new site!

Hey folks! (this is mostly for my email subscribers)

I’ve switched to Blogger! WordPress has been great for the last several years, but I’m done ripping my hair out trying to get the themes to do what I want. Also, I’m beginning to dabble in some affiliate marketing and web designing stuff and Blogger allows for more flexibility. Plus, it’s freeeeee!

All of my old posts, plus some new stuff, are over at my similar yet different website:

http://castilles.blogspot.com/

On the right hand side there’s a space for you to subscribe to my updates, just like before! Please take approx. 27 seconds (depending on your internet speed…) so that my posts might still make it to your inbox.

I will be closing this account within the next couple of days to give ya’ll a chance!

Thank you so much, and have a very Merry Christmas!!!

~beka

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day 123 – blessing bags for the homeless

Almost every time that Sean and I are in town, doing shopping or whatnot, we see a person at a busy intersection, holding a cardboard sign. These signs usually state that the individual is a veteran in need of money, homeless in need of money, traveling and in need of money, etc.

As you’re stopped at a red light you try not to make eye contact, because if you do they’ll give you a sad little smile and hold their little cup out to you.

Sean and I have had lots of conversations about situations like these, and have gone back and forth about whether or not we ought to give to them. How do we know that they’re really homeless? How do we know that they’re not already looking for a job? How do we know that they’re not going to use our money and spend it on drugs or alcohol or cigarettes? By giving our spare change, are we really helping them – or are we ultimately hurting them? We’re still thinking on that.

(By the way, When Helping Hurts is an excellent book on this topic that would be worth checking out if you’re interested in the topic of alleviating poverty!)

It wasn’t until we saw an older man in the cold one afternoon with a sign that read, Hungry. Please help. that Sean and I decided to make up little packages like these. Hunger is something we can all relate to, and giving a warm meal in the name of Jesus makes Sean and I feel more comfortable than offering our coins that thousands of other people are already offering.

I don’t know, really. This can be such a complicated ethical and theological issue, and as a Christian I might be completely wrong in not willingly offering up my money to those who are panhandling on the side of the road. But I’m still studying more on this, and how I can best be a steward of my resources for the Kingdom of God.

Okay, back to the bags. For $60, we made 8 bags. I picked up the supplies at Target with gift cards I had, and only spent $10 out of pocket after those. Not too bad. And I thought, while I have the gift cards, what better time to do this than now? After all, curtains for our bathroom, new yoga pants for me and socks for Sean can wait until later ;)

IMG_1561Here’s what I included:

  • deodorant
  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • chapstick
  • soap (note, Irish Spring soap is cheap [2/$.97], but it stinks. put it in a separate bag if you buy it for this purpose :P)
  • tuna
  • peanut butter
  • hot chocolate
  • instant coffee
  • trail mix
  • Ramen noodles
  • can of beans
  • pack of gum

I also wrote little cards to put in each one, where I included our names, some Bible verses, and a message of encouragement to whoever would be receiving our bag. I had some random Christian resources lying around I stuck in there as well, such as

IMG_1563We have them in the back seat of our car, ready to go. I’m really looking forward to giving them away!

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And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Thanksgiving Day: Castille Family Pictures

Before the guests arrived on Thursday afternoon for the Thanksgiving celebration, the family headed outside to take some pictures in the beautiful Autumn weather…

^^^ that’s all of us!  There’s Jamie & Linda (Sean’s parents), then Rachel, Erick, and Josh. The four youngest are Castilles through adoption: Christina (7), Logan (6), Justin (5), and Isabella (7 weeks) 

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^^^ the four of us are sisters…all coming from different places ;)IMG_1243

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day 098 – CVS Deals

Growing up, my mom would often come home with bags from CVS as she excitedly told us of how many items she received for having only spent a few dollars. She got so into it that she even had me sign up for a card so that she could get the extra benefits! Now that I’m on my own, I wanted to try my hand at it. It involved a couple hours with papers sprawled absolutely everywhere around my living room floor, two cups of coffee, and some inquisitive looks from my husband…but I finally figured out how to use the printer.

The couponing all came together after that ;)

With the help of Coupons.comMoney Saving Mom and some other resources, I managed to get

$68.90 worth of stuff for only $19.85.

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I came home and found a 25% coupon from CVS in my email, so it could have cost me even less…especially if I had ExtraBucks (EB) leftover from any previous transactions!

Stay tuned this next week for a more in-depth post on CVS ExtraBucks  and how you can earn free stuff. But for now, here is the step-by-step process for what I did to earn these items…

1st. Transaction
1 Crest Toothpaste – $2.99
used $.50 off 1 coupon from P&G Everyday
received $2 EB

2nd Transaction
1 CVS Brand Women’s Razors – $7.79
used $3 off 1 coupon from CVS.com
used $2 EB from previous transaction
received $4 EB

3rd Transaction
2 Nivea Men’s Shaving Gel – $3.99 each
used $3 off 1 coupon off Facebook
used $4 EB from previous transaction
received $5 EB
(fun fact…I only paid $.98 for this whole transaction!)

4th Transaction
Vitamelts – $6.99
Kotex – $3.99
used $2 off 1 Kotex CVS manufacturers coupon from past receipt
used $5 EB from previous transaction
received $7 EB

5th Transaction
2 Sparkling Waters – $.77 each (there was no deal on these…I bought them anyway)
1 Bic Men’s Razors – $4.99
1 Bib Soleil Women’s Razors – $7.29
used $7 EB from previous transaction
used $4 off $10 worth of razors CVS manufacturers coupon from past receipt

6th Transaction
2 Gummy Multi-vitamins – $9.79 each (these were the main reason I went to CVS in the first place!)
buy 1, get 1 free deal on these
used $3 off $10 worth of vitamins CVS manufacturers coupon from past receipt

Total paid for all six transactions: $19.85

Sean and I are all set on razors for awhile..wouldn’t you say? :D

day 097: pro·duc·tiv·i·ty

How often have you had a conversation go like this:

You: Hey, how are you!
Friend: Good! How about you?
You: Very good, how was your week?
Friend: It was good! How about yours?
You: Good! What did you do this week?
Friend: Oh, nothing really….what about you?
>conversation awkwardly fades out<

Pathetic, isn’t it?

I have conversations like this every single week. At one point in my life I thought that these little exchanges were the fault of just an uninteresting conversationalist when I eventually realized that it’s most often times my own fault for asking the question, “what did you do this week?” in the first place! Whoever I’m talking with quickly scrambles for some sort of great accomplishment to share from the week. Something to confirm that yes, they did actually do something with the last few days of their existence.

If I were to have a conversation with someone right now and they were to ask me what I did this week, I could say that I cleaned the house on Thursday, visited with friends that evening, spent time with my sister-in-law, watched a couple movies with my husband, researched affiliate marketing, went grocery shopping, worked all day Monday and Tuesday at Martins where I strung Christmas lights on trees and arranged poinsettias, etc.

…but is that really the question we should be asking others? Is “what did you do this week” the question we should be asking ourselves?

Everyone does something. Whether you’re a stay-at-home wife or daughter, or a blogger, or a small business owner, or a butcher, or work in a greenhouse…everyone works. Everyone has some sort of busyness that fills their time. The real question should actually be:

What work defines your life?

What is it that you’re ultimately striving toward? What vision are you seeking to fulfill? What tasks are we assisting with or taking charge of? What is the REASON for all of it? Is it checking something off of a to-do list, to puff yourself up in pride when talking with others, or to advance your own causes?

Maybe you’re stuck in a rut, where life seems predictable and mundane. It WILL seem that way if we keep viewing our life as nothing more than a list of petty accomplishments! When you stand before your Creator someday, is that what you’re going to have to show for your few breaths on earth? Were you the wise servant who produced tenfold, or were you the foolish servant who squandered what you were given?

Regardless of gender, age, profession, and family situation, every Christian’s purpose and definition of their life can be summed up in these few verses:

“You yourselves, like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthoodto offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….you are a chosen racea royal priesthooda holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:5-9

Are you striving toward these things? Are you basing your day-to-day work around these goals? To proclaim the excellencies of our great God? Are you seeking to fulfill THAT vision above all others? How are you doing that? Are you able to explain the reason for what it is that you do with your days?

Let’s look at productivity in a different light this week. Let’s stop viewing our life as a list of tasks, and start walking as those who have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

day 089ish – of coconut oil and talking to ladybugs

I did some things today, you would say.

I found myself talking to the ladybugs this morning, as I vacuumed them off of my walls. I wondered where they were going, when they scurried around like that. Why they were in my house, and when were they going to go away?

I realized I am slowly becoming more and more like my mother every day…the way I cook, my obsessive nature concerning the cleanliness of the kitchen coutertops, my tendency to avoid folding socks…

I put coconut oil in my hair. Twice. Once this morning, and then later this evening after I dyed my locks a shade of brown that somehow is beginning to look jet black. Oops.

I took lots of photographs of my food, and while looking through pictures on my computer, I had enough foodography (i just made that word up) to justify starting a separate folder entirely. Oh dear.

I tore apart the kitchen looking for my sink sponge, when I finally settled on the fact that Sean most likely threw it away, by accident, for the second time now. But that’s okay.

I started a compost pile, and didn’t know what on earth I was doing. But it involved a pocket knife and a couple of ferns I rescued from Martin’s, a dirty pair of yoga pants, and a pretty fabulous hat.

I went to Hobby Lobby, spent $14 I wasn’t planning on spending, bought BOGO Starbucks with my sister-in-law, and then promptly got lost and then dreadfully confused trying to get on the interstate. She thought it was hilarious, all I was thinking was “get home get home get home don’t wreck the car don’t wreck the car sean will kill me sean is gonna kill me if i wreck this car…”

I spent way too long trying to figure out affiliate linking programs, and instead just gave up until tomorrow. Or Sunday. Or never. But I did put five “gigs” up on Fiverr.com. Cheeeeck ‘er out.

I read the entire book of 2 Corinthians, and was blown away once again by how the Lord always reveals Himself in His Word whenever I pick it up. I need to pick it up more. I’ve been slacking. I can’t be slacking. “So we do not lose heart” – 4.16a

Oh, and I did all that while Sean was gone today: cutting up skinless deer and stuffing them into vacuum sealer bags, and then watching a bunch of men chase an oval-shaped ball around in the freezing cold (aka, Potts and the Tennessee Titans, but I like my description better).

And he’s not home yet. And it’s past midnight. Which means I start writing sentence structures that look like these. And I’m soon going to not be making any sense anymore. I think I need to go to bed.

Phew.

dance reception

Because our wedding was over 1,200 miles away from Sean’s church family, not many of them were able to come for our actual nuptials. These people love Sean very much (and by extension – me!) and wanted to celebrate with us once we moved in and got settled. The Courter family was so gracious to host a barn dance and pot-luck reception in mid-September.

The day before the reception, I was home while Sean was at work. My mother-in-law comes storming in the door of my house and says, “Quick! The phone company is on hold at our house, and they need to talk to you.” So I pull on my boots and run up the hill to their house. I burst through the front door and within a couple seconds, the room filled with nine of my relatives from Ohio whom I hadn’t seen in two years!

The Halls are cousins on my mom’s side, and their six children are all nearly identical in age to the six in my family. Even though it would be sometimes years between visits, we were all extremely close growing up. Zack, their oldest, and I are six months apart, and he’ll be getting married in May to the sweet Elizabeth. It was such a joy to see them all again!! They had come down just for the reception, and Sean’s family coordinated it all for them to stay the weekend.

We enjoyed their company the remainder of Friday, and then they stayed Saturday as we traveled to the party together. The Courter’s and those who helped had everything beautifully decorated, with lights and tents and a coffee bar and everything. There were tons of people there! Many of whom I had never met before. Two different churches were represented, and they all made a point to extend their love to me as a member of the Castille family.

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Some CollegePlus! friends traveled in for the day as well.

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There was a photo booth with props, and we had fun with that!!

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This is Sean and I with Elizabeth and Zack

PicMonkey CollageSean and I were also presented with a quilt that was pieced together by many of the families in the church. Every block had a handwritten note on it, and it was all quilted by the Smith family (Mr. Smith is an elder at our church). They run a family business called Cotton Berry Quilts. It was such a touching gift!!!
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IMG_0756“I thank my God always on your behalf.” – 1 Corinthians 1:4

 

our honeymoon trip

Now that Sean and I have been married nearly three months, I figured it’s about time I get around to blogging about our honeymoon and some other events that happened during the month of September!! :P I’ve gotten so behind.

We spent one night at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN after flying in from New Hampshire. It was gorgeous inside the lobby. We walked around the grounds most of the evening and enjoyed the waterfalls, trees, and [cough wicked expensive cough] food.

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 From there we drove to Gatlinburg where a cabin awaited us in the beautiful mountains…

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(source)

We stayed at this cabin for three nights. For the final two days we stayed at Glenstone Lodge, a hotel overlooking the Smokies. And telephone wires, as you can see :P

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Throughout our days we wandered around the tourist town of Gatlinburg, and explored Pigeon Forge a bit as well. We went to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum…

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the aquarium…

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and even the Hollywood Wax Museum…

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It was a vacation for just the two of us, and we didn’t  fill our days with too much activity. We enjoyed the time with each other; reading, talking, driving, watching movies, eating ice cream for dinner, and sleeping in. And also filming this re-cap video, which is the first of many more to come:

day 073: ladybugs: the invasion

Looked outside this morning to see these wretched creatures swarming around everywhere –

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glued to the windows….

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one even made it inside. how!???

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I feel like the Israelites must have felt when Egypt was overtaken by Locusts.

Kinda.

>shudders<

Excuse me while I put on my gas mask to go get the mail…

day 067 – Martin’s

Right now I am sitting in a little coffee shop somewhere south of Nashville, sipping vanilla caramel tea, listening to conversation around me as contemporary christian music plays above me. My husband and four other young men are sitting nearby, studying 1 Corinthians on this early Wednesday morning before the work day begins. (excuse all the gritty cell phone pics…)

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These guys are employees at Martin’s Home & Garden, where both Sean and I find ourselves employed at the moment. What happened to Potts, you may ask? Didn’t like cutting up meat, Beka? No, I didn’t, but that’s not why we’re no longer working at the processing plant. The opportunity for Sean to work at this garden center has come up several times over the last year and a half, and while it was a hard decision for him to leave Potts where he’s been employed for three years, my husband decided, after much prayer and counsel, that this would be a better long-term choice for employment – for him, and also me!

We’re actually entering the slow time of year at Martin’s, but it will give us the chance to learn the ropes of the place before things pick up in March. And with both of us working through the winter, it’ll give Sean much more time to finish up the last few credits of his degree over the chillier months.

On top of all that, it’s a Christian-based, family-owned business. The original owner had thirteen children, and now one of his sons runs the place. The majority of our co-workers are like-minded believers in their late teens-late twenties, with some older ones in the mix as well. It’s been so great having fellowship like that on a more frequent basis, as opposed to only on Sundays at our church that’s nearly two hours away.

The work is new to both of us, and there’s tons to learn, but everyone’s been so patient to teach us about the trees and the flowers and the fertilizers we’re working with every day…

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We love being there, and are so blessed to have this opportunity!

Trip to The Midwest & A Wedding

My brother TJ came out to visit the beginning of October and the three of us took a road trip up to the Sioux City area for the wedding of some good friends. It was a fourteen hour drive, but we had a blast on our way up…

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Eric and Alison met each other the same way that Sean and I did – through the online forums of CollegePlus. Their story is really unusual and very beautiful and God-glorifying, and you can read all about it on her blog, here: http://impassionedpurity.blogspot.com/

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Eric lived about forty minutes from me back in Massachusetts, and we often visited with their family for game nights. I have known both him & Alison as long as I have known Sean, actually; and the four of us spent may nights in the past on Skype prayer call back in 2011. They began their relationship, got engaged, and then were married within only weeks of me and Sean! Their wedding was beautiful, and while the weather was chilly that morning, it was still a lovely ceremony & reception!

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Their families are very wonderful, and some of the most amazing people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. We spent some time in the home of Alison’s family after the wedding, and experienced beautiful fellowship, laughter late into the evening, good conversation, and music with ten of their twelve children.

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PicMonkey Collage.1We also stayed at my dear friend Katie’s home with her family, her boyfriend, and some other friends, India & Kyle. It was such a great weekend, as we enjoyed the laughter and joy of long-distance friends reunited.

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Let those be thy choicest companions who have made Christ their chief companion.
~ Thomas Brooks