The Inspire Us Project: Kim

June 20, 2016

In February of this year, we introduced you to The Inspire Us Project. We have enjoyed reading the stories of women – stories of strength that have led them to a life of believing in themselves and feeling comfortable in their own skin.

We will be sharing a few of these stories as a source of inspiration. Stay tuned for our very own to be shared in this project as well.

Kim::

Inspire Us

The story behind my smile…

I guess you could say that my life started out as that of most little girls. Days were filled with lots of love, pretty dresses and dance classes. Quite the spoiled little thing, it still tickles me to hear the story of how my maternal grandparents once stood outside “spanking” the rain because the thunder had made me cry.

My parents divorced when I was really young. They had been childhood sweethearts who grew up as neighbors. Now that I’m grown myself, I think they simply weren’t mature enough for true “adulting” at the time. My mom remarried shortly thereafter, and so did my dad. It was my stepfathers suggestion that we needed to move. Unable to fully cope with my grandmothers untimely death, my mom went along with it. So off we went, along with my little sister, to live in Colorado. I’ve always been the intuitive type. So without reason and at the tender age of four, I can honestly say that I had never liked my stepfather. Upon moving across the country, I soon learned why.

For the first time in my life, I was exposed to alcoholism and abuse. As a little kid I wanted nothing more than to escape, but I couldn’t. Since I couldn’t physically escape, I would lose myself in books. From Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, to The Chronicles of Narnia, I would get away to better places through reading. I guess that’s the one good thing from that time that I’ve never lost. We moved around a lot, but wherever we went the story never changed. It was a horribly ugly cycle that was stuck on repeat. Somewhere along the way we all moved back to Alabama. But that didn’t suit the manipulation of an abuser who thrived on isolation to carry out his domination. There were simply too many family and friends here, to not notice all of the battles and bruises on the mend.

There’s so much more to this story, it would take a book to truly tell. Fortunately, my sister and I were able to get away. It took a while longer, but my mom and now three more sisters would eventually follow. It takes a long time to truly be free from the chains of abuse, but I’m happy that the chains have finally been broken. Although there are still some residual difficulties at times, I choose happiness in spite of it all!

I choose to live in a way that shines the light of love in all that I am and all that I do. When you see my smile, know that it is broad and bright by choice. It is the freedom song of a sweet little girl who once didn’t have a voice.

For more stories, visit The Inspire Us Project website.

Shop Talk: Engaged

May 31, 2016

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Stephanie Whitacker, own of Engaged and publisher of Birmingham’s The Perfect Wedding Guide

Situated in the quaint neighborhood of Edgewood, Engaged welcomed me with its sea-foam green walls and light touches of cream and white. Just as welcoming and warm as the room, Stephanie and Katie greeted me energetically. This dynamic duo, down-to-earth and personable, are the types you’d want to have as your best girlfriends. I felt as if I had known them for years.

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Engaged is a Wedding Library. I wasn’t familiar with the term before but intrigued with what they do. With hundreds of sources at their fingertips, Stephanie and Katie make wedding planning stress free and fun.

Stephanie Whitaker, the owner of Engaged, first began in 2007 when she left the accounting world to become the publisher of Birmingham’s Perfect Wedding Guide. This guide provides brides with a list of vendors from photographers and venues to bridal shops and florals – all the necessary elements in making that special day perfect.

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Although the guide provides the premier wedding vendors in Birmingham, Stephanie took it one step further and opened Engaged which is a store front that offers one-on-one consultations for brides. The guide and consultations are free. What’s the catch? There isn’t one!

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Katie Calhan, bridal consultant of Engaged

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Katie Calhan is one of the consultants with seven years of experience. When meeting her, it’s evident that she loves what she does. “My job is to educate brides on price points and give them the why’s and how’s on what to do. Sometimes they don’t know that Aunt Sally shouldn’t do the flowers, ” she jokes. “We help build a team to make the wedding successful and stress free,” she continues.

Katie suggests that brides should come in with a vision, but if they don’t, not to worry: “They will leave with three things no matter what: 1. A plan 2. Feeling less stressed and 3. The knowledge of the best vendors in town.”

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Engaged and The Perfect Wedding Guide host two bridal shows a year. These shows provide inspiration for brides of any style.

There will be a launch party on April 7th at 6:00 pm for the spring book edition at Dorothy McDaniel’s Flower Market.

Engaged should be every brides “first stop after he pops the question.”

Photo Credit: Becca Bell of 2b Photography

Article by Brittany Windle

Follow Brit on Twitter

 

Why Self-Acceptance Is So Hard

March 30, 2016

singlematters.com I just celebrated another birthday. Not much has changed in a year, and yet everything has changed in a year.

I still struggle not to be completely awkward in unfamiliar social settings. Sometimes I say too much, and other times not enough. There are some life lessons I still have to learn over and over again. My brows are still uneven. My nose is still crooked. My body is flawed, and my mind often messy. Yet I have learned there is beauty in the mess. I have allowed myself to be taught the art of flawed acceptance.

To accept myself, my whole self, the flawed, the weak, the awkward, the crooked and the messy parts, God gave me permission to accept — to actually see — the beautiful, the strong, the brave and the supernatural parts of me as well.

For years I felt unworthy of a holy self-acceptance. I don’t mean “holy” in any type of religious reference. I mean that to be “holy” is to be whole by definition. I was light years ahead of others when it came to accepting the negative things about myself. Oftentimes I would find comfort in my flaws and mistakes, cradling those ghosts like a little girl rocking her doll. I thought I was being kind and honest to myself and to the world by willingly raising my hand and taking full ownership of the messed-up parts of me.

To be partly honest isn’t to be honest at all.

I had actually been lying to myself and lying to the world. To have been honest would have also been owning up to having blue eyes for days, a contagious smile, a heart for people, tears for the bound and a relentless tenacity to change the world.

After much work and conscious effort I found space for me within my own flawed heart. I have discovered that to choose me — all of me — allows me to choose all of someone else. In the process, I realized I couldn’t fully accept others until I fully accepted myself. I could not make the world a better place until I made me a better place. I have learned, and will continue to learn, the grace of holy self-acceptance.

I will keep finding room for me within my own beautifully messy soul.

I will keep requiring that I choose myself so I can choose others.

I will keep demanding that I be honest, yet gentle, with myself.

I will keep praying that I provide myself with kind attention where it is needed.

Finding room in my heart and holy self-acceptance are beautiful things.

They are energetic and powerful. They are healing. They do a work from the inside out. They are bold. They are brave. They give permission to change the world.

They were my gifts, and I pass them on to you.

Be brave enough. Be strong enough to make room in your heart for a holy, flawed acceptance. Your bravery might just spark a relentless tenacity to change the world, uneven brows, contagious smile and all.

Article by Cheslie Birks 

Follow Chelsie on Twitter and Instagram

Originally published on singlematters.com 

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5 Musts for the Busy Woman

March 23, 2016

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Recently, I had a change of jobs. Although I would consider this move to be an advancement from where I was before, I caught myself homesick and stressed. A new job means a new schedule, new people and new responsibilities.

To make it through the transition and twelve hour days, I began to find something to look forward to every day. Thankfully, the time change peeked around the corner and has allowed for the sun to still be beautiful and bright when I exit the building on those long days. The first day the sun was still out at 6:30 p.m., I hurried into the house, changed into workout clothes, and bolted out the door for a long run. Looking forward to something as simple as the sunshine allowed me to look for the silver lining in each day.

I’m kinda known for relishing in a cup of hot tea, preferably “Sleepy Time” tea at night, taking long baths, and cuddling up in a cozy robe. (No, I am not in my 60′s.) If you didn’t consider me to be an old soul before, I’m sure my new philosophy on life solidifies it now.

But if you catch yourself running only on fumes and know that your busy schedule may not be slowing down, consider these five musts for keeping your sanity and lowering your stress:

1. Find something to look forward to every day, even if it’s just as simple as sitting on your porch or going for a walk in the afternoon.

2. Discover the things that bring you joy and fulfillment, and do them! Implement these small joys into your daily life. Exercise is essential for me. Even if I were to never burn a calorie or lose an inch, I would still workout. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins. (Endorphins reduce your perception of pain and produce a positive feeling! Thanks, WebMD.) Other things on the list may include going to the farmers’ market on Saturday’s or thrift shopping. Your list may look differently, but whatever it is, make time for those things that create moments of relaxation and happiness.

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3. Surround yourself with inspiring friends. My closest girl friends validate my feelings but are also honest with grace when needed. Their conversations are therapeutic, comical and often times enlightening. And hey, “a good friend is cheaper than therapy,” they say. Negativity breeds negativity, which can add to an already stressful life.

4. Take time to be with your family, and call your grandmother back.  My family centers me. They shower unconditional love and provide irreplaceable support. During my job change, my grandmother called several times and left voicemails. When I returned the call, all she wanted to say was “I love you.”

5. Put it in your schedule to rest. Rest is just as important as anything you do. If you are spent, then you are good for no one. A rested mind, body, and soul make for a better friend, mother, sister and coworker. Say “no” to things that you know will be draining, and make time to sit down and put your feet up daily.

What can you look forward to every day?

Article by Brittany Windle

Photo Credit: 2b Photography  Model: Becca Bell, one of my inspiring friends

Inspire Us Bham

February 9, 2016

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The Inspire Us Bham project was started by Laura Jett Walker, a wedding photographer, and Kali Peirsall, a wedding videographer. “ A 2005 car wreck left Piersall with a prominent scar on her forehead. Wouldn’t it be neat, she said, if Walker captured her in a makeup-free portrait?”

This conversation inspired the fun duo to host an event and photo shoot of 20 to 30 women all makeup free, celebrating raw beauty and the stories behind these inspiring women.

Piersall and Walker say their goal is to celebrate women and their individuality. “‘We’re all about people being different,’ Piersall says. ‘There’s a lot of jobs the Lord’s given me and given Laura. But judging people isn’t one of them.’”

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Kerri, one of the many women involved in the project, tells her story of helping other women accept their uniqueness.

On Feb. 15, Walker will photograph these women and document each story. Applications are now closed, but you can join the event at The Nest in Avondale from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. We’ll be there!

Read Kerri’s story and many others here, and stay tuned for the release of the project!

(Sources: Al.com)

Sweet Southern Roots

November 20, 2015

Luv Cooks

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from the kitchen of Callie Blount of Luv Cooks – see recipe at bottom.

 

Growing up in the Deep South, I was surrounded by great food. It was and still is at the center of all family gatherings.  My sisters and I had the privilege of eating fresh vegetables from the garden almost every meal. We always ate buffet style: Squash, okra, green beans, and collards colorfully decorated the stove top. Of course, at least one of them was hand-battered and fried in my dad’s secret recipe. I never realized how special it was until I didn’t have it everyday. (Ahh, adulthood!) The thought of starting a garden is daunting.

However, I haven’t always valued the things that have signified my Southern roots. I’ll never forget the first time I was taunted for my accent. I tried desperately in college to change it. Around certain people, I would talk less and softer just to avoid being called out. I hated it. I’ve since then managed to pronounce certain words correctly, but my vowels are still slow and long and Southern as sweet tea. People point it out occasionally.

And then it was my small town I grew up in that I never wanted to admit I was from. I’ve always lived by the mantra, “Just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean you’re small minded.” I didn’t want to be stereotyped by a classist. I’m intrigued by other cultures and consider myself to have a broad worldview. I used to cringe when someone asked the question, “Where are you from?”

My town is infamous for landmarks like The Booby Trap and the Carrie Lawson case where theorists claim her body was dumped in the depth of Smith Lake. Apparently, that’s where all bodies are cast, probably by the hitman that you can hire for just a case of beer. (Seriously, this is a known fact.) Most recently, we became famous when National Geographic aired a special about the “Sipsey Wilderness Creature.” The hour long docuseries is of a man recalling his experience with an animal that is as closely related to Big Foot as you could find. Walker County doesn’t exactly have the best reputation.

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The Spicy Chocolate Sweetie- Pie from Laura Chancey of Humble Pie- scroll down for recipe.

But what I see when I think of my childhood is my cousin and I crafting mud pies and topping them off with wild flowers; playing hours outside until dark; leaping from hay bale to hay bale with my sisters; sneaking vanilla wafers from my great grandmother’s cookie jar; and my dad making us pick vegetables from the garden in the sweltering summer heat. (Have you ever “looked” peas? It’s pretty dreadful!)

Goodness, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

My childhood home sits beautifully in a large field and the cows peacefully in the neighboring farm.

No, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I see that now, and I’m not so ashamed of my Southern drawl. I’m still going to say “y’all.” It’s a part of me, and, apparently, it’s not going anywhere no matter how hard I try. And as for my small town, I’m not sure I’d be who I am without it. I wouldn’t value simplicity or relish in the small things.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to attempt to make my great aunt’s fried apple pies, not just because they are mouth watering good. But rather, because they symbolize tradition, love and hard work – treasures I want to preserve.

I’m thankful for my Southern roots. That may be the first time I’ve ever said that.

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In honor of Thanksgiving, tradition, and family, I thought I’d share with you two recipes from two sweet Southern women, Callie Blount of Luv Cooks and Laura Chancey from Humble Pie. They both formed their love for cooking at an early age while learning and watching their grandmothers in the kitchen.

For the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies above, click here. See below for Laura’s Spicy Chocolate Sweetie-Pie.

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Chocolate Pie Dough

What You Will Need

- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
- 1/2 cup ice plus 1/2 cup water to make super cold ice water

What You Will Do

1. Whisk the first 4 ingredients together, then with a pastry knife cut the butter into the flour mix until it resembles small pebbles.
2. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time, using a wooden spoon to incorporate it in.
3. When the mixture starts to resemble dough, form a ball with your hands and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or if you’re impatient, like me, freeze for at least 30 minutes.)
Note: When you’re ready to begin making the pie, roll the dough out first, put it into the baking dish, poke the bottom with a fork about 10-15 times, and then stick the dish in the freezer until your filling is ready.

 

For full recipe and the story behind Laura and Humble Pie, click here.

Brittany Windle

Thanksgiving Serve

November 6, 2015

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“If you don’t post it on social media, it never happened” is a common misconception. It can be extremely easy to lose sight of what’s important with the way the media has helped play a role in distracting us. The need to post everything we do from what we ate that night to a rant on presidential elections are among the themes we see on our Facebook news feeds. Some things should be left unseen and unheard. Unfortunately, privacy no longer exists.

Social media often fuels the selfish nature of man. Self is gloried at every turn. While the need to be outwardly beautiful is every person’s desire, this need has become an obsession to the point that many can’t post a picture without first editing and tweaking. Instagram accounts look like editorial features from magazines ranging from Cosmo to Southern Living.

“If you don’t have a crisp, white kitchen, wreaths decorated with burlap, and you and your children looking as if you’ve stepped out of J. Crew, you’re nothing,” a friend joked as we were talking about social media expectations.

What if the time we spent in front of the mirror or retaking a photo was spent serving others? What if we decided to create a balance, “unfollow” those who cause us to compare? What if we didn’t think about self so much but the person we may have passed by at the grocery store who needed help with their bags? Did we notice the homeless woman sitting outside that department store?

An act of service may not be seen or heard by a crowd of many. But the impact it has on an individual far outweighs the “likes” your selfie may receive.

Sometimes I have to remind myself what it’s all about. The expectations of the media and the self absorption it has helped create can be exhausting. To set myself aside, serve a person less fortunate puts things into perspective.

And if no one sees it or hears it, it still happened…. and best of all, it could be life changing to someone who really needs it.

Join me this Thanksgiving in serving those in the Birmingham area. Listed below are service opportunities hosted by several organizations in the city.

1. Church of the Highlands

2. Hands on Birmingham 

3. Jimmie Hale Mission

4. The Community Kitchens of Birmingham

5. First Light Shelter

6. See this list of Food Pantries in Birmingham for service opportunities.

7. Check out the Homeless Shelter Directory for a list of shelters in the state of Alabama.

* If the service opportunity isn’t on the website, call the location to inquire.

Brittany Windle

Follow Brit on Twitter.

Quote and Photo: TryLife

Q & A with Aubrey Sampson

October 28, 2015

overcomerToo many women have allowed shame to condemn and confine them for far too long. If you’re ready to break free, regardless of the shame experience that is holding you back, Aubrey Sampson–a pastor’s wife and an advocate for at risk women—invites you, like her, to be an overcomer. Sampson courageously shares her own history with shame, ranging from sexual assault to everyday imperfections and laughable mistakes. But it doesn’t end there.

Sampson identifies seven major lies of shame, such as, “I cannot experience freedom from shame,” “My past is unsalvageable,” and “Shame is experienced only in traumatic situations.”

Written with a strong biblical theology and a humorous authenticity, Overcomer equips readers with the spiritual understanding to overcome shame.

Through her personal experiences and true-life stories shared by women of all ages, Sampson deals directly with the shame that comes from the humbling moments in life, as well as from the tragic—sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, abandonment, and more. Then she empowers women to transform their life’s story into ministry, creating ripple effects of hope and healing that can change the world.

Written for any woman whose self-worth has been stolen, Overcomer gives you the courage to kick down the walls of shame and embrace freedom and a future in Christ.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, church planter, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin and three young sons.

Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.

Q and A with the Author

 1. What is shame?

Shame encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is to think back on a moment when you experienced it. You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort, or self-consciousness (I was a middle schooler with pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so yeah, I know self-consciousness!). Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, such as when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured, or abused. Another difficulty with shame is that so many of us live under the weight of it without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

Add to all of that, the pressure in our Christian culture to operate above reproach all the time, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. We may even believe that if we aren’t shaming ourselves, we’re in danger of becoming prideful. So we beat ourselves up as the “better,” more Christlike option. It’s a vicious cycle. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough.

Throughout Overcomer, I share my own history of “not-enoughness,” along with stories from others who’ve overcome shame in their lives— ranging from situations of abuse to struggles with body image and eating, to everyday laughable imperfections.

The ultimate message of Overcomer is this: in spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to Jesus, our shame is transformed into sparkling, beaming joy (Psalm 34:5). There may be moments in life when we feel condemned, but when our identity is centered in Christ, we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance.

2. In your new book, Overcomer, you share the seven lies shame tells women. Can you go into one of those for us?

While shame tells us many lies, ranging from My past is unsalvageable to I’ll never be free from shame, I believe one of its most insidious lies is that because of shame in our pasts, we are unfit to be used by God in powerful ways. Regardless of the form your shame might take, sooner or later it will try to make you feel disqualified so that you question your ability to be a good anything—leader, employee, friend, date, spouse, parent, even child of God. But the truth for us today is the same truth that empowered Paul in 2 Corinthians. The grace of God is sufficient, not in spite of our weaknesses, brokenness, and shame but smack-dab in the middle of them. That’s where the power is, according to Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ … That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses. … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10).

In other words, if we believe we’re insufficient  (and even if in some circumstances we are), it doesn’t even matter, because Jesus is more than sufficient and he qualifies us—for grace, for mercy, and for meaningful service in the kingdom of God.

3. The title of your book is, Overcomer, what does that word mean to you? What will your readers take away from it?

 About a year ago, a friend heard the book title and asked, “Who’s the overcomer? You? The reader?”  Her question struck me as funny at the time, because I initially thought, “Well, of course it’s the reader! Who else would it be?”

But then I realized something that changed the roadmap of the book. The only reason we can overcome our shame is because we have an Overcomer in Christ. He endured the ultimate shame so that we no longer have to. That’s what I want readers to leave with – the truth that even if they still battle shame at times (and we all do), they have, in Jesus, a Savior and a Shame Remover—a Sovereign Ruler who compels our shame to bow down before his authority. In other words, even if your past is dark, even if you’ve spent your entire life feeling like a replica of yourself, even if you think you don’t measure up, even if you’ve been hiding in shame for years, you can overcome shame because your Overcomer already has.

4. The phrase from your book, “shame flourishes in silence” is really powerful. Can you explain how this happens and what we can do to stop it?

The root of the word shame is actually derived from the phrase, “to cover.” Just as Adam and Eve were so ashamed of their sin they covered themselves with fig leaves, over and over again we instinctually follow their lead. Anytime we feel ashamed, on any level, the last thing we want to do is broadcast those feelings to the world around us. Shame loves to isolate and isolation loves to keep us from experiencing the benefits of community.

Far too often we believe the shame-lie that our imperfections equal our inadequacy, and that exposing our flaws will reveal spiritual immaturity or lack of faith. So we suffer silently, saying nothing about our inner pain. In the meantime, our shame roots grow deeper.

There is greater freedom and deeper joy to be had when we are willing to break the silence of shame and reveal our authentically-flawed selves to each other. It’s ironic, actually. As we disclose our weaknesses to others, that act actually strengthens us and our communities to continue overcoming shame. Acts of vulnerability produce contagious courage.

At the end of the day, vulnerability doesn’t have to be overly complicated, excessively dramatic, or heavily programmed. In fact, the most powerful moments I’ve experienced in community are the organic ones; when one person talks about a struggle and another says, “Oh, I struggle with that too, but I never came to you because I assumed you had it all together.”

Overcomer equips readers with the courage necessary to begin coming out of the darkness, kicking down the walls of shame, and embracing freedom and future in Christ.

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul, www.aubreysampson.com

Is available for on AmazonBarnes and NobleChristian Books, and wherever books are sold.

© (Sections taken from Overcomer by Aubrey Sampson. Copyright © 2015. Used by permission of Zondervan.www.zondervan.com. All rights reserved.)

 

Callie Blount of Luv Cooks

October 20, 2015

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I arrive at the quaint Homewood cottage right on time. Callie greets me at the door with an infectious smile. It was as if I was meeting a long time friend. She is in the perfect pair of black skinny jeans, burgundy booties, and a salmon hued blouse with a pineapple in sparkly sequins. I later discover that pineapples are Callie’s favorite, of course, a symbol of hospitality. She is even more mesmerizing in person.

Callie Blount is someone I’ve admired from afar for a couple of years, so I was eager to meet her in person. Callie runs a food blog called Luv Cooks – having the most mouth watering recipes, beautifully styled photography and entertaining videos. (She makes cooking look so easy!) By day, she is a freelance food and prop stylist. 

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With an industrial feel and splash of vintage, her kitchen area serves as the backdrop for most of her videos and shoots. She offers me grapes and tea, and we immediately sit down in the red apple dining room chairs to chat.

Sometimes you just get a certain feeling about people. Honestly, today is not about her skill in the kitchen; I want to see her outside of that. I’m intrigued by women who have an ease and comfort about them. And there is just something about her.

I don’t normally open conversation with the topic of beauty and overcoming obstacles (seems a little heavy as an opener), but something prompts me to, and I follow. I sit back, soaking in every word. I wasn’t expecting such a moving response. After all, this is the first time we had met. Her warmth and vulnerability are immediate. As I listen, I secretly hope to have those same qualities one day.

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I simply ask, “What is your definition of beauty?” Without hesitation, Callie speaks on this topic making me realize how layered and complex that word really is: ”Beauty is close to my heart. I feel that beauty is the reason I‘m on the planet. I had this fascination of growing roses at a very early age. There was something about flowers that was so beautiful.” She continues telling of how her family passed on a rose bush from generation to generation with the women in her family. Sitting on the kitchen table is a porcelain white vase.  A pink rose peeks above a sea of petite red ones. It was then I notice the other fresh flowers on several surfaces of her home.

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“Beauty is power,” she continues. “With beauty comes responsibility to lead people to good or astray. I want my life on this planet to be a beauty that leads people to Jesus. Style is how I do it. When you see an image, you see something that is attractive. This brings people joy and happiness. Beauty is impactful, powerful, and can change the world. As a woman, I wanted to run from beauty at times. I felt as if I was too much or not enough. There have been moments that I didn’t want to care. But I knew not to run away. It can be for the good.”

Intrigued by her sense of self and concept of beauty, I ask about the most challenging obstacle she’s had to overcome. Candidly, she speaks of the end of her marriage and the beauty God brought from divorce:

“Personally, I walked through a difficult divorce, but the Lord is a God of restoration. He took me from a place where I had been stripped. A part of it was reclaiming my beauty and who I am as a woman. God has an amazing purpose for my life. When you go through a broken relationship, the world gets small and you think, ‘This is all I have.’ But God says, ‘I have way more for you.’” Callie is now married to a creative like herself who is a musician and photographer. “God built something new in my spirit,” she warmly says.

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On a professional level, Callie recalls a recent interview experience: “Being in the video world, there are a lot of people who say you aren’t enough. Someone said one time, ‘I really like you, but you are too southern. You are not for us.’ I really wanted to work with them.”

With reflection in her voice, she says, “Through those experiences, it goes back to, ‘You are fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s how I (God) made you to be. I’ve got this.’ It’s a journey of joy.”

Callie’s faith in God is evident. Her vulnerability to share her story reminds me of the importance of every woman’s story, although possibly messy, it’s meant to be told.

“Let’s turn on some 90′s rap,” Callie playfully says before the shoot. Pulling out inflatable fries and an apple pie, she giggles, “I wonder what we can do with these?”

A few things I learned from Callie that day: vulnerability is breathtaking; the name Callie actually means beauty; and make no apologies for who you are.

Her authenticity: awe-inspiring.

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Get to know Callie:

Favorite dish to cook. I LOVE brownies. Nigella Lawson has an incredible brownie recipe. I also love chocolate and peanut butter combos, so I love to top a hot brownie with chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

When did you know you had a love for food and cooking? My love for food began at a young age; I remember sneaking sugar cookie dough into my mouth as we decorated Christmas cookies, trying to carry on 6-year-old conversation while pretending it wasn’t there! But, my desire to learn how to cook started in college. My family sat down every night for a home-cooked dinner, and I was left, for the first time, with no one to cook for me!

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Who taught you how to cook? When was Luv Cooks created? I grew up watching my mom in the kitchen, but both of my parents worked, so she really didn’t have much time to teach me! I started Luv Cooks first as more of a baking blog. When I began learning the basics of cooking, baking really intrigued me, so that’s where I started. And I loved the satisfaction that came from bringing someone a home-baked treat- their faces would light up! And that’s really where Luv Cooks started- that idea that food is one of the best ways to show people love. The recipes have morphed from there, incorporating gluten- free, dairy-free, vegan options as well, because everyone should feel loved and included, no matter their diet.

How do you balance it all? This is a complete matter of prayer! A friend of mine taught me one of the best life principles I know a few years ago, and I have tried to stick with that. Since I am a freelance stylist, I have Sunday evening or Monday morning “meetings with the Boss” (the Lord) and just pray over my week- photo shoots, appointments, coffee dates, etc. I have found that that makes all the difference, and the Lord will really show me where to spend my time, and also open up pockets of rest in my week.

What women have inspired you? I am truly inspired by all women! Each of us has something incredibly beautiful and precious inside that the world desperately needs. I love learning from women who are really operating from that place. Christine Caine and the Propel women movement has really caught my attention lately- I love their outlook on women and purpose.

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Favorite piece of advice. “Life is either a grand adventure or nothing else.” Helen Keller. As women, as Creatives,we are called to take risks and leaps of faith with our lives. I don’t want to look back and wish I had taken on the challenge instead of sitting that one out.

Favorite piece of fall clothing: BOOTS! I love boots- tall, ankle booties, brown leather to purple suede. They dress up any outfit. Plus, there is no better feeling than a cool fall day, feeling cozy in a big chunky sweater, jeans, and boots (drinking a pumpkin spice latte of course). Perfection.

Article by Brittany Windle

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Many thanks to Becca Bell of 2b Photography for these images. There were way too many to choose, so check out the full shoot on the 2b Facebook page

The Ugly Side of Insecurity

October 1, 2015

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After interviewing the beautiful Callie Blount of Luv Cooks recently, I thought I’d re-post this article. Our conversation consisted of beauty and allowing it to be redeemed through the sometimes painful healing process. (Okay, that sounded really deep.) Stay tuned for a new Style and Substance feature with Callie.

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I scanned her picture. Okay… It wasn’t just a scan. I examined it like an investigator picks a part a crime scene. Why did her big thighs and ankles make me feel better? (She really didn’t have either). If I could find a flaw, just one flaw, it would remedy my malady: insecurity.

Insecurity is like a festering sore. At times, I allow it to begin to heal. Then I pick at it again, opening the tender wound.

[Side note: I’m not insecure in every area of my life. And I’m not the stereotypical picture either: mousy, shy or quiet.]

Insecurity has exposed a very ugly side in me at times: Jealousy, anger, and competitiveness have all derived from this evil culprit. It had to have started long ago. It didn’t just magically appear in my 29 year old self. And honestly, I’m not sure if it matters when.

But it’s there, and I know I’m not the only female who experiences it. In fact, one of my best girl friends recently admitted to looking at all of her current boyfriend’s ex’s social media outlets. “At least, I don’t have bleach blonde hair and two kids,” she taunted.

We get vicious, and treat one another like wild animals in an untamed jungle. It’s like survival of the prettiest in our superficial, sickly minds. I wonder if Darwin would have agreed.

After a heartbreaking end to a relationship a couple of years ago, I dated this so called party guy. He claimed he had changed, and I did enjoy having something to do on my now cleared agenda. His clingy ex girlfriend found my cell number and anonymously texted me one day. She was sick with insecurity, and she was beautiful. Granted, her insecurity was fueled by a noncommittal guy who kept her at arm’s length.

I’ve been trying to understand this insecurity that lurks around and rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. Why do I feel insecure at times, and at other times, I don’t? And it occurred to me that it is when I feel most threatened, when I fear danger or loss of security.

Beth Moore in her book entitled, So Long, Insecurity, confesses to having irrational thoughts and actions, which have been fueled by insecurity. She admits that she has feared that her husband might leave her for another woman. She also admits this is an irrational fear, probably stemming from a tumultuous upbringing. However, she poses a question to her readers: What if that one thing you fear actually comes true?

She plainly states something like this: You’d be hurt, cry a bit, maybe act out a lot, then move on. And it would be okay. You would be okay.

Most of the time we are fearing things that will never happen. We hold too tightly the one thing that gives us security: looks, intelligence, sense of humor, etc. When someone threatens this thing we most associate ourselves with, we fear. However, someone’s talent doesn’t void us of our own. We are no longer pretty because the girl next to us is pretty. I’ve wasted too much time worrying and fearing the what if’s.

I want that wound to heal. And I’ll tell myself: It will be okay. I will be okay.

Brittany Windle

Follow her on Twitter.