Looking back at 2017

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I’ve not always enjoyed having a birthday that was so close to Christmas.  Hint: most of the time we were out of school for my birthday which usually would be great, but that’s how I saw people and got anything for my birthday (other than from family), so if you were out of school most people forgot about it.

But, now I thoroughly enjoy it because it prolongs that year just a bit for me.  Most of my new year’s resolutions don’t start until after my birthday because you know, you want to eat cake! 🙂

So, 2017 wasn’t really a great year for lots of people, and it wasn’t a stellar year for me though it had highlights.

Let me first tell you about the highlights:

  1.  We bought a home.  We moved to the Augusta, GA area and were able to buy a home.  We had owned a home before but not since living in ATL, and now we can get settled.  I like being settled (as long as I get to travel).
  2. I was asked to do many cool lettering projects including a styled shoot which was published twice (here and here) and to letter t-shirts for a concert tour/album release.
  3. I surpassed my reading goal.

Ok, but really, 40 was not my favorite year.

I had to start again, again.  Building community at 40 is hard.  And ATL was hard enough as it was.  When you are 10-20 years older than most of the people in your same creative field, its difficult to feel like you fit in.  Social media doesn’t always help, but it also has been good to build community.

Fear was the word that permeated 40/2017.  Insecurity in my health (colitis flare ups, autoimmune diagnosis, weight gain).  Insecurity in my relationship with Christ.  Fear of failure as a wife and a mom.  Fear of how my boys will turn out.  Fear of not being liked.  Not in a 13 sorta of way, but in a 40 sort of way.  Fear of never being good enough to measure up to anything.  Fear of always being mediocre at everything I do.  Never excelling at anything.  Fear of loss: both my grandfather and my mom have been in the hospital and just sick in the last few months.

So, when people ask me what I want for 2018 and 41: just please be better than last year.

For 2018: Peace is my word of the year.  I want peace in my relationship with Christ.  I want peace in not-striving.  I want peace in our home.  I want peace in my body.

My verse for this year you will find above:

Since God created the world and everything in it is upheld by his words and his power – there should be no chaos in it – only peace.

Isaiah 45:18

A Few of My Favorite Things for Creatives

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I’m definitely a creative person – in lots of areas.  So, just in time for Christmas, I wanted to share some things on my list for these different areas of creativity!  Enjoy, and I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

In the Kitchen:

These spoons – so amazing. I have one of his bowls which I love.  Great for food photography

Anything LeCreuset pans – especially in this color!

These cutting boards.  I have two of them – beautiful and all hand formed.

For the letterer:

This book on teaching the hand-drawing of florals.

These pens.  Love them.

For the stationery lover:

This illustrator is new to me, but I’ve loved what I’ve seen so far.  Getting my first order in the mail soon

If you need business cards, social media cards, gift tags, etc, these are fabulous

For the photographer:

Food Photo: these cake plates and aprons, oh and everything on their site

For the branding photographer: These backdrops.  Totally want a few for my photography

For the writer:

This journal – I love these for so many reasons, but I love this pattern.

A gift card is wonderful – especially to this place – where you can find books on writing and journals to write in.

 

Sacred Ordinary Days

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My story with church began before I was born.  Yup, I’m one of those.  Lifers.

I went to the same church until high school.  Then I went to another church for those years.

Then in college I went to one church all 4 years and stayed to work on staff even after I graduated before I went to seminary.

Once I got to seminary though things kinda were more irregular.  I went to a few churches in seminary, then went to one church after seminary.  Then in Louisville I went to a few, then came to work on one in Raleigh.  Then I got married.  And we’ve been to 4 different churches since being married.

One thing that being a part of so many churches has taught me is that the church is so much bigger than just the congregation I’m a part of.  Yes, I totally think the local church is important.

But, I also think the Church as a whole is important.

And that’s what drew me to Sacred Ordinary Days.  Their planners are based on the liturgical calendar.  It is basically the calendar that the church goes by: like Lent, Advent, Good Friday, Pentecost, etc.

Each day there is a reading of Scripture (and isn’t it neat to know that so many other Christians might be reading that same Scripture on the same day)!  Then you have space to put just a few things – which might help you narrow down your to-do list.  I mean, I know mine can get really long!  And then it has space for you to do what you need to do.  Letter the verse (which mine usually is), write out a prayer, jot down gratitude.

And some technical things: I love the mint green color, (and the one I have is on sale now at a great price). I love the size of it because there is plenty of room to write, and I am very thankful that Sacred Ordinary Days sent me one so I could share it with yall.

How am I going to use my planner in 2018?  I’m going to use it with my Power Sheets and my own Bullet Journal.  I love the readings so I’ll be concentrating on those.

And they also have a book journal for all your readers out there!

Coffee With: Asheritah CiuCiu

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Advent starts this weekend.  And one of the books out there for you to read, by yourself or with your family, is Unwrapping the Names of Jesus.  And today, I get to share with you some fun thoughts from the author, Asheritah.  Asheritah and I wrote for the same blog a few years ago and her writing has been a continual source of encouragement for me.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

  1. So what some people might want some help with is how to pronounce your name.  And can you give us a little bit of your background: like your family, what you do, etc?

Sure! My name looks intimidating at first, but it’s easier than it looks. Asheritah, my first name, is pronounced like “margarita” and my last name, Ciuciu, is pronounced choo-choo like the train. It sounds like a silly way to explain pronunciation, but my name has deep significance. My father made it as a compound name, based on Asher, to mean “God is my happiness.” And that’s been the guiding light of my life ever since, and it’s the foundation of One Thing Alone Ministries as well, as we strive to help women find joy in Jesus.

 

I grew up in Romania as a missionary kid and met my husband in sixth grade summer camp. It took eleven years for us to eventually marry, but I’m so blessed to have him as my husband. We have two spunky little girls and currently live in Northeast Ohio.

 

  1. With all the Christmas books out there – why this one? Why now?  What compelled you to write an Advent book?

Believe it or not, I didn’t really enjoy Christmas growing up. Even into young adulthood, the Christmas season brought more anxiety than anticipation, and when I was expecting my first daughter, a mentor of mine encouraged me to begin new traditions for my own family. As I began praying, asking the Lord to help me rediscover the meaning and joy of Christmas, He pointed me to the names of Jesus.

 

If we really believe that Jesus is the greatest gift of all, wouldn’t it make sense that we would want to learn more about Him? What does it mean that He is the Lion of Judah? The Lord of Lords? The Alpha and Omega? Each name is a promise, a unique identity that reveals a facet of His character, and when we unwrap them one at a time, we discover the beauty of Jesus, Son of God, made man for us.

 

My desire with Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is to help readers rediscover the joy of Christmas by growing deeper in their knowledge and love of Jesus, learning to worship Him with all their hearts, so that when Christmas morning rolls around, we’ll all join in to sing, “O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

 

  1. Can you share a special holiday memory that you have?

One of my favorite Christmas gifts was a box of English books my dad managed to secure for me in Romania. English books were so hard to find, and he hid a treasure trove under my bed one year, and instructed me to take out only one at a time. Oh, the anticipation of each new book made me both excited to read the next book and also slow down to relish each book I held in my hands. In a way, this special gift inspired the format of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, as I want readers to have that same experience: excited to read the next day’s name, but also slowing down to relish the beauty of who Jesus is today.

 

  1. You graduated Cedarville.  What was the best part about being at a Christian university?

So much goodness! Cedarville was where I learned to think for myself, to hold up my own beliefs to inspection and really own my faith. But it also taught me the importance of defending my faith with gentleness and respect, something I struggled with as a teenager. I loved having a safe place to wrestle with the difficult parts of my Christian faith, and I still look back with fondness at many of the late nights spent debating transubstantiation, amillenialism, and arminianism, debates I don’t touch much today, but conversations that laid a foundation for my desire to help women dig deeper into the truth found only in Jesus.

 

  1. Being a mom to spunky children, do you ever wonder how you do it?  What about parenting and being in ministry (outside the home)?

Oh, this is a challenge, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter whether you’re climbing the corporate ladder or climbing the lego-strewn stairs, there’s always more tugs on your time and body than there is energy to do it all. I think it’s important to enlist the help of others, especially those whose strengths fill in the gaps of your weaknesses.

 

I’m blessed to be surrounded by a community that supports me in life and ministry. From my husband (who is my biggest champion and a huge support in the technical part of running our ministry), to my mom and mother-in-law (who take turns babysitting our girls), to my team of assistants around the world (from South Africa to San Diego and everywhere in between), to the countless women who respond to my SOS prayer texts before I jump on a radio interview or when I’m facing a book deadline, I am blessed with so much help. Seriously, I couldn’t do this all by myself, nor would I want to even try.

 

  1. Out of all the names of Jesus that you unwrap in your advent book, which has been the dearest to you?

This is the hardest question of all, because I don’t really have a favorite. Instead, I’ve found that different names take on new meaning in different situations in life. Just today, I got an email with some bad news, and for a few moments I panicked. But then the Spirit reminded me that Jesus is the Lord of Lords, and that means He’s in control of this situation too. His Names are either true all the time or they’re not true at any time, and it’s moments like those that require us to live out what we say we believe. (BTW, everything turned out ok in the end, because Jesus really can handle our crises, can’t He?)

 

  1. This blog series is called Coffee With…so if we were sitting down having coffee somewhere, where would we be and what would you get?

Easy. We’d be sitting at the copper-topped tables at Artisan Coffee Shop, where you can find me most weeks working on some new project. And I’d probably be sipping on a Dark Chocolate Orangeman, which is part of the secret menu, but if you wanted to try one, I’d order it for you too. 🙂

Giving Tuesday: Advent Download

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As a Mom one of the character traits I want to instill in my boys is generosity.  That means: toys, TV time, food, special treats, clothes, etc.  In their little world, sharing the Paw Patrol fruit snacks is hard.  But, God calls us to a life of generosity.

So, today, being Giving Tuesday, I want to help you help me give.  I handlettered a Names of Jesus Advent print.  It has 20 names of Jesus taken from a new book, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus.  It is in gold and black.  It will help you focus on the true meaning of this holiday season.

And 50% of the proceeds of this print will go to a missionary family that serves with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thank you for helping me give,

Owens in Gray Court

These dear people have been friends of mine for almost 20 years and across the entire country.  I’m so excited this family is back in the South for a little bit.  I got to meet their youngest daughter, laugh, off-road it, and explore their family’s land for this family session.  Enjoy.  And stop sometimes and take photos of the pretty things you come across on your journey.  And keep friendships!  They are important!

 

9 Characteristics of Wise Parenting

Six years ago, we were newly married, starting our journey together as husband and wife.  We weren’t even pregnant yet.  We decided we would go through the book of James together.  My husband memorized it. I prayed it daily for him, myself, us, and our future.  We entered into our marriage with difficult relationships around us.  We needed wisdom for how to navigate these relationships and for how to head into our future together.  James was a perfect book to study through as newlyweds.

Today, our boys are five and four.  And I’m going through the book of James again with a small group of women.  I need these verses and the Lord’s voice to enter in to my parenting and give me great wisdom as to how to parent these two little boys.  With the Lord’s help, not the world’s wisdom, we can parent well.

He has promised to help us.  He has promised to give wisdom to those who ask.  He has also given us His Word.  This is how the Lord defines wisdom from above.  How can we have parenting that is wise – with His wisdom.  The following is from James 3.

(Parenting) wisdom from above is pure.  It is not bought or coerced.  It is done with pure motives.  It is without error.  This is why we need Jesus in our parenting.  We are not perfect.  We will always fail in our parenting. Our boys do not ultimately need us – they need Jesus.

(Parenting) wisdom from above is peaceable.  Where we don’t raise our voices or cut off our children because we are doing something and they are interrupting.  We seek to bring peace (not fairness) to our children’s lives when they are interacting with each other.  I seek to appease and pacify, but I find it truly difficult to bring peace in our home.  That is why our sons need Jesus – He is our Prince of Peace.

(Parenting) wisdom from above is gentle.  Amazingly I find this difficult unless I’m showing affection.  I get irritable because I’m being interrupted.  I am not gentle if they are doing something wrong.  I need a Gentle Shepherd to shepherd my heart so I can in turn shepherd my children’s hearts.

(Parenting) wisdom is open to reason.  This is getting easier for me, by the grace of God.  Open to reason in parenting is (I think) being willing to hear help from others.  These tips and help may come from my husband, my friends, my pediatrician, books I’m reading, etc.  Find those moms and dads who are (generally) ahead of you in the parenting game and seek them to pour into your life as a parent.  Watch them.  Learn from them.  And that is why we need Jesus, He is all-wise and the perfect teacher.

(Parenting) wisdom from above is full of mercy.  Isn’t God so rich in mercy!  I love it.  I apply this to some discipline.  And hear me out – this does not mean never disciplining your children when they have disobeyed.  This means walking in step with the Savior who showed you great mercy and plead with them to know how to interact with your children at all times.  They may have done something wrong.  And the best way to show them Jesus in that particular moment is by talking to them about Jesus – not giving them a timeout or spanking.  Jesus is lavish in mercy to us!

(Parenting) wisdom from above is full of good fruits.  Abundantly pouring out in good fruits.  This is an opportunity for you to encourage your kids.  One saying we use in our our is “God is helping you become more…”  We don’t want to tell our kids that they are acting better to focus on their good works.  We want to help them realize that everything good in them is from God.  And to not wait for the big things they do, but be encouraging them in the times you see any kind of good fruit – even a little bud.  And Jesus helps us bear fruit if we abide in Him!

(Parenting) wisdom from above is impartial . See the pure paragraph above.

(Parenting) wisdom from above is sincere.  It is hard to be a mom.  Even those who love being a mom every moment find some moments hard.  But, let us sincerely think about Jesus has called us to.  To shape little hearts and minds.  To point them to Christ.  To grow little boys into men who will one day shape the world around them.  Jesus sincerely came to this world to save us.

(Parenting) wisdom from above will reap a harvest.  We can definitely know that God will bless efforts to shepherd our children and reward us.  It is a promise.  And he is faithful.

One tool I’ve found in helping me pass on wisdom to my children – and hope in the Gospel – is Pass it On by Champ Thornton.  It is a Bible study on Proverbs, with a great introduction to the book, commentary some, focusing on the Gospel (how Jesus fulfills wisdom).  But it is also a journal for you to fill out and pass along your thoughts to your children.  I’ve started doing this for my sons.  It could be used once a week, 30 minutes, and it would take you less than a year for each kid.  What a treasure it would be for your children.

Pass It On was given to me by Litfuse.  All thoughts are my own.

 

Friday Nights In

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One of the things I love most about my relationship with my husband is couch time.  Yup – we just like to sit together and have a drink or a snack, watch some Netflix, read a book, watch a movie, eat tacos.  Whatever we can do from the couch.

When we first got married, and even during the short time we were dating, we would go out.  We wanted to be in public places where we could protect ourselves from being alone.  We had a spots at Washington Duke Country Club, Starbucks, or friends’ homes.  We enjoyed traveling to see family, or hitting the beach on our days off.

But, now, with two kids who have early bedtimes, babysitters hard to find and expensive, we would much rather just stay home.

And the other thing we love is Popcorn. Yup – you heard me.  Popcorn.  We usually make it ourselves with cracked pepper and jerk seasoning.  Or some m&ms and/or sharp cheddar.  It makes for a light dinner or a late night snack.

And when its cozy outside, put a log on the fire, get some apple cider moscow mules, and the original Skinny Pop  popcorn (thanks to my friend Becky for introducing me to it).  Its easy and fresh and just open the bag – its great when there isn’t any energy left after a hard parenting day – or week – or month.  It makes for a glorious and cheap evening.  We don’t even need any babysitters.

How do you enjoy date nights with your spouse – that don’t cost a lot of money?  We are always looking for date nights.

 

Lavish Hospitality 15

We are halfway there.  Thanks so much for reading.  Can’t wait to finish out the month with yall.

Since becoming a mom, I think I’ve cooked less and less. I prefer simple meals or take out or Publix rotisserie chickens.  I’m tried throughout the day.  When my husband is home I want to do other things other than just stand in the kitchen and crank out a week’s worth of food.

I know cooking is healthier and easier on the budget for the family – but goodness, tough to get in the kitchen and do.  Especially when half of my people around the table may not even eat it.

But, part of my responsibility (in our family) is to cook and make sure we have food to eat.  My mister will cook but he is usually at work until dinner time, but he always gets up with the boys and gets them breakfast.  I’m extremely blessed – also, with a nearby Publix or Trader Joes.

So, how do I welcome my misters with food?  I thought I would be a wife and a mom who always had a homecooked meal on the table.  Usually I was that kind of wife, but I’m not that type of mom.  I mean, we eat every night.  But only a few days a week is it a fresh homecooked meal.

Here are my tips:

Little Caesars Pizza.

Publix: bagged salad mixes, chicken tenders or rotisserie from the deli.

Dollar menu items.

Bagged veggies with sweet potatoes

Instant Pot

Crock Pot

A local food delivery or pick up service (we found a local place that has freezer meals on hand you can pick up.  And a friend of mine does this as well).

Cereal.

Eggs, fruit, grits

Trader Joes freezer section.

Hope these items help you offer hospitality to your family by getting food on the table.  What are your quick go-to food helps?

Quote from Karen Ehman A Life That Says Welcome

 

Lavish Hospitality 13

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I don’t think I really knew much of pain until after midway through college.

And then it has been full force since then.

The agonizing words of a friend over my appearance and the fact that I was never going to get married.

The words of a man that questioned so much of my future.

The pain of hearing lies.

The loss of a relationship.

The bitterness of my own sin.  Time and time again.

Sting of another betrayal.

Being met with judgment and not grace.

Loss of so many friendships – all at once.

And then to have to start to build relationships again.  And again.

At 40 it is tough to build relationships with new people.  Mommy friends.  Couple friends.  You know, every one has their own set of friends with not much room for new people.  And remembering the hurt of past relationships doesn’t make you too eager to put yourself out there again.

But, that’s what Lavish Hospitality does.  Jesus was hurt more than we could ever imagine.  I can’t fathom that.  And I’ve not been hurt near as much as some.  But, Christ took that pain – all of it – and died for it – then defeated death so we wouldn’t have to agonize over the pain any more.

We could feel again.  We could love again.  We could have broken relationships restored.  Because of Christ’s lavish hospitality on us.

Quote taken from Ashleigh Slater’s Braving Sorrow Together.