Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Read with Me

It's easier to remember to prepare for Christmas...its the same day each year. You're purchasing gifts for loved ones and decorating your home. But Easter is equally (if not more) important to prepare my heart for. As I read Liz Curtis Higgs' The Women of Easter, I felt my heart begin to get ready to celebrate the resurrection!

The Women of Easter follows the story of Mary of Bethany (Lazarus' sister), Mary of Nazareth (Jesus' mother) and Mary Magdalene. The author does a beautiful job of telling the story, setting and details of these women based on Biblical accounts. I love that Scripture is mixed in the narrative. This was the perfect book to begin to think about the exciting holiday we will soon celebrate. And I feel like I know these women a little better! It's easy to read and easy to love.

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

I love to store up tools to help my kids learn more about God's Word. The International Children's Bible with Devotions from Sarah Young's Jesus Calling is a welcome addition to our book shelves. It is a complete Bible, not just Bible stories. Mixed in the pages of Scripture are colorful, glossy devotionals that highlight key stories/individuals in the Bible. There are also key Scriptures highlighted in the text. You can find a topic guide at the front of the Bible for these highlighted verses. I love helping my kids understand the difference between a fairy tale and a Bible story. Seeing side by side the story and the verses that it comes from will be super helpful. The illustrations for the devotionals are colorful and eye-catching. I look forward to using this tool for years to come.

I received this Bible from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

I love when an author's name can be trusted. Tony Evans has written an amazing book, Kingdom Prayer, that has challenged and encouraged me in my prayer life. Prayer is so vital to the Christian life, yet so hard for me to do. Like the national anthem at a sporting event, we often view prayer as a way to jump start an event, not really thinking of the words we are saying. The language in this book is easy to understand yet challenging in concept. I better understand the value and need for prayer. This is a book I will re-read.

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

The Domino Effect followed the familiar writing style of Davis Bunn. The subject matter dealt with the financial world. The story was too full of technical terms and not enough character development for me. For those who love a detailed fictional novel, this would be better suited for them. The story line was good, but there were too many technical terms for me to be able to jump quickly into the drama.

I received this book form Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

It's sad to see so many high schoolers choosing to follow their peers in a direction that does not lead them to Christ. Bombarded with social media and selfish ideas, many adolescents choose a path that exalts self rather than Christ. It was encouraging to read this testimony book, The Jesus Club, where Brian Barcelona tells of the good things the Lord did with a surrendered heart and a group of teenagers. He shared his story (former atheist) with a group of teens. He shared what God had done for him. And this was a perfect example of how when God is described as the super hero, others can't help but take notice.

I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

He's Enough

I love that the Lord is so patient with me. He continues to pursue a deeper relationship with me. And even though I keep thinking I can do it on my own, He gently reminds me (over and over again) that He is enough for me. He is sufficient. And His Word is one of the ways He communicates with me.

The ladies in my church are collectively going through the She Reads Truth study called "Open Your Bible." I am not able to attend the large group sessions, but I am doing the workbook in my quiet time. It is full of Scripture references, encouraging me to read, write and understand God's Word and how it is an active part of life.

As I was doing my "homework" last week, I felt that the Lord was pin-pointing a concept that He wanted me to share with my group of moms - God's Word is Enough. I dog-eared the pages in the book so that I could refer back to it as I prepared for the meeting. But I began to fret the day before the meeting...Our meeting is about meal prep...My devotional doesn't fit...Maybe I need to think up something else to talk about...Should I skip the devo time?...

But when I went back to look at the concept, I was amazed that it was also about meal planning. God had done the meal prep for the children of Israel while they were in the dessert in Exodus 16. It WAS topic appropriate! Why do I ever doubt Him? (After all..."God's way is perfect." Ps 18:30)

I was baffled that the Isrealites could complain so much after God continued to take care of them. They'd been delivered out of slavery, witnessed the parting of the Red Sea...again and again, God took care of them. Yet they were complaining.

"If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt," they moaned.
"There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we
wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all 
to death." Then the Lord said to Moses, "Look, I'm going to rain down food
from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much 
food as they need for that day..." So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel,
"By evening you will realize it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard
your complaints...The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to
satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against Him..."  
 (Ex. 16:3-8, NLT)

"So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some
only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had
just enough...Each family had just what it needed."
(Ex. 16:17-18, NLT)

The Bible is my daily provision. It's enough because Christ is enough. Charles Spurgeon (a 19th century preacher) said, "If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust His fullness but who can drain a fountain?" I am so glad, that I can never take too much from the Lord. I can never drain Him of all He has to give. He is always enough. 

As a mom, there are many days where I am empty and tired...and done. But the Word always has something for me. 

"Come to me with your ears wide open. 
Listen, and you will find life..."  (Isaiah 55:3, NLT)

I loved growing up in a strong Christian home. I am so thankful for my parent's love for the Lord and His Word. I saw my mom and dad go to God's Word each morning. I heard them tell of answered prayers. This was normal for me. 

This week, I was convicted of letting God's Word become too common place. I know God's Word is enough for any circumstance, but I have become a little too casual in my thinking. I panic and worry, knowing God is in control, but not surrendering myself to Him. Not going to His Word for guidance and encouragement. Just like the children of Israel - God has provided for me and guided me my entire life, but I still complain. I still worry. I still panic. 

I wrote in my journal, "Forgive me, Lord, for complaining about needing help from you but not turning to Your Word for answers and encouragement." 

Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them
on as a command to your children so they will obey every word  of
these instructions. These instructions are not empty words --
they are your life! (Deuteronomy 32:46-47, NLT)

I want my children to believe that God's Word is LIFE! Since they can't read yet, they need me to show them that God's Word is enough. And that means that it has to be enough for me too.

A song that my sister and I sang together in college kept playing through my mind as I contemplated this concept. (Song here)

All of You
is more than enough for
All of me
for every thirst and every need
You satisfy me
with Your love
and all I have in You
is more than enough

You are my supply 
my Breath of Life
still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
still more awesome than I know

You're enough. You're enough. You're enough for me. 

PS...My current favorite devotional tool is this journal. If you're looking for an easy way to get into God's Word daily, try these:  Write the Word, Blue      Write the Word, Peach

And, If you were wondering about some of those meal planning tips and recipes that Amanda shared with our moms yesterday, here you go!

Amanda from Dish T'Pass has spent 20 years in the trenches as a mom and week night dinner table specialist.

I love that she emphasized that food doesn't have to be perfect...she just loves what happens around food.

Cooking for Your Week
  1. Make a list of your family's favorite meals. Have a conversation. Take notes. We eat differently in each season. You may develop 2 to 4 lists. Spring/Summer  Fall/Winter.
  2. Make a list of 5 or 6 meals. Select meals that have overlapping ingredients. Don't make the list day specific. 
  1. Make your shopping list. Go shopping. Put the groceries away. Order pizza. Take a nap.
  2. Option A - As you prepare your first meal, prep completely any ingredient you touch. Receipe calls for 1/2 an onion - cut entire onion. Place remainder in air tight container at eye level in fridge. Repeat with each ingredient including pasta, rice, protein, etc.

    Option B - Take 2 hours and prep all meats, starches and veggies. (Keep a drawer under your prep area stocked with zip-lock bags, sharpies, masking tape, aluminum foil.)
  1. Assemble meals as needed. If you have chosen Option B, assembly is quick & easy. If Option A, you are still looking at 30 minutes or less.
  2. Package any leftovers for lunches OR freeze for future use in soups, casseroles or stir fry. 
  • Start each meal prep with an empty dishwasher. Rinse and load as you go. 
  • Engage preschoolers in helping with dishwasher, setting table and limited food prep. It doesn't have to be every meal and every day...just let them help sometimes so that they understand that food just doesn't appear on the table. 
  • You are the gatekeeper of what they eat. They can't eat what you don't buy. You may have to introduce foods multiple times before they catch on. Our palates continue to change as we age. Encourage them to keep an open attitude - this includes parents too. Teach them that it's ok to not care for a particular food and no one else at the table knows about. 
  • Attitudes -- good or bad, healthy or unhealthy -- are contagious
  • The important thing is sitting down to eat TOGETHER. TALKING to each other. Developing a sense of family, identity, shared life experiences, and lots and lots of LAUGHTER. Perfection is not the standard. 
Slow Cooker Barbacoa

4 lb chuck roast, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup chunky salsa
1/3  cup chili powder
1/3 cup oregano
3 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup water

1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes

In a bowl, mix all ingredients except meat and canned tomatoes. It will be thick and paste like. Put meat in the bottom of your slow cooker. Coat with salsa seasoning paste. Cook on low 8 hours. Using 2 forks, pull meat apart. ADD can of tomatoes. Stir well. Put lid back on crock pot to heat through while you prepare remainder of meal (15-20 minutes)

This tender, flavorful shredded beef is perfect for tacos, burritos, rice & bean bowls, nachos, and salads. 

*She served this with a spicy ranch (Hidden Valley Ranch and chipotle seasoning) at our meeting. 

Big Salad Night

Leafy Greens - Romaine, Spring Greens, Spinach, Kale

Colored Veggies - tomatoes, colored bell peppers, cucumber, carrots

Fruit- berries, citrus sections, apple or pear

Fiber Add Ins - beans (black, garbanzo) corn, cubes of roasted squash, sweet potato

Healthy Fats - avocado, olives, nuts

Protein - chicken, fish, pork, beef, hardboiled egg

Salad Dressing

Croutons, Crackers or Toast

*Have Big Salad Night once a week. Encourage kids to pick one thing of each color. Encourage new foods. Have something familiar (chicken nuggets) and something new. Kids don't have to have in a traditional salad form.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 T brown mustard
1 T honey
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Serve immediately over greens. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Read with Me

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell is a fabulous parenting book filled with Biblical principles and practical tips. The author breaks down each of the 8 tools into five short and easy-to-digest chapters. Talking. Listening. Influencing. Connecting. Teaching. Encouraging. Correcting. Leading. As I read this book, I was continuously finding myself encouraged and challenged. The tips seemed doable. Example stories were mixed into the writings. Although most of the tips are presented as practical parenting advice, I love that this was written with a Biblical point of view. What a great resource for parents! It's definitely a book I will hang on to, re-read and recommend.

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

I love that books written by Tony Evans can be trusted - full of Biblical truth. Kingdom Family Devotions: 52 Weeks of Growing Together is a beautiful hard-backed book intended to be used 5 nights out of the week to lead your family to be more like Jesus. Each week has a topic. Each day begins with a single verse to read together. Many of the day's devotionals end with though provoking questions or "homework" for the family. This books seems perfect for kids 5 years of age and older. I look forward to implementing these teachings into our family devotional time as my children grow. And since this is a year's worth of devotionals, it would even be an excellent one to work through multiple times. I love that the verses and the devotionals are short - to help little attention spans to remain engaged.

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

Where Does Love Hide? is an adorable board book filled with colorful illustrations and liftable flaps. Even though I will give this book to my children for Valentine's Day, it's a book that will be great for all year round. Each page features a different way for us to show love to other people. The flaps reveal surprises on every page. I first gave this to my children at a time when I needed them to sit still and be quiet. The loved the pictures and flaps, and looked through the book over and over again. I can tell that it will become a family favorite - we plan to implement some of these ways to show love to other. Each love example also includes a Scripture verse. Even though it's just a board book, we may use it as a family devo for our little learners.

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

Lots of Love is a fun Valentine-themed board book filled with rhymes and engaging illustrations. From morning til bedtime, this tale follows a child through out the day sharing, helping, obeying and making cards for others. The rhymes are fun to read and the message is great!

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

What better way to disciple others than to learn from Jesus Himself! Following the example of Jesus in the Gospels Discipling as Jesus Discipled is a ten week study focused on the  disciplines of a disciplemaker found in John 17. This workbook style book would be a great resource for a small group or an individual. It would even be a practical way to disciple a new believer to learn how to disciple others.

Each day's homework is 3-4 pages long and gives spaces to reflect, journal and answer questions. The content seemed good...but the study is a little lengthy.

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

Junie B. Jones' audio book First Ever Musical Edition of First Grader (at last!) is a two disc set. The first disc is the unabridged reading of the book by Lana Quintal. I found her reading style and "voices" to be engaging and entertaining. The second disc is a musical. The recording was well done. But Junie B. is not my favorite example for my kids. She is always seeming to get in trouble. Although... she does always admit her mistakes and suffer consequences. We would definitely need to discuss her behavior after reading/listening to these stories. For those who love the Junie B. Jones books, this would be an excellent addition to your collection.

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I love that Christmas was on a Sunday this year. It seemed right. My heart was a little more tender and a little more focused on Christ's birthday. During a typical week, I prepare for church on Saturday night - laying out clothes, packing bags, and preparing my heart. It seemed fitting to prepare for Jesus' birthday in the same way. We were at home, just the four of us the night before. We planned to attend the morning service at my church.

I will admit, that when I found out there was no childcare provided for this morning, my heart skipped a few beats. I love, love, love our preschool program at my church. I love that our kids learn Bible verses and Biblical concepts before they are even 2 years old. And I love that my husband and I can worship in our own service while our kids worship with other preschoolers. I am glad that all the wonderful teachers could take a weekend off, but I was super nervous to see how Nora (2 years old) would handle "big church." 

At first, I was even thinking, "Should we attempt it? Should we just have our own little church service at home and avoid the drama?" But that didn't feel right. 

I prepped my purse in a different way, stuffing it with coloring sheets, these magical water books, stickers, snacks...I prepped my children by telling them over and over the importance of being quiet. But I forgot to prep my heart. 

We arrived in our seats before the service began. The kids were excited to see all the twinkle lights and the big screens. Hudson was trying hard to keep that flip up seat from eating him whole. And I was nervous about how they would respond to the service for "big people." 

The Christmas carols began. I held one child and my husband held the other. The kids were in awe. And I felt in awe myself. I was so thankful to have my little family worshiping together this Christmas morning. The kids didn't know all the words to the familiar-to-me carols, but they knew we were celebrating Jesus' birthday. They stuck nativity stickers to the bulletin while our Pastor shared about Jesus' purpose in coming to earth. With each aspect of the service, my heart felt a little fuller. 

Music was mixed in between the sermon points. In the middle of the service, we sang one of my favorite Christmas songs.  O Come, All Ye Faithful. As we sang the chorus, tears spilled down my face. Nora even wiped a tear off my cheek. This is what Christmas is all about. This is what I want my kids to understand. This is what we have been preparing for. 

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

We'll praise His name forever
We'll praise His name forever
We'll praise His name forever 
Christ the Lord

All the preparations. All the anticipation. Even our getting ready for church this morning. It was all so that I could remind my children that we were made to worship the Lord. What I privilege I have, as a mother, to bring my children along side me to celebrate Christ's birth. 

It's the song I could have sang as we got dressed, brushed hair, wiped oatmeal off faces, buckled car seats, and packed my purse. 

O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

And for those who are wondering, the kids did amazing in "big church." Nora may have had 3 applesauce squeezies and a lot of pretzels, but we were together as a family. We came and we worshiped Christ the Lord.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Card Wreath

Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite things. As a child, I can remember that my Nanny taped her cards around the door frames in her home. I can remember flipping through a huge stack of received cards at my Maw-Maw's kitchen table. And I remember watching my mom address card after card to send out to friends and family. A friend recently told me that she views Christmas cards as a way to send a hug across the miles.

I have chip clip racks that hold a lot of our cards, hooked onto the side of our hutch or kitchen cabinets. But I like to find new ways each year to feature the cards that we receive.

The other day, I picked up a $3 wire wreath form at Hobby Lobby. It had wired greenery ties already attached to the frame. The purpose of the wreath is to weave burlap strips to create a fuller wreath. But, I decided to repurpose mine.

Using clothespins, I have been clipping our cards onto the wreath form.

The "branches" are flexible, allowing me to bend the around the cards to make them more visible.

And if you wanted to make things even more festive, you could always add some washi tape to your clothes pins.

A regular wire wreath form would work in the same way, but I am loving the Christmasy touch that the bits of greenery add.

And if you are looking for a way to corral those rolls of wrapping paper, mine are hanging out inside an upside-down wooden stool.

Don't be afraid to repurspose items you already own - They say "Necessity is the mother of invention."