Vacation From Blogging

My family was on vacation last week. We spent many hours on the beach, reading or in the water. We had discussions with my husband’s family and lots of good seafood. The ocean is always my go-to for peace and relaxation and figuring out my place in this world.

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I decided ahead of time that this would be a break from the blogging world. I would not write in mine or read others. Complete break. Of course I was nervous. After writing a few times a week since January 2014, what would happen if I didn’t? Would people lose interest? Or worse, would anyone even notice my absence?

Half way through the week, I realized how badly I had needed a vacation. I brought a notebook with me, in case I got the urge to write. Do you know what happened to it? It stayed in my bag all week. I never once had an idea or urge to pick up my pen.

After a year and a half of non stop writing, I was dry. My poor brain needed to rest and probably had for some time. I tend to push so everyone will know I am busy and pulling my weight. Whose approval should I be seeking, those who are on the fringe of my life or God’s? God knows my heart and my schedule. As long as I am doing what He asks, I am on the right path. (And honestly, do those other people really judge me? Probably not. We are all consumed by our own day to day!)

Now I know the truth: when I feel weary, I should rest. Even when it is from sitting at the computer, I can still be worn out. After a week completely away, I feel recharged and ready to go.

Once I get all the laundry done.

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Linking with Holley Gerth

Your Yes Matters

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Last year I read an amazing book, Rhinestone Jesus. Author Kristen Welch tells her story and shares about how God led her away from her simple, surface-level life and into the great adventure He had planned for her. After a mission trip to Kenya, Kristen felt led to open Mercy House Kenya, which houses pregnant teens and single mothers. When she heard the sickening statistics, she knew she needed to help.

Annually, 21,000 women are hospitalized from having an illegal, unsafe abortion in Kenya.

13,000 Kenyan girls are kicked out of school for being pregnant.

25% of pregnant women in Kenya are HIV positive.

Every 30 minutes, a woman is raped in Kenya.

More than 20,000 children are sex trafficked in Kenya.

1,500 women die in childbirth every day across Africa.

Kristen knew God was calling her to help, and she said “Yes.” From the US, the Welch family started Rehema House (rehema is the Swahili word for mercy) in Kenya. Pregnant girls and new mothers are safe, counselled, educated, and receive medical care. They are taught skills to support themselves but more importantly, they learn about God’s love. These teenagers are safe and loved, possibly for the first time. What an amazing ministry.

However, Kristen didn’t stop there. Mercy House started a ministry last August, called Fair Trade Friday. Rather than give women money, FTF seeks to empower them. When you join the Fair Trade Friday club, you receive a box the first Friday of each month for $31.99 (including shipping.) Each box contains 3-4 unique fair trade items in a handmade bag. Attached to each item is a card with information about where it was made. There is also a card in the box telling you how many women your box employed that month. (Mine usually say 6 or 7!) You see right away the difference you are making. You can keep some things and give some as gifts (but you will want to keep it all!)

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The items in the Fair Trade Friday box have a wide range. Jewelry, t-shirts, headbands, journals, and many other things are included. They are all beautiful and from one woman to another.

I won’t lie-getting these boxes each month makes me giddy and more than a little teary. I get to help a woman provide for her family and keep them together. I help give her dignity and a purpose. When she gets up in the morning, she has hope for her babies’ futures and she gets to hug them at night, which is more than many women around her get.

What have been my favorite items so far? Glad you asked! I would have to say my earrings made in Ecuador, picture frame made in India, and journal made in India. (Shocker that I loved a journal, right?)

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God has so much in store for Kristen Welch, Mercy House, and Fair Trade Friday, and I am so honored to be a small part in that. If you would like more information about Mercy House Kenya, here is their website. You can make a donation or shop there. If you would like to be part of Fair Trade Friday and experience the joy of empowering women around the world, head to their website here. You won’t regret it!

As Kristen said in Rhinestone Jesus, “We aren’t called to do big things; we are just called to do something that fulfills this command: Love God. Love others.”

Love God. Love others. Yes, let’s make the world a brighter place.

Linking with Holley Gerth and Faith Along the Way

Tough Love

This past Sunday, we had our middle school pastor preaching. My husband likes his sermons and calls Chris the wildcard. You never know what he is going to say!

Starting in May, we have been studying the life of Moses. At this point, the Israelites have been rescued from the Egyptians and crossed the Red Sea. God has done huge things that are obviously not of their own power. (If I’d seen the sea part, I would have either wet my pants or fainted. Possibly both.) God did these amazing miracles, yet the Israelites are still whining.

We only looked at a small passage this week, but it had a huge impact on me. Exodus 15:22-27 is when they wandered in the desert for 3 days and then came to bitter water. After they complained, God made the water drinkable and then brought them to camp at Elim, with springs and palm trees. If only they would have held their whine to see what God would do.

All of a sudden, Chris spoke loudly for me, (yes, me,) to quit whining. I didn’t get defensive, but sat up straight and nodded. I HAD been whining. My attitude lately had not been good, even though I know God comes through. I have a lot more history of God’s work than the Israelites.

I have no excuse to not trust God, as I have 8000 years of Him coming through. Chris pointed out that these Israelites are like the toddlers of the Bible and were just learning about who God was. They may have had some miracles performed, but they didn’t know if said miracles would continue or what God’s plan were for them.

I know God is for me. He loves me and created me in His image. It is time to act like I believe this.

After church, I felt different, calmer. God spoke to me through Chris and reminded me He’s got this. The things I worry about are tiny, and God will take care of them in His time, not mine.

Is there an area or situation where you need some tough love? I don’t like to yell, but I can.

Quit whining! God can be trusted.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live like Colossians 3, with my heart set on things above instead of earthly matters. I will choose to focus on doing what I can and leaving the rest to God.

No whining required.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Seen Any Sparrows Lately?

Are you weary like me? Maybe not so much physically, but spiritually or emotionally? (Which can feel even worse!) Is there something or someone you have been bringing before God so many times you know He is sick of hearing about it?

I feel at times like things are never going to change for some people I know. I pray and pray and then it looks like something is shifting. “Oh, they were going to come to church with us!” But then the excuses keep coming and I realize they are just trying to get me off their back. “That email seemed more positive!” But then I go back to hearing nothing.

In the end, I am back to feeling dry. I wonder if I am just wasting my breath, but prayer is never wasted. I have to shake myself off and think about sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Think about sparrows: they are small, common, and have nondescript colors. Their songs do not stand out, and there is really nothing special about them. They are about as generic as birds can get. Yet God sees each one. He is not blase about any of His creation. All of us matter to Him. Whether our request makes us feel like a sparrow, He sees it and treats it like an eagle. It all matters to God.

We all matter to God.

He does not tire of hearing me pray the same prayer.

He has not forgotten my family member. He knows how many hairs they have on their head. God put their heart and purpose in them, same as He did me. He loves them and grieves over them even more than I do.

It is my job to not give up and keep praying for the requests God put in me. He will one day move move mountains to change hearts.

God will free those sparrows and it will be a glorious day.

Linking with Faith Along the Way

By Your Side

You tell me when to push on

When to keep trying

And to not give up.

You show me when to pause

When You need to go ahead of me

To work things out for me.

You tell me when to rest

When I am too weary

To accomplish what You have for me.

You always know what is best for me

As You see the whole picture

And I only see the inch around me.

I can’t speed up

Blow past

Ignore You.

You speak in a still small voice

So quiet I must be in tune with You

To hear Your voice.

You nudge me so gently

I can mistake it for something else

Or someone else.

If I am not in sync with You

Every day

I will miss Your best.

I never want to miss what You have for me again.

Lord, help me not get ahead or behind.

Let me stay right by Your side.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Land of the Free

We like to be dramatic, don’t we? We say our rights are being taken away and make broad statements about how Jesus is coming soon. Don’t get me wrong, I pray He does. The truth is, things have always been bad and getting worse. We have been talking about His return since the Bible, so it might still be awhile!

As I think about Independence Day, I am so grateful for my freedom. I can worship God at home, in church, and outside-anywhere. I have multiple Bibles and don’t fear for my safety when I say I am a Christian on Facebook. Soldiers and police don’t walk in my house and arrest me.

My children will grow up with all the hope in the world. They have so many advantages they wouldn’t have in other countries. They are free to find out who they are meant to be while getting an education. They can play outside and discover all the beauty that was created for them.

My husband has a good job with insurance. We live in a country with a good middle class where we aren’t forced into extremes of poverty or riches. Because of his job, I am able to pursue passions of writing and helping others.

In the US, we have freedom. We have independence from fear, persecution, illiteracy, and hunger. We are free to pursue the life we want. No, we don’t always achieve it, but no one is telling us we can’t. We are encouraged to dream big and be bold.

Nothing this side of heaven is perfect, but here in America, I believe it is as close as it could be.

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“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain.
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.”

“My country, ’tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.”

“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

As we honor our country this weekend, I ask you to think of all you have and be grateful. Happy Independence Day!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

A Year of Intentional Spending

Just a year ago, our lives began the shift. A year. So much can change in a short amount of time!

July 1 of last year, I decided I was fed up with being part of the money machine. Money comes to us and then leaves just as quickly without benefiting anyone. We may enjoy a moment, but that dollar could have made an impact. It could have been used for a greater purpose. So our family began a three month period where we gave up some things we normally bought so we could have extra to give. If you haven’t read the first post, you can find it here.

After a year, how are we doing? Still giving more and still thinking beyond ourselves. This time last year our youngest, Kaitlyn, was thinking about everything she wanted for her sixth birthday in August. Now she wants to give some of her birthday money away. (Don’t worry, she still wants Lego sets and a locket!) The three months of training we had were crucial to the idea sticking. As with anything, our brains had to be taught to think of others. We now give monthly automatically. We give more easily on the spur of the moment. It isn’t always easy, and I don’t think it will ever flow naturally, but that’s the point. Since we are here to make a difference, we will have to continue to rely on God for His strength and for His peace when extra bills come at us.

Of course, expenses we didn’t anticipate are popping up. (Why can’y the tree we need cut down be a money tree?) I still believe that if we keep intentionally spending and giving, God will take care of us and provide what we need. There won’t always be extra, but we aren’t guaranteed that.

Being in the US, we don’t realize how much we have. It is all too easy to compare ourselves to neighbors when we should think about those who need what we have. Giving more helps focus thoughts on that. I love the idea from Jen Hatmaker that where our money goes, our heart will follow. It is so true! When we start giving to help orphans or families, our heart begins to care more about them.

This year has seen us move. We now have a better quality of life with a flat yard on a cul-de-sac.

Our oldest, Lauren, became a Food for the Poor champion and started a project to raise $1895 for a family in Guatemala. You can see our page and make a donation here.

Lauren and I started selling makeup so we can donate half of our profits to our project. We are having fun together for a wonderful cause. This is where you can place an order.

I have spent months of consistent writing and will be self publishing a book on Intentional Spending! I still face some editing and need to work on cover art, but I am hoping to have it on Amazon by the end of summer! Since our church has had such an impact on our growth and giving, we are giving half of the book proceeds to them.

God is good and gives us everything we need. Let’s live like we believe that. Let’s be who He created us to be and give!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Lessons From a Waterfall

We spent Father’s Day afternoon hiking and sweating. The path was broiling and steep, but all four of us couldn’t wait to get to the waterfall. Well, until Kaitlyn started saying her legs hurt after 5 minutes.

Once we got there, it was breathtaking! Here is what I learned.

1. Don’t worry about what MIGHT lie ahead. Yes, I am aware that water is not alive, but it still spoke to me. When you see the before and after of the falls, the difference is amazing. Before, the water is calm and peaceful. Sure, it is about to go straight down, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. That is how peaceful I want to be.

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2. Go a different way. On the way up, we took the lesser used path. With it being less crowded, we enjoyed more family time, saw things we wouldn’t have otherwise, and had better views. The well traveled path may sometimes be better, but don’t assume it is just because you see more people on it!

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3. Stop and enjoy the view. On the way up, we stopped to feel the breeze, listen to the waterfall, and look down where we had been. It made the whole thing more impressive when we could see so clearly.

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4. Hard work is always worth it. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top. Once we saw it, and took in God’s majesty, there was no breath remaining in our sweaty bodies. We were blown away! Our breath was replaced with awe and a new excitement. Just like anything that requires effort, we appreciated it more once we got there. Even the whiny young one was glad she did it.

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5. Never underestimate what God can do. There is no doubt about God’s power when you see His creation. Being out on a mountain by a waterfall shows His creativity and all He is capable of. We need to trust He knows what He is doing, even when it doesn’t look like it. Maybe God is carving out a way around the mountain you are facing or finding a new way for water to flow. Let Him impress you!

If you need to learn a few lessons, I suggest going for a hike. God will show you what you need to know!

Linking with Faith Along the Way

So Much the Better Children’s Book Review

When my copy of So Much the Better arrived in the mail, I told the girls I was going to read it out loud to them. Since it wasn’t in their Narnia or Wimpy Kid series, they weren’t enthusiastic.

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Then we sat down to read. Author Megan Means had the girls so enthralled that on that first day, they wouldn’t let me stop reading after a chapter or two. We finally ended the session at four chapters.

The story of So Much the Better follows a lion cub named Ari. He is separated from his pride one day and found by a wise eagle, Eliezer. Eliezer helps Ari on his quest to return home and to grow into the lion he is meant to be.

Ari’s eagle friend is a comforting presence and says many things that stick with young ears. “You must not despair, for even when you cannot see me you must have faith that I am close.” “He who keeps gladness in his heart remains strong.” “Be strong and of good courage.” “Keep your heart full of love and you will never fail.”

As he goes through a dark forest and back up the mountain, Ari faces challenges and makes new friends. Eliezer’s words go through his mind as he makes decisions. I love that there are biblical themes woven throughout the story that kids can apply to their life.

It may have been written for upper elementary school, but my second grader and I enjoyed it as much as the fourth grader. Finding books we can all agree on is tough, but it was great to be able to curl up with my girls for some time each day. The story is uplifting and teaches lessons on life we can all use.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations. I am part of The CWA Review Crew.

If anyone is interested, my friend Sarah over at Faith Along the Way is giving away Younique makeup from me if you comment on your favorite family project this week. Head over here to see the post!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Love is Not Complicated

Why do we make everything complicated? Yeah, don’t act like it is just me who runs around with elaborate plans to do good. To change the world and leave my mark.

My heart and mind are reeling from all the evil in the world right now. So many things happen that make it seem we are in a losing fight. I struggle to wrap my mind around how people can be so murderous and hate filled. Where did we go wrong? Of course we have been going this way since sin entered the world. We have always needed Jesus, but with each passing day it can seem harder to find Him.

The other day I stumbled upon Luke 3. Before Jesus became notorious for turning the world on its head, His cousin John the Baptist warmed up the crowd. God knew we would need someone to prepare hearts for His main act. He poured messages into John and made him look crazy enough to stand out and maybe seem more credible?

Here was John, wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey. There was nothing fancy about him. This reclusive and simple man sure stood out to the sociable, rich Jews. People flocked to him, as they obviously longed for a different way of life.

John felt so strongly about people repenting for their sins, he went around preaching about it. In Luke 3, he is talking to the crowd about the coming wrath. He warned the people not just to be spouting that they are Christians but to produce fruit.

I can see the crowd confused now, trying to think of some big scheme and coming up blank. They actually asked him what they should do. I just love John’s answer in verse 11. “Anyone who has two shirts should share with those who have none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

BAM! Just like that, he shut them up. Don’t you just see the crowd go silent? Huh, that’s so simple, even I can do that. Never thought of it that way.

Two thousand years may have passed, but people are still people. The world is not getting better, but we can counteract the evil that exists. We can feed and clothe people. We can extend kindness and grace. We can reach out to those who are different than us. It is much more simple than we tend to think.

When you feel bogged down by the weight of the world, I urge you to think of one small thing you can do for another living soul and go do it. Each time we do this, light grows brighter and evil is exposed for what it really is.

Go and make John the Baptist proud!

Linking with Faith Along the Way