Friday, December 9, 2016

Be Brave: SBC Christmas Tea 2016

Be Brave - the 2016 theme from our annual Christmas Tea.

We all have to be brave at some point in our life. It may be the first day of kindergarten. It may be the day you lose a spouse. It may be the day you receive devastating news. Or the day you bring home a brand new baby.

As Christmas approaches, I can't help but think of how brave Mary had to be. She was probably judged. She was probably scared. It probably wasn't how she expected her first pregnancy to happen. Yet, she was carrying the Son of God. She was to give birth and raise the Messiah. Her scary circumstances were for a greater good.

I view the Christmas story differently now that I am a mother.  I'm not comparing myself with Mary, but I do think she felt some of the same emotions that I experience as a mother. We moms are in this together.

Expectations and assumptions are common reasons for discouragement in my life. I research, plan and make lists for big events, picturing my emotions. Time after time, that day arrives and I don’t feel the way I decided I should feel.  I am continuously learning that the Lord is the one who orders my steps…not me.

When my son, Hudson was born, I had all these images in my head of the first time I would see his face. I assumed family would be there to capture the moment in a frame-worthy photograph.  I had always dreamed of becoming a mother and I had decided that my first moments holding my new baby would be magical.  (Read Part 1 and part 2 of Hudson's birth story)

But the Lord continues to want to teach me the lesson that “It’s not about me. My life is not my own. His plans are not my plans.” After a surprise case of eclampsia, my son was delivered seven weeks prematurely. I still have no memory of the 3 days surrounding his birth. I don’t remember the first time that I held him.  It was not as I had planned.

Due to a lengthy period of unconsciousness, I had to relearn some things. I had trouble putting words together for quite some time.  But the Lord put a song in my heart. “Our God is Greater. Our God is stronger. God, You are higher than any other. Our God is HEALER, awesome in power. Our God.”

As doctors marveled at our situation, our God was praised. As Hudson was released from the hospital after just 17 days, our God was seen as being awesome and strong. As I recovered, our God was seen as Healer. Our God. He had greater plans.

Instead of feeling discouraged that my birth story didn’t unfold the way I’d expected, I am humbled to remember that God saw fit to show His greatness and strength through our lives. And the next time I face days of uncertainty and disappointment, I am praying for the courage to look for the greatness of our God. If I enter circumstances expecting God to show up, I will never be disappointed.

I Samuel 7:12   “…Up to this point, the Lord has helped us.”

The evening at the tea was filled with great conversation, yummy food, and encouraging testimonies of God's faithfulness. 

Like a gaggle of geese squawk encouragement at the goose flying in the front, this group of ladies prayed for and encouraged our sisters in Christ. 

Our scary circumstances may be different, but our God is the same. His plan is perfect and He is always good. 

 So, be brave, sisters. Be brave. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Read with Me

I love the countdown til Christmas. Once the twinkle lights go up in my home, I am already anticipating the celebration of the birth of Christ. It's easy to only focus on that anticipation with my children. But this 28-day advent devotional, From Heaven, by Tozer has been a perfect addition to my Christmas season - for me. The classic, Biblical words of Tozer always leave me contemplating what to change in my own life. These devotionals were taking from his printed sermons (1897-1963). Since Advent is simply the waiting and preparing for Christmas - this book has helped me to begin to get my heart in the right state for remembering Jesus' coming to earth as a baby. But as I read and think, I can't help but also anticipate His second coming, for Christians.

The hardback book is small and easy to handle. The devotionals are broken into the four weeks of advent. Each day's reading includes scripture and is just 2-3 pages. It would make an excellent gift for someone before the Christmas season begins.

I received this book from Moody in exchange for an honest review.

I love the writing style of Sarah Young. Jesus Today is a devotional book written during a trying time in her life. Its a daily selection that includes Scripture, quotes and devotional that is written as if Jesus is speaking directly to you. It doesn't have to be read in order. I have often randomly devotionals and was amazed at the way that the author's words pertained to my current circumstance.

The hardback book has an adorable cover and glossy pages. The quotes and Scripture throughout the book is so encouraging.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

The 10 Commandments of Marriage is a great read by Ed Young, filled with ten topics that can help make your marriage great. Although the topics are general and ones often featured in other marriage books, the truths are helpful and insightful.

The 10 Principles are: Thou Shalt Be Selfless, Thou Shalt Have No Strings Attached, Though Shalt Continually Communicate, Thou Shalt Make Conflict Thy Ally, Thou Shalt Avoid the Quicksand of Materialism, Thou Shalt Flee Sexual Temptation - Online and Otherwise, Thou Shalt Forgive Thy Mate - 490 Times and More, Thou Shalt Romance the Home, Thou Shalt Begin Again and Again, Thou Shalt Build a Winning Team.

The cover has an updated look and the chapters are easy to digest.
I received this book from Moody in exchange for an honest review.

Nourishing Meals is a humongous recipe book filled with 365 Whole Foods, Allergy-Free Recipes for Healing Your Family One Meal at a Time. Each recipe tells what allergy foods are not included in that recipe. There are pictures featured for some of the recipes. There are lots of food tips (Like how to make your own hazelnut meal. Or why to have certain ingredients at room temperature. What brands are perfect for allergy-free recipes.)

Although we don't have food allergies to work around in my family, I am always interested to find simple recipes to help accommodate guests.  I am often scared off by recipes that need to be gluten-free, dairy-free, or soy-free - but these featured recipes seem easy to follow.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Hospitality and a Book Page Wreath

When I remembered that our topic for this mom's meeting was Hospitality, I thought about the Christmas tea that I had just participated in with my church. Candlelit tables filled with china and Christmas decorations. I tend to think that being hospitable would mean having my table set like that fancy Christmas tea, but in reality, my family pretty much ate toast for dinner Sunday night. Fancy dinners don't happen much around my table.

Hospitality is simply defined as "the friendly and generous treatment of guests, visitors, friends or strangers."

It doesn't say "having a table set to impress Martha Stewart. Having your base boards clean. Having your home spotless." It's based on our treatment of others - not the state of our home.

Ephesians 2:19 tells us that once we become a Christian, we are a part of God's family. And family is all about relationships. I was reminded that we need each other - and that's what hospitality is all about. It's so important for me not to become isolated in this stage of life. I need people to remind me of truth. When I am alone, I am quicker to believe those lies. "I'm not good enough. I'm not a good enough mom. I'm not a good enough wife. I'm not a good enough housekeeper. I'm not good enough..." But in HIM (Christ), I am enough.

We made these simple book page wreaths at our meeting. I pray the moms felt empowered and encouraged to open up their homes and their lives to others.

Any cardboard will do - but to make things easier, we purchased these cardboard cake circles for our base.

Each wreath seemed to take 35-40 pages.

Bend the pages loosely, like this.

Secure the folds on one end with dots of hot glue.

Glue the folded pages around the edge of the cardboard circle.

Continue with more pages, filling in the gaps of the previous rows as you glue.

To hang the wreath, I punched a hole in the back side of the cardboard and hung it on a nail.

You could also lean the wreath on a shelf.

Or attach it to a green wreath to make it more Christmasy.

Our speaker encouraged us to use our kitchen table as a meeting place. She mentioned so many memorable moments in her lifetime that happened around a table or during a meal. Jesus also did so much of his ministry around a table.

Wherever you invite people to join you, remember that it's all about relationships.  We all benefit from having others in our lives. Our speaker's talk today made me excited to invite people to join me around our table. I am also making a point to invite more people into my life.

Jesus intended for us to lean on each other. Those times of isolation are so detrimental to my way of thinking. I've got to remember that In HIM, I am enough.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Remembering the Good: Fruit Basket Calendars

Busy, monotonous days can lead me down the path of discouragement. But when I am actively searching for the good in life and the blessings from the Lord, it's amazing how my attitude changes.

Here's a fun craft we made in my mom's group a few weeks ago to help us focus on the good. 

Using fruit baskets (purchased here) and 3x5 cards, we made gratitude journals. 

To make this project a little easier the morning of our meeting, my craft girl cut the 3x5 cards in half ahead of time. She also divided out 365 cards per lady. 

The moms wrote the date on the top of each card for an entire year. Some used date stamps.

We  then made 12 divider tabs for the 12 months. 

Then, each day, record something good that the Lord has done. It will serve as a reminder year after year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Welcoming Entry

This past summer, we decided to list our house For Sale By Owner. We didn't really need a bigger home, but I longed for two things - 1. a flat yard for the kids  2. a welcoming entry.

I loved our first home - but I was not a fan of the split-entry foyer. It felt like each time I would open our front door for guests, I was either half way up the stairs to give them room to enter. Or I was behind the door. 

The Lord brought an offer for our home less than 2 weeks after we listed it on Zillow. I had taken the pictures myself, hoping that my style might entice a buyer. We had seen this blue house had dropped closer to our price range in a fabulous neighborhood. The lots are large and flat. And the streets are quiet. We went to see the inside of this home, but I told my husband that I couldn't even think about our living there because our current home might not sell. That very night, after viewing the blue house, the phone rang...and a few days later...that interested couple put in an offer! 

After a few days of negotiations, the blue house was ours. It had quirks and issues. I wished it wasn't blue. It needed paint. But it had a big, flat yard and a welcoming entry. We could paint and fix the rest! 

In  my dream notebook, I've listed changes to make to almost every inch of this house. From the roof to the siding color. Little by little, those changes will be made. 

But first, I wanted to tackle my entry.

This hallway had great potential but it was painted 15 different shades of tan and cream.

I first tackled the walls, painting them a warm white. I wanted to try the popular all white look. And I figured that if it wasn't my favorite look, it would be easy to change later.

However, I love how clean the white walls feel.

(Source for "Toilette" sign)

I also began to search for some schoolhouse style lights. The existing yellow globed ugly lights were casting a not-so-nice yellow glow on my white walls. Here's the link to the ones we purchased. They were under $30,  and we have been super impressed with their quality. I now want schoolhouse lights everywhere.

Painting the doors black has been one of my favorite decisions recently. I purchased a gallon of pre-mixed black semi-gloss paint. (It's hard to get true black mixed at the paint counter, but there are already black gallons mixed for you on the store shelves.)

For the wood interior doors, it was just a matter of applying two coats to the door. I used my favorite trim brush for the edges, grooves and around the door knobs. I used a small sponge roller for the flatter areas.  I would put the kids to bed, start a favorite podcast and get to painting. I could usually do a few doors each evening - and the paint would be dry by the time those little fingers were awake in the morning.

The metal front door required a little extra love. I had painted it just like the interior wood doors. But the black paint peeled off in one large sheet. It was coming off in such large sheets that Hudson asked if I was holding a trash bag. (Like this) So, I grabbed my can of bonding primer. After a coat of the primer, the black paint stuck well to the older metal door.

I will eventually replace that funky runner on the stairs. But I am waiting until after I paint the walls above the staircase. I wanted my stairs to look semi-finished for my Christmas decor. So, I painted the railing and the visible side of the stairs.

And a few days after that paint was dry, the Christmas decor went up.

I attached the garland to the railing with black pipe cleaners.

Nora woke up from her nap and said, "Oh, Mom!  I looooove it!"

My kids are quick to notice new things in the house. I usually do my decorating/fixing-up while they are asleep. It's like a treasure hunt when they wake up.

We are still loving the white walls and black doors. It feels clean and fresh.

The outside of the front door will get a coat of black paint soon!

And, if you've seen my instagram, you know that I decorated my home for Christmas in the middle of November. Yes, we still celebrated Thanksgiving. I even hosted my parents and cooked with my mom at our house.

Each person decides their own time to put up their trees, but I choose to do it before all the festivities begin. With Thanksgiving, Hudson's birthday, the big Christmas tea at church and all the other Christmas activities - I have found that I am able to rest and enjoy all those Christmasy things if my house is decorated before they begin.

Twinkle lights make me happy.

And the rest of the family doesn't seem to mind either.

We are so thankful that the Lord led us to this home. We look forward to filling it with lots of love, laughter and visitors. He sold our house. He picked this new home out for us. We pray we can use it for Him.