Three more days of thankful

I have been trying to eat from the salad bar at work every day, and it has helped me to lose five pounds. (insert back flip here) Of course, I have gained and lost those five pounds several times over the last few months, but I’m hoping that my diligence in eating a healthy lunch every single day can help make that move permanent.

Then again, week-after-next I’m going to have a birthday date, a birthday girlfriend lunch, two family birthday dinners, and two Thanksgiving celebrations in a seven-day period (not to mention we bought 2-dozen cake balls from the lady who did our wedding cake!). I’m going to assume those five extra pounds will find their way back to me by the end of that week, but maybe my salad-eating ways will help chase them away the following week. I’m thinking optimistically.

Instead of opting for one of the high-calorie salad dressings from our salad bar, I bought my own bottles of own olive oil and basalmic vinegar and keep them stashed in one of my cabinets at work. Every day at noon I go to pull out these two glass bottles and something inside me feels a little naughty – like I’m really pulling out a bottle of gin for an afternoon happy hour at my desk, like they do in the movies… or Mad Men. At least, I think they do that on Mad Men… I’ve never actually seen the show. But that’s what I would suspect, based off what I’ve read about it in US Weekly.

Confession… I ended my 10-year US Weekly subscription right before Mr. Right and I got married because it seemed like a frivolous spend during a time when we were pinching every penny. But I did download the App on my iPhone, so I’m still in the know.

Yes, that’s a bottle of Lysol wipes and a hammer next to my oil and vinegar. There would be more randoms in there, but I’m about to move my office (temporarily) and so the rest of my junk is already packed… these are the only essentials that remain. 
So that brings me to what I’m thankful for:

Day 12 – I am thankful for those random moments in every day that delight me, entertain me, or bring an unexpected treat. Whether it’s a sweet comment from a coworker or getting hopelessly tickled over something that nobody else will ever understand, I am thankful for the little things that bring me unexpected joy.

Day 13 – I am thankful for late night walks around the lake with Mr. Right. We took one last night–it was unseasonably warm and provided such a calming end to our weekend–watching as the light danced off the lake and taking in the sound of… quiet.

Day 14 – I am thankful for my old Sunday School class. I dearly miss them, and they have been nice enough to let me visit them for the past few weeks as my own class covers something I’ve already studied twice this year. I am thankful for Katie and Amy and the sacrifices they make to teach us every week, and to the other girls who pray for each other (and for me). It’s a good reminder, over and over and over, that I’m not alone

I am thankful for my daily Bible study

On Day 11, I am thankful for my daily Bible study. 
Mr. Right and my in-laws gave me this gorgeous chaise lounge for my birthday last year, and it has become my very favorite Bible study spot in the mornings. Imagine me sitting on this, curled up in a blanket sipping my first cup of coffee of the day, with my Bible open and my pen ready. This is my spot.
For the record, I don’t particularly like the term quiet time. It sounds a lot like time out. I guess I can just call it my daily Bible study, but even that sounds so academic. It’s my time to curl up with my savior, to pour out my heart and to fill my mind with truth so it can weed out all the gunk and insecurities that have crept in from the day before. Maybe I could call it my Mornings With Jesus? It sounds so much more brighter.
Right out of college I was mentored by a Sunday school teacher, and one of the first things I asked her was, “What does your daily Bible study time look like?” I asked everybody I looked up to, because I wondered what “magic” thing they did that made them crave their Bible. I learned that there’s no magic way, and that everybody’s looks a little different.
In case you’re wondering, here’s what I do… for now. It changes occasionally. For instance, before I got married, I used to do my Bible study in the quiet of the evening, before I went to bed. Or, if I knew I would have a conflict, I’d do it on my lunch break at work, or after work, but before I left the office. But when I got married, my schedule was turned upside down and I had trouble juggling time with my husband, my workout, housecleaning, grocery shopping, time for projects I want to do, hanging out with friends… and my Bible study.
And so with the encouragement from Mr. Right, I moved to the early morning Bible study, because then I never have a conflict (except for two morning meetings a month). My alarm now goes off at 5:30 a.m. (gulp) and I’m out of bed with coffee made by 5:45. I curl up in my reading nook and start with a short prayer, and then I read a daily devotional from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest – this is new, I just started that part last week. It’s a quick one-page read, and then I start on whatever I want to study in my Bible. 
I find that I need to have a plan before I start – otherwise I tend to fumble along and lose motivation. I’m easily distracted, so having a plan works for me – it’s not for everybody. For the past few months I used a workbook on the life of Paul by Beth Moore to guide my daily devotional. Now that I’m finished, I am working my way chronologically through the New Testament with this guide. (You can even sign up for a daily email update with the day’s reading–let technology work for you.)
After I do the day’s reading (sometimes I do two days’ worth if it’s short) then I do a longer time of prayer. I keep a prayer journal where I write down all the things I want to pray for, and that helps me keep a record. It’s so encouraging to look back on what I’ve been praying for and see all the places God has answered my prayers. I also write things I learned in my daily reading, including verses I want to memorize or things I want to study further. I have a whole slew of old journals that are so sweet to look back on.
Girlfriend, learn from my mistake: I keep a separate prayer journal for home and I do NOT take it with me to church. Because sometimes I write very personal prayers in my journal, and one time I lost my journal at church. I won’t lie, I almost peed in my pants. More so, because my husband works at the church and I was terrified a coworker might find it and read through it. That’s a mistake you don’t make twice.
How long does all this take? About 45 minutes to an hour. There’s no magic time limit, but it’s what seems to be working for me… for now. Let me encourage you that I am NOT an early morning person and that for the first few weeks it was tough to focus when I wasn’t all the way awake. But like anything, you get used to it, and now I’ve come to look forward to those early morning times of peace before the chaos of life starts raining down. 
So that’s my way of doing things. Not the only way, but if you’re trying to get motivated to start reading the Bible every day, maybe it can be a jumping off point for you. And, if you have another way of doing things, I would love to hear from you – I am always up for new ideas.
“Sanctify them with truth; your Word is truth.” -John 17:17

I am thankful God protected me

On day 10, I am thankful that God protected me during a very scary wreck. As I was driving on 820 between I-35 and 183, an 18-wheeler driving in front of me swerved and hit the car next to it. That wreck caused a lot of chaos and debris, and the car next to me swerved to miss the wreck and ended up hitting me. 
In the midst of the chaos, I am thankful that I didn’t hit the 18-wheeler ahead of me. I didn’t get rear-ended by anybody behind me. I didn’t hit the concrete barrier to my left (it was an area with heavy construction and concrete barriers on both sides of the highway with no shoulder or room to move). I never lost control of my car. And best yet, the people involved in the accident were all polite and insured.
Yesterday could have turned out very differently, for all four cars. But I am thankful that God chose to protect us. Time to celebrate.
“How can I repay the Lord for all His acts of kindness to me? I will celebrate my deliverance, and call on the name of the Lord.” -Psalm 116:12-13

I am thankful for my job

Note: I wrote this on Wednesday and never got to give it a final edit before posting it… so here we are two days late, but it doesn’t make me any less thankful.

Today, on day nine, I am thankful for my job. Actually, I’m thankful that I even have a job in this crazy economy. But more than that, I’m thankful that I have a job that is rarely boring.

I’m thankful for days like today, when I came to work with a strict schedule and a long to-do list, only to drop everything to work with a local news station on a story about childhood obesity. I’m a total news nerd, so there’s something exciting about contributing to the day’s news, and it is always fun to be involved behind the scenes. There is no better feeling than to stretch out on your couch to watch the 10:00 news after a long work day and to know that the lead story was something you dreamed up while taking your shower that morning.

It doesn’t hurt when that news story involves cute, blond-haired babies.

At work I have gotten to throw big parties, worked with some of the best chefs and photographers, and rubbed shoulders with some extremely creative folks. I’ve gotten to work the finish line at my favorite marathon and pitch stories for my local women’s shelter. I’ve attended 100 galas and met local celebrities. Soon I will get to dress as Mrs. Santa Claus and hand out ice Christmas cookies to my coworkers’ children. I get to see my writing in print on a regular basis, and I have convinced my husband to drive by and wave at my billboards as we pass them on the freeway.

All those keep life interesting, but yesterday was one of my highlights. I got this in the mail:

My heart almost stopped when I got a letter addressed to me labeled “Official Business from the U.S. House of Representatives.” Somewhere in Waco my freshman government professor is beaming with pride. A project I have worked on for two years (part of my grad school thesis that I started in the summer of 2009) was published in the Congressional Record – Vol. 157, No. 135 to be exact. 
I am thankful for the wackiness I encounter every day at the office, and even more, I am thankful for the people who work with me – some of my very dearest friends, who have stood with me in the pouring down rain during events, who have helped me haul heavy boxes and stuff envelopes, and who put up with the mountains of collateral and give-away items that stack up around my office. When I got married, one of my dearest coworkers was in my wedding, and countless others came to cheer me on. After almost eight years (plus another year as a college intern, way back in the day), this place feels like family.

I am thankful for these fashion trends

7. Today, on day 7 I choose to be shallow in my thankfulness. I was about to tackle the “I am thankful for my parents” post, but there was just too much to say for the short time I have available for today’s post.

So today I am thankful for these fashion trends…

-I am thankful that flats continue to remain in style. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or smarter, but schlepping around a giant hospital campus in stilettos has lost its luster after almost eight years. Give me my trusty flats any day. The heels are only around for rare, special appearances (and then I carry flats around in my big purse).

-I am thankful for big purses, inside which I can haul just about everything from my bathroom counter, plus a change of shoes, a cardigan, an umbrella, a book, and my giant thermos of coffee. There have been days when I brought a spare curling iron to work. Or used it to carry Indiana corn. If it weren’t for my big purse, I would have to travel with a pack mule.

-I am thankful that my husband lets me steal his clothes. I told him that in marriage, what’s mine is his, and what’s his is mine… but when it comes to clothing, I get the better end of that bargain (thank you societal double standards). Not only does he have the softest, most comfortable t-shirts (he has a great eye for thrift shirts and American Apparel tees), the warmest fleeces and hoodies that smell just like him (sigh)… but I just discovered that his dress socks work GREAT underneath my tall boots. I used to wear ankle socks with them, and they were always slipping off, but one day, when I was behind on laundry, I scrounged around in his sock drawer and found something to fit under the boots. It’s pure bliss. Who knew?

-I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m thankful for my new black skinny jeans. They’re stretchy and feel just like leggings, but so dark that they still hide “problem areas” and they tuck perfectly into my boots, which I think I may wear every day this fall. I am way late to that game, but I love my new skinny jeans. (If you’re wondering, they’re Ann Taylor Loft, and I had to go up a size from what I normally wear, but I’m choosing to assume that they were simply incorrectly sized and are actually a 00. Wink, wink.)

-I am thankful for leggings which make short dresses less scandalous and which allow me to stretch my sundress wardrobe into the fall with the help of a cardigan and a scarf. They are the most comfortable things on the planet.

What about you? What fashion trends are you especially thankful for?

I am thankful for my church

6. I am thankful for my church. It, and the people in it, feel like home. They have been there for me since I was a wide-eyed 23-year-old, six months in to working at my first “big girl” job in a new town, back when I didn’t own any furniture, when the thought of being an adult was totally foreign and when I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. I am thankful for the women who invested in my life, for the pastor who first handed me the reigns to teach, and for the people who have walked with me through struggles, illnesses, death and breakups, and also celebrated with me in some of my very best moments, who have traveled the world with me, who cheered for me as I walked the aisle to marry Mr. Right, and who continue to encourage us now as newlyweds.

I have made my sweetest friendships at church. With those friends I have cruised to Mexico, floated the river in Gruene, run a half marathon, hiked mountains in Colorado, and visited Italy, Greece, Spain and Croatia (along with napped in the airport in Brussels). I have found friends who were willing to live an adventure with me, who helped me decorate my Christmas tree and who taught me how to throw a football.

I met my husband at our church… fittingly, it was in the coffee area before Sunday School. So I’m also grateful for those who serve behind the scenes taking care of silly details like coffee, which happened to change my life.

My church and the people in it have changed my life, and I am grateful. I am grateful for our head pastor and his team of ministers who give of their time and energy to love and lead the rest of us. And I am grateful that my church chose to hire Mr. Right and provide him with a huge blessing and learning opportunity as he plugs away on that seminary degree. I can say that I love my church even more after hearing through my husband just how committed our church workers are, and watching with a front-row seat how they love Jesus through loving his people.

May I encourage you that if you don’t have a church family, if you’ve felt distant from your church, or you feel like you’re alone – be brave and try again. We were not created to be silos, we weren’t created to serve alone, or to suffer alone, or to celebrate alone.

If you come to mine, I’ll save you a seat.

I am thankful for blog friends

5. I’m thankful for my blog friends. There’s several girls from my past and present that I feel like I really know because of their faithful blog updates. There’s a lot to be said for being committed to something and producing stories and memories that can entertain or inspire the rest of us on a regular basis. I am thankful for them, and for their willingness to share their stories.

Lindsay, my new “cousin” (I think that’s what we are?) through marrying Mr. Right. His family is enormous, so I’m never 100% sure how we’re all related, but regardless I’ll call her a cousin and say that she’s made the family reunions even more fun. Lindsay, are you still knitting? I’m close to finishing that giant purple blanket from this summer.

Stephanie is a sorority sister from Baylor and one of my best memories with her is when she did my hair for one of our formals. She always had style and creativity, and now she’s putting that to good use as a wife and mom in Fort Worth while her husband wraps up his medical school residency. She’s like Martha Stuart, only much more relatable. 
I’ve known Marcy since we were in the second grade. She lived around the corner from me, and not only did we spend countless hours playing at each others’ houses, but we were in all the same classes for our entire elementary school career. After losing touch for a decade it’s fun to hear about her adventures as a mom of twins. 

Rachel became one of my closest friends in grad school – a voracious reader and a strong Christian woman and one of our professors called her the best writer she’s ever read. So of course I enjoy reading what she has to say. 

Our dear friends Chelsea and Mack also happen to be the dynamic McGowan Images photography team. They’ve photographed Mr. Right and I four times now, plus I’ve started using them for some work events (now there’s a new audience to RAVE about their pictures… they’re legendary). Working in the industry I do, I adore creative people and find them to be wonderfully interesting, along with being wicked funny and really kind people. And they have cute kids, which makes for great blog reading. 
 I read her blog for years, and then won a national contest to become pen pals with her soldier cousin while he was serving in Iraq (I never win anything! But rest assured this was well before I met Mr. Right). It was one of those crazy stories that I couldn’t have made up if I tried, but in the process got to know Lincee a little bit, which makes her blog even more fun to read. It’s one of the main reasons I stick with watching The Bachelor – she writes the greatest recaps after every episode that will make you giggle until you come dangerously close to wetting your pants. Not that I know from experience.
I know all of these girls have something in comment – they LOVE it when people comment on their blog. So do your favorite bloggers a favor and leave them a note when they write something you enjoy… I promise you it will make their day brighter. Especially this blogger (hint, hint)…

I’m thankful for mixed tapes

4. I’m thankful for friends who make me mixed tapes.

My friend Katie knows that I have a big doctor appointment coming up, and that I’m a little worried about it, so she responded by praying for me. And making me a mixed tape of praise songs about healing. I’m in mixed tape heaven.

A few weeks after Mr. Right and I started dating, he surprised me with a mixed tape. I used to listen to it over and over and feel all googly.

For almost a decade my two sisters and I used to make “Breakup CDs” for each other. They were filled with Beyonce girl power anthems and fist-pump-inducing “I don’t need boys to make me happy” songs. They were good for my 22-year-old soul.

I heart mixed tapes.

After I finished survived grad school, I threw myself a big graduation party and made a mixed tape party favor for all of my guests. Not to brag or anything, but people are still talking about its awesomeness. And because I like you, I thought I’d let you in on the playlist:

Single Ladies – Beyonce
Girl Named Tennessee – Needtobreathe
Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
Haven’t Met You Yet – Michael Buble
Love Story – Taylor Swift
Lay ‘Em Down – Needtobreathe
Give a Little Love – The Judds
Don’t Waste the Pretty – Allison Iraheta
You Are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
Big Green Tractor – Jason Aldean
Cupid Shuffle – Cupid
Supermassive Black Hole – Muse
Mood Rings – Rlient K
American Woman – Lenny Kravitz
My Savior My God – Aaron Shust
You Never Let Go – Matt Redman
Washed by the Water – Needtobreathe
1,000 Miles – Mark Shultz
Nothing Ever Hurt Like You – James Morrison
Thank You – Keith Urban

My husband thinks my musical taste (and my dance skills) peaked in 1993. I think I’m just one of those cool vintage music lovers who can appreciate the depth and genius of Vanilla Ice.

I’m thankful for Dave Ramsey

3. I am thankful for Dave Ramsey. My husband and I have drunk the envelope system kool-aid and it has done wonders for our marriage. We took Financial Peace before we got married (and a second time right after we got married… the benefits of being married to someone who helped with that class at our church) and we have used Dave’s system to create a budget, which we treat as something written in permanent ink.

The first 2-3 months were hard – we’d create a budget, and it was always off. Not enough money here, too much money there. But after three months, it worked beautifully! No more spending hours reconciling things, no more adding up a bunch of $5.75 Chick-fil-a receipts from my debit card, no more feeling guilt for making a purchase. With our all-cash spending system, we each have total freedom to do whatever we want with our own envelopes. If I want to blow all of my “Bethe” money on pedicures instead of buying lunch or going out with girlfriends, it’s my decision. If Mr. Right wants to spend all of his money on “gear” (whatever “gear” is… all I know it involves outdoor or sporting equipment that I never really understand what it does) then he doesn’t have to ask my permission. We also have envelopes for dates, groceries, clothes, haircuts, car repairs, and gifts. We pay our bills online but pre-budget those as well.

By following our envelope system (and thus knowing in advance how we want to spend our money for the month) it has allowed us to pay off almost all of our debt, most of the time while paying two mortgages. Our hope is that by the end of December my car will be totally paid off (three years early) and we’ll be completely debt-free except for our house.


If you’re struggling with your budget, I want to encourage you to give Dave a try. Math puts me to sleep, and looking at a budget is about as much fun as going to the dentist, but now that we’ve figured ours out, it requires just a few minutes of discussion once a month, and it has eliminated a lot of opportunities for fighting.

We don’t ever want to be slaves to a big mortgage or fancy cars. We want to live simply, beneath our means, so that we’re free to enjoy ourselves and to bless others. It’s a lot easier to do that when you know where your money is going.

So thanks Dave!