Hi friends! I'm excited to share my latest BH/Lifeway Blogger Team review with you! This book was given to me for free, for my honest review. This month has been such a crazy month for our family, with packing up our house, moving down South, and settling into a new place. Plus, the kiddos are out of school for the summer! But now that we're settling in (and my computer has finally been delivered!), I'd love tell you about the Life Verse Creative Journal by Jana Magruder & Morgan Grace Magruder. It comes as a two pack, one journal has completely blank pages, the other journal has various prompts and drawings to fill in. All the prompts focus on portions of scripture, words that could truly become your life verse. For me, it's been a great way to spend time with the Lord in the morning. I grab my cup of coffee, sit in my favorite chair, and read the verse over and over as I'm coloring with my favorite pens. Some of my favorite verses so far are pictured above. Honestly, I don't often have very much time to myself in the morning. My kiddos are early risers, so they're usually close by while I'm attempting my devotions. This Bible journal has been so nice, such a sweet way to focus on Jesus, even if I only have a few minutes of quiet. The journal is small, so it easily packed in my travel bag during our move. I've really been enjoying it!
My word of the year, PLANTED from Psalm 1:3, never seems to escape me. The image of a tree being deeply rooted, supported and held upright by God alone is so encouraging in a season of change.
This month is a big month for our family. We have a PCS coming up soon. Whenever we move, I feel a certain sense of excitement, but also sadness, for what we're leaving behind. Once again, we're leaving behind a church family, a house that we've made into a home, and countless memories. Once again we've run out of time to do all the things we planned to do. Once again, we're packing up our house, taking down pictures, sorting through what we need or don't need, stuffing others things away to sort through at a later date. I'm spending extra moments cleaning baseboard, putting some shine back on the kitchen cabinets, starting a pile of things we want to pack in our cars. Overall, our kids seem really excited about this move. It's mostly me that feels the sadness over a season that's about to close.
But haven't we all felt that sadness at times? Graduating college, saying goodbye to friends, finishing up a job, realizing your little one can no longer be classified as "baby." There's a certain joy over what lies ahead, while at the same time, an ache deep in your chest remains.
Changes are so bittersweet.
Yesterday I opened my Bible to Psalm 139. I've always loved this Psalm. It's a beautiful Psalm about our Creator God and His wondrous plan for all of our lives. I've poured over these words many times, but, yesterday, a few of the verses struck a different cord:
These precious words were such a sweet reminder of God's guiding hand. Friends, we can't move anywhere in this world without Him by our side. Even the ends of the earth are within His grasp. We can't escape Him (not that I want to). He will always be there, holding on to us ever step of the way. Some days in the military feel like a wondrous adventure, others are downright hard. But He's got us. Each and everyone of us. Any change you may be facing in this world, any bittersweet ending, any scary new beginning, God is there, holding on fast. He's not letting go, which is so wondrous, so precious. And He's with my loved one as well. The people I'm sad to leave behind with each move, the sweet people who have forever changed my heart, He's got them to.
And so, although my heart squeezes painfully at times, I praise my Savior for the road He's taken me on so far, and praise Him for what lies up ahead. Oh the blessings I've experienced, and oh the exciting new adventure that's about to begin!
Last year I signed up for the B&H Blogger's program. It sounded like fun to read books and then get to review them. Right up my alley. And then... life got busy, other things took precedent, and I never really go down to reviewing books. They sent me a few, and I failed, horribly.
But life is about redemption, am I right? Last month, I saw the email from the blogging team, and requested a copy of Looking For Lovely by Annie F. Downs. So yes, this is a review of a book I got for free from B & H, but the words are definitely my own. Now Annie is someone I've enjoyed for a long time! I've always loved her writing style. It's so candid and down to earth. I loved her book Let's All Be Brave, and Looking For Lovely didn't disappoint either, in fact, I may have enjoyed it even more!
Annie encouraged me to really seek out joy in my own life, to come to terms with some things, and to see to be more complete, more the woman God created me to be. In this book, Annie share about her body image struggles, something I can definitely relate to. She writes how, when she found Zumba, she finally found an exercise she actually enjoyed. Something that gave her joy, and made her feel good about herself: "I could feel that God was restoring things to me-- confidence in myself and my body, gratitude for how He made me" (p.124).
I have been on a very similar journey, as of late. Back in March, I happened upon a Pilates challenge and took it on a whim. Since then, I've found something that I'm excited to wake up and do each morning. I'm excited, because I love doing it, and I can also feel myself getting stronger and more confident through the process, more the woman God created me to be, not someone hiding behind body image issues, but free, lovely, joyful.
Annie brought such words of encouragement in her book. I found myself seeking out moments of lovely in my own life, sunshine, dancing with my children, the details at a Ladies Tea at my church. It's all so beautiful, and I'm blessed to live such a life. Here encouraging voice and easy reading style was exactly what I needed during this crazy season of my life. So yes, pick up Annie's book when you get the chance and be encouraged :)
I've been preparing my talk for a Ladies Tea this weekend. As I read through my notes, the words struck my heart. They were such sweet encouragement to my own ears. Do you have do that? Do words you wrote in a blog, wrote in a journal, come back to encourage you on a different day?
Psalm 1:3 has been the sweet verse of my heart this year. I'll be sharing some of those thoughts with my friends on Saturday. In my notes, I wrote about God's steadfast love for each of us. How a life firmly planted in Him doesn't fade with time, but only grows stronger.
Growing can be such a painful thing. A friend pointed this out to me in Bible study last night. As we grow closer to God, we see the painful reality of how we don't measure up. Sins that God may have not pointed out when we were a new Christian, now come to light. But it's so important that we have a teachable spirit. While it is painful to ask, to draw closer to God, we have to go through the painful process of pruning, getting rid of what shouldn't be. It's hard to be honest with ourselves sometimes. It's hard to admit that we have an area that needs work. (Even more so for a perfectionist like me!). But, in growing closer to God, we have to do the hard work. The Holy Spirit's influence on our lives prods and pushes us to bring those things out in the open, to admit that we have faults, have things that need to be worked on, and to truly get rid of those yucky things, so that we can draw closer to God.
The dead things have to be cleared away, so that lasting fruit can even begin to grow in it's place.
This verse may seem like a bit of a downer, but I love it. Draw near to God, and yes, He probably will point out some areas of your life that need work, some areas that need cleaned up, cleansed of the bad so that He can replace it with something good. Draw near, bringing your messiness, and He will draw near to you. It's a promise of His presence. It's an admittance that, yes, we all have yucky in our lives. We all have messy moments, things we do, or say that we quickly regret. But bring them before God. Ask Him to draw near to you and change those things, and replace them with something new. With lasting fruit that only He can provide. Draw close and He will show up.
It's been awhile since I've done a bookish post, so I thought I'd hop on for a moment. Here's some books from the first few months of 2016 :) Also, follow me over at Goodreads, where I review some of my favorite finds!
The first 3 books were audiobooks, one of my favorite things to do when I'm sitting with my kiddos at bedtime. I used to only listen to audio books on road trips, but I've found that they're great for bedtime, long walks, cooking dinner, and even folding laundry :)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was not for the faint of heart. It was a WWII tale of two French sisters. There were so truly hard moments in this book to stomach, but I found it so fascinating, seeing Nazi occupied France through their eyes! I listened to this as an audiobook, which I would highly recommend! The narrator was excellent, really pulling out the stocks with some french accents (which I thought would annoy me at first, but I ended up loving). I found myself seeking out moments to listen to this one, even staying up late at night, which is the sign of a good book!
If I Run by Terri Blackstock was very suspenseful. It's a worst nightmare come true! Casey Cox is on the run for a murder she didn't commit. She somehow has to convince the rest of the world that she didn't do it, even though her fingerprints are all over the evidence. This was such a quick listen. It definitely left me waiting in anticipation for the next book in the series to come out!
Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This is another tale of a worst nightmare coming true. Neva Shilling's husband dies, leaving her alone to run their general store, raise their two children... plus the three small children of the second wife he had hidden on the side... oh dear. An emotional story of finding God's forgiveness in the hardest of moments.
Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey. I'm a bit sad that her Alaskan Courage series is done, but this new series, Chesapeake Valor, does give us some interesting new story lines. I was reminded of the show Bones, but in a Christian setting, ha! There's an FBI agent, a former sniper, and an extremely intelligent forensic anthropologist, among others. The romances are a little predictable, but the story is a compelling one. I'll be tuning in for the second book!
Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. The fascinating true story of Elizabeth's husband, and the 4 other missionaries who gave their lives to share the gospel in the jungles of Ecuador. Seriously, my respect for Elisabeth Elliot only grows with time. A beautiful story!
Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis. Slow a times, but fascinating to read about a young C.S. Lewis and his search for God. He goes from knowing God as a boy, to becoming an all out Agnostic, to realizing that God really is the only option in life. I love the candidness Lewis brings, and also the stories of the horrible conditions of English boarding schools.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Mrs. Roosevelt's Confident by Susan Elia MacNeal
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller
Steadfast Love: The Response of God to the Cries of Our Heart by Lauren Chandler
A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11) by Jacqueline Winspear.
My husband has said that one of the hardest things about military life is the feeling of being transient. We move every few years, setting down roots only to pick them up again. We form friendships, find a church family, build memories in a town that we will, only temporarily, call home. We've lived in rental house after rental house, building such sweet memories, only to have to leave it behind.
It's hard living without that permanency. To always sense another move up ahead. Often, we've wished we could make big changes to our house, tearing down wall paper, remolding a kitchen, wishing the place actually belonged to us, but we couldn't. We were transient.
We didn't belong.
That feeling, of not truly belonging, really isn't a strange one. The Old Testament Patriarchs were often nomads, traveling from place to place (check out the story of Abraham starting in Genesis 12). Even in the New Testament, Peter & Paul refer to Christians as being aliens in this world. As not really belonging ( 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 2:11). We're reminded that our citizenship isn't here on earth but in heaven up above (Philippians 3:20). Such a great reminder for all of us! Yes, things change. Lives are ever changing. We're meant with circumstances that we never thought we'd have to face. The unpredictable, the unsettling. the larger than life. But this I find confidence in: when other things in my life change, He is never changing.
Yes, I may often feel like I don't belong. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to feeling like the new girl in town again! I get anxiety just thinking about the awkward situations. But I do know this. God will come along with me each step of the way. It's amazing to think that He's been preparing the perfect school for my children, a great church for us to be a part of it, and friends for us to meet. He's been preparing all of the details since before time began. He knows the full breadth of our stories (see one of my favorites, Psalm 139!). He's got all the answers, we just have to walk along, experiencing the next chapter of our story. When I think about it that way, it's really not so bad. When I focus on Him, His truth, His promises, I feel a lot more settled. Because I know that my identity is set in Him. He is my foundation. He is the one whose planted me (Psalm 1:3).
In that confidence, I do put down roots. I strive to make each house that we live in a home. I seek out a church family, look for new friendships, love on others. And I fill our house with familiar things, memories, decor, things that come with us each an every move. The familiar. I make the best of this life God has given me here and now. I've truly been blessed, and so I want to live each day to the fullest.
The truth is this: circumstances may change, but our hearts remain planted in Christ.
And isn't that what really matters?
I've mentioned it before, but I love The Influence Network! From the monthly classes, to the small groups, to the book clubs, to the conferences and meet-ups, I love all the opportunities to learn and grow as a Christian woman, and the encouragement to live out my life of influence. We're just about ready to start our Spring Book Club, Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler.
It's probably because of the book club that the phrase "Steadfast Love" has been jumping off the pages of my Bible lately. It's a glorious phrase. A reminder of how deeply God loves us, of how firm His grip is on each of our lives.
And I think it's a phrase that rings so true for the image of the tree in Psalm 1. In a sense, isn't it what the Psalm is all about? Psalm 1 compares us to a tree, a tree that is planted firmly and deeply, who is nourished and deeply rooted. Who doesn't wither with the passing of time, but instead, grows lasting fruit. It is a tree that is there because of God's steadfast love.
Truthfully, we wouldn't be here without His love. He is our creator and sustainer. He is the one that prunes off the bad in each of our lives, and grows beautiful, lasting fruit. It is because of His unending love that we have lasting roots, that we even have the ability to grow in His knowledge and truth. That we even have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
Steadfast can be defined as: resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
Isn't that great?
It is because of His unwavering love that we are here to today. It's because of His unwavering love that Jesus came, died, and rose again.
It's all because of His steadfast love. We, ourselves, are humans who love imperfectly. We make mistakes, unintentionally hurt those we love, fall and fail, but He, He's perfect. His love never fails.
And for that, I'm so thankful.
His love is steadfast.
In what ever you are facing today, rest in that truth my friends.
Let's be realistic here: leaves wither. It's part of the natural process. The changing of seasons. One of my favorite times of year is Spring, watching new life begin, watching the beautiful trees bloom out in frothy whiteness, watching bright new green leaves being formed. But those leaves are only formed because the leaves of the last season withered up and died. That process is beautiful. The transformation each year is beautiful. I've heard sermons comparing the changes of live to the changing seasons. But Psalm 1 is striking a different note. In this case, as believers, we will never wither. We'll never fade away. We will remain vibrant and strong, not of our own accord, but because God is the one reinforcing us, God is the one reinforcing our roots, nourishing us, sustaining us through good time and bad.
In Hebrew, the word wither is nabel. Nabel means to sink or drop down, to wither and fall, to droop, to fade.
There are certainly times in this life, seasons that feel like we're withering away. Seasons where we wonder about joy, about peace.
But my friends, can I whisper to your heart, and mine, today?
This verse has nothing to do with outward peace, outward happiness. This world, the things of this world, the people of this world, will never fulfill us. There will always be things that come up short, sadness, hurt, grief, loneliness will always find us. No, this verse doesn't have anything to do with the outer-world, and everything to do with our hearts.
Because here, in this verse, God has promised to keep us.
He's promised to hold our hearts close to Him.
He's promised to be our refuge in all things.
He's promised that, even though this outer world may get messy, our hearts will always be sustained by Him.
No, this verse doesn't promise that we won't ever come head to head with the messiness of this life.
This verse promises that He will keep our hearts.
Psalm 90:14-15 has been on my heart a lot lately. I've been longing to be satisfied by Him alone. To seek out joy that only comes from Him, even when the rest of life swirls in chaos around me. I've been wondering what that looks like. What that feels like to live in His joy and peace. In His promise that He has me secure in His arms. That my leaves won't wither. That true satisfaction and joy can only be found in Him. This is, truly, a beautiful prayer to repeat as you start each morning:
Satisfy us, dear Lord. Sustain us. Remind us that we are nothing without you. Because of you, we have the promise that our leaves won't wither. Because of you, we have eternity. It's so easy to get stuck on what I do or don't have in this world, on how my life may or may not measure up at the moment. Help me to focus on you instead. To focus on the very life you've given me for this specific time and season. And Lord Jesus, please fill it with abundant joy today. Because on my own, I like to see the cynical, the things that don't measure up. Help me to see with your eyes instead. Help me to show love and patiences where needed. Help me to find true satisfaction and joy that can only be found in you.
I'll leave you all with one more portion of scripture today. It came to mind as I was writing out these verses above. This world, and everything in is, is truly withering away. It's our inner self that's eternal:
Hi friends! I don't know about you, but I easily get overwhelmed by the amount of books on my to-do list. Last year I joined Modern Mrs. Darcy for her reading challenge. This year, I'm joining in as well. I started with her topics, but added a few of my own. As you can see, I still need a few suggestions for some different categories, so chime in if you have any must reads for me! Also, become my friend on Goodreads! I plan on keeping track of my books on there this year, as well as my special Pinterest board. Here's to a great year of reading!
A Book Published This Year: The Summer Before The War- Helen Simonsen
If I Run-Terri Blackstock
Where Hope Prevails by Janette Oke & Laurel Oke Logan
Cold Shot- Dani Pettrey
A Book You Can Finish In A Day: Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante- Susan Elia MacNeal
A Book You've Been Meaning to Read: Through the Gates of Splendor- Elizabeth Elliot
A Book Recommended by Your Local Librarian or Bookseller:
A Book You Should Have Read in School: Night-Eli Wiesel
A Book Chosen For You By Your Spouse, Partner, Sibling, Child, or BFF: Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life- C.S. Lewis (Chosen by my husband)
A Book Published Before You Were Born: The Complete Pat of Silverbush & Mistress Pat-L.M. Montgomery
A Book That Was Banned at Some Point- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain
A Book You Previously Abandoned: Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
A Book That Intimidates You:
A Book You've Already Read at Least Once: A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery
A Biography: A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill- by Sonia Purnell
A Book Recommended by a Friend: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond.
A Book I Want to Read on Audible: The Bronte Plot- by Katherine Reay
Books I've already completed this year:
Jane of Lantern Hill- L.M. Montgomery
The Prime Minister's Secret Agent- Susan Elia MacNeal
The Girl Who Chased The Moon- Sarah Addison Allen
This tree that we're compared to in Psalm 1:3, it's not just any old tree. No, it's a tree created and nourished by God! It's a tree, not planted in a desert, but right next to a stream of water. Water that, day in and day out, gives nutrients to the roots, keeps it healthy and growing strong.
God is the one who nourishes and strengthens us. God is the one who always has and always will provide for us. I look at some loved ones in my life, and I honestly don't see the answer. To them, there walk with God may seem really dry at the moment. They don't see the water. They don't see the needed answers. To them, the prayers continue to go unanswered, prayers that they've uttered year, after year, after year. Even I, at times, am tempted to stop praying, just because I haven't seen any results. Or at least haven't seen the results yet.
In the Old Testament God is referred to as Jehovah-Jireh. (see Genesis 22:14).
God our provider.
He provides. He gives us what we need for each day. He pushes the water into our system, and answers each request in His perfect timing. It's not an easy thing to understand. It's not an easy thing to trust.
Water is needed so that fruit can grow, not just temporary fruit, as in a normal tree, but lasting fruit. Psalm 1:3 says that this tree "yields its fruit in its season." The fruit looks so different for each an everyone one of us. We all have unanswered prayers, dreams, things we would like to come to pass. It's frustrating when those dreams don't come to fruition, even though we prayed and felt confident that the answer was a yes. It's frustrating when we find ourselves in a long season of waiting. Somethings are an easy yes or no, we complete a season, close a door, and walk into the next. But sometimes, we pray year after year and the answer doesn't come. We wait, oh so slowly for the lasting fruit to form. But still it doesn't come, or it comes quite different than we expected it to. I feel it in my own life. I see it in the lives of those I love. I don't have the answers.
And so I continue to pray. Beseech. Thank the Lord that He is Jehovah-Jireh. Our Provider. As the song goes, "Jehovah-Jireh, Our Provider, His Grace Is Sufficient For Me." I pray for my dear ones, that they would be encouraged and strengthened through the hard times. I pray that God would be alive in their lives, and that they would see Him move in amazing ways. I pray, and say with confidence that He will provide!
His grace is sufficient.
Yes, it is.
Today, and everyday.
Last week I shared that my word of the year is PLANTED. We were studying Psalm 1 in our Ladies Bible Study at church, and the beautiful promise of verse 3, in particular, stuck with me. In a season of a lot of change, it's so comforting to be reminded that Jesus will always be there, through each move, each life-change. He stays the same, even when everything else change. Why? Because I'm firmly planted with Him as the foundation. Much like the tree, my roots run deep. It's, honestly, a continual process. It's learning, growing, changing, becoming more like Jesus each and every day. But it's so nice being reminded that, even when our earthly address changes, Jesus remains the same! He will follow us wherever we go. He knows the past, the present, and the future. He already has all the pieces of the puzzle figured out.
In Psalm 1, we're compared a tree, planted by streams of water. This tree is alive, bearing fruit, being fed by the nearby stream. It doesn't die, but instead thrives! Its roots run deep, hold it in place, bring life giving nutrients up inside of it.
So what do deep roots look like in my own life?
I see myself as a tree that's still slowly growing. Still slowly learning how to dig my roots down deeper. Still learning to fill my life with good, life-giving things.
Fellowship: spending time with my church family, being in Bible study with other ladies that can encourage me, lift me up in prayer, love on my children, live life with me.
Devotional Life: reading God's word, writing in the margins of my Bible, look up the meaning of words, taking what I read to heart.
Worship: singing praise song's as I go about my day, using them as a way to pray aloud to my Savior, asking Him to meet me in whatever mood I'm in, whatever struggles I may be facing that day.
Prayer: Worship time is also prayer time for me. I've also been encouraged to spend more intentional time praying. Praying for my own needs, for the needs of others, even praying through the scriptures I read in my morning quiet time. This is definitely still an area that needs much growth in in my life. But I want to grow! I want be more intentional in this.
All of these areas are slowly building roots in my life, slowly growing my faith in Jesus. It's a continual process, isn't it? It's often a check and balance, seeing an area that needs to be worked on, pruning off what doesn't belong, and growing good roots even deeper, even farther into the foundation, Jesus.
The tree, it's a fascinating image. There's still so much more to be gleaned by it.
What comes to mind when you think of the image of the tree in Psalm 1:3? What do you think it means to be planted?
I love the idea of picking a word for the year. Last year, I had two words. PEACE & BRAVE. Peace in my family, in the way we interacted, in whatever we might face during that year. And Brave. Brave in my writing, as I branched out and shared some very personal stories with the world. Brave as I tried new things. The word Brave was in a frame on my wall as a constant reminder to expand, try new things. And PEACE, the word peace came back around this past November and December. I wrote about it often and prayed that God's peace would be present during a really hard season in our lives. And it was. It's amazing how a word comes back around like that. PEACE began the year, and PEACE ended that same year. The PEACE at the beginning of the year had more to do with my relationship with my daughter. At four, we were having a rough time. She has blossomed and changed so much since then. Or maybe it's I who have grown and changed in the way I relate to her. Either way, I've seen such beauty this past year. At the end of the year, we faced health issues with a family member. Our world was stressful (honestly, still is), Christmas was wrought with hospital visits, financial decisions, and long, sleepless nights. But even there, peace resided. And now, we're starting to see some answers. Starting to see some glimmers of hope.
And so the question still remains, what is my 2016 word?
As I look ahead at this year, I know that there will be a lot of change. Just as things are getting easier with my daughter, my son is coming to an age where he's fighting back, asserting his independence, getting into his share of mischief and trouble. Those 2s, 3s,4s are upon us once again!
This will be a year of moving. Once again we're pick up roots and plant ourselves in the next place the Air Force calls us to. I'm excited about this move. It will take us closer to family, and give us amazing new experiences as a family. I'm also sad, because I've loved our time here, the friends we've made here, and our church family most of all. This move will also be hard on my kiddos. My daughter doesn't really remember our last move. But this one, she will. I'm sure they'll both miss their friends. It will be exciting, yes, but also hard.
FRIENDSHIP GOALS: As I look toward our big move this year, I'm already praying for friendships. Friendships for my children, but also friendships for my husband and I. Kindred spirits. People to share life with, have over for game nights, trade babysitting for date nights. The Lord has always provided just the right friends for us in each place we've lived. These friendships often took different forms than I expected, but they filled a gap, a much needed place. And I know He will continue to do so. And so, I pray over the relationships up ahead. Because He already has the people in mind, even though we haven't even met yet. A pretty cool thought, isn't it?
WRITING GOALS: I'd really like to write more consistently. I'm always a mommy first, which greatly inhibits the amount of time I can pour into this. But I also don't want to be held back by fear. The lies that my brain has been telling me about not being enough, not even bothering because I don't have much time to devote to it. I'd love to keep pursuing new avenues. New directions for my writing. I started working on a fiction story last year, it's something I'd like to keep working on this year. Also, studying up on travel writing. And still spending time with, my heart, devotional writing. My heart will always be sharing my own brokenness, and how God works through the pieces. My goal in my writing this year would be clarity and focus. I honestly don't feel like I have the focus that I used to. I've grown accustomed to jumping around, doing a million things at once as a wife and mommy. I need to work on the art of focusing. Of creating a space where I can think, pray, and write.
READING GOALS: I read quite a bit last year, which was so nice! The kids and I are at the library almost weekly now. I love encouraging them in this, and I also love the relaxation that reading brings in my own life. It's wonderful. I participated in Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge last year. I finished it in just over 6 months. I also starting listening to audio books through Audible.com. I plan on keeping up with both this year! And continuing to review books on this blog :) More info on both will follow in future blog posts :)
QUIET TIME GOALS: I'm almost through with my 2015 Bible in a Year plan. I'm finishing up a few loose ends (Nehemiah, Esther & Acts). At the same time, I'm starting my first journaling Bible, I'm mostly just writing notes in it at this point, but some ladies out there are doing some pretty amazing things with their journaling Bibles (check out Shanna Noel: illustratedfaith. I really wanted to journal more this past year during that time, and didn't, so I'm thinking this new journaling Bible will help! I'd like to stay consistent in my devotional life this year, keep up the journaling, and spend more time in prayer.
And now it's time for my word of the year!
WORD OF THE YEAR:
PLANTED. The very opposite of how I feel. This military life leaves my family feeling so transient, so temporary. I see it even in the words I wrote above. This year will have so much change for our family. Another big move. New friendships, new schools, new church, new house. It will also be a big year of change for our extended family. We're still neck high in medical issues, and everything that entails. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the future. We just don't know. Life holds so much uncertainty. Only God knows the true number of our days.
That's why it's so important to remember that we're planted. We're planted firmly in His kingdom. He knows the root system. He's giving us the nutrients we need for each day. He is our true provider. We can't move anywhere or do anything that He doesn't already know about.
He will follow us as we PCS and start over in a new place. In fact, He's already gone before us. Every day for our family has already been written out to completion. We are firmly planted, firmly rooted in Him, so really really have nothing to fear. There's so much else to take from this word, PLANTED. So much more for me to think about, pray about, write about on here. I hope you'll join me this year as I explore all the possibilities, meet all the challenges, see what God has to teach me through it all.
What word for this year does God have on your heart?
He's called the Prince of Peace. When He came into this world 2000 years ago, many expected a political hero, a powerful man who would ride in on a handsome stead and physically save them from the rule of the Romans and return the land of Israel to what it had been.
But He didn't come that way. No, instead, He came quietly, innocently, as a poor babe born in a manger. It's what we celebrate this time of year, that babe being born in a manger. We remember the great gift that was given to us on that night.
No, He didn't come as a great political hero, He came for a much greater purpose. A purpose that would be realized years later, when He died on the cross of all of our sins. Peace? He didn't bring political peace 2000 years ago. In fact, to this day the world is still in upheavel. Kingdoms and countries still rise and fall. People still make terrible decisions with large ramifications, resulting in pain, hurt, and changed lives.
We don't live in a world at peace.
In my own family, we're feeling the pain of sickness, suffering, and confusion right now.
A world of peace?
But Jesus came to give us so much more.
He's called the Prince of Peace for a reason.
He came to give us a peace that would never end.
A peace that isn't seen in the world around us.
A peace that comes from within.
A peace in knowing that our eternity is set with Him.
By coming in the form of a child, growing as a sinless man, dying on the cross, and rising again, He did something no one else could do. He took all of the sin, all of the brokenness of this world, and He paid the price for it all. He covered the gaps. He made us whole. When we accept His precious gift, we're given eternity with Him. An eternity of peace. An eternity, where the unheaval of this life will no longer exist. Where the pain, the suffering, the grief will all be wiped away. Those things will no longer be remembered. And in their place will be peace.
We read this verse in Revelation at church last Wednesday, and the words rang so true for me. Oh how I long for eternity with Him! Oh how I long to no longer have pain, tears, or suffering.
He is the Prince of Peace, because he's the only one who could pay the price for such peace.
All is calm, all is bright, the old nativity song goes.
But my world feels less than calm right now.
My head, and heart ache from the stressors in my life.
My heart aches for a world that has felt anything but calm as of late. For families uprooted, lives changed in an instant.
My heart aches for families separated by wars this Christmas. For loved ones who won't meet under the tree. I've been there, my heart whispers.
It's not hard to remember the pain, the loneliness of that season.
And this season now, is full of heartache as well.
Heartache, and unanswered questions.
Medical questions, housing questions, job questions for those I love.
This grow-up life doesn't always leave much room for peace.
The worries and anxieties of this world lay heavy upon my life.
Until the music begins to play.
I'm reminded of my dining table, still scattered with art supplies.
Little toy trucks and trains cluttered on the floor.
Laughter as little ones dance to the music, asking me to join in.
Silly hours spent playing, pretending.
The awe of Christmas lights, and the wonder in a child's small voice.
These are the things I hold most dear.
These two little ones remind me to keep my focus on the here and now. To keep my focus on the beautiful children He's given me to raise.
This morning, the mess of our house was getting to me. I was anxious, restless, annoyed. Anything but at peace.
But really, I want to cherish the mess. The chaoes. These years when I rarely have a moment alone. Becaues I know these days will pass quicker than I want them to. This house? Will one day be back in order. But right now. Right now, it's living and breathing with the lives inside. Each mess tells a story of time spent, memories made, characters being formed.
So often, they breathe Jesus to me. They remind me to stay on my knees in prayer.
Yes, they exasperate and frustrate me, but their love, their love reminds me to love. Their love reminds me to seek peace. Peace, not in this world, because there's a lack of it there. But peace up above.
Peace, in a Savior, who long ago came into this world and saved us from ourselves.
There's really nothing without Him, is there?
And so, today, and everyday, I leave all the burdens of this world at His feat.
Peace on Earth?
Yes, but only in the name of Jesus.
Peace when life is anything but?
Yes. Peace, that can only come from within.
Peace, is my prayer for this year, when my heart feels so heavy.
Peace, when I deal with my children.
Peace, as we go about each day.
Peace, when the answers for loved ones isn't easy to come by.
Peace, in all hearts during this Christmas season.
I wrote this a month or so ago, but still felt that it was worth sharing here. Our children are amazing teachers! I hope you enjoy.
Friday morning was a busy one in our house. School has been in session for over a month, but it still feels like we're searching for our sense of routine. Getting accustomed to this foreign concept of Preschool for my son and Kindergarten for my Daughter. Packing school lunches five days a week. Keeping track of homework assignments, sight words, special dress days and show and tell. Friday was school picture day, so I was also making sure that my daughter's outfit coordinated, and wouldn't horribly clash with the fake Fall flowers they always like to put in the corner of the photos. That, and somehow tame her wild hair. We drove up to school, almost late because we always wake up so early (why is that?). Pretty orange dress, check, dress shoes, check, lunch, check, show and tell, oh wait... I forgot her show and tell. In a class of seven students, it would be obvious too.
I felt horrible. I'd already failed in my mommy-organization skills, and this only a month into the school year. I expressed my frustration, apologizing to my daughter, to which she replied:
"Mommy, it's really ok"
My daughter looked calmly at me from her place in the back seat and assured me that others have forgotten before. It really wasn't a big deal.
She wasn't concerned, while me, with my perfectionist issues, felt awful.
What am I teaching my daughter about worry?
Remembering assignments, things required of her is important. But she was right too, forgetting show and tell in the first month of kindergarten was forgivable.
What if instead I had just suggested that she "Tell" something to her class, such as her favorite knock-knock joke, instead of making a big deal out of it?
What crazy perfectionist tendencies am I passing on to her?
Will she grow up thinking that perfection is the only answer through her school days?
Will she think that only a perfect house, a perfect room, perfect manners will do?
Is that really the message I want to send her?
Or instead, do I want to teach her about peace?
Peace, like she displayed to me.
Calm trouble shooting on the days when things don't work out right.
The ability to let go sometimes, and just enjoy the people around me.
If I look back to my school days, the only thing I wish I did more of was enjoy my friends. Less time on school work, more time just enjoying those I cared about.
Because 13 years out, no one cares what grades I got in high school. It's been ages since anyone asked.
Yes, diligence, studying hard will get you far. Good grades helped me get into college, and then grad school. It was important.
But relationships were important too. That was a lesson I learned through my college years.
It's ok to not be perfect. To instead take those moments of critique, of imperfection, and ask, "How can I grow from this?" How can we resolve this problem, without worrying or stressing out? What can I learn from this?
In my daughters calm demeanor, I was reminded, that often, an easy answer is in sight. It doesn't take stressing and worrying to figure things out. Sometimes, it just takes a moment of prayer. A moment of quiet. A moment to view things from a different perspective.
Aren't children amazing teachers?
I sat there, sipping my mocha, while our daughter rolled a ball across the floor, back and forth, and periodically tried to escape from the little corner where we had planted ourselves in, waiting for them to call the flight. I took a picture or two of father and daughter, grinning, holding each other close. And then, before I was ready for it, he was hugging me one last time, and getting into line to board his flight — the flight that would take him, first to training, and then to the other side of the globe, to fight for freedom and safety.
He stepped onto the jetway, and I turned toward the exit, holding back tears as my daughter toddled along beside me, totally oblivious to what had just happened. In a daze I walked back outside, strapped my daughter in her seat, and then drove across town before the tears finally hit.
He was gone.
Today I'm guest posting over at The Mudroom Blog. Come on over and read more about our first deployment and how God worked on my heart through that season of fear.
Hop on over to The Mudroom Blog here:
School has been an interesting challenge for us this year. Back in August, I placed my two-year-old in preschool. At first he cried, especially at drop-off and pick-up, but soon, he seemed to adjust pretty well. And then... he started acting out. I was so sad when I received the first email about him. My sweet boy wasn't being very nice at all. In fact, he was being all out defiant.
At times, we'll go a week or two without any instances, but then, his little independent spirit will rise up again, and I'll here more about his school shenanigans.
My mommy heart hurts that we're going through this with him. My prayer, day in and day out, is that he'll learn a great lesson on kindness. But teaching a two-year-old about kindness is pretty difficult!
Just the same, I'm so thankful for the people who have come alongside us through this struggle. Starting preschool, being around other kids his age, and learning to respect authority are big lessons for his little brain to learn. But I believe they're important ones. And I'm so thankful for the tremendous compassion others are giving us through this stage.
1) Teachers. I'm thankful for teachers that are gracious, and willing to work with my son. They understand his young age, but also aren't willing to let him get away with such behavior.
2) Friends: I'm thankful for friends that are gracious and understand. They understand that this is a working issue, something I'm addressing with him as it arises, but also something I don't condone.
3) Perspective: I can definitely think back to past circumstances when I wasn't as gracious with other young children. When they were mean to my child, and I took offense. Being in these shoes has reminded me just how hard this parenting gig is. It's not easy people, and we're all working through it together.
4) Free-will: We love our children and try so hard to teach them right from wrong, but they still like to make their own decisions, don't they? They still make decisions we don't always like, or condone. This scares me, as I think about my children growing older. But it also makes me pray for them all the more. I pray, that they don't always take the hard road. That God protects their little hearts. That they learn early in this life that living their life for Jesus is the best choice they could ever choose to make. And I know, that God created their beautiful, highly spirited personalities for for a reason!
This week I:
Started watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. What memories it's bringing back! I found season 1 & season 2 at a thrift store! The only problem is that now I'm going to want to watch the rest!
Spent some unexpected time with my daughter. She had a fever on Tuesday, so the two of us spent the morning home together. We painted toes, drank lots of Orange Juice, and watched some Tinkerbell. I felt bad that she wasn't feeling 100%, but the girl time was wonderful. It was also just such a reminder of how big she's getting! It was refreshing to focus time on her like that!
Caught up an Influence Network class from a few months back "Love Your Home" by Sarah Schneider. Best advice? Live in your home for awhile, learn it's bones, before you make any drastic changes! (Like painting all the rooms). She also suggested keeping walls to a neutral palette, and using indoor/outdoor fabric on furniture! The walls and floors are painted white in her kid's play area, she feels like this gives them the ability to imagine anything with the space!
Read (ing): Christy by Catherine Marshall. I have a short list of books I'm really trying to finish right now. This one is a slow read, but interesting! I'm thinking of skimming it a bit to make it the rest of the way through.
Also listing to the Audible version of Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Held: My boy while he feel asleep for his nap this afternoon. Seriously don't know the last time I've done that! I often sit on the floor in his room while he's falling asleep, but today I held him, and he felt way too big in my lap. He smelled of dirt, sweat, and hours of fun outside with friends. Everything a little boy should smell of! Cherishing up those moments!
Have I mentioned lately that I love The Influence Network? Last year, I attended their conference, and since then have become involved in their online community. It's a place for Christian women to come together, pray, encourage and empower one another. There's forums, private small groups, and monthly online classes on all sorts of topics, from studying the Bible, to business tips, savvy wardrobes, or household decorating.
On Tuesday night I took a class called Thriving over Striving by Sarah Dolislager. In the class, Sarah lead us through different scriptures, shared from her personal life, and encouraged us to consider where we're truly finding our value. Is it in numbers, in being recognized, in making a large stamp on this life, or is our value found in Jesus alone? For her, this meant closing her business for awhile, so that she could focus on being the best wife, best friend that God created her to be.
When the class began, I honestly didn't think there was anything I could apply to my life. But then, I started to see the cracks. I started to recognized the areas in which I do strive to be recognized, to be known. Where I do strive to be something... more.
I think it's a part of our lives that often has to be reevaluated. From time to time, it's good to ask ourselves where our focus lies. Are we looking to the work for recognition too much, or looking too much at our own abilities, versus focusing on God?
For me, it means keeping my priorities in check.
It means being content with the gifts and abilities that God has given me.
It means, not necessarily that I stop writing, stop trying to submit work to publications, but that I make sure that my focus is on Jesus, not the amount of Instagram followers (or blog reads) that I have at the moment. And that, honestly, I don't take it too personally when people reject my writing. I know I have a story to tell, so I'll keep putting the time in, keep seeking out new venues to share that story.
It means not comparing myself to others, but finding joy in the life God has created for me.
It means finding ways to use my abilities, in the life, in the family God has given me. This means that I often don't have much time for writing. My 2 & 5 year old are way too dependent for me to do that just yet. But I do think it's important to not feel frustrated with them. And to not compare my life with someone else's.
It means... truly being happy being me. Me, fearfully and wonderfully made, with a love of reading, writing, sharing what the Lord has on my heart. Me. Just me. Created in the image of God with passions, desires, words that I long to share. Me. Thriving where God has placed me for such a time as this.
I've been thinking a lot about prayer this week. I truly want my prayer life to grow. I want to spend dedicated time each day truly going through prayer requests, people I've promised to pray for, things on my heart. And I want to spend time listening. Because my world is a noisy one!
Prayers in this season of life are usually rushed, often spoken throughout the day.
Lately, I've been choosing to get up early. To spend time working out on the Elliptical, and also reading some morning scriptures. Taking care of my own physical and spiritual health. It's good for me. It's pushing me to do something for myself.
These disciplines are something I want my kids to see as well. I want them to see the importance I place on being healthy, in all senses of the word.
But it's not easy.
It's not easy to find time in an already jam packed life.
I get so frustrated when that extra prayer time doesn't happen.
This season, with children that are still so dependent on me, is fleeting.
Perhaps it's less about finding more time away from my kids in prayer, and more about finding moments to pray with them.
- Pray with them in the car, on our way to school in the morning.
- Pray with them at dinner time.
- Encourage them to pray on their own at bedtime.
- Pray for them with their confused, upset, frustrated. Teach them that God is always there, ready to listen to our hearts.
- Pray with them, and teach them to come to God during the good moments and bad. To praise Him for all He's done and all that He's about to do.
Because my greatest influence, is right in front of me. I have the privilege of teaching these two about Jesus day in and day out.
And so, instead of being frustrated by time I don't have, I'll be thankful for all the learning moments I do have.
For we are the aroma of Christ to our children, our friends, our neighbors.
Just how will we use that influence?