Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#cookiequest: The Plan

So, because I'm a nerd and planning is my middle name and I'm on a "quest" so it feels like its more than just jumping in the kitchen and playing around, I felt like I needed a plan.  A specific order and set of steps for discovery.

1.  Based on research, bake the 4 basic chocolate chip cookie recipes
2. Bake 4 of each cookie as is, immediately following mixing - bake, photograph, taste, observe

3. Save 4 cookies of each (same size as others) and refrigerate for 24 hours - bake, photograph, taste, observe

4.  Decide which recipe is best and tweak the ingredients.
  • I'm determined to see if bread flour makes a difference
  • I'm determined to see if size of cookie makes them bake up different
  • I'm determined to find out if there is anything to the butter/butter-Crisco myth
  • I'm determined to find out if the sugar combination matters to baking or taste
5.  Several other "type" of recipes have come out.  I personally LOVE an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, so I will be trying some variations after I determine the basic recipe.  (if you have any to add to the mix, email it to me!)

2 things I think should be stated from the beginning about my cookie experimenting:
  • NO cookie should ever have nuts in it.  For you nut lovers, I'm sorry, you will be disappointed here.  The best way to ruin a chocolate chip cookie is to put nuts in it.  So, if one of these recipes calls for nuts, I'm skipping that step like it doesn't even exist. 
  • I bake all cookies on a seasoned baking stone.  Its always been the PERFECT thing to cook my cookies on.  The one I use I've been cooking on for 10 years.  Its seasoned,  The cookies cook perfect, they slide off easy and I have less clean up.  I do have a back up that I'll use on the days I'm cooking dozens at a time, but for now, expect to see the dark brown, seasoned baking stone...I'll swear by that thing.


Monday, November 24, 2014

#cookiequest: Prediction

So, with all research in hand (that was last week), I decided a true experiment needed a real HYPOTHESIS (that was always my favorite part of science classes, making an educated guess and seeing if it was right).

My prediction for now, for the variable ingredients that will make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (still looking for the name)
  • Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe
  • Butter flavored Crisco
  • more brown sugar than white sugar - but both needed
  • refrigerate dough for 24 hours
  • bake at 350 for 10 minutes (that's always been the rule at my house, so we will just test it as well!)

Any thoughts...anybody else ever embarked on this?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tigers in Overtime

I shared this earlier in the week on social media, but I'm sharing it here.  For my memories.  And, because the words are still in my heart.

In college, we all have our place and our people.  They are who make our experiences rich and who fill our days with memories.  I worked in the athletic office at Ouachita Baptist University during college.  I met the men who's names line the trophy cases and Hall of Fame boards.  The guys who hold records from "back in the day" and who accomplished the banners that hang from the stadium rafters.  They are some great men, men who know what drive and determination can do to a soul.  Men who fought battles on grassy hills and flat plains. 

My beloved Tigers won a pretty big game last weekend at "the school across the street".  It was an epic win.  The greatest season in a history that began in 1895.

And, as the week has gone on, so many more accolades have been added.  So many things for those in the Ouachita family to be thankful and grateful for.

On Thursday, as I ate leftover Chinese food at my desk, I almost choked on rice as I read the words of the infamous Rex Nelson.  His words are always Southern Fried, but when they talk about my beloved Tigers, they taste so sweet.

He relays the fullness of the day and mentions some men who shaped my life too.  Men, we all loved and respected.  And, who we hold so close in our hearts.

Whether you like football or not, I challenge you to read the tale.  Whether you even know where Arkadelphia or Ouachita Baptist University are or not, let me encourage you to take a moment.  Whether you know the men or the places mentioned, I assure you, you can relate.  And for pete's sake if you want to hear a tale of so much to be thankful for..read and breathe in every word.

Tears at 10-0

That Rex Nelson has a gift...a gift he learned while being a Ouachita tiger!

Friday, November 21, 2014

#cookiequest: Research

Yes, I made even making a chocolate chip cookie, nerdy!

I mean I cant just jump off into the abyss of chocolate chip cookieness without some education.

1.  The Google Search

So, I searched and researched a few topics and kept coming back to the same answers (which frankly is a really good way to get a solid answer as far as I'm concerned!)

-most popular chocolate chip cookie
-most searched chocolate chip cookie recipe
-perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe
-top chocolate chip cookie recipes

And every time I went to Google, my preferred search tool, I was led back to the same top 3 recipes with a few that rotated in and out of 4th and 5th place.

2.  Crowd sourcing
last week, I put out on my blog Facebook page and twitter to ask for input on "what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie" I got some really good advice - someone else making them, chilling the dough, browning the butter and butter flavored shortening.  All items I'll consider as I move forward.

Crowd Sourcing round #2 consisted of asking for the "perfect" recipe.  I wanted to see if there was a consistent go to.  I got some good input.  One very specific set of instructions and I'll be keeping those in mind for sure...especially since they came from a cookie queen!

3. The NPR article and research of the "science"
First, I love when you put something on someone's radar because when people see anything about cookies, they have been sending it my way, and I LOVE it.  Last week an article circulated, "trended" if you will, on Facebook - it was the NPR article about the science behind your chocolate chip cookie and it was exactly what I needed to begin to understand all the "whys" associated with cookies.  Flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, powder, soda.....  I loved it.  I even found this little gem, an infographic about the science behind the ingredients.  There is so much stuff out there...It got overwhelming so I kept it to these two basics and will use them a reference when I jump into round 2 of baking.

4.  Asking the question
So, I did a little Sunday lunch survey.  I don't get to eat lunch with my family on Sundays very often so last week when I "called in" and they were all sitting at the table, I went around the room and gathered the answers to "What makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie?"

Dad- stands up, buttery taste, not flat, Janna Beall's recipe
Mom - crisp edges, chewy inside
Zak- no chips, ice cream on top
Maresa - lots of chocolate chips, that are not melted yet and still have their shape, thick and chewy

so, with those things in mind, I made a decision - I picked 4 recipes to start with and I made a prediction...

 (For the record, finding 4 basic cookie recipes to try was very overwhelming.  Everyone thinks their recipe is "the one".  I've got to work on a name besides "perfect", "ultimate", "best".  Any thoughts?!?!)


Thursday, November 20, 2014

#cookiequest: Perfect

So, since we are looking for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie.  (and by we, I mean the voices in my belly) I thought I would jump off into a little rant about the specifics of "perfect". 

Perfect is subjective. 

Not just when it comes to cookies, but always.

Think about it.  My "ideal" or perfection is simply that, mine!  I get to decide what's best.  I get to decide what I want over something else.  I get to decide what makes something better than another.  My perfect is perfect for me.

Yes, I'm talking about more than chocolate chip cookies here!

We all find ourselves trying to find perfection.  The perfect hair cut.  The perfect car.  The perfect job.  Being the perfect girlfriend, daughter, husband, wife, mom, friend..... Being or finding perfection is something we are all obsessed with, but frankly never achieve.  I think it comes back to that comparison thing.  Obviously something has to have another thing to be perfect.  But, my version of perfect may not be yours.  Its why you can order your steak differently.

I never understood why my Papa always prefers to have his anything (biscuit, toast, cookie) be a little on the hockey puck side.  I remember eating breakfast at his house growing up and he would make toast on a charred black cookie sheet.  He would smear butter on the bread and then put it under the broiler.  He made it "perfect" for me.  But, it was his perfect.  I loved it and would love to sit down with him right now and have a piece of toast (maybe I'll do that on his birthday tomorrow).

But, his perfect doesn't satisfy me.  It doesn't even please me outside of the fact that its him and when you are 95, you know how you like a perfect piece of toast. 

So, for the sake of my experiment, I'm going for my perfect.  What's perfect for me may not be your preference or tantalize your taste buds.  We can work on that.  I'll try to share my reasons for why and why not.  But, let me challenge you. 

Discover your perfect.  Not someone else perfect.  Or being perfect because that's what someone will think is perfect.  Discover your perfect.

And, be comfortable with what you choose.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Quest - #cookiequest

So, I shared yesterday that I'm jumping in to a quest.  My #cookiequest.

Since its 2014, I felt like this journey needed its own hashtag.  I mean if people can make up a hashtag for their wedding or 30th birthday party, then I could have one for my cookie discovery process!  I did a little research and found that my journey is not unique.  Other's are on the same journey, whether they call it a quest or not and whether they are documenting it officially or not, #perfectcookie, #chocolatechipcookie, #cookiequest all already existed.  When I looked at what others were writing about, it seemed the #cookiequest fit - so I'm just jumping in on the conversations.

My Quest: Find the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (imagine a really cool typewriter font and each letter being penned as it is said)

But, that's what I'm up to these days.  And, because I'm such a freak (self-proclaimed) who has to have order and process to every thing, there is a process and a spreadsheet.  I know, I know you are laughing, but some crazy thing happened to me when I was young (I need a therapist to pin point the specifics!) I have to make a plan so I can at least have order to the chaos of the 1 billion opinions about cookies and the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So, my new few weeks will look a little something like this:
  1. Research
  2. Predict
  3. Plan
  4. Bake
  5. Decide (may have to bake some more)
  6. Present my findings to the world!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dreaming and Listing

So, as I read, I dreamed.  I keep telling myself its perfectly normal to read any book with a pen and highlighter in your hand.  That most people write in the margins and when asked a question, they answer them (right there in the book).

So, as I read our little book, I made a list in the front, things I might consider a quest...or questing for:
  • take pictures in the same spot of all 4 season (a place or moment that's special to me)
  • 12 month quilt - square/month - represent where I am, mood or holiday - defining moment, hand crazy quilt, learn new stitches, words
  • outline/begin working on a book I've been putting off
  • photograph the alphabet
  • a photo a day - everyday at the same time  - journal through a separate instagam account with 1 word descriptions
  • write a letter to a person you don't know who's birthday is today - read about them- send them a message - introduce yourself and your quest - ask them to send something back, do something with the collection of items
  • try a different drink at Starbucks until you've tasted everything - even those weird "not on the menu" items
  • cook a series of somethings on Pinterest - actually try the recipes
  • find the perfect red lipstick
  • find my signature nail polish for each season
  • determine my "walk up song"
  • perfect the chocolate chip cookie
Yep, those are the things I came up with. 

As we talked and as I read, I really began struggling with the difference between a goal and quest. 

Honestly, I'm still not sure, but I've also discussed some of my obsessive nature for the details and I realized that I just had to give myself the grace and the space to just be and discover.  For me, that's the quest. 

Chris, the author, defines a "quest" by a few things - a quest:
  • clear goal and a specific end point
  • presents a clear challenge
  • requires a sacrifice of some kind
  • often driven by a calling or sense of mission
  • requires a series of small steps and incremental progress toward a goal
  • Summary: a quest is a journey toward something specific, with a number of challenges throughout (pg 16)
He also makes a clear, bold statement on the facing page - "you must become a better person than you were before you started".

I like(d) the thought of questing and I like the thought of having a journey.  I just know my heart even has heavy palpitations as I type these words. 

So, for now.  I chose the last idea on the list.  It seemed heavy enough a task for me to jump on.  Its timely to this part of the year.  It felt substantial enough to really be something I could jump in to and frankly the biggest consequence at the moment will be my waist line. 

So, I'm jumping in.  With both feet.  I'm going to probably over think it.  I'll get way too nerdy and maybe I'll be serving or taking cookies to every party this holiday season.  But, I'm curious.  Is it possible to make the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie? 

Follow along with me #cookiequest!


Monday, November 17, 2014


Oh to something new!

So, sometime last month.  Or maybe even the end of the month before that, I was pulled into a group who was jumping in to a book.  Now, I've always wanted to be a grown up who was part of a book club!  And, when I heard the opportunity was presenting itself, I jumped.  I wasn't completely sure what I was jumping in to, but I jumped. 

Part of the new freedoms that life has brought is the freedom to have some down time to do a little reading.  So, I hacked my dad's Amazon Prime account and had me a book in a few short days!

The NWA Questers, as we are called, jumped in to The Happiness of Pursuit.  Chris Guillebeau jumps into his second book with a challenge, so self-discovery conversation and a shared the story of some fellow questers while trying to prove several points.

I'll admit, the book got a little redundant.  But, I found plenty to underline, several things worth tweeting and lots to discuss. 

Unlike normal, I didn't realize there were appendices and extra recaps in the back.  They might have made reading the book much quicker (I was the Cliff Notes girl!).  I didn't get through all of it, but I had half under my belt, enough to feel confident to present myself at the book discussion night.

We had a fantastic time and of course as a dreamer would do, I started thinking...thinking about what I could quest on.

Frankly, the thought of a real quest, like the ones in the book just stressed me out.  I was in the middle of planning a fundraising event.  I'm trying to read through a book with a group of gals and I'm still trying to manage the everyday of a new job.  Not asking for sympathy, just realizing that I can't do or be everything.

Oh, but I can dream! 


Friday, November 14, 2014

OVERCOMER: reflections

So, we went there.

We dug deep.  We hurt.  We healed.

We looked at the struggle with security and insecurity.  We looked at infertility and the struggle with too much. 

In all of the moments, we thought about ourselves.  We thought and wondered if we've struggled with the same thing.  We were curious to find that someone has "overcome" something that we are struggling with. 

I struggled myself to figure out what to write.  I had many prompts in my head but part way through I realized that I hadn't really "overcome" them.  Maybe I'm in the process of "overcoming" but I've not yet arrived.

One of my contributors in the process mentioned that we all struggle with "heart pains".  Things we get up every day and put aside.  Things that we will struggle with for the rest of our lives.  But, as I've journeyed through this, I've been reminded that overcoming is a daily decision.

There are plenty of things in our life that we will feel like we have never overcome - many of them were mentioned this month and many were kept in our heart.

Use the lessons these friends have shared.  Their mantras and their quotes.  Adopt the ones that will determine your heart to push through.

Going back to the song that inspired this series.  Overcomer - For the Billboard charting week of September 14, 2013, Overcomer was the No. 29 album sold in all of the United States via the Billboard 200, and it was the No. 1 Top Christian Album as well with over 12.000 copies sold in its first week. The album has sold 140,000 copies in the US as of July 2014.  (according to Wikipedia)

Its clear that being an overcomer is something we all relate to. 

Live.  Love.  And be bigger than your demons.

Life is WAY too short to restrict yourself by your own personal feelings on what's holding you back.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Missed one of the entries....well, I just think that's a shame!  So, here's a full list of all the #overcomer stories from the series this month:

It has been a beautiful journey.  If you want to share an #overcomer journey either tag it in the comments or email it to me and I'll share it with our #overcomer crew!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

OVERCOMER: Keisha Pittman

So, its my turn.  My Overcomer story. 

You would think after I read everyone's entry that it would be super easy to just click away at my little laptop keyboard and crank something out  After all, I had 30 chances to read and grab on to something.  But, if I've learned anything in this journey it's that we all have our own personal demons to overcome.  Sure, I've struggled with at least half of the topics listed.  And by "struggled",  I mean they are my same demons now.  So, these are real things and I'm so very grateful to the women who walked this journey with me.

  • What have you OVERCOME? Labels
  • What was your turning point? I’m talking labels for me and for others.  I’ve kinda always been over labeling people.  Whether background, ethnicity, home life, profession, or whatever title the world has given someone.  I just don’t get it.  I never really have.  We are all people and we all have the same chance to make life what we can.  But, I used to be terrible about the labels I put on myself.  Or should I say the “restrictive labels” that I put on myself. For at least 4 years of my “new normal” after cancer, I let “I had cancer” be my label.  I let it define me and I let it hold me back.  There were all kinds of things I possibly couldn’t do because I had had cancer.  I was home for Christmas break and stuck at a New Year’s eve party at my dad’s church.  I didn’t want to be there, I was even pouting (yes, it’s an ugly look).  But, that night, he had us write a letter to ourselves.  It was an out of body experience where I wrote a letter to myself, freeing myself from this label.  I told myself this was the year that the “cancer survivor” label was something that was not going to hold me back, but free me.  I no longer allowed myself to introduce myself that way.  Yes, its part of my story.  Heck, it is my story, BUT ITS NOT WHO I AM.
  • 5 word life mantra – YOLO, so get busy living!
  • Quote you live by – Be the change you wish to see in the world - Ghandi

Connect with Keisha:

·         Blog – bigpittstop.blogspot.com - fyi, you're already here!

·         Twitter - @bigpittstop

·         Instagram - @bigpittstop

·         Pinterest – /KeishaPittman

·         Facebook – bigpittstop

·         Google+ - Keisha Pittman

Monday, November 10, 2014


I love that this friend fought to the end to make sure she was part of this journey.  We are not super close, but when we get together as part of the blogger chicks or our "special interests" groups, I find the late night parking lot chats after we shut down a place more than entertaining.  She is a fierce Marketing Maven.  Her personal collection could rival any hair products aisle.  She is a speedy gal, who finds greatest joy when the wind is flying through her hair on one of her running excursions.  And, with any luck I'll be able to tap into her dreams of cheese fry heaven over the next 12 months (we are all taking on quests...ours both happen to involved food).  She is funny, she has an awesome laugh and knows how to celebrate the great moments of life. 

The Sarah M. Hood -

  • 1 word of the thing you've "overcome" - Low Expectations 
  • Your "turning point" (if you've had one!): I know what youre thinking. How hard is it to overcome low expectations? Isnt that the whole point of setting low expectations? Under-promise and over-deliver, right?
    In my case, these expectations were mine. Of my health and wellness. And abilities. I spent a lifetime thinking things like, Im not an athlete and saying things like, I dont run. And Im not exaggerating. I wasnt an I dont run but I DO play softball and golf and dabble in volleyball kinda girl. I didnt do any of it. I had resigned myself to these expectations.
    I didnt consider myself a thrill-seeker or a particularly outgoing, grab-life-by-the-horns kinda gal. But in 2007, things started happening that shook me up a little. My brother Tom the grab-life-by-the-horns kinda person I was not was killed in action in Iraq, which rocked me and my family to the core.  And I became a Mama, which has changed me in ways I cant even put into words. This intersection of life and death really put me in motion. And I remember having these swirling, overwhelming thoughts about how precious and fleeting and uncertain life is and how important it is to really LIVE. I owed it to Tom to try harder, to push further, and to try some things beyond my initial expectations of myself.
    I ran a mile.
    I ran A MILE and I remember feeling like I slayed a giant. I ran a mile, then I ran another one. And then another. And before long Id strung enough miles together that I was training for and running marathons. WHAT. Im not an athlete. I dont run. Remember? But I found strength and inspiration in my brothers NEVER QUIT attitude, and I realized that running a mile was possible. Running a marathon - was possible. You just have to start. And never quit.
  • 5 word life mantra - No day but today.
  • Quote you live by (and maybe who said it...yes, your grandma counts!) -Its a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Lester Burnham, American Beauty

How to connect with me:

blog/website- www.sarahmartinhood.com

twitter- @sarahmartinhood

insta- @sarahmartinhood

Pinterest- @sarahmcow

Friday, November 7, 2014

OVERCOMER: Jacqueline Wolven

I don't even know where to begin with this woman.  The fact that I've been privileged to spend 2 evenings in the last 5 days with her has my heart leaping with glee.  She is genius.  She has life experience.  She is bold.  She is vocal.  She knows who she is, is confident in who she is and is cool with it.  But, she is so open to who you are, what you stand for and what you are about.  Her knowledge is vast, but her ability to push you and make you better is even greater.  I've so loved this friendship that has come into my life in the last year.  I look forward to the moments we spend together (on and offline).  She used to work as a ninja turtle designer (I know she thinks its weird that I think its so cool, but it is).  She has been on national talk shows from her studio office in Downtown Eureka Springs.  She desires to live life as it unfolds.  She is a dreamer of dreams.  She sees the good in you, the possibilities to behold and she is not afraid to make you grasp your potential. 

Seriously, I could go on, but I'll leave it with this - if you can only observe, then observe.  If you can only glean, then glean.  If you can partake, gorge.  If you can participate, be present!

My gal, The Jacqueline Wolven...

  • What have you OVERCOME?    Feeling like what I bring to the party has already been done.
  • What was your turning point?    I realized last year (I know, late bloomer) that although what I offer may be said or provided by many people (this could be the work I do with brand development, goal setting, or talking about taking risks) no one has my exact take on it because they have not walked my path. Owning up to my own experiences and valuing them has been instrumental to feeling confident in my work and life. It has made me know 100% that what I offer is needed and it will reach the right people - people who need to experience change through my vision. It’s been a wonderful transformation from the place I was - scared and dejected that everyone seemed to be doing what I was doing and I wasn’t really needed anymore. Own it and be amazing at what you bring to the party and everything sparkles just a little brighter.
  • 5 word life mantra - Live Simply and Work Smarter
  • Quote you live by - “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Steve Martin

Connect with Jacqueline (I dare you!):
Blog/website: Jacquelinewolven.com
Twitter- @
Instagram- @
Pinterest- /

Thursday, November 6, 2014

OVERCOMER: Talya Boerner

So I met this gal for the first time over Chuy's chip and dip.  It was her first days in her new home and she was braving the NWA Blogger meet-up (we were most glad she came back!).  She was moving here from Dallas right into my backyard.  I knew when I heard her sweet southern draw through a beautiful, welcoming smile that I was going to like this lady!  Later in the summer, we were assigned to work together at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference.  We may or may not have gotten ourselves into a little mischief that included the street commissioner giving me a lesson in what is and is not appropriate signage that can be put out at a major section in Rogers, AR.  I was grateful for my talk with him because the balloons worked and drew the attention intended and him bringing me my sign kept me from having to go back to said intersection to retrieve it.  Hey, you've got to see the joy in everyday moments!

If Grace and Grits is not on your daily loop, why don't you drop by her little cul-de-sac and hang for a minute.  You won't be disappointed! (seriously her post on her resignation letter from the bank was a moment of sheer genius!) She even made my granddad's Milk Way Cake last week.  And, I still think she could be a model.

  • What have you OVERCOME?   Discontent.
  • What was your turning point?
    Three years ago, my ninety-year-old father-in-law came to stay with us for six weeks. He lived in Fort Smith, we lived in Dallas, and I didn’t know him very well. I was able to rearrange my work schedule and take time off from the bank to care for him. The Dallas winter turned unusual with multiple snow and ice storms. Our afternoons were spent huddled inside by the fire working jigsaw puzzles and playing dominoes.
    “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked me early one evening.
    “A writer. I’ve always planned to write a book.”
    “You better get on it. You aren’t getting any younger,” he said. Then he grinned in his mischievous way.
    His words resonated. My career was solid. I worked among people who had become like family. Although I was a bit bored, it was easy to maintain status quo. After the conversation with my father-in-law, I took a serious look at myself, my career, my dreams. He faced the end of his life, and I was almost fifty years old. Those six weeks were life changing for me. I realized I had the power to change my future.
  • 5 word life mantra -   The world is a garden.
  • Quote you live by - You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut. – Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

OVERCOMER: Jenny Marrs

Jenny is a NWA gal that I have one of those digital relationships with.  But like so many in this amazing blogger community because we have mutual friends and share mutual interests, we all feel like we are connected.  Her blog is the kind that beckons you in. You want to laugh with them, cry with them and feel like you can just be friends.  I love that she shares real and every day.  Many have watched her family and walked with them in the journey to bring their sweet Sylvie home.  And then we rejoiced earlier this year as the moment finally happened.  Her sweet boys will keep you laughing and that ebony skinned little girl will make your heart sing.

So, I introduce you to Jenny and yes...her topic is one I fight with everyday (sometimes every moment)

  • What have you OVERCOME? Control
  • What was your turning point? Throughout the nearly two years of waiting to bring our
    legally adopted daughter home from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I had to surrender {the illusion of} control completely over to God.  In my brokenness and weariness during our wait, I ached to understand why our girl was caught in a nightmare of political posturing and red-tape.  I found myself gripping tightly to my plans for our family and my confusion escalated as we continued to wait halfway across the globe from our daughter.

    During this time, God revealed my tendency to lean on my own power and brought me to the end of my own strength and stamina.  Daily, I would lay my plans at the feet of my Savior and trust that He was protecting our baby girl both physically and emotionally.

    Two of the most important lessons I learned during this time: God is good and God is faithful.  I've known these truths intellectually for a long time but never before had my faith been tested so fiercely.  In the end, I have learned that God is the author of our life story and that He never, ever authors pain.  His promises remain true even in today's chaotic and messy world.
  • 5 word life mantra - The story isn't over yet
  • Quote you live by - "Our toughest battles will invariably concern matters of faith - times when we're tempted to think God's Word and His ways won't work for us, that He has abandoned us, let us down, or failed to come through for us." - Beth Moore

Connect with Jenny:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

OVERCOMER: Shannon Magsam

She is the cutest little pint of energy.  This woman leaves a wake of joy wherever she goes.  She is joy.  She is energy.  She is giving.  And, she is not afraid to share all of herself with those she is around.  I love when I walk into an event and see her smile.  She knows who she is, what she has to give and can teach us all a lesson about being a great mom and keeping all her priorities in check and embracing life as it rolls your way.

My gal Shannon - yes, the Mom Prom one who halls around the hottest guys in the back seat of her car!

  • What have you OVERCOME? Fear. Of commitment (so maybe I shouldn’t get married?), of not being a good mother (so maybe I shouldn’t have a baby?), of starting my own business (so maybe I shouldn’t start a business?), of being myself (so maybe I shouldn’t share parts of me that people might not like?).
  • What was your turning point?
    I married an amazing man (he’s just right for me). I gave birth to a baby girl who is about to turn 13. I started nwaMotherlode.com. I turned 40. In other words, I was fearful about so many of the things that I felt led to do but did them anyway. And I'm so, so glad I did. (Now the 40 part just happened whether I liked it or not).
  • 5 word life mantra - "Put on your big girl pants." (Sorry, that’s six words)
  • Quote you live by - “Scream and leap.” - My husband. “I love you, mom” - My daughter. “Just ask. What are they gonna do, take away your birthday?” - My business partner. “Be still and know that I am God.” God via the Bible.

Connect with Shannon:


Monday, November 3, 2014

OVERCOMER: Jerusalem Greer

Oh Jerusalem.  A gal I'd love to know more than I do.  I used to work with her parents when I was at Ouachita and was so surprised when I jumped into this world of AWBU, to not only meet another Ouachita gal, but one I felt like I knew since I knew those from whom she came.  (Even her grandpa was one pretty cool man).

I love her homemade spirit.  Her appreciation for the creative and to create.  He love of God's word and ability to interject it in her everyday. 

The words she shares below are true, real and honest.  I'm so thankful she chose to be real with you (she usually goes with that option) and keep it raw....

  • What have you OVERCOME? Saying “Never”
  • What was your turning point?
    Before the big economic and housing bust six years ago, I worked from home as an interior designer and craft artist. While I loved the work and the flexibility it gave me to be home with my youngest, I was a terrible money manager, and I ran up a lot of business related debt. When the bust happened people -at the level I worked at- stopped needing designers. I tried to sustain things financially through the craft-artist side of my business but I just couldn’t make it work, and I begin to ignore the mounting bills that were coming from collection agencies. Eventually the letters and the phone calls stopped, and I was served judgments for failure to pay. It was horrible, frightening, and I have never felt so alone. The lowest moment found me on the floor of my closet, in a fetal position, sobbing.
    Eventually I got up off the floor and went to work figuring out how to respond to all the judgments. I summoned every ounce of courage I could find and I called law office after law office to set up payment plans that would keep me out of court. I consolidated some of the debt that had not reached judgment status and set up payment plans for it as well. But I still had not reached the hardest moment. The hardest moment was when I knew that I had to go to work outside the home. In order to meet all these payments I needed a steady job in addition to the craft business. Blessedly I found a wonderful Pre-K program for my youngest son and his teacher was an old friend from college, so that softened the blow. But still it was not what I had wanted for him or me. I was one of those staunch mothers who swore I would “never” work outside the home. And yet, I had lived beyond my means and created a situation where there was no other option. I had to get a job. I had to pay off the debt that I alone had created, and I had to repair my credit. That was six years ago and I still worked outside the home even though all the debt was paid off several years ago, and my credit has been repaired to the extent that we were able to buy our dream farmette recently. For five of those years I was able to work at my boy’s school full-time and see them all through the day, being involved in their lives as much or more than if I was a Stay-at-Home-Mom - this was another unexpected blessing that helped our family adjust to my working and helped me pay the debt down faster. Recently, I changed jobs, and the new job - while not at their school - has a much more flexible schedule and allows me to more present in other ways, ways that my boys now in their adolescence need. I continue to work outside the home because I love what I do, the extra income provides us additional opportunities to give, and quite frankly it relieves a lot of stress that came from being stretched so thin month after month. I do not have any credit cards, and I don’t think I ever will again.  We live within our means - making trade-offs when necessary. A family vacation one month may mean a lot of beans and rice the next.
    Over the past six years I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that it is my responsibility to clean up the messes I make. I have learned that I am strong enough to do so.  And I have learned that is no shame in naming our faults, in saying that we have failed. Our stories help each other be brave. I have also learned that saying “never” is a way that we box God in. It’s a way that we turn down his gifts of grace, mercy, and miracles. When we say “never” we turn down the opportunity God has for us to grow, and what sort of life is that? I never planned on going to work full-time. Looking back I cannot imagine a life without the gifts that I received because I was willing to let go of my “never.” This life is so much better.  
  • 5 word life mantra - Be kind and show up.
  • Quote you live by - Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful - Annette Funicello

Connect with Jerusalem:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

OVERCOMER: Leslyn Ichter

Leslyn. One of my babies that has one of her own now.  Leslyn went to Ouachita (like most everyone in her family).  She was one of my kiddos.  One that I cooked for and let me giggle with.  During the days I was getting to know her, she was getting to know a boy.  And, they are super cute together.  Learning and meandering life as young 20-somethings.  She just had a baby and he is as cute as he can be.  I love visiting her blog; listening to her be real about her life and just trying to do what the rest of us are doing...get to the next day!
She has beautiful freckles and amazing hair.  But her heart is so much more beautiful than what you see when you walk up to her.  And, don't even get me started on what happens when you give this girl a mic!
(And,  must say this was one I'm so glad to read.  Its one of my daily struggles and I so love the advice she offers below!  I keep saying you've got to purge to merge, but I think that's true for time as well.)
  • What have you OVERCOME? Spreading myself too thin.
  • What was your turning point? The turning point has been a year-long process, to be completely honest. I am very type A by nature, so I have a difficult time trusting people to do a job the way I think it should be done (hello, pride). When I found out I was pregnant last year, I realized that I was wasting so much of my time doing things that I didn’t really love, and I was more exhausted than ever (and it wasn’t only because I was growing a human). As a result, this year has turned into a “purge” year, where I evaluate what truly gives me joy, and what steals it. As a result, I have more time with my family, I feel like I can breathe again, and I get to focus on the things that I’m passionate about!
  • 5 word life mantra - Be joyful in all things.
  • Quote you live by - “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” –Nelson Mandela
Connect with Leslyn:

And for those concerned that its not #overcomer October any more, we are going to keep going.  I have some amazing people in my world and they wanted to keep sharing.  So, we are making it happen.  Stick around for a few more days....and, if you want to share your story with my readers just answer the same 5 questions above and send me an email (link on left)!