Faith & Inspiration

A Lesson on Pride and Generosity

My friend Tiffany is someone I look up to in so many ways. I met her as a first year student at UNC-Chapel Hill when I joined a sorority and found myself lucky enough to call her a sister. Even back then, she was so wise, intentional, and thoughtful. She’s also sassy and spunky and an all-around fun personality to be around. So, you can imagine how flattered I was when she asked me to guest post on her blog yesterday!

A lesson on Jesus-like generosity on NOM NAM NOM | Très Belle

Be sure to check out the post, which talks about a major lesson I learned recently about the importance of being generous with my finances rather than using money for my own selfish pride. And be sure to follow her blog, NOM NAM NOM!

xoxo Laura

11 Year-End Superlatives for 2016

Quite a few months ago, I read this post by Laura over at A Beautiful Plate and thought it was such a cute idea! I’ve created my own spin on it by doing 11 superlatives for 2016. It was an amazing year!

1. Biggest Milestone: Changing jobs! Back in July, I started a new job with Make-A-Wish. It is the best thing ever, and I pinch myself every day! I still can’t believe that I get paid to plan wishes!

Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina Disney World Wish | Trés Belle

2. Hardest Challenge: I am extremely grateful that 2016 was a year of few challenges for me. I am still dealing with some residual health issues from a terrible infection I had back in 2014/2015. Aside from that, I have few complaints!

3. Most Memorable Trip: Wes and I went to St. Thomas with my family back in March, and it was so wonderful! It was true relaxation to just lay on a beach all day. The sunsets were gorgeous, and I got to ride a horse in the surf. Bliss!

St. Thomas US Virgin Islands Sunset | Trés Belle

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands | Trés Belle

Horseback riding on the beach in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands | Trés Belle

4. Best Bite: Every single flavor of gluten-free cupcakes at Carytown Cupcakes in Richmond, VA. Y’all, I fantasize about going back to try more of these cupcakes! You truly cannot tell that they are gluten-free, and they have the perfect crumb. I also like that they have inventive, unusual flavors (obviously not pictured).

Gluten-Free Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from Carytown Cupcakes in Richmond, Virginia | Trés Belle

5. Favorite Photo: This picture of me and Wes at a Panthers game back in August. I had a wish taking place that day!

Carolina Panthers Spirit | Trés Belle

6. Inspiring Read: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I’ve actually already talked about it here on the blog.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton Book Review | Trés Belle

7. Most Valuable Lesson: That I can only give out as much as I’m taking in. I always tend to overcommit myself and run, run, run without stopping for self-care. I used to be able to do this with minimal consequences, but due to the aforementioned health issues, I have to be more careful these days. I’m also an introvert, which makes it all the more important for me to have time to recharge alone at home. Thanks to the reflection process built into my PowerSheets (a goal setting workbook), I have learned that I need equal amounts of time of pouring into myself and giving to others. My eight hours of sleep each night cancels out my eight hours in the office each day, so it’s really how I spend my waking hours outside of work that are critical. If I’m out volunteering or participating in social events every night of the week, I’m going to feel tired, weary, and anxious. I need equal amounts of rest and doing.

PowerSheets Goal Setting Workbook by Lara Casey/The Cultivate Shop | Trés Belle

8. Favorite Gift Received: Wes surprised me by giving me a nice camera for Christmas! I am so, so excited to learn how to use it.

9. Scariest Moment: I don’t even know how to describe this in just a few sentences, but I’ll try. On a trip to Stratford Hall back in the spring, Wes and I went on a hike straight into a tick-infested forest. We didn’t realize it until we were already halfway into the hike and had dozens and dozens of ticks crawling all over us. It took us about 30 minutes of sprinting then stopping to knock off ticks to finally get out of the forest. I have a huge spider/tick phobia, and I felt like I was having a panic attack. It took us two hours to go through all of our clothes, comb through our hair, and shower afterward. Horrible! We kept imagining that we felt ticks crawling on us for weeks!

10. Favorite Raleigh Spot: I really can’t pick a true number one favorite because I have soooo many. As far as food goes, it may have to be Guasaca South American Grill based solely on number of times visited. Guasaca is a short order arepa restaurant that is amazingly delicious, especially for the price point! Another top favorite Raleigh spot is The Flourish Market, of course!

The Flourish Market ethical fashion store in Raleigh, NC | Trés Belle

11. Things I’m Most Looking Forward to in 2017: Taking a trip to Italy (Wes’s first time out of the country!), taking photos with my new camera, getting some projects done around the house, and granting wishes!

Wasn’t that fun? I’d love to hear some of y’all’s superlatives from 2016 in the comments. And, if there are any other superlatives you think I should add for 2017, let me know!

xoxo, Laura

Small Joys: Volume 1

Small Joys | Trés Belle

Lately, I’ve been realizing how important it is to find joy and gratitude in the normal, everyday-type days of our lives. You won’t have a joyful life if you sit around waiting for big, momentous occasions to be joyful. I always love reading the “Small Joys” posts by Cristina over at Grace Like Rain–they inspire me to think about those little, everyday joys that I often overlook in my own life. I am so excited that Cristina (whose engagement photos were featured on the blog awhile back, by the way!) is letting me take a page out of her own book by starting my own “Small Joys” posts. Welcome to volume 1! I hope that these posts will inspire you to find gratitude for the small things. Here are the little joys in my life as of late:

1. Turning my office into a spa on a cloudy day. It was dreary outside, so I decided to create a mood lift by burning a spa waters-scented candle and playing spa music on Pandora. It did the trick!

Small Joys: Volume 1 | Trés Belle

2. The WordPress app. Helping me blog on the go! Thankful that this option is available for busy bees like me.

3. Cozy fall blankets. With cold weather approaching, I wanted to make sure my living room, which is decorated in mostly cool colors, feels warm and inviting to people. I found this blanket on sale at my local Target and love the cozy touch it adds to our sofa!

Small Joys: Volume 1 | Trés Belle

4. Sermons like this that leave me feeling refreshed and convicted all at once.

5. This advice on how to start your day off right. Dying laughing over the way he pronounces “Clinique.”

6. Landscaping! I’m so excited that this project is now underway, especially since we’ve now owned our house for a year (whattttt??). Big shout out to my hubby for being the leader (er…sole worker?) on this endeavor! I’ll be sure to post “after” photos once we’re done.

Small Joys: Volume 1 | Trés Belle

7. This goofball. Rufus is probably going to be mentioned on every single Small Joys post, because he brings SO much joy to our lives. He has so much personality and always gets me laughing!

Small Joys: Volume 1 | Trés Belle

What are y’all finding joy in lately? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo Laura

Prayer Coloring (for Stress Relief & Spiritual Growth)

Adult coloring has become all the rage lately, and there are psychological theories and research to support it as a relaxation technique. One of my mom’s cousins gave me a mandala coloring book last year, and I’ve enjoyed dabbling with it ever since. However, I’ve put a new spiritual spin on it lately!

I was recently working through the Art of Adventure Journal, which challenged me to think up creative new ways to “hang out” with God, so to speak. I am not naturally good at slowing down and doing things like meditation, prayer, and other quiet activities, but I have been learning recently how life-giving and restorative such practices are when I force myself to do them. As I was brainstorming ways to spend time with God, my coloring book caught my eye, and a light bulb popped up over my head. What if I used my coloring time as an opportunity to sit down and connect with God?

Prayer/Worship/Meditation Coloring for Stress Relief and Spiritual Growth | Très Belle

I’ve started doing it every now and then, and I love it. The coloring activity itself is relaxing and not so taxing on my mental space that I can’t tap into my spiritual self. I will often pray, meditate, sing a worship song (you can tell which one I was singing while coloring the mandala above!), or simply sit in silence and listen to God while I color.

I’ve even found some scripture coloring sheets if you want to focus on a particular Bible verse in your coloring/meditation practice. I’ve started a collection for easy reference on my health/wellness Pinterest board…be sure to check them out!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – Because I know there are other office supply fanatics out there like me who want to know these types of things, the markers I am currently using are the Crayola Pip-Squeaks. They are much thinner than typical markers, but you may still have a tough time getting into really small spaces. I love my Paper Mate Flairs for everyday writing, and they do well in tight spaces, but the color is quite saturated, and I’ve found that it will often bleed through on coloring sheets. Please share your favorite coloring markers in the comments!

On Living a Life of Passion and Adventure (and a Discount Code for the Art of Adventure Journal!)

Hey friends. Any of you feeling lost or uncertain today? Passionless? Restless for a new adventure?Today I’m sharing a little bit about how I have addressed those same feelings in my own life recently, and I’m also going to tell you about a fun journal that is launching today that helps you discover what it’s like to live a life of spiritually-driven adventure (full disclosure: I received a free copy of the journal to take a peek at. I also have a discount code for y’all in case you want to snag one yourself!).

First, a little bit of back story on the adventure I’ve been on for the past year or so. My life doesn’t look like it has changed all that much on the outside, but since December 2014, I have been on a soul-searching adventure for passion, health, and Truth. After becoming incredibly sick with an unknown illness and finding little cure or relief despite countless visits to my family doctor, acupuncturists, and several specialists, I felt like my world was crashing down around me. I felt too sick to go to work, but I desperately needed health insurance, so I got by as best I could. I slept 10 hours a night but woke up exhausted and in pain each morning. Eating was difficult, and I quickly became pale and gaunt. With my social life at a screeching halt and my health failing, I became anxious and sad.

The core of my self image had always been my high achieving, go-getter personality. Suddenly, with my health in shambles, I felt like I wasn’t able to achieve anything. I could barely get out of bed in the morning, and I felt anything but successful. At the time, “adventure” was the last word I would have used to describe where I was in life.

But here’s where things got good. Because there were few things I was physically up to doing, I was forced to turn inward and reflect. I didn’t particularly like what I found. I felt like I had been floating in the wind for several years and had no idea how I had ended up where I was. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I was ready for purpose and guidance. My faith, which has always been important to me, became my refuge.

I began praying and seeking spiritual truth like never before. I began reading about purposeful living through books like Make It Happen and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. My illness was the wake up call I needed to make some big changes on how I was living my life.

I am now much healthier, both physically, spiritually, and emotionally. To most people, my life probably doesn’t look that much different on the outside. I didn’t quit my job, move to a foreign country, or sell everything I had to start my dream business. But my life is a world of difference on the inside. I’m living on purpose and passion.

On Living a Life of Passion and Adventure (and Discount Code for the Art of Adventure Journal!) | Trés Belle

I’ve only just started using it, but I that’s exactly what the Art of Adventure journal is all about. You don’t have to go on a summer-long Euro trip to be living out an adventure in your life. The journal, which offers inspirational quotes and Biblical passages alongside prompts for self-reflection, is a travel guide to help you discover  how to live an adventurous, purpose-driven life in the midst of the seemingly mundane and ordinary. Oh, how I wish I had had the Art of Adventure journal during the dark days of my illness last year.

A little more about the journal: It just went on sale today! It contains 40 days worth of guided reflection prompts. There are also accompanying videos and downloads on journal creator Charissa Steyn’s website. Some examples of topics that the journal covers include defining what adventure means, embracing change, identifying obstacles, learning how to “hear” God, and of course, practically mapping out an intentional life adventure. This journal is not likely to resonate with you if do not hail from a Christian faith background given the heavy emphasis on Biblical scripture.

And now for everyone’s favorite part: the discount code! If you’re wanting to snag an Art of Adventure journal or any of the other fun products in the Art of Adventure shop, use code spring15 for 15% off your entire purchase now through March 18th! You’re welcome 🙂

Regardless of whether the Art of Adventure journal is the right tool for you or not, I wish all of you guidance and peace as you pursue a purpose-driven life. Go forth, friends, and do amazing things!

Xoxo Laura

Prayer? There’s an App for That!

Y’all, I discovered an incredible phone app a few weeks ago and am dying to share. If you’re the praying type (regardless of specific religious beliefs), this post is for you.

I first learned about the Echo app when I was reading about Lara Casey’s favorite ways to simplify. After clicking through to the Echo website, I realized this app was made just for me. I want to pray, but I struggle to find the time. Someone will ask me to pray for them, but I’ll forget to write it down (slash don’t even know where to write it down), and then when I actually am praying, I forget who/what I’m supposed to be praying for.

Echo solved all of these problems for me. I always have my phone with me, so when I think of something I need to pray about or I get a prayer request, I can go ahead and type it in on the app. Voila! A handy dandy list of prayers. You can also set up the app to remind you to pray. No more forgetting or not having time! I have reminders come to my email every morning before I wake up, so that way when I pull up my inbox for my morning Bible study, I have the reminder right in front of me. I just have the app email one random prayer request from my list each day, because that feels less overwhelming than going through the entire list. There are lots of ways to customize it, though, so if you’d rather get push notifications on your phone or pray through your entire list at once, there are options!

What do you think, belles? Helpful tool? Any other helpful prayer tools you use?

xoxo Laura

P.S. – this is not a sponsored post…I just adore this app and wanted to share in case it helps someone else!

 

Who Are You Racing?

Who Are You Racing? | Trés Belle

Monday was one of those mornings. I hadn’t gotten home from Thanksgiving vacation until 10:30 p.m. the night before, I was pawing through my unpacked bags for my toothbrush while scrambling to get myself out the door for work, and on top of that, I was rushing to 10 different websites to snag Cyber Monday deals before they disappeared. My to do list was so long, I couldn’t cram it all into the allotted “Monday” space in my weekly agenda, so I filled up “Tuesday,” too. I was really, really stressed just looking at it, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to catch up. I was starting off my week totally exhausted.

On the way to work (which I was running 30 minutes late for, on account of I just had to buy that faux snow leopard tree skirt from Pier 1 before the free shipping deal expired, in addition to the aforementioned other 10 Cyber Monday deals), I called my husband in a state of total anxiety and panic. I was losing it, and I was desperate for reassurance.

Well, I certainly got just that! What Wes said caught me off guard and stopped my panic in its tracks. “This isn’t a race, Laura. You aren’t in a race against anyone here. Just slow down.”

Really think about that for a second. How often do we treat our to do lists like a race? That’s what I do all. the. time. But…who are you actually racing? My to do list really isn’t a race against anyone. Perhaps a race against time, yes. But most of these “deadlines” I’m racing are self-imposed. I have it in my head that I have to get it all done today, but the world is not going to end if I don’t. In fact, it is likely that no one will notice except me.

Next time you’re getting panicked thinking about all you have to do, just ask yourself, “Who am I racing here?” The answer is probably just yourself. So take a deep breath and slow down. You’ll get all of those things done in time.

xoxo Laura

Feeling Uninspired? Try this Five Second Motivational Idea

Do you ever find yourself feeling a little less-than-inspired at work? Even for those of us who like our jobs, there are times when the everyday routine just gets….dull. About two months ago, I was having a lackluster day at work when an idea suddenly popped into my head.

Like many folks, I have an inspirational quote board on Pinterest that I virtually never look at. Why do I pin all these quotes just to have them rot and die in the black hole that is my Pinterest account?? I decided to finally put my quote collection to good use by changing my computer background to a new quote every other week. That way, whenever I sit down at my work computer, I get a quick dose of motivation or insight that was carefully picked by me, myself, and I as something that spoke to me personally.

It’s super simple, but seeing these quotes really lifts my mood and gives me energy to carry on with my work day. I challenge you all to dig up some inspiration as we enter the final weeks of 2015 so that you can end your work year with a bang!

xoxo Laura

 

Bigger Than.

There have been moments lately when I’ve found myself feeling discouraged. Discouraged by the dire circumstances many of my patients are in. Discouraged by my own shortcomings as a human being and my failure to achieve a personal goal. Most acutely this past week, I felt discouraged by divisions within communities of faith. The particulars aren’t important, but I became so sad considering how humanity will always be divided by differences of opinions. It pained me to think about the anger, strife, and disappointment that surrounds these fissures, however large or small. And as I sat there feeling more and more hopeless, it hit me like a cool ocean wave on a hot summer day: God is bigger than all of this.

God is bigger than the petty things that members of faith communities squabble about. Bigger than my own failures. Bigger than the most dire of circumstances, from famine to mass genocide to horrible natural disasters.

My heart felt suddenly lighter. And dare I say….joyful? It’s not up to me to figure it all out.

God is Bigger Than - Trés Belle Blog

Are you discouraged right now, friends? Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes we feel the downs inside of us in an incredibly emotional way. But guess what? No matter how tall your mountain of despair is, God is bigger. God can handle it. Breathe a deep sigh of relief, and let this knowledge wash over you. Even though we may not have answers and we may not be able to solve things how and when we would like to, it’s going to be okay. God can take it on. Write this down, and fill in the blank with whatever it is that feels like it is going to swallow you whole right now:

God is bigger than _____________.

And let your heart be light and filled with joy.

xoxo Laura

P.S (cause y’all know I love a good P.S.) – the journal pictured in the photo is the Write the Word Journal by Lara Casey. I adore it and highly recommend! I believe Volume 1 is sold out, but I am hopeful that Volume 2 will be out soon.