Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekly Top 5 |v.6

 It's Friday! And actually sort of comical that I'm excited about it because, honestly the days run together completely lately. I've taken the trash two days early the past few weeks because I genuinely never know what day of the week it is. But I never miss a doctor's appointment! So there's that.

  Anyways, this week as been a good one. Caleb had a surgery on Monday and came down with a bit of a cold, so that meant staying home all week (literally never leaving the house except for a funeral!). It has been a welcomed break from therapies and doctor appointments, for sure. Lots of riding big wheels around the house, baking cookies, playing with cousins, and watching Ferdinand the Bull.

  It is supposed to be a bit warmer in Indiana over the weekend and I'm crossing my fingers that we can take a family trip to the zoo. Fresh air + family time + normal life things like the zoo are just SO GOOD for all of us right now!

  So here's to a good weekend to you, too! Here are few fun things from around the internets if you need some weekend reading.

1. My most recent Amazon finds (all super random). I'm expecting two of these lights to be delivered today, and I'm super excited about switching out the fluorescent light in our laundry room and adding one to our basement stairwell. I also snagged this adorable spring coat for Caleb and love it. And I am almost embarrassingly excited to hang this in our laundry room! Oh- can't forget to mention my cute pink letterboard that was on super sale. I love it!

2. Spring cleaning. I just printed off a cleaning this from here and literally can't wait to start it. I think I may do Emily Ley's decluttering challenge again this year (you can sign up for it here), and I'm adding a bunch of cleaning products to my grocery list this week to refill our cleaning cabinet (spoiler: vinegar is my favorite!)

3. You could say that physical health hasn't exactly been a priority to me these past few weeks, so lately I've been trying to squeeze in more workouts when I can and add a few healthier meals when it works. Fitness Blender is my go-to (free! so many options!) and Kelly's smoothie formula is literally the best at keeping me full and energized in the mornings (fat+fiber+greens+protein).

4. Statement art. While it is ABSOLUTELY not in our budget right now (or ever??), I am in love with this giant print from Lindsay Letters. How cute and perfect!

5. Things that make me laugh. We're rewatching Parks and Rec on Netflix in the evenings and how did I forget how hilarious it is?? Also, this Christian comedian makes me die laughing nearly everyday.

Happy weekending!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Creative hospitality.

 One of the passages I studied in February was Romans 12:12-13. I have a habit of reading Matthew Henry's commentary and comparing different translations of passages to get a fuller picture. I happened to look up the MSG version of verse 13 and it said "Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality." That last phrase "be inventive in hospitality" stuck out to me.

  It's been a crazy few weeks for our family and it all came on quickly. (another story for Caleb to tell one day, not me) one of the best things that we've seen through all of these hard situations- community & hospitality. It has BLOWN US AWAY at how loved we are and how many people we really have supporting us. So many people have been really creative in the way they've loved us- the very way Paul talks about it in Romans 12! We all probably have a picture that comes to mind when we say 'hospitality', but I've learned it doesn't have to be so expected or traditional. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I've learned about hospitality over these past few weeks!

  Don't ask, just do. That is the biggest thing I have learned about hospitality, over the past few years actually. How many times have people offered or ask if they can help you out and you've responded with 'You're so kind! Thank you for the offer, but we're ok"? I've learned that when I offer, people often don't take me up on it and vice versa. I've also learned that if I make my favorite soup and bring it to Chicago when I visit a close friend who has just had a baby- she'll be surprised but also still eat it and be blessed by it. 100% of the ways we've been loved and people have supported our little family over the last few weeks has been that way- no one asked permission. My moms' girlfriends just gathered together a trunk full of food and delivered it to my mom for us without asking- and it was the best. My mom just cleaned my house while she was watching Tyler- she never asked (I would have told her not to worry about it!), but its been great to have clean floors and folded laundry. And so on and so on. So however you want to show hospitality, don't overthink it or ask permission. Just do it! (And if you're on the receiving in, don't be so quick to say no. If someone is offering something you could really benefit from, say yes!)

  Here are few more, specific ways to be creative with hospitality:

Meals. This is so obvious and the typical go-to way people reach out when big life things happen. And there's a reason why! When you are in the thick of big life things (a new baby, new job, moving, death of a loved one, medical crisis), preparing/eating/cleaning up a real meal is hard and the last on the list of things to be done. A well-rounded meal is the best. And having leftovers is great too!

  And it doesn't have to be as straightforward as baking and dropping off a meal at supper time. Our in-laws who live across the country ordered food through Door Dash and had it delivered to our doorstep. My mom's lifelong girlfriends made us a TRUNK FULL of freezer meals, soups, drinks and dry snacks to have on hand for appointments, etc. My sisters have dropped off lunch for the boys and myself in the middle of the day, and my mom has flat out grocery shopped for us! All things that really truly have made our lives easier these past 6 weeks.

Gift cards. Why do gift cards receive SUCH a bad rap? We received a handful of Panera cards, Chick fil a, and even Kroger. Those helped tremendously with giving Justin and I breakfast when we changed shifts at the hospital, for lunches I could actually convince Caleb to eat and can grab quickly between appointments, and money to grocery shop when we have crazy big medical bills rolling in. Add to that list a super sweet Starbucks e-gift card a college friend emailed me this week right before Caleb's surgery and a generous gift card for a massage sent from one of my best friends- and it feels like every need or convenience desire we've had has been met through unexpected gift cards. I'm sure they seemed small or insignificant to the sender, but they have been a sweet spot in our days!

Mailbox gifts. Does anyone else do this? My closest girlfriends and I have a habit of leaving random cards/treats/gifts in each others' mailboxes. Not always for any certain occasion, but always as a way to say 'you're loved.' I can think of 4 or 5 friends who have left fun gifts for Caleb, chocolate and cookies and wine for me on THE hardest days, and even a sweet t-shirt reminding me that I am thankful despite the hard stuff going on. I will never, ever tire of giving and receiving thoughtful mailbox gifts!

Care packages. Everyone loves a good package in the mail! We received a few really generous packages with toys for Caleb and Tyler, gift cards, sweet notes, sheet masks for me, and more things I'm sure I'm forgetting. But it has all been so welcomed! One friend sent some cute Paw Patrol sunglasses for Caleb and she couldn't have known how handy they have been as we've dealt with some serious eye challenges as a result of the infection he was fighting. The sheet masks sent by a friend were probably just a cute thing she added, but they have been the sweetest little treat I've been able to use when I have a little down time lately. The packages themselves have been a blast for the boys- a fun distraction and thing to look forward to, as well a practical supply of things for us to tote to appointments, waiting rooms, etc.

Prayers. I can't leave this off the list. "I'm praying for you" can be thrown around so loosely, but when someone means it- they are powerful. Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers. You may not be a great cook or have the ability to send a gift or spend money or lend time- but literally everyone who loves Jesus can offer up big, sincere prayers!

Cards/reaching out. When you don't know what to say, saying nothing is the worst. I don't know where, but I've heard that before. If a big life thing is happening, it is easy to feel isolated without realizing it. Reaching out to a friend just to say "Hi! This stinks and I love" is a great place to start (or "Hi! So excited for your growing family/new job/house! I know life is crazy and I'm thinking of you!"). Reminding people they are connected and seen and loved has a long-lasting value.

Babysitting. Oh. Man. One of the biggest challenges for us the past few weeks has been juggling Tyler and Caleb. We obviously couldn't have Tyler at the hospital or any of the four surgeries after the hospital stay ended. And so many appointments are just not ideal to bring him along to. Having my sister, mom, friends help out has been INVALUABLE. Really, truly invaluable. They usually have little/no notice and we drop Tyler on their doorstep and they love him well. We haven't felt like an inconvenience or that we have a big debt to pay back and we've been able to not worry about Tyler because he's been loved well.

Visiting/inviting. Life may be hectic, but there are probably pockets of 10-20 minutes when you can be present and visit. Ask if you can stop by the hospital, visit for breakfast, go on an early morning walk, come over during nap time, etc. If you're planning something that you would normally invite that person to- invite them and don't assume they wouldn't be able or want to come. Ie book club, girls night out, Noonday trunk show, birthday party. If it fits in their crazy schedule, having a normal thing to go to might be just the break they need!

  I'm obviously focusing on how to show hospitality during big life events today, but after I wrote it all out I realized every single thing could be applied to everyday life. Something big doesn't have to happen to warrant reaching out and creatively loving someone! Drop a meal off when you know a friend is having a hectic week at work, send a card on a Tuesday just because a friend is on your mind, buy a cute shirt when you see it and know a certain friend would love it, offer babysitting for a family member for no reason other than to give them a night out, and offer to pop-in for no reason other to have coffee while kids play. I think we make life harder than it has to be when we stick to rules and expectations and worry too much what others will think if we love boldly.

I am positive I've missed great ways to be creative with hospitality during hard times. Tell me! How have you been loved well or creatively reached out to other during a hard time (or just a big life change like having a baby)?

  Even more, let's try this today! Think of (or search out!!!) someone who could use some hospitality and find a way to be creative and love them today. Don't ask permission or apologize or overthink it. See a person and a need you could meet and do it!

Monday, January 1, 2018

1SE in 2017. (our yearly video)

  One of the best projects I started in 2017 was using the 1SE app. If you haven't heard of it, google it. If you want a fun way to document your year and your family, it's worth downloading and starting today! The one second clips seem insignificant at first but (like all good things) they add up and make a really fun video.

  2017 was a steady year for us and I love how the video is mostly full with clips of the boys in their highchairs or playing around the house. Add in some beach vacations, a hospital stay, a ton of park dates, lots of family and friend time, and lots of birthday celebrations- it all made for a full year. The best things outweighed the hard (don't they usually?) and it was just a good 2017.

  Here is how we spent our 2017!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Steady (a look at 2017)

 Maybe its cheesy, but I love picking a word for each new year. Not a big resolution, but instead more of a focus. It's always fun to look back and see how the word played out or how I did with keeping it at a focus throughout the year.   

My word for this year was Steady. Firmly fixed, supported or balanced, not moving. I spent 2015 and 2016 developing some great habits and I wanted this to be a year of maintaining them- of strengthening the roots I had put down.

Looking back at this year, I can see that it was steady. It wasn't full of new, big things. Instead, I (and we as a family) built on the things we've been working on for the past few years. Health-wise, we added more natural/clean recipes to our rotation and just exercised more. Financially, we had more and more conversations and planned more for our future. Relationally, we put in real work to keep developing community. Spiritually, we kept committing to our local church and to our habits in our walks with Jesus. 

 Overall, I would say that we just kept up with the idea that little by little, things keep growing. Small seeds planted in faith can increase abundantly!

  Here are the goals I set to go along with my word for 2017:

Read through the Bible. I did it! I say it a lot, but this is my favorite habit. You can read more about how I go about reading through the Bible in a year in this post.

Run a 10k. Well, I didn't exactly run a 10k. Instead I ran a half marathon and helped raised money for World Vision (with help from so many of you!)! See all about my race here

Date nights. Justin and I absolutely did a better job with prioritizing dates this year. Maybe we could be a bit more consistent with them (we average one a month right now) but overall we had a ton of fun dates (beach vacation, night away in Cincinnati, basketball game, dinners and movies, Christmas shopping, christkindlmarkt market, comedy show, soccer game, dinner party with friends, group dates and game nights). We've even tried to be creative with babysitting costs (it gets so expensive!) by swapping date night sitting with my sister and having friends over after our kids are in bed. 

Family bucket list. This was way less formal than my other goals. I did make small bucket lists for each season and it was fun to slowly work through them! (here are our winter and summer lists)

Ride out Noonday. This goal was the BEST surprise of 2017! I just wasn't sure if I was going to continue on as a Noonday ambassador. I decided to sit down, set intentional goals and truly work hard this year with my business. And it paid off! Literally and figuratively. I had the best season ever as an ambassador, which means my impact was bigger than ever! Financially, it also meant great rewards and support for our family. Plus, I just remembered how much I love the mission of Noonday, gathering women, and encouraging others to make a difference with their purchases. 

Girls trip. Didn't happen! And honestly, I didn't really try for it. So many of my girlfriends are in different stages of life (babies, job changes, moving, etc) that it didn't make sense to try to put a trip together. Maybe 2018 will be the year? 

Host. Justin and I both prayed specifically about ways to open our home in 2017 and two great things came from those prayers. We initiated First Fridays- where we invite anyone/everyone who is free on the First Friday of every month over for a meal. It is always a different group of people and the size always varies. But its also been so fun! I've also started doing a summer and winter Play Date with a Purpose- which has been a blast. (read more about those here and here

Can't wait to share about my word for 2018 and some goals I'll be working on!


Friday, December 29, 2017

Ideas for the new year.

My RushLittles chatbooks series

With only 3 days until the New Year, I thought I would share some of my favorite year-long habits/projects/ideas. Not so much goals as they are projects or activities, these are all useful things to start and keep working on for the next year. What are you setting out to do? Do you have any little projects you work on each year? I know I'm missing lots of good stuff from this list like organized, minimizing, creating, etc. Give me all your tips!

1SE: My favorite discovery of 2017! Have you seen this fun app? Such a great way to document your family and your year. It seems insignificant at first (1 second movie clips are so short!), but they add up and are so cool to look back on. The app is inexpensive and really easy to use. If you forget a day (or 10!) you can easily import a video from a different day. I love it! (See some of my 1SE videos from the year here)

Project life: I may be super behind on mine, but I really do love Project Life books. When I'm on my game, I print a large set of photos each month (Shutterfly and Snapfish always have good deals for 4x6 prints) and then put them in the photo sleeves. I wrote more about that here! (There's also a handy app you can use to make it all even easier and digital- I'm just a sucker for printed photos in photo sleeves)

chatbooks: Clearly I love photos! This year I discovered Chatbooks and how easy it is to create an ongoing book series. I use a unique hashtag on my Instagram photos of the boys and then Chatbooks pulls those specific photos to create a book. Once the book has 60 photos, it ships to me. SO easy. I can go in an edit (I leave all my captions out and choose 5 pictures to have printed in addition to the book). You can see some of my Chatbooks here!

Organize photos: While we're talking about photos, I should say that being more organized with mine is my goal for 2018. Anyone have a million photos (digital and printed) that you just don't know what to do with?! I plan to buy this guide from Nancy Ray (I hear amazing things about her tips!), finally figure out how to use the external hard drive I bought 3 years ago (anyone want to help me with that?!), and use some of Valerie's tips.

Yearly Bible reading plan: Hands down, this is my favorite yearly habit. Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety? It's one of those things worth doing once, and then over and over again. You can find endless plans and tools for reading through the Bible in a year, and I've found that using the YouVersion app on my phone is the easiest. It's free and already on my phone, so it didn't take much work to get started. I use a chronological plan (my favorite one builds in one grace day each week!). It tracks my progress for me and, if I don't have my actual Bible with me for any reason I can read straight in the app. I talk more about why I love this discipline here! Even better? Find a friend to do it along with you to help with accountability and encouragement.

Gratitude journal: Tons of research shows that practicing thanksgiving has positive impacts on every aspect of health (physical, emotional, mental, etc). Whether you pick up a cute notebook at Target, a cute one from a small business (I like the customizable ones from May Designs!) or download this adorable free Best of My Days pack for free- it's a really easy way to make sure the new year is intentional and focused on the right things.

monthly photo spot: One of my favorites, Shannan Martin, takes a photo each month in the same spot on her neighborhood. Its a cool way to see how things change and how they stay the same. I always love clicking through her hashtag!

make a book list: I set out to read 26 books in 2017 and, to my surprise, I nearly doubled that! Having a specific reading goal made me more intentional about it and it's been a fun thing to 'work' on. A quick google search with give you lots of lists of the best books to read right now- and you can find some of what I read in 2017 here, here, and here.

Word for the year: you've heard of this, right? It's not a new concept, but way more practical than making resolutions for the new year. This handy site can help you pick a word to focus on this year!

What are you working on in 2018? I'm always looking for fun new things to try!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Weekly Top 5 |v.5

  Merry (almost) Christmas! We aren't traveling or hosting anything this year, and it honestly feels really great. Justin has had the week off and we've just spent low-key time as a family. We're all a little under the weather and we haven't had any actual plans at all. It's been so nice to just wake up together, pick out some fun things to do, and even just hang out around the house. The chance to run errands without toddlers has also been pretty great!

  I've loved the slow start to Christmas so much, that I'm taking advantage of being on vacation from work, too. I'm deleting Instagram and my email from my phone until New Year's. There's not much better than being present, having few distractions, and ending the year on a restful now.

  Here's to hoping your holiday is great! Here's some weekend reading for you:

This show on netflix. Justin and I always have a hard time finding shows we both like, but this one is SO FUNNY. It has super dry humor, and we love it.

1SE. I've been using this app to make family videos for almost an entire year, and I'm still as obsessed with it as I was last January! If you need a fun (easy!) photo/film project to document your family/year, its a great idea to start on January 1st.

Goal setting. I always love reading Lara's goal setting tips and encouragement. Whether you're setting big, little, or no goals at all for 2018- her blog is worth a read!

5 minute fudge. We made tins of treats for our neighbors, and I may have kept a big thing of fudge to keep for myself!

I'm almost to my yearly impact goal with Noonday Collection! Want to help push me over the edge and make my biggest impact on our artisans who work in vulnerable communities around the world? I just need 10 people to buy a pair of earrings or even just a gift card before the end of the year. And if you shop through this link, you might win $45 of free Noonday for yourself!

Happy weekending (and merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Little world changers. v.|2

  Would you look at that cutie with the collections from our winter Play date with a Purpose?! He's the best. (see a similar photo from our summer play date here!)

  We've decided to make these play dates a semi-annual thing and they are the best. I invite all the moms/kids I know to come over and play (and snack! while collecting donations for a local non-profit (a domestic violence shelter in the summer, SafeFamilies in the winter). It hopefully gives the parents a chance to start teaching their kids about loving others and supporting our local community and reminds us all that we can be all be world changers.

  It was a smaller turnout this time, and I was tempted to feel insecure about that. Then I remembered that no matter the size, any donation would be helpful to the families served by SafeFamilies! The kids played their hearts out, ate a million snacks, and it always good for me to spend time with moms in the same stage of parenthood as myself. By the end of the morning, our dining room table had a big pile of things to be packed up and brought to the SafeFamilies office!

If you ever need an instant pick-me-up, visit a local non-profit and have some gifts in hand when you do. I say that because on Monday the boys and I dropped off donations from our second Play Date With a Purpose to our local Safe Families. It was the absolute highlight of our Christmas season this year! They were surprised at the amount we brought and SO excited to have special gifts for their moms (I put an ask out to any/everyone who might want to 'adopt a mom' and donate a Noonday bracelet to the moms served by the organization). Through some generous donations, they've been able to set up a Christmas room for parents to 'shop' gifts for their kids, but there isn't anything special for the parents themselves. Most of the moms receive cleaning supplies, gas cards, etc- but the coordinator was saying it would just be fun to bless them with the bracelets as a real gift in addition!

So here's my semi-annual plug to do something. Don't wait until you have more time or bigger network or a great idea or for someone to invite you. I guarantee that you can make a real difference in your community today. With exactly what you already have! Whether its inviting some friends and their kids over for a playdate with a purpose, baking a lasagna on Christmas for your local fire station, sending a starbucks e-gift card to your favorite local non-profit (a mid-week coffee treat on you!), call a local adoption agency and ask if there is a family in need of funds (then host a Noonday trunk show with your friends and Noonday will donate from your show!), WHATEVER. It takes so little to make a difference for our neighbors. And if we're being honest, we benefit too. If feels great to be a part of something bigger than ourselves!