The Lord is Peace

“Then the Lord said to him,
“Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.”
So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-Is-Peace.

Judges 6:23-24a

My pastor taught from Judges 6 yesterday, and I’ve been mulling over this portion of it ever since. As we are still watching church at home, not sure when exactly we’ll be able to resume meeting in person, when the next ‘phase’ will begin, or what the next phase of life will look like, I feel such a lack of peace.

I’m torn between the comfort of my pj’s and warm coffee as I watch a live streamed sermon from my couch, and the discomfort of the unknown, the new normal, and the distance between my living room and the rest of the world.

What’s truly been resonating in my heart, is that there are so many areas of our lives that need peace right now; so many different types of peace.

Peace of mind
Peace of health
Peace with trial
Peace with loss
Peace with solitude
Peace with our decisions
Peace that God is in control of our circumstances
Peace with differing opinions
Peace with ourselves

Whatever you’re going through right now, I’m willing to bet you’d love to have more peace about it.

And in this passage it struck me that peace is not just a substance God provides to us like food or shelter, it’s a quality of His character. The better we know Him, the more at peace we are because we are. Peace is not only found in Him, He is the source of true peace. It’s found in His presence even more than His provision.

The Lord is Peace. And He is our only true peace.


This realization has challenged me to not just look for the things I want, but to seek the Lord; peace, wisdom, identity, provision, etc. is all found in who He is, and to know who He truly is, I must pour into a relationship with Him, spend time with Him, be near Him.

So in this short note of a blog post, I just wish to challenge and encourage you with this lesson I’m learning. In whatever area you lack peace, it’s in His presence. You’ll find it there.

6.29.2020

When Quarantine Ends…

I apologize if you’re tired of all things quarantine & Covid 19 related, but with little else on the calendar, it’s been the main source of my inspiration and life lessons lately. So if you can bear it, I’d be thrilled to have you continue reading!

I’ve seen several posts, memes, and captions from people deeming their 2020 planners as useless purchases, and to be honest I laughed and cringed at the same time.

I have absolutely nothing scheduled today but I opened my planner for the first time in a week simply because I miss the hint of structure and the satisfaction of crossing things off when I complete them.

In my life I’ve had God completely change enough plans to learn that I’m not in control. No matter how neatly I fill my calendar, I can’t write reality, so I don’t make plans too far out anymore. But this time without plans entirely has taught me a whole new lesson in relinquishing control. I don’t see my template of the year printed and bound into a book as a ‘planner’ anymore, I see it as lists of goals and habits that I need accountability and structure to accomplish.

So as April comes to a close and the quarantine begins to lift, it’s got me thinking about what to put in the planner for May. What do I want to be held accountable too? What will our new normal be? What things that were on the calendar for March will return, and what won’t?

Aside from health & safety, my main prayer in this season has been that when the storm passes over we come out of this as a different culture. Maybe we’ll be more inclined to support small and local businesses, have stronger habits of calling each other just to check in and offering to bring groceries to friends just to help, and with better hand washing habits. Maybe we’ll keep the habits of spending more time walking outside and drive a little slower.
Maybe we’ll simply look out for one another more.

Since the beginning of quarantine I’ve felt an internal conflict of guilt and relief that it hasn’t been a terribly tough time for me. It’s actually been a really refreshing season. Having time off of major plans to reset, try new things, pick up old hobbies, and reevaluate habits that were wearing on my schedule and energy has brought me a lot of joy. I know covid-19 is a real threat and truly affected people so I don’t take it lightly, but I’m extremely grateful that my family has been able to stay pretty healthy and I’ve found some rays of hope in all of this.

I know this isn’t a super inspiring post with any crazy new clincher so if you made it to the end of my personal little musings I thank you for reading! And I’d like to leave you with the same question I’m still mulling over myself, “Who do you want to be as we emerge from the fog of quarantine?”

4.29.2020

Quarantine Convictions

How strange is this time we’re living in??

It still astounds me how suddenly this far-away headline swept into a real thing in our day-to-day lives and cancelled almost everything. Just as I was getting the hang of some good new habits this change in day to day life subconsciously became a sneaky way to let them slip away and just ‘chill’.

I quickly found myself with extra time, nowhere to go, and though I had a list of things I could definitely do, tackling things was a whole new challenge. I felt bad for the first few days that everyone else seemed so driven to work through these changes and tackle new things & I felt like my motivation had been drained. Am I the only one?

It took a few days of these mixed feelings of guilt, rest, Netflix watching, and compulsive cleaning & re-organizing for me to finally get my butt moving. I got back into my morning devotional habit & God instantly reset my heart with some verses in James.

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

James 3:16-18

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

James 4:13-17

As I read these verses I was convicted that I can’t count on having plenty of time tomorrow for projects, productivity, healthy habits, and community. Just because this strange time makes me feel like I have plenty of time, is no excuse to push things until later. Rest is good, but not doing what I know God has called me to is a sin. We’re called to be good stewards of the days we are given, one day at a time.

Most of my discouraged feelings were simply because I was looking to my own desires and how my actions (or lack thereof) reflected on me, and how I felt rather than how I could be serving and sowing peace in my home. Being an introvert made this quiet time at home a little too easy for me to completely distance myself, but I’m finally choosing to make sure all this “distancing” is physical over social. Because even with all the productivity in the world, I still need a community.

It’s amazing how simply texting someone to ask how they’re doing or joining a Zoom call to catch up and see what everyone is having for dinner breaks down the social walls of quarantine. Our hearts need encouragement, and sometimes technology is the means we have to deliver that. Physical distance is absolutely called for right now, social distancing between our hearts is not.

Staying connected to church with livestreams, building tools for our small group community online, reading, writing, & prayer are ways I’m practicing seeking the wisdom from above. Resting, cleaning, organizing, painting, & even baking for the look on my husband’s face when he tasted my first ever banana bread are ways I’m sowing peace even when I’m ‘stuck’ at home. And the more I embrace these habits, the more I don’t feel stuck. I’m safe at home. I have opportunities at home. & I’m grateful to take care of my home. Michael & I played six rounds of yahtzee today, & it was absolutely the most peaceful, spiritual, & joyfully productive way we could have spent that time. That may not be a daily habit, but today that’s how we connected.

As we get through this I have a feeling (and really a hope) that we won’t return to ‘normal’. I hope we’re going to grow in this and though there will still be challenges, we’re going to become a more united and intentional community.

I’m still looking for more ways to serve others from afar so now I want to hear from YOU! How can I serve you in this time? What virtual tools would help you stay connected? And as we come through this, what will you need to rebuild?

If you’re looking for a church community, we’re live streaming City Rev church and hosting small groups online!
You can watch our live stream here live.cityrev.org
Weekend Services: Saturdays 6pm, Sundays 9am, 10:30am, & 12
Young Adults: Mondays 7:30pm
Students: Wednesdays 7pm
And you can get more information on small groups at our website https://cityrev.org
or e-mail me and I’ll help you get connected, you don’t have to be local to be a part of community.

Stay safe, healthy, & social (from a distance) friends!
3.29.2020

Water Your Own Grass

I often fall into the trap of comparison. It’s easy to scroll through social media snippets of someone’s life that look so exciting, stress-free, leading us to assume the parts we can’t see are downright magical too (because how could they not be, right?). It drains my joy when I let my mind spiral in this delusion. It always looks greener when you see the cropped, brightened, filtered & publicized square portion. The saturation of the scene is literally raised.

I love the creative art of capturing moments and editing photos, but you see the issue I’m getting at here; we discourage ourselves with comparison.

We get disappointed when we don’t fit into molds we weren’t designed to. Comparison writes lies in our minds that should have no place filtering how we view ourselves. I’ve lost count of the lies my mind has written from comparison. Every one of them has hurt my ability to be me and do anything I am actually good at because I cowered in disappointment and fear. I believed them.
‘I’m a terrible wife, not a good cook, not talented enough, not stylish or artistic enough, not smart enough, don’t make enough money, too weak, too tall, too stubborn, too quiet.’
Filtering myself through other people has only hurt me and even distanced my friendships with them because I let myself become intimidated by expectations that weren’t even there. Comparison stopped me from trying. Comparison killed my joy.

God has been reassuring me that He designed each of our lives specifically for us and we should be endlessly grateful that the one who knows us most intimately surrounded us with people, circumstances, and even challenges tailored to make us who He wants us to be. Staring at your neighbor’s grass in envy won’t bring you joy. The grass is not greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.

Take action in your own life. Start watering your own grass. Build a community of real-life friends, find a new place to explore for the weekend, re-organize your closet, spend more time in the Word, go to the craft store and get started on the hobby you’ve been dreaming of, practice the heck out of your photography skills or that latte art; whatever it is that God has put into your life for you to water, grow at, enjoy, and maybe even snap a picture of, work at it and find joy in it.

The lush green grass of the life you’ve grown will still have weeds. It takes constant effort to keep your grass healthy and to appreciate it even when it’s not. Don’t waste what God has blessed you with.

Adjusting my mind set this way has made all the difference in my life lately, and it’s a choice I have to make consciously every day, but it’s been so worth it. It’s made me appreciate my feed, my life, my experiences, and my joy so much more.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16 ESV

2.29.2020

Hardwired vs. Hot-wired

As the new year rolled in, Michael and I have been talking about dreams we want to pursue, how we spend our time, and how far God has brought us. It’s had us thinking back too. We’ve begun to ask ourselves (& each other) why we do certain things, say certain things, and think certain ways (marriage is the ultimate close up lol).

We got to talking about insecurities, mentalities, & habits that we’ve carried for so long, we didn’t even realize they weren’t natural parts of us. As we started to see what was holding us back, that’s when we realized; You can live how you were hard-wired, or you can live how you’ve been hot-wired.

Hardwiring is a design process that’s meant to be permanent.
Hot-wiring is a tampering process, making something (or perhaps someone) function in a way it’s not meant to.

As God has been revealing to us who He’s created us to be, He’s showing us how He designed (hard-wired) us to live our lives, in community, sharing with others, pursuing passions that glorify Him. Those should never change. He’s revealing the experiences and lessons He’s given us that have continued to design us along the way. Some trials grew our faith, some experiences stretched our patience, and still others taught us to be more grateful. This is God continually working in our hearts and our resilience.

But some things were holding us back…
some hurtful comments that cut deep, some friendships broke trust, and some things not panning out the way we hoped discouraged us more than we knew.

God is revealing these things in our lives have ‘hot-wired’ us to live in ways that shelter our insecurities. Whether it was an insensitive comment, broken trust, or failure of some kind; we, unknowingly in the moment, allow some experiences to tamper with how we see ourselves and in turn, how we act. It might not have been one tragic event that changed you, it was probably a series of small things that made you slowly doubt yourself. Or maybe it’s simply the culture you’re absorbing that pressures you to try and be someone you’re not. Song lyrics, instagram posts, tv shows, etc. can discourage us with unrealistic expectations. When we don’t fulfill them, we lose confidence. Instead of pushing our limits, they cause us to withdraw. Instead of building our faith, they question it, if we let them.

There are plenty of difficult experiences in our lives that God uses to build us and grow us for good, but people are sinners & some things leave scars. Someone may have broken your trust, but someone else desperately wants to trust you. Someone may have said something hurtful, but someone else wants to encourage you, and your hot-wired ears aren’t hearing it because somewhere deeper, you already don’t believe it. Someone may have said you can’t, but with God you can.

I like taking time at the beginning of each year to reflect and refocus, but this has felt different. It’s felt like a season of washing away old things that are in the way of the new things. There is still so much progress to be made in our lives. This post isn’t to drag you through every story of when we’ve been hurt, it’s just our realization that we have some choices in how much we let things affect us. Whether it was our own sin or the affect of someone else’s, we don’t have to go on living defensively. Jesus has fully defended us on the cross.

I wanted to share this little reminder so as we’re still beginning this year and you’re still deciding on your resolutions/goals or facing the challenge of actually tackling them, your main goal is to live the way God designed you; not how instagram filtered you, not how so-and-so said you should, & not in fear of what’s to come. Clear our the old lies & live the way God is hardwiring you, in His truth.

God says we are His children.
Galatians 4:7 //3:26 // Ephesians 1:5 // John 1:12 // 1 John 3:1-2

God says He loves us
John 3:16

He has a plan for each of us
Jeremiah 1:5 // 29:11

We are created in His image
Genesis 1:27 // Ephesians 2:10 //

He has saved & forgiven us
Galatians 2:20 // Ephesians 2:1-10 // 2 Corinthians 5:21

We aren’t perfect or capable of anything alone, but with God, you’ve been made for so much more than you’ve been hot-wired to believe. God is sovereign, He already knows what’s in your heart, so release it back into His hands.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”
Isaiah 30:21 ESV

1.31.2020

2020 Vision

I may have bawled my eyes out through the entirety of the movie The Art of Racing in the Rain (I recommend it, but have tissues on hand.) but I did manage to note a few lines that struck me. This one is my favorite:

“The car goes where your eyes go.”

I’m not one to lay out a five year step by step plan or narrow my yearly vision too tightly because my weakness is a tendency to get so consumed by the detail of those things that I get tunnel vision and miss other opportunities. I want to be open to new routes along the way, but there is so much truth to setting your focus on where you want to go, what you want to accomplish, and who you want to be to keep your vision clear.

Thinking about a goal once or twice in passing doesn’t make it enough to motivate your choices along the way.

Driving, boating, flying, horse-back riding; whatever you expect to carry you, it goes where you set your gaze. You can’t look at the steering wheel and expect to stay in your lane, or look at your feet and run a marathon. And you can’t focus on the distractions to your left or right and expect to keep moving forward. It’s a pretty basic rule of good driving, but how easy it is to forget in our daily busy lives where distractions and unexpected events seem endless.

As this new year rolls in, it feels like the perfect time for us to be encouraged to lift our eyes intentionally. To evaluate where we’ve come from and what we’ve learned and seek out some new goals. To reset ourselves to be open to what God is trying to show us on the horizon and work on following through.

When I was in flight lessons my instructor used to remind me to look forward with a simple rule: “10% cockpit instruments, 90% window.” The time and attention we spend planning, thinking, or researching should be much smaller than the time we spend actually working ahead and looking at where we need to go.

You can’t look at a planner with carefully crafted lists and plans and schedules and expect any of its color coated dreams to magically come to fruition. You’ve got to set your eyes where you want to go, and then actually hit the gas.

Stop and take a look at your surroundings today. Who’s behind you cheering you on toward your goals? Who’s in the lane next to you supporting you along the way? Now look ahead.

Where are your eyes going?

My 2020 vision is to have a more clear awareness of my Lord’s presence and His love for me. To act more selflessly as a wife & friend. & continue posting at least once a month to continue exercising my writing.

Happy New Year friends! Thanks for helping me reach 2019’s goal of publishing one post a month!

12.31.2019

Small Business Saturday // Holiday Gift Guide!

The holidays always sneak up on me, but this year November just FLEW by! Things have been understandably busy so this will just be a quick & practical post because I thought it would be perfect with today being Small Business Saturday and Christmas quickly approaching to do a holiday gift guide!

So here are a few of my favorite gifts or places to buy gifts! Some, but not all, of the following are sponsored partnerships that I personally benefit from, but all genuinely have my support and favorable opinion!

The Commandment Co. You’ve seen the name here before, The Commandment Co. has amazing gifts to share scripture from post cards to home pieces and TODAY November 30th is the LAST day to use code ALIBRANDI10 for 10% off your purchase! The Nightlight is probably my favorite piece that’s currently adorning my desk

God’s Fingerprints You’ll be hearing lots more about this sweet shop from me later this week, but their sale prices to celebrate Small Business Saturday this weekend are up to 50% off! You can shop their beautiful site here!

MONAT It’s no secret I’m also a Market Partner with MONAT promoting quality vegan hair & skin care and I absolutely LOVE every product I’ve used. Our Holiday Gift Sets are selling out fast because they’re worth so much more than they actually cost and the products are gifts that your friends & family will love and get to enjoy long after the holidays! You can shop my site here or simply e-mail me with questions or a list of what you’d like to order! alibrandidawn@gmail.com

Finally for today, BespokenStudio My dear friend Mandy is an insanely talented graphic illustrator and her love for the Lord shows through every piece of her stunning work! You can shop her prints on ETSY & follow her shop for updates on instagram!

That’s all folks! I hope this guide inspired you to give some meaningful, inspiring, and useful gifts while helping you save money along the way! If you have a small business and would like to be featured in my next guide or partner with me in any way please reach out! alibrandidawn@gmail.com
Let’s chat!

Happy Shopping!
11.30.2019

Handling the Unexpected

It’s nearly over and yet I can barely believe it’s already October! It hasn’t truly sunk in that it’s time for this month’s blog post to be live because it just hasn’t sunk in that it’s actually October.

I’m going to start this post with a confession.

I’m behind on my goals. My ‘one book per month’ goal is hanging on by a thread. I finished September’s book in late October and I’ve only just started another. This blog post is also not what I had planned because what I planned is just too incomplete and will be saved for another month.

So here’s to hoping that somewhere in November with lots of coffee and amongst breaks in moving I can catch up on my book count and spend more time writing!

Did I say moving? Yes we’re moving!

Thus the unexpected delay in meeting other goals and challenge of tackling new ones…

We did have some notice of this of course because it’s such a long process, but it became reality unexpectedly quickly and has been full of unexpected challenges, to-dos, and questions that have all become life lessons along the way.

This process has been so humbling for me as someone who likes to be ‘in control’ or at least live in that illusion…. So many elements of this have depended on other people’s decisions, waiting for answers, approval of inspectors & HOA’s, and demanding expenses. But it’s been a reassuring experience that ultimately God is in control. It’s His plan when things fall through, it’s His plan even when we don’t know where to go next, and it’s His plan when we’re mentally exhausted and reaching out to Him for help.

I’m learning to not miss God’s grace and my need for Him everyday. When you’re hit with unexpected challenges and realize you truly don’t have control over your circumstances, you’re forced to simply focus on your reaction. Am I trusting & honoring God in my attitude? In how I face this challenge? In my expectations of how this process would go?

So this month’s blog post is just a little snippet of the lesson I’m somewhere in the middle of learning. Are you resting in the fact that God is in control? Are you walking in that truth joyfully, even when you don’t know where that will take you? Because it’s totally worth it!

10.31.2019

Typography Testimonies // The Commandment Co.

Sponsored post ahead!

We have so many avenues in our daily life to express our style and creativity! What if they could also be testimonies of our faith?
A unique phone case can start a conversation, a postcard can brighten a friend’s day miles away, or a notebook can be a sweet gift to encourage someone. But what if we could use every one of those things to remind whoever sees it of God’s love for them?

I’ve partnered with The Commandment Co. to help you do just that!

The Commandment Co. is an online Christian shop based in Singapore who’s goal is to share scripture on every item they sell! Their products range from things we use everyday like keychains, tote bags, & water bottles, to things we decorate our home with like banners, coasters, & cushion covers, to thoughtful gifts like mugs, jewelry, and postcards!

Here’s a couple of their products that are my personal favorites!

Come to Me & I Will Give You Rest Night Light

Y’all how sweet is that glow?! I love the natural wood frame & the clarity of the scripture on the glass. It has an attached usb cord so you don’t have to constantly replace batteries and you can either plug it into the wall like you would with your phone charger or if you’d rather display it on your desk it can plug directly into a laptop and has a button on the cord for convenience!

This Night Light is also available in four other designs to let your light shine with the pattern of your choice! I especially love to display scripture in my home and this piece immediately catches everyone’s eye!

Modi Case iphone Films

I already have a clear phone case that I like to display polaroids in and even used to hand-paint mini pictures for to display scripture. Well The Commandment Co has just saved me a ton of time and totally outdone my artistic attempts with these Modi Case iphone Films. You can purchase the clear case from their site and then mix and match your choose of background film and scripture film to create your own displays of God’s Word!

I love that the modi-case system is not just customizable, but the size is cut perfectly to completely align with the frame of my phone, and the clear case adds a glossy finish so it shines beautifully!

Postcards!

Snail mail is still alive! And these postcards are going to brighten every mailbox you send them to!

I’m so impressed with the quality of these cards! The card-stock is thick with a matte texture so the gold embossed scriptures stand out beautifully against their backgrounds! Plus there’s plenty of space on the back to write your own message to a blessed recipient! & if you find some designs you don’t want to let go of (like I did!) they make a great print to frame and decorate your home!

I hope some of these treasures have caught your eye and you’ll head over to The Commandment Co to get started on your Christmas shopping and use code ALIBRANDI10 for 10% off your entire order! Now through November 30th only!

Make sure to tag me on instagram with photos of your purchases!

9.29.2019

(This is a paid partnership with The Commandment Co! I received these items complimentary to write a review and will receive compensation for my work but all opinions are genuinely my own!)

Weathering the Storm

Floridians, you know the drill. A tropical depression turns into a tropical storm and it’s a buzz of conversation. Then it turns into a hurricane and it’s a constant rain of questions; what category it is, what track it’s on, how fast the winds are, what stores are out of water, and who’s still selling gas?

Then, we wait.

One of the most difficult parts about hurricane season is the not knowing. The waiting, questioning, and anticipation for something that we really don’t know anything about. It could slow down, speed up, turn away, turn toward us, or break up over the ocean and never really “hit”. These storms are out of our control and can’t be accurately predicted. Every warning is an abundance of caution because these storms have the potential to swell up or change direction so quickly.

The emotions and changes of life often feel like hurricane season. We end up rushing to prepare last minute, we stress and prepare for things that never happen, or we think our survival depends on us and how well we prepared, when it doesn’t.

Other times it’s more devastating or comes more quickly than we expect, all of our preparations can’t prevent challenges and trials, and even in a season of rebuilding or heartbreak, we aren’t in control.

Before learning that hurricane Dorian is approaching, we also learned we have to move and dove into the buying/renting market a little sooner than expected and finding a place has felt like hurricane prep. Despite knowing this would one day happen, we didn’t think it would be so fast or feel so pressing and it’s still subject to change any moment. We can look for places, research, compare and stress till our minds are simply exhausted, but we really aren’t in control of when this move will happen or where we’ll go. Anxiety feels so real, but it really doesn’t help. God has a plan and He ultimately provides.

Though we want to be good stewards the same way we stock up on water and gas and put up our shutters for a storm we can’t see, our attitude in the challenges of life and waiting for a hurricane should reflect the state of our heart, and that should be of complete trust in God.

Weathering the storm is often silent and uneventful; it’s waiting for an ever changing event with no timeline, one of the most prominent times to be a walking testimony of how we trust the Lord. So as you settle down and wait, remember who holds your heart and your home. Let the attitude of your heart speak of an abundance of trust in the Lord who cares for you, who settles storms, and provides for all trials.

Praying you have water, gas, and comfort food, but even more so that you’re using this hurricane season to press into the Lord.
Trust Him & be safe my friends.

8.30.2019