The hardest letter I had to read…

I have so much to tell you about!! I had an amazing time at the Business Boutique conference I went to this week. It encouraged and inspired me to use the gifts and talents that God has given us to bring Him honor and glory. Everything that was said made me want to do more than make my business better. It made me do some soul searching and want to be a better Christian, wife, mother, and friend…

But through all of this amazingness, I got something that was hard… unexpected and difficult for me to receive.

Business Boutique Letter

I was given a letter… Now you’re probably reading this sweet and encouraging letter and wondering why on earth I would have trouble with it, but here’s what happened. Towards the end of the conference, we were told to write a short letter to exchange with another person at the conference. We were told to share our hearts and write words to encourage and bless them… so we did. But at the end of the event, rather than actually exchanging them, we were told to put our own names at the top of the letter.

I cried.

I want to bless and encourage others, but when it comes to my own struggles and accomplishments, that’s a whole different story. While I tell others that they are doing amazing, I look at my own growth and think it’s not enough. While I tell others to rest and take care of themselves, I tell myself that I’m lazy, when I take off from my work when I’m sick. I tell other moms to take it one day at a time, but in my mind I will never be a good enough housekeeper.

And what’s really hard is that none of these harsh words come from my friends or family… it’s all said silently to myself, in my heart and mind.

I don’t know if you struggle with this like I do, but I want you to know that you really are fearfully and wonderfully made. God doesn’t make accidents, He knew your every strength and quirk before you even existed, and He loves you with all of those details in mind. You were made in His image for the purpose of bringing Him honor and glory, so he made you unique.

This letter has my name at the top of it, but I wanted to send it to you, because it’s really meant for both of us. Remember that you are so amazingly made, by an incredible God that loved you enough to die for you! I hope that resting in that thought will breathe life into you like it did for me.

Love,
Julie

P.S. If you have been following along on Instagram or Facebook, my entry fee to have a pop up shop at the Business Boutique event next April got 100% funded this week!! Thank you so much for the support and encouragement. That meant the world to me!

P.S.S. If this post encouraged you, you can join my email club, and get similar, uplifting emails delivered to your inbox once a week!

Our family staycation.

‘What’s a staycation?’ you ask. Why, a staycation is what you take when you are on a super tight budget, but you realize that you haven’t had a family vacation in over a year and half! All joking aside, it had been way too long since we got out and did anything big, so we took advantage of Sean’s school break.

georgia aquarium family staycation vacation

I was fighting a cold on Wednesday night, so I was a little nervous as to wether or not I would make it, but thankfully by Thursday I felt well enough to go. This was the first time we had been back to the aquarium in seven years, and Sean’s very first time getting to go, so he was very excited! I think he was a little overwhelmed because, any time I would ask him which fish was his favorite, he would just look around with wide eyed wonder. It wasn’t until bedtime that he finally told me that the tiny sea dragons were his favorite. (so cute)

We spent several hours at the Georgia aquarium because that place is HUGE! Our tickets included an evening dolphin show, and we were having so much fun going through all of the exhibit’s tunnels.

switchyards atlanta

After we got done, we swung by a building that Scott had designed the signage that was painted on the front that you see in the picture above. Switchyards is a creative, community office space and the inside is so amazing! We did a little tour on Periscope so I thought you might enjoy the replay.

Remember how I was sick on Wednesday? Thankfully it held off till about dinner time on Thursday, but then it came back with a vengeance. It was aches all over, headaches, and a stuffy nose kind of nastiness. Thankfully I was able to get some much needed rest and do a lot of long term planning for my shop, blog and Periscope. Plus I got a new mug at the aquarium, so it kinda made drinking tea in bed a lot more fun. =)

sick day coffee in bed

You can watch the show replays here!

Our family’s restaurant tradition…

our family's restaurant tradition

This tradition changed my family’s attitude at the restaurant…

Several years back, my family and I went out to eat for some family time. We don’t go out to eat at a ‘sit down’ restaurant very often, so this was kind of a big deal for us. Our waiter was amazing, and the food was brought out to us quickly. It was just as good as we had remembered, and we were really enjoying ourselves. We were sitting there deep in conversation when we heard the people at the table in front of us grumbling about the food, service, and the establishment’s existence in general. The crazy thing was, they had the exact same waiter that we did.

Once they got done complaining and left, we started thinking and talking about a sermon that our pastor had just given about being thankful. We’ve never been the people who call the manager over to complain over little things, but we had also never taken the time to go out of our way to thank someone who had been waiting on us. Both of us have had restaurant and retail experience, and both of us know how difficult some customers can be no matter how hard you try. We decided to make it a habit, from that point forward, to ask for the manager when we were given excellent service.

By the time the manager had gotten to our table, you could tell that he was really nervous. (I guess I would be too, after dealing with the table in front of us.) He asked what he could do for us, and for the next five minutes, Scott bragged on the waiter, the food, and the whole experience. The poor man was shocked and was quiet for a few minutes, and I’ll never forget what he said. With a smile on his face he said, “Thank you for taking the time to tell us what we were doing well. It’s not very often that someone goes out of their way to be so kind.”

It’s so much easier for us to critique everything that is going on around us, than it is to find things to be grateful for. We complain about how long it took for us to get our refills, we complain about not getting a parking spot closer to the entrance, and really anything else we can think of. When we take the time to purposely find things to be grateful for, it changes our entire perspective. Now, when we go out to eat, we can hardly wait to call the manager over and brag on our server. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when we have had poor service, and did not call the manager over. However, as a whole, making it a priority to purposely be grateful, has changed our attitude, and  we’ve gotten to see a lot smiling servers and managers in the process. =)

 

Did you miss today’s Periscope show episode of Stand Up and Sparkle? You can watch the replay here!

Making Yourself a Priority to Serve

Making_yourself_a_priority_to_serve

Making Yourself a Priority to Serve

For those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you guys know that my sister, Joy, came to hang out with us, not too long ago. We did everything from play with makeup to having a much needed girl’s night. But outside of laughing till we cried and acting crazy like we normally do when we’re together, I learned somethings really important about myself. We were talking about church, work, etc. when all of a sudden she looked at me and asked, “Julie, what do YOU want to do?” The last several years have been full of learning experiences that have stretched us. It’s matured me, made me more practical, and taught me some really important lessons, but in the process I lost something…

I had spent the last several years pouring my heart and soul into my family and business, but I had quit making it a priority to invest in myself, outside of the basic necessities, like my devotions and physical health. It was a scary moment for me, because right then, something clicked. I thought I was being practical, unselfish, and hardworking… but in reality, I was tired, burnt out, and disappointed by the lack of little dreams that brought sparkle to my life. Was it possible that I could spend my entire life not making myself a priority at all, in the name of ‘serving others’? Was it possible that I would look back and regret what I didn’t do, because I thought I was doing a good thing?

I think it’s VERY important to pour out to others, unselfishly serve, and do our very best to bring honor to the Lord. But if I denied my family things like opportunities to cultivate their dreams, moments of relaxation, and fun times with friends, they would probably think I was heartless, yet here I was doing that to myself. It was a huge reality check for me, and here is what I’m doing to fix it:

1. Be honest with yourself.

The biggest lie we ever tell is often to ourselves. ‘You don’t deserve happiness’, ‘you’re being overindulgent’, ‘other people will think you are lazy if your take time for yourself’, are all lies that can fill my mind if I let them. Just stop! Talk to yourself like you would talk to a loved one. Being honest and direct, with a heart of compassion is far more productive than the ugly lies will ever be.

2. Realize that you have to fill up first.

It’s very tempting as a mom to dive into my day, head first, before investing in myself. My kid is hungry, we woke up late, I have to be somewhere early… All of those things are legitimate reasons to go into overdrive, but without filling up our soul with the proper care, we won’t have much to offer. I start my day out with my quiet time with the Lord, and I exercise most days, but I am trying to add one more thing just for the pure fun of it. That may be reading a chapter in my favorite book, or it could be watching a funny video clip that makes me laugh. Whatever it may be, I want it to be something that helps me to start my day off on a fun note.

When you fly on a commercial airline, the flight attendant will instruct you to place the oxygen mask on your own face BEFORE you help anyone else. There’s a reason for that. If you are oxygen deprived, then you won’t be able to help anyone else efficiently. It’s the same way in life. We can’t expect to be able to help others, if we are constantly running on empty.

3. Schedule yourself in.

Go on, do it! You’re not being selfish when you make time for yourself. This is going to sound silly, but I used to try to avoid taking a nap as much as possible. I would think, “What a waist of time!” until my body was so desperate for rest that I would fall asleep sitting up. I started blocking out time on the weekends to take an afternoon nap and it’s made a huge difference. I put lavender oil in my oil diffuser, put on some relaxing music, and allow myself to get some quality rest. My family is much happier when I take the time to rest! By the way, I use the Essential Oil Diffuser for Aromatherapy – 100 ml Premium Aroma Cool Mist Humidifier with changing Colored LED Lights, Waterless Auto Shut-off and Adjustable Mist mode to help me relax and I absolutely LOVE it!

4. Remove negativity.

Sometimes we are in situations that can’t be changed right away. Maybe you are facing tough financial times, and while you are working towards paying it down, you’re still dealing with the stress. We can’t always remove all negativity from our life, but we can all remove something. Start with what you can do!  Maybe it can be something as simple as seeing your current situation with new eyes and choosing to be more grateful for it, or something as difficult as letting go of unhealthy relationships.

5. Find accountability.

If you have struggled in the past to make yourself a priority, be sure to set people around you that will keep you on track. Wether your tell a friend or close family member, make sure it’s someone with your best interest in mind and genuinely loves you. Chances are, if it’s someone who is near and dear to you, they’ll already be aware of your struggle and will want to be there for you. When I talked to my husband, he was already well aware of what was going on. It was so nice to be able to tell him everything and then ask for suggestions on how I could make these new changes a reality. He had some very helpful ideas that I know he will bring it up if I start to drift off track.

stand_up_and_sparkle_free_printable

You can also get my free “Stand Up and Sparkle’ check sheet, to keep you on track, when you sign up for our email club!

 

 

Did you miss today’s Periscope show episode of Stand Up and Sparkle? You can watch the replay here!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure page.

The easiest sushi you’ll ever make!

 the_easiest_sushi_you'll_ever_make-01

The easiest sushi you’ll ever make!

When most people think of sushi here in America, they generally associate it with the appetizers that are offered at a local buffet, or ‘1/2 price roll night’ at the local hibachi steak house. For me, it makes me think of everything from a Japanese art form that chefs spend years training for, to a simple ‘chirashi’ or scattered sushi that looks more like a casserole that you take to a potluck.

There are so many variations to this Japanese food, but today I’m going to be sharing a really basic recipe that’s a favorite at my house. I’m able to get all of the ingredients at my local grocery store without having to make a special trip to an Asian food store.

You’re going to want to have the following before you get started:
  • 2 cups Calrose or a short grained sushi rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 Tbs Japanese rice vinegar (I use Mitsukan brand)
  • 2 Tbs Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Salt
  • A square pack of toasted seaweed
  • 2 cans of tuna
  • 3 Tbs Mayo
  • A sushi mat

sushi_Japanese_food_tokyo_blossom

I use a rice steamer to cook my rice, but you are going to want to cook the rice and water according to the package instructions. After the rice has cooked, stir in the vinegar, sugar, and salt, giving it a chance to cool to room temperature. There is a great tutorial on food network where you can see the sushi rice being prepared. In this tutorial, he uses some smaller rectangular sheets of sushi, but for ours, we will be using the larger square sheets.

While your rice continues to cool, mix the drained tuna with your mayo. This is going to be your filling! Lay your mat out flat on the counter and put a sheet of seaweed, rough side up, on top of it. Spread your rice mixture in an even layer across the seaweed, leaving a 1 inch gap across the top of the sheet. The gap helps the roll to ‘seal’ when your go to roll it.

Spoon the tuna in one thick horizontal line across the rice, then gently lift up the edge of the mat that is closest to you. Slowly begin to roll it away from you. Be careful! Don’t let the mat get rolled into your sushi! Keep going until you’ve rolled it completely around, and now you have your first tuna roll!

Now that you’ve rolled them, your going to slice them into bite size pieces. The key to getting a clean cut with your rolls is to make sure your knife is wet before you begin. This will help to keep the rice from sticking to your knife, and allowing it to cut right through. Don’t worry if your end pieces fall apart. It’s normal for that to happen, and you can always eat them as a snack before dinner. Hehe.

tuna_sushi

Did you miss today’s Periscope show episode of Stand Up and Sparkle? You can watch the replay here!

 

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure page.