Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Six Things I Learned in April

I sat with a friend celebrating my birthday a few days early at the same restaurant we met for lunch in late January for her birthday. I couldn't believe it had been three months. Where are you going, 2014? Slow down. Pretty please? Although, yes, I'm glad May is coming. It's my favorite.

1. Sometimes it's OK to let a book sit. 

I've had "Restless" by Jennie Allen sitting here for awhile. And then she said something on an (in)courage video last week that prompted me to pick up her book. Oh, I'm so glad I did. And I'm glad I'm reading it now and not two months ago when it first arrived in the mail.

There are many good books out there, but we can't read them all right when we discover them. And that's OK. On the heels of "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee and "Chasing God" by Angie Smith, my heart is ready for "Restless." I don't know why I continue to be surprised God is in the details.

2. Mothers react to their children in ways nobody does.

My son had a hacking cough that turned out to be bronchitis. The day before the diagnosis, we were eating out at a restaurant with my mom when Ben threw up everything he'd eaten. First he puked in his basket with leftover corn dog and corn on the cob. Not wanting to disgust the people around us, I started walking him toward the bathroom. Of course, we didn't make it. He puked again.

And I caught it.


Nobody told me about this part of motherhood. I'm almost seven years in, and I decided it would be a good idea to catch my son's puke. So I carried him and the puke to the bathroom, where he puked more in the toilet and I washed my hands. Twice.

Yes, this needs to be noted as his first puking episode ever. At least there is a story to go along with it.

3. Strep has the strangest symptoms.

In another strange diagnosis stories about two weeks after the bronchitis episode, I took Ben back to the pediatrician because he had spent the week peeing excessively. I realize that borders on too much information being shared, but, hey, that's sometimes what you get a momma's blog. Anyway, I was convinced he had an urinary tract infection. Or perhaps I was just hoping for an explanation for why he peed 16 times in 12 hours on a Tuesday.

Well, by Thursday, I learned excessive peeing is a symptom of strep. Really. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Turns out, Ben didn't have a urinary tract infection, but he did have strep throat with no other symptoms beyond lots of pee.

And, thing is, I've had plenty of prior experiences with strep, even with strange symptoms. Impetigo. Two cases with just one fever. A sore throat and an unobservant mom. Lessons from a high fever. Impetigo, again. Still, this is a new one. Add excessive peeing to the list.

Of course, I was watching my friend's kid that day and toted her to the doctor's office with us. Hopefully Ben didn't share his strep germs. Always an adventure, I tell you.

4. The pollen count is high around here. 

I have no scientific measurement. Just the aforementioned bronchitis and strep stories as well as Cate's sinus infection and pneumonia. All this month. Come on May ...

5. Jesus is still risen even if we don't do everything we plan.

We read {almost} nightly from "The Jesus Storybook Bible" the week leading up to Easter. We had multiple conversations about why Easter mattered. Cate her a guest speaker portraying a disciple at school and Ben made resurrection rolls with his class.

We still haven't talked through the Easter story using resurrection eggs or their meaningful Easter basket of candy that tells the story in chocolate money, rock candy, jelly beans and a chocolate cross. It's all still sitting on the counter. Easter still matters.

6. Needtobreathe's new album is really good. 

I especially love "The Heart" and "Multiplied." Here's a video of their performance on David Letterman. No, I didn't stay up late enough to watch it. Isn't that the beauty of the Internet?

How's your April been? What did you learn?

I love these month-end posts prompted by Emily at Chatting at the Sky. Here are previous month's recaps from 2013: JuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovember. And from 2014: January. February. March. Affiliate links included.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

May is coming!

I love May. And it's coming this week!

I'm turning 35 on Saturday. And then my girl turns 7 next week. Yes, that's among the reasons I love May. I also love the transition from spring the summer. We also get to celebrate mommas this month! And a new sense of freedom comes with the break in routine as the school year is ending.

So, May, I'm glad you're coming. These April showers are going to bring the flowers ...

With May, comes a just-the-four-of-us trip I'm really excited about. I'll tell you more about that later this week.

I'm also excited to share more of my motherhood story with you in May. I'm sharing at three different blogs I love. Jennifer Dukes Lee is hosting my words on Cate's birthday next week. Kayse Pratt is having me later in May.

And Jennifer Jackson Linck is hosting The Messy and Majestic of Motherhood series, starting today! Each Monday in May will feature a guest post. {I'm down for May 19!} At the end of the month, there's going to a be a fabulous Mother's Day prize pack.

Jennifer and I met online when we started chatting about adoption not long after her book was released. We've since talked about writing our stories, brainstormed specifics about the ebooks we're writing, and swapped editing services {or, well, we will when I get her a copy of my book ...}.

Jennifer is releasing an ebook called "Trucks, Tantrums & Trusting Him" just in time for Mother's Day. Yes, she's a boy mom, but her book is an authentic message of finding God in the ordinary moments any momma has experienced. "But in the middle of the mess, there’s hope. In the moments I feel myself unraveling, there’s a Savior who holds me together." Oh, aren't Jennifer's words true?!

See, May is going to be a good month. I'm so glad it's coming! Stay tuned for more ...

Are you looking forward to anything?

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oh, the places we go ... {Murray edition}

This weekend was gorgeous! Sure, there are storms predicted the next few days, but they'll pass. And you'll want to get out again.

My daughter is counting down until the end of school. I'm hearing people talk about what they want to do this summer and where they want to go. So, western Kentucky folks, I decided to share some places around here we've loved lately in case you're looking for something to do or somewhere to eat.

Discovery Park of America
Union City, Tennessee

It seems awfully random this children's museum is in the middle of west Tennessee, but I'm glad it is. Only an hour from Murray, we enjoyed this place the first weekend of April. The outdoor exhibits are fantastic and my recommendation that the indoors ones are too is based on my 4-year-old boy's assessment. Greg, Cate and I arrived later than the rest of our group because of her soccer game, but we enjoyed the time we were there. And even after five hours, Ben wasn't ready to go either!

Discovery Park of America is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $13.95 for people 13 and older and $10.95 for kids 4 to 12 years old. Children younger than 4 are free. You can also become a member, which includes an annual pass that pays for itself after four visits as well as other perks.

The Gathering Place
Kentucky Lake in Murray, Kentucky

Yes, this is our own lake house, but I really do love it out there. Even though the clean sheets and household maintenance are my responsibility, being out there is still a getaway. Our family likes to swim, fish, skip rocks, eat on the back porch, play games, hang out with friends, and catch frogs out there.

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom house is available for vacation rentals of at least two nights throughout the year. The summer calendar is filling up, but there are still some vacancies.

The Gathering Place rents for $350/night or $1,800/week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Off-season rates are $250/night or $1,200/week. The house is stocked with linens, eating and cooking utensils, and WiFi. 

Wild Mountain Bakery & Cafe
412 Main St., Murray, Kentucky

This new bakery has freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Need I say more? I hear the bagels and bread are good too.

Wild Mountain Bakery & Cafe is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. 

Land Between the Lakes
A National Recreation Area between Murray and Cadiz, Kentucky

Honestly, we don't use Land Between the Lakes as much as we should. It's lovely out there. Just earlier this week, Cate's class took a field trip to the Nature Station, where they learned about trees and animals. Then we did a small hike on a trail near the Golden Pond Visitor's Center. Last spring, the school took a field trip to Hematite Lake that the kids and I really enjoyed.

Land Between the Lakes offers hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, boating, fishing, hunting, site-seeing, and wildlife viewing. Check its website for locations and schedules. 

Duncan's Market & Deli
6159 State Route 94 E, Murray, Kentucky

This recently reopened and now serves Belew's burgers, for those of you locals who like the burgers and milkshakes in Aurora. Yes, obviously, there are corn dogs Ben enjoys. We like that Duncan's is close to The Gathering Place and accepts credit cards, unlike Belew's.

The grill is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Berry Farm
Fulton, Kentucky

Picking strawberries here has become a seasonal favorite for us. We've been the past three years, sometimes multiple times. {See visits from May 2011, April 2012May 2012, and May 2013.} We haven't been yet this year because it just opened this weekend. I'm eagerly waiting to get this outing on my calendar!

The Berry Farm offers already-picked berries as well as you-pick patches. You pay per pound, but it looks like the 2013 rates haven't been posted. Either way, our experiences have been these berries are worth picking and eating! Follow The Berry Farm on Facebook or call 270-468-0110.

Local friends, have you gone anywhere worth recommending lately?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

{Compassion International} Help us celebrate!

Alexandres in Bolivia shares my birthday. She'll turn 4 and I'll turn 35 on May 3. Honestly, I'm still one of those strange adults who likes my birthday. I like to reflect on my life and celebrate the life I'm living.

I want Alexandres to be able to do the same.

If she's sponsored through Compassion International for $38 a month, Alexandres will get healthy food and clean water, receive immunizations for major diseases, be taught how to receive regular health and dental exams, have an opportunity to study at school and learn life skills, learn how to build relationships, see the love of Christ demonstrated through staff and sponsors.

To live a life worth celebrating, Alexandres needs to know she's loved and valued. Hopefully she already knows that from the love of her family in Bolivia, but have some medical, educational and spiritual care would help deliver the message.

Plus her sponsor can deliver the message of love and support through the letters exchanged with her. Sponsors also receive updated pictures and information from the Compassion-supported church/school where the child is involved.

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with CompassionCompassion Sunday is coming up. This annual event draws the church's attention to the needs of the world's poorest children, like Alexandres. Compassion Sunday is May 4 -- the day after Alexandres and I celebrate our birthdays. I'm hoping she has a sponsor by then because I'm not sure anything would make a grander gift.

Will you consider sponsoring Alexandres? If so, click here for more information. Or maybe you'd like to find a child who shares a birthdate with your child or is from a country you already love. That's wonderful too. You can find other children to sponsor here.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Growing Friends

"Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: 
'What? You too? I thought that no one but myself ... '"
{C.S. Lewis}

Cate bumped her head into a guy's arm at Qdoba last week, causing his drink to drop to the ground. It splattered on Cate's legs and prompted some tears. A combination of embarrassment and frustration, a teary Cate buried her face into my shoulder.

Her friend Malaika walked over to my other side, made eye contact, and said, "I know how you feel ..." before she and her mom told a story of Malaika accidentally spitting her gum into another woman's hair while cheering at a basketball game. They laughed at the story now as they retold it.

Cate wasn't laughing yet but she had a friend who came along side her in the midst of her embarrassment and frustration. The words "I know how you feel ..." softened Cate's demeanor.

Malaika walked with Cate into the bathroom, where they washed off her soda-splattered legs. My girl walked out cleaner and happier.

And I caught a glimpse of friendship working its transforming power.

I'm thankful for this season that has given us more time with Malaika and her parents as our girls play soccer together and the dads coach together. Without launching into Michael W. Smith's "Friends are friends forever ...," I have learned friends have to adapt as seasons change. And, yes, sometimes that's hard. Schedules, commitments and priorities sometimes work against the logistics of friendships. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Schedule a play date after school at the park. Meet for breakfast instead of lunch. Get together with your friend's family on the weekend. Email. Vox. Text. Call. What you used to do might not always work. But friendships do withstand the test of time if you invest yourself.

It's important to teach kids to help with chores around the house, how to read and make scrambled eggs, when to say please and thank you. But it's also important to teach them how to be a friend and appreciate when someone is a friend to them. Being a friend and appreciating friends is a life-long process, but I really believe it's never too early to start.

Joining Holley Gerth for her weekly dose of encouragement at Coffee for Your Heart and Lyli Dunbar for Thought-Provoking Thursday.

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The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is here!

Who wants a deal on 78 ebooks, two audio files, two ecourses and two printable packets PLUS some other health and home resources? I thought you would. So read on ...

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is a complete library of great ebooks on homemaking — a truly valuable knowledge base you’ll use for many years to come. When I was looking through the titles, I realized some were relevant right now and others would be down the road while preparing for a particular holiday or a different season of life.

Unlike a library, though, you don’t have to spend years building it up. The Ultimate Bundles team has done the hard work for you, searching the web to find the best eBooks from top homemaking authors and combining them into one essential collection that you can buy in one simple purchase.

I haven't seen a more comprehensive set of homemaking resources anywhere — and certainly not at this price. Bought separately, they’d cost a total of $698 (not including $200+ in bonuses!). But you can have all of them for just $29.97!

I splurged and for an extra $10, got the Kindle editions. That way I'll have access to both the PDFs and Kindle-formatted editions. I was glad for that option.

This fabulous deal is only available for six days, starting today and continuing through Monday, April 28.


So. Want to see what's included?






Faith {For Kids}

Financial Stewardship

Health & Wellness

Holidays & Special Events


Pregnancy & Babies


Working from Home & Blogging


In addition to all the amazing eResources, this bundle includes the best bonus offers it's ever had. These deals are worth more than $200.
  1. DaySpring :: A FREE 10-pack of Premium Greeting Cards. ($20.00 Value. Standard shipping applies.)
  2. HopeInk :: $15 HopeInk store credit to be used towards anything + a FREE 8×10 Art Print with order. ($39.00 Value. Standard shipping applies.)
  3. Redeeming Beauty Mineral Makeup :: 3 FREE eyeshadows of your choice from Redeeming Beauty. ($16.47 Value. Standard shipping applies - only ships to US and Canada.)
  4. Marie-Madeline Studio :: A $15 store credit for anything in Marie-Madeline Studio's online store. ($15.00 value. Standard shipping applies.)
  5. Once a Month Meals :: A FREE One Month Pro Membership from Once a Month Meals. ($16.00 Value. No shipping required.)
  6. Dizolve :: FREE 64-load pack of Dizolve Laundry Strips for you PLUS a Free 64-load pack of Dizolve Laundry Strips for food banks. ($25.98 value. Standard shipping [$3] applies. Only ships in the US.)
  7. TrilLight Health :: Get a FREE 2 oz. bottle of a liquid health formula OR $15 store credit from Trilight Health. ($15.00 Value. Standard shipping rates apply.)
  8. ListPlanIt :: Free 3-month membership OR 3 free ePlanners from ListPlanIt. ($15.00 value. No shipping required.)
  9. Bulk Herb Store :: Instant download of the instructional video Making Herbs Simple Volume 2 for FREE from Bulk Herb Store. (up to a $15.00 Value. No shipping required.)
  10. Fit2B™ Studio :: FREE 2-Month Online Fitness Membership at Fit2B™ Studio. (up to a $20.00 Value. No shipping required.)

Remember, this bundle is available through Monday, April 28.

Disclosure: I'm an affiliate for The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, meaning I earn a percentage of each sale through my links. But buying through my links doesn't change the price for you and I appreciate your support of this blog. I only promote products I believe in and have already bought my own bundle of ebooks. 

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Monday, April 21, 2014

More of God

Jesus is still risen today. And next week. And next month. And in November.

That's what I've been thinking about today.

The mourning and waiting and celebrating really are what make Easter matter, but they also exist in our everyday life. That's what I want to remember on this Monday after the celebrating and proclaiming and praising.

I gave up worshiping Productivity for Lent. And, honestly, I feel like God changed me in those 46 days. I don't say that to be dramatic, but because not bowing down to my to-do list created with much-too-high expectations is a process God has had me on. For years. So, obviously, I'm not a totally different person in six and a half weeks, but I'm less stressed and less hurried because God taught me some things.

My days are less defined by my production. I've laid down my to-do list for relationships. I've set aside what I thought I needed to do for my friend who needed some help and encouragement.

I've gotten plenty done in what's a busy season, but I've enjoyed my life in the process. I'm embracing a one-thing-at-a-time approach. Yes, I write things down on my calendar that's usually in my purse, but I cross them off when I can.

Sure, some days I rushed around and spoke harsher in the hurry, but those moments have been less. And I've realized God's given me perspective to balance my natural tendencies.

I've demanded less of myself so I can have more of God. 

For someone who has crammed too much into her calendar for far too long, it's quite appropriate I ended the Lenten season on my the back porch of our lake house with a fiction book, good food, my family, and my best friend's family. The view there gives peace to my soul, regardless of whatever is happening in real life.

"Christ continually shouts through the universe, 'You have a love that is already yours. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You have nothing to prove to Me. You are significant and preapproved and utterly cherished. Not because you are good, but because are you are Mine.' ... This is what God does, this God of all glory and dominion who reaches down with a holy hand to lift our chins and turn our eyes toward the Son, so we may look full in His wonderful face and 'forget ourselves.'" 

Isn't that what the Easter message is really about? As I let God deeper into my life, I remember Jesus is enough. Who I am because of what he endured on a cross and how he shocked the world by rising again is what should define my days.

This Lenten journey was prompted by Jennifer Dukes Lee's book "Love Idol." You can read my previous "Love Idol"-inspired posts here. Obviously, I recommend the book, if you haven't read it. {I posted a review here.}

I'm linking this post with Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory and Beth Stiff's Three Word Wednesday.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I need to stop chasing God

Chasing God is exhausting. Yet God doesn't get weary of loving us.

Truly amazing, huh? 

I've been thinking about this lately. Since I first told God I would follow him, I've still struggled to give up control and trust. So instead of following my Savior, I've spent too much time rushing around trying to catch him on my own.

"Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own." 
{2 Corinthians 5:14-15 in The Message}

Too often I've let my own expectations move me. Approval-seeking perfectionism propelled me when Christ's compassion and love should have compelled me. I've let my circumstances define my mood and other people's reactions dictate my emotions. I've let my own plans become my priorities.

"Over and over in Paul's letter, he urges his listeners to look past their current conditions and seek ways to bring glory to God in spite of the situation, and that doesn't happen by waiting to feel differently about it."
{Angie Smith in "Chasing God"}

Some days I wish my son would obey quicker and annoy his sister less. There are times I wish my daughter would quite worrying about what hasn't happened yet. I carry my own burdens of wanting to do more, thinking I should have said less, and wondering why details are the way they are.

But I need to lay those weights down. I need to stop chasing God.

God's got it. He doesn't need me trying to fix things and wait until I've got my act together. Really, if that were the case, I wouldn't actually need a savior.

But I do.

Because I'm human. So are you.

And we're going to struggle.

Our kids aren't going to listen.

Our plans are going to fall through.

We're going to lose our cool.

We're going to laugh til we cry and cry til we laugh.

We aren't always going to have the words our friend needs.

Other days we're going to say too much.

People are going to disappoint us and we're not going to please everyone we love.

But it's in those struggles, we find our Savior. Yes, sometimes it means letting go of our grudge or lowering our voice. But God's there.

"And the process of becoming more like Him is called sanctification; put simply, it's just the way we move toward righteousness and away from sin in our lives. We won't (in the life) ever be fully sanctified because we live in a bodies that aren't capable of perfection, but because of His love, we push ourselves to grow more like Him every day."
{Angie Smith in "Chasing God"}

In "Chasing God," Angie Smith has reminded me to recognize my need for a Savior. Following Him rather than chasing Him is likely to produce some longer lasting results. In her book, she made me want to seek God more, knowing it's going to be a life-long process. {She also made me laugh about Trapper Keepers because it's like she saw my middle school self, wanting to organize my life into those folders inside the fancy binder decorated with a cat.}

I haven't always been able to laugh at myself. That's something that's come as I've realized I don't need to chase my Savior. More importantly, each day has been part of the journey to walk farther away from my sinful nature and close to God's joy and righteousness. God's love compels me right here in the midst of my ordinary, earthly struggles.

I received a free copy of "Chasing God" in exchange for a review from Icon Media Group. I was delayed in posting my review, but, honestly, it was good for me to read the book when I did recently. Angie Smith's message complemented some other things God has been teaching me.

I actually ordered hardback "Chasing God" when it released in January, so I'm going to giveaway that copy, which hasn't been read yet. So, who wants to read it? To enter to win, leave a comment about what God's teaching you about your everyday life. I'll randomly choose a winner Thursday, April 24.

Updated to congratulate Beth Stiff, who blogs at Simply Beth. The book is coming your way! Thanks to those who shared in the comments.

Updated on May 7 to include a second giveaway! Icon Media Group is offering another copy of "Chasing God" to one reader. Those of you who commented below will be entered to win this time too. Plus anyone else is welcome to comment below on what God's teaching you these days. I'll randomly choose a winner on Monday, May 18. Congratulations to Mindy on winning the second copy! Send me an email with your mailing address and I'll get Icon Media Group to send you the book.

I'm linking this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStoryThought-Provoking Thursday at Lyli Dunbar's blog and Jill Savage's Hearts at Home blog hop

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

{Coming Soon} The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

Y'all know I like to read.

So, if you're with me on that. Stay with me, I have a deal to tell you about!

Introducing ...

Nice, huh? I do understand that ebooks are trendy and popular. You can find them on any subject. But if you think you'd like any of these books included in this bundle, you should go ahead and buy it. It's $29.97 for a bundle of ebooks that would total more than $850 if bought individually. Plus there are bonus products and memberships included!

Topics included ...

  • Homemaking
  • Parenting
  • Faith
  • Marriage
  • Health & food
  • Pregnancy & babies
  • Working from home
  • Holidays
  • Self-care

I know some of the writing included and know a couple of the authors and if those writers are any indication of the bundle's quality, you won't be disappointed. If you're like me and prefer Kindle-ready ebooks, then you can pay a little more and have that.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will be on sale only April 23-28. Stay tuned next week and I'll share more specifics as well as links to purchase these fabulous books.

So, tell me, do you like ebooks?

I'm an affiliate for this bundle of books, so I earn a percentage of the sales through my links next week. But I'm sharing this offer with you because I think it's a fabulous deal and I'm going to have a new library of ebooks!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making Easter Matter

I want my kids to understand Easter is Jesus' grandest story. That story -- The Story -- involves God sending his son to live on earth, testify of the kingdom coming, die a brutal death, and shock the world by rising from the grave. Our new life is possible because of Jesus' willingness to lay down his life for us out of obedience to his Father. So it is our story too. It's one about grace. And life. And forgiveness. And hope.

Jesus is alive. The stone was rolled away.

That's an exciting story. One that's way better than bunnies and chicks in a basket of pretend grass that shows up in random places for months to come. With the truth in mind, their "Easter basket," yes, singular, has looked liked this in the past:

  • Jelly beans :: Each color represents elements of The Story. Red is for the blood he gave, green for the grass he made, yellow for the sun so bright, orange is for the edge of night, black is for the sins we made, white is for grace he gave, purple is for the hour of sorrow, and pink is for the new tomorrow.
  • Chocolate coins :: The edible money is a reminder of Judas' betrayal
  • Candy rocks :: Sweet symbols of the stone that was rolled away! I couldn't find actual candy rocks this year, so I got Peanut M&Ms ... close, right?
  • Lamb :: One year I gave them each a stuffed one, another year I used smaller party favors, but, regardless, this reminds them Jesus is the Lamb of God. 

Other ways to make Easter meaningful ...

RESURRECTION ROLLS :: I'm sure there are many recipes out there, but this is the one we've used the past few years. {Thanks to Jennifer Schmidt of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam sharing it at!} And it's worked well, which, really, is the most important thing when you're expecting a marshmallow to disappear. {See our original experience from 2011.}

JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE :: My favorite children's Bible is a great Easter resource. Erin at Home With the Boys has outlined what to read through this week leading up to Easter. {Erin's printable is here.}

RESURRECTION EGGS :: These eggs are another fun way to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and rising from the grave.

How do you celebrate Easter?

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Monday, April 14, 2014

LIGHT :: Songs of Spring

Here we are in the middle of April. After the winter we've had, I'm grateful for signs of spring. Yes, even the stormy morning we've having here.

I'm also grateful for the signs of new perspective in my life. A spiritual new life, if you will.

The process God's had me on for awhile is intertwining imperfection and light. The message of letting go of my perfectionist tendencies so I can see Jesus in my ordinary moments is one that has been spoken into my life through books, songs and friends. Different versions of the same message have found their way into my heart.

And I'm noticing as I focus on this one message, I keep hearing it. Like songs of spring.

God created the light that is day and the darkness that is night. And he's been in charge from the beginning. I want to be a light that glorifies him and in doing so I know he lightens my load, giving me more opportunities to delight in everyday life.

So I thought I'd share some of the songs that have been sung throughout my days as I embrace this transforming message of LIGHT :

"Pushing Back the Dark" by Josh Wilson :: "The city on a hill, it should be shining still. Every sinner saved by grace, has a purpose, has a place inside the bigger plan, we might not understand. But if we just keep walking on, we will see the Kingdom come. Whatever you do, just don't look back. Oh somebody needs the light you have. Whatever you do, just don't lose heart. Keep on pushing back the dark ..." 
"Marvelous Light" by Ellie Holcomb :: "I am not who I once was, defined by all the things I’d done. Afraid my shame would be exposed, afraid of really being known. But then He gave my heart a home. So I walked out of the darkness and into the light, from fear of shame into the hope of life. Mercy called my name and made a way to fly out of the darkness and into the light ... There's no place I'd rather be. Your light is marvelous. Your light is marvelous. You have come to set us free. You are marvelous; your light is marvelous" 
"Shine On" by Needtobreathe :: "Somewhere between the end and the point where we begin, there's a fire burning brightly that's found it's way too dim. When the feeling's gone ... Shine on, shine on ..." 
"God of Brilliant Lights" by Aaron Shust :: "He is lord over all. His reign will never end. Through the fire and the flood, He draws his children in. He's the light of the world, brighter than the brightest star. The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us, breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth. Oooh, his love is like an ocean. Oooh, forever overflowing. The God of brilliant lights is shining over us ..." 
"My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective :: "My Lighthouse, my lighthouse. Shining in the darkness, I will follow You. My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse. I will trust the promise, You will carry me safe to shore ... I won't fear what tomorrow brings. With each morning I'll rise and sing. My God's love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea ..."
"Let It Rain" by Zac Brown Band :: "Breathe in deep, let it out. Wash the bitterness out of your mouth. There's no room left for darkness when you're filled with the light it comes out ..." {Read more about this song in my life.}

"All Things Possible" by Mark Schultz :: "Even when it feels like the light is fading and I've lost my way, still I’m holding on to the One who’s making all things possible ... My God is strong and mighty. My God is faithful. My hope is in the Lord, for He is able."

"Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson :: "And we're dancing in the minefields. We're sailing in the storm. This is harder than we dreamed. But I believe that's what the promise is for. So when I lose my way, find me. When I loose love's chains, bind me. At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days. When I forget my name, remind me. 'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there's nothing left to fear. So I'll walk with you in the shadow lands till the shadows disappear ..."

Now it's your turn. Is it a theme of your year on you anticipated or one that surprised you? How has that message been reinforced through your life? Tell me about the songs you're hearing these days. If you share in the comments, you'll be entered to win a mix CD with these songs and others I've been liking. I'll randomly choose a winner Monday, April 21. 

Updated to congratulate Barbie from My Freshly Brewed Life on winning! Barbie, you should have a tweet from me asking for your mailing address. Thanks to those who shared in the comments. 

I'm linking this post with others who are reflecting on their One Word for 2014 over at Circles of Faith. If you're looking for more resources, "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee and "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch have been instrumental in my journey. 

The bracelets ... a few people have asked about my bracelets. The silver one is from and is designed by Lisa Leonard. See it and other bracelets, necklaces and charms here. The beaded bracelet is one piece that wraps around from WorldCrafts, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, hand bags and other products that help women living in poverty. 

I'm linking this post with Circles of Faith, Soli Deo Gloria at Jen Ferguson's blog, Inspire Me Monday at Angie Ryg's blog, Three Word Wednesday with Beth Stiff, and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

When death teaches about living

"We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
{2 Corinthians 4:18}

We drive by the cemetery almost every day on the way to school, but the last four years we've actually only stopped to gather around the headstone on April 6. {2011. 2012. 2013.}

It's been four years since my father-in-law died unexpectedly. He was 58 and had very few health problems. He was involved and engaged in all sorts of community organizations. While his death left a gaping hole in the Taylor family, it has also taught us about living.

Gary believed in leaving a legacy and lived accordingly. He didn't hold grudges and was generous. He fathered his three boys long after they didn't live under his roof anymore. Those three boys who are now men and their momma, who I adore, continue to live out that legacy.

I think about Gary often, mostly how I wish my kids knew him. Cate had just less than three years with him and Ben was just 4 months old when he died. When we say "Granddaddy," they know who we mean because we tell them stories. They see pictures. And they know where his body lays.

Thankfully, they also know where his soul lives.

Gary left earth four years ago yesterday, but he still teaches us. So much of Cate's perception of heaven is that she believes her beloved Granddaddy is there. With Jesus. Now Ben is learning that too.

"Reality isn't restricted by the limits of our ability to understand. ... And heaven is real even if we have a hard time envisioning it. But there's good news -- God has told us enough that we can begin to do just that. ... We do have the necessary earthly reference points to gain a significant -- though incomplete -- understanding of heaven."
{From "In Light of Eternity" by Randy Alcorn}

Heaven goes far beyond Granddaddy, but I can't help but to be grateful for the lessons of living and dying that he continues teaching us from his eternal home. His death has given our family perspective. We gather at the cemetery each year because it's a good visual for the kids and prompts reminiscing, but we know it's only his earthly body there. His soul that loves Jesus is alive and well.

Joining Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart with this post. 

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Come Alive While Waiting

Waiting is hard, yet it is something we all do. Every day, many times a day, really.

We wait for lights to turn green. We wait for people to return calls and extend invitations. We wait for the mail to be delivered. We wait for dinner to be ready and bedtime to come. We wait for the next season and the next adventure. We wait for babies to be born, job promotions to come, sickness to pass, people to understand what we meant, the necessary finances to come.

We wait.

Waiting was a theme in God making a momma. My husband and I tried for two years to get pregnant. The waiting broke my heart, but I have since learned I didn't approach that season in the way God intended.

I waited for a positive pregnancy test like I was wasting my time. I didn't draw near to God or seek out truth in the moment.

Recently, I was reading about Ruth waiting for Boaz to resolve the matter of caring for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the proper way. In "Take Refuge," a study of Ruth, authors Lara Williams and Katie Orr write about how waiting is active. "Wait" means to "bind," which is interesting to remember while reading Isaiah 40:30-31:

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

What if while waiting we were binding ourselves to the Lord?

{Read the rest over at my friend Jenn Hand's Coming Alive blog ...}

Jenn Hand recently released "31 Days to Coming Alive in Christ," a fabulous devotional that will make you laugh, embrace your real life, and find Christ in your everyday moments. This post was inspired by Day 7 in the book. You can order "31 Days to Coming Alive" at Amazon. It's well worth the $3.99. Read my review here.

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