Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child

Packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child has been one of my favorite Christmas traditions for a long time. When I was young, I got such a thrill out of buying gifts (with my parents money of course) for another child! I dreamed about the look on their face when they opened up their box and found all of the wonderful gifts I had so carefully picked out for them! I knew that they would treasure each item they received and be so thankful for the generosity of someone they would never meet.

Each year I wonder about the child that will receive the box I packed for them. Where do they live? What is their life like? Will they share these gifts with siblings? What do their parents do? Do they have parents?

I image they wonder the same things about me. They might ask what possessed a stranger to send presents to a child they’ll never know.

The church Brad and I attend, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, has just finished a series over generosity – about living a life of generosity with our money, time, talents, and possessions because of the radical generosity God has showed us by sending His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins so that we might have fellowship with Him.

Packing my OCC box yesterday brought the truths the pastors of PV have spoken over the past few weeks to a reality for me. Acts 20:35 says that Jesus teaches us “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” But how often are we greedy with our money and time! How quickly I forget the joy that comes from giving a child a box full of goodies, or the blessing I receive when opening my home to the girls in my community group! Our selfishness creeps in and whispers, You can’t spend that $20! Or, You’ve been so busy lately, you don’t have time to meet with that girl. Remember, the Enemy is the Great Deceiver.

God is certainly teaching me a lesson in generous living during this season of giving and receiving. I pray that these truths may not be forgotten once the calendar marks 2015, but that my life would be marked by generosity through Christ.

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Race Swag

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Swag. Stuff we all get. We all get these medals and bibs at races. We hold onto them because they hold memories and accomplishment!! But eventually the medals make their way to the back of a drawer and the bibs end up in the trash.

I’d seen these displays on Pinterest and finally made the time to put one together for Brad and me! It was super easy and inexpensive and it only took me about 30 minutes and most of that was letting the paint dry!

Supplies:

Wood panel
Paint
Hooks
Clasps
Stencils

I bought a wood panel from Hobby Lobby. It has holes in the back for easy hanging! It was $12 but I used my 40% off coupon with my Hobby Lobby app! I also got the hooks and clasps from Hob Lob.

I painted it black with 2 coats, used my bibs to decide where to place the clasps, screwed the clasps in using a screw driver, screwed in the hooks by hand, then I painted RUN on the top using a stencil!

I love this project because it is easy to personalize! I saw some awesome girly ones, but I’m sharing it with my hubs so I kept it neutral.

Now that we see our medals on the wall maybe it will motivate me to get out there and run!

My First Half Marathon

This morning Brad and I ran in the Kansas City Waddell and Reed Half Marathon!

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Here you have the before…

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…and the after!

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Happy faces. Tired legs.

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Apparently my “I’m getting ready to run for a long time” and my “I just ran for a long time” pose are the same.

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Pretty sweet medal!

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Seeing all the Royals blue fountains throughout the race was really fun! I’ll always remember the year I ran a half marathon when the Royals were in the World Series!

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For those of you that knew me in high school or even early college remember me as mediocre to less than average when it came to athleticism. I played sports, but that was mostly because my friends played sports so that’s what I wanted to do even though my talents lied more in the arts. High schoolers.

I’ve always been able to run at least a mile, but running was always something that I thought I just couldn’t do. “I’m just not a runner,” I told myself. I even did track and field for two years, but I shied away from running events and stuck to jumps and pole vault.

Then in college I started running a little further than I normally dared. I stepped off the treadmill and tried the track. Then I ventured outside of my comfort zone and took to the road. My running really began to pick up when Brad and I started dating.

After we got married I thought I was still just a 5k runner. A half marathon seemed like something completely out of my reach. Then about a year and a half ago Brad decided to train for a half marathon. I opted not to do it with him, but I’d cheer him on and help him train!

Throughout the course of his training, I inadvertently increased my endurance just by joining in on his runs. By the time he ran his race I had gotten up to 6 miles without even training. I figured I’d made it halfway, so I could make it 13.1 if I tried!

To be honest, we did not train like we should have for this race! We only ran 2-3 times a week and didn’t go any cross-training. We’re terrible runners! Part of me can’t believe we actually did it!

But we did. We went all 13.1 without stopping or walking! We are so thankful for all of our friends and family that encouraged us during our training and prayed for our race!

One half marathon down, and I’m sure there will be many more in our future.

Pinterest Recipe Triumphs, Fourth Edition

Hey Ya’ll. It’s that time again. Every once in a while I share some recipes I’ve gotten from Pinterest that turned out GREAT and that I will definitely make again in the future! I hope you find something you enjoy as well!

(You can find my past Pinterest Recipe Triumphs here, here and here.)

1. Baked Teriyaki Chicken. You guys, this was sooooooo good. Like, this could have been from a restaurant good. I’ve tried several chicken teriyaki recipes over the years and this was definitely my fav. Try it.

baked chicken teriyaki

2. Chicken Broccoli Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce. Sometimes pasta can be super heavy and leave you feeling weighed down after you eat it, but that is not the case with this pasta! It made a pretty large batch, so I’ll probably half it the next time I make it. I felt like it needed a little bit more kick, so I’ll pump up the volume on the lemon and chili flakes as well.

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3. Favorite Marinated Vegetables. I couldn’t believe how easy and tasty this was! If you get tired of the same old vegetables plus ranch dressing you have to try this: your favorite vegetables + italian dressing + marinate in the refrigerator overnight = delicious.

favorite marinated vegetables

4. Sparkling Cider. I served this recently at my mom’s birthday party and it was a hit! Perfect for a fall party! This recipe calls for apple cider + sparkling water (sparkling tonic). At the party we served apple cider + champagne, which was equally fantastic.

sparkling-cider

Let me know if you try one of these and what you thought! Happy cooking!

Little Ways We Save Money

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My friend Amy recently shared ways her and her husband have found to save money while he is in seminary. Brad and I both have jobs now, but we essentially survived on only his salary while I was in school for the last two years. We never went without anything important, but we definitely had to find ways to make our money stretch. I got some great ideas from Amy, so I thought I’d share some of our own strategies.

1. Plans meals for the week, make a grocery list, and stick to it.
If I don’t plan our meals, we end up going out to eat. And if I don’t make a list, I end up buying things we don’t need. We go shopping on Sunday evenings, so each Sunday afternoon I set aside some time to evaluate what we’ve got going on that week, what meals I’ll make on what days, and plan out my shopping trip. Once I get to the store, I really try to stick to the list! It’s tempting to buy something because it’s on sale, but I have to remind myself that just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean that I need it.

2. Virgin Mobile. Brad and I had Verizon for two years and were happy with it, but we were not happy with the price. We had some friends that recommended Virgin Mobile, so when our Verizon contract was up we decided to give it a try. Virgin Mobile is pay-as-you-go, so you can cancel it at any time. I pay $40 a month for 1200 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data. It uses Sprint towers and my service has been pretty good in KC. You have to pay full price for your phone up front, but it paid for itself after just a few months of only paying $40 compared to almost $200 a month. Disclaimer: they advertise as unlimited data, but once you reach a certain limit your speed slows down. This hasn’t been much of a problem for me because I don’t use my phone much while I’m at work and I’m on wifi when I’m at home, so I don’t use that much data.

3. No cable. There have been times that we’ve wished we had cable (like for watching Royals games!), but in general we feel like we haven’t missed out at all. We pay for wifi and use a Roku to watch Netflix and YouTube, and we listen to music through Pandora and Spotify. It’s kept us from watching mindless TV and kept our entertainment costs down!

4. Making your coffee at home. Brad and I love our coffee, and while we do buy plenty of coffee outside of our home, we try to at least get our morning coffee at home. Even spending a dollar on coffee every morning can really add up over time! We fill a travel mug on our way out the door and can drink it on the way to work so we are awake by the time we get there!

5. Go to free things. There are tons of free things to do out there, sometimes it just takes a little bit of work to find them. Ask your friends what they like to do for free. Google free things to do in your city. Brad and I enjoyed a lot of things when we lived in Springfield without spending a lot of money!

6. Tithe faithfully. For people who aren’t familiar, tithing is giving 10% of your earnings to your local church. It may seem a little counter-productive for saving money, but I’ve learned over and over again that God is faithful to provide when you are faithful to Him with your finances.

We’re not experts on finances. Sometimes we buy things on impulse. I don’t keep my receipts like I should. But we try to make wise choices and find the small ways to save money, so we can be good stewards of what we have. How do you save money??

Some things we miss about Springfield

We are lovin’ life in KC. We’re both enjoying our new jobs, we like our apartment, we have a great church, and we love being near our families.

But any season of transition comes with some longing for the past. There are things about Springfield that I’ve found myself missing that I certainly didn’t expect.

I miss my Phelps Grove-Roundtree-MSU runs. Springfield was where I fell in love with running and that part of town was my favorite. I haven’t found a new favorite running spot here, which has left me feeling a little unmotivated. There are days when I get off work and wish Phelps Grove would just appear for me. I also really miss the MSU gym for those days when its too hot to run outside. It was the bomb. 24-Hour Fitness just doesn’t compare.

I miss my Price Cutter. I still haven’t settled on a grocery store here. I miss having a grocery store 5 minutes away and knowing exactly where everything is, what their normal prices are, and knowing all of the cashiers.

I miss the coffee shops. We had no idea how spoiled we were with so many great coffee shops at our disposal! It seems like most coffee shops close early around here and we don’t have very many close to where we live (or on the way to work).

I miss the thrift stores and flea markets. Second-hand shops are ubiquitous in Springfield, and you can find some really great deals. They are harder to come by here and people know what great stuff they have, so it’s not as cheap!

I miss Gailey’s, MSU campus, Canton Inn, Starbucks on Sunshine, the Palace, Silver Dollar City, living a mile from Hobby Lobby, Mister Lube Express, and Hurts Donuts.

I think when it comes down to it, I miss the familiarity of Springfield. We knew all of the local places, if I needed something I knew where to go, and we knew what places to avoid.

There have been moments lately that I have felt a little lost in my “hometown”, but when those feelings start to creep in I remind myself that it took us time to adjust to Springfield. We’ll find our niche in KC. And any suggestions or advice from you Kansas Citians are welcome! I’ve found that word-of-mouth is the best way to discover new things.

Springfield MO

Slowing Down

Confession: I hate when people talk about how busy they are. I hate even more that I’ve been doing it as of late.

But seriously, we’ve been really busy lately.

We’ve been busy with really great things! We are so excited about the opportunities that God has been providing for us! We feel so blessed everyday. But I’m also feeling a little bit worn out and there are some things I’m missing lately.

Brad starts his first semester of seminary classes tomorrow (yay!), we’re joining a small group at our church in a couple of weeks, and the holidays are looming in the near future.

I’ve been thinking about how full our schedules have been the last few weeks and I begin to feel quite weary when I think about all of the new things that are going to be added.

As I head into this full, joyful season, I’m praying that I will make time for rest when I’m tempted to overload myself, and I’m praying that I will have energy to serve others and God when I am tempted to become selfish with my time.

one little bird blog