Meal Planning for a Month: FAQ & Tips

tips for meal planning

I've been talking about how I plan our meals a month at a time. Doing this requires two major steps: planning out your meals and then shopping for your meals. Since I've been telling people about my monthly meal planning endeavor, I get a few common questions. Below are my answers to these frequently asked questions and some tips that will make meal planning easier. These tips apply to meal planning in general- whether you're planning for a week or a month at a time. 

-FAQ-

What if you don't feel like eating what's on the scheduled day? 
I've gotten asked this question by almost every person I've told about our monthly meal planning. I'll be honest- this doesn't happen very much in our house. We love all kinds of food, as long as it's a hot yummy dinner, we both usually feel like it. 

That being said- some days we don't feel like it, we're too tired to cook, or we want to meet up with friends or family. When this happens we just switch that dinner to a different day. I'll usually just bump it to the next day or later in the week. At the end of the month there's always 3-4 dinners that I didn't land up making. I try to make these dinners that don't have a lot of perishable items- that way I'm not wasting ingredients and I have a handful of dinners to start my list with next month! 

What if I run out of food (i.e. no leftovers when you were planning on it or the recipe making less than you needed)? 

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that I always have a few emergency dinners on hand. These things are usually frozen pizza, spaghetti, or breakfast for dinner- things that don't spoil and can be cooked up quickly when we're in a pinch. 

What do I do if I have leftovers and wasn't planning on it? 
We almost always take leftovers for lunch because I've developed a strong dislike for sandwiches. Sometimes a recipe will make just a huge amount and when that happens I try to freeze half of it and use it either later in the month or for the next month- you get two meals that way! I love unplanned leftovers! 

How do coupons and taking advantage of sales work with this system? 
To be honest, I haven't quite figured this out yet. I just can't seem to get into couponing (maybe one day!), so I can't speak to that. I will say that the veggies and fruit we buy for salads and lunches are the ones that are on sale. I also browse the sales ad for the two times that we do shop- that way if there is a good deal going on (particularly on meat), I will stock up. I still go for the sale items when we do shop, but it's not as big of a part of my meal planning as it used to be. 

You will still save money with this plan because you are in the grocery store so much less, resulting in less impulse buys. Also, I've made a commitment to only going to the grocery store twice a month, so if something runs out before then I make do without until the next trip to the store. We really try to use all of our food and not letting things go to waste, and sometimes that means being a little creative (especially towards the end of the month). Your commitment to staying out of the stores will serve you and your wallet well. 

Doesn't your food go bad if you don't shop that often? 
In short, no. I've found that almost all fruits and veggies will last two weeks. I look for later expiration dates on things like milk and yogurt to ensure that they'll last two weeks. I also will freeze breads and meats so they'll stay good for awhile. We do make one quick shopping trip in the middle of the month to replenish fruits, veggies, and milk.

-TIPS-

Keep a running grocery list. 
We have a spot on our fridge where I write the menu for the week. Underneath the menu is a section where we write a list of things we run out whether it be milk or foil. We write it as soon as we realize it's out, that way we don't forget anything when we're at the store! 

Get your recipes organized. 
Every time I add a recipe to my dinner repertoire, I make sure I put where the recipe is from (Pinterest, cookbook etc.) That way, when I want to make the recipe again, I don't spend a ton of time just looking for the recipe. 

Make Pinterest work for you 
Pinterest can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to planning. If you have a general "food" board that has 200 recipes and you find one you like, trying to find it again can be a nightmare. I learned this the hard way, and decided to make separate food boards- one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. I also have separate ones for desserts, veggies & sides, drinks, and snacks

Perhaps the best board I've created on Pinterest is my "Meals This Month" board. This is where I pin recipes that I'm cooking that month. That way, when it comes to make a recipe, I can go straight to that board and that recipe. 

I also created a "Pinned it and Did it" board. This board is where I pin projects or recipes that I have actually done. Not only does it serve as a great motivator to actually turn Pins into reality, it allows me to write a little blurb of recipes I've tried and remind myself why or why I didn't like it. This board is also stores previous recipes that I've tried and liked so I can find them easily. 

The key with making Pinterest work for you is getting organized- use those boards to your advantage! 

Brainstorm the next month during the current month. 
Like I addressed above, I'll often have 3-4 meals that weren't cooked. These automatically go onto next month's meals as do any frozen leftovers from the current month. I'll also write down specific ideas or pins that I liked in my planner, that way I can remember them when it comes to plan the next month's menu. By the time I start planning for the next month, I usually have 4-5 meals already planned making it that much easier! 

Be creative. 
Towards the end of your two weeks or the month (before you go to the store again), you may start running out of some ingredients. Instead of making an extra trip to the store get creative with the ingredients you have on hand. We ran out of bread for sandwiches one month, and instead of buying more, we took crackers cheese and meat and made some delicious adult lunchables! The more creative you can get, the less food you'll waste and the more money you'll save. 

Give yourself some grace. 
In all of life you need to give yourself some grace, and that includes menu planning. Maybe one of your new recipes bombed. Maybe you ran out of food after a week. It's okay. This whole menu planning idea has a big learning curve and the point of it is to ease your stress not cause it. Maybe you try it for a month and decide you hate it- great, go to something that's easier for you! I will say that it's taken me a couple of months for the process to get easier so if you're in your first month and thinking that it's something you might like- stick with it! It gets easier I promise! 

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I think that wraps up our week talking all about meal planning! It's something that's worked well for me, and I hope it can work for you too! 

Do you think you might try to meal plan for a month?

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Meal Planning for a Month: Shop



Once you've got your plan of meals, then it's time to make your grocery lists and then head to the stores to finish the process. I've messed this process up a couple of times so I hope you can learn from my mistakes. 

1. Make your ingredient list

I used to just go through every dish and write down the ingredient list. I landed up with a giant list of ingredients that I had to go back through and sort. The main reason this method didn't work was that three weeks into the month I had no idea which dish needed the green bell pepper. 

What I have started doing is getting four sheets of paper. Each sheet represents one week of the month. I write each individual dish down, underline it, and write down all the ingredients needed for that dish. By doing this method, I'm able to have the ingredient list for each dish at my fingertips. This way, I know which recipe needs that green bell pepper!

I should mention that at this point, write down ingredients that you need for breakfast and lunch.  I explained in the last post that breakfast and lunch for us is usually pretty repetitive, so it's easy for me to write down the few staples that we need.  

(You can see here I have week 1 and 2 in separate columns along with each dish and their
 ingredients written underneath each corresponding week).

2. Sort your grocery list
This is probably the most excruciating and terrible part of this process. Now that you have your ingredient list compiled, it's time to combine all the ingredients into a cohesive shopping list. 

I sort my grocery list by food group (dairy, protein etc.) because that's how I make sense of everything. I later sort it by store (that part is easy- don't get intimidated!) I go through all my ingredient lists and write down all the dairy items that are needed. If I need 4 cups of cheese in one recipe and 2 cups in another, I'll go ahead and combine them on my grocery list and write "6 cups cheese". That way, I know the total amount of that ingredient that I'll need for the month. 

The most crucial part in this step is note which fruits/vegetables/perishable items will be used in the second half of the month. We do go to the store once halfway through the month to replenish our fruits, veggies, and milk supply because some things just don't last the entire month! (But almost everything is fine for two weeks). If there's a particular ingredient that will be used in the second half of the month, I put a "2" next to it. By doing this, I'm able to easily see what ingredients I won't need to get on my first trip, and then I'm usually able to write a "second trip" shopping list really quickly.

(My master grocery list sorted by food group)

3. Figure out your stores 
Once you have all your ingredients compiled, it's time to sort the shopping list by store. If you shop at one store for everything, you can just skip this step and get shopping. We shop at three main stores- Costco, King Soopers, and Walmart (Sprouts on the occasion). 

Instead of re-writing every ingredient (because at this point I'm really just ready to shoot myself), I use a highlighter system to sort by store. I take my grocery list (sorted by food group), and highlight all the Costco items in yellow, Walmart items in blue, and King Soopers items in pink. 

I'm a super visual person so this system works for me. Figure out something that works for you, but don't make it too hard on yourself (as in, don't rewrite your whole list if you can help it).  

(My master grocery list sorted by food group and then highlighted by stores. Anything
that's not highlighted are items I already had or was going to purchase on my mid-month 
shopping trip).

4. Hit the stores
By now, you probably have a couple page long grocery list that is pretty and highlighted. You're also probably exhausted and ready to go to a bar instead of a grocery store. I'll be honest- I usually plan my menu on a separate day that I shop. Doing both in the same day is just too much. Muster your courage, and get out there and shop. A few hours later you'll come back with 2.3 million grocery bags, and you'll collapse on your couch. You're almost done my friend, one more step! 

(My shopping buddy this month. No, we didn't take a selfie in an 
aisle of Costco, why would you think such a thing?)

5. Finish food prep and put away groceries. 
We usually have a couple things to prep when we get home. The most common things we have to do is shred rotisseirre chickens and put them in individual freezer bags and separate the big packages of chicken breasts we buy into smaller freezable packages. Occasionally I'll cook some pinto beans and chop some fruit or veggies. Most of the times I'll do the chicken, put away all the groceries and call it a day. 

I also will take 5-10 minutes to go back through my grocery list and write down every ingredient that has a "2" next to it on a sticky note. That way, my grocery list for the middle of the month is already compiled and I don't have to worry about it!

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Phew, you made it friend. Planning a monthly menu is a lot of work. Now do you see why you shouldn't jump into it right away? The first time I did it, the whole thing took probably 8-9 hours. Now it takes me about 6 hours and I'm hoping to get even quicker. It's a lot of work but it gets easier every month. And I cannot tell you how much it is worth it. 

For the past year, Mondays usually were my meal planning and grocery shopping day. It would only take me 1-2 hours total but I had to do it every single week. Now I spend one Monday a month, and the other three are free for whatever else I want to do! 

My shopping trip in the middle of the month usually isn't longer than an hour, leaving me able to spend my days off not grocery shopping. 

This plan will save you money: less time spent in the grocery store = less impulse buys = money saved. It requires planning and time, but it is SO worth it. 

To finish off the series, I answered some FAQs and compiled a list of tips. Please always feel free to email or comment with any other questions you might have! 

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Meal Planning for a Month: Plan

meal plan for a month

We've been covering the basics of meal planning and now are ready to tackle the big kahuna- namely, meal planning for an entire month (in one sitting). It took me 15 months of regular, weekly meal planning to feel like I could tackle doing an entire month at once. The principles of the planning are the same it just takes a little longer, but it is oh so sweet to have to only do it once a month. 

Before you plan your monthly menu make sure that you have: 

1. A minimum of 10-15 meals on your "dinner repertoire". These are recipes that you know that you and your family love, that are fairly simple, and that you feel comfortable cooking. This list should not include that super complicated dish that you made off of Pinterest a few days ago. This staple list are your tried and true recipes. Click here to learn more about making your own list.

2. Planned an occasional two or even three week menu
I think it's important to work up to planning an entire month so if you're feeling comfortable in planning a weekly menu, go ahead and try planning a two-week menu. The first "month" I ever planned was November 2013 and we were going to be gone for a week because of Thanksgiving. I had been comfortably planning weekly or biweekly menus at this point, and I was glad to have a three week plan to bridge me over to the full month.

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Alright, let's do this thing. 

Sit down, arm yourself with a blank monthly calendar, your staple dinners list, your computer (or cookbooks) if you're planning on trying some new recipes, some colored pens or highlighters, and a chunk of time. 

First off, back to the first step we covered in Meal Planning 202

1. Write down all the obligations that you are aware of
This includes date nights, Bible studies, meal groups, trips away, work days. Plan meals for these days first. I plan all my work day dinners first because like I mentioned in my earlier post, Alex  is usually responsible for getting dinner ready when I work. Staple meals (i.e. spaghetti & meatballs) or crockpot dishes (i.e. BBQ chicken sandwiches) are usually the meals that are scheduled for days I work because they're easy and delicious. 

If you know that some of your dishes will make leftovers, go ahead and pencil in "Leftovers" for the next day or later in the month (if you plan on freezing the leftovers). 

sample monthly menu
(This was my calendar for January- you'll note that I penciled in date nights, our meal group with church, and work).

2. Choose the new recipes you want to try and schedule them 
I usually only try 2-3 new recipes a month, sometimes less and sometimes more depending on how ambitious I'm feeling. Schedule these 2-3 new recipes on days that you know (or at least think) that you will have the time and energy to cook them up. My new recipes for the month are always scheduled on a day I don't work and usually earlier in the week when I'm more likely to have energy and motivation to be in the kitchen. 

3. Pencil in the days you'll eat out 
We try and go on 2-3 date nights per month that usually include dinner. I'll go ahead and write these into the schedule (usually on a Friday or Saturday night). Often our date nights change from when I originally schedule them, and when that happens I just move the meal that was originally planned for when we go out  to the day that was a planned date night. 

4. Pencil in meals for all remaining days. 
After adding all your nightly obligations, new recipes, leftover  and takeout days, you should only have a handful of days left. I pull out my staple dinners list and fill in the rest of those days with recipes that are already tried and true. 

A few last thoughts before we talk about the shopping part of this gig in the next post: 

-I try to plan meals that share ingredients in the same two week time frame. For example. enchiladas and smothered burritos are regular occurrences in our household and both need most of the same ingredients. Because of this, we'll usually have enchiladas one week and then burritos early the next week. This ensures that I can use any leftover ingredients that I may have from the first week's dish in the second week's dish (i.e. black beans, chicken, green chile). This takes practice- don't get frustrated if you can't work it out the first couple times around. 

-I try to have 2-3 "backup" meal ideas a month. These usually are frozen pizzas, sandwiches, or breakfast for dinner. These backup meals are just in case I don't have leftovers when I was planning on them or if I'm too tired to make what was planned. These backup ideas shouldn't need much prep or extra ingredients, that way if you don't use them, you won't be wasting any ingredients. 

I'm not going to lie, the planning part of this whole ordeal is the hardest part. Once you've got your plan (and your lists which we'll go into more detail about in the next post), the shopping usually goes really smoothly and quickly and then you are done for another FOUR weeks!

Once you've done your plan, it's time to learn how to organize your grocery list and shopping trip.

Is it overwhelming to plan an entire monthly menu at once? What other tips do you have? 

{Linking up with Tuesday Talk at Sweet Little Ones blog!}


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Meal Planning 202: Planning Your First Weekly Menu

plan a weekly meal menu


In Meal Planning 101, we covered how to begin your dinner repertoire. I explained how this step is critical in successful meal planning and should not be skipped. Today, we'll chat about what it looks like to make your first weekly meal plan.

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Write out your week on a sheet of paper
Include days that you work, any nightly obligations you may have, and any other events that would mean you won't be home for dinner (i.e. date night, dinner with friends). 

For us, this schedule would look like: 

Monday:
Tuesday: Sarah Work
Wednesday: Sarah Work 
Thursday: 
Friday: Sarah Work 
Saturday: Date Night 
Sunday: 

Knowing the days that I work are crucial to my meal plan because I am gone from the house for a total of 14 hours, and Alex is usually the one that gets dinner ready. He's a great cook but I try to make it easy on him by planning a crockpot dish, leftovers, or something simple for those days. 

If you know you are going to have an especially long and/or stressful day at work, consider making those dinners easier and simpler.  

Fill in the meals for each day. 
Once you have your weekly obligations penciled in, it's time to pencil in all your meals. When you start out, it's important to not go crazy with the plan and get yourself overwhelmed. This may mean that you only plan three nights of dinners and have leftovers or takeout the rest. Below is a very typical week of meals when we started out: 

Monday: Mediterranean Pizza Skillet (this would be my one, and only one, new recipe for the week)
Tuesday: (Sarah Work) Grilled Cheese and soup (Campbell's to the rescue, y'all)
Wednesday: (Sarah Work) Spaghetti & Meatballs
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: (Sarah work) Breakfast for dinner (this has been everything from pancakes to cereal)
Saturday: Date night! (We go out for dinner) 
Sunday: Leftovers/Family Dinner

You can see above that I only planned 4 meals per week. One recipe was new, the rest were easy to make and off my "Dinner Repertoire". We would go out, and often on weekends we would have one meal at my in-laws house. Don't feel bad about starting out small. Maybe you plan and cook two meals and have leftovers the rest of the week- great idea! The point is to start small, and work your way into more extensive meal planning. 

Write all your ingredients down. 
Here is where I go through each dish individually and write down all the ingredients. Make sure to include any spices that you might need. A lot of times you'll find that you have many of the ingredients on hand (you probably would have bread and cheese on hand for grilled cheese sandwiches) and you only need to buy a handful of other things. 

Once you're done writing down dinner ingredients, add breakfast and lunch ingredients. 
I'll be honest- I don't plan breakfast or lunch (ain't nobody got time for that!) We're okay with repetition on these two meals so we usually just keep some staples around. Breakfast staples include eggs, cereal, oatmeal, and toast. Lunch staples include sandwich makings, fruit, and yogurt (sometimes chips or crackers). Each week when I'm making my grocery list, I just glance through our pantry and refrigerator to make sure we have enough of the staples to last us the week.  

Get shoppin! 
When I lived in a small town, I grocery shopped at three different stores because they each had their separate good deals. Now that I'm in the middle of a city, I often find it's not worth the gas and time to go all over creation to a bunch of different stores so I try to figure out which one or two stores have the best deals for the week and only go to those ones. 

Make sure you take your list of ingredients with you! I find it easiest to sort my grocery list by store just so that I don't forget any ingredient. Find a way that works for you because nothing is worse than having to go to the grocery store more than once! 

Once you've done your grocery shopping- well done! Put everything away, turn on a show, grab a drink, and try to forget it ever happened.

{Ready to try and meal plan for an entire month? Head over to Meal Plan for a Month to find out how!}

What other tips do you have for meal planning one week at a time? Do you plan breakfast or lunch? 
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Meal Planning 101: Creating a Dinner Repertoire

meal planning, how to create a dinner idea list

I've been meal planning consistently for almost a year and a half now meaning that I've gotten the hang of it but I'm still not an expert. I actually hate meal planning and grocery shopping (they're my least favorite chores), but I hate not having a plan for dinner even more. Knocking out my planning and shopping in one sitting is a pain but it also means that I don't have to worry about dinner the rest of the time. Trust me, the trade-off is worth it. 

My latest jam has been meal planning for the entire month at a time. Everyone I tell about this either thinks I'm crazy, thinks it sounds like a cool idea, or thinks a little bit of both. Instead of jumping head first into how I meal plan for a month, I'm going to start with meal planning basics and end with the monthly plan. 

If you've never meal planned before, I beg of you- don't try and meal plan for an entire month your first go at it. Trust me, you'll hate it and never meal plan again in your life. When I started, planning 4-5 days was overwhelming enough. It's a process, don't jump in too quick or it won't work. Let's get started with the basics.

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Think about what you're already eating. 
Grab a piece of paper and pen and jot down 4-5 meals that you are already eating on a consistent basis. If this for you means chinese takeout, mexican takeout, and Dominoes, then go ahead and brainstorm 4-5 simple ideas of dinners you could make at home. 

Some ideas from my list: 
-Spaghetti and meatballs
-Macaroni and cheese 
-Breakfast for dinner ("brinner")
-Sandwiches 
-Frozen pizza 
-Hamburgers

This is the beginning of your dinner repertoire or your "dinner idea" list. Once you have 4-5 ideas written down, go onto the next step. 

Think about what you would like to eat 
Now brainstorm 4-5 things that you would like to have in your dinner menu rotation. These may be dishes your Mom made, dishes you've heard of that sound good, or even a theme of food you would like to eat more of (i.e. Mexican). These ideas should also be simple. Do not add lobster tail to this list. 

We added a couple of dishes: 
-Enchiladas (something my Mom makes frequently)
-Tater tot casserole (another one of my Mom's dishes)
-Chinese (we both love it but haven't cooked it at home much)

You will add these to the dinner repertoire list you created above. Ideally, this list will have about 5 go-to meals when you start out (if you don't have this many when you begin, don't worry!)

Each time you make a new meal, you will add it to your dinner repertoire if you feel like you would want to eat it again. In order to make it onto our dinner list, the meal has to be delicious, simple, contain common ingredients, and something we would want to eat again. 

Do NOT go Pinterest crazy 
When I first started meal planning I felt like I had no ideas so I would hop on Pinterest to try and find dinner ideas for each night that week. Don't do this.  Too many new recipes all at once will almost guaranteed overwhelm you and make you feel defeated before you even start. I started limiting myself to one new recipe a week, and then drawing from my list of staple dishes (that you brainstormed above) for the rest of the dinners.

Creating your own repertoire of dinner ideas is the essential foundation to meal planning. This list has made meal planning so much easier, and is what ultimately allowed me to feel confident in planning meals for the entire month. Do NOT skip this step. 


dinner idea list
(This is my dinner repertoire list. They are all simple and delicious recipes that we LOVE. Note that next to each dinner I put where it's from whether it's a cookbook or Pinterest. This list is right next to me every time I plan a menu).

Ready for the next step? Head on over to Meal Planning 202: Planning Your First Weekly Menu

Do you have a list of dinner ideas that are tried and true? If you do, what are some of the meals on it? If you don't, do you think creating a repertoire could help you start to meal plan? 

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I Believe

things I believe; standing on a mountain


On a lighter note, I believe... 

  • That if you hate April Fool's Day, you need to lighten up a little bit. 
  • In giving anyone and everyone Zofran (Zofran is an anti-nausea medication). Me and puke don't mix well. Ever.  
  • There's no such thing as forgetting to eat. If you forget to eat, then you really need to get less-busy. I love food, so I've clearly never had this problem. 
  • On the note of food, my love for hamburgers and fries is why I'll be dead at 40
  • Crutches are from the devil (personal experience here talking). 
  • Serving chicken and rice at a wedding is criminal (yes, I know it happens all the time). You realize your paying $30 a plate for two foods that are daily staples in most third world countries?
  • No smile pictures are for losers. My Dad is one of these losers. I told him before my wedding that he better smile and his response was, "I'm not smiling for no damn wedding!" He loves me, promise. 

On a more serious note, I believe... 

  • That God is sovereign over all things. This means that I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I mean everything. 
  • That there are miracles happening all around us, we just need to notice them. Every child that is born, is a miracle. Statistically speaking, every time you get into a car and get to your destination safely, that's a miracle. I recently pinned this on Pinterest and couldn't agree more. 
  • That there needs to be a lot more talk about unity and a lot less theological debate in the church. 
  • In second chances and do-overs. We all mess up, and we all deserve a second chance. 
Linking up with Amanda @ The Lady Okie Blog and Megan @ Semi-Charmed Kind of Life for the "I Believe" Link-up! 

What do you believe? Serious or funny, share below!

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DIY Lyric Wall Art

diy lyric wall art

After creating a mantle at Christmastime that I fell in love with, I decided to play with my design skills and create a picture that I could put on our mantle. I had seen some similar ideas on Pinterest, and had wanted to overlay the lyrics of one of my favorite songs over a picture for a long time. The song these lyrics are from is called "Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield. If you've never heard it, you NEED to click that link and listen to it NOW- it's seriously one of my favorites and makes me cry every time! 

 I finally decided to make the project I had dreamed of using my favorite editing program called PicMonkey. Below, I'll show you how to make a similar project using this program. The skills needed to do this project are really basic, and you can tailor it to your tastes really easily. Choose a picture and some lyrics (or perhaps a favorite quote), and let's get started! 

1. First head over to PicMonkey.com, click on "Design" at the very top and hit "Custom". I wanted my picture to be the size of a regular sheet of paper so that I could print it at home. The dimensions you'll need to enter for a regular sheet of printer paper page is 800x1050. Click "Make it" and your blank project will open up. If you want to make different size of picture (say 5x7 or 4x6) but aren't sure how many pixels you need to make it, you can use this nifty little inch-to-pixel converter

picmonkey tutorial


2. Next, you'll want to click the "Tt" on the left and then "Add text" at the top. You can use the box on the left to play with the size and color of the words you're adding. 

diy wall art using picmonkey

3. This next step is the MOST CRUCIAL step in the whole process. You must open a new PicMonkey page in your browser, click "Edit" at the top and open the picture that you are going to overlay with your text. 

On the top left sidebar there's a small little square icon. Click on that. Then at the bottom of that menu, there will be a option that says "Resize". Once you click on that, you need to enter the exact same dimensions that your other project is (in my case I resized the picture to 800x1050). 

picmonkey design project

You must resize your photo to the exact dimensions of the other project or the picture will come out skewed when you add it behind your text. If you are planning on putting your text on a color picture, you can go ahead and click "Save" at the top and head to the next step. 

I wanted to overlay my text on a black and white picture so I went ahead and changed the photo to black and white before saving it. I did this by clicking the little wand icon on the left, clicking "Black and White" and adjusting from there. 

ideas for wedding pictures

Once again, any major edits that you are doing to your picture must be done in this step. Once you are happy with your edited picture, go ahead and save it to your computer. 

wedding picture design project

4. Now here is where the fun part starts. Go back to your original project (the one with the text), click on the little butterfly icon on the left and then click on "Your own" at the top. From here, you should be able to go into your pictures and open the picture that you just edited. It will probably open up small like mine did below. 

diy wall art with picmonkey

Go ahead and use the cursor to make your picture as big as the white background (your picture will cover your text at this point). Once your picture is the same size as your white background, right click on your mouse and click the option that says "Send to back". 

picmonkey how to

Once you do that, you should land up with your text in front like this: 

lyric photo

5. From here, I decided that the black and white picture with black font was too boring so I decided to play with my picture a little bit. By using the color palette and "Fade" option, I was able to adjust my picture to have a more sepia look and make the text stand out more. 

diy lyric photo

At this point, you can adjust your picture and text accordingly. You may need to use the "Fade" tool on your picture to make your text stand out more. Play with it until you're happy with your finished product and then go ahead and save that baby! I just printed my finished project on regular printer paper at home and found a cheap black frame at a thrift store to finish my masterpiece. The whole decoration only cost $2 (the cost of the frame), and took about an hour to make. I love it because it's personalized to me- lyrics and words I love with one of my favorite wedding pictures. It's gracing my mantle now and I'm well on my way to creating another part of my house that I love!

love is not a fight warren barfield, diy lyric wall art


Comment with any questions you have below! Have you ever done something like this? Do you think you might try?

{Linking up with one of my new favorites- Tuesday Talk!}
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Never Have I Ever: Disney & Santa Claus


I am participating in my first ever Circle Link up with Kiki over at In Its Time. How could I pass up the opportunity to think about "never have I ever" ? Without further ado, 

Never have I ever... 

Understood the obsession with Disney. I used to play a game with friends- they would name 10 Disney movies and count how many of them I had seen. In most cases, I had only seen 2 of the 10 movies. Popular ones that I haven't seen are Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and Toy Story. My parents had a rule when we were kids- we got to watch one hour of TV or one movie per week. Lest you think my childhood was deprived, we had a variety of forts including an underground one that my dad dug, one that extended through multiple trees, and a river. Need I say more? 

Believed in Santa Claus. My parents didn't want us to lose the real meaning of Christmas so instead of believing in Santa Claus we believed in the Angel of the Lord. It was still magical and I will never forget the awe I experienced when my Mom told me that she actually had seen the Angel. Along with point number one, I also don't feel like my childhood was deprived any. But I may or may not have gotten in a couple playground fights because I was the kid telling everyone that Santa wasn't real. Oops. 

Been in debt. Through God's provision I was able to graduate nursing school without a single student loan. I also worked throughout high school, at one point working about 50 hours a week, in order to pay cash for my car. Alex was also able to graduate school debt-free and got a hand-me-down car from his Dad so we entered marriage with no debt. I know this will not always be the case once we look into getting a house, but I can tell you that we will never buy something on a payment plan- not a car, not a new entertainment system... nothing. You could say we're anti-debt (and big fans of Dave Ramsey), because we know the freedom that comes with not having to make a single loan payment. 

Had a curfew. Obviously I'm married and living on my own now and curfews don't really apply, but this was something I never had as a teenager. I lived in a rural area of Colorado but my Grandma's house was in the town where I went to high school. Whenever I did something late with friends, my parents preferred that I go and spend the night at my Grandma's house instead of making the 40 minute drive home. Because of this, it was hard to control when we got in at night and the curfew battle was one that my parents chose not to fight. I appreciated them not fighting this battle because I felt like it showed they trusted me and because of this sense of trust, I never abused the privilege. 

Liked to shop. I actually have an entire blog post written on this subject and how girls' obsession with shopping is probably something I will never understand. When I moved to college the idea of going shopping for fun was so beyond my comprehension that it took three years for me to be open to the thought. I grew up with all brothers and a mom who hates shopping more than I do, so if it involves walking around a mall for hours, count me out. 

I would love to hear your "never have I ever" experiences in the comments below!

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Monthly Date Challenge: Giraffes & High School Couples

zoo date, ice skating date

If you've been around Sometimes Photojenik for any length of time you'll know that Alex and I are in the middle of a monthly date night challenge. We each plan a date for the month, forcing us to get out of the house, try new things, and spend time with each other not doing projects and chores. This will be my last post of this kind because next month I will be starting Project 12 as created by Amanda from the Lady Okie Blog. The date night challenge is not ending- Project 12 is just going to be a more fun and comprehensive monthly overview. I'll write about our date nights, the books we're reading, the places we've traveled, and other significant events. I think you'll enjoy it :) Read below to get some fun date night ideas!

Date #1- Sarah's Date 

There's something you should know about me. I'm a born and raised Coloradoan and I don't ski or snowboard. {Or smoke pot in case you were wondering} Crazy, I know. But I have made my Colorado winters more than enjoyable by fully taking advantage of all sledding and ice skating opportunities.

I've forever wanted to ice skate on an outdoor rink or pond like they do in the movies and books. So when I saw a Groupon for an outdoor ice skating rink close to our house, I jumped on that deal right away.

Before skating we decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Olive Garden. Does anyone else like their unlimited salad as much as we do? Our minimum is three bowls, and we really hate when the food comes quickly! (Less chance to get more salad!) We enjoyed dinner and headed over to the skating rink where things got interesting.

This was certainly an ice rink but instead of a circle of ice it was a circle of slush. If you've ever skated on a slushy rink, you know just how terrifying it can be. The slush coupled with little children darting in front of us with a death wish (I was never ever one of those children), led me to wish that I would leave the rink sans-fall (I did!).

That Friday night also seemed to be a very popular date night for all the local high school couples, and I found myself thinking "get a room" more than once. You may have seen my Instagram post summarizing the night but basically skating on an outdoor rink was a dream come true... but my dream looked a lot different. I'm not sure we would go back to that rink but it was a fun night and something we can laugh about for years to come.

ice skating date
(notice the slush on the bottom left and the hoards of people bottom right)

Date #2- Alex's Date 

My California raised husband loves his seafood so he was thrilled when he got a gift card to a local seafood restaurant for his birthday. I'm not a seafood person but I like shrimp so we decided to hit the place up for our second date. Before we went, we found a coupon online for a free appetizer and used it to order the best spinach artichoke dip we've ever had.

Alex ordered a plate full of a variety of very fishy tasting things and my shrimp order was as big as my face (not kidding). As we were finishing up our meal and presenting our gift card and appetizer coupon there was some confusion with our final bill resulting in a manager to come over. I happened to mention to the very friendly manager that it was our first time eating there and that we had really enjoyed it. He replied, "Oh it's your first time here? I'll give you a dessert on the house that you can take to go" (he clearly saw the "I've-eaten-so-much-I'm-going-to-roll-out-the-door" look on our faces). Holla for some free dessert. I'm not sure if I've ever gotten free dessert just for mentioning that it's my first time at a restaurant, but I might have to try that tactic more often. Between our gift card, coupon, and a generous manager, we landed up getting what would have been a very pricey three course meal for almost nothing. Saweeeet! 


Pappadeaux seafood
(He was really excited for his seafood)

After dinner, we headed out to the Denver Zoo. Each year Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs (where our first date was!) puts on a bunch of lights around Christmas time and you go tour the zoo at night. Going to see the Zoo Lights has become a tradition for us, and we were more than ready to try it when we found out that the Denver Zoo did the same thing. If you're close to a zoo and they do this, I totally recommend it- it's so so fun!

We enjoyed walking around seeing the stellar light show that Denver Zoo produced. My favorite part was an entire light exhibit of sea creatures like dolphins, walruses, and whales that can't be seen live at the zoo. It was a chilly night and after about an hour I was really jealous of the kids being pulled around in a wagon by their parents. And there was no way we were forking out $7 for a styrofoam cup of hot cocoa. $7!!

denver zoo lights

The funny thing about the Denver Zoo Lights was there were so many people (we went pretty close to Christmas), that we would have to wait in ginormous lines to see the actual live animals. The lights were so well done, though, that it mostly made up for only getting a few glimpses of the real animals.

denver zoo
(Giraffes are my all time favorite zoo animal)

All in all, it was a fun month of dates for December. Next month, I look forward to sharing more than just our dates in Project 12!

Have you ever been to a zoo lights exhibit? Or skated on an outdoor rink or pond?


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What my mother regrets

what my mother regrets

Over the holidays I was able to take some time off from work and spend a week at my parents' house and in the town where I grew up. This was the longest I had been at home since I graduated college and much of the time was spent in conversation with my Mom, Dad, and brother. One night as we were having dinner, my mom mentioned that there were some things that she regrets doing as a parent. I was of course curious and asked her what were some of the things she regretted doing as a parent. While she wouldn't share some things, the things she shared are something we can all learn from. 
"Sarah, I regret worrying about always have things clean and in their place." 
My mom explained that she wishes she spent more time with us rather than cleaning the house.
"Sarah, I regret not letting the little things (like wiping down the refrigerator door) go."
My Mom shared that she wishes she wouldn't have gotten so upset with us over little things (like toy clutter). She wishes that she would have just let them go and not worried about it so much.

My Mom is not one to live with regret but now that her and my Dad are empty nesters, I think she is realizing just how fast the time flies. Furthermore my mom has no need to regret these things- my brothers and I have no recollection of spending an excessive amount of time cleaning or her worrying about the little things. In fact, just the opposite- I remember going on bike ride after bike ride in the summer, joining in her garage sale-ing endeavors, and I rarely remember her being upset.

But what she said that night at dinner hit home. 

You see, I have always been pretty clean a neat freak, and in the past 16 months of marriage, that neat freak monster in me has reared its ugly head. As a nurse, I work three long days but have four days off. In the beginning of my marriage I found myself cleaning and doing chores at least two of those four days. Mind you, I have no kids, there's only laundry for two people, and I live in a 600 square foot apartment. The chores and cleaning that I was doing for two days was so far into the realm of perfection that my husband would come home, splash a little water on the bathroom sink and hear an earful from yours truly.

I have lightened up over the past year but not as much as I'd like as was proven by an incident this past December.

About a week before Christmas my brother and brother-in-law were over for the Broncos game and dinner. I should mention that this particular night would be the last time that I would see my 21-year old brother before he left for Thailand for a year (or possibly longer). After dinner, my brothers and husband all sat down in the living room as I started cleaning the kitchen and washing dishes. I began to get angry- why was I not getting any help? Why was I having to clean up by myself?

Half an hour into cleaning up (I had moved past the dishes by this point and was onto straightening the house and doing other little chores that needed doing), I realized that I had it all wrong.

My brother was leaving for a year and I was worried about some dirty dishes in the sink and a cluttered coffee table. 

Instead of sitting and talking and enjoying the company, my neat freak monster came out making me worry about the things that had yet to be cleaned. It seems incredulous as I write it now, but in the moment the dirty dishes were incredibly bothersome to me.

How often are my priorities skewed like this? More often than I would like.

I too often choose a clean kitchen over time with my husband.

I often choose a dusted and mopped house over time to relax and recharge my own battery.

I often choose finished laundry over time spent outside or time with friends.  

I think the point of this all is there will forever be a list of tasks and things that must be done. Can we completely ignore this list? Of course not. Can we choose to be selective in the things that are priority on this list? Definitely. Can we choose quality time with loved ones and rest for ourselves over tasks that must be done? Absolutely.

If you feel as though nothing on your list can wait, then maybe you need to take a step back and reevaluate what is on your list. Things like caring for yourself, spending time with your loved ones, and having peace in your relationships should always take priority over your task list.

For someone like my mom, she wishes she had let those dirty dishes sit in the sink. She wishes she hadn't made such a big deal about perfectly folded laundry. 

I wish I had sat down and enjoyed my brother's company while he was present in my living room because now the only communication we have is the occasional text or Facebook message letting us know he's okay. I wish I had spent more time relaxing on my days off and less time cleaning. I wish I had chosen peace in my marriage over a perfectly clean bathroom sink or toilet paper that's put on the roll "the right way".

Though I wish these things, it's never too late to make a change. 

Since the experience with my brother, I've been more conscientious about when I choose to clean my house. I'm learning that boxers left on the bathroom floor is not worth the fight. I'm learning that two extra hours of sleep on my day off is worth more than a vacuumed house. I'm learning that I can relax in a house that has clutter on the coffee table and dishes in its sink. I'm learning to make like Elsa and just let.it.go. 

This whole thing is hard for me. Really hard. If you're a type A person like I am, you will know this struggle all too well.

Let's make it our goal and encourage each other in this journey. A journey of choosing self-care, relationship, and peace over a clean house and perfectly manicured life. A journey of letting go of the little things for the greater sense of contentment in life.

My Mom's memories of her kids at home enjoying time together as a family are plentiful and abundant. I can only imagine how far I have yet to go to become as even keeled and laid back as my mom is and was when we were kids.  If you are a momma- be encouraged; you are doing the best you can and your kids are remembering the time you're spending with them at the park, giggling in the playroom, or snuggled on the couch.

(one of our many camping trips together as a family- these are the things I remember)

Let us choose daily the important thing- the rest we need, the time with each other we need, and the peace in our relationships that we so desperately need.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do the dishes.

Do you choose quality time and rest over things on your to-do list? If you do, what are your tips for those of us who struggle with this? If you don't, what are a couple ways that you think you can start?

{In case you were wondering, my Mom read and fully approved this post before I posted it.}

{Linking up with Sweet Little Ones for Tuesday Talk}
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Memorial Box: Flying Standby


It has been several months since I shared a Memorial Box story, but I hope to share more of these stories in 2015. If you don't know what a Memorial Box is, click on over here to read my explanation. Don't worry, I'll wait for you to come back before I start the story! 

I was blessed to be able to go home for Christmas 2014 and spend time with my family. Alex had to drive back a couple days after Christmas because he had to return to clinical. I had some more time off than he did and decided it would be worth buying a one way plane ticket back to Denver so I could spend some more time with my family. My ticket was for the morning of New Year's Eve- I was to fly in, sleep a little bit, and then go to work that night. 

Well as things would have it, I got a text about 10PM the night before I was supposed to leave saying that my flight had been cancelled due to air traffic control problems (whatever that means). My parents and I spent the next two hours online and on the phone only to find out that every single other flight in the area and on different airlines was completely booked. My only option was to try and get on a plane on standby. We went to bed at midnight planning to wake up at 4AM to try and get me on a standby flight at 6AM (remember I was working a 12 hour shift that night and now was only going to get four hours of sleep). 

This particular work shift was incredibly important to me; at my work you get points for the holidays that you work, and these points help determine which holidays you work the next year (more points=work less holidays). I had not worked any holidays this year and therefore hadn't accrued any holiday points so it was vital that I worked New Year's Eve and New Years Day so that I would have some points going into next year's holiday assignments. Any other work shift I probably would have called in sick, but this particular shift I really wanted to make. 

Anyway, I digress. My parents and I woke up on New Year's Eve at 4 AM, arrived at the airport a little before 5 and walked in only to find a giant line at the check-in desk. After half an hour of waiting in line we walked up to the clerk, explained my situation. His response was, 
"Well we've oversold the flight by five people and there's five people on standby ahead of you. I can put you on standby but I highly doubt you'll get on this plane." 
He almost talked me out of it, but my Mom convinced me that it was worth trying. I got my standby ticket, and spent the next twenty minutes in the security line. I hugged my Mom briefly saying "Well, I'll probably see you in fifteen minutes." My Dad had gone to move the car so I didn't even say goodbye to him- I was convinced I wasn't getting on.

I got to the gate and was surrounded by a dozen people that were still waiting to get on. At this point I told the Lord that it was in His hands and that I believed He could get me on the flight if I was supposed to be on it. At this point it was 6:10 (the flight was supposed to leave at 6), and they were still trying to board everyone. I watched as a man went to the ticket counter and ask if they were still looking for volunteers to rebook a flight for the next day. The ticket clerk responded yes, and the man replied that him and his wife would volunteer.

About five minutes later I heard them call "Is passenger Jenik here?" I jumped out of my seat and practically sprinted to the ticket counter. After 10 more minutes of waiting at the counter the clerk handed me a ticket saying,
"We were able to find a seat for you Ms. Jenik. You're the last person on the flight." 
I took my ticket, profusely thanking the Lord as I excitedly boarded the plane, and texted everyone that I had gotten on. I got to Denver an hour later, and in bed getting some sleep before my night shift by 10AM. This was earlier than I originally was supposed to get home and the extra sleep helped my New Year's Eve night shift go smoothly.

There were ten people ahead of me in the cue waiting for tickets to Denver. The ticket clerk scoffed at my chances of getting on the plane and I was filled with doubt myself. But God. 

I don't know why out of six flights going out to Denver that day mine was the only one cancelled. But God.

It was nothing short of a miracle that I boarded that plane when the chances were so slim. But God. It was never beyond His power. 

He continually reminds me that He cares, even about the littlest things. He continues to gently coach me into trusting Him. And He continues to show me that the power He holds is so far beyond chances, statistics, or reason. As a reminder of this story, a small toy plane has been added to my Memorial Box.
"22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear... 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?"- Luke 12:22, 24
Be encouraged today. He cares about YOU. He cares about the little things. You are held in the palm of His hand and nothing goes unnoticed by our God. 

{The Memorial Box idea was created by Linny over at A Place Called Simplicity. Head over to her page to read more stories of God's faithfulness}

{Linking up over at Tuesday Talk! }

Winter 2015 Goals


When I made my fall goals, I had no idea how awesome of a thing it would be for me. Giving myself seasonal goals helped me structure my days off better and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. I don't really do well with monthly goals because by the time I think of them, the month is halfway gone. So below are my goals for the winter season- I'll be recapping them sometime in March or April! 

Increase blog posting frequency to 3+ times per week. 
My fall goal was two times per week and I actually did pretty good with that goal so now it's time to give myself another challenge. Be on the lookout for more posts at Sometimes Photojenik! 

Consistently run 3 times a week
I've been running pretty consistently for the past two months. I work 12 hour shifts three days a week and there's no way I even think about running after being on my feet for that long, so I shoot to run the other 4 days. My goal is to keep at it at least three (but hopefully four) times a week. I like to give myself the leeway of the extra day since it is winter in Colorado and I don't have access to a treadmill. 

Invite at least 5 couples over for dinner. 
If you read my post on generosity, you'll know that my heart for the year is to have an open heart and open doors at my house. By making a tangible goal for myself in this area, I'll be able to practice generosity and challenge myself to open my doors.

Finish 5 pages of my wedding scrapbook
This was my fall goal that totally didn't happen. I bought stuff for our scrapbook and then it sat there for the next two months. This time I'm going to put a number on it so that it will be more measurable. 

Complete a weekly challenge outlined in "Power Thoughts" by Joyce Myer
This book is one I got last Christmas and never actually read more than the first chapter. There are certain "power thoughts" and challenges that she suggests you tackle on a weekly basis (one thought/idea per week for 12 weeks). My goal is to actually do this challenge this year and get past the first chapter of the book! 

Memorize at least one scripture verse a week.
This is something that I've tried to do over the past few years and just haven't been consistent with it. By writing it down, I know I'll be more motivated. And thanks to the gift from my Secret Santa, I have an awesome place to start! 

Get involved in one way at church. 
This was also a fall goal that was left undone. My recap post explained that we had emailed our church about ways to get involved and never heard back. We're definitely going to follow-up and hopefully get plugged in this winter!

Okay, I think that's enough goals for this season. I'm excited and hope that I'm not being over zealous but I'm always excited for a new challenge.

How about you? Do you have some winter or January goals? Share them below with a link or a comment so I can cheer you on! 

2015: A Generous Home

new year's resolution, being generous


Happy happy New Year!!! Welcome to 2015! If you're anything like me, you're excited for all that a new year brings!  I've been sharing why I think goals are important and how to make realistic goals for yourself. I also shared that I've always been a fan of New Year's resolutions but I mostly love the feeling of a fresh start that comes with a new year. The past couple of weeks I've been praying about the new year and what the Lord has for my husband and I in 2015. 

In sitting and listening, the Lord has clearly brought to mind a "theme" for our year instead of specific resolutions. It's a broad theme- one that stretches across many aspects of life, and is something that has been deeply resonating in my heart over the past couple of months.

I want to live generously in 2015
Generosity is something that is not often talked about in today's culture and if it is, it's usually in the context of a wealthy someone donating a large amount of money. 

I think we (I) often forget that generosity applies to so much more than just money. It can apply to our time, our home, and how we treat others. The dictionary defines generous as "liberal in giving or sharing; unselfish". 

That is what I want my year to be about. I want it to be a year of giving and sharing of my finances, my time, and my home. I've shared my struggle in not letting money control me, and I think my challenge will be trusting in the Lord's provision as we strive to be generous financially. I've already seen drastic and very real examples of how the Lord provides and I need to continually remind myself of those times. Over the past couple of months, Alex and I have also really enjoyed doing some fun things with some of our income including tipping a waitress generously and sponsoring a family's Christmas presents. We have absolutely loved it, and hope to continue doing random financial gifts throughout the year.

Second to our finances, I want to be generous in my time and home. I grew up with a large family and our house was always full of laughter and people. I want to be generous in my home by opening my doors to friends and strangers alike. I want to serve others food and show love at my dinner table share community around our couches. 

I want the generosity to extend outside of my front door. A few weeks ago it was bitter cold out and as Alex and I turned on our street to go home there were some homeless men holding signs on the corner. We had chicken noodle soup waiting at home and I thought to myself that it would be good if we went home, put some soup in a couple of containers and brought it to the men on the corner. Unfortunately, that thought stayed a thought and never turned into action. I haven't forgotten that moment and it's resonated deeply within me that I want my generosity to extend out of the front door and to the street corners. Things like taking soup to the homeless take so little time and effort, yet I almost always don't make it happen. I want that to change in 2015.  

I've come up with so many excuses that limit me in my generosity. Things like our 600 square foot apartment, 4 person table, and single income have given me an excuse for not doing more. As I've watched those of you I know in person and read about the stories of you in the blogging community, you have shown me that these things should not be a hindrance. I've realized that I need to stop making excuses and be generous with the resources I have now.

The transition after college has been pretty difficult for me, and I often feel like I'm in an awkward in-between time. Alex is still in school, I'm still figuring out what it means to be a nurse, and we are nowhere close to having kids or buying a house. I feel like I'm in a time of waiting, and this feeling tends to make me shy away from involving myself in things. I often find myself thinking that "oh we'll invite more people over when we have a house" or "we'll do that when Alex finishes school and we have two incomes". But if my whole life is a season of waiting (which in one sense or another I will always be in a season of waiting), then I will have wasted my life hoping for the cards to fall into place so that I could start this thing or that thing.

This year, I will fight against the excuses and the heart of waiting that so easily turns into the heart of postponing. I pray that the Lord guides Alex and I to opportunities requiring generosity, the wisdom to hear His direction, and the courage to follow the call.

Do you have any New Year's resolutions? Or maybe a theme like I do? I would LOVE to hear them!


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