Cupcakes and Sunshine: 2016

Monday, December 19, 2016

the very best of 2016!!


Can't believe that it is already the end of 2016!! Christmas isn't even here yet, but I have some time to kill in the airport and thought I'd go ahead and share some of my very favorite things about the year!!

(*also airport frugal travel win of the day- just volunteered to pass on my flight and arrive just a few hours later at my destination and received a $1000 travel voucher!! WHERE TO NEXT!?!) 

The very best of 2016....

1. Haiti:


This was the most incredible trip. The Lord changed my heart in many ways through it, and I met some incredible people with hearts ON FIRE for Jesus.


Just knowing them has changed me too. Haiti was my favorite memory this year, and I can't wait to go back!



2. Disney:


The day before New Year's, my cousin and I were hanging out in South Carolina trying to figure out what to do for New Year's Eve. We jumped in the car, drove straight to Florida, and started off the new year with Mickey. (WE MADE IT IN THE PARK 15 MINUTES BEFORE IT CLOSED TO ANYMORE GUESTS BECAUSE IT WAS AT MAX CAPACITY. CLOSE ONE!) It was the best way to start off the new year. We went to Disney again this summer for post-grad celebrations. So nice, we had to do it twice.



3. Graduation:


Graduation was bittersweet! The closing of the best four-year chapter. And the start of a new one.



4. Summer in Athens:


This past summer was one of the best. Sometimes I think I have to travel somewhere or do something out-of-the-ordinary to have a good time. But the Lord's hand is in the EXTRAORDINARY of every day. This summer was just fun- soaking up all of Athens one last time before moving to Texas. Did all the Athens things, ran all the Athens trails, ate all the Athens food, hung out with all the Athens people.



also- Kels got married....


 a lot of ice-cream was consumed...


and we spent much time in the ATL



Athens, you are extra special and I still love ya!

5. Moved to Texas:


I moved to Texas in 2016!! What an adventure. Drove across the United States, moved in with some new roomies, met some incredible friends, have had some wonderful Texas adventures (and made pinky promises of more to come!!)



and....

6. Started at DTS:


Wow, has DTS been incredible too. I learn so much each day and it has been a transforming journey. To be able to dive deep and learn more about Jesus each day has been an extraordinary blessing. The wisdom and discernment of leaders and professors here is magnificent.  I'm so very excited about these next few years!

7. RESTed


In the beginning of the year, one of my good friends encouraged me to pray about a word of the year. REST has been my 2016 word that I've tried to lean into (& something I've always struggled with doing intentionally.) Resting from worry, busyness, anxiety, overthinking, the daily hustle. It's been tough, but I feel more rested than ever!

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find REST for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30




8. This post-
 
I wrote it in 2014, but it has been my most-viewed post of 2016. Over 29,000 people have read it this year. WOW! (thank you accidental SEO-ha!) So if you need some Plato's Closet tips, they're right here.

Some other most-viewed posts of 2016:



2016 has been full of so much JOY and fun. Lots of big milestones and full of friends both new and old! I really can't wait to see what's in store for 2017. Until then, I'm off to finish up some papers and hop on this airplane! Happy, happy Monday friends!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

life lately (iphone photo edition)


has been a lot of cocoa...


In-N-Out...(too much)


(if too much is possible?!) 

Christmas partays with friends...


THIS MUG...


lots of studying and not-so-studying with these friends: 


...
 
eeeee maybe more not-so-studying than studying: 


I almost quit Dallas when I first moved here. I sure did. I didn't really get into specifics with many people, but I felt like the first few weeks of this new adventure were a very dark cloud, and I was very close to moving back to GA. I missed my people back home a LOT and felt Dallas would never be home. Which is all so crazy because usually I'm all about adventures and newness! I looked at jobs back in Athens. I looked at flights back to Georgia. I cried...a lot. Quit a job because my anxiety was sky-high and I started having panic attacks on the way to work. I wasn't able to concentrate in class due to lots of busyness with that job position, and for the first time since becoming a Christian- scripture became numb to me. It was a scary, dark first few weeks. I wrote this blog post but didn't get into many details because I felt like I was walking through some very tough days. (and because vulnerability is scary)

I took a break, and spent a few weeks resting and focusing on the Lord and quiet time with Him. Rest has been my word of the year for 2016 (something I'm NOT very good at), and I hadn't rested at all since moving to Texas. It was the first time pausing in a long, long time. I spent a lot of time with the Lord, I flew back to Georgia for a restful weekend, took a break from social media, and was reminded that I have purpose and God is with me- wherever I am.

During this rest time, I applied for new jobs and positions and was able to focus on school. I met some of our neighbors for the first time during these few weeks, and our neighbor Maria told us about her heart for the middle east and refugees in the Dallas area. At the same time, I was reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I let her borrow the book and couldn't even sleep because I was so excited about our conversations. Little did I know that a few days later, I'd be applying for a full-time position to work with a non-profit that helps to acculturate, educate, and share the gospel with refugees in Dallas at For the Nations. It's really, really cool how the Lord prepares your heart and equips you for whatever He places in your path next.

Then, I got nervous and anxious all over again 1. because my heart was in it and 2. if I didn't get the position, I really would have to move back to Georgia because I wasn't going to be able to pay for school if I remained jobless- ha! I always have these big, giant fears that God isn't going to provide. And time, and time again- HE DOES. And he always has. I accepted a job offer with For the Nations. In His perfect timing. I was able to rest. Spend a lot of time in the word. Spend a lot of time meeting and getting to know Dallas friends. Spend a lot of time making Dallas HOME. I already miss it and I haven't even made my way to the east-side of the states for Christmas! In addition to cocoa, In-N-Out, and some fun partays with Dallas friends- life lately has been a lot of not-so-necessary worrying. Not-so-necessary because the Lord provides again and again. And today, I'm RESTing in that!



Sunday, December 11, 2016

real crowd cheeser: holiday entertaining with RITZ Crackers DIY cheese spread


This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayRITZ #CollectiveBias. And always, thank you for your support! Life wouldn't be Cupcakes and Sunshine without ya!

Friends,  I was so excited to work with RITZ Crackers to share this easy DIY cheese spread with you just in time for all the holiday parties!! Cheese spreads are the best of all worlds- they are crunchy and smooth and sweet and salty and fruity and FANCY. Not to mention CHEESE. And no one knows that they only take about fifteen minutes to throw together. Holiday entertaining at its easiest. 

http://cbi.as/6ipz0

You only need a few items to put this together. 
And most items are probably already in your pantry or fridge! But if not, you can purchase the rest of the ingredients at Walmart.

http://cbi.as/6ipz0
  
 RITZ Crackers were displayed at the storeway entrance: 
http://cbi.as/6hoxk

http://cbi.as/6ipz0

Since the anatomy of a perfect cheese spread is a mix of all things crunchy, smooth, sweet, salty, and fruity,

http://cbi.as/6ipz0

 ...you can get creative! Here are some ideas:

Crunchy: 
Crunchy edamame

Smooth:
Colby 
Cheddar
White Cheddar Jack
Brie
Goat Cheese (I don't like goat cheese, but HEY! You might! So go for it if it's your thing) 
Gouda
Parmigiano-Reggiano
Gorgonzola

Sweet:
Honey
Jam
Preserves

Salty:
Mixed Nuts
Pistachio 
Edamame
Olives
Artichoke hearts
Roasted Peppers

Fruit:
Thinly sliced apples 
Frozen grapes 
Fresh or dried apricots 
Sliced figs


Normally, I would say grab some butcher paper to place on your table for your cheese spread, but I cut open some brown grocery bags and they worked just as well! Easy time saver. Label each item with permanent marker, or you can use a chalkboard pen if you want to get really fancy. And you are done!


DIY Cheese Spread: 
Ingredients: 
  • RITZ Crackers
  • Sliced Cheese
  • Wedge Cheese
  • Mixed Nuts
  • Assorted Fruits
  • Dried Fruits 
 Instructions: Arrange all the above items on butcher paper, and label! 
Hey! Let me know some of your very favorite holiday entertaining ideas, and also let me know how you got creative with your DIY spread!

Happy Sunday, friends!




Monday, December 5, 2016

things I'm loving: all things warm and cozy


hi, hi, hi friends!!

EEEEeeeeeee! It is COLD and BLUSTERY and CHRISTMAS and everything smells like candycanes and cinnamon sugar right now, so it is time to share all things I'm loving that are warm, comfy, and cozy!

1. First off- these slippers.


I love them. First thing every morning, I put these slippers on and curl up with some coffee. Can't start off a day on the wrong foot when you have polar bear feet. and coffee.

2. Talking about polar bears, you might as well throw in some Polar Bear Bars also! I made these a few years back, and I think it is about time to whip up another batch. Polar bear slippers, coffee, Polar Bear Bars, and a little quiet time? Mhmm, no better way to start a morning.



3. Christmas candles:


All the Christmas candles to make your house smell warm and cozy!! This past week, I received an email alerting me of $8.50 candles at Bath and Body Works. This is a big, big deal y'all! And everyone else in Texas knew it too because the line was 60 people deep with people buying CRATES of candles. Out the door. It was like Black Friday all over again! I had a coupon on top of the candle deal too. Boom. Spiced Apple Toddy is my very favorite Christmas scent, but Sweater Weather and Leaves are some seasonal favorites as well.



4. TEA: You can make like Chance the Rapper and make yourself some Earl Tea, but I'd recommend Teavana's White Chocolate Peppermint Tea over Earl Grey any day. I posted about this a couple posts back, but Teavana's White Chocolate Peppermint Tea is the best ever.


5. Heated blankets. Y'all. You need a heated blanket in your life if you don't have one!! Get one that shuts off automatically after a certain amount a time so you don't have to worry about it overheating.Warm, comfy, cozy- the best.

I got mine here!



6. Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. I listen to them year-round, but Christmas especially. I love them!!! It doesn't matter if they are singing Christmas songs or not- any Sinatra or Buble will put you in a holiday mood.


7. This Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Moose Munch is the best treat to go alongside a Christmas movie...



Top Christmas movie picks:
  1. Jingle All the Way
  2. The Grinch
  3. The Santa Clause
  4. Elf
  5. Home Alone
  6. A Christmas Story
Hope your week is off to a warm and cozy start! Happy Monday, friends! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

mixing things up with skinnypop


From holiday jammies, to Christmas tunes, to warm fuzzy socks, and peppermint EVERYTHING-- the best time of the year is finally here!!


It's also one of the busiest times of the year- school, work, to-do's, and deadlines galore! It can be hard to find some downtime leading up to the new year. This year, I am really working on resting
and soaking in every part of this Christmas celebration season with friends and family.


I was so excited to work with SkinnyPop to bring you a delicious and easy recipe to enjoy as you spend time with loved ones. Mix things up! Leave behind the busy, watch a Christmas movie, sip some cocoa, and enjoy this chocolate-y popcorn mix!


This recipe only takes 5 minutes!! First things first, you will need mini marshmallows, peppermints, white chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips. SkinnyPop's Dusted Dark Chocolate Popcorn is amazing on its own. So hold yourself back from eating the whole bag before you actually mix in all your mix-in's. Melt your chocolate chips and crush your peppermints. Mix marshmallows, crushed peppermints, and melted chocolate with SkinnyPop's Dusted Dark Chocolate Popcorn and BOOM. You are done. So, so easy.


And then, hold yourself back from eating the entire bowl of popcorn before friends and family arrive as well. Because this stuff is too good, my friends.


Hey! Let me know how you're mixing things up this holiday season. And also- let me know once you try this recipe. It's a good one that I may just have to have around year-round. Happy, happy Wednesday friends!




**Disclaimer:
This post may contain affiliate links that do not effect the prices of items included in this post.













Friday, November 25, 2016

quiet time


Recently, I've been really intrigued by how great leaders spend time with Jesus. This topic was something I was really interested in a few months back, and has since come up in a few conversations, so I thought it would be cool to revisit these thoughts and do some research!

I feel sometimes we think...HEY! That person is a great leader! That person is an incredible influencer! I want to be just like them!

But in actuality, we are seeing how much they reflect Jesus in their words and actions, and that is what attracts us and draws us to be led and encouraged by great leaders. It is important to seek Jesus first and he will mold you, shape you, and transform you to become a great leader as you take the posture to surrender your heart to look more like his.



If you are a Christian, you have been called to LEAD. You are a leader! You are an influencer, and the Lord has given you the resources and tools to go into the world and to make disciples. (Matthew 28)

A few weeks ago, I was on a weekend retreat with 10th graders who had surrendered their lives to Jesus, and wanted so badly to know Jesus and become more like him ASAP- right then and there. in the moment. One of my girls said, "I just see so many godly people!! And I don't know how to be godly!"

It was super exciting to see how excited they were to become more like Jesus! But, they were expecting instantaneous growth and heart change, and becoming a great Christian and a great leader is a process of yielding your heart and having disciplined time each day with the Lord.

To become more like Christ, you have to know Christ. And to know Christ, you have to spend time with him and get to know him. This quiet time you reserve with the Lord is the environment for growth and heart change. Your quiet time with Jesus is the most important part of the day because you are surrendering your time to his counsel and guidance to lead you in whatever you do. Isaiah 9:6 describes Jesus as being our "Wonderful Counselor." I love this because it means we can trust him with what we are going through, and he will lead us and guide us as we spend time with him.

One of my favorite leaders, Ben Stuart, said "I’ve never met a good Christian who isn’t in the word every day, and I’ve never met a bad Christian who is."

So first things first, I get in the word each morning!

This is what my morning quiet time looks like...

1. I don't set an alarm clock but I get up really, really early. Mornings are my favorite! I used to get frustrated that I couldn't sleep in (actually most of my life I've been extremely frustrated by it), but now, I am so so thankful for morning quiet time because it is my favorite part of the day- crisp air and stillness and the most peaceful time! I usually get up shortly after 5. Right when I wake up, I start the coffee pot and make oatmeal too. While the coffee pot is going and the oatmeal is on the stove, I grab my bible, journals, and pens and turn the lamp on in the living room. (this week I grabbed my heated blanket as well because it is now cold in Dallas too! hooray!)


I play some worship music (I have a spotify playlist just for "morning" quiet time) Then I pour my coffee and begin praying for focus, a willing heart, and an open mind for whatever the Lord has in store to teach and show me that day.



2. Next, I start writing books of the bible. This may sound a bit funny, but I feel it has helped me to slow down and comprehend the bible SO MUCH. I currently am writing through Isaiah. I'll write a chapter or two- word for word- each morning in a separate journal to start my quiet time. One of the biggest insecurities I have is that I didn't grow up reading the bible and I feel so behind in bible knowledge. (which is SILLY and something I'm working through) Writing the bible has helped me know who is who and where is where and what is what. And I get to soak in each and every God-breathed word!



3. After writing a few chapters of a book, I open my daily devotional. I've had the same devotional for a couple years, and I usually write whatever I am walking through or thinking of each morning on the bottom of that devotional page. I have recently picked up a new devotional, and I'm planning on doing the same thing in this one. I read through the daily devotional, pray about the devotional message, look up the verses on the page, and journal some life applications. 

4. Afterwards, I journal my prayers and spend time with the Lord and just pray about the day and life and the world and for leaders and friends and people on my heart.




A few weeks ago, I wrote down some verses and taped them to my wall so I could see them and remember them throughout the week. And I don't really know how it happened, but the index cards kept growing and growing on my wall as I needed more and more verses. I started writing out prayers and putting them on my wall too. And now I keep index cards with me wherever I go- in the car, in my bag, next to my bedside table.

The cards have really helped me to pray specifically for different people and situations because now I have a whole index card to devote to them, instead of just a...Lord be with them. Amen prayer...ya know? Now I fill each card with specific prayers. Then when the day is over, I hang them all up in the evening time and just think about them and pray about them while I do it. I'm a WORDS person and a VISUAL learner. So this wall is a combo of both and really has helped me during my quiet time to write and see. It is really cool to visually see prayers that have been answered on the wall as well.

5. Usually sometime throughout the day, I'll go on a walk and listen to a podcast too.
I am a podcast junkie to the max, and I'll go ahead and accept the nerd title for this reason. Sometimes I do this in the mornings or evenings, but I'll list some great podcasts by some great communicators below! Podcasts set my heart on fire and just really get me motivated to dive into the word or work on things I need to work on. (also this week, I've been petsitting and I've had a podcast and walking buddy. It's been the best)



6. And lastly, I chat with a friend, accountability partner, mentor/leader a few times each week. Great mentors and leaders will direct you where your focus needs to be during your quiet time. Proverbs 17:7 says iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Find a person you look up to who leads and loves well and ask them for wisdom and advice. (Join a small group!!) If I'm having a hard day, or just need some help, having someone there to pour into me and walk through life with me makes all the difference. Jennie Allen says, "We can't pour out what's not poured in."I have some great mentors and leaders back home in Georgia, and I'm currently working on asking some life advice/wisdom from some great leaders here in Texas too!

Okay, this may all seem like a lot. And it may be, but I have a lot of time in the mornings before I have to start getting ready around 8. If it is time you are needing (which I know from experience this can be a real issue for sure!), PRAY FOR MARGIN AND TIME to spend with the Lord.



If you feel you don't have time, pray for it and the Lord will show you areas in which you can narrow your focus and schedule to spend more time with him. Last year, I was a hot mess of busy all the time. But I asked the Lord to relieve my schedule and show me where I could spend more time with him and he did!

Your quiet time is about how YOU spend time with the Lord. It is resting, and being vulnerable, and just opening up your heart to receive. This could be through journaling, listening to music, writing, creating things with your hands (sometimes I'm just like...I NEED TO CREATE SOMETHING AND I NEED TO DO IT NOW), painting, singing, worshiping, reading books, praying on the way to work or class, running (shout out to you. I wish I felt at rest with the Lord while running), etc.



When I was having a hard time finding time to spend with the Lord, I would try to pray wherever I was right in the moment. I used to hate being stuck in traffic, and now I don't mind it because I use that time to talk to Jesus out loud. (the people in the cars next to me may think I'm crazy, but it's fine. it's cool. Jesus is worth it.) And a couple years back, I started parking in the very back of parking lots- and would spend the time walking to wherever I was going- whether work or the store or class- in prayer. Now, it's a habit and I park in the back of almost all parking places, and get to squeeze in some time with the Lord. (He's with you wherever you go! Joshua 1:9

I hope these tips have been helpful and encouraging in some way for you!!

Some of my favorite messages, blogs, and podcasts by some great leaders:

Ben Stuart: Pure and Simple Devotion-
http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/pure-and-simple-devotion

 Nicole V. Cole: Quiet time Resources (<----One of my favorite blogs I follow!!!):
http://www.nicolevcole.com/blog//2015/10/day-15-quiet-time-resources.html
^^lots of good resources and devotionals and encouragement!

Jennie Allen: Choosing Not Empty-
http://www.jennieallen.com/choosing-not-empty/

Tim Keller: Basis of Prayer-
http://podbay.fm/show/352660924/e/1370018647?autostart=1

Francis Chan: Quiet time-
http://www.allaboutgod.com/quiet-time-video.htm

SoulScripts: Shut Up and Pray (<----One of my favorite blogs I follow!!!):
http://thesoulscripts.com/blog/2016/7/26/shut-up-pray 

Nancy Ray: Organization in my Spiritual Life (<----One of my favorite blogs I follow!!!):
http://nancyrayphotography.com/organization-in-my-spiritual-life-part-1/


Podcast Suggestions:
Songs on my "morning" playlist: 
  • You are Love and Love Alone- All Sons and Daughters
  • Immeasurably More- Rend Collective
  • Mercy- Amanda Cook
  • Prince of Peace- Hillsong United 
  • Sinking Deep- Hillsong Young and Free
  • Scandal of Grace- Hillsong United
  • Fall Afresh- Jeremy Riddle
  • Rest in You- All Sons and Daughters
  • Oh How I Need You- All Sons and Daughters
  • Reason to Sing- All Sons and Daughters
  • This is Living Now- Hillsong Young and Free
  • Great Are You Lord- All Sons and Daughters



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