Capsule Wardrobe, Part 3: Maintenance

In the past few months, we've talked about creating a capsule wardrobe from your existing pool of clothes and giving yourself the freedom to own things you that you love. We've also discussed how to do a second evaluation of your choices, and how to actually get rid of those extra things that are cluttering up your space.

But sometimes all of those initial decisions feel good for only a short time. Then the shopping spree hits, or the emotional crisis comes, or your washer breaks and you wish you had more clothes to avoid washing them so often.

This is when you need a little help in the maintenance area. Pro tip: this maintenance thing applies to any clutter problem you are experiencing, not just that of your closet.

5 Books That Will Change Your Perspective (and the secret to having time to read them)

I know it’s hard to find the time to read – life is so busy and loud, full of to-do lists and errands and social media and Netflix and when on earth is there time to sit and casually read a book?

Two answers:

One, there’s this magical thing called Hoopla that uses your library card to set audiobooks and ebooks right into your lap, at zero charge to you. You can listen while you’re doing dishes, driving to the grocery store, or taking a shower. You can read while you’re sitting in a waiting room, breastfeeding your baby, or when your toddler unexpectedly falls asleep in the stroller. It’s not hard to find a few extra minutes in this way.

Two, just read this quote from Lauren Graham’s new book (which, incidentally, is the first one I’m going to review for you):

3 Easy Ways to Save Money WHILE Shopping

I use these tools because they are easy. They take very little upkeep from me, and I don't have to devote a lot of extra time to them, like I would in the vast realm of couponing, for instance. This post isn't sponsored in the least, I just thought I'd share these with you so we could all save money together. Everyone can use an extra dollar in their pocket, eh?

Basically, what follows are thrifty mom-hacks to get you started on owning your money. A budget helps more than anything, but I'm not super qualified in leading you through that process, so I'll keep it simple.

I'm sharing three tools that I use to to make my shopping a little more worth it, and at the bottom of each summary, I'm including a referral code. If you're interested in using these tools, I'd love for you to use my referral codes and be on my team! It gives me a small bonus on my account, and also in some cases will add you to my team, which means that our spending can add up faster to give us bonuses together! Yay!

Living Succulent

I've been missing for a week or two now. Things have been  c r a z y  (is there ever a month of June that isn't?). Financial stuff, a family death, and some crappy sickness has been beating us all over the place. I kind of lost my blog and newsletter footing for a hot minute. But, in my absence here, I had the fantastic opportunity to do a guest post for Fueling Mamahood! Let me know what you think of it.

I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to grow succulents. You would think it would be easy, considering that I live in the type of climate they're supposed to thrive in. But the problem is, I myself don't understand how to live here.

Currently a transplant from the lush green grasses of Ohio and then the stunning peaks of Colorado, I've landed in the mostly flat and mostly dry desert of West Texas. (I know, technically, Colorado is a desert climate as well. But the snowy mountains, thick pines, and graceful aspens sort of disguised that fact for me.) This change has left me dizzy, parched, and frustrated.

There's a common myth about the desert: things in the desert don't need water the way everything else does. Desert things can basically survive without water - it's their superpower.

But plants in the desert don't need less water than foliage all over the rest of the planet. They have simply learned to take in water differently. 

Donuts, Diets, and That Skinny Chick Next-door

It was an ordinary Wednesday night. A thunderstorm rolled in the darkness outside the windows. The baby was sound asleep in her crib. And obviously, I was exhausted from the day and should have been going to bed.

But I felt a little tease of hunger tugging at me. I could not shake the feeling that I needed me some food. Barefoot, tousled-haired, and determined, I slipped into the kitchen and started whipping up a batch of chocolate chip pancakes.

Ten o'clock at night, and there's butter frying in a pan and mini chocolate chips dotting the floor. (My husband just laughed and told me I was cute. I believed him.)

Skinny chicks can be addicted to food, too.

I'm not talking about eating disorders - obesity, bulemia, anorexia, etc. That's a whole other thing. I'm talking about being emotionally connected to food in such a way that it kinda controls your life. This can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside - it matters what food is doing to your insides, how it's affecting your decisions and playing on your heart.

How I Use Pinterest to Meal-Plan

Chili Lime Fajita Salad
My Pinterest is a cluttered, hot mess. Just trying to find my way around all of the boards on there gives me a headache. I end up finding the perfect dessert for next week's bible study and planning how to redecorate the baby's room, but all I really wanted needed to do was make dinner.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a quick and easy way to reorganize and or/delete your pins. I certainly do not have time to sift through 3,000 photos and delete the clutter one pin at a time.

I need a better way to harness Pinterest's amazing resources when it comes to meal-planning. I want to be able to find that one recipe I tried a month ago, without wading through a bunch of other things that make me drool - things that I don't even have the ingredients for.

We've all experienced the before-dinner panic or the pang of frustration when you look at your grocery bill and realize you bought lots of unnecessary items. Meal-planning can save you tons of money and stress. BUT it can sap a lot of your time.

Enter my quick method of meal-planning Pinterest boards.

13 Summer Fun Hacks

Some seasons of life can make you feel like you’re being chased by time in the form of a rabid dog. And in that case, you have no choice but to constantly run away, right?

Summer tends to get that way. Between events that you feel obligated to go to (there’s a long list of weddings and graduations, isn’t there?) and the knowledge that summer is so darn short, you’re likely to get frazzled. In no time at all, you’re hovering in September over a cup of coffee, wondering where the summer went.

Here’s the secret to summer: it’s okay to drop your to-do list. In five years, what will you remember about this summer? How pretty your house was, how much money you made, or how much fun you had with those beautiful people in your life?

Obviously, my go-to activity is taking a hike (because that can happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone big or small), but I want to challenge myself and y'all to try some new things - or some old things, with new flair.

To help you own your summer, I’ve put together a list of things that will take you back to summers as a kid – when everything seemed simpler, and all that mattered was being in the sun with your bestest of friends.

Shame-Dropping, Part 2: Now What?

It's a recurring theme lately, to rejoice in your imperfections. To be "real" and honest with the world. We like to glorify our failures and focus on our chaos. Our day is one long line of messes all strung together. Stress and worry carve lines in our faces and eat holes in our sleep. It's all we can do not to strangle the cat or shout at the husband or cry in the bathroom. Sometimes six cups of coffee and Netflix are the only things getting us through the day.

That is so sad. We weren't meant to barely hang on by a thread and a giant vat of caffeine. 

We have become content with our dirty little selves. We choose to embrace imperfection and paste it all over instagram and facebook, telling the world our laughable sorrows and glorifying our failures. And I'm all for it - but not at the expense of our freedom.

In the midst of being content in our puddles of mud, we have accidentally forgotten that we can stand up and walk to a better place. That finding beauty in the ordinary, while admirable, is not what our lives are really about. Our hope is not in the beauty of this world; our hope is in what we cannot see, things that are meaningful beyond these temporary days in the sun.

It's great that you have dirt and anger and spilt milk and failure in your life. It's great that you are willing to release the shame and share these shortcomings. But we're not supposed to get applause for our messes. You and I are called to renounce our sin. To not only be transparent enough to confess, but also to turn away from the sin and fight against it.

A week ago, we talked about how important it is to confess our sins, messes, fears, and addictions, and bring them into the light. This is huge, not only with the little things, but also the big. Being transparent can open you up to so many blessings.

But what is the point in dragging our pieces of darkness into the light if we're just going to crawl back into that black hole we came from? Showing off our little messes is not enough. Admitting failure is not enough. Taking blame is not enough. Confessing sin is not enough.

"Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!" 
2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Worldly sorrow leads to depression, shame, darkness, hiding, and ultimately, death in your soul. "Godly sorrow" leads to repentance and positive actions. Take the darkness within you, confess it in the light, and then move on. If you're trapped in something you did, that is not from God. He seeks to forgive us and free us from our sins.

Sometimes, this is hard to live in. Often it feels like everything in our lives is controlling us instead of us controlling it. We are constantly falling in love with everything but God, and it leads us into slavery to things. Things we disguise ourselves with - yoga or minimalist style or gardening or a new diet or whatever it is. And suddenly our freedom is trapped in all of these lovely little things that aren't really bad.

Yes, I'm kind of preaching to myself. 

You and I must go beyond our love for ordinary beauty in the messes. We must fight darkness. Challenge the devil. Flee sin.

"We don't just confess our sin; we throw in with each other, point each other to the One who forgives and gives us the power to fight it! We have grown apathetic about sin, my friend. We have let it take hold in our lives, and in the dark it has all the power."
-Jennie Allen, in her book, Nothing to Prove

I'm not asking you to fight this battle alone. I'm ready to stand next to you in this war and fight. Fight for prayer in our houses. Fight for love in our families. Fight for freedom from enslavement to depression and anxiety and social media and lies. 

It's time to live fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to get up out of our mud puddle and walk into glorious light.

I think lately I've been giving you a giant me-cupcake with a little bit of Jesus-frosting on top, and I'm sorry about that. I've been sharing a bunch of things about my life, then finishing them off with a timid suggestion that maybe God is important. But as God's redeemed warrior, I have the authority to proclaim His word to y'all as the truth.

No one needs me; I am not important. But what is needed is more and more and more of Jesus.

> > > 

What do you need to fight against? What do you need to let go of? Pick one person (it could even be me) that you can share this thing with. Someone to pray for you, challenge you, and keep you from continuing in your sin. 

(For more reading, check out Romans 6.)

Sweet Summer Surprise

Summer is *officially* here.

I'm in Texas, so it sort of feels like summer started two months ago, but nevertheless, it's for sure happening now because I had watermelon and corn on the cob in the same day. Sweet perfection. What are some things you do to welcome summer?

And now for the surprise. For the last few months, I took part in a spring Mom Love Fellowship. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? You don't even have to know what it is and already you're interested. 

A wonderful woman set up a mommy pen pal system that goes in 3-month cycles. You get paired with another woman, send each other snail mail and one $20 gift over those three months, and receive all sorts of joy from blessing someone else. 

I loved it. Handwritten letters mean the world to me. I was paired up with the lovely Breezy (check out her instagram here). She sent me cute cards every month and her package was the best. It was stuffed with:

  • dark chocolate 
  • a bright headband
  • some outdoorsy "remnant rubs" that work sort of like stickers (does anyone know if you can use these as temporary tattoos or labels for glass jars?)
  • the most adorable mommy-daughter matching elephant necklaces, which you can find at Target (we'll be wearing them for the first time at an upcoming wedding and I'll probably tear up a bit because of the cuteness overload)
Justine, the woman who runs this nifty program, is doing a summer Mom Love Fellowship, and you have a little less than a week to sign up. The deadline is Wednesday, May 31st. It's free to join!! (Besides what you pay in communicating with your pen pal.)

I know we're all busy and short on cash + time, but this is your chance to reach out to someone you've never met before. An opportunity to travel far with your letters when you can't travel far physically. An option to give encouragement - and also get some in return.

You're gonna want to be a part of this.

If you're still not sure, head to this page to get a complete description of what will be required of you.

Summers can get crazy busy, so tell me: what are your must-dos in the summer? I don't want to waste away the months constantly complaining about the heat. I want to fully enjoy this season of smelling like sunscreen and driving with the windows down (while blasting the a/c because, you know, Texas).

Shame-Dropping, Part 1: Confession

Have you ever felt utterly ashamed of something you did or something that happened to you? Overwhelmed by that feeling of shame, did you cower a little and do everything you could to cover up what had happened? Did you hide?

Ugh. I do this all the time. I am easily ashamed. And I figure if I bury it deep enough, it will be like it never happened.

I recently had a beautiful morning with God (that involved me being up way earlier than I wanted to, but hey, these things never come easy) that lit up my heart. I asked God to explore the dark corners of my soul and pull out the things that I'd been hiding from other people and from Him.

He found my Box of Shame.

I don't know why I do it, but I stow away things in this box all the time. Things I'm too afraid to admit to myself that I did; things I'm determined to never let anyone know. The longer they have stayed hidden, the worse they seem to me; unforgivable actions that define me. I fear the judgement from others, my own conscience...and God.

Guilt and shame - they're not from God at all. I'm the one that buries all that crap in the dark. And I think the truth is that most of the time I don't believe that God is bigger than my problems or my sins. 

I say I do, and I mean well. But if I believed that my problems were insignificant in comparison with who God is, then would I really spend hours worrying over them? Crying about them? Stressing to the point of exhaustion? Would my sins make me cower in the dark if I truly believed that they had no power over me?

Maybe you need this reminder, too. This chance to see grace in a different way. Because here's the truth:

God is always bigger.

God is  a l w a y s  bigger.

It's one of those monolithic truths that is almost too big for us to handle. It seems too good to be true, so we write it on inspirational posters and are done with it, moving on to things that are easier to understand.

I'm here to tell you that God is bigger than anything you are ashamed about. And it's time we break the chains of shame that keep us from being honest with each other and ourselves.

Today I'm confessing to you some of the things I'm ashamed about. Things that make me feel weak, inadequate, ugly, unloved. And it is my own fault for letting them control my life this way. I want to take away the power they have over me.

As you read over these little confessions, think about your own Box of Shame. Why is it taking up space in your heart and in your life?

I have dandruff.
Gross, flaky skin cells hibernating on my scalp. Yep. It comes and goes like the freaking seasons and I hate it. It makes me feel ugly and dirty and like a woman-failure, because how good at life can I be if my hair is in this state?

My driving record is completely clean...but I've been in an accident. 
I'm proud of my driving record; it's squeaky-clean. But I have a secret. When I was fresh out of high school and driving my own little car, I stopped at a stoplight behind another car and got distracted. I was fiddling with the radio, checking my hair, whatever. I thought the light had turned green, tapped the gas a little, and rear-ended the car in front of me. I had an immediate reaction of fear and adrenaline and everything in me told me to run. I wanted to get out of that situation. The other driver and I ended up deciding that we could both drive off without reporting it because there was no damage to either car. But I couldn't bear to tell anyone that it had happened.

A few years later, a friend asked me to drive her car for her. All would have been well and good except that our path was blocked by a truck and I had to back down a hill and turn at the same time and I'm not so great at using my mirrors sometimes, so I backed right into the underbrush next to the road and got us stuck. The damage to the car was minimal, no one was hurt, etc. etc. but I was miserable. I couldn't get over the fact that I had let my friend down and worse, caused damage to something she owned. While, you know, making myself look like a complete idiot.

I have creepy dreams.
I'm a completely straight, married woman, but for some reason, Satan likes to send me random lesbian dreams. And not about strange lesbian women, either. I dream that I am a lesbian chick who likes girls. It's creepy and it leaves me feeling dirty and disoriented when I wake up. I also get dreams where a man is attacking me with the intent of rape. These make me feel ashamed, as if I've done something wrong, or my brain is messed up. But that's what Satan likes to do: make us feel dirty and unworthy of God's love. If you think of it, please help me pray away these unnecessary dreams.

Doubting and Worrying is my life.
Every day is a battle between choosing God's peace and joy vs. being controlled by little fears, worries, and doubts. I am constantly on the verge of quitting my day. Fear stops me from doing many things. Doubts keep me paralyzed enough that I don't do the things God asks of me. I worry about my baby, about our future, about finances, yada yada yada. That's why I wrote a post on carefree motherhood. I don't believe moms should be slaves to worry. It doesn't mean that I will ever "conquer" it; but it does mean that every day, I get to exercise God's power over it. Every day I get to come to Him to renew my peace about it. The choice has to be made again every time I come unglued.

I had sex before I was married.
Yep, that's right. I committed one of the "big" sins (isn't it silly how we think sin is big? Nuh-uh; God is big, and our sin is small). I liked having a "virgin card" to play whenever I screwed up in life. I would be like, "Yeah, I'm a sinner and I did that...but at least I'm still a virgin." I compared myself to other girls in my head and I was pretty self-righteous about it. So when I realized that I had lost my one and only bargaining chip with God, I crumpled up like a bag of flour. I know that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, I know that He forgives, and I know that I should never ever compare my sins with someone else's. I honestly had to re-learn my faith in God after this happened (I'm still working on it, actually). It sucked and it was my fault, but in the end it is bringing me closer to Him.

Even writing all this now, my face is burning and my fingers are hesitating and I am shrinking, just a little, from sharing these things with you. And I will tell you, it's easier to share these things via the internet than to speak them to a close friend in my living room. Why? Because I don't have to see your reactions. I don't have to try to tailor my own actions in order to receive the largest dose of understanding from you.

Let me see, I'll act devastated by my mistakes. Or perhaps I should laugh it off. Then they'll understand. Then they won't judge me.

But our mistakes are not made "okay" by other people's opinions of them. Our mistakes come under God's microscope. And do you know what He is saying?

"The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us." 
Psalm 103:8-12
Go and shed some light on your weaknesses and your mistakes and the things you wish weren't true about yourself. Share them with a close friend or just sit with God and open up to Him. Let Him take away all your shame and replace it with His never-ending love.

You are not the first person to know these things. I did share all of them with my husband first, because true confession and repentance is best done with someone else strong in the faith. By sharing these things, I am done with them. By handing them to God, I renounce all of my fear and shame connected to them. I hope that you can do the same.

<<< For further reading, check out 2 Corinthians 4 <<<

It's Potty Time!

If you've ever been a part of any potty training experience, you probably know how tedious it is to hang out in the bathroom waiting for your kid to pee. And the more you focus on results, the more you get frustrated. So if there was a way to bypass all that stress, you'd do it, right?

Enter "early potty training." I've heard the negative side of this (and maybe you have, too): You put in a lot of effort when they're babies and you still have to potty train them later. So why try?

Because it works. 

I've been using the Baby Bjorn Smart Potty for two-three months now, and I can almost guarantee that Roxy, my 8-month-old baby girl, will pee in her potty 4+ times a day. This is directly related to the fact that I take her to the potty a lot. I sit her in the bathroom after she nurses, and then in half hour increments after that. We've gotten pretty good at our loo routine. Often it results in her diaper remaining dry until naptime.

I totally reuse the same diaper if it's not soiled (budget win!).

There were some snags in the beginning, to be sure. The first day we had the potty, I got her to pee three times and poop once in her little Baby Bjorn (I was over the moon), but after about four days the excitement of the little potty had faded. Sitting on the floor of my bathroom had lost it's charm. The word "potty" got on my nerves. And then suddenly she wasn't peeing in her potty at all. But we persevered anyway and it completely paid off.

Let me pause by added a small disclaimer: I haven't seen this through to the end yet. My baby is only 8 months old. But the fact that she uses the toilet almost every time I set her on it seems like a HUGE success to me. Also she poops in it, which is WAY easier to clean up then a blowout diaper + poopy outfit.

Interested? Here's what you need to do to get started on some Early Potty Training for yourself:

Get the right potty. Most little potties are made for toddlers, so check around and get one specifically for babies. I bought this one in grey and we've never looked back. It's easy to empty/clean. There's a cutout in the front that baby can hold on to and that doubles as a pee-guard for baby boys. And it's quite small, so my 15-lbs.-if-she's-fully-dressed baby girl can sit with her feet on the floor.

Prep a little. For me, it was as simple as purchasing a plastic bin from the Dollar Tree and stuffing it with diapers, wipes, and hand sanitizer (I hate washing my hands), then finding space for it in my bathroom near her little potty. All you need to do is make sure you have the supplies you need to change diapers in your bathroom. Easy-peasy.

Set your own goals. If you want to merely introduce your baby to the potty and get him or her comfortable on it, just place them on the potty (sans diaper) one or more times a day, ideally when you yourself have to be in the bathroom anyway. That's it. It's entirely up to you how much time you spend on this method of potty training.

Focus on timing and consistency. Trying to take her into the bathroom every time I peed wore me out in the beginning. To take away the stress factor, I chose one time to take her to the potty: immediately after every feeding. This is the best time to ensure she'll be able to pee. Plus, it's easy for me to be consistent. Try to pick at least one time a day that you feel you can be consistent with. Start there, then add more potty time as you feel ready. Consistent timing is everything; you want to establish a routine baby can depend on.

Have a cue. In order to get baby to connect her little potty with actually peeing, you need to have a cue word, noise, or sign. I use the sign language term for "potty" (and I always say the word out loud as well). I do it each time I hear her wet her diaper, each time I place her on the potty, and each time she actually pees in the potty. Of course I get ridiculously excited so that she knows the bathroom is where the cool kids hang out.

Be patient. If you jump right in full force, you're likely to get frazzled like I did. So take it from me and pace yourself. No matter how "successful" you are or aren't at first, relax. You're way ahead of the game! Mine cried a bit the first time I set her on the potty, but then later that same day she also peed and pooed in it. Make it fun for both of you: play some music, give her a toy she can only have in the bathroom (my choice was a plastic solo cup and she loved it, haha). As with all learning, it's about the process, and babies are learning literally everything at once. Kudos to them, right?

It doesn't have to be "all or nothing." Because your baby is still little, there are going to be plenty of times when you want (and need) your baby to use a diaper. And there will be days where you just plain forget to even try. That's okay! Do what you can, when you can. Keep in mind there will be "regressions." I had a few different weeks where my timing was off, I got lazy, she got confused, and I couldn't get her to pee in the thing (yes, I'm tired of typing the p word) at all. But we got back on course eventually and now she does great.

If you're not quite ready to buy a baby potty and commit to all of this, there are still a few things you can do to prep your little one for potty training!

Take them into the bathroom with you. Acquaint them with the toilet, the sound of it flushing, tell them what you're doing, etc. Anything that takes away the fear and mystery of going to the bathroom.

Change baby's diapers immediately. The more often they sit in a wet/soiled diaper, the more they will get used to ignoring the feeling. You want them to know it's something that needs taking care of, and that being dry is always better.

Have diaper-free time. Put your little one down on a waterproof mat/changing area where they are safe to play for awhile. Or you can have them hang out with you outside (pants-less & diaper-less) if they're a bit older. Every time you notice them peeing, make some sort of cue noise/sign that you can use later. By giving your baby time without wearing a diaper, he/she will get used to the feeling of peeing without it - and also the feeling of a dry bottom!

More resources:

Strength in 5 Minutes

Whenever someone is trying to sell you on an idea, they squirm their way into your day by suggesting, "You have 5 minutes in your day for this, can't you just take 5 minutes?"

But as we all know, 5 minutes adds up. 5 minutes on the phone with Aunt Sharon results in 5 less minutes that you have to eat your lunch. 5 minutes spent at Target takes away at least 25 minutes of your grocery shopping time (am I right?). Spending time doing one thing is always going to be taking time from something else. That's just how it works.

This means that our time should be spent doing only what we actually need and want to do.

We're not in control, we're not able to change our circumstances, and we definitely can't always stick to a schedule. But what we can do is work with our time in ways that benefit us long-term. Something as simple as chunking like tasks together can revolutionize your day.

Capsule Wardrobe Phase 2: the Re-Eval

If you were with me last month, you probably remember my fantastic closet transformation as a result of Project 333. We sectioned off 33 items for our capsule wardrobe, and then boxed up all the extras we thought we might want to keep (or were sure we couldn't get rid of just yet).

I'm here to help you figure out those leftovers. 

This is serious stuff right here. Phase 1 gets you excited and on track, but without Phase 2 you are likely to fail and return to your old ways. Want a simplified wardrobe to be your lifestyle? Then stick with me. This next part's all about making it last.

Finding Your Post-Partum Pose

Me 40 weeks pregnant and doing yoga at Garden of the Gods.
Way back when, I saw a photo of a friend doing a beautiful yoga pose called crow pose. And I thought, "I want to do that." I had only barely begun to show an interest in yoga. One of my maternity workout videos had a short yoga segment and I loved it (probably because it gave me a break from all the squats.

Pregnancy + having a baby sort of muddled my initial enthusiasm, and by the time I got back on track in January, I wasn't sure how to pursue any sort of physical goal.

Quicksand Days

I need to stop spending so much money on groceries. The headache's back - drink more water. I'm never going to get my house organized the way I want it. Ugh, my hair; back in the bun it goes. My head is full but suddenly I'm bored, listless, depressed. Sucked into the mundane again.

When did all this little stuff become so big? When did I start worrying more about dirty dishes than about my husband's smiles? When did holding my beautiful baby in my arms become less than enough for me? What the heck am I even worrying about?

Together Forever

When I picture forever being with my man, I see us standing next to each other, holding hands and so in love. We are strong in the face of whatever comes. We are in this together, like a team of horses pulling the same carriage.

And that's sometimes what being together forever looks like. But it is also a bunch of other rubbish that falls between the cracks, things that I don't want to picture at all. Things that make me feel lonely and displaced from the romantic image in my head.

April Mini Post (+ some exciting news!)


Focusing on one yoga pose clears my head. It was so refreshing to only have one physical goal for the month of March that I've decided to keep it going this month, too. I'm still working on my crow pose; my big picture goal for the year is a handstand.

Babies grow (and learn) s l o w l y. Mine is 6 months and I've been entirely too result-focused. I am seeing some progress in my baby "projects", though: she's eating a little bit more food, actually peeing in her little baby potty (post to come on that soon!) and using the sign for "milk" when she sees me.

Veggies can be luxuriously tasty and simple. There are two veggies that I'm uber excited to share with you. One is spaghetti squash (which you can cut in half, throw in a crockpot with frozen chicken breast, and have an entire meal ready with almost no prep work. The squash innards literally come apart in spaghetti form. Genius.) and zucchini (which can be scooped out, baked, and then filled with sausage, cheese, or other protein for a tasty zucchini boat dinner).

Drinking water is life-changing. The more water you drink, the less likely you are to snack, overeat at mealtimes, and get that heavy, lazy feeling in your body. As a breastfeeding mama I have been drinking almost 100 oz. per day!

Fellowship is not nice - it's necessary. Living a life mostly in my home, mostly alone, and limiting my social life to instagram has been, well, not good. God meant us to do life together, and introvert or not, I need some solid social interaction. To help with this, I became part of a three-month Mom Love Fellowship group that a blogger friend started. I'm also forcing myself out of the house more often, making friends with my neighbors, and taking phone calls. Shocking, I know.


This month I'm doing a capsule wardrobe (known as Project 333), keeping up with my yoga pose challenge, and focusing on my baby girl's sign language.

But by far the most exciting part of this new month is that I'm toeing the lines of my comfort zone and sending out a mini newsletter! This will be a short encouragement series that goes out once a week for four weeks, for a total of four little emails just for you. I'll be giving you some real questions to guide you towards recognizing and using the talents you have. Those dreams and skills you have, even if buried deep or forgotten, are meant to shine!

I'm curious to see how this changes my connections with y'all. I so desperately want to be more than a page to you; I want to laugh and cry and pray with you - essentially, I want to be your friend. I haven't had many close friends this past year, and it resulted in a lot of unnecessary feelings of loneliness. That being said, God is always always always more than enough to fill any void in my life.

The Capsule Wardrobe, Phase 1: Project 333

Somehow it's (almost) Easter and spring and I missed all of winter because I'm in Texas now and holy cow is this year going by fast! Last week I gave y'all a few tips on minimalism and how it can benefit your life. Today I'd like to share with you one big way I'm letting it affect my life as part of my April monthly venture. 

Project 333 is a minimalist challenge that encourages you to revamp your wardrobe and take your fashion style to the next level. The challenge is to take your current wardrobe and scale it down to a manageable amount of items. Things that you will actually wear, and wear well. The goal is to have a compact closet filled only with items that you love and that work well together.

It does not mean that you have to wear the same shirt every day. It does not mean that your wardrobe has to consist of one or two colors. It does not mean you have to wear boring things. And it does not mean that you have to give away everything that isn't part of your chosen 33 items.

What it does mean is that you open yourself up to a little extra space and free time. There's also the added bonus of less dirty laundry floating around. And because you have only a few things to take care of, it is easy to hang up, fold, and generally keep things tidy. Are you ready to be bold, simplified, and freed from excess?

Minimalism: Should You Jump On the Bandwagon?

I tend to have a hard time relaxing in my home because I know that there is always something that has to be done (laundry, dishes, tidying up, trying to decorate, re-organizing a closet that's exploded) never ends. And I know I'm not the only woman who's felt that way.

How has this happened to us? We were not meant to be slaves to our stuff or stressed out by our homes. Womanhood should not be defined by the messes we've cleaned up or the chores we've completed.

Most moms and women I know fall into two categories: One, women who stress about keeping their homes neat and tidy, staying on top of laundry and dishes, and can't stand a mess anywhere - but are always cleaning. Two, women who have decided that other things are more important than cleaning/tidying, and their homes are complete wrecks in favor of having fun and making memories.

Me? I'm determined not to fall into either category. I want to have a comfortably spacious home that is generally clean and takes minimal maintenance, without me being an obsessive organizer. (Isn't that the dream?)

So how do we escape the rat-race that is our homes? Is minimalism the cure-all to this stress-clean-tidy cycle? Or is minimalism just a fancy name for a decorating trend? 
I personally have always loved the idea of being a minimalist. I covet those open, clutter-free spaces that seem to bring such a relief to the mind. Those neat and tidy areas that leave you free to focus on one thing at a time, instead of being bombarded with details.

But getting to that point in life has always eluded me. No matter how much stuff I give to goodwill or throw away, no matter how much I try to organize my things neatly, there is always more. Always too much stuff and never enough time to take care of it.

I've decided I don't have time for any of that anymore. I'm turning minimalistic - in a way. There is no special secret. No intense organizational skills or superwoman-sized willpower required. All that is needed for you to decide that you want your life to change...and then you have to be willing to go for it.

You can relax and be freed from housework. You can have time to have a hobby or a goal or a dream again. You can be a woman - instead of "just" a mom who wipes dirty faces and a wife who washes dirty dishes and a friend who is never available.

Here's a little taste of the why.
  • TIME. Most women I know have a laundry day. A to-do list - scribbled on a pad of paper or just lodged in the back of their heads. A spring cleaning week (that usually turns into a month...or gets pushed back till autumn). Maintaining all of our items seems to sap away our time and energy faster than anything else in life. I want to fight to get my time back. I'm a stay-at-home mom; if I don't have time for things, then who does? I can literally create my own schedule.
"You buy everything twice - once with your dollars, then again with your minutes." >Allie Casazza
  • STRESS. This is obviously very closely linked with time. But it holds another layer that we don't always think about. Why do we feel trapped in our homes, or unable to fully relax? We've let it become our job. Homemaking can be anything we want it to be, but instead it has turned into an ugly cleaning beast. There is no point in allowing stress into our lives. We need to cut out anything that is adding to that burden.
  • DEBT. This one is sneakier still. Everyone has a little bit (or a lot) of debt. It just sort of...happens. It can only end if we change our spending habits. And when you own less things and find the joy that comes with that freedom, you realize you'll do a lot to keep from messing that up. You don't impulse-buy. You can see all of the food in your pantry, so you don't waste money buying duplicates or replacing things that have gone bad before you could use them. Little things add up; a decluttered home can trickle right into getting a handle on your budget and maybe even your diet!
  • FREEDOM. If it has a grip on your time, your thoughts, and your emotions, then you are it's slave. I have become a slave to my stuff. I've let it become the master instead of me mastering it. I don't want to be overrun with have-tos and to-do lists. I want to look at my home and know that I am the one who decides how it looks, how much time I spend on it, and where it falls on my priority list. Freedom means letting go of the things that I don't want to spend time on. 

So what does this too-good-to-be-true Time Genie look like in real life? How does this actually play out in a normal day?

When your kids are having a rough day and they need you every second, you don't feel guilty about spending time with them being "unproductive." You don't feel as though your days are pointless and clogged with drudgery. You have dreams and hobbies again...that you're spending time on.  When you relax with your husband or friends, your mind is at ease - not stressing about the things you still have to do.

The great thing is, YOU get to decide what minimalism looks like in your life. This minimalist bandwagon I'm jumping on can involve as little or as much effort as I want it to. It's not about a list of rules or a checklist that gets you the perfect home. It's about where your priorities are - and where you want them to be.
Start by making a simple list in answer to these questions. This will help you create your own why:
  • What part of your home frustrates you the most?
  • When you envision your perfect home, what stands out to you?
  • Aside from things you can't get out of doing (working, peeing, eating...), what are a few things that seem to zap up all your time?
  • What is one thing you wish you had more time for?
Take a few minutes to journal about it. Breathe.

You should see a pattern of what you really want out of life and the things that are stopping you from getting it. These questions will probably lead you to other queries about the clutter that exists in your home and your mind and your heart.

I have a couple of places you can go from here. There's so much out there that can help you simplify your life and take charge of your time.

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Next week, I'll be doing a full post on this exciting little wardrobe challenge and how it's simplifying my daily routine to the max. I'd love for you to join me! This project is all about putting your clothing into proper focus - aka not prioritizing your outfit over, say, a good breakfast or some giggles with your baby. The goal is less laundry, less stress over looks, and less dependence on what you own. I'm really excited to spend a month (and hopefully the rest of my life!) wearing less. Shoot me an email or find me on instagram if you're interested in taking part.

Allie Casazza.
Ohmyword this woman. I don't even remember how I discovered her, but I am so happy I did! She is a fantastic individual who has connected the depression in the mundane that we feel with the fact that we own too many things. I love all of her tips for letting go of things I don't need. She continually reminds me that the minimalist life I dream of is something I can actually accomplish, not just another dream I have to let go of. Definitely check out her blog and sign up for her emails, you won't be disappointed!

KonMari Method.
I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her struggles resonated with me deeply. I used to be that girl who, when told to "clean her room," spent hours and hours going through boxes of my stuff. (I never realized that all my mother meant was that I needed to pick up my laundry and dust the shelves.) I appreciate that Marie had similar past experiences. I don't agree with everything she says; for one thing, she talks about inanimate objects as though they have souls, but she does have some great tips to offer you if you want complete decluttering method.

The Daniel Plan. 
I actually never finished this book. I borrowed it from the library and then suddenly we were moving to Texas and I had to give it back. However, the portion I did read made a lot of sense. This book goes beyond a "minimalism diet" and helps you put your priorities in place, set aside all the junk you don't need, and create a balanced, healthy lifestyle. It takes the focus off of self and puts everything in perspective. It also points out how much we need solid fellowship in our lives in order to free ourselves from dependence on stuff and/or food.

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I'm not quite there yet. I haven't arrived at the spacious, airy home I want. But I'm making my way there. My closet is fresher and so much easier to navigate. My kitchen has been pared down to only a few dishes that we need and love. My living room is free of useless knicknacks.

I'm finding time and space for myself again. A little yoga. Workouts. Time to write. The creativity is seeping back into my brain, allowing me to paint and sew and create. (By the way, this is in no way because my baby has become any easier to handle. She's threatening to crawl, wanting me to hold her every five minutes, and teething like it's the Olympics. We're all over the place these days!)

If you're interested in joining me in this thrilling journey of freedom, let me know! Find me on instagram, email me, comment below! I so want to find encouragement in other women through this. I want to see this idea of freedom and carefree motherhood spread like wildfire. We don't need to be trapped in our own lives. There is a better way. Jump on this bandwagon now!

Baby-Led Weaning

My baby girl recently turned six months, and this is the stage where babies start diving into everything. This is when rolling, crawling, teething, and interest in food all sort of collide. There's so much learning going on you can practically see their brains getting bigger.

And they want to do everything that you do. Especially when it comes to food.

I'm a researcher at heart, so it didn't take me long to put together a mental roadmap on how I wanted to follow baby-led weaning. I am so excited to share why this approach seemed best for me and my little family unit. However, I am not an expert. These are my tips; take them with a grain of salt. And as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

The basic concept of Baby-Led Weaning (or BLW) is to allow your baby to figure out food on their own, at their own pace, with minimal involvement on your part. Skip the purees and/or baby food altogether, and go straight for "real" food.

You get to watch your child explore food and get messy without the frustration of trying to shove it down their throats. Does this appeal to anyone else? I love that I can just plunk Roxy down in her high chair and offer her a few items from my own plate. She grimaces every time food touches her mouth, but within seconds she's going at it for more, so I think it's safe to say she's a fan of this method.
1. Get a Little Info. 
Do a bit of your own research. Make sure you're starting with foods in the right forms; for example, steamed veggies that are soft and big enough to fit in their fist. There are a few foods, such as honey, that you need to stay away from until baby is one year old. Also, watch out for anything with preservatives, sugar, etc.  Introduce new foods one at a time, generally at least three days in between each one (so you can pick out a food allergy immediately). Be prepared for your baby to make some coughing/gagging sounds - this is normal. They are figuring out where their gag reflex is and how much food they can fit into their mouths. But it wouldn't be a horrible idea to brush up on your infant CPR, just in case.
Here are a few resources for you: Overview and Food Ideas.

2. Transition.
BLW is not meant to be a fast-track method to weaning baby from milk. It still involves a transitory period during which the baby is getting all of their nutrients from breastmilk or formula. In the beginning, do not try to cut out any of their normal feedings and replace them with solid food! Solids should be added slowly - on top of their normal milk intake. Think of mealtimes as an added bonus. Most of the time, baby is only licking, sucking on, and spitting out the food you give them anyway. It takes awhile before they realize that they can eat it.
3. Monitor.
The BLW method is incredibly easy to put into practice. However, always make sure you're paying attention. Give your baby food when they are sitting upright, and ideally when they're in an environment you can easily clean. (In other words, not the living room couch, which of course I say from experience.) Observe them. Encourage them. Make sure they're not choking. Keep an eye out for allergic reactions. The more you are involved, the more they will enjoy the experience. The easiest way to do this is to feed them at mealtimes when you're already eating. It's a win-win for the whole family.

4. Messiness. 
I must warn you that BLW is going to be full of silly faces and messy fun. Because baby is given the chance to explore food in his/her own way, he/she is going to be unpredictable. Dropping food on the floor, rubbing it in the hair, squishing it in the high's going to end up a lot of places. To avoid the biggest messes, give them only one or two pieces of food at a time, and take it away when you notice them becoming bored and throwing things. And be prepared by making sure you have...
5. The Right Tools. 
Please, please, please pick a high chair with a simple design. Any chair with a lot of removable parts and/or padding is going to be a pain to clean. No one wants rotting food hiding in crevices. The high chair brands I heard people raving about were Bloom and Stokke - both of which go for about $500 on Amazon! The only other one that was as highly praised was IKEA's $20 Antilop chair. That's what I opted for and I'm already in love. It's the easiest thing to clean, it's light, and doesn't draw too much attention to itself. Plus the tray goes all the way around to baby's elbows.

I also heard some people suggesting getting large bibs with sleeves, so I purchased this one. I will say that it does work well and cleans easy. Baby Roxy's on the small side, though, and the crinkling of the waterproof material distracts her, so I use regular bibs more often than not. When in doubt, don't fork over the cash till you've seen a need.

6. Relax and Have Fun. 
Every parent's approach to this is going to be different, and the great thing is, it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. You can do a little purees and a little food in chunks. It's your job to discover what is working and what isn't. Let baby go as his/her own pace (thus the term "baby-led") and choose the way that causes the least amount of stress to you. You're the parent! Make decisions that you can live with.

Have fun with this, too! Baby's food can be just as exciting as yours. You can use a variety of seasonings if you wish - just try to stay away from a lot of salt. The goal is for this to be easier on you and to interest the baby in mealtimes with the rest of the family.
We love everything about it so far, besides the random bits of banana I keep finding in baby girl's hair - and mine. Dinnertime is the best. AdventureDad likes sharing everything with her, which obviously I have to monitor closely, because he'd give her jalapenos, cake, soda, and cow's milk if I let him (our lives are interesting).

It's also helped me to eat healthier. I put a little less salt on everything, and I try to fill my meals with the fruits and veggies that I want her to try. She's always teaching me how to be a better mum.

So far we have tried chicken breast, lean turkey breast lunchmeat, steamed veggies (broccoli, carrots, green beans, cauliflower), fresh fruits (apples, pears, bananas, strawberries), homemade teething biscuits (more for teething than for food), yogurt, and applesauce. From what I've heard it's okay to give them small portions of high allergenic foods, such as eggs and peanut butter, but I haven't tried that yet.

Have you tried baby-led weaning? Do you do purees? What foods has your baby been most interested in so far?

Truth Is, I'm Stuck

"You are the least effective when you feel the most qualified. You lose your strength in God when you feel able to handle what's at hand."
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A few day ago I accidentally deleted the post I had planned for today (I was kind of devastated). I've spent the past four days trying to replicate it, all to no avail. Then I discovered this old blog draft buried in the archives from three-ish years ago; it never got posted. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust this one off and send it out.

It turns out that a bunch of those truths I was learning then are doubly true now. Here goes some honesty from twenty-year-old, single me, revamped with a little of my married mom-self thoughts.

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"Truth is..." the people who use that phrase tend to be liars. And I've been lying, to myself and to some of you. Truth is, I don't want to be here. Truth is, I could easily buy a plane ticket and jet off somewhere, and I'd like that a lot. Truth is, I'm scared of staying stuck.

I'll get back to that in a minute.

The Colorado wilderness gave me new sights and sounds. Skies bluer than sapphire and closer to the touch. Breezes whispering through pines and aspens. Wind sucking words from my head as it caught me full-blast at the top of a mountain. The sound of a group of voices, young and old, excited and tired, thankful and confused, rising up in the middle of the forest, worshiping around a campfire as the stars up above told us a story that we could not read. 

That last one was my favorite sound, by the way.

During those crazy times I didn't write like I used to. I didn't have a lot to say. I was too busy being empty and exhausted and uncertain. All of my effort went into doing the next thing. I was a counselor all summer at Lutheran Valley Retreat in Colorado. I loved every minute. My intense love for that place also came with great fear. Every day was another trek into that vast darkness outside of my comfort zone.

That's where God led me. Scary, untracked wilderness. And you know what? I couldn't wait to go back.

All of that adventuring gave me a big head. Like I was incredibly superior to other people because I'd been living while they had simply been...commuting. And as soon as He threatened to take all of that away, I started revolting.

I had to face the fact that being dragged around by God's glorious coattails doesn't make me extra special. Though I badly wanted to assume that it did. It wasn't my hard work that got me any of those places. God plopped me in situations and told me to tread water. Somewhere along the way, I learned how to swim. Naturally, He immediately changed up the terrain and had me hiking mountains (literally and figuratively).

I'm as normal as they come, most days. I have to commute and eat leftovers and find creative methods to wake up in the morning. I get bored and selfish and there are days where I stop trying. I hate brushing my teeth and making my bed (even though I'm not seven years old anymore).

But what if. What if all that wandering and traveling had only been a season? What if I wasn't really an adventure girl, and now it was time to do the boring thing: being stuck as a "normal" person all day every day?

So let's go back to my "truth is" moment. Here's the truth.

I don't trust God.

I'm not rejecting church or burning my faith or throwing away my Bible. I'm just letting you know that sometimes, I have trouble believing what He says.

The kicker about all of this is that every single time God has asked me to go on an adventure, I have said, "No." The adventures He offered me were never the scenarios that I pictured, so each time He showed me something, I balked. "Really, God? There?"

Years and years ago, I begged Him to let me go places. I had a vision in my head of my life as a travel blogger or magazine writer, single and alone but always surrounded by fun people. But instead of jumping all over the earth in my little single rowboat, I've followed others. I've been a part of things. I've had to stick it out when it got tough, instead of disappearing every time I got the chance. I've turned into a housewife and a baby mama.

What He's been showing me, through all this change, is that every circumstance in life has the potential to be either an adventure or a catastrophe. And the deciding factor is me. My willingness to be involved changes everything.

As terrified as I am of being normal and lost and 100% confused, He planned that. He knows something that I don't.

This "mediocrity" that is day-to-day living? It's my next adventure.

He wants to use me in the fullest way possible, and that means giving me strength in the moments when I am weak. The moments where maybe I don't see a point to any of this. As a stay-at-home mom, there are tons of these lurking around. It's easy to feel stuck.

What will your day be? It's your choice, as much as mine. Will it be an adventure, or a catastrophe? Something to laugh about, or a reason to feel like a failure?
"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly will I boast in my infirmities (weaknesses), that the power of Christ may rest upon me (and work in me). Therefore I take pleasure (and delight in) infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 CORINTHIANS 12:9-10 (emphasis added)
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I'm not condoning being truly stuck, just so you know. All you people who have a chance to fly around with God? Don't complain that you can't carry your closet and your dog with you. For heaven's sake, just go! You'll figure out the rest along the way. Do what God has given you this very minute. Just...don't be afraid to do something stupid in order to get where He wants you to be.

She Is Beautiful

Those of you who follow me on instagram might have noticed me using the new hashtag #sheisbeautiful and I wanted to let you know that I am not simply referring to me or my baby girl (though I'm pretty enamored by her cuteness). I'm talking about all of us - women all over the world. Women with short hair and long, fair skin and dark, women who sketch or run marathons or work at law firms. We women? We're freakin' gorgeous.

Maybe you've misplaced this knowledge somewhere, or perhaps someone made you feel that it wasn't true. Whatever the case, I'm here to let you know that YOU are beautiful. And that's not me talking - I tend to think the people I love are more beautiful than the ones I've never met. But God? He's a master craftsman, and He put you together in just the right way.

The problem is, if you can't see, it tends to make it really hard for others to see it as well. And that's not only a shame, but a waste. We have many roles to play in life, but one of the most important ones is bringing beauty to the world. (If you want to know more about this incredible purpose, check out the book Captivating.)

Let me ask you a question:
We are constantly asking the question, "Am I beautiful?" But we're not always certain, so we try on a different dress, play with our hair a little longer, go on another diet just to be sure.

Instead of reveling in the fact that God made us very specifically, we tend to downplay our looks, focus on our imperfections, and compare ourselves. Or we go the other way, and act like our looks don't matter at all, going all day with unkempt hair, wearing baggy clothing, hiding our faces from cameras.

Then we try to pin our struggle with our appearance on the men. "I wouldn't have to spend so much time getting ready if it wasn't for him," we tell ourselves. But how would you feel if you didn't wear makeup or do your hair for a month? Or if you didn't shower for over a week?

Now, I've done those things, but it was because I was on backpacking trips and being a camp counselor with other rad people who didn't care about their appearance - went out of their way, in fact, to look ridiculous! It was freeing, to not look in a mirror. To forget what I looked like and define myself instead by what I was doing. Yet when I got the chance to shower and wear a frivolous outfit, I was positively giddy. Should I feel guilty about that?

I've forgotten that God made me - us - as women to be beautiful and it's okay if we notice! Especially as moms and wives, we tend to put schedules, cleaning, cooking, etc. far before the way we look when our man walks through the door.

I am speaking to two types of women today:

#1 Women who are on top of it. You are determined to have your makeup, hair, and possibly even your outfit all settled just so before you can handle your day - and certainly before anyone can see you. Here is my word to you:
You are beautiful; make sure your "beauty regimen" isn't covering up the beauty that's already there. Let your hair do it's own thing once in a while. Be willing for someone to drop by your house, even if you look less than put together. Your makeup does not define nor create your beauty.

#2 Women who are "low-maintenance." You are not too concerned with looks or fashion. You like looking nice, but you have more important things to worry about in the morning. You don't plan on seeing anyone today anyway, so why try hard? Here is my word to you:
You are beautiful; it's okay to revel in it a little. How much better would you feel if you took a minute to highlight your beauty, to feel pretty? Maybe in the morning so you feel more confident in facing the day, or in the evening right before your man comes home. It isn't vain to acknowledge that God made you to be beautiful!
I want you to be able to step into each day already knowing your worth in Christ. Knowing that He says you're beautiful, and letting that be enough. I don't want to push anyone into vanity. But I'm a little sick of seeing women let their own opinions of themselves make them miserable.

You know what? The women and men around you aren't busy judging you for your looks. They're often too busy criticizing themselves to notice that you forgot a belt today, or that your hair isn't as perfect as yesterday.

So who's fault is it if you're feeling gross and ugly and out of sorts? Yours.

I'll leave you with a verse that puts inward and outward beauty in their places.

"Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror." 1 Peter 3:3-6 (emphasis added)

Did you hear that? You have the capability to have an incorruptible, eternal beauty. The crazy thing is, if you believe that and live in it, you will be beautiful on the outside, too. This is a call to be bold and unafraid. Let nothing stop us beautiful women who live in the power of God!

Month of Braids Challenge

In my previous post, I promised to only do one blog post per week so that I could give you the most high quality work. I will keep this short and sweet and leave you with photos and tutorials to play with.

For the month of February, I participated in a #30daysnewbraids challenge, which at the outset I envisioned being easy and fun. But it was actually kind of hard for me.

I've never out much stock in personal beauty habits. I'm a girl, I like to look pretty, but spending an hour doing makeup + hair each morning? Ew. Sleep is better. Breakfast is better. Even a thirty-minute sweaty workout makes me feel more prepped for the day than an hour primping in the bathroom.

So there were several days where I almost quit. Nights when I was ready to crawl into bed and I still hadn't braided my hair for the day. But in the end, I didn't skip a single day, and that's a lot more encouraging to me than how the braids actually turned out.

Here's what I learned from all of this (you can find all the photos from my challenge at the bottom of this post, including some links to tutorials on how to do them yourself.):

  1. Having a morning routine is invaluable. Getting in a rut is never a good thing, but a little consistency goes a long way. I loved the days when I would wake up and braid my hair before the baby was up. I felt so ready for the day ahead. Whatever happens after that initial morning routine, bring it. Morning devos, a workout, a healthy breakfast, putting on some mascara - whatever it is, wake up a few minutes early to accomplish this small task. You'll feel better for it.
  2. Beauty is something we choose to believe. I felt prettier each time I braided my hair. Even if the braid turned out badly or looked terrible with my face shape (that's a thing), I knew that I was worth taking a few minutes for my physical appearance. Crazy, right? Doing my hair doesn't technically make me any more beautiful than I was before. But putting in a teeny bit of effort does makes a difference in how you perceive yourself. Choose to believe you're beautiful, today and every day (say it out loud if that helps).
  3. Challenges work out my patience muscles. I usually can't be bothered to deal with something that doesn't show promise within ten minutes. I'm sort of distractable/impatient that way. But bring a little competition in (even if I'm playing against myself) and I'll stick it out. Between unmanageable hair and a crying baby, I had to have patience to get my hair to look anything like the photos I was looking at - and sometimes it took more than one try. Spot-on training right there.

>> #30DaysofBraids <<

#1 Mini Single Braid (first day of the challenge and I had only decided to do it that morning, so I started small and gave myself grace)
#2 Regular
#3 French Braided Pigtails
#4 Combo Side-Braid
#5 Dutch Wrap-Around
#6 Twisted Half-Crown
#7 Pull-Through Ponytail (note: this braid is not easier to do with wet hair!)
#8 French-Braided Fishtail - my first (failed) attempt
#9 French-Braided Dutch - Mohawk Style
#10 Braided Flower Crown (supposed to look like three roses, but it's a bit tough to accomplish when you're driving to church and can't see the back of your head)
#11 Half Up-Do - a tiny braid wrapped around a half-up ponytail
#12 4-Strand - Dutch Style ("dutch" meaning strands go under not over when braiding)
#13 Bohemian Side Braid - regular braid with a fishtail at the bottom
#14 French-Braided Fishtail - my second and far improved attempt! (My hair is very fine, so doing this style while it was wet made things massively better.)
#15 Underneath the Ponytail Braid (I have tried this braid a few times, and man, I cannot get it to look right at all. I braided my hair and pulled the ponytail up into a bun, only to discover that you could only barely see a braid in the back at all. Go figure.)
#16 Waterfall
#17 The Double-Dutch (or as I like to call it, hide the greasy mom-bangs)
#18 Lace Braided Headband
#19 3-D Pull-Through Braid - You're gonna want to try this one (trust me!), so here's the tutorial
#20 Mini Braids with Embroidery Floss + Beads
#21 5-Strand - another one that looks super tricky, but this EASY tutorial made all the difference.
#22 Regular French
#23 Side-Braids - no clue what this one is called, I attempted this but failed miserably without any sort of tutorial. Here's to trying some of these again!
#24 Mermaid
#25 Fishtail Pigtails
#26 Triple-Braided Mohawk - if you can do this one better, please give me your tips! It was supposed to look like this.
#27 Rose Pony
#28 Mini Fishtails - Gypsy Look
#29 Shoelace Crown - oh-so-fun, you must try it, literally you are tying your hair in knots and somehow it ends up elegant.
#30 I tried three different braids on my last day, and I didn't get any good photos. So much for going out with a bang...

Let me know how it goes if you try any of these braids! Are there any hairstyles you've been dying to try?