The Letter Revival Project

I’m writing letters to friends and family and it has had an amazing effect. Learn more all about the letter revival project.

the letter revival project
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

It all started with seeing the Social Dilemma. If you haven’t seen that, I highly recommend watching it. The interview-style documentary, details how BIG TECH (Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, What’s App, and Twitter), are all data mining us, literally tracking our every move and every personal detail of our life. To make matters worse, their surveillance suppresses any opposing views, manipulates what you see in your feeds and is actually designed to create divisiveness. Why? So you can stay on their platforms longer, arguing with friends and family, and so they can present more ads to you and then sell your data to other companies.

Not long after watching The Social Dilemma, I actually watched numerous hours of the hearings on Capitol hill. It is really shocking to hear social media employees testify about the weaponizing of social media. It doesn’t matter if you are on the right or the left, one fact remains: social media giants are invading our privacy and pitting us against each other so they can sell our data and sell ads.

Because of that, I took an extended break from social media. Even though I had to use social media to promote this blog, I automated a lot of things so that I wouldn’t have to actually be on it. Then in November, I decided to pick up a pen and write some letters. What happened was something really wonderful. And now, I want to share it with you. Join me in The Letter Revival Project.

The Lost Art of Writing

Getting Reacquainted With the Art of Writing

While on my break from social media, I thumbed through some old books in my personal library. I have a book on the Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. Aside from some of his speeches, the book contains much of his personal correspondence which I found to be very intriguing. Then I read the entirety of the book Our Sacred Honor. This is an amazing book of correspondence from the founding fathers of America.

One of the most fascinating things in this book is their language. Their prose is so polished even for formally uneducated men like Washington. Their vocabulary and articulation are not only beautiful, but expressive, poignant, and dignified. Honestly, it was this book that really encouraged me to pick up a pen and revolutionize how I communicate with friends. I also read through my book on Jane Austen’s letters.

Jane, was so ahead of her time and her letters to friends and family are absolutely divine. Her language is as beautiful as her writing in her books. How awesome would it have been to have these amazing people as pen pals?

letter writing books

Starting to Write

I opened up my dusty address book and decided to pick a handful of people at random. People I had not talked to in some time. I took some time to share the most recent happenings with our family and expressed interest in the things going on in their life. First, I noticed that I had been out of practice with writing for a long period of time. I found that writing actually forced me to rebuild dexterity and strength in my hands. It is amazing that you use different muscle groups to type or text. I also found that my handwriting had become sloppy and careless, something that writing letters has improved in just a few short months.

Secondly, I found it incredibly relaxing. I put on some non-distracting music, like classical music. Lit some warm candles and sat by our roaring fireplace and began to pen letters. Just yesterday, I sat beside the window while it was raining and wrote by candlelight. It was so wonderful and soothing. It was actually a stress reliever and I found that I am far more intimate in a letter than I am in a text message. I found my “voice” is more eloquent and my vocabulary seems to broaden when I write.

The Supplies

Something that can not be overstated is that a personal letter these days is so rare that it is a gift in and of itself. Sure, I could have opted for the loose-leaf paper that I have stacked in our schoolroom. However, I decided that I would make correspondence exceedingly special with some vintage stationery. It is interesting to note that letter writing sets are becoming harder to find. Still, I bought a few and I dusted my box of sealing wax that has gone mostly unused these past few years.

I lovingly wrote out five letters on beautiful paper and for some, I sealed the letters with sealing wax. You should note that sealing wax requires extra postage because it cannot go through the machines and needs to be hand canceled. The U.S. post office sells stamps for non-machinable envelopes. Do not let the need for stamps discourage you from mailing letters. You don’t even need to go to the post office. The U.S. post office offers stamps for online ordering. You can have them shipped directly to your house.

sealing wax

The Letter Revival Project

I was very surprised to hear the reactions of the recipients. For starters, each one of them was deeply touched. In a day and age, where people can’t even bother to call (don’t we all just text now?) There is something fabulously special about the idea of someone taking the time to buy stamps, sit down, painstakingly write a letter, and mail it. Each person mentioned how thoughtful it was but perhaps more to the point, refreshing.

It was exciting to receive something in the mail that wasn’t a bill. It was personal, thoughtful, and intimate – something we are grossly lacking in today’s society. Many asked if we could continue writing letters. Still, others heard that I was writing and sheepishly asked if I wouldn’t mind writing them as well. It has become contagious and sadly, I don’t think we realize how much we need this. That’s why I’m starting the letter revival project. I want to inspire others to step away from social media and write to each other the way we used to.

the letter revival project
I found this beautiful stationery set at Victoria Trading Company

As it turns out, it has been incredibly fulfilling and stress relieving for me while at the same time, a blessing to those who have received it. That got me thinking. Why aren’t more of us doing this? Social media has done the exact opposite of its original intention. It has divided us, made us into voyeurs instead of participants. I dare say it has even incited feelings of inadequacy when we see only the highlights of someone’s life. Because of it, we have grown unintentionally lazy in all our relationships and we’ve surrounded ourselves with hundreds of acquaintances instead of building and investing in life-long friendships. Friend, reconsider your relationship with social media.

Join Me In Writing

Friend, I hope you consider, taking some time away from social media. Take some time for yourself to recalibrate and unwind. Why not start with just a thirty-day break. If you want some help, take a look at my post, 30- Day Social Media Detox. In that post, I give you some ideas that you can do when you aren’t on social media. Or perhaps, you limit social media, while taking time to reconnect with friends via letter. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised how many people enjoy your letter. They will never say that about a like or comment you give them on social media. Please join me for the letter revival project. Let’s revive writing letters! Comment below and tell me if you are joining me. Commit to writing to five unsuspecting friends or family members this month.

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How Jeremiah 29:11 Changed My Life

Do you have a life verse? Today I am sharing how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life and how I’ve grown as a Christian with it.

How Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a link through one of the links I provide I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

All of us have a particular scripture that has spoken to us at a particular time. Today I am going to share how Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life. When I was much younger, I was much younger in my Christian walk. I felt like life wasn’t going the way I had envisioned it. I will be totally honest. At that time, I had just started to really read the Bible. It’s embarrassing that I was a Christian all my life and yet had never really read The Word on my own at that point. So when I found the verse, naturally I simply applied it to my life at the time.

I assumed God was promising me that all my dreams would come true. (Insert facepalm here). To make a long story short, I was praying for a Godly husband and children but could not find a suitable mate. That verse gave me hope for the next three years as I pursued a deeper relationship with God. In the end, God was indeed faithful and gave me a man whose goodness surprises me to this day. But is that the meaning of the verse?

As comforting as the verse was to me, I misunderstood it. The verse is not really about what God can do for you. Today the verse has taken on a very different meaning. Perhaps a more correct meaning. In fact. I dare say it changed my life and how I view God’s plan for my life.

The Book of Jeremiah

First, let’s take a look at what is happening in Scripture. Jeremiah was a priest and prophet who served for more than 40 years. He had a difficult life and his message of repentance was not well received. Jeremiah first became a prophet during the reign of Josiah, the last faithful king of Judah. The book of Lamentations was written during Jeremiah’s grief over Josiah. In the two decades following Josiah’s death, Judah would collapse into moral, social, financial, political, and spiritual decay. (Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah were also prophets during this time in scripture.) The country would also change hands through various kings.

In chapters eleven through twenty-eight, Jeremiah warns the people of God’s holy wrath. He forewarns that if they do not repent, they will suffer and God will not hear their cries for help. Instead, God will let them endure the full consequence of their sin. Jerusalem is overthrown by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and they are put into slavery. This suffering in slavery would eventually remind them of their need for God.

As you can imagine this message did not go over well. People, by nature, cling to their sin. Jeremiah suffered terrible persecution, was beaten, mocked, and even imprisoned. But I digress. Chapter 29 begins with a letter to his people from Jerusalem who are now exiled in Babylon. The letter opens with Jeremiah quoting what God has told him. In verse five, God says to build houses, make families, have children, and multiply. God is essentially telling them to settle in and to plan for a long stay in Babylon. In verse seven, God tells them to make the best of their stay and to work for the welfare of the city. Then He tells them that they will spend seventy years there and once completed, He promises to send them home. Then God leaves them with this hope:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

Like any loving father, discipline is done out of love. God is teaching His people a lesson. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all of your heart.” (v. 12-13). In these verses, God promises to eventually answer their prayers for restoration. But even more amazing is that God promises when we seek Him with all of our hearts, He reveals Himself to us. What a promise. Throughout scripture, God invites us to know Him and He promises we will find Him!

The Message

This verse is often misunderstood and even misused. I admit that in my young Christianity, I misunderstood it too. So now that we know what is going on in scripture, there are some takeaways to consider.

It’s Not About Fleshly Things

I sometimes see this verse used to insinuate that God’s plan (or following God) means we will never have trouble or that God will ALWAYS give us the outcome we want. That’s not exactly what this verse is saying, although it can sound that way if we read it out of context without knowing what’s happening in scripture.

As we see in the book of Jeremiah and other parts of scripture, God often permits trouble and struggle in our life so that we rely on Him alone. He also allows it in order to refine the faithful. It is not God’s promise for wealth, perfect health, or other fleshly things. Rather it is God’s promise that He has planned your life. He is in full control of it! Every problem, every storm is completely planned and in His capable hands. This should give us a lot of comfort and peace. The kind of peace that no matter what happens to us, God has permitted it, God is with us, and that it will ultimately be for our good. (See also Romans 8:28).

What are God’s Plans for Our Life

So what exactly is “our good?” There are many times when God will work circumstances out in our desired outcome. There are many times he intervenes and works out our problems after a season of trial. However, we should remember that God is most concerned with our salvation and holiness. Simply put, God is in the business of saving souls.

A Look at Paul

That means that God’s plans can look very different from ours. Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at the book of Romans. In the Epistle, Paul is in Corinth and he is writing to coverts in Rome. Paul opens the letter explaining that he has tried many times to come to Rome but that he has been prevented from going (Rom 1:13). You can read about those circumstances to which he is referring in the book of Acts. This is where it gets interesting!

God has created circumstances that had actually prevented Paul from going to teach Christians in Rome. It is possible that Paul was perplexed about why God prevented him? After all, he was intending to do God’s work there. Why prevent him? Yet, God’s plan is often so much greater than we can imagine. By preventing Paul from going, Paul would write a letter to the Romans. 2,000 years later, we are reading the letter. Paul intended to save hundreds maybe even thousands in Rome. God saved millions over two millennia around the globe. God’s ways are much higher than ours. It’s important to note God did eventually permit Paul to go to Rome, but when he did, it was as a prisoner, and after being bitten by a poisonous snake, and being shipwrecked!

How Jeremiah 29:11 changed my life
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

God’s Great Plan For Us

And it is that very thing that has really opened my eyes. God had a good plan for Paul’s life. God’s good plan for Paul included being lost at sea, being robbed, beaten with rods, shipwrecked, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, and eventually being beheaded all for the glory of God. God’s plan for Peter’s life included being crucified upside down. God’s plan for John’s life spared him martyrdom but included being exiled and dying as an enemy of the state for not participating in emperor worship. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace. Daniel was a prisoner in chains. And Joseph… thrown in a pit and sold into slavery.

God’s good plan for our life is all about glorifying Him and furthering His kingdom and even in the worst-case scenario – martyrdom – He will make something good out of it. Coming to the realization that God’s plan for my life can include everything up to and including martyrdom, changed my life and it changed how I viewed my everyday struggles.

Make the Best of Your Season

I think it’s also important to note that God tells his people to stay busy, build a life, and raise a family while they are waiting to be returned home. God even tells them to invest in the welfare of the city where they are enslaved! Now in this particular instance, God tells them exactly how long they will be exiled. We, unfortunately, don’t know how long our seasons of trial will last. But the example we can take from this is that even when we are in limbo or a season of trial or hardship, we should still try to live a fruitful life that honors God.

How Jeremiah 29:11 Changed My Life

I have grown as a Christian with this beautiful verse. It was my very first verse where God spoke to me through The Word and I am certain when I take my dying breath, it will be one of my last thoughts. It has taught me that God and His plans are sovereign over my life and that God’s plan for me is good no matter what happens.

What are your favorite verses and why do they speak to you? Tell me in the comments. Be sure to share this post with a friend and don’t forget to subscribe before you leave. You may also be interested in some additional scripture reading, Depression and Grief.

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10 Super Quick Appetizers

Hosting on a budget or short on time? These 10 super quick appetizers are perfect for your next no-fuss gathering.

10 super easy appetizers

I love entertaining and I love having people over, but now that I have kids, I am often short on time. Before kids anyone could come over with a moment’s notice. Now, I need at least a day or two to pick up the clothes, the toys and all the goldfish crumbs. I always find myself short on time and no matter how early I start, I feel like I am running behind. So today, I thought I’d share 10 super quick appetizers. These appetizers are quick to make and generally don’t take a ton of ingredients.

Boursin on Baguette

Boursin cheese

If you’ve never had Boursin cheese, you’re missing out. Boursin is a French spreadable cheese similar to cream cheese. Although garlic and herb is the classic version, it comes in a variety of flavors like:

  • Pepper
  • Fig & Walnut
  • Cranberry & Spice (seasonal)
  • Red Chili Pepper
  • Shallot & Chive
  • Basil & Chive

No recipe needed. Buy your cheese and let it come to room temperature. Cut your baguette and brush a little bit of olive oil on each side and toast on a grill pan. Spread your cheese once the toast is cooled and serve!

Baked Brie and Chutney

Baked brie is one of my favorite appetizers. This mild cheese can be found in the “nice cheese” part of your grocery store and typically comes in a wheel. It isn’t the cheapest, but it’s always a crowd-pleaser and has always been considered an upscale appetizer. I love to wrap the Brie in puff pastry or phyllo dough but if you want to keep it simple, you can bake it naked for about 7 to 10 minutes at 350. If you don’t have time to get all fancy with chutney, consider just spreading with preserves or thick jam. Even cranberry sauce or honey pairs well with it.

Brie

Cheese and Grapes or Cheese and Olives Skewers

This is definitely an easy appetizer. In fact, many grocery stores will even cube the cheese for you at the deli so you don’t have to do all the cutting. Anthos or Kalamata olives pair nicely with cheese, just make certain that grapes are seedless and olives are pitted. All you need is cubed cheese, seedless grapes and pitted olives. The skewer them using cocktail picks and place them out. You can help keep cheese cool by serving on a marble pastry or cheeseboard.

10 super easy appetizers

Cheeseboard (Charcuterie Board)

For this, you can leave cheese whole in wedges and serve with cheese knives for easy cutting. Pair with a cracker variety and/or grapes. Three or four wedges should be plenty. A great cheeseboard has a variety of hard and soft cheeses. Stick to classic cheeseboard cheeses like:

  • Blue Cheese (Roquefort, Blue Stilton, Gorgonzola, Maytag, Danish Blue)
  • Cheddar (Farmhouse, Longhorn, Extra Sharp, Aged)
  • Brie
  • Goat Cheese
  • Other Cheeses (Havarti, Swiss, Provolone, Parmesan-Reggiano, Gouda, Gruyere)

Of course I love turning this into a charcuterie board full of fruits, nuts, and salami (see pic below). But if you need to keep it simple and don’t want to spend a lot of time putting it together, a few wedges of cheese and crackers does the trick! Be sure to read my post How to Make the Ultimate Charcuterie Board for a large scale version of a cheese board.

wine & cheese
My Charcuterie Board

Bruschetta

Brushetta is a simple salad that uses Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, Parmesan, and olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. You may need to add a little salt to it. But it doesn’t take much to whip up this five-ingredient appetizer up. You will need to help cut up a baguette to serve it on. You can even let guests spread it themselves if you are worried about the bread going soggy. To prevent this, toast your baguette with a little brushed olive oil and grill it until golden brown.

Bruschetta

Caprese Salad Skewers

Caprese Salad is a three-ingredient salad – tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. A simple dressing of balsamic vinaigrette and extra-virgin olive oil is drizzled on top. For parties, I love putting it on skewers or toothpicks or putting it in small cups. If preparing in advance for a party, don’t drizzle the dressing until you are ready to serve or keep it on the side. To serve on the side you can put the dressing in a small bowl for dipping. Or if you are offering the appetizer on small plates you can keep the dressing in a small creamer pitcher for guests to drizzle.

Caprese salad skewers

Pimento Cheese

About fifteen years ago, I found a fabulous recipe for pimento cheese. I was not a pimento cheese fan. Of course, I had only ever had it in a processed variety that you get in a jar from the grocery store. No wonder I didn’t like it. Try my recipe for a fresh version of pimento cheese. I know you will love it. The recipe uses Monterrey Jack cheese. I really recommend you use that instead of cheddar which can be overpowering. It then combines fresh dill, minced garlic, mayonnaise, and of course pimentos.

You can serve it with crackers and a spreader or you can purchase some nice artisan bread from your local supermarket and spread it on finger sandwiches. Either way, it’s an easy appetizer that whipped up quickly for guests.

Monterrey Jack Pimento Cheese

This homemade Pimento Cheese is to die for. Monterrey Jack. Is blended with mayo, Pimento, garlic and dill. 
15 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 2 Cups

Ingredients
  

  • 8 Oz Monterrey Jack Cheese shredded
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic Minced
  • 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Dill Chopped
  • 2 Oz Pimento Strained

Instructions
 

  • With a food strainer, strain the pimentos until all the liquid is gone. 
  • In a medium bowl, add cheese and Pimento. 
  • Mince garlic and add to mixture. 
  • Add dill and mayonnaise. Stir well  until fully combined. 
  • Refrigerate for one hour before serving. 
Keyword appetizer, cheese, dill, easy appetizer, entertaining, monterrey jack, pimeto, pimeto cheese, sandwiches
Pimento cheese spread

Hot Goat Cheese Fondue

I first tried this hot goat cheese fondue at a local farm-to-market style restaurant here in San Antonio where I live. Once I got home, I was determined to make it myself. If you are a goat cheese fan, this Mediterranean-inspired dish is delicious and it is super quick to make. You will need a log of goat cheese (at least four ounces), cherry tomatoes, pitted kalamata olives, fresh rosemary, and extra-virgin olive oil. Baked together, it is bubbly, cheesy, goodness. You can serve it with warmed or grilled pita bread or baguette. This recipe is easy with only a handful of ingredients and is done in less than half an hour.

Goat Cheese Fondue

Goat Cheese Fondue

This delicious new take on fondue fuses Mediterranean flavors like Goat Cheese, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Rosemary, Olive Oil and Sweet Tomatoes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Appetizer
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3-4 Small Sweet Tomatoes
  • 4 Oz Goat Cheese
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary
  • 6-8 Kalamata Olives Pitted

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • In a small dish, place goat cheese and place in the over for 5-10 mins until softened. 
  • While in the oven, pit olives (if not pre-pitted) and separate rosemary from stem.
  • Once goat cheese is semi soft take out of oven and spread the cheese to fully cover the bottom of the dish. 
  • Sprinkle fresh rosemary. Add 3-4 tomatoes and add olives
  • Turn broiler on low and place cheese in oven
  • Melt under broiler for approximately 5 mins. Pay close attention to the cheese as things can burn quickly under the broiler. 
  • Once melted, remove from oven. Drizzle olive oil on the top. Best served with warm bread.

Fried Ravioli with Marinara

Can we just agree that most things taste better fried? Okay, well maybe not everything. I definitely enjoy things fresh, but for an appetizer, fried ravioli is really good and it is a little more refined than say that fried cheese sticks that grace every sports bar in America. You will need fresh ravioli. It does not matter if it is cheese or meat filled. Heat up some vegetable oil to 365º F and fry your ravioli for 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle salt and a small amount of grated parmesan on it. Plate a small bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. Easy peasy!

Quesadillas

Maybe it’s because I’m Hispanic, but quesadillas are so good! Sure you can always do chips and salsa if you want to really make it easy, but if you are looking for something a little more filling for your guests, you can always warm up some quesadillas. You can do a wide variety of different kinds. You can keep it simple and just do cheese (The best Mexican cheeses for quesadillas are Oaxaca, Asadero, Chihuahua, and Manchengo) or you can add meat or pico de gallo. You can keep them warm in a tortilla warmer until guests arrive. Then serve with guacamole, sour cream and salsa for dipping.

I hope you enjoyed this 10 super easy appetizers. Don’t forget to pin this post for later (you may need it). What is your favorite appetizer? Do you have a go-to dish? Tell me in the comments.