5 Christmas Crafts On My List

So, you know that moment when you’re in Joann’s looking for Christmas craft supplies, and without warning your phone dies – the phone which contained the note with your shopping list. You can’t remember what was on your list, and you’d check your pinterest boards but oh right, your phone is dead. And you’re in Joann’s alone, with no accountability. And all the Christmas stuff is ON SALE. 
No? Never been there? 
I pity you, my friends. 
A sampling of some of the things you might bring home
You end up with some great stuff. Random, but great. With that said, here’s some of the craft’s I’m working on for this season:
1. Something involving a deer and gold glitter.
Stripes, gold glitter, deer – I love Lauren’s, but since my deer head is three dimensional, I need to come up with a new twist that I can hang over the fireplace.
2. Something involving book pages and pinwheels. 
I love book crafts, and BHG has some great ideas, but this year I’ve got an idea I’m anxious to try that will take book page pinwheels to a new dimension. 
3. Something involving cones and fancy paper. 
Aka, something exactly like the photo above. Here’s more ideas from the Budget Decorator.
4. Something involving a big chalkboard. 
I have the perfect spot for a big chalkboard, and I’ve been scouring Craigs List every day. If I can’t buy it, I might resort to building it.
The chalkboard above is from the Christmas home tour at the Lily Pad Cottage. You seriously have to go look – the entire house is a white Christmas dream.
5. Something involving bottle brush trees, and probably more glitter.
From Tumblr
A mini winter wonderland! I’ve read that it’s easy to bleach and glitterize regular bottle brush trees to make your own white Christmas, and I can’t wait to try it. Here’s the tutorial from I plan to use, from Going Home to Roost.
What’s on your Christmas crafting list? Tell me what you’re most excited to make in the comments below. 

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My Fall Bucket List

I discovered with my summer bucket list, I initially set the bar too low. Since I crossed most of my list off in the first couple weeks, I added a couple things: 

  • Take swimming lessons
  • Post a happy photo on Instagram every day
I did accomplish the first – as intimidating as it was, I joined the Master Swim Class at my gym that Brian has been attending to prepare for his triathlon. I really couldn’t swim when I started – in all the years of swim classes at the YMCA as a kid, I never figured out proper breathing. Despite the embarrassment of near-drowning the first lesson, I’m really glad I took this class. I’m swimming better now than I ever have before,  and it’s actually kind of fun! 
As for the second goal – I failed. Which is really too bad. I need the reminder to look for something positive every day. So, I’m putting this one on my fall list. 
1. Post a happy photo on Instagram every day.
2. Go to a bonfire. I put this on my summer list originally, which was a terrible idea. I think it will be much more pleasant in the fall.
3. Have people over. Maybe a little party of some sort, if I’m being really adventurous. 
4. Learn to country dance. One of my friends just learned recently, and she’s inspired me to try. 
5. Learn to play a complete song on the guitar. 
6. Read a book. 
7. Pack. 
8. Move. 
9. Unpack.
10. Decorate the new house for fall. Yes, you read that right – we are in the process of buying a house! Our first, very-own house!

The current owners have 10 chickens in the backyard. There’s also a garden, and a fireplace, and so much more. I’m excited to share it with you soon!

What’s on your fall bucket list? Leave a comment below. 

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24 Things I’ve Learned in 24 Years

Almost three weeks ago now,  I turned 24! I celebrated with lunch with my friends at work, then leaving early to play my new guitar!

This was Brian’s birthday present to me. He’s a used Fender, and I love him. It’s like they say in Harry Potter – “The wand chooses the wizard,” but in this case, “The guitar choses the girl.” 

My birthday goal was to learn to play “Happy Birthday” before the end of the day, and I succeeded! But boy, I forgot how much it hurts to play until your fingers get calluses. 

Brian also took me out to dinner, and I received a host of birthday wishes and gifts from my family. 
Last year for my 23rd, I made a list of 23 things I’d learned in 23 years. Hopefully, now that I’m a year older, I’ve learned at least one more. 
1. You will never “arrive.” The dream job won’t always be dreamy, new experiences will get old, and when you achieve what you think will make you happy, you find that there’s something you missed. 
2. That’s why you have to choose contentment now.
3. You control you. 
4. You have a lot to learn.
5. Life is too short to not wear glitter shoes.
6. Most of the time, things are not as bad as they seem. 
7. You have to chill out. Seriously. 
8. Confidence is two-thirds of the battle. 
9. Vision will win. 
10. Lead by the force of good ideas. 
11. People will follow those who inspire them. No one wants to follow someone who only complains about the problem.
12. There’s no substitute for genuinely caring about people.
13. Growth and change are hard,  and painful. Especially in marriage, when sometimes it feels like you’re growing in different directions. You’re changing at different rates, and this is ok. 
14. You will make it.
15. If having a puppy prepares you for children, you have a long way to go. 
16. Doing the right thing can be really, really hard. And lonely.
17. God’s design for marriage and family is more beautiful and so much bigger than you ever understood before. 
18. Sometimes, every day is an act of courage. 
19. Keep fighting for what you believe in.
20. You care too much. Don’t stop. 
21. If you don’t time to enjoy right now, in a year or two, you’ll look back and wish you had. 
22. There is no 80’s movie montage, and suddenly you feel brave. You have to just do it in spite of the fear.
23. You are braver than you think. 
24. You are stronger than you know. 

What’s something you’ve learned over the last year? Share it with us in the comments!

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Easy Summer Craft: Gold Painted Seashells

To me, summer = beach, beach = seashells. I have quite a collection – Panama City, North Myrtle Beach, Cannon Beach, several beaches in California and a beach in Mexico are represented.

Most of them have sat in my craft drawer or a jar on the bathroom counter, just waiting to a creative way to be displayed. Thank you, Pinterest.

In my summer bucket list post, I mentioned painting seashells. This is such an easy craft, it doesn’t really need a tutorial, but since I put my own spin on the Pinterest versions, and the shells turned out so well, I really just wanted an excuse to post pictures.

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My Summer Bucket List

 
  1. Go to California. At the time I made this list, I was in the car, on the way to California. Check. Subpoints: 
    1. Disneyland – check! Just when you think it can’t get more magical, you discover Tom Sawyer’s Island.
    2. Angel’s Game – check!
    3. Beach! – Can’t ever have too much beach time. Except when you get sunburnt, and it’s super windy. It was still fun. 
  2. Read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I took care of this one at the beach and on the drive home. Check.
  3. Curate my summer wardrobe and personal style. To this end, I finally signed up for Stitch Fix. My first fix was a disappointment to be honest. I just kept a necklace. But I left more specific notes, so I have hopes that the second one will be better.
  4. Learn a new hairstyle. I’ve been in a rut – bun, or straightened. Once in awhile I pull it into a pony-tail to mix it up. While in LA, I shopped in the Fashion District and bought a curling wand for $20. I burned myself on the first curl, but it’s been all uphill since. Check.
  5. Paint Seashells. I pinned this last summer, and I finally did it! I love the way they turned out.
  6. Catch up on my magazines. I have a giant stack of Real Simples, InStyles, and Better Homes and Gardens on the coffee table I haven’t had time for. 
  7. Try a new drink. So many options, but also while in California, I had a peach southern sweet tea with peach schnapps, and other goodness. Check. 
  8. Watch 500 Days of Summer. A movie with Zoey Deschanel and Joseph Gordan Levitt? How have I not seen this? 
  9. Have a bonfire. I was in a beachy mood when I made this list. But I realized that it will still be in the upper 90’s at night here in the valley, so this might not be such a good idea.
  10. Go swimming once a week. So far, so good. Planning to swim again this weekend. 
Reading at the beach
Santee Alley in the Fashion District
Of the 10 things on my list, I’ve already done all but four, and I don’t think I even want to do the bonfire anymore. I think I need to aim higher – I still have over a month left of summer! 
I’m at a loss – it’s hard when it’s 120 degrees outside. Any ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Nicknames and Being My True Self

For the first time ever, I have a nickname other than abbreviations of my name, like Em or Emi. My co-workers gave it to me. It’s Bossy Sauce. 

It’s completely ridiculous. Here’s how it happened: One of my female co-workers was telling about the Sheryl Sandburg initiative #banbossy, intended to empower girls by not calling them “bossy,” but instead “strong-willed,” “leaders,” etc. I pulled the website up on my computer, and at the same time, one of the IT guys remotely connected to it to fix an issue I’d been having. The #banbossy campaign had the opposite effect for me – because of it, people started calling me bossy. And “sauce,” well, I have no idea. You’d have to ask Kyle.

But the nickname has stuck. It stuck, because it fit. 

I feel like my job requires me to do impossible things on a regular basis. Not exactly “impossible,” but beyond my skill set and comfort level. In order to do what needs to be done, I’ve adopted a sort of confident persona. I don’t like taking charge, but things have to get done. Bossy Sauce makes things happen.

In May, we visited family in Iowa for a week, and while there, I realized how much I’d changed. I felt a tension between wanting to act and think like my high school self, quiet, being a wallflower in conversations, and in general, blending in. But I knew that wasn’t who I was any more. Or was I? 

Was the confident version of myself just a cover up, or was it always there, deep down?

Why is it that I can stand up for myself at work, but not in other contexts?

I really thought I finally knew myself well. And then I changed.

And that’s why I want to blog. Since I have a full time job, the pressure to grow a following and gain sponsors is off, and I can just blog for myself again. 

It’s just difficult, when you have a full time job, that lately has required working 70ish hours a week. 

Even though my work involves lots of writing, I need to blog here still. Because this is where my true voice is. Blogging here feels like being my true self.

It feels good to be back.

ReLent: Healing

“A week of meditation and confession.” This how the Lent devotional series from She Reads Truth would end?

This is going to suck…
Was honestly my first thought.
…and yet heal me. 
Was my second. 

I was already familiar with meditation, but confession, well, that’s different. Yes, as a Protestant, we confess our sins directly to God, and it’s great. But I realized over the course of the week that too often my confession goes something like: “I’m sorry God for all the bad things I’m sure I did today. And moving on…”

I don’t often really think about my sin. It’s uncomfortable. And I certainly don’t talk about it with anyone else, despite what it says in James:

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

That’s beyond uncomfortable, to a level of vulnerability that I can only aspire to.

But praying the prayers of confession with the She Reads Truth community was exactly what I feared, and hoped for.

It felt like removing a deep, deep splinter. You know it’s going to hurt, but the only way to heal is through the pain.

This prayer in particular ached for days:

Prayer: “The Deeps”

Lord Jesus,
Give me a deeper repentance,
a horror of sin,
a dread of its approach;
help me chastely to flee it,
and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust,
that I may lose myself to find myself in thee,
the ground of my rest,
the spring of my being.
Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself,
as saviour, master, lord and king.
Give me deeper power in private prayer,
more sweetness in thy Word,
more steadfast grip on its truth.

Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action,
and let me not seek moral virtue apart from thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman,
that my being may be a tilled field,
the roots of grace spreading far and wide,
until thou alone art seen in me,
thy beauty golden like summer harvest,
they fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but thee,
no law but thy will,
no delight by thyself,
no wealth but that thou givest,
no good but that thou blessest,
no peace but that thou bestowest.

I am nothing but that thou makest me,
I have nothing but that I receive from thee,
I can do nothing but that grace adorns me.

Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

from The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, ©2001, The Banner of Truth Trust, p.75.

And quarry deeply He did. 
So many things I’d long repressed and hadn’t even thought of in years came bubbling up to the surface over the last 40 days. I caught myself saying, “Not that deep God!”
But then this final week as I’ve read through the accounts of Jesus’ final days on earth, his prayer for us, his agony in the garden, the mock trial and crucifixion.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5 

So as Lent ends, there’s nothing left for me to do but lift my empty hands, and pray:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.

ReLent: Fighting

I waited for the service to start sitting at the end of my row, while people bustled around me, greeting each other, reserving their spot with their Bibles while they went to get donuts and coffee. 

I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I knew I couldn’t even muster a Sunday morning smile and “fine,” today. 

I closed my eyes and tried to clear my head of all the boiling emotions. Church was starting soon.

Why am I angry? 

The thought caught me off guard. I wasn’t angry… just frustrated. Bitter maybe. Ok, definitely a little angry. Fine. Pretty furious, if I was honest.

But why? 

I felt abandoned, because God had taken some people out of my life that I really wasn’t ok with letting go. 

I was overwhelmed and feeling way over my head at work. 

And I felt lost. So many things God was doing just didn’t make sense. 

I funneled all my anger into one question. I wanted to scream: 

God, where are you?

But I just sat there, in my pew. And fought. 

Why is this happening to me? Why have you allowed these things to happen to people I love? I just don’t understand what you’re doing. WHERE ARE YOU? 

I couldn’t remember the last time I felt like I’d really heard from God. Or the last time I knew I’d seen God at work. Or the last time I felt like He was actually working in me, and using me. 

Church would start soon. I had to cram my thoughts into the back of mind to deal with later. To distract myself, I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through emails. I opened my daily Lent devotional from SheReadsTruth, and read: 

And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

– Jonah 4:4

I stared at the screen, and let it sink in. 

Do you do well to be angry?

It hurt to say it, but I knew the answer. 

No. 

Of course no. Like Jonah, I’d witnessed God’s mercy. I deserved nothing, and received so much. 

Besides, what good did my anger do? What did it accomplish? It didn’t keep me from feeling alone, overwhelmed, and lost. It put a barrier between me and the only One who could help. 

I don’t remember the sermon. But I left feeling more hopeful than I had in a long time. I knew the timing of the email wasn’t an accident. 

On Monday, before I started on the daunting tasks for the day, I read: 

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

– Joshua 1:7-9  

Then the next day, a friend shared stories from their life with me that reminded me of two things:

  • I’m not alone.
  • And as trite as it sounds, God really does have a bigger picture at work.

When I took my seat the next Sunday, while none of the situations in my life had changed, everything else had. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t afraid. And I knew where God was. 

Of course, He’d never left.

Relent Part 1: Failing. ReLent = Starting Lent over, and the idea of giving up, which seems to be what these 40 days have been all about.

ReLent, Part 1: Failing

I just have to say, I’ve really sucked at Lent this year. 
And I mean, really, really sucked. Miserably failed.
Two years ago, I observed Lent for the first time, and it transformed my life. Last year, I didn’t do it, and I missed it. So this year, I noted the date weeks before and planned to spend some time meditating on what I would fast from this year. Then, I promptly forgot all about Lent until Ash Wednesday. 
I spent the first week of Lent trying to decide what to fast from. Ice Cream? Too easy for someone who’s lactose intolerant. Coffee? I would die. Facebook? Need it for my job. Could I fast from stress? Busyness?  Worry? I wish. Then I’d actually have time to sit and think about what I actually should fast from. 
I finally decided on meat, “rich meats” to be exact. Several weeks ago, I started attending a Bible study on the book of Daniel. Beth Moore suggested fasting from “rich meats,” like Daniel and his friends did. She defined “rich meats” as beef, pork, not including chicken and fish. 
This might be far too easy to really count as a sacrifice, I thought. 
I was so wrong. 
I quickly lost count of the times I messed up … the corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, the pepperoni pizza, the Ruben sandwiches, the bacon … so many times.
 I should be so much better than this. I can’t believe I messed up again. Maybe I should just give up. But this is so simple! Surely if I just try harder, I can get it together …
Another day, another failure. Frustration turned to anger. 
Finally, I collapsed on the couch, curled up in a miserable ball of failure, and cried.
I CAN’T DO THIS. 

It was sob and a prayer.


Yes. That’s the point. 

It was a still small voice. Not audible, felt, more than heard. 

And suddenly, the light began to dawn. That’s the point. In order for me to stop rushing and be still, I had to come to the end of myself. 


Now, I was ready to listen. 

But that didn’t mean I’d like what I’d hear. 


ReLent, Part 2: Fighting, is coming soon. 

About the name, ReLent. The prefix “re” has the idea of re-doing, starting over, starting again. In some ways, I started my Lent over at this point. I started following the She Reads Truth Lent series, and its changed everything. 

“Relent” also means to give up, and give in. So far, that’s been a recurring theme for me.

Have you ever observed Lent, or are you observing it now? (If not, you might be interested in the post I wrote two years ago, 4 Reasons To Observe Lent, Even If You’re Not Catholic.)

I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments (Please tell me I’m not alone in failing at fasting… K thanks!).

A New Adventure

“Normally, I have a very sweet disposition as a dog; in fact, more than once, James suggested I make the change permanent. The tail, I could live with, but the fleas… they’re murder.” – Sirius Black, The Order Of the Phoenix Movie

We have a baby. 

Baby dog, that is. 

The magnitude of this reality hasn’t fully sunk in yet. We’re actually dog owners at last! 


I’ve wanted a puppy of my own ever since we said goodbye to Kopek. While Brian wanted a dog too, eventually, he insisted we couldn’t possibly get a dog until we bought a house – a goal at least a year or two down the road. 

But a week ago today, a “chance” encounter changed everything. 

It was raining. It never rains here, but on Saturday, the day we were supposed to take the youth group to hand out flyers for a new church and do yard work, it was raining. 

I was tired. It’d been a long, busy week at work, all I really wanted to do was snuggle under the covers and read while listening to the rain drumming on the window. And I had a good excuse for not going, I thought, because I’d pinched a nerve while working out that made it painful to walk, even stand, sometimes. The day before had been agonizing, but miraculously (and unfortunately for my alibi) the pain had vanished completely. 

Without a good excuse, I begrudgingly decided to go, still hoping that our service day would get rained out. 

Although the forecast called for an 80-90% chance of rain all day, not a drop fell all morning. 

I sleepily walked up and down driveways hanging flyers with a group of ladies from church, when a SUV pulled up to the curb and rolled down the passenger window.

“Are you missing a dog? Or would you like one for free?” the driver called. We gathered around the car. 

He was left under a lawn chair in her yard with a bowl of cat food and a Harkins’ Theaters cup of water. We could see where his collar once was, but his previous owner had taken it with them when they left him. 

I quickly snapped a few pictures and texted them to Brian. “Want a free dog? This little guy was abandoned and is free to a good home.” I anxiously checked my phone for a response. Finally: 
“Ok.” 
I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Okay?”
“Well maybe.” 
I set up a time to come by her house later that afternoon so that Brian could meet him in person. After a call to our apartment complex and a few walks around the block, Brian was convinced.
We drove straight to the nearest Petco. And then we took our baby home. 

We felt something like new parents must feelWhat do we do now? What if he gets sick? What if we don’t do this right? 

And what are we going to call him? After much discussion, Sirius Black, so named after the character in Harry Potter, stuck. 

First, Sirius Black can transform into a big shaggy black dog. Sirius is small, yes, but because he’s a terrier mix of some kind, he is shaggy. and with his little beard, he kind of reminded us of the Sirius Black in the Harry Potter movies. Plus, Sirius Black was disowned by his family, our Sirius was disowned by his original family. And, he’s pretty quiet for a puppy, and has a “serious” disposition. 

Sometimes, anyway. 

He has ninja toilet paper snatching skills. Seriously.

We’ve taken him to the vet, got his first round of puppy shots, and discovered that he’s about 12 weeks old. We’re crate training, housebreaking, and teaching to sit and not bite. 

And so begins this new adventure of dog parenting! Wish us luck! 

Have you ever had a puppy? What books/classes/websites do you recommend for us?