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Recipes, Well Being

Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

This new smoothie is fantastic! Perfect for the holidays, since it contains many of the ingredients people use to bake this time of the year such as apple and cinnamon. This smoothie is perfect for fighting cravings this time of the year as well since we are all looking forward to eating a lot! I know Thanksgiving was just last week and so we indulged ourselves on the best foods in our home with family or friends. However, we still have Christmas coming up. As a Brazilian, I celebrate Christmas twice. Christmas Eve which is a tradition we celebrate with my family on December 24 and then Christmas Day with my husband, who’s American, and his family. This means we have two back to back delicious holiday meals. Although I love the holiday food, I do love to take care of what I put in my body. This smoothie is the perfect smoothie to remind you of the holidays, fight cravings, reduce belly fat, stabilize blood sugar, and is also rich in fiber.

In your high-speed blender (I either use the Vitamix or the Ninja for this) add:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 apple, chopped, skin included (I like using a Granny Smith apple for its health benefits more than any other apple, preferably organic)

Blend it all together until smooth, add ice for a cooler taste.

Some of the benefits of apple cider vinegar:

  • clears acne and balances the pH of your skin
  • boosts energy since it is rich in Potassium and enzymes that relieve that tired feeling
  • helps control blood sugar
  • aides against bad breath

Some benefits of cinnamon:

  • helps treat muscle spasms
  • the common cold
  • lowers blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
  • can potentially be effective against HIV
  • aides in learning abilities

This smoothie is so good, that I have been making it almost every day. I hope you get to try it and love it just as much as I do. Ps: Don’t be sacred to the apple cider vinegar. It does

Ps: Don’t be scared of the apple cider vinegar. It does give a little taste but does not overpower the smoothie. Also, there are so many other fantastic health benefits that this vinegar has that I will have to share that another time.

Until next time!

Suellen

Well Being

How I Started Running

I have always thought that people who run, especially those who run outside, were in super shape. I also thought that I would never be able to do that, mainly because I don’t like to run. Or more importantly, when I start running, my body tells me to stop. At least that was how I felt about 1 year ago. What happened a year ago is that my husband and I purchased a treadmill. Actually my health insurance provided enough money so they actually purchased this treadmill. Before this I belonged to a gym off and on since I went to college. I found that I was quite regular in going but the drive to the gym and back made it easy to say no at times.

My mother and father were awesome parents who taught me to enjoy exercise. Three times a week, they took my brother and I to a torture chamber swim class which was 1 hour and 15 minutes of 200 IMs, lots of freestyle and, the best part, water polo. It was hard, but lots of studies show the importance of exercise for those with type 1 diabetes, especially if you enjoy the exercise.

While I still love swimming, it is really hard to find a place nearby that has swimming as it is usually too expensive. I also love rock climbing but my husband hurt his hand in a subway in Hong Kong and you need two people to do it. (I still regret rushing to get on that subway) Because of this, when I gave birth to Jack, I was in the worst shape of my life. I hadn’t exercised much right before I got pregnant and I didn’t feel comfortable starting anything new.  So after I gave birth, I felt horrible physically and I was very excited to have the treadmill.

When I taught, many of the teachers were using a new app called “Couch to 5k” or “Couch to 10k”. It is an app that I started using a couple years before I got pregnant and then stopped when I got to the part of running 3 miles straight. Fast forward to February of this year and I downloaded it again. I started the program and it very slowly eased me into running. When I got to the running 3 miles straight, I think it took me at least a week of starting and stopping until I could complete it. It was not easy but I felt good after completing it. I then kept going with the app until I realized I had run 4 miles. That was the longest I had ever run and I realized then that I could possibly run a 10k. Because this is the goal of the app, I started looking around to see if I could find a 10k that matched up with when I completed the app’s program. I found one that was located near me that took place on a flat surface. (I needed flat) I then brought it up with my husband and he, though surprised, was all for it. I signed up and I ran. a. 10k.

image3Actually I ran most of it. I had to walk for part of it when there was a hill but I was able to complete it. I was not last, but I was most definitely not in the first group of people. I know that the app  motivated me because it very gradually increased the amount of running I did at each session.

By the way, I didn’t stop at a 10k. Yesterday I ran my first half marathon. It. was. really. hard. But I did it and my time was 2:40. image1All I am going to say about the race for now is that my legs really hurt and I better understand what the author of Hebrews meant when he said “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)

This is what worked for me. Do you have something that has helps you get moving? Please let me know in the comment section below.

Well Being

When Your World Changes: Type 1 Diabetes

I asked my sister, Melissa, to share about her daughter Melina and her story of Type 1 Diabetes.  November is considered Type 1 Diabetes awareness month and I wanted to share her story.  It is amazing to see Melissa trust God through such a scary diagnosis.  May this testimony strengthen you for whatever you are going through, and help you to see that God is always there for you.

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I can still remember what it was like sitting in the emergency waiting room.  The atmosphere, the kids running around, the smell, the uncomfortable chairs, the chaos of sickness and urgency.

I cannot exactly recall when it started, those telltale signs of Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). I simply realized one day that she was drinking water a lot more than normal. She also had lost an incredible amount of weight.  My potty trained three-year old suddenly began wetting the bed. Heavily.

In the back of our minds, all of these things were definitely a concern. Somehow diabetes became a thought. We saw our pediatrician who sent for blood work.

The results came back almost instantly.

An experienced nurse from the pediatric office called me and told me she had informed Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that we were on our way. I called my husband from home from work and we rushed over.

Hearing horror stories of comas and seizures because of scary numbers or untreated and undiagnosed diabetes makes me aware that our story is a very lucky one.

The doctors and nurses spoke to us a little bit, using diabetes jargon and we had no clue as to what anything stood for. We just listened and nodded along, silently hoping we’d eventually understand what any of it meant. Not really getting just how life changing this was about to be, if not already.

There are only a few times in my life that I can play out in my mind as if I were watching a movie. My entire time in the hospital, especially the first night, is one of those times. Everything I saw and smelled is crystal clear but most clear was the feeling as if my heart were gaping open, with fear, anxiety, and hurt for my child.

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Little did I know that was how I was still going to feel even a little over a year later. You never quit being scared or overwhelmed by it all. Yes, you become a bit more knowledgeable, and experience lends a hand making it a bit easier at times, but fear for your child and bone-crushing tiredness from being “on” all the time never ceases.

Will she wake up tomorrow? We do nightly checks, which are generally at 11pm and 2am. Sometimes, if her numbers are wackier than usual, we check one to two to three times (yes, really) more. But, still . . . what if at 11pm she was a decent number, but was on her way down, and of course we had no way of knowing as she had shown a good number when we checked! By 2am it could be too late. We stay as vigilant as possible, but diabetes definitely defines a new type of “on”, an all consuming, anxiety ridden, exhausted one.

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The simplest way to describe how I was feeling that night would be “struck”: I was struck with shock and fear. Struck with a numbness of incomprehension. Struck with fretting, constant fretting. For her health, our wallets. I was struck dumb. I still could not grasp what all of this meant, but I knew things were forever changed.

After the initial finger pricks and shots that first night, tearfully done, my three-year-old sweet pea turned to me and resolutely stated, “I will be brave.” as she nodded her head. Just like that. She is the bravest person I know and I like to declare that I gave birth to my hero.

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Coming home was hard. It was so new and scary. That kind of scary is so different from coming home with your first newborn, when you’re not sure why they allow new parents to leave the hospital with these tiny helpless humans, because how can you be trusted with something so special and fragile?

Anxiety was in us all. Would I kill her? Would my husband and I mess up so badly that her death will be on our hands? What if we don’t catch a “low” or what if we give too much insulin?  Yes, those are real thoughts we had and still have today. We could make a mistake. We are so tired. We are so stressed. We are so busy. We might give the wrong dose without realizing it and it could have a really bad result. A deadly one. Or we may not catch a low, for whatever reason. People have woken up in the middle of the night and saw their children in the middle of a seizure from a low. This is not an “easy” disease. People who say, “At least it’s not cancer.” do not understand. There is no “better.”

I will remain forever grateful for how “easy” our diagnosis story is. There are families out there that truly have more traumatic diagnosis stories than our own. Not only that, especially considering the fact we had a newborn, it was an easy time because of family stepping in and being so willing to help. We otherwise would not have made it through.

I could feel God’s presence every moment. The fluidity of how everything was working once we got to the hospital, the kindness of everyone, and even my daughter’s easygoing personality that has made me stronger in the face of everything – He truly was with us and He still is.

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(All pictures are recent pictures. They are not ones from Melina’s hospital visit.)

Well Being

The Secret to Strength

This lovely lady, Sarah Frazer, I “met” through adoption. I was drawn to the way she writes about God and adoption, so when I saw she was writing a book I couldn’t wait to have her share with you about it!

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Do you want to know the secret to strength? It is found in giving up. That’s right. Give up. Stop striving. Let me get an Amen!? I mean, I am tired. I wake up tired. I count how many POTS of coffee I drink in the day, not the cups. POTS. I drink it all through the morning, at noon, and well into the afternoon. By nine o’clock at night I’m ready for bed, and some TUMS. My poor husband, he probably thinks I run marathons everyday.

And I do. I run upstairs and downstairs. I run to the grocery store, therapy and I run around like a crazy woman in a cleaning manic mode. I deal with fighting, crying, screaming, tantrums, complaining, and the endless questions. My mind, my heart, my emotions, and my physical body are so incredibly exhausted. I feel like a week of sleep wouldn’t even help.

This year was supposed to be a year of running. Instead, I found myself walking. Sometimes just crawling. I wasn’t moving ahead at a runner’s pace. I was frantic, and not going where. I was busy with activity, but not productivity. I felt out of strength and stuck. Like a hamster on its wheel.

One of my favorite verses from this past year was in Psalm 46:10. God gave me this psalm because I thought I need Psalm 46:1 – God is very present help in trouble.

Instead, God is showing me the verse I needed was Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. “Be still” simply means to stop striving. Stop working so hard, spinning my wheels, and not moving forward. The way to get strength and move ahead is to be still, but also in knowing.

I can only be still if I know God. My brand new Bible study is about The Glorious Ordinary. About finding He is beautiful, faithful, and loving in the everyday. My relationship with God gives me strength. What does Paul say, when he asked God for the ability to overcome?

“My [God’s] grace is sufficient for you, for my [God’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

That’s right. Our weaknesses are made PERFECT in God’s power. We can give up trying to muster enough strength. Only when we surrender and submit do we find sufficiency; plenty; enough. Plenty of grace for today. Fullness of strength for us, even today.

The beauty of strength is we only need enough for the moment. God doesn’t give us enough strength to last a lifetime. He gives enough for today. If you are tired today, find some time to let God fill you up. 5 Minutes. 10 Minutes. 15 minutes. If you have 30 minutes to read and study and pray God’s word, it will make a difference. I can attest to what an amazing strength it will bring to you!

Fatigue is a real enemy when it comes to women. Weariness fights us hard and fast. Let’s fight back with truth. God is enough. You might not feel like you have the secret, but you do.

What choice can you make today to fight fatigue?

Do you need to speak truth to your heart?

Do you need to say no to something in order to find time to rest?

Do you need to just take a nap?

Do you need to go to bed earlier?

Do you need to spend time reading God’s Word?

If you are struggling with how to dig deep into God’s Word, you might want to check out my brand NEW Bible study, coming November 30. Sign up here to receive updates so you don’t miss the exciting extras.

The Glorious Ordinary is a nine-week Bible study designed to lead you into deeper study of God’s Word. No matter if you’ve studied scripture you entire life, or are just starting out, this study is for you. I’ve provided the passages to read, questions to answer, and scripture to memorize.

It is about walking one day at a time. Even though walking is so ordinary, don’t get discouraged. I understand that the deepest part of your heart just wants this hard place to be over. I ask you to walk through whatever circumstance you are facing one day at a time with me. You aren’t alone and you are made to be exceptional, right here.

Sign up here to get updates. Just for giving me your email, I’ll also be sending you lots of free printables to help you in your Bible reading!

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Sarah lives her life with an amazing husband and four little ones (one adopted from China). Her inner-planner girl would like to say she’s super efficient and has the house, homeschool, and husband all neatly organized. But she doesn’t. Sarah’s house is run with fuel from coffee and Jesus. She is learning how to find the thrill of walking one day at a time in the messiness of mundane. She invites you to study God’s Word in your ordinary days.
If you are having a hard time starting a Bible study habit, check out Sarah’s 5 Steps for Starting a Bible Study Habit – Today! Found at sarahefrazer.com/audio-course.
Connect with Sarah here: Website / / Facebook / / Instagram / / Pinterest / / Twitter
Well Being

Feeling Like An Inspirational Desert?

As a creative person I face inspirational ruts quite a lot. I get down on myself for not having a well of ideas springing forth. Maybe you don’t feel like a super creative person, but you still need to get inspired or motivated to work, thrive, exercise, or to just do something relaxing. Maybe you just want to get excited again about something. I thought I would share a few ideas that might get your inspired juices flowing.

  1. Spend the day in a new place. A week ago I got to visit some pretty awesome places in CO when I visited my brother and his family. It was far and required purchasing a ticket, but sometimes all it takes is getting in the car and driving a couple hours to some place different. If you live in the city, visit the countryside. If you live in the country, take a hike up a mountain and sit there on the rocks and look at the awesome view. Pick a weekend or day off and get out there!
  2. Browse iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or Pandora for new music artists. Sometimes music gets me to think more creatively and usually finding a new artist is a guaranteed success for inspiration. Even watching a music video, from a song that I know, gets me thinking new things.
  3. Listen to podcasts or read an autobiography that covers a topic you enjoy. There have been times where just reading about someone else’s life really opened my eyes to new things. Even if their way of thinking was different, it got me to think. For a while I was into reading about Holocaust survivors and their perseverance. Another time I read a book about the journey of a woman through different religions.
  4. Spend time with friends and find out what inspires them. Any time I get together with my girl friends, there is a chance that we will get going on a really good topic. This always manages to get me thinking about new thoughts and ideas, even if it is just what we might do together the next time we meet.

One of the best ways to tack the inspirational rut, is to just take a breathe and relax. I have learned that by not being so hard on myself, the inspiration comes quicker and is more authentic. Feeling guilty for not being full of ideas isn’t all that healthy either. I hope that where ever you are at in your inspiration journey, you know that sometimes even the “desert” is beautiful. It fine tunes us into stronger people. I mean, doesn’t the desert in the picture above look pretty great?  By appreciating the desert, you will find great satisfaction in your time of thriving.

Now go take a drive somewhere!

Well Being

For Days When You Feel Alone

I’m going to take a bit of a risk here with a wild guess that most of us at some point or another in our lives have felt bitterly alone. In fact, I’m going to take it a step further and venture to say that at some point(s) in our lives, we have felt so alone that it seemed like even God was not near to us. I know I have. And recently when I was reading the story of Job for my devotions I was reminded that even God’s most faithful servants have felt that way.

Job knew in his heart that he had not forsaken God’s commandments and that he had been living in harmony with God and his fellow man. And yet as he cried out to God for mercy, for relief, and for answers, he received none. Not only did he receive no answer from God, but he also felt utterly alone and abandoned by God.

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In chapter 23, Job says,

“’Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.’” (Verses 8, 9, ESV)

What’s interesting to me is that Job does not question God’s existence. He says that God is working; he just can’t see or feel him working. Job still knew and trusted that God was there, he just wished that he could see it more clearly. The other thing that was inspiring to me was the very next verse after Job complains of feeling like God is hiding from him.

“’But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.’” (Job 23:10, ESV)

 

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Even when Job felt completely alone and abandoned by God, he still had the faith and trust that comes from truly knowing God to realize that God knew the path that Job was on. God still saw Job in his aloneness. And even though Job couldn’t feel God’s presence, he clung to his faith and belief in the goodness of God.

When I was reading this story and thinking about Job in his aloneness crying out to God, I remembered some of the lyrics to one of my favorite Andrew Peterson songs, “The Silence of God.”

“There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll,
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold.
And he’s kneeling in the garden, silent as a stone,
All his friends are sleeping, and he is weeping all alone.

And the Man of all Sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought.
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God,
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not.
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God.”

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Jesus knows your sorrows. He knows what it feels like to be utterly and completely alone. And most of all, he knows what it is to cry out to God and hear only silence in reply. But when we read these stories, of Job and of Jesus in their aloneness, we can be comforted by the knowledge that in both of those stories even though God’s presence was not felt, He was there all along. God saw Jesus and God saw Job in their aloneness; and He was still loving them even in His silence, despite what Satan would have had them believe.

So when you’re feeling all alone and when you feel like the only answers you’re receiving from Him are silence, take heart; He is with you still, and He loves you, even if you don’t understand the reason for His silence.

Well Being

3 Ways To Embrace Change

I will probably be one of the first to say that I didn’t always like change. It used to throw me off and make me respond rather dramatically as a kid. When my dad would get new glasses, I would be so upset and express how much I disliked them. It’s now a few years later and I have learned a few tricks that have helped me to not get thrown off guard. Here are three:

  1. Learn about God’s will and make it yours. When Chris and I first thought about moving to Philly, it was rather shocking and out of the blue. Days before we were quite content with being where we were. We had a nice little home, family close by, and a very good church family. At the same time we decided to look to God for what He wanted and it meant leaving our church and family for the unknown. Because we knew He wanted to us to go, we could rest easy and think of it as an adventure! To this day we have been extremely blessed by being here and have made so many friends and connections it’s crazy! We still feel very secure in the decision we made, though it was a big change.
  2. Make change an adventurous journey. Like I said earlier, because God is in control it has been a lot easier to think about each step of the way as an adventure. We are constantly wondering what God has planned next. Instead of feeling afraid of the future and all of the changes that will definitely come, we anticipate the places that God will take us. Because of how He has provided in the past and brought us through, we know He has much to give in the future. Even if that adventure comes with struggle, so much beauty and depth can be realized, which no one can take away from us.
  3. Fully understand what it means to grow. With change comes growth. No matter the circumstances, growth happens. It makes you evaluate your life and consider the possibilities. It rewires your mind for better or for worse. Instead of growing angry or resentful with the change, think about how the experiences you are going through can rewire your mind for greater things. As sinful human beings it’s easy to get caught up in selfish thinking, but when we consider change, it allows us to look at the road and decide which way we want to go. Do you want to become more like Christ or more self absorbed?

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Now that it is autumn, I am quite reflective. It got me to thinking about how the seasons between summer and winter prep me. Autumn is one of my favorites, and besides loving all the colors, it makes me ponder life and where I am at. It also gets me ready for colder temps and shorter days. Then in the spring we get fresh green sprouts and warmer days. God is so good in giving us transitions between the change. He isn’t one to just throw growth at us where we can’t handle it. Sometimes I think that I can’t handle what comes my way, but when I look back I realize that God prepped me. Just like the autumn.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Recipes, Well Being

Chia Seed Smoothie

Chia seeds are one of my all times favorite ingredients for my smoothies bowls, and my protein shakes. Although they have a funny consistency after they are soaked, they are excellent for our bodies. They are full of nutrients that benefit the body and brain. Here is one of my top smoothies that I make in the morning for breakfast. It’s very easy to make. Are you ready?

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 8oz of coconut water
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 TBSP chia seeds
  • 1 TBSP Almond Butter
  • handful of spinach
  • 2 to 3 ice cubes

Blend it all together in your high speed blender (I either use the Vitamix or the Ninja) and enjoy!

This smoothie is packed with protein which is great for a pre or post work out and fiber helping with bowel movements.

Benefits of Chia seeds:

  • helps lower blood pressure
  • helps lower cholesterol levels
  • helps lower the risk of diabetes
  • prevents constipation since is loaded with fiber
  • rich in Omega-3s helping decrease the risk of thrombosis, arrhythmias.
  • helps in loosing weight
  • rich in antioxidants
  • rich in Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Niacin, Zinc and Molybdenum

I hope you enjoy making this wonderful and tasteful smoothie. I love it, and hope you do too.

Until next time.

Sue

Well Being

What It Takes To Make Your Passion Reality

Right now I am in a transition with my photography career. I am no longer sitting in the unknown wondering how in the world I am going to make this dream real, but I am also not on the other side of things calling it my full time job. At this point things are just becoming real and I can still taste the unknown with excitement. I was thinking that it would be a good time to write down a few ways that got me to this point so that I might encourage some of you to take on your dreams and make them happen.

  1. Talk with God about making your passion real. About 3 years ago I asked my women’s Bible study group to add my dreams to the prayer list. I knew I wanted to be a photographer, but the business side of it freaked me out. I knew nothing about it and didn’t feel like I had the social skills to really wing it. So we prayed. I prayed separately as well, for 3 years.
  2. Be extremely patient with yourself. Guys, it doesn’t happen over night. In order for God to cultivate and build you He has to move a lot of parts and rewire your mind. He isn’t going to hand you your dreams up front and say, “run!” until you are ready. I am a perfectionist and want things to be awesome up front. I want to be awesome, but being good at something takes time. At the same time, as a perfectionist, it can be easy to just sit and wait till it feels like things might be perfect, which brings me to my next point.
  3. Make yourself available in challenges. Even though God didn’t necessarily hand me my dreams right away, He did give me opportunities where I had to fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. About a year after really asking God to make things real, I was given a job that required me to learn things about small business where I knew nothing. I had to buy a $9,000 copy machine. I had to come up with a pest control plan for a cafe that isn’t even open yet. God pushed me to help organize a canvassing program and I am NOT a literature evangelist. Accepting these tasks and putting my best foot forward, made it easier for me to see how these new skills could fit into running a photo biz!
  4. While planning your passion, have another job. Having patience is so crucial that I had to mention it twice. It can be easy to complain and wish you were doing your dream job right now! I know how that goes. Thing is, you gotta pay the bills. You need to be realistic and think about what is currently happening in your life and how that will roll over into your future. You can start out with a full time job and then move to part time. Either way, it is important to keep yourself disciplined while you start to make that passion a reality. It actually kept me focused, doing something else, because it taught me about hard work and pulling through. Starting a dream job isn’t roses and candy, folks. It takes pushing forward! Working that other job will give yourself proof that you can do it! Over 3 years have gone by and the money I have made still hasn’t gone into my own pocket. It pays for photo gear, computers, hard drives, and even a new desk. Dreams are expensive.
  5. Value every moment of learning. At each step I had to accept where I was (there is that patience again). When I did this it taught me to value what I had learned and not take it for granted. It made me more aware of the small improvements I was making. Now that I am on this side of the “fence,” I am so grateful and have no need to complain. I am still pinching myself because of the fact that just last week I flew out to Nevada to photograph a new artist who not only paid me to fly out, but she paid me for my time and skill. Even as I felt like I had sorta “arrived” I was learning new things. It doesn’t leave room for gloating, just success!

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Because of God I have a confidence that is growing and challenging me to be better. Dreams don’t have to stay dreams. With a little elbow grease and jumping in we both can do awesome things together. Ya, life is real and it can hand us pretty tough stuff. At the same time God knows what makes us thrive. He understands that need to want to create and develop a skill. He made us that way. If it appears like I left anything out and like this seems to easy or too hard to do, please let me know! Ask me questions. I want to help make your dreams a reality too!

Well Being

A (Healthier) Guide to Productivity

Confession: I love being productive, but I am not always very good at it. In fact, sometimes I feel so bad at being productive, that I just get overwhelmed and want to crawl back into bed. Unfortunately, this can be a vicious cycle: Want to be productive —> Get overwhelmed —> Waste time instead —> Feel like a terrible failure —> Want to be productive. It’s not pretty; just ask my husband.

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Now, while this isn’t always the cycle that I fall into, it happens frequently enough that my husband and I decided it was time for an intervention. Mostly because I got tired of being unproductive, and he got tired of me feeling like a failure for not being productive (he’s a keeper).

So what did we do, you ask? Well, we came up with a system that we’ve been trialling now for the past month. So far, I have been able to accomplish much more than I had been doing, but even more importantly, I feel so much healthier emotionally now as I’m meeting my goals; that’s why I decided to share with you what I’ve learned from the beginning of my journey towards a healthier pattern of productivity.

First, a disclosure: this is not an 8-step program to make you a more productive person. Instead, this is meant to be a helpful tool, or guiding principles to help you get ideas on how to create a system that works for you, because let’s be honest– different strokes for different folks.

I would also LOVE to hear some of your ideas on how to stop wasting time, be more productive, or on ways to motivate yourself to accomplish goals. I can use all the help I can get, and I’m sure others would love to know your secrets to success as well!


1. Lists are your friend (and your enemy)

No, really. Lists can be helpful, but they can also be overwhelming and time consuming. My suggestion is this: Start with one week at a time, and at the beginning of the week take a quick minute to make a list of the things you would like to get done. Then prioritize; be realistic and choose only a few things that are most important to get done. Make these your goal for the entire week, and the rest of the items on your list are whipped cream on the pie if you complete them. This process really shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

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2. Find what motivates you

This is very important for me and my husband both. Truthfully, the feeling of accomplishment that I get from being productive is a type of reward in itself, but it’s not often enough to keep me motivated. Here are some ideas for rewards/motivations that might work: When you complete a task, you earn some “free time” for guilt-free relaxation (a nap, reading a book, writing, watching a show, taking a walk, or anything that makes you feel guilty when you have too much to do). Or you can use money as incentive if your budget allows; Timothy and I get personal money each month, but we have been getting a small amount of extra personal money if we meet our goal for the week, kind of like earning your allowance like you may have done as a kid. Whatever it is that motivates you, find a way to use it as a reward for accomplishing a reasonable amount of things per week.

3. Cumulative rewards help you stick with it

It is far too easy to say to myself, “Well, if I don’t accomplish this week’s tasks, there’s always next week.” So what we’ve done to keep ourselves motivated is having an extra reward for being able to complete our goals for all four (or five) weeks in a month. Because then if you miss one week, you’re really giving up two rewards.

4. Revise your system if necessary

If you picked too many tasks for your first week, don’t be discouraged. Just realize that there are only 24 hours in each day and it is not healthy or helpful to try to fit too much into that time. Use trial and error to help you figure out a balance of how many goals or how big the goals are that you’re setting for yourself and how you are handling them. If you become stressed or overwhelmed by the goals you’re setting, tone it down. If you find that you didn’t choose enough things to accomplish and it was too easy, add some more (because it’s good to have a little bit of a challenge).

5. Healthy expectations = healthier productivity

What I have discovered for myself is that when I set attainable goals and accomplish them, it actually helps me to accomplish more. Having healthy expectations of what we can get done decreases the stress and discouragement that often go hand in hand with having “too much to do.” God did not create us to be non-stop working machines; too much productivity can be just as unhealthy for your body and mind as being completely unproductive.

6. Cut yourself some slack

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This is the most important thing I will write in this entire post, so I hope you’ve kept reading… Do not link your productivity to your self-worth. Ever. You are so much more than what you can accomplish. My husband, thank the good Lord, does not love me because of how much I can get done in a day. Do not fall into the terrible black abyss of feeling like you are not enough, you are a failure, or you are somehow less than everyone else because you are struggling with getting things done. God has never, ever, ever said anywhere in the Bible that our value comes from what we can do. That’s not the way He based the plan of salvation, and it’s not the way His love for us us works either. As Brené Brown so aptly puts it in her book Rising Strong,

“I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.

Well Being

Taking A Chance With Pomegranates

So a couple of weeks ago I talked about experiencing burnout. Then a few weeks before that I talked about how I just never make last minute plans. Well, I thought I would give an update on how things are going and how applying last minute plans has helped to really change my perspective on life and relieve the burnout.

Last week I was standing in line at the market, waiting to pay for my fruit, when I saw these mini pomegranates sitting in a box next to the avocados. I immediately thought about how I have been needing some photo opportunities that didn’t involve calling up a friend and setting up a time. I thought to myself, “Pomegranates are interesting and colorful. Why not give these a try?”

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Usually I would just talk myself out of such “nonsense” because who really has time to sit and eat the juice off of a pomegranate seed after taking the time to take pictures of them? I got a little stressed out about the idea but then realized that I needed to take the chance. Since I have been trying to let go of my fears and just do things that I have been wanting to do, this was my one small chance, which was only going to cost me $3 for 3 of them.

I mean, just a few days before, I had actually gotten myself to sit down in the comfy chair of our living room, with my laptop, and whipped out my credit card to purchase a plane ticket to go see my brother and his family. I did it without Chris’s help. I did it with my own personal credit card. I even felt OK with spending a lot right then and there. So buying 3 pomegranates really wasn’t a big deal anymore. I was on a roll and going places!

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I finally got around to photographing this fruit in the evening of my day off last week. I cut up the fruit and set it up on a large cutting board in the front window, so it could get some of the last light of the day. After getting a few shots, I sat down on my ottoman, close to the floor, and started to pick away at the juicy seeds. Here I was crouched by the window, with a cutting board sitting on the radiator, watching cars drive by. Those annoying little seeds made me sit still and take in the moment. Though it wasn’t a picture perfect moment (the neighbor’s cigarette smoke was wafting through), the stillness was perfect.

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Discovering that taking these little chances could release fear, was so profound. In that little moment of stillness I could see what God was doing for me. After feeling like I just couldn’t make it anymore, I was reminded that, YES, I am making it! While my mind might be tired, God is growing a part of me that has been held captive for oh. so. long. While I could be getting bent out of shape about burnout, God is showing me that fear of failure is slowly loosing it’s grip on me….

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

What small things are making a difference in your life? What little moments are changing and releasing the fear in your heart?

Recipes, Well Being

Homemade Protein Shake

Protein shakes? No more after this super delicious protein shake! I bought my first ever protein powder the other day. Since I’m a vegetarian now (I have been for the past 3 years) it’s always good to have some healthy protein in my body. You don’t need animal protein to have protein. There are so many good kinds of protein. Protein is in all of our fruits, vegetables, and nuts! This shake is protein from start to end. Wonderful for your pre or post workout.

  • 2 cups of almond milk or your favorite non-dairy milk (I made my own almond milk, non-sweet)
  • 2 dates to make it sweet (optional, but makes it very tasty)
  • 1 banana preferably if frozen (leave it in a zip-lock bag and let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours, or just leave it there for your next shake or frozen desert)
  • a dash of Himalayan salt
  • 1 tablespoon of raw organic cocoa powder
  • last but not least, Sun Warrior Protein Powder chocolate flavored (Sun Warrior is a vegan protein powder. I bought it at Whole Foods for $45.00, but you can add any protein of your choice)
  • optional: add ice to taste if you like it cold, or if your banana is not frozen.

Blend it all in your high-speed blender,  (I either use the Vitamix or the Ninja), and pour it in your workout cup or you can also have it as a breakfast smoothie bowl, too, by adding your favorite ingredients. That’s what I call a breakfast!

Benefits of protein:

  • Hair and nail are made of protein and your body uses protein to build and repair tissues.
  • It is important for making enzymes, hormones, and other important chemicals.  bones, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood
  • Needed to nourish the bones, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood

Hope you enjoy this wonderful protein and super healthy and delicious shake!

Until next time!

Suellen