The One Thing I Learned This Summer

The One Thing I Learned This Summer

A lovely formal garden discovered on our summer travels
I’m joining Emily P. Freeman’s linkup sharing what I’ve learned this summer. 

Sometimes it’s okay to take a summer off!  I’m the queen of to-do lists.  Writing lists motivates me to get things done. Nothing’s more satisfying that to put a check mark by a completed task. 

But this summer, I took everything  off my to-do list. You might say I had a minimalist summer.  Instead of ramping up my daily agenda, I slowed down. While others (along with my internal voice) might judge this summer as unproductive, I experienced my best summer yet. 

Just like my Compaq laptop I had in grad school, I learned my brain needs defragmenting periodically for it to run faster and more efficiently.   Summer was the perfect time for me to pause and let my mind rest, reorganize information, refocus priorities and rid my brain of all the junk taking up space. 

I still did my normal summer thing. We travelled to the beach, hung out together, explored museums and historical locales in nearby cities and celebrated some amazing answers to prayers.

This painting really spoke to me!
Honestly, I thought I might never find any motivation again.  The floating, untethered laziness was uncomfortable at times. But then these words seized my soul as I read them late one night:

“A seed knows how to wait. A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the 300 year old tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the oak tree is growing; they are both waiting.” –Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Life is still inside me as I wait.  Resting and waiting does not kill the life in me but ignoring my need to rest and wait will. 

What have you learned this summer?  Share in the comments or link up to Emily’s post!

How to Enjoy and Challenge Yourself this June

How to Enjoy and Challenge Yourself this June

Hello, June…Hello, Summer!

June is one of my favorite months!  Besides marking the halfway point of the year, June also just happens to be my birthday month!

School’s over, Summer starts and the day’s rhythm changes. If I’m not careful, I’ll either tilt too far into inertia or over schedule my summer days. Neither is good. 

Knowing myself, I’m creating and challenging myself with a June Bucket List to try and balance these two extremes. On this list I’m challenging myself in following categories:

  • Resting
  • Creating
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Giving

I like these categories because each provides a space for an area in my life I need pay and give attention to. While bucket lists are fun, I find it sometimes stresses me out to create and check off all the “fun” activities. 

      June Bucket List

      1. Resting| Unplug at the Beach

        Sea, Salt Water & Sunrises

        We travel a lot, but this trip is special because once we get to the beach, we unplug and chill for the week. No outlet mall shopping, no amusement park or mini golf games, just a stack of books, grilling meals and walks to the pier and back. 

        2. Creating | #LetteritJune Challenge

        So much fun to practice and see other’s work!

        Have you noticed you become better at a skill the more you practice it?  I love calligraphy and Jenny Highsmith  provides a monthly lettering prompt for all to join and practice their skills. 

        I love seeing others’ interpretation of a quote or phrase and I love trying out new styles or techniques. You can follow Jenny here on her InstaGram and you track my #letteritjune progress here on Oak Grove Social’s InstaGram. 

        3.  Listening | 7 Days of Still Moments

        image via emilypfreeman.com

        If you’ve read any of my posts it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan girl of author Emily P. Freeman. 

        Emily recently published on her blog this post and her thoughts and feeling about hearing God’s Word read aloud during worship resonates deeply with me. 

        I miss hearing God’s Word during the more contemporary worship service I attend. Emily is offering a free 7 Day Still Moments audio that comes into your email box. 

        In these 7 still moments Emily invites the listener to intentionally listen and then reflect on the questions. You can sign up to receive the 7 audio files here

        After finishing this 7 day still moments, I plan to continue to read aloud Scripture and then spend time reflecting on the Scripture for the rest of June. 

        4. Reading | June Library Haul

        Recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy

        Poolside and beach reading are the ultimate indulgence!  I’ve already shared the Summer Reading Guide link here and am challenged to read my way through this stack in June!

        5.  Giving | A Surprise

        Strawberries are the best!
        It’s my birthday month and I’ve been given so much that this year I’d like to give. During June I’ll be giving in small ways to others.  

        I won’t be sharing it here, but it will be a daily focus on giving to others in celebration of my birthday!  It’s so much fun to do random acts of kindness as well as just give someone an unexpected gift of time, food or something handmade. 

        How do you celebrate June and Summer?  Do you have summer bucket list?  I’d love to know what you’re planning on accomplishing this month!  Join me in the comments!


        Goodbye 2015!

        Goodbye 2015!

        What a year!

        Maybe like most, on the final day of 2015 I’m reflecting on the past 12 months before opening the new book of 2016!

        Everyone has a different way of reflecting and no method is the way to review, but I’ll share the categories I used to evaluate my 2015!

        2015 threw me a few curve balls, but at the end I’m much stronger, wiser and freer! So here’s some of mine from each category…

        Grateful:

        • God’s protection, mercy and grace in my life!
        • People revealing (completely) their true character makes my life way easier.

        Travels:

        • San Juan, Puerto Rico
        • Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
        • Myrtle Beach, SC
        • Brussels, Belgium
        • Dallas, TX
        • Madrid, Spain
        • Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

         

        Ringing in 2016 here in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
         

          What Worked in 2015:

          • Morning Prayer/Bible Study
          • Morning Pages writing 
          • Bullet Journal
          • Focus on my goals
          • Letting Go of Expectations
          • A year of silence

          What Didn’t Work in 2015:

          • Looking back
          • Worry, anxiety and fear
          • Doubt
          • Chasing approval from those whose approval I could never win.

          High 5s!:

          • God protecting me through it all and (finally) trusting His time, His process.
          • Time to travel and explore this great big world!
          • Taking the high road….very high road!

           

          2016 looks beautiful!
           

            2015 brought me the greatest disruption, shock, growth and yet the deepest joy in my life.  How can that all happen in one year?  The grace, mercy and protection of Jesus Christ.  Emily P. Freeman wrote in Simply Tuesday something to the effect any pain that comes to you must first go through Jesus Christ. 

             Jesus stands before me and takes the initial impact of pain…and I am witness that He did that for me and He is my Savior and I give all glory to Him.

            What about you?  How did your 2015 shape up?  I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments below!!


              What I Learned in November

              What I Learned in November

              November began gloriously with an extra hour of sleep (thank you very much!) and perfect Fall days!

              I know I sound like a broken record, but November blew by…whew, it sure did!

              I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman sharing what I learned this November!

              God’s beauty demands attention!

              1.  Long walks with my husband renew me.  We live in the country and we regularly take long walks (over 4 miles) down country lanes.  We walk, even if it’s raining!  

              2.  Travel and adventure are in my blood! Looking back over 2015, I’ve traveled every month except November!  We’ve traveled some amazing world cities as well as cities and towns closer to home.  

              Even with the recent terrorist attacks, my love of travel has only gotten stronger!  Our world is amazing and I can’t wait to explore even more of it!

              3. This quote. 

              We’ve been taught to believe that actions speak louder than words, but I think words speak pretty loud all our lives.  We carry these words in our head.” -Marlo Thomas

              The current conventional wisdom of “actions speak louder than words” seriously exhausts me.  I stumbled across this quote at the precise moment I needed it when I had hateful words roar in my head from months ago. 

              God holds us accountable for the words we speak to others see Ephesians 4:29.  How many sermons have you heard from this passage of Ephesians?  Pastors usually focus on the first part of chapter 4…different parts of the body of Christ…when they preach on volunteering in the church. 

              4.  Jewel’s book is worth the read.

               

              Never Broken-Songs are Only Half the Story by Jewel
               

              Don’t want to say too much about this book, but oh my stars….Jewel is definitely a survivor and has pushed her way through many tough situations.  

              What did you learn this November?  I’d love to hear! Comment and we’ll keep the conversation going!


                Five Minute Friday | Celebrate Your Day

                Five Minute Friday | Celebrate Your Day

                On Fridays I join Kate Motaung’s link up and with other writers write for 5 minutes on the weekly prompt. This Friday’s word is…Celebrate!  

                Celebrate.  We celebrate the big moments of our lives pretty well…hand lettered invitations, gorgeous Pinterest worthy decor details and guests who arrive in their finest to celebrate the bride and groom, the expecting parents and the reveal of their baby’s gender, or even the first day of school!  

                But what about the everyday?  Do we embrace and celebrate the ordinary days that aren’t soft focused, Pinterest worthy decor or well heeled guests?  What about celebrating the everydayness?

                Like household chores…  

                or small moments… 

                  

                or noticing the subtle changes that signal Fall is approaching… 

                 

                Small ordinary moments are worth celebrating!

                We mostly live ordinary daily lives and occasionally can celebrate the big moments such as new life, families uniting and growing and a life well lived. But small moments are worth celebrating too!

                God is in every moment.

                Too often I long for something BIG in my life to happen, the next event, the next trip or conference to jot in my agenda. 

                Something BIG already has happened though…salvation through Jesus!  A new life, forgiveness and purpose.  I can be small and ordinary and celebrate daily what Jesus has done and is doing through me!

                I didn’t arrive at this revelation on my own. I owe it  to Emily P. Freeman’s latest book, Simply Tuesday, I can embrace my  ordinary life and celebrate my smallness!

                  

                And so I’ve been celebrating my smallness, my ordinariness, my every days and giving thanks to Him for being with me every moment. And what I’ve learned is this…

                The more I celebrate my own small ordinary moments,  the more I can celebrate others’ big life defining moments. 

                What does celebration look like to you? Do you celebrate the ordinary moments? Do you celebrate well others’ big moments?


                For Your Weekend | End of August Edition

                 

                Minnie taking her umpteenth nap!
                 
                The end of August is upon us and many are back in the rhythms of school, carpool, after school activities and open house nights!  

                Here’s some fun, helpful links for when you get a chance this weekend for your own break!

                This popped up on Beth Moore’s Twitter Timeline this week!  You can follow Beth Moore here on Twitter where she’s always encouraging, motivating and sassy, but this made me laugh out loud!

                  
                 

                I feel ya, little fella!!
                 
                   

                Project Runway! ?  That’s all I’ll say here, but if you’ve watched the latest episode ???!!!!! Let’s discuss in the comments below!

                Today is the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Where were you when Katrina hit?  I was living in Atlanta at the time and heard and saw the repeated dire National Weather warnings and watched in horror when people weren’t evacuated and the resulting devastation. 

                My new favorite App is Tabata Stopwatch Pro

                  

                If you’re doing basic interval training or tabata workouts the free version (the one I have) is perfect!  You can use your music playlist and the app will count down your rest/workout periods.  You have to go pro for variable timed workouts but for my tabata workout, this app is simple and just the thing!

                We cheered on our Bowling Green Little League team via ESPN2, but their dream came to an end. Super proud of these boys and Bowling Green will celebrate them tomorrow on their home baseball field!

                Loved this blog post from Gretchen Rubin Do You Do Your Best Thinking in the Bath Tub?  And yes, I think I do!!

                In light of the horrific shootings in Virginia this week, Emily P. Freeman’s guest post on The Art of Simple on the subject of being a slow processor should be required reading for anyone itching to post about a tragedy and take a political stand (either side). Let’s sit with it for a while, counter to all the culture, to sift and sort what’s really going on and when we really have all the facts. 

                Here’s hoping your weekend is sunny, fun and in the midst of hustle, you take a snapshot of the chaos and embrace it too!

                Five Minute Friday | Finding My New Normal

                Five Minute Friday | Finding My New Normal

                On Fridays I join Kate Motaung’s link up and with other writers write for 5 minutes on the weekly prompt. This Friday’s word is…Find

                My latest prayer request, written a day before this word prompt!
                 

                As the hot, humid and itchy days of summer begin to move towards fall…I’m keenly aware that I’m in the middle of trying to find my new normal.

                It began several months ago when I left my job and continues as my middle stepdaughter has moved into the dorm and my husband and I find ourselves  practically empty nesters. 

                We got here fast. And though each life changing event has been positive and life giving;  still, the events produce a certain disequilibrium for me…how do I order my days, my weeks, my life now?

                Thankfully, I haven’t lost my faith in God and am so grateful for His Grace and Mercy. Instead, during my prayer time, I am asking Him for the next step, next path, next road.

                And what I hear Him speak, through his Word and the Holy Spirit,  is to continue to abide in Him and keep taking my daily small steps forward, trusting Him to reveal the bigger plan in His time. I’m learning to embrace  my smallness and let go of outcomes, as Emily P. Freeman puts it.

                And so here I rest, my identity not in a title or a task, but being small and letting go of my expectations.  And during this time I have found that when I completely let go of outcomes, then I truly am trusting and fully putting my faith in Jesus

                Postcard from Brussels 

                Postcard from Brussels 

                  

                It’s been a week since our return from Brussels, Belgium and I’m still processing all we saw and did. Until I post my in depth, detailed Guide to Brussels, here’s a lovely postcard from a city and country that’s stolen my heart!

                Brussels’ architecture is stunning.

                   

                    
                   

                Brussels’ lovely parks are lush and scattered throughout the city.

                   

                   

                  

                Brussels doesn’t take itself too seriously!

                  

                I heart Brussels!! xoxo

                By the way…the deadline for entering the Simply Tuesday book giveaway ends TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT Eastern Saving Time!

                  

                Click here and complete the 2 steps:

                1. Sign up for Oak Grove Social posts,

                And

                2. Comment in the linked post  what your typical Tuesday looks like!

                Winner will be announced tomorrow, Friday, August 21, 2015!

                Good luck!

                Giveaway is now closed and winner has been contacted! Thanks for all who entered!

                Tuesday Tips | Healthy,  Quick & Easy Back to School Dinner

                Tuesday Tips | Healthy,  Quick & Easy Back to School Dinner

                 

                Even better than learning their ABC’s would be my personal minion to make dinners!
                 
                We are already in the back to school grind around here in Kentucky and one pesky thing that always  catches me off guard is a healthy, quick and easy dinner when everyone’s coming in from all directions and the teens want. to. eat. NOW!

                But…I can’t go any further without mentioning…it’s Tuesday! The Tuesday where today Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman is available to buy!!  And,  you can enter here for a chance to win this book! 

                OK…back to the quick, easy and healthy school night dinner!!

                 

                Starvation strategy whilst I’m preparing the said dinner!
                 
                This veggie/cheese/cracker/whatever appetizer plate has been a lifesaver and game changer when famished stomachs hit the door wanting dinner NOW! (See a theme here?).

                 In the morning, I chop up red peppers or cucumbers/carrots/celery and then when we get home, throw the veggies on a tray, add the wheat thins, cubed cheese and pistachio nuts (or olives) and then add my secret weapon…yogurt ranch dip dressing!  I do get the good stuff in the refrigerated produce section because my husband hates yogurt but he loves this dip!!

                While they’re munching on this awesome tray, it buys me time to make this simple, fast and health meal…pizza!  Yes, pizza’s always easy & a winner but this is much healthier!

                 Bethann’s Tomato Basil Pesto Pizza

                This easy meal will add years & sanity to your life!
                 
                Ingredients:

                • Whole wheat pizza crust (make sure it says 100 % whole wheat)
                • Fresh mozzarella (for extra quickness, buy the presliced version)
                • Cream cheese, softened(I try to always buy organic)
                • Fresh basil pesto (you can find it interesting deli refrigerated area or refrigerated pasta section)
                • Fresh tomatoes (I got mine from my Dad’s garden!)

                First, I slice the tomatoes and lay them on paper towels to help dry them out a bit.

                 

                So delicious!
                 
                Next, spread soften cream cheese for the first layer.

                 

                I definitely do not use the whole brock of cream cheese! I could, but then it wouldnt be healthy!
                 
                Then, spoon and spread on the basil pesto…

                Yum! I also sparing spread the pesto…a little goes a long way!

                Now it’s time for those gorgeous tomatoes!

                  
                And finally…the fresh mozzarella!!   

                 
                You could sprinkle chopped up fresh basil here, but I’m all about easy so I just put some black peoper on top! Then pop it into the oven and bake per the crust’s directions.

                 

                The finished product!
                 
                It couldn’t be easier…assembling this bad boy took maybe 5 minutes?!

                 

                Sooooooo gooooooood!
                 
                The adults did drizzle balsamic vinegar on top of the slices and that made this simple pizza even more fabulous!!

                Of course, you can add any kind of topping you wish.  The cream cheese/pesto base is amazing and I’ve made this pizza with bacon, spinach and shredded Italian cheeses as toppings as well!

                What quick, easy and healthy dinner meal has been saving your life lately?  Share in the comments below!!

                Simply Tuesday Book Review & Giveaway!!

                Simply Tuesday Book Review & Giveaway!!

                 

                Found my bench/swing for Simply Tuesday!
                 
                Y’all I cannot believe tomorrow is the book release for Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman !!!

                It’s been such an honor for me to be a part of her launch team and some of the first to read this gem of a book!   I cannot wait for it to be released tomorrow and for all those who will be reading it and how it will shape their souls and lives. Emily’s book has already has done that for me. Seriously. 

                Emily thoughtfully and thought provokingly writes about all the small, mundane and ordinariness of our lives and encourages us to embrace it. The book’s title in part comes from the recognition that Tuesday is the smallest day of the week where the ordinary everyday life happens.

                 
                In a culture (including church culture here) where bigger, better, louder and shinier demands the spotlight, Emily points the reader to Jesus and His word picture that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Small, tiny, little. 

                “Small is the position of my soul, the posture by which I approach others, God, and myself. When I’m small, I know I can’t control opinions, manipulate outcomes, or force my agenda on others. When I’m small, I can move into the world confident as a person I most deeply am because I don’t move into the world alone. 

                If this is true, then small is my new free.”

                -Emily P. Freeman 

                Emily divides Simply Tuesday into 5 parts and within those 5 parts she provides the reader with an invitation, a prayer and questions for further reflection.  Her book is food for the soul…spiritual discipleship that guides the reader to reflect, ponder and respond to the Truths shared. 

                I could have underlined and highlighted the entire book!  My margins bear scribbles of “YES!!!” and “me too”. 

                Nearly every page looks looks like this!
                 

                Simply Tuesday should also be a must read for those in ministry, whether serving as a volunteer or on staff. Emily writes at length the problem with big=God’s favor and small=not of God in Christian circles.  We are small…we do not control or manipulate the outcomes. As Emily writes…

                  
                So where does one go when a small thing stays a small thing?

                “What if your big break is really a breaking from big?” -Emily P. Freeman

                Hmmmmm.

                See what I mean, her writing really makes one ponder!  I’m currently rereading Simply Tuesday  again!

                Emily’s words have already transformed and shaped my soul by pointing me to God’s Truth!  

                It’s definitely one thing to agree intellectually that you’re to embrace your smallness, but entirely another matter to live it out!  Recently, I painfully felt my smallness in a challenging situation.  Emily’s words resonated through my head…yes I’m small…I cannot control this outcome…God is with me in this moment. And through prayer and feeling God’s presence and accepting my smallness, I felt such peace because I didn’t have to make myself big, my presence big or my voice loud.  

                Simply Tuesday would also make an awesome small group book club or Bible study book choice! Hop on over to www.simplytuesday.com to sign up for wonderful resources from Emily, including how you can get your own book discussion guide. 

                I’m so excited to be able to give away Simply Tuesday on my blog! 

                Here’s how to enter:

                1. Subscribe to Oak Grove Social’s blog email notification for new posts (located in the right sidebar)

                And

                2. Comment on this post below by answering the following question:

                “What does my ordinary Tuesday look like?

                These 2 completed actions will get you entered for the chance to win a free copy of Simply Tuesday

                Deadline for entry is Thursday, August 20 at midnight Eastern Savings Time!!

                The winner will be announced Friday!!  Good luck!

                Giveaway is closed and winner has been contacted.  Thanks for all who entered!

                No compensation was exchanged for my opinions, all opinions are genuinely my own!  The giveaway book has been purchased with my own money…that’s how much I love this book!!