But God…

Ephesians 2-5 BY Grace You Are Saved brown

But God…

Two of the most incredible words in the Bible, in my opinion.

Ephesians 2:4-5

4 “But[a] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—”

It is something that I have tried to fully understand as I walk this faith journey. The idea that God loved me so much that in spite of my many, MANY failings, He wanted LIFE for me and so He sent His Son to die as payment for all my sins.

I was dead in my sins. But God.

Because of His incredible gift, I now have life and freedom. I should be on-my-knees grateful each and every day.

In spite of this reminder, I often find myself irritated and ungrateful and self-righteous to name a few. Life gets tough and the whiny “why-me” comes out.

But then in my preparation of this post I was reading a little more into the background of the book of Ephesians. And was struck by a probably well known fact about the author Paul…this letter was written when he was in prison.

Here was a man who, after his conversion, served God in a fervent way.

And in doing so he was persecuted and thrown in prison, not just once but several times. And what was his response?

To some of the hardest trials I could even imagine facing, Paul’s response was to write a letter to encourage other believers.

Paul obviously understood, in a deep way, the immense grace that only God could give and he wanted us to understand it as well.

It is easy for me to shout God’s praises when life is going my way. But in all honesty, in my most difficult trials (and there have been many), my response has often been “Why God?!”

And yet, once again, I am reminded that even knowing my normal response to trials, God STILL wanted more for me. This grace-gift that I have been given, it’s undeserved. I haven’t yet and won’t ever be able to be good enough to earn God’s grace.

But God, knowing I couldn’t do it myself, sent One in my place.

His grace is abundant and rich in mercy and it is available for each of us.

I don’t know if you have struggled with this grace-gift like I have? Or maybe you have spent your life working really hard at being as good as you can be so that you can earn God’s love?

It is exhausting and impossible and not what God wants for us.

Take a moment right now and pause, won’t you?

Open your hands and receive this free gift that He offers. Stop running on the hamster wheel and rest in the freedom that life with Christ offers.

You don’t have to be perfect – you are perfected because of Him.

You don’t have to earn His grace – it was yours long before you even knew you needed it.

You are chosen and loved, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And in those moments, when life feels like too much, those times you have failed or don’t feel like enough, just remember two simple but powerful words…

But God.

The words of this song by I Am They – Even Me, speak so much to this idea of the grace God offers. Take a listen! Email subscribers click here!

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Thank you to Anne with The Loved Bible Project for encouraging others to dig deeper into God’s Word and share about how it is made real in their own lives.

No Longer Ashamed – Finding an Identity in Christ

identity in christ!

I have spent a lot of my life living under the weight of my past and my failures.

Convinced I didn’t have anything to offer, and further justified in my mind when I would see others succeed and I did not.

My identity had become something that was defined by my success (or lack thereof), if I wasn’t invited to be a part of something I must not be worth it. I became more and more ashamed of who I was and certain that I had no value.

I can see today that it was a lie – but in the thick of it, it seemed like absolute truth.

Oh how we can be deceived. The Bible says in John 10:10 that the thief comes to kill and destroy but God has come to give us life and abundantly at that!

I have heard that verse hundreds of times over the course of my 41 years and it wasn’t until recently that I really understood its truth in my own life.

I have read a couple of books about shame in the past 6 months, most recently one called “Unashamed – Healing our brokenness and finding freedom from shame” by Heather Davis Nelson.

In it she describes shame as “the feeling that we have missed the mark according to our own standard or our perception of someone else’s standard for us. Shame keeps us from being honest about our struggles, sins and less than perfect moments. Fear of shame drives us to perfectionism in all areas of our lives, so that there would be no imperfection to be noticed and judged. Shame is what we heap on others when they fail us. Shame keeps us holding onto bitterness and refusing to forgive. We are impacted by the shame of sin committed against us, and this drives a wedge into our relationships.” p20

That feeling we have missed the mark….

The story of my life really, but I want freedom and I believe it is possible!

But it starts with an honest look at what has shaped me over the years. How I see people seeing me now. Why the opinions of others matter SO much and a look at who am I living my life for.

These aren’t easy questions to explore and honestly it has been a bit of a painful process.

But I believe that the heart work has been necessary to get to that place that I can be honest with others. The hope is that in doing so we can surround ourselves with a body of believers that encourages us in spite of our failures.

Heather says this…“Imagine a community where we are free to be known and seen for who we are on our best days and our worst days.” p83

If I want that community for myself I first need to be that kind of community to others. And I can use Christ as my example.

Finding my identity in the One who can fully restore me from all shame, all my sinful past, all my mistakes and hurts.

Heather said it beautifully here…“Rescue comes only through Jesus. Jesus took the shame of our shame-filled (and shame-fueled) performances and mis-placed blame, and bore it in His body and shed blood for us on the cross. He covered not only the guilt of our sin, but our shame of trying to cover up our sin. And the good news doesn’t stop there! We have Jesus’s righteous performance in place of our feeble half-hearted attempts.” p93

Jesus did it all.

And He did it EVEN THOUGH He knew what my sins would be. He loved me that much. And now because of this great sacrifice, my identity isn’t one of sin and shame but instead an identity filled with the goodness of who Christ is.

It’s pretty amazing really and I am so grateful for this gift of new life He has given me!

I don’t know about you, but trying to be something I am not is exhausting. I won’t ever get this life “right”, I can’t be perfect and when I try (and for all the wrong reasons) I will fail every time.

Instead I am finding peace and sanctuary in the knowledge of my new identity and claiming it with TRUTH from His word.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has done, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1

“I have been crucified with Christ and therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20-21

Take some time today to revel in those truths. If you have struggled with your identity, start praying about how God can open your eyes to your real identity through Him. Take a step of faith and start building community with someone you can trust, and start getting real. I think that as we do this and then also claim truth in our hearts from the scripture we will start walking in the freedom that God has intended for us all along!

Heather’s book is really good and explores areas of shame in our body image, our social interactions and our performance. What I loved most about the book was that it is filled with the truth and encouragement that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus. Not another self-help book but rather a hope-filled book that can help you identity shame and then break free from the chains it has on you!

I was sent a copy of Unashamed to review for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. The wonderful people at #FlyBy have a copy of this book for me to giveaway to one of my readers!! If you would like a copy simply leave a comment below! I will pick a winner next Friday the 8th!

Unashamed book

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”) Many thanks to Propeller Consultin, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Photo Credit: via

Vacation Planning Tips

Vacation Rental

We just got back from a week away in Northern Wisconsin. This area was a first first for us and we really enjoyed the change from the Black Hills where we had travelled 3 years in a row!

I had a few people ask how we planned this trip so I thought it would be fun to write a short post about some of the tips I have learned doing this sort of thing the past 4 years.

We have always chosen to rent a home from VRBO. Hotels can be really expensive per night and most don’t accommodate a family of 6 without having 2 rooms. Dominic’s parent’s travelled with us so renting a home where we have space for 8 and a place to cook meals was top on my list of priorities.

Having done this several times I will say we haven’t yet had a house we didn’t love. No not everything is perfect, but with a little planning and flexibility we always walked away blessed at the rentals.

When searching for a rental you should consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you will want as well as your budget and the area of the country you want to stay. We specifically wanted something on a lake so we could do some fishing each day.

Lake home

We found a amazing cabin with lots of space, a hot tub (or hot pool if you ask Karlena) and a private mini golf course in the back! It was homemade by one of the owners kids and was lots of fun!

Most owners list the types of amenities that each rental will have. Consider the types of meals you normally prepare and ask in advance if they have the necessary “tools” to accommodate you.

For instance I had planned 4 specific meals in advance and 2 of them were soups that my family loves. White chicken chili and taco soup. I typically cook it in a crock pot but often times the homes we rent only have small crocks available. I was going to bring my own, but we ended up buying a new one while we were there.

On two of the days before we left for our adventures I prepared the meals and set them in the crock on low. When we came home we didn’t have to fuss with a bunch of cooking we just set the table and ate!

Another tip would be to make lunches for the road.

I purchased a bunch of snack items and then we also had sandwich meats and breads available. Everyone got to choose what they wanted, and we prepared them in advance and then didn’t have to stop for fast food during the middle of the day. People could eat when they were hungry and we saved tons of money on not eating out.

Bring along sandwich baggies and a sharpie when you are packing for your trip. That way when you make your lunches you can easily label whose sandwich is whose on the front of the baggie.

We live in MN where we don’t pay sales tax on our groceries. We travel to states where they do pay sales tax…so for us I have always purchased a bunch of the food in advance and packed it in Rubbermaid tubs to bring with us.

This allows you to not have to stop the first day for groceries. I also always fry up some hamburger and chicken and freeze it in advance. It adds a nice ice substitute to the cooler and when you are ready just thaw and use.

That brings me to the most awesome cooler ever and a must have on a road trip vacation like this one. We bought a Coleman Refrigerator Cooler  last summer after we borrowed my parent’s the summer before.

Coleman Cooler

It plugs into an outlet in your car and keeps things cool and has an additional plug so you can bring it into the house and plug it into a wall outlet. This was the perfect cooler for our sandwiches and waters. We froze several waters and put them on the bottom that added extra cooling when the car wasn’t running.

It is expensive at $100, but we have used ours for 2 years and it was a worth while investment!!

And finally (or at least for now) packing.

I have a 31 medium tote that I use for each of our kids. They know which bag is theirs and can get themselves a new outfit easily. When they were smaller I would pack full outfits in gallon baggies and they could grab a baggie and go!

I do tend to over pack. Next year I am scaling it back because the reality is I do laundry each day so I don’t need to pack a weeks worth of clothes.

I know for some doing laundry seems crazy, but after this trip I came home with all clean clothes except for 1 small load. I didn’t have to spend our last day before entering the real world again doing loads and loads of laundry. Win for me for sure!  And make sure to pack some detergent and dryer sheets so you don’t have to buy it once you get there!

Well that is probably enough for this post…what are some of your best vacation planning tips? I’d love to hear them!

The Sounds of Praise

Lake walk

The black-and-white butterflies danced in front of our feet as we walked down the rocky path towards the shoreline of lake in front of us.

A bird circled overhead and cawed, reminding us that this was his territory.

The wind was strong that day and the trees sang and danced as the gusts caused their limbs to sway to and fro.

We were taking some time away with family, free of meetings and client calls. A time to breathe, something my husband and I both desperately needed.

There were sounds and movement all around us but I was filled with peace.

That kind of peace where you know all is well. Being able to unplug and just drink in this world that was created just for us.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of gratitude at the multitude of ways nature sings praises to the One who created all of it.

The trees making a song with their branches and the birds soar high on the currents of the air, rhythmically moving with the wind. The waves join in on the lake as they build and crash across the surface of the water. The plants and flowers provide beauty. All of it is a reminder to me that God is ever present.

There has always been something about nature that has drawn me closer to God.

It is as though in these moments where I step away and just pause to see, that I am overwhelmed at all He is and has done for me.

I need to be more intentional about taking the time to seek Him in the world around me.

Stepping away from the clatter of the busyness of life and into the sounds of celebration and praise that nature provides.

Is there a place that you connect most with God? Take some time this week and unplug so that you can connect with God!

For the Times You Don’t Feel Equipped

Being Equipped

It has been mostly silent here in my little corner of the www.

Except for the occasional book review/giveaway, I haven’t really had the words. It is frustrating for someone like me who has learned to process through writing. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write either.

In April Dominic and I attended a marriage conference that was really impactful. I knew I wanted to write about it, but I just couldn’t find the words to do so. In June we celebrated our 20 year anniversary and with it came a tough lesson I had to learn about my stubbornness and pride, and how the enemy targets those very character defects in me. Some  day I will share that with you as well if God leads.

I know that the “experts” would tell me that I should get up and write regardless if I have the words…but when I don’t feel God leading me there, it feels forced and in-genuine. Some day soon I hope to be back to a regular writing schedule though…God-willing.

This morning as I was getting ready I was thinking about those times when I have felt ill-equipped to do what God has called me to.

Do you ever find yourself there? In a situation where you know God has brought you to but yet you feel like the least qualified to be there?

A few months ago we were getting close to wrapping up the bible study we were on in our women’s group at church. We started talking about what we would like to do next and someone mentioned the book Fervent.

I had read it 3 times through and really loved it so I was all on board for that. I didn’t think that it was something I would lead, I just wanted to read it again. Each time I have been through it I find things that I missed, or nuggets of information that mean even more to me with each new read.

The morning after the discussion I woke up unusually early and started writing. Within a short amount of time I had 5 bible study lessons written that would be the start to a guide for the book.

If you have read it you know that there isn’t a specific bible study for the book. I sent what I had written to the ladies that lead our group and said that I thought I could write out the rest of the guide for the remaining chapters. It really was a God-led thing and honestly the book made it easy.

And so a few weeks ago we started our study of Fervent, using my guide, which is still a bit of a surreal experience for me. This feels largely out of my skill set. And in addition to writing the guide I am now leading the study. Another thing that feels outside of my talents.

I was praying on the way to church on Tuesday that God would just give me the words. I worry about filling those uncomfortable gaps of silence, of creating a safe place for everyone to share and be honest. There is the time factor, what if I can’t fill the specified time…what if times gets away from me!

It all seems so much more than I can handle. And I start to doubt that I am the right person to be leading this group of women that have so much more wisdom than I ever have had.

But it is where I am finding myself.

This week as I left bible study I was just overwhelmed by how God shows up. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have it all figured out. The women that are attending each have their own wisdom to share, and collectively as a group we grow from our shared experiences.

And I wondered if maybe that’s why God called me to this.

It wasn’t that I had so much to give, but rather that it was an opportunity for me to witness how incredible my God is. {Click to Tweet}

To find myself in awe of how He would use me, grateful for the new women that are there this time and how much I have learned from them. Filled with a passion to continue to have a place where we can be transparent with one another and grow in our understanding of prayer.

It is a humbling experience and such an honor to be a part of this amazing group of women.

So if you are being called to something that feels outside of your comfort zone, don’t worry. Trust that God will give you just what you need. And wait with hopeful expectancy that He will give you more than you expect out of the process!

Bible Journaling – Illustrated Faith

Journaling Bible

My husband bought me an ESV Journaling Bible for Christmas in 2014. I have loved having the space to take notes when I am at church. So often I can’t remember all the nuggets of wisdom that my pastor has to offer each week and by writing it down I can go back and look through it at a later date and remember.

When I got the bible I did some research about the best pens, highlighters etc. that I should use on the delicate pages. Searching unearthed (at least for me) the new trend of people illustrating their faith in the pages of their bible.

The work that these artists are doing is so incredible, I had to share a few of my favorites:

Illustrated Faith 2

Beautiful work by Tiffany Zajas. Simple, yet that tangible reminder to bloom where you are planted.

Illustrated Faith 7

Jaime was featured over at the Illustrated Faith website and I love that she uses stickers, colored pencils, washi tape and her own {amazing} handwriting to make this page her own!

Illustrated Faith 8

And finally this from Bekah, also featured at Illustrated Faith has used watercolors and paper cutouts to add whimsy to her page.

I will be honest with you when I started seeing all these beautiful pictures I was a little overwhelmed. I am more of a paint by numbers kind of girl and my handwriting leaves much to be desired. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to create something so beautiful in my own bible.

And then I heard about the Illustrated Faith line from Dayspring.

Initially I purchased some stickers, I thought that it would be a place to start. Then when I had the opportunity to review a full Illustrated Faith kit, I jumped at the chance!

The kit arrived and was packed so pretty. I received the Blessings or Lessons Illustrated Faith set.

Illustrated Faith 5

Here were the Items in the kit:

    • 1 devotional booklet (14 devotionals)
    • 1 stamp pad
    • 1 clear stamp collection with 1 sheet of cut outs enclosed
    • 1 roll of washi tape
    • 1 package of 3 Scripture sharables
    • 1 sticker
    • 1 bow clip

I love that the kit came with a devotional, I hadn’t expected that! Each month a new kit is available and has just enough to get a novice like myself started.

I decided to start by just placing the Scripture sharables in my bible where the verses are found. This way I have them with me and can share them as an opportunity arises.

I tried a couple of the stamps out, but they do recommend that you use an acrylic block to fix the stamps to before you use them. I didn’t have a block so I tried to wing it. One of the stamps slipped a little when I was taking it off the page. The block would have prevented that…so it is on my list of things to purchase.

Illustrated Faith 6I told you I am a novice at this, but it is fun! I want to get some colored pencils and maybe color around the stamp featured above. There are endless possibilities really with what you can do with just 1 kit!

I am even more excited to start using the sticker sets that I purchased but was afraid to try. Maybe this brings me back to those days when we decorated the covers of our notebooks with NKOB stickers and pictures (maybe that was just me, ha!)…it was fun to create then and I guess I had forgotten how something like this is fulfilling for a creative’s soul!

If you haven’t ever tried this form of creative journaling…maybe now is the time to start!!

For more information about the woman who designed this incredible collection see the video below! Email subscribers click here.

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I was sent the Illustrated Faith kit in exchange for my honest review but even more exciting is that the lovely people at Dayspring have a kit to send to one of my readers! I am telling you that you want this!! To enter leave a comment sharing your favorite item from the Dayspring site or tell me if you have done any Bible Journaling yourself. Share this post on FB or Twitter for additional entries, just leave me a comment saying what you have done! 🙂

I will pick a winner on June 13th!

Photo Credit: Kit picture compliments of Dayspring

Writing God’s Word on Their Hearts

ESV Bible 4

This week we are doing something that is a first in our almost 20 years of marriage….we are getting new carpet installed! It is a pretty big deal to us, our first home had newer carpet when we moved in and after 13 years it probably needed to be replaced, but we couldn’t afford it. Then we moved to MN and the carpet needed replacing in many rooms, but again it wasn’t in the budget after buying a new home!

So we started talking about it months ago and finally decided to go forward and make the investment. It is scary and exciting all at the same time. I didn’t realize just how much work was involved in the process! Clearing out all the rooms, ripping the old carpet out and removing all the staples…that’s just the “prep” work.

Today the installation started and we started talking about how we hope really like the new color because it is going in multiple rooms! 🙂

When I was 14 my parents replaced their carpet and before the new was put down, they let us write all over the sub-floor. I have always remembered how cool that was and recently saw a friend who did Bible verses in their home and I decided to do the same.

So yesterday we spent sometime writing God’s Word on the floors in our rooms. I love the idea that we can stand on His Word in a tangible way each day.

ESV Bible 3

Dominic wrote out some of his favorite verses and I will always know that in our front living room we have a reminder to put on God’s armor each and every day. It is another way to remember to be prepared for the battles we will face every day.

I took pictures of all the places and verses we wrote because I want to have something to show our younger kids when they are older. Our family isn’t perfect by any means. We mess up and face difficulties like every other family. But my prayer is that we can be a family that is established and rooted in the Word of God. And that we might be able to use that foundation to be a light and an encouragement to others.

As a parent I have struggled with how best to teach our kids about God. We are so grateful for our church and the Awana program there. But I can’t expect that others will always do the work for me…we have to continue to encourage them and instill them with His Truth in our home.

For a long time I have looked for a devotional that might be appropriate and just haven’t found something that works for the varying ages in our family. Recently though I was sent the ESV Family Devotional Bible from #FlyBy promotions to review. What I love about it is that it is a full Bible, but among the pages are pictures and short devotional readings.

ESV Bible 2

At the end of each reading, there are questions to ask the family to discuss and a verse that could be used as a memory verse! It is something that my 5 year old could listen and participate in, but it isn’t too young for my 12 year old either.

These are the kind of devotionals that wouldn’t take much time, but would provide opportunities for deeper discussions and also the chance for our kids to once again hear the Truth of God’s Word. And I love that at the end of each devotional it points you to the page where the next one can be found!

I want the Word of God written on their hearts, and what a perfect way to encourage that by including these devotionals in our weekly routine.

I know it can be hard to take time out as a family to do things like this, but just like we took time to write out those verses on the floor…we need to find time in our busy schedules to stop and spend time with God. This Bible is going to help us get back on track and I am excited to see our kids!

But even more exciting is the fact that #FlyBy has another Bible to give away to one of my readers! YAY!! So to enter just leave a comment and share either why you would like this, or tell me what is something you do in your family to teach the Word of God to your kids? I am always looking for new ideas! Giveaway will close on Friday May 20th!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

She is Priceless

mercy-house-she-is-priceless-social-media3-460x307

Mother’s Day was celebrated on Sunday. It is always a time that I am happy about, but I also approach it with a heart heavy for the women who may be hurting.

I posted this on my FB page on Sunday morning. Based on the likes and shares – it is a feeling felt by many women.

“To all the women who have lost babies too soon…I honor you today.

To the women who desperately want children but can’t for some reason…I honor you today.

To the women who have wayward children and spend today in worry….I honor you today.

To the women who work full time outside of the home help care for their family….I honor you today.

To the single mother who struggles to make ends meet….I honor you today.

To the stay at home moms who don’t always feel valued or appreciated….I honor you today.

Mother’s Day isn’t always a happy day for some and my prayer is that we would lift up women in prayer today. Remembering that there are women hurting on the inside and seek to encourage them in a special way today!!”

Having gone through my own miscarriage and loss and having dealt with years of infertility…I know the heartache that the journey to motherhood can bring.

As hard as I felt my own individual journey was, the reality is there are women struggling who are dealing with some really unimaginable situations.

One of my favorite non-profits is Mercy House Global.

Mercy House Global

Kristen Welch is the real deal. A woman who’s heart was broken for the mothers in Kenya, Kristen started the Mercy House as a place of refuge for young, unwed pregnant mothers.

Giving them a place to stay, education and skills training so that they could have sustainable employment in the future, Kristen saw these women as the priceless treasure that they were.

So often we just turn our eyes away.

The reality of rape, abortion, unwed pregnant teens in extreme poverty….well it can seem like too much to handle. How could one person make a difference?

But through organizations like Mercy House I have discovered that I CAN make a difference. I can be involved without going to Africa myself. By purchasing products from Fair Trade Friday, I am buying products from women who are finally being given an opportunity to be employable and take care of their own families.

With each product I am reminded that these beautiful women are priceless.

My family spoiled me this Mother’s Day and now it is my turn to honor another women.

The “She is Priceless” campaign is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of oppressed women.

Mercy House is one of 5 non-profits that is joining in this movement. Today I am wearing this beautiful pearl necklace and earrings in honor of every woman who has lived in oppression.

Mercy House Global 2

Would you join me today in spreading the word about this campaign? You could put on a pearl necklace of your own and take a selfie with #putonyourpeaarls, and share it on social media. Or consider taking your lunch money, or latte cash for the day and donating it to one of the five organizations on the She is Priceless webpage.

And please be in prayer for the mama’s out there that are hurting. Let us not forget that every woman, no matter their story or background, is priceless.

**As a long-time advocate for Mercy House I was sent the pearl necklace with my commitment to help spread the word about the She is Priceless campaign. I purchased the matching earrings from Fair Trade Friday myself!**

Chasing Sunsets and Looking for Lovely

Sunrise

I love me a good sunrise or sunset.

My ONLY regret about the house we bought here in MN is that we can’t see the sunrises or sunsets very well. Homes and trees block the majority of our view, so while I get glimpses, I never get the full picture sitting inside my home.

But there is the rare occasion that I am bringing kids to school or heading home from church on Wednesday nights that I get to take in the beauty of a sunrise/sunset in its full glory.

I connect with God through His creation. There is something special about seeing the colors change across the sky, so brief and fleeting, but realizing the promise that they always return with each new day.

There are moments when I wish I could take time and just chase sunsets, every day, seek out that beauty and pause to take it all in. Because often times I struggle to see any light at all…

I have battled with depression for probably longer than I’d like to admit.

I do a pretty good job of disguising it for those I come in contact with. I can fix myself up and pretend that I have got it all together. But the banter that happens in my head is anything but put together and lovely.

It is often negative and oppressive, filled with comparison and littered with envy and jealousy. I want what I think you have and have to fight to see the many (obvious) blessings in my own life. I know that I have so many things to be grateful for but sometimes the knowing isn’t enough, it seems.

Recently I got a book in the mail that has helped me feel less alone in this struggle, and also has set a path in motion to my seeking out the lovely in my day…even if it is small or seemingly insignificant.

In her book Looking for Lovely Annie writes this: “I had an addiction. For over twenty years I had taken all the pain and hurt and pushed it straight down my throat. For as much as I read the Bible, sat in Sunday school, and made church my second home, I wish I’d understood, “His ears are open for their cries for help” (Psalm 34:15) Instead of feeling any of the suffering, instead of pressing through the pain and taking it to God, trusting that He heard me, I escaped to anywhere that would feed me, and I stuffed my emotions down by covering them in layers of food.” (p.37)

In my book I have those lines underlined and where she has food, I crossed it out and wrote in anger. I could also have written shopping or any thing that I set out to do that fills me up and makes me “feel” more valuable…host a party so I get praise, work on the “perfect” blog post so I can encourage others and bolster my self esteem…the list could go on and on.

Instead of dealing with the heart of what’s at the center of the darkness I feel inside, I run to fill the emptiness with things that never fully satisfy.

In her journey to be “rebuilt”, Annie knew that “she needed the strength of heart to hold on until God could complete the work He had begun.” (p.47)

This rebuilding is hard, laborious work isn’t it? If you have walked through a time of self discovery yourself, you know that it is often painful and slow. There are days that I feel like I have taken several steps forward only to find myself right back in the muck of my old ways, full of mistakes.

In these times I need to take just a little time to focus on the lovely around me. A beautiful sky, the sound of the rain falling, a clean closet or some one on one time with one of my kids.

I loved what Annie had to say about it: “It’s not about pretending everything is beautiful and nothing is ugly and you have no questions or doubts and picking out the beautiful in your everyday is going to protect you from anything hurting ever. It’s about feeling the pain, letting the suffering be a part of your life…because there is beauty in choosing to feel that pain, in calling hurt what it is, and not pretending that everything is okay.” (p.76)

Ultimately I want to be able to be okay not being okay.

There is a freedom in being able to be transparent and honest, and I want that in my life. I want to recognize where I am still stuck, take responsibility for the things that are mine and find contentment and joy even if my life isn’t picture perfect.

Annie found that in many deep and meaningful ways. Her book is filled with both struggle and progress. As raw and honest as they come, she has walked this hard path and offers hope for those of us on a similar journey.

“It’s not that my life is all that different; it’s just that I see it differently. So it feels like a brand-new life.” (p.172)

So I am going to keep chasing sunsets, I will paint my fingernails a fun color and enjoy the little things that bring me joy. And I will also continue to allow God to refine me and my character. Allowing myself to be humbled because it brings healing. I don’t have to run from the hard, or stuff it away, or fill it with things of this world. Instead I will seek the lovely through it all and trust that even if my circumstances haven’t changed, that one day I too will begin to see differently as well.

I received an advance copy of Annie’s book as a part of her launch team. I LOVED this book and so I have a copy to share here with one of my readers. I think every woman needs to read this book – so leave a comment to be entered and I will pick the winner on Friday April 8th!

Giving Our Kids God’s Word {Giveaway}

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I love when our children embrace God’s Word. When they start to recognize the importance of understanding the stories contained within in a real way.

Karlena has had a “Baby Bible” now for a few years, but hasn’t had an actual Bible with the full text inside. She can’t read yet but very soon she will be reading on her own and I hope that she will learn to find God’s Word as a source of knowledge and comfort.

When this Bible arrived at our door Karlena was so excited. The bright colors and pictures on the front and throughout remind you of a Disney movie! In fact one friend asked if it was a Disney Bible!

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It is a NIrV edition, so it is an “easy reader” for children, with easier text for them to understand. Elijah asked me to read them some verses so since we were close to Easter I opened it to Matthew so that I could read portions of the crucifixion story.

Some of our favorite pages in the Bible were these insert pages.

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There was the Lord’s Prayer, the ABC’s of accepting Christ and the books of the Bible. I read one review that stated she wished there had been more of those pages throughout and I agree. Those were the pages Karlena kept turning to herself!

At church this past Sunday our Pastor talked about Peter. And while all of the passages he read were familiar to me, hearing it again brought new life and new meaning to who he was.

I think that is why we need to continue to encourage our kids to read God’s Word over and over. The meaning, our understanding, of the stories change over time. As we grow in our faith we can start to apply the principles to our own lives.

In 30+ years I want my kids to nod in agreement at a familiar story and at the same time see it all in a new light. 

Do you have a favorite children’s Bible for kids in this 6-10 age group? I’d love to hear about it!!

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The Under the Sea Holy Bible, NIrV is a perfect gift for children ages 6 to 10. Themes of underwater fun and sparkling fish grace the interior of this wonderful children’s Bible. The outside is covered in foil and sparkle. The interior has color inserts featuring whimsical underwater scenes with themes of God’s care and love for each of us and all of creation.

Learn More: http://www.zondervan.com/under-the-sea-holy-bible-nirv

I was sent the Under the Sea Bible as  a free gift in exchange for my honest review. In addition the wonderful people at #FlyByPromotions have another copy to send to one of my wonderful readers! Do you have a child between the ages of 6-10 that would love this Bible?! Leave a comment below and I will pick a winner on Friday April 1st!

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