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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