Nov 30, 2015

#COLLABOREADS // Non-fiction

I've heard of this fun online reading club that Rachel from  and Amber have been hosting for the past several months called #COLLABOREADS, and I was excited to jump on board this month! The idea is that each month there is a theme (non-fiction, thriller, back-to-school, etc). You find a book that fits that theme, read it during that month, then review it using several elements (how was it riveting, what was the plot line, what does the book remind you of, and was the design of the book an eye-catcher?). Then, link-up with Rachel and Amber and check out other book-lover's reviews. It's an awesome way to learn about new books & meet new book-lovin' bloggers. 
This month's #COLLABOREADS theme was a non-fiction read. This is a pretty broad theme and since I was just finishing up 7 Women by Eric Metaxas, I thought it would be a perfect fit! 

7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness 
by Eric Metaxas
Seven mini-biographies of seven extraordinary women who loved God and loved people. It was an excellent read and inspired me in many ways! Joan of Arc, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa each are world-changers, followed the call on their lives, and courageously trusted God even in the most difficult circumstances. 
What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?  I loved learning about these seven women and how their boldness, compassion, bravery, and intelligence were rooted in their deep love for Jesus. Each of them was different and so admirable in her own way, so I enjoyed reading every one of the mini-biographies. 
How did you relate to/care for the characters? I can't say I related to them too much because they just seemed like superwomen to me, but at the same time, Metaxas made sure to include portions in each of the biographies that showed that the women felt insignificant, scared, and lonely some of the time, which made them more relatable rather than being out-of-reach heroes that I could only admire and not relate to. I cared for each of them because I now have a deep respect for each of them. I knew of a few of the women (mostly Corrie Ten Boom from her autobiography The Hiding Place) but one was completely new (Saint Maria of Paris). 
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? Since this was a series of stories within a story (and I use "story" loosely since they are all true accounts), this would be hard to generalize since each of their lives had a myriad of twists and turns. Joan of Arc's unfair and unlawful imprisonment angered me, Hannah More's switch from more "secular" fun writings to purposeful poems and playwrights on the abolition of slavery was inspiring. Rosa Park's early run-in with the same bus driver she would one day defy by refusing to give up her spot for a white man, Mother Teresa's decision to step away from her beloved Loreto Convent to start her own ministry living and working among the poorest of the poor, and Corrie Ten Boom's courage to protect Jews in Nazi-Occupied Holland  all made the book really hard to put down.  
What other books are like this one? I love biographies of Christian women who sacrificed pleasures and comfort to serve and defend the impoverished, sick, and forgotten. Corrie Ten Boom's mini-biography in 7 Women definitely reminded me of her own biography, The Hiding Place.  Mother Teresa's biography reminded me of Elisabeth Elliot's biography on Amy Carmichael, A Chance To Die. Amy served in India from 1901 until her death in 1950. She formed the Dohnavur Fellowship, mainly focusing on rescuing children from sex slavery and providing a safe home and education. 
You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? The big orange 7 is eye-catching on the cover. And I really like that there is a grey-scale photo of each of the seven women on the cover. The photos seem faded from the color and are cropped to form stripes for the cover, so some of the faces are not clearly recognizable, but I got super excited when I recognized Mother Teresa and Corrie Ten Boom the first time the book came in the mail. The font of the pages was readable and non-pretentious. I liked that each biography started with a small image of the woman and her date of birth and death. It was a quick intro that helped me switch gears from the previous biography a few pages prior. 
How many out of five do you give this book? 5 out of 5 starts, for sure!
Would you recommend this book to a friend? YES! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about these amazing women as well as the "secret of their greatness" (Metaxas' subtitle)

Nov 24, 2015

Journal of a Miss to Mrs // An Introvert In Love

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” (C.S. Lewis)

I am so excited to get back to a little series that has grown dear to my heart, Journal of a Miss to Mrs (see previous posts here). I have been learning so much in the season of our engagement, but it definitely does not stop there. Last time I wrote one of the journals, I was a mere fifteen days away from becoming a Mrs. and now I have been a Mrs. for a bit over one month. I am filled with so much gratitude and humility over God's blessing of marriage. This has been a very sweet month (maybe that's why they call it a honeymoon?) as I have been transitioning into this new role as wife. I am especially thankful that I am not working right now, so that I could ease into all the new changes (wife, new state, being away from family and friends in Oregon, etc). It has been a great launching pad for creativity and pursuing my passions, mostly surrounding this little space at Beautiful Hope Blog. 

A single friend recently asked me a question that I thought was awesome. Her question was how I, as an introvert, can still find quiet or "introvert time" now that I am married. She and I are both introverts. We typically need time away from people to recharge, whether that is by reading a book, taking a walk, or any other quiet space where the mind can rest and our batteries can recharge. Let me clarify, though, this does not always mean I have to be completely alone, but it means that it is likely not a great time to engage in emotionally-heavy conversations or be asked a lot of questions because my mind has to take a time out and reboot.  I remember being worried about this when I was single. What would I do if I needed quiet time as a wife or as a mom? Did that even exist? Would it be selfish of me to read a book or go for a walk on my own to quiet my heart after a long, hard day? 

The answer to this question looks different for everyone, so what works for me may not be practical or useful for others. I do not pretend to hold the key to introvert relationships, but I have found some things that have helped for me and Greg.

As a single, I did not have too much trouble getting quiet time after a stressful day at work. I would light a sweet-smelling candle, play some classical music on a pandora, pour myself a cup of tea, and dive into a good book. Other times I would scrapbook, write hand-written notes, or take a refreshing jog to blow off steam. Spending time journaling prayers while reading a Psalm was also a favorite way to relax and get recharged when I was wiped out and emotionally exhausted.  I wondered if I would have to let go of these sweet moments when I would be dating and one day married. My quiet times were relaxing, but also peace-giving. When I chose to read a book focused on truths from the Bible rather than a bestselling novel, then I would notice my restless heart slowing down and finding time to soak up the stillness. Not to say a novel is bad, but I felt especially rested after studying the Bible or reading a book that reminded me of God's faithfulness and love for me. Being still and pausing at the end of a fast-paced day not only helped my introvert personality type, but even more, refreshed my soul and refocused it to look to God rather than my stressful day. 

Not everyone needs ample quiet time, but people who identify themselves as being introverted typically need recurrent quiet time to recharge. This does not mean they're antisocial, though! We all need community, including us introverts. But quiet time to us introverts is a bit like plugging your iPhone into the charger after draining its power. We are much happier and ready for deep conversations and social events after much-needed introvert time. 

While dating (and later, engaged), Greg and I were long-distance, and we visited each other about every 5-8 weeks (I was in the Pacific NW, he in Texas). Due to my long hours at the pediatric clinic I was working at as a pediatric nurse practitioner,  plus the two hour time difference, it was hard to get good quality time through FaceTime or phone calls. I was dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety at the time too, which usually is a red flag that  I need more quiet time to recharge and process what's going on. Greg and I learned A LOT about communicating during the dating season and I learned that it's ok to tell him I need a quiet evening on my own without any electronics (including the laptop for FaceTime). Sometimes the quiet introvert evening lasted a few hours and Greg and I wouldn't have time to FaceTime, so we'd just text. Other times, I'd let him know I wanted an hour or so, then we'd get on FaceTime afterwards and I'd feel really refreshed and ready for conversation. 

I am incredibly thankful for Greg's desire to understand my personality and my need to recharge after long days at the clinic. I was coming home emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted from working with patients and families, and desperately needed time to unwind. Greg and I learned how to fit it in, without him feeling like I do not want to talk to him. Oftentimes, I would also use my long commute to listen to audiobooks or quiet music, which helped me relax by the time I got home and be ready for engaging in quality time with Greg through FaceTime.  It looked different all the time and we just kept communicating through it all. 

 As an introvert, I need quiet time, but when I am anxious and really stressed, I also tend to isolate myself and detach from people I love because I feel like I can't really process all that is going on so I would rather avoid it. I would sometimes use my introvert personality as an excuse to avoid important things with Greg. "I just reeeeallly need a quiet night" could honestly be just that, but it could also be one of my excuses to avoid hard conversations and that was hard for Greg to distinguish. So, again, I go back to communication,  a key to any relationship! I learned to be more honest about my emotions and slowly learned to talk through my anxiety instead of detaching or avoiding. Eventually, I could distinguish between whether I truly needed quiet time vs. when I was trying to avoid or detach from communicating and used my introvert personality as an excuse. I soon saw that having routine quiet time was a way of preventing me from getting very anxious or stressed. It was a healthy coping mechanism to rest my mind and heart after being bombarded all day with stressful situations. I was learning that the more honest I was about my emotions with Greg, the better I was able to communicate with him and he would lovingly help in a variety of ways. We'd even have "introvert dates" on FaceTime, where we'd be both reading while on FaceTime. It may sound boring, but I found it sweet the few times we did it because I saw it as a way of still connecting with Greg while still having some reading time to calm down after a tough work day. And we'd take breaks from reading and chat for a bit about fun things, which was also relaxing.  

In this first month of marriage, I am not working, so I have plenty of quiet time while Greg is gone at work. I get all my cleaning, cooking, blogging, and job-hunting  done while he is gone, so that by the time he is home, we can have quality time together over a good meal, chat about our days, and just enjoy each other.  We typically have some quiet time together most nights of the week, which is pure bliss. We do our Bible studies, reading, and journaling side by side on the couch quietly, but will start a short conversation when we read something great and want to share our thoughts. Talking is not off-limits during those times, and we are still connecting by sharing quiet time, so I still consider it "introvert" time together. I feel really connected to Greg during these times even though we are not having long, soul-searching conversations.  We have tea dates once in a while at a local cafe and will have a mix of reading time with great one-on-one conversations. So in this way, we include quiet time together as introvert time. It does not have to always be alone introvert time, though sometimes that is needed as well. Greg has been so patient and loving, especially on days I feel drained of energy. One way he helps me is by encouraging me to take quiet time to write for the blog, which he knows refreshes my soul when I write something that I am passionate about. 

I am sure things will change once I am working or we have kids, and that is fine. We are constantly learning how we can communicate our needs, which allows us to grow deeper in our love, and to better understand and respect each other.

Here are some blog posts  and articles from various writers about loving introverts and being loved as an introvert since there are so many great ways to approach this subject:

7 Ways To Love An Introvert

13 Mindful Ways To Make An Introvert Feel Loved
Dating An Introvert Guide (4 parts)

Nov 20, 2015

our grateful hearts // week 3

“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.” 
(Ann VosKamp, One Thousand Gifts)

I can hardly believe we are at the end of November's third week. Next week is Thanksgiving, y'all! I love this season and that it reminds us to pause and give thanks for a year full of blessings. Sure, a beautifully decorated table, deliciously-carved turkey, pumpkin pie, and family around the table are all part of the day, but the heart of this beloved holiday is giving thanks. It's one of my favorite holidays and I try to do something different every year to thank people in my life, usually with hand-written notes in the mail because so often I forget to thank people around me for the ways they invest in my life, encourage me when I am down, and remind me of God's love. 

Ever since reading Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts in 2013, thanksgiving (both the verb and the holiday) have meant even more than before. I try to give God thanks for the many gifts He gives all year-round rather than only in November, but I love being more intentional about it this month too. SO the myriad of instagramers, Facebook statuses, and bloggers  posting their daily list of what they're thankful for doesn't get old; I love hearing about what other people are thankful for, because it typically makes me realize things that I didn't think to be thankful for. 

For November, Greg and I want to be intentional about daily finding blessings that remind us God loves us and is faithful and good. I shared week 1 and week 2, and now want to share this week's blessings we journaled about:

#32. Thankful for lazy Saturday filled with lots of cuddling and reading. After a long, stressful week at work for Greg, it was a sweet start to last weekend.

#37. Thankul that my little brother made it back safely from Mexico after a one-week trip leading students at the missionary training school he works at. 

#38. We joined a Bible study group for newly married couples at our church. We are excited to have community with couples in the same season as us.

#39. Super grateful for a husband who supports and believes in my writing dreams. He especially encouraged me this past week to pursue an idea for the blog that has been simmering in my mind for awhile now. It may be cliche, but I feel like he gives me wind beneath my wings when he said he is proud of me and believes in me as a writer.

#40. Thankful that Greg works about 10 minutes from home and can come home during lunch so we can enjoy lunch together.

#41. Thankful for one month of marriage on November 17th! 

#42. Thankful for one of Greg's friends taking us our to dinner on Tuesday night at a hip place called The Granery as a wedding gift and so that he could get to know me better. He had been very intentional in asking Greg about our relationship while we were dating, so it was cool to get to know him a bit better over a really delicious dinner he treated us to!

#43. Thankful for Tone It Up videos, which are perfect short work-out videos on YouTube for those days I can't make it to the gym or outside for a jog, but want to get atleast 10 minutes of physical activity. 

#44. Thankful for a sweet package from the pediatric clinic I worked at before moving to Texas. Several co-workers wrote sweet messages on post-it notes for me :)
#45. Thankful for a sweet card that came in the mail from my family, congratulating us one our one month of marriage :)
#46. Thankful that Greg gets one WTF (Work From Home) day. It's nice having him home, even if he is busily working on the computer or on the phone on conference calls. We went to Chik-fil-A for lunch while he was on his conference call and I ate my chicken deluxe meal while reading a new favorite, Notes From A Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider.
#47. Thankful that Greg cares about how my back and neck have been hurting, mainly from not being conscientious about my posture. We jimmy-rigged a new workspace for me on the dining room table with a wireless keyboard and mouse plus a breakfast table to lift my laptop to eye-level. More ergonomically correct head position = less (or NO) pain while writing and working on the computer!
#48. Co-hosting The Circle with my lovely friend Kiki on Wednesday! Kiki is awesome and loves to build community, so I was honored to be able to co-host this month as all the gals shared acrostic poems spelling out t-h-a-n-k-f-u-l. Hop on over and check out our responses… There is still time to link-up too!

Thanks for hosting thankfulness-related link-ups, Brushing Our Way Through Life. Attitude of Gratitude link-up with While I am Waiting and The Queen in Between, and Knit By God's Hands' Thankful Thursday, and Bella Brita.  

What are you thankful for, friends?

Nov 18, 2015

The Circle Link Up // t-h-a-n-k-f-u-l

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.”  (Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts)

Today I have the honor and joy to co-host the monthly edition of The Circle with the awesome Kiki fro In Its Time, founder of the fun link-up that brings blogging gals together every month for a fun prompt and opportunity to meet new bloggers. 

This month's prompt takes us back to elementary school day when we were given assignments including acrostic poems. It's simple, and you can be as creative with this prompt as you'd like. Just think of different things you're thankful for that start with (or include somewhere in the word) the letters of t-h-a-n-k-f-u-l.

I had fun doodling with my colorful pens to create my acrostic Thankful Poem and I am so excited to see everyone else's too! What are you thankful for? Link-up today with us today, or comment below!

Nov 17, 2015

Yellowstone // geysers, hot springs, and bison

Back in July, our family and my then-fiance (now husband) Greg went on a road trip to Yellowstone National Park. Our first evening was restful and beautiful exploring the Mammoth Hot Springs (see last week's post). The following day, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out to explore the geysers in the Upper Geyser Basin (see map). 

When most people think of Yellowstone geysers, the first one that comes to mind is Old Faithful, but little did we know, there are hundreds of other geysers throughout Yellowstone. Because of the national park's location above an ancient caldera (the exploded crater of a volcano), heated ground water and thermal features are created (geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles) [source]. 

Let's get back to Old Faithful, the most famous geyser at Yellowstone. Geysers are hot springs that erupt periodically due to trapped boiling water in underground channels. Some geysers are predictable, while others are free spirits that erupt whenever they so choose. Contrary to what would be predicted by it's name, Old Faithful is not the most predictable nor the biggest geyser at Yellowstone. But it is the biggest regular geyser, erupting every 35-120 minutes, lasting up to five minutes, and shooting up between 90 to 184 feet high (source)

We waited … and waited … and waited for Old Faithful ...

And about forty-five minutes later, Old Faithful did it's thing and erupted, lasting long enough to snap a few photos. After waiting so long, though, the verdict was unanimous with a repetitive "Wait… That was it?! That's what we waited for??" from a few siblings. It's worth it if you're in Yellowstone, but once is enough in a lifetime, especially since there are so many other geysers to see in the park.
We then walked to a trailhead to do hike on the boardwalks that lead us beside many of the geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles of the Upper Geyser Basin. The bottom right photo is a hot spring. Similar to geysers, but their underground channels are larger, so water does not get trapped and erupt, but rather pools and turns different colors due to microorganisms. The bottom left photo is a fumarole, which are like hot springs but do not have enough underground water to form a pool. Instead, they act as a vent to release steam of boiling water underground [source].
More geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles below. 

We also enjoyed the scenery around us during the trail, that seemed to change dramatically every half mile or so.
My nephew was a trooper during the nearly three mile hike. For some reason, he loved this rock (or maybe was just sick of walking and wasn't ready to leave his little pitstop. But he quickly learned the anecdote to his weary little feet: hopping onto his uncle's shoulders for a better view :)
My dad became the candid selfie king of the trip :)
We saw these thermal features as well, but I am not sure what they are. Possibly fumaroles but they look different and almost like something out of a Dr. Suess book.

 We then drove a few miles to the smaller Midway Geyser Basin to check out the two largest thermal features of Yellowstone: the Excelsior Geyser (pours over 4,000 gallons of super-hot water per minute into the Firehole River) and the Grand Prismatic Spring (the largest hot spring in Yellowstone at 370 feet width and 120 feet depth) [source]. 
 We then headed towards Lamar Valley, but we took a quick pitstop at a rest area on the way and admired the beautiful view around us. Yellowstone is absolutely breathtaking!
We eventually made it to Lamar Valley and stopped to admire the roaming buffalo (or bison? I think they're synonymous). We even thought we spotted a wolf far off at one point. Lamar Valley is arguably the best spot in Yellowstone to spy on animals. Bison/buffalo, elk, bears, bighorn sheep, coyote, and wolves all can be found roaming in the valley, especially at dawn and dusk. It's quite far from other attractions (in the northeast corner of the park), but it is definitely work the drive if you intend to do some wildlife watching. Be sure to bring your binoculars!

The fun's not over! We went chasing waterfalls the following day, so stay tuned for next week's continuing post on Yellowstone!

(I am linking up with Travel Tuesday at Compass Rose)

Nov 13, 2015

Our Grateful Hearts // Week 2

Earlier this week, I shared some of the things Greg and I were thankful for the first week of November. We have been challenging ourselves to daily journal three "gifts" (an ode to Ann Voscamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, which I LOVE). It has made a difference in the past when I have focused on the blessings that God gives us (however small they appear) because I later realize that those were actually big things that reminded me of God's faithfulness and love. 

Here are a few of Greg and my favorite gifts this week!

22. Watching The Hiding Place movie (1975 version) about Corrie ten Boom as well as reading about her in 7 Women by Eric Metaxas. It brought up great conversation and reminded us of inspiring and courageous people during WWII who gave up the comforts and security of their lives to defend the Jews. We are also so thankful for our freedom and for those who fight for our freedom

23. Greg is thankful for resources available to learn Romanian (my native language). He has been using  the Pimsleur method the past year on and off, and has been reviewing past lessons. I love that he is making an effort (and seems to be having fun while doing it!) to learn Romanian. And I think it's adorable/very attractive to hear him say/text simple phrases in Romanian. 

24. Our Bible study time on the couch in the evenings. I love hearing what he's learning and then getting to tell him about what I've been studying too. 

25. Greg is thankful for the way God is healing a friend who got into an accident recently. 

26. I am thankful for several good leads for pediatric nurse practitioner jobs. I spoke with two people who each are putting me in contact with different pediatricians in the San Antonio area. I'm praying for the right clinic.

27. I am thankful for a new opportunity to volunteer as a babysitter for a few children while their mothers (and other Burmese men and women who recently arrived in the U.S.) learn English. I learned about the opportunity while at a women's retreat last weekend with women from my new home church in San Antonio and I loved attending a meeting yesterday to hear about their vision to expand and the reason behind the work these English teachers are doing, plus I got to hang out with the kids today during a class. They kept me busy, but it was awesome to work with kids again!

28. Putting up our curtains in our living and dining rooms. I don't know about you, but I think curtains just bring a room together and make it look more home. 

30. Visiting a friend who just recently had a baby and catching up (her about having two children now and me about my wedding).

31. Getting a library card and picking up three new books that have been highly recommended by bloggers, I Am Mahala, Notes From A Blue Bike, and The Royal We.

 Thanks for hosting thankfulness-related link-ups, Brushing Our Way Through Life. Attitude of Gratitude link-up with While I am Waiting and The Queen in Between, and Knit By God's Hands' Thankful Thursday, and Bella Brita.  

Nov 10, 2015

our favorite gluten-free and paleo recipes

Early on in our relationship, Greg let me know that he avoids gluten and sticks with a mostly paleo diet. I wasn't very knowledgable about either of these, so I started researching online and asking questions. I bought a great paleo cookbook, Paleo Cooking From Elana's Pantry, and started searching Pinterest for recipes. During our visits between Oregon and Texas, we'd often cook paleo meals, so I had a small collection of Greg-approved meals when we got to Texas from our honeymoon and I moved into what is now our apartment. Since then, I've added a few more new recipes to our collection and we are excited that we have a good mix of recipes to choose from on days when we'd rather stick with a classic than experiment with a new creation. 

Here are our favorite gluten-free and paleo recipes thus far! Click on the links below the photos for the recipes.

 Light, fluffy, and so delicious, these healthy pancakes are easy to make and only require two eggs and 1 banana!

This salad was hearty even though I left out the quinoa. The citrus vinaigrette was a perfect blend with the kale and nuts. 

Packed with crunchy flavor and a citrus kick, this is an easy salad that is easy to switch up by adding chicken, salmon, or nuts. 

Crockpot Meals 
Don't let the long list of ingredients keep you from trying this one! It's hearty, full of flavor, and a perfect meal to freeze leftovers for a future date. And with all the veggies, you won't miss the beans that are usually in chili. 

This creamy soup uses coconut milk instead of milk or heavy whipping cream, so it's dairy-free and delicious! The chicken is so tender and perfectly blends with the tomato and spices. Perfect for a chilly night. 

Ok, this is probably one of our favorites of our favorites! The Herbs de Provence (a mix of spices including thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, summer savory, tarragon, mint, and marjoram) gives this meal a perfect taste, and since all the spices (other than salt and pepper) are in one bottle, it's a super easy meal! 

I've never loved salmon, but this dish changed my mind! It's an easy meal and the rosemary adds a surprising touch that is mouth-watering. 

I love that I can cook the whole meal in one pan, and the flavors are all so complimentary to each other that even I (who hates my foods touching) think this meal is a total winner!

I made this tonight and the taste is still on my mind. Yum! The spices pack quite a punch and served with some corn tortillas, salsa, cilantro, and lettuce, it's a perfect meal for the nights you're craving Mexican food. 

With just four ingredients (chicken, basil pesto, tomato, and mozzarella), this is a super quick dinner idea that is full of juicy flavor. 

What are some of your favorite recipes?

Eat Drink and Be Mary

Nov 9, 2015

our grateful hearts / week one recap

One of Greg and my goals for November is to daily journal 3-4 "gifts" or blessings we are thankful to God for.  By the end of the month, we should have between 90-100 gifts that are journaled. This is a shortened version of the 1000 gifts challenge (inspired by Ann Voscamp's book, One Thousand Gifts) I posted about back in 2014 where I daily journaled 3 gifts and after one year, had one thousand gifts that I could look back on and praise God for being so incredibly good to me. We are surrounded with so many evidences of God's unfailing love for us, so we wanted to challenge ourselves to focus on small and big things we are thankful for, so that it will change the way we see God's goodness and sovereignty as well as how we love others around us. In the past, looking at the gifts God daily gave me has helped change my attitude and mood from worried and anxious to joyful and peacefully trusting in Him.

“A life contemplating the blessings of Christ 
becomes a life acting the love of Christ.” 
Ann Voscamp, One Thousand Gifts

Here are some of the gifts we journaled from the first week of November:

1. Wayside Chapel, our home church in San Antonio. We are so thankful for the fellowship opportunities through life groups and Bible studies as well as a myriad of ministry opportunities. We are excited to get more involved and plugged into this awesome Biblically-solid church that practices what it preaches. 

2. Daylight savings (heelllooo extra hour of sleep/reading/relaxing!)

3. Our Honeymoon to Maui. We rested and relaxed under the palm trees, swam & snorkeled in the ocean, adventured through the Road to Hana, and just loved experiencing it all together. 

4. The wedding gifts we received at our three showers as well as at the wedding. We are set with all the home stuff we need, plus we were blessed with money gifts from our wedding guests that just blew us away. We feel so incredibly loved and supported by our friend and family.

5. Home-cooked meals and quality time around the table. During the busyness of wedding planning the past few months, we both dropped the ball on cooking home-cooked meals (me in Portland, he in Texas), so it has been so awesome to be able to cook together in our apartment and relax after Greg comes home from work. We are challenging ourselves to learn two new recipes this month.

6. Cool Texas sweater weather. Contrary to what many believe, Texas does get nice and chilly.

7. Gospel-centered, truth-filled books. We are reading You & Me Forever (my Francis and Lisa Chan) and 7 Women (by Eric Metaxes), Greg just finished Forgotten God (by Francis Chan) and is studying the Bible alongside The Parables of Jesus (by James Montgomery Boice).

8. Coffee with a friend. It was so great to catch up and encourage one another.

9. Saying goodbye to long-distance dating and all the difficulties about it, especially being apart during hard conversations or when one of us is having a rough day. It has been so great to hold each other's hands while we have hard conversations and to assure each other of our love while we are side by side rather than screen to screen on FaceTime. 

11. Quiet evenings on our couch where we are reading, studying the Bible, journaling, sipping on tea, and sneaking kisses every once in a while. 

16. Saturday Farmer's Market at Pearl. We loved our gluten-free savory crepes as well as checking out all of the vendors. Then we walked off some calories on the River Walk.

17. An awesome weekend retreat with women from Wayside Chapel. I got to spend time with a few friends, plus I met a lot of women and learned abut ministry opportunities and great life groups that are going on. It'll be nice to recognize a few more faces on Sundays! 

18. Our wedding! We loved our wedding day! It was so wonderful to celebrate with dear friends and family as we promised our love to one another for the rest of our lives. We were blown away by the generosity of our loved ones. 

I love that there are so many link-ups related to having thankful hearts. I am linking up with Ember Grey with Grateful Heart as well as Brushing Our Way Through Life , While I'm Waiting & Queen In Between ,  Knit By God's Hands , and Bella Brita today!

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey