Thursday, September 11, 2014

Prayer Brownies: An EASY Way to Bless Your Neighbor

Last week a neighbor of ours brought home a new baby boy, and I wanted a simple way to bless their family and let them know we were thinking of them. So I did something really easy that turned out not only to bless them but to teach my girls about service and love.

I loaded the girls up in the car, went to the dollar store, and told them we were picking up a box of brownies for our neighbors/friends. I also explained they could help me make the brownies which they LOVED, being the baking fanatics that they are. (I mean, licking a bowl of chocolate is involved, so who wouldn't get excited?)

We went home, pre-heated the oven, and got to mixing. I let the girls help me stir, as they always do, but as we stirred I asked the girls to pray for the new baby and his family. I was pleasantly surprised that they both immediately agreed and prayed out loud. (This is a rare occurrence for Eden, but apparently praying over brownies is quite enticing.) They prayed the sweetest, most genuine prayers for the baby, and it turned out to be a really special moment.

(Please excuse Selah's Princess Jasmine headpiece and 1989 dance costume. #girlslife y'all)

I joined in praying too, then we popped the brownies in the oven, licked the bowl and spoon clean, and were done.

After the brownies were done and cooled, I printed off a simple note, taped it to toothpicks, and voila, "Prayer Brownies."

When the aroma of freshly baked brownies filled our house, the girls were pretty whiny about not getting one. But I think it was a good lesson on blessing others and putting them above ourselves! We then loaded up and carried the brownies over to the neighbors' house. The girls insisted on going to the door with me to make the delivery, which of course turned into a full-blown play date with the baby's older sisters. I didn't mind because it was good fellowship and a chance to build community.

So there you have it. Prayer brownies are an EASY way to bless someone with a new baby, or who's sick, or who's going through a difficult time. Go bless someone today. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meeting Up With Friends From Pine Cove Family Camp

Over Labor Day weekend, we had the privilege of meeting up with a family we met this summer at Pine Cove family camp. We traveled four hours north to Branson (is there anywhere else to vacation?) and they trucked up from Texas, and the nine of us picked up where we left off.

We've only known them a few months, but this family is so special to me. God isn't some label they wear or a front they put on. He is their fuel, their force, their motivation. Their love for each other is deep and forgiving and grace-filled. And they have a heart for serving others. I'm challenged when I'm around them.

Not to mention, they have three of the most beautiful children I've ever met who mine absolutely ADORE.

We introduced our friends to the Greatest Place on Earth. What, you thought it was in Orlando?

We shared kettle corn and meaningful conversation and took turns pushing the stroller. With my hoodlums, the trip was rather stressful like always. But it was so worth it to enjoy real fellowship with these friends. It was good for my kids and it was good for us parents to spend time with folks who are doing it right. I'm thankful to God and Pine Cove for putting us together and looking forward to when we can all meet up again.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thankful Rocks: Simple Reminders to Be Thankful

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

There's a story I always tell about Eden from a year or so ago that still makes me smile. While she was gone one afternoon, I decorated the wall above her bed with some plastic butterflies I picked up at Target. It was nothing fancy, just a little something to adorn a blank wall. Well, when Eden saw what I had done, she could not CONTAIN the thank yous coming out of her mouth. For at least 30 minutes, she stared at those butterflies and said, "Thank you, Mama! Thank you! Thank you for my butterflies! Thank you!" You'd have thought I'd just walked her into the Magic Kingdom. It was so funny I couldn't help but laugh. But it was also really sweet that she would be so appreciative of something so small.

For the most part, my kids are pretty thankful, and that's something I'm proud of. But they also have their moments -- like all kids -- when they act entitled, jealous and ungrateful. Who am I kidding? Us adults act that way too. Probably even more so.

Appreciating what we have instead of focusing on what we don't is an ongoing struggle throughout our lives, I think. But it's such an important one, which God wants us to overcome.

Though I still struggle at times, thankfulness is something my parents instilled in me from an early age. And they are still two of the most thankful people I know. It's a trait I very much want to pass on to my kids.
So I loved one of my resources from Tommy Nelson this month, which was another faith-inspired Little Critter book called Being Thankful.
In the book Little Critter struggles with appreciating what he has. Everyone else seems to have things so much better! But during an overnight trip to his grandparents' house, he begins to realize he's actually pretty blessed. His grandma gives him a "thankful rock" to remind him, every time he sees it, to be thankful for what he has.
My girls and I decided we needed our own "thankful rocks" as little reminders around our home. So the girls went out to the driveway, picked out a rock for each member of our family, and painted them pretty colors.
Now, each time we see a thankful rock, we pick it up and say something we're thankful for. I love hearing some of the things the girls say. "I'm thankful for my nose." "I'm thankful for the whole world." "I'm thankful for my blessings." No matter how silly some of their answers may be, I love helping cultivate little spirits of gratitude.
So today I'm giving away one hardback copy of Little Critter: Being Thankful AND a hardback copy of Little Critter: We All Need Forgiveness, in which Little Critter learns another valuable faith lesson.

To enter, just leave a comment about teaching your kids the importance of being thankful and/or forgiving others. Then enter via Rafflecopter below. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner of my God's Word For Me Bible Storybook giveaway is Kristin Taylor. Kristin, I'll email you about claiming your prize.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bible Study for Moms {& Kids Too!}

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Tommy Nelson Mommies for Thomas Nelson, Inc. As a member of this group, I receive products for my use and to review at no charge to me. I receive no monetary compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.

As a mom of young children, having proper "quiet times" is a struggle, is it not? I've struggled through this issue for years. I've tried devotional books, iPhone apps, all the same stuff as you. But everything just seems so much harder when you have loud, needy children! who you dearly love ;) But a couple weeks ago I realized that what I really needed was *accountability*.

I read this blog post and thought this is for me.

So I stopped making excuses and asked my friend Jessica if she wanted to be my Bible Study/Accountability partner. And she basically said that God is awesome because this was exactly what she needed.

I took that as a yes. :)

And in the last couple weeks we have read through, studied, and discussed 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and now Hebrews. Here's what we do:

Every day (ideally) we read the same chapter. We each use the seven arrows to break down and study what we read. Then at some point during the day we get on Facebook and private message each other about our reading. Although we start by discussing the chapter, we usually wind up discussing our days, our struggles, our prayer requests, etc. It's good, Christ-centered fellowship and accountability.

It's exactly what I needed.

No, I haven't had a quiet time/Bible Study every day since we started, but I will say it's been MUCH more consistent. If I don't keep up, she'll get way ahead of me! And I absolutely LOVE studying scripture with the seven arrows. It's basically seven different ways of looking at a passage of scripture, and by examining all of them, it gives you so much more insight and application for the scriptures. In the past two weeks, I truly feel like I have learned so much about God and His Word, and we've simply read passages that I've read over and over before. But really studying God's Word, along with fellowship, makes it go so much deeper than just reading alone.

As we studied 1 & 2 Timothy I was struck by how important it is to know God's TRUTH and have it hidden within you. Paul instructs Timothy over and over that there is truth and that it is essential to know it! I am thankful for this new way of taking in God's truth that is practical for my life. Let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a try.

Also, today I'd like to give away some truth for your kids! Because nothing is more important that instilling truth from young ages...

The God's Word For Me Bible Storybook is unique in that the Bible stories are told with real Bible text from the International Children’s Bible®. Twenty-six Bible stories from the Old and New Testaments are included, and each story is accompanied by a prayer, a verse to memorize, and a spiritually enriching activity to help kids grow in their faith. Useful resources are included in the book to further help children learn about the Bible, such as a reading chart, a list of the books of the Bible, a memory verse checklist, and more

Eden loves the stories in this Bible, and I love that they are told with real Bible text so they're accurate and without fluff. To enter to win the Bible Storybook, leave a comment telling me your quiet time "method of choice" or any tips or tricks you have for getting it done. Then enter via Rafflecopter below.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

An Open Letter to The Christian Teen Going Away to College

Dear Christian Teen Going Away to College,

Can I be honest? I envy you a little bit. I don't know if you know it (you probably do), but you are embarking on an amazing little segment of life right here. These next four years will offer you all the freedom of being a grown-up with virtually none of the responsibility. There's much fun to be had...

You're finally on your own. You have your own place, a dorm maybe, and for the first time, no curfew. What are you going to do with all that freedom? Well, the choice is up to you.

There are really two paths your college years can take you down. The first one we hear a lot about. "Kids in college will sow their wild oats." "75% of teens will walk away from the church during college." You've probably been well warned about all that. But let me just tell you, from someone who's been there, there is an alternative path that is way, way better.

What are you going to do with all that freedom? Well, how about throwing all your heart, strength and time into making this faith that your parents passed down, your own? How about getting to know, really know, this Jesus you say you serve and see if your faith passes the test? How about joining a campus ministry and reaching out together to love the lost people on your campus? How about meeting as many people as you can, from every culture and background, and learning that God is even bigger than you thought and Jesus really is Lord of all? How about learning to love your roommate when she comes in late or doesn't respect your stuff and letting the "Golden Rule" be more than a line you memorized in Kindergarten? How about working through your questions and doubts and relying on no one but the Lord and learning that He is big enough to handle all your "issues."

If you work on all that, you may not have as much free time as you thought. :)

College really is incredible. It's a defining, transitionary period that I wish everyone could experience. College does not have to shipwreck your faith. In fact, it can strengthen it like you didn't know possible when you lived with Mom and Dad and went to church when they demanded. You now call the shots, and no one can make you do anything. Of course, Jesus is still watching. He's watching and wondering if you're going to make the most of these four years, ample free time, and new relationships He's given you. (I know you think you're busy now, but just wait 'til you have kids... I promise.) Or if you're going to stick your head above water in four years, barely alive inside, and try to piece back together the spiritual damage that's been done.

Don't go there, Christian Teen. You'll regret it if you do. If you plan to live for Jesus after these four years then live for Him in them. Dig deep and invest in this faith that you've got because along with all the fun there is to be had, there's much growing to be done.

So do it. And do it on the path less traveled.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Girls, Be Smarter Than Andi Dorfman

I have a confession to make.  I’m a Bachelor/Bachelorette junkie. (You know the show on ABC, right?) As much as I have issues with the dating-multiple-people thing, I get sucked in each season hoping somehow the cast members will find love at the end of the whole twisted process.

This most recent season of The Bachelorette was no exception. I was rooting for Bachelorette Andi Dorfman from the beginning. She was a southern girl with more class and brains than about anyone I’d seen on the show. She was smart, and I knew she would choose well.
After watching Andi date multiple men and meticulously pick them off each week, it was down to the final two – Josh and Nick. Who would she choose? Although I had a hunch she would choose Nick, the guy she claimed could “see into her soul,” on that final day in the Dominican Republic, she told Nick it just wasn’t him.

She went on to accept one of the most beautiful proposals I’ve ever heard from her main man, Josh. “It’s you babe,” she finally told him. “I love you.” Before he got down on one knee, Josh told Andi she was “the answer to all his prayers, the woman he never thought existed.” Then they kissed and hugged and argued over who loved each other more (something the show hadn’t allowed Andi to say until that day).
I’m not going to lie – I cried during that proposal. I’m a sucker for romance, like I think most women are. But while I was still riding the “Josh and Andi” high, the show quickly switched to its “After the Final Rose” segment, in which it interviewed heartbroken Nick. In fact, he and Andi had to face each other for the first time since their break-up.
And that’s when it happened. Right there on live TV, a distraught Nick asked Andi, “I just don’t know why, if you weren’t in love with me, you made love to me.”

Um, excuse me?!
In that moment, I felt like all the air in my excited viewer balloon just fizzled out (while making one of those disturbing, deflating noises). Hearing that Andi and Nick “made love” while on the show shouldn’t have come as any surprise. There’s a whole episode devoted to Andi pairing up with her final three guys in the “fantasy suite.” But I guess there’s a part of me that likes to be naively optimistic and believe that all they did in that room was “talk away from the cameras.”

Nick, however, just made what happened in the “fantasy suite” all too real. And for me, something changed at that point in the show. A few minutes later, Nick was gone and fiancé Josh joined Andi on stage. The two were all smiles and couldn’t keep their hands off each other. They talked about their future and a possible spring wedding. But suddenly the romance just wasn’t the same for me. I kept flashing back to that beautiful proposal in the Dominican Republic and Andi’s declaration that “It’s you babe.” Except just a couple weeks before, it hadn't been him, or at least not just him. How do you have sex with someone two weeks before you accept a proposal from someone else? At the very least, it makes it a little less romantic, no?
But that pretty much sums up the world’s standards for love and dating. Do what you feel. Anything goes. Sex is casual.

For the young girls reading this, those are all a bunch of lies.
God designed the idea of sex after marriage because then, there are no consequences. No unplanned pregnancy. No STDs. No heartbroken ex on national TV asking why you made love to him. No awkward conversation with your fiancé about your past. No embarrassing deflating noise coming from the romance balloon.

Just a healthy, happy relationship solidified through sex after committing to each other for life.
I hesitate to bring up another “Bachelor couple,” because obviously the show has its issues. But Bachelorette Andi was a far cry from former Bachelor Sean Lowe. Sean and his fiancé from the show, Catherine, were very open about their decision to save sex for marriage. In fact their excitement and anticipation of their wedding night was one of the highlights of their nationally televised prime-time wedding. I couldn’t help but be excited with them. There’s something different, and so special, about a couple who does things the right way. They had been patient. They had been pure. And their wedding day was a celebration without regrets. (I hope they had lots of huge balloons!)

So girls, be smarter than Andi Dorfman. Realize that sex isn’t casual, and it carries more consequences than you can even imagine. Realize your value, be patient, and make that main man wait for you until you’ve both said “I do,” knowing it will make the romance that much sweeter.
And, if you ever go on The Bachelor, just say no to the fantasy suite.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Stay-At-Home Conundrum

July includes a lot of downtime for my part-time job. Lately I haven’t had much “work” to do so I’ve been spending long days with my girls. I’m there when they wake up. I fix them breakfast, lunch and dinner. I break up fights, kiss boo boos, teach memory verses, and tuck them in bed. And I relish every second of it.

There are a few things in life I’m wildly passionate about, and right up at the top is pouring into and investing in my kids. I LOVE that I get to be the one who knows what kind of day they had, if they skipped nap, and what they ate for lunch.

This full-time job is hard but it’s oh so worth it. 
But right when I start to revel in my role as stay-at-home mom and think to myself “This is the life,” I remember that while we’re thriving…he’s dying.

The reason I’m able to stay at home and the reason we enjoy the set-up we have is because my husband is working himself to a slow death at that firehouse. And at that one. And at that one.

He works at two departments, and as I type this, he’s on the last leg of a 72-hour shift. He’s beyond exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sometimes I think we’ll cheer him up by driving the 35 miles to visit him. It’s funny that it usually doesn’t work. It just makes him more frustrated and aware of what he’s missing.

There’s a constant tension in our family about who should work how much and how far the pendulum should swing. Sometimes I feel so guilty, but then my heart screams “MOTHERHOOD!” and how could I possibly be doing anything else?! It’s almost as if the choice is between the health of my children and that of my husband. And, no matter what, somebody loses.

I know there’s no easy solution. For those of us without high paying careers, this is life’s dilemma. It’s the stay-at-home conundrum. And it stinks.
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