Celebrating 8 Years!

wedding1

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.

Wedding

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.

wedding2

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.

wedding6

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

wedding3

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 …

010

South Bend, Indiana (University of Notre Dame)

003

Chicago, Illinois

002

Alma, Michigan

002

Cadillac, Michigan

007

Manistee, Michigan

025

Petoskey, Michigan

031

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

087

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!

068

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!

006

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!

010

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!

My Favorite Things: Summer Edition

Happy Saturday! Today I thought I’d have a little fun and share some of my favorite (summer) things!

Here we go …

Books

007

Although I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction, I find that I really enjoy getting lost in a good story while sitting outside and soaking up the sunshine. Here are few I’ve recently read and recommend …

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal

Currently reading The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Health and Beauty

018

Norwex Body Cloths

My friend, Emily, introduced me to this amazing product, and my friend, Stephanie, is a Norwex Consultant, so it was a ‘no brainer’ for me to order a pack and try them out! I’ve been using them faithfully for the past two months, twice a day (morning and night), and they have made such an incredible difference on my skin! I love putting them under piping hot water and using them on my face (no soap required, really). My skin feels awesome after using them and they’re a great way to stay chemical-free and ultimately healthy! I can’t recommend these enough!

Young Living Essential Oils

I’ll admit I was skeptical at first about these. But after a little over a month of regular diffusing and applying topically, I am a believer! I have experienced a significant reduction in headaches, tension, and symptoms that come with allergies from incorporating these into my daily routine. My husband is also experiencing the benefits, and he was more skeptical that I was! I highly recommend purchasing the Premium Starter Kit if you’re looking to try them out. It’s a great way to experiment with various oils (singles and blends), and if you decided to continue with them, you get can purchase what you like at wholesale cost!

Shellac manicures. I’ve only had two, but I am totally hooked! I love this little treat to myself. They are no-nonsense, chip-resistant and therefore, absolutely PERFECT for this girl who is really low maintenance when it comes to things like this.

Music

hillsong empires

Because I’m on the road much more now for work, I find music to be a constant companion. I love all different kinds of music, but in this season, I’m finding the following especially comforting and uplifting …

Hillsong United: Empires

Acoustic Morning playlist (Spotify)

I also created my own playlist for 2015 on Spotify comprising various artists / songs that have spoken to me this year. This versatile blend of tunes has been great for me to listen to while reading, writing, driving, or even to just have on as background music while I work or do things around the house. If you have a Spotify account, feel free to look me up and check it out!

Recreation

002


I’m finally back to running outside, after months of training indoors to strengthen and build during my continued recovery from heel injury! It’s been wonderful to run my four-mile country block during the week as well as alongside the lakeshore while we’re up north on the weekends. I’m so thankful to be back to the sport that I love, and doing it more so as an expression of my ability and the pure enjoyment of it rather than for a medal or a PR.

We’ve been at our up north abode consistently on the weekends since we opened up for the season in May. Getting away helps to clear the mind and keep the focus on what is most important in life, namely God, family, friends, and the simple things overall. It’s been great to even spend more time up there now that my job takes me that way as well. (I’m grateful for having a comfortable and familiar place to stay while traveling for work, not to mention a workspace with a fabulous and peaceful view!) The weekends up north give us permission to sleep-in and do other things we wouldn’t otherwise do if we were home.

020

What are your favorite things in this season?

What things are filling your soul with all things good for summer?

eBook: One Year Later

eBook Cover

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since my eBook was published and made available to the world! How time does fly!

I’ve continued to hear from those of you who have purchased a copy and I so appreciate the feedback I’ve received from each one of you. It was definitely a bucket-list adventure and a labor of love for me, and I am still amazed at how God enabled me to bring my faith story to life in this format. It taught me so much about myself, about writing and publishing, and of course about God and His faithfulness, and I am honored and blessed to have had this opportunity!

If you’re interested in checking my eBook out, you can find it through the following retailers:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

ChristianBook

Google play

If you haven’t yet read it and decide to do so, let me know! I’d love to connect with those of you who have read it, and my blog for that matter, and to hear more about your own journey of faith!

Thanks for the support, friends! It’s your encouragement that spurs me on to do this thing in His name!

Blessings to you on this Friday! <3

To Abide

001

A recurring theme in my life over the past year seems to be the concept of “abiding.” Last summer I did the Naptime Diaries Abide (#NTDAbide) devotional / journal, and now as I’m working my way through the latest bible study by Kelly Minter, What Love Is, this theme has yet again re-emerged. And I’m a believer that when God brings up a concept more than once, it’s important to listen and take heed of what He’s working to reveal through what He’s speaking.

So, God … Abide. What’s this all about?

According to Kelly Minter’s study, the word “abide” derives from the Greek work “meno,” which can mean: “not to depart; to continue; to be present; to be held, kept; continually; to continue to be, not to perish, to last, endure (as referenced in the Blue Letter Bible).”

The concept of “abiding” is discussed thoroughly in John 15 where Jesus teaches,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (vs. 1, 4-5, ESV).”

It is reiterated again in 1 John 2 where John teaches,

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life. … The anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him (vs. 24-25, 27, ESV).”

As I ponder these verses and reflect on the times where I know I’ve been abiding in the grace, love, and Word of Jesus, this is what I believe God is confirming to me …

1) My life does not “work” when I am not abiding in Him. When I am not walking with God (seeking Him, following Him, trusting Him, giving things over to Him), life is a lot harder and I do not receive the best that I am free to have in Him, and that He indeed promises to give me. (see Psalm 37:4)

2) Two things are the mentioned in John 15: I abide in Him, He abides in me. So, if I’m not abiding in Him, I’m not allowing myself the full satisfaction of Him abiding in me. To think of the things I’m missing out on because of this is sad. I don’t want to miss out on anything that He has for me, because anything He has for me is better than I could ever imagine. (see Ephesians 3:20)

3) Abiding in Him leads to peace and rest. This I have experienced and know for myself. When my gaze is set on the mountains before me – the hardships, problems, and trials – and I’m consumed by the difficulties of life, I am not abiding in Him and as a result, I experience anxiety, doubt, fear, pain, and sorrow. Granted, life with God doesn’t mean an absence of these things, but abiding with God sure does squelch the level of power the mountains have over my heart, mind, and life. (see Psalm 23 and Philippians 4:4-9)

4) This world is constantly changing and in flux, but one thing remains the same forever – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the one thing in this life that is unchanging, despite many people’s attempts to change it, add to it, denounce it, etc. It stands the test of time, forever and ever, amen. If there’s anything, or rather anyone, I’m going to put my faith in – it’s Him and His Word. (see Hebrews 13:8 and 1 Peter 1:25)

God’s timing for this message could not be any more perfect. Last year I was focusing on abiding during a time of increased challenge and stress. This year I’m focusing on abiding during a time of change – in both season and work. God is speaking to me, reminding me to ABIDE in Him. To REMAIN in Him. To walk STEADY with Him. To be PRESENT with Him. And let Him do the rest. No need to control, to try to save myself by works alone. But to look to Him and keep my confidence and trust in Him. Period.

So that’s what I’m choosing to do. I’m choosing to abide. And it’s not a one-time thing, but a way of life. Each and every day.

I love this quote from Kelly Minter …

“We have a responsibility to allow the good news of Jesus, rooted in Scripture, to abide in us richly and in a way that will literally affect the way we live our lives. We need to actively foster this message of hope and truth in our hearts.”

And I’d like to take it a step further and say that as we abide in Him and His Word that we should live in such a way that not only affects our lives but the lives of those around us – making an impact on this world for His Kingdom and being an influence for His glory.

So let’s take God at His Word and abide in Him.

Let’s let Him do the rest of the work as He promises to do.

And let’s allow this process to change us.

For the better. For the good it will produce in our life and in our world.