Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Come Adore

The house is quiet. 
It's a GLORIOUS, yet EERIE sound.
I embrace it with such need and yet it feels so empty.

I keep turning around to see where a little one is, watching the clock to see if it might be time to feed one, or countless other things on the list.  Parents know that when a child is quiet, it probably means that you are about to discover trouble or a big mess! Silence is typically pretty dangerous in a house with little ones!

The house SHOULD be quiet because I'm enjoying some time alone (unless you count our dog Baxter who happens to be snoring on the bed beside me) while Kevin and the kids are out trying to make a dent in a far overdue Christmas shopping list.  He is armed with a highly detailed list---if you know me well, you know it's VERY detailed.  :)  Though I know the house is empty, I'm still in mom & caregiver mode.  There isn't really any downtime during the day and I'm constantly bouncing between the needs of so many that it's VERY hard to turn that switch off. It's like stepping onto the edge of a treadmill to catch your breath, but the belt is still running waiting for you to jump back on.

I crave the quiet & solitude, but the solitude is almost unnerving at the same time.

I have been struggling lately not just in physical aspects, but in heart and spiritual issues.

I've been craving God and seeking Him, but even in the quiet, it's been hard to truly listen. It's as if my ears are ringing from the noise level of the day or my brain is in hyper speed and can't slow down.  He's been HERE with me and within reach, but it's been difficult to stay still long enough to wait for answers.  Some seasons of life are like that.  I HAVE to be purposeful or I quickly fall apart from not having enough time in His presence. 

Yesterday, I wrote some about the struggle with this Christmas season.  The difficulty I've had finding the true Christmas spirit that I crave so much.  It is a hard time due to the phases of grief, but it IS much more than that. I crave the simple.  I crave the peace. 

Simple and peace. 

Those are two things that are so difficult to find in such a busy and stressful time of year.

Tonight I found a piece of what was missing. I found a little glimpse of what my heart has been needing.

Kevin and I are total opposites when it comes to music and showers. He BLASTS music.  I LOVE music and have it on the majority of the time, EXCEPT when I'm in the shower. I enjoy just listening to the sound of the water.  It's calming to me.

Tonight, the quiet in the house just somewhat had me unnerved.  The wind is brutal tonight and the sounds were just so LOUD.  So I turned on the radio when I hit the shower...

And God reached in grabbed my heart and did some work.

He calmed some of the anxiousness.
He gave me a bit of that simple I was needing.
He gave me a few minutes to erase the stress that comes with Christmas and the last minute rush.
He gave me some time to let the waves of grief come and not be fought away.
He gave me a closer connection to Him.

All from a song...

A song I've heard countless times and sang many, many times.

"O, Come All Ye Faithful".....

Right the middle of the shower....He invited my heart to "come".  To drop everything else. To shut out the world.  To do nothing but come to Him.  Adore Him. It was as if He was asking me if I was coming to Him and adoring Him or if I was caught up in things of trivial nature.

Something about the words completely reaching in and holding me.  Not just words flowing from my mouth out of habit or memorization.  Words truly reaching in.  Pulling me to Him.

Exactly where I needed to be. 
To find Him.

The true Christmas spirit is found right in the simple place of a manger. By adoring Him.  By worshipping Him. It isn't whether or not I find excitement in shopping for just the right gift.  It isn't about the adrenaline rush of finding the "right" gift/finding a bargain on a desired item or the disappointment and frustration of not finding the right one (which this year has been GREATLY about the frustration of not finding the right items because stuff just "fit" our lives the same anymore!).  It isn't about whether this or that excites me or disappoinst me that determines whether I'm in the Christmas spirit this year or not. 

My focus has been misguided when it comes to whether or not the "spirit" of the season has reached my heart.

The only part that truly matters HAS.


If I'm embracing Him, seeking Him as the wisemen did....

Nothing else really matters.

That is where the simple and the peace is found.

In Him.

He invites us to just "come to Him". 

When you stop to truly soak in the words of "O Come all Ye Faithful"...the words are beyond beautiful.  They are truly an invitation that invites you to Him. To a place that brings peace to a weary soul.  A place I'm thankful to have found tonight.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Finding That Place

I have been taking a break from social media recently. Though I've kept my instagram pictures linked (so that family/friends can still keep up with our kids and our littles' families can still see what's going on with their precious wee ones) and replied to direct post notifications, I've been "absent" from the facebook world.  That's pretty huge for an "addict".  I even deleted my mobile app from my phone.  (*gasp*)

I found myself in the position of needing some white space.  My heart has been anxious and my emotions in turmoil and usually that signals that I need to step back, pull in, and just let God do some work from the inside out. 

Christmas season is here.  I thought I was going to be able to reclaim the spirit this year.  Reclaim it back from grief. 

I started that way.  I started with enthusiasm early. 


I lost it. 

We just got our tree up this week.  We only put up a small one instead of our normal big one or multiple ones. We put just a portion of ornaments on. We didn't bring up the boxes and boxes of decorations. I normally have Christmas shopping done in October.  I am not even halfway finished. It's become harder than hard to shop for "stuff" when we are losing that connection with "stuff"....especially as we know our hearts have been called to foreign missions.  It's harder to shop for "stuff" that really doesn't matter or will just be added to piles of other "stuff". 

I just don't have that spirit and excitement that I thought would return. 

Yes, oh BIG that greatly due to the surge of emotions that comes this time of year with the memories of November-December 2010 when we faced the news that Daddy had advanced cancer and then his being welcomed home to Jesus just five weeks later! Yes, Christmas is VERY hard.  While families gathered and created amazing memories, my memory became gathering around that giant table at a funeral home making final plans with my siblings and Sweet T. Standing in that room that no one wants to stand in as you try to process picking out a casket and all those little details. You can't fathom those "unreal" moments until you've done it. Christmas morning is an incredible time for parents as they watch their children beam with joy as gifts are opened.  That joy was replaced with our children looking at us with giant tears and wondering if Christmas would ever be the same as they opened their presents that friends rapidly packed in our van as we made the mad dash to get home to TN. Christmas became the moment that we gathered around and greeted friends and family from far and near as they came to extend condolences  and share memories of a man whose loss seems deeper each year. Instead of the aftermath of eating too much, bags of ripped wrapping paper and boxes to clean up....we stood in snow and watched our Dad/grandpa/husband/etc.. lowered into the ground. 

Yes, that does change Christmas.

Yes, that does hurt a heart.

Yes, this time of year DOES create the need in me to pull inward to try and process a wide array of emotions. (Not all the memories are grim.  Many were beautiful.  Last hours were priceless as we saw bits of heaven come down to earth as his earthly battle ended. Beauty in the reminders of the value of community of believers.  Glimpses of the hearts of many.  Reminders of his impact. Incredible medical team with HUGE hearts.  Other cancer patients with joy that overflowed.  Friends that truly became a life-line.  A husband that proved how very much of a rock he is. )

It's more than that. 

This is the time of year that I crave solitude.  I crave the simple.  I crave Christ.

It can be hard to find those moments any time of year, but especially when the calendars are full this time of year.  It's been especially hard this year to find that solitude with a house full of littles (5 two and under---whew!!!---but I LOVE it), a semester of home education with our 3 wrapping up, and just life in fast forward motion.


I have to stop. 

I have to find the place that I find Him the most.

The quiet.

The calm.

The serene.

The simple.

I can't do that with a technology saturated world.
I can't do that with a deluge of information overload.

Facebook is an amazing tool of connection and encouragement.  It can also be the center of WAY too much drama.  It can be a discouragement as too much of the negativity of the world creeps in, even in the circle of believers.  It can leave you feeling lonely even though surrounded by a multitude.  It can leave you with negative emotions of jealousy, bitterness, or "less" than.....if you let it.  Some people just find it necessary to stir up controversy and sometimes it's best to just distance yourself from it.

I used to say my excuse for spending so much time on it was because it strengthened my relationship with Christ because of the many blogs/speakers/writers/mentors that I follow that encourage me to dig deep, keep my eyes focused on what matters, and constantly challenge me to grow. 

Yes, that is true....but....

How many times did I let *them* be my Bible?  Let *them* do the work for me?  Let *them* do what only the Holy Spirit needs to do?

Sometimes the best and only place to find God is to be WITH HIM.  Alone.  Without someone else's words guiding.  Just me and Him.  Just me and His word.  Just me LISTENING and SEEKING Him without the crowding out or noise.

It's been good for my heart. 

It's been good to not worry about what others think, what others are doing or not doing, etc... Yes, I do feel disconnected with what is going on in other's lives....

...and yes I have missed out on some important things, prayer needs or praises, etc... I've missed some dear friends. I've missed the daily bantering back and forth with my husband and "publicly" encouraging him.


I feel so connected. 

I finally feel like I'm back at the well with a thirsty soul being filled from the PRIME source.  Not catching someone else's leftovers.  If I'm not filling up from THE SOURCE and finding THAT place that keeps my eyes on Him, I can't keep up.  I can't give to my family.  I can't balance the needs of the Littles in my care that I love so much.  I simply just can't be me.  I suffocate.  I shut down.  I drop way too many balls that I can no longer balance.

Physically, I've been in a flare up for 9 weeks and counting.  It's been some of the most trying times since the beginning years.  Pain has been intense and the exhaustion has been worse than I can remember.  Being too tired to fix nutritious meals or exercise has left me packing back on pounds that I have been grateful to be rid of, which creates a cycle of not feeling well because of not being in the best physical shape I can be. Though I'm feeling like better days are within reach, I know that the only way to survive these rough days is through Him.  He has provided and will continue to.  I feel me coming back more each day.

I can't get to Him if I'm crowding Him out with too many things, too much information, too much drama.....or just too much of anything that causes separation or clouds my vision. 

Christmas may still not be what I want it to be again.  This Christmas I find myself still deeper in grief than I expected and to be honest I don't know if that day will ever come that I can celebrate and embrace the joy of the season without the depth of loss stinging and cutting so deeply. 

But....Christmas is STILL overflowing with hope.

God has been BEYOND amazing and alive in our lives this year and we look forward to the new year to come with greater expectation than we've ever experienced.  We've seen some amazing miracles this year and had some incredible time of growth.

I'm happy to be finding this place of connection, even if I have to step away from the outside world to do it (though I'll be back....but just in a more balanced approach!).  I'm happy to be finding it even if I have to dig deep and SEARCH. Even if it's taking me out of my comfort zones or from what I feel is my "normal". 


That place.


Where I find Him. I need Him more than ever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Coming Home for Christmas" Review & Giveaway

*Congratulations to msmissy02! She was chosen as the winner of this giveaway!*

Oh Christmas...

It's becoming that time of year again.

Having lost my Daddy on Christmas after a very short battle with aggressive cancer almost three years ago sure has made Christmas feel so different. To say it's a difficult time of year is like saying I only "like" chocolate.

Though getting in the holiday spirit has been a STRUGGLE, but one we "forced" for the sake of our children, I'm finding this year that I can NOT wait for Christmas to come.  It's not because the pain is any less or the memories any's just....time.  Time to embrace the now and create new memories.  Part of it is because we know that this may be our last Christmas "here"...meaning we don't know where God will have us next year in the process of moving forward in our calling to serve in the foreign mission field.  Part of it is just knowing that time is limited with our families and we need to EMBRACE the season.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to watch and review "Coming Home for Christmas" (Norman Rockwell Presents). So, I broke every old rule of no "Christmas" before Thanksgiving.  Let's just say, I might NOW be guilty of having started listening to Christmas music and have already decided to start decorating early this year (except someone needs to tell me how to keep 5 kids 2 and under away from them....ha!!!).

Is there anything better about kicking off the season than enjoying a "feel good" Christmas movie!? "Coming Home For Christmas" was just what I needed to boost that spirit up a notch more! It's one of those "Hallmark Channel" type movies that so many of us women just LOVE! :) A perfect movie to snuggle up with some hot chocolate and popcorn! Hey---and if after watching it you find yourself pulling out the Christmas tunes and twinkle lights----don't worry----you aren't alone! :)

The narration at the end of the movie actually was quite powerful, even if the movie didn't seem so real to life possible (like many holiday movies!). "Family really should be friends.  Friends really should be family. We all---each and every one---want a place to go home to!" and we should "grow and expand as a family to include and accept others".  Whoa...powerful truth right there! Though family division and hard feelings aren't wrapped up in 90 minutes in real life, it is a reminder that there is hope and that others also have less than picture perfect relationships!

Ready for a movie night?  Alone? With Family? With a friend? With a spouse?  I have one copy of "Coming Home for Christmas" to give a way to one reader (US and Canada only).  To enter, leave a comment with your favorite Christmas movie AND your email address so I can contact if you are selected.  Winner will be chosen at random.  Entries must be received before noon 11/28/2013 CST. 

After their parents separate, two estranged sisters who haven't been on speaking terms reunite in hopes that having a family Christmas all together for the first time in years will bring their Mom and Dad close again. They plan to do this in their old family home... the only problem is someone else lives there now.
The DVD includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print!
Who is Norman Rockwell?  Rockwell was famous for his famous American culture illustrations and artwork. He was born in the late 1800’s and died in the mid 1900’s. 

Director: Vanessa Parise
Cast: George Canyon (Christmas Miracle, Dawn Rider, Man of Steel), Aaron Pritchett, Britt McKillip (Dead Like Me), Carly McKillip (Hot Rod)
Available at Walmart 
Soundtrack also available featuring holiday songs performed by George Canyon
*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sparkle Box---review and MUST enter Give-a-Way

"Give-a-way closed.  Congratulations to "Glogirl".  I'll be contacting you today!"

I was so disappointed last year when I missed out on the opportunity to review this book, so I was quite overjoyed when the opportunity came up this year! I truly might have been jumping up and down when I got the confirmation email.

Before I ever got the chance to read this one for myself and share it with our family and "Littles", our 7 year old saw it on my night stand was intrigued enough to grab it and read it for himself without prompting.  His response was, "Mom, I hope that Sparkle book is for a review because you need to tell families about it and I hope we are going to be doing it.  We always do these kind of things and I think it will be neat to write them down and leave them for a gift for Jesus.  Can we go ahead and put Operation Christmas Child in it?"

If you've never entered one of my give-a-ways and have children/grandchildren, this is the perfect chance to start.  It's a GREAT one!

The book he is talking about is:

About The Sparkle Box - A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas 
Sam is so excited about Christmas! He's thinking about his Christmas list, looking forward to holiday parties, and puzzling over one very mysterious gift: a sparkly box sitting on the mantel. In the midst of the festivities, Sam and his family participate in various acts of kindness to others. On Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the Sparkle Box, he finds only slips of paper that record the family's good deeds. Sam's mom explains that the things that they've been doing are, in fact, a gift for Jesus, for Jesus said that whatever we do for those in need, we do for Him.

Written by Jill Hardie
Illustrated by Christine Kornacki
Available now!
Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages, with a fold-out sparkle box included!

ages 4 to 8 
Author Bio
Author Jill Hardie and her family began placing a gift for Jesus under their Christmas tree as a way of bringing more meaning to the holiday.  The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they felt a profound joy and peace.  Jill hopes that The Sparkle Box will spark a new Christmas tradition, bringing light into thousands of lives.  
llustrator Bio
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life.  After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.  
Of all the books, movies, and family friendly materials that I've reviewed, I honestly think this is my absolute favorite.  It's one of those that we are going to treat as a special family heirloom and start some amazing traditions with.  As our family begins to transition in our calling to the foreign mission field and as we begin to rethink what "things" are special to us and what things we will let go, I already know that this one is one that we will cherish and keep with us for each holiday season. 
Our family is BIG on random acts of kindness and finding as many opportunities as possible to serve and make a difference.  It's just part of who we are and the way we are trying to raise our children to have a view of the world OUTSIDE of themselves.  During the holiday season, we do try to increase that focus even more and this little books is PRICELESS! If you are looking for a way to share the holidays with your children in a way that helps them think about others and bring the spotlight of focus on CHRIST----this book is an AMAZING tool.  I must also say, the illustrations are AMAZING.  My husband and I just sat here looking at each page in awe.  Seriously, even before we "do" the sparkle box----the book itself is FANTASTIC. 
I mean really,  when the first page of a book is KNOW it's going to be a great book!

What is the sparkle box?  It's simply just writing down your gifts to Jesus throughout the year or holiday season and then opening up the box and "giving" them to Jesus on Christmas day.  What can you give of yourself or what acts of service can you do to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  What can you do to show someone else His love?  The thoughts and possibilities are endless. 
We LOVE random acts of kindness. 
 They can be simple: some ideas that are our favorite are giving individual flowers to those we see often but are overlooked (the checkout lady at the gas station was our favorite so far (which we've witnessed her burst into tears when receiving it and her normal daily scowl is replaced by a smile every single time one of the kids come back in the store many months after the fact), followed closely by our mail carrier that in the summer eats her lunch on the grass a few houses down from us a couple of times a week (she gently placed her flower across her picnic blanket and her smile was contagious).  Handing out bubbles to kids at the playground has been another favorite that even our youngest enjoyed doing.  Leaving stacks of quarters and individual snacks on the washing machines in the laundrymat was one of my "simple", but favorite ones. There was a time that we went several months without a washing machine and had to frequent one of our laundrymats. I always seemed to be running out of coins and my kids were often cranky because they were wanting snacks from the machines and I didn't have coins to spare.  When our kids make holiday themed crafts throughout the year, we often make extras and have them hang them on the doorknob of senior citizens that live next to us.  Little things make a big difference in ways we don't often realize. 
Our kids are growing up with knowing their father will be the first to stop and help someone in need and the last one to leave when cleaning up after a project.  Our kids are growing up with their eyes opened to ways to share of themselves. 
Some projects are MUCH bigger---supporting missionaries and families in crisis in tangible ways has been a recurring theme.  Finding ways to help with orphans and vulnerable children is TOP priority.  Our 16 year old is currently involved in giving everything she has to a project of her own free will---she's seeking to provide new toys for children in foster care this season and has her heart set on a HUGE goal.  Even if she doesn't reach her goal of FIVE HUNDRED toys----she has made a HUGE dent and her commitment has taught us MANY things.  As we work together to fundraise and ask God to open doors for us as we prepare to move ahead in our desire to serve vulnerable children in Africa----our eyes are constantly open to looking outside ourselves. 
In this society, it's VERY easy to lose this focus during the holidays.  It's EASY to fall into step with the hustle and bustle, stress, and "wants".  It's VERY easy....
The Sparkle Box---is an incredible way to, STOP, slow down, and refocus. 
Our gifts to Jesus don't make Him love us more.  Our gifts of service to others ("works") don't save us.  BUT...
They do change our hearts.
They do open doors to be the "light of the world".
They do remind us that "whatever you did for one of the did for me."
This holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), start some new traditions.  Put your focus on giving instead of receiving.  Give of yourselves.  Give of your time.  Give of your heart. 
To win a copy of THE SPARKLE BOX (US or Canada), comment with an idea of how you can give of yourself this season.  I'd love to hear new ideas and things that we might can also do! ONE winner will be chosen at random to receive a copy of this AMAZING book that will become a family treasure. Contest will end on 11/26/2013 (Happy 39th Birthday to me....yikes!!!!!) MAKE sure you leave an email so I can contact you if you are the winner!!!! THAT'S CRUCIAL! ;) 
For now, I think I'll go help my little guy write out his first slip to put inside for Operation Christmas Child...
*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

King's Faith

*Be sure to look for details at the end on how to enter to win a copy!*

"This" movie might have initially been watched just for review purposes, even though I was VERY excited about the topic.

"This" movie might initially have been for entertainment purposes.

However, "this" movie instead was...



Deep. Raw. Gut-wrenching. Heart breaking.


It's of redemption. It's the power of Christ and the power of faith. It's the power of making the right decision in the worst of moments.

The opening words of the movie immediately caught me so much that I had to go back and listen again and again...

"If you want to change. Stop listening to the same voice playing over and over in your head." He goes on to say that he has learned to quiet the voices, but the images are what keeps coming back.  Yet, it's good to have those images because they can remind us of where we don't want to go again.

I found such depth in those statements even before watching the movie and "seeing" the story unfold.  Many of us can find ourselves in that statement.  We want to make changes, but we keep listening to the same voices of doubt OR we want to make changes but the images of our pasts, disappointments, or countless other things keep us paralyzed in those moments.

Though this movie is rated PG-13, I still find it very powerful for upper Jr. High kids up.  It's rated that way due to gang activity, drugs, and some violence (though the scenes are "faded" so that it isn't as overpowering.)  I find the intensity similar to Courageous or To Save a Life....with it's real word themes.

The theme is redemption.  The theme is how the encouragement of incredible foster parents can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable/broken youth.  ("Kids in the system become your gang.  Your gang becomes your family.".....and that is such a sad reality that shouldn't be!....that's a pretty convicting statement!).  The theme is how a life can truly be changed when Christ takes over with deep roots.  The theme is "The impossible comes possible" and " Stand firm in your faith and anything is possible."

It is a hard movie to watch due to the fact that it is intense and that unfortunately it is a harsh reality.

With that said, I do HIGHLY encourage you to watch it.  It's AMAZING----seriously.  A great movie for families with older children, those that are fostering or considering it, or anyone with a general interest in movies that encourage you to be bold in your faith.

Eighteen foster homes. Nine arrests. One life-changing moment.
After Brendan King’s life spiraled to rock bottom, the teen found hope in a new relationship with Christ while serving time in a juvenile penitentiary. Recently released from prison, Brendan finds solace in the foster home of a couple struggling with suppressed grief.
As the city-bred teen enrolls at a suburban high school, he finds support from a group of believers. Yet the bonds of his old way of life—and the gang that wants to know where he hid their stash on a long-ago night—are strong. In his darkest moment, Brendan found faith. Now he must decide if it’s worth the price to hold on to it.
KING’S FAITH is produced by DiBella and Faith Street Film Partners LLC, a Rochester, NY-based collective of filmmakers, churches, investors, and supporters.   
KING’S FAITH stars Emmy Award winning actress Lynn Whitfield (The Women of Brewster Place, Madea’s Family Reunion), Crawford Wilson (Judging AmyZoey 101), Kayla Compton (Entourage), and James McDaniel (Malcolm XNYPD Blue).
KING’S FAITH features the themes of courage, forgiveness and overcoming your past highlighted with the important message of youth in foster care. The film prompts audiences to consider many of the questions they struggle with today: How can I stand firm in my faith when life’s challenges put me to the test?   Where do I turn when I feel paralyzed by loss and grief?  Can I find true forgiveness from my wrong choices?
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Run Time: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13           
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Special Features: A 10-minute behind-the-scenes feature, commentary, discussion guide, Bible study clips affiliated with the LIVE IT OUT Bible Study
Watch the trailer/Visit the official website

*Enter to win a copy (US and Canada) simply by posting a comment on this blog or the facebook link.  MUST include an email address for entry to be valid...otherwise I can't contact the winner! Will end 11/12/13 (oh wow...I didn't realize a neat date like that was coming until I typed it out!).  Winner chosen at random.*

*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Monday, October 28, 2013

Audrey Bunny---PRECIOUS Children's Book!

*Congratulations to Emily W. and thanks to all of you for stopping by and entering!*

Up for review and giveaway is a precious, precious (yes, that needed to be doubled!) book for young children!

Do you have flaws that you try to hide from the world? Do you think those flaws make you less than or not lovable? Maybe they are physical flaws or even just parts of you that you don't want to share with others out of fear they won't love you.

Sweet little Audrey Bunny definitely thought that was true about her. She watched her bunny friends be chosen by children to take home at the toy store, time and time again, while she was overlooked.  She thought it was because she had a visible mark that made her less than desirable. When she was chosen, she thought it was because the little girl failed to see her imperfections.  Day after day, she worked tirelessly to hide them from her.  Until THAT day, the day that she dreaded.  The day that she knew she would no longer be loved.  Oh, but sweet little Audrey learns a valuable lesson that we all need to soak in....whether we are 4, 7, 47 or any age!

God loves us and we have value.  Our flaws and imperfections don't make us unworthy.  Audrey heard some sweet, empowering words that I think we all long to hear in our own lives...

"I chose you, Audrey, and I love you more than you could ever know."

Sweet book.  Beautifully illustrated.  Powerful lesson.  Every time I picked it up I was reminded of all those years ago when I fell in love with The Velveteen Rabbit and the joy it was to share that classic with each of my children.  "Audrey Bunny" is one of those books that you will want to keep in your collection to make sweet memories with your precious little ones and the message is such an incredibly IMPORTANT one!

My youngest was reading this book to me (LOVE those moments!) and I had to slip away to get the three babies/toddlers to sleep before they melted down.  When I returned to continue with him, he had continued reading it and left THIS outside my door.

That is as close as you will ever get to TWO thumbs up from a 7 year old boy!!!! Especially a boy that wasn't actually asked to pick up a pencil and WRITE. Especially when said boy HATES to write at this stage in life!  :)

Enter to win a copy for a special little one in your life (or tuck it away for a Christmas present!).  One reader (US or Canada) will be chosen at random on 11/7/2013 to win one copy.  Simply comment on this post or the facebook link!  Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  

From the publisher:

About Audrey Bunny
From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She'll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.

[Also included]: The Parent Connection (last page of the book) shares discussion questions and activities reinforcing God's love for us.

Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah), best-selling author of MendedI Will Carry You, and What Women Fear, and one of the most popular speakers and blog writers in the country. She holds a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and lives with her husband and daughters in Nashville, TN.

Written by: Angie Smith
Publisher: B&H Publishing
Hardcover with jacket:  32 pages 

Stay Connected

*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Well, here comes one of those introspective, honest, and a bit vulnerable posts.  Been waiting to write this one, but life with Littles and my three kids don't leave much time to actually sit down and write more than a few complete sentences without completely depleting brain cells! (Though I wouldn't change this life for the world!).

Something about changing seasons and especially fall leave me in a reflective mode.  It tends to remind me of how quickly time passes, has me looking back, evaluating the here and now, and gazing ahead to the future.  Something about everything changing from green to beautiful colors...and then eventually falling to the ground and looking barren.  Something about the hot weather, turning to crisp amazing fall weather...and then to the bitter cold. (Something about watching the snowflakes fall most of this day in October has really had me in a introspective mood.  Even though it's far too warm to stick and it's really just flurries, the reminder of what is to come.....argh!)

Lately I've been thinking about how my own parenting has evolved and changed through the seasons.

Maybe it's been the realization of how rapidly time is flying by.

Maybe it's been the conversations with so many friends and family members talking about their own seasons of life, struggles and victories. How many of them are also changing their own perspectives and impacting their families in great ways.

Maybe it's been that we are entering new seasons in our own lives.

It's partly been multiple discussions about grace and talking about what we want for our own families (as in what values matter most, memories we want them to have, and hopes we have for our children).

It's partly been how much heart and soul I pour into every little child that comes into our home for care.  Whether it's just as a back up when a regular sitter isn't available, for a temporary season while families are navigating difficult seasons, or whether it's the ones that are here on a regular basis.  Investing in them so deeply has caused me to reflect and pull inward. I NEVER want to see a little one JUST as a paycheck, even for one single day.  The day that happens...the day that I don't feel like I'm offering a ministry of my door will be locked.  Guaranteed.

It's partly looking ahead to the adventure that we are preparing for and seeking God's provision for in regards to where we see our entire family serving on another continent in the next year or two.  (Lord, please don't let it be any longer than that!! PLEASE!).

It's partly looking back to how much of an impact being part of Jill Savage's book launch team for "No More Perfect Moms" had on my heart and looking forward with anticipation in the months ahead as the second book in the series (No More Perfect with Dr. Kathy Koch who writes AMAZING books about parenting) is in the works.  Preparing my heart to be ready to participate again has left me "thinking" and reflecting.

I look back and just see mountains of regrets.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not wallowing in pity or sinking in conviction.  I'm just honestly looking back.

I see the things I do with my many "littles" and the mom I am now....and look at the mom I was so many years ago.  I'm different, but in a much better way.

Part of the change comes from unchangeable circumstances.

For a couple of years, I was clinically depressed.  I was in the early years of Lupus that was seldom under control.  I didn't like who I became while taking the meds to control the symptoms.  When I didn't take the meds, I couldn't function physically as a mother.  I had very little support outside of my husband since we live hundreds of miles from family and we often moved before developing friendships. Those days were insanely difficult and no one really knew the depth outside our doors. Financially we greatly struggled, either from circumstances out of our control or from our own stupid mistakes or sinful actions (yes, I said that.....I do believe it's sinful when you are spending money outside the will of God on things you don't need when you've been convicted of it and continue to do so).  Life WAS hard.....


So much could have been different...IF...

I weren't so uptight.

So full of pride.  SO full of pride.  That needs repeating.

I had reached out for help OR accepted help when offered instead of claiming I had it under control.

I had looked to Him FIRST instead of LAST.

I had embraced GRACE more often.  Either accepting it or offering it.

Looked to God to fill in the "holes" in my heart instead of expecting my husband or children to fill those up.

Really embraced each season of life and understood that what I did mattered instead of listening to the lies of the world that motherhood wasn't "enough".

Let go of my self-imposed expectations and lowered the unattainable bar I had set.

Just lived in that one day.....instead of wasting so much worrying about the next day or regretting the previous one.

If I had not let bitterness, frustrations, lack of forgiveness, jealousy, etc... take root.

I'm far from perfect.  I'm far from the woman I want to be.  Yet, I'm reminded I'm not who I was and God is far from finished with my yet.

I am happy that our home overflows with joy.  I am happy that God is at work in EVERY single one of us and the results are more visible every day.

I AM thankful that I am getting a chance to do things with the Littles in our home.  They (ours AND the Littles) exhaust me AND bring me to the brink of losing my sanity.  YET.... I've never been happier and full of zest.  I've never been more relaxed and a "yes" mom (that goes back to Jill's book).  I'm learning by default how to balance things better and what things to let go.  I'm getting a second chance at doing the fun things I wish I had done more of years ago with me. We create a mess EVERY single day---but the memories are worth it. Yes, I do feel regrets that I didn't say yes to the mess more often or yes to more spontaneity, BUT I am still here doing it with my kids today.  They are going to have memories of a home that was full of love and fun....even if it did take me a few years longer than I wish to get in that way of living life.

I am thankful that through many years of home education that I learned there is a difference in homeschooling and doing school-at-home and that by not following a specific set of "rules"---we've been able to embrace learning, thrive, and grow together.

I am thankful that we are seeing the fruits of a marriage truly rooted in Christ.  Not just in words, but in action.  Thankful that a marriage that was at rock bottom has been restored beyond what either of us imagined.  God reached in and saved us.  Literally.

I may not know exactly what God is doing in our lives or how He is going to provide the way for the desires we have in our hearts to be in Africa....but I know that HE IS AT WORK.  He is shaping us and so much of the "hard" part of our lives has driven us to this point by preparing us for what He wants us to do.  We've seen the broken restored.  We've been at the bottom when we've had no choice but to reach up and rely on Him. All in preparation.  All so we can be molded, changed, and equipped.  All to learn more of Him and let go of more of ourselves.

I look back and have regrets, but they don't destroy me like they once did.  They just serve as a reminder (though sometimes painfully just as all scars do) that you live, you learn, and you adapt.  Change where you need to.  Never let go of things that matter---even if everyone else in the world seems to be.  Dream big.  Look to Him. Learn from the past, but don't let it rob you of today's joy and blessings.  Even if today is hard (which many times it is), hold steadfast to His hand and keep your eyes and heart focused on Him.

Most of all I'm learning to just relax and be who He designed me to be----and I do like who she is becoming! Even if it's a painful journey along the way or if it keeps taking longer than I want it do because there are so many layers needing to be stripped away! Even if I have to learn some lessons over and over because I didn't get it the first time!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I'm a book reader to say the least (even though I've slowed down in the last several weeks from a daily book to a book every 2-3 days!). Besides actually reading scripture and memorizing it, reading excellent Christian books is a key way to keep my heart in check and connected to God.  Just like worship music, it's a life line for me!

I was recently offered the opportunity to review "One Way LOVE:  Inexhaustable Grace for an Exhausted World" by Tullian Tchividjian (yes I looked at that three times to make sure I spelled it correctly!).  I almost skipped this one.  Life was a little busy (ha...8 kids in the home with 5 two and under will do that to you!) AND I was afraid this book on grace would not be one I would want to embrace.  However, it was encouraged that if there was ANY slightly interest in reviewing this one to jump in because it was life-changing.  So glad I did!

Being honest and open, I was nervous about a book on grace because I was so afraid that it would be one that would use grace as a license to "do what you want" or would cheapen the COST of grace.  That thought process is PREVALENT in so much of society and even in many modern churches and I didn't want to read a book pushing that way of thinking.  However, my husband had heard an interview talking about the book the very same day and he came in the door telling me about it (not knowing I had just agreed to review it!).

As I read the reviews and testimonials from many top names and the fact that Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, I knew that I did NEED to give the book a chance and read it with an open mind.

My take:  READ IT.  SOAK it in!  It has a powerful message.  That is saying a LOT coming from this very conservative woman!

He hands down has written the best book I've ever read on the topic of grace and what it actually means. Grace truly is ONE way love and he does a phenomenal job of explaining that.  Though I didn't 100% fully agree with every last statement, there was WELL more than enough that I did agree with and was happy to hear explained.  Many things were even out of my comfort zone.  Most of all, what he did a GREAT job about was explaining the purpose of grace and the value of the Law.  He fully explains how we must take the focus of ourselves and fully put our focus on what Christ did and His love.  We do not earn His love more by aiming for perfection and living out the letter of the law, nor does He love us less because we fail miserably.  There IS freedom in that.  He even explains that when we truly understand grace, we actually value the law more because we understand just what an amazing gift Christ has given us!

Though I know I could write page after page of things that really stood out, I really just want to encourage you to READ it.  This is one of those books that I'm going to be going back to again and again and trying to soak more and more in.  It's one of those books that you need to wrestle with yourself instead of just accepting someone else's opinion.  It's beautiful.  It's DEEP.  It causes you to THINK and it causes you above all else to be even more thankful for what Christ did on the cross.  To see just how much He truly loves ONE way, without condition and what that means to you personally!  It can truly be a life-changing book---even if you don't agree with every last statement! You will find freedom and healing from past failings if you read it with the intention of letting it change you.  Powerful book.

From publisher:

About One Way Love
Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.
Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our world needs a fresh encounter with grace.

About the Author
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. A Florida native, Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership JournalHe is an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church of America. He is the author of six books; including the best seller, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  that won Christianity Today’s 2011 book of the year. He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S.

Enter to win a copy of this book (but don't hesitate to purchase it  if you aren't the winner!).  One reader (US or Canada) will be chosen at random on 10/24/13.  Simply comment on this post or the facebook link to enter.  PLEASE be sure to include an email contact.  Two recent winners of different give-a-ways were not able to be contacted because they left no contact information!  Don't let that happen to you!!!!

*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Another Unexpected Lesson From.....Cowboy boots?

Back from a short blogging break.  Can hardly wait to share with you what was going on during this temporary break soon!

Later this week I'll also have a MUST read book up for review and giveaway.

But for now...

It's been over two weeks since the beautiful (in countless ways) wedding of my little brother.  Definitely not only just a beautiful wedding, but a precious couple starting out.

The wedding and reception took place back home on my parent's gorgeous farm in the middle of the hills of Tennessee. God's perfect little backdrop, especially as the sun was beginning to go down and the twinkling lots of the reception tent were beginning to glow. The outdoor theme was made perfect with the wedding invitation suggestions of wearing cowboy boots.


Despite growing up in the south in farm country, I had NEVER owned a pair or even worn a pair.  Not to say I didn't want to.  I just never had.

Several months before the wedding, my daughter and I bought our first pairs.  My husband LOVED the fact that I now had a pair and often "bugged" me about getting them out and wearing them. He even made me promise that I'd make sure he was able to spin me around on the dance floor after the wedding in them (though I did fulfill that promise GLADLY---it was actually barefoot!).

Though I loved them, after countless hours on my feet being constantly on the go that day, those boots HURT! They fit, but oh my goodness did they hurt. I didn't think much about it other than they were heels and pointy.....and had been on MANY hours and especially after some serious activity levels over the previous days on my joints affected by lupus.  I just went on about it and once the majority of the guests left I kicked them off and got back to work.

A couple of times through the next week, I joked around with my husband and daughter that my big toes STILL didn't quite have feeling back in them.  Still didn't think much about it.  Just noted that man those boots really must have done a number on my feet!

It wasn't until earlier this week that I noticed that nails on my big toes were DRAMATICALLY bruised. Because my toes were painted in a really bright red color, I didn't notice it until the paint started chipping off and I hadn't had time to redo them.  When I finally did remove all the polish, it was a shock to see how bruised they were and how I had been completely unaware of what was really hiding under the surface.  I was aware it was there, but I didn't really think about it being that big of a deal. (I can only imagine what they looked like the first week before they started to fade!).

As we were looking at those bruises that had been hidden and ignored last night, I couldn't help but think about something similar.


Hidden and ignored in our lives.

Just like the bruises hidden under the red polish----sin can be lurking in our hearts.  Hidden from the world.


It's there.

Causing pain.  Causing discomfort.  Keeping us in a state of turmoil.  Preventing us from fully coming into God's presence.

Just like I went on with life with my toes being sore but not really stopping to investigate why they were STILL sore after so many days, we can do that with life.

We get busy.  We get wrapped up in the circumstances of life and don't have time to spend with God asking Him to reveal our sin, purify us and give us the strength to do what is right.



We just don't want to.

It's not always easy to do the right thing.  It's hard to let go of bitterness, offer forgiveness, or say no to self.  I know that sometimes I think it's easier to just hold on to those deeply hidden sins than to actually deal with them.  Sometimes it's easier to hold on to that grudge or anger than to deal with it.  Maybe I'd rather not admit my own fault in a situation.  Maybe I just want to hold onto those sinful behaviors because I feel justified in my own emotions.  Maybe I'm just too selfish and want things my own way.  Maybe I'm not fully willing to give something over to God or maybe I don't trust Him enough in my actions.

Whatever it is....

No matter how hidden.  No matter how many coats of nail polish may have hidden the bruises, no matter how well we think we have hidden our sins from the world.

They are still there.

They are still needing the mercy of Christ to reach in with redemption and grace.  Sin, no matter how deeply we think we have hidden it or even how openly we display it, harms and destroys.  It eats us apart. It negatively affects others.  It blocks us from enjoying the fullness of God's goodness in our lives.  It blinds us.  We can walk in it so deeply and so long that we can begin to ignore the warning signs of our conscious and the Holy Spirit's promptings.

 Just like those pointy boots may have looked good on the outside, they were killing my feet on the inside.  They were forcing my toes in a position they weren't used to and weren't designed for.  Sin does the same thing.  It forces our hearts into a position that it wasn't designed for.  When put under the blood of Christ, it's gone.  It's forgiven.  We're made pure again in His sight. He paid the price.  His mercy and grace replace the condemnation and pay the debt.  Then we are free to operate under His wings and walk in His steps.....

Not cramped.  Not broken and bruised.  No dying on the inside while the world sees us comfortable on the outside.

Just another powerful lesson learned from the most unexpected moments.  From a simple pair of boots.  Point taken (ha....from pointy boots!).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! (review and giveaway)

I have a precious little book to share with you and the opportunity to give one away to a reader.(Simply just comment on this post or the facebook sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  One winner will be chosen by at the end of 10/10).

My take:
One word for this book: ADORABLE! 

My kids and my littles that I provide care for all love to read/be read to.  I put this little book out and watched to see if they were drawn to it and YES they were!  My older "little" absolutely loved it.  He kept coming back to it again and again.  His favorite part was finding the monkey on every page and showing it to me.  I love little books that are engaging!  I especially ADORE books that are sturdy (and can REALLY be loved....haha!) and have a SUPER message.  Though my actual children are finally old enough that getting to church and MAKING it through a service is no longer an issue, I absolutely remember the stress those days brought.  It was HARD! (Be sure to hang on to the end for some great tips about children and worship!) I know from working with small children at church and from my littles that this is a HUGE battle for many parents.  This little book is a great tool to encourage little ones to transition into church settings.  Most of all---just don't give up!

From the publisher:
Rufus and Ryan Go To Church!
In Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!, four-year-old Ryan explains to his stuffed monkey, Rufus, what is happening as they attend church on Sunday morning. He lets Rufus know when it’s time to sing and to pray and to be quiet. Author Kathleen Bostrom brings a delightfully light touch to the text as she provides an introduction to an experience that most children are exposed to long before they understand why. And children everywhere will relate to the idea of explaining their surroundings to their favorite companions as they go about their daily activities.
This is just one of the first titles in a new series of inspirational books for preschoolers.

About the Rufus and Ryan
Rufus and Ryan is a new series of books for preschoolers, featuring Ryan, an energetic little boy, and his stuffed monkey Rufus. Basic Christian and church concepts serve as the foundation of the series, with an additional focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the concepts he is learning himself. Each story is about 150 words, using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes.
Also available now, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers

About the Author
Kathleen Long Bostrom is a published children’s author in both the Christian and trade markets. She has a Master’s in Christian Education and a Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching, and she has worked in children’s ministry for many years. Kathy and her husband, Greg, have three grown children and live in Illinois. 
About the Illustrator 
Rebecca Thornburgh began illustrating children’s books full-time in 1996 and today has almost 100 books to her name. Rebecca’s vibrant watercolors have been showcased in previous Ideals titles, including the new edition of The Story of Christmas. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! 
Written by: Kathleen Long Bostrom 
Illustrated by: Rebecca Thornburgh
Publisher: Ideals Books
Board book
Available at

Also included with this book review was some great tips for children and worship that are too good not to share! 

(Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a copy for your little one or little one that you love!)


1.         Attend a child-friendly church.

A church that invites children to attend worship, that has a children’s time during worship or a service in which children are included, will not mind the noise and commotion that comes with having young children in worship.

2.         Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.

Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, Christian education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3.         Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.

Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. If the Lord’s Prayer is used, write down the words and let your child practice at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4.         Play “Let’s go to church” at home.

Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5.         Read the Bible and pray at home.

Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6.         Sit near an aisle or in a place where you can make an exit if needed.

If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can work off a little energy, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!


7.         Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.

Many churches provide materials for children to use during worship, but if not, bring your own supplies. Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards.

8.         Teach basic church etiquette.

Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others.  If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9.         Get to know the pastor.

Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10.       Don’t give up!

It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!

*Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Adventures

I can't do it all. 


Yet, sometimes I need the reminder that I can't and I'm not expected to. 

With this season of life and the fact that things at our house are changing as we prepare for future ministry AND with some changes coming with new "littles", my heart needs to remember that I can not do it all and I can't even do MOST.....on my own that is.  It's a team effort with all of us AND with God at the center.  

  I'm a recovering perfectionist and it's hard for me to accept that some things can't be done to my "standards" all the time.  

What I can do is SEEK GOD first and frequently.  Give Him my list.  Give Him my responsibilities.  Give Him my desires and needs.  Give Him my weaknesses.  Praise Him for the good moments and seek Him during the not so good. 

I CAN take my eyes off of pinterest perfection.  I can embrace the things I do accomplish and put blinders on to the things I wish I could accomplish.  I can take my eyes off those other women that seem to make life look easy and homeschooling like it's straight out of a magazine.  They may can make homemade bread, multi-course home cooked meals that don't have its start from a box.  They may can grow their own vegetables and can them for later in the season, while my jars sit in the basement empty.  They may have encyclopedia answers for the million questions their big kids and preschoolers ask and may not say "look it up" because they honestly don't know the answer (it's good for kids to look up answers, right! least that's what I remind myself!). They may have patience and soft voices that rival Michelle Duggar. They may create beautiful things and take professional quality pictures.  Dishes may never sit in their sink.  They may seem to have just the right thing to say or do to teach their children Biblical knowledge or life lessons!

Yet, my reality is different! :) I can give it my all, but I know that I can't maintain ANY sanity with those standards of perfection! Facebook and pinterest are fantastic----but they can cause us to feel less than or "failures" if we aren't careful.  My own standards can cause me to feel like I'm not getting enough right----but I'm thankful for a husband that constantly reminds me that I am to do what I can do and let the rest go. 

Over the next few weeks, in addition to my 7, 12, and 16 year olds , we'll be transitioning to full time and part time care of an almost 26 month old, 24 month old, 15 month old,  3 month old and 1 month old.  (Not all 5 will be here all day, every day!....I'm not THAT capable!) Yes, I'm crazy in the eyes of most people. Yet, I know we didn't take on these responsibilities lightly. God was in the middle of the decisions and will continue to be in the middle of our daily lives.  Yes, I'm going to be tired (ha....exhausted!) and some days my sanity will be thrown out the door! (Kevin MAY come home some days and I may kiss him and walk out the door for some peace and quiet!) However, our family truly does thrive when we are surrounded by littles. It doesn't make sense to most, but it makes perfect sense to us! God gave me an insatiable inner passion for small children----and our lives are most blessed when we live out of our passions.

Granted, it is going to take some SERIOUS organizing and planning.  Gone are lazy days! :) Gone are the quiet, slow days.  But that's ok....

I won't be leaving the house much in the daytime hours very much in the coming days.  I won't just run out the door for lunch.  I will have to get back on track with meal planning and freezer meals.  My "lists" that people make fun of will become crucial for survival.  I may have the deer in the headlights look and may be spinning in circles!

Grace becomes even more important.  Accepting grace for myself and extending grace to others will be essential! Patience and flexibility will rank high up there as well! 

There will be more baby, toddler and school gear around our house than ever before.  I may not know where I'm going to put things, but we'll figure it out. 

I will admit I'm nervous about balance, but I'm confident as well.  There are no words to describe the love I have for little ones.  It energizes me as it drains me.  It makes me happy even as it stresses.  It stretches me, but in ways that are beneficial.

Most of all, I know that far beyond the planning and letting go of perfection is that the only way I can give to others is if I let God fill me first.  He won't make every day go picture perfect and totally on schedule, but He can provide joy that isn't based on circumstances.  He can fill in the gaps where I lack.  He can do what I can't.  WHEN I give it to Him.

Above all, He reminds my heart that it's a blessing to be surrounded by children.  Even in the chaos.  Even in the mess.  Even when they refuse to sleep when you want them to!  :)

Praying for the transition and learning new personalities.  Praying for the wisdom to make decisions to help things go as smoothly as possible.  Praying for balance to make sure each individual feels important and loved.  Praying that even though my hands will be full, that my heart will be even fuller.  Praying for the families and parents that are represented.  Praying those families know how blessed I feel to spend time with their children (and that mine never forgot how much I value and love them!). Praying that my husband still knows he is second only to God in my life.  Praying that all of the details continue to be worked out. 
It's the only way I know to accomplish anything!