Monday, July 28, 2014

My Daily Must-Reads

I follow about 100 blogs on Bloglovin'. I don't actually read every post in my feed every day (and I'm on bedrest and have lots of time to do that, and I still don't do it!); only the posts that seem interesting. However, there are a few bloggers that I will faithfully follow no matter what they're writing about - even if I don't know who they are personally! These few ladies' blogs have really inspired me and I always look forward to reading their new posts.

If you're looking for some new blogs to follow, check 'em out!

34 Magnolia Street - http://www.magnoliastreetblog.com/

Pretty Is As Pretty Does - http://www.pretty-does.com/

Poverty Luxe. - http://www.povertyluxe.com/

The Contented Wife - http://www.thecontentedwifeblog.com/

Oh, Simple Thoughts - http://www.ohsimplethoughts.com/

Robyn's Nest - http://www.robynsnest.org/

Like A Morning Cup Of Coffee - http://likeamorningcupofcoffee.blogspot.com/

Happy reading <3

Friday, July 25, 2014

according to social media. . .


Have you ever noticed that social media portrays only the very best of people's lives?

Instagram captures the perfect latte, the perfect dinner, the perfect outfit.

Facebook brags about your perfect husband, your perfect weekend, your perfect job.

Blogging is a platform that markets yourself in such a way that others will subconsciously desire to be just like you. 

It's showing others that you can work that full-time job, author that full-time blog, teach that Bible study, travel, have an awesome marriage, invite friends regularly over for dinner, build that capsule wardrobe, redecorate your living room, run every morning, create beautiful desserts, all the while with a smile on your face first thing in the morning while you do your She Reads Truth devo (we know this because Instagram reminds us).

Ladies...are we really who our blogs say we are? Are our lives as lovely as Instagram says they are? Did our day really go the way we described it on Facebook?

Let's let love be genuine, let's strive to live in an approachable and humble way, and let's fight daily to bring glory to Christ and not to ourselves. I struggle daily with these things!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Home & Still Cooking


My hubby has been so wonderful this past week...so supportive and encouraging. I am so blessed to go through this crazy journey with my best friend!

Baby's Gestational Age: 28 weeks, 3 days
Days Spent On Bed Rest: 6

After a bit of an emotional roller coaster last week, Sean and I are home and Savannah is still cooking (for now). It was so frustrating during those three days of being strapped to all those monitors, dealing with a different nurse every three hours, two doctors telling me contradictory information, a NICU doctor coming in and making me feel like an idiot because I wasn't currently in labor (I must have wasted his time), and feeling like junk because of all the drugs they were giving me to stop my contractions (thankfully, those did their job).

On top of all that, no one told me what to really expect once arriving home. They just told me to lay down all the time, don't do anything, don't go anywhere, here's some pills take these every eight hours, see ya adios good luck.

Um, hello!? A two-pound HUMAN nearly came out of me and you're sending me home with nothing more than a "good luck!" and a prescription?

I don't know how that comes across to the everyday person, but I was scared, confused, and frustrated! The doctors and nurses told me a lot of ridiculous things, and assigned treatments to me with no discussion or even explanation as to what they were doing.

(While I haven't had too many contractions since arriving home, I have been very sore, tired, and uncomfortable and the bed rest they prescribed was very welcomed, albeit a bit inconvenient.)

During a follow-up appointment today with my doctor, she quickly checked me, confirmed I wasn't dilating, heard baby's heartbeat, announced I was to start taking progesterone in addition to the Procardia, said see you next week, and left the room before I could even sit up from the table.  I wanted to cry, I had so many questions.

I'm in a tough spot here, because I'm basically forced to undergo all this drama since I have such a high-risk pregnancy. I've been researching (how else do you expect I'd be spending all this chill-out time but reading medical journals?) my rights as a pregnant woman, my options as far as birth, details on my exact condition, among watching documentaries and studying c-section rates, premature birth, and all these drugs they've been pushing on me. If I deliver before 37 weeks (which is an extremely high possibility), my chances of having a natural birth with minimal intervention are basically thrown out the window.

I'm mostly sick of being treated like some lab-rat or robot when I walk into the OB and would like to be listened to, respected, well-informed, and have the freedom to do things the way I want...while also having the security and safety of medical professionals in the likely situation that my little Savannah is going to need NICU care. The best combination of these things, considering my situation, would be a certified nurse midwife who practices out of Nashville in the same network of hospitals I'm currently in, and I'm PRAYING I can transfer my care to her!

As for bed rest, I'm doing fine. Watching lots of Call The Midwife (ironically) and The Office (less ironically), reading, making phone calls, and visiting with my in-laws. Our air conditioning broke while we were at the hospital last week, so we've been sleeping at my in-laws and spending most of our time there. They've been so wonderful, and keeping me company! I almost forgot what a homeschooling house sounded like, and it's been wonderful.

Sean scolds me if he catches me standing up or when he found out that I did a load of laundry yesterday...however, EVERYONE seems to be flipping out when they find out I'm not laying in my bed 24-hours a day! Right now I'm at Panera where I've been for the past four hours, and I consider that more restful than sitting in my bed! I am thankful for all the people who are so concerned about me, though.

As you can tell, all this craziness has my head running constantly. I'm not necessarily worried, just thinking on my little girly a lot. I'm trying to not think or study too much to the point where I grow anxious, but then again - ignorance is bliss, right? I truly have no idea what's going to happen, and I think that's what's helped me keep my head about all of this.

Then again, it probably WOULD be a good idea to spend some time doing something other than researching birth and pharmaceutical drugs. Does anyone have any ideas for how I can keep myself occupied during this undetermined amount of time? Any favorite new reads or hobbies you'd suggest?

Oh, and faithful readers, for my sake and yours, I ought to warn you that I will NOT be talking about pregnancy and babies every time I show my face on here. This is a huge part of my life right now, but I also want to continue to be a place that is relatable and encouraging in the areas of faith, marriage, and joyful & passionate living!!!



Thursday, July 17, 2014

27 Weeks: UPDATE


I don't even know where to begin.

Let's just preface ALL of this by saying, no, Savannah isn't born yet and neither am I in full-blown labor (or else I totally wouldn't be writing this). However, I AM in the hospital for observation for two days while they assess my situation and determine whether or not I get to go home tomorrow.

It all started last week when I noticed my little girl wasn't kicking as much as she normally did. For several days I felt barely anything other than a little flutter here and there, so I was a little concerned. She hadn't stopped moving completely, so I wasn't in a complete panic. I called the doctor on Monday, and they told me to come in right away for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound was completely fine, and Savannah was healthy and wiggling around, heart pounding strong. There really wasn't any reason for me feeling a lack of movement. However, during that ultrasound they discovered something funny concerning my cervix and sent me upstairs to talk to a nurse practitioner.

Now, I have explained this to so many people and it doesn't seem weird to me anymore, so I apologize if it's tmi for you :P

For those of you who don't know what a cervix is: picture a balloon. The main part of the balloon corresponds to the uterus (where unborn baby floats around), with the neck of the balloon being the cervix. During pregnancy, the cervix is closed to prevent baby from traveling down and into the vaginal canal and being born before she's supposed to be. An average cervix is 3-5cm long, and during labor it will widen (dilate) to 10cm.

Enter in Beka, the girl with a never ending list of weird, bizzaro problems with her body. First of all, my cervix has begin to dilate from the inside out, a process called "funneling." This can cause pre-term birth, but often times women will be put on bed rest and still might carry to term.

BUT in addition to the funneling, my actual cervix is less than one cm long, a third of the size of an average woman's. They call this a shortened/absent/insufficient cervix.

I was referred to a high-risk doctor here, and they studied it further. These two cervical issues, combined with the fact that I was definitely having contractions on Tuesday night, confirmed that they needed to act quickly to prolong delivery as long as possible. The doctor told me that if they didn't, I could have this baby very soon and little would stop her from being born nearly three months early. Her actual words were, "We need to admit you right now, or you might have the baby this weekend."
g u l p.

Wide-eyed and with nervous laughs (to keep from panicking, maybe?), we agreed and I checked into the labor & delivery ward. They hooked me up to Magnesium Sulfate, as well as antibiotics for 24 hours. From my research, the magnesium prevents labor for 24-48 hours, and no more than a couple weeks. This basically just bought me time so the doctors could give me two steroid shots in order to quickly mature Savannah's lungs. It also will protect her brain so that in case she was born, the odds of her developing problems such as cerebral palsy would be slimmer.

The magnesium wiped me out. I felt like I had the flu. They wouldn't let me eat or drink anything during the entire 24 hours, which didn't help either! This afternoon when they stopped the flow I instantly felt human again! During the 24 hours Sean and I had tons of people stopping by, and we made dozens of phone calls. Everyone has showered us with prayers and support, and we are so thankful to the Lord for all of them!

I am planning on being discharged tomorrow if I don't have any contractions until then. They're going to send me home with a blood pressure medication that is meant to relax the uterine muscles from contracting and hopefully will prolong labor for a few more weeks. Due to my shortened cervix, bed rest won't necessarily prevent labor from happening; she's coming on her own time and the doctors aren't quite sure when that will be.

The bottom line, however? We are preparing that Savannah will be born no later than at 34 weeks, but it's a stretch that she'll stay in that long. Whatever happens, she'll stay in the NICU until around her due date (October 12th). There's a very slim chance that she will have any major developmental issues due to her prematurity, but the high-risk doctors have made me aware that there is always risks for infection, bleeding in the brain, sight impairment, and other problems with babies born early (especially if she decides to make her grand entrance before 30 weeks!), but we trust that she will be in the safe hands of the doctors here in the Nashville area and ultimately in the hands of our loving heavenly Father.

I am in no pain, and Sean and I are not stressed or worried & I really think this has to do with the Lord's grace, because this is something that I would probably be freaking out about under normal circumstances.

God is good. He gives and He takes away, and no matter what happens, He will teach us and He will be glorified.

Please pray for little Savannah Joy; that she would stay in for at least another month, and that she would arrive with little complication, strong and healthy; that she would grow to love and follow the Lord, and bring joy to everyone she meets.

Please pray for Sean and I, that we would continue to trust God and for wisdom to make the right decisions, and a peace of mind in the midst of uncertainty.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, called us, visited, and brought us food! We are so overwhelmed by your love for us!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

early morning


It is 4:38AM. Good morning. I am up and listening to loud music and all the lights are on, because sometimes, being alone in the country in a dark house is the most terrifying thing you'll ever do.

So you wake up and do Buzzfeed quizzes & read articles about labor until the sun comes up and you can go back to bed. (btw, someone described labor as the pain you experience when you pinch the fat under your arm, but in your uterus. aw, some people want to ruin all my fun.)

But by the time the sun comes up and you feel like you can comfortably go back to bed without a murderer bursting through the front door (these are real fears), YOU'RE WIDE AWAKE from all the coffee your husband left you when he started his day even earlier than yours.

So with all these awake thoughts, I feel like I'm overdue for a life-update:

We've been busy. Separately. He's been interning at a radio station + working full time and I've been here and there and everywhere organizing our house and attempting DIY projects and spending a lot of time with my in-laws gallivanting around where we talk a lot and spend too much money at coffee shops.

Sean and I have been trying to figure out how to make time for each other when it's really only a few hours in the evening we have together. and that's hard. and i hate it. we're ignoring the fact that this might very well be the story of the rest of our lives. we're fighting for intentionality (is that a word?)

My iPhone screen kinda shattered, and that was tragic.

We've been church-hunting, which I realize is actually a super awkward issue to bring up with both the people of the church you're leaving as well as the people in the church you're visiting. don't understand why it has to be that way?

Savannah's room is painted and the floors are in, and I'm just a litttttle giddy. Also, I've been eating too many carbs and not enough kale.

I've realized that marriage isn't anything like what I thought it was going to be, but that's okay. It's not like this hyper-spiritual, head-in-the-clouds experience.

More realistically? It's the humility that comes after hearing my husband say he loves me even after I say something nasty; it's choosing to hold on to the other person, even when you don't necessarily want to; it's dying to yourself, giving love and grace without expectation, and taking the time to really listen.

It's dancing together after a concert in the park, in spite of hurt feelings from a fight the night before. It's laughing and talking all at once like best friends are supposed to do. It's him telling me I look beautiful as I watch my belly grow bigger and bigger; and it's me telling him I'm thankful for him working so hard even when I wish he was able to be home more.

Even when it doesn't seem like it, life is good. And when it especially doesn't seem true - God is good, all the time.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Becoming A Mother & Facing New Changes


When Sean and I got married last August, we knew we wanted children and were open to whenever that came along. After six months of marriage, I had stopped wondering when it was going to happen and totally stopped thinking about it. So when it DID happen, we were shocked but praised the Lord for the gift of life He placed inside me!

I'm young - only 19 - and both marriage and motherhood are happening for me at an age when most girls are in college, starting internships, or studying abroad. Even though I know full well that marriage & motherhood at a young age was exactly what God had best planned for me, the lies of the culture around me still creep in...

It whispers, "you're wasting your life".

It mocks, "you're not ready for this."

It degrades, "there's other women who would have done better at this than you."

It lies, "you're weak, God isn't strong enough to hold you."

So often I fall into the temptation to believe these lies and I grow disheartened:

Oh my goodness! I'm having a baby! Nothing's going to be the same again! I can't handle these changes! God, surly you could have chosen someone else for this task of motherhood. I'm clearly not cut-out for this.

I choose to fret instead of looking at my growing belly with overwhelming joy. I choose to feel regret instead of peace in holding my husband's strong hand. I choose to worry about the disapproving looks of others who scoff and think I'm too young - instead of rejoicing that the Lord is sanctifying me in such a unique way! I dwell on the opportunities I won't have instead of noticing all the open doors that a life of stay-at-home motherhood is going to offer me.

Do you see how easy it is to view a change in circumstances, such as impending motherhood, as a threat to the comfortable life you've grown accustomed to? As Christian women, we ought to see these changes as a sign that the Lord loves us and loves to teach us new things!

God desires to be glorified in our lives...but how can he be glorified if we fret and worry over what He calls blessings? Over what He calls good things? May we view changes such as these with JOY and run after them with reckless abandon!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DIY Photo Canvas


I've always loved those photo canvases you see everywhere - but I've never been a huge fan of the price tag that comes with them...see?


I had always wanted to make my own, and I totally didn't realize how EASY & CHEAP they are to make! I made this 8X10 photo canvas for around $2, and you can too!

You'll need an 8X10 canvas (I found these in packs of two at Hobby Lobby for $3.99 & used a 40% off coupon), Mod-Podge, a paintbrush, tissue paper, & an inkjet printer.


Cut a sheet of tissue paper to slightly larger than an 8.5X11" sheet of paper. I have an abundance of tissue paper leftover still from my wedding, so I didn't have to buy any.

If you want a crinkly, distressed look as your final product, this is all you need to do. However, if you want your canvas to be smooth and free of wrinkles, you can iron your tissue paper with high heat & no steam. I opted to just leave mine as it is - a little wrinkly. I also used an off-white color.



Tape the tissue around a regular sheet of copy paper. This is what you'll be feeding into your printer. Once you've selected the photo you'd like to use, print it out using the 8X10 dimensions. If you print it as a full page, some of your photo might be cut off. Here's what it looks like on my computer...


The tissue paper sheet should come out the other end of your printer just like a normal sheet of paper would, and this is what it will look like:


Notice how the photo is a little distressed because I didn't iron my tissue paper? If you don't like this look, ironing it smooth takes only a few seconds. DON'T iron after your image has printed, though! Do it beforehand!

Cut out your image (it's already a perfect 8X10). Brush the top of your canvas with a thin coat of Mod-Podge, and then lay your image down on top of it.


Generously brush 1-2 coats of Mod-Podge across the top of your photo, starting in the middle and forcing any air bubbles from the center to the ends. Make sure to secure the sides around the ends of the canvas as well.


Don't worry if it looks a mess at first - once the sealer dries, the image will go back to normal. Here's what my two canvases looked like as they were drying:


Again, the wrinkles were intentional.
& that's it! I finished both of these in less than twenty minutes!


I'm planning on making several more of these and giving them as wedding gifts to some friends who are getting married throughout the rest of the year (spoiler alert if any of you are reading this :D).

What are you waiting for? Go & be creative :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wednesday Letters


Dear Tennessee, why do you have to be so hot and humid and nasty? You're stunningly beautiful, especially in the early morning and evening, but a heat index of 105 is NOT okay. Ever.

Dear husband, thanks for living life with me. Thank you for striving to love me, especially in the midst of trials and growing pains of young marriage and impending parenthood. I can't wait to start this little family with you.

Dear pregnancy, I'm not sure if I could bear another fifteen weeks of you. I'm quite anxious to meet Savannah & see her precious little face and have her in our life, but I'm also ready to be done being pregnant in this hot humid nasty heat. I know this will all be worth it come October, but in July it's kind of hard to imagine D-Day will ever come. I'm sorry if this is a terrible thing to say, but you're only wonderful like 20% of the time. Six months in and you're not going to find me ranting and raving about how much I love being preggo XD

Dear gluten-allergy, what happened to you? It's like with my expanding waistline and more lustrous hair due to pregnancy, I can suddenly eat all the bread I want without a problem. And I am completely okay with this.

Dear Craigslist, you have been so good to me. So much extra cash & so many empty closets in my home. Ah, bliss.

Dear family in Massachusetts, I miss you guys so very much. I'm sorry if I ever took your friendships and company for granted, because it really stinks not having you around all the time. Counting down the days until I can see you again. It's too quiet around here.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

31:7


As a blogger (although half the time I feel so unqualified to call myself that), I feel this pull to write something inspiring or end every post with a mini-lesson for my readers to walk away with.

And sometimes, I don't feel like I have much of ANYTHING figured out - and definitely nothing to share on here that will enrich someone's life. I feel like I can't write about what is going on in life, genuinely, without having something purposeful to say to tie it all together.

Honestly, I sometimes really don't have a lesson to share. I'm confused. I don't even know what to think. I get too sucked into this idea of typing up perfectly worded devotionals and forget that I need to write to myself just as much.

...but isn't that the whole point? Isn't that what that word community is supposed to mean? Coming alongside each other and living this messy and beautiful life together, for One cause & for One Name? Even in great sorrow and confusion and staggering losses of faith?

Life is hard, and life is happening.

I have hidden away from this place for the past three weeks, and I'm not back because I've reached some great epiphany to share with y'all. Quite the opposite, really. I think I have less of a purpose for this space NOW than I did THEN. And that's okay.

Come along with me, won't you?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Moments


// This morning I'm thankful for:


1. a husband who makes me coffee before he leaves in the morning, who strives to humbly love me like Jesus does, and works so hard that allows me to stay home

2. rainy days, soft blankets, & my Bible

3. a real coffee table for our living room that requires coasters (this is seriously exciting)

4. new friends, lunch dates, and afternoons spent in bookstores

5. for Titus 2 women who mean more to me as a young wife than they'll probably ever know (especially my mom & mom-in-law)

6. little girl cribs and little girl dresses and especially the little girl kicks I get to feel all day long

7. deciding on a middle name for our Savannah --> Joy.

What are you thankful for this Monday morning?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Striving To Be Above Reproach

via

There's been so many changes in our life lately, and honestly, Sean and I haven't handled them very well. 

The first half of this year has been somewhat of a struggle - in our marriage, in our faith, in our jobs, in our church. We're trying to figure out who we are, what we're doing, where we're going, and why. In the process of all this confusion, we haven't honored God the way we should have. We haven't honored each other to the best of our ability. We haven't poured ourselves into the body of Christ like we had purposed to at the beginning of 2014. Our first year of marriage has been hard. The growth we've experienced has been tremendous, but the defeats have been bitter.

I should feel so full of life and purpose. I'm on the brink of so many new and exciting possibilities. I'm going to be a mother. I'm discovering more what I want this blog to look like. I'm cultivating a more honest, consistent, prayer life. I quit my job, and I'm excited to invest more time and attention into an eventual, home-based business and economy. I'm so free to learn, and grow, and explore.

But there's something holding me back, keeping me trapped in the back room of our mobile home where I look out the window at all the beautiful countryside, never to experience it. I can only hear lies: "Don't savor the joys...did you forget how discontent you are? Remember that way Sean failed you last week? Don't you remember how much of a failure YOU are? Things will never get better."

And I grow more and more disheartened. I have fallen so hard, time and time again. My merciful Savior always picks me up and tells me, "Go, and sin no more, stop listening to the lies" but I still stumble on my way. He showers us with blessings - news of a baby girl, a wonderful family, new job opportunities - but we shake our fists and wonder why He hasn't given us more.

It hasn't all been hopeless, but it is still incredibly tough to admit that we have fallen so hard. But as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10..."For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."

The photo at the top is from the latest She Reads Truth study on the book of Titus, and those words stopped me in my tracks earlier this week. I think this was the key to all my Spiritual and Relationship struggles these past several months as I realized: I was daily striving to live above reproach (a perfectly Biblical thing to do), but I was only striving for my own peace and happiness; to "fix" things. I was striving for simply behavior modification.

I was doing this when Sean and I disagreed on something and tried to come to a conclusion. I was doing this when I tried to be a "good" wife. I was doing this when I tried to give "spiritual" advice to a friend who was struggling. I was doing this when I only opened my Bible to read a Proverb or two because maybe that would give me a burst of Christ-centered joy I knew I so desperately needed but couldn't find.

I was doing all these things I N S T E A D of striving to simply live in communion with my God; to abide in Christ. To simply be still and know that He is God.

I was putting behavior modification ("living above reproach") on a pedestal as the solution to fix our struggling, to healing our hurts and fears, and to giving us direction. If we just do this, or if I just respond this way, or if we start acting like THAT couple, then everything could be different. 

When really, our problem has been rooted in our lack of daily communion with Christ - separately, and together. Why were we struggling so hard? BECAUSE we were struggling in the first place! We had lost sight of who the Lord was, what He was doing, and who we were in light of that. We were still holding on to those chains that He had broken when He called us to Himself.


These past several days have been like a cool drink of water after months of wandering the dessert. Sean and I had been gorging ourselves ON ourselves for too long, and it's finally time for a change. We're going to both be more intentional about daily communion with the Lord and fellowship with Him, and quit struggling so much to perform. Our focus has been on ourselves, but by His amazing grace, we might begin to see what we've been blind to for so long. 

Dear sisters reading along, would you pray for us during this time? How do you regain your focus on Christ after realizing you've been focusing on yourself for far too long?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Memories & Gender Reveal!

I had such a happy time with my wonderful family last week. 

After the wedding in Ohio, my parents and five younger siblings (ages 17, 11, 8, 3, and 15 months) came and spent five days with Sean and I in Tennessee. It was two of my brothers and my dad's first time down South and while they were here we enjoyed lots of driving around and enjoying Tennessee-type things (read: Chic-fil-a). 

So much Chic-fil-a.

My dad has been in the process of applying for jobs down here so that they will be able to move from Massachusetts within the year (!!!!!). I'm so excited to have them close by! It will be a huge transition for all of them, but a move in the direction they've wanted to go for years.









Gracie was only five months old when I got married, so I cherish every moment I get with her!


When my family was here, my sister-in-law Rachel took this hilarious picture of Gracie and Isabella (Sean's adopted 8-month-old sister). For the record, it was originally supposed to be a shot of them looking all cute next to my belly, but they decided to scream at exactly the same time and this was the only logical response:


With both of them being so little, I know they're going to grow up so close to my children. It's so neat to have a family with such drastic age differences between all the kiddos. You really see it all! (Seriously, there's fifteen kids between our families ranging in age from late twenties to 8 months.)

Oh, and if any of y'all haven't seen on FB or Instagram yet, FINALLY Sean and I found out the sex of the baby on Monday! 

We shrieked and cried in the ultrasound room when the nurse told us that our little peanut is a G I R L! We actually prayed for a girl and are thrilled beyond words that there will be another little girl running around here in no time at all! We're planning on naming her Savannah, and I hope she has her daddy's big brown eyes.


My mom says Gracie's a mirror image of me when I was a baby. Having her here made me so excited for October when we get to meet Savannah! I can't wait to see MY baby girl climbing in my bedroom curtains like Grace was :)



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Not Primarily Ethics

This was a post written by Ray Ortlund on The Gospel Coalition yesterday. Ortlund is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville that Sean and I have attended multiple times. These were wise and timely words for me! This post first appeared on The Gospel Coalition, June 3rd 2014.


The Christian life is not primarily a matter of ethics.  Primarily, it is a matter of faith.  Abraham trusted God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  As Kierkegaard points out in The Sickness Unto Death, “The opposite of sin is not virtue but faith.  Whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23).”
Ethics we can manage on our own.  We can even observe biblical ethics to keep God at a safe distance.  But if our hearts are believing the promises of God, we cannot say no to him.  We yield to him.  We suffer dislocation in this world for his sake.  We feel the ground shifting under our feet and we don’t panic.  Nothing seems stable, but we accept that.  We surrender to God.  Drawn on toward his promises, we soften, our hearts crack open, we start changing.
The most urgent question in our lives today is not moral versus immoral but true versus false, heavenly versus earthly, divine promise versus human pride, trust versus possession.
Good news for sinners who don’t mind handing everything over to God.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Favorite Blogging Resources (& meet some new friends!)


I LOVE blogging. I love the platform this blog gives me to be creative & to share my life with others. I love meeting new friends and being encouraged as I read of the ways God is working in their lives.

But let's face it - blogging is NOT easy. Some people might be under the impression that having a blog requires very little effort, but that is absolutely not the case! There is a lot of planning, organization, and creativity that goes into every single post. Also, a lot happens behind the scenes such as emailing, tracking my Google Analytics account, designing graphics, fixing bugs in HTML, returning comments, searching for link-ups, and actually reading other blogs!

While I wouldn't even remotely call myself an expert at this yet, I HAVE picked up a few tricks along the way these past couple of years. There's a boatload of information out there for beginners, but here's some of the resources I've used time and time and time again!

// PINTEREST

Pinterest is a fantastic tool for bloggers. Have you ever noticed that most of the DIY projects and recipes you pin lead you back to someone's blog? Not only is Pinterest great for promoting YOUR hard work, it's a great source for inspiration and tips. Take advantage of the search bar at the top - I use it instead of Google sometimes!


Also, if you haven't already, download a Pinterest Plugin for your browser. This makes it easy to pin your own content directly from your blog! If you have a PC, here's one for Chrome and also one for Firefox.

// PICMONKEY

PicMonkey (affiliate link) is a free photo editing website that allows you to tweak pictures & design simple graphics for FREE. I designed my entire blog using PicMonkey! They also offer a Royale Membership for $33 a year that opens more options on their site. Until I learn PhotoShop or something of a similar nature, PicMonkey is just fine for me.

// GOOGLE ANALYTICS

When it comes to tracking your blog traffic and site referrals, Google Analytics shows you what your Blogger or Wordpress dashboard does NOT. Analytics helps you analyze your traffic and views more efficiently by tracking the average time readers spend on your blog, what brought them there, and how many pages visited. I'm still studying up on how to utilize this more effectively, but that's basically it in a nutshell.

// BLOGLOVIN'

A huge part of my blogging time is spent reading other blogs. Why should I expect others to invest time into reading & encouraging my hard work if I'm not out doing the same? Bloglovin' is my favorite way to keep track of all my favorite blogs. It organizes every new post in a nifty feed I can scroll through at my leisure. There's even an iPhone & Android app! Oh, and if you haven't followed The Castilles yet, what are you waiting for? ;)

// AMAZON AFFILIATES

Did you know that you can make money blogging? (There's loads of information out there today that explains this concept in greater detail, so I won't get into that right now.) One easy way is to sign up as an Amazon Affiliate. Through this program, you can earn small commissions when people buy products off of Amazon using your special links. I've made a few bucks here and there over the past six months, so it's not impossible!
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One last thing before I close...I've had the privilege of having these girls hang out on my sidebar this past month (it's seriously been an honor), and I want to introduce them! Meet Victoria and Chelsea, and check out their little corners of the internet once you're done here! I have gleaned SO much from these ladies since discovering their blogs, whether it's new recipes, DIY projects, or their thoughts on motherhood, life, and saving money. Enjoy!

Chelsea @ The Contented Wife Blog



Some favorite posts: Focusing on the Positives of Parenting // Why I Take My Baby to Church Services // I'll Never Be THAT Mom

"I absolutely love marriage and family relationships, and I want to encourage others to focus on their families and realize the importance of building their homes. My prayer is that the readers of my blog are inspired to strengthen their families and lead a more spiritual life." 

Victoria @ Poverty-Luxe



"Hello! My name is Victoria, I have a husband named James and a daughter named Alice, and we live in a tiny apartment in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I blog over at poverty luxe., where I mainly write about clothes, crafts, cooking, and our adventures as we learn to love living the broke life in the city of angels. I also have an etsy shop of the same name, where I sell clothing and accessories that I make from vintage and recycled fabrics, and just started the fashion program at our local community college, so I suppose you’ll read a lot about that too. Hope you stop by to say hello!"

Want to sponsor The Castilles for the month of June? Check out my Sponsorship page for more information!

A Harvest of Blessing
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