A Southern Snow Day

Winter has officially hit the South, folks.
It’s been cold for quite some time, but we’ve not seen a flake of snow! Until yesterday…we were pumped because school was canceled for a little bit of ice, and they said snow was coming…

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We didn’t buy it until “cotton balls from Heaven” started pouring down. 
037 It was glorious!!!040

Watching the first snow through children’s eyes is truly magical. 053Especially through the eyes of this adorable neighborhood gang.
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When it was time to defrost, EG refused to get in the car…so we made her run alongside us. 076She lasted about 100 feet.
081Then, after a round of cocoa, the snow was really coming down and we were excited to build a snowman. We sang all the Frozen songs and Joel cracked me up by noting that this would be the winter of Olaf dethroning Frosty.

736We clearly need to buy Joel a pair of gloves. 086Things got really deeeeeeepp really fast. Five inches in less than 4 hours. It was the perfect time to sled. On garbage can lids, of course. Where is my West Virginian heritage when I need it??

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It was the best we had till friends brought over their boogie boards. That classed things up a bit. 

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You’ve never seen such joyful redneck hysteria. 722 724And I don’t know about you, but snow is such a unifier to me. I get all patriotic and warm and fuzzy. It’s like the Olympics or a marathon. Makes me feel proud to be an American. So we met some new neighbors and all became friends over more warm drinks and chocolate drizzled popcorn. 131720Our family has knighted this day as, “The Best Snow Day Ever” and since Oxford hasn’t seen this much snow fall in over 30 years, I think the title will reign for quite some time in our minds.
719 733And that, my friends is the fun of “A Southern Snow Day!” unnamed (1)

The Stacks

Yes, the stacks. And I don’t mean hay or smoke.
the stacks

Stacks-a set of shelves for books or other materials ranged compactly one above the other, as in a library. The area or part of the library in which the books and other holdings are stored or kept. 
Y’all, I am a straight up bibliophile. I was raised in the aisles of my Daddy’s Christian bookstore reading crisp best-sellers, playing with “Let Your Light Shine” flashlights and pounding Testamints.
And while I don’t necessarily claim to be well-read, I love, love, love to read. I am never without at least two books in my purse, (Who knew this habit has a name? It’s called “being book-bosomed“ … anyone else have a subtle fear of being caught without a book?)
the stacks2
The luxury of reading at length isn’t my current reality, but when I finally do victoriously turn the last page and exhale the deep sigh of satisfaction of a great ending, I often have to re-read and take notes just to remember what in the world I read in those 3 minute increments of quiet over the course of a year.
My kids voraciously devour books too. Point in case, I just paid the mortgage and am now the owner of “Uni the Unicorn” and “Ducks Christmas”. Two children’s books that will never line the bookshelves of my kids’ rooms because I left them outside our hotel door at a conference where Joel and I were in the middle of a “changing of the guards” to get to meetings while putting D & EG down for naps.
I texted Joel from outside the door, so as not to disturb the fragile naptime routine of kids who are far too old to nap, but who are deliriously and recklessly disobedient from 2-5 pm every day.
“If you want to read to them before they go to sleep, there are two library books under a bag of Mexican food.”
And of course, somehow between me hitting “send” and my children drifting into dreamland, housekeeping came by and, supposing they were trash, swiped Joel’s lunch AND the library books. $49.99 FOR TWO CHILDREN’S BOOKS, PEOPLE! I love the public library and I probably owe them my sanity, let alone a fifty dollar bill. But, good grief. I finally coughed it up yesterday just so I could get off the librarian’s naughty list. And now that I am no longer considered a “delinquent patron”, who “claims to have lost two books” (and now, thanks stupid Uni the Unicorn, has no entertainment budget) I am on a requesting-spree at the library and am trying to dig through my stacks of unread books and enjoy all the ones I’ve hoarded over the years.
Right now I am on track to hit my goal of reading 12 books per year having read: 
  1. “Replenish” by Lisa Grace Byrnes (So great, usually don’t recommend a ton of secular books, but this is the best thing I’ve read on self care and there’s a free audio version on her Podcast station “The Well Grounded Life Show” Just use the purple podcast app on your iphone and listen away!) 
  2. “Desperate” by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson (Literally my favorite book for moms! A MUST-Read for mom’s who need room to breathe.)
  3. I just started “The Hardest Peace” by  Kara Tippetts and will be doing a giveaway as soon as I finish it. Will keep you posted on this one. It’s rocking my world so far.

I am headed to the library tomorrow to grab “On Writing Well” and a bunch of other recommended books for blog writers. Can’t wait to get my hands on those! Okay, so do you love to read? Just like starting but rarely finish? Are you book-bosomed? What are you reading these days? Anything you’d recommend?

12 Ways To Pray For Adopted Children + Their Families

Only God could come up with the idea of family. 
Only God could redeem the way we have messed things up.
Only God could provide a child who needs a family with a family who needs a child. 
Only God could work miracles to ensure justice is served and children are protected. 
Only God could mesh mismatched hearts and make love grow.
Only God could rewrite stories giving new names and new hope.
Only God could create, redeem and sustain a family.

Maybe you’re clueless as to how you could ever love a child that “isn’t yours” but you wonder if God might be calling you to take a giant leap of faith.

Maybe you find yourself fantasizing about adopting “some day” yet your heart aches because the timing just isn’t right.

Perhaps you are in the thick of paperwork and home studies as we speak but you wonder if you’ll ever get “the call”.

Maybe you’re like us and you’re almost 2 years in, but still can’t figure out how giving a child the wrong fork could send them spiraling out of control.

No matter how adoption might touch you- orphans, foster children, adopted children and their families need prayer. Much of adoption is beautiful and fun, but just as much of it is ugly and hard.

I’m reminded of wise counsel I received a few years ago when I was struggling with anxiety:

“When everything feels out of control, the ONE THING I CAN CONTROL is how much I cry out to God.”

Oftentimes when the spouse just isn’t there, paperwork is lost or has to be redone, or plates of spaghetti are being hurled across your dining room, you can’t even find the words to pray. So, “12 Ways To Pray For Adopted Children + Their Families” will be what I’ll be using to pray for our family and others.

Maybe you could take one prayer point for each day or set your cell phone alarm to sound each hour on the hour.  Regardless of how you use this list, would you join me in prayer? 12 Ways To Pray for Adopted Children + Their Families

7 am: Pray for the familial and attachment bonds to be supernaturally strong and the child to know they are wanted, loved, freely accepted, safe and secure. (Psalm 68:6)
8 am: Pray for their view of God to be whole and complete. (Perhaps pray through attributes of God on behalf of this family.) (Isaiah 40:11) 
9 am: Pray for surrender and salvation. (Romans 10:1, Acts 26:18)
10 am: Pray for healthy coping mechanisms, sensory processing, healed neuro-pathways and brain chemistry to be restored. (Proverbs 4:20-22, Matthew 8:17, Psalm 107)
11 am: Pray for the ability to communicate with grace and truth in life-giving ways. (James 1:19, Proverbs 15:1-2) 
12 pm: Pray for strength to not parent in faith vs. fear. (2 Timothy 1:7)
1 pm: Pray for healthy modes of discipline to be established and implemented. (Hebrews 12:11, Proverbs 12:1)
2 pm: Pray for creativity and laughter. (Psalm 126:2)
3 pm: Pray for a love and understanding of God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Psalm 119:105)
4 pm: Pray for a love of righteousness and a disgust for sin. (Psalms 78:1-8, 103:17-18; Isaiah 54:13; Ephesians 3:20-21)
5 pm: Pray for a healthy view of food. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
6 pm: Pray that children would use godly wisdom in selecting friends. Ask God to give each child a discernment of people as well as knowing the difference between right and wrong (Proverbs 1:10, Proverbs 18:24; Deuteronomy 13:6,8).
7 pm: Pray for sleep to feel safe and for it to be supernaturally restorative. (Psalm 3:5, Psalm 4:8, Proverbs 3:24) 

Because, only God is in control and only God can create, redeem and sustain a family, we cry out to Him! 

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Peanut Butter Pie + Praline Pecan Bacon

Well, well, well. As if Praline Pecan Bacon weren’t already HEAVEN IN YOUR MOUTH…We HAD to go to the Viking Kitchen School and get this life-changing, pant-size-changing Peanut Butter Pie recipe. We served these as mini pies at our Valentine’s Day Dinner Party last weekend, and you can quickly whip these up for a perfectly gourmet treat any ole time! (You can also make ahead and freeze!)

Peanut Butter Pie + Praline Pecan Bacon = Hog HeavenPeanut Butter Pie + Praline Pecan Bacon

Viking’s Peanut Butter Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whipping cream, whipped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 prepared graham cracker pie crust
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, for garnis

Instructions

Beat the whipping cream to stiff peaks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Scrape into a bowl and set aside. Place cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl and beat using the “V” blade, until smooth. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Fold in whipped cream and spread in the prepared pie crust. Heat chocolate sauce and peanut butter in separate microwave-safe bowls for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until peanut butter can be drizzled. Drizzle chocolate sauce and peanut butter over the pie. Viking says to cover and freeze for 4 hours or overnight, but I preferred it defrosted, yet chilled!

Makes 8 servings or 12 mini pies.

Pecans. Brown Sugar. Yummy Goo. Bacon. It literally is a perfect pairing with the Peanut Butter Pie.

Praline Pecan Bacon

Ingredients

  • Praline Pecan Bacon
  • 1 lb. Quality Thick Cut Bacon
  • 4 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup (I didn’t have any so I subbed 2 Tbsp honey and 2 Tbsp Karo Syrup)
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Pecans, toasted and chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place a wire rack on an aluminum foil lined sheet tray. Combine the pecans and brown sugar. Lay the bacon side by side on the rack, place in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the bacon is sizzling and starting to brown around the edges. The goal is for the bacon to cook about 3/4 of the way through before adding the topping.
  3. Push the partially cooked bacon as close together as possible on the rack and brush with the cane syrup, this will give the topping something to stick to. Cover generously with the Pecan/brown sugar topping. Place back in the oven for about 10 minutes more or until the topping is bubbly and the bacon is good and brown. Let cool. As the Praline Bacon cools it will set up and have a nice chewy bite to it.
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I prepared the bacon in the morning so the bacon smell would dissipate. They are great as a stand alone, but dip this mess in peanut butter and/or chocolate and you’ll have to close your eyes to enjoy.

Learning Lent With Littles

I’ve gotten a little fired up about Lent, y’all.

The vast majority of Christendom has practiced this season for hundreds of years aaannndd I am not sure where I have been. Last year, I had the desire to get my kids equally, if not more, excited about Easter as Christmas.

On any given morning, EG wakes up messy-haired and bleary-eyed asking, “Is it Christmas?” To which I answer, “No, girl, it’s just a great day to be alive.” This cracks me up and also fires me up with a passion for us to celebrate the central truth that victoriously sets Christianity apart from commercialism, consumerism and all other religions on the planet. The historically recorded event that’s worthy of our deepest, most heartfelt daily celebration. The Resurrection!!!

But take it from me, the girl who consistently says “Black Friday” when I mean to say “Good Friday” and who may or may not have wiped what I thought was eye-shadow, off a girl’s forehead in hopes of saving her the embarrassment of walking around all smudged up on (what I now know to be) Ash Wednesday…I am a liturgical nightmare.

Learning and Loving Lent With Littles

The ESFJ in me really LOVES traditions, but unexpectedly adding two children to our holiday routines didn’t give me much time to prep what we would and would not do. I remember even as a kid, holidays would bring a lot of anxiety, comparison and performance to the surface of my heart and I have to fight that as an adult. For the love of Peter Rabbit, one of our first marital blow-outs was in the lobby of Shandon Baptist on Easter Sunday…poor Joel. It’s not like he maliciously neglected to get me an Easter Basket!

I’ve always wanted to have our rhythms and rituals in perfect place, but you can bet your seersucker suit that the high expectations have left me feeling flat and disappointed. I am having to continually choose to lay that down and just figure our family traditions out as each year comes.

Last year we LOVED Lent and I thought I’d share a little bit of how we are going to celebrate again this year, along with some tools I’ve found to be helpful. I hope that the “learning as we go” style of this post will be more accessible and applicable than a “we’ve got this thing nailed” approach.

Daily: We’ve got a purple paper chain up (purple is the official color of Lent {news to me} with it’s symbolism of royalty as well as suffering, sorrow and grief) in our breakfast area, so *most* mornings we settle in at the table and one child gets to take a link off the chain and share with the family what Lent means. We finally figured out (literally yesterday) a succinct way to for the kids to articulate the meaning of Lent. And because we like to rhyme we say…“It’s a celebration of sadness for our sin and gladness that Jesus rose again!” 

Learning and Loving Lent With Littles

So the chain, a quick reminder of the meaning and either a reading from Jesus Calling for Kids or this handy dandy Lent Reading schedule. That’s our norm. I’m trying to come up with one concrete visual each week that will help the kids (and ME!) relate Lent to our daily lives.

  • Week 1 Bowl of FlourThe Color PurpleI got this idea from Aimee, one of my mentors, who got it from Ann Voskamp, one of hers. I nearly wept as I offered my kids the bowl of cool flour for them to draw a cross on and talk to God about their sin (we sin a lot in trying to get ready for school) and then to see the light bulbs flicker in their little minds and hearts as we wiped the sins away and talked about Jesus washing sin away and making believers white as snow. Very real. Very tangible. Very powerful. Very messy, so the bowl only lasted the week. 
    Learning and Loving Lent With Littles
  • Week 2 Lenten PretzelsWho knew pretzels originated in the tradition of Lent? Gigi grabbed us a box of Fleischman’s pretzel mix and we had fun reading the story of pretzels. We also briefly talked about how God loved the world enough to send Jesus and how pretzels look like arms giving a hug (which was a traditional prayer position).
    Learning and Loving Lent With Littles
  • Week 3 Oil & Water & Draw a Name: The kids came home from Sunday School with a little water bottle full of oil and water and an excerpt of the Gospel Project curriculum telling the story of Ezekiel and sin separating us from God, but Him being the one to make dead bones rise again. We talked about that and it sorta connected. Instead of having the kids give something up for Lent to create an appetite for God, we are trying to think of fun ways to increase thinking about and communing with God. On Saturday, we each drew a name, then played a game where we had to stop and pray for that person each time we said their name throughout the day. It was silly and fun and it seemed to really get our attention on prayer (and there was less fighting with all the praying going on!)

We’ve also sucked the public library dry of any and all Easter books thanks to Elizabeth Foss’ incredible Lenten Book Basket List. And YOU SHOULD TOO! Like I get choked up as I think about GrandB reading “The Tale of Three Trees” to EG and I love the sweetness “Little Colt’s Palm Sunday”. If you like children’s books you’ll love Elizabeth’s list.

Learning and Loving Lent With Littles

Oh, and Sundays during Lent are considered “mini-Easters”, days to celebrate and commemorate the coming King. We’ve tried to make a more concerted effort to keep the Sabbath Day holy and fun. 

Sunday’s have been filled with waffles, extra time on the trampoline, glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunts (glow sticks tucked into Easter eggs and hidden around the house), naps, puzzles, movies, games, read-alouds and PAPER PLATES. Again, thank you, Aimee for teaching me so much and also Edie for her online presence and perspectives.

If you’d rather not click all jillion of the links I’ve put in this post, I’ve compiled this document with the reading schedule, a devotional reading from Desiring God and a word on celebrating Lent with kids from the makers of Veggie Tales.

I’d love to hear your experiences with Lent! Good? Bad? Indifferent? Anything you’d add or subtract to or from this post? As I looked around Pinterest and the interwebs I was so saddened by how works-oriented this observance can be…but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post (which you should click and read!)…for me, I am enjoying the Lord in sweet ways and thought maybe you’d like to join me too!

xoxo

 

 

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Restore Winner

Thanks to so many of y’all for entering to win a spot in the Restore 2015 online workshop.

Congratulations to…

Kacky Kasinski!

Hope this makes your Valentine’s Day THAT much sweeter!

 

When God Writes the Story

IT’S FRIDAY, YA’LL!!!

Which, in the life of a mom means absolutely nothing other than you get to make 2 scrambled and 1 fried egg at 7 am tomorrow morning rather than 6. That and tomorrow you don’t have to dig in the dryer (or dirty laundry pile) for uniforms or the blasted spirit week attire. Or do the homework. Or the carpool. Okay, so yes. It’s basically the best day of the week signaling the weekend. Woot! Bring it on.

It also means that tomorrow I’ll announce the winner of the Restore Workshop Giveaway! (Don’t forget to enter. YOU WANT THIS!)

Lastly, it means I am guest posting a condensed version of our spiritual, infertility and adoption story called “When God Writes The Story” for a new friend’s blog. I thought I’d make mention of it here so if you’re new, you can catch up on the story God has written with our lives!

Have a great weekend! Check back tomorrow to see if you won! EEk! I hope so!!! xoxo

When God Writes The Story(Incredible photography courtesy of Faison Weiss Photography)

 

Pancakes & Pajamas Party

Pretend with me for just a moment that it’s September rather than February and that I DIDN’T just spend 5 months looking for the disk of pics that a sweet friend took of EG’s Pancakes & Pajamas 5th Birthday Party! Well, I just unearthed the disk and jumped for joy that the images had not been lost. (Is anyone else’s worst fear in life losing photos? I’ve run through the house burning scenario a few times in my mind and have perfected the art of throwing all my photo albums out the window right after I rescue the children.)

Enjoy with me EG’s 5th birthday via pics…even though she is now a few days shy of 5.5.

Pancakes & Pajamas Party

Have we discussed the amazingness that is Etsy printable invites?

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Or precious little necklace-making hands. 

Pancakes & Pajamas PartyOr yummy food ideas copied and pasted directly from Pinterest. (And basically this whole party copied, I mean, inspired, by my adoption twin, Jen.) #winning #soeasy #soaffordable
Pancakes & Pajamas PartySimple favors.
Pancakes & Pajamas Party
Happy, happy, happy helpers.

Pancakes & Pajamas Party

Plenty of sprinkles. Pancakes & Pajamas PartyAnd really, all they wanted to do was go play dolls. Heart eyes.Pancakes & Pajamas PartyBut eat we must. :)
Pancakes & Pajamas PartyAnd pancake relay we must. 
Pancakes & Pajamas PartyAnd play we must.
Pancakes & Pajamas PartyBecause YOU’RE 5, BABY GIRL!
Pancakes & Pajamas Party Pancakes & Pajamas PartyPancakes & Pajamas Party Pancakes & Pajamas PartyPancakes & Pajamas Party Pancakes & Pajamas PartyOh, and then nap we MUST. 
Pancakes & Pajamas PartyBecause you’re 5, Baby Girl. My, oh my, you’re 5!!

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And speaking of naps…don’t forget to enter to win a spot in the Restore 2015 Online Workshop! Move gently at your own pace of self-care, creativity and reflection. It’s gonna be great! xoxo

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How To Host A Simple Gal-entine’s Day Party

What’s better than gathering your favorite gals and celebrating love? Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays because it provides the perfect excuse to do just that.

In college and then on into my days as a single working girl, my roommates and I would host an epic gift exchange. And now instead of fighting the crowd for reservations, Joel and I host a couples’ dinner party. Maybe this year you could think through a few favorite friends and throw your very own simple, yet memorable Gal-entine’s Day Party?

How To Host Your Own Gal-entine's Day Party

I say pick 5-7 friends, invite them over on a Saturday morning around 10. Run to Walmart for box of muffin mix (Krusteaz pumpkin cupcake mix sans icing, with chocolate chips and butterscotch chips thrown in is the best!), a tub of vanilla yogurt, fruit and some granola, (chia seeds, flax and the like if you’re feeling fancy!) Set out some coconut shavings, sprinkles, nuts and honey, splurge on some pretty flutes (these were $1 from Ikea!) lay it all out nicely with cute disposable everything and enjoy a fruit and yogurt bar! I like doing make-your-own bars because it gets people moving, talking and creating! Plus, you literally dump stuff in bowls and it somehow looks way more magical than it really is. How To Host Your Own Gal-entine's Day Party

Perhaps you could do a Favorite Things Exchange or a Chocolate Exchange (!!!) or just sit around and talk. Whatever you decide, people will be so glad you took the initiative to invite them into your home for a simple, yet lovely morning.

How To Host Your Own Gal-entine's Day Party

I know there are lots of negative connotations about Valentine’s Day. Parents and Hallmark wayyyy overdoing it and blowing up social media in the process, people feeling all the feelings that go along with S.A.D (singles awareness day), etc. but I think these things can be redeemed.

My parents always made Valentine’s Day really special when we were growing up. They would treat February 14th as our “spiritual birthdays” and it would be nearly as much of a celebration as our normal birthdays! I’m not even sure if one of us trusted Christ around Valentine’s Day,  if they just wanted it to be about God’s love, or so that we would always have someone to show us special love and attention on this holiday; but it was brilliant.

Also, every year without fail, I would run down my parents’ driveway to the mailbox and find a bright red envelope containing a beautifully penned and perfectly rhymed poem from a special “Secret Admirer”. Years later I would learn that this admirer was my maternal grandfather! It always meant so much that he went out of his way to show that playful yet meaningful love to a granddaughter who lived 11 hours away. Such an incredibly sweet memory.

So, who could you create meaningful memories for this Valentine’s Day? How can we reflect and celebrate God’s love with those around us? Do you have any fun memories of Valentine’s Day?

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Restore Workshop 2015 & Giveaway

Last winter, I was just coming out of a season of transition, depression and burnout. (Please Note: I judged people who said they are burned out…until I was one of them. Just keeping it real.) A mentor, who knew my status, introduced me to my now friend, Elizabeth Foss. Elizabeth is a mother to many, not just her 9, she’s a cancer-survivor, author, mentor and all around witty, wise and fun woman. She graciously allowed me to be a part of her Restore Workshop, and it was so life-giving for me.

I can’t recommend this class and community highly enough. It’s for anyone who is needing to find restoration through gentle habits of self care, time with God and practical yet creative inspiration. Are you tired and weary and overwhelmed? Do you need a vision and practical tools to help your body, soul and spirit Restore? This is an amazing workshop for women who desire renewal, hope and direction for a life well-lived.

restore2Every Monday, there is a podcast with a guest who shares her own perspective on burnout. We talk about the value of friendships and strong marriages. We discuss exercise and nutrition and quiet time alone.  Each podcaster brings her own unique perspective and offers something new. These are frank conversations about the real struggles women face as they endeavor to lead holy and excellent lives. We laugh together and we build each other up, inviting the listener along for the talk.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday bring each component of restoration into sharper focus. We explore themes of self-care—from adequate sleep to creating healthy boundaries to getting in a daily walk. The essays are finely detailed and fully illustrated with inspiring images. Several times throughout the workshop, we provide printables suitable for framing, in order to give the gift a beautiful reminder throughout the day.

Fridays are for using our hands. Each Friday, a tutorial for a simple craft or recipe is offered. We make nourishing soups, pretty guest towels, hand kitchen towels, healing herbal salve, efficient headbands for morning runs, and more simple things to make life a little more beautiful. In many cases, two version of the craft are offered—one with a little more detail and one for the mom with a baby on her hip.

Every day, throughout the workshop, quiet time alone with Jesus is encouraged and facilitated by brand new devotions that follow the much—loved pattern in Small Steps. There is a quote to think upon, a short prayer, and a do-able daily action.

restore2015

And now the best part…not only can you register by clicking HERE; but also… I GET TO GIVEAWAY ONE FREE RESTORE WORKSHOP SPOT, so one of you can enjoy the BEST of Elizabeth’s work!

My love language is gifts AND one of my fave holidays is Valentine’s Day…SO…I am going to be announcing the winner on Feb. 14th. You can enter as many times as you’d like!

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