It’s 2017!

I had an entire post on the last few months of 2016. It highlighted a much anticipated trip to Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace (my new favorite burger spot of all places!), a retreat I helped lead for work, a day-date trip to Baltimore, MD to explore the National Aquarium where the jellyfish captivated us and the turtles gave us a lesson in reptile mating! (Insert awkward turtle hands here.)

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The unposted post also covered Thanksgiving, TV shows that I’m loving (This is Us, Designated Survivor, and Fixer Upper) and the ones I’m pumped about airing this January (The Bachelor, because duh, it’s a train wreck, and both Nashville and Scandal) and how all I wanted for Christmas was a male English Cream Golden Retriever puppy wearing a red bow. Instead (but gratefully), I got Gwyneth’s new cookbook, a sassy new workout top & leggings, and a much desired professional massage gift certificate. The puppy fever has yet to be quenched. Maybe this cute thing will come as my birthday gift? Or better yet…Michael’s birthday is coming up in February…

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I never went on to post this said post out of sheer laziness. I’ve been engulfed under my beloved heat blanket and on a deep Netflix binge on Gilmore Girls. I started the series around Thanksgiving and have inched my way to season 4. Eleanor seems to like it as well.

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The holidays were so fun to spend with family. It also went something like this:

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With the turn of the year, it’s my nature to reflect on last year’s endeavors. What a year! We moved from Johnson City, TN to Alexandria, VA and now live 8 miles from the White House. I breathed a sigh of relief when we bought our townhouse and I could finally decorate and set up the Nest without the fear of moving in 6 months. It’s refreshing to have family only a couple of hours away, which especially helped when I could plan and go to my high school’s 10 year reunion! Spending time with my mom in St. Louis for a women’s conference is also a highlight I’ll always treasure.

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My new friends I am making here through my job and Pure Barre are very life-giving! My job has been a gift from God, I can’t believe how much I am enjoying it!

Spiritually, 2016 was a year of life, depth, and abundance. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our new church we’ve been attending and my daily time reading, praying, and journaling has been the basis of a peaceful and purposeful day. God’s faithful presence and blessings have been ever-present in our lives and we are so thankful.

Of course, there were hard moments like trying to navigate finding (and affording) a home in D.C., the actual job search process, and losing Druci (the family dog) in early November. Even still, God was there. Providing. Leading. Comforting.

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Looking ahead at 2017: I forsee a few trips, turning 30…THIRTY!?!?, learning to brew our own beers, a long month off of work in July, and deepening and expanding our relationships and involvements in our new communities.I also need to empty my phone pictures because the storage situation is a daily problem. Anyone else?! My goal is to write more- it’s always to write more! I’m always encouraged when you show up to read these musings and offer feedback, so thank you for spending a few minutes reading what’s going on in the Nest!

Cheers to a beautiful new year filled with abundant love, deep peace, and unexpected favor and grace!

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October 2016: Weekend Trips, HS Reunions, & Everything in Between

Good things have happened this October! The month started out with returning from a girl’s weekend to St. Louis with my momma. We went there to see Joyce Meyer, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, and John Gray speak. Kari Jobe and Laruen Daigle were there singing away. I’ve been huge fan of Daigle’s album “How Can It Be”, so to hear her throughout the weekend was awesome. The speakers were SO good. The best part about the entire weekend? Spending it with her <3.

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The month continued with the frenzy of planning homecoming at my job. Full-on Spirit Week/Powderpuff Games/Dance—the whole sha’bam. I even convinced Michael to chaperone with me! He treated me to a nice dinner before the dance at a place we’ve been wanting to try beside our neighborhood. Look at that stud!

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With cooler temps in the air, we’ve been vib-ing with all of the fall feels. We made s’mores with our charcoal grill. City life! I’m also starting to crave all of the warm soups, hot teas, and a bedtime of about, ohhh say 8pm.

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This last weekend was a blast from the past with my high school 10 year reunion! I remember in HS campaigning to be president of the class and vividly remember saying, “Vote for me! I promise to plan a great 10 year reunion!” With a lot of help from the other officers and volunteers, Woody Thomas with Magic Special Events, Brock’s BBQ, and of course the front office at L.C. Bird, I say the reunion weekend was a major success! How can you not have fun with childhood friends, a photo booth, and a few brews?! And once again, my guy was by my side helping the entire weekend. I adore him!

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Yes, I made a lot of people come to reunion! Good thing, because each one said they were happy they came! 🙂

The last bit of October will be spent soaking up the wee bits of evening sunlight. I foresee another grill out and s’mores feast. On Saturday, we might go to a cider festival after teaching a few classes at Pure Barre for our annual Tuck-n-Treat. I’m still brainstorming Halloween costumes. Suggestions? I already have Eleanor’s costume in mind…just wait for Monday! She was “Eeyore Eleanor” last year and played the part with her moody disposition.

12193745_10204698102843864_8488464184366423306_nAs busy as this past month has been, my cup runs over. I feel so blessed to be apart of so many wonderful circles. A girl’s trip with mom is something I’ll cherish forever. My job is fun and the people are great. Seeing friends I’ve known since kindergarten did the heart good. I’ve never loved Michael more. Life is good, we are blessed.

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The best part of recaps are the things that have nothing to do with one another:

Did you hear the latest (brilliant) Girl Scout move? Thin mints cereal. Limited edition!

This mug is great!

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I’ve (miraculously) read two books this past month: Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist and Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey. Both were good reads!

I made this sausage, potato, & kale soup last night after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. Thanks, Brett! Instead of heavy cream, I used a can of coconut milk. Next time I’ll swap russet potatoes for sweet potatoes.

That’s all I got! Happy Weekend!

Five Favorite Foods for Friday: Edition 4 “Snack Attack”

I’m a snacker. I’d rather forgo big meals and nom throughout the day. Of course it’s easy to let a handful of this, mouthful of that, and a few more of these turn into a big meal in itself. To build my food day, I always have the basics and then build my snacks to add a little food pizzazz. The basics every.single.day: two organic eggs, steel cut oatmeal, a salad of some variety with handfuls of veggies, and lean protein. Today’s FFFFF features my latest snacks that spice up the basics. I try to keep my snacks as healthy as possible. You know, real/natural/whole foods that aren’t processed and loaded with ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

Here’s what I’m munching on:

1. Raw Nuts: Cashews have been my go to. I add a few almonds and a Brazil nut in there for nutritional value, but mmmhmmm, unsalted cashews are like buttah. I find the best deal at Costco.

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2. Fresh, Freeze Dried, & Dehydrated Fruit: The season calls for fresh red grapes and honeycrisp apples. Those two never disappoint! But have you tried freeze dried fruit? WOAH. Raspberries, mangos, strawberries…they taste like candy, provide the perfect crunch, and melt in your mouth. Trader Joe’s have them on the cheap. For a chewy fruit, I’ve enjoyed Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Baby Pineapple.

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3. Kale Chips: Kale Chips are SO easy to make. Now that it’s getting colder and I’ll be using the oven more, I’ll get back to making my own creations like this sriracha recipe. For convenience, I really enjoy Made in Nature Rosemary Truffle. You can find their flavored kale chips at Walmart or their Olive Oil version at Costco!

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4. Naan & Hummus: Sometimes you need a snack that isn’t picked straight from nature but just straight delicious. Cue in Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tandoori Naan and CAVA’s Crazy Feta Hummus. For a once-a-week treat,  we love to throw the Naan on the grill as an appetizer. Warm it each side, dip into hummus, close your eyes and take in the moment. I know CAVA sells their hummus to our local Whole Foods in the DC area, as well as in Charlottesville, VA Beach, & Richmond (at Ellwood Thompson). Check here if Crazy Feta Hummus (or their other flavors) are nearby.

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5. Cheese: Another snack I have to limit to enjoying once or twice times a week! Kerrygold Dubliner and Bellavitano Merlot have served total satisfaction. Perfect combo nutty, creamy, and tangy cheese. Both cheeses are available at your local supermarket and Costco. (Costco for the win again!)

What snacks are you loco about?

Five Favorite Foods for Friday: Edition 3

Haaayyyy it’s Fridaaayyyy!

I have a delicious recipe to share with you…keep reading for my Thai Grain Salad!

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Here we are round 3 of five new favorite foods for this Friday. If  you missed edition 1 & 2, check them out here & here.

1. First up, we have another Costco AND Walmart find! Seeds of Change offers 90 second ready-to-heat organic rice packs. I’ve only tried the Brown Rice & Quinoa (6 pack at Costco) and Seven Whole Grains (at Walmart) but I’m eager to try their other flavors with this $1.50 off coupon! (If I eat this as a plain side, I like to dash Bragg Liquid Aminos on the quinoa & rice for flavor.)

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2.Peanut Sauce: I’m always on the lookout for an easy and healthy peanut sauce to dip veggies in and drizzle over my latest Thai salad creation (recipe below at #5!). I’ve also mixed the peanut sauce with the Seeds of Change Quinoa & Brown Rice and steamed broccoli for an Asian side dish. YOU GUYS. This sauce is the best I’ve tasted, so go ahead and do yourself a favor and double the recipe. Keep it healthy and clean by using pure ground unsalted peanut butter. Wiz it together in your smallest high speed blender and resist the urge to lick the blade.

3. Turkey Chili: Now that it’s officially fall, I’m getting myself in the mood for cooler temps with this turkey chili. This isn’t a new food find for me since I’ve probably made this about 8 times, but if you’re needing a healthy chili recipe: t-r-y it. Stove-top or crock-pot, it’s delicious. The only changes I typically do: puree the diced tomatoes and add salt to taste.

4. 10 Minute Farro by Trader Joe’s: Farro is such a hearty and slightly chewy grain in all of the best ways. This little bag is only $1.79 but it makes a decent number of servings. Toss on salads, use it as a side, or throw it in a homemade soup near the end of the cooking time.

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5. I made this Thai Grain Salad on Sunday and Michael and I have been munching on it all week and it’s kept in the fridge perfectly. It’s great served cold or warm, though I tend to prefer it warmed. I wait to add the peanut sauce on top, as well as top it with chopped raw cashews. I even tossed shredded chicken for some lunches and whew, that was awesome! Here’s the base:

Ingredients:

  • Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Farro
  • 1c cooked quinoa
  • Red/orange/yellow bell peppers (about a 1/2 pepper of each color, chopped well)
  • 1c shredded carrots
  • 1/2c chopped green onion
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced finely
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s Ready to Eat Edamame (or 8oz of shelled and defrosted edamame)
  • 1/2 cilantro (or more), stemmed and rough chopped
  • Pink Himalayan salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook the farro and quinoa according to package instructions
  2. Chop peppers, onions, and cilantro
  3. Add edamame
  4. Allow farro and quinoa to cool
  5. Toss all ingredients together
  6. Salt to taste
  7. Portion your plate & then drizzle drench with peanut sauce
  8. Top with chopped raw cashews

That’s a wrap for FFFFF edition 3! Any new foods you’ve discovered that I need to know about? Cheers for the weekend!

 

This & That Update!

Hello!

Here we are mid-September and only 2 short days left in the official summer season. If I could bottle the sunshine and warmth, I would. The sun is setting earlier (which makes me really bummed), but thankfully there’s enough happy-clappy good stuff going on (hello new fall shows!) that everything balances out. I thought we are long overdue for a “this & that update”, so here we go!

Summer Recap: This summer was super crazy with moving, decorating, searching for a job, and adjusting to life in Alexandria, so a new season is welcomed. We are unpacked and only have a few more pictures to hang and projects to tackle. Our renovations have made us love our house even more, especially our outdoor space. We designed a back patio and landscape so grilling out under the Edison lights has become a favorite of ours. And let me tell you…my husband’s steaks have been ON POINT lately! On the garden side, I grew a ton of basil (which I put on everything), but my tomato plant was a bust. The squirrels took it upon themselves of overseeing the plant…which left me about 2 red tomatoes to enjoy. Thanks.

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BABIES! Some of my favorite people have had babies: Kristen had her baby boy, Travis Harmon Deaton! Helen had her baby girl, Evie Elise Stevenson! My brother and sister-in-law Lori had their baby boy Troy Taylor Hawkins! I met my little squishy nephew and I was smitten. You’re probably thinking, “She must have baby fever!” Look, here’s the truth: NO! I love these tiny humans and of course I want babies…but the only fever I have right now for is ample sleep, random date nights with my man, and well…after hearing these labor stories my dear dear friends have braved…I’m good right now! So good.

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Auntie Shea & Troy

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Kristen & Travis!

Job: I am really enjoying my new job! It’s been refreshingly fun to be around students, plan events like a tailgate party, and gear up for homecoming and spirit week. The days are busy and the time flies! The people are pretty great and each day is different. I even had the privilege to chaperone a field trip to the Capitol last week—how awesome is that?! I’m also excited that I fall under “teacher category” and receive a discount at these places. Yay!

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New Discoveries:

-I’m enjoying Guest of a Guest daily emails, although the D.C. updates are a little sparse. I wonder if they need a content writer?? A little superficial/petty/trivial/light-hearted entertainment. For example, they deemed that my engagement ring was the hottest trend of 2016. Cheers for oval diamonds and rose gold bands! And this article on SoulCycle is great.

Dirty Lemon Detox: I was intrigued when I read about this detox you order through a text message. There are 6 bottles per case and the ingredients are basic: lemon, water, ginger, dandelion, and activated charcoal. I’ve heard the benefits of charcoal are noteworthy. However, I think the detox drink could probably be imitated for half the price at home. I justified the purchase to Michael with “I don’t buy lunch out.” He didn’t “buy” it.

TV:

It’s time to set your DVRs for a few new recordings! I’m most excited about The Good Place with Kristen Bell (which premiered last night at 10PM) and Designated Survivor (September 21st, 10PM). A few other honorable mentions I’ll check to see if they’re season-long worthy viewing:

I’m also delighted to have Modern Family (9/21) Grey’s Anatomy (9/22) & Quantico (9/25) returning this week!

What show(s) are you tuning in for?

End Notes That Have Nothing To Do With One Another:

Nick Viall the new bachelor? (Insert eye roll.) He would NOT be my choice. Of course I’ll still watch it come January.

Chokers are making a fashion comeback and I’m not digging it.

Eleanor is camouflaging with the carpet.pookie

Happy Tuesday & soak up the last two days of summer!

 

Five Favorite Foods for Friday: Edition 2

Last FFFFF was a hit, so I figured another one would be welcomed!

First though, my parents came to visit us last weekend and we had such a good time with them! We showed them around our new house and all of the renovations we’ve added. I loved watching their faces as we did our own version of an HGTV reveal! We also went out to eat at a few of our favorite spots (Don Taco, Old Ebbitt Grill, & Landini Brothers), and I even managed to convince my dad and Michael to paint an accent wall behind our bed. I kept saying to Michael that we needed a bold color…like really bold, but he wasn’t convinced. I even had a dream one night that the wall was painted and I woke up convinced the wall had.to.be.painted. Plus we had a great coupon from Sherwin-Williams for 40% off! That alone is worth pulling out the brushes! Am I right or am I right?! Look, I’m just a girl with a dream and a coupon!

So on Saturday after the guys hit the gym and mom and I explored the farmers market and did a little shopping on King Street, they tackled the wall and an hour later, voila!

The before:

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The after(!):

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When I meant bold, I really meant bold! This color is a dark charcoal called “Peppercorn.” Normally I abide closely with my whites and greys, but oh I’m so obsessed with this wall. Almost nightly I exclaim, “I love this wall, don’t you love it!?”

Anyways, more pictures of our home to come!

Now on to the new foods you gotta try.

  1. Just Beets {aka Beet Chips} from Trader Joes ($2.99): These babies have ONE ingredient. You guessed it, beets! The crunch and flavor factor are perfection. unnamed-4
  2. The Best Ever Lentil Salad: I’ve made this twice now and I am already planning to make it again this weekend. The flavor combinations work so well together and the abundant leftovers hold great in the fridge. This is going to be my go-to at the next dinner party or potluck!
  3. Grilled Squash Prosciutto Skewers with Mint Sauce: This was a new recipe I tried this past weekend with my parents and it was a total success! Since we already had the grill going for steaks, we added these for an easy side dish with the lentils. YUM AND YUM.
  4. Figs: It’s no secret I’m a fig lover, especially this recipe using fresh figs!  But when my little darlings aren’t in season, dried figs come to the rescue. When I saw this huge bag of dried figs for $9.99 at Costco, I almost gave the bag a little hug as I put it in my cart. I love a fig or two with a small handful of almonds or cashews before a workout or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Throwing one in a protein smoothie bowl is also a great addition!
  5. Double Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Swirl: I decided to break out the ice cream maker and try this healthy (yes!) ice cream earlier this summer. With summer ending too soon, I’m thinking one more ice cream creation is a must.

    Photo Curtesy of Against All Grain

    Photo Courtesy of Against All Grain

That’s the top 5! Have you discovered anything new recently in the grocery or new recipes? Please comment and share!

Happy Weekend!

It’s Still a Gift.

Well, it’s official: I’m a full-time employee! Leisurely mornings and folding laundry while watching Hoda and Kathy Lee ramble on and on are ovahhh. Sure, it’s an adjustment being somewhere for a certain amount of hours a day, putting on makeup, and no longer living in leggings…but I’m truly grateful for this job—this gift.

Miss you KL & Hoda!

Miss you KL & Hoda!

I remember when I moved to Charleston: jobless, homeless, and unsure of what awaited. God provided everything! I found a place to live quickly, a new community, and a job with hospice at just the right time. I remember the “happen-chance” of finding the post for the job, interviewing, and receiving the generous offer. I was giddy with gratitude! I couldn’t stop thanking God for my job, a gift of provision from the Creator!

Now like any job, I had my learning curves, management changes, and tongue-biting moments. You know what I’m talking about! Towards the end of my time at my previous job, gearing up for my wedding and saying goodbye to Charleston, I had sunk into a pit of “jobitis.”

*Jobitis Defined: what seniors get their last year of high school, applicable for the job scene.

In one of my jobitis moments, I was full-throttle in inner-dialogue complaint-prayers. It would often start, “Lord. Oh lawwwwwd. Help me. HALP ME. Imma…”

{God interrupting me}: It’s still a gift.

I was immediately reminded of my joy, gratitude, excitement receiving the job initially. The fact that the job was a gift from God did not change, it was and always is a gift—just my attitude and outlook on it changed over time. Like any new shiny present, we are enamored at first with the newness of a gift. Wear and time play their roles and unless the gift is of true sentiment, most end up in the donations pile. Right when I was ready to donate my previous job to the donations pile, I was clearly reminded that I was to keep a grateful heart and remember God’s provision!

My new job is with a local high school as the Student Activities Coordinator. The details of the job (location, hours, salary, etc.) is a true reflection of God’s blessing, once again! All of my heart’s desires were both met and exceeded. True grace, true provision, and a true gift.

As I approach this job, I’m staying mindful that this job is a gift and it will always be a gift, even when I go in to work tired or even when the to-do list never ends.

Your job is still a gift!

Your spouse is still a gift!

Your housing is still a gift!

My dear friend Katie sent me a new job blessing from John O’Donohue’s book To Bless the Space Between Us. Because there are so many lines I love, I’ll pass it along to you today. Maybe you’re in new job, starting a new adventure, or just need a new attitude! Either way, cheers to grateful hearts and remembering our many blessings.

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My Thoughts on Facebook Challenges (I’m looking at you, Love Your Spouse Challenge!)

I always see the trendy challenges going around on Facebook. You know them. Two years ago it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Someone would have them record dumping a bucket ice cold water on themselves to bring awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. If you got tagged in the post, you were either supposed to dump a bucket of cold H2O on yourself and/or make a donation to the ALS Association. I gotta admit something to you today. My Bali backpacking buddy, Stephanie, challenged me to the ALS challenge. Did I pour freezing water on myself? Nope. Notta. Not even an ice cube down the back. I’m also pretty sure I didn’t give a donation, if this post is about being honest. (Sorry Steph :D!)

So this year comes around and we see wives posting pictures of their husbands for the “Love Your Spouse Challenge”. From what I understand, it’s a seven day challenge where one posts memories and pictures with/of their spouse and then tags two people to do the challenge. Welp, I’ve been challenged by my dear Carolina and I smiled and decided to sit another challenge out. (Heh, sorry Carloyn!)

Then…………..

Then my mother-in-law challenged me to the Love Your Spouse Challenge and you bettah believe I’m going to post a picture of how much I love her dear son! Let’s just say you don’t refuse a woman who has given birth to and raised 4 boys and 1 girl!

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So here we are on Day 1 of the Love Your Spouse Challenge and I want to share a picture of where it all started: Homecoming 2003. Apparently it was my Michael’s parents (known affectionally as Momma J and Red) who suggested to Michael that he take me for the homecoming dance! What’s even funnier is that years later, my parents suggested I marry Michael!

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Now that leaves me to give you my honest thoughts on these challenges. With all of the fuss over politics, heartbreaking terrorist acts, and racial divisions, we need as much love, positivity, and celebration as possible! One scroll through Facebook has an abundance of opinions, frustrations, and alienations from one another. On the same thread, there are engagements, weddings, baby gender reveals, new job announcements, and vacations left and right.

Cynicism is an easy trap to fall in, often getting annoyed by trends or someone else’s happy news, but the REAL challenge is to celebrate, honor, and embrace all of the GOOD and JOY and LOVE. Amen?! Life is too short and life is too precious to live in pessimism and world-weariness. So friends (and friends of friends), post as many pictures of your sweet baby you want! Keep raising awareness for the organizations you’re passionate about! Shout from the rooftops how much you love your spouse!

I love this reminder from Philippians 4:8:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And now for my final part of the Love Your Spouse Challenge: the part where I get to challenge two more people to participate! Now I’ve noticed the trend is to tag another two women…but I don’t see gender specific rules. So therefore I’d like to see two men post some love for their wives. First up: my own brother Brandon Hawkins!

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For kicks and giggles, the second man I’ll tag to the challenge is none other than my own husband, Michael Smith! Uh huh, yep. Show me some love sweet husband! How do you refuse the woman you share a bed with every night?!

Cheers dear friends! Keep celebrating. Keep tagging. Keep spreading love. Our world desperately needs it. Happy Friday!