All You Need Is Love

Today was a special day for me! Not only was it Valentine’s Day, but I got to help out my mentor, Pamela Crim, by leading the 6:00 a.m. Daily Devotional call for our BIG Life Mentoring girls. I had agreed to help her out as long as I could find a Valentine’s Day devotional online and then read it for the morning’s call, making sure to cite my source, because there was no way I could come up with something and write it on my own. I was pretty nervous taking on this task, but I love a challenge and it would definitely push me out of my comfort zone.

I searched for awhile and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Nothing I came across had the feel or sentiment that I wanted to convey while also referencing the Bible verse that I chose to use. Time was ticking away and I wasn’t any closer to having a devotional picked out. A knot of nervousness balled up in my stomach when I realized that in order to get exactly what I was looking for, I was going to need to write the devotional myself. Could I really pull this off? I have never led a devotional before…and writing one from scratch…well, that’s just crazy!

With my new goal in front of me, I quickly dove into researching the Bible verse I had picked out, which was from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV). What did Paul, the author of this letter in the Bible, mean when he wrote these words to the Corinthians? How can we apply his writings to our lives today? I was gathering lots of good information and it was time to begin putting it all together into the kind of devotional I had envisioned.

The cursor blinked as I stared at the empty page in front of me. Things started out well. I began with my welcome, introduction, and the Bible verse I would be using, and then…nothing. I was stuck. No thoughts or sentences were forming in my head. I started to panic a bit. I started thinking that I wasn’t capable of actually writing this devotional. I thought to myself, “Okay, God, you’re gonna have to help me out with this.” It was time to do something that I should have done from the very beginning.

I put down my phone, closed my computer, and began to pray. I thanked God for the opportunity and challenge that was before me and I asked him to calm my nerves and let his words flow through me and onto the page. I sat with my eyes closed, in the quiet of my living room, and focused on the words and meaning of the Bible verse that I was using. After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and picked up my computer to begin writing again.

Slowly, ideas and words began trickling into my mind. Thoughts became sentences and after a bit longer than I thought it would take, I had a Valentine’s Day devotional sitting on the computer screen in front of me. Wow! I could hardly believe it. I smiled to myself and thanked God for his assistance in giving me the words to write.

I messaged a couple of my friends to see if they could help me out by reading through what I had written. Meri was the first one to get back to me, so I emailed it off to her. She read the devotional and said that she loved it. Whew, what a relief! I needed confirmation that all of the words I put onto the page made sense and formed coherent thoughts and she said that they did.  I was still needing a title and Meri had a couple of ideas for me. I ended up choosing her suggestion of “All You Need Is Love” because it fit perfectly and was a cute little nod to England and the Beatles at the same time. 😉

Below, you will find the transcript of the very first devotional that I, along with lots of help from God, have ever written. It wasn’t easy and it’s not perfect, but I persevered and got it done. This may be the one and only devotional that I write, but I wanted to share it with you all in case there is something in there that you need to hear. I hope you all enjoy the devotional and have a very happy Valentine’s Day!

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Good morning, beautiful! Happy Valentine’s Day! Are your feet on the floor? Are you ready to begin this new day of life? This is Nicole Donovan from the Leadership Team and I am taking over the devotional call for Pamela today. I am leading this call for the first time EVER internationally, all the way from England!

Today’s devotional is titled “All You Need Is Love.” The scripture is from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV) and it says, “(4) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (8) Love never fails…”

It’s February 14…Valentine’s Day. The day where everyone celebrates LOVE. Flowers, cards, and candy are bought in abundance to be given to the people we love. You know, the commercial side of this “Hallmark” holiday. I do participate in the “Hallmark” side, but I truly enjoy the more personal side of it.

When I was still at home in Illinois, I would always make a special meal of lasagna, garlic bread, a salad, and homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries for my husband and our two boys for Valentine’s Day. I would set the table with a red tablecloth, the nice dishes (instead of our usual paper plates), a couple small candles, a vase of flowers, and a Valentine’s Day card with a Reese’s peanut butter heart for each of my guys. I wanted to take this day to make sure that my guys knew that I loved and appreciated them. Well, since I moved to England on January 15th of 2016, today marks the second year in a row that I’m not with all of my guys to make them their special Valentine’s Day dinner. I feel a little ache in my heart when we can’t be together for the traditions that we’ve created as a family, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t show my husband and our two boys how much I love and appreciate them in other ways on this day and throughout the rest of the year.

So, let’s look at our verse and break it down to see how we can show love in a godly way to our family, as well as other people, every day. I will read a part of the verse and then follow it up with a few questions for you to ask yourself…

Love is patient. Are you showing patience when you interact with others? Do you constantly rush your kids along to hurry up? Are you already thinking of your reply instead of truly listening to your husband when he talks?

Love is kind. Are your words and actions kind? Did you thank someone for helping you? Did you smile at the checkout lady as she rang up your groceries? Did you give someone a compliment?

It does not envy. Are you celebrating the successes of other people? Are you focusing on the blessings in your own life and of others?

It does not boast. Are you being arrogant? Did you help someone without any thought of being recognized for it?

It is not proud. Are you being humble? Have you served others rather than serving yourself? Could you take the time to visit someone in the hospital or nursing home?

It does not dishonor others. Have you brought shame or humiliation to someone? Did you snap at your child in front of others? Are you honoring others by your conduct and attitudes?

It is not self-seeking. Are you insisting on having your own way? Are you willing to put the best interests of your marriage in front of your own wants? What can you do for someone else today?

It is not easily angered. Are you slow to anger or do you fly off the handle at little annoyances? Did you yell at your child for spilling a drink? Could you take some time to chill out the next time you’re upset before reacting in frustration?

It keeps no record of wrongs. Do you drag up things from the past? Are you letting bitter thoughts and memories cloud your happiness? Have you thought of forgiving someone for wronging you in the past?

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Are you trying to justify bad behavior or are you celebrating good behavior? Are you finding joy in what is right and good in your marriage or with your children?

It always protects. Are you using love to protect and strengthen a loved one? Are you using your words to build up your husband and your children? Are you focusing on things that encourage the people you love?

Always trusts. Do you question the love you have for someone or is your love unconditional? Are you ready to believe the best about people? Can others trust and rely on you?

Always hopes. Are you able to be hopeful and show confidence in others? Are you willing to wait and have patience and not give up on the people you love?

Always perseveres. In the tough times, is your love persistent? Do you consistently seek the best for your loved one? Are you working hard to continue to love even when life throws curve balls at you?

Love never fails. Is your love rock-solid? Do you love with an everlasting love? Are you living your love as a verb and not a noun (as an action, not a thing)?

To wrap up all of what I said with a pretty, little red bow, I am going to read a short excerpt that I came across in a Valentine’s Day devotional from rightfromtheheart.org from a few years ago…

“But what is real love? It’s not lust or an emotion, or merely a sentimental state of mind. There is romantic love, and the love of family and friends. But, the Bible tells us the highest love is not based on feelings, but a commitment of our will. This love is patient and kind. It’s not envious or arrogant or rude. It’s not selfish or easily angered. It doesn’t keep a record of how others have wronged us. It puts up with a lot and endures with hope. It doesn’t run away when the going gets tough.

Real love never stops loving. God IS love – real love. Have faith in Him and you can experience true love. His love will empower you to show real love to others.”

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Being Intentional About Happiness

Dang! The last time I updated this blog was on September 21, 2014. How can 13 months and 6 days go by so quickly? Hmm…I know! 1) Have a husband start traveling internationally for work. 2) Find out his “temporary” international job is becoming permanent and that he and I will be moving. 3) Try and hold down the fort at home while husband is working abroad and I prepare for our move. 4) Our oldest son left for Basic Training at the end of the summer. 5) Just today, I was with our youngest son as he signed up to begin classes in January for welding at a technical school. Yep, that will surely make the days fly by in a blur!

When life seems to be a bit stressful or weighing down on me, I need to be intentional about finding something good in the situation, something that I can be grateful about, and it helps me refocus my perspective. For example, in the list of what I mentioned above, here’s what I’ve found in each situation that makes me happy/thankful/grateful: 1) I am so thankful for Skype and FaceTime as they help me and the boys stay connected to my husband/their dad while he’s abroad. 2) Hubby and I get to have an amazing adventure living abroad for awhile. Come visit us! 3) The boys and I have learned to work together well as a team and we all pitch in whenever something needs to be taken care of to get the job done. 4) I am so proud of our oldest son’s strength and determination in wanting to serve our country and he is developing his leadership skills. 5) I’m so excited that our youngest son will be beginning a career that he enjoys, he excels at, and it can take him far in life.

See? Being happy is a choice! Let go of what weighs you down and shift your perspective to something positive. You will find that your attitude and outlook on life will benefit from this small change in your thoughts.

I want to hear from you! Have you already tried something like this in your life? Did you find that it improved your attitude? If you haven’t done this, is it something that you would consider trying?

A little update…it has been awhile!

Hey there, everybody! It has been awhile since I’ve written on my blog, so I thought I’d give you a quick update as to what I’ve been doing.

On August 19th, I started the fall semester at Heartland Community College and I am taking two classes…Composition I and Digital Photography & Imaging. Both of these classes have been keeping me pretty busy in the past month, but I am finding that I really enjoy them. I am learning quite a bit about becoming a better writer in my Composition class and my instructor has complimented me on the “mature voice” that I have in my writing. Compared to the other kids in the class (who are around the ages of my boys) it’s not that difficult to be the “mature” one in the room! 😉 As far as my Photography class goes, I am learning a lot of the technical side of how my camera works and why the different settings are beneficial in taking different photos. Even though I’ve been taking photos for years now, this is the first photography class I’ve ever been in aside from a couple of workshops I’ve gone to in the past. I am not the oldest person in my Photography class and it made me happy when I realized that. There is a gentleman that is older than me and I would have to guess that he’s probably in his early 70s. In one of my future posts, maybe I’ll share with you some examples of my photographs or writings that I’ve done for class.

I hope to be able to get back to blogging more regularly soon, but if not, I’ll still pop in with updates every so often.

Since I like to know what everyone else is up to as well, leave me a comment below and share what has been up with you in the past month. Thanks! 🙂

Oh! I wanted to wish all of you an early Happy 1st Day of Fall for tomorrow! Get out there and enjoy this beautiful time of year!

Brighten Your Day with Music

Last week, I was kind of having a rough day and I wasn’t in a very good mood. Thankfully, I have made myself a playlist on my phone, I’ve titled it “Life is GOOD”, and it contains music that makes me smile and gets my attitude back on the happy track. I also find myself listening to it even when I’m in a good mood because the songs just make me feel happier and grateful in general.

Today, I thought I’d share with all of you some of the songs and artists who are on my “Life is GOOD” playlist. This list is nowhere near all of them, but I’ll definitely share more songs with you in the future!

25 Songs from my “Life is GOOD” Playlist (Part 1)
(these are in no particular order)

  1. Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That by Robert Randolph & The Family Band
  2. Alive by Pocket Full of Rocks
  3. Brave by Sara Bareilles
  4. Move by MercyMe
  5. The Good Stuff by Kenny Chesney
  6. Summertime by Kenny Chesney
  7. I’m Yours by Jason Mraz
  8. Bubbly by Colbie Caillat
  9. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley & The Wailers
  10. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
  11. Good Life by OneRepublic
  12. I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash
  13. I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas
  14. It’s a Great Day to Be Alive by Travis Tritt
  15. Knee Deep (feat. Jimmy Buffett) by Zac Brown Band
  16. The Life by Kenny Chesney
  17. Never Going Back to OK by The Afters
  18. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons
  19. Raise Your Glass by P!nk
  20. Roar by Katy Perry
  21. Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  22. The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead
  23. Toes by Zac Brown Band
  24. Barefoot Blue Jean Night by Jake Owen
  25. Do Life Big by Jamie Grace

As you can tell by the songs listed above, I have quite the eclectic music collection, but I have found that there are too many good songs out there to only listen to one type of music. 🙂

Do you have a playlist of songs that you listen to when you need to change your mood? Are any of the songs I’ve listed ones that make you happy? I’d love it if you’d share with me, in the comments section below, songs that make you happy and put a smile on your face! I’m always on the lookout for new music to add to my “Life is GOOD” playlist! 🙂

Man-Pleasing Chicken

I bet that title caught your eye, didn’t it?! 😉 There’s nothing to worry about…it’s actually one of our family’s favorite RECIPES! It’s also a very accurate name for this recipe because my husband and boys LOVE it and I do too! We had it for dinner last night and it makes me happy to have found such a simple, yet incredibly tasty meal that I wanted to share it with everyone here.

I had pinned this recipe to my Ooohhh…yummy! board on Pinterest after reading the following description,

“I have never gotten so many compliments before, call this chicken, “So Good it Can’t Be Described, Explosion on Your Tastebuds Chicken.” Exactly. I have never encountered a dish that is so basic and simple to put together yet creates such a big pay off. This chicken, quite simply, is one of the most savory things I’ve ever eaten.”

I clicked on the pinned photo and it took me to Witty in the City where I read the simple recipe, decided to give it a try, then printed it so that I could refer to it as I made dinner. I do remember the odd looks and laughs I got the first time from Jason and the boys when they asked what was for dinner and I told them, “Man-Pleasing Chicken”…however, the wonderful aroma that was filling our kitchen as the chicken was baking in the oven was easily convincing them that this dinner might be a good one.

The first time I made this meal, it was very well received and there were no leftovers! Since then, I have always doubled it so we can be sure to have enough for dinner the next night. Keep in mind, I am feeding four adults, two of which are hungry, growing young men, so you may be able to make the original recipe size work for you and your family. In the winter, I like to pair it with mashed potatoes and use the sauce that surrounds the chicken as a gravy. When the weather is warmer, we will have it with a salad. Last night, I made a Caprese salad to go along with it and it tasted so delicious! I also like the fact that this dish is gluten-free without having to make any changes to the original recipe, which is helpful for me since I am sensitive to gluten and it’s effects on my body.

Here’s what the Man-Pleasing Chicken looked like last night in the 9×13 dish right before it was devoured:
Man-Pleasing ChickenHaving the pan lined with foil makes the clean up so much easier once dinner is over!

Now that I have told you how delicious this meal is, I bet you’d like the recipe, wouldn’t you? I will post the original recipe as I first used it, but I’m just letting you know that you may be doubling it the next time you prepare it. 😉

Man-Pleasing Chicken

Ingredients:

– 1 package boneless & skinless chicken thighs
– 1/2 cup dijon mustard
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1 Tbs rice or rice wine vinegar
– salt & pepper (to taste)
– fresh rosemary (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450º.
  2. Mix the dijon mustard, maple syrup, and rice or rice wine vinegar together in a bowl.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in a foil-lined, oven-proof baking dish.
  4. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides.
  5. Pour the maple mustard sauce over the thighs, then turn the pieces in the mixture to ensure that they are fully coated.
  6. Place chicken in the oven on the middle rack position and bake for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165º. Baste the chicken with the sauce in the dish halfway through the cooking time.
  7. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Chop the fresh rosemary and sprinkle over the top of the chicken. Using fresh rosemary makes a big difference in the taste!
  9. Serve and use the extra sauce in the dish as a topping or gravy, if desired.

Again, thanks to Witty in the City for sharing an amazing recipe that has become one of our absolute favorite meals! 🙂

Once you try this recipe, leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Carpe Diem!

Hi, my name is Nicole and I have been thinking about starting a blog for awhile now, so today is the day! Carpe Diem! 🙂 This blog will cover a lot of topics (marriage, parenting, food, fun, fashion, photography, reviews, etc.) and I will post about things that make me happy in my everyday life.

A little bit about me…I am married to my high school sweetheart, Jason, and we have two boys, Grant and Luke. Jason and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in February and I love being married to my best friend! Grant (20) and Luke (18) keep us busy and it’s an interesting adventure parenting “adult” children who still live at home. 😉 My hobbies include photography, traveling, water sports, boating, exercising and living a healthy lifestyle, and spending time with my family and friends.

In the Fall of 2013, I went back to college to pursue a degree in Graphic Communications and I am working on it a couple of classes at a time. I don’t want to be so swamped from classes that I can’t enjoy time with my husband, family, and friends, so I’m taking it slow in order to be able to live a full, BIG life!

As you get to know me, feel free to ask me questions or leave a comment. I do not tolerate rude or disrespectful people in real life and I will not put up with it on my blog either, so this is your warning that I will delete anything of that nature.

Please be patient with me as I figure out the blogging world…this is all new to me and I’m learning as I go! 🙂