Thursday, March 10, 2016

Reversing a Rainy Day Mood

In my part of the state, it has been rainy and overcast all week. Not my favorite type of weather unless I’m cuddled up in bed with a warm drink and a good movie.  People generally grumble and complain about the dreary weather and seem a bit grumpier than usual. Early in the week, I paid little attention to the grumbles but a rambling whiner on Facebook grabbed my attention today. She listed several unfortunate circumstances that had basically ruined her week and the rain was on the list of culprits for her less than desirable week.  In all honesty, after reading her post, I was agitated by her complaints and clear overindulgence in #firstworldproblems.
However, I started considering how the rain can have a significant impact on anyone’s mood, if they allow it to. If you are one of the many people, myself included, that tend to be a little grumpy on rainy days, I would like to encourage you to reconsider what a rainy day means!  Rain is refreshing and symbolic of new life! It’s God’s provision for plants, animals and all of mankind. After a rain the flowers are beautiful and the grass is a lush, vibrant green. The sound of rain on the window pane is soothing and relaxing, even in the midst of a chaotic work day.
Instead of feeling sad when you awake to realize the day's forecast requires an umbrella, find an activity that you can enjoy on rainy days. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Curl up under your favorite blanket with a warm drink and captivating book.
  • Stay in your pajamas and binge watch a new Netflix series in bed.
  • Pull some toys from the bottom of the toy box and create new games with your kiddos.
  • Put on a jammin’ playlist and get ahead on chores I’ve been avoiding
The next time it rains, allow the rain the trigger thoughts of renewal and cleansing in your own mind! Pause for a moment to enjoy the fresh smell of a spring rain and bask in the calming breeze that lingers in the air as the rain ceases.

Did I leave your favorite rainy day activity off of the list? How do you make the choice to enjoy a rainy day?
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why You Should Use the Simplest Feature on the Most Common Bible App

Do you have an ever-growing stack of devotionals and journals that you were oh so excited to started but somehow never completed? Do you find that you desire to move on to a new study before you finish your current one? If this is you, keep reading!

One of my commitments for the year is to wake up earlier in the morning in order to be more consistent in my daily quiet time. I recently discovered the simplest feature of one of the most popular bible apps could help me follow through on my commitment! Chances are good that you already have the YouVersion Bible App downloaded on all of your electronic devices (if not, go ahead and do that now…I’ll wait). Perhaps you’ve been using it for years, as I have and you enjoy many of the useful features like creating verse images, bookmarking and highlighting passages, and even recording notes in the app. These features are all helpful, but not the feature that has aided me in my daily reading.
A few months ago, my husband kept sharing wonderful spiritual insights the Lord was communicating to him through a new devotional he was reading. After several days of hearing about it, I inquired deeper. He shared with me that He had almost completed a 7 day reading plan on the YouVersion Bible App and encouraged me to go browse the app and save any reading plans that looked intriguing. Now, the devotionals or reading plan feature on the app was not new to me. I have completed several of them in the past. But I realized two things after our conversation, there are plans of varying length and I can save plans I see for future use.

What’s so earth-shattering about these realizations? The option to save reading plans for later allowed me to choose a plan but not commit to it today! There was something very freeing about that for me. Recognizing that I could start and complete a full reading plan in just one week was revolutionary! Often times in the past, I am so excited to start a study on a particular topic and the enthusiasm slowly fades until about 3 weeks in I’m forcing myself to “just finish” so that I can move on to something new. I’m not tired of God’s word or tired of studying I just seem to have a fairly short attention span when it comes to devotionals.
Since starting to utilize the Bible App Reading Plans to enhance my quite time, I can proudly say that I have been more consistent with my bible reading and each morning (well most mornings!) I look forward to reading and I complete the plan with the same enthusiasm as day 1.

So there it is folks, the simplest feature on the most common bible app that can help you be more consistent reading the bible! Which tools help you stay consistent in your daily time with the Lord?
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Baby's First Trip

Hubby and I started an annual travel tradition six years ago. Every year we take a New Year trip, around New Year’s Day, to a fun location! We typically seek a domestic location that doesn’t require much travel time via car or air to reach. Usually, the trip lasts about 3 or 4 days and serves as an excellent kick off for the New Year! This year, as new parents, we had a 10 month old baby, Jaxon, to join us in our annual tradition. My mother tried to convince me that we should leave Jaxon with her while we went somewhere fun but Josh and I were both determined that we wanted this to become a family tradition.

The Destination
So the planning began, where would we go, what would we do, how would Jaxon react?? The first objective was to choose a location.  We needed to find somewhere that would be a short flight (less than 2 hours) or drive (less than 4 hours), was baby friendly, and offered plenty of indoor fun to protect us from the cold winter weather. We tossed around several ideas and eventually settled on Austin. Josh and I have visited Austin several times together but never visited as sightseeing tourists together. We thought there would be plenty of great opportunities to create memories.

The Drive
Jaxon has never been extremely fond of riding in his car seat but he will tolerate it when necessary. We chose to leave early in the day to take advantage of Jaxon’s pleasant morning attitude.  It took us a little over 4 hours to make it to Austin and baby boy slept for about 3 hours of the drive! When he woke up, we promptly took a break to grab some lunch, stretch our legs and change his diaper. He started to get fidgety during the last 30 minutes of the drive, so I sang songs with him and made silly faces. Honestly, I must say that the drive was a piece of cake!

The Hotel

I was delighted to find a great deal on a very unique hotel, Habitat Suites. This all-suite hotel is a former apartment community that has been converted into a hotel! Each suite has a separate living area, bedroom, and kitchen. The absolute perfect setup for a family, especially with young kids. The service was good and they even provided a free hot breakfast each day that was delicious! After our stay here, we decided that in the future we will always stay in suites when Jaxon is traveling with us. It is so convenient to put him to bed in another room and then relax on the couch and watch TV as a couple. Not something we could have done, with our light sleeper, in a regular hotel room.

The Adventures
Our first stop was the Hope Outdoor Gallery. Parking was a challenge but well worth the effort. This place is constantly evolving and you can watch the artists work! Definitely take the time to stop by the next time you are in town and snap a few fun pictures.

The following morning, I had a walking tour of the Capitol area scheduled. It was quite chilly outside but we decided to bundle up and go anyway. The tour was a 90 minute walking tour that started right outside the capitol building. Well, Josh and I were willing to brave the cold but our little guy wasn’t having it! We made it about 2 blocks away from the capitol, less than 30 minutes into the tour and politely departed from the group to seek a warmer activity. We headed to the capitol and took a tour. The guided tour was quick and informative. However I must say the highlight of the capitol was taking an adorable picture of Jaxon in the main foyer area! Hopefully he will appreciate my forethought someday when he’s able to use it for a grade school Texas history project!

On day two Josh went to stand in line at Franklin’s BBQ at 8:30 in the morning! Jaxon and I stayed and played, ripped up paper, in the hotel room.  Josh arrived with lunch around 12:30, that’s right he stood in line for 4 hours! Was it worth it? In my opinion, no but then again, I’m not a big BBQ fan to begin with. I’ll share this… The pulled pork was the best I have ever had, the ribs were peppery and delicious, and the sausage was absolutely disgusting!

After lunch we headed to the Lyndon B Johnson Presidential Library and the Bullock Texas History Museum.  The Bullock museum was very child friendly and it is FREE on second Sundays! We stayed at the Bullock museum for a little over an hour and then headed to the LBJ Library. We really enjoyed how the exhibits made history come to life! My favorite part was the phone call recordings throughout the library.  There were telephone’s dispersed around the museum that you simply picked up to hear the recorded calls of President Johnson speaking with celebrities, politicians, and family members.  It was really neat!

On our last morning we got up early, had breakfast, and packed up to leave town. We stopped by the Texas State Cemetery. It is a beautiful, peaceful place. Unfortunately, it was just too cold to truly enjoy a stroll across the entire site with a baby. We were able to see a few headstones of very influential Texans including Stephen F Austin and Barbara Jordan, and took a stroll through the onsite exhibit center.  I would like to go back perhaps in the spring when the weather is milder to explore a bit more.

After a brief visit to the Texas State Cemetery we headed home. Overall, it was a calm and fun first mini vacation as a family of three! We had the opportunity to explore our home-state capitol, laugh, relax, and create a few memories that will last a lifetime.  Here's a few highlight pictures from the trip!

Have you visited Austin, Texas? What are your favorite places to visit while in town?
Monday, February 24, 2014

What I have in common with Jonah

Most of us are familiar with the Story of Jonah and the Whale Big Fish. Just incase you aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this…

·       God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and announce his judgement on them because of their wickedness.

·       “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3) {Get away from the Lord? Umm, someone should have told Jonah that God is Omnipotent… he’s everywhere dude! When I read this verse today, it just struck me as hilarious.  The visual in my mind is that of a 3 year old when their parent tells them to stop playing with something and instead of obeying they jump up and run in the other direction.  As if avoiding their parents will just make them disappear altogether.  Funny.}

·       Jonah jumps on a ship (hoping to sail away from God) with some unsuspecting sailors.

·       The Lord caused a violent storm that almost destroyed the ship and the sailors, after realizing Jonah was the cause of this catastrophe, throw Jonah overboard.

·       A big fish comes along and swallows up Jonah. Yep, swallowed him and there he stayed for 3 days and nights… inside of a big fish.

·       Jonah prayed to God and the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out.

·       Jonah goes to Ninevah and tells the people their city will be destroyed because of their wickedness.

·       HAPPY ENDING: The people repent and the Lord spares them Judgment.

Some may be tempted to stop reading there but DON’T you’ll be shocked at what happens next! Remember my last bullet point, the Happy Ending? Well, it turns out Jonah wasn’t too happy about this happy ending. As a matter of fact, he was down right angry that God decided not to destroy the people. And he didn’t hesitate to give God a piece of his mind.  In case you’re into drama (don’t worry I won’t tell) here’s how the rant went, “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.  Just kill me now, Lord…” (Jonah 4:2-3)

The shocking part is… I’m pretty sure he was serious! You may be wondering if the Lord struck him down at that moment, another shocker, nope.   Jonah’s selfishness in this self-titled book seems to have no bounds.  After reading, I was sitting and contemplating what kind of terrible person was Jonah?? He disobeyed God, ran in the opposite direction of God, endangered the lives of a crew of sailors, and when he finally seemed ready to turn things around he gets angry with God for giving the people of Ninevah a second chance.  What's wrong with him?? Jonah was selfish, plain and simple.  If it didnt benefit him, he wasn't interested.  Not exactly the type of person I would ever want to call a friend.  It’s easy for me to look at him in astonishment and be thankful I’m nothing like that. 

Am I? True, I’ve never scolded God for not wiping out an entire city.  But if I’m honest, a large part of each day is focused on ME, either directly or indirectly. So before, I start to pass judgment on Jonah, I’m going to take a closer look at the ways that selfishness manifests in my own life. 

What about you? How does selfishness sneak into your world?

Linking up with Tuesdays with a Twist, Titus 2 Tuesday, Playdates with God.
Monday, February 10, 2014

Spread the Love: Valentine’s Gift Ideas (that won’t break the bank)

We have officially entered the month of LOVE and we are very quickly approaching LOVE day (aka Valentine’s Day!!).  Have you started thinking of gift ideas for the special people in your life?? For those of you that may have a tendency to procrastinate, here are a few of my favorite Valentine’s Gift Ideas to get you started!

 Parents. A surprise family photo shoot.  Whose mom wouldn’t LOVE this?? And Dad will be happy because mom is happy.  You can choose a local photographer (I suggest scheduling this asap) or have a friend help you if you don’t have the cash for a professional.  If you’re in the Dallas area, I recommend calling one of these two talented photographers, Picturing Art, Team Howard.  
Sister.  Mary Kay Satin Lips set plus some Rockin Red Lipgloss to wear on her “hot Vday date.” Trust me she will thank you!! Call your consultant for delivery details.  Or if you don’t have a consultant, you can order on my website! I provide free shipping and gift wrapping.  Use Promo Code MKLOVE for 15% off all Vday gift orders!!
Kissable Lips Set
Grandparents.  Treat greeting card. My grandmother absolutely loves cards.  She reads them aloud before opening the accompanying gift at every celebration.  The longer the poem on the inside, the happier she is.  I have discovered the perfect complement to her gift this year, a personalized card from Treat. I seriously can’t get over how cute these are and your first card is FREE! This might win me the “Granddaughter of the Year” award.
Divine Love Valentine Cards
BFF. Personalized Scripture Cards. I ran across these on a friend’s Instagram and immediately started googling to figure out where I could buy them.  This etsy shop is just one of many people that will create them.  They are bible verses with the person’s name inserted into the scripture.  Wow, talk about impactful!
Personalized Scripture Cards, Daily Bible Verses in card holder
Hubby. Sexy lingerie (ok, this is kinda for you too!) and a massage.  Check out these fantastic massage tips from the Dating Divas. If you really want to spice it up and thank him for sitting through all those episodes of the bachelor, create your own fantasy suite, described here. I imagine all this will lead to the gift he really wants (wink, wink)!!
Valentine's after party!

Self (You didn’t think I would leave myself off the gift list did you??). Personalized Sharpie Mug. When it comes to love, self-love is extremely important, so don’t forget you! I’ve been looking for a reason to make one of these awesome sharpie mugs.  I’m thinking, now is the time! Of course mine will something clever about coffee, maybe "All I need is a little bit of coffee and lot of Jesus".  You can find step by step directions here.
All Mama wants is a Silent Night - how to make a glitter & sharpie mug
So what do you think of these ideas? Did I leave anyone off the list??
Friday, January 24, 2014

Holy Matrimony: Tips for a Happy Marriage!

I’m excited to share post 2 in the Holy Matrimony series.  Just in case you missed it, the first post of the series was It’s all Roses. Today, I will share what I believe to be critical components to truly enjoying your marriage daily.  We have been married for a lovely (and brief) 2.5 years, so I do still consider myself a novice in the marriage department but I pray these tips are useful to you!

Marriage Tips from a Novice:

1.      Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Seriously friends, if it’s really that important that the toilet paper goes on the roll in a particular direction then just do it yourself. My husband has a lovely habit of leaving his shoes all over the house.  Although, it really frustrated me in the beginning, I try now to focus on all the great things he does do around the house and when I just can’t look at his shoes in the middle of the floor for one more second, then I pick them up and put them away myself.

2.      Seeing is believing. I think it’s important to constantly think of ways to show your love to your spouse in their love language. (If you don’t know your spouse’s love language buy5 Love Languages asap!) For example, my primary love language is quality time, as is Josh’s, so this one is super easy for us.  I also enjoy gifts, thoughtful gifts.  It makes me so happy to walk into the house and see a fresh bouquet of stargazer lilies, my favorite! He usually buys them and arranges them himself which means much more to me than him buying them from a florist for $50! Such a small simple gesture but it lets me know he thought about me.

3.      Laugh. The bible says,A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22). Don't be afraid to be silly together, often.  I have a tendency to get extremely hyper and random times. During said times I may jump on the bed dance around in circles or do anything else that pops into my head.  We both end up laughing hysterically at the end of these episodes. Other times, when I’m being extra fussy, Josh will do something extremely silly (and usually inappropriate) to make me laugh.  It’s impossible to be mean and grumpy while you’re laughing. Try it!

4.      Humble Yourself. Dr. Phil always says, “Do you want to be right or happy?” There comes a point when winning the argument isn’t a victory at all.  At our couples conference last year my biggest take away was this… We are a team, we either win together or lose together. In other words, if I “win” an argument and he “loses” it, neither of us won. L Worry less about being right and more about reaching a solution that is a win for the team!

5.      Have fun together. Find something you can enjoy together.  Perhaps it’s a ridiculous reality tv show you watch weekly or a leisure learning class at your local city center. We will be taking a Spanish class together starting this month.  We are both looking forward to it so much! Another great idea is taking dance classes together.  It really doesn’t matter if you are any good.  You will learn to work as a unit and laugh at yourselves when you mess up.  Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something fun that you both want to do.

Can you identify with any of these? What tips do you have from your own experiences?

Linking up with Lulu Style, Faith Filled Fridays, Essential Fridays, Funday Monday.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Movie Reviews: Mandela + Lone Survivor + Ride Along

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) Poster

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomi Harris, Terry Pheto
Favorite Character: Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) made so many HUGE sacrifices for the advancement of his country, it is simply amazing.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Star Rating: 5 stars. This is the story of Nelson Mandela's life from childhood to Presidency.  I am embarrased to admit that prior to this movie, I was not aware of the extreme nature of the sacrifices he made for his country.  He literally gave up everything for the sake of the cause, "It's an ideal for which I am prepared to die."  Idris Elba did an outstanding job in the role of Nelson Mandela. Run (don't walk) to see this movie!
Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor (2013) Poster

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster
Favorite Character: How could I possibly choose just one?  Each one of the men that this true story is based on are heroes and I am truly thankful for their service to this great country.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (mainly for violence)
Star Rating: 5 stars. This is the story of a team of soldiers that set out to capture an al Queda leader.  I'm not sure why it did not occur to me until I sat down in the theatre that this movie was going to end saddly (hence the name, Lone Survivor).  The story is full of compassion, bravery, fear, courage, and all out war.  Don't miss this one!

Ride Along
Ride Along (2014) Poster
Cast: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter
Favorite Character: Ben (Kevin Hart)!!!!!
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Star Rating: 5 stars.  I believe I can review this one with just one word, HILARIOUS!! OMG, take my word for it and just go see it! Great date night movie that is fun and lighthearted.

Linking up with Unite.