Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Confessions

Today I'm stealing an idea from Stephany since her post was so much fun to read! You should read her confessions first, then check my Christmas confessions below.


  1. I truly enjoy giving Christmas gifts ten times more than receiving them. It's fulfilling to me to be able to make someone smile with a thoughtful gift that I know (or hope) they will love.
  2. Sometimes my love for gift-giving gets me in trouble in the financial realm. If I've already bought one person a certain number of gifts (or reached a certain budget), but I see something that is just SO perfect for him or her, I have a really hard time not buying it!
  3. My immediate family decided to draw names for gift-giving this year rather than everyone getting everyone gifts, and I had to fight a LOT of urges to buy gifts for the people whose names I didn't draw.
  4. I volunteered to help stuff the stockings for my family this year so I could kinda "cheat" on the whole name-drawing thing and still give a few small gifts to each person. (Are you sensing the seriousness behind #1 and #2 here?)
  1. I haven't had a real tree for Christmas since I was a kid, because my dad gets really sneezy from the pine needles. I don't miss it at all! And if I ever want to smell pine trees, I'll just buy a candle from Bath & Body Works. :-P
  2. Joe and I don't really do much in the way of decorations for Christmas since we spend the holidays out of town and our place is already pretty crowded without adding a tree and tinsel and such. I'm okay with it for now, but once we get a bigger house -- even if we still spend Christmas elsewhere -- I am going ALL OUT with the decorations.
  3. My little brother had a collection of reindeer toys/stuffed animals that started with one from my grandmother, and I was always a little bit jealous of him for it. I think I may end up giving my future house a LOT of reindeer-themed decor.
  1. I would listen to Christmas music all year if it didn't drive the people around me crazy.
  2. Someday I really want to sing O Holy Night at a Christmas service or event.
  3. Joe absolutely abhors Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas Time" and Elton John's "Step Into Christmas"...and while they're not my favorites either, I still can't help dancing a little and singing along to them when they come on the radio.
  4. In my college women's choir, we performed Vivaldi's Gloria -- the full choral version. Which meant some of us had to sing BASS. Granted, we kicked it up a few steps, but it was still extremely challenging and awkward. Still, that's one of my favorite memories from college.  
  1. Growing up, my dad always read the Christmas story in Luke, and it remains one of my fondest childhood memories.
  2. One of my favorite traditions with Joe's family is driving around their neighborhood to see the wonderful lights...but I kinda wish we could stop and walk around to see some of them more closely (and for some great family photo ops!).  
  3. This year I'm trying out a new tradition with my family which I'm really hoping will be a success. I can't wait to share it with them! And, if it's a keeper, I may try it out on Joe's family, too.
I could come up with another hundred confessions, but here's my last one:  

I still haven't finished writing our Christmas poem! Better get on that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Handmade Christmas Gifts: Peppermint Sugar Body Scrub!

This year I decided to do a handmade gift for my 12 fellow admins at work, rather than my usual random assortment of mini lotions/body washes from Bath and Body Works. It's less expensive and way more thoughtful and fun! It also took me a million times longer than I expected it to, but that's okay.

Here is the finished product (inspired by this pin):

I didn't take any pictures of the process because, like I said, it was already proving to be a pretty loooong project, and trying to remember to take photos at each step stresses me out.

But anyway. I got the idea/recipe here, and I followed it pretty precisely. I may have used more grapeseed oil. I didn't really measure stuff; I just dumped a ton of raw sugar in a gigantic bowl, poured a whole mess of oil in and mixed it up, adding more oil until it looked like a good consistency. Then I splashed a whole bunch of peppermint oil in there, because I REALLY like peppermint and I didn't want it to be subtle.

After I packed the jars with the scrub, I poured the rest of my bottle of grapeseed oil over each open jar to use it all up and give the scrubs a little extra oily goodness.

Then I started on the really fun, but really tedious part: decorating the jars! I had red construction paper and managed to find a wine glass with an opening that was just the right size for the top of the lids, so I traced 12 circles, messily cut them out and used double-sided tape (I know, I'm so fancy) to stick them on before screwing on the cap to cover the imperfectly-cut circles.

I found some really cute washi tape at Michaels, which I stuck around the outer edges of the lids. I'm wondering in retrospect if I should've used a little mod podge or glue to help them stick, since they started to peel off a little this morning. Oh well.

Then I wrote out some simple directions, listed the ingredients and a "use by" date -- since apparently these scrubs last about two weeks before they "go bad"...whatever that means -- on little gift tags I found at Pier 1. I wrote in my prettiest cursive (which is not actually very pretty), "Merry Christmas! <3 Tabitha" -- only I drew an actual heart, not a less-than-three. And then I tied the cards and attached them to these cute little cocktail spoons I found at Cost Plus! Finally, I taped the spoons to the sides of the jars, since I couldn't figure out a good way to tie them on without a) using a LOT of ribbon, which I only had a little of, and b) the spoons inevitably sliding down off the jars when I picked them up.

So, there you have it! A fun, somewhat tedious, but heartfelt handmade gift for my co-workers. And of course I made a little extra for myself, because my heels are in desperate need of some exfoliation, my friends.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Faith and Healing

These things were swirling through our minds as we drove down there.  Was the rejection of my liver just a forerunner into what will soon transpire?  Anyone who has gone through questions like these will know that they are natural; there is no lack of faith to experience these emotions.  Too many lies say otherwise around the churches in America these days.  Our healing is not contingent on our faith.  Break that chain.  Break it now.  Our healing is contingent on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and in that regard, we all who have confessed His name as Lord have been healed.
(emphasis added)

The above is an excerpt from the latest blog post by my college pastor, Dan Parkins. The entire post is worth reading (heck, his entire blog is worth reading), but I wanted to share this section because it really speaks to me. And I think it is something that a lot of believers need to realize or be reminded of -- that our level of faith in God's ability to heal someone does not determine whether or not they will be healed.

Dan has been through a LOT in his life. I mean, a seriously insane amount of Really Scary Stuff. He's had multiple liver transplants and has been on his "death bed" several times, doctors telling him he probably had hours to live. Two years ago, his wife gave birth to their third child, Samuel, who was born with serious medical issues, and at 19 days old, Samuel passed away.

I remember being at home with my parents (because it was the week of Christmas) and sitting in the dining room with my mom on a conference call with my aunt Terri and several other people who wanted to pray for Samuel (even though many of them had never met Dan's family). My aunt was crying out to God for Samuel's life, and she said something like, "Why won't you heal him, Lord? I believe You can and do heal people, so why can't You just reach down and make his little body whole?"

When Samuel passed away, I really struggled with that question: WHY? My aunt had such bold faith that God could heal Samuel, and what a testimony that would have been! But even in Samuel's death, there have been amazing things done for God's kingdom. Here is an excerpt from one of Dan's updates after Samuel's death (on a now-protected blog that I can't link to; I just have the quote from my old blog):

[K]now this: God did an amazing work through that little giant.  He served in this life a mighty three weeks for the glory of God and serve well he did.  Countless stories surged over the internet of lives changed, humbled, and addressed to the King of kings.  Through God working in his life, I have heard of marriages getting strengthened, lives being reconciled, others coming to know Christ for the first time, suicidal thoughts changed to praises of adoration, and many other areas of healing.

It's always difficult (for me, anyway) to reconcile God's goodness with some of the terrible things that go on in the world, but when your focus is on that future hope of everlasting life with Jesus, then death in the world is not the end. I will probably struggle with these thoughts and questions for a long time, but I am so thankful for people like Dan (and pastor Britt) who understand God so much more deeply than I do, and who preach the truth and live out their faith in even the most painful of circumstances.

Anyway, just wanted to share some of Dan's encouraging words with you today, and also ask you to pray for him. If you click the link above to his latest post, you'll see he is waiting for results on a liver biopsy. I'm praying for everything to come back normal and strong, and for continued health and energy for Dan so that he can keep preaching with all his might!


Monday, December 3, 2012


Well, I failed NaBloPoMo royally, didn't I? It's not that I forgot to post; I was just kinda over it and decided to let that be okay. So, let's move on, shall we?

It's December, people. I just. I don't even understand.

I'm working (ever so slowly) on our Christmas letter, and if you would like to receive one and haven't in past years (or you've moved since last Christmas), please fill out the form below! Your information is only visible to me, and I promise not to abuse it or stalk you. Boxes with an asterisk (*) are required; everything else is optional!

Stay tuned for a post with more substance...eventually.

Monday, November 19, 2012

JAM.19 - Chipped

My tooth chipped today. Might not seem like something to find joy in, but I'm thankful that it wasn't painful and it isn't terribly noticeable unless I point it out, so I can survive until I get back home and see my dentist to get it fixed.

Plus, it happened while I was out with my younger sister, so we laughed it off and kept enjoying ourselves and catching up. I am extremely blessed with three excellent, fun, silly siblings!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

JAM.18 - Home

Arrived in Indio tonight and had an excellent time catching up with my family. I'm so thankful for them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

JAM.17 - Fun friends

We went to a sushi place tonight for our friend Travis's 30th birthday. We had a semi-private room which we filled to the max (I think there were 20 of us?) and had the low tables where you sit on chairs with no legs (or just cushions). Everyone was very happy and loud and boisterous, and there were a LOT of sake bombs consumed (none by Joe and me, since we are heading to LA tonight).

It's great having a lot of different friends to do different fun things with, and even better when you get to meet more new people through other friends' circles. Tonight I made a new friend and potential karaoke recruit!

PS: Posts may be short and sweet for the next few days since they'll mostly be from my phone. We're going to Joe's parents' tonight and then to my parents' Sunday night through Thanksgiving, and then to Costa Mesa for our yearly Black Friday madness. Whee!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

JAM.15 - Praise House

There's been some heavy stuff going on today that I will want to write about soon, but for now (for the sake of sticking to this daily blogging thing), I want to quickly share about an old tape of worship songs I finally found during my crazy house-cleaning endeavor. It's from a band that eventually became All Together Separate, but was then called Praise House. I got this tape in 1996 (I was 11!) at a winter camp with my church, and its five songs really shaped a lot of my spiritual walk as a young teen.

I'm thankful for Helly who lent me her tape player, and for Joe who transferred the songs to mp3! It's so fun to get this blast from the past, but even more than that, these songs are still blessing me today.

I wanted to share one song in particular, but I couldn't find any trace of it online so I made it up (very quickly and simply, on my phone -- sorry the song gets cut off!) into a YouTube video.

This song was on my mind and heart from the first minute of the women's retreat back in October, and I am listening to it almost daily now because it's such a simple, beautiful reminder of what I'm learning lately.

Here are the lyrics:

"Abide in Me, and My love will abide in You forever..."

Apart from You, I am nothing
Apart from You, there is no peace
But in You I've found life
In You I've found love
In You I've found everything
And I hear You saying:

 "Abide in Me, and My love will abide in You forever..."

Day fifteen of NaBloPoMo: check!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

JAM.14 - Currently...

Stealing this from Stephany!

I'm currently... 

Loving: Having a much tidier home. I'll have to share the chore list I finally got around to creating (inspired by Ashley's), but it has been such a huge help in keeping me accountable to put things away in a more timely manner, cleaning things on a schedule so it doesn't get overwhelming (or gross), etc. And I think Joe is a lot less stressed out at home lately, too.

Reading: Well, that's complicated. Technically I am in the middle of four (five?) books, but I'm mainly focused on a devotional book called Abide in Christ and just started reading a Nook book called All These Things I've Done which I think I bought for like $2.99 before our trip to Scotland. (I stocked up a lot of ebooks for that trip.) I needed an easy read. But I'm also slowly chugging along with The Brothers Karamazov. It's heavy, but I do enjoy it. I just can only take it in small chunks.

Watching: Parenthood. It's not the only show I watch, but it is definitely my favorite. I basically cry every single episode. It's just so great and heartfelt and funny and sweet and sad and brilliant!

Anticipating: Christmas! And Thanksgiving, too, but pretty much as soon as Halloween is over, my mind is in full-blown Christmas mode and all I want to do is drink peppermint hot chocolate and wear scarves and sing Christmas songs and write our yearly, cheesy Christmas poem. (Eek! I should really get started on that.)

Listening to: At this exact moment, I'm just listening to the sounds of both myself and Joe typing away on our computers.

Planning: Trying to figure out the logistics of our Thanksgiving weekend. We're spending it in the desert with my family, but waiting on a couple of things before we'll know if we can head down earlier next week than Wednesday night (I do NOT want to experience that awful traffic if I can help it)!

Working on: A really awesome crocheted blanket. I'm on my fourth color (alternating every two rows) and really loving how it's turning out so far. Don't be surprised if you see a plethora of progress photos on Instagram in the coming weeks.

Wishing: That I knew the Bible a LOT better so I can use it to navigate some of the tougher decisions and issues in life. But thankful for wise and caring friends who do know the Bible better than I do and have given some helpful advice.

Day fourteen of NaBloPoMo: check!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

JAM.13 - Fellowship

Tonight I am so very thankful for fellowship and female friendships. I host a Tuesday night Bible study with a few girls, and these last couple months have been such a great season of learning and growth. Each person who is a part of the study brings a unique gift (or gifts!) that has become an integral aspect of our meetings.

I'm just blown away by what God is doing through our little gathering. I feel like each of us is not only receiving awesome counsel and prayer from the others, but we are able to practice using our gifts and dwelling in the Lord's presence. I'm sorry if this sounds overly spiritual to some of you, but I can't say it any other way. It is an enormous blessing to have this time set aside each week to dig into the Word together, pray for one another, and share openly without fear of having our trust broken or abused.

In our meeting tonight, I was reminded of how sufficient and fulfilling God is in providing for every need. Seeking answers or worth in anything other than Jesus is always going to leave me feeling dissatisfied and lonely. Yet when I abide in Him and receive everything He would have for me, all the other aspects of life begin to function so much better. You'd think it would be easy to choose God over (insert issue here -- money, popularity, beauty, whatever), especially after seeing how much greater it is than anything I ever try to find value in!

I'm working on it, and I'm finding joy in pursuing God together with great Christian girlfriends.

Day thirteen of NaBloPoMo: check!

Monday, November 12, 2012

JAM.12 - Chilly

Turned on the heater in our bedroom tonight. It's officially the holiday season as far as I'm concerned!

Day twelve of NaBloPoMo: check!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

JAM.11 - Cuddling

It's 11:30 and I am just remembering to blog. So tonight I'm finding joy in cuddling up with my husband on a cold night!

Day eleven of NaBloPoMo: check!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

JAM.10 - Scenes from Saturday

Amy and our cool dragon/dinosaur mascot, Kindle!

Kindle the awesome race dog.

New blanket started!

Me, Taryn and Amy at Borderline for country dancing!

Joe and me at Borderline. He didn't dance,
but he was a great chauffeur! :-P

Day ten of NaBloPoMo: check!

Friday, November 9, 2012

JAM.09 - Friiiiidaaaayyy!

Today I am just doggone happy it's Friday. I'm getting up suuuuper early tomorrow to help out with the Santa Barbara Marathon, so I'm also hoping to find joy in deep, restful sleep.

Happy Friday!!

Day nine of NaBloPoMo: check!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

JAM.08 - That's entertainment?

I have realized lately that my recreational reading has dwindled down to barely anything in the last several months. I'm part of a monthly book club in Santa Barbara, and I think I have only made two or three of the meetings all year because I just haven't made time to read the chosen book.

For the last month or so, my main reading material has been my Bible and the devotional book I started during the women's retreat. Now, I definitely don't regret making those books a priority. But it's not like I'm reading my Bible as much as I used to read other, recreational books. So where is all that time I used to spend devouring books being spent now?

Well. It has dawned on me that I'm spending a lot of my free time watching TV, and that's probably a huge reason I haven't been reading much. I've known for a while now that I watch WAY too much TV (especially for someone who doesn't even own a television). I make light of it, and I sometimes tell myself I should really cut back on it, but then nothing ever really changes... except adding MORE new shows to my Hulu queue.

So it's time to cut back. I'm not going to stop watching TV all together. At least, that's not something I feel the need to do right now. But I looked through my list of subscriptions, removed most of the shows I had recently added (since I'm really not invested in them yet), and deleted like ten more shows, and it actually felt really good. (Are you thinking, "You deleted more than TEN shows and still have more TV to watch?!" Because, yeah. I wasn't kidding when I said I watch a lot of TV.) I feel like I still have a lot more shows in the queue than I probably should, but it's a start.

I think what it boils down to is: what sort of entertainment am I most interested in? What inspires me, gets me thinking, makes me laugh, prompts me to ask questions? A lot of the shows I've been watching are, to be quite honest, garbage. I would much rather let go of New Girl and its painfully awkward (albeit often funny) humor, and spend that half hour delving into a good book instead. (No offense, Zooey Deschanel.)

And, okay, I read some pretty ridiculous novels from time to time, too. I fully admit to reading the entire Pretty Little Liars series, and I haven't let go of the book-inspired TV series for that one just yet, either. Sometimes I think I enjoy those types of books because I tell myself I could write something better if I wanted to. (Not that I have tried to write a novel since I was eight years old. But I digress.)

Anyway, I want to rekindle my love of books again, because I find joy in the experience of "seeing" new worlds through the written word.

Do you watch a lot of TV? 
Got any good book recommendations for me?

Day eight of NaBloPoMo: check!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

JAM.07 - Out of my shell.

Yesterday I joined the 2013 board for a group at work that is organized to help young employees connect, network, and advance their careers. I've been serving on the board of another group (geared toward women in the workplace) for two years as their communications chair, but since two years is the max you can serve in one position (and I have no desire to fill any of the other open positions for next year), I figured I would branch out and step into a new group.

This is pretty huge for me. I've been getting a lot more confident in myself and my personality over the last couple of years, but I still tend to feel like the "uncool" kid among people my age. That's why I have never joined this group in the four years I've been at this job. I attend a lot of the events they put on, but I have always kinda kept to the sidelines.

So, not only have I taken a bold step in joining the board, but the position I volunteered for? Social planning. Meaning, all the networking events, happy hours, team-building, and the end-of-year party (which is a BIG deal). It's funny: I actually went to the info meeting expecting to sign up to be the communications lead, since that is where I'm comfortable and have pretty solid skills. But when they asked who was interested in filling that spot, I just didn't move. And then the best thing happened -- Amy raised her hand! And I'll still get to help out with communications-related stuff because each general area has a team of people working together. So I'm on Team Amy for communications, and Amy and a few other cool people are on Team Tabitha for social butterflying!

Anyway, I am concurrently nervous and ecstatic about this decision. I don't want to suck at it or drop the ball, but I also don't want to let fear get in the way of sharing my ideas and helping to grow the group next year.

Today, I'm finding joy in the fact that I am becoming the outgoing, friendly, confident person that has always been within me, but whom I had previously buried deep underneath layers upon layers of fear and anxiety. No more of that! I'm totally one of the cool kids now. (Okay, I'm still a total nerd. But nerds are the new cool!)

Side note: Another reason I was compelled to join this group is that I'm working on finding more joy in my job, rather than spending 40 hours a week wishing I was somewhere else. I think committing to a leadership role in this group will help me seek out opportunities to connect with my co-workers, and it'll give me something to look forward to even if I'm feeling apathetic toward my actual job duties. (But I'm working on enjoying those more, too. I'll save that for another post.)

Day seven of NaBloPoMo: check!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

JAM.06 - I Voted!

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but today I voted for the first time ever. I've been registered since I turned 18, but it took me nearly ten years to actually pay enough attention to what is going on in the country to be able to cast an informed vote.

And honestly? I don't know if I voted for "the right guy." But I voted prayerfully, and I voted according to my Biblical values, and I know that will bother or upset or anger some people. I think the most important thing, though, is that I finally voted. I wonder what our country would look like if every person with the ability to vote actually DID vote. It seems like too many people just don't find value in it because they're convinced that one vote isn't going to make a difference. But when thousands of people's votes aren't being cast, that makes a difference.

Anyway, I don't have the skill or desire to get any more political here. Whether Obama or Romney wins the election, I'll be praying for the President.

So today I'm finding joy in my very first "I Voted!" sticker.

Day six of NaBloPoMo: check!

Monday, November 5, 2012

JAM.05 - When creativity spews out like lava.

I posted a little sneak peek of my costume for John's superhero party the other night, but I thought I'd share some bigger pictures and details since it came out SO dang good.

Now, I can't take credit for the original idea for this costume. That came thanks to Pinterest:

All I did was spice it up a little bit... (FYI, all these photos are straight out of my phone's camera. Sorry if they're not super professional!) :-P

Here's the whole costume. I found a navy blue dictionary at a local thrift store for $3, and I already had navy leggings and some silver accessories, so it was super easy to go with a gray/silver/navy color scheme.

For the "wings" I followed the original costumer's idea of using a wire hanger to make them stay rigid (versus flapping around). But instead of gluing flat pages on the inside edges of the binding, I fan-folded some pages, stuck them together and flared them out to add more pizzazz. And, I already had wired silver ribbon (leftover from my wedding!) to use for the shoulder straps, which I tied in a bow on the back of the wings.

I made a little wand using the cardboard tube that was wrapped around the wire hanger I used for the wings. I had some blue ribbon, so I wrapped it around the wand's handle, then made a "pouf" using the same method you see all over Pinterest; I just used dictionary pages instead of tissue paper. I also threw in a little more of the silver ribbon to give it some sparkle.

I had this silver flower hair clip already, and I clipped it on after tying my remaining blue ribbon in a bow on my head.

And I made my little superhero "emblem" just with an image of a book I found in Clipart! I designed it in about 20 minutes (please note the phonetically-spelled "dik'shən fer'i" underneath -- in case you weren't yet convinced that I am a nerd). Then I printed it off and glued it to a thin piece of cardboard I had lying around, traced the outline and lettering in blue Sharpie, glittered it up a bit and pinned it to my shirt!

For the tutu, I cut an old grey T-shirt (which happened to have navy blue lettering, but it barely shows under all the tulle and paper), and I started out by tying my tulle pieces onto it and spacing them evenly around my waist. I had no idea how much tulle I'd need, so I bought two yards. I probably could've used more to make the skirt fuller, but it still came out great. Once I had all the tulle positioned, I folded my dictionary pages over the T-shirt "belt" between the tulle sections. At first I was stapling it all together (because I'm lazy and didn't want to deal with a hot glue gun), but then I ran out of staples and just used masking tape. It all stuck fine and has yet to budge at all!

Oh, and I used basically the same method as the original costumer for rolling the paper, except I angled it so there would be more of a "fairy" look to it, if that makes sense. After I placed the first layer of rolled paper around the skirt, I taped two more rolled pieces to each one of the originals, which added depth and "fluff". After it was all done, I just tied the long ends of the T-shirt in a bow and pulled the tulle out so it was laying over the top of all the paper!

Here's a zoomed-in look at my tutu, since I didn't take a better close-up of it. 

And then there's the shoes.

OH MY GOODNESS, did I get lucky with these! I was at Ross grabbing the striped shirt and a few other supplies, and as I was walking toward the checkout I spotted these glittery silver heels on the end of the shoe aisle, and without even trying them on I threw them in my cart. I actually didn't expect them to fit because I have wide feet and pointy shoes tend to be impossible. But these fit really well! And I will definitely be using them again.

 Here's another picture of the whole outfit.

 And here's me with my mother-in-law, who came to the party with my father-in-law as "the Caped Creators -- makers of Super Sons!" How cute is that? I love this photo because I knelt down (as I often do when taking pictures with people much shorter than me), and Pauli simultaneously got up on her tippy-toes. Too funny!

This was my first time really making my own costume from scratch, and I had such a fun time with it! If every creative endeavor went as smoothly as this one did, I would probably do them a lot more often. I'm just saying.

Day five of NaBloPoMo: check!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

JAM.04 - Home safe.

Well, blogging every day has already proven pretty difficult, as we've been out of town with fun events all weekend. Tonight I'm finding joy simply in getting home safely despite our lack of sleep!

Day four of NaBloPoMo: check!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

JAM.03 - Superhero Party

Been at my brother-in-law's birthday party tonight, and it's superhero-themed. I came as Diction Fairy!

Day three of NaBloPoMo: check!

Friday, November 2, 2012

JAM.02 - Games!

Tonight we had a birthday dinner for Joe with a bunch of friends, and then Joe and I came home and played his birthday gift from me: Guillotine! It's a simple, fun card game, and I won both rounds. That makes me pretty joyful. I'm just sayin'.

Day two of NaBloPoMo: check!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

JAM.01 - This guy.

I figured, what better way to start off a month of focusing on joy than by spotlighting the man who basically floods my heart with love every single day? I am ridiculously blessed to have someone so loving, attentive, handsome, funny, adventurous, supportive, forgiving, creative, and driven.

Yesterday (like most days) Joe said something silly or weird and, upon my good-natured eye roll, said, "For the rest of your life!" And I shot back, "Nah, just the rest of YOURS." (Cuz, you know, Joe is sooooo old -- he turned 35 yesterday.) I like that we can make sarcastic remarks like that toward each other and both know that there is only love behind them. (Or, on rare occasions when the sarcasm comes out a little harsh, it's as easy as, "Hey, I didn't like that one so much," and we're good to go.)

I know Joe is the person I am meant to be with for so many reasons, but the one I've been thinking about most recently is that he makes me better. Not by trying to forcefully "change" me but by inspiring me and leading by example and demonstrating amazing patience with me. For example, I am finally getting the hang of keeping a tidy home. In just a few days of being consistent with picking up after myself, I already feel less stressed, less embarrassed, more excited to go home at the end of a long work day.

Anyway, I just wanted to brag a little about my husband. He's the first thing that comes to mind when I think of things that fill me with joy.

Day one of NaBloPoMo: check!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaBloPoMo 2012: This is my JAM!

I've successfully participated in National Blog Posting Month ("NaBloPoMo") every November for the past three or four years. I have also, pretty much every time, fallen off the blogging bandwagon for like, the entire month of December (and sometimes much of January and February). Blogging every day for a month can be kinda draining!

I wasn't even thinking about doing it this year, mostly because 2012 has completely blindsided me and I still haven't quite grasped the fact that NOVEMBER IS THREE DAYS AWAY. But I am also kind of wary about it because I don't want to get burned out on blogging (again).

So here's what I've decided. I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo this year, but I'm not going to let it stress me out. And the way I plan on avoiding stress is this: if I don't have anything to say, I'll just post a picture. Ain't no rule in the NaBloPoMo handbook that says every post has to have words!

I'm also going to try to use the month of November to focus more on what fills me with joy. One way I plan on doing that is by finishing up my Scotland recaps. It's been almost two months since we got back, and I need to get the rest of those memories recorded now before I lose it all!


I just came up with THE best slogan for my joy theme: "This is my JAM!" AKA: Joy All Month!  

(If you are shaking your head and feeling embarrassed for me right now, you clearly don't know me. Newsflash: I AM A WEIRDO!)

We'll see where my JAM takes me, but I'm looking forward to a little challenge to help me keep the ball rolling on this new blog through the crazy holiday season!

If anyone else feels like joining NaBloPoMo, go here to sign up!

And if you want to focus your month of blogging on joy, too, feel free to join me! I'd love to know you're doing it so I can check out your joyful posts. Here's a little badge I made just for the occasion (and don't even act like it isn't cool that "JAM" kinda fits in with my whole grocery-store imagery for "Aisle Hi-Five" here, mmkay):

Click the image and you can copy/save the image to add to your own blog.
If you wouldn't mind linking back to me, that'd be great!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thirty Before 30

I've been thinking about this post for a few years, but always put it off because: a) 30 seemed pretty far away when I was 24; b) I don't like it when I make a list and don't follow through with every single item; and c) I was pretty much just being lazy.

But I think it's time to accept that 30 is really NOT that far away anymore, and realize that although I may not finish every item on a list, it's having a list that helps me get more things accomplished than just letting ideas swim around in my head. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here it is. (Also, if you were a reader of my former blog, some of these may be familiar because I stole them from my abandoned 101 in 1001 list.)

Thirty Before 30

  1. Read the entire Bible.
    I want to add "in a year," but let's just see if I can manage to finish it in the next 2 1/2 years.
  2. Go skydiving.
    This is something I've been meaning to do for awhile. It WILL happen.
  3. Crochet a blanket with an actual pattern and more than one color. (02-26-13: Done!)
    Made this for little Ezra, my nephew who arrived on February 26, 2013!
  4. Memorize the book of Philippians 1 Thessalonians (HCSB).
    I've always wanted to memorize an entire book of the Bible, and I like the challenge of doing it in a version I'm less familiar with. Update Oct 2014 - Decided to go for 1 Thessalonians since it's part of the study I'm doing right now!
  5. Grow my hair out my natural color. (10-27-14: Gonna call this done, even though I did add some super subtle highlights this summer.)
    Basically this one should be easy; I just have to resist the urge to dye/bleach it.
  6. Run another 10K or 15K and consider a half marathon. (03-26-13: Done!)
    I ran the Old Agoura 10K and am hoping to tackle the Semana Nautica 15K on 4th of July this year...
    I don't want to insist on a half because it really depends how good I can get at the shorter races.
  7. Learn to drive stick-shift.
    It's gotta happen one of these days.
  8. Read Pride and Prejudice. (In progress!)
    Seriously, I don't know why I haven't done this yet.
  9. Hold a plank for 90 seconds. (In progress -- I can do 1 minute pretty consistently; working up to 90 seconds!)
    In proper form and all! Probably I should also get this on video as proof.
  10. Go to a concert with Joe. (06-29-13: Done! FishFest in Irvine)
    Seriously can't believe this hasn't happened already.
  11. Successfully cook one Thanksgiving turkey.
    It's okay if I have help/supervision, but I want to feel like I actually accomplished this one.
  12. Make a lemon meringue pie from scratch.
    I figure since it's my favorite dessert EVER, I should probably learn how to make it myself.
  13. See the Butterfly Preserve in peak season. (12-31-12: Done!)
    Considering my love of butterflies, it's a wonder I haven't already attacked this one.
  14. Advance at least three belt levels in karate (yellow, orange, purple). (On hold since we aren't going to martial arts anymore.)
    This will depend on whether I EVER master a spinning crescent kick. So far it just isn't happening. :-P
  15. Get pretty good at swing dancing with Joe.
    And by "pretty good" I mean, be able to follow him and not trip all over myself.
  16. Try surfing at least once. (05-16-14: Done!)
    I do live in a beach town, after all.
  17. Go on a hot air balloon ride.
    This one has been on my list since I first learned to SAY "hot air balloon!"
  18. Find an older Christian woman to be my mentor.
    Like, on a regular basis.
  19. Beat Portal and Portal 2.
    Because it's possibly the only computer game I will ever not be terrified of playing. And it's like a puzzle!
  20. Carve a pumpkin.
    This is on my mind because it's the fall season, but I had to add it because I realized I've NEVER carved a pumpkin!
  21. Go whale-watching with Joe. (07-07-13: Done!)
    We were supposed to do this with a Groupon deal but it expired. Wah, wah.
  22. Do 30 push-ups. (In progress.  I think I can do about 10 right now - May 2014.)
    Again, proper form and on video if possible.
  23. Complete a cross-stitched piece (with an existing pattern).
    My mom and I used to cross-stitch together and I miss it! Think it'd be fun to pick up again.
  24. Become an early riser.
    At the very least, learn to QUIT the snooze button. Ideally, be up early enough for morning workouts/runs at least a few days a week.
  25. Plan a really awesome and memorable five-year anniversary trip/outing. (08-08-14: Done - Ojai! I mean, I guess maybe it wasn't "epic" but it was lovely all the same.)
    The elaborateness will depend on whether we have kids by then or not, but it'll be EPIC no matter what.
  26. Write a poem. (10-02-13: Done.)
    Mainly just to get my creative juices flowing, but also to see if I still have a knack for it. (Our yearly Christmas poem doesn't count toward this.)
  27. Go ice skating outdoors. (12-13-14: Done! Union Square in San Francisco)
    Again, something I've always wanted to do. Doesn't have to be on an actual frozen lake (in fact, eek! I'd rather it be man-made).
  28. Learn to tie a tie.
    I feel like it's something I should know as a wife (even though Joe wears ties like once every six months, if that).
  29. Wear a sequined dress to a party.
    Because after 30, it may not be so pretty. (Kidding, kinda.)
  30. Make a homemade cheesecake. (09-09-14: Done, maybe?  I made mini pumpkin cheesecakes, does that count? Still wanna try to make a full size one.)
    Supposedly it's easy. I'll be the judge of that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

God is so ridiculously, unbelievably good.

You guys. I just... I don't even know where to start.

This past weekend, I went to Reality's fall women's retreat. I knew it was going to be awesome, but I could not have anticipated that it would be SO full of blessings and revelations and answered prayers and basically LIFE. The theme Scripture passage for the weekend was Matthew 11:28-30:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (NASB)

It was exactly what I needed, and so much more.

There were four main sessions, each covering a portion of the theme passage, and then we had the opportunity to choose two out of four workshops to attend, based on their subject and applicability to our current life situations. I went to one workshop called "The Danger of Quieting the Conscience" and another called "Hearing from God in Prayer."

I am just amazed at how EVERY moment of this weekend (I'm not even exaggerating when I say Every. Moment.) was so perfectly orchestrated and relevant for what I've been going through, and everything seemed to be interwoven in a way that was almost creepy (good creepy, if there is such a thing). Like, I bought a whole mess of books that looked good and/or were recommended to us by the ladies who organized the retreat, and when I "randomly" chose one to start reading during our free time on Saturday, the first chapter started out with "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." And the whole book is about learning to abide in Christ (basically be in His presence) and why so many Christians miss out on it (guilty!).

The sessions on the theme passage, the two workshops I attended, the conversations I had with the girls in my room...everything just lifted me up and encouraged me and brought so many things to light that I had been missing or needing or struggling with. (And you guys, I'm only telling you MY experience from this weekend; I could share so many other stories from the girls who were there who all had similarly amazing encounters with God, despite the fact that we're all dealing with completely different things in life.)

But the biggest ridiculously, unbelievably good thing that happened to me this weekend was that God finally showed me (or more like, I finally took the time to stop and listen to Him say) that I needed to accept His forgiveness. And to fully explain that, I guess I have to point you here and add a little more back-story. (If you didn't click on the link in that last sentence, you are probably going to be confused by the next part of this post.)

The whole thing with Kris was happening during the weeks that led up to our church's Easter service. I was a part of the large choir that would be singing during the service, so we had weekly rehearsals in Carpinteria. And almost every week before those rehearsals, I was meeting up with Kris for coffee beforehand. On Easter Sunday, I sang all the songs, heard the incredible message, and a few days later finally told Joe about everything. 

One of the songs we sang at Easter was "Ten Thousand Reasons" -- it's an incredible worship song which had, prior to the whole Situation, become one of my favorites. But after that Easter service, all the way up until right before this weekend, every time I heard that song, I would burst into tears. These weren't tears of joy or intense worship; I was instantly filled with anguish and sorrow whenever I heard this song, and I didn't know why.

Fast forward to the retreat. On Saturday night, I sat in my seat during the second worship set after an incredible message, and I thought about the workshops I had attended that day. The conscience one was pretty easy to recognize as totally relevant to the Situation with Kris; it was about how the conscience is there to help guide us to make right choices, but it can be corrupted, quieted, ignored, etc., and ultimately we have to lean on the Holy Spirit to help correct our consciences by taking every thought captive. (It was WAY more detailed and amazing, obviously, but that's the gist.) I had realized this relevance during the workshop, but I wasn't thinking directly about it that night during worship.

The workshop on prayer was clearly also intended for me because the main point was that we need to train ourselves to spend time waiting quietly, listening for God to speak to us (rather than yapping nonstop and saying Amen and moving on with life). Prayer is not a one-way conversation (duh). So anyway, I was thinking about that workshop in particular as I sat there singing the worship song, and then I stopped singing and found a corner of the room to kneel in. I prayed, "God, I'm here and I'm listening. I don't know if you have something to show me right now, but I want to start giving you more chances to speak to me by shutting up once in awhile."

And then the song ended, and the next song started: "Ten Thousand Reasons." And in that moment, I felt overwhelmed with that same grief I had been experiencing for months upon hearing this song. But I also felt the Lord say, "You confessed to your husband, and you confessed to your girlfriends who keep you accountable, but you never confessed this to me. I want to give you complete forgiveness and freedom."

So I confessed it aloud (something I don't know if I have EVER done in the presence of God) and I felt this wave of relief. A heavy burden I hadn't even realized I was still carrying was lifted off my shoulders, and I received Jesus' easy yoke. And I stood up and sang that song with tears of joy and grateful worship pouring down my face.

That was the highlight of my weekend, for sure, but God didn't even stop there. I came home last night and told this story to Joe, and he was quiet for a minute before he said, "I played that song on repeat for DAYS after you told me everything about Kris. It was what helped me get through that whole Situation."

Seriously?! I don't think there is enough space on this blog (and I know that doesn't even make sense because it's basically limitless) to express all that God did in my heart this weekend. And then he topped it off by giving Joe and me yet another thing to share together in our healing process.

I know there is a ton more I wanted to write about, but I think this is a good place to stop. I kind of want to just cherish the special gift that this weekend was to me. Suffice it to say, though, that I am going to do everything I can to make sure I'm at the next retreat. 

And I am probably going to have this song on repeat all day:


Thank you so much to the women who planned the retreat, and all the amazing speakers who blessed me with their totally ordained messages!

Friday, October 12, 2012

On my first BIG decorating project: The Gallery Wall.

I'm interrupting my Scotland recaps for a bit because...well, because I can! And I have other things in life to talk about besides my trip to Scotland, believe it or not. But I'll resume really soon, promise!


I've FINALLY finished the gallery wall for our bedroom. The first spark of an idea happened over a year ago, when I crafted some of my very first Pinterest-inspired artwork:

I made these two melted-crayon pieces on 12x12 canvases, stuck them up on the bare wall above our bed, and thought, "Geez, they look so lonely up there." At the time, Joe and I were just beginning to plan our trip to Scotland, and he suggested we would probably have a great photo that we could blow up onto a gigantic canvas, and it would match the green-and-brown color scheme we had chosen for our room. Then I could scatter the crayon pieces on the adjacent (smaller) wall where I had already hung a couple small shelves with some various decorations.

When we came home from Scotland and I began browsing through my photos to see if there were any that might fit the bill, I realized there were a lot MORE than two or three photos that fit the color scheme, and they ALL needed to live on my bedroom wall! I started seeing gallery layouts in my sleep. I had a fleeting thought to send the photos off to Costco to have them printed up on canvases, but then I was like, "Wait a minute. I can do that myself for less money and WAY more fun."

And it was extremely fun. But also a LOT of work, and a little bit of frustration toward the end. Still, it was so worth it, because I am thrilled with the end result. I'm going to show you the whole thing first and then we can talk details on how it all came together.


So yeah, it looks pretty fantastic, right?

Well. There was a minute when I thought it was gonna be a complete disaster. But I'll get to that.

I used a couple different Pinterest ideas for the artwork. This one, where you basically glue an actual photo onto the canvas, was easy and fun, although time-consuming.

I saw a couple different methods for making your own photo-on-canvas, but this one seemed like the easiest, and I liked the sponged-on paint border for an added effect. I also followed her idea to use scrapbook paper on the short edges of the canvas.

Sponge-painted border detail
Scrapbook paper edges

In retrospect, it would've been much easier to just paint the edges the same color as I used for the sponge border, but I do like the scrapbook paper I used, and I feel like it brought everything together  nicely. The only other thing I would've done differently on these photo canvases is using a foam roller to apply the Mod Podge over the top. It would've been WAY faster, and the texture would be a little better than the stripes that subtly come through with the brush I used. (You can really only see this if you are standing right in front of the artwork, which requires standing on my bed, so...yeah. Don't stand on my bed, weirdo!)

The other Pinterest inspiration was transferring a photo onto wood, and I honestly didn't think it would be as easy or AWESOME as it was. Here's the original pin:

Source: youtube.com via Tabitha on Pinterest

Man oh man, this was SO easy! I think using black-and-white photos might be a little more forgiving than using color (which I did), or maybe I just need to perfect my method. My two wood pieces are not perfect, but I think that's part of what makes them so wonderful. (I also made a few wood pieces for my mother-in-law, but I never took photos of them.)

I knew this photo would be just right for the rustic-looking wood (both pieces found at Michael's). It's hundreds of years old, so the wood gives it that antiqued, historic look, don't you think?

This one was a little iffy, because I wasn't sure how well the blue sky would transfer onto a yellowish-tan background. (I also didn't seal the photo on very well in the dead center, which is where you see a little green blob if you look closely. The picture actually rubbed completely off in that spot, so I had to grab some green Sharpie pens to fill it in and make it less noticeable.) I still love how it turned out, though.

So let's talk about how I set out to plan the layout and get these up on the wall. I saw an idea on Pinterest that had to do with using wax paper to trace the frames and mark the nail holes, but it wasn't until after my little SNAFU that I revisited the pin and saw what I did wrong(ish).

The pin (above) instructs you to lay out the frames/pieces however you want them, then flip the pieces over to show the backs. Then you place wax paper (taped together to cover the whole area) over the whole thing, trace the frames and mark the spots for the nail/hanging apparatus.

Well, here's what I did.

I laid all my pieces out on TOP of the wax paper, traced their outlines, and then painstakingly measured the back of each piece to see how far across the width and down the height the nails needed to be placed. And since I didn't really take into account the fact that my outlines were not exactly the same size as the pieces themselves, things didn't end up lining up so perfectly.

So I got the wax paper up on the wall and began nailing holes into the wall.

And several pieces were just NOT in the right place. I was pretty furious for a minute (especially since I started hammering on Monday morning before work, so I had to admit temporary defeat and spend the day stewing in frustration at work). But luckily, things were lined up closely enough that I was able to adjust a few pieces, hammer a few more holes, and everything turned out to be okay!

This is probably my favorite photo of the bunch. My triumphant husband! :-)

Oh, and here's a terrible shot of the adjacent wall where I have a few more green-and-brown things hung (and where I was originally thinking of putting the first two crayon pieces if I found one giant picture to put on canvas for above the bed).

See the round piece underneath "love"? That's yet another Pinterest-inspired craft. I used scrapbook letter stickers to write "Always be joyful." (1 Thessalonians 5:16), then painted over it with acrylic paint, and gently peeled off the letters. Then I hot-glued a few little brown flowers onto it for an added touch.

Here it is before the flowers went on. (Again, I forgot to take a picture of the final product. Maybe I'll add it here later.)

So, we finally have a bedroom that looks a little bit more lived-in (aside from, you know, the mound of clothes on the floor most days)! I am so excited that this project turned out so well, despite a few little bumps along the way.