January 16, 2015

How to Throw a (last minute) Hobbit Party!

I've always heard that having a birthday around Christmas was less than desirable because people tend to lump your gifts in or maybe forget altogether.  Well, this was our first time to have a family member, in house, with a holiday birthday. One of our boys was lucky enough to be born on the 1st day of the year, which also fell during Christmas break. The boys go back to Mexico on school holidays and so we didn't get to celebrate with him on his actual birthday. I didn't want him to feel left out, especially when Peewees birthday rolls around (a few days before Valentines day - what's with the holiday births?) so I threw together a super last minute Hobbit themed birthday dinner for us to celebrate together. By last minute, I mean 24 hours in advance. All of my best ideas come when it's almost too late ;)

I'm fairly certain I made a mistake with the "Lembus Bread Tamales" reference. Apparently that's actually from The Lord of the Rings. Oops! The tamales worked though because, from what I hear, Lembus bread is wrapped in a leaf (check!) and one bite will fill you up (check!) I partnered that with some "Dragon's Gold Cupcakes" on top of a cake-plate-mountain, threw in a forest with some left over Christmas trees and a few forest animals, and scatter some chocolate gold coins along the "journey." I set out some rootbeers (it felt like something dwarves would enjoy) and done. One Hobbit themed dinner is served.


For the cupcakes, I used my most FAVORITE chocolate cupcake recipe on the planet (click here, now!) and sprinkled the icing with some edible gold glitter, gold sprinkles and added little gold bands from the wedding section at my local Hobby store. Unfortunately, I forgot about the candles and the only ones I had in the house were pink! Sorry Crisitan! (good think teenage boys think pink is cool)











Happy Birthday Cristian! 
We are so thankful to be a part of your story!

January 14, 2015

To Do "It All" & Not Grow Weary

There are thousands of blog posts and articles that warn you NOT to try and do it all (and I would say that is super wise) so right up front, I want to point out that when I say my desire for 2015 is to “do it all and not grow weary” I have a very specific list of what “it all” means for me and that each of those points comes with the tagline, “but not to the extent of getting burnt out.”  In other words, I want to be intentional, but from a submissive position -- living in Grace.

What is “it all” for me?  
Well, here’s what I jotted down this December 31st, 2014.

1. To keep a clean house.
For me, this means tidying up every day. Picking things up and putting them where they go, doing the dishes, and staying on top of laundry.  These are the things my family needs. They need food and clean clothes for school and work. Picking up and having an orderly home (don’t look at my baseboards or ceiling fans. I’m talking overall to-the-naked-eye order) helps to instill a calming atmosphere and helps keeps me sane (let’s be honest, this one is totally for me.)  I’d much rather walk in the door to clean space before homework time than to be tripping over shoes and clearing off a cluttered table to make room for the school books.

2. Cook meals that are healthy and economical.
When we first got married I remember Wade and I would go to the grocery store and wander the isles, grabbing what looked good. Without a doubt, we would get home, unload all the groceries and realize: we have nothing to eat. Of course that’s not actually true, but we didn’t go shopping with a plan and often came home with an incohesive load of groceries. A few years ago I got serious and started meal planning (using Pinterest to help which makes it way more fun) and am pretty strict about only buying what’s on the list of ingredients needed for that week’s meals. I also found that this method brought my grocery bill down considerably even though I was buying more fresh meat and veggies! (hint: It’s because I was wasting less food!) Bringing the boys into our home has caused me to want to be even more economical so that when their monthly tution is due, it’s not a huge strain on our family.

3. Help the boys learn and be successful.
I really need to write the story of “the boys” in a single blog post for reference but until I do, here’s the short of it: This summer Wade and I brought two boys from Mexico into our home so they can go to school in the USA on student visas. They are spanish speaking and their school is English speaking, as is their curriculum.  We held them back a year to allow time to work on the English but even so it is a real struggle. We help with every ounce of homework and they are learning English but I want to do everything I can to give them the best chance with this opportunity.

4. To be in the Word, at all times and in all circumstances.
This should be at the top of my list, but I didn’t write these in order of importance. The Word is the foundation. If I’m not  in the Word, I feel it. I feel disconnected, down, and unproductive.  Right now I am participating in the She Reads Truth 365 plan (we are reading through the whole bible together! And it's free on their app!) I have started these types of yearly plans before and never made it far past Genesis. But something about the way She Reads Truth has layed it out to parallel with the book of John and their current devotion has really helped keep me intrigued.  I was, in fact, a few days behind last week but spent a lot of time yesterday catching up.  From the outside, it probably looks like I didn’t do much all day, but I can’t think of a better day for my spirit than being in the Word for hours on end. I ended my day feeling full and satisified. 

5. To grow in my online voice.
I’m still figuring out what exactly I mean by this. I’ve been a blogger for almost six years and I’m in this season where I feel the pull to blog for the sake of blogging less than ever. But I believe there is a mission field here online and I’m seeing a lof of it on instagram. I’m praying and thinking through what that means for my online influence (yes, I praying about instagram) and how I can best encourage others to live their lives on a mission to make much of Jesus through online avenues. 

6. To grow musically/vocally. 
I have been in some sort of worship leading/praise band scenario since early high school (for those who don’t know my age, that would be more than 15 years) and I was doing “5th sunday singin’” well before that. I have taken one semester of Chorus (which I mostly skipped) in my whole life and know 0% about reading music. When I moved to Texas and allowed me to sing with Once Prodigals, my lacking knowledge became a problem.  I’ve already learned a ton in a years time and have gained a desire to understand this gift God gave me even more.

7. Be physically fit, but not obsessed or tormented about it.
I can honestly say that for the first time in my adult life, I’m not tormented by my level of fitness. It’s not because I work out (because currently I don’t) but something changed for me when the boys came. I feel content and satisfied. I really can’t explain why, I just know it’s different. BUT. I truly believe it is important to stay healthy and active (as I’m sitting on my couch typing) and I am curious to see how working out will affect my new-found confidence non-insecurity. I gotta be honest, I have often found myself MORE tormented over everything I ate or how I looked when I was training or doing a fitness regimine. I hated that. So, a goal for this year is to get back into an excercise routine that I enjoy but that also pushes me to be stronger but to NOT let it rule my thoughts. I’ll let you know how that ones goes ;)

I want to be a woman who is in the word, who serves her family, has a teachable spirit, and is an encourager to both myself and others. And above all, to do so in His power, not in mine, so as to not let the flame burn out. 

January 01, 2015

2015

I love the new year. Whether you are a fan of resolutions or goal setting, choosing a "word of the year" or a verse, there is something about the new year that causes most of us to re-evaluate. One of my favorite tools for yearly reflection and large scale goal setting is my Day Designer by Whitney English. The first few pages are made up of various worksheets that walk you through discovering your core values, your passions, your strengths, and help you to narrow those things down to the foundational goals you have for your life. I must have written over 50 values I'd like to be displayed in my life. I then crossed them out, one by one, until I landed on 5 Core Values for 2015. What I was left with was unexpected. These are the hopes I had nestled deep inside. They aren't strategic business values, but strategic life values. And at at their source is a desire to know Christ more intimately.  
Something is stirring and I feel like those of us in the online documenting world can all sense it. For me, I've felt less pressure to write daily in this space, which I must admit is a relief.  In the past, bloggers needed to write 5 days a week in order to have a readership and I was right there in the thick of it. As time went on and my personal life changed (read: we brought two teen/pre-teen non-english speaking boys into our home) my list of what could occupy my time had to make some adjustments as well. Enter: Instagram. I love instagram because I can still share my life, tell a story, at a moments notice. As far as my online life is concerned, I'd like to approach this storytelling avenue with a little more intention. I'm so inspired by Death to Stock (if you're not getting their free monthly stock photos, you should be!) and one of my plans this year is to work on my storytelling through a single photo. 

Overall, I can narrow down my goals to three. They aren't ones I will likely be checking off (If I ever get to the point where I think I've reached a high enough level of Biblical wisdom, slap me.) These Big 3 are ideas I want to position my life after. 
I'm nothing without the Word, yet being really in it is a constant struggle. I want to be a woman full of wisdom, equipped with the Word, ready to give sound advice and encouragement. 

I also have a desire to experience and offer genuine community. Being the inviter doesn't come naturally to me but it's something I know God is asking of me. 

And finally, I want to continue this life with my hands spread open - in more ways that one.

At the influence conference, Laura Casey held a late night session during which she asked us to stand, arms at our sides, palms facing out. She then asked us to publicly share our fears, struggles and insecurities. As women shared, there was a tendency for us to fold our arms or fidget or use them to guard us in some way. Laura would ask us to share again, this time with our palms facing out like she said. Something changes when you open yourself up like that. Words become genuine, fragile. It takes bravery.

I want to live my life with hands open in other ways too. Like with my family and where I live and the things I have. I want to always have my hands open to God, not holding tight to my treasures but offering them up to God to be used as He sees fit. I want to open my hands up to Him in praise, surrender, and humility. I want to open them in prayer, in hospitality, and a million other ways.

December 29, 2014

2014 [Year In Review]

This is always my favorite post of the year - My Year in Review.

JANUARY, for many people, brings change. It's one of the things I love most about the New Year. Although it's technically just another day, there is something about the turning of a year that brings a new drive and vision. For instance, this past January I opened my very own online print shop.  The print shop is actually still open but to be honest, this was one of those New Years business ventures that just didn't take off.  And you know, I'm ok with that. Not every idea has to be a great one. It's the dream chasing that helps us discover what we are and aren't passionate about.

FEBRUARY was spent mostly in Mexico, which is always wonderful. The "Paola project" was completed this month and we got to celebrate the wedding of two friends. Wade was even asked to walk the bride down the aisle. Oh, and lets not forget when Wade threatened me if I didn't take my blogging a little more seriously!

In MARCH I worked on my fitness (I should really consider doing that again) and had such a blast leading worship for the Valley United Conference. Then.. tragedy struck... I got lice. What a month, indeed!

APRIL was amazing, as is any time we get to see our adorable nieces! We took a trip to Oregon this month and also hosted family in Mexico. I wrote one of my favorite posts this month, listing 5 Good Reasons to be Interruptible.

In MAY we continued our travel and family time with a quick trip to North Carolina. Our families spanned 5 states in 2014, six when you count us! Wade and I also celebrated an incredible FIVE YEARS OF MARRIAGE with a trip to San Antonio which totally surprised me by becoming one of my favorite American cities. Another huge moment for me was recording a song for the very first time. Listen here!

This photo from JUNE makes me so happy :) God has blessed me with such a great community in the Logos Community Band (Once Prodigals) and getting to tour around Austin for the first time with a bunch of musicians was so much fun.  I wrote a post to all the Christian bloggers out there this month as well. I needed to read it as much as I needed to write it.

JULY is when things started turning in our lives. We started the summer with a Mexico graduation and enjoyed some rest, which turned out to be really smart because we had NO IDEA what was coming in August.

Besides getting our adorable puppy, Osa, AUGUST changed everything. In August, God led us to what became quite the journey of bringing two boys from Mexico into our home to study in the United States. August was hard. It was full of tears and stress and a lot of unanswered questions.

SEPTEMBER was the sigh of relief after a very hard month. Finally, both boys were here (!!!) and starting school. We were now a 4-person family. Just a few weeks later I was off to my 3rd annual Influence Conference (If you've been thinking of attending, DO IT. I have loved every single year and it keeps getting better and better.)

In OCTOBER I did the unthinkable - I blogged for 31 days straight! It was hard. But it was also great. I loved the challenge and it felt great to complete it. I wrote on living Life on a Mission. For a complete list of topics, click here.

NOVEMBER was full and fun and a little unexpected. I didn't blog a single word all month (I think I ran out after October's 31 day challenge!) There was a slight complication with the boys' paperwork this month which prohibited them from being able to cross back and forth across the border. This meant they had to stay with us and weren't able to see there families for 7 weeks. I hated that for them. They took it well and we all decided to just squeeze as much fun into our time together as possible but I know they missed their parents and vise-a-versa. The boys got to celebrate their first American thanksgiving and (after I forced them to give the new foods a try) they loved it ;) In early December I did end up writing about our month and what this time with the boys taught me about perspective.

DECEMBER has been so fun. I loved experiencing our holidays with the boys added into the mix. I forced some fun family activities that of course everyone ended up enjoying. I fell in love with cheap garland this year (holiday house tour can be found here!) And actually we haven't even done the present part of Christmas yet so we still have holiday fun to look forward to! We are waiting until the boys return from Christmas break and I'm not complaining that I get to keep my tree up a tad longer.

2015 is near and I know something will be changing, but I'm not sure what yet. I know it involves my online presence and I feel God is going to take it in a new direction but the clarity just isn't there yet. I'm not shutting down my blog (I don't think!) but I do think I'll be here with less frequency. I feel a pull toward insta-blogging (find me on instagram!) and would love to grow in photography, specifically stock photography. But more on all that later. I hope that you're new year brings fresh inspiration and a renewed zeal to be a voice calling in the desert, "make way for the Lord's coming!" That's my prayer, both online and off. Happy New Year!
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