Dec 29, 2011

Flowers Fade Friday: do you have a plan?

The year before last {2010}, I read through the whole Bible in a year. I did the Chronological Bible reading plan, but I actually read from my ESV Study Bible. My goals were three-fold: 1) Read the Scripture for the day; 2) Read all the ESV footnotes on the Scripture; 3) Blog about what I was learning at least once a week.

This is actually how I became a blogger!

Clearly, this task was daunting. A year-long Bible plan usually requires reading about three chapters a day. On top of that, I read all the amazing footnotes in the ESV Study Bible {I highly recommend this version if you are looking for a new Bible}, and managed to blog almost once a week.

In addition to trying to keep up with this reading plan, I also got engaged, planned a wedding while teaching high school full-time, got married,  honeymooned in Hawaii, moved to Arizona, and started grad school as a newlywed. Even though it was one of the busiest years of my life, God's grace was poured out upon me during these twelve crazy months. Somehow, I always found the time to do my Bible reading in the midst of the chaos. And even though my life was busy, I felt God's Spirit working in me. His Word kept me calm in the midst of my engagement, His promises reminded me not to idolize my marriage or my wedding, and His commands closed my lips when I wanted to make a snappy comment to my husband in our first months of marriage. A wife is to have "respectful and pure conduct" the Spirit would gently remind me {I Peter 3:2}.

2011 has been quite a different year. I am growing as a wife. We are feeling settled in Arizona. Grad school is going well. I have continued to read my Bible this year, but I have lacked a plan. I read a chapter or two of my Bible each morning. I have started a prayer journal that I write in every now and then. I have read a theological book or two recently. But I miss being challenged by the Word. I miss opening up the Bible each morning knowing what I will read and eagerly knowing God will teach me great things from His Word. Of course, He has taught me things this year, too, but I have missed having His Word as such a central part of my day to day life. Three chapters a day is intense. But it is so GOOD.

This is my favorite way to spend a morning...

I have always been a planner. A first born, an organizer, a type-A personality to the core. Every new year brings with it a list of goals that I hope to accomplish. Not really resolutions, but a detailed plan of what I hope my life will look like over the next twelve months, usually divided into categories: financial, health, home, etc. I plan out my year with new exercise routines, projects to accomplish around the house, academic goals, ideas to improve my marriage and the list goes on and on.

These plans are good. But this year, I want my first plan to be all about how I can enjoy Christ and know Him more in 2012. How can my time with Him this year grow me and convict me the way it did in 2010? I long for intimacy with Him like never before, so in these final weeks before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's, I am asking myself these questions:

How often/how much should I read my Bible this year? 
{Daily for sure, but should it be for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour?}

What should I read in my Bible?

What {if anything} should I read in addition to the Bible?

How can I work sermon podcasts into my daily routine? {This has been on my heart for some time now}.

What should my prayer life look like? How do I best focus on praying for extended periods of time?

How/what Scripture should I memorize?

How should I serve my church and my neighbors this year?

How can I creatively worship God in my personal life?

How does my blog fit into my worship?

These are the questions I am asking myself as 2011 winds to a close and I am praying to God for clear answers. I encourage you to do the same. My prayer for us all is that God will work in our hearts and lives in new ways in 2012, and that we will spend each day thanking Him and Praising Him for it!

Dec 28, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

If I had to describe 2011 in one word I would choose...


Not the bad kind of settling where you compromise for something mediocre or sub-par.

The kind of settling where you get comfortable. Settled in. This year has been all about settling into marriage, settling into grad school, settling into life in Arizona.

2010 was the year of a zillion changes. 2011 has been the year of settling in and watching the new become familiar.

It's been good.

Friends flew in to run the Rock N' Roll Marathon with Micah and me // 
TCU won the Rose Bowl {believe it!} // Micah and I celebrated six months of marriage

Sister came to visit for her winter break...

Allison came to visit for her spring break. She was our 8th visitor in five months. We started to realize this was more than a passing trend. We love our visitors!

Girls night out with some ladies from church. Settling into community.

Bowling with our Community Group // That one time we had 17 people over for dinner in our 900 square foot apartment and set off the smoke alarm

Trips to the Grand Canyon and California

Trip home to Washington: Celebrated our one year anniversary // Annual camping trip with friends // 
Time with the fam

Dad flew down and made an offer on the house we now live in {after I finished real estate school} // 
Micah and I established our new date night plan to strengthen our marriage

Floated the Salt River // More fun visitors // Celebrated my 29th birthday

Camping trip with friends // Trip to Seattle // Presented at my first academic conference // 
Got to meet blog friends in person!

Desert photo shoot // Moved into our new house // Experienced NASCAR // 
Thanksgiving trip to North Dakota

Decorating our new place for Christmas // Our first Christmas tree // Big family Christmas gathering in AZ // Lovin' our new roommate Kayla {Micah's sis!}

2011 has been great. We've been blessed in so many ways... a new home to live in, new employment opportunities, and deepening friendships in our new city, just to name a few. Now that we are feeling settled in Arizona, I am excited to see what adventures are in store in 2012!


Dec 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

Friends, this week {plus a few days} has been a whirlwind. We have had 5-8 people sleeping in our house since Monday the 19th. This means:

Air mattresses on the floor...
Luggage in every room...
Way too many calories in our bellies...
Running the dishwasher at least once a day {if not twice}...

It's been sheer craziness. I loved having my family here for Christmas, but I am ready for some calm. I ran off to the coffee shop for a little while simply to write this post.

It also doesn't help that I lost my phone two days before Christmas and I haven't seen it since. I'm really praying it's under the air mattresses and such. The plan is to clean the house today and hopefully find it...

Sorry this post is a little frazzled, but that's kind of how my brain feels right now. Here are some pics of our crazy and fun Christmas week...

Homemade gingerbread success!

Peanut Butter Ball FAIL! The chocolate kept overheating on me.
I quit halfway through! Keepin' it real...

New moccasins!

Pretty new necklaces!
*Dahlia necklace {middle} c/o Sunshine Blossoms {from Stacey!}*

Sister and brother love air mattresses.

 Scarves galore.

My first sewing machine!

Babies galore.

My new, adorable camera strap {c/o Shey B}

Christmas Eve with hubs.

The first time all the cousins/grandkids on my dad's side have all been together in over ten years!!!

Lunch date with Erin! LOVE HER!

Sister borrowed my Whippy Cake. Then I ordered her one for Christmas. 
She is going to love her life just a little more in 5-7 business days!

Oh, and did I mention TCU won their bowl game? Go Frogs!
{I look a little scary here. College football makes me a little intense!}

That's all for now. Pray I find my phone, finish my grad school application and regain my sanity soon. Going to see STOMP tonight. Not mad about it!


*Linking up with Captivated by Grace and Lollipops!*

Dec 26, 2011

Keyword Analysis {#2}

It's time for another keyword analysis. Do you ever look at the "search keywords" for your blog? Basically, it's the words people are typing into a search engine that end up leading them to your page. Most of them are pretty standard "Jen Russum," "The Arizona Russums," "gray and yellow wedding," "good recipes" and stuff like that. But sometimes the things people enter are hilarious! Here a few of my favorites lately...

{To see my last keyword analysis, go here...}

"man in Jeff Gordon shirt..."
How about WOMAN in Jeff Gordon shirt? I am passionate about Jeff Gordon... just kidding. Micah and I went to NASCAR last month when his cousin was in town. You should know that I hate NASCAR, so I only bought a Jeff Gordon shirt as part of my costume. It happened to be the only racing shirt available at the thrift store on that particular day. I heard he'a Christian though, so I can support that...

"messy bun morning hair"
Ummm... I rarely sleep with my hair up so I'm probably not the best girl for this. In fact, I am still quite
uncomfortable with the bun thing altogether...

"Why to love arizona at night"
I'll tell you why... warm air, summer dresses, dinner on the patio, late nights talking outside, midnight swims.

"Shepherd's Pie Pockets"
Are you looking for the best husband-approved dinner recipe ever? Because here it is!

What does having a yellow wedding say about you?
Uh... I don't know. I thought it said "I think gray and yellow are pretty together and will look lovely 
at my wedding in a barn..." Was I wrong???

Where can I get baked potato soup in Arizona? 
My house.

LGO Havana Latte. 
Yes, please. Wanna meet up?

"Sexy woman in hospital bed"
I'm sure this is exactly what they had in mind :)

"Why do my no bakes never get hard?"
Because you haven't used THIS recipe.

"West Elm David Stark paper mache bird"
Why pay for it, when you can make it?

That's all for now friends! Hope you enjoyed these as much as I do. Sexy woman in hospital bed... ha! Mysterious
Asthma-like symptoms are soooo sexy.

Have you seen any funny search terms on your blog lately???


Dec 25, 2011

December Sponsors

Hi y'all! Happy Boxing Day to my Canadian friends out there! I hope you had a joy-filled Christmas weekend. I have a few more days with my mom and sis, so we are going to enjoy every minute together, which WILL include a trip to the outlet mall today or tomorrow! Here are my December sponsors. I love them and you will too. Check them out below and then go visit their blogs to say hello!

If you want information on sponsoring in January, please me!

 * * * * *

Name: Jessi
Blog: this camera tells my story
Location: Fort Worth, TX {This is city EVER!}

* * * * *
Hi! I'm Jessi. My blog started simply as my photo diary and has turned into a place where I like to share my thoughts, projects and life. I am first and foremost a child of God, the wife to Ben, mother to Isaac and lover of all things thrifted and crafted!

What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? To be honest, I really can't come up with an answer to this question. I always got what was on my list as a kid, but looking back, none of those things are that memorable. I guess it just goes to show that "stuff" really isn't that important. What I remember most are the Christmas eve services, Christmas parties with friends and Christmas day and dinner with my family.

Blog // Twitter // Facebook 

Name: Alana
Blog: Mrs. Alana's Miscellany
Location: Omaha, NE (originally from AL)

* * * * *
It's so hard to describe a blog, isn't it?  
To summarize in three words: dorky newlywed adventures. 
My shop in three words: hand-painted cutesy goodness.

What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? Probably my pretend laptop I got when I was a kid. Proof that I was a nerd even then!

Blog // Shop // Twitter // Facebook

Name: Heather Boersma
Blog: Dreaming Big
Location: Manitoba, Canada

* * * * *
I blog over at "dreaming big", a place where you'll find tools, motivation and encouragement to pursue your big dreams.  I blog about being a wife, mother and friend who is pursuing the abundant life Christ 
has for all who follow Him.

What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? The first Christmas my husband and I had together (while still dating) he got me a beautiful white gold and diamond necklace. It was so romantic. I just love gushy stuff like that.

Blog // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest

Name: Digger

Blog: Digging Deeper
Location: Deep South

* * * * *

 In a nutshell, I have decided that I am going to make my living writing stories, designing and as a working photographer, so I'm going to. For those of you that have not been reading from the start, I am a wife to my polar opposite, a mother to the Super Awesome, Bruiser, and the King of Mayhem himself, Monster. :) 
My blog is my journal through this whole messy process we call life.

What's the best Christmas gift you ever received? Hubs set up an ultrasound for Christmas Eve so that we could find out the gender of our first baby. It was a boy, Bruiser!

Blog // Etsy // Twitter // Shop

Aren't they lovely? Now hop over to their blogs and introduce yourself! 

Dec 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from The Arizona Russums!

The Arizona Russums wish you a very Merry Christmas! 
Hope you are having a fabulous weekend, friends!

{Photo card courtesy of the fabulous Naptime Diaries!}


Dec 22, 2011

Flowers Fade Friday: Wonderful Counselor

Keeping it simple today, friends! Hope you are having a very merry Christmas weekend as you celebrate our Savior's birth! Love you all!

Dec 21, 2011

Stockings {our first Christmas tradition}

Ever since we got married, Micah and I have been asked {either by older couples who mentor us or by our other newlywed friends who are trying to figure out what married Christmas is supposed to look like} what Christmas traditions we are starting as a family.

This is only our second Christmas as husband and wife, so we definitely don't have all our holiday traditions sorted out {and probably won't until we have kids}, but last year we started one tradition kind of accidentally that I think is going to stick.

Christmas stockings.

Last year, we flew home to Seattle for Christmas and we got in the standard newlywed arguments about where we were going to do Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and how we were going to pay for family gifts and all that jazz {you know, I think Christmas is almost more complicated if you are from the same town. It's easier to get from one house to the other, but you can't just say "we are going to your parents' for Thanksgiving and my parents' for Christmas"}. Even though I was excited to go home for Christmas, I kind of wanted a little mini-celebration with just my new husband. The thought of going back and forth to our parents' houses, sleeping in my brother's room for a week and living out of luggage didn't seem like the most romantic scenario for a first Christmas, and lugging all of Micah's gifts to Seattle didn't seem very efficient, so Micah and I made a plan.

The night before we left for Seattle, we did our own little personal stocking exchange. It was so fun and a special time for the two of us. And made packing our luggage much easier...

Our first Christmas... No, Micah does not always feel compelled to wear a shirt for our stocking exchange.

So we decided to make it a tradition. Whether we are travelling home {like last year} or whether family is coming to us {like this year}, we set aside one night before all the fun Christmas chaos begins to do our own little couple's Christmas.

We did our stocking exchange on Sunday night, since my parents flew into town on Monday. We exchanged stockings, Micah allowed me to take lots of pictures with the tripod he bought me {as long as he was able to try to fly his new remote control Black Hawk helicopter in the photos... see below}, he made me bacon and eggs for dinner, and then we made sugar cookies together with dough Micah put in my stocking. Ha! {Many of his food gift items were things he would enjoy eating with me...}. The night was simple and sweet, and I think we've found our first Russum Christmas tradition.

We realized that I don't have a Christmas stocking... Micah bought me one last year, but we decided it wasn't cute enough for the money and we want to get matching ones eventually, so we took it back.

Micah secretly did not want to take these pictures as he waited for me to set up the camera on the counter with the self-timer since he knew I would be getting a tripod in about two minutes, but he waited patiently and smiled any way. Good man!

Micah is not much of a planner, so last year he was scrambling to put together my stocking on the night of the exchange... {aka half of my gifts came from Safeway....haha!}. However, Micah has learned that I am honored by thoughtfulness and planning, so this year he got everything ready in advance! I got a tripod for my camera, lots of fun beauty products, and he even picked out one of my favorite nail polish colors all on his own {Essie's Chinchilly}!

The loot. Yes, I ask for deodorant and toothpaste in my stocking.
It saves me time and money at Target in January!

The Russums with their pet hawk.

Micah had this all set up on the counter, although he ate half the dough before we got around to baking! :)

Micah would like to introduce you to his new favorite toy!

I hope that even when we've been married for a long time and have lots of little ones, we will continue to sneak away one night to do our own little stocking tradition. We will still do family stockings on Christmas day, but I like the little ones we do for each other the best!

What are your Christmas traditions?

Merry Christmas,
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