Sunday, April 29, 2018

I Can Only Imagine: Bible Study Review

I received a complimentary copy of the I Can Only Imagine Bible Study from City on a Hill in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own! Be sure to scroll down to enter the giveaway, or use the code at the bottom of this post for a discount! 

If you've been to the movies lately, you've heard the chatter about the popular worship song- turned- movie, I Can Only Imagine. This song was released in 2001, but has gained recently renewed popularity because of the movie, which tells the story of Mercy Me lead vocalist Bart Millard's rocky relationship with his father, along with the real meaning behind the song. If you haven't seen the movie yet, it's worth checking out!

Right about the time I was contacted to review the I Can Only Imagine study, my weekly women's Bible study finished up our previous book. The timing was perfect, and I was excited to work through the beautiful 28 day Bible study journal, which is meant to take the reader on a "journey through Jesus' encounters with broken people, found throughout the Gospels", Gospels that are personal and powerful. The journal includes questions, scripture, and prayer, and when combined with the short video clips offered in the small group study, it's the perfect content for any group Bible study. The study journal can stand alone for personal study just fine!

Each week of the study focuses on "imagining": imagine a loving father, imagine forgiveness, imagine redemption, and imagine going home. The weeks all follow a pattern, asking the reader to recall, reorient, and reimagine. It mentions that we read and reflect in order to experience, rather than to simply learn.

Although the study is intended to take you 28 days, I could definitely see chatty Bible study groups (like my own lovely Tuesday night ladies) taking a lot longer to go through it. There is a lot of depth and great content for discussion, and I always err on the side of not rushing through studies in an effort to simply "get through them". This study hits hard on learning to see ourselves as God does: completely forgiven and eternally restored.

The study journal is beautiful, and I truly feel like it is something that anyone could discuss with other believers, or just reflect on individually if you're more of a personal Bible study person. Watching the actual film before doing the study isn't required. It is recommended, but is not a hindrance from completing the study if you haven't yet seen it. The content is easy to relate to, and the scriptural focus makes for a solid foundation. My son, Eli, even wanted to help me get in my study one day. Start 'em young! 

All in all, I give two thumbs up for the study. I appreciate its Biblical foundation, but also feel it is relatable and not so over your head that it becomes inaccessible to most readers. I'm excited to help lead my own Bible study ladies through it. Click this link to purchase your own I Can Only Imagine study materials, and use the code frontgate10 for 10% off of the series or journal!

Be sure to enter the giveaway here to win your own copy of the 28 day study journal! The giveaway ends on 5/25/2018, and the winner will be notified by email! Good luck, friends!


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Pacer

The vast majority of our world will never run a half marathon (or farther) simply because they believe they can't. It feels daunting. The training seems endless (and feels that way sometimes). It seems like a chore. Lonely. Boring. But I have found running to be much more relational than I expected. Every Saturday, after I put my son down for a nap, I run alongside a friend. We share our life updates, our hopes, and our fears as the miles tick by- and they truly do tick by. Sure, we're a little out of breath, but we fall into a comfortable and familiar rhythm.

For this last race, my goal time required me to stretch and push a bit harder. This meant foregoing racing alongside my running buddy, and instead striving to stay up with the pacer. If you've done any longer races, you know that the pacer exists to help bring you in at or below your overall goal finish time. They run each mile at a specific time, based upon the elevation of the course (slower on the ups and faster on the downs) and help you succeed by literally running right alongside you, with a pacing sign high in the air. As long as you follow them, you'll meet your goal- a shiny new personal record and a race well done.

Another beautiful thing about the pacer is this: one of their main goals is to keep you from going too fast too quickly. Many runners make the race day mistake of shooting out of the starting line like a light, and then regretting it miles down the road. Pacing is all about actually taking the first few miles slower, so that you have more to give once your body is warmed up and you're a little farther along. The pacer is constant and steady, consistent without being controlling. Ultimately looking out for your best.

For this particular chilly April morning race, my 1:50 pacer was a woman named Kelly. I told Kelly about two miles in that she was my temporary running buddy for the day, and apologized in advance for how much I'd be talking to her. I needed that positive distraction. One other female runner fell into step with us, and together we spent the next hour and 48 minutes talking about a little of everything. We strategized, we laughed, and we grew to develop a relationship of sorts- grateful for the company of one another during this huge race.

Kelly was constant. She reassured us that we would indeed meet our goal time. She told us how great we were doing, and that we had this- easily. She distracted us in the best of ways, chatting and answering our questions while checking our pace. And she was there- running this race right alongside us.

As I took the hot shower I so desperately needed later that afternoon, I couldn't help but think of the beautiful picture this pacing story gave me. An image of faith. Of empathy and relational pursuit, a small representation of the love of our creator himself. That every day, as I run the race quite literally laid out for me, God is there, cheering me on, encouraging me, and helping me push through the pain, as mile by mile I draw nearer to the finish. And most impressively, he is right there beside me the entire time. Just as my pacer had run this race before, and knew how to help me navigate it, He's lived through the heartache, the sadness, and the joy of this world too. He gets it.

I can see him doing just what Kelly did that day- only on a broader scale. Helping me remember that slower and steadier truly is the best approach, even when I'm discontent in a season of waiting. Showing me how to navigate the ups and downs of life, and giving me the energy to chase my dreams. Telling me that, though it may not be comfortable, there are times I have to kick it and give it all as I near the finish. That he'd stay back for now and I'd go on ahead and be just fine. To trust. Staying the course with me, and then letting me fly to the finish all on my own when the time came: challenging and cheering me on with each step I took.

I saw Kelly a little later, when we were picking up our sweats from the bag check. She asked me how the finish went. When I told her of my new PR, she gave me a huge hug and celebrated right along with me: sweat, shivers, and all. This woman, who I literally had never met before this day, and likley will never see again, had just become such a great picture of the Lord's love for me.

When I'm unsure, scared, and anxious, he's there- right beside me. When I'm doubting, yet finding strength to trust as each mile of this "race" ticks away, he's there. When I'm starting to believe that I can really do this, he's there- assuring me that I will indeed. And then, when I finish, he watches me fly on ahead, then comes alongside me again to celebrate with me. He is strong and steady, comforting and caring. And in this race of life, there is no one I'd rather have pacing me, each and every mile.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Secrets to A Great Night's Sleep

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

If you're like me, and you've been struggling with getting enough sleep, you are not alone. Research suggests that almost half of the adult population suffers with sleep problems on a chronic basis, so clearly I'm not the only one surviving on coffee these days. Even though Eli is an excellent sleeper, there are only so many hours in the day to get things done. I struggle with getting to bed on time, and even then I have a hard time falling (and staying) asleep. The truth is that there are many things we can do to improve our sleep quality and time, so we never have to worry too much about not getting enough of it. Here are some easy, practical steps you can take to get your best sleep!

Try An Adjustable Bed

First off, look at your bed. I'll be honest- ours is terrible right now, and I'm tossing and turning like crazy at night. Like me, you might have thought that adjustable beds were just for the elderly or the sick. But that's not true. Actually, adjustable beds are also used by insomniacs who find it hard to fall asleep. Their highly adjustable nature means that you never have to worry about being in the wrong position, as you can always change it, so this might prove to be the best bed solution for anyone suffering with severe or chronic sleep problems. With an adjustable bed, you'll always be in the best sleep position, and you might even just want to use it temporarily while you get back into the rhythm of getting enough sleep. Adjustable beds can be expensive, but their long term use can be so worth it!

Stop Using Screens

One of the biggest reasons that people in our society are struggling to sleep is that they are overusing their screens. Using tablets, phones, and laptops in the evening disrupts the production of melanin in the brain, which tells your body when it is time to go to sleep. So if you find a way to reduce your use of screens in general, you will be able fall asleep much quicker and easier every night (and wouldn't that be awesome!?) If you find it hard to do this, you might want to keep your phone in another room, so you're not tempted to pick it up while you are lying in bed. (I'm guilty!) As long as you give yourself a good few hours in between screen time and bedtime you should find it doesn't make too much of a difference - but no more texting in bed!


Improve Your Diet

In general, the better you eat, the better you sleep. It's no wonder then that along with sleeplessness, another major problem for today's adults is poor diet. If you know that your own diet could easily be improved upon, it might be worth taking a look to see what you could do to make that happen. Improving your own diet could be as simple as making sure you eat less processed food, more whole foods, and more vegetables. As long as you do these basics, you should be able to regulate your body clock much more effectively, and that means more sleep! You should also make sure you're drinking as much water as you can during the day, as this also plays an important role in allowing you to drift off to sleep each night.


Calm Down

Probably the biggest cause of lost sleep, however, has to be an overactive mind. We live in a world which constantly demands our attention in a million different directions, which really makes it hard to rest. My brain is always going, and it's hard to shut off! If you find yourself regularly lying in bed worrying about things, it might be time to try and handle the situation. One great method is meditation, something which anyone can do without any formal training, but will make a huge difference in how well you sleep. Another option would be to try going on a walk or working out throughout the day, which can help relieve stress and get your blood flowing. Just be sure you don't do it too close to bedtime, so that your body has time to wind down.

What helps you get your own best sleep?? I hope these are helpful tips! Sweet dreams! 


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

March Recap

And just like that, it's already April! It doesn't really feel like it around here, since it's honestly been more frigid and snowy than anything else (although there were a FEW gorgeous days last month). I'm so ready for spring and its warmer weather, beautiful sunsets, and time outdoors- anyone else with me? Here's what we've been up to this March- complete with some fun photos from my one year shoot with E.

My Second Half Marathon

I kicked off March with a bang by running in the Liberty Hospital Half Marathon. Not going to lie guys, the hills were pretty rough! I was able to rope my brother last minute into running with me, and he did an awesome job of encouraging me and keeping me going. I was excited to set a new personal record and knock over two minutes off of my time. We'll see how my next half goes in two weeks! Follow along on Instagram (if you don't already) to see how it goes!

Spring Break

We didn't do much exciting this year for spring break- just stuck around the house and tackled some home projects and such. Although a small part of me missed our travel-filled spring breaks of old, honestly, it was kind of nice just to be home for some slow days with my boys. We started most of them with a home-cooked breakfast (courtesy of Aaron), and I was able to get my workouts in early in the morning so that the whole rest of our days were free. Of course we had to squeeze in a couple of dentist appointments (#teacherlife). I also got lots of sweet time with dear friends who have flexible schedules, and chatting with them was so refreshing! And we threw a little 25th bday party for my not so little brother. I'm terrible and I forgot to take pictures, but it was so fun and he is so loved!

Another spring break "highlight" was that Eli had a little fever and rash most of the week. I'm diagnosing him with roseola- a little viral thing that kiddos get that doesn't really bother them- they just run a high temp and act otherwise normal. Once the fever dies, they get a rash for a day or two. I spent some quality time chatting with the triage nurses at E's pediatric office, and they assured me that as long as he was acting fine, he could go up to a temp of 105 for up to 5 days! He bounced back just fine and I'm so glad I was home to get in some extra snuggles with him while he wasn't feeling quite 100%. I mean, that. face.

The Best Village + 1 Year Pics

Because of some conflicting spring break weeks, Eli was home with us for a week and then with family and friends for a few weekdays. I am so thankful (yet again) for all of the amazing folks who love on our baby so well when Aaron and I can't (or when we just need a little break). E is the most blessed little boy and I hope he always knows just how lucky he is to have so many amazing people who love him and care for him.

By the way, I've learned the best way to get your wiggly, crawly one year old to sit still for photos: Put them in a swing and make them smile. They can't run away! I love his sweet emotions- especially those when he saw a dog-gie walk by at the park.

That last little face- what a stinker. We've got lots of fun ahead, that's for sure! We are excited for all that April will bring- especially that warm weather...hopefully! If you'd like to follow along on FB, click here to like our page. Love to you all, friends!