Monthly Archives: June 2016

Vacation Planning Tips

Vacation Rental

We just got back from a week away in Northern Wisconsin. This area was a first first for us and we really enjoyed the change from the Black Hills where we had travelled 3 years in a row!

I had a few people ask how we planned this trip so I thought it would be fun to write a short post about some of the tips I have learned doing this sort of thing the past 4 years.

We have always chosen to rent a home from VRBO. Hotels can be really expensive per night and most don’t accommodate a family of 6 without having 2 rooms. Dominic’s parent’s travelled with us so renting a home where we have space for 8 and a place to cook meals was top on my list of priorities.

Having done this several times I will say we haven’t yet had a house we didn’t love. No not everything is perfect, but with a little planning and flexibility we always walked away blessed at the rentals.

When searching for a rental you should consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you will want as well as your budget and the area of the country you want to stay. We specifically wanted something on a lake so we could do some fishing each day.

Lake home

We found a amazing cabin with lots of space, a hot tub (or hot pool if you ask Karlena) and a private mini golf course in the back! It was homemade by one of the owners kids and was lots of fun!

Most owners list the types of amenities that each rental will have. Consider the types of meals you normally prepare and ask in advance if they have the necessary “tools” to accommodate you.

For instance I had planned 4 specific meals in advance and 2 of them were soups that my family loves. White chicken chili and taco soup. I typically cook it in a crock pot but often times the homes we rent only have small crocks available. I was going to bring my own, but we ended up buying a new one while we were there.

On two of the days before we left for our adventures I prepared the meals and set them in the crock on low. When we came home we didn’t have to fuss with a bunch of cooking we just set the table and ate!

Another tip would be to make lunches for the road.

I purchased a bunch of snack items and then we also had sandwich meats and breads available. Everyone got to choose what they wanted, and we prepared them in advance and then didn’t have to stop for fast food during the middle of the day. People could eat when they were hungry and we saved tons of money on not eating out.

Bring along sandwich baggies and a sharpie when you are packing for your trip. That way when you make your lunches you can easily label whose sandwich is whose on the front of the baggie.

We live in MN where we don’t pay sales tax on our groceries. We travel to states where they do pay sales tax…so for us I have always purchased a bunch of the food in advance and packed it in Rubbermaid tubs to bring with us.

This allows you to not have to stop the first day for groceries. I also always fry up some hamburger and chicken and freeze it in advance. It adds a nice ice substitute to the cooler and when you are ready just thaw and use.

That brings me to the most awesome cooler ever and a must have on a road trip vacation like this one. We bought a Coleman Refrigerator Cooler  last summer after we borrowed my parent’s the summer before.

Coleman Cooler

It plugs into an outlet in your car and keeps things cool and has an additional plug so you can bring it into the house and plug it into a wall outlet. This was the perfect cooler for our sandwiches and waters. We froze several waters and put them on the bottom that added extra cooling when the car wasn’t running.

It is expensive at $100, but we have used ours for 2 years and it was a worth while investment!!

And finally (or at least for now) packing.

I have a 31 medium tote that I use for each of our kids. They know which bag is theirs and can get themselves a new outfit easily. When they were smaller I would pack full outfits in gallon baggies and they could grab a baggie and go!

I do tend to over pack. Next year I am scaling it back because the reality is I do laundry each day so I don’t need to pack a weeks worth of clothes.

I know for some doing laundry seems crazy, but after this trip I came home with all clean clothes except for 1 small load. I didn’t have to spend our last day before entering the real world again doing loads and loads of laundry. Win for me for sure!  And make sure to pack some detergent and dryer sheets so you don’t have to buy it once you get there!

Well that is probably enough for this post…what are some of your best vacation planning tips? I’d love to hear them!

The Sounds of Praise

Lake walk

The black-and-white butterflies danced in front of our feet as we walked down the rocky path towards the shoreline of lake in front of us.

A bird circled overhead and cawed, reminding us that this was his territory.

The wind was strong that day and the trees sang and danced as the gusts caused their limbs to sway to and fro.

We were taking some time away with family, free of meetings and client calls. A time to breathe, something my husband and I both desperately needed.

There were sounds and movement all around us but I was filled with peace.

That kind of peace where you know all is well. Being able to unplug and just drink in this world that was created just for us.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude at the multitude of ways nature sings praises to the One who created all of it.

The trees making a song with their branches and the birds soar high on the currents of the air, rhythmically moving with the wind. The waves join in on the lake as they build and crash across the surface of the water. The plants and flowers provide beauty. All of it is a reminder to me that God is ever present.

There has always been something about nature that has drawn me closer to God.

It is as though in these moments where I step away and just pause to see, that I am overwhelmed at all He is and has done for me.

I need to be more intentional about taking the time to seek Him in the world around me.

Stepping away from the clatter of the busyness of life and into the sounds of celebration and praise that nature provides.

Is there a place that you connect most with God? Take some time this week and unplug so that you can connect with God!

For the Times You Don’t Feel Equipped

Being Equipped

It has been mostly silent here in my little corner of the www.

Except for the occasional book review/giveaway, I haven’t really had the words. It is frustrating for someone like me who has learned to process through writing. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write either.

In April Dominic and I attended a marriage conference that was really impactful. I knew I wanted to write about it, but I just couldn’t find the words to do so. In June we celebrated our 20 year anniversary and with it came a tough lesson I had to learn about my stubbornness and pride, and how the enemy targets those very character defects in me. Some  day I will share that with you as well if God leads.

I know that the “experts” would tell me that I should get up and write regardless if I have the words…but when I don’t feel God leading me there, it feels forced and in-genuine. Some day soon I hope to be back to a regular writing schedule though…God-willing.

This morning as I was getting ready I was thinking about those times when I have felt ill-equipped to do what God has called me to.

Do you ever find yourself there? In a situation where you know God has brought you to but yet you feel like the least qualified to be there?

A few months ago we were getting close to wrapping up the bible study we were on in our women’s group at church. We started talking about what we would like to do next and someone mentioned the book Fervent.

I had read it 3 times through and really loved it so I was all on board for that. I didn’t think that it was something I would lead, I just wanted to read it again. Each time I have been through it I find things that I missed, or nuggets of information that mean even more to me with each new read.

The morning after the discussion I woke up unusually early and started writing. Within a short amount of time I had 5 bible study lessons written that would be the start to a guide for the book.

If you have read it you know that there isn’t a specific bible study for the book. I sent what I had written to the ladies that lead our group and said that I thought I could write out the rest of the guide for the remaining chapters. It really was a God-led thing and honestly the book made it easy.

And so a few weeks ago we started our study of Fervent, using my guide, which is still a bit of a surreal experience for me. This feels largely out of my skill set. And in addition to writing the guide I am now leading the study. Another thing that feels outside of my talents.

I was praying on the way to church on Tuesday that God would just give me the words. I worry about filling those uncomfortable gaps of silence, of creating a safe place for everyone to share and be honest. There is the time factor, what if I can’t fill the specified time…what if times gets away from me!

It all seems so much more than I can handle. And I start to doubt that I am the right person to be leading this group of women that have so much more wisdom than I ever have had.

But it is where I am finding myself.

This week as I left bible study I was just overwhelmed by how God shows up. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have it all figured out. The women that are attending each have their own wisdom to share, and collectively as a group we grow from our shared experiences.

And I wondered if maybe that’s why God called me to this.

It wasn’t that I had so much to give, but rather that it was an opportunity for me to witness how incredible my God is. {Click to Tweet}

To find myself in awe of how He would use me, grateful for the new women that are there this time and how much I have learned from them. Filled with a passion to continue to have a place where we can be transparent with one another and grow in our understanding of prayer.

It is a humbling experience and such an honor to be a part of this amazing group of women.

So if you are being called to something that feels outside of your comfort zone, don’t worry. Trust that God will give you just what you need. And wait with hopeful expectancy that He will give you more than you expect out of the process!

Bible Journaling – Illustrated Faith

Journaling Bible

My husband bought me an ESV Journaling Bible for Christmas in 2014. I have loved having the space to take notes when I am at church. So often I can’t remember all the nuggets of wisdom that my pastor has to offer each week and by writing it down I can go back and look through it at a later date and remember.

When I got the bible I did some research about the best pens, highlighters etc. that I should use on the delicate pages. Searching unearthed (at least for me) the new trend of people illustrating their faith in the pages of their bible.

The work that these artists are doing is so incredible, I had to share a few of my favorites:

Illustrated Faith 2

Beautiful work by Tiffany Zajas. Simple, yet that tangible reminder to bloom where you are planted.

Illustrated Faith 7

Jaime was featured over at the Illustrated Faith website and I love that she uses stickers, colored pencils, washi tape and her own {amazing} handwriting to make this page her own!

Illustrated Faith 8

And finally this from Bekah, also featured at Illustrated Faith has used watercolors and paper cutouts to add whimsy to her page.

I will be honest with you when I started seeing all these beautiful pictures I was a little overwhelmed. I am more of a paint by numbers kind of girl and my handwriting leaves much to be desired. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to create something so beautiful in my own bible.

And then I heard about the Illustrated Faith line from Dayspring.

Initially I purchased some stickers, I thought that it would be a place to start. Then when I had the opportunity to review a full Illustrated Faith kit, I jumped at the chance!

The kit arrived and was packed so pretty. I received the Blessings or Lessons Illustrated Faith set.

Illustrated Faith 5

Here were the Items in the kit:

    • 1 devotional booklet (14 devotionals)
    • 1 stamp pad
    • 1 clear stamp collection with 1 sheet of cut outs enclosed
    • 1 roll of washi tape
    • 1 package of 3 Scripture sharables
    • 1 sticker
    • 1 bow clip

I love that the kit came with a devotional, I hadn’t expected that! Each month a new kit is available and has just enough to get a novice like myself started.

I decided to start by just placing the Scripture sharables in my bible where the verses are found. This way I have them with me and can share them as an opportunity arises.

I tried a couple of the stamps out, but they do recommend that you use an acrylic block to fix the stamps to before you use them. I didn’t have a block so I tried to wing it. One of the stamps slipped a little when I was taking it off the page. The block would have prevented that…so it is on my list of things to purchase.

Illustrated Faith 6I told you I am a novice at this, but it is fun! I want to get some colored pencils and maybe color around the stamp featured above. There are endless possibilities really with what you can do with just 1 kit!

I am even more excited to start using the sticker sets that I purchased but was afraid to try. Maybe this brings me back to those days when we decorated the covers of our notebooks with NKOB stickers and pictures (maybe that was just me, ha!)…it was fun to create then and I guess I had forgotten how something like this is fulfilling for a creative’s soul!

If you haven’t ever tried this form of creative journaling…maybe now is the time to start!!

For more information about the woman who designed this incredible collection see the video below! Email subscribers click here.

YouTube Preview Image

I was sent the Illustrated Faith kit in exchange for my honest review but even more exciting is that the lovely people at Dayspring have a kit to send to one of my readers! I am telling you that you want this!! To enter leave a comment sharing your favorite item from the Dayspring site or tell me if you have done any Bible Journaling yourself. Share this post on FB or Twitter for additional entries, just leave me a comment saying what you have done! 🙂

I will pick a winner on June 13th!

Photo Credit: Kit picture compliments of Dayspring

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