Oh Lord, Color me!

I just had an incredible time with my dear friend Datrice and my husband Dennis at the Color Me Rad 5K in Chicago! Dennis got second place and Datrice and I had a blast taking pictures along the way.

I feel so grateful for working lungs and legs this morning and I praise God for good friends who like to do crazy things together. Datrice agreed to do three more 5ks with me this year including the Hot Chocolate Run. Just thought I’d share!

Friday Findings: “That Girl”‘s in the “116 Clique” sitting on a new couch with “Trip Lee” whose holding a flower and my cat

Friday FindingsIf you know me, you know I love rap music, but not just any rap music, oh no. I do not go for the cussing, hating, sexing, gangster rap that I hear played outside my house on a daily basis. No no no!

I’m talking about that Gospel Rap! Love it! Can’t get enough of it!

So, naturally, my Friday Finding is a group of Gospel Rap Artists called 116 Clique. (And yes, if you were wondering, my man LeCrae is totally in with this clique).

They are a group of Christians who love Jesus and want to spit truth about him. They don’t preach the usual message that rap and hip hop usually preaches (violence, sex, drugs, and money), they don’t disrespect females, and they don’t feel the need to use profanity. In short, they share their testimonies, encourage other Christians, and rep their Lord and Savior as best they can. I mean, what’s not to like?

And here is a video that will inspire all women to be the true and Godly woman Christ would have us be: That Girl by R-Swift

My last Friday Finding is this pretty awesome young man named Trip Lee. He’s a preacher, a pastor, a blogger, and a pretty hip dude. Check out his blog Can I Brag On My Lord?

Oh, and I almost forgot! We now have a couch. We got it for free and it is quite comfortable and will seat a lot of people. Also, if anyone needs a place to crash for the night, we’ve got you covered with this here puppy:

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And I found this flower on my run to the gym:

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I guess I have a lot of Friday Findings this week…

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Evee says “Happy Friday humans”!

Friday Findings: Coconut Oil

The Lord has blessed me with a pretty awesome discovery this week: Coconut oil.

I won’t take up much of your time, but just look at how many ways you can use this stuff!beauty used for coconut oil

coconut oil uses

My wonderful Aunt Laurie got me a gift card for Whole Foods for my birthday in May, and I finally used it to buy some coconut oil, along with some other incredible goodies.

I am totally making the shampoo tonight, and possibly try out the face mask (putting oil on my face kind of freaks me out though, so maybe not…)

Do you have any natural beauty or household uses for simple ingredients? The Lord has made nature so wonderful! We can use so much of it, just like Adam and Eve did in Eden. What great gifts these natural elements are!

I’ll let you guys know how my experiment goes. Until then, enjoy your Friday and I hope you find something cool to do with some coconut oil.

Friday Findings: Circle Journaling

Friday FindingsLately I’ve been listening to Moody Radio, and on Wednesday, while I was folding laundry, cleaning Evee’s litter box, and making my husband a smoothie (don’t worry, I washed my hands before!), I just flipped on the Midday Connection Program. You can listen to it here, and read about the program as well.

The featured guests were Tamara Peterson and Liz Lassa. The topic was something very intriguing called Circle Journaling.
It’s a way to journal about what God is teaching you and doing in your life that helps to reveal the divine connections between events, verses, experiences, and findings that might have otherwise been hidden.

This method of journaling is flexible, yet it helps with being able to go back to find specific things which might be hard to trace back to if you were to simply write in long-hand.

circle journalI highly suggest that you check on the links which I have provided in this post. I also suggest you listen to the Radio Program (which you can do by clicking the first hyperlink). Liz Lassa goes into detail about what Circle Journaling is, the different sections of it, and she even shares some of her findings in her journaling process.

You can purchase the Circle Journal here, and there is even a special “Moody Radio” discount and a free first chapter, which makes is a bit more affordable!

Thanks for reading friends, and be sure to check out what I’ve been  checking out next time on Friday Findings! Happy Weekend!

Friday Findings: Worship on NYC Crosswalk, Quitting Jobs, and Gospel Rap

Hello Artists and Breathers! Today I have some great findings to share with you.Friday Findings

The first is this awesome video of a song by David Crowder Band called “O Praise Him”. Not only is the song really great, but the video shows how overwhelming worship can truly take us over, no matter where we are, if we let it.

The second is one of my favorite author’s E-book that you can get for absolutely free! Her name is Allison Vesterfelt and her book is called “Thought on Quitting Your Job and Chasing Your Dreams”. Subscribe to her blog, and keep up with her. You won’t be sorry.

And last, but not least, I recently went to see Gospel rapper, LeCrae at at free concert in Chicago. I think you should check out his stuff and let me know what you think!

Happy Friday and enjoy!

“I Resolve to Date More Often”

 Each week my husband and I have a date night.

We work hard to set an entire evening (starting around 6:30 p.m.) to spending uninterrupted time with one another. This is a tradition and will remain a tradition, as I have seen it to be an essential to keeping our marriage happy and healthy.

I was reminded of this fact after having a yes–slightly tipsy–conversation with one of my husband’s close friends. 

He was telling me the importance of “guys night”, and how he really appreciated that I understood that it would be totally awful if I came along. He then explained to me how he loves conversation with Dennis and asked me what my “girls nights” looked like, wondering if they were anything like “guys nights”. To our surprise, the only thing that seemed to separate our idea of a good friend-hang-out session were cigars (the men being fond of those and the women, not so much).

But yes, it’s true, I did understand, as I too would not want my husband awkwardly sitting next to me while I chatted it up with my girl friends and sipped on coffee or ate appetizers….

We, as married people and as dating people, need both “guys/girls nights” as well as “date nights”. Tonight I will focus on the ever important Weekly Date Night

Now, I am well aware that there are many ways to have a date night, and each person has a different idea about what a good date night entails.

Here are 10 good ideas for fun and meaningful date nights for couples of all kinds! 

(Oh! side note: most the these options are “on the cheap” since my husband and I work to budget for a few “All-Out” date nights, but keep the majority of them affordable.)

1. Questionable Dinner – Write down a bunch of random questions, each on a slip of folded paper. Put the papers in a bowl and randomly draw one and answer it over dinner or desert at home.

This is great for new couples who are just getting to know one another, or old couples who want to reminisce  about the past, or learn some crazy-weird stuff about each other! Here is a sample list of questions.

2. Devoted to The Word – Do a weekly Bible study together! This way, you can read scripture together, learn from one another’s interpretations, and share with one another your walk with God.

My husband and I did a devotional study on love and marriage that we could both access from our iPhones. We especially liked the last one, as it helped us both articulate what it was that we first found attractive in the other person (something we needed to be reminded of at the time!).

3. Snack-Central – Make an array of snacky foods for dinner, spread it out on the bed, and watch your favorite tv series together.

Dennis and I LOVE West Wing, and our favorite snacks are smoothies, popcorn, hummus and pita chips/veggies, chips and salsa/guacamole, brie and fruit with cranberry sauce, cheese and crackers (with summer sausage for Dennis), and of course wine!

4. You-Comedy Night!- Each of you make a list of your favorite funny youtube videos. Alternate showing them to each other and vote on with three were the funniest!  We didn’t do this as structured, but one night Dennis and I just watched a ton of funny youtube videos and had a blast laughing together!

This is my favorite one followed closely by this or this. And this couple put together a list of their favorites.

5. Camera Fun- Find a flip cam, or a video camera of some kind and make a funny video. Or, do a photo shoot together.

Since my husband is a rock star, and I’m a person who enjoys taking photos, we have used this to our advantage and have had many photo shoots (mainly consisting of me behind the camera though…). However, we have not done the video portion yet. We were talking about doing a fake episode of “Cribs” to show off our fun apartment with it’s strange idiosyncrasies. I might have to push for that!

6. The Readers- Read a book over the course of a few weeks, meeting up each week to discuss it. It could be a fiction book or a nonfiction book.

Some books that Dennis and I have read and recommend:

The 5 Love Languages
This one is really great for any couple because it has some really great insights into how individuals feel loved. For the longest time, I would write Dennis these cute little love notes, and always wondered why he didn’t write them for me. After reading this book, I realized that words were my love language, and I was trying to love Dennis the way I wanted to be loved. Meanwhile, Dennis was doing really nice things for me to help me out: bringing me coffee when I had stayed up late studying (this was when we were dating in college), or making me lunch when I had a particularly busy day. Acts of service was Dennis’ love language, and he was trying to love me the way he wanted to be loved! Since we know how to love each other better, now I make him dinner and fold his laundry, and he writes me notes and tells me I’m beautiful.

Sacred Marriage    This book is a real earth-shattering one. If you are Christian and you are engaged to be married or already married, I would say this book is a must-read. Without knowing it, we all have notions about marriage in our heads that make us expect the craziest things of one another. This book taught me how to set priorities straight in a marriage, with God being the number one for both husband and wife.

Rocking the Roles     This is the book we are currently making our way through. It is also quite earth-shattering, even though it is slightly dated (I think it was written in the early 90’s). We both were struggling with our respective roles as husband and wife and this book really broke it down. We even had a huge Ah-Ha! moment where we finally realized some of our biggest differences. I would also say this is a must-read for married couples.

The Alchemist     Now, this is a fiction novel with a lot of truth behind it. When we first started dating Dennis told me his entire philosophy was based upon this book, and so, because I was crazy about him, I read it. I LOVED IT! It provides so many philosophical topics of conversation and the entire story could arguably be an allegory for something larger. Read this one or any of this author’s books, all of which would be a good choice.

Captivating and Wild at Heart     Both of these books are pretty great! Captivating is about women and Wild at Heart is about Men. I would recommend women reading Captivating while the men read Wild at Heart, all the while taking notes on each chapter. Then you can switch off and read the one about the opposite sex, and also take notes, comparing them with your spouse or significant other’s.

Other books that I’d like to read with Dennis:

Divine ConspiracyThe Four LovesDietrich BonhoefferEating AnimalsIn Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto , and The Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius  

7. Eco-Friendly and Equally Tasty – Start a garden together, then choose a day to harvest, or walk to a local Farmer’s Market and pick out some things. Go cook something up for lunch or brunch together with the fresh ingredients!

If you read my blog over the summer, you saw some sweet pictures of Dennis’ graduation/birthday gift to me, which was a vegetable garden! We even moved that potted garden to the South Side of Chicago when we left Bloomington, and have just harvested the last of the cinnamon oregano and green onions for the year.

Here is a great website where you type in your ingredients and they generate some possible recipes!

Here are some farmer’s market recipes!

Some Garden-growing help!

8. Smart Date with TED – For an intellectually stimulating date that we have yet to try (but may in fact this upcoming Friday!), choose a few TED talks to watch together. I was thinking of choosing from these due to the New Year. But your date could have a theme which you then find TED talks which have to do with said theme (such as work, dreams, technology, money, music, love, self-confidence, faith, inspiration, creativity, family…).

This kind of date would be a great way to expand your way of thinking, get to know each other intellectually, have stimulating and intelligent conversation, or just simply get inspired together.

9. A Bucket List Date –  Honestly, I keep stealing ideas from this blog, so I’ll just provide you with the link! This particular date sounds super fun and really useful for planning:

Create a “Bucket List” (things you want to do before you “kick-it”) separately. Perhaps limit it to 10 things you’d like to accomplish, places you like to go, or things you’d like to do. Share them with one another, then come up with anything else that you’d like to do together!  

This would be a great way to know what is important to your significant other or spouse as well as just have fun dreaming of the future together! You can even pair it with watching the movie The Bucket List as part of the date!

10. Splurge! – Go on an “All-Out” date.

The previous dates are all pretty cheap, which is how, as I mentioned, Dennis and I usually plan our weekly date night. But our numerous low-cost dates allow us to save for a rare and special occasion when we can go “All-Out”.

On our “All-Out” date, we will choose a really classy restaurant to go to, and we’ll get really dressed up to go to dinner. We’ll start with drinks, then slowly order an appetizer (we’re in no rush!). We’ll take our time with the food, and usually we will ask for a box so we can have leftovers later during we week (the portion sizes are usually pretty gigantic!).  We’ll sometimes choose a desert to share, if we’re not too full, or sometimes we’ll order the desert to-go and save it for another date night at home!

During our “All-Out “date, we don’t worry so much about price because we’ve saved enough to indulge. But there are always ways to make your “All-Out” date a little more manageable:  Ask for gift cards to nice restaurants for Christmas and Birthdays, pay attention to seasonal specials like this one a Maggiano’s which we just took advantage of, check Groupon or other coupon websites for deals, or go to a less fancy place and just make it fancy by dressing up and indulging in a 3 course meal!

Dennis and I usually like to try out new places for our “All-Out” dates, but we always seem to choose either Italian or Sushi places.

 

And there you have it! 10 super fun date night options for you and your special someone! I hope that part of your New Year’s Resolution is to take care of your relationships by being intentional with time, energy, and effort. 

What are some of your favorite dates? Can you and your spouse/significant other commit to a weekly date night reserved for only one another? 

Enjoy lovebirds!

Why I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey

I am not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

Recently there have been explosions of women and men(–totally weird, I know), who have become obsessed with the new novel by EL James, and, to put it bluntly, I refuse to be one of them. At the risk of sounding perfectly closed-minded, I would like to explain to you why I’m not considering reading Fifty Shades of Grey and why I think you shouldn’t either.

Reason #1: Simple. Fifty Shades of Grey is sinful. This book is classified as erotic fiction,which, along with pornography, is defined a genre which has “no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.” That right there is enough for me to say “no thanks, I’d rather just sleep with my husband”. (Excuse my honesty)

Now i’s all very well for me to give you my opinion, but let’s look at what the Big Man says; God tells us that there is only one who should stimulate sexual desire us: our spouse.

Since God’s plan for my sexual desire involves only my own husband, then anything else that adds to my arousal is sin.

Jesus said it this way: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The same is true of a woman looking at (or reading about) a man.

Reason #2: This book may rob of your desire for real sex. The Bible confirms that lust is hurtful and harmful. And guess what? So do modern biopsychologists. Research shows that over time your body becomes conditioned to self-stimulation and gratification. Lust can cut a literal pathway in your brain tissue. At first a little bit of erotica might give you the desire to be with your spouse, but overtime that self-stimulation and your own imagination (or porn) is not only enough to satisfy you, you actually prefer it to real sexual intercourse.

…I’m not just making this up. Check out this article in The New  Yorker  for more information.

Reason #3: This book will make it difficult for women to fully respect their husbands.

Okay, let’s be honest, women. Sadly, a few of our men have looked at porn. I mean, most guys over the age of 12 have. If you’re like me, you find this extremely sad.

You may feel like you can never compare to the perfection created by lights, camera, and Photoshop that is presented in some porn. Or maybe you just feel like you have to compete for your husband’s sexual attention.

Well, he may likewise feel like he can’t compare to the fantasized interpretation of manhood depicted in this particular book, and he may feel like he has to compete with a fictional character. Which would suck right?

If you don’t want your guy to look at other naked women, don’t read about naked men. I personally want to have more respect for my husband than that. How about you?

Reason #4: This book directly contradicts what God created sex to be. It is meant to be a union that is fuled by love and service, not pain or humiliation. Fifty Shades of Grey deals a lot with BDSM: Bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. And if you recognize what any of those words are, you can get an idea about why this book is so damaging.

It’s not just that Fifty Shades of Grey misuses sex; it redefines it into something evil and transgressive. The lead character uses dominance in a hurtful way.  In our emasculating culture, there is indeed a hunger for strong men, but this book takes the role of headship to a new level- a sinful one.

A man is supposed to lovingly and sacraficially serve his wife and lead her in the Christ-like direction. This does not involve dominating her or holding her in sexual submission. 

A woman is supposed to respect her husband and support him in his leadership. This does not involve becoming a sexual slave to him. Nor does it involve reading trashy novels about men who abuse their sexual partners just to get an arousal.

…Also. Vanilla is an ice cream flavor, not a type of sex. Ew.

 

I will never read this book. And many of you might be up in arms with me about this post because I am (for lack of a better term) ripping this book apart before even opening it. Judge away. In a way, I’m judging the book by it’s gossip.

I’m going to quote another blogger here to explain my point: “There are many things in this world I need not partake in to discern that they are going to be harmful to me. God has given me more than fifty shades of truth in His Word and when just one of them is in conflict with my entertainment choices, I choose to pass”!

I love my marriage, my God, and myself. Why put those things in jeopardy for a quick read?

If you find yourself seeing my side of the story, please take a moment today to post these words on Facebook or twitter: “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.”

If you have friends who need help understanding why, send them to my blog. I’d be happy to explain!

The art of… failing?

Well, we all flunk at something….

  I am sitting on my aunt and uncle’s couch in Wildwood MI after an afternoon of wine tasting, olive oil and vinegar tasting, farmer’s market shopping, and jean trying-on… I feel very content and privileged.

It’s a good day.

On such a day when I feel pretty happy and lucky to have such wonderful people in my life, I also am grateful to have such wonderful books in my possession. My latest and greatest print indulgence is by Jana Riess, entitled Flunking Sainthood

I quite admire people such as Jana and Ben Franklin (yes, I place them both in the same category, hold on you’ll understand).  They are both people who value self-improvement and world betterment. Ben Franklin actually inspired my husband to work on chosen attributes. These values would include cleanliness, discipline,  compassion, wisdom, and other such admirable attributes. According to Dennis, Ol’ Ben would focus on one specific value per week until he mastered it, then moved on to the next one, and so on and so forth until he got till the end of his list. Then he would begin all over again, always having something to work on.

Talk about a model of self-improvement! But Ben seems a bit intimidating to me, a more flighty, artsy, eclectic kind of gal.

This is why Jana appeals to my taste a bit more.

Jana’s book, which I fortunately received from my lovely sister Mary Margaret as a Christmas gift this past year (Thanks sis!), is similar to Ben’s way of dividing up some admirable values, but she has a bit of a “Jesus-flair” to her practice.

In Flunking Sainthood, Jana decided she needed to work on her spiritual life and relationship with Christ, so she devoted a full year to revamping her faith by working on one spiritual practice per month. She assigned herself reading from books by modern and ancient theologians, including the writings of saints and monks. It’s great for readers who want a survey of spiritual books and I guarantee that, upon reading this book, you’ll have yet another book list written up.

Some of these spiritual practices include finding God in mundane tasks, fasting, the Jesus prayer, lecto divinia (more on this topic later), and living simply by not coveting anything materialistic or buying new things (a hard task to do during mother’s day).

I won’t give away too much, but the biggest thing I love about Jana’s book is that she finds so much grace and beauty in failing. She tells her book and blog readers that one should never set out to fail, but in the process of working on such a variety of spiritual diciplines, she found herself screwing up more often than she wished or expected.

With devoting only one month to each of these very in-depth and sacrificial practices, I’m not too surprised that she didn’t succeed in all of them. In fact, she might intimidate me if she was triumphant in all of these complex little lifestyles.

But in all her failings, she finds herself all the more dependent on her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, keeping her identity placed in Him and not in how well (or not well) she did in her monthly discipline.

If you are looking for a book that will challenge you to read more, work harder, but also that promotes grace and encourages, I highly recommend Flunking Sainthood where you’ll discover the art of failing and the great gift of grace.