5 Recommended Resources for Revamping Your Blog Design

One of my favorite things about having a blog is the creative freedom it provides, not only in writing content but also in presenting it. Over the past two years that I’ve had this blog, the way it has looked has gone through a handful of iterations as I’ve tweaked and honed my style to get closer to a design that feels right.

That’s one of the reasons that I chose to go with Blogger as my hosting platform, because you can change so much about the way your content is presented. The only catch is that you have to know how to do that; there isn’t a simple checkbox to click if you want a certain feature to stop showing. Things like that normally require going into the HTML code of your site and tweaking stuff. It might feel a little too technical at first, but as long as you can find a reliable source to use, it usually isn’t very difficult to make many changes!

I wanted to share some of the tutorials I’ve used for changing the way my blog looks. Each of these are the ones I found to be most helpful, easy-to-follow and have played a role in the blog design you see here today. Enjoy!

1. Before you touch anything, do this. 
One of the first things you should know about experimenting with your HTML code is that you should always back your template up first. Even a code that works on everyone else’s blog might not work on yours, so keep your original template safe and sound in case something does go wonky. Here’s a good explanation of how to back up your template.

2. Remove the Blogger navigation bar along the top. 
I’m talking about that pesky bar that floats at the top of most Blogger-hosted blogs and has the options for searching the blog, skipping to the next one, etc. Because you can load your own search bar into your blog and add a Google Friend Connect widget, I don’t think you need this navbar. Here’s how to get rid of the Blogger navigation bar entirely, which I think makes for a more sleek looking design.

3. Add a favicon to your blog.
A “favicon” is the little icon that appears in the browser tab for a particular website. Standard on Blogger blogs is an orange box with a “B” on it. But you can easily change this to personalize the favicon to your blog. For example, mine is a yellow box with “LB” written in. Here’s the site that I used to create my favicon, which allows you to upload your own image and then will provide the code necessary to add the favicon to your site.

4. Change up your links to “older posts” and “newer posts.”
When you scroll down to the bottom page of a blog hosted on Blogger, there will be links that say “Older Posts,” “Home,” or “Newer Posts.” I didn’t like the way that they were set up (“Older” was flush right, when it seems more intuitive to me for it to be flush left). So, I decided to change them (and get rid of "Home" entirely). I created my own buttons, but used this tutorial for how to switch up the code.

5. Create an image map.  
I’ve written before about how I like to use images in my sidebars for navigation. One neat thing is that instead of linking an entire image to a URL, you can actually just link a portion of the image. It’s more complicated, but it allows you to be able to create just one image, align it to your liking and then just determine which areas will be clickable. You can see an example of this in my left sidebar where I’ve created an image that links to my pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Here’s the tutorial I used to create my image map.

Do you have any blogging resources that you've found especially helpful? If so, please share them in the comments. I'm always looking for new ways to spruce up the look, feel and functionality of my blog!

Please note that some of these resources are written specifically for blogs hosted on the Blogger platform, so if you’re using something else, know that they may not work on your specific blog.

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Secrets of a Newlywed: Let Your Husband Lead

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. (To read through all the posts in this series, click here.) 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: Let Your Husband Lead

Admittedly, I’m not the most decisive of women. There are many times, like when I was buying our washing machine, and I wished that my husband would just pick which one we should buy instead of letting me make the call.

You see, I’m happy to let him make the decision—as long as it’s one I’m happy with.

I believe that the role of a husband is to be a leader for his family, to be their shepherd guarding them in safety and guiding them to the best pasture. I believe this is the role that God has called husbands to and, in doing so, He will equip them to make the decisions necessary.

However, that all comes into question when my husband has the choice to say 'No,’ when I am looking for 'Yes.’ It’s in those times that I want to grab the shepherd’s hook from his hands and tell him, 'Here, we’re going this way.’ Essentially, I can be afraid of what his decision might be.

It’s been a journey for me to learn to let go of the decision-making ropes and watch my husband flourish as he takes up the reins. It’s been a journey for me to take this step of faith—to trust our lives in his hands—and watch how beautifully they’ve all worked out.

When we were first married, I was keenly aware of this need to allow my husband to make decisions for us. I had to make the choice to step back and let him do this for us. One of the first decisions I handed over to him was that of our finances. It was not because I do not like numbers; in fact, the opposite is true. I have tracked my spending for years, always searched out the best interest rates, and got straight A’s in calculus and economics.

But I knew that for my husband to grow into his own as a leader for our family, I needed to start learning how to step out of the way. At first this was difficult, especially when I saw how much we were spending on eating out and other miscellaneous purchases. I wanted to put my foot down and say, 'No, we are not spending money on that.

Instead, I swallowed the words and waited. We kept a budget and soon, by his lead, we were reigning in our spending. Soon, we paid off all our debt. Then, we rejoiced when we saw that our eating out budget had hit $0 for the month.

I trusted him with those financial decisions and then watched as they blossomed—and continue to do so—under his care.

When we were deciding on a church to attend, I made the intentional choice to let him make the final call. We talked about our opinions, I told him which ones I definitely did not want to attend and then let him make the final decision between the two that remained.

Truth be told, I had a favorite. But I did not tell him because I did not want to bias his decision-making. Because this was a big decision for us spiritually, and because I believe that his role is to be our spiritual leader, I deferred to him. And then he picked the other church. For a time, I was really disappointed, but today I know that he did in fact make the right decision for us as we’ve really developed a family at our church and been able to dig deep roots there.

Each time that I’ve consciously stepped back and let my husband make a decision for us, my trust for him has grown tremendously. I’ve seen how submission can be beautiful and how the Lord has blessed his decision-making skills. I’ve seen firsthand how he really does take my needs, feelings and future into account—his love manifested in his leadership.

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The Perfect Summer Treat: Homemade Chocolate Pudding

With an Atlanta summer in full swing, I've been experimenting with all sorts of ways to stay cool, from opening the windows in the early morning to breaking out my crockpot. The other day, I came across this recipe in my stash and decided it would be the perfect remedy to the sweltering summer day.

It's an easy recipe, and it's likely you have all the ingredients on hand already. Pop the pudding in the fridge for just a couple hours and you've got a sweet dessert, without having to heat up your house. Give it a go, and let me know your thoughts!

Homemade Chocolate Pudding Recipe
2 cups milk
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
Pinch of salt
2 ounces chocolate pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Whisk milk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa and salt into a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. (The ingredients will blend easier as it heats up.)

  2. Bring to a boil, stirring often with whisk to make sure doesn't burn.

  3. Let it boil for about one minute; by this point it should have slightly thickened to a batter-like consistency.

  4. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate pieces and vanilla until chocolate is well blended. (You might still have some small chunks left in, but I think that adds a pleasant surprise to the end pudding. Keep stirring though if you want it completely smooth.)

  5. Pour into individual bowls and chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours or until cold. Garnish with powdered sugar, whipped cream or cookie wafers.
    (serves 4)
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Giveaway: Win a $25 Gift Card to Kroger

Just a quick note to let you know that right now I am hosting a giveaway for a $25 gift card to Kroger on my review blog in celebration of a new sale they have going on right now. If you could use a little extra help with your grocery budget, head over and enter to win!

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Explore the Archives: November 2009 on Life Blessons

As this blog approaches two years worth of posts, pictures and pensive thoughts, I have finally started the tedious process of pulling together an archive page. I've wanted one for awhile, but one that lists out the posts by title rather than simply by date.

I've spent plenty of time to see if there were any widgets or HTML hacks that would make this a breeze with Blogger, with no luck.

So finally I decided to do the old-fashioned way, by hand: cutting and pasting, link by link. It's not the easiest of processes but I think it will make the Archives much more user-friendly and browseable than any of the stock ones. You can see all of the posts that I've currently archived here.

I am slowly making my way from the first posts on this site to the current month, and will continue to add to this page over time.

So  as I work through this page, I wanted to share some of these old posts, harking back to the earliest days of Life Blessons, during November 2009. For those of you have been around since the very beginning, I hope you'll enjoy poking through some of these posts for the second time. For those of you who have joined us sometime since, I hope you enjoy reading some of these oldies but goodies:

Archive of Posts from November 2009
An introduction & the formal definition of a "blesson"
Learning to embrace where God was calling me--even ...
A mini-tour of our new home: The built-in cabinets ...
Why we moved to Atlanta--and left a well-paying job ...
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili Recipe: Add some ...
How I've learned to deal with my anxieties 
The many blessings I have to be thankful for this year 
Some of the everyday miracles God has blessed us ... 
Some biblical inspiration for the "in-between  times in life
My new approach to praying for others
Ever wonder how God “talks” or how to “hear” him?
A Bedtime Prayer to Restore Your Soul Tonight
Helpful Homemaking Tip: Keep your kitchen fresh by ...
Learning the art of hospitality, one step at a time 
Our holiday plans and burgeoning social life
choosing a church: where you'll find us on sunday ...
Telling my husband I love him, in three words
Prayers needed for my first job interview tomorrow ...
Post-Job Interview Update: Praising God for his ...
A Book Review: “The Sacred Meal” by Nora Gallagher
Unexpected insights from a boring Old Testament list

I'll share another post in a couple of weeks with the next installment of archives, but you can always jump ahead and browse all the posts in the archive.

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Women Praying Boldly Initiative: Will You Join Us?

I know we are in the midst of the Secrets of a Newlywed series. I also know that many of you who read my blog are not in that stage of life yet. While I firmly believe that you don’t have to be currently married to benefit from the insights in the series (and to treasure them in your hearts so that you start off your marriage stronger when it does happen!), I do know that many of you look forward to the day when you can apply these lessons to your own lives.

And I understand that longing, more than you know. When I was single, it became a very large burden on my heart to pray about finding a godly man. I truly believe that because I prayed so earnestly and brought that desire to the Lord, that he answered my prayers and wove my love story within months.

I also believe that we not only should pray these things (meaning, godly desires of any kind!) for ourselves but also for one another. Because I saw how that prayer worked so miraculously in my own life, I make it a point to continue to pray for women I know who have that same desire.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to reach out to any of the readers here who would like to share in that, as well.

Here’s what I propose: I would love to start a Women Praying Boldly initiative (taken from Candice Watter’s book Get Married) here on this blog. If you are interested in praying for a godly husband and want others to rally around you in prayer, then fill out this form here with your contact information.

Everyone who fills this form out will become a part of this initiative and then we’ll all start praying for each other. You don’t have to pray every day, but you do have to commit to intentionally praying for your fellow ladies a few times each month. I only want women who take this prayer seriously—those who really believe that it can impact lives and are willing to pray it boldly themselves—to sign up.

If you’re already married but still want to join along in praying for these ladies, then you can jump on board, too. Once I get everyone’s information, I’ll send an email out and include each woman’s first name only. Then, the praying begins.

I would love to be able to see how this commitment to prayer impacts women’s lives, so I hope that once this begins, I’ll have some testimonies to share with the rest of the group (and maybe here on this blog, as well!). We’ll just have to see what comes of it.

For now, we step out in faith and ask…

Will you ask with me?

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Secrets of a Newlywed: Learn to Embrace Your Differences

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. (To read through all the posts in this series, click here.) 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: Learn to Embrace Your Differences

They say that opposites attract.

I never really believed in that, but now that I’ve been married for a little while, I can attest that my husband are much more different than I’d realized at first.
Did you know that there are two kinds of cleaning? I didn’t until I got married, and then I discovered that while my husband and I both like a clean home, our definitions of what makes it clean are very different.

I don’t like clutter, so I prefer to have everything organized and put away, crumbs wiped from the counter, and laundry in the hamper. My husband though, doesn’t like germs, so he likes to have the carpet freshly vacuumed and the bathroom scrubbed.

For me, though, I don’t really see the need to clean unless I can see the dirt. My husband, sees nothing wrong with leaving piles of paper on the kitchen table, the coffee table, the desk, almost any level spot he can find.

Can you see how this might cause problems in our marriage?

Fortunately, though, we’ve chosen to look at the situation from a different vantage point: He keeps things clean, while I keep things neat. Instead of seeing our strengths as fighting one another, we choose to see how they complement one another. Where I am weak in my cleaning, he is strong, and vice versa.

It is a small distinction, but it has made all the difference.

I used to see those piles and cringe, wanting to stuff them into a folder or a drawer out of sight. I imagine that he wished I’d pick up a dust buster every now and then. But in those instances, we’re focusing simply on the other person’s faults and neglecting the strengths we each bring to the table. We’re zoomed in on everything that is wrong and not letting ourselves see all the things that the other person does right.

If we take a step back and look, though, we’re bound to find a strength that complements. And that takes the sting from the frustration.

Another example from our marriage is that my husband and I are pretty different in how we approach money and spending. I prefer to pinch my pennies, tally up register receipts, and keep a good amount in savings “just in case.” My husband, though, is eager to treat us to a nice dinner and give money to the homeless man on the street corner.

Can you see how this might cause problems in our marriage?

But fortunately, it has been another case that we chalk up to our strengths balancing each another out. If it weren’t for my husband, we probably would never leave the house. And it’s good to build some “fun” into your budget. But if it weren’t for me, we probably wouldn’t have been able to be debt-free already.

Instead of letting these differences upset and divide us, we have learned to see them as gifts and blessings that we each bring to the marriage.

I’m not sure that we ever made the conscious decision to think about the things that frustrated us about the other and figure out how they actually complemented us. I imagine it was more the Holy Spirit planting those sentiments in our heart and opening our eyes to the way that God sees us, one small example of how “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Separate, we are but pieces. But joined together, we become more whole.

That is the beauty of marriage.

P.S. 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 Container Vegetable Garden: A Mid-Summer Update

I planted my container vegetable garden in late April, and now that we’re halfway into July, it’s starting—slowly—to bear fruit, er, vegetables. But the process has not been without its disappointments.

For instance, I started off with a container each planted with lettuce, green bean, carrot, spinach and cucumber seeds. (Here's a glimpse at how they were each doing after one month.)

From the very beginning it was clear that the spinach was not a team-player. The others were sprouting up and unfurling their leaves while the spinach, soon nicknamed Mr. Grumps, came up with his arms folded, bent on not sharing any of his foliage. I managed to get a couple of good leaves off him before he completely gave up and the stems turned spindly and useless.

I decided I wasn’t cut out for spinach gardening and instead started that container over with some pepper seeds, which seem to be doing pretty well so far, as you can see in this photo of the new kids on the block:

The lettuce was growing like gang-busters at first, and we got about five tasty, homegrown salads out of the pot. Then a series of huge storms (including hail) came through and crushed all the remaining lettuce leaves. (Fortunately, I’d recently gone through and cut off most of the bigger leaves, so the destruction didn’t do as much damage as it could have.) I thought they’d bounce back, but after a couple of weeks, it was apparent they wouldn’t. I planted some new seeds, which did shoot up…only to be devoured by some unknown herbivore, which you can kind of see in the photo below. (The lettuce remnants are the purple-ish stalks, all the leaves were chewed away.) Maybe I'm not cut out for lettuce gardening either?

But things weren’t all gloom-and-doom.

The beans got off to a great start, growing and flowering quite quickly. I’ve managed to get a couple handfuls of beans off the bush and throw into stirfries. I read online that you shouldn’t let the beans “split” while they’re still on the plant, so the only ones that are left on here right now are tiny ones like these:

Because this plant did so well, I decided to plant another set of bean seeds:

The cucumbers are another source of delight. They have grown full and bushy, sprouting pretty yellow flowers that are just now starting to morph into what will hopefully become full-grown cucumbers:

Isn’t it such a neat process to watch?!

The last of the plants is the baby carrots. They’ve got lots of greenery springing from the ground, but I’m not quite sure how they carrots themselves are growing, since they're (ya know) hidden undergound. From what I’ve read, you know they’re ready to harvest when you can see the orange tops of the carrots pushing through the dirt. No sign of those yet, but my fingers are crossed.

How's your garden growing?

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Some Blog Housekeeping News

If you’ve visited my blog over the past couple of weeks, you might have noticed that there’s a new addition popping up: advertisements in my sidebar and footer.

They’ve been for things like Salvation Army, Gatorade, Home Goods, Kroger coupons, and all other sorts of things. Essentially legitimate and professional ads.

Now, I don’t blog for the money. As I’ve mentioned before, I blog because I enjoy getting to share what’s going on in my life, the lessons I’m learning, and the blessings I experience each day. However, because I do put I the time and effort to publish multiple blog posts each week, I’m not opposed at all to make a little extra money while I’m at it. (I hope you’re not opposed to that either!)

In a couple weeks, I plan on sharing a more in-depth post about my experience using my current two ad networks, BlogHer and ContextWeb. So far, I'm quite happy with them both, but I want to give it a couple more weeks to feel them out so I can provide you with more complete information.

Also (because it's not all about the benjamins), I plan on donating part of the revenue the ads generate to worthy causes. For now, I'm partnering with International Justice Mission, because I really believe in how they are fighting injustice around the world, following the Bible’s call in Isaiah 1:17: Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. In the future, I might decide to give the money elsewhere if another awesome organization catches my eye, but I'll keep you updated on that!

I wanted to share all this info with you just so that you know what’s going on here behind-the-scenes at Life Blessons and to keep things more transparent between us. Because if it weren’t for you, this blog would have likely died a long, long time ago! Thanks for sticking with me and making this blog as popular as it is!

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Learning to Spend Less: From $376.25 to $0

From our first month of marriage, my husband and I started tracking every expense. The first month as newlyweds was eye-opening. We weren’t living an extravagant lifestyle; we didn’t even have air conditioning or a television! Yet when we sat down and looked at our spending, we were shocked. Especially when we looked at how much we'd spent on eating out alone.

This was the category on our budget that we have had to wrestle the most with. And not because we’re foodies who love to eat out at fancy restaurants or are too lazy to cook. It was more out of habit: After church on Sunday, we’d swing by Qdoba or Subway and grab something to bring home for lunch. We’d spend a Saturday evening at the coffee shop and sip cappuccinos. We were used to socializing over meals with friends, and so that’s what we did together as we settled into our new life together as Mr. and Mrs.

As we looked at the numbers after that first month, we could hardly believed that those little eating-out trips racked up to $376.25! The most expensive meal that entire month was when we took a friend to Mellow Mushroom and spent just over $30 for pizza, and pretty much every other receipt totaled $10 or less. (I have kept itemized Excel spreadsheets of my spending for years, so I have the records to prove it.)

Lest you think that all we did was eat out, I’m sorry to say that wasn’t the case: Our grocery budget the same month totaled $386.29.

That kind of sticker shock, combined with the uncertainty of how long we’d have paychecks coming in, was enough to convince us that we needed to get our spending—even as little as it seemed to us at the time—under control.

I thought of all this today when I walked past our budget, tacked on a corkboard in our kitchen that is always out in plain view to see whenever we walk by. I glanced at our eating out category for the month so far: $0.

Oh, how far we have come!

We haven't starved to death, and we haven't felt denied. We simply have made different decisions. Yesterday, my husband told me how a bunch of his coworkers went to IHOP for some food. What did he do? He carried in his packed lunch and ate it (pb&j sandwich, carrot sticks, dip and all) in the midst of their eggs-and-bacon meals. He didn't have to do that, but he decided that it was worth it, to save the money that he could have spent there for a meal somewhere else that he would enjoy much more than what you can find on the IHOP menu.

It’s been a slow transition of us learning to scale back and find our footing with our financial resources. And sometimes that’s how it is; you can’t change things overnight. You have to create new habits and new ways of thinking. But, slowly (isn’t that the way things always work?) they take hold and you look back and wonder how it was ever any different.

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Secrets of a Newlywed: You Did Not Marry Brad Pitt

This is the debut post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a new series where I share some of the lessons, insights and understandings that have strengthened my marriage and made it the wedded bliss that it is. (To read through all the posts in this series, click here.) 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 the first with you: You Did Not Marry Brad Pitt

“He’s not Brad Pitt.” It was a premarital seminar that my husband (then, only fiancé) and I were taking, and the woman was standing at the front of a large conference room, and telling us that, in fact, we were not marrying Brad Pitt.

Thankyouverymuch. I think I’ll take my money back now, right?

“He’s not Brad Pitt,” she repeated. “He doesn’t have a script.”

In the movies, Brad Pitt knows exactly what to say and what to do simply because it’s written into the script. He knows when to buy his leading lady flowers or when to take her dancing under the stars or when to just remain silent only because he’s memorized his lines.

Our husbands, on the other hand, do not have a script to read from to know exactly what to do that will sweep us off our feet or exactly what to say that will melt our hearts into the carpet below. Instead, they fumble along, trying to guess about what will work.

All they can do is guess…unless we decide to give them the script.

This was the point that the woman at the seminar was trying to hammer into our heads: Our husbands cannot read our minds to know what we want them to do or say, unless we tell them. That is how they get their scripts and start playing the role of Mr. Charming that we’ve cast them in.

It’s a truth that is so simple we might be prone to scoff at it. But in the earliest days of marriage, I caught myself expecting my husband to do or say something (or, alternatively, not do or not say something). And I had to consciously tell myself, “Give him the script.”

This was especially difficult for me, who desires to steer clear from conflict of any sort—even the healthy kind. But when the kitchen turned into a frenzy and I was having to jump between one pot boiling, checking on the potatoes in the oven, and defrosting some bread for dinner, I was feeling overwhelmed as it was. Then my husband came in, sat down at the table, and wanted to crack jokes with me.

There are times when making dinner just makes you harried. And that is when my sense of humor flies out the window. It’s in these moments, when I can feel frustration start to seize up inside myself, that I have to tell my husband what I need him to do. Sometimes, it’s telling him, that right now is not a good time to talk. Sometimes, it’s asking him to lend a hand and put the butter on the table.

The funny thing is, that when I tell him what I need, he doesn’t scoff or get insulted. He simply complies. Even though he can’t read my mind, when I tell him what I need (before I let the emotions get in the way), he is happy to pitch in where I need him.

And doesn’t that speak volumes more about how much he loves me than if he could read my mind? When I ask for something and he follows through to provide it, the situation is transformed into an act of selflessness and service, providing yet another glimpse into how much this man loves me.

No, he is not Brad Pitt. But I like it that way.

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Our Two-Year Anniversary and a New Series!

I am aware that two years is not all that long.

But it is long enough to have learned a few things, long enough to have become aware of my mistakes, long enough to have harkened words of wisdom, and long enough to have seen fruit come to bear from these different lessons.

It is two years now that my husband and I have been one. Back on July 10, 2009, we had little idea of what we were getting ourselves into: Just a hope and a dream that it would be as good as our hearts imagined.

I am so happy to say that it has proven to be that and much more.

When my husband and I first started dating, there was a verse that seemed to be the caption that floated over our relationship for me: "I will bring you gold in place of bronze, silver in place of iron, bronze in place of wood, iron in place of rocks." Isaiah 60:17

That verse has nothing to do with dating, and instead comes when the Lord is calling his people to be faithful again and promising them that their punishment will not endure forever, but mercy is on the horizon.

But during the time in my life, I saw in that verse how the Lord makes it his gift to take what we have and dazzles us with things more brilliant than we could have even expected, much less deserve: We have bronze, but he gives us gold. He gifts us riches that make us stand in awe.

I had expected someone who was "bronze." And yet the Lord did not stop there, but gave me a man who was stronger, purer, wiser than my wildest dreams. He is the ultimate over-achiever.

And that "above and beyond" nature of God's gifts has continued to be a golden thread in our relationship, soaring high above us like a banner proclaiming that God is at work here, doing much more than we even realize.

And so it is that on the heels of this two-year anniversary of ours, that I am kicking off a new series on Life Blesssons: Secrets of a Newlywed. (Click to read all the posts from this series.)

Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of these lessons that have opened my eyes, humbled my heart, and purified this relationship of wedded bliss.

I will also open the series up to any other lovely ladies who would like to guest post and share their testimonies of lessons that have enriched and deepened and refined their marriages. (If you're interested, please email me at lifeblessons [at] gmail.com, and I'll pass along some more details in regards to what I'm looking for.)

With only two years down, I look forward to the joy that this relationship will bear in another two years time and two more years after that, until we are holding decades in our hands and as happy as ever!

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Check out my interview on Little Tiny Pieces

Many thanks to Gemma at Little Tiny Pieces who featured me in a Q&A interview on her blog! She came up with some great questions to ask, so if you're interested in reading about what I love most about marriage, what I couldn't live without in my kitchen or what a "blesson" is, click here to read the entire interview.

Embracing What My Prayer Time Looks Like in Different Seasons of Life

My prayer time goes through a lot of different iterations, almost one for every season it seems. For awhile I had a really in-depth prayer binder, but eventually the big rings got in the way of my writing and I looked for something different. Then I moved my prayer time onto a little throw rug that I put at the foot of my bed and sat on. Then I got tired of sitting on the floor and moved to a couch.

I've gone through lots of different notebooks, giving one up halfway through to try another one. I used to crank up soul-full music and have it playing during my times of prayer, but at some point I felt it was distracting rather than compelling. I used to keep a journal on my computer that I typed in nearly everyday, noting what I was learning and inspiring thoughts I'd come across in my readings. But after a couple of years, eventually that too fell by the wayside.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about this stop-and-go approach. Guilty that I lack follow-through with my best-laid plans.

And its in those moments that I'm quietly reminded that that's not what this is about. This is simply about spending time with the Lord and getting to know who he is and what he says and what he wants. And how I do that, how my tastes and preferences change and warp, doesn't matter as much as the simple fact that I am doing this.

Change isn't a bad thing. Perhaps that's just how I'm wired, to switch things up again. If I take a step back, I can see that that's the case when it comes to many other things, whether it's switching up my decor, renewing my wardrobe or searching out new menu plans.

The perfectionist in me is always thinking about how I can make something function better, looking for areas to tweak or test out new options. I'm not afraid to stop something halfway through or admit defeat if it means I at least gave it a try.

It's this perspective that I accept and latch on to, not the one dripping with guilt.

Then, I look down at my Bible and the little leaflet that sticks from its pages. Dates are marked off, one after another. In spite of all those changes, I've still managed to use the same Bible plan that I started at the beginning of the year—even managing to get ahead a few days when I got to the parts about the wars and prophecies.

Right now, I have a small ringed notebook where I write out my prayer requests for certain topics and people. In the back, I am keeping lists of memorable Scripture verses I come across in my daily reading. And I sit on the couch or on the rug that is splayed before it, and I speak to my Lord—what it's all about in the first place.

Related Posts
Selecting a Bible Reading Plan for the New Year 
How a 3-ring binder has changed the way I pray and spend time with God

A Few of My Favorite Things: Kitchen Tools & Gadgets Edition

These are A Few of My Favorite Things, a new 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 Kitchen Tools & Gadgets Edition, I'll be looking at five different tools and gadgets that I use over and over again in my kitchen.  They're ones that have proven to be totally utilitarian, help simplify my routine and keep things running in this little kitchen of mine.

Here's a little bit more about each product and why it's become essential to my kitchen:

1. Kapoosh knife holder: I already mentioned my Kapoosh knife holder that I found at a local thrift shop. Once I ran the spokes through the dishwasher, it was like new! I must say, I absolutely love having this, because I can accessorize it with just the exact knives that I need, rather than the knives that the manufacturer thinks I should have. Since purchasing it, I've picked up a new bread knife, chef's knife and paring knife. These three are the heavy-hitters in my kitchen nowadays and make slicing and dicing a breeze!

2. Digital Kitchen Scale: I put off buying a scale for awhile but now I use it quite often, especially when I'm altering recipes or even just wanting to mail a package and know how much it weighs! This one is handy because you can also put a dish on it and zero out the dish's weight so that you're only weighing the food you put into it.

3. Misto: I wanted to get away from using aerosol spray cooking oils, and discovered the Misto, which is a manual, natural alternative. Basically, you pour whatever oils you want into the container, and then pump the top up and down to build air pressure in the canister, which then allows you to spray the oil evenly. I use this whenever I'm sauteeing or even to coat the inside of my bread pan. (Try it if you decide to make my Easy, Cheesy Spaghetti Casserole recipe!) Plus, it really cuts down on how much oil you use. I bought this a couple months ago and still haven't had to add oil to the container since then!

4. Small wooden cutting board: We originally got a large plastic cutting board, but I found that having a smaller one has been so much handier and less of a chore to clean. I just keep it on my countertop all the time, for easy access, and then chip-chop away! (Note that this is similar to my cutting board, but mine is a no-name brand. It's roughly the same size, which is what matters most to me!)

5. Adjustable funnel: Ah, finally having a funnel. Before buying this handy convertible funnel, I ended up crafting ones out of leftover cereal boxes or sheets of paper. Needless to say, this is quite the improvement! Plus, I love that all three pieces fit together, depending on how large or small of a funnel-mouth you need to use. I was hoping to find a funnel that was metal rather than plastic, but I never had any luck.

P.S. Unless otherwise stated, all items pictured and linked are the exact version I've come to love!

Related Posts
A Few of My Favorite Things: Cooking & Baking Edition

Easy, Cheesy Spaghetti Casserole Recipe

Awhile ago, I pulled together a bunch of casserole-type dishes to try out for my hospitality journal. I wanted this to be a resource where I could go whenever I needed to make a dish that could easily serve a bunch, without a second thought.

A lot of the recipes I put to the test left a lot to be wanting. But this spaghetti casserole is different, and definitely a winner, by both my and my husband's accounts. I've been tweaking this recipe for about six months, trying new combinations of ingredients, scaling things back, removing others completely. I feel like this finished version is ready to share with you all.

When I make it at home for a regular dinner, it makes four filling servings, but you can easily double the recipe for more folks. Enjoy!

Easy, Cheesy Spaghetti Casserole

1/2 box of whole-wheat spaghetti or angel-hair pasta (about 6.5 ounces)
1/4 to 1/2 pound ground turkey (optional)
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning (about 1/2 tablespoon)

  • If using ground turkey (I leave it out when I don't have any on hand, and it still tastes great!), go on and brown that in a skillet.
  • Also, boil spaghetti until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, combine other ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • When spaghetti is done, drain and pour back into sauce pan. Add browned meat and the cottage-cheese-sauce mixture from the bowl to the pan and mix well. (If you need to add more spaghetti sauce to get it to your liking, go right ahead!)
  • Coat an 8x8 baking dish (like this one) with nonstick spray. (Use your Misto if you have one!) Add spaghetti-and-sauces mixture to dish. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top. Then sprinkle on some dashes of Italian seasoning.
  • Bake uncovered in oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until cheese on top is melted.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
  • Eat up, and enjoy! (Serves 4)
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 getting crafty in the kitchen, 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.

Related Posts
Creating My Hospitality Journal

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