Kayla's Surprise Bridal Shower 5.13.2017-47

May Reflection (2017)

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
 ― Yvonne Woon

Each month, I set aside time to reflect on the previous month: memorable moments, lessons I learned, how I spent my time, how I’m different, who/what I’m grateful for, improvements for next month, and goals to work toward. I try to be intentional in my personal development, and posting each month is a way to keep me accountable (it’s also built into my favorite planner, which is a nice reminder 😉 ).

THREE LESSONS I LEARNED THIS PAST MONTH:

  • Pursue what you actually want to do and don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut just because that rut is comfortable. An opportunity recently came up at work for training in a field I’ve been interested in getting into. So I took it. Cause why not?
  • Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved strong, kickass women and naturally gravitated toward those sort of movies and books. I never consciously realized that until recently in talking to my fiancé — it was just normal for me. That’s one of the reasons I was super excited for the new Wonder Woman movie. Girls need positive role models who aren’t fluffy characters, but rather self-reliant, badass ladies.
  • It’s easy to get caught up in our own perspective. But healthy relationships require you to seek out the other’s perspective. People need to feel like they are heard in order to be open to listen to what you have to say.

Top 3* Highlights of the month:

  • Paid off my debt! No more car or student loan payment 🤑.
  • Spent a weekend with Joe — it was quick, but every moment is valuable.
  • Booked my ticked to Italy ✈️. In less than three weeks I’ll be peacing out✌🏼.

*and my lovely friends and family threw a surprise bridal shower for me! It was so sweet and perfect 😊.

What big lessons have you learned over the past month? Share in the comments below!

Kayla + Joe Proposal 4.3.2017-78

April Reflection (2017)

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
 ― Yvonne Woon

Each month, I set aside time to reflect on the previous month: memorable moments, lessons I learned, how I spent my time, how I’m different, who/what I’m grateful for, improvements for next month, and goals to work toward. I try to be intentional in my personal development, and posting each month is a way to keep me accountable (it’s also built into my favorite planner, which is a nice reminder 😉 ).

THREE LESSONS I LEARNED THIS PAST MONTH:

  • Forgiveness is always a better choice. Holding onto bitterness and resentment may seem vindicating, but the only one it’s hurting is yourself.  {Ps. 51:10}
  • Take a break from your phone every once and a while — it doesn’t need to be attached to your hip all the time. I went away for a few days and ignored my phone (most of the time). And it was great! It was hard sometimes, but a much needed digital detox that allowed me to be more present with the one I was with.
  • Sometimes you have no option but to trust God. Sure, there are lots of things we can do in life on our own and never have to ask God for help. But for me, circumstances lately are teaching me, sometimes trusting in God and in his plans is the only thing you can do.

Top 3 Highlights of the month:

  • Got engaged! 💍
  • Played laser tag with some of my coworkers from Mexico 🇲🇽 who visited for a week.
  • Caught some rays in Florida ☀️✌🏼.

(A lot happened this month — it was hard to chose! And got more crazy stuff coming in the next couple months…)

What big lessons have you learned over the past month? Share in the comments below!

Hiking at Jim Thorpe

March Reflection (2017)

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
 ― Yvonne Woon

Each month, I set aside time to reflect on the previous month: memorable moments, lessons I learned, how I spent my time, how I’m different, who/what I’m grateful for, improvements for next month, and goals to work toward. I try to be intentional in my personal development, and posting each month is a way to keep me accountable (it’s also built into my favorite planner, which is a nice reminder 😉 ).

THREE LESSONS I LEARNED THIS PAST MONTH:

  • You don’t always need to get your way. While yes, I believe we all have things we should never compromise on, in relationships and friendships, compromise can be a healthy tool. And both people should be willing to work towards it, not just one.
  • Speak up for yourself. (Most likely) People can’t read your mind. How are they going to know what you want if you don’t tell them? Why would they assume otherwise? It’s not selfish to voice your opinions. If you have good friends, they’ll want to hear anyways.
  • “You can do anything, but not everything.” That was a needed reminder this month. In order to meet your goals or honor your values, sometimes you have to let go of other things. You can’t do it all at once.

Top 3 Highlights of the month:

  • Went snowboarding for the first (and last) time all year. 🏂
  • Paid off my car 🙌🏼.
  • Finally got to see my boyfriend after 8 months. 🙃

What big lessons have you learned over the past month? Share in the comments below!

February Reflection 2017

February Reflection (2017)

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
 ― Yvonne Woon

Each month, I set aside time to reflect on the previous month: memorable moments, lessons I learned, how I spent my time, how I’m different, who/what I’m grateful for, improvements for next month, and goals to work toward. I try to be intentional in my personal development, and posting each month is a way to keep me accountable (it’s also built into my favorite planner, which is a nice reminder 😉 ).

THREE LESSONS I LEARNED THIS PAST MONTH:

  • If something is draining you, take a step back (if you can) — from social media, unhealthy relationships, side jobs, etc. All of the hate on Facebook wasn’t doing me any good, so I removed notifications from my phone to limit my time on the site. If something is negatively affecting you (and you have no real obligation to it), just leave it.
  • Actually listen to what someone you disagree with is saying. I was talking to a friend who was surprised to learn that I don’t disagree with everything Trump is doing. Go to the actual source, and be careful of what you read on Facebook if it’s not from a legitimate news outlet.
  • Sometimes you have to sacrifice to meet your goals. I am working to pay off my debt quicker than my original payment plan so I can have freedom and not be tied down. That means I’ve had to say no to some extra expenses, work extra hours, and sacrifice free time (and sleep). I’m deprioritizing some things right now (like travel…) to prioritize getting debt-free. Everything has its season.

Top 3 Highlights of the month:

What big lessons have you learned over the past month? Share in the comments below!

Ways to Show Love Every Day

Ways to Show Love Every Day (And Not Just on Valentine’s Day)

Often, the littlest acts of kindness done for no apparent reason other than to say “I love you” or “I’m thinking about you” can have the biggest impact.

Not to say that Valentine’s Day isn’t a great day to show love to those in your life.

But I am working to show the people I love that I care all year, not just on holidays. So, here are some ideas!

Be present.
Get your phone off the table. Engage with the person you are physically with. Get off Facebook and Instagram. We will probably always struggle with this 😉

Write a real note.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but who doesn’t love getting mail?! Whether it’s a postcard just saying hi, or a more heart-felt note to someone you love, sending a letter is a perfect way to show love and make someone’s day.

Send a thoughtful message.
Okay, maybe letters aren’t your thing. Then send a thoughtful text or email instead to just let a friend know you are thinking about them.

Be respectful.
Of other people’s religions, gender, lifestyle choices. Unless they ask for your commentary, is what you say really adding any good to the world? If the answer is no, keep your mouth shut.

Say hi or smile to a stranger.
Especially in the great old northeast, we sometimes get the reputation for being a little… rough around the edges. Try smiling to a stranger or being the first one to say hello. Bring a little more joy into the world!

Do a random act of kindness.
Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Give a genuine compliment. Buy the lady’s groceries in line in front. Do the dishes. Donate to a charity (here a few ideas: Nationalities Service Center, International Justice Mission, Dressember).

Give someone a hug (as long as they want one).
We all have different backgrounds and boundaries. But if physical touch is one of your love languages, hugs can be a great thing (and always just ask permission!).

Surprise someone with their favorite coffee drink or treat.
First, this shows that you actually pay attention to this person to remember what they like. Second, it shows that you were thinking of them!

Listen.
Sometimes people just need to vent or express their feelings or what is going on in their life. In times like that, maybe you don’t need to offer advice. Maybe you just need to be there for them.

Pray for someone. 
If someone in your life is struggling, offer to pray for them. It’s a simple act that can go along way.

What are simple ways you show love all year round? 

why we need feminism

Why We Still Need Feminism (14+ Reasons, Actually)

Before we even get into this post, let’s define what feminism is and make sure we are all on the same page:

fem·i·nism – noun: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

Why we need feminismI used to see feminism as a dirty word. It was for all these liberal women who didn’t realize that women already are equal to men in our country.

But as I started reading and learning more, I began to see how flawed that view was. Women are not equal. It was less than 100 years ago that women gained the hard-won right to vote. Well, most women. It took even longer for black women and Native American women, due to discriminatory practices.

That’s not really that long ago.

And everything has been hunky dory since then? Yea, right.

Even if you don’t see it in your life and you feel equal to men, doesn’t mean that there still isn’t a problem.

Here are just a few reasons we still need feminism:

1.  1 out of every 6 women will be a victim of rape, either attempted or completed rape. That statistic do not include sexual assault other than rape. I bet you know women who have been groped, grabbed, or touched inappropriately, whether you realize it or not.

2. A new study found that girls as young as 6 years old start to think boys are smarter than them. Maybe the issue with women in STEM fields isn’t an issue in college, but one with roots that start much younger. (Here’s a different take on the same study that maybe it’s the boys’ perspectives that actually need work).

3. Women make up more than half of the population in the United States yet hold less than 20% of the seats in congress.

4. Some of the worst insults you can call someone are female (e.g. calling someone a pussy is worse than calling someone a dick).

5. Because we need things like this.

6. We still have a culture that blames victims for sexual assault. (“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”, “She looked older than her age”“You did a lot of partying in college, right?”, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” And FYI those statements were all made people people in respected positions — judges, lawyers, police officers. And here are just a few other examples where men and women blamed what the woman was wearing instead of the actual rapist for the assault).

7. In a domestic abuse case, people more often ask, Why did she stay?instead of, “Why did he abuse?”

8. “In America, over 80% of 12-16 year old schoolgirls experienced sexual harassment. Yep, schoolgirls — minors.

Why we need feminism9. Dealing with catcalling, leering, and being afraid to walk home alone seem to be just part of being a woman rather a larger problem with our culture.

10. Because women are still judged, discriminated, and rated on their appearance (this woman was fired for being “irresistible”, and the courts ruled it legal).

11. There’s still a pay gap (even among millennials, before we start popping out babies). Obviously, there are other factors than just gender at play here, but if you think it’s because men work harder than women, I’d say that’s pretty sexist. It’s also pretty clearly an issue in Hollywood.

12. Dad bod is hot but you’ll rarely hear about a “mom bod.” Another double standard when it comes to beauty standards.

13. There is a stigma to women traveling alone that doesn’t usually exist for our male adventurer counterparts (and victim blaming goes to a whoooole other level).

14. Because there are times when I feel like saying the word “feminist” would be more offensive than dropping the f-bomb.

“I think every woman in our culture is a feminist. They may refuse to articulate it, but if you were to take any woman back 40 years and say, ‘Is this a world you want to live in?’, they would say ‘No.’” — Helen Mirren


But women have it so good in America, especially compared to other countries.
 
 

Just because someone else is worse off doesn’t invalidate the issues we have in America. I heard an analogy once that if you go to the doctor with a broken arm, she won’t turn you away because someone else has cancer.

Why we need feminismInternationally, there are a whole other host of reasons feminism is needed:

  • Honor killings
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Child marriages and “mail-order-brides”
  • Sex trafficking
  • Porn industry

And for the record, being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men. I love men. 😉

It doesn’t mean that you think women are a superior sex.

It means that you want women to have equality.

Now, I am proud of the label feminist.

“I’d like every man who doesn’t call himself a feminist to explain to the women in his life why he doesn’t believe in equality for women.” – Louise Brealey

Feminism isn’t just good for women. It’s good for men and for the culture as a whole. Feminism isn’t trying to take away men’s rights. It’s trying to give women the same rights and chances that men have.

She's married!

January Reflection (2017)

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”
 ― Yvonne Woon

Each month, I set aside time to reflect on the previous month: memorable moments, lessons I learned, how I spent my time, how I’m different, who/what I’m grateful for, improvements for next month, and goals to work toward. I try to be intentional in my personal development, and posting each month is a way to keep me accountable (it’s also built into my favorite planner, which is a nice reminder 😉 ).

THREE LESSONS I LEARNED THIS PAST MONTH:

  • It can be tempting to try to work on 10 goals at a time or tackle all your New Years’ resolutions at once. But it’s helpful to focus on one or two goals at a time to make them realistically manageable. It might not look like as much progress, but in the long run, the results will tell a different story.
  • Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Often the harder you have to work for something, the more you’ll appreciate it — and the less you’ll take it for granted. Be willing to work for what you want.
  • Educate yourself. Fact check. Do some research. In a culture that gets most of our news from Facebook, it’s important to seek out the truth (even if it’s not what you want to hear). Alternative facts aren’t facts.

Top 3 Highlights of the month:

  • My sister got married!!!!!
  • Celebrated 6 months of my LDR ❤
  • Booked tickets for my next trip! 😉 (I think I have a problem…)

What big lessons have you learned over the past month? Share in the comments below!

Getting Upset Isn't Enough

Getting Upset Isn’t Enough

There’s been a lot going on in our country that has been frustrating. And sometimes downright scary.

People are being polarised — it seems like we are in two camps facing off against each other. There is fear on both sides, and when people act out in fear, they can say or do harmful things.

Whether you voted for Trump or not, he’s here for the next 4 years. And I don’t really care if you like it. I do care if you blindly agree (or blindly disagree) with everything he does just because you are on one side of the wall, er, I mean, fence.

People’s feelings may get hurt in this polarisation. It can stress relationships and friendships.

But regardless of our opinions and what we think is right, people’s lives are being impacted by the decisions coming from the White House.

Real people.

People who aren’t like me.

People who’s shoes I can’t put myself in because there is literally no way I can imagine what they are going through.

A lot of people are scared. A lot of people are unhappy.

But, ironically, that is one thing I have to thank the new administration for.

What I mean is:

People are unhappy and for once it seems like people are actually doing something about it. 

I’m proud to see my newsfeed filled with people (peacefully) protesting, whether it was for the Women’s March (girl power!) or the March for Life. People aren’t just complaining on Facebook when they are unhappy (although there are plenty of people still doing that too). People are getting off their asses (literally) when they think things are not right — like the thousands of people who showed up at airports yesterday to protest the “Muslim ban.” Honestly, looking at posts from friends who were there, I was so proud and grateful for women like them.

Many of us (myself definitely included) get caught in the cycle of just complaining about how things are without doing anything about it.

Thanks to the Trump administration, people are starting doing something about it.

You may not like the protests. You may think they are misguided. You may think they are a waste of time (“don’t these people have jobs?”).

But whether you like or not, peaceful protests are part of America and America’s history.

Don’t be silent.

If you are standing up for what you believe to be right, BE VOCAL. And use your actions as well as your voice.

Don’t just complain about it with friends who think the same way as you.

Find actual ways to start solving the problem you see. Pro-life and want to reduce abortion? Consider how birth control and sex education play a role (hint: they work). Upset about the refugee ban? Donate to one of the many refugee organisations working tirelessly out there.

Write letters.
Call your senator.
Put your money where your mouth is.
Have intelligent conversations.
Fact check (no, alternative facts don’t count).
Educate yourself.
Don’t just read articles that back up your beliefs (aka confirmation bias).
Read stories of people who are actually affected by different policies.
Don’t just go along with party lines (again, on both sides. We are people. Humans. Not political opponents).
Volunteer. Protest. Donate your time. Be a voice for those who can’t for themselves.

It’s time to stop complaining and start being a part of the solution. Small actions add up to big movements.

Why I Casually Dated

Why I Casually Dated Before Getting into A(nother) Serious Relationship

I grew up believing that the only purpose of dating is marriage. After all, true love waits, so what’s the point of dating until you’ve found “the one”?

I didn’t date in high school. First, I wasn’t allowed. Second, I wasn’t interested. I mean, if the purpose to date is to get married, I have no way of knowing if I still will even be friends with these same kids in a couple years (spoiler alert: I still am with my close friends!), so why not just enjoy the time as friends? Which is what I did.

A year or so after I graduated high school, I started a relationship that was pretty up and down, with the whole ordeal lasting about three years.

Now, I know people who’ve been in relationships MUCH longer than that and have broken up. But for me, it was still a long time. Especially because I had the mindset that dating was to lead to marriage, so either I failed in breaking things off or I failed in letting them go on too long. Looking back, the pressure I put on dating and to try to “make it work” in that relationship is a big part of the reason I stayed so long — even though it was clear to most of the people around me that it wasn’t very healthy.

Through this experience, I realized I had internalized some unhealthy beliefs around dating. Granted, dating should be taken seriously, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. And to act like there is can send mixed messages that go against our individual relationship journeys.

After I ended that first relationship, I stayed single for while before putting my toes back into the dating waters. I’ve tried out casual dating, and, while everybody’s got different opinions on what dating SHOULD be, I found it helpful. If I had tried to jump right back into a serious relationship (even after being single for a decent period of time), I would still be struggling with some of these unhealthy patterns that I’d internalized.

Here are 5 reasons why casual dating was helpful for me before starting another serious relationship:

  1. It helped me figure out what I want.

Before casually dating, I only had dated one person, and it was for no short amount of time. Sometimes I would confuse if a certain quality of the relationship was something I actually wanted or if I just got used to it being there. Dating around showed me different ways a relationship can look — not bad, just different. Just because someone’s idea of a perfect date is a romantic, candle-lit dinner, doesn’t mean that’s what I have to want. It’s okay to prefer rock climbing and pizza. Or Netflix.

2. It showed me the difference between love and lust (yes, girls lust).

You can be attracted to someone, but not be compatible for a dating relationship. Just because I find someone attractive (whether it’s their appearance or their personality) doesn’t mean I love someone. There were guys I hit it off with right away, but after a few weeks or so, it became clear things weren’t going to work. And that’s okay.

3. It helped me better interpret my emotions.

When you are feeling a lot of emotions at one time, it can sometimes be difficult to decipher what you are actually feeling (just me?). I had to be really honest with myself when I was casually dating about what I was feeling and what I wasn’t. I didn’t want to waste either of our time, so if I wasn’t a huge fan of how things were going, I learned to be upfront about it.

4. I got rid of (some of) the mental baggage I had around dating.

As I mentioned earlier, I had some unhealthy baggage ingrained in my mind around dating. It was like this pressure to know on a first date if this is the person you are going to marry or not (and if I didn’t put that pressure on myself, someone else did for me). Casually dating helped me learn to release some of that pressure. If I don’t get it all right on the first try, it’s not the end of the world (and if I did, I might be a little worried I was missing something, anyways).

5. It was fun.

Come on, why do we always have to take dating so seriously?! I like meeting new people (when I’m in the mood… some weekends I would prefer just not to leave the house or speak to anyone), getting to know someone in a different way than a typical group setting, and going on fun adventures. I’m still friends with some of the guys I casually went out with — there obviously was a reason we clicked in the first place!

I’m not saying that everyone needs to or even should casually date. That’s going to vary from person to person. But dating doesn’t have to be as serious as we (especially in the church) often make it out to be. Just be clear and upfront about your expectations. And remember it’s okay not to get things right on the first try — there are always more fish in the sea 😉

Three Words for 2017

Three Words for 2017

Goals are great. I love goals.

I’ve got a huge bucket list of goals for my life. I’ve got goals for the next three months and for the next three years.

But a few years ago, I strayed away from New Year’s resolutions. I would always make these resolutions that were big and grand and never got me far.

Instead, I now chose three words to keep in the top of my head throughout the year. They can be qualities I want to embody or actions I want to do more of.

It’s always hard (if not impossible) to anticipate what the end of a year will look like and what my priorities will be judging from January 1. That’s the thing I love about choosing three words — there are no rules as to what they need to look like in my life. I can grow in these characteristics through whatever situations happen to pop up in my life. Generally, one of these three words surfaces as one with more meaning for the year than others. But they all still are impactful. They allow me to focus on who I want to become rather than what I want to do. If I am becoming the right person, the right things will follow.

For 2014, I chose strength, release, and complex.
For 2015, I chose love, blossom, and fearless.
For 2016, I chose balance, fullness, and detachment.

For 2017, I chose Dare, light, and adapt.

Dare
Two years ago I made “be fearless” my personal mantra as a reminder to step outside of my comfort zone, try new things, and not let fear hold me back from living life. And the phrase has helped guide me through difficult decisions and simply overcoming little fears. This word is an extension of that. With a lot of uncertainty for 2017, I need to have the courage to do things that might be hard, uncomfortable, or maybe a little crazy.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

― Helen Keller

Light
Travel was a big priority of mine in 2016 (2 countries, 5 states plus PA adventures!), and the plan is to continue with that in 2017! One thing that has made travel easier (physically and mentally) is to travel light. Physically traveling with less things can take some getting used to (especially if you are used to packing for every possibility), but it can give you more flexibility with where you go, how much you pay, and how much time you spend figuring out what to wear each day. But traveling light is also about a mental lightness too. It’s not carrying worries, anxiety, and stress with you. It’s forgiving and letting go of any bitterness. It’s living in the moment, not stuck in the past or lost in the future.

Adapt
This year holds a lot of uncertainty. Potentially my whole way of life could change in ways that I haven’t even anticipated yet. It’s scary. It’s exciting. The not knowing is what makes being able to adapt and be flexible so important. It’s easy to get caught up in doing something because that’s what I’ve always done. But change is a part of life, and life becomes so much easier when you are able to accept that and move with it.

What areas do you want to grow in in 2017? I’d love to hear about your intentions for the new year!