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LIVING INTENTIONALLY

One of the biggest driving forces that led to shifting my purpose and vision for The Lowly Life, was my smartphone. Over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself going back and forth about using my phone too much and really struggling with just how involved things like social media were in my life, and in the lives of those around me.

Technology and all we have access to through it is truly amazing! It’s fun and can be a practical, useful tool for our lives. But it can be overused so easily and there are many unfortunate side effects to this. Relationships suffer, we disconnect from real life moments and experiences, drama (So. Much. Drama.) discord, and comparison eat away at us, our health can be negatively impacted, and we can struggle to be productive. It was really important for me to take a major step back and look at how I was personally being affected by the ways I used my phone, and then determine the changes that I needed to make.

Now this is coming from a girl who LOVES her Instagram and has made so many incredible connections through being on social media! I know that there are many positive aspects to it and it can be a beautiful way to engage with others. But I do think use of social media and our smartphones in general, has blown way out of proportion and that it could be dialed down a bit. Okay, a lot.

We can implement significant changes into our everyday lives that will help us spend less time on our phones, and live more simply, intentionally and purposefully. This will look different for all of us, but today I wanted to share with you some simple ways that I’ve personally created distance from my phone, and the boundaries that have really helped me to be more productive, mindful and invested in different areas of my life. I hope they are helpful for you as well and that you’ll consider giving them a try if you’ve found yourself in the same boat.

1. Turn Notifications OFF

This one change has been SO helpful for me! My phone used to blow up with all kinds of notifications throughout the day and it made it difficult to be self controlled and not respond to things immediately. So at the start of this year, I turned off all social media notifications and it’s been absolutely wonderful. Now my phone only goes off if I receive an email, phone call or text message. In addition, I’ll usually have my phone on silent during the day, and this has also helped me be more detached and able to get things done without it calling to me 24/7.

2. Phone Free Date Nights

I recently started leaving my phone at home or in the car when Jay and I go out for date nights. This boundary allows me to focus more fully on time with my husband, without the distraction or need to check my phone for anything.

Back on our 2 year wedding anniversary, Jay took to me to a super fancy restaurant in Downtown Austin. It was such a beautiful place and the food was insane! I very quickly grabbed my phone to capture/post it all and he lovingly asked me if I could just put my phone away. A very simple and understandable request. This made me so frustrated, however, because all I was trying to do was capture the beauty of what we were experiencing. I didn’t see the harm at the time.

But the truth is that it simply wasn’t necessary. Jay wasn’t trying to be a jerk, all my husband wanted was a full date where we were focusing on simply being together, not worried about sharing it with the world or capturing the perfect picture.

There isn’t anything wrong with taking a snapshot to remember something beautiful, but we have to be careful and mindful that it doesn’t become routine, obsession, distraction, and have a negative impact on the people around us.

Don’t get me wrong, every now and then I’ll bring my phone with me if I want a picture with Jay or of where we are, but I never post in real time and always try to be selective and disciplined in it.

3. Phone Free Night Stand

I don’t know about you, but this girl is a major night owl. I am always more productive, alert and my creative juices flow best late at night. Jay on the other hand tends to be an early riser and can be out cold by 8:30/9PM, which is pretty much impossible for me. We hardly ever go to bed that early, but sometimes he’s ready to hit the hay long before I am. We don’t like going to bed separately, so unless I have something specific to work on, I try winding down when he does.

More often than not I am tossing and turning, wide awake forever after he’s gone to sleep, so my first instinct is to grab my phone off of my night stand. It’s terrible I know, but it’s usually the only thing that “helps” get me to sleep. I’ve wanted to break this habit because I know it isn’t good for me, so I finally made a change and moved my phone away from my nightstand. It now charges on our dresser, on the opposite side of the room, which I’m too lazy to get up and grab if I can’t sleep. So that worked out nicely!

While this has been been an adjustment, it’s definitely been a positive one. I’ve actually had an easier time getting to sleep since making the switch, which is interesting. It also gets me out of bed quicker in the morning because I have to get up to shut off my obnoxious phone alarm, as opposed to hitting snooze a billion times when it’s next to me. We’ll be getting lamps for our room soon, so I’ll be able to read in bed when I can’t sleep, and that usually works wonders for me, too.

4. Posting Content Later And Less

I used to feel this strange need to post in real time and often. I thought I had to post something every single day,  and would even stress over not having content to share. It was ridiculous. Platforms like Instagram are such fun creative outlets and I love being able to showcase different aspects of our lives through pretty pictures,  but these apps should never, ever control us and it can be so easy for them to.

Things don’t have to be shared the moment they happen, and sometimes a moment should just be enjoyed for what it is, away from our phones and our favorite apps.

This shift in mindset was a game changer for me. I started looking at social media in a different light and saw less of a need for it in my everyday. For me, it’s been really helpful setting boundaries online, when it comes to how much I post and how much I’m on in general. Weekends, for example,  have become more of a phone free time in our home, where we aren’t posting, interacting online much and are very intentional about doing things together.

For you it might not be your phone. Maybe it’s Netflix, or cable, or just too much time browsing on your computer. Whatever the case may be, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing a good job of being invested in the lives of those around you, intentional with your time, and disciplined in the way you’re using technology. If you find that these areas could use some work, and even if none of my ideas suit your fancy, come up with a list of your own and give it a trial run! See the difference it makes for you.

I want to conclude by saying that I AM NOT PERFECT. I do not succeed in every area of this all the time and this is a constant work in progress! I’m not over here saying I have all the answers, because I most certainly don’t! But I have experienced very quickly the benefits of incorporating these much needed adjustments. I feel so passionate about giving my phone and technology in general, less of a place in my life. Because life is precious, and it’s important to view all that we do, as well as the motives behind what we do, in light of that.

 

Thanks for reading and please let me know if you give any of these a try/how they’re working out for you. Happy Friday!

 

 

“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.”

~ Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

I am blessed to say I married my best friend. I fell in love with my husband, Matt, when I was sixteen and he was eighteen. Because we were so young, he and I were able to grow and learn together as we became adults. So much of who we are now was in some way shaped by the other. We have been extremely compatible from the beginning and have come to know each other so well during our almost twelve-year relationship (going on 5 years of marriage!). But, as we all know, people change as they grow. Movies, music, and activities we enjoyed when we were in high school might not suit our fancy as much now as we approach our thirties, and the fact that we have been given a beautiful daughter who never lets us sleep has changed our priorities as well. How do we continue to cultivate deep friendship when many of the commonalities that brought us together don’t mean as much now? There are also many marriages where the spouses are very unlike one another, and that’s not a bad thing! Regardless of how dissimilar a couple may be, deep friendship is possible. I wanted to share four simple and practical ways Matt and I continue to grow in our friendship, even when life looks different from how it did before.

1. Make Christ Your Dearest Friend

I know it sounds like the cliche Christian thing to say, but this is such a foundational truth: Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He will never fail you. He will never change. His love, his grace, and his mercy towards you are inexhaustible. We and our spouses are in stark contrast. We constantly fail, change, and exhaust our supply of mercy and grace. But knowing that we are perfectly loved by God in Christ, we won’t be crushed when we fall short or when our spouse fails. This takes such immense pressure off your relationship and places you on unshakable ground. Matt and I must constantly preach the gospel to one another and remind ourselves that our identity is not found in our imperfect relationship but in Christ—our true and better friend who will never leave or forsake us. We can have confidence that our marriage will last on this journey of life because it is built on the firm foundation of the gospel. “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

2. Be Intentional (Date Night! Date Night! Date Night!)

In practically every marriage or counseling book I’ve read, the number one reason for struggling marriages is neglect. Neglect is stealthy and hard to notice unless you’re actively searching it out. Even when we’re focused on good things, our marriage can suffer if it is not a priority. One of the most practical ways to be intentional about staving off neglect is having a regular date night. And no, it’s not just going and getting food somewhere that makes a good date night (although food is amazing); it’s using that time to intentionally focus on your spouse. Matt and I do our best to have one date night a week, even if that means dropping our daughter off at her Nana’s so we can enjoy an “at-home” date night, since going out every week can get pricey (but if you’re going to spend money on something, invest it in having intentional time with your spouse). Use that time to ask specific questions and learn something about your spouse. What are they learning in their Bible reading? What are they struggling with? What’s something they’ve learned about themselves? Where are some areas you can improve?

Matt is one of the pastors at our church, as well as an MDiv student, so he is constantly learning, studying, and planning. Anyone who knows him knows he processes by talking things out. I love listening, but on date nights, we try to make it a rule not to talk about his work or school, and I try not to talk about how tired I am. Even though those things are a huge part of our lives right now, date nights are a time to direct our focus to other areas that get less attention. For some couples, a date night with this kind of discussion might seem awkward at first because it’s an unnatural style of communication: asking such direct questions to someone they know so well already. However, it’s worth the initial awkwardness and effort to make it a habit of being a student of your spouse, intentionally learning and growing in love and friendship together. So, drop the kids off at a family member’s or a friend’s, and enjoy some quality time together!

3. Have Fun

This step ties in with being intentional but deserves its own point: having fun together is vital for friendship in marriage. Laughter can lighten the heaviest of moments and erase a day’s worth of exhaustion and tears. In other relationships I admire, it’s noticeable that the couple laughs together and truly enjoys one another. I must make note that this laughter is never at the other’s expense but rather an expression of their mutual joy and love. I’ve always appreciated Matt’s sense of humor; he can make me laugh like no one else can. He knows exactly when to say one of our favorite lines from Frasier, or he’ll randomly dance side to side from the doorway in our kitchen as I sit watching from the living room in hysterics. The comic relief he brings to our home is a blessing. A big part of intimacy in friendship is simply being able to be silly together. With the many responsibilities we carry, it’s easy to be serious most of the time (or to take ourselves too seriously), but it’s important to show your spouse that they bring you joy. Be generous with your laughter.

4. Give More Than You Get

Sacrificial love is the most Christlike love you can give your spouse. It means serving and giving more. It means trying harder to love your spouse better. A practical way to live this out is to care about the things that matter to your spouse. Whether it’s a specific sports team, a show, or a hobby, try to find something about those things that you can enjoy too. Try to pay at least some attention during the football (or in my case, futbol) game. For Matt, it means going on a walk with me even when he just wants to relax indoors after he’s home from work. It means sacrificing even when you feel you’re the only one who ever does.

Because we’re human, we’re selfish. We want what makes us happy and comfortable. But God’s primary purpose in marriage (and life) is not to make us happy, but to make us holy. Holiness happens over the course of our lives through the work of sanctification—a continual dying to our sinful nature and a consistent growing in our likeness of Christ. In Christian marriage, sustained and motivated by God’s love towards us in Christ, we have the unique opportunity to find deep, pure, and substantial joy by sacrificing our preferences for the betterment of our spouse. Can you think of a more true and beautiful friendship than when both spouses are doing this for one another: “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21)? Not only do we show a picture of Christ’s love to each other, but the world gets to watch the gospel on display as we glorify Christ in our marriage through our friendship with our spouse.

ABOUT BRIANNA:

Brianna is wife to Matt and mother to Lorien. She is a committed member of her church, Elmira Christian Center, in Upstate NY. She is passionate about helping cultivate healthy, gospel-centered marriages and families. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram .

 

How many of you have been stressed out from throwing a party and maybe so much so that you don’t even enjoy it and your guests? Or maybe you have been so intimidated from the thought of throwing one, you avoid it all together? I have been there and I get it. Over the past several years of hosting parties, I have learned a few lessons, tips and tricks that I want to share with you.  

I have always loved throwing parties and will find any and every excuse to do so. My family and friends thought I was crazy for hosting a housewarming party only a week after moving into our home but I just couldn’t wait! I know some would say that parties could be frivolous and do not really matter a whole lot in life. This thought reminds me of the episode of “Friends”, when Rachel reconnects with her old sorority sister, Melissa. They begin to tell each other what their current jobs are. Melissa says that she left her job of real estate because she wanted to do something where she can really help people and make a difference. So Rachel asks her what she is doing now and Melissa responds with, “Party planning”. Of course you hear the audience laugh because the thought of really helping people by planning parties can sound kind of lame, but I would like to suggest to you that in a small way, throwing parties, big or small, really can make a difference and be meaningful. It is a way to connect people with each other, potentially creating life-long friendships, and at the very least, make long-lasting memories!

So let’s get down to it. I want to share with you 6 lessons I have learned over the years of throwing and hosting several parties. From my huge DIY wedding back in 2011 before the Pinterest and Instagram era, or large vendor fairs held at my house like the Galentine’s Day Spa + Market I hosted this past weekend, to the smaller bridal showers, baby sprinklings, costume Oscar parties and even smaller surprise birthday celebrations and dinner parties. All of them begin with the same basic principles that lead to a fun time with lasting memories.

1. Pick A Theme

Picking themes like a woodland animal baby shower or something more generic with just a color scheme can be super helpful in narrowing your decisions on how to decorate. It also makes your whole party look cohesive and put together if you stick to your theme/color scheme. Pinterest will be your best friend for this step! I can’t even tell you how many secret boards I have made for the different themed parties I have thrown together. What a great resource!

My Galentine’s party was spa themed, so I chose to run with the color green because of cucumbers, and peach because I just love peach and am not a fan of typical Valentine’s colors. Once I picked my colors, I incorporated them into everything from the DIY cucumber eye mask that each guest received, to the heart shaped peach-colored cantaloupe and green-colored honey dew skewers!

2. Decorate For Cheap

There are lots of really quick, easy and cheap ways to make your party look like you spent a lot more time and money than you did. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Just a little paint and paper can go a long way! I love making bunting signs for my parties like the one I made this past weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right color peach paper I needed and I live in a super small town that doesn’t have any craft stores, so I took peach paint and cheap poster board and made some of my own which turned out great! I always keep inexpensive twine, mini clothespins, and washi tape on hand too.
  • Another cheap option is to reuse decor items from past parties. For my wedding, I had used logs and tree stump plates that I had asked a local logger to cut down for me to decorate with (which he did for free!). Since then, I have kept them over the years and use them for most of my food tables at parties, or just around the venue/my house. I also used mason jars at my wedding and have kept them in my basement so that I can pull them out whenever I need a quick centerpiece.
  • Paper straws are also a great way to add to your decor. I have a giant bag with all different colored straws I have collected over the years and just pull out what colors I need for the specific party I am throwing. Most people don’t use the straws so I just put them back in my bag at the end of the night and reuse them for the next party! I also typically get matching party plates and napkins from TJ Maxx because they always have a great selection that is cheap. I store whatever is remaining for the next party!
  • I tend to buy green foliage like eucalyptus or myrtle or even filler flower, like wax flower or baby’s breath, to decorate with because they are cheaper than flowers. If I do buy flowers, I will usually go for alstromeria lilies because they are on the inexpensive side, but don’t look cheap like carnations. And the cheapest option is going out in your backyard and grabbing some wild flowers, pretty leaves or branches! For Christmas I always grab some pinecones from outside and get some clippings from my Juniper tree in our backyard. My husband and I also usually cut down a larger Christmas tree than what we want so when we cut it down even shorter to fit in our home, I will be able to use all the excess branches for decor.
  • Investing in drink dispensers is a good idea too because you can use them for many years to come. Not only do they have a great function, they also can add to your decor! I always put in fruits that coordinate with the colors of my parties and the color of your drinks can match too! For the Galentine’s spa, I made cucumber, lime and mint water and then sparkling green tea limeade that was an invention with raving reviews!
  • Along these lines, I usually try to make foods that go with my color scheme. This past weekend all of my foods were either green or peach/light orange and it made the tablescape very aesthetically pleasing! And let me tell you, the herbed cucumber chicken salad this past weekend was out of this world!

3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!

I have a dear friend named Terri who always offers to help when I throw a party. Without fail, she will either come the night before or a little early to help with food or whatever is needed. Friends like these are keepers for sure! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends or family. I am very grateful for my mom who will make her famous veggie pizza and my aunt who makes her renowned cupcakes and cookies for my parties whenever I ask them to. This past weekend I had so much going on outside of the party that I enlisted some more help from one of the vendors who is an incredible chef and baker to help me throw the food together. I also have a handful of friends who I can always count on to show up early to help. Punctuality doesn’t make sense to me but I am grateful for them because they will always help with last minute food prep! I also am very blessed with a husband who will help around the clock for my parties. He is usually in charge of  jobs like putting on the music, making sure the garbage can is never overflowing and taking out the trash when needed. He does plenty of last minute errands and always sweeps. Sidenote: I never mop before a party because it’s just going to get disgusting again with so many people in my house!

Delegating is key to keeping things simple so you don’t have to do it all, plus when people feel like they have a small part, they feel included and needed and can take some ownership of it too! Make sure to thank these people and give proper recognition where it’s due! If you show your appreciation, they will more than likely be willing to help you for your next party!

4. Easy Peasy Appetizers

My go-to appetizers are crock pot foods for sure! I am known now for my buffalo wing dip and cranberry meatballs. If you come to one of my parties you will likely see both of these dishes. I don’t branch out often because I do what I know people love and what is simple! Also throwing veggies (That match your decor) on a platter with store bought hummus is so easy. Or, my favorite, is making a simple and beautiful cheese platter with a variety of soft and hard cheeses, fancy crackers, grapes, almonds and rosemary to garnish. Simple but beautiful, and who doesn’t love cheese?! For my wedding I was gifted several white platters and server-ware, and for the past 7 years I have been using those for pretty much all of my parties! White goes with everything. Make the investment and you won’t regret it. Another idea to make the food prep easy and simple is to ask guests to bring a dish to pass! I know some could say this is tacky, but food is expensive, so people understand! I do this for my annual Christmas party every year. In years past I didn’t like doing this because I wanted all the food to look a certain way and to go with my theme (yes, you can roll your eyes, haha). But you can always request for friends to bring their food on a white platter or tell them you have a white platter they can use. Ultimately I have learned to just let the aesthetics go sometimes and not care; which brings me to my next point.

5. Imperfection is Perfect

Let’s face it, things are not going to go according to plan all the time. Life happens. Over the years I have had to realize that the party is ultimately about the people who you are hosting, and not the decor. You don’t want to be so focused on the way it looks or how things are running that you forget to connect with your guests and have a good time. If you do, people will not have a good time because they will sense the tension and the vibe – trust me!

6. Do It for the People

I realize some may not agree with me on this, and that’s fine, but I have found this to be an amazing mindset for me. To this day I still get people that tell me that my wedding was the most fun wedding they had ever been to and that brings me so much joy. I really think that this is because I made it a priority to make sure my guests and bridal party would be comfortable and enjoy themselves. I know a lot of people have the mentality that your wedding day is your day and you should do what you want despite people and their wants, but here’s how I see it: if people aren’t happy around me then ultimately it will rub off on me and then I won’t be happy. So really in essence I am making sure that people are happy so that I can be too. It’s honestly selfish, haha! But really when you think about it, the majority of your guests will lovingly supporting your marriage covenant throughout your marriage, so keeping them in mind when you’re planning is so important. For example, I wanted an outdoor wedding but I chose to move it indoors because in case the weather was bad I didn’t want it to irritate my guests or me! I made sure our venue (a barn) had AC installed for the hot July day and a nice bathroom was a must (a nice bathroom at any party/venue is really a must in my book!). Ample and easy access parking is always a good idea. Sadly the parking at my house isn’t awesome but my husband and I always make sure to pull into our garage to give more room. Thinking about the time of day for your party, the food you serve- having vegetarian options and sugar free treats are all great ideas. Be intentional with your planning – thinking about it from the perspective of your guests and what they would want.

Another way to make people feel more comfortable is to help introduce people to others they may not know. I realize not everyone loves doing this. For me as an extrovert, I love doing this like really love it! I love giving people topics to talk about and ways they can relate to each other. If this is not your personality type – ask a friend who is good at this to intentionally go around the room and connect people in this way. I feel for those introverts who hate introducing themselves and can’t think of topics to talk about so doing it for them will make them feel included for sure.

So when it comes down to it, it’s all about planning ahead in every aspect. No party has to be extravagant and huge but in order to make it a lovely time that brings lasting memories; it should be intentional, thought out and focused on what is most important – the people. I hope all of this helps make your next party simple, intentional and meaningful! I would also love to connect with you on Instagram! Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or if any of this resonated with you. Keep on planning those parties, friends! Everyone needs a reason to dress up once in a while!

ABOUT KIMMY: 

Kimmy is a small town designer, letterer, painter and party planner enthusiast. She is obsessed with plants, running ‘cause chocolate, a minimal, tidy home and Jesus. She lives with her bearded musician and teddy bear of a husband, Ryan, in Upstate NY where they are the pastors of their church, Anchor Oneonta. Kimmy loves helping others realize their passions and encourages them to use their gifts to their fullest potential, to ultimately bring glory to God.

Check out Kimmy’s Shop – Drift Design Co. – handlettered paper goods, apparel and home decor

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Hello, friends!

Well first off, Happy very, VERY belated New Year to you all. It’s been a hot second since I was last on the blog, so it’s good to be back and writing again! These past several months, with the holidays, travel and continuing the process of settling into our new home have been super busy, both physically and mentally for us. It’s been a struggle to make time for the blog and just creating in general consistently, so that’s been a bummer.

But as much as I’ve hated the delay in getting back here and into the swing of things again, the time spent away has been so very good for me. It’s given me a lot of clarity and time to really think through, reevaluate and plan for some super exciting things this year. I’ve been reflecting on 2017 and looking ahead to what I feel God has planted in my heart for 2018, and I’m SO excited to share that with you guys today!

SIMPLICITY

When I first created The Lowly Life, what inspired me initially to choose that name was the humility aspect of it. I have always desired to live a life of complete humility before God and to exemplify the character of Jesus, that was so beautifully and perfectly displayed. And while that purpose will still rule supreme in all that I do, the Lord placed fresh vision on my heart and is taking things in a new, yet perfectly aligned direction this year.

The Lowly Life is now going to stand for: Encouraging, inspiring and empowering others to live more simple, full, intentional lives for the glory of God. This is something I have become super passionate about over the past year and could not be more excited to represent. I have personally struggled and seen others in my life struggle with pursuing simplicity, slow living, being intentional and fully present, and so this message really hits home for me.

I’ve allowed many unnecessary stresses, busyness, drama, comparison and distraction to affect my own life. One of the main factors for that was my unhealthy use of my phone, but overall, my time (which don’t get me wrong, I am one of Instagram’s biggest fans and I love my iPhone, but my time on them was just turning out to be too excessive and not good for my life).  My passion stems from that, and comes from a place of deep, personal conviction. It’s such a huge desire of mine to help others pursue whatever a simple and full life looks like for them. I think it’s super important for us all to take a step back and remember just how precious life is, asking ourselves if we are truly living ours in the best, most God glorifying way.

There is SO MUCH life to live and enjoy outside of all the petty, meaningless things we can allow to take up our time. I want to challenge myself and others to find ways that we can lay aside meaningless distractions and fill more of our lives with what matters most. That could mean setting up family game nights, taking regular walks with your spouse, hosting fun parties or movie nights with friends, baking more in your kitchen, writing letters to long distance loved ones, reading books more (studying the Word more is huge), setting time aside to create (We ALL are creative and so many of  you are capable of so much more than you think you are), prioritizing fun vacations, and going on wild adventures with your people, getting more involved in your church and other communities…the list goes on and on, my friends and there’s so much that we can be replacing the excessive time on our phones, TV’s and computer screens with! 

COMMUNITY

Another huge aspect of change for The Lowly Life this year and something  I’m really passionate about, is community.  I am going to be incorporating more like minded people into what I do, allowing them to share their passions and hearts with you all on things that pertain to my overall mission. I’ve been so blessed and inspired by some amazing people in my life, and cannot wait to feature them here, so that they can speak into your lives and also just give you some fun ideas, tips and tricks to try! We’re going to be covering SO MANY amazing topics here that will touch on every area of life, and I’m just looking so forward to having a community on board with me to share them with you all.

As for me, I am going to be posting regularly and alternating guest posts with my own personal content each month. You’ll be seeing a lot of the same kinds of stuff from me, like favorite recipes, DIY’s, content on my marriage and family, thoughts on life and my faith, fashion, friendship, and probably a LOT more about our home, now that we are finally filling it with furniture and making it look oh so pretty!

I’ve also got a few other tricks up my sleeve this year, but I’m still working through and don’t want to reveal them just yet. So keep your eyes and ears peeled, folks! And if you think to, please keep me and everyone else that’s going to be apart of this new and exciting journey in your prayers! I cannot thank each and every one who takes the time to read my blogs and support The Lowly Life enough. You have been SUCH an encouragement and I am just so thankful for you all.

Stay tuned, friends,  and have an amazing weekend!

For His glory,

-Danielle

 

 

Okay, friends.

There’s this big fat lie that some of you are believing and it needs to stop right now. You know, that convincing lie that tells you that you aren’t creative and have nothing to bring to the table. This is something that has been SO heavy on my heart lately and I feel like I need to remind some of you lovely people just how amazing and truly creative YOU (yes, YOU) are!

I’ve been hearing so much these days, people being super hard on and blind to the greatness that’s within themselves. Maybe it’s because they can’t dance worth squat, or paint beautiful pieces of art, or cook exquisite meals, or carry a tune, or build things, or take “good”, “Instagram worthy” photos, or play an instrument…whatever the case may be! They compare the strengths and creativity of others with their own, quickly leaving feelings of discouragement, inadequacy and the sad belief that they have nothing legit to offer. But that’s the FARTHEST thing from the truth, friend, and if you’re one of those people, feeling like you aren’t creative or capable of creativity, you couldn’t be more wrong!

I feel like we do SUCH a good job of confining what creativity looks like into these little, specific boxes, and I think that social media has played a HUGE role in helping (hurting) us with this. We have endless access to other people’s lives, talents, successes and quickly beat ourselves down, discounting the good in our own lives, because of how different it looks from others. We turn a blind eye to the God given talents we possess, because they aren’t mind blowing, out of the norm, or something that’s super exciting to us. But here’s some good, factual news for your Friday: YOU are SO creative, YOU are SO special, YOU can make a difference with what you’ve been given, and long story short, YOU ARE ENOUGH.  There are so many ways that you are creative, you’re just not seeing them clearly!

It could be the way you tend to your home. That ability you have to keep things organized, clean, and looking so good. It could be the way you write. Through song, in a private journal, or a blog. Nobody writes like you do!  It could be in the way you parent your kids. Those games and crafts you come up with, the adventures you take them on, the lessons you teach them, the way you help them experience the fullness of life. It could be the way you serve others. Your unique ability to engage with and make them feel included, accepted and loved. It could be your cooking and/or baking! It could be in the way you work out, or style hair, or make DIYs,  or the unique clothes you wear, or the way you decorate, or the way you get work done… I could literally keep going for days, folks!

Seriously, creativity comes in so many different forms, and we need to broaden our thinking on the subject! Christ has created every last one of us with significant purpose and ability, and it’s when we refocus on Him (because our focus is not fully on Him when we have such a harsh and negative view of how He designed us) and dig down deep to find the ways that He’s made us awesome (not encouraging arrogance here whatsoever, just a healthy, correct viewpoint of ourselves!) that is when we will live with more freedom and confidence, fully aware of the amazing ways we’ve been created to create.

Fact: You ARE creative and it is my prayer that this little blog post helps to remind you of that, boosts your spirits up, and encourages you to walk with more peace and confidence to be the amazing, gifted human being you are.

Happy Friday, friends and thanks for reading!

This time last year, I was on cloud nine, launching my blog and sharing my very first post about some DIY Mother’s Day cards! My photography skills weren’t that great, to say the least and I didn’t really know what on earth I was doing at the time, but I loved being able to make something special for the incredible mothers in my life and share it here.

I don’t know about you, but I live 15 hours away from my beautiful, sweet momma, and I could not hate the distance more, especially on Mother’s Day! I would love to be able to celebrate and honor her in person this year, but it just isn’t doable, unfortunately. So I wanted to do something special for her, and decided to bake some homemade butter cookies! When my husband and I visited my parents in GA for Easter, mom gave me a scalloped cookie sheet that I just love, and I promised her I would bake her lots of yummy cookies in return!  As long as I can remember, my mom has always loved eating cookies with her morning coffee and I thought that whipping up a special batch using the cookie sheet she gave me would be the perfect gift for Mother’s Day! I also wanted to make some for my amazing mother in law and seester, who this time last year was pregnant with my niece, and praise Jehovah, Lorien is now a happy and healthy 6 month old beauty! I’ve learned so much from these incredible women and I am blessed to call them family.

Deciding on the flavor for my butter cookies was a no brainer. My hubby was given several bags of Teavana’s delicious Chamomile Bloom tea, which we both absolutely love and I knew that it would be the perfect ingredient for my cookies! Since I’m unable to bring these ladies pretty flowers, I thought that going a more floral route with the cookies would be a good substitute. These are super easy to make and turned out delicious, so if you’re wondering what to get for your momma this year, I would highly recommend baking some of these goodies. You just can’t go wrong gifting a batch of homemade cookies, people! Okay, here’s the simple, yummy recipe:

Chamomile Butter Cookies

Oven °325

Ingredients

  • 24 Cavity Scalloped Cookie Pan
  • 1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
  • ½ Tsp. Salt
  • 5 Tsp. Softened Butter
  • ½ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 3 Tablespoons Milk
  • ½ Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ½ Tsp. Pure Maple Syrup
  • ¼ Cup Teavana Chamomile Bloom Loose-Leaf Tea (Or whatever loose-leaf tea brand your prefer)
  • 1 ¼ Tsp. Lemon Zest

Directions: 

STEP ONE: Preheat oven. Combine flour and salt in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Step Two: Beat sugar and butter until fluffy in a large bowl. Add egg yolk, vanilla extract, maple syrup and mix until well combined.

Step Three: Gradually add and mix in the flour/salt and 3 tablespoons of milk. Work dough with hands until it becomes pliable.

Step Four: Add Chamomile and lemon zest to dough and combine well using your hands.

Step Five: Grease scalloped cookie pan with cooking spray. Begin pressing small amounts of dough (about a teaspoon in size, but add more as needed) into the cavities of the pan.

Step Six: Bake for about 10 minutes, rotating the pan halfway into baking. If cookies are not lightly golden, bake for an additional minute or two.

Step Seven: Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes and then transfer them to cooling racks.

You should end up with about 4 dozen cookies, so they’ll be plenty to go around and enjoy! Whether you’re a coffee or tea drinker, these will pair really well with both! I love how the maple and lemon balance out the flavor you get from the chamomile. If you give this recipe a try, let me know how it turns out for you and what you think!

I also want to give a quick shout out to Tessa Worley of Fox & Bear Paper Co. for the darling Mother’s Day card I snagged from her shop! She designs the absolute sweetest cards and prints and I collaborated with her on a recent post to tell ya all about them! If you’re looking for some new art or  just want to send a little love to someone, go check out her Etsy shop!

Thank you so much for reading, and Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful moms out there!

 

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I recently met Tessa, the owner and Illustrator of Fox & Bear Paper Co., through The Rising Tide Society. I absolutely loved her unique, darling style and was so excited when she asked to collaborate! I think what I love most about Tessa’s work, is that it’s just plain fun. It takes me back to my childhood, as silly that sounds, and every piece puts a huge smile on my face. I’m a pretty big fan of animals, so when I first laid eyes on all of her charming cards and prints, I just had to have some of them!

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I knew that I wanted some of her greeting cards, because you can never have too many of those lying around, but a few of her lovely cards in particular stood out the most to me! I always call my dad Papa Bear and Tessa had two of the sweetest cards for dad that were bear themed in her shop. I’ve always loved picking out cards, finding or designing the perfect one for the amazing people in my life, and the one I chose for my dad could not be more perfect! I can’t wait to give it to him for Father’s Day this year. I was also able to snag a cute Ewe themed Mother’s Day card for my momma (Sorry mom and dad if you see these early!) that I absolutely loved. My other favorite  was the I Really Love Dogs card, because it looks just like my little guy, Toby and because I really, REALLY love dogs!

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The next thing I picked was the Hobbit Hole print, because my seester and brother in law are the biggest Hobbit/Lord Of The Rings fans on earth and have majority of their home decorated with some sort of Lord Of The Rings theme in mind. My seester gave birth to my adorable niece, Lorien Grace (Lorien comes from Lothlorien, the kingdom of the elves in LOTR) a few months ago and is decorating her room Hobbit themed, so I knew she would just love this print for Lorien’s space.

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And lastly, I just had to get Tessa’s super cute Watering Check-List! Not only is this check list adorable, but it will help remind you to keep your plants alive, which I know I could use a time or two! It’s my dream to have a little garden of my own at our future house someday, and I know that I will definitely put this list to better use when that time comes. But for now, I’ll use it to keep up with watering the few plants that I have and daydream about that future garden of mine, full of some of my favorite flowers, veggies, herbs and succulents!

Fox & Bear Paper Co.  is currently on a little break, but her shop will be opening again early April, and you do not want to miss out on some of the amazing products this girl has up for grabs! One product of hers that I hope to eventually purchase and just adore, is her custom family portrait illustrations. They are so darn cute and I can already envision one of my hubby, our fluffy pup and I hanging on our wall. Tessa does an incredible job of meeting the needs of her clients and giving them the style and designs they’re looking for. Make her day and send some major love to her on her Instagram feed, where you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of some more of the beautiful work she does! You can start your wishlist now and then go crazy once her shop opens back up in April!

 

Thanks so much for reading, now I’m gonna go and water my plants! 

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Saturday was my seester’s baby shower and I am so thankful that I was able to make it work to be here for it. I’ve missed out on pretty much her entire pregnancy with Lorien, due to living 26 stupid hours away from each other, so getting to come home for a couple of weeks to celebrate and be together has been really special for me. My niece will be here NEXT MONTH, people! I cannot even believe it’s almost time for her arrival. I wanted to make some homemade gifts for Lorien in time for the shower, so for the past couple of months I have been one busy bee!

My seester and brother in law are obsessed with LOTR! They are naming their daughter Lorien, after Lothlorien, which was the kingdom of the elves in Middle Earth. They have incorporated LOTR into many parts of their lives, their home and now in Lorien’s nursery. I wanted to create accents that would compliment how they’ve decorated thus far, so I first made a canvas with one of their favorite quotes from The Hobbit, using deep reds and vibrant golds. I also made a handlettered, hand painted banner for the shower, that they could also use to decorate Lorien’s room, as well. Most of all, though, I really had my heart set on building something special with my husband for our future niece. He is so talented and makes gorgeous stuff for me all of the time, so I thought it would be fun to build something fun and practical for Lorien, I just wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to be at first. 

Earlier this year, I came across a darling idea from The Merry Thought’s blog for a DIY Wooden Baby Gym and I immediately knew that I wanted to do something very similar to it for Lorien. Thankfully, I have the most amazing husband who helps me with any and all woodworking projects (or any projects for that matter), so we gathered the materials needed and began the process of building! We made a few adjustments to the design of this baby gym for Lorien, but nothing too crazy. We first decided to use oak instead of pine wood, based off of  personal preference and durability. We also decided to stain the wood, using a color tone that blended well with my seester and brother in law’s home, plus, who doesn’t love a rich, dark stain? Can I get an amen?!

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After cutting, sanding and staining the wood, all that was left was to assemble and decorate the baby gym! I absolutely loved the simplicity of this design and the fact that it folds up, can be easily compartmentalized and transported. I hope that this little labor of love will be a source of entertainment and sheer joy for our niece. It’s been very difficult, to say the least, not being here for my seester and helping her during the pregnancy, but it’s been even more difficult just thinking about the distance and disconnect that they’ll be between me and Lorien. I don’t really know how I’ll be able to handle it really, but doing little things like this for her have been a big help for me during this time and I hope and pray that Lorien feels dearly loved by her aunt and uncle, no matter how far away we are from her. Thanks again to The Merry Thought for this brilliant idea and thank you all for reading! 

 

 

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Today I am celebrating 3 wonderful years of being married to my very best friend! These past 3 years with Japheth have been the happiest and absolute best of my life.  I remember daydreaming about my future husband as a young girl, wondering what he would be like and how our lives would look together. Any dream or expectation I could have ever had was exceeded beyond measure when God brought this man to me. I feel treasured by him every single day and he fills our home with grace and deep, deep love. He doesn’t go a day without telling me that I am beautiful and that he loves me. He is the funniest person I have ever met, constantly bringing joy and hysterical laughter to my heart. He treats me with the utmost kindness, patience and gentleness. He is so motivated, so incredibly gifted and so hardworking.  He encourages, pushes and supports all that I do. Whenever I come to him with an idea or dream of mine, he immediately searches for ways to make it a reality. Whenever I see a piece of furniture or home decor that I love but can’t afford,  he goes right out  and just builds it for me. When I am stressed out (story of my life), discouraged or scared, he is always there to comfort me, pray with me and make me laugh. More importantly, though, he reminds me of the goodness of God and the greatness of His love for me everyday. 

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In the short time that Japheth and I have been married, we’ve been on some wild adventures and endured great hardships. We’ve celebrated many victories and have had to face some of the most crippling circumstances together. But I can honestly say, that it is because of Christ and only because of Christ, that we have hope, strength and rest for our souls when our world is shaken. Because of His mercy and grace over us, we can be fully equipped to love and care for each other in every season of life and in the very best way. God has blessed me far more than I deserve, with a man that desires to honor Him above all else, leading our home righteously and in turn loving me well. We have changed and grown a lot over the years as individuals, but even more so in our relationship with each other. God has used these past few years, all of the triumphs, failures and heartbreaks, to strengthen our faith in Him and to bring us even closer together. Our lives are not perfect, we are definitely not perfect and we don’t have marriage “figured out”,  but there is such peace in knowing that the Creator of all things, the One who IS perfect! He is with us. He is guiding our steps. He is faithful to lead and teach us along the way, as we remain faithful and obedient to Him. Our prayer is to daily live out Ephesians 5 towards one another and to bring glory to God in all that we do. I know that there are many more adventures and struggles to come in our lives, but there is not a soul in the world that I would rather face them with than Japheth. Happy Anniversary, to my favorite person, my leader, my bae, my snuggle buddy, my dance partner, my sweetie, my hero, my love. It is the greatest gift and joy being your wife. I love you!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

… for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” 

Ephesians 5: 1-2, 8-33

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