Three 31


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SELAH Bible Study // Importance of Community

SELAH - Importance of Community

SCRIPTURE

Nehemiah 2:17-20

EXPLANATION

Nehemiah // a Jewish man; the king’s “cupbearer” (wine taster and guard); held place of honor with Persian King
King of Persia // verbally blessed Nehemiah and encouraged him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild walls
Sanballet, Tobiah, and Geshem // kings doubtful of Nehemiah

LOCATION // Jerusalem. The Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and King Nebuchadnezzar knocked down the city’s walls and burned its gates.  When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, after 70 years of slavery, they attempted to reconstruct the city but their efforts were thwarted by laziness and a lack of faith. They were distracted, discouraged, and lacked leadership, organization, and unity. More than 150 years after the city had been destroyed, Nehemiah obeyed God’s calling to return to Jerusalem even though he held a position of prominence for the King of Persia. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness for his homeland then blessed him and sent him to Jerusalem – a divine appointment directed by God himself.

Verse 17: Without walls, Jerusalem is weak and unable to defend itself against enemies. Its physical and spiritual condition was a disgrace.

Verse 18: Nehemiah encouraged the Israelites to listen, to act as one, because he had been DOUBLY blessed: by the encouraging words of the Persian king and God’s gracious hand. They (the Israelites) said, “Let’s start building!” and they committed themselves to the common good. Here, what is good for one was good for all. The people collectively agreed to rebuild the city walls and they were unified with one voice and one purpose.

Verse 19: When Christ-followers are doing God’s work, Satan creeps in to discourage and distract us. Three kings from surrounding areas ridicule and mock the Israelites for attempting the reconstruction project again, a reminder that opposition comes quickly when God’s people are working for His glory.

Verse 20: Nehemiah responds to the kings trying to discourage him and the Israelites – but he does so with humility and gives God credit for their success. They (Nehemiah and Israelites) take the role of servant and submit to God’s purpose instead of their own selfish desires.

When we let God take control

LESSONS

Being a Christian is not easy! Nehemiah’s faith was planted firmly in God’s promise to fulfill His kingdom. God blessed Nehemiah with specific talents and Nehemiah was obedient to use his gifts for God’s glory. Later on, we read that Nehemiah led the reconstruction project and the walls were rebuilt in 52 days. The massive project, with Nehemiah’s leadership and divine blessing, was divided into smaller tasks and assigned to talented individuals. The Israelites worked together and focused on one goal – to rebuild the city’s walls – and they succeeded.

When we let God take control and surround ourselves with genuine supporters, blessings come and our obedience is rewarded.

The walls around Jerusalem symbolize the condition of our faith community. Is your support group in ruins or chaotic? Look around you. Are people building you up or tearing you down? Are they helping you or mocking you?

God created us to be in relationship with Him and other believers. We need spiritual mentors and accountability partners to love and respect us, as well as support and guide us in the right direction. Living a faithful life doesn’t mean an easy life – the three doubtful kings prove there is always opposition and Satan works hard to wreck our plans – but living an obedient life guarantees eternal blessings!

When Nehemiah prayed to God asking for restoration of Jerusalem, he didn’t sit on the sidelines and hope for a miracle. He offered himself and said use me.

APPLICATION

The Greek word “koinonia” means fellowship – an essential element of the Christian faith because it represents the intimacy between God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all believers. When we are in fellowship with God, we are called to be in fellowship with others ( 1 John 1:3 ).

we thrive in community 2

A healthy and thriving faith community requires participation and sharing one purpose. The word community includes the word UNITY for a reason! When the Israelites had a single mission, their efforts were unified and they worked together to accomplish one goal. They kept each other spiritually fit to ward off Satan’s distractions, discouragement, and deceitful tactics.

Biblically-grounded, spiritually mature people are crucial to our faith development and help us stay focused. We thrive in community that has purpose and is filled with love, mutual respect, and accountability.

HONOR

God, I come to you with a heart full of thanksgiving. I am grateful for my faith-filled family, friends, church, and small group because they exemplify rest, healing, discipleship, discipline, honor, and integrity. Forgive me when I forget the magnitude of their presence or take them for granted. I submit my life to your will, not my preference or convenience. Use me for your kingdom work, all honor and glory is yours.


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SELAH Bible Study // The Healing of Naaman

SELAH - The Healing of Naaman

SCRIPTURE

2 Kings 5:1-14

EXPLANATION

Naaman // an army commander, a great man with king’s favor, a mighty warrior, had leprosy
Young Girl // an Israeli taken captive during war, maidservant of Naaman’s wife, a believer in the prophet
Mistress // Naaman’s wife
King of Aram // wrote letter to the king of Israel on Naaman’s behalf, sought prophet for Naaman’s healing
King of Israel // tore his clothes and grieved while reading the king’s letter, angry for not being able to heal, mistook the letter as a threat for war, failed to realized Elisha’s power
Elisha // a man of God and prophet, instructed Naaman to bathe in Jordan River to heal his body

LOCATION // Aram (present-day Syria)

Verse 1: As an army commander and mighty warrior, I imagine Naaman to be the epitome of a soldier: tall and athletic with tanned skin from countless hours spent in the desert sun; very muscular; and, dirty from training exercises or the battlefield. Naaman suffered from leprosy, a skin disease that causes disfiguration and red, oozing blisters. I assume the dirty conditions and intense heat from living in a dry, barren desert only intensified Naaman’s pain.

Verse 3: A young girl from Israel is taken captive from the Syrian army during a raid but I think it is God’s strategic planning that puts her in the right place at the right time. She is going to play a pivotal role in Naaman’s healing because she believes in the power of the prophet in Israel (Elisha).

Verse 10: Elisha sends a messenger with instructions for Naaman – to wash in the Jordan River and be restored.

Verse 11: Naaman is angry, presumably because he expected an immediate quick-fix solution. He wanted instant results without working for it himself.

Verse 13: Naaman’s servants boldly approach him and encourage him to obey the prophet. They help him realize how easy it is to accept God’s healing – just bathe in the river seven times!

Verse 14: Naaman obeys and, when he came out of the water, his skin was as clear as a newborn baby’s. He had been washed clean – physically and spiritually.

LESSONS

Naaman means pleasant, agreeable, and beautiful – a stark contrast to his skin (blisters and sores from leprosy) and reaction to Elisha (anger and resistance).

Even though people with leprosy were outcast members of society, God pays more attention to the condition of our hearts than he does our physical appearance, and he can create that anew too!

Out of Naaman’s obedience, God offered more than physical cleanliness and healing … he gave Naaman complete restoration in body, mind, and soul. His tanned, weathered, blistered skin was brand new – like a newborn baby!

Naaman receives compassion from the captive Israeli girl, who could have been bitter, but her faith allowed her to see others with a lens of grace – offering discipleship and healing from the One True God. God invites us to partner with him to bring unbelievers into his kingdom – we never know when ordinary people will be called to do extraordinary things for his glory!

Naaman was eager for healing but his pride and impatience almost cost him total restoration. Too often we want to be in control and make our own decisions, but we must surrender our desires, plans, and expectations to God’s perfect purposes.

God is not in the “quick fix” business. Faith in Him requires effort and work – to believe and receive God’s blessings and to choose humility and obedience. God could have snapped his fingers or waved his hands to heal Naaman, but he didn’t. If we are willing to obey and act accordingly, God rewards our obedience.

APPLICATION

What am I holding onto that God wants to restore and make new again? Identify something in your life that you are expecting a “quick fix” instead of putting forth effort. Like Naaman, our bodies can become dirty with physical sores and spiritual disobedience but it takes several washings in God’s waters to make us clean.

I recently cleaned out a closet in the guest bedroom and made a huge mess. There was stuff everywhere! But out of the chaos came organization. Perhaps I need to do a little “closet cleaning” for my physical and spiritual health. God doesn’t want to merely heal us, He wants to completely restore us and make in us a new creation. That’s a hallelujah moment!

Who in your life is strategically placed to make an impact on you? Are you a spiritual influence to someone else?

HONOR

Gracious and loving God, I am really good at making messes. Too often, my selfish desires, pride, and stubbornness get in the way of experiencing joy that comes from you. Help me remember that you are God and I am not.

Lord, I want to be obedient. I invite you to take the wheel and lead me towards complete restoration instead of a temporary “quick fix” solution. 

Thank you for the spiritual mentors you’ve strategically placed in my life to guide and encourage me. I pray for better listening ears too, so that I will hear and respond according to your purpose. I believe in you and I receive everything you freely offer. Please give me the confidence of the Israeli girl and Naaman’s servants, who boldly shared their faith by simply offering love, kindness, and compassion to someone in need. Amen. 


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2016 Resolutions Update // January

2016resolutions

One month down, 11 to go.

FOR MYSELF

Participate in the Read Scripture project I’m ahead of the game on this one.
Keep a prayer journal, such as this one
Write a few sentences every day in a journal (I already have one of these.)
Read the Bible … again (using this plan) I’m right on track with this plan!
Learn “Inductive Bible Study” and attend a PUP course
Create one Bible Journaling page a month January: ?????
Finish Believe study
Forgive “S” because holding a grudge is weighing me down
Walk/Jog/Run in the Wicked Wine 5K with Mom-Tribe on March 26
Get photos printed and display in our home
Utilize health coach and benefits (i.e. pedometer, reimbursements, etc.)
Wear size 16 pants

FOR OTHERS

Lead this Bible study
Start a small group Planning and coordination is underway. I’ve found a spot that would be PERFECT and now I need to work out some details before we launch and advertise. I’m excited about the possibilities!
Host a meal with Mom-Tribe every month January – ????
Continue writing for Sweet Jesus Ministries Things with SJM are going very well!
Potty train Kamden Kamden has sat on the potty chair several times, and even peed in it, but we are no where near being completely diaper-free.
Move Kamden to a big bed
Take Kamden on a train
Celebrate Husband’s 40th birthday
Donate unwanted books

FOR FUN

Find three hobbies: one to make money, one to stay in shape, and one to be creative
Host “Games with Friends” and play this, this, this, this and this!
Use Skype
Photo editing “workshop” with Becky
Sell the Camry
Save money earned from photography sessions to invest in new equipment
Publish a blog series
Go on a family vacation
Create my family tree with Ancestry dot com

MORE

Exercising
Dates with Husband January – Husband took the day off so we could go shoot while Kamden was at school. Unfortunately, it was too cold and windy to shoot at the outdoor range and the indoor facility was reserved for a private event. But we enjoyed lunch and being alone for couple of hours.
Sleeping I’m proud to say I did not had a single sleepless night during the month of January. I may have gone to bed and read entirely too long, but I never stayed up the whole night without sleeping at all. Things are improving for me!
Picture-taking
Housekeeping and organization
Rounds of golf
Snail mail I sent a “box of sunshine” to Jenny just because she’s awesome and I love her to the moon and back. And the color yellow reminds me of her.
Reading Thanks to my new tablet, I’m reading at night again and enjoying it immensely. I’m reading three books right now, I’ll let you know when I finish them.
Blogging I’ve been fairly quiet this month but the posts I have published have been focused on spiritual principles and faith development, two subjects near and dear to my heart.
Meal planning (helpful printable) I’ve been tentatively meal planning without actually meal planning, if that makes any sense. I’ve got to do something to introduce more foods to Kamden because he’s quickly becoming a picky little eater. His favorites (spaghetti, homemade pizza, and lasagna) are getting old fast.  

MONTHLY GOALS

January – Log 1,000 minutes of exercise for the #SJM1000MinuteChallenge. FAILED. This is a big disappointment because I was the person responsible for coordinating the event with Sweet Jesus Ministries. I ended up with 865 minutes of exercise for the month of January, which is well below the goal I had for the month.

February – Embrace role as spiritual mentor. Go to the gym three days a week or more. Coordinate small group with C8M. Start organizing “City on a Hill” event on behalf of the church.


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The SELAH Bible Study Method

I love when words and phrases come together so organically that it makes you smile and acknowledge God’s creativity … and realize that He, indeed, has a sense of humor. In my quest to read the Bible (again), this week’s focus has been Exodus and Psalms. If you’ve never read the Psalms, or if you’ve skimmed them and not paid much attention, I encourage you to open your Bible. Take a few minutes to really read Psalms, a collection of hymns, poetry, laments, praises of thanksgiving, and prayers. No matter the season of life in which you currently reside, there is a Psalm to fit your heart, emotion, or situation.

It is in Psalms that I first encountered the word selah. It’s a bit of a trick word as Hebrew scholars have had difficulty translating it exactly and there are multiple ways of pronouncing it. I pronounce it SEE-lah and believe it means to pause and think deeply. An appropriate word when studying Scripture, right?! When we see the world selah, Scripture tells us to pause and carefully weigh, or discern with the Holy Spirit’s help, the meaning of what we have just read or heard.

SELAH Bible Study Method

If I study the Bible to know God and align my daily living with his purposes, I need to embrace selah more often! To do this, I created the S.E.L.A.H. acronym in hopes it will help me meditate on God’s Word. Reading the Bible takes a little skill and a whole lot of discipline. Are you ready to dig deeper and apply it to your life?

S for SCRIPTURE

Choose a Scripture verse or passage and read it several times. If you prefer, write it down to sharpen your recall and memorization skills.

E for EXPLANATION

Dig deeper and ask lots of questions: Who is mentioned and what is their role in the passage? What are important contextual details or background facts you need to know? What does the Scripture passage mean? What is its significance?

When explaining Scripture, it’s okay to ask more questions! I highly recommend finding a spiritual mentor who can help guide your reading and possibly answer your questions. Learn to read between the lines to discover God’s presence on every page. Cross-reference Scripture by finding passages in the Old and New Testaments that relate to each other. Use commentaries or notes from a pastor or speaker to help you understand Scripture more fully.

The is no doubt, from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is telling us about the power and prominence of God. Each of the Bible’s 66 books contributes to God’s purpose and tells his story of creation, disobedience (sin), redemption, and restoration. When we keep this overarching message in our viewpoint, we can fully appreciate how the collection of verses and passages, and our daily life experiences, create God’s Story.

L for LESSONS LEARNED

What does this passage teach you? What does this passage tell you about God?

After reading the verse or passage several times, figure out its central message or theme. List one or more Biblical principles (truths) you discovered in the passage.

A for APPLICATION

Carefully consider how you might apply the lesson(s) you’ve learn from Scripture to your daily living. Put verbs in your sentences and create an action plan to strength your faith by applying the Biblical principles you identified earlier.

H for HONOR GOD

Finally, give honor and glory to God. Thank him for revealing himself to you through The Word. Offer praise and thanksgiving for instructions to navigate life’s situations. Ask Him for guidance when you don’t understand or have questions. Lift up prayer requests. Surrender your selfish desires for God’s divine purpose in your life. Thank God for who he is and what he is doing in your life.

Stay tuned for a post where I share Bible study notes using the S.E.L.A.H. method!


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How to be a Spiritual Mentor

SPIRTUAL MENTOR

Last week, I was assigned an important role within my church that excites and terrifies me. For the next 18 weeks, until Pentecost Sunday (May 15), I will be a spiritual mentor. It might not sound like much of a title, but let me assure you, the role comes with great responsibility! I am travelling the road of adventure alongside a young lady who has made a bold commitment in her spiritual journey … and I don’t want to let her down! I also believe every person – young or old – can identify with being a student and mentor. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have, there is always something new to learn and someone you can look to for guidance and reassurance. We each can benefit from HAVING a mentor and BEING a mentor!

So what does a spiritual mentor look like and how to we become one?

Be real.

Even if you do not consider yourself “spiritual mentor” material, someone in your circle of influence is watching you. No one is perfect or worthy of being on a pedestal, but genuine relationships should be grounded in truth and authenticity. Students and mentors should be comfortable asking questions, admitting doubts, and sharing celebrations with each other. Additionally, when we mess up (because we eventually will), say, “I’m sorry.”

Create and maintain boundaries.

This is one of the most important aspects of healthy relationships, yet it is too often ignored. At the very beginning of your student/mentor relationship, set boundaries so both parties are clear about what is appropriate and what is not. As the mentor of a young person, I have made a covenant with my confirmand (and her parents) promising I will be a loving, gracious, kind, and encouraging role model in a safe and appropriate manner. I will not put her or myself in a difficult, uncomfortable, or compromising situation. Her safety and well-being are my top priorities. The same is true if the student and mentor are both adults. Healthy relationships maintain healthy boundaries … at all times.

Stay in constant contact.

Living in a digital world makes this really easy. My confirmand laughed at my FLIP PHONE and couldn’t believe I didn’t text but, thanks to social media, we have plenty of options to stay in contact when we’re away from church. For any relationship to thrive, however, there needs to be face-to-face interaction. Mentors and students need to communicate on a regular basis – even if it’s a quick phone call or short email to say hello. My confirmand and I are required to meet a minimum of 10 times outside of her confirmation class where we can discuss faith topics, Biblical principles, spiritual developments, and everyday life events. This fosters relationship and builds conversation skills, both of which are crucial to confirming one’s beliefs. My confirmand and I also plan to share our personal calendars and look for opportunities to share life experiences (birthdays, dance recitals, community and church events, etc.)

One last thought on social media … make sure your presence on social media is positive and mature. My great-grandmother was ahead of her time when she said, “Don’t do or say anything that would embarrass Jesus!”

Encourage, guide, and model faithful living.

During the next several months, I will be watching my confirmand grow in her faith as she discovers what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in The United Methodist Church … but she will be watching me with intentional eyes too. As her mentor, it is my responsibility to walk the walk and talk the talk. I have the good fortune of being friends with my confirmand and her family and worshipping with them every Sunday and Wednesday. But my Christian example is lived 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It is my responsibility, as a mentor, to model love, grace, forgiveness, humility, and authenticity. I am also expected to prioritize faith development, such as daily prayer and Bible reading, regular worship attendance, and mission outreach.

Pray! Pray! Pray!

I saved the best (and most important) for last! When I signed the mentor covenant, I agreed to be in prayer every day for my confirmand and the other 13 confirmands, plus their families, other mentors, and our pastor who is leading this confirmation experience. I admit, prayer is not comfortable for me or something I do well. But I committed to do it because I believe there is great benefit to growing one’s prayer life. Relationships are also strengthened when we pray WITH and FOR one another.

Confirmation class is really a church-wide endeavor as we nurture the future generation to be loving, gracious, and knowledgeable in their faith. Being a spiritual mentor is not something I take lightly and I’m excited to see where we all are in our faith journeys come mid-May!


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Worship. Study. Serve.

Worship Study Serve - Three 31

The words worship, study, and serve came to me during a recent workshop at church where we (a team of 40 worship administrators, team leaders, and laity volunteers) created a purpose statement. It was a productive (and exhausting) day full of brainstorming and collaborating and I enjoyed it immensely. As I read the new purpose statement, I realized the importance of fervent worship, study, and prayer. By doing each of these mighty acts, we are also demonstrating our great love due to God himself. Hosea 6:6 says God does not want or need heartless rituals because he simply wants us to emulate Jesus. He simply desires to be in relationship with Him (growing in knowledge) and embracing community with others.

 

WORSHIP

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2

God isn’t as concerned about where or how we worship as he is with WHY. He wants our motivation to be on him, not ourselves or others’ expectations. Worship should be a transformation of our heart and mind. While it can be personal and private, worship should also be experienced with others. This not only pleases God but it strengthens us because we are stronger together. We worship God, privately and corporately, with the songs we sing, the words we speak, and the way in which we live our lives. I love Sundays and worshipping God in my church through song, prayer, and teachings. To be honest, I wish there were more Sundays in the week! But I am learning to incorporate worship into my daily life too.

STUDY

The word of God is living and active. Hebrews 4:12

Three years ago, Bible study was nonexistent on my priority list. I was intimidated and didn’t know how to grow in knowledge of God. Today, after years of contextual insight from mentors and worship leaders, two year-long studies (The Story and Believe), and leading a women’s devotional (12 Women of the Bible), I can say with confidence that Bible study is both a priority and passion. The more I study, the more I realize the importance of being a woman grounded in Scripture. As a wife, mother, friend and mentor, I see the influence my study of God’s Word has at home, church, and in the community. More than ever, our husband, sons and daughters, and circles of influence need a godly woman who loves deeply and actively engages in worship, study, and service. <— Ladies, make note of this. Repeat it. Write it down. Keep it in your hearts!

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

No matter the situation or circumstance, God’s Word guides, directs, comforts, heals, sustains, protects, strengthens, and encourages us to draw near to Him near to us. Joshua 1:8-9 reminds us to keep God’s Word in our heart and mind day and night. In other words, we must be diligent in our study and do it regularly. The goal of reading Scripture is to know God more. It’s not about me or a particular style or method of study, it’s all about Him. It is through the Bible that we learn how to think, act, and become more like Jesus who taught his disciples to HEAR the Word (they didn’t have Bibles back then!), LEARN the Word, and APPLY the Word. As committed Christian disciples, we are expected to do the same.

SERVE

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

When did you last do something for someone not because you had to but because you wanted to? The difference between have to and want to is selflessness. When we forego our personal preferences and desires to serve a friend, loved one, stranger, and even Jesus himself, we are saying: MY TIME IS YOUR TIME.

As Christian disciples, we must never forget that our acts of worship, study, and service are clear indicators of our priorities and level of spiritual maturity. These mighty acts of love for God can be done privately and corporately. As we embrace our roles as both Timothy (the student) and Paul (the teacher), we surrender our plans to God’s purpose for our lives and prioritize worship, study, and service.

 


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2016 Word of the Year: BALANCE

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a big fan of goals. You can read my 2016 Resolutions list here. I’ve never selected a word to focus on but one came to me this morning and it was as if God himself whispered the word. I was busy, trying to multi-task when it came to me. I was reading Genesis and the Creation narratives while trying to keep Kamden out of my pens and markers and avoid stepping on toy trucks in my path. Husband was telling me about farm equipment his oldest brother wants to sell on Craigslist. The microwave timer was beeping reminding me to take lunch out of the oven. My phone was ringing but I couldn’t find it. (My phone was under the couch cushion!) I was being pulled in every direction. I was out of sync. I was busy doing lots of things, but none of them well.

My word for 2016 is ….

2016 Word of the Year - Nicole @ Three 31

BALANCE.

Merriam-Webster designates balance as both a noun and a verb, which I find very interesting, and offers several definitions. My favorite (at least for this context) is the state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

In 2016, I want balance. In all things and ways, I want to balance my spiritual and physical health, my role as wife, mother, and friend, and maintain a sense of wonder and joy.

I want to find balance, be balanced, and, perhaps, even offer a little piece of balance for someone else.

Balance doesn’t have to be a solitary island – I’d like to spend as much time with loved ones as I do by myself to pray, write, and be.

I want to apply God’s Word in my daily life as much as I read and study it. I need intentional prayer with my Creator as much as casual conversations.

I want balance instead of perceived perfection, especially with my health. I will eat more fruits and vegetables while allowing the occasional splurge. And I will make sure my sedentary days are balanced with really active ones.

I want balance in relationships. I will nurture the genuine friendships I have and appreciate them fully, while I eliminate the ones that weigh me down.

I will love on Husband as often as I laugh at his playfulness.

For every minute I spend on social media, I will disconnect from all forms of technology and electronics.

I will balance structure with reckless abandonment, especially with Kamden. I will encourage him to play and imagine!

I want this blog to be balanced with faith and family. And I will post more consistently too.

For every book I read on Kindle, I want to read a paper one with pages I have to turn. Speaking of books, I want to read genres that I’ve previously stayed away from. I love a good romance or something that challenges me spiritually, but I need something different to my reading list. Suggestions?

For every electronic message I send, I will mail a handwritten note.

I want to balance on-the-fly dinner creations with structured meal planning.

I will balance laziness with productiveness, hopefully this means my house will stay clutter-free and ready for impromptu guests.

2016 is poised to be a really great year and I’m excited to see what the future holds. I have a feeling it’ll be balanced between mundane and shenanigans!

Here’s to being more balanced. :)

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