Paper Crowns Torn; Crown of Thorns Embraced

Life. The human life – breathing, living, flapping wings of life is perfectly gorgeous. The thought of life should excite the soul. Human contact, laughing and loving is what we were fashioned for – by the hand of the living God. We were formed to give love and collect it. And what a joy it is to collect the perfect love of our beautiful Savior. What a complete joy!

Like stepping stones in fresh, wet grass – his mercies are new every morning. He whispers in a voice like the lapping, salt laden ocean and sprays us with new direction and solid vision. Pupils, dilated with the excitement of his beauty, we think about life, this life we were given.

STONES

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

The butterfly rebirth. From filthy state to fragile wings. We were endowed with so much beauty. The beauty in the everlasting heavens above and the splendor in the presence of the Christ.

Vessels of a living, breathing God. A God that walked on earth, took the scornful death and heinous treatment for us. That’s the truest picture of beauty there ever was. Chills. It sends chills up and down my spine. It engulfs me in a wave of amazement. Paper crowns torn. Crown of thorns embraced. Hurt in human life, pain in death, triumph over the grave – and pristine forgiveness and elegant hope.

Dancing, forgiving hope. A hope that washes our faces and kisses our foreheads. This hope places sandals on our worn feet and oil on our tangled, matted tresses. Hope of life – in his death.

May we ever embrace his hope. Breathe in and out – fill your lungs with his goodness. The air circling your clay vessel shape. Life. There is always life and hope around you. It’s made possible through the sacrifice – so we might live full.

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The 5 Best Affordable Lip Glosses

lipssticlI don’t know about you; but, finding a good, affordable lip gloss is a real challenge. I have a stockpile of dollar store gems and, frankly, unusable chap sticks too. I’ve gone through a trial and error stage. Buying several kinds and marking the good ones and chunking the bad ones.

So, you should take this little list to heart. I will not lead you astray when it comes to affordable lipgloss. Seriously, these types below are good for day time use – as well as, for that formal party! They are ranked from #1, being the best to #5 my least favorite (but, still admirable and worth a try!)

1. Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker

Now, you don’t have to let your childhood slip through your fingertips. Buy this popular flavor and get a great daytime color. You typically think of lip gloss as sheer; however, this little stick of goodness has a really beautiful light color to it. So, you will get the yummy taste of Dr. Pepper and that hint of red hue. And the $1.99 price tag at Walgreens really can’t be beat!

2. Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer

A little bit more pricey at $3.49 (but, c’mon way affordable) is the lip shimmer. These are made from 100% natural ingredients including vitamin E and coconut and sunflower oils and they come in 5 different colors. Wow! This is a gloss that I make sure is a staple in my purse pocket.

DR PEPPER

No joke. This is currently in my purse!

3. Bare Minerals ‘Marvelous Moxie’

Okay – this is $18. It was a Christmas gift from my mom; but, it has become one of my favorite lip glosses of all time. It is available in many, many shades of color. It’s lasts a really long time. I use this gloss a lot – and still have not had to buy a new one (from Christmas!). It is worth giving a try.

4. Bath and Body Works ‘Ultra Mentha’

Hello breath freshener and lip gloss in one! At $7.50 a bottle, this little gloss is perfect. It is a peppermint flavor that will give you a lasting breath-freshener! I discovered this little gem in high school and love it to this day. If you are a mint lover, this is the gloss for you.

5. Benetint

So, this is not a gloss – but it is awesome. It will color your lips for a long lasting stay. Created by two sisters, they truly know what women want – all day color. You can get a sample size for $8. And trust me, you really don’t need more than a sample size to begin with!

 

Green Tea Jell-O Bites {Gluten Free, Low Fat}

green tea

The color will vary depending on what type of green tea you use!

Green tea is fantastic for your health and your body. However, it is not all that fun to drink. I find it has a pretty potent taste. I drink it; but, just really don’t enjoy it all that much.

So, I invented a new way to get your green tea intake – green tea Jell-O bites! Not only do these little gummies taste better than a cup of hot tea – they have a subtle sweetness from the agave nectar (that you will add to your mixture.)

Just pop about 5 bites in your mouth in the morning or night, and there you have it – an instant healthy treat and a daily dose of antioxidants that is gluten free, low fat and disease fighting!

You will need: 1 packet of Knox Gelatin (has 4 sleeves in it), 3 cups of boiling water (tea induced), 1 cup of cool water (tea induced) and 2 heaping tbsp. of agave nectar.

gele

Knox unflavored gelatine – 1 box has 4 packets!

First, boil your 3 cup of water over the stove. Once the pot is boiling, seep in 4 green tea bags. I used pomegranate green tea. It gave it a nice fruity flavor. Let these tea bags set in the boiling pot for about 3 or 4 minutes.

While, the tea is in the boiling pot in the stove, pop a mug the size of 1 cup into the microwave for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Take out and put a tea bag in this hot cup. Let cool. I put about 3 or 4 ice cubes into the cup as well to cool it quickly.

Next, dump your 4 gelatin packets into the hot mixture and stir. Gradually add your cool green tea cup to the hot mixture. Use a big spoon to stir; making sure the gelatin is all dissolved. Add in your 2 tbsp of agave nectar! Stir again.

Pour mixture into a tray. I used a clear one used for casseroles and set in the fridge for about 2 hours or until the gel is thick. Cut into cube with a knife and enjoy!

5 Natural Foods Your Dog Will Love

Ever grow tired of just feeding your furry friend just plain ol’ dry food? I do. I mean, think about it, we pepper our days with all different types of foods – fruits, vegetables, meats and starches. Why wouldn’t our little pets want and enjoy different texture type foods?

Now, there are some foods that are off limits for dogs. Namely – chocolate. If you are a dog however, you should know that for sure. Other foods to add to the list are: avocado, bread dough, grapes, raisins, hops, macadamia nuts, moldy foods, onions and garlic.

So whatever you do, try and steer clear of those foods!

However, there are some awesome natural foods that your pup will truly enjoy. And, rather than feeding them that processed packaged food – give them some natural food. After all, they can benefit, just like you can, from munching on living food.

So here are some snacks for your pup to try:

Carrots: Rick Woodford, author of Feed Your Best Friend Better, says, ‘Try a frozen carrot in place of bones to keep a dog’s teeth healthy and cool them down in the summer.’ And, if this idea is a no-go with your favorite pet, Woodford suggests grating a carrot and adding it their meal, or steaming it for them.

doggie ice

What a fun DIY! Kids will LOVE this.

 

Red Apples: this is a favorite snack for my little puppy. Modern Dog, reports, ‘They [apples] are a source of vitamins A and C and fibre.’ Cesar Millan, the famous dog whisper, also gives this healthy treat a giant thumbs up!

Kale: this is a super food not only for you – but for your dog! Raw and cooked, kale harbors anticancer compounds that can keep people and pups healthy. Modern Dog suggests chopping, lightly steaming, and adding kale to your dog’s dinner. Kale is an excellent source of calcium.

Yogurt: make sure this is yogurt without artificial sugar in it. Yogurts with active bacteria can act as a probiotic and are good for your dog’s digestive system. However, if you are giving yogurt for the first time, start with small amounts to prevent a stomach upset. (The quantity should be 1 tsp. for a puppy and 1 tbsp. for a medium-sized dog.)

Green Beans: ASPCA lists green beans as a healthy treat for pets. Fox News reports, ‘Green beans add fiber and to dogs’ diets and make them feel full without having the extra calories.” So this looks like the perfect diet food for your pup!

BONUS: for a special summer treat try this little awesome idea – a frozen chicken stock cake! This is an awesome DIY project. Just freeze toys or treats in water or chicken broth in a bucket and place outside in the summer to keep your dog cool (and occupied) during the day!

Cauliflower Mashed Faux Potatoes {Gluten Free, Vegetarian}

buttery faux tattersLet me fill you in on a little new secret recipe. Well, it is not really a secret. You can find this recipe online countless places.

But, take it from me – it may not sound like an awesome dish; but, it is fabulous. Creamy, delicious and melt in your mouth just awesome.

Move over starchy mashed potatoes with loads of butter, there is a new healthy dish in town. And, it will for sure become one of your all-time favorites. It is gluten free and lick the bowl great.

You will need: 1 head of cauliflower, 2 tbsp. of ghee (clarified butter), 3 cloves of fresh garlic, salt and pepper, ¼ cup half and half creamer (or full fat coconut milk), ¼ cup parmesan cheese.

First, boil a big pot of water. On a chopping block cut your cauliflower into tiny little florets. Place these florets in the water (after it comes to a boil). You will want to boil these pieces for about 10 minutes.

You will also need to cut the cloves of garlic and add to the boiling pot of water with the cauliflower pieces.

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Boiling and chopping the cauliflower!

Once the florets are nice and soft, pour the pieces over a strainer and let cool just a little bit. Add the pieces to a food processer. My food processer was really tiny, so needed to do this in three segments.

Add the cauliflower florets (and garlic) to the processor along with the cream, ghee and parmesan. Then mix it up. It will make a nice paste that resembles mashed potatoes. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Once you have made an entire bowl of faux mashed potatoes, place them in a glass/oven safe container. Make sure the oven is set to 350 and warm your cauliflower potatoes for about 20 minutes.

The finished product is fantastic. Please try this and let me know what you think!

Find A Nature Walk Near You

kimi walk

Me and my puppy on a nature walk!

I have fallen head over heels in love with walking. But not just any walk – nature walks. There is something serene and absolutely beautiful about walking by a flowing creek or pathway of tiny rocks. Seeing squirrels scurry from tree to tree and hearing birds crisply chirp in the distance is awe inspiring.

Living in the city has really opened my eyes to the beauty in nature. It makes me miss the big open Texas skies and sunshine.

However, thank goodness for technology because there are certain websites and apps that can now help you locate beautiful places in your areas to walk/hike (even if your abode is in a high-rise in the middle of the city).

The American Heart Association has an awesome website: Start Walking Now. Just got to this website and you can enter in your current location and viola – there before your eyes are commonly walked paths with mileage numbers. Pretty great! You can select the intensity level along with the type of walk you would like to go on ie: mall, nature walk, airport…etc.

Trails.com is another good link. Simply choose your state and enter your city and limitless trails and bike paths pop up. It is super easy. You can even customize the website to whatever activity you enjoy the best like biking, hiking, rafting…etc.

Map My Walk is extremely easy to use as well. You can also get this on your phone! Again, just enter your state and city and trails pop up with distances. This interface is really easy to look at and it displays the current weather conditions for the day.

Adding a nature walk, even if it’s just for the weekends, is a great prescription for your health.

Walking in nature can have positive impacts on disposition and memory—researchers have found that students with moderate to severe depression demonstrated a significant increase in both mood and short-term memory after a walk through a natural setting, as compared to a walk through the city.

Also, natural elements like plants, trees, water and sunlight have been said to absorb negative energy.

Start walking in nature today. You really have nothing to lose.

Eggplant Fries {Gluten Free, Paleo}

This combination is dynamite. After all, people have refereed to eggplants as one of the world’s healthiest foods. And when you combine a crunch, as well as, the nutrients – amazing!

Plus, eggplant is low in calories — just 20 calories per cup. So this little dish is low fat and will keep that figure in check. And they are also way low in carbohydrates (if you are watching those).

Natural News lists these three things as the best benefits of this purple plant: high in nasunin (cancer preventative), loaded with chlorogenic acid (antiviral) and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

You will need: 1 eggplant, olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic powder.

On a cutting board use a knife to chop up your whole eggplant into fry pieces. Eggplant is soft and easy to chop up. So, this will not be too difficult.

Place the pieces in a bowl and drizzle 2 heaping tbps of olive oil over the fries. Mix up with a large fork to make sure all the pieces are covered.

Sprinkle on your salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Then mix the spices in with a large fork. You want to make sure your seasoning covers the fries.

Set the oven to 400. Line a pizza tray or flat tray with foil and dump out your eggplant fries on the pan. Let them cook in the oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown.

Enjoy your nutritious fries!

Book Review: Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run

running-like-a-girlYou want to read an inspiring book? Look no further that this one here. Typically when I look for inspiration it is not in running books. I don’t run. I don’t like it at all. I am more of the yoga, elliptical type.

However, reading this book made me want to enjoy the great outdoors a little bit more. In fact, after reading this book this weekend, I’ve been walking every day.

Alexandra Heminsley is an inspiration. She very wittingly takes you on a journey through her life where she goes from thinking she cannot be a runner to completing 5 marathons.

I could not even contemplate that. Reading her book, makes you feel like you are actually jogging the trails with her. Which might actually be a downside because you really should get your body moving.

She vividly describes the scenery around her and discovers herself just why she loves running so much. This book is about passion. It is about drive. I guarantee that after reading this book, you will feel like you can climb Mount Fiji.

She teaches you that pain is mostly mental. And, you can really push your body to extreme limits (there are boundaries of course). I closed the cover of this book feeling a sense of fervor and a burning desire to set new goals.

In addition to stirring your emotions, the author really goes in depth about running equipment – shoes, sports bras, hair clips…etc. This book is for the novice, as well as, the experienced runner.

I would encourage you to pick up this book today or order it on Amazon. You will not regret it, and it is an excellent weekend pool read. Get the book online here and follow the author on Twitter here.

Book Review: Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn

bookWhen you work in a pressing job, sometimes just reading a light hearted book is a good escape. Diving into this book was a true escape for me. I may not have been lounging in a beach setting for this read; but, I sure forgot I was sitting in a tiny airplane seat.

I think you will find this a quick and truly encouraging read. Being a Texas girl, loved the setting of this book – deep in the heart of Texas.

Author of The Big Mama Blog, Melanie Shankle, is hilarious. She had me chuckling out loud in her memoir of mommy-hood. You don’t have to be a mom to appreciate this little book gem.

The humor in everyday situations is refreshing. From her tale of trying to tan her pregnant body in a bikini by the pool from her cross country road trip with three kids, this book entranced me.

It took me to a place of remembering to find happiness in the everyday. Happiness can be attained in running through the sprinklers with your kids just as much, if not more, than a super awesome job accomplishment.

If you want to be reminded of the true meaning of life – pick up this book. We were placed here to bless and be a blessing. What better way is there to do that than purely loving the moment and place you are currently in! This book will have you wanting to lap up God’s goodness.

The Night Communion Balcony

The sun sets over the big clunky buildings in the distance. No longer having the U.S. Capitol view I had grown accustomed of, I look at the lush trees framing the interstate. I traded in a city view for more space, longer commute and a balcony. Not a bad trade and on days like today I am so thankful for the change.

Forty-five minutes of yoga and a dog walk under my belt, and I am finally serene. After calming down from a mind laden with work worries, I sip on some red wine (compliments of Trader Joe’s) and think about life – the living breathing life. I think on the heart pumping life that grabs you by the hand and seizes your very lungs and soul.

Here on this balcony, there is no one to answer to. I am lost in my thoughts, in this moment, in this communion with God. My mind goes to him – my friend, my invisible observer, and I am captivated. To onlookers, I look alone and content. But, I can feel his presence near me.

Never alone. That is the title to a Lady Antebellum song. Yet, it is the mantra of a Christian’s life. How hopeful and superbly wonderful! As I listen to the sounds of the night and the last mocking birds chirping song, this provides my chest with much needed rest.

I inhale deeply and exhale in relief. I don’t have to live up to this world’s standards of success. I can just be me and be confident that I was made in the image of the Holy One. High heeled success does not match up to the victory of wearing a crown fashioned by the majestic God. Living up to the crown of honor is my mission.

My heart is wedded to the man who, even before birth, has called me his beloved. He brings peace to the chaotic. He makes sense of the messy and he recycles the scent of my mistakes into something glorious and utterly edifying.

Like broken bottles of oil, I want the fragrance of my soul to delight his heart. I pray the passion in every strand of my hair glows with an aura of the living God. In the silence, these are the thoughts that come to my mind. Outside in the breeze of the summer night, after hard work, I reflect.

What if the world took just a few minutes each day to reflect in the silence? It is said, your heart and mind drift to those who you hold most dear – those that consume that pumping, coveted space in your chest. Let us take time daily to reflect on living, loving and praising. Let’s reflect on life and it’s insanely beautiful purpose – to love God and others.

Where do you think your mind will wonder this evening?