6/29/15

Is It All A Waste?

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I sat in church this past Sunday, and all I felt was heavy.  My pastor was speaking about a story in 1 Kings 22, about an obscure prophet named Micaiah who took a stand against overwhelming pressure, and told King Ahab the truth.  Even when he didn't want to hear it.

I hate writing these words that I know no one really wants to hear.  Goodness knows much (and probably too much in some cases) has been said about the ruling last Friday.  But the thing that kept coming to mind as I sat listening to a sermon about Micaiah was an article I read by a Christian who said that the efforts of the church to stand up for what we believe God says about right and wrong were wasted.  

As was pointed out to me, the author didn't specifically use the word "wasted".  But the idea that was conveyed was that all the money spent trying to prevent the normalization of sin that we see happening now could have been better spent on humanitarian efforts, helping the sick and poor.

While I can appreciate his zeal to reach those in need (and I agree we should certainly be giving to those causes) what people need even more than having physical needs met is the Gospel (and I noticed a call to spread the Gospel to those in need, along with physical help, was conspicously absent from the article).  It is true that there are many who are in desperate physical need around the world, but I cannot agree that the efforts and money given to standing for biblical principles are all for naught.

Many people argue that the Gospel is about love.  That is true, and indeed we are able to be saved because of the love of God.  It is also His love for the world working in our hearts that motivates us to minister to those in need and go to the ends of the earth (including our own backyard) to share with people that we can be saved.

But therein lies the other side of the coin.  Saved from what exactly?

In our own "backyard" of America today, there is a massive effort to ostracize people who claim to know what is right and wrong.  "Judge not!" people cry, indignant that anyone would dare tell someone else how they should be living their lives.  It's gotten to the point where many are hesitant to make any moral judgements at all, even about something as horrific as mutilating another human being.

But there is such a thing as right and wrong.  There is such a thing as objective truth.  And these things are not based on any humans feelings, but on what God says in His Word.  He is the source of truth, and we cannot claim that right and wrong does not exist because God says that it does.  He makes it clear that He will judge our actions and hold us accountable for the actions that are wrong, whether we will acknowledge that they are wrong or not.

This isn't even about the one sin that everyone is talking about after last Friday.  We all have our own sins that we struggle with, and each one is enough to condemn us to an eternity in hell.  I think it is a mistake to forget that.  The thing that I find disturbing about all this is the larger movement in American culture to abolish the idea of sin at all. 

We cannot only care for physical needs and ignore spiritual needs.  We cannot say we want to proclaim the Gospel to the lost and not include both sides of the coin.  Jesus loved us enough to die to save us.  From what?  From our sin.  From sin that separates us from God and places us under His judgement.  

When our culture gets to the point where we are hesitant to define sin, we are in a dangerous place.  If there is no right and wrong, if there is no sin, there is no Gospel message.  

If we are going to fully reach the needy around the world, we need to address their physical needs, and their need for Jesus to save them from their sin.  If unbelievers in the modern American culture are going to recognize that they need Jesus, we need to start with speaking the truth in love and explaining why

If we want to show love to others, we will not blur the lines by implying that there is no truth.  If we want to show love, we can't ignore right and wrong because someone might not want to hear it. If we want to show love, we can't act like no right and wrong exists to avoid offending people.  We are not showing love when we only talk about God's love and ignore sin, because people need to see the full picture to be saved.

If you have read the story of Micaiah, you know that his stand as the lone person telling the truth made no difference.  King Ahab did what he wanted to do anyway, and King Ahab suffered the consequences.  So were the words of Micaiah a waste, just because they brought about no visible results?  No, because Micaiah did what God told him to do.  He stood for truth, even when no one wanted to hear it.  

For those Christians who attempt to stop the "normalization of sin" in our culture?  I can't accept that it makes no difference, or that their efforts should have been spent elsewhere.  Without an idea of right and wrong, there is no reason for people to need Jesus. Without our sin, there was no reason for Jesus to die to pay for it.  Understanding the Gospel starts with understanding our sin.  

The truth of the Gospel, of Jesus saving us from our sin, is what will ultimately set people free - but no one will know the truth if we won't love the lost enough to be willing to speak it.  




6/26/15

Camping Vacation - Successes and Fails

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I am finally getting around to sharing about our vacation! I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were going to spend a week camping in South Dakota.  Overall, we had a really nice time! The kids loved sleeping in a tent and running around outside, getting dirty. I love waking up to the sun shining through our tent.  Though, for half of our vacation it was not sunny when we woke up, so that I did not love.  But we decided to escape the rain the last day and spend some time in Wyoming, which made me love it again!

Overall, there were a few things I think we did right, and a few things I would do better.

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What We Should Have Done Better

1. We didn't have to make reservations for the whole week.  The campground we stayed at was alright (and there were friendly bunnies running around that the kids loved to chase).  But the owner's attitude toward the patrons could have been better, and there were some other campgrounds that I think we would have liked more for other reasons too (better playground, for example).




Unfortunately, we had made reservations for the whole week, so we were stuck where we were.  We figured out that for tent camping, you really don't need reservations at campgrounds.  There are always spots available, and there is usually another campground someplace if worse comes to worse.

2. We should have stopped when we had a chance.  We were thinking we would arrive in South Dakota with plenty of time to make a Walmart run, since we forgot our pillows - but then we arrived at 9:30 PM and spent the first night with no pillows, and now batteries to blow u our air mattress (which is a necessity to me, especially at 6 months pregnant).  We made it work, but we definitely should have stopped at the first available place instead of waiting!


3. We should have checked road conditions before we left.  We didn't realize until it was too late that the route we were trying to take was closed!  And not temporarily, but indefinitely.  We ended up having to take a big detour, which is why we arrived 3 hours later than we thought we would.

4. We should have researched a bit more.  We decided to just play this vacation by ear, which made for less stress up front, but it also might have led to a bit more disappointment.

For example, we decided to try a tour of a mine where you just walk in - I thought the kids would be okay with it, but our tour guide...let's just say he shouldn't be a tour guide.  Then the mine narrowed, which the kids wouldn't tolerate, so we left the tour early.  I don't know if research would have remedied this, but it might have.  We did some "gemstone mining" after leaving the tour, which redeemed the activity a little bit, at least for the kids...







We also didn't know how much all the fees would be for the state parks - $15 for the Badlands! We may not have gone there had we known, since Derek and I are still trying to figure out what is so special about the Badlands (but then we would have missed out on Wall Drug, so maybe it was still worth it).  The Badlands, that is a place that desperately needs a (good) tour guide, so we know what we're looking at.


What We Did Right

1. We packed a lot of food.  We didn't even have to eat out much because of all the food I packed.  And let's face it, good food makes everything more fun.  The campfire was one of the best things we did, and the kids loved their s'mores (Clyde even got his first roasted marshmallow).




2. We had a campground reservation the first night.  This was a lifesaver, because on the way out we figured out that the route we were planning to take was closed!  We thought it was just a temporary closure, but when we got to the town we realized no, this was not temporary.  So we had to take a long detour through Nebraska, and we ended up not even getting to the campground until 9:30 at night.



Thankfully we had reservations for that first night, and the campground had an after-hours check in!  I don't know what we would have done if we hadn't reserved the first night, because all the campgrounds were closed by the time we got there.

3. We spent a day doing nothing.  Our first day in South Dakota, we planned . . . nothing.  We woke up and decided to go to Walmart in Rapid City for some ice, then we grabbed some breakfast and saw signs for a free Air and Space museum.  We made our way over there and checked it out, and it was a hit! Probably one of the more fun things we did while we were there.



After the museum, we made our way back to our camp, ate lunch, took a nap, had an early campfire, and watched a movie in our tent before bed.  It was so nice to have a day with nothing on the agenda, just goofing off (and we wouldn't have discovered the Air and Space museum otherwise, and the kids had more time to chase bunnies).  Isn't that what vacation is for anyway, to goof off and relax?

4. We had a detailed budget.  We actually planned out each section of our vacation budget this time - how much we planned to spend on food, activities, souvenirs, etc.  We've never really done that before, but it is so much easier to keep track of what we are spending when we have a specific amount for specific things.  And we didn't go over our budget at all, as we so often do on vacation!  I think we will be more specific in our budget plans again the next time.

5. We knew when to cut our losses and bail.  The first two days in South Dakota we had nice weather . . . and then it got cold and rained.  For the next 2.5 days.  We saw Mt. Rushmore (which Wyatt found very interesting), but only for about 5 minutes before a cloud covered those presidential faces.



Thankfully we had some indoor activities planned for the rainy days, such Reptile Gardens, which all the kids, and especially Wyatt, loved!


But by the third cold morning I was just done.  I didn't even bring a cute sweatshirt, because I thought we'd have good weather.  Note to self: always bring cute sweatshirts when camping.  Especially when you are pregnant and feel less glamorous to start with.



Anyway, we decided to make a couple more stops and then drive part of the way home that day.  It was a good decision, and probably our most fun day of vacation.  We stopped at the Flintstones Theme Park in Custer (so. much. fun.  I think this was the highlight of the whole trip, just because the kids loved it so much).



Then we went to Bear Country (also a hit), and ended up camping in Wyoming that night - at the best KOA I have ever been to!  At least it seemed that way because the contrast between the KOA and our other campground was stark.  But they had a bonfire by the river, within sight of our tent.  How fun is that?  And no one was using it!  Derek and I were going to sneak over there for a mini date after we got the kids to sleep (surely they would sleep, because we tired them out with swimming and everything), but it got windy and the kids wouldn't go to sleep.  So our plans to make out in the dark were spoiled. *wink*



It was just a really nice campground though, and I was so glad we were able to redeem the last day of vacation before the long drive home.  It ended on a high note!

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Overall, it was a fun, adventurous vacation!  Maybe a bit dirty for having a half-term baby in your belly, but there is something so nice about watching campfire embers fading into the night, and waking up in the morning to birds chirping (or a child crawling onto the air mattress with you, as the case may be).  We are already making plans to buy a bigger tent that will sleep six (on air mattresses and cots, of course) for future years!

6/23/15

26 Weeks Baby #4 - Uncomfortable

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I am 26 weeks pregnant now!  The last couple weeks Baby Girl has been developing hearing (she should be able to hear Derek talking now, as well as me), and she is probably starting to practice breathing movements!

I am feeling fairly good.  I have had more backaches (Derek is so sweet to give me massages whenever I need them, so that helps).  I also have a hard time digesting meat - if I have a hamburger or something, I usually get a stomach ache by the time evening rolls around.  I find this very odd.  I never had so many digestive issues with the other kiddos.  Carbs don't seem to cause a problem, so I tend to eat more noodles, fruits, and cookies lately (which I am sure is just dandy for my weight gain).



I have probably gained around 18 pounds so far, which is a little more than I'd like to see at this point in my pregnancy, but if I can hold steady for a couple weeks I'll feel like I'm back on track. I feel pretty good about my wight gain overall so far, but when I look at my belly I feel like it is huge!  I am having a hard time remembering how big I was with the other kids at this point.  I looked at this picture and I was pretty sure I am bigger this time around:



So I went ahead and looked up my pictures with the other three at 26 weeks, and I think I look smaller with the boys, but with Gwen I feel like I look huge at this point too - so maybe it's just a girl thing!  You can check out my other updates below if you are curious.  Tell me what you think!




In other news, I was almost convinced I had a blood clot in my leg a few days ago.  I have had one before, and because of it I am always on blood thinners postpartum.  My right calf started aching, and it felt just like a blood clot.  It's hard to know what to do in that situation - is it just a muscle cramp?  If it is I should rub it out.  But what if it's a blood clot?  Then rubbing it could knock the clot loose, which is not good!  In the end I left it alone and it felt better after a couple days, so I'm assuming it was just a muscle pull or something.

I also have been getting a lot more Braxton Hicks contractions than i ever remember having before - one of them even hurt the other day, and I have never had a Braxton Hicks hurt!  That, combined with the fact that I have been reading a book about a preemie, has me a bit jumpy.  But everything is still in order, and Baby Girl has been moving more, so that has been fun!  I see her from the outside quite often now, and Derek has felt her move!



I finally bought fabric for our girl's blanket, and the crib arrived on Friday! So the agenda for this week is to work on her quilt and put the crib together.  I'll probably post sneak peeks on Instagram at some point, so follow me there to keep up!

In a couple more weeks I'll have another doctor's appointment (My doc felt I could skip the June one since this is my fourth baby).  So hopefully I'll have more exciting things to report for the next couple bump updates!


Maternity Outfit Details:

Dress: Charming Charlie
Sandals: Forever21
Necklace: A gift from Wyatt a couple Christmases ago 
(Derek bought it, but Wyatt picked it out himself!)
Vest: Maurice's
Neon Yellow Nail Polish: Orly


Behind the scenes of our little baby bump photo shoots - the kids were running in and out of the pictures this week!  I have some pretty cute ones.  I have to acknowledge Derek for a minute too for being my (handsome) photographer for all of these baby update posts!


6/18/15

My Birthday (And The Perfect "Zoo Day" Book)

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Last week we celebrated my birthday!  Derek and I had a nice birthday date (saw Jurassic World - tied in nicely with the original movies, I liked it), and then we enjoyed a quiet evening at home eating cheesecake and watching another movie (McFarland, USA - I liked it).  It was a nice way to recover from vacation last week!

(Me with my kiddos, on my birthday.)

And for my present, Derek got me a zoo pass!  I have been bugging him for another one for the last few months, since our last one expired in December.  I loved having a zoo pass last year!  The kids are all at that age where animals are fascinating, and it's nice to have something that we can do without having to spend any extra money each month.

I am excited to finally take the kids back, since we haven't been to the zoo in 6+ months - "zoo day" is on the list for next week!  I think it will be fun to take Clyde especially, because he is actually interested in animals this year.  And we just received a little book that will be perfect for him, for those moments when he gets a little tired of trying to figure out what is going on.



Noah's Noisy Zoo is perfect for the toddler age group!  It's a board book (so they can't ruin it as easily), and the pictures are simple and colorful.  Each page is eye-catching, especially for little ones.

The book lists a bunch of animals that were a part of Noah's "zoo", and I think it's really interesting in a tactile way for young toddlers or even babies. Some of the pictures of the animals are raised, and some are indented - so the pages fit together like a puzzle when they are closed!



This book fits in perfectly with a zoo day outing, or as entertainment for younger toddlers if you plan a Noah's Ark themed day like I shared about last month.  Like I said, I'm really looking forward to taking it with us now that we can finally get back to the zoo!

Note: I received a copy of "Noah's Noisy Zoo" for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

6/17/15

GIRL! (24 Weeks Baby #4)

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We are finally back from vacation, and I was able to sort through all my pictures!  We took the 24 week belly pictures the day we left for vacation, so this update is really late - I'm really 25.5 weeks now.



Of course the big news is that we finally revealed the gender to everyone . . . and it's a GIRL! We are so excited to be expecting another little lady!  I think it will be good for Gwen to have a little sister to play with.

Honestly, I was a bit surprised!  I try not to get my head set on one gender too much either way, but for a couple weeks there I was pretty sure it was going to be a boy.  I tell you, my pregnancy symptoms have been so weird this time around.  This is my fourth baby, so I figured I could make a pretty educated gender guess, but I have had boy and girl symptoms throughout most of the pregnancy!  When my dad was joking at our ice cream social gender reveal party that it was twins, I told him he shouldn't mess with my head, because my symptoms were making me wonder for a while there!



I am so happy it's a girl though, and Derek and I have a good idea of what her name will be.  It may change, because I am not 100% sure, and I like to keep my options open, but it's pretty likely.

Now that I know it's a girl, I am anxious to go shopping and get started on her baby quilt!  I have an idea in my head for the color scheme, but it all depends on whether I can find the right fabric for what I have in mind.  I did see some cute decorations for the "baby corner" at Hobby Lobby though, so I will probably pick those up soon.  You can check out my baby Pinterest board for some of the quilt patterns I'm looking at!



Baby Girl is now officially "viable" (even though babies can survive as early as 22 weeks!), so that is kind of exciting! Lungs and taste buds are developing more this week.  I can tell the lungs are developing, because I have already felt some hiccups from our little girl here and there!

This little girl is not a big mover, but I can tell she is getting bigger, because when she does move it is more pronounced.  I can tell by the movements that she is still sitting really low down (which I think is weird, since I am carrying higher).  For a while I think her days and nights were mixed up, but now I am feeling more movement during the day - now if she can just keep her schedule straightened out until she comes!



I have been feeling great, with just some back pain when I am on my feet too long.  Most of the other unpleasant symptoms have subsided, so I think I have entered the easy part of pregnancy! I should get moving on all my baby projects while I still have the energy!

Maternity Outfit Details:

Jean Jacket - Target (similar)
White Patterned Shirt (which is actually supposed to be a dress) - Forever21 
Pilazzo Pants - Target (similar)
Shoes - JustFab
Earrings - Jane.com (which was a limited time deal, but I also like these ones.)




6/16/15

Married 'Til Monday Review

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You know how sometimes you start a book, and it's not fantastic, but you just keep reading because you feel obligated to finish it?  That happens to me sometimes.  I used to feel that I had to finish every book I started, but in more recent years, I sometimes just don't.  Reading, especially reading fiction, should be enjoyable, right?  So for vacation last week I planned to bring a few books that I knew would be books that I really wanted to read and knew I would enjoy, and Married 'Til Monday by Denise Hunter was one of them.



Married 'Til Monday finishes off the stories about the McKinley family that make up the Chapel Springs series.  I have read two of the other books in this series, and I really enjoyed them. I had been hoping Hunter would write one about Ryan, who is still in love with his ex-wife, Abby, so I was particularly looking forward to this book.

One day Ryan gets a call from his ex mother-in-law inviting him an anniversary party, and he realizes that Abby never told her parents that they got divorced.  He covers for her, and takes the opportunity to contact her again.  He volunteers to pretend to be married to her for the weekend, with the secret intention of winning her back.

As with her other books, I felt like Hunter got a bit descriptive of some of the feelings associated with the physical affection between the characters in this book, though there was nothing inappropriate.  That is really the only complaint I ever have with her romance novels.

I thought Hunter did a nice job of weaving Ryan and Abby's history in with the rest of the story in a natural way.  One of the reasons I like reading Hunter's books is that she is so good at taking a plot that could get slow and keeping it interesting throughout.  Every time I ended a chapter I immediately wanted to start the next one so I could see what was going to happen.  I'm kind of bummed that the series is over now, but I am looking forward to seeing what Hunter comes out with in the future!

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

6/12/15

Favorite Things For Summertime

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We are still on vacation, enjoying our last days on our camping trip!  You can see everything we are up to by following me on Instagram.  I'll be back early next week with a (late) pregnancy update, but for now enjoy this post by one of my blog friends, Keri, on her favorite items for beach trips!  She is the person to write to you about this, since I don't have much beach experience in my land-locked state...

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Hello, my name is Keri and I share over at Living In This Season. I am a mama to three little ones (ages 6, 3, and 1) and wife to my husband of almost 10 years. I love connecting with others and sharing about living life fully in our current seasons of life. Stop on by and say hello!

Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year. We live in South Carolina near the coast so are grateful to have what seems like an extended summer. The beach is one of our favorite places to go as a family and I have found a few products to be absolutely necessary for our beach trips.

favorite summer products

Sunscreen- I have loved using Babyganics Mineral-Based Sunscreen. It is perfect to use for the whole family and provides plenty of protection.

Headband- Recently, I was given this headband from Mag Soul Shop to try out and I am loving it. It easily holds back my hair and all those fly aways I have. They have so many cute headbands- see more HERE.

Flip Flops- Honestly, I probably wear flip flops the majority of the time. My sister convinced me to try Reef flip flops and I am loving them so far. They are so comfortable and cute.

Umbrella- As much as I love the sun, it is really nice to have some shade when you are at the beach as a family. I have seen a lot of people using these umbrellas and wonder if it would work better than my regular old one from CVS...

Water & Snacks- What is it about the beach that makes me so hungry?! We always have some snacks to take to the beach along with plenty of water. I am currently looking for a good water bottle- any favorites?

Sand Toys & Fun- My kids love having some sand toys to bring along. I have learned to just bring a few items because most of the time they end up playing with the drift wood and shells. It is also so important to go to the beach ready to have some fun as a family. Some beach trips end up being filled with some tantrums or tears, but I try to enter the time ready for whatever. It is always a choice in how I react to the circumstances- joy or anger?

What are some of your favorite beach necessities?


Note From Keri: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, to read my disclosure policy go HERE.
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