Monday, June 25, 2018

Look UP!

Even though I was sad to see our Moms Group semester come to a close (we take a break for summer), we had an amazing last meeting in May. We reflected on all the good things the Lord had done. We saw relationships built, marriages made stronger, women in the Word, better mommas, encouraged women, changed lives. To God be the glory! Great things HE has done.

I am equally excited about all that we have to look forward to for the new year. A new focus. New friendships. New truths to learn. New battles to fight. New babies. New tables to sit at. New struggles. New victories.

Our focus, for the next year will be "Look up!"

I shared with those moms that I have a hard time (or feel guilty) asking for help. It's so hard for me to admit I'm failing or to admit that I'm not enough. Motherhood brought on a whole new set of needs. It challenged  my identity. Took my time. These kid's survival depended on me. Challenged my marriage. Changed my schedule, wardrobe and number of times I washed my hair. Suddenly I had a hard time having a quiet time. And I still struggle daily with that feeling of not being enough vs. not wanting to admit that I'm not enough. I feel empty some days - but I hate to admit that. Anyone else?

But as I was scrolling through a social media feed last week, a graphic of this verse stopped me in my tracks.

This verse is hopeful! I can be filled! And yet it also made me wonder, "Would I ever be filled if I never admitted to that hunger or need?"

A familiar story of Elijah seemed to keep resurfacing in my life. I heard about it a women's conference, at Wednesday night prayer meeting, in a sermon by my dad...and so, I shared what I had learned and what I had heard.

Elijah was a prophet - which simply means he was seen, in his day, as an inspired teacher. He was respected by God's people. And he was a proclaimer of the will of God.

Then the Lord said to Elijah, "Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon.
I have instructed a widow there to feed you." 
So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village,
he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her,
"Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?" 
As she was going to get it, he called to her, "Bring me a bite of bread, too."
But she said, "I swear by the Lord your God that I don't have a single piece of bread in the house.
And I only have a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. 
I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal,
and then my son and I will die."
But Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you've said, 
but make a little bread for me first. Then use what's left to prepare a
meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
"There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time
when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!"
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat
for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers,
just as the Lord had promised through Elijah."
I Kings 17:8-16, NLT

I am so thankful that God empties us so that HE can do the miraculous sustaining. 

As a mom, I can imagine her panic and fear. No one would have faulted her if  instead of obeying God she had said, "No, I am going to provide for my son's needs first." But her own efforts would have only sustained this family for a day. In her own efforts, she was lacking. She obeyed. And as a result, God kept sustaining. (for far longer than she could have ever managed on her own). 

In my emptiness, I must surrender. I must ask, "What is God asking me to do?
It may simply be that I need to admit that I am not enough! I wasn't made to be enough! If I was ever "enough" I would never need Jesus! 

It may be that I need to talk to my kids (and others) about how God is sustaining me. I think back to when I was growing up. I have always loved when my parents would tell stories of God supplying because they stepped out in faith. I never thought LESS of my parents and their lack of resources or knowledge...instead, I thought MORE of my God. 

Verse 24 of I Kings 17 tells us that this mother's faith was strengthened. In our emptiness, He can do the most miraculous things. Let's fill the void with HIM. And as a result, people will say, "That must be Jesus!!"

Next year, our mom's group is going to Look Up!  We are praying, expecting and hoping. We are looking up with our palms open, ready for the Lord to do the sustaining and filling. 

I look up to the mountains -- 
does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth! 

He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, He who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord Himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, 
nor the moon at night. 

The Lord keeps you from all harm and 
watches over your life. 
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever. 
Psalm 121, NLT

This Psalm of ascent was one that the Israelites would sing on their journey to Jerusalem. As they traveled, those mountains in front of them were the surest, firmest thing they could imagine. And so they pointed and asked, "Does my help come from there? those mountains?....My help comes from the Lord!"

This group of moms is going to look to Him. We are going to admit our emptiness. We are going to let him do the miraculous sustaining. And we are praying that our kids and others we come in contact with will come to this conclusion: "That must be Jesus!"

Each mom went home with a loaf pan and a bread mix. Each time they make muffins or bread for their children, I pray that they will be reminded of the sustaining that happened in I Kings 17 as a result of  a mom's faith.

Each loaf pan was tied up with a tag reminding them of our Scripture focus for next year - Psalm 121. I pray that they will read it, write it and maybe even memorize it as they go throughout their summer. 

I pray that they regularly get in the habit of  Looking UP!  And if they weren't sure how that should look practically, we encouraged them to try this 30 Day Word before World Challenge. In those empty moments, it is so easy to turn to my phone, social media, Netflix, a snack...many things other than the Word!

It's never too late to begin this challenge! Or to start it over again!

Let's do this! Let's Look Up! Let's watch God do the filling and sustaining! He made us to need Him!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Read with Me

You Can Stay Home with Your Kids is the cutest covered hardback filled with glossy pages and incredible tips. If you've ever wondered if your family could go down to one income, allowing you to be a stay at home mom, this book is filled with the advice, money saving ideas and action steps that you can put into place. It's easy to read and topically divided. What a great resource.

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

Even tough it is not the Christmas season, I was excited to look through this book. I plan to use it for my own personal devotions this holiday season. An Advent Devotional Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is a beautiful little hard back book. There are 4 weeks of devotions, dividing the names into these categories: Hope, Preparation, Joy and Love. Each week has 5 days with 5 different names of Jesus. There is also a list of activities for that week's focus. What a perfect way to get to know Jesus better while prepping for the celebration of His birth.

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

Until we Find Home was a delightful read from my favorite, WW2 time period. The author was new to me, but I appreciated her writing style and character development. It was an entertaining, fictional read.

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

Braving Sorrow Together is a perfect little book to help transform our way of thinking when life is hard. I felt like it would be helpful for both one that was hurting or one that was wanting to help the hurting. It was easy to read and full of insightful, encouraging truths. I also loved the quotes from other Christians sprinkled throughout.

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

Daily Encouragement for the Smart Stepfamily  is filled with daily tips for the entire year. Each day features a tip or encouragement and ends with a brief pray of refocus. Some days include Scripture. It's more of a tip book than a devotional, but still full of great insight.

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

Devotions from the Lake is a hardback devotional with 100 different selections. The photography and glossy pages make this a delightful book to have. Each day begins with Scripture and uses a reference to something you'd experience at the lake. The devotions aren't super deep, but they are thought-provoking and end with a prayer of application. The beautiful pictures make you praise our Creator and the Scripture will draw you closer to Him.

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

I love a suspenseful novel, filled with twists and turns. Although this author was new to me, her storytelling kept me reading late into the night. Lone Witness was an excellent book with well developed characters and a fast moving pace. There were several unexpected turns in the story. Even though I had not read book one from this series, I did not feel lost. I will look for more of Rachel Dylan's books in the future.

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

Nancy Mehl's Blind Betrayal, the third book in the Defenders of Justice was another entertaining read. Action began almost immediately. And there were no slow moments throughout the entire novel. Even though I had not read book one or two in this series, I felt engaged and the characters were introduced well.

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

Although I am not a frequent fan of fantasy fiction, The Crescent Stone was compared to Narnia tales...and so I gave it a try. It was entertaining. It was well written. And it will probably appeal most to the young adult genre. Lessons were learned and adventure was experienced.

I received this book before it's official release from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

What a testimony. What a life well lived. What a beautiful tribute of a father. As I read Through My Father's Eyes, I couldn't help but praise the Lord for the way he used Billy Graham. What an encouraging, thoughtful read.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Potted Moss Topiary

The Lord has blessed our mom's group with the best team of servant-hearted ladies! My talented craft-minded friend has come up with the cutest and easiest projects for our moms to work on! And I view our craft time as more than just busy work. It's amazing to me that when hands are busy (hot-gluing or stringing beads), conversation happens. I also love watching the moms leave feeling a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.  That little craft may be the only thing truly completed that week (because we all know the dishes and laundry are never ending), but I pray that it helps those moms feel that what they do is important and does eventually have results.

 Using Dollar Tree items, these topiaries were the perfect nudge towards spring decor. 

 In fact, I picked up a few bags of the moss to make a wreath as well with this same technique. 

For this craft we used:
To help contain the mossy mess, we laid out plastic tablecloths at the hot glue stations. 

The strofoam cones would make adorable Christmas trees. A wreath form would work perfectly. And you could always purchase larger balls and pots for a larger topiary. I even thought about using a bamboo skewer to add another sphere or two on top of the potted one, for a stacked topiary look.  

It was easy. It was fun. And any time I can add some natural green to my home, I feel refreshed! 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Spiritual Confetti

The Word of God is so precious to me. Lately, I have been loving how personally the Lord uses His Word to change and encourage me. As I have been studying Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God Bible study, I have loved her emphasis on the belt of truth. The Word of God is our source of truth in which every part of our lives can be based.

"Your Word is truth."   John 17:17

"And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

There is great freedom in knowing that the Bible is my guide, my answer, and my measuring stick. It sure takes a lot of pressure off me. 

But the Word of God is more than just a rule to govern my life by - it is full of comfort and encouragement as well. 

We know the power of encouraging each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). And when I think of encouragement, I love this quote:  

"Encouragement is to friendship what confetti is to a party. It's light, refreshing, and fun,
and you always end up finding little pieces of it stuck on you later. " Nicole Johnson

If you have ever been around a little girl in a glittery dress, you have experienced the sticking power of glitter. It lingers on family members and furniture for DAYS!

And I can't think of confetti without remembering the hand fulls that "friends" placed in the air vents of our car on our wedding day. 

Still, 8 years later, on certain days when the air is on full blast, a sequined piece of colorful paper will fly out at our faces, reminding us that confetti has a powerful tendency to hang around. 

"What wonders a bit of encouragement can do! It's one of the most awesome treasures
God has given us -- the ability to inspire, motivate, and reassure others."  Barbara Johnson

But what about those lonely days or those times when you aren't able to share your difficult circumstances with everyone, but you are still in need of some encouragement? 

That's where the Word of God steps in! 

"I weep with sorry; encourage me by your Word."  Ps. 119:28

"Such things were written in Scriptures long ago to teach us. 
And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God's promises
to be fulfilled."  Romans 15:5

"As soon as I pray, you answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength." Ps. 138:3

Just as parents at a kid's sporting event cheer for their children...."You can do it!"  "You've got this!" "I'm so proud of you!" "Keep going!"  "Yeah!!!" there are so many instances when God has cheered for me, His child,  with His Word.  

And when He does that in your life, journal it, memorize that verse, highlight it, cover the margin in washi tape, underline it, put it in your house somewhere...let the Word of God continue to change, guide and encourage you. Let that spiritual confetti stick around. 

Today at Mom's group, a friend shared of the struggle in motherhood to grumble, complain and worry. It's not that we hate our lives, its just easier to focus on the hard parts of the day. Easier to feel alone. Easier to just grumble. And that affects our children, our's not good. 

She told of the power of the Word of God and how it has changed her attitude...

"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again -- rejoice!
Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon
Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. 
Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. 
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:4-7

After some praising, confessing and praying took place, her perspective changed. She saw how God was at work and how He was helping her. And He did guard her heart and mind! The Word of God is that powerful. 

I gave the moms some little index cards to write out some spiritual confetti of their own. Verses that the Lord specifically led them to. Verses He had used or was using to encourage and point them back in right direction. And it was so powerful to hear the verses discussed at my table - the way that God's Word had done exactly what God promised it would do! 

His Word is the answer. It is truth. It can change us. It can encourage us. We just have to dig into it! 

What are some verses that the Lord has used in your life? What's some of your spiritual confetti? 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Folded Book Photo Display

A few weekends ago, my sister and I went "treasure hunting"...also known as shopping in antique stores and home decor places.  We bought a few things and gathered lots of ideas. Its the best place to find inspiration and ignite my creativity.

Beside the cash register at one of these stores was the cutest little folded book where business cards were adorably displayed.

As soon as I saw it, my mind started thinking of how I could recreate it.

This morning, I grabbed one of my favorite books to re-purpose...I love the colorful cover that I will use for another project. I love that the pages are a little discolored, thanks to their age. I love the size. And I love that it came from the free box at a local used book store. Give me all the Readers Digest Condensed Books. ha.

But any book with this same thickness will do.

It doesn't even need to be a hard backed book, because the first step is to remove the cover.

Then, I started folding. I folded each page in half. (Perfect movie-watching activity)

And if I came across a page that had an illustration, I just adjusted which way I folded the page to hide the picture. In the end, it didn't matter which way each page was folded.

Instead of business cards, mine will display photos or cards received. (Snail Mail Forever!!)

I've been wanting to host another Crafternoon...this may just be a featured project. It was easy, cheap and the end result was rewarding.

Who would be interested in a future Crafternoon...I'll come up with the projects, you'll pay a small supply fee, and we will all craft together!