Tools To Help Grow Faith

I guess this should be titled tools that help me grow my Christian faith. I'll admit I don't like posting faith based stuff because it can come off cheesy, judge-y, and just annoying and I tried my best to share things that were neither of those.

I was looking through my journals and devotionals and trying to figure out which ones to pack on my trip. After looking through the most recent one, I noticed a big jump in the maturity of my prayers, my wisdom, even my writing. It threw me off because this is how I used to be before- not that good of a writer, prayers were pretty selfish (“Lord, please let there be fast wifi at this Starbucks. Amen.”), and my wisdom went as far as having gray hair. My devotionals were short and grew long and longer in notes. 

So why the jump? 

I connected. I grew. There are tons of tools out there to flourish, I used them and I met God halfway. He provided, and I took action. Okay, Apostles didn’t have apps and websites to connect and they did just fine. I also bet Apostles didn’t have wifi, TV, and books and the distractions that comes with it. 

Another thing I learned while reading my journals? No one is responsible to grow my faith except myself. Not my pastor, not my Bible study, not my more Christian friend, not even an app. It’s up to me to decide what I put into it and what I get out of it. 

Find a church. That seems obvious but you won’t get the same connection from a podcast or live streaming. When I hurt my leg and couldn’t leave the house much, I was partially feeling worse because I missed community. I missed gathering, I missed sharing. I can only get that from a church. A church helps you find a connection group to grow, and volunteer services. 

Find a connection group. A connection group is just a millennial term for Bible study. After being in a connection group for almost two years, I don’t really see the point of going to a church if I wasn't going to challenge myself with a study. Yeah, it’s great to be there and listen for an hour but what will I do with that message? I got out of my comfort zone and it helped me grow. I met with people I though I'd never talk to simply because we didn't have much in common but we have the most important thing in common that matters, our desire to grow. 

Join The Influence Network. Okay, so I’ll admit for awhile I wasn’t really sure what I was paying for when I first became a member. Look at the Influence Network like your smart phone- it does more than make calls and take photos. It can use apps and help you in your every day life but you just have to dig a little to find the ones that work for you. I logged in more often, I signed up for their book club, I listened to their podcast, I got connected to the forums that were relative to my spiritual and network needs, and I even discovered great blogs and people along the way. It’s a network full of endless possibilities and amazing women who are seeking and wanting to thrive as me. 

Glo Bible Devotionals- There are a million devotionals out there but I’ll admit I like this one for the UX and UI of it (for those that aren’t familiar with those terms, they basically mean usability and it’s pretty to look at). It’s free, and you can do one on the go. I don’t need to carry my heavy beautiful Bible around, as sentimental as it is, I know I’m not growing on sentiment. life gets busy and sometimes all I'll have on a commute home or a silent moment is my phone. 

Music and Podcasts- did you know Spotfiy has non-cheesy Christian music playlists? Some of my favorites are here, here and here. As for podcasts, The City Church, Cross Point, and Eastside are great resources. 

Inspiring blogs- do you ever have those moments when you read something at the right moment and the right time and that’s all you needed? I love reading blogs that dig a little deeper. My favorites right now are Ashlee Gadd, Casey LeighRachel Kincaid and Kriselle to name a few. While I'm barely touching base on faith based stuff, they worship Jesus loud and clear through almost every blog post. 

Inspiring books- Get a new perspective on how other’s deal with life, with struggles of faith. It reminds me I’m not alone and my problems aren’t that big, and if they authors can be moved enough to write a book about it, I can handle the ups and downs of life. Lara Casey's book, Make it Happen, shares her messy life and the redemption with it. I also started reading Savor by Shauna Niequist last year. I haven't finished it but so far, I really like it. Sex God, The Screwtape Letters, are ones I've read more than once over time. 

I Stopped Blogging

I stopped blogging because every time I opened my computer, I looked at my keyboard, and my Squarespace dashboard and I got this knot in my throat, this anguish in my stomach. Those physical pains have a name - fear. I feel like this blog lost itself very much like I lost myself when Max died. Yes, I still blogged about what I loved and pretty things but there was no substance to it. Not that blogging about pretty things doesn’t have substance, but I purposely removed myself from the posts completely. Just like the rest of my life, I detached. It’s been 3 years and I’m still picking up parts of me I forgot about along the way, and one of them is this space to write.

One night, sitting on the couch, while browsing my blog, Scott said, “If I were to read your blog, I’d have no idea who you were. You like the color pink and Hello Kitty, but who is Diana? Who are you?” I hated this question because he was right. The problem was I wanted to give up blogging and I was ready, but something tells me not to give it up. I’ve said it a million times but it’s one of those things that would be on my mind whether I wanted it to or not. Something tugged at me for months. It didn’t matter how many things I would distract myself with, my blog was a platform to share about recovery and I was ignoring it. My insecurities were louder than my message, “Who are you to share your life?Why are YOU so special?” 

I also had this tug at my heart to keep writing about Max and while my heart soared at the thought of it, my head would scream, “no one wants to read about dead babies !!” Ok, yes, well, I never wanted to write about them but here we are. As I'm writing this, the problem isn't just fear, it's connecting the two things- something bad that happened to a joyful space. I think you can have the color pink and sorrow. I think you can find joy in pain. I think you can move forward without moving on. I think there is hope in tragedy. I want to connect, see the vision come true for this space and let the fear go. So here I am publicly declaring this fear and owning it. My name is Diana, my favorite color is pink and yes, I am pretty damn special. 

Free Month Trial

There's a Tumblr text post going around, 2016 is going to start February 1. January was a free month trial. That's exactly what January felt like. It was a lot of catching up from the holidays plus we are temporarily moving to Nashville for a few months. By the time I had confirmation, I've been so busy getting everything ready and packing, and blogging had to be set aside for this month. Do you know what it's like to pack 4-6 month's worth of clothes (including work attire, which I haven't worn in years) in one suitcase? It didn't happen but it was a fun challenge. We're excited, nervous and it's the perfect opportunity for us. There will be no other time in our life we just pack and go live across the country. We both work from home, we have family to take care of our pets and house, and we have no kids. So January may not have been the month I began blogging again, but I'd like to call it a head start into February. Thank you everyone who's emailed, and left motivational comments, I didn't think my lack of blog presence would be noticed, it's encouraging!


Hopes for 2016

I was so excited for 2015, blog-wise, but then life happened and all my personal goals were put on hold. I don't need a Jan 1 to start over, but I'll take the opportunity to start fresh. Here are some goals for my blog in 2016. 

+ Photoblog- If I don't blog, I get cranky. Even if I have 20 readers or 20k, over time I've learned to do it for myself and it's really like my own digital diary. One of my favorite things to blog about- taking a million photos of one detail that I fall in love with whether it be in a Barbie, a pair of shoes, or even a lipstick packaging, I love beautiful things. I love having a photo journal of things I currently love at the moment. One of my absolute favorite things to do is turn on music, have a cup of coffee, and edit in ABM actions. I'm excited to do that more. 

+ Series- I love having a collection of series. It gives me a sense of discipline, and I can't wait to share more favorites, and Marvel Mondays. I'm also happy to introduce photo journaling (even the ugly ones, yikes), and more outfit posts. 

+ Less business driven, more personal driven- I just want to blog and if a company likes what I blog about, great! I'm tired of chasing after companies to pay attention to me. If they wanted to, they would have already. I'm hoping to find companies that fit my blog in 2016. 

+ Share more joy- I shared so much grief and pain the past two years, I almost don't know what to blog about if I'm not experiencing pain. There are so many more happier moments, and while those are more special and saved for my personal life, I have to remind myself it's okay to share, too. 

+ Be nice to my blog- Every time I open my blog, I treat it poorly. I don't pay much attention to it, and when people subscribe, or compliment it, instead of saying thank you, I just go on and on how my life isn't worthy of sharing (but yet, I still share, lol). I need to remember I have a story tell and it's okay to admit people want to hear it. Chill, Diana, you're good. 

+ Reading- An update on the Library Challenge- I stopped going to the library because I got so many free books from BEA/BookCon in NYC, I didn't bother going much but I did save $208!! Please remember to support your local library, and you'll support your wallet, too! 

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading this blog! 

Giving Tuesday

Between Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday, I hope you were able to save some money for Giving Tuesday. You can read more about it here

This is a great opportunity to give to an organization close to your heart, support your community or just give back to someone else that needs it more than you do. If you don't have money to give, that's okay, sometimes time is an even better option for the program. It's a good time to keep things in perspective. Here are some of the organizations that I believe in

826 Valencia- Originally started by McSweeney's, started by Dave Eggers. It's a center to help under-resourced kids to read and write. Sometimes the kids even get published! 

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Keep A Breast- I love KAB because it doesn't sugar coat breast cancer, and it targets a younger demographic to educate and take better care of their health. Plus they offer breast cast art, how cool is that!

Books to Prisoners- Even if you're incarcerated, I still believe everyone should have access to books. This program sends books to inmates who are in jails that have shut down libraries or have stopped giving new books due to budget cuts. 

Milk + Bookies- This is an "after school" type program for kids in lower economic neighborhoods who's cities have closed libraries (an already free service). They expose kids to reading and help built their eduction. 

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Animal Assistance League of Orange County- AALOC is a no-kill shelter. We have cats and dogs, all that have been adopted through shelters. We love our pets and we were stunned at the kill rates when we first began looking. Every animal needs a chance and even if this program isn't in your location, look into your county for no-kill shelters to support. 

There are a few others I love such as World Vision (we've sponsored Hannah from India for 8 years and we love watching her grow in her education and help feed her family), and Libraries Without Borders. If you have favorite organizations, please comment below. 

On Letting Things Go

Not having a Facebook account is this generation’s version of not having television. I recently deleted Facebook and I feel amazing, like I lost an additional 10 pounds. This is definitely not a I’m better than you because I deleted Facebook post. I actually loved Facebook. It was the safe place where I told people I was first pregnant and the first place I told people about Max before anywhere else. It was great to find support in my lifestyle changes, meet new baby loss mom's. and see what friends are up to. But the older i get the more I value my time. I don’t want to spend hours on my phone wondering what other people are up to when I could just text, call (yes, as in a voice to phone) or email them. I love Instagram and Twitter and that’s enough to give me a glimpse of what’s going on with acquaintances and companies I love to follow, this makes it easier to let Facebook go. When I tweeted all the time I was at a different phase in my life, and I understand the excitement of being online and building community. After almost 10 years of being online, I’ve built my community and now I want to nurture the friendships I’ve made and slowly get to know the new ones I’m discovering. We’ve gone from tweets in 140 characters to direct messaging, to texting, to flying hundreds of miles to see each other. 

For months I would pick up my book, get ready for bed, and my plan for the night was to read into my sleep for one hour. Instead, hours later, I would catch myself refreshing my Facebook feed. I was spending more time with Facebook with anything else in my life. I hate admitting that, but I did. Just like I gave up TV, I wanted to give up Facebook. I'm happy with Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. That already sounds like three too many social media outlets. 

After deleting it from my phone, I found myself refreshing it my computer. It became a distraction to what I really wanted to do. I kept coming back to this post from Where My Heart Resides. I love what Ashlee wrote, “If I’ve learned one thing this past week, it’s that social media should be avoided in a time of grief. You will never notice how much people complain about dumb things more than when you’re grieving about something of actual importance.” I thought about it all the time, even before Max died. Now, after dealing with the worst thing that could happen in my life, everything is noise. I want to just stop, enjoy the friends that have been through not just my worst tweets, but my worst moments. When life gets real and you leave the keyboard and computer screen behind, it’s a testament of love.

If I have to let go of things I like for love, then I’m ready to let it go.

Meet Brontë

Scott and I have been talking about getting a new dog. We occasionally looked at the pound and shelters but we wanted a puppy but they were adopted before we even had a chance to get in line for them. I knew what I had in mind- a black lab with a shiny coat and sweet disposition but I was a little worried at a lab size. Coincidentally, our neighbor's lab was pregnant with 7 puppies. She couldn't keep any of them and we happily took one of the pups as ours. She's perfect- she's a puppy, 9 weeks old here, a black lab with a shiny coat, and the father is a maltese, so she won't get too big. How crazy of a coincidence is that?? Our animals have literary inspired names, and she is Brontë, named after one of our favorite female authors, the Brontë sisters. She's beautiful, sweet and every time I look at her, I can't help but think how much Max would love her. 

Hopes for 2015

I want to set a standard for this blog for 2015 and instead of just throwing the "resolutions" label on it, I'm going to really work on things I'd love to achieve. 

+ Blog- That one seems too easy but I put off blogging due to the injury I had in the beginning of fall. I could barely move and the chronic pain killed my creativity. Blogging is an outlet for me and I would love to make it part of my day again. 

+ Combat fear- The word "combat" is a little dramatic but that's how I feel when fear creeps up. I'm afraid of sharing too much, not enough, or just sharing in general. I want to imagine I'm writing for myself and not an audience that will criticize at the smallest typo or won't agree with something I write about. I'd love to write, post outfits, my health, my weight loss, life after baby loss, and hope. There is so much hope I have, I feel it's my responsibility to share it and not to keep it to myself and fear tends to tell me to shut up about it. 

+ DIY- I want to do 12 DIY's this year. That's one DIY per month. I'm bookmarking books, blogs, and pins. I am terrible at DIY's but that's only because I rarely do them. Of course my glue and painting are going to be messy, am I really expecting it to look magazine ready in one try? This one will be a fun challenge! 

+ Film! Every year I say I'm going to take more photos but I use my iPhone instead. This year I want to get back to the root of why I began this blog- to share film photography! I'm dusting off my film cameras and using the manual mode. 

Looking forward to 2015! 

Let's Get Weird

Thanks for the inspiration to Danielle's Let's Get Weird post to publish this.

My life is a constant paradox. The more I get comfortable with myself, the more I realize I'm full of contradictions. I tried for years to combine what should come easy, but I can't bring myself to do it. Instead of fighting the weird, I'm just going to embrace it. Below are the things that contradict one another, but they make me who I am. Some are very universal like I don't like cooking but I love eating, or I love the beach but I hate the sand (what) and below are some strange ones...

  • My favorite color is pink, but I wear all black. I think this uniform comes from working in a salon for almost a decade, and the ugly black uniform from cosmetology school. Black was all I had to shop for and it comes naturally. I hate pink in my wardrobe, true story. 
  • I don't like sports, well, since I'm being honest, I hate sports. But I love sports-themed movies and video games. Moneyball is my favorite movie, but I quickly turn the channel when baseball is on. NBA2K15 is constantly on PS4 but I would rather clean a toilet than go to a basketball game. Friday Night Lights is my favorite TV show, but I will never sit through a football game. Such a weirdo, I know. 
  • I love onion rings but I hate onions. 
  • I don't like dancing but I love dance music. So much sideye on that one.  
  • I text and email"loud" but I'm quiet in real life. My emoji's don't match my personality and apologies to online friends who finally meet me IRL. 
  • I love making to-do lists but I rarely "do" them. 

This is what I love to learn about people. I love to know their little contradictions, I find it endearing when I'm sure it drives friends and family crazy. I left the comments open on this post because I'd love to know what contradictions you have.