Graduation Getaway

Nick graduated with his third Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling this month! It’s been quite the road, but we are excited for the new opportunities in this next season… with lots of clinical hours and hopefully at the end of a two-year + process, licensure.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Right now, we’re celebrating this milestone – and even enjoyed a great getaway at one of our favorite places, Lake Wawasee.

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Well sure, if you insist:) We LOVE farm-to-table places. And this is no exception.

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We may have head colds, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying this beautiful weather!

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Life can be such a journey of twists and turns, but I’m supremely thankful for these quiet moments to step back and just really appreciate the beautiful life He’s given us.

Step by Step,

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Grace & How it Shapes Our Response

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

A friend shared a beautiful podcast with a group. It specifically talks about homosexuality and our response as a Christian, but I think this can easily be applied to a much wider conversation about our response to many issues as believers.

“It’s not enough to have the right theology or stance on an issue. You can still be wrong in the way you talk about it or respond to it.”  -Caleb Kaltenbach 

Messy Grace: Authentic Intimacy 

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In other words, we can be standing on the right side of an issue in a very un-Christlike way.

As the recipients of GRACE, we have to give that grace too… and in a world that is full of the wrong ways to share opinions, this grace offers us a different way to respond. Full of love and full of the Spirit.

Listen to the podcast, and ask this with me: How am I responding to the issues around me today? How can I more authentically live out my faith in a pure and loving way that draws others to Himself?

May your conversations be always seasoned with salt, full of grace, and abounding in the authentic truth and transformation of the Gospel. 

Step by Step,

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Hello Spring

“Some old fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

This weekend was the perfect time to spend in the outdoors too. While my husband worked hard on his grad school projects, I declared an unofficial screen fast and headed outdoors.

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This greenhouse is AMAZING… 

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First attempt at an herb garden. So excited for this.

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Gorgeous overflowing hanging basket for the front door. It’s fabulous!

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I even had a cute tag-a-long who waved at random customers (ADORABLE) and smelled flowers and LOVED the greenhouse. And a fabulous mother-in-law who helped and made the day so much more fun. 

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And now, for a summer that’s lived on this deck:) When we’re here at least.

I don’t know about you, but spring just makes me happy.

Step by step,

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Getting Quiet

“I will praise you O Lord, with all my heart. I will tell of your wonders.” – Psalm 9.1

Do you find it hard to get alone and quiet your spirit?

The times when I get there, I know I’m at my best. I’m a better listener, more creative, more in tune with the Spirit… and yet it’s hard to do.

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Welcome to the world little Fife!

I’ve been attempting it though – to quiet my thoughts, spend more time with God and enjoy the outdoors… These are not hard things, and yet they are so difficult to do in a world that can’t seem to stop talking.

It takes determination. It takes a real understanding of why we need it, what it costs us not to have it.

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Happy First Birthday Aves!

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Seven months later, our wedding album has arrived!

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Loving this warm Saturday together.

I just listened to a Ted Radio Hour on NPR that captures a different perspective on this. It’s a fun listen. And I find myself lingering a bit longer these days, praying, contemplating and listening along the way…

And I hope it sticks. Because I like who I am better like this, present and real. But it’s certainly a work in progress. I’d love to hear from you – what do you do to quiet your soul and find your grounding?

Step by Step,

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Lingering with Easter

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’” Matthew 28:5-7 (NIV)

Every holiday, I feel like I just don’t get enough time to sit in quietness and linger. We run from one family event to the next. And while we are so very thankful for this season of being close to family, I want to take time to bask in the message of Easter – one that is so vitally pivotal to my faith.

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I want Easter to continue to transform me. 

So this week, I’m taking some extra time to linger with this message, because in the hubbub of nieces and egg hunts and precious time with people, I don’t linger in that quietness…

I read a beautiful devotional from Proverbs 31 ministries based on Matthew 28:5-7. I hope it inspires you this week in your worship and reflection on the LIFE that changed everything.

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I keep my Bible open to the place where the angel spoke to the women at the tomb. And I tangle my thoughts around His words from Matthew 28 as six prayers emerge …

“Do not be afraid,” – God, I hand over to You those things that make me so afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith squelched by fear.

“I know that you are looking for Jesus,” – God, when my soul is searching, help me know the answer to every longing can be found in You.

“He has risen,” – God, the fact that Jesus is risen should lift my head, my heart and my attitude. Help me to live today as if I really believe this with every part of my life.

“just as he said,” – Jesus, You keep Your promises. Help me live as though I believe that with every part of me. Help me trust You more, obey You more and resemble You more.

“Come and see,” – Jesus, You had the angels invite the women in to see for themselves that You had risen. You invite me into these personal revelations every day. Forgive me for sometimes rushing about and forgetting to come and see for myself … You, Your Word, Your insights.

“Then go quickly and tell his disciples,” – Jesus, I don’t want to be a secret keeper with my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious truth proclaimer. For You. With You. Because of You. Me, the unwanted girl whom You loved, redeemed and wanted.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Yes, let this miraculous Easter be personal. And prayerful. And linger a bit longer.

by Lysa TyerKurst, “6 Ways to Pray the Week After Easter”

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May your week after Easter be full of hope as you contemplate RESURRECTION in your life!

Step by Step,

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The Syrian Crisis & A Christian’s Response

“One does not ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says: You suffer, that is enough for me.” –Louis Pasteur

I have been appalled by the lack of compassion as our nation has talked about refugees over the last few months through the Presidential debates and in following conversations. As I learn more about these families who are struggling to survive, I can’t help but wonder if our nation will look back with the same regret on this crisis as we did during the Rwandan genocide when we saw mass murders and did nothing. 

I’m just in the beginning stages of learning about the crisis myself,  but I wanted to share some of the helpful videos and articles that are explaining the situation to me – and giving some great ways to make a difference from right where you are.

How did the Syrian war start? 

This video gives a pretty good explanation of how the war got started, although it is clear there are no good or easy solutions to this mess…

And be sure to check out this great article: Quick Facts: What you Need to Know about the Syrian Crisis

Who are these refugees?

Thousands of Syrians are fleeing their homes every day. Because of this constant and brutal fighting, normal families just like ours are facing some of the most appalling questions…

Do we stay in the only home we’ve ever known and risk being killed every day by renegade bombs, ISIS, or rebel armies? Or do we flee, in the hopes that we can find a better life for our families that isn’t wrapped up in constant fear? Perhaps we will die along the way. We have no idea where we will end up or what kind of job, housing or care we will receive when we arrive. But we could survive, and maybe even one day return when our country is at peace.

Things have to be pretty desperate where you are to make that kind of a decision. And it is serious. Nearly 220,000 people have been killed, half of whom were civilians. (source: mercycorps)

See more pictures and get a better understanding of who is fleeing here: Notes on the Syrian Exodus: ‘Epic in scale, inconceivable until you witness it.’

Where will they go? 

Refugee camps are flooded to overflowing, and others are establishing makeshift camps or finding whatever shelter they can along the way. Without work visas, they cannot make money to find better housing, and they often lack even basic necessities like clean water and sanitation. And as more EU countries close their borders, these families are stuck with no where to go.

What can we do? 

When people in this world suffer, I believe we are called as followers of Jesus to step alongside them in support and compassion. Jesus himself was an alien, foreign and without a home. And by that chosen lifestyle, he demonstrates for us what it means to care for others, join in their suffering, and share a hope that is greater than ourselves.

But even with that knowledge and desire, it’s sometimes hard to know how to get involved. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Donate. Do your research before giving, because it’s best to donate to those who are on the ground and effectively using the money… check out Samaritans Purse , World Relief or World Vision to get started. (And I’d love to know who you’ve connected with.)
  • Sign a petition. Let U.S. leaders know you want to help those who are hurting.
  • Find a local group that you can get involved with. Local groups are putting together grocery bags of hygiene supplies to ship over. Others are advocating with government, or just creating better awareness.
  • Pray for peace. And pray for those who are left most vulnerable along the way. 

I hope this is helpful as you learn about the refugee crisis. I’d love to hear what resources and ways you’ve gotten involved too…

Step by Step,

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Birthday Week!

Recently, a new friend from church (who’s in his 60’s) told me that this month he received his first surprise birthday party. With tears in his eyes, he told me how much this new church family meant to him. There’s nothing quite like a group of people showing up to tell you how much you’re worth.

I thought about this friend through this last week (my birthday week). For days, I have celebrated (and felt so loved) by friends and family. And maybe because of that conversation, it means even more to know that my family and friends think so highly of me that they want to celebrate my life.

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This is the guy who really made this birthday so special :) 

Here’s some of the birthday celebrations: 

WINE DOWN with Nick’s family

We had a terrific evening together (although it was cut short with other obligations). So much fun at this gorgeous restaurant – complete with a wine box wall. Love spending this time exploring new things with the Steffens:)

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Tapas & Incredible wine selections made a fun night out! 

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Just look at that wine box wall behind us! So fun… 

Birthday Night with Javon’s Cooking

My good friend and sister-in-law took on three ambitious Pinterest ideas on her birthday (two days before mine.) I joined her and got spoiled rotten with the results:) Seriously, I should have taken a picture of the other two pieces to redeem this.

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Lunch with this Sweetie (and my mom and grandma)

 

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Little Miss Averi Sue

Saturday (my actual Birthday) with Nick and Javon in Indy

 

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At Late Harvest Kitchen where we ate on the patio! I think this was the first time EVER on my birthday that we ate outside and didn’t freeze. 

 

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At Trader’s Point Creamery for the afternoon.

And I’m not sure how we totally missed any pictures at Ibi and Kristina’s that night, but we spent a WONDERFUL evening with friends as well. Fruit tart, three kinds of fabulous tea and some great conversations. I love new friends that you can just feel at home with!

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And finally my Mom turned the house into Eric Merlot’s! Seriously a special night. Mom went all out on a four-course fancy meal, complete with menus and incredible decor.

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Mom got an Eddie Merlot cookbook for Christmas. Seriously, buy your mom expensive restaurant cookbooks… it will be the best investment you’ll make for fine dining :) 

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Averi even got to share my lobster😉

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The best things in life are shared… 

 

I’ve felt so incredibly blessed with each and every one of these nights. My mission this year: give back from the wealth of love and support that I’ve been shown.

Step by Step,

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