Giving Your Kids the World When You’re Running on Empty

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Sometimes the things we do to bless our kids end up blessing us even more. We serve a God who shows up in unexpected ways.

A few months ago, my firstborn started taking piano lessons. He has an amazing musical instinct and was playing songs in no time, filling our house with Christmas carols in December.

Since we welcomed our third child around Thanksgiving it’s been increasingly difficult for me to get him to his lessons on time. Most days I sit in the car and nurse our newborn while little brother sits in the back watching DVDs, popping his head between the front seats every now and then to tell me about the scene in a movie.

One afternoon I was feeling defeated and overly tired. I almost forgot about firstborn boy’s lesson altogether.

When it was over I debated whether I should walk in and chat with his teacher. Baby girl was sitting in her car seat, happily fed, so went to the front door and found my son there, putting on his shoes.

His teacher told me they’d been learning movie theme songs. Superman was a big hit.

My son had explained to her how there were some movies his dad and I wouldn’t let him watch yet.

“You’re really smart for doing that,” his teacher said. “They’re so vulnerable at this age.”

It was a small affirmation, but in that moment it was huge. Even in the struggle and transition, she gave me confidence we were doing something right.

And each week she continued giving me little nuggets of encouragement.

It reminded me how whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re always planting seeds. And the good seeds we plant in our kids will always yield a harvest, whether it’s immediate or years down the road.

That same week, I began reading a beautiful children’s introductory bible called Bible Basics to our baby girl. She fussed a few minutes after I started and I admit I wondered why I even bothered.

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But even through my discouragement, I know I’m planting seeds.

She may not understand the words yet, but her little mind is expanding like a wet sponge. If some of the first truths she hears are about a Creator who adores her, I know I’m doing something good.

Bible Basics: A Baby Believer Counting Primer is filled with colorful, vibrant illustrations and staple verses for children to learn as they grow. It is perfect for a baby or toddler-aged child. It teaches kids the core tenets of Christianity in a way that is easy for them to understand. I am confident that the more I continue reading it to my daughter, the more she will enjoy it.

I know there will still be days when I wonder if I’m doing anything right. I will forget to sign homework and lose my patience with the kids. But when I doubt, I’ll continue planting seeds.

I’ll keep telling them about the amazing God who created the universe, but is still compassionate enough to care about each hair on their heads. I’ll keep looking for ways to make faith part of their everyday lives.

If you’re looking for a way to introduce faith to your kids in a simple, easy-to-understand way, I highly recommend Bible Basics. It is a great resource for parents of young children, and the illustrations are captivating.

Let’s keep sowing those good seeds. You never know when God will show you the fruit of your harvest.

Sometimes it’s in ways you least expect it.


GIVEWAY:
bible-basics-coverHey friends, I’m giving away a copy of Bible Basics to one of you lovely readers! To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment below. You can be entered multiple times by sharing this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Make sure to let me know you shared the post in your comment.

I will announce the winner next Thursday, January 26th.

 

*Two copies of Bible Basics were provided to me by The Blythe Daniel Agency in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to provide a positive review.

 

 

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Why the Broken Way is the Only Way to Redemption {Plus a Giveaway You Don’t Want to Miss}

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Nothing makes you realize how broken you are like trying to care for another living, breathing soul.

I remember the days after my first son was born. The sheer weight of knowing I was responsible for his life brought me to my knees.

I tried to take care of myself too, but some days I would look at the clock and wonder why I was so hungry. Then I’d realize I’d forgotten to eat.

We were in a new town thousands of miles away from my family and the culture was vastly different from what I knew. We found a church with conservative views that taught the Bible and I tried to connect with God in the messages I heard each week, but I always felt like something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but there was a hunger in my soul I couldn’t fill with all the singing, the studying, the striving to measure up.

Some days I looked at my newborn and wondered how I would teach him about a God I wasn’t even sure I knew. I could quote scripture and knew the Word, but where was peace? I could pretend to walk the walk and sing worship songs, but where was joy?

When I broke down crying at my OBGYN’s office after he asked the loaded question, “Do you work?” He prescribed an antidepressant.

I spent the next several days barely eating or sleeping. I questioned the value of my life before deciding to do what I feared the most: call a psychologist.

Today I look back on this period of my life and wonder what took me so long. What is it we fear about admitting our own brokenness, our lack and need for someone to pick up the fragmented pieces of our lives?

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Do we think our Savior will look down at the shards and say, “No, this one isn’t worth saving?”

That when he hung on the cross during his final moments and breathed his last words, “It is finished,” somehow it didn’t pertain to us?

I think in a deep place we don’t often talk about, we have this fear.

And as I sat on that sofa in the counselor’s office seven years ago, I faced this fear with trembling hands and lips. The more I talked and the more she listened, I realized there were layers upon layers of fears, lies and pain I was holding onto.

I was afraid if I let them go there would be nothing left but me. And that wouldn’t be enough.

Can I tell you something I eventually learned?

Admitting our brokenness is the only way to truly find Jesus.

Whatever our hurt, our secret sin or fear is, we have to let him in. We have to invite him to that place if we ever want to find healing.

In Ann Voskamps beautiful new book, The Broken Way, she gives a message of hope. But it’s also a message of pain and struggle. Her lyrical writing and heartfelt stories reveal how struggle, pain and brokenness are intricately intertwined in a relationship with Jesus. But through our need and our suffering, we also find joy. We find a relationship more intimate than anything this world has to offer. We find meaning and purpose.

Through Ann’s words, I’m remembering how far God has brought me from my experience as a new mom several years ago. But also seeing how I’m the same. I’m the same needy, broken girl in need of a Savior to scoop me up out of the pit and set me on a solid rock to stand. And that is ok.

In Ann’s words, “Our brokenness can be a container for God’s glory.”

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

If you’re in a place where you’re wondering if God can use the messy, broken pieces of your life or you simply need a message of hope in a world that is often heart wrenching and confusing, I highly recommend Ann’s book. She will encourage you and challenge you to bring the mess to the feet of Jesus, where you will find wholeness and truth.

All of us are broken in our own unique way. All of us need a Savior. Sometimes we just need another scarred soul to show us the way home.

 

Note: The Broken Way Study Guide with DVD will be available in November. Be on the lookout for another giveaway!

GIVEAWAY:

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As a member of BlogAbout, a blogging review network and extension of The Blythe Daniel Agency, I received two advanced copies of The Broken Way. I would love to give away a copy to one of my readers. To enter the drawing, leave a comment below. You can be entered multiple times by sharing on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Make sure to let me know you shared the post in your comment. I will announce the winner on Monday, November 7th.

 

 

 

 

Linking up with these communities: #HeartEncouragement, #ThoughtProvokingThursday

His Invitation is as Unique as We Are {Book Review & Giveaway}

come with me book review

“Come with me,” is one of my four-year-old’s favorite requests. Actually, it’s more like a command. You see, he has lots of things he wants to show everyone. His newest discoveries, creations and accomplishments.

Every day, our Creator opens his eyes to new things, and it is beautiful to watch. I can kneel beside him and reclaim some of that childlike wonder I lost as an adult. I chase butterflies and bubbles as he squeals with delight, making it impossible for me not to laugh.

But the latest creation we chased? Well, that one was my favorite. We chased the sun.

A couple of weeks ago we traveled to my sister-in-law’s college for her graduation and toward the end of the car ride, the sun was setting. The horizon turned a spectacular shade of orange, and the sun would occasionally hide behind the hills and trees.

As soon as my little one saw it, he bubbled with excitement.

“Look at the color! Look!”

Then, it would disappear and the chase would start.

“We have to find sun, Dadda! We have to find it! It’s hiding.”

My husband and I could not stop smiling as our four-year-old hunted the sun with complete determination. As I trailed it with him I wondered when we lose that. When does the God’s creation become something we take for granted?

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Then, as darkness took over and the sun “went to sleep” I thought, “What if we had that same childlike wonder in our relationship with the Lord? What if, instead of doubt and fear, we reclaimed a sense of awe as we followed his lead into the unknown?”

When I received my copy of Suzanne Eller’s book, Come with Me, I knew I was going to be challenged. One can look at the blurb on the back cover and be assured of that. But what I didn’t expect was the awakening which would take place in my heart. I didn’t see how Jesus’ invitation to, “Come with me,” can be as unique and individual as we are.

One of the many beautiful attributes of the gospel message is the way God makes it come alive to each one of us. As I sat there with my book, reading about the disciples, their struggles and their questions, I realized I wasn’t just a spectator.

I was one of them. I am one of them. And just like Peter, John and Thomas, Jesus wants to use me.

My journey won’t look like everyone else’s. It may mean traveling to a foreign land or it could be sitting in a newborn’s bedroom, rocking through the midnight shift. I could be sharing my story with hundreds of people or it might be loving on one single mom in my kitchen.

The significance of accepting Jesus’ invitation to “come with me” isn’t in what we do. It’s in the faith it requires to take the first step. 

And then another. And another.

We may not know where we’re going, but we can trust the person we’re following. We don’t have to chase him the way my four-year-old and I chased the sun, but we can have the same childlike excitement.

Because it’s going to be a beautiful adventure.


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If you’re at a point in your life where you want more of Jesus, I highly recommend Suzanne Eller’s book, Come with Me. She will take you by the hand and sit among the disciples with you as you explore what Jesus’ invitation to “come with me” meant and how it was as unique as you are.

You can pick up a copy of Come with Me here.

GIVEAWAY:

Also, comment below and be entered to win a free copy from me! I will announce the winner or Tuesday, May 24th.

Are You Ready to Break the Measuring Stick? {A Book Review}

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Sometimes the places where we find our emotional outlets can also become the places we fall into the trap of comparison.

I know. Several years ago, I found myself in one of these places.

MOPS had become a lifeline for me. I was in a new town where I didn’t know many moms, and I craved connection with other humans who were going through the midnight feedings, the endless diaper changes and lack of sleep.

I could leave my kid for a couple of hours in a place where I knew he’d be safe and commiserate with other moms. What could be better than that?

I left the meetings feeling refreshed and ready to take on another day of mothering. That is, until I started comparing myself to the other moms. And my kid to their kids. And my house their house and my neighborhood to theirs.

Comparison is a slippery slope, isn’t it?

One minute we’re thanking God for a sense of normalcy and community, and the next we’re questioning our abilities as a mom and our kid’s progression on the milestone chart.

Is there a way to get over it? Can we put away our measuring sticks and live in the fullness of our unique identities in Christ?

I believe we can, but it takes a daily commitment. It takes a daily renewal of the mind and surrender to God’s ways instead of our own.

When I learned my dear friend, Kristine Brown, was writing a book about comparison, I was thrilled. I was even more excited when I got my hands on my own copy of the book. As I read through its pages, I was not disappointed.

Kristine takes the reader through the stories of three women in the Bible who struggled with comparison and gives practical, doable steps to help us turn our comparison into peace in who we are. Even though comparison is not limited to motherhood or physical appearance, she illustrates that the same steps can be used to conquer its many forms.

Many times as I was going through the chapters I found myself nodding my head in agreement many times thinking, “Me too. Me too.” Seeing how other women from scripture struggled with the same tendencies we face today and how they overcame them empowered me to do the same. It showed me I am not alone, and with God’s help, I can find peace with who He created me to be as a wife, mother, writer and friend.

We all struggle with comparison at some point. The question is are we going to let it dictate our lives or do something about it?

If you’re like me and you’re tired of chasing after other people’s goals, achievements and dreams, I highly recommend Kristine’s book. She will show you there is a better, more Spirit-driven way.

With God’s help, we can break the measuring stick and walk in the freedom He gives.


Over It SPINE (1)

Over It: Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan is available now on Amazon and where books are sold. You can purchase your copy here.

Kristine Brown is a wife, dramatist, life-long educator and mentor. She is the founder of More Than Yourself, Inc. college scholarship program for junior high girls.

You can also find Kristine on her blog, More Than Yourself, and on her growing Facebook community.


*We will continue our Rays in the Storm series on Thursday. Thank you to everyone who has read, commented and made my guest writers feel welcome. You are a blessing!

Need a Survival Guide for Raising Big Kids? {A Book Review}

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“As soon as you get them a car, everything goes downhill.”

My sister-in-law recounted my mother’s words, chuckling. I was eighteen at the time, and between my attraction to troublesome boys, my aversion to a curfew, and my disrespect for the rules at the Christian school I attended, I was giving them more than their fair share of grief.

I don’t remember ever making an active decision to cause them stress, but I do remember trying to find my way and discover who I was. Testing boundaries felt natural to me. Looking back, I can see missteps I took along the way, but I also see the lessons I learned from them.

Will my kids feel the same way?

Both my boys are still several years away from being teenagers, but whenever I think about that stage of parenthood my mind races with questions.

“Will my parenting style push them to retreat or come to me when they’re in over their head?”

“Will they choose friends who will build their character or care nothing about them?”

“Will they treat women with the respect their father has modeled for them?”

If there’s one thing parenting has taught me, it’s that I can’t control every aspect of my kids’ behavior. But I also know my time with them is short, and I need to seize each moment I have to teach them. I realize the behavior and love I model to them speaks volumes more than trite phrases like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I also know they are sinners just like me, and their nature dominates at times when I least expect it.

When we enter into unfamiliar waters, it helps to have the wisdom and experience of moms who have gone before us. The mere fact that they survived those difficult stages and have kids who did as well encourages me and keeps me going when things are rough.

When I discovered Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love by Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, I was thrilled. This book is a tremendous resource to parents who are raising teens and tweens, and to those who will be in that stage in a few years.

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The book is based on 1 Corinthians 13, and takes each aspect of love mentioned in this passage of scripture to show how model the type of behavior we desire from our kids. By being patient, kind, and truthful with our kids, we encourage them to do the same. Lori and Becky also talk about how using passive aggressive methods like guilt trips cause more harm than good and send mixed signals to our children. Straightforward honesty is always the best method, and telling our kids the truth goes much further than trying to manipulate.

By identifying our go-to parenting style and the strengths and weaknesses which go along with it, we can more easily spot unhealthy behaviors and see how they could negatively affect our kids. The authors also help the readers come up with strategies to avoid these negative habits and replace them with methods which have proven effective.

This book is one I will keep on my shelf for years to come, and I know I will refer back to it often when I reach those difficult teenage years. I highly recommend it to anyone who is in the trenches of the tween and teen years, and am confident it will help them with information which is both practical and relatable.

If you are looking for a resource to help you through the tough seasons of raising big kids, look no further.


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Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson, M.Ed. are experienced moms and former teachers who now minister to families as licensed parent and family educators.

Raising Kids with Supernatural Love is an outpouring of this ministry and is available now on Amazon. You can purchase your copy here.

You can also find both of the authors along with many other helpful tools on their website, 1Corinthians13Parenting.com.

Are We Ignoring a Crucial Area of Our Health? {Book Review & Giveaway}

Peace for a Lifetime Book Review

I spent my first year as a mother trying to stuff my emotions.

My husband and I began our marriage by moving cross-country, over two thousand years from a town in the heart of South Carolina where I’d spent my entire life. Less than two months later, I saw two solid lines on a pregnancy test I bought while on my lunch break at work.

In the months following the arrival of our baby boy, everything was foreign. The crying, the breastfeeding and lack of sleep, not to mention the culture of our new home and surroundings.

I felt like I was on a sinking ship without an anchor, but was afraid to cry out for help. Screams of “failure” filled my head at night when I tried to rest, waiting for our firstborn’s next feeding.

Even a trip home over Christmas to satiate my craving for family, southern fried chicken and sweet tea could not lift my spirits for long. I knew I needed help, but the remedies I sought addressed other areas of my health instead of the emotional pain I was experiencing.

After spending an hour in the gym, my physical needs were met. Worship and messages straight from the Gospel filled our little family’s Sunday morning, so I was spiritually filled.

What I failed to realize is that until I addressed the emotional area of my well-being, I would never attain complete health.

I was pouring into other facets of my life and expecting fulfillment, but was ignoring my emotions altogether. When my OBGYN prescribed me with a second anti-depressant, which failed miserably and left me questioning the value of my own life, I knew something had to change. I made a phone call to a Christian counselor recommended by our church.

Dialing those numbers was the first step in my journey toward healing.

When I read the opening chapters of Lisa Murray’s book, Peace for a Lifetime, all I could think was, “I wish I’d had this book seven years ago.” She addresses some of the core issues I dealt with during my first year as a mom, and illustrates how ignoring our emotional health will only lead to an unbalanced life.

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As Lisa poignantly explains, our lives of comprised of three areas: physical, spiritual, and emotional. When we spend time nurturing each of these facets, we are healthy and balanced, like a three-legged stool. But just as the stool becomes wobbly when we remove one of the legs, our lives become out of sync when we fail to spend time and energy on one of these three areas. Just like the pounds pile on when we eat fast food every day and fail to exercise, our emotional health suffers when we don’t spend time addressing the source of our anger, depression, resentment, etc.

Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions is a great gift in that all of the energy we spend not feeling them can be focused on reasoning through them so we can understand them and manage them well. (page 8)

Lisa spends the remaining chapters showing how we reach emotional abundance, and explains how devoting time to our own health will lead to peace and thriving relationships. As with any other area of our life, we start with God, because until we have peace with Him, we will never know true peace in any other realm.

Whether you are in a season of life where peace eludes you or you’ve been searching for it your whole life, I highly recommend Peace for a Lifetime. Lisa takes you by the hand and shows you there is life and abundance beyond the stress, striving and yearning for something more. With the practical, easy-to-follow steps she offers and the knowledge she brings to the table, you will see peace isn’t just an illusion or a fantasy.

It is indeed possible, and it can be for life.


 

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Purchase Info and Giveaway

Lisa Murray,’s book is available now and you can purchase it here. I am also giving away a free copy to one of my readers! Simply comment below and share on one social media outlet. I will announce the winner on Thursday, March 17.

Do You Need to Wake Up Your Faith? {A Book Review}

curious faith book review

I didn’t question the existence of God as a child. I grew up in the church, attended a Christian school and went to youth group on Wednesday nights.

I believed what I was taught.

One hot summer night at Billy Graham’s Cove Camp in Asheville, North Carolina, I repeated a simple prayer in the light of the campfire, surrounded by other campers. As I look back on that young girl, I think there was sincerity in those words I uttered up to the heavens. But I also know the prayer was more of an emotional response to what I was hearing than I genuine grasp on what it meant to follow Jesus.

Several years later, I entered college. And I was curious. I was curious about many things which had nothing to do with faith. Boys, illegal substances, zen and more boys. God was nowhere to be found on my list.

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, in the wake of a new marriage, a cross-country move and the birth of my first child that I had an encounter with God I’ll never forget, and I knew there was no turning back. I was suffering from postpartum depression, struggling to make it through each day. He met me there in the middle of my darkness.

In the days following the surrender of my life to Christ, curiosity filled me. I dug into the Word like a drowning person gasping for air. I read books about faith, Jesus and ministry.

But like most believers, I eventually entered a season where it seemed as though God was distant. I would open my Bible with eager expectation for the words to come alive, only to be met with black and white ink on a page.

When I heard about Logan Wolfram’s book, Curious Faith, I was instantly intrigued because the description reminded me of the childlike wonder I had when I first entered into a relationship with God. As I read it, her words did not disappoint.

Logan shows her readers that God is not a character in a book, but a living person who desires a relationship with us.

She invites you into her story and a real, vulnerable way and shares her heartbreaks, disappointments and failures, unedited. She shows that by letting go of our white-knuckle control and surrendering our plans to God, we are able to enter into an adventure with him unlike anything we could imagine or orchestrate on our own.

If you think that life will break you, then at some point you will become afraid to really live it. -Logan Wolfram

Curious Faith made me realize I was trying to contain God, to make Him fit in the neat box I’d created for Him. Although I wasn’t aware if it, my actions illustrated this view I had of my relationship with Him.

But our God can’t be contained. And as Logan so beautifully illustrates, when we try to contain him we, “miss out on the adventure of faith.”

If you are feel like your relationship with God has grown stagnant and are looking to wake up a tired faith, Curious Faith is for you. Logan Wolfram’s writing will cause you to look at faith with fresh eyes, and will leave you hungry for a God who is waiting for you to come to Him.


 

Curious Faith Book Cover

 

Curious Faith is available for pre-order on Amazon now and Logan is including some fun freebies for those who order this week. It will be released on March 1, 2016.

The book includes an 8-session small group study and discussion guide. Your can order your copy of the book by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Linking up with these communities: #CoffeeForYourHeart