Happy Halloween, I Feel Like Partying

(*day 31// write31days// I survived!!! Read all 31 days here, if you want to read all the posts in one place, or here if you just want to click on a particular post).

In so many ways this month has flown by, and in so many ways it's been creeping along. One thing I didn't want to happen with this whole writing every single day thing was for me to be absent from my *real* life in order to be present for my *online* life. And overall I think some semblance of normal was maintained.

In many ways, I've actually been more focused at each thing I'm doing, trying to be present, and live in the moment, if you will. I've actually said yes to so many things, and not just blog worthy things. But things like reading to Landis and playing games with him, taking my kids outside or lingering at the park. I've almost been more on top of doing the laundry and keeping my kitchen clean because I was so afraid I would let everything else slide. I even cleaned out my garage this month, AND took a very large load to the Salvation Army. That's focus (and I'm kicking myself that I didn't take before and after pictures because I really feel like broadcasting how much effort that whole process was).

It's been quite an experience stretching myself--exploring the city parks and stores, learning new and weird things from my friends (Kombucha???), dancing a little at a concert, fearing for my life on a mountain bike, risking myself and delivering baked goodies to the laundry lady with a Bible verse on a card (update: she completely ignored me when I went back to pick up laundry. these things don't always have the desired effect I had planned for), getting my hands dirty in my garden, trying poached eggs and scallops, revisiting an old restaurant... Deep breath, this month has been rich and full. And I'm tired.

But I hope it was encouraging to you to be willing to stretch yourself a little, because what I learned is that it's usually way better than imagined, especially if it's enjoyed with friends. I really prayed over this whole thing, as usual, because my heart's desire is that this space would be an encouragement to you. And also a place where I can enjoy the creative process of writing and working with words and images. There are always doubts in my mind as to whether or not I should keep going with this blogging thing, especially up until this month, I was almost ready to give it up.

But then I'm faced with the question of where would I write? Writing has become such a huge part of my thinking process and my growth in daily living. Some people need to talk it out, some people need to paint, some people need all sorts of outlets to help process their life, and while I dabble in many things, writing is the way it all comes together for me. And blogging is such an amazing way to connect with other people and join in on the conversation.

I want to keep writing, I love it! So this blog will keep going, as long as the Lord allows. I'm excited about making changes to it in the near future, so don't be surprised if it gets somewhat quiet on this space for a bit (you need a break from me, for sure!), and if it gets a little facelift within the next month. I have some ideas for regular things to post on, and I'm looking forward to expanding on my ideas.

With all this, my overarching goal is to keep Christ preemenint. I've been reading through the book of Colossians, and then my mom up and mentioned the idea of making sure Christ is preeminent in your life, taken from Colossians 3:18, "...that in all things He may have the preeminence." And that's it, that's what I want to happen here on my blog, and in all parts of my life. I want it to flow together, I want to share and encourage, and I want it to uplift Christ. I want Him to be the reason any of what I do happens, and I want you to know that.

So thanks for reading. It's been a long month and I'm sure you are tired of hearing from me by now, some of you probably checked out a long time ago, and I completely understand. But I'll be back soon, with less frequency, of course. The comfort zone topic will be put to rest for a time (I sort of want to bury it), although it will come up now and then because, this is my life, and God is always pushing me beyond what I'm comfortable with, for my good and His glory.


Blogs I'm Growing to Love// Reader Feedback, Pretty Please?

(*day 30// write31days// read the rest here)

Something that I've enjoyed this month is doing a little blog hopping, and being introduced to some different blogs. You know how it is, you find a blog you enjoy, then you click around, find another blog, click around and all of a sudden you're in this web of blogs you never new existed! And while I haven't had tons of extra reading time this month, seeing as how I've been needing to be on the field stepping out of my comfort zone, and then writing about it, surprisingly I've been able to find some blogs I'm excited about and I thought I'd share a few posts that encouraged me.

(and don't forget to get to the end of this post and read through some of my questions for you and help a sister out!)

//I love doing little things around my house, I'm always changing things here and there, but it can't be too complicated or I will for sure quit. On Megan's blog Latte Everday, she's been doing the 31 day challenge and has written on simple DIY's around the house, and I've loved her simple ideas. All of them have been wonderful, and one of my recent favorites is her simple painted bowls for desk top organizing.

//As most of you know, I have a budding teenager on my hands, so when I read this post by Kristen on her blog We Are That Family, I was encouraged by her thoughtful list of promises to her growing older children. It's encouraging to think about growing alongside your children, and growing in mutual respect for one another.

//Luke and I are slowly working to build community on our street, which takes time, and sometimes failed attempts at things...but often what we see as failure is completely the opposite, and I love how Shannan from Flower Patch Farm Girl tells a story of how they tried to bless their neighbors, and it almost seemed like a fail, but then not. She has a beautiful perspective on this that is fresh and inspiring.

//Many of my friends and relatives, and I'm sure many of you, have struggled with infertility, and Kitty's honest heart felt post on this issue from her blog Joel & Kitty was encouraging to me and I'm sure will encourage you. She also has some links on this post to other writings about this issue. But along with this encouraging post, she's been doing the 31 day series as well, on the topic of Table Talk, and friends, what a wonderful resource on ideas to encourage good conversation which will build up relationships, both with your family and with guests.

//And now I have some questions for you, my faithful readers...

I'm looking ahead and planning what's next for this blog of mine, and I have some ideas of how to make it better, but I want to hear from you. We watch a lot of cooking shows around here and something we hear frequently is this idea of having a POV, a point-of-view. And I'm trying to figure out what my POV is for this blog. I love story telling and photography, obviously, but there are other aspects to life that are fun to. So I'm wondering,

1// Why do you come to this blog and read, what draws you in?

2// What would you enjoy reading more there something I post about now and then that catches your eye that you wish I did more of? Is there something you'd like to hear or learn from me that I don't talk much about? Like, are you dying to know where I find my earrings, or some such silly thing???

3// Do you have any feedback about readability, like is there something that would help my blog be more readable? (maybe, "Come on Gab, enough with the ridiculously long paragraphs!")

I'm really interested in your opinions here friends. Blogging is something I really enjoy, I want to encourage you and I love hearing when that happens. I feel like if I'm going to put the effort into this, I want to make it attractive and relatable to you! Please share, I'm totally serious here.


Things I Didn't Do This Month

(*day 29// write31days// click here to read the rest)

This writing every day thing is coming to a close, and I have to tell you I think I'm done trying new things, for the month of October, that is. There was plenty on the list that I didn't get a chance to do, like...

*Make my bed--amidst other chores that definitely got skipped over

*Mow the lawn--I promise that I really was going to do this, except for the fact that we-have-no-grass, and Luke's hints that I could mow the grass on the side of the house felt so unworth it. I mean, if I'm going to put myself out there, likely make a fool of myself, sneeze for hours afterwards because of the allergens I'm stirring up, it better be worth it--I need to see a whole entire lawn mown to match the effort.

*Try a new perfume--seems pretty boring, which is probably why I didn't get around to this one, but the reason I thought of doing it in the first place is because I've warn the same fragrance for about 20 years, and the only other people I even smell this fragrance on are old ladies. And, I'm down to my last drop of perfume, so really, I will be doing this in the near future, but I may just fall back on the old tried and true...I'd love to hear your thoughts on perfume recommendations, please tell all!

*Cook some new recipes...but friends, I was too busy writing to spend any extra time cooking, that's just the way it is.

*Buy a Jumpsuit, or Romper, whatever you call it. I know they're all the rage, Naomi, but I'd much rather spend my money on work out clothes than that, which is saying alot because I hate spending money on spandex.

*Run into a store and grab the first five ingredients I come to and go home and cook with them. I really wasn't planning to do this, but I thought I could always fall back on it if times got desperate.

*Wear red lipstick--I just thought it would be interesting to wear something I never would normally do and comment on how it made me feel or whether or not people stared at me.

*Give away something really meaningful to me--Caroline suggested this and I've prayed a lot about it but nothing has opened up that would give me a clear direction on 1) what to give up and 2) who to give it to. I'm still praying and listening to the Holy Spirit on this one, knowing He will make it clear at some point.

I think tomorrow I will post some links to inspire with things to think about or try, things that have inspired me that I'd like to attempt sometime soon. And Friday I will post a recap and some thoughts about this whole month. Then I plan to take a deep breath and be quiet for a few days...


That Time I Went Mountain Biking With My Husband

(*day 28// write31days// catch up here)

{This write31days thing is wrapping up, and all I can say is, yippee! I don't even say that in normal life but it seems appropriate. I honestly can't believe I've kept up with this writing thing But honestly, it's actually fit itself into my life more easily than I thought it would--I pictured lots of Little Caesar's pizza and mounds of laundry everywhere, kids running wild while I tapped away on this computer. But it hasn't been that bad, all except for going to bed way later than I should (so I'm looking forward to an earlier bed time), and ignoring my alarm clock this morning, which made for an interesting start to the day. Somehow we managed to get out of the house a few minutes before normal too, so there's that.}

The one thing that's been on my calendar of things to do this month is to go mountain biking with Luke. I've managed to do everything else with all my other friends, so I figured I needed to join in on what my actual best friend loves, which is mountain biking.

It was kind of hysterical though. First he brought out some mountain bikes (people, we have way too many bikes in our garage, because we are Newtons and Newtons do bikes, thanks to all the brothers who have worked in and managed a bike shop in College Station and now are almost pro mountain bikers). Oh my goodness--trying to get on a mountain bike was like learning to ride a bike all over again. I was freaking out, and this was just on the sidewalk in front of my house. Yeh, I'm kind of a baby when it comes to stuff like this.

Amaleah, who doesn't have a fearful bone in her body, finally brought out her mountain bike for me to try, and after she did a demonstration, I was able to handle it a tad better. At least the bar in the middle didn't seem like it was going to injure my womanhood for the rest of my life, unlike Luke's manly bike. Just saying.

We dropped our kids off at Sarah's (yes, same Sarah, she has a way of popping up in this blog, doesn't she?), and she pulled out her girly mountain bike for me, complete with a basket in the front. And an extra cushiony seat that also doubled as a trunk. Luke kind of rolled his eyes at all this. She even sent me with a matching helmet to spite Luke (who needs to come out of his comfort zone by not being embarrassed at this kind of thing), but the straps got all twisted and I had already wasted half of our evening learning to ride a bike again and crying. Not really the crying part. So I just wore my tried and true helmet.

So we got there and I kept wasting time trying to decide whether or not to wear my sunglasses, meanwhile the sun kept setting. Let's just say my husband is very patient. Finally, I sucked it up and we started riding. And seriously, I kept yelling things like, "Why did you make me do this?" and "I hold you personally responsible if anything happens to me" (to which he responded "I hold your blog personally responsible"). I just couldn't for the life of me see how it was fun going bumpity bump all over the rocky path for miles. And as if to mock me, Luke kept pulling out his phone and taking selfies of us, and probably checking his email and sending a few, that's how fast we were going.

We did get to see quite a few deer and bunny rabbits, so that was nice.

He had me slow down here and there to watch him do a few crazy stunts. Thanks honey. Now I can freak out even more when he takes Amaleah mountain biking. Those two make a great team.

Alas, I made it, and I didn't even fall off once--just a few minor slow downs where I had to get off and walk just a bit, but no crashes. By the end I was definitely getting used to the whole thing, but when my kids asked me if liked it I was like, "I wouldn't really say that." But I think I got Luke's hope up for a wife-y partner because late last night he kept showing me craigslist mountain bikes for sale and mentioning Christmas and stuff. I just rolled my eyes back at him.

I did it, but I'm not promising to ever do it again. At least on a roller coaster you're strapped in and nothing you do changes the outcome. On a bike, one wrong move and you're a goner. At least that's how I felt the whole time last night. And I've got the tensed sore muscles today to prove it.


Reaching Out to the Dry Cleaning Lady

(*day 27// write31days// click here to catch up)

I have this really bad habit of storing up a humungous hamper full of Luke's dress shirts and pants to take to the dry cleaners. Truth be told, I only make it to the dry cleaners about once every 6 weeks, and that's on the good side of the time table. Thankfully, Luke has collected enough shirts and slacks over the years to last him a good long while. I always know when it's time to take his laundry when he starts wearing scrubs every day to work. And then if that's not a big enough clue for me, he might gently say, "Whatcha doin' today?" and then I list off every thing I can think of to make my day sound as productive as possible, and when it doesn't include "take Luke's shirts to the dry cleaners," then he finally has to verbally and ever so politely recommend I do that for him.

And if you want to know how we even got to where we use a dry cleaner, if you can imagine how the laundry pile stacks up now, then you can imagine how much the ironing pile stacked up way back when I was attempting to do it all myself. Pretty much after baby #2 came along, I forgot what an iron looked like, and Luke stepped in and starting doing his own ironing. As soon as we had enough money to afford the dry cleaners on a regular basis (i.e., when Luke got a real job after residency), he suggested we put this into the budget and call it a day. And honey, I never looked back.

So that was the long story to tell you the very short story about current life...Today was one of those days where Luke finally had to just ask if I could take in the laundry, and in my defense I actually had already thought about it this morning it just hadn't made it to the written list.

And I've been wanting to take the laundry but I've also been wanting to make it meaningful. Because the lady at the dry cleaner's knows me now (probably because no one else brings in like 70 items at a time), and over time we have become warm and friendly, and I've been wanting to grow this acquaintanceship to more of a friendship.

So today I decided I'd make the world's best Browned Butter Banana Bread in little pans and wrap it up and write a thank you note and take it to them when I dropped off the ridiculous load. A peace offering, perhaps? Not really. I just wanted to take a step into that friendship I desire.

Please know that even though I *know* these people, and they know me, these tiny things of bearing gifts, writing out a verse on the inside of the card and a note of encouragement still takes all my morning mental juices and prayers. It's just so uncomfortable for me. But, I was determined that I would treat them special today,  even if I did have to pep talk myself into doing this small act of kindness.

I included the note because I wasn't sure if there would be people around and I wasn't sure if my tongue would let loose yet, and I wanted to be sure they don't just see me as a sweet good person. I want them to know that I'm thankful for them in our neighborhood, and that I love Jesus because He has set my soul free and redeemed it.  It was a little bustling there today, so I gave the owner a hug and handed her the package, hoping she reads the note and feels encouraged.

And with that, and with the aforementioned information, I am determined to be more regular about taking in my laundry, if not for the sake of my poor husband, for the sake of building the relationship with this sweet lady. We live so close to this place that I have a dream of her stopping by for lunch or bringing her coffee, and having a friendship that is open and honest, where I can share Jesus with her in a meaningful way. I know it's a long shot, but a girl can dream right? I guess as long as I'm willing to do the work to make it happen (which is the hard part for me...lots of dreaming, but lots less of the work).

Honestly, I come by this dream naturally, because my mom does this. Somehow she is able to relate with people and form these bonds with people, even complete strangers, and they even give her their email addresses so she can pursue them and encourage them, and she has neighbors and people I don't even know that she interacts with and has for coffee and lunch. She has these dreams of knowing people deeply so that they may know the Lord. She's such an inspiration to me! And every time I tell her my doubts and fears about these types of thing, she encourages me by telling me that she gets nervous too, but that as soon as she opens her mouth her fear is gone--the Lord takes it away and gives her strength to speak the Gospel without fear.

So there you go, my meager attempt at branching out and pursuing meaningful relationships. This is where it gets hard. But, I hope you are encouraged to think about people you see regularly and to try to figure out how to make more endearing relationships with them for the sake of sharing the Gospel with them; to figure out your own rhythms of life, who you see frequently, whether it's at the store or the gym or the library, and figure out how to extend those relationships. This is truly a huge challenge for me, but I so desire to grow in this area, for the sake of reaching people with the love of Jesus.