February 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the February installment!

Current favorites:51hg3cuofzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

Book: I’ve been enjoying Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I’ve been taking notes like crazy (8+ on my computer) and trying to absorb all the wisdom. I love how she writes such practical things in a way that I had never thought of before. I’ve also read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, another book of hers, and it was fabulous, too! It currently resides on my nightstand. : )

Food: My family made some chocolate-dipped strawberries and lemon_berry_chia_front_01__04872-1423265860-1280-1280bananas this week when we had dinner together. They were so simple, but so tasty! I also sampled some delicious Whole Me lemon berry chia granola at the Fit for Her Minneapolis event earlier this month, which I loved!

Verse: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10. I love being reminded that I, that we, are God’s masterpiece, His workmanship, something He’s immensely proud of and satisfied in. We aren’t mistakes. We aren’t accidents. We’re beautiful and beloved treasures of the Most High. Not only that, but He has good things in store for us. He knows each of us so well that He has set apart things for us to do, unique ways for us to impact the world around us. How amazing is that?!

Song: “Road Less Traveled” by Lauren Alaina. I love the reminder to stand out, be different, be yourself, and not find your worth in your appearance or your ability to fit in.

Why do you keep on staring?
That mirror, mirror, it ain’t fair at all
Dress sizes can’t define, don’t let the world decide what’s beautiful

You won’t make yourself a name if you follow the rules
History gets made when you’re acting a fool
So don’t hold it back and just run it
Show what you got and just own it
No, they can’t tear you apart

If you trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled
Wear out your boots and kick up the gravel
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled on
Take the road less traveled on

Don’t follow anyone
March to the rhythm of a different drum
Why do we analyze, break out, and criticize the crazy ones?

You won’t make yourself a name if you follow the rules
History gets made when you’re acting a fool
So don’t hold it back and just run it
Show what you got and just own it
No, they can’t tear you apart, no

If you trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled
Wear out your boots and kick up the gravel
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled on
Take the road less traveled on
Take the road less traveled on

Put your hands up, show me that you’re one of a kind
Put your hands up, let me hear your voice tonight

If you trust your rebel heart, ride it into battle
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled
Wear out your boots and kick up the gravel
Don’t be afraid, take the road less traveled on

TV Show: I’ve been watching Revenge on Netflix, and I love how complex it is, even if it thgets a little darker and more diabolical than what I usually gravitate toward. I can’t anticipate what happens next and am continually surprised at how all the characters stories and motives are so interconnected. I also watched all of Hart of Dixie and fell in love with the characters. It helps that Needtobreathe’s music was featured in a few episodes (including a huge dance number in the finale), and they performed on the show, too!

Memory from last month: I had a really good time hanging out with some of my best friends for a galentine’s party a few weeks ago. We had lots of treats, watched the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies (sort of, we may or may not have talked all the imageway through them), and did each other’s makeup, trying all sorts of new products. It was so good to catch up with them and just spend time in each other’s company.

I also had a wonderful time at the Fit for Her Minneapolis event hosted by nourish move love, Fit Foodie Finds, and The Her Initiative. We had an intense HIIT barre workout, ate delicious snacks, perused some amazing products from local, women-run businesses, and raised $6,700 for clean water and hygiene education!

Looking forward to this month: My sister’s birthday is in March, and I’m excited to celebrate with her!


Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear them!



Book image source: https://www.amazon.com/Gifts-Imperfection-Think-Supposed-Embrace/dp/159285849X

TV show image source: http://masterherald.com/

Wholeme image source: wholeme.com

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

This is inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up as a reminder of the things –both large and small– that save our lives and our sanity in the midst of the chaos of life.

So what’s saving my life right now?

  1. Tea. It’s my drink of choice, and really comes in handy in the winter months when I need something hot to warm my hands and soothe my throat. I tried Nourish Move Love’s detox ginger turmeric tea, and while I still have to play around with the ratio of tea concentrate to hot water, it’s been really good! I like knowing that I’m putting good things into my body that not only taste delicious but also help my body function better.
  2. The Hope*Writers podcast. I sat in on the webinar last week, and it was just the motivation I needed to really work on my writing. I’ve been listening to the podcast (is binge-listening a thing? I think it is!) like crazy since then, and all the information and encouragement is so good! I’m actually taking notes.
  3. Rest. I’ve been doing a lot less in the last month or so than I was in the previous several months. Some of that has to do with the cold and dark days and the lack of motivation that brings. But I’ve also been giving myself permission to just sit and rest after work and on the weekends. I’m trying to find the middle ground between productivity and rest, and I feel like I’m getting closer.
  4. Dark chocolate. It’s just the best. Nothing makes a long day feel better like some dark chocolate.
  5. Mail-order products. I’m not talking about ordering tchotchke things from a catalog. I mean having things delivered to my house that I would otherwise go to the store for. I signed up for Express Scripts prescription delivery to save trips to the pharmacy, and notify me a few weeks before the prescription runs out. Hooray for not running out because I forget to pay attention! I also started a subscription to Cora, which is a feminine care service that uses organic, vegan products that are comparable to traditional ones, and every subscription provides products for women in developing countries who don’t otherwise have access to them. Win-win! And again, it arrives on my doorstep. Hooray! If you’re interested, you can use my code and get up to your first month free (a $7 discount): jessica6483
  6. “Yes To” products. I’ve been trying to find better personal care products, and these are great! I love the Yes to Carrots body lotion and the Yes to Tomatoes face care line. They have a charcoal face bar soap that I love! I like knowing that I’m not putting dangerous chemicals on my skin, since what we put on our skin really matters (it’s the largest organ of our body and absorbs what we put on it, into our bloodstream).
  7. Mrs. Meyers and Norwex household products. Again, I’ve been working on having cleaner products– this time for my home! I don’t like the idea of having a lot of toxic chemicals spread all over the surfaces in my home. I like Mrs. Meyers soaps (hand and dish) and their all-purpose cleaning concentrate. They have so many lovely products and scents! I also like Norwex products because of their BacLoc technology. Because of the natural antibacterial properties of the silver in the cloths, I don’t have to worry about germs. And with their polishing cloth, I can finally get windows and mirrors clean without streaks!
  8. Community and friends. As an introvert, it’s often a challenge for me to balance social commitments and “me” time. I’ve been working on finding the sweet spot in the middle, and I feel like I’ve been making some good progress. I’ve spent some fun time with some wonderful people– crafting, pampering, chatting, cooking, and more. It’s been a great time and a good reminder that I need people in my life. 😉
  9. Books. True to form, I’m reading a few right now. I’m still plugging along through The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it’s as great as I expected. It’s massive (we’re talking 1169 pages, people!), though, so I’m going at what seems a turtle’s pace. I’m also reading Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I think my love for the original is tainting my view of the new book, but it’s interesting to say in the least. I’m eager to see how it ends. And I just finished reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: An Advent Devotional. It was lovely. I read more than a day at a time since I borrowed it from the library, and after Christmas since it was unavailable in December, so that was a little odd, but I loved it nonetheless.
  10. Netflix. I’m so grateful that my parents let my sister and me use their Netflix account, especially since we don’t have cable. There are so many good movies and shows on there that I hardly know where to begin. I like having familiar shows on in the background while I cook, and sitting down to watch a movie after dinner or on the weekend is a nice way to unwind. Sometimes I just need to de-stress and find something funny, and I often turn to Netflix for that. Lately I’m liking A Series of Unfortunate Events, One Day at a Time, Bones, and The Imitation Game.

What things are saving your life right now?



Further reading:

What’s saving my life right now by Anne Bogel, Modern Mrs. Darcy

January 2017 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the January installment! It’s a little bit late– the end of the month came faster than I was expecting!

Current favorites:

Book: I’m still loving (and plugging along slowly in) my big hardcover copy of The 387086Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s so good but so long!.

I also just finished Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift: An Advent Devotional. I checked it out from my local library in ebook form. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available during Advent, which is when it’s intended to be read. It still was a really good read. I liked how it incorporated Scriptures that I don’t generally associate with the Christmas story and had a lot of application material and questions.

Verse: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” -Genesis 50:20 and “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14. There is purpose behind everything that happens. I need that reminder.

Food: My parents got me a spiralizer for Christmas, so I’ve been playing around with making noodles out of vegetables lately. One of my favorites was Ambitious Kitchen’s unnamed-2avocado basil pesto zucchini noodles. They were delicious! I also made a taco lentil soup from AK that was amazing, and the fact that it made several servings was a great bonus!

Song: I’m really loving Beloved by Jordan Feliz. I wrote more about a few songs that have been touching my heart lately in a separate post that you can read here.

Show: I’ve been watching a lot of things on Netflix lately, and they’ve all been great! I finished watching what’s available of Bones, and can’t wait to get caught up on the last seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixseason that was on TV. I watched all of A Series of Unfortunate Events and LOVED it! I never got into the books, but the 8-episode series was really entertaining. I also watched One Day At a Time and thought it was both funny and poignant.

Memories from this month: My dad, my sister, and I went to a Phil Wickham concert at the Mall of America on a Friday night this month, and we had a great time together! I also had a crafternoon get-together with a few of my college roommates, and it was a blast! We made crafty things and chatted the whole while, and we’ve made plans to get together again to craft even more.

Looking forward to this month: I’m looking forward to The Her Initiative’s Fit for Her event in Minneapolis in a few weeks. I follow Nourish Move Love and Fit Foodie Finds, who are hosting the event, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun! I invited some friends to go with me and already bought my ticket. There’s going to be a workout, snacks, and products that support local female-run businesses. Check it out!


Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear them!



Image sources:

Book: https://www.christianbook.com/the-greatest-gift-an-advent-devotional/ann-voskamp/9781414387086/pd/387086

Series of Unfortunate Events: mvlteenvoice.com

December 2016 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the December installment! It’s later than usual, but I think it makes more sense to do it at the end of the month instead of in the middle.

Current favorites:

Book: I’m really liking my big hardcover copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My sister gave it to me for my birthday, and it’s been fun to read. I envision the characters much like they appear in the BBC show Sherlock, and I think that makes it even better. I’d like to think I can tie the disparate threads together to figure the 51sksyfzidlmysteries out alongside Sherlock, but alas, I am more like Watson, struggling just to keep up but enjoying the ride nonetheless.

I also just started reading Lauren Graham’s new book called Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between), and it’s every bit as lovely as she is.

Verse: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'”- Luke 2:8-14. I don’t want to ever cease to be amazed by the Christmas story. For it truly is remarkable and certainly is the Good News.

Food: I made some delicious miso-roasted broccoli that I enjoyed. And my relatives were raving about the stuffing I made for Thanksgiving (okay, so not technically in December, but recent enough). I made it again for Christmas, though, so that counts, right? I also made some delicious 2-Ingredient chocolate truffles that I loved.

Song: All the Christmas songs! Really, though, I can’t pick a favorite. Some have fond memories associated with them (like Silent Night and All I Want for Christmas is You), while others are good reminders of what the holiday season is really about (like O Holy Night and O Come Let Us Adore Him). Of course, some other songs are just purely fun (You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch and Jingle Bells).

YouTube Clip: I’ve been watching Jimmy Fallon and James Corden videos that are holiday-themed, but I’ve also been enjoying Pentatonix’s Christmas videos. They’re so talented!

Memories from this month: Christmas! Christmas is my favorite holiday, hands down. I love decorating, making cookies, hanging lights, making hot chocolate, listening to and singing along to the songs, picking out presents, and spending time with my friends and family. It was so good to get to spend the holiday with so many friends and family. I had a unnamedgreat time at my church’s Christmas Eve service at the Crowne Plaza, and was surprised to see how many people we had! It was also so very good to spend some quality time with my college roommates who were in town for a reunion of sorts. Their friendship is one I truly cherish.

Looking forward to this month: I’m looking to things getting sort of back to normal, honestly. The holidays are great, but they bring a special kind of stress along with them. I also think the beginning of a new year is really refreshing, like an opportunity to start over in a way and refocus.


Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear them!




Know Your Limits

We can’t do everything. At least, I know I can’t.

In this season, it’s all too easy to fill our calendars and to-do lists to overflowing with holiday busyness. We rush and rush, feeling like we have to do everything in order to have a perfect Christmas.

I want to do ALL THE THINGS. I want to make all my own food (mostly healthy, of course). I want to make frugal, natural cleaning products for my house. I want to buy fresh, local, organic food. I want to support causes that are important to me. I want to pour into friendships with people both near and far. I want to be engaged at work and at home. I want to keep a clean house. I want to crochet blankets and paint canvases and bake treats and watch all the shows on my Netflix queue. I want to serve in soup kitchens and meal packing stations and wherever else I can. I want to donate to organizations helping alleviate hunger, providing shelter for the homeless, safety and hope for the abused, and those that spread the good news of the Gospel. I want to spend time with my family, build my community, and still have enough time to myself to not go crazy. I want to run new routes and push myself to new limits. I want to learn and grow and not be complacent.

But my skills and time are limited. I work full time and have other commitments and plans outside of work, too. I realistically can’t do everything that I want to do. At least not all at once. I need to know when to say no. I need to understand the seasonal rhythm of my life and carefully choose what’s best from all the good options before me.

I’m trying to categorize my options to better decide which things I will say “yes” to and which I will say “no” to.

  1. Core commitments. I have to go to work– that’s not optional. But besides that, I have committed to my church, community, and my family. I have said I’m going to show up, and so I have a responsibility to be present. That means that family birthday parties and holidays take precedence over other things, and church family gatherings are prioritized.
  2. Things that bring me joy. I love reading and crafting. I love exercising and cooking. I would be disoriented without those things in my life, and they’re a part of my regular rhythm. I also love watching Christmas movies (especially with others) and Christmas parties, so those will definitely make the cut this year. But I don’t love stressful Christmas shopping or spending a lot of time outside in the cold. No, thank you.
  3. Sanity-savers. I’m an introvert, and that means I can’t function without enough alone time to recharge. In the midst of the holiday season, that can be challenging, but I know I have to set aside time to read, rest, and recuperate in solitude.
  4. Things that align with my purpose or goals. If I’m presented with an opportunity to take part in something I really believe in, something that fits my personality and gifts, then I will say yes. If my plate is already full, or if something sounds good but not great, then I’ll pass and let someone else who is better suited for it step up.
  5. Spur-of-the-moment things. I struggle with spontaneous plans, mostly because I usually have mentally committed to something else, even if it’s just a night at home to read by myself. That being said, these things get fit in when I do have time (especially if they bring me joy and align with my goals), and I pass on them when I have other things planned without feeling guilty.
  6. Things that can wait. There are things around the house that I would really love to check off my list. But they aren’t necessary for having a wonderful holiday season, so I’m pushing them to the back burner. No painting the kitchen cabinets this month.
  7. Everyday housekeeping. Starting with (but not limited to) actual housekeeping. I will say “yes” to the basic things to keep my house clean but not stress about having it picture-perfect or let it get in the way of my hospitality.

Despite the pressure to move through this season like a spinning top, I am choosing to set aside time to rest and cherish the real reason for the season. I’m going to say “no” to things that hinder my heartfelt celebration of Christmas and purposefully choose to participate in things that let me really enjoy it as much as I can. I’m going to be intentional about planning things out so that I don’t try to cram in more than I can handle or have to pull all-nighters to get things finished in the final hour.

No matter what I do, I’m going to regularly remind myself of what really matters. Investing in my people matters. Being thankful matters. Taking care of myself matters. But having a perfectly decorated house or beautiful, detail-oriented dinner party doesn’t matter if I’m a big ball of stress.

So here’s to a wonderful, intentional, purposeful Christmas season. May you and I both learn to say “yes” and “no” to the right things, respecting our own limits and those of others as we do our best to celebrate the season without losing our minds in the process.


What about you? What are you making time for? What are you saying “yes” or “no” to? What are your limits?


Have you ever felt like spending time on social media and the Internet in general is more damaging or discouraging than it is beneficial or uplifting? I feel your pain.

Technology has done some wonderful things for us. It allows us to communicate with people we don’t see on a regular basis, share information with a large audience all at once, send links and photos and videos other people post, and make new friends just to name a few.

It can grow our world if we’re purposeful in finding new connections and using a variety of mediums to get our information. But it can just as quickly shrink our world.

I like to think I can scan through my social media feeds to keep up with the lives of my friends without being drawn into any negative comparison or jealousy. But time and time again, I feel a niggling sense of discontent when I spend too much time taking peeks at what others are doing with their lives.

Spending great lengths of time looking at what others are doing with their lives only serves to breed discontentment with our own. We always want what we don’t have. We see things others have and want them for ourselves, forgetting everything they had to do to get to where they are in our desperate attempt to get everything we want immediately, without going through the work and the waiting. We let jealousy over take us without considering that they are not us, our stories and paths our different, we need and want different things. Not everything that works for our neighbor or sibling or friend or coworker is going to be the best for us. We ought to just keep our eyes on our own prize.

News feeds are a highlight reel— people generally don’t post about the everyday moments or their mistakes. They showcase the good times. And we then find ourselves comparing our struggles with their successes, forgetting that they have just as many troubles as we do. It gives us a false sense of reality in which they’re the winners and we’re the losers. It robs us of our joy and contentment in our own lives and makes us feel like we are less valuable or less successful or less worthy.

The constant noise the media feeds us– between news and social media– drowns out that still small voice calling us to a different, slower kind of life. In the chaos of constantly being connected, we can’t hear ourselves think or stay tuned into who we really are because we’re inundated with images of other people’s lives and their opinions (or perceived opinions) about ours. Being constantly connected and available to others keeps us at a running pace, thinking we have to do more and more and more.

When we’re constantly connected, we have a tendency to ignore our surroundings. Whether it’s the persistent pinging of our cell phones or scrolling through funny videos and cute photos, we can easily ignore the real life people around us.

Between losing touch with those right in front of us, drowning us in comparison and jealousy, and having that still small voice drowned out by the noise, technology and the media confuse our sense of reality, leaving us with only a poor substitute for the vibrant life that could be ours if we only disconnected and found our footing outside cyberspace every once in a while.

I’m making a concerted effort this holiday season to set my phone aside, shut off my computer, quiet my inner monologue about my to-do list, and slow down to pay attention to the world around me. Will you join me?



Further reading:



Image source: www.thedailymind.com

November 2016 Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the November installment!

Current favorites:

Book: I’m ever-so-slowly going through Akin to Anne by L.M. Montgomery, which is filled 6224501with short, sweet stories about characters finding long-lost relatives and encountering charming little challenges they overcome every time. It’s adorable and a great filler for short periods of waiting or for a before-bed read to end the day on a positive note.

Verse: For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” -Zephaniah 3:17. No matter how I measure up to my own or this world’s standards, God loves me just the way I am. Further, He actually rejoices over me — and over you — with singing. How crazy and amazing is that?!

Food: I made a really good jasmine coconut rice bowl with roasted veggies, curried avocado spread, pecans, and pomegranate arils a couple weeks ago. Yum! It was one of
fullsizerender those meals that made me look forward to eating leftovers. And it made my kitchen smell good every time I heated it up, which is always a plus. I also made some really tasty maple pumpkin muffins that I’ve been enjoying for breakfast lately.

YouTube Clip: This is why you shouldn’t cut your own hair. Let it be a PSA for the rest of us.

Website: She of Noble Character is a new endeavor started by my good friend Cambria. She’s using it as a way to share Scripture and encouragement with other women. And there’s a fabulous line of jewelry, too! I like seeing her posts on social media, and I’ve already gotten a couple of her necklaces as gifts.

Memory from this month: I just got back from a mini reunion with some of my college roommates. We drove out to the middle of nowhere in Wisconsin for a weekend together, and it was a blast! We ate until we were completely stuffed, toured the town square,
bought some cheese, played hours of card games, FaceTimed the girls who couldn’t make it, made homemade pizza, and celebrated a couple birthdays. I’m so blessed to count these wonderful women as my fullsizerender-1friends, and while I certainly miss living with them, it was really good to reconnect, and we can’t wait for our big reunion in December!

Looking forward to this month: I volunteered to host Thanksgiving this year with my sister at our new townhouse. I’m a little nervous about it, but I cooked a turkey last December, so it can’t be that hard, right? I really am looking forward to getting the family together over some good food! And, of course, our family tradition of Black Friday shopping with our cousins. And Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life comes out on Netflix!

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things? I’d love to hear them!


Book image source: goodreads.com