The Big 3-0!

Last week, I hit a new decade, and left my twenties behind!IMG_4097

Everyone approaches birthdays differently, and I know this because people have told me about it. I laugh hearing people talk about their “hardest birthdays,” like turning 39 or 28 or 55, because what does that even mean? We know aging is inevitable, yet we do our best to stop it!

Of course, I totally love birthdays. Any excuse to celebrate, right?! TJ makes fun of my “birth-week” mentality, but I still think it’s fun!

This one was especially fun, not just because of the celebration (which I’ll get to), but also because I just felt really good about leaving my twenties behind. They were so full and joyful! I traveled all over the world (Australia, Peru, Israel, Uganda, Thailand), I gained new siblings (!!), I graduated from college, figured out how to navigate the working world in a few different jobs, made new lifelong friends, met my husband, learned grace all over again, and loved it.

There were downsides of the twenties too, like losing a beloved grandfather, not having a clue what to do with my life after the “school roadmap” finished, struggling with singleness, struggling with the failure narrative, hard relationships, and basically refinement on all fronts. But as we know by now, the valleys make the mountaintops even taller, and the ability to learn from setbacks and mistakes are the most important part of getting older.

It was so sweet to celebrate 30 years with a surprise dinner with TJ, and then a party with some dear friends! It all felt like too much, like way more than I could ever deserve, but then that’s the thing about gifts right? That’s the very definition of the word grace, and how sweet is it to accept the gifts of grace.IMG_4105IMG_4102IMG_4103IMG_4101

PS- that surprise dinner with TJ was clearly no ordinary date night- he coordinated with the fabulous local florist we love to get the place for the night, had food set up, and made me feel so special and known! This is definitely typical TJ fashion, thinking so outside-the-box and over the top. But seriously- what a dream!!

I met someone.

It’s been over two years now since I’ve sat down to write a blog post, so before I start talking about my favorite books I’ve been reading, or how I’m still obsessed with capsule wardrobes, there’s some catching up to do!

I took a hiatus from blogging back in 2014, because my life was so full that something had to go. Every moment was accounted for (plus some), and then I met someone.

Yes, I do mean that in the fabulous, movie-famous way- I met someone.

We met in Molly and Monty’s wedding, on September 13, 2014. It was one of those wonderful wedding weekends, where I was friends with all the bridesmaids and most of the groomsmen already through Pine Cove connections, and every moment was a blast. He and I were seated at the same table at the rehearsal dinner, and I’ve never laughed so much. I left that weekend with a crush, but left it at that. After all, I lived in Dallas, and he was in Tyler. Who wants to do long distance anyway?

View More: http://jenmenard.pass.us/spurgeonweddingHere’s the closest we got to a picture together- just a few feet apart in this one! (photo by Jen Menard)

A few weeks later, he called. Well, technically, Molly was calling, but when I answered there he was- the handsome, funny, kind TJ Connor- on the other end. I recognized his voice (because, the crush!), and  he asked if he could take my number from Molly’s phone to keep calling me in the future.

Um, cutest way to ask a girl for her number ever, right? Let’s just say it was lucky for me this was over the phone. Because I was full-on blushing at this point!

A week later we went on our first date, to my favorite pizza place in Dallas, and to a Stars-Flyers hockey game. TJ is from Philadelphia, so we got to cheer for our own home teams at this one!

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TJ posted this on Instagram, right after date #2! I was sweating about it, but I love how excited he was to make us public! haha. (Our second date was to the Dallas Arboretum, which is where we found those scarecrows in the midst of thousands of pumpkins.)

We dated for around seven months, with some of the most amazingly creative dates I had ever heard of, then on May 9, 2015, he asked me to marry him. TJ’s proposal to me matched the way he pursued me in dating- it was loving, celebratory, and completely over the top. It was the best day of my life, and the easiest “yes!”

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Our whirlwind romance continued with a wedding only 5 months later, at Watermark Church in Dallas, on October 10, 2015. I loved getting to celebrate with our dearest family and friends at the church I have grown to love so deeply.

View More: http://oliviaraephotography.pass.us/tjandchelseaView More: http://oliviaraephotography.pass.us/tjandchelsea

TJ is a camp director at Pine Cove, and I knew as soon as we started dating that if this went all the way, I would be joining him in east Texas. I find it funny and awesome to be back in the town where I lived already for nearly 3 years, with many friends still here. The Lord has been so gracious and generous to me.

Here’s to blogging again! xoxo

The Grace of Seasons

To put it mildly, it’s been a while. It has been a while since I’ve come back around to the hobbies that help me breathe deeper on long days, and the days have indeed been long. Of course I’m not unique in this… Living in a big city full of people hurrying to keep up with the ever-increasing race of life, I see the busyness craze all around.

Some seasons are unavoidable; work swells to capacity when the school year begins. Most of us are no longer in school, but our lives are still ruled by semesters in seasons. Eventually, the steadiness returns. The waves break into a much more manageable lull after the storm is over, and the ebb and flow is good.

The seasons mark changes and remind us to mark where we have been, where we are going, and how we are to get there. Life cannot always be simple, as much as I try to press into that word, but Jesus came to bring us freedom.

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How lovely is this print from Naptime Diaries? It’s the only print shop I attempt to keep up with these days, but I consistently purchase the “monthly printable bundles” for only $5. Well worth it, my friends.

I was in over my head with commitments this Summer (typical), but God’s grace met me as I kept swimming. Hopefully this time I’m learning from the mistakes. I don’t want to look back at weeks/months/years in the future and wonder why I never had any margin in my life. I’ve taken steps back and steps forward and of course I stumble often. Just, learning.

So, slowly, one step at a time, I’m gingerly stepping back into the things God has given me. Writing, being one of them. I don’t know how other people feel about hobbies, but I tend to be a little severe on myself. I constantly seem to be asking if something is the best use of my time, and I end up over-analyzing everything. (Therefore wasting more time. Cool.) I think the answer can fluctuate. Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. Seasons change and that is okay and good.

Truth be told, in the midst of crazy busy, the end of Summer was wonderful. There were retreats and new friends and iced coffee and sore muscles and new marriages of dear friends and birthday parties of little siblings and new babies born to best friends. There were all kinds of gifts all around and they were seen in the deepest ways.

The Fall has entered in now, (at least on the calendar), and it’s no perfect Spring, but new seasons are always welcome and refreshing. Here’s to crisp air, extra grace, and football season!

Whoop! xo

More Noonday!

Every once in a while, there are decisions that just make sense. Maybe not at first, but as I mustered up enough courage to say out loud what had been rolling around my brain the past few months, no one was surprised. There are people who really know me well out there in the world, and when they heard I was thinking of jumping in further with Noonday, they patiently listened to all of my reasons why it might not work, and then they smiled politely and gently gave me the nudge I needed.Noonday  LOGO

I have become passionate about this idea of redemption in all areas of life. If I, a mess of a person, can be redeemed to be used for God’s Kingdom work, then why not everything? I’ve always been into fashion, sometimes admittedly to an unhealthy extent, but what if even fashion could be redeemed for Kingdom work?

It sounds crazy. It sounds “not holy enough.” (That’s not a thing, by the way)

But then I heard Jalia & Daniel’s story in Uganda.. [only 4 minutes long]

God has created us in the most amazing ways; He even designed work, which brings dignity to people’s lives unlike anything else. Certainly I’ve never lived in poverty, but I remember my job-hunting days as some of the lowest points of my life. Even then, I had incredible “support nets.” After visiting Uganda, I saw poverty and felt a helplessness I couldn’t shake. Surely there was something I could do?

Noonday Collection’s mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. We partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. By creating a marketplace for their goods, we create dignified jobs at living wages.

This allows our artisans to earn more in order to support their families. We also offer no interest loans and make advance payments on orders. This way we are able to shoulder the costs of materials and build a lasting relationship based on trust.

Noonday Collection is not a charity and we do not believe that providing a hand out is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. We aim to be a sustainable business that gives women across the United States a way to make a lasting difference in the fight against poverty and injustice.

-from Noonday Impact page

I’ve decided to jump in and be an Ambassador for Noonday, mostly because I’m already talking about it all the time, and it seems like a perfect opportunity to combine my passions & gifts. I already have an awesome full-time job, so it won’t have to be a stressful thing, but more of a fun outlet on the side. {more info on what it means to be an ambassador here}

Basically, it means if you ever want to host a Noonday trunk show, I’d love to help you! I’ll bring all the samples & you bring your friends. Together, we can share the vision of “purchasing for purpose” to impact the lives of families across the globe. Also, if you ever want to just buy a few pieces, you can buy directly from me here: chelseawilliams.noondaycollection.com

I’d also encourage you to spend some time learning about the Who, How, + Where of the Noonday impact. With partnerships in 10 different countries, from Guatamala to Vietnam to Rwanda, the stories abound. Be inspired!splash-map

{story of Noonday}

{shop here}

One Year Later

How crazy is it that this happened one year ago?!
IMG_3777It feels so crazy to me, in fact, that I completely missed the one year official anniversary. Airport day was June 21, 2013. James and Betty finally got to come home, American flags in hand!

I remember writing in my journal last May, while I sat in the airport on my way over to Uganda to meet these two. I wrote about this day- the one that would mark a separation of time in my life: Before meeting James and Betty, and after. My writings have proved to be true, and I cannot imagine living life today as our family without them!

I look back at that picture up there, and oh my- what a difference a year makes! First of all, I think they’ve each grown at least 6 inches. They look like babies to me here!

It has been a year of firsts: birthday parties, learning to swim & jump off diving boards, trying hot dogs (“is that made of a dog?!”), planting a garden, celebrating Christmas, driving through a city with really tall buildings, sitting in the stands at a football game, playing soccer on a real team, playing basketball in the first games they’d ever even seen, sparklers on New Year’s Eve, endlessly riding bikes with the neighborhood kids, road trips, museums, school plays, learning American patriotic songs, becoming BFF with the cousins, going to movie theaters, learning math, reading for fun, trying out (& acing) tennis, countless games of Sorry, school friends, camping trips, and just being home with a forever family.

We cannot imagine life without these two. We are abundantly thankful, and I can’t wait to see how the Lord will continue to write our stories! God is so good, even when we couldn’t possibly see the good that He has planned.

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! … Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! … Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it.”  -Psalm 96:1-3, 7, & 11

^^This psalm is one of the most-read and most-underlined chapter of my Bible. I love it. The day they came home from Uganda all I could do was sing praise.. This has become my great psalm of remembrance. 

Love these kids. Adoption is certainly not easy, but it is so good. We have much to celebrate!

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See the World

There’s a giant stack of library books sitting by my bed, waiting to be opened or completed, as the case may be. This has become an interesting season of life, in which I keep giving myself projects, deadlines, and invented assignments.

No one knows except me of course. That’s part of the fun of it- taking in enormous amounts of information daily then stewing on it for weeks on end. I’ve always loved learning, and now, without school or courses cramming any assignments down my throat, I’ve been learning more than I have in years.

They say singleness gives us more time. If that’s true, then I guess I’ll make the most of it!IMG_3464(James at his school last summer in Uganda. As he showed me his classroom, he was practicing the hula hoop on top of a desk. Classic.)

A few months ago, James told Mom he felt like something clicked at school. Suddenly, after months of staring at numbers like a foreign language, math made sense. He could suddenly accomplish homework on his own, and he liked it! This was a huge moment, especially considering his background… After only being in school 2-3 years, in a school where basics were hardly a focus, to understand math is no small feat.

In a similar way, lately I have felt breakthroughs in reading. I’ve always loved it, but now when I read stories or news articles or opinion pieces I see something deeper. It’s a sensation similar to those Magic Eye puzzles. At first it’s all just abstract colors, but upon further focus, depth and shapes begin taking forms of landscapes or iconic photographs. I can read the most basic of novels and find some applicable purpose and challenge to humanity.

The more I read good books, the more I see people. It changes my entire perspective. Actions always follow beliefs and paradigms, which consequently are shaped by how we fill our minds. 

It’s like I’m suddenly seeing education as what they told me it was all along: a gift

Strange, isn’t it? Most of the things those parents and teachers once told us turned true at one point or another. Eating the food on my plate didn’t necessarily help those “starving kids in China,” but I think reading a handful of good books just might help those who’ve never had the opportunity to read.

When I read Malala’s story she wrote of girls who were not allowed to learn to read. This is the present-day world she’s talking about. That threw me. Remember the awful American slavery? Remember how the slaves were not just oppressed physically and emotionally but also stripped of their chances of a future? They weren’t being taught how to read or write. Their dignity, and certainly any hope of a way out, was kept far from their grasp. This is still happening today, ever widening the gaps between hope and despair.

I don’t think education will change the world; I think people compelled by the love of Christ will change the world. But without education, and without reading specifically, how will the world be seen?

PS- What’s So Scary About Smart Girls? by Nick Kristof

How to Not Waste Your Summer

Ah, summer. Fresh fruit, iced coffee, beach trips, and a slower pace [in theory].

Some argue it’s the greatest season of the year, and obviously those people have never lived through August in Texas, but we still love it. As long as we’re neck-deep in a swimming pool in the shade…

I’ve lived so many summers in camp ministry, it came as a surprise to hear people talk about keeping summer significant. This was always the season we were at our peak intensity, and I loved the intentionality of every single second. No conversation or moment was wasted.

Life outside of camp in summer is different. The slower pace comes much-needed, but as exhausted as we tend to be from those over-worked semester schedules, time drained away becomes all too easy and familiar.

My team at work recently put together this brilliant resource for parents and families to help make their summers significant (check out the link for the free pdf download!). The resource is more than an activity book; it’s more of a charge to families as they go this summer. (Deuteronomy 6, anyone?)

I did not write the curriculum, but the more I read it, the more I love it. Even better- the principles apply to all of us. Ready for your summer challenge?

1. REST

Did you see this post from Michael Hyatt on sleep recently? Spoiler alert: Sleep is clearly linked to creativity and productivity. (Shocker!) Also, it turns out rest was a big enough deal to God he made it one of the Ten Commandments. And yet, rest is consistently not how we live our lives. We refuse to be still before the Lord (psalm 46:10), and then we wonder why we get anxious.

2. GROW

Instead of spending the next 18 hours of your life on a Netflix marathon (no shame here- we’ve all been there), take some time to learn something new. Set aside time to study a few books of the Bible this summer. Memorize a passage on a topic you’ve struggled with recently. Read a biography of someone you admire. Go learn a new skill and take the time to practice it.

3. SERVE

Summer is one of the best times to get out there and serve your community. Maybe sign up for a local service project through your church or your local food bank. You could even visit a nearby nursing home and take some handmade cards to the residents who never get visitors. (We did this one Valentine’s Day in college and it’s still one of my favorite memories!) Take dinner to the neighbors. Babysit for a single mom.

4. PLAY

Two words: Game Night. Because, you never know a person’s true character until you play them in Catch Phrase. Make a summer bucket list for your city, and grab a few friends (or even different ones each time!) to check off each item. Take your nieces and nephews to the pool, then jump right in for some sharks & minnows. Adventure Awaits

((isn’t this the greatest print? From Whimsy & Wanderlust on etsy. Love))

Not everyone is a parent, and not everyone is a camp counselor. But we are all becoming today who we will be tomorrow, and who wants to look back at a summer or a life wasted? Now’s your chance- Dream big!

Oh and absolutely go get a Nerd Slush from Sonic. That doesn’t really fit into a category, but just go ahead and trust me on that one. Happy Summer! Tell me how you plan to rest, grow, serve, & play! Also- seriously go check out the family resource. You’ll love it.