February: Love is in the Air

It feels like the pressure is turned up on us in February to show just how much we love someone. We buy overpriced flowers, chocolates in outrageously huge heart boxes and spend money we don’t have trying to impress or outdo our loved ones. I feel the pressure too.

But I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore or have my spouse feel that way, so early on in our marriage I put a “ban” on having to get me something for Valentine’s Day. Yep, that’s right, I said no to chocolates and flowers! I didn’t need the highly caloric cheap chocolates anyway and the risk of biting into an orange cream filled chocolate was one I was tired of taking. The roses were pretty but let’s be real, they only lasted a few days at best and seemed a waste of money. Lilacs are my favorite, and come free, but in May. Well ya win some and you lose some!

So we did Valentine’s Day a little differently for years. Sometimes we’d write each other personal love notes, other times we’d have a simple candlelight dinner at home and again, being real here, other times it was sharing nachos and a quick kiss at our son’s basketball game in the middle of a busy week.

The Love chapter from the Message version goes like this:

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut. Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13

So I challenge myself and you out there, let’s not feel the pressure to buy things but to BE THINGS to our significant others as the scripture mentions above. Forget the Russell Stover candy and how about practicing some patience instead, skip Flowerama on your way home and pray for your spouse earnestly, check your attitude at the door and learn your spouses love language and master that. I’m speaking to myself here too, Friends.

I’ve been happily married nearly 29 years as of this writing. Years later after the ban took place for about a decade, I decided to “lift” it. Seems a flower or two here and there and some mystery chocolates would be nice to take a risk on again. And isn’t that too what love is, a risk of daily doing life with someone you love. And it’s SO worth it!

Especially when you’re married to a guy named, Steve. Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you too, Friends! Drop me a comment and let me know how YOU celebrate Valentine’s Day. And feel free to subscribe to my blog to get the latest posts sent right to your inbox,


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Easy Steps for Using Instacart at Aldi

Boy was I excited to hear that Aldi was starting to use Instacart and offer delivery options in our area! You see, I am not a fan of grocery shopping so I had to try it out. I’m happy to share my experience with you here.

I ordered the groceries from the app, waited for the desired time slot I chose, received text updates and then the shopper carried my Aldi groceries and set them just inside my front door. Aaaahhhh, the convenience and pure bliss!

Wanna try it too? Here’s 8 EASY STEPS to take:

  1. Download the free Instacart app. It has a carrot on it.
  2. Enter your preferred grocery store, like Aldi.
  3. Using their amazing search engine, search for your grocery item(s) and add them to your shopping cart.
  4. You can enter quantity, substitute items if yours in unavailable, and add any notes you want to your shopper.
  5. When you are finished you simply checkout. You will see the $3.99 delivery fee, tax, tip (which is suggested and adjustable) as well as your total. If you’ve gone over budget, you can adjust the items in your cart.
  6. Then you’ll select a day and time frame (in hour increments) that you want to get your groceries delivered! (Can you hear the angels singing?!) *You can also edit your cart right up until they shop!
  7. If you select text updates, and I’d encourage it, the updates will tell you when your shopper is shopping, when they’ve substituted an item, when they are checking out and when they’re on their way to your home. It’s really handy and convenient.
  8. Give it a try!

Like I said, I really liked the convenience of it. I’ve used this service twice so far – one day I had a lot going on and needed to multi-task and one day it was freezing cold with snow on the way and I didn’t want to fight the crowd. The delivery service worked like a charm!

The only one thing I’ve noticed you can’t do is buy alcohol through the app but the bottle of wine can wait, right?

I’d encourage you to give it a try and see if you like it! Drop me a comment if you have any questions about the process or share your experiences here. If you liked this post, please enter your email to subscribe to my blog!

Happy shopping and DELIVERY,


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7 Goal Areas You Should Set

By now most people’s new year’s resolutions are broken. And that’s mainly because they were not specific enough or written down, experts say. So when creating your goals, why not write them down and be specific? Include numbers and deadlines and you’ll hit your target. Then set up a daily or weekly time to regularly look at your goals and see how you are progressing.

An example goal could be:

By April 15, I will lose 8 pounds by exercising 4 days a week and eating healthier.

It’s helpful to set goals in 7 areas of your life:








Of course, you can pick and choose what areas of your life to include. The above are just example categories. You can also set smaller goals each week to attain your main goals. An accountability partner or group may be beneficial as well.

Setting goals are good to do! They challenge us and grow us in ways where we may have just stagnated. Don’t forget to make them attainable too! Using the goal example above-saying that you want to lose 50 pounds by mid April is not only unrealistic but unhealthy! Be kind to you. And set those goals. Zig Ziglar says, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Now that is encouraging news!

If you’ve set some goals and they are too vague, go back and make them more specific or use the acronym, SMART to remember:


M= Measurable




YOU can do this, Friend!

Happy goal setting AND then attaining them!


Leave a comment and tell us what one of your goals is for the new year.

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Word of the Year: BRAVE

Last year I lived somewhat fearfully and I did not like it one bit. I don’t want to become the worrier, the weak or the wuss. Life tossed me up emotionally last year and so this year, with the Lord’s help, have chosen the word “brave” as my theme for the upcoming year. We’ll see how it plays out.

When I was a kid I was brave, daring and fearless! I want to find THAT girl again! I know she’s in there, and I’m determined to discover courage again.

Been doing a word study on the word, brave. The Bible tells about people that were told to be strong and courageous, a.k.a. brave. So it must be a good quality to have, right? Brave is synonymous with fearless, valiant, bold, I want to be those things in life. The opposite of bravery is cowardice and no one wants to be that. Nope, I prefer resolute, spirited and dauntless! How about unappalled, undismayed, unalarmed and unflinching? Yeah, I’ll take a large heaping of those too, please.

The Bible tells us over and over again to “fear not”. God must have known (of course He does, He knows all!) that we humans get scared. I’m so glad he loves us so much to reassure us that He’s near, will never leave us and will never abandon us. How comforting is that?!

I love what Isaiah 41 says:

10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

13. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you,” declares the Lord.

Who doesn’t want to be strengthened, helped and hold hands with Jesus? I think I could step out more, worry less and live life a lot fuller knowing all that! How about you?

Trusting in Him,


Do you have a word for the year, I’d love to hear what it is in a comment!

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A New Beginning: A Family Story

A wide eyed, just turned 6 year old debarked the ocean liner with his mother and little brother. This large ship had been their temporary home as they crossed the vast Atlantic en route to America.  A seagull squawked overhead and took his attention away from looking at all the tall buildings off in the distance. It was nice to be on solid ground again, he heard his mother say.

I wonder what was going through this little boy’s head that day as he walked off the ocean liner, Prinzess Alice (pictured above), having sailed from port in Bremen, Germany. Was he missing home, nervous, excited or a combination of all three? Little Otto had no way of knowing how much his life was changing that day nor what it would be like to grow up in America. 

Otto’s family checked in through Ellis Island on May 14, 1907, handwritten passenger records tell us. As he stood by his mother and little brother, Desi, in line on Ellis Island, he reflected on his birthday celebration just eleven days ago. Being six seemed so much older than when he was five, he thought, but those thoughts were soon interrupted by someone yelling, “Next!” and then being shuffled into a new line in the grand room echoing with voices, crying babies and shouts of directions. 

The story above is embellished a bit to what I think it might have been like for Otto and his family that spring day.  But the truth is, this IS the real story of Steve’s Grandpa, Otto Zoller, immigrant from Nagymoros, Hungary, whose family would eventually settle in the Chicago/South Bend area for their entire lives.

Otto and his wife, Elizabeth, whose family also came over from Hungary in the early 1900’s, would marry, work an honest living and raise 5 beautiful children-2 daughters and 3 sons. These children would grow up in America, get married, work jobs, serve our country in the military, have children and grandchildren themselves. My own children, Spencer and Braden, are among this group of grandchildren and I’m so proud to have married into such a wonderful family with such a rich history!

I thought this story would be a great way to begin the new year, wide eyed and hopeful for a brand new year as we step out of 2018 and into all the possibilities that 2019 and beyond may hold for us.

May it be a wonderful and blessed year ahead, dear friends and family!


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2018: A Year in Review

Seems natural to reflect back over this past year as we’re already beginning to peek into the next one, doesn’t it? It’s good to count our blessings from this year and see just where we’ve been, where we’ve grown and where we’re going.

It’s kinda the thing now to choose a word or phrase to be “your theme” for the year. So last year I chose the word: peace. Quite frankly, I needed some, especially in my soul. Some family news in the prior year had left me in an upheaval, uproar and my world as I’d always known it, upside-down. So yeah, I needed some peace. Not as the world gives but as only I knew my Lord could give. And help He did. Over the course of the year, with God’s help, I received his peace and so much more!

Looking back now, I should have themed it the “Year of Answered Prayer” because through the peace emerged some events that I had been praying about for 20 plus years! The first answered prayer came in the response to my oldest son being baptized! I had prayed for this all of his life, especially after he got saved, but I knew it had to be his decision and God’s timing. So on a Sunday back in February this year, Spencer was baptized by his youth pastor and now our lead pastor. And this Mama cried tears of joy and thankfulness and heaven rejoiced!

Another answered prayer came in the form of a lovely lady that entered Spencer’s life a couple years ago and that he asked to marry him over the winter. The date was set for the wedding to be in September. I had prayed since he was in the womb for his spouse with very specific requests for his lovely bride and God answered them and more in our sweet Jordan. So with her acceptance of his proposal and the ring, they were married in a lovely ceremony and reception that really could not have been more perfect or more fun. And this Mama cried tears of joy and thankfulness and heaven rejoiced!

The next answered prayer came in the form of an email. An acceptance email to be exact. Our youngest son, who after years of preparing, studying, learning and working got accepted to not one but two medical schools at the age of twenty! This young man has diligently prepared for this day and God has delightfully equipped him for the calling of doctor. I have prayed for Braden through the years, especially on those nights that my light would turn out at bedtime way before his would. And once again this Mama cries tears of joy and thankfulness and I just know heaven rejoices on these matters.

So 2018, you were pretty amazing and God, you are outstanding in all that you do for me, for us. For settling my spirit and giving me peace to not only hearing my prayers but answering them in ways better than I could have imagined. I do have more prayers for him to answer and I have faith He will in his perfect timing. And that’s what God does, He takes our meagerness and multiplies it into so much more! So as we look forward to a new year, my new word is BRAVE. And I’m sure there will be a future post on that! 😉

May you all have a wonderful rest of 2018 and a very happy new year ahead!


Leave me a comment below: What is your word or theme for the year? What prayers has God answered? What are you still praying for? I’d love to hear them!


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A Bookworm’s 12 Days of Christmas

I love a good book and a good book referral. So I thought you too might like some good book recommendations today! And just in time for Christmas gift giving or for yourself to read in the new year. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

12. Seeing What is Sacred by Ken Gire. Ken is a masterful writer that speaks right into the soul. In Seeing What is Sacred you learn to see God in the every day of life kind of places.  Some places you might not even expect!

11. Love Your Life Not Theirs by Rachel Cruse. Comparison is all over social media encouraging us to “keep up”.  Keep up with the newest clothing trends, keep up with the latest products,  keep up with creative decorating, etc. but in Rachel’s book she shows us that we don’t need to keep up any longer. There is much to be said about contentment and being grateful and you’ll find it in her book.

10. The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco. This selection is a children’s book and one that you will enjoy reading aloud to the child(ren) in your life. Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite children’s authors, writing poignant and inspiring stories for young and old alike! She also beautifully illustrates her own books too. 

9. Heaven by Randy Alcorn. If you like to know where you’re going,  a planner or curious about eternity, then this book, Heaven, will be interesting to you. It is a comprehensive book on the subject that is thorough, well-written and comforting, especially if you already have a loved one there.  

8. Make Something Good Today by Ben and Erin Napier. Intertwined within this memoir is a love story, entreprenurial spirit and appreciation for family and home towns.  It is a delightful, honest read that will leave you inspired!

7. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. Now a classic, this is one of those books that stays with you! God loves us unconditionally and Brennan Manning eloquently writes about just how much He does.  If you are needing some encouragement in your Christian walk,  then start with this one. 

6. A Spectacle of Glory by Joni Eareckson Tada.  This devotional book is written by the gifted author, Joni. As a teenager, Joni was paralyzed in a diving accident and through her own sufferings she has come to know the Lord in a mighty way! She writes books that speak  from her heart and to the heart of the reader, written with God’s powerful truths. This would be a great daily read for 2019. 

5. The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski.  This is one of those books that a person needs to read every year or two, especially if you are a Christian.  Written refreshingly honest,  Michael clearly explains spiritual practices through people he meets and fascinating experiences! 

4. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. This book pleasantly surprised me with how much it spoke to my soul. Having received some devastating news in my own life, this book, along with the Bible, ministered to my brokenness like no other last year! It is now heavily underlined and referred back to by me …and every one I know that is hurting, I tell them about this must read book!

3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  This New York Times Bestseller written by the talented Ann Voskamp, is one that will entertain, delight and help you appreciate right where God has you in this world. It’s a great read and a great gift idea!

2. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.  This timeless Christmas poem is one I adore and have practically memorized through the years. Now in various picture books forms, it’s a must read! Read aloud along with the Luke 2 Bible Story for children of all ages!

and last but not least….(drumroll)…

Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan. This book was the most eye opening and inspiring for me this year!  With straight talk and examples, Chris clearly presents a way to be retired inspired with a plan.  And if he can get ME excited about such a topic that is nothing short of a miracle! ( I wrote a whole other blog post here about this book a few posts back – take a look!)

Well,  along with the Bible,  these are books that I want to share with you and encourage you to read for yourself, read to others and/or give as gifts!

What are you currently reading?  What are your favorite books? What’s the best book YOU read this year? I’d love to know in a comment!

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Happy Reading!


Guest Post by Bryan Miles: Life Lessons from the Future You

NOTE: The following is a guest post written by my brother, Bryan, and I am grateful for his support in this endeavor and more proud of him, his family and his business than he realizes.  Enjoy his post below! ~Brooke  

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to give your younger self some well-earned advice? I find it a habit to do self-reflection daily. Daily in my prayer, meditation, and journaling. It is so important to me and my personal health. As the gray in my hair and beard take over … I reflect on personal lessons I have learned and how I can leverage them in my future.

What would you tell that early version of you, knowing what you know now?

Well, here’s a summary of lessons learned for me. I hope you’ll find them beneficial for you.

  1. Wisdom Matters. While you may very well be as smart as you think you are, your intelligence will only be marginally useful in the real world. As time goes on, you’ll come to rely less and less on your brains and more and more on the wisdom, self-confidence, and strength that comes from your experience and the gray-haired wisdom of others. Lean in to others who are wise. Listen closely … wisdom is speaking.
  2. Get Over Yourself. The sooner you get over yourself, the better. The sooner you grow up and stop thinking you’re special … the sooner you realize that you’re just another guy trying to carve his own path in the world … the sooner you fall down, get up, dust yourself off, and realize that wasn’t so bad … the better. Most times, the person thinking about you the most … is you.
  3. Take BIG Risks! The older we get … the more “risk adverse” we become. It gets much harder as you get older and begin to acquire and achieve things you don’t want to risk losing. If Sam Walton started his first Wal-Mart at 44 years old … you can certainly take some risks … right NOW! Don’t wait. Qualify the risk/opportunity … then say “yes” and figure it out as you go.
  4. Leadership … What?! Leadership is often lonely. Leadership is not about telling everyone else what to do. It’s about casting vision and serving others. Don’t let fancy business magazines fool you … leadership is not all gum-drops and lollipops. There’s a significant cost to be a leader. Leadership is a stewardship … you are accountable for the leadership entrusted to you.
  5. Find Your Passion. If you don’t think you’ve found it yet … then you haven’t. You’ll know when you have. When you find your passion … increasing opportunity, responsibility, and accountability will naturally come to you. Passion will make your senses come alive!
  6. Fail Fast. You’ll achieve confidence from success … and wisdom from failure. Failure builds a strong foundation. When you know you will fail … fail fast … remember how you got there and don’t do it again. Learn from your failure … it’s a great teacher.
  7. Be Generous. Give your money, your time, your experience, and your influence. Give a bunch of you away to others. No one … and I mean no one … owes you anything to prohibit you from giving yourself away.
  8. Sweat Every Day. Find a way to break a sweat each and every day. Do it for the future you. Prepare your body for its future. 
  9. Forgive. Life is too short to let others pin you to the ground with their actions and decisions. Give yourself the life-giving gift of forgiveness. Forgive for them … but also for you. There’s no greater model on this topic but Jesus.

These are nine lessons I have learned to share. I’ve learned many more … and most are captured in my journals since my college days. 

The future you is begging you to do things that benefit you. I’d encourage you to consider that a life lived with intention is a rich life lived. Be about the things your future you is telling you. It’s a gift. If only I had listened when I was younger …



Bryan Miles 

CEO & Co-Founder


855.55.BELAY x 1000


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5 Things Married Couples Need to Consider Buying

I feel a little bit like the gal in the movie, Julie and Julia, when she is starting her blog.  Is anybody reading this? Does anybody care? And yet I still write this blog because well, I enjoy it at least.  And hope you do too.  All three of you. LOL 🙂

After being married almost 30 years I started to think about what some of our all-time best purchases have been and wanted to share them with you! So with the Christmas and gift giving season upon us, (and tax refunds in the spring!) I thought I would share what have been, in my humble opinion, our best purchases in our married life to date. Here we go!

  1. First and foremost, our Select Comfort Mattress Bed! This was a huge purchase for us years ago! We are not extravagant people by any means, so to purchase this was an investment. An investment in our comfort, an investment in our backs, an investment in our marriage! Truly. A person sleeps a third of their lifetime so getting a quality mattress bed just makes sense! We were having trouble finding a mattress that was “just right” for both of our discerning spines, so finding one that was adjustable for each of us was a wonderful discovery. And for goodness sake, while you are making this investment, get a KING sized mattress! You might seriously come hug me on that tip in a few months! You add in a dog, a kid that can’t sleep through the night, or kids that beat feet to your bedroom during an overnight thunderstorm and well, square footage becomes scarce! And once the kids leave, you just like your sleeping space! Yeah, get the biggest bed you can find!
  2. Next, our Suburban vehicle (or truck, if you prefer!) I cannot tell you how many times a larger vehicle has come in handy! From moving bulky items like love seats and beds, to helping out a friend, to bringing sheet rock and lumber home from the hardware store (and not having to pay for delivery charges!), to going on week long vacations with the family and/or transporting 6 foot tall teenagers and all their gear to sporting events or off to college, yeah,  the Suburban has been an invaluable investment. Bought used years ago and its still pulling it’s weight! Get ya a large vehicle!
  3. A quality tent should also be on the list.  Being a big believer in family vacations but also not wanting to break the bank or use a credit card, a tent can save a TON of money on lodging costs! We bought one that was small, very small, when we were first married and as we had children, we bought a larger tent. But seriously, when you can camp away from home at state parks or KOA campgrounds for around $30 a night and a decent hotel now costs well over $100 these days, the savings really adds up quickly over time! And the savings can allow you to do FUN things like eat out or pay for a family activity. Plus kids love tents!
  4. Fourth, buy a home.  When you have an emergency fund set up, a sizable down payment (20%) and no debt, then purchase a home. Purchase one that is affordable on your income,  NOT one the loan company says you can afford! Not only will you be buying a place where memories will be made for years to come but you will be saving money in an equity fund over time.  It’s probably the largest purchase a couple will make together but one that will be the most special.
  5. And last but not least, a membership to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University DVD set and books. For $100 bucks on sale, this 9 week course can set you and your spouse up to make quality financial decisions that will not only get you on the right course but potentially change your family tree financially!  Nope, it’s not a get rich scheme, and no, none of the products I’m endorsing today are paid ads ( I wish!) it’s simply a plan of action to get your finances in line and help you get out of debt if you find yourself there.  It’s not rocket science either,  you can do this program once you set YOUR mind to it, it’s pretty much straight common sense but you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.  www.daveramsey.com

So, there you have five of the best purchases I can think of to enhance your married life (and family life too really!)  I’m sure there are more we could add to the list but here’s a good start. Feel free to comment on things you would add if you were creating a list!

Blessings Friends,


Celebrating a Manger Baby

Growing up in a Christian home and going to countless church services throughout my lifetime, I never want the Christmas or Easter stories to become mundane or boring.  So each season I pray that God would show me some NEW aspect about the events that I did not know before. And every year, without fail, God faithfully answers that prayer.

I think God can’t help but answer the prayers of his children that truly seek Him and want to get to know Him more. The answered prayer revelations have come through a variety of sources: books, shows, sermons and such. And it’s been fascinating and interesting to learn new aspects of his birth, his resurrection and his story.  It helps to be open to learning, because he’s a dynamic God!  He’s always doing things we can’t see and yet always remaining the same, stable, steady Lord we need.

I look forward to what He shows me this year! What about you, what are you anticipating most about Christmas? What if he revealed more of himself to you, would you be open to that? Would you be open to receiving the greatest gift of all and of all time?

Surrounded by livestock, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Would you be open to unwrapping His love this year and learning more about Him? The Bible is a great reference starting point. Turn to the book of Luke and read his birth story and how Jesus humbled himself coming down to earth as a baby.  And keep on reading his Word.  He’ll reveal himself more and more to you as you earnestly seek him. Wise men still seek Him, as the Christmas cards portray, but a camel isn’t required. Just an open heart.

Find a Bible preaching church, get in a Bible study, and/or meet with other Christians for encouragement and support. Pray and don’t be afraid to ask questions to others and to God  Sing songs of praise, listen to Christian music radio stations, or even join the church’s band!

As Christmas nears, and time flies at a furious pace this season, please don’t lose sight of the real meaning of CHRISTmas and what God may be wanting to show you about Himself.

Celebrating the Lamb of God this season,


What do you find most miraculous about the Christmas story? Comment below and share with us!