Friday, February 12, 2016

40 Budget Friendly Date Ideas

I love going on dates with my husband, whether they are little mini-dates we catch here and there or a full day together. I love that feeling of just reconnecting with him and being able to give him my full attention without interruption. I think it's so important to take time out of our busy lives to solely focus on each other. It keeps our marriage alive.

Romance doesn't have to be expensive to be great! Here is a list of free or nearly free ideas to make your dating a pure pleasure:
  1. Walk through the mall, holding hands of course.
  2. Grab your skates and head to the roller-skating rink. What, not everyone has skates like I do? Believe me, my littles remind me every year that my skates are as old as dirt. As long as you don't mind being the oldest people there who aren't chaperoning their children, it's a great way to have fun and let loose with each other.
  3. Fill the bed of the truck up with pillows + blankets, head out in a field, hop in the back and count your lucky stars.
  4. Celebrate the first snow fall with a day of sledding together. At the end of the day, head inside for hot cocoa and a hot shower.
  5. Have a winter picnic. Put a blanket on the living room floor, turn the TV off, turn the music on and light candles.
  6. Jump in the car and just drive with no destination in mind. Turn the music up, sing together, hold hands and enjoy the ride. Make a love song "mix tape" to enjoy during your drive. This one is one of my favs!
  7. Wake your love up early. Have coffee, donuts and lead them outside to watch the sunrise together.
  8. Grab your camera and head out. Stop at scenic locations and start taking pictures of each other. Be goofy and creative. Dare each other to put those wacky pictures on Facebook! The loser has to give a massage!
  9. Karaoke is a guaranteed fun night, even if you can't hold a note to save your life.
  10. Go for a walk together in the woods.
  11. Have a spa day by pampering each other with massages, candles and music.
  12. Grab a tent, sleeping bag and head into the woods for a night of camping. Leave all the distractions behind. Spend the evening cuddling together under the stars talking for hours. If you don't have a tent, you can get one for as cheap as $25 at Walmart. Sleeping bags can be as cheap as $10. 
  13. Re-enact one of your favorite dates from your "dating days".
  14. Go to a park, push one another in the swings and talk. 
  15. Dance lessons are fun and romantic. You’re moving, bodies are touching, and you might be working up a little bit of sultry sweat. 
  16. Have a photoshoot together.
  17. Buy a pizza and play board games together.
  18. Head to an indoor or outdoor ice-skating rink — it's the perfect excuse to hold hands!
  19. Go shooting together, something we love to do. I mean, hello, seeing your guy handle a gun is pretty hot. Just remember, safety first! 
  20. Celebrate your married romance by spending the day in bed together watching TV.
  21. Spend a night sharing your favorite memories from the past.  Stay in, turn off the TV, shut down your computer and ignore your phones. Just stay in the moment with each other.
  22. Pray together, taking turns thanking God for each other.
  23. Look through old photo albums together.
  24. Go to the drive-in, pack snacks and a blanket and get cozy in the back seat.
  25. Plan your dream vacation with each other — it might be the incentive you need to start putting your loose change in the piggy bank.
  26. Have your children play waiter and waitress and serve a romantic dinner, then tell them the story of how you fell in love.
  27. Volunteer together. I think watching my husband serve and seeing his heart is pretty amazing and makes me fall in love with him all over again.
  28. Spend the day together in the great outdoors. Go for a hike together, enjoying a day of great conversation while getting exercise at the same time.
  29. Build a snowman together.
  30. On a hot summer day, wash the car together, with the intent of splashing each other with water.
  31. Go play mini-golf.
  32. Go bowling and have fun laughing together! If you're like us, that laughing will come from you accidentally stepping on the slippy lane, falling and splitting your pants. Not my most graceful moment.
  33. Write a love letter to each other, exchanging them after a candle light dinner.
  34. Have a "remember when" night. Reminisce about your dating days, when you fell in love and recall some of your best memories.
  35. Make a playlist {aka...mix tape} of your favorite slow songs. Cook your favorite meal together. Light the candles. Have a romantic dinner together! Once dinner is over, leave the dishes until the next day! Spend the rest of the evening slow dancing together!
  36. Search out some local music! 
  37. Go House Shopping. Even if you aren’t in the market for a new house, just go browse anyway. There is just something fun about the home-browsing process.
  38. Go for a moonlight walk. There is something very romantic about walking around at night, especially under the moonlight. Tell your spouse all the things you love about them and walk slowly.
  39. Kiss, dance and play in the rain.
  40. Head to a flea market or antique store.  I could spend hours browsing through the aisles, dreaming of what I could fit a baby in {I'm a photographer y'all}.  And thankfully, my husband enjoys these too!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

What She Really Wants For Valentine's Day

Oh men, only six weeks after Christmas and again you’re under pressure to find the perfect gift.  And let's face it, we don't make it easy on you.  You are expected to read our minds and know what the perfectly perfect gift is our heart is craving.  Y'all have no idea how many tears I shed in during our relationship because my husband didn't inherently know what I wanted to receive.  Of course I couldn't tell him, that would take every ounce of romance out of it.  

For the past week I've been thinking of what I would love to receive myself for Valentine's Day.  My thoughts kept going a bit beyond the tangible. I began thinking about what, for me, would communicate: I love you, I adore you, I still want to date you, I'm thankful for you, I cherish you, I appreciate you, I see the many things you do that go unnoticed, I love how you take care of our children.

I'm sure you've all heard about the popular series of books by Gary Chapman based on what he calls The 5 Love Languages. The main concept of the book is that there are 5 main ways in which people receive and give love: words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts and quality time. The primary way in which you express love is also the main way in which you receive love from others. Being aware of how your partner communicates love is key here.  If you aren't aware of how they naturally communicate love, you may very well be missing out on all of the ways they ARE expressing love to you on the daily.  Take the time to figure out her love language, and gift giving will be made easy!

The gift ideas I offer to you today are those which touch on the intangible. Gifts, that when coupled with some simple actions will communicate more than any one present has the ability to do.

The Gift of Planning

For Valentine's Day (or honestly any other day of the year), most women would love for their husbands to just plan a date all on their own. Y'all, she would love this!  I would love this.  Women love for you to take the lead when it comes to pursuing them! You don't need to ask her what she wants to do or where she wants to eat, just plan it. She'll adore you taking the time and initiative to plan an entire date, and it will make her feel so appreciated. If you're married, trust your instincts. You know her likes and dislikes, just go with it.  Trust me, she won't be disappointed.

The Gift of Words

Tell her what she means to you. Tell her. Tell her over and over again. Write her a note to tell her and hide it in a place she'll find it.  Put it on her pillow, on the washing machine or in that book she's reading.  Believe me, she'll appreciate that more than you know. And she'll more than likely shed a few tears. Give her a big hug and kiss when you walk in the door after work. Just hold her in your arms. From a woman's perspective, this little act of kindness can wash away the negative things that happened during the day and change the tone of the evening.  To me, this would mean more than all the flowers and chocolate in the world.

The Gift of Free Time

This might be the most simple, yet one of the best gifts ever that a wife could receive! While it is so important to regularly spend time together as a couple-- there's something to be said for a woman having time alone with absolutely NO agenda. Free time without kids, no one needing their noses wiped, no curfew of when to be home by and no cell phone interruptions. Allow her to be completely unplugged. Wives, imagine your husband saying, "Saturday I'm getting up with the kids and taking them out. Just sleep in, take a bath and then take the day and do whatever you want to do. Don't worry about us, just enjoy your day." If you're wondering if this is an actual gift, all you need is ten minutes on Facebook. You'll see just how many Mama's post about a trip alone to Target feeling like a vacation or craving they could actually go to the bathroom by themselves for 2 minutes. Yep, this absolutely would qualify as a gift! And I guarantee when you get home, she'll feel like a new woman!  Want to take this gift to an entire new level?  Add in some gift cards to her favorite stores and one for her lunch.  She'll adore her free day and not having to worry about her spending!   

The Gift of Service

As women, we are the keepers of our home. As a full-time stay at home wife and mom who also runs a business, the tasks I do daily often feel not only repetitious but also like they aren't seen or noticed. Women are generally the ones who have everyone's schedule and needs simultaneously ticking through our minds at any given moment. We're always thinking out beyond the present moment to what needs to happen next to keep it all on track, on schedule and sane. Read this as we're stressed. Tell her your taking over her chores for the day and for her to go sit in the living room and catch up on her DVR'd shows. This will show her that you not only recognize what she does daily, but that you appreciate it. And guess what? She's going to be like "Wow, this is amazing. I so super love you.". And guess who is going to look like the hero? Yeah, you. And who will reap the rewards of said hero? Yep, you will!

Hopefully I've given you some good ideas, or just some inspiration to come up with your own ideas. I know this post isn't full of easy-to-click links with flashy pictures, but I hope it challenges you to think about how you communicate love to your partner and how she receives love. Above all, I really challenge you to not just settle into a groove where your spouse is concerned. True love is not selfish, but the amazing thing is that when when you are loved well, you will love well in return. Be inspired, love well, make it an unforgettable Valentine's Day and move beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Love Letter

Dear amazing, loving man...

Twenty years ago today we met in our best friends living room.

Little did I know that first night I met you that you were the one I had been praying for since I was a little girl. So many nights I spent on my knees, praying. Over the years the prayer changed from asking for prince charming to asking for a man that would simply love me and treat me well. All those years God knew you were the man for me, my future husband, and was busy preparing your heart for mine.

I can still remember the first moment that I saw your face. You were looking at me, and I thought to myself what in the world is this guy staring at. Year after year we repeatedly kept resurfacing in each others lives. Until finally, I realized you seemed very familiar to my heart. You stole my heart and our life journey began.

At that point in my life I needed to feel worthy, loved and protected. You rescued me from all the past pain, struggles and hurt. You showed me I didn't need to be weary, always questioning, afraid and on alert. In your arms I felt safe and protected. You showed me that God did answer that little girl’s prayer for a prince charming.

You knew you were getting a broken girl, yet you grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and stepped forward with me. With you by my side, everything else seemed to melt away. You put up with so much in those early days; tears that came from nowhere, fear that wasn't understood and anger that was unfounded. Yet by my side you stood.  You continually held my hand and wiped away the tears.

And your voice, oh that voice, I’m not sure you ever truly understood how much it meant to me. When you sang to me, I believed every single word. Your voice mended my broken heart. The melody sewed the broken pieces back together. Your voice lifted me up, making me feel as if I was the only beautiful girl in the entire world. You didn't just sing to me with your voice, you sang to me with your heart.  In that single moment the world stood still.  I finally not only knew, but felt what love was.

Being married to you has allowed me to be myself.  You've supported all of my crazy, spur-of-the-moment decisions...from getting my nose pierced to starting a photography business.  You just want me to be the best I can be and to be happy. You like me the way I am even though I am outspoken, sometimes sassy and I roll my eyes more often than I should. You are so patient with me (which is no easy task, sir). You allow me to just be Amy.

It’s never been about how pretty I make myself, my size or how well I did. Although you notice those things, I know that none of that makes a difference on your measure of love for me, and that is the most beautiful thing of all.

It takes a real man to love me like you do. To love me on my good days when I’m all dolled up, kissing you and laughing AND also on the bad days when I’m a sobbing mess on the couch in my leggings and messy bun.

The reality of our marriage has been so much more complex. We've been through too many ups and downs to count.  At every crossroad we had a choice to make...keep committing to our love or give up. Every time, we choose love.

Over the years, you have gone above and beyond so many times.  I'll never be able to fully tell you how much that meant to me.  Throughout my 15 surgeries, you took amazing care of me.  After my first big surgery, I remember a specific conversation we had.  I was standing in front of the mirror looking at my scars for the first time.  I stood there, looking in the mirror silently, for what felt like an eternity.  I was horrified at how my body had changed.  I'll never forget your words "All I see is you, here with me right now, alive".  And even now, on days I'm still self-conscious of the remnants from my stroke, you remind me that I'm beautiful just how I am.

Being married to you is the most interesting, challenging, amazing, mind-opening, loving, growth-inspiring decision I ever made. Such an amazing man I've been blessed with. I look forward to 50 more years of crazy love.

I love you so very much, Mr. Cutler.  You are my sweetest downfall.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Cultivating Intimacy In Your Marriage

Oh, how God loves to stretch me through this blog. This is a hard post for me to share. I've been writing this for days, pouring over it hours at a time. I've been back and forth with it. It's hard and uncomfortable, but God has called me to share.

For weeks I had stewed over this issue. You have no idea how many conversations I had with myself about it. Oh, how I longed for someone to talk to about it. When I knew one of my girlfriends was coming over for coffee, I spent some time praying for God to give me the strength to talk to her about it.

I had spent so much time thinking we were the only ones with this issue, it never occurred to me it might be a common issue in other marriages. I was so thankful God gave me the words to say to her! Once the words left my lips, I suddenly felt braver. She assured me we aren't the only ones to struggle.

The issue...intimacy.

As we enter into marriage, we have these pre-conceived notions of how intimacy will look. Then life happens. You're sleep deprived, the bills seem never ending, the house needs cleaned, dishes need done and does. the. laundry. never. end.? Add to that a husband that works second shift and you see each other just a few hours a day. If we don't intentionally cultivate intimacy, of course it's easy for it to get lost along the way.

I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.
Song of Solomon 6:3

Oh, how I love that verse. I love it enough that I have it tattooed on my back. It just speaks volumes to me of love, belonging and intimacy. Intimacy is such a vital part of marriage. Through intimacy, a couple creates a strong connection and deep bond. One that far exceeds any other relationship you could have.

We need to be purposeful about cultivating intimacy and passion in our marriage. There are many different ways a husband and wife can do this. It takes time, energy and effort, but if you are intentional about it, your marriage will benefit and grow.

How can you keep intimacy alive? You have to desire it. You have to want it. You have to be deliberate about it. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal. You have to engage your heart fully in the joyful pursuit.

A while back, I read an amazing book. It was Intimacy Ignited by Dr. Joseph and Linda Dillow and Dr. Peter and Lorraine Pintus. I would highly recommend this book to every. single. couple. It is a verse by verse exploration of the Song of Solomon, one of the most loving, romantic and poetic Books found in the Old Testament of the Bible! If God ever gave us an instruction manual for intimacy in marriage, Song of Solomon is it! God wants married couples to have a love so hot, so passionate, so intense that nothing will be able to extinguish it.

Many people associate the word intimacy with sex. Although sex is an intimate act a husband and wife can enjoy together, there are other ways to cultivate intimacy as well. Sexual intimacy is very important, but so are these other intimate acts.

4 Ways To Cultivate Intimacy In Your Marriage:

1. Pursue your spouse.

Now, this one is a bit tricky. Men and women are so different. I know, right, Can I get an Amen? Pursuit, to most men, means feeling desired (ladies, read that as "sex") and affirmed through respect, honor and appreciation. Most women, on the other hand, are more likely to want to be pursued through time, attention and tenderheartedness (guys, read that as "romance").
  • Write your spouse a love letter. Write it in a way that would say "I love you" to them (which means it might not necessary be the kind you would want to receive). Explain to your spouse that you want to work on pursuing passion in your marriage. 
  • Initiate a sexual encounter in a creative way, especially if your spouse always initiates.
  • Read the Song of Solomon out loud together each night before bed.
  • Plan a date that revolves around something your spouse enjoys.
2. Have fun. 

When was the last time you did something with the purposeful intention of just having fun together? One of my fav things my husband and I have in common is a love for laughter. Actually, his ability to make me laugh was one of the reasons I fell head over heals for him.
  • Plan a spontaneous adventure and surprise your spouse with it. This could be a night away (minus kids) or even a little mini-date. 
  • See a funny movie together, or take in a comedy show.
  • Let your hair down and get silly: have a pillow fight or a tickle war.
3. Be positive.

Remember the reasons you fell in love with your spouse? It's super easy to focus on what annoys us about our spouse, but that is definitely a passion killer. Passion can't co-exist with negativity. So, develop a habit of being grateful and appreciative. Guard your heart against taking the good parts of your marriage for granted.
  • Say thank you. Plain and simple. Thank them for big and little things. Thank them for doing dishes, laundry or fixing your car. I even thank my husband for just loving me (because I am fully aware there are days that can't be easy). 
  • Sit down together and make a list of the top five body parts you love (and think are super hot) about your spouse. (guys...your wife is likely in a body-image battle, even if you think she shouldn't be. this will mean the absolute world to her)
4. Pray Together.

I have to admit, when we bow our heads to pray Sunday mornings, I can't wait to slip my hand into my husbands. There is just something so amazingly intimate about praying together! I totally understand that not everyone is comfortable praying out loud {read this as ME} but it's so worth it. Just gather up the courage and pray with your man!
  • As soon as you lay down in bed, and the lights are out, hold hands and take turns praying. 
  • If you are too intimidated, start out with baby steps and start praying out loud before meals.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
Proverbs 5:18-19

These are just a few ways to cultivate intimacy in marriage. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please share in the comments below to encourage other wives!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Happy Birthday Mama

Today marks a very special day in the life of one of my most special, favorite people. Today is my Mama's birthday. There is something special about the mother-daughter bond. It's why so many girls would describe their own mother as the best ever. That is certainly how I feel about my mother, she is the best mother.

She lead by example teaching me how very important it is to love Jesus, to be kind, to be thoughtful, to be gracious, to be loving, to be caring, to be selfless, to be thankful, to be honest and to be hard working. She taught me what it means to truly love someone unconditionally.

She taught me how to smile no matter what life throws at you, and know that tomorrow will bring new promises and hope when you feel down. She taught me to value myself, to surround myself with like minded people and to know when it's time to cut ties when someone isn't good for you.

She taught me to honor my commitments and to keep my promises. She made me value education, perseverance and personal values. She raised me to be a strong woman. 

If you're new to my blog, you may not know this about me, about us. This is why I feel our bond is so strong. I was adopted at 3 days old. God basically hand-picked these amazing people to be my parents. And y'all, I won the parent lottery!

She has been my loudest cheerleader and she always believes in me, even when I don't believe in myself. I know she has many more lessons to teach me as the years continue to roll on, and each day I value our relationship more than the day that has past.
Then on top of being an amazing mom, she’s the best grandmother ever. She goes by Nanny, and she sure loves these two. These littles of mine have no clue how blessed they are to have a Nanny as wonderful as she is. I’m so glad that our littles have her right next door to love and care for them. And teach them and help them. And let’s be completely honest…She spoils them too.

If it wasn't for this woman, I would not be who I am today. It is certainly a blessing to be able to say your mother is your best friend. And she is clearly that, my best friend. I live beside her, normally see her every day and talk to her a million times a day. I am truly blessed!

As we look towards the future, I just want you to know Mom, I love you. It feels like such an inadequately simple phrase to express how very much I care for you. My life is blessed because you are in it. Everything I am and will be, I owe to you. You're the best. I hope the year to come is one of your very best yet!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Hello. Goodbye.

Hello February, goodbye January
Hello month full of gushy, squishy love
Hello to 20 years with my super amazing man!
Hello homemade Valentines and love letters.

Hello afternoons full of baking
Hello jeans a size smaller
Hello binge watching Fuller House, goodbye binge watching Making a Murderer

Hello superbowl that I only half-watch for the snacks, commercials and half-time show

Tell me, what are you looking forward to this month? I’d love to hear!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conversations With My Kids

I absolutely adore the convo's I have with my littles and my family. We laugh way more than we should. And Miss Jade, oh Miss Jade, always so innocent. I want to remember every single thing about our conversations {and let you enjoy them too}. That's why I document them here. Someday, I'll look back on these days and, with tears in my eyes, appreciate these times.

Jade: In class today we talked about the Siberian refugees.
Joey: What? Siberian huskees?
Jade: No, the refugees.
Joey: Siberian tigers?
Jade: I'm not saying it right, am I?


Jade: I'm so hungry my spine hurts.


Jade: These jeans make my butt look like the tree trunk the hobbits live in.


Joey: I always get so emotionally attached to one family on Family Feud, and then they lose and break my heart.


Jade: Want to see the soap we made in school?
Me: Sure!
Jade: But we can't use it for a month or it will chemically burn our skin.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Midnight Jesus {Book Review}

Midnight Jesus
Where Struggle, Faith, And Grace Collide . . .
By Jamie Blaine

About the book:
The heart of God can be found in the unlikeliest places, in the unlikeliest people. 
Jamie Blaine is an unconventional, and actually quite accidental, psychiatric crisis interventionist whose work takes him to "the least of these." A gifted storyteller, Blaine shares heart-wrenching and sometimes hilarious stories of everyday people who need to know God is there in their darkest hours-people dealing with secret shame, doubt, desperation, even suicide. Humans looking for wholeness, looking for Jesus. 
Painting beauty where it seems none exists, Midnight Jesus helps readers transcend their own struggles, showing how truth can come from the strangest places. They will meet people like * Skeeter and Wookie, two homeless guys who show that community happens wherever there is shared need and a willingness to give * Pastor Ponder who holds an altar call after his sermon at the psych ward and says it's the best church service he's ever had * Kat, the tattooed hairdresser who dreams about Jesus and longs for spiritual connection, who shows that you can't judge a book by its cover * Jesus, who makes an invisible cameo in every story. 
As Blaine writes, "I am one wrecked and dirty treasure, but God still decides I am worth the effort to save." Jamie Blaine is the kind of writer whose view of the commonplace transforms life into the transcendent. 
The author takes us on a tour of not only his life, but gives us a glimpse into his world of working first as the midnight crisis guy who handles calls at all hours of the night then seeking out the one in trouble, then onto his “career” at the megachurch where truly, nobody has it all together.

Jamie’s writing style is very relatable and easy to understand. He writes with his heart and backs it up with his mind. I could really feel how he described to be feeling and agreed with every thought to each situation he wrote about that he faced. He really stretches your mind when it comes to his faith and how he uses it in his work as a psychologist.

This book makes you think. A lot. Are you comfortable to talk to Jesus like He is sitting next to you? Do you see him as a “friend?” The book is also difficult to put down because, well, it’s hilarious!  And y'all know I love to laugh.

This book was provided to me free of charge by Book Look in return for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Jamie Blaine is a licensed sex and suicide specialist who has worked in psych wards, megachurches, rehabs, radio stations, and roller rinks. He is the non-fiction editor of the L.A. literary collective The Nervous Breakdown, contributor to the online faith magazine OnFaith, writer for, The, Bass Guitar magazine, Drummer U.K. magazine & America's best-selling street paper The Nashville Contributor.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shame and Humiliation

As we were on our way to the doctors office, I couldn't help but smile.  I had checked my test results online, done lots of research on the results and knew that they were off.  I was confident this appointment would end with me being prescribed a medication that would make me feel better.  I was so excited, and felt this appointment was the first step I needed to take to feel myself again.

I walked into the office, checked myself in and settled into a chair in the waiting room.  I glanced around the waiting room, wondering if anyone else was having a life-changing appointment like I was about to experience.

My dreaming was interrupted by my name being called.

On the agenda first was an ultrasound.  During the ultrasound the doctor told me the abnormality that would cause my numbers to be askew, and cause my symptoms, was indeed there.  I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing my research had been on point.  I gathered my things and went to the room, waiting for the doctor.

She walked in, shook my hand and began looking at my chart and my test results.  She turned to speak to me and I was ready for this discussion.

What are you doing about your weight?

My mind began to spin.  I was seeing her about something completely unrelated to my body weight and I hadn't even raised the subject.  I wasn't even sure of what to say.  She continued on, without awaiting my answer.

You are much too beautiful of a woman to walk around in a body like that daily.

My mind was spinning so quickly, I couldn't even grasp a single thought.  I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.  I tried to gather some type of composure and I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.

I just...I don't think I should have to look a certain way to love myself.

I could feel my breath quickening and my heart was pounding out of my chest.

I could recommend you for gastric bypass.  I could write the script out today if you'd like.

I felt as if I was dreaming.  How did this appointment get so out of control?

No.  I...I don't think I want that.

Honestly, the remainder of the appointment was a blur.  I held it together enough to get to my car.

Once I was inside, I couldn't hold it in any longer. Being fat shamed by my doctor cut so deeply that I sat in my car and cried for half an hour. I didn't just cry, I ugly cried. I had never felt so shamed and humiliated in my life.

Why did that happen? Why did she say that? Why did she feel that was appropriate? Why was she so blatant? Why didn't she care? Was that her attempt at motivation?  Question after question replayed in my mind.

And with those questions, came the all-too-familiar feelings I had been working so hard to push out of my mind. Not enough. Nothing special. Ordinary. Fat. Not pretty. Worthless.

Thankfully, my husband was waiting in the car for me. As I cried inconsolably, I slipped my hand inside his. His strength far outweighs mine. No matter what news we're given, he always resounds with a hand squeeze and it will all be okay babe. This visit was no different,he still found the right words to comfort me.

I've experienced fat-shaming before, but never at the hands of a medical professional. Why doesn't their oath included kindness and compassion?

And before you say 'Your doctor was just doing her job promoting good health', think again.

She made her unsolicited and day-ruining diagnosis on the basis of looks alone. When she saw my weight, she had only one thing on her mind.  The initial reason for my visit was instantly dismissed and not discussed again.

This happened three months ago.

The appointment was so hurtful, so humiliating and so shaming that it's been very difficult to even talk about. Only a handful of people closest to my heart know about it.

But today, it was time to share it.

If you know me, you know what comes after my sadness.  Anger.  I licked my wounds for a few days, and then I made a decision.  Someone who doesn't know me, know what my journey has included, know what pain and sadness I've endured and know my body like I do is not going to dictate my happiness.  And that anger motivated and drove me more than anything.  

Since that appointment, I've lost 34 pounds and 12 inches.  When she recommended gastric bypass, she instantly assumed I couldn't do it on my own.  And she assumed wrong.  If I am anything, it's a fighter.  And when my fight is fueled by anger, watch out world.    

One of the most crucial decisions I ever made in my weight loss journey was learning to love myself regardless of my size. Thankfully, I had made this decision before this appointment.

If you have never been overweight, you don't know. If you have not sat in a doctors office and listened to their diagnosis, you don't know. If you have never been fat shamed (which, by the way, IS a real thing), you don't know. If you have never had that daily battle in your own mind, you don't know. If you have never been made fun of, you don't know.

We are all women struggling with some type of body image in this media-forced mean girl world. And it's time we start building each other up rather than tearing each other down for our differences. All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are real bodies. All bodies are worthy of love and respect.

Honestly y'all, just love on others. Remember that every single person you run into is fighting some type of battle that you can't see. We are told in Mark 12: 30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Meal Planning Monday

Monday - Oven Baked Steak Fajitas

Tuesday - Ramen Noodle Salad I'm completely obsessed with this salad.

Wednesday - French Onion Soup Ravioli with homemade croutons (I use leftover homemade bread for mine)

Thursday - Chicken pie, homemade rolls and dessert. We're having sweet friends over for dinner tonight, and this is their favorite.

Friday - Subway ♥

Saturday - Out to dinner

Sunday - Lasagna and ranch bread

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why I Hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and it's a day I hate.

I don't hate it because it's unbiblical.  It's, in fact, quite the opposite.  I don't hate it because it's inappropriate.  I don't hate it because the words are unworthy of being spoken.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that we have to say things to one another that human beings honestly shouldn’t have to say.  We have to listen to sermons that, otherwise, would never be preached.  We have to watch videos and look at images of sweet babies, images that invoke emotions of sadness, horror and grief.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that Mothers shouldn’t kill their babies. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their children. No human life is worthless.  Regardless of skin color, age, disability or economic status all lives have value. The very fact that these things must be said reminds me of how dark our world is.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that there are babies warmly snuggled in wombs who won’t be there tomorrow.  I’m reminded that over 50 million babies will never know the comfort of their Mama's loving arms.  Every 20 seconds, a sweet little loses it's life.  

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that there are children who will be slapped, punched, kicked and burned with cigarettes before they lay down to sleep tonight.  Little innocent faces that will never wake to the smell of breakfast cooking and will never be rocked to sleep at night to the sound of their Daddy's voice singing them a sweet song.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that there are elderly people spending their last days in loneliness.  I'm reminded that around the world, elderly and disabled people have become targets of euthanasia and assisted suicide, their lives declared a waste.

But I also love Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

I love thinking about the fact that I know so many amazing hearts that have opened their arms and adopted into their loving family.  I love how much my very own life was saved by adoption.  I love that I know people who serve and support pregnancy centers for women in crisis. And I love to see women who have aborted babies find their sins forgiven and their consciences cleansed by Him.

My hope is that someday soon Sanctity of Human Life Sunday will be unnecessary.  I hope that someday, my grandchildren will not have to hear a sermon against abortion and euthanasia.  I pray that the next generation values life much more than the past generations have.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah 1:5

Abortion and adoption are so very close to my heart, and this is my story of my life being spared by choosing adoption over abortion.

40 years ago, a young teenage girl found out she was pregnant.
She was afraid.
She was ashamed.
She was embarrassed.
She was judged.
She was confused.
The road ahead was filled with tough decisions.
Running away from them was not an option.
In front of her sat a "quick fix".
It meant no one would know.
The shame would end.
She would no longer have to be afraid.
Though her baby was just starting to develop, she already loved it.
She couldn't take the quick fix.
Her faith was strong.
She knew what was right.
She chose life.
The most selfless decision she could make.
God brought a wonderful woman into her life.
A woman who heard her story, but never judged.
She reminded her of God's love and grace.
She told her of a dear friend who struggled with infertility.
And with that, a decision was made.
A decision she knew would leave her heartbroken.
For 9 months, the life grew inside her.
She felt every bump and every kick.
She watched her belly grow twice it's size.
Every passing day her heart broke a little more.
She knew the hardest day of her life was right around the corner.
Eventually the day came.
She gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The reality fell heavy on her heart.
Tears rolled down her face.
She had so many fears.
And felt a void already.
But she knew it was God's will.
She handed her baby over to the wonderful woman.
And watched her walk away.
In her young mind, she had no idea what an impact that single moment would make.
That one day, she would be that baby girls hero.
For choosing to give her to an amazing family.
For choosing to have a selfless heart.
For choosing life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy 90th Birthday to a Beloved Aunt

Ninety years is a long time. Going back in history, that takes us to 1926, a time when the women wore long necklaces and cloche hats. The men were stylishly dressed in double breasted suits and swagger hats—which I’m sure they tipped gallantly to the ladies.

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Bennett and Andy Griffith were some of the well-known folks who made their arrival into the world 90 years ago. Winnie the Pooh was published that year. The first liquid fuel rocket was launched. NBC was founded and the World Fair was in Philadelphia that year.

It was a great time in our country with big things happening, but for me, what makes 1926 so special is that my Aunt Vi was born that year. She might not have made the “most notable happenings” list for 1926, but to all of us who have been so blessed to have her in our lives, we consider her a national treasure.

I’ve written about Aunt Vi before, but I've not shared some of her funny stories like the time she threw her hip out dancing to Woolly Bully!  She's a spunky one, this one.

But today, as Aunt Vi celebrates her 90th birthday, I want to talk about the trail she blazed for all of us to follow—life lessons that are valuable for everyone:
  • She’s been faithful to her family, giving them the security of always being there for her loved ones. She’s been our confidant, our comforter and the source of so much laughter.
  • She's been a constant source of love. I've never once left a visit with her without feeling cherished and loved. Hugs and kisses are never spared and I love you's flow freely.
  • She's a valuable source of speaking the truth in love.  While, at times, hard to hear the words are always filled to the brim with love and truth.
I have photos of Aunt Vi as a young woman, and she was beautiful. She’s still beautiful today, and any lines that have had the nerve to show up on her face are just gentle etchings of a life that’s been filled with love and laughter.

Aunt Vi, it’s your birthday, and yet we are the ones who’ve been given the gift. I love you, and I want to be you when I grow up. Thank you for leaving a path for us to follow, for footsteps that led us in the right direction. The impact of your life will affect generations to come.