The Nutcracker & Turning 8

Okay, we may not have our Christmas act together, and we may have put up a tree for a whopping 6 days of our children’s Christmas delight, but great googely moogely, we’re still having fun.

EG made her debut in the Nutcracker. Okay, actually she made multiple rogue solo performance debuts during not one–but two Nutcracker performances…

267There was much more waving than nut cracking going on for this girl.
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But she sure can rock an imaginary doll like a precious angel. 038 027And which mouse does not look like the others, you ask? 
200Well, the one with the tail….In the front!!!!! Slightly hilarious wardrobe malfunction.195204Girl.can.twirl.
212This is what she looks like when she sees her Momma…
220And this is what she looks like when she sees her Brother…

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And this is what she looks like when she sees her Daddy wags his finger at her antics.
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The Daddy that she very much has wrapped around her finger.
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If they actually let her come back to ballet class, I think she may have a future on the stage. Not surprising to anyone.

The next day, we celebrated our sweet D-man turning 8 years old. It’s 100% crazy to me that the 5 year-old baby boy who turned me into a mushy mommy mess is now a budding little man!101

We had a “Hurdle Depot” building party at Home Depot here in Oxford and embraced the color orange. (Hard to do for a bunch of Ole Miss fans, but embrace we did with cheese puffs, oranges, pizza, carrots, and lots of orange candy, cake and Fanta.) .
109It was a blast. Rather loud, but a blast nonetheless. :)  110

God has provided such sweet buddies for D. His classmates, friends from football and church are such a fun provision. They really helped make his big day special. 112113116I’m pretty sure the Grandparents and parents did a great deal of the actual building…
137 138149 150

They were all REALLY good sports. (Thanks, y’all!) 139 151

Someone let this little ragamuffin into the party. She bawled when D told her it was a boys only party, but then was VERY proud to have made the final invite list.153

Oh, and we played a little “Pin the Football on D-man” as well.
168155Here’s to being 8 years old, Sweet Boy! 136

How has December been for you?

Kicking Lethargy to the Curb…When It’s Easier to Preserve Than Serve

OH Y’ALL. I asked my friend Elizabeth to guest post Monday and would you believe that I used the wrong article? Not a big deal, but I did wonder why the title in my calendar had nothing to do with the rich writing I posted, alas, I figured it was me being lethargic and delirious. And yes it was. SO if you’d like to enjoy what I MEANT for you to read, please visit here because she basically writes the post below, but with years of wisdom, experience and poetic prowess. And, If you too are feeling lethargic and delirious, read on and as my mother always says, carry on with courage. 

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It’s 2:30. You’re sitting in your office, eyes glazed over and hand en route to the snack drawer. You’ve watched the Geico Wednesday/Humpday Remix 7 times but you’re still not able to snap out of it.

It’s 2:30. Your kid is supposed to be joyfully experiencing ”room time”, but Polly can’t seem to keep her pockets to herself. (Why did they make those crazy dolls so hard to dress??!!) The laundry is calling but you can barely hear it over the screaming smell of the dishes. You’ve no energy to do anything about either of those issues.

You take said child to the car, buckle her in to go get in the carpool line where you quickly arrive and crank your seat back to “rest your eyes.” After what feels like seconds, you are startled awake by the honking of horns asking you to please pull forward and pick up your child. You have committed the “forgot to set my cell phone alarm for 1 minute before the bell rings” cardinal carpool sin.

Seriously. What’s one to do when you’ve hit your caffeinated limit before the sun is shining and yet you’ve many hours left to go in the day? How do you kick lethargy to the curb?

I started writing this post a few months ago because lethargy is an ongoing problem in my life. But then I got too tired to finish the post. It’s true. Wish I were kidding.

I mean, how on earth do you move forward with vision and calling to be the hand that rocks the cradle and thus changes the world through the shaping of souls when you feel like you need to prop your eyelids open with toothpicks?

I want to serve vs. preserve. But it’s so much easier to preserve my sanity and design the day around getting my kids to occupy themselves rather than engaging their hearts through Hot Wheels, Barbies, and God’s Word

I want to lay my life down for theirs instead of picking up and cherishing “my rights”. Yet in the still of the night I value quiet rest over connection and closeness. 

My my friend Kristi encouraged me, in her recent post  “Don’t Bolt: Thoughts on Staying Present When Life Gets Loud” when she wrote: 

“We all know about the fight or flight instinct – when faced with a difficult situation, our body releases hormones that prepare us to stay and fight, or run away, depending on what’s in our best interest in terms of self-preservation…

When I say bolt in these cases, I’m talking about the tendency to escape, to check out, to go somewhere else, mentally. To retreat, and get away from what’s going on in front of me. So if you were to put a camera in my living room, I’d be there, but if you were my kid asking me for something, I wouldn’t really be THERE.

If you have a smartphone like me, paying attention to when you’re likely to pick it up might be a good way to identify what makes you bolt. For me, the tendency is strong when I’m tired, feeling a little lonely, when I feel like I didn’t get what I wanted. Sometimes it’s after snapping at my kids, or knowing I need to have a stressful conversation with Duff. My instinct is to get out of there. And it’s so easy, especially when, through my phone, I can retreat from the things that challenge me to something impersonal and controlled. Nevermind that it can’t love me.

So why does this matter? Well, because life gets loud. Little ones or no, I’m betting we all face these little opportunities to stay or go all day long. And I’m saying we should fight, and stay.

Presence matters, and as I’ve thought through this, I’ve found that the best way for me to choose to stay, to fight my instinct to bolt, is to not only stay, but to move in close.

To grab a kid and pull her in my lap. Tell her to get a book and read it together.

To sit on the blanket with the baby and make funny faces.

To get the paint and glue and markers out and help the middle baby work on using scissors.

To invite them into the kitchen and work on cutting up tomatoes for the salad.”

In other words, as my mentor recently said, “It’s so much easier to escape than to enter in, Baby Jesus entered in. Let’s be Jesus to these kids.”

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can.

And, isn’t it worth it?

Because, even though I love myself, I do love my God.  And I can trust that He is changing me. 

Because it brings my heart such joy.  And I can trust that He sees, knows and rewards the hidden acts of sacrificial service. 

And because, I stinking signed up for this!

But aren’t there days when you’re so physically tired that you feel it impossible to pull that kid up into your lap to read Fancy Nancy for the fiftieth time? Aren’t there days when you want to stay present but are so tempted to bolt from your current circumstance? Those are definitely the days when honesty is the best policy. Let’s tell God the truth about our humanity and allowing Him to tell us the TRUTH about His infinite Deity.

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The ever-wise Elizabeth Elliot has inspired many for years with her simple, yet powerful motto, “Do the next thing.” But practically there are times when the 2:30 lethargy threatens to suffocate my ideals and I can’t even think of what my next thing should be.

Let’s take this morning’s stare-off with the garage door for example, I had dropped off the preschooler and was quite cozy in my warm car. But alas, the “next thing” needed to be me making the choice to open that garage door and enter into the world of a vomiting child.

By the power of the truth, the power of the Holy Spirit and an encouraging self-motivating list, we can. photo (64)

I polled some of my favorite “go get em” friends for their ideas of what to do in the “I’d rather sit in a parked car” moments. This list and a load of prayer helped lift the fog just this morning, so I thought I’d share it with you. Keep this list handy when you need someone to tell you to do the next thing (and also what that next thing needs to be!)

My Kicking Lethargy to the Curb List:

  1. Live in grace. Hit my knees and beg God to “Lord, I know you are here, help me see You! Give me grace, come to my assistance, Lord help me!” 
  2. Turn off all electronic devices.
  3. Drink a huge glass of ice water or hot tea.
  4. Get fresh air.
  5. Go for a walk/run/stretch/yoga during a lunch break or a scooter/bike ride with kids or just pull out a lawn chair and sit in the sun to get some vitamin D. 
  6. Cuddle and read books. If my brain can’t think, at least I can read words and snuggle and feel like I am doing something of value.
  7. Turn on a podcast.
  8. Text a friend to ask for prayer.
  9. Eat only veggies and nuts.
  10. Nap! Sometimes it’s the godliest and healthiest thing I can do!

Those are my top 10…what are yours?

 

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Finding Hope–O Come Let Us Adore HIM

Ya’ll, I highly recommend spending time on the Internet…with people…whom you do not know…in your bedroom closet.

Just saying. photo (65)

Both of last week’s Virtual Book Clubs were absolutely refreshing for my tender soul. It was amazing to meet new friends scattered across America and hear their journeys through loss and infertility. I hated that this was the common denominator, but I loved that God used this powerful thread to begin weaving a beautiful tapestry right before our eyes. As we reflected on the glory of God and the comfort of Christ in each of our lives we were wowed.

We shared our spiritual backgrounds, how we were doing emotionally at this point in our struggle, how God used Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and Infertility: Experiencing God’s Peace Amidst The Journey to minister to us, false beliefs about God such as: 

  • “Children are a blessing from the Lord, so I must not be blessed”
  • “God must be a lot like my human father, so I’ll talk to Him about a limited number of things.”
  • “God is good, but not good to me”
  • “God loves the world, but tolerates me,”
  • “God is in control, but I think I’ll try to help Him out in my daily life.”

We talked about how those beliefs effect our marriages and ministries, how these authors grieved, how we grieve, and how God meets us in the thick of it all. 

The most encouraging part was that the overarching theme of both groups of women was the same! A bunch of women all came to the same conclusion, y’all! IMPRESSIVE. Here’s what it was…

When we are adoring God for who He is vs. what we want Him to do for us, we can have hope, peace and joy.

As I mentioned a few days ago, Sara Hagerty defines adoration as,

“Holding God’s truth against the gross darkness of the lies we believe ALL.DAY.LONG. Even in and especially in the middle of our pain.”

When we can identify the triggers that are causing us to melt, the lies we are believing about God and what aspect of His indelible character we can cling to, we find hope and even bitter things can be sweet! 

I saw that pain wasn’t a result of my circumstances; pain was a result of my detachment from the Father. Circumstances were merely unearthing my view of life.

I pressed pause on my day to say His Word back to Him. I aligned my haphazard thought life with the Truth that changes. I started the habit of telling Him who He is, using His Word. And I let His Word re-frame my experience. As I utter those strong words about Him with my weak voice, words I can barely believe when they leave my mouth, something inside of me shifts. I begin to know Him not through my own interpretation but through His. 

Adoration is exploration. The Father loves to be explored. 

Adoration makes walking with God more than just reaction to a series of externals. Adoration calls the circumstances, no matter how high or low, into proper submission in our hearts. Adoration roots us in a reality that no amount of pain and no amount of blessing can shake”-Sara Hagerty

17  Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

18  yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

19  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

God sure does use common threads of suffering to weave the mot beautiful of tapestries. How might He be able to use your story shared in the context of community to bless and encourage yourself and others?

O come let us adore Him together! 

For further study: Matthew Henry”s comments encourage me to no end.

“Habakkuk resolves to delight and triumph in God notwithstanding; when all is gone his God is not gone (Hab. 3:18): “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I shall have him to rejoice in, and will rejoice in him.” Destroy the vines and the fig-trees, and you make all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease, Hos. 2:11, 12. But those who, when they were full, enjoyed God in all, when they are emptied and impoverished can enjoy all in God, and can sit down upon a melancholy heap of the ruins of all their creature comforts and even then can sing to the praise and glory of God, as the God of their salvation.

This is the principal ground of our joy in God, that he is the God of our salvation, our eternal salvation, the salvation of the soul; and, if he be so, we may rejoice in him as such in our greatest distresses, since by them our salvation cannot be hindered, but may be furthered. Note, Joy in God is never out of season, nay, it is in a special manner seasonable when we meet with losses and crosses in the world, that it may then appear that our hearts are not set upon these things, nor our happiness bound up in them.

See how the prophet triumphs in God: The Lord God is my strengthHab. 3:19. He that is the God of our salvation in another world will be our strength in this world, to carry us on in our journey thither, and help us over the difficulties and oppositions we meet with in our way.

Even when provisions are cut off, to make it appear that man lives not by bread alone, we may have the want of bread supplied by the graces and comforts of God’s Spirit and with the supplies of them. (1.) We shall be strong for our spiritual warfare and work: The Lord God is my strength, the strength of my heart. (2.) We shall be swift for our spiritual race: “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, that with enlargement of heart I may run the way of his commands and outrun my troubles.” (3.) We shall be successful in our spiritual enterprises: “He will make me to walk upon my high places; that is, I shall gain my point, shall be restored unto my own land, and tread upon the high places of the enemy,” Deut. 32:13; 33:29. Thus the prophet, who began his prayer with fear and trembling, concludes it with joy and triumph, for prayer is heart’s ease to a gracious soul.

When Hannah had prayed she went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. This prophet, finding it so, publishes his experience of it, and puts it into the hand of the chief singer for the use of the church, especially in the day of our captivity. And, though then the harps were hung upon the willow-trees, yet in the hope that they would be resumed, and their right hand retrieve its cunning, which it had forgotten, he set his song upon Shigionoth (Hab. 3:1), wandering tunes, according to the variable songs, and upon Neginoth (Hab. 3:19), the stringed instrumentsHe that is afflicted, and has prayed aright, may then be so easy, may then be so merry, as to sing psalms.” 

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Thoughts on Holiday Hospitality With Elizabeth Foss

I’m giddy with excitement today because I get to introduce you to a wonderfully wise woman. Her heart for writing and refreshing women is so encouraging. She is one of the sage mentors I mentioned in my Table Talk series, who lets me in to her life via text message on a daily basis.

I am so grateful to host her here today and allow ya’ll the privilege of hearing her perspective on hospitality during the Advent season. Y’all enjoy my dear friend, Elizabeth Foss.

Tis the season. It’s upon us. The magazines are screaming. Roll up your sleeves and roll out the red carpet. It’s time to entertain!

May I offer an alternative? Instead of entertaining, offer hospitality. The differences are not subtle. When we entertain, we are often ruled by our pride. When we offer hospitality, we are inspired by charity. Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to minister.

In her excellent book, Open Heart, Open Home, Karen Mains writes:
Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfection, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.

Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.” Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve…Entertaining always puts things before people…Hospitality, however, puts people before things.

Hospitality is a ministry. As such, it is not bound by time or space. To offer hospitality, you do not have to offer an invitation; you do not even have to be at home and you certainly do not need to spend days beforehand cooking and cleaning and decorating. To offer hospitality, you have to open your heart to see and meet a need. Hospitality might be a home-cooked meal wrapped in a pretty towel and carried, still warm, to a neighbor who is going through a difficult time. The charity of an open home extended to a child while his mother has a moment to herself is hospitality extended to all. The comfort of a friend who offers a cup of tea at a well-worn kitchen table on a teary afternoon is hospitality that cannot be captured on the glossy pages of a magazine.

In order to truly extend hospitality we must put away our pride. We must be willing to open our doors, no matter the state of homes or our wardrobes, and to graciously seek to make our visitors feel welcome and at ease. When we do this, we allow people to see us as we are. We put away the pretense and we offer ourselves with all our weaknesses. They can see that we are striving humbly towards holiness and they can see that only God can perfect us. When we offer ourselves to other people and allow them to se our imperfections, we take a chance. We chance that they, too, will accept us in a spirit of charity. Hospitality works best when both the giver and the receiver assume the best about each other.

Entertaining often has a reward attached to it: social stature, a new job or a promotion, an accolade, a return invitation. Hospitality is freely-given, with no thought to reciprocity or reward. The heart that is ordered towards charity offers hospitality to those who most need it, even if those are not the people whose company we most desire. This is charity—a virtue we can model for our children when we ensure that they are hospitable to their friends and even to the child who might otherwise be excluded.

When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:12-14

As we begin to practice the ministry of hospitality, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We open our doors and our hearts and certainly some people will come through those doors who don’t view our efforts through the same lens of charity. On occasion we will hear a critical comment; we will be judged according to the world’s standards. We will feel as if we’ve come up short. But we haven’t truly. Those are the times the hospitable hostess will offer to Christ, imperfect and heartfelt, knowing that He will redeem the time and the effort.

This holiday season, make hospitality your prayer. Seek to comfort and to minister. Look for ways to lighten someone else’s load. In every guest, no matter how cranky, no matter how demanding, see Christ. Open your heart wide; risk allowing people to see your weaknesses. For it is in that very weakness that his power is made perfect.

I have a little bit of an Advent miracle going on here. In addition to traveling quite a bit more than expected in the next couple of weeks for the biggest of big soccer games and then for some surgery to fix an oft-broken soccer nose, I’m expecting lots of company. Many people coming and going– some of them family. Some of them aren’t technically family, they’re just what someone is when they consider my house a second home. And I’m very, very happy to see them–babies learning to crawl, new mama and daddy, college boys I’ve missed so much. But it’s going to be crowded and I did a quick count and found we’d be a few beds short. So, I counted again. Still short. The “little girls” have been sharing a queen-sized bed since forever. It worked just fine when they were, indeed, three little girls. One of them, however, reminds us several times a day that she is no longer little. She might have a point. It was time to put two bunk beds in their room.

Dear God, I want to have an open home, open arms, but I really need more bed space. Could you please drop a bunkbed or two out of the sky?

The next day, my friend Mary Chris sent me an email telling me that my friend Jenn just so happened to be giving away a triple bunk with drawers. This week. Today.

I just have to go get it, bring it back to my house, and put it together. Today.

Dear God, Thank you for the bed. That’s really, really amazing. I hereby entrust the rest of the details to you. 

 In ,

Elizabeth Foss

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This post was graciously shared from her personal blog. Pop by and enjoy her #MorningRun series, her practical printables or her awesome Book Basket Lists, or just the pics of her beautiful home and family.

O Come Let Us Adore Me-No, Wait—>HIM!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s 7:37 am on Friday, December 12th.

Do you know where your Christmas cards are?

Mine are in a box in the corner of my living room waiting their turn on our growing to-do list. And truthfully, I am mad about it.

Until it became a joke between me and a friend who teased me for being her “December 1 friend,” I was not even aware that I was competitive about Christmas cards. And since holiday greeting cards have been exchanged for more than 600 years, I’m telling myself that I am not the only one who has played a round or two of “Who’s Christmas Card Will Hit The Mailbox First”.

Somehow my pagan brain has managed to turn this lovely expression of friendship into a game of “Let’s Show The World Who Has Their Holiday Act Together.” Seriously? I am taking the birth of THE One and Only God-man and somehow making it about me being impressive?

Am I the only one who’s having to do as much repenting as rejoicing this Christmas season?

We don’t have a tree up, shoot, not even a wreath! (Don’t get me started on how this town was sold out of lights the first weekend in December!) Part of me doesn’t even want to bother with the trappings of Christmas it’s not going to be impressive. Eesh. Sounds even uglier written out than in my private confession…

Maybe for you it’s having the best decked halls, or the prettiest (and tallest) tree (WITH LIGHTS imported from Tupelo or Memphis I suppose!!), the cutest teacher gifts, the most pinnable Advent activities or the most impressive hors d’oeuvre at the party (repented of that one already today!) Isn’t there something in all of us that wants to be the best? To be the “it girl”, the one everyone wants to be or be best friends with? Isn’t th.ere a voice in all of our souls screaming for first place? Wanting to be honored, revered, glorified, wanting to be.. God?

Sometimes the crafting, creating, wrapping and running really does cause us to worship. But when our value and worth or the “am I measuring up to the standard I have for myself” idol is what we are bowing down to, it leaves us soul-weary. That hamster wheel of performance, perfection and striving…It makes me want to muster my best Southern drawl and ask myself, “Aren’t you tired, Miss Hilly?” And then let out a deep, dramatic sigh.

THE HELP

I don’t know about you, but I have had to tell my satanic pride where to go and I have had to ask myself Jennifer Dukes’s fabulous question from the “Your Best Christmas Ever” podcast:

“What can I do this Christmas to inflame my worship for Jesus?” (rather than self?)

For our family that has looked like taking a different letter of the alphabet each day most days and thinking about what aspect of God’s character we can reflect on and adore. In her book, “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet,” Sara Hagerty defines adoration as,

Holding God’s truth against the gross darkness of the lies we believe ALL.DAY.LONG.

Even in and especially in the middle of our pain.

It’s not thanking God for His gifts, it’s adoring the Giver for His very nature! That’s soooo solid! Firm! Eternal! Soooo what Christmas is all about! adore

It’s great because this daily adoration can happen over breakfast, in the middle of bath time or as pillow talk at bedtime. It’s making us mindful of God’s character and His presence in our daily lives and not just when the stockings are in a plastic bin in the garage hung by the fire with care!

We started with “Almighty” and read verses like Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Then onto “B” for Baby (Luke 2), “C” for Creator (Genesis 1) and “D” for Dad (Ephesians 1).

These attributes and corresponding verses have filled our hearts with anticipation and excitement for the celebration of His birth, the remembrance of His death and the power of His resurrection. This adoration has also put to death some worship of self and glorification of pride because when I am in the presence of one who is “E = Everywhere, Everything and Eternal” I remember that I am humbly NONE of the above. And THAT is the only thing worth putting on a Christmas card!!

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And if that sounded like crazy talk to you, enjoy this much more well-spoken podcast from two of my fave women on the internet.

Virtual Book Club

Turns out the Bubonic Plague can really throw you off your blogging swag. I am thankful to be among the land of the living and not to have died from dysentery on the Oregon Trail. One of the feverish thoughts I had during one of the many hours I spent laying in bed this week, was realizing I never updated y’all on the Virtual Book Club I am hosting.

book club

If you or someone you know is walking through infertility and would like to be a part of a group of women who share that common thread, I invite you/her to voraciously speed read one for the following books and join us Sunday night at 7 CST/8 EST on Google Hangout as we discuss “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” and “Infertility: Finding God’s Peace Amidst The Journey”. There are 5-6 of us meeting tonight and another 7-8 meeting on Sunday. If you have 5-10 minutes of time today, please pray that these online spaces will intimately minister to each woman and thus each family involved.

 

2014 Book List

I think it was second grade, but maybe it was third? I vividly remember the bulletin board that displayed my brown paper filled-to-the-brim-with-colorful-scoops ice cream cone. Each scoop represented a book I had furiously devoured.  I was a binge reader and I loved every minute of it. Well hours, really. Probably more like days and weeks spent getting lost in the pages with Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitter Club and Nancy Drew.

Reading is a legacy I want to pass on to my kids. It’s why I plunder the Public Library every two weeks and it’s why we attempt to drive DVD-free…until we are all about to lose our ever-loving-minds, that is :)  Our whole family has fallen in LOVE with Little House on the Prairie, thanks to the audio version we enjoyed on our trek to my parents this Thanksgiving. Last night as Laura was rocked to sleep in the covered wagon and the book came to a “close” EG burst into tears begging for it not to be over and sniffled, “No, I don’t want it to be over! It can’t be! Do you think there is a Little House on the Prairie Halloween episode?” I think she’s def been bit by the book worm. books

There are bins of books I have on my “must read” list, but I don’t really like scheduling out the books I’ll read for the year. I love to let this sliver of alone time feel cozy and free. I never know when I’m gonna snag some time, but when it happens, I can pick up whatever book seems to suit the feelings rolling around inside me.

Anyway, life with littles has limited my reading to mostly picture and short chapter books, which is fun, but each year I have a goal to try and read a book per month, then I choose my “book of the year.” This year I read a random assortment. And my book of the year was DEFINITELY   Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet by Sara Hagerty.…My life. In a book. No further memoir needed!!

book list

Did you enjoy any reading or audio books this year? Any characters, plots or nuggets of wisdom still lingering in your mind? What books would you recommend for 2015?

Also, I really want to do one of these  little free libraries.….anyone tried it before? library3

And now I am of to grab my quilt and settle down for a quiet minute of reading. Can’t wait to hear from you!

 

May Your Days Be Merry & Your Laundry Bright!

DIY LAUNDRY SOAPWell, it’s official. I am not a DIY Blogger.

In the making of this post, I managed to break my food processor, burn my finger, run out of computer ink AND make a mess all over my dining room table.192BUT if by chance you’re operating on 6-8 hours of sleep because YOUR child DID NOT decided that 4 am was a great time to practice her “carton wheels”, then you SHOULD be able to easily make 20 jars of very affordable Laundry Soap in about 30 minutes! It’s a no-brainer homemade Christmas gift that is perfect for teachers, friends and neighbors!

Here’s the simple 5 Step Process:

1. Purchase

You’ll need the following items from Walmart and Kroger (or Amazon if you prefer).

1 container of Gain Fireworks
1 Tub of OxiClean
1 Box of Borax
1 Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 bars of Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. I found them for $3.97 at Kroger. That seemed to be the best price. Even better than the Dr. Bronner’s website! I am in love the lavender scent, but they have a peppermint that might be fun for Christmas.

171Pretty Containers I stumbled upon these pretties in the kitchen/housewares department at Walmart and thought they would be perfect for this project! This recipe makes approximately twenty 8 oz jars.186Your Choice of Ribbon I went with a thick red and white grosgrain, narrow lime and white polka dot ribbon and twine. 

2. Grate

Okay, you can either get your arm workout in for the day by hand-grating with a traditional cheese grater, or you can use the grating feature on your food processor. Do NOT however, just toss the bars into your food processor and hope they chop up nicely…let’s say there could be possibly be a explosion resulting in plastic and metal pieces flying all over your kitchen.

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ALSO, do not think it’s the food processor’s fault and then put the bars of soap in your nice smoothie maker because it will overwork the motor causing the entire blender to warm up and melt the soap.

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Repeat after me: I will use a cheese grater or the grater blade. Okay. Next.

3. Mix

This is the part the kids were mad at me for doing without them! They LOVE dumping the powders into the jar and mixing it. 181

Alternate the powders and stir furiously. As you can see this recipe will almost fill the largest glass jar available at Walmart.
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4. Pour

Carefully pour the detergent into the jars. You’re probably more graceful than I, but I had to use a canning funnel. 191

5. Wrap

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Choose your favorite ribbons or even get crazy and make a cute label! (That was my plan…buttttt then my printer would not cooperate…see, told you! Not a DIY Blogger!) 200

I went ahead and just grabbed some craft paper and cut out circles to fit the top and hand wrote the little note that I was really jazzed about. “May Your Days Be Merry & Your Laundry Be Bright”. Insert gushy heart-eyed emoji!!

Don’t forget to note that a little goes a long way. You only need to use 2 Tablespoons per load!

Are you creating any good neighbor, teacher or friend gifts? I’d love to hear about them! If you like this post, you might enjoy the other ideas from a few new blogging friends who are joining me on this “Gifts From the Heart: Christmas Blog Hop” today! Visit their sites for other great ideas that are all $5 or less!

DIY Homemade gifts (for $5 or less)

Thrifty Stories // Brown Sugar Toast // The Frugal Homemaker // ME // PenniesnGrace

Campus Life

Do you remember way back when Jeff Foxworthy coined the “You might be a redneck if…” phrase? jeff foxworthyWell we’ve adopted a similar phrase as Joel and I ask each other about our days. It typically goes something like, “You might be a campus minister if…” 

You might be a campus minister if the people at Starbucks suspiciously question why you’re going through the check-out line 3-4 times a day with different college girls.

You might be a campus minister if  three 18-year-olds in a row skipped your agreed upon appointment to take an extended nap in the middle of the day.

You might be a campus minister if the majority of people you interact with on a daily basis have the telling black X on their hand from the night before. (Or on their cheek if they recently took a luxurious catnap in the middle of the day.)

Or my personal favorite, you get stood up so that the girl you’re about to meet with can go be an extra on the upcoming Channing Tatum movie. 

You might be a campus minister if  on any given day of the week you know which Greek house to go to for the best free frat food.

You might be a campus minister if  your children are confused about if Daddy’s office is an intramural field, the local coffee shop or a giant castle (aka a fraternity house).

I could go on all.day.long and while you’ve got all the amusing ones. You’ve also got the heart-aching ones. Ones that stop you in your tracks and thank God for the privilege to take Jesus to the students behind conversations such as,

“Dude I saw you at Qudoba last night.”

“Really? What was I doing because all I know is I woke up in the hospital with 2 criminal charges.”

Or the phone call after the abortion.

Or the defeated text that reveals they’ve fallen prey to their sin struggle yet again.

I don’t know what your college experience was, but day in and day out we are seeing students come face-to-face with their depravity, experience the true Jesus, and begin to defy the cultural norms of “college life”.

During no other season of life do young adults have such life-altering, character molding freedom. Will you join with us in praying for revival on college campuses across America and around the world? Will you pray that many students at Ole Miss will have a hunger for God and His Word?

If you receive our monthly newsletter, you saw this encouraging Flipogram and testimony. I wanted to leave you with the story of a young man named Tommy who’s life was changed by Christ while in college and who is now with Jesus after a tragic car crash. We use this video testimony as we present the Gospel in Greek houses here year after year and we would love if God would cause many of these Gospel seeds to take root and grow! This year we saw around 150 students indicate receiving Christ through using Tommy’s story in our Bible studies. Praise the Lord!

Believing God for revival and thrilled to be your extension of the Gospel here at Ole Miss!

 

A Very Merry Giveaway

What’s up, y’all! Greetings from West Virginia where I am happily blogging from my Momma’s kitchen table. Guys, home is where your Momma is, am I not right? I hadn’t been home in a year and I am l majorly.loving.it.. We have nothing on the agenda other than chilling in our pjs, connecting with supporters, and celebrating Christ-giving!!

We are rolling my side of the family’s celebrations into one fabulous day which my kids are especially pumped about because who else gets to open Christmas gifts on Thanksgiving?!? Since all my shopping had to be wrapped up by this week, I thought I’d give you some of my favorite gift-giving ideas this Holiday season!

For the Family:

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Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift  together with some mugs and cocoa will make the perfect family gift! I can hardly wait to give this a try for the Advent Season!

For the Foodie:

bread and wineGrab a basket (Goodwill has great ones! As does my mom’s attic! #score!) add in my favorite book, Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist and a few ingredients from her LUSCIOUS recipes or some new dish towels and boom. Winner Winner her fantastic Causoulette Dinner. :)

For the Blogger:

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How They Blog is by far my favorite blogging resource. I love the podcasts, etc. and I know any blogger on your Christmas list would enjoy it as well!

For the Disciple:

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This is my by far my favorite resource to use with students I’m discipling after we’ve gone through the 5 Basic Follow-Ups and the 10 Transferable Concepts. It’s designed for:

  • Pastors and leaders who want to spur Gospel renewal in their churches and ministries.
  • Church-planters who want to form Gospel DNA in the churches they start.
  • Students and campus ministers who are looking to live out the Gospel on campus.
  • Christians who want to be more deeply formed around the Gospel.
  • Small group leaders who are looking for content that “works” with diverse groups of people.
  • Missionaries who are looking for simple material to disciple new Christians.

For the Mom:

stitchfixbox-640x388Send a sweet mom the fun of  StitchFix! It’s a box shipped directly to your home filled with 5 hand selected items (based on your personalized profile) from your very own stylist. This weekend at a conference, I complimented my friend Kari on her outfit. The whole thing was from Stitchfix! I’m telling you, it’s by far my fave way to shop. You can send a gift card or help her fill out a profile and schedule a fix!

For the Man:

BelkI finally found a gift that my husband loves. Okay, actually one of our interns brought it to the a white elephant gift exchange for our work party last year, but he didn’t win it, so I went and bought him one. Totally counts if you ask me. So, if you have a man in your life whose love language happens to not be gifts, go for the Portable Wireless Speaker.

For the Curator:

_wood_block_prints_11Photo gifts have come so far. Artifact Uprising has some beautiful wood pieces and can take Instagram pics and turn them into high quality gifts. PinholePress can do the same then turn photos into children’s books, the game Memory and even  Walmart.com can make puzzles, gallery wrapped canvases and Christmas ornaments out of your beloved photos. I love these companies and the way they turn photos into family heirlooms.

Those are some of mine! What are your favorite gifts to give this season?

And…because I love you, I have teamed up with some blogging friends  to help one of you out with some cash to spend on Christmas gifts this year! Gretchen from Life Lived Beautifully is also giving away one of her new Romans studies!

giveaway

Whitney/Gretchen/ME/Ginny/Danielle
a Rafflecopter giveaway