Jun 28, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: It Matters.

The longer I live and the older I get, the longer I am sanctified by the Spirit and see more of this crazy messed up world we live in and struggle and rejoice and wonder and suffer and sin like any other human being, the more I am convinced of one thing.

God's Word matters.

It really matters.

Like, a lot.

I don't even have words to describe how important God's Word is in my own life and heart, so I am going to use some of His...

God's Word is...
always good.

And this is what His Word does...
it created the universe {Heb. 11:3}
it causes us to be born again {I Peter 1:23}
it increases and multiplies {Acts 12:24}
it builds us up {Acts 20:32}
it teaches us {Col. 3:16}
it corrects and rebukes sin {2 Tim. 2:16}
it discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart {Heb. 4:12}
it gives us certainty of our salvation {I John 2:5}
it upholds the universe {Heb. 1:3}

Hold it. Right there. The Word of God upholds the universe. The Word of God is Christ in the flesh. The Word... the Bible that I {and most likely you} am privileged to own and read and keep at an arm's length at all times and to pull up as an app on my phone... that Word... was breathed out by the living God.

So what about you? Do you read it or does your Bible sit dusty on your shelf? Do you thank God for it - His written gift of grace to you? Do you pray for those who don't have it? For those children growing up in Bible-less homes and for the natives living in other countries who have never seen or heard Scripture in their own language? Because I too often forget to pray those prayers...

But mostly, sister, do you love the Bible and the author of those true, eternal, unfailing words? Do you read it  and praise the writer? Do you read it and obey it? Do you let it wreck you and rock you as you face your own sin and selfishness? Do you let it comfort you and give you peace and hope when you are hurting and dismayed? Do you let it guide you and correct you when your mind is filled with angry thoughts and do you let the Word seal your lips with silence when you are tempted to speak out in bitterness or impatience?

I say all these things, not to condemn you, but to you encourage you. Because I am sure our stories must overlap a bit. I am a girl who used to read her Bible "enough" or when she "had the time" or "more than other people do." And I went on with my haughty little life, doing things the way I wanted to and teaching a Bible study once a week and reading my Bible for a few minutes before I fell asleep each night... most nights... some nights...

And it took 25 years for God's Word to rock me and wreck me and change me. It took 25 years to learn to rise early and meet with the Lord, sometimes before dawn, to cherish His Words, an undeserved gift to me. It took 25 years before God's Word became a part of who I was at the core. Before His Word would come to my mind in my moments of temptation, of selfishness, of impatience, and unrighteousness and gently rebuke me and correct me or prevent me from sinning.

But you know what? God's Word did all those things - corrected me and humbled me and gave me hope... because that is what God's Word does. Every time. He has promised it.

So what about you? Are you in? Do you want to be wrecked and redeemed all at once? Do you want to take God up on His promises and make His Word the foundation of all you think and say and do?

Don't let it get dusty, girl...

*Linking up with Casey Leigh*

Jun 27, 2012

The time has come...

So today we are going to play a little game...

Because for some reason, I can't figure out what to write about today. This is not the norm. In fact, in the almost two years since I started this blog, I have NEVER not had something to write about. There are days, even weeks, where I have written nothing because I have been too busy or out of town or something... but I've never once sat down to write and not had the words flow easily from my fingers.

And I have a million things I need to write about. Pictures that sit unedited, half written posts hanging out in my drafts folder, recipes I've been planning to share for months... but none of those want to be written today for some reason.

Why are you guys so weird?

So instead you get to be the writers today... yes, you.

Whadya want to know?

I have recently been getting some fun questions from readers via email and judging by my stats many of you are visiting my FAQ page only to be disappointed that there is NOTHING there... oops.

Why do you eat so much ice cream?

So let's do this thing.

What do you want to know about me? This blog? My crazy husband {I mean that in the most loving way of course}? Our beliefs? Why the heck I am in the middle of a six year stint in grad school? What is the "research" I always talk about? How I can stand running on a treadmill? Why I am a former Seattlite that says "y'all" a lot?

I'm visiting {or moving to} Phoenix. What should I do?

Today is the day. Ask anything and everything in the comments below and I will answer all your questions in a post next week. I can't wait to see what y'all come up with!


Jun 26, 2012

A Lone Star Necklace.

About a year ago I was shopping at Nordstrom and I came across a necklace. I took a picture of it A) because it was cute B) because it was the perfect present for my best friend's birthday which had just passed and I needed to remember it for her next birthday and C) because there was no way in heck I was paying Nordstrom prices for said necklace and I wanted to see if I could find anything like it with a more reasonable price tag.

A few months later I stumbled upon an Etsy shop called Artisan Gerard that  made similar necklaces. Actually, I found quite a few shops that make state silhouette necklaces, but Artisan Gerard stood out to me as having exceptionally cute designs and really good prices, so I "favorited" the Deep in the Heart of Texas necklace and waited for Camille's birthday to roll back around once again.

Let's pretend this background is a trendy chalkboard and not my dusty desk...

A quick word on Texas. It's where I went to college. I lived there for six years. Fort Worth is one of my favorite places on earth and almost all my best friends still live there. I love Texas. But if I know anyone who loves Texas more than me it's my best friend, Camille. She is a native and the one who taught me all about Sam Houston and the Battle of Jacinto and the homecoming tradition of mums. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you are just like me... eleven years ago... before Camille came into my life and enlightened me about all things Texas. I'm pretty sure her idea of a dream vacation is a trip to the Alamo or a picnic on the lawn in front of the Capitol building in Austin, so now you understand why this necklace was perfect for her.

This is when Camille visited Arizona last summer. We are hugging a coffee roaster... and each other. 

When Camille's birthday was drawing near, I contacted Artisan Gerard and she got a pretty little Lone Star necklace to me pronto. I tried the necklace on, just to make sure it looked like I imagined it would and that the clasp worked and all that jazz. However, I don't know how to take pictures of myself wearing necklaces which is A) why the necklace is backward in the photograph below and B) why I will never be a style blogger...

Anyway, the point of the story is... Artisan Gerard rocks. The necklace was super cute and well-made and I really like the heart that comes stamped in the middle of the state. She also makes lots of other cute jewelry. I really like the Hawaii necklace, because it reminds me of my honeymoon, and the mustache necklace is really fun. Oh, and she recently started making baby elephant necklaces too! Did you know I am mildly obsessed with elephants and my friends and I have been known to go to the circus with all the five year olds each summer? True story.

So thank you, Artisan Gerard, for making a great necklace and thank you, Camille, for being born. My life is better with you in it! And in honor of our friendship, I will now post a series of photographs that really capture the essence of our friendship...

The end.
{Find the Artisan Gerard shop here!}
{And if you are interested in sponsoring the AZ Russums in July, go here!}

Jun 24, 2012

Lovely Little Things {Family Edition}

My family came to visit last week. Well, most of them. My brother hung around rainy Washington to work and deal with internship interviews and all the things that fill college summers. But the rest of us?

We hung out in the sun. Ate good food. And laughed a lot.

I love my family.

Here are some snapshots via Phoebe {that's my iPhone if you're new around here}.

I apologize in advance for too many pictures of my sister and me.

It happens. Every time.

Katie and I unexpectedly got makeovers at the Laura Mercier counter at Nordstrom, 
so we took lots of pictures at Chick-fil-a to celebrate. Obviously.

Off to my cousin's house for a family get together. Micah hated my outfit.

It was fun to have my dad in town for Father's Day, since he is usually about five states away. We had to celebrate him in style. For us, style means Instagramming and filet mignon.

My sister is way more trendy than me and makes me do crazy things like paint my nails with coral and mint. Also, Kate has come to visit me seven times since we moved to Arizona two years ago, 
and every single one of those seven visits has included a trip to Chick-fil-a for breakfast. 
Yes, we went to Chick-fil-a twice. No shame.

And this is because I love my sister almost as much as she loves chocolate chip mint ice cream.

The end.
{Follow me on Instagram -- @jenrussum}

*Linking up with Hello Hue, Embrace the Camera, and Life Rearranged.*

Jun 21, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: Peace

I've always considered myself a forgiving person. I cannot hold a grudge. I wouldn't classify myself as bitter. I have always been good at maintaining friendships and overcoming hurt feelings.

If I have ever been close to being bitter, it was toward my mother during those angsty early teenage years. But even then I could not stay mad longer than a day. I almost considered it a curse at the time. It annoyed me that I was so forgiving and could not remain mad at anyone, even my own mother who, in my 8th grade eyes, was wronging me in every way. {Love you, mom. Glad those days are behind us}.

Thankfully, I have matured from my fourteen year-old way of thinking and I have come to learn that my inability to hold a grudge is a blessing not a curse. I am thankful that I am not prone to harbor bitterness and I don't have to trudge my way through life with a hundred chips on my shoulder. The ability to forgive is a gift from the Lord.

But I have also learned that I am not quite as gracious and forgiving as I like to make myself out to be. If marriage has taught me anything, it has shown me how bitterness likes to reside in the recesses of my heart. It is almost invisible, but deadly.

I love my husband to the utmost, and I'm incredibly thankful for my marriage; however, there have been times in our relationship, especially during our engagement and in the first year of our marriage that I felt so wronged by Micah. He had hurt my feelings, been thoughtless, been selfish, been harsh. He was wrong. He owed me an apology. He needed to repent. And all I could do was cry out to God about the injustice done to me. {Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to make Micah out to be a bad guy. The truth is that marriage is up close and personal, and each spouse's sin is very apparent every day. I sin against Micah, he sins against me, and we are both in desperate need of a Savior.}

Then I would forgive him. In theory. I would say the words "I forgive you." I would put a smile on my face. Fix him a sandwich for lunch. Go on my merry way as the gracious and forgiving person that I am.

Or so I thought.

But when put to the test, in those moments when I felt wronged yet again or I slipped too far into my own thoughts and began to tally up the injustices done against me, I realized that I am not the forgiving victim I make myself out to be. And it's not just in my marriage... it's just that my messed up idea of forgiveness is most magnified in my marriage.

I have this journal that I've written in on and off since Micah and I were engaged. On the front is a picture of two birds, and the bigger bird is handing a leaf to the smaller bird {in my mind, it's an olive branch of peace}. And that is how my sinful heart sees myself in my marriage {and probably in all of my relationships if I'm honest}. I am the smaller bird, innocent in every way, and he is the bigger bird, capable of doing so much wrong to little me. He owes me an olive branch of peace.

But in recent weeks, I've been convicted of this lie floating around in my head and my heart. Yes, there are times when Micah is in the wrong and should repent, but I am not in charge of him. I am in charge of me...

In God's eyes, I am always the bigger bird. I am the one that holds an olive branch of peace. It's a branch of peace that is given to me by Jesus. I cannot muster up the humility and love needed for true forgiveness on my own. I am not naturally the world's most forgiving person, the way I like to think I am. I am a sinner. I don't really have an ounce of forgiveness at my core. I have selfishness, defensiveness, and a sinful desire to squash those who hurt me. The olive branch of peace is not mine. It is a gift Christ gave to me when he hung upon that cross. And it is a gift He teaches me to pass on to others.

As God changes my thinking, I realize I hold the weighty honor of a branch of peace. It sits in my hand like it sits in the beak of a small humble bird, and although it is small, it holds more life than I ever thought possible.

But God does not flippantly give this command to extend this branch of peace to others. He doesn't tell us to forgive, forgive, forgive and then turn His back on us as we get squashed and abused in our humility.

No, He promises good things to those who are willing to pass on the peace that He has given to us. He says that a harvest of righteousness will be sown by those who make peace {James 3:18}. He says that those who plan peace will have great JOY {Proverbs 12:20}. He promises to give us peace when our own minds and hearts are troubled {Isaiah 26:3/John 14:27}.

So here I am. Just a girl with a big leafy branch in her hand. I didn't put it there. The Prince of Peace gave it to me. But with a sparkle in his eye, He gives me a nod and a gentle push and tells me to pass it on to others.

*Linking up with Casey Leigh*

Jun 20, 2012


I go back and forth on this blogging thing.

Is it good? Is it bad? Is it real? Is it fake? Does it set false expectations? Paint an inaccurate picture of life? Stir jealousy? Build friendships?

What is going on here???

I've heard/seen/read backlash toward bloggers and blogging in general for painting this surreal picture of life where the world is filled with Anthropologie dresses, adorably DIYed homes, and perfectly behaved children.

And then I have heard women speak of the jealousy that is stirred within them after comparing themselves to other bloggers who have skinnier bodies or better homes. Or the inadequacies they feel as wives and mothers and home managers when they look at other blogs and peek into other lives.

First, let me say this. I don't feel jealous. I love seeing other women's creativity. Their beautiful children. Their birthday party ideas. Their fashion insights. Their home decor. Their date night ideas.

And I often walk away encouraged. And sometimes inspired to try something new.

But I'm not jealous. Because one of the blessings of growing older and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit is that I feel more and more at peace about who I am and who God made me and what He has called me to do in this life. And refinishing furniture and hanging a new wreath on my door for every season is not a part of His plan for me. But it might be His plan for you. And I praise Him for you and I would love to be invited over for lunch to ooh and aah at all the creativity He has blessed with you! I seriously AM impressed. Create, girl! It's who you are. It's just not me.

Yesterday, I just finished up the Soul Detox app with the #shereadstruth ladies. And one thing has been rolling around in my mind ever since the very first day...

Think lovely thoughts.

Dwell on excellent things.

And I think that's one thing that bloggers excel at doing. Sharing the lovely. Dwelling on the beautiful.

I like a good fire in the backyard and coffee in the morning.

Because I'm not perfect. And I will never claim to be. If you want to read about some of the very real ugly sin inside of me, you can read here and here.

But if you see a whole lot of lovely filling up the pages of this blog, it's because the Lord has given me a pretty lovely life. It's not perfect. But it's redeemed. He has made it beautiful.

I like dates. Especially when they involve bikes.

So when I share a good recipe, wear a new outfit, go on a date night, or completely obsess over my iPhone and take way too many Instagrams, I do it for His glory.

This is my lovely place. It's where I reflect with gratitude on how blessed my life really is and how I don't deserve any of it. And it's my hope and prayer that you walk away from here thinking lovely thoughts as well.

*Linking up with Naptime Diaries*

Jun 18, 2012


Yes! It's true. I have a bit of a new blog design around here. The ever-fabulous Jamie at The Letter 4 and illustrator extraordinaire created the cactus header that's been floating around in my head for months now. This girl can make your dreams reality. I love all her work and I highly suggest you hire her for any of your design needs!

Also, my darling blog friend Annie made my navigation bar. If you need any design services, this girl's prices will make your jaw drop. Seriously, you'll want to say "Can I pay you double that price?" At least, that's what I said! She is great to work with and the sweetest thing ever!

So what do you guys think? Pretty amazing around here, right? 
Thanks Jamie and Annie!!! You ladies are pretty much my favorites!

Jun 17, 2012

Lovely Little Things.

My whole family is in town, so I don't have much time to blog today. But here are some lovely little tidbits from the past week. Enjoy!

Hello new adobe fire pit. We stole it from the neighbor's trash pile. No shame. {Oh, and my husband doused that log in gasoline which is why it's spewing flames from the top Harry Potter style. That's the type of thing men do... and then their wives turn their antics into Harry Potter allusions.}

Hello summer reading. You are in French. We'll see how we get along. {I have to pass a foreign language test in the fall! Please start praying for me now!}

Hello Paletas Betty. One of my new go-to places for a refreshing treat. Between you and the place that sells ice cream cookie sandwiches for $2.00, it's going to be a sweet, sweet summer.

Hello lovely rosette necklaces that came in the mail from Seek First.
Now I have to decide which one to keep and which one to giveaway!

Hello pool that is finally clear of algae and maintaining proper chlorine levels. We had a tough month together in May, but I think we can really strengthen our relationship this month!

Hello #shereadstruth journal {also check out #scripturedoodle}. I am loving the way I am so inspired to dig into the Word each day and really reflect on God's truth in my life.

Here's to a lovely week, friends! My sister is here, so I know it's going to be lovely for me!!!
{You can follow me on Instagram --- @jenrussum}

*Linking up with Hello Hue and Life Rearranged*

Jun 14, 2012

Flowers Fade Friday: The Hostess

We are having a party at our house tonight. In fact, it starts in a couple of hours.

This is not unusual.

I am pretty sure we host parties at least once a month. If not more.

And real parties too. Like 10, 20, 30+ guests.

Cake makin'

We also have a LOT of overnight visitors. Like all the time. Like a few every month at least. Sometimes overlapping. Sometimes we could use an extra guest room. We often borrow air mattresses from friends.

And most of the time it's really, really fun. And quite the honor.

But sometimes I get tired of it.

Tired of changing sheets on the guest bed. Tired of stocking the guest bathroom with clean towels and toilet paper. Tired of organizing my grocery list around special events. Tired of sweeping crumbs off my floor after thirty guests leave.

But you know what? I need an attitude adjustment. I need a heart change at the core.

Because I keep stumbling across this one verse. And gets it me every time.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Romans 12:13

Notice that one sneaky verb... SEEK.

Seek to show hospitality.

Sure. I'm hospitable. Everyone knows the Russums will host your party. Celebrate your birthday. Throw your baby shower. If you need a place to stay in Phoenix, we have a bed for you. If the real bed is taken, we will provide an air mattress, a hot shower, a towel for the pool and a hearty meal.

I know how to be hospitable, but am I seeking to be hospitable?

My actions pretend I am, but my heart is another story.

Because I have a bit of anxiety in my heart each time I host a party. I have a smidgen of bitterness in my heart each time I clean up after said party. I feel a pang of annoyance each time I hear that an unexpected visitor will be dropping by for the night or the weekend.

But this is not the way of the Lord. God tells us to seek hospitality.

He doesn't say to offer up your home when no one else volunteers. He doesn't say to tolerate house guests with a false grin on your face. He doesn't say I can delight when my own friends come into my home, but harbor bitterness when I have to host people I don't know well or feel particularly close to.

He says to seek hospitality. To delight in opening my home. To find joy in blessing my visitors whether I know them well or not. To provide food and shelter to the sojourner. It's always been His way. He said the same thing to the Israelites thousands of years ago as they wandered in the desert {Exodus 23, Leviticus 23}. They were poor and had not yet settled into their own territory, and yet He told them to host sojourners and bless visitors even in their nomadic community. And he says the same thing to me now. Seek to show hospitality.

Hey, freaks. Come over to my house. {Totally kidding. You know I was in the front row of this chaos!}

Seek it out. Gladly volunteer. Be the first to offer to host dinner. Warmly invite strangers and acquaintances into your home.

I would continue to preach to myself, because the Lord knows my heart needs a good dose of this truth, but I have to go. I have a party to host. And I am going to host this bad boy with JOY.

*Linking up with Casey Leigh*
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