Winter Epiphanies & Favorites

 

 

Winter can be blah after the holidays are over. January and February feel bleak, cold and gray. This winter was unusually warm though, with a few spring-like days sprinkled in almost each week here in Alabama. I do like winter because I enjoy hibernating under a cozy blanket with a cup of coffee. However, on days that felt especially claustrophobic those unexpected days of sunshine were a breath of fresh air. A few other things this season made the winter months more pleasant. I made a list of 7 things I enjoyed or learned these past few months. Maybe you’ll find something on here to check out for yourself or just find encouragement.

 

  1. Glorious in the Mundane podcast by Christy Nockels

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I stumbled upon this back in December and have listened to every. single. episode. Christy has the wonderful ability to communicate her heart to her listeners. Her love for the Lord is undeniable. It’s in every episode. Plus she also interviews guests like Chris Tomlin, Beth Moore, Ellie Holcomb and Matt Redman. She encourages me to live out my faith with vulnerability and humility.

 

2. Write it down

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A friend gave me a sweet pink journal last month. It’s The Simplified Journal  by Emily Ley. The front cover says: “I will hold myself to a standard of Grace not perfection.” I love that quote. Plus it’s an organized journal which for me, helps declutter my brain in each proper section. I don’t know about you, but I can’t internalize things for very long or else things start to go very, very wrong. So writing down thoughts, feelings, or occasions can be a good practice. I even write out prayers sometimes so when I go back and read some of the entries, it is amazing to see how the Lord has worked in specific situations.

 

3. ‘The Crown’ on Netflix

This show is a look into Queen Elizabeth II’s life when she takes the throne upon her father’s untimely death. I love British monarch dramas and this didn’t disappoint. If anything, tune in to see John Lithgow play Winston Churchill. The man should win an Emmy.

 

4. Tavern Style Pot Roast for the win

Campbell’s Tavern Style Pot Roast sauce is going to change your life. I’m being a little dramatic but it is the easiest cooking you’ll ever do and dinner will be amazing. With this, you just plop a roast in the slow cooker and pour this sauce over it and you are done.

 

5. Permission to nap

I recently realized why I prefer summer vacation to the school year. When my five year old, Jesse, has rest/quiet time at home during the day I also give myself time to rest. But in the school year it feels like laziness. Why is that? Learning to be still is hard but I’m understanding that times of rest are necessary too and even productive, just in a different way.

 

6. Flowers make me happy

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I started buying flowers on sale in December to spruce up the dining room table. I do this about once a month as a small treat to myself. Now they usually go up on the mantel and just make me smile. Sometimes little things can make a big impact. It’s something I look forward to buying now. And if you live near an Aldi store, they usually have a small arrangement of flowers super cheap! Have I ever mentioned how much I love Aldi??

 

7. Becoming a planner is a good thing

I am not a natural planner or details oriented. I would rather leave that to someone else and just go with the flow. But that doesn’t always happen and if there is something fun or interesting I’d like to do then a plan of action must be set in motion. Sometimes I need to be the one to make it happen and invite someone else along. I did this recently by attending the Broken + Free tour in Nashville, and asking a friend to go with me. We had a fabulous time!

 

So is there anything you loved or learned over the winter? Every season Emily Freeman hosts all bloggers to join and share their seasonal favorites. I always find something new or interesting from someone else’s perspective, which is why I like linking up to her blog for these special posts.

 

Sometimes we do need to take time to look back, for a mental inventory of things we can be thankful for or encouraged by, even in the hardest of moments or seasons of life. Spring is just around the corner and I’m anticipating it, but I hope not to write off Winter too quickly either. That’s the lesson I want to learn: to find gratitude and beauty in every literal season and seasons of life.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

May Mayhem: the 5 things I learned

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May was a little crazy wasn’t it? End of the year celebrations and preparations for the fall school year all clash in one month. I am ready for the rhythm of slow with no-where to be by 8am each day thank you very much. I could tell the teachers were drained too, all pushing toward that finish line. Well, summer is here. But before you start applying sunscreen and head to the pool, here are a few things I learned in the mayhem of May.

  1. Sugar makes me tired.

I took a three-month hiatus from coffee recently (who was that crazy person?) to taper off from caffeine. Well the problem it turns out wasn’t necessarily the caffeine as it was the sugar I put into my coffee. Sprite causes energy crashes too and that’s caffeine free, but loaded with sugar! So, I have acquired a taste for coffee without sugar and now all is right with the world.

 

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“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

  1. Memorizing Scripture can be easy!

Do you struggle to memorize Bible verses? Well, I did and one day I saw a picture on Instagram from Mary Kate Robertson who wrote a verse on her hand. I thought it was a great idea to have a daily reminder on something I see everyday – my hand or wrist. I wrote about how I try to do this and I hope you find it helpful.

 

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  1. Parents are usually the best advocates for their kids.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The United States of Autism. A concerned father who has an autistic son set out with a film crew driving all over the country interviewing other families living with the reality of autism.

Some of those parents are fierce, going toe-to-toe with state legislature and even Congress, petitioning for insurance coverage for therapies or investigating the Health Department in vaccine requirements for children. Some believe there is a correlation between the number of vaccinations a child receives at one time and autism. Others debunk this idea and conclude it is mostly genetic. Fascinating stuff. Meanwhile, the autism numbers continue to climb and it seems the parents are the only voices speaking up for these children.

 

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  1. Let’s address how Crazy Busy we are.

In the Western culture especially we are crazy busy. Kevin DeYoung, pastor, speaker and writer, struggles with juggling it all too, which is why he wrote Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem. We push ourselves beyond our limits and it is killing us.

DeYoung talks about stewarding our time and why saying ‘yes’ to more than we should is really a heart issue. That got my attention, especially when he concludes that a lot of our busyness stems from pride in various forms. It’s a short read and definitely something to think about.

 

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  1. This month marks the 1 year anniversary of Redeemed In Grace.

I cannot believe it has already been a year since I took a deep breath and hit publish on Redeemed In Grace for the very first time. I have loved doing this – the writing, connecting, learning, and even iPhone photography (no one was more surprised than me).

I am thankful to you, who have taken your valuable time to read what I write. Thank you!!

The Lord continues to teach me more about Him and myself. I realize I’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how great God is. He leaves me hungry for more of Him, so this blog is part of that journey – learning in knowledge, growing in grace; redeemed by Him and for Him.

However your summer looks I hope you find time to slow down a bit and:

eat watermelon,

(and ice cream),

walk barefoot,

go to the library,

grill out,

and watch the Summer Olympics of course!

Have a happy June 🙂

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

when you need to be reminded

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Recently I was reminded that I need to be reminded. Sometimes as a believer I forget who I am in Christ. Part of this problem is occupying my mind with what the world says, thinks and does. Worse, when I believe the lies about who I am, or rather, who I am not. The Bible talks about defending ourselves with the armor of God. So, what does that look like exactly? One active way is to memorize Bible verses.

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

I have dipped my toe in memorizing Scripture in the past but not really pursued it. Most of the verses written on my heart are the fruits of years in Awanas growing up, an old cassette tape singing truth, and Bible class during the awkward years.

Lately there has been a gnawing in my spirit for more – more of God. The restless hunger prompted action. I find that when I commit His Word to my mind, the heart changes too. I begin to love the Bible all over again. God’s Word really is alive as it awakens parts of me I didn’t realize were dormant.

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Speaking Scripture aloud that flows from within is life giving. Slowly, like a bloom that just needs water, light, and time, I begin to spread out my petals little by little. Tight fists can’t receive anything. I open my hands wide and He starts the work of satisfying my soul. Day by day this process occurs. His blessing of filling is not a one-time act. No, in His extravagant love God gives us Himself every day. His mercies are fresh each moment.

So how is this done practically in a world that seeks to snuff out God altogether? Well, the Israelites used to write Scripture and bind them on their foreheads. God knows we are a forgetful bunch so He graciously tells us over and over to remember and do not forget. When we get caught up in the blessings or the trials of life our focus is shifted off of Him and onto the circumstances.

To help combat that, I have started writing out a verse each day to meditate on and try to memorize. I write the first letter of each word on my hand plus the Bible reference. It fades away throughout the day between hand washing and scrubbing pans in the sink. That’s kind of the point so hopefully at the end of the day I have memorized one verse.

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“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5

Personally this way is less intimidating than remembering whole chunks of Scripture at once. I still might memorize a passage, but it is one verse at a time. As the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” (which forgive the example, because, gross). Somehow this way my goal seems realistic. I also secretly hope a stranger notices the scribbles on my hand and inquires about it. What a unique opportunity to quote Scripture huh?!

Is there something you dream of achieving but the obstacles look insurmountable? I’d like to gently encourage you that you do not have to master it all at once. Inch by inch, day by day; chip away at it, whatever it is. You’ll soon see progress, looking back over your shoulder at what was accomplished, and the mountain you climbed without even realizing it. Failure is not starting at all.

Maybe start a journey of committing Scripture to memory too. It helps us claim our identity when we feel lost in a sea of forgetfulness. Remember who you are, whose you are. You belong to Someone. We are a free people, redeemed by grace. We don’t have to listen to what the world says or even care about what they think about us. Use the truth filter God has given us in His Word. You have a place at His table, as His daughter or son, as His beloved.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

All About April

Happy April!

I realize the obnoxious use of self in the title however the post really is all about the month. It just also happens to be my name. Never pass up a good pun, friends.

This month’s finds are for the cook who would just like to press the ‘easy’ button every now and then, family celebrations, the lost art of penmanship and the best DIY show ever. Enjoy!

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  1. The Frugal Girls

It’s 3pm and you have no clue what you’re going to feed your tribe for dinner. Why do they need to eat every. single. day?…(half kidding). So your culinary skills are spent and you need an easy fix. Go to The Frugal Girls immediately and never worry about dinner problems ever again. (And all the moms rejoice!). The Frugal Girls offer tons of easy, affordable, crockpot recipes. Trust me, you’ll be a rock star and your family will thank you for feeding them tonight.

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  1. God Centered Mom Podcast

I’ve mentioned before how I love the Mom Struggling Well podcast. Well, Emily Thomas recently recommended another one on her show called the God Centered Mom. It has blessed me you guys. I think any mom, regardless of what season she is in can benefit from podcasts like these. I hope you give them both a try and that you are encouraged as well.

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  1. The Master Penman

Apparently the art of penmanship is a fading art due to the modern world of technology. Kids don’t learn to craft their writing when laptops are available in every classroom from a wee age. Jake Weidmann is one of twelve Master Penmen in the world and he is also the youngest by three decades.

Maybe it’s the writer in me that is so fascinated by this. I still write out my posts first with pen and paper. Take a look at this very skilled artist and how he wields a pen.

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  1. Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman

I’m open on my blog about having a son on the autism spectrum. Since April is Autism Awareness month I thought I’d share a book I’ve just read. This book is an insightful read into the mind of an autistic child.

It’s a gem for parents or any friend or family member who has a loved one on the spectrum. Raun Kaufman established the Autism Treatment Center of America under The Son-Rise Program. He is witty and a great cheerleader for our kids! Kaufman recalls having autism as a child and how his parents helped him overcome his challenges – as in cured.

I promise this book isn’t hokey. He offers techniques and activities to help, but most importantly your attitude as the parent. Kaufman encourages parents to “[see] your child’s abilities rather than focusing on supposed deficiencies” (p. 268).

If you know someone who could use encouragement with an autistic child, maybe wrap this one up as a special gift just for them.

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  1. Surprises and celebrations

April is a big month of partying in my family. My grandfather, aunt, and dad all have birthdays this month crammed into one week. Squeeze into that Jason’s and my anniversary. Jesse’s birthday is about a week later.

What made this one special is my dad turning 60 and throwing him a surprise party at his favorite restaurant (Cracker Barrel anyone?). Mom managed to keep it a secret and got him there none the wiser. Family and friends came to help celebrate and the look on dad’s face was priceless when he walked in.

Another milestone was Jesse turning a whole hand. So we decided to go big this year. We haven’t done huge birthday parties in the past, because it’s been a mercurial thing for our little guy. He has had trouble in the past with hearing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song and any kind of cheering or candles. This year? This year a blessing happened. The party went off without a hitch and we. sang. to. him. We sang our sweet boy ‘Happy Birthday’ as he stood on a chair to see everyone, wearing his birthday crown (another miracle).

Celebrating life moments are important. It doesn’t always have to be flashy and spectacular. Sometimes it can be. What matters are the people we honor and how we make them feel on their special moments. Loving others well looks like keeping a surprise secret, showing up, birthday cake, balloons, hugs, the gift of laughter, and food of course.

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  1. Fixer Upper

I recently started watching this show and concluded one thing. I am definitely not a DIY girl, but sure enjoy sitting on my couch watching others transform something blah into spectacular. Chip and Joanna Gaines are so adorable with each other too. This show on HGTV (or Netflix, yay!) is worth watching just to hear Chip’s quirky quips and antics (one time he ate a cockroach) or see Joanna’s flawless taste in interior design.

 

What are things you’re into this month? Did you have things to celebrate or occasions to remember? Hopefully it was a good month for you as well. Looking forward to walking through May with you. What is the saying, “spring comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”? I think we’re at the lamb part you guys. Press on into May!

 

My Coffee Addiction

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For those who know me, you understand my appreciation of the coffee bean; some may even call it love. The thing is, I talk about it so much that others have concluded I’m a 12 cups-a-day addict. Not so, friend. In the past I have just reallllly looked forward to my morning cup of joe. My sanity and irritability level depended on it.

I occasionally indulged in a second cup by early afternoon, especially in the winter, but that was more for warmth than anything else. Caffeine after 3pm just makes me jumpy and jittery like a spooked cat (or my parents’ insane dog).

I always had a huge crash from coffee, leaving me feeling zombie-like. There is regular tired and then there is the heavy, exhausted curl up on the couch and never get up tired. My whole body felt like it was weighted down with no energy.

So, like a crazy person I decided to do the next logical thing. Roughly over a month ago, I stopped drinking coffee cold turkey. It’s funny because I said that I wasn’t a coffee addict, but my body told me otherwise. The next day consisted of a full-blown migraine. It wasn’t pretty ya’ll. But after getting over that I have felt like an entirely different human being: calmer, nicer, not likely to fall asleep at 10am… I still get tired occasionally like every other normal person because hello, life? But I don’t feel like a zombie either.

I am also known for getting frequent headaches. Basically anytime the wind changes direction it seems like I have one. It’s due partly to living in an area surrounded by hills, which is the equivalent to living in a bowl with all pollen, air pressure, pet dander, and grass serving as a petri dish for the natives. I don’t claim to have a firm knowledge on how all this works, I only experience it, but I digress.

Would you believe I have had just a couple since coming off caffeine? That takes the percentage down like 85% or something. And it’s a down right miracle compared to a couple each week!

All I’m saying is that one simple change has made a big difference. Even my husband Jason notices I’m a little sweeter, patient, and present in life. It just goes to show that life changes don’t have to be big, drastic (although this might qualify), or scary. Sometimes an effective change can be very simple, like choosing to take vitamins, drink more water, or walk outside for 30 minutes a day. I realize my examples are all health related, but it doesn’t have to be for you. Choose something that would help you feel better physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. After a while you forget to have to make yourself, and discipline becomes habit.

Do I miss coffee? Heck yes. And eventually I may treat myself to a latte or iced coffee, but it won’t be a regular thing anymore. I feel so much better that the benefits actually outweigh my love for the coffee bean.

Is there a simple change you have been thinking about making? I’d love to know! Share in the comments section.

Grace upon grace,

April

 

a thank you note

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The world is full of change and possibilities, not to sound naively optimistic just because it’s almost the New Year. Everyone makes goals they want to keep- to be better, do better. The slate seems wiped clean so why not? But before we take a fresh start, let’s look over our past year. What did God teach you? How have you grown? Do you have new friends, family members, interests or hobbies? Life usually changes little by little when we aren’t looking. So here is to looking back at 2015 to see the steady, slow rhythm of life.

In January I participated in the One Word challenge through the (in)courage community. I chose ‘Grace’ for my word to think about for 2015. I turned it over and over in my mind until the deep multi-layered meaning of such a word became a favorite gem to savor. I wanted to know what it looked like for myself, how I extend this toward others, and most importantly how it relates to what Christ did on the Cross -for me, a sinner in need of overwhelming grace. From this one little word birthed the beginnings of a discovery. I found out I really enjoy encouraging others through writing, so I created Redeemed in Grace in May. This also took courage for me to become a little vulnerable and lay it out there for all the world to see. But it was about courage to become more fully myself as well.

I am deeply grateful to anyone who has read anything I wrote. You are one of the reasons I write. I hope it helped someone not to feel alone and that you were uplifted too. Some of the posts written were personal but also the most widely read and well received. Part of the reason I decided to share about secondary infertility and what life is like with a special needs child was for my own version of therapy (and it was free). It really helped to sort out my thoughts and emotions by putting pen to paper. Thank you reader for handling with care. That means the world to me.

Life is often unpredictable and messy. It is also a great adventure as a Christian to witness God’s faithfulness displayed in small and big life events. It takes a little bravery to become transparent, sharing struggles and pain. When we take off the shiny veneer and open our hearts the walls begin to come down. And then we realize that we are all just people with everyday weaknesses and trials. God intends for us to love one another in such a way that we become a tangible Jesus, the Living Church.

Through writing in 2015 I also had to overcome a lot of introverted tendencies (still working on it). Writing gave me a voice, which is great even though I’d rather hide behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. A true wallflower that is way more comfortable behind the scenes (unless there is a stage with a fabulous character to play, but I digress). As an extroverted introvert I have to work at this. I absolutely enjoy being around others, but I need time by myself to recharge too. I have to force myself sometimes not to stay there too long just because it’s more comfortable and safe.

Courage. That is what happened this year. I received courage to share and be open. I read something recently that said when we allow ourselves to open up only then can we be filled up. I want to fill myself with the work of Christ so that I can pour out His truth treasure onto others. I want to have open hands and a receptive heart for 2016. Whatever the Lord needs to teach me in the coming year I hope I can be an eager and attentive student.

Thank you for your time spent here, it is valuable to me. Keep an eye out for 2016. There are things I look forward to sharing with you. What would you like to see on this blog? Any subject in particular? I cherish your feedback. Blessings to you and a very happy New Year!

Grace upon grace,

April

 

What August has taught me

514412697My last post was about how the world seems to be spinning at rapid speed and how most of us do not take enough time to enjoy the present and slow down. So, in the spirit of that, I want to take time to reflect on the month of August and a few things I have learned and/or discovered. It ranges from the deeper things of life to the not so much.

#1 Jillian Michaels kicks my tail every.single.time.

  I have been doing her Yoga Meltdown dvd for a few years now….not consistently of course. Every time I think I got this, the woman yells at me from the t.v. and tells me “Do NOT phone this in!!!” Ugh. I believe she can see my half attempts from her studio. She knows. She always knows. And yet I’m thankful the next day feeling the soreness (which means I worked something, right?) and stiffness. I may not accomplish much during the day, but at least I finished a 30 minute workout video for what that’s worth.

#2 I am learning to be an advocate for my son even when it might annoy others. 

My son started a new school this year and because of his special needs I felt a huge amount of worry. I want his teachers and therapists to understand him, to know his strengths and weaknesses. They will over time, but I wanted it to happen right out of the gate. When it comes to someone else taking care of him, I am not relaxed about it. I need to know your credentials and experience, etc. So I emailed his teacher and did ask her those things in the most polite way I knew how. She was very nice about it and answered my questions. Communication is key, I realize. I have gathered his therapists emails and contacted them and I may ask a lot of questions but I figure we all need to be on the same page anyway. This shy girl who would prefer to “go with the flow” and keep her head down is learning to be a voice these days.

IMG_3825#3 Hannah More is an amazing woman that I wish more people knew about.

I recently finished reading Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior. It is a biography on Hannah More and it. is. incredible!!! There are few books in my life that are truly life changing and this is one of them. Hannah was the female counterpart to William Wilberforce during Great Britain’s abolition movement. While he focused on the political reform to end the slave trade, she worked the social and cultural scene to show how uncivilized trading humans like cattle was. One of my favorite quotes from her is: “It should be held as an eternal truth, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right” (136). I guess also because it draws for me such strong parallels to the cultural war we face today on abortion. One quote from the author in which I could not help but think about infanticide (i.e. abortion) is: “The social conscience had drawn a veil over the horrific business of trade in human flesh. The veil had to be lifted” (125).  It is an inspiring read, plus there are fancy sounding names like the Bluestocking Circle and the Clapham Sect that I want to resurrect somehow.

#4 It is okay to ask for prayer.

Recently I had a dear friend over and we visited for quite a while. As she was getting ready to go home, I felt a strong sense from the Spirit to ask for prayer. The kind of feeling that you know you need to obey. Here is a little of the inner dialogue that went on in my heart: Spirit: Ask for prayer. Me: What? I’ve got this. She has enough on her plate, I don’t need to bother her with my struggles. Spirit: Ask for prayer. Me: But she’s about to leave and its too much to explain and I’ll just wait for another time. Spirit: Ask for prayer.

So I actually had to swallow my (pride? fear?) and with a dose of courage ask her for prayer on a certain issue. Asking another brother or sister in Christ to pray for you or with you can sometimes be hard, especially if the request leaves you feeling very, very vulnerable. It is also humbling, which is apparently what I needed as well. But we share in each other’s burdens as well as each other’s joys, right? Not only are we blessed by their prayers, it allows them an opportunity to minister.

515831109#5 Celebrate Tuesdays.

This one comes from a book that I’m currently reading called Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman. I would also recommend this. I’m not done with it yet, but the idea is to celebrate our smallness and the small things that God has planned for us. She writes: “We don’t have to worry that embracing smallness will shrink our impact […] In all our small ways, it is Christ who makes it possible for us to move through our lives, believing and trusting he is establishing his kingdom-sized purposes within and around us” (37). Emily talks about how Tuesday seems to be the day that is just squished in the week without given much thought. It is just a Tuesday, not a weekend day, or a Friday, or the middle of the week, or the start of the work week. It’s just…..small, simple, little Tuesday. She encourages her readers to appreciate the ordinary times, especially in our fast moving world and live our lives for Jesus in those moments as well.

On an end note to celebrate more Tuesdays, I had breakfast at a cafe this past Tuesday by myself and thoroughly enjoyed it! I had a crepe for the first time, stuffed with blueberries, strawberries, and bananas with honey drizzled on the top and a side of whipped cream. My eyes were the size of Montana when I saw that thing! And it was heavenly of course. Top it off with a vanilla latte in a Friends-sized coffee cup and I could have floated to Paris.

And if we really want to get started about celebrating Tuesday, this one coming up just so happens to be this girl’s birthday. So, yeah, I’ll keep up the tradition, at least until next Tuesday.

Grace upon grace,

April