Welcome, 2018!

What would you like to accomplish in 2018?

How did you do on your 2017 New Year’s resolutions? Do you remember what they were? I only had one this year – to marry the man of my dreams – which I accomplished fifteen days into 2017. That’s not really how those things are supposed to work, though, right?

I don’t know your life story but New Year’s resolutions have never been a fit for me. They’re a little like dieting in that if you tell me I can’t do something, it’s more tempting to do it. And usually the things I’m  attempting to resolve to do are so unachievable, I set myself up for failure.

I’ve attempted in the past to schedule new Bible reading regimes or plan out a year of workouts at the gym and all the planning and preparation goes great! It’s the execution that fails every time.

This, inevitably, turns into feelings of guilt, failure, and disappointment and the things I was so excited to accomplish loom over my head in gloomy clouds of self-doubt. So, yeah, resolutions are not my thing.

BUT goals are!

When I start thinking of goals instead of resolutions, the pressure immediately comes off. Goals can be worked toward. Goals can be accomplished or they can be postponed. Goals can be met half way or you can have stretch goals – things you hope to achieve if you meet your other goals, but if you don’t, they’ll be on next year’s list. Goals, to me, are so much easier to wrap my head around. They are a way to reasonably target your time and energy as opposed to trying to check off an over-eager to-do list.

So this year, I’m thinking about the kind of person I want to be in 2018 and setting goals to help me focus my time and energy to becoming that person. Here are a few things I’ll be working towards becoming in the new year:

  1. A Scripture-Knower. I want to get back into memorizing scripture. Knowing what God says is not only how we get to know Him better but how we fight our sin. Working towards this goal will have me in the Bible and reflecting on God’s word all the time which is something I need more of daily.
  2. A Precious Wife. Now that Jake and I are nearly one year in, I feel like I have more of a handle on who he is and what my role as his wife looks like. I want to be the kind of Proverbs 31 woman that lifts him up, works hard, and shows humility and patience regardless of her circumstances.
  3. An Intentional Consumer. I want to be mindful of the things I put in my body as well as the things I put in my mind. 2017 was a big year for me as far as making healthier food choices on a regular basis and I hope to continue that trend in 2018. But even more, I want to be conscious of the other things I consume – TV, movies, books, social media – and their impact in my life. I don’t want to live my life through a screen and the first step in that is being mindful of what/how/when I’m consuming too much of the things I don’t want in my life.
  4. A More Available Friend. I’ll be honest, I have not done a great job being a friend in 2017 and I need to do better. It’s been very difficult to maintain individual friendships now that I’m married but I don’t want that to be an excuse for letting amazing people fall away from my life. I need the support and community of God-fearing women in my life regardless of my marital status and improving those relationships starts with me.
  5. A Gracious Host. Now that we have the space in our new house, I want to put it to good use. We’ll be renting out rooms on Airbnb during festival weekends here in Austin but more than that, I want our house to be a place of refuge for those that need it. I want our house to be a gathering point for friends and family, brothers and sisters – I want to love people with what God’s given us.

That’s the kind of person I hope to become in 2018. Obviously I know it’s not something that can happen over night, but I believe these goals are in line with what God wants for my life and I’ll be praying that He continues to provide opportunities to become more like Him in these areas.

This year, let’s challenge each other to keep these goals in mind as life inevitably starts distracting us. Let’s hold each other accountable to growing as humans together. Because I know I can’t do it alone.

Are you doing resolutions or goals for 2018? What kind of person would you like to see yourself become in the new year?

How to Adult: Healthy Eating During the Holidays

You don’t have to totally ditch your diet for the holidays. Here’s how I’ll be enjoying all my favorites this week while still eating responsibly!

How to Adult: Healthy Eating During the HolidaysI have been doing my absolute best to eat healthy over the past couple of months, a challenge made significantly harder by all the holiday goodness. Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year and Christmas has ALL the good desserts. It’s really stinking hard to make wise nutrition choices right now!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed about staying mindful of your diet this week, here are some tips to help us both stay on track while still enjoying the Christmas spirit!

#1 – Control Your Portion Sizes

This is my every day go-to tip for my diet and it really does work! My favorite way of doing this is just by grabbing a smaller plate. Big plates make it super tempting to just fill ‘em up but if you have a smaller plate, there’s less room to fill. I also find using paper plates to be a helpful option, especially the cheaper ones, because you can feel the weight of your food a lot more dramatically. Yes, Christmas china is pretty but paper plates are disposable and can help you control your portion sizes…I think I know which one I’d go for.

#2 – Eat Only When You’re Hungry

This one is tricky for me because my body is not great at letting me know when I’m hungry. But one of the real dangers with holiday over-eating comes not so much in the meal itself but all the grazing that happens throughout the day. I know in my family we’ll have breakfast and then snack until the big meal is ready sometime in the afternoon and boy, do those snacks get ya! Reading your body’s natural signs of hunger and only eating when it tells you to is hard but so worth it.

#3 – Drink More Water

This is another one straight off my day-to-day diet but it’s so good, it just had to be included in this list. Water. We need it but there’s a lot of other delicious holiday drinks that like to get in our way of consuming more of it. Opting for water instead of eggnog will not only save you calories but also help out with tip #2. If you think you’re hungry, drink a glass of water. If you’re still hungry when you finish, you can eat. But a lot of the times, our bodies tell us we’re hungry when really we just need more water.

#4 – Eat You’re Veggies First

So much of what we like to eat during holidays is protein and carbs so eating your veggies first may not be your favorite idea but it will help make sure you get all those good vitamins and nutrients before you get too full to get around to them. This is probably a good practice to get into for day-to-day life too, but I just can’t bring myself to make it a normal practice just yet. I’ll hold on to my childish dislike of most veggies for a little longer, thank you very much.

#5 – Only Indulge in What You Love

It’s Christmas, go ahead and treat ‘yo self! But instead of filling an entire plate with every tasty treat on the counter, scout out only the things you’ll really cherish and enjoy those. Ask yourself “what are my three favorites?” or “What’s something I only get to treat myself to during the holidays?” to help narrow down your options.

#6 – Don’t Feel Guilty

It’s Christmas! It’s ok to indulge. Feeling guilty won’t delete calories that you’ve already eaten. Nor will it replace the benefits of a morning run. Basically, feeling guilty doesn’t get you anywhere. Be kind to yourself and remember that each day is a fresh start to take care of your body.

I hope these tips help you enjoy Christmas this week and enjoy yummy, delicious foods that make your heart smile. Eating healthy during the holidays is tough work so do your best and feel good about it. And remember that tomorrow is a new day with a fresh start.

PSA: Christmas Has Changed

If you haven’t noticed yet, Christmas is different as an adult.

PSA: Christmas Has ChangedSo Friends, I have a confession: I hate surprises. Mostly when I know they’re coming. Christmas has always been a fun challenge of my stealth skills as I’ve always done everything within my power to know my gifts ahead of time. My parents were pretty great at being Santa Claus but the magic didn’t last long because they never anticipated my extreme impatience and ninja skills.

I remember as a kid sneaking down the staircase and watching them set up all my gifts and taking bites from cookies. When they’d go back to bed, I’d walk around and check out some of my new toys and leave them right where my parents had left them so that no one would know I’d gotten up in the middle of the night.

When I got older and my family stopped doing Santa gifts, I would go on hunts through the house to find my presents before they were wrapped. This usually happened right around when school started because my mother is famous for doing Christmas shopping WAY too early.

And when I started working at a toy store in high school and college, I became so great at wrapping presents that I could skillfully and stealthily unwrap whatever was under the tree for me and re-wrap it, making Christmas morning much more fun by getting to act shocked and surprised.

I still don’t like surprises but since I’m a grown-up now, I don’t have the opportunity for stealthy Christmas antics. More than that though, I think I’m losing Christmas spirit as I get older. Maybe I need to sing louder for all to hear but I really do feel like Christmas cheer is harder to generate these days. In school, there were always breaks for holidays but my big girl job isn’t quite so generous. And now that Jake and I are married, figuring out the holidays has gotten a lot more complicated.

I think part of the reason Christmas feels less magical though is that my priorities have changed. I care a whole lot less about the presents under the tree these days and a whole lot more about celebrating Baby Jesus with my family. While I am still a firm believer in holiday traditions, I hold on to them as an adult for the time spent with loved ones rather than for the magic of preparing for Santa. So maybe, the magic isn’t harder to come by, maybe Christmas is just a different kind of magic as an adult.

Regardless of whether or not you’re feeling the magic this year, I hope you hold on to the hope that Jesus’ birth brings and make your own brand of Christmas magic with the people you love.

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Jackie

My Cozy Go-To Holiday Read (And My Winter Reading List!)

I have a favorite book to read around this time of year…do you?

My Cozy Go-To Holiday Read

I just love this time of year, don’t you? It’s a little bit cooler and the air is filled with excitement and urgency for the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, though, and my instinct when things start getting a little crazy is to pick up a book.

My holiday go-to is Pride and Prejudice. I can read this book any time of year but for some reason, I’m always drawn to it around the holidays. Maybe it has something to do with the resemblance of the Bennett family to my own, or the fact that my bestie and I were obsessed with the book (and 2005 movie) all throughout high school, but this book always feels like coming home.

I have a good friend who feels the same kind of way about Wuthering Heights and she unashamedly rereads it every year around this time. I think there’s just something about classic literature that is comforting and that speaks to our souls differently than modern novels and stories can. And when life gets crazy as it often does around this time of year, we want something warm and cozy to wrap up in.

Now that I’ve rambled enough about holiday reading, I can get to the good stuff! 😉

For my last reading list I realized that seven books may be a bit ambitious with how busy I am. So for my Winter Reading List, I’m implementing stretch goals. It will be my goal to finish the last two books on my list but if I don’t, they’ll be the top two on my next list!

And, as I did last time, I will include a ☑️ next to the books I finish as I finish them so if you ever want to chat about a story or character when I’m done, I’m happy to do so!

So without further ado, here’s my Winter Reading List that I’m super stoked about!

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) ☑️

This is another book where if you haven’t read it or don’t know anything about it, we just can’t be friends. Read the book. Watch the movie. Get educated about this classic. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy are some of the greatest characters ever written.

Attachments (Rainbow Rowell) ☑️

This is a quirky story that follows a guy named Lincoln whose job is to read email conversations between employees at a company to make sure they’re in compliance with company policy. However, long emails between friends Beth and Jennifer take lonely Lincoln by surprise when he realizes he has deep feelings for one of the girls.

Quality is Free (Philip Crosby)

I’m currently reading Quality is Free for professional development at work and I find it absolutely fascinating. This book is one of the first written about the internal quality management of a company. The idea is that quality (compliance with set standards) is free but not complying to high standards of quality can be very costly. If you’re a process, quality assurance, or organization operations nerd like me and you haven’t already read this, I highly recommend it.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie)☑️

This movie came out in November and I had no idea it was a book. I know, shame on me. I should just always assume movies are books first because so often they are. This classic detective novel is set on a train on its way from Istanbul to London and is filled with quirky and suspicious characters in a real whodunit mystery (my favorite).

Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng) ☑️

As much as this book is another mystery novel, it is also a story about family and our struggles to understand those closest to us. Set in Ohio in the 1970s, the Everything I Never Told You follows a Chinese American family’s descent into chaos when their favorite daughter’s body is found in the local lake. This one was on the top of all the lists in 2014 but I’m just now getting around to it and I’m pumped to read it!

Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)

I, like most of America, absolutely loved this movie and cannot wait to read this book. For my friends who live under a rock, Hidden Figures is about three brilliant African-American women at NASA who become the brains behind launching John Glenn into orbit. Filled with girl power, inspiration, and the beautiful story of kicking discrimination in the butt, Hidden Figures is the true non-fiction story of how Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson changed history.

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff (Chip Gaines) ☑️

I am a woman from Texas therefore I’m obsessed with Fixer Upper (HGTV) and Chip and Joanna Gaines in general. So of course I have to read Chip’s new book Capital Gaines where he talks about things his mentors taught him and, like the title suggests, all the things he’s learned from taking risks and being his crazy-antics self. I’m excited to hear what he has to say about business but I’m also just excited to hear all his crazy stories because you know they’ll be good.

What do you think? Will you be joining along this winter? Read any of these already? Let’s chat!

How to Adult: Hosting for the Holidays

Planning to host friends or family this holiday season and not sure where to start? Here’s some simple ideas to be the hostest with the mostest (even if you have no idea what you’re doing)!

How to Adult: Hosting for the HolidaysWith the holiday season in full swing, it seems like Jake and I have a party or event to attend every other weekend! With so much going on, I’m not sure we’ll get around to hosting anything ourselves this year but getting to be a party-goer so often recently has given me plenty of ideas for being a better party-thrower. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to have your friends thinking you’re profesh at throwing holiday parties!

  • Set the melodic mood – No matter the size or theme of your party, (background) music is super helpful in creating the right atmosphere. Spend some time on Spotify curating a playlist to help the evening flow just the way you envision.
  • Get your stuff clean – I know this sounds incredibly silly but having a clean home is absolutely necessary. Clear the clutter from the main rooms your guests will occupy and make sure your kitchen and bathroom are sparkling. Why did I add kitchen? Because if you’re serving any time of food and your kitchen is a hot mess, it reflects poorly on whatever you just slaved over to serve. Trust me, clean your stuff.
  • Arrange seating – You can take this piece of advice as literally as you would like. My original thought was along the lines of making sure you have enough places for your guests to sit comfortably (my and Jake’s biggest challenge in our 600 square feet). But if you’re having a dinner party, you may want to pre-arrange seating so that your guests have the best time possible. After all, you know your guests probably better than they know each other. If you think people will click, sit them next to each other and watch new friendships form. Similarly, if you think certain personalities won’t work in close quarters, seat them away from each other.
  • Have a place for jackets/purses – This is something small that a lot of people don’t seem to think about any more. Having a designated spot where people can dump their junk keeps your party area looking and feeling cleaner and bigger and your guests will appreciate not having to look after a jacket or carry their purse all evening.
  • Give your guests something to do – I really like the idea of assigning friends or family with certain tasks throughout the night to ease the burden of hosting. If you don’t think it’s classy to assign guests with cleaning or cooking duties throughout the evening, how about assigning a particularly friendly guest with making sure everyone is introduced? Or, if you have a friend with a good sense of the mood in the room, how about putting them in charge of your playlist for the evening? Play up the strengths of the friends or family that you involve and make sure everyone is game for it before the party, but having helpers definitely makes the multi-tasking host’s life a little bit easier
  • Have lighting set the mood – Similar to music, lighting is a huge factor in creating your ideal party atmosphere. Want people to dance? Make it dark and, if you have them, turn on the party lights. Want your guests to participate in a game? Keep the lights bright enough so that they know what’s going on. Not sure what kind of lighting is best? I’d suggest lower light or candlelight because it makes everyone glow and brings people together!
  • Light it up with vanilla extract – This is possibly my favorite trick! Before guests arrive, spray or dab vanilla extract onto lightbulbs near the party area. Do this while the light is off so that when you turn it on for the party, the heat will release the vanilla and make your party smell delicious!

Have any other go-to party tricks? I can’t wait to try these out next time Jake and I host at our place! If you try them before me, let me know how it goes in the comments!

Thanksgiving Day Activities to Fight the Food Coma (That Aren’t Football)

Need some ideas for fun ways to beat the turkey hangover on Thanksgiving Day? I’ve got a few!

Adobe Spark (13)I mentioned last week that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s something about it that I just love. Maybe it’s the family time, or the food, or the fact that there’s no presents to distract us from actually being thankful. Whatever it is, I love it and it’s coming up so fast!

The one thing I’m not a fan of with Thanksgiving is that because it’s not such a fanfare of presents and traditions like Christmas is (at least in my family), we tend to end the day early and fall asleep on the couch.

Now, as much as I love food coma naps, I’d also just like to enjoy more time with my family while we’re all together.

If you’re like me and want more ways to keep your family from whiling away your post-feast hours together and making the most of your day, here are some ideas we can try out this year!

Family Thanksgiving Journal – I just think this would be a cool one to start. My family usually goes around and says what we’re thankful for but what if we wrote it down every year? The idea behind the journal is that you get to look back on past years and be thankful, not just for the current year, but for all the ways God has worked since you started it.

Board and card games – Obviously! My family isn’t huge on board games but they are pretty competitive card players. If it won’t tear your family apart, set up a game tournament and compete for the Turkey Day Champion!

Talk a hike!…I mean, walk – What better way to start working off all that stuffing and pie? Get the siblings together and take a walk to a park or around the neighborhood to get active and fight off that turkey-induced coma!

Scavenger hunt – You could totally add this to your walk and make it a two for one! Someone will have to be in the know about where and what is hidden, but if you play your cards right, you could have the whole family hunting and guessing all day!

Turkey bowling – This seems like so much fun! Grab an extra turkey at the grocery store when you do your Thanksgiving turkey and set up in the back yard for some slippery bowling competition! Fun for all ages!

Volunteer – Get everybody together and serve. If you’re local to Austin, here’s a great organization that will need help on Thanksgiving day. What better way to share a thankful heart than to help those in need!

Set up the Christmas tree – My family typically does this the day after Thanksgiving but it doesn’t hurt to get a head start! How much more fun would it be to set up for Christmas with the whole family together? And how much faster!

I hope these at least gave you some inspiration for new and fun ways to fight the mid-Thanksgiving food coma! Do you have any fun Thanksgiving family traditions to keep everyone awake and together? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Grace and Love For the Holidays

As we prepare to see our families for the holidays, let’s not forget to prepare our hearts to show grace and love.

Adobe Spark (12)Holiday season is quickly approaching and I cannot wait. Cooler weather is coming and with it approaches apple pies, giant feasts, and and the switch from PSLs to Peppermint Mochas! I’m so pumped to get together with my family for Thanksgiving and eat ALL the food. Pretty sure Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I’m here for it.

While I’m stoked to see all of my family together soon, I know that my excitement is not necessarily shared by everyone. For many of my friends, going home for the holidays can be a source of stress and tension. Families are messy collections of broken humans and when brokenness is the center of our family, it’s hard to celebrate and be thankful and show grace.

If this is true for you, I encourage you to read the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

Context:

This story takes place after David is anointed king of Israel. The previous king, Saul, had been trying to kill David for years but instead of killing Saul when he had the chance, David shows mercy to him and agrees to extend grace to Saul’s household once he’s king.

The Summary:

David is coming off of some awesome war victories and is starting to settle in as king when he asks if anyone from the house of Saul is around to show grace and fulfill his promise. He gets in touch with a servant of Saul’s, a dude named Ziba, who has a crapton of kids and servants of his own. Ziba lets David know that Saul’s son Jonathan, who happens to have been David’s bestie when he was alive, has a son who is still alive but he’s lame and lives over in this crap town, basically in disgrace. In fact, the son’s name is Mephibosheth which actually means “seething disgrace.” David is super excited that he found his bestie’s son and asks for Mephibosheth to be brought to him.

One thing to that’s important to understand is that in that time, when a new king took the throne, it was typical for him to kill anyone from the previous king’s household so that there was no chance of rebellion or anyone questioning the rights to the throne. So when Mephibosheth shows up in front of David as someone who technically had a claim to David’s throne, he was probably terrified that this is how he was going to die. And yet he shows honor to King David by paying homage and offering himself to the service of the king.

And David’s response? He stays true to his word to Saul and honors his bestie by calling Mephibosheth by name and offering him a permanent place at his royal dinner table. Not only that, he gives Mephibosheth all the property and resources he acquired from his grandfather Saul when he took the throne and offers Ziba (and his crapton of kids and servants) to work the land.

According to custom, David had every right to kill Mephibosheth on the spot. It would have been easy, the poor guy probably couldn’t run anywhere. David could have done anything he wanted to Mephibosheth and that would have been his right as king.

And because of his parentage, Mephibosheth had every right to try to take back the throne for his family. In fact, Mephibosheth could have totally been awful to David in this whole situation. He could have been bitter and resentful towards David that his whole life had gone to crap, despite his royal blood.

And yet what do we see here? Two men, humbling themselves before each other and showing grace and gratitude.

If you keep reading in 2 Samuel, you’ll find out that David continues to lavish grace and goodness upon Mephibosheth and his family and Mephibosheth’s response is disinterested in worldly possessions and he’s just grateful to be in the presence of David.

Such an awesome foreshadowing of the gospel! As sinners, we don’t deserve God’s grace, we deserve death, just like Mephibosheth. But like David, God just wants to know us and show us grace and bless us beyond what we can even imagine. And when we humbly accept that grace, worldly things become distracting and we find that we just want more of the presence of God.

I hope that as you head into the holiday season with some maybe uncomfortable family situations on the horizon, you remember to give and receive grace humbly. No human on earth will ever be fully deserving of our love and grace; we’re all broken people living this life together until Christ returns. But maybe we can enjoy more of the presence of God right now to make tense and stressful interactions in the future a little less so with a few words of grace and love.