Friday, October 29, 2010

A Few Fun Pix!

So, it has been a fairly heavy week with what has been on my heart and that has come across here - let's lighten it up before the weekend!

Here are some fun sights from my trip:

My real-life friend and roomie: Megan.

A God-ordained treat: sitting by Megan and Ann at dinner the first night!

Megan and I saw this neat, neat barn from the Interstate and had to figure out how to get there!

Actually, there were four separate buildings. All with neat details - built in 1870's.

I just have a thing for old barns - this one was just outside the visitor's center at Gettysburg.

Another neat barn on the way into Gettysburg.

Neat old house, had a sign out front that it had been a hospital. Also in Gettysburg.

Another quaint house in Gettysburg.

I've enjoyed wearing this necklace that each of us received in our goodie bag when we arrived at the conference, thank you Vintage Pearl!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Heritage of Blood

On my drive - I noticed how close I was to Gettysburg and after passing it by the first day, I knew I would be sorry if I did not at least drive through the area.

I did not get out of the car except in one parking lot to take pictures - I just pulled over and took pictures and drove through the park and town.

I've visited battlefields before and it always strikes me how peaceful it is and how the fields have been showered in blood on my behalf. For my freedom. How can I just casually drive through where something so momentous has occurred?

I imagine soldiers both friend and foe hiding among the trees and hills - trying to imagine what it must've been like. Yet - I can never truly imagine something like that and hope I don't have to witness it first hand.

But, as I thought about all of the blood that was spilled - the phrase "heritage of blood" came to mind. As a grateful American, so many have spilled their blood for the freedom we enjoy.

Now, bring this into the spiritual - think about our heritage of blood as believers. This blood in Gettysburg or any other battle field is not the only blood ever poured out that was of benefit to me.

God sent His one and only Son to walk this Earth and then die as a sacrifice for me. For you. So we could spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

When you look around at His beauty this Fall - let the red remind you of our heritage of blood. Both of this nation and of His Heavenly Kingdom to come. (This idea of red in His creation and the reminder of blood from here.)

Thank You, Lord - for this heritage of blood.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What is God asking you to surrender?

I am on (written Saturday night) my bed in a hotel in Pennsylvania. Just returned from hearing Ann Voskamp share what God had spoken to her heart to share with us at Relevant.
I'm not completely sure where to start. I am emotionally drained and yet I am at peace and in a sweet place with Him and there is no where else that I would rather be. Oh, there is so much I want to share from this time - I imagine it will be trickling out over the next days and weeks. Longer, I pray!

Near the end of her sharing time, she asked us to take a few quiet moments and pray. To ask God what He would like us to surrender. I grabbed my journal and jotted down a few thoughts of a prayer to Him.

What do You want me to surrender?

I waited.

It was quiet.

I listened.

The theme I had noticed while she was talking was that I was telling myself that she wasn't really talking to me. She was saying we as bloggers are artists. We are writing words of healing. We are worshippers. And, as she said each of those things, I knew she didn't really know me and she couldn't be talking about me.

And, in the waiting and in the quiet and the listening. I heard.

"I think You want me to see my identity in You. I want to go deeper and lower and be in a holy place. I want to write for an audience of One."

Ann says next, "Are you thinking your words aren't great? Are you thinking you don't create art?"


"Why is it so hard to believe that what we make is any good? Why can't we believe that God's grace has made me good? That in Christ, He sees me as perfect?"

I'm near sobs and just trying to hold it together to get back to our room where I seem unable to turn off the faucet to the tears that are coming. I tell my room-mate that I know what God wants me to give up is this idea that I am never good enough.

How? I have long been known for being very hard on myself and never feeling like I did enough or what I give is good enough. I want to see the beauty that He sees. To see myself the way He sees me.

The first thing I need to do is to surrender. Surrender the comfort (yes, there is a comfort in it as it has been my companion for so long) of that voice that is constantly putting myself down or building myself up falsely. Get rid of the voice that speaks untruth and therefore is wounding to my spirit.

My friend and room-mate, Megan hands me something she picked up at the free Dayspring table:

I try to get her to keep it. But, she insists that I keep it. It is so beautiful and as soon as I admit that it is beautiful, God impresses on my heart that in Him - I am too.

I gaze at it again and try to soak in that truth that God sees me as beautiful and wonderful because I am just the way He made me to be. And, I notice something ~

A small place that has been sliced through the canvas - it hasn't ruined the picture, Megan says she can't even see it and I am struck with how perfect this is for what I am learning! It's not even possible for me to get a good picture of the spot as its so hard to see.

I have wounds and flaws and God still sees me as beautiful. This painting had a wound and Megan couldn't even see it. How many times do I listen to this voice in my head and then magnify what it says so that I think everyone can see it?

When you stand back and look at the beauty in this painting - you cannot see anything less than the beautiful whole. I will put this in a place that is near where I work on my blog so I can look at it and be reminded that God sees me as beautiful. To remind me that I am not writing to gain fame and followers and money. I am writing for Him. For what He is doing in me through these words.

Do you see yourself as beautiful in Him? What is it that is hindering you from that? What is He asking you to surrender?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Traffic Jam

There has been a very great struggle in my heart and mind while at Relevant. Such a conflict exists for blogs.

I hear the keynote speakers reminding us to keep our priorities right and to remember that we can't get these days with our family back. I hear the call to be intentional and without masquerade, and the plea to do it all for an audience of One.

Then, in the next breaths I hear ~

How do I generate traffic? How do I keep my readers engaged? Is my blog what my readers are hoping to see? Is it enough to keep them coming back? How do I handle social media like Facebook and Twitter? What about affiliates and sponsors and branding? Advertising? Getting published? Finding and keeping a niche? You are getting the idea, right?

All of these things seem to be on bloggers minds. I've heard these kinds of questions in every session at Relevant.

Can I admit something to you?

This is all very confliciting to me. These are not the questions I am asking. I can't read the hearts and minds of those who are asking - so I'm not pointing the finger at them - just honestly sharing what is going on in my heart.

I've shyly admitted numerous times that I don't have ads, don't have a Twitter account, have never Tweeted and don't know what Tweet Deck is. I don't vlog, don't have a niche, no sponsors, no branding, etc...

And, you know what? I'm ok with that - what works for me is not going to be right for everyone else - but if I added those pressures and fillers into my life, I think there would be some serious kind of traffic jam between my blog and my real life.

I'd rather drive out on the back country roads and see the hidden sights of our world than to be on the interstate with life flying past me a million miles an hour.

I noticed on my way home - driving down the interstate, that on the borrowed GPS - a little traffic button popped up. Green if traffic was good and at one point, it was read with a "21" next to it. Referencing a 21 minute delay due to traffic up ahead.

Some traffic jams are not of our creating. We happen upon them and we have to sit patiently in the midst of it and wait for the cars in front of us to inch ahead so that we can inch ahead to the other side.

In some cases, maybe we are alerted through the traffic button on our GPS that there may be traffic ahead and we can choose another route instead to avoid the congestion.

Still other times, perhaps God nudges our hearts to show us certain decisions are not right for us as they may cause "traffic jams" in our lives.

This goes so much farther than just relating to our blogs. When we make decisions - let us seek Him in knowing if it will jam things up in our lives or keep us on the smooth and steady road He would have for us. And, when we come upon a traffic jam - let's ask Him for wisdom and patience to get us through to the other side.

Is there a traffic jam you could avoid today? Ask God to show you before it comes or if you are in the midst of it - how to persevere to the other side.

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Place Part Two

Did you read 1 Timothy chapter one? If you did, please share in the comments what jumped out at you!

If you haven't read it yet and want to - you can click here. Here are a few of my own thoughts - did you catch these words?

vs. 3: stay there
vs. 4: promote God's work and dispel anything contrary to it
vs. 5: pure heart, good conscience, sincere faith
vs. 6: do not wander from these things to meaningless talk
vs. 7: What do I want to be? I may be unqualified for as these men were?
vs. 12, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service."
vs. 14: His abundant grace
vs. 16: a display of His unlimited patience; His example through me: let it shine His light to others who may believe in Him! Be a living testimony!
vs. 17: now because of His patience and example through my life - may He receive all glory and honor for ever and ever.
vs. 18-19: fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Don't be like some who have given these things up or "shipwrecked their faith." Consider that...what does it look like to shipwreck our faith?
vs. 20: Imagine being named as one who did this and see what He did? ACK! Hand them over to Satan to learn a lesson - oh, Father - please protect me!
It was a sweet time of fellowship with God and in His Word where I felt like He was saying to stay put in what He has called me to do, to be faithful to those things He has given me without seeking more than what He is ordaining. Be faithful. Be focused on the things He wants me to be focused on. Be a good testimony to the example of His grace and patience in my life and shine His light to others.

I want God to be in first place in my life - I want to say that He always is. But, you and I all know the truth - He isn't always in that place I know He should be in. God has been helping me during my time away to restore Him to first place - but I know that it is an ongoing challenge and discipline that I can only do in His strength.

Above all, may He be glorified!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I'm Learning: What's Between 0 & #2?

Ok, that is a bit of cheesy reference to an o-l-d cheer I knew in um, Junior High! But, it is something we are all thinking about, right? Number One.

This could apply in so many ways - but I'm going to process it based on what is number one in our lives. Thursday night, I enjoyed the first Key Note speaker for Relevant - Crystal from Money Saving Mom. I've had the privilege of meeting her before and running into her again was a blessing and a treat!

I really felt like I was coming away to this conference as a sort of retreat and as a time to meet with the Lord and what Crystal shared was a perfect springboard for my time with Him later that night.

She'll be sharing her thoughts in a series on her blog (which has already started) so be watching as she had so many good ideas! I'm not here to recap her words for you but share about what came out of them in my heart.

One of the things I've been struggling with prior to coming on this trip was my time with the Lord. The last couple of weeks have just been difficult in my quiet time. I was having trouble focusing, feeling some hardness of heart and just not making as much quality time for it. I didn't know where to read in my Bible and sort of floundered when I did set the time aside and I usually left that time feeling sort of frustrated.

But, on the drive up here I just prayed that God would meet me here and draw me to Himself. To show me where to read in His word and make those words meaningful to me personally. Right now with where I'm at.

He laid on my heart 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Now, enter Crystal - her topic was "First Things First" and I so appreciated her real and vulnerable way of sharing things that have been a struggle for her and some ideas of things that have helped her as well.

I took a lot of great things away from what she shared, but I was eager to get alone with God and get things right there spending quality time with Him and in His Word right away. I skipped the Dayspring party (even though I did really want to go to that!) just really wanting to put the first thing first.

I did some journaling and praying through this to God. Next, I pulled out my Bible and opened to 1st Timothy and just started reading. It's been a long time since I read 1 Timothy! And, God just met me right where I was at and encouraged me through His Word.

Read 1 Timothy chapter one today and then come back tomorrow to hear the things that jumped out at me when reading it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

What I'm Learning: Feeling Small

I am learning a lot at Relevant - about myself, about blogging and even about my faith. So, I'll be processing this for a while still - but while it is all fresh in my mind I want to at least get started in getting some of these things down and sharing them.

Overall since I left home, I think I would say I have felt very small. You know how when you leave your circle of life and venture out past that how you tend to shrink? Or, is that just me?

Small ~ out on the interstate in a sea of unknown cars going unknown places at a seemingly hurried pace. Small ~ stopping for lunch in an unknown place, leaving the familiar behind. Finding comfort that I have my own car with me because that is something from my regular life that feels normal and homey to me right now.

Small ~ meeting people who don't know me and whom I don't know. Small ~ wow, my blog stats are below hers or she has a much bigger following or more people know about her blog. Feeling small is not a bad thing. I'm not complaining, it is a phrase and feeling that has just been on repeat in my mind since I left home two days ago.


"...he will bless those who fear the Lord - small and great alike." ~ Psalm 115:13

Indeed, what matters is not how small I am or even how great. What matters is my fear of the Lord and doing what He has given me with faithfulness. And, it doesn't matter how I look in anyone's eyes but His.


Wednesday morning it was still dark when I had my car packed and ready to leave for Relevant. I was putting cinnamon rolls in the oven for my children and trying to remember any last minute details.

The time arrived. At 7am the girls clock alarm went off which was their cue that they could get up and give me a goodbye hug - warm little bodies and squinty eyes at the bright lights - they trodded out to the kitchen.

Rachel crawled up in my lap and snuggled, I could sense she was struggling. Yes, there was a sweet little face trying so hard to be brave but fighting away tears. Oh, this was going to be hard and yet, it was very sweet in the same moment.

We talked about all the things she was going to get to do that day and she reminded me of her hope that I would bring her back something. The entire scene repeated with Emily and we move toward the couch where I suggested they snuggle a bit more with Grandma before their breakfast was ready.

It was hard to leave seeing their little faces struggling. And, tears welled up in my eyes as I began the drive. There was something so vulnerable about those brave faces that looked up at me. I realized how much they trust me. I realized what a security it is to them to have me with them every day. All these things that I can easily forget in the day in and day out times of life.

And, I felt like I was trying to be brave too. Leaving these sweet ones, my job for a few days - yet feeling called away to be with Him, meeting new friends and reconnecting with longer held friends. All these things were going to require being brave.

What is requiring you to be brave today?

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Conference begins today!

A big thank you to all who ordered garlands and helped me fully fund my trip!
I can't wait to share more!

P.S. You can listen online here!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting Gracefully: Prepare Yourself

I see my blog as an outlet for myself - but I also see it as a ministry and a journal for my children to read when they are grown! I have a few more posts in this series and want to finish it especially for my own daughters!

As I was waiting for God to provide a husband for me - I was conscious of preparing myself to be in a good place when that happened. For example, I did not want to bring debt to a marriage. So, I worked at being debt free, having a good savings account and investing in my future.

One of the ways I contributed to our home once we got married is by the furniture I had bought when I was single. I tried to make family-friendly decisions and yet, still choose things I liked. I did not want to invest in a table that would not expand to get larger just to have to buy another one later on. I was conscious of trying to make good decisions in my purchases and saw it as a way of investing in my home both at the time and for the future I prayed for.

How will my decisions as a single affect my married life?

Is there something I want to learn during this season? Canning, sewing, bread making, etc... this is a great season to take the opportunity to do some of these things.

All these things helped in preparing me for coming into marriage without debt, but rather with some investments for our home and future family.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Operation Handmade Shoebox: Dolls

Oh, these dolls caught my attention from the first time I looked at Craft Hope! Aren't they adorable?! I'll admit the pattern made me nervous with only a 1/4 inch seam allowance - I was afraid they would pull apart easily. So, I actually cut a larger seam allowance on these and I did not have them pull apart.

I will say that these were a bit more time consuming than I anticipated - the arms and legs are so teeny that they are hard to stuff! But, the end result is worthwhile as I can imagine the joy they will bring to a child somewhere in the world!

It was so fun to take Emily to Sunday School a couple of weeks ago and have her teacher pull one of these dolls out to show me! She put a little bundle of beans in her body to help her sit up and I thought that was a great idea!

You can find the pattern in Craft Hope or here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sweet Observation

We recently went to play at the home of some new friends. The expectant mom has been feeling badly and it was a help to them and fun for us to go over and play!

One of their children is in my CC class - sweet and quiet Caleb. He has talked to his mom about his new friend, Rachel and she has asked if we could go over there and play again. While we were there, it was so precious to me to watch Caleb and Rachel play.

He was very eager to show her his water gun - but he was so gentle around her. His excitement at sharing his things with her was sweet, but even sweeter was the way he treated her. He let her try it, he never got her wet - they always aimed at other things, etc...

My heart was filled with joy as I watched this first peer encounter for her of a young man (yes, very young) treating her with gentleness and respect. It gave me hope and vision for her future husband and how he would treasure her.

I'm having trouble expressing it in words, but it was such a sweet and precious thing to observe. Of course, I have no way of knowing what God has in store for my children - I can trust Him with their future though and thank Him for this glimpse into love made very sweet and beautiful. Thank You, Lord - for allowing me to see and recall this!

PS: I'm re-opening comments this week - I'll still be moderating them and hope I won't need to close them again! Special thanks to all who wrote with encouraging words!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Operation Homemade Shoebox: Art Kit

Here's the first project I've been working on for our Shoeboxes! Aren't these little art notebooks cute and fun!? I finally found the small colored pencils on Amazon and combined with a couple of Christmas gifts for free shipping!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Homespun Harvest: Food

Everyone brought their own picnic supper and I provided drinks and dessert - we did water bottles in a couple of coolers for drinks. But, I did take extra effort to make the desserts special!

Apple Hand Pies (recipe below)

S'mores: Homemade Graham Crackers spread with chocolate frosting and marshmallow creme!

Maple Oat Scones

Festive M&M's!

The Apple Hand pies were actually an idea I saw in a recent magazine and they were called Apple Pie Pops because they were baked onto lollipop sticks.

I decided not to do the lollipop sticks, but still thought the idea was cute! However, when the day came to make them - I could not find the recipe - so I had to use my memory and imagination to come up with these! I also referenced the Farm Chicks apple pie recipe.

Here's what I ended up with:

Refrigerated Pie Crust
2 Apples
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Flour
Sprinkle of Nutmeg
Scant 1/2 c. Sugar
Cinnamon/Sugar mixture

Peel and dice apples and add them to a sauce pan. Stir in cinnamon, flour, nutmeg and sugar and cook until apples are getting soft. Roll out pie crust until it is just a little bigger than it comes and cut out with leaf shaped cookie cutter. Spoon about 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp filling into the center and cover with a second leaf shaped piece of dough. Place on baking sheet and crimp edges with a fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar and bake at 350 until lightly browned. I used four pie crusts and ended up with about 35 leaf shaped pies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homespun Harvest: Friends!

I think these pictures speak for themselves!
Showing all the children and families having a good time together!