2 resources to encourage your walk with the Lord

I've gotten really picky about the books I receive or request to review, mostly because there are just so many things I want to read out there that I just can't read them all. But recently a few things have caught my eye; a few things in fact that are great resources for the spiritual journey (ours, and our kids-- you can check out my review of The Radical Book for Kids over on our homeschool blog). scripture-doodle-pray-atoz-1

Today the books I have to share are timely, too, because I think they would would bless you , and that they would also make great gifts for a gal who loves Jesus in your life.

One thing I struggle with in my relationship with the Lord is prayer. I just can't seem to get in a good rhythm with praying for things that are important to me. I pray sporadically, when someone comes to mind, when a friend asks me to pray, before dinner, during the day when I'm feeling desperate.

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I even have reminders on my phone to pray at 9am, noon, and 3pm, which was an idea I got years ago to pray at set times from Ann Voskamp's blog-- often they are just a quick re-centering which is always helpful. But I like the idea of having a bit of specific direction with my prayer, and this new book, Pray A to Z, is a wonderful resource for that.

Pray A to Z is a book of prayer prompts that guides the reader in "a practical guide to pray for you community." Each letter of the alphabet lists a few topics to pray for (like adoption, pain, neighbors, missionaries, etc.) along with a couple of praise topics that thank God for his character (like mercy, righteousness, & dwelling place). It's a great starting place for spending some time in prayer as I start the day.

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The second fun book I want to share today is actually two editions of the creative journaling book Scripture Doodle (the second one is Scripture Doodle God's Promises). These books combine devotional/worshipful scripture readings with the "adult coloring books" phenomenon. The author/artist April Knight gives mini art lessons and guidance for doodling scripture (and for hand-lettering as well) as a way to memorize verses and hide the word in our hearts.

I wouldn't call these books a super deep, gospel-focused devotional or a substitute for reading the Bible itself but they are a really fun and beautiful way to interact with God's word while also functioning as a creative outlet. As Litfuse put it, "Each of the creative worship prompts in this interactive guide includes biblical encouragement and ideas for worship through art." The books themselves are beautiful as well, and would be great gifts for both adults and maybe even a tween or tween.

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(a spread I colored while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie)

Thanks to Litfuse for the review copies of these books. There are affiliate links in this post; thanks for reading and supporting the blog.

Advent and album liners

christmas-cds There's something sweet and nostalgic about hearing the 9-year old singing along with a song, using the CD liner notes (because who buys CDs anymore?) to read the lyrics from.

It's a CD as old as she is, part of a dated collection that comes out of a box and gets placed in the car every December, and hasn't been added to in years.

And then a song you've been listening to for nine years, sung by your sweet girl, makes you tear up and have a spontaneously worshipful moment on the way to school.

And the first time That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior And the first breath that left Your lips Did You know that it would change this world forever

To look back and think that This baby would one day save me In the hope that what You did That You were born so I might live To look back and think that This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day That You were born to die So I could one day pray for You to save my life

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And then a song plays that she connects with because we're currently reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

A song speaking more truth into our hearts during this advent season. She sings along to a song of hope, expectant hope, because the curse has indeed been lifted, and Jesus is coming.

It's always winter but never Christmas It seems this curse just can't be lifted Yet in the midst of all this ice and snow Our hearts stay warm cause they are filled with hope

And everything it changed overnight This dying world you brought it back to life And deep inside I felt things Shifting everything was melting Away oh away And you gave us the most beautiful of days

Cause when it's always winter but never Christmas Sometimes it feels like you're not with us But deep inside our hearts we know That you are here and we will not lose hope

(Thanks, Relient K.)

Delighting in the days

delight-2 In January, I chose delight as my word for the year. I'm never very good with followthrough and this one word exercise is usually no different. But recently as I thought about how I was feeling these days with our lovely summer and our new fall rhythm/schedule/day-to-day life, I realized that things had been quite... delightful... and that without particularly trying, I had in fact been delighting.

Last spring was hard. I felt like a chicken with my head cut-off with three kids doing three different things school-wise, plus sports, church, and other activities. It was crazy. I felt like if I could just make it through till summer; it was a season with little delight in some ways, but it was also a season of embracing my writing life right where it is, and pressing on and moving forward intentionally, which is in its own way, a form of delighting.

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Through the chaos, and then into the peace of summer, my delight in the Lord has been strong though. This year I've taken on a Bible reading plan that my church recommended and it has kept me in the word consistently. My prayer life has been lacking still this year, but in reading the word I have felt a growth which is powerful.

Summer was beyond delightful. Beach days, camping trips, long days, family camp (ahhh-mazing!), swimming, barbecuing, reading, baseball, relaxation, concerts (Coldplay!) time with family and sweet friends-- it was all the lovely things of summer that I adore-- the very definition of delight, thank you, Jesus. I was incredibly sad to see it go, as much as I always love the start of a new school year.

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And as we've entered the new fall season, a season which can bring with it chaos and busyness, I'm delighted to say that things have, amazingly enough, not gotten out of hand, and in fact, I'm quite delighting in our days and enjoying the rhythm of things right now.

We now homeschool three days in a row (Monday through Wednesday), and then, the kids all go to school all day on Thursday and Friday, a gift to this mama that has brought blessings galore in just the first month. Lunches, brunches, coffees, mama outings, peaceful errands, days to clean and prep, writing time, and moments of quiet have been amazing.

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I'm relishing this time and trying my best to use it wisely and keep it from getting over-scheduled. And just like I expected, it actually has me looking forward to our next homeschool days... and despite all the solo-time benefits, even missing my kids a tiny bit. ;)  For our family, and for me, it is the perfect fit.

So all this to say, even though many days I'm still tired (from knowingly burning the candle at both ends) and there are still overwhelming moments and feelings of inadequacies and frustrations with schoolwork and parenting challenges galore...

There is amidst it all a strange feeling of r e s t.

There is p e a c e.

There is d e l i g h t.

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And there is gratitude. I'm very thankful for this season, and for the ways the Lord, in His grace, has orchestrated this time. May I use it for His glory.

When long-time friends become real-life friends

green ninja ladies I was going to title this post something like Meeting friends for the first time but it just didn't feel right. I've known these ladies for over five years, but a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of actually spending time with them, all on the same side of the computer screen for the first time.

Thanks to my parents taking a little winter excursion, I was able to sneak over to their place, where I co-hosted a lovely little girls weekend/retreat with four friends from my blogging mastermind group, the Green Ninjas. I co-hosted with a local friend, Krissa, who I knew a little from my college days but who I really got to know through the mastermind group, and we were joined by Rebekah, Stacy, and Emily.

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It was a simple weekend-- Krissa picked up the girls from the airport Friday night and we met up at the house where we spent the weekend lounging, chatting, eating, and getting some blogging brainstorming and writing inspiration.

We made sure to visit the beach, and had lots of down time to relax and just be together. Food highlights included local favorite chips, salsa, & guacamole from El Nopalito, a trip to In-n-Out, fresh-squeezed orange juice, homemade sourdough bread, and some delicious coffee and pizza.

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Monday morning, we were already talking about planning our next gathering (hopefully with even more members of our li'l group present). We headed over to my place so I could pick up the kids and relieve my husband from a weekend of solo-parenting (thank you, honey, you're the best!).

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And I laughed as Rebekah commented that entering my house was like stepping into my blog, or like being on a movie scene. She'd had so many little glimpses of it through the blog and social media that it was already familiar. And that's how it felt to finally hug these ladies and be able to talk to them face-to-face.

I drove the girls to the airport where we embraced and they waved goodbye to the palm trees. And just like that, we are back to communicating by chatting on Voxer and commenting on FB and IG posts.

It's a funny thing, this modern world, and sometimes we find beautiful, real friendships in unexpected places... like the internet. ;)

More pictures found at #greenninjaretreat.

2016: Delight

I so love a new year. And since winter is definitely not my favorite season, it's lovely to have something like the feeling of the new year to energize and excite me in January. Because thinking about clean slates and fresh starts does just that-- makes me feel energized, excited, encouraged, and of course, hopeful. I wasn't sure if the Lord was going to give me a "one word" or a phrase to focus on this year, but almost immediately when I began contemplating it, this word came to my mind and my heart. The more I settled into it, prayed about it and surrendered to it, the more perfect it felt.

So here it is~~

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Delight...

~ in Him & His word.

~ in my family.

~ in His creation.

~ in hospitality.

~ in my calling.

:: submit to God's will, let Christ reign, enjoy what He's given me ::

It almost feels like more of a new mission statement, than a word-for-the-year. Like, if I can somehow figure out how to really embrace delight, then moving forward it seems like that should always be how I live my life.

We're two weeks into 2016, and I'll be honest, it hasn't been easy so far-- especially the family part. The more aware I am of this idea of delight, the more I see myself not delighting very much in the day-to-day with my kids. I rush them out the door, I get easily frustrate with their attitudes, I feel selfish in my disdain of the laying down of self that is required in motherhood.

I think so often I feel entitled, and so I don't find joy when things aren't going my way, or when the days are ordinary. And so that's what this is really about; it's a reminder that all is grace.

My hope is that as I delight, I will be better able to submit to God's will, let Christ reign, and enjoy what He's given me.

P.S. Since blogging quite delights me, I hope to try to do it at least once a week from here on out, even if it's just a quick update. Let's see if I stick to it... ;)

Two secrets of hospitality...

summer hospitality 2 "Every year, I long for the lazy days of summer – late nights outside, grilled food and fruity desserts, lots of beach days, and visiting and hosting friends and travelers from near and far. We love staying with friends when we road trip and travel, and we equally enjoy returning the favor at our home.

...

When I think back to both times we’ve had with visitors in our own home and the fun memories of of staying with friends on the road, I realize the highlights of those times are pretty universal, no matter who we are with or where we are."

Read the rest over at The Art of Simple....

Kicking off Women's Summer Discipliship (or, what you can do with a few extra quiet minutes)

Some of my favorite memories of dinners with friends have been thrown together on the fly-- last-minute texts with my friend Amber saying things like "I have chicken!" and "I have a bunch of veggies we can roast!" or spontaneous neighborhood potlucks or playdates that go too long and turn into dinner dates. Those memories are awesome. The settings were never formal, the meals were haphazard, the kids were chaotic, but there have been lots of beautiful shared meals like that, that I've completely loved.

But.

Every now and then, it is certainly fun to put a tad bit more effort into the details. I always like to do this around Valentine's day with our community group, or sometimes for birthday dinners, or on holidays. But sometimes there isn't really a special occasion, there is just simply... time.

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My kids spent the night at my parents' house on Monday night so I could host the ladies from my summer group-- what we call Women's Summer Discipleship-- for a relaxing little dinner. The weather was perfect for patio dining, and not only did I have time to cook dinner and clean up (while listening to my new favorite podcast!), but I also had the time to put out a few special touches, like my Mr. B's Luminaries and a handful of the many "treasure" shells that we've brought home from the beach, and my fancy flatware that was my grandma's.

Dinner itself was simple: baked BBQ chicken thighs, baked potatoes, and dilly carrots (more on the cookbook this recipe comes from forthcoming); bubbly juice and iced tea to drink. One friend brought a fruit crisp for dessert, too.

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After dinner, I busted out a stack of cheap composition books, and my scrapbooking supplies that have been collecting dust for over seven years. We got to work, decorating our notebooks that we will use this summer as we study Mark, learning more about inductive Bible study methods with this book.

It was such a solidly good time of connecting, eating, getting to know each other more, silly selfies with Amanda's phone, little June cracking us up from her high chair, and even using a bit of creativity. And as a busy mom of little ones, it's amazing what a little quiet time can do for prepping a nice evening (thanks, mom and dad!), and what pleasure a little beauty and fun can bring to my heart.

~

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3 spheres of influence and calling

3 spheres of influence and calling Sometimes it's hard to try to summarize and recap a powerful experience. I want to try to give you a succinct summary of my trip to Portland last weekend, but I'm struggling to put my finger on the right words. Which is ironic, considering the main purpose for our trip was a writing conference.

It was a weekend of beauty and friendship and encouragement and kick-in-the-pants inspiration. Of good coffee and the best donut I've ever had. Of virtual friends made real and reconnecting with dear old friends as if no time had gone by at all, that is to say, of oh-so-kindred spirits.

Jumping back into regular life has honestly made it hard to try to process all that I learned, both in conference sessions, and also in heart-to-heart conversations.

I have twenty pages of notes in my Moleskine journal and a million thoughts swirling in my head, but this is what I'm most concretely able to pin down right now. As I process this, it feels a little like a manifesto, and maybe it is.

As a believer, my main goal in life is to glorify God and live out the gospel. But as an individual, I believe I have a few specific spheres of influence, areas of calling and responsibility.  I can't deny any of these or I will not be living fully as the person God created me to be. The more I invest in these areas, the more fully I will become myself (which, it turns out, is a pretty darn good definition of success, according to Emily).

1. My family. I have been gifted with the wonderful responsibility of being a wife, and a mom of three. It is my job to, in the grace of God, put forth my best effort in these relationships. A weekend away with my husband was a darn good way to invest in my marriage (but so is making his favorite dinner and sacrificing a Saturday so he can play golf).

Discipling my kids and training them in education and gospel living is my primary quotidian job. Parenting is really the hardest job I've ever had, and it refines me more than I ever wanted to be refined. It also teaches me more about my relationship with God than any other experience has.

2. My community. I believe that the sovereign hand of the Lord has put me exactly where I am for a reason, and that my family is right where he wants us to minister at this time. I love opening my heart and my home to others and I take the hard with the good because I wasn't created for isolation but for community.

My church family (and our community group and the music ministry), our extended family, friends, neighbors, school, sports teams, my local Community Bible Study group, even my long-distance friends and our farther- away extended family-- God has me right where I am to live out the gospel and connected to the very people to whom I am meant to be connected. I'm thankful for these people and for the privilege of doing life with them.

3. My words.

Two weeks after I graduated college I married David. This stage of life of marriage and raising a family and being a veritable grown-up seemed to start that day in June. Since then, those first two spheres have become such an integral part of my daily life and who I am.

The third one I have wavered in. I always felt called to words. A voracious reader, one who loved to write stories and poems and essays, a student of language and languages. I have bounced around in figuring what I felt like I was supposed to do in addition to those first two areas, but I've always known it had to do with words.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to not have a third sphere of life-- no calling beyond family and community-- but then I feel that I would not be living out true to who God made me to be. And I don't want to miss out on any of His plan for me.

I don't have this one nailed down yet--I don't know when it will fully emerge or what it looks like-- but I'm getting more and more inklings and feeling more of that heart-thumping pull to releasing the art I was meant to create.

In the pre-conference retreat day, we were asked in one of workshops, "How will this realization/lesson/experience change what you do on Monday after the conference?"

And so that's where I've started. I've started with words, with continuing to read, and with just plain ol' writing. I'm craving more consistentency in exercising this craft that I feel called and pulled towards. Because I've been waiting for inspiration and time, but time is just an excuse and "inspiration follows work" (Madeleine L'Engle).

There is beauty and glory in the world that needs to be translated into words, and our goal as writers is to show that the beauty of the kingdom is breaking through here on earth, and to show that to others. (Thank you, Seth and Nish, for articulating that for me).

So that's my calling, my third responsibility in life. I don't want to shy away from it even though there are a million fears that want to drag me down and away from it.

I have so many more thoughts from my experience at the conference that I'm sure will come out in one way or another as I process them. But for now, I leave you with this little manifesto, and I guess, I'd love to know if you've nailed down your own spheres of influence and calling. I know this life isn't the be all end all by any means. But I still want to make it count, and I want to be all who I was created to be.