September: Slowing Down and Crafting Goals

Each month, I like to take a moment and share an update about what happened that month and some of the things I'm looking forward to in the month to come. View more of my previous monthly updates here.

This month, I started noticing the first of the falling leaves. One day, it seems they were just bursting forth in tiny, green buds and now, as the wind whips through, dozens of yellow leaves cascade to the ground. When did that begin to happen?!

I ended up finding myself with more leisure time this month than usual—a surprise that I really tried to relish and not rush through. With all my writing projects finished at the beginning of the month, I ended up spending the rest of it relaxing, catching up on my reading and discovering a new favorite PBS series, Lark Rise to Candleford, which I managed to watch more than a dozen episodes of before I started pacing myself!

It also was my husband’s birthday, which we celebrated in a pretty low-key fashion with some tasty (and decently healthy) carrot-cake cookies and dinner out with family. I think he actually forgot it was his birthday; he was up early to go work out and when he came home and I wished him happy birthday, it almost seemed to startle him. (If that’s not a sign we’re growing up, I don’t know what is. A decade ago, there’s no way I would have forgotten it’s my birthday. Now? It’s just another day.)

One thing I’d like to tackle in October, before it turns too cold, is to try and paint some pictures to go on the wall in my living room that is currently completely blank. I’d like something abstract and filled with brush strokes that pull in the myriad colors I’ve used in this room: teal, olive green, mustard yellow, gray. It’s been on my to-do list since we moved in here, but I think I’m finally starting to work up the courage to actually try it.

(Another one on my crafting dream list list? Dye a pair of my favorite but washed-out jeans a darker denim blue. I’ve seen it done on a couple of other blogs but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it myself. Anyone have any experience with that?)

Now, let’s see if having all this typed up here for the world to see will result in more follow-through on my part!

What's on your wishlist for next month?

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Why I Love Keeping Lists

In my purse, I carry a small notebook with me at all times for jotting down notes. On my desk, I collect scraps of paper where I can write short notes. I also have my to-do list notebook that I keep with me throughout the day, including when I’m reading my Bible. On top of that, I also have a notebook dedicated to recording my thoughts and impressions about what I’m reading in the Bible, praying about or reading in another book. Oh yeah, and then there’s my binder for hospitality ideas and another one for all my writing ideas.


(Fellow list-makers, that’s not overkill, is it?)

The paradox of this is that keeping all those lists and having a place for those ideas actually makes my life easier. To another, it might seem that all those lists are screaming at me for my time and pulling me this way and that. But really, I find that it’s quite the opposite.

I have ideas floating around and too often, if I don’t have them written down, I forget them. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, because they don’t all need to be done. But the problem arises when I think of them and then feel the need to take care of them, like, now.

That’s where the lists swoop in and come into play. Because they allow me to write those needs, ideas, lists down … and then walk away. I don’t have to worry that I’m going to forget them, because I know that I’ll glance at my list and remember, "Oh yeah, I wanted to mop the floor today," or, "Oh yeah. I wanted to look up my bank statement." Rather than feeling like I have to take care of everything now, whenever the whim surfaces for some action, I can write them down and then use my list as a guide to tackle them efficiently in an order that makes sense.

The other beautiful thing about these lists, is that through them, I can see everything that needs to be done and then take care of them on my own terms—allowing me the freedom to do so in a way that corresponds with my priorities.

A few years ago I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a really insightful book for simplifying decisions and actions. One of the things the author mentioned is that all too often, our actions are dictated by things that are urgent but not important. Meaning, that we get the laundry done, but never make time to read our Bible.

And to me, that’s the most important benefit my lists provide: They help me remember what can wait and then take the time to tend to those needs that are urgent and oh-so important.

What about you; are you a list maker? Do you find that they’re helpful in keeping you on track and tending to priorities? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Secrets of a Newlywed: Showing Respect When Asking for His Opinion

This is the next post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a series where I open up and share some of the lessons, insights and understandings—the little secrets—that have made my marriage the wedded bliss that it is. Like anything else, they are easier said than done. But I know from personal experience that when I do manage to live them out, I've seen what beautiful fruit they bear in my relationship with my husband. So, today, I share another with you: Showing Respect When Asking for His Opinion.

It was the in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store that I learned one of my first lessons about the respect and humility that love requires, a lesson that has stuck with me ever since.

It's a lesson I learned even before my husband and I were married. We were still dating long-distance at the time, and he was in town visiting for the weekend when we made a pit-stop at the grocery store. While still in the get-to-know-you phase of our relationship, I asked him what kind of cereal he'd like. He pointed to the Cheerios.

"Cheerios?! Nah. What instead?" I responded, suggesting a frosted-wheat cereal instead. I don't remember what we ended up picking in the end, except that it wasn't Cheerios. And that for the rest of the trip, I pushed the cart and my husband lagged a few steps behind, not talking.

When we left the store, I asked what was wrong with him, completely unaware of the gravity of the situation that had taken place in the cereal aisle, where cheesy cartoon characters and cheery cardboard boxes leered in the background.

"You asked what I wanted," he said, reminding me of the Cheerios.

"Yeah, but I don't like Cheerios," I told him, hoping he'd appeal to compromise.

"Well, you shouldn't ask me for my opinion if you're not going to take it." There! That sentence, right there! That hit me smack in the forehead.

Of course, I didn't mean any disrespect by the cereal veto. I merely wanted us to get something we both liked, and Cheerios certainly was not that.

But that situation was an epiphany to me, beyond just breakfast foods and boxed grains. I realized that
if I'm going to ask him for an opinion, I must be willing to accept it. I realized what it means if I ask for his opinion and then disregard it, like it doesn't matter.

Though the scenario was innocent on the surface, I now saw it in a new light, that my actions spelled out disrespect and insult.

I realized—yet again—the power of words, and even more so, the power of respecting those words.

That lesson has lasted with me ever since, and the moral leaps to life again whenever I think about asking my husband for his opinion. If I'm going to ask it, I prepare myself to accept whatever he says.

What does this look like practically? Well, if there's an option I don't really want (for instance, which restaurant to eat at or movie to watch on Netflix), I have to be upfront about that rather than expect him to read my mind. Sometimes, I have to be willing to make a choice (say, to wear this blouse and not that one) with confidence, rather than indulge the desire to fish for a compliment by way of asking him for an "opinion."

I've learned to think a bit more before I speak, and when I do, to let my words be filled with respect.

(Note: This post was adapted from one I wrote last year, "A Lesson About Love from the Cereal Aisle." To read through all the posts in this series, click here.)

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A Few of My Favorite Things: Coffee-Making Edition

These are A Few of My Favorite Things, an on-going, once-a-month series that sheds some light on, well, my favorite items throughout my home. (To read through all posts in the series, click here.)

In this Coffee-Making Edition, I'll be looking at five of the tools that are necessities for my (almost) daily cup o' joe. (And even if you don't like to actually drink coffee, here's a recipe for using it to make a relaxing foot soak at home!)

1 Chemex: This an old-school era, pour-over coffee maker that is supposed to give your coffee a "fuller flavor." I'm not the coffee purist in this household, that's my husband. But I do like it because it's all glass, which eliminates the worry about making coffee in a plastic container. (For the same reason why folks make a fuss about not microwaving things in plastic or leaving water bottles in hot cars.) It does take a bit more work (you boil the water yourself and pour it over the grounds which sit in a filter in the top of the carafe), but I think it's worth it! Plus, it just looks cooler.

2. My Charley Harper Mug: I picked this mug up at a thrift store a few years ago because I've always been a little smitten by cute birds. Little did I know that this was by the Charley Harper, a Cincinnati-based artist known for his wildlife images (such as this cardinal) that were popular throughout the 1950s and on. One of my favorite things about this mug (besides the hippie-skippie illustration) is that it's smaller than your average mug, which keeps my gulps in check. (I can't locate any outlets for buying an authentic Charley Harper mug online, but here's a cute one of similar size available on Etsy.)

3. Naturally Decaffeinated Coffee: I cut back on my caffeine last year when I decided I didn't want to have to have a cup of coffee just to avoid getting a headache later in the day. So I switched to decaf, and elected to only use ones that have been "naturally decaffeinated." What this means is that instead of be decaffeinated using chemicals, the coffee is decaffeinated using water. They'll mention something along these lines on the back of the bag, if it has been decaffeinated this way. Currently, we live really close to a local coffee shop that roasts its own beans in-house, so we buy ours there. But I have also used varieties from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and been pleased!

4. Stirring Spoons: I'm not one to buy special-use gadgets and gizmos for the kitchen. I don't see the need for an avocado pitter or a tupperware specially for my sliced tomato. However, when I found myself using up spoon after spoon to stir my cream and homemade syrup into my coffee, I decided to get stirrers specially suited for this use which frees up my spoons for more spoon-worthy uses, like, uh, scooping out the avocado pit.

5. Kettle: While you certainly can boil water in a sauce pan on the stove, it's a lot easier with a kettle that tells you when it's ready. We like this one because you can easily open the spigot by pressing the button on the handle and then close it again by pressing a different spot on the handle. Plus, it's got a pretty silhouette and that whole stainless steel look going that has been the stealing the stage for some time now.

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A Reminder That I Am "Dark, But Lovely"

Through my recent reading of the book Freedom from Performing, I found myself sifting through my emotions and feelings about who I am—in my own eyes as well as in the eyes of the Lord. The way I see myself is incredibly different than how the Lord does. When he sees me, he sees beauty, but when I look at myself, all I see are my mistakes and weaknesses glaring back.

I’ve noticed that in church circles, it’s easy for us to dwell on how “wretched” we are and throw that word around like confetti.

The problem is that I am all too aware of that fact; my personal struggle is not so much in realizing my own sins but in embracing the truth that Christ has made me righteous. More than being reminded of my wretchedness, I need to be reminded about my righteousness.

As I was reading and praying through this book, I tried to wrap my head around this righteousness of mine and what it truly means. It’s hard to grapple with, to try to make yourself internalize it. I don’t know that I really can. And I became discouraged at myself even over that!

Then a verse from Song of Songs came to mind: “I am dark, but lovely.”

The woman in the story was well aware of her shortcomings; in a time when a fair complexion was prized over tanned skin, she acknowledged that, compared to everyone else, she fell short here. And yet, she knew that beneath it all, she was lovely. Her lover agrees, calling her “O most beautiful woman,” “a lily among thorns.” She knew this truth about her real beauty, even though her circumstances may have spoken otherwise.

Likewise, I am all too aware of my shortcomings, the “dark” things about me. But I must remind myself that that is not all there is. I am more than those shortcomings. I am lovely, because of Whom I am loved by. The One who indeed calls me “beautiful.”

So though I may not feel it, I whisper to myself over and over again, “I am dark, but I am lovely.” Slowly, I’m learning to push through the veil of my own wretchedness and get a glimpse of the righteousness I have through Christ.


“Dark, but lovely. Dark, but lovely…”

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Secrets of a Newlywed: Being Aware of Your Expectations

This is the next post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a series where I open up and share some of the lessons, insights and understandings--the little secrets--that have made my marriage the wedded bliss that it is. Like anything else, they are easier said than done. But I know from personal experience that when I do manage to live them out, I've seen what beautiful fruit they bear in my relationship with my husband. 

So, today, I share another with you: Being Aware of Your Expectations.

I remember when my husband and I were going through our marriage-counseling seminars (the same ones where we wives were coached, “Remember, you did not marry Brad Pitt!”). The seminars were filled with workbook pages and breaks for us to talk over things like how to address conflict, what we wanted our marriage to look like, and what kinds of expectations we had.

“I don’t have any expectations,” I remember thinking. On second thought, I realized I did have one expectation: That my husband would take out the trash, a chore I looked forward to retiring when I got to wear that pretty silver ring.

But to my innocent mind, I couldn’t think of anything else I expected from my husband.

That’s the thing about expectations, you don’t realize you have them until it’s too late…

Fast forward to the day-in-day-out reality of married life: Inevitably, I'd find myself upset over something my husband did or didn’t do. At some point along the way, I realized how many of those incidents were linked to expectations of mine that had prowled beneath the surface.

Whether it was that I expected him to want to spend a Saturday evening mooning over romantic comedies with me rather than want to check out a concert or that I expected him to applaud the fact that I found natural dish soap marked down for something ridiculous like $0.50, I suddenly realized that I was filled—overflowing, actually—with these sorts of expectations.

The truth is, they’re not things you consciously decide on; they’re just the things you just think are normal and natural, which is why it never occurred to me to question them in the first place. That's what makes them so stealthy; they sneak into your marriage without you even realizing it!

The problem with these kinds of expectations, though, is that they're a recipe for disaster. Because who can live up to our lofty expectations? No one, and certainly not our husbands. If we nurse these expectations, we're setting ourselves up to be discouraged, disappointed and angry. Which is no way to live a marriage, if we can help it.

It must have been the grace of the Holy Spirit more than anything else, but slowly I started to catch hold of this truth. In the midst of me feeling discouraged or frustrated, I'd suddenly realize what was really going on: "It was all about my expectations! That's why I'm upset!"

That simple recognition was a turning point in those times when I was tempted to be upset over something that didn't fit what I felt ought to be "normal." Like a helium balloon popped and slinking down to the floor in a tangled bunch of colored plastic, those realizations did wonders to keep emotions from escalating and prick my selfishness, showing it for what it really was.

(To read through all the posts in this series, click here.)

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Explore the Archives: February 2010 on Life Blessons


How to Make Your Own Natural Bodywash: Liquid Castile Soap

This project is almost too easy. So easy that I can’t believe I never thought of it before.

Having already dabbled in homemade shampoo, I’d wondered a few times whether I could DIY my bodywash myself, since we like to use Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap. I couldn't find anything online, but then I got to thinking...

If you look at the back of any liquid soap bottle, you’ll see that the first ingredient in there is water. Now, many soaps add other stuff in to make the soap thicker and more like a gel. But at its essence, it’s just a soap and water mixture.

Another thing you’ll likely also notice is that liquid soap costs more than a bar of the regular stuff. The cost of convenience, right?

Not necessarily. Because as I discovered, it's quite easy to make your own simple, natural bodywash for a fraction of the price...

How to Make Your Own Natural Bodywash

1 bar of castile soap
6 cups of water

Other Equipment You’ll Need:
vegetable grater
large sauce pan or stock pot

  • Take your bar of soap, and shred it using the vegetable grater. I selected a bar of Kirk's plain castile soap, but if you’re committed to the peppermint-or lavender-scented Dr. Bronner’s soaps, they make those in a bar form, too. (Alternatively, you could probably add essential oils to the plain one when it’s melted down, but I haven't tried that.)

  • Heat up 6 cups of water on the stove until it's almost boiling. Add two cups of soap flakes. (I shredded one bar of soap, measured out 2 cups, and still had a handful of flakes left over that I’ll use next time I make a batch. If you want to make a bigger or smaller batch, you can easily do that. Just keep the soap to water as a 1:3 ratio.)

  • Stir the mixture, and the soap flakes should start melting. Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit there for an hour or so. By this time, all the flakes should be melted.

  • Now you’re done. Just let it cool, and then pour it into containers. This amount filled up one large 32-ounce bottle and I still had two more cups of bodywash left over that I poured into another lidded container.
A Note About the Bodywash:
If you're familiar with Dr. Bronner's soap, you'll know that it's pretty liquid-y to begin with, since there aren't any additives to make the soap thicker. You'll find that's true with this recipe, as well. If you don’t like a runny consistency, another option is for you to pour it into an empty foaming hand-soap container (like this). Fill it about halfway with the castile soap mixture, then add water to fill it up the rest of the way. Screw the foaming lid on, and you'll have yourself some soap-sudsy foaming bodywash!

P.S. If you are new to this blog, thank you so much for stopping by! You can feel free to browse all my other posts about my journey toward a lifestyle of simplicity and DIY, as well as some of the ways my husband and I are learning to save money. I also write about my faith, my marriage and everything in between, which you can explore in the archives.

Plus, if you like this tutorial, click here to pin it to Pinterest. You can also follow me on Pinterest here.

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Having the Faith to Truly Embrace Grace: What I'm Reading Right Now

Currently reading: Freedom from Performing by Becky Harling

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book. So many books that come out these days, seem so full of promise on the back of the book, but when you actually sit down and read them, those promises fall flat and never dig deeper than Christian Living 101 that you can find in any book.

I kind of expected that to be the case here, but fortunately it has been much more thought-provoking and stirring than I could have hoped! The book is written to those of us who struggle to truly embrace grace and stop putting our worth and value on what others think of us or even on what we can do for God.

In each chapter, she looks at different facets that play into this, whether it’s because we don’t know how to not be busy and doing a million things at once, because we struggle with perfection or envy,  or because we haven’t discovered our God-given purpose (and tips for how to unearth that in your own life).

One of the best parts of the book is that it really helps you recognize some of the feelings you have about yourself—your inadequacies, shortcomings, weaknesses—and provides steps toward healing those destructive and accusing thoughts. I really found that it stirred up an awareness within me about what I really feel toward myself and encouraged me make steps to bring those feelings to the Lord.

It’s also intended as a Bible study tool, so after each chapter there’s a dozen or so questions that you’re supposed to dig into. Personally, I didn’t find them all that engaging, but they can be helpful to those who don’t really have a Bible-reading plan in place.

A glimpse at some of the notes I took while reading Freedom from Performing:
  • I cannot internalize grace on my own; I need Your help to truly grasp my righteousness in Christ
  • When we do fail, we can say to God, “Thank you for this opportunity to experience your grace again.”
  • The more we nurture and feed envy, the less we will experience God’s grace.
  • In the parable of growing the seed, the man plants the seed but even at night—when he’s not doing anything—it grows on its own. We have to do our responsibility within God’s kingdom, but we don’t have to do everything!
  • When we tell ourselves, “I should…,” we end up making ourselves feel guilty for our inactions. Instead, we should say, “I want to…”
  • "Grace and gratitude belong together, like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice of an echo. Gratitude follows grace as thunder follows lightening." - Karl Barth
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Secrets of a Newlywed: Make Your Marriage a Priority

This is the next post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a series where I and a handful of other bloggers open up and share some of the lessons, insights and understandings—the little secrets—that have strengthened our marriages. (To read through all the posts in this series, click here.)  

Today, I am happy to share this guest post with you from Brittany:

My husband and I had been married a year and a half when we had our first child. Up until that point, we had what I considered to be a good marriage. Minimal arguments, alot of laughter, and respect for one another. And then we had our son.

Let me first say that our son is the biggest, most wonderful blessing in our lives. The love we have for him is unmeasurable. But, having him in our lives was initially a big change. It shook our marriage up quite a bit. Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise.

Soon after becoming parents, I had thoughts about my husband that I'd never had before. And they weren't good thoughts. They were thoughts of resentment for silly things, like getting more sleep than me. There were thoughts of anger towards him. There were thoughts of criticism. And frustration. And I could tell he was thinking the same things about me. And instead of talking about it, we swept it under the rug, often because we were too tired or too frustrated to deal with each other.

We were dealing with a big change, so we often snapped at each other and intentionally said hurtful things to one another. One night, four months later, we had an argument and I broke down. I cried and confessed to my husband all of the bad feelings I had towards him. He told me he that he often felt the same way towards me. We talked about our situation and wondered how we let it get to this point.

We realized that over the course of experiencing a major, life-changing event, and becoming parents, that we were completely neglecting each other. Although we had little time to spend together during that time, we weren't taking advantage of the time we did have. We weren't trying. We weren't working. We were taking the easy route. We said we were too tired to go out to a movie. Or we were too busy to have a quiet dinner alone. Each time we turned down an opportunity to spend time together, we unknowingly pushed each other further away.

You get out of a marriage what you put in to a marriage. Life is going to throw unexpected twists, turns, and surprises (a new baby!). If you are not putting any effort in to your marriage, don't expect anything out of it. As with anything in life, you've got to work hard to make it good. Marriage is no different. As a newlywed, I'm learning that there are going to be many ups and downs and blessings along the way in our marriage. No matter what happens, it all began with me and my husband. We need to always make time to cherish and nourish that relationship.

I feel that we are more strengthened and renewed after going through this change. We learned a great deal about our marriage. We learned how crucial communication is and we also learned that how important it is to invest in each other. Most importantly, we learned that God must always be at the center of the relationship. If you place God on the backburner, everything else becomes muddy and messy. My husband and I spent much time in prayer together and worked to put God at the center of our marriage again.

My husband has always said in order to build better relationships, you must invest your time. I'm working everyday to invest more of my time in what matters the most: my Savior and my family.

Brittany and her husband were married in May 2009, and have one son. Brittany blogs about her adventures as a new wife and mom on her blog, The Rookie Years.

If you are interested in sharing a lesson from your own marriage, please get in touch for details about guest-posting in this series!

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My 4 Favorite Free Fonts Right Now

I recently went on a font-downloading kick, which happens every couple of months or so, when I thumb through page after page of type. No doubt, you’ve already noticed the fruits of these typographic adventures as I’ve already been using them in recent posts and photos.

Because I’m still reading my way through the prophets, I thought I’d showcase these findings via some of the Scripture verses that have stuck out to me during my daily Bible reading. These are just a few of the verses I copied into my journal for memory’s sake, ones that I thought were particularly insightful, encouraging or just inspiring.

Together—both what the words are saying and how they look set in different fonts—they create something undeniably beautiful. Enjoy!

Isaiah 64:6 in AdamGorry-Inline

Habakkuk 2:14 in Nouvelle Vague

Habakkuk 3:17-18 in Market Deco

Jeremiah 10:24 in Lullaby

Are there any fonts (or Scriptures!) that you've been especially enjoying lately? I'd love to know in the comments!

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Confessions in Homemaking

Truth: I used to plan out my meals every week, print them out in a spreadsheet and hang them on my fridge.

Confession: That lasted all of a month before I realized that, while I truly do love my spreadsheets and being super organized, they just don’t work for me when it comes to mealtime.

Whenever I read online, I see so many bloggers who sing the praises of weekly meal planning. And I get it, it can be helpful and can really streamline dinnertime. But for me? It was stressful.

When it came time to eat, I didn’t really want what I’d put on the menu. I found that planning our meals caused me to want to get more extravagant with our meals than we really are. We are sloppy-joe kinda folks, not “Tilapia Fillets en Papillote” (whatever that means).

So, I decided to scrap the practice.

Relief! Fresh air!

This is what works for me, for now in this season. No spreadsheet, I just think a few days ahead. Pin a few days in mind to try something new or work around a wonky schedule. Leave a few days where nothing is planned, and I pick it depending on what my taste buds announce sounds good that day. (However, I always make sure to have a well-stocked pantry, so this doesn’t send me running to the grocery store!)

It is flexible, forgiving. It is what works for me.

Homemaking can be so much of comparing ourselves to one another, thinking that because all the other women in blogland are doing it, we ought to, too. But that’s not what homemaking is about. Homemaking is about embracing this art of making our homes comforting and uplifting places for ourselves and our families.

For me, it means that I make my own bread but plan my meals by the seat of my pants. All of my measuring cups have a place, but I don't always put them away, right away. For you, it may mean that you chart your meals out on paper a month in advance. For another, it may mean ordering pizza and keeping the floors spic-n-span. And for another, it may mean those gourmet meals that are completely in a foreign language. And not a single one of those is any better than the other. Not a single one.

Because what works for me, may not work for you. What brings me joy may be torture for you. And that’s okay! Let’s be kinder, gentler on ourselves with this whole homemaking thing. Stop comparing ourselves to everyone else and just enjoy this for what it is: Learning—oftentimes through trial and error—what it is that makes our house a home.

And we all say together: Relief! Fresh air! 

What does homemaking look like to you? How do you make it work for your home and personality? 

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Do You "Like" the Life Blessons Facebook Page?

I wanted to let you know that I recently set up a stand-alone Facebook page for Life Blessons.

If you "like" the page, blog updates will automatically show up in your feed. I also post more random, day-to-day type stuff on there that doesn't make it into regular blog posts (like the fact that it's been so cold here lately that I dusted off my sweet potato and black bean chili recipe for dinner the other night!), and I sometimes use it as a resource to field reader input on future blog post ideas.

Curious? Come over and "like" the new Life Blessons Facebook page!

As always, you can also get Life Blessons updates and extras by following on Twitter, Pinterest and a slew of other social media options, that are all available in the right-hand column of the blog.

Secrets of a Newlywed: Get Used to Saying, “I’m Sorry”

This is the next post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a series where I open up and share some of the lessons, insights and understandings--the little secrets--that have made my marriage the wedded bliss that it is. Like anything else, they are easier said than done. But I know from personal experience that when I do manage to live them out, I've seen what beautiful fruit they bear in my relationship with my husband. 

So, today, I share another with you: Get Used to Saying, "I'm Sorry."

I was babysitting when one of the kids had pushed his little brother. The mom was right there and she leaned over and told him he needed to apologize to his brother. With his nose scrunched up, his eyes to the ground, he forced it out: “I’m sorry.”

Certainly he thought his brother fully deserved that push, so when it came time to apologize, he had to do so against his will, without the desire, while the rest of his human nature was squirming away from doing the right thing.

And yet, unbeautifully and awkwardly, he did it. His little brother wiped the tears from his eyes and said okay. After a hug and a kiss from his mommy, he went back to playing and soon they were brothers again, sharing trains and picture books with the incident but a vague memory.

Apologizing is one of those things that none of us at any age enjoys to do. It takes humility to say, I was wrong. It takes us being willing to think of another to say, I was wrong. It takes courage to admit, I was wrong.

And yet, with that courage, humility and selflessness comes restoration, like the kind I saw that afternoon between two brothers who had no idea what they were experiencing but the grace that can happen when we let it enter our relationships.

So it is with marriage, where some of the first words I had to get used to saying were also some of the hardest. Outside of marriage, sure you apologize, but it’s not really all that often and if it is, you can usually distance yourself from the person until the sting wears off and all is forgotten. Not so in wedlock, where the person is sitting across from you at dinner and you find yourself stumbling into situations that call for "I'm sorry" on what can seem like a daily basis.

When we were first married, there were times when I knew I had to apologize, but like the big brother, I was kicking and screaming on the inside when I did. But then, despite my scrunched-up nose and squeaked-out apology, I experienced the grace that came when my husband would pull me in for a hug and tell me, without any anger or condescension in his voice, that he forgave me.

That made it easier for me in the future to apologize, because over time and through many apologies, I learned and trusted that no matter how much I had hurt him or what kind of mistake I’d made, he would meet me in my humility and we’d get through this together, holding hands and restored.

It also made me realize the importance of apologizing sooner, rather than later, which just drags the whole mess out, leaving us both to wrestle with the awkwardness and tension for longer than necessary.

Now, today, when I make a mistake or realize I’ve hurt him with something I’ve said accidentally, I know that the best reaction is the one that still is hard, but has proven itself to be the most satisfying and worthwhile: “I’m sorry.”

(To read through all the posts in this series, click here.)

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Dishes and papers pile up, and I'm okay with that...

With it being a holiday weekend and all, I've committed myself to spending this weekend relaxing. You can see the vestiges of this all around me, in papers not put away, dishes waiting to be washed, pillows tossed aside, which I caught here in photos to share. Because life is not meant to be perfect and mine certainly is not.

(Consider these the lived-in versions of the photos featured in the Apartment Tour that I showcased a few months ago!)

Really, this is nothing all that different from any other day. There are always piles of paper and always dishes and clothes to be washed. Really, the only difference is that I guess right now, I have the excuse to say that it's intentional.

This morning as I looked all around at these little souvenirs of my laidback homemaking, I smiled.

I smiled because I'm okay with these little, tiny messes. Instead of flitting around, picking up and putting away like my life depends on it, I'm able to see these piles and mounds and spills and not really take notice of them. A clean house can be really stressful when you live that way, and there was a time when that was how it was for me.

But somewhere along the way, I've learned the beautiful art of letting go and tending to the other things in life that matter much more.

Like relishing this weekend of rest. I hope you are doing the same!

(Doesn't that verse just sum it all up? I think so!)

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Explore the Archives: January 2010 on Life Blessons

I'm still plugging away at manually creating a browser-friendly archives page for all my past blog posts, month by month. Here's a look at what was going on in my life, a year and a half ago during January 2010. From our car getting broken into to reupholstering our kitchen chairs, I hope you enjoy getting to take a little step back in time with me:

Archive of Posts from January 2010
Welcome to 2010: Looking forward to the year ahead
Six months of marriage: One more answered prayer
Easy-does-it reupholstering on our kitchen chairs 
Sitting Pretty: Mixing and matching prints in our ... 
I'm a sucker for romance: Why I love reading the ... 
Helpful Homemaking Tip: Meal planning with spreadsheets 
A lesson from the Garden of Eden: How God prepares ... 
The Fruits of the Freezer: Getting More Out of Your ...
Newlywed secrets from the Old Testament (Part I) 
Newlywed secrets from the Old Testament (Part II) 
Lessons I'm Learning: Embracing the unknown 
"This Is Your Brain In Love" book review 
The sweet comforts of the coffeeshop 
The faces of those in Haiti: Memories from my trip ...
From my friends who are missionaries in Haiti ...
Discovering The Benefits of Waking Up Early 
Our car was broken won't believe what ...
The encouraging testimonies of answered prayers
Are your prayers big enough?: The 'whys' and 'hows ...
It snowed in Atlanta! 
Why we don't own a television 
A Prayer for Joy 

I will share another installment in a couple of weeks with more posts from the archives, but you can always jump ahead and explore the archives for yourself.

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What I've Been Up to Lately...

It’s unbelievable to think that another month has flown by. But, I guess that’s the way it is, and now we’re coming down the stretch toward autumn. I know it won’t be too long before I’m wishing for the hot heat of summer again!

August was a fairly uneventful month, all in all. My husband and I made it a point to take a couple of hikes to nearby parks and soak in the scenery. We climbed one hulk of a hill that overlooks the city:

We also joined a new community group at our church, where we’re (so far) the youngest couple in attendance. But I actually love that, because I find that it gives you so many opportunities to soak up lots of wisdom from men and women who are decades into their faith and family lives. It’s also such an encouragement to be surrounded by folks twenty, thirty years older than you who still treat you like an adult and actually enjoy your company. That kind of friendship is such a blessing!

This month was a nice month for my freelance writing. Most of the articles won’t be coming available on newsstands for another couple of months, but I did write one online exclusive for the magazine I used to work for, which you can read here. It’s about a graphic designer who specializes in packaging for the food-and-beverage industry. I love all the neat people I get to meet and things I get to learn through my writing!

As for September, I’m looking forward to the hot weather tapering off. The scorching sun from this past month withered most of my little garden to smithereens before I wised up and moved them to a shadier spot. But the damage had been done and all the fruit-in-process died off. I ended up digging up the remnants and planting new seeds, in hopes that this next round will fare better. Always a learning process!

I’ve also been hacking away at attempting more DIY projects (including making my own root beer and bodywash!), which I look forward to sharing in future tutorials on here soon. Also, you can expect to see some more posts in the Secrets of a Newlywed series, from myself as well as some great bloggers I have lined up. If you haven’t submitted a post and would like to, get in touch with me and I can give you some details.

I hope August has treated each of you kindly. What are you looking forward to in September?

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