What My Dog Teaches Me About Grace: Happy National Dog Day!

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Today is National Dog Day, so I had to post about my favorite dog of all. A little over 5 years ago, I adopted a sweet, wonderful, chihuahua mix from a shelter here in LA. Since my dog, Abby, wasn’t a puppy when I rescued her (she is almost 10 years old), there are a few things she’s learned…and a few things she hasn’t. They do say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and I suppose that is true sometimes.

For instance, up until I got married 6 months ago, Abby slept in bed with me every night. She would snuggle as close as she could get. For a single girl living alone, I loved it! But 2 months before I got married, I thought it might be time to train her to sleep on her own. Much to my surprise, Abby learned very quickly and loves sleeping on her own (in a very comfortable chair topped with a pillow and blanket…yes-she’s spoiled…but at least it keeps her out of our bed!).

One thing she hasn’t quite mastered, though, is that every time I take Abby for a walk, she drives me crazy because she pulls on the leash. She pushes it to it’s absolute limit. She somehow thinks that her 7 pound, bone-skinny body will be able to lead me in any direction other than the one I want to take. This little dog tugs and tugs…using every bit of strength and energy she has. Worst of all, she sometimes pulls and tries to go into the road or toward a moving vehicle! This makes me wonder…after all of these years of me feeding her, protecting her, taking such good care of her, and keeping her alive, does she still not trust me to guide her?

When this thought hit me…it also dawned on me that this must be how God feels. How many times have I pulled away, tugged to break loose, shut Him out, and run far from His perfect plan for me? You see…God sees the moving cars in our way, the red flags, the destruction, the damage. And in the midst of His perfect love and faithfulness, still, I run in my own direction straight into harm’s way.

There’s something really interesting about my chihuahua, though. Most of the time, she doesn’t know what she is running toward. However, my old apartment building had this really long hallway that lead straight to my front door. It’s completely closed in and safe…and while it is a long hall, it is thin…the narrow path. Abby loves my husband, Nathan. Truly, she thinks she is his dog. When Nathan would go on walks with us in my old building, he always runs to my door before us. Then, I turn the corner with Abby…she sees him standing at the door. I let her off of her leash…and she runs straight into his arms. Once she sees him, she knows where she belongs…she remembers. And she is ready to go home.

Have I given up on my dog just because she tries to break free? No. And God’s grace does’t work like that, either. His faithfulness to you and I is so fierce, so strong, and completely unconditional. Because no matter how many times you try to pull away, when you are ready to run back into His loving arms, He will be right there waiting to catch you.

Don’t forget to hug as many dogs today as possible! :)

{Photo credit: Emily Magers Photography}

Life Abundantly.

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“Are you living abundantly? I’m not asking if you have a lot of stuff. I’m not asking if your life is easy. I’m asking if you’re doing A LOT of life.”
-Beth Moore

I don’t have much to say to you this Monday, friends, but I felt like I needed to encourage you as we begin this brand new week. No matter what you’re going through, God sees you and loves you so much. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stresses and difficulties of life and forget that we were destined for so much more than going to work, paying rent, and spending money.

Last week, I was watching a video by Beth Moore where she was talking about how we are able to live abundantly even in the midst of difficult times. When life is chaotic and messy, it’s easy for us to believe that God doesn’t see us or truly care. I love this quote from Beth Moore:

“It is to your father’s glory that your life bear much fruit.”

God wants to see you happy.
He wants you to be blessed.
He wants you to be free.
He wants you to flourish.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
-Jeremiah 29:11

We often think we are “living abundantly” if we have lots of money or stuff. This is simply not true. We can live the abundant life in all circumstances if we allow grace, joy, and love to transform our lives. It’s about a full life…not an easy one, necessarily. Is your life filled with laughter, family, people who love you, creativity, wonder, adventure?

Wherever your heart is today as you start this new week, know that God’s plans for your life are so good. They are hopeful, not cynical. Loving and passionate, not complacent. Be encouraged this Monday, knowing that God wants the abundant life for you wherever you’re at, whatever your situation may look like. He will meet you where you are.

The Modern Proverbs 31 Woman

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“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”
-Proverbs 31:25

There are so many different ideas, opinions, and definitions about what a woman “should be” in today’s culture. It used to be that we would just try to define women as “the working woman” or “the house-wife.” However, I learned very quickly that I would need to learn to navigate and find the tension between these two identities. I also learned that God’s design for women was so much deeper than a job or a kitchen. 

Prior to getting married almost 6 months ago, I thought that being a good wife meant being perfect…this Wonder Woman meets Martha Stewart type of combo. I wanted to be able to do it all…work hard, write, run my online magazine, act, cook delicious meals, look beautiful, and somehow always maintain a clean home. In the first month of marriage, I found myself feeling exhausted, defeated, and falling short. What was strange and silly about that was when I realized: neither God nor my husband placed these expectations on me…so who did? Me.

I was putting so much pressure on myself to become “perfect”, but that isn’t what being a Proverbs 31 woman is about at all. In God’s word, this woman is wise, strong, passionate, lovely, and godly. It isn’t about striving for perfection, it’s about striving for the abundant life…to live out the beauty God designed you to subdue. 

While I love cooking for my husband, sometimes I find myself busy, overwhelmed, or exhausted. For instance, this has been an extremely busy week (I have two speaking engagements, my husband came back from Canada, he had a big audition, and he has an interview on a radio show). And while I strive to juggle it all, right now our place is a bit messy, and my husband actually cooked dinner for me tonight. Sometimes we put so much unrealistic pressure on these “roles” that define us, rather than realizing that marriage is about teamwork. We shouldn’t feel trapped in our roles, but set free in the beauty that they bring. It is also crucial to realize as women that we simply can’t do it all everyday, every minute.

Life is about balance.
Life is about team work.
Life is about grace.

God did not create you to perfect, but to flourish. Allow yourself the grace to grow as a woman because of the passion and zest you have for life. If you constantly burden yourself with “have tos”, your heart won’t be in it…and you will end up feeling burnt out and stressed. There’s a quote I saw recently that says:

“I can do anything. But I can’t do everything.”

This is a quote that I feel beautifully speaks to the heart of the modern Proverbs 31 woman. You can do all things through Christ, but there is also a season for everything (even for rest!).  My husband knows that when I am thriving (which includes getting enough rest, taking care of myself, taking a break, doing what I love, meeting with friends, etc), I am better able to love and serve him. The Proverbs 31 woman cultivates beauty wherever she goes not just out of obligation, but because of the joy found in the subduing of this great privilege.

God wants you to thrive…remember that. You are the modern Proverbs 31 woman. You are clothed in strength and dignity. Step into the beautiful identity God has for you…an identity of grace, love, and so much worth.

{Enjoy the photo below of my home, and notice that even as I had a photoshoot, there is a box in the right hand corner that hasn’t been unpacked yet. I’m not going to lie-I thought about cropping it out. It’s not about perfection, friends. The modern Proverbs 31 woman is not a robot…she is real. Photo credit: Emily Magers Photography}

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Communion with a Hotdog Bun: Life Together

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“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.”
-Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

(Life Together is one of my favorite books that I’ve read at least 4 times in the past 5 years. I highly recommend it, and will be sharing some of my favorite quotes in this article, mixed in with a powerful, personal story about community.)

Last night, I decided to step outside of my introverted bubble and head over to my church’s Wednesday service, “The Gathering.” Since my husband is out of town, I thought it would be good for me to get out and go see people (rather than staying in my yoga pants and cuddling a chihuahua all night).

There’s no sermon at this service, it’s more about community, time for prayer, and partaking in communion. There is always a beautiful table set up on Wednesday nights with candles and the elements of our communion…bread, wine, and grape juice. However, when I walked in, I had to stop myself from giggling when I realized that our communion bread for the night would be a hotdog bun.

As Bob lead us in our communion together, he explained that he left the bread he had intended to use at home, so they just grabbed what they had available…a hotdog bun. 10 of us each took a piece of this bun…Jesus’ body broken for us…and dipped it into the cup…Jesus’ blood poured out for us.

“So long as we eat our bread together we shall have sufficient even with the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue. This is a strange divine law.”

There is something so powerful about being in the house of God, being in the body of Christ, and sharing in communion with one another. Wine, grape juice, a baguette, a hotdog bun, a cracker…the elements don’t matter…they are symbolic of Christ and the power of community.

These people who don’t know me well heard my prayer requests, cared about my heart, and prayed for me…just as I did with and for each of them. Afterward, we all went out to a fun place nearby for dinner (I know, really stepping out of my introvert bubble), and my soul felt so refreshed to be around such incredible people.

“Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.”

It’s not about perfection.
It’s not about details.
It’s not about knowing everything or everyone.

“The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.”

Community is about serving, being faithful, and deeply caring about those around us. It’s about stepping out of our comfort zone and into the body of Christ. Bonhoeffer was so right when he talked about the joy that comes with community.

Community means breaking bread.
Laughing together about hotdog buns.
Hearing one another.
Crying together.
Praying for each other.
Spending time together outside the walls of a church.

THIS is life together.

“It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

Why I would have done what Eve did.

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“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
-Genesis 3:6

For a long time, I found the story of Adam and Eve infuriating. I found myself judging Eve, much like we judge so many people for the mistakes they make, as if we aren’t flawed ourselves.

Why would she so clearly, so deliberately disobey God? They had everything. She had it all.

But I’ve gotta tell you, friends, I’m just like her. There have been times in my life that I ignored God, knowing that I simply didn’t want His way for my life. I hurt Him…I pushed Him aside. To the Father who wanted nothing more than to bless me, I would run in the opposite direction.

Life is humbling, but God’s grace is powerful. Time and time again, I have chosen “my way”…choosing what’s more convenient for me, or what just sounds like more fun. Throughout it all, though, God has been there. Even more–He welcomed me back with open arms.

I’m going to share the lyrics of one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, because let’s be honest, I can’t possibly say it more eloquently than him. Take a moment to really read these words. Let them sink in:

“Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are

We are frail
We are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are”

To be honest, I think I would have done what Eve did. No matter how strong we are, we are all human and prone to wander and prone to stumble. The thing about grace is that it not only shows us our weakness, but it really shows God’s strength. What a relief it is that we do not have to be perfect, and that we don’t have to be strong enough to do it all.

I encourage you this week as you strive to be more Christ-like to remember that when you fall short, in your weakness, He is strong.

Coffee and Keyboards: My new e-book is available NOW!

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This past weekend, I had the honor of teaching a writing workshop here in LA to an amazing group of writers, and I used the curriculum from my newest e-book, Coffee and Keyboards.

In the past year, God has brought many new writers into my life who I have been mentoring and having the honor to work with. This inspired me to write an e-book to answer the numerous questions that every new writer has. Why title it, Coffee and Keyboards, you ask? Because it’s all you need to get started as a writer! Technically, you could even begin with coffee and a journal.

Each morning, my soul fills with joy as I smell the delicious aroma of my favorite coffee drip into a beautiful mug. One of the best gifts I have ever been given is my Keurig coffee machine, which allows me to fuel my impatient caffeine addiction and wake up for my favorite part of the day: writing.

This book is just a very practical project I decide to work on, because I have learned a lot through trial and error as a young, professional writer. Five years ago, I started a blog that absolutely no one read (except maybe my mother). I remained faithful and passionate, and continued blogging almost every single day.

Today, I have thousands of followers, three self-published books that are selling consistently, speaking opportunities, and an online magazine, www.IdentityGirlsOnline.com, that I run, overseeing 20 writers, which gets thousands of views per day.

Coffee and Keyboards includes:
-Resources (books and blogs that will help you)
-How to begin writing
-Tips and topics for writing daily
-Where to blog
-Finding your niche (knowing what makes your writing unique)
-Statistics and charts on the best days/times to blog
-How to find guest blogging opportunities
-Blog design
-How to take better blog photos
-How to take better photos with an iPhone
-How to properly edit your writing
-Making money as a blogger/writer
-How to utilize social media and marketing
-How to write a book
-How to make and self-publish an e-book
-Printing your self-published book
-Marketing your self-published book

You get all of those amazing resources for just $4.99. Yes-for under $5, you can become equipped and ready to jump-start your career as a writer.

My reason for writing this book is to inform, equip, and inspire you on your own unique journey as a writer. You can buy Coffee and Keyboards by simply clicking the “buy now” button below. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy getting resourced!
Buy Now

Meal Planning on a Budget {48 meals for under $60}

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After living in Los Angeles for over 5 years, I have become quite the expert at finding the best deals and bargains at the grocery store to maintain the lowest possible cost of living in one of the most expensive cities to live! After all, it isn’t easy being on a starving artist budget while also loving to cook and eat delicious, healthy, organic food.

Since it’s Monday, I thought I would start this brand new week by helping you do your grocery shopping and meal planning…on a budget! Just yesterday, I did the grocery shopping for my husband and I. I like to spend my Sundays planning and prepping our meals for the upcoming week, and I found myself quite amazed when the cashier gave me my grand total…about $60. Now, this $60 I spent provides us with at least 8 days worth of meals. I’m not talking about just 8 dinners, I mean 8 complete days worth of food…including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

I was never all that great at math, but let’s work this problem out together, friends.

2 people times 3 meals a day per person = 6 meals a day
6 meals a day times 8 days = 48 meals
$60 divided by 48 meals = $1.25 per meal

Basically, with wise meal planning, we are able to eat healthy, home cooked meals for the price of eating every meal at McDonald’s. Today, I am going to share my grocery list and meals for the week with you (remember: I am only sharing the meals for Monday-Friday, but with the ingredients leftover, we have 3 more meals we can use that food on!).

Start with the Staples:
I always keep our kitchen stocked with the everyday staples that last us a while. These things were already in the pantry, so I didn’t need to purchase them at the store:
Flax seed
Chia seeds
Brown rice
Olive oil
Coconut oil
Apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Matcha green tea
Coffee

My Grocery List
Unsweetened almond milk: $2
Organic frozen blueberries: $5
Organic bananas: $4
Organic spinach: $3
Brown cage free eggs: $3
Avocados: $3
Organic apples: $3
Organic tomatoes: $3
Sweet onions: $2
Hummus: $3
Organic gluten-free chips: $3
Salmon burgers (4 burgers, which means we get two dinners each out of if): $6
Whole wheat pita bread: $2.99
Black beans: .79
White beans: .79
Organic vegan chili: $3
Gluten free pasta: $2
Organic pasta sauce: $3
Turkey burgers (4 burgers, which means we get two dinners each out of if): $5
Grand Total: $57.57

Meals for the Week:

Breakfast
Matcha green tea and detox smoothies (frozen blueberries, 1 banana, ground flax seed, ground chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk, spinach)

Lunch
Boiled eggs, hummus, apple, organic gluten-free chips

Dinners
Monday Night: Salmon pita burgers (with avocado, tomato, and spinach)
Tuesday Night: Black bean bowl (with brown rice, black beans, salsa, and avocado)
Wednesday Night: Gluten free pasta (with organic tomato basil sauce and fresh tomatoes)
Thursday Night: Vegan chili (place vegan chili, white beans, tomato, and sweet onion in the crock pot and let it cook all day, top it with avocado)
Friday Night: Turkey pita burgers (with avocado, tomato, and spinach)

There you have it, ladies! 48 meals for under $60. Enjoy a delicious week on a budget!

Style on a Budget: Summer Date Night

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Summer is the perfect time for cotton, cool colors, and change! The 90 degree weather inspired me to get a new short ombre hairstyle! Take a look at this week’s style-on-a-budget tips for an affordable, fashionable date night.

Get My Look:
Light blue cotton dress: Target
Tan wedges: Charlotte Russe
Bracelets: Made from acai berries
Necklace: Gold tomahawk from my Mimi
Makeup: BB cream, bronzer, mascara, and lip shimmer
Hair: Blow dry and spritz with some seal salt texturizing spray
Manicure: Essie’s sand tropaz
Pedicure: Essie’s wicked

Keep it simple, light, fresh, and cool this weekend with your summer style. Remember: it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to look lovely.

4 Summer Decorating Tips {On a Budget!}

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It’s still 90 degrees in LA, and summer is clearly still holding on. The fun thing about summer is decorating in a way that breaths life into the home. It is completely possible to make a home beautiful no matter what size it is or what’s in your bank account! With the changing seasons, you don’t have to make any big, drastic decor transformations to enjoy where you live. I find that swapping out simple details can help my tiny home flow from season to season.

Today, I’m sharing some of my summer home favorites with you. These easy budget tips can help refresh and rejuvenate your humble abode.

1. The coffee table book.
Go through your book shelf and find a book that fits better for summertime. I currently have Kinfolk’s volume nine on our coffee table (see photo at the top of this article). This book has some really fun beachy photos, casual weekend ideas, perfect summer recipes, and more. Having a simple book on display can help set the tone. (Kinfolk is resting on a wicker/beachy place mat that I got for $2 at target.)

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2. What’s on display?
If you have a shelf, counter, or side table, fill it with the items you already have that feel like summer. Right now, we are displaying the blanket from our Mexico honeymoon, sunglasses (also from Mexico), and my Mimi’s beachy tea set with seagulls on it.

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3. Try a DIY.
Crafts are not only fun, but a great way to affordably add a new piece to your home. I took an old wine bottle, painted it turquoise, and used a hot glue gun to wrap some thick twine around the bottom. This is a great way to make a simple summer time vase.

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4. The office.
Don’t forget to give your work space a little love, too! I like my desk minimalist and clean. I simply added a cut of burlap to go across my black desk, giving it a touch of summer fun. I also displayed my “Secret Garden” coloring book, a fresh lavender candle, and a colorful photo of my husband and I.

Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, friends. I hope you are feeling inspired and ready to cultivate beauty in your lovely summer home!

Let It Go!

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Today, I went to get my haircut and a slight ombre color. Nothing too drastic, just a little lighter. Those who know me know that my hair grows fast, and that every couple years, I cut and donate my hair.

I showed photo examples of what I was going for to the stylist, and explained that I wanted it just a touch longer than the shoulders. Clearly, you saw the photo at the top of this post, so you know what actually happened.

I’m not going to lie, I cried a little bit when I realized I wouldn’t be able to put my hair in my everyday messy bun for a while. Where was my hair?!

My hair has never been this short or this light. Was this planned? No, not necessarily. I asked for “a little past shoulder length.” But my hair grows fast, and I was able to donate 11 inches so that a child somewhere in need will have hair.

God has slowly been teaching me how to walk what I talk as an identity girl. As the founder of this ministry and online magazine, I felt a bit embarrassed by how distraught I was over this hairdo.

Hair grows back…
Life goes on…
We are still beautiful no matter what kind of hair day we are having…
And change is okay.

I swear I could hear “Let It Go” in my head when I realized how short he chopped my locks. God is good, and we are wonderfully made in all styles and seasons.

{Take a look at my before and after hair transformation below.}

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