30 December 2015

5 Things to Say Goodbye to in 2016

What worked and what didn't work in 2015?

It will different for every single one of us.

Here are some good places to start throwing out what maybe didn't work over the past year.

Say goodbye to...

-those nasty gremlin voices in your head that tell you are incapable of doing something.

-the times you were immature, out of line, harsh, or just used no freaking common sense. Take them as humbling experiences (sometimes I hate that part!) and keep moving along.

-expectations you had for yourself that by now you should have done this or that. Life can be messy and imperfect. Hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

-constant need for connection by carrying the phone around each room of the house religiously. Put the phone down more. Turn off the dings, beeps, and rings. Maybe even set in the other room, gasp! I know I need more of that in my life.

-to the nagging thought that next year will be the same and that nothing will ever change. Rather, say hello and embrace all the wonderful possibilities and dreams this next year will hold for you.

Am I missing anything? What would you add to the list?

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28 December 2015

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Pie Bars

Have you ever read the book "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman?
While my love languages are words of affirmation and quality time, an honorary one for me would be  chocolate. Ahh yes chocolate as a secondary love language.
Credit to this recipe post goes to Deliciously Sprinkled
I have had this recipe on my mind for awhile in wanting to try it, so when I was drafted to make a dessert for Christmas dinner I decided to spice it up and try something new.
And by the compliments this little tasty earned, I am thinking this may be a new holiday favorite!

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh raspberries

1// Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

2// Using a hand mixer, blend butter until creamy.

3// Mix in brown sugar, flour, and salt until crumbly.

4// Press 1 3/4 cups of crumb mixture into being pan.
(Make sure to save some of the crumb mixture to sprinkle on top of raspberries and chocolate chips)

5// Bake crust for 10 to 12 minutes.

6// While crust is baking, our condensed milk and add dark chocolate chips. Stir over low heat until mixture is smooth and chocolate fully melted.

7// Remove crust from oven and pour chocolate mixture over warm crust.

8// Sprinkle remaining over chocolate mixture. Spoon raspberries over mixture and top with mini chocolate chips

9// Bake for 20-30 minutes. Let bars cool before cutting and eating commence.

Not to difficult right? It is funny to me because I do not like dark chocolate by itself, but pair it with something like brie cheese or fresh fruit and I am there. And yes, these are as tasty as they look ;)

Are you a fan of dark chocolate? What are your favorite pairings to go with chocolate?

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21 December 2015

The Real Gift God Wants This Christmas

When I was little, I was known to be a snooper when it came to birthday or Christmas presents. I was just so darn excited to wait and be surprised. I had to know ahead of time, I couldn't wait for the surprise to be discovered in the fury of wrapping paper flying everywhere.
Thankfully as I got older, I grew out of my impatient present loving ways.

Advent is a time and season of waiting. There are many seasons in each of our lives that require patience in the waiting. Sometimes the waiting is easy and peaceful, and sometimes it feels like an impatient toddler just wanting to find and open their presents.

And amidst the wrapping presents, cooking, shopping, and sometimes stress of the season, what God really wants from each of us is something so simple. The real gift God wants from each of us this Christmas for to be invited into the mess of our lives. That image is something I have spent a lot of quiet time just thinking and reflecting on over the past four weeks of Advent.

Think about it. What do you give to the King of Heaven who was born in barn where animal poop and smells abound?
The invitation for Him to make his home in the mess of your own life. I know it sounds so simplistic and even cliche, but this Advent it has meant so much to me in a lot little ways.

Just imagine yourself leaning over the manger, looking at that cute, squishy little baby who oh by the way just happens to be God. And what do you give Him? The invitation ask Him into the broke, hurting messes that each of us carry, that many do not observe.

Invite Jesus this Christmas to make His home in the messy stuff of your life, just like His first bed was in a nasty, smelly old barn. We've all got "stuff". Whatever is abounding, invite Him into it: anger, resentment, sadness, hurt, pain, jealousy, fear, whatever it is. That's my Christmas gift to God this year, just asking Him to make His home in the messy stuff. And I think that those simple prayers and invitations into our hearts are the ones Jesus loves most. Because they are not fancy, but just raw, real prayers of the heart.

Yes finish the baking, tree trimming, wrapping of last minute presents, but sometime between now and Christmas day, take some time to be quiet and still. Invite Jesus into the mess. He can take it.
No matter the mess of our hearts or lives, it is not to big for the depth of His grace and love.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel...
The world is waiting.

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18 December 2015

Making 2016 Happen: PowerSheets Prep

For a good portion of my 20's, I only saw New Year's as a time to renew my age-old resolution to lose weight. I know how original. Over the past few years, I have begun to really cherish and get excited about the New Year. It means a new start, a new opportunity to focus on what matters most in life.

As a girl who loves making lists and dreaming big, I have found that certain tools in life help me dream big and focus on goals that align with me core (Love God. Love People...next tattoo idea I'm thinking ;). There a lot of talk on Periscope and the inter webs as folks are using these things called PowerSheets. The PowerSheets are not some magic binder of papers that are going to make you more productive, but they help you plan goals while focusing on the things that matter most in your life. 

My second year using these little beauties, I love using a tool like this that isn't just gonna put more on my plate but help me discern where God is leading me and where I wanna dream big dreams in the coming year.

One of the great things about the PowerSheets, is the prep work that helps you sort through, dream, and discern as you head into the New Year or just a new season in life.

The other night I was working on a section where I am reflecting and looking back over what I am saying "no" and "yes" to in the coming year. Here's what some of the things I am sensing I need to say "no" and "yes" to:

I Am Saying "NO" To:
  • "Everything-tasking"!!!!
  • Being judgmental
  • Scrolling or re-tweets instead of starting my day with God
  • Climbing into another person's process when its really about them not me
  • Anger/bitterness/resentment (all the fun ones ;)
I Am Saying "YES" To:
  • New Adventure & being more spontaneous
  • More intentional living vs."fragmented living"
  • Even more races, running, and training
  • More love/grace to other people, especially myself
  • Simplicity

Just as I am preparing my heart for Christmas, for Jesus Christ to come make His home in my mess o a life, I want to prepare for 2016 with thoughtful prayer and reflection on where God is leading me in the coming New Year.

If you are looking for something to help you focus with purpose and intention in 2016, I highly recommend checking out Lara Casey's products (especially the PowerSheets!). Whatever you use, just find something that helps you launch into 2016 with intention, passion, and focus! Do not let whatever happened this past year, hold you back from dreaming big with God in the coming year.

As we draw closer to 2016, what are the things you will be saying "yes" and "no" to in the New Year?Do you use any particular system for goal setting with a purpose?

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14 December 2015

My 10 Favorite Books of 2015

It's the time for end of the year lists. I love good books and majority of my reads come from the recommendations other people. This was the first year I have ever kept a count of how many and what exactly I read, so I thought it might be fun to do a re-cap of the good reads of the last year.

So far, I have read 58 books this year. So as to not just list 58 book titles, here are my top 10 favorite reads from the year.

Let me know what you read and loved this year, too... 

The Way of Serenity: This book I actually read 3 times this year, and has stretched me like a rubber band. Don't make the mistake I did going through life thinking I could change other people. Serenity has taught me the only I can change is me. Fr. Jonathan Morris uses really practical life examples, but is deep without too much book knowledge. Easily one of the most life-giving books of this past year.

Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in WW II: When I first saw the trailer for the movie "Unbroken," I knew right away I wanted to see it. I read the book based off the movie, but much more enjoyed this book which was written by Mr. Louis Zamperini himself. This book recounts the painful reality war leaves on souls, the incredible strength of the human spirit, and the power of faith and forgiveness.

Daring Greatly: Books by Dr. Brene Brown are getting talked about a lot on the inter webs. What I love about her writing is she is bold enough to talk about things that so many of us avoid or ignore. Things like shame, guilt, fear, and vulnerability are actually the things that can hold us back most from living truly free and courageous lives. When we can dare to be vulnerable in life and our relationships it breaks us free from our prisons of loneliness and isolation. Insightful on many levels, no matter your stage in life...read it!

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church: I started following Rachel Held Evans several years ago on Twitter, and over the last two years started reading her work. In the millennial boat like me, Rachel wrestles with tough issues and questions related to faith, the church, and social issues. Growing up in an evangelical church, she began wrestling with her faith as her questions were not satisfied. There are things we would differ on a variety of issues, but I love how her work challenges me to think outside of the book and consider life from different perspectives.

This book is written from a sacramental perspective in relating to the issues people in the church find themselves facing, wrestling, and working through. Insightful and a heart-felt read from a woman just seeking after God like me.

Thirsting for Prayer: I was given this book on a retreat last winter. Fr. Jacques Philippe is a simple, deeply profound author and speaker. His insights and teaching on prayer really challenged me to let go of long held preconceived notions on what prayer is and is not. This book really grew my own prayer life through the ways of simplicity and silence. REALLY good read!!! 

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Living Guide: While I couldn't get into the KonMari idea of wishing farewell to each discarded item from my closet, this book for me was a lot more practical and helpful. A user-friendly guide on how to simplify your home and it taught me how to really be a good gate keeper to my stuff. Learning to become more detached from our possessions is a good lesson for every Westerner living in a materialistic society.

Making Sense out of Suffering: This.book. I think easily could be the top #1 book of 2015. Addressing the age old question on why suffering exists, Peter Kreeft thoroughly looks for answers to the question of "Why God?" from art, philosophers, prophets, and Scripture. He also speaks quite well as to why the modern world cannot understand or make sense of suffering. This book has brought a lot of peace and insight for my own life and I have found to be a helpful resource in youth ministry.

The Hardest Peace: This book reminded me of the above book, only a much more personal story of understanding and accepting suffering, while still expecting and finding God's grace amidst it all. Kara Tippetts was a mom to 4 tinies, wife of a church planter, and facing a terminal breast cancer diagnosis. 
Perhaps you remember her plea to Brittany Maynard to not end her life in suicide? Such a beautiful post. 

Kara's call to still find joy and seek God's grace in the middle of life's hard is a book for all. Whether a seeker or believer, her words are comfort for all tired souls.

Mindless Eating: I like food. Sometimes I like food a little too much, hence my relationship with Weight Watchers. This book really jolted me and taught me so much on the science as to why folks overeat to what are the food messages and scripts I learned as a child and carried with me into adulthood. Crazy insightful for all of us who need to re-evaluate our relationship with food.

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships: This book was a really unique, interesting read for me. While much I didn't agree with some it, it was helpful for me to understand the mindset and perspective of Christians who are affirming of same-sex relationships. I don't want to be a person who only reads books supporting my own belief system. I want to engage in healthy, life-giving discussions on the tough stuff. I appreciated Matthew Vine's deep study of Scripture and passion for his beliefs as a gay Christan man. And I think there is value even for those who are non-affirming of same-sex relationships to give it a read.

Other honorable mentions of my 2015 reads here below:
Make It Happen
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
Notes from a Blue Bike
He Leadeth Me
Grace for the Good Girl
Forgive for Good
The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything
The Purpose Driven Life

So what books would be on your favorite reads for 2015? Do you keep count of books you have read?

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10 December 2015

Peace: When the Greatest Evil, becomes the Greatest Gift

Peace. It's funny and tricky word in relation to living the Christian life.

Similar to mercy, forgiveness, or love, its a word mentally I understand what it means, but on a heart level I am very much still a beginner.

The angel choir sang it to the shepherds that cold night in Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the Highest. Peace on earth to men of good will." Peace on earth. Such a simple, pretty phrase we read in the Christmas story, but so easily and quickly forgotten. I have struggled and wrestled with this idea of peace a lot in my life; of finding peace in the midst of pain, suffering, sadness, and even in anger. 

Peace is believing God's provision is everywhere, because Jesus is everywhere. Because His presence can be found everywhere and in anything, no matter what it is. 

This Advent, I am using a devotional written by Ann Voskamp. Part of what she wrote yesterday, reminded so much of the writing prompt today for this link-up: "No matter what intends to harm you...God is never absent, never distant. You can never be undone. If God can transfigure the greatest evil into the greatest Gift, then He intends to turn whatever you're experiencing now into a gift. You cannot be undone.
You, there on the edge, whispering it, defiant through the torn places: "All is grace." 

Yes I think that is what peace is; that no matter what happens, you cannot be undone. All really is grace, because if God can take the greatest evil and make it the greatest Gift...how much more would He do that in our lives?

Of course, I do not always live each moment to moment in the peace of God. But I certainly receive glimpses of it. And if I choose to whisper through it all, "All is grace," then more and more I can live in the peace of God.
There are days where I am just muttering to myself, "No all is grace. All is grace. Always." 

Sometimes it feels so contradictory to sings Christmas carols of love, peace and mercy mild. Because often in life I don't feel that way and certainly the world at large does not look like that.

But then I have to remind myself peace is not about a feeling, but its about a Person. And that Person didn't promise us it would be easy. He promised that no matter what happens in our lives He would be with us, His peace can always be found and experienced.

All is grace. All is grace. 
And Peace, true peace, can be found. 

Is peace a difficult concept you have had to wrestle with in your own life? Is it just me? ;-)
How was your understanding of peace and God's peace grown and changed over your life?

(Go the to Blessed Is She link-up to read other post's on today's prompt, peace)

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07 December 2015

5 Phrases I'm Giving Up for 2016

2015 has almost left the building. 2016 will soon enough be here.
Some folks are probably beginning to think what their word will be for 2016 (I know I am! -if that's your thing) or starting to think about goals for 2016.

Over the last few year's I have begun to really enjoy New Year's: the goal planning, dreaming, and doing. New Year's has become more about doing instead of just dreaming I'd be 15 pounds thinner without any effort on my part.

This coming year is going to be beautiful and scary. Realizing the power of of the words I say to myself, I want to let go and drop the phrases that have held me back the past year as I head into 2016. I am giving them up so I can take on 2016.

1. I can't.
Over the past year there were several things I told myself "I can't." Every time I say "I can't" it robs me of the power deep inside to change. It is that place inside us that brings out amazing drive, courage, and energy to chase after what matters most and fills us up.
I refuse to continue to whisper the lies of "I can't" in 2016, when deep down I always know that I CAN.

2. It will always be this way.
When things are tough, it is SO easy to think things "will always be this way." And then I realized the only way things will stay the same, is if I do nothing to change myself and/or a situation. Things won't and don't have to "always be this way." Looking back on the times I have said this, I think it robs me of the power I have inside of myself to thrive through the tough stuff of life. 
It won't always be this way. But it will stay the same if I do nothing on my part. 

3. I'm sorry.
I tend to over-apologize. Like a lot. Honestly, sometimes I don't even know I'm saying it until after it has been said. Yes there is a definite time and place for heartfelt apologies. But if I am apologizing every time I need a hand or am asking for a favor, it is mis-guided and unnecessary.
In 2016, I want to save my "I'm sorry's" for when I actually do something wrong.

4. I'll do it later.
When I start putting things off, chances are very high it won't get done or I'll just push it off and fill my time with something more mindless. Things like daily prayer or exercise are the types of things if I say "I'll just do it later," very often that never even happens.

The present moment in front of me is the best time to get done what really matters. Let's be honest, Netflix and Instagram will still be there when I am done. ;)

5. It has to be perfect
This one is not helped by the picture perfect life of Pinterest. I know I can treat my life, other people, and myself like it all has to be perfect. When I wake up from that fantasy, I see that life is never ever perfect. Sometimes it can be a hot mess; throw in relationships with other people and it's a hot mess X2. 

Life isn't meant to be perfect; it's meant to be lived and cherished even though the messy imperfections. I want to strive better to embrace and even love the imperfections in myself, life, and other people. 

What phrase do you want to give up this year? How do you think it has held you back from becoming the best version of yourself?

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02 December 2015

The Best Way To Thank God...

...is by living your life fully today.
This was the last line in one of my daily devotionals I recently read one day last week. It really struck me, so much that I re-read it several times over the next few days. It's so good I wanted to share it here:

"Do you see it? Do you see what a special, precious opportunity each day of your life is? 

Look more closely. See all the lessons you can learn. See how you can participate in your growth. See how carefully God holds your hand, guides you down the right path, offers just the right words and opportunities at the right moments, sends you just the right people your way.

You can feel. You can touch. You can agonize in despair and giggle with glee. You can make jokes. You can cry at movies. You can weep in bed at night. Then get up the next day, refreshed. 

You can taste an orange, a lemon, a mango-and describe in detail the difference in each of those tastes. You can a smell a forest of pine trees. You can hold your friends' hand and feel how he trembles because he's afraid.

You can stumble and fall and feel abandoned, then get up and suddenly, in one moment, understand that lesson you've been trying to learn. You can jump out of airplanes, feel the smoothness of your lover's back, and hold your child close.

You can wait and thank God later.
But you might as well thank God now.
Maybe the best way to thank God is by living your life fully today."

--Melody Beattie, More Language of Letting Go
Sometimes it is so easy in life to get caught up in the mindless or worrying about getting everything off the to-do list done. When I notice myself starting to do that, I miss the precious opportunity of the present day in front of me.
The greatest way to thank God is to live your one life fully today. 
Right where you are no matter what is going on in your life.
Let your one wild and precious life thank God in all things, through all things.
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30 November 2015

Why Advent is like 'Breaking and Entering'

Yes it really is.

While my Dad was in seminary prior to his ordination, he had several classes with a nun named Sr. Mary Finn. She was sweet, kind, and had the most interesting experiences when it came to ministry with other people. Honestly, this sweet old thing could write books on all her unique experiences of serving others.

My Dad always told us this story to describe the season of Advent in a unique way, that Sr. Mary once shared in his class.

One Advent Sr. Mary was visiting her friend Lester who was in prison. Never having grown up in a family where faith was lived out or taught, he asked her what the season of Advent was all about. She stopped and thought for a minute, trying to think of a way to explain it in a way Lester would understand.

"Well Lester," she replied "Advent is like breaking and entering. Jesus breaks in and enters in your heart." Lester smiled. He got that.

Advent is like a break-in. God wants to break into our lives and for us to draw closer to Him. But He never forces us to be in relationship. There is so much in my own life to I need to allow God to break down, re-shape, and change in me. And Advent is a time for that; to let the broken parts of me be changed and made into something stronger. 

I cannot enter into something deeper with God if I'm not yet first broken down and humbled.

Advent is the beginning of the New Year, in relation to the liturgical calendar. And with the New Year, it gives us yet another opportunity to look at our life and where we are headed.

Where are you headed as this season of Advent begins? What needs to broken in you, so that God enter more in your heart? (For me, its all about my pride and thinking I am in total control ;-).

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25 November 2015

How St. Ignatius Taught Me Thanksgiving is a Choice

You sometimes hear people share on what their favorite holiday's are and the reasons behind it. Christmas has always been my favorite, but over the last few years Thanksgiving has been gaining ground to tie with my all-time favorite holiday. I've always felt Thanksgiving gets overlooked and under-appreciated. I don't know if it has to do with the turkey, football games, or the insanity of Black Friday.

Over the past year, I have read a lot on Ignatian spirituality and the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. What I have grown to love about Ignatian spirituality is that it's a way for people (whatever their vocation or state in life) to see God in all things while becoming a contemplative in action.

As I have grown to identify more with Ignatian spirituality in my life, I had the thought it was St. Igantius who helped teach me that thanksgiving (gratitude) is always a choice in life-no matter the circumstance or situation.

One of the most profound ways to pray in Ignatian spirituality is a prayerful review of the day called the Examen. It is a practice where you prayerfully review the past day; reflecting upon all the events, and looking to where you saw/experienced God. The point of the Examen is to look on your day to see where God's presence and activity was in it.

A review of the events of the day to find God's presence in it: this was a practice highly affirmed by Ignatius as the most important activity a person could do every single day.
Okay, yeah that's nice. But why? What was so important about this?

Well, let's back track for a second. A significant element of the Examen is a review of the day. And if we can see.find.experience. God's presence in the day (no matter what happens) it teaches us the life-changing power of thankfulness and gratitude.
So the answer? The power of gratitude. 

The power it has no matter the pain or suffering we encounter in this life. The power it has to ease the heavy crosses we carry. The power it has to bring about that peace Jesus spoke of that surpasses all understanding. Gratitude, thankfulness is spiritual dynamite. To thank God in all things, for all things is medicine the weary world needs to live life with purpose.

Ann Voskamp is another grace seeker who is passionate on how this one practice of daily gratitude can change lives and radically re-shape the culture. As she says, "only when we give thanks, will you get to be joyful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful."

And while daily praying the Examen is a discipline I want to get better at, I am constantly reminded that the act of thankfulness and gratitude is always, always a choice. I can either shake my fist at God and give Him my "choice" words or I can sit in the stillness with open hands of acceptance. I can be like that tenth leper who quickly returned to Jesus to say "thank you" for his healing. I want to be like that tenth leper in my life, no matter what comes.
Gratitude, a spirit of thankfulness is a choice. And no matter what, God is always good and I (we) are always loved by Him.

So tomorrow between the good food and hustle n' bustle of the day, take some time to put pen to paper. Allow the practice of daily gratitude to begin to transform you from the inside out. See how gratitude, thankfulness will change you. Be that tenth leper, and do it everyday onward.

So why do you think Thanksgiving is treated like pre-gaming for Christmas? Do you believe it is possible to be grateful and thankful for all things, in all things? What makes living with a heart of gratitude so difficult in our world today?

Also, if you you're interested in learning more about Ignatian spirituality or praying the Examen, the following books are ones I have loved and found most helpful:

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23 November 2015


Forrest Gump was right: life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. Sometimes its a sweet surprise, and sometimes it is just plain nasty.

Life is like a box of chocolates, and life is also bittersweet. It is a combination of both the pain and beautiful, the sweet and bitter experiences of life that grow us up as people and change us in ways we never dreamed possible.

Shauna Niequist sums it up so perfectly: "It is a combination of both the hard and beautiful moments of life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. It's the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, courageous, and gutsy."

I remember hearing a professor talk in class during grad school that some people go their life trying at all possible cost to avoid pain and suffering. That they spend so much energy avoiding the bitter, painful moments of life, they can end up missing out on some of the most amazingly, beautiful moments as well. At the time, that sounded crazy to me: "How can you go through life avoiding the icky?" But as I look back on my own life, I think to some extent I have tried to do that too in my own way.

I think I only wanted to learn from the sweet, good moments in life. Instead of allowing the difficult, bitter ones to do some deep-down soul work in my life. Whether people admit it or not, we all will experience pain, suffering, and difficulties. There's just no possible way to escape or avoid it, no matter how hard you try. It is a reality of the human condition. But if we allow it, the bitter, hard moments can be some of the most life-changing and transforming.

Don't let life make you hard or bitter, let the pain stretch you like a rubber band. See difficulties as a way to learn more about yourself. 

Life is a reckless, confusing, beautiful combination of both the bitter and the sweet moments. And it is in how we respond to those moments that can change us for better or worse.

What have been some of the most profound, life changing bittersweet moments in your own life? How have they changed and shaped you as a person?

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19 November 2015

3 Myths about Community

I have said before that community is a funny, little thing. To be in meaningful relationships and feel accepted by people is something that every human hearts desires. 

Relationships with other people can be tricky sometimes, even messy. And while I am so grateful for the beautiful communities in my own life, it certainly took work and I made mistakes along the way.

1. It's Easy
Intentional, close-knit commuting with other people does not just happen overnight. It can feel odd, awkward, or just plain off. That was my own experience when several years ago I joined a small group at church. I tried really hard to "make it fit." I really wanted to be that girl that found these life-changing, deep friendships in her small group at church. But can I tell you something?

It felt awkward for me. While we were all the same age, I wasn't in the same stage of life as the women who were married with little ones running around. I stuck with it for about a year and a half before realizing that it just wasn't a fit for me. And you know what? That's a-okay.
It was a time that showed me sometimes being in community with some people just isn't the right fit.

2. It's Optional
We are simply aren't meant to be alone. God made us to be in relationship with Him and each other. Look at Genesis: God creates Adam and almost immediately acknowledges his need for a mate, a companion. If you read onward in the Old Testament, you see this reflected in the way God calls His people a group, a specific community (the children of Israel). Moving onto to the New Testament, it is so clearly seen especially in Acts where we see the records of the early (and rapidly growing!) Christian community.
We are not meant or designed to be "lone rangers" in life. We all need each other! 

3. It happens instantly or overnight 
Closeness just doesn't form overnight. I mean realistically it just doesn't. Building community takes time and effort. Community requires us to step outside the you-bubble and into someone else's bubble. That can be physically, emotionally and spiritually inconvenient or frustrating, but really is the best thing for us.

Think about the blessing of particular communities in your own life today: church, friends, co-workers, small group, Bible study, book club, etc. Offer up a prayer of gratitude for them today!

What are particular communities that have greatly blessed your own life? What do you think is the most difficult thing about community?

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17 November 2015

Carrying My Own Weight

I think I owe my body an apology. 

Well to be honest, I think I owe my body hundreds of thousands of apologies for the ways over the years I have mistreated it, starved it, hid it, and hated it.

I'm sorry for taking you for granted, for not taking care of you, and for wishing you looked different. One of the hardest things for me at times has been accepting you the way you are. But as I have slowly learned to do so, it makes me take better care of myself.

Just as our bodies need steady diets of fruits and vegetables, they also need a steady diet of positive self talk and confidence. Instead over the years, I fed it with diet of negativity, mindless eating, and yo-yo dieting. I used to carry my body in this resentful, unloving, negative self-talk kind of way.

Realizing I need healthy physical activity like running began to teach me how to carry my body in a healthy, respectful way. I am learning to carry my own weight around not as some number that labels or defines me; but rather, in a way that allows me free to be me just the way I am.

Learning to carry your own weight may be easy or more difficult for you. Wherever you are on that journey of self-acceptance, hold yourself to a standard of grace not perfection. Sure its much easier said than done. But the older I get, the more amazed I find myself at the capabilities of the human body, both physically and emotionally.

Making the time to care for myself physically has increased my positive self talk and decreased the negativity. Making the time to exercise has grown my interest in eating healthy, and seeing how the right fuel can help my body work in the best condition.

Work on carrying your own weight with grace and patience. Ditch the negative self-talk and set alarms on your phone to verbally affirm yourself each day (I promise you eventually start to believe it!). I know that sounds crazy, but that small change has made a huge difference in my own life. Make exercise a non-negotiable part of life as you would with daily prayer or eating dinner every day. Refuse to give in to those little gremlins in your head that whisper you're not good.pretty.thin.fast. enough.

If I can run a half marathon, I promise you can carry your weight while showing grace and patience to yourself. ;-)

Do you owe your body an apology? What are ways you try to live a lifestyle of "grace not perfection" when it comes to exercise, food, and your body?

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10 November 2015

5 Tips to Simplify Your Digital Life

I can remember when I got my first phone it was one of those pay as you go cheap things. At the time, it would cost extra to text, so I always told me people to just call me and not text. I still remember when texting was starting to become a big thing and I didn't get it. Why send a text when you can just call someone?! 
Fast forward 10 or 12 years, and communication has only rapidly continued to change. 

Sure apps and social media have made my life easier in a lot of ways, but I have also seen in my life how easily it become a constant distraction. Since the New Year, I have made some changes that have helped me become more intentional, but I still see the need to constantly re-evaluate and simplify my digital life online.

1. Set limits
For awhile, I have been going on my social media accounts only twice a day. Some days are better than others, but overall it has helped me see how much time I can waste and the frequency I do "mindless scrolling." Some other things I have started trying and to be helpful are:
  • No notification checking before 9 or 10a
  • Not going on any social media accounts past 8pm (this one has been really helpful for me!)
Of course social media is not a bad thing, but seeing how much I go on them daily has shown me I need to use social media with a purpose, and not just mindlessly.

2. Turn off notifications
I did this about 6 months ago, and especially with texting I notice even how I'm carrying my phone with me every second of every day. Not focusing on the distracting beeps and dings is slowly helping remember to be more present to the life I am living instead of how many likes I got on a picture.

3. Move Social Media Apps to last page of phone
I've talked about this before, but recently I've noticed how my faves have made there way back onto the front page of my phone. I know for me, not having particular apps right in front of me makes it easier to not go on them mindlessly.

4. Don't sleep with phone in your bedroom
Until several months ago, I had been using my phone as my alarm clock. Not having my phone charging in the bedroom while I'm getting ready for bed and/or sleeping has surprisingly been a very good thing. If the phone is another room, I'm much more likely to not use it "just because."

5. Use Digital Life with a Purpose
Realizing how sometimes my social media use has gotten a wee bit addictive is teaching me how easy it can be to get consumed with scrolling, commenting, and clicks. I try to constantly remind myself not to post or hit publish on a post unless I have something to say. If it just adds to the mindless chatter of the interwebs, then really why do I want to engage in that?
What are ways you try to simplify and de-clutter your digital life? How do you strive to use your digital life and social media with a purpose?
I'm all ears with suggestions ;-)

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06 November 2015

The Waiting Place

I have always been waiting on some level throughout my life. Waiting to grow up, waiting for the perfect guy to marry, waiting for that life I dreamt up over many years, waiting to be down with school. I was waiting for the next biggest, best thing to achieve or have in my life. 

I was always just one step away from getting the next thing that would make me happy, complete, and full. In sense, its almost like for a portion of life I was waiting for my life to start.

Shauna Niequist says it so perfectly in her book, Cold Tangerines"I don't want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on and extend to one another. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting."

I don't want my life to be defined by just waiting for the big moments, but I want it defined by the beauty and grace of every little moment of every single day. A lot of those things I waited and hoped for in life I now have: a real job, finishing school, financially independent, and a husband. As I waited for life to actually begin, I actually missed out on a lot. 

John Lennon is credited with saying, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." For a long time, I was busy waiting for the next big moment in life to fill me up. It was years later before I saw how empty a way that is to live.

Now life is in a different waiting place, not the kind where you're waiting for next greatest event or thing. I am waiting on God. Waiting for His wisdom, clarity, and guidance in life. Waiting for Him to stir me and lead me. When you don't know what to do or where to turn, just wait on God. And in a certain way, that's what I am doing, just waiting on God.

A good chunk of life I spent waiting for life to start, and now life is in a different kind of waiting. A more peaceful, less busy type of waiting. Waiting on God right now is reminding me yet again the only person I can control is myself. 

Waiting on God is reminding me how He is in control and I am not. Waiting on God is reminding me my only dependance should be on Him.
And between the two different types of waiting, I would much rather be in this current waiting place right now. 

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05 November 2015

Mrs. Fields Homemade Marble Cookies

SO excited to be a part of a fun series (A Blogger Family Cookbook) with my dear friend Emily. She just had her second little boy George (who is stinking adorbs!) and created a guest post series on favorite family recipes while she recovers and rests up.

Wander over to her neck of the interwebs today, to check out the newest addition to her Blogger Family Cookbook: Mrs. Fields Marble Cookies. Fair warning, they are pretty drool worthy!
Now go show this lovely lady some love and be sure to check out her fun, new series!!!
Happy browsing:)
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02 November 2015

Color Me Beautiful: How the Right Colors Change Your Style

Have you ever been shopping and tried something on that totally washes you out? Or maybe it just brings out the pasty whiteness of your skin (okay I'm talking to myself here) in an obnoxious way?
Yeah those types of situations are the most frustrating for me when it comes to shopping.

I have been hearing a lot from different blogger on the books, Color Me Beautiful. The book helps you learn what colors look best for your skin tone to bring out your natural beauty by learning if you're warm or cool tone. Then you look to color palette based on the four seasons to determine and learn about what specific shades work best for you. If you're even remotely into things like makeup and fashion, I HIGHLY recommend you check out this book!! I was amazed how much I learned for myself as I am trying out a capsule wardrobe for the first time.

First, you need to figure out if you are a warm or cool tone. Understanding this concept is the whole key to this book's perspective. I learned I have a warm tone. Remember you're looking at your hair, eyes, and skin to help learn your tone. How did I arrive at that monumental conclusion? Hair color is one of the best ways to determine. I have natural golden highlights in my hair, which is an indication of warm. My eyes while blue lean toward green and also have gold flecks towards the most inner part of my eye.

You've identified yourself as warm or cool. Warm people are then broken down further either Springs or Autumns, and cool people are Summers or Winters. The further distinctions are to see if you're "light" or "deep." If your hair is blonde, light brown, or light red, you are "light." If your hair is brunette, dark red, or black, you are "deep." It's so easy from here:
  • If you are cool and deep then you are a Winter.
  • If you are cool and light then you are a Summer.
  • If you are warm and deep then you are an Autumn.
  • If you are warm and light then you are a Spring.
For me, I am warm and deep which makes me an Autumn. Brunette women with a golden or metallic red cast to their hair have Autumn coloring. Really the hardest part is discovering if you're warm or cool, and then its just nailing down the shade.

The most fun part is seeing the color analysis which tells you what particular shades work best for your skin tone. Here's what works best for me:

And that's it! Fun right? There are also section in the book on how the right colors can play into your skincare and makeup routines. 

Be sure to check out the book from your local library! It's a fun, easy read and really helpful!

Do you use any certain tricks to help you find the right colors for your style or makeup? What certain colors do you think work best for your hair/skin color? 

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28 October 2015

Your (little) story matters

Story is a very powerful thing. Story is the vulnerable sharing of your life experiences with other people. It includes everything from relationships, struggles, or the awkward moments you can't erase from your life history.

I recently read this book, where the whole premise of the book was how telling our story and hearing those of others has the power to make a transformative change in the world and help build the Kingdom. Nish writes: "Sharing your story allows others to glimpse how you've been shaped, what matters to you, and why it matters. The power of story becomes evident when as we share another's eyes light up and they say you too? Me too! The walls of isolation we build around ourselves come tumbling down when we're vulnerable and honest with each other about both our struggles and our victories. When I'm brave enough to share my story, I'm actually reaching out to you, allowing you to cross over whatever divide is between us."

Your story is powerful. And it needs to be told. You may think its not that big of a deal or that it is too small. But your story matters. Your words, perspective, and life experience open up an avenue to build bridges, soften hearts, and make disciples with grace and mercy. Story helps us understand where the other is coming from and it leads the way to creating deeper, more meaningful relationships.

We all need you to tell your story, whether you're a "big" blogger or not. Whether you dream of writing a book or you've written multiple books that were best sellers. Your words make a difference because they reflect your unique journey and experience, and that's something that can inspire or teach others.

In the shiny, polished world of social media, it is crazy easy to start comparing and feeling less than. You and your story are never less than. Keep on keeping-whatever it is. For each of us it will be something different. But you're needed. Your story and words are so needed in this crazy, broken world to bring hope and healing wherever God has placed you. 

Shauna Niequist sums this up perfectly in her book, Cold Tangerines: "Every life tells a story, through words and actions and choices, through our homes and our children, through our clothes and dishes and perfume. We each play a character in a grand drama, and every stage direction matters. We tell our stories, and we let God's story be told through our stories. We tell God's story as we live and discover our own. And I don't know if there is anything better in the world than when we lay ourselves wide open and let His story become our story, when we screw up our fists and our courage and start to tell the truest, best stories we know, which are always God's stories."

Keep on keeping. We need you and your words. No story is too small or insignificant. Your story whatever size it is matters. Let your God's story be told through your own.

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26 October 2015

Never Say Never: How 13.1 Changed Me

I did it. A week ago I finished my first half marathon.

Last year after my 29th birthday I decided to take on a half marathon to celebrate turning 30. I trained, planned, and made it happen. Never have gotten into the whole exercise thing it was the health crisis of my dear aunt and doing a 5K for ovarian cancer research that got me thinking how for to long I have neglected really taking care of my body

I loved every freaking sweaty moment of that race...well maybe except the last two miles were I started to feel like death. My time was ideally what I wanted it, but I finished. I made a goal and chased after it. My goal of 13.1 has taught me a lot of things about myself over the last year.

Self-care is not an optional thing. If you don't take care of yourself, it actually hinders you from becoming most fully the person God wants you to be. I'm not saying to go be selfish but making time for self-care makes you feel better about yourself and live an overall more joyful life. Who knew the girl who hated to sweat growing up would later live to say the opposite?

Running has taught me more on how and why should take care of my physical body. Aside from feeling good, I notice a difference in how I talk to or think about my body. Sure I still need to work on mindless eating, but the rampant negative self-talk I would subject myself to has lessened and changed as I made time to take care of myself physically.

I feel more freedom to just be me-smiley, sassy, loud me. Learning to love myself has often come through difficult lessons throughout life. It will always take work and will never come naturally. But, I am slowly learning to love myself just the way I am. 

Maybe for you it won't be 13.1. It could be a 5K or radically changing your diet or stop drinking or leave that unhealthy relationship. But don't let fear or insecurity hold you back from chasing your dreams. Quit slacking and make s$#% happen.

Don't give up. Its never too late.Nothing is Impossible.

Just put on your awesome pants and make it happen.

What are the goals or dreams that you want to make happen in life? 

Is there anything holding you back from chasing it? 

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20 October 2015

Hey there, Beauty Full

Hey You.
Yes, YOU.

You are Beauty Full. 

You are full of beauty in ways you may not even be aware of. You were made to do something with your one rare, precious life; to create art through your life in a million little ways no one else ever could. You are irreplaceable. You are full of beauty regardless of your weight, size, or personality. The scale doesn't define you. Your job, car, or whether you're married or single do not define you. 

You are not defined by your history. Not your past mistakes or choices. Whether you're in a relationship or single. Whether you have children or you don't. Nor your career choice or how much money you make.

You are worthy of love and respect whatever of these you have or don't have. Stop buying the BS story lines that you can't be loved as you are. for WHO you are just the way you are. That you aren't full of beauty, that you aren't good enough for a man or for God to love. That your scars are too much a burden. That your heart is frail. No, please stop that. You are poetry.and.You are not a mistake.

You with the baby on your hip at home with little ones running around are beauty full.

You trying to figure out what to do with your life after college are beauty full.

You trying to balance motherhood, marriage, and a career outside the home are beauty full.

You struggling with fertility and desperately wishing for a baby are beauty full.

You dealing with pain and hurt in a relationship are beauty full.

You see because our beauty is not determined by any of those things. You are beautiful because you are a daughter of God. You are His beloved. You are His creation. God does not create, love or redeem crap. God wants you to participate in His story wherever you are and with whatever you have. Do great work, create beauty wherever you are. There is purpose and a plan for you wherever you re on the journey. Dream big dreams and do great things with God.

You are beauty full right where you are. Remember that and whisper it to yourself for those days you will struggle to believe that. I know I do too sometimes. 

But no matter what, our beauty is not defined by anything the world wishes to measure us by. Rather we are beautiful because a really big God created us because He recklessly and passionately loves us. 
You are full of beauty because you were created by love to go and be love out in the world.

Ring your freedom bell loud and strong...
Knowing you are ravishing and full of beauty right where you are.

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