Blog

Jesus Ramblings

Choosing Joy

While scrolling social media one day I began to notice something –
New Years Resolutions are a thing of the past! Apparently, the thing to do now is to pick a word for the year, and I don’t know why but this got me all kinds of excited!

Seriously though, this took a lot of thought and prayer. The whole process was very intentional and focused for me. I just couldn’t figure out what my word needed to be!

Then one Sunday morning while sitting in church my word came to me. Or I suppose I should say, God sent my word to me like a slap in the face!

Joy.

Why Joy?

If I’m going to be transparent, which I should be since this is my blog and I really do want to be honest here, 2018 had its rough moments.

I know that’s a normal thing in life, but I really seemed to struggle with handling the weight of multiple businesses piled on top of being a semi-decent wife and mommy. I felt like I was going through the motions more than actually living, but those motions were more like sprinting a race that I could never win. Every time someone took a picture of me all I saw was a tired, forced smile and dark circles under my eyes that my concealer was obviously doing a poor job of hiding!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re working too hard Stephanie! But all joking aside, my schedule really isn’t terrible. What was pulling me down was how poorly I managed that schedule. I could go into so much detail here, but that is a blog post for another time!

At the end of the year I looked back and realized that this really wasn’t how I was meant to be living. That kind of stress is not God’s desire for my life. I am just not naturally an optimistic person. I think I used to be but sometime in early college that began to fade out in my life. Since then I have had a hard time enjoying the day-to-day jobs and responsibilities that honestly seemed so menial.

I think what really opened my eyes was a new friendship that I was blessed with right around the holidays. I was amazed that no matter what the world threw at her she still smiled the most genuine smile and exuded so much sweetness that she made sugar looked sour. All I could think was how?!

I knew without a doubt it was joy, and I really needed it.

What is Joy?

I don’t think anyone really knows this about me, not even my husband.

I love definitions.

There is something about taking a phrase word by word and breaking it down…when I start I can’t stop! Picking a word apart and digging deep into what it really means, learning its origin, finding words that help support it – it’s so good. It’s like a guilty pleasure for me!

Seriously, try it.

On second thought, let’s do it together.

Joy.

It is a commonly used word, often misused as a synonym for happy, but what does it really mean? Where does it come from? How do we obtain it?

Merriam-Webster defines “joy” as:

1. the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires

2. a state of happiness or felicity

3. a source or cause of delight

I don’t usually disagree with these folks, but this time I’m going to have to. In my humble opinion, the first two just don’t cut it.

Sorry.

First of all, joy doesn’t come from wealth, having all your desire, or doing good at life. In fact, joy comes even in the face of trial.

James 1:2
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,”

Joy has one source, and that source is God.

In Proverbs 10:28 it says,
“The prospect of righteousness is joy…”
and a synonym for prospect is expectation. I can expect joy to come as a result of righteousness! Even better than that, Romans 15:13 says,
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you ever feel like you need something so bad that your entire being is drawn towards it? I do every time I read that verse.

That right there my friends, that hearty stuff that Paul is talking about in Romans 15:13, it is exactly what I need. I need that joy and peace that will make me overflow with hope!

Here is the thing about joy though – if we know Jesus, like really hardcore love him and desire to follow him in our lives, we have joy. It’s in there deep down, even if you don’t feel it.

And that’s where I was – I couldn’t feel it or see it. I had taken that beautiful gift of joy that I was so blessed with and buried it deep. I buried it under all of my insecurities, anxiety, stress, responsibilities, and the list goes on. I took the pressures of life and allowed them to cover my joy so heavily that I couldn’t see its light anymore.

Choosing Joy.

So this part of the post actually took a while to write. About a month after the rest to be exact. The first two sections were easy, I had figured out what I was missing in my life – the fix though, that is not an overnight thing. It’s more of a work in progress!

It literally starts by waking up each morning and choosing joy.

Even reading that as I type it I know it sounds crazy. What on earth does that mean?! Choose joy. I still don’t think I really know for sure but I’m slowly figuring it out.

Everyone is different, but for me I had to enforce some discipline in my life.

A quote from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst – which I highly recommend – says:

“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”

Day 21, page 63

My life was chaotic. I don’t know why I say “was”, it definitely still is at times! It was getting bad though, no rhyme or reason to what I did or when I did it. This resulted in loads of backed up laundry, a house that needed cleaned, business opportunities I was slacking on, fights with my husband, and so on.

For me it all begins with getting decent sleep (still working on this part!), followed by waking up before everyone else – this is necessary for me! I knew I needed alone time with God but I wasn’t making myself do it. I would wake up scrambling to get myself semi-presentable, dress Oliver and get him to school, then get myself to the cafe. I left no room for any kind of quiet time or even reflection on God before jumping into my day, and if I try to do it at night I will almost always fall asleep in the middle of reading. I also know that for me a good morning equals a good day, while a bad morning equals a rough day, so I need to be refreshed and ready to go by the time my boys start waking up.

The next area I am working on is my attitude.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says,
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This verse has become my slogan for my daily duties. I have to put mind over matter and actually will myself to enjoy what I am doing each and every day. Not only in the area of housework, but also in how I respond to people.

Over the holidays someone very close to me informed me that they were struggling to believe in God, partially because they don’t see Jesus in the people that supposedly love and follow Him. This hit me hard, because I’m sure I am one of those people way more often than I should be. I made it part of my goal that whether I am passing a stranger in the grocery store or talking with my customers at the restaurant, I will try to let them feel the warmth and joy of Jesus coming from me with each interaction.

The Result?

I’m still new to all of this and I have already failed so many times, but I can honestly say when I at least try to follow these practices, it works.

I have felt an unusual level of happiness, peace, faith and unmistakable joy.

I am still, and will always be a work in progress. However, as a result of these efforts and more than anything else, God’s faithfulness, my days have become more routine and productive without feeling overwhelming, I am not drowning in laundry – which is a big change, my house is clean and I am working hard on organizing our life daily, I greatly look forward to waking up early so I can have my quiet time, and I have more patience with my family and less fights with my husband.

So, this is where I agree with the final definition from Webster.

3. a source or cause of delight

Joy is the source of delight. It produces happiness.

I have no doubt about that.

Recipes

Fresh Tomato & Pesto Chicken

So I have a lot of basil plants.

A lot.

We got a little carried away and now have about 30 Sweet Basil plants and 15 Purple Basil. Some of them are getting a little bush-like too!

image1201_zpsmcpbxf0o

I am becoming an expert at making Pesto! An important skill, if you ask me. And my husband. The other day I made some to bag up and freeze for later and it all smelled so good I couldn’t resist using a portion of it for dinner that night. I wish y’all could have smelled it…smelt it? Either way, it was too good!

image4201_zpsimab6cdo

I had no idea what I was going to make in the beginning but the end result was too good not to share!

This recipe is cooking for two, so feel free to double it or fix it up just how you like it. Our chicken breasts we get from the store are ginormous (not kidding) so I actually slice them into two breasts for most of our dinners. If your chicken is also large and you decide not to cut it you will need to adjust the cook time. Also, store bought pesto will work just fine, don’t feel obligated to make your own – however it is worth it and very easy if you decide to give it a shot!

My method to this chicken dish is simple. It really is a quick dinner to throw together and has impressive results.

Salt and pepper your chicken then spoon on your pesto and spread evenly.

image1_zps2ejv3upl
mmmm…smells so good!

Add sliced onions and then your choice of tomatoes. We had fresh red and yellow tomatoes from our garden back in Franklin and they were just begging to be used!

 

image2_zpsux0selkw
Love the colors!!

Top it off with a little Parmesan cheese! Or a lot of Parmesan cheese! It’s my favorite so I get a little carried away.. I used grated cheese but you can use shredded cheese, or even add some mozzarella. Literally whatever your heart desires. I also added a little dried basil on top for some color and a little extra flavor.

image3_zpsy4mlwskp

Bake and enjoy! I put our chicken over some Bow Tie Pasta prepared with a little olive oil, garlic and cheese. Served here with some oven roasted Yellow Summer Squash and Onions.

image4_zpshhl1chyj

I literally can’t tell y’all just how good this smells and tastes! Posting this makes me want to have it for dinner all over again!

Here is the actual recipe. Enjoy and let me know what you think!


Fresh Tomato & Pesto Chicken

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, flavorful, pesto-themed chicken recipe perfect for an easy to throw together dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast sliced in two
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup fresh or store bought pesto
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shredded or grated
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • olive oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°. Grease pan, add chicken and then top with salt & pepper to your liking.
  2. Spread pesto evenly over each chicken breast until they are covered nicely, then sprinkle on your sliced onion and add the diced tomatoes. I drizzled a little olive oil on at this point and added a bit more salt and pepper, but that is completely optional. Add your cheese and dried basil and it’s ready to bake!
  3. Bake 30-45 minutes or until your chicken is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook your chicken. Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
  4. Serve as is, or over rice or pasta!

Engagement, Photography

Bri & Kyle Are Getting Married!

In honor of one of my best friends getting married in just a few short weeks I wanted to (finally) add the post of their engagement pictures I did for them back in December! Their wedding date is coming up fast, and even though I can’t be there (one downfall of living out of the country) I am so glad I was able to be a part of their wedding even in this small way (: Enjoy these pictures, there are plenty more, these are just some of my favorites!

For information on pricing and booking sessions contact me.

 








Children's Home, Donate

St. Benedict’s Children’s Home Wishlist & Child Sponsorship

Hey everyone! I have been posting a lot on Facebook asking for help for St. Benedict’s Children’s Home here on St. Vincent. This post is to inform y’all regarding ways that you can help by sponsoring the children or donating items the Home is in need of. First though, I’ll give a quick update for those of you that haven’t seen the posts or don’t know much about the home!

 Here on the island Timothy and I are currently living on there are a couple orphanages and children’s homes. One in particular the Trinity School of Medicine Christian Fellowship group has had a consistent relationship with. A couple weeks ago we had the blessing to go visit the Home to deliver some donated good and some money from fundraising. While we were there we spent some time with the kids and got a tour of the Home. Currently at the Home there are 13 children ranging from 1 year old to 24 years old. Over half of the children are currently living with some form of mental or physical disability – many of which are severe.

 Here are a few pictures from the day – more are coming soon!

This is Kiara, she is 7 years old! She is so full of smiles and laughter!

While we were there some people from different businesses and organizations around the island were donating their time and supplies to cleaning up the playground and giving it a cheerful paint job! It was such a busy day for the Home and a blessing to see so many people willing to help out!

 

Kiara jumping rope! She is so much better than me haha

 While visiting I was struck with the realization of how GOOD we really have it in the United States. I don’t think we ever really understand how drastic that is until we are surrounded by people that don’t have it quite so easy. Look how simple it is for us to just take a trip to Wal-Mart to grab whatever we may possibly need. On top of convenience, it makes a huge difference how much more affordable things are in the States in comparison to a small island in the Caribbean where everything has to be imported.

 I desperately want to use our blessings in America to bless the children at this Home. So this is where I come to all of you for help.

 There are multiple ways you can help out!

1. Pray. Please keep the Home, the children here and the people of St. Vincent in your prayers continually.

2. Donate items to the Home. I have a list of immediate and continuing supplies the Home needs for the children. I will post it at the bottom. I am currently working with some people to clear shipping of items purchased for the Home from the U.S. to St. Vincent. There is a possible large shipment coming next month as well as many family members of students coming over the next few months that have offered some suitcase space. This is a huge blessing as shipping to the island is outrageously expensive! So if you’re interested in helping with this please contact me so we can work out the details (:

3. Sponsor a child! If you are interested in sponsoring a child the cost is $50 U.S. dollars per month. However, please don’t let that deter you because that is not a mandatory cost, just the total needed. Any amount helps! Let me know if this is something that interests you and I can send you some information on the children.

 All I ask above all else is that you continuously pray for the Home, the staff and the sweet children staying there. If you feel God directing you towards helping in any other way please know that it will be so very appreciated.

 

Wish List

 *these first few items are large, not a necessity but things that would help make things much easier on them*
Canopy Covers – thick and durable! The Home has a large fundraiser each year and they normally have to rent or try to get these donated. Owning them would help not only with the fundraisers but with day-to-day activities around the Home.
Commercial Ice Maker – another item that is needed for the fundraiser as well as around the Home. It is a very lengthy and costly process for them to get the ice they need for the fundraiser – it would help with sales as well as helping them around the Home.

Immediate & Ongoing Items
Pampers
 –  Adults size – Medium, (for the use of the 3 disabled young adults)
 –  Children – over size, (for the use of the 6 year old disabled girl)
 – Child – 11 months, (A boy)
Deodorant (1 male and 5 females)
Sanitary pads (no tampons please)
Disinfectant
Bleach
Powdered soap (for washing)
Powdered Milk (Full cream)
Brown sugar
Juices (individually packaged)
Snacks (individually packaged preferred)

 

Here is the link to the St. Benedict’s Children’s Home website. It is currently in the process of being updated. The page with the information on the children is out of date, however I have a list of details on each child including what size clothes they wear and items they specifically need if you’d like to donate something more direct.

 

“Whatever assistance we can obtain, will be appreciated.”
 – Sister Nyra, director of St. Benedict’s Children’s Home

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this (:
Photography

Abigail & Timothy | Engaged

FOR REAL Y’ALL. There is just something about seeing two of your closest friends in love and taking steps towards their happily ever after! It completely stinks being out of the country during the wedding planning and prepping, but I was SO happy when Abigail asked me to take some engagement pictures for them while I was home for a short break. These two are too precious for their own good – and even better was when Timothy surprised Abigail by bringing sweet Lucy along for some pictures! Their upcoming wedding is in August and my Timothy and I get the pleasure of standing beside them as they say their “I dos” (: August can’t come soon enough for us! I hope y’all enjoy these pictures as much as I have!!

Uncategorized

Dear 5th Termers…

It was sometime around 2010 when I first really discovered just how much I loved to cook. With one year left in my undergrad I became obsessed with Julia Child, Bobby Flay, exquisite French food and bread. Mmm bread! I started cooking for friends, baking cupcakes just for the sake of making them to share with others, attempting to cook dishes as pretty and delicious as I possibly could!  I even tackled the dreaded soufflé and time consuming chocolate filled croissants! I couldn’t put into words how much I enjoyed it, and I’d be lying if I said I never questioned if I had chosen the right career path. I even went to the extent of looking into culinary schools in the Atlanta area for a while. Then I graduated, moved home and started working – started being an adult I guess. My time in the kitchen became practically non-existent. It wasn’t until we moved here to St. Vincent that I started back in the kitchen.

Honestly, spending my time here cooking was the last thing I expected to do! I still can’t believe how quickly my business grew and evolved from making some muffins and egg sandwiches in the morning to at times reaching 100 lunches a week! I can’t really put into words how blessed I feel and how thankful I am!! But I’m going to try…

To the 5th term students that will be leaving in a few weeks – I want to say thank you. Thank you for your support, your business, your encouragement and above all else your friendship. You have helped me remember something that I loved and helped me turn what seemed like a very distant desire into a reality. Timothy and I begun this journey with many of you and it is safe to say that we will miss you so so much. We can’t imagine this school without you. Many of you have become some of our closest friends and we can only hope our paths will cross again soon.  

Best of luck to you in the next step of your adventure! Enjoy being home, and if you’re ever around North Carolina make sure to get in touch with us (: and again – thank you!

You will be missed. 



Jesus Ramblings

What is Love?

I read that title and Haddaway’s song start’s playing in my head!
“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more.”

Come on, own up. You were singing it too.

But really. I want to dissect the word love today.

I know this has been done a million times, but I want to do it for me. I feel like it is so easy to say I love someone, but to actually show them the real, nitty-gritty, hard to swallow, Biblical concept of love is a totally different story. The Bible best describes love in the popular Corinthians verses:

“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I Corinthians 13:4-7

This is what I want to break apart. I can read these verses a hundred times a day and they will still just be words to me until I take them piece by piece and try to apply them to my life. I hope you join me for this self-revealing journey!

***A quick disclaimer – I don’t know where I am going with this. It may just be one post, it may turn into a series of posts. I’m just typing what is heavy on my heart right at this moment. When it is time to start dinner I will stop and publish the post (to avoid another drafted post getting forgotten) and we will see where it goes from there.

So let’s take the first portion of verse 4.

“Love is patient…”

Patience according to Dictionary.com
1) the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
2) quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.

I feel like this is something I struggle with on a daily basis! Oh man…I can only imagine what it will be like when we have children!! Lord, help me!

To love patiently is to have steady perseverance and be even tempered, no matter the situation. Dealing with the many worldly issues that come up in a relationship without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, etc.

Oh man…I struggle. I complain. I lose my temper. I get irritated. All it takes is one misdirected comment or one misinterpreted gesture or tone and I’m gone. How do I work with this? How do I turn my love for someone into a love filled with patience?

Jesus and his relationship with his disciples comes to mind. It didn’t matter how many times Jesus told them who he was and what his purpose was they just didn’t get it! And then even worse was Peter’s denial of the Christ! Even still, Jesus was always patient towards them.

I can’t figure out an easy fix to be more like Jesus. Let’s face it, Christianity isn’t an easy fix to life’s issues. It is an ever-growing and ever-learning lifestyle. I feel like the best way to show patient love to those around me requires diving deep into the Word of God, focusing on applying His truth to my life through seeking Him and memorizing scripture, spending a lot of time in prayer, and taking a deep breath and refocusing my attitude when frustration or impatience sets in.

I pray God continues to lay it upon my heart to focus on loving the way Jesus does. The way He has commanded me to.

Well, it is time to go cook dinner! It’s Mexican Night in the Bleckley household!
Thanks for sticking through all my ramblings (: