Ya Heard It Here First

So, this video is pretty awesome (maybe stop it about 10 seconds early...sorry for the last part)...

So here for a little "Throwback Thursday", is my post from mrsblogbacktome on June 18, 2013:

#phenomenon

To answer the question all of you are simultaneously asking right now, yes, yes you do pronounce the "#" in this title...and it's pronounced "hashtag".



This is an ode to the love/hate relationship that we all have with this ambiguous symbol we've come to know as the "hashtag".

A little personal history.

I was born in 1989. So that means that this, #, has been known to me as the "number sign" and the "pound key" before anyone that I knew began calling it a "hashtag". I use it when I call to check my balance on a store gift card ("Please enter the 450 digit number and then press the pound key"). I used to use it when I numbered things in school, or let's be honest, when I passed a note in class. I use it each and every day to get into my apartment. Some even still call it the "tick-tack-toe game board" (I don't actually know if that's a thing, but if it's not, it should be). I certainly cannot wrap my mind around how one little tiny symbol can have so many meanings and evoke so many emotions.

I, for one, am considering just making "hashtag" the universal name for this, "#". From now on, if you're coming to see me or the mister, you may call me and I'll tell you to dial "hashtag, one, two, three, four" to get into our neighborhood (Note: All of these numbers have been changed for privacy, but actually, that probably is someone's gate code).

Now that we're all on the same page here and we're all calling this, "#", a "hashtag", let me tell you a little story about my first hashtag. It's quite sentimental. Seriously, get your tissues ready people.

I reluctantly joined the Twittersphere in January of 2011. I was the person behind all of the Children's Homes social media, therefore I figured I should probably step up my game and create a Twitter account of my own. But, that's not the beginning of my hashtagging history. It actually took me almost 20 tweets to reach my first hashtag. And what was this memorable hashtag? Well, I didn't actually remember, so earlier today I scrolled back through my 2,171 tweets and found out that it was this...(drumroll please): #bittersweet.

It actually is kind of sentimental, even though I said that being 100% sarcastic earlier.

Also, don't let that tweet fool you...I still buy school supplies. Every semester I choose a class from the list at Walmart and I buy myself a little something special. This year, I was a first grader in Mrs. Darnell's class. Just kidding, I totally made all of that up. Not a bad idea though...I may have created a new tradition.

When I began my planning for this post, I was going to give you the actual history and origin of the hashtag. Buuuuuut... then I decided that would be super borning and no one actually cares. Instead, I'm going to give you some life lessons for your hashtags to live by.

Here we go. Buckle up.

Jessica's Life Lessons for your Hashtags to Live By:

1. Keep your hashtags witty and/or relevant. Don't hashtag just for hashtagging's sake. If you're tweeting about a show you're watching and a not-so-subtle hashtag pops up in the corner of the screen, use it. But don't say, something like "I'm watching The Bachelorette tonight and bachelor #3 is lookin' fine #youlookawesomebachelor3pleasemarryme." Don't do that. Just make your hashtag "thebachelorette". It's obvious and relevant. And also, don't tweet about how fine the bachelors on that show are. Their egos are already way too big.

2. You don't have to hashtag everything in sight. If you're tweeting or instagramming a photo (yes, I just made "instagramming" a verb), don't hashtag everything that the light touches (and yes, that's a Lion King reference). If you're tweeting a pic from a Braves game, seriously, don't hashtag every detail. #braves #baseball #summernight #jumbotron #chickfila #cow #chop #thisishowwechop #hotdog #chair #dugout #cleats #bat - NOT NESSEARY. For the love of all that is good in the social media universe, please don't do that!! You think I'm joking, but I have seen people do it before.
Exhibit A(wful):
I sincerely apologize if any of these hashtags are offensive.
I don't know what some of them mean, and with a Bob Marley quote...well...you just never know.
Exhibit B(ewildering):
Everyone's dream pets: a cat and a ferret. I
promise they'll love you like a puppy would.
3. Limit your hastags to about two, maybe three per post. Think of two really strong, relevant, or witty hashtags. Stick with those. Quality > Quantity my friend.
4. Don't string more than a few words together in a single hashtag. Don't think that you can try to sneak around rule number three by stringing 10 words together.If I have to take a screenshot of your tweet or Instagram photo, go to my Camera Roll, then zoom in, all in order to read your hashtag, it's too long. Break it up. You'll be better for it.

#donotstringabunchofwordstogetheritisnoteffectiveipromiseyouthatmuchistrue

5. Don't speak in hashtags. It's really just tacky. Unless you're transcribing what someone else said, or maybe quoting something someone said, don't say the word "hashtag" followed by a phrase, even it if is witty and/or relevant. People will look at you strange, and no one wants that. If I had it my way, we'd all carry around Pinterest-y chalkboards and anytime we thought of a hashtag that we wanted to verbally share, we'd just write it out, hold it up, and move on. Just promise me that you won't be like Kasey from the Bachelorette when he got out of the limo. If you're not sure what I'm talking about...go watch it (first episode of this season). You'll cringe. It's rough. Poor guy. No one told him the rules.

So there they are...the rules of this hashtag phenomenon...or at least my rules. As in any high stakes competition, remember to play by the rules and keep it classy. That's all I've got for today, friends.
(Note: This blog post was brought to you by way too much caffine)
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Posted on September 26, 2013 and filed under "throwback".

Our Crestwood Cottage: A First-Time-Homebuyer Story

I'm writing this post today because two months ago, I had NO idea what all it would take to be living in our home. Technically, Jason and I were supposed to start looking at houses TODAY.

Jason and I are both hard-core researchers. We research everything before we buy, go, and do anything! Since this whole house thing kind of snuck up on us, we didn't have sufficient time to research and we really just had to walk through it step-by-step.

After we renewed our lease on our apartment last January, we made the decision that we would begin house hunting after our one year anniversary (September 22nd). Once we planned our trip to Seattle, we decided that the day we got back, we'd begin our search. Little did we know, God had another plan.

For all of you out there who are considering buying a home in the future, whether it's the near future, or the distant future, I hope that this post gives you a glimpse into what it may be like. Obviously, everyone's situation is different, so please keep that in mind. But at the same time, I know that I would have loved to read someone's account of buying their first home before I walked through this myself.

Since I'm addicted to HGTV, I thought that we'd have to be pre-approved for financing before we even started looking. I think that's the biggest thing I've been surprised about...because we weren't. I actually saw the listing for our house on a website I frequently looked at. I checked out the pictures, and I loved the price. It was in one of the areas that I knew Jason and I wanted to live in, so I forwarded him the website. He loved it too.

The next day was Jason's birthday, July 24th. It was a Wednesday. Jason wanted to go eat at a restaurant that is out in Trussville, so we did. On the way home, he suggested that we drive by the house that I'd sent him. So we did. We loved the location, loved the outside "in real life", and loved that the FOR SALE sign still said, "Coming Soon". We thought it gave us some time.

Back up a few weeks.

Jason and I were driving home from Publix one Sunday afternoon, and saw an OPEN HOUSE sign in Homewood. We thought it'd be fun to walk through one of the cute little bungalow houses and just see what it's like. So we did. The house was WAY too small for us and WAY too expensive, but the realtor was just right (there's my Goldilocks reference for the week). As I was looking around the house, Jason began talking with him. They just seemed to click. We got his card, and decided in the car that when the time came for us to begin our home search, we'd call him.

So, after driving by our house on Jason's birthday, I emailed Scott, the realtor, to see if we could see the inside of the house. Friday after work, Jason and I met at my office and drove over to "the house" for the first time.

We loved it. It was a great price, great size, and great location. It was everything we'd be looking for in a couple of months...but we weren't at that point in time yet. Standing in the living room of the house, I asked Scott what the next steps would be if we really wanted this house. He explained, and then we left. That night, Jason and I decided that we needed to see a few more houses in the area so that we could compare sizes, price, etc.

We also spent the evening in that area...we ate at the restaurants around, went to the bank around the house, and spent time at a friend's house in the area. We pretended that we lived there, which made our decision to proceed much easier.

The next morning, I went to work on this house stuff like it was my job. Scott emailed me the name of a few mortgage brokers, and he set up showings at a few other house for us. By Saturday night, we were pre-approved, we'd looked at 4 additional houses, we'd gone back our house, and we ended the evening sitting in Scott's office writing up our offer.

The next few days were nail-biters.

We didn't hear back from the seller until Monday. They didn't want to come down much on the price, and they wanted us to pay closing. Boo. We countered. They countered. We countered. They countered with 3 choices that basically gave them the same bottom line, but allowed us to decide if we wanted to pay more for the house over 30 years, or pay closing costs upfront. We chose not to pay closing costs upfront. Our mortgage broker told us that for every $1,000 in the sale price, it's around $7 added to our monthly payment. Good to know.

Just as I was signing the revised contract and sending it back to Scott, we heard there was another offer on our house. The seller wanted our best offer - and we were so afraid we were about to get into a bidding war. After some prayer and discussion, we decided to stick with our original offer that was being written up in the revised contract. We felt like it was a little on the weird side that we'd already agreed on the terms and they came back with a 'best offer' type thing. I know it's pretty common, but it just didn't sit right with me.

The next day, Scott called to say that they accepted our offer and it was ours. The seller did add something to the contract though. She added that she would not fix anything if there was something wrong with it upon inspection. Great...

We had 10 days to get an inspection done. We hired a really eclectic inspector known as Inspector Dave to do our inspection. He was really thorough, and thankfully the house had no big problems. Whew, that was a relief. We went ahead and set the closing date for Sept. 3rd at 4 p.m. Since we knew our closing date, we went ahead and scheduled everything to be turned on and connected the next day.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I sent tons of paperwork to our mortgage broker. Lots of signing, lots of sending. The crazy thing is, over the course of all that paperwork, all the phone calls, and all of the emails, we never met our mortgage broker in person. Technology fascinates me.

Then came the appraisal. Our house appraised at the selling value, but it was exactly our price. I kind of freaked out about that a bit, because we thought we were getting a great price. Turns out, many times, appraisers do that. They just put what the selling price is as long as it's worth that. They don't really look at the actual value unless it's way under the selling price.

More paperwork. More signing. More sending.

As I mentioned previously, we were scheduled to close on September 3rd, which was the day after Labor Day. Well, the Friday before Labor Day, we received a call that our closing was going to be pushed to September 5th. Not a big deal, right? WRONG. Since we'd planned for three weeks for closing to be on the 3rd, we'd scheduled movers, bakers, and candlestick makers cable people, and internet people all to come on September 4th. As it turns out...we would not own the place that day, so I had to call, before a holiday weekend, and reschedule EVERYTHING! It felt like a nightmare.

Later we found out that getting your closing date pushed is somewhat normal, and honestly, it ended up a little better this way.

So, Thursday, September 5th, Jason and I arrived at the closing attorney's office to buy our house. I brought basically every piece of paperwork I'd ever signed in my 24 years of life, plus my passport, marriage license, birth certificate, and social security card, but all we needed was a certified check. Leave it to me to be overly OVERLY prepared. We had our check made out a little higher than it needed to be, just in case. At the end of the closing, the attorney gave us the difference back, and another check for something we'd overpaid on previously. I know this is highly uncommon, but we ended up walking away from the closing with a lot more money in our pockets than we expected. Praise God...He really does take care of us...even in the tiniest things.

After closing, Jason and I drove straight to our NEW HOME, sat on the porch, and had our friend come over and take some pictures of us in front of the SOLD sign.

The process was easy in the beginning, hard in the middle, and then wonderful at the end. But isn't that the way most good things are? We know that God has placed us in our home for a purpose, and we intended to live in it well, for His glory.

Posted on September 24, 2013 and filed under "live well mentally", "new home", "trust".

A Three-Things Wife

Lysa TerKeurst is seriously one of my favorite people ever. I only know her through her books, but I think that we'd be friends if we met. I've quoted her multiple times from her book Made to Crave, but today, I'm going to pull an excerpt from on of her latest books, Unglued.

I seriously think every woman, man, boy, and girl should read Unglued. For women, it's so helpful in identifying how you handle frustration, anger, conflict, etc., and for men, it helps you understand all that we're going through in that great big brain of ours!

In honor of being a wife for almost a full 365 days, I wanted to post this story Lysa writes about in Unglued. I can totally relate to wanting to be an overachieving wife who can do EVERYTHING for her husband, while also being a well-rounded, put-together, Christian woman in every other aspect of life. For me, it just doesn't happen. What Lysa says here comforts me in knowing that I'm not the only woman who don't got it all together all the time most of the time, but it also gives such a practical way to deal with this.

The Three-Things Wife

an excerpt from Unglued, by Lysa TerKeurst

When I first got married, I was desperate to be a “good wife” and determined to figure out how to do it well. So, I took note in my head of what a “good wife” does:
  • She cooks meatloaf.
  • She vacuums every day so there are lines in the carpet indicating its cleanliness.
  • She sticks love notes in his briefcase.
  • She buys and wears lingerie.
  • She likes wearing lingerie and wears it a couple of times a week.
  •  She gives him his space when he gets home.
  • She hangs up the phone when he walks in the door.
  • She learns facts about football and watches games with him.
  •  She prays for him every day.
And the list grew and grew. 

Eventually the list in my head of what a good wife does so completely overwhelmed me that I cried. I felt inadequate. I started to shut down. I constantly felt unglued. 

I assumed the list in my head was in my husband’s head too. 

I grew bitter. And in a moment of complete exhaustion, I yelled, “Your expectations are ridiculous!” 

To which he replied, “What expectations?”

“The list … the list of hundreds of things I need to do to be a good wife,” I sobbed through the snot and the tears. 

His blank stare dumbfounded me. He had no such list. 

It was a perception. These were idle thoughts allowed to run rampant in my mind for so long I confused them with truth. The truth in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds me love is patient, kind, not proud, and keeps no record of wrongs. I had so broadened my scope of things to do that I had diminished my vision of simply loving my husband. 

Do less. Be more. Clear out the clutter of idle words. Find that white space. Honor God. 

If I would have been practicing regular Sabbaths, at which times I sought God on this issue, I suspect I could have saved myself years of coming unglued in my marriage. Years. Finally, I went to my husband. “Honey,” I said, feeling the entanglements of expectations loosening their grip on me, “I can’t do everything good wives seem to do. But I can do three things. So, tell me your top three things, and I will do those well.”

After all, I could spend a whole marriage doing a hundred things halfway with a bitter attitude and an overwhelmed spirit. Or, I could do three things wholeheartedly with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

His three things were simple: Be an emotionally and spiritually invested mom with our kids, take good care of your body and soul, and keep the house tidy. (Notice he said “tidy”— not perfectly clean.) That’s it.

He could care less about home-cooked meals. He is fine with me hiring someone else to vacuum the carpet. And he’s totally okay if I watch 48 Hours while he watches man-cub events on a different TV.

Now, he didn’t say anything about lingerie. But, he could argue that it is a subplot of my taking good care of my body. The problem is, I’m much more of a sweatpants kind of girl. Yes, Victoria has a little secret, and I haven’t a clue what it is.

But that’s a topic for another day entirely.

For today, I’ve narrowed my scope to three things, and this narrowing has broadened my vision for a great marriage.

I am a three-things wife. It’s simple. But simple is good. And, more importantly, I stopped sabotaging my marriage by stopping the idle thoughts.

How might this help you? How might this improve some of your relationships?

------------------------------------

To check out Lysa's blog, click here.
To check out the books she has written, click here.


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Our Crestwood Cottage: A King's Headboard

Ever since I began reading Young House Love, I decided that I wanted to be more like them. Obviously I don't have nearly the talents or skills, but I figured I'd take it one project at a time. My first real DIY home project that I decided to do was a king size headboard. My plan was to follow their directions for upholstering a headboard exactly, to ensure there would be no errors.

Well, when I showed up at the art store, I was informed that the size frame I needed would either cost me about $90, or it did not exist. I opted out of that, and chose make a stop at Home Depot (which is less than a mile from our house...DANGEROUS) and buy some plywood.

My mom was really helpful in this. She's a pro I tell ya. We ended up buying an $8.00, 4'x8' piece of plywood and having them (Home Depot dudes) saw off the 2' or so that we didn't need. The plywood was about 1" thick, which is really all you need for this. We also bought 2 1"x3" boards that we had cut into 3, 4' pieces. These would serve as the legs for our headboard. We bought a pack of 1 1/4" wood screws to attach the legs to the plywood.

Previously, I'd picked out a fabric from a website that has great quality fabric for a very affordable price. I bought 3 yards, which was probably a little to much, but King beds are huge, so I wanted to be safe. I had also previously bought 3 yards of batting at Joann's Fabrics.

TIP: If you download their iPhone app, there's one coupon a week for 50% a regular priced item.

Just FYI...
Our materials, post sawing.
After our Home Depot shopping trip and after steaming my fabric, we were ready to go.

Probably the most unflattering way I could have done this. But honestly, I didn't know Jason was taking pictures.
Also, right after this, we realized that our backyard is really shady, so we moved back there. Then Mom and I got chiggers. Any tips on how to get those nasty things out of our yard?!?

My hardworking DIY team.

Some intense drilling.

I probably would do a few things differently if we were to do this again. But the process was not bad at all. In fact, my mom and I joked decided that we'd start making these and selling them out of our backyard. So...if you're in the market for a custom headboard...hit us up!

Here's the final product:



And I must say...it's quite comfortable to lean up against!

That's all for today! Seattle is calling our names...so check back with my review of our first trip to Seattle!


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Posted on September 18, 2013 and filed under "DIY", "new home".

Our Crestwood Cottage: Cheerful Welcome - Front Door Makeover

When we moved in almost two weeks ago, we had a black front door with a storm door with bars on it. Very dark, not too pretty. Our porch is one of our favorite things about the house. So Saturday, while my parents were in town, we all 4 went to work on brightening up our front door.

Before:


Dad removed the storm door.
Jason and Mom sanded down the door.
Mom and I painted.
 


The outcome:


We will want to add a door knocker, wreath, and maybe our house number just to add some visual interest to the door. But overall, we LOVE the color and the way our front porch looks.

This was a really simple and inexpensive project with big results.

We bought Behr Ultra paint. It's an exterior semi-gloss with the primer mixed it. We chose from the Martha Stewart collection of colors, and they had to color match it. The color we chose is called "Lagoon". This paint cost about $18 for a quart, and we only used half of the quart. We bought a fine sanding block and sanded the door down first. Then Jason used an electric sander to go over everything to even it out. We used liquid sandpaper last because it makes the door a little "tacky" and it holds the paint on really well. Going from a black door to this bright color only needed two coats of paint!

Come and knock on our door... :)

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Posted on September 17, 2013 and filed under "DIY", "new home", "project".

Our Crestwood Cottage: Master Closet Makeover

When we moved into our house about 10 days ago, our closet was about four feet wide with two bars to hang clothes on and a shoe rack on the door. We didn't even attempt to put our clothes in there because we knew they would not all fit. The previous owner lived there alone, so her clothes probably fit fine - mine would have for sure. But, Jason and I wanted our new home to be 100% OURS, since our apartment was not that way (I lived there first). This meant we wanted both of our clothes in the master closet. I don't know why that was so important to us, but it was. So we did a little closet reno and it's almost complete!

Phase One: We hired someone to knock out the wall that served as the back of our closet and the side wall of a hall closet. Thankfully, we noticed the two closets were only connected by a nonessential wall when we were looking at the house. We had someone come and look at it before closing, and scheduled him to come knock out the wall only 3 days after we'd begun living there. I must say, the noises that I heard at first (I was the only one home when he got started) scared me to death!

One of the biggest things we've had to get used to about our house is the fact that it's OURS and we can do what we want to it! Since Jason and I have always been renters, that's a hard thing to get used to!

Getting a peek at our sub-floor was surreal.

Insulation falling from the ceiling.


Phase Two: No more insulation! Everything was sealed up nicely and ready for some paint!





Phase Three: Everything is painted to match the hallway and living area.


Phase Four: Shelves were hung and clothes were put in the closet. Originially, we were going to have the shelves hung professionally. But the decision came down to professionally hung shelves or a king size bed, and we chose the king size bed. My parents came in town this past weekend, and the four of us hung our shelves. It was actually pretty simple!



Phase Five: The floor still needs to be stained and some of the trip needs to be replaced. We also want to hang bottom shelves for pants, but we will have to wait until the floor is stained.

(come back to see pictures of the last phase)

Overall, this has been a pretty simple process. I'm very thankful we made the decision to do this project right away, because I don't think we would have ever done it otherwise. As of right now, I have no complaints about our house...but I'm almost positive that we would have both been complaining if we would have had to share that little closet that we had before.

The cost of this project was around $1,000. The shelving was about $250, and the labor and materials were around $750.

Posted on September 16, 2013 and filed under "DIY", "new home", "project".

Our Crestwood Cottage: Weekend Progress

Well, it's been two full days since my last post and I feel like it's been two weeks. Every part of my body is sore, especially my feet. My little Camry has been packed to the brim a few dozen times, and it's currently housing boxes from Ikea that I really don't want to take inside. Jason has been at war with a couple of bugs - he's won most of the battles, but there's one "bird-like" bug in our garage that is currently winning. I've realized that I know nothing about keeping flowers alive or grass green (conversation with my mom: Mom - "Do you have a sprinkler system?" Me - "I think that's what we call rain."). But all in all, the process has been fun and I'm so thankful for what we've been given. I wouldn't want to do this whole moving thing often, but I also wouldn't want to do it with anyone but Jason. He's quite a trooper.

Saturday night we spent the first night in the house. We planned on waiting until this coming Wednesday so that all of our furniture would be there, but after taking a short nap in our new king size bed on Saturday afternoon, we decided that we could not go back to the apartment with it's measly queen bed :) . We are in the process now of figuring out a morning routine...so that's fun. I think Jason got a little too eager about our morning routine today and he showed up to work an hour early...whoops! Y'all, I can't blame him...it's been a LONG weekend.

Anywhoo...here are some photos of our progess:
This was all we had in our fridge Saturday morning.
For some reason this just made me laugh.

Our giant bed.

Dining room is complete

Kitchen is getting there. All essentials are in place.

And yesterday we drove to Atlanta to go to my friend Kate's wedding. We did however stop at Ikea before the wedding and racked up on some great finds. Stay tuned for pictures of those items!
The beautiful bride!

Hope you all have a great week!

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Posted on September 9, 2013 and filed under "new home", "wedding".

Our Crestwood Cottage: Closing Day

Welcome to a small glimpse of our new home! These are the photos that I took from our first steps into our new house. At this point, it's empty, dusty, and there's no water...but it's ours and we couldn't be more excited! Make sure to stay tuned for more photos and updates from our Crestwood Cottage!
We bought a HOUSE!

Front porch sittin'

Our home



Only piece of furniture...our new dining table

Dining room and table

Front Porch

Living room and fire place

Living Room

Living Room

Living Room

I tried to get a photo of our fireplace but the dining room was too bright.

Kitchen entrance.
One word: STORAGE!

Ktichen

Kitchen

Kitchen

Garage entrance/laundry room

Laundry room

Guest bathroom

Jason's office

Jason's office

Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom/bathroom


Backyard
Backyard
Backyard
We actually do have another bedroom that will serve as our guestroom/my craft room, but when I was taking pictures last night, it was dark outside and I couldn't reach the overhead light.



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Posted on September 6, 2013 and filed under "new home".

With a Heavy Heart

Today's post is one that I write with a lump in my throat and a little moisture in my eyes.

We have some friends who are going through a tough time right now. In fact, "tough time" really doesn't even begin to describe it. They're living a nightmare.

Their 4-month-old son was life flighted a hospital one week ago today, due to trouble breathing, among other things. Honestly, I don't know a lot of details and I don't want to invade their privacy at all, so I won't go into anything very specific. But their baby is sick...he's very very sick. Doctors think it may be something with his heart, but they're running all sorts of tests.

I cannot imagine what our friends are going through as parents. I have cried my own tears for them just thinking about a fraction of the worry/hurt/anxiety/fear that they're experiencing.

In reading the latest update that they posted, I was reminded of Psalm 73:

"Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

I am reminded that we all have a heart condition - we all need God to come into our lives, invade our mind, bodies, and spirit, and heal us of our sinful heart. When I think about a 4-month-old baby, I am just astounded by the innocence that he possesses. Of course we know that we are all born sinful humans into a broken world, but this baby does not yet know of the horrific sinfulness that has plagued our planet. He knows the love of his mom, his dad, his siblings, and his Creator. He is truly loved and oh so innocent.

In a time when this sweet family needs prayer, please lift them up. Please go before the Lord and beg for His will to be done in the life, healing, and family of this small child. But let us also remember our hearts; heavy, sinful, deceitful, selfish, and uncaring. May we also pray that God would cover us with the innocence of His blood, that we may know and experience His love. 

May God, our Lord, our King, and our Creator receive glory now and forever for the work His is doing, the healing He is bringing, and the love He is sharing among us all.

#prayingforSilas
Posted on September 5, 2013 and filed under "live well emotionally", "live well spiritually".

My Plan vs. His Plan

Right about now I should be signing my name 1,000 times. Someone should be handing Jason and me a new set of keys. We should be driving out to Crestwood and opening up the door to our new home.

But we're not. 
Our dining room. Don't ya wanna come over for dinner?
We're serving cereal.

You see, that was our plan. That was our plan that worked with our schedule, and fit nicely into our calendar for this week. If our plan worked, we'd be spending the night in our new house, in our new bed, with all of our stuff there tomorrow. But we won't. In fact, tomorrow, the house won't even be ours.

God's plan was different. 

Friday, as Jason and I were taping boxes and wrapping everything we own in newspaper, we got a call that we would not get to close on our house Tuesday (today). Instead, we'd have to wait until Thursday.

"What!? That's only two days I can handle it, no biggie I had everything planned and I just don't know if I can live two days, this is the worst thing ever," I said. I stomped and yelled, and basically acted like I was reliving my terrible twos. After a few minutes hours, I calmed down enough to see the bigger picture.

You see, God has a way of slowing us down. If you know me at all, you know that I'm super laid back and I like to roll with the punches, except, if you think that, you probably don't know me very well. I'm pretty laid back about where to go to dinner, but when it comes to big life events, I'm like a really controlling control freak meets military officer (or Jillian Michaels). I get really bossy, I want things done in my way, and in my time frame. Our plan was to close today and move in to the house tomorrow. Even though we have our apartment for about 3 more weeks, there's no doubt that I would have required every box under the same roof  Wednesday night and I probably would have stayed up all night unpacking to make sure everything was in it's place.

Yeah, I'm ridiculous like that. Pray for my sweet husband.

Fortunately, God is working on this in my heart. He's shaping me and creating me into a much better image barer of Himself but forcing me to slow the heck down. Part of the reason I pitched an ever-lovin' fit on Friday when we got this news was because I knew it wouldn't push our move back just two days...it would push it back a week. Since Jason works in a retail environment, he has to work on the weekends, so that means that his next day off is the following Wednesday. I almost volunteered to handle the whole thing on my own on Friday, but Jason put in end to that before I even finished my sentence.

After a couple of days of letting our new plan settle in, I've come to see how much better God's plan is. Now we will have the time to do things in a more organized manner, and I won't give myself a stroke trying to get everything done. It even works out better for some of the remodeling that we're doing in the master bedroom because now the work will be finished before we actually move all of our furniture and start living there.

I don't know where you are in your walk with Christ, or if you even have a relationship with Christ, but I do know that He cares for you deeply. Jason and I are buying a house, which is a HUGE deal to us, but to God, it's just us using the money He's blessed us with so that He can shelter us in a different zip code. Only, it IS a big deal to Him too. He's protecting us and working out each and every detail for our good, even when it's not in the way or in the time frame that we wanted or expected.

Wherever you are in your life today, cast your burdens, your plans, your timeline on Him...because He truly cares for you. In the battle of my plan vs. His plan, His plan will always be victorious. Praise Him for that today!

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7
Posted on September 3, 2013 and filed under "live well mentally", "live well spiritually", "new home".

Big Blessings from Left Field

If you follow me on any sort of social media, you probably have heard our news.

We're buying a house!!!

Next week at this time I will have woken up in a new zip code, driven a short little drive to work, and I will leave at the end of the day and head home to Crestwood. Jason and I could not be more excited to move, and more importantly, we give all of the glory to God. He truly has given us this house...for us, it came out of left field.

On September 22nd, we will celebrate our first wedding anniversary! Since January, we've been planning to begin our house hunt after our anniversary. We've been saving like crazy since before we got married for this ambiguous "something", and back in January we realized that "something" would probably be our first home. Jason and I have never picked out a place to live together since when we got married, he moved into the apartment that I already lived in, so that has made this whole process even more exciting.

Obviously, thing did not go as we planned. By September 22nd, we will have been in our house for 3 weeks...so yeah...good job planning Morales'! But as always, we know that God has a bigger plan for us than we can even fathom, and that has never been more true than in buying our house.

Here's how this happened - 

A few months back, I started to get an email each morning that showed me new listings or listing that had been reduced in price in the areas we wanted to look at buying a house. I figured that it'd be good to get a feel for what's out there before we actually start looking, and also, it's just really fun to look at houses and dream. 

Also a few months ago, we randomly drove by an open house on a Sunday afternoon in Homewood. The house was way too small and way too expensive, but we really liked the realtor who was showing it. We got his card and information, and we decided we'd call him when we were ready to start looking in late September.

On Jason's birthday, July 24th, I got an email with this cute little 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house as a new listing. So I did some investiaging. I looked at the pictures, looked where it was on Google Maps, and ran the numbers for our budget. After I decided that it had some potential, I sent it to Jason. That night after we went to dinner for his birthday, we decided to drive by it just to see if we liked the neighborhood and the outside in real life. We did. We really really liked it.

The next day, which was a Thursday, we decided to contact the realtor we met at the open house to see if we could go see the house on Friday. So Friday after work, we headed out to Crestwood to look at our first house together.

We loved it.

Jason was a little concerned about the size of the bedrooms, and our realtor assured us that the size is pretty standard for all of the houses in the area. Our realtor said that he wished we'd already looked at a few homes already because if we had, we'd probably love this house even more (which I didn't even think was possible).

We had a lot to think about. Jason and I spent the rest of the evening in the Crestwood area. We ate dinner there, we hung out with friends there, and we kind of just pretended that we lived there. That night when we got home, we decided that we needed to do our due diligence and look at comparable houses, but we were probably going to make an offer on that house.

Saturday Jason went to work and I spent the day on the phone with a mortgage broker to get our financing in order. He got all of my information and basically said that we were good to look at anything under a certain amount. That was good enough for me, so that night we looked at 4 other houses, and then went back to the first house. We still loved it most.

We spent Saturday night in our realtor's office writing up our offer.

It took until Tuesday or Wednesday for us to hear that we had the house. It was ours if we wanted it. It's taken a couple of weeks, a lot of signing, proving our incomes, and a lot of other stuff, but in 5 days, we will close on our house!

I can't help but dream about where we'll put our furniture, how I'll decorate, what we'll change, and what we'll leave the same...but even more than that, I can't help but dream about all of the memories we'll create there. It's a perfect home for us in so many ways, but most of all, it's the perfect home for us because this is where God has placed us.

Stay tuned for updates about moving, decorating, and some DIY projects that I'll be doing over the next couple of weeks and months!

These Three Things

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 
- John 8:6-8

I'm going to try to be as vague as possible because I believe that this topic contains a few timeless truths (for all people, in all times, in all places) and I don't want anyone, including myself, to get hung up on the specifics of what prompted this, because that's not the point.

I was reminded this week of a clipping of a "Letter to the Editor" from my hometown newspaper that I used to keep in my bible. It referenced someone very close to me who had been accusing of a wrongdoing. I don't know who the person is who wrote it, but the last line said, "You who is without sin, cast the first stone." To that anonymous person, I am forever thankful for the encouragement that their words brought to my life and to my family. 

This week, a leader from the "Christian culture" of Birmingham is struggling, to say the least. I'm sure that there are many people out there who know much more about this situation than I do, and who have much stronger opinions about it as well. I'm not here to comment on the situation. I'm not here to comment on the person or his ministry. I'm not even here to provide any sort of commentary about what has occurred. But I do want to offer a bit of encouragement to believers out there who may be struggling with how someone who claimed the gospel had radically transformed their life, had led many young people to faith in Christ, and who had such an influence in American Christian culture, could have everything around them come crashing down so suddenly and so publicly.

First, we must remember that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No one is exempt from that truth. Your pastor, my pastor, any church leader, mentor, or family member - we're all in the same battle against sin. Romans 3 says, "None is righteous, no not one; no one understand; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." We MUST remember that Jesus came to save us ALL from our sins. It's imperative for the glory of God to be seen and the gospel to be spread that we must surrender our lives over to Him and that we must address the sin in this world and in our lives with the truth of His Word. To do anything less than that devalues the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross.
 

Second, we must all put our hope in Christ alone. If I can just be really vulnerable for a moment, and speak my opinion, I believe that American culture has invaded the church so much that we have turned many of our pastors and teachers into these "Christian celebrities". Now, there's nothing wrong with really liking and respecting a certain pastor, but we must remember that they are preachers and teachers, called by God to preach GOD's word, and not their own word. I think that our society has created this falsehood that we can live by the word of man because it's so easy to hear and read what people have to say. And isn't it so much easier to live by the word of man than it is to live by the word of God? No man holds the same power as God, so it's easier to live by the powerless man's word. But I think that we often forget that on the flip side of that, no man has the power to save us - and God has already won the battle against sin and death through His son Jesus. So let's take our idols off their pedestals that we put them on, and remember that we must only put our hope in Christ.  

Third, and last, we must remember that we are called to love. In 1 Corinthians, Paul echos what Jesus preaches in Mark when Paul reminds the church in Corinth that the greatest commandment is to love. As the faith family that I am a part of has walked through this book over the last several months, I have come to learn that the church in America is so similar to the church in Corinth that Paul wrote to. The church in Corinth let Corinthian culture invade the church rather than the church invading Corinthian culture. Paul, after his exhortation about love, says,"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Many times, we use this passage of scripture to describe the love between and man and a woman in marriage, and we read this passage at weddings, which is great. But Paul wasn't only referring to "agape" love  here, which is the selfless love you have for a spouse or a family member. Here, Paul was also referring to "philia" love, which is brotherly or neighborly love or the type of love in a friendship. We are called to love our neighbors - and there are no conditions that go along with that. Jesus said in Mark 12:31, "...You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater..." He did not say, "Love you neighbor as yourself, unless if you don't agree with them." He didn't say, "Love your neighbor as yourself, unless if they're a criminal." He didn't say, "Love your neighbor as yourself, unless they have wronged you." No, Jesus called us to love God and to love our neighbors. There are no exceptions to this call on our lives. That leads us to believe that we are called to love the person we don't agree with, love the person is a criminal, and love the person who has hurt us and wronged us. We are called to love, we are even to love the unlovable.

As I bring this to a conclusion, I hope that I have showed my heart in a way that has been an encouragement to you to pray for the people who it is easier to judge than love. Pray for those you read about in the newspaper and see on TV - they are sinners just like you and me. I want you leave you with the lyrics to a song that came on "shuffle" this morning as I was getting ready. The words really penetrated my heart and made me think about what God has called us to do as believers and opened my eyes to these three truths that I have expressed. 

Jesus Friend of Sinners

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Yeah...

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

'Cause You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Yours

And I was the lost cause and I was the outcast
Yeah...
You died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet 
 
Casting Crowns - Jesus, Friend of Sinners (Official Music Video) from casting-crowns on GodTube.

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Posted on August 23, 2013 and filed under "live well spiritually".

Afterthoughts

Afterthoughts was as Claire's-like store and one of my favorite stores as a tween. Since I was tall for my age (yeah, I was the tallest girl in my 5th grade class...hard to believe seeing me stand an even 5 feet now...I know), I didn't like shopping for clothes with my friends who were still little and "dainty". But I loved shopping for accessories. I guess that hasn't changed much in 15 years.

I was recently reminded of how, many times, things we think hold of a lot of importance to us come as an after thought. In reality, we put our own desires, or our own agenda ahead of the people/things we claim take priority in our lives.

This week, I've been given the opportunity of time. Jason works into each evening this week, and I've set a goal to make things that are usually "after thoughts" happen. For example, last night I went to the gym. So many nights I say that I'm going to go, I might even pack a bag to go straight from work, but at the end of the work day, I am tired and I head home for some quality time with my husband. If I do make it to the gym, I take it easy, tell myself that I'm tired and just a short, easy workout will do. But not last night. Last night I went to my first spin class since college...and let me tell you...I felt the two year long break.

Another thing that has been an after thought in my life, is seeking out time with people. I'm good as spending quality time with people who are built into my everyday life, but I'm admittedly bad at keep up with people that it takes effort to see. I realize that this has to change for those friendships to function. So this week, I'm trying my hardest to reach out to people I haven't spent quality time with in a while; people I miss.

Who, or what, are the after thoughts in your life? Is it reading the bible, spending time in prayer, or taking care of yourself by exercising or eating well? I've made all of those after thoughts at some point in my life, and it's tough to face the reality that we put such important things on the back burner. But our lives are complex, and we cannot ignore or overlook such things are relationships, time in the word, time in prayer, and keeping ourselves healthy. At some point, we're going to realize the missing link(s).

In other news, I had a dinner fail last night. Since we've been married, I've only made 2 big dinner whoopsies, including last night. Thankfully, I was only cooking for myself last night...so Mr. Picky (a.k.a my husband) didn't have to relive the vanilla yogurt fail of 2012.

Actually, the recipe was really good. But as you'll see in the recipe below, after everything is done cooking, you're supposed to put everything in the blender or food processor. Well, when I got home from spinning, I was SO HUNGRY, so I didn't want to spend a lot of time on this step. I poured everything into the blender and turned it on (I should have just used the "pulse" mode a few times). After about 20 seconds of going through the blender, the recipe was the consistency of baby food. I don't usually get caught up on the texture of food, but this was just more than I can handle. I may try it again in the future and figure out a way to not turn the soup into baby food.

Fortunately, the flavor of the soup was really good...and it even had some kick to it.

Roasted Red Pepper & Sweet Potato Soup

(Recipe from this blog)
Ingredients
  • 2 huge sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed. Measured this is about 6 cups of cubes
  • One 12 oz. jar of roasted red peppers in water (drained)
  • One 14 oz. can of coconut milk
  • 1 c. of chicken stock.
  • 1 small red onion, large diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Directions
  1. You dump everything into your slow cooker.
  2. You let it cook for 4 to 6 hours.
  3. You blend it with an immersion blender, food processor, or blender (this is where I went wrong).
  4. Garnish it with red pepper flakes or chipotle flakes if you are fancy.

So you can see, it's really an easy recipe. Maybe I'll try it again this fall.

I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday!

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Southwest Zesty Salad

Last night I decided to get a little bit creative. I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked pretty good, but I wanted to add a little more umph to it. If I was going to eat this as a meal, it needed to be pretty filling. Here's what I came up with -

Southwest Zesty Salad

Yield: 5-6 Servings as a side, about 4 as a meal

Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 dash of sea salt
  • 1 Hass Avocado, diced
  • 1 can of black beans, drained
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 c. cooked salad shrimp
  • Sea salt
  • Pepper
  • OPTIONAL: Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning
  • OPTIONAL: Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning
  • OPTIONAL: Club crackers
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine EVOO, red onion, lime juice, and sea salt. Mix and set aside in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.
  2. Cook your shrimp. I poured a bag of frozen shrimp into the skillet over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Every few minutes I'd go and flip them, but they cook pretty easily while you put together the rest of the salad.
  3. In a large bowl, combine avocado, black beans, corn, and tomato. Stir well. 
  4. Pour in onion mixture to the large bowl. Stir well. 
  5. Add salt, pepper, and additional seasonings.
  6. Once your shrimp are cooked, drain the water, add a little salt, pepper, and maybe some Fiesta Lime seasoning. Pour shrimp into the large bowl. Mix well.
  7. Let your salad chill in the refrigorator for a few minutes (about 5 minutes?), or until the shrimp are cool. 
  8. Serve on Club crackers, in a tortilla, with chips, or eat it with a fork by itself!
Honestly, I'm usually pretty good about taking pictures, but I was so hungry at dinnertime that I forgot!

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Posted on August 13, 2013 and filed under "eat lite", "live well physically".

Your Everyday Addict

Someone very close to me this week pointed out that I'm an addict; a media addict. They didn't use those exact words or that exact phrasing, but that was the point.

Being on the receiving end of any sort of criticism makes me really uncomfortable. I know that I'm my own worst critic, so if anyone ever brings up anything to me that could be taken as a critique, I'm usually not okay with it. I guess, in my mind, I figure that I am hard enough on myself...therefore I don't need anyone else to tell me what's wrong with me.

Thankfully, this particular time, I kept my cool. Maybe it was because I knew they were right, or maybe I was just too tired to fight back, but regardless, I sat, listened, and agreed.

My name is Jessica, and I am a media addict.

Until recently, I couldn't ride in the car without some sort of sound. I've gotten better about it now, but it still bugs me if all I can hear is the sound of the car engine. I read an average of 5 blogs a day. It's rare that I don't turn on the TV at night...or in the morning. There was a [not-so-distance] point in my life where I considered about 20 TV shows my "favorite shows" and kept up with them almost religiously. I subscribe to 4 podcasts, and a week doesn't go by that I don't listen to all of them. I listen to audiobooks regularly. I usually am reading at least two books at once. I've seen every movie out that I want to see that is in theaters right now. Out of all of the new music that is out, I have everything I want.

There's probably more media in my life than that...but I'll stop there so that this doesn't get embarrassing or anything :)

To be clear, I don't think that media is bad.

I love music. To me, it's one of the most tangible ways of expression and I love to listen to this audible art form. I don't listen to crappy bad music either, I listen to a lot of very inspirational music, a lot of worship music, and a lot of just plain good stuff.

I have really enjoyed getting into blogs over the last few years. I've learned a TON, and even started my own (obviously). I read blogs that are encouraging that that teach me things.

I really like TV. TV shows are probably my biggest downfall, but I try to be careful about what I watch. I have my "guilty pleasure" shows like the Bachelor/Bachelorette, and yes, I do keep up with the Kardashians, but the thing that brought me to watching those shows was community. When Jason was traveling a lot, my Monday nights were awesome because I always knew I'd be able to hang out with friends for a Bachelor/Bachelorette viewing party. And honestly, I'd never heard of Kim Kardashian until I started watching her show with a few of my sorority sisters after our chapter meetings on Sunday nights. Maybe those aren't real justifications anymore because I now watch these shows either alone or with my enthusiastic sweet husband, but regardless, my original intentions were good.

Podcasts are awesome. When I get up at 5:00 a.m. to walk, podcasts are part of the reason that I'm able to get out of bed. I listen to a lot of sermons and a lot of just really good content. I've learned A TON about the bible through podcasts, I've learned about new authors that I now really like and have learned from, and I always finish a podcast encouraged.

Audiobooks and regular books have made a suprising comeback in my life over the last year or so. I used to love reading fiction, and I still do, but I've really come to love nonfiction books too. Lately I've been reading a lot of books that have helped me grow into this new stage of life - being a working wife. I've learned a lot about biblical womanhood, marriage that is grounded in the gospel, and how to really dwell where God has me.

So, as you can see, the media that I'm absorbing is not bad. But when I put it all together and think of the hours and hours I spend sitting in front of the TV or sitting and reading a blog or a book, I can't help but thing that media has become an idol in my life.

My life has come to revolve around these things. When I think of my life without cable or without podcasts at my fingertips, I get really sad - and I almost start to feel anxiety. That's how I know this isn't healthy.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, "'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up." Even though I'm not doing anything wrong by watching TV, reading a blog, or listening to music, it's important for me to recognize that it's also not always helpful either. Since I'm taking in so many messages and so much content on a day to day basis, I realize that it leaves little time for me to either think for myself or just spend time resting in God. 

What is something in your life that your addicted to? 

We all have idols, so let's take action against them.

Tomorrow I'm going to spend a day in silence. I'm not going to be silent, but going to silence my media. I'm going to challenge myself and not listen to a podcast on my walk. I'm not going to listen to music in my car. I'm not going to turn on the TV. I'm just going to be. I'm going to be with myself and those around me without an distractions and see how God uses that time. The goal is to be more conscience of what I'm missing because my brain is always engaged in something else.

If you're someone who makes any sort of media (or maybe social media?) an idol in your life, won't you join me in a day of silence?
I just searched through my Facebook photos to see if there was a picture of me with
headphones in or something. I found this...from our honeymoon. I'm seriously kicking
myself for not taking advantage of all of the quality time with Jason!
Also, how awesome is the attire of the lady walking behind me? Just sayin'...




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Flashback Friday - Community Among Us

This post was originally posted on April 22, 2013 onto mrsblogbacktome



Verse of the Day: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25

This weekend was full of wonderful community. 

Friday we literally did nothing. I fell asleep on the couch at about 6:30 and woke up about two hours later to Jason bringing me dinner. I really have the best husband ever. 

Saturday Jason had to work so I got my hair cut, met my sister for lunch, got my car washed at the Phi Mu car wash, and then Jason and I met up with our friends Mandi and Bill for a photoshoot. Mandi plays a lot of coffee shops and venues in Birmingham and she needed some updated photos for posters and promo materials. We had a great time in Helena just hanging out with them and taking pictures.




After we finished up, we headed downtown for dinner at Surin - one of our all time favorites!


Yesterday we took it slow in the morning, spent some time in the sunshine, and went to church. After church we spent some time with friends at dinner - the perfect end to our social weekend.
All roads lead to Target these days.
Jason and I spent the first few months of our marriage questioning whether or not God wanted us to be in Birmingham. He'd be looking for a full-time videography job or something in music, and nothing had really come to fruition. Sometimes it's hard to have contentment after you go through a whirlwind of a year with all the traveling Jason did, our engagement, and our wedding. Over and over again God just confirmed to us that we were right where we were called to be.

Since then, we've made a decision to be intentional about nurturing the friendships we have in Birmingham. Weekends like the past one are so sweet because we know that we're being obedient to what and where God has called us to be. It's allowed us to be settled and peaceful. We even enjoy our little ole apartment :) 
A peaceful end to our weekend at home.

Lovin' our new candles.
How was your weekend? Were you busy or was it laid back? Did you spend it getting some r&r or were you a social butterfly? 
 

P.S. If you ever have any need for a photographer or videographer, visit the A Morales Production Website here.
Posted on August 2, 2013 and filed under "live well emotionally", "throwback".

On Trusting - A Sinner's Freedom

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding. 
 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
- Proverbs 3:5-6

This is a passage of scripture that is really really hard for me. I hate admitting that, but it's true.

Lately though, the Lord has been teaching me to depend on Him more. One of my biggest reoccurring sin problems is leaning on my own abilities.  I'm a "can do" type of person. I like to stay busy, I'm task oriented, and I'm a dreamer. That formula basically equals out to the fact that I'm always looking for what I "can do" next. 

Over the last few weeks a series of events led Jason and I to have this conversation in our kitchen last night:

Me: Let's just stop and pray about all of this.
Jason: What do you want me to pray for?
Me: I don't know, just that we can trust.
Jason: (prays) God has carried us this far, and it's been pretty easy. I think right now, He's brought us to a point where we have to decide, do we really trust Him completely. 

Each morning, I try to read the bible before I leave for work. The last couple of weeks, I haven't done so great, but thankfully this morning I had time to. Also, a few months ago, I started intentionally not listening to music on my way to work until after I pray. Sometimes out of habit, I turn on music or the radio or something like that, but I really have come to love those few minutes that I get to spend with God before I walk into my office and begin the busy-ness of the day. 

This morning on my drive to work, almost 12 hours after our conversation, I was able to answer the question that Jason asked last night. I do really trust Him. I trust God absolutely and completely. There is nothing and no one that I trust more. As I drove, I poured out my heart just confessing over and over that I do trust Him. I'm not good at relinquishing control,  but I do trust in His sovereignty over my life.

I'm sure that I'll have many more days, instances, and circumstances where I forget to trust the Lord. I doubt it will ever be something that comes 100%  naturally to me because, as I said before, I am a sinful person. But, I was reminded today how much freedom there is in trusting God completely. 

Do you struggle with trusting God in your life? If so, know that He is sovereign, that He loves you, and His will is always what's best for us. May we not lean on our own understandings today, may be rely completely and wholly on Him.

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Posted on July 31, 2013 and filed under "live well spiritually", "trust".

My Day of Cheats

June 1st marked the first day of my journey to living well physically. I started exercising regularly and I starting eat better...much better. Although I decided to cut out all processed sugar and stick to a "clean eating" diet as much as I could, I decided I'd give myself a few milestone celebrations for myself to keep me motivated...it helps to be working toward something.

The first milestone came in June. Jason was a groomsmen in a wedding and I knew I'd want wedding cake. So, I made the decision that I'd eat wedding cake as long as I'd stayed on my eating plan before that day came.

The next milestone I set was for Jason's birthday. I made a decision that I would work hard from June 9th to July 23rd and then celebrate with a big night out with my guy for his birthday. And that's exactly what we did!

Take a look at our delicious cheesecake!!!



This day made me realize how poorly I ate before I began this journey. Every birthday, every celebration, every get together, it all revolved around food! No wonder I gained weight. I constantly would tell myself that I'd be "good" and then get caught up in the moment and eat twice the amount of calories I should in a day...and that happened a few times a week. I had no boundaries.

I took a screenshot of what a typical day's eating pattern looks like for me:

And then here's Jason's birthday:

Again, it's no surprise that I was gaining weight. It really wasn't anything for me to eat dessert on a regular basis before June 1st. Or eat a burger and fries. I told myself that I was healthy because on the days that I faced zero temptation, I was a healthy eater. But as life gets busier and crazier, temptations seem to be lurking around every corner.

So boundaries were set, and I praise God for the discipline to withstand temptation all of this time.

Now, it's back to healthy eat...until the next milestone.

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Posted on July 26, 2013 and filed under "birthday", "live well physically".

Throwback - A Prayer of Contentment

Originally posted on May 11, 2012 in Ramble (which is now mrsblogbacktome)



I know you're thinking, "What?!?!? Two posts in one day? I don't have time for this kind of rambling, Jessica." But I promise that you will not be disappointed. If you never read anything else that I write, please read this post (mostly because it's mostly written by someone else).

I'm reading the book a book called Calm my Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow*. The book was actually recommended to me by a blog reader and friend after I posted the confessions post a few weeks ago. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book thus far (I'm only on chapter three...but I'm a slow reader).

This excerpt of the book is coming from Psalm 139. Take few minutes to read it (by clicking the link) and then read this quote from the book. You will not regret it!

According to Psalm 139, God not only created your personality, He also gave you your body. Verse 15 reads, “My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth” (NASB).

In Hebrew, the word translated wrought means “embroidered.” It was the same Hebrew word used to refer to the skillful and artistic needlework in the curtains of the Old Testament tabernacle. When God fashioned you in your mother’s womb (described in the psalm as “the depths of the earth”), He embroidered with great skill. Although no one else could see you, God saw every detail of the formation of your body. As a weaver intricately embroiders colors together to create a beautiful pattern, God knit together your veins, muscles, nerves, and every curve and indentation that is uniquely yours. What tapestry can begin to equal the human fabric?

Perhaps you think other female tapestry is beautiful, but not yours. “I don’t like my nose, my hips, my breasts. In fact I really don’t like much about me.” All of us could list things we’d like changed about ourselves. But if we are displeased with our physical form, we’re really arguing with He is responsible for the color of our hair and the size of our nose and whether we have cellulite.

I’m not surprised that so many women struggle over their personal appearance. The values of our American culture are warped. We’re constantly bombarded with pressure created by the media to have a “perfect” body. This emphasis is wrong and unbiblical. As Christian women, we know this perspective is twisted, yet how easy it is to get caught up in the deadly disease of comparison.

My husband, Jody, believes that women look at other women more than men look at women. This may sound strange, but I think he’s right. We women analyze, scrutinize, and compare to see how we stack up to the supermodel in her skimpy bathing suit. I never come out looking very good. When we compare ourselves with others, we’re told we are without understanding. The Living Bible says we are “stupid” (2 Corinthians 10: 12).

Several years ago I read an article by the Reverend James Hufstetler** that put the comparison game in perspective.

You will never really enjoy other people, you will never have stable emotions, you will never lead a life of godly contentment, you will never conquer jealousy and love others as you should until you thank God for making you the way He did.

God wants each of us to praise Him for His workmanship in creating us.

George MacDonald***, the man C. S. Lewis called his mentor, wrote,

I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.


This is a prayer of contentment.

*Dillow, Linda (2012-01-05). Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment with Bonus Content . Navpress. Kindle Edition. 

**James Hufstetler, “On Knowing Oneself,” The Banner of Truth 280 (January 1987), p. 13.


***by J. R. Miller in a printed message, “Finding One’s Mission” (Swengel, PA: Peiner Publications, n.d.), p. 2.
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Posted on July 25, 2013 and filed under "live well spiritually", "throwback".

A Newlywed First: My Husband's Birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JASON!

I woke him up this morning with some birthday pancakes and a "Birthday Boy" pin for him to wear today. I'm pretty sure that I'm more excited about his birthday that I was my own. But that's kind of normal, right?

Birthday chocolate chip pancakes
Over the past 10 months, Jason and I have shared a lot of "newlywed firsts". First trip, first Christmas, etc. Since we're only 2 months away from celebrating our 1 year anniversary, we've already celebrated a lot of those "firsts", so it almost seems like we've become immune to them. But yesterday as I was strolling around Target and I wandered into the card section, I realized that this would be the first time that I get to buy a card for my husband.

I already had Jason's gifts bought and plans made for dinner tonight, but I decided right then and there in the card section that I was going to try to make this birthday as special as I possibly could for my man.

Jason and I met a week before I turned 21 and he was 23, almost 24. It's crazy to think that there were 23 years of his life that I did not know him. It's also crazy to think that in the span of 3 or so years, we could become best friends, date, get engaged, and get married - but that's our reality and I think it's completely awesome!

I am thankful for July 24, 1986. That's the day my husband was born. That's the day that he cried his first cry and opened is eyes to this big, crazy world for the first time; it's the day he began all of his "firsts". I'm thankful that God guided his steps for 23 years, and then finally brought us together. I'm thankful for the way we've grown through stages of friendship, love, and marriage.

Happy birthday to Jason, and may we spend many more years celebrating him, his life, and how he infectiously loves everyone and everything around him!



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Posted on July 24, 2013 and filed under "birthday", "live well emotionally", "newlywed".