Jan 29, 2013

Winter Wear.

So it's sorta, kinda winter in Arizona. Here are some outfits to prove it...

{You will notice by my sleeve lengths, bare legs, and lack of scarves and gloves that I use the term "winter" very loosely.}

Top: Kohl's // Blazer: Lauren Conrad for Kohl's // Watch: DKNY // Bracelet: BR Factory

Left - Top: eShakti // Blazer: Lauren Conrad for Kohl's // Jeans: Banana Republic // Heels: Nine West // Necklace: Target
Right - Dress: Old Navy // Shoes: Nine West // Necklace: Caroline G Shop

Left {Christmas Eve} - Top and Jeans: Banana Republic // Sweater: The Impeccable Pig // Necklace: Caroline G Shop
Right {New Year's Eve} - Top and jeans: J.Crew Factory

Oh, but you must know that we had one week {okay, like 5 days} of REAL winter. Like put on a winter coat, temps in the 20s at night, never above 50 by day, winter. I know this doesn't compare to the Midwest, but I think it legitimately counts as COLD at least. And it means I got to wear my pretty blue coat from Anthropologie that I bought last Christmas on super sale for $45 {which has been sitting in my guest room closet ever since}. I actually don't like being cold, but I do like wearing pretty coats. The end.

Sweater: Kohl's // Pants: Banana Republic // Shoes: Jessica Simpson // Coat: Anthro // Bag: Ballard Designs

Jan 28, 2013

Not your typical blogging advice

Sometimes I write these long emails to readers of my blog to answer a question they have, and I've realized that some of these emails would probably make some pretty good posts. Maybe others have the same question.

Below is a modified version of an email I recently sent to a woman hoping to start a blog that mixes devotions and faith with everyday life stuff. Before she actually starts her blog, she's been seeking advice  from other bloggers. Here is what I told her...

There are two realms of advice I can give... one is what you are supposed to do to grow your blog if you want to intentionally try to increase your readership. This might include:
  • posting regularly (at least 4-5 days a week)
  • using social media to connect with other bloggers (especially Twitter and Instagram)
  • using lots of pictures on your blog and making them BIG in size
  • writing shorter rather than longer posts
  • making sure you aren't a "no reply blogger" so you can converse with people over email (read this post and this post for more information)
  • perusing and commenting on a few new blogs every day
  • responding to those who comment on your own posts through embedded commenting or email

But then there's also the spiritual realm of blogging... which means acknowledging that God is in control of who and how many people read your blog. The above tips do work, and they are not bad, but I find that I must always keep them in check with what the Lord wants for my blog. Sometimes that means posting less often, because He has given me other duties and opportunities in my week that don't allow for a lot of blogging time. Sometimes that means praising Him for a post that receives one personal email from someone asking about Jesus or seeking advice for Bible reading plans rather than 50 comments and 5 retweets. Of course, both these scenarios can be used for His glory, but I often see God at work through conversations I have in person with unsaved friends who read my blog or random emails I've received, instead of by gaining followers and receiving comments and other things that make me look popular online.

So there you have it... my straightforward advice for blogging. Because unless He wills it, your blog is not going to grow. And if you aren't blogging for Him, what's the point anyway?

Jan 26, 2013

A Plea {from the husband}

So last week Micah won a baking contest at work. I was honestly surprised and impressed. I'll share pictures and the award-winning recipe later, but for now he needs your help. Next week his work is having a chili cook-off. If you didn't know, my husband is one of the most competitive people ever and now that he has tasted victory in the baking department, he wants to win for best chili too.

The problem is we never eat chili. I hate beans, and since most chili recipes call for beans, it's a dish that's never made it on the Russum menu rotation.

So Micah asked me to ask YOU for help. Do you have an award-winning chili recipe? An old family recipe you can share? Please leave links below and we will check them out. If he picks your recipe, you can expect a huge shout-out!


Jan 24, 2013

Flowers Fade Friday: You {don't} deserve it.

I am going to talk about my least favorite phrase in the world. I hear it often. I see it all the time on social media.

Here is an example:
Mom posts picture on Instagram. Might be a picture of herself in the mirror - looking pretty with make-up and a cute outfit on. Might be a picture of a fancy dinner plate. Might be a picture of her hand interlocked with her husband's. 

Caption: Date night with my man.

Comment from follower: You deserve it, mama.

You deserve it.

The biggest lie there ever was...

Maybe I'm over-spiritualizing this and getting worked up over semantics. I know people probably don't always check themselves for theological accuracy when they say "You deserve it" on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. "You deserve it" seems like a perfectly nice and casual thing to say when a friend tells you about a promotion, a new project, or an upcoming vacation over coffee.

Maybe it's not a big deal.

But I think it is.

Because "you deserve it" is the biggest lie I tell myself on a daily basis. I don't need other people affirming the deceit I constantly battle against.

My flesh wants to lie to me and say:
You have been working hard; you deserve a break.
You are a good wife; you deserve a date.
You've been a good friend; you deserve a phone call.
You serve at church; you deserve to be recognized.
You are dedicated at school; you deserve a grant.
You are nice, friendly, and helpful; you deserve to be praised.

But all these whispers are a lie.

The truth of God is this:
"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and "For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23 and 6:23).

As sinners, we deserve nothing good. Nothing at all. In fact, we deserve only punishment and death.

It is a gift of God that we live and breath and have families and go on date nights and maintain friendships. These gifts are undeserved in every way fathomable. They are grace. James 1:17 says: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." Every good thing is from the Lord. It can't be earned. It can't be bought. It is never deserved.

And the ultimate gift is salvation. Whether or not we are blessed with grants and vacations and coffee dates, the ultimate gift we will ever receive from Christ is himself and the promise that we will live with him forever.

So ladies, let's change our language. Let's stop spreading the lie that Satan so desperately wants us to believe. We don't deserve it. I don't deserve it. Neither do you.

Let's speak of grace and blessing and gifts from a Father who loves us. If it's date night on Instagram, praise the Father from whom all blessings flow.

Jan 23, 2013

A huge shout-out and a sneak peak!

Back in October, I offered to host a baby shower for my dear friend Jordan. The shower is taking place this Saturday, and I am so excited about how it's turning out.

However, you might remember that back in December I finished up a semester of grad school, traveled abroad for two weeks, celebrated Christmas and traveled out of state for a family wedding before hosting visitors for a week. During this crazy and fun time, a thought kept popping into the back of my head... Jordan's shower... pick invites... order invites... mail invites. I was so busy that it was hard to make this happen. I would jump onto Etsy for a couple of minutes late at night to narrow down my selection of possible invitations and would then completely forget about them until someone said the word 'baby' and I would frantically remember that I still hadn't actually ordered invitations.

Enter Robin over at Paper Clever. This lady saved my life, y'all. Not only does she have the cutest invitations in the world, but she was the first person to get back to me when I started my search for the perfect paper for this shower. She even added a new design to her shop just for me. She also was incredibly gracious when I had to change my order at the last minute. She doesn't even know I'm writing this post about her. I just want to say that Robin is great, and the inventory in her shop is beyond cute. I highly suggest you check out her selection the next time you are throwing any type of party!

This is just  a little sneak peak of what's to come this weekend. I'll be back with more details on the shower in the next few weeks!

Jan 17, 2013

Flowers Fade Friday: Grace

I guess I have an {un}official word of the year... grace.

This word has been echoing around in my head and heart for a few months now. As each year goes by, and I know my Savior more intimately, I am shocked by His grace more and more.

His grace poured out on me, each day when I wake up. When I make my coffee. When I sip that coffee and read His Word, grace to me etched on a thousand pages. His grace to me when I sit and move and work and type emails with nimble fingers. His grace to me when I run at the gym with two healthy legs, while sweat, the grace of a healthy nervous system, drips from my forehead. His grace poured out on me each time I make it home safely in the evening and unload my grace-filled grocery bags from the car. Grace when I make dinner, serve my husband, clean my kitchen with anti-bacterial soap and cuddle up on my sofa or in my bed with the down comforter.

And this is only common grace.

How do I begin to speak of the grace in my heart? The grace that a God who is ultimately holy and good would choose me to be His child? The grace that God would send his Spirit to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. That He would soften my hardness and humble my rebellion. The grace that a Man would die for me, while I was His enemy. That day by day, God's grace whispers to me, calling me to repent, to serve, to grow, and to be transformed. His grace sustains me be obedient and His grace perseveres when I stumble and fail.

And that I will experience this grace in heaven forevermore... there are no words for such grace.

And so I will stick with one word. Grace. It is my prayer that this word will linger in the back of my mind in 2013. That it would cause my heart to overflow with joy. That it would make my tongue speak with gratitude. And that it would teach me to give grace to others in the same way it has been lavished upon me. 

Grace upon grace.

Jan 16, 2013

Best of...

I know it's been 2013 for over two weeks now, but bear with me... after my crazy winter break, I am just getting caught up on the whole calendar change thing.

Here they are. My top posts of 2012. Apparently, other people liked them, so maybe you will too.

The most read post, other than the Pumpkin Dump Cake recipe that went viral on Pinterest...
How DJ Tanner Changed My Life

Yes, I shop at Kohl's and I am not ashamed...
Cool Kohl's

Pretty self-explanatory...
What My 20s Taught Me

My most viewed non-pumpkin recipe...
Egg Puff Biscuits

Throwing another one of these later this month...
Gender Neutral Baby Shower

If you want to come visit me....
Phoenix Tourist Guide

Not the young adult fiction variety...

Jan 14, 2013

5 things

Usually I make a list of goals/resolutions for the new year that that looks like a psychopath's to-do list. Way too many things. Some are projects and tasks that will inevitably get done whether I put them on a list or not, others are lofty plans that will be nearly impossible to bring to fruition, and some are legit goals with measurable results.

This year, I am trying to keep it simple. A handful of goals. All can be measured. All will stretch me, but are perfectly achievable {by grace and self-control} at the same time.

5 things...

Be five minutes early to every class...
I am always late. I didn't used to be, but in the years after college, tardiness somehow became my most horrible habit. Last year my goal was simply to "be on time" which was way too vague. Sometimes I was on time, often I was not. Was I on time more in 2012 than the year prior? Maybe? My goal this year is more measurable. Be five minutes early to every class I teach and every class I take. Hopefully, if I can succeed in this, punctuality will seep into other areas of my life as well.

Write during my quiet times...
I am very committed to reading the Word every morning, but I am able to reflect so much more on the Scripture I read if I write afterward. Yet, I all too often neglect to do this. My goal is to write during as many of my quiet times as I can this year, whether it's a blog post, a prayer, or even just jotting down a verse that stuck out to me. I pray the Lord uses this time to etch His Word more deeply on my heart.

Write one note of encouragement per month...
This is a revised version of last year's goal, which was to write two notes a month. I kept it up through May and then it fell apart, but I truly believe God has given me the gift of writing in order to encourage others, so I want this to be a goal again this year.

Memorize one passage of Scripture per month...
This is also a goal from last year. A few years ago memorizing Scripture was an important part of my life, but, recently, I've given it little thought. I desperately want God's Word to be hidden deep in my heart and mind, so that I know his commands and promises in the face of temptation or trial, and so that I can cling to His Word even if I live in age or a place where the Bible is no longer accessible.

Read one book {for fun} each month...
This is my most daunting goal. With all the reading I do for school, I almost never read books for fun. Usually I can sneak in one or two over the summer, and sometimes I read a novel at a snail's pace throughout the year, but, more or less, I rarely read for pleasure. Over Christmas break, I finished two books and it felt good. I loved reading as a child and it made me feel so rested to just read for hours on end last month. I am hoping to squeeze in one book per month this year for fun, no matter how crazy school gets.

So there they are. My five things. Praying for lots of strength to make them happen and lots of grace when I fall short.

Jan 10, 2013

Flowers Fade Friday: I too am a man

"Ooh, I got retweeted!" exclaims my sinful heart.

I have been reflecting lately on how the posture of my heart is not right. Not right at all in the eyes of the Lord.

Because, as a sinner, I like acclaim for myself. I like to be noticed, celebrated, worshiped even. I like people to think that I am quote-worthy, tweet-worthy, fun and funny. I also like them to think I am spiritual, godly, and wise.

In essence, I want people to bow down to me, as if I were some type of queen of all things trendy and inspiring.

The dark parts of my heart are like Herod, who, in Acts 12, dresses up in his robes, sits on his throne, and delivers a speech, as the people yell "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" (12:22).

This is not right. (And Herod came to a horrible end, by the way.) My life, my thoughts, my actions, and my words should not lead to glory for myself. My life, and in everything in it, should point to the glory of God.

Of course, there is grace when I screw up and take too much delight in worldly attention. But it's my prayer that God continues to change my heart, to teach me to pursue His glory and not my own.

I want to be like Peter in Acts 10. In this chapter, Peter travels to the house of a wealthy Gentile family to deliver the Gospel. When he arrives, the master of the house falls down at Peter's feet and begins to worship him.

Peter, since he seeks the glory of Christ and not his own esteem, quickly lifts the man up and says, "Stand up; I too am a man" (10:26).

I want my heart and my mouth to speak those same words. Stand up. I am just a woman. Give glory to the God who created me. And you. And all the good works that He prepared in advance for us to do. Give glory to the One who sustains the whole universe and orchestrates the world's events every second of the day.

We are just men and women.

He is God.

Jan 9, 2013

Remember When I Used to Blog?

A month ago from yesterday I landed in Sydney, Australia after a fourteen and a half hour flight from L.A. We left the U.S. on the night of December 7th and landed in Australia on the morning of December 9th. Technically, we never saw December 8th. I like to think of this as time travel, but my best friend is scared of time travel, so I will just say it's all mathematically correct and the world is turning properly as it should, but I like to think of myself as Doc from Back to the Future nonetheless.

You will notice that since that time, I have hardly blogged at all. A post here and there, but nothing consistent.

Let me tell you why. We were in Australia for two full weeks. It was glorious. You can see some photos and a few trip updates here. I highly recommend Australia as a vacation spot for anyone who loves the beach and wants to travel internationally without language barriers and food sickness. Hoorah for that. Hopefully, I will be able to write more about our adventures soon.


We landed back in the U.S. on the morning of December 23rd. We spent Christmas Eve here with extended family. Then, after being home for just 48 hours, I flew to Seattle on Christmas night. We were in our hometown for a few whirlwind days for a family wedding, and we flew back to Phoenix on the 30th. A few hours after my own plane landed, I headed to the other airport across town to pick up my best friend who spent New Year's week with us. We threw our third annual NYE fiesta together. Halfway through the week, one of our other best friends drove over from Cali to spend a few days with us. They left the day before school started.

Christmas Eve.

Since Monday morning, I have had meetings and classes galore.

I am exhausted, but full... of adventure, friendship, holiday excitement, and plans for this new year.

I hope to be back on the blog soon. Maybe I'll share more about Australia. Maybe I need to do a Christmas recap.  2013 goals? I have some of those too. I am so excited to be back and can't wait to get a few hours to blog to my heart's content.

New Year's Eve.

But until then, I have class, some errands to run, and two bathrooms to clean.

I miss you, guys! XOXO!

Jan 6, 2013

Godly Wife.

A long, long time ago, my friend Jac contacted me about a vision she had for 2013. Seriously, y'all, God has been at work on this vision for months and months and I love to see it finally coming to fruition.

Jac has decided to do a year-long Godly Wife series on her blog, focusing on a different characteristic each month. I am honored to help her launch the series, along with our friend Jess. This month, we are talking about faith because it's essential to any healthy, Godly marriage.

Of course, we need to be faithful to our spouse in all things - how we talk, what we think, what we do, and especially in the boundaries we set in our relationships with other men.

But before we can even reflect on the way we treat our own husbands, our faith in Christ must be the foundation of all we do - in marriage, at work, in all our relationships and activities.

If our faith isn't in Christ, then the trials of marriage are going to rock us.

Because in marriage, we are going to mess up. I mess up. Daily. For as much as I love my husband, I fail constantly. I slip in one more nagging comment, I mediate on a bitter thought, I spend more than I should, and the list goes on and one. I mess up all the time.

But my faith, ultimately, is not in my ability to be a good wife. If it were, I would be a failure. My faith is in Christ, who is always there, strengthening me, convicting me to repent, and covering my sin, always.

Without Christ, my striving to be a Godly wife would be in vain. It would look good most days... some times... some days... but in the end, I would fail. My selfishness, pride and anxiety would mark me forever as a failure of a wife.

But not in Christ...

In Christ, I am a Godly wife. His holiness covers me. In Him, I can strive, and mess up, and repent, and forgive and be forgiven. When my faith is in Christ, my marriage can flourish, even though we are just two messed up people in a messed up world.

I invite you to reflect on your own faith in Christ this month. What are you doing to grow it? And how might that make a difference in your marriage? Come back here on the last Monday of the month {January 28th} and link-up to tell us what God has been teaching you!

To read more about the Godly Wife series, visit Jac's blog and Jess's blog.

Jan 3, 2013

Flowers Fade Friday: Faith on a Gym Mat

I was at the gym today, post three mile run, in the middle of an intense ab workout, when I suddenly thought "What if I have an aneurysm and die right here on this germ-infested gym mat?"

And then I thought... "that would be great."

I'm sorry that I insist on giving you a glimpse into my strange daydreams from time to time, especially when they involve dying at L.A. Fitness, but it's during these moments when I am reminded of the beauty of the Gospel.

You see, a few years ago I actually had a student whose mom died suddenly at the gym. I never knew her personally, but apparently she was a relatively young, healthy woman who died of an aneurysm while working out, leaving behind a husband and teenage children who were obviously stunned by her death. So maybe my daydream was not so strange after all...

Five years ago, the thought of dying at the gym... or anywhere... would scare me. I did not have my full confidence and hope in Christ, though I thought I did, and the thought of death was pretty terrifying, even though I knew it wasn't supposed to be if I was a Christian.

Now when I think of death, I feel no fear. Instead, I think of seeing Jesus face to face. I think about slipping free from the grasp of sin and shaking off a lifetime of burdens and trading them all in for a holy, joyful and painless life with God. Death, in a way, sounds good. That's not to say that I am perfectly comfortable around a lifeless corpse, but when I think about a soul ascending to paradise with the Father, a corpse doesn't seem as intimidating anymore.

This week I've been reading through James - a book that begins its first chapter with the command to "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" {v.2}.

Count it all joy.

But how?

The idea of counting trials as joy used to seem impossible. I knew I was supposed to be joyful in all circumstances, in theory, but I often found myself asking: "Really God? In pain? In confusion? In discomfort? In injustice? Count is as joy?"

But now I do count it all joy. When I look back on some of the trials that have gotten me to the place where I would be happy to die on gym mat with onlookers from the cardio machines, I count it as joy. Thank you, God, for any and every trial that has increased my faith in YOU.

Because the command comes with a promise:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness...
James 1:2-3 

Trial produces a steadfast faith. Trial produces a faith that says "I don't really want to die in an L.A. Fitness, Lord, but I would be filled with joy if I do, because then I would get to see the object of my faith, Jesus, and there is no greater joy than that. A faith that says, "This burden is heavy, but that means I will be filled with even more thanks and praise when I heave it off my shoulders in the Kingdom come."  A faith that says "Even when material possessions or my health are stripped away, I can praise You, Father, because of the sweet reminder that my imperishable inheritance can never be stripped away, stolen or destroyed."

This is faith. Found at the gym on a sweaty mat.

|Linking up with Casey|
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