The Fight to Feed Our Souls + Brazilian Lemonade

Our job as overseas workers is to make a lot of investments, right? We invest our time, money, energy, and emotions into where we live and the work we do. We invest in relationships, some short, some long. We devote time to locals and their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We have a lot pouring out!

But how much do we invest in ourselves? In the space we live in?

If you’re like me, not so much.

I recently had this conversation with a dear friend as we splurged (see? I have to put that word in there to justify to all of you!) on our manis/pedis. She has three young children, and has fostered to adopt one, and hopefully another soon. I know I don’t know everything about the system in the States, but I can see the toll it takes on my friend. She loves every child fiercely, and gives, gives, gives to them and those around her. She has recently realized the importance of taking time out every so often to take care of herself. Sometimes that means pampering(which involves budgeting), other times that means a day where she can just sit with the Lord, sans kids. She knows she needs to have some time and space to herself to do things she enjoys in order to sustain her household … and sanity. We all do!

As we kept talking, we got into how little we care for our homes. How little we’ve decorated, even though we both want to so badly. But, on a budget, that means everything is DIY and takes for-ev-er. Because who wants to craft when you have small children who always want to “help?” (recovering control freak/perfectionist here)

I shared with a mentor last year that I wish I could find time to craft. She sweetly, simply replied, “How can you make that happen? How can your helper or husband or team help make that happen for you?” I love how matter-of-fact, covered-in-grace she was about the fact that if I wanted my house decorated (which I literally put down as a goal for that year!), I’d have to actually carve out space to do it. She and I both knew it wouldn’t just “happen” when I had “down time” with the stage of life I’m in now. Let’s be real, my down time starts after 9pm and usually includes reading or watching a show. Crafting that late at night would produce some pretty interesting results.

Well, I failed on that time and space last year, but I’m determined to make time this year. We have lived in China for six years, and I have yet to decorate any of our homes. The first year, well, enough said. You all know the craziness. The second year, we moved to another apartment, and knew we’d only be there one year. I did hang up a few easily-removable things, such as a string across the wall to hang the kids’ artwork and some picture frames. Our third and fourth years, we moved again and were both in language school. Enough said there, too. That brings us to our current home, yet another move, and I’m happy to say in a year and a half, I managed getting things on three walls! Baby steps, right?

Some of you are packing up and wondering what mementos or décor you should take along to have in your home. My advice would be not to skip those if your suitcase allows. Every trip we make back, I try to find a few more things to put on the walls or shelves. If only we had a Hobby Lobby in our city!

Others of you are in a home you know you won’t be in very long. Let me encourage you to not be like me, and find a way to spruce up your place a little. Pinterest can be your best friend here. There are ideas with making your own wreaths or giant flowers out of paper, framing a piece of fabric as art, making no-sew curtains out of bed sheets, etc., etc. Take an afternoon to look at some ideas, and then plan a time to make it happen!

The rest of you are like me and hope to be in this home for a while, but really, do we ever really know? That’s part of the fear of investing for me, but I’m ever so slowly learning that if I don’t jump in and invest in the space I spend the majority of my time in, it starts to take a toll on my attitude. I often find myself looking at my walls or paint color or book shelf, wondering when I’ll have the time to make it look welcoming and homey.

Now, I know it’s really hard not to get caught up in comparing yourself to the latest and greatest of trends. I’m first in line at that rodeo. Take it slow. I like to focus on one room at a time: finding ideas I like, then finding the resources (sometimes the hardest part), then assembling. If you’re not so crafty, don’t let that stop you! There are so many easy ideas out there, even for pronounced non-crafters. Maybe ask a friend or local to craft with you; doing things like this together is always more fun anyway!

It’s also easy to push decorating or self-care back to the dark corner of our lives because there are so many other things to be done. I know, girl, I know. I do it, too. Don’t you think that’s what satan wants us to do, though? Fizzle out, slip into a depression, take our eyes off Jesus. He wants us off the field, so he’ll do what he can to make us miserable. I heard a sermon a while back that we have to fight for our time with Jesus. I think we have to fight for time to feed our souls in other ways, too. There will always be an excuse.

We have to find that balance of pouring in and pouring out. I want to be clear, the only complete way to fill up is through Jesus and time spent with Him. But, with motives in check, taking the time, effort, and money once in a while to do things we enjoy can also be a way to worship and glorify Him.

What ways have you found to decorate your home from resources you have around you? Be sure to post pictures with #velvetashesnest so we can see your ideas! 



I don’t know about where you are, but here in the middle of the States, we’re sweltering with heat and humidity. It has been a summer of non-stop sweat, quite opposite of our dry climate in our China home. I may or may not have been complaining a lot about the humidity. So, to beat it, I drink this refreshing lemonade that’s oh so easy to whip up. And, it’s Brazilian, to go along with my Olympic-watching addiction! If your current location isn’t in the middle of summer, definitely tuck this recipe away for when it is!


Mmm, limes! I hope they’re available where you are! So refreshing, and a nice change up from lemons.


Using the whole lime packs quite a tangy punch!


Sorry for the sad  picture quality; I was in a hurry and had to use a phone. We head back to China in 4 days…and I’ve been watching too much of the Olympics! But who cares, it tastes SO GOOD!

Brazilian Lemonade

Serves 4

Slightly Adapted from Our Best Bites

4 juicy limes (ones with thin, smooth skins will be the juiciest and the least bitter)

1/2-1 c. sugar

6 c. cold water

6-8 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk

Mix cold water and sugar very well and chill until ready to use.

Wash limes thoroughly with soap or fruit wash to get any wax that may be on there because you’ll be using the whole lime! Cut the ends off the limes and then cut each one into eighths.

Place half of the limes in your blender. Add half of the sugar water, place the lid on your blender, and pulse 5 times. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a pitcher (the one you’ll serve the lemonade in) and pour the blended mixture through the strainer and into the pitcher. Use a spoon to press the rest of the liquid into the pitcher. Dump the pulp into the trash. Repeat with remaining limes and sugar water.

Add sweetened condensed milk. You can either stir it in or put it back into the blender and swish around for a few seconds to blend well. Taste for sweetness. If it’s still too tart for you, add more condensed milk.

It’s best served over ice, and soon after it is made. If you have leftovers, you may have to add more condensed milk or sugar because as it sits, the tartness becomes strong again.


  1. Emily Lofgren August 18, 2016

    It really is a fight to take time for what refreshes you when you’re overseas! I love the way your friend immediately looked for a solution instead of just thinking about how it was a wish for sometime! When I lived in China, I didn’t decorate much either. It felt useless because I knew I wouldn’t be there forever, but it does make a difference!

    1. Ashley Felder August 19, 2016

      It feels useless and it’s! But yes, so worth it in the end.

  2. Danielle Wheeler August 18, 2016

    Love how you share your story, friend, and all the wisdom that’s woven in there. Fighting to feed my soul right along side you!

    And Brazilian lemonade is the absolute BEST!!

    1. Ashley Felder August 19, 2016

      Fight on, sister. Fight for that time, and keep fighting for that nap. 😉

  3. Bes August 19, 2016

    I was just thinking along these same lines the other day. I have been in the same home for 12 years, but never knew it would be that long. Slowly my walls have pictures and other memories. I love that I have memories attached to most of the pictures and things instead of just a quick something to fill space. I am thinking along the same lines, when it comes to home repairs. “How long will I be here?” If I leave this house in a couple years and no one moves in, it will not be worth fixing the plumbing or building a fence or rewiring the office, etc… Where is that line? How much do you invest when you are not permanent? Is it worth it? Contentment is key in all of this.

    1. Ashley Felder August 27, 2016

      Amen, Bes. This summer, I was dreaming of a garbage disposal and light fixtures. But I keep going back to….is it worth it? Worth the time and effort? Continual heart checks are a must!

  4. Phyllis August 22, 2016

    I have more trouble with making space, taking things down, rather than hanging things up. Most of our apartments have been SO CLUTTERED, and not necessarily with our stuff. One of the best decorating moves that we ever did was to take down more than half the rugs on the walls and roll them up as soon as we could. That made the whole apartment so much nicer for me. (I like a rug on a wall. One. Or maybe two. Not every wall!) I love your ideas about crafting and making time to do it, though!

    1. Ashley Felder August 27, 2016

      Wow, Phyllis, do the rugs come on the walls when you move in? I can understand how cluttered that must make you feel!!

  5. Anna August 23, 2016

    It is a fight to find time for those things you love, but I think it really pays off in the long run. I know the things I need to do to stay happy and healthy. Sometimes, I can feel myself getting cranky or out of sorts, and I have to stop and do a check- am I getting rest, eating healthy, exercising, time for crafting, reading, etc. Usually there is something that I have let go for several months, and I need to get back on track. 🙂 I always kind of feel like those things aren’t “productive” so I can’t do them until I do all the other things I should. But I know I am more productive overall when I am well balanced.

    1. Ashley Felder August 27, 2016

      Agreed! The balance of life is a tricky thing, but when it’s all lined up, it’s wonderful, right? And all those times it’s not, we just get that many more chances to lean into His grace. 🙂

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.