Thursday, January 31, 2013


Y'all, on Sunday, we got deep in my Bible study class.  Like, deeepp.  And, I needed it oh-so-badly.

A few months ago, we started a video series called Philippians by Matt Chandler.  The sessions are meant to lead small group Bible studies, but they really work perfectly for our little class.  I've enjoyed every session that I've heard, but there was something very different about Sunday's message.  It spoke directly to my heart -- you know the kind, right?  Those messages that hit so hard you're looking around to see if anyone else is as uncomfortable as you?

I don't know about y'all, but I worry.  I mean, worry about everything.  Everything.  I get it from my mama, who got it from her mama, and who knows how many generations back.  Most of the time, my worries are not about things going on in my life.  I worry far more about the potential for things to go wrong in my life.  I can vividly remember sitting in my room as a kid and bawling my eyes out because my mom was heading to Walmart, and I was terrified that something might happen to her before she could make it back home.  Irrational?  Yes.  But, it was so very real to me.  Even though I'm not always that melodramatic, that kind of stuff literally crosses my mind every day.

It's sobering to think that every morning, we wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, head to work, and really never know if we'll make it home that evening.  And, trust me, I know that God is sovereign, and I know that He has got it all figured out.  But sometimes, it's just so very easy to forget.

Which brings me to our Sunday School lesson.  It hit home, y'all.  The lesson was about what it really means to "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4).

Matt Chandler -- can I call him Matt??  I think I will.  Matt brought up the point that so many times Christians will take this verse, throw it around, and use it in "kitchy" songs, as a way to proclaim that we are always happy, always joyous, always rejoicing.  And, the truth is, that just isn't reality.  We were never intended to be emotionless robots, unfeeling and unaffected.  We hurt and we fear and we worry, and all of those things are okay.

In the session, he told a story about when his son had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance after his wife found him seizing in his crib upstairs.  There was only enough room for one extra in the ambulance - a spot that his wife took - and he was left to follow behind.  Only he got lost, without any idea which hospital they were headed to.  At that moment, rejoice was something very foreign to him.  Does God really think that believers will lift their hands in praise to rejoice over a situation like that?  No, of course not.  But we are called to "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"  So what does it mean to truly rejoice?

According to Matt, to rejoice in a terrifying situation is simply to relinquish control and trust that God is who He says He is. That trust is not the absence of fear, or hesitation, or hurt, or pleading questions.  It's just trust - and it's a high form of praise.

He went on talk to about how God not only is fully aware of everything that ever has been, is now, and will be on a gigantic, macro level, but He is also fully cognizant of every finite detail of our lives at the micro level.  When something scary or tragic happens, He is never surprised.  We cannot catch Him off guard.  This was such a poignant reminder to me that my constant anxiety is futile.  God has already worked out every detail of my life and the lives of my loved ones and friends.  I cannot add a nano-second to anyone's life by worrying about their safety and protection.

This year, one thing I'm working really hard on is my negative thinking.  I don't want to only guard the words that come out of my mouth -- I also want to work on the thoughts that stay in my head.  This totally includes my issues with anxiety about the safety of my loved ones.  I also want to reflect this definition of rejoice and trust.  It's a process, and I'm no overnight success.  Yesterday, as those storms rolled through the southeast, I caught myself running through about a thousand scary scenarios.  But, I'm working on it, and I could really use your prayer.

On a lighter note...Happy Thursday!  It is so very close to Friday and the weekend!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oh, How Pinteresting!

I absolutely love fall fashion. Nothing like boots, scarves, and sweaters. (And football.) But, I am really looking forward to spring colors. I hear that green is big this year, and it's one of my favorites!

Here are a few of my recent "wearable" pins...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Social

1. What is your ideal way to relax?
My favorite out-of-the-ordinary way to relax is on the back porch of a cabin overlooking the mountains at sunset (with sweet tea and boiled peanuts). Heaven on Earth to me is Blue Ridge, GA, around mid-October. But, if we're talking run-of-the-mill, during my actual week, relaxation time, I would have to say watching Hart of Dixie (or the Bachelor, or New Girl, or Nashville, or basically any chick flick movie) wearing my pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand and a candle burning.

 2. Where is your favorite place to be?
Well, I kind of just gave that one away. Blue Ridge is just breathtaking in the fall. I go there almost every year, whether it's with family or friends, and I just love it. But really, my favorite place to be is at home with my family. There's nothing quite like being surrounded by the people you love, whether that's actually at home or nestled in a cabin.

 3. Who do you consider your biggest role model?
I'm going to cheat just a bit and choose both of my parents. I'd be lying if I said one over the other because they both serve as the most incredible influences. I count myself blessed every day to know that I was given two of the most humble, selfless, Godly parents, and I feel beyond privileged to have the opportunity to learn from their examples.

 4. What does your life look like in 3 years?
Goodness, if I only knew. My heart tells me that I'll be married, or at least in a serious relationship, but I really don't know. I recently posted on my feelings about being single and the struggle I've had with my faith over finally giving God the reigns in my relationships. You can read about all that here!

 5. If you could go back and change one decision, what would it be?
Whoa, this is getting heavy.  I am happy to say that I don't have any major regrets in my life.  Nothing life-altering in a negative way that I wish I could go back and completely re-do.  There are a lot of things, though, where I question the direction my life would have taken had I made a different decision.  The biggest one that comes to mind is my decision on where to attend college.  I was planning to attend Belmont University in Nashville, until about a month before my move-in date.  I ended up staying back in Florida and taking advantage of a full scholarship, instead of going to my dream school in my dream city.  That was tough, and I've always wondered what might have happened had I gone through with my original plans.  But, I also always come back to the uneasiness I felt about leaving and knowing that God had been speaking directly to my heart.  I know I did the right thing, but I still don't know why it was the right decision.

 6. What is your biggest accomplishment in life so far?
I guess I would have to say getting my Masters degree.  I didn't take any breaks after I got my Bachelors and went directly into the Masters program, so I graduated pretty young.  I'm pretty proud that I did it, and that it's all out of the way because there's not a chance I will go back!  Well, never say never...but, it's definitely not in my plans.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Clever title, I know.  I bet I got your attention right from the beginning??  Uh huh, that's what I thought.  In class, we call them grabbers -- you know, that first sentence that "grabs" your readers' attention.  You're welcome for the impromptu 2nd grade writing lesson.

And this is my subtle transition into my actual post...

As a teacher, I treasure my summers.  I mean treasure them.  I cannot express the joy it brings me to wake up at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, mid-June, with absolutely nothing on the calendar.  Pure ELATION.

However, if I'm being honest, which I always try to be on here, there always comes a point in my summer that things tend to drag, just a bit.  I live in the Florida Panhandle.  If you're not at the beach, then you are inside with the A/C set on 60.  (Check out my last post to see how I really feel about warm weather.)  Unless I'm out of town or spending the day with friends, I don't get out too much during daylight hours because it's just so darn hot.  Which means, I have to find ways to fill my mornings and afternoons.

Two summers ago, I hit that lull where things just started to get a little boring.  I needed a hobby to occupy my time.  With my best friend's July 4th birthday coming up, I knew I wanted to make her something meaningful because she is the queen of giving the most thoughtful, tear-inducing gifts.  But, really, I am the least crafty person in the world.  My dad, brother, and sister are all incredible artists.  They can draw, paint, and design anything you can imagine (my dad is an architect).  But, me?  I got my mama's genes.  It just didn't happen for us.  I can only draw stick people, and even those are pretty scary.

I still cannot, for the life of me, remember what possessed me to head to Hobby Lobby to buy a canvas.  I had never considered buying a canvas.  Not ever.  But, somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that maybe I would try to make my friend a name sign to hang outside her future classroom.  I mean, I could write letters...with a pencil, anyway.  How hard could it be?

I'll spare you all the gory details.  The realization that painting is a pretty expensive hobby.  The 20 hours it took to complete.  The tears when I figured out that my thin white paint wouldn't cover up a few serious mistakes.  Uh huh...can you say learning process?  But, when all was said and done, I ended up with this....

It turned out much better than I thought it would, especially since I had seriously considered chunking it halfway through the process.  After that, I kinda got "bit by the bug."  I decided to turn the whole thing into a hobby, instead of just a one-time deal.  I ended up making myself a sign, which led to other friends wanting one, too.  

Sitting here, late-January, I am aching for a little more "me time" again.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my job.  But, there's just something that happens every year, when you reach that halfway mark, and summer feels like it'll never get here.  Last summer, I didn't get a whole lot of time to myself.  I spent a good bit of it in Germany (which I plan to post about soon).  I know, I know, poor me.  This summer, though, I have very little on the agenda and hope to make the most of it.  I'd love to take on some new craft project, just to see if I can do it.  Pinterest is giving me plenty of ideas, but I'd love to hear from someone with a better eye than me.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weight Watchers...Sort of

As the New Year was approaching, I sat down with my mom and best friend, and we all decided that it was time to take our health seriously.  A little background for perspective...

I have pretty much struggled with my weight my whole life.  The older I got, the more I tended to "settle" into it, figuring that this was it.  This was me.  I was and never have been obese, but I've always carried far more weight than my short frame should ever have to hold.  This has pretty much been the case for all of the women on my mom's side of the family (except for my freakishly perfect precious younger sister -- more on that later another day).  In fact, my mom was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes about three years ago.  That scared the mess out of all of us.  Her doctor put her on a super strict, crazy successful diet, which allowed her to get her weight into the normal range.  Although she will always be labeled "diabetic," her weight loss was such an encouragement to her doctor that she no longer really considered her to be a diabetic.  Of course, time and stress took its toll, and she has gained some (not nearly all) of that weight back.

Now, back to the New Year...

We all decided that we needed a life change.  Not a diet, per se, but a completely different view on health and lifestyle.  Interestingly enough, I came across Cherish at Southern Soul Mates' blog post about the difference between struggling for skinny and striving for healthy.  She eloquently expressed everything that I have been feeling and thinking lately about how I want to approach my weight loss goal for this year.  Specifically, she shared the truth about our bodies:  they are temples, given to us by a God who loves us and created us to love and bring glory to Him.  I know that I cannot adequately serve Him when my body is not at its best.

If I'm being completely candid here, I can think back to church canoe trips I didn't take, service projects I wouldn't join, and Student Life camps I didn't attend because I knew that I wouldn't be comfortable in my own skin.  Pretty much when summer rolls around, I become a total hermit and/or live in jeans and 3/4 sleeves.  Not exactly comfort-wear in the Florida Panhandle.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a complete recluse, and I grew up actively involved in my church.  But, I distinctly remember feeling self-conscious about involving myself in any sort of activity-based project or opportunity, and I do remember passing on a few.  In those situations, my health held me back from fully serving Christ in the way He intended.

Since January 1st, my mom, my best friend, and I have all been working toward our goals of achieving  healthier lifestyles.  We're all going about it in different ways, which completely fits our distinct personalities.  Personally, I'm doing a variation of the Weight Watchers diet.  I haven't signed up online, and I'm not attending a local class.  Pinterest and food bloggers have really been my key to success.  That, and preplanning.  I cannot stress the difference that it makes to know exactly what you will consume each day.  When you track what you eat and preplan your meals, it's so much easier to stay on track.  

I've also learned the beauty of substitutions.  It's ah-mazing the calories you can cut by making a few simple substitutions in your recipe!  That, to me, is what Weight Watchers is all about.  I have not once, since beginning this diet, felt deprived.  Y'all, I've cooked some seriously yummy stuff!  

Here's one of my go-to recipes:

It's currently day 24 of my "diet," and I am happy to report that I've lost 12 pounds.  I still have a good ways to go, but it's an awesome start.

Please keep me in your prayers as I continue on this journey toward a healthier lifestyle!

More recipes and updates to come!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Foley/Fairhope Weekend Getaway

I'm still trying to catch up from my long weekend.  Today was a DOO - ZY, for sure.  Kids, meetings, kids again, another meeting, kids' evening performance = 12+ hour work day.  Wow!

As tough as today was, I'm still riding on my weekend high.  Not that it was overly exciting, but it did include a much needed getaway with my sweet family.

Friday afternoon, I got off work early and headed to Foley, Alabama, with my mom, sister, and Gma for a little outlet shopping.  We spent the afternoon and evening walking the whole perimeter and found some pretty awesome deals.

We stayed that night in Orange Beach, slept in a bit, and drove north to Fairhope.

I.  Am.  In.  Love. 

I've been to Fairhope before, but I think this is the first time I've ever actually appreciated it.  If you've never been, I'll give you a quick rundown.

Fairhope is the most picture perfect town that sits right on the Mobile Bay.  It is small, friendly, and quiet.  On top of all that, it boasts one of the most beautiful little downtown shopping areas, including excellent boutiques, novelty shops, and cafes.  It almost rivals Blue Ridge, Georgia.  Almost.

After opening and closing Fairhope, we drove back to Foley and ate dinner at Lamberts ("Home of the throwed rolls!").  There are three Lamberts locations -- the one in Foley and two in Missouri.  If you ever get the chance to go, you've got to do it.  It's a little gimmicky, but so, sooo good.  Everyone at the restaurant plays a different "role."  There are waiters/waitresses to take your order and play pranks on the customers, there's one person who walks all throughout the restaurant throwing rolls to anyone who wants one, and there are others who handout the pass-around items, which are included with every meal.  The pass-arounds when we were there included fried okra, tomato macaroni, cabbage, and an onion and potato casserole.  The menu is all Southern cooking.  I ordered the fried chicken (oh-so yummy).

Afterwards, we headed back to the Panhandle and finished out the rest of the weekend at church and lounging on the couch.  Perfect!

I was able to snap a few phone pics along the way...

Downtown Fairhope

Mardi Gras decorations were in full force

Such a cute boutique

Back in Foley at Lamberts....

Action shot!

I can't leave out my favorite purchase of the weekend...

"Tied to the South" Southern Point Company shirt -- so precious!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shrimp 'n' Grits

New Year's Eve was fabulous and low-key.  I really enjoyed my time with family and friends.  Our night revolved around food, and we all went to bed that night with full bellies (which was great, since half of us started diets the next day).

One of my all-time favorite meals is shrimp 'n' grits.  Mmmm....

I've ordered it countless times while eating out but had never thought to attempt it myself.  For New Years, I decided to cook it for dinner, and it was pretty darn good, if I say so, myself.

I came across this recipe for cream cheese grits on Pinterest and modified the shrimp part just a bit.  Y'all, it was so good.  Of all the times I've eaten grits, I've never had them with cream cheese.  Now, I don't think I'd want it all the time (it's super excessively heavy), but it's a nice occasional treat.  And, if you've never eaten it this way, do it right now.

Cream Cheese Grits (per the caramel jar)

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup of stone-ground grits (I used Old-Fashioned Quaker Grits)
1/3 cup mascarpone or cream cheese (I used cream cheese)
salt and pepper to taste

*I added a handful of shredded cheddar, as well

**I also doubled this recipe (holy heart attack, I know) because these measurements yield 6 servings, and I was serving over 6 people.  As I was cooking, I thought there was no way one serving would be enough for 6 people...until I tasted it.  It's so rich, you can't eat more than 3/4 to 1 cup of the grits.  It is oh so filling.  Just a heads up!

Begin by combining the heavy cream and milk in a medium to large saucepan over a medium/low heat.  The original recipe says to simmer, but I found that with such a large amount it was taking forever to heat up.  I increased the heat a notch or two but stirred continuously, so the milk would not burn.  This helped, and I had no issues with the increased heat temp.

Once the mixture is simmering, whisk in the grits (again - stir constantly).  Add a dose of patience -- this is a good 30 minutes of stirring.

Once the grits are cooked, add in the cheeses, salt, and pepper.  Voila!


1 package of thick cut bacon
1 lb. of shrimp

Place bacon in frying pan and cook until crispy on medium heat.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate, but do not discard the grease.  Place shrimp in the bacon grease, and cook until no longer pink (about 3 minutes).

We topped our grits with shrimp, crumbled bacon, and chives.  So yum!