Introducing a New Series: In Her Words

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Happy Labor Day weekend, friends!

Today I’m excited to introduce a brand new series, entitled In Her Words, set to kick-off here as of this coming Wednesday, September 3!

The purpose of In Her Words is to make this blog more relevant to all of you, the readers. In addition to reading my thoughts and stories each week, this series will allow you to meet some other amazing women who are doing great things and ‘living the good life’ in their corners of the world. My hope and prayer is that as each woman shares about her life and what is important to her, that you would in turn be influenced and inspired to find joy in yours, every. single. day.

Each week, ‘In Her Words’ will feature a woman who is being intentional in ‘living the good life’ in her own unique and wonderful way. Her post will essentially provide an introduction of who she is; an overview of what inspires and fires her up, as well as what her passions are; a glimpse into her dreams, goals and visions for the future; and, of course, an understanding of what ‘living the good life’ means to her, in her words. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ‘meet’ those who may have lives similar to yours, and also those who have lives very different from yours, and to ultimately create and foster a sense of community among all of us, regardless of our respective assignments, callings, projects, and pursuits.

It is my firm belief that a big part of ‘living the good life’ means that we help light a spark in others and spur one another on in our endeavors. This series seeks to do just that by empowering us to share our stories, opening ourselves up to those passions and longings we have, and giving ourselves the grace to accept and enjoy where we are at in our lives. Unleashing our hearts to have this experience is the key to making a difference and having an impact in our time here.

So with that said, I hope you will tune in this Wednesday as we jump into In Her Words, and get ready to meet some fabulous ladies! If you are interested in being a part of this series, simply submit the above information with a picture of yourself to me by email: hgottschalk12@gmail.com.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are basking in this last hoorah of summer with glorious rays of sunshine and quality time to yourself and with loved ones! Live it up and enjoy every moment! See you back here on Wednesday!

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As Summer Winds Down

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It is so hard for me to believe that next weekend is Labor Day weekend. LABOR DAY! Where, oh where, did the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were opening our up north abode and that I was writing about all the wonderful things to look forward to in this season. And now here I am, writing about the end of the season. This has gone fast, friends. Very fast.

The good news, however, is that summer isn’t quite over yet. [Insert deep sigh of relief] There are still plenty of opportunities to get out there and soak in the warm air and sunshine, and I don’t know about you, but this girl fully intends to revel in every. single. minute. of it whether I’m at the lake or the ranch. I want to take it all in before the fall and winter months force me to spend the majority of my time indoors next to a fire. Amen?!?

So as I sit on a blanket in the grass at home or hang out on the deck at the lake, fully enjoying the last days of summer, I’m also intentionally praying over and thinking about the next season and what is to follow in the months to come. I’m a planner by nature. Most of you know this by now. I get overwhelmed if I don’t have a list, a map, a guide of some sort, pointing me ahead in the direction I need to go. While I really do try to balance ‘having a plan’ with ‘being flexible,’ I have to visually be able to see what’s on my plate and what it all entails so I’m mentally prepared in advance. It empowers me and keeps me focused.

This year, there are many things to look forward to in the months to come, including: Labor Day weekend in Ludington with family and friends, football (Go Spartans!), working out *possible* new endeavors with regard to my ‘8 to 5′ life, attending the Influence Conference in Indianapolis, a possible trip to Chicago, my 30th birthday (woah!), and our 2nd Annual Fall Ball, not to mention of course the holidays (but let’s not get too carried away here … it’s still August!). Grin.

In beginning to think about the coming months, however, I definitely don’t want to bypass all of the goodness of this season because I do not take it for granted. At all. After a long, harsh and bitter winter, summer was necessary. These past few months have been FULL of abiding and remaining in Jesus, quality time spent with family and friends, connecting with my man, early morning sunrise walks and nights of admiring sunsets over the lake and through the trees, and travel, both to Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. There have definitely been some tough things to deal with in this season as well, as my patience has been tried with waiting for my foot to fully heal from injury and not being able to run yet like I did before, and then the pains that come from changes I sense God working out in regard to my career, and you know, trying to figure out what exactly it is I want to be when I grow up. (Is it just me on this one? Probably not.) In it all though, God has been speaking to me of His faithfulness and the hope I have in Him, as well as producing some new fruit that I would not have had if I didn’t commit to an intentional period of ‘letting go’ and resting in Him. I have truly been learning the truth that God does indeed work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and for that, I am so very thankful. He is so good, friends. So good.

With all of that said, I write today with a content heart, one that is appreciative of what this year has worked out in me thus far, in the thick of it, and one that is very excited to take with me all of the lessons and treasures I’ve gained into the new season that is approaching. Good things await. As they say, the best is yet to come!

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On Courage, Quiet, and the Pacific Northwest

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Happy August, friends! As much as I enjoyed a two-week break, I have missed this space; I am back now and ready to write my heart out! So with that, let’s get caught up …

As mentioned in my last post, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary at home and then the following week, we jetted out to Washington for an adventure in the Pacific Northwest. We explored the main attractions in downtown Seattle, then worked our way down to Oregon via the coast. After visiting Multnomah Falls and touring downtown Portland, we then made our way back up to Mt. Rainier National Park where we hiked for two days in one of the most beautiful mountain gardens I have ever seen. (I’m pretty sure I got a good glimpse of what Heaven looks like while we were there. It was breathtaking!) From Mt. Rainer, we headed to the northwest coast and made our way up to Olympic National Park where we stayed on Lake Quinault and hiked the Quinault Rainforest. (And yes, this is a REAL rainforest – incredibly awesome.) To wind down our trip, we left that area and headed back to Seattle to spend our last full day on Bainbridge Island. This part was inspired by all the books I’ve read by Sarah Jio who mentions it frequently in her novels. And it lived up to the great expectations I had from learning about it through her words. (Perks of being a book-nerd – LOL!) Overall, our trip was FABULOUS! Gorgeous weather, majestic sights, and quality time spent with my one and only … nothing better!

The nine days I spent away from the normal, busy, and hurried routine of life was needed. Greatly. I didn’t realize just how much I was desperately in need of the breakaway until I was physically out there, surrounded by all things new. One thing I’ve mentioned on here before is how I am a person who needs things to look forward to. It’s part of my self-care – knowing I have something coming up helps to keep me going, especially when the going gets tough. And honestly, it’s been a tough year. Not bad necessarily, but tough in a hard-working, thinking a lot, getting things done kind of way. While there have been some great blessings this year, I’ve been faced with the challenges that come from growth. And as great as growth is for us in the long run, when we’re going through it, it can feel very messy at times, and that’s hard for this girl! Because of all the busy-ness that has occurred over the past year, this was actually the first full vacation we had taken together, contributing to the specialness of this time away.

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Something I really appreciated while out west were the moments we embraced the peace and quiet. Although we were busy going here and there, we had several times where we were just together in silence. We wouldn’t talk or be listening to music, but rather drove and hiked in quiet. And it was so good for us. Speaking for myself, I sometimes find it easier to be surrounded by the noise of life because it distracts me from things that I’m not ready (or maybe that I’m not choosing) to deal with at the time. I’m a thinker, and because I tend to over-thing things, I sometimes need that healthy dose of distraction to escape a bit. But last week, the quiet was medicine for me. As I beheld the amazing scenery and breathed in the fresh, clean air, I found clarity and contentment in a way that I haven’t experienced in a while. Some revelations, if you will, came to mind, reminding me of essential truths about God and myself, that in the midst of life’s demands and stressors, I all too often forget. And getting back to that foundation is exactly what my heart and soul needed in order to get recalibrated for life after vacation.

Returning home, feeling refreshed and more like myself, I’m ready to get started on some things that have been bubbling within me for a bit. In my travels, I read the latest book by Annie F. Downs, Let’s All Be Brave and I loved this quote she made toward the end:

This is your map. This is your story. Be brave for yourself, be brave for your God, and be brave for the onlookers, the ones who will be inspired by you to inspire others.”

In the weeks leading up to my vacation, I had been feeling unsettled about my current “place” and wanting to make some changes, and with that, feeling anxious because I don’t have it all planned out and tidy in my mind (have I mentioned I’m a perfectionist?). On that long flight home, in a window seat behind the left-wing, Annie’s words spoke right to my heart, telling me that the time to move forward with my dreams and vision for the future is NOW. Because even though I don’t have all the details worked out, I know in my bones that as I get closer to turning the big 3-0, my heart’s desire is for the next decade to be one that defines me in a more whole and complete way than my 20’s did; one where I say “YES” to God more and not worry so much because I actively trust that He’s got it all under control; one where I really find God, find myself and find my place, and use my education, gifts, skills, and talents in a way that helps and inspires others – essentially, living my best story and helping others live their best story as well. That is my hope, my prayer, my goal.

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So in this first week, post-vacation, I’ve been praying a great deal for bravery and courage to take those steps, to take that leap toward the good and better things that God has in store for me. The break from life-as-I-know-it gave me the grace to accept where I’m at currently and the perspective to see the direction I want to go more clearly for the future, and for this, I am truly grateful and excited to see where God leads.

What’s Next

After this post, I’ll be breaking away for a couple of weeks from the blog. As much as I love to write here on a weekly basis, I am very excited to take a little siesta from the normal routine in order to celebrate and enjoy some upcoming things the hubby and I have been looking forward to all year.

7 Year Anniversary collage

Monday, July 28 marks our 7 Year Wedding Anniversary. I keep repeating “7 years” to myself  in my head. 7 years, woah! This year marks a decade of actually being together, as our first official date was Friday, August 13, 2004. (I only remember that because it was “Friday the 13th” and I had no idea what might be in store for me that night  … LOL!) Thankfully, by the grace and goodness of God, that date was with the man who has become my soul mate in every. single. way. Ken proposed to me on Saturday, December 17, 2005  and we wrapped up school and enjoyed a long engagement leading up to our special day shared with God and loved ones on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan on Saturday, July 28, 2007. That day still remains the BEST day of my entire life thus far. If I ever have to answer the question, “When have you felt the most beautiful, energetic, excited, full of joy and bursting at the seams with life?,” my answer will be “Our wedding day.” Truly.

Portland_Seattle Collage

On Saturday, August 2 we will be embarking on our 7 Year Anniversary Adventure! This year we are traveling to Seattle, Washington, down to Portland, Oregon, hitting everything in-between. Our 5 Year Anniversary Adventure to Northern California was so incredibly special to us and gave us the bug to get back to the Pacific Northwest as soon as possible. So this is it and we couldn’t be more excited! On so many levels, both of us are ready for a break that lasts longer than a weekend. We are looking forward to sleeping in and getting caught up on rest, exploring new places, breathing in the ocean air, hiking the National Parks, and being together, just the two of us, on the open road! It’s going to be GREAT!

Lake Michigan Collage

Following the big trip, we’ll be primarily back at our up north abode for the rest of the summer weekends. We intend to have friends up again and make the most of every single sunny day on the beach. Although we’re by no means in a hurry for the next season to be here, we are looking forward to Saturday football on the outdoor big screen projector – it’s become a little bit of a tradition up here at the marina and has further facilitated the community aspect here. I anticipate the rest of the summer in Pure Michigan being enjoyed to the fullest extent possible by all!

With that, I wish all of you a great couple of weeks and say “Adieu” until mid-August! Blessings!

Summer Best

With yet another polar vortex making its way through the country this week, I thought I would warm things back up by sharing the BEST parts of my summer thus far (and also those things I’m loving this season) …

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Summer sunrises. The dawn of long, sunny, warm days. My personal best and most favorite time of every day.

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Saturdays spent soaking up the sun. Here in Michigan, sunshine is something we crave and desperately need. Beach, deck, backyard – doesn’t matter – I have been committed to basking in this wonderful gift to the fullest extent possible this season!

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The Fourth of July holiday weekend shared with my sweet hubby, family and friends at our lakeside retreat. Definitely the BEST weekend of this summer so far, and quite possibly one of the BEST holiday weekends ever! It was an absolute blast and a much needed break from the normal routine!

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The ladies and I stumbled upon these awesome wine glasses boasting our love of Pure Michigan while shopping in downtown Ludington over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. All of us fell in love with them immediately, and if I’m not mistaken, I think we grabbed the only ones that were left! They are fabulous, if I do say so myself! I think this is my favorite newest item I’ve gotten in this season to date!

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Continuing to work my way through the Abide Journal + Field Guide. This intentional time of focus on abiding, remaining, and resting in God has been such a breath of fresh air to this girl. I have been blessed, encouraged, and inspired by each week’s topic. It is my prayer that the lessons I’m learning will carry into the next season beautifully as God works out some things in my heart and life for the future.

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Whether it’s texting each other throughout the week, meeting for lunch, or making time to get together on weeknights or on weekends, girlfriend time is truly one of the best times! I have so come to appreciate the honesty, transparency, and courage that each of the ladies in my life demonstrate. I’ve learned that true friendship means being accepted for who we are, as we are, where we are, and vice versa. I’m beyond blessed by the friendships in my life and this season has proven to be one rich with connection and fellowship with those girls I hold most dear.

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I’m not a big t.v. watcher, but I like to find at least one or two shows I can DVR to watch when I don’t have anything else to do (or when I don’t feel like doing anything else – LOL!). I heard about the new ABC Family show, Chasing Life, that started back in June and wouldn’t you know I’ve become a pretty big fan. If you’re looking for a new show to get into, give this one a try!

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Non-Fiction: Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I really enjoyed this book and the author’s insights on what it really means to find rest, peace and contentment. It also greatly aligned with the focus of the Abide journal, so it was a perfect fit with the theme of this season for me!

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Fiction: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Yes, there is the movie, but the book … the book is so. good. I caved and bought it after hearing so much about it from family and friends, and I’m glad. Hilarious. Beautiful. Tragic. All the makings of a can’t-put-down story. Read it.

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Seeing all of my flowers at home blossom and bloom. Love how this season bursts with color and life, especially after the harsh and long winter we endured!

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Golden hour at the ranch. I love watching the sun make its descent through the trees at night, setting everything aglow. I’ve come to really enjoy summertime out in the sticks (aside from the mosquitoes) since we moved from the city four years ago. There’s a special beauty and calm this time of year that I look forward to at the end of the busy work days.

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Summer sunsets. The best way to wind down a day, in my opinion, is to watch the sun dip below the horizon (on the lake preferably). No one sunset is ever the same. Each one is truly a unique masterpiece that costs nothing to behold, aside from a few precious moments of time. Give yourself permission to at least take one in if you haven’t done so already. You will not be disappointed.

There is still plenty of summer yet to come and I fully intend to make the most of every single minute of it! I hope you find yourself doing the same, engaging in those things that make you excited, happy and fully alive in your life!

What I’m Learning this Summer

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I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the theme of this summer, for me, is “abiding.” Abiding in God, abiding in the things I’ve accomplished thus far, abiding in rest, abiding in relationships, and abiding in hope for whatever is to come next in my journey. As I allow my mind and heart remain still in this season, here is what I’m learning …

  • Health, wellness, and ultimately wholeness, are fostered through intentional times of rest. Taking time-outs to nap, unwind, and do nothing are key to contentment, peace, and overall well-being in every area of life.
  • In order to produce good fruit, one must prune. Cutting away the dead and broken branches, whatever they may be, in our lives allows for God to grow something beautiful, fresh, and new in their place. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but what’s in store for us as we do so is far better than we can imagine.
  • Time spent with the very best of girlfriends is not only a great time, but absolutely vital to my health. Laughing until I cry, having the freedom to be completely transparent, and finding common threads with other strong, confident and bold women makes life so rich and meaningful. Nurturing these relationships is essential.
  • The next phase of my journey (career-wise) will be found at the intersection of my education / skills and my passions / dreams. A change is coming in regards to what I do full-time. God is changing my heart when it comes to ‘work’ and I’m learning to trust Him for the plans He has for me even though I don’t know what’s to come or when it will come. But I do know it’s going to happen and I am to remain open to where He is leading.
  • I need to give more of my energy to the things that make me feel alive and that set my heart free. Worship. Writing. Photography. Enjoying nature. Exercising. Hosting and entertaining family and friends at our home and up north abode. Getting lost in creative projects. Decorating. Baking. Reading. More of these things are in order for me.
  • It is God’s grace, goodness, and strength at work in me that empowers and enables me to live my best life now, today and every day.

I am grateful for this season of intentional rest and stillness. Abiding in Him this summer is probably the best thing I could have done for myself. I am blessed by what He is speaking to me, even the hard things, and look forward to what He will produce as I continually sink and soak in His marvelous grace. I know that remaining in the vine of His unfailing love is where real life is found.

What seems to be the theme of your summer? What things are you learning in this season? What things make you come alive and set your heart free?

Let’s commit to learning, growing, and reaping a harvest of rest and goodness in this season, friends!

Happy 4th of July!

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It’s Friday! And it isn’t just any Friday – its Fourth of July Friday! And for us that means a long weekend at the lake spent with our dear family and friends! Hooray!

Starting today, 15 of us will gather to revel in the goodness of Pure Michigan, including: laughing and playing in the sunshine, indulging in the very best food and drinks, and taking part in some of the Harbor Fest events in downtown Ludington, making memories to last a lifetime!

Even more important, this weekend we’ll celebrate the freedom we have in this blessed country, as well as the good life each of us are living in our own unique ways! What could be better than this?!?

Whether you’re gathered with loved ones or taking a much needed break for yourself today and in the days ahead, I wish all of you the best and most happy 4th of July holiday weekend!

Live it up and enjoy every minute of it!

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