Grace Upon Grace

Hello friends! I hope this post finds you all well. I want to share with you my newest project, completed just this morning. But first, a story…the background behind this new addition to my family room. 

I awoke Sunday morning to the smell of sewer gas in our main floor bathroom. I’d love to say that I calmly thought through the situation, but that would be a lie. I freaked out. Not only because of the sewer gas smell, although it was quite bad, but because I was not sure I could handle one more home repair. Everyone (including myself) talks about “seasons” of life. Well, our “season” lately has been the season of everything-is-breaking-and-costing-so-much-more-money-than-we-have. I really felt like I was holding it all together okay, until Sunday. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. 

We’ve been waiting to hear back from a banker about some details in regard to fixing all that needs to be fixed around here. I have been anxiously checking emails, voicemail, and even the mailbox for any sign of an update from the banker. Sitting in church Sunday morning, God convicted my heart that while I have been searching for news from a banker, I have completely ignored His Word to me. I know that God’s Word speaks to the struggles that we face, and I know that He promises He’ll never give us more than we can handle. But for whatever reason, I realized I had not been holding tight to those truths. 

In his message on Sunday, our pastor talked about gratefulness. He told the story of an older woman he knew…she worked at a coffee shop and had to drag large bags of garbage across the parking lot to the dumpster. One day, while dragging several large garbage bags, she chose to not complain about the job…instead she smiled at our pastor and remarked how very thankful she was for garbage men. After all, she said, we’d be in a world of hurt if they didn’t come and drag away all this garbage! To some of you, that may seem silly or trite…but it resonated within me. Several years ago, God did a work on my heart to teach me to be more grateful. And for a season, I was…our whole family became more grateful. And every Friday morning, when Tanner would wheel the garbage can to the curb, he would come inside to kiss me goodbye and say, “I’m really thankful this morning for garbage men.” I realized Sunday morning how far I’d drifted from living a life of thankfulness. How long had it been since I had thanked God for something? It seemed like more often than not lately, I was only asking Him for something…all the while, ignoring the blessings that surround me. 

It was Tanner’s idea Sunday afternoon to post a “Thankfulness” board somewhere in our house. Something to visually remind us to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done, for indeed He has done much for us. And if you know me at all, you know that I love any reason to be crafty…so I dug through the pile of decorations in the basement, and made a Thankful Wall in our family room. The verse God has used in my heart over and over the past few days is John 1:16…”For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Grace upon grace…it’s all grace. Everything that happens, whether I deem it good or bad…it all occurs because there is a God in Heaven who loves me more than I could ever comprehend, and He allows things to transpire because His is good, faithful, and just. All the time. And for that I am truly grateful. 

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An old 3-pane window, rescued from the trash a while ago, became a place to write our thanks with a dry-erase marker. The two picture frames above were garage sale finds a while back, and the little porcelain plate hanging from the black picture frame was only $2 at Michael’s. The “GrAcE upon gRaCe” on the top of the window was made from $3 scrapbooking stickers, adhered to the window with a little bit of hot glue. And the cute little burlap flower on the bottom was also a Michael’s find. Total cost for this project was $10!

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I love that our new "Thankful Wall" is right next to my desk!

I love that our new “Thankful Wall” is right next to my desk!

The idea behind this Thankful Wall is that anyone can write down anything for which they are thankful. Big or small…doesn’t matter. It’s a way of reminding us that there is always something to be thankful for, and that “while we may not always feel joy, God asks us to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving.” (Ann Voskamp)

The wonderful author Ann Voskamp also wrote in her best-selling book, One Thousand Gifts, “The joy of small things makes life large.” I forgot how much I love that quote!! And I’m reminded how deeply I want to instill this into my heart as well as my children’s hearts. And so as we fill this window with many small acts of thankfulness, it is my prayer and hope that from it will rise people who view life in a very big way. 

And so I hope that you’ll join me in this journey of thanksgiving. You certainly don’t have to hang old windows on your wall and scribble notes of thanks on it…only weird people do that, right?! ;-) Whether you post them for all to see, scribble them privately in a journal, or secretly draw them across your heart…it doesn’t matter. All that matters, I’m slowly learning, is that we slow down and take the time to notice the work God is doing around us, and that we give Him all the thanks and glory that He deserves. Join me?

Blessings to you today! 

 

My Favorite Seasoning!

Happy Wednesday! Half-way through the week already!

I wanted to share a quick post today with you about my most favorite way to season foods. I ran across a recipe awhile ago in a magazine for Basil Salt. I have no idea now what magazine it was, but I’m thankful I jotted down the recipe and gave it a try. It’s wonderful! The first time I made a batch of it, I think I was putting it on everything in sight! 

If you have fresh basil from your garden, this is a perfect way to use it up before fall arrives. Once dried, the Basil Salt should last for quite some time in an airtight container. 
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First, place 3 cups of loosely packed basil leaves into a food processor. Then add 3-4 minced garlic cloves, and 1/2 cup of kosher salt. 
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Whiz it all together in your food processor, and it should look something like this. Not so appetizing…yet! :-) 
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Distribute the mixture evenly onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and leave to air dry for 3-5 days. Yes, you read that right….3 to 5 DAYS…it takes a while for all of the moisture to evaporate. During this time, redistribute the mixture several times to ensure even drying. I put ours in a room in the basement with our dehumidifier, and it dried really well. And, here’s the disclaimer…your house will indeed smell like basil and garlic for a few days. Not overwhelmingly so, but just enough to make people think you’re cooking something wonderful in your kitchen! :-) 

I had enough basil from my garden to do a quadruple batch.

I had enough basil from my garden to do a quadruple batch.

Once the mixture is completely dry, you’ll put it back into your food processor and whirl it all together until it’s the consistency of a coarse-grain salt. Now it’s ready to store in a container, and be used on all sorts of yummy foods. I keep mine in a glass canning jar on the kitchen counter, along with a jar of sea salt and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. These are my go-to items when cooking, and it’s so nice to have them easily accessible. And, I think they look cute like this, too! 

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My most favorite ways to use Basil Salt…..

*Sprinkled atop scrambled eggs. My morning breakfast has never tasted so good!

*Add a bit to some olive oil in a shallow dish, and use it for dipping artisan breads. 

*Season boneless skinless chicken breasts with the basil salt before grilling. 

*Add a small spoonful to ground beef before forming into hamburger patties. 

Let me know if you try making Basil Salt, and tell me how you like to use it in your kitchen. Happy cooking!!!! 

 

 

Recent Happenings

I guess these unintentional blog sabbaticals keep happening?! Hello again to anyone who still reads this ever-so-randomly-updated blog!! 

Why, you might ask, have I not posted in awhile? Well, it could possibly be related to any of the following happenings around our house…..

1) School Started. I now have a 4th grader and a 1st grader. When did that happen?! So far school is going well. Nadia loves it, but Jayda struggles a little more to warm up to the idea. All in all, though, we’re off to a good start. 

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2) I’m working. With the start of the school year comes my “job” again…doing after-school daycare in our home. This year I have some new families I’m working for, and it’s going really well. Even though the afternoons are a bit busy around here, I love these kids!! It’s such a great way for me to make a little income without working outside the home, and I love being able to interact with these families.

3) I began a new healthy-living program online. I follow “The Grace and Strength Lifestyle” on Facebook…it’s a Christian-based weight loss/healthy living organization. A month or so ago, they posted a link to a webinar they were hosting. Curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to learn more about the program. It sounded like it might be similar to another program I’d done in high school, where I’d lost quite a bit of weight. Long story short…the program sounded amazing, but was a bit more money than we were able to spend at this point in our lives (more on that later). But at the end of the webinar, they announced they’d be giving away a FREE program, and guess who won it?! Me!!!! :-) You guys….seriously. I never win anything, so this was big for me!! When I told Tanner that I’d won it, he said I should go buy a lottery ticket! ;-) I’m three weeks into the program, and really enjoying it. It’s stretching me for sure, but for the better. I can’t wait to sign-on again tomorrow night for our online study. 

4) We’ve had numerous appointments and paperwork with basement repair companies and banks. Oh, how I love the repairs that homeownership sometimes brings! Did you sense the sarcasm there?! We recently discovered some issues in our basement that need immediate attention. Immediate expensive attention. To say that we’ve been a little stressed about it might be an understatement. The price tag for this repair is far above any amount of money we’re able to write a check for, and so we’re having to be creative in how we can swing this. So if you think about it…pray for that for us. It’s not fun, but I am anxious to watch and see how God provides. Because He always has, and always will. Sometimes it’s just hard for me to be patient and trust. 

5) Tanner received his passport in the mail last week!!!! We’re still not entirely sure when he will have the opportunity to travel for missions work, but we’re so thankful he has the first step in the paperwork process. The missionary film-makers that he’s been asked to possibly travel with are headed to Europe on October 12th to begin their ministry. Pray for them as they acclimate, and for clear direction as to when they could use Tanner’s help. Also, if this amazing opportunity works out, we’ll need to do some fundraising in order for Tanner to be able to go. He’ll have transportation costs, costs while overseas, as well as some pre-trip equipment costs. We know that individuals going on missions trips will often raise money through letters sent in the mail. We’re thinking of doing something a bit different. We’d love to be able to talk with each person interested in helping to support Tanner, as well as open our home to those conversations. So we’re thinking of doing a gigantic bake sale fundraiser. It’d be open house style, with baked goods galore…wrapped and ready to take home for anyone willing to stop over and celebrate this exciting opportunity with us. So I want your opinion…good idea, or silly idea? 

 

Well there’s your Archer family update for today. :-)

 

 

On a completely unrelated note….to any of my fellow garage sale-ers/antique-ers/thrifters….you may know that Tanner and I have a slight love for coffee. Just slightly. (there’s that sarcasm again!) Several months ago, at a local museum, I saw this antique wall-mounted coffee grinder. I fell in love!!! If you ever see anything like this in your outings, call me right away! I would love to add this to our coffee collection. 

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I hope you are all enjoying your Labor Day, and I wish many, many blessings to each and every one of you!!!

 

Summer Updates

How on earth is it already the last full week of summer vacation?! Holy smokes!! 

Last week we celebrated Nadia’s 7th birthday. A little gymnast at heart, she requested a gymnastics-themed party. Combining figurines from the toy box and a LOT of blue sugar to mimic a gymnastics mat, here’s my attempt at a gymnastics cake. 

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She requested a gym mat with girls doing routines on it, and a judge’s desk. That was all her idea! :-)

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She really, really wanted a real gymnastics mat for her birthday, but I was floored by how expensive they are! A good friend of mine texted me the week of her birthday that she saw one on a Sports Swap Site, and we were so thankful to be able to purchase it for her…it was literally 1/6th of the price of a new one. And EXACTLY the same size as the one we wanted for her! God is good! 
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Happy birthday, sweet girl! We love you so much!!! And we think you look adorable in the new leotards you got for your birthday. We love you, little gymnast! 

Let’s see…what else about this summer??

*Our girls have LOVED riding their bikes. I’m almost certain they’ve worn a groove into the sidewalk in front of our house. And we’ve had our first biking accident…Jayda flipped over her handlebars while riding over the weekend, and she’s pretty banged up. Poor girl. 

*We received some really exciting news about a possible opportunity for Tanner to do some traveling missions work. Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while might remember me writing about his desire to do video and photography work for missionaries overseas. It’s a long story, and a really cool story about how God is bringing up some opportunities for this dream to happen. We’re unsure of details, and honestly unsure how we’ll swing it, but we know that God is good and that He’ll prove Himself faithful if this is the path He has for our family. I’ll fill you in on details as we know more!

*On Saturday, our church burned down a house on the property in order to make room for an additional parking lot. We took the kids out to watch, and they loved it! After all, how often do you get to watch a house burn down? We may, however, regret that….Titus asked me today…”Mom, can I play with the dollhouse downstairs? And then can I please burn it down?” Yikes!!
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Speaking of Titus….I’ll leave you today with a photo collage of the many faces of Titus. He’s one funny boy!! Enjoy your Monday, everyone!!
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Hello there! That is, if anybody is still there? ;-) This summer has proved nearly impossible to blog with any sort of regularity. We’re having a great summer, but man alive…it’s flying by, and we’ve been busy.

I could tell you all about the fun things we’ve done, and we’ve certainly done our fair share. I could show you the fun photos we’ve take, capturing goofy memories and silly faces. But not today. Today, my heart feels the need to talk, and my heart likes to do that through words. And so as you read my words, know that you’re reading my heart.

The past two nights have been restless nights of sleep. Filled with dreams of various people going through numerous struggles, my heart aches even in my sleep.

We’re walking hand-in-hand with another loved one, both of us needing significant work on our houses, likely costing so much more than either of us are able to handle. And just yesterday, sitting in the parking lot of the pediatric orthodontist, gathering my thoughts about the painful (and extremely expensive) dental work one of my children needs. Sitting there, overwhelmed, when the door of our very tired old van makes a horrible noise, reminding me all too clearly how much we need a new vehicle, and how we can’t swing all of those expenses right now.

And then there’s things so much more significant and painful. Loved ones struggling through miscarriage. Others desiring long for a child, unable to see that dream fulfilled. Loved ones wading through disheartening news regarding the health of their unborn child. Heavy things.

In my dreams the past two nights, I have unsuccessfully tried to fix each and every one of these things. I saw myself working tirelessly to remedy each situation, and then awoke at 3:45 AM in a sort of panic attack…realizing fully that I have no control over anything. And while that realization makes me feel completely helpless and somewhat stranded, it also has reminded me how much I need to depend on the ONE who does have control. Over everything.

A pastor at church last Sunday said something that is radically changing the way I am trying to respond to these pressures in life.

“God is far more interested in our response to difficulties than He is in our relief from them.”

Wow! I’ve been praying a lot lately that my response to difficulties in my life and in the lives of those I love would be honoring to God. That I would stop desiring to fix everything, and start resting in His sovereign hand. That I would come up alongside those I love, hold their hands, cry with them if they need a good cry, and love them unconditionally through their struggles.

I’ve also been singing this song over and over to myself the last couple days. Encouraging!!

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to share my heart today. Maybe it’s because I know that if we’re all honest with each other, we’re all struggling in our own ways. And while I know everyone handles their struggles differently, I wanted to share with you how God has been challenging my heart lately. That maybe it might encourage you as it’s encouraged me?

So to anyone who is reading this today and struggling through something in their life, know that you’re not alone. Know that there are people in your life who love you very much, and want to walk through life with you. And know that even in the deepest darkest times, God is good. He loves you…more than you know.

Blessings, everyone!!

SUMMERTIME!

As I sit down to write today, I’m not even sure where to start. This blog that I really do love…it’s kinda taken a backseat lately. Summertime is upon us, and while in a sense it brings relaxed schedules, it also brings about a house-full of laundry, activities, and general upkeep that makes me busier than ever. But I love it!!

So for today…just a quick post with some updates and photos.

 

 

Family trip to the Ledges State Park. So fun!!!

Family trip to the Ledges State Park. So fun!!! We love playing with cousins!

Vacation Bible School! Such a fun week with friends!!

Vacation Bible School! Such a fun week with friends!!

Our neighbor was kind enough to pass along their son's toy tractor to Titus. He adores this tractor! He plays with it constantly, and gives it kisses goodnight before he goes to bed at night. Obsessed with farm stuff? Yes!

Our neighbor was kind enough to pass along their son’s toy tractor to Titus. He adores this tractor! He plays with it constantly, and gives it kisses goodnight before he goes to bed at night. Obsessed with farm stuff? Yes!

We spent most of the morning at The Farmer's Market last Saturday. Dutch letters, fresh coffee, and chocolate croissants...a good morning had by all!

We spent most of the morning at The Farmer’s Market last Saturday. Dutch letters, fresh coffee, and chocolate croissants…a good morning had by all!

My baby boy is big enough now to sit in a big-boy carseat. How is this possible, and where have the last almost 3 years gone?!

My baby boy is big enough now to sit in a big-boy carseat. How is this possible, and where have the last almost 3 years gone?!

 

A fun lunch with friends, and these two girlies got the sillies! :-)

A fun lunch with friends, and these two girlies got the sillies! :-)

 

Who doesn't love a cool summer evening around a bonfire with family?!

Who doesn’t love a cool summer evening around a bonfire with family?!

If you know us at all, you know Tanner and I love our coffee. Every day. We didn't think it was possible to like coffee more than we do until a good friend made us a latte from his awesome coffee grinder and espresso machine. It kinda blew our minds, to say the least. Seriously...how awesome is this cup of coffee?!

If you know us at all, you know Tanner and I love our coffee. Every day. We didn’t think it was possible to like coffee more than we do until a good friend made us a latte from his awesome coffee grinder and espresso machine. It kinda blew our minds, to say the least. Seriously…how awesome is this cup of coffee?!

 

To end the post today, I thought I’d share about a few instances over the past week that have reminded me how important kindness is. I attended a friend’s Pampered Chef party on Sunday. I smiled when I saw another guest at the show who shared something in common with me, although we’d never met. At 6 foot and 1 inch tall, it’s not often that I look literally eye-to-eye with another gal….this woman was actually taller than I am, and we laughed and chatted together about our lives as tall women. Sounds weird, I know…but it was fun and refreshing to chit-chat with someone “in the same boat.” We both had a choice to either strike up a conversation with each other, or completely ignore each other….I’d say we’re both better off for choosing the first of those two choices.

Another example happened just this morning at the grocery store. As I turned the corner for another aisle, a mom with two young children was blocking the aisle with her cart. She quickly apologized, to which I said there was no need, and then we both giggled as our sons struck up a conversation with one another. I smiled and continued to shop, when I noticed that in her hand was one of my all-time favorite books. A fairly new book, I was surprised to see someone else with it, as I’ve yet to hear of anyone else who has read it. What was going through my head was something along the lines of…”Oh my goodness! I adore that book! You like it, too? You must like it if you’re bringing it to the grocery store, because it’s chocked FULL of fantastic recipes and stories. I think you might be my new best friend. Really. We should get together and have coffee, and talk for hours about this amazing book.” But what I really said (as calmly as I could) was…”Is that Shauna Niequist’s newest book? It’s a great one, isn’t it?” And wouldn’t you know…this woman at the grocery store was just as excited to have this conversation as I was. We proceeded to share with each other which recipes we’ve tried in the book, which ones are our favorites, and we even shared tips with each other about how to improve on those recipes. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at the grocery store! And if you’re interested in reading this amazing book, as well…I couldn’t recommend in more highly. It’s amazing. Truly!
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Both of these instances were so much better than the instance at a different store yesterday. Both of my girls had saved for a long time to purchase some items on their wish lists. Armed with their purses and wallets containing their hard-earned money, they made their choices, and stood in line to make their purchases. A teaching moment ensued when the cashier gave them their totals, and we had to count out the correct amount of change. An older woman behind us in line (obviously annoyed by what was happening in front of her) huffed and puffed, rolled her eyes, and shouted out loud for another cashier to open another register. Apparently her time was so much more important than anyone else’s in the store at that moment in time? While I was temped to say something to her, I simply turned around and gave her the biggest, most joyful smile I could muster. It was slightly awkward when she glared back at me, yet I continued to smile. Chances are likely that my smile did nothing to improve her mood that morning, but my guess is she needed that more than she needed a harsh word.

I’ll leave you with this quote from George Saunders that I love.
“What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly. As a goal in life…try to be kinder.”

So, friends, what do you say? Try, along with me, to be kinder? There’s a lot of people out there who need some kindness in their lives. Let’s do what my mom used to always tell us when we were small….”Kill ‘em with kindness!” :-)

Blessings to you all today! Hopefully next time it won’t be a whole month before I post again!!

Mud Pits

Monday evening was a family work night at my sister and brother-in-law’s farm. Several things happened that evening that I had never anticipated….

1) My husband drove a tractor. And he liked it. Had you told me when I married him almost 11 years ago that I’d actually get to see this happen, I’d never have believed you. While I have always dreamed of farm life, it’s been the furthest thing from his mind. This picture makes me smile. :-)
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2) I drove an off-road vehicle. And I liked it. Sorry, no photo of that. But seriously, it was so fun!

3) I learned a very convicting lesson from my hard-working 6-year old. How adorable is she?!
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We arrived at the farm with a specific purpose…we were to pick up all of the sticks and logs that littered the field and load them into the loader bucket of the tractors. And while our kids had instructions to work hard and be diligent, we also wanted them to have fun, so told them that they could explore the farmland a little bit. It was a beautiful evening, and there were many areas for a child to explore. Except one….the muddy valley smack dab in the middle of the field. I told Nadia specifically to not go near the mud.

Several minutes later, above the roar of the tractor’s engine, I heard screaming. I turned around to see that not only had Nadia gone near the mud, she was stuck up to her ankles in the murky mess. The wet earth, like quicksand, had enveloped her, and she couldn’t escape. She was terrified, and I was angry.

My one-sided conversation with her went something like this….

“I told you not to go near the mud!”
“This is why obedience is so vastly important…often times you must obey for your own safety!”
“You have this whole entire farm to explore…why did you insist on exploring where I told you not to?”

Her choice was a bad choice, and she was disciplined. But I kept thinking it through the next few days…kept thinking how much I’m like her. How often I make bad choices and choose to play in the mud instead of follow My Heavenly Father’s directions.

Just as my kids had been given a beautiful evening with a vast array of farmland to explore and play, I’ve been given a beautiful life with a vast array of blessings and gifts. Wonderful things. Encouraging things. And yet, even amidst the beauty, I often find myself wandering toward the mud pit. Wanting to dabble in something that God has not chosen to give me “permission” to play in.

And much like Nadia that evening at the farm, I walk away from the mud pit feeling remorse for my choices, and missing out on the blessings that surrounded me.

Maybe my mud pit is not the same as your mud pit. You see, a mud pit doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Were it the right time and place, it would have been so fun to let Nadia go wild in that mud. Play, have fun, get dirty…mud volleyball, anyone?! :-) It’s not that the mud itself was wrong…it was her choice to inch closer to it when she had been so clearly told not to. Not yet. Not now.

I would challenge you, as I’ve been challenged over the last few days, to examine what types of things you look at longingly. Is there something you want so badly that you can’t take your eyes off of it? Maybe the object of your longing is not bad in and of itself, but your determination to get it (regardless of God’s timing in your life) has become all-consuming? That’s your mud pit.

I’ve pointed out several mud pits in my life this week, and I’m praying that God will help me to take my focus off of the mud, and place it on Him. To look around the mud pit, beyond the mud pit, to all of the beauty that He has provided right where I am now.

There’s beauty surrounding us daily. Sometimes we just have to wipe the mud out of our eyes and off of our hearts in order to see it.

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I stole this photo from my sister’s Facebook account. This is one of many beautiful areas on the farm. Why did the mud seem so enticing?!

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And this photo was stollen from my brother-in-law’s Facebook account. Thanks for the picture! :-) Simply gorgeous.

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis, and I thought it was very appropriate for this blog post.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with *sin* when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

 

A Mother’s Day Tribute to ALL WOMEN

Happy Friday! And a beautiful Friday it is here in my neck of the woods.

This weekend, as thousands anticipate Mother’s Day celebrations, I have a few thoughts on my heart. I thought I’d share them with you. Enjoy!

We used to tease my mother, and sometimes still do, when each and every Mother’s Day was accompanied by tears. Even before she breaks the seal of the first card’s envelope, the tears have begun to well up. She’ll read each card and brush away the silent tears that fall onto her cheeks. When I was little, I didn’t understand why a happy celebration would bring tears. But now…now I’m a mother. Now I understand. Now I, too, brush away tears each Mother’s Day as I open cards. “Happy tears” is what I tell my children they are. And for the most part, they are just that…happy. Joyful.

But, being the realist that my own mother has told me I am, I’ll be honest  and admit that sometimes the tears mean more. I think each season of motherhood brings different types of tears. Tears are an outward expression of a person’s heart, and motherhood, encompassing all parts of a woman’s heart, naturally turns on those tears. While I have not experienced all seasons of motherhood, I have walked through several, each one softening and molding my heart. Maybe some of you can relate?

Pre-Motherhood Season
Some of you are reading this, your hearts aching to become a mother. Your tears this weekend will be tears of longing, wondering when your desire for a child will be fulfilled. May I encourage you that even now, during this time of waiting, God is preparing your heart for the journey that awaits? While I know it doesn’t make waiting easier, please know that you are loved and prayed for often. May you walk in strength this Mother’s Day, knowing you are loved with an everlasting love, and that your Heavenly Father will fulfill your heart’s desires in His perfect timing.

     Psalm 37:7 “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” 

Mourning Season
You may be reading this, your heart aching for a child you never got to hold. Or, maybe you’ve had to do the unthinkable and say goodbye to a child who, by human standards, should have had longer on this earth. Or maybe you’re holding vigil night after night next to your child, both of you fighting with all you can for the healing you long for. Your tears this Mother’s Day will be tears of heartache and hurt. I personally know loved ones who are in each of these situations, and my heart breaks right along with theirs. Again, while I know it doesn’t make it easy, please know that you are loved deeply and prayed for daily. Please know that this Mother’s Day, while many are celebrating, there are people who have not forgotten you in your time of hurt, and would love nothing more than to hug you and cry alongside you. Tears in this season are not only okay, they are expected. And I wouldn’t want you to cry alone.

     Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.”
Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Pregnancy Season
Maybe this is your first official Mother’s Day, and to that I say a huge CONGRATULATIONS! I remember vividly my first Mother’s Day, and I imagine you’re experiencing the same thoughts and emotions that I did. You may have tears this weekend of thankfulness for the life growing inside. You’re probably overwhelmed with both excitement and nervousness, as you embark on a new journey that will forever change your life. May I encourage you to open your heart to another mother who has walked this path before? Someone you admire and feel comfortable confiding in? The women who have invested their time, advice, and love into my life as a young mother have been an incredible blessing! I love how each of them have never pretended to have all the answers to this journey of motherhood…but their camaraderie and willingness to listen and help when needed have been immeasurably wonderful! Soak in this Mother’s Day, and enjoy every moment. Oh, and try to sneak in a nap…it might be a while before you get one of those again! :-)

     1 Samuel 1:27–28 “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 

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Oh my goodness…I look so tired in this picture! I had no idea as a new mom how much sleepless nights would affect me!

New Mommy Season
     This Mother’s Day you might find yourself snuggling your newborn baby, or like a good friend of mine, you new twin babies. :-) Your tears this Mother’s Day might be tears of joy and thankfulness for the new life God has gifted you. But, if you’re anything like I was as a new mommy, you’ll probably have tears of exhaustion, frustration, and overwhelmedness, as well. That’s totally normal and completely expected in this season of your life. Know that there are many of us celebrating alongside you, and many of us who would love to snuggle that new baby for you while you sneak in a nap! :-) Even though I remember all too well how exhausting those first few weeks and months can be, I’d encourage you to try and soak in each moment. Those little tiny baby toes…the way he or she curls up against your chest when you snuggle…the squeaks and squeals…the newborn baby smell…that will all pass more quickly than seems possible right now, and someday you’ll wish you’d have paid closer attention to all those details.

     Psalm 127:3-5 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

Busy Season
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     This is the season of motherhood in which I’m currently camped. I’ve often wished I had a quarter for every time I heard the words, “Mommy, help!” There’s potty training, homework help, lessons to teach, clothes to purchase, noses to wipe, books to read, laundry to do…over and over again, without much of a break. This season has sometimes felt all-encompasing, and there’ve been tears of exhaustion. But more often than not, this season is wonderful and I’ve found myself having tears of thankfulness and joy. When my 2-year old tells me I’m the best mommy ever…when my 6-year old asks me to teach her how to cook…when my 9-year old asks if I’d be in a book club with her. These moments make my heart smile! And while I feel like I have a very small amount of experience/advice to share with new moms, in this chapter of life I often feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants. And so, while I encouraged new moms in the paragraphs above to find a “seasoned” mother to learn from, I’d also encourage you “seasoned” mothers to reach out to us younger moms. We need you!

Logic might tell us that what we need during the busy season is a vacation, a nap, a pedicure, or good grief…even just one time that we can use the bathroom alone without little people watching! But on Sunday, when we open the cards and gifts from our children…backwards letters scribbled on construction paper, little trinkets to fill our shelves, tiny handprints lovingly traced onto crinkled paper…we’ll probably shed a silent tear of thankfulness because THIS is what we need. This is what shapes us into women whose hearts continue to grow with a capacity to love more deeply. These little ones…they are our gift.

     James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

All Other Seasons
I know that there are many seasons of motherhood I have not yet experienced. Some of those seasons excite me, and some honestly scare me! ;-) While I know nothing of motherhood during these seasons, I do know one thing…I know that I loved and appreciated my mom more than I ever actually let her know. I know that becoming a mother has taught me more about my own mother than I ever thought I’d realize. I know that the world needs mothers, and I know I would not be the person I am today without the love, attention, and care from my mother.
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Mom, if you’re reading this (which I know you are, because all moms read their kids’ blogs) :-) thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. Everything. You are a gift to me, and I can only hope to be the kind of mother to my kids that you’ve been to me. I love you.  I know as you’ve read this, I’ve probably caused you to cry more of those tears, but that’s okay. Tears speak our hearts, and your heart is full of love…I now know that’s why you cry every Mother’s Day. Thank you, mom, for all of your love. And guess what, Mom? I can guarantee you 100 percent that I’ll shed a tear along with you on Sunday. Because you taught me to love without abandon, and I’m forever grateful for that.

Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you ladies reading my blog today!!!! Many, many blessings to you all!!

A Few Updates

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you were all able to enjoy a wonderful Easter weekend with family and friends. Our weekend was a busy and full one, but also a blessed one. Here are a few snapshots from our Easter weekend.

IMG_3438**Easter morning…up early and excited for their Easter baskets!

 
IMG_3539**Easter Egg Hunt! Time with cousins is so fun!

 

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**Celebrating Grandma’s birthday was lots of fun! The kids couldn’t wait to help blow out the candles.

 

 

IMG_3537**My personal favorite picture from the weekend. How has my little boy grown so fast?! I love his eyes…they say so much about him!!

 

I thought I’d update my readers on a few happenings around our home lately.

Some of you have asked about updates on Tanner’s potential missions work for audio/visual ministry. Things are taking much longer than anticipated with the original missions agency he had applied with. He unfortunately had to call them last week and let them know that this summer would no longer be an option for him to travel, as he still had not heard back from them, and his vacation days at work needed to be claimed. They are still working on his application, and there’s still a potential there sometime in the future, but probably not as soon as he’d have hoped. He has begun some preliminary talking with another agency, and this particular agency seems to have a much better idea of what they need by way of audio/visual ministry. So, we continue to wait to see where God leads. In the meantime, he is still LOVING doing video editing for our church, and his heart continues to beat for this type of ministry. We’d appreciate your continued prayers in that area, and thank you so much to those of you who have been praying!

 
There are only five full weeks of school left! I really cannot believe it! Summer is approaching a bit faster than I am ready for, and I feel like I have much to do. While some may think that summer is a vacation, it’s also a lot of work and a big change for our family. I love it…don’t misunderstand. But I need to get my act together and prepare. Having all three kids home during the day takes a bit more work and planning, as does juggling a 3-month sabbatical from my income, as I only do childcare during the school year. But we are certainly excited for picnics, parks, and pool time! :-)

My love of baking continues. I love baking bread for a handful of customers who purchase from me…it’s a definite highlight of my week! I recently experimented with whole wheat/spelt crescent rolls….oh my! They were so yummy, and may have to become an option on my bread purchasing list.

IMG_3427**Homemade crescent rolls…part whole wheat flour, and part spelt flour.

A book I recently checked out at our local library has me drooling over its baked goods, and dreaming of one day opening a bakery. Written by the owner and lead pastry chef of a popular bakery in New York, it contains gorgeous photos and excellent tips for baking at home. Hopefully soon this book will hold a permanent spot in my kitchen!

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Today took a bit of an unexpected turn…we had planned for a plumber to come and fix a leaking plumbing “stack” in the basement. Upon further investigation, he has begun to wonder if it might be leaking in more places than the one that was visible. He went ahead and fixed what was visibly leaking today, we coughed up the couple hundred dollars to do so, and prayed silently as I handed him the check that we would not have to call him to fix anything else. Because the other potential leak could involve the ripping out of drywall, pipes, ect, and cost a whole lot more than a couple hundred dollars. I’m pretty sure that I almost threw up when he was explaining the work that could be involved with such a project. You see…plumbing problems and me…we don’t get along well. Ever since our basement flooded due to a major plumbing issue, it was discovered by my sister-in-law who was spending the night and woke up floating on her air mattress, and we waded around in 14 inches of murky water while pulling out our valuables and furnishings….yeah, ever since then I cannot handle the thought of plumbing problems! So, fingers crossed and prayers said, we won’t have to rip out drywall and fix pipes anytime soon.

That’s it for today…just a few thoughts, happenings, and photos to share. :-)

I hope this post finds you all doing well, and I hope each one of you has a wonderful week! Blessings to you!!

 

Table Love

My kitchen is quiet this morning while I knead the bread dough, and smooth the tops of loaves.
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My heart, not as quiet, is aflame with thoughts of Good Friday, Easter, and The Last Supper.

Jesus, breaking bread with his disciples around the table at The Last Supper, shares His heart and His plan for their lives. My life. Your life.

Jesus, knowing that His disciples would turn from Him during His darkest hour in the Garden of Gethsemane, was filled with joy to share a meal with the people He loved. His love for them, and all of humanity, was portrayed that evening as He broke bread, drank wine, and washed His disciples’ feet.

Jesus commands His disciples to something so simply, yet so profound and sometimes difficult. John13:34 tells us that Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Love each other. His command to love is not a frivolous or superficial kind of love…Jesus commands His disciples to love each other as He had loved them. Love as Jesus loves. Love because Jesus loves.  Oh, the wonder our world would see if we could grasp this commandment and live our lives accordingly!

Some may say that I am reading too much into this, but I find it profoundly wonderful that Jesus chose to share this ever important command to love while gathered around a table, breaking bread, and fellowshipping with those He loved.

Table fellowship. Table love. This is how I believe my heart beats.
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For it is often the simple things in life that can be profound. The mundane that can be the miraculous. How is this possible? Because God, who loves us with a deep abiding love, is the giver of everything. Everything. And in this we can rejoice. In this, we can love.

As I pull hot bread from the oven, slather it with butter, and smooth napkins onto the table, my heart is full. My heart is anxious for the fellowship that will happen around my table this evening. An opportunity to love those around my table, and an opportunity to collectively remember what Jesus did for us on the cross so many years ago.
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So as you gather with those you love this Easter season, may you remember that each and every person around your table, and each and every item of food gracing your table, is a gift. A gift from The Gift, given so that we would glorify Him.

And this Easter season, if you’re finding it difficult to believe in a love so life-changing, I would love nothing more than the chance to talk to you more about it. God loves you. He sent His one and only Son to live a perfect life and to die for you. He loves you, and He wants you to accept His love.

And my table…it may not be huge, and we may often sit crowded together, but there’s always an extra seat. Always. And at my table, I would love to share with you how you can know God’s love personally. It will change your life.

 

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