Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Letter


Happy New Year, friends! I have a yearly tradition of writing myself a letter each year around this time to reflect on the year that has passed, and dream about the year to come. It's become something I truly look forward to, a time to pause and process all that God did in the prior year, a time to give Him the abundant praise that He deserves. And it's a time to embrace the beauty of a new year, the hope & anticipation that come with the unknown.

***

Dear Me, 

2015 began with so. much. expectation. Didn't it? From the get go, I somehow conjured up a plan that I was sure would unfold, and didn't give much thought to how I'd feel if it didn't happen precisely as I thought it would. Most plans in life I hold loosely, having learned from experience that things don't always go the way you think they will. And there's an undeniable beauty in that! But for some reason, the plans for 2015 felt so solid. Not from stubbornness, or from a stand point of forcing my hand. But perhaps from a blissful, naive, hopeful view that of course things would go the way I thought they would. 

Spoiler alert: they did not. 

2015 was a beautiful, wonderful, blessed year. But it was also a year full of learning to walk through unmet expectations, restlessness, and at times, disappointment. 

And for that very reason, I think it was one of the most monumental years of my life. Not because of the engagement, though that absolutely goes on the Amy Reed lifetime highlight reel. But because let's be real, life is full of unmet expectations. I see people around me dealing with them every day, from the last minute cancellation of lunch plans, the spilled cup of coffee, the scary health diagnosis, or one of the most heart wrenching, the realization that procreating isn't always as simple as you thought it was. 

In 2015, God taught me the immeasurably valuable lesson of how to walk through unmet expectations with contentment, a gracious heart, and hope. In 2015, He reminded me that His plan is always, always better. He showed me that dreams are beautiful, and it's okay to grieve them when they don't pan out. In 2015, I tangibly saw that God's dreams for me are bigger & better than my own. 

This past year, I fell more deeply in love with my future husband than I ever imagined possible. My gratitude for him & my family grew, and I come out of 2015 feeling insanely blessed for the people I get to call my people. 

I learned about the "word of the year" thing through the blogging community, and these past few years it's been amazing to see how accurate the word proves to be at the conclusion of the year. This year, I felt nudged to claim a rather strange word for 2015:


I felt as though I had been learning & learning, but now it was time to truly apply. To soak in the water as a sponge does. For what good would a sponge be if it never absorbed the water it was immersed in?

I hardly blogged this past calendar year, but when I did, there was a recurring theme of slowing down. During the months of slowness & waiting, it's almost as though there was nothing to do except ask God, "what are you teaching me right now? What do you have for me in this season?"

2015 was absolutely a year of not only learning, but applying lessons. I will forever be grateful for how God met me and molded me over & over again this past year.  

And now, hello 2016! Talking with PJ this past weekend, I realized how different this year feels from last. Perhaps it's lessons learned, or maybe it's just different place, different time. Whatever it is, I feel so much lighter going into 2016. I without a doubt know it's going to be a life altering, pivotal year, but there is so much less expectation. 

The slowness has followed me into this season, and I truly feel a stark contrast from the busyness that has marked prior years. I feel called to be present & purposeful. Even when life is busy with planning a wedding & preparing for married life, I feel myself choosing a life of intention over a life of busy. I pray that theme continues through 2016. 

I want to be intentional with my time, with my marriage (ah! I can say that now!), with my friendships, with my health coaching business, and with my mission of sharing Christ's love with others. I want to be a better listener, someone who shows up & is present and engaged. I want to seek God above all other things, and ask Him, "what do you want with my life?" 

I found my 2016 word through a hashtag on the screen while watching Demi Lovato perform at the New York NYE party. I read #Confident2016, and God and I had an uber spiritual moment (thanks, Demi!). 


The first book I read in 2015 was "So Long Insecurity," by Beth Moore. Reading that beautifully written thing was like a big ol' wake up call to how much of a grip insecurity had over me. I've seen progress since then, but I truly feel like there is so much more room to grow. 

I want to spend 2016 really asking God to show me what confidence looks like. Not just for myself, but because I believe confidence changes ev-ery-thing. It breeds healthier relationships, combats competition and comparison, and because I believe that true confidence can be found in confident faith. 

I want to know what that looks like. So 2016, let's pursue it. 

Considering it's going to start with getting married, I think this year is going to be a pretty darn good one. ;) Let's enjoy every minute, mmkay? 

XO, 

Me

***

Praying all good things over your 2016, friend. And if you happen to meet disappointment along the way, know that you are not alone. And know that our God is beyond trustworthy & faithful. <3

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year In Review

Time for by far one of my favorite annual activities: the yearly recap. This is my 4th "Year In Review" post, and each time it is such a joy to sit back and reflect on all that the prior year held. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like each year tends to speed by faster than the last, and taking the time to look back on the happenings of each month reminds me that it truly was 365 full and eventful days.

So let's see what those days of 2015 held, shall we? 



<< January: 2015 started with a festive bang in the form of a belated Friendsmasgiving (mentioned here). Two of my close friends moved up by where PJ lives, so my first trip up of 2015 included a reunion and a tour of Google. I said yes to being a bridesmaid in my best friend Kristi's wedding, and helped her pick out her wedding dress! The month ended with an amazing weekend at Jesus Culture Conference. >>


<< February: Cheered on my Patriots as they (controversially) won Superbowl XLIX, and sent out fun Valentine's Day cards with the roomies. Had the amazing experience of being VIP on the Ellen Show, and had a positively wonderful first Valentine's Day with my love. >>


<< March: Celebrated PJ's birthday, which fun fact, happens to be the same day as my brother and his mom. Participated in some fun bachelorette festivities for my friend Natalie, and watched the Bachelor finale 3 whole days after it aired! Managing to make it those 3 days without discovering the outcome through social media was a real success in my book. ;) We ended the month at Natalie & Levi's wedding, and I also wrote the Love Without Sex series this month, which is near to my heart. >>


<< April: Ran a 200(ish) mile relay race called Ragnar Relay, and started my second seminary class on 1 Corinthians. I noticed and documented a new theme in my life of slowing down. Cheered on my guy's team at AT&T Park, & had some much enjoyed time with girlfriends. Also wrote one of my favorite posts this month, a letter to the guy whose car I hit. >>


<< May: Had lots of family time this month, both at my cousin's wedding & on Mother's Day. Coordinated my dear friend Claire's wedding (how stunning does she look?), and ran the Rock & Roll Half Marathon with my PJ on our one year anniversary. This month, I also felt the pull to take one week completely unplugged from social media. It was pretty liberating! >>


<< June: I got real into YouTube hair tutorials this month, and the dutch braids were the proof. Went to a baby shower for my dear friend Kristen, who now has an almost 5 month old adorable baby boy! Got to go to Mississippi for a work trip, and turned it into a blogger date where I met the lovely Cassie. Ended the month by finishing my second seminary class, and turning 26! >>


<< July: Celebrated the 4th of July in style, and started a 24 day health journey consisting of a 3 Day Refresh + my first round of 21 Day Fix. We successfully showered our bride Kristi, and at the end of the month, I shared the outcome of my 24 day journey, & announced my decision to become a Beachbody coach! >>


<< August: A definite highlight of 2015 was surprising my across-the-country-blogger-bff Diana, when PJ & I flew to Charlotte, NC to see her! This month also included a fabulous bachelorette weekend for Kristi, my first time at Harvest Crusade, an "Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology" blog post, and a thoroughly enjoyed laborless Labor Day weekend with my man. >>


<< September: Celebrated my dad's birthday with a weekend at home, and stood beside Kristi as she said I do! Ran my very first 21 Day Fix group (which was AWESOME), and enjoyed many coffee dates with lovely lady friends (per usual). I also wrote a post this month that touches on a huge lesson of 2015, finding contentment in waiting. >>


<< October: Kicked off the month with an epic Disneyland / wedding weekend. Totally coincidentally ran into my bestie Colleen & her husband at Disneyland, which was the happiest surprise! Enjoyed some family time at my cousin's wedding, and started to plan a wedding of our own after getting engaged on October 10th! It was a magical month, indeed, and we ended it dressed up as the Queen of Hearts & Mad Hatter for Halloween. >>


<< November: Engagement started feeling real this month, as I picked out my wedding dress (AH!) & we were showered with love at our engagement party. Had our 3rd annual Reed Sister VayCay, this edition including a holiday cotillion party with mom. Celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from home by joining PJ's family up in NorCal. It was a sweet way to ring in the holidays as an engaged couple! >>


 << December: Thoroughly enjoyed a festive holiday season packed with parties & pot lucks, and ran my very first Spartan Race! Saw Star Wars on opening weekend with my love (& ended up watching the other 6 as a result!), and spent Christmas with my family in San Diego. The holiday season is never complete until we celebrate my baby sis' birthday on NYE, which we kicked off last night! >>

2015, you were mighty good to me. I look forward to giving you many more words & thoughts in my yearly letter, but for now I'll just say that you were awfully memorable, and awfully packed with lessons. 

Thanks for recapping with me, friends! I wish you ALL a very Happy New Year! 

** Previous Years In Review: 2014, 2013, 2012 **

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Day He Asked

On October 10th, 2015, a long-time dream of a man getting on one knee and asking me to be forever his came true. Years of dreaming about who this man would be (and wondering if he would be), followed my months of anticipation and wondering when the event would take place, all were met with a moment that surpassed anything I could have hoped for. 

And not because it was perfect by the book, but because it was perfect for us. My sour mood earlier in the day didn't subtract even the tiniest bit from the magic that unfolded as my sweet PJ got on his knee in the middle of a sandy shore, and held out the prettiest ring I ever did see. 

I think that was one of the biggest lessons I learned in the months leading up to our proposal. I felt this bizarre pressure to make it perfect, like if I said the wrong thing or woke up in a bad mood, then the moment would forever be tarnished. 

Welp, I did wake up in a bad mood. And that mood wasn't improved when we walked into Starbucks & I ordered my favorite breakfast, only to find they were out. Out! (Gasp, how-dare-they.) 

I thought something like that would damper our proposal story, but it turns out, it adds to it. Because as I reflect on that car ride to the Capitola Beach coast, the one where I was trying to put my big-girl-pants on & muster up a good mood for the remainder of the day, the one where the gloomy sky turned into a gorgeous, sunshiny one in a tangible reflection of God redeeming the day, I think about my sweet fiance sitting in the driver's seat, smiling knowing that regardless of the mood of the girl sitting beside him, he wanted to propose to her that day. 

And propose, he did. ;) 








That man who has every bit of my heart said some of the sweetest words, of which we only remember about half ;), got on his knee, and asked me to be forever his. The biggest question he'd ever asked, was met with the easiest YES I've ever said. 

After a few moments of embracing & beginning to process what had just happened, he pointed out my dear friend Michelle who had so sweetly captured the entire moment. 



I am so grateful for the pictures from this day. The moment passes so quickly, and is every bit as surreal as it is magical. It has been so nice to look back on these photos, and relive the moment that so tangibly altered the course of our lives. The moment when I got to say yes to being the wife of the best man I've ever known. 

Gah, it still gives me chills. ;) 













My sweet PJ, I love you so much. I daily learn how to love well by watching your example. You serve those around you, putting other's needs above your own without a second thought. You are kind, and considerate. You are hilarious, and so. darn. handsome. You are a better dancer than me, even though I fight you on that. You make life fun, and you romance me & make me feel like the luckiest girl alive. 

I could never adequately thank you for choosing me to spend your life with. 

I am so, crazy excited to be your wife. 



Monday, November 9, 2015

Fear vs. Trust

I was journaling last week when I had a sudden moment of keen awareness of a trend in my life. I tend to adjust my expectations to avoid disappointment. In my hobbies, goals, and even interpersonal relationships, I see this common theme of setting low expectations to avoid potential undesired outcomes. 

I adjust my health coaching goals to avoid failure, or disappointment. I adjust my expectations in my friendships to avoid feeling let down, or rejected. And I can adjust myself and my behavior to avoid stepping outside of God's will. 

And that last one miiight sound a teensy bit wise, right? Sure, it's good to want to stay inside God's will! But sitting on my really-blue-but-has-a-brown-cover couch during the wee hours of last Friday's morning, it was as though I suddenly saw the clear underlying issue in all of these behavior patterns. 

F E A R. 

I adjust my goals out of fear of failure. I engage in friendship while simultaneously operating out of a fear of rejection. And I am constantly analyzing myself & whether I'm on the "right" path because I'm afraid of going the wrong way. 

FEAR. FEAR. FEAR. 

I tend to think of fear as this overpowering emotion that leaves you paralyzed and trembling in a corner. I thought it was easily identifiable, and didn't think it was something I struggled with. 

It turns out, I was wrong.

I don't think fear in and of itself is bad, just like I don't think any emotion in and of itself is bad. But I do think that when an emotion becomes the driving and controlling force behind our behavior, it's dangerous.  

My fear became louder than my God. 

But luckily, my God is not afraid to get loud for His children to hear Him. ;) 

Sitting on that couch, I felt God ask me a hopefully life-changing question. 


If I operated out of trust, I would trust that my disappointments and failures would be used for God's glory. If I operated out of trust, I would trust that God's acceptance means far more than any rejection ever could. If I operated out of trust, I would trust that if I go the wrong way (when I go the wrong way?), God WILL redirect me. 

It would literally alter every. single. area of my life. 

Trusting God would enable me to trust myself, knowing that He is bigger than me and fully capable of leading me. Trusting God would enable me to trust others, knowing that I have nothing to lose with all my worth in Christ, and simply everything to gain from community & relationships. 

Trusting God would make it impossible to operate out of fear. I truly believe that it's that simple. 

Living it out? I'll be the first to admit, "not so much." But I'm on a quest to get there! To find this life that operates out of trust instead of fear. This life that doesn't hide from fear, but also is not controlled by it. This life that really, really lives out of the knowledge that God is trustworthy, and oh so good. 

And that's where I'm at on this Monday. What's God got you chewing on?

XO,

Amy

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mindful Eating - Collin McShirley

Happy Friday, friends! Today, I am so excited to feature someone I recently met whose heart and passion align perfectly with my own. Those that know me well, or have been here for a while, know that me and food used to have quiiiite an unhealthy relationship. For almost a decade of my life, I struggled with emotional / comfort eating and extreme food-related guilt and shame. It was a cycle that viscously fed itself, and at many times resulted in a full-fledged eating disorder.  

As the years went on, I began to realize that I was not alone. I began to see what an issue this was, and found so many women who also shared my struggles with food and body image. Some women shared my struggle with emotional eating, some with food guilt, some battled an eating disorder of their own, and many shared the common thread of body-image related insecurity.

This is why I began my journey in health & fitness coaching. After tackling this issue in my own life and tasting freedom for myself, I now crave that freedom for others. I want other women to feel the same level of confidence before and after a meal. I want other women to know that their worth is not in a number on the scale, or a size written on a tag in their jeans. I want other women to be able to enjoy food without feeling guilt or shame afterwards. 

So when I met Collin McShirley, and heard about her passion and her work in precisely this area, I got excited! Collin is a Santa Barbara local, and is passionate about changing the way women and men look at their bodies, their self esteem, and their relationship with food. I am so thrilled to feature her here today, and share some of her wisdom regarding mindful eating. 

***

Two first steps on the path of Mindful Eating:
1- Pay Attention:
Mindful eating is learning to eat in the present moment. Become a connoisseur of every meal you have the privilege of being able to appreciate, no matter how inconsequential or routine it may be in your day to day process. Relearn how to appreciate the subtle tastes and textures of your food, even if its something you may have eaten before, try to experience this particular meal as if its the first time again. Also, adding new flavors and experimenting with your meals in small ways can help add to this rebirth of your culinary experience.
2- Ask Questions:
Why do I feel like eating – Are there any emotions triggering the eating?
What am I eating – Is it healthy for me to consume or is it junk food?
Notice the sensation of the food you’re eating – What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? And, of course, taste like?
Be present both during, and after – How does it make you feel as you’re tasting it? As you digest it? Important: How do you feel after eating it?
Over or Under eating – Notice if you’re feeling too full or ‘stuffed’? Or is your stomach still empty after eating?
Emotional response – Do you feel a sense of guilt and shame? Do you experience regret or self-criticism?
Collin Christine McShirley grew up in Santa Barbara, and received her masters in clinical psychology. She also is certified in body image, emotional eating and self-esteem. Collin now works as a coach helping men and women change their lives and become happy and healthy. Her coaching sessions are available in person in Santa Barbara, CA in a private office, or on phone and skype for those who live outside the area. In your work with Collin you will be supported, empowered, and given strategic methods to help make positive changes in your life. One example of the strategies you will learn is the concept of mindful eating. Above is an example of some of the tips you'd pick up.


If you're interested in learning more about Collin and her services visit her website at collinmcshirley.com she has offered to do a free 20 minute discovery session for Sweet Home Santa Barbara Viewers. Call her today and give promo code "SweetHome SB" to receive this limited offer. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Contentment in Waiting

This past weekend, I had the privilege of standing beside one of my very best friends as she said the two powerful and pivotal words, "I do." 



Ever since her engagement last December, I've imagined this day. And so much of it turned out precisely as I thought it would. Her looking positively radiant in her gorgeous white dress, the epic reunion that would unfold between college friends who haven't seen each other in years, and the amount of fun that would be had as we danced the night away. 

It was a wonderful, wonderful wedding day. And I couldn't be happier for my two friends. 

But here's what didn't pan out the way I expected it would. 


I thought there'd be a pretty, shiny ring on that bare left hand. I thought there'd be another wedding in the books for these final few months of 2015, mine. 

And at this point in the post, I'm sure there are many minds wondering why I'd confess such a personal detail of my relationship and life on the internet.

So here's why:

I want to write about this now. I want to write about this before that pretty, shiny ring takes up permanent residence on that left hand. I want to write about this before there's any wedding in the books for me. I want to write in the midst of waiting to proclaim that in a waiting season, there is absolutely hope for contentment before the happy ending. 

PJ and I have talked about marriage since legitimately the night we met. Call us crazy, call us unconventional, but it's just how things worked for us. So everything I write in this post has already been processed between us. Together. 

There are so many details about this time in our lives that I would love to document one day. All of the details that led to my expectations, and all of the things that I have yet to know about that brought us to where we are today. It's all such a beautiful story, and I don't believe any of it was a mistake or a coincidence. 

I don't regret the amount that PJ and I have talked about marriage. I don't regret the dreams that we discussed together, the conversations that created this timeline in my mind. I don't for one second wish that things went the way I thought they would. 

Let me say that one more time, even if it's just for myself. 

I don't, for even one second, wish that things went the way I thought they would. 

I have learned more in these past 4 months about patience and contentment than I have in my entire life. If PJ and I had gotten engaged when I thought we would, I would have missed this. I would have missed these precious things that God has been teaching me through this process. 

My relationship is stronger because of this. Our communication is stronger because of this. My trust in PJ is stronger because of this. 

When my plan was torn up, I started to trust. 

Because when a very plan-oriented person is left without a plan, that's all she can do. 

I started to trust PJ when he lovingly told me to be patient. 

I started to trust him when he assured me that he is seeking God in every detail of our relationship. 

And on an even bigger and more important scale, I started to trust God. 

I remembered that this life isn't about my plan, it's all about His. And His plan is a good one, even and especially when it doesn't look like mine. 

I've come to look at contentment as not something to strive for, but instead, something to praise God for. 

Through the rough points in this waiting process, I would get so frustrated with myself. Here I was, with a boyfriend far beyond what I could ever ask or hope for, and I found myself battling discontent because I was aching for him to be more than my boyfriend. 

I would get loving, good advice from others to seek contentment, and to be thankful. 

And I was, I was and still am so thankful. Even through this process, I have never once stopped considering my relationship a pure gift from God Himself. 

Yet my heart still had (and has) moments of aching for more, aching for the future. 

So now, I have a different approach. Now, I consider contentment a gift. And therefore, whenever I find myself feeling truly and blissfully content (and it's often these days!), I stop and praise God. 

I thank Him, knowing that it is nothing I can muster up on my own. 

And when I don't feel it? When I'm stuck mourning my expectations, when I'm stuck wishing away my present for my future, I press in. I don't shame myself for it anymore, I simply let the tears fall. I blast the worship music. I let myself feel. 

I remind myself that it will pass, and that it's okay. It's okay to mourn expectations that don't pan out, it's healthy to grieve and feel and cry. 

Waiting is a part of this life, because whether we recognize it or not, we are all waiting for a perfect world where every fiber of our being is satisfied in the God who created us. Where there are no more expectations to wait on, because every expectation is met by our being in the presence of our loving Creator. 

So in this life, we will wait. We will have expectations that don't pan out, and we will find ourselves battling discontentment. 

But guess what else? 

In this life, we can find true joy. And in this life, we can find genuine contentment. 

And today's post is all about the fact that contentment does not hinge on circumstance. I am not engaged yet, and yet I spent this past Saturday praising God for that very fact. 

Here I was, in a situation that could have very well sent me into a crying spiral over the fact that my plan didn't work out as I thought it would, and instead I was praising God for that very fact. Instead, I was thanking God that my plan did not work out. Because for that reason, I have learned valuable lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

When our plans don't work out, we see more of His. And we remember that every. single. detail of our lives give glory to Him. Even our disappointments can be used to praise Him. 

 So friend, if you are in the midst of a waiting season, I hope to encourage you that contentment is in the hand of your Father, not your circumstance. And perhaps your situation is more painful than mine, and if so, I truly wish I could listen to you and hug you and wait with you. 

But I truly believe that that statement still holds true. So I pray that today, you can rest in that. 

Love you, friends. Thank you for venturing through this life with me, the ups and the downs and the things in between. I'm thankful that they all have purpose, and they all bring God glory.