Thursday, March 27, 2014

#100happydays

As an avid reader, I follow and read various types of blogs. One of my favorite lifestyle blogs is A Beautiful Mess. Upon reading through their recent posts, I discovered a new project called 100 Happy Days in which participants attempt to capture something happy each day for 100 days. It's a simple thing that can change perspective and is closely aligned with the practice of counting gifts that Ann Voskamp so eloquently describes in One Thousand Gifts. 

Here's the crux and purpose of the project:

We live in times when super-busy schedules have become something to boast about. While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in. The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it, is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.

71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.These people simply did not have time to be happy. Do you? 

Read more here.

So, my friends, my challenge begins today. My platform of choice is Instagram. Are you with me? For the next 100 days, my mission is to look for the happy. 


Day 1: Celebrating wedding #4,345 with these two.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tuesday ten

1. Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Quinoa

OMG delicious. They say that when you make three changes to a recipe, it becomes your own. Well, I made a few. I didn't have enough quinoa, so I used Israeli couscous as well. I also was low on EVOO so I tossed the veggies in coconut oil. Didn't have thyme, so I used basil. And finally also added some chopped garlic cloves. It was, in a word, divinity.

 


My BFF Katie and her hubby Will just moved in to their first house! It is adorable and gorgeous, and I am over the moon for them.



Our sweet friend Haley married her love, Brandon on Saturday, and it was such a joyous time. 


3. Provision

The Lord has provided so abundantly for my trip to Uganda! It is insane how I've watched the numbers go down. Right now I only need $230 more to buy my plane ticket by March 30. Then the remaining $750 is due on April 13. So many people have been so kind and generous. I have full confidence in His ways. :)

4. Sunny spring days. Need I say more? Boy am I glad winter is behind us. 




Y'all. This book was so. good. I am a huge Hunger Games trilogy fan, but after seeing the trailer for Divergent in theaters several times, I knew I had to read the series before I saw the movie. The first book did not disappoint. Ever since reading Brave New World in high school, I have had an interest in dystopian societies. The disparity of humanity is fascinating to me. Anyways, I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading this Friday night/Saturday morning. Amazing. I'll have to read the other two before I decide which series I like better.

6. Rend Collective's new album, The Art of Celebration

I just adore Rend Collective and have been so blessed by their music. Both times I saw them live, they made it clear how important it is for followers of Christ to sing with abandon and to truly rejoice and be free in their worship. Here's one of my favorites from the album:



So I've been trying to "eat clean," and while I have my moments, it is something that I hope to make a lifestyle. This company sends yummy, healthy, non-processed snacks to your door each month for about 20 bucks! When I consider how much I spend on snacks each month, that is not too shabby. I just got my first box today and everything in it is so delicious! You can be surprised or customize it according to your preference/dietary needs. They even have vegan options! Definitely worth it to me. 

*If you want to sign up, email me at jess56@gmail.com and you can get $10 off your first box! :)


I absolutely love my church. The community there has been so good to me, and there are so many special people who have invested in me there. If you're a local friend and need a place to go on Sunday mornings, let me know! Watkinsville is wonderful. :)

9. Early release days

This week is parent teacher conference week, which means kiddos leave at 12:20 on Wednesday-Friday! *cue happy dance*

10. This quote

via
Have a great week, friends.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday ten

1) Journey to Lent

Growing up Southern Baptist, we never celebrated (observed?) Lent. But as an adult, I have truly come to appreciate the need to fast from the world and feast on Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His resurrection. This free devotional I stumbled upon is amazing.

2) Kari Jobe's new single. Y'all. So powerful. I was able to be led in worship by not only Kari but also Rend Collective Experiment this past Friday night. Not only was I so inspired by the authenticity of their worship, but the Lord met me right where I was. Such a sweet time. The Lord has allowed me to be someone who leads others in worship in two seasons in my life- one for about three years in high school, and then for two years in Mexico. The temptation to perform is real, but the glory must always belong to Him. Otherwise it's a farce.



3) Green smoothies. Especially this one from Blogilates by Cassy Ho. Yummy in my tummy-although I skipped the protein powder.

Here's the recipe: 1/2 banana, handful of fresh spinach, 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder, 5-ish pieces of ice, 1/3-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, and 1 orange (take out the seeds). So good and creamy! Enjoy.

4) Sunny spring-like days. I take the long way home just because.

5)Yoga. So. calming.

6) Farmer's Market shopping

I discovered a new year-round farmer's market here in Athens! Life. made.

7) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 




I know I'm so behind the times, because the movie came out on Christmas Day. But OMG I loved it. So good. The story is worth telling and watching. Ben Stiller's performance is so endearing. And Shirley MacLaine is just wonderful as always. More to come on that soon.

8) NYX Makeup Setting Spray

Ladiezzz, this stuff is the bomb. I used to be so frustrated with how my makeup was virtually gone at the end of the day. But this spray, in all its magical-ness, makes that a problem of the past. And it's cheap!

9) Cartwheel app for Target stores

This app is for the Target-lover in all of us. You choose your products and load coupons onto the app, present your phone to the cashier, and receive discounts. I feel like a shopping ninja every time I use it. 

10) This verse. Claiming it.

via





Saturday, March 15, 2014

on why I'm going to Uganda

Where do I even begin? First of all, for those of you who don't know, I am going to Uganda in two (very short) months. I could not be more excited. The Lord is making a way, and I am just honored to journey with Him on a new adventure. 


via Life Lived Beautifully

Moving to Mexico in August 2010 was the single most hard and scary thing I had ever done up until that point. But through that time, I was able to grow and change. The Lord showed me more of Himself and drew me closer to Him. Now, living in Athens, I am so sure that I am where I am supposed to be right now. However, part of me still longs to travel and to see the world- to be the hands and feet of Jesus in places that just need Him so desperately.


During my senior year, I wrestled with the Lord about my decision to move to Mexico. At that time, I was attending a college girls' Bible study at my pastor's home. His wife, Carla, led the study, and one night she told us about a young woman our age who lived and worked in Uganda. This woman, Katie Davis, has now adopted fourteen Ugandan orphan girls as her own children. She is just a normal girl from Brentwood, Tennessee who decided to actually take James 1:27 seriously. Now her non-profit Amazima Ministries not only feeds hundreds of children daily, but also disciples villagers and connects children with sponsors from the United States. Her story inspired me and encouraged me as I ventured off to the unknown of Chihuahua. I began following her blog and then read her book while I was there. Her simple love for Jesus is simultaneously inspiring and convicting.



For a few years, the country of Uganda has been on my radar- part of books and blogs I read-thus, making its way into my heart. My home church, Watkinsville First Baptist has a partnership with a non-profit organization called In Mission Ministries that works to establish relationships with Ugandans by training them to plant their own tribal churches in villages. These churches are fully led by Ugandan pastors. Uganda is a country that has been war-torn by the Lord's Resistance Army, with thousands of casualties and devastating lingering consequences. The need for hope is real. Amazing works are being done, and lives are being changed.


I have no idea why I'm supposed to go to Uganda. All I know is that the Lord has made it clear that I am supposed to go. My heart is willing, but unfortunately, my wallet is not so accommodating. The cost of this trip is $2,500. That's one too many zeroes for me to handle on my own. Praise God that the balance remaining right now is $2,200! I serve the God of the universe, and this is not an impossible matter for Him. 





My request is that you prayerfully consider joining with me on this journey. I want to share this experience with you. If you would like to give to my trip, there are two ways to do so:


Check made out to WFBC with Uganda in the memo line. Include a short note that says you would like your donation to go towards Jessica Miller's trip. Send checks to:
WFBC
c/o Chris Fitzgerald
P.O. Box 228
Watkinsville, GA 30677

You can also give electronically at the following link:
Service Reef Donation Site

Be sure to specify that your donation preference is for Jessica Miller. 

And last but not least, let these lyrics remind you of the reason we're here. Everything we do is for His glory and renown across the earth.

Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective Experiment
Build Your kingdom here.
Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand.
Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire.
Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere.
Build Your kingdom here.
We pray.

Unleash Your kingdom's power
reaching the near and far.
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this!
Awake the kingdom seed in us!
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ.

We are Your church.
We are the hope on earth.



Update: as of 3/21, I now only have $1,400/44% remaining! Praise God for His provision!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

the Tuesday ten

1. Once Upon a Time on ABC



Y'all. This show is so ridiculous. But it is so. good. All of your favorite fairy tale characters are in one show,which goes back and forth between ancient and modern times. Can't stop won't stop.

2. Spring break.

This is how I feel about it.


3.  The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village by Twesigye Jackson Kaguri

I'm only a few chapters in, but this book has been spellbinding so far. This is the story of a Ugandan man who returns to his home to care for children orphaned by AIDS by starting a school for them in order to completely change their futures. You can read an article written yesterday by Kaguri, who is a Colombia graduate, here at The Huffington Post.

4. Guacamole. Need I say more?

5. Promise of provision

The Lord has told me to go Uganda this summer. I'm super excited, but also learning to continue to trust Him every day. The cost of this trip is $2,500, which I most definitely do not have. Last week, I was praying about this predicament, when the Lord reminded me that He owns the entire universe. I'm sure He knows exactly where the $2,500 for my trip is. I'm praying for 100 people to give $25. Because that's pretty feasible. Email me at jess56@gmail.com if you want more info. :)

6. Glimpses of spring- can't come soon enough.


7. This verse:
"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19

8. Life Lived Beautifully



My sweet friend Gretchen has an amazing business called Life Lived Beautifully. She is a super talented individual who loves the Lord and loves making things look lovely. Check out her website; I'm sure you will find something in her shop that you want or read something on her blog that will encourage you!

"It Is Well" pillows from Life Lived Beautifully
9. This quote.

From Life Lived Beautifully

10. Once Broadway Tour


The review of this show will have to be an entirely different post, because it was just that good. But friends...wow. 

Here's to an amazing week! What are you enjoying these days?

Monday, March 10, 2014

on the importance of rest

Y'all. It's about to get really vulnerable up in here. Ok, so maybe vulnerable is a strong word. Transparent? Either way, it's about to get real

My mom says that when I was younger, she knew when I was either tired or hungry. She could tell in the way my mood changed. I became quiet (which was miraculous) or irritable. Not much has changed.


In high school, I led a somewhat sheltered life. My parents were strict, and most of my time was spent at church, school, or home. I wasn't always gallivanting around with my friends. But I still considered myself a social person. I cherished time with friends and loved to be with people. 

Enter the college years. I could make my own schedule. Mind blown. When I began to make friends, I liked to stay busy. I mean, what college student wants to watch movies in their dorm on Friday night? Alone?! Most of my time throughout my four years at UGA was spent at the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM). I was on leadership for my sophomore and junior years and in a small group from freshman-junior year. But my classes were picking up, and this whole time management thing was getting hard. 

When I moved to Mexico, I wanted to be a part of everything, because I knew my time there was limited. I only had two years to make an impact and be impacted. It was all or nothing. I was all in. My church, Capilla Calvario  was a place where I was able to truly grow and be loved on by some truly amazing people. The community I found there was life-giving. One limitation to my busyness in Mexico was the fact that I did not have a car. Thus, I could only be involved in so many activities. I could only stretch myself so thin. 

Tsh Oxenreider speaks to the international living experience  in Notes from a Blue Bike:

When I first arrived, single and free as the day is long, my game plan was to hunker down and channel my inner Margaret Mead or Mother Teresa, ready to live like the locals and wave away my need for twenty-something, English-speaking friends. I'd speak more Albanian than English, I would roll up my sleeves and ladle soup, figurative or otherwise, for my neighbors who needed it, and I'd ignore any homesickness. This plan lasted six weeks. 

International living is not for the faint of heart, my friends. But oh, did it change my view of how I want to live my life. When I returned to life in America in 2012, I knew that my temptation would be to pick up a faster lifestyle again. I just didn't realize how easily I would do so. Stereotypes are true for a reason. And the stereotype for Americans abroad is that we work too hard and don't play often enough. Simply put, we don't take rest seriously. 

Rest is a command. It is not a suggestion.

Exodus 20:9-11 states: 
You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

Y'all, observing the Sabbath is what is best for us, because God said so. That's pretty much all the reason we need. For me, rest is something I am still learning how to do well. I like to busy. But I can make myself physically sick when I don't obey what God says about rest by setting up boundaries for myself and honoring my body. Honoring the Sabbath is another way for me to say, "God, I trust you. Help me to get done in six days what I would like to do in seven." He's faithful, and it's so worth to trust in His faithfulness.


Teaching is a rewarding, yet difficult profession. I learned within my first year that there were boundaries I had to set for myself for my health and sanity. I don't stay at school past 5 p.m., and I don't bring work home. I rarely work on the weekends anymore. For me, I am dedicated to loving my students day in and day out, but if I'm so stressed that I can't do that well, there is a problem. So I stick to those boundaries. And I have found that no one has died when I didn't answer an email over the weekend. 

For a while now, the Lord has been whispering the word simplify over me for a bit. And observing the Sabbath is not only an act of obedience, but a way to simplify when the world tells you to keep pushing for more. 

What about you? How do you rest?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

on eating, fasting, dieting and the like



Let me first begin by saying how much I love food. I am serious about my grub. Since I was a child, eating has been one of my favorite activities. It's not something I play around with. My mom is hypoglycemic, and she taught me to never be without a snack on your person. This practice has not left me as an adult. I eat at least five times a day- breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner (and sometimes another snack).

When I arrived at the University of Georgia (GO DAWGS) to pursue my undergraduate degree, I was met with an UNLIMITED meal plan at four nationally recognized dining halls. And boy, did I take advantage. Cookie on the way into the dining hall. A couple more on the way out. Philly cheese steak lunch when I had a bad day. Or just because. Smoothies at East Campus Village after working out at the Ramsey Center. Themed dinner nights with food from all over. It was a food-lover's dream. At this point, I also began to develop new friendships. These new friends ate vegetables outside of the "normal" Southern fare-like *gasp* asparagus. Mind blown. But I wanted to take care of myself and be healthy(ish), so I prayed that God would give me a love for vegetables. I ventured out and tried new things. And it wasn't half bad! He answers even what we consider the silliest prayers.


via

Fast forward to now. I still love food. I love to eat. I love to cook. Cooking winds me down after a long day, and I am so proud that I made the ingredients come together to make something new and delicious. Sure, I have mess-ups. But my passion for food and cooking has only grown.

During this past year or so, however, the Lord has truly been challenging me to think about what I eat. Where does it come from? Was it made in a factory? Were there pesticides involved? I used to poke fun at people who ate organically, thinking to myself, "must be nice." But now I'm being convicted. If the Bible is truly the inspired word of God, and I say I believe it, then shouldn't that influence my every decision? Especially what I put into my body, which is a temple?

The word says,


1 Corinthians 6:19-20

19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Do I live like I believe that? Over and over again, I have been bombarded with the thought and realization that if I say I believe that, then my regular fare cannot consist of fake food. God made food to be savored and enjoyed. Instead of living to eat, my attitude should be that of eating to live. This body is the only one I'll have this side of heaven. 


As I mentioned earlier this week, a couple weeks ago I attempted to begin a month-long fast from seven different foods. For about two weeks (hey, I was halfway there!) I eliminated dessert, coffee, bread, pasta, alcohol,cheese, and processed foods from my diet. It was definitely a challenge. But you know what? After the first week of adjustment, I felt so much better. I wasn't bloated after eating and I had a clearer head. And I had this feeling that I was truly taking care of myself. That was a good feeling, friends.


With all of that being said, I am no expert. All I know is that I am ready for a change. And I want to honor my body as a temple of the Lord. Yes, it's an uphill battle, but it's worth it. I've tried Paleo, low carb, and now believe that the best option for me is to eat clean. To nourish my body with foods that were made to be eaten and have the nutrients I need to be the best me I can be.

Recommended reads:
7 by Jen Hatmaker
Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider
Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous with the Diet You Were Born to Eat by Nell Stephenson
Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist

To watch:
Hungry for Change documentary 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the Tuesday ten

1. Handwritten Letters

I love receiving and giving letters. My mom instilled the value of a handwritten note in me, and it has not left me now. Just yesterday, a sweet note from my dear friend Gretchen brought tears to my eyes. Emails usually just don't do that.

2. Music from Once

The song below has been a favorite of mine for a few years now, but it was only a few months ago that I finally saw the movie. Once is just amazing; it is so raw and feels like a real story. On Saturday I am going to the Broadway musical version with my friend Erica, and I absolutely cannot wait!



3. Phone Dates

As far as texting goes, I am one to text a quick question because I don't feel like having a drawn-out conversation. But there is something different about talking with a friend on the phone and hearing
their tone of voice and laugh that you've missed.

4. Bodypump

This past summer, I joined a local gym, and Bodypump has been my go-to class for a while now. I feel so strong as I pump iron each week! :)

5. Visits from Mama

My mama came to Athens this weekend, and it was oh so lovely to spend time with her and worship with her at church on Sunday morning.

6. High School Girls

In my senior year, I had the joy of leading a group of sweet little 7th grade girls. Well, now those girls are juniors in high school. And I still love them.

Then 8th grade girls at Camp, May 2010. 

7.  The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by Beth Moore

I have completed a few Beth Moore Bible studies, and this one in particular is wonderful because of the way in which I can see myself in the characters of Genesis. They were ordinary people just like you and me.

8. Sleep

As a child, I required a lot of sleep. I'm learning that as an adult, not much has changed.

9. Eating Well

A couple weeks ago, I attempted to do a 7-inspired fast by eliminating seven foods from my daily diet. It didn't last because I am very weak human being. However, I noticed a considerable difference in how I felt. More on that soon.

10. Falling in Love with Reading Again

I just really, really love to read. Blogs, books, you name it. And I'll be reviewing some more of my recent favorites soon! :)

What are some things you've been enjoying lately?

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