What I've Been Up To!

The Source and Summit of My Faith

The Source and Summit of My Faith

    As the wife of someone who has been vegan for 25 years, I thought I had seen it all. The chik’n nuggets, the “vegandelphia cheez steak,” the judgy stares. Now here we are in 2018 pretty close to the distant future & we […]

10 Ways to Get and Stay Motivated

10 Ways to Get and Stay Motivated

  A few weeks ago, I posted about how I’ve been working on simplifying my life lately. Everything I mentioned in that post was absolutely necessary to my sanity.   That being said… my motivation really tanked when I stopped being so accountable to people […]

Bread and Belief

Bread and Belief

 

 

Last night, I got to go see the incredible Kim Walker-Smith lead a night of worship in Lancaster, PA. I’ve only seen her live one other time with her band Jesus Culture at the Outcry Tour in 2015. Because that was more of a showcase, I only saw her lead maybe three songs. I felt like the universe was in those three songs though!

 

This time, she has been traveling with her solo On My Side Tour. Wow. Her voice is just amazing. And her messages of hope really released breakthrough for everyone there. The thing that struck me most was the ease with which she and her opener Urban Rescue spoke on scripture and just threw around bible verses. It’s always inspiring to hear others bravely talk about the Gospel.

 

In the spirit of that, I thought I’d try something a little different. I wanted to take my Sunday Gospel reading and just write a bit about my feelings and impressions to hopefully inspire you this week. I believe in throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing which stick. Maybe this blog post will stick, and I’ll add more Sunday readings to my queue. Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re not Catholic, you might be wondering about this Sunday Gospel thing and just what I mean. For many Christians, each church can choose the readings for their Sundays week to week, month to month, or year to year. The church where I saw Kim Walker-Smith last night has themes for a few Sundays in a row. The pastor is able to choose readings that go together with that theme and go from there. It’s this beautiful spontaneous type of church and sermon structure.

 

In my faith, we read the entire Bible as a church over a three year span. We have readings every day of the week and rotate through what we call a “lectionary cycle.” That’s a fancy name for a schedule of readings we can look forward to throughout the next three years.

 

One thing I really like about that is that I can plug into those readings any time of day, look forward to coming weeks, and read ahead to see where we’re going. It’s also totally exciting that everywhere, all over the world, Catholics are reading those same readings on the same days at the same time. Wow. It doesn’t matter if I’m on vacation, moving, or traveling, I can get the hang of things right away. It’s such a welcoming feeling for me. I look forward to having the Gospels meet me every week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Sunday, we’re getting ready to hear John 6:24-35 where Jesus talks about an amazing miracle He just performed. This is John’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fish. Other than the resurrection, this is the only miracle that appears in all four gospels! It’s a pretty memorable one for most of us, but I’m sure it was even crazier in person. No big surprise that it keeps popping up in each gospel.

 

After that, Jesus talks to the crowds and His closest followers about what happened at that miracle and what it meant. For Jesus, the natural and the supernatural all occur at the same time. Anything He performed on Earth has this other dimension. It’s both a physical miracle, feeding 5,000 people with a handful of loaves of bread and some fish, but it also has a deeper, spiritual meaning. He tells His followers that He provided food for their bodies and food for their hearts. He encourages them to chase after the Bread of Life (Jesus) instead of earthly bread that just leaves us hungry for more. He points them from this physical manifestation of the Father providing for everyone to Himself.

 

I love when He connects these earthly and heavenly purposes together. Because for Jesus it’s never one or the other. It’s always both. He doesn’t do things in only this dimension or time or place, but in all dimensions and all times and all places. Even just hearing this story takes us back to the time of the Israelites in the Hebrew Scriptures when God provided manna and brings us forward to a future where we can trust what Jesus is giving us in our own lives.

 

The verse that struck me the most was when the crowd asked Jesus, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

 

They loved this miracle and wanted to see how they could manufacture it in their own lives. The hungry were there in their midst and many of the good-hearted were likely looking for ways to ease their pain and suffering in the here and now. Others may have wanted the notoriety that comes with performing miracles on this scale. Some may have wanted to show they were blessed by God and were under His favor. Everyone had their own motives for making miracles like this happen, but as always, Jesus said something completely unexpected.

 

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.’”

 

For me, that’s the verse that really stood out. “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” He didn’t give the crowds a set of elaborate instructions to perform this miracle. He didn’t make a to-do list for them so they could “accomplish the works of God.” He didn’t tell them hoops they must jump through or things they needed to check off a list. He didn’t even tell them what comes next, what comes after they believe. He just said to believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve written about this many times here, but I’m the type of person who feels most comfortable performing, achieving, completing, succeeding, growing, changing. It gives me a sense of happiness and joy to accomplish things in my life. I’m not going to discount the worthiness of my endless pursuit for excellence and a job well done. So often, though, that becomes the means to the end, not the other way around. I do things often for the sake of doing them instead of having my head on straight about the why.

 

I feel like I can never do enough, accomplish enough, complete enough in this life. I’ve been working on simplifying things lately, but that’s a hard lesson for me to learn. And one I feel like I’m always learning. Because life, this life, isn’t meant for just productivity and accomplishment. We’re made for something more.

 

In this verse, Jesus cuts right through the spinning and business and actions and performance. He says to simply “believe in the one he sent.” The Father gave us His Son not only for earthly miracles, although that was certainly part of His plan. He gave us His Son so we could know the Father. His heart. His joy. His plan. His purpose. His love. His everything.

 

Of course the gospels tell so much more about the plan of Jesus and how life can look here and now and into the eternities. In this moment, though, Jesus drills down into the heart of His mission: just believe. It’s that simple act, that simple yes, that simple restructuring of our heart, that changes things. He performs miracles not to help us believe. He helps us believe so we can experience miracles. It starts with a very simple pivot of our will and pivot of our focus toward Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard it said often that it’s important not to take scripture verses out of context. Not to just hang on one sentence or one moment and interpret our lives through that lens. That can muddy our understanding of the whole arc of salvation that comes from reading scripture in its entirety. In this instance though, I’d like to suggest that maybe we can set our hearts on this one verse. Reflect on it a little more. It cuts through everything else and its truth is so readily apparent.

 

Like any other slice of wisdom and window into His heart, Jesus also offers a promise. At the end of the reading He says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

 

I think we are all hungry for something. Whether it’s for God to perform a miracle, give us purpose, answer a prayer, or fame or success or money or love or security. Something to fix. Something to change. We thirst for good things in this world. Righteousness. Fairness. Justice. Understanding. We have a taste of the Kingdom and want more, even if just in pieces.

 

I encourage you to ask yourself, “what am I really hungry for?” Then go to Him. Sit with Him. Let Him sustain you. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Whether it’s in a pew, at home, in your car, in your journal. Pour out your heart to Him.

 

He asks for just a little trust from us, and He provides everything in return.

 

He will give you real bread for your journey. He will overflow your life with blessing. And you will eat and be satisfied.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a lot of fun sharing images from some of my journeys in these posts about faith. This time, I wanted to add photos from a trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Hale Farm and Village in Ohio. As an Ohioan, I take a lot of pride in our history. I’m also a little bit addicted to pastoral scenes, so here you go!

 

 

For more tips, tricks, and inspiration head over to my Pinterest board , my Instagram, or my lifestyle and fitness Instagram.

 

Rediscovering My Roots

Rediscovering My Roots

    Last year, I bought my brother one of those DNA ancestry kits for his 40th birthday. My dad is big into genealogy and talks about our family history a lot. I thought it might be fun to see if our family DNA corroborated […]

Major Toy Declutter and Simplicity Parenting

Major Toy Declutter and Simplicity Parenting

  From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I started gobbling up any kind of information I could find on pregnancy, birth, early childhood, and child development. In stressful times, consuming information really helped me calm down. I knew if I reached the […]

My Favorite Beauty Hacks

My Favorite Beauty Hacks

 

 

It’s no secret I love all things makeup and skincare. I use right around 10 skincare products a day and nearly 20 makeup products on a non-lazy day. It’s such a fun hobby! That being said, I also like to take a few shortcuts to make the process run more smoothly. I have a very active fifteen-month-old who likes playing with my makeup more than watching me apply it. Time is really of the essence around here! I have a few things up my sleeve that I thought I could share to make your days a little easier.

 

 

Here are my Favorite Beauty Hacks that work for me:

 

 

 

+ pre-rinse

 

 

I have the hardest time taking off eye makeup, especially mascara. I’ve tried all kinds of things and have even (legally) smuggled some makeup removers across the US/Canada border. I import high-end cotton balls from Japan too! Nothing stops my search for the ultimate eye makeup remover. That was until I read about this particular hack: rinse your lids with a splash of water before you use eye makeup remover. How simple! I tried it and it worked great! It also resulted in fewer lost eyelashes. Just a little splash of warm water starts the process of loosening up all those waxes and sealants before the real work of makeup remover begins.

 

 

 

+ don’t waste money on new brush heads

 

From time to time, I think it’s great to replace brush heads for sonic cleansing brushes, but the timeline they suggest gets really expensive! At around $30 a pop and a recommended schedule of a new one every three months, you can really throw away a lot of money on needless updates.

 

I’ve taken the time to clean my brush heads before, but nothing has worked better than denture cleaning tabs! I use them normally to clean my retainer so I had a bunch lying around my bathroom cabinet. I was about to buy a new brush head, and I thought the risk was pretty low if I destroyed the brush head. Amazingly, it worked like a charm! My cleansing brush is working like new. The mildew building up underneath the bristles is gone and the bristles are back to their soft, scrubby selves. I couldn’t believe how well such an inexpensive hack performed. Seriously worth a try!

 

 

 

+ keep two shampoos in the shower just in case

 

There’s this old myth that shampoos and conditioners “stop working” and need to be changed around a lot. Turns out it’s us who do all the changing and not our products. Throughout a normal cycle, women’s hormones and natural oils change a lot. When a moisturizing shampoo works great for a week and then all of the sudden starts giving you greasy strands, changing body chemistry could be the cause.

 

We also live in an environment that can have huge swings in temperature, humidity, pollution, and weather conditions. Some days I might need heavy duty anti-frizz creams and some days I need my hair to stay put in 20 mph winds.

 

I also change up my styling depending on my mood, the time I have, or what I’m doing that day: straight one day, curly the next. To give my hair a good start, I keep two or three shampoos in my shower at all times. Mine include a Sunday detox shampoo for deep cleaning and to remove residue, a lightweight volume shampoo for good weather days when I have time for a full blowout, and a creamier anti-humidity shampoo for those sticky Mid-Atlantic days when my weather app reads 90% humidity levels. Inexpensive or pricey, adding an extra bottle or two to your shower shelf can really help you avoid bad hair days before they start.

 

 

 

+ skip the makeup brush cleaner

 

I mean, of course clean your makeup brushes, but don’t spend a bunch of money on specialty cleanser. Many makeup companies sell designated makeup brush cleansers that can cost far more than necessary.

 

I like to use a gentle, non-irritating shampoo instead. It cleans just as well for a fraction of the price. It doesn’t even need to be fancy. Baby shampoo or a sulfate-free bottle will work great. I’m a fan of trying new shampoos on my hair. Not of all of them are winners. The ones I would normally toss I set aside just for makeup brush cleansing.

 

The only caveat here: make sure it’s a formula that doesn’t irritate your skin. I’m sensitive to lavender and have the worst time when it’s included in any personal care products. If a shampoo doesn’t work on my scalp, I don’t use it on my brushes. Your brushes come into such close contact with your skin, so it’s best to avoid those irritating formulas.

 

 

 

+ clean up goofs

 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten mascara fallout or smears on my lids and undereye area. I used to use a q-tip and try to wipe it away. That method always ended with a giant smear of mascara all over my freshly made up face and the need for a foundation and eyeshadow do-over wherever it landed. A wise makeup artist once told me to wait until that little mascara blob dried before trying to remove it. Then you gently lift it off with a clean brush or q-tip and it will remove cleanly from your face. It really works! I haven’t had a mascara smear in ages since I learned this simple hack.

 

 

 

+ comb it through

 

I can’t tell you how many times I see too-severe brows or clumpy lashes that ruin an otherwise pretty makeup look. To avoid that artificial and crunchy look, I always always always comb through my brows and lashes when I’m done applying product. I like my lashes to look feather-y and soft, not spidery. And my brows look naturally full and healthy if I take the time to run a spoolie brush through them before I leave my vanity. Some eyebrow products come with an attached comb or brush attached. Don’t forget to include that brush in your regular brush cleaning maintenance.

 

 

 

+ keep it neat

 

Along with mascara goofs, sometimes I can get a little out of hand with my winger liner or my lipstick starts migrating past the edges of my lips. One thing that’s always in my makeup brush collection is a cleanup brush. Mine is just a simple stiff-bristled brush (it’s actually a paint brush!) that I regularly keep clean to tidy up mistakes. Q-tips can get pretty wasteful when all you need is a little swipe to clean up eyeshadow fallout. Always make sure it’s spotless though! I’ve tried to clean up lip liner before with a brush that had lingering eye liner on it and it ended up much worse than before I started.

 

 

+ a clean slate

 

I do my makeup on my dresser facing my large bedroom mirror. It’s inevitable that translucent powders and eyeshadows end up creating a fine dusting of shimmer over my entire bureau. I’m not the biggest fan of shimmery furniture, so I used to spend a lot of time and energy cleaning up the surface underneath my makeup storage boxes.

 

Until I thought of the simplest hack! I take a tissue and put it under my makeup application area before I start. Once I’m done, I fold up the tissue with all of the makeup fallout and use the clean side to blot my lipstick before tossing it in the trash. I’m going to blot my lipstick with a tissue anyway. Might as well put it to good use before I use it. It’s such a simple way to keep your makeup area clean.

 

 

 

 

There you have it! My favorite makeup hacks to keep your look tidy and beautiful. Do you have any ideas or hacks that I’ve left off my list? Let me know in the comments below! I hope you find some of these ideas useful and look forward to hearing your thoughts too.

 

 

 

 

 

For more tips, tricks, and inspiration head over to my Pinterest board , my Instagram, or my lifestyle and fitness Instagram.

 

How I Learned To Love Cleaning

How I Learned To Love Cleaning

  I’m going to be honest here: I love cleaning! I know that might sound crazy to some people. Like, really? Cleaning? But yes, I do love cleaning. And not just the by-product: a clean house. The process is totally meditative for me. It’s only […]

How I’m Simplifying My Life Lately

How I’m Simplifying My Life Lately

  I was going to title this, “How I’m De-Complicating My Life Lately” but that seemed kind of complicated… It’s almost July now & it’s time for me to start thinking about a little mid-year review. I got this great idea from YouTuber muchelleb & […]

What’s in My Beach Bag

What’s in My Beach Bag

 

 

Summer is finally here! I’ve been waiting for this summer for a long time. My son is now fourteen months old, so he’s just the right age for playing in the surf and sand. We took him to the shore last year, but it was mostly just lying in the sunshine and looking at the sky (not bad either..).

 

 

 

 

This summer, we also packed nearly all of our travel into late spring and early summer (our May road trip and our early June shore trip). I can’t believe it’s so early in the summer and the bulk of our hectic travel season is mostly over. Now I’m looking forward to lazy days at the pool, grilling, ice cream, and sunset walks for the next two months. If you’re the type of family who travels all summer, you will totally appreciate this.

 

 

 

 

This year, we joined our friends for the second year in a row at a shore house in Sea Isle, New Jersey. It’s such an easy trip with a toddler for us. Not much need for an elaborate toddler road trip survival guide this time! One of the days was rotten weather, but one day was just perfect! In the 70s, sunny, not too hot, nice breezes. And we went to the beach on a Monday afternoon/evening so it was totally empty! It was just us, our friends’ family, a handful of surfers, and some sea birds. I was grateful for such a quiet happy day at the beach!

 

 

 

 

Because we have easy access to the ocean and a great pool at our apartment complex, I end up having a packed beach bag on hand at all times. It’s just a few things, but when a spur of the moment perfect pool day comes up, it’s great to have everything ready on a moment’s notice.

 

 

 

 

Maybe you’re wondering just what’s in this beach bag… Mostly the essentials! I don’t like to have a ton in there so I have room to add a book, my iPad, a coconut water, or whatever else I want to bring that day. I also add a few toddler essentials because my usual pool/beach companion is my sweet son. My husband (like all men) is blessed with pockets in every single article of clothing, so he has less need of a beach bag.

 

This beach bag is from a Tone It Up Bikini Series challenge a few years ago. I love the neoprene fabric, easy cinch top, and net pocket on the front for essentials. It’s lightweight and packs down well which is great for road trips and stowing in between trips. Lots of companies bring out bags like this this time of year. I would bet they’re an easy find.

 

 

 

 

In my toddler portion, I have Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids in SPF 70+. I love that this sunscreen is water repellant and easy to spray and apply. I like to spray it on my hands before applying though because it’s really cold straight out of the bottle! My son thinks the spray part is pretty fun. I also found these adorable sunglasses at Carter’s. I like to store them in a Ziplock snack bag to keep them from scratching too much. I usually stow them in the front net pocket of my beach bag. I also have this super cute “Dude” cap that I got in the Target Dollar Spot. Perfect for keeping the sun out of his eyes.

 

 

 

 

In my portion, I of course have a magazine. I’m a total magazine addict. I have my favorite Coola sport sunscreen in White Tea. I use this on my face every day, rain or shine. It has a nice lightweight feel and doesn’t make my skin oily during the day. I’ve loved Neutrogena Ultra Sheer body mist for years and years. It’s my very favorite. I also have a Vaseline lip balm to keep my lips protected from salty sea air. I bought a small brush just for my beach bag and added an elastic hair tie to the handle, so I don’t have to go digging in my bag for one. These Marc by Marc Jacobs sunglasses are a very favorite pair from years and years ago. I store them in a Marimekko zip pencil case to protect from scratches. The sunglasses came with a protective hard case, but it’s so big and bulky that I downsized. This cute towel is also from Tone It Up and came in the same bundle as the bag. I’m recently in love with this “Day Drinking” bottle from Love Sweat Fitness. It’s lightweight BPA free plastic and has these cute markings on the front to remind you to drink water throughout the day.

 

It’s just that simple! If I only have a few essentials in my bag, I find it so much easier to grab and go and add whatever I need that day. I’d love to hear what essentials you have in your beach bag. What makes an essential beach bag for you? Comment below with your ideas!

 

For more tips, tricks, and inspiration head over to my Pinterest board , my Instagram, or my lifestyle and fitness Instagram.

 

Reconnecting With God Along The Way

Reconnecting With God Along The Way

  It’s been a hot minute since I last posted about anything spiritual. To be honest, I haven’t been feeling very spiritual lately, so it’s been hard to write about it. Have you been there? There are all these expectations when we put our faith […]