Monday, April 9, 2018

Merrick's Baby Room

We've been done with Merrick's room for a while; just adding little touches here and there.  We are so excited, and ready, for his arrival.  We are a few days shy of 37 weeks and ready to go.  Here are details of our baby room.  (I remember clicking on Pinterest pages for inspiration myself, and I appreciated it when the blog told me what and where they got things from.  So, here you go.)

Crib: Fisher-Price Aubree 4-in-1 Convertible Crib.  We bought ours from Kohl's online because of Koh'ls cash and coupons (link).

Wall Color: Accent wall is Sherwin Williams Candlestick Silver 30YY 46/036 (eggshell). 

The other three walls are Sherwin Williams Sutton Place Grey 30YY 54/030 (eggshell). 

The baseboards and closet are Behr BL-W09 Bakery Box white.  Gloss for the baseboards and closet, low sheen for the ceiling.

Crib Sheets:  Fitted Crib Sheets - Whales - Navy - Cloud Island from Target. (link)

Tip:  Put a waterproof mattress protector on the mattress followed by a crib sheet.  Then put on a second waterproof mattress protector followed by a crib sheet.  That way, in the middle of the night, if you need to change sheets, you just have to take off the top layer.

Waterproof Crib Mattress Cover: Amazon - American Baby Company Waterproof Fitted Crib and Toddler Protective Mattress Pad Cover, White (link)

Crib Mattress:  Serta iComfort EverCool 2 Stage Dual Sided Crib and Toddler Mattress

Crib Skirt: 
Ikea - Len Crib Skirt - White (link)

Letters on the Wall:  White Wood Letters from Hobby Lobby (link)

Giant Teddy Bear (right):  Found at Costco for $20, but can be a seasonal item.  Usually around Christmas.

Blue Velvet Elephant Ottoman (right):  This was gifted to us from Overstock.  It's called Rosie Velvet Elephant Ottoman by Christopher Knight Home - Light Blue (link).

White Stuffed Animal Basket (left):  Large Round Woven Bin - Room Essentials from Target. (link)  These are our stuffed animals we had as kids and put them in a basket for display.

Baby Monitor (pictured left above the blue Chelsea Scarf on the wall):  Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor with Interchangeable Optical Lens.  Best rated on Amazon with 19,000+ ratings. (link)

The rocking horse was my husband's when he was a kid and my mother-in-law refurbished it.

Rocking Chair:  DaVinci Olive Upholstered Swivel Glider with Bonus Ottoman and Pillow.  Color is dark grey.  We got ours without the piping, but here's the only link I could find on Amazon (link).

Book Shelves:  Ikea - Mosslanda Picture Ledge - White.  (link)

Side Table:  Ikea - Hemnes - 2 drawer chest - white. (link)

Chevron Blanket:  Found this on clearance at Kohl's.  Sorry, no link.

Ikea tip: Alway check the "as is" section first. You can find great deals on returned items that are not only assembled, but in great condition.

 Changing Table / Dresser: Ikea - Hemnes 8-drawer Dresser.  Used as a changing table (because it's higher and easier on my back) and dresser.  (link).

Changing Pad: Amazon - Summer Infant 4-sided changing pad (link)

Changing Pad Cover (Navy):  Amazon - American Baby Company Heavenly Soft Chenille Fitted Contoured Changing Pad Cover, Navy.  (link)

Tip: Get 2 of these.

Changing Pad Liners:  Amazon - Munchkin Waterproof Changing Pad Liners.  (link). 

Tip: Get 2 sets of these.  Take one liner, cut it in half and line your car seat with it.  That way, when there's a blowout, you just have to remove the liner instead of clean the whole car seat. 

Drawer Organizers:  Ikea - Skubb - Box set of 6 - white (link)  Great for organizing clothes and smaller items in such large drawers.

Lamp:  Target - Linen Textured Ceramic Small Lamp Base - Dark Blue - Threshold (link).  Pair with a white lamp shade to your liking.  We added a dimmer switch so we can have flexibility with lighting.

Storage Box (right side of changing table):  Amazon - JJ Cole Heather Storage box, Slate, 6.5" (link).  Using this for diapers, diaper cream, aquaphor, etc.

Diaper Wipes Dispenser:  Amazon - Ubbi Baby Wipes Dispenser with Weighted Plate - Grey (link)

Diaper Genie (to the right of changing table):  Amazon - Playtex Diaper Genie Complete Diaper Pail with Odor Lock Technology - White (link)

Star (wall decor):  We found this wooden star at a local shop in Texas and spray painted it navy blue.

Frames:  Ikea - Ribba (link).  I created the scripture in the frames on photoshop with a navy blue background and white text, and printed them at Costco.

Storage Cubes:  Ikea - Kallax (link)

Storage Cube Bins:  Target - Navy - Fabric Cube Storage Bin (13") - Threshold (link)

Humidifier:  Amazon - VAVA Cool Mist Humidifier (link)

Glass Jar for Binkies:  Target - Anchor Heritage Glass Jar (link)

Curtains and Curtain Rods:  We got these from Bed Bath & Beyond.  I don't have a link, but we had to try several to get the right length and look.  Remember your 20% off coupon when you shop here.

Ceiling Fan:  Home Depot - Hampton Bay - Rockport 52 in. Indoor Matte White Ceiling Fan with Light Kit (link)

Diaper Bag:  Amazon - Skip Hop Forma Travel Carry All Diaper Backpack with Insulate Bag, Black (link).

Living Room Area:

Because we live in a two story, we have these two items downstairs.
Rock 'n Play:  Amazon - Fisher-Price Auto Rock'n Play Sleeper, Aqua Stone (link)

Play Gym:  Amazon - Little Sports Star Play Gym (link).  FYI: The soccer ball makes noise and there are two squeakers.  Therefore, our dog thinks it's hers.

Flooring:  I just used the same black mats that I have in our home gym that interlock.  First for extra padding, and second to protect our wood floors.  (link)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I'm a Pregnant Elephant

It sounds offensive, I know, but it's not intended to be.  You see, Asian Elephants are pregnant between 18-22 months.  We first got pregnant in October 2016.  Our first miscarriage was in late December 2016 (read about it here), then pregnant again in March 2017, followed by a miscarriage in late April 2017 (read about that one here).  Then we conceived again in August 2017 and we just hit our 20-week mark and are due at the end of April.  So if you combine all those together, I've basically been pregnant like an elephant.  It's been a total of 19 months of my body being extremely confused and going through the most radical rollercoaster of changes during that time.

Elephants are pregnant for so long because there's a lot of development going on.  They are the one of the largest mammals, so it makes sense that they have the longest period of growing a baby.  Maybe the comparison here for me is the maturity growth I've needed over this time.  It's clear to me the ways that God has already moved in this journey.

It started with the word humility at the start of 2016 - -  a trait I lacked for sure.  But it was humility that I needed to go through our first miscarriage.  Humility to be able to say "I need help" or "I'm not okay" or "no I can't" and to reveal our truth.  I needed (and still need) humility to talk openly and be vulnerable about our story.

A year later in early 2017, the new word for the year was patience. And boy did I need patience!  There's something very lonely after going through a life changing event, where at some point everyone drifts away.  There's not a lot of support anymore because it only goes for so long.  So at times you're alone and isolated.  That's when you start to question things and truly feel the feelings of sadness.  I needed patience when the friends around me were getting pregnant on seemingly their first try.  I needed patience to heal and then to conceive again.  When we got pregnant the second time, I needed patience for each day that passed by.  When we went through the physical part of our second miscarriage, which was a complete blind side, I needed patience for my husband who was rightfully angry and upset.  I needed patience to process the passing since it was completely different than the first.  And I use patience now for every day and every week that passes that we are still pregnant with our baby now.

Today is a joyous day.  A celebratory day for Austin and myself.  We just had our 20-week scan and praise God that all things are measuring healthy.  Our little boy, Merrick Landau, is doing amazing!  He was curled and tucked up during the scan, but active and constantly moving.  Because of that, I need to go back next week to get a couple more measurements, but all that means for me is I get to see our little boy again.  The doctor confirmed that everything looked great as well and saw no signs of concern.

We are overjoyed, excited and praising God for the journey, humility and continued patience and for His will, not ours.  He always has a great plan.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Our Second Miscarriage

Here we are again.  We had a second miscarriage last week. Our first was back in December (read more here).  This one was different though.  We had no idea we should even expect a miscarriage.  It felt like a strong right hook across your face, but you never saw the punch coming.  Afterwards you're spinning, confused and lost.  But most of all, it stings.

We were up in Dallas for a work event when all this went down.  I was almost 7 weeks and I started having severe symptoms.  Because of my experience with Shrubs #1 (we are the Bush family, so our little babies are called Shrubs), I knew Shrubs #2 was in danger.  It was there in an emergency clinic in Arlington, TX at 1 A.M. where we learned there was no heartbeat and my body was in fact going through a miscarriage.  There is no explanation.

We wanted to get back home to see my doctor first thing in the morning because we didn't know what was to follow.  So my husband and I drove through the night back to Round Rock and got in at 5 AM.  The drive time was therapeutic and we got to discuss our feelings and really process everything that just happened.

They say each pregnancy and delivery is different.  They're right.  Just like each miscarriage is different.  This one took my body five days to process and I was able to avoid surgery.  Whereas last time I had to have an emergency D&C.

We are heartbroken and sad, but we remain faithful.  Here is what God has revealed to me so far (and I love that it's a refreshing and different message than last time.)

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." - 1 Peter 1:6

Trials are part of the refining process.  Just like gold when it's heated.  The impurities float to the top and can be skimmed off refining it.  All believers face trials when they let their light shine into the darkness.  These trials should strengthen our faith.

We must take away these three things:

CONFIDENCE: It's hard to understand the "why" when these things happen (especially as a millennial).  We must have confidence that God will align our desires with his purpose.  "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4.

PERSEVERANCE:  Expressing grief and sadness is okay, but persevere and do not give into bitterness and despair.  Satan (the enemy) is full of bitter, envy, selfish ambition, disorder and evil.  But our God and his wisdom is full of mercy, grace, love, peace and righteousness.

COURAGE:  Jesus died for us.  He will never abandon us.  Jesus carries us through everything.

James tells us the same message.  "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4.  "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." - James 1:12. 

James says "whenever", not "if".  We WILL go through trials.  Tough times teach us perseverance (patience or steadfastness).  We are called to maintain a positive outlook when he says "consider it pure joy."  I choose joy.

Joy knowing that Shrubs #1 and Shrubs #2 are in heaven.  Joy in the fact that when those babies opened their eyes for the first time they saw Jesus.  Joy that I had them, even if just for a moment.

Each day will not be easy or joyful.  But that's where, with our faith, we will persevere.

We don't really know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure and trials.  This is part of the refining process.  God will not leave us alone when we go through pain and suffering.  He will be alongside us, holding, growing and maturing us. We just need to hold on to the faith.

I share our story with you because I am called to.  I am an ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and Jesus himself tells us, "What I tell you in the dark, speak in daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." - Matthew 10:27.

For myself and for you, know this.  God loves you so much he gave his only son (John 3:16).  He has loved you at your darkest (Romans 5:8).  He saw you before the light of day and knows the plans he has for you (Jeremiah 1:5).  He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless (Isaiah 40:29).  God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

This has brought me peace and I pray it will bring you peace too.  'Thy will be done.'  God will fulfill every promise.  All of his plans will come to light.  Rest in that.  Find peace.  There is no need to stress between now and when his plans are fulfilled because they are going to be completed no matter what.  So why stress in the process?

Now... we wait.  As patiently as possible, we wait.  We wait, while also knowing what we're waiting for might not fall in line exactly with what we hope for.  Yet, we must remain steadfast that our happiness is in the promise and plan of Jesus alone.  So while we wait, obedience is key above all else.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Finding Peace in our Miscarriage

December 28th our first pregnancy ended.  We had a miscarriage. It was confirmed that the heartbeat had stopped at 9 weeks & 2 days, but the baby had not passed yet.  We had some difficult decisions to be made and a lot of pain physically to be endured.  I’m going to tell you about our sweet journey and how we accepted grace and are giving glory to God in all of this.

But here’s what I need you to know before reading any further.  This is our story, our perspective and our experience.  Each experience is different.  For the mothers that have gone through this, are going through this, or might go through this, our story is not to inflict guilt, shame or anything negative, but to shed light on the positive.  For those that have not and will never go through something like this, this story is for you to read and learn, not to judge or condemn.  To set some firm boundaries, I will only accept positive words of encouragement and love.  If you do not like our story that is fine.  Just move along then.

There’s a long faithful story on how we got to baby #1 with patience and faith.  That’s for another blog post.  I’m going to refer to our baby as Shrubs.  We are the Bushes and we nicknamed our little baby Shrubs.   The estimated due date was July 31. 2017.  We were thrilled to be first time parents after almost 7 years of marriage.  At our first appointment the gestational sac was measuring 2 weeks behind the size of the baby.  That increased our risk of miscarriage to about 50%.  Austin and I were both very positive, faithful and had no reason to believe why this wouldn’t work out.

On Christmas morning I had some very light bleeding that brought me to tears.  This is a “normal” side effect of a first trimester pregnancy, but with the uphill battle we had, it gave me great fear.  As we know, the enemy loves to plant fear in our lives.  It gives us doubt and persuades us not to do things that maybe God wants us to do.

Two days later I had severe cramping and even more bleeding.  The next day we saw the doctor and had an ultrasound that confirmed our worst case scenario. At 9 weeks and 2 days, Shrubs’ heartbeat had stopped.  With reassurance from the doctor, there was nothing, I mean nothing, that we could have done differently that would have changed the outcome of this pregnancy.  Here’s what I thought in that moment: Shrubs was not meant to be.  I have faith in our all powerful creator.  “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace” - 1 Corinthians 14:33.  He knows what He is doing.  God is not confused or disorganized, but the master of the master plan.  God has mine & Austin’s child(ren) already hand picked.  They might be biological children, adopted children or a mix. Not sure yet.  But I will find out.

Tears were shed.  Mostly uncontrollable hormonal tears.  I had great insight from a friend who was all too familiar with our situation.  Allowing Shrubs to pass naturally can take up to 8 weeks.  Our other options were pills to induce the passing, or a D&C to medically remove Shrubs.  We opted to start the pills the next day, but if it failed, we scheduled a D&C for the following day.

The process started naturally that evening and I was in severe pain.  Remember, every pregnancy, miscarriage and birth are different.  That’s why the decision making process can be so hard.  There are so many different variables for each individual.  To put my pain tolerance into perspective, I had my gallbladder surgically removed in 2013 and I had a broken disk removed from my back in 2015.  Both times after surgery, I refused medicine and endured the pain naturally.  But this… this was a whole different ball game.  I was cramping so bad it brought me to my knees, I was throwing up with chills and sweating.  My body was rejecting what had happened inside with Shrubs and it wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.  My biggest fear in life is death.  In that moment, I was perfectly at peace dying. Because it would have taken all the pain away and I would be heaven bound.  So we made the move to go to the ER.

Morphine never felt so good!  Eventually at 1AM I had a D&C and had Shrubs surgically removed.  It was the right decision for us.  It was better to happen then, instead of enduring the pain for another 48 hours until my scheduled D&C.  It worked for us and we are happy with our decision. It allows us to heal physically from this faster, and move forward.

Here’s what I really want to share with you all.  My resounding message in all of this is to accept grace and seek God.  Grace is unconditional kindness issued to someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve it.  Grace wins every time!

Yes, I am sad we lost Shrubs.  But I have peace. I know that one day we will have a Baby Bush to love on.  And we will be happy. Or maybe there is no Baby Bush in our future.  And we will be happy.  This cannot define our happiness.  Only knowing that God is in control and that Jesus died for my sins can define our happiness.

I have a handful of friends that have had miscarriages.  Some now have kids, and some don’t.  Some are still trying and some are happily living as just a married couple with no kids.   But from what I’ve seen, I have learned what not to do and what to do.

For us, this is what to do:
  • Stay focused on God and accept His grace!
  • Stay positive and see the glory in the good. I’m so thankful for the timing of our miscarriage.  I was able to get through the busiest time of work without any complications, I was able to enjoy my 30th birthday party and was able to have almost a week-long vacation with my parents.  I’m so thankful for the great doctors and nurses and for a patient and loving husband.  I’m thankful this all wrapped up when it did, so I can start 2017 with a fresh start.  So many positives.
  • Bring people in.  We have such an incredible support group of friends and family.  We made the choice to tell some of them about Shrubs, and then also share with them news about the complications and ultimately the miscarriage.  I’ve never received more delivered cookies in my life! :)  They have been very sweet and I know most of them have been praying for us, making this all a little easier.
  • Be honest.  It’s okay to be sad, angry or confused.  But be honest and talk about it.  Seek help if you need help.  It’s okay to grieve and process everything that just happened.

For us, this is what we’ve learned not to do:
  • Don’t isolate yourself.  This will only make things worse.  The enemy will attack.  You’ll start blaming yourself or hating God.  Putting up a wall and not letting people love you won’t make any of this go away.
  • Ignoring this issue.  This is life. It happened.  It sucks.  I’m sorry if this has happened to you.  I’m sure there are some future dates that will suck for us.  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Shrubs’ due date immediately come to mind.  But they shouldn’t be ignored.  They need to be tackled head on.
  • Not talking to your partner.  Communication is huge!  Austin and I talked about every decision along the way.  His support, patience and love can never be measured.  After it all passed, we had the hard conversations.  Do we still want to try to have kids?  If so, then when?  When is too soon? When do we stop trying?  How are you feeling?  What are your thoughts?  How do you feel today?  Are you comfortable with the decisions we made?  What would you do differently?  How do you want to talk about it?  Who do we need to inform next?  Etc.  This can go on forever!  Just talk it out and get on the same page.

Here are some truths for you to focus on that I’ve found that are helpful.

“The Lord is greater than the giants you face.” - 1 John 4:4
He is greater!  No matter the problem, He will overcome.  Evil is stronger than we are, but God is even stronger.  

“I will sustain you.” - Isaiah 46:4
He will sustain us.  How comforting is this?!  He is a powerful God.  He needs nothing else.  He loves us through death by sending his only son to die on the cross for our sins.  He’s the ultimate giver.

“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9
God’s promise is that he will always be with us.  God’s plan is greater than any of our plans will ever be and we must be faithful in His truth.  Just because you’ve gone through a miscarriage (or multiple ones) doesn’t mean that God won’t provide.  Remember...

“God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” - 1 Corinthians 14:33
He knows what he is doing.  Our God is a God of order and the master of the master plan.  He offers peace and truth and light.  Let this give you rest.  He does not make mistakes.  We can the play the “what if” game all day.  Maybe losing Shrubs was because he was going to have a medical disorder that we wouldn’t be able to afford … or maybe it would have killed me and I haven’t accomplished God’s plan for me on Earth yet … or maybe he’s going to give us twins later on so I only have to have one birth instead of two.  Who knows!?! This game can go on forever, but I know that our God is powerful and mighty and trustworthy. And if he’s got a bigger plan than mine, then I want that too.

“Be completely humble, and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace. - Ephesians 4:23
Women unite!  Miscarriage is not a topic to judge or tear people down.  Everyone and every situation is different. I encourage you to love on everyone. If you know someone who went through this or is going through this and you don’t know what to say, just say “I’m sorry”.  And be there for them.  Love on them and pray for them however they may need it.  We are to be united in Christ.  We all have flaws and we deal with things in different ways.  I’ve found my peace right now in losing Shrubs.  Others haven’t.  I might not always have this peace, but this is why I must always seek Him. Which leads me to…

“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” - Matthew 7:7-8
Ask for what you’re looking for.  Pray for it boldly.  Seek Him constantly.  That’s what I need to constantly push myself to do.  And knock.  The door will be opened for you.  There’s no if, ands or buts about it.  It will be opened.  But it’s His timing, remember, he’s the master of the master plan.

We have found our peace and happiness in the miscarriage of Shrubs.  We will meet Shrubs in heaven one day and this is how it was all supposed to work out.

Monday, May 16, 2016


I had a major moment over the weekend regarding my "picky eating" and obedience.  They collided.

The word "obedience" has been slapping me across the face over the past couple of weeks.  It has been showing up everywhere.  In every book, every study, every scripture, every message and every conversation.  So I impose the question, "what am I being disobedient in?"

I feel like my life is pretty balanced right now.  Marriage.  Career.  Fitness.  Friends.  Family.  Church.  Volunteering.  Quiet time.

Well, I started a study called "Gideon" by Priscilla Shirer.  It's about finding your weaknesses in God's strength.  Mostly about obedience.  It only took one chapter for me to finally figure out my disobedience.

There are so many God things that happened on Friday night that I couldn't possibly explain.  Austin (husband) and my dog were out of town.  This allowed me to have a distraction free night and to be able to focus on myself fully.  I wasn't going to even do this study that night, but my friend LaRonda had encouraged me to tune into a live event, which then motivated me to start my study.  Throughout the beginning, I kept tearing up but never went into a full out cry.

Priscilla kept making points in Gideon's story that were similar to mine.  For example, she writes, "Israel was making decisions based on their limited supplies instead of the boundless resources of their God."  For me, I was making decisions on my limited food options instead of the boundless resources of my God.  She then talks about how they chose comfort instead of commitment and not obeying God Completely.  Why was I complacent in my "picky food journey?" Why was I happy with how far I've come instead of how far I can go with God?  I wanted to choose commitment.  Full on obedience.  Partial obedience is always a temptation and that was exactly where I was stuck.

She kept going deeper and this last nugget is what sent me into full blown cry session.  "When God's Spirit asks us to eliminate something from our lives, we shouldn't play around with His direction.  He sees the future effects of leftover enemies.  Take him seriously.  Fully engage in the task at hand." This got me good!  Honest talk: I have been eating poorly the last couple of weeks.  Before that it was partial obedience.  I had good moments, but with no consistency.  I've been feeling my body tell me warnings.  I would eat terrible or something high in sugar and my body would react negatively.  Something physical would happen - - either a weird heart pump or a shooting pain.  I knew in my heart and head that was God telling me, "Don't play.  Stop it.  I'm warning you."  This passage above made me question why would I want to mess around with God's message.  He's always right.  He always has my best interest at heart.  If I'm not my best, I cannot maximize my mission for Him.

So I repented.

I got on my knees, full tears and all (it was the ugly face cry for sure) and prayed.  I prayed aloud confessing how disobedient I had been.  I thanked Him for his mercy, grace and patience. After that, I felt a sense of peace.  Freedom.  Because I had come clean to the One who already knew it all, I could start form a genuine place of obedience.

Later, I had a discussion with my good friend Hannah.  (It's always a good idea to have God-centered friendships.  They can help you in times like this.)  What I learned from my conversation with her is that my bigger issue isn't food.  It's control.  I've always wanted control.  I'm a take-charge-independent woman.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  It's what has helped make me a great leader, successful soccer player and business woman.  But my over-control for right now, with food, is a lack of obedience towards God.

Going forward, every victory I have (food, fitness, etc), I need to give the glory to God.  These victories, for me, will come through my obedience towards Him.  I need to be faithful, prayerful and intentional with my decisions.  God is an amazing God.

This weekend Austin and I sat down and made a food plan for the week.  I am going to stretch outside of my comfort zone and try some new things.  This morning I woke up and made breakfast.  I have some sausage bits in an egg, strawberries and chocolate milk.  This is huge!  Combining ingredients is not an easy task for the picky.

I don't want to hear all the health critics out there telling me how bad sausage is or how much sugar milk has.  All I care about is how obedient I was.  And I was.

I'm excited to see God's promises fulfilled through my obedience.  #LessonsFromGideon.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Spiritual Space

I attended a Priscilla Shirer simulcast this past weekend.  She always knows how to deliver a message (I highly suggest seeing her speak and/or reading her books.)  There were many take aways from this event, but one of my main learning nugget was:

"And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." - Deuteronomy 8:3

I learned that I needed to be intentional about being in God's word.  No matter how little of time I might have, I need to be in his word. I needed a dedicated space not only be in his word, but to be prayerful.  Of course, you can do this anywhere, but I wanted a spiritual space.

Priscilla gave us some tools to work through His word better.  She referred to them as the 5 P's of Bible Study.
  1. POSITION yourself to hear from God.  You should come with an anticipation and an expectation of God.  Make sure there's silence and solitude to focus on the word.  (Again, I needed that spiritual space.)
  2. PORE over the passage and paraphrase the major points.
  3. PULL out the spiritual principles.  What does the passage mean?
  4. POSE the question.  
  5. PLAN obedience and pin down the date. 
Here's what mine looked like when reading through Deuteronomy 8:2-6 and using the bible study tactics from above:

v. 2: God will text us and see what we do.
v. 3: We will experience humility.  We do not live on food (bread) alone, but on God's word.
v. 4: Things that would normally change over 40 years didn't (clothing).
v. 5: We are God's children and he disciplines us, just as we are supposed to be disciplined in His word.
v. 6: He disciplines use because he loves us.  We are to walk in His word and fear him.

(pull - spiritual principle)
We must be disciplined in His word because that's what we spiritually live on.

Am I disciplined in the word of God?  Am I going deeper than surface level?

No matter how small, find time in the word of God.  Make room.  Be prayerful and be intentional.

So here's waht I got here.  This is my Spiritual Space and done on a budget.  I will give tips on how we did it.  Some of it we already had.  Look around your house for resources that you can either use differently, or that you haven't used in a while.

WHAT WE HAD:  We already had the chair.  It's from Ikea.  We have 6 at our dinning table and I just moved one upstairs.  The purple pillow is from the guest best set that's in the room.  The computer, the wicker boxes (Crate & Barrel) and the pen carousel we already had.

THE DESK:  It's called Linnmon from Ikea (click here).  We got  the table and 5 legs for $69.  This is a "corner" desk, they do have other options and leg options.  It's a mix and match type of set up.

DECOR: To add a pop of color I added the flower on the left.  The vase ($1.99) and sparkly beads int the vase ($1.99) are from Ikea.  We found the flowers at JoAnn's Fabrics.  (FYI there's a 60% and 40% off one item coupon on their website.)  You want to add a pop of color.

I look forward to using this Spiritual Space for reading the word, praying and working on bible studies.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to take a Couples Vacation in Europe for under $4,000

My husband and I just got back from a 1 week vacation in Europe and we did it all for under $4,000.  I'm here to share the tips and tricks that we used.  However, here's what you need to know first:

  • We are very simple people
  • We are "sports" people, not museum or art people
  • My husband did an extreme amount of research and work when searching for deals and things we wanted to accomplish
  • All pricing below has been converted in to American Dollars.  At the time of our trip the dollar is "weaker" than the Euro and much weaker against the pound (currency in London).  The exchange rate will effect your cost.
Our purpose:  We wanted to go to London to catch a Chelsea Football (soccer) match.  This was in celebration of our 5 year wedding anniversary.

Our Trip:  Thursday Feb. 19, 2015 - Thursday Feb. 26, 2015
Location:  London, UK and Venice, Italy

I will be breaking down the cost of all that we did by category, plus adding some tips on what we did as tourists.


So much space on our United Airlines flight!
AIRFARE:  Austin to Houston to London Heathrow was $721 per person round trip on United Airlines.  

Now this was a HUGE savings.  Tickets are normally $1200+ round trip to Europe.  We watched the prices for a few months, and on a mid-weekday we saw the prices drop and we pounced.  We flew there on Thursday and flew back on Thursday (non-weekend days helped).

AIRFARE:  London Gatwick to Venice, Italy - $168.50 round trip per person ($337 total).

This was also something we watched closely.  Flying out of Gatwick to another country in Europe was cheaper than flying out of Heathrow.  Also a weekday thing. We flew to Italy on a Monday and back to London on a Wednesday.  (Then we flew from London back to the States on a Thursday.)

3 Nights in London at a 4 star Hilton - $124 / night (after taxes)
2 Nights in Venice at a 4 star Best Western for $85 / night (after taxes)
1 Night in London at a 4 star Hilton (last night before flying home) for $120 / night (after taxes)

I would highly recommend our hotel in Venice, Italy.  Here are the details:

I know what you're thinking.  I don't have the greatest image of Best Western hotels either, but this was incredibly different than any Best Western American hotel I've stayed in.  Breakfast was included. The rooms were cozy.  The bed was extremely comfortable.  And the people were extremely nice and the cost was very affordable.

This hotel was about a 15-20 minute walk to the main square.  However, hotels in that area can cost $400 or more.  This hotel was in a quiet part of town.

THE TUBE (LONDON):  Their underground system is incredible. It's fairly easy to navigate and this is the main way we got from place to place in the city.  We spent about $15-$20 per day on day-long tube passes for 2 people.  On our first night (airport to hotel) and last night we just bought a single use pass which is about $6 per person.

GATWICK EXPRESS (LONDON):  $50 for 2 people.  It was a 30 minute train ride that took us from a tube stop in Central London to the Gatwick Airport.  It's the most efficient way to get to the Gatwick Airport.

NATIONAL EXPRESS (LONDON):  $74 for 2 people.  This was a bus that took us from the Gatwick airport to the Heathrow airport.  About 1 hour travel time (depending on traffic and time of day).  We landed at the Gatwick airport from Italy, but stayed at hotel by the Heathrow airport to travel back to the States the next morning.

VIATOR BOAT TOUR - PRIVATE BOAT TO VENICE (ITALY): $110 for 2 people.  This was the transportation from the airport to Venice.  Boat is the ONLY way to get there.  In fact, when you land on the island, there is no other transportation.  No cars.  No vespas.  No nothing.  Just boats and gondolas.  This is a little bit more pricey compared to the "main" boat, however, I highly suggest it. It drops you off right next to your hotel and the people are very friendly.  There were 4 couples total on our ride there, and 2 couples on our ride back to the airport.  The night before you depart, they fax all the information to your hotel for you.

Stamford Bridge Tour

This is what we did in each place.  Starting with London:
  • Tour of Stamford Bridge (stadium for Chelsea FC) - $60 for 2 people
  • Tickets to see Chelsea play - $160 for 2 people  <-- Remember, this was the main reason why we took this trip.
    • Chelsea v. Burnley Match
    • I suggest you buy these in advance if you want to see a Football match (soccer.)  They always sell out, even for the not so popular games.

  • Wimbledon Tour - $50 total
  • London Eye - (cash)
    Top of the London Eye.
    • This is a giant ferris wheel if you will.  But there are about 20-25 people in this bubble that views the whole city.  It takes 30 minutes to go all the way around, but the views are can't miss.  We spent extra for the "Express Line".  Worth it!  Otherwise you can be standing in line for 1-2 hours or more.
  • Buckingham Palace - (free)
    • We watched a changing of the guards. This happens about once a month.  And you can tour around outside and take pictures.
  • Westminster Abbey - (free)
    • You could pay to go inside, but we just toured the grounds outside.  This, the palace, Big Ben, and the eye are all within walking distance.
  • Big Ben - (free)
    • We didn't do an inside tour, just outside.
  • London Bridge - (free)
    • You can walk across it. It's about 2 tube stops from the London Eye.
And now for Venice, Italy:
  • Best advice:  Don't take a map. Don't worry!  Just get lost!  Seriously, this is what everyone told us, but as Americans it's hard to do that.  The streets and buildings are so confusing, that it's easy to get lost.  You'll find great things, I promise.
  • Gondola ride - 100 euro, about $130.  
    • We paid this in cash (see below about money and what to take).  This was my personal dream come true.  They range between 100-120 euro for a 1 hour ride, and about 70-80 euro for a 25 minute ride.  This is for a personal gondola ride.  There are some that are less expensive when there are multiple small groups.

  • Santa Maria della Salute - (free)
    • This is the main (and famous) Catholic Church.  It's free to go inside and tour around.  

  • Dal Moro's Fresh Pasta - FOOD
  • Dal Moro's
    • Make sure you eat at this place!
    • It's FRESH pasta and it's the best place in town.  It's hidden and difficult to find. We ended up using my husband's phone map to find it by connecting to wifi.  Here's the address: 
      • Calle De La Casseleria, 5324, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy
    • You have to eat it right away.
  • Crazy Pizza - FOOD
    "Crazy Pizza"
    • Another hole in the wall place, but with incredible pizza.  

  • El Pinguino - Gelato
    • This will be on your walk to the main square if you stay at Hotel SantElena.  This is the best gelato place we found, and most reasonable.  Get it in a cone!  Pay the extra 50 cents and you can have the cone filled with Nutella.  Incredible!  When we were there they had a Kit Kat flavored gelato.  No free samples here. 
  • The Square
    • This is the "main" area where there is shopping and food.  It's kind of like New York.  The closer to Times Square you are, the more expensive things become for tourists (food, hotels, etc.)  Same with Venice.
  • High Tide 
    • This didn't happen when we were there, but you'll want to Google it.  There are times in the year where there is high tide and the water comes rushing over the land.  Most people will walk in knee high water and carry on with their day.  The shops have built in doors that block out all the water while it's high tide.  It's hard to conceptualize, but it's a real thing.  You can rent "water boots".


MONEY:  We took Euros & Pounds from the bank before we left.  200 pounds ($307) and 200 Euros ($223).  It's free when you bank with Wells Fargo, but only certain cites offer it.  Check into this in advance.  The above items that said "cash", this is what we used.  We used cash on tube transportation, most food, some souvenirs, gondola ride, London Eye, etc.

We got Travel Debit Cards as well.  We would carry these around, not our normal debit cards.  These you could put whatever monetary amount on them you wanted, without having access to your entire bank account.  That way, if lost or stolen, they wouldn't be able to wipe out your entire account.

PACKING:  We each carried 1 carry on item, no checked baggage.  We were only there for 1 week, but this is what we did:
    • Comfortable stretchy / athletic pants
    • Long sleeve shirt
    • Scarf
    • Tennis shoes (only shoes for whole trip each)
    • Note: I had planned on buying a Chelsea sweatshirt in London on day 1 (which I did).
  • CARRY ON #1
    • 1 pair of jeans each
    • 2 undershirts each
    • 3-4 over shirts each (or sweaters or light jackets)
    • Socks, underwear, etc
  • CARRY ON #2
    • 2 heavy winter coats
    • Extra small compact carry on bag (this was to bring back souvenirs if we needed the space)
    • Snacks for the long plane ride
I suggest this because it's much easier to travel Europe without a rolling suitcase.  Think about it.  We were on a plane, tube, train, plane, boat, plane, tube, plane again.  Plus a lot of walking!  And you can wear something more than once!


Where we spend our money, might be different from yours, depending on what's important to you.  We spent:
Crepe by the London Eye
  • $200 at the Chelsea Shop
  • $150 at the Wimbledon Shop (my dad's a huge tennis fan)
FOOD IN LONDON:  We stopped at plenty of random places.  My favorite being a crepe place right by Big Ben.  For the most part we paid cash, but we did put about $80 for food on our credit card.

FOOD IN ITALY:  Same thing (place listed above for Italy suggestions).  With about $60 on the card between Italy and airport snacks.

After everything, it was just under $4,000 to travel (my husband and I) to London and Venice, Italy for a 1 week vacation from the States.

Overall it was an incredible trip and I'm sure we'll do Europe again (different countries just to switch it up of course.)  If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment below, or contact me on social media.  Bon Voyage!

Oh, and by the way, you'll fly over Iceland on your way back to the States from London.  It's an incredible view!

In summary, here's our financial break down for two:

Airfare (USA to UK): $1442
Airfare (London to Venice): $337
Tube rides:  $60
Gatwick Express Train: $50
National Express (Bus): $74
Venice Boat Transportation: $110
Hotels (total): $662
Chelsea FC Stadium Tour:  $60
Chelsea FC Match: $160
Wimbledon Tour: $50
200 Pounds taken: $307
200 Euros taken: $223
Souvenirs at Chelsea: $200
Souvenirs at Wimbledon: $150
Food on Debit Card: $60 (rest paid in cash)

Total:  $3945