29 July 2015

5 Tips for Audrey Hepburn Style on a Budget

For decades, women have been influenced by Audrey Hepburn's chic and effortless style. Over-sized black sunglasses, multi-strand pearl necklace, ballet flats, and a black cashmere sweater with simple slacks; this woman was the epitome of elegance and class in her day.

One of the things I love about these old Hollywood movie actresses is that they didn't try so hard to dress well. It seemed almost effortless, they played up their natural features and used simple design concepts that always looked flawless and beautiful. No Botox in this lovely bunch.

In terms of clothing and fashion, I have always been drawn to simple, classic look. As I have been simplifying our home and possessions, I have been going through my closet with a fine tooth comb; clearing and the junk and making room for the pieces I only absolutely adore. Doing this is teaching me it doesn't have to take tons of money to have a great wardrobe and feel great bout the skin you're in...all while not busting the budget.

1. Opt for Basics
When my Mom took me shopping as I got older, she always taught the importance of stoking your closet with good basic pieces: black pumps, pair of slacks, 1 or 2 skirts in neutral colors, a blazer, etc. Little did I know, she was teaching me the ways of Ms. Hepburn well before I saw her on the Gap commercial

One thing about Audrey is other than awards shows, her simple style set her apart. She actually preferred basic pieces (skinny pants or simple dresses) to the trendy stuff. By investing in some solid basic pieces, you actually save money overall on your wardrobe. I have been going through my own closet, making a list of certain basic pieces I am looking to add into the mix. Simple pieces you can't go wrong with include: trench coat, white tailored button-up shirt, pencil skirt in 1 or 2 neutral colors,  well-cut blazer, and ballet flats.
By starting with the basics, you can easily add color and accessories, while looking impeccable.

2. Go for a Low-Maintenance Haircut
Audrey Hepburn was known for her simple pixie haircut and she looked stunning in it. It can be tempting to go all out for the highlights and fancy style that takes a lot of work, but simplicity is what Hepburn is known for. And that goes with her hair style too.

Now I loved curling my hair when I had long hair, however, the longer my hair would get the worse I would get about styling it every morning. There can be a point where dry shampoo and messy buns just get old. Several months back, I hacked my hair, we're talking like 7ish inches. Now its a simple lob all one length and styling my hair is a snap. Wash-and-go and low maintenance is something Audrey was all over.

3. Skip the Trends
If you were to ask 100 people to use one word to describe Audrey Hepburn, I am pretty certain none of them would use the word trendy. 
Keeping up with fashion trends is too much work, not to mention it doesn't do any favors to your budget. 

4. Accessorize, Accessorize!
Some of Audrey's most iconic movie pieces were her accessories-for example, the crown she wore in "Roman Holiday" or her chunky necklace in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Sure these things also often went with her costumes, but Audrey was also known for her gorgeous head scarves, gloves, and sunglasses.
Where some folks today focus on keeping up with the hottest fashion trends, learn from Hepburn and focus more on basic pieces and accessories.

5. Simple Makeup
Even without makeup, Audrey Hepburn had natural beauty. But when she wore it, she used it to highlight one feature at a time. She either would do simple eyes with a bold lip or heavy eye liner with a more natural lip color. Whichever way she went, it always looked timeless and just right without being too heavy.

How do you keep within your budget when it comes to clothing and fashion? 
Any tips or tricks that have really helped you?

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22 July 2015

How Counting to 1,000 is Changing My Life...

After a retreat in January I began to keep a gratitude journal

It has become a lovely piece of my day that I find myself eagerly looking forward to. Gratitude has never been a regular part of my life before this journal. Honestly, I think I saw gratitude as something to just think about on Thanksgiving as I gather around the table with my family. 

Earlier this week I wrote down my one thousandth gift. I have been able to find 1,000 gifts of grace and goodness in my life since January, no matter the circumstances that life presents. And you know what? This counting has been completely changing my life.

Instead of looking to see what life can give me, I find myself more and more on the lookout for all the ways I am blessed, the little things I notice that bring me joy and make me smile. It is any and everything: splashing in the pool, a gorgeous sunny day, the hum of the dishwasher, brightly painted toe nails, etc. I am counting all the ways I see God active and present in my life. Gratitude is not something just reserved for the holiday season, it is something that changes you from the inside out if you allow it. I have find myself looking at life through a different lens. I have begun to notice the little things of life that often go unnoticed. I want to spend more time and energy on the things in life that really matter.

It is so easy to just live for the next item to be crossed of the to-do list or focus on all the ways life is not going the way we would want. But writing over the past months, this gift counting has taught (and still is teaching) me that there is always something to be grateful for. Grace, it means "favor" in Latin. Counting the ways God loves, the way He shows His favor to us, this is what multiplies joy. Even in moments of difficulty or pain, earnestly looking for those gifts changes and softens the heart. It allows me to unfold my closed hands, and say "Thank you God for my life exactly how it is. Thank you for it all."

I still struggle with living life by a to-do list or being present to the moment in front of me (instead of my phone) but this counting has convicted me that I don't want life to pass me by. I don't let the little frustrations bother me as much. I care a lot less of what others think of me. I find myself seeking more quiet and peace instead of mindless living. I don't want to look back and see all the time I wasted on things of no lasting importance. I want to live my life with purpose and soak up every little moment of it.

Counting to 1,000 has opened my eyes in ways that surprised me. And I am quite sure as I continue to keep counting and writing it will continue to change me.

All these moments multiply upon each other ... start your own counting of one thousand gifts and be amazed what it will do.

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14 July 2015

Confessions of a Former Retreat Junkie

Sunday night I got home from a weekend youth conference with a gaggle of teenagers. While it was a lot of fun I spent those 72 hours running on merely caffeine and grace. Everything over the weekend leads to Saturday night. There is rocking worship music, talks, time for praise/prayer, and an opportunity for young people give their lives to the Lord.

As I was listening to the first talk for Saturday evening, I began to reflect upon my own spiritual journey over the last 8-10 years. I started thinking how for a long time I lived my faith life to living from retreat high to the next. Instead of daily prayer and discipline, I lived for the next spiritual thing to keep my faith going.

It was a time in my life when I lived off the emotional highs, those moments of closeness to God at a retreat or someone praying over me at a conference. I thought if I balled my eyes out or "felt" really close to God during worship it basically translated to having a good relationship with him. Deep down, I knew that this was not how it was supposed to be, it was supposed to be something richer and lasting. 

Upon my arrival back home after said religious event, I would come home with grand plans and lots of excitement. For the following week afterwards, I would read my Bible more and pray more regularly. However, two weeks later all my grand desires and "holy-good-spiritual" feelings would be gone. I would get frustrated and resentful at God. Basically, I was a spiritual hot mess.

Slowly I matured and began to see walking with the Lord is not about the next best retreat around the conference. It is about mundane faithfulness with Him, day in and day out. It is about seeking His will and coming to daily prayer whether I "feel" like it or not. Constantly waiting around or looking for the next best thing will leave one feeling restless and unappreciative, I know I sensed that within myself as I look back on those years.

Why is this lesson so difficult to learn? I don't honestly know. But part of me thinks that when a person comes to faith they become fired up, passionate, and excited. In eagerness to grow in faith, perhaps they want to soak everything up like a sponge. Over time, the spiritual life becomes more about doing instead of just being. 

I'm certainly not perfect at the "being" with God, but I am better at it than I was five years ago. 

How and where have you struggled in your walk with the Lord? Would you identify yourself as a "former retreat junkie"? Why or why not?

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08 July 2015

Money Mistakes I've Made in my Twenties...

...I wish I had avoided.

Sometimes being an adult is not all its cracked up to be. One of the hardest lessons I have learned in my twenties are seeing all the money mistakes I have made. Here's to the thirties being a time of greater financial prudence and wisdom!

Within a few months, we will have paid off my car loan and then its onto the dreaded school loans. Why I took out so many stupid loans to study theology I'll never know. I have said time and again on this space that Dave Ramsey  has radically been changing how Jim and I look at and handle money.
So with that being said, here are my best worst money mistakes:

1. Not living on a budget
I am embarrassed to say even for a time after I got married, we totally had no concept of a budget. Did you know 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck?! Yup we were those clowns. We ate out when we wanted and bought for ourselves whenever we felt entitled. Since last May, we have been living on a budget, and go figure now we stick to it and are able to be financial big kids. 

2. Taking out school loans to go to Europe (or just loans in general!)
Yup you read that right. Before I graduated college I took out a several thousand dollar loan to go to Medjugorje and Ireland; because naturally I DESERVED treating myself to a European adventure after 4 years of college. Pathetic I know that now. Here's the things with loans. It is borrowing money you currently do not have and then it ends up costing way more due to interest. Loans are not your friend. I promise.

3. Relying on credit cards
One of the biggest lies American culture tells us is that we NEED a credit card. If you don't have a credit card you may as well be living in the 1800's. My problem with using them was rationalizing I would only use it in an emergency. But then emergencies also slid into a shopping trip to Old Navy or binging on books at Barnes and Noble. Sure I had ZERO lack of self control either but I relied on this piece of plastic in ways that started to control my life. Not.healthy. Its been a little over a year since we've started this financial journey and the amount of reasons as to why I don't miss my old friend Visa continues to grow. 

4. Disregarding the future
While I am so grateful we are changing now, I can look back and see how much I did not plan for the future well in terms of finances. Having no financial plan as you grow up will eventually catch up with you; I know that's the case for us.
My high school and college years, were about working so I could spend my money as fast as it deposited into my checking account. Don't just sit around assuming money will magically show up to pay your bills or that someone will help out. Taking ownership and responsibility for your financial future is a lesson I am glad to learn now, so someday I can teach it to our kids.

What about y'all!?!
What money mistakes have you made over the years and had to learn from? What's the best piece of advice you would give to young college student on how to wisely handle money?

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04 July 2015

Redefinition of Marriage & What the Church Can Learn

...you might be surprised but its a lot.

[Disclaimer right from the get go folks. I love Catholicism and its teachings, but what I'm trying to do is explore the gap between what the Church teaches and what it doesn't.]

I have been horrified by some of the mean sound-bytes and mud-throwing of comments I have seen on all types of social media since the Supreme Court decision a week ago. 

Careless words are being thrown around and profile pictures are changing left and right to show which side a person is on. It frustrates and saddens me that people can become so divisive and mean, instead of working to have a slow, rational conversation.

There have been a lot of takeaways, but one I find myself that I keep coming back to is what the Catholic Church can learn from all of this. 

For starters, we were out-evangelized by a growing cultural movement. 

The last 10 years or so there has been a growing sense of change in our culture to validate same sex relationships as a marriage between a man and woman. A group of people with a certain idea got loud and did a fantastic way of getting their point across on a wide cultural scale. 

Seeing how this movement has grown so and created such a stir can actually be something for the Church to learn and grow from. 

We were out evangelized by a growing social movement, one that has now created lasting change in our country. While I see and acknowledge that this decision can be such relief for many Americans, it does make me fearful of what the future holds for religious institutions such as the Catholic Church.

While I deeply love my Catholic faith, there for a time have been issues that the Church has not done an adequate job of teaching and explaining teaching to the people in the pews. We do a lot of talking on the evils and the problem of abortion, but in other area's almost seem silent (ex: pornography, sexual addiction, etc.). 

Unfortunately, our teaching on homosexuality/same sex attraction is one of them. There are those in the Church that have not had the conversation well or just avoided it all together. I get it. 

Talking about this stuff is difficult because it is SO personal. Only in the last years of my life, have I encountered people in the Church trying to have this difficult conversation in a loving, pastoral, and respectful way. 

For a long time now, our culture has been growing more toxic. In many ways, it can be increasingly difficult to live out Christian ideals in a culture that grows less tolerant of them. 

No matter what the culture or people say, I and the Church need to always respond with compassion. Compassion is love. And I can still love and dialogue with those who strongly disagree with me. Compassion doesn't mean I water down my beliefs, but I think we as a Church have to get MUCH better having this conversation and loving people through it, especially in disagreements. 

Disagreements will exist for sure, but it is how we treat each other in doing. 

Throwing around hateful words like "bigot", "intolerant prick", or hateful slang towards gay people is not compassion but just plain mean. May we remember that the way we treat each other says more about our faith than any issue we disagree on.

The times we live in are crazy, and are quickly becoming a new type mission field of striving to live out the Gospel message. I think there's a lot of the Church and I can learn from the SCOTUS decision, and that's a good thing. 

It's good to be challenged, and in that is how I grow.

I am not challenged to change my beliefs on marriage, but I am challenged to enter into the messy dialogue with a pastoral and loving heart.

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