Some Randomness

It wasn’t until high school and I had a new found freedom found in a driver’s license that I realized random streets weren’t so random.  Literally.  There were streets named “Random” all over the place.  And that’s where this blog post comes in to play.  Randomly, but it’s coming.  I haven’t posted in a month.  And in that month, we have been living life to the fullest.  While this life-living doesn’t fit nicely in one blog post, the randoms of this past month have been spectacular!!  For the first time in four years my skin is actually tan.  TAN!!  That’s because we’ve been outside doing all kind of things.

The first event was a week at our church camp.  What an awesome place to unplug from the world and have a place to listen to God and truly focus on Him.

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DSC_0238DSC_0334I have been really motivated to work on a few projects around the house this summer.  So far, we have cleaned out our basement storage area, took a large load to a thrift shop, and I even painted the walls in our understair storage.  Whoa.  Where did that energy come from?  Did I mention I painted the ceiling too?!  Someone help me.

While all of our tubs were out of the storage area (and I was secretly trying to keep my right eye from twitching due to the “mess”), I began a painting project.

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The spindrels were really fun to paint.  #saidnooneever

Adding to the randomness, we were invited to spend a few days with some awesome friends at their family cabin in Arkansas.  No tv, no computer.  Very limited cellphone service.

It.

Was.

Fabulous.

DSC_0608While we were there, we drove down the road for a baseball game.

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On the way down to the lake, we stopped by Big Brutus in southeast Kansas.

DSC_0505It definitely lived up to it’s name.  And made me realize I still hate heights.  A lot.

Mary Kay has been a big part of my summer.  I have enjoyed setting goals and reaching them with the help of some awesome women.

DSC_0503And then there’s this little guy.

DSC_0631Can you see how many fingers he’s holding up?  Yep.  Those are three little fingers.  I keep asking him if he would stop growing.  To which he replies “Hmmmmm…” otherwise, he’s saying “Aunt Jill, not gonna happen.”

So, what’s been going on during your summer?  Have you done anything awesome?  🙂

Our Intentional Gallery Wall

I love our family.  And I love taking pictures of our family.  Unfortunately, though, these pictures end up being downloaded to the home computer, lovingly stored in organized folders on the hard drive, and then promptly forgotten about until I want to write a blog post about them.  I needed to get more intentional about using pictures.  Waaayyy more intentional.  🙂

I did attempt to try to get my self to display pictures better by creating this gallery wall a few years ago (inspired by younghouselove), but alas it ended up looking like a jumbled mess nailed to our wall.

And it wasn’t pretty.  Trust me.

DSC_0680 (640x427)This was before I took the frames down to paint the kitchen walls back in February and for the next three months the walls were bare.  My game plan this time was to buy frames that actually matched and then to hang them strategically.  My lazy side thought it could win against my type A personality.  Fail.

Initially, I thought I would just go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy the frames, but after looking on the Ikea website, I found that I could get an assortment (their Ribba collection) for a pretty good price and I wouldn’t have to spend time at a store trying to figure out exactly what I wanted.  And I didn’t have to get off of our couch.  WIN!!

But, after they came and I excitedly unpacked them and laid them out in a cool layout on our spare bedroom floor, I waited.  And waited.  Why?  I have no idea.

Finally I just asked Adam if he would be willing to help me hang the frames.  The blank walls were driving me crazy (no personality) and the frames laying down on the floor was driving me crazy (come on, Jill!).  So, this time around, we were strategic and measured out the spacing between frames.

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We were so technical, we even used a level to draw a line on the wall.  How about that?!

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And the final layout looks like this:

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I.  LOVE. IT!

The layout that is and the fact I can know show off our beautiful and hilarious family!  Along with cards or other pictures that are pretty special to our little family.

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The monogram circle is something I found at Hobby Lobby last spring.  When I first saw it, I knew I liked it but then debated on getting it because…well, where would I put it?  So being the logical person I am, I went ahead and bought the dang thing.  YOLO, right?

So know my next item on my list is to go through my albums of pictures on my computer and choose some to showcase.  Because apparently my brother-in-law doesn’t like looking at frames that say “Ribba, Ribba, Ribba”.  Party pooper. 🙂

The Rest of the Story…

With the last post, I left you with this picture: DSC_0134 (640x427) After our long day of travel, we decided what better way to unwind than to head out to one of our favorite places on this planet? The Flinthills were calling our name. Dear friends of ours from church have an amazing cabin they generously let us use for a night.  This is a family cabin and we love coming here when life gets a bit overwhelming.  We decided to share this experience with Aaron and Britt and their little guy for our anniversary weekend.  DSC_0059The weekend was filled with a lot of laughter and a lot of relaxation.  We ate an awesome dinner in Strong City at Ad Astra.  (Mom, we’re so going here) and from there we took a quick side trip over to Cottonwood Falls.  A few weeks ago while in Emporia we saw the Dirty Kanza bike race being advertised that was to take place a few weeks later.   We had no idea that we would be pulling into Cottonwood Falls just as the bikers were finishing up for the day.

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Once the path was clear, we made a mad dash across the street to the bridge.  When we got there, we saw a group of guys along the bridge trying to bring up the largest flathead I’ve ever seen.

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So big, Adam gave it this look:

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After a struggle of a few minutes the guy decided to finally let it go.  But, at this point we were all ready to get to the cabin.  We decided to have a quick dance party in celebration.

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After a little bit of a drive, we finally made it to the cabin.  A fire was quickly built and chairs were pulled around.

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I can’t begin to tell you how much we value this friendship.  So, incredibly thankful.

The next day we got up for breakfast and, knowing there was a little boy who was very eager to catch his first fish, breakfast was quickly eaten.

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It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized this wasn’t a trip for us to tell about, it’s a trip for a little boy to tell about.  He needs to be able to tell the story of when he caught his first fish with his dad and Uncle Adam by his side.

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He needs to tell the story when his fun and loving mom allowed him to explore the nature around him.

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And when, after catching his third fish, he was a lifetime member of the A and A Fishing Club.  Which is quite a feat, because I’m not sure his mom or his Aunt Jill are members.  🙂

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But at least he celebrated my first catch of the summer.

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He also needs to tell the story of when he explored a creek where there were tadpoles and crawdads.  It was also in this creek he found some amazing rocks to throw.

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Something I hope this sweet boy tells about is how special his mom and dad are to his honorary “aunt and uncle”.

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Aaron and Britt were there when we got engaged and when we got married.  They have been there through the happy times, the sad times, and the times we just needed a friend.

So while I was able to tell some of the story, the rest of the story has to wait to be told. 🙂

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Just like the rest of this journey with this amazing man.

Mah-ridge, Mah-ridge

Dear Adam,

Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I wanted to share a few thoughts.  I always say you don’t know just how much I love you.  Hopefully here is some indication to that.  🙂

I love you so much that I learned how to share the blankets with you on really cold nights.  Alright, for the most part.  I guess there are still times you wake up with nothing covering you.  My bad.  I’m still working on it.  But in my defense, the cats make it really hard.

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I love the fact that I knew I loved you when you farted.  It was an amazing bike ride, when all of a sudden you lifted your rear off the bike seat and exclaimed “POWER BOOST!”  I knew then I wanted to spend the rest of my days with you.  Because you’re a hoot.  People often wonder what types of conversations we have at home.  They primarily consist of the crisis in the Middle East and how the stock market is doing.  We definitely don’t spend time watching cat videos.

0764And you’re hot.  Seriously.  So dang handsome.

1156I love how you love.  You love your family and you love your friends.  And we love you.  A lot.

1638I also love you because you listen to my crazy ideas.  Crazy ideas about home improvements or places we should visit.  One summer I got you to go to the Birger/Sandzen gallery.  I know you weren’t really excited about it like I was, but you were a champ.  You stand up for yourself as well, and I really like that.  But not as much as I like you.

1691I also love you because of your partnership.  I am incredibly thankful for this.  When I have been in a situation that has been difficult, you know what to say.  For the most part.  🙂  But, seriously, you have been great.

1786Most importantly I pray we can continue to be silly with one another.  And not take life too seriously.  Because who doesn’t look more attractive in goggles than you?

That’s right, no one.  🙂

Adam, Happy Anniversary.  It has been an amazing seven years and I look forward to many, many more.

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Much love Handsome,

Your wife

Living Abundently

At any given time of the day, there could be a million questions going through my mind.  Some of them might be:

*Does this outfit really match?

*What happens if there are more budget cuts at school?

*Am I really giving enough time to school?

*Am I really giving enough time to Adam?

*Am I really giving enough time to God?

*Students loans.  When can I finally pay them off?

*Will we have enough money?

More than likely I will think of the “will we have enough money” question more than once in the day.  With Adam and I both being teachers in the same district that is experiencing budget cuts,  I think about money more than I want to admit.  It’s really quite embarrassing and something I’ve never really admitted out loud to Adam.  We have everything we need.  Food in the pantry, a roof over our heads, two reliable vehicles, and a partner anyone would want on this life and faith journey.

Throughout my faith journey I have been reminded several times of the story of fish and loaves.  John 6:1-14New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

I was raised by a single mom who worked very hard to provide for me and my older brother.  She was able to provide for me to take dance classes (ballet, tap, jazz, modern) and for me to take private viola lessons.  But there were times when things weren’t so good.  And it was in those times, where my fear of “not having enough” came to be.  Now let me be very clear here:  there is nothing my mom said or did to instill this worry, rather it’s something I internalized myself.  But every time there was a threat of my mom not being able to provide, God did.  I remember my mom recalling a time shortly after my parent’s divorce when she was really concerned how she was going to buy us the basic necessities.  Two growing little ones didn’t stay in the same size for very long.  But just as she thought about this concern, someone from church out of the blue presented my mom with a gift certificate to Dillards.  From the very beginning God has always provided.  Why do I need to keep being reminded?  I guess it’s because I’m human.  And I’m a huge worry-wart.

Another time I remember God providing was just days before I moved into Bethel for my freshman year.  All through high school I had worked a part-time job to help pay for gas and to have a little spending money, but having a part-time job during my first semester at college seemed overwhelming mainly due to not knowing how much time I would need to study to keep up my good grades.  It was a Sunday morning and a very kind gentleman with a huge heart handed me a check.  A large enough check that I wouldn’t have to find a job that first semester.  The Sunday before each semester of my Bethel career, a sizeable check would be quietly handed to me after the church service.  The gratitude I have for this gentleman is deep and someday, I hope I can do the same for another college student.

So, do I still feel provided for as an adult?  Heavens yes!  Time and time again, I have been reminded of the fishes and the loaves with the disciples.  If I were to ever think, hmm, not sure if we’ll be able to do this, God has always shown just how powerful He is.

In the spring of 2010, I was told that, due to budget cuts, I would not have a position at Inman elementary the next school year.  The rest of that spring was spent sending in applications to any school that had an opening.  But I wasn’t worried (for once in my life).  The same afternoon I was let go from Inman Elementary, I was offered and accepted a part-time job at Stone Creek nursery.  This part-time job allowed me the security in case I wasn’t able to find something.

Then in the spring of 2013 I was physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted from our second miscarriage.  The thought of working a part-time job that summer just seemed out of the question.  God had really put it on my heart that I needed to take care of myself.  But I had just resigned my teaching position so I could begin teaching at Moundridge Elementary and wouldn’t be bringing in a paycheck in the two month gap between assignments.  Could we really afford it?  With God’s grace and smart spending on our part, we were.  We even had enough we could put in savings by the end of the summer.

Every time there is doubt, no matter what it is, God consistently and calmly reminds me “everything is going to be alright.”  Just like yesterday, Adam and I were on our way to Hutch for the MCC Sale.  About fifteen miles or so away from Hutch, the gas light came on.  Adam calmly looked over and asked “how many miles can we go with the gas light?”  And I without missing a beat calmly responded “eh, 20 miles.”  Adam here’s another confession for you: I have no idea exactly how many miles we can drive with the gas light on.  I’m sorry.  But I wasn’t worried because I knew we would be taken care of.  And just so you’re aware we were able to get to a Kwik Shop and fill up our very thirsty car.

As a young adult couple, we have a mortgage, insurance, student loan debt, and day-to-day expenses.  And all of this is paid with salaries that haven’t been increased in years.  In fact, we may have to take another pay cut this year to make sure student learning won’t be hurtt any more than it could.  But every time we see the “gas light” come on in regards to our bank account, we feel like we don’t have to worry.  God will always provide.

April is for Aesthetics

Guess what?!  It’s a new month which means it’s time for a new monthly challenge!!  I bet you were wondering if I would remember that it’s a new month…. 🙂

Last month’s challenge was Money March.  Our goal for the month was to take a more serious look at our finances and overall, I think we did a decent job.  We wanted to:

*figure out a way to really manage our debt (read the “debt” being student loans)

The way we have figured out how to manage our student loan debt (ok, ok my student loan debt) is by me starting my very own Mary Kay business. In the first month, things have gone very well and I am very much looking forward to what the future holds with this venture.  When it’s a great product, it makes it an easy sell!  We were also able to do a bit of research and figured out I will be able to have about $5,000 of student loans forgiven at the end of this school year.  Thanks to working at Title 1 schools!  Woo hoo!  Once that $5,000 chunk has been forgiven, we can refinance my loans at a lower interest rate.  Then with the extra money I’m making from Mary Kay, all of that will be going towards the loan payments.

*Set up a living will

With the living will we checked out a site called Legal Zoom, a site recommended by a good friend.  We figured out that it wasn’t so much a Living Will we wanted as much as we wanted a Living Trust.  It feels good knowing we have our meager things are accounted for if anything were to happen to us.

*Establish a food budget

A food budget was not created.  Instead we did a really good job of shopping at Aldi’s and making sure we ate at home.  We also took advantage of deals at Dillon’s using our Dillon’s Plus Card.  We have definitely gone from wanting to make sure we save money to thinking of grocery shopping as a game.  We’re dorks.  🙂

*Inquire about insurance

Unfortunately, I did not get the inquiry of insurance crossed off the list.  This is definitely something we still want to do, if nothing else just to make sure we’re getting the best deal possible for our situation.

So what do we have up our sleeves for this month?

Aesthetics.

Particularly for our yard.  Over the last seven years we have slowly landscaped our yard by updating existing flowerbeds and even adding a few.  But there are still a few things we would like to do to really make it feel nicer.

DSC_0847One way we would like to accomplish this is by clearing out this corner of random crap from over the years.  Some of the metal stuff is from our original window well.  And the concrete is from old fence posts in our yard.  I dug up at least one of those bad boys on my own. #iamwomanhearmeroar

I would love to be able to add a play set or some kind of a sand box to this area, but at this stage in life, just having a cleaned out corner will be amazing!

DSC_0848This flowerbed was added about two years ago this Spring.  I basically wanted to added some color to this area and took about 30 minutes one afternoon from getting home from school until I met Adam at a baseball game.  That was the fastest planting I ever done!  One of the things that we have going for us is that we have weed barrier fabric underneath the mulch.  My goal is to add landscaping brick to make it look more established.

DSC_0851This is a shot of our new window well with the old window well in the back.  Last Winter I was really worried that something, mainly an animal, would fall down in the well and then we would have to worry about getting it out.  Oh, who I am kidding, I would make Adam do it.  He’s so much braver than I!  🙂  So before that could happen, we bought a piece of lattice and laid it over the top.

Then left it.

So, now I would like to stain and seal it and add a bit of support to keep it from sagging in the middle.  And while we are at it, go ahead and add another covering to the other window.

I would have said I also wanted to add a flower bed but Adam, bless his sweet, sweet soul, laid the brick and added mulch a few weeks ago.  It looks fantastic!!!  Now we’re just waiting for the weeds grass to grow back in.

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To help make things look a little nicer, I moved the glider closer to the garden.  The lilac bushes are transplants from near the house.  When we first bought the house in 2008 this lilac bush was in bloom.  Gorgeous, gorgeous blooms.  Since then there wasn’t much to it and both Adam and I just assumed it had run it’s course.  Then when we had the egress window installed, our construction guys literally threw the bush into our tree row where we assumed they died.

NOPE.  They were turning green!  So, we transplanted them to this spot by the garden and have crossed our fingers they’ll thrive.

DSC_0854And, guess what?!  There are a few blooms!!!!

DSC_0856Our beloved chicken coop.  You probably thought I finished it last summer.

Nope.

There are a few pieces of siding that still need to be replaced and I need to paint the trim.

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DSC_0857Then there’s this area.  I probably wouldn’t mind the mess if you couldn’t see it from the road.  E-gads.  I definitely want to get this cleaned up!

So there’s the list for this month!  I’m pretty excited mainly because it gives me something to do outside and maybe (just maybe) I’ll get a tan!

What are you up to this spring?

Money, Money, Money….MONEY!!

It’s the beginning of March (at least that’s what I’m telling myself) and it’s time for a new focus.  If you remember the month of February was all about self.  You can read more about the project here. I felt like I did a pretty good job with this goal.  I definitely made more of an effort to take time for myself and even begin to read a book.  And, Lori, I’m sad to tell you I’m not done with Wild even though I am thoroughly enjoying Cheryl Strays accounts!

This month the focus is on money.

You know, the topic no one wants to talk about.

So why do I want to focus on money?  Because I like alliterations.  And because it’s time that I make sure I am truly making smart financial decisions.

So, I have thought of a few things that I think will help me and us.

*Inquire about a home insurance quote

We have had the same insurance agent since we got married.  I have been nothing but happy with the service, but we never took another look at another agency to make sure we weren’t overpaying for coverage we need.

*Produce a living will

While we have beneficiaries listed on important accounts, we haven’t specified what would happen with personal property if either one of us would suddenly pass away.  This is something that I don’t necessarily want to think about, but through personal experience I know this is an unfortunate reality.

I always thought we would pay a lawyer to do this, but after talking with a fiend she told me about a website called Legal Zoom.  While we don’t have a lot of property or other things, I still think it is important to make sure we have things in order for our loved ones.

*Start my own business

Ok, so I’m not starting it from scratch, but you did read that right.  Over the last few weeks I have been going through training to become a Mary Kay consultant.  While I don’t anticipate making it a full time job (I love what I do!), I do anticipate it to help me pay down the dreaded student loan debt.

Mary Kay picI have ordered my product as well as received my starter kit and I am ready for orders!  🙂

*Food Budget

Inflation is a bit of a jerk when it comes to buying groceries.  So, this month I want to be more aware of how much we’re putting towards food.  A few years ago, we had a month we where only ate out for Sunday lunch.  It was actually a really great experience.  It made us realize that we don’t have to eat out every Friday or whenever we feel like it.  We did really well with creating a food plan for the week and sticking to that plan.

*Quit complaining about how little/much I make

I am awful about this.  I am easy to complain to people about this and it’s embarrassing.  Embarrassing of how little I make for someone who has a Master’s degree and that I choose to focus on this aspect.  But, really there isn’t much I can do about it.  What I can do is make sure that our money is being spent wisely and (wait for it) intentionally.

So what else am I missing?  Anything else we should take a look at to help us save money?

A Little Wordle Dordle

Continuing my month of “Self”, I decided to put together a gift for Adam that would make us both focus on places that are important to us individually.

There were two frames I bought clear back in November that coordinate with other things in our room.  I really liked them.  A lot.  The only thing was that I literally took them out of the Target bag, hung them on the wall, admired my work, and then walked away.  I was just really proud I had hung them without using a level and they were fairly level.  Normally that doesn’t happen.  Usually it’s crooked.  I think one of my legs is shorter than the other even though I’ve never noticed me having an odd gait.

But no more!  Empty frames, that is.

So, how did I incorporate the important places for both of us and use the frames?

By creating a Wordle.

And it was super simple.

The first step was to question Adam about his special places.  I felt like I had a good idea, but most definitely wanted to double check.  So, while eating lunch one day, I casually asked Adam about the places he found important.  Batta-bing, batta-boom.  I then took some time to think about places that were really important to me, that have shaped who I am.

I then went to the wordle site and typed in my information:

DSC_0682It looks a bit bizarre, but just wait.  It gets better!  I did have to do one Wordle project at a time making sure I had it printed before I closed the tab.  Otherwise the website doesn’t save your information.  Which can be pretty annoying when your computer freezes or your cat turns your computer off when he walks over the keyboard.  Ok, that didn’t really happen.  Just wanted to make sure you were still reading.  😉

Once the words were entered in, I chose the font and color palette that I thought would look neat-o with our bedroom colors.

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And this is what Adam opened on Valentine’s Day:

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Both pictures hang above our bed downstairs.  They’re basically our name tags for which side of the bed we sleep on.  Not that we need to be reminded.  If I slept on the “wrong” side, I’m not sure I could sleep.  Seriously.  I’m such a creature of habit.

The thing I like about this project is that as we get older and we have experiences that continue to shape who we are, we’ll be able to switch out the picture pretty easily.

So what do you think?  What places are special for you or your family?

Being Intentional about Intentions

It’s 2015.

When the heck did that happen?

Seriously.  It doesn’t seem like I graduated from Bethel that long ago.  And it especially doesn’t seem like Adam and I have been married for almost SEVEN years.  Seven.

And I’ll be 30 this year.  I don’t feel a day over 25 and often forget how old I am until I do the quick math.

With these realizations it makes me think a lot of how life can slip away from me if I’m not careful with my time.  This year the word that keeps rolling around in the vast expanse of my brain is INTENTIONAL. In order to take in all that is around me and that God provides, I need to be intentional with my time and intentional with my priorities.

Then I came across this book:

DSC_0667Adam and I were on a layover in Dallas when I decided to walk into a bookstore.  It was glorious with all of those books around!  It seems like I never take time to look for books that I want to read.  Often I am looking for books for my kids.  But then I decided that I would let myself buy a few books.  This is one I bought just in case you were worried I stole it.  😉

In the book, Gretchen Rubin describes ways that she made her home feel more “homey” after discovering she felt homesick in her own home.  Each month for nine months she focused on a different aspect with the goal in mind to rediscover what home is to her.  For instance one month she focused on family, another she focused on her neighborhood.  It was a great and inspiring read and I greatly encourage you to read it.

This couldn’t have been a better book to reach for with that word INTENTIONAL floating around in my head.

So I decided that I would take this exercise and put it to work in my life.  Each month I will focus on an area in my life that I want to be (here’s that dang word again…) intentional.

I would like to complete my exercise in nine months similar to Gretchen Rubin’s exercise.

I’m calling it the Intentional Project.

Profound?

Yes.

Original?

You bet your bottom dollar!

My first month (February) my focus is on SELF.

So this month I am making time to read a book.  It’s an autobiography, but a book none-the-less that isn’t for school.  It’s for me.  Something I haven’t taken time to do for months, maybe even a year.

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I’m also trying out a new devotional She Reads Truth.  I’ve seen great things about it on various blogs and finally strolled over to the sight to take a further look.  Folks, it looks really good.  And I’m really excited to delve deeper into the study.

I have also started running again.  It feels awesome!  Dana, in case you’re wondering it’s a slow mile, but I keep going without any tears.  🙂

At this point these are the areas I’m using to further explore self.  I can already feel a calmness in myself and I pray it will continue.

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I don’t have all of the months figured out, but I have a general idea.  At the beginning of each month I will post what my focus for that month will be primarily for accountability.  Because I know if I don’t have people what the heck is going on, I could:

1.  Forget what I’m doing

or

2.  Lose interest in what I’m doing, even if it is important to me

So, folks, don’t hesitate to ask me if you would like about what I’m experiencing on this crazy journey!  🙂