Spring Break Packing List

This year, like last, I am traveling to the beautiful and sensational Florida Keys. The islands and reefs will be the prettiest you’ll see around, and the rich culture you will crave to soak in. That, along with beautiful sun to take in.

Only 2 days away, I actually haven’t started packing yet, but my friend that’s coming with us asked what to bring, since she has never been to the glorious place. So, I figured I would share that information with you. Even if it’s not necessarily helpful for you, at least it can get you excited for the fun to come!

The things to bring for the best time ever:

A couple, or several bathing suits. The outside is my best friend during Spring Break. Bring a variety; sporty for activities, bandeaus for tanning, bikinis for walking around with a light coverup on. Down in the Keys, bathing suits are pretty much considered clothing. So do it right. For more information, Check out my blog post about wearing the right bathing suit to suit your body!

Sun tan lotion and proper moisturizer. I bring a ton of lotion with aloe in it. It’s my favorite and it helps a lot since the sun is more intense down there. My personal favorite is Banana Boat Lotion with Aloe. It’s my staple and has preserved my tan long after the sun! Although a tad pricey, usually running around $6-8 depending on where you go, it will be an investment. Goes a long way, feels great and soothes skin, and it smells nice too. But at Target, it’s on sale!!! Check out these other good lotions at Target too!

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Pool hat and/or some other hat. I bring a huge pool hat for the days I want to read by the pool without straining my eyes and then a small little snapback guy for the beach. I got one down there last year with my name on it with neon colors, and I’m obsessed. Trust me, it’s a water thing, and it’s great to have one. Or even a cute Fedora! Fedora’s are ultra chic and cool.

Me and my sister, Lauren, on Duval Street in Key West, Florida. Summer 2012

Me and my sister, Lauren, on Duval Street in Key West, Florida. Summer 2012

Shopping bag (over the shoulder). You need one with a good strap. Too skinny and it will kill you, eh! I’ve had that happen. So while you’re wandering the Duval Street with the shops or looking at coastal antique stores, bringing the right bag can save your stuff, and your shoulder!

Beach reads (although it’s not a big beach since the keys are mainly reefs, for the beach club bring books or magazines). I like bringing reads because it’s relaxing and it can keep you occupied. Catch up on your celebrity reads or classic novels; my reading will have both!

Down by the Shore

Down by the Shore

Sun dresses, shorts, tanks, etc. Bring some easy, breezy outfits that require minimum maintenance. When you’re done in the water and are rushing to dinner with your friends, the last thing you need to worry about it ironing or second guessing your outfit choice. Light materials are the best and try to avoid dark colors if you’re trying to stay cool since dark colors absorb the heat.

Wherever you’re going on Spring Break, remember the essentials! And to add to that, be aware of your surroundings, keep your stuff close to you and don’t get completely swept away in the scenery. You still need to be safe after all.

But go! Have fun! Where are you going? Know anything else I need?

As always, be blessed, and this time, be extra sunny!

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Bookworm in the Making

taken by Nicolette Bilezikian of Nicolette Arielle Photography

With 2013 well under way, I plan to be more diligent in reading books. I’ve always enjoyed it but rarely have time for it. So instead, I am making time and being more intentional with my spare time. In the spring/summer session, these are the books and/or authors that are on my “to do” list!

  • F Scott Fitzgerald. Author of “The Beautiful and Damned,” “The Great Gatsby,” and he’s even the author of the Star Bangled Banner! I recently purchased a collection of his stories from year 1920-22, which is actually shown in the picture above. I want to read the entire thing as well as “The Great Gatsby,” which isn’t in the book I purchased. But Fitzgerald WILL happen. He’s historic, iconic, and completely classic. If he’s not on your book list, he needs to be added. OH. And did I mention it’s bring turned INTO A MOVIE. WITH LEO. If you weren’t sold you should be now!

  • Anna Karenina by Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky. With such great words and being turned into a movie as well, it is a must read. Even won an Oscar last night for costume design.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Gasp! I know, I haven’t read it yet but I am going to! It is timeless, and crazy intertwining of characters and their love.
  • Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. This book is what it looks like to dream God’s dream for your life.  How to claim the promises of God over your life and to circle it physically, in your prayer life, and in your passions. It helps you discover the course of your dreams but giving them to God. Great reviews, and I’ve heard him speak and what a man!
  • Undaunted by Christine Caine. This book talks about being unleashed from the ordinary, mundaneness of life and discovering what chains you and how to go for more.

There is so much life in books. It gives you inspiration, an inside to other lives and cultures, and gives you a yearning for the great adventure of life.

These are just some of the great reads I will be accomplishing very soon! If you have any other suggestions for books to read, PLEASE let me know! I really want to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

As always, be blessed.

My Broken, but Beautiful Journey

The past few years have been the hardest out of my entire life. I have suffered family tragedies, health complications, and tensions in my life with personal struggles.

It has been a long and rough road: my parents losing their best friend in a tragic boating accident; my uncle from defeating cancer only to sign previously a DNR and the hospital giving him too much medicine, slipping into a coma, thus dying; my mother losing two aunts in one week; and just recently, my grandfather passing away just last month from congestive heart failure.

I was diagnosed two years ago with a syndrome that disables me to have children on my own; when the time comes to have a child, I will be required to use extra help and medicine to help my reproductive organs actually work. I was only 18 at the time, and the thought that having a child was taken away from me before it was even an option was devastating.

And in the midst of it all, I went through times where I was slipping into depression and loneliness. It was brutal. I felt alone, broken, and needing something radical to change it.

It was as if a darkness followed me wherever I went. I tried to engage with people even though I didn’t enjoy it. I tried to do activities that I enjoyed to make life seem a little less dampening with everything going on. However, there is only one thing that ever gave me constant hope…

Jesus Christ.

He gave me grace to go through the road I went through

because

I’m

still

standing.

Coming out of the dark time with tragedy everywhere I looked was a slow process; it wasn’t overnight. I had to seek God and only his “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Doing my devotions was the ONLY amount of hope. It was the only thing I knew to do that would help me. And that was because I knew the promises of God, not because I felt like it. I felt like life was bad, but I knew God was good. So I sought Him and the only fix to my broken road.

Through that long, cycling healing process, God taught me some things.

He spoke to me that He was my only hope. I had to stop looking to friends to make me feel better or aid my happiness. I had to look to God. I asked him to show himself to me. Instead of focusing all my efforts on the things going wrong, I focused on finding more of God, and leaning into him for my breakthrough.

I learned also that once you’ve been broken you can there is a new connection to reaching other broken people. I don’t want to go through trials and not be able to help someone else that is hurting. I want my struggles and experiences to help people.

I have found that such hope is found only through Christ. And that only pure joy comes from diving into God and his presence. 

Ultimately, my circumstances did not change, but rather my perception of God. He isn’t a God somewhere far, not moving in real time. He is a God that is right beside you, seeing you at ALL times.

He saves us from destruction and has plans of hope for our lives, but allows us to go through difficulties to become a better person and to trust Him more fully. Easier said than done, but when you lean into God and searching for him, breakthroughs are sure to come.

Not only that, God is preparing you for greater things. You can do this. 

Now I am the happiest I have ever been. Of course I have days that are terrible, but I know that I have ope in the Lord, trusting that he never gives me more than I can take, and never leaving my side. I am not affected by my circumstances, because I have a Lord that is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Take hope. For the hope we have trusted and joy found in the Lord shall not return void, neither will his promises. I pray that you are encouraged today, and realize that trials are a part of life, but knowing Christ, Earth is the only hell you will know. Heaven will be glorious, and all that time during our life that was rough, will be rewarded with eternal presence of the most high.

You can do this. You were given this life because you can handle it.

As always, be blessed.

Things to Stop Doing to Yourself: Part 2

Just a few days ago I wrote about “Things to Stop Doing to Yourself: Part 2” and I wanted to write the next installment. There are things in life that you cannot spare for yourself. It is vital to personal and mental health by taking care of yourself. Here are some more things to do just that.

  1. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. Relationships are meant to be chosen wisely, not flippantly or haphazardly. It is truly better to be alone than to be in bad company. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says “bad company corrupts good character.” There’s no need to rush. With friendships. And in romance. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely. I have been single for the past 1 and a half, only having previously one boyfriend. Truly, it has been the best time waiting in singleness. Better wait.
  2. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. This is something I actually am working on myself. I have had friendships fall out and it seems like it won’t work positively again. BUT. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. Most importantly, some will bring out the best in you. Trust me, you met that person for a reason, either as a lesson, or a blessing.
  3. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. Take bliss in the little things, because one day you will look back and see that they were the big things. Every foundation starts with a small, tightly packed base. These are those small things. Do not overlook them. The best part of your life will be the small, nameless moments that you cannot buy.
  4. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Doing so is completely impossible, and you will tire yourself constantly trying to do so; it will burn you out. But making ONE person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but THEIR, IMPORTANT world. So narrow your focus.
  5. Stop being ungrateful. No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing. You are living, breathing, and reading. You are more blessed than nearly half the world. Think about that, and let that sink in.

I hope this offered some encouragement to your day. Please try to lighten your load, and take care of yourself. Once you do, I promise life will be brighter.

As always, be blessed.

Personality Profile: Pastor Ronnie Reid

On any given Friday afternoon, you can expect a certain Crystal River man riding down a back road through the hills on a bright red and black accented Harley Davidson. The air is crisp, the leather jacket is in tow, and for him there is nothing but road for miles. On the flip side, every following Sunday morning you can find him preaching and pastoring a congregation

Pastor Ronnie and Sherry Reid

Pastor Ronnie and Sherry Reid

of about 600 members, leading the people, and having a laugh with members in the lobby about the latest family outing.

Senior Pastor Ronnie Reid is a highly respected member of the town, having influence among the city. This last October marked his and his family’s 19th year as being Senior Pastor of Crystal River Church of God, and he and the family couldn’t be happier.

The Reid Family of Crystal River Church of God

The Reid Family of Crystal River Church of God

“I feel like I am doing what I was created for, and certainly right being in Crystal River,” comments Reid. “I am beyond blessed for being asked to come here so long ago, and I look forward to the coming years.”

Coming in 1993, Reid came to the church as the new pastor with a congregation of about 40 people; he knew he was supposed to come here, but not without some concern.

“Moving here and not knowing anyone, I was pretty nervous about the people liking me and the way I preach,” chuckles Reid. “But I suppose they did because 19 years later I’m still here.” The church often has more than 600 attendees on Sundays

There are many ministries that have bloomed from the leadership team led by Pastor Reid. When he first arrived there was only a youth group, now the

Crystal River Church of God

Crystal River Church of God

church proudly has a variety of ministries that includes married couple classes, a food pantry with weekly free food distributions, a nursing home ministry, KIDS Church, a women’s ministry and others as well.

One of his most relaxing ministries to join in with is “Riders in the FOG”, a roughly 50-member motorcycle group from the church that rides together at least once a month.

“We created the group for some of the congregation to ride their bikes in a fun but healthy environment,” explains ministry leader Jim Hajek, who usually co-leads the ride Pastor Reid, each with their own red Harley. “The group always has a good time in fellowship. We start before the ride with a devotional and prayer, and then we hit the road for the day.”

“I love that Pastor Ronnie can come ride with us. It shows that he’s a normal man that not only leads his people, but has fun with them too,” states Personal Care Pastor Roger Cash. The simplicity of the day is what the group enjoys the most: the relaxing ride, the beautiful scenery, and the good pit stop food and fellowship. Pastor Reid’s face lit with a smile, his heart for his ministry shines through.

Pastor Ronnie relaxing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pastor Ronnie relaxing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Pastor Reid has such a heart for this church, and it shows everyday when he comes to work and every time he steps up in the pulpit,” comments Youth Pastor John Herndon. “It’s a pleasure to have the chance to serve with him.” Pastor Reid holds great responsibility on himself to do good works; he doesn’t want to “just preach.”

“I have a passion for this,” smiles Pastor Reid, as he explains the different duties he has. He has opened himself up to meet with congregation members, martial counseling, hospital visits, and more. Some people may think that he only works on Sundays and Wednesdays when he preaches, but that is not so. In reality, he works 24/7, on call every day with some days good, some days difficult.

When asked about the hardships of the job, Pastor Reid explains, “Of course it’s hard; nothing worth doing for God goes without trials. Only by the grace of God I can do what I do. By my own strength I would fail, and even sometimes I still do.” Those likewise in ministry or those closest to him can only truly feel the pressures and responsibilities. “He holds the burdens of the congregation and takes their lives seriously,” says his first lady and wife Sherry Reid. “He knows he is called for this, and ultimately the blessings and joy outweigh the hardships.”

“Growing up as a rebellious pastor’s kid myself, I would have laughed if someone would’ve told me I would be a senior pastor at a church,” grins Pastor Ronnie Reid. “It was until I accepted God in my heart and got my life on track that I could see his faithfulness. And thought I never would have believed it, I couldn’t be more thankful for being here right now. It really goes to show that his plans are for our good, and he is our ultimate Shepherd.”

Cherish Your Loved Ones

Today is a day I know all too well.

A day like any other day. You smile, you eat, you breath in and out. Then it happens. In an instance.

Today my close friend’s best friend’s grandfather passed away. We dropped our plans and rushed to the family’s side to offer our condolences and care. Arriving at the home of a family I did not truly know, it reminded me how very real this same situation was for me just under a month ago.

My grandfather passed away suddenly and turned our world upside down. The only true comfort we had in moving forward was knowing he was right with God and he was free of pain. It did made things easier, but it never takes all the pain away.

Adapting and finding the new normal after a loved one passes away can be the hardest thing to find. To find that balance. Sitting in that house, with people bringing food and love, was all too familiar.

Above the hurt, the sadness, and memory flooding and rushing back to mind from losing my beautiful grandfather, like this family did today, I was reminded that God is good and can give peace that surpasses understanding.

In the same token, I was reminded just how precious and short life is. You never truly know when a phone call can change your life in a mere instance.

So please, for the sake of those unable to hug their loved ones, for the ones that seldom visit their family, but for your sake, cherish your loved ones and your family.

Tell them you love them all the time. Get off your phone if you’re supposed to be spending time with them. And love them. Because you never know when your time is up.

But. Through it all. Know that when that time does come, you are not alone. A wonderful counselor named Jesus will be by your side if you let him.

Hug the ones you love today. Or call. Or write. Do something.
Please. Time is precious.

Show love, and be blessed.