My newest obsession is beeswax tea light candles. With help from a couple of rustic wooden candle holders, they have made a cheerful addition to our table and my nightstand. One thing I look forward to each evening is burning my candle while sitting in my comfy chair reading a book for a few minutes. That short time to relax my body and feed my mind does wonders to refresh me for the (likely sleepless) night that lies before me. Recently I started taking an hour of this kind of relaxation time on Saturday afternoons while my husband plays with the baby. I’m a mom who doesn’t enjoy naps (I know, judge me all you want), so this is my way of refreshing myself.

Last Saturday when I finished my hour long latte and book session, I turned to blow my candle out and noticed that it had burned down almost completely evenly. I thought how good it had been for my mind to sit still pondering words on a page long enough for my candle to burn down like that. And it made me think of a passage in the Bible:

Psalm 39:3-4

My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.

While I was musing the fire burned… What does that word “muse” even mean? Muse, when used as a verb, means “to be absorbed in thought.” In this passage, David took time to be absorbed in thought because his mind was troubled over the wickedness before him. It was after taking this time that he was able to speak and put things in perspective.

There’s a lot of talk about mental health today; most of that talk is about emotional health. I think that’s great and extremely important. However, there’s more to the mind than the emotions. Ancient philosophers said that there were three parts of the mind. The part dealing with the emotions is the “affective” part. The “conative” part of the mind is the part that drives our actions. However, in this post I want to focus on the “cognitive” part of the mind. This refers to our intellect. I truly believe that intellectual health is an important part of the health of our minds.

Unfortunately, many people stop exercising their intellect at the end of formal schooling. If your job doesn’t involve much critical thinking or learning, and you’re not taking the time to exercise your intellect on your own, your intellectual health may be in worse shape than you think. When you don’t exercise your intellect, your brain is weaker and is actually more susceptible to things like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When you take the time to strengthen your intellect, you make your brain more resistant to these diseases. Also, as the Bible passage mentioned above shows us, you have more clarity to process the world around you in a godly way.

I particularly enjoy reading as as way to strengthen my mind. Good nonfiction that challenges me to grow as well as fiction that exercises my imagination are both an important part of exercising my mind. I try to read a good balance of fiction and nonfiction. I also enjoy writing to develop my critical thinking skills (which is why I’m writing right now, even though it would be easier to turn off my mind and scroll social media while my baby naps). Meditating on God’s Word and praying are not only important to our spiritual health, but they also help exercise our mind by teaching us to focus in a culture with increasingly shorter attention spans.

Maybe you enjoy exercising your intellect in another way like solving puzzles, playing games that involve critical thinking skills, being creative through artwork, learning a new language, researching a subject that interests you, or engaging in deep conversation. Pick something that appeals to you, and take time on a regular basis to take care of your intellectual health!

God created us with a body, a mind, and a spirit. Nobody would argue that bodily exercise isn’t important, and believers understand just how important spiritual health is. Don’t neglect the health of your mind either. Take some time today to do something for your intellectual health. Let a candle burn low while you’re absorbed in thought. When you’re finished, you will find that your mind is refreshed and you can see the world as God sees it more clearly.

A few days ago, I was preparing to put my seven-month-old down for her nap. She had had an especially wakeful night the night before, and I was exhausted. I had good intentions to get some writing done while she slept, but I knew my mind was too tired. It would be more beneficial to do something to refresh myself. I remembered the orange Fanta that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days, and I decided that was the opportune time to read a book and enjoy a little caffeine-free treat as a pick me up. Besides, maybe if I skipped caffeine she would sleep better? No; her sleep patterns seem to be a mere product of chance.

I brought the Fanta with me to get the baby to sleep as a sweet promise of refreshment as soon as I could put her down. As I gazed at the Fanta while I waited for her to be just sound enough asleep, my mind began to wander. Fanta is a product of the Coca-Cola Company, right?

Probably not what most people wonder before they enjoy a treat. However, my dad has been working in the food industry for over thirty years, and growing up it was not uncommon to see him check a label to find out who made that particular product. So, I picked up my Fanta and checked the label. And yes, Fanta is a product of the Coca-Cola Company. However, as I started to read other parts of that label, I started to think: a label can tell you a lot about a food item. And just like food items, we are all wearing labels that can tell others a lot about us.

I would venture to say that most of my readers would wear the label “Christian.” And hopefully others can see that as a positive differentiator in your life. Past that, we probably wear a lot of labels that are unique. Those who know me might think of me as a children’s pastor’s wife, or as a mother. Maybe some would think that I wear the label of writer. Or perhaps you know that I’m a bookworm or that I love shoes. Those are probably some of the most obvious labels in my life, and I’m sure by now you’ve thought of some of the labels you wear as well. But that afternoon when I laid my daughter down for her nap and opened up my long-awaited Fanta, I noticed something: the label may have been able to tell me a lot, but it didn’t tell me some of the most important things about my soft drink.

The label could never tell me how wonderful that sweet artificial-orange flavor would be to my taste buds; it couldn’t tell me how that little afternoon sugar rush would somehow get me through the rest of the day. And the labels that we wear don’t scratch the surface of who we really are on the inside either.

Did you know that I’m afraid of heights? A friend of mine learned that recently as my hands turned clammy while standing on a chair so she could pin up my dress to hem it for me.

Did you know I speak Spanish pretty well? I’ll never forget the shock on my college best friend’s face when I started speaking Spanish one Saturday while out soul winning.

Did you know I’ve been to forty-eight of the United States? I’m sure I’ll make it to Alaska and Hawaii someday!

There are thousands of other little things that go into making me who I am. And I’m sure there are thousands of little things about you that make you who you are. Deep relationships are so rare, but they make life so much sweeter. In order to develop those relationships, you have to look past the labels people are wearing. You have to take time to get to know what’s really on the inside.

This usually happens pretty easily in a marriage relationship by merit of the fact that you’re spending many hours together. My husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning little things about each other over the last three years, and I’m sure there’s enough to keep us learning for a lifetime. The fact that my husband talks in his sleep is part of what makes him the unique person he is. And I’m always thankful for a laugh in the middle of the night when I’m up with the baby.

But I think we’re missing out on some great blessings when we don’t take the time to develop relationships with others that look past the label. It does take time. And it requires you to be willing to offer something of yourself. Let your conversations go past the surface. Be willing to open up. You are sweet and wonderful, and there’s nothing artificial-orange about you.

I’m convinced our Echo Show fancies herself to be a chef; she’s always suggesting that we ask her about recipes. So when “Alexa” suggested that I ask her about the “quarantine coffee trend,” this coffee-loving momma couldn’t resist.

You may have heard about dalgona coffee by now. It started as a trend on Tik Tok, but it quickly made its way to internet fame. My husband is home this week, so we decided to give this “quarantine coffee trend” a try for ourselves. This creamy whipped coffee drink has quickly turned into our morning coffee habit. Here’s how we did it.

Dalgona Coffee

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. instant coffee

1 tbsp. warm water

1 cup milk – I used vanilla unsweetened almond milk, but any kind of milk will work.

Instructions:

  1. Add sugar, instant coffee, and water to a clean bowl.
  2. Whisk ingredients together until the mixture is a thick, foamy consistency. This is much easier if you use an electric hand mixer, but with some patience, an old-fashioned whisk will do.
  3. Pour milk into a glass, and dollop the whipped coffee mixture on top.
  4. (Optional) You can stir the mixture into the milk for a more consistent sweet coffee flavor throughout.

This is such a fun, easy treat! If you would like a larger serving, you can easily double the recipe (this is what I did for my husband). Let me know what you think! Connect with me on Instagram at @michelleelaineburton. I would love to see your photos of your own experience making dalgona coffee!

“Time is money.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this expression. I’ve usually heard it in reference to the fact that when we go to work, we are exchanging our time for money. But recently, I’ve been thinking about it in a different way.

My husband and I recently read the book You Need A Budget by Jesse Mecham. The driving principle of this personal finance book is that you should ask what you want your money to do for you, and then you should give every dollar a job. This has been helpful for my husband and I as we have been striving to be better stewards of our money. However, it has caused me to think about another unit in life that I really need a budget for: my time.

Time and money have many similarities, but there are two primary differences between them. Unlike money, we all have the same amount of time in the bank account of our days: 1,440 minutes. And although we can save the money we acquire today to use in the future, we cannot save up our minutes. We have to use all 1,440 of them each day. However, my thoughts have been focused on the similarities between time and money.

Like in You Need A Budget, rather than asking what you want your money to do for you, ask yourself what you want your time to do for you. I can’t tell you what the answer to this question will be for yourself, but for me, I want my time to give me a closer relationship to God. I want it to help me be a good wife and a good mother. I want it to help me become a better storyteller to give glory to God. If you think about what your true priorities are, these are the things you probably want your time to help you accomplish.

Once you’ve determined what your priorities are, think of the things you could spend your time on that would most help you to reach your goals. If I want to have a closer relationship with God, I should devote time to studying His Word and talking to Him through prayer. If I want to be a better wife, I should plan to devote time to getting to know my husband better through conversation and hobbies we enjoy together. If I want to be a better mother, I should be intentional about spending time with my daughter. If I want to be a better storyteller, I should make time to read books that will expand my mind and create the right mindset for storytelling, and I should make time to write.

Of course, there are things in life that will take your time that may not seem to exactly line up with your main priorities. Eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, and some form of exercise are all things that take up time and are basic, necessary parts of life. Buying groceries and paying your electric bill may not seem to contribute directly to your goals of saving for retirement or having money to travel, but they’re essential to survival. Don’t neglect basic healthy habits in favor of meeting a goal you feel is “more spiritual.” Don’t forget that the Holy Spirit lives in you; spend the necessary minutes to take care of His temple. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Not neglecting the essentials of life, it’s time to make our time budget. Rather than giving every dollar a job, I would challenge you to give every minute a job. You could do this in two different ways. You could make a general schedule for your day, including the activities that match your priorities. Or, you could determine to spend a certain amount of time on your imperative actives daily or weekly. A planner can be a useful tool for this, and has proven to be very helpful as I have worked towards my own goals in the last few years.

Although a planner can be a helpful tool, don’t be too rigid in your planning. As with a money budget, the unexpected is bound to happen as you attempt to budget your time. Just like unexpected car repairs that seem to take money from your “more important” priorities, unexpected delays will happen. This is especially true in my life of being a stay-at-home mom of a seven-month-old. In fact, I actually sat down to write this blog post yesterday while my daughter took her nap. However, the nap only lasted twenty minutes, and I had to adjust. I opted to delay my writing until today, Saturday, when my husband would be home to take care of the baby while I focused on writing. Don’t feel like you’ve failed when unexpected delays happen; learn to adjust and keep moving forward. Besides, by stopping my writing to care for my daughter, I was actually giving my minutes to the priority of being a good mother.

Another problem you face may be over planning. Remember, you only have 1,440 minutes a day. You can’t do everything. If you find that you’re never quite reaching your goals, you may need to give something up. Just like when looking at your financial budget, if you’re never able to reach your goal for saving, you may need to adjust your lifestyle a bit. Maybe you need to cut your eating out in half or get rid of it altogether. If you’re not reaching your goals for what you want to accomplish with your time, think through what you’re doing in a given week, and get rid of something.

Look for pitfalls in your goals for your time that may be taking away minutes that you don’t even realize you’re losing. Smartphone usage is a big one. Most phones have a usage tracker, but if yours doesn’t you can download an app that will track your daily usage. I would challenge you to look at how much time you’re spending on your phone; it may surprise you. Just like it may surprise you how much you’re spending on lattes or clothes.

Although it’s important to be a good steward of your time, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to plan some time for recreation, just like it’s okay to plan some “fun money” into your budget. If you feel like you can never spend money on lattes or clothes (or whatever recreational item you enjoy), your budget probably won’t be sustainable. If you feel like you can never spend time doing something “frivolous” it’s likely you’ll burn out. For fifteen minutes every day, I plan to go to my bedroom, close the door, light a candle, and drink a cup of tea while reading a book just for fun. This may not seem like an “important” use of fifteen minutes, but I would argue it’s one of the most important fifteen minutes of my day. It relaxes me and refreshes my mind so that I have the energy to reach my “more important” goals. Give yourself some minutes for something that relaxes you. Maybe that is social media; I know that for me, social media usually just adds more stress to my life. Maybe it’s watching movies or playing games. Maybe it’s running (although I really don’t understand this one). Make time for those things so that you’ll have the energy to reach your goals.

If you do slip up and spend multiple mind-numbing hours on social media in a day (or whatever it is for you), don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t call it quits. If you bought a latte every day for a week (when you know it doesn’t fit your budget), you wouldn’t just say, “Well, I’ve messed up now. I may as well buy a latte every day for the rest of my life.” When you realize you’re slipping into your old habits, take a step back and readjust. Remember, you get 1,440 new minutes every day. You can start fresh tomorrow.

Another thing the finance book I read challenged its readers to do was “question everything.” Question everything you’re spending your time on. Before you do anything, consider if it’s bringing you closer to your goals or farther away from them. Are you just throwing your minutes away? If you’re not happy that you’re using your minutes on any given activity, you can stop.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t want anyone to take this and create a rigid schedule with no room for error or margin. My goal is to make my readers think for themselves. Be intentional. You can intentionally spend minutes in prayer, and just as intentionally spend minutes watching a movie. But before you do anything, be sure that’s what you really want to spend your minutes on. Because your minutes are far more precious than your dollars.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” The Greek word for “redeeming” here means “to rescue from loss.” Don’t let your time be lost; use it for the things that are most important to you. But more importantly, make sure the things that are important to you are the things that are important to God.

This is going to be a fun post. I never imagined a future blog being about anything but biblical insights, but I’m learning that even the little pleasures in life are blessings from God. And I think we could all use a little joy in our lives right now.

As a preface, I’m not much of a cook. In fact, my husband does most of the cooking because he’s good at it at and he enjoys it. Think what you would like of my stay-at-home-mom skills, but it works for us.

However, I love making fun hot drinks. Bonus points if it involves coffee (the empty latte cup sitting beside me can attest to that). I don’t quite understand people who don’t enjoy coffee, but I think everyone can agree on the merits of one delicacy: chocolate.

I hope some Easter chocolate has found its way into your home by now. (Can we all just take a moment and thank the Lord for Walmart grocery pickup?) This week, some Cadbury Creme Eggs and Cotton Candy Peeps miraculously found their way into our grocery order. With some extra time on my hands yesterday, I got a little creative. The result was too good not to share.

Easter Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 cup of milk – I used vanilla unsweetened almond milk, but you can use whatever milk you prefer

One Cadbury Creme Egg

Whipped cream

One Peeps Marshmallow Chick

Instructions:

  1. Either on the stovetop or in the microwave, warm milk until it is bubbling.
  2. Place Cadbury Creme Egg in a mug and pour half of the warm milk over the egg. Use a spoon to stir until the egg has melted.
  3. Stir the remaining milk into the mug.
  4. Top with a small amount of whipped cream.
  5. Place Peep on top

I hope you enjoy this fun treat as much as we did! I would love to hear what you think! You can connect with me on Instagram here:

http://instagram.com/michelleelaineburton

I love stories. True stories and fiction alike, nothing refreshes my mind like reading a good story. Even though life with a seven-month-old is busy, I make time every day to read a story of some sort, just for my personal enjoyment. In fact, reading stories refreshes me even more than taking a nap does. However, it’s not just reading stories that I love; I love telling stories as well. That’s what brings me back to the blogging world.

I wrote my last blog post almost four years ago. That seems hard to believe, but time flies when your life is busy. In our American culture, we glorify busyness, but I would argue that the busyness of my life hasn’t always been for the best. A lot of that busyness has been social media consumption (I could write several posts on this topic; perhaps I will at some point). But life has been busy in more meaningful ways as well.

Being a ministry wife has kept me busy in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. And motherhood has brought a whole new set of challenges! But perhaps you and I are in a similar situation now; we’re suddenly not quite so busy anymore.

If you’re reading this years from now, I will mention for your sake that we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and businesses are closed. Even churches have closed their doors, navigating a new frontier of online services. And life has slowed down in a way that has made a lot of people very uncomfortable. Stillness can be uncomfortable, but from the very start of this time, it has been my goal to make the most of it and learn what God has for me.

I have barely left the house in three weeks. My husband is home a lot more, which means I have an extra set of hands to take care of the baby. Because of this, I’ve had time to do quite a few things that I always “mean to do” or think I “should do” but never seem to have the time. This week’s tasks have included mending clothes, updating my online shop, and sorting through coupons. Simple tasks. But one thing that kept burning in the back of my mind that I “should do” was restart my blog.

I love telling stories. But sometimes storytelling is uncomfortable. It requires me to offer something of myself for others to read freely. It’s much easier to keep my thoughts to myself in a journal. But I can’t help but believe that God gave me a passion for storytelling so that I can use that passion for His glory. So that’s what I’m setting out to do, all over again.

I want to share my thoughts as I meditate on God’s truths in hopes that those things will be an encouragement to you. But I also want to use this as a place to share family updates and other little fun things along the way. Through it all, I pray that God will be glorified, and that you will see the abundant life that He wants each one of us to have through it all.

For today, I would simply challenge you to consider what He might have you to do during this time of stillness. Your life is a story in itself that God desires to use to bring glory to Himself.