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    The 2017 Intentional Christmas Gift Guide to Simplify Your Holidays

    I’m not sure where you are in your Christmas shopping, especially considering it’s still the first full week of December. I’m almost done with mine, but I’m just not quite there with having everything wrapped and underneath the tree yet. I love buying Christmas presents. I love the intentionality behind it with matching up the perfect gift to the person you know would absolutely love it.

    With that, I bring to you the 2017 Intentional Christmas Gift Guide. The fun part about this is that not only am I featuring some small businesses and some run by my friends, but that some of my friends even joined in and told me some of the things that they loved or believe would make a fantastic gift. Thank you to my friends! If you’d like to connect with them, check after a gift idea to see who suggested it and where you can connect with them online.

     

    To Intentionally Support Local Houston Businesses
    • I just cannot stop repping Darlene’s Flower and Gift Shop since I got to work with them for my wedding. (You can see some of their floral work here.) Susan and Judy have a lovely collection of gift items, make absolutely breathtaking bouquets and are an absolute delight to work with. They are also helping share Christmas with those who have lost so much in Hurricane Harvey by offering a 20% off storewide sale through Christmas.
    • Save some stress and outsource your baking needs to Leigh S. in Houston this holiday season. She sells pie, but is available for all baking needs including lemon squares and yule logs. Her homemade, from scratch pies made from fresh ingredients are delectable and incredibly worth saving the stress so you can intentionally be present elsewhere this December. She also makes gluten free and vegan pies. Baking orders preferred by December 21. Please contact Leigh at leigh.stovall@lutheransouth.org
    • As a semi-professional tee shirt wearer, I highly endorse Hello, Grace Tees. Her faith based and fashionable shirts have stolen my heart for sure as they are versatile, neutral and super comfortable. I own several of these super soft, goes with anything tees. I love the It Is Well tee. – Gift idea courtesy of TeeJay. Connect with her via instagram @strateejery.
    • Give the gift of the softest leggings. You may have heard of the leggings with a cult following. LuLaRoe is the creator of those leggings that are known to be so soft that vendors describe it as buttery. They are incredibly soft! There’s a ton of vendors that sell LuLaRoe but LeeAnn & Glenda are a team that I love to see open boxes of merchandise. LeeAnn is a former coworker of mine and such a fun friend to have. Lee Ann and Glenda have a deal for my readers – If you join their VIP shopping group, you can use the code “LLRLove” on your next purchase with LeeAnn and Glenda to receive a free mystery pair of leggings in your size. Please send the code via a direct message link and not in the comments on the page though. Connect with them on their VIP shopping page at LuLaRoe with Lee Ann & Glenda- VIP Shopping Group.
    • Find the perfect dress (or flowy top!) for all year long. LuLaRoe has a TON of vendors that are small business owners. The cool thing is that no two people have the same merchandise so you may need to be connected to multiple vendors to find that just perfect dress or top. Megan and Taylor are two sisters who are constantly on the hunt for cute LuLaRoe combinations for you. I’ve known these girls since junior high and they’re practically family. I love them and know they’d love to help you make all your outfit dreams come true.  Connect with them at LuLaRoe Megan and Taylor or email Megan at Megan@the-williamsons.net.
    • Shop your Facebook feed and give something from a friends’ small businesses they may be interested in trying.You probably get a ton of Facebook posts in your newsfeed from friends selling stuff. Those friends aren’t trying to be annoying, they’re trying to support their families. My friend Leigh (yes, the one that makes pies from above) sells several things including Younique makeup and AdvocarePlease contact Leigh at leigh.stovall@lutheransouth.org to see what she has in stock for Advocare or buy products from either main site under her as a distributor.

     

    To Intentionally Simplify Life
    • Buy either of Emily Ley’s books: Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy and A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living. I’ve read Emily’s book on grace and WOW! It is chock full of little hacks and permission and understanding to give yourself grace. I can’t wait to get my hands on her second book which I’ve heard that there’s even more hacks for living simpler. (Here’s hoping Santa brings it to me!)
    • Get a Breakfast Basket for Christmas Morning like the Stonewall Kitchen Breakfast Basket. This frees them up for the morning or even the day after Christmas as everyone recovers from their Christmas coma. – Gift idea courtesy of Andrea S.
    • The legendary, talked about so very often in our lives, The Anova Sous Vide. To be perfectly honest, I just chose a category for this to fall under. When I asked Rick if that was accurate, he was all-in for it being in this category. “You set it and forget it. It’s a no need to monitor style of cooking”. It also cooks things perfectly. – Gift idea courtesy of Rick, my husband + chef.
    • Simplify your own list by doing a gift theme. There’s a lot of leeway here. Maybe you get everyone on your list a bottle of wine and a box of candies, maybe you give everyone a board game or a book that you think they’d love. Choosing one genre of gift helps limit you when you’re overwhelmed to be able to break it down to a bit smaller of a task. I love practical gifts too so for teachers, I’d get something like this wrapping paper to split among teachers. It is usable for them and not just another coffee mug or gift card – plus, it’s simple and easy for you.
    • Forgo a big Christmas gift and go for something simpler and more heartfelt. Grab a cute or funny Christmas card like this sincere one or this humorous one or this one and write a heartfelt note of gratitude expressing what the relationship with the recipient means to you.
    • Make some redeemable-after-Christmas coupons with things like offers to babysit, an offer to take over your spouses’ chores for a week, offers to sit through one entire vent session without saying a word, or whatever you think your friend/spouse/coworker/family member may need. If you’re not into making it, there’s always “cheating” by buying this pre-made voucher book and just filling it in.

     

    To Intentionally Reach Your Goals
    • Give them a Happy Planner! My friend swears by her planner. Not only is it functional, it is beautifully designed and has so many different add-ons. She literally told me about it a few days after I bought a planner that I’m not loving but am still sticking the year out with. I’d definitely recommend giving one of the kits like the Create 365 Happy Planner Kit as it shows all the add-ons and options for making the most of your planner. – Gift idea courtesy of Sonam. Connect with her via her Youtube Channel, SincerelySonam.
    • There’s nothing like starting a fitness challenge with a fitness tracker. While I have the Fitbit, I’d have to recommend the FitBit Blaze as it has a watch face on it. While I love mine, (when I remember to charge it!) it’s a little frustrating to look down and not see the time.
    • Water Bottles because if you’re getting the move on with a new work out routine, you’ll need to start drinking more water. My personal favorite is the Insulated Camelbak in Stainless Steel but my sweet friend, Belle, recommended this S’well Water Bottle that comes in a variety of colors. Pictured is the Sparkling Champagne, but I’m also digging the Grey Quartz colored one.
    • I love borrowing audiobooks from my local library the only thing is, sometimes they don’t have the book I want and I’m limited on how many I can check out during a month. An Audible Subscription Membership is a fantastic idea for someone who has this same problem as me or anyone sitting in Houston traffic.
    • Gift a class the recipient is wanting to learn about. Maybe they’re not sure if they’d like barre, give them a month membership to see how they’d like it. There’s so many local classes that you can do from baking, sushi-making, sewing and more! If you can’t buck the cash for a class, try finding a book or something that could help the recipient still learn about something. For example, if you can’t afford a sushi making class, get an easy sushi making kit instead. – Gift idea courtesy of Susan L. 
    • Give them an easy way to listen to music, podcasts and books while still completing their run with the Bluetooth Beanie Hat This hat has a built in bluetooth speaker that connects to your phone so you can be freed up for a nice leisure run. – Gift idea courtesy of Leigh S.

     

    To Intentionally Go Deeper in Your Faith
    • Give a Prayer Journal! Really, that can be any notebook like this pretty red one with a kangaroo. I’ve never done prayer journaling but I can’t wait to begin in January. I’ve heard so many good, intentional reasons to journal and how it produces a deeper relationship with God as you can vividly and tangibly see how He answers prayer. I’ve had my eyes on a specific one for years so I finally put it on my Christmas List this year.
    • This book on studying the Bible is another thing on my own Christmas List. I’ve read through a bit of Jen Wilkin’s 1 John study which is free and downloadable from her website here. I love her insights on scripture. In Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin, she delves deeper into how to read the Bible and connect with it in meaningful ways.
    • I’ve read a lot of books in 2017, but Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker soared to the absolute top. It’s been 3 months and I keep marinating over the concepts put forth in it. You can hear all about how much I loved this book in my review here.
    • Bible Studies are a good way to go deeper in your faith and an obvious one as well. Giving one that has meant a lot to you or that you’d love to do with the recipient is a great way to foster accountability with someone else as y’all get the chance to discuss it together. Rick and I are hoping to start The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler soon.
    • One way to connect more deeply with scripture is to scribble on the pages themselves! I’m only half kidding on that one, but I do believe that a KJV Aqua Journaling Bible is an excellent gift whether one is artsy and will be painting in the side or if someone needs a bit more room for arrows, highlights and sermon notes on the side. If you’re not into the KJV, there’s this NIV one. – Gift idea courtesy of Leigh S.
    • A faith-based novel seems like a funky idea for this list because it’s not a Bible Study. I received a gift of The Yada Yada Prayer Group Book One by Neta Jackson a few years ago by a friend. I fell in love hard. I’m currently reading the third. I would have read it sooner but I struggle with finding time for novels but sine I’ve started reading again, I’ve loved the different sphere of influence it has brought to my faith. I love seeing the characters grapple with tough situations and hard questions in ways that I may have never looked at before.

     

    For Intentional Self-Care
    • If you’ve been around here long, you know I have a newly found obsession with candles. They’re a great way to have an area smell great and change the atmosphere. I’m a fan of the Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Stress-Relief Candle, especially for self-care. This is a great gift to have on hand in case you need a last minute gift for someone who wasn’t on your radar too!
    • One thing that I love to do for my own self-care but don’t tend to actually buy for myself is reading magazines. I’d love to get a magazine subscription to a magazine that I already enjoy or even a bundle of individual magazines that I may like to expose myself to the different magazine options out there. I actually gave my mom a Real Simple magazine subscription last year which she loved. – Gift idea courtesy of Andrea S.
    • One thing that I’m starting in 2018 is journaling my prayers. I’ve got a journal picked out already, but this Handmade Ranunculas Laser Cut Wood Notebook caught my eye. It is absolutely gorgeous. I love the versatility of journals whether they’re for grocery lists, mapping out vacations, a daily memory keeper or a mixture of everything which is what mine tend to be!
    • Out of every gift idea that came up, comfy socks came up the most. That cracks me up! It’s such a simple, functional and fun gift. There is something super cozy about a good pair of socks snuggled up watching a rainy day movie. I’m loving these cozy multi-pattern ones from Joyca & Co. – Gift idea courtesy of both Belle V. + Andrea S.
    • A gourmet food item doesn’t seem like self-care, but I know it takes a LOT for me to pull $5 out of my wallet for a high end candy bar. I’d love to receive this Chuao Chocolatiers Mini-Bar Gift Box where I can indulge in trying different flavors and feel guilt free about it.
    • One of the easiest things I do for myself is doing face masks. I’ve tried several over the past year, but I keep returning to Kiehls Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask as my personal favorite. I love how I can put it on and forget about it for 10 minutes as I do other things like get dressed, brush my teeth, etc. It’s one of the few things that can make self-care and productivity go hand-in-hand.

     

    To Intentionally Spread Christmas Cheer To Your Coworkers
    • Everyone needs something nearby on their desk to just jot down a few quick things. That’s why I love fun Memo Note Pads as a gift for a coworker. I’m loving ones like the Knock Knock Action! Items one.
    • Give them a fun way to keep track of the days like a Page-A-Day Desk Calendar. I can’t wait to rip into mine for 2018. I have the The Little World of Liz Climo Calendar that features the cutest animal drawings with puns. There’s also this this fun monthly travel-inspired one by Rifle Paper Co.
    • Help your coworker make their desk a little spiffier with art. I’d love to add the Wilderness Art Print by Fuzzy Ink to one of those walls. Really, I’d love to add anything by this handmade company in D.C. that focuses on the cutest camping and nature inspired prints. A Felt Letter Board is also a fun idea and who knows what inspirational sayings or ridiculousness will be embraced on there. Either way, it’s a fun way to express yourself and change out “artwork” in your office.
    • Yes, the office already supplies pens, but do they supply pretty ones? Probably not. The Paper Mate InkJoy Retractable Gel Pens write beautifully and come in a variety of colors which makes them terrific for organizing things in your planner or just fun to doodle with on the side of your staff meeting notes. –Gift idea courtesy of Sonam. Connect with her via her Youtube Channel, SincerelySonam.
    • Bring some nature inside to their cubicle with a plant. Try this amethyst with a mini air plant for a bit more modern take with zero maintenance.
    • What your coworker probably wants more than anything is some recognition that you both have listened to them rant about their newest Netflix binge and that you’re grateful you share so many hours, frustrations, possibilities and accomplishments with them. Combine the two with something like a Stranger Things Eleven Christmas Card with a sweet, heartfelt note inside. (That’s my latest Netflix binge!)

     

    To Intentionally Be Together As A Family
    • Who doesn’t love a little family competition? With Ticket to Ride, 2-5 players make railroads across the United States to collect the longest train and the routes you need for your hand. This can be a fun little game or pretty cutthroat. It really depends on who is playing and which cards are in your hands. It’s a personal favorite around our house – well, for me at least.
    • A backyard game like cornhole is always fun, but we’re loving Molkky at our house these days. This game is a little bit like lawn bowling. It doesn’t have to be super competitive and definitely works for the not-so-athletic family members as well.
    • Work together to save the world in this board game, Pandemic. I love the fact that while most board games can divide a household, this game draws you together through teamwork and communication as y’all battle it out against the board itself.
    • Get a game-on-the-go like SkipBo which can be played sitting at an airport or spread across your dining room table. This is a highly addictive game that anyone can play and it travels so easily. That’s a combination I will always be able to get behind.
    • Give a movie that’s a crowd favorite like Moana. We watched this over the summer and I absolutely loved it. This movie has depth for adults, is beautifully artistically made and kids love it. What’s not great? Unless you’re a mama that’ll be stuck with songs being sung over and over in your household. Then again, let it go, it could be worse.
    • Get outside as a family for a little friendly competition with a Soccer Ball from One World Play Project. Not only is this soccer ball made for harsh terrain and indestructible which is so necessary for little boys, every purchase helps fund projects that enable play for youth living in disadvantaged communities worldwide. It’s a win-win. 

     

     
    To Intentionally Throw Some More Ideas in Here Just for the Fun of It!
    • A new pair of shoes! Some of us have some old favorites that are in need of a good repair or to be replaced entirely. Although, I’m not sure if I could really pull these off, I am in love with these Keds x Kate Spade Glitter Shoes. They come in tons of sizes including little girls, big girls and even adult sizes! How cute would it be for a mama and a little to match in them?
    • Books! I know theres’ some books listed above, but I couldn’t let this list pass by without a mention of the Hello Stars (Faithgirlz/Lena in the Spotlight) books by Alena Pitts. This is the perfect read for a tween girl that is grounded in faith and written by a girl in her tweens! I love that aspect of it. Teenagers are so incredibly cool. I’d also suggest giving someone with similar reading interests, your favorite read of this last year or one that impacted you profoundly.
    • Let someone scout out some new products with Sephora Sampler Kits like this Deluxe Perfume one or this Sephora Favorites one. As someone who doesn’t do a lot of makeup and doesn’t know where to start, this would give me an idea of where to start. Although, it was recommended by two different friends of mine that have mastered makeup. They’ve got to love the variety it offers to them outside their every day products. – Gift idea courtesy of both Sonam + TeeJay. Connect with Sonam via her Youtube Channel, SincerelySonam and TeeJay via her instagram @strateejery.
    • I clearly just admitted in the last bullet point that beauty, skin care and makeup are not really my thing. I know you’re shocked because I rarely wear makeup and when I do, it’s almost non-existent. It’s a good thing I’ve got girls on my side that really know what they’re doing. The Sirius Sonic Skin Care System comes recommended as a cheaper skin care system alternative that’s just as effective. – Gift idea courtesy of Sonam. Connect with her via her Youtube Channel, SincerelySonam.
    • Versatile cooking equipment like a cast iron skillet is something that anyone can use whether it’s on a Tuesday night dinner or a Saturday morning out camping. The Lodge Cast Iron Skillet is our personal fave, plus you can get a silicone handle cover. – Gift idea courtesy of Rick, my husband + chef.
    • This last addition is something that I received a few years ago and have absolutely loved. It’s a hair tie bracelet that holds a hair tie in place on your wrist. The Maria Shireen Bittersweet Hair Tie Bracelet looks good with or without the hair tie on it and makes things a little dressier for you.

     

    Thank you once again to everyone who participated in helping me find some neat Christmas ideas that might not have been on my radar! This blog post does contain some affiliate links. Purchasing from those affiliate links is no extra cost to you, but it does help me by supporting my blog. Thank you!

    The Blanco Family // Maternity Session

    We’ve come a long way from the days we sat in our dorm rooms trying to learn the Haka by watching YouTube videos and eating inordinate amounts of pasta. Meet my girl, Maryum, and her husband, David! I’ve known these two for what feels like forever. It’s been over a decade! We’re almost to the point where I’ve had more time with them in my life than without them. So weird!

    I’ve got weekly coffee dates with Maryum which is one of my favorite things I’ve intentionally added to my life this last year. We had both allowed ourselves to become consumed by other priorities than our friendship. I’m, for one, so glad that we’ve rekindled our college ways of chatting over tea or coffee and discussing the tough stuff of life. It’s such a joy to journey alongside someone who has such a different experience than me in this world.

    When Maryum told me she was pregnant, she told me that we were changing our Thursdays from coffee dates to ice cream dates. Then she told me why. First of all, who wouldn’t love that suggestion? Hello to you, Jamoca Almond Fudge Ice Cream! Second of all, one of my longest friends is having a baby!? That is still just so surreal! She’s going to be such an amazing, terrific mama!

    Even though it’s been months since she initially told me, I’m still a little in awe of the fact that my friend was carrying a precious little life inside her AND looking like a rockstar while doing it! I’ve been waiting quite a bit to post this session, but we already have a new little one to love on! Maryum, I’ve loved walking along this journey with you as you share with me all the joys and not so fun moments of the pregnancy process. From nesting and getting the baby’s room ready to the bridal shower to discussing all the parenting things along the way, it’s been such a wild and fun ride!

    Once again Maryum + David, thank you for allowing me to not only journey along life with y’all but the ability to capture this moment in time for y’all to cherish. Until the next coffee date (or ice cream)!

     
     

     
     

     

    Thanksgiving 2017 // What I’m Giving Thanks for This Year


    I have been getting everything in order for this years’ Thanksgiving events. It’s Rick’s and my first year hosting together and in our own home. It’s so weird to think that we’re old enough to be at this life stage. As we prepare for a lot of baking pies and brining the turkey, I wanted to let y’all know some of the things I’m thankful for this year. This isn’t in any certain order but rather just a collection of all the memories I’m grateful to have had as a part of this past year for myself, my family and my friends.

    My Mom + sister // my husband, Rick // our dogs // my church // my family // Skipbo // Rick’s sweet + sour chicken with chow mein // Levi’s Jeans // those who’ve believed in me // changing seasons // rest and relaxation // Willie Moore’s catfish // forgiveness // walking trails // Pandemic // my word of the year – intentional – and how it has deeply influenced my year // eye primer // my GI doctor // my husband Rick + his willingness to battle my Chron’s Disease alongside me // reading books + having someone to discuss them with // an espresso maker in my home // the weird things Annie taught me + my path to being brave // NCIS marathons // Pokemon Go // having the comfort and safety in a relationship to be yourself and dig into tough conversations // having a patio that I can enjoy // the strength to carry on in tough times // Jesus-Centered Bible // the power of prayer //vietnamese iced coffee // Moana // encouraging words // reading in the backyard // Dumar’s Mediterranean Restaurant // Mary-Kate + Ashley Olsen sleepover marathons // podcasts – especially The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey // road trips with Rick // how everyone in Houston rallied together during + in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey // our wedding video + photos // for those willing to stand up and fight against injustices // phone calls with Kelli // Rick perpetually cooking for me + being my “nutritionist” // our weekend in Kemah // Girls Nights // Kill The Spider by Carlos Whittaker // cast iron cooking // the journey of healing that has led me to begin blogging, writing and baking again // Stranger Things // reading or listening to interviews // reaching one year of marriage // Japaneiro’s // Rick’s support of me + my dreams // my mom going to almost every GI appointment with me to be my second set of ears // my ever growing relationship with Jesus // sunshine // my car // Ticket to Ride // facial masks and bubble baths // Questival // the braid that’s usually in my hair // Lush’s Curly Wurly // learning to say yes and be okay with self-care // researchers // my online communities of Dreamer’s and Builders + #AllTheSingles // hanging out with my mom on Thursdays // Shea Moisture conditioner // photography + the restarting of Ashley Karlen Photography // candles – especially this one // visiting friends // Coffee – especially the stuff Ted + Gracie brought us from Costa Rica and amaretto from Don’s Humidor in Waco // my 2017 reading list and how it’s influenced me // Netflix // the sous vide // Spotify // friends that feel like family // my gold Converse // puppy snores // Rick’s brisket // J Crew Factory socks // having all of my stuff at one place // thai tea // Longmire // blogging // giving myself the freedom to say no // my eno hammock // rough moments that cause me to grow // Tea Kettle // Clyde // my lovely curated people I follow on instagram // El Dorado Mexican Restaurant // my friends // the 7th girls // Supper Club // lunches with Megan // almost being unpacked and settled // Mac + Cheese Festival with Rick + Daniel // everyone who reads my blog // our cozy college blankets from my Mother-In-Law // Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road CD // the courage and freedom to become me // memories of those that I’ve lost along the way.

    What are you thankful for this year?

    The Angel on Highway 6

    Stale. Boring. Redundant.

    Honestly, some days and some stories in the Bible just evoke the emotions of those words. I know I can’t be the only one that gets in the rut of reading the same book of the Bible on repeat. Maybe when the pastor says he’s going to talk about Moses or the Prodigal Son, you internally cringe and start thinking of what you need to get done after service rather than listening to the word of God. I’ve been there.

    Ironically, I’m not there right now. I cannot stress how weird that is. I feel like I’ve been sitting in the middle of James for over a month now. Talk about a book wrought with tension for living your life without transforming and being obedient to God. In the midst of this, there’s one Biblical story that keeps showing up and tapping me on my shoulder as if to say, “don’t forget me. I’m still here.” That story is the story of the Good Samaritan. Let’s read it together really fast. (Stick with me, even if you’ve heard it 1000 times before.)

    The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

    He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

    Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    My Drive Down Highway 6

    Last Friday, I hung out with my mom and some friends as we went to a huge garage sale, breakfast at McDonald’s and a quick trip to Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I had a great time, and I felt relaxed. It’s probably one of those few quiet moments that I didn’t feel like I was rushing to get to the next thing. That has been so rare lately. When we finished at the last store though, I knew that I needed to get on my way to get some stuff done before family begins arriving for Thanksgiving.

    My drive seemed ordinary. I was reading The Fringe Hours via audiobook which just seems incredibly appropriate since I don’t have the time to sit down and read the book version currently. Turning onto Highway 6 to head to my home, I figured there must be an accident or something ahead as the lines of cars appeared longer than normal. I didn’t really give it too much of a thought since I was into my book.

    My car got up close to the light and I pulled to a stop. I had seen a lot of cars swerve around from the right lane into the left lane to pass something in the road and whizz past on their way. My first instinct was that it was a blown out tire or something that had fallen from a truck that had come down the road before me. The driver in front of me threw on his hazard lights and proceeded to get out of his car and beeline towards the object.

    My mind is still wrapping itself around this next part. It wasn’t a discarded tire or an old, stained mattress in the road. It was an elderly man who was kneeling. As my mind processed what was happening, I saw the Angel stoop down nearby and grab a cane. It must have fallen out of reach when this man fell. He kneeled down next to him and put the cane back in the man’s hands.

    Together, they struggled. The Angel was finally able to get him to his feet. A woman who had been walking towards them, fell in line as she struggled with them. They embraced each other and walked to the sidewalk. They were able to get the man seated. I cannot imagine the gratitude and the feeling of love and safety that enveloped him in that moment.

    My hazards were on at this point. The light turned green again. Cars behind me proceeded to merge over to the next lane to continue the cycle of swerving and whizzing past this inconvenience. A car honked. For some reason, that honk was so much more jarring in that moment than a honk would at another time. Maybe because it seemed as if the honk was from a spot of self-centered busyness or a complete lack of empathy and compassion? I don’t know. I just know that it’s still haunting me days later.

    The Angel got back in his car, and we drove on. A few miles down Highway 6, he pulled off to assist another car that had pulled over. My prayer is to have his love and courage to slow down to notice the moments playing out in the world around us and step out to help.

    My Struggle with this Moment + How to Carry On

    Getting to see the Good Samaritan story play out in action in realtime was a beautiful moment that unfolded before me. I’ve struggled a bit with it as I’ve reflected on that moment in my Friday though. Why didn’t I get out of the car? Why did I not step out to help? I know that my mind was still processing what was unfolding in front of me as the woman was falling in line to help. Honestly in my own haste, I nearly missed the moment entirely myself.

    As I’ve struggled with that moment, I’ve come to realize something. I needed to stay in my car. I don’t think I could have practically helped to lift the man in my own strength. As someone with a platform, even just a tiny one, I am able to spread the story of that moment and why it matters. I’m able to ask you to sit in this tension with me. Where would you have been? Are you okay with that answer?

    I’m about to set out for a conference in a few days with some friends. The other night, I was looking over my chosen breakout sessions and a topic seemed to leap out at me. I have multiple sessions where I’ll be listening to how to make the Bible come alive. That’s almost laughable to me right now. There’s nothing in my power or my crafted words that will hit someone’s soul anywhere close to the Holy Spirit tapping on your shoulder saying, “don’t forget me. I’m still here.” I just watched scripture come alive before me for goodness sakes!

    If there’s a passage or story on the back of your mind that you’re thinking that you ‘already know’, go read it again. God may just have something new to reveal in it for you or a reminder that your heart so desperately needs. Maybe you’re needing that in person reality like I did where I saw scripture practically unfold before my eyes. I believe in a God that can make anything happen. Pray for him to bring scripture alive in front of you or for you to live with your eyes open so that you’ll see what He is already unfolding before you. Maybe you know you would have been one of the cars that were swerving and whizzing past. Pray that you can trust God with the chaos and slow down to notice these things.

    And if you’re wondering, I’ll still be in those sessions about the Bible coming alive at the conference. It can’t hurt.

    “Not My People, Not My Concern” – A Prayer


    On Sunday morning, life changed for those in Sutherland, Texas when a gunman killed 27 people and left many more injured inside First Baptist Church of Sutherland. Sunday night, a friend of mine was on a walk in with her husband when they were robbed and her husband was killed by gunfire. 9 days of marriage and having just returned from their honeymoon, their lives were forever changed.

    I have no words today. Ever since putting it together that my sweet friend’s new season of life has been taken away from her, I can’t find words to say, but I’ve given God the tears that have been shed. 9 days after Rick and I married, he returned to work and I believe I set out to begin unpacking our belongings to make us a home. It breaks my heart that my friend won’t have that.

    Sad stuff happens all the time in the news. I check the news, but I can’t handle sitting and listening straight through a news segment. My heart can’t handle it. The phrase, “Not my monkeys, not my circus”, must spring to minds often when watching the news – or at least the sentiment of it. How many of us wish that when we thought or said that and threw our hands up in the air, that all was really done with *that* situation and with *those* people? I think that’s how a lot of us feel when we see something on racism, violence and any other tragic atrocity that we see played out time and time again on our news outlets. We glance, we feel sad or guilty for a few seconds, we throw our opinions at it and then move on with our lives unless it directly affects us.

    What if instead of throwing our hands up in the air and saying “not my monkeys, not my circus” we stopped and prayed though? Y’all, that questions seems really Jesus-y which isn’t really my style. It’s a little on the cliche side which I try to avoid at all costs. That Jesus-y, cliche question though is convicting the core of my heart right now.

    Let’s do this together. Instead of saying, “not my people, not my concern” today, let’s rally for a few minutes for those around us who are hurting.

    Pray with me.

    God, we gather right where we are – not physically together, yet still united in your name. We thank you for your mercy, mightiness and graciousness. You are amazing and marvelous. When we look at you, it’s difficult to believe we are in your image as we fall so short of your glory. We are made in your image and called to live out your kingdom here on earth. That’s such a gift, especially in this breaking, hurting world. 

    We live in such a fallen world and cannot even begin to fathom the heartbreak that we cause to ourselves or others. The tears you must shed for us must make up an incredible amount. Lord, wrap your arms around those who are grieving, those who are hurting and aching in situations that most of us write off that “aren’t our concern”. Lord, make them our concern. Break our hearts for the things that are breaking yours. We lift up to you the following people and situations on this list right now.

    – my sweet friend who is grieving her husband way too soon
    – for those who have pulled the trigger, that they would repent and turn to you
    – for the family and friends of gunmen who are struggling to reconcile the person they knew with the situation that unfolded before their eyes
    – all the Pastors and PK’s who are looking at Sutherland and fearing for the safety of their own families and congregations
    – for the loneliness of those battling chronic diseases and illnesses that have taken them away from the everyday normalcy of life
    – for the care takers of the ill, the young and the elderly who everyday deal with tough moments that most don’t ever want to face
    – the ones who are scraping together enough to feed their families now as they look ahead to the holidays with anxiety
    – for the rich to disperse their wealth in ways that would glorify you and bring good to this broken world

    – for those who are drunk on their own power that they may be humbled
    my brothers and sisters that are struggling the everyday horrors of racism based on their skin color
    – my white brothers and sisters that have hardened hearts and veils over their eyes regarding their white privilege
    – for the terrorists, may they question their violent actions and turn to seek your face
    – for those who have been manipulated into a situation and don’t feel like they can step out, give them the peace, protection, strength and courage to do so
    – the leaders of your church who don’t represent who you are, may they repent or be removed from leadership
    – for the ones who are facing constant uphill battles and don’t believe they have the courage and strength to go on
    – for those that have been justly imprisoned and for those who have been wrongly imprisoned and then forgotten

    – the ones that feel like their lives don’t matter, reveal to them their unique purpose
    – for those who have been left to die

    for the ones that are “forbidden” because of their heritage, their race, their sex, their economic standing
    – the abused that are seeking help and those that are afraid to say something to begin to rectify their lives
    – for the homeless who are trying to make it day to day
    – for the employee who doesn’t think they can survive in their position, give them the courage to move on
    – the ones that hearts are breaking and want to help, but can’t figure out where they fit in

    – for healing and dignity restored to those who have been enslaved in any sense
    for wisdom and guidance in every stage and season of our lives
    – those who hurting everyday yet continue to walk alongside the hurting and fighting injustices for others
    – for the policemen, military and emergency personnel that they wouldn’t let their own biases get in the way of serving
    – for those who are doing good, yet allowing their pride to get in the way
    – the missionaries who are struggling to see their value in adverse situations and questioning His call for them
    – for those who are fearful of the differences of those around them, bring them friends to help them understand
    – for the orphans and widows who feel forgotten
    – the ones that want a brighter future for themselves and their children but are paralyzed by formal systems they can’t fight

    – for those struggling with inner demons and mental illnesses who don’t want to seek help for fear of judgment
    – the persecuted church

    – for those separated from their loved ones
    – those risking their lives to use their voices and hands to serve the poor, the marginalized, the unworthy and the undignified
    – for the parents who are worn-down and unsure how to navigate this season of life, may they be encouraged and find resources to guide them
    the ones that are working towards cures for diseases like cancer, give them discipline and willingness to continue
    – for those with a platform that they would use it to bring awareness to injustice and to empower others
    – for the generational sins wreaking havoc on our lives
    – all the sinners and the saints not already named here
    – Who else needs to be on this list? Pray for them.

    Lord, hear our prayers. Let us see those on this list and those forgotten ones that should be on this list with eyes like yours. Let them know that they’ve been seen and their cries have been heard. Wrap your arms of love around them. Soften our hearts and give us a heart that breaks for those around us just as your heart is breaking so. Amen. 

    Update On The Dogs + What I’m Loving // October 2017

    Oakley + Scout aka The Dogs

    If you read my blog last week, you saw that we rescued two dogs. If you receive my emails, you may have missed the update saying that we found their owners. Needless to say, our house was heavy with sorrow. Our neighbors came. Everyone was reunited. They went on their way. That was it.

    We tried consoling ourselves with Mexican food, but enchiladas and queso could only take us so far. We took an extremely early bedtime of 9pm for us and chocked the night up to being over. The next morning though, I received a phone call that would change things once again.

    Oakley and Scout’s original owner called with an offer that at first left me with my jaw agape. Scout and Oakley were ours if we wanted them. I hung up, called Rick and played a long waiting game as I wondered what the final verdict would be. Long story short, the original owners are in a fresh, new stage of life and feel like we can offer these two a better and more stable home at this point.

    I guess that’s all to say, we’re once again dog parents. It all feels right again.

    What I’m Loving

    STUNNED at the whirlwind October has been! Our anniversary and one of my favorite holidays always makes for a fantastic but crazily paced month. We’ve barely even fit watching Gremlins and Hocus Pocus in. Season 2 of Stranger Things has even taken a back burner!

    LAUGHING out loud at this episode on The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey. If you know me, I don’t say, “lol,” lightly because it takes quite a bit to make me actually laugh – let alone out loud! Sharon Hodde Miller totally brought that for me along with a simple but powerful reminder of who I am in Christ and how to freely live out who he made me be.

    TRYING to recover after a weekend of Questival which I absolutely loved! Questival is a huge adventure scavenger hunt style challenge which I blogged about over the weekend here because it was one of the challenges. Think of the whole thing as a real life game of Quelf on steroids. I’m already planning my next Questival adventure with my team, because we loved it so much. Next time, I’ll be sure to get plenty of rest before it begins though!

    REELING from this episode about identity on the JourneyWoman Podcast with Hunter Beless: episode 18 | The Theology of Identity with Matt Lantz. Here’s a small nugget of truth that made me want to pull over and take notes on the side of the road: “Identity is received, believed, and then lived out. In that order. If you’ve built an identity around anything, whether that’s your job, your spouse, your popularity, your grades, your accomplishment, or any of that stuff. If you’ve built an identity, you haven’t built an identity. You’ve built an idol.” – Matt Lantz.

    PLAYING Molkky in the backyard, because it’s absolutely beautiful weather around here. Hello to all things Fall – pumpkin spice, scarves, fleece and that glowing, golden sunset that Fall does so well. Plus, it gets us outside as a family!

    DRINKING wines and eating cheeses at our wine tasting at Clear Creek Vineyard, courtesy of our bed and breakfast. We finally found a red wine that I actually enjoy! If you ever have the chance to meet Barbara, the owner of the Clipper House Inn in Kemah, please do so. She is incredibly kind, sweet and made sure our anniversary stay in Kemah was absolutely spectacular. We both absolutely loved our weekend there.

    DROWNING in Ellie Holcomb’s beautiful lyrics on her Red Sea Road cd. I am totally feeling late to this party as her cd came out last January, but oh my goodness, it’s deep, dreamy and comforting. If you ask Oakley and Scout, that’s what we’ve been listening to around here. It all started with hearing some old episodes of Ellie being interviewed about her heart behind the songs on the cd. I absolutely adore when I get to know the why behind the words of music. The heartache, tragedy and praise she went through that this cd is a direct result of, is inspiring. You can listen to her interview with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast here or on Annie Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast here.

    FEASTING on Shauna Niequist’s words in Bittersweet. She is one of my favorite authors as her diction and word juxtaposition is always on point. I also believe she reaches down to the depths to put things into words that not only allows one to understand themselves deeper but those around them as well. I can’t wait to binge read yet another one of her other books!

    LOVING my new girls, Oakley + Scout. We’re definitely being stretched as we adjust and grow together, but we’re a family now. I love that so much. It’s a great new adventure for Rick’s and my second year of marriage!

    Questival Craziness


    Here’s my Questival Team. Aren’t they beautiful, fantastically fabulous and hilarious to boot? They are in case you’re curious. We’re on a 24 hour crazy challenge adventure race this weekend. Think a real life version of Quelf. Posting about it to a blog is 100% one of the challenges. Yippee and hoorah to that!

    You can follow the fun and craziness of Questival with the hashtag #DoGood or check out Questival.com to learn more.

    Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post because it’s going to be a super exciting one filled with some fun stuff! See y’all then! Until then, have a wonderful wish us luck!