A Simma 4th of July


Second only to Christmas, the 4th of July is probably my favorite holiday because of how many good memories I associate with it: grilling out, watching fireworks from blankets and truck beds, making patriotic crafts and singing patriotic songs, playing board games, and more than anything, spending sweet time with family.

I was SOOOO lucky this year, because some of my cousins came to visit all the way from Mississippi!! The last time I saw these kiddos was at my wedding! Look at Betsey and Lanah – they were so teeny! ♥

My weekend started out with a FaceTime session the little brother and helping the little sis move into her first apartment!

I still can’t believe she’s actually old enough to be done with college and about to start her first real grown-up teaching job. *feels*

The rest of the weekend with my little (and big) cousins was completely wonderful! We spent a bunch of time coloring, playing my dad’s player piano, watching movies (Ever After and Singing in the Rain), eating candy constantly, and playing Apples to Apples.

For our 4th of July cookout at the house, I got the chance to make a new recipe I stole from my pal Ashley McCain – jello watermelon – and it was a big hit!

It’s easier to make than you might think, but it looks like you spent an impressive amount of time pulling it off!

The only thing missing from our family celebration was Daniel. :( He needed to study for his upcoming CPA exam, and it was better for him to stay home so he wasn’t distracted. I was happy to get home to him and Fitz at the end of the weekend, and we celebrated together by grabbing fast food and watching the fireworks show in town.

Real life = dogs don’t have the patience to pose for pictures like humans.

I know it’s a month late, but what is your favorite 4th of July tradition?

Homemade Mashed Potatoes


I may not be good at a lot of things…but one thing I AM good at is mashed potatoes.

My recipe is COMPLETELY made up, so most of my directions include the words “until it looks/tastes right”, but whatever.

Start by gathering your ingredients. Potatoes are awesome in that you can season them pretty much however you want, but personally, I like to use butter, garlic powder, salt, parsley, sour cream, and milk or cream. Feeling creative? Try out your own seasoning combinations and let me know what you use!

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

Two words: SO. GOOD. Served most often with baked breaded chicken and green beans.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings


1 large Russet potato
2-4 tablespoons butter (depending on how much you’re channeling Paul Dean)
Sour cream (a heaping spoonful)
Milk or cream (until it looks right)
Garlic powder (until it tastes right)
Kosher salt (until it tastes right)
Parsley (a few pinches)


1. Fill pot with cold water and a pinch or two of salt. Set aside.
2. Wash and peel potato. Chop into small pieces and pour into pot. Turn burner on and heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
3. Keep the potatoes simmering for 15-30 minutes, depending on how big your pieces are. If you’re not sure if they are done, taste one!
4. Drain VERY well and return potatoes to the pot.
5. Begin adding ingredients, starting with the butter and sour cream. This is very important – be gentle with your mashing! You don’t want to over-mash, or they’ll taste like glue. Mash just a little for chunkier potatoes, or longer for smoother potatoes.Slowly incorporate new ingredients one at a time. Add milk or cream until your desired consistency is achieved.
6. Season to taste with garlic powder, salt, and parsley (or add your own flavors!).

If you don’t get them right the first time, keep practicing! It took me awhile to really perfect mine. Happy eating!

What’s your go-to recipe, the one you KNOW you’re good at? I want to know!

30 By 30

Uh…….. I’m turning 26 in two days.

Let it be known, first of all, that I LOVE my birthday. I’ve loved every single one of my birthdays. I love my birthday so much that I kind of maybe irrationally expect everyone else to know when it’s my birthday, and if someone who knows me doesn’t wish me happy birthday, I’m disappointed that they forgot about my birthday.

That said. Turning 26 is weird.

Turning 25 felt exciting, like I became a new kind of grown-up. I felt important in a more sophisticated way. “Oh, me? Yeah…I’m 25.” (Cue the smug smile.) Turning 26 feels a little like waking up the day after you run a marathon: you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished, but also a little bit ready to just die already.

To cheer myself up, I’m taking a leaf out of a fellow blogger’s book! My friend Caitlin Boswell from Absolutely Bositively created a list of 30 things to do before she turns 30, and I’ve decided to do the same! I’m obsessed with list-making, and I like having stuff to look forward to.

30 By 30

1. Have babies.
This one makes me go “…….whaaaaaaaaa!??!?!!?!” a little bit, but it belongs on the list. :)

2. Take an Alaskan cruise.
Daniel and I have had this on our list for awhile! We loved the Caribbean cruise we took last April, but the next one we go on will have to include mountains, snow, and whales.

3. Pay for someone’s dinner anonymously.
Someone did this for us once and it was so neat! I want to make someone else feel the way I did.

4. Go on a big adventure.
I’d love for it to be some crazy awesome vacation, but I left this one vague for a reason because with Daniel as my best friend, who the heck KNOWS what shenanigans we’ll get into in the next 4 years.

5. Throw someone a surprise party.
I. LOVE. SURPRISES. SO. MUCH. And I love throwing parties, so this is pretty much a necessity.

6. Read 10 new books.
First on my list is a gift from Daniel: Bossypants by Tina Fey!!

7. Learn how to curl my hair.
I know…I know. :( I’m stylistically challenged, but my bestie got me a curling wand for Christmas, so I have no more excuses.

8. Make a complicated recipe.
You know what I’m talking about – the one you’ve had pinned for four years but never attempted because you’re daunted by the ingredients list alone? I’m gonna do it.

9. Complete the 52-Week Money Challenge.
Seems easy enough! And it’s enticing to think about getting to the end of a year having saved that much so simply. The hard part will be not dipping into it for spontaneous unnecessary purchases, like a dog sweater that Fitz would destroy before wearing it but it would look so cute OH MY GOSH.

The Color Run - the happiest 5K ever. I will do this.:

10. Participate in a Color Run.
I hate running with my whole being, but this looks really fun.

11. Deliver meals to new parents.
Because allllllll my friends are having alllllllll the babies. And also because I love to give gifts that they’ll actually appreciate and use!

12. Turn MONAT into an actual job.
This is a biggie, and I kind of scared myself by putting it on here. But this is something I really want.

13. Host a backyard dinner party.
I’ve wanted to do this for years, and now we F I N A L L Y have an awesome backyard to do it in! Come on, summer!

14. Plan a “stay-cation.”
How delicious does it sound to take an entire day off from work, dress up your bedroom like it’s an upscale hotel room, and do nothing but watch movies and EAT? Ahhhhh.

15. Take Fitz on a trip.
I’m not 100% sure that including this one wasn’t a huge mistake, considering he never stops moving right now and is a hyper terror on walks…but after all, he is still a puppy. He’ll grow up eventually and I would love to travel somewhere fun with him as a sidekick!

16. Create a new annual family tradition.
Any suggestions?? What’s one of yours?

photos from each state they visited - glued onto a giant map and cut to fit the shape of the state.:

17. Make a map of places we’ve visited.
I really like this one, this one, and this one. Can’t wait to make one and put it on the wall!

18. Take anniversary pictures with Daniel.
I told myself “Oh yeah, we’ll take pictures every year after we get married!” and that definitely hasn’t happened. Time to be a woman of my word.

19. Spend a long weekend tucked away in a cabin.
Nothing is for sure yet, but we *might* be able to check this one off in a couple weeks! Eek!

20. Update my home decor.
Since we got married, my decorating style has been a weird combination of re-purposed wedding decor, homemade gifts we’ve been given, and odds and ends I’ve bought on clearance from random stores. I’m ready for everything to go together so I feel happy and comfortable when I walk in a room.

21. Make our backyard fun.
I am bursting with ideas, and first on my list is globe lights!

22. Grow the blog.
To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what I mean by “grow” yet. Maybe it’s monetizing, or extending my reach, or writing content that goes viral. Or maybe it’s none of those, and it’s simply learning to create without apologizing for it. We’ll see!

23. Take a group vacation.
When Daniel and I took our Caribbean cruise, we kept thinking the whole time how fun it would be to go back with some of our friends. Fingers crossed that this one happens soon!

24. Give away a few blessing bags.
I discovered these via Pinterest and they are SUCH a neat idea. I hate driving by homeless people with nothing to give them. My goal is to make a couple and always keep one or two in my car.

How To Host A Favorite Things Party! | Twin Cities Moms Blog

25. Have a “Favorite Things” party.
This sounds like so much fun! I think the most complicated part will be deciding what my “favorite things” are – I have wayyyy too many favorites.

26. Visit 5 new states.
It’s really sad how few I’ve visited. The west coast is completed untouched, so this one will be really easy. Especially if we make that Alaskan cruise happen!

27. Go on a fancy dress-up date.
There’s something about a dress that really fits, scarlet red lips, and a good pair of heels that makes a girl feel sassy. We went on one in Dallas about a year and a half ago as part of a marriage retreat weekend. We were the most dressed up we’ve ever been (besides wedding clothes, duh), and we STILL didn’t feel quite fancy enough to be there. We had a blast!

28. Really establish a cooking/cleaning routine.
I’m convinced I’m the worst wanna-be housewife in the entire world. I really really want to be good at things like cooking and cleaning and scheduling, and SOMEtimes…I am! I do like to cook, and I love organization. But somehow I just haven’t mastered the art of housewife-ing. And I want to. So bad. My poor husband.

29. Publish my book.
O     M     G.
Those three words together are terrifying. But it’s honestly long overdue. I need to quit kicking the idea around and actually do it.

30. Take a road trip.
I love the idea of having an ultimate destination in mind but just hopping in the car and driving without too much of a plan, stopping whenever we want, and finding funny little things to take pictures of along the way!

What do you think of my list?? Any suggestions?

To find out how I’m doing at crossing things off, visit my 30 By 30 page.

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese



This might be the best grilled cheese I’ve ever made in my life. A plain old grilled cheese will no longer suffice.

Lunchtime kind of stresses me out. Daniel and I both have 8-5 jobs, which means we have an hour for lunch, and I hate spending the whole hour cooking instead of taking a bit of a breather. I like easy lunches, things I can throw together quickly, and today’s creation was definitely a winner!

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

The perfect lunch – buttery, cheesy, bacony. So much yum! Serve with fruit or veggies.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 sandwiches


4 slices of bread (homemade if you’re ultra domestic)
1 whole avocado
6 bacon strips
Sharp white cheddar cheese (I’m partial to Cabot!)
Butter, softened
Pinch of salt


1. Slice cheese and avocado; set aside.
2. Cook bacon in whatever method you like best.
3. Spread one bread slice with butter and place in skillet. Layer cheese, bacon, and avocado on top, sprinkling the avocado slices with a pinch of salt.
4. Leave the sandwich open-face and fry until golden brown, then remove from skillet and set aside on a plate.
5. Butter other piece of bread and fry until golden brown, then place on top to complete the sandwich. (*Tip: Toasting the top half by itself keeps your sandwich from falling apart from flipping it!)
6. Repeat steps 3-6 for the second sandwich.

What’s your favorite thing to make for a quick and easy lunch? I need some ideas!

DietBet: My Weekly Meal Plans + New Challenge

Holy. crap. It’s been a whole month. The two DietBets I participated in are officially done, and I’ve lost 7 pounds. SEVEN. POUNDS. I didn’t even exercise! (Well okay, I did P90X with Daniel like twice, but it was with about as much enthusiasm as a lion getting its teeth pulled.) I had hoped at the beginning of this DietBet that I would meet my goal, but I didn’t expect to surpass it! I’m in shock, honestly.

I won’t lie, last week was rough. I traveled for work every day and had little control over my lunch options – but I still made it work! The tips I mentioned in my last DietBet post – especially not snacking at work, MyFitnessPal, and meal planning – have made a HUGE difference in my day-to-day choices.

I had several people ask me, so I decided to share my meal plans for the last four weeks! I stuck to these pretty strictly, minus three or four days when our plans changed or I forgot to wake up early to make breakfast.

IMG_4409IMG_4410 IMG_4411IMG_4412

I tried two Pinterest meals during the month: Chicken Lazone and the Chicken/Potato/Green Bean bake. (These links take you to my “successful recipes” board with my own notes about how the recipes turned out.) They were both major wins, minus the green bean fiasco. A little on the unhealthier side because of the butter in the chicken bake and the cream sauce for the Chicken Lazone, but soooooo delish.

As I mentioned before, I didn’t intentionally cut anything out of my diet because I knew that would make it easier to cheat, get discouraged, and give up, especially in the very beginning. That’s why I allowed myself to see have some breads and pastas, as well as the occasional spoon of Nutella. :) My biggest changes were (1) eating less of the unhealthy things, (2) adding more fruits and veggies, and (3) hardly ever going out to eat. Some of you who are ultra health-conscious might be cringing and/or laughing and shaking your head in pity at my cute little attempt, but for my very first try at planning healthier meals for an entire month? This is nothing short of miraculous.

Let me do something maybe-conceited-but-mostly-lazy and quote myself:

“I don’t think you guys understand how big of a deal this is for me. I am the most unhealthy person ever. I love fried food and I hate working out, and I will come up with every excuse in the world to eat terribly and never exercise. I am that person that’s like, “Aww…I forgot my headphones…I can’t work out today, I’ll just have to do it tomorrow.” So for ME, of all people, to have made this change, is something truly supernatural. I’m doing things that I would never have chosen to do on my own without God changing my heart.”     –DietBet: The First Half

If you’ve been putting off getting healthy but my posts have been stirring up interest or conviction from the Lord, there’s something you need to know. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much advice I give you. I could post a play-by-play of every single day, chronicling all of my food and water intake and recording exactly how many calories I’m burning. I could give you my workout routines and my weekly shopping lists. I could even get down on my knees and beg you to at least start thinking about taking care of yourself. But unless you have a serious heart-to-heart with God and let Him show you the truth about you, nothing will change. You will continue to maintain bad habits, and they will catch up to you. I say this with all the love in the world and absolutely NO judgment, because I have been you. I still am you. I’m still an incredibly unhealthy person inside a starting-to-slowly-get-healthy person’s body. I know very well how impossible it seems to break such well-established habits. But you can do it. You can.

SO. In an effort to keep up my new habits for a much longer period of time, as well as encourage someone to get off the fence they’ve been sitting on for awhile, I’m trying something a little crazy. I’m done flirting with the diving board; I’m straight up jumping into the deep end of the pool. DietBet just created a new beta game called “Maintainer.” It starts September 8th and lasts for a full year (YIKES), but you can pay up at the beginning of the month and cash out at the end, just like in a regular game. Each month, if you “win” by meeting your weight goal, you earn at least your $25 bet back, plus more if others lose that round. Then, you pay up for the next month. Essentially, your investment is only $25 unless you lose a round. If you make it all the way until the last month, you compete with everyone who’s left for a bigger pot. Unlike the Kickstarter and Transformer games, you aren’t required to lose any weight to win, although you’re allowed to lose up to 10% during the year. You’re only allowed a 2% margin for weight gain per month to account for normal day-to-day weight fluctuations. The goal – obviously – is maintaining where you’re at and either staying healthy or keeping yourself accountable for being healthy.

I started to hit a slight weight loss plateau during the last game, which means I probably shouldn’t intentionally keep trying to lose lots more weight. This game will be perfect for me simply because it’s a great accountability booster. I will continuously be encouraged to eat well, and if I do end up losing a few more pounds when I kick up my exercise regimen, it’ll be just fine and dandy.

Am I terrified? Duh.
……….but am I also pumped? Duh! I’m in this for the long haul! (Unless I get pregnant, in which case I will undoubtedly gain at least 15 pounds because I’ll be carrying a Hendrickson.)

If you’re interested in joining the game and participating with me, click here! And – pretty please with cherries on top – connect with me and let me know you joined so we can hold each other accountable. Cheers to the next year of not only getting healthy but staying healthy!

If you have been following my posts on this topic so far, do you have any interest in occasional updates on the Maintainer game? Let me know in the comments.

Quick Ways to Lose a Pound Overnight


Ha. Do I have your attention now? :)

Seriously though – I bet all of you have Googled that at some point. I did, just three days ago. My first DietBet was about to end, and I was 0.20 pounds away from my goal weight. What?? No. I was not going to lose my game because of 0.20 pounds. So I did what any normal human being would do and Googled “how to lose a pound overnight.”

27 articles and three hours later, I had taken a long walk with my husband, drank about a gallon of water (and consequently had to pee every 20 minutes, literally), and was halfway through smearing a bizarre concoction of Epsom salt, green tea, and coconut oil all over my abdomen when I had to pause for a moment.

What was I doing?

I looked at the coconut oil running down my leg and couldn’t help but laugh. I was so intent on not losing my $40 bet that I resorted to cramming in a bunch of tricks at the very last minute. The bulk of my results didn’t happen overnight. They came through weeks of concentrated effort and discipline.

I was suddenly struck by the parallel to my daily walk with Lord. How often do I want quick results, immediate answers? So often, I’m not willing to put in the day-to-day work in the relationship, but when something unexpected happens, I dive frantically back into the Word looking for “signs” and pray fervently that God would give me the answers I need in His timing, as long as His timing is in the next couple of hours.

My ridiculous attempt at ‘getting skinny quick’ revealed that little pieces of the old Laura were still stubbornly trying to grow back like weeds inside my heart. In the two seconds it took me to step onto the scale, I became 15-year-old Laura all over again, body issues and all. I subconsciously believed that if I could lose enough weight, I would finally be content with how I looked. But if my contentment isn’t held fast in Christ, I will NEVER be completely satisfied. Ultimately, my identity is not found in my ability to lose weight. It’s in the Lord, the One who created my body and heart and mind and spirit with the purpose of glorifying Himself through them.

God is so good to us, guys. He knows we have trust issues, patience issues, and diligence issues. Even when we treat Him like a pair of fat jeans that we only put on as a last resort when we reeeeeally need them, He is there all along. My prayer for myself – and for you! – is that we see Him as worthy of pursuing, that we view our relationships with Him as SO NECESSARY that we don’t wait until the last minute to come to Him.

The funniest thing? I lost that pound anyway. God definitely has sense of humor.

P.S. Since I lured you in with my obnoxious clickbait title, I’ll make it worth your while. Here’s the stuff I tried:

  • taking a walk to burn calories
  • constantly drinking water
  • watching my salt intake
  • that DIY salt/tea/oil body wrap from The Kitchen Prescription (I’m convinced this is what worked because I wore it while watching Finding Neverland, which made me cry about half a bucket {aka a pound} of tears)

What made you click on this post? Are you struggling just like me? Is your identity found in Christ, or in yourself? Don’t despair – God created you and loves you, right where you are, right now. Be encouraged!

DietBet: The First Half

Photo By Pineapple

Guys, I know this might sound too simple, but for real – it’s insane how big of a difference healthy eating makes.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me questions about the DietBet (and everything it entails) over the last two weeks, and since I’ve hit the halfway mark, I thought I would share an update with you!

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have at least one area of our lives that we subconsciously believe God doesn’t really care about that much. Food has been my area for a long time. I convinced myself for years that I would start eating healthy and exercising more eventually…just not right now. But there was always this little annoying voice in the back of my mind saying, “But what if you wait until it’s too late?” I’m so grateful to God that He didn’t let me dig myself into a huge pit before opening my eyes fully.

In my last post about starting to get healthy, I mentioned finally taking my first step forward in obedience to the Lord.

Just one step.

I have been blown away by the difference that one step has made.

For over a year, I felt spiritually numb. Sure, there were moments in community or worship that I felt God’s presence, and I was pretty consistent with my bible study time, but overall, it just felt very stale. I felt like I was running into a wall, like I couldn’t move forward in any areas of my life, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was incredibly confused, frustrated, and discouraged. I felt like I had tried everything, and I was out of ideas.

Ha. :) I THOUGHT I had tried everything. I feel so silly looking back now. God had been telling me all along what He wanted, I just shoved it in the closet and kept trying to please Him with other things. He didn’t want my good deeds, He just wanted my ‘yes.’

So I gave in. I surrendered my worship of food fully, for the first time in my entire life. I made the decision to start a DietBet, and from the day it started, it was like I was a different person. Remember my embarrassing Chick Fil A story? When presented with an opportunity to eat lunch there alone less than a week later, I voluntarily got grilled nuggets and a fruit cup. I started doing new things, like filling up my grocery cart with more produce and not keeping unhealthy snacks at my office. Things that used to be so tedious and hard for me before (like tracking calories and making good choices in restaurants) suddenly didn’t seem so difficult anymore. It should be noted that I never counted calories in my life before the last two weeks. It’s not that I stopped wanting unhealthy choices, it just became easier to pick something else instead. I NEVER thought that would happen. It’s the absolute weirdest thing, you guys. Things I never thought would change have been transforming right before my eyes.

And interestingly, I found other parts of me transforming too. That one ‘yes’ was like a giant sledgehammer against my brick wall, and piece after piece came crumbling down in front of me.

Worry/anxiety = transformed into peace. Real, actual peace.
Selfishness = transformed into generosity.
Uncertainty = transformed into genuine trust.

The most notable difference of all? Joy. It’s like I was under a cloud for months, and I finally walked out into the sun. There is no less-cliché way to explain it.

Lots of people have asked me: “So what have you been doing differently? How have you made it work?”

  • The DietBet. It’s been my biggest motivator because I don’t want to lose the money I invested. It’s made me so much more aware of what I eat and how much I eat.
  • I haven’t deliberately cut anything completely out of my diet. I’ve just been eating much more of some things and much less of others.
  • I quit making excuses and downloaded MyFitnessPal. Counting calories for a few days was a HUGE wake-up call – I was eating 1,000 calories more than I needed! I never used to think about what I was eating, but after seeing how many calories certain items actually cost me, I started to reconsider my choices.
  • I’ve planned out every weekday meal for the last two weeks. I tried doing this probably 27 times before and always failed for one reason or another. Because of the DietBet, though, I have more motivation to stick to my plan instead of deviating from it. If you want to know my meal plans, let me know in the comments and I might do a separate post about them!
  • I stopped snacking at work. I think this has been one of the most significant reasons for my weight loss. I got used to feeling like I needed a snack to make it from one meal to the next (and it was never something healthy), but now that I’ve stopped for two weeks straight, my body has retrained itself and I’m fine without one. If I do think I’ll need a snack at work, I grab a piece of fruit on my way back from lunch.
  • I started eating breakfast every morning. Even though it’s usually something small, it helps a lot because it keeps me from wanting a mid-morning snack.
  • I’ve been eating more veggies. No other explanation necessary.
  • I stopped creating reasons to cheat. “I’ve had a long week.” “We haven’t had lunch with these friends in forever.” “This is my favorite restaurant.” “I just worked out, I deserve it.” Anything can be a ‘special occasion’ if you’re crafty enough, but it’s not a special occasion if you do it all the time.

My goals for the second half: exercise more and drink more water!

I don’t think you guys understand how big of a deal this is for me. I am the most unhealthy person ever. I love fried food and I hate working out, and I will come up with every excuse in the world to eat terribly and never exercise. I am that person that’s like, “Aww…I forgot my headphones…I can’t work out today, I’ll just have to do it tomorrow.” So for ME, of all people, to have made this change, is something truly supernatural. I’m doing things that I would never have chosen to do on my own without God changing my heart. That’s just the truth.

Is it all sunshine and roses? Oh my gosh NO. I actually just asked Daniel to pray extra hard for me this week, because my initial boost is starting to wear off, and I really want to go back to my old eating habits. But the beautiful difference between past Laura and current Laura is that I’ve stopped making food decisions based on how I *feel* at the moment. In the past, if I wanted something unhealthy, I would rationalize my choice and eat it just because I wanted it. Now? I still want the unhealthy thing – that definitely hasn’t changed! – but instead of throwing a fit and feeling sorry for myself, I just remind myself that food is not my god anymore. Wanting something isn’t enough of a reason for me to have it, and I have to choose to believe that making a healthy choice now WILL be worth it to future Laura, even though I can’t see its effects yet.

– To all my DietBet people: you guys are killing it!! Two more weeks!
– To my mom and my sister: you have encouraged me more than you’ll ever know. I couldn’t have done this without both of you.
– To my husband: I’m sorry it took me so long to show you love in this way. Thanks for not giving up on me.

For the DietBet conclusion + my meal plans during the month, click here.

If I write more on this subject, what would you like to hear about? Any questions that I didn’t address? Any recommendations as I continue?

A Taste of My Tuesday

Things I’m daydreaming about today:

This minimalist bedroom from Design Sponge. THAT RUG. I need it!

Grace’s impeccable writing style from Camp Patton. I want to be her when I grow up.

12This hottttttt couples session from Melissa Green Photography. *swoon*

http://theslowroasteditalian-printablerecipe.blogspot.com/2014/04/soft-pretzel-dog.htmlThese pretzel dogs from The Slow Roasted Italian. (….what? I’m on a diet? Right.)

dinner party.jpg
This beautiful summer dinner party from The Fresh Exchange. It’s just perfect.

giveawayAlso, just a quick reminder – the free t-shirt giveaway is still open until this Friday at 11:59 pm! Want to win one of these bad boys from Embracing the Chaos? Check out this post to enter!

For those of you who have been asking about how my DietBet is going – I’ll post an update on my experience soon! ‘Keep a weather eye on the horizon.’

By the way – none of these ‘favorites’ are sponsored. I just like them a lot and thought you might too!

Discipline + DietBet = Not Dying When I’m 50

Photo By Maja Petric“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”   — Proverbs 13:4 (ESV)

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”   — 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)

Let’s just get real right away: I really struggle with discipline.

For whatever reason, I find it incredibly difficult to form good habits and implement self-control in certain areas of my life. I don’t know why it seems to come so easily to some people and yet it’s so frustratingly hard for me. What do you have a hard time being consistent with? Bible study time? prayer? being financially wise? being kind? sharing the Gospel? I’ve struggled with all of those, but the current thorn in my side is exercise and healthy eating.

Life is full of opportunities to reveal the character of God through our diligence and good work ethic, and I drop the ball way too often because I forget that my actions reflect the God I follow. I kind of sidestep idleness, like it doesn’t really count as an actual sin. The bad thing is that this communicates to other people that there are certain things in our lives that God doesn’t take too seriously.

As if He just shakes His head at our laziness, smiles, rolls his eyes, and says, “Oh, you.”

Uhhhh, no.

We can’t afford to believe that God overlooks the “little” things. And for me, one of those “little” things is being disciplined, specifically related to taking care of my body. It’s something I have let slowly destroy me because I’ve convinced myself for years that worshiping food isn’t as bad as worshiping money or sex or fame.

But it is.

It’s so PAINFUL for me to admit this. I don’t want to believe it, but I have to. Because it’s literally killing me. You don’t have to be 200 pounds overweight to have a problem. My weight isn’t the issue – it’s my mindset. I might look fine on the outside, but deep down, I know that if junk is all I put in, my insides will start to wear out. I can’t maintain the same lifestyle habits and just expect my body to keep up.

I had a moment with the Lord at church this last week. He had been tugging at me for a long time, continuing to remind me that this was something He wanted to talk to me about. And every time He did (until this week), I would pray a quick prayer like: “God, I’m sorry for eating unhealthy again. I know this is something I need to change. I feel bad about it, and I’ll try better next week.” But that never solved anything, because simply admitting your guilt does nothing. After the sermon, everyone stood back up to sing, but I just sat where I was, my head hung low, knowing that I couldn’t ignore Him forever.

“Okay God. I feel like we’ve done this same song and dance a hundred times, and you’re probably tired of hearing it because I never do what I say I’ll do. But I know I have to talk to you about this.”
Why do you think this is so difficult for you? What’s the root of it?
I had never really stopped to think about it before. I never had an eating disorder, and I never really ate with an emotional motivation (i.e. sadness). I wasn’t overeating and making myself sick or becoming severely overweight. So what was it? I wanted it to be simple. I didn’t want to have to think about it, I just wanted it to go away. “Umm…I just love food?”
I want this. I want the things you cling the most tightly to, the things you don’t want to give up. Why won’t you let Me have this one?
“Because…I’m selfish.”
Keep going.
“Because I want what I want, when I want it.

My eyes were finally opened. “…….because…I worship food instead of you.”

Tears dripped from my eyes and fell into my lap. How had I never realized it before? Could I really be worshiping food instead of God?

His voice was so soft. You took something I created and made it way too important. Food is good, but it’s not better than Me.

I let out a deep breath I didn’t even know I’d been holding, reeling from this revelation.

I made food my god. What??

I’ve spent so much time telling other people things like “You’re always worshiping something” and “Wanting something isn’t enough of a reason for you to have it,” but I never applied those truths to myself because I refused to see food as my object of worship. As I sat in that seat, though, a whirlwind of thoughts flashed through my head – all of the times I’ve gotten overly excited about going out to eat, how disappointed I’ve been when we couldn’t go to a certain restaurant, how I’ve flat-out refused to eat healthy options, how I’ve kept eating even after I was full just because I liked what I was eating so much, and even a quote from my own lips only a few days ago. Daniel was trying to motivate me to eat better while at Chick Fil A, and was preventing me from eating my sister’s fries. Frustrated, I threw my hands up in the air and said, “Stop making me choose between you and french fries!!”

It was funny, but also not…because part of me wasn’t kidding. We laughed about it, but in some dark corner of my mind, it really was a choice between making Daniel happy and making myself happy, and if left to my own devices, I would choose me over him. And even though I chose him, I made sure he knew I wasn’t happy about it. I wanted those french fries so much that I allowed my day to be temporarily ruined because I couldn’t have them.

How childish am I?? How embarrassing. Seriously, why in the world.

Later in the day, I had another quiet moment alone with my thoughts. I started feeling sorry for myself, wondering things like Why does it seem so easy for everyone else but me? Why can’t I just eat whatever I want? Why can’t I be young(er) and skinny(er) again? Why do metabolisms have to even slow down?? It’s just not fair. I threw myself a five-minute pity party before remembering something my mom said once: “It doesn’t matter if it’s fair. It is what it is.” And she’s right (of course). It doesn’t matter if it’s fair. I can’t eat whatever I want, and that was never God’s intention. Period.

So okay. I finally figured out the root of the problem. But now what? How do I keep from backsliding into my old apathetic habits?

After taking some time to think and pray, I came up with an idea. If you want to develop a new habit and experience a real heart transformation, I think you have to understand three things:

1. the purpose (why you’re doing it),
2. the plan (how you’re going to do it), and
3. the product (the results/benefits of doing it).

(And all the 3-point pastors said? *Amen* Haha.)

For example, if I want to replace my bad eating habits with good ones, I must have a good reason and an effective strategy:

— My purpose is that I don’t want to die and leave Daniel a widower at 50. I want to live a long, healthy life for my husband and any kids we have. AND, more importantly, God gave me this body, and He put me in charge of taking care of it.

— My plan is to incorporate at-home exercise into my week through a work-out video, to plan out my meals and keep myself from buying unhealthy ingredients on a whim, and set achievable goals for myself with non-food rewards at the end of the line. I’m going to devote more time to praying about this specific challenge, and pick out verses of encouragement to think about when I have unhealthy cravings. I’m also going to start a DietBet, which I’ll talk more about later.

— Finally, the results and benefits are that my body is stronger, I lose weight, I feel better, and I’m taking responsibility for the body God entrusted to me and treating it well.

Will it be easy? Absolutely not, I already know it will suck in the beginning. But the longer I do it, the easier it will become. (I hope. If it doesn’t, just shut up and don’t tell me.) My problem is that I’ll try to break a habit, fail, and give up too easily, convincing myself that I can’t move forward. But that’s as logical as saying, “Well, I missed a meal; I guess I’ll just stop eating.” If you miss a quiet time, don’t just quit having one. If you have an unhealthy day, don’t give up on your diet.

Ultimately, the root of my discipline problem, as much as it sucks to admit it, is that I consider what I want to be more important than what God wants. We all do it; we’re selfish messed-up people. But a true encounter with God should result in a heart change, including in the area of self-discipline. My flesh will try to rebel, but that’s when I have to remember that God controls my heart, and He is way stronger than my flesh.

If you’ve made it this far, I humbly ask that you would join me on your knees before God sometime and pray. I believe that nothing is too small or silly to pray about, and I will need lots of prayer and encouragement. Another more tangible way I want to kickstart this nightmare adventure is through a DietBet! They spin it like it’s a game, which makes it sound way more fun than calling it “diet and exercise.” Basically, you bet yourself (and anyone else who joins) that you can lose a certain amount of weight in a certain period of time. Whoever participates puts actual money in the pot, and after four weeks, whoever loses 4% of their body weight splits the money! At the very least, you win your own bet back, but sometimes you can win more! Money is a great motivation for me at this point because the more money I put in, the harder I’ll work to make sure I don’t lose it. And either way, even if I don’t win more money than I put in, I’ll be 4% healthier.

The game lasts from August 2nd – 29th, and initial weigh-in is July 31-Aug. 1, so you’ve got to decide pretty quick. If you had even the tiniest thought like “Maybe I could do that…” shoot across your brain, DON’T IGNORE IT. I have spent way too long making excuses about getting healthy, like waiting until I get pregnant or – even worse – seriously sick. I can’t afford to wait anymore, and neither can you. Get in on this game – I’m already dreaming about our success stories.

If you’re interested in joining me while I get healthy again, click here to become part of my game!

Now that it’s over, want to hear how it went??
– For the ‘first half’ update, click here.

– For the conclusion + my meal plans, click here.

Any tips for this ‘journey-to-health’ beginner?