Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thoughts on the Pope's Visit

Yesterday, while in class, we had quite a long discussion about the Pope's visit this weekend. If you are not an East Coaster (or have just been living under a rock) Pope Francis did a three city tour of Washington DC, NYC, and Philadelphia over the past weekend. It's all anyone has been talking about around here.

So during our class we discussed a multitude of viewpoints and opinions on how we thought the weekend went, etc. I can honestly say that if I didn't already love the man beforehand, this discussion definitely sealed the deal. 

Whether or not you are Catholic, have some high opinions about religion, or are simply just trying to figure this whole faith journey out, it was hard not to miss the Love and Peace that were radiating from Pope Francis during his visit. God's peace and calling rest deeply on his life. I think there is no better way to recognize this, then to read the transcripts from his controversial Philadelphia prison visit. His hand written speech said,

"Thank you for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in your lives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.
I think of the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: “You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).
In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now.
Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.
We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.
Life means “getting our feet dirty” from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes in search of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand. It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. The table from which he wishes no one to be excluded. The table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited.

This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires: inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.
Jesus invites us to share in his lot, his way of living and acting. He teaches us to see the world through his eyes. Eyes which are not scandalized by the dust picked up along the way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore. He asks us to create new opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctional authorities, and for society as a whole.
I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who in any way are part of this institution. May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys, new paths.
All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspire us to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the best for others.
Let us look to Jesus, who washes our feet. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life”. He comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us to journey along the paths of life and fulfillment. May the power of his love and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life."

It is impossible not to hear the very voice of Jesus and His love coming straight out of the Pope's mouth as you read these words. He is bringing salvation through the one true God straight to the lost and forgotten. Jesus himself was always given a chance to spend time with the rich, and chose to eat with the poor, the tax collector, the forgotten. This is a man aligning his life to be a reflection of Jesus where ever God is guiding him in the moment. He brought hope to the hopeless. His words brought tears to my eyes and life transformation to me. I went home wanting to read my bible more and grow deeper in relationship with my savior.
Whether you have any opinions toward the Catholic church and the Pope or not, God's love and story of redemption was poured out all over the city this weekend. Pope Francis allowed Jesus to use him as a vessel, to bring the gospel to the many. Not only did Jesus offer an opportunity to the Pope to spread the gospel, but the door was open to conversations all over the city that we all had the ability to speak love and light into. And for that I am beyond grateful that His humble servant got on a plane and crossed an entire ocean to be obedient to the calling in his life and speak grace into the lives here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning to Rest

This weekend I had the very awesome experience of resting. Now for those of you who rest comes naturally for, you may be thinking how rest could ever be an experience?? I live in the extremely busy northeast of our lovely country (the US) where most people have never even heard of the word.

My days are usually built up and jam packed with multiple to-do lists, errands, and responsibilities. No need to say "no" to anyone, cause I can always find a sliver of space in my schedule to fit that request. I am fully aware that I am over-committed, over-worked, and under rested. Yet I still trudge on because that is what I know.

After what turned into a extremely busy week, a great friend of mine asked if I wanted to hang out and TV marathon a favorite show. I jumped at the idea of spending the day with her and just relaxing. I had no plans and the thought of taking a day to rest after a crazy week seemed idyllic to me.

Now let it be known that this particular friend, very much like me, has no "off" button. We both consistently work like crazy and do whatever is asked of us. So of course within the first ten minutes of her visit, we were off and in our church office taking care of a need. While there, it actually crossed my mind to stay a bit longer and get even more work done that I knew I had to take care of.

But we were determined to spend some time resting and headed back to my house shortly there after (with of course a quick pit stop at the local ice cream place). There we sat, on my couch, for the rest of the day laughing, sharing life, and TV marathoning. It was honestly just the rest I needed.

I have to let you in on a little secret though, that rest was really difficult for me. Between the changing of every episode I would consistently think to myself, "You have things you need to write. There are errands you could be running. If you just pick up your laptop, you could totally multi-task right now." And its true, I could have multi-tasked the entire day. But I still would not be resting. 

Why is it that we think the world will stop revolving if we take a break in our lives? I know that is a constant thought I have. I'm going to let someone down. I'm not going to communicate with the people I need to get a hold of. There are a thousand things I could be doing right now. And where, that may all be true, the world will not stop because I am taking a step back for the day and resting. 

I had to open my bible later on and let this scripture really soak into my heart,

"By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing;
so on the seventh day he rested from all His work. 
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it He rested from all of the work of creating that He had done."

God took time to rest for an entire day after He was done creating. He stopped what He was doing and made the day a holy one. It is a blessing to be in rest. Now if the creator of the universe observed the need for resting as an important criteria of life, then why is it that I think I can abstain from it?

There are so many times I will allow the chance to rest pass me by because I have once again overloaded myself. But here's the thing, after that day of resting with my friend, the world continued moving and I still had time to complete what needed to be done. 

I need to stop allowing society to dictate my actions and start focusing on God as the center of my daily activities. If God rested (and He's our image of perfection) then I need to be taking a literal page out of His book, and rest as well. It is holy, perfect, and divine. 

Now that I have rested, I feel recharged and ready to take on the next set of tasks with more enthusiasm then even before. I'm not saying that resting will come easy from now on, but it is a lesson that God placed in front of me this weekend to help me grow in who He is.

So let us all remember the next time we have a plate loaded with a thousand projects, responsibilities, and commitments, that it is alright to take some time and rest.

Has there ever been a time where you felt like the world would end if you took a break to rest? How did you handle that situation? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

September Happenings // Coffee Date Linkup

Hello my lovely friends! I did a post like this last month, where I linked up with the fabulous Jenna from Gold and Bloom, and I really loved just being able to chat about life with ya'll. So I decided to try it again. Each month Jenna hosts a monthly link up called the Coffee Date where she talks about her month, highs, lows, all that fun stuff. She then asks for others to share the same. 

I would highly recommend checking her out and linking up all of your fun adventures for the month.  Here are my monthly happenings for September!

This month we're talking about highlights (and let me tell you, there were alot!) But I will try to wrap them up into a few of my favorites.

1. This month has challenged me so much with my writing and I'm loving the opportunity for growth. Not only was I consistent with my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule here on Enjoy this Beautiful Season, but I was also given the opportunity to become a weekly contributor for Willow House Magazine. I truly love writing for the incredible team there. You can check out 40 Fun Date Night Ideas for Fall10 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship, and 7 Tips for Breathtaking Photos!

2. We are finished with our first full month of hosting our exchange student (who I happen to have mentioned in last month's Monthly Happenings Post). Having her here has been such a pleasure and she has been fitting into our family beautifully. Its definitely interesting learning how to become parents, but I think we're handling it quite well thus far. I would highly recommend hosting an exchange student if you have ever thought about it before.

3. I started back to school this month! Now I've actually been out of school for quite a while, with both my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees, but I've headed back part time. I'm at our church's Bible College and it is stretching and growing me so much. I love being in the classroom setting and expanding my mind. I'm having so much fun with the class! 

4. Because it's right at the beginning of Fall, it was time to make sure my house was organized so that the Fall Decor could come out. I love decorating so very much and Fall is all about decorating with pumpkins lol. It's always a blast making my house feel even more like a home. Fall is my second favorite season to decorate for (Christmas obviously taking the cake!)

5. I was able to take some amazing friends from church over to the Ronald McDonald House to spend time crafting with the kids. It was such a lovely evening. It is incredible to watch a child stand up against whatever may be physically holding them back and conquer a task in spite of it. Watching joy spread across each face made my heart swell. If you ever have a chance to volunteer for this amazing organization, you really need to check it out.

6. Over the past month (or two) now, I've had the opportunity to make some real friends in the blogging community. I am loving every second of it. The community of bloggers is so beautiful. Everyone is super uplifting and encouraging. I could not be more excited for the relationships forming and I am super grateful. Check out this lovely shout out from my gorgeous friend Tiffany from In All Things!

It's crazy how fast this year went. I know people always say that, but really, it's about to be October! Christmas is following shortly behind and then it will be 2016. It's just nuts. I've loved September but I know I will love October even more. I have tons of crazy stuff planned and can't wait to let you all in so stay tuned!

What fun and interesting adventure did you get into during September? I would love to know your highlights!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Fall Decor for Your Home

Today is officially the first day of Autumn!! The air is cooler, the leaves are beginning to turn, and the decor is everywhere. Pumpkins as far as the eye can see! It is crazy how pumpkins have received their own spotlight over the past few years. We all display them proudly throughout every inch of our homes. No shame here (I'm totally on the bandwagon!) 

Besides pumpkins, Fall floral is definitely my favorite. I love a beautiful mixture of both fake and real flowers all over my home to spruce the place up and give it new life, for this new season.  

Here are some great pictures of our home at the moment, as we transfer into a fantastic Fall haven, to help inspire you as you do the same!

I fell in love with the glass pumpkins out this season at Home Goods! The neutral tones fall completely in line with my home while still giving it the Autumn feel I was looking for.

This centerpiece I also purchased from Home Goods. I love how, again it fits into the beachy feel of our home but still helps the space feel like Fall. This piece in particular was a door hanger that was fairly long. It was much more inexpensive than the actual centerpieces and fits the space beautifully. You don't always have to buy an object for its intended purpose if you have a little vision!

Fall decor would not be the same without a delicious smelling Autumn candle. This one is Gingered Caramel Apple which I picked up during a crafty outing to Michael's. It fills my home with yumminess and I love to burn it regularly.

I wanted to add a bit more of the Fall colors throughout our home as well and did so by making a few flower arrangements. There has been an amazing sale at Joann Fabrics over the past week plus, practically giving their Autumn floral away. I purchased several bouquets and, using a wire cutter, clipped each flower stem. This allowed me to arrange the flowers exactly how I wanted them.

And of course I just love when Jesus shines through the window to give a little love to this space!

Thanks for sharing my Fall decor journey with me. I have a few other projects coming up that will only add to the life and excitement in our house. So keep your eyes peeled for even more awesomeness to come!

I wanna hear from ya'll! What are your favorite pieces of Fall decor in your home??

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Tips For Keeping Your Home Organized & Fresh

We all know those friends. The ones who have the perfect home every single time we're there. Everything is always clean, organized, and placed neatly in its area. Or maybe we even are that friend. In either scenario there are some super easy ways we can tidy up our space to help keep our home organized and fresh looking as we move into the new Fall season. 

So here are 5 helpful tips that will enable your home to look gorgeous, clean, and organized, no matter how chaotic the Fall may get.

Put things away as soon as you are finished using them

I know this seems like a silly statement, but there are so many of us who will use an item and leave it out.  If we consistently place dishes in the dishwasher, put garbage in the trash, and place our items in their designated space, the less there will be to clean. This is super important with the mail. We all have those mail piles that stack like a skyscraper at times. Read what you need to, shred the rest, and do it often so paper does not stack up all over your home.

Pick decor for fashion and function

I love baskets. And I place them all over the house. But they're not just there to fancy up the room. I strategically locate them around my home to hold shoes, magazines, books....just about anything. They can lay out on the floor to add pzazz to a space or they can be tucked away under a bench for storage. Either way, when your decor is functional it minimizes the clutter around your home.  

Clean as you go along

I don't always have time to spend eight straight hours cleaning my home every week. I still want it to look clean though. So I clean as I go. (Not trying to make a rhyme but I'll take it!) This may look like vacuuming on one day, bleaching the kitchen the next day, laundry on the third.  Spreading out your chores through your week, doing a little at a time, will leave your home nice and neat at the end of your week.

Throw out food in your fridge regularly

This is something I am personally bad at. But it's absolutely necessary. When old food and leftovers start to pile up in the back of your fridge, it leaves less room for you to add fresh food. Doing a weekly clean out of a few things will help you to avoid a massive cleaning at the end of the month (or two). This allows for you to have mostly fresh and delicious food, easy to grab, without having to question how long it's been there for.

Keep it minimal

There is absolutely a cozy minimalist craze going on right now, and rightfully so. Minimalism is the perfect way to keep your space organized, clean, and fresh. Before I buy something for my home I ask myself, "Do I really need this? Where can I picture this going? Is it a necessity?" These questions always help me to realize if it is an impulse purchase or something actually useful. Also, going through the items in your home yearly for a sort of spring cleaning, can really help you get rid of the old and keep it minimal.

I hope these tips were helpful for you. I love to clear out and organize at the beginning of each season to help prepare for the newness that is to come. I have to admit that I am one of "those people" who always has her house looking clean and organized. I really do follow the steps above and it honestly takes me almost no time at all to have everything in its place and looking fresh and clean.

Let me know if there are any tips you have for keeping your home organized and beautiful!


Friday, September 18, 2015

Great Weekend Reads for the Fall

Hello my lovely friends! I don't know if you've taken a notice to the incredible ladies hanging out in my sidebar yet, but if you haven't, then you should, cause they're awesome! I am easily becoming such a fangirl of each and every one of them and all of the wonderful content they have been putting out this month.

So I've compiled a little list for ya'll of some of my favorite reads that they have created so far this month. So grab a cup of coffee, snuggle up in your favorite spot, and enjoy these weekend reads!

Audrey is currently in the middle of the Blog-tember Challenge and she is killing it with some incredible posts about life. Check out her "Currently" post to see what she's been up to!

Lily is all about wellness and simplicity and consistently has incredible content about healthier living. She is talking all about ways to create clean indoor air on her blog right now!

Who doesn't looove football season?! It's honestly my favorite! Kaycie has some delicious game day snack ideas so that you can entertain in style and fill your belly with some yummy football eats!

Tawni has seriously been challenging me with her Luke 10 series, focusing on the good portion. She's super insightful and I always enjoy reading what the spirit has placed on her heart!

I absolutely adore how real Annie is and her post about Real Life Vs. Online keeps the realness flowing as she discusses our perceived Insta lives versus what truly is happening in life!

Caroline is another one who is always challenging me. This girl could preach right here! Her sweet spirit shines beautifully through her testimony as she continues to journey with God in her discussion Jealousy and Envy!

If you're struggling with the thought of having to return to work post newborn, then the loving advice from Amanda will truly speak to your heart. (Plus their new baby pics are soooo super sweet!)

And speaking of babes, if you just found out your pregnant, Iryna has an awesome collection of super fun pregnancy announcements to entertain your friends and family while proclaiming the excitement for the newest member of the family!

I'm simply crazy about the lovely ladies Aishah and Christina from Happily Hitched, a site dedicated to making sure brides have great marriages as well. This week Aishah's husband is discussing War Room from a husband's perspective. (Seriously an amazing moive ya'll need to see!) 

The brisk Autumn season is upon us and to help bundle you up a bit more, Leelee has some great handmade accessories in her Etsy shop that can help breakup that cool breeze!

And since it is about to be the Fall season, Fall fashion is what everyone is looking for. Here is a great Autumn outfit that Carolyn has put together for a casual September day!

I hope you have enjoyed these awesome weekend reads and continue to follow and learn from these fantastic ladies. Have an incredible last weekend of summer my amazingly wonderful friends! 
Love you!!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Different Type of Fall Decor

So I had a post all scheduled for today about home decor for the fall and great exciting tips and ideas, but after spending a little time in prayer I realized that I was going to write a new post instead. (No worries, the other Fall Decor piece will be coming at ya next week.) But I couldn't let the week go by without giving a little bit of my heart to you all. So this post is going to be all about a different type of Fall decor.

Last night, a group of us from my church had the amazing opportunity to visit The Ronald McDonald House and get a little craftastic with the kiddos there. It was a beautiful night. For those of you who do not know what the Ronald McDonald House is all about, it creates a home-away-from-home environment for families of terminally ill and critically injured children who need to access the local specialty hospitals that they may not live near. Ronald McDonald House has over 284 homes spanning 31 different countries all over the world. It's a truly amazing organization.

As a group we had the privilege of gathering with the beautiful kids that utilize the facility and create adorable "fall decor" for their rooms. There were multiple designs that allowed each child the ability to cut out their favorite and glue the pieces together on construction paper, creating a fun fall scene. Throughout the night there were tons of giggles and amazing artwork created. And it melted my heart to see the lovely friends I ventured there with really light up each child's night.

Even more so, it nearly brought me to tears to see the parents have the ability to sit on the couch, relax, make a phone call, and simply chat among themselves. I am not yet a parent (although I've had the past month to start learning) so I can't even begin to imagine the stress it must be to not only have children, but to have a child who is in a season of such terrible sickness. Being able to provide an opportunity for these parents to sit on their own and relax for a little while, truly made my heart sing for joy.

So we sat and crafted, and laughed at the seriously funny comments some of the kids were making, and smiled til it hurt, and lived life together for those few hours. Not for a blog post or a pat on the back or even a "great job," but simply out of love. Love for God, each other, and our fellow man. The Bible says:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know you are my disciples,
if you love one another."

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.
But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;
rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Jesus has asked us to love each other and look out for one another through serving. I know that may seem like a scary thought, even a bit intimidating. But let me encourage you my dear friends, serving and loving others can become as natural as gulping in oxygen. Your lungs are burning from the discomfort until you simply open your mouth, breathe it all in, and your natural instincts step up to the plate and give you the breath of life your body is demanding. God is our oxygen and serving and loving His people only helps us to grow and to breathe life. 

Nothing in the world would have made me miss out on the giggles, antics, and love of last night. To see the joy on each child's face as they crafted away, made every ounce of the night perfect. And to know that God sat directly beside me, orchestrating each moment, each connection, and spreading His love to each individual made every second priceless. 

What is God calling you to do in your local community? How is He asking you to love those around you?

If you're interested in other great ways to get involved in your community then check out this post!


Monday, September 14, 2015

Pumpkins on Pinterest // Fall Decor Inspiration

It is just about the season that every Ugg boot wearing, legging loving, pumpkin spice latte fanatic dreams of....Fall. And with fall comes Pumpkin everything! That includes decorating our lovely homes. 

A good friend of mine owns the beautiful shop The Tattered Dragonfly and she was entertaining me one day with a fun story about a conversation she was having with the previous owner of her building. They were discussing great sellers in the neighborhood and the previous owner told her, if there is one thing you NEED to hold in your store, its pumpkins!

Pinspiration from Thistlewood Farms
Since she's told me that, I've honestly seen pumpkins in every corner of every store that contains fall decor. (And I have to admit that I'm hopping on the bandwagon with a few gorgeous glass pumpkins I've started to collect myself.) Along with my lovely new glass friends, I wanted to create a few DIY pumpkins to accent the autumn decor in my home. So obviously I camped out on Pinterest for a few hours searching all things pumpkin and I could not believe how much Pinspiration was right at my fingertips.

I decided to gather some of my favs and share them all with you so that we can be inspired together to create beautiful homes for the upcoming fall season.

How to Paint Pretty Pumpkins // Perfectly Imperfect

White Pumpkin Bling // Lana Austin's European Vintage

Halloween Pumpkins Carving & Decorating Ideas // Pop Culture & Fashion Magic

Decorating with Pumpkins and Gourds // The Budget Decorator

10 Ways to Decorate With Pumpkins // Anderson & Grant

Gold Painted Pumpkins // New House New Home

Pumpkin Decorating Ideas // Decorating Files

Glitter Monogrammed Pumpkin // Unoriginal Mom

Dollar Store Pumpkins Done 25 Ways // A Night Owl

The possibilities are truly endless with this list and I have some major ideas for how I plan on shifting gears straight into the Autumn season. I can't wait to show you tons of fabulous fall decor ideas in the weeks to come that will highlight and bring life to your home!!

What are your favorite ways to decorate with pumpkins??


Friday, September 11, 2015

7 Easy Tips for Taking Breathtaking Fall Photos + An Announcement

Hi Friends! I can't believe the first school week has already come and gone. Craziness! Yes it is official, fall is finally on it's way. I wrote up another piece for Willow House Magazine this week that I'm super excited to share with ya'll about tips for taking breathtaking photos. This piece features the incredible talents of Timothy Mullin Media, who I also raved about here, so definitely go check them out, as well as the magazine, when you get a chance. And now on to the post preview!!

The seasons, they are a changin’, and as we head into autumn, so many photographic opportunities present themselves as the world glistens with vibrant new colors. The sun dances across the bright hues of orange, yellow, and red, looking as if the sky is a full on canvas itself. And if you are anything like me, this can only mean one thing…it’s time to whip out that camera.
If you are an aspiring photographer or are just simply handy with your smartphone, learning some fun tricks can make a world of difference when it comes to your fall photos and give you the chance to create some beautiful artwork for the home and office or simply improve your Instagram and Facebook photos. Angles, lighting, time of day, and so much more can all be incorporated in creating a dazzling Fall scrapbook of memories that simply takes your breath away. So what are these great tricks, you ask? Let’s dive into some easy to create photographic magic that will help you to produce those breathtaking fall photos that will be the envy of every Pinterest account.

To Read all of the Tips Head on Over to Willow House Magazine 

And now moving on to some personal thoughts that I wanted to share with ya'll. Next month will conclude my first official year blogging. I can not believe it's been almost an entire year already, that's just nuts. In this past year, I've learned so much about the blogging community and myself. When I first started, I really just wanted to write. Write about life, the different seasons of life that I was going through, and other fun interests that I may come across. I never really had any particular niche per se, but enjoyed creating a hodge podge of content for everyone. 
Now that I've had this time to grow and learn, I've realized that there are specific items I truly love to write about and really want to begin rebranding my blog to reflect those areas of content. So with that being said, one of the main things I will be changing about my blog is the name. I have been playing around with words that reflect me, my outlook on life, and the direction I am guiding this blog's new journey in. I'm super excited to announce what it will be later on in the month as well as a full description of what the content will begin focusing on.
I love having all of you on this journey with me and really do consider you apart of the family! Let's travel into this new season together as we watch bigger and better experiences blossom. Love you all!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to School Flashback

Today is the first day of school for my lovely new daughter from China and I'm having that proud mama moment, even though we've only been family for a few short weeks. She's a junior in high school and as we all know, starting a new school can be a little nerve racking. But I know that she has the confidence and brilliance to get through this day beautifully and I can't wait to hear all about her adventures at dinner later tonight. 

Watching her get ready for the first day of school brought back the nostalgia of years gone by, photos taken, a net full of tummy butterflies, and an excitement for what's to come. I can easily remember having all of the feels of getting ready and not knowing what to expect from teachers, friendships, and new activities. I stumbled upon some old photos that made this walk down memory lane even more real and wanted to share them with you all, my family.

1st Day of School
Elementary School Trick or Treating with my very best friend!
Middle School Slumber Parties
Senior Trip
High School Cheer
Best Friend Hugs
School Musicals
Best Friends

I loved sharing my school years with some incredible people who are still the very loves of my life even today! I honestly believe that high school can be a foundation of creating who you are. When you have the ability to learn yourself inside and out while standing next to wonderful friends, your able to build a lifelong connection. The ladies who stood next to me on my first day of freshman year are the same ladies who stood next to me at my wedding. I love them like crazy and will forever be obsessed with my Spice Girl Besties!

Almost 15 years later, we're still the closest friends!

How was high school for you? What were you interested in? Are you still friends with the people who held you up through the ups and downs of your high school years?

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Steps Toward Reclaiming Your Joy Filled Day + Giveaway

There are times in life when the overwhelming pressure of it all comes crashing down on top of your head like a fifty pound sledge hammer. That kind of stress can really hurt and exhaust your inner core. I've absolutely had days and months such as that, where each day I have the opportunity to make a decision. Am I going to allow the stress to rise victorious or am I going to choose joy? (I'll let you in on a little first choice is to always run full force after joy.)

So joy it is then! Now what? How can we consciously choose to live our lives in a state of joy when there is so much around us fighting for our attention and trying to kick joy's butt straight out the door? I've put a simple list together of five easy steps that will direct our path toward reclaiming our joy over stress each day.

You Need to Choose Joy First

I know that this seems like an obvious first step because I already mentioned it above, but it really is the very most important step. If you do not consciously choose to live your day out filled with joy, the enemy will creep up on you fast and before you know it you will be angry, frustrated, and horribly stressed out. Take time to keep joy in the forefront on your mind every time something stressful or irritating comes your way throughout your day and make the decision to allow joy to dictate that circumstance first.

Make a Gratitude List

It's really nice to write down (or type in your phone) a list of all of the incredible blessings God has placed into your life. Then when the enemy comes in to rile you up, you have the ability to glance over that list and remember all of the things in your life that bring you joy. It's easy to stress out and go through life thinking things are so incredibly bad, but when we have a constant reminder of why life in beautiful, we're able to sit back and reflect on everything we are so grateful for. 

Take a Step Back

I am a very passionate person, and that means even in an argument. So what I've had to learn over the years is to take a step back from the situation and recoup my thoughts and emotions to tackle a conversation differently. So many times my passions, which God created for good, can be stolen by the enemy and turned around to be used for evil. Which can lead to more anger and frustration. When I stop, however, and take a step back, I have the ability of reexamining the situation from a new viewpoint which allows me to see when I am overreacting. Once I've come to that conclusion I can approach the situation again from a calmer place, leading the conversation into one seeking joy and not anger.

Get into God's Word

There are some days when my brain wants to focus only on insecurity and doubt (ok, alot more than just some), but those are the days I've been learning to combat with the Word of God. When there has been an exhausting day in my midst I can simply repeat to myself, "Weeping may endure for a night, But JOY comes in the morning" Psalm 30:5, and I am instantly reminded that I am promised joy in my new day. Or that I'm promised joy in general as a fruit of the spirit ("But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23) His promises refresh my spirit and help me to tackle the day with a new strength.

Dance it Out

Any Grey's Anatomy fans here? It is so completely true that dancing, no matter how good or how awful you may be at it, can bring some incredible joy to your day. When you are dancing around all carefree and whimsical like, your body is releasing endorphins and we all know that endorphins make us happy. When you've had a crazy overwhelming day, there is nothing like a good dance party in the living room to bring the joy right back into your life. 

I truly hope some of these steps helped you in reclaiming the joy in your day. Life is messy. It's stressful. And sometimes it can really try to get the better of us. But that is when we need to fight back and cry out, "Not today enemy! You ain't stealing my joy!" 

Are there any things that you partake in that help bring the joy back into your day? I would love to hear about them!

And now, to keep your day filled with joy, a little giveaway to the best place on earth....TARGET! This giveaway is starting right now! And will run all the way until next Monday, September 14th, with the winner being announced no later than Thursday the 17th! In order to be fully entered, you need to follow everyone's amazing Twitter account on the list for your chance at $60 to Target (and who couldn't use that in this back to school season we're in?!) Good luck ya'll!!

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

40 Fun Fall Date Night Ideas // Contributing for Willow House Magazine!

I am so incredibly thrilled to introduce to ya'll Willow House Magazine, a great new online magazine that introduces families to creative and helpful ways to live life to the fullest. They have a wide range of articles and tools to help you get organized, how to's for planning life well, fun family activities, DIYs, and so much more. It's really a great family resource as well as a wonderfully entertaining read. 

I'm even more excited to tell you all that I've been given the opportunity to become a regular contributor for them! I can't wait to consistently bring new content to this already fantastic magazine as they continue to grow. Here's a fun preview to my first article with them:

40 Fun and Sexy Date Night Ideas For Fall

My husband is absolutely my most favorite person in the entire world. Though we are married and no longer “dating,” I believe it is essential to date my husband often. Now obviously, we live together and see each other every night of the week. But there is something different about setting aside time to get all gussied up and head out for the evening.
Now my husband and I have only been married for a year and a half, and there are no children in the picture just yet. But we both live full lives.  We still need to make it a point of placing a date on the calendar that belongs just to us. It is our way of letting the other know that we are the priority in each other’s lives. So date night (or day) is a necessity to us.
Date night is a fundamental element to any relationship (married or not).  As I said before, setting aside that time for one another will show the other person they are loved and cherished.
You have placed a date on the calendar, have your fancy pants on, and you’re ready to hit the road for whatever fun adventure awaits. What do you do next??
To Read the Rest, Head on Over to 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

New Portraits with Timothy Mullin Media, LLC

I am so incredibly thrilled to be able to share some fantastic pictures that I had taken the other week, with ya'll today. I had the extreme privilege of working with the lovely Margo Mullin of Timothy Mullin Media, in this super fun photo shoot she created for me in a cute farm town in New Jersey. (Yes we have farms in NJ...they don't call it the garden state for nothing.) And I am so wonderfully pleased with how each and every photo came out.

What I truly loved about working with Timothy Mullin Media was that, even though I have never felt myself to have model like qualities or facial expressions, Margo was really able to grab at that natural flair inside of me that I honestly did not know existed. Her easy directions guided me through each photo and her artistic eye framed beautiful surroundings that I fell naturally into. She was able to pull emotions and facials out that truly made this a stunning experience. I would honestly work with her again in a heart beat. 

Now on to the photos!

So what is Timothy Mullin Media all about? I'm glad you asked! They are a husband and wife duo that excels in wedding photos and videography but are also extremely talented in engagement photos, family portraits, and more recently headshots, personal portraits, and car club photos. The clarity of their work is stunnnning ya'll! I'm not even kidding. And it is not just the photography itself, but the editing done afterward that spruces each and every picture to be the very best quality out there. 

They work hand in hand as a beautifully cohesive team to keep you at ease during your shoot and bring life to the experience. This is not the first time I have used them and will absolutely not be the last. Their affordable pricing can make an easy photo shoot day in the park with the family not only an attainable financial decision, but truly a lovely and fun experience for everyone. Check them out on Facebook here, where their extensive range of talent continues, and like their page for exclusive sales and offers so that you can book your first photo shoot with these incredible creators!

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