Vacation Plans

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You’ll never in a million years guess where we’re going next month.

Remember back in January when I wrote a post asking for your advice about where we should vacation this year? We were pretty set on the Northwest – Seattle, specifically – when out of the blue, Daniel’s mom contacted us with a delicious idea for a family vacation. I wasn’t sure if Daniel would be game since he wanted to branch out from the Caribbean, but to my surprise, he talked details with his mom and jumped right on board!

We’re going (BACK) to……..

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— JAMAICA, MON. —

*screaming*

I say “going back” because we’ve been there before! We went to Couples San Souci in Ocho Rios for our honeymoon and it was dreamy. The resort we’re visiting this time is Clubhotel Riu Negril. Daniel’s family has actually been to this resort before back a few years ago, and they make it sound like paradise!

When we were on our honeymoon, we ventured off of our resort a few times to visit Dunn’s River Falls and the Luminous Lagoon, but I’d love to find a new gem on this trip! We’ll be there for a week, and it might be fun to have an evening for just the two of us to go explore (aka eat lobster). Any suggestions from the audience?

Here’s to hoping the next month flies by!

Stay tuned for my packing list + traveling tips!

Breaking Bad Habits

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“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

How many times have I tried to quit biting my nails? Good grief, who knows. I’ve started and stopped and started again too many times to count. I know it’s gross, but even worse…I’ll never be a hand model. *sigh*

It’s an unfortunate bad habit to have, and a somewhat silly example. But the incredibly strong hold that many habits have over people is no laughing matter. Especially when you consider that there are some pretty awful habits out there. Things like:

watching pornography,
gossiping,
eating junk food constantly,
worrying,
drinking too much…
The list goes on and on.

No matter what you believe about willpower, when you build up a pattern of consistently and intentionally making the wrong choice while KNOWING it’s wrong, that wrong choice becomes your first choice. You instinctively choose something that is bad for you because you’ve trained your body to do so, like a computer.

So how do we break those bad habits? You have to remind yourself that you’re different from a programmed computer.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit living in you and directing you. When we spend time with God, our ability to discern what is right and wrong grows stronger. Breaking habits probably won’t ever be easy as saying “Okay God, I give this up!” one time and moving on with your life. In the same way that you chose, time after time, to make the wrong choice, you must choose over and over to make the right one, building up a pattern of good choices instead.

Is it easy? Uhhhh duh, of course not. But isn’t it worth it? Why would we choose to sit in a mud puddle of bad choices instead of following Jesus and making new habits? If you have been saved by Jesus and surrendered your life to Him, you are already walking in freedom from your habits. The only power Satan has in your life is the power you give him. When you are tempted, I challenge you to stop in that moment and say out loud to yourself, “Satan has no power over me. I am walking in freedom with Jesus, and I will not _____ today.” Say it as many times as you have to!

We are far too easily defined by our bad habits instead of our good ones, but you can change that. It’s not enough to root out the bad; you have to replace it with good. Be proactive. Do more than make a mental list of all the things you need to stop doing. Pray Scripture over yourself. Know what your tempting triggers are and avoid them on purpose. Surround yourself with people who care about your spiritual health and want to hold you accountable.

I know you’re wrestling with something, because we all are. Just know that you are not alone, brother or sister. The only thing holding you back is excuses. Persevere and devote time to your walk with the Lord – that’s a habit you’ll never want to break.

Unboxed: March Birchbox

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I think it’s official that I will never post one of these during the month I actually receive it.

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imageSample #1: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser
I haven’t gotten to use this yet, but it has 4 1/2 out of 5 stars on Birchbox’s website! I’ve heard really good things about the brand.

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Sample #2: Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate
I hate the price, but I LOVE THIS STUFF. This is the second sample I’ve gotten, but I didn’t mind because it’s incredible. It’s a super-hydrating, light-as-a-feather serum that you can apply in the morning or at night, and it feels so smooth on your skin!
Sample #3: Shiseido ULTIMUNE EYE Power Infusing Eye Concentrate
Basically the same thing as Sample #2, but specifically for your eyes. I like it, but I think if I was going to purchase one of them, I would get Sample #2 and use it around my eyes too.

imageSample #4: Living proof.® Perfect hair Day™ (PhD) Fresh Cut
I know this is backwards from what I said in my last Birchbox post about getting rid of my other hair products…but I almost want to try this, just to see how it compares to MONAT! I haven’t used any other brands on my hair since October (besides dry shampoo), so I’m pretty sure I would notice a difference. I’ll keep you posted.

imageSample #5: Smashbox Photo Op Eyeshadow Trio in ‘Filter’
Smashbox has always been one of those brands that I want to try, I’ve just never talked myself into spending the money on it. I’ve only used this trio once, but each color was highly pigmented and seemed to last awhile!

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Sample #6: amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo
I can’t lie: this stuff is awesome. I really hope that MONAT comes out with a dry shampoo this year, but in the meantime, this is my dry shampoo brand. Obliphica smells SO good, and I’ve never noticed any whiteness or flakes when I use it! And if that’s not enough, it has over 48,000 reviews on Birchbox. 48,000.

Bonus: here’s a freebie review from a product I ordered separately! Remember the Arrow lip balm I reviewed in February? DO NOT GET IT. It looked great on my lips for about five minutes, but I think I had some sort of reaction to it, because it made the outside of my lips puffy and bright pink. When the balm wore off, my lips felt drier than they did before I put it on. SO disappointing.

BUT! I found this stuff a few weeks ago and was impressed by the reviews, so I bought it with my Birchbox reward points. IT. IS. AWESOME. The brand is called Lipstick Queen, and the color is Jean Queen. One reviewer described it as “your lip color but better.” The color difference is subtle, but it’s very hydrating and soft. I absolutely love it.

You might recall me mentioning that I’m thinking about giving up my Birchbox subscription. Honestly, I’m not sure what to do and I’d love your input! On one hand, I really enjoy trying out new products, and of COURSE I love getting stuff in the mail every month. I like getting reward points to use toward free full sizes. They’ve done a great job of giving me lots of different brands and products; I’ve had a subscription for three years now and I’ve only gotten a repeat sample once or twice! I’ve also found nearly every makeup favorite from samples I’ve gotten, especially my eyeliner and mascara. But that’s also the problem – I’m pretty much settled with all of my beauty favorites now. And now that I’m using MONAT exclusively, I’m guaranteed to have quite a few hair product samples that I won’t really use anymore. Pro: it’s only $10 a month. Con: I’ve still got a bucket full of samples that I haven’t used yet, and every month adds more to the bucket.

What do you think? Should I keep it, or ditch it?

Married Monday: How to Choose a Husband

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“The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 18:22 (NLT)

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4 (NASB)


When I was a boy-crazy tween, I remember spending HOURS at a time dreaming about what my future husband would be like. I made a truly ridiculous amount of lists full of qualities he had to have, and according to those lists, my ideal guy was a muscled-up, well-dressed, animal-loving athlete/musician with a sexy accent, a sensitive side, and lots of money that he earned honestly.

Oh, and of course he had to be a Christian; that was just the icing on the cake.

I can’t help but laugh now whenever I remember those well-worn pieces of notebook paper. Naturally, I realized as I got older that my standards meant my dream guy was basically Superman/impossible, so I let go of a few things and added a few things, but my focus was still on who I was looking for. I forgot that if and when I ever got married, half of that marriage equation included me.

Compared to the time I spent planning who my guy should be, I spent almost no time allowing God to refine my own character.

Have you ever considered that the person you married had expectations about you too? As frustrated as I get sometimes when Daniel can’t read my mind, I KNOW I haven’t lived up to his expectations either. I’m sure he imagined that his wife would be a perfect combination of qualities: beautiful but humble, smart but not arrogant, athletic but not Schwarzenegger, funny but not crass, bold but not rude, sexy but classy, kind but not mousy, and witty but not hurtful, with an ENORMOUS desire to learn every single meal his mother made and cook them as well and as often as she did.

Luckily for him, I meet ALL of those requirements!

Lol…not.

As logical as Daniel is, it’s likely that his expectations weren’t actually as high as I described. But even if they were, it’s not his fault, really – we all do it. Without meaning to, though we would probably never say it out loud, we expect our partners to be perfect. Much like TV or movie romantic leads, they must always apologize first, make at least a couple of ‘grand romantic gestures’, know exactly the right words to say in any situation, be fantastic in bed, and never do anything normal humans do, like use the bathroom, lose their keys, or forget to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer.

I naively assumed that real marriage was like TV marriage, where you can say almost anything in a fight as long as it’s clever, and it’ll all get glossed over and work out in two minutes because the episode is almost over. Before I got married, I never thought about disappointing my husband – I was too busy thinking about how he would fulfill MY needs and make ME happy. But there have been moments in our marriage when I have been inconsiderate, rude, or disrespectful and Daniel’s face made his thoughts very clear: “This is not the woman I fell in love with.” Suddenly, it’s not just about what I want. His needs matter too.

At this point, I feel like I need to point out that it’s not a bad thing to have some standards for your future spouse! It’s kind of important to have some stuff in common with the person you’re picking to do life with forever. But be careful that you don’t set a standard that’s impossible for any human to meet. It’s also okay to reevaluate your “deal breakers” every so often. Some things should always be deal breakers, but some things may not be as important to you as you get older. For example: before Daniel and I met, I wanted to marry a musician. Since I was 12 or 13, I had an image in my head of my husband and I singing in our kitchen, harmonizing perfectly while we cooked dinner. And Daniel, well…at least he LIKES to sing! :) Poor boy couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. But that’s okay. I thought it was a deal breaker, but it turns out…it wasn’t! I wouldn’t give up every other quality he has for a guy who can sing. Learn to find the line between “no standards” and “impossible-to-meet standards.”

You can also argue, however, that my job was never to create a set of standards for a godly man and then go looking for him. Because the Bible is already FULL of them. Proverbs alone describes a good husband as

compassionate (12:10),
hard-working (27:23-27),
honest (12:17),
generous (14:21),
humble (16:18-19),
self-controlled (12:15, 16:32),
trustworthy (26:20),
optimistic (17:22),
and forgiving (19:11).

Proverbs kicks my list in the face.

Now look at the list again. How many of those qualities do you have? It’s not enough to have expectations for the other person. It’s hypocritical to hold Daniel to a standard that I don’t care about meeting myself. My responsibility, then and now, is two-fold: (1) Pursue my own relationship with God and grow into a godlier woman, and (2) Appreciate and encourage the good qualities my husband has and support his growth in his relationship with God.

Whether you’re married or not, it’s time for you to make a new list – for yourself. Pray that God will make you loving (Titus 2:4-5), respectful (Ephesians 5:33), hardworking (Proverbs 31:13, 15-16, 18-19, 21-22, 24, 27), calm (1 Peter 3:4), courageous (Joshua 1:9), good-humored (Proverbs 17:22), and holy like Him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Lesson Learned: Dogs Can Actually Teach You Stuff

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This is Fitz. I know, *all the heart eyes*. One of my in-laws’ dogs had a litter of 10 pups in May of 2015, and to keep track of which puppy was which, they put numbered collars on all of them. Every single one was cute, but Fitz (aka “Puppy #2”) stole my heart instantly. We called him “Number 2” for months. And for whatever reason, they decided to keep him for us, long before we even had a place to put him.

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I’ve spent my entire life wanting a dog more than almost anything else in the world, but I also mentally rolled my eyes at the people I knew who talked about their dogs like they were human. (I’m aware of how backwards and stupid this sounds.) You know the ones – the people who are like “He’s/she’s my baby,” who dress them up in sweaters, who share those cheesy pet memes on social media, and who can’t manage to take a single picture without including the dog in it.

Well…I finally understand why people talk about their dogs the way they do!! Like I said, we’ve only had him for a little over three months, but I still bawled my eyes out a few weeks ago when it occurred to me that he won’t actually live forever. Sure, being followed around the house incessantly and never being allowed to go anywhere alone gets old after awhile (especially when he just neeeeeeeeds to follow me into the bathroom and I can’t stop him because the door doesn’t latch all the way). But the thought of him NOT faithfully laying on the floor every time I sit on the couch, and NOT being so excited to see me that he trips over his own feet on his way to the door….it makes my stomach hurt; I just can’t think about it.

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I remember the day Fitz came to live with us so well, particularly the moment when I paused in Tractor Supply, bewildered and overwhelmed in front of about 16 different kinds of dog food. What are dogs even good for anyway?, I wondered, my heart beating faster as I surveyed the few but expensive items in my cart. (Side note: I am SO thankful that Daniel’s parents, Sue and Steve, were with me. They helped me navigate the entire store and pick out the things I really needed, and I probably would have stood in front of the dog food in a daze for two hours without them there.) As I reluctantly made my way to the checkout counter, knowing that Daniel and I were about to be several hundred dollars poorer, Steve put his arm around me and joked, “Boy, it sure is fun to go shopping with other people’s money!” Lolz, thanks Steve. I called my dad while waiting in line and told him that I finally understood why he never let us have a dog. He belly-laughed and told me that kids are a way better investment. LOLZ…thanks Dad.

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UGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. I can’t believe he used to be this little. Good grief, he was cute.

And look at those best friends forever!! ↓↓↓ I miss that lil girl. She needs to move here.

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It hasn’t all been cute pictures and cuddles and roses, though. Oh no. He’s torn up outdoor couch cushions, shredded 10 rolls of toilet paper on the rug, trampled through the entire downstairs with muddy footprints, scratched up wood floors and doors, sloshed water all over the place, and shed enough hair to knit about seven sweaters. Not to mention the barking, the pooping, the energy, and the fact that taking him on a walk is about as relaxing as a Navy Seal obstacle course. Sometimes I remember that I love him, and sometimes I think about strangling him. I won’t tell you which I do more of.

The weirdest thing of all, though, is that Fitz teaches ME stuff. I expected he would learn a lot from us over the last couple of months, but I never thought I would become a student again too. I’m willing to bet most of you dog owners can relate!

4 Things I’ve Learned from Fitz:

1. Unconditional love is an actual thing.
I know this sounds horrible…but I don’t know if I truly believed in unconditional love before Fitz. I mean, yes. I KNOW that God loves me unconditionally, no matter how much I screw up. But that’s hard for my little brain to make sense of sometimes. And so few human relationships reflect that kind of love. Even though Daniel does a great job of making me feel loved no matter what, he’s not perfect. And I put a lot of condemnation on myself too: for example, “How could he possibly forgive me for this again? I’ve apologized for the same thing like 12 times.” Fitz, though? Oh my gosh. It doesn’t matter WHAT happens. It doesn’t matter if I’m gone from the house for two days or two minutes; he is EXCITED BEYOND ALL BELIEF to see me. He loves me more than I’ll ever understand. I’m thankful for the sweet reminder that God’s love for me is the same – wholehearted, unchanging, unreserved, and unlimited.

2. Obedience is a constant choice.
I wish it was possible to do the right thing ONE TIME, and your brain is like, “Oh..okay! This is how it’s done, so I’ll just do it this way from now on.” But we aren’t robots. So that’s not a thing. Being obedient is not always the easy thing to do, and Fitz has given me a taste of what it’s like to be a parent because I’ve watched his thought processes play out. It’s like I can see the gears turning in his brain. I’ve seen him do the wrong thing deliberately, even after I told him no. I’ve also seen him do the wrong thing multiple times too, like the toilet paper fiasco I documented on Instgram – he had already done this exact thing twice within a weeks’ time. But the other day, he did something INCREDIBLE. We were on a walk and stopped at the college campus’s front lawn for a break. I sat on the ground and he walked around the lawn on his leash. As he smelled everything in sight, I noticed a piece of trash about three feet away from him that I knew he would eventually see. Sure enough, he saw it and nosed toward it. Because he has a history of eating literally everything in sight, I tightened my grip on his leash, preparing to give him a gentle but firm nudge away from it. To my surprise, he barely even sniffed it before completely passing it by. What a rock star! I was so proud of him! I was prepared to pull him away, but I didn’t even have to because he had no interest. That’s exactly how we should be with sin: completely uninterested and so unfazed by it that we can’t even be bothered to stop and check it out. I pray that God breaks my heart over my bad habits and wrong choices, but I’m also thankful for His grace that fills in the gaps for us when we DO fail.

3. Growing up is hard and requires patience.
Sometimes, I forget that Fitz is a still just a puppy because he’s a giant. I remember very quickly, though, when he is hyper and wiggly and wild. Countless times, he’s struggled to be patient and do the right thing even when he doesn’t want to, like sitting still or doing a trick for a treat. He makes the same mistakes over and over again. He sneezes in your face. He thinks you’re playing with him when you’re really trying to punish him. He tries to hug you with his entire body and ends up giving you Wolverine-esque scratches instead. All things that a fully grown, old, tired dog would probably watch while quietly chuckling to himself. Aren’t humans the same way? I look at preteens now and think, “Uhhhh I really hope I was not that immature and dramatic when I was that age…” And I totally was. Let’s get real…I’m still dramatic. (I can admit it now.) But not like I used to be. That took time! I didn’t grow up in five minutes. And I can’t hold my dog (or my future kids, or other people’s kids) to that expectation.

4. Sometimes the things you want aren’t actually good for you.
The other day, I took some empty boxes out to the storage shed in our backyard, and Fitz, of course, had to follow me. You know how Christmas lights usually come with a little package of extra bulbs in case one on the strand burns out? He found that package and decided to try to eat it. I turned around and hurried toward him as soon as I heard the crunch of plastic in his mouth, but he thought I was playing with him and started running around the backyard. Running around with a flimsy package full of glass that could go down his throat and kill him. I was just trying to protect him and he thought it was all a big joke. As I finally managed to grab him, it occurred to me that God does that with us CONSTANTLY. We think we know what we want, that we know what we can handle, that we know what’s good for us. But He sees things we don’t, and every move He makes is for His glory and for our good, even when we don’t like it.

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I love my boy. He’s smart and feisty and cute, and he’s taken up a very permanent residence inside my heart. Who knew he’d be such a great teacher?

P.S. I have to include this bonus (albeit horrible quality) iPhone photo because HE ACTUALLY CUDDLED WITH ME. He’s not super snuggle-y, but I think it’s just because he’s still a young pup and can’t lay that still, that close to a human who can play with him, for that long, without getting the wiggles. This was a rare moment and I cherished all 30 seconds of it. I mean……..doesn’t your heart just burst with love?? ♥♥♥

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