Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten [Songs & Artists]

These are in no particular order, but each of these songs are my favs for one reason or another.

1. It Is Well With My Soul - If you've never read Horatio Spaford's story behind writing this song, you need to because it is heart wrenching.

2. Indescribable by Christ Tomlin (Laura Story actually wrote this song, and I love both versions.) - There's a huge story behind this one, read about it here.

3. She's Everything by Brad Paisley - Before Kyle and I got married my maid of honor asked Kyle if there was a song that immediately came to mind when he thought of me. She said he didn't even skip a beat, or think about it, this is what he told her. So of course we danced to it at our wedding and now whenever I hear it, it's an automatic reminder of how much he loves me.

4. Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band - First of all, Zac Brown Band is one of my favorite bands, secondly this song is a reminder to enjoy the little things in life.

5. In Christ Alone by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Alison Kraus - Alison Kraus is another favorite artist so I automatically like anything she sings, but this song reminds me of my life mantra: In Christ Alone my hope is found, HE is my rock, my life, my strength, my song.

6. If You Want Me To by Ginny Owens - Her story is an amazing one. She's blind and received a teaching certificate in music. Schools refused to hire a her and through her discouragement, she became a respected musician in her church and the Christian music industry. I saw her at a Women of Faith conference many years ago and have loved her since. This song's lyrics are phenomenal, "The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear and I don't know the reason why you brought me here, but just because you love me the way that you do, I'm going to walk through the valley if you want me to, cause I'm not who I was when I took my first step, and I'm clinging to the promise you're not through with me yet, so with all of these trials bring me closer to you, and I will go through the fire if you want me to. It may not be the way I would've chosen when you lead me through a world that's not my home, but you never said it would be easy, you only said I'll never leave you alone." Her style is eclectic, her voice is soft, but strong, and her message is an excellent one.

7. Blessings by Laura Story - Due to this song I had a revelation about answers to prayer. Her story behind this album is also pretty amazing.

8. Better Dig Two by The Band Perry - I LOVE their music. This song is so catching and this line... "I told you on the day we wed I was gonna love you till I's dead..." Yup, we need more lines like that.

9. Great is Thy Faithfulness by Fernando Ortega - Sometimes the oldies, the classics are the best. This one has a more modern feel, but the lyrics remind me that despite trials God is faithful. "Morning by morning new mercies I see, all that I've needed your hand hath provided..." Pretty much sums it all up.

10. Our Great God by Todd Agnew - The lyrics speak for themselves, "Eternal God unchanging, mysterious and unknown, your boundless love unfailing... Hallelujah, glory be to our great God... Lord, we are weak and frail help us in the storm, surround us with your angels, hold us in your arms, our cold ruthless enemy, his pleasure is our harm RISE UP OH LORD AND HE WILL FLEE BEFORE OUR SOVEREIGN GOD!" What an amazing song of praise to a God so worthy of it!

(Plus one...)

11. Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker - The moment Brielle heard it, she LOVED it. It's been her favorite ever since. It's so cute, the moment it comes on she starts smiling, dancing and bouncing. She has good tastes.

I actually have a "top twenty" playlist on iTunes and it was hard to cut that in half, but these songs are by far my favorite. They're not just beautifully written and performed, but (for the most part) the meaning and stories behind them keep my focus on what's important. This list grows every day and there's always a song that comes up on Pandora that blows.my.mind. and then put on my iTunes wish list. I'm sure songs like Mercy Me's "Word of God Speaks" and "Desert Song" by Hillsong or Casting Crown's "Praise You in This Storm" will make the list. It's a very special list. Sometimes I just put this list on repeat - all day.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Briella Bean [14 Months]

This has been quite the month for us. She got the chicken pox, poor baby. She was absolutely miserable. She didn't have much of an appetite and survived on jello, egg drop soup, grapes, and crackers. Her legs and bum were covered in itchy spots, but they were also on her face, elbows, and back. I'd smother her in coconut oil after an oatmeal bath and she'd sit back and relax. I can only imagine how good it felt on her itchy, sore, blistery skin. I felt so bad for her, especially on those nights that she'd wake up all itchy. Thankfully, she is on the mend and back to a happy, goofy, ornery little girl again.

She is definitely a daddy's girl. When she was sick with a fever, she wanted her daddy. When he left for youth group, she cried and reached for him long after he left. It seriously broke my heart. When he came home (an hour and a half later) she was still crying for him, "Da! Da! Da!" He made her year when he spooned up a bowl of ice cream. I think her throat hurt so this was a wonderful soothing remedy. He is a fantastic, thoughtful daddy.

Everyday she adds something new to her ever expanding vocabulary. "At" is hot. "Daaa-Dooooo" is thank you (she also signs this very well, and uses it correctly!). "Duh" is done (and she does the sign for that as well). "Dis" for this. Uh oh is one of her favorite things to say and we joke that she's a walking uh-oh (I'll hear a crash and then an adorable little, "uh-oh!") She signs and says "peeees" (please). "Dink" for drink. "Aw-aw-aw" is how she gives loves. "Pre, pre, pre" (always whispered) are her "pretties" (necklaces, bracelets, hair bows, etc.), I'll brush her hair, telling her, "Oh! Sooooo pretty Brielle!" and she'll grab the comb and brush her own hair and then mine as well. Whenever she eats something she likes (which is often) she says a quick, "mm" with every bite. "Ba" is ball. And her cutest is balloon, which I'm forever thankful that I captured on video:

Her favorite toy has anything to do with a ball. Her version of catch is adorable.

Her favorite food hasn't changed since the first day she tried them: graham crackers.

She discovered pockets and has become obsessed with putting things in and out, in and out. I giggled when I put a little orange fuzz ball in her pocket and she.did.not.want.it.there. I could write a post on "how to make my 1 year old mad at me." (I feel a "top ten" coming on...)

Her little "aw-aw-aw's" melt my heart. Especially when I'm doing dishes (for example) and I feel her little arms wrap around my shins and her chubby hands giving me gentle pats as she exclaims, "aw-aw-aw" -- my heart is reduced to a puddle. I love those random, "I love you, mom" moments. And that is why I love this mom job so very, very much.

Favorite pics this month:
Cutest outfit ever, on the most adorable little girl ever!

Play time in the Cheyenne mall - she LOVED it.

Yup. That's a banana. On top of my head.

"Ta-Da!" Look at all my Halloween candy!

My little love bug and her Halloween costume.

There are a series of pictures of her being goofy as all get out. Here's a couple of my favorites:

Laughing at mom who's laughing at her faces.

I heard brutal screams coming from the kitchen and found this mess: my daughter sitting on top of the gate blocking off the steps, her beloved blanket stuck underneath, and a little tuft of it was pulled through one of the holes. Don't ask me how this happened, all I know is that it was a very dramatic moment in our household. She signed "please" over and over again, begging for my help. It was so cute!

She is so incredibly smart. I'm definitely one of those moms who thinks everything her daughter does is the sweetest, cutest thing ever and am quick to share the details. I make no apologies. Each day she does and adds something to her vocabulary, cute little quirk, or new discovery. I can't wait to see what it is this month! (Don't worry, I'll be sharing...)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten (Why Mommy's Should Memorize Scripture)

Part of the women's discipleship process in our church (that is highly encouraged) is scripture memorization. Here's 10 reasons why this is a vital aspect of women's time together: 

1. "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) These are Jesus' Words exactly. He rebuked the Pharisees who (after Jesus healed a demon-oppressed man) said, "It is only by Beezebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." (vs.26) and Jesus (knowing their heart) told them otherwise (that "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." In other words, if he was a demon, why would he cast out demons?) Jesus goes on to explain how to know their heart, "...the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. ... I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Ch.12:33-37) Therefore, if I say anything at all, if I offer my children any Biblical encouragement, I want it to be HIS Words, because mine are utterly worthless. If I don't spend time in God's Word, how would I know what He says? And if I don't know what He says then I find myself speaking about nothing worthwhile, and then I'm in danger of that last verse: of standing before God on the day that I meet Him, being held accountable for every word that came out of my mouth. The fear of that alone forces me to take this seriously.

2. "As we focus our minds and hearts to understand the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will continue to illumine it and write it indelibly on our hearts." (Furman, G. Glimpses of Grace, p.170) Gloria Furman tells us that we will gain tremendous benefits from "persisting in prayerful meditation on passages of Scripture." By saying a verse, chapter, or book (yes, book) over and over again we are meditating on His Word and allowing it to seep into our very innermost being. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit will constantly bring it to mind, especially when we need it.

3. "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." - Psalm 19:14 The Israelites sang this Psalm of David and those aren't the only words that we should emulate, "More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." (vs.10) They = God's Word. We should desire God's Word above ALL else, through his perfect Word we will be transformed into His image because God's Word is all about HIM.

4. Memorization is Observation. There are 4 key ingredients to studying Scripture: Observation (Author, Audience, Purpose, sentences, word meanings, historical context, etc.), Interpretation (Am I interpreting it correctly?), Correlation (Does my interpretation match up with the rest of Scripture?) and Application (After all that, how does this apply to me?). Observation is the piece that takes the most work and the piece that women struggle with the most. It's our brain. We were designed to connect everything to everything. In studying the Bible that can be a curse and a blessing. A curse because while we should be observing the text, we skip to correlation and sometimes we "correlate" incorrectly. Skipping steps is a big no-no if you want to make sure that you're INTERPRETING Scripture correctly. Which God does not take lightly. It's HIS Word and it was written for a very specific purpose. We often miss apply Scripture because we can't wait to get to verse 10 when we should be meditating on verse 1. By memorizing verse by verse we are in essence forcing our correlating brain to slooooooow down and meditate, which is so difficult for us multi-tasking, thinking-of-100-things-at-once, Mommy brains.

5. Keep  Your Way Pure. "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word." - Psalm 119:9-16 (Underlining is mine.) This Psalm does not need much explanation, but there are a few things you should know about it: it's an acrostic poem that we lose in translation from Hebrew to English :( and the theme is "The Word of God." Psalm 119 sums up our whole purpose for existence: to know God and glorify Him. There is no other way to know Him than through His Word. The Israelite's memorized this Psalm (alphabetic poems make that easier) so they would always remember that their hope is in His Word (vs.81, 114) and that "it's a light to my path" (vs.105) and and and and... Psalm 119 is one of my favorites and it's worth reading and knowing. In order to keep your life from sin, and to help your children do the same, do as this Psalm suggests: store up His Word in your heart.

6.  "Scripture that is read or recited from memory is the purest form of biblical encouragement. As you use the Bible to encourage your children, you are relying on the Holy Spirit to direct your words and God's Word to them. ... If you ask the Holy Spirit to give you something to say to your children, He will. It doesn't matter if your message is ten words or ten thousand. If you offer it in the power of the Spirit, it will be effective." (Clarkson, C. Heartfelt Discipline, p.111) By relying on the Holy Spirit to speak through you, you will emulate the qualities of the Holy Spirit which are love, patience, kindness, selflessness, self-control, gentleness... all qualities that are impossible to have within you all the time because you're an imperfect, sinful human being. By making God's Word the Word of your heart, those are the words you will speak to everyone, and most importantly your children.

7. Memorization is for Multitaskers! For busy mommy's it is nearly impossible to find a time to sit down and actually study God's Word without interruption; you can memorize and do dishes at the same time!

8. There will be battles and we need to be prepared. You may not always have your Bible. So when you need to say something, pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say. Then trust that He will bring it to mind when it's needed. 

9. There are two things God values most: His Word and His Name. "... you have exalted above all things your name and your word." (Psalm 138:2) So if those are the two things He has exalted above EVERYTHING, I want to make sure I pay attention to it and teach my children what God has exalted above all else.

10. The Words are like medicine. And every mommy needs soul medicine, because there will be tough days and if you focus on the hope found in God's Word, those loooong days will seem like milliseconds in eternity. By feasting on the Word and making it your obsession, you will seriously need nothing else.

I always think of the movie, The Book of Eli when I think of memorization. He knew the entire book and the book wasn't lost as a result. It's one of my all time favorites...
The Holy Spirit can and will use His Words, make them the Words of your heart for all those reasons and more.

After writing this I Googled "Memorize Scripture" and found this website that offers 10 more reasons to memorize His Word: Rooted Families. I thought it was worth sharing because the reasons are phenomenal!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Prayer for a Husband

You probably read the title and thought, "Now, Becky, you have a husband!" Yes, I do. A wonderful husband who provides, protects, loves, and cherishes his family. I am truly blessed. So I'm not talking about a prayer for MY husband. I'm talking about a prayer for my daughters future husband. I realize that she's only 1, but that prayer will continue for all of her life, that God blesses her like He has blessed me. As I was reading "Gentle Passages" I realized the importance of that prayer, but as I read Ruth Bell Grahams poem about her prayer for her future husband (which she wrote at the age of 19) titled "Dear God" I realized how important it was to pray this prayer not only for my daughter, but with her.

It's beautifully written...

Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we're inclined to do)
I do not need a handsome man
But let him be like You;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
Nor need he be some genius
Or wealthy, Lord, at all;
But let his head be high, dear God,
And let his eye be clear,
His shoulders straight, whate'er his state,
Whate'er his earthly sphere;
And let his face have character,
A ruggedness of soul,
And let his whole life show, dear God,
A singleness of goal;
Then when he comes (as he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I'll understand that he's the man
I prayed for long ago.

By the way, Ruth married Billy Graham on August 13, 1943. Beautiful story, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten [Why Wait for Sex?]

Girls: If you have zero desire to live your life according to GOD'S STANDARDS do not read this.

I'm tired of the hogwash advice I hear from the world explaining to young people: "find yourself" or "know what you want" or "gotta try it on before you wear it" crap. I want my daughter to know the exact opposite. I want her to grow up knowing sex is beautiful, but it is so important to wait. Here's why...

1. A GOOD relationship is not built on sex. Do not believe a man who tells you, "I love you and this is how I express that love." That is the most selfish explanation of love that exists on this planet. His way of expressing love to you is by pleasing himself? Psssssh! Hogwash. If he loves you, he can find thousands of ways to express that love (roses, diamonds, elaborate dates, love letters, a thoughtful text, squeezing your hand, gifts galore, dinner, favorite candy, compliments, &etc. etc.) If you ever hear a man tell you that, leave. Quickly.

2. Orgasms are mind induced.  Don't believe me? Just ask every woman who has ever faked one (um, every single one of  us). You choose to enjoy your man and focus on him, whether or not you enjoy it is entirely up to you. If you truly choose to love your husband and not think of anything but him during your time together, trust me, you'll enjoy it. There is absolutely no need to "test the waters" and determine if this is something he is good at doing. Which brings me to my next point...

3. True intimacy and satisfaction take time. You aren't going to wake up one day and go, "OH that's what I like!" It takes time together and honesty, which requires that you are unashamed and have an intimate relationship. You will not find immediate satisfaction like the books and movies suggest. Be realistic. Everything you enjoy doing now is because you've had time to do it over and over and over again. You will never find the deep satisfaction and intimacy I'm talking about with one night stands. You will never, ever find out if you are meant to be with someone by having sex with him first.

4. You can have intimacy without sex. Some of my most intimate moments with Kyle do not involve sex and those moments are moments between us that I will never share. Not because they were racy, but because it was in those moments I grew in my relationship with my husband in a way that I cannot explain.

5. If you see a good relationship, you'll typically find a good friendship. Friendship is vital in establishing a solid foundation. If you can't talk, laugh, enjoy each other's company, love the "simpleton" moments where you do or say absolutely nothing, are you friends? And if you marry someone because "they're really good in bed" what will happen to your relationship if that can't happen?! Think about it: with sex comes babies and after a baby you can't have sex for at least 6 weeks and when you have a newborn in your life things change (body, time, focus, etc.).

6. In 1 Corinthians 6:16 Paul explains that you become one when you have sex. "... do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?" In all the verses surrounding this text Paul is telling the Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality, because (verse 15) "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!" In verse 18 Paul demands they flee from sexual immorality because "Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (verse 18-20, bold is mine cause it's important to remember!)

7. Paul tells you in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that you were "bought with a price" (Christ's blood) and therefore you need to "glorify God in your body." Marriage is a picture of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33) and adulterous relationships take you farther away from Christ, your husband and your father, not closer to them (you are sinning not only against God, but against your future husband, and your father because it is his job to protect your innocence and purity until he gives you away to your husband and then it's your husband's job to protect you). Be so focused on glorifying Christ in all that you do that your future husband must find HIM before knowing you. Which, again, brings me to my next point...

8. Any relationship centered around Christ, is unbreakable. YOU CANNOT LOVE YOUR HUSBAND PERFECTLY DAY IN AND DAY OUT. In fact, you won't. In fact, there will be times you despise him because you're a dirty, rotten, selfish sinner. In fact, there will be days you fail in showing love to your husband. However, If you love your husband because Christ EXUDES EVERY PORE of your body, loving your husband will be easier (notice I did NOT say easy) because you are loving him through Christ. Love is a choice you make every day. Following Christ is a choice you make every day. It isn't easy. It isn't always fun. AND IT'S A CHOICE YOU'RE MAKING RIGHT NOW (TO LOVE YOUR HUSBAND) BY DECIDING TO WAIT FOR HIM. If you decide to love your husband through sex you're opening the doors to failure, because sex is not love. Yes, it is an expression of love but it is not love. Let me say that again: SEX IS NOT LOVE. (If you want to know the attributes of love, read how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Which brings me to my next point... (sound familiar?)...

9. If you want to know if a man truly loves you, determine what love looks like by studying God. God is love. Is he patient? Kind? Protective? Does he have the desire to take care of you? Is he arrogant? Rude? Consistently irritable with you? Is he resentful for mistakes you've made? If after this "study" you determine that he does not in fact love you, move on, and WAIT for that man God has in mind. Don't ruin a beautiful future with the man God has in mind, for a few moments of pleasure (that I promise you'll absolutely regret later).

10. God's Word very clearly states to abstain from sexual immorality. Sex with your spouse is encouraged. (Just read Song of Solomon as one example of a husband and wife clearly enjoying one another on their wedding night.) Anything outside of that is sexually immoral. If you've made a vow before God, family and friends to love your husband until the day you die, I highly encourage you to love him up. Heck, throw him on the bed if you have to! Otherwise, wait.

In today's society we have two extremes: sex is dirty or just do what makes you feel good. We need to let go of both views and toss them in the garbage. Sex is NOT a dirty, horrible act, and I hope I didn't give that impression here. I want it to be the exact opposite of that: enjoyable, fun, intimate... with your spouse. I would give my right eye to go back and say "NO!" just to save that intimacy for Kyle only (for all the reasons I've listed above). Trust me, save yourself the heartache and wait. 

P.S. I'm not tell you this to make you feel guilty, especially if you have been sexually immoral. I do encourage you, however, to stop now and wait (it isn't too late!). Thankfully, because of what Christ did on the cross, we are not doomed do die for being stupid. Waiting will be the best thing for you, even if you start now. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Day Photo Challenge: Gratitude (Day 10-16)

I'm a little behind the times. I planned on posting this Saturday, but we got a new-to-us computer and my dad was busy setting it up. I find posting on my iPhone difficult, time consuming, and totally not worth it, so I waited and am now EXTREMELY grateful for this wonderful gift. I might not be out of the stone ages completely, but people - I HAVE A MONITOR THAT DOESN'T TAKE UP OVER HALF OF MY DESK! Woooohoooo! That's something for which I can most definitely be grateful. It makes this "job" of posting and publishing that much more enjoyable.

Day 10 was "Nature" and as I was walking around looking for a good nature shot I realized that my flower garden still has blooms! It was beautiful, because colorful leaves had found a resting place in and around this particular plant and I found myself (once again) grateful for fall and all the colors.
After taking that shot I found myself wishing I had a worthy camera, and although that isn't a bad thing to wish for, I also chastised myself a tad. Instead of being grateful for the camera on my iPhone that does take remarkably good pictures considering, I was wishing for something else. Thank you Lord for providing me with the iPhone and all it's capabilities.

Day 11 was "Something Old" and this one wasn't hard. I display these antique books used by teachers and students from the 1800's and early 1900's. Occasionally I'll gingerly open the pages and peak at the handwriting, names and dates. They're falling apart, but it's so interesting to see what qualifies as "early readers" today vs back then. We are far, far, far behind the times. My 7th graders would've struggled with a 3rd grade reader. Makes me sad.

Day 12 was "Hands" and this one was a no brainer. I picked an old picture JUST because I loved my little Beans hands in it from the moment I took it.

Day 13 was "Written Words" and I chose John 21:25 for many reasons: 1. When my friend Deb pointed it out to me it blew my mind and I've been thinking about it ever since. 2. I'm studying the book of John with a high school student who asked me to help her learn God's Word and study it correctly. Since we started with John it's been at the forefront of my brain these last few months. 3. Our Pastor Hod taught chapter 6 of John to us in church one Sunday morning and it.blew.me.away. and I'm forever in awe over what the Bible is teaching me. Wow.
I wrote: "Wow! What He reveals to us is all we need to know for the moment. He gave us this 1 book for here and now." The way John states that last paragraph is so matter-of-fact and simple, "I suppose..." and the thought that the world could not contain the books had everything Jesus did been written down - blows me away (yup, that's a common occurrence as I study the Bible). It makes me wonder what we'll be learning in eternity. If one paragraph in the Bible "blows my mind" I imagine we'll be spending all of eternity learning about our great and awesome God. Seriously can't wait.

Day 14 was "Movement" and I captured Kyle playing tug-of-war with Quigley (his favorite game). Quigley is so strong!

Day 15 was "Technology" and I chose the keyboard. I'm forever grateful for the computer and keyboard, it's makes writing a breeze! The keyboard was a fantastic invention for all writers. It's much faster than a pen and paper and the delete button is so much easier than repairing mistakes on a typewriter. I'm thankful for the ease I can write up a blurb about -whatever-whenever- I want.
Day 16 (today) was "Animals" and I have 2 dogs that will forever crack me up, keep me on my toes, and show me the true meaning of unconditional love: Marley and Quigley. Marley doesn't believe he's a dog or that he's small. Quigley, on the other hand, doesn't understand how big he really is, therefore, Marley is the dominant one who is forever bullying poor Quigley. Cracks.Me.Up.
Marley (in an attempt to show dominance?) likes to sit on Quigley. Despite how difficult this is for him, he insists on doing it. The logic doesn't make sense to me, but this is a glimpse into the world of Marley. Haha.

Tomorrow (Day 17) is "Memories" and I'm really going to have to think on this one. There could be a ton of options here.... hmmmmm... I have a lot to be grateful for, so stay tuned, and join me on this photo gratitude challenge. It's never too late to start!

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Please pray for us!"

The Voice of the Martyrs has an email sign up that encourages you to pray for specific individuals who are being persecuted for their Christian faith. We may or may not be able to help each individual with money, food, clothing, etc. BUT we can and should pray for them. Prayer is what each person experiencing persecution specifically asks for from VOM; and I can most definitely grant that request and ask my readers to do the same. 

Sometimes I receive amazing suggestions on how to help specifically, like filling and mailing action packs to persecuted Christians who flee with only the clothes on their back. And this last week's email was no exception. I'm excited to participate in this one act that gives encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world! 

PLEASE join me!

VOM has granted the prayer request of the persecuted Christians to whom they reach out by creating a website called: iCommitToPray.com, where you are encouraged to read the stories of these individuals and write a prayer specifically for them. VOM will then print off each prayer and give it to them, showing this request was indeed granted. What an incredible blessing to know that people around the world are praying for you during some of the most difficult times of your life. Imagine one of these individuals greeting you in heaven thanking you for praying for them?! It's such an easy way to bless them and encourage them to hold fast to the faith in Jesus Christ and the hope of eternity with Him. 

One person asking for prayer is Ly Thi Song who lost her husband to Vietnamese authorities who tortured him to death; all because him and his brother moved their families to central Vietnam to establish a church. Her story is one of thousands, millions even, that endure such hardship for the sake of the gospel. She is now a widow caring for their four children! I can not imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes, however, I can imagine the encouragement Christians can give their fellow believers like Ly Thi Song by following through on this simple task of praying.

There are many, many ways VOM offers assistance to these individuals. I highly encourage you to to order a free subscription to this magazine, or if you feel lead to help the persecuted church in any other way, contact:

orders and contributions: 800-747-0085
ministry information: 877-377-0302
email: thevoice@vom-usa.org

If you go to the website www.persecution.com you can also sign up for specific prayer requests by scrolling all the way down to the end of the home page, you'll see the "Sign up for VOM's prayer alert" button. Continue to search the website for the many, many ways VOM asks for your help. 

And then pray!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

'Baby Wise' Book Review

After reading this book, I wrote a raving review and it's been floating around in my draft section for almost a year now. I think it's time I share this, because everything I wrote when Brielle was just a few months old, are truths I still believe in today. I look back at that time of my life as less stressful because I applied the principles Ezzo and Bucknam suggested. That doesn't mean that the first few months were easy, but it simply means that the work I put in to establishing a schedule were so so worth it and I'm still seeing the results of that work.
Baby Wise Book Review 

Many, many mothers recommended the book 'Baby Wise' by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. Due to the overwhelming amount of women telling me, "You HAVE to read this!" I decided one night, after hitting my ultimate frustration level, to buy it, hoping it would give me the answers I desperately needed. I was pleasantly surprised by the practical, common sense advice the authors gave. I could actually see how the routine was easily applicable and couldn't wait to get to work - hoping it would help my poor baby sleep! She's a fighter!

Reading this book gave me the tools I needed to determine why my daughter was staying awake between 10 pm and 2-4 am. Setting up the suggested routine also helped me understand my daughters needs. Thank goodness every cry didn't mean, "FEED ME!" otherwise my breasts would've become a giant blister, cracking, bloody mess. (And you think I'm joking...) This book also helped me help my daughter sleep, which allowed me to get the doctor recommended rest after my postpartum hemorrhaging surgery, which I originally thought was impossible, being a brand new mom.

The Marriage Factor

The piece I loved most was the discussion on marriage and how it affects your children, even as a newborn.
"Marriage is more than a legal status between two people; it is a living entity that reflects a special bond between a man and a woman - it's a unique relationship, one without parallel. While marriage transcends all other relationships, it is not disconnected from parenting. Just as the human heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body, so a healthy marriage fuels all the cells that make parenting come alive. It is truly an amazing relationship! That is why couples with great marriages make great parents, and their children are the benefactors."
Isn't that beautiful? It's beautiful because it's 110% true. Marriage is a reflection of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The husband reflecting Christ, and the woman reflecting the church, and the two coming together as one flesh, keeping Christ as the focal point, makes the home a wonderful, loving, inviting environment. Just reading about the marriage factor in the first chapter made me want to keep reading this book!
"Men are not born good husbands, nor women good wives. They come that way only through self-sacrifice, patience, and a devotional commitment to the happiness and welfare of the other."
So true! A good marriage is a direct reflection of the selfless decision that a man and a woman make to make it work. It takes work. Lots of work. But it's a choice that I wouldn't take back because the friendship formed is beyond words.
"Children need to see an ongoing love relationship that includes mom and dad enjoying each other as friends and not just parents. They also need to see their parents talking, laughing, working together and resolving conflicts with a mutual respect for each other. We cannot over emphasize this point: the more parents demonstrate love for each other, the more they saturate their child's senses with confidence of a loving, safe and secure world."
 I love that. Such a wonderful reminder.
"When there is harmony in the marriage, there is an infused stability within the family. ...healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children."
 Need further reminders?
"When the marriage relationship is beautiful, what impressionable child would not desire to share in its joy? When two are beautifully one, what child would not seek the comforts of their togetherness? ... Healthy parenting flows from healthy marriages."

 Relating it to the Classroom (I can't help it!)

I'm a teacher at heart. I've learned to read, cross reference, research, ask questions, try something, try something else - just to help someone! Before it was me helping a struggling reader to read. Now it's things like sleeping, passing gas, and eating times! I've learned that there's always something to learn. Thankfully, as I read this book, I was able to relate it to classroom learning. The point they made was a concept I believe about the development of students in regards to reading and learning. Period.
"All human beings are uniquely different, yet we share developmental similarities that serve as a basis for achievement levels. A basic routine enhances learning because order and predictability are natural allies of the learning process."
Wow. The same is true for any classroom. I noticed a change in my students progress from one year to the next just because of the classroom routine. It stayed the same every. single. day. So the students knew exactly what to expect. There were minimal behavior issues and optimal learning. Why wouldn't the same concept work for my baby? Where she sleeps, why she is or is not sleeping, the time she gets up, her bedtime routine, etc. etc. are all uniquely hers. This book simply guides you in recognizing your babies needs so you can effectively set up a routine unique to your babies needs. Once your routine is set your baby will experience the power of learning - just like an effective classroom setting! Learning to eat, sleep, play and about the world around her will improve once her routine is in place.

Babywise Babies

These authors give you the confidence that your baby has the ability to sleep continuously through the night by 7-10 weeks of age. I didn't want to go in as a skeptical mom. If I was going to try this, I was going to go in confident. After all, I can count numerous mothers of multiple children that promise they have achieved this feat with their children. They recommended this book to me! So I was going to believe what Ezzo and Bucknam state about a babies sleeping possibilities,
"... healthy, full-term babies are born with the capacity to achieve 7-8 hours of continuous nighttime sleep between seven and ten weeks of age and 10 to 12  hours of sleep by twelve weeks of age. But these achievements require parental guidance and a basic understand of how a baby's routine impacts healthy outcomes."
I love their quote about advice from the skeptical moms,
"Well-meaning friends may have told the inexperienced first time mom that every child is different. They go on to say that some babies are born sleepers, and others are not. New mothers hope they luck-out and get a sleeper."
I read that and snorted/laughed. I heard that more times than I can count and I'm most definitely that 'inexperienced first time mom.' I just thought I didn't "luck-out." The more I began to follow the advice given in this book, along with the help of those mom's who recommended this book to me, the more success I began to notice with my daughter. AND I realized that they weren't just spouting gibberish, they backed that profound statement with statistics that would blow your socks off! Seriously, more mom's have seen success with the advice Ezzo and Bucknam give, than you can possibly imagine. They give you confidence from the get-go,
"Rest assured,  you can and should expect your baby to acquire the skill of sleeping through the night, but rarely does it happen without parental training."
So how do you do it? Well I highly recommend you buy the book! They give advice from everything like bowel movements, breastfeeding, practical routines, what to do if you have a colicky/acid reflux baby, or what to do during growth spurts, etc. etc. etc. There's so much helpful information!

I noticed that once I began a routine I knew exactly what she needed. So I thought through everything I did to help determine why she was screaming. I eventually began to narrow it down to gas. Once we figured out that she had a miserably gassy belly (I could seriously feel and hear when she got a gas bubble as she ate, and as soon as I felt/heard it, she'd throw her head back, stiffen her legs, and scream until she released it), we helped her release it by giving her tummy massages, we brought her knees to her chest, gave her Gripe Water and when those things began to help her relieve that pressure, she almost instantly calmed down and went to sleep! I've also cut out the food that causes gas (dairy, onions, peppers, caffeine, certain spices) and that has helped tremendously. Plus, I realized (thanks to the book) that at 6 weeks when she spent 4 days of the week wide awake between 10 pm and 2-4am screaming off and on, happy absolutely no where, that she was going through a growth spurt. Once that was over she literally wanted to sleep all day and all night for 2 days straight! Once that was over, we were back to the routine and she was successfully sleeping at night! Which left me feeling like I was actually recovering from my back to back surgeries! What amazed me further was that Ezzo and Bucknam said that would happen,
"An infant's feeding routine benefit mom as well. She is healthier, more rested, and less stressed. She has time and energy for other important relationships: her husband, parents, family, and friends."
 Very true.
"As life with baby becomes more predictable, Mom can confidently plan the day's activities, knowing she is meeting her baby's needs."
Also very true, because I am able to write in this blog! When I originally wrote this review, Brielle was finally into a schedule, which took approximately 4 months of hard, exhausting work. After this schedule was finally established I felt confident in writing, "In 5 minutes I know she needs to eat. We'll have a few minutes where we'll do tummy time, or read a book, or admire the ceiling fan or look in the mirrors (her favorite), and then I can put her in her stroller where she'll successfully fall asleep while I walk downtown to run a few errands. That's my plan for today and I'm relaxed, rested, and feel like a confident mom!" I still apply some of the principles of the book in my one year old's schedule, which has changed dramatically since writing this review originally. Scheduling has helped me out tremendously. If you too are a mom that needs to hash out a day in order to do this job successfully, this book will help you do that. Get the book, start a routine, and you too will find that the possibilities Ezzo and Bucknam promised are yours as well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Shoutout! [Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child!]

I get pretty excited to do this ministry every year! My only wish is that I could actually witness the child opening it. Still, as we fill it we say prayers for the individual and imagine what he/she might look like or whether or not they'll like what we've picked. It.is.so.much.fun! I highly recommend committing to this ministry.
Here's what you do: 
  1. Visit www.samaritanspurse.org 
  2. Scroll mid-way down the page and click on the "Operation Christmas Child" logo.
  3. All the information you need is right there, but I'll go ahead and talk about it here as well.
  4. What is it? Children around the world do not experience the joy of receiving gifts. By filling a "shoe box" full of toys, necessities, games, &etc. you are not only filling them with joy, but sharing the message of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in Him. I love what Samaritan's Purse says about this organization, "Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ."
  5. How do I do it? Grab a shoe box, or a plastic tub and fill it with the age appropriate (pick ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14) (girl or boy) stuff. In the past we've filled it with crayons, coloring books, socks, balls, dolls, toothbrush, bars of soap, etc. etc. Samaritan's Purse offers a detailed description of appropriate items here
  6. Once your shoe box is packed, print off the label, and attach it to your box. 
  7. Find any drop off location between November 18-25 or simply mail your shoe box to:
Samaritan's Purse
801 Bamboo Road
Boone, NC 28607

This is a great opportunity for your kids to get involved in giving to others. And more importantly you will be blessing the life of a child who may have absolutely nothing, but will now receive gifts galore as well as a message of hope. Please consider joining this operation! If anything I encourage you to check out their website: www.samaritanspurse.org and visit all the ways you can help spread the gospel message.

Spread the word!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday's Top Ten [Must Have Crafting Supplies]

I love to craft. I'm also not a patient person, so when I have an end result in mind I don't want the project to take me more than a day to complete it. My home decor changes with the seasons, but these are cheap crafting supplies I'm ALWAYS using and try to keep in stock:

1. Burlap - The last time I bought this material I ordered it online at JoAnn's Fabric because they had a 50% off coupon. When that expired I searched elsewhere... Hobby Lobby now has a 40% off one regularly priced item (they limit fabric to 10 yards, but seriously, who needs 10 yards of burplap?). The code is 3068 and it expires December 28, 2013. So act quickly!
One of my "burlap" projects, also completed with twine and hot glue (my other essentials).
2. Hot Glue Gun - I'm terrible at sewing. I'd like to be better and I'm working on it, but the 'ole hot glue gun has saved my butt more times than I can count. I'd compare it to duck-tape, you can use it to fix about anything!

3. Twine - For $1 at Dollar General you can get a roll of it. You cannot go wrong.
The twine-wrapped wine bottle (4th from the left) is one of my favorite projects. It was quick and easy, but I do warn you, using hot glue to complete it will leave you without thumb prints. 
4. Spray can of clear gloss protective finish - This is always good for any painted project to seal it, making it last that much longer.

5. White or Gold spray paint - Those are my accent colors. Frames, vases, monograms, &etc. get an easy spray-paint touch up.

6. Fabric scissors and paper scissors - Having separate scissors for fabric and paper is essential. Having one pair for both makes me irritable.

7. Scrapbook Paper Stash - Walmart has notebooks of awesome scrapbook paper for $5! They stock colors galore, adorable and fashionable prints as well! You cannot go wrong here!

8. Razor - I got my razor for $1 at Dollar General and I use it for about everything. Cutting cardboard is a breeze!

9. Old Frames (with or without the glass) - There are two places I browse when visiting a thrift store: books and frames. You never know what kind of gems you'll find!

10. Acrylic Paint - As long as I use my sealant, acrylic paint works for about anything. Plus it's cheap, easy to clean off paintbrushes and undesirable surfaces, and it comes in a variety of wonderful colors.

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Day Photo Challenge: Gratitude [Day 7-9]

This weekend was not a fun weekend. I ended up with a stomach bug that forced me to lie in the fetal position all day Saturday. This weekend I was grateful for one thing: my amazing husband who selflessly took care of me and his daughter allowing me to spend my time on the couch or the toilet. (TMI? Sorry...)

Due to that fact I did not participate in this challenge over the weekend. I'm picking it up today with Day 10: Nature. I did participate all week up to Day 9 so I'll share those with you!
Day 7: Something Funny
This might only be funny to me (typically that's how it goes in my world), but I couldn't resist sharing my Halloween socks, googly eyes and all. On the back of these adorable polka-dot socks were fuzz ball lady bugs, complete with antenna's, googly eyes, and a cute little button nose. It went perfectly with my lady bug costume that I wore in conjunction with my daughter's love bug costume. (You want me to share? How can I resist?!)
Isn't my little love bug the cutest love bug ever? (Yes, I'm biased, but seriously...)

Day 8: Favorite Color
I do not have a favorite color. So I took a picture of some leaves I've gathered when I'm outside with Briella Bean for a Pinterest Project. I picked them because I like the colors! It seemed appropriate. Color is one of the reasons I enjoy fall so much.

Day 9: Inspiring Person
I've engrossed myself in Milton Vincent's book "A Gospel Primer," it's this 97 page book that I'll probably read a portion of every day. Seriously. He has inspired me to make the gospel message the central focus of my day-to-day life - from the moment I get up until it's time to lay my head down at night. Heck, I hope to dream gospel! By doing that task (I refuse to call it simple, because it just isn't) my life has changed in so many ways starting with TRUE thankfulness, peace, a new eternal perspective, etc. etc. I'm beyond thankful that Milton Vincent shared how preaching the gospel to himself daily changed his life, because it has most definitely changed mine as well.
Doing this gratitude photo challenge has added a new dimension to my thankful journal I've been doing with my sisters for almost a year now. I not only encourage you to jump on this photo challenge bandwagon, but I encourage you to begin a thankful journal as well. You'll find that instead of being thankful for the "surface level" -things- in your life, you'll be thankful for everything BIG and small, which will ultimately change the way you think in such a positive way. Trust me, being thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) will change your life.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Celebrations!

It all started with a youth group Halloween party at our church. Last year Bean and I went as Party Poopers:
She was most definitely the pooper because she wanted nothing to do with the party. Who can blame her, it was loud, bright, past bedtime... so we didn't stay long. Plus I was exhausted. You can really tell in the bottom right picture. This was a couple weeks after my second surgery and Briella Bean (aka my little pooper was a colicky baby). Life during those days was rough to say the least.

BUT I survived and wouldn't change those events for the world. The events of October 1st of last year was one of the best things that could've happened to me, I am forever changed as a result. It's amazing how a near death experience forces you to change your perspective on everything. This Halloween was definitely a celebration! We began the celebration at the youth group party...

I waited until last minute to get Bean's costume around (shocker, I know). Since last year we matched I decided to match her costume to mine (a lady bug), and I neglected to take a picture of us together. :( Oh well.

Thankfully I had all the supplies and it was super easy and fun to put together. She was our little love bug.
It was so fitting considering that she gives everything she loves "aw-aw-aw's" (especially her blanket).

Her little curls! I'm so thankful she got her daddy's hair! 

She was a busy little bug so daddy held her as a captured a picture of her face! Haha.
"Daddy's Little Love Bug"

She was busy! This is what most of my pictures looked like: blurry, backside, in motion.
Thankfully I did get one or two adorable pics! Including this one...

Halloween day was windy and cold, making it impossible to go outside without being bundled up (which meant the love bug costume was out). Antenna's prevent warm hats and wings prevent a coat, so I grabbed her adorable Minnie Mouse dress, an even cuter red coat she owns, her warm Minnie Mouse hat, her Minnie Mouse blanket (her favorite), her Minnie Mouse backpack, and her Minnie Mouse stroller and we were off. (And yes, once everyone found out her nursery was Minnie Mouse themed, all we got was Minnie Mouse stuff, so everything pictured was stuff she already owned. I LOVED it.) It turned out perfect!
Our town hosts a "business" treak-or-treat opportunity in the afternoon; where the kids dress up and wear their costumes downtown as the local businesses hand out candy. She seemed to enjoy the time outdoors and she liked it even better once she had a sucker!
Once we got home I took the opportunity I missed the day before and got a picture of our "matching" Minnie Mouse outfits. Then I let her rummage through her bag. She LOVED this and was on a sugar high afterwards.

She had had enough of the coat...
Let me give you chocolate aw-aw-aw's mom!
She shook and shook and shook those milk duds in a desperate attempt to get the candy out! She tried this with each and every piece - suckers, skittles, bottle caps... 
Trying oh-so-hard to open the sucker.
I wasn't a cruel mommy, I did let her have a couple pieces and she gratefully stuffed her mouth!
She had stuff scattered everywhere!
Sugar high!
It was a fun day and we ended it with giving candy to trick-or-treaters who came to our door and then ran over to our neighbors and wished her a Happy Halloween. Of course, she was spoiled and ate a cookie at her house as well. Bean crashed at the end of the night and rewarded mommy with some rare cuddle time. She actually fell asleep in my arms as we rocked! That never happens, so I'll treasure that time I had with her. It was a fantastic day and we have enough candy to last us a life time!