Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Open My Eyes To See you Lord

On Sunday mornings Chase and I find ourselves hanging out with some of the most gifted, growing, group of middle-school- aged kids around. We hit the doors to the youth room, and the energy explodes onto us and we love it! This has been our Sunday morning fun for 3 years now, and with every passing year, I wonder at the beauty, that is the opportunity to do life with these kids teens.

As I sat around a table with my small group girls, just this past week, I realized that these moments spent together are creating margin for vulnerability and trust building. Sitting there,  I worked my way back to my own Junior High years. I can still remember just how unique they were. I found myself in this space between wanting to be a kid holding on to my childhood, and forging forward into my teenage years of complicated relationships and greater responsibilities. This pendulum from childhood to adulthood known as the teenage years, is so much more than just an eclipse of change, but changes of all kinds are happening and its hard and rewarding, overwhelming and beautiful all at once.

Transitioning back, I want to be relevant for these girls, sensitive and present. I want to sympathize with their struggles and encourage them. Every week I whisper prayers over our time together. "Meet us here today Lord, guide my words and open all of our hearts towards you."

This week we talked about how we can't physically see God himself. We raised questions and talked through what that really means. We sat in silence some moments, and in deep discussion for others.

I just wish all of you could see this beauty unfold.

These girls, pouring out their hearts, asking the hard questions, desiring to truly see God; even if it isn't in the way the world would expect to see Him. I can sense their hunger for truth. My heart rejoices over and over.

Thank you Lord, this is what I have asked you for. 

As we are closing up our discussion, I pray over each of the beautiful souls before me. "Lord, help us to see you this week, open our eyes to the ways you are moving, give us boldness to be all in for you..." 

You know what girl 's heart He is moving in this week, right?

 yup, it's mine.

He has shown Himself to me, over and over and over again. I acknowledge Him and give myself to thankful praise, only to be met again by His tangible presence in my midst. Oh Father, in asking for open eyes, you are reminding me that it is you who sees me. 

You know me. 
You love me. 
You see me. 

One thing I know for certain, He is faithful, so faithful. He loves His children with an extravagant love. I am learning alongside girls half my age, about just how mysterious and wonderful our God is and I couldn't be more grateful! Sometimes in life I forget that it isn't me doing anything noble at all, it is God who chooses to use my grace- covered- life for His glory and my good.

Today, I am thankful.

I'm thankful for the 10 girls who gather with me week after week, for the community that surrounds me daily and for a God who sees me, and opens my eyes to see Him too.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Beautiful Hope, in a Broken World

Open my eyes LORD to see you clearly. 

This has been my prayer chant for quite some time now. Every morning these words lay pressed against my heart and make their way off my tongue. They are a constant reminder that I am in need, that this world is broken and that I still have hope.

I've witnessed a lot of pain in this life, heart pains, emotional pains, spiritual pains and physical pains. Each one hard  with its own set of hurts. Somedays I think I've seen a lot. Enough. Then I spend an evening filled with those who have gone before me, and it puts everything back into prospective. 

A couple of weeks ago, my sister and I set out to catch up with our beautiful grandmothers, one in her 80's and the other in her 90's. 

Yes, we are richly blessed. 

As we sat there some in chairs, others in walkers, we were all fully there. Those hours I spent were some of the most truly beautiful hours I've had since then. To engage in conversation with women who have lived a full life. Who have seen and experienced so much more than me, is a wildly beautiful thing. They will never know how much their lives have impacted me. As a child would I have never expected to enjoy each of them this long or this immensely.  

When we walked into my first grandmother's apartment, she greeted us with a smile as she turned off her cassette tape player (yes it is as old as you would think, but evidently still works like a champ) and mentioned that she was just catching up on the latest sermon from her home church. Her days are full. Not the kind of full I am used to, but the kind that is life-giving and slow. She told us stories about many of the friends she has made, and how she convinced a new friend to "quiz" her as she recites her scripture memory. Oh and did I mention that this new friend wants nothing to do with Jesus. God works in mysterious ways, even in the library lounge of an assisted living home. After a beautiful visit, we said our good-byes as she watched us walk down the hallway, making sure we knew the way.

 My sister and I giggled about her quirks and awed at her beauty as we made our way for visit number two. 

As we arrived to the nursing home and rounded the corner to our grandma's room, we gave a little knock on the door and opened slowly. There she was gathering her things for a her shower before bed. She sat down and with a big smile waved us in to sit down. "I can shower any day" she said, "Come on in, that can wait, you girls are important!" That's all she had to say, and I knew it was going to be another lovely visit. We caught up on many things, and she knows Chase and I love Michigan football, so she was sure to ask how the team is looking for this year and if we plan to make it to many games. I love that lady! She smiled the whole evening, something I haven't seen her do in recent months, as her age has become more visible, and health weaker. My sister made note of it and told her how much we liked her smile. She just lit up again and confessed that she can't stop time or make herself younger, so she might as while smile while she is here. Beautiful. 

What you may not know about these two beauties, is that they have experienced more pain, in every arena, than I care to ever behold. Between the two, they have buried husbands, gone with little, confronted unfaithfulness, lost siblings, survived cancer, suffered heart failure, watched children go through lots of hard, and on and on. Yet here they are, praising the name of Jesus, through the hurts of the past and smiling through the hard of today. 

Even as I reflect on our time, I am emotional and undone as I bask in their living testimonies. Whatever you and I are facing today, whatever pain or hurt that has caused your heart to say " Isn't this enough yet Lord?" Let's remember that he doesn't promise to save us from the fire, but he does promise to walk through every step with us. We are living for so much  more than this world has to offer and that is our hope. That is why we can smile as our bodies fail us and sing to him when the waves tempt to overtake us. He hears you, He knows you, and He is with you

And so I say again, "Open my eyes LORD to see you clearly".

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thinking outside the Box - Home Design

Welcome to the weekend! 

Has this week slipped away secretly for anyone else out there? I am not entirely sure where this week has gone and at the same time I am ready, so ready for the weekend! But before I check out, I wanted to share a few things we have done around our home recently. My hope is that you might be inspired to create in your own space too however that looks. 

Trust me, you don't need tons of money and expertise to create and design your space, seriously! Anytime someone comments on our house or the things we have changed to make it our own, I say "thank-you" and then add something like, " It's so fun to have this little old house to create in, we have made countless mistakes and mess-ups, but we are learning and laughing so it's totally worth it."

Take it from an amateur like me, the experience will come with each new project. Sometimes learning how to do a new task isn't always fun in the moment, but the outcome is usually worth all the effort and builds confidence too. 

Don't buy new, or from the most familiar place to shop. Wait for deals, and sign up for coupons. 

These are the few nuggets of advice we have learned along the way in order to design on a budget. Without these, we honestly wouldn't be able to change up our space much at all. Chase is so gracious to go along with many of my ideas, but that wouldn't be the case at all, if everything I wanted to accomplish was bought on a whim. Usually I have to wait a while for just the right piece to come along and at just the right price. Trust me though, it can be fun and it forces me to get creative. Sometimes this looks like simply rearranging the things I already have in my house. It's amazing what you can dig up in your basement too! 

Here is our back entry in all of its "before" glory. Technically this is after we painted the walls white, so it actually looks better than the dark paneling that was originally there. Which reminds me, that paint is #1 on the list for updating. A little paint can go along way when trying to update a space. 

...And here is what it looks like today...

This back entry, which used to be my least favorite space in our house, is now one of my favorite things to look at. Along with painting the dark paneling white, we painted the doors blue (with leftover paint) which lightened up the space even more. We redid the ceiling (with leftover materials) installed a new light ($25) to replace the florescent light bulb that hung on the drop ceiling before. We found the coat rack out in nature and the hooks/ knobs were 50% off at hobby Lobby ($20) The "hello" sign and arrow were also Hobby Lobby clearance purchases, together totaling $25. To completely redo this space it cost us well under $100.

Welcome to our living room corner...

 This space is just one of those areas that has never been completed, and recently I have grown tired of what it looks like. We added the chair last year and that is what we had in the budget to spend. So I gathered things from around the house which were given to us (black table and lamp) to make do until the budget allowed. Also, the coffee table decor was getting to me too...but sometimes contentment is a good lesson to learn.

 Ahhh...Finally a space which reflects my personality better.

This adorable scale was given to me as a gift (thanks Summer) and the plant on top was pulled from my dinning room table. I had the metal lamp in our guest room and decided to swap it out for the lamp that was previously there. Next I found the round side table at an antique market. I was thrilled to pieces when I saw it and about 2 min. after talking the lady down a few dollars, I was the proud owner of this little treasure and out only $25. I added the little glass knob for $2, just to give it a little extra character. The wall hanging didn't break the bank either. The frame was given to me months ago and sat in my garage collecting all sorts of garage dust, until the other day when I pulled it out, cleaned it up, and painted it white. There was no backing to it, so I decided to get creative. I pulled out my writing techniques and got to work. In the end, this entire space from picture to picture cost me a grand total of $27.

Oh and remember how I snagged one of my plants from our  dining room table? I solved the one problem of having something to place on my scale, but the remaining two plants back in the dining room were beginning to look a little out of place without plant #3. Again I was trying to practice contentment, no big deal right? Easier said than done, at least for me, but then one day I was passing by or more accurately stated, perusing The "dollar" section at Target. $3.18 later here is what we have.

Observation: I am Just now realizing that I might have a lighting issue in our house. Apparently the lamps and lighting fixtures can make or break a space. This may not always be the case, but changing them out does dramatically change the look in my opinion. 

 Here is our kitchen coffee corner. The space I usually visit first thing each morning. What do you suppose is the thing that bugs me the most about this space? Of course, the lighting. I've known for a while now how I wanted this coffee spot too feel, and I've had some success in finding what I like, but definitely not for the right price...until last Friday that is...

 It truly is amazing how much surface space wall lighting can create. Eventually I will figure out the cord situation, but for now I am happy. The best part is that I had coupons upon coupons and walked away spending only $18 for the light. It was originally over $40 and everything else that I have looked at (some of which would have cost me even more for electrical work) ran from $50-$100 easily. As you have probably picked up, I don't go for the name brands most times, although good quality is important so that I am not always replacing, but in some areas, you can get around spending the pretty penny and still get decent quality. Notice also that the coffee canisters, used to hold pasta (first picture) and they are sitting in another target wire basket to add some texture. The black chalk sign was a hand-me-down, so I didn't feel badly spending the $2 on the tins for coffee making supplies. All in all $25 to freshen up and tone down my coffee space to give it that bistro look, instead of the juvenile color craze from before.

Last on the docket for tonight, the kitchen...

This change has more to do with season shifts than anything, oh and also the lighting sconce, because of course. Notice the black sign from my updated coffee corner? I am telling you people, use what you have, I am always amazed at how different the same piece can look in a new place. Maybe I am blinded and totally off, but at least I feel comfortable in my reused space:) 

Summertime was calling for a lighter approach, and when I saw this sign at World Market, I knew it would be just the thing to make it happen. The problem was, I couldn't justify spending the $15 on it, "just because" so I passed it up but couldn't stop thinking about it. Turns out we ended up buying all of our deck, (wait, we have a deck?? Yes! and that post is on its way upon deck completion.) furniture there and because we invested so much into their company for our deck entertainment, they decided to throw the sign in too! Well, really is was money back in the form of a coupon, but just as well, right? As you can see the dishes still remain, and we use them all so often that dust doesn't have time to collect:) I did change out the lighting sconce, which is hardly noticeable in this picture, but again, light an airy was calling out to me,  and so for $4 I made the switch. Final total for this transformation was a whopping $4.

I hope you enjoyed this little mini tour through our home. I really do hope that it inspires you to think outside the box when it comes to making your space your own. Don't get too overwhelmed with the projects that you see before you today. Trust me, I have lists upon lists of " to do's" and the changes that you see here from picture to picture didn't happen over night either.

I know from experience that it can be difficult even to decide where to begin, but sometimes you just have to start somewhere. Anywhere. What is that one thing that bothers you every time you pass by it? Is it a big fix? Is there something you can put there or do differently until you can truly make it look how you want? I'd love to help you brainstorm ideas if you feel stuck. Sometimes a little dose of community is just what I need when I'm in my own rut, maybe for you too?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Learning to Listen

Last week at this time, I was packed into a jeep with my husband and our good friends, along with a car load filled-to-the-brim with anything and everything we might possibly need on our  camping trip in the U.P. I can't help but smile as I think back. Life stood still for a few days, and it was glorious, but all good things must come to an end. This week, life resumed as normal and the everyday has brought new challenges, victories, defeats, joys, and lessons. 

So many things. 

I am convinced that the Lord had the placement of our trip planned out in His time. He knew what I would come home to, He knew what my heart needed in order to prepare for the days ahead. 

He always knows. Always. 

Our time away was brilliant. I can remember having to stop myself several times, to give thanks and praise for the good. At moments I would be so filled with joy I thought I might just explode into a million joy-filled pieces. I don't know how else to describe it to you other than there are no words to explain just how life-giving our time away was. 

As we made our way home, lamenting that our vacation would in fact be over by the time our wheels hit the edge of the driveway, I had a few quiet moments to really reflect on What I felt the Lord doing in my heart. You see, whenever nature is involved I seem to inherit extra amounts of "take aways" and perspective. So, as I looked out the car window into the fields, I whispered to my mind to make like my heart and quiet down completely, and then I began to listen

Soon I would discover that the very act of  listening would be the thing I was looking to savor. 

As I traveled back through my memories of the trip, I rested on this one afternoon in particular. I was sitting outside and I remember shutting down all of my swirling thoughts so that I could hear the sounds of nature. It began slowly at first and then, as if I had entered a world of another kind, I began to pick up and take notice of all the many distinct noises around me. The happy tunes of some birds and the cries of others, the waves crashing onto shore, the foot steps of fellow campers, the hums of the bugs, the laughter of my friends, and the leaves of the trees rustling in the wind. 

I was in awe. 

Many of these sounds surround me on any given day, and yet I hustle right by them, to rushed to take notice, to listen.  

There is something sacred that happens when we listen, earnestly and genuinely. We learn things about our surroundings and the surroundings of others. When we take our listening ear with us, our days become filled with the joys, hurts, longings, and brokenness of the people we do life with. The strangers we encounter and the child who is seeking. 

I desire to be a listener. The reality is that all too often I am content to be a hearer only. When I choose to just  hear, life's noises lose their sacredness; they become annoying and tiresome to me. But when I choose to listen, oh what a beautiful thing it can be. I can see into the hearts around me, and act out of compassion instead of frustration. The kind of compassion that only comes from above. I am so thankful that God doesn't merely hear me, instead he listens out of the depths of love. 

Time away is good. It is necessary. I am grateful for the laughter and the fun, so grateful; but especially for the lesson in listening. I think we all desire to be heard and known. Who needs your listening ear today? You might just be surprised at what you hear, if you tune your ears to station of listen. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Whole30- Day 30

Well folks, we have arrived!

Today is our last day on this whole30 adventure.

In T-8 hours Chase will be having his ever anticipated non-whole30 midnight snack, a well deserved one at that! I am mostly just amazed that he managed to go without all the things for 30 whole days! (pun-intended) We even made it through 4th of July celebrations, birthday parties and family gatherings without giving in.

So proud.

I would say that the last 15 days were much easier all around than the first 15. There were several days of food boredom, and no-sugar-headaches, but I wouldn't trade those things for the process. We are both feeling good, but the biggest victory goes to my digestive system. I'm sure I've bored you enough with the details, but the outcome of the last 30 days has helped me so much. I'm just beyond thankful that I can function normally and in a natural way.

Going forward, Chase will resume adding in those grains, carbs and dairy for snacks and lunches, but my goal is to continue cooking our dinners with a whole30 mindset. As for me, I have had such a positive outcome that I hope to continue eating this way long term. Every few weeks I will add in something new for a "test phase" to see how my digestive system responds to it. I think I have a pretty good idea what those trigger foods are for me, but I am also curious to see how my body will respond one food at a time.

I'd love to share more of our experience with you, if you are interested in hearing the details. Feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Here are a few last pictures from our whole30 kitchen before I close this one out. Thanks for following our journey. I hope it has been insightful or at the very least amusing.

And last but not least...Chase's post-whole30 midnight snack:) 

I hope you all have a very blessed night!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Minimalist in the Making-Part 2

Over half of my wardrobe is gone, and it feels really good.

I'm serious. 

As you read in my last post about becoming a minimalist, you know that there have been some significant changes in the size and quality of my wardrobe as of late. 

For example, instead of having a closet of 200+ items and two full dressers packed in tight; I now have a closet which holds a comfortable 60 items. This isn't just 60 summertime shirts, or just my dressy clothing I would like to hang up. No. This is the crux of my wardrobe. Every tank top, cardigan, blouse, hoody, running zip up...(you get the picture) is included in the 60 items. The only clothing I have outside of my closet are, undergarments, socks, swimming attire, everyday pants/ running bottoms, dresses and coats. Ok, so that list may sound longer than it should, but all of that fits in 4 dresser drawers (not overflowing) and a small downstairs closet. 

I don't want to give you the impression that I am stopping here. Yes, I have gone through and completed phase 2 as I would call it, but there is still more work to be done before I would consider myself a true minimalist. 

Allow me to explain. 

The Minimalist Phase Break-Down. 

Phase 1: The initial thinking process of desiring change and forming an action plan. 

Phase 2: The first major sweep, where you eliminate the most significant amount of clothing. 

Phase 3: The evaluation of what's left and what still needs to go, finding your style. 

Phase 4: The replacement of core items that are crucial to your everyday style, but aren't currently in good quality (ie: your one pair of jeans that has washed out knees and needs to go, but not until you buy a replacement pair) 

Phase 5: The second minor sweep, where you really get serious about this. All necessary items have been replaced, and you've had time to gauge what your true style is. All things you are still not wearing, or don't fit within your style, are tossed out here. 

Phase 6: The long term minimalist plan. The size and quality of your wardrobe is where you want it to be, and now comes the true test. Embracing this new lifestyle and sticking to it. 

*Just as a side note, these phases were completely created by me, there is no studied philosophy to these phases or set in stone, This is how you must do it, lawI am simply sharing this with you so that you might have a clearer picture of my journey and also for you, if you find it helpful in your own life. I can only speak for myself, but whenever I am faced with a new lifestyle that sounds intriguing, it is extremely hard for me to just make it happen, unless I have a process laid out for me. In the rare case that you might process like I do, your welcome.  

So let's address the thing you may be in question over. Phase 4.

But Lindsey, I thought you were reducing your wardrobe not replenishing it?!? 

Yes and no. 

The items that I am replacing, are just that, replacements. The old will still go away. I realize that life happens, you journey through different seasons, and one in-particular that endures 9 months and guarantees  a wardrobe shift. (NOT announcing anything here, just forward realistic thinking.) So yes, the minimalist tag, doesn't mean I'll never again buy a single item of clothing. It also doesn't condone buying (still less than before) clothing just because It fits my style and I love it. Rather, if there is something that is a true need, not want and I've spent time considering all of the things, I will buy it, and with no regrets. 

I feel the need to mention here, that even though I have "ban" myself from the sales rack rush, that doesn't mean I will only buy expensive things from downtown boutiques. 

That would be very counterproductive. 

I desire to increase in good stewardship. I'm not entirely sure what that will look like in every circumstance from here on out, but I do know that the desire is there and that is what I will be striving for. Shared success in this area is welcomed! 

And so the journey continues!

I'm truly thankful that you stopped by, you're welcomed back anytime! This life is a constant journey isn't it friends? I'm glad you chose to journey with me today, through this part of the woods!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Whole30 Day12- Things I'm Learning

The other night I was congratulating Chase on making it through day 7, one whole week! His response was, "Can we just not talk about it.?"

Ok, I get it.

All I can say is that he loves me something fierce and he's also not a quitter. Overall I think we are managing pretty well. We've survived the moody days, and utter exhaustion from last weekend, which was actually rather intense. I am hopeful that our best days are yet to come. Even though it has taken time for our bodies to adjust, I have already seen improvements in our energy levels this week and in my digestive system. I haven't taken medicine in 13 days and my body seems to be adjusting better than expected! This may not sound like a -shout it from the roof tops- sorta thing, but if you know my history, it's definitely more like a -scream it from the mountains- celebration.

I'm thankful.

A few things I'm learning and admitting after (nearly) two weeks:

-Olive oil is a weekly purchase.

Do we appear oily? I think we've gone through more olive oil in the past two weeks, than our entire married life to date. One reason being that I'm making our own dressings and sauces. I guess we were getting some of that from the store bought dressings before, but I'm still amazed at how quickly the bottles are disappearing! It feels really good to have found my space back in the kitchen though. Even after this thing is all over, I hope to still try and make most of our dinners from scratch, with whole30 foods; which will inevitably mean, bring on the EVOO!

-Larabars are indeed like candy.

Oh my goodness.

I waited until day 5 of the whole30 to have my first larabar, and I'm sad I waited that long. I really do love them, especially with my black coffee. My favorite flavor so far is apple pie. I am a cinnamon and apple girl all the way, so the apple pie larabar was an easy first try, and it didn't disappoint. You could be reading this and think I'm crazy for likening larabars to candy, but after going without any sugar (besides fruit) for almost two weeks, they really are the closest thing to candy I can find! Seeing that I'm so fond of these bars, and they aren't the cheapest thing to buy, I may attempt to make my own this weekend. A couple of friends shared their success in making homemade bars last night, and it was just the thing I needed to give it a try.

Disclaimer: If I start to smell like pureed dates, forgive me, but at least you'll know my tummy is happy and pockets full. I'll share too!

-Fruit infused water is delicious.

Why oh why have I neglected to drink my water like this for so long?!? Sure I will put a lemon or lime in my water every once in a great while, but why not strawberries, blueberries, oranges, watermelon, mint, cucumber, basil, raspberries and more? I'm loving my water and so are my taste buds. I do realize that I may be extra excited to have fruit infused water, because plain water is my one and only other drink of choice at the moment; but I think this will be one of those ongoing life changes for me post whole30. As you can see I'm starting small with the lifestyle changes, but a change is a change no matter how small, right?

-Shh..We are having ice-cream.

Ok, so let me explain. I know in the whole30 book it talks about not trying to recreate processed foods with whole30 compliant ingredients, but we cheated and it feels good! Chase finished up his last class for the summer last week and I really wanted to celebrate him and his accomplishment, especially since he pushed through the exam while we were on day 6. (detox drowsiness)  So I went off the beaten path and made ice-cream. If you are on the whole30 right now and don't find this helpful for your journey, please skip through this next part, because I am about to tell you how to make this celebratory ice-cream. :)

Ingredients: frozen bananas, cashew butter, and coconut milk.

Throw them all in the blender and blend together until combined and the consistency of soft-serve. I added a little bit of cinnamon to mine, and Chase gave it a thumbs up, so it must be good right? Either that, or he loves me more than I realize!

I guess this is the part where I share a few photos from my kitchen this week for your own inspiration!

(blurry, sorry) Almond crusted fish, overtop roasted asparagus

Spaghetti squash, topped with avocado pesto and chicken, next to a kale berry salad
Chicken fiesta salad with homemade guacamole and salsa

Berry fields salad with roasted broccoli and cauliflower and balsamic vinaigrette