Finding Order in Insanity

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“Time is what we most want, but what we use worst.” -William Penn
Time management.  I can’t tell you for how many years that phrase made me cringe.  Then, this fall happened.  Suddenly, I found myself holding down two jobs and an internship, which all together left me working more than 40 hours a week on average, while also in school full-time–not to mention the fact that I was living totally independently in a non-dorm setting for the first time, with family 8 hours away.  Suffice it to say, my former definition of “busy” couldn’t touch my new schedule.  An average day had me going nonstop from 9 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night with no breaks.  I made it about two weeks into the semester before I came to this “oh boy” moment of wondering what on earth I got myself into.  At that point, though, there was nothing I could do!  I’d made all these commitments, and I told myself that I was going to do whatever I have to do to follow through and complete them well. 

The next few months were probably craziest time of my life to date, if we’re being totally honest.  At the same time, though, necessity forced me to learn to manage my time as never before.  And the most shocking part? I loved it! 

Here’s a few things that managing life as a full-time student working full-time taught me:

Schedule your life. It doesn’t hinder you; it is actually your key to freedom.

Get alone. No matter how much you need to do, you have spend time away from the craziness to pray, read your Bible, watch that netflix show, or go for a run.

Defend your time. Not every request deserves a “yes”.

Treat yourself. When life’s crazy, sometimes you need to stop and get that cup of coffee.

Prioritize time for “your people”. No matter how hectic life gets, you will handle everything better if you take the time to laugh and unwind with friends now and again.

Pick a planner and make it your best friend. Personally, I love the Macbook/iPhone’s Calendar application because it keeps me up to date at home and on the road.  

What are your tips for staying sane and on task in the midst of craziness?

xo,

Anna

Once Upon A Time [In the Real World]

“God is using your present circumstances to make you more useful for later roles in his unfolding story.” -Lou Giglio
     Stories have always been a big part of my life.  From the time I was a toddler, my mom read me book after book.  By four or five, I was reading on my own, and there were many seasons growing up where I simply wouldn’t leave the house without a book accompanying me.  The reason was quite simple: I loved the stories.  When I read The Chronicles of Narnia, I saw myself as Susan Pevensie.  When I read 
Anne of Green Gables, it was me, who smashed the slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head.  When I read Emma, I fell head over heels for Knightley right along with Emma.  And when I read The Lord of the Rings, I too was traveling with the Fellowship on the quest to save Middle Earth.  Okay, so maybe I have a pretty active imagination…

     As I read all of these, though, I came to the conclusion that obviously my life would be a tale as fabulous and perfect as the ones in my favorite novels.  I’d slay any dragon with ease, always beat the bad guys, fall in love with my very own Mr. Darcy, and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.  

     Flash forward a few years, and I found myself bogged down in…[horror of horrors] the real world.  The dragons aren’t always so easy to defeat.  Sometimes, things are hard. And here I am, practically an adult, and I definitely don’t have it all together like I pictured my heroine role models did. In the midst of this, I caught myself complaining, “This wasn’t the deal, Lord.  This isn’t my novel-worthy adventure.  In fact,this is a hot mess!”

    But then, somewhere along the way lately, God has helped me to recognize a few things:

  • A messy middle is necessary for the best endings.  The stories-in movies and books alike–that have us cheering for our hero/heroines most passionately are the ones that have the deepest struggles.  Think of The Hunger Games Trilogy.  The reason we root for Katniss, the reason we’re tasting victory with her, the reason we care about her success, is that she faced hard times; she sacrificed, but she never gave in.  Think about the most influential Christians in history, and you’ll find the same thing.  William Wilberforce failed to abolish the English slave trade 9 times over 17 years!  Talk about a seeming mess…but then, that 18th year, parliament abolished slave trade. “Happily-ever-after” endings take time!
  • The hero/heroine doesn’t get to know there even is a happily-ever-after ahead.  It strikes me that Frodo did not know he would succeed in his quest to destroy the ring.  What if J.R.R. Tolkien brought in a character in the first chapter who told Frodo everything that would happen if he went to destroy the ring?  Would he even have gone?  Even if he did go, wouldn’t his approach to everything have been different?  If Frodo knew he’d succeed, how could he have the drive to do what he must to succeed?  Those in the story DON’T SEE THE BIG PICTURE.  It’s the same with us.  We do not see our full story.  We see the here and now.  Fortunately, though, we’ve got someone who does see it all.
  • The Author has ultimate control, and nothing can change that. I’ve heard the illustration that God is the “Author” of our stories, and I love that comparison.  Just like the author of a book is the only one who knows and understands everything about his characters and his plot, God is the only one who knows everything about each and every one of us.  He created us with free will, yes–but He already knows every choice we’ll make.  He already has plans for each one of us and wants to use us to fulfill them.  He is the author of story.  Realizing that and holding onto this perspective will make a huge difference in our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.'”  So, yes, we are going to have hard times.  Yeah, life may not make sense during some seasons…and there might be times when we can’t even imagine a way that our situation and struggles will be turned around or used for good.  But fortunately, our divine Author is greater than us and has plans far greater than our imaginations.

As Elisabeth Elliot said once, “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”  

xo,

Anna

Coffee for the Soul

” I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”-T.S. Eliot
       If you read this blog very long, something that will become apparent is that I love, love, LOVE coffee.  Ironically, though, I didn’t grow up on the stuff.  Neither of my parents drink coffee (until recently, at least…now, I’m working on getting my mom as hooked as I am).  I guess my coffee habit started at Starbucks some time in late high school, when– between friends, extracurriculars, and finals–I decided that I needed the caffeine boost(not to mention that coffee drinking always struck me as classy).

     Anyways, by the end of my freshman year of college, I was coffee was one of my best friends.  Then, being in Nashville, I discovered an even greater love for it.  Instead of coffee just serving as a caffeine boost, I started to see it as an art form, and one of my favorite things to do was to explore coffee shops.  Nashville is overflowing with them, and I always love finding new little shops.  Right now, my favorite is one right off the campus at Lipscomb University.

Tucked away in a strip mall behind the university, the moment you step inside The Well, you step into this other world.  The atmosphere is warm and cozy. The music has been great every time I’ve been here.  The clientele is primarily college & grad students, but it also draws in everyone from businessmen with their laptops to middle-aged women chatting with their friends. Today, on a regular Tuesday afternoon, the place was packed!

     Their coffee is terrific as well; the baristas know their stuff and are more than willing to share their knowledge and give suggestions. That’s super important to me because my first couple times at a coffee shop, I like to get their recommendations.  If you get a shop’s most popular/signature drinks, you’re going to get a pretty good feel for the shop pretty fast.

      There’s another reason The Well has quickly shot to the top of my fave Nashville coffee spots.  On their website, they proudly announce: “We love coffee.  We love people even more.”  And boy, do they live up to that statement.  Globally, The Well is involved in missions, raising money to support initiatives ranging from boarding schools in African nations to building water wells!  So, every time you buy a cup of coffee, you’re also supporting a good cause.  I love that they have combined service & ministry with coffee!  You walk into the store, and you immediately see items for sale, all supporting The Well’s greater mission.  

      Truly, you can see this global goal influencing every aspect of their business.  So, for me, at the end of the day, this is a spot that is going to be hard to beat.  They make great coffee–and they’re making a difference! 

      This also, I think, offers a challenge for us; after all, you can’t get much more westernized than a nice coffee shop where I can get my Caramel Whip Latte and sit and type away on my laptop in a nice, heated space.  Yet, they have found a way to turn it into a world-impacting venture!  So, surely, we should be doing the same.  No, not everyone is called to go to Kenya themselves, but all of us-particularly Christians-SHOULD be doing something to help those in need.  It’s what the Bible calls us to, and for all of our excuse-making, it is a lot easier than we might think.  We can start by choosing to give our support to businesses like The Well! But, then, we also need to be asking ourselves, what is OUR “Well”?  What are we being called to do to make a difference and a change?  Have thoughts or opinions on things we can do in our daily lives to make a difference?  Feel free to share in the comments.

That’s all for now.  If you’re interested in learning more about The  Well, check out their website!
xo,

Anna 

Sweater Weather

Fashion is about dressing according to what is fashionable. Style is more about being yourself. -Oscar de la Renta
So, we’ve passed Christmas, but there are still a couple months of cold weather ahead of us.  In the brisk winter air, my favorite thing to wear is SWEATERS.  There’s just something about putting on a big fuzzy sweater–sort of like putting on a hug–well, a really stylish hug.  

I guess that’s the other reason why I absolutely love sweaters.  They’re warm and comfy, but they can also be incredibly classy and downright beautiful.

  Sweaters can take so many different forms and inspire so many different fashion looks.  From cardigans to over-sized boyfriend sweaters, there’s a sweater look for everyone.

    There are a few classic looks that every girl should have in her closet.  So, if you’re looking to expand your sweater wardrobe, here are a few style ideas for you this winter season….
The  White Sweater…

Every girl needs one of these beauties in their wardrobe.  The white sweater is one you can dress up or dress down–wear it with a skirt, jeans, or even leather jeggings.  Check out some of my current white sweater faves.

Your Boyfriend’s Sweater…

Whether you really do swipe a spare sweater from your boyfriend’s closet or you buy your own (I recently bought myself a dark green croft & barrow sweater for $20 at Kohl’s), the oversized boyfriend sweater is indispensable.  It’s cozy…but still keeps you looking cute at the same time.  Patterned or solid, whatever you like, there’s a boyfriend sweater out there for you, too!


The Fitted Sweater

This one is just straight up classic.  For that job interview or your speech in class, the fitted sweater gives a polished look.  Practically speaking, its nice to have the bit of extra warmth when you are out and about.  With the thickness and patterning in these sweater, they are also a fun & classy way to spice up your wardrobe.


The Sweater Dress…

I’ve already talked about how much I love sweaters. I have to confess: I’m also a dress girl; so, the sweater dress is a combo of two of my favorite things. That being said, it offers warmth and versatility.  It can be dressed up, dressed down.  It comes in so many styles that you’ll never be bored.  If you don’t already have one (or more) of these stylish dresses in your closet, you definitely want to change that.  They can even be fun as a winterized version of the LBD. 


The Over-sweater…


Last but definitely not least, the over-sweater: these are literally my favorite thing, as far as practical style goes.  During the winter, I rarely leave home without some type of over-sweater.  I often use one in place of a coat.  Plus, they add a fun pop of style.  Whether you’re looking for a short, subtle black sweater to keep your arms warm at the restaurant that is always too cold or a fun aztec-patterned over-sweater to add some fun and style to a basic denim outfit, there are great over-sweaters.  If these are not yet a staple in your wardrobe, trust me.  Once you enter the world of over sweaters, there’s no going back.
Well, that’s all for now, guys.  Hope you’re all enjoying these winter days.  I think I’m going to go put a sweater on…
XO,

Anna

New Year, New Story

Tomorrow is the first day of a 365-page book. Write a good one.  Brad Paisley

So, this is it: the official first post!  I’ve been talking about starting a blog for a while, and I guess it’s time for me to finally get it going.  It seems fitting to begin this new venture at the start of a new year.  This past year has brought a lot of changes for me–a move to Kansas City and, only two weeks ago, a move back to Nashville.

From taking a semester hiatus from my university to a stint working at Nordstrom to a nine-month internship, working with a church youth group, to travel to a serious illness in the family, it has been a wild ride.  I’ve laughed.  I’ve cried.  I’ve learned, and I’ve grown a lot in my faith and my life.

But then, there’s always something that excites me about a new year. I love to see what’s coming next.  There are so many possibilities!  Anything could happen.  Look back at where you were a year ago.  Things have assuredly happened that you never would have expected.  The same is true every year!

But the truth is? Sometimes, while the unexpected can be exciting, it can also be terrifying.  At the end of the day, the choice is simple.  We can either live in fear of what’s going to happen or trust God’s plans and jump into this new year and see what awaits.

For me, I know one new adventure this year is bringing will be this blog!  I’d love for you to join me in this!

XO,

Anna