Sunday, July 13, 2014

Life to the Full Has Moved!

Big news--after nearly a decade on Blogger, I have moved over to WordPress! You can now find Life to the Full at Be sure to bookmark the new site and update it in your blog reader if you use one. I look forward to seeing you over there!

Friday, July 11, 2014

First the Low Road, then the High Road

Yesterday was not the best day at work. Someone spoke to me in a manner that I found to be quite patronizing and said some things that really offended me. I was feeling hurt and angry and if I'd been a Looney Tunes cartoon I'm sure I would have had steam coming out of my ears.

My plans for the rest of the workday were more or less thus:

• Vent about the situation to some sympathetic co-workers who have had similar run-ins with this person lately

• Stew about the situation most of the day

• Avoid the offending party as much as possible

• Come home and stew some more

• Vent about the situation to my sympathetic sister

By the time I went to bed, I was feeling a teensy bit better, but I still seethed just a little bit every time I thought about this person. This morning, however, on my drive in to work I heard that still, small voice of God's telling me that the best course of action for today would be to forgive the offender and move on. Even if the offender didn't offer an apology, the healthiest thing for me to do would be to take the high road and put the incident in the past.

So after deciding that today was going to be a better day, I left yesterday in the past and moved on. I even did some things today to help the person who'd hurt me, and I'm glad I did. I doubt that I'll ever get an apology of any sort for what was said, but I'm proud of myself for obeying God and choosing to forgive. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I can't control how other people treat me or their attitudes toward me, but I can determine my own attitude. Taking the high road equaled a much better day today.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Summer Potpourri

I keep waiting for inspiration to strike and fill me with enough deep, meaningful insights to craft an incredibly rich and thought-provoking blog post. However, lately most of my creative juices have been directed toward preparing for our largest conference of the year (which takes place next week), so I'm lucky to be able to string together one or two coherent sentences when I come home. And so I've put together a few quick insights into my summer thus far (hey, at least it's not yet another book review).

• Food-wise, summer is my favorite season because of the abundance and variety of fruits and vegetables available. Nearly every Saturday during the summer I'm at one of the local farmer's markets to pick up locally grown produce. Let's face it--most tomatoes at the grocery store cannot hold a candle to a fresh, homegrown tomato, and a BLT made with tomatoes from the farmer's market may be one of God's greatest culinary gifts to mankind. Surely there will be BLTs on the heavenly banquet table, right?

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"House Hunters International" has been dethroned as my favorite show on HGTV and "Fixer Upper" has now assumed the role. My sister introduced me to this new show in which husband and wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines help people find and renovate rundown homes. I really like their design aesthetic, but even more I love their family dynamic. They seem like a truly down-to-earth couple who juggle work with their four young children (who are often seen on the show and are absolutely adorable). On a couple of episodes they've mentioned going to church and have prayed, so it's encouraging to see a Christian family getting to live out their faith to a pretty wide audience.

"Fixer Upper" airs on Thursday nights on HGTV, in case you want to check it out and see what all the fuss is. And you might also want to read Joanna's blog; I particularly enjoyed her recent post on celebrating your gifting.

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• Someone please tell me I'm not the only one who the mosquitoes love to feast upon all summer long. In the approximately 2.8 seconds that it takes me to open my back door and put the trash out in my trash can (which is right next to the back door), I can get bitten about half a billion times. Let's just say that I am running low on After Bite and am wondering if Costco sells it by the gross; that may not be a bad investment for me.

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• After hearing about it from a friend at work, I finally jumped on the Stitch Fix bandwagon and ordered my first box, which is due to arrive in a few weeks. In a nutshell, Stitch Fix is an online personal styling service in which you complete an online style profile, pay $20 and a stylist sends you five items that are selected for you. You try on the items, pay for what you like and send back what you don't like. If you end up buying something, the $20 that you paid for the box goes toward your purchase, and if you decide to keep all five items in the box, you get a 25% discount. 

Some people use Stitch Fix because they hate shopping, but I actually like to go shopping. However, I tend to get into a style rut and gravitate toward the same items over and over, so my main reason in trying Stitch Fix was to see what someone else would pick out for me, particularly if they choose items that I wouldn't necessarily pull off the racks myself. I'm looking forward to seeing what I get, and I'll do a review of my box and of the service overall when it arrives. 

In the meantime, if you're interested in checking out Stitch Fix for yourself, click here. If you happen to order your own Stitch Fix box using my referral link, I'll get a $25 credit, and you will in turn get your own referral link. Note that this an unsolicited shout-out to Stitch Fix; they did not pay me or ask me to promote them--I'm just excited about giving them a try!

• I think I am one of about six people who have not taken a vacation yet this year, and I am really hungry to get out of town. Last year my big trip was the one my sister and I took to Seattle. So far the only plans I have this year are a beach trip in September, which I am very much looking forward to, but I'm craving exploring a new city (or rediscovering one I haven't visited lately). Anyone want to join me, or at least underwrite my travel budget? Anyone??

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Book Review: A Nice Little Place on the North Side

Several years ago I took a long weekend trip with some friends to Chicago, which I absolutely loved. One of the highlights was visiting the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field for a behind-the-scenes tour, followed by a Cubs game the next day. I don't follow baseball the way I do college football and basketball, but I do enjoy going to both minor and major league games, in large part due to the charm and allure of the ballparks. 

Therefore, I was eager to read George F. Will's book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side. The book celebrates the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field while also providing historic background on the Cubs, in particular their role as baseball's perennial losers and the butt of many jokes. As a lover of both history and sports, I found the book to be quite interesting, especially since much of the Cubs' storied history was new to me. 

Although billed as a book about Wrigley Field, I thought that it focused more on the Cubs team overall--not necessarily a negative. I would have preferred some more behind-the-scenes info on the park from some of the unsung heroes--like equipment managers or grounds crew, for instance--and to me, the book dragged a bit near the end. On the whole, however, I found the book to be a pretty interesting and quick read. Those who are more familiar with the Cubs and with baseball history may find the book even more appealing. 

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: Love Skip Jump

Love Skip Jump chronicles Shelene Bryan's journey of saying yes to God and watching Him use her and her family in extraordinary ways. After sponsoring two children from Uganda, Bryan was challenged to take a trip there to see exactly where her money was going each month. Little did she know that her life would be turned upside down, as she saw firsthand the extreme poverty that her sponsored children lived in and realized that God had given her the resources to help.

Bryan's determination to help eventually led to her founding a charitable organization called Skip1, which encourages people to skip something (such as a meal or a luxury like a manicure or latte) and donate the money instead help provide clean water and food to children in need. Throughout the book, Bryan shares how God has grown her faith and used her to help people all around her.

While Bryan's wealth and Hollywood connections have certainly played a major role in helping so many around the world, her biggest asset has been her willingness to say yes to God's invitations. I think that is the biggest takeaway I got from the book--that when we are willing to say yes to God, that's when He allows us to join Him in adventures beyond our wildest dreams. As someone who has a hard time saying yes sometimes, I needed the reminder that, scary as it may seem, the adventures God has in store are worth the risk.

All in all, this was an interesting read that encouraged me to be more open toward accepting God's invitation to adventure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: I Quit Sugar

For someone with a huge sweet tooth such as myself, reading a book titled I Quit Sugar is a bit daunting. But, despite the sweet tooth, I'm also someone who tries to eat healthy as much as possible and limit my sugar fixes, so I was interested in reading about how Sarah Wilson kicked her own sugar habit.

Wilson opens the book with sharing some background on why she chose to eliminate sugar from her diet. She then provides an 8-week guide for quitting sugar. I was glad to see that she advocates more of a "step-down" method as opposed to going cold turkey right off the bat. With each week she offers some tips for overcoming cravings and several recipes to incorporate into your diet as you adjust to a sugar-free (or less sugar) diet.

The bulk of the book consists of more than 100 recipes, ranging from breakfast items to dinners to snacks and--yes!--even desserts. I have yet to test drive any of these, but there are quite a few that I am eager to try.

Overall, I found the book to be an interesting and entertaining read (of course, I'm the sort that loves to sit and read cookbooks). I'm not sure yet if I'm ready to take the plunge in following Sarah's 8-week program, but I am pretty sure that I'll at least incorporate some of the tips and recipes that she provides in the book. And who knows, I may one day join her in the no sugar camp for good.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Hitting 40

I celebrated my birthday over the weekend, and it was a major one--The Big 4-0. So far, I haven't experienced too much angst over hitting this milestone, although I've had a few fleeting moments of wondering just how I got here. After all, I thought for sure that by now I'd be married with a couple of kids. Nearly everyone else in my family--not to mention nearly all of my co-workers and almost everyone at church--has a family of their own, so I naturally thought I'd follow suit. Navigating life as  a singleton has been challenging, particularly when it seems like everyone else around you is paired off, and when you are in a place in life that you did not choose or necessarily want to be in at this point.

Still, as my sister astutely pointed out, most likely everyone could say that their life has not turned out like they had planned it. I am sure there are plenty of married parents who envy my single life and the freedoms that it brings. The grass is always greener and all that, I have to remind myself from time to time.

Besides occasionally struggling with contentment (or lack thereof) with where I am in life, I also sometimes struggle with finding a purpose in life. There are times when I see people around me experiencing what I consider to be really extraordinary lives, and my life in comparison seems dull, dull, dull. But over the weekend this little bit of wisdom occurred to me, and I thought I'd share it with you:

I don't have to be extraordinary or do anything extraordinary to have a purpose. I was fearfully and wonderfully made by an extraordinary God, and I am therefore already extraordinary. My purpose is to glorify the One who created me. That is what I was made for. 

I want to keep this in mind, particularly when I'm feeling that envy toward someone else seemingly living a far more interesting life than mine. Perhaps the 40s will be a decade of truly becoming content with my life and not worrying so much about the future. Maybe God has some really grand adventures planned that are far beyond what I would have chosen for myself. Time will tell...