Chelsea Cote

day sixteen : top 20 declarations

i know i'm likely not alone in my mega girl-crush status on the extremely inspiring lara casey. i am completely captivated by her. not because southern weddings is incredible and i'd give every limb on my body to be a part of that team, but because she's genuine and humble and because even though she's accomplished so much, she's unbelievably open about how and why she's accomplished it, and the answer is Jesus. she inspires me and so many other women and she captures everything i want to be when i grow up. a devoted wife and mother, a creative entrepreneur, an artist, an author, and a passionate follower of The Lord's calling on her life. i am so unbelievably excited about her new book, make it happen, because i swear it was written exactly for me.

today, her extremely popular powersheets came available for pre-order and i received an email from her site sharing the importance of intentionally saying yes and intentionally saying no. i think the word intentional is one of those annoying over-used christian words, but i also think that's partially because it's so unbelievably important. especially for people like me who are such over-analytical people pleasers and who struggle to say yes to the right things, no to the wrong things and to stop worrying about trying to do everything. i had no idea what to blog about tonight and then i read lara's email about saying yes and no. she even asked a pointed question in her email - a rhetorical one of course - but i felt like The Lord was speaking her questions directly to me. "living on purpose is worth saying no so you can say yes. what about you? what are you saying no to? what are you saying yes to? i encourage you to make a no/yes list today and see how it helps you focus on what matters."

so guess what? it's top twenty day on bbb (blooming branch blog) and you can probably guess what that means. not using the words "want to", "try to" or "going to" on this list was extremely challenging, but i am saying YES to being bolder in all areas of my life. that doesn't allow for lukewarm verbs and i say NO to using them. so, here goes. my first yes/no declarations:

1. i say YES to intimacy with The Lord. activity for Him is not the same as intimacy for Him. even if i say no to literally everything else, i am saying YES to this.

2. i say NO to guilt when i take time to myself to recharge. i'm blessed with such a beautiful community, but i know alone time is necessary for my sanity (textbook infj, here). i find investing in community and balancing my own emotional well-being to be extremely difficult and i choose to say no to guilt when i know i need to retreat.

3. i say YES to blogging or writing at least three times a week. i know how much it centers, challenges and inspires me and i am making it a priority, no matter what.

4. i say NO to impatiently judging others. the more i live, the more i realize how everyone is struggling and our frustrations with one another are merely a result of our perceptions, wounds, differences and trials. we all need Jesus and none of us has it figured out.

5. i say YES to taking care of my health.

6. i say NO to negativity at the office. sure, we have our issues, but i am so certain that God has called me to my job, even if He is beginning to call me elsewhere. i choose to faithfully rejoice in the responsibility of my role for as long as i am in it.

7. i say YES to giving grace to myself and to others, and to accepting it.

8. i say NO to ignoring my heart, even when my mind tries to tell me otherwise.

9. i say YES to one-on-one, face-to-face time with friends and family.

10. i say NO to fear. lately, i've realized how much fear is gripping me. fear of disappointment, fear of loss, fear of loneliness. it's robbing me of my joy and distorting my perception of My Savior. it's dangerous and sneaky and disguises itself as rational thought. it's completely the opposite of rational and it traps me, drowns me, stops me from living fully.

11. i say YES to finding, committing to and engaging in a church body. i'm unsure as to whether it's my current body or another, but i refuse to sit in the pews every week wondering if i'm in the right place.

12. i say NO to needing validation from others. it's fleeting and empty and yet i thirst for it.

13. i say YES to laying my heart and my plans before The Lord in prayer. i really struggle with prayer. but i say yes to it.

14. i say NO to perfect. i refuse to use it in my vocabulary, or to define others by it, myself by it, my work by it.

15. i say YES to creating, painting, crafting, designing.

16. i say NO to needing to be the best or do the most. it's not a competition.

17. i say YES to books (and to reading them).

18. i say NO to cynicism. about the true nature of The Lord. about our world. about my future.

19. i say YES to honesty. to openly articulating my needs and my heart to those who care about me without fear of rejection or judgement.

20. i say NO to a lifetime of critiquing my appearance, comparing my appearance, letting my perceptions of my appearance control my confidence. i am enough.

i realize this post might seem like a motivational speech, or the power of positive thinking or whatever you want to call it. but sometimes i think just declaring our goals or intentions is the first step to achieving them. declaring our fears and setbacks the first step to overcoming them. at least for me, who has ten billion thoughts swirling around in my brain at any given point. writing things down, for me, creates clarity and focus. lately i feel like i'm on the cusp of so much change and that the Lord is doing so much in my heart. i'm saying NO to complacency and YES to letting the Lord take hold of my future. it's not about positive thinking or motivational self-talk. it's about focusing on Jesus in everything and giving Him complete control in every part of my life. i'm becoming more and more convinced that my own abilities aren't really part of the equation. He's the one making it happen, and i'm just along for the ride.

image via lara casey

day fourteen : keep at it

i'm more than a little behind on my 31 days posts, but should be all caught up again by tomorrow. life happens. thus, my tuesday post will be brief. tonight i attended a speaker series lecture hosted by unc-charlotte. they have a gorgeous center city campus with a great view of the city (image above).

tonight they hosted charles best, who founded when he was a young teacher in the bronx. his idea essentially established the crowd funding model (kickstarter, kiva, etc. all followed him) and has helped fund millions of projects to support millions of students and teachers in public school classrooms across the country. his lecture was particularly memorable to me, though, not because he's wildly successful and was on the cover of forbes recently. it's because he told the story of how he got started and how long it took for him to become wildly successful.

it took several years. and lots of slow progress. and lots of hard work. and lots of rejection. he didn't suddenly wake up one morning and had become an overnight success.

i think in our twenties we're so eager to get where we're going, even if we don't know where that is. i know i am. i am easily frustrated when my ideas or endeavors don't immediately take off. i measure my blog, my job, my financial situation, etc. against those of others. the danger in that, though, is that i'm comparing my before to their after in a lot of ways. we don't see the hard work that goes into any successful endeavor. the bravery, the creativity, the vulnerability, the rejection. no one is really an overnight success, even if it might seem so.

i tend to lose interest in projects when they take longer than i anticipate. i get frustrated when i don't immediately achieve an expected end result. tonight's lecture reminded me that i need to focus more on the process. invest myself in the Lord and doing His work. if i feel called by Him to do something, then it's worth whatever effort, late nights, rejection and vulnerability i feel.

because if we don't take risks or put ourselves out there, then how do we expect to get anywhere?

i need to find fulfillment in Christ alone, not success or an end result, and rest in the joy of the process. giving up on ideas or projects that inspire me just because they feel too big or overwhelming or aren't achieving results is giving up on the work the Lord has called me to do. i'm not willing to do that, and tonight, i'm encouraged to work harder.

day ten : friend envy

people. it's friday. i'm so thrilled by this. friday also means i write about relationships, which i'm not as thrilled about because relationships are kind of messy because we're kind of messy. one of the things i personally wrestle with, and that i really hate about myself, is friend envy. i like to think this is because my friends are exceptionally awesome. it seems harmless enough. wishing my apartment were as big as friend a's. wishing i had a job more like friend b's. comparing my own accomplishments and possessions and instagram accounts.

she's prettier than me, i tell myself.

she can buy anything she wants, i tell myself.

people like her better than me, i tell myself.

while this might seem harmless, while i might tell myself that it's nothing more than a natural response to being surrounded by so many amazing women, i've been reminded lately how dangerous friend envy can be. we might say comparison is the thief of joy and recognize that friend envy is impacting our own happiness. but are we aware of how quickly this type of attitude can utterly strangle a true friendship? it doesn't just make me dissatisfied with my own life - which is dangerous enough in and of itself - but it makes me resentful toward women whose friendship is truly a gift from God. it's like a cancer that creeps in and takes the joy not only out of me, but out of true community. it isolates me in a world of self-pity, thinking no one else understands me or my own particular set of problems. i believe wholeheartedly that satan uses friend envy to attempt to ruin friendships that glorify The Lord and draw me closer to Him. he knows that i believe the lies he tells me and he knows he can tarnish something beautiful as a result.

it's true that friends are supposed to challenge us, inspire us and walk beside us in our journey. it's true that friendships are supposed to build us up instead of bringing us down. it's true that friends don't always do that. but the thing about friend envy that's so dangerous is we start to think good friends aren't good friends simply because we're so blinded by resentment that we forget all of the reasons the friendship is so good in the first place. we can only focus on the parts that make us feel like less than we are, even if they are 100% unfounded.

i can't say that i've found some sort of magical solution to resolving friend envy. it still creeps in when my friends are particularly amazing or successful. when they start dating someone, get married, get pregnant, buy a house, take exciting vacations, are invited to things i'm not. a lot of life changes happen in our twenties and for some reason, i often treat it like it's a competition. like i'm somehow less if i'm not experiencing all the same things my friends are. i am fully aware that the issue is a result of my own insecurities and not the fact that i'm any less than they are. i understand that i'm immensely blessed myself. but it doesn't change the fact that it's there. in the back of my mind. whispering.

the only thing i can say that's helped sustain friendships despite this ridiculous, invidious mindset is the fact that i'm aware of it. i do my best to recognize those feelings when they start to creep in and define them as lies. i do my best to pray through them with the knowledge that i'm allowing my own brokenness to corrupt a good gift from The Lord if i allow myself to believe them. i think relationships in general are particularly at risk when we make our own issues the fault of the other party. in this case, i want to ensure that my own insecurities do not impact my feelings about or views of my friends in any way. i desire to see their heart - for The Lord and for me - rather than the ridiculous reasons i might think they're better than me.

writing this with the intent of posting it is making me feel particularly more vulnerable than i thought it would, but i can't help but wonder if that's a good thing. if recognizing the selfish insanity of these issues is the best way to let go of them. i don't want to be anyone other than who i am, who The Lord created me to be, and i don't want to live my life any differently than the way He orchestrates it for me. and the friends who recognize that and love me in spite of all my messiness are very much worth keeping around.

image via megan on pinterest