Did I really just type watercolors in that title spot? Watercolors? Really? Me?
Last summer, I started my first bullet journal. I fell in love. Then, I filled it up. I went a month without one, but now, I'm back with round two, better than ever. Here's a peek inside!
Way back in December, I got an email from a girl named Samantha who wanted to share her story with me. I have to admit: the email got totally buried in my inbox. Blame it on a busy holiday season or just a totally forgetful brain of a girl who is really bad at responding to emails...
Fast forward to April, and she emailed again. Thank goodness for people who give me grace and don't give up on me even when I totally drop the ball! In her email, she shared that because of how things had played out since December, she now clearly knew the story she wanted to share. How cool is that? I never meant to leave her hanging for so long, but it was in that season that the Lord worked in her life to really bring about a story she wanted to share with the world.
She emailed me and shared so much about her life and I absolutely loved it! Email is not the best way to get to know somebody (I would always always rather meet someone face to face for coffee to really connect) but she was so warm and friendly and sweet and I knew we would get along great!
And guess what? I dropped the ball AGAIN. Like, come on, Rachel, EMAIL PEOPLE BACK. I felt horrible. I had read her email right when I got it and was so excited to reply...and then totally didn't.
She gave me even MORE grace. She STILL wanted to be part of this whole thing. I was shocked, honestly. I had totally let her down not once, but twice, and she still was willing to share her story with me, to be vulnerable with a stranger, and to let me publish her words for the world. Wow. That floored me. I had completely given her no reason to trust me...and she did anyway. I've seen so much grace and love come from her and it's been a beautiful thing.
That's what I love about this whole Story Seeker thing-- people that I never would have crossed paths with before, people I never would have gotten close to, people I would have never reached back out to again...they become people that change me. They become people that grow me, that inspire me, that move me, that push me to be better, and that remind me with their gracious hearts and their powerful words that our stories matter and are so worth sharing.
I am so honored to share Samantha's story with you. This girl is one of the good ones.
Hey there, I’m Samantha. I love writing, be it on my blog, movingpeaces.com or with my husband when we write songs together. We live happily in a little yellow house in Raleigh, NC, tucked between our garden of veggies in the backyard and the chocolate shop across the street out front. It sounds really cute and fun, but sometimes I struggle knowing how to tell people who I am or where I belong. Occasionally, I let my identity get caught up in other things--whether it’s my job, my husband’s job at church, my weaknesses or my strengths. Thankfully, there’s one identity that matters most and that’s in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we think the story is already over when we’re barely halfway through it.
I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, although I haven’t always realized how important it was to me. My major was in journalism and mass communication, and my minor was in English. (I’m super well-rounded, huh?) The funny thing is, I didn’t actually know how much I loved writing until I wasn’t doing it.
By the end of graduation, I was newly engaged and offered a position in the public relations department of an ad agency. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was a job in my field that sounded glamorous to my peers and friends. I knew I would get good experience, and I needed some time to figure out what my dream job might be.
While I gained a variety of experience, it came at a cost. I worked crazy hours, was stressed out and spent the majority of my first year of marriage incredibly sick. I learned a lot at that job--that my marriage was a higher priority, that I had no interest in climbing a career ladder if it meant stepping on toes or pushing people aside in the process and that I believed I was meant for something more.
I found another job and found rest, but before long my husband and I felt it was time to move halfway across the country. That is another story for another time, but the short of it is this: we quit our jobs, said goodbye to our friends and picked up everything without jobs or guarantees waiting for us on the other side.
Having just moved on a whim, I found myself looking into a different career path and considering grad school. I began working in an administrative office at a major university and while I did well, I missed working creatively. I missed writing and challenging myself in the way that would best suit me. I couldn’t foresee a future in the field of higher education anymore, so I returned to what I knew by working in a web development agency.
I told myself this was the job I was going to stick with for awhile. It didn’t matter what happened, I needed a long-standing position on my resume. While I still missed writing, I figured I could make it work as a project manager. My determination was strong, but the business was not. Due to some financial instability, we all went weeks without our paychecks. Clients and employees were dropping, leaving me without much to do and no choice but to step away, too.
After all the struggle and effort, I felt like I came up short. A failure. Some days I wondered if my career was over forever, if I would never amount to anything. I questioned and doubted myself and my abilities. Was I weak? Incapable? Naive? Why had my career path looked like such a mess?
For nine months I scrambled and panicked--applying for jobs and desperately hoping for acceptance. Instead, I met rejection after rejection and was the “runner-up” job candidate on several occasions. In that time, I also managed to slowly open myself up to new opportunities. I finally shared my blog with more than just close friends and family. I planned the women’s event at my church, and I agreed to play in a band. My writing and creative work soared.
Then, in February, I was offered the job I had been looking for all along, a creative communications position with a small company. I felt triumphant as I accepted the position, grateful to have found my strengths and skills in the process. It was perfect, and I was ready to put those days of job struggles behind me.
It was then that I contacted Rachel about writing my story, thinking it was in the past. I was ready to look back at it with ease knowing that the hard part was behind me and the lessons were already learned.
I wanted this journey to be nicely wrapped and tied with a bow. Everything in me wanted to finish this story up and present it for all to see. I wanted to tell the story of success and accomplishment. Instead, here I am, vulnerable, exposed and recently unemployed. Just like that, my new job was gone, and my story started a new chapter.
That’s the thing with stories, they are never really over. Our life continues and it doesn’t all end in a bow. But the story still matters. It still carries impact, lessons learned and wisdom gained.
Your story matters, no matter what part of it you are on. I don’t know yet where my story will go, but I know I’ve grown so much in the process. My faith, my marriage, my friendships and my creativity are all stronger. Instead of panic for what is to come, I am so excited for the opportunities ahead of me. This story is not over yet, and I could not be more thrilled.
Here's the thing about writing: it's hard. It's the thing that makes me feel alive and like I'm doing what I was created to do, but it's also the thing that is a struggle full of resistance and excuses. I pour words onto the pages of my journal, but then stare at a blank screen and feel stuck. It's one thing to put my words down for my eyes only, and another thing altogether to hit publish and let them fly.
Here's the thing about writing: it's worth it. The hard posts, the ones that stay in the drafts for months too long, the ones that come with tears or shaking hands, they're worth it. They're the raw words, the ones that are real in the deepest and richest of ways, and they matter. I read words like that from writers I love and from strangers I've just stumbled upon, and my heart soars. Transparency is beautiful. Sharing struggles and successes and stories is essential-- we are all human, all struggling, all fighting through the days and trying to be brave, and when we can read words that remind us we're not alone, it's helpful. It's encouraging. It's uplifting. It's worth it.
Here's the thing about writing: it's a gift. I forget that a lot. It's a freedom to be able to share my words freely and send them out to anyone listening around the whole wide world. Not everyone has that freedom. I so often feel a pressure to publish, a pressure to be perfect, a pressure to have things figured out before I write them down...but it's a gift to write. Not pressure. Not a burden. When I see it that way, when I remember to be grateful for the chance to share and spill and journey through things with my words, it's a joy and a gift to do so.
Here's the thing about writing: you just have to do it. Inspiration may strike, or it may not. You may feel tired and exhausted and worn out and just not ready. You may not think you have anything to say. You may feel like you're not worthy to be a writer or you don't have the authority to speak into something. Just do it. Just write. Just put pen on paper and letters on the screen and do the work of it. Maybe in the end, it's not meant for the world. Okay. That's fine. You wrote anyway. You did the work. You pushed through and made something come to life, even if that something isn't polished or pretty or put together. It doesn't need to be. You just need to do it. And do it again. And keep doing it. When it's easy, when it's hard, when you're excited about it and when you feel anxious, when it's sunny outside and when it's storming, when you feel alone or when you feel wrapped up in love, when you've been learning a lot or when you're going through a dry spell, just keep doing it. Keep writing. Keep working. Keep journeying and writing it all down and seeing what happens.
Here's the thing about writing:
You may or may not have seen this new "bullet journaling" trend circling the Internet. I had seen it first from Amber (the source from whom all best ideas flow) and then from Kristin who just made it seem irresistible.
I was the girl who had a huge planner (that I never took anywhere because it was massive, and therefore never knew my schedule when I needed it) and also a book that was just for to-do lists, and then another journal for notes from work, and a million index cards taped up on my walls and scattered around my desk with random ideas... I was a mess. A bullet journal seemed to be the perfect way to combine all of those things while still giving me flexibility and freedom to organize things in a way that worked well for me.
I bought a kraft Moleskine (I am so loyal to Moleskine, it's ridiculous) with the square grid paper (my all-time favorite kind, I will never go back to blank or lines) and doodled my heart out on the cover.
It's been a few weeks of implementing this new system, and I AM IN LOVE. Seriously, this is the best way I have found to stay organized with all the different things I have going on, all in one place in a journal that's easy to take with me everywhere...it's just so great.
There are different ways to go about this, but there are some things that make a bullet journal a bullet journal: an index, a calendar of the entire month, and daily to-do lists. I added other things to mine and customized it a bit based on what I need to keep track of, and I think I'll keep evolving that over time as well.
Here's how I've set up my bullet journal!
The index is just the table of contents with what is on each page! Numbering the pages is hugely helpful and helps keep things all on track.
I laid out my calendar in a box monthly format instead of a numbered list, because it's helpful for me to see how the weeks play out in a more visual way! Plus, I have more room if I need to add more to each day. I only add things that aren't my normal routine here (I don't list when I'm at work or at church on Sundays, etc).
This was something I added to help keep myself on track with all my writing, and I have loved it. I've scaled back my blogging this summer to just twice a week on my blog, with occasional freelance posts scattered throughout as well, and I've loved seeing them all listed out. I've never planned posts out until now! It's great.
These were other pages I added, as a way of keeping track throughout the month of both the books I'm reading (to make my blog post recaps even easier!) and the things I'm learning (to boil down my pages and pages of processing in my journal down to short bullet points I can blog about later).
Here are what my days typically look like. The boxes to the left of each item get filled with an X when they are accomplished, and an arrow if they need to get moved to another day or postponed indefinitely. Having those boxes motivates me SO MUCH more than I realized it would!
Do you bullet journal?! Anything you've added to yours that you absolutely love? Any questions about how this whole thing works? Comment below! Let's be bullet journal buddies.
Quite a while ago, I stumbled upon an article on Medium called The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna. I absolutely loved it. If you haven't read it, go read it now! It has now been turned into a book (that I preordered and should be getting in the mail this week!)-- it's that good and that popular.
Recently, I stumbled upon a magazine at Barnes and Noble called The Great Discontent and absolutely loved it as well. It was full of long-form interviews with artists and creatives of all kinds, and it was inspiring and motivating and beautifully produced.
Now, Elle Luna and The Great Discontent have teamed up on a project called #the100dayproject where people are invited to choose something to do for 100 days, sharing every day on Instagram with that hashtag as well as their personalized hashtag, too.
I chose to fill a page in a mini sketchbook with words and doodles every day from April 6 (today!) until July 14. I've called it #100daysofRADpages and you can follow along with each day on Instagram!
Interested in this whole idea? Join in! Choose something today and get started, you haven't missed anything yet! I'm so excited to commit to doing something every day for this stretch of time-- I think it's going to be a great practice in dedication as well as creativity. Find me on Instagram (@racheladawson) to see each day!