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!

Homecoming 2003

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!

Five Foodie Favorites for Friday!

I’m savoring my last bit of “retirement” before I start my new job in August! You know, sleeping in, working out mid-morning, eating a leisurely breakfast, making smoothie bowls for lunch, and taking “Eleanor” breaks during chores and errands to give my girl a backstretch and chin scratch.

Chin scratches = Eleanor smiles

Chin scratches = Eleanor smiles

With this time off, I’ve also had the time to stroll the grocery for new finds and create a some recipes that you should know about. Here are five foodie favorites for Friday! (See what I did there? ;-)) (Are you now thinking I’ve had too much time off and need to get back to work? Michael, that question is rhetorical and not for you. :-* kiss kiss.)

Breakfast: Egg whites, one egg cooked medium, asparagus, mini heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, salt & pepper. Holy moly. (Oatmeal on the side, because well, oatmeal er’day.)

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Elderflower tea: This stuff is gold. Naturally sweet, non-caffeinated, and perfect warm or chilled.

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Popcorn with truffle oil & grated parmesan: I’ve been on a big popcorn kick lately! Michael doesn’t seem to mind when I bring a big bowl of stove-popped popcorn, cooked in coconut oil and topped with a drizzle (heh, ok few globs) of truffle oil and grated parmesan throughout the bowl. You should see us battle for the extra cheesy pieces. Ain’t pretty.

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Giant green smoothie bowls: These beauties are made with 1 cup of Califia Farms toasted coconut almond milk, 1/2 frozen banana, lots of handfuls of kale & spinach, wheatgrass powder, Orgain organic protein powder (found at Costco!), fresh mint, and a few handfuls of ice. Blend, bowl, toppings galore. #healthyfroyofix

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CAVA: This is probably our favorite new restaurant we’ve discovered since moving here! Imagine a Mediterranean version of Chipotle. Greens, grains, lentils, pita bread, hummus galore, chicken or lamb, quinoa, feta, olives, mint, pickled vegetables, extra sauce…ALL IN ONE BOWL. The CAVA experience isn’t over. They have these fresh juices that are SO SO SO good. Some creations include strawberry mint, apple cardamon, lavender lemonade, carrot ginger…mmmhmm. For those not in the DC area, sorry, truly sorry. As of now they’re only around here (and in the DC airports) and one soon premiering in NYC, but I have a feeling the chain is going to be nationwide because they are THAT good. Danny & Kaitlyn, double date to CAVA when y’all get up here!

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Photo curtesy of CAVA

Photo curtesy of CAVA

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Photo curtesy of CAVA

With that, what are some of your favorite foodie finds that I need to know about?

Happy Friday!

Unpacking, a New Job, & Life in NoVA!

Y’all. Let’s be honest: my blogging game has been off. Like… “Here’s a post, miss you/love you, bye Felicia!” About that…

We’ve moved for the billionth time in one year to our new home in Alexandria, VA! Because we are here to stay, we’ve been in full “set-up-life” mode. Unpacking, trying way too many restaurants, delaying the inevitable DMV visit, and hitting up a few Nationals baseball games! Michael has been busy with his work while I’ve been teaching at Pure Barre Alexandria, on the hunt for a job (digging through 1,000 indeed job posts…writing cover letters galore), making too many trips to Homegoods, and did I mention unpacking? Hanging picture by picture, tacking one storage dilemma at a time, and wondering when my husband will unpack his remaining three suitcases of clothes. Which always follows up with, “WHY DO YOU HAVE SO MANY CLOTHES?!” To be fair, he questions why I need so many pictures/decorations/kitchen gadgets/…and a cat.

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For only being here two months, we’ve transitioned with such ease. I’m excited to share that I’m going back to high school! All of the job searching has paid off: I’ve accepted a position at a local high school as the Student Activities Coordinator, helping organize clubs, retreats, and planning major events like homecoming, prom, and graduation. I’ll also be ahead of the yearbook and work with students everyday to create the yearly masterpiece! Sounds like everything I actually did as a student in high school!😉. This job is truly an answer to prayer!

We’ve been visiting a local church since we’ve moved here and have had every intention to “church hop” to find the right one for us, but we keep going back to this one because the messages have been so excellent. And finally, we have loved getting reacquainted with old friends who have lived in the area, as well as meeting new ones! So far, life in northern Virginia…errr “NoVA” has welcomed us with open arms. Even Eleanor seems to be fully content in her new home, making the most of the unpacking mess!

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Walking to Pure Barre at 5:30AM...up with the street lamps!

Walking to Pure Barre at 5:30AM…up with the street lamps!

With that, I’m off to go take a morning nap. I took a 5:45am platform class at Pure Barre and then taught the 7am… and whew, I.IS.TIYAHD. (I’m tired). Don’t worry, it won’t be Autumn the next time you hear from me. I’ve been compiling a few of my favorite finds that are so great, I have to share!

XO.

P.S. Last night’s dinner was chipotle barbacoa tacos (in lettuce wraps) and my oh my. I’m once again reminded that these babies are insanely delicious!

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Goodbye Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

After graduating high school, I’ve had the joy to attend college in Florida, grad school in North Carolina, and then spend a couple of magical years in South Carolina. After Michael and I were reunited, we were married in Virginia, moved to Memphis for about 6 weeks for him to finish a job, and then were routed to Johnson City, TN! We’ve spent the majority of our first year of marriage here in Johnson City and Asheville, NC, as I’ve found my Pure Barre family there. {Whew, I’m exhausted just writing about all of those moves!} unnamed-1

With each place I’ve had the privilege of calling home, I made a sweet community of new friends, established a sisterhood of energetic Zumba devotees, and found my favorite restaurants, thrift stores, walking trails, and “nested” each home. When each season came to a close, I had the stark reality of how heavy a goodbye feels and the reminder that leaving a community isn’t for the faint of heart.

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I’ve carried my experiences, long lasting friendships, a cat, and a whole lot of boxes from place to place. Honestly, I feel so blessed to reflect on all of the life I’ve been living! It certainly outweighs the ache of leaving, but the reality of “goodbye” is always a gut-punch and heart-twister. Maybe my personality tends to being more sensitive to these moves, but either way, I have no regrets embracing each community with a heart wide-open.pb

With that, we have another move on the horizon to the DC area! Michael and I are moving to the heart of Old Town Alexandria, VA the first week of May and this time, we are unpacking all of the boxes, hanging pictures, and planting roots. We are going there to stay! We will be living 8 miles from the President! There’s a sweet relief knowing that we can build a community with intention and do so without fear that a potential goodbye is looming. This is truly a gift to us as we enter into our second year of marriage!

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As excited as we are to move to our new house and get into the grove of city life, we are truly going to miss Johnson City & Asheville. The Wellness Center has been a beautiful place to workout and meet some awesome people. To the ladies who’ve been faithful to come to my Zumba class, my goodness I am so overwhelmed with your consistent smiling faces and shakin’ booty moves! Your energy has been contagious! To my sweet friends at Pure Barre, woah, thank you for embracing me with wide-open (toned) arms from day 1! I am truly so humbled. Oh my, I am going to miss Adriel’s bootcamp at Real Hot Yoga on Saturday mornings. That class is salvation through buckets of sweat! Then there are the gorgeous mountain views and local breweries (Johnson City Brewery, we will miss you the most–please send growlers!!). Michael and I will be planning weekend get-aways to the area to get our fresh air and crisp brews fix.

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Goodbyes aren’t easy but we are blessed to carry the sweet memories, friendships made, and lessons we’ve learned from our jobs and first year of marriage with us to our new city. Thank you Johnson City and Asheville for being so welcoming to us! Cheers to a new adventure!

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Morning Shots!

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It’s here. SPRING IS HERE! The sun is shining late into the evenings, the temperature is heating up (thank the Lord), and the once barren trees are budding with new life. I told you spring would come!

For many, a new season brings a week-long cold and dreadful allergies. I’ve concocted my own anti-sickness shot for preventative measures. If you start to get the sniffles, you won’t regret taking this kind of shot! The health benefits of apple cider vinegar, lemon, and oregano are wonderful, a true trifecta powerhouse! I drink this every single morning on an empty stomach, followed by a mug of warm water with more squeezed lemon.

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Shea’s Morning Shot:

  • 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (organic & “with the mother”)
  • 1 large wedge of lemon juice
  • 2 drops of oregano essential oil
  • 4 drops of liquid stevia
  • 3 oz cold water

Try it! Warning: it is strong and rightfully named “shot”. A few seconds of “whew!” is better than a week of “aaacccchhhhooooo!”

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And with that, cheers to a beautiful spring season!

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It’s March, Y’all!

Dear March, IT IS SO GOOD TO SEE YOU!

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Only 13 days until we set our clocks forward and gain a few extra hours of sunlight each day. Hallelujah! But before we march into March, here’s a little recap of the shortest month of the year.

Overall, February was good. I think I finally switched over from writing 2015 to 2016. Anyone else?

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about being a bit out of sorts. Thank you so much for all of the “me too’s” I heard from those who read it. When I’m in one of those seasons, I usually go after things I can grasp and control. For example, I made a goal to run 30 miles in February (mission accomplished!), deep cleaned and purged my craft bins, and started a cleanse. Michael is doing the cleanse with me, mostly because I needed help refusing a cold craft brew and dinner out on the weekends! While he is chiseling down to a greek god displaying pure muscle, I keep encouraging myself that my 1 pound weight loss is the “sure, slow and steady” way to keep it off. He loses a pound a day, I lose a pound per week. Oh the difference between men and women! deeeeeeep siggghhhhh.

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Some of our favorite go-to foods for this cleanse has been egg whites, chicken (I baked my first whole chicken!), turkey breast cutlets, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, blueberries, honey crisp apples, bananas, raw almonds, cashews, almond butter, Crazy Richard’s natural creamy peanut butter, and of course, a load of vegetables! Bell peppers, kale, squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, and salads galore. The good news is that we eat these foods regularly in our daily meals on and off a cleanse.

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I miss Mellow Mushroom pizza.

On a different strand of cleaning, I posted a picture of vacuum lines being one of life’s simple joys. That picture resonated with many of you and united a few of us clean freaks! With spring cleaning right around the corner (eekkk!!), I’m ready to move on to filing cabinets and Michael’s side of the closet…:-) The Goodwill is going to baaaaaaaaank.

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On to the next subject: Fuller House. Y’all, I’ve only watched the first episode, but I geeked out and smiled throughout the entire episode! Full House was my favorite show of my entire childhood. I fondly remember new episodes airing on Tuesday nights and my brother and I would eat Ramen Noodles (affectionally called “Oodles of Noodles”) and a big bowl of popcorn in front of the T.V. On long car trips, I would inevitably ask, “How much longer?” My parents would always equate the time with how many Full House episodes it would take to watch!

Also streaming from Netflix: House of Cards season 4 is out this Friday, March 4th! Now Michael and I have something to watch this weekend as we avoid another weekend of breweries and restaurants. Yaaaaay….cleanse.

I’ll wrap this post up with a few recent discoveries worth sharing!

For your ears (and spirit): Lauren 
Daigle’s album How Can It Be is a work of art.

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For your tastebuds: This Thai Red Curry is SO good and easy! I added sautéed shrimp, went with brown rice, and incorporated asparagus and bok choy to the veggie list. #delish.

For your email inbox: Career Contessa is an awesome collection of interviews, articles, and overall lifestyle posts. I could spend hours on their site!

Favorite Finds

Sharing is caring so today I bring to you a few of my favorite finds!

If you aren’t subscribed to The Skimm, sign up ASAP for a daily does of witty commentary on current news. It will keep you in the loop with world affairs, politics, and entertainment.

Another daily email I love receiving comes from MindBodyGreen. From smoothie recipes and exercise routines to inspirational quotes and spotlighting the latest superfood, this site is full of good-for-you goodies.

Tired of paying for overpriced hummus filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce? Try making this buffalo hummus. SO SO GOOD! (Pro trip, go easy on the garlic. Or not. It all depends on how close you want your husband that night!)

Looking for a good read? Consider Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I absolutely love her writing.

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Need a quick pick-me-up? Meet Fit Crunch protein bars. The peanut butter ones tastes like snickers! You can find them at GNC, Amazon, and Walmart.

Got the travel bug but lack the funds? Check out “The Cheapest Places to Travel for Each Month of the Year“. Honolulu in February? Yes, please!

These oven roasted brussel sprouts(with bacon!) are addicting.

I have at least three cups of tea a day, easily. These sips will not steer you wrong.

Cinderella’s momma said it right: Have Courage and Be Kind.

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“Spring is Coming”

HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE! Happy New Year! We are already well into 2016 and I haven’t made a single appearance here on Bird’s Nest. I’ve thought of countless posts…like a 2015 recap, our Christmas and New Year’s visit, a few recipes to share, and some of my favorite recent reads… but between binge watching Homeland and House of Cards with Michael, teaching a handful of fitness classes a week (4 Pure Barre classes, 2 Zumba classes, and 1 core class), keeping up with the mounds of laundry and dishwasher loads (how do two people go through so many clothes and dishes everyday??), I haven’t had any writing mojo.

Perhaps I’m recovering a bit from 2015? WHAT.A.YEAR! I lived in Charleston, Richmond, Memphis, and Johnson City. FOUR moves! There was planning a wedding and the most beautiful day I’ve ever lived. We cruised around Alaska and started our marriage with more moves and adjusting to a new city together. I pursued a dream to teach Pure Barre and have been humbled by how much preparation, training, and practice it takes to be an excellent teacher for each class. 10426687_10204937827476830_5670134686419501070_n

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Then there’s been health stuff that’s sidetracked me. Skin spots removed, funky hormone levels, blood taken. It’s been an interesting few rounds of “if-not-that-then-what?” Health and wellness is a journey, ya know what I mean? I’ve felt a little…out of sorts.12227562_10153357006782424_4487242417836674502_n

But then there’s been some really energizing and refreshing moments! I’ve found out that a few of my favorite people are pregnant! Michael surprised me a few weeks ago to Willow Winds, our favorite cabin in Asheville, NC. That was so fun! We just celebrated his birthday and well, Eleanor is cute as ever. My downtime each day has had Amanda Cook’s CD on replay and I’ve enjoyed Nathan Foster’s The Making of an Ordinary Saint. Most of all, God has been faithful to meet me in the day-to-day. I’ve found the Spirit’s companionship in the household chores, the peace of Jesus to calm the nerves before teaching a class, my Creator’s steadfast strength in the doctor’s office. unnamed-312540706_10205066633176892_2741761261667765909_n

When we were hit with a foot of snow a few weeks ago, I was reminded that we go through seasons, always changing and transforming. My favorite quote in Foster’s book talks about winter. He writes,

“During winter, nature is busy. Trees do most of their growing as roots search deep, plumbing the earth in search of nutrients. In a season that seems dormant and asleep, God is active.”

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Feeling a little out-of-sorts, or like my roots are searching deep, I’m assured that this season is the pathway to new life and that God’s words are for us here and now: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). I feel like the end of that verse deserves an exclamation point: Behold, I am making all things new! Like the excitement of a new spring season…warm weather! Bird’s chipping! More sunshine! Flowers and trees in full bloom! Fresh farmers market goodies!  SPRING IS COMING!

All things new! I’m included in that. You, too. Seasons are just seasons–they come and go. Sometimes they’re bitter and frustrating, sometimes they’re warm and nourishing. We strive for balance everyday, but is that even attainable in just one day? Or even in one season? Perhaps balance found when we step back and have a larger hindsight on our journeys? I think when we take that outlook, we see the full picture of moments where we’ve thrived in full-stride balanced with moments of struggle.  unnamed-2

Here’s what I’m saying: Happy Winter! Happy hibernating, searching, and digging deep. Happy struggle and questioning. Happy heartache, stumbling, and failing. You’re right where you are supposed to be. What seems stagnant will soon burst forth with new life! Let go what needs to be shed and make space for what is to come. Take hope and trust in a good and faithful Creator.

Behold, you are being made new.

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