Hello from my bed, where I’m currently nursing a lovely case of mononucleosis – day 8.

I owe you all a post about the most amazing 10 days of my life in Uganda – and trust me, it will come in time – but I feel like I still have so much more processing to do before I can find adequate words to describe my time there.

For now, how about a post that doesn’t require much brain power? Stitch Fix!

June Stitch FixTo be honest, I’m pretty much just riding out the credit wave with Stitch Fix right now. I may have mentioned this a few months ago, but thanks to Stitch Fix‘s sweet referral program, I only paid for the items in my first box, over a year ago. If I was paying with my own money, I probably wouldn’t continue ordering boxes. It’s a fun mail surprise for sure, but in my opinion, many of the items are overpriced and the quality is similar to something you’d find at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. For some perspective, I’ll include the prices for each of the items in this fix.

1. Ashby Geo Print Front-Pocket Tank by Pink Martini – $44

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I liked this tank top a lot, but it wasn’t anything super special. Like I said above, it reminds me of something I’d find at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s for $12.00. The armpit holes were also really big, so back to Stitch Fix HQ it went. 

2. Francisco Crochet Detail Tank by Renee C – $48

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Cute, but totally see through. In the picture above, I have a cami on under the tank and you can still see through it. I honestly can’t count the number of times I’ve specifically indicated that I do not want any sheer tops, yet they continue to send them in every single Fix. Sigh… Returned.

3. Corbin Tie-Waist Chevron Print Hi-Lo Top by Papermoon – $48

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I liked the silhouette, but I’m so over chevron. Returned.

4. Mauna Mixed Print Sheer Open Cardigan by Papermoon – $48

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My favorite thing about Stitch Fix is that it pushes me to try things that I would never try on my own. I’ve been seeing these little kimono things popping up on Pinterest but never thought I would be able to pull one off. When I got this one in my Fix, I was surprised to find that I really liked it!

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(@lvunderw on Instagram)

I kept it and have already worn it a number of times. Here it is in action at Food Truck Friday last weekend!

5. Connor Racerback Mixed Striped Maxi Dress by Under Skies – $58

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I requested a maxi dress in this fix, and my stylist delivered. Unfortunately, the tightness and the stripes made me feel way too curvy. I know you’re thinking, “You don’t look too curvy,” but this mirror is just extremely kind and slimming. In reality, I looked like a Kardashian, and not in a good way. Back in the bag it went!

If you”d like to give Stitch Fix a try, you can sign up HERE!

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Are ya’ll ready for this? I’m about to get neck deep in vulnerability.

On Friday morning, I’ll be boarding an airplane bound for Uganda. This trip is the most tangible answer to prayer I’ve ever experienced in my 25 years of life. I asked expectantly, God answered. But it didn’t happen over night. It took six years.

I’ve known about this trip for six months now, but I haven’t shared because I simply haven’t had the words. Sometimes the things that are terribly close to our hearts are profoundly difficult to verbalize. So, I’m going to do something bold (it feels bold to me, anyway) and let my prayers do the talking.

Below you will find eight entries from various prayer journals that I wrote in consistently during the years when God gripped my heart for the fatherless, and specifically, for Africa.

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September 17, 2008 / 11:27 pm

“In continuing to pray through my ‘Trust God’ list, tonight I will pray for ‘Romania.’ I don’t know if that means Romania specifically. Maybe more of the idea behind it. I want to work with orphans. I just want to love on them. I want to give them love that no one else gives them. I want to show them the love that you have shown me. Oh, sweet children. I love them even now. I don’t know when or where I will meet them, but I trust that you will lead me there. My heart is overflowing with love for them tonight, and only You know how far away they truly are. Please guide me to these children. Open up doors for me that I never could have opened myself. I trust You.”

October 6, 2008 / 7:42 pm

“I spent this past weekend in Charleston for Katie and Landon’s wedding and also to visit friends from Project. My favorite part of the weekend was Saturday night. All of the 2303 girls put on our new long sleeve t-shirts and drove out to Folly Beach. The sand was cold on my toes, the breeze was blowing off the ocean, and the stars were so beautiful! Rachel Ann was telling me how amazing the stars were when she went to Africa – I can’t imagine! God, can I ask You for something? Someday, will you please open a door and make a way for me to see the stars in Africa?”

October 17, 2008 / 2:15 am

“Since I deleted my Facebook a few months ago, I’ve found a new way of keeping up with people. I follow their blogs. The interesting thing is, for the most part, I don’t even know these people.

Today I stumbled on the blog of a girl named Katie Davis. It was so engaging that I read her whole blog from start to finish – over a year of pretty frequent blogging. So much for my homework. From what I gathered, Katie is a 19-year-old girl from Tennessee who headed to Africa fresh out of high school. She lived there for about a year, teaching kindergarten at an orphanage and even taking in 10 beautiful African children to call her own.

The past few days, or even weeks, I’ve been pretty down and out. It’s just been this whole miserable self-loathing thing. I was going to write about it last night, but of course I got too lazy and selfish. I planned on griping about my foul, nasty mood and had thought of a list in my mind of ‘things that would make me happy.’ Here was my list:

1. Be skinny

2. Feel pretty

3. Have nice clothes

4. Make good grades

5. Have a boyfriend

Seriously? How much of a self-centered, self-righteous, sinful, American teenager am I? Reading Katie’s blog today helped to put things in perspective for me. Those things would not make me happy. I take that back. Maybe they would make me FEEL happy, but they would NOT give me real, true joy.

Katie’s life is much different than mine. Katie lives in Africa and teaches kindergarten to sweet, precious children. Katie gets to know You in a way that I will probably never know You in America. Katie gets to sit under the African sky and look up at the stars. And most importantly, Katie gets to love children who have no one else to love them. Who am I kidding? My list would not and could not bring me joy. Katie’s life brings me joy. Katie is living my dream.

God, I don’t know how and I don’t know where and I don’t know when, but I believe that one day you will lead me to the fatherless. I can’t wait to scoop them up and hold them in my arms and love them the best way I know how. The way that You love me. Unconditionally and without reason. Thank You for saving me and adopting me into Your family so that I am no longer an orphan.”

October 25, 2008 / 11:05 pm

“God, I cannot stop thinking about Africa. It’s consuming my thoughts. It’s interesting because when I used to hear or talk about missions I would just think, ‘Eh, maybe one day…’ and brush it off. Now, I can’t imagine my life without these children that I’ve never even met. From an attempt to look up African orphanages on the internet, I have seen one thing very clearly. I am not going to be able to do this by my own means. I am solely dependent on You.

I feel that at this point in my life you are saying to me, ‘Wait.’ I would pack up and fly off to Africa tomorrow, if I could. But You are not sending me to Africa tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be in Raleigh, North Carolina. Tomorrow I will be a student at NC State University. Tomorrow I won’t be frustrated about where I am. Tomorrow I will be content in Your will, trust in Your perfect timing, and rest in Your plan.

‘This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.’ – Habakkuk 2:3″

November 9, 2008 / 12:00 am

“There are 143 MILLION orphans in the world. 100 percent of them have been abandoned or abused. My heart beats for orphans. How will I get to them?

‘Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help. If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my buisness,’ will that get you off the hook? Someone is watching you closely, you know – someone not impressed with weak excuses.’ – Proverbs 24:12 (The Message)”

April 9, 2009 / 11:01 am

“… and God, if You want me to provide a family for orphans – I will! If you want me to adopt them into my family – I will. If you want me to go to Africa (or anywhere else) and take care of them – I will. You just have to show me how.

‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am. Send me!’ – Isaiah 6:8″

May 25, 2009 / 11:39 pm

“I don’t even know how old I was when my parents divorced. Eleven? Thirteen? Really, I don’t know. And in fact I don’t even remember much about it. But I do remember thinking that something about me was not quite good enough. Why wasn’t I worth sticking around for? How many times have I asked myself this? How many precious orphans in the world are asking themselves the same question RIGHT now? But I know something that they don’t.

The love of a heavenly father. A father who says to them and says to me, ‘You are worth it. You are worth it, so much so, that I sent my son to die so that I could spend all of eternity with you. I love you so much that Christ would have died even if you were the only child the whole world.’ Father, Your perfect love covers over all of the imperfections of an earthly father. But how will they know? Oh, God. Please let me tell them. Please let me hold them and rock them and love them and tell them how You love them. Please Jesus, don’t let me waste my life another day.

‘With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it… What do we lack?’ – A.W. Tozer”

February 7, 2010 / 4:38 pm

“Lord Jesus, You know that more than anything in the world, I want to go to Africa. At church yesterday, JD said he knew that some of the women should say, ‘Maybe I should go and start an orphanage for children to be adopted by loving, Christian families.’ I knew he was talking directly to me. There is nothing I want more in life than to love these sweet children and tell them of the everlasting love of a perfect Heavenly Father. You said, ‘Ask and I’ll give the nations to you.’ That is the cry of my heart. I am begging You to let me go. Please, please, please. I want to arrange my life’s mission around Your eternal mission, but I just feel helpless. I don’t know how to get there on my own.”

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Six years later, I’m on my way! I hope this sampling of excerpts from my most heartfelt and private place encourages you to listen to God’s call on your life, to pray big prayers, and to wait patiently when your heart’s deepest desires feel unattainable. I will share more about the events that led to this (HUGE!) answered prayer when I return to America, and of course, a million and one pictures. Catch you all at the end of July!

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LauraUnderwood_10(photo via Amanda Castle Photography)

I’ve never been particularly career minded.

There, I said it. It’s not that I’m wildly happy about it; it’s just the truth.

There are some people who have known exactly what they wanted to do and exactly who they wanted to be from the moment they stepped into Kindergarten, but that just wasn’t me. In fact I’m pretty sure I didn’t really even consider the fact that I needed to choose a career path until my junior year of college. But the thing is… I didn’t really even consider it. Making that kind of decision seemed hard and scary, and I didn’t want to face hard or scary things, so I just assumed that life would work out in my favor. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

There are lots of things that I could blame this on. I could blame it on the fact that I went to a free spirited elementary school that focused on play based learning rather than academics. I could blame it on the fact that I’m the third child, and everyone knows the baby of the family doesn’t face the same strict standards as their older siblings. I could blame it on the fact that my parents split up when I was young and my mom did everything in her power to make sure that my childhood was simply happy. I could blame it on the fact that nobody ever really pushed me out of my comfort zone. But you know what? I don’t need to blame anyone or anything. This is just who I am.

Just because I’m not especially jazzed about climbing the corporate ladder doesn’t mean I’m not passionate. I’m passionate about plenty. I’m passionate about the Gospel, I’m passionate about being creative, I’m passionate about taking care of people, I’m passionate about relationships, I’m passionate about loving the fatherless, I’m passionate about joy.

Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always guarantee a living wage and a 401k. After I graduated from college, I was honestly confused about who I was and who I wanted to be. My main goals were to be a wife, a mother, and a children’s book illustrator – if I was lucky. Not surprisingly, those things weren’t practical, so I started applying for every corporate position that might take me.

I had never considered writing as a career, but I felt like I was pretty okay at it – and remember – I really had no idea what I wanted to do. When a position as a copy writer opened up that would allow me to move to Charlotte, I jumped on it without a second thought. I worked with this tech start-up for the past year and a half, writing countless articles, making crazy bets with co-workers, and eating my weight in frozen yogurt from the TCBY next door. While it was an incredible experience, I wasn’t fulfilled.

I left my job a month and a half ago. At first, unemployment seemed blissful. I spent a long weekend at the beach with girl friends, I caught up on all of the to-do list items that I had been putting off for months, and I binge-watched plenty of Netflix. Being someone who has admittedly never been career minded, I was surprised when the doubt started to creep in. Around Week 2 of unemployment, the dark little voice of negativity began whispering in my ear.

“You’re never going to have a job that you can be proud of.”

“You aren’t very smart.”

“You never try hard at anything.”

“You couldn’t even get into the college you wanted to.”

“Nobody would want to hire you.”

“You’re such a disappointment.”

“What are you even going to do? You’re directionless!”

“You’re going to hop around from dead-end-job to dead-end-job for the rest of your life.”

There was one week when 5 different strangers asked me where I was in school. I was so confused as to why I kept getting this question when I graduated 3 years ago, but then I realized it was because I wasn’t at work during working hours. A cashier at Trader Joe’s greeted me one Tuesday afternoon, “Got the day off work?” I stuttered, “Uh… yeah…” and my self-esteem plummeted. A woman at the pool quipped, “Reading by the pool on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” I held my tongue but what I wanted to say was, “A job with a paycheck on a Monday?! I wish I was you!” People asked questions behind my back, “Is she just planning on babysitting forever?” All of it made me want to scream.

There are a myriad of things in my life that are important. My job has never been the most important thing to me. When my joblessness started threatening my identity, I was shocked. I didn’t know how to handle it. I panicked. One day I was convinced I had the stomach bug – I was nauseous and I physically could not drag myself out of the bed. In reality, I’m pretty sure I was just having a melt down brought on by worrying about my future.

This isn’t a sob story. This time of discomfort and unemployment has forced me to ask myself some hard questions. It’s forced me to face the hard and scary decisions that I was always afraid of. How do I want to spend my days? What do I enjoy? What am I good at? How can I turn my passions into a job that I love?

The great news is that I have a plan. I’m taking the steps to pursue a career that I’m really, really, excited about. It’s going be hard and it’s going to take a few years and I’m sure I’m going to shed my fair share of frustrated tears. But I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna kick butt. It’s like… for the first time in my life I’m chasing a dream that I want for myself, and one that I’m proud of. I’ll write more about this later, but that’s not my point for today.

Friends, today I want to say to you, you are not your job. You are not defined by the way you spend your days from 8 to 5. Your identity does not depend on your paycheck or the amount of money in your bank account. You are not a better individual when you get a promotion, and you’re no less important when you get laid off. You are not defined by what you do, you are defined by who you are. You are the books you read, you are the people you spend time with, you are your ambitions and your dreams, you are your hobbies, you are your beliefs, you are your convictions, you are your sense of humor, you are your passions, and you are your victories.

At the end of the day, at the end of your life, your professional resume doesn’t matter. If you ask me, the only thing that matters is the way you’ve loved people.

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