Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bauble Round-Up: Favorite Summer Jewels

Evening Lovelies,

I am sharing my favorite jewelry picks for summer! Granted if you live in North Carolina as I do, you have to be cautious when choosing to wear anything unnecessary from the months of April to September. We are talking necklace tan lines, sweating in unattractive ways, and burning metals--it's serious y'all! Katniss is the only "Girl on Fire" one world needs. Good thing all this bling is so beautiful it totally does not matter if injury occurs.

 Also, I love a lot of beautiful jewelry styles, but I want to iterate that the land of eBay, TJ Maxx, CATO (yes, y'all the girl said Cato!), Belk's clearance rack and Groop Dealz is where 99.3% of my jewelry comes from. A big price tag does not mean extra means you paid more. Invest in pieces you will wear over and over again. Definitely scope out awesome brands like Loren Hope, Bauble Bar, J.Crew,  Kendra Scott, and Stella and Dot to discover inspiration, then look for cheaper alternatives, especially for trendier pieces that may soon go out of style!

Below are some of my [current] favorite jewels:

1. Kendra Scott Harlow Statement Necklace in Neon Yellow: Kendra Scott is a goddess. Her jewelry is exquestic and she knows it, so this pretty will place a large hole in your pocket. Opt for this Forever 21 Facets of Fancy Bib Necklace steal instead without jeopardizing style!

2.  Kendra Scott Rayne Necklace in Teal: Y'all this is too perfect. Love a pendant necklace. They are so easy and great to throw on with a tank and jeans. Also, these come in a slew of colors ranging from blinding brights to neutrals. Check out this Lulu's Cool Pendulum Swing Pendant Necklace for a cheaper buy.

3.  Accessory Concierge Neon Pink Rose Quartz Druzy Pendant : Accessory Concierge has some super cool pieces, but I love a lot of their more tribal pendants in the Summer New Arrivals, especially this quartz pendant! Seriously, love. Love the mix of natural with the neon pink and would be so cool layered with more gold hued pieces.

4. J.Crew Pearl Twisted Hammock Necklace: This beauty is so timeless and looks fabulous layered. I know you are thinking that isn't a very summery piece, but there is only so much neon one season can take, so opt for this understated and elegant piece for weddings or to tone down over the top color that you craving! Although the J.Crew one is a splurge there are plenty of similar styles elsewhere online, but you most certainly would get tons of use out of such a versatile item! [Steal version, Francesca's Medina Pearl Necklace and F21 Marbled Faux Pearl Necklace]

5.  Cato Cascading Bib Necklace This necklace is beautiful! I love the crystals at the top and the colors. Can I admit that I have such a tendency to linger towards aqua-turquoise-greeny-cools, but I tried really hard to incorporate some pinks and this passed the test! For less than $15.00 this is such a steal!

6.  Bauble Bar Crystal Hex Pendant this piece is so beautiful to me. I love the mix of tortoise and turquoise (say that three times, fast). Hopefully, y'all agree and find this as cool as I do. It is definitely different, but I think it would love fabulous paired with a white summer top or black maxi!  

7.  Towne and Reese Sutton Earring: I recently discovered Towne and Reese and I love their...everything! They create items that are functional enough to be everyday, but also enough flare for occasions and I love their clean and bold styles.
Look below to see how I am currently styling 
some of my favorite pieces already! 
   From left to right, starting with the top row:
 1. Moon and Lola Block Monogram Necklace in Antique Gold (size Large). I cannot say how much I adore Moon and Lola's monograms for quality and wearability. I have two (the other in Tortoise) and wear them almost daily! 
Francesca's Statement Bib Floral Necklace (similar Cato style linked here). 
2. Loft Beaded Statement Necklace (older style, similar style from Towne and Reece I love!).
 3. Kate Spade Say 'Yes' to 'Mrs' Necklace. This necklace is so special to me, given to me by my girls on my wedding eve, but it is also fabulous and can be layered with anything!
Purple Peridot Crystal Dome Necklace found for a steal on GroopDealz 
4. This is a GroopDealz exclusive that I unfortunately cannot find, but keep a look out for daily deals. I snagged it for $3.99! 
5. This Cato Fashion's necklace is no longer available online! Look above at the Cato necklace I suggested.
6. AHHH. Love this necklace y'all! Page 6 Cora Necklace ( in a different color I don't see my color any longer) is such a beautiful piece. Every time I wear it I get asked so many times where it is from. It is literally a statement necklace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ashton, is that you?

Y'all, Mondays hit me like a proverbial swarm of locusts--infiltrating my peace and destroying my joy and filling up all the wrong places, i.e. my bed. Not to be dramatic, but between my allergy-plagued (sorry to continue with the plague theme) eyes, that literally began bleeding last week after being awoken from their peaceful slumber, (I hope you are all envisioning the image of grace and beauty that is your's truly in the morning hours) and my California King bed that is make of Heaven fluff and baby bottoms I just ain't got time for Mondays.

Granted, I also don't have time for Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

 Mornings and I just...clash, but anyway on this particular Monday I entered full war-combat with the morning hours. After hitting the snooze button for the umpteenth time, I left my cuddly animal (my actual animal not my husband, who had long departed for a night shift) and began apprizing the situation that is "getting ready." For anyone that knows me well they know I take getting ready in record time as a personal challenge and art form--15 minutes and not a moment longer before I am spilling hot coffee and moving out the door. This Monday, I could not find my coffee mug lid (to later be found in my makeup bag... apparently, I was saving it for the dark ages when Joe and I need me to start using concealer for hiding my bags and coffee creamer. He would argue that with the price tag this should be considered. Anon.), so I poured my coffee into three different mugs before finding a this TOO much to ask? I think not. Next, I scramble to gather an assortment of papers that resemble my copies that need to be made and spill said coffee on said resembling lesson plan thingies. Run (literally, y'all) out the door and down the stairs to realize I forgot my makeup bag (not to be too transparent here, but I would indeed sell an organ for the magic that dwells in that seemingly blasé, black, Vera Bradley bag).  Once I am finally on the move and feeling liberated that I, indeed, will make it to work, I am landed behind the world’s slowest moving Miller Light delivery truck. Beer should not be delivered before the hours of 8 A.M., but this dutiful truck took its responsibility of quenching the desires of all those who thirst with the utmost seriousness. Moving not a nudge above 31 m.p.h. I wanted to pull alongside the responsible driver and inquire if he was actually transporting the art of the covenant in a grand twist of irony, I thought better and begrudgingly applied my prized foundation. Fatefully, the Miller Light magician was en route to my exact location, so we trotted along until he turned on some street that showed zero signs of 7/11’s or fraternal institutions. Logically, I accelerated to make up for lost times and now was coasting at 55, feeling like Wonder Woman…but what is that in the distance? What are all those taillights for? Oh yes, regulation tree cutting that can only be performed during the morning compute.  Y’all, I would not boast I am the most patient of people, but like seriously? After passing the state-employed Lumberjacks, who disappointedly do not even wear flannel, I was home free. But, oh. OH. The train…I was once again stopped for a train that I swear was longer than usual moving slower than usual. Alas, I pulled into my parking spot and stepped foot on glorious land.

Do y’all ever get a case of the Monday’s? Like everything--read above, everything feels like it is going against you. A spiritual case of the Monday’s? Can’t quite get consistent with your quiet times and worship feels uninspired. A physical case of the Monday’s? Battling a disease that remains nameless or continuing receiving bad news from a string of doctors.  An emotional case of the Monday’s? Continually feeling unfulfilled and without purpose. I pray y’all bypass that Miller Light truck, turn swiftly right before the lumberjacks, and beat the train by a mile. Mondays are just a set of circumstances lying to you. Mondays tell you that joy cannot be won and victory is not yours. I pray that you are perpetually reminded that we serve a God that is better and sweeter and more sovereign than circumstances will lead you to believe.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Amen. Thank you. Hallejuah.

Sorry for my blogging hiatus. I suppose I have been a mixture of uninspired and busy, a lethal combination. Without further ado, (although, I doubt many of you were sitting on the edge of your seat for my latest musings!) I am writing this blog post after being challenged, during an especially powerful and challenging sermon, to write a thank you letter to God.

God, Father, Abba,

Thank you for adopting me by your grace and mercy as your renewed and won daughter to a kingdom where I should be an unfit resident. However Lord, your love makes me right at home. Thank you for not giving up on my as a lot of earthly parents tend to when I repeatedly make the same mistakes and missteps. Thank you for being just. Thank for condoling me when this world fails me, as it does daily. Thank you for making me feel empty when I try to find justification and fulfillment outside of you, an ache that forces me to unashamedly run into your outstretched arms.  Thank you for your scriptures that sustain me and reveal your goodness and character. Thank you for placing people in my life that hold me accountable; accountable for sinfulness, apathy, and abandoning those same truths. Thank you for forgiving me when I am not a fit example or the salt of this world. Thank you for being the absolute perfect Father and thank you, for restoring my relationship with my earthly one. Thank you for being greater than addictions, greater than suffering, greater still than hurt and hunger and ache and tears. Thank you for love that moves me to drops of gratitude spilling from me uncontrollably. Thank you for the sunrise piercing through my curtains to remind me of the goodness of your creation. Thank you for being the ultimate provider, even when I stumble to realize my plans are not your own. Thank you for praises and thank you for defeats. Thank you for your sage wisdom that looms over my inept abilities. Thank you for choosing me, silly me, ungraceful me, quick-to-anger me. Lord, thank you for being better than I even know and thank you for this life of discovering your goodness. Thank you for a husband that loves me like you love the church and for a family that physically picks me up while you whisper, "sweet daughter, it is finished." Thank you for abounding, overwhelming, and overflowing grace that I simply am unworthy to receive. Thank you for unanswered prayers that really protect me and nudges that remind me of my potential. Thank you for your Great Commission that reminds me with urgency why I am here. Thank you for being worth every single sacrifice and scoff when I murmur that "I am follower of Christ" and God, thank you for making me uncomfortable, so I can have the tiniest of taste of what prosecution feels like. Lord, thank you for freedom to worship you. Thank you for coffee shops where I can seat with my Bible open and fast food restaurants where I can bow my head to pray. Thank you for suffering Lord, even though it hits me deep in my stomach. Thank you for patience that reminds me my tiny, miniscule life is a flash in the scheme of eternity. Thank you for humility that screams, "You are sinful" because Lord, I forget some days when I feel like everything is going my way and the sun seems to shine only for me. Lord, thank you for my friends that have also been adopted by you. Thank you for their eternal lives. Thank you for allowing me to sprint into pools of grace and find comfort of unbeknownst magnitudes. Thank you for being good, so good.

Gratefully yours,
Your Daughter
$20 Gold foil art print //
[Print available at Lara Casey Shop]

I challenge each of you to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. Obviously, your letter does not have to look like mine, but list five things you are thankful for today. I can guarantee it will instantly change your perspective.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What is screaming your name? Life Callings, the Confused, the Complacent, and Others.

"It wasn’t until a few years later that someone pointed out to me an interesting fact: the root of the English word vocation is the Latin verb voca, which means “to call.” The linguistic evidence shows that at some point in history, people thought of every type of work as a “calling.” Whether you are a minister or a mechanic, you do not work because it pays the bills, or because it’s personally fulfilling, or because it justifies the money you spent on college tuition. You work because it glorifies God." 

 --Bob Thune, Campus Crusade Staff     

The above quote has been (electronically) stuck in the corner of my computer for several years via the "Stickies" app. I have wanted to teach for as long as I can remember. I wanted to teach literature to everyone and anyone. I wanted to read books and sip my Starbucks hot lattes with young scholars. That was a decade ago, when I dreamed about a nameplate with "Dr." etched into it. I still want to teach but for all the different reasons. The Lord tugged on my heart strings and showed me inequality in schools that makes me angry and fired-up and passionate. Angry, passion, excitement that is what callings cultivate. As I am so often asked, "Why did you spend money at UNC and Duke just to be a teacher?"My family gloats with pride about being the first person in my immediate family to graduate from  college, yet I cannot count the times I have heard "Don't you want to do something that makes more money. You will never be successful teaching." If you are interested in the even more brutally honest enlist the opinions of high school students, "Mrs. Martinez, you poor?" God placed me in uncomfortable places. He started demanding why would you want to teach if the end goal is a book? He started pushing and pulling on my motives. I needed to love students, empathize with students, celebrate with students. Perfecting content is 10% of what matters in a classroom. Kids can sniff out a fraud from a mile away. If you don't care about their success, about their lives when they step out of your room, about their brilliance then you are not going anywhere quickly amidst charismatic, cranky, colorful teens. No. My dream stopped being teaching and my calling became teaching. I cannot imagine doing the most exhausting job in the world with the most important people in the world if it were not a calling. 
Instead God revealed to me it might be time I started practicing what I preached. If I proclaim loving my neighbor then the 90+ kids I see daily better feel more loved than Netflix on date night. If I believe God's words, "Do justice and righteousness" then I need to find the schools and the students and the parents who need me as their advocate. And if Jesus says, "Go" then I need to transform my workplace into a place where I foster love to the unloved and shine a light even on days when an IV of coffee is not energizing me. Callings aren't always green acres and butterflies--callings are messy, scary, and unknown territories. Thankfully, God is good. Also, thankfully God creates a kingdom full of talents. Each person is called to honor and glorify Christ, that looks so different for everyone. I pray I continue to be intentional in my calling. I pray I do not judge others with big salaries because they surely are not following their callings. I pray that others realize more than missionaries have important work to do. God wants, deserves, and craves our very best not our comfort.

I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?
And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A-­ feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.
You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math
and hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you’ve got this,
then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this.
Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?
-Taylor Mali 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Marrying young and other acts of Idiocy.

Joe and I will celebrate six months of martial bliss in four, short days and it is loco crazy how quickly time travels, but is equally crazy how often people weigh in their opinions about our decision to marry young. Recently someone asked me..."how did you know?" Know that you are being strange? Know there is green remnants of tapas in my teeth? Obviously, I wasn't following this inquisitive friend's stream of consciousness, but he soon ironed out the details for me. "No, no. How did you know he was the one? How did you know you should get married?" This conversation unraveled into a quick debriefing of the two prevailing "schools of thoughts" about marriage. Apparently, some people think that people should marry young because then you change and grow together and others believe you should wait until you are fully mature (...oh, wait. I thought I was. Awkward.), settled in your career, and ready before you marry. Plenty of other strangers are quick to give me their two-cents. I love hearing it. The Gasp. "You are married? Oh, but you are so young. Poor thing." Another fine gentlemen recently informed me I chose the marriage pathway because I was Southern (obviously, a synonym for idiotic. Don't even get me started, y'all). He quickly informed me that though I felt I was happy I would have never made such a mistake (he used somewhat nicer lingo) if I didn't grow up in the South.

Hear ye. Hear ye.

Let me now assure all of you that I am proud and confident of our decision to marry young. I don't believe it means I have third leg or a hankering to marry my first cousin. In our unique case, marrying young was an act of obedience to God. We dated and it was where the Lord led us, although, this isn't the case for everyone; we knew it was right for us. The Apostle Paul wasn't too keen on marriage he says in 1 Corinthians, "But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this." You right Paul, you right. But Psalms tells us that wives [and presumably husbands] are more valuable than rubies, so why would you ignore the goodness of what Christ has led you to because you are anticipating...a diamond, a shinier new career. There is always a bigger and better version of the reality you are in. As my pastor always says don't let good things become God things. The inability to settle down for some is a reflection of the fear they may be experiencing. I have many friends who murmur halfheartedly that they will have time to serve God once they are married. Do not allow the "what if's" of life distract you from the right-now-nuggets-of-goodness that are all around you (this applies to so much more than marriage). 

I think marriage is a valued commodity in a culture that gives it little legitimacy. We tune in to watch televised weddings that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (nothing but love, Sean and Catherine!), and send tweets at rocket-power speed when couples divorce. We mock marriage and we joke about it. As Paul states in his letters, marriage isn't for everyone, but those who decide to enter into marriage are entering into a sacred union that now includes you, your spouse, and Christ. I am confident that the person I am today will change and transform into a refined version over time, but I am more than confident that Christ knows the strands of hair on my head and equally knows the intricacies of mine and my husband's marriage and will continue to grow us for his glory. I consider what I have learned about compromise, financial struggle, serving one another, and joy in the short six months we have been married and I know there is so much more to come. I am thankful that we can use being young as an excuse for the next five years when we fall flat on our faces over and over again. I yelp of joy thinking of how much greater Christ's love for us is than any love we can give to one another. 

There it is. I am married. I am 23 years old. I am not dumb. 

Just to soothe the pain of the aforementioned naysayers rudeness condoning the goodness that lies below the Mason-Dixon line, here are five reasons I love the South: 

1. Diet Sundrop. errwhere. and whatever additive in it that makes it addictive (but really don't tell me about all its health effects. I am sipping on one now and I am as fat and happy as a cat).
2. BBQ: Eastern, Western, Vinegar, Ketchup...while I hold a favorite in this feud it is all so good it does not matter. 
3. Wrap-a-round porches and the smell of fresh cut grass. I am aware this must exist in the North, but this is the cornerstone of Southern goodness, y'all.
4. Sweet Tea-- which is just awful for your health, but so darn good for your soul. 
5. Random people greeting you (because I try to do this in other places and it is frowned upon).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fresh Face: Current Favorite Products

No shocker to the world, but I have a confession I really love some makeup. Hellllur (cue Madea voice), if you spend any time with me it is apparent that I love my makeup. Also, I love perusing YouTube videos (please let me know if you need recommendations because I have two lists: 1. the hysterically odd ones and 2. the really helpful videos). Momma B is quite the diva and she long instilled in me the importance of quality in your face care products and makeup. She also taught me to budget for biweekly manicures (Hubs isn't as keen on this one ;)). I also really enjoy doing others' makeup and am a sucker for playing with new products. Drop me off at a Sephora and I would be content for hours on end! Do not hear me wrong in that girls are not beautiful without makeup, but for this girl I feel especially confident when I am sporting a fresh face! I am all for practices that renew girls' confidence and make them feel as beautiful as they truly are! Also, let me admit I am all about convenience and sometimes do my makeup in the car (Read: I always do my makeup in the car. Picture a manic me holding an eyeliner in one hand, while chugging coffee in the other...Oops). 

Drum roll, please. Here are my current favorite products. Refer to the numbers below for all the deets.

1. Well-Rested Eye Brightener Broad Spectrum SPF 20: Ladies, run and do not walk to get this concealer. I struggle with pretty severe allergies and consequently, have killer dark circles. This product does exactly what it promises makes you look well-rested! It also provides wonderful protection via SPF (very important in this sensitive zone around your eyes!).  I also love the look of the powder which was surprising to me as a long under the eye liquid concealer veteran. I use a dense brush to apply it under my eyes. An additional benefit is how little product you need!

2. MAC Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15: Okay, foundation is tricky! I have tried several different types of foundation and have most recently settled down in the MAC district, but believe the Studio Fix is my current fav out of the various foundations offered. I love coverage, like a lot of coverage. Studio Fix offers the best long wear coverage in my opinion, without looking "cakey". There is a face and body foundation offered that is equivalent to onstage makeup--this is supposed to offered the most coverage; yet, I think Studio Fix provides day long, natural coverage. One more note: if you are a newbie to MAC products their foundations are divided into two branches when looking for your right color match. You will notice foundation comes in shades such as NW 32 (the color I wear)--NW is for yellow undertone skin shades and NC is for red undertones and the number is increasing shade color (32 would be a dark shade in comparison to 20). One flaw of this product is the bottle does not include a pump (which you can buy from Mac for a few dollars. I did not buy one), and this may prevent you from utilizing every drop of the product.

3. Hard Candy Glamoflauge Heavy Duty Concealer ($6.00 at WalMart Stores): Six dollars, y'all! This gem's claim to fame is its ability to cover even tattoos...well, it probably would. I can attest to its wonderful ability to cover zits, and the like. I apply this to blemishes after application of my foundation. I highly recommend this concealer, especially for the low cost. Another plus is the shades are very user-friendly: ultra light, light, medium, tan, etc. I apply this with a foundation brush and I rarely have to retouch its application. While I am due for a new tube you get a ton of wear from this product and smaller than a dime size is more than enough.

4. Covergirl Lipslicks Smoochies in Text Me 220 (Less than $4.00 at grocery stores): You might want to pick this up based on its adorable name, duh. This product is less of a daily go-to for my routine, but a fun pick for Spring and Summertime. I often felt too cowardly to try out red lips, but the sheerness of this chapstick-lipstick dual mix is the I also love the sheerness that isn't too thick and doesn't leave your lips stained...aka looking like a 6 year-old that was playing in momma's makeup stash or a cray cray that could make a cameo as Mr. Kool-Aid's boo thing! It happens, y'all.

5. bareMinerals READY Blush in The Faux Pas: I know this color looks a little clown-esqe, but fear not it is really great on a variety of skin tones and looks surprisingly natural. I love to wear this color year-round. It provides awesome contour and is super fun. I also use this daily and have owned it for almost year now and still have plenty. bareMinerals also offers blush in loose powder, but I find this easier and longer lasting.

6. Rimmel Exaggerate Eyeliner in Noir (Target): I am forever looking for the perfect eyeliner. I was long a MAC eyeliner wearer, but I went through it way to fast and find this Rimmel to be comparable, if not better, for a major cut in price! As mentioned earlier, I have some kickin' allergies so I reapply eyeliner at least once a day because my eyes water and POOF! it is gone. This does a wonderful job staying in place and I favor the roll-up mechanical eyeliner to a sharpener style for convenience. Also, it comes with a blender on the bottom, which is great for different eyeliner looks!

7. MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium: Last, but not least! I love MAC Skinfinish as a finishing powder. On weekends I will often use this alone for less coverage, but I mainly use it to set my foundation. I would highly recommend trying out a finishing powder if you aren't pleased with the look of your foundation. Powder sets foundation for longer wear and a much more flawless finish. Also, do not be shy about returning makeup if you aren't pleased. MAC (and I know many other brands) will refund your purchase even after you have used all the product if you aren't pleased or you were poorly matched up!

Let me know if y'all have any questions and I would love to hear some of your favorite products (or if you have had bad experiences with any of these--not everyone has the same experiences)!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BFFL: Friends and Unity among Sisters

Working in a high school is like collecting man holes worth of social science experimental data. I feel like Lindsay Lohan... fade in... from the legendary opening scene of the timeless classic, Mean Girls. That's me, an unruly Ginger pre-rehab observing the new [social] world order of high school. Perplexed, yet fascinated. Girls, especially the high school species, are perplexing to say the very less. I absolutely always reflect on fifteen-year-old me when I get frustrated or sadden or maddened when quick-talking, sassy, scantily clad little things enter my classroom. There are quite a few things I learn from these ladies, who under all that sass are brilliant and radiant jewels that I want to shake love into and wrap a potato sack around their exposed mid-drifts. Momma Alyssa be lurkin'.

1. Comparison is a losing game.

First, what would a world look like where girls, ladies, and full-grown women started respecting one another and living in a sisterhood of unity? Well, it would look good, really good. Like Oreo Cheesecake good. Growing up surrounded by the smartest and most beautiful friends, I constantly played a comparison game. Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I likable enough? I wish, oh my stars I wish, that comparison stopped once you were handed a high school diploma, but girls play this game till the grave. I struggle daily to push away the thoughts of negativity that crept up when I see a girl doing something I deem "inappropriate"... too high of heels, bad eyebrows.

What would my life, my prayer life, my relationship with my husband, my relationships with girlfriends look like if I saw other women for their beauty, intelligence, and spiritual gifts rather than a lack of my own beauty, intelligence, or spiritual gifts? I am so quick to use other women as a measuring stick of my own success in various realms of life, instead of bolstering and building up one another. Hopefully, you are following my logic, but have y'all ever considered a girl putting down another girl such a sophomoric event? Childish. Gossip seems so "immature" , YET don't we as women of God, as sisters in Christ, as women put down other women daily. Don't we question how women mother their children, how they dress, how they interact with men, how they excel in their careers, how they treat the pursuit of relationships? How can we expect true spiritual growth among our friends when we terminate any seed of vulnerability? Call me silly, but I am less likely to express my struggles, the real real life that is going on behind a murmured prayer request or a lingering text if I feel a tinge of judgment every time I interact with someone.

2. Honoring friendships.

Honoring my selfish friends, honoring my single friends, honoring my busy friends, honoring my fun friends, honoring my extroverted friends.

Honoring friends can be hard. Being called to live in community is hard. Living in community with our sisters in Christ is struggling together and worshiping together and praising together. I should suffer alongside my sisters as if those are my afflictions. Community is not a text sporadically sent once a month or tagging a friend in a tweet. Honoring a friendship is a two-way street that includes accountability, hard talks, and a catalog of transpiring grace. Our friendships should provide a clearer picture of God's character. Girls, what if we spent as much time pursuing relationships with one another, as we do judging one another?

I must use this space to brag and brag some more on my best friend, who teaches me every, single day a new way to love my sisters in Christ. This beautiful soul teaches me more daily what a friendship rooted in Christ looks like, sounds like, and feels like. She encourages me. She prays over me. She listens when I need her to and speaks without regret when I need accountability. She shares biblical truths with me and teaches me how to show grace in numerous ways. The list could continue, my friends, this girl KILLS being a friend! She's all-star quality. I absolutely desire to be more like her in my pursuit of friendships. I pray as a community of women, all girls seek these deeply rooted and insanely fulfilling friendships. Friendship should not be a battle of who makes you feel less awkward it is who allows you to feel most at home with being your awkward, adorably weird, and quirky selves. I challenge myself to get better at this. I challenge myself to be intentional in building meaningful community that uplifts and encourages all.

Like Queen Bey always says, "Who run the world? Girls." Not that pertinent, but necessary.