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Commitment… And Everything That Goes With It

*Insert Leann Rimes jam session*

Okay, back on track.  What were talking about? Oh yeah.  Commitment.

News flash, y’all – we live in a busy world!

Busy is my favorite way to be (except the exact opposite, when I enjoy my coffee in silence as I binge watch Netflix.)

As far back as I can remember, I’ve ran a busy schedule.

My mama will quickly tell you, “I used to wake up every morning and ask myself, ‘Where does Callie have to be today?'”

Cheerleading practice this day, dance classes that day, softball game here, church service there, sorority fundraiser this weekend, school function that weekend…

Rarely have I ever been one to just pick one thing to do.

My mama also will tell you this – she had a theory.  The more activities I was committed to, the less trouble I would get in.

Commitment.

That’s kind of a funny word.
You don’t hear it much these days.
It feels weird rolling off the tongue and it doesn’t always taste good.

But you see, I was extremely lucky growing up.

I have a daddy who was committed to a business that demanded every second of every day.

I have a mama, who saddled up and joined him in his endeavor as a restaurant owner.

And you know what?

When the time came, they did what they needed to do, made the adjustments they needed to make, and called in the help they needed to get me where I needed to go.

That’s right.  Read that again.

They always made sure I got where I was supposed to be AND that I was prepared AND that I was on time…

… even when I didn’t want to go.

Even though they had responsibilities of their own.

And my friends’ parents were the same way.

They all had that “team work makes the dream work” mentality.

There were some days when one of our parents would have a car full of 4 or 5 children pulling up at cheerleading practice.  And then a different parent would show up and take us all home.

Those precious parents of ours INSTILLED a sense of responsibility in us because they never gave excuses.

So, when the time came and we were grown, or at least at the age we could drive ourselves, those values didn’t waver.

Fast forward ten years and I find myself well into my career as an elementary teacher and a dance teacher, and I get to observe today’s children and their behaviors in different settings.

While today’s society has changed greatly – everything from schooling to parenting to discipline and everything in between – do you know one thing I notice the most?

Lack of commitment.

There’s that word again.

In the classroom, we see a lack of commitment (and involvement) from parents when it comes to homework, studying, PTO, and activities in general.

At dance, kids drop out left and right.  Attendance is often a problem.  Why?  It’s consistently a lack of commitment.  (And just a little Callie-ism for you – a lack of responsibility on the parent and child.)

And it’s not just our dance studio.  Or dance in general.  It’s in sports and organizations across the board.

Parents, I am fixing to step on your toes.

First and foremost, YOU are the adult.

You are the adult that decided to fork over GOOD money to send your child to dance.  Or play football.  Or whatever your kid’s niche is.

And *POOF* three weeks into the season, your child is tired or doesn’t feel like going or would rather watch Netflix than to get his or her little self dressed and go to practice.

NO MA’AM.

I don’t care if there’s tears.
I don’t care if fits are pitched.

It’s time to saddle up.

Vicki (my mama for all of you newbies around here) would have given me a response that sounded something like this:  “No baby girl, I spent good money for you to learn how to dance.  You’ve got 5 seconds to get your tail in that room and get dressed or I’m gonna give you a reason to cry.”

I don’t mean to be harsh, really.  But sometimes, the truth hurts.

“But you’re not a parent.”

No, I’m not.  But I’ve had some excellent examples in my life that have shown me what effective parenting looks like.  (I also spend 7+ hours a day with other people’s children.  Come at me, bro.)

I’ve already told you that my parents and my friends’ parents instilled what it means to be responsible, committed, and hard working in us.

If you don’t remember anything else I’ve ever written, I want you to remember this – it takes a village to raise your child.

Starting with you… The precious mamas and daddies, the grandparents, the family members… As a teacher, I appreciate you!  I know your job is hard and when you do what is best for your babies, it makes my heart smile.

But along the way, your village will grow tremendously.  You will welcome many people outside of your household into your village and they will impact your child just as much as you will, though in different ways.

These people will include teachers, coaches, instructors, youth pastors, mentors, friends, and many others along the way.

These people will love your child like their own. They will teach them skills that maybe you can’t. And they will happily pile your child along with theirs in the back of their SUV and get them where they need to go when you can’t.

But parents, you build those villages by teaching your child how to be committed to something.  How to be responsible, how to be humble and ask for help, how to work hard, and you guessed it – how to simply show up.

If I have burned your biscuits already and you’re sitting their in your keyboard warrior pose, waiting to strike… I’m going to ask you to wait right there.

Press the pause button on your anger, your offensiveness, or maybe even your shame.

I want you to picture your child 5 years down the road, 10 years down the road, maybe even 15.
Picture them in high school, college, and adulthood.

Parents, I hope you’re picturing prima-ballerinas, star quarterbacks, class presidents, valedictorians, cancer-curing doctors, life-saving soldiers, fearless community leaders, math-minded engineers, and the like.

These necessary, world-changing jobs that require discipline, responsibility, respect for superiors, hard work, and you know it’s coming… commitment.

Now, I want to dig deep.  Are you teaching your child these things?  Do your hopes and dreams for your children match what you’re instilling in them?

Let me give you some real life perspective.

There will come a time where your child doesn’t have a mama that loves them unconditionally around to let them stay at home instead of going to dance class, or skip football practice, or play hookie from school.

Their college professors, their future bosses, even their high school coaches… are not going to let those behaviors slide.

At least twice a week, when my alarm goes off to start my day, I think to myself… “I could call a sub.  I could just stay home today.”

But I don’t.  Why?  Because sometimes, you just have to do it anyway.

When you. just. can’t. stand your toddler’s tears and you don’t want to be the bad guy – do it anyway.
When you. just. can’t. argue with your child anymore about putting on her clothes to go to school – do it anyway.
When you. just. can’t. deal with your teenager rolling their eyes anymore – do it anyway.

Do your child and yourself a favor, and do it anyway.

Push through these hard times.

In the end, your child and society will thank you.

I know parenting is hard.  I know children can be headstrong.  But you got this, mama!

Win that argument.
Get that baby to dance class (even if it’s kicking and screaming.)

7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time at Dance

“Hey, write me a post for our blog,” said the director at our dance studio… about 6 months ago.

Seriously, I’ve been swerving her request ever since, because I just didn’t know what to write.  (Sorry, Mrs. Crystal!) While I would call myself a writer and I’ve spent a large portion of my life as a dancer/dance teacher, I just wasn’t sure where to go with this request.

I’m a writer of the heart.  My best writing comes from things I’ve felt, or directly observed, or experienced!  So, once we got really started this season, I finally had a direction.

How to get the most out of your dance classes!

I know what you’re thinking, “Well, I show up every week!”

And that’s a great step in the right direction, but I’m going to share a secret with you.

When it comes to dance, just showing up is not enough.

Dance is defined like this:

Dance /dans/
verb
1.    move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps.

But it SHOULD be defined like this:

Dance /dans/
verb
1.    to move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps, maintaining energy and focus, as you sweat and work your sore muscles, all while trying to remember all the technique you’ve ever learned.  Ever.  Also, you should smile.

No, I’m not exaggerating.
In fact, that definition should be longer!

With that being said, let’s get down to business.

How to get the most bang for your buck during dance class:

Show up to WORK.

Your dance teachers knows you’ve been at school all day.  In fact, they’ve probably worked a different job before coming to teach your class.  We know you’re tired, we’re know you’ve been working all day, and we want you to have FUN in our classes, but just like school – dance takes focus.

However, unlike school, you get to move around, burn off some pent up energy, and listen to fun music!  You can have the best of both worlds during dance class.  You can make friends and have fun, all while learning new steps.

Dance teacher secret – Whining and being lazy isn’t only holding you back, it’s also frustrating to your classmates and teachers.

 

Take corrections and APPLY them.

This goes hand in hand with showing up to work!

If your dance instructor gives you a correction because you’re doing something wrong, it is NOT a bad thing!  It means he or she cares enough to fix your mistakes so you won’t continue to make them.

The best things you can do when you are given a correction are:

  1. Respond with a good attitude
  2. Listen, watch, and ask questions
  3. APPLY the corrections

While you may think those are “duh” points to make, APPLYing corrections has to be intentional every. single. time. you do the move.

 

Find your dance “person.”

Naturally, you should be friendly to everyone in your class.  Dance is a fantastic way to make friends.

But trust me when I tell you, everyone needs a “person” in their classes.

This is the classmate who is not only your friend, but also someone who will help you practice, remind you when you’ve forgotten a step, and help keep you on track.  Even the most dedicated dancers need a “person.”

Becoming each other’s “persons” are how teams are built!

Practice outside of class.

This includes stretching.

I know.  I can hear you now.  I have practically lived your thoughts.

You don’t want to.  There’s Snapchat, and homework, and Netflix, and friends, and whatever else entertains teenagers these days.

BUT, practicing between classes is as simple as setting 15-30 minutes aside each day to run your dances.

(Side note: you can totally stretch while scrolling through social media and binge watching Stranger Things.)

Don’t be afraid of the front.

When you’re in class and there’s spot open at the front of the room – grab it!

I cannot stress this enough.  Don’t worry what everyone else is thinking! The front row of your dance class is not some forbidden zone where only professional reside.  There is nothing wrong with wanting a spot with a clear view of the instructor and the mirror.  Be confident in yourself and make the most out of the opportunity when it presents itself.

Don’t compare yourselves to others.

I know.  It’s so hard.  As dancers (especially us girls), we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others.  From our skill levels, to our technique, to our body types – we compare!

But it’s important to remind yourself that everyone else’s journey is not YOUR journey.

Everyone is different.  Everyone learns differently.  Every member of your class has a different story.

You may find yourself asking… If they can do that, why can’t I?

But the real question is… If you’re worried about someone else, how can you grow as a dancer?

The sooner you begin to focus on you, the better!

And the last one goes without explanation…

ENJOY your time in class.

Dance is hard work, but it is also SO. MUCH. FUN!

There you have it.  Seven ways to get the MOST out of your dance classes!

Now, it’s YOUR turn to share your own tips with us.  How have YOU made the most of your dance experience?

Share it and tag your dance “person!”

 

For more information on our classes, visit https://www.centerstagedanceal.com/!

 

 

5 Apps That Will Pay YOU

All you need is love, said the Beatles…

And about a million other things, of course.

Like money.

With every passing year of my adulthood, I realize there are so many things they don’t teach you during your 13+ years of education.

I mean, sure… They teach you all about the Pythagorean theorem, and the elements on the periodic table, and how to find the square root of x… And all of that other really important stuff that you will totally use every. single. day. of your life.  (Insert eye roll emoji.)

I am so glad they skipped all that useless stuff we would never need… Like budgeting, filing your taxes, investing your money, how to build a resume, buying a house, etc..

Okay, okay.  Maybe I went too far with the sarcasm, but y’all get my point.

Money makes the world go ’round.

Some things you have option to spend your hard earned money on, while others… you have no choice.

Food, clothes, housing.. all necessities of life.

Ya gotta eat.
Naked is not acceptable.
Protection from the elements is preferable.

And unless you’re super outdoorsy and handy and can grow, sew, and build everything you need.. those things cost money.  Lots. of. money.

I know, I know.  You already know this.  Reminding you that simply living is expensive is not why I invited you here.

I brought you here to introduce the possibility of making money off your everyday gotta-have purchases!

Yes, you read that right.  There are ways to make money back when you buy stuff.

How?  Apps.  Free apps for your smartphone.  Free, easy-to-use apps.  So…

Here we go!

  1. Ebates – This website allows you to shop through their website and earn cash back on your purchases.  They have a wide variety of stores to choose from, or you can shop by category.  Better yet, they have a selection of stores that offer DOUBLE cash back, such as Expedia and Shutterfly.My favorite part of this website/app is that you get $10 just for signing up, AND when you refer a friend you earn $5.  But, that’s not all.  If they also shop through the website, you can earn up to $25 in bonuses!  You can sign up for Ebates here.
  2. Be Frugal –   This website is super similar to Ebates!  You shop through their website and earn a percentage of your purchase back.When you sign up, you earn $10, when you refer a friend, you earn $15!  You can sign up for Be Frugal here.
  3. Receipt Pal – This app is my FAVORITE by far.  Why? Because all you have to do is snap a picture of your receipt using the app and you earn points.  Once you earn so many points, you get to redeem them for gift cards!  I’ve already redeemed several Amazon gift cards using this app alone at no cost to me.  Plus, you can now submit your online receipts via email.  #gamechangerEasy peasy, lemon squeezy.
  4. Shopkick – This app is perfect for you if you’re out and about a lot.  This app has a lot of features, but the best is earning “walk-in kicks.”  It’s as easy as it sounds, you just walk through the doors of certain stores, open the app, and earn “kicks,” or points.  You can also scan different items once you’re in the store for additional kicks.Like Receipt Pal, once you earn so many kicks, you redeem them for gift cards.  So far, I have used my “kicks” to buy a coffee maker and a pair of shoes.This app also offers the option to scan receipts and connect your credit card, but I have not tried these options.
  5. Ibotta – This app allows you to earn money off of everyday purchases such as groceries, electronics, clothes, etc.  You simply select your store, claim the rebates, then once you’ve shopped, scan your receipt.  PLUS, you get $10 just for signing up and $5 for every friend you refer.Within just a few hours it will put the money on your account.  I like this app because you truly get money back.  It will send your earnings to your PayPal account. I cashed my earnings in when we moved back in July.  It helped tremendously with all of those pesky expenses you don’t think about when moving, like new curtain rods and pantry shelves.
    So, guys… there you have it.  Five apps that will help you earn money on things you are already purchasing!

These apps are user friendly, and take up very little of your time.

Give them a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

OR if you have another favorite money-back app, let us know!

Blessings!

Did you enjoy this post?  Don’t forget to share it on Pinterest!

Making money! via www.organizedinthechaos.com

3 Easy-Peasy Buffalo Chicken Recipes

When Pinterest first made its debut, I was a college sorority girl who quickly fell in love with the website. Crafts! Decor! Wedding ideas! Clothing styles! It opened a new door to my creative side.

But as an adult… a real adult, with a big girl j-o-b and bills to pay… my Pinterest boards look quite different. Recipes! Organization and cleaning! Budgeting tips! Teacher projects!… My favorite being recipes.

I grew up as the picky eating child. Chicken fingers were (and still are) my food of choice! However, Pinterest inspired me to broaden my horizon and try new things. I’ve discovered some fool-proof favorites, while also making some of those epic #Pinterestfails.

And while my favorites turned out awesome, I often get creative and tweak them… because I prefer a life of ease, and homegirl ain’t got time to make homemade ketchup or churn her own butter. (Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but you get the point.)

So, with all of that being said, I have found and tweaked several dishes that are easy-peasy, semi-healthy, and make great leftovers that I will be sharing over a series of blog posts.

We’re going to start with a few recipes that involved one main ingredient – buffalo chicken! Now, spoiler alert, I never order buffalo flavored anything when I go places. I’m not a fan of buffalo wings, tenders, etc… but on a home cooking level, give me all the buffalo goodness.

First things first – the base of all these recipes – the chicken!

A lot of times, I will cook a lot of this chicken on Sunday, and then eat it different ways throughout the week. This saves me a lot of time and energy… Because, teacher tired!

You will need:

  • Boneless chicken breasts, thawed
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or your choice of seasoning
  • Frank’s Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

You could use the actual “wing sauce,” but I started using the cayenne pepper sauce because it was a “free food” on the 21 Day Fix and I’ve been hooked ever since… I always have a bottle that I’m using, and an unopened bottle in the cabinet… just in case.

Mix in ranch or blue cheese dressing (I prefer ranch, but the dressings are optional)

Healthy wealthy sidenote: I use regular, store-bought ranch dressing. You could use homemade, or the organic or fat free versions if you choose, but my handy dandy Fooducate app tells me that neither are any healthier than the regular… In fact they had a lower grade!

The best part of making the chicken, is that it can be made from whatever leftover chicken you have in your refrigerator! But if you don’t have any leftovers, simply season your chicken to your liking and bake for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees. (Or head on over to Publix and grab a rotisserie chicken… That’s just a free lazy girl hack for you.)  Then, dice and toss in buffalo sauce and ranch.

Now that you have the main ingredient of the next few dishes, here we go!

Buffalo Chicken Wrap – my favorite

You will need:

  • Your prepared chicken (see above)
  • Whole wheat tortillas like these.
  • Shredded cheese of your choice (I like Colby Monterey Jack)

Heat your pan on the stove… I usually do it on high, because I like to live on the edge… (plus if you know my mom or nana, you will understand that that’s genetic.) While your pan is heating, place your chicken on your tortilla and top with your cheese. (Sorry, no measurements here… It just depends on how much you like cheese, so eyeball that sucker!) Wrap it up like a burrito (or fold it like a quesadilla) and place it in the pan folded side down… After about a minute… or once it’s browned on that side… (or once it starts smoking and it’s a little blackened; don’t worry, it’s still pretty yummy if this happens)… Flip it and repeat on the other side.

BAM! You’re done. Serve with sweet potato fries (or tots, as pictured), or even easier and just as yummy, raw veggies. (My go to’s are carrots and broccoli.)

Next up…

Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats – Super yummy and low carb!

You will need:

  • Your prepared chicken (see above)
  • Zucchini (The amount depends on how many people you’re feeding and how big they’re appetites are… I usually eat a whole one, myself.)
  • Your choice of shredded cheese (again, I prefer Colby Monterey Jack)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, slice your zucchini length-wise. “Gut” your zucchini; every recipe I’ve come across for zucchini boats suggests using a melon baller (whatever that is), but I usually just use a measuring spoon. Sit about half of your zucchini “guts” aside and line your zucchini boats on a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix your “guts” and buffalo chicken mixture. Fill the zucchini boats and top with cheese. Cook zucchini for about 20 minutes, or until your zucchini is the softness you desire.

BAM! You’re done. Again, I like to serve with sweet potato fries, but you could explore other options… Because, #merica.

Buffalo Chicken Loaded Sweet Potatoes – the recipe that surprised me the most

I know what you’re thinking… Ew. But I feel in love with this recipe, though I ended up doing a bit of tweaking. The original recipe’s cooking directions for the sweet potatoes were off and it called for homemade buffalo sauce… Ain’t nobody got time for that!
You will need:

Baked sweet potatoeschicken sweet potato

  • Prepared chicken
  • Shredded cheese of your choice (I think you already know by now what my favorite is!)
  • Extra ranch for topping (optional)

Depending on the size of your sweet potatoes, the cooking time will vary.  (Because some a GINORMOUS and will take all day, it seems like.) But a set of general directions would be, stab those bad boys with a fork, pop them in the oven at 350 degrees and cook for about 60 minutes or until they’re soft.

Depending on the size of the potato and your appetite, you can cut them (almost) all the way through like a normal baked potato or for those ginormous sweet potatoes, slice them in half. Add your chicken and cheese and pop them back in the oven to melt the cheese (or if patience is an issue, nuke them in the microwave), then drizzle with ranch.

BAM! You’re done… I usually serve with steamed broccoli, but this recipe can stand alone with out any sides… Though it’s probably a really good adult decision to add a veggie in there.

That’s all I have for now, guys. As you can see, my cooking and recipes don’t offer many measurements (hello, you’re reading a blog called Organized Chaos), but they are super simple and yummy… I mean, if the chicken finger fiend over here will eat it, you know it’s good!

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to share!

Stay tuned for more foodie posts.

Blessings,

Callie

The Liebster Award

I am excited to announce that Organized Chaos has been nominated for a Liebster Award! What is this award about? It is an internet based award where bloggers nominate other bloggers. It is also helps give exposure to blogs with less than 200 followers.

First of all, I would like to thank Lovely Whitney for nominating me for the award!

Rules for the Liebster Award can be found here.

QUESTIONS FROM LOVELY WHITNEY:

What is your favorite country?
America, duh! But of course, my second favorite is Haiti.  

What is the most extreme thing you have ever done?
I planned my first mission trip to Haiti in approximately 20 days!   From plane tickets, to vaccinations, to donations – it was quite the whirlwind!

What is your dream job?
Honestly, I have no idea!  I will let you know when I grow up… (27 isn’t considered grown up, right?)

Ship or Plane?
Ship, for sure!

What/Who inspires you?
My parents.  Cliche, I know!  But the older I get and the longer I teach, I realize just how lucky I am to have such loving and selfless people to call mom and dad!

What is one item on your bucket list?
I want to go to Europe!  I can’t choose just one part, I want to see it all.

If you get stranded on the island, what two items will you like to have with you?
A really good book to read and a heavy duty, water proof, sleeping bag.

From 1 to 5 how hard is it to leave without your cell phone?
About a 3… I feel so free when it’s not in my hand, but honestly it makes me a little nervous.  (Is it FOMO or just habit?)

What is your pet peeve?
I am ashamed to say that I let those loud, one-upper, must-be-center-of-attention-at-all-times type of people really get under my skin.

Fall or Summer?
Fall!  I’m from Alabama, so by September it’s still hot enough to be summer but it’s socially acceptable to put out fall decorations!  

When do you find time to blog?
Mostly on the weekends unless something is really weighing on my heart. 

My nominations:

Madison Gunn – http://www.middleclassmuddle.com/about/
Blythe Anderson – http://www.blythemorgan.com/
Christina Deptulski – https://www.teacher-librarian-forlife.com/
Chasi Jernigan – http://sweatinmascara.com/
Amanda Goodenough – http://myawkwardlifejourney.com/
Heidy Fernandez – http://www.whatamomclub.com/
Karolina FottenLippen – http://www.whatamomclub.com/
Pamela Rankin – http://www.mommaknowsitall.com/

{Don’t forget to link back to this website once you’ve answered on your blog.}

QUESTIONS FOR MY NOMINEES:

  1. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
  2. What inspired you to start blogging?
  3. What is your favorite blog topic or your “niche”?
  4. What are your hobbies?
  5. Do you have any hidden talents?
  6. If you could talk to a famous person (dead or alive), who would it be?
  7. What sports do you enjoy?
  8. What is your favorite book/series?
  9. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
  10. Books or movies?
  11. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Water-Light-2 (1)

 

 

Pinky Promise?

See you tomorrow,”  I tell him.

“Pinky promise?” He says, every afternoon when I walk him to the bus.

After a quick lock of our pinkies, 12 more hugs (approximately), and a reminder that you can’t kiss your teacher, I send him home for the day.

“Love you, Miss Hollis!” he calls out over his shoulder as he clambers up the steps to his bus… Already forgetting that he was mad at me for not letting him climb that concrete wall 5 minutes ago.

Oh, the heart of a kindergartener.

11 days, I’ve known these children.

We have laughed, wiped tears, danced, played, learned, sang…

We’ve shared lots of stories, sticky high fives, knock knock jokes, and about 3,345,097 hugs…

They know Miss Hollis is the keeper of the animal crackers, the band-aids, the Play-Doh, and the magic air kisses for boo-boos of all kinds.

11 days and they’ve already decided to trust me.
11 days and some times I think my heart might explode.

I didn’t end up here by choice.
This new season came after a series of disappointments, both big and small.

You’ve been there too, I am sure.

These less than ideal situations we find ourselves in… They hurt, they are hard, they push us outside of our comfort zones… but, God.

He uses them.

To mold us.
To teach us something.
To help us help others.

To get us to the place He’s prepared for us.

Whatever the situation, He always keeps His promises.

It’s in these moments, we are reminded of Jeremiah 29:11…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

And it’s in these moments, deep down we’re in kindergarten again…

“Pinky promise?” we pray silently as we climb the steps on the big yellow bus of obedience.

And He does.

Welcome to kindergarten, Miss Hollis.

I think I’ll stay a while.

Hit the Paws Button

“I love your blog, homie!” he said.

Everyone needs a friend like Taten.  He encourages you when you need it, but isn’t afraid to hand over a large dose of truth.

“You need to talk about girls and their dogs,” he said,  “How white girls and their dogs have made an explosion on social media, and how men need to take place of dogs and take women back.”

I chuckled, because as ridiculous as it sounded, I knew he had a point.

IMG_5737

Now before you point fingers, yes I am obsessed with my dog.

Because who wouldn’t love the most precious, beautiful, smart, and cuddly little girl in the whole world?  If there was ever a Queen of the Rat Terriers, my sweet Gabby would easily take the crown.

And it doesn’t stop at my own dog.

If I go to someone’s house, the first thing I look for a dog to play with.

By choice, half of my social media accounts are overflowing with dog pictures and videos.

They’re. Just. So. Cute.

So anyway, enough about my own obsession with dogs, I took to Instagram to do a little research.

I began with the search bar, where I typed in #dogs and here are my findings..
– #dogs – 46,780,570 posts
– #dogsofinstagram – 70,370,026 posts
– #dogstagram – 33,631,493

This is not counting #puppylove, #puppyeyes, and #puppies which all had posts well into the tens of millions.

So, what’s the deal?  Why the skyrocket of puppy love? (Yes, actual, puppy love.)

I mean, dogs have always been considered (wo)man’s best friend, but has there been a sudden rise in fur babies?

Or is it social media, doing what social media does best? Takes something seemingly simple, and part of everyday life, and magnifies it?

It allows you to take a snapshot of the cute and perfect moments, slap a filter on it, and craft the perfect caption.

But when we see those perfect pup moments, what we really think is…

“Wow, my puppy just peed on my shoe, and that girl’s chihuahua is sitting shotgun in her car sipping a puppaccino.” #jealous

Oh, but dear friends, that’s not limited to dogs.  Social media shows you a mere snapshot of everyone’s life, while hiding the scary and messy parts.

The perfect relationships
The easiest of pregnancies
The super mom
The adventurous, living-life-to-the-fullest single lady

Because who wants to share pictures of the bills you fought with your husband about last night?  Or pictures of the mom-to-be hugging the toilet with morning sickness?  Or a family photo of your little monsters… I mean, angels… after you caught them coloring on your white sheet-rock walls? Or a selfie of you sitting on the couch watching Netflix by yourself… again?

I sure don’t.
I don’t want to show you my vulnerable side.
I don’t want to share my struggles with you.

But how much better off might we be if we did?  How much more enjoyable would life be if we just shared our messes with each other?

Would it be so hard to show one another that deep down, we’re all the same?

Maybe the struggle wouldn’t be so #real if we could just own up to it.
Because I’ll be honest, I’ve never bonded with anyone over our perfect Instagram posts.

With all of that being said, girls have always love puppies… It’s not our fault they’re more photogenic than men!

Juuuust kidding.

 

 

 

So guys, ask her on a date to the animal shelter.  Girls, drop the camera and rub that baby’s belly.

IMG_6048

 

That’s all I have for now, so I’ll just leave you with this! Ain’t she cute?

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings!

 

P.S I am ALWAYS open to post suggestions… What topic would you like to read about?

P.S.S Sorry, Taten! I don’t think I provided any good insight on dogs and girls!

The coffee pot of my soul

Recently, my sweet mission friends brought me back a bag of Haitian coffee.  Fresh, finely haitian-coffeeground, straight off the farm, Haitian coffee.  It’s not like any coffee I’ve ever seen, touched, tasted, or brewed.  It’s a strong, frothy coffee and the texture is almost like baby powder.  Or, shall I say it? Dirt.

So, delicious as it has been, you can imagine the mess it makes when you go to brew a pot.

Yesterday afternoon, I was zipping through the apartment, cleaning up the little messes that pop up over the week.  Washing up the dishes, putting on a load of laundry, etc. when I spotted the coffee maker.

While I had spent the week hastily wiping up the dusty coffee mess, the coffee maker needed a little more attention.  So I wiped down the outside, I sat the carafe and the filter basket in the sink to wash, and then….

I looked down in the water reservoir and was horrified to see coffee grounds.

Brown, misplaced, coffee remnants in my WATER reservoir.

“No, no, no.” I thought, “That can’t be right.”
There’s COFFEE, in the place where I put CLEAN water each morning.
It doesn’t go there.
How did that happen?
How long has it been there?

Frustrated, and a little disgusted, I started the process of cleaning my precious coffee maker… and I realized, that coffee pot is my soul.

My coffee maker’s purpose is to take coffee grounds and turn them into a cup of coffee.  The coffee goes into a filter, water into the reservoir, and together it becomes something new.  Something yummy and enjoyable comes from what at first appeared to be a pile of beans.  Without the coffee maker, the grounds are useless… (To a coffee drinker, at least.)

I know you’re wondering by now where I could possibly be going with this, so bear with me.

Our souls are the water reservoir.
Our lives are the water.
The world is the coffee.
And Jesus is the filter.

Every morning we wake up, with a choice.  We can take on the world alone and just deal with some seemingly useless, bitter, dirt-like coffee grounds.

Or, we can take on the world with Jesus who can filter out the useless, and the bitter, and the dirty parts, and together we can make a pot of coffee.

But, dear friend…

Just as the coffee grounds will get in your water reservoir, the world will get in your soul.

As Christians, we’re sent out into the world to spread the love of Jesus.
You’ve heard it before, we’re to be in the world, but not of the world.

And as Christians, we know that’s much easier said than done.
Because though we serve an amazing God, we’re still human.

Our hearts still break.
People still leave.
Sickness still happens.
Jobs are still lost.

At every corner you turn, there’s chaos.
And with every scroll down your Facebook feed, there’s someone experiencing the desires of your heart…  Someone got the blessing you‘ve been waiting for and they’ve documented it for the world to see.  Painful, concrete proof that you’re still coming up short.

Another day and our prayers still go unanswered.

And more often that not, in our moment of why… the world will creep in.

With why often comes, I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy.  I will never measure up.  I did something to deserve this.  If I did this, then that wouldn’t have happened.  If I was more like her, I wouldn’t still be alone.  If I had paid better attention, I could’ve caught it in time.  If I was a better wife, maybe God would give me the baby.  If I had worked harder, I would’ve gotten the promotion.  If I was prettier, skinnier, wealthier, more out going, more creative, more desirable, more deserving, easier to love….

We’ve all been there.  And honestly, we all go there every. single. day.

And our society doesn’t help.  We’ve become a group of people who rely on instant gratification.

We want the free two-day Prime shipping option in our prayers…
We want blessings to come as quickly as Facebook likes.
We want a DIY guide to a better life.
We want a pot of coffee in Keurig time.

Which is why we have clean our coffee maker regularly.
Which is why we have to seek Jesus regularly.

The world tells us what we should be doing now, when God’s plan says not yet.

With that kind of burden to carry, it’s not enough just to run our lives through His filter.
We have to actively seek him.

No, I don’t want to clean my coffee maker every day… but I don’t always want to read my Bible, either.  Or pray.  Or extend grace to others.  Or look for a blessing in the not-so-good moments.

Most days, it’s much easier to stew in angry thoughts.  It’s much easier to pick out your own flaws or to place blame on others, because then at least, we have an answer to the why… Even if it’s wrong, it feels like we have something to hang our problems on.

And it’s much harder to accept that someone else received your blessing, because God has other plans for you.  Or it’s just not your time yet.

Some days, you won’t brew a good pot of coffee.
Some days, it will be more like a sad bowl of dirty, bean water.
Some days, you may spill your pot of coffee on your white linen pants.

Life is hard.  And it hurts.

But you know what else?  When the mess starts creeping in and the enemy puts those
thoughts of doubt and worthlessness in our hearts, there’s no better battle plan than putting on the armor of God and standing on His promises.

I’ve learned the hard way that moments of weakness are where we do our most growing… or I guess you could say, brewing.

We may  never understand why we’ve been given those bad cups of coffee, but we must understand that we are loved regardless… dirty water reservoirs and all.

So sweet friend, go check out your coffee maker… Figuratively and literally, because you deserve a good cup of coffee.

Blessings!

5 Tips for Reading the Bible

I have a confession to make… reading the Bible is not my favorite thing to do.

It’s hard.  And I mean that in several different contexts.

It’s hard, because watching Netflix on the couch is more appealing.
It’s hard, because 10 extra minutes of sleep is sometimes too tempting.

It’s hard, because well… sometimes the Bible just doesn’t seem to make sense to us.

It’s hard to connect that King James Version language, those Old Testament rituals, and Jesus’ parables to our life here in 2017… with our iPhones, and self starting cars, and microwavable everything.

So what do we do?

K.I.S.S… Keep it simple, silly.  (Yes, silly… what’d you expect from a kindergarten teacher like myself?)

So, sticking with our theme… here are 4 simple ways to strengthen your spiritual walk.

1.  Find the right Bible for you.

This is so very important!  Bibles are not one size fits all, which is why there are so many different versions.  (I googled it to find you an exact number, but I quit counting at 20, so… there’s that.)

If you’re like me and need a Bible that’s a little less “churchy” and a little more “peopley,” there are plenty of options to choose from.  I personally use the English Standard Version (ESV), but I also like the Message, NLT, and NIV versions.

I bought my Bible off Amazon.  It’s the Crossway Single Column Journaling Bible (ESV).

2.  Use a devotional or study guide with your Bible reading.

This one is a complete game changer.  There is no sense in any of us suffering through reading the Bible when there are plenty of resources out there for us.

I don’t know about y’all, but if there’s someone out there who can help me find meaning in something that made me just scratch my head in confusion, I am ready to listen and learn.

There are tons of free options and apps, as well as great books!

If you’re a techie (also, free) kind of person, here are a few apps/email subscriptions that I personally recommend.

  • Proverbs 31 Ministries – This women’s ministry is amazing!  They have daily devotions written by a variety of ladies.  You can either follow them on Facebook or sign up to receive the devotions every morning in your email.  You can sign up here.
  • The First 5 app – This app is a product of Proverbs 31 ministries and is similar to their daily emails.  The difference is, they take a book of the Bible at a time, break it into lessons, and offer teachings and devotions.  This is a GREAT tool for someone who wants to read their way through the Bible.  If you sign up, you can join in on the current study, or pick one out of the archives to do.
  • Waking Faith by Steven Furtick – These daily devotionals can also be sent straight to your inbox every morning.  Steven Furtick is the pastor at Elevation Church.  His morning devotions often vary between a few written paragraphs, video clips from sermons, and other media types.  This particular devotional is great for everyone – men, women, adults, teenagers.
  • YouVersion Bible app – Not only does this app allow you to view different versions of the Bible and search for certain books/verses, they also offer FREE reading plans!

3.  Get out your pen.

Get out your pen.  Yes, it’s worth repeating.

(Micron Pigment Ink Pens are my favorite, because they don’t bleed!)

Why?  Because we’re human.  With about a million things on our plates.  It’s way too easy to forget what you read. So…

Underline key words.  Draw brackets around important verses.  Take notes in the margins. Draw pictures.  (Hence my need for a journaling Bible.)

OR if you just cant bring yourself to write in your Bible, take notes in a journal or notebook…

But for the love of fun colorful pens… do yourself a favor and USE ONE!

4.  Find an accountability partner or group.

I can’t stress this enough.  When I have someone to help me, read with me, pray with me, answer my questions, and just do life with on a spiritual level, life is so much better!

Those people, whether it’s your Sunday school class, small group, or just a friend who shares your love for Jesus… They are a precious and vital part of your spiritual walk.

If you’re like me, you’re way more likely to read that chapter in the book of John if you’re expected to talk about it over coffee with a friend.  If you haven’t found an accountability partner or group in your area, get connected at a local church or schedule Facetime/Skype dates with a long distance friend.

5.  Prayer.

Naturally I saved the most important for last.  How can you worship a God you never talk to?

I know, I know… It cannot be that easy.
But it is.

Now, I am from the south where prayer is not a dirty word, but even some of us who grew up in the Bible belt “don’t know how to pray.”  Or at least we feel that way.

But can I tell you something I have learned?  Prayers don’t have to be eloquent and full of churchy language.  In fact, my prayers are often more like a conversation with a friend.

A couple of things that have helped my prayer life the most:

  • Praying out loud – YES, it was so awkward at first, but try it anyway.
  • Finding somewhere with few distractions – my faves are the shower and the car (which is also where my favorite worship jam sessions take place)
  • Writing prayers down – this goes along with my reasoning for praying out loud – it helps keep your thoughts organized.  It’s hard to start thinking about what’s for dinner if you’re actually speaking or writing.(Why yes, I just admitted to getting distracted if I just pray inside my head… #Christianconfessions)

Well, there you have it guys.  My K.I.S.S spiritual walk strategies.

What are YOUR routines and strategies that help keep you on track?  Feel free to share them in the comments!

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase using this link at no cost to you.)

5Tools to Help You Read the Bible

It’s a love Haiti relationship

I often tell people I found Jesus in the eyes of a little Haitian boy.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up believing in God and attending church.  I’ve always referred to myself as a Christian, but I think we all have that defining moment in our faith.  That moment that opens your eyes and breaks your heart.

My first trip to Haiti was planned on a whim.  It was a Sunday morning, I was sitting at home, talking to Bethany -my best friend of 20 years.  And as quickly as two text messages, two leaps of faith, and four terrified parents later… We were going to Haiti and we had less than a month to prepare!  We still joke that it was our quarter life crises, but if I’m honest it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

10436689_10202958438134425_4299727723540653362_nGod showed out as the next three weeks flew by in a whirlwind of donations, prayers, immunizations, and finding the perfect bug spray… And before I knew it, we were packing the car at 12AM… Heading to my first plane ride… To a third world country.

*Now is probably a good time to mention that we didn’t just throw a dart at the map and choose Haiti.  Lori, one of my dearest friends, was my teaching mentor at the time.  She and her husband Pierre started Give Us Hope Mission a few years prior and I had been listening to amazing Haitian stories for months.*

Billie showed up at the mission house within the first few days of our trip.  We knew little12033024_10206458034542148_3590228339571532994_n about him, but it wasn’t long before his little laugh had us all melted into puddles.  We began questioning him and we found out he was homeless and had been sleeping in mango trees.  Sometimes, he would stay at his cousins’ house.

I remember feeling like someone punched me in the gut.  The rug had been pulled out from under my feet.  That little boy was living in a mango tree.  If that doesn’t humble you, nothing will.

10291344_10204224011092958_5957122633305862043_nWe spent the rest of the trip inseparable.  Billie loved peanut butter, he could barely swim, he prayed with his hands over his eyes, he had one set of clothes, he was fascinated with our phones – especially the music app (I don’t think I will ever listen to I Will Follow again without hearing him sing it), and he was there when we got baptized…  We spoke different languages, but we learned to communicate the most important things – swim, peanut butter, hungry, hello, yes/no, and the sweet silence that often defined this new found friendship.

I could write for days about my experiences in Haiti and the love I have for the people there.  But it’s getting late, so I will fast forward to the latest on sweet Billie. Through sponsorship and prayers from people we know and people we may never meet, I’m happy to report that Billie has started school and he now lives with his dad.

If you had told me two years ago that I would now be planning my third trip to Haiti to see my sponsor son, I would have laughed in your face.  It’s funny how life takes the most unexpected, yet joyful turns!

Jesus’ last words tell us to go and make disciples of all nations.  If missions or even sponsoring a child has been weighing on your heart, take the leap.  It will change your life.

For more information on how to donating, sponsoring a Haitian child, mission trips to Haiti, or the work that our mission is doing, visit http://www.giveushopemission.org/ or contact me – I will be happy to talk you through it!

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Blessings to you!

 

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