Add a little ZING to your Spring!

It’s finally SPRING (as far as the calendar tells us in Arkansas, sometimes the weather begs to differ)! The days are longer, birds wake us and keep us company with their happy chirping throughout the day, flowers are in bloom and cute sandals are out in the stores! O Happy Day!!

I thought I’d put together a quick list of a few easy and fun things you can do at home to welcome Spring! I’m also adding some Easter dessert recipes to the Delicious Temptations section of the blog this afternoon.  Forgive me for not posting in so long, but my Huzz was off work with me for Spring Break this week and we have just spent our time enjoying each other’s company and taking it easy – a little fishing, a little grilling, some fun time with the kiddos, a little shopping and some road tripping.  It has been a really fun week and I am sad to see it end.

 

OK….back to our list! (Forgive my less than professional photography…..maybe I can work on honing those skills this summer!)

Ways to Add Some Zing to Your Spring!

1.  Set a Spring table: I love to keep my table set with place mats and pretty plates.  It just brightens up the kitchen and makes it seem more welcoming.  Fiesta Ware dishes are some of my favorites! You can mix and match lots of bright colors with place mats and cloth napkins, a pretty centerpiece or some fun flowers and VOILA! your kitchen is a more warm and friendly place to be! Keep it simple! You can find Fiesta Ware at most kitchen stores or retail establishments that carry dishes and for place mats and napkins, one of my favorites is Pier 1.  Although IMHO, Pier 1 can be a little pricey…..you can find great deals just about anywhere, just keep your eyes peeled.  Another local favorite of mine is The Kitchen Store in Conway.  My friend Tricia has a BEAUTIFUL business with an excellent inventory and super friendly staff.  Another store to watch for in the Northwest Arkansas area that is coming soon from my friend Melissa Turpin is in Rogers and is called Honeycomb Kitchen Shop.  If it is half as adorable as she is, you will DEFINITELY want to check it out! You can find them on Facebook at Honeycomb Kitchen Shop, and The Kitchen Store and More and conwaykitchen.com

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2.  Plant some pretty Spring flowers:  Whether you have a green thumb or not, a pretty spring planter can add an easy pop of color and pizzazz to your patio or front porch! By doing a little research, you can find low maintenance flowers and plants that are easy to mix and match for sun or shade and beautify your outdoor space, or any space! Getting my patio planters full of beautiful flowers is one of my very favorite things to do in the Spring.  It really isn’t hard to do, and you can find all sorts of online tutorials on Pinterest, or just by picking up a recent copy of Southern Living Magazine.

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3.  Get outdoors:  What better time to focus on your fitness, or maybe just your sanity, than when the weather is so incredible! Get outside and do something you love! Whether it be riding bikes, taking a walk or a jog, or even something more adventurous! They don’t call Arkansas  “The Natural State” for nothing! We are blessed with some of the most beautiful outdoor scenery and hiking trails around! Check out the scene at Petit Jean Mountain, Mt. Magazine State Park, The Big Dam Bridge and Pinnacle Mountain, just to name a few! If you’re not into that much activity, try Garvan Gardens and enjoy the Tulip Festival.  It truly is one of the most magnificent, beautiful places! The daffodils at Wye Mountain are also incredible.  Or……get yourself an ENO and find some trees! Take your favorite book and read in your hammock for awhile….or maybe just take a nap.  This is a favorite pastime of my kiddos!

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4.  New Patio Cushions:  If you love spending time grilling and enjoying your patio area, new patio cushions are a fun way to add a fresh touch of color to your favorite outdoor space.  Again, Pier 1 is an easy go to for me.  Their spring patio cushions are always fun and fashion forward! Some other places you might check out are Lowes, Home Depot, Wayfair, and Pottery Barn.  Even our dog Lilly likes getting in on the Patio cushion action!

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5.  SHOOZ:  Need I say more? If this seems like too much work, or maybe you’re just not the outdoorsy type, there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with a new pair of spring shoes! Some of my favorite Spring sandal retailers include Wilkinson’s Mall in Conway, DSW, Dillard’s, and Belk.  But before you sport those adorable spring sandals, make sure you have adorable spring toes to match! Treat yourself to a spa pedicure to rid yourself of those dry, winter piggies! A Nail Spa and Salon in Conway is my favorite place to indulge.  They have excellent customer service, they call you by name when you walk in and they do a fantastic job! Check them out!

I hope these little suggestions help you Spring forward in a fun and fashionable way! Enjoy!

Heart Trouble

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     Life can be hard.  One minute it seems things are going well, and just as we begin to take a little pride in the loveliness of our own lives, we can suffer all forms of attacks and disappointments that breed everything from discouragement and discontentment to paralyzing grief and unhappiness.  It happens to us all – in one way or another – at various times in our lives.  But it is what we do in these moments of brokenness that will determine how effectively God will be able to use us to encourage others in our daily walk, and ultimately lead others to look to Christ – or perhaps to cause some unbelievers to even consider the possibility that Jesus could be the real answer for what they face in their own lives.  As I started feeling led to write this – let me say upfront that there was a voice screaming at me inside my head – almost mocking me saying, “Who are you to write anything of this nature?”  I am flawed.  I fail daily. I am a product of God’s extraordinary grace, so please know that I realize more than anyone that I am the least of these.  In the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13, “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  My heart’s desire is to just plant a seed of thought and encourage others who might be struggling.

I have experienced many trials during my 42 years (it sure seems like only 29) here on planet Earth – many of my own making – pits of sin and bad choices that I more than willingly jumped into on my own for no other reason than because I wanted to.  My desires were not in line with what Christ would have me do.  He warned me as a loving Father would, sent others to encourage me in my relationship with Him and discourage me from whatever stupid thing I was about to do.  Even with such encouragement from those who wanted God’s best for me, in my stubbornness, I proceeded on to whatever self-destructive thing I wanted to do.  Did I suffer the consequences? Boy did I ever.  Over and over again in my walk with the Lord, God has repeatedly allowed me to suffer the consequences of choices I had made out of stubbornness.  And when I had had enough and could hardly bear to lift my head to ask for help, much less forgiveness, Christ was there.  Faithful to who He is, and in His tender mercy lifted me out of the muck of my own selfish choices, cleaned me up and set my feet back on the right path.

Looking back on some of these experiences, I always ask myself, why?  Why did I choose some of those things, why would I willingly take a path that I knew deep in my heart were not God’s plan or path for me?  At the time, it didn’t feel like I was being disobedient to what God wanted for me (okay….sometimes, it did).  But truly, more often times than not, these field trips to emotional desolation were a gradual progression that could be likened to a Sunday drive where I became distracted by all the pretty sights and fun things the world had to offer until suddenly I woke up and realized I was terribly off course.

After many conversations with God, some good quiet times, Sunday messages in church and talks with precious friends who have loved me through the good, bad and the ugly, I realized that the heart of my problem was just that:  my heart.  I had a hardened heart.  Now to those of you who know me well, you might laugh a little at that statement, because I am a very compassionate person – sometimes to a fault. I love people.  When others hurt, I hurt too.  My spiritual nature is one of mercy – I am not sure if it is because God has wired me that way, or because I am fiercely aware of the degree of mercy that God continually shows me and how much mercy I require on a daily basis. Regardless, I realized that I had a hardened heart.

When I think about some of my experiences, I felt a little justified in my hardness of heart, maybe even prideful of my pain in some regards.  I have experienced a tremendous amount of loss and emotional devastation, especially in the past few years.  Who wouldn’t have a hardened heart when their marriage fails after 20 years? Who wouldn’t have a hardened heart over the loss of your sense of family and belonging – certain friendships – life as I knew it?  It is easy to fall into the trap of just treating the symptoms of your pain with everything the world can offer – busyness, work, being a mother, hobbies, friends, material things.  That’s what the enemy wants us to do because he doesn’t want us to be whole. In my ongoing quest for emotional healing and a desire to experience true joy and happiness in my life, I realized that if I wanted to be healed and moved forward, I had to get to the root of what was causing my sickness, and that was a hardened heart.   Scripture is clear when it says, “Do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:8, Psalms 95:8).  I found it interesting that in both of these verses; God follows that instruction with, “as you did in the rebellion” or “as you did in the wilderness”.  How telling is that? It would appear that a hardness of heart, often times results from a season of rebellion or time spent in the wilderness away from the safe haven of right relationship with God.   Can our hearts be hardened because of things that God allows to happen in our lives that are out of our control? Absolutely.  But I am sure of this:  God allows those things to draw us closer to himself and in order that we might be able to honor Him through those experiences.  His desire is never that we would suffer from a hardened heart.

There are many things that can cause our hearts to become hardened:  grief, anger, disappointments, selfish desires, pride, unforgiveness and unconfessed sin can all put us in a place where we are walking through life with a hardness of heart towards God and towards others.  I don’t think any of us WANTS to have a hardened heart, but I do think it is very possible to find ourselves in a place where we are aware of our malady and we do nothing about it because it feels too difficult to overcome it.  Perhaps we don’t want to acknowledge the “whys” behind our hardened heart; maybe we are reluctant to face the truth about how we got here and how to go about fixing it.  I know for myself, the fear of the inability to follow through with what God was asking me to do was huge.  I just didn’t think I had it in me to walk in that obedience and I didn’t want to fail God – again.  Romans 5:35 tells us  “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured in to our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” To me, that is a pretty clear explanation of the why behind our trials and sufferings.  Even when we don’t understand God’s reasons, our trials are to produce endurance and character and HOPE for ourselves and for others to see the Holy Spirit in us.

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  One of my most important roles in life is being a mother.  I love my children fiercely and my deepest desire is to be a good mother to them.  I have realized that I can never be the woman, mother, sister, daughter, teacher and friend that God desires if my heart is hardened.  The Lord knows how difficult life can be and the propensity our hearts have to become hardened because of some of the pain we must endure, so he tells us to guard our hearts – to be careful that they don’t become hardened.  How can prevent falling into the trap of having a hardened heart in order that we might live in freedom and love others to the best of our ability? First, I think we must consider all that God has done for us and everything he endured in order that we might have abundant life.  If He never became hardened, then that is the example we are to follow.

Sometimes we may not even realize that we are dealing with a hardened heart.  It took me a lot of time to realize that this was the root cause of a lot of my pain.  Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” I believe that if we approach God from a place of sincere desire to please Him, He will reveal to us the places where we need to allow Him to do some work.  He is also so kind to provide us with a promise of blessing when we allow him access to our broken places. Ezekiel 36: 26-27 is proof of this.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees.”  Freedom, healing and hope are available to all of us.  All we have to do is ask and allow God to grant us a willing spirit to sustain us as He does what only He can do:  tender our hearts to become more like His own.

Valentine’s Day Dates that Won’t Break Your Heart

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and lots of folks I know stress about finding the PERFECT gift or planning the most AMAZING date for the one that they love.  While these things are thoughtful and good, expressing love for someone shouldn’t have to break the bank.  They are also all activities that can be done for and with the ones you love, whether those relationships are romantic in nature or not! No significant other to speak of? Don’t hate on Valentine’s Day! Celebrate the people you love! Get together with your friends, spend some time with your extended family or children! All of these activities can be done on a budget and enjoyed with anyone that you love in your life!

Here are 5 Valentine’s Day Gift/Date ideas that won’t leave your wallet singing the blues:

     1. Cook your favorite (or THEIR favorite) meal together:  I enjoy cooking and spending time in the kitchen.  It’s therapeutic to me and the results are usually delightful (don’t ask my hubs about crunchy eggs *giggle*).  From our early days of dating, he would always help and get involved in whatever I had going on in the kitchen.  This was a new experience for me – and I liked it! Still do.  He’d always say, “It starts in the kitchen!” I’d have to say there is some truth in that.  Why not plan a menu together, go to the grocery store for the ingredients you don’t have and then just enjoy your time preparing the meal together.  It’s a great way to spend quality time together and maybe even try a new dish!

     2.  Create a Special Playlist or CD:  This one is sure to be a favorite, especially if your “other” is a music lover.  Spend some time creating a playlist full of songs from their favorite band or artist, songs that remind you of them or fun moments in your relationship.  This is a personal gift that requires effort and thought.  It would also make a great soundtrack for your meal making adventure, should you choose to participate in number one on the list.

     3.  Paint and Sip:  Find a local paint bar and go be creative together! The first (and last) time I did this, I attempted an Arkansas Razorback door decoration that ended up looking more like a blow fish.  I am not crafty.  However, it has been an often laughed about experience with my girlfriends and we had a ball. I’m willing to take one for the team and  I would totally go again.  Some awesome locations to check out in our local area are: branchoutconway.com , pinotspalette.com, or m.paintingwithatwist.com

     4.  Plan a Backyard Date: Put that fire pit and grill to use! Roast some marshmallows and hot dogs, grill your dinner! Lay on a blanket and stargaze! Talk about where you see yourselves in 10 years, places you’d like to travel, things you’d like to accomplish! If you’re a stargazer, download the Skyview app for your phone.  It’s awesome!! Play a game of badminton, baggo, soccer – or spend some time making chalk drawings on the sidewalk or patio with your kiddos! If you’re in an area that permits and you have the ATV’s, load your crew up on four wheelers and Rangers and go do some off road riding!

     5.  Drinks and Dessert:  Instead of waiting 2 hours and spending a lot at your favorite restaurant for your evening meal, beat the dinner crowd by going  for drinks and dessert or wait and hit them after the dinner crowd is gone.  You still get to enjoy some time in one of your favorite restaurants, but you won’t have the wait and your wallet won’t be singing the blues!

Feel free to post your most economical and fun date night activities below! I will love ya for it! 🙂