Goodbye 2016

I have spent some time this morning decluttering the house. While I packed away Christmas decor, tossed out old files, and loaded the car with boxes of the latest donations, I started to reflect on this past year. It went by in a flash, but I am truly humbled by the last 365 days.

Highlights of the past year remind me of more good times than bad, which is something I haven’t always been able to say every December 31. What I have always been able to say, regardless of the ups or downs, is that God is good. He is faithful, and He continues to bless me with undeserving goodness and mercy.

This year, we welcomed two new family members — Michael David (born May 23) and John Carter (born September 12). Both of these handsome boys are my great nephews, born to my two oldest nieces, Jessie (Carter’s mom) and Katie (Michael’s mom). Being an aunt is an honor that I do not take for granted. I’m certainly not the best aunt, but I love all of my nieces and nephews (and now great-nephews) with all of my heart.


Michael (above)


Carter (above)

I ran a few races over the past 12 months. Six to be exact. With each 3.1 miles completed, my back felt better and I became both stronger and faster. After the struggle that I had last year with my back injury, I was happy to end the year at the same pace that was once my fastest.


I spent a few days in Myrtle Beach at one of my favorite conferences – Women of Joy. It is nice to get away for two nights and soak in some Vitamin Sea. I am most as peace where the ocean meets the sand. Between the sun, sand, and salty air… and the wonderful worship that fills the conference center over those 72 hours… I always come back rejuvenated and restored.



Author and speaker, Lisa Harper at Women of Joy 2016

I finally made it to Chicago this year. Five of my friends and I took an extended weekend girls’ trip up to the Windy City. We laughed a lot, we bickered a little, and we made lifelong memories over the course of five days. We ate great food. We saw historical landmarks. And we even caught a game at Wrigley Field. Little did we know we were watching the World Series Champs in action.

Shortly after returning from Chi-town, I received my biggest blessing of all — turning 40. Some people dread getting older but to me, it’s a privilege. When I say that I am grateful for my days, I seriously mean that I am grateful for every.single.day. As y’all know, I’m on a mission to make the most of this life that I have been given, and embracing every second is the best way to ensure that!

I took Mom to see Dolly Parton in concert this year. Dolly is someone that she has listened to as long as I can remember. I grew up to Mom playing Dolly albums on the record player… Here You Come Again, Jolene, and Two Doors Down are just a few of the Dolly songs that are part of my Life Soundtrack. It was really awesome to get to see Dolly perform them live with Mom sitting beside me. So much fun!

As I look ahead to the new year, one word comes to mind and sums up my goals for 2017:

Focus

Focus on the good.
Focus on what matters.
Focus on my health.
Focus on my family.
Focus on new distances.
Focus on making dreams a reality.
Focus on fun.
Focus on staying on budget.
Focus on staying on track.
Focus on my mission!

I admit that I can easily be distracted. As a matter of fact, I should still be in the office decluttering but I stopped to write this post. 🙂 I don’t want to lose site of my ultimate goal… my mission to make the most of life. I want to live minimally, eat clean, travel places that I’ve never been. I want to push past the comfort zone of 5Ks and train for a 10K. I want to spend more time on this blog, sharing life with y’all. I want to give freely, bless others, and be creative. I want to finish projects that I’ve started. (Boy, does THAT require heavy focus!! haha) I want to dream bigger than I ever have before, and not lose sight of all that I am capable of… and all that God wants me to experience.

What are your plans for the new year? Will you make resolutions for 2017? Do you have certain goals that you would like to accomplish? Comment below and share YOUR dreams with me. Let’s join together and encourage one another as we focus on a mission to make 2017 the best year yet! Happy New Year, friends!

Meet Mission Art & Design

After a long hiatus, I’m finally designing again! I have opened an Etsy store, and invite you all to check it out. I will be offering instant downloads as well as customizable designs. My primary focus right now is graphics, but I will also be offering hand lettering services. I do plan to also offer photography and other artwork at some point in 2017.

I want to also create a store on this page, but that will take some time to build. Until I launch my store on this site, please head over to Etsy to shop.

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A little about Mission Art & Design:
I have always had a passion for art. I remember telling my grandmother when I was about three years old that I wanted to grow up to be an artist. It was all that I knew, and all that I ever wanted. I lived and breathed art – from drawing and painting to set design in theater arts, I was always expressing myself creatively. I knew that I wanted to attend a college ranked highly in their art program, and was ecstatic to be accepted into the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in Design. By the time I graduated, I had exhibited my work in an international museum… in a gallery directly below one filled with Picasso, De Kooning, and Matisse. With endless opportunities for employment, I decided to pursue a career in graphic design and photography. I spent 10 years developing my skills in printing, marketing, and publishing. After a decade in corporate design, I became a bit burned out. I needed to remove myself completely. I selected a new career in Healthcare, and spent the next decade de-sensitizing myself from the cookie-cutter branding of my previous career. Today, I have found my passion for art again; the passion that I had when I created and exhibited art without the direction of CEOs and Account Managers. And I have decided to sell some of that artwork through my online shop. I named it Mission Art & Design because I’m on a mission to express myself creatively again. I’m not sure where this will take me but the beauty is in the journey, not in the destination! I hope you enjoy the adventure.

Trail Mix Bites: A Healthy Sweet & Salty Snack

If you’re like me, you’re on a mission to keep your New Year’s Resolution(s). But the later into January we get, it seems to become more of a struggle to stay on track. Am I right? One of my goals for this year is to make healthy eating choices. This goes above monitoring calories, fats, and carbohydrates. I want to choose organic, whole foods as my options for both meals and snacks. What I am finding is that there aren’t many ready-made selections available that are also gluten- and dairy-free. I have to confess… that makes it harder for me to stick to my resolution because I am guilty of wanting convenient options. Listen, I get it. Life is busy. And the longer it takes to prepare healthy meals and snacks, the less likely we are to eat them.

Fortunately, there are some natural choices that are ready-to-eat with no preparation. I keep a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in my kitchen at all times. (It’s time to restock… some of my canisters are dangerously low! haha)

I keep them in a resealable bag, too, and carry those with me in case I need nourishment while on-the-go. I love adding sprinkles of walnuts and sunflower seeds to my salads. They’re great in yogurt. Nuts make a tasty addition to stir-fry veggies. Dried fruit is a perfect compliment to a hot bowl of oatmeal. Cashews, soaked in water and then blended in a food processor, create a fantastic non-dairy cream for things like casseroles. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are versatile, healthy, and delicious.

Today, I want to introduce you to a great snack that combines all three with one of my favorite things… chocolate! Dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy too! It is a powerful antioxidant, can improve brain function, and may lower risks of heart disease. Let’s face it; sometimes we just want chocolate. This quick and easy recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth and salty cravings while providing nutrition. Healthy and guilt-free — that’s my kind of snack!

Begin with chocolate. I use a gluten-free, dairy-free, nonGMO chip that I find at my local grocery store. If your local store does not stock these types of chips, they can be found at specialty grocery stores or online. For this recipe, I used all of the 10 oz bag. You do not have to use a gluten-free, dairy-free option but do look for dark chocolate that is a higher percentage of cacao, with as few additional ingredients as possible.

Next, select a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I have chosen to use dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almond slivers. Be careful when selecting these items in grocery stores and supermarkets. Often times, the selections will contain additives or high volumes of sodium.  A great source for purchasing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is Nuts.com. Ordering from them is easy, and the items are shipped to your door. Remember how I said that I like convenience because it keeps me on track? Nuts.com makes purchasing organic items a breeze. (They even have dark chocolate chips and pre-made snacks too, among other things! Please click here to check them out!)

The last step in preparation is lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper. This recipe will yield approximately 30 snacks, so I use two cookie sheets.

To assemble the snacks, start by heating the chocolate in the microwave. I suggest 30-second increments, stirring after each. This helps to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. You want the chocolate to be smooth but not too thin. I achieved these results after approximately 2 minutes.

Spoon small amounts of chocolate onto the parchment paper. I would say use no more than 2 teaspoons per snack; then spread the chocolate to 1″ – 1.5″ diameter. You will want each snack to be able to hold the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit… but you want the chocolate to be thin.

Add a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to the chocolate, pressing lightly to ensure they stick to one another. When you finish, slide the cookie sheets into the refrigerator for two hours. Once the chocolate has set, the snacks are ready to eat!

These snacks store well and are great on-the-go. Just keep them in a dry, relatively-cool location. I like to put a couple in a resealable bag and keep them in my purse. They’re also great in lunch boxes, and are a tasty contribution to an office potluck. (Just be cautious of anyone with nut allergies! You may want to make them with just seeds and dried fruit if that is the case.)

There you have it! A quick, healthy snack to enjoy on-the-go. This snack has it all… protein, fiber, nutrients, and flavor! It will only take one or two to curb your sweet and salty cravings, and to keep you satisfied between meals.

Motivation Monday: New Year Edition

I’m staring a new series on my blog called #MotivationMonday. On the first Monday of each month, I’ll share some words of encouragement or a helpful hint that will hopefully help us (myself included) prepare for the next 30-ish days ahead. This Motivation Monday is extra-special. Not only is today the first Monday of the month… but it’s our first Monday of 2016.

New Year’s Resolutions often go hand-in-hand with health and fitness. The start of a new year seems like the perfect time to commit to losing weight, to staying fit, or to stop smoking. If you’ve declared a health resolution, your goals may already seem overwhelming today. Maybe you’ve set the bar too high, or just simply don’t know where to start. I understand. Let me share my juicing experience with you…

I have been curious about juicing for two years. A friend of mine introduced me to the idea while we were training for a 5K in December 2013. I often made comments about how sluggish I would feel during the run based on what I had eaten throughout the day. She told me to watch Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. (It’s a documentary about a 310lb man and his 60-day juicing journey.) I have to admit, it took me a while to watch it. Then it took me a while to process the thought of a 60-day all-juice lifestyle. I didn’t care how fat, sick, and nearly dead that I felt… 60 days seemed like a long time to commit to the change in my diet. Nearly a year later, in anticipation of my New Year’s Resolution for 2015, I started researching “how to juice”and learning about all that goes into it. Did you know that juicers can range upward to $500 depending on the model and brand? Yikes! If it was going to take 60-days, $500, and a lot of time to juice, I’d pass!

It wasn’t until I stumbled on an article on Women’s Health magazine online that I realized juicing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing condition. There are ways to ease into juicing. The article suggested having a breakfast juice with a handful of almonds a couple of times a week instead of the usual cereal or yogurt. This helps juicing become a part of a normal routine, which in turn would hopefully prevent falling off the juicing wagon.

Organic raw juice bars are becoming more common. We recently had one open here in my little corner of NC. If you’re interested in juicing, I highly recommend searching your town for one. It’s a perfect way to try out juicing without investing a lot of time and money into it. Local juice bars also specialize in the right combinations of fruits and vegetable to ensure a great flavor of juice every time. Fresh juice is very alkalizing and detoxifying, and is beneficial without having to go on an extreme cleanse. The best part? Juicing is an easy way to focus on adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. The more you good food that you add, the less room there is for the bad.

So how does my rambling about juices motivate you? I’m hoping it will remind you to:

  1. …not be intimidated by other people’s journey. Allow their story to encourage you, but adapt your journey to your own goals. Be on a mission to live your life, not theirs!
  2. …not procrastinate. The worst thing you can do when you’re overwhelmed is delay your journey for more than a day. Don’t wait a year to seek opportunities. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
  3. …ask for assistance. If you want to try something but aren’t sure where to start, research to see if someone is already doing what you’re interested in doing. For those of you who have always wanted to try a 5K but aren’t sure how to start training, there are running groups in many towns. Consider support groups to help with smoking cessation. Reach out to the community for help!
  4. …ease into change. Don’t feel like you have to jump in feet first with no reservation. If you’re new to exercising, commit to walking twice a week. Want to stop drinking soda? Try adding one extra glass of water to your day until that becomes normal, then add more!

New Year’s Resolutions often fail because expectations are unrealistic. Don’t be a statistic this year. No matter what your goals are for 2016, even if they’re not health-related, know that they are attainable. Stay focused on your journey. Keep a steady pace toward your goals. Don’t try to get from A to Z without adding in the other letters. And lean on your community to help. This is just the beginning. You’ve got this!