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favorite things friday

15 Apr

I’m so excited it’s the weekend!

I haven’t been super productive today…unless you count spending hours browsing for decor inspiration as a major accomplishment.  Although I have done several loads of laundry and gotten in a really great workout, so I haven’t been all bad.

Anyway, for a little Friday fun I thought I’d share just a few things that I’ve been loving lately!

  • First up, the book I just finished this week – The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.  Once it got going, I simply could not put it down. It was “one of those.”  I highly recommend it!

  • Simple and healthy homemade meals.  I’ve always loved to eat out, but lately I’m just really craving food from home, especially some of my old staples.  Today was lovely getting to be home rather than taking all my food on the go.

whole wheat bread with roasted garlic hummus, broccoli slaw and spinach

kashi, green yogurt, frozen blueberries

  • Apartment Therapy.  I’ve been getting tons of inspiration browsing this website for house decor ideas.
    The husband and I are contemplating what flooring combination to do – stained concrete, wood, tile – so many options!  I’m loving so many elements of this space right now.
  • These shoes I just bought to wear on Easter.  Yes, I’m 27 years old, and I’m still buying clothing items specifically for Easter.  Why not?  It’s a great reason to get some new staples for the beautiful spring weather!  Plus I just couldn’t resist the vintage modern vibe…and they’re comfy too:)
  • Dinners shared in the car with the husband while running house errands.  Actually, just being in the car with the husband while running house errands.  Who am I kidding?
  • And last, Dove dark chocolate.  Just one square (okay, two) does the trick:)

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

What is one thing you’re really loving right now?

it's not about me

12 Apr

Awhile back, after being inspired by a fellow blogger, I signed up on a website to receive daily affirmation in the form of email messages.  I usually would rather give my right arm than hand over my email address to anyone that wants to send me daily messages, but the encouragement I got from the one posted by my friend was just what I needed to hear that day and I thought it might be a good thing.  Since then there have been several days on which the message really hit home for me, and today is another one of those.

So often we find that our individual experiences in life may not have been as beneficial to us as they were for others.  Life works in such a way.

We all have our own journey to travel…an individual journey that is meant for us, but we also get to live through things that are not so much about us at all.  Sometimes our trials or our blessings or our lessons are meant for the people who we surround, or who surround us.  It’s important to remember that people are watching the way you handle things in your life, they are learning so much from you and your strength and your grace and your wisdom.  It’s important to remember how much we can help each other along their way because of what we have learned or what we remember.

It helps make sense of things too…when we can recognize our ability to be a miracle in the life of others…in a way that we never could have had we not traveled the path that we each have traveled.


The truth is that each and every one of us has our own crosses to bear.  I know that my life is so very blessed – I have my health, my marriage, a wonderful family, a home, an education, and so many other things that a lot of the world doesn’t have. I’m so thankful for it all, and I don’t take it lightly.

But I also have my own cross to bear.  And somehow, in the thick of things, knowing how blessed my life is doesn’t make that cross any less heavy…it doesn’t make it hurt any less.  I struggle daily with trusting that God has a purpose for this issue in my life and that it is ultimately for good, even though deep down in my heart I do believe it to be true.  And I long for the day when that purpose is revealed to me.

I truly want to handle everything that comes in my life with grace, wisdom and strength, but I honestly have never thought about doing so for someone other than myself.  As humans we have so much influence over each other – we impact other people in ways we never imagined we would, and I don’t want to let selfishness guide my actions and reactions to events in my life.  Even if the only person I influence is my sweet husband, that is worth the world to me.  A million times over, it’s worth digging deep, finding a way to respond with peace and faith in the midst of uncertainty.

And for me, it does help make sense of this seemingly purposeless thing that I’m going through – to think the purpose could be greater than myself and the way I handle it could make a difference for someone else.  I’m seeing it all from a different angle, and in the moments of deepest questioning and hurt, I feel a bit more grounded by realizing that it’s not all about me.

I really needed to get these thoughts out.  A times I worry about sharing some things here, but this blog is an outlet for me. It helps me process, and when I finish writing it’s like parts of me that once felt so heavy seem a bit lighter, and I see more clearly. One of the many reasons I’m so happy to have this space.

nothing sweeter

25 Mar

Happy Friday!

This morning what started out as a bad attitude ended up as an amazing run.  Lately, the husband and I have been trying to do our short runs together before he goes to work in the morning, which works out great because he doesn’t have to do his at lunch, and I can get my workday started extra early.  But this morning, as soon as I opened my eyes I knew it was later than it should be.  We overslept by a good 45 minutes and had to rush just to get ready in time.  I really didn’t feel like driving down to the park to do my run, and I debated between that and just running on the street.  I don’t like to run on the streets by myself out here because there are a lot of loose dogs…but I also really don’t love doing laps where one time around equals less than 1 mile.  But alas I decided to get my butt down to the park and get it done.


I played a little trick by telling myself that I could walk as much as I wanted, but I had to get in the four miles.  Worked like a charm. I ended up not walking at all and finished in record time (for this race training anyway).


I actually started off a bit slow and the first mile was a bit uncomfortable – about 10:30 pace – but I steadily increased my pace throughout and then kicked it into high gear, running the last mile at 8:30.

The whole time I just kept chanting to myself “it’s okay to be uncomfortable!”  One thing I’ve learned about running is that there is a difference between pain and discomfort.  If I’m experiencing pain, I stop.  Because nothing is worth sacrificing my body.  But if I’m just feeling uncomfortable, I take that as a sign to push harder and get through it.  Pushing through discomfort always garners the best results.  Running (at least training for longer distances) isn’t necessarily supposed to easy.  If it was easy, then everyone would do it, right?  If it was easy, then crossing the finish line wouldn’t feel like someone just handed over all you’ve ever wanted wrapped up with a little bow on top.  Hard is worth it.  Uncomfortable is worth it.

I am so excited about this weekend because my BIL and SIL who live in Tulsa are out of town, and they offered to let us (me+husband+Olive) stay at their house.  We miss our furry baby so much it hurts, and nothing could make this weekend better than getting to spend the whole thing with her (and each other). I’m thinking there will be lots of exploring Tulsa, Lost marathons (we’re re-watching all the seasons), naps, photo taking and a long run on Sunday (followed by another nap:).

This past week hasn’t been an easy one.  I’ve been pretty stressed about all the job stuff (read: I don’t have one), and I’ve really been struggling with wishing away time.  I just want to get to June so we can move into our house and feel like we’ve officially transitioned to our new life; this in-between stage doesn’t suit me very well.  I know there is goodness and joy to be found in every stage of life we experience, and I’m trying to step back and focus on all the blessings in my life.  I think the more I try to seek out happiness despite my circumstances, the harder it is to find.  Happiness has to be felt inside, and it stems from contentment and finding joy in the little things – breathing in fresh air, the intense flavor of dark chocolate on the tongue, having the ability to see all the bright colors emerging with the new season. The more I remind myself of how wonderful it is to be able to see, feel, smell and experience every moment of life, the more it becomes ingrained as a natural part of my day.  Moving from the negative to the positive.

And speaking of the positive – this family that I told you about a few months ago is finally getting their sweet little girl this weekend.  I can’t imagine many things that could be sweeter.

Takes a deep breath, wonders at the air rushing out of her lungs and steeps in the peace found in this moment of being alive.

a few thoughts + vegan brownies

9 Feb

You all left some really great comments here yesterday, and I loved reading through every one of them.  I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives on dealing with tough habits and emotional struggles.  Thanks so much for sharing:)

This morning we woke up to another thick layer of snowy white…and once again the whole state is pretty much shut down.  No complaints here, though.  I was really happy that the husband was able to work from home today rather than commute to the city…I would have been a nervous wreck.

Yesterday was a great day of working from home.  I was able to get a lot accomplished and even pack a few things along the way.  I’m really focusing my energy on living fully in every moment more than ever these days, as my time with my students (both tutoring and yoga) and time working from our house is drawing to a close.  Have you ever been in a moment and thought to yourself – I just want to live in this moment forever?  I had a lot of those yesterday from taking a break to water our little plants to making a new healthy lunch to giving the husband a little massage on the couch last night.

I read a book recently that talked about how we all forget so much of our life…there is so much we just don’t remember.  It’s like only the big milestones – graduating, getting married, having kids – are what we most remember.  But what about the sweet little things that make up the majority of our time?  I want to remember those things too, and I think one reason we don’t really remember many of them is because we don’t fully live them.  We’re always focusing on and pressing toward the next big thing.  And while it’s good to be working toward big goals and accomplishments, if we don’t really see and experience the mundane moments of the day-to-day, then we’re missing out on a large part of this life we’ve been given.

Lunch yesterday was that meal I mentioned a couple of days ago that I’ve been craving.  One day it just popped into my head, and I thought to myself – why have I never made this before??

Prepare a nice big bed of fresh spinach

Pick your pasta and cook it – I used veggie shells that I got as a sample at HLS, but you can use any kind

Mix together about 2 tbsp hummus, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast and water to thin

After mixing pasta and the creamy sauce together, pour mixture over spinach.  The heat will cause the leaves to wilt just slightly.  Perfect.

This meal was every bit as tasty as I imagined it would be.  I loved the combination of the creamy soft texture of the pasta with the slight crunch of the spinach leaves.  And there was plenty of protein built right into the sauce.

In other food news, the husband surprised me last night by bringing home my absolute favorite meal from my favorite restaurant in the city – Pei Wei.  It was a little cold by the time we got here, but a quick round in the microwave and it was as good as new!

And what made it even better is that while we were savoring every bite, the thick, mouth-watering smell of brownies was filling the air.  I’ve been craving brownies for days, and all I needed was a good, cold snow day to do me in.  I found this recipe and then used a few of the suggested tweaks plus a couple tricks of my own.  They came out so delicious!

Chocolate Chocolate Vegan Brownies
adapted from here

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup organic cane sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dairy free mini chocolate chips (or chips of your choice:)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 inch baking dish
  • Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt in a large mixing bowl
  • Add in water, oil, applesauce and vanilla extract
  • Mix until well combined
  • Pour batter into baking dish and then sprinkle chocolate chips all over the top
  • Bake for about 26 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool a bit before serving.

Serve warm with a glass of almond milk.  Or if you really want to go crazy, serve with a dollop of banana soft serve on top.

I’m planning on packing some today, editing some papers for my students and maybe doing a little job searching online.  I’m still as confused as ever about what I’m going to do as far as a job, but I’m trusting that it will work out and trying not to waste too much time worrying over it.

Happy Wednesday to you!

What is something you hope you never forget as time goes on, be it little or big?!
I hope I never forget the way the creaky wood floors sound as I walk through our house or the way the windows shutter just slightly when the heat comes on:)

peace in heart and body

25 Jan

Well, I’m coming in a day late with my recap of the weekend. The husband and I spent most of the weekend in our new city, and I spent this morning playing catch up with some of the things I didn’t get to even think about doing.

On Friday I really enjoyed hearing all of your stories about geese!  I had no idea that so many people were afraid of them, ha!  It seems that several of you have some kind of scarring memory about a run-in with a goose as a child – never knew they could be such ferocious creatures.  In fairness I think I must clarify that I was catching the smaller, cuter white ducks…not the geese as shown in the picture.  And it sounds like it’s a good thing based on all your stories!

As I mentioned on Friday, we went to a party with our Sunday school class.  We played a game that Jonathan and I had gotten for Christmas called What’s Yours Like?  I was a bit skeptical about it in the beginning, but it ended up being pretty fun!  Everyone had brought different desserts, and there was definitely no shortage of sugar.  I took cupcakes as planned, and I’m excited to share them with you tomorrow!  They were a hit.  No one knew they were vegan, and our friend Greg went back for a second which let me know that they truly passed the test:)

Saturday we got up and after doing some tasks around the house, headed to the city.  We had plans to drive through our future neighborhood to get some ideas for the exterior of our house.  Jonathan carefully crafted a fun design that resembles a craftsman style, and now we’re just trying to get inspired about a color scheme.  While we recognize that building a house is going to be a lot of work, we are pumped to get to pick out everything and make it unique to our style as much as possible. We also met with our builder and signed our contract! Our names are written in blood…there’s not turning back.  Yay!  Building should start in the next month, and we’re looking at about 4ish months until it will be done.

gotta love that Oklahoma red dirt

The biggest decision (of many) that we are trying to make right now is where we’re going to live between now and the time our house gets done, which will be around the end of June.  Both Jonathan’s parents and my mom and step-dad have graciously offered to let us live with them.  We are so thankful for family who are supportive and will sacrifice to help us out. But the big decision is looming of which one to go with.  Jonathan’s parents live about one hour and fifteen minutes from his job, so he would have to commute back and forth everyday, which would be really taxing on him.  Especially considering he’ll be working on Outbox in the evenings as well.  My mom and step-dad only live about thirty-five minutes from his job, but the situation is such that Olive cannot live with us there.  So, we would need to figure out somewhere else for her to live, and it will be really hard for us to have to be away from her for 4 months.  I honestly cannot imagine it right now.  I know some people probably think that is crazy, but those of you who have pets surely understand…right?  But living with my family would be so much less draining of a commute for Jonathan, and more convenient all around (i.e. dropping by our house to check progress, finding a church to get involved in in the city etc).  If we are unable to find somewhere for her to live, then that will obviously make our decision…but even if we do find somewhere we are still torn as to what to do.  Too many decisions!!  The good news is we love both of our families, and living with either one, while being an adjustment, will be great.  We are very blessed. I’m hoping to get some new perspective from you guys on this!

Anyway, so Saturday night we headed to my hometown and got to watch my little cousin play basketball.  I hadn’t seen her play in years, and I had the best time!  I was a super proud cousin too because she played so great.  I think she scored the first ten points of the game all by herself!  She’s super cute, too:)

My sister played on the state championship team when she was a junior, and now a giant picture of her team hangs in the gym.  We got a huge kick out of taking our picture with the Cristen of 1998…I’m sure anyone walking by thought we were ridiculous, but that combined with my cousin being so embarrassed was what made it quite funny.  Maybe you had to be there.

The husband and I partied late with my family and didn’t get back home until late. We spent Sunday morning at church, and then headed to the city once again to meet my mom and step-dad to show them our lot and walk through a house that has our floor plan.  It was fun!  But I realized one thing really quickly – looking at houses after you’ve already signed a contract for yours is like looking at wedding dresses after you’ve already made the purchase for your big day.  Not a good idea.

All in all it was a busy busy weekend, but I’m pretty sure that’s becoming the norm these days….and we’re okay with that. I’m really making every effort possible to stay in a routine in the important areas of my life during this super chaotic time.  I’ll be sharing much of the journey with you as the months go by!  And for starters, that’s going to mean getting a lot more sleep.

The last few days I’ve been focusing more on getting a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in my body.  When things get busy, stressful and/or crazy, the first thing I tend to slack on is having fresh food around.  While we were in the city I picked up Kris Carr’s new book, and I’ve really been enjoying it the last couple of days.  Sometimes a little inspiration goes a long way!  I’ll share more about the book as I keep reading, but so far it has really helped me get back on track.

I’ve been starting each day off with some warm lemon water, which is great for your skin (and we all know I need that!).

Green monsters have also been a daily staple.  Unfortunately the other day I ran out of spinach, so I got creative and decided to try broccoli!

I wouldn’t recommend it.  The only way I got the entire thing down was to chase each sip with water and picture all the amazing nutrients coursing through my veins with every swig.  It was not pretty.  I think I’ll stick to leafy greens for now.

I also had an apple mid morning

For lunch yesterday I threw together a concoction I haven’t had before, and it totally rocked!

baked sweet potato, Earth Balance, black beans, salsa, broccoli

I’ve always thought I only like sweet potatoes baked as rounds or fries, but those days are long gone!  I do think the key for me was having different foods mixed in with each potato bite – it helped break up the mushy texture, and all the flavors worked so well together.  Delicious!

Unfortunately, last night didn’t exactly go as planned.  The husband and I got a late start to the grocery store, and by the time we got done with all our shopping it was 9pm.  I was so tired and hungry, so we stopped at our favorite mexican restaurant.  I ordered two black bean tacos and ate a couple handfuls of tortilla chips.  Not exactly clean fresh food on the chips, but not a bad choice for a restaurant either!

One thing I love about Kris’s book so far is her stance on perfection.  It coincides exactly with my thoughts on the topic.

“The crazy sexy diet (not a diet, but a lifestyle) is an optimum way of life.  Let it be your foundation, a home base to come back to whenever you veer off.  The cleanse is intended to give you freedom from obstruction and liberation… It’s not meant to create or support more stress in your life.  As I said earlier, there’s no such thing as perfection.  Perfect is beige.  Obsessing over every bite is completely contrary to the purpose ans spirit of my book.  Your overall goal is to have a peaceful feeling in your heart and in your body.

With that, I’m off to bed…I hope you all had a great weekend and are enjoying the start to the week!

Any advice on our living situation?  What would you do?
Less than half the commute, but being separated from our baby?  Or a much further commute, but keeping our little family together?  Ahhh!

What was the best moment of your weekend?

a must see

15 Jan

Yesterday was a bit of an emotional day for me.  There are a lot of changes going on for the husband and I, and while the changes are good…the transition phase is not easy.  I’ll be sharing all about it in the coming days, but for now I have something else I want to share with you.

This something else really topped off my Friday, and the tears were flowing for sure.  I had a tutoring appointment with Hye-kyoung and afterwards I just needed something comforting.  So I headed to the health food store.  I bought a Thai peanut noodle dish boxed mix, drove straight home and started chopping vegetables and soaking noodles.

Fifteen minutes later:

I sat down at the computer and was clicking through blogs when I landed on one of my favorite sites.

You know when you hear a story of someone or you read about something that really impacts you all the way to the core?  It causes you to see life from a new and different perspective.  It makes you better in a way that is lasting…that doesn’t fade when the next TV show comes on or when a friend calls to catch up.

I’ve experienced this in some forms ever since I started reading Kelle Hampton’s blog, as it has been a continual source of all kinds of inspiration. But it all really hit me yesterday when she shared a very special video.

Inspiration is so important in life.  Different things speak to different people in different ways.  What inspires me may not hit you in exactly the same way.  Kelle inspires not only me, but thousands of other people around the world, and I couldn’t help but feel compelled to share it with you all as well.

That’s enough from me now…here is Nella’s story.

a little thailand story

11 Jan

“It’s so tempting to shut people down, to limit the upside, to ostracize, select and demonize. It makes things a lot simpler. Not seeing means you don’t have to take action. Not opening means it’s easier to announce that you’re done. And not raising the bar means you’re less likely to fail.”

-Seth Godin

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog recently when I stumbled upon this quote, and the hard truth of it really struck me.  It reminded me of a situation that occurred during our time in Thailand.

In the far northern part of Thailand, settled in among the mountains you’ll find a city.  Our Thailand home.  Chiang Mai.

And in the middle of that city, you’ll find a little something called Night Bazaar, or as the Thai’s say it “night ba-saaaaah.”


Every single day at about 4 o’clock, rain or shine, the people would begin pushing their carts out to the sidewalk, ready to take on the crowds of people that would come pouring in in a couple of shorts hours.  They sold everything from t-shirts to perfume to oil burners, lamps, watches, shoes and much more.  You could gaze for miles down the busy road and still not see the end of it.

For us, Night Bazaar was a fun date night, a place to get cheap massages and a great people watching venue.  We’d weave through the backpackers carrying their babies high up on their backs and the locals stooping on the curb to slurp up noodles before the next bargaining challenge came along.

And in all the craziness there was always one thing that caught my eye – a small Thai women who looked to be about my age sitting on the dirty sidewalk with a cup held out for change and a tiny baby at her side.  While she wasn’t the only local who had found her home on the dirty streets of Night Bazaar, she was the one who caught my gaze every time I walked by… and held it.  I couldn’t forget her.

After many nights of walking by her, pretending not to see her outstretched hand or her deep eyes, I finally broke down.  I found a stand in the alley selling hot soup and bought her a small bowl and some water.  I inched up to her, feeling quite shy, and taking a deep breath knelt down and, using all the broken Thai I could muster I expressed my concern for her and her beautiful baby.

But night after night of this same routine left me wishing I could do more.  But I wrestled with the idea of it – what more could I do?  Ultimately she needed a place to live, to raise her baby….to be safe.  But I couldn’t provide that.  And with the date of our departure fast approaching, there were only so many more days I could do anything at all.

And then just like that…she was gone.  She stopped coming.  I never found out what happened to her, and I probably never will.  And that lack of knowing, lack of being able to do anything real and significant for her left me feeling disheartened and sad.  And I realize that that is often what keeps me from reaching out to impact the world in any way – the fear of failure.  The fear of feeling like I just can’t do enough.  The fear that if I allow myself to see the need, then I will always feel the ache of what I wasn’t able to do.

And the same translates to the constant pursuance of goals and dreams.  Being scared to death of setting the bar too high because I just might not be able to reach it.  And that would mean failure.  Six months ago I walked into my principal’s office, and I turned in my letter of resignation.  Sure, I did it for a number of reasons, but ultimately I did it because I wanted to pursue more.  I wanted to step out into the unknown and embrace something that would fulfill my vision for my life.  And in these months, I’ve held back, sabotaging myself because of the fear of not being quite good enough.

But I want more.  I don’t want to still be sitting here another six months from now envisioning in my mind what it is that I want to do with my life.  I want to be doing it. It’s time to raise the bar and leap for it because I would much rather be brushing dust off my backside than never getting dirty at all.  I want to see things, open myself to possibility and experiences, and offer myself to people freely, embracing the risk of hurt and disappointment.

What is one thing that you’ve been envisioning in your life for awhile, but you just haven’t quite gotten the courage to leap for?  What are you holding the bar low for because you’re scared of raising it high?

And now here’s a small ray of peace for your day:


**Also, don’t forget to stop by tomorrow because it’s a very special day in the life of ChiaSeedMe, and I’ll have a very special surprise for you!