Monday, September 25, 2017

Write it out

I'm a paper and pen kind of girl. I will forever have a real paper calendar. I love lists. I function best when I can physically write things down. I remember them better. I feel accomplished. Pen and paper work for me.

And so, it's no surprise that what works best in my day-to-day life also is effective for my spiritual growth. At our kickoff Moms Group meeting (read more about that here) we gave each mom a plain composition book. (We found the jewel toned covers at Walmart).

The moms decorated their journals as our kickoff craft.

And I'm sure some of those moms decorated their book while thinking, "What in the world am I going to do with a notebook?"

They could take meeting notes in it. Record the contact info for moms they meet. Remember table prayer requests. Doodle. Whatever.

I took mine on vacation last week. I am not even sure why I grabbed it instead of my regular journal. I love to write out my prayers, take sermon notes, etc.

As I sat in a different church (our vacation church), listening to a different pastor, taking notes, my mind started to wander. And I began to panic. I still had a week left of days on the beach, but I was already becoming anxious about my to-do list when I got back home.

The longer I worried, the longer my to-do list seemed to grow. I started thinking about our next mom group meeting, other ministries at church, my house, my laundry....And in the midst of my panicked thoughts, the Holy Spirit seemed to tap me on the shoulder and say, "Are you listening to the passage this pastor is reading from?"

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,  Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you," When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord, Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you," And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
John 20:19-22, NLT

The pastor was encouraging this group of believers to take ownership of the mission that Jesus was passing on to His disciples. He was encouraging them to take the Gospel to those around them. And He was reassuring them and giving them confidence when He said "Peace...

I scribbled down a few other references to look into more later. And started praying that the Lord would help me to remember the peace He has already promised me. In that moment...I calmed down.

Later that night, after I had put the kids to bed, I pulled out this notebook. I wrote out the Scripture references I had listed that morning in church. And this one in particular resonated well with me.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you."
Isaiah 26:3

When I write out Scripture, the words seem to come alive to me. I am more focused. More involved. And somehow more receptive to the Holy Spirit's prompting.

I then, wrote out my to-do list. I wrote names of people I needed to contact. Things I needed to check on. I wrote it all out. And I prayed over that list.

"Lord, You have called me to be a wife, mom, caretaker of my home, and a girl who shares Jesus with others. Help me to remember the peace that you have promised me. Thank you for the Holy Spirit and His involvement in my life. "

As I looked back over that to-do list, the tasks didn't seem so daunting. Ideas popped into my head about ways that it would all get accomplished when it needed to be accomplished. The Lord was in control of my emotions, my anxiety and my to-do list.

I don't know how you may use journals - but I have found that my spiritual life and my day-to-day life must intersect. And I have found that the tools that work for my day also work in my relationship with the Lord.

I encouraged my mom friends to use their journal to write out some Scripture. To use their journal to write out some prayers. We prayed over those journals, and I know that the Lord has ways that He wants to work.

I passed around this Scripture Writing Plan geared towards Thanksgiving. If you'd like to join in on the challenge, let me know how it goes for you!

And just think...a few generations from now...someone may stumble across one of these journals written by a mom who loved Jesus. They may read of struggles and victories. They may see the good things our Lord has done.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Better Together: MOMs Group Kickoff

We had planned, prepared and prayed for this kickoff meeting of our MOMs Group (Ministry of Motherhood). I was anxious to see who would show up and how God would begin to work in these moms.

I told the moms that they probably entered the room that morning one of three ways.
1. Totally confident having attended in previous years. They saw familiar faces, felt comfortable dropping their kids off in childcare and knew where to sit.
2. Feeling like they didn't need anyone in their life.
3. Feeling totally alone as they entered a new room, new ministry and new group of faces.

But we were so glad that they came and we were anticipating what God was going to do in this group and in the families represented. The Lord has shown us over and over again in small and large details that He was in control and that He was up to something big.

I love that Scripture is full of parenting references and illustrations. The family dynamic has been a part of God's plan since the beginning. When I became a mom, I even understood my relationship with my Heavenly Father better.

I also love that God uses moms. We have the privilege of being one of the first people to share Jesus with our kids. 2 Timothy 1:5 tells of the significant influence that a grandmother and mother had on Timothy's spiritual life.

"I remember you genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois, and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you." 
2 Timothy 1:5, NLT

Our key verse for the year is such a good reminder of the fact that our God didn't want us to do this life alone. 

The Lord knew we would have long, discouraging days. And Scripture tells us over and over that believers are "better together." There is great strength in like-minded people pushing each other towards the same goal.

And although I appreciate any form of a compliment (great hair, nice shirt, cute house, etc), I think those verses in Hebrews are talking about much more than flattery. We are to be reminding each other of truth. Reminding each other to get back in the Word. Reminding each other to rely on God's faithfulness.

Last week, before our kickoff meeting, I did have a few moments of panic. Everything was planned out. Nothing was really wrong...but I was panicking. I told a friend of my struggle and instead of her saying "You'll do great." or "This will be so fun." She simply reminded me to get my eyes back on the goodness of our God. She encouraged me to write a list of all the things our God had done for this group - all the details He had arranged. And after about 5 minutes of listing all these details where He was at work, my attitude changed from panicked to excited. I just needed a friend to motivate me to rely on God's faithfulness.

We passed out the book Better Together to these moms as a resource and an encouragement. As chapters coincide with meeting topics, we will remind the moms to read. One of the intro chapters asks the question "Who are you momming with?"

The Bible gives an example of a friendship between two moms: Mary and Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-45).  Mary was the mother of Jesus. She was young and inexperienced.  She was needing a friend. She couldn't even turn to Joseph at this point because he was most likely still dealing with his own emotions and anxious thoughts. Elisabeth was a woman beyond the child-bearing years. She thought that she was baron, but became pregnant. She would be the mother of John the Baptist. Elisabeth was also the first to greet Mary as the mother of the Messiah.

I love that there is no rivalry between these two moms. Elisabeth didn't feel inferior or jealous of Mary carrying the Son of God. Their age difference was insignificant. She simply encouraged Mary and spoke truth into her life.

"Elisabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, 'God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.
You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said."
Luke 1:42,45

In contrast, the story of Hagar in Genesis 16 is full of rivalry. Hagar was a slave, a single mother, a victim of some awkward circumstances...and she was alone.

But even though she was alone, God encouraged Hagar. In verse 13 she refers to God as the "God who sees me." When she had no-one, God was looking out for her.

I encouraged the ladies with a few thoughts.
1. Praise God when you are blessed with a friendship like Mary and Elisabeth that helps you to get your eyes back on the Lord.

2. Know that the Lord will sustain you and encourage you during those lonely times. He sees you.

3. Look for lives to pour into. It's not just about our receiving encouragement.

I handed each of the moms a notecard (you can buy these cute notecards in a pack of 8 for $1 at Target). I challenged them to find someone to write a brief note to this week. Speak truth into their lives. Stick a stamp on it. Or drop it into a diaper bag.

"You are a great mom. I am praying for you as you invest in your children's eternity." "I see you taking your kids to Awana each week. Keep going!" "Praying you are able to keep your eyes on the rock as you face this hard time (Ps. 61:2)"

And I also challenged them to take a few minutes to write out the good things that God has done for them. They could wait til the next moment of panic, or begin the list when they were already rejoicing.  It could even be a list of the events that He orchestrated for them to be at MOMs  Group this week.

In closing, as I looked back at the key verses, I love that it reminds us to encourage and motivate because Jesus is coming back soon. That should always be our motivating factor. The Gospel is our priority. His return is near.

I am so thankful for this group of moms that came together today. The Lord has used so many in that room to encourage me. To motivate me. To help me get my eyes back on Jesus. It's a team effort. And we can all rely on each other.

As I came home to my two children and my husband, I was ready to implement these truths into their lives as well.

Lord, help me to motivate and encourage others to get closer to you. Help me to cultivate these principles in my children's lives. Thank you that we are Better Together. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Read with Me

Having loved a similar book (Praying for Boys), I was excited to review Praying for Girls. Even though it is by a different author, the Biblical truths and easy prayer prompts are still just as present in this book. Pray for her identity, her heart, her mind, her relationships, her purpose...I love that there are blanks for you to insert your daughter's name - praying specifically and out loud has changed my prayer life.

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

This adorable hard back Bible (The Blessed Garden Bible) is the perfect little girl Bible. Illustrated devotional thoughts are sprinkled throughout the Scriptures. "Why should I read the Bible?"  "How do I forgive?" How can I let God's love shine through me?" And the International Children's Bible is easy for them to understand. I look forward to reading the Word with my daughter.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

After taking a "Women in Church History" course in college, I have loved learning about the powerful women who have helped Christianity to spread throughout the ages. Sometimes it was them going into a scary country on their own. Other times it was a wife supporting her leader of a husband. Reformation Women is a welcomed addition to my collection of books on Women in Church history. What a powerful reminder of what God can do with a heart surrendered to Him.

I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! The Good News in Four Words is an adorable children's book with cute illustrations and a clear gospel message. From the fall of mankind to the cross to the tomb, my kids were able to see how all these Bible stories fit together in God's perfect plan. What a perfect way to share the Gospel with your children.

I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

As a young adult, I was an avid reader. I loved tales of missionaries and their adventures to advance the Gospel. God's Smuggler is a true account of Brother Andrew, written for middle-school age readers to enjoy. A few black and white illustrations are sprinkled throughout the story.

I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Even though I have two small children already, I still learned so much from this book. Things I wish I'd known Before We Became Parents. by Gary Chapman.  I chuckled at some of the concepts because of their truth. You'll find chapters that include these topics (and more): That having children radically changes your schedule, that potty training is no laughing matter, that sometimes parents need to apologize, and that marriages do not thrive on autopilot.

Many of these ideas are easy to forget in the day-to-day life with kids. This is a book I plan to re-read every so often, reminding myself of the truths found within. I always appreciate Gary Chapman's teaching style.

I received this book from Moody in exchange for an honest review.

A Layman Looks at the Lord's Prayer is a great, simple resource for any believer. Each phrase from the Lord's Prayer gets its own chapter - Scripture is used to further break down the principles that Jesus taught his disciples. What a great short book. What a great resource on prayer.

I received this book from Moody in exchange for an honest review.

You can do this was not a book I would read again. Seemed to focus more on self-.promotion. I understand the need for confidence building, but inspiration for this book seemed to come from man's quotes rather than Scripture.

I receveid this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Jane of Austin was a fun, lighthearted Christian novel. I had never heard of the author but was lightly entertained by her easy writing approach. It was a fun summer read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

I love Hannah C. Hall's "God Bless My..." books. They are adorable. They rhyme perfectly. And the board book format is perfect for little hands. The covers area always padded and the illustrations are beautiful. God Bless My School is a fun addition to our collection. It focuses on getting ready for school and the activities that can take place throughout the day. This could be used for kindergarten or a preschool setting.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

HelloFresh - a Fabulous Coupon Code!!

I love to cook...I hate trying to come up with what to cook. We tend to eat the same thing on repeat. A friend offered a $40 code for my first box of HelloFresh and so I decided to give it a try.

And let me start out by saying that this kiwi salsa from one of the meals was so good and so easy. It will become a regular recipe to have at our house and to share with others.

The regular price of the box I received was $60 (which does NOT fit in my normal grocery budget), but with the code, I was willing to try out 3 meals for around $20.

I chose the 2 serving portion option for my three meals. I know that they offer a family portion for a higher price, but I was sure that would be too much food for us.  Having two preschoolers that eat rather well, I knew that I could substitute a little here and there and make this two-person portion work for our family.

When the recipe had me roast potatoes, I added 2 potatoes. For the steak fajitas, I made the kids cheese quesadillas and added corn on the cob. Using the box this way worked for my family. We didn't really have tons of leftovers, but everyone was full.

The food arrived fresh and packaged well. There were two giant ice packs inside a well insulated box. The ingredients for each meal were bagged separately. Upon receiving the box, I put all the bags and meats into the refrigerator.

When it came time to cook, I simply grabbed the meat portion and my ingredient bag and got to work. The brown paper bag that the ingredients came in worked great for containing the scraps and trash from the meal prep. So, they even provided an easy clean up plan.

The recipe cards are large and super visual. The instructions were clear and the process was fun! The way the cards are laid out would even make them easy to let the kids help! They could easily see the ingredients needed and the next steps.

We thought the food was yummy. And I received new ideas from each meal that I will definitely repeat (like the kiwi salsa).  I loved that I could select what meals I wanted out of the 5 or 6 listed for the week. And, since I wasn't wanting to commit to the box every week at the full price, I simply canceled my subscription as soon as it said that my box was on its way. The process was easy.

If I ever want to try it out again for a week or so, I can easily reactivate my account and select my meals.

If you want to give this a try for the $40 off's my coupon referral code.

You'll receive $40 off and I'll receive $20. This coupon is for new customers only.

And, if you do give it a try, I'd love to know what your favorite aspects and meal ideas were! 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Let's decorate a wedding...

 It's amazing the encouragement and strength that can come from a person who knows you well and sees you through different phases of life. My college friend Melody is one of those treasured individuals. Melody and I spent countless hours studying together, taking classes together, painting signs together, praying together and sharing queso dip at Applebees. When she asked if I would be interested in helping her decorate her wedding, I was honored and thrilled to be a part of her day by doing something that I love.

We discussed her ideas, looked at pictures, painted signs, and assembled a few friends to help.

It was a breezy fall day in November. The trees were beautiful and her desire for "simple and rustic" matched the venue  perfectly.

Moss. Wood slices. Pine cones. Tree branches. Lanterns.

Gold frames. Chalkboards. Wrought iron.

 The decor items were simple on their own but made a beautiful collection together.  What a perfect picture of marriage! I pray Adam and Melody are better together!

The constant breeze from the water forced my decorating friends and I to be a little more creative - finding boxes and baskets to contain the cups, hot chocolate packets, and anything else that was blowing away.

Special friends and family members brought pies of all kinds to share at the reception.

The bread table beside the buffet lines quickly turned into one of my favorite reception details.

Bamboo skewer signs helped to label the different types of bread. And the Acts 2 verse seemed appropriate to prop up in the center of the table.  It was my gift to the couple, praying that their home would continue to be a place where friends gather and the Lord is honored.

The bride had this beautifully aged gold frame that we were able to turn into the perfect sign for her photo booth guest book instructions.

I loved watching the joy on my friend's face that day. Friends were gathered and the Lord was glorified.

Using items to decorate the wedding that reflected the bride's style kept costs low and made items reusable. Signs from the reception currently decorate her home.

Since your home should reflect who you are and what you love, wedding mementos make the best decorations.

I am so thankful for this 12 year (and counting) friendship. Thank you for letting me be a part of your special day!