Love Never Fails

I think we need to understand some things about love. About real, true love. It can be beautiful and exciting — it’s pure, it’s healing, and it’s holy, and we need to make sure we understand it.

Love, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a strong or constant affection for a person.” I agree with this definition, but there’s more to be said; there’s more to be done. Love, in the Bible, is put to action:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Love, as defined by society, is only the feeling — the warm feeling of only doing what your heart desires and what wouldn’t emotionally hurt the other person. It’s based on passing emotions, something no one should have to work at. It’s the butterflies-in-your-stomach, jittery, swooning feeling you get when you look at a person you care about. You can’t control it, you don’t want to control it, and it’s the best emotion in the world. Within the right context, these are all very good things! There’s nothing wrong with getting these types of love-feelings.

But real, Biblical love is something more solid, withstanding, and even more beautiful than this. I don’t think I would even classify it as an emotion because it doesn’t depend on feelings to exist. Real love is an action.

It’s accompanied by patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, morality, truth-telling, and it’s strong.

Merriam-Webster’s definition says “constant affection.” Almost anything we do that’s constant requires effort and work. I think this word “constant” aligns perfectly with God’s definition, because love doesn’t give up. Those who truly love are patient and kind, and they don’t give up on a person.

They don’t leave their brothers and sisters in the dirt when they’re struggling because they don’t want to deal with it. They don’t give up on someone who’s isn’t quite grasping the truth; they keep trying to teach because God doesn’t give up on them. They don’t forsake their spouses just because one or both parties have changed since the wedding day.

Real love works. Real love gives. Real love won’t bend to the world’s influence.

Real love isn’t easy — we have to work everyday to be loving, to understand how to love. We have to put the amount of effort specific to the love we’re giving. When we love someone, no matter who it is, we’ll work to show them that. We’ll work within ourselves to really love them, and not just act like it. Giving up isn’t an option — love endures all things; love never fails.

But it doesn’t mean we let sin abound. This means that if we truly love, we will be patient, but disciplinary. We won’t let our brothers and sisters continue in sin because we know what that could mean for their souls and for ours. If we really love, we’ll teach the world about the light and truth of God’s word, and we’ll show them Christ through ourselves. We won’t let God be blasphemed and His word twisted by untruths.

There’s another facet to love: correction.

1 John 4:8

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God is love. God is the embodiment of love; He possesses each and every trait listed above. How can we compare God to a passing, fleeting feeling? How can we compare our great and holy Creator, the very one who sustains us and is patient with us each and every time we forsake Him before giving Him our all, to an emotion? We can’t set Him on the same plane as something the world portrays to us as wavering, unsteady, and circumstantial. And if we can’t put Him there, then we can’t put love there, for God is love. 

Our parents correct us because they love us. Hopefully our friends correct us because they love us. Because if we were never to receive correction, how would we ever be able to progress?

Correction in the Bible

In each of his letters, Paul begins with a greeting. They usually include a note of thanksgiving for his brethren, emphasis on the good that church is doing, and then he goes on to offer ways in which they can improve to please God. At the end of each letter, after his correction, he bids them farewell, and wishes the grace and love of Christ and God be with them.

We’re given all these letters of firm correction, but we wouldn’t dare say Paul didn’t love his brothers and sisters. Because it’s clear that he did! He even suffered violence and imprisonment trying to teach them what was right.

Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18) took Apollos, who was actually speaking boldly of the way he understood the Scriptures, aside to explain the word of God to him more accurately; he obliged because he loved God. Philip (Acts 8) stopped to explain the book of Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch not because he was prideful or a know-it-all, but because he wanted this man to be part of the Kingdom. All of the apostles and other disciples went from city to city proclaiming God’s word because they loved the people and wanted them to be saved.

Love is going to act upon what is right — on solid, firm truth, not just feelings of affection. Because feelings of affection can lead us down paths that we never dreamed of. We can have these loving feelings toward sin, toward things or people that we aren’t meant to emotionally love, that are opposite of what God has commanded we love. They can drive us into darkness instead of into God’s light because they’re not always the same as the logical truth.

2 John 6

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

Because God loves us, He gave us His word — He gave us this New Covenant to live by. He knows what’s best for our souls, and because He wants us to have a hope of being with Him in eternity, He disciplines us through His word. Everything God does for us, including discipline, is because He loves us. It’s because He wants us to be with Him.

Everything Jesus taught and everything He did while He was on earth was because He loves us. If we want to shine Christ’s light, we should love the way They love, with both God’s mercy and justice in mind.

If we truly love God, we’ll do His will, and we’ll pay attention to all of the truths found in the Bible, not just the ones we like. We won’t base our decisions and our loyalties on feelings. If we truly love people, we’ll treat them the way 1 Corinthians 13 describes real love — with patience, humility, kindness, hope, while bearing their burdens. We’ll walk in truth, show them truth, and proclaim to them truth because these are things that will lead them toward heaven.

 

// How do you show love to others? What are some ways to do this? Or verses about love you want to share? I’d love input in the comments section. 🙂

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Love Never Fails Pinterest graphic

 

 

 

 

Chronicles and Reflection of This Holiday Season

I’m dreaming of a 75-degree, rain-soaked Christmas. Where the weather is, indeed, frightful, but the family is delightful. A Christmas filled with laughter and love and home-cooked ham. Where the gifts are many, but the spirit is more. A busy, busy Christmas that can make you exhausted in only the best of ways. Far-away family returns for a meal and a swapping of gifts, and children come to you with big hugs and bigger hearts. In this Christmas, families and friends are united, the days are merry, and the homes are ever-bright with both Christmas lights and thankfulness.

This was my Christmas. But before we can get there, the rest of the season has to preface. Christmas isn’t just a day to me – it’s a whole, month-long holiday season (as I briefly mention here) that starts with overwhelming love and thankfulness.

Home is Where the Christmas Trees Are

John Mark and I had a long Christmas, starting with decorating our little home (which may explain why I’ve been so quiet the past couple of weeks). I think it’s important for couples to start their own traditions after they marry because traditions can help them bond even during the busiest and most stressful times if they keep it up – that goes for anyone! Our first new tradition (which I hope will stick) was to buy a live Christmas tree, even though our apartment would probably be considered too minuscule for most people to house one, but we determined to make it work.

So, after I had sufficiently decorated the rest of the apartment, we set a day to drive down the road to the little Christmas tree lot we kept passing. When that day came, we got in the car after he came home from work, went to buy Christmas lights, and then drove to that Christmas tree lot. This is something I’ve only done once, so it was exciting to be able to pick out a live tree to put in my apartment. (A real tree! In my house! I’ll never be over it). We picked out a tree within our price-range that looked perfectly symmetrical and perfectly green and perfectly perfect in every way, and we brought it home. As soon as the tree hit the tree stand in our apartment, I was opening boxes of lights and ornaments, completely ready to go. I was finished decorating it by that night, and could not have been more proud of our first tree. Something about the twinkling lights giving off the only light in the room makes my heart happy.

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A Surprise Birthday Party and Other Shenanigans

We have a couple of birthdays in the family thrown in right before and right after Christmas, so we always take time to celebrate those, as well. John Mark’s is one of them. His comes a week before Christmas, and I was determined to celebrate. My friends and I threw him a “reverse surprise party.” This was a last-minute, thrown-together, completely hilarious little party that I would definitely repeat. While John Mark was at a Bible study (in the home we would be having the party), my friend Bess and I went to a few stores. Read: way too many stores for our time slot. We picked up ice cream, cupcakes, candles, helium balloons, party horns, and sports-themed hats. While she drove us back to her house with a very sleepy, unhappy baby in the back seat, I assembled 29 candles in the ice cream (yes, the ice cream), which is his favorite – Blue Bell Cookies ‘n’ Cream. Bess and I got to the house completely flustered and we told her husband and another friend we were there, and that they needed to come outside. As we were all outside getting ready, John Mark was watching the baby inside the house. So we donned our party hats and horns, clumsily walked to the front door, gathered like carolers, and rang the doorbell. It took him a minute, but eventually he opened the door, and we immediately started singing “Happy Birthday” to a very embarrassed and thankful John Mark, after which we made him put on a hat and blow out his candles.

Later in the week we went home to spend some quality time with our families, celebrate his birthday another time, watch a dear friend graduate from nursing school, then we came back here for his actual birthday. (Oh, you thought that already happened? Nah). That Sunday we went to worship services as usual, and I made him a cake before he opened his present from me. Which, by the way, was all six of the Star Wars movies that are already out.

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Here we are with hats and our friends’ baby boy.
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John Mark with the cake I made him

And So Christmas Begins

The next week we planned for Christmas. I had already bought and wrapped most of the presents, so I just had to get ready to leave (more about that here) and, because we were going to be staying for over a week with our families, we had to make sure all of our overnight plans for the week of Christmas were in order. We had picked a day out of this week to spend Christmas as a couple – something extremely important to me. We opened our gifts to each other that Thursday night by the light of our tree, and planned to do stockings the next morning. When we got up the next morning we both opened our stockings, which was very much like an extra Christmas morning and children excitedly chattering about Santa’s arrival.

A few hours later we were on the road to home once again! We split the time as evenly as possible with our parents and stayed part of the week with both. Our family Christmases didn’t start until Christmas Eve, but we spent some relaxing time with his family for the first few days. Once Christmas Eve hit, we were hit head-on with that that crazy-busy Christmas I described way up at the beginning.

Where do I start?

It was an odd Christmas this year. Most of the week we (mostly just me because I’m nervous about bad weather upon hearing it might come) watched the weather because of tornado warnings and heavy, heavy rain. We spent Christmas Eve with John Mark’s dad’s side of the family. We gathered for a meal and gifts, the next day was Christmas morning -there were three different celebrations that day: Christmas morning with my side’s immediate family, then my mom’s side (described here – scarily accurate again this year), then back to John Mark’s parents’ house for his immediate family. The next day we met his mom’s side of the family for a lunch get-together, and then went back to my parents’ house for my dad’s side of the family. Not only was Saturday Christmas on my dad’s side, it was also his birthday! We had a two-in-one Christmas and birthday party that night. He has a selfless heart, so he never likes to pair his birthday with Christmas – he just wants to let the family open presents without the attention on him, but we always have a cake and presents for him anyway. Are you dizzy yet? Me, too. In a wonderful, beautiful way.

I’ve always loved how just a simple meal can bring about the happiest of conversations and the best memories. It’s rarely about the food when we get together for holidays; it’s about the hearts and souls coming together to share love and light during a special time of year. We had family of all ages, and we enjoyed every bit of it. All of us different, but all united in purpose and love. I couldn’t help but sit back and be thankful for overwhelming amount of family we have. The word “overwhelming” takes on a different meaning when you change your mindset. So many people complain about how busy their holidays are because of how much family they have to see and how busy they’re going to be. Those things are true! I understand the stress. But once you realize that all of the “overwhelming” family is there out of love, you’ll think of it a little bit differently. I tried to take on a slowed down mindset and applied some of these principles even during the busiest of days because it’s the best kind of stress. It’s the kind that’s only harmful if you let it be harmful. I chose to sit back, soak it in, and let it be.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, birthdays to holidays, it was beautifully busy. Now, it’s time to turn over a new leaf, and I wouldn’t have had the year end any other way.

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Merry Christmas and a happy new year from us to you!

 

 

 

A Letter to Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

I just want you to know that there’s more for you in the world than you think right now. Life does extend farther than middle- and high-school, and you will do big, exciting things in your life. In fact, in a few years, you’ll probably forget about half of the things you thought were important.

I want you to feel good about yourself. I know that your bad-bangs-haircut seems like the absolute worst disaster in the world, but really, you’re fine. And by fine I mean completely OK. Hair grows back. No one cares what your hair looks like – and you’ll even learn to use a straightener the right way. 😉 Acne doesn’t exactly go away by the time you’re 18, but it does get a lot better. I know you hate them, but those braces are so worth it; you’ll be thankful for them when you get them off. By the way, being short and kind-of tiny can actually be a good thing sometimes, so don’t be self-conscious about it.

The Lizzie McGuire era will end eventually (I’m so sorry). But don’t worry, you’ll find new TV shows, and Hilary Duff doesn’t end up crazy. To add to this small heartbreak, times of getting free posters with movie soundtracks will go away too, but you’ll get past it. Remember Taylor Swift, the country singer? Well, she’s going to be way more famous and way less country in a few years – and you’ll get to see her in concert. I know you saw the Jonas Brothers, too, but…prepare yourself…they’ll break up eventually.

Just some advice: you really should be as fun around other people as you think you are when you sing karaoke in your room and video yourself like you’re on a music video. You have more talent than you think, so don’t be embarrassed. I see pure joy, and joy is nothing to be embarrassed about. Keep that happiness alive and share it with others; make sure they can see it, too.

Speaking of happiness, please stop texting so much – you sure are missing things. Contrary to popular belief, your dying phone battery won’t kill you. It only kills the phone. Not having internet on your phone is actually a good thing, considering you use the phone enough as it is. Your friends will still be your friends if you talk to them later, and it’s more beneficial to talk in real time. You’ll see big things happening and beautiful people around you if you would only look up.

Don’t post on Facebook about everything you do and everywhere you go. There’s actually going to be an app (a what?) called Timehop that will show you what you said eight years ago. You’ll probably embarrass yourself a little. But thanks for posting so many pictures, because, although some (read: most) of them are silly, they make for some great memories. You’ll look at them and smile, laugh, and cry because only you understand just how exciting every snapshot was in the moment. You’ll remember just how much you love each and every person in those photos.

Remember that life is short, and you don’t have time to take it for granted. Take more time to be thankful for the people and things around you. More time to thank God because He has given you this life. More time to love your surroundings deeply. Breathe it all in with appreciation before it passes by because it will go faster than you think.

Remember all those times you compared yourself to other people based on their grades or their status in the class? Or when you thought that being bad at math was the end of the world? Don’t you worry – you really don’t need Algebra or Trigonometry because you’ll end up a writer. (But don’t forget to thank your brother for helping you pass all the math). You may not ever know how to do an equation again, but at least you got through it.

Most of these things won’t matter once you get to college anyway. High school GPA is no big deal, and college is a lot of work but it will be a little easier because you get to do what you like. Plus, those people you compare yourself to? They struggle in their own ways, just like you. We’re all unique, and that is beautiful. You know those times you thought you would never amount to much? Plot twist: you already do. Listen to your parents when they tell you that. You’re smart, and you’re perfectly imperfect. God created you for a reason, and if you keep on working for Him, you’ll understand that better. Just keep doing your thing. Everything will be fine.

You’ll lose friends, and you’ll gain some. You’ll get to keep the best ones around. You’ll go through rough patches and drama, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen. Be careful about what you say or think, and don’t stay bitter when someone decides they want to hang out with another friend this time. Don’t stay sad when people decide you’re not the type of friend they want; sometimes people leave our lives for a reason, and it’s better for everyone. It’s OK to miss people, but it’s not OK to dwell on it. It will make sense in time. You’ll make countless new friends, and they will all care about you more than you know. All of your people and experiences will shape who you are.

I know you think your life is kind-of a mess at times (who doesn’t?), but you’ll get to go to Auburn University, and it’s going to be the best decision you’ve made in a long time. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself mentally and physically because a little TLC goes a long way.

You’ll meet people that you can open your heart to, people who want to do their best to follow God, people who love you for you and always will. You’ll date for a while, and then you’ll meet the love of your life. After you graduate in only four years you’ll marry him after three short months (seriously, it’s true). I know you thought that wouldn’t happen, but guess what? It absolutely will.

Don’t forget to pray often. It really can help the biggest of problems and the smallest of worries. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and confide in people – let them confide in you! Your friends and brothers and sisters in Christ are some of the greatest blessings God gave you. Don’t be too prideful to admit when you’re wrong; you don’t realize it now, but that’s actually a good thing to do. While you’re admitting your wrongs, don’t forget to give yourself grace and mercy. Before you can give it to anyone else, you have to learn to give it to yourself. Believe in yourself enough to take action when you need to – to help yourself and others, and to stand up for the cause of Christ. Everything is small in perspective to heaven.

Now I want to thank you.

Thank you for overcoming some of your small-but-big fears – like trying out for jazz band vocals a second time even though your cold messed up the first, and being section leader in band, even though you never thought you could be a leader; you really were a good influence. Like those two years you played tennis despite your insecurities and low ladder ranking – it was good for you. And when you went to Bible camp three states away so you could grow in the Lord. Never forget the time you decided to go to college four hours away from home because you just knew it would be good for you somehow.

Thank you for learning to come out of your shell a little bit by the time you graduated high school, and for being determined to keep letting go. Thank you for letting those college friends be close ones, for opening up to them and pouring out your heart over coffee or sushi or pizza, and letting them pour out theirs. Thank you for standing up to yourself and deciding when saying “no” was better than bringing yourself down – for understanding when enough was enough. Thank you getting over your stubbornness and pride and listening to God when you knew He was right all along.

Thank you for letting Him mold you in a way that only He can.

Believe it or not, life is going to work out beautifully. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be enough. Just you wait.

With love,

Elizabeth Anne

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways We Can Serve Others

Serving is one of the biggest responsibilities Christians have. It’s one of the most rewarding things for both the servant and the receiver, and there are so many ways to do this! The word “serve” is a verb, and a verb implies action. We are told to actually do something for someone. Kind words are great, but actions go a long way. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few good deeds (some for no particular reason), and it made me feel loved, understood, wanted, and encouraged.

Recently I was at a Bible study, and this was a topic that came up. We were asked to think about ways we can serve others – to get creative with it. You have to tailor a service toward the person (a lot like choosing an audience when you write). What would make that person feel the best? What does he or she really like? We didn’t have very much time to discuss what we thought, but since then, I’ve been brainstorming, and here’s what I came up with.

1. Send a card.

I love love love writing and receiving cards! It doesn’t seem like very many people do this anymore, so it’s especially heart-warming to get an encouraging letter to your mailbox. I think sending a card is a great thing to do because the receiver will feel loved and if you’re sending the card, you get to be reminded of your blessings. You could send holiday cards, birthday cards, or old-fashioned letters on stationery. It takes some effort to write a card, address it, and send it, and that’s part of the joy of receiving it! You know someone put in the effort to do something kind for you.

2. Take a meal to someone (or just a snack!)

This is probably one of the most-done acts of service I’ve seen. When someone is sick, they get a meal! Had a baby? Meal. Surgery? Meal. Just moved in? Meal. You get my drift. It’s a pretty easy thing to do for someone – you can just make a double batch of whatever you’re having that night, and take part of it to someone who could use a little encouragement or company. Although it can be cliche and overdone, it’s a very thoughtful thing to do, especially for someone who lives alone or isn’t able to make a meal for herself. It could even just be a batch of cookies, brownies, or a big bag of snack mix. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.

3. Visit people.

A lot of people, especially elderly people or others in nursing homes, really just need some company. They don’t want a meal or a card – they want a visit. Sometimes the best thing you can do is go sit and talk to people. You could meet them to eat or to get coffee and catch-up, or if they can’t get out, just go see them. Let them talk to you about what’s going on in their lives; listen to them and try to understand what they’re saying – maybe take that information and see how you can help them further! When my grandfather was in the nursing home, we would go visit him. Even if he was in the middle of a nap, he jumped right up, so excited to see someone in his room who wanted to visit with him. I could really tell how much it made his day just by the look on his face.

4. Take someone a gift basket.

Pay attention to what people around you are talking about and how they’re feeling. You can easily make a gift basket to meet their needs. Use your resources to help other people. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I took a basket to one of our new friends who had a terrible cold and was working 12-hour shifts at the hospital. We decided to take her a basket with a couple of oranges, Epsom bath salts, an essential oil “cold bomb” blend, and a couple of other things that always make us feel better when we’re sick. Plus, we had all of these things on hand already! We took it to her house the next day, and she was thrilled. It wasn’t much, but anything in a basket sounds great to me.

5. Clean someone’s house.

It’s so helpful when people are busy and overwhelmed, and someone comes in to clean their house just because they want to. This was both mentioned at the Bible study I talked about earlier and something I’ve seen firsthand. Several years ago, when my grandmother passed away, my family had some wonderful friends who came into our house while we were taking care of funeral business and standing in long visitation lines and cleaned our house. They vacuumed the floors, picked up the (extremely messy) rooms that both my brother and I lived in, cleaned the bathrooms, kitchen, and probably more that I didn’t know about then. They knew extended family would be coming over, and that we would have visitors coming to bring us food, so they deep cleaned our home. It didn’t hit me then how kind of a deed that was, but thinking back on it, I can imagine just how much that comforted my parents.

6. Make something.

If you know a person who doesn’t have much money to buy clothes and you can sew, make them clothes! Dorcas (Acts 9) did this for people in need, and she was such a servant that she was restored to life so she could help others keep serving. If you know someone who needs help with repairs, do that. Some people quilt, some crochet, some know how to make things with wood or paint on canvas. If you can make something with your hands that would be useful to anyone, do it! What a wonderful surprise it would be to have something you need handmade by a person you love.

7. Read the Bible to someone.

When my grandfather (on the other side of the family) had dementia, he couldn’t read the Bible like he used to and always wanted to. One day I was reading a devotional book along with my Bible and he kept sitting up straighter to see what I was reading, and I finally asked him if he wanted me to read to him. He nodded that he did, and I ended up reading the entire book of 1 Peter (if I remember right) to him. He listened so carefully, and at the end of the reading, I said, “You used to read this a lot didn’t you?” (more about that here) He nodded and said “yes.”  We never know who needs help reading, who longs for the Word of God, but struggles to get through it or understand it. Pay attention to other people, and meet their needs!

8. Invite others to your home (or to a restaurant).

Since John Mark and I got married, we’ve gotten to enjoy a meal with at least three families in their homes, with one who paid for our meal at a restaurant, another family included us in their family meal outing later, and were invited to another home but we had already made plans that day. I was still getting used to a new place, and both of us were getting used to marriage, so it was nice to be able to eat a meal prepared by someone else and enjoy their company. Even if you don’t feed them, you could have them over for a game or movie night, light snacks, even overnight if they need a place to stay. Even if your house is small, you can have a couple of people over (something I’m learning). It’s really the thought and the company that counts. If you can’t have them over for food for some reason (the people we went out to eat with were having kitchen renovations done), I’m sure they wouldn’t mind going out to eat with you.


 

There are many more ways to serve people, but these are the simplest ways I thought of. People of almost any age can serve in these ways! I did some of these in college and even while I was still in high school, and they were beneficial to all parties. Don’t get too shy or insecure or busy to serve. You never know whose day you’ll brighten.

 

3 Ways To Declutter Your Life This Holiday Season

During this busy time of year, it’s easy to let things get in the way and clutter our lives  – for me that leads to stress and anxious feelings. If I let clutter happen without trying to make positive changes, it will completely alter my mood. It can escalate until I just don’t want to get anything done and have mountains of laundry, dishes, and undone to-do lists engulfing me. A friend asked me last week what I do get rid of the “winter blues.” One of the things I talked to her about was environment; managing my environment well is one of the biggest factors in keeping the blues from creeping in.

In this context, I’ll define “environment” as anything surrounding me, both physical and emotional, that can work to either help or hurt me. Here’s what I do:

1. Keep your environment light and cheerful.

I mean “light” both literally and figuratively. One of the things that helps me the most is to open the blinds and let in natural light – even just pulling back the curtains lets in enough light to brighten a room. I do usually keep a few lights on in the room or rooms I’ll be in the most, but something about natural light just makes me feel more connected to what’s going on around me. Plus, there’s nothing worse to me than sitting or working in a dim room for hours (it also helps to cut back on the light bill since I’m not turning on every light in the house). I try not to watch too many dark or heavy TV shows and movies, lighten up the mood with cheerful music while I get ready keep the decor fairly simple. I love pillows and blankets, so I like to have those ready next to me if I’m relaxing and need a couple of them. If I’m not using them, they warm up the space even just sitting folded and pretty. Right now I’m all about holiday-themed throw pillows and blankets! If there’s something  small that cheers you up and keeps you going, use it to your advantage – even just as a decoration.

2. Keep your space neat and fresh.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, having a tidy, clean home is important to me. I can’t focus well unless it’s clutter-free. Not only that, but I don’t like living every day in or around filthy rooms. When I don’t get my cleaning done, I feel like I’ve fallen down on my job. My home isn’t always clean – just like everyone, I have those days when I’m a little lazy or I just don’t get much done. But I know that when I do keep my home neat, clean, and fresh, it will help me physically and emotionally in the long run.

Usually, to help further freshen up, I’ll diffuse essential oils (lately I’ve been loving Young Living Christmas Spirit, Clove, and Tangerine – either a blend of all three or just a couple). Diffusing makes the room smell delicious, and it has great health benefits. I even do this while I’m cleaning to help motivate me to get it all done so I can relax and enjoy my clean house for a while. You could light a candle or spray a room-freshener (I have a homemade Tangerine spray I use on occasion) – anything that works to make you feel cozy and comfortable!

3. Keep your calendar open and breathable.

Don’t overdo it! I don’t like filling my schedule to the brim with places to go and people to see. I like to keep in touch with people I have relationships with, and seeing those people face-to-face is extremely important in order to properly maintain a relationship. But I get mentally and emotionally exhausted very quickly in social situations, to the point where I even get out of breath and can’t wait to go off by myself (this is an extreme example, but it has happened). So, in order to keep mental exhaustion from leading to worse or physical exhaustion, I have to make sure I’m not packing my schedule too full. In order to keep the groups from becoming so large and overwhelming that I can’t visit with everyone there, I like to spread out the days I see people – and I try not to make every encounter a big event. Sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down, have a cup of coffee or tea, and simply be with a friend or family member. This can be hard to do during the holiday season because we want to do as much and see as many people as possible!

I do understand that a lot of people can handle a fuller schedule than I. But I believe it would help everyone to find his or her limit and stop there to recuperate.


 

Of course, these are just three simple things that help me, especially when I’m needing a boost. Maybe there’s something you can add to my list! If you’ve got something, let me know in the comment box. 🙂

I hope the beginning of everyone’s holiday season is cheerful and stress-free!

 

How I Prepare For A Trip

Something that’s very important to me is leaving my home clean and orderly before I leave for an extended period of time. I like to know that I didn’t leave things to sit undone for days while I’m not there to do them. I love even more the feeling of coming home to a clean house and not feeling frantic right when I walk in the door because there’s so much to do right when I get back – especially if I’m going to be getting in late. As I mentioned in my last post, John Mark and I will be leaving for our hometowns today celebrate Thanksgiving with our families – apart from packing a suitcase, there a few things I’ll always do before I leave. They only take a little time and effort, and are so worth it in the end.

1. Make the bed

You all know by now how important making the bed is to me. It gives the whole room a fresher look, and I’m not tripping over throw pillows or staring at a wad of sheets and blankets the whole time I’m getting ready or doing other chores. I think what could be even better than this, though, is that when I come home after being away for a while, I like to crawl into nice, untangled sheets. I don’t like leaving the bed sheets tangled because, even though I have to turn down the bed before I get in it, I don’t have to crawl into a mess. It’s also comforting; it reminds me of when I was little. My mom would turn down and straighten up the bed for me after a long day because she knew I was exhausted, and when I came in from a 3.5 hour trip from school she had the bed all made up with clean sheets, ready to go. Now I’ve adapted that method, and I just don’t leave without making the bed.

2. Finish the laundry

This is something I do the day of or couple of days before leaving. Let’s face it; we all let laundry pile up too much sometimes. Depending on the load, it can take more time, but before I leave I like to make sure all of the laundry I can finish is finished before I leave – since laundry is never really “finished,” I just make sure to wash all of the clothes sitting in the hamper. I have a couple of reasons for this. 1) It’s much easier to pack when the clothes are clean, and I know where everything is. Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about a shirt or pants I’ll want to wear being dirty last minute. 2) I simply don’t like leaving old, dirty laundry in the hamper when I leave. I feel so much better having done the laundry so I’m not rushing to get it done when we get back in, in case there’s something in there one of us wants (or needs!) to wear the next day. My laundry rule takes a lot more planning and time than making the bed, but it’s totally worth the trouble to have clean clothes to take with me and come home to.

3. Clean the kitchen & bathroom

When I say “clean” I don’t mean “scrub down every surface and deep clean the floors, sinks, bathtub, and oven.” I simply mean this: I cannot stand to leave dirty dishes in the sink while I’m gone. If they sit for too long, they start to smell, and no one wants a smelly kitchen. So, if I need to, I empty the clean dishes and put them all away, then I load the dishwasher with all of the dirty dishes sitting around. If it happens to fill up the dishwasher, I’ll go ahead and hand-wash the rest, and put them all away. If the dishwasher is still running by the time we have to leave, I’ll just leave them as long as they’re clean and put them away when I get home. I try to make sure the sink is free of old food and scrubbed down. The last thing I’ll do is make sure all of the surface is wiped down with Thieves Cleaner. I wipe down all of the counters, the stove-top, and the hood over the stove if it needs it.

As for the bathroom, I try to keep it clean on a regular basis. But before I go on a trip, I like to make sure I’ve picked up any dirty clothes, washcloths or towels out of the floor and wipe down the counters. I also make sure that the toothpaste or face wash (or anything else for that matter) is in its proper place.

4. Tidy up the living room

I like to make sure that the living room space is as neat as I can make it in a short amount of time. I’ll collect stray coasters and stack them all on the coffee table, straighten the bookcase, John Mark’s desk, and the chairs. Our coffee table has a glass top, so if it has any marks on it (and if I remember) I’ll wipe that down with Thieves Cleaner as well. I throw all of the stray shoes we aren’t taking with us in the shoe bucket we have next to the front door. The next thing I do is just make sure the couch cover is tucked in well, fold all of the blankets and either stack them neatly in the basket or lay them over the couch – the ones I use the most stay on the furniture so I can grab them more easily. 🙂

5. Take out the trash

This is a MUST for me. Just like leaving smelly dishes, I absolutely will not leave trash in the cans. I make sure to pick up trash lying around the house first, then I’ll tie up the kitchen trash. If there’s room, I put the bathroom trash in the kitchen bag, as well, and then tie it up. If the kitchen trash is overflowing too much to include the bathroom trash, then I tie up the bathroom trash separately (it’s usually in a Wal-Mart bag in the tiny can). Then I set both of the bags next to the front door so we don’t forget to take it out on our way to the car.


 

Some people have a higher tolerance and different definition of “messes” than I do, but these are all helpful things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up with chores piled up by the end of a relaxing trip. It just hits me too hard when I get back to real life and have jobs to do that could have been done earlier.

These things might take some planning, but even just a little bit of tidying up can go a long way – and it only takes a couple of minutes to take out the trash or wipe down counters! Lately I’ve been trying to do these more often so it takes even less time if I’m in a rush to pack and get on the road. Do you have any tips to make going on trips easier? Let me know in the comment box! 🙂

 

 

 

 

We All Need To Slow Down

We’re going home for Thanksgiving with our families this week! After tomorrow, I’m going to be taking a break from the computer for a few days to spend time with them.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year in which families can get together (some for the only time all year). It’s a time in which we have the opportunity to free up our schedules and simply be with the people we love, thanking God for the blessings in our lives. I talk a lot about how much I love Christmas, but to me they go together. I think the holiday season coming up is one of love, thankfulness, and joy; it’s all one big reminder that there’s so much more to life than we remember sometimes.

Especially after recent world events, I’ve been thinking harder lately about the blessings in my life. It’s caused me to realize that I need to slow down. I took a step back and looked at my life. I have overwhelming, undeserved blessings. I have good health and a roof over my head. I have a husband, friends and family who care for me, a new family to be a part of, and material blessings that I can’t count.

We all need to slow down. Our society lives life frenzied and rushed, seemingly only thinking about things that won’t matter once this life is over. Materialism lures us in, only to cause stress and busyness. Which leads me to this: Life is a gift; it’s not certain. Take the time to to stop and breathe – to count the blessings you have and thank God because all good and perfect things come from Him (James 1:17). The world is far from perfect and far from peaceful, but no matter the bad, God is love. He brings peace.

We shouldn’t rush through life, taking everything around us for granted. As of now, I’m choosing to live an intentional, purposeful, slow-paced life because that’s what I need. I need to focus on the big picture and take everything in. I firmly believe it’s what we all need. We’re not meant to take up our time rushing and worrying from one day to the next.

Try it; put busyness aside and, with a clear head, spend time with your loved ones – make it intentional. Take a day (or two days!) to take care of yourself and nourish your soul. Spend time in prayer and in the Word. Appreciate what you’ve been given. Make a habit of being grateful, and take time to slow down – just see where that leads you.

 

 

I Got My Dream Job

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a marine biologist (what was I thinking? I’m not good at science). As I got a little older, I thought it would be cool to be a journalist in a big city, which morphed into just wanting to write.

By my transition from high school to college, I wanted to be wife and later a mom. I went through college, and eventually earned my Bachelor in English, but I didn’t feel like I fit anywhere; I was restless and thought what I was doing was pointless (deep down knowing it really wasn’t). There was never an academic niche I felt like I really fit in and had a passion for. I knew I could write, but I never thought I was getting anywhere with it. So I hoped and prayed I could have the “job” that I wanted. The one I didn’t always like admitting to people. The one I got funny looks for talking about.

I wanted to work from home. By that I mean be a homemaker and write in between, but it’s hard to do that if you’re a family of one, providing for yourself. So I continued school and my on-campus job, patiently waiting to see what opportunities would be opened to me. God has answered my prayers beautifully. He’s opened up doors for me that let me write, be what my husband needs, what my church needs, what my friends need, and what I need.

Two years ago I found a man that I fell in love with (actually, he found me). Here are our first photos together. 🙂

Thankfully, his job allows me to stay home and be his helper. To most people it’s an old-fashioned, unconventional job.  My husband goes to work Monday-Thursday, and I get to keep up our apartment, cook our dinners (or try to – still working on that one), and make time to help others when they need it. I get to be and feel useful.

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My husband is a forester. I have to share this precious picture of him before work Monday morning. I got to go with him part of the way to work because his work truck was in the shop.

God has allowed our relationship to grow in a beautiful way. It’s a way in which our lives aren’t rushed, and we can spend time growing together in Him. There’s not a better feeling than knowing I’m doing a job that God intended me to do (Genesis 2:18). I’m proud to have a job that can further His kingdom, one in which I get to respect, love, submit to, and work with my husband. Because I married such a loving man, it’s easy for me to submit to him. He doesn’t abuse his headship or leave me out of decisions. We’re equals in our relationship – equals with different and important jobs, and we both recognize this. We both recognize that we’re useful to each other equally. I’m thrilled to see this part of God’s plan working in my life.

Apart from my home life, I still get to write. I get to use my gift to share my life with others in an effort to encourage and inspire. I no longer have to squeeze this kind of writing into my schedule like I did in college, feeling guilty that I never had time in between classes and homework. Writing is something I get to make time for during my day, and it’s something I can do while still carrying out my  stay-at-home wife responsibilities.

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Wedding photo courtesy of Elles Photography

I’m not a mom yet, but one day I hope to be, and like my marriage relationship, I hope to be a mom who glorifies God. Because it’s all going to be part of my exciting, God-given, life-fulfilling job. I know it takes patience, and my job will always come with its own challenges, but I also know that I can have joy through those challenges with God in my life and Christ in my heart.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good for those that love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose.


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My Chocolate Chip Cookie Search Has Ended

I have been searching and searching for a Paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe that I actually like for about a year now. It’s been a long, sad, tasteless process, but I want y’all to know…

I found one.

I started the Paleo diet last December just to help with my anxiety, and it ended up helping my body fight other health issues too. Although I don’t stick to the diet as much as I should, I believe healthy food can be a great medicine!

But I really missed chocolate chip cookies – I missed a lot of desserts for that matter! I had found several three-ingredient and supposedly easy cookie recipes on Pinterest and other sites, but in none of these recipes would the dough stick together, and none of them tasted quite right. What was worse was that some recipes called for 6 eggs and hardly made any cookies! I ended up sticking with this Paleo mug cake that’s a delicious and easy substitute – but sometimes you just want to make an entire batch of cookies.

For some reason during my search, I didn’t think to look in my Paleo cookbook. I bought  Make It Paleo (recipes from this book are also found here) sometime at the beginning of the year and planned on using it for lots of meals, but sometimes Pinterest makes me forget about that (oops). Eventually I gave up on my cookie search, but I’ve started trying to use the book more lately, and I came across a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Surprisingly I had all of the ingredients in my cabinets, so I went right to work because I was super-excited. Sadly, I didn’t hold out much hope for these after all of my failed Paleo cookie baking.

Boy, was I wrong not to believe in them. They ended up great – and look like the picture in the book!

These new cookies have changed my life (you’ve probably noticed a lot of things that have “changed my life” by now). They’re easy to whip up, and they taste fantastic. Almost a week later, I still have moist, sweet, and flavorful cookies that I don’t have to feel guilty eating. I’ve linked the recipe above, but in case you need it quickly, I’ll leave it here:

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)
  • 1/2 C organic coconut oil, unrefined
  • 1/2 C pure maple syup
  • 2 whole pastured eggs
  • 3 C blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 375*F
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla extract with a hand mixer.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat with hand mixer until combined.
  5. Melt coconut oil, pour into batter, and continue to blend until combined.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop balls of cookie dough, about a tablespoon in size.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Let cool and serve.

Enjoy!