All You Need to Know About Hosting a Great Party

Hosting a party can be fun but also super stressful. With a little planning and my seven simple tips your next party can be awesome.

Hosting a party can be fun but also super stressful. You want your guests to have an enjoyable time, the food to taste good and the atmosphere to feel welcoming. With a little planning and my seven simple tips, your next party can be all of the above. I promise you’ll have a great time too!

I haven’t hosted a lot of parties (aside from planning my wedding and DIYing most of it) and if you are reading this blog and in your twenties, you may not have either. That’s okay! Not only have I been to a lot of events I asked my mom and other seasoned hostesses what they advise to host a great party.

1. Send Invites at Least a Week in Advance

Send out an email, group text or Facebook invite at least a week in advance for an informal party. For larger gatherings give about two weeks to a months notice.

Canva is a great platform to create invites or Vista Print

Have a beginning and end time. As an introvert, I want to know how long I’m required to be somewhere. I feel so much more relaxed when I know I what to expect.

2. Prep Before the Party

I cannot stress this one enough. Prepare the food ahead of time. Make as much as you can the day before. My mom taught me this tip and it makes such a huge difference to guests. Cut vegetables, prepare salads without the dressing, cook the sides (reheat up on the day of), prepare the main dishes to be cooked or cook ahead and reheat. Do as much as you can. Not only will this eliminate stress the day of. Your guests will thank you and you can spend time hosting.

3. Remember Why You are Hosting the Event

Keep the main thing the main thing. Are you hosting a going away party or are you celebrating a first birthday? Don’t let the details get you stressed out, do your best and then enjoy being with your guests.

4. Games

This tip may be a bit of personal preference but I enjoy party games. Ice breakers are a great way to get people talking and keep the event moving along.

Minute to win it games are always a fun idea and are pretty cost-effective to implement.

5. Food

Serve an appetizer before a big meal especially if there is a few hours between guests arriving and the meal. You can even ask guests to bring an appetizer or snack.

A few of my favourite appetizers are:

Prepare simple dishes that you’ve made before. Now is not the time to experiment in making a complicated fancy dish. Stick to your tried and true crowd-pleasers.

7. Decorations and ambiance

Not every party needs a theme but it can be fun to be intentional about making guests feel special. Picking out some cute napkins, a matching tablecloth and some centrepieces can go a long way.

Play some music in the background at a level where guests can still chat. Spotify literally has a playlist for everything

Another thing I like to include is a notebook for advice or well wishes. Buy a notebook from the dollar store and some pens and have guests record a special message.

For more party ideas checkout:

Baby K Gender Reveal 

What are your best hosting tips? What is the most memorable party you’ve attended?

Hosting a party can be fun but also super stressful. With a little planning and my seven simple tips your next party can be awesome.

5 Ways to Stay Strong Mentally as a Mom

As a new mom or really anyone leading a busy life, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by one’s present circumstances. Maybe you feel stuck or like things will never change or improve.

However, a goal I have for this year is to overcome my mental outlook and instead of being lead by my feelings into despair and sadness I’m working on telling myself how to feel.

My daughter is a great source of joy and I find myself choosing to be happy for her instead of moping around feeling sad or discouraged. She deserves to be happy and I want her to feel secure and loved despite how I’m feeling on the inside.

Along with her motivating me to choose joy here are 5 more methods I implement on a daily basis to stay strong mentally.

1. Listen to uplifting podcasts

Do you listen to podcasts? If so leave me a comment with your favourites down below. If not, why?

Podcasts are super popular right now. There are podcasts for every topic, hobby or interest.

A few of my favourites that keep me motivated, informed and encouraged are The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, Risen Motherhood, Journey Woman, Surviving Sarah, Lighten Up with Melanie Dale, The Simple Show, The Lazy Genius, Business Wars, Tides of History, and The Popcast.

If you like to listen to podcasts on the go and don’t have an aux cord or built-in Bluetooth this is the adapter I use in my car. The last one we had was super cheap and broke. This one has worked great and is very easy to use.

Bluetooth Adapter

2. Play music

The simple of act of playing upbeat, positive music can instantly uplift your mood. I vacillate between using Spotify and YouTube to stream music. I do enjoy Spotify because of the ease of selecting a playlist to match my mood. YouTube is also nice because there aren’t as many ads.

Here is a kid-friendly playlist on Spotify:

3. Go Outside

I am a total homebody, I love being in my habitat and being productive. However, going for a simple walk with Lyla and listening to a podcast really helps shift my perspective to a more positive one. Never underestimate what a change of scenery can do for your mental state.

I live in a colder climate so most of the year it is not easy to get outside for a walk. I try to go out only if the temperature is above O Celcius and around 2 pm when it’s warmest out. When it’s too cold to be outside I like to walk around a large store and browse or the local mall.

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4. Run an Errand

As much as I love being at home 90% of the time, sometimes I need to get out. Whether it’s running to the post office or Walmart I always feel so much better when I get home. Plus it helps break up the day and Lyla usually naps in the car. It’s a win-win. I get time alone and the baby gets in a good nap.

5. Plan to be Social with Real People

Finally, as much as my introvert self would rather be a recluse I need real people. Even though I live far from some family I try to see them once a month. I also try to video chat with my friends.

Volunteer with Your Baby

It is also important to build a community where you live. To meet new people in your area consider volunteering for a cause you care about. For me, that is food skills and food insecurity. In the past, I have volunteered with Growing Chefs! and VON where I cooked with kids and prepared a low-cost meal for seniors. In this season of life, I’m caring for my daughter and cannot volunteer as frequently as I would like. However, I volunteer in our church’s nursery one Sunday a month. This allows me to socialize with other moms and make new friends.

Join a Local Moms Group

When I moved to my new neighbourhood one of the first things I did was a Facebook search for our neighbourhood moms group. The group is open to any moms wanting to join and each week they have a meet-up to socialize and chat.

Mom life or whatever tasks your life includes on the daily can be draining. I hope these simple ideas will help improve your mood and help you be your best for those around you.Encouragement for new moms trying to stay mentally strong

*affiliate link used

Letting Go of Unmet Expectations in Marriage

Unmet Expectations Lead to Dissatisfaction

A lot of the time life can feel unfair. Part of this feeling comes from expectations in marriage being unmet. I certainly expected my present circumstances to be different. I thought I’d work before having a baby, that I’d be in my own home, that I’d live near my family and friends. However, that’s not how life turned out. At times I feel jaded, sad and to be honest angry. I want control of my life.

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with this idea of control over my life. It doesn’t seem fair at times that the expectations of my current reality are unmet. I want to call the shots and know where my future is headed.

Instead of trusting in God’s timing.

Instead of submitting to my husband’s leadership over our family.

Instead of dying to self daily. 

I don’t want to give more grace or forgiveness or understanding or kindness that is being shown to me in return. When as a Christ follower that is exactly what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to follow Jesus example and be kind and tenderhearted and forgiving to those who mock me or treat me wrong. Yet my flesh fights so hard against what I know the spirit wants me to do. Consequently, I often give in to the flesh because it’s easy and I’m tired.

My dissatisfaction with certain aspects of my life spiral into a cycle of being miserable. If I’m not happy my thinking is why should the people around me be happy too (the people that I care about and love most). Therefore I’m going to complain, nag and not be as grateful as I should. In my sinful and selfish heart, I want to make it known how I feel.

Marriage is about serving

The common thread here is “I”. Being that I’m married and it’s no longer just “I” but two people striving to be one, I can’t continue living my life through a single self-centred lense.

Yes, it’s not fair that I can’t sleep through the night because I have to feed our precious baby from my healthy and fully functional body. It’s also not fair that my husband has to shoulder all of the financial burdens of our family. I’m only giving one simple example of how our life together isn’t always fair in our share of duties, I could go on. Trust me I’m pretty good at keeping a list of how unequal our contributions are (at least that how it feels sometimes).

I always thought I’d be that wife that wouldn’t mind giving more than I’m getting in return. In reality, I’m actually pretty selfish and would rather be served than serve. At the core of dying to self is serving others. True service like Jesus demonstrated is done out of love without an expectation of receiving anything back in return. Often I want recognition, praise or a returned favour. To me, that’s fair-to give and then get. However, that’s not what I’m called to do.

Perhaps so much of my unsatisfaction which stems from unmet expectations could become obsolete if instead, I decided to truly serve without expectation. If I’m only living for the praise of men I’ll have received my reward here instead of a true reward from God.

Adopt an Eternal Perspective

Too often I’m focused on earthly things, the day to day minutiae instead of an eternal perspective. Where the annoyances that seem so monumental are less irrelevant than they seem and perhaps they are meant to sanctify me. If life was easy and fun and comfortable I wouldn’t need to change anything or question how I could improve. It’s beneficial to me in light of eternity and becoming more like Jesus to undergo unfavourable circumstances.

I want to resolve to have a changed perspective during 2018. I want to remember that “hard is not the same thing as bad”, to die to self as I serve my family and to live for the praise of my heavenly Father over the temporal praise of men.


Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galations 1:10

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Galations 2:20

Communicating one's expecations with your spouse is essential for a healthy marriage. When expectations are unmet it often leads to dissatisfaction.

4 Years Later: My University Experience

About a week ago I wrote my very last exam of university (#boomdone!). As thrilling as this accomplishment was I don’t feel done with school or that I’ve actually finished my undergrad.  Not until I have my diploma in hand will it seem real. Finishing university seems like such a surreal experience because in high school I had doubts about getting accepted, I failed three courses in undergrad and since I took a gap year most of my friends have already graduated. In some ways, it felt as if this day would never come. I also didn’t think I would be 7 months pregnant as I wrote my last exams.

The experience of university has certainly been a journey filled with many ups and downs and letting go of some dreams. Although it was at times difficult I never found the workload or expectations to be impossible, stressful yes, but still within my means of accomplishment. Overall, I am grateful for the privilege to have learned about psychology, child development, diversity, food science, microbiology, ethics, writing, nutrition, work-life balance, various theories related to the family and society and being able to explore topics of interest like cohabitation, parenting, and the non-profit sector.

Before University + Choosing My Major

Back in high school, I loved my food and nutrition class (it was the one class I ever achieved over a 90 in). I became determined to turn this passion into a career. After researching my options the profession of a Registered Dietician best fit my goals. I would work in healthcare and have the authority to dispense sound evidence-based nutrition advice to patients and clients. Although this program required chemistry which I despised, I took grade 11 chemistry in summer school in order to take grade 12 chemistry with my peers. I barely passed grade 12 chemistry and advanced functions both needed for my program. However, I got accepted into my school of choice Brescia University College (Western University) for a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics. At the time I was thrilled because step one of my dream to work in the field of nutrition was becoming a reality.

How Am I Going to Pay for University?

Being an avid Dave Ramsey listener at the time I knew taking out a student loan would not help my future (cash is king). Even though that was the “normal” thing to do if one was going to university straight out of high school. Instead, I deferred my acceptance and continued working at my part-time job while searching and praying for a full-time position or another part-time job. In September of that year, the owner of the store I was working at asked if I would like to work full-time days (7-3) at another store. I gratefully accepted the position and knew that God was providing a way for me to save for university even if I was only making minimum wage. I didn’t love the job and it was not easy getting up early every day but in the end, I saved enough from working (almost a year part-time and just under a year full time) to pay for two years of tuition. Throughout university, I was always one year ahead on my tuition which took a huge burden off of my shoulders. I also applied for grants and received a bursary to help cover other costs.

I should note my parents helped cover my living expenses which were very affordable.  I rented a room with a family friend over living in residence and kept to a very modest grocery budget. I also bussed (the bus pass was included in tuition) for my first year and some of my second and third years.

Freedom + Moving Away From Home

Following my year of working and living at home, I was very ready to move out on my own. Although my school was only an hour and a half away. I was close enough to take the Greyhound home on Fridays or for my parents to come down on a weekend. I relished living on my own, I gained so much independence figuring out the bus schedules, finding my classes, making new friends, going to a new church (with a huge young adults group) and signing up for clubs and volunteering weekly. I was so busy and happy I didn’t really miss home. I think waiting an extra year to start school helped ensure I was ready for such a big transition.

However, while I was away at school everything with my family was not alright. Being away from the daily interactions of home life shielded me from a lot of emotional pain, although I still felt the weight of it. At the time I didn’t really talk much about what my family was going through because I am a very private person and avoid opening up. I did, however, receive support from a few close friends and my faith certainly helped me stay steady when I didn’t understand everything that was happening. As much as starting university was a very happy time, I also carried around a lot of sadness. It’s important to remember that you never know what someone may be going through.

Failed Courses + Summer Jobs

As the year went on things with my family improved. Academically though things were not perfect. I failed chemistry in my second semester, which was a required course for my program. I shrugged it off and decided to retake it the next year. I should have done summer school but I needed to work to keep covering tuition.

I was very fortunate to receive a summer student position at an automotive factory working on the assembly line installing car parts on the engines. Again before receiving this position, I had no idea where I was going to work for the summer. I had applied to many different summer jobs since December. I didn’t get a call until the end of May to do an assessment (which I wanted to quit because it was so physically hard), followed by an interview with an HR rep and a manager from the floor. I was able to apply my experience working in quick service to explain how I would be suitable to work in a fast paced factory environment.

Again right at the last minute when I was getting desperate God opened a door for me. Although this job was like nothing I had ever done (I put parts on cars and used drills and guns that torqued really aggressively and stood on my feet for 10 hours and I worked with mostly men) I gained so much confidence. I learned I could work long hours, on swing shift, with sore feet and hands, getting up at 4:45 am driving 45 minutes into work, succeed in technical jobs and not give up even when tired or very frustrated. I figured if I could work this hard consistently I could work a lot harder on my studies and not give up when I got tired or discouraged.

Failing Again + Switching Majors

As I went into the second year I understood how to study better (you have to do the readings and take notes aside from going to lectures) and I was more committed to my work. It also helped that I lived semi alone and had a quiet bedroom to do all my work in (whereas when I got married and even when I was dating my husband I had a lot more distractions!).

Unfortunately, I failed chemistry again. This was a turning point for me and I decided that I had to pursue my strengths which were more towards writing, researching and studying rather than formulas and labs. I met with an academic advisor and slightly modified my program from a BSc to a BA. I was a little disappointed in myself for not being able to complete my dream of becoming an RD but at the same time, I was glad I tried. Instead, I pursued my second choice of becoming a Professional Home Economist. Check out the video below for a quick summary of who PHEc’s are.

What’s the Difference between a Registered Dietician and a Professional Home Economist?

A PHEc works more with consumers on educating about healthy eating practices, food skills, finances, even fashion and sewing (basically anything family studies related). Whereas a dietician works in public health or a clinical setting and advises clients on their specific nutritional needs.

Once I switched programs and started taking more family studies courses I was a lot happier as I felt I could succeed in this program. My grades also improved.

Take a Wide Variety of Electives

In my third and fourth years, I had to make up some classes I missed due to switching my degree. An introductory writing course was one and although it sounds mundane I had a great professor and learned some great tips to improve my skills.

I also took the philosophy of food to meet my breadth requirements. This was a great elective because there was no exam. Our major project was to work in groups with a community partner and then present on experience. I had the pleasure of volunteering with Growing Chefs! Ontario doing some administrative work and assisting with their children’s cooking classes. Not only did I gain great experience but I matched my interests with getting credit.

If you have the opportunity to take electives research your options! There are so many great classes and interesting things to learn from people who are experts in their field.

My Final Year + Practicum + Mentoring

By far my favourite class I took was my practicum. I didn’t find out about the class till during the summer and you had to apply to it due to limited spots but I was able to get in.

I learned so much about entering the workforce, how to have a good relationship with your supervisor, how to ask for feedback, why you should reflect on your experience and how to improve plus what the real career working world is like.

My practicum took place at London Community Resource Center. Over the course of my practicum, I assisted in creating feedback surveys for participants of their community garden program, I helped plan programming for the upcoming season and wrote some posts for their website on home preservation, unique ways to incorporate beans into one’s diet and tips for a butterfly and bee friendly garden.

I also toured of an Early Years Center, attended a Think Tank (on strategies to ensure kids eat more vegetables and fruit) hosted by the city and the Urban Agriculture Conference. The best part of the experience was being exposed to initiatives and organizations that support the family and healthy eating.

Concurrently, I took part in a mentoring program hosted by my the Student Life Center. I  was matched with a mentor who worked at McCormick. We met once a month to complete our mentoring assignments and work through goals I had set. Overall, I enjoyed being able to ask her my many questions related to finding a career, networking and gaining experience.

In addition to meeting my mentor, I met collectively with the other mentees in the program once a month to learn about career topics including networking, how to be productive, how to create a resume and cover letter, interviewing, and preparing an elevator pitch among other topics.

A new and somewhat uncomfortable experience I completed during my mentoring program was to conduct an informational interview. I was recommended to a PHEc at McCormick who worked in the test kitchen (#dreamjob). She was also a recent grad and stressed the importance of attending the Home Economics conference to network with others in our field. I’m so glad I completed the mentorship program because it forced me to do things outside of my comfort zone.

Overall I was able to finish my final year with a much greater grasp on what I wanted to do after school but more importantly how to achieve those goals. As much as academics matter if one doesn’t know the practical steps to make their degree useful, transitioning into the workforce can be daunting. I would highly encourage anyone going into their final years to make career preparation a priority.

Final Thoughts + Never Stop Learning

In summary,  I am so grateful I had the opportunity and privilege to attend university. Although at times I considered if I should have gone to culinary school instead or taken accounting in college, I’m glad I was able to receive the education I did. As a result, I have greatly improved in my writing, I understand the importance of looking at information critically and searching for evidence-based claims, I have a greater depth of knowledge on the family and society. This has enabled me to be more empathetic and given me a desire to help others with what I have learned.

I am no expert, I only have a BA and this is just the beginning. I will always have more to learn whether that’s through getting my Masters or in a career or just life experience.

Although my next steps include being a mom, I’m looking forward to networking with others in my field over the coming year and keeping active on this blog <3

The experience of university has certainly been a journey filled with many ups and downs and letting go of some dreams. Although it was at times difficult I never found the workload to be impossible, stressful yes, but still doable.


Are you going to Universtiy this fall? If you are and have any questions feel free to leave me a comment below!

5 Way’s to Prioritize Self Care

The first time I heard about self-care was from my practicum professor who also happens to be a therapist (class felt like a therapy session because we just talked about our practicums and ate food, it was literally the best.). Our professor knowing that we all lead stressful and busy lives especially as students on the cusp of graduation or grad school really encouraged us to make self-care a priority. She shared how taking a hot yoga class when she’s really stressed or spending time with horses helped her maintain a balanced life.

During this time I was under a lot of stress from school, life and being pregnant (but also not knowing it, I was very emotional and overwhelmed). I really needed to hear this message of taking care of myself beyond my physical needs and my daily work of school and home.

 

5 Tips to Prioritize Self Care

In short, self-care consists of taking time for yourself to recharge and take a break from the pressures of life. It may seem selfish to want to make ‘me time’ a priority but as my professor explained to us it will enable you to be a better person for yourself and to those around you.

Self-care is especially important for women as we take on so many roles and are relied upon by multiple people. In fact, when I’m not taking care of my well-being I tend to suffer-emotionally, physically and relationally as I did during the beginning of my last semester.

However, when I do make time to do things that fill me up I feel energized, loved, taken care of and more motivated and inspired to accomplish the more mundane tasks in my life. Plus I’m a happier person because I’m not relying on those around me to satisfy that need.

Self-care doesn’t have to expensive or take a lot of time. The main thing it involves is intentionality or else it’s just going to fall to the side. Below I have 5 tips to get you started on ideas for self-care and how to make it fit with your life.

Find Out What Recharges You

First, without taking time or your schedule into account brainstorm a list of activities that you find enjoyable.  Think about hobbies you gave up in the past or interests you never got around to trying. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn ceramics, or you really enjoy reading, perhaps it’s the yoga class you never signed up for, or gardening, writing, browsing the bookstore, seeing friends, even getting your hair done. Let your mind wander and write down any ideas that pop up.

Personally, I feel recharged after I spend quality time with a friend or family member I haven’t seen in awhile, treating myself to a Starbucks date, going on a walk, listening to a podcast, taking a bath, baking, reading a good book or even going for a run.

Schedule Self-Care

Next, take a look at your schedule and determine where you have the margin to fit in self-care. Is it after work on Tuesdays, Sunday afternoons, before everyone wakes up, during nap time or perhaps you can book a day off work once a quarter to do something extra special.

As I said above if self-care is not a priority it will never get accomplished. Just like scheduling a doctors appointment write down or make a mental note of when you can have time just for you. It might take some juggling but remember when you take care of yourself everyone around you benefits.

Take it One Week at a Time

Perhaps in your current season of life, you can’t commit to a weekly class or taking time off work. That’s okay! Maybe all you can manage is a weekly bath and reading your book for 15 minutes. The important part is to make sure self-care is part of your weekly routine.

Evaluate Your Self-Care Routine

In addition to making time for self-care and taking it season by season, take the time to evaluate how your self-care routine is working. Are you feeling more fulfilled in your daily life? Do you have more or less time in the coming months for self-care? Is there something you would like to change or a new activity you’d like to try?

Life is constantly changing, it’s important to make sure your routines are being adapted to fit your lifestyle or else they become another thing that can bring you down and make you less productive.

Find Creative Ways to Incorporate Self-Care

In addition to scheduling time for just myself which I also encourage my husband to do, I like to include self-care while I’m doing mundane tasks. For example, while I’m doing the dishes or driving I’ll listen to a podcast. Sometimes it’s a lighthearted and entertaining one like the Popcast or a more at times serious and inspiring one like the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Or maybe you don’t have time to read so an audiobook is a better choice. In fact, most libraries offer free downloads of audiobooks. I love that I’m able to be productive while still taking time for myself

I’m not a mom yet but I do know that when Baby K gets here I’m going to make it a priority to make sure we get out of the house. Whether we walk to get coffee or to the library, I know we’ll both benefit from the activity.

Plus when you model that taking care of your mental health is important for your children they will take notice. Even if they are young, having quiet time once a day can demonstrate that having alone time is important and that mom needs time for herself in order to be the best mom she can be.

Spend Quiet Time with God

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the number one thing in my life that keeps me steady, hopeful and able to face each day. That is my relationship with God. Spirituality is something that oft gets looked over. Yet it’s so related to our mental health and well being it cannot be ignored.

For me spending time with God is simple. I first spend time in prayer thanking God for all the blessings in my life no matter how big or small they are, I talk to God about my worries, I confess sins in my life, I pray for my husband and our marriage, my family, safety, health, friends, just anything that’s going on in my life.Remember it’s okay to share anything with God or ask for help in areas where you’re struggling. The psalms are a great example that it’s okay to tell God our honest feelings.

Following a time of prayer which I may or may not also write down, I use a tool called She Reads Truth. This website has reading plans that also provide a devotional for each day. Currently, I’ve been reading through Romans and before that, I went through the Song of Solomon. This tool has been very effective in helping me stick to doing devotions because it lays out what to read. First,  I’ll read the assigned passages, usually out loud so Baby K can hear too and then reread the passage and take notes on what the author is saying and how I can apply it to my life. Even if I never come back to these notes, writing it down helps solidify what I’m learning.

Finally, I’ll read the short devotional accompanying the readings. Usually, it contains a helpful commentary on the big picture and other themes I haven’t considered. Perhaps if you don’t know where to start in having a devotional this website would be a great resource. Just try to find what works best for you and stick with it.

Overall scheduling time for yourself is not selfish, it means that you care about your mental health and want to be the best you. Don’t feel guilty if you need a night off once a week or have to make room in the budget. In the long term, it is so worth it not only for yourself but for your family and everyone around you.

In Summary:

  • Find out what recharges you
  • Schedule self-care
  • Take it one week at a time
  • Evaluate your self-care routine periodically
  • Incorporate self-care in creative ways
  • Spend quiet time with God

Finally, here’s a great mantra to remember “Create your own sunshine”

Find things that bring you joy and make them a habit. 

5 Ways to Prioritize Self Care

10 Ways to Create Your Own Sunshine Today

buy fresh flowers

get a manicure

print off pictures

go for a walk

write a gratitude list

take a bath

schedule a coffee date with a friend

read a book

treat yourself to a special drink

colour

For more great tips on incorporating self-care be sure to check out this post by Lisa from Lisa Designs Life, she has a lot of tips to make self-care part of a busy life.


What are some of your best tips for self-care?

What activities help you feel recharged?

I’d love to hear!

 

Enough with Cliquey Church Social Groups: Why we Need to be Intentional in Creating Community at Church

A few weeks ago we were visiting a couple from our church who have a young baby. As we were talking a sad reality came to light. It seems that social connections at church are largely determined by the presence of children or one’s marital status.

Not until this couple had a child did some of the other women in her age group begin taking an interest in her. Perhaps this was because they couldn’t find any commonalities other than being of the same faith, age, gender or also being married. Maybe they were too preoccupied talking about their children they forget about other conversation topics. Whatever the reason it’s unfortunate that one has to be a mother to be noticed by those in her same demographic.

This occurs not only on a female to female basis but on a couple level. A couple may be married in their mid 20’s and not have any children. At the same time there is another couple around the same age who do have children but beyond a cordial acquaintance level these couples will never really hit it off. Perhaps the couple with children want to prioritize making friends with other families so their children will have friends or maybe they feel that beyond being married they have nothing in common with the other couple.

Dating couples and individuals also face the same kind of dismissive attempts at friendship. Based on the fact that they are not in the exact same stage of life despite being the same age. As a result, they are disqualified from interacting on deeper than acquaintance level.

How Does This Cliquey Behaviour Begin?

Most times it starts when an individual moves from being single to the highly idealized state of being a boyfriend or girlfriend.

As soon as a couple starts dating they “need” couple friends. So little by little, they decrease the amount of time they spend with their single friends. Or soon after a couple gets married suddenly all the married people have something super in common with them and start to notice them. The downside to these seemingly natural but isolating behaviors is that people who are not married, don’t have children or who are single get stigmatized. For example, if by a certain age you haven’t reached the right level in your social circle people start to ask questions, make judgments or just exclude you.Maybe you don’t get invited to board game night because you’re not part of a couple. Or certain jokes go over your head because you don’t have a spouse to identify with. Yes, these interactions hurt even if they are not intentional. A more detrimental outcome of segregation by life stage is when it involves ministry.

Take, for example, Sunday School.

In some churches that I have attended Sunday School is divided for the adults into classes based on life stage. First, there is the Young Adult (college and career) class, followed by the young married class and so on. One can only move up when they reach the proverbial achievement of marriage.

I have so many thoughts about this… Yes, marriage is good but why are we making it something that grants exclusive access to a Sunday School class? What are we saying to those not married? That they aren’t spiritual enough to move on? It feels like marriage is inherently demonstrated to be a gift given to those who are more spiritual than the single person.

Yes, marriage is good but why are we making it something that grants exclusive access to a Sunday School class? What are we saying to those not married? That they aren’t spiritual enough to move on? It feels like marriage is inherently demonstrated to be a gift given to those who are more spiritual than the single person.

What about the individual who is still waiting to be married or who is content being single or the single parent? Where do they go for Sunday School? Church of all places should be an inclusive environment. Additionally, singleness should not be made to look down upon. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul commends being single because one has more time to devote to serving God over being divided by caring for a spouse and serving God.

Real Talk: I Struggle in Not Being Cliquey

Before I go on, I want to note that I am by no means perfect in this area of not being cliquey. I understand why it happens. Especially being an introvert. I like to interact with my same group of friends or people I know because it’s easy and I don’t have to be brave and talk to new people. Also as I have gone from being single to dating to married my availability to see people have changed. It’s a lot harder now than when it was just me to schedule plans. I have to coordinate my time with my husband plus I don’t live close to my friends. As a result, it takes a lot more effort to maintain friendships.

At the same, I still try to be intentional about being friends with people my age despite if they are married or have children. Although I do have to admit since becoming pregnant I’ve tried to get to know more moms at church. I now volunteer in the nursery and am slowly acquainting myself with the families that have children. Prior to being pregnant, this wasn’t a priority for me. I do understand there is comfort in the company of those who share similar life experiences. This can be a great opportunity to learn from those who have gone before you. At the same time, it’s not fair to isolate those who are not going through the same stage of life as you. Yes, it might be easier to relate to a married couple on some levels than a single person. However, I never want to define myself so narrowly that I’m just a wife or mom. I’m still Courtney, a person with unique interests and gifts and I want to cultivate friendships with a variety of people.

Why Do We Stay in our Safe Groups Instead of Reaching Out?

Why is it so easy to just get stuck in our safe little cliques instead of reaching out and being a genuine friend to all ages and life stages. A major reason is that it takes effort.

Reaching out requires intentionality. If a new mom is spending most of her time in the nursery she’s not going to have as many opportunities to get to know the women who don’t have children. That is totally understandable, being intentionality should go both ways. Although it may seem intimidating for a single person to reach out to someone who is married and has children. One reason is that they might seem too busy to talk to or they don’t know what to talk to them about.

My encouragement would be to just start by saying hi. People like what they are familiar with. The more you say hi to someone or smile or ask how they’re doing they’re going to associate positive thoughts towards you. Over time they may reciprocate the interest. One simple way I try to do this is by saying good morning to people in the church. Over time they have gotten to know my name and will now talk to me after church. Although I may never become super close with any of these people they still show an interest in me and ask how I’m doing. Plus, it’s just one simple way to get to know people I may never had the chance to get acquainted with.

One person who is a great example to me of being friendly to everyone is my husband. He will literally talk to everyone in our church from little toddlers to elderly couples. He can always find something to have a conversation about. His example has continually impacted me to reach out of my comfort zone and make more of an effort to talk to people.

How Can We Make Church More Inclusive?

First, we can structure ministry so that every person feels that there is a place where they belong despite their marital status or ability to have children. Perhaps having adult Sunday School classes by topic or age would be more helpful. People want to interact with those outside their age groups and genders. Although at times it is helpful to have a ministry that specifically reaches a certain group such as women or men or singles. It’s important to give people options and make sure everyone feels they have a place in the church.

Furthermore, as people, we need to be intentional with getting to know others in the church and to step out of our comfort zones. An easy way to do this is to get involved at church. Whether as a greeter, on the worship team, in children’s ministry or through hospitality there are so many options for everyone’s unique gift or talent. This can also take the pressure off of having to start conversations with people. When serving alongside others you’re likely to get to know them and their family just through your constant interaction. Plus you have a task to accomplish so things are less awkward than standing around and talking during coffee hour.

If you’re hesitant about getting involved or don’t know which ministry is right for you, I would first pray about an opportunity and then seek out those who are already serving in that capacity and ask how to get involved. Even if they don’t need help at the moment, let them know you’re willing to fill in if they ever need extra help. People really appreciate when others are willing to pitch in.

Overall let’s purpose to make church less about ourselves and staying comfortable and more about reaching out to others and helping them feel included, wanted and loved. Remember all it takes is a simple “good morning” to show someone you care about them.

Enough with Cliquey Church Social Groups

 


First Trimester Update

As of today, I am 12 weeks! I am so happy to be coming out of the first trimester. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the second trimester so my hopes are somewhat high that I’ll be feeling better and more energized. Today I wanted to take a moment and share how my first trimester has been.

First Trimester Update

Choosing to be Thankful

At 6 weeks I found out to my joy and surprise that I was indeed expecting. Initially, I was shocked but also very happy. I have always wanted and dreamed of having a family, yet I never really thought it would happen this soon. Before I go on though I want to express how truly grateful I am for this pregnancy and that I don’t take the ability to conceive or carry a child lightly. I am very aware of the high rate of miscarriage and the myriad of difficulties many women face when trying to conceive. As I write and share my experiences I always try to keep in mind the experiences of others and be sensitive. I thank God every day for this precious life inside of me. Although I don’t enjoy feeling sick or throwing up, each time I do it reminds me of the gift I’m blessed to carry. During the low times, I’ve tried to remember this and not complain about how unglamorous pregnancy can sometimes feel.

Pregnancy Surprises

Yes, pregnancy is not easy but I am so grateful to be able to experience it. One thing that has surprised me is how emotional I’ve been. A lot of times I try to hold back the tears but if I watch anything remotely sad I can feel the tears start. For example, I was watching a prank video on YouTube with Mike of this guy proposing to his girlfriend in a mall, but she rejected him. The whole crowd of people just laughed at him, except for one guy who gave him a hug. I just could not help crying even though I suspected it was fake. I just felt so bad for the poor guy. I also cry when I’ve been sick and throwing up constantly and it seems like I’ll never feel like myself again or be able to eat. Sometimes it’s hard to see an end. I also have no idea what it’s going to be like to have a baby. I’m excited in the sense that I will have my own baby. At the same time, I’m scared because I feel so unprepared and inexperienced. Maybe my emotions are how I’m expressing this fear and just how overwhelmed I sometimes feel. Either way, sometimes it feels good to cry.

Something that has really helped during the low times is reading scripture. This blog has some really great encouraging verses to meditate on during pregnancy. I also find that reading a few chapters from the Bible before bed is very powerful. I am reminded of how alive God’s word is and how much strength I gain from it.  I would really encourage you to make time for God, even if you’re feeling sick or down.

Eating and Craving

As I mentioned above eating and keeping food down has been a struggle. I find I don’t have the biggest appetite and when I try to eat more than I can, I feel sick after. Usually, I just try to eat small manageable snacks throughout the day like apples and cheese, peanut butter on an English muffin, yogurt with fruit, oranges (I love fresh, juicy fruit!), milk, a bagel, applesauce, smoothies, soup or sandwiches. My medication has at least allowed me to keep more food down during the day, which I am so grateful for.

Energy

Physically, I have noticed an increase in energy since around week 10. I was able to clean up a bit and do some laundry this past weekend which was awesome. I feel so much better when things are clean and put away. I find that after being out for a few hours I get tired and need a nap when I get home. I don’t feel guilty about sleeping because I know this is only a temporary luxury! Overall I haven’t felt generally sick as I did before, I would say I feel good about 60% of the time. In the morning and evening’s I get nauseous or after long car rides. I would also say I have a ‘baby’ baby bump beginning to show, which makes me super excited! One lady at church even noticed I was beginning to show a teeny bit (:

Overall I haven’t felt generally sick as I did before, I would say I feel good about 60% of the time. In the morning and evening’s I get nauseous or after long car rides. I would also say I have a ‘baby’ baby bump beginning to show, which makes me super excited! One lady at church even noticed I was beginning to show a teeny bit (:

I am feeling a lot better than I did and I’m looking forward to finishing classes soon. I have two more papers and then studying for four exams during April. Following that, I’ll be taking a few summer courses to finish my degree and graduate in October!

THANK YOU! <3

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me either on here or otherwise. I read every comment and message and it honestly means so much to me! <3 Michael and I are so grateful for everyone’s love, support and excitement during this very special time in our life! <3 I look forward to sharing more updates!


For more on my pregnancy and postpartum journey read:
1st Trimester Update
2nd Trimester Update (21W2D)
3rd Trimester Update
Everything No One Tells You About Your First Pregnancy (Part 1)
Everything No One Tells You About You’re First Pregnancy (Part 2)
Baby K’s Birth Story + Baby K’s Birth Story Part 2
Everything No One Told Me About Postpartum
What to Eat While Breastfeeding
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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone!

2016 was by far the most incredible year of my life. Getting married, moving into our apartment, starting our life together and creating new memories with family and friends all contributed to a great year.

I’ve written before about how amazing the gift of marriage is and I continue to be thankful for this precious treasure each and every day. It’s crazy to think that in 5 short months we will be celebrating one year!

The past year wasn’t all good, of course, there were ups and downs. It was stressful planning a wedding while being full time in school and an hour and a half away from family and friends. In the end with many people’s generous help and support, t all came together. Following the wedding, we enjoyed a relaxing week away (whoever came up with the idea for a vacation after one’s wedding is #genius). I spent the summer working swing shift in a factory, although it was tiring and I felt like I had no time it was worth it to fully pay for my last year’s tuition and other expenses. Finally, the fall came and back to school season. I was grateful to have more free time, but soon the stress and workload of school became very overwhelming. Couple classes, assignments, group projects and life with unexpected family events, a car needing repair and eventually dying meaning I had no way to get to school. It all makes for a tough end of the semester. Despite all the extra stress, God helped me to do well and in some classes better than I expected on my assignments and exams. Throughout all of the events this year I have learned to cherish every moment with those you love, to trust that God is always faithful to provide and that no matter how overwhelming life seems it is only for a season.

I hope that in 2017 I can continue to grow in what God has planned to teach me and to trust His leading for this next season of life. I’m looking forward to graduating and starting a career in my field of Family and Nutrition. I have no idea what this year holds, such as whether we will move or not, where we will travel or what new people we will meet. However, I’m excited about the possibilities this next season and year have in store!

best nine.jpg

What are you most excited for this next year?
What have you learned in 2016?


Click here to read: Just Wait

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Favourites Friday>> Surviving Sarah Podcast

Happy FriYay!

Today’s favourite is a podcast I have been binge listening to on the drive to school and back. I absolutely cannot get enough of this podcast. I come away feeling inspired, motivated and excited each time I hear an interview with a different woman about what she is doing or has been through.

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Surviving Sarah is hosted by Sarah Bragg and each week she interviews a different woman to hear how she is surviving life. Sarah ends the interview by asking her guest a few things that are helping them to survive. She goes on to clarify that these items don’t have to be spiritual because she also enjoys other things like coffee and Target. I can totally relate to that sentiment. Following the interview, Sarah reflects on what she learned from her guest or anything that stood out from their stories.

I’ve been most impacted by the women who have families while at the same time manage a career, business, blog or ministry. One very interesting guest was Cheryl Bachelder the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (episode 42). I loved hearing how she leads her staff with humility and poise. Although I don’t aspire to be a CEO the insight on leadership at any level was inspiring.

Additionally, another theme I’ve gathered from listening is that we may make plans for our lives but ultimately God’s plan always prevails. For example, one woman became a single mother while being a missionary, other women have struggled with infertility, or dealt with failed adoptions or unexpected pregnancies, while other guests have struggled with issues from their past including suicide of family members or postpartum depression. In other examples, God has provided opportunities and opened doors that some women never dreamed of like being an artist, or starting a nonprofit, or designing products to help with children’s emotional intelligence. I’m learning to let go of my plans and to be open to what God has in store for me. Although I find this really hard because I thrive on predictability I trust that His plans are best for me. Hearing others women’s stories has really encouraged me in this area.

Thirdly a statement that I have heard multiple times on this podcast is to “do the next right thing”. In times of stress or feeling overwhelmed or even sad, listeners have shared how they have just done the next right thing. Whether that’s reading your child a story or making dinner, it’s about not giving up. I’ve tried to remember this phrase when I just want to quit or waste an hour on the internet. Sometimes the next right thing is cleaning off the table so I have a place to work when I get home. That one simple task helps me feel motivated to keep going with the rest of my day.

My favourite and the most impacting episode I listened to was with Mo Isom (whom I’ll be featuring in an upcoming Favourites post!) episode 34, she is full of such Biblical wisdom and real, relatable, heartbreaking life experience. I found her story very compelling to hear. I’m looking forward to reading her new book Wreck My Life: Journeying from Broken to Bold in the near future. Honestly, it’s hard to choose favourites because every episode has impacted me in some way. Episode 24 with Tracy Levinson is also another favourite, she inspired me with her boldness in expressing her views to others and how she articulated her message on sexuality. Overall my favourite thing about Surviving Sarah is that the podcast is geared toward women. Not moms, or wives or singles or working moms or stay at home moms. Just women in whatever stage of life they are in. This is what really attracted me to Sarah’s podcast. I hold the same value with my blog, I want to appeal to a broad range of readers. Although I tend to write about what I’m going through, my intent is never to put my identity in being married or a wife. Those roles are only a part of who I am. I want this blog to express who I am as a person, what my interests are and my reflections on life. Sarah has a good balance of women from various stages and life experiences on her show. It’s great to learn from women who have been married for thirty years or who are first-time mothers. Although our experiences are different we can always learn from what others have gone through.

 


I’m going to end this post similar to how Sarah ends her interviews by listing a few things that are helping me survive! I’d love to hear what’s been helping you survive lately too (:
  • Podcasts! I’ve pretty much stopped listening to radio in favour of a good long podcast
  • The too rare conversations/hangouts I have with my mom and bestie <3
  • Baths I love relaxing in the warm water and reading a book for pleasure (right now I’m reading the true story behind the Sound of Music)
  • Music! I love listening to Spotify while I’m cleaning, making supper or just hanging out. It instantly brings my mood up

 

 

 

 

 

*post contains Amazon affiliate link, all opinions my own

Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy: How to Overcome the Comparison Game

Comparison is the thief of joy

Theodore Roosevelt

I’m never more unsatisfied or unhappy than when I’m comparing myself or my situation to another’s.

Don't Let Comparison Steal Your Joy: How I Overcame the Comparison Game

Yet, I do it all the time…

I perceive if I had her outfit or better hair or abs then I would be happier. If only we could have “date night” at a fancy restaurant or be as affectionate as that couple then our relationship would be “so much better”. As I scroll through Instagram looking at cute babies and young moms I just long to have that life because they get to stay home and take care of their sweet babies all day while I have to work or to school.

From a distance or on the other side of the screen everyone else’s life and appearance seem ideal to me. Perhaps that really pretty girl is also thinking she doesn’t look that great compared to the girl she saw on the bus. Or maybe that couple is putting on a front or they just had a huge fight prior. Maybe that young mom is wishing she could sleep in, have alone time with her husband or get a break from the pressures of being a mom.

I’m often only observing the surface of people’s lives. I’m sure others look at my life and may think similar things about me. I realize I am very blessed and I am very grateful and content with my life overall. Yet I have moments where in my sinfulness I lack a grateful heart and I’m overcome with wanting what I don’t have. I find these thoughts strike me when I’m bored or doing something I’d rather not be doing like working. It’s odd I don’t feel discontent when I’m driving with Michael loving life or jet skiing with friends or sleeping in on a weekday. I can be a slave to my unhealthy thoughts allowing them to rule my attitude rather than deciding to change my cognitions and my attitude. To be honest I’ve struggled with comparison for a long time. It’s tough to balance being content and grateful for knowing I have areas I want to improve while not beating myself up for where I’m at.

I have to change my thinking patterns. That’s why I try often to remember the quote above. I don’t want to live a life lacking joy. I want to be satisfied, happy, and not desiring what others seem to have.

I also find memorizing the scripture a great way to fight off negative thoughts, a long time ago I wrote out the following verse and posted it beside my bed. Every night I would be reminded of this truth and eventually, I came to know it by heart.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5

Ultimately, I’m most content when I’m not focusing on my own situation but instead turning my focus to God, through prayer or reading my Bible. I find it imperative to stay connected to the source of truth. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the lies of discontentment and comparison. I always try to go back to the gospel and meditate on how undeserving I am of God’s grace in providing restitution and forgiveness for my sin, something I could never do on my own. When I focus on Him I have nothing to be discontent about or wanting.


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