Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Beautiful Word

One thing I have found to be true about myself and motivation is the prettier it is, the more likely I am to get excited about using it. I like nicely scented cleaning products and beautifully designed organization items-anything to make ordinary tasks more lovely. And while reading my bible is certainly no ordinary task, but a privilege-I admit to still being drawn to the prettiest version. I have loved seeing the beautifully curated art journal bibles pop up in my social media feeds but know, without a shadow of a doubt, that will never be what my bible looks like. While I have a great appreciation for all things created lovely, I cannot create said things; it is just not in my gifting. So when I got the chance to explore the Beautiful Word Bible I was pretty giddy with excitement!

First, the great features of this bible- It truly is beautiful! With 500 full-color illustrated verses interlaced through out it's pages and a lovely cover, it is a coffee table treasure. I love the variety of illustration styles and there's something about putting these verses in art form to make them jump out and stick with you. I really do love that I will get the "look" of an art journal bible without the talent to make one. Not to say, I won't be putting my own notes in the margins of these pages! In fact, I will say with the lined spaces for journaling and the illustrations started too, this bible is a a lot less intimidating to just jump into and mark up! The day it came in the mail, I grabbed a pen and having just read an amazing devotional went on a note jotting spree. The devotional reading that got me so excited was Jesus is the Promised One that was part of She Reads Truth advent series. I adore their studies and ministry, partly because they too make the studying beautiful. This reading was chalk full of scripture references and sent you on a scavenger hunt all through out the bible pointing to all the little (and big) hints leading up to Jesus' arrival and who He would be. It was fascinating to me and I wanted to be able to remember and run into all those little sign posts in my future bible reading. This was great way to break in my Beautiful Word bible!

 Now, a couple downsides- it is a some what small bible, making it easy to throw in a bag on the go but the print isn't the easiest to read. Additionally, because of it's smaller size and the large quantity of illustrations in the margins , you do tend to run out of journaling space at times. Also, my copy had several almost double printed pages that are very hard to read. The pages are thin making it a bit more compact of a book, but also a little less sturdy for writing in. Personally, I love the ESV bible for intensive study but will be glad to have this version around to journal in and admire. It seems safe to say, you can never have enough bibles! I also saw that they are going to be releasing a NKJV version of the beautiful word.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Making drool look cool: Snappy Swagger

3 babies in and I know without a doubt teething is never fun. With teething usually comes large amounts of drool which is never really all that fun (or cute) either. The cutest baby clothes look a little worse for the wear soaked in baby drool. Not to mention having to change outfits multiple times a day to keep up! Small bibs work alright to soak up moisture but then some genius mom (I'm sure of it!) invented the baby bandana. Now, baby gets to sport a stylish, hipster accessory while not having to worry about that pesky teething side effect-multitasking at it's finest!


 With my middle boy, I had a little extra time to craft more; so I pulled out the sewing machine and some old plaid, flannel shirts of my husbands and upcycled them into baby bandanas. They turned out pretty darn cute and got a lot of use, but like most heavily used baby items they were pretty much worn out by the time baby boy #3 needed them. So, I jumped when I ran across the adorable Baby Bandana Drool Bibs-5 Pack Unisex Stylish Bibs for Baby  by Snappy Swagger!


These drool bibs are very well made with plastic rather then metal snaps and even are adjustable in size with two different snap options. They are super soft, made from fleece and cotton and the patterns are just adorable for baby! The selection is truly unisex as I would put all of them on my boys but would think nothing of having girls wear them as well. My favorite ones are the + and the feathers.

 I am loving dressing my baby boy and am definitely keeping these in mind for the perfect baby shower gift in the future

I received this product at a discount in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It is what It is

It is what it is- the idealist/perfectionist in me loathes that saying. "It" isn't ever just what it is; "It" can always be changed, be made better. That expression has always came across as flippant and a bit apathetic to me. Even though people, who I love and respect, but who are much more "go with the flow" than myself use it as a perfectly logical explanation for life events all the time.But just like life has a way of doing to the best of us, I have been slowly but surely worn down and evened out.And  do you know what mantra I hear myself repeating a remarkable amount these days? It is what it is. Because I guess, in the end, it just is. 

 I have spent a good amount of my intellectual, adult life wrestling with and fighting back against the second law of thermodynamics (aka everything is in a constant state of breaking down), the status quo, and pretty much anything else that seems an excuse for things not to be at their best. Because I want the best; Namely, to be the best of whatever it is I'm suppose to be and for my little world to constantly be getting better. It's not a competitive drive, in that I want to see those I love enjoy the same status in life and am always trying to encourage towards that end. I have striven towards the ideal end goal since before I even knew I would be in the race. I was the girl who read the notable marriage books before I even had a suitor. Who wrote a multiple page manifesto on what the ideal husband, marriage and family life would like like, during a messy heart break of a break up. Who proceeded to relentlessly implement those ideals in our relationship when the boy who broke my heart ended up becoming my fiance;because I was sure, if we were all we should be this time around, we would be good to go. I read piles of parenting books not long after a positive pregnancy test because it's never too early to learn all the right principles and formulas to ensure happy and healthy (aka pretty much perfect) kids. I was pretty sure if you just did your homework and were well enough informed, things would go fairly well for you. But the farther in life I go, the more I realize that's not really accurate. 

I won't have just difficult days with my kids, but difficult seasons even. As much as I love them and as hard as I try to lay for them a solid foundation- I will fail them and let them down at some time in some way. I can know every square inch of them since birth and still not have all the answers for them. Because there are the parenting basics and then there are the languages of each of these unique, little souls and I don't naturally fluently speak each of these. It takes a lot of trial and error and even some tears to figure out how to get thru to each child's heart. What motivates and makes sense to me at times means not a lot to my sons. In the end, I now know, however my kids "turn out" not all the credit nor all the blame will go to me. 

6 years in and this man of mine and I have come so far in many ways;But then, in some, it feels we haven't made progress at all. It may be a new year, a new topic but we just fall into these patterns of relating (badly) to each other that make me feel a strong sense of dejavu. I find myself wondering, "Have we not had this same argument darn near a hundred times already??" How can you know and be known by someone so well and yet have moments of utter confusion and misunderstanding. So being the Fixer that I am, I push forward...and He pulls back. This is the way the cycle goes for us oh so many times. On the worst days, I think to myself "How much simpler would life be for both of us if we had chosen spouses who saw the world thru a similar lens?" When we were dating I joked that He saw life as a text book and to me it was poetry....and those are very different genres. It's true, life would have been much simpler but not better; and when have I ever thought the easier road to be the one that would be worth it? Because all these long but short years later and thanks to Him, my fanciful mindset is tempered with some needed pragmatism and you should hear Him wax poetically about some of life's wonders, from time to time. I'm learning that God made us so different for more reasons then I know,for His and our good. Yes, we are to keep forward momentum and get better with time. Yes, we are slowly helping to shape each other into better versions of ourselves and are doing a whole lot of rubbing off on each other along the way. But also, there are parts of us that will stay, that are engrained too deep in our DNA-maybe because they are suppose to be. And those versions of us may never fully mesh, may still always, occasionally clash-and that might be ok. So, I might not fight so hard in each skirmish to fully fix everything, but I will always choose to reach out. So somedays it may feel like we just keep trudging forward, but at least hand in hand.

 And then there are my personal insecurities, the thorn in my flesh- to keep my humble, I am sure. Sometimes, I feel like I am dreaming extroverted dreams in an introvert's reality. Down at my deepest core, I am most definitely an introvert; I need peace, quiet and times of solitary rest. I love people and know that's "what it's all about" but they slowly drain the energy right out of me. At the worst, lots of social time can leave me as not much more than a shell-able to somewhat take in, but not have a lot to give out. This fact can cause such an internal tension for me as I have big visions of hospitality, ministries and relationships; and those are great things I should and try to be doing but in the busiest seasons of this I always end up feeling weak and ill equipped. I envision in extroverted terms but thrive in an introverted fashion. I much more fully appreciate and function so much better in ministries and relationships when I have times for restoration and insight.I am coming to peace with the fact that this is who God made me to be and, though I should venture out of my comfort zone at times, I need to live my life out of these perimeters for best results. But it has been a hard won acceptance of who I was created to be. I am surrounded by many extroverts who I love very much but who thrive very differently than me-there is a lot of compromise to be made! I can always be pushing myself further but I can't completely break the mold I was set with. 

 And then there are the multitude of situations life throws your way that you really have no control over, in the end. That loved one one who just isn't living their best life but still needs your love and acceptance, if not your full approval. That relationship that went down in flames and just isn't getting better any time soon, no matter how long it's been. That person you have to emphatically watch struggle with an addiction or a hard relationship and all you can do is pray and try and encourage them from as close as they'll let you get. In all of these, it doesn't really matter what my ideals are or what I think would be best; it is out of my hands. But it is in the hands of the One who shaped the universe. And he is at work, even when I am begging to see Him do something, he already is. He is working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). In His time, He is making them beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

  In His time and in His way, He is smoothing out the sharp edges of this girl who expects too much from herself is too hard on others. I am being shown that as much as my heart swells at the idea of grace, it is not my natural tongue. So, I'll keep reading my books and (hope to) be in a constant state of improvement; but there will be stumblings and failures along the way. I have come to know, there will always be struggling and,while on earth, that's how it's suppose to be. There are growing pains. This world is falling apart and I can strive to mend my little corner of it, to the extent that the Lord deems fit; but I'm not going to fix it all. His kingdom is coming-but it's a messy proceeding. It is what it is; And it's all Grace.
So I will cling to this- And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Want a real Challenge? Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

I love my kids and I want to give them the childhood I had, plus some. I want to make their days sparkle with wonder and their holidays,especially, magical. I want them to wake up on Christmas morning to a twinkling Christmas tree surrounded by pretty packages filled with the things they've dreamed of all year long. But on top of that, I want to raise them to have a grateful heart that recognizes and appreciates a gift for the extra-ordinary thing that it is. I want them to peel off the wrapping paper with suspense, be all smiles as they examine the item their mama picked out just for them and receive a warm hug as we chatter about how much fun it will be to enjoy their new gift together. And sometimes, that's how our holidays go-but not this Christmas. 

  Don't get me wrong, my family had a wonderful Christmas; particularly the advent season was extra rich for us this year. We actually did really well savoring the anticipation of the "countdown". I loved the exuberance of my kids on Christmas morning, but, in about 5 minutes flat, my pile of presents wrapped in love were completely uncovered. I was left feeling a little disillusioned as I drank my cup of coffee, surrounded by gifts I had put a lot of thought into picking out for my kids and now barely had a memory of them opening. A week or so later my oldest son was asking if he got any books for Christmas like his little brother did and where this sweatshirt came from. With a little sadness, I told him, "These are things you got for Christmas, but you don't even remember opening them. Next time, we need to slow down and actually see the gifts in front of us." And my sometimes very sensitive-souled 5 year old started crying and apologizing for not really recognizing or appreciating his gifts. I realize that all kids get over excited on Christmas morning and kids don't remember every gift they receive and  who it was from: kids will be kids and my son wasn't at fault. I also realized that it was my job to help him learn to recognize the gifts for what they were and cultivate a grateful heart.  The perfect book came across my path to give me the knowledge and resources I needed to make this mission a reality.

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. First off, and least importantly, this is a beautifully designed book! The textured, matte cream cover with the metallic leaving details makes it awful pretty to look at-I'm a sucker for a pretty book. On a more serious note, this book is really topping my recent favorites list- it is extremely relevant to most modern, Christian families. I think it's safe to say, this generation is unique in it's inborn belief that they really are entitled to just about any and every good thing the world could give them. We're seeing so many sad and scary examples of this on the news and in our culture almost daily. And I must admit, I fall prey to the marketing and mindset of this mentality sometimes. So while there is nothing new under the sun, the Entitlement Epidemic is a fairly unique challenge for this generation of parents. Once I acknowledged that my kids were not immune to this, I got intentional about seeking out all the help I could get on this topic!

 Kristin Welch has written an amazing resource that I really feel has a place in every family's parenting library. I love Kristin's humble offering of advice and very real life examples from her own family's trial and error experience with this area. I have always been a fan of "self improvement" books and have gained a lot of  life wisdom thru them- whether about marriage, parenting or spiritual life. While I do enjoy digging into the philosophy of these subjects, I really benefit from solid, achievable strategies as well- especially when it comes to parenting! I gained a lot of hope reading personal stories from Kristin's "veteran mom" life experiences. I could totally relate to her struggles with ungrateful kids and was encouraged to press on in my own parenting journey from her tales of parenting victories. 

 Raising Grateful Kids covers a broad scope on this parenting topic. The book starts out spelling out for us the difference between what our kids want and need and how our affluent, technologically advanced society really skews this truth. Welch takes us for a walk down memory lane on what a "normal" childhood used to look like, even not so long ago, and how much more children expect now. We then jump into the uncomfortable truth that we, as parents, are a huge factor in our children's entitlement struggle. This chapter addresses many of the reasons parents tend to "spoil" their kids- wanting to "buy" their friendship, wanting them to be happy or not wanting them to feel left out, etc. Kristin does a great job providing even scientific evidence why our children don't benefit from this. The book continues to walk us thru common struggles with the child centered home, "everyone's a winner" and the over availability of technology to kids. Welch offers some great tried and true tips and family strategies in these areas that I will definitely be implementing in my own family! I also really appreciate the Going against the Flow practical challenges for parents and then different age groups of kids at the end of each chapter.

 The next section of the book really does a good job of helping us set firm foundations for our children while we have them at home. Ways such as teaching obedience, immersing our household in God's word and living out God's love in our home. The Welch family is living out an awesome legacy of service with the many ministries they run and participate in. It was really empowering as a parent to read Kristin's stories of leading her children into opportunities to serve others and how sincerely her kids embraced and grew thru that. We are reminded that gratitude is always a choice regardless of the circumstances and that as parents, we are our kids best teacher and example of this. 

 Kristin solidly ends the book with a super practical Seven Steps to Raising Grateful Kids that's worth the whole book in itself! I really appreciated her farewell letter to parents; honestly sharing that, like the most parts of the Christian life, if you choose to raise your children in this counter cultural way, you (and harder on your parent heart, your kids) may not gain popularity because of it. They will look different than their peers and they'll feel it too; some days that will be hard on the whole family. But Kristin encourages us that it is worth it and our children (and their Creator) will thank us someday for taking the harder path to raise grateful souls. I know that's a legacy I want to leave behind. If you're after the same for the little souls you are in the process of shaping- get this book on your bookshelves! I think it's a resource you'll return to for years to come.

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things: Mother Culture

As a teenager, I acquired a taste and appreciation for the finer things. I bought high end makeup and cooked with gourmet foods. I took pride and pleasure in pursuits such as pondering song lyrics and cultivating my own personal style. After having one son and then another, I fell into serious mom mode (one part- survival, one part-self sacrifice). My reading habits were made up of baby sleep training and board books. My cooking consisted of "gourmet" baby food purées and toddler finger foods. My style became the infamous yoga pants and things I could easily nurse a baby in. It naturally seemed to me that to be the best mom I could be I would put my family's needs before my own and if there was any time in the day after that, well my hobbies could reside in that time slot. But you know, the needs just keep resurging and the to do list was never done, so my personal interests fell by the wayside. And as my self sacrifice felt like the obvious choice and best way to love my family, I also felt parts of myself slip away,for necessity's sake. I found as I filled my day absolutely to the brim with only little boy life, I was exhausted-physically, mentally and emotionally- by the end of the day. While a good nights sleep definitely helped to rejuvenate me,
I was lacking a recharge when it came to my mental and emotional stores. I was in need of inspiration and creative outlet. Then after encountering the idea of making sure your mama soul has some space to breathe (primarily thanks to one of my current mothering role models, Sally Clarkson), I realized being a martyr is not always the honorable,best thing to do. Yes, my family's needs do come before my own. Yes, I am not justified in spending my time on hobbies and self interests at the neglect of my family; but there is something to be said for knowing myself enough to make some small investments into my well being to be able to better and more joyfully serve my family. So as selfish as it felt, I decided I needed to invest some time into cultivating my soul and stimulating my intellect. It was worth the time to read good books and fill my mind with truth and beautiful mental images to recall when needed. It was good to sweeten my soul with beauty and things that brought joy into my every day life. 
 I set the culture in my home: What a large task to undertake and responsibility to realize. My tastes theme my whole home- decor, food, even mood. Being the only woman in my house, I've realized I really have to find intentional ways to recharge my femininity to be the woman my men need. One way I've cultivated that state of beauty into my life is to give myself permission to "indulge" in some items that bring me joy. So today I wanted to share a few of those things with you!

 First, I must have coffee. It is a necessity and a pleasure in my life; one of the first things I consume in the mornings and a treat I look forward to in the late afternoons. It's also a love language shared between with my husband a some of my close friends; expressed with hand crafted lattes when visiting and a gift of a new blend of coffee beans picked up on a trip. I have become pickier and pickier about my coffee preferences, but love that their are some really good quality local roasters to support thru my habit! Some of my favorite married life memories have been in a coffeehouse or at the least, include a good conversation over a good cup of coffee. My husband and I are always on the hunt for a new coffee source during our travels. Some of our favorites are Sisters Coffee and the Suislaw River Roasters. Sisters Coffee in quaint Sisters, Oregon is a rustic oasis of great coffee and a relaxing atmosphere. Whenever we visit, I try to pick up a bag or two of their beans of gold! It's the perfect souvenir to keep the vacation magic alive. 

Because it's winter, I'm all about having a nice, warm beverage on hand-pretty much at all times! When it's not coffee in my cup, it's tea. I love a good spicy and complex cup o' tea. This year I happened upon a box of Tazo Joy blend at a discount store. It turned out to be my favorite tea to date and I'm wishing I would have cleaned out their supply of it! It's a really great blend of black, oolong and green teas that literally tastes like joy in a cup! I did some research and found that Teavana is now making their own version. I bought a box and while it's pretty close, I would say Tazo is still the best version. Of course it would be limited edition and now pretty much discontinued! :/ 

 There's something illustrious about a well designed, thick paged magazine. I try to keep a stack on hand to delve into on a slow, dreary day during nap time. I always keep my subscriptions current when it comes to Bon Appetit for new recipes and World Magazine for a christian perspective on current events. But lately, I came across a real treasure for christian women- Deeply Rooted. These magazine is a treat for the eyes and meat for the spirit. This is no fluffy, christian Good housekeeping; the articles are theologically challenging and true calls to embrace God's version of womanhood over the world's. Interspersed between articles is beautiful photography and hand lettering. I love how the magazine is broken up into six categories- Christ Follower, Creator, Helpmate, Keeper of the Home, Mother, Individual- something to speak to each role a woman carries in life. 

 Another magazine I have really been enjoying since pursuing photography a bit more as a hobby is the Click magazine published by Clickin' Moms. It's a large format publication printed on lush pages that are (of course) filled with beautiful images. I love the mix of inspiring photos, informative tutorials and product reviews. These are hobby magazines worth re-leafing thru once in awhile. 
For homeschooling encouragement and inspiration, I've really enjoyed the Family magazine put out by HEDUA. It has really evolved and changed style and content focus in the last year or so and I've been pretty good with that change. Before it seemed to be a very informative "how to" and product review focus, it know seems to address finding the right rhythm and style education for your family. They have crafted it to be both visually appealing and an uplifting read. 

I have really been enjoying continuing my journey behind the lens of my "semi-pro"camera. I forget about pulling it off the shelf some days and do miss capturing some special everyday moments, but I love having the capabilities to provide well documented memories. Awhile ago, my sweet and generous husband told me to buy myself something- I hesitantly and a bit guiltily purchased the new Sigma ART 24-35mm zoom lens. I sort of feel like a pro photographer impostor/wannabe with this ridiculously large lens on my camera, but it is pretty fun to use! It actually works really perfect for photographing my boys around the house. Our house being as small as it is, I really have to have a wide angle lens to be able to fit all of their combined action in a frame. 

One of the smaller pleasures of the stay at home mom life is a nice, hot shower and a luxurious body wash. Lately, I've been a fan of the Method Magnolia body wash.  I'm not usually into floral too much, but this is the perfect blend of warm and creamy with an uplifting floral note.

And lastly, my new, cozy addition to my blanket collection. I love the fun fair isle pattern in neutral colors. It was a clearance find on and I almost thought it would be too heavy with the dual layers of the knit and the fuzzy Sherpa. It's my favorite now though- I love the weighted comfort of it. 

And these are a few of my favorite things!  :)