Coming Soon …

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Good Friday morning, friends! Just a quick post to share some exciting news …

I am in the process of developing a new website / blog / brand for Living the Good Life! Woo Hoo!

After catching up with my fabulous cousin / friend / fellow Jesus-girl, Brooke DeBoer, last weekend at the lake and talking about our respective dreams and goals, she encouraged me to take the leap and do what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – have my very own piece of Internet real-estate where I can continue to connect, create, develop, and grow into the woman God desires me to be, glorifying Him using my unique gifts and talents as an author, blogger, encourager, photographer, and social worker.

I don’t have an exact date in place for when the new site will launch, but I hope to have it in place very soon! Until then, I’m going to be taking a break from this site to focus on getting everything just right for the new space!

My hope and prayer is to have a fresh, inspired, and retreat-like place for women to come and find encouragement for their souls, empowerment to go after their best lives now, and respite from a world that seeks to burden us with its demands and negativity. With Brooke’s expertise and help in this process, I have no doubt it will be all that and more when everything is said and done!

To those of you who have offered your love and support and believed in my dreams, as well as to those of you who have been following along with me here over the past couple of years – thank you SO much! I can’t wait to connect with each of you on the new site!

Stay tuned for more details and here’s to new (and GOOD) endeavors!

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What I’ve Learned From Abiding

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Back in June I shared about the call I felt God was putting on me in this season to “abide in Him.” As a follow-up to that, I thought I’d speak today on what I’ve learned as I’ve abided, remained, and stayed present with Him these past couple of months.

Last week I finished nine weeks of study on the fruits of the Spirit through the #NTDabide devotional. It was such a sweet time of opening God’s Word, of working things out in my heart and mind on paper, and letting the devotional messages speak life and truth to my heart and mind each week. It was just the thing I needed to curl up with every morning and helped set the tone for my days being empowered and inspired by His Spirit as I continued to learn the ropes of my new job and attend to things at home and up north in my downtime.

Here are the things I learned …

  1. “Abiding in Him” means I surrender to God and let Him take the reins. The eternal things, the things that really matter, are where I place my focus and let become my priority, whereas the temporary things, the things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme, aren’t as important as I make them out to be when it’s just me doing life on my own. And the things of God are so much better than mine!
  2. The goal of abiding is purpose. When I dig into the things of God, planting His Word in my heart and tilling my life with prayer, he grows me into the person He dreams for me to become. It’s all about finding and living the purposes and plans He has for my life.
  3. Creativity is a great way to commune with God. I was intentional about bringing His Word and the message of each devotional to life through my hobbies of bible journaling and hand-lettering. Spending time with God in this way allowed me to not only do things I enjoy, but provided a way for me to express myself artistically, using all different kinds of media and supplies to capture the beauty and essence of God’s truth.
  4. What I take in very much affects my outlook and perspective. I made a point of choosing carefully what I listened to, read, and watched over these nine weeks of abiding and there was a noticeable difference in how I felt as well as in my thought processes. It sounds like a silly (or maybe an obvious thing), but I think it’s important to note and will serve as a good reminder for me in the future when I find myself in a funk or in need of a break from things that are not serving me well.
  5. It’s God who does the work and grows the fruit; apart from Him, I can’t grow a thing. Doing things in my own strength often leads to frustration and striving and ultimately those anxious and perfectionist tendencies I’m so desperately wanting to be rid of. When I lean on Him for my strength, it releases the burdens that I all too often put on myself, giving Him room to do the work of growing me into the person He desires me to be.
  6. Abiding in Him leads to contentment and joy overall.

Following this, I’m convinced that abiding is to be lifetime practice and not just something I do for a season. Staying connected to God and allowing Him to work out His will and grow the fruit He wants, while pruning the things that need to go, is where true life is found.

And I don’t know about you, friends, but this is what I want – a life with lived with intention, having meaning, and radiating His glory!

Anniversary Adventure 2015

You know you’ve had a good vacation when you return home refreshed, full, and satisfied! That’s exactly how I felt last weekend when I got home from our eighth anniversary vacation out west last Saturday. Rather than feeling sad about having to come home and get back to the routine of daily living, I felt encouraged and inspired and ready to take on the coming days and weeks bringing us to the end of the summer season. It was so nice to open the door to the house and have everything taken care of, being able to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare for and rest in what’s ahead.

Here’s a little glimpse into our time away …

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A tour down the Las Vegas strip in our brand new Dodge Challenger we rented after flying in late Friday night.

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We woke up early Saturday morning and made the trek to California, deciding to stop and tour Death Valley on the way to our intended destination. Since we weren’t sure if we’d have another time to do it, and given it would be another National Park under our belt, we figured why not? And I’m so glad we did! Despite 113 degree temperatures, we managed to do some small walks and check out the more notable areas, making it one of the most unique places I’ve seen yet!

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From Death Valley we continued on to “our spot” for the next few days, a cabin nestled in the foothills of Sequoia National Forest, located just 1.5 miles from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. The views from the cabin of the hills and mountains, and being located right on the Kaweah River, made the perfect spot for quiet time with coffee each morning and time spent relaxing in the evenings.

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Sequoia National Park proved to be an absolute GEM with its incredible overlook of the mountains, humongous red-trunked trees, lush meadows filled with wildflowers, a river that flows emerald-green, and wildlife around every corner. This park had EVERYTHING – and we were blessed by our time spent hiking and resting there.

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Just north of Sequoia NP is Kings Canyon NP, and there is a lovely stretch of forest road that will take you from one park into the next. We were able to do the western side of Kings Canyon in one day, mostly driving with small stops along the way to see jagged cliffs, waterfalls, and more meadows. It, too, was absolutely stunning!

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Following five days in the wilderness, we decided to head to Southern California so we could take in the ocean and spend some time on the beach, which made us feel right at home given this is how we spend our summer weekends (only in fresh water, not salt water churning with sea creatures – LOL). We made our way along the coast from Laguna Beach to Dana Point, where we spent the afternoon soaking up the rays since it was less busy and we had more privacy on the beach. We had been to Dana Point back in January and it was very cool to be back in August and see that not much had changed from season to season except for more boats in the harbor and hotter temperatures.

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Our last full day of vacation was spent in California, for the most part, where we ventured to the city of Riverside so my husband could catch up with his cousin whom he hadn’t seen in close to 30 years. The reunion was lovely, as was the town with its Italian-esque decor and feel.

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Later in the day, we drove back to Las Vegas so we could catch our flight early Saturday morning, and decided to make the most of it by enjoying one last hoorah on the strip. We ate dinner, walked around, and did a little bit of gambling at the Bellagio, one of our most favorite places there with its fountain show and luxurious setting. It was a fun and exciting way to end our time out west together!

The overall pace, rhythm, and scenery of our trip was exactly what both the hubby and I were wanting when we booked this trip. Because of the three-hour time change, the days felt longer, making our time between activity and downtime balanced. I was able to read (and finish) a book, write every day, and even had time to practice my handlettering skills in my new journal as the beauty of our surroundings awakened and inspired my creativity! It was oh so good for our souls, and we are so thankful for this time and opportunity to have been together and explore more of our awesome country!

We look forward to our next big adventure, but in the meantime, we relish being back to reality and enjoying the simple things in this life and marriage. Praise God for a great start to this eighth year together! <3

Celebrating 8 Years!

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In just a few days, the hubby and I will officially celebrate 8 years of wedded bliss! EIGHT. YEARS.

It may not seem like a lot of time to be married to someone in the grand scheme of things, but for us, in many ways it feels like just yesterday that we said “I Do” on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan surrounded by our family and friends. It’s incredible to think about the time that has passed and all the things that have happened in these eight years together, including finishing school, developing individually in our career paths, buying a home, traveling the country, and growing in our family relationships and friendships. It’s been an awesome journey to share with one another. Even in the hard times, we have grown stronger as a couple and stayed a unified team. For that, I am so thankful.

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Marriage to Ken is probably my most absolute favorite thing about this life I live, and by far the blessing I am most grateful to God for, every single day. Being the wife to Kenny G is a non-stop adventure made complete with crazy love and a whole lot of comedy. Not one day goes by that he doesn’t make me laugh; even if he’s not trying to be funny, just the way he’ll say or do something will crack me up, and usually makes for good inside jokes or stories down the road. He takes care of me in every way, is one of the hardest working people I know, and is also one of the most selfless and giving people I know. He has taught me so much about what it means to love like Jesus loves us and has been a wonderful example, encourager, and supporter to me throughout these years. I am so honored to be Mrs. Kenneth James and to have him as my partner in life forever and ever.

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As we have done the past few years, we will be celebrating our special day with a nice dinner close to home, and at the end of the week we’ll be taking off on our annual anniversary celebration vacation! This year we are traveling from Detroit to Las Vegas, where we will again rent a car and road-trip to California for a week of exploring and hiking both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We’ll also probably take one day to see the ocean too – I can never resist an opportunity to hangout seaside. We are so looking forward to our time together, just the two of us, to take in and be refreshed by God’s creation and to revel in the beauty of this love we share.

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There is much to be thankful for in these days to come, and really every day. I pray I never take this blessing of a good and strong marriage for granted and that as the years go by, we only grow and thrive as we continue to create a life together.

In the meantime, here’s to us and these eight years, Kenny G. I love you and I thank you for being the best husband a girl could ever ask for. <3

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On the Road Again

If you’ve been following along with me here for any length of time, you know that travel is a regular part of my life and an activity that I very much appreciate and enjoy as much as possible throughout the year. While in the past traveling was simply recreational, it’s now a routine part of my work-life and fortunately, I transitioned into this new job at the most beautiful time of year to hop in a car and drive to various places for meetings and trainings.

Here’s a look at some of my travels the past few months …

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South Bend, Indiana (University of Notre Dame)

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Chicago, Illinois

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Alma, Michigan

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Cadillac, Michigan

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Manistee, Michigan

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Petoskey, Michigan

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Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

The glorious thing about traveling for work, at least for me, is that it makes work seem less like work and more like fun and adventure. I try to treat every excursion as an opportunity to take in the beauty of my surroundings, explore new places, and connect and meet with new people. I feel incredibly blessed for the experiences I’ve had thus far and know that the more I continue to get acclimated to this role will only provide me with more rich and fulfilling experiences to grow as a professional and capture more of God’s goodness in His creation and in my interactions with others. So, here’s to engaging in wanderlust and the treasures I’ll find along the way! <3

Joyful July

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The month of July is one that I absolutely LOVE. And for many reasons …

For starters, it’s usually the month in Michigan where it actually feels like summer even though summer officially started the month before. The sun shines brighter, the days are warmer, and everything is alive, bursting with energy and vibrant with color. For me, it means soaking up the rays as much as possible and getting filled with a healthy dose of Vitamin D while running along the lakeshore, laying on the beach, or spending time on the deck at home after work. July is a month where I really feel GOOD, inside and out, and it plain just makes me happy.

Secondly, July always starts off on an upbeat note with Independence Day festivities. Nothing says FREEDOM like being in the great outdoors with family, the best of friends, taking in good food and drinks, and watching fireworks over the big lake! We’ve even started a new tradition the last two years by hosting a wine and cheese party at the marina, inviting all of our fellow campers to eat, drink, and be merry along with us! This first weekend of the month is one we look forward to with just as much anticipation as we look forward to Christmas each year!

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Thirdly, July is an incredible month for road-tripping because the weather is usually more perfect than not. And given my job consists of many hours on the road for travel, I am happy that I get the chance to see some of Michigan’s best places this year as I travel from one place to the next for work.

Fourthly, this month is a month of BIG celebrations. Not only do we have July 4th, but at the end of the month my dad celebrates his birthday and the next day is our wedding anniversary! This year we celebrate 8 years of marriage! It’s hard to believe it’s been EIGHT full years already, but as they say, “time flies when you’re having fun,” and for this duo, there’s hardly ever been a dull moment for us since we said “I Do” on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. I can’t wait to celebrate with my hubby at home before we go on our big annual vacation next month!

Lastly, this July marks the end of six months (really seven full months since January was a prepping period) of intentional goal-setting using my 2015 PowerSheets. This process has been a true game-changer for me this year as it’s encouraged me to make the most of my days, weeks, and months altogether, and inspired me to go after those big dreams percolating in my heart step-by-step with prayer and planning. I definitely feel that doing this has greatly contributed to this year being one of my best yet and I totally intend to do it again next year! After doing this for the first half of the year, I feel excited for the last half and aim to end 2015 on a fabulous and strong note!

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So there, my friends, is why I LOVE July and why I am hence referring to this month now as “Joyful July,” because for the reasons listed above, there is much to be joyful about in this beautiful summer month! <3

Goal Accomplished!

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On the very last day of May, I returned home from the lake to find my full license for social work, otherwise referred to as an LMSW, in the mailbox! My relief? Priceless.

The process of obtaining this official document was three years (2012 – 2015) in the making, spanned across two jobs. I did not start the process immediately following graduate school, as most tend to do, because my employment following graduation did not require me to be licensed nor was there an incentive to work toward this goal. It was while in my second position that the opportunity to begin this work was presented and with full support from my then-supervisor, I went for it. And now finally, seven years after completing my MSW, it is FINISHED! Praise God!

Obtaining this license required numerous things: 4,000 hours of supervised work experience in the field, a four-hour test (that took six months to prepare and study for), fingerprinting / background check, and money to pay for each piece (the fee for a limited license every year plus the fee for my full license, fees for an exam-prep class, study materials and the test itself, fees for fingerprinting, and a monthly fee for outside supervision in my second job since I did not have an LMSW to oversee me in my place of employment). It took patience and a willingness to dole out a lot of money for that “L” in front of “MSW.”

While, admittedly, I found this process to be rather frustrating at times with the time and money it required of me, I always knew in the back of my mind that this all served an important purpose, namely proving that I have what it takes to be in this field and setting me apart as a “credentialed” social worker. And with it all said and done now, I’m so happy (and frankly, proud of myself) that I went through with it and thankful I had the support of those closest to me, including that initial push from my previous boss, to do whatever it took to get it accomplished.

The “coincidental” part of all of this is that the week I finished the requirements for my full license and sent in everything to the State of Michigan happened to be the same week I ended my position as Director, where oddly enough, having my LMSW wasn’t a “requirement” at all. However, my new position as a Regional Coordinator / Consultant, relies heavily upon my ability to manage, oversee, and supervise case management programs and staff, all of which the license allows me to do and proves I can do. I really don’t find it to be a coincidence at all, but rather God working out all things in His perfect timing for my good. He knew I would transition into a great position that I would love and that this credential was crucial to establishing myself confidently and positively in this role, so He made it happen! And that my friends is what we call a modern-day miracle! He is GOOD!

What I also find fabulous about the timing of having this done is that it all came together before summer activities started. That means I can really focus even more so on my goals of abiding and resting and soaking in every beautiful and perfect moment of this season without this monkey on my back. And that’s just what this girl needs … something else I believe God knew and ordained just for me. Again, He is GOOD!

At some point in the future, maybe in the fall and/or winter, I will pursue helping others work toward accomplishing this goal for themselves – whether it’s providing outside supervision for those who don’t have a LMSW in their place of employment or being a resource with the School of Social Work to help others navigate the license process. I learned a lot and found ways to keep myself organized and on track with accomplishing this goal, and if I can help even one other person through it, all those learnings will have been worth it!

In the meantime, I revel in having this goal marked “COMPLETE.” 2015 has been a VERY good year!