Friday, March 29, 2013

{Five Minute Friday} Broken


I'm participating in Five Minute Friday, a link-up writing prompt at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. This week the prompt is "Broken ..." 

Five minutes starts now. 

GO ...

Her top right tooth had been danging. She said it had a crack in it. But when she meant was one side was hanging lower than the other side, creating a space between her tooth and gum. I wanted to just yank it out. But I couldn't, not mentally.

So I encouraged her to pull her own tooth. That's the kind of independence I like to create around here. And, you know, she did. For the second time, she pulled her own tooth. Another came out when she bit into a grape. And the first came when she wiggled it so much with her tongue at basketball camp. Four down.

I love the gap-toothed grin. It makes me smile so big you could see all my highly imperfect teeth. It reminds she's growing up, something I adore witnessing and fostering and experiencing.

This morning on the way to school, she said she hoped her friends didn't laugh at her and say she looked funny. She has a missing tooth on top now, just diagonally above another gap on the bottom to the left of the middle.

She seemed to dwell on being broken, like the gaps bothered her. 

But I reminded her that God made every part of her just like he wanted. He created this whole world, her included. Those teeth and that gap-tooth smiled included. I reminded her about how we have nothing to fear, just like that song we sing along with the radio says, because God is with us.

God was with his son too thousands of years ago when he hung from a cross and suffered for us. It must have seemed like such a dark, dark Friday. And he was with Jesus again when he arose from the tomb, shocking the world and securing a place for us with him for an eternity.

So there is no need to fear. And gap-tooth grins aren't worth worrying about. Because this is a good Friday, the best of Fridays and sometimes being broken just means you're growing. 


STOP.

Want to join us? Here are Lisa-Jo's rules: 1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. 2. Link back here and invite others to join in. 3. Please visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their comments. That is like the one rule we all really care about.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Round here ...

And, yes, now I have that Counting Crows song in my head ... "Round here we always stand up straight/Round here something radiates/Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand/Said she'd like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis/She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land/Just like she's walking on a wire in the circus ..."

We're looking forward to celebrating Easter with resurrection eggs, resurrection rolls, The Promise, a breakfast potluck at our church Sunday morning, time with family and a couple egg hunts.


We have a boy in big boy underpants! Y'all I was dreading potty training Ben. I thought it was going to be frustrating and nearly impossible. But my boy has proven me wrong, and this is a time I'm so, so glad. He's had some accidents, but he's keeping his undies dry at home, while we're out and at preschool on a regular basis. Whew.

We've jumped on the Florida Gulf Coast University bandwagon. These guys are so fun to watch. Seriously, I've never seen so many lobs and dunks. With neither of my favorite teams playing in March Madness, I hope FGCU wins a few more.


We're starting to have renters at The Gathering Place, our lake house vacation rental. There's some openings on the calendar, though, if you're looking for a getaway and want this view.


We're trying to embrace real life right where we are. And now I have this lovely reminder to dream God-sized dreams. I also have some fun blog posts in the works in conjunction with some of my dreamer friends, so stay tuned! {Want that bracelet? You can save 25% during these last few days of March when you use HOLLEY25 at DaySpring.}

We watched our first-ever episode of Duck Dynasty last night. Admittedly, I laughed and then repeated part of the episode my friend Holly missed when she returned to the room. But, still, I don't anticipate becoming a fan. Right now I'd rather watch "The Good Wife" on Sunday nights or "Damages," courtesy Netflix other nights. I've also read "The Survivor" by Diann Mills and "Deadly Pursuit" by Irene Hannon and started "Lethal Legacy" by Irene Hannon this month.

What have you been doing and reading and watching and dreaming and celebrating?
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

{#TellHisStory} Jesus' Dirty Shirt

This is a revamped version of a post from April 13, 2009. It's Easter week and we're going to see this performance again this weekend. The 23-month-old girl in the original post is now just a little more than a month from turning 6 and she has a 3-year-old brother. 


"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us."

We took Cate to "The Promise" at a big church in a neighboring county, thinking she'd be entertained by the songs, live donkey and live sheep. We were right. Plus she really loved the fish some of the disciples tossed from their boat onto the dock.

I should mention the program was 2 1/2 hours long. That's well beyond a toddler's typical attention span. We sat on the aisle, thinking we may have to get up and walking around with her; we never did.

What she kept talking about afterward was Jesus. And how he had a "dirty shirt."

Yes, his shirt was dirty after he was beaten and taken to be crucified. I guess even for a 23-month-old girl that was a stark contrast to the bright, white clothing he wore before that. Even after he rose from the dead, complete with a clean shirt, Cate still talked about Jesus and his dirty shirt.

I tried to tell her that when Jesus came back he was wearing a clean shirt. She would think about it for a minute, repeat "clean," then go back to the "dirty shirt." Truthfully, it's pretty neat to hear her sweet voice say, "Jesus," regardless of what he's wearing.

But, you know, I'm thankful he wore a dirty shirt for me. And you. And Cate. And Ben.

Bearing our sins did indeed dirty his shirt, but he did it so we could wear bright, white clothes. And he rose from the filth, this time wearing his clean clothes, so he could rejoin his Father and prepare a place for us. I'm certain he's preparing a beautiful place where everything, even our shirts, will be cleaner than anything we can imagine.

For now, we still live in an imperfect world where we have plenty of chances to confess our sins to the only who can truly take away the sins of the world. As sweet as it was to hear Cate talk about Jesus, I'm looking forward to the day she understands the rest of the story and realizes the his dirty shirt was so very temporary.
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I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers. #TellHisStory is a chance to tell a story that connects your story to God's story. 

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Ordinary Days

Reading seems ordinary, but her sweet voice is extraordinary.

My life is filled with the ordinary.

I usually wake up around 6:30 a.m., am greeted by my 3-year-old boy soon after, and then wake up my
kindergartner a little before 7. We get ready for our days. Sometimes my husband is still home; other mornings he's sitting in the quiet of his office trying to get things done before his phone starts ringing. One weekend mornings I sometimes get to "sleep in" until 7:30 or 8.

Cate goes to kindergarten from 8 to 3 p.m. except Wednesdays, when they get out two hours early. {There's also no homework on Wednesdays. Gotta love the Bible Belt.} Ben goes to preschool on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Ben and I usually go to a story time at a local church on Tuesdays at 9 and often eat lunch with friend Sarah and her two boys afterward.

This week, Holley Gerth asks: What’s a typical day in your life like right now? How can you see God’s hand in the middle of the “small” and ordinary too?

Depending on the day, I may run errands, go to appointments or meetings, meet friends to play, tend to vacation rental business, write, or work around the house. Except for during March Madness, the TV doesn't usually come on during the morning or early afternoon unless I desperately need my boy occupied while I shower. Ben still naps, so it's then that I can be really productive -- whether on a project or with household chores. Lately, I've been spending time tending to details for our vacation rental and the one I manage for another property owner.

Two weekday afternoons I have to wake Ben from his nap to go get Cate and our carpool friends from school. The other days she's dropped off here. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons include homework. Most days, I tend to our dinner plan after homework and then Greg comes home around 5:30 p.m. The kids go to bed around 7 p.m., so the hour or so after dinner is usually filled with reading books, playing games or getting baths -- often while I clean up from dinner.

Once the kids are in bed, I pack lunches on the days those are needed and make sure Cate's backpack is ready for the next day at school. Some nights Greg and I work on whatever it is we're working on while we watch TV. {Right now, we record "The Good Wife" and watch "Damages" on Netflix.} Other nights we play Blockus or Words with Friends.

We usually stay up later than we intended and talk about how we should go to be earlier.

I like weekends because we have time together with each other and often times others friends or family. Some Saturday mornings we go out for breakfast. Others we stay home as long as we can. Some weekends are more packed than others. This past weekend was a much-needed balance of productivity and rest. I often procrastinate going to bed on Sundays because I'm not ready for the weekend to end.

At the end of the day, whichever day it is, I'm reminded that God moves in the ordinary. He gives me choices to choose Him when I'm tempted to hold on to my bad attitude. He gives me opportunities to witness my kids soaking up life and to teach them what Jesus would do. He provides a community that sustains me and blesses my life. He gives us all chances to serve and give and love and learn. Plenty of times, I mess things up. But I'm given new chances over and over again because His mercies are new every morning, and, really, every moment.

Yes, these are ordinary days, but you add them all together, it's really quite extraordinary.
________


I won a giveaway on Holley Gerth's blog a couple weeks ago. I was excited to receive a "dream" bag of goodies. But I had no idea the bag itself was so sturdy and practical or that the goodies would be so encouraging! That plague is now sitting on my mantel, reminding me of the dreams God is calling me to. I plan to use the mug for office supplies at my desk because, believe it or not, I don't drink coffee. And, well, we all know I love "You're Made for a God-sized Dream."

All of these items -- and many other "Holley Gifts" -- are on sale at DaySpring's website. Save an additional 25% with the code HOLLEY25 this week. This deal expires at the end of March. Did I mention I highly recommend the tote?!
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 Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog. You'll find encouragement, truth and community there. I also recommend Holley's "You're Made for a God-sized Dream." It's like a love letter for dreamers. You can buy it from Amazon ($11.19) or DaySpring ($8.24 with code HOLLEY25 at checkout). 

I'm also linking up with Soli Deo Gloria Party at Finding Heaven Today. 

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Get Started.

We thought the water park wasn't so far away from the Chicago hotel we were calling home for a few days. I was about 13 years old and I was the navigator. I held the map while Mom drove us to the amusement park. It started taking longer and our directions weren't making sense.

This was 1992, so I was holding a paper map that would never be folded back along its original creases. There wasn't a GPS to talk to us or a blue dot on the Google Maps app on an iPhone to show us we were on track.

And, you know, turns out I was holding the map upside down. We were aiming toward fun and we ended up miles in the wrong direction.

That can happen in life.

You have to know where you are before you start. So take notice of the people and places in your story. Make a list of your goals and dreams, you know, your destinations. And then add some directions, as in what steps you can take toward those places you want to be.

Don't wait until you can retire from a job you dread to seek your dream job.

Don't wait until you have more money to bless others.

Don't wait until everything around you is perfect because, well, it never will be.

And don't settle for what everyone else is doing.

"The average path is the easier of the two paths, and it’s dangerously comfortable. I spent many years on it without realizing I’d been there a week. The awesome path? It is dangerous too — but the good kind of dangerous. The kind of dangerous through which all great accomplishments must travel. On it are tall mountains, rocky walls, and even an occasional dragon. You’re going to get bloodied, your discipline will be tested, and your dreams will be challenged a thousand times over. But ohhhh, it is awesome. And here’s the kicker: when I say it’s awesome, I don’t mean “eventually” awesome. I’m talking right-this-second awesome."


But wherever you are, you have to start if you want to get anywhere.

And, really, don't wait. Yes, make sure you aren't holding the map upside down. Let the modern GPS speak to you. Talk to people you trust and, more importantly, seek the ultimate map maker who managed to create the world in seven days. Your amusement park is waiting. Get started. It's going to be awesome.
________

I got to read the very beginning of "Start" as part of the book's launch team and I'm looking forward to the PDF version of the entire book that's coming my way. But this encouragement comes from me in the spirit of Jon Acuff's message. If you pre-order the book by April 21, you'll get more than $250 worth of free resources. Order it from the Start website, Amazon.com or other book sellers. 

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

{Tiny Prints} Vera Bradley Collection & 20% off

Vera Bradley Collection from Tiny Prints

Even before I was a mom, I preferred a bag to a purse. My friends used to tease me about my big purses. But, you know, there could be worse jokes. Some of my favorite bags {diaper bags, mom purses, generally big purses, duffel bags ...} are Vera Bradley bags. Yes, they're kind of expense, but I've been known to buy them as a certain pattern is going out of style {I'm cool and trendy like that ...} and at yard sales and my sweet momma sometimes gives them to me as gifts.

All of this to say, now Vera Bradley is expanding some of its cute patterns to thank you cards, invitations, birth announcements, and address labels available at Tiny Prints. Plus if you order by Tuesday {March 26} you can get 20 percent off your entire purchase at Tiny Prints with the code 20MARSW. This deal expires at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time March 26.

From the Tiny Prints' website: Known for its lively patterns and vibrant colors, Vera Bradley was founded by longtime friends, Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia R. Miller. While traveling together in 1982, the friends noticed a lack of attractive luggage for women. Using their love of colors and patterns as inspiration, Barbara and Patricia decided to design and produce a line of quilted-cotton luggage, handbags and accessories. Thus, Vera Bradley {named after Barbara’s mother}) was born. Now Vera Bradley is happy to expand its stunning designs into the world of stationery. The Vera Bradley Collection for Tiny Prints is perfect for anyone who loves floral prints, playful patterns and dazzling color.

These Tiny Prints products are in line with the typical affordable prices you'd expect from this photo gifts company. Check out the entire collection and make your stationery as cute, colorful and stylish as your bags.
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Weekend Words

Bearing with one another :: Oh, social media, how people love to hate you and hate to love you. I mostly love it. I don't do Pinterest, but I love Facebook and Twitter. And, well, hello, I'm a blogger. Kelli Stuart nailed so many things in this post that I've been thinking about. And, really, it just comes down to balance.

Rushing & Pausing :: Pretty sure Angie Smith sneaked into my house and wrote this about my life. "The bottom line is that oftentimes I create an atmosphere of stress and perceived need when there is none. I’m really feeling like there’s not a positive outcome by insisting that every moment in life serves to make you feel like you’re late for the next one."

For When Motherhood Asks You to be Brave :: Notice Kristen Welch says "when" and not "if." It's so true. "We run straight into danger–whether it’s sickness, hurting kids, temper tantrums or math homework– we fight the battles instead of turning away from them. Some days we long to hold up a white flag of surrender. But instead, we mother on. Motherhood is about sacrifice. It’s about putting someone else’s needs in front of our own. It’s about risk. It’s about bravery."

Going The Distance :: Elizabeth Anne May makes pictures with her words. In this post, she reminded me of the hill at the end of the 5K I ran earlier this month. Like life, the hills come when they're hardest to climb. Also like life, the hills are temporary because the ground eventually flattens back to "normal." But to get there, I've got to keep going, just like Elizabeth reminded me: "Just like when I’m running a hill, I need to remember the basics. Stay on your toes and lean into the hill. Don’t overthink it. And above all, keep moving, however slow."

Infertility Anguish :: Infertility led us to adoption ... twice. I have several friends who have struggled with having a family. There is so much hope in the stories I've lived and seen unfold near me. But understanding that hope is such a long, hard road. Gindi also understands.

What good stuff have you read lately?
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Friday, March 22, 2013

{Five Minute Friday} Remember

Greg snapped last night while I was installing kid games on my old iPhone. Pretty sure they're happy
about the new-to-them electronic opportunity ... but they are good snugglers when they want to be.

I'm participating in Five Minute Friday, a link-up writing prompt at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. This week the prompt is "Remember ...

Five minutes starts now. GO ...


Five Minute FridayI fear forgetting.

I want to remember how hard those years of infertility were, how my best friend went before me through the pain and ended up ministering to me, and how God led us right to where we needed to be to adopt. Twice. I'm hoping for a third time. But I want to remember how we got here so I don't overreact to the childish annoyances that come with children.

I want to remember that the early years of our marriage were hard for me. We've come a long way in this decade as Mr. and Mrs. Truthfully, it gets better all of the time and I want to remember life everything else in life this marriage was and is a process.

I don't want to forget these hard days of mothering little ones. They're not always going to need me like they do. Even my 5-year-old girl who will tell you she's almost 6 {Yeah, in about six weeks ...} seems so grown up these days. I know we'll be there with my 3-year-old boy soon.

I don't want to forget the things I've been learning and reading and experiencing and embracing. I want to remember. So I take pictures. I string together these words. I build friendships. I scrapbook. I make notes. Yet I don't want to forget to make memories as I remember.


STOP.

Want to join us? Here are Lisa-Jo's rules: 1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. 2. Link back here and invite others to join in. 3. Please visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their comments. That is like the one rule we all really care about.
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{No More Perfect Moms} Review & Giveaway

Yelling at my kids to hurry up doesn’t get them to move any faster. Over-planning our days just over-stimulates everyone in our house. Planning meals is convenient … when I remember to thaw something in time to cook it for dinner. Too often I put chores and tasks before the people I love most.

The more I strive for perfection, the more likely I am to make an even bigger mess of our days, my attitude, and my kids’ moods. I finally heard God speaking to me about these perfectionist ways. He gave me plenty of opportunities to attempt to live gracefully with the imperfections. And then Jill Savage published "No More Perfect Moms."

"No More Perfect Moms" is a 224-page non-fiction Christian living book aimed toward moms. It was published in 2013 by Moody Publishers.

Really, it seems like Jill Savage wrote her newest book for me. But in blogging about this book, hosting some guest posts on the subject, and being part of Jill’s book launch group, I’ve realized she didn’t write the book just for me. You know, I’m not alone in wanting perfect days, perfect kids, a perfect marriage, and a perfect house. But the truth is, that’s crazy. Perfect is never going to happen.

{Join me over at Circle of Faith, where you could win a copy of this book ...}
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"No More Perfect Moms" is on sale right now at Amazon for $7.19. That's 49% off! 

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

{No More Perfect Moms} Imperfection on the inside

I wear an insulin pump because my pancreas decided to stop producing insulin nine years ago.

My neck and shoulders have been tense, carrying the physical impact of motherhood right into little knots that the massage therapist once described as "layers of issues."

I've started running this year and a 2-mile run makes me think my ankles and shins and thighs are going to give out. Yet I managed to finish a 5K and plan to run another, even though the cold weather has kept me from running for a few weeks now.

I wear contacts because my vision is terrible otherwise. I wore braces twice and my teeth still don't line up perfectly. I've lost count of the number of fillings in the back and certainly don't know how many have had to be repaired because my teeth have weak enamel.

I {mostly} don't bite my nails like I used to, but don't study the skin around them.

And I haven't even touched on the infertility issues that mentally exhausted me when we spent almost two years trying to conceive. I took medicine, had surgery, took more medicine, had blood drawn more times than I care to count, met with a specialist who wanted to in-vitro fertilization. My imperfect body led us to adopt, which turned out to be a perfect decision.

Even among all the imperfections, taking care of myself is important so I can take care of my family, serve others and live this life God has called me. Truth is, God wants us to tend to our hearts first. Yes, he wants us to care for our bodies {First Corinthians 6:19-20} so we can serve him, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our community, and wherever else he takes us. But, more importantly, God  wants to shape our hearts before our waistlines so our lives can attract people to Jesus.

"When you look at yourself in the mirror, what filter do you see yourself through? Do you compare what you see in the mirror to what you see in magazine and television articles? Or do you see yourself through God's eyes? His eyes care more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your skin."

Our bodies are God's creation. We should care for them. Move them. Exercise them. Use them. Nourish them. Rest them. Clean them. But we shouldn't compare them and allow ourselves to be stricken with the Perfect Infection. That's certainly a diagnosis our bodies don't need. 
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I'm linking up with Jill Savage's Hearts at Home Blog HopThis is another post in an ongoing series about how God's teaching me to embrace imperfection. I received a free PDF copy of Jill Savage's "No More Perfect Moms" as part of the book's launch team, but I truly want to embrace this message and the opinions and experiences are mine. You can buy the book at Amazon, where it's on sale for $7.19. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

{#TellHisStory} Groaning

Milford Sound, New Zealand. August 2009.

I groan because the kitchen counter has piles and the floor still has crumbs from the past three meals. I grown when we have to take a trip to the potty as soon as the waitress brings us our food. I groan when things don't go my way, people don't respond like I wish they would, and my kids ask the same question for the sixth time in the past five minutes.

I groan way too much, way too loudly, and way too selfishly. And these groans of mine put all the attention on me.

My goals shouldn't be to live in a spotless house, have a schedule that syncs perfectly with my expectations, or control reactions and behaviors of other people, including my kids. But too often, my actions and reactions say these -- and other unattainable, meaningless ambitions -- are my goal.

"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

My goal is to please God.

My responses to my kids, my reactions to my husband, the way I love my friends, household chores, and our schedule and its interruptions should please God. I should please God in my mini van, at my house, in the restaurant, at the playground, in the church sanctuary, and everywhere else in between.

God moves while we wait. We are changed while we wait. Our selfish groans can become holy groans while we wait. Groaning for heaven gives God glory in this world.

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

We wait in anticipation for God's glory to be revealed. We do what we can while we're here so we can please him. It's like standing up on your tip toes, waiting for the first glimpse of the One you've been waiting to reveal his whole self. It's like waiting at an airport, just on the other side of the security gate, for your loved one who has been gone too long.

God's timing is always worth the wait. I imagine his full glory will be too.
________

I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers. #TellHisStory is a chance to tell a story that connects your story to God's story. 

Want more? Subscribe to get "Insights" in your inbox. Like 152 Insights on Facebook. Or follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Joy right here

"It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you."



I wasn't sure I wanted to be a mom. I wasn't the girl who grew up dreaming of her wedding day and naming her future kids. I assumed I'd get married and have kids. But I dreamed more of my career. So, yeah, I never expected my career to turn out to be motherhood.

But that's my job -- and it's the hardest one I've ever had. In many ways, I don't really feel prepared, but I have no doubts this is exactly where God wants me.

I don't wish for the adrenaline of a newsroom. I don't wonder if quitting a job I loved and was good at doing was the right thing. I get ideas and have projects. But I am a mom first.

Holley wants the God-sized dreamer in me to share what brings me joy, especially when it comes to my God-sized dream.

I was thinking I'd write about how I love when the house is quiet and the creative words are flowing as I work on my book that is such a work in progress. Or about how I find joy in finishing a project and being pleased with the outcome.

But then I think about when I feel the more satisfying joy. That comes when my kids get it and I'm reminded I'm doing alright raising these still-young lives.

Joy is when Ben thinks I weigh 5 pounds, loves me because I give him hugs and proclaims himself as what I really love in an question-and-answer session with his preschool teacher.

Joy is when I hear Cate say, "Jesus rose from the dead. Isn't that cool?"

Joy is when Ben hugs my best friend's husband for no reason.

Joy is when Cate wants to give us parents her money, but then brainstorms with us how she can help someone with it.

Joy is when Ben cheers for me when he's in the bathroom stall with me when we're out in public. "You pee-peed, Momma!"

Joy is when Cate notices needs and remembers moments and loves loyally.

They're only 5 and 3 years old. I'm not the perfect momma by any means. But I've given every piece of myself to motherhood. In 5 years, 10 months, and 13 days as a mom, I've felt worn and helpless. I've asked all kinds of people for advice. I've cried and laughed ... in the same moment. I've yelled and whispered. I've done too much one day and not enough the next day. I've played and worked harder than ever before.

And I've found a joy I've never known. Often ordinary days as a mom seem like they could steal my joy. This is one of those jobs that requires investment of a long, long time. There are no quick results, although I sometimes try. Awards and praise aren't usually given to me when I give out bedtime kisses.

But I have joy. It's a joy I never expected and one I don't think can be duplicated.

Yes, there are hard days. Like last night, when my sick, feverish boy was so restless he couldn't sleep, which meant momma didn't sleep. But then there is the day Ben brings home a school activity that makes me laugh so hard I have to text it to my husband right then because it really can't wait 5 1/2 more hours until he gets home from work. And the times Cate talks boldly about Jesus to her friends.

I know this is joy.

It's a joy that is real and everlasting. And, really, it's only a touch of the joy God knows when we, his children here on earth, bring him glory. The joy breaks through the hard days when I wonder if I'm doing enough because God reminds me I am enough, thanks to his joy alone.
_______

 Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog. You'll find encouragement, truth and community there. I also recommend Holley's "You're Made for a God-sized Dream." It's like a love letter for dreamers. You can buy it from Amazon ($11.19) or DaySpring ($8.24 with code HOLLEY25 at checkout). 

I'm also linking up with Soli Deo Gloria Party

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Monday, March 18, 2013

{Review & Giveaway} Getting it Together

Kayse Pratt is my kind of girl.

I'm a organizer. But until I sat down to put Kayse's words about a Home Management Notebook to practice, my pile of lists and calendars and projects was a tad out of control. I'd been keeping close a calendar with to-do lists, a notebook with other to-do lists related to various projects, file folders for our vacation lake house and the other vacation rental I help manage, my journal, and the hard copy of the book I'm writing.



Y'all, that's a lot of papers. And I don't really like clutter. "Getting it Together: Your Guide to Setting up a Home Management System that Works" helped me consolidate.

Of course, I also use Google Calendar, which single-handedly improved communication in my marriage. But I really like having a handwritten calendar/list in front of me so I can physically mark off tasks, appointments and assignments as I do them. My grocery list is on my iPhone so I can keep it updated as things come to mind. {Remind me to tell you about the time earlier this month my phone died right after I snapped an Instagram of my grocery helpers. Yeah, my list died with it. I managed to get 12 of the 16 items on my list, well, and then some.}

Kayse's recommendations that led me to organize my organization system came at a really great time.

"No, being organized won’t accomplish world peace. It won’t make you love cleaning, and it won’t counteract the tornado-toddler issue. But it will most denitely bring a little more peace to your home."
{Kayse Pratt in "Getting it Together"}


After spending about 15 minutes reading the simple, practical e-book, I spent about 15 more minutes organizing my papers with printables included in "Getting It Together."

My favorites are the weekly and monthly meal plans, freezer inventory, daily schedule, master project list, cleaning schedule, and the blogging calendar. Kayse has them designed in cute blue and green colors, but I printed plain-o black-and-white copies out of convenience.

Your Home Management System can be as pretty and creative as you like. That's the beauty of this system -- it can be as simple or elaborate as your choose. Kayse's book includes printables pertaining to auto maintenance and finances, but those aren't areas I wanted to include this binder. I did print master project lists for our house as well as each of the vacation rentals.





My categories are Calendar, Around the House, Meals, Blogging, Kentucky Lake Lodge and The Gathering Place. Oh, and I used dividers with pockets, you know, for a little bonus organization. Again, it's wide open. Your categories can be whatever you want them to be. My system is putting all those different notebooks and folders I've been carrying around and keeping close in one place.

It's not quite world peace, but, seriously, organizing these papers and lists is high up on my list of my favorite things. Trust me, this short book is worth your time. And if Kayse didn't live on the other side of the country, I'd be inviting her over so we could scrapbook, write with Sharpies, and perhaps organize another pile I have sitting around here.

You'll want to be her friend too, but perhaps you can start with her book. You can buy the PDF version of "Getting it Together" from KaysePratt.com or the Kindle version from Amazon.com. Both are $3.99.

But one of you will get a free PDF copy, courtesy Kayse! Whoo-hoo! 

To enter, leave a comment below: Do you have an organization system in place for your household? If so, what do you like about it and what would you change? And you'll see there are some other ways to earn extra entries. The giveaway ends Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

________

I received this e-book for free by subscribing free to Kayse's monthly newsletter earlier this year and was offered it again to review, but these opinions are mine and so is the binder I compiled. This post contains affiliates links. 

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

We spent the weekend at the lake


We spent the weekend at our lake house with our best friends. Together there are five kids in five years. The weather was perfect and the agenda was non-existent. We played four games of Settlers of Catan and two rounds of Ticket to Ride as we celebrated Jaclyn's 35th birthday.


We loved on each other.


We fished.


We ate. A lot.


We used our imaginations. {Yeah, I really have no idea. But an older kid was clearly involved.}


We lounged together.

While the kids were fishing or chasing each other or collecting sticks and rocks, Jaclyn and I were able to read for awhile. She started "Beyond Ordinary" by Justin & Trisha Davis and I dived into DiAnn Mills' "The Survivor," a fiction book that wasn't as personally challenging as the non-fiction books I've been reading.



We watched movies in creative seating arrangements.


We had sword fights with old mops and broken fishing rods.


We played beauty shop that somehow became doctor's office.


We wrestled.


We made shotguns out of broken fishing rods that had been swords earlier in the day.


We swept the grass.


We huddled together to discover.


We jumped in leaves. Yes, in March.

We laughed. We talked. We shared. We stayed in pajamas. We rested. We grilled. We spent the weekend at the lake.

What did you do this weekend?
________

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{Tiny Prints} FREE Graduation Announcements

Tiny Prints Graduation Invitations - 10 Free

Every graduate should have a party. And it's not too early to plan.

Tiny Prints can help you do just that with 10 FREE graduation announcements or invitations. This deal is good through Thursday night when you use GRAD2013 at checkout. You only have to pay for shipping, which starts at $4.50. You can get them faster, of course, with the priority shipping options.

They have more than 300 designs to choose from and you can customize the cards with pictures of your graduate, your own text, and more.

Welcome to the real world, graduates!
________

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Friday, March 15, 2013

{Five Minute Friday} Rest

This is where we like to rest. This time it was April 2012.


I'm participating in Five Minute Friday, a link-up writing prompt at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. This week the prompt is "Rest ...

Five minutes starts now. GO ...


I don't like to take naps. My mom says I didn't like to when I was a kid either. I like to sleep, just usually from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., although I'd take a couple more hours into the morning, if my kids and life would just let me.

But I do like to rest.

I'm one of those Type-A people who uses "rest" -- whether it's watching a TV show, reading a book or scrapbooking -- as motivation to get the work done. Yes, I'm a work-then-play kind of person.

I'm going to rest this weekend. At the lake. With my best friend and her family. We're going to grill out food and play marathons of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride. My girl and my friend's girl who are a year apart are finally going to get to sleep in bunk beds in the same room, like they've been wanting. We have five kids in five years who have sibling-like relationships when we all gather together. They don't know life without each other.

I haven't known life without Jaclyn for more than 14 years. We're going to rest together this weekend in a place that is only 20 minutes from our houses yet can seem like a world away. We'll rest in the comforts of friendship with the peaceful backdrop of Kentucky Lake.


STOP.

Want to join us? Here are Lisa-Jo's rules: 1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. 2. Link back here and invite others to join in. 3. Please visit the person who linked up before you and encourage them in their comments. That is like the one rule we all really care about.

________

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

{Out of the Blue} Seeing faith lived out

With my two kids in tow, as usual, I finished my grocery shopping, handed the check-out cashier my stack of coupons, and realized I didn't have my wallet, much less the $104.10 to pay for everything bagged and sitting back in my cart.

I was totally embarrassed.

I started explaining the cashier that I’d be back as soon as I drove the 1.2 miles home to get my wallet. I told her I’d check in my minivan, but I was pretty sure it wasn't in there because I’d just picked up my purse and set it in the van before coming to Kroger. We hadn't stopped anywhere else along the way.

In my mind, I knew Ben was to blame, but I didn't feel right about blaming what seemed like forgetfulness on my 31-month-old son.

As I was mumbling to the cashier, probably hoping nobody else would hear me, the lady behind me spoke up, asking if she could help. I realized I knew her. And I realized she probably was offering to watch the kids while I ran out to the parking lot. I explained I was certain my wallet wasn’t in there. She opened her checkbook and asked the cashier for the total, saying I could send her a check later.


Kristen at Chasing Blue Skies has a weekly link-up about surprises. This week share about a mistake you made – even an ‘oops’ moment – and how your lesson learned or God’s grace from the mistake surprised you.



My mistake in not making sure I had my wallet before I got up to the cash register and my boy's mistake of getting into my purse were covered with kindness. In that moment, I was reminded of some of the advantages of small-town living, thankful for her kindness, and relieved my embarrassment was resolved. And I didn’t even yell at my son for the role I was certain he played in the scenario.

When we got to our Chrysler Town & Country, I asked him where my wallet was. “In play room,” he said. By play room, he means living room, which had been his room of choice this particular week.


See, I know my boy.

I saw the evidence as soon as I approached the living room couch. My wallet was lying open with its contents surrounding it. And there were empty gum wrappers right next to the couch on the floor.

Guilty.

How did I know? Mommas know.

And, well, my boy was in the midst of an on-going fascination with getting into my purse and carrying off items that seemed interesting. Thing is, this was during a couple weeks when I was being challenged to take the biblical book of James to heart: Consider trials joys. Persevere. Demonstrate faith in deeds. Draw near to God. Be humble. Realize we’re not in control. Pray. Be patient. 

I was in the midst of an eight-week study of James by Beth Moore and being given ample opportunities to live out my faith, thanks to my adventurous, fearless, into-everything boy.

Near to this wallet incident were the morning Ben accidentally locked himself in his room just as we needed to leave to get to the weekly James study on time; the moment Ben peed all over the bathroom rug just after I cheered for him peeing on the potty for the first time; the time Ben squeezed every medicine, diaper cream and lotion stored on a high shelf in his room all into the carpet; and the discovery Ben took apart the air conditioning vent and apparently lost the vent cover, which I was sure was dropped into the actual vent but ended up resurfacing days later from its yet-to-be-determined hiding place.

Peace came over me when my embarrassment was turned to testimony of God being in control even when I don’t see a convenient way out. Peace came over me when I chose not to yell even though I was frustrated. Peace came over me when I laughed about it later.

Now I hang my purse up near the door, where, for now, it’s out of reach of those little, curious hands. And my faith is stronger.
________

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What I believe makes me who I am


I've had the Apostles' Creed memorized for a long time. I knew the words long before I understood their meaning. Then somewhere along the way, I became a Third Day fan. Hearing Mac Powell sing Rich Mullins' "Creed" always makes me turn up the volume.

Third Day at Lovett Auditorium in Murray, KY on March 10, 2013
Hearing it live on Sunday night was good for my soul. Plus, well, I hope that heaven sounds like Mac Powell. {That video is from a different conference, but, hey, you get the idea and I highly recommend you listen.}

In those few minutes Sunday so many moments collided in my mind.

There were memories of my childhood days spent in a Catholic church pew. Conversations through the years with friends while I searched for meaning replayed in my head. And I remembered so many decisions that led me here to a life that is nothing like I expected yet everything I've ever wanted.

I do believe in God the Father, almighty maker of heaven and earth.

I do believe in Jesus Christ, the only son of our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.

I do believe on the third day he rose and ascended into heaven.

I do believe he'll come again to judge the living and the dead.

I do believe in the Holy Spirit.

I do believe in one holy church.

I do believe in community.

I do believe in the forgiveness of sins.

I do believe in life everlasting.

And, yes, believing this truth of God makes me who I am.
________

What timing! I had this post mentioning my Catholic childhood brewing before Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named the next pope. 

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{#TellHisStory} It's about the Lamb.


{This post was originally published here last year, but I've edited it for this year.}

I spent $8.84 on my kids' Easter goodies. And that included the leftover jelly beans I got as a snack. I also used some things {Easter story books, plastic eggs and that jelly bean prayer bookmark} from the previous year. We'll also make resurrection rolls and use plastic resurrection eggs to tell this story. His story.

Please know I'm not telling you how to do Easter; I'm just telling you how we do it. And I'm documenting life for myself because these first almost six years of motherhood are already running together in my mushy, momma brain.

So, their baskets. Well, truthfully, basket. I put it all together in one. Anyway, the basket tells the real Easter story. Each jelly bean color represents different things {Jesus' blood, sin, grace, new life, etc.}. The chocolate money is a reminder of Judas' betrayal. The rocks -- edible and filled with chocolate! -- symbolize the stone that was rolled away. And the lamb is a reminder that Jesus is the Lamb of God and always with us.

I want my kids to get it. I want them to understand Easter isn't about bunnies and candy, but about the pivotal day in God's story. And because that story involves God sending his son to live on earth, die a brutal death, and shock the world by rising from the grave, it is our story too. It's about grace. And life. And forgiveness. And hope.

Jesus is alive. The stone was rolled away.

Or, as my daughter, who wasn't quite 5 at the time, said: "Jesus died on a cross. He rose. And we can go to heaven with him." Indeed.

So we're going to talk about it all again in the days leading up to Easter. And, really, the days after that and many, many other times. But especially in 2 1/2 weeks on Easter Sunday.

On Easter Sunday, Cate will wear a dress to church, like she does every week, but I won't buy her anything new. She has quite a selection of dresses, the majority of which hand-me-down from cousins or from a consignment rack. Ben will probably wear a collared shirt, but, again, that's what he wears most weeks. Not because we go to a fancy church, trust me. But where else will a 3-year-old all-boy boy wear a nice shirt? Certainly not the park. And he's got some cute shirts, thanks to a cousin's hand-me-down selection. I may wear a skirt or dress pants. But God won't care if I show up in jeans and flip flops.

Truth is the new clothes and treat-filled baskets don't change us. Jesus rising from that grave offers us new life. He makes us new.

And that's better than any bunny or fancy dress.
________


Here are a couple of the books we've used: "Let's Celebrate Jesus on Easter" {available on Amazon for $2.29} and "A Child's Story of Easter" {available on Amazon for $4.48}. And I always recommend "The Jesus Storybook Bible." Melissa & Doug has a selection of Easter-related toys, including lambs. You can save $10 off an order that totals at least $75  with the code EASTER10 or $5 off a $50 order with EASTER5 through Thursday night.
________

I'm linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and other storytellers. #TellHisStory is a chance to tell a story that connects your story to God's story. Read past #TellHisStory posts hereThis post contains affiliate links. 

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

{God-sized Dreams} Quiet

I need more quiet in my life. 

Yes, I have kids who like to talk. They tell stories to anyone who will listen. Earlier today I asked my 3-year-old boy what he said because I couldn't hear him over my hairdryer. "Nuffin. I's just talkin' to myself."

So there is that. But that's not the noise I want to shush.

I replay conversations over in my mind and then analyze them. Did she know what I meant? I hope she didn't think I was too harsh.

Scenarios build themselves in my head, when really they shouldn't be something I spent any energy thinking about.

Too often I fill silences with unnecessary words. Sometimes they are too harsh or too critical or too much. Other times I should speak up sooner but my desire to please people gets in the away. This juxtaposition of too much and not enough then creates conflict in my mind as I search for clarity and wisdom.

This week's God-sized dream challenge from Holley Gerth took awhile for me to put into words. What do you really want more of in your life? Will you dare to say it out loud? Hint: it probably means having less of something too {ex: more joy, less stress}. Write a post sharing the desire(s) of your heart.

I really want more quiet in my life. I want to hear every word of my kids' stories while being fully present. I want to silence the conversations and scenarios that run on a never-ending loop in my mind with confidence that comes only from seeking God. I want to love and serve with authenticity that quiets any distractions of what's next or who else in the room.

Truth is, I can have it. I can have it because the Lord my God is with me. And he is mighty to save. He'll save me from my wanting-to-do-it-all, people-pleasing ways that sometimes cloud my conversations because I'm too busy replaying conversations and wondering how a scenario will unfold.

He takes great delight in me. He delights in the me who sometimes has too much to say and the me who doesn't know what to say. And he'll quiet me. He'll quiet the over-analysis of words and moments. He'll quiet the critical words that need to never be spoken. He'll rejoice over me with singing. It's when I let God quiet me that he makes himself known. 
________

Tuesdays are God-sized Dream days around here and I'm linking this post along with many, many other dreamers on Holley Gerth's blog. You'll find encouragement, truth and community there. I also recommend Holley's "You're Made for a God-sized Dream." You can buy it from Amazon ($11.19) or DaySpring ($8.24 with code HOLLEY25 at checkout). 

I'm also linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria party for the first time. 

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

R-A-C-E-R-S! Racers! Racers! Go Racers!


Around here, March means basketball. 

We spent Friday night and all day Saturday in Nashville, where our Racers were playing in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. We wore blue and gold all weekend, stayed in a new-favorite hotel, ate good food, visited with friends, ran into other friends, and enjoyed being together.

For you basketball fans, Murray State beat Eastern Kentucky on Friday night to advance, but then lost in a heart-breaking game to Belmont. Even so, I'm so glad we were able to watch these two games. After a season with some ups and downs coming on the heels of last season -- the best ever in MSU history -- these games made me proud to be a Racer.

Friday night the game didn't tip off until about 8:30 p.m. Y'all. My kids usually go to bed around 7 p.m. So the game didn't end until 10:30ish and then it was a little after 11 by the time we got into our hotel room. And, well, you know, it's exciting to stay in a hotel. So it took the kids some time to settle down in their pull-out-bed and it was around midnight before all was quiet from their portion of the room, which was actually their own room.

We managed to sleep in a little and then had a leisurely morning eating breakfast and hanging out at the hotel before we went to Opry Mills mall, where we had lunch at Rainforest Cafe with friends and shopped some. And then it was on to the championship game.

Most of the day was full of me being proud of how my kids behaved and reacted. I truly treasure the words from my non-momma friend who reminded me in an email exchange that making memories is an important part of parenthood. She's right. And, you know, I didn't take a ton of pictures like I tend to do, especially during a road trip. I was thankful for the time to be truly present with my family, laugh with my husband, and just enjoy each other.

Do like college basketball? Who will you root for in March?
________

Look back at our other trips to the OVC Tournament: 2012. 2011. 2010. 2009. 2008.

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