Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Living. Show all posts

Marinating In Gratitude

Yesterday was one for the books, in the best possible way.

I feel like I should preface this post by saying that many of my days alone with the five kids so far have ended with Derek coming home right as I'm about to pull my hair out, and me escaping to wash my hair - even if it doesn't need washed - just to have a break.

But yesterday, it wasn't like that.  We had the most peaceful day that we've had, not just since adding our sweet Georgie, but in months.  I'm trying to go back over it in my head to figure out the "secret", so I can repeat it, if that were possible.

The morning went pretty normally, with the kids waking up before me.  Clarice climbed under the covers with me at some point, and I feel like I remember her reading a book in my sleepy haze.  After drifting in and out for a half hour, I finally got out of bed and got ready for the day.  The kids woke up Georgie because they went into her nursery to take care of her (which wasn't as tragic as it sounds, because I heard her stirring anyway).  I fed the kids oatmeal, I fed Georgie, and wrapped her into our Solly wrap.

She fell asleep, so I pulled out the play dough (which I've been meaning to do for the last two weeks), and read to the kids while they created things.  We read about Christopher Columbus.  We read two chapters of Dr. Doolittle.  We were on a roll, so I pulled out the next catechism question, and we worked on a memory verse, and we read the Christmas story from Luke (I figure if we read it every day for the next month, maybe they'll inadvertently memorize it).  And nobody cried (at least not until we were done with all our read-alouds).

I made lunch and got the kids down for a nap in the nick of time before Georgie got hungry.  I fed her and then practiced some reading with Wyatt while she slept on my lap.  I snuck her onto the couch and she stayed asleep, so I edited some of the pictures we had taken of her first two weeks.

Kids got up.  Pulled out the play dough again, and they entertained themselves for another hour while I chopped up potatoes for dinner.  I made dinner!  On my own!  Potato soup was bubbling on the stove by the time Derek walked through the door.

I still can't figure out what made it go right. But it's nice that it happened on Thanksgiving week, because I suspect it had more to do with my attitude than with the logistics of the day.  I watched this video, and while I'm mulling over some of it, what I do think is true is that gratitude makes all the difference in the level of happiness we feel.  When things start to feel overwhelming or frustrating, it is usually about the same time that I forget to feel grateful.  And when things go relatively smoothly it seems that it is usually because I decide to make the most of the day with my sweet children, from a heart of gratitude, instead of letting things just happen to us.

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 118:1

I had this verse on my chalkboard all last year, but it is sad that I didn't let it sink into my heart a little more.  There is a reason Scripture tells us to "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)   

There is so much for which to give thanks - each day I have to spend with these sweet children, each day my wonderful husband comes home to me - it's such a blessing.  Somehow, having Georgie come at this time of year seems really appropriate, because having her here has reminded me that God didn't have to give me any of this.  But He did, and I am so grateful.  I think the Lord let today go so well to remind me what it looks like to slow down and give thanks, to marinate in that gratitude a little bit more. (Marinate - ha!  Because it's Thanksgiving week?  Turkey?  Oh, never mind.)

My hope is that I'll remember to be grateful on the rough days too, long after this Thanksgiving week is past.  

On Thursday I'll join the rest of the country in "giving thanks" - giving thanks to God for all the blessings He's given our family, and the way He has guided our nation so that we even celebrate this holiday in the first place, and for the greatest gift He gave by giving us His Son to save us.  But I want to carry that gratitude on into the craziness of December and through the New Year too.  And I wish the same for you, friends!  Because there is so much to be grateful for when we remember to slow down and look, and giving thanks "in everything" can change a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

The Balance Between Memory-Keeping And Memory-Making

We got another skiff of snow this morning, and Derek is home today, though he ran out to the grocery store a little while ago for milk and diapers.  The house is relatively quiet right now.  He left while I was still in bed, so the kids are upstairs watching some cartoon or another on TV.  Aside from some footsteps running across the floorboards above my head occasionally, it is peaceful and quiet.

I have no big plans for the day, aside from homeschool and working on my Christmas card list (Christmas time and this baby's arrival are looming).  I will probably do something a bit more elaborate for dinner, and by that I mean I'll spend the 45 minutes it takes to cut up potatoes for potato soup.  It's a potato soup kind of day.

But for now, it's quiet, and I'm hunkering down in my room, trying to figure out what to write today.  I was going to write about more frivolous things, but there are a few deeper thoughts left in the month after all.  Snow always puts me in a reflective mood, and this morning I'm reflecting on keeping a good balance between memory-keeping and memory-making.

Much has been said about how obsessed we all are with getting the perfect picture to share on social media, and viewing our lives through the lens of our phone instead of the lenses of our eyes.  I'm not sure I'm going to go that route with this post, because I've written this month already about how it's hard for me to even remember certain events without some documentation.  I am not gifted with an impeccable memory for times and places and events, so writing something down or snapping a picture keeps these things from being lost to me forever.  I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to document the past, and indeed I think it's important.  It's most important I think so we don't forget what God has done.  How far He has brought us, and how He has worked in our lives and  grown our character up to the present moment.

However, I think there is a certain danger in getting too caught up in the past.  How we've "always" done things.  How things "used to be".  

Because the more years behind you the more you realize that things never stay exactly the same.

And that statement sounds wistful and sad somehow, but I don't really think it has to be.  Because would we really even want things to stay the same forever?  Would we want to never move to the next stage of life, to never watch our babies get bigger and develop their personalities, to never develop new traditions, try something new, grow?

There is room for a bit of sentimentality about the past I think, as long as we don't get stuck in our reminiscing about "the good ole days".  Because these days that we're in right now, these very present moments, are good too.  They drift on by, and tomorrow will be a memory before we even realize it.  And I think it's good to embrace the way things change, to hold on to our memories while making fresh, different ones in the present moment, and not to resent the fact that things aren't always "the same".  Because really, how boring would things get if they always were?

My goal I think, in all this memory-keeping, is to remember all that God has done for me this far, but not so I can wish for the way things used to be.  I want to remember His faithfulness and gifts in the past so my eyes are wide open for His faithfulness and gifts that are still in the future.  And when I keep that balance between the memory-keeping and the memory-making yet to be done, I think it's easier to live fully in the blessings of right now, and to be grateful for them.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You Review (Highly Recommend)

I picked up the 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You audiobook, because like many of you, I feel like I often check my phone too much.  I thought this book would give me a good little kick to break some bad habits, but I got so much more than I was expecting!

This book goes over different ways smartphones, and technology in general, has changed us not only individually but as a culture.  The author incorporates different statistics and studies, and then takes a deeper look at the spiritual impact of our phone choices.  He doesn't tell you what you need to do with your own smartphone habits, he just neutrally gets you thinking.

There were two specific things in this book that really stuck with me.  First, the author wrote that checking your phone or texting while driving (disclaimer: which I obviously try NOT to do unless changing my music - which maybe I should be careful about too) is a disregard for your neighbor - the neighbor who is in the car whizzing past you.  You are not caring for your neighbor as you should, and as Scripture calls us to do, when you flippantly put them at risk like that.  I had honestly never even thought about the whole don't-text-while-driving thing like that and thought he made some really good points.

The other item that I remembered with this book, and that will honestly change some of how I handle social media is that we so often trade eternal reward for a few temporal "likes" on social media.  The example he used was those posts on Instagram with a picture of your Bible as you finish up your devotional time.  Any heavenly reward we may have received from spending time with our Savior is instantly traded for pats on the back by other people on Instagram.  This is supported by Matthew 6:1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

How sad is that?  And once again, I never thought about it before, but I have been guilty too of trading eternal rewards for "likes" - guilty of caring more about men's applause than pleasing God.  Now whenever I see those Bible posts, or those "humble brag" posts, I cringe a little more than I used to.  Since listening to that chapter of this book, I've been trying to refrain from trading eternal rewards like that myself.  It's a bad trade.

There were so many other excellent points in this book, I'll honestly probably listen to it again.  I even thought about buying the print version so I could highlight some of the pieces that I like.  

If you are like me and feel that little itch for an eternal perspective on your smartphone use, definitely check this book out!   It's given me a lot to think about and has already motivated me to change some of my habits, and I highly recommend it.

Note: I received the audio of this book for free from christianaudio in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Purpose, In Five Minutes

I've decided to try something different on the blog today.  Apparently there is this linkup called Five Minute Friday.  I'm not a huge fan of linkups in general, to read or to write, because I feel like they tend to be too formulaic for me.  But for this one, you receive a one-word prompt and write about it for five minutes only, and then share without editing.  

I think this linkup is a bit of an exception to my general linkup dislike because you really can use the word prompt however you want, and the five minute timeline encourages honesty in a good way.

I'm going to join in, but you should know that I wrote for seven minutes, and I did add a few words here and there for clarity.  Not exactly following the rules, but this is my blog, so I can do what I want!  I might join in when the word is interesting, but if it's a stinker of a word, I will have no problems skipping it.  Stay tuned, but for now, here is my first installment.

6:55 PM

It’s funny how one little word can take your mind on a whole new track.  Purpose.  A word that isn’t just a word, but seems to prompt a question.  

"What is my purpose?"

That word and that question seems to come at an interesting time for me, because I have struggled with it.  For the last couple years, I have lost sight not of my overall purpose, but my day-to-day purpose to a certain extent.  I always have my overall purpose in mind because of the catechism our pastor’s wife taught us when I was a young teenager.  

What is the purpose of man?  To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  

That is always my ultimate purpose, and the purpose of every human being if they are willing to look and find it through what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross.  He enables us to live out our purpose, the one that the human race lost in Eden.  He got it back for us.

But still, my day-to-day, personal purpose has been wanting.  For a while I tried to find it in this blog.  Writers all around me seemed to be striving and reaching much bigger things - writing books, earning money, building a ministry.  

I tried for a bit too, but it all just came up empty.  Like chasing the wind.

This year I’ve been slowing down and realizing that my personal purpose won’t come from “making something of myself”.  I think my greatest purpose comes into my room at an ungodly hour every morning, and asks if it’s time for breakfast yet.  And I’m learning to stop striving and reaching for something bigger than the four brown-haired-heads slurping Fruit Loops and spilling milk.

I was looking too hard for something different that wasn’t there.  

My purpose is sitting right there, at my kitchen table.

7:02 PM

Unlocking The Bible (A Review)

(Affiliate link below.)

Finally, a great book I can recommend!  I requested Unlocking The Bible by Jeff Lasseigne a couple months ago. The name "Unlocking The Bible" is a little misleading, because it almost presents the Bible as inaccessible without "unlocking" - but on the contrary, this book is a wonderful resource to help readers realize that anyone can read and understand God's Word.

The first couple chapters talk about the way the Bible was put together, and what qualified different books to be included in the Bible.  I thought this was really interesting.  I think there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about how we came to have the Bible we can hold today, and these chapters explained why we can have confidence in the Bible as the inspired word of God.

The next two chapters give a timeline of the Bible, from Genesis to the writing of Revelation.  I've read through the Bible several times, but I really liked this condensed version of the story to give a bigger picture.  The part I liked best was the historical details that the author included, placing biblical event sin historical context.

Finally Lasseigne gives tips on how to study the Bible, and how to teach the Bible, along with an entire section with a summary and quotes about each book of the Bible.  I thought these sections were a great encouragement and resource!

This book is sound, and the author holds the Bible in high esteem - and I think this is something we need more of, even within the church today.  I highly recommend this book!  It was readable, but full of information and encouragement to dig into God's Word!

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

2016 Was A Weird Reading Year

Another year, another bunch of books!  Let's talk about the favorites from 2016, shall we?  Unlike publishers or crazy book blogs, I am not constrained to what was published this year.  No, this is a list of the favorite books that I've personally read this year.

My reading was kind of all over the place in 2016, partially because I unofficially decided somewhere along the way to try reading some books that I normally would not pick up, especially in fiction.  I'm not sure it was a success.  While I enjoyed exploring a little, it left me with less books that I am actually comfortable recommending, and definitely less on the favorites list.

A Quick Side Tangent On Books And Politics

(You may skip this section if we are not of the same political persuasion, and it won't hurt my feelings! *wink*)

Let me just go on a little side-tangent real quick, because if there is one thing I've learned this year through all my book exploring, it's that if you are going to be a responsible reader, you have to go into each book looking for the worldview that is being communicated through that book.  I was shocked at how many of the more current general fiction books that I picked up insisted upon including subtle political or moral statements - and if I wasn't looking for them, I would have totally missed them, or been influenced by them without realizing it.

I think in 2016 there was a lot of backlash related to how biased the media generally is toward a certain political viewpoint.  For me personally, I realized how biased a lot of the general fiction that so many people in this country are reading is too - but the trick about fiction is that you usually don't notice it without looking for it.  Most people read fiction to relax and their guard is down.  It was all actually a little scary and discouraging to me.

A really good example is the way abortion is addressed in books these days.  You know I am strongly pro-life and have started volunteering at a pregnancy center, so I especially noticed this in my 2016 reading.  I was surprised at how it some of these more liberal authors can't seem to help themselves when it comes to supporting abortion.  The plot demands that the character keep their baby, and yet the author insists on making the character reference abortion as if that is what they should have done, but you know, "it was too late".  Why can't they just leave that out altogether?  Why do these authors have to try to subtly foist their own political viewpoint on us, as if a character choosing not to have an abortion is a moral choice the author doesn't agree with, so some sort of disclaimer is needed? I abandoned several books this year for this reason.

And book podcasts!  I tried listening to several different book podcasts this year, but I've abandoned almost all of them because I can't stand how they impose their own political viewpoints upon their listeners (some more obviously than others).  I basically can't even trust their recommendations anymore.  Some of these hosts even describe books that should be mostly neutral in political terms but they impose their own controversial viewpoints onto the book when they talk about them, and I'm just sick of it.  They do realize that there is another half of the country that doesn't necessarily share their political persuasion, right?  I'm looking at you, Book Riot.

On To The Books

So yes, 2016 was kind of a black hole of reading for me, I abandoned almost as many books as I finished, and I don't have a lot of great ones to recommend from my little reading experiment.  I've got eight that stood out to me, and as for 2017...I think I'm going to stick closer to authors I already like or classics.  You can't really go wrong that way.

So here we go, in no particular order.  If you do end up picking one of these up, please read my full reviews on Goodreads (the titles link to my reviews) for a more detailed breakdown of some of the content that may have required more commentary.

I'm Happy For You (Sort Of...Not Really) By Kay Wills Wyma - This was probably my #1 favorite of the books I read this year.  I read it at just the right time and got so much out of this book, and it really made me rethink ways that I am still comparing too much on social media.  I thought I was getting better at not comparing so much (and I have improved), but this book opened my eyes even more to the kind of person I want to be.  I've been telling a lot of my friends and family about it because it was so good.  I highly recommend it.

The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - The disclaimer is that this book does have some profanity and taking Jesus's name in vain, which I hate.  But other than that, I really liked this one.  The whole premise of the book is that the Earth has started a "slowing" of it's rotation...which lengthens the days and wreaks all kinds of havoc.  Obviously not biblically-based since we know this is not how the world will end - this book is purely secular.  But the underlying theme is one of a coming-of-age story, and I've just kind of realized that I am a sucker for a coming-of-age story.  Something about it resonated with me, and the overall plot of the earth slowing was just so interesting.  I think that's the science nerd in me coming out.

Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan - Did any of you ever watch Diagnosis: Mystery when it was on TLC?  I LOVED that show, and this is basically that show in book form.  A lady starts to go crazy and they are trying to figure out why.  It's a true story that's written more like a novel, and I listened to it on audio.  It was really fascinating.  Some language in this one too.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Some language and the Lord's name in vain in this one too, and I hated how it included the "clump of tissue" myth when it comes to unborn children.  So I hesitate to say I "recommend" this one.  I include it here because I have never gotten so much out of a fictional story and it really made me think about where I spend my time and energy.  If you have ever felt like you can't relate to people in other stages of life or wondered what your ten-years-younger self would think about the you of today, you might get something out of this book too (but please read my disclaimers first).

Adam And Eve After The Pill: Paradoxes Of The Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt - I picked this book up because ever since I quit the pill all those years ago, I have been interested in the effects birth control (and the sexual revolution) has had on society.  This book was fascinating.  It's published by a Catholic publisher, but the book itself isn't geared toward Catholics but toward anyone who is interested in this topic.  I had heard a lot of the data before, but the author had so many insights into our current culture.  I generally think we need to think a bit more deeply about what we are doing to ourselves in this department, and I highly recommend this one.

Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell - I just really like Mitchell's historical fiction - I feel like it's usually really well researched, and I generally like her characters.  This wasn't my favorite of hers because I felt like it took about a quarter of the book to get into it, but I still enjoyed it.  And the short story you can get if you sign up for her newsletter relates to this story and was so fun!

Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall - I wrote a full review on this book a couple months ago, so I won't go into too much detail here, but I really liked this one.  It's a middle-grade novel, but I enjoyed it as an adult.  It's a quick read, and the characters have stuck with me.

So what did you read in 2016 that stood out?  Do you keep an eye out for the different worldviews in your fiction?

I hope you had a more joyous reading year than me.  Here's to 2017!

Four Ways To Recognize Advent As A Mom

I mentioned recently how last year I felt like I just barely survived the Christmas season - thriving was out of the question.  I think part of the problem was that all the Christmas details got so overwhelming that I couldn't even focus on the reason we celebrate in the first place!  Amidst the stress of the season, I missed the meaning and beauty of Christmas - which is that God became a baby in Jesus, and lived a sinless life on earth so that He could die to save me.  Obviously I knew this in my head, but I didn't take any time to reflect and let that beautiful truth settle in my heart last Christmas.

Advent is traditionally a tool for focusing our attention back on what Christmas is truly about - our Savior! As moms we tend to make Advent about driving home the meaning of Christmas to our kids, but this year I want to create some sort of personal Advent tradition.  I think sometimes we can get so focused on making sure the kids "get it", that we forget that we need that time of refreshment that comes when we refocus on the Lord in the middle of the bustle!  When we are taking the time to fill ourselves up with God's truth and joy in this season, it is that much easier to do the same for our kids.

I have a few ideas for how to recognize Advent this year for myself, as a mom.

1. An Advent Bible reading plan.  

I've done a couple Advent reading plans in the past, but it's been a while.  I want to find a plan for reading Bible verses that relate to Advent as part of my devotions this December. She Reads Truth often comes out with an Advent plan, so I might check that out.  Any other recommendations for an Advent Bible reading plan?

2. Memorize Bible verses.

I have been majority slacking on Bible memorization this year, even after writing last year about why moms should memorize Bible verses -  and I feel it.  I would love to choose a passage to work on through the Advent season.  I am thinking John 1:1-18 or Mary's prayer of praise in Luke 1:46-55 .

3. Christmas Music.

What better than music to get you in the Christmas Spirit, right?  And Christ-focused music is also something that really touches my soul at Christmas time and helps me to remember the greatest gift from God - our salvation.  I'll share some of my Christmas favorites soon, but you can see some of my favorite Christmas albums in this oldie-but-goodie post!

4. Christmas Adult Coloring Book.

I was so thrilled to receive a Christmas coloring book to review!  But this book has truly exceeded my expectations.

(Note: Affiliate links below.)

All Is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas is not just a coloring book, it is also an Advent devotional.  I have already read through most of the devotions, and they are excellent!  Each devotion focuses on different aspects of Christ's birth, and is biblically based.  I am going to go through it again in December this year and use the coordinated coloring pages to have a little quiet time to focus on Jesus birth!

I really love each of the illustrations in this book.  As far as coloring goes, they are just unique and detailed enough to be challenging, but not so detailed that I lose a little bit of my sanity.  I don't know that I'll get through one of these gorgeous pages each day (I'm a slow colorer), but I will read through the devotions and enjoy a little coloring time while focusing on God's gift to us in sending Jesus to save us.  This is the personal Advent tradition that I am really looking forward to this year!

And another plus to this book - in the back is a section with Christmas coloring pages for kids, Bible verses, and family discussion questions!  I love that while this book is a great tool for moms to personally focus on Advent, it also has sections to encourage us to include our kids as well.  I can't wait to get some printed up for the kids!

Do you have a personal Advent tradition as a mom?  Tell me more!

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

3 Ways I'm Preparing For Christmas Before Thanksgiving

Last year in December I literally broke down crying, wishing Christmas would just be over already.

I don't think I've ever been such a "scrooge" in my life, but I was behind on all things Christmas, and all of our weekends and evenings were booked solid so I had no time to catch up.  On top of that I had a new baby and a touch of postpartum depression, and I just wanted life to feel normal for one day (which is pretty much impossible in December, at least around here).  The whole thing left me trudging through the holiday festivities with little to no Christmas spirit.

Most years aren't quite that bad, but over the last few years I have realized that Christmas can be downright stressful and un-fun for adults - in particular for moms.  At least in our family, almost all Christmas prep falls to me, and if I don't get on top of it the whole holiday feels like a chore to cross off my list instead of the sweet celebration of Christ's birth that it's meant to be.  

That's just sad.

So this year, I have been determined to get ahead of the Christmas to-do's well in advance so that when December rolls around I can hopefully just sit back and enjoy it all - and maybe have enough room to breath and reflect on the why of the celebration in the first place, which is the gift of our Savior!

Some things, like baking, obviously have to wait until December, but I have three things I would like to have accomplished before Thanksgiving this year.

1. Buy and wrap all Christmas gifts.  

There is a part of me that wants to save some wrapping for the actual Christmas season, but I am reminding myself that there are a lot of other Christmas activities that I never seem to have time for.  Things like making a gingerbread house with the kids, making hand-made ornaments to give to grandparents, or sitting down for a bunch of read-aloud Christmas books.  Do I really need to save shopping and wrapping for December to get into the Christmas spirit?  I think not.

2. Get Christmas cards ready to mail.  

I already have our Christmas card picture, and I am just waiting for VistaPrint's 50% Christmas card sale to pull the trigger on printing.  The goal is to get the cards ordered and addressed and stamped before Thanksgiving so I can just drop them in the mailbox on Black Friday and (hopefully) wait for the obligatory reciprocal Christmas card mail to roll in. (Hint: PLEASE SEND ME CHRISTMAS CARDS! They really make my day.)

3. Iron out any kinks in our Christmas budget.  

One of the major stress factors for me at Christmas time is the fear of going over budget, and I am determined not to let that happen this year.  I came up with a preliminary Christmas budget already, and since I have already started shopping I know there are a few little budget kinks to iron out.  As I get the rest of my shopping done I want to adjust the budget as necessary, think through our obligations, and set aside the money I will need for extra Christmas expenses.  My hope is that at the end of all this planning, December will feel like any other month financially.

A perk of all this early Christmas planning is that it is actually giving me a little early dose of the Christmas merriment that I was so desperately missing last year.  It's hard to feel the joy of the season when you are stressed with a load of obligations, and taking some of those away by getting a good head start has made me start to look forward to Christmas earlier than I usually do.  When the season gets here I'll have less stress and really be able to enjoy the goodwill and peace of the Christmas season, celebrating Christ's birth!  

My only question now is why did I not start planning Christmas in October years ago?

Do you start Christmas early, or are you a procrastinator?  What is your Christmas strategy?



Time for With Grit & Grace!  Link up with YOUR goals for November below!

Welcome to With Grit & Grace  – a monthly goal link-up focused on supporting each other as we work towards our goals! Please join us on the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 a.m. EST to share your goals and progress for the week, month, or year. We are all about building a positive community; please remember to read, comment, and share the posts of others – and let them know you found them at With Grit & Grace!
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What Do You Want To Teach Your Kids About Friendship?

Do you remember the very first friend you made?  Are you still friends with that person?  I am curious because I made my first friend in first grade, because we found out we were reading the same books (which I'm sure surprises none of you who read this blog regularly).  Unfortunately the friendship didn't last beyond the beginning of third grade, but that's another story for another day.  

Seeing my own kids making friends now has made me think harder about what kinds of things I want to teach them about being a good friend.  What makes a good friend?  What can you do to help your kids treat their little friends well?  

I'd love to hear your answers to these questions.  Personally, Proverbs is like a handbook for friendship to me - there are so many principles there for all kinds of relationships, including friendship.  I wrote a post that is up over at Tommy Nelson featuring some of my favorite Scriptural principles for friendship - and how to teach those to our children from a young age!  

Check it out, and please let me know what you try to teach your kids about friendship in the comments below!  I'd love to hear!

On The Election

I believe some of you follow me on Twitter, so it will be no surprise to you that I am pretty into politics.  I typically find the whole thing exciting and interesting, and I love to analyze.  My love for following the political process has eroded some over the past week though.  I think it is starting to get frustrating or overwhelming for a lot of us.

I had written this in a different way when I first published this post, but I'm trying agin because I don't think I explained myself very well the first time.  Right now I see a lot of argument among the Christian community about whether it is morally right or wrong to vote for Trump.  I don't know what each person's specific reasons are for wanting to avoid voting for Trump, and God knows everyone's heart, but I did want to just share where I am coming from on the matter, to possibly encourage those who may need it.  The thing that I am remembering this election is that I do believe we hold some responsibility for what happens to the country as a result of how we did or didn't use our vote.

The thing is, even a choice not to act has consequences.  And as Christians, if the country becomes completely godless because of the church's inaction, do you think we will be rewarded for that?  Do you think we can escape responsibility?  I don't believe we can.  Unless we are actively fighting against evil, we are complicit in it.  When God judges our nation by giving us over to our own choices, don't we have some part in that judgement, in bringing the nation to this place by doing nothing when we might have tried to prevent it but remained silent?  Our hands will not be clean.  

I have to choose, I have to take a stand for, or against, one of the two inevitable directions the country will go, because I don't think as a part of this nation we will escape moral responsibility before God for what we may have allowed.

All of that, believe it or not, was an introduction to an article that I REALLY want my brothers and sisters in Christ to read, especially if you are on the fence.  Eric Metaxas is such a good writer, and says everything much better than I can.  He expressed my feeling about the whole sorry thing so perfectly.  Please read here:

"Should Christians Vote For Donald Trump?"

(Some people seem to be having trouble with the link, so I linked to a Tweet wth the link instead because clicking through that way seems to work.Click through my tweet here.Oh, technology.

And just to end with two things that I think we will all agree on as sisters in Christ - first, when we stand before God's throne someday, those of us who believe in Jesus's sacrifice for us on the cross will have HIS righteousness - and that covers any way we may get it wrong in this election too.  And second, no matter who wins next month, God will always be sovereign over what happens, and that will always give me comfort.

Why I Won't Be Watching "This Is Us"

Last night I watched the premiere of "This Is Us".  It's probably not a show that I would have jumped to watch, except that I saw so many people mentioning it on Facebook the day after.  A Christian author (who shall remain nameless) even touted it as the possible next "Parenthood", so I figured I had to check it out.

What You Need To Volunteer At A Pregnancy Resource Center

It was a little over a year ago now that I sat down and actually watched one of the videos from the Center For Medical Progress.  Up to that point I had just read articles about the videos, describing the callous behavior and illegal actions of Planned Parenthood officials.

But for some reason, that day I decided to click open the video and watch myself.  I watched an interview with an abortion worker.  Then the video changed, and they were walking into a lab.  And I put my hand over my eyes and peeked through every now and then.  I saw a bloody tray.  I saw the backs of Planned Parenthood employees as they worked.

And I peeked through my fingers and felt my baby kick right under my heart as one of them proclaimed "it's a boy!".

That baby boy would have been born a couple weeks after Clarice.

The tears started then, rolling down my cheeks as my girl rolled over in my womb.   I cried for that baby boy, whom some have named Emmett, who never had a chance to kick his mama, or cry, or laugh, or have a first birthday, or start kindergarten.  I cried for that mother, who will never know the joy he might have brought into her life.

I still want to throw up just thinking about it, and even though I have been pro-life as long as I've known about such things, I knew it was time to stop pretending this wasn't happening.   It was time to stop forgetting about it unless it was an election year. 

So a few months later, on New Year's Eve, I made a secret resolution.  This was the year I'd get involved.  This was the year I'd do something.

You'll see me talking a bit more about my pro-life beliefs on here as I get my thoughts together.  I have a post with ideas on different things you can do, including telling you a little bit more about the shirt I'm wearing (hint: donate here), but today I wanted to share one way I've tried to get involved in stopping abortion - volunteering with a pregnancy resource center.  It hasn't looked like I thought it would, and I have a bit of advice for those of you who have considered volunteering yourselves.

Head over to the Save The Storks blog to read about the one thing you should know before you offer to volunteer at your local pregnancy center!

Becoming A Woman Of Excellence (A Review)

Earlier this summer I wrote about how I wanted to pick up a Bible study guide to use in my personal devotion time this summer.  I was happy to have a chance to review "Becoming A Woman Of Excellence" by Cynthia Heald.  I have heard of this Bible study in the past and was curious to pick it up again.

One thing I really appreciate about this Bible study is that it doesn't do all the work for you.  It is full of scripture verses to look up, and the questions make you think a little more deeply about the passage and applying it to your own life.  As part of the 30th Anniversary Edition, Heard also includes "Thoughts From An Older Woman" at the end of each chapter, writing about things she has learned since she first published this study 30 years ago.  I really loved how this study got you deep into God's word.

What I didn't love about this study - the organization was a little confusing to me.  I think this might be partially because I didn't use it every day, so maybe I forgot some of the ties between chapters.  I am still working through it going into the fall (about half way through), and I am looking forward to finishing it and seeing if it starts to fit together better for me.  The scripture verses Heald chooses seem to follow this kind of scattered organization, as she picks short passages or single verses to make some of her points.  I miss getting the full context of a passage, and I think I would like it better if each chapter focused on one Scripture passage and pulled points out of that passage, instead of listing Scripture verses that support her own topics or points.

All that said, this really is a good study, and I think it is one that is flexible enough to be good for those who want a lighter study, while also providing that springboard for depth that others might want.  I'm looking forward to finishing it (I'll update this review if I change my mind about anything by the end)!

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

How To Explain The Gospel To A Four Year Old

(Forgive me for using springtime pictures in the summer - this is my boy in April.)

When I was six years old, all the girls in my class had seen the Little Mermaid - except me.  My mom had yet to screen that very popular movie, so I really had no idea how to play the Little Mermaid when I visited a new friend’s house.  Her basement was the ocean, and she of course, was Ariel, singing her six-year-old lungs out on the “rock” at the top of the stairs.  When it was my turn to be Ariel, I did not know the mermaid’s songs.  I still have no memory of what I sang instead, but I’m pretty sure the other girl could tell I hadn’t seen the movie.

That visit with a friend I (who I rarely saw again) stands out in my adult memory now - let’s be honest, largely because of the Little Mermaid game that I didn’t really know how to play.  How embarrassing! (Except not really, because I didn’t care that much about the Little Mermaid.)  But it also stands out because of something my friend said.  Don’t ask me how we got on this subject - I think either me or one of my siblings must have asked her if she was saved.  And my friend said she was saved, because every night she asked Jesus to come into her heart.

How Important Is It To Teach Your Kids The Books Of The Bible?

When did you learn the books of the Bible?

I am willing to bet that most adults who have the books of the Bible memorized learned them as a kid.  Kids are such sponges! It's so much easier to memorize lists of information like that as children.

I think I was probably four or five years old when I learned the books of the Old Testament.  I went to VBS at a little mountain church, and there was a teenage girl there with an acoustic guitar and long brown hair who sang the Bible books song every day.  I have no idea who she was, but I can still almost see her in my mind.  I hope wherever she is, the Lord blesses her for her service at that VBS, because it has served me well to have the books of the Bible memorized, and it all started with that song.

We Can't Pay Our Own Debts (All The Missing Girls Book Review)

I recently started listening to “What Should I Read Next?”, which is a podcast by Anne Bogel (otherwise known as Modern Mrs. Darcy).  I've been enjoying it - it's the perfect podcast for book nerds!  She puts out a summer reading guide every year, and this year I picked up a few books on her list to check out.  All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda was one of them, and I gave it a try because the story sounded interesting.  It’s a secular book, and I find that reviews of secular books need more breaking down than Christian books, so here we go.

How I Am Marking The Years (A Gift Idea For Moms)

 (Note: I received the keepsake bracelet featured in this post from Teresa at The Keep Collective in exchange for an honest review.)

Do you have a way of marking the years?  

This month is my birthday, and I’ve been thinking a lot about different ways of marking the passage of time.  I think of myself five years ago on my birthday, and my life looked totally different.  Even my attitude was different!  You know how they say you don’t know how much you don’t know?  I don’t think that’s completely true.  I’m on my way out of my twenties, the decade of the “know-it-all”, and I realize more now how much I used to think I knew, but I really didn’t.  There is some wisdom in knowing what you don’t know, and not pretending you do know what you can’t, and I’m slowly learning that.

Why I Don't Read Blog Strategy Posts Anymore

"How I Gained 1,000 Followers In One Week"

"Three Ways To Grow Your Pinterest Following"

"How To Make Money Blogging"

I see titles like these every single day in my newsfeed, and if you are a blogger, my guess is that you do too.  When I first started blogging, I searched high and low for posts like these, trying to figure out what in the world I was doing.

Three Questions I Ask Before Choosing A Bible Study (Grit + Grace)

I have been struggling a bit in my devotion time this year.

Last year I used a reading plan to read through the Bible in one year - and it was great!  I really enjoyed getting the big picture of the whole Bible, especially because I read in order of historical chronology.

But I didn't really want to do that again this year.  Mainly because I can't ever seem to manage to get up more than five minutes before my kids, which leads to me rushing through my Bible reading, especially when I have multiple chapters to read.  This year I wanted to slow down and really study each chapter that I was reading, just for a change of pace.

The problem with not having a plan is that...well, you don't have a plan.

Three Mothering Books Worth Re-Reading

Here is a little confession: as much as I love to read, I am not really a re-reader.

I have been listening to some book podcasts lately (most notably "What Should I Read Next?" which was introduced to me by my friend, Felicia), and it is shocking to me - shocking! - how many people re-read books.  I have only ever re-read one book in full, Anne of Green Gables.  And I actually listened to it through Librivox, so I'm not sure that counts.

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