What’s Making Me Happy This Week

pexels-photo-106223Well, folks, you win some, you lose some.  In the past 8 days, I failed to post not 1 but 2 scheduled blog entries.  There is no dramatic circumstance to explain my failures.  It was just good-old-fashioned imperfection.  

My natural instinct to failure is to withdraw or isolate.  Ask any of my close friends.  Ask my husband.  Ask my dog.  Failures, big and small, paralyze me with shame.  This is not a healthy response.  This is not a Christian response.  

The blog, however, has challenged me to change my response.  It has forced me to move forward, regardless of my setbacks, regardless of my shame.  And, since “shaking it off” isn’t my first instinct, I’m trying to make it my habit, instead.

So, today, I’m back at bat.  Some of what is below made me happy last week, but I hope it brings you a smile just the same.  And, if you’re holding on to any shame that is keeping you from smiling, consider giving yourself a little grace… God already has. 

What’s Making Me Happy (Last) Week

My husband and I spent some time at Madeira Beach recently.  In addition to visiting Bubba Gumps (perhaps my favorite chain restaurant of all time), I devoured the past few issues of Vanity Fair.  It was amazing.

The Dave-Ramsey-Love-Bug recently bit my husband, and he passed it along to me.  Thanks to Dave, we have already had some really important conversations about our money and our marriage.  I’m so excited to see where this journey leads up both financially and spiritually.

This is the best (only?) commercial for insurance I’ve ever seen.  If you’re looking for some warm-and-fuzzies, watch this video of a little girl dancing joyfully and carelessly around the house.  She makes me want to do some dancing of my own.

Where my married ladies at?  Politics aside (and, believe me, I ramble on for days about Trump-Pence politics), I admire the Vice President’s the strong commitment and close connection to his wife.  Andrew Exum’s recent essay in The Atlantic thoughtfully examines the pro’s and con’s of the so-called Billy Graham Rule. 

Finally, the last week has seen a lot of depressing news about the environment (even the Pope is upset!).  Manatees, however, just came off the Endangered Species List, so let’s cling to that happy news and keep the hope.  #seacowsmakemesmile

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

pexels-photo-111223

Happy weekend, dears!  I was spoiled silly this past week.  A dear friend came into town for a long weekend, but the snow storm in the Northeast cancelled her flight and extended her stay.  We had great fun during the first part of her trip, visiting the beach, a brewery, and various restaurants.  I think I most enjoyed, however, the second half of her stay.  We sat side by side on the couch, with our laptops, working away.  We chatted as we watched The Bachelor, played Ticket to Ride, and scrolled through OldNavy.com.  We made dinner at home and took the dog to the park.  It was not the thrilling side of friendship; it was the fulfilling side.  We just got to do daily life together, and it was lovely.  Below is more loveliness that I stumbled upon throughout the week:

 What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Goodness.  This is a hard-hitting article from The Washington Post, but it does raise some good points about the timeless and timely tension between church and culture. Katelyn Beaty reviews a The Benedict Option and asks whether Christians should withdraw from the mainstream.

The Great British Bakeoff finally came to Netflix, and I am obsessed.  I enjoy the pretty, yummy creations, but I love the British accents and personalities even more.  They all handle their victories and defeats with SUCH GRACE.  With each episode, these amateur bakers are teaching me how to maintain a more positive outlook.

I recently told a friend, “Many people feel the Holy Spirit telling them what to say in difficult moments.  Usually, when I feel the Spirit, it tells me to shut up.”  Jodie Pine’s Divine Silence on (in)courage elaborates on the beauty and necessity of silence in relationship and ministry.

Ruth Simons’ GraceLaced’s Instagram always encourages and inspires me.  Her recent print of a prayer from St. Patrick is gorgeous.  It also nicely echoes the prayer practice I wrote about earlier this week.

Finally, I have so enjoyed preparing and hosting Evening Prayer on Facebook Live.  It’s not a perfect prayer, but I always walk away feeling the peace and joy of Christ. Feel free to join me each evening at 7pm throughout the rest of Lent at on our Facebook Page.

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy This WeekWelcome to the weekend, loves!  One of my dearest friends is coming for a visit, and I’m looking forward to a long weekend of girl talk.  I imagine we may do some other things (like eating doughnuts or drinking margaritas), but we’ll mostly be talking.  Such is the life of good girl friends.  

Tell me: what’s on your schedule for the weekend?  What will you be doing to refresh and rejuvenate your spirit?

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

If you’ve never spent anytime with Kendra of the Lazy Genius Collective, do yourself a favor and pay her a visit.  She believes in being “a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.”  I owe her great thanks not only for all of her wise words (like these), but also for letting me know that Jeni’s Ice Cream has a cookbook.

In all honesty, I more or less sat out International Women’s Day earlier this week.  As Bruno says on an episode of the West Wing, “I have only so much RAM in my head. I have to prioritize. I have to throw some things overboard.”  For me, right now, I just didn’t have the RAM for International Women’s Day.  That being said, I loved this video from World Relief.

I’ve been following the work of Chris Hale at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good for the past few months, and I really appreciated his recent essay in Time, I’m a Christian Man and I’m Acknowledging My Privilege for Lent.  He invites us all “to open our broken and confused hearts to authentic conversion and to see what it is inside of us that constantly allows us to debase and devalue women.”  This good read will get you thinking.

For better or worse, it’s always bathing suit season in Florida.  This year, I have my eye on this scalloped bikini, this one-piece, and this high-waisted bikini; all from Target.  In the past, I’ve gone for monochromatic suits, but, clearly, I’m a feeling a fun print this year.  

Each Friday evening, I join a small group of women and gentlemen in our church basement for Centering Prayer.  In addition to spending 10-20 minutes in sacred silence, we also share some of the insights from Thomas Keating’s Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer.  One of my favorite lines thus far: “God is beyond all that exists as well as in all that exists.”  Amen.

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy.jpgHello, dear friends!  Right now, I’m drinking a nice, big cup of coffee and staring at a very long to-do list.  My first instinct upon consulting my lengthy to-do list is to put my head down on my notebook, close my eyes, and ignore each and every task.  I know this because I texted my husband a picture of me doing just that earlier this week.  

After a few minutes of desperation, however, my spirit and my shoulders usually lift.  I look back at the to-do list and, while it hasn’t gotten any shorter, it has gotten a bit brighter.  Almost every task brings me joy in some way: I get to spend my days writing, reading, and praying.  That’s not so bad!  As for the tasks that I dread, I know that doing them will, at the very least, bring this procrastinator a sense of accomplishment and relief.  That’s not all bad!

I imagine there are lots of tasks on your to-do list, too… maybe you’ve been too busy to even write a to-do list!  I imagine you’re clutching your own big cup of coffee, wondering how it will all get done.  Fret not, friend.  I promise that there are blessings buried amidst all the chores and errands.  And, I pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal those blessings to you, especially when you feel too burdened to tackle all your to-do’s.  

Below are some of the blessings I stumbled upon this past week.  I hope they offer you a bit of refreshment and encouragement as well.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

The Book of Hosea, which I wrote about earlier this week, is a perfect scripture to spend some time with during the Lenten season.  I recently came across Irving Bible Church’s video series on Hosea on Crystal Twaddell’s site.  The thought-provoking series, which includes six 3-minute videos, imagines what Hosea’s story would look like in modern-day America.  A must-see.  Preferably with a box of tissues.

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new city is missing out on good friends’ big events.  Some of my lovely lady friends in DC and Atlanta are getting married later this spring, and I was crushed that I couldn’t attend all the various bridal showers and bachelorette parties.  Thanks to the magic of the Internet and the US Postal system, however, I was still able to send them some fun aprons (like this, this, and this) from World Market.  

I’ve read a lot about Lent over the past week, but this reflection hit me hard in the best way.  If you’re observing Lent for the first or millionth time, visit (in)courage and check out “Burying the Alleluias” from Jen Bradbury.

A few weeks ago, while Sean was at a work event, I bought myself a giant tub of popcorn and a ticket to La La Land.  Oscars controversy aside, I loved this upbeat chorus number and this melancholy solo.  Both songs, with lyrics like “when they let you down/ you’ll get up off the ground” and “here’s to the ones who dream/ foolish as they may seem” encouraged my inner struggling-artist.  I recommend singing along at the top of your lungs 🙂

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy_1Each Friday I like to share some of the things that have made me happy over the past week.  Oftentimes, it is an article that gave me guidance on my spiritual journey. Sometimes, it is a new gadget that has made my journey easier.  Sometimes, it is just a fun drink or a funny card has helped me to take myself and this world less seriously.  

Today, however, what is making me happy is something much more beautiful and meaningful than anything you can find on the Internet.  Today, what’s making me happy is my mom.  She made the trip down to Tampa from DC yesterday morning, and we’ve spent the past day, talking about life, walking the pup, and eating at all the best restaurants.

Even though I am almost 30 years old, when I see my mom, my soul breathes a deep sigh of relief.  I hug her and remember: I am loved, I am cared for, I am not alone.  The world, despite all my anxious thoughts otherwise, is actually not on my shoulders.

There were other things that made me happy this week.  Some more incredible articles, some more lighthearted reminders.  And, I will return to share them next week.  For today, however, I am going to hang out with my mom.  Today is her birthday, and we’re going to celebrate with a fancy dinner at the Columbia, a local institution.  We’re going to reminisce about the past year and dream about the year ahead.  

Meanwhile, I invite you all to reflect on the relationships that have made you happy over the past year?  Consider your relationship with your partner, your siblings, your friends, your parents, your small groups. Who has lifted your spirit in times of distress?  Who has joined in your joy in times of celebration?  Who has walked with you through times of transition?  How can you express your gratitude for these relationships to them and to God?  I pray that, through these relationships, we will all learn how to better give and accept the perfect love of Christ.

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy This WeekYa’ll.  I loved Valentine’s Day this year.  Yes, my husband did surprise me with lovely tulips.  Yes, we did enjoy a steak dinner with a nice bottle of Virginia wine.  My favorite part of Valentine’s 2017, however, was the gratefulness, the tenderness, and the downright joy that flooded my social media feeds.  I loved the pictures of babies in pink onesies.  I loved the photos of couples – young and old – laughing, kissing, and cuddling.  I loved the long odes that husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends wrote to each other.  I loved that, for a blissful 24 hours, the typical anger, hostility, and hatred faded from my feeds.  Coming from DC, I appreciate and support political awareness and involvement.  The constant barrage of negative news, however, isn’t good for the soul, and much to my surprise, Valentine’s Day was just what I needed.  I hope that you also felt some love (and relief) this past week, and I hope that it continues to encourage you in the days ahead.  Here are some of the other things making me happy this week:

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

I came across Ann Voskamp’s The 1 Secret to Destroying Anxiety and Fears This Year during my own recent bout of severe anxiety.  If you’re feeling stress or sadness, please, please take a few minutes to read her reflection.  My favorite line: “the answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ.”

I am many wonderful things, but, if I’m honest, trendsetter has never been one of them. So, I know that I am a little late to the party for the Fitbit, but I just got one, and I am obsessed.  My husband’s company is the middle of a Step Challenge (Go Team Fighting Maniscalco’s), and we’ve enjoyed some nice, long walks along the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay.

I did not have a romantic Valentine until I met my husband, so the first 25 Valentine’s Days of my life were all about my family and friends.  As a devout Parks and Rec fan, I am forever grateful to Leslie Knope for formally establishing Galentine’s Day.  (We know that it is now an official holiday, because Google Docs marked Galentine’s as misspelled until I added an apostrophe.)  The next time you feel like celebrating your female friendships, I recommend that you check out these buttons and these cards.

As you can likely tell from my recent posts, I am a big fan and advocate of sacred silence. I’m not the only one, however, who’s been craving some quiet time.  Sarah E. Frazer’s 3 Steps for Finding Quiet Time When Life is Loud offers some practical tips for establishing (and protecting) your prayer time.  While her advice is geared specifically to mothers, it truly applies to anyone on the spiritual journey.  Aliza Latta’s If The World Feels Too Noisy from (in)courage also resonated with me.  As she writes, “In the quiet, when I meet with God, He tells me who I am, not who I should be.”  Amen.

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy This Week_02.10.17When I lived further north, February was, as a general rule, my least favorite.  The abbreviated month highlighted the interminable winter.  When I moved to Tampa, where the winter temps linger in the 70’s, I assumed my frustrations with February would evaporate.  

Alas.  The start of the second month has been a rough ride for me.  I’ve been full of anxiety and low on joy.  When I first sat down to prepare this post, I felt a wave of dread.  How could I possibly say what’s making me happy when I wasn’t happy?  

As I reflected over the past few weeks, however, I realized that my life was littered with blessings.  I realized that I had read, heard, seen, and even tasted some wonderful, beautiful things.  I simply hadn’t consciously noticed or appreciated them.  In the process of forcing myself to be grateful, I began to feel gratitude.  In the process of seeking for joy, I actually found it.  So, without a trace of irony or sarcasm or falsehood, I am happy to report that the following items made me happy this week.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Zahra Noorbakhsh’s “After Trump’s election a non-practicing Muslim Returns to Prayer” from Fresh Air describes a spiritual journey similar to those of many young women in America.  In just 5 minutes, her story highlights the necessity (and difficulty and beauty) of spiritual formation as well as the danger of spiritual commodification.

I’m rapidly reading the Gilead in preparation for next Tuesday’s book club reflection.  I’m enjoying the novel thus far, but I still manage to put off even the things I enjoy/love/need, and I am grateful to have this blog and book club to hold me accountable.

This reflection from Denise J. Hughes perfectly summarizes the importance of reading, studying, and praying the Bible.  Read this piece if a)you’ve ever wondered why Christians always seem to be talking about the Bible, or b)you’ve been looking for some renewed motivation to spend some time with the Word.

My thoughtful husband surprised me with these snazzy sunglasses this past Christmas. These are definitely an upgrade from the pair of plastic sunglasses I got from a Bud Light rep at a local beach bar.  While originally designed for boaters, they are also perfect for anyone living (and squinting) in a region with lots of strong sunshine.

We’re celebrating my sister-in-law’s birthday this weekend, and I always love an excuse to make these birthday cake martinis.  I usually use Three Olives cake-flavored vodka (what a odd, wonderful world we live in), instead of vanilla vodka.  Despite all that sugar, these martinis still have a nice tart taste thanks to the champagne and cranberry.  Happy Birthday, indeed!

 

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me HappyHello friends!  I can only speak for myself, but this week was a bit draining, a bit boring, a bit lacking.  I blame the calendar; on January 1st, a new year feels exciting; by February 1st, it feels daunting. So, this weekend, I’m hitting the refresh button.  I’m looking forward to taking a long walk, checking out my neighborhood chili cook-off, and catching up on back issues of Vanity Fair.  If you’ve had a tiring week as well, I hope some of the links below provide just a bit of refreshment and encouragement!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Wow. Laura Boggess’ About That Extra Five Pounds I Gained Over the Holidays is a brief and brilliant celebration of what a real body and a real love looks like. Amazing.

I would love to get my hands on one of these puzzles. Am I crazy for thinking that working on it could be a sort of meditative experience?

As someone still adjusting to a new city, this reflection on friendship really resonated with me.  It also encouraged (challenged?) me to put myself out there a little more. Tsh Oxenreider writes, “So let’s just say it together: finding friends can be hard. But finding friends is so very worth it.”

We bought our first beautiful basket of strawberries this week, and I may mix up this strawberry and lime cocktail this weekend.  Per the recipe, I make the strawberry puree separately, so it is easy to make one batch with gin and club soda for the adults and another with Sprite for the kiddos.

Last Sunday, Sean brought home the film, East Side Sushi, and we loved it!  It follows a Latina trying to become a sushi chef, and I recommend it for anyone feeling down about themselves or the world.

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy

Congratulations, dear friends! We made it to Friday!  

As this very post proves, today marks the end of my first full week of blogging.  I have no words (rare for a writer) to express my gratitude to everyone who has encouraged and supported me over the past week.  I hope this blog blesses you at least a tiny bit as much as you have blessed me.  I’ll surely toast you all with a nice cocktail later this evening.

In addition to my incredible family and friends, lots of other things have been making me happy this week.  As I described in more detail last summer, the weekly “What’s Making Me Happy” posts are an opportunity for us all to identify and appreciate some good things going on in our world.  I hope you enjoy the items I list and add some of your own items in the comments =).

What’s Making Me Happy This Week:  

How Not to Be a Spasmodic Hercules grounded me in such a good way… both in regard to this blog but also to my spiritual practices.

Like many people, I’m still sorting through my thoughts and feelings about our current political climate, but this reflection from Chip Gaines soothed my soul. My favorite line: “Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie.” #preach

I’ve been downing this delicious homemade version of Starbuck’s Cinnamon Dolce Latte everyday this week and loving it.

Having struggled with an anxiety disorder for my entire life, I really appreciated this article’s theological reflection on anxiety.  I especially recommend the latter sections: “Is Anxiety A Sin?” (hint: no) and “Cultivating Response-ability.” 

This shocking/amazing story about Girl’s Life Magazine is a few months old, but a friend of mine just turned me onto it. My favorite change is the rewrite of “Quiz: Are You Ready for a BF?” to “Quiz: Are You Ready for AP Class?”  Brilliant.

Finally, I’ve heard INCREDIBLE things about the film, Hidden Figures.  I’m hoping to see it (while eating my body weight in popcorn) in the next few days.  

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me HappySometime last summer, on one of my countless road trips between Atlanta and Tampa, I stumbled upon NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.  This weekly podcast features four panelists discussing everything pop culture, from National Comic Book Day and opera music to romance novels and Super Bowl Chicken Eating Contests.  In addition to the insightful discussion, there is, often, a lot of laughter.

At the end of each episode, all of the panelists share “what’s making us happy this week.”  Last summer, as I drove that endless, empty stretch of I-75, I marveled at this simple, beautiful ritual.  It was such an unpretentious practice of gratitude.  Furthermore, the segment engages the panelists in a radical form of commentary that purposefully celebrates, rather than critiques, culture.  I wanted to be part of that joyful resistance.

Which brings us to today.  Below are some of the things that are making me happy this week.  I hope they bring you a smile.  More so, however, I hope they encourage you to identify and appreciate all the things (and people and events and Chicken Eating Contests) that made you happy this past week.  Perhaps, in this small way, we may not only feel joy, but spread it.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week:

An interesting (and important) conversation: Why Islam and Feminism Aren’t Mutually Exclusive

As someone who loves Cabernet and lives in Florida, this was great news: You Have Our Permission to Chill Your Red Wine

I got totally sucked into the first season of unREAL on Hulu this week.  I still can’t quite determine whether I’m enjoying the show’s critique of reality TV or show’s reality TV elements.  I guess I’ll just have to keep watching to figure it out. =)

My husband just finished this gem, and I hope to dive into it over the weekend: Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World

Finally, we’re heading to Miami for the long weekend and Nomadic Matt’s Travel Guide was super helpful.  If you have suggestions for places to check out in Miami, please put them in the comments.

HAPPY WEEK-END!

What's Making Me Happy This Week

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