God Bless My Family (Giveaway)

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If you asked my older son what his favorite thing in the world was: he would probably say dogs.

What is so funny is I think every one in his class knows it.  Such a sweet little friend as his school brought him a stuffed animal doggie because he wanted him to have it.  So, sweet, right?

The hearts of little preschoolers!

We’ve enjoyed the God Bless My (Series) by Hannah Hall.  The latest one is a sing-songy rhyming book about family and it is illustrated with dogs.  So, even though this book is definitely more for babies and toddlers, I knew I had to get it because of my son’s affinity for dogs.

So, thanks to Tommy Nelson Mommies, you have the opportunity to win a copy.  So, whether you have babies or toddlers or even older kids who love dogs – this would be a great book for your family.

Just leave a comment here to be entered!

Thanks Tommy Nelson for the book and the giveaway!

January Read Aloud Favorites

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One of our favorite times is sitting on the couch and reading together with our boys.  Mostly me, as we are killing time in the middle of the day, or waiting to go to school in the morning – we will pull out our pile from the library and read through some.

Here are our January favorites.  I hope you find some here that your children love as well.  Reading with your children bonds them to you, promotes snuggling, and engages their minds.

Waiting for Winter : I love the unique illustrations in this one.  And it builds so much anticipation for snow.  We live in the South, so every snow fall is greatly anticipated!

The Wish Tree – What you wish for may actually come true in new ways that you’d never thought of.  Helps kids think about other people other than themselves.

Blizzard

Pete the Cat Snow Daze (we love all Pete the Cat books)

Pug and Doug : Anything with dogs is a favorite of one of our boys.  If you find what interests your children, I guarantee they will read!

The Reverend Thomas’s False Teeth : This is one my husband read with our boys, they thought it was great.

Arthur’s Dream Boat : I love books that encourage imagination and creativity.

Too Many Chickens 

Emergency (Carry-Me) : I found this at Goodwill and we read it all month.  Frequent your local Goodwill – you will find some great books and chapter books for your kids.  I’ve collected almost 2 entire Little House sets just from Goodwill trips.

I hope by reading to them early, that when they learn to read, they will love to read.

Books Read in 2017

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Well, this may be the first year that I’ve ever set a book reading goal – and surpassed it!

So, next year I’ve upped the number by just saying “I want to beat this year”.  I’ve got some reading goals for next year, but that’s for next year – so stay tuned.

Below are the books I read in 2017 and the ones with the talk are the ones I enjoyed the most.

What was your favorite you read in 2017?

What are you looking most forward to with reading in 2018?

The Magnolia Story

Nothing to Prove: This was my first Jennie Allen read and it was what I needed at the time I read it.  I thought it was great!

Magic of Motherhood

Martha Washington: An American Life: This was the first in my First Lady bio books.  I really loved how it focused on her and not her husband.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

You Are Free

A Letter from Lancaster County

Fools Rush In

Between Heaven and the Real World: Definitely my favorite of the year.  I sobbed all the way through it and I’m not allowed to mention SCC’s name in our home I don’t think for a while.  So good! I love biographies!

Dreamland Burning.  Another great one.  YA.  Injustice.  Racial terror.

Dear Mr. Knightley.  First of three I’ve read by her this year.  And I really enjoy her writing.  Weaving faith, romance, literature, travel.  This one was my favorite

Gracelaced

The Bronte Plot

Winter Kisses

A Change of Heart

Trusting Grace

Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Seeds of Hope

Austen Escape

The King’s Locket

Hidden Christmas . Tim Keller.  Easy to read Tim Keller.  Fabulous look on Christmas.

Kinfolk Table.  I probably have notes on every page of this biographical compilation cookbook with stunning photography.

She Reads Truth.  If you need a book to encourage you in truth right where you need it, this is it.  But, word to the wise, don’t read it in public.  There were many chapters I sobbed reading it while on the bike at the gym.

Letters to Grief

Earth Psalms

Growing Up

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  I love this.  Its a re-read.  And I’ll probably re-read it every year.

December Picture Books

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I have really fallen in love with reading to my boys.  It is a sweet time on the couch or on their bed.  We read chapter books or picture books.

But, I also let them pick out many of their own books at the library.  They like to wander through the picture book section and find books that have dogs and fire trucks – at least for now.

I also like to get as many from this list.  It is super helpful.  I’ve not found we like them all, but it gives us new ideas and brings us new authors I wouldn’t have known about.

So, here are our favorites from December.  We probably read over 60 picture books.  These are our favorites because the boys picked these over and over.

Pirate Boy.  I’ve read this so much the last two months.  And it is mommy’s as heroes – so its a perfect one to read with your boys.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.  My boys laughed at the animals wearing clothes.  But, it talks about being who you are supposed to be. As believers, we don’t necessarily need to tell our boys to “be all that they can be” but we need to point them to God’s plan for their lives.

Can You Growl Like A Bear?

This was definitely the funnest book because they boys were acting out every animal in this book every time we read it!

Snowmen All Year: This is one we got from the RAR list.  And the boys definitely loved it.  Even if we didn’t see any snow this year.

Oliver Finds His Way.  A bear and a journey.  And talk of home.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

A friend of mine gave us this book, after we read it all weekend our friends were here. So fun!  Believe me!

 

Trusting Grace

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One of the things I’ve noticed in my patterns for hobbies is that when life is a little hard, I don’t want to do anything hard in my “free time”.  So…

Its hard to be mentally sharp to be creative when real life is tough.

Its hard to read non-fiction when my brain and heart is to tied up with life stuff.

Its hard to watch new shows/movies when life is tough in the real world.

So, what do I do?  I read a lot of fiction and binge on my favorite Netflix shows.  And eat comfort food – because why not?  And take long hot showers.  And read books to my boys.  And always have chips and guacamole on hand.

SO, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately.

One of the books I checked out from my church library was Trusting Grace by Maggie Brendan.  I was introduced to the book by the author herself.  And I really enjoyed it.  It took me about 2 sessions on a bike at the gym to finish it.

After reading some reviews on Amazon, I know there are some problems with it.  But, really with fiction storylines, there is nothing new under the sun.  I think every fiction has tales of love, loss, salvation.  I figured the storyline pretty quick but it had some surprises in there.

And I just really enjoyed it.  It spoke of family, desires, hard work, the old west, cooking, and reminded me of the Janette Oke books I read growing up.

And now there is a Black Friday deal to get the last of this Trilogy.  And, I’ve not read the first two books, but reading Trusting Grace definitely made me want to go get the first two!

Tuning Your Heart to Worship

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Is worship easy for you?  Let me rephrase that – it worship of God easy for you?

Six years ago my life changed.  I went from being single in control of my mornings, time to myself, pick the church I want to being married (to a then worship pastor, now someone still involved in worship ministries) and a mom to two littles who don’t always let me run my mornings or my days like I would like.

And Sunday mornings – we all know what Sunday mornings are like.  They are crazy.  My mister leaves before the the rest of us to rehearse for the morning service.  Usually by the time I drop the kids off at church preschool ministries they’ve disobeyed, needed discipline, and I’m not in a “good frame of mind” to worship God.

And we’ve changed churches so much in the last 7 years.  So, community and preaching and worship styles and kids ministries and women’s ministries – they all affect my ability to worship on Sunday mornings.

And I’m still working on it. Some Sunday mornings I’m in a better worship mode than others.  Some, its just rough from the get-go!

Can any mom relate?

But, of course, worship is not a Sunday morning thing – not exclusively.  Being in the Word, singing praise songs, working, cooking dinner, playing with our kids, dating your spouse – all of these can be acts of worship.  Tuning Your Heart to Worship is a new book by Lavon Gray (New Hope Publishers) that will help you focus some time in the Psalms.  The Psalms is sort of the worship guidebook for the Bible.  The psalmists, under direct breath of God, experienced so many of the emotions and daily things that we face.  Yet they worshiped.

In this book, there are 100 passages from the Psalms.  100 days for you to spend time in the psalms, reading them, and hearing about worship songs, ministry insights, and application points.  The author encourages you to read the whole psalm not just the 1-2 verses that he highlights.  The Word of God is living and active.  The Word through the power of the Holy Spirit can and will change your heart of worship.

This is also a book full of application.  You will be encouraged to think and process as you read through the devotion each day, but you will also be encouraged to do something next.  Journal, pray, write, think, share.

I do agree with the author that this is not an academic devotional.  It is more personal and one that you might use with a more academic commentary if that is something you desire.

Thank you New Hope Publishers for the book.  All opinions are my own.

Lavish Hospitality 20

Write31 update: I was going to write this post last night after our trip to Stone Mountain.  But, even though we were home at a normal time, got the tired boys in bed after a quick bath and family worship, I just didn’t have it in me.  Two days of eating a lot of carbs and stress of an all day trip, with Hashimoto’s I’m learning I have to slow down when I need to.

So, you are getting two posts today.  I hope you don’t mind!

I am a mom of two preschool boys.  They used to be newborns, then babies,  then toddlers, and now in preschool.  We have made it through every stage with naps, netflix, and mostly the grace of God.

But, one way that sabotaged every minute of my parenting is comparison.  Comparison for when my kids walked or talked.  Comparison in whether I was breast-feeding or making my own baby food.  Comparison as to whether I was using cloth diapers or Huggies.  Comparison on how fast my kids are reading or playing well with others or climbing on the big slides all by themselves.  Comparison on if they scored goals during their first soccer game.

And I know the comparisons just keep coming.  It doesn’t stop when they reach kindergarten or middle school or college.

And comparison is anything but hospitable.  It isn’t gracious to yourself as a mom (or a wife or a woman). It isn’t hospitable to your other mom friends.  So, just don’t do it.  Its hard.  But, rely more on the fact that God has created you to be the Mom that you are to the kids that you have right now.  And He will give you the grace to complete your task!

Quote from Sharon Hodde Miller’s Free of Me.

Lavish Hospitality 18

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Update on this blog series:

Thanks for reading.  I’m learning new ways to practice hospitality – I hope you are too.  I just had a good friend design a cover for the e-book that I hope will come out early 2018 (or regular book if anyone wants to publish it.).  I will start pulling all these quotes from each day and writing in November!

Today’s post is about something that effects and affects every area of hospitality.  Our humility.  Left to ourselves we are not humble people.  We are prideful and only care about ourselves.  Our rights.  Our ways.  Our happiness.  The selfie-generation didn’t just start a few years ago.  It has always been.

With our God: come to Him with our weariness. He will give rest.  Come to him with honor and adoration – He will show Himself to us.  Come to Him with our desires – He will fill our hands.

With our spouses: Put their needs above our own.  Seek to outdo one another in showing honor.  My husband excels at this – all.the.time.  He has told me in recent weeks that I’ve grown in humility in the time that he’s known me.  That is in direct correlation to God putting him in my life almost 7 years ago now and the work of the Spirit in my heart.

With our children: We mess up as mamas.  When I mess up (often), I will usually go to my kids, get right in their faces (affection), and talk to them really softly and gently.  I think I do this because I want to mend the brokenness, and act in opposite fashion than I just did: loud, harsh, pushing them away.

With our community: When you open your home to people who don’t live within our houses, we speak volumes to their need – and our need.  Our need for community.  That alone speaks of humility because it says that we are not enough in and of ourselves.  God made us for community.  He made us for relationship.  I stink at this sometimes, especially when going out.  I was a poor representation of the gospel this past week at a new friends.  It had been a bad day, it was my son’s birthday, and I don’t think I barely looked anyone in the eyes and I just barely answered their questions.  I didn’t want to be there and others could tell.  I can’t go back – but I can move forward out of my brokenness and let Him do a new thing.

Quote taken from Lord Have Mercy (Ellen Miller).  Photo by Evergold Photography of a cupcake I made.

Lavish Hospitality 17

As a mom of two preschoolers, two things I think about the most of anything is my children’s safety and their eternal life.  One I can do something about and one I can only point them in the right direction.

Its funny, this week my 4 year old had 5 shots and 1 toe prick to draw some blood.  All routine for a 4 yo check up.  As I was holding his arms across his chest as they were sticking the needles in his thighs, I watched him scream over and over again.  I didn’t feel like I was providing much safety for him.  And after the pricks were over, he was calling for Daddy – all he wanted to do was go see Daddy.  To have Daddy hold him.

Now, if something happens when Daddy is around, then he calls out for me.  So the kid can’t make up his mind.

And now thinking back, I think of me, holding his arms down, covering his face to he couldn’t see the needles being put into his legs, closing my eyes in tears as he screamed, wondering if he would ever trust me again.

Isn’t that often how God is.  We are safely in his arms.  Being held in the palms of his hands, nothing can take us out of his grip.  But, how often does his face cover our screams?  How often do you think that God cries and longs for our hearts when we are hurting?

On this earth, I think we are to be “little Christs”.  So, we are to be Jesus with skin on.  Being hospitable to people may be holding them in their pain, letting them cry, catching their tears.  My husband often does this.  And I think of the safety I feel in his arms.  And it makes me long for the Savior – who will never hurt me but was hurt for me.  So that I may rest secure in Him.

Quote taken from a new book by Lavon Gray (thanks New Hope Publishers) Tuning Your Heart to Worship

Lavish Hospitality 16

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How do you get to know someone?  Thankfully in today’s technology-driven world, I think that is easier and harder.  Let me explain.

You can get to know people on social media.  This is how I love to keep track of new friends and old friends who live in different areas of the country/world.

You can get to know people by running into them at small groups or in church services.  Or playing basketball, shopping, being in a creative group together or a book club.

But, I genuinely think that the only way to truly get to know someone is to sit down with them.  Talk with them face to face.  You may not want to genuinely know everyone – but for those close friends, don’t you want to genuinely know them and sit down with them face to face as often as you can.

With my husband: I can get to know him through texts, through what he posts on facebook, but most I get to know him when we are talking to each other without distractions.  Or if we are sitting side-by-side traveling alone together.

WIth my best friends – I want to get to know them while sitting on their porches, sipping coffee together, or grabbing a quick breakfast together (without our kids).

With new people: it is hard to get to know new people at 40.  It is.  But, I have found it best to just sit down with them, have food or beverage present, and talk. Share.  Be open.

That is what God’s Word does for us.  Though we don’t have a face-to-face with God, the Word reveals God’s heart to us.  He has been hospitable in creating the Word. He was hospitable when He sent Jesus.  And He was (and still is) hospitable to us when He God-breathed the Word to be carried down to generations for us, believers today in 2017.

Quote from Noel Piper Treasuring God in Our Traditions