staying faithful : band-aids and burns and pie

Sometimes, you roll with the punches.

Sometimes, you just get punched.

Over the past few weeks the ratio has not favored rolling. And because humans are built to avoid taking punches, I’ve tried to make things better on my own by showing myself some grace.

I tend to be really good at doing that. Gold medal grace-giver, right here. And in a variety of ways, too! They include:

  • having frozen yogurt for dinner
  • skipping workouts in favor of sitting in the sunshine reading magazines
  • having pie with a side of cookies for dinner
  • watching an indeterminable amount of NFL Network
  • watching an indeterminable amount of Friday Night Lights
  • not washing dishes
  • not doing laundry
  • have we talked about pie?

[ last night’s dinner-and-distraction grace session ]

I really believe that sometimes it’s advantageous to skip a workout and rest. Sometimes it’s healthy to not even consider the presence of vegetables on a dinner plate. Sometimes it’s nice to zone out for a few hours and imagine your life as Tami Taylor.

As per all of the above, I’m a big advocate for giving yourself some grace from time to time (especially when it comes in a pay-per-ounce self-serve cup). But…

Oh, is there ever a but!

Sometimes Most times when I give myself grace what I’m really doing is giving myself an excuse to be less than my best.

It’s so true.

There is a time and a place for grace. But consistently responding to life’s problems by taking the easy way out is kind of like trying to heal a burn with band-aids. They might cushion the wound for awhile. But it won’t improve without proper care. A burn requires real medication.

Self-discipline, though not as enjoyable as grace, is real medication.

Because when you’re getting punched, standing up and fighting back is ALWAYS better than backing down.

Fighting back with self-discipline on the hard days – working out when it’s the last thing I want to do, swapping quinoa for cookies, muscling through a to-do list on my computer instead of sitting motionless in front of my computer – it makes the hard days feel so much more victorious. It put a W in a column that would have been all L’s otherwise. It’s worth every ounce of stingy effort. Fighting back with a response that doesn’t just feel good to me but actually is good for me is an action that is so much more in my favor in the long run.

It’s an action that will make me better. In all ways.

Yesterday was a hard day. I did not fight back. I flew my white flag high and proud (clearly: see above). And some days are like that, as much as I wish they weren’t. But even though I was pay-per-ounce soft-serve girl yesterday, today I am praying for the resolve to be this girl:

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
When she speaks, her words are wise,
and she gives instructions with kindness.
She carefully watches everything in her household
and suffers nothing from laziness.

[ Proverbs 31:25-27 ]

And to live this way:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

[ Hebrews 12:1-3 ]

If you need a beneficial break, take it and don’t look back! Soak up all the grace you can so that you are ready to fight the good fight again tomorrow!

But if you can marshal some reserves of strength and keep pressing on today, if you can show yourself some personal tough love knowing that you are really giving yourself a gift in the process, if you can fix your eyes on Jesus and trust that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him,

all the better.

wedding wednesdays : 5.30.12

We’re doing something a little different for Wedding Wednesdays today. Instead of sharing gorgeous weddings, I want to share the gorgeous work of some of my very favorite photographers. Just because they’re AMAZING! These people are talented, committed to their craft, and they work HARD. That combination results in the heart-leaping-out-of-your-chest beauty you’ll find on each of their websites and blogs.

Seriously, your day will be better if you take a few minutes to take a peek through their eyes:

amy paulson

(you need to see these!)

gina zeidler

(you need to see these!)

love the schultzes

(you need to see these!)

nancy noble

(you need to see these!)

nancy ray

(you need to see these!)

ryan estes

(you need to see these!)

shannon nicole smith

(you need to see these!)

good things : discoveries

Recently I’ve discovered a few wonderful things. And they are:

1. NFL Network on Hulu

Um…HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS??? There are no words. Well there are words, and they appear in the picture above. They say, “Need a break? You have been watching for more than 3 hours.”


Well, then.

In my defense, I have no defense. I just love football way too much.

If you’re looking for me between now and September, you know where I’ll be.

2. New Old Soap

I ran out of bathroom soap. Which is only half true, because I have plenty of other soaps that would have no problem making themselves useful in the bathroom. What I really ran out of was eucalyptus mint foaming soap…and I really prefer foaming soap in the bathroom and scrubbing soap for the kitchen because I’m just one big freak. I was just going to use my back-up kitchen soap in the bathroom…but had a stroke of genius instead! I pumped some of the lemon scrubbing soap into what little remained of the eucalyptus soap, added some water, and gave it a good shake. And lo and behold, I now have lemon eucalyptus mint foaming soap that I like even better than the original! (In no small part because I feel like this is a great discovery for all of womankind. Really…just think of the possibilities!!!)

3. Fresh Greens

For the record, don’t believe me when I say that something changed my life. Because it happens often. And while true, it usually doesn’t carry the weight of what most people define as life-changing.

But really…fresh greens changed my life this weekend. And you can take that one to the bank. Or to the farmer’s market, where I purchased said greens.

PEOPLE. OH MY WORD!!! I didn’t think that I could love salad more than I already do. But buying fresh spinach and arugula changed everything. It was like going from Sunny D to fresh squeezed orange juice. So crisp! So fresh! So flavorful!!!

I then proceeded to make six salads. For myself. For the whole week. I’m not even kidding.

Sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, I’ll pluck a few leaves of spinach from the bunch just to snack on because they’re that good.

Oh my word. Totally life changing.

4. Homemade Sound System

That insert on the chute of the food processor? Perfect for holding an iPhone playing Pandora and amplifying the sound x 100. I had many a kitchen jam session this weekend.

Clearly, because there was so much to celebrate!

Two thumbs way up for unexpected goodness all around.

making things happen monday : little fires

One of my favorite steps in The Challenge is making a list of what fires you up – the things that ignite a spark in your life and make you feel alive. Given my general enthusiasm for…everything…this was a tall but enjoyable order. Here’s the abridged version of my final cut:

Romans 12
typing thoughts into words into blogs
long runs
long walks
long weekends at home with Mom and Dad
being outside
sweaty workouts
arugula/spinach/field greens
shoo fly pie
brownie sundaes
speaking truth out loud
praying alone out loud
country music
driving with the windows down
driving while having a revival-style worship jam session in my car
encouraging friends and strangers
Gilmore Girls
healthy food
the Packers
soft serve ice cream
road trips
finding new restaurants
NFL Films
The Food Network

The challenge for me isn’t knowing what fires me up. Clearly. If you have an hour or seven, I’ll be glad to tell you all about the things I love most about life. And, for the most part, the challenge isn’t even doing these things. As someone who veers on the creative side I have a natural tendency to cover all of my spaces with things that inspire me. I also have a natural tendency to protect time to invest in the things on the list above.

The hard part for me is consistency. Because, well, life is inconsistent. If I have a day with lots of free space I will jam-pack it with everything above. But on a normal day with lots of normal things – work and workouts and meals and bills and just LIFE – it’s hard to remember what’s on the list unless it’s starring me in the face.

So I decided to make it stare me in the face every day. I started lighting little fires to fuel the big bonfire above.

What can I realistically do daily to stoke little fires in my life? I can have time and space for the Lord. I can create a beautiful room that I want to live in. I can quit trying to work during breakfast and use that time to flip through magazines and watch ESPN (more on this coming soon!). I can commit to a workout program that makes me to sweat every day (another coming soon!). I can spend a free afternoon in the kitchen cooking to my heart’s content.

But probably the one thing that has made the biggest difference required the smallest commitment:

I can walk around my neighborhood every night, even for just a few minutes.

On almost every night since I’ve come home from Making Things Happen I’ve kept to this commitment. Because it encompasses SO many things that fire me up – time spent outside, the beauty of old houses, tree-lined streets, and nature in full bloom, perfect temperatures, long walks, peaceful quiet or thoughtful reflection or upbeat music, taking time to slow down and really SEE the gorgeous nouns in my life after paying more attention to the verbs during the workday, just taking time to be rather than do.

Sometimes these strolls start out cranky. Begrudgingly. Sometimes they end that way too. But 99% of the time, I come home markedly improved. More peaceful, more joyful, more grateful. And just plain happier.

It’s totally worth the 5 – 50 minutes that I probably would have spent on the internet instead. I’m getting something so much better in exchange.

So, friends, what fires YOU up? And what can you do to sustain little fires in your life (and roast a few marshmallows while you’re at it!)?

And Just To Review:

You can still sign up for the mini Challenge here on the blog! Here’s how to participate:

1. Comment here or on ANY Making Things Happen Monday Post to let me know that you are doing The Challenge.

2. DO The Challenge! It’s a 10 Step process that will set you up for success in every area of life.

3.  During The Challenge, you will receive email encouragement from me and a nice surprise in the mail when you successfully complete all 10 Steps (and you will successfully complete all 10 Steps!).

4. One lucky duck will win a prize package, announced at the completion of The Challenge.

I can’t emphasis what a game-changer this is. If you are a student, a mom, a business owner, a summer vacationer – if you are a human and you want to live life well – you can greatly benefit from the lessons you’ll learn from The Challenge! If you are serious about making the most out of every single day of your life, this is a really great place to start.

Ready Set GO!!!

inspired 5.27.12

photographers, here’s a great new resource!

there is SO much goodness in this post (and in the whole blog!)

mason jar meals!

fellow MTH alum Amy Paulson’s new website is BEAUTIFUL – just like her photos!

I’m so excited the Brighton market is open again for the season

dear Bobbi, I’m a fan of your life

if you have a vehicle and live anywhere near Rochester, you need to take it to Sam Lovetro. these guys are the BEST.

pin of the week:

Banana & peanut butter dipped in chocolate then frozen...YUM!

I can’t wait to try this…

pinned here via here

staying hungry : coconut tilapia with summer quinoa salad

It worked out well that this week’s dinner challenge meal was shelved for a week. It’s PERFECT for Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start to summer!

It’s one part real recipe, one part creative grocery aisle decision making.

Let’s start with the real recipe, this summer quinoa salad from Iowa Girl Eats!

Summer Quinoa Salad

mildly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

serves 4


  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 small red onion, minced
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled & diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (I omitted these because I forgot them!)
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels cut off cob (I used 1 cup of canned corn)
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Juice from 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste


Cook the quinoa as per directions. In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients. After quinoa has cooled slightly add to the rest of the salad ingredients. Mix until combined.

Now, for the tipalia!

Coconut Tilapia

serves 4


  • 4 tilapia filets, about 4oz each
  • 4 tsp coconut oil
  • 4 handfuls cilantro
  • salt and pepper


Roll out a square of parchment paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon of coconut oil and a handful of cilantro.

Then pick up the sides and roll them down together until they form a seam on top of the fish and tuck the open ends underneath. Like this!

Then bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until fish is entirely cooked through.

Rating: 3/5. I liked this one! Very summery. I found out that I preferred the quinoa salad cold and the tilapia hot. But march to the beat of your own drum! Do what you like temperature wise, and enjoy!

wedding wednesday : 5.23.12

I was so excited to see this wedding posted on the SW blog last week. It’s my favorite from V4!!!

image credit : jonathan canlas photography

post credit : southern weddings

This looks like such a sweet wedding. Love the bright colors!

image credit : anne skidmore weddings

post credit : style me pretty

I think the yellow shoes make this whole day. So pretty.

image credit : akil bennett photography

post credit : style me pretty

You had me at bouquet. GORGEOUS!

image credit : louisa bailey weddings

post credit : style me pretty

This is an oldie from the favorites archive, but I just LOVE this wedding!!! Who can say no to a wedding with fried chicken and biscuits?!

image credit : ulmer studios

post credit : southern weddings

staying real(ist) : the water inside my glass

I am a realist to the core. I have no idea whether my glass is half-full or half-empty. All I know is that there’s water inside and I like water.

Over the past week I’ve encountered some car problems. That sentence should actually read, “Over the past decade I’ve encountered some car problems,” because that seems to be my lot in life. Or perhaps I should just stop buying/driving old cars. It’s a vicious cycle.

In any case, I’ve been able to see both sides of the situations that have made themselves all too available to me this week. And because I’m fresh out of other blog fodder to talk about today, I’m going to tell you about them:

Problem: My car was broken into.

Downside: Stolen GPS, spare change keeper, and a few pieces of gum.

Brightside: Apparently the perpetrator wasn’t a fan of Sweet Mint, since that package was left unharmed. Good news, because that one is my favorite! Also, I’m sure the world has derived great joy from watching me navigate the old school way: post-it note directions on the steering wheel interspersed with trial and error. Emphasis on error.

Problem: My AC doesn’t work anymore.

Downside: Open windows + lip gloss = sticky disaster.

Brightside: I live in Rochester, so I use the AC approximately twice a year. And often less than that, because I actually prefer open windows to AC.

Problem: My car did not sound well when I pulled into the parking lot at Wegmans on Saturday.

Downside: Momentary anxiety that I would not be able to restart my car after running into Wegmans for a few things.

Brightside: Have you ever BEEN to the Mt. Read Wegmans??? It’s beautiful! Problems? What problems?

Problem: My car did not sound well when I pulled out of the parking lot at Ontario Beach a few hours after the Wegmans run…and is that smoke? Oh, yes, that is definitely smoke. Accompanied by a fragrance not endorsed by Yankee Candle: burning motor parts.

Downside: The smoke and burning smell pretty much covers it. The noises weren’t ideal, either.

Brightside: Lack of flames is always a plus.

Problem: I need a tow.

Downside: I need a tow.

Brightside: I have Triple A!!!

Problem: I need to hitch a ride with the tow truck driver.

Downside: Considering my track record with this sort of thing, there’s about a 110% chance that this will not end well. When I mentioned to my parents that I’d call when I got home so they’d know I hadn’t been abducted, my mom followed with, “Well, if he holds you ransom and wants money…we don’t have any…so we’ll see you in heaven!”

Brightside: Not being held ransom. And having a great conversation! He called when he entered the parking lot to find me and said, “Wow, I haven’t been here since the 80’s.” So I said, “Oh, really? How come?” He answered, “Well I’m old and fat now, so it doesn’t really hold the same appeal anymore.” And thus began a very enjoyable 20 minute drive to the mechanic.

Problem: I need to walk home from the mechanic.

Downside: My decision to bring 8 magazines, 2 liters of water, enough snacks for everyone at the beach, and the entire contents of my regular purse in my beach bag for the day lost it’s luster when faced with the prospect of dragging said bag across the city on-foot rather than in-vehicle.

Brightside: Free, unexpected weight training! And on a beautiful day, no less!

Problem: I had planned to stop at the grocery store on the way home to get toilet paper. And because I’m excellent at planning ahead, this had become a dire need.

Downside: I realized this after I had already walked the entire way home…and passed several stores which would have gladly sold me a variety of toiletries.

Brightside: I live across the street from a gas station.

Problem: Gas station toilet paper is expensive. 

Downside: I paid $4.30 for two rolls of toilet paper. Let’s review that: I paid $4.30 for TWO ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER.

Brightside: There is no brightside to paying $4.30 for two rolls of toilet paper. That’s just crazy.

And to close: an observation.

These car problems began when I was in North Carolina for Making Things Happen. When I arrived at my hotel I popped the hood…so that I could stare blankly at what was underneath. But in a parking lot that couldn’t have held more than 10 cars, it took 30 seconds for two people to come over and ask if I needed help. One of them offered to check my oil. The other went back to her room to get me a flashlight…so I could stare blankly with good lighting.

On Saturday when my car started spewing smoke and sounding like a dozen cats were trapped beneath the hood I was in a parking lot that held hundreds of other cars. While I was looking for a safe place to park so that I could get towed out, some girl yelled at me, telling me to turn off my car already. Sage advice, there. After that, it took nearly an hour for anyone to stop, which wasn’t a problem because I was just waiting for Triple A to come to my rescue so I didn’t need anything anyway. But the woman who did stop said, “I keep seeing all these big guys walk right past you sitting there with your hood up and I’m like, ‘What the [bleep] is wrong with people?!’ You okay, honey?”

The pessimist would say that people are rude. The optimist would say that nice people can be found everywhere if you wait long enough. This realist says that people are funny, and I love them.

making things happen monday : bedroom makeover

My apartment is pretty tiny. I mean, if you are living in a dorm room or in a third world country (some might say the two aren’t entirely unrelated) then it’s practically a mansion. But if you are a 26 year old living in a city in America, it’s tiny.

My bedroom has always been the most neglected space in my apartment because I spend the least amount of time there. I basically just sleep there because there isn’t room to do anything else.

But not anymore!

While I was at Making Things Happen I realized that a big stumbling block in my nightly productivity was my workspace: the couch. Usually once I’m in for the night I settle in on the couch with my laptop and a disc of Gilmore Girls and/or Friends and/or Friday Night Lights with the intent of going gangbusters on my email/blog/big to-do list. I’m productive for about 5 minutes. After that, it’s distraction central. Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Oh, I love this part! Hey, I’ve been meaning to Google that. What’s new on Pinterest? What’s new on I haven’t refreshed Twitter in awhile. Wait…what was I working on?

And so it goes.

But one of the most valuable things I took away from The Challenge was how to kill distractions.

I had a few ideas in mind for killing distractions, which I’ll be sharing on future MTHM posts, but the biggest game-changer was creating a new space.

New Space #1 : The breakfast/prayer window seat

I really wanted to create a space that would just be for mornings – time spent with the Lord in prayer and reading and time spent with my beloved breakfast. My former routine was to wake up, roll out of bed, put as much of myself into my daily devotions as possible while sitting on my comfy couch in the half-dark, then charge into getting ready for the day. Once I sat down at the computer with my breakfast I’d turn on ESPN and power through as much work as I could get through before running out the door at the last possible minute.

Not exactly a tranquil start to the day.

My college roommate and I bought that little blue couch during our junior year and it’s been a staple ever since. But it wasn’t really being utilized in my bedroom before (here is where before pictures would have been ideal…but when I get an idea for a project, it’s all systems go…no time to document!); it was basically an extra laundry basket since it’s where my workout clothes would usually land.

So, after playing a LOT of Tetris with my bedroom furniture, I finally came up with an arrangement that would give me the space I needed to actually have a bedroom and also include a side space for mornings.

People…I LOVE this space!!! It’s literally the best thing I’ve done since I’ve moved in. Even better than the chalkboards! It’s convenient to start every day here because I can literally roll right out of bed and into the window seat = no excuses. I love opening the windows and starting the day with fresh air and bird songs while I start the day off on the right foot with God. Then after getting ready and making breakfast, I come back to the window seat to eat and flip through my long-neglected magazines. I’ve imposed a no email/blogs/screens rule – I even pack my laptop away in my bag for the day the night before so I don’t have the option! Because ESPN is a critical component to my DNA I do still listen to Mike & Mike on the radio or watch it on my phone, but luckily my iPhone is wise and will only let me watch ESPN if that’s the only app I’m using. I don’t even have the option to multitask while getting my daily sports fix. It’s wonderful.

I can’t even tell you how much better I feel leaving my apartment every morning. Such a good change.

New Space #2 : A colorful new workspace!

As I mentioned above…the couch just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore as a workspace. I knew as soon as I sat down every night it would be a downward spiral into distractions. I also knew that my white walls were driving me crazy (renting = no paint allowed). So I killed two birds with one stone and created a space that will make me happy and keep me focused.

I used a block of scrapbook paper from Michael’s and went to town on the walls. I wanted a sweeping wave of color and I think that’s just what I got! The paper is attached by sticky tack and it’s held really well so far (about 2 weeks later). This paper project literally took me no more than 45 minutes and cost less than $10…and the result is a brand new room that I LOVE to be in.

This is my new place to sit at the end of every day (I’m sitting here right now as I type this post!). I try to block out at least one power hour a night in here so that I can have one focused hour of blogging/photo editing/emailing/job searching/whatever is on the to-do list for the day. And then whatever time I have left before heading to bed can be used to catch up on my favorite distractions – namely, blogs – guilt-free!

Environmental distractions? Conquered! It was such an easy change, but it’s made such a difference!

Now…how about YOU??? What changes could you make to your environment to make your life a better place?

And when are you going to start The Challenge??? Make it today!