Fabulous Foodie Swap // The Goods

You know what makes me happy? Joining in on swaps around the blog world, especially when one of my favorite bloggers and dear friends dreams it up, and even more so when it involves food! Rachel from Oh Simple Thoughts had the brilliant idea to host a "gift" swap that focused on our favorite treats in the kitchen--anything from spices to sauces to sweets! I naturally jumped on this idea, thrilled with getting some goodies from another blogger to add to my kitchen collection. And what a fun way to get to know someone a little better? 

I was paired up with one of my daily reads and precious friends, Lauren from Sincerely Lo blog! It was so fun to shop for her and buy treats that totally fit her personality--I picked a bunch of Mississippi-made goods and products I've tried myself because I knew she'd love them too! She is a blessing in my life!

My package was filled with some delicious goods and I can honestly say I'm going to use every bit of them! Lauren picked out the best treats. She gave me Dark Chocolate Espresso trail mix (that I've already eaten all of,) apple butter, Caribbean jerk chicken spice (that reminds me of our honeymoon!) a fun mug with my initial on it, Dove chocolate, and banana bread mix. How fun is this, right?

I sent her a fun package with Mississippi Cheese Straws and Mississippi Mud Puppies, a fun French onion soup mix, Captain Rodney's Sweet Tea Jelly, a fun-patterned kitchen towel, and two of my favorite cookies in the world, Whimsy Cookies, made in Memphis! Check out Lauren's post to see a little glimpse into her basket.

I love the connection that food brings us--it's that common ground that we can all agree on and build from. I think sharing life around the table and in the kitchen is how the Lord wants us to cultivate the community around us. I love Rachel's idea for this swap and can't wait to participate in the next round. If you want to join in on the fun, check out all the details here! I'm off to eat some chocolate for breakfast now. Xoxo

Living Life More Abundantly

I'll admit it, I'm a slave to the funk. You know, the funk that this time of year tends to bring out in us. The winter blues, if you will. Blame it on the weather, blame it on the nightshift, blame it on whatever you want, but I'm a slave to it. Everything is cold, gray, and gloomy, including my mood. January hasn't been the best month so far, so I naturally cling to my yoga pants and my couch, choosing to spend my free time behind closed doors rather than enjoying His sunlight, His people, and His plans for me.

The Lord has really been convicting me on how I'm holding myself back from His joys, the goodness that He wants to pour out over us. I'm my own worst enemy, through my sinfulness, through my laziness, through my indifference.
"The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." John 10:10
Christ wants to give us a life full of happiness, full of laughter, full of goodness! This verse holds so much happy truth that it just makes my heart burst. But at the same time, I know this funk that I'm in is what John warns us of first--that the thief, that Satan, wants to steal and destroy. Steal my joy, destroy my relationships, steal the goodness that fills our lives. That's my choice--that's UP TO ME whether or not I let Satan control my mood or my outlook.

I've decided to make a more conscious effort to savor His goodness and His little joys in my life--things that brighten my mood, photos that inspire me, songs that stir my heart, and so forth. Living life more abundantly starts with me, and it starts today. 

He's been pouring out His goodness on me lately and I want to share a few little tidbits with you today. 

I've never been a morning person, but the Lord has been waking me up a little earlier lately and I can't say that I hate it. I like having a slow start, sweet time with Jesus and coffee without the rush of the morning hustle. There's something wonderful about morning time. 

This past Saturday morning brought a calligraphy workshop that I've been looking forward to for so long! God has a sense of humor and coincidentally arranged it--Rachel texted me and encouraged me to come, but days after I had already signed up for it. She recruited Lauren and Jenni to come too, and it became an impromptu blogger meet up! 

I've prayed for a long time that the Lord would surround me with godly women, friends who uplift and encourage as a normal part of the day, women who are filled with joy and gladness because of what the Lord is doing in our lives. Walking into the calligraphy workshop solidified these prayers--I've "known" these girls for a while through our blogs, but to truly get to know them in person was such a blessing. It was as if we'd been friends for years; our day was filled with laughter and life talks and so much joy. Just what my heart needed!

There's something about handlettering that thrills my creative heart. I can't wait to see where this little hobby takes me. I've prayed for God to help me cultivate my creativity, and I'm already enjoying the fruits of my practice. His glorious grace!

Even through this "funk" that I've been in, I'm choosing to live life more abundantly, through the little moments and the big. I hope you'll do the same, sweet friend. Here's to a wonderful week ahead of us! Xoxo

Coffee Date Friday // Vol IV

It's cold and rainy here in Mississippi. I'm curled up on my couch with a cozy blanket and a big mug full of coffee with coconut creamer. It's pure heaven, I tell ya. Come grab a seat by me and let's have a little coffee date today. If we were on a coffee date, what would you tell me?

If we were having coffee, I'd tell you how confused I am that it's Friday. Where did this week go? My days are all messed up and I blame it on my work schedule.  I'm on call tomorrow night, but other than that, I'm off, so praise the Lord for a weekend away from L&D. 

If we were having coffee, I'd most likely bring up Parenthood and how devastated I am that the series is ending soon. I just watched the most recent episode and may have sobbed, but you'll never know. If you haven't watched it, you're wasting your life. It astounds me how I can become so invested in the lives of TV characters, but the Bravermans are just the best. Go. Watch. Now. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tear up and thank you for your sweet words on my post yesterday on grief. When I'm vulnerable and raw, you make it all worth it when you meet me in that place and let me know I'm not alone. How lucky we are to be a part of this community?!

If we were on a coffee date, I'd probably go on and on about how excited I am for a little blogger meet up we're having tomorrow. It happened almost coincidentally, and I love how God plans those little surprises. I am going to a calligraphy workshop with Jenni, Rachel, and Lauren...we are going to have the best time. I'm in need of some laughter and some friendship!

If we were having coffee, you'd probably be able to tell that I'm still in a bit of a daze...I kicked 2015 off with a bang and felt so on top of things, but then tragedy struck and set me back. It's funny how life throws us those little curveballs--I'm struggling to remember than my response and reaction to those curveballs define who I am as a person, define my character. I'm choosing to accept it with grace and patience, and take it one step at a time to get 2015 back on track. This is my year!

If we were on a coffee date, you'd notice I'm being a little self conscious. I'd tell you how much I've been struggling with my weight lately. How the Lord keeps revealing to me that my body is a temple of His and that what I do with this vessel is meant to glorify Him, and that's the opposite of what I'm doing now. It seems that everywhere I turn, the Lord is putting these little reminders in my path and it makes it all the harder for me to turn a blind eye. I suppose it's time to stop ignoring Him and time to do something about it, huh? 2015 is the year to break the chains that my weight holds on me! 

If we were having coffee, I'd thank you for listening to me ramble. I'd thank you for being a friend when I needed a friend. I'd thank you for setting aside your plans to take time for me to vent and breathe and just talk. I'd probably cry again, because I'm good at that. 

If we were on a coffee date, what would you tell me? What's on your heart, friend? I want to hear! Xoxo

Linking up with Jenna for Coffee Date Friday

When Grief is Hard but God is Greater

I don't write this post for sympathy, I write this to share my heart and hopefully encourage someone else going through the same thing. That's what this life is all about, isn't it? Taking our life lessons and using what God has taught us to encourage another. That's why I'm here.

My loving, wonderful grandmother left this world and crossed over to Glory last Wednesday night and our little world has shifted. We knew it was coming and we prayed that the Lord would take her peacefully and quickly, because we were well aware her poor Earthly body was broken and hurting. I got to say goodbye to her, to sit with her, to soak her in, but it doesn't make it any easier. I held her hand and whispered to her, "it's okay to close your eyes. It's okay to rest." She is healed and whole and we rejoice for that. It doesn't make me miss her less. The world keeps going, but ours has stopped.

Grief, it comes and goes. Some days are completely normal, others are wrapped up in memories of her, thoughts and prayers for my grandfather. Happy tears, sad tears. A cycle.

Someone asked me earlier how I was and I just smiled and said, "I'm doing fine." Because really, I am for the most part. But then, in the same breath, I really wanted to break down and tell her that my mind immediately goes to my dad, to my grandfather. I miss my grandmother, but I hurt for my loved ones who are hurting. I really felt numb and full of emotions all at the same time. Can I answer with, "Well, my heart literally hurts"? Would she look at me bewilderedly? Probably so. Instead, I just smile. It's easier than the truth.

Grief is hard. And frankly, death sucks. I know death isn't the end for us, praise God, but it's all around us all the time. It's one of those taboo things that we know is very real but very distant at the same time...like it won't ever touch you personally.  Until it does. It's inevitable, it's part of life, and everyone goes through it at some point, they say. But does it make it any easier?

Is there a right way to grieve? Is there such a thing as being too emotional? I don't think so. Everyone grieves differently, everyone deals with loss in their own way. There's no universal book on how to get over losing a loved one. It's unchartered territory for my heart and I'm dealing with it the best way I know how--writing and begging the Lord for guidance. 

I'm learning that grief molds us and shapes us, changes us from who we were to who we are now. Someone said this to me and I couldn't find it more true--"where there is deep grief, there is deep love." It changes something within us and we have the choice to make it for the better or for the worse.

I'm one of the rare, lucky ones who made it well into my twenties with all of my grandparents alive and well. It's a beautiful letdown though, because the older I get and the more I get to truly know them, the more I cherish and treasure them. The more I cling to them and try to soak in all the goodness they have to offer before it's too late. If there's one thing in this world that I don't want to have, it's regrets over something as precious as those memories. Life is short and time is precious and the Lord gives us these people to better us, to guide us, to love us. To make an imprint on our life that lasts much longer than their fingerprint here on this Earth.

I'm learning that grief is a journey, not a place to stay. It's a passage of sorts, to get through a loss, to process what happened, to give yourself time to feel. 

My precious grandfather is just heartbroken--after 56 years of marriage, I wouldn't expect any less from him. I can honestly say that watching him grieve and mourn has been the hardest part for me. He is my favorite person in this world, and to see him so devastated has ripped my heart in half. I know it's part of life and that through all the hurt, God has a plan. We're clinging to that for my grandfather. His mercies are new every morning and it's already evident in his life. We press on, just like Paul talks about in Philippians 3: "Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward."

This feeling is hard to describe--I'm selfish and of course, I wish she was still here with us. But she is worshipping in Heaven right now, rejoicing with the angels. That thought just stuns me. She has been ushered into the Heavenly courts and is a new creation, where there is no hurt, no sadness, no pain. I know it's only human nature to mourn the loss of a loved one but it just makes me that much more ready for Heaven. Can you even imagine? 

Grief is hard. Grief changes perspective on life and makes you savor every little second you can. Grief is temporary too, I know that. God is faithful. Through it all, God is faithful. I am so thankful for the hope that the Lord gives us. Through Him, I know that death has no hold over us; that death isn't the end. That the power of the Cross defeated death for you and for me. And how thankful I am for that.

The Lord is continually pouring His goodness over us; He is strong when I am weak, He carries my burdens when the weight becomes too heavy. Sure, sadness is there, but so is hope. This thought lingers in the back of my mind, through the sadness, and through the tears...I will see her again one day. Beautiful hope. And what a reunion that will be. This life and everything in it will pass away, but God's love is constant. And God's promises hold true.

8 Things We Should Say No to in 2015

Y'all, I've decided I'm a big fan of the New Year. It's never been a favorite holiday of mine, but it's slowly starting to climb the ranks. Right after Christmas and my birthday, that is. I think the best thing about a new year is that the slate is wiped clean. Everything that went wrong in 2015 is erased, the chalk is dusted off, and we get to start fresh. Fresh hope, fresh aspirations, fresh possibilities. Ahhh, a new year.

I was doing some deep thinking over a cup of coffee and my Power Sheets this morning and something hit me--if I'm hoping and praying for 2015 to be the best year yet and making big resolutions to back it up, I can't just make them and hope it all works out for good. I need to take a look back at last year and see what didn't work for me, what drained me of my joy, and what made those resolutions hard to keep. In order for progress to be made, change must happen.

If I want 2015 to be the year that I make my dreams happen, here are some things I am choosing to say "no" to in 2015. And I think these things are what will make all the difference!

Social Media Overload
I'm the first to tell you that I love some Instagram and Twitter. It's a normal thing for me to scroll through photos while I'm talking to Andrew, sitting at a restaurant, or waiting at a stoplight, most of the time without even realizing I'm doing it. Can you imagine how much we'd gain if we chose to fill some of those gaps with quality time with loved ones? Or time in our Bible? I'm choosing to spend more time with my phone OUT of my hand than in it this year. Sure, I'll get my fix every now and then, but when I'm home with Andrew or with loved ones, my phone will be put away.

Fad Diets and Scale Obsessions
Everywhere we turn, we're hearing about Whole30 or Atkins or the ItWorks! programs. This time of year is prime for self-improvement campaigns, and it starts to take over my mind and make me think that the only way I'll be happy is if I lose weight by buying this program or that program. Those things are great and fine for some people, just not for me and my mindset. I also won't be a slave to my scale. I've been there and done that--if I'm going to make progress, I need to look at this differently. 2015 is the year I WON'T be participating in a fad diet but rather, I'll just eat better overall. And if I want a cupcake or some french fries, I'm going to eat those too. Butter is happiness.

Chasing Perfection
As encouraging and uplifting as social media can be at times, it's also a breeding ground for insecurity and comparison. We see picture-perfect homes and families and feel the urge to compare ourselves to them, when in reality, we're just seeing what they choose to show us. We're seeing the best of the best in their day, fixed with IG filters and perfect lighting. 2015 is the year for us to break those chains and realize that chasing perfection isn't realistic, it just drains us of the joy in our own lives. I'd rather live my life accepting who I am, knowing I'm not perfect, than live my life pretending to be.

Feeling Guilt to Say Yes
Most of the time when I say "yes" to an obligation, it's because I feel too guilty to say no, not because I want to or need to. It's because I worry what that friend, that coworker, or that acquaintance may think of me; that I'll be letting them down otherwise. I'm here to tell you now, friend, that life is too short and time is too precious to say "yes" to every need that comes our way. And when we keep saying "yes," we leave a lot less of ourselves for the things that really matter. Let's make this year a year full of "yes," but only to those things that add to our lives, not take away. When you say yes to others, make sure you're not saying no to yourself!

It seems that grumbles tend to fall off our lips so much easier than thanks these days, don't you agree? Everywhere I turn, we're complaining about work, traffic, laundry, kids, you name it. You know where complaining gets us? No where. It just puts us in a worse mood. Sure, it's okay to vent every now and then, but focusing on the positive sets us in the right direction. During these 12 months, I'm determined to either speak blessing and gratefulness or keep my mouth shut altogether. 

Being Too Hard on Myself
Can you guess who your worst critic is? I can easily say that mine is myself. I'm quick to point out my flaws and draw attention to the areas I want to change. I'm too hard on myself on a daily basis, ashamed of the extra pounds I want to lose or the splotchy skin on my face. I wouldn't call myself beautiful on a normal day. I don't see beauty when I look in the mirror, but how wrong I am! I need to have confidence of the beauty and the body God gave me. We're made in His image. We are His creation, and He found it good. Who are we to say differently? 2015 will be the year I am finally confident in my own skin, and you should be too.

Staying in My Comfort Zone
Have you ever heard the phrase, "Life starts right outside of your comfort zone"? I believe that with all of my heart. All the best things that have ever happened to me happened because I decided to take a step out in the uncomfortable area. This year is the year for me to say no to those boundaries that hold us in that "safe" zone and branch out to that area that feels a little too dangerous, because that's when all the good stuff is going to happen. That's when dreams become realities. And I want 2015 to be the year when I'm living my dream!

I saved the best for last--I wish I could list this one on here 5 times. Worry. The thing that gives me gray hair, premature wrinkles, and unneeded anxiety. Worrying will never change the outcome of our problems, no matter how hard we try. My grandmother always says, "Worrying doesn't take away tomorrow's troubles, it just takes away today's peace." And how right that is, friends! Instead of living in a state of worry and letting anxiety dictate our emotions, let's let go of it all and embrace leaning on faith. God has us taken care of, we just need to trust in His will.

What are you choosing to say "no" to this year? Let's make those changes and make all the good things happen in our lives. I believe 2015 is a year for progress, don't you? Xoxo

My Word of 2015

2015 has started off on a fantastic foot, if I must say so myself. I love the thought of twelve months in front of us...a blank slate, a fresh start. I've been dreaming about this magic reset button for quite a few days now, and it's here and it feels good. It feels good to look forward at the year ahead, all while being thankful for the lessons learned and the memories celebrated. 

To put it simply, I want 2015 to be a year where I become a better version of myself. I have lots of goals and "resolutions" per se, but to boil it all down, I want to be a better me. 

I knew my word for 2015 about halfway through December; it just seemed to click and the Lord opened my eyes to how He wanted to use this word in my life. When I say it out loud, it almost sounds funny to me, because it's quite the opposite of who I am. 

My word of 2015 is simplify. 

To get rid of the excess in my life to make room for the things that matter. To get back to the basics of our marriage to become a stronger couple. To simplify our home and our possessions, to live with less because excess is just that, a waste. To focus more on my relationship with the Lord and to realize that our lives are for His glory and that only. To serve others genuinely and passionately. 

Less is more. Less obligations, less mess, less stuff. More life, more time, more joy. I want to get rid of the things that are cluttering my heart and crowding my happiness.

As I said earlier, I live a lifestyle that is the opposite of simplistic; I have the personality that is the opposite, too. I'm loud and open, quick to spend money and eager to gain more. I think the Lord knew that my heart would be troubled over this word simply because of that fact, but I've quickly realized all the good that can come from the theme of "simplify." 

He's slowly teaching me that the act of simplicity in my life isn't about deprivation from one thing or another, but rather, it's creating space for living and living purposefully. I've been praying for the Lord to fill my heart and life with what's important and what betters me, and for me to be done with the rest. All you need is less, right? 

A dear friend said this to me a few weeks ago and it was just what I needed to hear. She said, "Rach, when things aren't adding up in life, all I can tell you is to start subtracting. Keep it simple and keep it honest." 

And honesty will say I don't mean for this year to be the year where we sell all of our belongings and live off the land--that's not what I mean by simplify. Heaven knows I'm not that kind of girl. I merely mean to rid my life of those things that are draining me of my joy, take away the people who don't add to my happiness, and simplify those areas where clutter and chaos seem to overtake.

So there's my heart all spilled out on my theme for 2015. It's still a work in progress, and I'm really not fully sure where the Lord is leading me with that word, but I know that He is using it to seep into all the little crevices in my life, changing my heart and changing my feelings one day at a time. 

Love God. Love people. Live simply. That's what I want my 2015 to be about.

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." -Hans Hofmann