5 Things in November

Oh, friends. I’m struggling this month. In a cruel turn of fate I finished my tenure teaching 8th grade science and traded in my happy little middle school for the big, bad world of high school. I’ll be spending the next few months relearning names, classroom routines, and personalities as I take on five 9th grade Earth & Space Science classes. I’ve known this change was coming for months, but it was still a shock to the system.

Anyway, enough griping. November should be a time of thanksgiving and, well, Thanksgiving. Here are 5 things to consider:

Remember this | May my heart be brave, my mind fierce, and my spirit free.

Mediate on this| Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cray, and he will say ‘Here I am’… [Isaiah 58:8-9a]

Try this | Red-Orange Nails. Slightly less cheery than the vibrant orange of summer and not quite the striking red of winter, try this warm and seasonal nail color to rev up your fall routine.

*photo from Very Verve*

Do this | Write a thank you note to someone who has done something kind for you. It’s incredible how much joy you feel when you get over yourself for a minute and take time to let the important people in your life know that they have made an impact.

Accomplish this | Plan out your Thanksgiving dinner. It sounds obsessive (because it is) but honestly, it’s the best thing EVER when it comes to breaking a huge family dinner down into manageable pieces. Start with the time you’d like dinner to be served and work backward to when the turkey needs to come out of the freezer. You can also figure out which items need to be done day of, and which can be made ahead. I didn’t cook last year, but here’s the one I did in 2013:


Happy November!



5 Things in October

I blinked and suddenly…fall. With 179 students, my schoolwork, church responsibilities, and silly things like sleeping and eating, I have been very much treading water this month. Which explains, for example, why this post is coming out on the 17th day of the month, instead of the 2nd.

Whatever, don’t judge me.

Remember this | “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — And I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

Mediate on this| …so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.l  [Ephesians 3:17-19]

Eat this | Butternut Squash. Nothing says fall to me like roasting all the vegetables. Butternut squash ranks as one of my favorite cool weather staples. It’s exceedingly versatile and ridiculously easy to prepare. For a simple prep, peel and chop into 3/4 inch chunks, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400°F for about 30 minutes, tossing once about halfway through. Yum!

Do this | Grown Up Study Group. I have an absurdly long list of things to do. I have assignments to grade, lesson plans to formulate, and papers to write. Yet, when I try to do the things by myself, I hit a wall of non-productivity. There are so many things to distract me when I’m alone in my pjs trying to work instead of watching tv or taking a nap. My solution has been to get together with a couple girlfriends in similar situations and take over a table at a coffee shop. Each girl in the group brings the things she needs to get done and our work is independent, but adjacent. No joke,  I’ve never been so efficient.

Accomplish this | Clean off your desk. At home or work, a cluttered desk can cause excess stress and loss of productivity. *But but but! I work better in…* I’ma stop you right there, you do not work better in a cluttered space. Clean it up. While you’re at it, check out Greatist‘s ideas for adding a little Feng Shui to you work space.

Happy October! Or what’s left of it…


5 Things in September

Welcome, September!

The romantic comedy classic You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks’ Joe Fox describes fall as a time when he feels the need to buy school supplies and wishes to send his online love a bouquet of sharpened pencils.

Joe, I’m with you.

Fall is my favorite time of year and September is its gatekeeper. Soon crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice will descend upon us and the holiday season will shortly follow. Every year, I look forward to the days of cool nights and over-sized sweaters. There is a newness to fall, though everything seems to be dying, a crispness in the air that silently screams of coziness and possibilities. Here are 5 other things I’m loving right now:

Remember this | Every day is a chance to change your life

Memorize this| Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us…  [1 John 4:4-6a]

Learn this | Did you know that the human brain has 100,000 miles of blood vessels? That’s enough to circle Earth 4 times. So…now you know.

Watch this | With the insanity going on in Syria right now, this chilling video makes you stop and think about the world in which we live.

Do this | Entertain. Whether you host a couple of friends for lunch on a Saturday, or throw a dinner party for 12, open your heart (and your home) to those around you. Take time to be grateful for your friends and family and slow down to express appreciation for them.

Happy September!


The Dog Days | 5 Things In August

Oh, August.

Unbearably hot days, scorching sun, and the end of summer vacation, August is a strange and dichotomous month in which the excitement of fall begins but the unrelenting heat of summer remains. Like students across the country, I’m headed back to school at the end of this month. However, for the first time, I’ll be on the other side of the podium. That’s right, after many years of studenthood, I’ll be joining that sacred fraternity of educators as I complete my student teaching in middle and high school classrooms and venture into the world of college professorship (more on that later).

I’ll be honest, I’m terrified. I’m having a hard time these days, with the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life screaming toward me like an oncoming freight train. Coupled with the stress of transition, I’m barely holding it together. Anyway, a list!

Remember this | Be willing to go alone sometimes. You don’t need permission to grow. Not everyone who started with you will finish with you. And that’s okay.

Memorize this| For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, I shall not be shaken. On him rests my salvation and my glory, my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in the him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. [Psalm 62:5-8]

Eat this | Shrimp Arrabbiata – From the Italian for “angry” you could replace the shrimp with the protein of your choice. The slightly (or very, depending on your preference) spicy sauce is light but packs a ton of flavor. The recipe only take a few minutes to put together and it’s super delicious. For even more flavor, try fire roasted tomatoes. Make the recipe your own!

Do this | Take time for your health. Maybe you want to run a half marathon — more power to you. If you’re like me and you just want to get back into shape after a summer of less than stellar health choices, consider joining a gym or taking an exercise class. I joined Planet Fitness. For $10/month, I can work out any time I want in an intimidation-free setting.

Watch this | Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian and does a bit about the various types of hand raising that church members do during worship. As a worship team member, I find it particularly funny, but if you’ve ever been to a hand-raising church, you’ll probably get a kick out of it.

Happy August!


Hide it in your heart | 5 Tips For Memorizing Scripture

Raise your hand if you went to Christian school for 11 years and spent that time frantically memorizing weekly Bible verses in order to pass a quiz.

Just me? Cool.

I know that scripture memorization is an important part of my spiritual life. I know that the more of God’s wisdom that I store in my heart the better I am able to use that wisdom a) in times of spiritual attack or b) to encourage others.

But it’s boring. I have a good many verses memorized from incidental exposure, but the idea of actively sitting down to memorize a passage makes me want to kick my feet in rebellion. Nevertheless, I know it’s important and I’m trying to do better. To make easy myself into it, I chose a familiar, but not yet memorized verse and gave myself the month of July to learn it. If you are trying to commit words to memory, here are a few ideas!

1) Start slow

You don’t need to memorize the Old Testament in a year. Just let that dream die. Choose passages of special significance, or common usage. It’s probably way less important for you to have the genealogies memorized than the Romans Road. If you’re new to the Bible, the letters from Paul or Jesus’ sermons are a good place to start. Be gentle on yourself, don’t expect to know it all right away.

2) Front and center

Post the verse(s) you want to commit to memory in a place where you’ll see them often. Stick a note card to your bathroom mirror or on the fridge. The more you see it, the more likely it is to stay with you. I keep mine in my planner, since you know I’m never without that. Use different colored pens, or circle key words to make it visually interesting.

3) Meditate on the words

Instead of trying to remember a random sequence of words, think about the verse. What does it mean? How does it apply to your life? What was the context of the passage? Think about the choice of words and what God wants you to glean from them.

4) Write (or draw) it out

If I really want to learn something, I write it down again and again. If you are skilled at lettering or sketching or any kind of art form, try that. If not, just jotting down the passage in a notebook or the margin of the newspaper will reinforce it in your brain. I’m not at all skilled in the art of lettering, but I like to dabble, so I do it anyway.

5) Make it a habit

Say the verse out loud while you drive, or when you brush your teeth. Use it as a prayer to open or close your quiet time. Get into the habit of saying it a few times a day. Don’t worry if you mess up, there won’t be a test!

What’s your secret for memorization? Share below!


New Series | 5 things in July

I fully intended to do this yesterday, but life, you know? It’s July, and here’s what I want to share with you this month:

Remember this | Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Memorize this | Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honest, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

Watch This | Fixer Upper on HGTV. Chip and Joanna Gaines are just too cute, and their skills and style are out of this world. It really makes me want to buy a little cottage and rip out the walls. Adorable.

Listen to this | American Authors. Upbeat without being annoying.

Do this | Challenge – This month, write down the “little wins” in your life. When you’re having a bad day, look at the list and remember all that you’ve accomplished.


day 14 | Climbing Kilimanjaro

I get deeply invested in (read: obsessed with) Vacation Bible School. 2015 marks my 5th consecutive year as the Pre-Primary Director (3-5 year olds). During my tenure, I’ve learned more than a few things about coordinating a week’s worth of lessons, crafts, and activities. To get through the week without pulling my hair out, organization is the key.

All a girl needs is a really organized binder, a large coffee, a pinch of faith, and a Master Plan.


1) Master Plan: I start in Microsoft Excel and make a skeleton that holds all the information I need. Then I fill in each section, and when it’s done, I have a plan for the week! Of course, you know what they say, “A plan is a point from which to deviate.”

Isn’t it glorious?

Times are listed and the shaded box is to remind me that Thursday is Water Day (dun dun duhhhhh) which means chaos will erupt. I keep a copy of the plan in the binder and post additional copies around the classrooms so that my helpers can easily see what the next activity will be.

20150514_1055112) The curriculum book is full of all kinds of awesome things, but the workbook style of it makes it hard to organize. I spent way too much time flipping through the pages trying to stay on the right day. To solve this problem, I pulled out my handy-dandy paper-cutter, removed the staples from the binding, and sliced the pages free.

3) Order is key! This is how my binder is set up.

Master Plan
VBS Rules Sheet
Parent Info Sheet
Curriculum Book Intro Pages

Day Divider (5 total)
Coloring Sheet Master Copies
Daily Puppet Script
Discovery Center and Craft Cards
Daily Curriculum

4) Parent Communication is a huge part of our success. Between our “No Parents” policy and getting ready for water day, we have a lot to explain! I can’t be sure that in the craziness, I’ll get face to face time with each parent, so we send home announcements with the kids. Here’s my cute African themed sheet for this year!


This way, I can circumvent some of the my-kid-isn’t-prepared-because-you-didn’t-tell-me nonsense. I do get parents who are offended that they can’t sit with little Johnny or Susie in class and let me know that they’ll go where they please. A very diplomatic, “I understand, but my primary job is to ensure the safety of all of our campers, including Johnny/Susie,” usually cuts it. If not, I can bring out the big guns with, “I understand if you need to remove your Johnny/Susie from the class, but these are the rules, and they aren’t going to change.

A new strategy for the ones that think it’s cool to yell at me comes from my sweet friend Kristi, “Okay, but you’re yelling. Why don’t we talk about it?”

5) This year, I’m trying something new. For each Discovery Center and Craft, I made a card that has the instructions and all the necessary materials. This way, I can just hand them off to a helper and there is no need to micromanage everything that’s happening in my classroom! I formatted them in Microsoft word, and printed them on cardstock for durability.



We hold these “truths”…

I need to talk to you about something. The Spirit, He’s a-proddin’, and I can’t seem to type fast enough to get my thoughts poured out. A couple friends of mine shared an article on Facebook from Relevant Magazine entitled 7 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe. It outlines a few of the fairy tales we’ve constructed because we like to believe in happily ever after.

I’d like to add a couple “truths” as well.

1) God put me in this place because He needs me to do His work.

Sentiments like this are prolific throughout Christian culture, using Esther 4:14 as evidence. The verse is often quoted: “You have come (or, have been called) to this place for such a time as this.” Here’s the thing, dear ones – THAT’S NOT WHAT IT SAYS. Try again:

Such a timeFor if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 ESV) 

Mordecai is trying to convince his cousin to risk her life to prevent genocide. But Mordecai does not assume that Esther is, coincidentally, the only person on Earth who can prevent the horrific extermination of a people group. He tells her that God doesn’t need her, that help will arise from somewhere else if she is unwilling to stand. He basically tells her that she has an opportunity to be part of God’s plan, or she doesn’t have to, but the plan remains unaffected.

What hubris to assume God needs us for anything. He does us a favor by allowing us to take part in His work, not the other way around.

2) God will send you your husband when you least expect it/when you stop asking/when you are committed to Him/when you are [lame qualifier].

How many times have your married friends (who somehow assume they are the authority on marriage now) told you that, in so many words, that God is withholding your spouse from you until you complete some kind of checklist? HOW MANY TIMES? Married people, I know assume you mean well, but do you know what you’re doing? You are nurturing an entire culture of single Christians who believe that they can’t find “the one” because there is something wrong with them, despite seeing unsaved (and vastly less qualified) people fill up their news feed with wedding and baby photos. So we start to wonder, what kind of God would provide a mate for those people, and ignore my silent (and not so silent) pleas? It just seems cruel.

Then you look at us and remind us about Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart.” Cool, I can totally buy that. You know what I don’t see?

If, and only if, you delight yourself in the Lord in the manner approved by your married (and infinitely wise) fellow Christians, then He will give you every single desire of your heart, but only if you don’t want them anymore, because God doesn’t give you things until you stop wanting them.” (The Gospel of Syllogism 17:8)

As John Green has reminded us, “The world is not a wish-granting factory,” and neither is the God I serve.

*end rant*