how to be a better friend, even when you’ve got a lot going on

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Whether they’re the mac to your cheese, the Sookie to your Lorelai or the Anne Perkins to your Leslie Knope, true friends are the ones that stick by you in good times and in bad. They love you for everything you are and can be and despite the crazy person you’ve been sometimes in the past and let’s be real, will probably be again at some point in the future. They’re family and they love you no matter what.

I think we all know friendship is a two-way street but sometimes it’s tough to really invest and nurture friendships because well, life. We’re all busy and as my mother would say, we’re burning the candle at both ends. We’re building families and careers and sometimes taking time to connect with our girlfriends seems selfish or self-indulgent but I am here to announce WE NEED FRIENDS. They are vital to our well-being and overall sanity. So if you’ve been out of the loop with friends recently (work overload, got married, had a baby, THE HOLIDAYS) never fear! It’s completely doable to be get back in the game. Here are ways to be a good friend, even when you’ve got a lot going on.

Make plans
This may seem like a “duh” but for let’s be real, between careers and babies, life happens. None of us are immune to the busy day-to-day but something has to give if we want to find true connection with friends. Whether it’s a standing dinner date once a month or a quick coffee date here and there — create dates in your schedule for get-togethers based on everyone’s schedule and stick to them. When you are together be all there – silence that cell and enjoy face time with your people.

Use your phone
If you see something that reminds you of a friend, let them know. Shoot them a text to share a funny story or ask for prayers for something you’re struggling with. Make it a point to call them every once in a while during your commute from work to hear about what’s going on in their world. Use your phone to keep your friendship alive and thriving until the next time you get to be together.

Say thank you
How often do you take the time to tell your bestie how thankful you are for them? Tell your friend exactly how you feel and how much they mean to you – this will make their day and yours, too. Send them a fun card via snail mail to let them know you think they’re pretty awesome and value their friendship. I don’t know about you but some of my most cherished keepsakes are cards from dear friends.

Listen up
Being a great friend reaches far beyond verbal communication — it’s rooted deep in listening. Sometimes all we really need is to talk something through and get it all out there to a close friend just to do simply that, get it out there. We all love to talk (I’m raising my hand high here!) but sometimes the greatest service we can offer a friend is the gift of silence and quiet understanding.

Encourage
Oh man this is so important and something we all need, especially during all the changes life brings in different seasons. Maybe it’s giving a genuine compliment out of the blue or maybe it’s checking in and offering support when they’re training for a half marathon. Don’t make this hard! Some encouraging things to say: I understand. Me too. I’m so proud of you! How can I help? This too shall pass. Let me know how it goes – I’ll be praying. Well done! I’ll bring the chocolate! 

Simple Moments, Extraordinary Blessings

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Is it just me or is it sometimes easier and more socially acceptable to complain about the trivial annoyances throughout the day than to be thankful for the special little moments? Sure, I feel 100% calmer and happier when I focus on the blessings during my day but some days I let busyness or a Negative Nancy steal my joy. Not cool.

All of this leads me to a book that I read with my dear friend Ashley last year that forever changed my attitude and thought process – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Have you read it? Ann does a beautiful job of wrapping personal stories and scripture to wake you up to all the blessings, big and small and in between, God gives freely each day. Ashley and I followed Ann’s lead and chronicled our gifts daily until we reached one thousand each. The coolest part for me was looking back through my list at all the amazing ways God had blessed me in the past months. All of these big and small and weird and seemingly boring items were extraordinary blessings God had been gifting me. How had I missed the beauty in these simple moments before?

Sunshine beaming through the kitchen window while making breakfast

A rainy afternoon

Fresh flowers

Being raised in a Christian home

The sound Buddy’s paws make on our wood floors

A sweet note from a friend

The smell of clean laundry

Missing my husband as soon as I pull out of the driveway

When we show genuine gratitude to our Creator, whether we’re in a sunshine and rainbows season or a grin and bear it season, we are choosing to live an abundant, joy-filled life because we are loved in an extraordinary way. If you ever find yourself doubting God’s goodness, look around you. Spend a day paying close attention to all the blessings only God could give. xo

I Choose Joy

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I’ve always loved the Christmas season. The magic and wonder of a time where it seems the whole world is full of joy and love always makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. To quote one of my favorites, Home Alone, “Christmas is the season of perpetual hope” and what a precious season it is.

With Christmas comes so much joy and yet for many, Christmas also brings sadness. Stress. Resentment. Loneliness. For many this has been a tough year – financially, psychically, spiritually – and who wants to reflect on all that when the rest of the world is singing Christmas carols and Instagramming pictures of perfect Christmas trees? Everywhere you turn it’s doom and gloom, shootings and sickness, political feuds and people letting people down.

Sometimes life robs us of our joy… but joy is a choice.

This Christmas season I choose joy.

I choose to focus on the good.

The lovely.

The little and ginormous blessings.

The love of family and friends.

Quiet mornings with a cup of coffee.

Precious memories of those who have gone on before us.

Santa who goes above and beyond to make the day of a child.

A smile and a “Merry Christmas” from a complete stranger.

Sure, we can choose to live in an attitude of worry, fear or anger or we can choose to pursue the joy that Christ gives! When our focus turns to gratitude, we find true joy that lasts long after the Christmas cookies are all eaten.

The magic of Christmas is found and shared through the joy that shines from person to person, friend to friend and sometimes, stranger to stranger. Take a couple minutes and let this video of brotherly love inspire you this season to give the gift of joy to all of those around! Will you choose joy this season? xo

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Mood In 2 Minutes (or less)

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Experts and moms alike preach that we won’t find happiness in a paycheck or stuff in general. Revolutionary, huh? I consider myself a happy, joy-filled woman but I am human so there are times when I find myself feeling overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted and in need of a serious attitude adjustment. So next time you need to turn around a crazy day at work or brighten up a draggy afternoon, try one of these to lift your mood and bring that award-winning smile back to your face.

Let the Light In

To feel happier in seconds open those windows! Have a little more time? Have breakfast/lunch/snack time outside or near a big window. For those of you who don’t work from home and wear yoga pants on the daily, make sure you make time to sneak out of that dim office filled with recycled air and spend some time outside.

Smell Something Amazing

Light your favorite candle, add a few drops of lavender oil behind your ears or do what I do in a pinch – smell your hair. Yes, I’m serious. SMELL YOUR HAIR. Unless it’s very dirty and has lost all of its amazing botanical scent.

Talk A Walk 

Hands down, this is the best one for me. Whether I’m stressed, anxious, ready to throw my Macbook off the back deck or just need to recharge my batteries during the afternoon slump, a walk around the block always brings my engines back to neutral and gives me the strength to keep on keeping on. Plus, what’s better than getting some fresh air and watching the leaves fall this time of year?

Phone A Friend

I am so blessed to have wonderful friends in my life and you better believe we all keep in touch daily, whether it’s a quick call or a never-ending text conversation (that would make an excellent book, btw). Often times I’m flipping out or feeling down about something but after I’ve chatted with my friend I either a) realized I was overreacting or b) completely forgot what I was so worked up about. Find your tribe and keep them close.

Count Your Blessings

God has blessed us all in a major way and nothing can put that smile back on our face quite like reflecting on those blessings. Sometimes it’s as easy as thinking about people and things you’re thankful for and sometimes it’s more effective if you jot down as many as you can write in two minutes. Remembering all that you have sure brings life’s little annoyances back into perspective and boosts your mood like no other. Have a great weekend! xo

The Newlywed Life: Comfort & Joy

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Last week I had one of those terrible couple of days that were almost comical based on how many things went south. I was feeling resentful, exhausted, and just over it – I wanted to (at least mentally) crawl under the covers for the rest of the week.

I spilled everything to my husband who is by far one of the greatest, and most patient listeners I have ever know. He listened as I explained every detail through bouts of crocodile tears and when I had said everything (twice, I’m afraid) he said “I love you.” While he began to offer up additional words of encouragement I felt everything shift – I realized I was far too focused on myself. I quickly realized I was throwing a pity party for myself and my husband was nicely trying to bring me back to what is most important. I wasn’t quite ready to forgive myself for the little mistakes I had made, but I knew I needed to kick the negative by bringing in something positive.

I pulled it together and made Taylor dinner with chocolate chip cookies for dessert (just because). We ate our cookies while watching a movie and soon I was laughing the night away. I took the focus off myself and poured all my energies into showing my husband love, and it made me completely forget about everything I had been so upset about hours earlier. It was a nice reminder that focusing on love is the quickest way to get rid of negativity and leave only pure joy. xo

Classic Moments That Made Our Wedding Unforgettable

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There’s a lot people don’t tell you about getting married, you know, the details of the actual day you say your vows then eat cake. Instead you get a lot of, “You won’t remember anything” and “I busted into tears at the most random time and ruined my lipstick” or my favorite “One of the groomsmen didn’t even show up!” I tend to worry about unexpected details that aren’t planned therefore cannot be controlled, so of course there was some worry buried underneath my immeasurable excitement for our wedding day. Like any rite of passage, everyone from my mom to married girlfriends to the lady checking me out at Target shared little nuggets of wisdom from their own wedding days which made me all the more curious as to what my day would be like.

The day after our wedding I laughed as I told my husband how worried I was over the silliest little things, like crying and ruining my make-up or tripping on my dress as I walked down the aisle or somehow the musicians not showing up on time. Of course I worried for no reason.

Our wedding day was perfect. Every single minute of it and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had. I tend to refer to it as our very own Christmas Hallmark movie, what with the fresh Christmas trees and so many loved ones in the same room, and while it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down, my favorite moments include:

The bridesmaids brunch

I am convinced there is no better way to spend the morning of your wedding than attending a brunch with your best friends, hosted by women you adore, while all wearing monogrammed oversized Oxfords and yoga pants and reminiscing over your friendships.

Putting on my wedding dress

I was freezing, naturally, and Mom’s hands were shaking because she was “nervous to mess up the little buttons” but it was the sweetest of moments putting on the dress we had picked out together a few months earlier. My matron of honor made sure my shoes were on just right as my bridesmaids and bell ringers looked on with the sweetest smiles. There’s just something about putting on the wedding dress on the day of your wedding that changes you forever.

First look with Dad 

I loved him first, after all, and I will never forget the moment Dad walked in and saw me, veil and all. Mom soon came in to share the moment, too, and I will cherish those moments always. Yes, I cried.

Matron & Maid of Honor keeping me calm as I waited 

I was calm, cool and collected – EXCITED and READY – until everyone was all lined up and I was by myself, waiting a few feet away from them all. I had too much time to think and I could feel the tears welling up in a big way and I did not want to cry my face off while the strings played “The Prayer.” That’s when my matron and maid of honor came to the rescue – they knew I was trying not to lose it, because they just get me – and started mouthing funny memories and “happy thoughts” until I was laughing and the nerves left the building just in time.

Hearing the girls ring their bells down the aisle 

In lieu of flower girls we had the most precious sisters ring bells announcing my entrance. Sneaking a peak at the candlelit sanctuary and hearing only the ringing of three little bells was the loveliest.

Seeing Taylor’s face as I walked down the aisle

I had dreamed of that moment since he proposed five months prior, and when those doors opened I was so worried I would start the ugly cry. I had even warned Dad not to say anything nice before we started walking. The doors opened, I looked up and all I saw was Taylor, looking so handsome in his tux. I wasn’t worried about anything else any longer – this was the moment I had waited for. I didn’t even hear “Ava Maria!” It was definitely an out of body experience; I distinctly remember exactly how I felt during that walk down the aisle and the loving look on my now husband’s face.

My Brother and Dad officiating the ceremony

I still get choked up when I think about it, and I feel so incredibly blessed with two such Godly men in my family.

Charlie as the ring bearer 

He stole the show, just like we knew he would.

Hearing “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

The strings started playing this little number and I knew two things for certain: a major kiss was coming and I was officially married to the man of my dreams!

Greeting everyone in the receiving line

This was well worth the extra time spent standing in my four inch heels! It was so nice to see everyone who had come to share our special day and meant so much to hug and quickly catch up. I also have never seen my parents so happy!

The ringing of the bells

My genius mom had placed little gold bells at each seat with a poem instructing them to ring the bells as we walked by and we would kiss. Needless to say, Taylor ended up wearing far more red lipstick than he expected.

The smallest wedding guest who called us “prince and princess”

She told Taylor that he was “the most handsomest prince even with his fur face.” Classic.

Checking in with Dad amongst the craziness of the reception

Those were five minutes I’ll never forget. Just he and I, at the back of the reception hall, talking about the ceremony and what an amazing day it had been after so much prayer and hard work. It was perfect.

Ms. Paulette buttoning my dress 

It was such a sweet moment to see the woman who altered my dress into perfection and ran the kitchen for all the amazing food at the reception. She means so much to me and my family so needless to say it was an unexpected emotional moment.

Holding onto my husband and running through sparklers into a car full of balloons

This was such a whirlwind – one minute I was eating cake balls and posing for pictures in the reception hall and the next Mom was putting my fur shrug on me and we’re running past friends and family to our car painted and ballooned. I looked back and saw Dad in his Cardinals hat and smiled as we drove away.

Today marks our one month anniversary and I must say, while it feels like just yesterday and forever ago all at the same time, I still get major chill bumps when I think of holding onto Dad and seeing my husband waiting for me at the end of the aisle. Our wedding day was far more than I could have ever imagined and I am incredibly thankful for the way God has blessed my life. xo

P.S. For a sneak peak at our official wedding photos taken by the very talented Caley Newberry, go here.