Monday, August 10, 2015

Where Have We Been?

Okay, first of all, I'm so sorry for the lag in posts lately. Life has been more than crazy for the past month and we are just now settling back in to our "normal" routines! That's summer for you!

Second, our baby is ONE, y'all! How did that happen? Where has the time gone and who has stolen my tiny baby and replaced him with a larger baby who is walking around and determined to discover every form of danger that there is in the world?!?! (Mothers of little boy new walkers, can I get a witness?) More on this topic, later! I promise!

So, besides my personal goals being at an all time low in my life (just solely to keep my child alive and well every day), we have been rushing around like crazy in the glorious days that are summer! We were so blessed to be able to save the money for our first-ever two-week vacation this year. Last year, we went for one week with both of our families at the same time, and we had fun. 

Here we are with Ross's family last year (note my midsection)!

Here we are with my family last year!

We wanted to try a different approach this year to see how that would work, so we did the first week with my family and the second week with Ross's family, all at the same beach! Ross and I definitely felt it was a little easier to relax and there were certainly less coordination of plans, so that was great! Oh, and I wasn't 35 weeks pregnant in the middle of July where swelling and Braxton Hicks contractions were my constant accessories, so there's that. ;)

Here are some photos of our vacation this year, and it was so incredibly special being able to experience our baby going to the beach for the first time! He LOVED playing in the sand, and he definitely had no fear of the water or the waves!

Of course, lots of walks on the beach had to happen! The water felt amazing!
Umm, who doesn't indulge in Krispy Kreme while on vacation?
There were lots of precious naps, both in the beach house....

...and on the beach under our canopy!
There were luckily only a couple of ridiculous beach storms! Scary right?!?!
Ice cream, because, duh.
Lots of family fun!
EPIC paddleball tournaments on the beach that may or may not have included team color coordination and all of us being super attractive (note the sarcasm on the last part - we're all nuts).
GOOD eats from the local restaurants....hello, seafood salad. Come to mama!
An awesome men's fishing trip for Ross and my two brothers-in-law...

...which ended up as a scrumptious meal for the rest of us! Nom nom nom! (I was so proud of them!)
There were TONS of huge, full-face smiles!
And of course, family photo ops!

God's perfect design that we call beaches = the good stuff!

There was some flying!

Lots of digging and playing!

There was a little shopping!

There was also an awesome seafood boil that we did ourselves at the beach house. (BEFORE)
Clearly, we all hated it. (AFTER)

There was tons of sweet cousin time, both on the beach and inside the house.

The bottom line? Wow, we are so blessed! What an amazing, crazy, memory-filled summer we've had this year! To God be all the glory, always!

Saturday, June 27, 2015


All I can really say is, "Wow."  And, "Thank you."

Photo Credit - LOVE them!

Yesterday was a huge day in our country, and just like anytime something as big as yesterday's event happens, the day started with division. That division is what led to my last post, which was probably one of the most controversial I've ever chosen to write. Naturally, that made me the most nervous I'd ever been to hit "Publish" and send my inner thoughts out into the universe.

But, if you've followed me for any amount of time, I've made no secret of sharing my faith, nor have I kept hidden how incredibly blessed I am, and yesterday continued to prove me right in that last assessment. I was blown away (and continue to be so) by the response to my post yesterday on Practicing Love. First, I was just shocked, to be blunt about traffic numbers literally made my jaw drop and it both thrilled and terrified me. I found myself waiting for someone to take the opportunity to light me up on social media. That was, after all, the type of behavior that sparked my nagging feeling to post my perspective in the first place.

From 12:29pm when the post went live, I waited for that other shoe to drop. I pondered how bad the fallout would be. I wondered how many "friends" I was going to lose. I prayed for peace and that God could somehow use me and my words, even if in the tiniest way, to remind people that in order for love to actually win, work was still to be done.

And you know what? He did! Rest assured that I already thanked Him by the time you're reading these words so now I find it absolutely necessary to thank each and every one of you!

Thank you for visiting my site, first and foremost. Thank you for your open minds and open, hungry hearts. Thank you for reading my post - I know it wasn't short and it took some of your precious, valuable time (on a Friday, no less!) - thank you! Thank you for liking my post on various social media platforms. Thank you for sharing it with your friends and families. Thank you for humbling me yet again with your respect and your kindness. Thank you for giving my perspective a chance. Thank you for the comments that honestly fed my soul and I'm sure impacted others, as well. Thank you for being the example, no matter your stance or position. Thank you for doing the hard work that it's going to take to spread the love when it seems our first gut reaction is to take a darker path. Thank you for restoring people's faith in humanity (trust me, I received that in feedback). Thank you for being you - this world would be far less good without you in it. I feel like if this were my award recipient's speech, I would be failing miserably and leaving multiple thanks out, which distresses me a bit.

So, in a trendy little nutshell, thanks for all the things.

I love y'all. For serious.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Practicing Love

Today was a pretty big day in America as the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that, moving forward, same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry in all 50 states. Of course, all media outlets are aflutter with this decision, and there is something that I find really interesting about what I've seen today. Normally, I do not post nor comment about social or political issues. There are many reasons for that, but I felt compelled to post today and take a leap of faith in writing what's on my heart, even though I am well aware that it has the potential to make me less popular.

As soon as the news of the decision broke, my phone about blew up with notifications of people posting on social media - so much so that I disabled those notifications because I was going insane! Haha! (Honestly, I have gone for a time not particularly noticing that little vibration sound, but today, I was almost convinced that my phone had become possessed! LOL!)

Then, as is typically the case, all of the major news outlets interrupted their regularly-scheduled programming to feature the President speaking on the ruling in the Rose Garden. So, I watched and more importantly, I listened to what he had to say.  Regardless of your opinion about our President and whether or not you are satisfied with the decisions he has made during his time leading our country, I have to give him this - I actually felt that he gave a balanced speech. I actually felt somewhat encouraging feelings after letting what he said resonate with me.

Then, I saw more social media posts, and I instantly became a bit incredulous. The mass majority of my friends who posted their favorite links about the decision followed up their commentary on the topic with either the words, "Love has won" or the hashtag #lovewon. After perusing either their commentary or the comments on the links that some of them participated in sharing, I found myself actually asking the question: Did love win?

I saw excerpts from the President's speech flood my news feeds and it was interesting to me the portions of his speech that were highlighted. Just like all bodies of speech, passages can be misleading, as they can be bent or angled to support one's point of view. That doesn't mean that it's wrong to do that; in fact, when writing papers in college, that was often the goal - do research, find evidence to support your position, include said evidence, and cite your source. So, I cannot knock people for taking this approach, and I won't. That said, I encourage everyone to listen to the speech in its entirety and to come away with your own emotions rather than just allowing someone else to interpret things for you.

The reason I felt compelled to write this post was simply because of the hatred that I saw take over, specifically to a particular group of people. It may surprise you to learn that the particular group of people who were on the receiving end of the majority of these remarks, memes, and commentary were not members of the LGBT community.  So, again, I ask the question: Did love win?  Does that type of behavior further the cause of love? Based on what I saw, I am compelled to say, "no."

Here is a portion of the President's speech that I, personally, felt convicted to share.  It's definitely not been as widely circulated, so maybe you missed it if you didn't actually tune in, and feel free to pass it along if you feel so led.

I can wholeheartedly agree with our President in regards to his statements here, and I hope that some people in my newsfeed will choose to go back and watch the entire speech and consider changing their approach.

You see, in order for love to actually win, it must be practiced.
By everyone. 

Love doesn't generalize. Love doesn't condemn. I know that some members of a particular group of people have chosen to show the opposite of love to the LGBT community, and in turn and retaliation, some members of the LGBT community have chosen to show the opposite of love back. The word that we ALL need to focus on in the statement before this one is some. Today was a huge win for the LGBT community, and what did I witness multiple times from people in my circles once they made a major stride towards the right to love they are seeking? Hate. The main argument I saw (and have seen in the past, as well) that made me sad is that because all Christians are hateful and offensive and intolerant towards them, retaliation is the only logical option. Well, as much as I hate to drop a bomb on an argument, here goes nothing:

I am a Christian. I love the Lord and yet, I don't hate you.

The unfortunate thing is that some of you spent so much time and effort constructing the perfect argument to destroy all Christians on social media and I just undid your argument in two sentences. I'm sorry for that because I hate wasted effort. But, sorry, I am not sorry for loving you.

I love the Lord. The Lord loves me back. He also loves you, regardless of whether you are gay or straight. He loves you whether or not you believe in Him. He loves you whether or not you choose to follow Him. He loves you, and so do I.

But, you ask, "How can you be a Christian and love gay people?" Easy. Because God loves gay people and He blessed me with a multitude of gay people to love, too. It may surprise you to learn that I have friends from childhood, friends from high school, friends from college, family members and friends of our family who are, in fact, gay.

Guess what? I love them. Why? Because they are more than just gay to me. I don't reduce them to the point of only seeing "gay" when I look at them or talk to them.  I see people. Because they are people. And when they look at me or talk to me, I should hope that they not only see a Christian, but that they should also see a person. I don't generalize an entire group of people or call them names, and I don't appreciate that happening to me either. As the President said today, as Americans, it is important to revere our deep commitment to religious freedom, and that's why I believe this part of his speech is so vital to share! Just as people who follow Christ are called to show love to everyone, not just those you want to love, it stands to reason that Christians, too, deserve that love from others.

I can't make people love me. I know that full well. I can only control what I can control, and that is how I treat others. So, I choose to try to show love as best and as much as I can. I don't always get it right. That doesn't mean I quit trying, though! In order for love to actually win, it must be practiced, so it would do no good for me to say that to you and then fail to practice loving others myself. I love this passage from the book of Luke, because it speaks specifically on putting love into practice, and it directly applies to where we are in this day and age.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36

Wow. Does that not say it all? Not everyone in this world is going to like or agree with every single thing you like or do. We are not all the same. Not everyone in this world is going to be "easy to love." There are difficult people in this world. For every issue you are supremely passionate about (even if you can see no way for anyone to take a different view), there will be another person who will fight to the death in opposition to you. But God calls us who follow Him to be merciful and to love everyone - we don't get to pick and choose who they are, and generalizing isn't logical because we've already established that we are NOT all the same.

Now, as I said earlier, I can only control what I can control. We are not all the same. We don't all agree on everything. I am strong in my Christian faith, but I know that there are plenty of people who do not believe as I do. Some people choose not to believe in anything at all. Some choose to worship other Gods. Some consider themselves to be religious. Some consider themselves to be spiritual. Some will be honest and admit that they have no idea what to believe and they're searching.

For me, here is how I practice love with those people who do not agree with my Christian faith - I just, quite simply, don't hate them. I don't go out of my way to construct arguments against them. I don't get on a soapbox and preach to others to turn away from them. I don't spend my time "stacking my deck" on reasons why their arguments are wrong. I don't publicly protest or shame them. I don't lose my manners and upbringing when it comes to discussions with them. I try my very best to eliminate judgment from my vision and from my verbiage - that's God's job, not mine, and He will judge me just the same as every other person under the sun. I don't walk around like I'm special. I don't try to sell people on why I'm entitled to something. And most importantly, for me, I pray for them. I pray for wisdom and guidance for myself in showing them love.

Here's the challenge for each and every one of us, regardless of our passions:

What if we all tried our best to stop being so offended?


In order to show love to others, we have to lay ourselves down. We have to humble ourselves regularly. That doesn't mean becoming a doormat or giving up what you believe, because the act of laying yourself down for another is not a concession or a weakness - it takes an incredible amount of strength! Look, I get it - the literal fact is that it's hard to hug someone who comes out of their corner swinging like a UFC fighter, but as for me, I'm called to love people. Whether or not they accept that love isn't up to me because it isn't about me. It's about them, but it's also about Him. Until we all choose to start practicing love (or to pick it back up again after taking a hiatus), then and only then does love actually have a chance to win.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances - See more at:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - See more at:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - See more at:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Great Swimsuit Hunt!

{UPDATE: I am sorry for the lag in posts! Whew, life is crazy busy, but I hope to get back to regularly posting! Thanks for hanging with me, y'all!}

In my last post, I discussed why modesty was important, and the bottom line is this: modesty is about respect, plain and simple.  Especially now that I am a mama, I want to make sure that I am communicating respect, but I also know that I need to have a swimsuit that is practical more than itsy bitsy teensy weensy.

For the first time in my life, my number one priority will not be relaxing, laying out, and catching some good ole' Vitamin D (while properly sunscreened, of course!). This year, I will be chasing my sweet boy, who will be 11 months old and is full on. All.the.time. I'm sure there will be plenty of sandcastle building, running around, and playing with toys, so I need a suit that can keep up and STAY UP, y'all!

So, as promised, I've rounded up a few modest swimsuits that are functional and still cute! Modest does NOT have to equal frumpalicious, people!

One of the more popular and well-known modest swimwear lines is Rey Swimwear, whose muse is Audrey Hepburn and some of her more iconic film characters. Jessica Rey, the designer, has the motto, "Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?" I'm inclined to wonder the same thing! Check out these gorgeous swimsuits (the ones pictured happen to be my favorites of hers)!



Are these not awesome? I love the vintage, throwback vibes and naturally, the classy portrait these suits portray! The only drawback for me is the price, and while I can completely understand paying for quality, I am soooo thrifty and frugal that it's hard for me to move past the dollar signs on these beauties!


I also really like the customizing ability that swimsuit line Divinita Sole offers! One of my favorites of theirs is pictured above. Basically, they are a line of tankinis that have SO many different color choices and patterns, and they have different silhouettes that they've divided into the fairly general body types, so you can mix and match and play to your body's strengths. They have different bottom styles for each top, as well, so you can control the look and the coverage you want. I think that's great! They're still a little pricier than what I feel comfortable spending, but I also can agree that quality is more important than quantity, so if you're in the market for a great suit, they might just be for you! 

I actually went shopping and bought this bandeau-style tankini with removable halter strap (to keep things extra secure, although the top fit well enough that I didn't feel uncomfortable without the halter).


It's a MUCH brighter orange/coral in person (as in I was a little hesitant to purchase because I'm going to the beach, not trying to prevent a hunting accident), and the top does not fit quite as loosely as it does on the model in the picture. Luckily, my husband told me that he really liked the color and didn't think I'd startle any deer on the beach! Haha! Another thing I liked is that the back is not completely open like a handkerchief top, which apparently must be making a comeback in popularity based on what I saw in the store.

Source same as above

Call me crazy, but a) who makes the handkerchief/bandana back?!?! b) why do people want to feel "breezy" in the back? -AND- c) I can't imagine that would feel comfortable after swimming - like a wet curtain hanging off the front of you?  I'm definitely not here to judge, and am genuinely open to understanding the appeal, so if those style suits are your thing, please feel free to enlighten me...I digress. Back to business, though:  the suit I bought again fit me a little differently than the model's fit - my keyhole in the back is definitely not as large, which I actually like. That adds to the comfort.

The bottoms are sort of a modified string, if you will. They have thick strings that do offer coverage, and of course, even though modesty is my goal, I do appreciate the ability to resize your bottoms. Have you ever had the experience where water either makes your suits shrink or stretch? That gets awkward if you don't have the ability to adjust, so I can get down with that. But, by and large, the BEST part of buying this swimsuit? The price! The top was on clearance for $9.99 and the bottoms were on clearance for....wait for it....$5.99! Add to that the fact that I had a 25% off coupon that could be used on clearance items, and we've got ourselves a score, y'all!!!  (I'm pretty sure this is the main reason my husband loves me. LOL!)


I also scored some swimming shorts, which I've also never owned before, but can absolutely see the use value in! Now, before you laugh like a hyena (although you may be doing that already), my sister gave me a hard time about these "mom shorts" as she called them. All I ask is that you hear me out before you judge me! ;) They look much cuter on than this picture, they're neutral so they can be worn with pretty much any solid or patterned bikini or tankini top (or shirt, for that matter), and they're SUPER comfortable, you guys! Basically, they're shorts that are made with water-friendly material. You can swim in them, and they have a built in bathing suit bottom, so you don't have to worry about giving folks a show! But, unlike boyshort swim bottoms, these come down further like normal shorts would, they're attached to the bathing suit bottom ONLY at the waistband, and because of that, they're not suctioned to your thighs. As one reviewer commented, she can wear them all the time, like "pool, yard work, etc. and still feel somewhat covered to answer door or welcome guests for a cookout."

So, I am pretty excited about my finds, and I am WAY more excited that I didn't spend an arm and a leg to accomplish my goals.  I will say that I was asked this question by a girlfriend of mine, and I felt it was appropriate to post here. She asked, "Do you feel that it's immodest to wear a bikini?" I hadn't really pondered that before, and so I thought on it for a second, and here is my genuine answer. I, personally, do not think wearing a bikini means that you are not concerned with modesty, nor do I think you are necessarily disrespecting anyone by wearing one. I will go on the record and tell you that if I were to ever say "yes" to that question, I'd be the biggest hypocrite alive. In fact, what started me on the journey to find more mama-appropriate options is the fact that all I owned were pretty small bikinis in different forms, apart from my one maternity tankini! When you are as pear shaped as I am, it can be a challenge to find a one-piece that fits you properly, so I've generally stayed away from them for most of my life.

I, personally, believe that you can still wear a bikini that communicates respect for yourself and others and it lies in this: you should NOT be concerned with losing your top or your bottom or having your chest or bum spilling out. If you have to constantly be worried about showing too much skin or getting arrested for indecent exposure, you probably shouldn't be wearing it, no matter how good you may look in it.

My personal rule of thumb is that if I'm honest with myself and I look in the mirror, if it is obvious to me that I am promoting my chest or bum (i.e., those parts are highlighted and/or spilling out/not covered properly), I know I need to make a wiser choice. If you're in touch with the Holy Spirit, it really isn't that hard to distinguish. If your goal in choosing a swimsuit is solely to promote how sexy you are, you're wearing it for the wrong reason. Truthfully, if you're wearing ANY type of clothing to draw sexual attention to yourself, you're choosing to play a game you could lose and you're most likely not going to receive the type of attention you actually desire.

Let's take back our focus and try something different! What would happen if we chose to allow God to fill up any insecurities we have (and we all do) with the reminders of how "fearfully and wonderfully made" we are? We were created in His image - His PERFECT image! This was not a mistake! He loves us and He's for us! Because of that, we don't have to "be" anything! We are cherished, just the way we are! Believe me, I preach that to the choir all the time (and by choir, I mean ME)!

Have you found any other modest options that are still cute? What are your thoughts/tips on showing respect to yourself and others in general?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Stance: Modest Is Hottest

Now that I'm a mama and summer will be upon us quickly, I've been thinking a lot about what to wear on our upcoming beach vacation. I know this is a challenge for many women as they transition from pre- to post-motherhood. 

For some, it's because the journey of childbearing left its mark on their bodies, and maybe they're not as confident in some areas as they were before.  For others, like me, it simply is a desire to be a little bit more practical. Not only do I want to set a good example for my son by choosing a bathing suit that doesn't give away the farm, I also want to be able to...get this...enjoy the beach with my kid! That means instead of laying flat, reading magazines and getting tan, I will be playing in the sand, holding my boy so he can enjoy the waves, and indefinitely chasing him around! I need a swimsuit that allows me to do all of those things comfortably, and without having to worry about giving all the other people on the beach a show that they didn't buy tickets for! Haha!

So, a conversation with a friend recently is what got me pondering the topic of modesty and swimwear. I was asked my thoughts and if my opinion on swim options had changed now that I'd become a mama. Truthfully, and as I told her then, I hadn't given it much thought. But, I enjoy being challenged, so I began to ponder her question and my thoughts on the matter. Ultimately, what I came up with is that I want to make modest selections, for a multitude of reasons.

The bottom line is this: modesty is not about being a prude. 

When you choose to dress modestly, whether on the beach or in the grocery store, you also choose to show respect for yourself first and foremost. When your focus is solely on making yourself look attractive to the masses (and by their standards), you're generally not communicating that you respect yourself and you want others to respect you, too. In today's society, the tighter the fit and the more skin you show, the more "followers" you're sure to get. Many people even use fitness as an opportunity to invite lack of modesty into their lives. It's the whole "you worked hard for it, so by all means, show it off" mentality. I have to say that while I can easily applaud their efforts in the gym or wherever their personal transformation has taken place, I still stand firm on that their transformation is just that - personal. I have no problem giving credit where credit is due, and we are called to take care of our bodies in Scripture.
19 "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I think that it is important to honor God through taking good care of the body He gave you, so yes, fitness and health in general is very important. But we are not instructed to then show our temples off! Being naked on the cover of a magazine is NOT honoring to God, no matter how in shape you are!

When you make the decision to dress modestly, you're not just outwardly communicating that you respect yourself - you also are being respectful to men. If you are married or in a committed relationship, you are saying to the world that you respect your man by allowing his eyes to be the ones who see the majority of you. Men are hard-wired to be visual, and it must be difficult to exist in this world where modesty is not rewarded often. Temptation is everywhere, and in a society where many women seem to be competing with one another to be the most tempting person on the internet, it must be refreshing when a man meets a woman who is more than surface-oriented. In fact, the Bible is clear in its direction and charge to men on this specific topic:

28 "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28

Even though I wholeheartedly agree that men need to be on guard, be responsible with their intentions and actions, and also need to be chasing after the Lord, I am a member of the camp "it takes two to tango," or that a story has two sides. We, as women, need to communicate respect for men and their struggle by choosing modesty in our lives.  I also believe that when you choose to implement modesty into your daily life, you're not only communicating respect for yourself and for the men in the world - choosing modesty shows respect for other women, too. How many times have you, personally, seen a "celebrity" with the world's standard of a perfect body and felt worse about yourself? How many times have you witnessed another woman dressed to kill and wished you could be as "pretty" or "fit" or "curvy" or "attractive" as she was? We've all done it, if we're being honest. For the women who choose to participate in showing off what magazines, movies, and television tell us are "sexy," when is it ever good enough? The competition has landed us basically in pornographic territory, where it seems that the battles for likes, the most risque poses, and the newest, most innovative ways to show skin are king.  The fact is this: the Bible is transparently clear in its direction and charge to US - the women of the world:

9 "I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." 1 Timothy 2:9-10

3 "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

30 "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

22 "Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion." Proverbs 11:22

Now, I don't know about you, but I would say that doesn't leave too many blanks to fill in. We are commanded to be different than those who are of the world. We need to set the standard, and the standard starts and ends with respect. If we set our own standards low, it makes no sense to be upset when others treat us by the standards that we set for ourselves - that is just as much a reflection of ourselves as it is of others.

In my next post, I'll show some options that I found for more modest swimwear that I'm looking into for this summer and summers beyond! I'm also open to any that you have found so pass them my way!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Take It, It's Yours

This past weekend, Ross and I had the opportunity to travel to our capital city for one of my best friend's weddings!  We had so much fun, and I just wanted to share some of the highlights of the wedding weekend with you all.

My sister was kind enough to accompany us to help watch our little man alongside Ross, and this weekend included the longest stretches of time I've ever been away from my baby since he joined this world outside of my body!  Haha!

We got to stay at The Westin hotel, which I would highly recommend if you've never stayed at a Westin property before if for no other reason than.......wait for it......

They have Starbucks coffee. In your room. With liquid creamer. It's complimentary. It's also in the lobby in case you've downed the first cup from your room by the time the elevator reached the lobby (which I'm not saying happened).  This fact alone meant that the Westin pretty much nailed it in trying to impress me, even though their staff was also amazing and were so kind to us.  Plus, they're pet friendly, so that is also a bonus as someone who LOVES her furbabies to pieces!

But, back to the wedding!  If you follow me on Instagram (which I'd love for you to, naturally!), you saw some of these awesome photos from this weekend! 

Of course, my BFF looked more beautiful than I've ever seen her! Her blue eyes popped like you cannot imagine. Her forever love cried as she came down the aisle to join her life with his. The entire hour-long Catholic mass was filled with him giving her loving looks and funny faces, and it was amazing to see the pure love and joy that was radiating from both of them.

Ross and I also got a little bit of time to spend together, just the two of us, (these moments are definitely precious and few but cherished nonetheless).

And, as I always do when I'm attending, planning and coordinating, or participating in a wedding, I take my time to really listen when the pastor (or Father, in this case) speaks during the ceremony.  You see, if you're married and you only attend a wedding to see the love in the couples' eyes and see the big kiss, you're really missing a huge opportunity. Weddings are the perfect time to reflect on your own marriage and mentally recommit yourself to the person and to the life that you chose.

In this ceremony, Father said something that I really loved and wanted to pass on.  Many times, the wedding rings are given their moment in the sun in a wedding ceremony by discussing their circular shape, which has no beginning and no end. I'm sure you've heard that before. Of course, they are also noted for being the outward symbol of your commitment to your spouse and also of the covenant the two of you made with the Lord when you chose to say, "I do."  Both of these things are true, so I definitely do not want to devalue their sentiments!

What Father said that I had never heard in a wedding ceremony before, but absolutely felt in my spirit was this: the wedding rings and the cross have something very important in common.  Jesus used the cross to tell the world: "Here is my life. Take it. It's yours."  When you choose to enter into the sacred covenant that is marriage with someone, you give them a wedding ring and you also accept a wedding ring from them.  In this exchange, each of you are saying: "Here is my life. Take it. It's yours."  Just as Jesus laid His life down for you and me (and we have the cross as the constant reminder of His love and sacrifice), so too must we lay our lives down for our spouses.  When you choose to get married, your life is no longer just about you. It is about the new family that has been created, and selfishness has no place anymore.

The other point Father made that really resonated with me is that your wedding rings are not silly pieces of materialism. They aren't meant to just be pretty. They aren't meant just as an outward symbol to others that you are taken by someone else.  The wedding rings themselves should be the reminder of another person to YOU - the person you chose to spend your life with. When you look at your wedding rings, you should see your spouse. Every single time.

This is why it is vital to consistently wear your wedding rings. When they're sitting in a ring dish beside the sink or tucked away in your jewelry box, they're not serving their purpose. When you look down at your bare hands, it's easy to revert to thinking only of yourself or focusing on what you are capable of alone.

Is this not the exact opposite of the point of marriage? It is the same with the cross. When you look at the cross, you shouldn't see a wooden structure. When you look at the cross, you should see Jesus. Every single time. When you refuse to acknowledge the cross and the weight of its power in your life, it's easy to revert to thinking only of yourself or focusing on what you are capable of alone. Is that way of thinking not the exact opposite of the power of the gospel? 

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Wedding rings and the cross are the only two things that are symbolic of another person, and this commonality is what makes them each so special. They are symbols of selflessness and love in a world filled with the "me-me-me" mentality and hatred.  So, I hope you can take this little nugget that I gleaned from the wedding with you today and let it soak in. May you be uplifted and encouraged in your marriage, and may you also be challenged whether that's in changing your way of thinking or whether it's in practicing discipline in being more intentional about wearing your rings and allowing them to convict your heart. I would also challenge you to continually make the cross a focus in your life - don't save your acknowledgement of it for Resurrection Sunday every year. The power of what Jesus did for you is relevant every single second of every single day. And, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone! As I always say, when you find a good thing, do your best to give it away! :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Liebster Award - Following The Rules & Paying It Forward

In my last post, I shared my excitement over the fact that my girl Emily from Em Busy Living chose to honor me with a Liebster Award!  I also mentioned that there were some rules should you choose to accept the award, which I am happy to complete right now!

For rules 1 and 2, you thank the person who nominated you and you display the award on your blog (check and check). Number 3 is to answer a series of 11 questions that the person who nominated you came up with, so here are Emily's questions and my responses!

1. Where do you currently live and what's one thing you love most about it?
We currently live in the great state of Virginia! I will be an overachiever on this question and give you three things I love most about good old VA. 1) It's located in the South! HA! 2) We get to experience all four seasons! 3) There is really something for everyone all in the same state - mountains, beaches, countryside, cities, etc.
2.  Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
I'd say this one is a toss-up, actually. Something I am convicted of and say to myself and others all the time is "Have you prayed about it as much as you've talked about it?" So, I don't know if I'd consider that my motto or more of a challenge-question. A motto that I do actually like and try to employ is "Have character. Don't just be one."
3.  Where is one of your favorite places you've ever traveled and why?
I absolutely love traveling to Sunset Beach, North Carolina.  Its quiet, expansive beaches can do wonders for my weary soul! I love that I can literally unplug and relax all while pelicans, sea gulls, and sandpipers hang out around me. And it's gorgeous, so that definitely doesn't stink, either!
4.  List three NEW places you'd visit if money was of no concern.
 If money was of no concern, you can bet your bottom I'd be traveling to London, Italy, and Ireland!
5.  What's the best book you've read this year?
This one is going to sound funny, but I loved Drowning in Clutter? Don't Grab A Floatie...Drain The Ocean by Dana White. Honestly, since having my precious baby boy, I haven't had very much time to read or do anything else, so this one was an e-book that I read at night on my iPad Kindle App! For the clutterbug that I am (and that I'm trying to evolve from), Dana really spoke my language and jump-started my spring cleaning!
6.  What is the best movie you've watched this year?
I would have to say that would be The Judge starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.  This one hit all the high notes for me - overcoming obstacles, intense family drama, personal triumph, problem solving, and of course, love. You should DEFINITELY see this one if you haven't yet. Then, tell all your friends about it.
7.  Who is a great, underrated band you think everyone should check out?
Well, I don't know if I'd call them underrated as much as I'd probably deem them "less than well-known in America," but I am a huge fan of The Swell Season. Whew, that Glen Hansard has the vocal chops and angst-filled lyrics that can give me the goosies! Plus, his voice is perfection with Marketa Irglova alongside him. They were in the film "Once," and that soundtrack is so, so good!
8.  What is the one thing you take time to do for yourself every day?
I make myself either one or two cups of coffee every morning.
9.  What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I guess I would have to say Cadbury Creme Eggs! LOL!
10. What is your number one "bucket list" item?
This one is easy for me!  I have GOT to swim with dolphins one day. Like, I've got to do it. It needs to happen. It will be the best day ever!
11. What is the purpose of your blog?
Good question, Em! The base purpose of my blog is to offer support and encouragement to people in their marriages and beyond, to point them towards Jesus, all while navigating my own marriage, new motherhood, and life, in general, with God's help.

Number 4 is to provide 11 random facts about yourself that people may not know, so here goes nothing.

11 Facts About Me:
1. I graduated college in only three years at the ripe old age of 20.
2. I met my husband on the only blind date I've ever been on in my life.
3. For most of my life I've been a hair chicken. It took my stylist 12 months to convince me to try bangs.
4. One day, I got super brave though and we dyed my hair red. And.I.LOVE.IT.
5. My natural hair color is actually a somewhat mousey brown.
6. My favorite movie is Love Actually, and I try to watch it every year before Christmas.
7. I rarely listen to current "pop music" anymore and I've found I really don't miss it.
8. My college degree was Communications Studies with an emphasis in Speech Communication, and I actually worked in my field!
9.  I enjoyed a career in broadcast television for just shy of 9 years.
10. I enjoy event planning, even though I haven't gotten to do it in awhile.
11. I have a texture issue with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so I make one "peanut butter folded over" and one "jelly folded over." Therefore, you'll never really hear me say that my hubs and I go together like peanut butter and jelly! ;)  

After you've completed this (Whew! We're getting our writing workout!), step 5 is to nominate between 5-11 bloggers who have less than 1,000 followers!  This is probably my favorite part, you guys - paying it forward!

I proudly nominate the following amazing women bloggers for The Liebster Award:
1. Robin at Relentless Living | 2. Brittany at The Sassy Salmon | 3. Steffy at Steffy W. |
4. Taylor at Love Is Taking Over | 5. Alydia at TorqueStrong

{I want you to know that I chose these women for this award because each of them have something to say. Whether you need to have your soul fed or you need to hear truth in a world full of lies, whether you want to know how a supermom of multiples "does it" while still being able to pour into others or you want to work on building more strength and endurance, or if you want to hear some really beautiful music and/or journey through life in a new country alongside the author, these bloggers are phenomenal, and I want you to know about them. I want you to read their stories. I want you to share them, too!}

Step 6 is that you create 11 questions for your nominees to answer if they choose to accept the Liebster Award, which they will answer in their blog posts! Here you go, ladies!!!

My 11 Questions For My Nominees:
1. Since you are all happily married, when did you know your husband was "The One?"
2. Who is someone who has made a big impact on your life? How?
3. Why did you start blogging in the first place?
4. What color is your toothbrush? (I cut you some major slack on this one).
5. If you were to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
6. What one song is your JAM? As in, if it comes on, your tush is moving.
7. What is one item on your bucket list?
8. What is your favorite Bible verse? Why does it speak to you?
9. What is your all-time favorite picture of yourself? Why did you choose it?
10. What was your favorite place throughout your childhood?
11. If you could give one piece of advice or encouragement to yourself when you were 13 years old (or in another awkward angsty phase of your life), what would that be?

Step 7 is to make sure you have the rules listed in your post (we can check this off, too!).

Step 8 (which is actually pretty vital) is to inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it and what the rules are in one place! At the time of this posting, this step has been completed, as well! I can now say I've officially joined the Liebster Award club and I hope my nominees will join me!

Dearest nominees! You are under absolutely no obligation to do this if you don't have the time or don't feel this award fits in well with your blog. If you do decide to accept, please let me know when you've completed the questions I've asked of you here. (A comment on this post will do!) I'm excited to get to know you all even more!