Church Shopping

Ever since Ryan and I moved to Ocala, we’ve been “church shopping.” We loved our church in Orlando and are really hoping to find something that fits us as well as our previous church did.

We’ve spent the past few weeks going to one church but just haven’t connected with the pastor. We’ve loved the music, the people and the ambiance of the church, but the pastor just wasn’t the right fit and we really wanted him to be.

This morning we tried a new church and may have found a winner! We really enjoyed the service, the pastor had a lot more enthusiasm and it was much more relatable. We’ll be going back again soon, hoping it will be our new permanent church!

The church was located right near a new McDonald’s and Ryan and I walked over for hot drinks after the service.

peppermint mocha mcdonalds

A peppermint mocha for me (with a side of an awkward smile, apparently) and a hot chocolate for Ryan.

Surprisingly I really don’t like McDonald’s hot chocolate. It tastes so funky to me! Anyone else with me on this one? Ryan thinks I’m crazy.

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Even though we just had breakfast before church (egg sandwiches again), Ryan is a serious fan of McDonald’s hot cakes and ordered them for a “snack.”

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He ended up sharing and I had about a third. They really are fantastic! I tried to replicate them before with a recipe that called for lemon-lime soda, but my attempt didn’t measure up.

Post McDonald’s we hit up the grocery store and came home to change before making lunch.

Today’s midday meal included smoothies and a LUNA bar for me.

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My smoothie contained:

  • 2 frozen bananas (for maximum thickness)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Three ingredients and bam… an awesome smoothie.

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I was sent a box of LUNA bars to sample earlier in the week and have been really loving them as my afternoon snack. (They caught wind of the fact that these bars are my favorite pre-race snack. Very true!)

Today’s flavor of choice was the Nutz Over Chocolate bar which totally satisfied my love for the peanut butter and chocolate flavor combination.

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It was great, though my all-time favorite LUNA bar is the White Chocolate Macadamia bar. Tastes like a healthified cookie!

Lunch fueled another day of hiking. We are addicted!

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It really is such a treat to live so close to the Ocala National Forest and take advantage of such well-maintained trails.

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Sadie agrees.

And now for a little fun!

Can you spot Sadie?

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She’s a hunting dog and her pinkish nose, tan coat and beige eyes camouflage her so well on the trails.

See her?

The three of us had a great time on our two-hour hike. The weather was a bit cool and perfectly sunny.

You know how they say people and their pets can start to look alike after a while?

I’m beginning to see it…

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They’re quite the duo.

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Taking pictures with Sadie is never easy!

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She loves my kisses. Don’t let her fool you.

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She just loves herons more.

Now that we’re home, we are planning on making the rest of the day very low key, complete with a crock pot dinner and a movie night.

Oh! And the answer key to Where’s Waldo: Sadie Edition:

there she is

She’s sneaky.


  1. Liz says

    I used to love McD’s pancakes growing up! I haven’t had them in years though… I wonder if they’re still the same as they’ve always been? They look the same!


  2. says

    White Chocolate Macademia Nut bars are my favorite Lunas, as well!

    I’ve been church shopping where I live, and I haven’t found my winner yet. I’m hoping it’ll happen some Sunday soon!

    Have a great quiet evening 🙂


  3. says

    I agree about the hot chocolate, I’m not really a fan. A Fe weeks ago my hubby was waiting at the counter for them to remake a cheeseburger (picky kids) and they accidently made mint hot chocolate instead of regular and gave it to my hubs, that was really good.


  4. Katie @ Raisins&Apples says

    i just moved Friday, so today was my first church shop! It’s exciting and frustrating at the same time.

    Looks like y’all are having a wonderful Sunday 🙂


  5. says

    i wish you luck in the church shopping! my husband and i did that together when we moved out to utah a few years ago, and we were very blessed to be able to make our now church home the first church we ever visited out here. even more of a blessing, i now work at our church! it was definitely meant to be and is a perfect fit. i’m glad to hear this morning’s church visit seemed to be a success! i think it’s an awesome thing to do as a newly married couple… to make that decision just the two of you for your own little family.

    on the LUNA note, i think we have the same taste buds because White Chocolate Macademia is my favorite and Nutz Over Chocolate is right up there too. 😉 like you said, the Nutz Over Chocolate totally satisfies that PB & chocolate craving that i always have!

    looks like a perfect sunday – enjoy your relaxing evening!


  6. Dani says

    My boyfriend and I live in Orlando, just a few miles from UCF and we’ve been trying to find a church that we just love but are having trouble. If you don’t mind, what churches did you try here and what church did you end up calling home?



  7. says

    You’ve actually inspired me to find hiking trails in my area because I love being outdoors but for some reason just never think to go hiking…now I’ve found some good spots for Mike, Maverick, and me to go to!


  8. Courtney says

    My mom, aunt, and grandparents live in Ocala, FL. My aunt and her family have been very involved in their church for years. If you haven’t checked out Meadowbrook Church ( I strongly recommend that you give it a shot because you and your husband seem like the kind of couple that would fit in with their ministry. Good luck!


  9. Nancy @ Beyoutiful Fitstyle says

    How did you know when you could have Sadie off of a leash without worrying about her running off?


  10. says

    Apparently I’ve been missing out on McDonalds pancakes for 26 years! When I was young, and we were *treated* to breakfast there, I always ordered an Egg McMuffin or sausage biscuit. I’m not sure about lemon lime flavor in pancakes, but it sounds like everyone agrees they’re delicious. 🙂

    I’m actually enjoying a White Chocolate Macadamia Luna bar as I type this. It’s by far my favorite.


  11. Sarah (I Dream of Beets) says

    I really need to get a dog so that I can go hiking more often! I fell IN LOVE with a foster puppy last weekend, but now I need to work on the boyfriend. As a commitment phobe, I don’t know that he’d be up for a dog:(


  12. says

    It took me a second to find Sadie! She blends in well! How long did it take for you guys to feel comfortable with off leash hiking? Our V, Phinley, doesn’t like to stay close when we’ve taken her out off leash. After a few panic attacks when she runs into the woods, we’ve decided to keep her on leash.


  13. says

    I’m glad you think you found a church you liked. 🙂 Brandon and I had a tough time trying to “church shop” this year. It can be a challenge to find someplace that you BOTH really like and can yourself at long-term! 🙂


  14. Lorin says

    I love white chocolate macademia nut as well! I love hiking. I feel like I get a workout in without making it feel like a workout; it’s also nice to get out in nature. You make me wnat to get a dog so bad. I’ve wanted one my whole life but we were always going places on the weekends growing up. I’m also in my second year of college right now so can’t get a dog. I volunteer at a local humane society to get my dog companionship in.


  15. Elizabeth says

    I remember back PRE kids as well–oh the hiking. We hiked every Sunday afternoon–right after church we would leave–my how times have changed. I made some yummo white pretzels today–just almond bark, but then I sprinkled them with pumpkin pie spice–Pumpkin pie on a stick–I’m telling ya–You be sure and soak up all the hiking time you can and I am so glad you found a church home:) e


  16. says

    Nutz over chocolate is my go-to bar. I really don’t like bars all that much but that flavor Luna bar I can enjoy when I’m in need of an ultra-portable and convenient snack! I’ve never tried the white chocolate macadamia flavor though…and that is one of my favorite types of cookies…


  17. Katherine says

    Don’t take this the wrong way – but your lunch was a banana and a cup of milk…are you for real?? Oh and a scoop of protein powder…and a Luna Bar? That’s like a snack that people trying to lose weight eat.

    You do realize your blog is idolized by pro-ana sites and girls right??

    Way to be a role model. So sick of bloggers that are promoting their own shit on the internet and think they’re healthy when they are screwed up and have eating disorders themselves. Take a hint – and get a REAL JOB AND LIFE. Something rewarding where you don’t talk and write about yourself all day. Self-absorbed brat.


    • stevie says

      This is mean and completely uncalled for. Julie writes in her disclaimer that she does not post everything she eats. Let’s not online bully!


    • says

      if you’re worried about my smoothie not being substantial, i’m pretty sure that it had around 400 calories (2 bananas @ 200 cals + a cup of 2% milk @ 120 cals @ + a scoop of protein powder @ 120 cals) and the luna bar had 180 cals… sooo, 580 calories is too low? i don’t count calories and assure you i am not starving myself and walking around hungry.

      as far as your eating disorder reference, please read this post:

      also, i appreciate comments that genuinely express concern or criticism in a kind way, but telling me to “get a life” and calling me a “self-absorbed brat” doesn’t seem like it’s coming from a good place. i simply ask that you phrase your future comments in a way that is both respectful to you and to me.


    • Karen says

      Julie – you are an inspiration to thousands of people for many different reasons. You’re a great leader, writer and person. Don’t let anyone discourage you – you are a superstar!


    • Alexa says

      what annoys me the most from people who talk about bloggers ‘not eating enough’ is the fact that no one will tell an obese person that she is eating to much. A commenter would never comment on an overweight persons blog and tell them, ‘hey, maybe you should slow down on those cookies.’

      im sick of people commenting on skinny peoples eating habits.

      Mean comments are formed from extreme jealousy that Julie can fit in her jeans with no problem.


  18. Jess says

    Y’all are the cutest family! I just love seeing the pics of Sadie.I have 2 girl boxers that look similar up her. Funny story…you posted Sadie the other day in those cute pjs…so I bought my boxers Santa outfits at Target and they HATED them!!! They looked at me like ” Mom, why are you putting this on me!” It was so funny!


  19. jennyv says

    I’m w/ you with the church shopping — my husband and I just moved back to our home state (but hours from our home towns) so we’ve spent the last 4 weekends at different churches. It’s SO hard to find the right place — especially with the Christmas season as many services are atypical. We know we’ll find it — but it’s so hard while in process.

    After reading articles like this:
    I cannot eat at McDonalds…


  20. says

    I adore your blog 🙂 I just wanted to wish you a happy holiday, and let you know that your blog is so fun to read! It’s informative and quality writing; it provides a different perspective on different things and products (like LARA bars!)

    Thanks for all the great entries!!


  21. sarah says

    McDonald’s hot chocolate is different, but I am not the biggest hot chocolate so I thought that is why I never liked it. I have not tried their hotcakes ever but I have wanted to!


  22. says

    I’m jealous of your warm FLA weather! It’s finally starting to feel like winter in the DC area and I’m not a fan- shouldn’t have complained about the humid, 60 degree weather we’ve had the past few weeks 😛

    Q: Why did you use lemon-lime soda to replicate a batch of McD’s pancakes?


  23. dee says

    I love the Nutz over chocolate LUNA bar too!! It was definitely my favorite until I had the peppermint one..oh good gosh. DELICIOUS!!! A bit sweeter, but it tastes just like candy..mmmm


  24. says

    We have not moved … well other than four years ago when we moved from Italy to the US. We have been somewhat distant from Church (NOT our faith) so recently we have been Church “shopping” ourselves … contrary to the trend we are looking for a more traditional Catholic Church, with traditional music … we are not there yet, but closer …


  25. says

    I hope this church is a winner for you! I LOVED our church in my old hometown, and the people and my Bible study group, and that was one thing I was most upset about leaving. We have found a new church here but its just “not the same” and it’s so hard not to compare the two b/c its really not fair, but still hard.

    Good luck!


  26. Dani says

    I totally know what you mean by needing to find the right church with a pastor you really connect with. A great pastor changes everything. I hope you find the one that’s right for you!


  27. says

    Hahaha! This made me giggle, all your Sadie anecdotes, and the Spot Sadie picture. So cute! 😀 I love hiking so much, it must be wonderful to be so close to that many trails. And extra wonderful to have a lovely pup to share the walks with! <3 Sounds like a fun day! xyx


  28. says

    I can totally relate to the process of finding a church! My boyfriend (of 4 years) and I have tried to find a church in Chicago that fits us, but I swear it just doesn’t compare to the church we go to at home in Gloucester, Massachusetts! It’s amazing how the littlest things just don’t click! I’m glad that you were able to find one that is right for you, especially so close to Christmas!


  29. says

    I know! Church shopping is HARD, but so worth it to find a place that really fits. I gladly found my church 2 years ago and love it! Its so important to me to know where the money is going. My church now definitely is funding TONS of missions world wide 🙂


  30. whitney says

    Finding the right church feels great..but is such a tiring process sometimes! Don’t give up, God will lead you to the right place.

    Good way to handle “Katherine” with the snide comments… your response was respectful and classy. It’s hard to want to be nice but you know what? It pays off. You reap what you sow and you just sowed some pretty nice seeds. Way to go! 🙂


  31. says

    ohh awesome!! So happy for you guys~It’s truly not easy to find the church God wants us to be in and serve at! But when we follow His leading, then it’s just plain wonderful 🙂 I’ve been going through sooooooo many transitions for the past year! And still will be with perhaps MORE church moving b/c of my fiance’s ministry stuff, and then MARRIAGE! lol. But it’s all about how we respond.


  32. Amy@ahealthyandhappyheart says

    Glad you maybe found a church! husband and I have been living in Pittsburgh PA for 2 years now with no luck on finding a church…looks like you had a nice weekend 🙂


  33. Amanda says

    Hey Julie! Glad you found a church that feels right, it can be tough, I know. I feel I’ve had to church shop so much with moving around lots these past few years. Hope all goes well and you settle in super quick! I find just jumping in and serving is a sure fire way to click in and meet people.

    And as for the mean comment – don’t listen! I LOVE reading your blog each day and you honestly inspire me to be so much healthier and happier. You have such a balanced approach to food and such a zest for life. Love ya. That is all 🙂


  34. says

    I would have never been able to find her! Lol…that is too funny. I think it’s great that you guys live so close to a place that you can hike. I would have to drive an hour just to hike something like that!
    I think it’s wonderful that you are also looking for a church to attend. I will be praying for you both!


  35. says

    I totally agree with you about the hot chocolate! I tried it last week, one sip and I was done!
    Congrats on finding a church 🙂 That’s one of the hardest parts about moving, especially when you have a great one that you have to leave!


  36. Anne says

    Just started reading your blog. Your story about your love/hate relationship with running inspired me to start running and do a 5K in October.

    Just saw this post, and I am thrilled to learn that you are a church-goer. Even more reason to follow your blog!



  37. Marissa says

    I’m am new to your blog but already loving it!! I’m an (downtown) Orlando resident and a UCF student. I’ve had a hard time finding a church in the area to call home. Can you please share what church you and Ryan attended while living here?

    Thanks so much! You’re an inspiration to the rest of us!



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