Date Night

Words are my love language. But quality time comes in at a close second. Although my boyfriend and are technically long distance, I am grateful we get to spend a good amount of time together weekly. I cherish our time together always, even if we’re just watching an old movie I’ve never seen and he’s filling me in on what’s going on.

Sometimes I enjoy something a little different than the normal however. I like date nights. They don’t always have to be to nice restaurants-but it is fun to get dressed up more than normal for the night!

He surprised me by taking me to a steakhouse we’ve been talking about going to forever. I had seen pictures of the steak and potatoes and they were drool-worthy. So we made the drive and it was absolutely worth it. Plus it gave me the chance to dress up in a few new things from my favorite local boutique, True South.

I picked up an open back sweater and a brown corduroy skirt I had been eyeing on their Instagram for a while. I paired it with these Target over the knee boots and it worked perfectly for dinner and meeting up with friends later. (Photo creds to my sweet boyfriend)

What’s your favorite date night activity?

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Cold Weather Comfort Food

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It’s been unusually cold here in Alabama lately. So cold, I don’t even get that warm and fuzzy feeling from my coffee in the mornings. For a while, it didn’t even feel cold enough to wear sweaters. Now I can’t layer enough clothing to stay warm.

I don’t know about you, but this kind of weather makes me want to just stay in and cuddle up in my favorite chair with a fuzzy blanket and watch Hulu. Typically I will muster up the energy to brave the cold and go to the gym after work. There’s no better motivation to get through a good workout than knowing you have dinner waiting and ready for you at home. Y’all know what I’m talking about-using your CrockPot. 

Slow cookers are the easiest way to have dinner done when you come home after a long day. Or for mamas who are so busy chasing babies they don’t have time to cook a full meal. Or for basically anyone. If you don’t have a slow cooker, go get one now.

My go-to recipe for this time of year is a Chicken Taco Chili. I love it and it’s been a hit with many others I have made it for. Pair it with crescent rolls or garlic knots and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 16-oz can black beans
  • 1 16-oz can kidney beans
  • 1 16-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
  • 2 small cans of corn kernels
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Half of one onion chopped (option)

Combine all the ingredients and seasoning (I throw in salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc… Basically whatever I’m feeling or know I like.) Place the chicken breasts on top and cover. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6. A little before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Top with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream.

It might be one of the easiest/cheapest/tastiest recipes I keep in my favorites. Plus it lasts me for days which is great for a girl on a budget!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

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New Year, New Me?

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As 2017 comes quickly to a close, (no really, where did this year even go?), and I begin to think about 2018 and my goals and dreams for the year, the things I want to happen, the relationships I want to flourish, the tasks I want to cross of my list, God is telling me to slow down. He’s telling me to slow down because a year from now I’ll be sitting here writing the same thing. Wondering where the year has gone while I look back on photos of the memories this year holds.

You see, it is so easy to get caught up in the list making, the telling God what you want or need to happen, the thoughts that sound something like, “If only this could happen in 2018, I will be truly happy.”

Trust me, I did it about five minutes ago. I know where you’re coming from. This year has been a year of change and learning. Learning a lot about myself. Learning that the joys in this life come from the people you share the simple, small things with. Joy doesn’t come from getting a new home or a big raise. It comes within the day to day moments spent drinking your favorite coffee or seeing your sweet baby take their first steps.

God is telling me “I bless you far more than you dare to ask.” See God has a good sense of humor. As I write my monthly goals, budgets, and to-do lists for the upcoming year, He’s laughing because he knows He already has every single item already checked off the list. God is telling me He’s going to bless me with things I couldn’t even fathom to scribble in my 2018 planner. Things and people and moments I will never know I needed until God places them in my life. All my worries and concerns are already taken care of for the next year, God has already worked them out before they even settled into my heart.

Now I’m not saying anyone is in the wrong for planning what you want to achieve in the next year or setting resolutions-nope, not at all. But I am telling you God has spoken peace over every single thing already.

This year has brought some amazing things my way-most importantly some amazing people that bring my life so much joy and laughter. I get caught up in stress and boy do I forget to cherish them and all they do for my life. I don’t give them, or God, enough credit for the impact they’ve made on my life.

Friends, instead of spending your last few days of this year huddled over the budget sheets and color coded lists, worrying about how to become the “new you,” relax and relish in all that God has done for you this year-both big and small. All the times you felt like you were never going to see the other side of that dark hole, but here you are, on the other side. See God doesn’t need or want there to be a new you, He loves us just as we are.

Sit back, because God has your back and He’s going to bless you far more than you could ever imagine in 2018. Don’t dread the start of a new year, be thrilled to tackle it with God by your side.  I am so excited to see what He has in store for myself and each of you.

 

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College Exams

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It’s that time of year. Yes the holiday season. But also time for college exams. Whether you’re a freshman or senior, every semester when final exams roll around, the stress is still there. You would think as you get older, you would feel more prepared. But as the classes get harder, so do the exams. If you’re anything like me, you might let the stress get to you. When I’m stressed, I am STRESSED. Here are a few things I used over the years to make it through the dreaded finals week.

  • Write out every exam. Whether it be a test or presentation or final paper, write it in your calendar just as you would any social event.
  • Write out each chapter covered on the exam as well any articles and PowerPoints, or book chapters going to be covered on the exam. Then, see how many days before the exam and divvy up the chapters and PowerPoints and articles evenly to look over and study.
  • Index cards. You’ve probably been using these since high school, but they’re also good for managing your days. Make each index card into one day. Use them to keep track of meetings, class times, phone meetings, due dates, and daily to-dos.  It’s easy to pull out the stack of cards and see if you have time to schedule a study session at Starbucks or not. And for some reason, having separate cards (as opposed to one spread per week in an agenda) makes you realize how much time I actually have to work on things.  Basically, it keeps things in perspective.
  • Make sure your desk (or study space) is organized. Keep your laptop, glasses, iPad, index cards, and Sour Patch kids (anything but chocolate) within reach.
  • Take a break (that doesn’t involve eating food). Many times while studying, I would get bored and just start snacking for no reason. I’d walk to the kitchen, grab the snack, walk back to my desk, and inevitably continue working while eating whatever snack I chose. That really doesn’t even count technically as a break! Give yourself a manicure, go for a walk, read a (non-school related) book. Definitely avoid napping and online shopping during breaks.
  • Use an app to lock you out of apps on your phone or sites on your computer that you don’t need to be on while studying or writing a paper.

I could give you all the tips and tricks in the world, but the most important to remember is your identity isn’t in making an A+ on every project, presentation, and final exam. If you don’t make that A+, it is not the end of the world (although it will feel like it for a little while). Your identity is in your purpose here on Earth and the greater things you’ll do to further the Kingdom of God. So color code your planner, get a good Spotify playlist going, and grab a good cup of coffee (or two) and get to studying!

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#blessed

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Why is it we center all of our feelings of thankfulness and count our blessings only around this time of year? What happened to the rest of the year? All the other weeks, days, and seconds spent living here on Earth? Why is it only the holidays bring out those feelings and thoughts?

I’m sitting here guilty as charged. I spend life go, go going and rarely stopping to thank God for the blessings in my everyday life. The people, my job, a warm place to sleep at night, food in my fridge, my health, etc… When I think back on where my life was a year ago compared to now, I’m thankful for the progress and change that has happened. I’ve graduated college, almost spent an entire year with my current company, started dating an amazing man, and made some really wonderful friends along the way. Even through the bumps and the bruises, He has blessed me abundantly.

So why are we not counting our blessings daily? In between what we consider “big” miracles, a lot of good things are happening around us and to us daily. If we started counting our everyday, messy lives as blessings, what a different perspective we may have. A joyful perspective. If we started thanking God for the food in front of us, the car that gets us to our 9-5, and the moments just spent sitting around watching football with the ones we love while our favorite soup cooks away in the Crockpot in the kitchen, we’d see that every day, every moment is a miracle. Everyday should feel #blessed.

If our perspective changes and aligns this way, it makes the tough days much, much easier. When we start to see everything as a blessing, the days that the we can’t catch up on the emails or we get hit with an unexpected bill, you see the bigger picture versus getting caught up in that small “tragedy” all day.

I try not to get on any social media for the first hour or so after I wake up. This can be tricky, since social media is my job. If the first thing you do every morning is scroll through Facebook or check Snapchat and Instagram, it will have you feeling defeated about your day before you even roll out of bed. Someone or something will have you feeling like you’re job, house, family, significant other, or just yourself is not enough. This turns into feeling like you need something different or something more. By staying off my personal social media for a little while, I can focus on what’s really important. I recommend the first 5 app first thing in the morning- yes, that’s only FIVE minutes of your time to get your mind right for the day.

I challenge you to thank God for one thing every morning before you crank your car. Keep a sticky note on your steering wheel or dash to remind you. It will set the mood for your whole day and align your perspective with His.

Let’s be a generation of people who thank God every day for this life, not just the ones who do it once a year. Let’s be a generation of people who are thankful for the mess that life can be and never compare our blessings to the those around us.

 

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Anonymous

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Do you ever feel hidden? Maybe you’ve moved to a new place, started a new school, accepted a new job. No one sees the extra hours you’re putting in at work or all the effort you put in around your house. Have you ever entered into a new season of life? Where you shifted from being recognized to feeling unknown. When we enter hidden seasons, we can be concealed for months or years and our potential seems to go into hibernation. We don’t know if spring will ever come and awaken us again. You may feel like you have so much more to give and be, but no one can see it but you.

There is one who can see it however. God himself. The beauty He sees in you doesn’t diminish by the season you’re in. Whether we enter hiddenness by our own deliberation (relocating for a new job) or unwillingly (grief following the loss of a loved one), we can spend years feeling that the greatest part of us is submerged in the unseen. Everyone can see only see the tip of the iceberg we really are.

We must remember the most influential person in all of history spent ninety percent of his life hidden. Only ten percent of His life was spent in the public eye. Yet all of his life He was and still is absolutely indestructible.  We know practically nothing about Jesus’ first 29 chapters of His life. Eighteen years after Jesus gets in trouble for staying in the temple, Jesus emerges from his hiddenness by the Jordan River for chapter 30.

When we say we want to “live like Jesus” most of us don’t mean the hidden years. We don’t want to spend 90% of our lives living anonymously. But Jesus embraced a life of hiddenness. These years empowered Him to live an eternally fruitful life.

Let’s consider human conception. Our lives commence in the darkness of the womb. We are knitted together but concealed. Unseen? Yes. Unimportant? Absolutely not. If this hidden phase of development is prematurely interrupted, the results can be tragic. From God’s perspective, anonymous seasons are sacred spaces. They are to be rested in, not rushed through and most definitely never regretted. Not applauded but not unproductive: hidden years are the surprising birthplace of true spiritual greatness.

In moments where I am tempted to wait on the “main” course of this life. You know, the “when we get married” or “when we start a family” or “when I get my master’s degree,” I remember that my time is not some filler. God waste’s no man’s time. To Him, every “course” in our life is the main course.

Let’s imagine something for a second. Jesus had God’s divine power and calling within him every day. He woke up each morning and lived in his town unnoticed for a long time. He was not free to proclaim his mission or destiny. Everyone else was only seeing the tip of the iceberg of who He was. Most of us struggle if our callings or dreams are delayed a year, much less twenty! But in anonymous seasons, we must hold tightly to the truth that Jesus was strengthened through his hidden years. Father God is neither care-less or cause-less with how He spends our lives. When He calls us to greatness and obscurity at the same time-if we wait for it- we can change the world.

In hidden years, we may press the question of whom we will let hold the clock for the rest of our lives. When God’s timing is not our timing, whose timing will we choose? Ultimately the answer to that question depends on whom we really trust. You have to decide Father always knows best, God’s ways are perfect, and that He is never, ever late.

If you feel hidden, you are in excellent company. Savor the season and its potential. When graced with hidden years, wait because He is worth it. Keep the waters of your spirit joyful and be still while you grow.

Recently, I started doubting why I had started blogging in the first place. I felt I wasn’t reaching anyone with my words. I felt anonymous. Just a few days later, I received a letter in the mail from someone who had read my blog and appreciated the words I wrote. It reminded me when God places a calling and talent on you, He will be faithful to grow you right where you are.

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Sweater Weather

I am already thinking about Fall weather and all that comes with it. The pumpkin patches, crockpot soup recipes, and wearing cozy sweaters! Even though the weather isn’t quite cool enough yet, I had to grab this sweater when I saw it! It’s simple, but can be paired with a lot of different things. The best part about it? It’s monogrammed! Southern ladies, rejoice!!

For the first look, I paired it with my favorite ripped jeans, a plaid flannel, and booties. This look is perfect for grabbing dinner with some friends or even casual Fridays at work. Lipstick: Maybelline Color Blur in “Plum Please.” One of my favorite fall colors and it’s super inexpensive! View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

The next look screams a fun date night like a country concert or a walk through the pumpkin patch. I think I’m going to wear this one when JD takes me to the state fair in a few weeks. Hopefully the weather will cooperate by then. Plus its an oversized sweater, meaning I can eat a funnel cake (or two). Winning! I paired the same sweater with a pair of denim shorts and my trusty (and worn out) cowboy boots. View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

The last look is for those days when you’re running errands, doing laundry, and grabbing coffee in between. I threw the same sweater on with a pair of leggings and a comfy pair of duck boots. These boots are especially good for those chilly, rainy days that Fall brings. View More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-picturesView More: http://kristenelizabethphotographie.pass.us/angela-thomas-blog-pictures

MarleyLilly also has wonderful customer service. I messed up my monogram (am I even a Southern woman?!) and thankfully realized it before it was shipped. They helped me get everything fixed with no problems. Let me know your favorite part about Fall in the comments!

Since this post is a little different than my normal, I still want to remind you to choose joy today! We’ve almost made it to Friday!! Do something that makes you happy today. Whether it be grabbing a donut or your favorite iced coffee (or BOTH) and maybe pick one up for a friend too!

Thanks for reading!

*If you’re in the market for a talented and amazingly sweet photographer, send Kristen a message! She makes me look SO good!

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Hugs

Do y’all like hugs? My sister doesn’t. She’s one of those people. She cringes up when you grab her in a big ole’ hug (I’m sure she’ll love me telling y’all that). As long as I can remember, she’s been that way. The rest of my family however, we’re the hugging kind.

Hugs transfer energy and gives someone an emotional lift. It can say things you just don’t  have the words for.

Sometimes you just need to give a hug. Or to receive one. Someone gets married? Give em’ a hug? Haven’t seen your best friend in forever? Give em’ a hug. When someone dies? You offer their family and friends hugs.

Next week marks the anniversary of a season of grief my family and I entered into. A season where we got used to a lot of hugs. Between the funerals and visiting with family and friends, it was one after another.

One year ago, my feisty grandmother, Dorothy passed away. One of my fondest memories of her is when I would get to her house and she would be sitting in her old, worn down chair that’s probably been there since before I was born, with an afghan across her lap and she’d say “Come here and give me a hug, AJ.” Before I’d leave, she would say the same thing. Her hugs felt like home. They were warm and comforting.

One month after her death, my precious niece passed away. My sister, you know- the one who hates hugs, had to get used to them quickly. We had spent days together before the funeral and hadn’t exchanged a single hug. But after the services, I walked up to her crying and she just embraced me. That’s something I will remember forever.

The very next month, my Grannie- Miss Virginia, went to Heaven as well. Her hugs felt like Sunday mornings and Christmas dinner all wrapped into one.

Just a few days ago, a high school classmate passed away in a tragic car accident. Our small class of forty people gathered together. Most of us hadn’t seen each other in years. We came together to celebrate his life. We came together to comfort each other. At the graveside service, his brother spoke words I will remember for the rest of my life. He said recently, they had exchanged one of four hugs in their entire lifetime-something he would cherish forever.

I’d give a lot to hug those people one last time. I challenge you today, to hug someone you love. To give them one of those hugs that you’d remember forever if you never saw them again here on this earth. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Sometimes in the middle of darkness, it’s hard to see the other side. But as a child of God, we have to remember, the battle is the Lord’s. There is joy in the middle of sorrow. There is peace in the storm. There is hope for tomorrow. Even as the storm of tragedy and grief are raging around you, stand and know you have not and never will be forsaken.

Who brings light to the morning? It’s no other than God, and as surely as the sun rises, God will come and bring joy and peace.

 

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Gracious Words

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You ever get in one of those moods? A moody mood. You can’t describe it or why you’re even feeling this way. You just feel tired. Down and out. Like you’re in a never ending cycle of Mondays. Nothing is really wrong per say, but you’re just not excited about life. You’re looking for much needed encouragement to feel like your joyful self again. Someone to say “you can do this!” You can make it through another week. You can make it through that meeting. You can make it through that tough exam.

But sometimes it may feel like you don’t have anyone. No one understands what you’re feeling or they’re ignoring you because you snapped at them over coffee in the break room (sorry to anyone I’ve done this to at work). And honestly you don’t even understand what you’re feeling.

Some might blame it on being a woman (hahaha boys keep the comments to yourself). But really there’s no reason for it other than life wearing you and your spirit down. The constant cycle of heartbreaking news on our televisions and social media can do that to you. Don’t let satan take a foothold in your life through these channels. One of my favorite things to do when this happens is to pick out a few Bible verses that I love. From there I write them down in my planner, on notecards to pin to the bulletin board in my office, write them on my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker, or set them as the screen on my iPhone. Go to Pinterest for inspiration!

  • When you say “I’m too tired,” God says “I will give you rest.”- Matthew 11:28-30
  • When you say “I can’t do it,” God says “You can do all things.”- Phillipians 4:13
  • When you say “I’m not able,” God says “I am able.”- 2 Corinthians 9:8

According to scripture, uplifting and encouraging words are beneficial to the soul. Proverbs 16:24 says “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Remember that this doesn’t just apply to ourselves however. Singing sweet songs of praise and encouragement to others not only lifts their spirits but ours as well. Recently there have been countless times where I mentally chose to decide my words weren’t going to better anyone or the situation and kept them to myself. Whether it be an argument or complaining about your food, try it my friends.

Some people say fake it til’ you make it, but I say “faith” it til’ you make it. You’d be surprised how much choosing to be joyful can change your mood daily. After a little while you realize reading those uplifting verses or complimenting your coworker isn’t just a choice, but a daily habit of your joyful soul. I can’t tell you how many times “forcing” myself to say okay I’m not going to let this bad mood get to me or ruin another day. When you say enough is enough, it will lose its foothold on you.

To my friends feeling like everyday has a case of the Monday’s. My friends who feel like they’re in a slump and just don’t know why, this one is for you. Grab your favorite drink from Starbucks-mine is currently the Caramel Apple Spice and dig deep for some verses to write down and keep for future slumps like this one. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to or want some more ideas about combating mood blues, send me a message on my Contact page. Leave your favorite Bible verse for encouragement in the comments below!

 

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31 Prayers

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Some of y’all might think I’m silly. I’m not even engaged, but I’ve been praying for my future husband?! I stumbled across this book on Amazon. Amazon can be worse than shopping at Target sometimes. You click on one thing and they suggest something you might like, you decide you do like it and then all the sudden your cart exceeds $100 and you’re not even sure how it happened.

I started this devotional as soon as it came in. It’s not just any devotional-the prayers are written there for you. So if you’re someone who has trouble converting a daily devotional message into a prayer, then this is for you! I’ve been using it along side my Jesus Calling devotional.

31 Prayers for my Future Husband covers so many topics you would never even think of. Things you would want in a future spouse, but maybe never thought to pray over on your own. Topics like making wise decisions, keeping good company around him, and a compassionate heart. It also calls you, as a future wife, to say well if I want my future husband to embody these ideals, I should embody them as well. This turns into you praying for yourself and changing your heart along the way.

How beautiful is it to say you’re praying for your future spouse, whether you’re single, in a relationship, or engaged. You’re praying for his heart, for his mind, for protection and for the future together. Praying for your spouse while you’re married is obviously important as well (they make a devotional for that too), but becoming a prayer warrior before the wedding will make that transition so much easier. The world we are living in needs our generation of husbands and wives to joyfully pray for each other and their relationship.

If you are in a relationship, I encourage you to insert the name of your significant other in the prayer. Speak them out loud. Start writing prayer letters to your future spouse. It all may seem silly in the grand scheme of things, but what a difference it can make.

I am going to revisit this devotional soon, but for now I’m passing it on to sweet co-worker of mine. Pick a copy up for yourself or give it as a gift- it is well worth the $12 investment. Ladies, this isn’t just for you. The man in your life can read along with their version as well.  This book will prepare, inspire, and cause a revelation in your life.

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