Intuitive Eating-an intentional approach to food

Woman with Healthy and Unhealthy Food. Difficult choice. Overwei

This post has been a long time coming and I have honestly put it off because I just don’t know what all to say or how to say it best.  I hope that through this brief glimpse into a very personal struggle, I can can help others to see food and themselves in a different way that is more positive, encouraging, and loving.

In third grade, starting public school after being home-schooled, I began to view myself as “fat” and, on a deeper level, “unacceptable”.  Although I had a good group of friends, others in my class teased me because of my weight and some of those comments still ring in my head over 20 years later.  From that age onward, without me even knowing it, I started a war with my body.  A war to mold and force my body into what society said was most acceptable and beautiful.

I have always loved food, as I still do today.  We were a very social family and many of my most pleasant memories from childhood center around sharing meals at our home and out at restaurants with my best friends and family.  With this war that was being waged inside my head, I slowly began to see food as “the enemy” and something I needed to strictly control.  Throughout my many years of seeing food in this way, I jumped on the diet mentality wagon and have tried diet pills, juice cleanses, weight watchers, restrictive eating techniques such as intermittent fasting and calorie counting, slim fast, the special K diet, low carb/high protein, Whole30/Paleo, and everything in between to get my body to where it should be.  In college I struggled with excessive exercising mixed with severe calorie restriction in order to lose weight.  Because of this constant search for the one thing that would finally work, I fell into a cycle of weight loss and gain from intense restricting and then when I would “fail” and eat something “not allowed/bad” (i.e. chips, cookies, ice cream, etc. that are typically labeled as such in society) I would fall into a deep pit of shame and guilt.

In February of this year, my struggle hit an all-time high.  I noticed that I would feel guilt for eating any food at all, even the foods I had qualified as “good”.  I was in a constant state of panic and anxiety around food and my mind raced with calorie counts, the “need” for exercise, and how each bite of food would affect my appearance.  I “body checked” throughout the day and either avoided any reflection of myself or stood in the mirror and spewed hatred at what I saw before me.  I believe those very rough weeks in February were a defining moment for me.  Did I really want to continue this defeating, exhausting, hopeless, shame-inducing cycle all my life?  How would I explain this to our future children if I want to empower them to love the bodies God gave them? Something had to give.

I sought out a local counselor experienced in disordered eating.  In our first meeting, she introduced me to the concept of Intuitive Eating and, little did I know, this approach to recovery from disordered eating and Eating Disorders would play a pivotal role in the radical change in my relationship with food, exercise, and my body.  In posts to come, I will be sharing the concepts of Intuitive Eating in more detail and the practical ways in which Intuitive Eating has changed the way I look at food and my body. For now, I wanted to share just a bit of education on what Intuitive Eating is and some of the research behind this amazing approach to recovery.

Intuitive Eating is a nutrition philosophy developed by two prominent nutritionists, Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Fiaedp, FADA, FAND. Simply put, Intuitive Eating reconnects you with your body’s hunger and fullness cues, removes moral value from food (i.e. “good” and “bad” foods), helps you learn what is nourishing for your body, and has a great deal of research to back it up, which I am all about.  This is no diet (Thank GOD.), it is a mindful approach to more intentionally enjoying food, without letting the food be the one in control. Below are the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating and you can follow the link to read more about this great resource and the 10 principles in more detail.

The 10 principles from the book Intuitive Eating are:

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality.
  2. Honor your Hunger
  3. Make Peace with Food
  4. Challenge the Food Police
  5. Respect your Fullness
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
  7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
  8. Respect your Body
  9. Exercise – Feel the Difference
  10. Honor your Health

This path to peace with food is definitely a journey.  There are still really bad days but by God’s grace and patience with myself, I am making progress slowly but surely.  I can’t wait to share what I am learning along the way and hopefully help others in the process!

*Disclaimer: if you are struggling with a diagnosed eating disorder, Intuitive Eating is not meant to be the first step in recovery as you will most likely have too many food rules to approach this practice of eating in a productive and healthy way.  This is just a step in the recovery process and I encourage you to seek out a counselor and/or dietitian in your area specializing in ED treatment to begin the process of healing.

 

Weekend Getaway-Charlottesville, VA

One of my favorite ways to intentionally travel is to schedule little weekend getaways in advance so my sweet husband and I can steal away for some exploring, rest, and rejuvenation in the midst of this busy life.  A few months ago we settled on making plans to visit Charlottesville, VA.  We had heard such great things about this cute little town from friends and wanted to discover for ourselves all it has to offer.  It was the absolute perfect weekend away and we will definitely be back to visit again!

Day 1: Friday

We arrived around 4pm to check into our Airbnb  and freshen up after our 4ish hour drive from Charlotte.  {Side note: vital go-to road trip snacks included Trader Joe’s sparkling water, dried mango slices, cheez-its, and dark chocolate covered pretzels}

Y’all, this was an amazing pick and I highly suggest it.  James and Tracy,  the hosts, were great and have an amazing space that is so versatile, clean, and brand-spankin’-new.  I wanted to take the bedding home with me (I didn’t, to my dismay)–felt like I was in a giant marshmallow. Bliss. Since trying Airbnb several years ago on a trip to Asheville, we have never used anything else for lodging during our travels.  We have found the coolest places to stay that are not your cookie-cutter hotel and I highly recommend it if you have never ventured into the world of Airbnb. 🙂

We strolled down to the Downtown Mall, a short walk from our Airbnb, and explored the cute shops and began the search for dinner.  Luckily, we happened upon The Main Street Arena  and it was public ice skating night!  We had been talking for awhile about wanting to go ice skating so it was perfect.  Grabbed a snack at Marco and Luca Dumplings and drinks at the attached cafe in the arena and skated (read: held onto wall trying not to break my neck as I scooted at a snail’s pace around the rink….) for awhile.  It was SO much fun and a perfect welcome to Charlottesville.  We were pretty wiped out from the drive so we got Thai food (in an ethnic mood apparently) to-go from Thai Fresh  (right off the downtown mall) and took it back “home” to enjoy.  Highly recommend this little hole-in-the-wall joint, amazing price and amazing food. Day 1-success!

Day 2: Saturday

Woke up early-ish to head out for a bite of breakfast at the highly recommended Bodo’s Bagels.  Such an unassuming little bagel shop and SO delicious. You can tell it is a go-to for local regulars and tourists alike.  After fueling up on the deliciousness below, we headed to Monticello.  I had never been and David had only visited as a child so it was wonderful to explore and learn together; we are huge history nerds and proud of it, so we had a great time 🙂

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all the food. mmm. mmm. mmm.

After Monticello and not eating since breakfast we had planned to visit a local winery (Pippin Hill Vineyard) to get a bite to eat and try some local wines.  However, when we reached Pippin Hill, it was not our scene at all.  It was extremely crowded and there was no clear direction in taking part in a tasting so we enjoyed the view for a minute and hopped back down the road to Albemarle Ciderworks.  Luckily we had passed this quaint stop on the way to the vineyard so immediately headed that way when Pippin Hill was not a good fit. So glad we chose this place instead.  Very laid back, only a few other couples there, and live music from a very talented guitarist.  We “feasted” on a fresh, warm baguette with local cheese and a flight each of their unique and locally-made ciders.  We took our time, enjoyed the ambiance and chatted for awhile.  A short drive back to our Airbnb resulted in a much needed nap after a long morning of exploring.

 

We were definitely in need of an actual meal so went back to the Downtown Mall in search of sustenance.  First we browsed through a bookshop that was closed the day before, Blue Whale, and hit the jackpot.  Both went home with a few treasures to read back in Charlotte.  Clearly I purchased a Julie Child biography and a book about the real countess of Highclere Castle (the setting for Downton Abbey). Typical.

A short walk from Blue Whale, we found Sal’s Caffe Italia, a small, romantic, local italian spot with absolutely delicious food and massive portions (took half of mine home for dinner the next day. Score.).  Had to stop in next door on the way back at Chap’s Ice Cream to get some of their widely acclaimed ice cream.  I cannot even discuss how delicious this stuff was.  Please go and thank me later. Really fun 50’s atmosphere and Wonder Woman playing on the small TV above the counter. So random, so great.

Day 3: Sunday

Sundays on vacation are for rest and brunch so we slept in and took the short drive (it was FREEZING and we were not walking) to Bluegrass Grille and Bakery.  Y’all…so worth the 45 minute wait. A tiny little brunch spot with some of the best brunch I have ever had.  I had the Hungry Norman–english muffin with goat cheese, eggs, sausage, and blackberry jam on top. Just stop. So so good. Got some coffee over at Mudhouse (I have a personal rule of visiting a good local coffee shop everywhere I go) for the road and headed out of Charlottesville.  As a last stop we explored UVA’s campus for a bit to get some activity in before making the drive back to Charlotte.  May or may not have gotten a small bust of Thomas Jefferson at the bookstore as a souvenir….he’s going to find a good home on our bookshelf in our new place. Pumped.

Looking for a weekend away with your hubby, girlfriends, family?  If you couldn’t tell already, I highly recommend Charlottesville!  About a 4 hour drive from Charlotte, totally doable for a long weekend away. Great food, great atmosphere, so many things to do, all around a great getaway.

Bookworm

One of my intentions for my Year of 30 is to read at least one book per month and I am happy to say I have done this so far!  Below are some fun, amazing, insightful reads and a few I have on my list.  Please comment to let me know what you have been reading and what you suggest to help me grow my list! I hope this encourages you to be more intentional in spending your time lost in a good book.

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For any fans of Gilmore Girls or Lauren Graham in general, you need to read this.  Witty, fast-paced, and just plain adorable. Such a fun and easy read for when you need to wind down or for a weekend trip!

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Donald Miller is just so good.  Author of Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (all of which I have read and highly recommend) and several others; his writing is thought-provoking, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking.  This book is an honest conversation about how and why we hide our true selves from those around us and how to break out of that mold to get “scary close”. He is known for being outspoken and unapologetic for his blunt delivery and honest view on the world.  I’m a fan.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who this lovely couple is 🙂 I pretend we are best friends and am totally unashamed of that.  This is such a sweet story of how Chip and Joanna Gaines met, journeyed through marriage and had their 4 children, and their adventures along the way; all while depending on our great God.  Another easy weekend read!  It is 100% likely to make you love them even more and want to move immediately to Waco and buy a farm. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Bob Goff is a close friend of Donald Miller’s, an attorney and advocate for justice. His writing is absolutely heart-warming and grace-giving.  In this book, he recounts experiences throughout his life that have shown him more clearly what God’s love is like and how we can live by his example to love those around us in real and amazing ways. I listened to this on audiobook and he reads it, such a warm and welcoming voice; a great way to make your commute a little brighter! 

 

On the docket: 

  1. Reading this with a good friend of mine.  I think it is vital to be intentional about learning how we as Christians should approach important issues with knowledge, grace, and love and hope this book will be a great guide for this.
  2. I have had this collection for years and have never committed to reading through.  This is 7-in-1 so will take awhile but hope to finish this year at least.  I am obsessed with all things British and Pride and Prejudice/Sense and Sensibility the movies so I feel like I am going to love immersing myself in these.
  3. Timothy Keller.  Just so good.  I am a 1/4 of the way through this and it takes some time.  One of those books you need to put down every chapter to make sure you absorb everything.  Looking forward to digging deeper.

Reading Tip:  Download the Hoopla App and get access through your local library to audiobooks, movies, and music right to your phone or tablet.  It’s amazing!

Happy Reading Friends!

The Least of These

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Graphic from Urban Ministry Center–an amazing resource for the homeless community in Charlotte 

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” -Matthew 25:40

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” -1 John 3:17

Since moving nearer to the city this summer, we have had several opportunities to connect with individuals that are in need, less fortunate, and/or homeless.  Those opportunities have really stirred a desire to be more intentional in practical service to this community.  As you can see from the image above, Charlotte contains 20% of the entirety of North Carolina’s homeless population.  If you have ever strolled down Tryon, the main road through uptown Charlotte, on any given day, you can be sure to find many homeless individuals sleeping on benches and looking through garbage for remnants of food.  This is a huge and very apparent need in our city.  At our previous church, we assembled care packages for those less fortunate in downtown Charlotte and then kept some in our cars for those standing at stoplights.  Delivering these packages and getting to know the stories of the people we were privileged to interact with was an immense blessing to us;  I hope it was even more so for the recipients.

I know it is easy to drive or walk right past someone in need thinking, “well, I don’t know if they mean well or if they are dangerous”, “what if they use this money [if you give money and not goods] for something bad?”, “I have nothing to give” or even “I’ll do something next time”.  I do this more than I would like to admit.  I recently went to a seminar where the speaker shared a wonderful quote when talking about the story of the Good Samaritan, saying, “we should not approach those less fortunate with the thought of ‘if I stop what will happen to me?’ but rather ‘if I don’t stop what will happen to them?”  Such a simple but convicting thought.  Why are we so concerned with ourselves that we miss the easy chances to provide for those that have been dealt a lesser hand?  1 John 3:17 (above) smacks me right upside the head every time I read it…in the best of ways.  It awakens me to the reality that serving others, loving them well, and showing them Christ’s character is our job, our duty, and should also be our joy.  Imagine what things would look like if each of us more intentionally loved those less fortunate with the intense and genuine love of Christ through practical offerings?

Below is the list and cost of each item that went into making just 10 bags to hand out.  I started small just to give a glimpse on a manageable project for one person.  You will also see that I included laminated reference cards for the Urban Ministry Center to provide more consistent and comprehensive services for them instead of just a few items to last a few days. I would highly suggest getting together with your small group, church, friends, or family if you want to undertake a bigger movement to serve the city your in.  This is not just Charlotte, the least of these are everywhere. Let’s serve them!

**These are “winter packs”, aimed toward cold weather needs.  During warmer months you might want to include more water, body wipes, deodorant, etc.  There are so many ways to make these.  Reach out to your nearest shelters or homeless ministries to get a good idea for what the homeless community in your area might specifically need**

 

10 Bags for the Homeless and Needy

12 fruit pouches: $3.00

24 individually wrapped hand wipes: $2.28

10 protein bars: $4.30

5 pairs of gloves: $7.50

20 pairs of hand-warmers: $10.00

12 to-go kleenex packs: $4.00

17 gallon storage bags: $1.74

10 sticks Chapstick: $6.36

10 pairs socks: $8.50

24 pack bottled water: $2.43

Travel size hand lotion: $9.70

Materials for reference card: $10.49 (pack of 10 sheets–used 6)

Total costs (including leftovers to keep in the car): $70.30

Approximate cost per bag: $7.00

$7=two days of your Starbucks fix, one meal at Chipotle or at most fast food places, less than a Spotify subscription, less than Netflix….think about it.

The opportunity to intentionally love, serve, and give to someone in need: PRICELESS.

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All the supplies!

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(left) Laminated reference card so it’s weather proof and they can keep it intact; (right) everyone needs to hear this I think.

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Ready to go!–I suggest keeping these in your car and then stow away one or two with you in your bag if you are walking through the city or in another area where there might be people in need.

 

 

Back to Basics.

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A basic phone that is.  Just before Christmas I made the decision to go back to a basic phone (LG Exalt).  I have been debating whether or not to even post about this because it was a personal and intentional decision and I frankly did not do it for anyone else or to draw attention.  After having several brief conversations with my close friends and family about this decision, I felt it would be important to share with you all why I made the switch and how it has been extremely helpful to me in so many ways to maybe inspire someone else that might be struggling.  Disclaimer: this is not a statement saying that all people should revert back to a basic phone. This has just worked for me and if it inspires you too then wonderful! 🙂 

When going to Verizon to make the switch, the Verizon employee looked at me as if I had four heads and looked at me with concern asking, “Are you sure about this?” like I was making a really detrimental decision.  It was really surprising how odd it seemed to everyone but I knew that it was the right decision for me.  A few weeks previous to making the change, my husband, a product designer, was sharing the new methods the cell phone market has used to improve basic cell phones.  He had no idea that I would actually be interested in this but I had actually been thinking of going back to a basic phone for awhile now and that conversation with him really confirmed that this would be a good move.

Admittedly, I had been depending on my iPhone way too much and was in the habit of needlessly checking it way too often…even in the car at a stoplight or…while driving.  I know, I know, that is completely idiotic and dangerous and yet I still did it on a regular basis.  That, above all else, woke me up to my need for making some separation between myself and my smart phone.  I obviously have self-control and would choose to not pick up my cell phone on my own accord when in the car but I really felt moved to make a more intentional decision by breaking with my smart phone completely.  In the past month, since transitioning to a basic phone, I have noticed these positive outcomes from the switch:

  • I actually talk to people.  For those of you that remember T9—whew.  Or even worse, if you aren’t using T9 and want an “S”, you best believe you have to hit the 7 four times.  You have to work for it.  This may sound like a negative, BUT, it has actually helped me just talk to people more, imagine that. If it is more than a short thought or question, I end up just calling the person I need to talk to and we are able to make a more personal contact.
  • My mind is quieter. I am a multi-tasker and thrive off of productivity so when I had a smart phone with access to all of the things, I used it for all of the things all of the time. Without constant access to social media and the internet, I am forced (in the best of ways) to consider how really necessary those things are that I feel are so “necessary”. If I want to know something or check something bad enough, it can wait until I get home.  Let’s get back to a world where it is okay to just not know something right away. I am now not constantly thinking what else I could be looking at or learning on my phone and my mind is so much calmer because of it.
  • I make new friends. All of you know what happens when you are stuck in line somewhere, waiting in a doctor’s office, anticipating a meal arriving at a restaurant, or really anywhere else where we have 2.5 seconds without constant mental stimulation…we get on our phones.  Before I switched to a basic phone, it would literally stir up anger in me when I realized that I was dazing out, scrolling through my phone, without actually looking around or when I would see a couple at a restaurant table not talking to one another but instead being absorbed into the world of their iPhone.  Now without my mini computer constantly within reach, I talk to other people in line, pay attention to my surroundings, notice things that I haven’t paid attention to before, etc.  I get to be more intentional with how I approach others and invest in paying attention to the people and places right in front of me, not on a tiny screen.

Struggles:

With the positives there are also small struggles.  If I need to go somewhere new, I have to go old-school and print out directions or just look it up in advance.  If I am out and wonder if a place is open or I need a phone number for a store or restaurant that is not in my contacts, I am at a loss.  Voice-texting is not a thing so that adds some difficulty.  However, if I need to text, I should be in a spot where I shouldn’t need to use voice-texting anyway (i.e. I am in a safe situation where both hands can be used and multi-tasking like that is not necessary).  I don’t have access to spotify or anything like that with it so I either use my drive to pray or listen to NPR and catch up on the news. SO, when any struggle arises, the solution is always “well, I just need to be more intentional about that…” which is the whole point.

I do have an iPad that I use for using apps etc. so I still have access but, again, I have to really think about why I am using the iPad and when and it usually stays at home.

In the coming months, I hope to find more ways to be more intentional in my use with technology and find even more positives of going back to the basics.

Spill the Beans-Coco and the Director

Welcome to the first of a series where you can follow me on a coffee tour of Charlotte and I will “spill the beans” on an inside look of each coffee shop I visit.  As a lover of good coffee, I admittedly do not frequent the corner Starbucks.  I prefer to support local coffee shops and, let’s be honest, the local spots are cozier and frankly serve a much higher quality, better-tasting cup of joe.  So this is an effort to spotlight those amazing local places that deserve the attention.  These posts are less about really deep intention and more about how to balance that intention with an occasional indulgence and time for yourself in a place that you love.  BUT, I see it as a way to also be intentional in supporting local shops in your hometown, wherever that may be.  In my travels I plan to have special editions where I can review coffee shops in other cities I visit so stay tuned for that in the future!

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my new favorite quote “A yawn is a silent scream for coffee”

Location:

Coco and the Director, 100 W. Trade St. Charlotte, NC 28202–technically in Fourth Ward but right at the main intersection of Charlotte at Trade and Tryon, located in the Marriott City Center.

There is an outdoor entrance right off the street or you can cut through the swanky hotel lobby if you are interested in taking a peek. Strolling through the lobby made me want to take a staycation here even though we are literally a mile away.  Since it’s so close, I walked here; yet another reason I love living near the city!

On the Menu:

I sipped on a Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Latte ($4.50)–Not too sweet so it was easy to sip and I don’t like super sweet drinks anyway.  Next time I would ask for “extra hot” as it was already just warm when it was served.

Other Options: Brewed Coffee $2 (12 oz.) or $3 (16 oz.), Cold-Brew, Pour Over, Aeropress, all the classic espresso drinks and a wide variety of tea.

Fun Extras:

  • Gourmet Sandwich of the Day and other small bites, beer, juice, etc. in a small refrigerated area.
  • Great decor but not overdone–I felt like Joanna Gaines could be there decorator. So much yes.
  • Local goods for sale that would make really cute gifts if you want something unique to Charlotte–really witty and unique greeting cards too!
  • A large home-theater-size screen above the main seating area where you can sit and watch in the stadium-seating and from the balcony area.  They were showing “Fixer Upper” when I was there so I think that’s a good sign.  They do throwback movie nights throughout the year too with free popcorn. So fun!
  • Chalkboard wall where you can collaborate with coworkers, get out some creativity, or leave fun notes for other visitors.
  • Outlets with built-in USB charging every few feet throughout the shop making it easy to work wherever you need for as long as you need.
  • Wine ‘N Color Wednesday–$5 glasses of wine and 1/2 off pastries, get a free week of coffee if your colored creation wins! Definitely doing this.
  • Other fun events with live music etc. throughout the year too

Vibe:

“Rustic vintage meets city sleek”-there was a really good mix of uptown bankers, runners stopping in on their jog through the city, college students studying, and those just hunkering down with a good book on a gloomy Tuesday. I was afraid I would feel out of place with it being Uptown and possibly a lot of “suits” surrounding me but that was not true at all, which was a great surprise.

Pros:

  • SO many seating options; stadium seating for cozy lounging, long tables for co-working space, little cafe tables for a coffee date, quick meeting, or reading the morning paper.
  • Relatively quiet; usually I have to put in headphones to focus but, even with a good amount of people, the noise was just a low hum due to the size of the space and distance between seating areas.  I was here from 2pm-4pm and even with the afternoon rush, it still felt pretty chill.
  • Good music mix; not too loud but a good mix of relaxed acoustic tunes and more popular hits–think Coldplay, Mumford, and all that jazz. Not actually jazz though…you know what I mean.
  • Central location; if you are within walking distance it is super easy to find and get to.  Good for those visiting Charlotte and staying in Uptown who want to visit a great local spot without driving out of the city.
  • Great customer service; baristas were very patient and considerate and were able to answer questions I had about the menu.
  • Great hours; 6am-10pm so caters to early risers and night owls.

Cons:

  • Cost; Because I am frugal, I would probably not get a latte but every so often and would stick with the cheaper brewed coffee.  It is definitely not the most expensive latte I have seen but not the cheapest either.  Even for the brewed coffee, I know other local spots that run a better deal.
  • If you are not in walking distance, it might present an issue with having to find parking.  So I would recommend this place for if you are looking for a nice stroll…even for someone living here, driving through Uptown makes me want to lash out at others…I wouldn’t want that for you friends.
  • If you are looking for a secluded, brick and mortar stop, this is not it.  With it’s central location and being in a bigger hotel, you are right in the middle of the city which to some may feel too chaotic and in the middle of it all. But again, it’s still pretty laid back inside so it’s an awesome contrast.
  • This is a minor con but they only serve coffee in to-go cups.  I feel weirdly amazing when I get to enjoy a latte in an actual mug, foam art and all.  Please tell me I am not alone in this.

This was my first visit to this awesome spot and I can already tell it will be a favorite go-to in the future!  Hope you get to pop in to Coco and the Director to check it out for yourself and, if you need a buddy to go with, you know where to find me 🙂

 

 

Say What You Think

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

 

When I was younger, we would always give my mom a hard time about making friends everywhere she went.  She would infamously strike up a conversation with any checkout person, grocery-bagger, or store attendant who would listen and we would roll our eyes and move on.  However, as I have gotten older, I have noticed something; when my mom engaged with these individuals, their mood visibly brightens and you can see that it is meaningful to them, even if just sharing a few words.  My husband is also an amazing example of someone who has the miraculous ability to engage with anyone he meets, making them feel loved and highly valued. I got a good one y’all.

It is so easy to go about our busy days and zoom through the checkout line while scrolling through our to-do lists in our heads or *gasp* on our phones while someone serves us by ringing up our many “needed” items at Target (raise your hand if you can relate) without us ever thinking to ask them about their day or what is going on in their life.  Now, for those of you that are reading this thinking “you want me to get in a deep conversation with everyone I come in contact with?? *cue cold sweats and rapid breathing*”, calm down.  This is just an encouragement to be more intentional in our interactions with others that we do not know to be less “me-centered” in our daily lives.

Admittedly, the apple does not fall far from the tree and I have always found it a bit easier to engage in conversations with complete strangers. Thanks Mom.  It also helps that I am an extrovert and am used to asking others questions about their lives as a counselor.  Still, it is a struggle if I am just not in the mood to talk or the other person is being rude or seems like talking is the last thing in the world they would like to do.  For all of us, extroverts and introverts alike, when it’s easy or not, here a few simple tips in how to be more intentional when interacting with strangers–

  1. Say What You Think: A few years ago, I told a girl at the checkout counter that she had really beautiful eyes.  I felt so awkward saying this but I just felt the urge to compliment her and felt like she needed to hear it.  I really truly feel like God can move in us in these moments to help brighten someone’s day in really practical ways. When I said it, she actually teared up and said she had a really crappy day so far and that really made her afternoon. I was blown away.  How in the world could a little comment/compliment make such a difference? Now, anytime I think something like “I love her hair, that’s such a great outfit, they have a nice smile, they were so helpful and kind/had such good customer service, etc.”, I SAY IT. Honestly, it has never gone poorly in my experience.  The other person is always positively affected and it is just the best.
  2. Bag the Groceries: If there is no one there to bag groceries, or even if there is, lend a hand.  At Trader Joe’s there is rarely a person actually manning the bagging area so I will chat and bag at the same time.  It never fails, the checkout person is always taken aback and thanks me for helping saying, “that never happens”.  It feels good to know that I was able to help them in a practical way and show them kindness. **this is a great option for those of you that might not be comfortable getting into an actual conversation just yet.**
  3. Ask them…: It’s normal for all of us to say the obligatory “hey, how are you?” when coming across another person but do you ever think to actually ask more?  I will always say “So, how is your day?/How much longer do you have on your shift?/Has it been busy/stressful today/Have any plans for the weekend?”.  Asking these separate questions instead of just “how are you?” signals to the other person that you are actually making an effort to really understand how they are doing and being intentional in asking.
  4. Call them by name: Yep, just what it says…This is something my husband always does and I don’t remember to do enough and it always makes an impression.  When we leave he will always say to the waiter, checkout person, etc. “Thanks so much {name here}, we appreciate it” or “Have a good night, {name here}”. So simple but so intentional. I work part-time in retail and have worked in many retail positions in the past.  Anytime someone refers to me by name, which is very rare, it makes me feel seen in such a small but significant way.

We have no idea what others are going through and you may run into people who will not engage back when trying these simple tips above but it never hurts to try.  You could be the one person in someone’s day that really truly cares and brings a smile to their face.  Just think, if more of us did this on a regular basis, how much more kindness could we spread to those that need it?

Do you have ways that you are already intentional with others? Please share in the comments below!