Saturday, May 25, 2013

Letting Go

It seems like every minute we turn around, we are getting vivid reminders that our children are growing up.

If you know me, you KNOW I thrive with little ones around.  Babies, toddlers, preschoolers...."littles" and "itty-bitties" are my passion.  Many people, including some moms, have trouble tolerating littles under their feet and are constantly rushing life along in a hurry to get to the next stage.

I will be honest, I've struggled with watching my kids grow up.  Can't many of us admit that if we are honest?

The day is coming closer and closer that we have to release them.

Every milestone has been bittersweet.

It's been precious and priceless, amazing and joyous....but tempered with the fact that time is slipping away.

It's especially hard on those of us that have been responsible for "creating" many of those firsts.  One amazing thing about homeschooling is that so many firsts are THERE for you to witness first hand.

Cutting the apron strings has been something I've feared, nearly from day one.

Don't get me wrong.  I do NOT want to hold my children back.  I do NOT want to prevent them from pursuing dreams or fulfilling God's plan for their lives.

I'm just admitting that it's been hard.  It's been even harder than I expected.

On the other hand....

These reminders of life FLYING by in a twinkle of an eye have NOT been as devastating as I thought.

Yes, I've been emotional.  Yes, I've been caught up in "yesterday" they were so tiny or wasn't it yesterday that she was just learning to do this or he was just doing that.

However, I'm finding great peace and joy as we embrace the reminders of new seasons.

They aren't as terrifying as I imagined.

They are beautiful.

The main reason....

I can hardly wait to see what God has been shaping them for.

What destiny did God prepare for them BEFORE He ever put them in my arms?

Those skills they have, those characteristics that either drive me crazy or thrill is He going to use them?

Where is she going?  How will her passions play out and her skills be used?

How will he change the world with those incredible skills that I can't begin to understand?

How is he going to fulfill those words of "mountain mover" that were impressed on my heart the moment he was handed to me as his daddy was cutting the cord?

Now, don't get me wrong.  I, at times, wish time would stand still.  I wish life came in freeze frame mode so I could embrace these amazing days with them a lot longer.

Since it doesn't...

I'm learning to embrace life where we are at this moment without dread of the future and letting go.

They belong to Him.

I'm just thankful for each and every day that He's allowed me the honor and blessing of spending with them.
I'm learning to not wish away the days or speed them along.

I'm learning not to focus on regrets of the past or mistakes.


Even last weekend at Teach Them Diligently, one of the sessions I attended was about having a H.E.A.R.T for our children and the "R" stood for releasing them to God. Talking about a timely message.  My heart has already been gearing towards that necessary part of life.  Racheal Carmen (Apologia) was simply amazing and totally allowed God to use her! She talked about how they are not ours.  They are to glorify Him and our job is to prepare them.  What about Hannah?  Can you imagine every time she nursed Samuel knowing she had promised Him back to God as soon as he was weaned?  What about Moses' mom?  Can you imagine the tears she shed as she wove that basket that would be the vessel to send him away? Can you imagine the prayers that Daniel's mother prayed after he was taken away from her?  (I loved how she mentioned wondering if Daniel's mom met with the moms of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for some serious prayer meetings!)

It's our job to give our children roots and wings.  They need the roots that teach them the values for a life pleasing to God and to protect them until the time is right for them to fulfill His purpose. We should be the wind beneath their wings that sends them off with the encouragement of "Go, do what God says He has for you."


Absolutely not. very necessary.

Because they are His.

Some may say what I'm about to share was coincidence and when I want to "hold" back, I do as well.  Yet, in reality I know that God was speaking to my heart in a specific moment sitting in a room full of mothers (and a few dads).  As she walked around the room talking about letting go and how hard it is but necessary....she spoke about a few situations of letting go specifically.  Some that she knew were coming for her in the lives of her children and speaking as a mom she knew first hand the bittersweetness of those moments.  She pointed/looked directly at one mom and talked about sending a child to India.  A couple of other "specifics" were mentioned and then....

Her eyes met mine...

And she said....

Some of you will put your daughter on a plane to Africa.

Hello?  Heart stop moment.  Goosebumps of epic proportions.

THAT day may very well be coming....

She talked about how we don't dare need to block our children's paths to His plans.  We might have to pray non-stop and we might need Kleenex faster than they can make them.....


They are His.

I think the more and more these days of new seasons arrive, the more excited I get.  Closer and closer to seeing His plans revealed.  Questions answered.  The fruit of the harvest.  Plant the seeds with the harvest in mind.

The harvest is closer and closer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Did I Teach Them?

I have so much on my heart that I HAVE to share about our experiences at Teach Them Diligently.  It was so unreal how much we absorbed in that short amount of time and to be honest so much of it had nothing to do with the actual aspects of homeschooling.  Obviously, home education was the focus and many how-to's and encouragement were presented, but it was FAR beyond that.  We've never experienced so much spiritual depth  in one weekend.  I can't wait to share so much of that with you....

But for now....

I'm overwhelmed!  So much to absorb and so much needing to just find words to express.

Plus, there is this "little" thing called REAL LIFE that has demanded attention! :)

However, I read something this morning that I can't get out of my heart (and I don't want to!).  It goes DIRECTLY along with everything we learned this past weekend in regards to Holy Spirit led parenting.

I just want to share this with you and hope that it encourages you as much as it has me.  I hope it causes you to ask yourself some of these same questions and make changes where necessary.  I know it's convicting my heart in HUGE ways.

The author presented these questions that God had impressed upon her heart in regards to accountability of motherhood (and fatherhood!).  Most specifically based on the teachings in scripture of Proverbs 3:5-6.

What if we were asked to answer these questions in the presence of Christ someday...

  • Did you teach them to trust me?
  • Did you teach them how to give their heart to me?
  • Did you teach them to not lean on their own understanding?
  • Did you teach them to live set apart?
  • Did you teach them to pay attention to me?
  • Did you teach them to follow my ways?
  • Did you teach them how to live on the straight path?
THAT is no little task.  THAT is not something to take lightly.  However, that is what Proverbs 3:5-6 require of us.  I don't think the words of the Bible are suggestions.  We may ACT selfishly and in our flesh as if they are, but they aren't.  

The main question to ask of myself is "Did I teach them?" 

Did I teach them more than facts?  Did I teach them more than the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic? Obviously, those are necessary for a productive life, but they aren't what matters most.  

The heart is what matters. 

The things of eternal value are what matters.  

Did I teach them?  Did I teach them with more than just my words?  Did I teach them with my actions?  

Did I teach them to walk in faith or did I teach them to doubt? 

Did I teach them to worship HIM or did I teach them to worship things of the world? 

Did I teach them how to repent and seek forgiveness or did I teach them that I'm too stubborn or prideful to admit failures?

Did I teach them.....

Did I teach them DILIGENTLY? Did I just talk the talk of Deuteronomy 6:7 or did I walk the walk? Did I truly impress it on their hearts?  

And on the days, that I fall short (which often feels like EVERY day), I'm thankful His mercies are new every  morning and that He can provide every tool needed and fill in every gap IF I'm seeking Him and placing my family under His wings.  And as the author reminded, this isn't a checklist to cause condemnation.  It's just a reminder of priorities, what matters most, and how to spend my time.  It's also encouragement for those days that I'm giving my all and I don't think it matters!  What the world says is normal and what we KNOW to be truth SELDOM ever line up.  

Just remember to ask:

You can read more of this type encouragement at

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Give-a-Way update

Just a quick update:

I've had lots of give-a-ways end recently and haven't forgotten to notify the winners! We are currently enjoying some much needed time away as a couple and as a family.  As soon as we return and get back to our "normal" lives later this week, I'll be contacting those of you that are winners!  Promise!  Excited to get some amazing books, movies, and YUMMY snacks in your hands ASAP!

*****update:  all winners have been notified as of 5/21.  Congratulations!*****

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Sweet 16

It was 16 years ago today that Kevin and I sat at Olive Garden at Rivergate celebrating Mother's Day with family.  Waiting back at home was a little gift from him sitting on the counter waiting for me to open the following morning.  Mother's Day.  We thought I had several more days to officially become a mother, so he had purchased a sweet little mom-to-be gift of my favorite Bath & Body works lotion.  As we sat there eating, I was uncomfortable and miserable.  The OB appointment the day before had been disappointing to me because she said that it looked as if it would still be several more days or longer.  I thought my stomach was just revolting from indulging in my favorite pasta and breadsticks. Kevin rubbed my back all through lunch because it was hurting consistently.  Little did I know, I was actually in labor then.  We went home, watched Lion King with Kevin's sons on a mattress on the floor---but it only would take another hour or so to realize we should have not come home.  We were soon calling Kevin's mother to come stay with the boys until the morning because there was no doubt it was time to turn around and head back. (Our hospital was over an hour's drive!)

It ended up that Kevin's little mom-to-be gift for Mother's Day ended up being an actual congratulations "you're now a mom" gift.  Our first child, our princess, decided that she would be an extra blessing and was born on Mother's Day.

Adriana Colette.

Carrying on my step-mom's name in a different form.  (Pa Brown: Coley, Teresa: Coleen,  Matt: Cole).

Tomorrow, she turns 16.

Yes, I've been a basket case about that.  Though not nearly as much as I though I would be.  It DOES shock me with how quickly time has gone by.  It DOES make me ache knowing that she will be moving on with her life in new directions VERY soon.  Goodness gracious, if plans continue as she hopes and God provides, that direction may very well be Africa.

As much as any mother aches knowing their babies have grown up, I do have those moments of disbelief.  Yet, I'm confident.  She's God's girl.  She's His.

This little princess was beautiful from the beginning....

But it is her beauty that radiates from the inside out that makes me confident in the plans God has for her.

Though tomorrow is her Sweet 16, she has more wisdom and maturity than many women twice her age.

She has a passion for service and missions that you just don't see often in a younger individual.  There will be NO stopping her. She is CONSTANTLY giving of herself in creative ways to raise money or awareness for things she is passionate about (adoption, orphans, hunger, etc...)

She has a LOVE for babies that is just indescribable unless you've witnessed it first hand. If you have, you know that it's a true gift.

God lives in her and He pours out every pore in her body.  You can't be around her for any amount of time without recognizing that special radiating glow.

At this point in life, she still has no interest in dating or boys in general.  I'm sure someday that is going to change and let me just say, we have been praying for that young man for many years.  He will be getting a diamond for sure. (As long as he can handle her stubbornness that came honestly!)

She is creative....oh so very creative!  She's been running her own online business of crafts (hairbows, baby gear, etc...) for over a year.  She often has booths at craft fairs.  All on her own.

She's a HUGE help at home (when she's not fighting with or bossing her brothers!).

She has embraced home education from the beginning and even when given the option of a more traditional education, she still adamantly wants to continue the path we began in Kindergarten.  She finished her Sophomore year two months ahead of schedule, even though that included tough subjects like Algebra 2 and World History.  Neither of which were her strong suits in the beginning.  She persevered and didn't give up.  That's who she is.

She works constantly.  She has learned the value of money.  If you know her well, you know that she has learned the value of living frugally....perhaps a little too well.  Have you ever witnessed her shopping with a stack of coupons and REFUSING to allow anyone to purchase anything without first checking to see if a better deal is available?  Let me tell you, shopping with her is an experience.  It doesn't matter if it's her earned money or money that belongs to someone else.  I can't even pull in a gas station without her first checking gas buddy.  We can't buy anything without her first seeing if it's something we can make or repair ourselves.

I am thankful for the blessing she is to our family.  Though she can struggle with attitude issues or not wanting to finish things she starts at times, gets bogged down when her tender heart gets easily stepped on....she's a gift to us.  My heart hurts with listening to other parents describe their children and how they can't wait until they no longer have to "parent".  We, on the other hand, consider it an HONOR to be given the job as parents.  It's something that we value and hold dear.  A calling we don't take lightly.

She was a tiny little miss.  Though she was 7 pounds 6 ounces at birth, she was over a year old before she even doubled that weight.  At a year old she was only a whopping 13 pounds and was wearing 3-6 months in clothing.  She was walking before 8 months and NEVER slowed down.  She finally broke the 20 pound mark at 2 years old.  We joked that she would have to use her booster seat to learn to drive.  She finally did grow enough that the booster seat isn't necessary, but oh goodness....every single time I get back in the van to drive after her...I hit my head because she NEVER puts my seat back.  I don't worry about her driving because I know she's been taught VERY well (not by me!) and has a good head on her shoulders.  She'll be able to get her license at the end of June.  We weren't aware of the differences in TN and IL laws and waited too long in getting her permit for her to be able to get her license this week.

She was tiny, but oh so mighty.

It didn't take us long to realize that not only was she a tiny little mighty mouse, she was going to be mighty for God!

For several years, she was passionate about flipping over anything and everything.  The balance beam was her "thing" and her "place."  Her first ultrasounds had the doctor and technicians talking about how much she literally liked to flip.  Little did they know, she'd be flipping through our hearts in such powerful ways!

(just a few of some of my favorite pictures of her...)

And finally.....something special that my sister made for a gift to Adriana....and it very much exemplifies who she is.....
Sweet 16 is more than just a milestone.  Sweet 16 is who she IS!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When There's No Hallmark Card for That

For those that know me really well, you know that I struggle with this upcoming holiday. It's very bittersweet to me.  It leaves me an emotional wreck.  My closest friends and family would agree those words are an understatement.


I know from close relationship with other women that some of you have these same feelings.  (It may be Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day.....depending on where your scars are from.) Just the thought of walking into a card store at different holidays just sends you into a tizzy.  It may be you have a broken relationship, you may have been abandoned, you may have lost this person to death, you may have never had an opportunity to get to know this person, you may have suffered abuse....

Circumstances may be different.  The "battle" in your heart or the scars may be at a different level of healing, but they remain.

Back at Hearts at Home in March, I specifically attended a workshop on healing from childhood (or even adulthood) baggage so that you can create a whole relationship with your own children.  I specifically chose this session with Suzie Eller of Proverbs 31 Ministries to be the LAST one I attended.  I knew it would leave me very emotional, needing time to soak it all in.  I was right.

As the days began to go by, I began to process the things I learned in that workshop.  I began to deal with some of the emotions it stirred up.  Some I didn't want to face.  Some I found myself ready for.

I began to work through her new book "The Unburdened Heart" and I pulled back out  "The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future".  The first time I attempted to read it, I wasn't ready.  I'm slowly moving through it, a very painful step at a time.  I'm taking part in the book study that she is currently doing with "Unburdened Heart"....though I'm VERY (VERY) behind in it.

I'm not going to lie.  I have a VERY long way to go in embracing healing in certain areas.  (Yes, I'm purposely being vague which is NOT my normal...and is hard....but necessary).  However, for the first time I feel like God is helping me gain ground.

Yet, Satan takes *this* approaching holiday and he wrecks my emotions.

OK---I should rephrase that.  I'm guilty of letting him.  I'm guilty of not taking hold of those negative thoughts and turning them around as the Bible says.  I'm failing at taking them captive and letting the Holy Spirit speak truth.  I'm learning.

For so many years, I've let this anger/bitterness/hurt/etc... rob me of fully embracing certain holidays with my own children.

I've finally learned something powerful.

I can and should.

I CAN let my children celebrate their relationship with me.  I CAN focus on the cycles that are being broken.  I can.

Yes, it still hurts.

Oh yes....

Yet, I CAN!

More importantly, I should.

I'm not saying I'm going to be perfect at it.

I'm not saying I'm not still struggling.

Yet, I'm embracing it differently this year.  Some baby steps in a positive direction.

All it took was some permission.

In reality, I didn't need that permission.  However, just in the timing and the fact that my heart has been more open and listening to God's messages....the permission meant more.

While boxing up the last kitchen items of an "older" friend and together talking with a "newer" friend a couple of weekends ago, we were talking about some random issues.  *This* happened to be one of them.  The older friend knows my heart well and knows the struggles, the newer friend didn't.  She asked me to explain a bit and I shared just a little and her tell it like it is personality (which has value and I love!) immediately popped off with, "You need to FULLY celebrate with your own children and let them celebrate with you.".  Sometimes you need someone with a different perspective to get you to look at things differently.

Several hours after the fact, that really began to sink in.

A couple of days later, Suzie posted a blog about that same topic.  Let me tell hit me hard.  It still is hitting me hard a week later.

She simply gave permission.

A permission that reached deeper into my scars than I ever anticipated.

Her words are words that I want to share because I KNOW other women are facing some of these same emotional battles. I know because many have looked me in the eyes and shared your brokenness.

May I encourage you today?

First, may I celebrate this upcoming day with you and share how powerful it is that you have changed the destiny for your own children? That took courage and hard work!
Though none of us are perfect moms, the fact that you are intentional in your parenting is a beautiful gift to the next generation(s).
*If this issue is a battle for your heart, you can read more of Suzie's post here .  Her incredible gift of teaching on forgiveness and working through baggage is incredibly touching! It can apply to any relationship!:*

Moms that are struggling with this holiday because of scars, I just want to say I'm proud of you.  I'm proud of you for the effort you put into making your children's lives different. I'm specifically picturing some of you in my mind right now and am just sending out a hug of encouragement.  Don't give up.  Don't let Satan twist the good and discourage you.  Embrace the difference you are making now.  Maybe your scars are from parenting mistakes you've made.  Maybe your scars are from your own childhood.  Maybe your scars are totally different, but this same message reaches your heart.  Don't let your own hurt rob another precious memory or moment with your children.  Focus on the difference you can make and the cycles you can break.  Celebrate the steps you are already taking. You, my friend, are WORTH it!

Despite It All

She's up.
She's down.
She's both at the same time.

I'm finding myself on a crazy emotional roller coaster.  Strapped in, unable to get off.

So many changes going on around us.  So many moving or changing directions.  So many hurting.  So many growing up.  New lives beginning. Lives falling apart.  Those we care for blatantly turning their backs on their faith.  A world so lost.

Wondering and seeking in regards to our calling and purpose. Conviction to live differently and coming back to an even deeper, stronger faith.

It's just made me so out-of-sorts emotionally.

I feel like I'm walking around with a Kleenex or some kind of chocolate in hand at all times.

I'm physically exhausted.  It's just one of those seasons.

I'm emotionally drained.

Yet, I'm finding the greatest of all is that I'm spiritually thriving.

Today, I kept looking around and seeing things that I take for granted.

God has richly blessed.

Tonight, I'm feeling so undeserving and so thankful.

He has given me more than I could ever ask for.  Despite my failures.  Despite my weaknesses.  Despite my bad habits.  Despite my lack of faith and boldness at times. Despite it all.

He is pouring it out abundantly.

It may not be in riches.  It may not be in the ways the world says is wealth.


My heart is full.  My cup is overflowing.

Even through emotional ups and down, struggles and concerns about issues that seem to be getting longer by the day....

He is constant. He is faithful.

It's a priceless feeling.

My eyes are opening to the gifts right in front of me....

and yes...

I need more Kleenex!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Magazine Give-a-Way in Honor of Mother's Day!!!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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." (Required Fine print!)

Today I have a fun give-a-way for you!  It's quite different than what I typically have to offer!

This one is for fun and for moms!  Mother's Day is less than a week away!

A great option for a gift for mothers is magazine subscriptions.  Magazines are great options because they last the whole year AND for me....much longer! :)  I tend to hold onto them for WAY too long! (You just NEVER know when you might need an idea, recipe or important article, right? ) is running a great special for Mother's Day (here). offers people a fun, easy way to discover new reads and helps them track their magazine subscriptions. 
Shop the great magazine subscription deals at for Mother’s Day 2013! You’ll find incredible savings on Mom’s favorite cooking, celebrity, crafting magazine subscriptions and more. Don’t forget about all the moms in your life—your aunt, sister and your grandmother! Give her a gift that keeps on giving!

GIVE-A-WAY consists of a free magazine subscription for one reader.  Simply comment to enter telling me what your favorite magazine is! Be sure to leave an email contact!  Winner can choose from a pre-selected list of about 30 magazines of value up to $10.  Winner is responsible for sales tax in the following states: TN, NJ, and NY.  A few examples of ones you might choose: Working Mother, Southern Living, People, Weight Watchers, Food Network, Martha Stewart Living, etc... (I chose Cooking with Paula Deen and can hardly wait!!!) Give-a-way ends on May 15th at 8 PM CST!  

Can't Wait Willow Review/Give-a-Way!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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." (Required Fine print!)

Doesn't the precious little girl on the cover of "Can't Wait Willow" just make you smile!?  Though she's only an illustration, I just want to snuggle her to pieces!  (She reminds me of a certain little red head that we are blessed to spend lots of time with!). 

My youngest and I loved reading this precious book.  The story and illustration were cute, but the message is PERFECT!  Willow learns a super important lesson on her adventure to the circus that FINALLY comes to town.  This lesson is one that I find VERY important to teach my children and important to remember myself.   We at times have to say no to good things in order to have great things!  In this day and age of wanting instant gratification or having a sense of entitlement, it's a valuable lesson to teach our children to say "no".  Willow is very excited that she finally can go to the circus, but lots of enticing good things happen along the way and then....  


You have to read the book to find out what happens!  :)  

Willow learns some powerful lessons AND is given a second chance to make better decisions!  THAT is what I loved the most.  Second chances! 

She wasn't doing anything wrong in saying yes to things along the way of her adventure.  She just was saying yes to too many things.  Isn't that the same thing that can happen to us even as adults?  Yes, to too many activities.  Yes, to spending too much money on good things.  Yes, to things that ARE good...


We don't leave room for the BEST things.  

I've written many times about my learning the value of saying no to good things, so that I can say yes to the BEST things.  That has been a learning curve in both how I spend my time and how I spend money.  It's truly been life changing for our family for me to learn to say "no". 

I LOVED reading this with my 6 year old.  The book engaged him and the illustrations were absolutely adorable! 

My favorite quote:  "Sometimes you need to say no. It can be better to wait. Save yes for the super amazing, and end up with the truly great!"

I think I needed the reminders from this book for young children as much as I enjoyed reading and discussing it with my child! :) 

A free copy is available to one reader.  Simply just comment to enter (be sure to leave an email contact!) Give-a-way will end on May 16th at 8PM CST. 

From the publisher:

About Shine Bright Kids:
The Shine Bright Kids series provides children and their families with a relevant framework to help instill solid values and teach the importance of making good choices. The principles that will be explored include: using good judgment, taking responsibility, having a positive attitude, and demonstrating perseverance.
About the Author:  (Recognize the last name Ziglar?!?)
Christy Ziglar, financial planner, mother of twins and niece of legendary motivator and the world’s original optimist, Zig Ziglar, is bringing the same timeless wisdom and ageless advice to an entirely new, younger audience through her new Shine Bright Kids picture book series. 
About the Illustrator: Thanks to her first grade teacher, who recognized her superior skills in drawing a robin, Luanne Marten has been drawing, painting and sketching ever since.  She is a great experimenter and has a fresh, whimsical approach to bring her characters to life.
 Website: The author's website has great resources to support the book, including a printable poster with 'Ways to Shine Bright,' as well as reward chart you can use at home with your children. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Just a Reminder

It's easy to get lost and lose focus.

It's easy to get caught up in the day to day aspects of life.

And forget....

How much HE has given.

Even with a grateful heart and an abundance of joy that has been unable to be stuffed down this year, I've forgotten.

I've forgotten just how much He has blessed and given to us this last year.

I'm feeling a bit sappy----even more than usual.

With many, many changes taking place recently and in the coming months, I've found myself thinking back and looking ahead.

It's never been more apparent that the more things stay the same, the more they change and it's never been more apparent how very fast time is flying by.

Yet, I forget just how full life is.

Today, the house is quiet.  No one around but me.  You moms that are at home full time with your children around the clock (especially homeschool families) know that when the house is quiet it's blissful and SO very unsettling at the same time! My husband has taken the kids out to purchase some materials they need to make Mother's Day gifts and I am soaking in a quiet day with nothing pressing on the agenda.  Obviously I could easily find something to do---because the list is long of things that I should be doing!  Instead I'm taking an easy day and catching up on several things I had left undone on the computer.  Still cleaning up emails and reducing clutter that overwhelms my inbox and files! I also started on the task of reducing pictures that are on my phone.

If you are on my facebook, you know I LOVE to take pictures of our daily lives.  I mostly do it for my own memory, for far away family, and for the family members of the littles that I keep.  Others may be annoyed by it, and I've consciously been reducing the amount I post (believe it or not!).....but it's unreal the amount I take on a daily basis that never get posted or sent.  I have 6,000 on my phone just from the last few months. In reducing those today and trying to choose the most important ones or just keeping the best from a series, I was reminded.....

My life is full.

It's not glamorous.  We don't have as much in regards to finances as others.  We don't travel often and we don't attend all the events around us that many do.  We don't often splurge on eating out and don't buy the nicest of everything around us.  Our home is not a pinterest show place.

But I have more than I could ever be worthy of.

JUST scrolling through pictures shows how full of a life we have.  My day-to-day is fully wrapped in "just" taking care of my family and the littles that I feel so blessed to have.....

For many, that life is not enough.  It isn't glamorous or fulfilling.  It's a waste.  It's so many other negative things in their minds.

In my eyes...

It's more than enough.  It's beauty.  It's a blessing.  It's fulfilling.

It's what makes me, me and what I embrace as God's gift.

Oh so very thankful and oh so blessed.

Thankful for the reminder He gave me today of how beautiful of a life it is just by scrolling through pictures.

It's messy.  It's stressful.  It's sometimes frustrating.  It's sometimes overwhelming.  It's sometimes lonely.  It's sometimes the hardest journey.  It's loud.  It's messy (I think that needs to be repeated).

Yet, it's beyond words amazing.

Thank you, God, for helping me to remember.

Brothers-All-Natural Fruit Crisps Review/Give-a-Way

I have a treat for you today....literally!

Typically my reviews or give-a-ways  have been faith and family friendly media.  This one is TOTALLY different, but YUMMY!

Did I mention yummy!!??

A couple of weeks ago, our family was thrilled when this box arrived:

I had often seen these fruit crisps on Amazon in the healthy snacks department, but I was hesitant to make a bulk purchase not knowing if my family or the "littles" in the house would eat them.  

They say pictures are worth a thousand words, so I'll let this picture speak for itself.  I'm pretty sure you can tell if they were a hit or not.

Brothers-All-Natural was generous and allowed us to try several different varieties (such as StrawberryPearFuji Apple, and Peach ).  My kids and the "littles" were also thrilled to try a Disney Variety pack with the same great fruit, but in adorable (ADORABLE!) Disney packaging! They can be purchased HERE. (They also have Princess and Cars packaging!). 

Brothers-All-Natural fruit crisps are simply fruit.  Nothing added.  None of the extra junk that we are trying to avoid.  As a family that is slowly trying to make the switch to healthier foods without all of the extras that are unhealthy, but that we've unfortunately become accustomed to, it's sometimes a struggle to find things the kids actually like.  Well, fruit crisps---you ARE a hit!  With. Every. Single. One. Of. Us!  That rarely happens!  The kids love them, I love them and I am thrilled with the no added sugars, colors, preservatives or flavor enhancers.  

The thing that I really like is that with so many flavors to choose from and the ability to buy some in variety packs, everyone can find their favorite.  One family member didn't like the texture of the pears, but I loved them.  One family member isn't a fan of peaches (in any form), but another LOVES them.  We ALL loved the fuji apple and strawberry.  Just eating a fresh apple or handful of strawberries would be great, but it's nice to have the convenience of freeze-dried fruit on the go.  No mess to clean up.  I found that the kids actually ate MORE and more often!  


Brothers-All-Natural has generously offered to provide ONE reader with a Disney Variety pack (pear, apple, and strawberry/banana combo). Simply comment to enter!  What is your family's favorite fruit or which fruit crisp would most interest your family?  Be sure to leave an email so that I contact you if you are chosen at random as the winner!  Give-a-Way will end on May 12 at 8 PM CST!  

Now, I better head over to the website and make a purchase myself to restock our empty cabinet.  A certain daughter that is turning 16 next week has asked for them for her birthday.  I kid you not.  Honestly.  I wonder if I should buy them in the Disney Princess packaging as a reminder of the days that she was ALL ABOUT the princesses!  Sniff...sniff....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Moms: Just Keep Planting

As moms, we have amazing super powers.  You know, the eyes in the back of the head, the ability to juggle hundreds of things as if we have more than two hands, the power to kiss boo boos and magically improve them, the extra sense of knowing when that child did NOT wash his/her hands....and countless others. 

As moms, we sometimes have a super power that we may wish we didn't have.  


Sometimes "they" don't see us.  Maybe it's our kids.  Maybe it's our spouses.  Maybe it's our friends. Maybe it's our own parents or family members.  Maybe it's our employers. 

*They* can be looking right at us and don't see us.  

I know I feel this way many times and I know from "virtual" conversations and in-person conversations recently that many other moms are struggling with the same issue.  Granted, I think EVERYONE feels this way at times regardless of being a mom or not and that even men face it.  However, I'm writing from the viewpoint of a mom because that's who I am and what shapes my heart.  

They don't see the extra effort when we go beyond just getting by. They don't see the sacrifices we make or the inconveniences we put up with. They don't see the effort it takes to keep things running as smoothly as possible.  They don't see the planning of each and every thing.  They don't see the countless times we clean and re-clean the same thing.  They don't see the hurt in our hearts when their "little" digs go deeper in our hearts.  They don't see the bubble around our hearts pop when they disregard our callings in life to live differently.  They don't see the exhaustion that is beyond just being tired.  They don't see the emotional battles.  They don't see the number of prayers we pray on their behalf.  They don't see that you invested more than just your time into a project---you invested your heart.  They don't see that your saying *yes* to them might have been saying *no* to something else you really wanted or needed to do. 

Oh goodness...

The list could go on indefinitely.  

It's hard being invisible.  It's hard feeling as if someone can be looking you directly in the eyes and nodding their head as if their listening, but NEVER really see you. 

I know that feeling.  

I know that it's discouraging.  I know that it's deflating.  

I know that you can feel walked on, walked over and have the dirt stains on your heart to prove it. 

Let me stop and say this...

You are NOT invisible. 
You are NOT alone. 

Despite what your emotions may be telling you.  

What you do matters.  
What you do has value.

God sees. 

Your spouse probably REALLY does see.  He just may not be the best at showing it! 

You have friends that probably understand exactly how you feel.  They are just probably wrapped up in the same type of issues!

I just want to encourage moms specifically today...

Don't give up.  
Don't stop.
Keep on.

Go to God.  I *PROMISE* that He sees you.  

He knows how many times you've done that same task over and over.  
He knows how many times you've wondered if what you do matters. 

His answer is ALWAYS the same.

He knows YOU.  He sees YOU.  He loves YOU!

I know the hurt.  I know the sting of invisibility.  I know the exhaustion.  I know the helplessness. 


Many months ago, feeling at the bottom of the barrel and so invisible and defeated, I received a simple gift in the mail.  The sender will probably never have the first clue how meaningful it was.  It was just an "extra" item in a package of a purchase I made on etsy.  It was just simply a print the size of a snapshot as a thank you for a larger print I had made for Adriana's room.  I keep intending to frame it someday, but for now "Hobby Lobby" and I are not on speaking terms.  I've grounded myself from that store.  In order to met our financial goals of being debt free, I've stopped going to a few places that I find too tempting to overspend. 

Just a simple piece of cardstock with an incredible message.

It carries me through MANY (many, many) days!

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."

Dear tired, invisible mom that feels like the effort she puts into her home, her marriage, her children, her friends, her community, her church/volunteer activities,  her job, etc...  don't give up.  Don't judge today by how little you may feel like you are making a difference.  Just keep planting the seeds.  Just keep doing and giving.  You may not see the results today.  To be honest, you may not see the results most days.  (Those with children in the home ALL day, EVERY day....truly understand this!).  Just keep planting.  

Some day that little seed will have a bloom.  That little tree will have a sprout.  

The harvest will be great. 

Don't give up today!

Ring the Bell---MUST see!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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." (required FTC fine print!) :)

I have absolutely enjoyed and been thrilled to review many products over the last year.  It truly has been a blessing to our family to receive faith and family friendly products that we may not have either been able to financially purchase at the time or were unaware of.  It has provided me some great opportunities and allowed me to "meet" some great people.  Very rarely have I not liked a product or not been able to give it a thumbs up.  

Today's review is one of those that I can't recommend enough.  It deserves MORE than two thumbs up. :)

Watch the Trailer:

About Ring the Bell:
Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life—and the faith of the people—stand in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

Ring The Bell features a host of well-known Christian music artists, such as Mark Hall along with his band Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West, all who play a role in this inspirational drama. Several former and current Major League Baseball all-stars are also featured in the film: ESPN analysts John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe (a former Cy Young Award winner), along with Ben Zobrist.
This family-friendly movie was produced by Mark Miller, Beach Street Records' founder and Casting Crowns’ producer. Miller, who is also the lead singer and founder of country music group Sawyer Brown, co-wrote the script with Thomas Weber and Weber directed the production. 


For starters, of course I'm going to be thrilled to watch something that has the first Contemporary Christian artist that I ever became a fan of---Stephen Curtis Chapman---from way back in the 90s.  (Oh goodness, I think I just felt old referring to something way back in the 90s!).  Of course, I'm going to love watching something that has some of my greatest current artists in it! Casting Crowns and Matthew West?  Oh yes, please!  Now, to be honest, I didn't have the first clue who the sports stars are!  Not in the least.  However, I know MANY of you baseball fans do. 

I was expecting an OK movie with the bonus of some recognizable faces.  I was expecting it to be entertaining. 

What I soon found out:  it went BEYOND my expectations in EVERY way. 

We've watched this movie OVER and OVER in recent days.  I LOVE the story line (even though I'm not a huge baseball fan other than enjoying it in the backyard with the kids!).  I loved the scenes with the recognizable faces....but it went beyond that.  The gospel of Christ was presented in a remarkable way!  Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) gave the "audience" the message of Christ and it was heart felt----no acting there in my opinion.  

Without giving ALL of the movie away, I will say that since watching the movie, we've  had many times to mention"ringing the bell" and what that means to us.  We are looking for ways to ring the bell in our own lives or to spread the message of that to others in our actions.  It has been a GREAT starting point for many GREAT conversations.  I feel confident that it will change MANY lives of viewers that watch it!   The main character, Rob, learned that sometimes what you are looking for and what you *THINK* you must have are not necessarily what you need!  

This movie releases tomorrow (May 3) and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to give one copy away to a reader!  Simply comment on this post to enter (be sure to include a contact email!).  Enter before end of day May 11th (yikes, my oldest will turn 16 that day! emotions are worse than a hallmark commercial).  Winner will be chosen at random and will be contacted shortly after for address information!

(On a side note, I learned something I probably should have known.  I had no idea that the producer of this movie, Mark Miller, is also the producer of Casting Crowns.  At the risk of sounding REALLY old now, Mark Miller was the lead singer of Sawyer Brown.  Sawyer Brown was the FIRST concert I went to---in 6th grade---GASP! I will never forget watching him bounce around that stage in a full leg cast, hopping on a broken leg with such energy that I thought there was NO way it would stay together! I attended a pre-concert pizza party with the group  for winning a writing contest for the school based drug prevention program JUST SAY NO. Ohhh...the memories....and oh man, I REALLY must be getting older!)