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Aug 1, 2017

Grace Upon Grace


I've been thinking a lot about grace lately.  
I've been thinking about all of the times that I fall short, that I don't fulfill a commitment in the way I meant to, or didn't live up to being the kind of friend or employee or daughter or fiancĂ© that I intend to.  
The times that my temper gets the best of me and I snap back at someone or the times that I say the wrong thing and then have to apologize for coming across in a way that I'm not proud of.  

I've had to ask for a lot of grace lately.  Stress does that to you.  Busyness does that to you.  In light of what the month of June held...my dad's whole brain radiation treatment for the 30+ lesions they found in his brain, our pastor's motorcycle accident in which his wife lost her life, the impending stress of the last two months of wedding planning and not having time to even think about it...I've found myself asking for another to extend grace to me or thanking someone for their understanding and grace when I've had to put life on hold.  

It's never been easy for me to ask for grace.  Even though I was saved by it at a young age, it's still not easy for me to accept it, even from the One who wants to give it so freely.  John 1:16 says, "For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."  I'm not even sure that I can comprehend what that even means...grace upon grace.  As if just plain 'ol grace wasn't enough, here's some more. Grace upon grace.  

I've never been one to jump into the political fray, and I'm not going to start now, but it's hard to ignore the arguments and the bitterness and the hurt that is all over social media after last week's news.  And as I scroll through my Facebook feed, my heart breaks, because I keep missing one thing from both sides of the debate:  grace.  While politics bring out the good, bad, and the ugly in people, the debate going on through our screens right now seems to just be a microcosm of how we conduct ourselves and how we treat others as a whole.

We lack grace in our words, both typed and spoken, and its hurtful to ourselves and to the person we're speaking to.  It's easy to justify lacking grace towards people who have hurt us or who we don't think deserve it or who are unable to compromise and see our side of things, but if we deny grace to those we don't favor, then we've missed the point.

Grace, by definition, means "the free and unmerited favor of God."  By our human nature, by the fall, by sin, we're so unworthy of grace.  Yet He gives it freely and without merit.  

It's so humbling when you think about it.  That the Savior of the World, the One who created it all, the Prince of Joy, would distribute grace upon grace to broken, fallen people who are so unworthy of it, and who so often turn around and don't extend the same grace to others.  I bet it breaks His heart when we don't give out grace in the same way He does.  But thank goodness that He does give it out.  And He delights in it.  He's so full of grace that He can't help but to spill it out on each of us.

And we, in turn, are called to pour that grace out on our neighbor.  Whether it means lending a hand or accepting an apology before it's even offered, or simply showing kindness and love even when our feelings are hurt, we're called to it.  In the glow of the heated debates and declarations and decisions that light up our social media feeds, we're called to extend grace in our responses, our declarations, and our interactions so that Christ's light can shine more fully in us.  

I don't know about you, but I'm sure that I don't deserve the grace that Christ has handed to me.  I don't get it right every time, and more often than not, my own sinful human nature rears its ugly head and I'm left with the shame that I didn't possess the right amount of patience or self control or gentleness.  But oh, what a Savior, that He should look past all of that and love me anyway.  Who am I to not show that same love and grace to others?

Jul 27, 2017

Hospitality is a Posture of the Heart


I've never particularly liked the story of Mary and Martha.  Probably because I can totally relate to Martha, and yet Mary is the one Jesus praises.  It always feels a little like He's chastising me when He says "Mary has chosen what is better" (Luke 10:42).

Truthfully, I feel bad for Martha!  She was just trying to be a good hostess after all.  I'd do the same.  The meal needed to be prepared, the table to be set, she probably had to tidy up a little bit.  She had opened her home not to just any guy, but the Lord...and I'm sure she wanted to make a good impression.

But when we get down to it, hospitality boils down to one simple truth: everyone wants to be invited in.  We've all been there...maybe you've been the new girl hoping for a friend or maybe you've seen the new girl and felt the tug to include her.  And when it comes to Mary and Martha, the reality is that things do need to get done.

But you can't keep working for people to be invited in.  If you keep washing the dishes or clearing the table, everyone else is going to feel like they need to be working too or not be included.



This post is part of The Peony Project's monthly link-up.

I don't know abut you, but I was raised to always offer to help.  And so, when I go to a party or gathering and the host stands up to start the clean-up process, my instinct is to pitch in.  And when I'm the host, I will often begin cleaning up when my guests are still around the table.

Don't get me wrong...I think the conversations that happen at the sink, with one person washing dishes and another drying, can be life-giving and relationship-forming.  My mom will tell you that she bonded with her sisters-in-law over sinks full of dirty dishes after family gatherings.  And watching them in the kitchen (and joining them) is now one of my favorite things about those family dinners.

But when we look deeper at the story of Mary and Martha, it's not just about doing work versus sitting at the table and spending time with others.  Martha comes to Jesus, with Mary at His feet, asking Him to send her sister to help her prepare the meal.  She was so worried by the work to be done that she couldn't see the importance in what her sister had chosen.

And when I examine my own heart, it's here that I can relate the most to Martha.  Because often, when I'm standing at that kitchen sink and there are people at the table who haven't offered to help, my heart turns bitter.  Thoughts of "why aren't they helping?" and "can't they see what work needs to be done?" run through my mind.

True hospitality is a posture of the heart.  It's not enough to just open your doors and invite people into your home.  No matter how pinterest-perfect and carefully planned a gathering is, making people feel welcome goes beyond a picturesque table setting and a delicious dinner followed by warm cups of coffee.

In reality, it doesn't matter how well you prepare, what people will remember is how well you cared.



There's beauty in sharing your home and your food.  Impact in being generous with your money and your time.  Inviting people into your life, no matter how messy and imperfect it may be at times, is worth it.

But it can be so much better, so much more impactful, so much more beautiful, if you "choose what is better."
Choose the conversation over the task list.
Choose to listen when the dishes are screaming at you.
Choose to include people in the relationship instead of the work. 



I'm not sure that the story of Mary and Martha will ever not make me feel uncomfortable.  And that's probably the point.  Because for me, it's easy to see the work to be done and do it.  It stretches me more to make the small talk and ask the good and hard questions.  But washing dishes isn't what Jesus asks us to do.  He asks us to take the time to see the need, to see the person, and to be His hands and feet.

What about you?  How do you embrace and exhibit hospitality in your life?

Jul 17, 2017

Blackberry Punch



I first discovered Canada Dry® Blackberry Ginger Ale last spring and instantly fell in love. Ginger Ale easily tops the list of favorite bubbly drinks for me, and adding in that subtle blackberry flavor makes it even better.  

One of my favorite things to do when the weather gets warmer is to eat outdoors and have friends and family over to enjoy the weather and some grilled food! These types of gatherings tend to just pop up in my family...someone will decide in the afternoon to have everyone over for dinner, so it’s great to have a quick go-to beverage recipe up my sleeve to whip up at a moment’s notice.  

I love making these little casual gatherings a little bit fancier just by serving something special and unique, so this Blackberry Punch is perfect (and impressive) for whipping up at any time, but it’s also a great addition to any bridal shower, birthday party, or even an impromptu girls’ day! In fact, my mom and I also served this punch at my brother and sister-in-law’s rehearsal dinner last year and it was a huge hit!  


WHAT YOU NEED //
+ Canada Dry® Blackberry Ginger Ale (12-pack or 2 liter)
+ Fresh blackberries
+ Cranberry-Lime seltzer
+ Fresh or frozen cranberries
+ Raspberry sherbet
+ Rosemary sprigs

To make this easy punch, simply combine the Canada Dry® Blackberry Ginger Ale (one can will make one 16-oz glass, or you could combine the entire 2 liter bottle with other ingredients in a punch bowl), 1/3c seltzer, and a generous scoop (one per glass) of the raspberry sherbet.  Be careful...the sherbet will cause the soda to foam and may overflow the glass, so add it slowly!  Top with a few blackberries and cranberries and a sprig or two of rosemary, and Voila!  You have a beautiful, unique drink that’s sure to wow your guests!





Jun 12, 2017

Adding Text to Your Blog Images



one of the questions i get asked most frequently is how i add text to my blog images.  unfortunately, my answer isn't exactly the easy one...i use adobe creative suite (namely, illustrator and photoshop) for all of my design work, because, well, i'm a graphic designer.  but those programs come with a hefty price tag and the necessity of a bit of knowledge on how to navigate them.

however, i really believe that having a strong header image that includes text on a post is incredibly important.  i know some may disagree, and of course, there are certain types of posts where a header image with text isn't as important as others, but as a general rule of thumb, i try to always include a header on my posts.  here are three reasons why i think it's important:

1.  it leads the reader into your post and gives them a quick snapshot of what they're going to read about...they don't have to guess where the post is going and are able to make a quick decision about spending the time reading it

2.  it makes your blog look organized and reader-friendly.  if you make it a point to have at least a header image in each post, you're going to be breaking up your text and making your blog easier to digest for a reader...i don't know about you, but when i open a page and all i see is text, i get overwhelmed and don't read anything!  even a simple header image will help introduce each post and make sure your blog doesn't feel like a wall of text.

3.  it makes your post especially pinterest-friendly!  i get a lot of traffic from pinterest, and so i always try to make sure to include a photo with the post title on it so that pinners will know what they're getting right off the bat!  also, portrait-oriented photos end up being larger on pinterest than landscape-oriented ones.

fortunately, there are quite a few great (free) programs out there that you can use if you're not in the market for expensive and complicated design software!  i did some research and here are a few that i found...


canva // canva is a web-based (free!) tool that is super user friendly and allows you to create a variety of layouts and styles.  it comes with tons of pre-made layouts that you can edit to create what you are looking for, as well as the ability to upload your own photos and lots of design elements that you can utilize when creating images for your blog!



studio design // studio design is an app that's available for android and apple devices...it's my go-to for adding text to images that i want to put on instagram or twitter, and comes in handy if you need to do some quick design on the go!  the app is free, and you can import your own photos and build from there, or you can build a design from scratch.  one thing i love about studio is that they have tons of packs of stamps that you can add to your designs (like the flower image in the photo above!)...these just ad something a little different and special to your images.  the only downside is that you can only create square images in this app...perfect for social media, but not as customizable for your blog!



fotor // similar to canva, fotor is a website that allows you add text to your images.  while i don't love the user interface as much as canva, fotor does have the benefit of a fairly robust photo editing software.  like the others, it also comes with "stickers" that allow you to add some different design elements to your blog as well.

what programs or software do you use to add text to images?

want more blogging tips?  check out some of the other posts in my blogging series here:
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