There is so much to adore about this city in the heart of Virginia-- from the food, the art, the coffee and beer and cider, the endless festivals, the outdoor options, the tattoos... it's a hipster heaven.
I'm a big fan of shopping local and supporting artists and makers I know personally, and I wanted to brag about a bunch of them today! You can shop all of them online, and it will be a huge blessing to them this holiday season.
It doesn't have to be a pain to eat out as a gluten-free vegan-- Richmond restaurants make it SO easy to eat well! Here's a guide to get you started.
I've heard it said that women are catty, that we are competitive and cutthroat and caught up in our appearances. My experiences have taught me just the opposite is true. I have found that women are compassionate, encouraging, eager to build each other up, and passionate about loving each other and the Lord well. I've seen incredible, unbelievable, powerful things happen when women come together.
In 2014, I went to a women's gathering at my church here in Richmond called un/defined. I didn't know quite what to expect, but I loved everything about it. It was a HUGE event, and it was so good. Laughter, covers of Lorde's song "Royals," funny spoof videos, bold teaching, stunning worship, vulnerable conversations, community-building, and a fantastic experience down to the very details.
Now, I'm part of team planning the next gathering of un/defined. Over the past few months, I've sat around tables with this team of women, and they have continually reminded me of all the goodness about women gathering together. These women are all different ages and in different stages of life, with different gifts and abilities and interests...but they unite for one common goal: to see women changed by the love of the Lord. They (quite honestly) are the best.
We're a small group, but I've seen God move in mighty ways in us already. We're a small sampling of the women who will join us for un/defined in January, but we are believing together that He'll do for the big event what He's doing among our small team.
We laugh hard together, to the point of tears sometimes, at jokes and at sentences that come out all tangled up in the most hilarious ways. We pray together, honestly coming before our Father with all that our hearts are longing for and wrestling with. We plan together, all of us using our strengths to join together and bring this gathering to life.
When women come together, beautiful things happen. This team has been proof of that to me.
At the last un/defined, I saw the goodness of the female community like I had never seen before. The room was packed. The energy was electric. The experience was amazing and empowering and exciting. I still feel that momentum now, almost two years later. Women came (hundreds and hundreds of them) and let down their guards and got real with each other and with God, and they left those two days changed.
I believe the same will happen in January. I believe women will come (hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of them) and let down their guards and get real with each other and with God, and leave after two days changed.
I can't wait.
The world might try to tell us about who women are, but I want to listen to what God tells us. He says we are beloved and we are beautiful and we are His. He calls us to gather together and to seek Him with all of our hearts. He tells us He wants to give us life to the full, to know us intimately, to love us relentlessly.
I want to invite you to join us if you possibly can. I can't wait to see all that the Lord will do, and I want you to be a part of it. Come experience life to the full with us.
I decided to make the most of all the coffee options in my little city of Richmond, VA, and here's the comprehensive guide to ALL OF MY THOUGHTS.
Most days, nannying two little boys looks like lots of Legos, battles and wars, karate moves, and running around like crazy people in a basement littered with toys. Yesterday, their family came into town and our day looked totally different-- there was still lots of running around like crazy people, but now it was five kids under five with three adults supervising as we explored Historic Tredegar and ventured across the bridge over the James River to Brown's Island. The boys had a blast! I'm always down for an adventure, and loved getting to see places I already love through the eyes of hyped up and eager little kiddos.
I love this River City. I love sunshine and blue skies. Here are six snapshots from our adventure!
Yesterday, the sun finally broke through what had been a week of gray skies and ice and (unnecessary) snow days. Since one of my #RAD52in52 goals is to visit 10 new Richmond coffeeshops, I set out to find one where I could spend my morning. I visited good old Yelp and found Black Hand Coffee Company which was near where I would be picking up the kiddos I nanny, so I decided that would be my spot for the day.
It was an unassuming little corner coffeeshop tucked away in the downtown Museum District with just a few tables inside, but I loved it. I ordered a dirty Chai (the Yelp reviews sold me on their Chai!)-- my first "dirty" Chai ever (they add a shot of espresso)...so good. It was such a relaxing morning in a great new little spot. They even had a free little library box outside where I picked up a new book to try (but I'm a few chapters in and not liking it all...so that might be a flop).
I continued my solo morning at my favorite Richmond vegetarian restaurant where I got the BEST vegan "chicken salad" wrap (gluten-free too!) with mustard potato salad...to die for. All in all, it was the perfect Friday morning and everything I needed after a gloomy and draining week. Here are some snapshots from the morning.
The rain is pouring down, the kind of cold, misty, constant rain that reminds me so much of my England days. I've always liked this kind of weather, always adamantly defended cities like London and Seattle with all their gray and rainy days. They're peaceful, cozy, relaxing, I argue. They aren't depressing. They aren't annoying. These days are the best days.
These are the days where it just makes sense to put on your brother's big old flannel and chunky socks under your worn-in, favorite boots. It makes sense to drive in the wild rain to the best corner cafe in Shockoe Bottom, the one with the massive windows more than twice as tall as you are. It makes sense to order the large soy chai latte instead of your usual small...it's just that kind of day. The best kind of day.
The rain won't let you forget it today. It eases up at times and passersby tuck their collapsed umbrellas under their arms and peel the hoods of their rain jackets back. But then it dumps down again with vengeance, slowing every car to a painfully slow crawl and forcing everyone under the cover of awnings and umbrellas again.
This rain will bring winter here to stay. The last leaves are slipping off the trees, having given up hope of holding on much longer. With the Christmas music already taking over the radio and every store's sound system, the holidays seem unavoidable. This rain would be snow if we were just a few states away, and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that.
I have long held onto the belief that all things Christmas should be contained in the month of December. It shouldn't spill over into November, that's Thanksgiving's month to shine.
This year, though, I've surprised myself. I found myself cooking dinner with Frank Sinatra crooning his Christmas classics in the background. I couldn't help but listen to JOHNNYSWIM's new Christmas album when it came out, and Pentatonix's new version of Mary, Did You Know played through my computer more times than I would like to admit. Even now, as I sit here under the warm glow of lights hanging from exposed wooden beams, Michael Buble is singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in my ears.
This rainy day makes it all make sense. This weather is the kind that seems to fit so well with the songs of the holidays. While the scene outside of these windows is still one of falling leaves instead of snow, it seems to be welcoming me to winter. It seems to make sense that I've made an exception to my usually strict rule this year and let Christmas creep in early.
This is the best kind of day. The kind where the words are plenty and the ideas are endless. The kind where every conversation around me is hushed and gentle, like none of us want to spoil the magic of these moments. The kind where big bowls of soup are on every table next to our foam-filled mugs. The kind of day where only couches or coffeeshops seem appropriate and I'm glad I've found them both.
Call the rain depressing, call this day a typical Monday, call me crazy, but I firmly believe this is the very best kind of day.
Winter seemed to come out of nowhere this weekend. I was loving autumn, soaking every bit of the cool and breezy temperatures, admiring every fiery tree and fallen leaf...and then it was 30 degrees and I was freezing. I'm not a fan. Saying farewell to the outdoor adventures of summer and fall is bittersweet, but this weekend was still full of exploring.
If you haven't met her yet, the pup is our miniature schnauzer, Uli. She's sweet and sassy and I've trained her to hold my hand (aka the cutest trick ever). I ventured to the VMFA with one of my best friends for the Forbidden exhibit (we concluded it was a good thing to expose ourselves to things from different cultures, and we should do it more often, but neither of us were overly enthused by the whole show) and to just wander around both inside and outside in the gardens that I've never seen before. On my way home, I decided to stop in a little local grocery shop I had seen on Instagram, and I promptly fell in love with how cute and quaint it was. The prices weren't as fun (sorry, but I'm not spending $9 for a bag of granola), but it was definitely picturesque and full of treasures!
Yes, it's cold. Winter is here. But adventures can still be had. Thankful for this fun weekend.
One of my favorite parts of coming to my parents' house in Twin Hickory is taking walks through the neighborhood with my mom and our miniature schnauzer, Uli. The neighborhood around my apartment is slightly sketchy for strolls, so I always try to squeeze a walk in when I visit Mom and Dad.
This morning, the weather was too perfect not to be out in, so I took Uli and threw on a flannel and my Nikes and set out on a walk. It turns out I can even get lost in my old neighborhood, so our little walk ended up being more than 2 miles, but it was a beautiful way to start my Saturday sabbath.
Enjoy some of my favorite shots from this morning!
All photos were taken on my iPhone.
I've always loved fall (no secret there), but this year, nannying two little energetic boys has made me see the season in new ways. We go on a walk around their neighborhood almost every afternoon, racing scooters down hills and digging for worms or slugs and jumping on every crunchy leaf in sight.
Every day, I'm learning to look up and look down and be present. I've seen beauty in places I might typically have overlooked, and I'm learning to embrace childlike curiosity and wonder in my life more.
All photos were taken on my iPhone.
Have you ever watched an artist work? Stood still, captivated by their movements, seeing the brush held confidently in their hand dip into the paint and then glide along the canvas almost effortlessly? It seems fluid and graceful, like the brain and hand are in perfect synchrony as the art comes to life.
Last fall, I was still recovering from knee surgery when a street art festival took place at the Carytown Bus Depot downtown. Still shaky on my feet and learning to walk again with this altered knee, I went to see the murals.
As I entered, I saw a man painting. He was working on a stretch of wall outside of the main area, on a side street with little traffic and few passersby. I stopped and watched him work for a few moments. He wasn't being showy or dramatic or drawing any attention to himself, he was just quietly at work on a stretch of coated brick on a design I couldn't quite make out yet.
Thinking back on how he created his art, I remember little things: slow, steady, moving and adjusting and improvising, skilled, constant.
The more I've been shaping my project of seeking and sharing stories, the more I've been embracing thinking of God as Artist and Author. I'm seeing Him at work in the stories I've heard, even just the few so far: slow, steady, moving, adjusting, improvising, skilled, constant. They haven't been stories of divine, radical, earth-shattering moments, but rather of an ongoing journey of grace and learning. I've seen God like that street artist, doing His work and designing His art in quiet ways, not demanding attention, but gracefully bringing beauty to life where there once was just a dirty space.
The design doesn't always make sense as it's being worked on. It isn't always obvious what the final product will look like. I'm learning that's the best part of it all, the trusting in the process, trusting in the hand that holds us, trusting that the things that are worth it take time and patience and a willingness to adapt.
I'm learning that my story is never finished, that there will never be a time when the Artist gives up and walks away. I'm learning that grace is abundant, that mercy has been given to me, that love says "you're worth working on, the best is yet to come."
I'm still learning to walk, but now it's more learning to walk in steady step with my Savior. I'm seeing the beauty in every story, the signature of the Artist stamped on every life, the brushstrokes of grace in every piece of heartbreak and renewal.
What an Artist. What an Author.