Playing in the Rain

Playing in the Rain

I was meeting one of my good buddies early one morning this week at a coffee shop to catch up on life and sharpen iron before the days activities began.  The alarm woke me up a little before 6AM and as I rolled out of bed I heard the rain hitting the roof.  When rain hits Atlanta you might as well double your commute time… never fails.  I hurried my morning routine, pulled out of the neighborhood and headed to the interestate.  Not a mile down interstate 400 did I see the sea of red across all 6 lanes as commuters begain tapping their brakes.  Frustration settled in a little but I turned on some music to help pass the time.

Breakfast was at one of my favorite spots in the Perimeter area, a French-style restaurant called La Madeleine.  I’ve been going here for close to 12 years.  A mentor of mine invited me there for the first time in my final semester of college as I was looking for my first job.  Before 7:30 in the morning it is filled with the movers and shakers of the business world.  As I left the restaurant I was surprised to hear a piano being played and looked next to the front doors.  There was a young girl wearing headphones and was completely lost in the music as her fingers danced over the keys.  Unbeknownst to me, there was a piano donated to the restaurant and sat outside for anyone’s use.  I chuckled at how long that must have been sitting there without me knowing.

I got in my car and rolled down the windows so I could hear her play – it was beautiful.  I wished I hadn’t had to jet for another meeting.  It would’ve been nice to sit there and listen to her a little longer while the rain came down on my windshield.  As I drove away I started thinking about her playing that piano in the middle of the rain and was really encouraged.  It was 8AM on a Tuesday morning.  Wet, rainy, drab, and grey.  Most of us (myself included) can begin to look at the day through a negative lens when the weather is unfavorable.  Not for this girl.  She was lighting up that parking lot with music and probably touching a lot of lives.  I have no idea who she was but I’m grateful she was playing that piano.

It reminded me to create beauty even when situations and circumstances are unfavorable.  It doesn’t take much most of the time… just a little creativity and having the right positive mental attitude.  I don’t know what season you find yourself in as we head into the holidays but maybe we can all take a little lesson from this girl.  Go play in the rain and inspire beauty and joy despite what might be going on around you.  It’s silly, now that I think about it.  That piano may have been there for years and I’ve walked right past it.  I can’t play a lick but now that I know it’s there, I might have to go play a few keys the next time I go to breakfast.  Is there a “piano” you need to play over the holidays?  Don’t forget to play in the rain.  And the great thing is, the sun always comes back out again.

-SD-

Believe

Believe

The Holidays roll around and with it a word. Sometimes whispered sometimes punched out on a Polar Express Ticket and sometimes shouted out by a toddler. The word is “Believe”. It is suppose too evoke a kind of magical awe in the individual saying it and encourage them.

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But what if it is hard to Believe? What if you’re scared? What if you are going through something really hard? What if you don’t like the way the belief is playing out? What if stepping out of the boat and being brave causes you to sink, to never recover? Fear is the enemy of trust and belief. When we choose this over faith we will always miss out on the magic of the season God has called forward for.

My Daughter said something the other day. When she said it I could see fear rising up. She was thinking about getting old just like her Great-Grandma. She was grappling with belief. She is six years old.

“Mommy, when you die will you be buried in the ground or in Heaven?” 

“Daddy, How can Jesus be in heaven and in our hearts at the same time?”

Belief is beautiful. Faith is trust. And as we come into the holidays it seems everyone has an abundance of it. But sometimes believing is hard. It carries weight. In the Bible, there is a story about a man who had incredible faith and obedience. But he also grappled with fear. Let’s take a look at the story of Abraham.

Abraham wanted a son. He had begged God for one and had even tried to manifest it in his own way. Apparently, patience was not a virtue for him. Yet, in the middle of all of this we are told Abraham was suddenly overcome by fear.

I love this part of the story because anytime I feel lead to step out in a “new way” or a “big way” or in a “trust way” fear comes knocking! This story helps me realize that this is not a new thing but a very old one that all of us face.

Genesis 15: 1

The Lord’s Covenant With Abram

1After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.

I am your shield, a

 

Here we see that God instructs him to not be fearful. To walk boldly because He is his shield. He is protecting him. He literally is a piece of armor infont of him. God was telling Abraham that he was covering him in all the right places and that He would survive this and not only that but that Abraham would thrive!

Proverbs 30:5

5“Every word of God is flawless;

he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Are you in place in your life where you don’t think you’ll make it? Has life’s battle field caused you to be beaten down. Are you questioning if you are bleeding out spiritually, emotionally or physically? Do you feel like you are laid bare before the battle field?

God told Abraham that he was covered in all the right places and that he was in a vital spot to survive.

Genesis 15: 4-6

…your very great reward. b

5He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring d be.”

6Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He was a credited in righteousness because He believed! He trusted God’s hand was at work and that He would accomplish what He said He would, period the end. That is it, nothing else. If you have a battle going on and you are hustling so very diligently are you trusting in God that he has you covered in this season? Have you picked up your shield? Your war may not end but you will be protected by God himself!

As you think about the nativity, Jesus, faith and Mary’s trust, this season I hope it gives you courage. That you remember that in your season you too can be credited in Righteousness. All you have to do is, Believe! He is able!

Romans 4:20-24

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

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How To Pack Perfectly So You Can Have A Perfect Trip!

How To Pack Perfectly So You Can Have A Perfect Trip!

 

In the last year and a half we have been to Africa, Colorado, Italy, Canada, California, Scotland, Kentucky, Disney World, New York City and the Beach five times. I am not saying this to boast but to explain how much washing, laundry, and packing I have done!

To learn how to do this efficiently and well for each trip is a feat! Each location is different, so different things must be brought.

I have a system that is fail proof! I believe in this system so much. I believe in it even more after a trip where my sisters gigantic suitcase was siting next to mine. I realized that my little carry on had brought triple the amount of shoes as her case had and it was for the same trip. So without any further fluff here is my system.

#1. I start with the weather. What is it going to be and for how long? I usually don’t pack a lot of extra because I am of the mindset if I need something extra I can usually buy it, (Unless I am camping). For the most part when I travel I usually like to save space for souvenirs and shopping.

#2. Always invest in good luggage. If you travel a ton it is worth it!

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#3. Shoes!!! This might seem backwards but I start with shoes. If I am headed to New York and walking but want to look good I know that is diffrent than the beach or to the horse track. I create my outfits from my shoes first.

#4. Lay out all outfits. Visually this helps coordinate and make sure you’re not bringing all one color but that you can over lap shoes or a hat. I Always bring workout gear and a swimsuit; no matter what!

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#5. Toiletries are key. I usually pack my flat iron, downy wrinkle spray, bra stickies, detox foot pads, a hair mask, an eye mask and fiber supplements along with ibuprofen. This is my travel stuff not my everyday. I also always carry roller balls of “peace and calming” or “stress away” because you never know what smells or issues you will run into!

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#6. I repeat this process for every single person and then if you have the kids in the picture I allow each one to pick one toy and one book to bring.

Happy Travels Everyone!! Enjoy your holiday season to its fullest!

For the Love of Books and Relationships

For the Love of Books and Relationships

 

 

I heard once that 82% of the world has at least one book idea, some have many more. Only 20% of people move past that phase and go on to the next. To write it and to publish. I am one of those stats. When we first started on this journey, we never thought it would be what it is today. We are humbled and over joyed!

I claim myself a writer. A blogger. And an avid reader. However my blog is a small audience and my claim of “writer” was because I write almost everyday in a private journal. I read but I am not as fast as I would like. I have more books in my “want to read” list as much as I have actually read. I have files on my computer for novel’s and book ideas.

Ann Lamot would say “mostly its all trash.”

I always dreamed I would write a book and have it published. Floating out there in the world  of “one day”, I could also claim the title that I was a “visionary” and a dreamer too. It was just a dream and a far off one at that. One of those pie in sky, may never really happen kinda things.

One day on a date, my husband who encourages me the most pushed the button of one day to “lets make it today”.

We cannot tell you how thrilled we are to have this small part of our journey written down! Initially, this was going to be written for our children. Just a small snapshot of the things, we believe, that can set you up for the best romantic relationship possible.

As we continually talked about the content to friends, publishers, and young people, we were encouraged to write it for more than our two kids. We heard from many that despite hundreds of relationship books out there, the need is still great. 

It is a short manual of sorts. We wanted this book to be a quick read and a powerful punch that anyone could get a hold of and use for their benefit. Our viewpoints are Biblically based, infused with real life stories, and has a culturally informed premise. We offer feasible life application that ensues success as you cultivate something unique in your relationship. By choosing to walk out the concepts outlined in this book, we hope to help inspire by empowering you in your romance. 

This is our journey of a dream. From the idea all the way to full on published authors. We hope it inspires you on how you too can put your idea out into the world!

  • Write. We started on napkins at a restaurant high top but the point is just get it out from your head and make it tangible.
  • Ask someone if it s a good idea before moving forward. We talked to some very strategic people in our life to make sure this was something they thought would be good for us to venture into. You need to find someone who can be fully honest with you. “Is it a good idea? Is this the right time? If nobody likes it would you still write it?”
  • Write more. Once you have decided to go all in on it, write. Then write some more. We started with a motivational speech really. That became our introduction. We took some of our blogs on the ideas and concepts we wanted to elaborate on and then wrote a proposal. After that we wrote and wrote. Lots of it was not used. Ans we wrote on chapters that ultimately we shifted and had the other write instead. Be prepared for this.
  • Have a co author or accountability partner. I would not have ever put it out there if it wasn’t for my husband. It would still be sitting on my desk unedited. he on the other hand would probably have never started the process. Having someone to be accountable to made all the difference.
  • Create a cover design. We spent some time really thinking about the design and look we wanted for our book. If you want it to grab people make sure it would grab you and of course that you love it!
  • 99Designs. We took our ideas to a company that then formatted 100’s of different ideas for our book and paid the extra money to make it happen. this was by far one of the best ideas we did! They formatted it for paperback and for kindle versions. We recommend them to everyone!
  • Meet with as many authors and publicist as possible! Ask lots of questions. We ended up meeting with over six different authors and four different publishing houses to learn as much as possible about this process and all the different approaches you can take.
  • Edit. This is my least favorite part. personally. I am horrible at editing. It is time consuming and reveals my flaws like nothing else.
  • Have a friend edit. Pick someone who will comb through it and kindly give you feed back. Preferably someone who is excellent at grammar.
  • Higher an actual editor. This is not a step I would ever skip. I know that there are many places now where you can just upload your work but if you want it to be done well and to be an enjoyable read for more than just your mom you must choose to invest in professional editor!
  • re-read. As you do this you will go through so many emotions! You be so proud and then you will thing everything you wrote is garbage! Just read. Make some notes think about it and talk to your co-author or the team behind you.
  • re-write entire sections due to the re read.
  • Find a publicist and launch as well as you know how. You only know who you know, and what you know. A pub-list can help you reach wider than that. Do your best and allow God to use it however it is suppose to be used. Don’t fret about sales, reviews, or the fear of being buried in a saturated market. You did your part. Continue to do so and leave the rest to God.
  • CELEBRATE! After everything it is hard not to get wrapped up in the next project or relive the relief that it is done. Do not forget to give yourself the acknowledgment of your accomplishment!

If you are interested in reading our book or supporting us in anyway with this project go to Amazon, Lulu.com, Or Barnes and Noble to order your copy today!! You can use any of the links above or go to An Exceptional Romance and order your copy today!

  • We hope that you will pass this book out to friends, co-workers, and small groups. Use them as birthday, wedding gifts, and Christmas presents. Help us sell books. It’s that simple! The only way new writers are ever heard of is by people like you and me shouting about it. By doing this you are supporting writers, the reading world, the publishing industry, and relationships everywhere! The hope is that this book will encourage, equip, and give life!

Thank you for your confidence and support in this project. We are honored to see how our simple story and thoughts might bless others to do the same things in their romances and with their dreams.

Happy Reading!

Seasonal Nourishment

Seasonal Nourishment

 

Summer life brings a freshness to it that makes my soul sing! But alas all good things must come to an end. School is back and football has started. Food shifts are one of the first things that start to show me that another season is approaching and another is ending. With the heat still very high in our southern state it can be hard to transition to fall menu’s and hearty meals. Most of us are still craving the taste’s of summer. Because of this I have compiled a list of some of our favorites for this in between time.

“Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world — this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world — no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness.”
Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

Breakfast idea:

Walnut Coffee Cake Quick Bread

This is a staple in our house. I can hardly keep it in stock when I make it. It is incredibly good with warm butter or with a cup of morning coffee. The original recipe is from Joanna Gaines but I have changed it bacuse personally it was just to many ingrediaents and steps.

*You need three bowls and a loaf pan. Cook for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

bowl one:

1/2 cup of light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter melted

1/4 cup of chopped walnuts. (I buy raw whole and crunch them with a fork)

Bowl two:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Bowl three:

2 cups of bread flour (I use Arnold brand)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

a dash of salt

little bit over one cup of buttermilk

1 egg

1/4 cup oil (I use olive or avocado)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

about 3/4 cup of walnuts. (I chop these minimally)

drop half of bowl three in your laof pan and then sprinkle all of bowl two on top. swirl with a knife to make marble look. drop rest of bowl three on top of mixture and then sprinkle bowl one one top. bake and enjoy.

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Lunch Idea:

Chicken Corn Salad

two cups of canned organic sweet corn

one package of chicken (about two servings) grilled and cubbed

cilantro-avacodo- olive oil -baby tomato’s- pesto sauce

mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Add fresh mozzarella – shredded

Rosmary Potaoes and green beans

I originally did this for our easter dinner meal but we love to make this ahead of time and eat it hot or cold!

boil red proptaoes until to your likeing

in a pan saute green beans with onion, scallions, and your choice of mushrooms (we use bella mostly) in avocado oil.

add cooked potatoes.

add salt, pepper and fresh rosmary. top with lemon garlic salad dressing.

 

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Appezizer idea:

Jalepeno Stuffed Peppers

slice peppers in half and throw away seeds

cover the center of pepper with cream cheese. Just the trough part. (If you over fill it will leak out all over your pan in the oven.)

wrap  entire pepper in bacon

lay them all out on a pan and cook in oven till bacon is crispy

Dinner Idea:

Paella

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and cooked rice. Cook, stirring, to coat rice with oil, about 3 minutes. Stir in saffron oil, a bay leaf, parsley, a little chicken stock, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a separate skillet over medium heat on the grill with marinated chicken and onion; cook 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and sausage; cook till tender. Stir in shrimp if desired; cook, turning the shrimp, until both sides are pink and all meat is done.

 

Spread rice mixture onto the grill safe serving tray. (We usually just use the same big stirfry pan that the meat is in on the grill) Top with desired srirachi sauce and optional cheese.

 

“But my parents understood that the world that they made within the walls of our house was what constituted home. So I grew up in spaces framed by art and color, filled with candlelight, marked by beauty. I grew up within a rhythm of time made sacred by family devotions in the morning and long conversations in the evening. I grew up with the sense of our daily life as a feast and delight; a soup-and-bread dinner by the fire, Celtic music lilting in the shadows, and the laughter of my siblings gave me a sense of the blessedness of love, of God’s life made tangible in the food and touch and air of our home.
It was a fight for my parents, I know. Every day was a battle to bring order to mess, peace to stressful situations, beauty to the chaos wrought by four young children. But that’s the reality of incarnation as it invades a fallen world….What my parents-bless them-knew…is that to make a home right in the midst of the fallen world is to craft out a space of human flesh and existence in which eternity rises up in time, in which the kingdom comes, in which we may taste and see the goodness of God.”
Sally Clarkson, The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

I hope these notes and recipes will inspire you to enjoy the season you are in and to slow down a little bit. May you go and create something nourishing for your family! May you celebrate where you are at and where you are going! But most of all, may you not forget to feed your soul this season. Bon appetit!

Summer Days

Summer Days

I don’t know about you but it is a breath of relief when summer rolls around.  No school, less traffic, weekends at the pool, 4th of July, summer vacations (BEACH), and long days of sunlight that extend evening socials.  Each season is unique and has something to offer but summer time… well… let’s just say I’m a little partial.

The question for me and for you is, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND IT.  Intentional time is something that Kate and I talk about alot between us and with other couples.  If you are not managing your schedule, your schedule will manage you.  This “intentionality” is key.  Whether that is directed at family time, career or personal growth, slowing down and relaxing, dating your spouse, exercise, or household projects.

But every single day there will be dozens of people, agendas, schedules, and requests that will compete for your time.  Maybe it’s healthy to shift the filter through which you are reacting to everything that is coming to you.  What is priority?  What is essential during this season of life?  Is that filter relationships, health, ministry, personal development, family, or liesure?

We feel like we just started our summer on Father’s Day weekend.  There was a lot going on with school finishing, hosting friends and family at our house, recitals, VBS camp, working on getting the final draft of our book to our editor and prepping for a speaking engagement at a marriage event.  We now have several weeks of downtime that we plan to fully maximize as a family and be extremely purposefuly with our time.  No matter what season you find yourself in right now, you can not only simplify but prioritize so you can achieve the maximum results.

If you find yourself in a season where margin is absent and “stress free” sounds like a fairy tale world, then try something.  Pick a day (we like Sundays), turn off your cell phone and devices, disconnect from social media and apps, and figure out what you want to get out of these summer days.  There is no perfect answer.  The answer should come from your soul.  What are you craving and not getting right now?  What do you need to feel alive and charged?  What is currently cheating you of that satisfaction?

Before you know it, school will be back in session (if that pertains to you), the sunshiny days that seem to have no end will end, the pools will close, the lake activity will settle, summer concerts completed, vacations will be sidelined, and schedules will pick up.  Don’t waste this opportunity to replenish, restore, and recharge your soul.  AND, take some time to prioritize how you want to tackle this amazing journey called life.  You won’t regret it.

SJD

 

Give It A Break

Give It A Break

We are very neat people, both of us, and because of that we could be tidying and doing projects every second of every day. Failing miserably at connecting relationally we would be organized and task driven but then what is the point of that? I mean really? What is the point? The fact that my counters sparkle more than yours? How lame! I have missed the entire thing and become Martha in the story where Jesus comes to visit. The only problem is I have dragged my husband along with me and dubbed him “Project Steve” for the day.

A Sabbath from chores and tasks is the reset for us that the chores, the difficult issues, and even the relationship handicaps will still be there, but the moment won’t. Recently we had to do this. We had had about six straight weeks of travel and sickness and everything was piling up. I was feeling all the feeling of overwhelm. No rest in sight.

Exodus 20:8-11

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

God knew this struggle would be real for us and created a day for us to not do anything more but to just enjoy. We personally take this very seriously. We take one day a week, usually it is Sunday, to completely rest. No work, no screens, no crazy projects.

Let me be clear that if we are serving at church and have meetings with small group leaders or are teaching bible lessons to 30 preschoolers we have to pick another day. Because as much good as that is and as much growth as that produces, it is not rest.

One person doing all of one thing, exhausted, and worn out while the other person gets a pass is not healthy, either.  We know of a friend who has deliberately not learned how to do laundry, so that they aren’t ever asked to do it and I have another acquaintance who has done everything when it comes to child raising and now her husband has no idea how to manage the kids and the poor woman has never left them. 

Steve had to take control of the entire household one summer when we decided I was to head on a mission trip to Africa. Our children were little and not in school at the time and he would be juggling work on top of it. For ten whole day’s he handled it all, with no communication from me, and with amazing talent. I know that I left the entire operation in great hands. I know too that we could reverse the roles and I could do the same for him. We all have skills we are great at and certain areas we are stronger in and so letting each other shine in those is wonderful. However, that doesn’t stop us from helping each other out. This area on tasks and chores is to encourage all of us to make sure we are not allowing one person to bear the brunt of most of the tasks or that we are unaware of the sacrifices and the diligence that someone is taking on our behalf. As you think about this topic thank your spouse for something they do regularly and are not being recognized for. Give each other a sabbath. Give each other a vacation.

photo of bare feet on hammock
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