hours of the night, talking with a friend who is experiencing fear and anxiety, or teaching sunday school kiddos about the gospel. I want to spread hope. I want to show that there is a hope that is true and worthy. A hope that is more beautiful than can be explained with mere words. And, I believe that hope is found in Jesus. 

"I pray that more would be burdened to have beautiful feet  . . . 
Go, go, go. Run with those beautiful feet"

Around the time I started thinking about blogging, I  came across a song by LeCrae named "Beautiful Feet". To this day, I cannot listen to that song without tearing up. Above are a few lines in the song that gripped my heart as the Holy Spirit impressed that we are called to walk where others would rather avoid; for our feet to step towards the hopeless and forgotten, showing them that they are loved, cherished, and forgiven by the God who came down to earth to give us abundant hope and redemption through Him. 

The idea of "Beautiful Feet" is not about perfectly manicured toes or a pair of strappy Jimmy Choo heels. Instead, our willingness and obedience to walk towards where God is calling us, bringing the Gospel message (and the peace, hope, joy, and salvation that springs out of the Gospel) gives us beautiful feet

I chose to shorten the blog name from Beautiful Feet of Hope to Beautiful Hope for the logistical reason that some people were confused by the "feet" part . At times, I miss the original name since it reminds me of the original reason for starting the blog, but I do feel Beautiful Hope still encapsulates the original meaning and my desire is that it brings curiosity to the reader as to know more about how hope can be truly beautiful. 

Brave Love Blog

Sep 5, 2015

September Goals

I know am a little late, but I wanted to follow up on August's goals and share September's list. It'll be a crazy month to be sure! I am taking a two-day trek with my parents to  move all my belongings to Texas and will take them around town to see they city I will soon call home. Once they leave, I'll be staying with friends for 2.5 weeks and making daily trips to Greg's apartment to unpack, organize, and decorate. We'll also be attending a few sessions of premarital counseling and driving to Houston for a wedding shower his family and friends are hosting for us. I then fly home at the end of September with 2.5 weeks left at that point until the wedding! Eeek! Such an exciting and busy month! I've been waiting for this last leg of our engagement season, and I can hardly believe we're here!

August Goals

1.  Send paperwork to transfer my RN license to Texas

2. Write to my Compassion International child

3. Check Mint weekly to budget and see spending trends

4. Exercise 2-3 days a week with a mix of pilates, jogging, gym 

5. Work on increasing clean eating 
(kinda, sorta, not really)

6. Read 3 books 

7. Go through "This Is The Gospel" series by She Reads Truth
It was awesome! Now studying Daniel with She Reads Truth

8.  Pick up my dress and then drop it off with my seamstress to get altered

9.  Have a garage sale 
(Yes! Another one tomorrow!)

10.  Meet with 2-3 friends for intentional and honest conversations 
(Yes! Such a blessing to be be encouraged and loved by so many friends!)


September Goals

1.  Post about our  Yellowstone family trip that we took back in July

2.  Post 2-3x/week for Bailey's Blog-tember Challenge (see the first 3 I did so far)

3.  Read 3 books, which should be do-able since I have a 2-day trek to Texas next week!

4. Start "Seven Sacred Pauses" where I stop and have selah moments throughout the day to rest and refocus on the Lord rather than on stress. Even if I do just 2-3 pauses a day, it has been helping this week already with my stress level!

5. Work on two photobooks for my parents that they've requested of recent vacations.

6. Work on our wedding slideshow

7. Apply for pediatric nurse practitioner and/or RN jobs in Texas

8.  Exercise 2-3x/week with a mix of jogging, pilates, and strength-training 

9.  Eat cleaner and increase my protein intake  (I really don't eat enough protein)

10. Set aside a day per week that Greg and I are praying intentionally for our wedding day to be a day of joy rather than busyness, chaos, and stress. 

Sep 4, 2015

blog-tember day 4 // what am I passionate about?

Linking up with Bailey from Brave Love Blog for her Blog-tember Challenge again. 

Friday, Sept. 4: What are you passionate about?

There are a lot of things I enjoy, many of which I shared yesterday with my mood board about my blog. But today I wanted to share what I am most passionate about. Yes, traveling, tea, and reading give me lots of joy, but there are a few things that I am more passionate about.

Growing in knowledge of God and experiencing His presence
First and foremost, I am passionate about deepening my understanding about who God is and knowing it with both my heart and mind. More than just head knowledge about who He is, I want to spend time in His presence. I want to steer away from legalistic duties, but rather, for my heart and mind to rest on His truth and to see it as a joy to walk with God daily as I grow in my knowledge of who He is. 
If I know who He is, I find rest from fear and worries. 
If I know who He is, I am able to trust in the unknowns.
 If I know who He is, I am able to have the assurance of being His beloved child. 
A few things that I am passionate about that branch out of this passion for God is: studying the Bible, praying intentionally, having fellowship with other Christians where we can encourage each other towards the common goals of growing in our love for God and praising Him through our lives, reading books that point me to Him, and using this blog to tell about His faithfulness and love. 
1 // 2 // 3

Loving others with my hands, my heart, and my motives
My love for God should overflow in a love for people. Whenever I am in a season when I am focusing more on my own problems and needs rather than focusing on God, my priorities shift from spending time with the Him and serving people instead towards serving myself. But the antidote to this selfishness is that the more I seek Him, the more He places a desire in me to serve others. I have a passion to love others with my hands, heart, and motives. What this means is that I want to be God's hands and feet in the place He's placed me: my job, my neighborhood, my friends, my family, my church. I want to serve where I've been planted. I want to serve with pure motives rather than with the desire to be noticed or applauded. And I want compassion and a Christlike love to drive my words and actions. Whether it looks like volunteering at a soup kitchen, teaching sunday school,  treating my pediatric patients with respect and dignity, or flying overseas for a medical mission trip, I want to be available with a ready heart and ready hands to serve. Five of the women that first come to my mind whose lives have been marked by selfless service for others are Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Maggie Gobran, Katie Davis, and Elisabeth Elliot. If you haven't read about these remarkable women, I encourage you to read about Amy in A Chance To Die (by Elisabeth Elliot), Corrie in her autobiography (The Hiding Place), Mama Maggie, Kisses for Katie, and anything written by Elisabeth Elliot. 
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

Encouraging others and seeing hope rise up
I am passionate about building others up, encouraging them, and planting seeds of hope in the hearts and minds of those I encounter. I would be lying if I said this is always at the forefront of my thoughts, because sadly, I get bogged down with busyness and life stress, but when it's actually happening -- when I am able to encourage someone during a hard season -- oh, it is just such an awesome feeling because I know what it feels like to desperately need encouragement and hope, so I am passionate about bringing that to others. I get so excited when I am able to use my blog as a platform to build others up or remind them of God's goodness and faithfulness. It honestly makes my heart so happy when people tell me they were encouraged by something I wrote on my blog. Not because it means I am a great writer, but because it is an awesome testimony that God is at work in my heart to teach me what words to write to help others have hope. I have often posted something that started as an idea and then as I am writing, the words just come together in a way that I am sure is God is at work one me. It amazes me how He used a passion for writing to give birth to a deeper passion to encourage others through writing. Along with the blog, I am passionate about one-on-one conversations (usually with tea or a chai latte in hand) with friends where we encourage one another. It is such a blessing to help lighten each other's burdens by pointing each other to Jesus and loving one another through difficult seasons. And when a prayer is answered or a dark season ends, it is such a joy to celebrate together, which is an encouragement in itself.

These three passions all intersect into one another: If I am growing in knowledge of who God is, it will lead me to have a passion to serve others and encourage them. I am excited to see what these passions will look like once I live in Texas after Greg and I get married next month! We desire to grow together in our love and understanding of God, and I am so encouraged by the ways Greg studies the Word, spends time in prayer and meditating on God's truth, and loving others in a way that points to Jesus.  Furthermore, one of the first things that attracted me to Greg on the first day we met was the way he spoke about living missionally where God had placed him. He wanted to make himself available to lovingly serve others in whatever way the Holy Spirit led him within his current sphere of influence in San Antonio.  I knew we had something in common that night, but had no idea the story God would unfold. I long to see what doors God will open for us to serve together in San Antonio. 

Brave Love Blog