Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Things I Never Thought I'd Have to Say to My Children]

I'm sure all mom's could add to today's top ten!

1. "Do not wipe your boogers on the curtains!" (or the wall, or the furniture, or the dinner table) Seriously. I never thought that would be something I'd have to teach.

2. "Stop using your hair as a napkin!" Does anyone else say this as your children wipe their grubby, greasy, spaghetti-sauce-stained hands in their hair? Gross.

3. "Ew! Do not lay on the bathroom floor!" (of a public restroom)

4. "Do not suck the toothpaste out of the container!" Strangely enough, poison control was not at all concerned about this.

5. "Did you just lick me?!" or "Did you just bite my toe?!"

6. "No, I did not put slobbery juice in your cup." My child was hysterically crying one morning because that's what she thought I did.

7. "Let's not try on other people's shoes." Once while we visited a busy splash pad a bunch of children lined up their shoes on the grass. Instead of playing in the water, my baby Briella Bean decided to go and try them all on... and later on in life she was telling a stranger all about her life and the people in it. Poor biker dude was bored out of his mind, but I hysterically giggled about her description of her best friend, "Addi is my best friend. She likes to try on my shoes and I let her." As she shrugs, "it is weird." Well, kid, I remember very clearly telling you not to do that once... or twice...

8. "Ahhhh! Don't throw ____ away!" _____ could equal anything from shoes, underwear, clothing, or anything laying about they deem worthy of the dumpster... I realized this too late once with a pair of shoes Brielle wore only once.

9. "Honey, not every playroom will have princess dresses." This is a statement on repeat these days. Whenever we visit someone the first question out of Brielle's mouth is, "Can I wear their princess dresses?" So I ask her, "What if they don't have princess dresses?" And she looks at me like I'm a crazy person.

10. "How did you get up there?" This one is common with our Ele girl. Sometimes it's said in a freaked-out-hyperventilating voice...

And one does not just make this stuff up.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Prayer for Faith

A book I refer to often is titled, The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett. In it I witness rich language that reveals sound theology based on Scripture, deep and abiding worship, biblical meditation, and dedicated devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I pick up this book to read one poem, it takes time to process each word and phrase because it digs into my heart and soul, making a profound impact on my attitude towards the Christian religion. These God-centered prayers illustrate a strength of character I do not possess. Therefore, it aids in my practice of prayer and in my devotion to studying Scripture. The prayers in this book play a significant role in my spiritual growth. I highly encourage you to get one for yourself. 

In the mean time, read these words and soak in the meaning behind them:
"Help me honor you by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith."

One of Jesus' twelve disciples coined a term many of us may be familiar with, "Don't be a doubting Thomas!" Unfortunately for him, his doubt in Christ's resurrection serves as a wonderful reminder to Christians today. John told the story of Jesus' resurrection beginning in John 20 when Mary Magdalene noticed His body missing from the tomb. Jesus appeared to her and she told the disciples exactly what had happened. Later Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room, Thomas was not with them. When they reported what happened to Thomas he said, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." (20:25) He doubted the word of the others. It wasn't until eight days after this that Jesus once again appeared to them, again behind locked doors! Jesus told Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." (20:27-28) Thomas believed and after saying so Jesus' response should solidify our faith, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (20:28-29)

We have witnesses who recorded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - a story, they claim, saves those who have faith in its events. History has proven that these authors died for what they claimed to have seen. The disciples for example: Peter was crucified on the cross upside down. Andrew was scourged, and then tied to a cross. It took him two days to die, and while he hung there he preached the gospel to those who passed by him. James was beheaded. Philip was scourged. Thomas was speared. Thaddeus and Simon were both crucified. (source: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/killing-jesus/articles/how-did-the-apostles-die/)

Why would these men die such tragic deaths - which historians prove true - for a cause not worth death itself?

They died for their faith in Jesus Christ, because of what they witnessed Him say and do. Then they wrote it down and shared it with many others. They wrote it down for future believers such as ourselves. So that we are those who Christ says are blessed because of our faith in what we have not seen.

John's purpose for writing down signs Jesus performed was written in John 20:30-31, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written  so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." So that you can read those words and have faith that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write down exactly what happened based on what he witnessed, encourage our soul and give us perseverance during this life - and for our death. Do not mistake faith for a feeling.

Faith is not a feeling. 

Faith is built on truth.

Jesus died on the cross. He was buried in a tomb. And based on countless witnesses, and the apostles who wrote about Him, we have faith that He defeated death by rising again. So we either take what Jesus says about Himself as complete truth, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) or we take him to be a crazy man. Because that is a huge claim. He claimed to be God, John 8:58. He claimed to be the truth, not a truth. He claimed to be the way to God, not a way. He claimed to be the life, not a life. These are huge claims, claims that we must take by faith.

So when I read prayers like that, I pray for a faith built on the authority of Scripture. I pray for unwavering faith in the truth found there. I pray that God reveal His purpose in each word, each sentence, each paragraph given so that I learn more about Him. I pray for encouragement and perseverance. I pray for a faith that honors God - not based on what I feel - but what I know. I pray for a faith that helps me live and die well.

And I know that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again. Every leap of faith I take from that point on is because I rest in that truth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Mom's Cleaning Tips]

My mother is a professional cleaner. She owned her own business cleaning homes back in the day and it continues today with high end condos. Whenever I scrub my house I hear her chanting in my ear those tips I once found so annoying, but came especially helpful in high school when I cleaned hotel rooms (and now as I manage my own home). I abandoned these cleaning tips in college and a few years following graduation; probably because I was over it. My poor husband suffered through disaster after disaster in our first few years of marriage and every college roommate probably grew tired of me as well. Sorry! Eventually I became fed up with living like a slob and the hours I had to spend cleaning when I did grow tired of it; and finally embraced my mom's cleaning concepts. (Still, not at her level. Like I said, she's a pro.)

Rule #1: Clean from top to bottom. This is common sense because that's how gravity works. Whatever you wipe at the top will come crashing down to the bottom. If you wipe the bottom first, you'll end up cleaning it twice. And when I say "top" I mean ceiling. The ceiling in my kitchen hasn't been touched in years and you can tell. Grease splatters in amazingly high places. A duster with an extension is especially handy for those cob webs in corners. Also, do not forget your ceiling fan.

2. If you can touch it, you need to clean it. This may seem like a duh, but you will be absolutely amazed how many finger prints I wipe off our walls every week. Walls are gross places when you have a toddler. This list could be extensive, but it seriously does not take long. Light switches, door knobs, handles, arm rests, buttons, book covers, etc. etc. Whatever you touch, needs a wipe down.

3. Clean the hidden places. Just because you can close the door on something (or it is above your eye level) does not mean it should be ignored. I remember my mom telling me that you can judge cleanliness by the hidden places: microwave, drawers, linen closet, under the couch, refrigerator shelves, the tops of the frames on your wall, etc. "Don't forget to dust under the decor!" (And yes, if this was a chore she gave, she would always check.) Please, for heavens sake, do not look too closely inside my kitchen cabinets. They haven't been touched for... well... a while... and we'll leave it at that.

4. If you think it's clean, it's probably not. "Don't be satisfied with a once-over!" If I had to complete a list for mom I always had to ask myself, will this pass mom's inspection? Now my question has changed slightly, would this pass a mom inspection? 

5. If you're not huffing and puffing you're not scrubbing hard enough. I often thought of my mom during basketball practice when my coach would remind us, "If you're not exhausted after playing defense, you're not defending well enough! Defense is not a time to rest!" Cleaning is not a time to rest! On the days I scrub, I don't worry about a work out. I know I'll get a couple hours in and my arms will be on fire.... On the days I do scrub next to my mom, I have a hard time keeping up with her. She's super woman who fuels on coffee.

6. If you can do nothing else, clean your floors. You would be amazed at how a general pick-up and a quick sweep or vacuum will do wonders for your home's overall appearance.

7. Make your bed. I don't always follow this one. But I've heard it said that the first thing most successful people do when they get out of bed in the morning is make it.

8. Go to bed with a clean kitchen. This rule makes sense because this room is the center of every home. But here's a bout of honesty: this one I don't always follow, but my mom does. She cannot sleep if there's a dirty dish in the sink! I like this rule in the morning when I wake up to a clean kitchen, but when I'm tired and ready to relax... grrrrr... I want that inner-mom-voice to shut up.

Thanks to my mom's super-human-cleaning-powers I've learned a lot, but I have learned the last two all on my own (I hope mom is proud):

9. Magic Erasers are actually magic. If I encounter something that can't even be scrubbed off with one of these suckers and a bit of elbow grease, well, it's there forever. And that's a rare occasion. I buy these things in bulk.

10. Overstuffed = Overwhelmed. If there's too much stuff and items are falling out of whatever bin/drawer/basket/etc. you've put it in - it's time to go through it and trash, sell, or donate the extras. It's not worth having a mess that you can't even properly pick up. Less stuff = less mess = less stress.

Do not mistake my sharing this list with expecting or having perfection. My home doesn't always sparkle. I have two children who love making messes and hate cleaning them up. Ele loves to throw dirt on her legs as she sits in it and I had "Don't wipe your boogers on ______!" repeated to my Briella Bean for many years of her little life. (The blank space held places such as curtains, walls, furniture, pillows, etc.)

While I truly believe in loving and enjoying life, I do not believe in living like a slob. For five or six years of my life others had to endure, with great patience, my sin in allowing life to get too messy. I sincerely apologize to those who had to live with my hoarding, disgusting self. With that in mind, I try to balance life with cleanliness, and I do not always do it perfectly. I do believe in hard work and serving your family. Sometimes making messes fits perfectly into both categories. I encourage you not to live for perfection, because that is impossible. Instead, I encourage you to work hard, serve your family, teach lessons, make memories, point them to Christ, and then clean up afterwards.

Some of the best advice I soaked up from Deb who disciples me is this: serve your family so well that you hit your pillow at night from pure exhaustion and satisfaction of a job well done. Laziness is never rewarded, hard work, however, brings profit. Consider the ant, Proverbs 6:6-11 and observe those around you, for you will learn much:
"I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." Proverbs 24:30-34
In other words, look at the home of a sluggard, of a woman lacking sense and see that it's overgrown with germs, the floor covered in dirty clothes, scattered toys, and dirty dishes. Note that a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and you will reap the consequences. Work hard and the fruit of your labor will be noticed without you having to draw any attention to it. People will take note and will learn from you. What will they learn?

My mom taught me the value of hard work. What will you teach your children?

Friday, August 25, 2017

I am so glad I hemorrhaged.

This October 1 marks five years since I nearly lost my life.

My Briella Bean was only ten days old and had it not been for my mother-in-law attempting to wake me from a nap I would not be here today. There are so many perspectives of that day from those around me. From a friend who did my paperwork at the local hospital, to the doctor on duty that day, from those who can tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out I was being shipped out on flight for life. I enjoy hearing this story from their perspective because I begin to understand how much they care for me.

That's one reason I'm glad I hemorrhaged.

The main reason, however, goes much deeper. Before Brielle was born I struggled with wanting to be in control, down to the very minute of her birth. I wanted everything to go a certain way. I believed a natural delivery was the only way to go and I wrote about it in such strong language that I now see it as a pride issue. As I reviewed posts written before the birth of my first child, I was so ashamed of this person writing and posting and sharing these words, that I had to take a break from blogging and determine whether or not this was something I should continue.

I truly believe God used this incident to humble me.

I do not like the person I was five years ago, or even ten years ago before the gospel came alive for me and changed me. Thankfully, God has done a marvelous work in my heart. He continues to work in me and I've realized that the biggest growth, the times when I'm drawn closest to Himself, is in times of pain and heartache.

Seven units of blood,
Two units of plasma,
One flight for life,
One ambulance ride,
Two surgeries later,
Five years of reflection,
Countless perspectives shared,
One amazing learning experience,
And I am incredibly thankful that I hemorrhaged.

It was painful, but through it I learned that God does not waste pain. He used it to draw me closer to Himself and there is no greater purpose than that. For that is why Christ died. It wasn't just to save His own from the hell we all deserve. He died so that His own will spend an eternity with God. While we walk this earth as Christ did, we cannot - we will not - evade the cross. If we, "take up our cross and follow Jesus" (Matthew 10:38) we too will suffer. For how can we call ourselves followers otherwise? To take up our cross means certain death. Death to self. Alive to Christ. And while our faith remains faith, until the day our faith becomes sight, be thankful in sorrow. Find the joy of putting Jesus first, others second, yourself last - especially in hard times. Be glad in suffering.

For it is in suffering that I learned more about myself and who I am in Christ.

Here's something you must know. Being glad for an experience does not take away the hardness of it. It defines your identity. It solidifies what you believe. Pain draws you closer to God as you wait for that glorious day when you finally shed the weight of pain and peer fearlessly into the eyes of your Creator.

Be glad for pain, even as you weep.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Since studying Job my fascination at Leviathan is as big as Leviathan itself. Not because of Leviathan, but because of what God says about this sea monster. When God answered Job "out of the whirlwind" beginning in 38:1 He begins by asking Job questions like, Can you do this? 'Cause I can and I did. Job's answer after two chapters of listening to God's great works is this,
"Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."
Yet, God was not done because there are two more chapters of His greatness. One of my favorite parts is in chapter 41:1-11 because of what God reveals of his power in His description of Leviathan,
"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle - you will not do it again! Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him. No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine."
That last part where God dares Job to lay his hands on Leviathan - you will not do it again! Why? Because man is laid low when they see him and there is not a man in existence that is so fierce that he would even think to stir up this dreaded sea monster. And yet, God draws him out with a fishhook! He presses down his tongue with a cord. Leviathan pleas to God! God plays with him as with a bird!

And then there is this incredible question God asks of Himself, "Who then is he who can stand before me?" If you cannot stand before Leviathan, how on earth do you think you'd be able to stand before God?!

God is so incredibly big! I cannot fathom His greatness. Reading scripture like this puts me in a complete state of awe over God.

Today I was reminded of this portion of Scripture while reading Psalm 104. In this Psalm the author spends 35 verses describing God's greatness. When I read through verses 24-26 my mind was blown,
"O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play with.
Which you formed to play with.

I could not get over this! God is so mighty, so powerful, so great that he created a sea monster to play with. To.play.with.

Ponder that.

And then stand in awe of Jesus. Because of His work on the cross - when He died, was buried and rose again - we are able to stand before God. This powerful, mighty God who formed Leviathan to play with Him - a sea monster we would never dare to stir up and live to tell it - is more powerful, is greater than, this creature He formed. If we cannot endure meeting Leviathan, then we sure as heck have no hope before God. BUT because of Jesus, and our faith in HIS work, we can be in God's presence. I cannot wait for that day when I can behold His greatness with my own eyes - and live!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Concepts that Help Me Live with Less]

Our home was built in the 1940's. It's a cute, quaint little place that drew our attention for many reasons. First was the giant yard, second the porch, the garage, the excess of storage space, and all the potential the space held. We've been working on that potential, while quickly filling that storage space. Suddenly this space we thought was enough was not big enough for me. I wasn't satisfied with the small closets. I wanted a walk-in closet. I wasn't satisfied with my library, thinking a whole room would make me happier. Although a walk-in closet would be nice and a whole room as my library with floor to ceiling shelves would be amazing, those things are not going to make me happy eternally. Besides, when I die, I can take none of this with me.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that the stuff was causing me to lose my Christ-centered focus. It made me overwhelmed and frustrated. There was no joy in picking up, it was simply a never-ending task. Most of my day was spent in general pick-up and I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired of being frustrated with my girls every time I sighed, "time to pick up!" (Deep breath needed even as I type that.) Suddenly the idea of a tiny home appealed to me! I could so easily leave everything in this house behind and start over. I was secretly hoping that God would pull an Abraham and tell me, "Becky! Go from here to the land that I will show you, tomorrow." That would mean that I could only take what I truly wanted or needed. Instead I decided to take a more realistic approach, so I began watching minimalist videos online. Reading blogs. Soaking in the idea of less is more! I read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay and I was hooked.

Then - in God's perfect timing - we hit a verse in 1 John during our Sunday morning study that solidified this minimalist mindset:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17
Our pastor kept asking, 'what do you value the most?' If the answer is not Jesus Christ, re-evaluate. I did some deep soul searching, praying that God help me value HIM most.

Confession: I am a shopaholic, especially when it comes to thrift stores and garage sales. It's hard to pass up those deals! So my home filled with more and more stuff I didn't need. It wasn't until God convicted my heart that I was blown away at how the world entices our eyes and the desires of the flesh. They advertise "BUYING THIS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY!" or "Owning THIS is the key to your happiness!"

It is not the things of this world that bring happiness. It is the memories. The experiences. The people in it. Most importantly, the ETERNAL joy is in Jesus Christ alone.

With that story comes ten concepts that helped me purge my home. I have donated or trashed 19 trash bags full of stuff. I've sold countless items and I'm already noticing a difference when it's time to go to work, for example. I don't stress over what I'm going to wear or trying to find what I want to wear. The house isn't left in a disaster. My children see less of my wrath as I stress to get out the door on time. I found out that packing, even for a weekend getaway, is way less stressful! And I STILL have more work to do! Even with more to purge, I can already see the results of how less stuff = less stress!

Also, that cute, quaint little home I talked about in the first paragraph is beginning to shine again. I'm back to loving the SPACE and all the potential it contains to play and make memories as my husband and babies use the stuff that actually helps us in our day and/or offers enjoyment.

Our focus on Christ is central because there's less to distract us!

If this rings a bell with you, my suggestion is to follow the advice of those who have been down this journey for years. My journey is brand new. It's only a few months old and I have a lot of work to do, so I joke I'm only a minimalism enthusiast at this point in my life.

Read Francine Jay's book, visit minimalist blogs and websites like:

Take their advice. I'm glad I am. Here's some concepts they shared that have worked for me:

1. Start small. I began with the decor on my walls and shelves. I spent hours decorating for each season. My upstairs shelving served no other purpose than to decorate. I began to sort through what was already there and purge the items that held no significance what-so-ever than to be pretty. I repurposed it as a shelf that held my favorite books, with a few decor items I enjoyed. I fell in love with its purpose, the memories they held (books do that for me), and its aesthetic value. I moved on to the kitchen, then my clothes (which took FOREVER, see #10), to the playroom, my library, and now I'm moving on to another section in another room. I only tackle small pieces at a time. I'm months into it, but my suggestion is to start in one spot in one room.

2. Celebrate the small things accomplished! What I found is that I thoroughly enjoy repurposing and purging! I celebrated each bag filled and again with each bag donated. I danced or jumped or squealed in the new found space! I also found that as each bag was passed on, I couldn't remember what was in it! YAY! Not one item is missed.

3. Make it fun. One minimalist suggested that you turn on your favorite, most motivating, or calming music, make your favorite drink, and enjoy the process. When the time came to purge, I found that by doing these simple things, I couldn't wait to do it.

4. Make a goal. My goal is fill and donate (or trash) 40-50 bags/boxes. I wrote this goal down in my bullet journal so I see it everyday. I'm well on my way with 19 donated, many more trashed, and countless other stuff sold.

5. Include your kids. I didn't do this at first because I feared the battle over their stuff. I didn't purge stuff they actually played with, but I would sneak something I never see them play with, hide it, and if they didn't notice it for a month, away it went. That isn't a bad idea, but I realized after one mom suggested teaching your children the value of less stuff and giving to others, that I needed to apply that concept. We read the story Jesus told of the man who found a treasure chest in the field, sold all he had to purchase the land that contained this hidden treasure. Her thoughtfulness about building treasures in heaven helped me understand the value of less stuff and more Jesus. Bean enjoys the process as much as I do!

6. Keep reading and watching and learning from others. If you type 'minimalism' in the YouTube or Pinterest search bar - you will find countless others who have the same mindset. Listening to what they have to say is motivating and you will learn something. Hearing someone else's story is inspiring! I can't get enough of their wisdom.

7. Reason for each item. I'll use my decor to explain this one: I love books and to me they make wonderful decor. Poetry books are some of my favorite to pull off the shelf and read one or two. Top it off with a frame of my adorable children, and I have the perfect decor in my opinion. Plus I like to have things hanging that remind me of my purpose: Christ alone. Love God. Love others. etc. etc. As I purge, I'm realizing that most of the stuff I collect serves one purpose: aesthetic value. If that was the case, most of the time, I chucked it. Especially if it was easily broken. I don't want a space where my kids are not free to be kids. For each item I asked: does it point me to Christ, or take my focus away from Him? Does my husband need or appreciate it? Do my children need or appreciate it? Does it give me joy? Why? Thinking through each item as I struggled on whether or not to rid the house of it, really help me determine why I wanted to keep it or if I should keep it at all.

8. Multiples? This was especially helpful in my kitchen and closet. I had two dresses, same cut, one black and red the other multi colored. One I hadn't worn in years. Gone. I had multiple blue T's and many, many high school and college T-shirts. I kept one or two and threw the rest. I felt no guilt. In fact, I felt freedom as I LET IT GO! In my kitchen I had two sets of wine glasses - ugh - TWO! Why?! I kept my favorite set, donated the rest. I had 3 mixers. Seriously. I only need one. Many crockpot cookbooks. Again, why? 3 sets of bowls. More coffee cups than fit the cabinet. &etc. Although it's embarrassing to admit this to you, pulling out what I had multiples of and keeping my favorites helped clear space in my over crowded cabinets. Also, the coveted counter space has improved, I'm no longer battling the stuff to make dinner and clean up is so.much.faster!

9. Create a mindset. Francine Jay compared purging to dieting. If you go into purging without a lifestyle change, you'll end up back where you started. Be mindful of the things you purchase. If you purchase a new dress for your closet, for example, get rid of another. That way your stuff isn't growing and you spend less. I loved this concept. I also wanted to take it from a Biblical perspective. The message in 1 John was so helpful and it was then I began searching for Christian minimalists, because I do believe, the more I dive into it, that minimalism is (as my pastor's wife puts it) eternal living. Allie has a post that helped me create this mindset: How Minimalism is Biblical. Also, my mind is set on Christ. He permeates into every other portion of my life and I do not want to be in the place I once was - when I let my stuff get in the way.

This last one I came up with because I tried many methods to slim down my closet, and they failed. This was the only one that worked for me:

10. Find joy in giving. Although I knew it was a source of stress for me, the one place where I was struggling to let go was my closet. It drove me crazy how much time I sat staring at my clothes wondering what I should wear, if I wore such-and-such recently, and that it was so overstuffed that I had a hard time searching for things. I followed the advice of others to completely empty the closet and sort your "I love it!" pieces from the donate or why do I want to keep it piles. This helped a little bit, but when I began putting everything back, I was still overwhelmed with how much there was. I liked everything in it! So I began praying, God, put someone to mind that would want or need cute, clean clothes. He answered my prayer immediately with a name. So I messaged her and she told me, There's a reason I came to mind, I've been praying about clothes, mine are all starting to wear out! Hallelujah. This time when I sorted I thought, Ooooo! This would look great on her! I changed my focus from what I like or want, to her! It was so much fun. I filled two trash bags for her. It was so incredibly freeing and fun! It was a huge answer to prayer for both of us! As another week went by I realized I needed to do it again. So I began praying about it and messaged another person who was my same size, asking her if she'd like some clothes. I had another woman to think of and bless as I went through everything with her in mind. For me this was the only thing that worked because my mindset was changed from me, me, me to spoiling someone else. I am so thankful for a God who takes care of one person's prayer by answering mine - I can actually look in my drawers and closet without the muscle needed to shove stuff to the side and I'm less overwhelmed. He works in miraculous ways.

Plus one: talk to others. Someone asked me what I was reading as she checked out her pile of books. When I told her how much I was enjoying Francine Jay's book, The Joy of Less, and why I picked it up, we had an amazing conversation about Jesus! Come to find out both of my sister's were thinking the same thing and it opened another avenue of motivation when I talked to them about it. I opened up to my pastor's wife and the women I discipled. My pastor and his wife had been purging their home longer than I had and we couldn't get over how God was working in our life through our stuff - together - without ever knowing it! And one of the women I discipled was encouraged to do the same, for the same reasons. I stand in awe at how God worked in the lives of those around me, while also doing the same work on my own heart.

God is so incredibly good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten Plus Ten [Ways I Express Myself Artistically]

I am one of those people who have an interest in many subjects related to the arts, but I would not venture to state I'm an expert in any one specifically. Still, besides my head in a book, these are the ways I fill my "free" time. (Haha, is there any such thing in motherhood?)

1. Writing. My degree is in English/Language Arts, which might explain my list today because it means I'm able to teach anything from drama, writing, reading, elements of literature, or speech to any 7-12th grader. Reading and writing are two of my favorite ways to spend those precious few moments of free time. Writing is one of those ways that reveals my imagination, knowledge, and overall self - hence the creation of this blog!

2. Decorating. My debate out of high school was whether or not to become an interior designer, a PE teacher or an English/Language Arts teacher (pretty broad, right?) but that's how I approach life. I want to try everything! My home decor definitely reflects me.

3. Clothing. I do not have any one favorite color. I like them all, which is hard when picking outfits! I have favorite color combinations, but that list is also quite extensive. My attitude about clothing is this: I have to wear them, so I might as well have fun getting dressed up. I will admit it's something I've come to enjoy very much! In fact, I've written about this very topic quite often...

4. Doodling. My mom is an amazing artist. I have a pinky of her talent. I do enjoy painting and coloring, but I would not dare say I'm at her level. I'm simply a doodler. And thoroughly enjoy it. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to this task (I just doodled.)!

5. Crafting. I love creating something of nothing or turning trash into treasure. Like old books into wreaths or initials. Or the top of a shelf into a sign worthy of being a focal point in my home. Or an old mirror that reflects what I believe...

6. Music. Since 5th grade I have played the clarinet. I played it so much as a child that my sister got so tired of my squeaky practice that she smacked the bell, jamming me on the top of the mouth. Haha, it didn't keep me from playing! I've played in many honor bands, which were a highlight of my musical "career", and continued playing in the pep and concert bands up until into my junior year of college. I tried my hand at the baritone saxophone, the piano, the bass guitar, and now the dulcimer. Music has been near and dear to my heart and although time has made me rusty, I still love dusting off an instrument and entertaining my babies.

7. Costumes. I love dressing up! My favorite was when my husband and I dressed up as Mayhem and Flo for Halloween one year. Also, themed parties are so.much.fun.
 My all time favorite costume creation was when Bean was a robot for Halloween. Talk about adorable!

8. Photography. My sister Mel is the expert photographer. She has some photos that will blow your socks off. I have a camera, per her recommendation, that I enjoy using. It is definitely a hobby I want to know more about, and thankfully I have someone I can learn from first hand! I feel another top ten coming on... perhaps one of these Tuesday's I'll share my favorite pictures that I snapped.

9. Party Planning. I have shared countless baby and bridal showers on this blog and am years behind on sharing the more recent parties I've hosted (I need to get on the ball). I host so many because I'm in charge of this particular ministry at our church and it's one that I really enjoy. Not just because it's an opportunity to decorate and eat and fellowship with other women, but because the momma's and brides walk away feeling spoiled. Visit this link for some of them I've shared here.

10. Teaching. If there is an area where I might be considered an "expert" it would probably be this one. My Master's degree is an education speciality: curriculum and instruction. Call me a nerd, but curriculum and lesson plan design is one of my favorite things to do. I love the 4MAT method and the challenge it presents to develop lessons that will engage all types of learning styles. Constructing lesson plans makes me all sorts of excited to teach it. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Girls Love It When They Have to Pray for Mommy's Heart

I yelled at the girls for the umpteenth time. It wasn't until the umpteenth mommy-temper-tantrum that I realized I needed a heart change. I was grumpy and my babies could do nothing "right." By mid-morning it was turning out to be an awful day. While on the verge of tears, we all sat in the middle of the living room floor, arms around each other, and prayed. Afterwards Brielle couldn't stop giggling. The table was turned! It was Brielle and then Ele who prayed for Mommy's heart and they loved it.

I felt like a weight had been lifted and although I still struggled through the day, I was more conscientious of my actions. I spent the day in silent prayer that God would relieve me of my bad mood. I put on praise music, stopped to read my Bible, prayed continually... all because God answered my little girls prayer, which changed my mind-set. It didn't immediately change my mood, but it did change my focus from myself to Jesus!

Praying for hearts is a regular occurrence in our house. We recognize our sin and ask God to continually work in us as we thank Him for the work He accomplished on the cross! Even mommy needs Jesus every hour of every day. How wonderful that there are opportunities like this to show my imperfection and my reliance on Jesus?! These are helpful reminders when my children need a heart change and I can remind them of the time they had to pray for my heart, we both need Jesus. 

Prayer Example:

We have daily devotions, so many of the terms like selfless, kind, Author of faith, gospel, perfect, &etc. the girls know, understand, and use in their prayer time. Also, as you pray together, teach them to pray by praising God, thanking him, and asking him. If you like acronyms, think P.A.T. For little people it's best to start small. I've seen acronyms more than 5 letters long, and that's too much for a 2 and 4 year old. Build a foundation and as they grow, build upon it.

Most importantly, the secret to a true heart change is to focus on Jesus, the only One who can change it.

Also, the Bible quite clearly states to pray with confidence and without doubting,
"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." James 1:5
There is no reason to doubt that God, in His almighty wisdom, is able to change hearts, teach and sanctify in moments of struggle - big and small. I believe when we practice this in these "small" moments, it will be second nature when those big calamities strike.

Praise Him.

Jesus, You are selfless, kind, obedient to the Word of God, perfect in every way.

Ask Him.
Make us more like You. Selfless, kind, obedient... we can never reach perfection, but we can rely on You, Lord, to change our hearts day-by-day, moment-by-moment. We need You!

Thank Him.

Thank you for the work you accomplished on the cross when you died for our sin and defeated death by rising again! We can never repay You for this incredible gift, so help us remain thankful as we focus on Jesus, the Author of our faith.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Book of the Week [Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers]

I do not typically recommend love stories. When I wrote a top ten recommending romances, I struggled coming up with 10 worth recommending, but this one made my all-time favorites list (and there are only 7 on that list). I've read many, many excellent books, but there aren't many that challenge my thinking, affect me emotionally, teach me, and entertain all at once. This book is all that and more!

Every woman needs to read this book!
There are not many books I take the time to read more than once. The is one such book. The second time through was even better than the first time. The first time I read it quickly in an effort to find out what was going to happen next; I can hardly stand not knowing how the story will end and this one definitely has a one of a kind ending worth talking about! It is, by far, my favorite part of the book. Without giving too much away, I will just say that it a beautiful picture for believers as we stand unashamed before Christ because of His incredible, never-ending, abounding love for His own.

Read my review here and then read it for yourself.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book of the Week [If You Plant a Seed]

This book has very few words, but if you pay attention to the message behind it, it will impact your thinking while also being simple and clear enough to discuss it with your young reader. It very clearly reveals what happens if you plant a seed of kindness or if you plant a seed of selfishness. Whatever you plant is whatever fruit you'll receive.

It's a perfect one for this spring season when seeds begin to sprout! There's so much to talk about!

Such great illustrations go along with the phenomenal message behind it - making it doubly worth a look.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Toys For Any Playroom at Any Age]

I made the mistake of watching a couple of minimalist videos. Ever since I've been purging like crazy; all because of this one statement made by a mom during an interview, "I realized I was spending more time picking up the toys rather than spending time with my children!" That's my life. The less I have to pick up, the less grumpy I am about the mess (and the sloth-like mode my children pick up), the more time I have to spend with them, the happier we all are. Win, win.

As I was purging I was picking toys that met the following criteria:

  • Inspire imagination and creativity.
  • Support learning Biblical principles, letters, numbers, shapes, colors, etc.
  • Encourage unity, communication, problem solving, and working/playing together.

I came up with ten toys that children of all ages could enjoy, changing of course as they grow, but the overall idea stays the same:
  1. Books. If a child has a love for stories - fiction and nonfiction - you will foster learning, imagination, and learning. Haha, I could be a minimalist in all areas of my life except for two: books and dresses. 
  2. Puzzles. Develops fine motor skills, problem solving, and spatial skills. Bean loves doing them with me therefore it fosters working together. Plus it's an all around full-brain-workout! 
  3. Artistry stuff (coloring books, crayons, markers, chalkboard, etc.) I still enjoy coloring! This is often one of the first activities my children choose to do together.
  4. Dress up stuff. No matter who comes over to play this is one of the first places in our playroom that is destroyed. Each child, boy or girl, loves to dress up and pretend to be something. Pirates. Princesses. Super hero. Biblical character. Doctor. The options are limitless for any age and any child - no matter their interest! 
  5. Musical instruments. This was an area I realized was lacking in our playroom. We are always singing and music is always on in the background, but the ability to create their own music was missing. 
  6. Age appropriate games. We have match the cards, Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, etc. all of which support learning, problem solving, working/playing together, etc.
  7. Legos. This is something Kyle and I really do enjoy playing with the girls. Building is therapeutic and beneficial in so many ways! This is a family activity in our home! And one that can easily be added to with each birthday and Christmas season.
  8. Balls. What kid does not enjoy playing catch? Or basketball? Or kicking around a soccer ball? Exercise. Working together. Not to mention the developmental benefits of kicking, throwing, catching, or shooting a ball...
  9. Playdoh or clay. I'll be honest. I hate this stuff, because it gets to be so incredibly messy. BUT it is one activity that meets all of my criteria and I have yet to meet a kid who does not enjoy creating and building with playdoh or clay. It's worth the mess that takes 5 minutes to clean up if it means my kids are happy, learning, and playing together. I have to get over my selfish self for this one...
  10. Play kitchen. Seriously. I remember one of my favorite activities as an older child (8-10ish) was playing restaurant with one of my friends. He was the chef and I was the waitress. It's one of my favorite memories! It's an activity my toddler enjoys as she makes food for her babies and my four year old nephew enjoys making a plate of food for his Poppy to enjoy. Boy or girl, children of all ages, understand the joy found in food.
Not everything in this list will fit every child or family, but I do hope it inspires you as you create a room for memory making, growth, encouragement, fun, laughter, imagination and creativity!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The #1 Thing I Want My Children to Know

While watching an interview of an athlete who credited his success in life to his mother because she taught him from the time he could remember how to shoot a basketball, I began seriously thinking about what it was that I wanted to teach my girls from infancy. And I realized that nothing else in this life mattered more than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing! Nothing of this world will satisfy, or save, or have eternal value, like the work Jesus accomplished on the cross, was buried and rose again! Suddenly my purpose in life narrowed significantly because the only thing that mattered to me was their knowledge of Him and His saving grace.

Their soul depends on it.

There is nothing more important than focusing on the gospel of Jesus Christ. That He lived, died, and rose again. According to the Bible, there is no other way to God but through faith in Him. I want my girls to know faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone found in Scripture alone, so their one ambition in life is eternally focused: to glorify God all the days of their life. 

I want my children to know that,
The only way, the only life, the only hope, the only foundation upon which we stand, the only mediator is Jesus Christ. The only hope we have of salvation is through the work of Christ when He died on the cross, taking the wrath of God for our sins, was buried and rose again. 
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
He isn't A way. He is THE way. And the Bible states, very clearly, that if we believe:
"Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 1 Corinthians 15:3-5
then we will be saved,
"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." Romans 10:9-10
I want my children to know that,
They are justified, or declared righteous, by faith alone in Christ alone. 
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved -  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:4-10
I want my children to know that,
They are saved by God's grace alone. If God did the work to save them, then He will keep them. They do not need to live in fear of losing their salvation if they screw up. Does that mean they should continue in sin (chapter 6 in Romans) "by no means!" In fact, if they are truly Christians they should detest sin, and because of God's grace, desire a Christ-like life of service to Him and to others. 

Truly understanding that salvation is a gift given freely by God, even when we were dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:5), and even "while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), gives us freedom to live for HIM, 
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2
I want them to know that believers are standing, STANDING, in God's grace. And because we are forever standing in His grace, as a result of faith alone in Christ alone, then we have no fear (are at PEACE with God because Jesus took all His wrath for our sin on our behalf), and can REJOICE in God because we have HOPE. 

I want my children to know that,
The only infallible and sufficient source of truth in this world is through Scripture alone. Where do they find hope? Encouragement? The TRUTH? The Bible.
"Every word of God proves true." Proverbs 30:5
"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Romans 15:4
Have hope in what? The gospel of Jesus Christ. THAT is the #1 thing I want them to know. I want them to know the Jesus Christ of the Bible. 

I want my children to know that,
Because of the work Jesus Christ accomplished on they cross, they have reason to rejoice all the days of their life. Glorify His Name and His Word. This should be a Christian's chief goal in life!

If they live with this truth, the truth that Jesus died on the cross was buried and rose again, they will die well. And we will all die, so the #1 thing I want my girls to know is Jesus Christ. That He came to this earth, delivered by a virgin, performed so many miracles that John declared the world itself could not contain the books had they all been written down (John 21: 25), He claimed Himself to be God, lived perfectly, was beaten to the point He was unrecognizable as a human being, died on a cross, endured the wrath of God for our sin, was buried in a tomb, and then defeated death by rising again. And that He promised that He will come back, bringing His own home to heaven with Him for all eternity.

If they believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they will be saved. THAT is what I want my girls to know, with all certainty. Nothing else saves, therefore, everything else is as trivial as this one truth.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book of the Week [Only God Can Make a Kitten]

This is one of those children's books that will forever be on my shelf. It is one of our all-time favorite children's books. It begins with Genesis 1:31, continues with adorable rhyme dialogue between a mother and her son and ends with poetry.

This little boy in the book is curious about the world he explores with his mom and asks lots of questions beginning with, "Mama, look!" But it's the mother's response that amazes me...

"Mama, look!"
A tiny sprout!
Who made this sprig of spring pop out?

He who knows our every need. 
Only God can make a seed."

My favorite is the poem at the end when mom explains the world around him,
"God shapes the birds, the plums, and trees. 
He makes the rain and salty seas. 
Ancient stones he molds just right. 
And distant stars that shine so bright. 
God makes seeds to grow and grow. 
He paints the flowers, blows winter's snow. 
God fashions fish. 
Kittens too. 
Yes, God makes wondrous things it's true. 
But best of all, God made YOU!"

It's a wonderful book that I highly recommend adding to your forever library. It teaches. It's thought provoking. The illustrations are wonderful. The theology is biblically sound. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Ways to Celebrate Easter with your Kids]

After a conversation with my sister about how Easter needs to be as big or bigger than Christmas, my husband and I decided we needed make Easter a BIG holiday in our home. After all, it's the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that defines us as Christians! The gospel needs to be our central focus every.single.day. It just makes sense that the time we celebrate Christ's resurrection should be a HUGE celebration. Through Christ alone we have life, why not make the day as big and special as Christmas itself?

Here's ten ideas on how to do that:

1. Easter Countdown. Like an advent calendar, do something that gets your kids excited about the upcoming day, while focusing their minds on Jesus. This year we did 20 Easter eggs. Inside each egg was something that gave a clue to one of the names of Jesus. (Examples: Lindt's lamb chocolates to introduce Jesus as the Lamb. Miniature books to discuss Him as the Author.) We had 20 names and verses we learned, and my understanding of Jesus grew ten-fold, I can only hope and pray the same for our girls. 

2. Easter Coloring Book. There are endless ideas floating around out there. I just googled events in the Easter story (i.e. Palm Sunday coloring page, Jesus on the cross coloring page, empty tomb coloring page, my favorite: Jesus on the throne) and then created a chronological coloring book to color and discuss together.

3. Come Celebrate Easter Sticker and Activity Book that coincides with The Beginner's Bible my Briella Bean owns. It is definitely for younger children, but it goes through each event and has the kids do an activity. Some of the activities are not as good as some, but my girls thoroughly enjoyed doing a page a day.

4. Make Easter themed snacks! There are lots and lots of ideas out there, like the empty tomb rolls or this one: 
From: Today's Kids Ministry
5. Eat Jelly Beans alongside the Jelly Bean poem (downloaded here):
Red is for the blood He gave.
Green is for the grass He made.
Yellow is for the sun so bright.
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins we made.
White is for the grace He gave.
Purple is for His hour of sorrow.
Pink is for a new tomorrow.

6. Like Christmas, decorate your home. There's lots and lots of wonderful ideas for this season. One of my favorites that we did together was an empty tomb garden. The girls LOVED doing this together and it made a wonderful addition to our decor.

7. Like Christmas, wake up to gifts! We are filling their egg hunting bucket with goodies. Some ideas for little girls that I hope gets your brain rolling for kids of all ages, boy or girl:
8. Crafting. Do you know how many Christ centered crafts are out there. I had so much to choose from it was overwhelming! Like a cross centered stained glass window we did when we talked about Jesus being the light. Or the plethora of ideas for a lamb and lion when we talked about how Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb. etc. etc. 

9. Read Paul E. Maier's The Very First Easter that offers thought provoking details to the events leading up to Jesus' death on the cross and His resurrection. Or Rhonda Gowler Greene's One Lost Sheep where children learn that God, like a faithful shepherd, will never let them stray. 

10. Read the Bible story together beginning when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey leading up to His resurrection, each day talking about a specific section.

Go to my Pinterest board titled, Spring is in the air! to see more ideas for Easter fun, so you don't forget IT IS FINISHED! HE IS RISEN! And those two facts are worth celebrating!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesdays Top Ten [Things In My Existence That Give Me an Eternal Perspective]

I feel like things are finally back to "normal" after the crazy month of March. When craziness happens there are only 4 things I focus on: God, Husband, Children, Discipleship (in that order). Since "blogging" doesn't fit into that list, it takes a back burner when I don't have time. So if you don't see a post, I'm busy. Crazy busy. These last few weeks I've barely had time to sweep my floor, much less read my Bible. Honestly, I hate that kind of crazy, so you have no idea how good it feels to have the time to write this! And today's particular topic has been on my mind a lot lately, because crazy busy schedules made the list (see #9).

The top ten things I encounter that help me look forward to an eternity of perfection with Jesus because of my faith in his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection:

1. Seasonal Allergies. Oh man the stuffy nose is one thing, but when you add itchy eyes, nose, tongue and ears, I would be extra celebratory if Jesus came back when ragweed pollen was good and strong.

2. Spiders. I'm not saying there won't be spiders in heaven, I'm just saying that the fear of them will be gone. They seriously give me the hebejebees.

3. Stomach bug, especially when it makes the rounds in my family. Being sick is one thing, but when you're sick and you have to take care of your sick children, it's ten times more miserable.

Speaking of children...

4. Whiny, weepy, disobedient children. Disobedient is one thing, but when they constantly whine and cry over the most insignificant things - I think I despise that more than disobedience. It grates on every last nerve. It's in these moments I think, "Lord, if you came back now that would be fantastic."

5. Dramatic Facebook posts and the horrible comments I see with it. That is the #1 reason why I "un-follow" people. We lack filters, kindness, respect, and self-control. It is completely evident when I scroll through my Facebook feed, which makes me disgusted. I have not been perfect with self-control and kindness myself, so it's something I'm constantly working on. I definitely do not want to be the source of someones irritation. And I am deeply sorry if my words did not reflect or glorify the almighty God I serve.

6. Horrible Events in the news and the equally as horrible comments I see with it. This is related to #5 with people lacking filters, kindness, respect and self-control. When something happens and I want to read about it, I have to steer clear from people's comments. Too many people ignore the facts, immediately react to their emotions, and say something really, really, really stupid and heartless. Whenever I find myself reading the comment section, I also find myself praying, "Jesus, I can't stand it anymore here! I just want to be with you!" 

7. Political seasons. Talk about heartless, and people lacking in kindness, self-control and respect! Politicians are absolutely horrible in how they treat one another. I hear more about the person they are competing against than I do about their own stance on a particular issue. I do not care about what the politician thinks of so-and-so, but I do care about what they believe about the constitution and their job to uphold it. When I see another one of those berating commercials I pray, "Jesus! Every knee will bow to YOU as our King! Just come back now!"

8. Back pain. God has promised that if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we will spend a painless, tearless eternity with Him. Whenever my back injury from 11 years ago rears it's ugly head, I cannot wait for the day I meet Jesus face to face.
9. Crazy busy schedules. When life gets so busy I feel like I haven't had the time to truly enjoy time in God's Word, or take the time to love on my husband and my girls, I cannot wait for the eternity with Jesus praising His Name forever and ever and ever. Time will never be an issue and when people ask "How are you?" I'll never have to say again, "Crazy busy."

10. Voice Of the Martyrs. I recommend all Christians to subscribe to this free magazine. The stories in it will inspire you in your faith. VOM supports persecuted Christian's all over the world and when I read their stories, I beg Christ to come back and relieve these individuals suffering for HIS NAME SAKE. Reading their stories make this particular list of mine so insignificant. They have many more reasons to pray for Christ's return and ache for eternity with Him. I admire their steadfastness, their undying faith, their willingness to spread the gospel no matter the cost. If they can endure, then I can too. How much more do I have to be thankful for in this blessed life I live? While I'm thanking Him, I'll also continue to look upwards, when my faith becomes sight and I finally meet Jesus face to face.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book of the Week [A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent]

Honestly, this should've been my first book of the week. This is the book, that after studying the book of Romans, transformed my thinking - giving me comfort that is only found in the gospel. I try to read this book every year because Milton Vincent did an excellent job of taking the gospel and explaining the life-transforming, powerful truths behind Christ's work on the cross. He beautifully outlines 31 valuable blessings the gospel bestows upon the life of a believer. 

It's impossible to read this book without gaining wisdom, without absorbing these benefits deep into ones heart, mind and soul, without treasuring the gifts given through Jesus Christ, without being utterly transformed!

It is less than 100 pages, but these few pages offer diamonds - shining brilliantly against the black backdrop of our sin - preaching "life-giving, soul-reviving, heart-rejoicing" truths behind Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. (Quotations taken from Mike Bullmore's forward on page 4.)

If there is any book (other than the Bible) that I suggest a Christian must read - men and women alike - it is this one. I encourage you to read this book because it is not only a useful tool to help us digest the truth in the gospel daily, but it reminds us what is important and encourages to continually praise God for his gift of salvation. Plus, there is no better way to praise and glorify Him than to understand what the gospel is continually doing in our lives because of the work of Jesus Christ!

If you need further convincing, read my book review from October of 2013 here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Book of the Week [A Bride in the Bargain]

I picked up this book, published back in 2009, on a whim. A Bride in the Bargain by Deanna Gist was in a bargain bin somewhere and I only picked it up because the plot reminded me of childhood readings. At 12 years old, the idea of a mail-order bride during the 1800's fascinated me.

I can't say I had high expectations for this book. I do not know why this particular piece of history was so interesting, but I wanted to see if the plot synopsis was as stupid as it now sounds.

At page 231, this book surprised me and I could not put it down.

Want a love story worth your time? Self-sacrifice? Biblical perspective? A historical fiction written because of an author's excellent research? Read this one!

My Goodreads review:

A Bride in the BargainA Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This became one of my favorite books on page 231. It is not that it was a bad book up to that point, but it was at that point the book went from average to phenomenal. All because of one character who helped Anna see how big God really is using my favorite Scripture; a turning point in my own life becoming one for the main character. Despite her being fiction, I felt a connection. She drove me crazy with her nonsensical reasoning behind the biggest moments of her life and was saddened to read the note her father wrote was one that actually existed. Which brings me to my next point: I enjoyed the book all the more when I finished with the author's note detailing her research behind this fantastic historical fiction novel. One that I did not go into with overwhelming confidence but would now recommend as a must read! And one that will stay on my shelf to read again someday.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Signs of Life]

As we chatted in my pastor's office one afternoon my daughter began writing on a piece of paper hanging on the wall. He stopped me from stopping her, "Signs of life, our church is full of them." Ever since then I have been thinking about that simple statement so much! Our home is also full of life signs and there are so many that I decided to share my top ten. I also encourage you to look around your home and see the "mess" as signs of life. Sometimes "signs of life" can discourage me (after the umpteenth time of picking something up or wiping something down) so this outlook has been so good for me!

1. Little fingerprints. They are everywhere. Walls. Oven door. Furniture. Windows. Mirrors.

2. Cracker crumbs. I finally had to ban them from the play room and bedrooms (sleeping in cracker crumbs = restless night). Every time we cleaned I found half eaten crackers and crumbs everywhere. Despite my best efforts to keep food in the kitchen and at the table, cracker crumbs seep into every nook and cranny. Including computer keys or hoodie pockets or ground into the living room rug or between the couch cushions... 

3. Art work. It is also everywhere. Like on the kitty chair in the playroom's reading corner. On the walls. And thanks to my sister-in-law, who gave the girls bathtub crayons, art work is alllllll over the bathtub. I think my favorite is the octopuses that Bean drew and refused to let me wipe off because, "I would miss them Mommy!" Some isn't a surprise (like what I hang on the refrigerator) or the snowflakes in the window or the heart window stickers the girls LOVED hanging, but they are all signs of life.

4. Toys. Briella Bean loves making beds for all her stuffed animals and dolls. Sometimes she'll have 20+ beds scattered around the living room alone. I dislike this game so much because she drags each and every blanket from her room and the giant bucket of stuffed animals with a book for each of them and of course each of her animals need something to sleep with....! If she plays this game in her room, we can't open the door (which we have worked on). This perspective has helped tremendously with this particular game because it takes so much time to clean up, but my daughter loves playing it. So when the game begins I begin praying about my attitude because this sign of life isn't one where I should let my panties get in a bunch.

5. Piles of books. I actually love this particular sign of life. I might actually encourage it. The more time my family spends in books the better. There is always a pile of library books, a pile of books Bean looks at during her rest time, a pile of books I've put aside for the letter of the week, a pile of books I'm reading (which always includes my Bible), a pile of books Kyle uses for his personal study time before teaching for Sunday school or youth group, a pile of books I just purchased and need to put away (yes, this is common)... 

6. Noise. Right now Brielle is "working" on her computer while I work on mine, so I keep hearing "K. K is for Kite." because it's the letter of the week and she keeps hitting the button over and over again. Also, Ele is singing to her baby. Marley is on the watch and feels the need to growl at the neighbors (I've spent the last 10 years trying to break him of this annoying habit). I love having music in the background. After typing all of that Ele has now moved on to her play phone that is singing a different version of the ABC's and Brielle's computer keeps saying, "Use your mouse to pick an activity, press the letter button..." (can you tell I've heard all this before?) Now Ele is yelling at something that isn't doing what she wants it to... signs of life.

7. Dirty dishes and messy counters. Breakfast was finished and lunch will be started in an hour. I wait until after lunch is done and the girls are resting to clean up, so if you were to visit before then, you'd see lots and lots of signs of life. 

8. Shoes and clothes. Does anyone else struggle putting clean clothes away right after washing and folding them? Or get tired of reminding the children (for the umpteenth time) to put their shoes in their closet? Or snow clothes hanging out to dry during the winter and swim suits and towels during the summer? Or PJ's shed on the floor to dress in today's princess dress? All signs of life.

9. Strange smells. Haha, or this could be a sign of death. But seriously, we have dogs and they can be stinky (do I need to elaborate?) And we also have a baby in diapers. And children who hysterically laugh every time they burp or fart. And children who carry food around with them (which we had to outlaw, but can sometimes slip from our watchful eyes) and sometimes the combination of all these things creates a strange smell somewhere in the house that is incredibly hard to find. 

10. Items in weird places. I've found a half eaten sucker in the blender (no joke), toys in our shoes, play food in the fridge. Brielle loves to bring styrofoam cups home from church and I'll find those in the fridge as well. I once found a magic wand in my underwear drawer. Books are a normal thing to find the dirty clothes laundry basket. Also, Brielle is a master at hiding items in the craziest spot, so this particular sign of life could go on forever...

Plus one: Markings in my Bible. Every day I try to read my Bible. During that time I use many colors to mark sovereignty verses, important phrases, wisdom to live, gospel/grace/mercy, etc. etc. My girls see me do this everyday and so my Ele decided she would do it too. Upon finding these cute markings I could not be angry. This is one way I desperately want my girls to mimic me. Read your Bible girls! 

I have so much content to share just from the time it took me to write this post! Like Ele finding random leftover Nerds hidden in some crack in the floor, showing me it was in her mouth, yelling "EAT!" - all proud of this fact. (I can't make this stuff up.) Or this adorable moment where the girls were making beaded jewelry and Bean was teaching Ele colors; "ruined" because Ele decided to chuck the beads all over the living room, stuff as many as she could between the couch cushions and spilled her animal crackers during her ornery laughing fit. (I think I'll be finding beads for the next few months, and as I do I'll remember this 5 minute moment and smile.) Also, Bean got the beads out so she could make me a necklace, which I love, of course.

Thanks to these signs of life we buy magic erasers in bulk and do our very best to teach our children behavior that isn't destructive, what is appropriate to color on, when messes are okay and when it's best to have one or two toys out at a time... all of this takes time. So with the time given, I truly believe mommy's need to spend it creating a home that is welcoming and child friendly. I also believe there is a balance between being a slob and embracing the signs of life; find the balance because your children are making memories. I can't say I do that perfectly day in and day out. Some days are better than others because, quite frankly, sometimes the signs of life drive.me.crazy. The job of picking up and scrubbing clean never ends! Ahhhhh! BUT if there's one piece of advice seasoned parents always give me, it is this: treasure your time because it goes by so quickly. Take their advice because if it's true (which I'm 110% sure it is) once they are gone and the house is quiet and clean - you'll be begging for those little signs of life.