A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a training retreat at a local church presented by a non-profit organization in Orlando called The POLIS Institute. POLIS has a unique perspective on serving the distressed neighborhoods in Orlando and this training was on the curriculum they have developed through extensive research. Dignity Serves, as it has come to be named, turns what churches and non-profits for decades have been calling “serving” completely upside down and offers a new and fresh perspective that promotes a dignified interdependence, a co-existence of two very different communities who come to recognize and develop what assets lie not only in the community who desires to serve but also within the community they are actually serving. What a novel idea! The people in distressed neighborhoods actually have resources, gifts and talents that could be developed into actually creating solutions for the problems the serving community has come to “fix”! The entire weekend was enlightening and if you live in Orlando I highly encourage you to check out POLIS and all that they are doing for the 100 distressed neighborhoods in the greater city of Orlando alone.
But that’s not what this post is solely about. POLIS is housed in one of those 100 distressed neighborhoods, in a local trailer park in between two major highways in downtown Orlando. At this particular training, four of the residents of that trailer park were in attendance. To say their input and stories had impact is an understatement. There was one particular instance where one of the residents was describing all of the many good, great and godly organizations that have come to “serve” in the trailer park. One ministry in general always brought crates upon crates of snack sized boxes of raisins. They went around the trailer park delivering these raisins to each individual trailer. The residents graciously accepted the gift, not wanting to seem ungrateful or rude but inwardly were all saying to themselves, “But I don’t want your raisins.”
This statement struck a chord with our group and in many ways would become the mantra of our weekend. Even now, two weeks later I hear that story on repeat in my head. It seems to blare a little louder when I begin an act of service for someone recently. Even as I serve my husband with a little gift or my friends with a meal or encouraging text I find myself thinking, “Am I trying to give them raisins right now? Sure, raisins are nutritious and to many people a delicious, healthy snack (although I prefer mine covered in chocolate and coming from a yellow Raisinette package). In and of itself, a raisin is an adequate gift. But raisins weren’t what that trailer park needed to sustain itself as a community. Raisins weren’t going to buy their kids school supplies or teach anyone to use a computer or how to find a job. So I find myself asking myself as I serve those around me, “Is this what this person needs to feel sustained right now?” Or am I offering them something that is well meaning and intended but really only making me feel better and causing them to stand there holding a box of raisins and thinking, “But, Reagan, I don’t want your raisins.”
And just by thinking that little sentence all the way through I find myself making small adjustments to how I serve those around me and while my acts of service may not be what I initially intended them to be, I hope that I am doing a better job at not handing out raisins to people who are in need of so much more from me.
As many of you probably know, Save the Date cards are a fairly new, yet very popular element of the wedding planning process. They serve to alert your guests of your special day so that busy people can clear their calendars. They also serve as a great introduction to the visual story of your wedding. Considering the fact that Adam and I are planning our entire wedding in 5 months, a Save the Date wasn’t extremely necessary for functionality, but more so in setting the stage for the feel of our wedding.
Of course, I enlisted husband-of-a-bridesmaid-go-to-designer-extrodinaire Greg Perkins of The Ram Project to design our Save the Dates. He will be designing all of the paper elements for our wedding, so this was a great place for him to set the foundation. Beyond the design elements, there is important information that should be communicated via your Save the Date card, like the following:
- Full names of both bride and groom, just in case you both don’t personally know all of each other’s invited guests.
- Date of wedding.
- City in which you will be married.
- Suggested places for out-of-town guests to stay. We created a website and put the URL on the Save the Date card and included all of this information there.
Greg did an incredible job designing something that is representative of mine and Adam’s personalities as well as out upcoming nuptials. He took into consideration the colors, textures, and overall feeling of our plans and brought them to life in a fun postcard. My favorite part is the way the date is displayed on the front. Greg created a calendar and then I punched out the day of the week, month, and date of our wedding using a super serious paper drill at Mama’s Sauce Print Shop. It was awesome and scary!
Anyhow, I’m so excited to get the invitations, programs, and thank you notes done! Take a look at the below images of our Save the Date card and then cruise on over to The Ram Project to check out the rest of Greg’s portfolio!
Here’s another delicious, healthy recipe that can be added to your home-cooked-goodness arsenal. Prep time is quick and easy and this meal will leave your house smelling delicious. I found this recipe here last week after Cara’s Paleo post, so this is a great meal for those of you who may also be eating like nomads! My version is below.
What You’ll Need::
- 2 bone-in chicken breast halves
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 lemon, cut into eighths
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion minced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
What to Do::
- Preheat oven to 400
- Rub spices on both sides of the chicken breast. Rub under the skin for extra flavor
- Heat oil in an oven-safe skillet on medium-high heat.
- Brown breasts, about a minute on each side. Remove from heat.
- Squeeze lemon juice over chicken and place rinds in the skillet
- Place rosemary sprigs around chicken
- Pour broth over chicken
- Place entire skillet in the oven for 30-40 min or until juices run clear
I served this chicken with a salad, fresh semolina bread, and olive oil dipping sauce for a healthy, hearty dinner. Enjoy!
Happy Friday, folks! It’s a great day and I’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much. Every once in a while, during my morning social network/blog browsing, I’ll check out the trending topics on Twitter. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re newsworthy, and sometimes, they just disappoint me. Such is the case today. One of the top trending tweets, denoted with a “#” is “ThingsICan’tStand.”
What’s the point? Why spend your time dwelling on the things that drive you crazy and then subject the general public to such complaints? I get that my writing this very post could make it seem like I should be using the same hashtag that I’m criticizing, but I’m actually here to encourage. Social media is a powerful tool. It’s started revolutions, stopped government legislation (as seen just this week with Marco Rubio’s change of heart regarding the PIPA bill), and has the ability to reach millions of people in split seconds. So, let’s use it’s power for good.
If you recall, a few months ago, I challenged every Nourish reader to 30 days of positivity on Facebook. I’m not sure how everyone fared, but I can tell you that I have yet to post one complaint or negative status update since. I can also tell you that it has actually helped my attitude in every day life. Any time I get the urge to write something snarky, I pause and take a moment to evaluate the reason behind my desire to infect others with my so-called problems. It’s not always easy, but it is always productive in shifting my perspective and allowing me to reposition my ‘tude.
Today, I challenge you again. If you made it the 30 days, you’ve probably made it a lot more since. If you didn’t make the 30 days, pick up where you left off and take some time to recognize the power of your words. If that seems like a challenge you don’t think you’re up for, here’s a little help:
Go to Twitter, even if you don’t have an account.
In the search field at the top of the page, type in #positivetweet, #gratefultweet, or #joyfultweet.
Be encouraged by the positivity of others.
Be positive encouragement to others in your life.
Finally, I know that sometimes life is hard. Sometime you do just want to vent about the things you can’t stand. I know this from experience. And I know that sometimes no amount of sweet tweets will get me out of a funk. In those times, the answer is easy. The answer is prayer and prayer does heal. So take your struggles to someone who can truly eradicate them from your life. Facebook can’t do that, but God can. So, let’s do this together and be the change we wish to see, just like Mother Theresa suggested.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” -Philippians 4:6
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and on a day when words are sacred, meaningful, and full of emotion, it’s a good idea to have lots of pictures for all those words. In life, there are very few occasions that you want to remember quite like your wedding day. I’m sure having a child is up there in priority, but I don’t know many mothers who feel quite as photo ready on the day they’ve given birth.
Needless to say, choosing a photographer for your wedding day is a big deal. Like B-I-G deal! Fortunately, Adam and I are blessed to have all sorts of super talented friends, one of which we have the privilege of calling our wedding photographer, Mr. Brandon Chesbro.
Brandon is not only someone who Adam grew up with and remains a dear friend, but he also happens to be one of the most passionate and enthusiastic photographers I’ve ever met. Brandon has been taking all sorts of photos since he was kid, but in recent years, has tailored his business to weddings.
As a bride, this was really important to me. There are many skilled photographers out there who shoot weddings, but few are as dedicated to the covenant of marriage as Brandon. Even a short visit to his website will tell you that. He cherishes the moments he gets to witness as men and women dedicate their lives to become husbands and wives before God. It’s a remarkable gift to those whose weddings he carefully and artfully documents.
Of course, Adam and I haven’t wed just yet, but we had the chance to shoot some engagement photos with Brandon the last time we were in Nashville. Once again, this was important to me as a bride. I wanted to take the opportunity to get comfortable with the camera right there as Adam and I interacted with one another. I’m happy to ham it up in pictures, but acting “natural” is not my forte and Brandon made it feel so easy. This was also a perfect chance for Adam and I to warn Brandon of our quirks, such as my slouching and Adam’s staggering handsomeness. ;)
Now, I thought about treating this as a “tips to finding your perfect wedding photographer” post, but any advice I can offer is trumped by the simple instruction on Brandon’s website. Under the section entitled “What to Expect” are four separate images with the following:
- Expect love
- Expect art
- Expect details
- Expect memories
Below are a few of our favorite shots from our engagement shoot! We had so much fun and cannot wait until our wedding when our pictures will speak thousands of special words for forever and ever.
I’m going to admit right off the bat that this recipe may not be for everyone. It has been my experience that avocado is a polarizing fruit (some may argue that it’s a vegetable, further proving my point). You either love it or you hate it. I definitely find myself in the love camp, hence today’s post.
I woke up this morning craving a smoothie for no particular reason. Unfortunately the contents of my kitchen didn’t lend themselves too well to your typical smoothie, so I decided to get creative. I quickly googled “avocado smoothie” and came across a simple recipe that seemed easy enough to make my own. I chose avocado as my main ingredient initially because it was the only substantial fruit I had in stock, but quickly realized what a good choice it was based on some quick facts found in the article accompanying the sample recipe.
Take, for instance, the fact that the “good” fats found in avocado can help lower cholesterol. They are also rich in magnesium and packed with 11g of fiber per whole fruit! So, besides just tasting great, this smoothie is good for you and ultra filling. Take a look at my version of this avocado smoothie and, if it strikes your fancy, give it a whirl or create your very own!
What You’ll Need::
One ripe avocado
1 cup almond milk (soy or rice would also do the trick)
1/2 cup ice
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon coconut oil
handful of almonds
1/3 cup orange juice (I added this last minute to give the smoothie a citrus boost, I think pineapple juice would’ve been even better had I had it)
What to Do::
Scoop contents of avocado from skin and place in blender with honey, almonds, coconut oil, and 1/2 cup of milk
Blend until smooth and creamy
Add remaining milk and ice and blend until smooth
Add orange juice and blend, adding more to taste if you’d like
Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Ok, I’m sure we’re already sick of hearing about New Year’s resolutions. In fact, we can probably name a few people (including ourselves, even) that have already broken theirs. It’s annoying, I know. That’s the problem with these things; if you lack the discipline Reagan encouraged us toward earlier this week, it’s going to be really tough to make a life change that will stick. In my opinion, the diet/weight loss resolutions are hands-down the hardest ones to maintain, let alone accomplish successfully.
Rest assured, however, there is good news! There is a way to positively change your body with minimal effort. That’s right, I said it. There IS a way to slim down, with little time investment and very little money. Here’s the thing though, you have to exercise and eat healthy. If it sounds like I contradicted myself, I understand, but bear with me. Exercise and a balanced diet are requirements to a healthy lifestyle. Think of them as the givens in an algebra equation, you simply can’t calcualte the solution without them. Now, I’m not saying that you have to be a member at a fancy gym and eat only steamed vegetables, but I am saying that moderate daily activity paired with a diet consisting primarily of foods found in nature are a part of daily life that you must adhere to if you wish to remain healthy.
That being said, there are easy ways to help your body speed up and slim down! I promise that by simply adjusting your morning routine, you can actually melt fat away! Here are some super simple steps.
- Start with a glass of room temperature water right when you wake up. Rehydrating after hours of sleep helps flush out your system and actually raises that sluggish metabolic rate.
- Incorporate flax seed (whole) or flax seed oil into your diet. I take an oil capsule every morning with that delicious glass of water and can check it off my list. Flax seed not only encourages brain stimulation and circulation, but the oil emulsifies fat and helps your body burn it up! Think about liquid dish soap cutting through the greasiest dirty dish and that’s what flax seed oil does in your body.
- Up your intake of Vitamin C. This one’s my favorite because Vitamin C chewables are delicious(!)…not to mention, this stuff has some serious credentials to back it up. A study done at Arizona State University found that people who increased their daily dose of Vitamin C burned an average of 25-35% more fat during exercise than those who stuck to the FDA’s daily recommendation. That’s huge!
I share these few tips because I have seen a noticeable change in my body since making each of the above 3 items a must-do in my every day. I drink water and take my flax seed while my dog eats his breakfast and pop a vitamin C as soon as I get in my car, so that I never forget one or the other. Not only is this a super easy way to give your body a boost, but it’s also a great compliment to the exercise you work so hard for already. I’ve always been active, but this routine helped me shed a few pounds and a thin, unwanted layer that my normal cardio & weight training failed to. That may not sound like a lot, but for someone who exercises regularly, hopping off that plateau is a wonderful feeling!
Now, I would be remiss to leave my sweet fiance Adam out of this post. He is a smart, healthy man and has taught me a lot about the benefits of eating foods that fuel a healthy body. He’s also the one who tipped me off on the Vitamin C stats and encouraged me to get my aqua on in the morning. So, I have him to thank and hopefully you will too as you try one, two, or all three of these suggestions!
Perhaps the most important piece of the wedding planning puzzle is the location. Location meaning: city in which you will get married, venue that will host the ceremony, and venue that will host the reception. All of these elements create your location and without nailing them down, your planning stands at a halt. No location, no date. No date, no invitations. No invitations, no RSVP’s. No RSVP’s, no guest count. No guest count, no catering, no centerpiece count, no party favors. The list goes on! So, it’s understandable that picking a location can sometimes be the trickiest part of planning a wedding.
Fortunately, there are a few tips to keep in mind that will help the process go as smoothly as possible. First, the logistics. The worst thing you can do to yourself is create your dream wedding in your head and then be forced to adjust and edit when certain logistics just won’t allow for that hot air balloon to carry you off after your reception. So, do yourself a favor and come up with some initial guidelines including:
- Date preferences. Be ready with 3 or 4 dates that work for both you and your fiance. Be sure to get input from some key players as well, such as parents, officiants and bridal party.
- Budget. Once again, this will determine the extent to which you can dream, so be realistic and stick to a number. Also be aware of the “extras” most venues charge for gratuity, taxes, using outside vendors, etc. They’ll nickel and dime you if you let ‘em!
- Estimated guest count. You should have a general idea of the number of guests you’d like to have at your wedding. Every venue will give you their capacity, so this is an easy way to rule out certain locations. This is another area where you’ll want to be aware of extra charges. Some venues will charge you in increments per 50 guests up to their capacity.
- Decide whether or not you want the ceremony and reception to take place at the same location, or if that matters either way. Keep in mind that some churches require you to be a member to use their facility if you plan on getting married somewhere other than your home church.
Once you have these parameters in place you can start searching for that perfect location! The internet is obviously a great way to get some basic information on the venues you like, but I would suggest calling as well. You’ll get a feel for the atmosphere of the venue just by speaking to the event coordinator. This is also a good time to ask some of those questions that may not be answered on the website, and then allow you to make an appointment to visit the space in person should it meet your requirements.
When you are ready make site visits, try to schedule them all for one day. It may take 8 hours, but at the end, you’ll have everything fresh in your mind so that decision making can be easy. While you’re there, be sure to take pictures and ask lots of questions, preferably all of the same ones at each venue. Get a feel for the space, the event planner, the atmosphere and the “game day” logistics.
But, most importantly, go with your gut!
When Adam and I picked a location for our wedding, I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted. All of the venues would have worked well, but in the end, our perfect location came to be simply because I went with my intuition. I fell in love with a reception venue, and although it didn’t fit into my original concept, it was perfect. Pair that with a fairytale ceremony site (seen in the photo at the top of the post) and we couldn’t be more excited about the final location of our wedding!
So, if you’re planning a wedding and feeling overwhelmed, know that that’s normal. Also know, however, that it doesn’t have to be stressful and can actually be very exciting by setting your entire planning process in motion. Take some time to establish some personal requirements and, remember, trust your gut along the way!
Below is a sneak peek at our reception venue. I promise to share more photos after the blessed occasion, so stay tuned!