Ash Wednesday: Broken & Grateful

explanation of ash wednesday; what does ash wednesday mean to you

I grew up in a family that observed Lent and viewed it as a very important season of the year. Though I've been taking part in Lent my whole life, it hasn't been until the past couple of years that I've really started to understand what the season is really all about. 

Lent is the (approximate) six week season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Tradition has it that it is a time to reflect and prepare for the the risen Jesus. The main components have been prayer, fasting, repentance, and acts of sacrifice. All acts that are intended to draw us out of ourselves and point us to Christ. 

Lent has become more widespread in many Christian circles, and dare I say it has almost become "trendy". I am so thankful that more people are becoming aware of Lent because I think it is a beautiful season that can teach us so much. But in the trendiness that has come with its' recent popularity, I think a lot of the meaning behind Lenten traditions has been lost. I would like to revisit a couple of those traditions by starting with an examination of Ash Wednesday.  

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and if you were to attend a traditional Ash Wednesday service, a priest or pastor would spread ashes in the shape of a cross on your forehead while saying the words "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." Certain Christian circles have criticized this tradition saying that we shouldn't wallow in our sinful nature; that we should instead focus on thanking God for his mercy and redemption. Critics argue that by focusing on the fact that we are dust, we are focusing too much on ourselves and not enough on Christ. I think this is a misconception that needs to be addressed.

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When they spread ashes on my forehead this past Ash Wednesday and repeated those words "remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return", I realized just how uncomfortable I was with that phrase. We don't like to be told that we are simply made of dust and will one day return to dust. We like to be told that we matter, that we are important, that we are filled with purpose. We are all of those things. But we are none of those things without Christ. Without Christ, we are dust; we are nothing; we can accomplish nothing. The raises we get, the awards we receive, the big house we own, and the Twitter followers we have will not ultimately matter. We all know this, but how many of us know this. 

It's an uncomfortable feeling. Believe me, I know. 

The cross emblazoned on my forehead reminded me that I am a sinner, a sinner that has deeply grieved God. Honestly, sometimes I think we forget this. We know we are sinners, but we often think about it flippantly "I'm a sinner God, but thanks for saving me!" By sitting with ash on my forehead and the thought that I am only dust, I realized just how much of a sinner I was. I came to understand that many of my thoughts, actions, and intentions deeply grieve the heart of my God.

My realization of my deeply sinful nature brought me to a place of  genuine repentance

I think it's hard to be truly repentant if you don't really recognize the extent or gravity of your sin.  I think it's hard to be truly repentant if you're apologizing to God while simultaneously thinking "well at least I don't do such and such". Often I don't think I realize the gravity of my own sin, because I am rationalizing it by thinking, "well at least I don't do that". It doesn't work that way. Sin is sin, and all breaks the heart of God whether it's gossiping about our friend or cheating on our spouse. But as I sat in the dimly lit church confessing my sins, I realized I wasn't to sit here here with ash on my forehead and wallow in pity or shame. Literally speaking, I couldn't sit and wallow because it was my turn to walk up and receive Communion. And as I stood up, it hit me. I finally understood. 

Here I was, stained with ash, marked as a grieved sinner, about to walk up and be welcomed into the presence of Almighty God. He knows the darkest places of my soul, yet still offers a feast of love, mercy, and grace. He sees the ash on my forehead, He sees my sin, yet He longs to wrap me in His arms and wash me clean.

Sitting with the feeling of nothingness allowed me to see that, yes, I am nothing but God is everything. God has been, is, and always will be everything. My ashen forehead had given me a glimpse of the extent of my sin, but Communion showed that the God of everything knows me, wants me, and cherishes me, despite the ashes on my forehead. What a gift! To know that the God of everything wants you... this understanding led me to a place of deep and genuine praise that I have never been before. 

Tears slipped down my face as I watched churchgoer after churchgoer marked by ash walk up and receive Communion. It was the most beautiful picture of redemption I have ever witnessed. Here we are- a people marked with sin, mistakes, and regret. And here is a God loves us SO much that He invites us over and over again to come into His presence so that He can wash us clean.

the god of everything knows you wants you and cherishes you

You may have heard this all before. It's easy to read words on a page and not let them touch your heart. But I encourage you to spend some time meditating on this today. We need not remember our sin to feel a sense of shame; instead, we remember our sin to lead us to gratitude for what God has done and who He is

Struggling with the fact that I am only dust, makes me all the more grateful for my Savior. My Savior who welcomes his broken daughter with open arms and puts her back together again and again and again. I choose not to wallow in my brokenness, but rather let the realization of my brokenness lead me to a place of gratitude and thanksgiving. I truly believe that we cannot effectively reach a place of deep gratitude without first recognizing the depravity of our own souls. 

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won't he leave the ninety nine others in the wilderness and search for the one that is lost until he finds it?" - Luke 15:4

You are that lost sheep. I am that lost sheep. But the Man went and searched for us, found us, and now we are part of the ninety nine. We were lost, but now we are found. The Good Shepherd has brought us, the wayward sinful sheep, home. And for that we are to praise His holy name.

What does Ash Wednesday mean to you? Did you grow up observing Lent? 

{Linking up with Tuesday Talk over at Sweet Little Ones Blog and Weeks End over at Oak + Oats}
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Making Decisions Without Becoming Bridezilla



(this picture was taken following a bridal shower game where they had to put my
 make up on...blind folded)

As I began my wedding journey about two years ago, I remember telling my mom, "Mom I do NOT want to be a bridezilla!"

In fact I watched dozens of "Bridezillas" episodes on Netflix so I could see what not to do. So when I told my mom this, I expected her to respond "Yeah I don't want you to be a bridezilla either." {Actually, what I really wanted her to say was "Of course you won't be a bridezilla, Sarah! You're too sweet, patient, gentle, and kind for that!" hah. }

What she really said turned out to be some of the best advice that I ever got while I was wedding planning. She told me,
"Sarah, you may have to be a bridezilla at points. You're going to have everyone telling you what they think you should do, and eventually you're going to have to decide what you want to do, and how you want to do it." 
Now, when my mom said this she didn't mean be a bridezilla in the sense that I be a super rude, super self-absorbed demanding princess. What she meant was, it was my wedding, and that ultimately I (and Alex) would have to decide what we wanted for our special day. 

However long you spend wedding planning, whether it be 3 weeks or 3 years... you will find about 2.4 million different opinions about how weddings should be done. Chances are, you'll disagree with a few of the ideas.  

And thus presents the opportunity to be a "bridezilla". You need to be able to stick to your guns and make decisions in order that your wedding is what you dream it to be; not what your great aunt twice-removed dreams it to be. But it is possible to make these decisions as a bride without letting the "zilla" take over. 

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First of all, decide on your priorities for your wedding with your soon to be hubby. More on how we did this here. Setting priorities is vital in your quest to have a smooth wedding planning experience. It helps you focus on what you really want and this helps you stick to your guns when people suggest otherwise. It also keeps you from getting too unrealistic with your expectations. 

Second, keep your expectations in check. This was probably the hardest thing for me to do. I'm a perfectionist so when life happened and people did things that I didn't expect, I got frustrated. Keep your expectations in check by talking your frustrations through with someone you trust (for me it was both my mom and Alex). If you have expectations that are realistic of your gals, the guys in the wedding, or different family members... STATE those expectations. The people in your life need to know what you want and need from them and no matter how hard you try, they probably won't be able to read your mind. Stating your expectations will prevent a lot of misunderstandings from happening.  

**side note: expectations (and those that are unmet) can become a big deal in marriage so if you can figure out how to manage them appropriately during your wedding planning, you'll be that much better off when you're officially married! 

Third, learn how to politely stick to your guns. A phrase that worked for me was something like... 

"That sounds like a beautiful idea but Alex and I have decided that this {insert what you're planning on doing} is how we're going to celebrate our day." 

The person making the suggestion may still disagree and try to convince you otherwise, but if it's something important to you then continue to be polite in your refusal... eventually they'll get the point. Sometimes changing the subject to something going on in their life (a new job, grandkid etc.) was the best way to divert attention from my wedding. 

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In all of this remember that it's okay to fight for what you want on your special day... after all, it's the only one you get. 

But in your bridezilla moments that are okay to have, remember to be kind, keep your expectations realistic, and at the end of the day remember the most important thing of all... 

you'll soon be married to your best friend, and that is really what matters! 

Much love and happy wedding planning! 

Easy Tater Tot Casserole


easier tater tot casserole

Hey y'all, today I'm sharing the recipe for one of the meals I've been eating since I was a kid- tater tot casserole. This casserole is easy, delicious, comes together quickly, and is a crowd pleaser. I usually make this casserole when my house is loaded with testosterone (husband, brothers etc.) and it is always a BIG hit. You can read through the directions below, and at the bottom is a printable recipe card. Enjoy! 

Tater Tot Casserole



Ingredients:
1 pkg (1 lb) ground turkey or ground beef ( I do turkey because it's cheaper and healthier)
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 can cream of unprepared potato soup (you can use cream of mushroom soup instead but I hate mushrooms), 
1 4.5oz can green chiles
1 c. Shredded cheddar cheese
Garlic salt, to taste

Prepare: 
Preheat oven and cook tater tots according to package directions. 

While tater tots are cooking, brown meat in skillet. Add garlic salt to taste. 

Once meat is brown, mix in can of unprepared soup, and green chiles. 

Place meat mixture in the bottom of a a greased 8x8 pan. Top meat mixture with cooked tater tots and shredded cheese. 

Place back into oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until heated through and cheese is melted. 

Enjoy! 


The recipe is below or you can click here for the printable recipe card (PDF version)

Tater Tot Casserole
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pkg (1 lb) ground turkey or ground beef ( I do turkey because it's cheaper and healthier)
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 can cream of unprepared potato soup (you can use cream of mushroom soup instead but I hate mushrooms),
1 4.5oz can green chiles
1 c. Shredded cheddar cheese
Garlic salt, to taste

Prepare: 
1. Preheat oven and cook tater tots according to package directions.
2. While tater tots are cooking, brown meat in skillet. Add garlic salt to taste.
3. Once meat is brown, mix in can of unprepared soup, and green chiles.
4. Place meat mixture in the bottom of a a greased 8x8 pan.
5. Top meat mixture with cooked tater tots and shredded cheese.
6. Place back into oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees or until heated through and cheese is melted.
7. Enjoy!

Linking up with Tuesday Talk!

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5 Things I've Learned From Nursing... that you should know too

5 things nursing has taught me that everyone should know

Nursing is a job that plops you intimately into people's lives. Often you enter in at very difficult and stressful times, presenting itself with difficulties as well as many opportunities to show compassion and love. Nursing has opened my eyes to so many things and, in some respects, has completely shifted the way I view the world. I thought I would share the five most valuable lessons that nursing has taught me because they're all lessons we need to learn.

1. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. 
I don't think I have found anything more true than this statement, and I think it's something we (myself included) easily forget. When I walk in a patient's room, what I see before me is a family- a child and their parents. The kid is being a kid; he watches cartoons to distract himself from the fact that he's in a hospital room. The parents make small talk with me about the weather and the food.

What I don't see until I open up that patient's chart is the fact that the cartoon-loving boy has fought seizures for ten years without much success. What I don't see is mom and dad struggling through an internal battle as they decide between the safe option or the risky one that may save their child's life.

We cannot see the pain that others face. That rude cashier at the store? She's taking care of her dying mother at home. That woman that just cut you off in traffic? She just found out her 8-year old has terminal cancer and has months to live.

I'm not excusing bad behavior, and it's no fun when people are downright mean. But next time someone irks you, remember that they are fighting a battle you know nothing about. Give them the grace that you hope to one day receive yourself if you were in their situation.

2. Asking someone if they are thinking about killing themselves may be the most important question you will ever ask. 
If there was one thing I learned from my mental health rotation in nursing school it's this: if you are concerned that someone is contemplating suicide, always find the courage to ask. 

My mental health professor told a story in which she had a gut feeling that one of her neighbors was contemplating suicide. My professor didn't know her that well, and was scared to ask the lady if she was thinking about killing herself... so she didn't ask. Less than 24 hours later, police found the neighbor dead, hanging in her closet. This happened 30 years ago- and my professor still can't tell the story without tears streaming down her face.

If you are concerned that someone is thinking about suicide, ASK THEM. It's scary, hard to do, and really uncomfortable. I know this, because I've had to ask it. And PLEASE for a second don't believe that by asking them, you will be giving them the idea of committing suicide. This common misconception couldn't be farther than the truth.

If you are concerned to the point that you are considering asking someone if they are thinking about killing themselves, there is almost 100% chance that the person you are going to ask has already thought about it. You will not be giving them the idea. Trust me, you won't. There are countless stories about people who didn't go through with their suicide plan because someone saw them, asked them about it, and got them help.

I firmly believe that if more of us were willing to ask this question and commit to getting our friends and family help, the number of suicides would drastically go down in America. Most of the time, people just want to be heard. Be that person who hears them.

3. We're all human. 
Medicine is a wonderful thing that is saving lives every day. But what people tend to forget is that doctors and nurses are humans too and we have the capability to make mistakes. We are trained to be careful, vigilant, and double check everything we do. Our mistakes hold more weight, and that's why we all hope and pray that we don't make one. But no matter how many double checks are done, mistakes happen. We feel awful when they happen, and some of us may never even forgive ourselves.

Realizing my own humanity means that I can more easily forgive others for their mistakes. I am not in any way excusing the mistakes I make, but I am grateful for those that show grace to me when I do make them. I try and turn around and show grace to those around me- whether it be a friend who unintentionally wrongs me, a restaurant that gets my order wrong, or someone that cuts me off in traffic.

4. The human spirit is resilient. 
If there is one thing that has wowed me over and over again in the field of nursing, it's the absolute resilience of the human spirit. I see families struck by tragedy come together and become better for it. I see parents with very sick children, turn around and be incredibly kind and patient to everyone around them.

What does this mean for you? It means that you need not fear. There is no need to fear tragedy, death, or pain because beauty always arises from these circumstances. Do we hope for such things to happen to us? Absolutely not. But do we fear the occurrence of such events? No, because if such thing were to happen us, we would be given the strength that we need to handle it. The human spirit is resilient, yours included.

5. Never ever judge a book by its' cover. 
I have seen the most normal of looking families be absolutely sour and rude to nurses, doctors, and everyone around them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've seen parents with green hair, 30 tattoos, and a dozen piercings come in and be the most delightful people to work with.

I am not in any way equating tattoos, piercings, and colored hair with bad parents or bad people for that matter. All I'm saying is that my first impression of a person is almost always wrong. I've learned this over and over in my job and I try and let this translate into my personal life.

You don't know a person until you sit down with them and hear about their life. You can't know a person until you spend some time with them. Let us be a people that assume the best of people, not the worst. Let us be a people that first inclines a listening ear instead of a turned up nose. 

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What lessons has your job taught you? If you're a nurse, what else would you add?

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How to Set Priorities For Your Wedding

how to set priorities for your wedding

I've been married for a year and a half now but still remember my wedding and the process leading up to it like it was yesterday. I've had a handful of posts written on wedding planning and how to go about it in the least stressful way. Now that wedding season is approaching again, I decided I would go ahead and publish them on a series I've affectionately named Wedding Wednesdays. For the next few Wednesdays I'll be sharing my experiences, tips, and ideas for wedding planning. I hope you find my experiences helpful, and for those of you already marrieds- chime in with words of wisdom! 
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We had some good friends get married about four months before us, and were consequently a few steps ahead of us in the wedding planning process. As we began to plan our own wedding, they wisely suggested that we set priorities for our wedding. It was probably one of the wisest pieces of advice we got during the entire process so I'm going to explain how we did it, in hopes that you will do it too! 

1. Sit down separately and write down the top three things you want in your wedding. 
Alex and I each sat down separately (we didn't want to influence the other's decisions), and wrote down our top three things that we valued at our wedding. For me, I wrote down the top three things I wanted at the ceremony, top three things I wanted at the reception, and the top three things I wanted for the entire wedding. I know this technically adds up to nine things, but it was easier for me to organize my thoughts doing it that way. 

In a culture of Pinterest perfect weddings, you are led to believe that every little detail has to be important. While the little details are important, you should be able to determine what things are more important to you than others. My lists are down below and should give you an idea of what I'm talking about when setting priorities. 

Top 3 priorities for the ceremony: 
1. Communion (I really wanted Communion)
2. First look be when I look down the aisle (I was adamant about this one from the beginning)
3. Washing of the feet (I had seen this done once before and loved the symbolism behind it) 

Top 3 priorities for the reception: 
1. Good dancing/music (I think the dance makes or breaks the wedding reception so this was my #1)
2. People to enjoy themselves (this equated to no seating plan because who likes sitting with strangers??) 
3. Good food 

Top 3 priorities for entire wedding: 
1. That the Lord would be glorified throughout the day
2. That the day would be low-stress and that I would remember that at the end of the day I would be married to my best friend 
3. Pretty location 

2. Sit down and compare lists with your fiance 
Once you have your list, sit down and compare it with the list that your fiance. Ladies, I'll say it once and I hope you hear me. It is your wedding. But it is also 100% your man's wedding too. That means he does and should get a say. I know most people lean towards the bride getting her way, but don't forget your guy only gets one wedding too and it should be something he enjoys too.

I've heard of guys whose wives didn't listen to them at all when planning their wedding, and it caused a lot of resentment later on. Girls, let your guy have a say. On the opposite spectrum of that- guys, let your girls have a say and if there's things you can let go, let them go because she's probably been dreaming about this a lot longer than you have. 

3. Compromise, compromise, compromise 
There is a 99.99% chance that when you sit down and compare lists, they won't be exactly the same. Alex hadn't really heard of washing of the feet idea (during the ceremony), but saw how important it was to me and agreed to it. Alex really wanted to write and read our own vows during the ceremony- something I wasn't too particular about so I agreed to that. We both agreed that a pretty location was important to us, so that really played into our decision of the venue. 

They say that marriage is about compromising, and that is 100% true. You can start practicing compromise when you're planning your wedding. 
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Setting priorities was a VITAL step in planning our wedding. It helped us determine where to spend more money (thus helping keep us within our budget), it helped keep us focused, and it kept me from being a bridezilla (more on that next week!) I will say that Alex was a very easy going groom and cared about a couple of things and let me do things my own way the rest of the wedding. If your fiance doesn't want to sit down and make a list of priorities with you, then I would tell him that he doesn't have a right to complain about something he doesn't like later on. If there's something you or your significant other care about in regards your wedding, you need to state that clearly. Setting clear expectations from the beginning will save you a lot of arguments and turmoil down the road. 

That being said, go out and set your priorities! Happy wedding planning! 

Do you think you'll be able to pick a top three priorities in your wedding? All you marrieds out there- did you set priorities when you planned your wedding?  

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I'm a Girl... and I Don't Like Shopping

a story about a girl who hates to shop

There's something you should understand about me. I hate really don't like shopping. It doesn't matter what kind of shopping- I dislike it all. Grocery shopping is my most dreaded chore, clothes shopping makes me anxious just thinking about it, and any other shopping is only tolerable if there's a friend along for the ride. Or if there's shoes involved. 

I'm not sure if my disdain of shopping came from growing up around all boys and a mother who also hates shopping, growing up in a small town that boasted nothing more than a Wal-Mart and JCPenny for my shopping needs, or if I was just one of those people born to hate shopping. 

I don't like shopping because I don't like spending money

If you haven't caught on from my budget series yet, I love love love saving money. I'm a natural saver and I spend my days (literally) learning how to be a better steward of my money (AKA saving money and having a great budget). 

My natural saver instinct kicks in when I look at a bottle of lotion at Bath & Body Works only to find it's $12.50, or see a single shirt that costs $30. 

For this reason, I like thrift store shopping more than any other kind of shopping and am proud of the deals that I find there. In general, though, I find that it's easier on my saver soul if I just stay home... or only go shopping if I have gift cards. 

I don't like shopping because it creates major discontentment

This is perhaps the main reason I dislike shopping. I can get over the spending money part (and often do if something is a great deal), but when I'm out shopping, I often find myself discontent with what I already have. 

When I'm out shopping for clothes I often find myself wishing that I had a greater budget that would allow me to buy all the cute clothes I see. I'll try on clothes and immediately become discontent with the way I look- the way my huge granny hips spread out, or the way that I'll probably never have a flat stomach. I may have been feeling awesome after a recent run, but stepping into that dressing room almost immediately zaps me of any self confidence I once had. 

If I wander through Best Buy, Costco, or even Wal-Mart, I find myself wishing I had a new phone case or hoping for some bass-thumpin new headphones. Hobby Lobby creates in me a desire for a giant dispensable income to spend on home DIY projects. No matter where I go, shopping usually brings out the green monster in me, and it's something I don't like to see, so I try to avoid situations where it's most likely to rear its ugly head (i.e. shopping). Since I'm working on being content, I'll probably continue to stay out of the stores. 

I don't like shopping because it zaps my energy 

I don't know about you, but I am not one of those people that comes back from a huge shopping spree re-energized and ready to take on the world. I'm one of those people that comes home, collapses on the couch (usually without any purchases- see point #1), and feels totally worn out. 

Around Christmas time I come home, collapse on the couch, and thank the Lord that I didn't die driving from store to store (don't tell me Colorado is the only place with insane drivers around the holidays!). 

I love getting a good deal or a new item of clothing that I'm excited to wear, but I'm usually so pooped after a single shopping trip that I'll postpone another one for three months. Shopping is a draining activity for me so I really only do it when I have to. 

With all of the above being 100% true, there is one reason I do like shopping, and that's because 

Shopping is time with friends

I have long since realized that my disdain of shopping puts me in the vast minority of girls. When I got to college, it took me years (literally) to understand why on earth all of my friends liked to go shopping. Spending money and walking around for hours had never been on my list of fun things to do for the 18 years prior to arriving at college.

However, towards the end of college I started realizing that some of the best conversations I had with friends was while we were out shopping. Something about flipping through a rack of clothing causes a girl to open up and share her heart. I started enjoying shopping a little bit more because it meant time with friends and a time to connect. I still value shopping for this reason and I have learned to embrace all the extra walking as a little bit of exercise.

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Shopping will likely never become one of my favorite things to do for the above reasons and because it's rarely on the to-do list of my testosterone loaded house (a husband and three brothers). I will say that I enjoy dreaming about different outfits and home items I could create, but the majority of those things may stay dreams.  If you're a friend reading this, I will definitely go shopping with you... maybe just not every time we hang out? 

Anyone else share my disdain for shopping? If you do like it, why do you like it? Do you have ideas on how I could dislike it less?

Why I'll Die Before I'm 40... and other bad habits


I always joke (in a morbid nurse kind of way) that I'm going to die before I'm 40. Not because I have a death wish, but because I have a few habits that I can't seem to kick. Please read on and give me your best suggestions to help extend my life. 

I love hamburgers and fries with an undying passion. 
You guys, I love me a good fry and hamburger. It is honest to goodness my favorite food. Most of the time I'm enjoying salty fries and a greasy burger when I state "This will be what kills me before I'm 40" (because it will clog my arteries etc). (My habit worsened this past summer). Back in high school I decided to to give up fries for a year. Great idea right? I'll cut down on the bad calories, get rid of my craving, and exercise some self control. Wrong. Although I did make it the full year without fries, I binge-ate fries at every opportunity the entire next year. So now when I think about quitting my habit, I just remember the "binge days" and don't even bother trying. My mouth is watering as I type this right now, I have a serious problem. 

I fully believe in the validity of the 10 second rule. 
I'm a nurse. I took tons of science classes, including an entire semester on bacteria. But I'm pretty sure the 10 second rule is legit. I will pick things up off the floor, rinse them (sometimes), and eat/use them again. For those of you that just vowed to never come to my house for dinner, don't worry- I'm extra careful when I'm having guests over; I rinse the food twice. The only exception to this rule is if anything falls on the floor at the hospital. Anything and everything that touches a hospital floor must be thrown away immediately. There is no 10 second rule once you step inside the hospital. Good thing I haven't dropped my phone on the floor yet. 

A prank will backfire... badly. 
Many of you may not know this, but I love pranks, and I love April Fool's Day. My freshman year of college, I became famous because of April 1st. I could watch prank videos on youtube for hours on end (I may have already done that). I have a series of blog posts written for next month talking about my best pranks, my prank fails, prank ideas, and a prank that backfired just recently. Although the recent prank gone wrong didn't kill me, I think someone someday might. I've had a few close calls. 

I love thrill seeking- skydiving, parasailing, and base jumping; the more dangerous the better. 
No, I don't actually love thrill seeking. At all. I get scared going down a hill too fast on a mountain bike. I always wear a seat belt and come to a complete stop at all stop signs. The only thrill I seek is a double-double and animal style fries at In-N-Out.

How about you? Do you have any bad habits you need to kick? Are there any fellow hamburger lovers out there?
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Open Letter to my Single Self



coffee talk, an open letter to all the single people out there

Dear single self, 

You're probably hating that Valentine's Day is approaching. All the hearts, pink paper, and abundant flowers only serve to remind you that you're still single. You dream about your happily ever after as you try not to get jealous about yet another Facebook relationship announcement and wedding pin. But as your heart aches, and part of you wonders what's wrong with you, let me tell you a few things that only wisdom and time can teach.

Nothing is wrong with you. You are not ugly or defective. This is a lie that Satan will tell you over and over until you let it sink into your heart. Unfortunately, he will continue to hammer this lie into your mind long after you have met and married The One. Don't let him morph this lie into a truth. It's hard to fight this lie, believe me, I know. Instead of focusing on and trying to figure out what's wrong with you, focus on the fact that God loves you unconditionally. He chose you, He honors you, and you are His favorite. Every time the lie that something is wrong with you comes to mind, choose to think about something else. Satan wants nothing more than you believing that something is wrong with you- don't give him this power over your life. 

You can't force it. I know that the mere idea of two people actually liking each other at the same time seems impossible to you. And you're right- if you try to force things, it is impossible. Closed doors hurt, but they are closed for a reason. They say that it will happen when you least expect it- as cliche as that is, it's true. So do your best and focus on everything else in your life. Pour yourself into school, into church, into relationships with friends. It will happen when it's meant to happen. 

Focus on the lesson. Remember that relationship that didn't work out? The one that you really hoped would? The one that hurt really bad? It broke your heart, made you question more than you should have, and is something that you had a hard time letting go. But more than the pain, remember what it taught you. You found a confidence in yourself that you didn't have before, and you gained a better understanding of what you really wanted in The One. Be thankful that things were left on good terms, and remember that doors are closed for a reason. Every relationship, every almost-relationship, and every relationship ended is a chance to learn and grow. Focus on the lesson and work to move on.

There are far better things to come. It doesn't matter how great that other person was- if it didn't work out, it wasn't supposed to because someone out there is far better for you. It's hard to imagine, I know, and you may not believe it until you see it. But hold onto hope that the best is yet to come- not only with your relationships but in your life in general. Enjoy the moment, but you can (and should) have hope for the future. 

Oh yeah, and this cheese Valentine's Day thing? Remember...

Valentine's Day is a bigger deal now that you're single than it will ever be when you find a significant other. It's fun to have a significant other on Valentine's Day, but ask any couple that's been together longer than two years and I bet they can't even tell you what they have planned for this Valentine's Day. Instead of sitting alone and sulking, get some friends together, some pizza and drinks, and throw on some movies. Enjoy yourself and use it as an excuse to have a night out with friends. Guaranteed, most of the dating/engaged/married couples you know won't be having as much fun as you will. 

Hang in there self, it'll happen. Be patient and focus on the things you can change and affect now. There is always hope for you- never ever forget that. 

Love,

Contentment: A God Working Behind the Scenes



Content: con·tent \kən-ˈtent\  Pleased and satisfied : not needing more

Contentment. The state of being pleased and satisfied is something I think a lot of us wrestle with, and for me it's a near daily battle. I had been wanting to blog about contentment for awhile, but I didn't know what to write. Mostly because I haven't found the answer. I haven't found the discontentment cure, or been able to tie up an answer to the problem in a neat little package with a bow. 

Today's culture creates a breeding ground for discontentment. Our instant access to the Internet and its' glossy photos that suggest a perfect life, lead us to wonder what is wrong with our marriage, our friendships or even ourselves? 

Groupon, Amazon, and Etsy are always reminding us that there is a deal to be had, and whatever nice things you do have, don't compare to the new product that just came out. And lets not forget Pinterest and the never-ending feed of beautiful homes, impeccable style sense, and picture perfect dinners. 

If the Internet wasn't bad enough, we will constantly be surrounded by friends and family who will seem like they have it made. There will be the ones with the cute new puppy, the blessed ones having a baby, or the excited ones signing a lease on their first house. 

All of this seeming perfection creeps into our souls, creating a heart of discontentment, envy, and lending itself to a lack of peace. I know all this, because I am in that ugly place all too often. I often think "I want" or "I wish I had" before thinking "I'm thankful for". January was month where discontentment swallowed me up leaving me feeling stuck in my place in the world. 

And then last Thursday at our church's meal group, the passage we read and meditated on brought me my much needed breakthrough. 
"He covers the heavens with clouds, provides rain for the earth, and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures. He gives food to the wild animals and feeds the young ravens when they cry." 
The passage (Psalm 147:1-11) was read three times, and each time, these two verses resonated deeply with me. These two verses paint a beautiful picture of a God who cares and of a God who is sovereign. This verse reminds me that He is a good God, and a God who provides for all of the animals and all of the earth. The passage also reminded me of a quote in one of my favorite movies, Facing the Giants"
"I heard of a story of two farmers praying to God for rain to come. Both prayed but only one prepared the land. Who do you think trusted God more to send the rain?"
The Psalm was a verse that reminded me that God is sovereign and God provides. The movie quote reminded me that God is working, even when I can't see it. We know these things, but how quick we are to forget.

My God is a God who works behind the scenes. He is, right now, forming the clouds and creating the beautiful rain that will come later. When I feel stuck and forgotten He reminds me that He is a God who never forgets. He doesn't forget me now that I am feeling stuck. He doesn't forget His promises to me. He doesn't forget me. Ever.

Though I may feel stuck, I find hope in knowing that He is preparing the blessings that will come at a later time. All the moments of today, and the workings of tomorrow are not in vain. They are my preparation of the field that is to receive rain.

I can find contentment in knowing that where I'm at is exactly where I'm supposed to be. I can find contentment in being thankful for what I do have. I can find contentment in knowing, believing, and meditating on the fact that right now, God is working behind the scenes on my behalf. 

God promises over and over to provide and fulfill us with everything that we need to live this journey. He is providing now, and He will provide then. He is preparing the rain, and my job is to be faithful in preparing a field. 

When discontentment swallows me, I need to focus on my many blessings. When I feel trapped in my spot in life, I need to focus on the good of today. I find contentment in knowing that I serve a loving, merciful God who has promised to give me a hope and a future. I find contentment in picturing a loving Father who is creating, preparing, and blessing my life beyond that of my imagination. I find contentment in never forgetting that He is always working behind the scenes, and my job is to prepare the field for rain. 

How about you? Do you struggle with contentment? What have you found that helps you be content with where you're at? 

**lest you think this is a post with the answer to contentment packaged up with a pretty bow, I wrote the post and an hour later had a huge meltdown that was filled with ugly fat tears dripping of discontentment. Being content is a major work in progress.

Linking up with Sweet Little Ones Tuesday Talk!
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Five Friday Favorites I Vol 1


Hey y'all! Happy Friday!  I am working my third Friday in a row, and trying to see the good side because Fridays are crazy days and probably one of my least favorite days to work. The good news is that I get the weekend off! In an effort to focus on the positive things in life, I'm sharing five of my current favorite things. 

1. I cannot get enough of the book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife . I've read a lot of marriage books over the past couple of years, but this one is probably one of my top two favorites. 

2. Free coffee at Chik-fil-a for the month of February. We may or may not be addicted to coffee by the end of this month. 

3. My new pens that write silky smooth. If you're a nurse and/or waitress (or maybe just a girl), you'll recognize the importance of a good pen. Although this particular brand came recommended from my friend's husband who is neither a nurse nor a waitress. He obviously gets it too. 

4. Streams in the Desert is my daily devotional this year and it's rocking my socks off. My parents have read it and loved it for years, and I hadn't jumped on the bandwagon. I'm so glad I did this year. Have you ever read it? 

5. Conan videos on Youtube. I've never really watched any of his stuff, but this week I'm finding out that he's HILARIOUS. But how many of you already knew that? I especially loved watching him and Dave Franco get on Tinder and couldn't stop laughing when he interviewed Rebel Wilson . "We didn't do drive bys, just drive thrus".   

What are your favorites lately? Can anyone suggest a funny TV show? {We finished Modern Family and are feeling lost.}

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5 Reasons to Hop Aboard a Cruise Ship


5 reasons to go on a cruise

The hubby and I went on a cruise for our one year anniversary present to ourselves and we both absolutely LOVED our trip. It was his second cruise and my first, and let me tell you... I'm ready to hop on board again! 

Just so you guys know, just a couple years ago I was really against the whole idea of cruising. I basically thought that it was too many people crammed onto too small of a boat, all under the name of fun. Well, for the record... I was wrong, way wrong. 

There's people, a lot of them. But it's also a BIG ship, with a lot of things to do. And if you really are getting people'd out (like I get sometimes), you can always just head back to your stateroom and get some alone time. With further ado, let's get to the 5 reasons I think you should jump on a cruise ship (especially if you've never given it the chance!) 

1. Cruises are affordable 
If you haven't guessed by now, me and the husband man like to save money. Living off of a single income we also don't have a lot extra money, and we sure aren't going into debt just for vacation! Cruising seemed to be a good option on the money side of things, which is why we originally started to look into going on one. 

Depending on your cruise line, your length of cruise, and the location, you can pay less than $100 per person. This, of course, does not include port taxes (be careful with this- we didn't expect it and it raised our total price quite a bit), shore excursions, or flights if you don't live close to a port (which most of us probably don't). 

We cut costs for our cruise in three main ways: 
1. We used mileage points to get free plane tickets
2. We didn't go on the most expensive shore excursions
3. We kept our on-board spending to a minimum (this included no alcohol!)

go on vacation with only a carry on
(We did the whole thing with only carry ons which is 
another post for another time, but this saved us $100!

There are certainly ways to make a cruise expensive, but there are ways to make it affordable. Check rates often, go in the off season, book flights early, and choose your excursions wisely. Did we pay more than we would have if we chose to take a road trip to another state? Probably yes. Was it a lot more? Probably not. We felt that we got an awesome bang for our buck because of all the delicious food, entertainment, and places we got to visit. 

2. The fun atmosphere is unbeatable 
This reason seems obvious- of course a cruise is fun. But really, when I say that, I mean that the atmosphere itself is fun! People are there to have a good time and enjoy themselves making it a good environment to have a good time. 

Let me give you an example. The husband and I went to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica for our honeymoon. One of the things that we were looking forward to most was the nightly dancing that they advertised. Much to our disappointment, the dancing was usually a bust- little to no one showed up, and when they were there most people just sat and watched instead of danced. The atmosphere on the resort was totally different- people were there to enjoy themselves, but weren't necessarily enthralled by the "activities" the place had to offer.

basketball court on a cruise ship
Um... basketball on the ship?? Yes, please! 

The cruise however, is ALL about the activities. You get a daily brochure that tells you what is going on where- it's awesome! Because the cruise was so activities oriented, you'd better believe that the night club was packed every night and that the dance parties on the deck were filled with every grandma, five year old, and everyone in between wanting to have a good time jigging out the Cha Cha Slide. 

I think the atmosphere of a cruise (even if it is slightly alcohol induced) is hard to beat, and we enjoyed that everyone got into all the activities so much more than they did at our honeymoon resort. 

3. You can make it what you want 
Part of my original avoidance of cruises was because I felt like you wouldn't have the freedom to do what you wanted if you were stuck on a tiny little boat. Also, I was very wrong in this. 

You can choose your excursions off shore (these cost extra, so choosing cheaper ones is a way to save money), and you can choose what to participate on the boat. Alex and I chose to splurge on one excursion and then go two cheaper options for our other stops, and then one stop we chose not to do an excursion at all. 

stingray; Grand Cayman Island
Our favorite excursion- swimming with stingrays!

On our next cruise, we agreed that we would probably do even less excursions. In most of the ports we stopped, there was shopping and places you could walk in the port. You could also stay on the boat and enjoy the emptier pools and attractions (one of our favorite days was the day that we chose not to do an excursion!)

On board, there were so many options of things to choose from. We went to a musical show and a comedy show every night followed up by one of our favorite things... soft serve ice cream! There were so many options for entertainment and dining that I really felt like I could design my day how I wanted... which I loved! 

You can make a cruise as relaxing or as busy as you want. You can choose when you go eat, choose what time of show you want to watch- it's really up to you and the flexibility is awesome!

belize immigration office
Because what other type of trip would you see an immigration office in a 
portable shed one day and swim with stingrays the next?

4. You don't have to see your wallet for a week
Probably my favorite thing about a cruise is the all inclusive piece of it. Before you board, they have you link a credit or a debit card to your room key. This can be super dangerous if you're not careful with your spending (like the couple we saw on the last day of the cruise who printed out their list of charges and looked at each other and asked how on earth they just spent $2000), but it is also really handy. I loved loved loved not having to carry around anything besides my room key all week.

towel animals; cruise ship; carnival glory
I didn't have to worry about carrying my wallet around. All I  
worried about was which towel animal I would see next.
 Hello there, little bat.

I didn't have to look at prices on the food menu because it was all inclusive, and I loved going from show to show to kareoke to dancing all without a card or ID because it was included. A couple of souvenirs that we bought in port required us to bust out our wallets, but other than that we had our room keys and cell phone (for pictures only!) on us the entire week... this in itself helped me relax even more!

5. The food 
Need I say more? I LOVE food! In fact, a lot of times my day revolves around the next time I'll eat. Which is perfect when you go on a cruise that has soft serve ice cream, pizza, buffets, burgers, deli bars, and nice sit down restaurants around every corner. 

Besides enjoying more than my fair share of hamburgers and fries, I loved trying all the fancy things that you could order at our nightly sit down dinner (think lobster tail, squid, snail, tongue).

lobster tail; cruise ship; cruise food
Lobster tail was probably the only 
adventurous thing I tried and actually liked. 

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

Maybe our favorite part of the whole week was meeting people from all over the world. We loved getting to know our waiters from the Philippines and landed up becoming really good friends with the other couple that was at our dinner table. We hung out with these two the whole week, and get to see them again next week when they come out to Colorado for a business trip! 

why to go on a cruise; cruise with friends

So have I convinced you to go on a cruise? Have you been on one before? What did you like or not like about it? 

Project 12: January

costco; date; selfie
(No, we definitely did not take a selfie in a Costco aisle. That's weird.)

In 2014, I read and looked forward to Project 12 posts- a series created by Amanda over at The Lady Okie Blog. Project 12 is basically a way to recap each month of the year in a fun way. Without further explanation, go ahead and see for yourself what Project 12 is all about. 

DATES

1. We drove up to the mountains one weekend to go snow shoeing at this place called St. Mary's Glacier. We'd been snow shoeing for about 45 minutes when we saw a ridge that we decided we wanted to ascend. Can I just say, that ridge was the most elusive thing ever? I kept thinking that I was getting close, and each time I looked up it seemed the exact same distance away. What I thought would be a quick 15-20 minute ascent, landed up taking another 45 minutes in freezing wind and blowing snow.

St. Mary's Glacier; Idaho Springs, Colorado
St. Mary's Glacier. The ridge we climbed to was to the right of this main peak. 

St. Mary's Glacier; Idaho Springs, Colorado
The view from the top. We didn't stay very long because the wind and blowing snow were intense.
I may or may not have had snot running down my face, said a few choice words, and almost quit before ascending the ridge. If it weren't for the husband pushing me on, I wouldn't have made it to the top. As awful as the ascent was the last 30 minutes (I pretty much felt like I was climbing Mount Everest), it was a fun day and we had the best BBQ when we came back down the mountain. 

smokin yards BBQ Idaho Springs, colorado
(I have a love affair with sweet potato fries).

2. One of the Christmas presents from our in-laws was a live escape game. If you've never heard of this, it's where you get locked in a room and have an hour to figure out how to get out. Need I say more?

the clue room centennial colorado; live escape game
(The whole family went as you try and escape as groups of 5 or 6).

3. Alex signed us up for a gym membership because they were having an awesome January deal (go figure), and I tried a wet sauna for the very first time. I know that all y'all who live in Florida experience the wet sauna feeling every time you walk out your front door, but it was a fun first experience for me. I was miserably dripping sweat for 20 minutes, but then felt relaxed when I left. Weird.

4. Lunch date to this awesome new Italian place. Thank you Groupon for expanding our food horizons.

Italian restaurant; lunch date

DISCOVERIES

1. Our first frozen yogurt place in Denver! Other than them being out of cake batter (our favorite!), the place was delish. 



2. I am falling in love with yoga. I went to yoga classes at our new gym and they were so great. I'm neither flexible nor good at it, but it's a really good challenge and a nice change from running. The gym membership is probably ending after this month (too expensive without the January deal), so does anyone have any recommendations of good yoga videos to do at home??

3. Wet saunas. See point above.

BOOKS & MOVIES


streams in the desert, power thoughts, 31 days to becoming a happy wife, the joy of the gospel, run less run faster, pope francis, joyce myers

Sarah: 
I'm currently reading my way through a lot of daily read type books-
-31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife by Arlene Pellicane (this book is one of the best I've ever read on the subject of wife-hood/marriage).
-Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer (this is part of my winter goals)
-Streams in the Dessert by L.B. Cowman (I can't tell you how much I have been LOVING this daily devotional). 
-Run Less Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss (I'll be honest- this is sort of a dense book with a lot of information so I read the principles and scanned the time charts).

Alex:
-Getting Into Physician Assistant School (it's a light and chatty easy read. not.)
-The Uncommon Life by Tony Dungy (a daily devotional that he's enjoying!) 

Movies:
-American Sniper (We both loved it; so much respect for those that protect our freedom.)
-Annie (so cute!)

NOTABLE EVENTS

1. Enjoyed the Bronco game with friends. Gotta get those guns showing.

denver broncos; game party

2. Wore my Colorado Avalanche shirt to work the Friday before the Broncos playoff game (instead of my Broncos gear). I'm pretty sure it's why they lost. 

colorado avalanche; nursing uniform

3. I made some lyric art; a project I had been dreaming about for a long time!

4. Had friends over to play Quelf- we had wanted to play this game with them for months and finally made it happen. Anyone else ever played it??

5. Finally started on my wedding scrapbook. I busted it out one afternoon, got overwhelmed after a couple of hours and haven't pulled it out since. I need to work up my courage to bring it out again.

wedding scrapbook page

What fun things did you do in January? Any yoga video recommendations or fellow Quelfers out there? 


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