Dreaming big when you’re a broke 24 year old

Rob and I fell so in love with the location of our recent family vacation that we wanted it to be a permanent part of our life. I’m talking full denial of our financial standing, looking at houses for at least an hour on Zillow, doing the (bad) math in our head about what we would need to have a house there.

Of course, this isn’t something we can do now – own a second home – but it was something that set our collective souls on fire. We were fully charmed, and taken by a feeling I think we have both forgotten… dreaming big.

I have been listening to “Girl Wash your Face” by Rachel Hollis. In her book she talks about printing out her long-term goals and hanging visual reminders on her closet door. When I first heard this I thought “yeah, well of course this rich lady who has made it big is going to have big dreams.”

I thought to myself “if I printed out my dream it would be my bank statement with a better looking savings account photo shopped in.” And that depressed me. I felt as if my current circumstances fences my goals inward toward things like extra money and blocked my view for goals beyond that horizon.

This sentiment, and my experience with Rob on vacation made me really think about dreaming big and why it felt out of reach for so long.

I am afraid of disappointment. I always have been. It has made me an eternal optimist. My mom tells the story of me as a little girl looking out the window at torrential rain and asking if there was still a chance of going to the park.

As I lived into the first months of post-college adult life, the not-so-dreamy parts left me feeling jaded.  For me the election of Donald Trump was the first blow to the fairy tale I ignorantly lived in. Then, two months after our wedding Rob and I went through public job loss, and as Rob started and continues to work in public theology we’ve experienced death threats, nasty PR battles, the loss of friends, and nights where I didn’t know how we would make it out.

We fell into some type of despair, just trying to survive the uncertainty. I felt like adulthood was this big, cruel joke. I felt like any dream I had was impractical and inconceivable when the news, job search and bank account were all looking dismal.

And, I think of the fact that we are the lucky ones because ICE or travel bans don’t threaten our family, and we aren’t scared of being stopped by police. We have a roof over our heads and food in our fridge. I’m humbled, sickened, and slapped with reality.

How dare we think of life the way we do when we have so much to be thankful for, and we have opportunities to dream big not only for ourselves, but for others who are experiencing what we are (the paycheck to paycheck pinch) and for those whose pain we cannot imagine.

We all deserve to dream big. And, Rob and I are learning how to do that with grateful and humble hearts. To encourage us all, I want to share some words of wisdom spoken to us (and the rest of the congregation) on our wedding day. “Risk and hope” is what we should cling to when facing life together. We must hold these two in tension even when hoping is risky. And for me, the risk of disappointment has been looming too large for too long.

To start us off, here are my personal dreams, the ones I will print off and tape to my closet.

  • Grow Beloved Ministries into a source of community support and outreach
  • Fiscally responsible savings account (of course)
  • Open my own store
  • Get my master’s degree
  • Write a book

June Audiobooks

If you read my post on a meaningful commute then you know I drive two hours round trip every weekday from home to work and back again. And, if you read my post about #actionsspeaklouder then you will know in June I took a break from my regular news podcasts (as well as Twitter and Facebook).

During my hiatus I signed up for Audible after six months of receiving suggestions to do so from loving friends and family. I found it to be a welcome addition to my commuting routine.

For my first two books, I focused on non-fiction, motivational books that aligned with the reasons for my break from my usual, politics-heavy listening; I wanted time to re-organize, re-focus, and re-group. And, I believe these books were integral to the immense value I found in this time of intentional quiet.

Lean In – Cheryl Sandburg

This is a book I have been meaning to read since it came out in 2013. Sandburg’s writing is full of statistics and studies as well as personal anecdotes that explore the reason why women are not occupying the same share of c-suite positions that men do.

In summary, she concludes that a large majority of women do not lean into their careers and are inhibited by many different social and self-inflicted barriers. While I don’t agree with everything she argues, and my biggest critique is the fact that she is a highly educated, rich, white, cis-gendered woman, and it felt like that was her book’s audience even though any women deserve to be in a c-suite… her message still empowered me to see the areas in my career where I was in fact “leaning out.”

I hear the book in the back of my mind every time I fail to promote myself, my work, and my ideas in a way that give me and my position the credit deserved.

Girl, Wash your Face – Rachel Hollis

I didn’t know of Rachel Hollis before this. And, I’m so glad I was introduced to her work and her message. Her book was like a “Lean In” for my soul and my faith.

Hollis tells hones, transparent stories from her life through a formula of “lies I told myself” and “how I fixed it.” To me, her overall message was “you have control over your happiness” and “you have control over how you move through the world.”

As a new wife, young career woman, writer, future mother, someone with anxiety, someone struggling with weight, and as a christian white woman who wants to build a community with less “lines in the sand,” this book was like holding a mirror (compassionately) to my inner demons.  She addressed a lot of what I have been struggling with including fighting off negative thoughts, becoming too comfortable with mediocrity, feeling helpless, and a perceived lack of control.

However, I read this book as a straight, white, middle class, cis-gendered woman. And while for the most part her book was helpful (I think because of her honesty), there were some parts where her message highlighted her identities and possibly some areas for growth.

Because of my identities and life experience, I appreciated her chapter on the importance of diversity, and what she’s learned since growing up in a small, white town. And, I appreciate how she shared her experience with her friend who is a woman of color. But, in today’s world I also realize this can be a trope — “I’m not (insert -ism here) I have a (friend who identifies with a different identity.” I did like her idea of encouraging white Christians to join a church that reflects the diversity of God’s kingdom. But, I think this chapter can also be problematic.

Another issue I found was how she reflected on her journey with the foster care system. I think her experience made her jaded, and that is understandable with what she went through. But, it seemed as though the grace and understanding she affords to herself and her “tribe” were not extended to birth mothers/families.

This book was beneficial for me, especially in my current season of life. It was helpful to hear someone else’s experience and how they overcame struggles that echo some of the ones I have faced. Hollis’ experience is a process, and her transparency is admirable, but (as with all of us) there is work to be done.

#actionsspeaklouder – A month of patriotic giving

During the month of June I took a break from writing, backed off social media, and listened to audio books instead of NPR most mornings. I ended the month with a family vacation. My spirit needed rest. And, I am privileged to be able to give it that rest. But it was also a working rest. I listened to my inner voice in the stillness and took time to slow my thoughts down, and get myself internally organized.

Now, I’m back. I’m writing and I’m ready to get busy working hard on the plans I made in the stillness. First stop, what I’m going to do about the 4th of July. 

This July I want to be patriotic. But, there are children separated from their families because of anti-immigrant sentiments in the white house. We are so addicted to scapegoating that we are letting our collective morals descend into the abyss.

Not only that, but we are feuding with allies. The “fake news media” trope is now fueled by the death of hard working journalists doing the work of the constitution we celebrate — work that the framers knew was crucial to a functioning democracy.

And, I can’t even express this without fearing that it will cause drama, which is so sad.

I have been thinking about this a lot in the context of Twitter. As a communications professional I value social media as a way to connect. I think it can be helpful and has shown me news and messages I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

But, there is the other side to Twitter that breads divisiveness and hate. A place where truly sickening trolls and extremists create a cesspool of unproductive, ignorant, rhetoric.

I am totally a contributor to this. It is so easy for me to think that getting on Twitter and re-tweeting does something. But, y’all, it doesn’t… unless you’re the president.

So, this July I am going to count up all my political tweets/ re-tweets and donate a dollar each to the charity of my choosing. It is time for me to do a more conscious job of putting actions in the place of where my Twitter fingers are. Because, actions speak louder than the words we tweet.

Side note: This is possible because it is a month where I believe I will have the financial means to follow through on this. However, that is not always the case. And, I realize that many share this struggle. So, let’s add a deed of kindness that aligns with the messages we are sending out. For example, ordering a few pizzas for your local newspaper. Or, what if everyone had lunch with a friend who holds differing political views and held a polite, thoughtful conversation about their differences?

Please, join me in keeping track using #actionsspeaklouder. There is nothing more patriotic than getting involved in the political process to work for a more just country. Isn’t that what the Declaration of Independence said?

Before you talk to me about my political opinions please see the following:

Five people in one lifetime

On a Sunday night at my parent’s home, once the dinner plates were cleared from the table and my car was packed to go home, my sister handed me the card my father made my mom for Mother’s Day. In it he wrote a poem and a message that told my mom she was beautiful, strong, intelligent, needed and loved.

I told my mom “it is incredible that you both have made it through so many seasons of life, that individually you’ve re-branded over and over and still chose each other.”

This is especially relevant to my life this past year as I have navigated my first year of marriage while simultaneously come into adulthood, figuring out who I am post-undergrad and who I want to be in the season of life to come.img_8401

One thing I don’t think we talk about enough is the transformations we go through, voluntarily or involuntarily based on our life, and the circumstances around it. And, even when changes come from happy things like marriage or children, or pursuing dreams, our humanity makes us malleable. As Stanley Hauerwas says, we can be five different people in one lifetime.

I like to see every new season is a chance to re-fresh, to focus on the positive and opportunities afforded. When I went to college I gave myself two goals: workout more and graduate cum laude. When I moved into my first apartment I said, “you’re going to learn how to cook.” When I started a new semester I said “you’re going to do better in XYZ this time.”

When we got married I felt like I was between doors. I graduated and closed my door from undergrad, but I held myself in this purgatory between closing that door and opening the marriage one. I wasn’t intentional about how I spent that time. I got lost, stressed and overwhelmed.

Then, we go married. It was a perfect day with beloved people. We laughed and danced. It was heaven. I closed a door and opened a new one. But, I was still struggling to find direction and my new footing. And, so was my new husband. That has been the biggest challenge this past year. We have grown into new people.

I knew marrying Rob would be my greatest adventure; I knew life would never be boring. But, when we were sitting at the VMAs on the night of our two-month anniversary of marriage waiting for him to go on stage, I laughed at how greatly I underestimated God, Rob and myself.

We ran hand-in-hand toward doors until they were shut in our face (sometimes repeatedly). We have grown, and we have identified areas of growth. We have hurt. We have felt hopeless and broken. And, we have said yes over and over.

Sometimes the “yes” was exasperatingly huffed or begrudgingly mumbled. We are human. But, that is what is so beautiful. There is something between us, a love so deep that we can go through the most trying year of our lives and make it out ok on the other side.

So, on our anniversary I want to say, as a new version of myself, what we’ve been saying to each other since day one, “for all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes!”

One thing to help set intentions in your home (free downloads)

Author’s Note: Don’t miss your free downloads at the end! 

After college there is an awkward and stressful period of getting to know yourself again.

“Who am I without my friends, classmates, and extra-curricular activities that have helped define me for the past four years?”

It’s been two years since I graduated, and I am only just now getting the hang of this.

A part of successfully navigating this season, in my experience, is setting intentions. You have to first know who you are, but also know who you want to be. What do you need to work on to survive and thrive in adulthood?

That is a challenge my husband and I are currently working on as individuals and as a couple. And, when it came time to fill a large space on our bedroom wall I wanted something unique to us that would serve as reminders of these intentions.

IMG-2695This gallery wall is the first thing we see in the morning, and it is the last thing we see at night. It is clean and it customized.

The pictures from our wedding are there to remind us of that day and what we told each other. Our families are there to remind us we are never alone. And, the quotes were chosen by  us individually as sources of inspiration.

Not only that, but we realize that these may be subject to change. That is the beauty of hanging frames on the wall. Once the nails are in place you can take them off and change what is inside.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in these past two years is that we are constantly changing and growing. The quotes we chose this season may not apply to the next.

And, I realize hanging quotes on a wall doesn’t lead to direct action. But, they are beautiful reminders of what we want out of this season of life.

If you find these quotes helpful for your life, please download them for your own home.

I printed these on regular printer paper because we will change them out, and it is cheaper. They are designed for 5×7 frames. So, you can print them as 5×7 and then just fold the extra printer paper in half. No scissors required!

Breaking up with dating apps (guest post)

This is a guest post written by Krista Loomer, a young marketing professional living in North Carolina.

I’m a hopeless romantic; I love watching the Hallmark channel with my mom, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel (I own five copies), and like a lot of other people out there I want to meet my person.

My only relationship – if you can even call it that – was an on-again off-again torturous year and a half. It drove me to have trust issues and ripped my confidence to shreds. The best thing that came from it was a discovery of my strong sense of independence, born from a need to protect myself from getting hurt again.

But, I still want to find someone to be my partner in life.

How do you meet that person? After college, I learned that it gets a lot harder to meet new people. You aren’t in a bubble anymore; nobody has loads of free time and you aren’t going out at night or joining clubs where you can meet new people.

Flash forward three years after graduation and here I am, still single, with friends who are enjoying the dating scene. What do you do when the majority of your friends are going on multiple dates a week? Well, I decided to find out what dating apps they are on and got them on my phone immediately!

As a person that has never taken dating apps seriously and continuously states that “I do not want to meet my future husband on one,” I made the decision to actually put in some effort and see what they were all about. After all, I have friends who have met their husbands, fiancés, and boyfriends through Plenty of Fish, Tinder, and other apps.

I tried a lot of dating apps, but I found Bumble to be the best one out there. At first it was a lot of fun! I met new people, most only lasted one date, but it felt good to put myself out there. I met a guy who I really hit it off with we went on a few dates and everything seemed to be going well, until the holidays. That’s when he attempted to ghost me.

Ghosting people seems to be the thing to do these days. Forget about the courtesy of telling someone why you don’t want to talk to them anymore and just stop talking to them. How can people do this to each other? Sure they may not have been as emotionally invested but let’s stop being selfish, grow up, and say what you feel.

I don’t like being ghosted; it’s a cop out. I would rather have someone say “I like you but I’m not enamored with you” hundreds of times over never hearing from that person again because at least I know where I stand. So, since I wanted to know what was up, I asked. The response was not fun to hear but he admitted to not wanting anything serious. Why do guys do that? If you don’t want anything serious just tell us upfront we won’t get mad.

From there I went on a few more dates with different guys but never had a real connection. Or, when I thought I did find a connection, it became a chorus of “I just want friends with benefits,” I don’t want anything serious,” and my personal favorite of “want to come over” after sending an initial message.

I heard about all of these dating apps that are great for relationships but in reality, I met the same guys who are looking for the same thing..


I deactivated my dating apps and it has been such a freeing experience for me. As much as talking to multiple cute guys at once can boost your confidence it can also tear it down just as quickly. You become dependent on these people you barely know just because they show you attention.

I lost myself through this process. I lost my independence and its still not completely back but its getting there because I’m focusing on bettering myself.

I stand by not wanting to meet my future husband on a dating app. I want it to be organic. Yes, it’s harder but its also allowing me to go out and do things that I love and meet new people that share those passions.

So in a dating world of Lydia’s don’t ever be afraid to be a Lizzy – if you don’t get it go read Pride and Prejudice, you’ll thank me later.  Be yourself, speak your mind, be fiercely independent, and never settle for less than you deserve.


A dream made real: Starting Beloved

The purpose of this blog is to share stories that expose the beautiful reality of the world.

We are all beloved. We all have stories to tell. We all experience seasons of life worth exploring.

This does not mean perfection. If we are to learn from one another, we must tell our beautiful, beloved stories authentically. If we are to empathize and understand each other, we must all come to the table without judgement.

I don’t have to have all the answers, and I don’t have to always have it right. I write what I know, and I listen to others to know more.

This blog is a dream made real, and I am excited to share it with you.

For years I have toiled and dabbled in the idea of writing and curating a blog. Writing is my passion and lead me to my undergraduate education in journalism. But, it took listening to the world around me and patience for the right season and idea.

I followed other dreams until the idea for Beloved Journal came to me.

I am going to work to authentically tell my story and empower others to share theirs as well.

Now more than ever the world seems to need more spaces for authenticity. For listening and finding common ground. For realizing that at the end of the day, we are all beloved members of the community.

– Stephanie