time away

I have so many things to share about this weekend, but I'm feeling a call to rest, be quiet, and enjoy my children during our last few days of summer. I hope you'll understand!  I'll be back here next week with a conference update and our regularly scheduled posts. :D Much love to you, sweet friends!

happy birthday sweet Bella

Today is Isabella's 5th birthday!

I can't believe how fast she is growing up!

This girl makes us laugh every day and surprises us with her sweet nature- she is such a happy helper! Oh, I just can't imagine life without her! She is so precious.

In honor of her special day, I thought I would share a few pictures from over the years!

Here is her birth announcement post! :D

I loved carrying her in this wrap:

Here she is at 14 months:

Oh, she loved the day she became a big sister:

And this was the day she turned 3 years old! :)

Here she is at her 4th birthday dinner {standing up to be sung to- she looked like this the entire time! scared-to-death-but-loving-it}:

And on her 5th birthday morning, she's all dolled up in her princess outfit watching the Sweetpea Beauty movie Granna bought her.

This mama is having an emotional morning.

5 isn't exactly old, but she's growing up way too fast...

and I'm not ready for it.

Don't grow up just yet, please.

We love you so much precious Isabella Rose. Happy birthday, sweet girl!

friday news + links

This has been quite the week!

Our power was down for several hours on Tuesday due to a tree limb randomly falling. I’m so thankful for a sweet husband who stayed up late and got up early to be here for the electrician, the electric company, and the inspector to come {which definitely wasn’t cheap- $800 disappeared from our bank account because of a single fallen limb…yikes!}. Our plans kept changing again and again, and we all had a great lesson in going with the flow! :)

I’m getting everything ready for the Mamas Write Conference tomorrow morning- if you think of it, will you pray for me? I’m really, really excited! My topic is “Balancing the Many Ministries of a Writing Mama”… something God is continually teaching me {see paragraph above! ha!} :D I love how He gives you a chance to put what He’s teaching you to work. He’s so cool like that!

I also wanted to share a few links for your weekend reading pleasure:

  • Dawn from Before His Throne shared this awesome story of how the Holy Spirit guided her parenting to center on the Gospel this week! My heart is so excited reading of His goodness at work in little ones! It’s so beautiful to see! He guides us in our weakness, and shows us His strength.
  • Speaking of weakness, I love this article: motherhood is for the weak from une bonne vie:

So, motherhood is not for the strong and able-bodied. It is not for the one who has it all together. It is for the weak. It is for the weary. It is for the mamas who feel they have reached their end…

  • And my favorite pin of the week really makes me think {I also shared it over on our facebook page!}:

What are some of your favorite links this week?

walking through the gospel: the Holy Spirit, our gift

As a believer, have you ever felt a nudging that you couldn't quite explain but you just knew it was God? Something like a whisper in your heart that said, "do this..."? And you knew it wasn't your thought because not only was it the right thing to do, it was also something you didn't want to do? ;)

That's the Holy Spirit at work in your heart!

The Holy Spirit is kind of like the moving agent of the Lord at work in the world today. He is a person who is a Spirit, equal with the Father {God} and the Son {Jesus}. He is known as the comforter, the counselor, and the helper. He convicts us of our sin, He brings love, joy, and all the good things {the light we talked about last week} to our hearts.

The Holy Spirit is probably the most overlooked of the three today, but He actually has a very prominent place in the Bible. Jesus spoke of Him often and gave us a look into what the Spirit would do after He was gone:

Before Jesus died on the cross, He gave us good news- he promised that a helper would come after He left:

John 16:7
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

And Jesus told us exactly what the Holy Spirit would do:

John 14:26
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

So the Holy Spirit is our teacher- He brings wisdom to our hearts straight from the source- from God's Word. He only teaches truth that is straight from God:

John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

The Spirit testifies to us the truth, that Jesus is God:

John 15:26
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

But Jesus is very clear that the Holy Spirit is for believers alone. The world can't receive His Spirit of truth:

John 14:16-17
 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,f to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

But what was the purpose- why did God give us this Spirit? He gave us the Spirit because we are now His children, and He wants us to remember that we are His, and He is our Father:

Galatians 4:4-6
 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 

Like a child cries out to his father, we cry out to our Father in Heaven. We know who our Father is, because He reminds us with the Spirit. When our hearts are heavy, when we feel lonely, and when we hurt or disobey- we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and comforts us with His Holy Spirit here on earth.

So we know that believers have the Holy Spirit inside of them- that God Himself resides in the hearts of those who believe. Remember how we talked about animal sacrifices as payment for sins

Before Jesus came, God's presence would only reside in the holy temple, and the law and the cleansing of sin by animal sacrifices that were required to come before God were just a shadow of the things to come.

After Jesus died on the cross, there was no longer a reason for holding animal sacrifices in the temple, because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for all of mankind. And after He died and rose again there was no longer any need for a physical temple either.

Because Jesus came, the Holy Spirit can reside in the heart of the believer- because we are made pure through the blood of Christ. We are clean- and the very Spirit of God can dwell in us!! We have become the "temple" of God! Isn't that incredible?

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
16Do you not know that youb are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

So because we have been made clean and the Holy Spirit resides in us, we now can offer spiritual sacrifices to God- which means we can give up ourselves- our will, and do good for the glory and purpose of God.  

Romans 12:1-2
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers,a by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.b 2Do not be conformed to this world,c but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.d

But how can we do it on our own? We can't without the help of our Father and His gift to us, the Holy Spirit:

Romans 8:12-17
12So then, brothers,d we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonse of God. 
15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Because we are the children of God, we are to live like the Son of God did on this earth- to put to death sin and the desires of our flesh. Jesus did it perfectly so that we can receive His Spirit and now do the same. 

Because the Spirit lives in us and tells us what to do, we can't stay the same as we were before. It's like the light and the darkness we talked about before. The Spirit can't be in the darkness, because He is light.

So what does the Spirit at work actually look like in your life as a believer? 

When you forgive someone, and your heart leaves that burden of hurt and sadness behind- that's the Holy Spirit working in your heart.

When you feel tempted to do something you know is wrong, and your heart tells you not to do it- to run the other way- that is the Holy Spirit at work in you. And not only does He tell you to run away- He gives you the strength to do it!

1 Corinthinas 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When you feel a whisper in your heart to give something to someone, to help this person, or to pray for this person right now- that's the Holy Spirit doing His work!

When you walk through a really difficult trial, and you feel joy at the end of it- that's the Holy Spirit refining and changing you!

Did you realize that God was talking to you every day? :)

I have so many stories of the amazing Holy Spirit working- He blows me away every.single.time. 

Strange things start to happen when you listen to the Holy Spirit. He will tell you to randomly email or call people, and then you find out that at that very moment the person was crying or needed encouragement!  And that's when you get chill bumps... because God is cool like that! :)

I wish I could sit and share with you all the crazy awesome things that He has orchestrated in the past two years alone. Someday in Heaven I think we will all get to sit together and talk about all the ways He worked in our lives back here on earth!

The Holy Spirit is truly the most amazing gift to us as believers- we get to be transformed by Him on a daily basis.

He is always revealing our sin, teaching us to do what is right, showing us what the Bible means, giving us wisdom to make decisions, orchestrating the events of our day, helping us forgive and be gracious to others, and changing us to be more and more like Jesus. 

That's the beautiful thing about salvation- God rescues us from the person that we used to be, and transforms us into a new creation! It sounds too good to be true- but it's not.

The life of a believer is definitely not easy- because you have to put to death what you want. But at the same time, it's easier to do than you ever thought it would be, because you have the Holy Spirit to help you do it. 

That's what we will talk about next week {Lord-willing!}- how by the grace of the God we can live in this fallen flesh. It's only through His power, isn't it? Thank you Jesus, for giving us the Helper!

on time and selfishness

I've found that Monday mornings start either really well, or really poorly. Is that the case at your house too?

This morning started really well. :D

The kids were asleep, and I had some great {quiet} study time. I even had plans for the morning- I was going to head out to the coffee shop to work on several projects and articles.

But it didn't work out that way. Because God is in charge. :)

You see, I've been praying all month about my character goal, generosity.

My goal this month was to give away something I love to someone who needs it.

And every single time I ask God to teach me something, He does.

No joke.

I have two or three specific things that God has laid on my heart to give away this month, which is exciting! I'm trying to listen and obey the Holy Spirit when it happens. The good news: it has happened, and is still happening! Thank you, Jesus!

The bad news: in the past 20 days, I've seen that I'm extremely selfish. And I'm particularly scrooge-ish when it comes to time.

This morning really brought that ugly fact to light even more.

I had these plans, and things had come up three days in a row that kept me from doing them. And this morning, it was one more thing. No coffee shop for me. I was needed at home.

In less than 30 seconds my to-do list became overwhelming, the anger and tears came, and with them, my joy went straight out the window. I slammed the door and cried on my bed. 

Yep. I'm 15 again. 

It was supposed to be "my" time...I was going to get stuff done...

Ah, the ugliness comes out so very fast. Grrr. 

My husband needed my time, and I wasn't willing to give it to him. I knew I {and he} had no choice, but out came the frustration and tears toward the man I love. The man who swept me off my feet just last weekend.

Oh Lord, when will I learn?

How many times will it happen? When will I get over myself?

I hate it.

The Pharisee gave out of his abundance, but the widow gave out of poverty.

Is it much of a sacrifice to give when I have plenty? 

Or is it a sacrifice to give when I need the thing I'm giving away?

I needed my time, and I wasn't willing to give it. 

Oh, Jesus, please forgive me. I hate seeing this sin. It's awful. How does it come out so easily?

Teach me generosity. Teach me to give when it hurts. Teach me to die to myself and my own desires.

Father, please teach me to sacrifice the thing I keep valuing the most: my time.

I want to give all of my life to you. Even when it means my silly little plans change. Thank you Lord for your mercy- thank you that you saved me while I was still a sinner, and that you won't let me go- that you keep giving me grace and mercy even when I screw up. You are SO good to me, Father.

food on friday: social dining {a.k.a. when the diet gets left behind}

I had a friend make an interesting comment about the original food diet the other day. He said something like, "it sounds like a good thing, but the biggest thing about it is that it makes it difficult to be social."

I agreed with him.  It's not easy to eat a special diet in a group setting.

I told him that's why we decided early on, back when we decided to make the big diet change- if we were at someone else's home or party, we would eat what we were served, and if we were to go out for special occasions, we would eat and enjoy whatever food we wanted to eat. Life and people are more important than food.

Food plays a big role in social events, and it's important to us to enjoy this life and the friends we are given. :)

We are very blessed to be free of medical needs that make a special diet necessary. We choose to eat vegan foods while we are at home, and if we go out, we try to follow those rules unless it's important to the situation or to us to eat whatever we want at that time.

So I'm still doing the original food diet, for the most part. :) The other part has been lots of special celebrations! :D We've been busy celebrating life, milestones, and good things {like anniversaries!} for the last few weeks, and it's a good thing. :)

In fact, we hosted a little dinner party shower a couple of weeks ago, and I made pasta with chicken and sausage:

along with homemade marinara and sun-dried tomato basil cream sauce:

My sister-in-law made italian creme cupcakes....

and we got to visit with these lovely people who are being blessed with twin girls in the next month or two!
{and their cutie-patootie Della!}

I definitely ate more than my fair share of pasta, chicken, bread, and cupcakes. I think we both did:

And you know what? We had a wonderful time! {And I think eating vegan foods may make regular food taste even better!}

The pasta and meat were really good, and the bread, salad, and cupcakes were even better {thank you, Jolinda and Cayse!}. It was so much fun eating and enjoying time with our sweet friends!

And honestly, this is so what I wanted to do with the cupcakes too, Della:

They were YUM!

Here's to good food, good friends, and new babies!  :D 

{and going back to the ofd when the parties are over! ;)}

Q: When you're on a special diet, how do you handle social meals? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

walking through the gospel: believing and following Jesus now {part 2}

Last week we talked about the darkness, and why believers have to leave it behind. This week, we are continuing that conversation with what it looks like to walk in the light. :)

the light

So what is the will of God for a believer? It's to walk in the light. So what does the light look like?
Galatians 5:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Walking in the Spirit or in the light, you can't keep feeding those sinful desires- you must put them to death with the power of the cross. Because Jesus defeated sin, He can defeat and put to death the sins of your flesh! 

Walking in the light means you have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control!

Instead of malice, bitterness, or hatred, when you walk in the light, you have love for your enemies. 

Instead of throwing fits of anger and impatience with your kids, you can walk in the light by speaking kindly to them and waiting with patience. 

When someone says something hurtful to you, you walk in the light by controlling your tongue {self-control}, and speaking peace-seeking words in return to them.

Okay, now if this sounds really hard {or even impossible!}, it is. Our flesh- our desire to sin- and the Spirit are at war against each other.

And it is impossible to win the battle on our own. Our flesh desires to do what is wrong {to say ugly things or get revenge}, but the Spirit tells us the right thing to do. It's like a huge war between what God wants and what sin wants in our lives.

But Jesus, in His kindness, saved us while we were sinners, and rescued us from the chains of our flesh! He has the power over sin and death, and with His help, we have the ability to change!!

See, this is where so often we make a huge mistake as believers. We want to change ourselves, to please God, but our hearts are deceitful and our flesh is weak.

We try to do it on our own, and we fail, because we aren't relying on God for the change- we are trying to "fix" ourselves. And it feels like an endless cycle.

Sometimes, we know we can't change, we get tired of the battle. and we want to give up altogether. We want to stop fighting. This is where God's grace and strength is shown in our weakness!

why we want to walk in the light

The most important thing to realize is that God is the one doing the work in us. It's not about following a law of do this, don't do that; it's about seeking to do the will of God and seeking to please Him with our lives.

Giving up our desires and giving up our will is like offering a spiritual sacrifice to God. It's pleasing to Him that we give Him all of us:

Romans 12:1
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

You have been chosen by God. You are one of His people. You were given mercy- you were called out of darkness and into the light. And there is a war against your soul- the passions of the flesh- the darkness {sin} wants to take you down!

1 Peter 2:
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
That's why we have to walk in the light- we have to walk with honor so that we bring glory to God! You are His child. Walk with Him in joy, love, peace, patience, goodness, kindness. There is no wrong in those. :D 

All that is good comes from Him. And He empowers us to do these good things. It's not done with our own strength- it's done through His power.

I love this passage because it sums up so perfectly what we are supposed to do:
Colossians 3
12Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Love. Be thankful. Be patient with each other. Be kind. Forgive. Be humble. 

Remember, sweet Jesus did all those things for you first!

Dwell on Christ. Do everything for Him! And you can do it with His help.

Does that resonate with your spirit too? I'm so blown away by how God works in your heart to help you desire the good things, and He helps you leave behind the desire for the darkness.

It's so God- He loves you so much to teach you these things! He saved you from the darkness, and it's so important that you don't go back there. Walk in Him- walk in the Light, sweet friends! 

You can do it with the help of the Holy Spirit- and next week we will talk more about Him- who He is, how He helps us walk in the light, and why He is our best friend. :)

a decade of happiness

10 years. 

I still can't believe it.

I've been married for a decade.

Two things come to mind when I read that sentence.

1. I'm officially old.

2. I'm so blessed to be happily married to my husband for so long.

Last Friday was our 10th anniversary, and this man knows how to celebrate an anniversary, I tell you.

Friday morning, he brought me four dozen roses:

and then he started right in on the dishes. :)

It doesn't get better than that! :D

He's an amazing husband. I seriously love this man. We've been married for a decade, and I still get butterflies. :)

Friday was our 10th anniversary {on the 10th!}, and my dad watched the kiddos for us {thanks, dad!!!}, so we headed out for a quick getaway night.  

Something about hitting the double digits of marriage made this weekend very special.

the engagement

Over eleven years ago, on Christmas Day, he asked me to go for a walk out on his parents' property. It was cold and pouring rain, and I think I remember trying to get out of this particular freezing rainy walk, but he managed to convince me. :) 

Bundled up in our coats, under a big rainbow umbrella, he took me out to his parents' pier. It was the very spot where we'd kissed for the first time exactly one year before. 

the pier
My heart started beating like crazy, as he got down on one knee, and told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, and then he asked me to marry him. 

I was crying {I think he was too-it was too dark to see}, and I told him, "yes!" Then we almost ran back inside because by that time we were soaked. ;)

I was all of 18 {barely}, and he had just turned 21. We were so young! {not that we thought it at the time...}

Back in those days, it was hard to even imagine what 10 years later would look like.

I had no idea we'd have four children {8 years old and under}, and a fixer upper historical home in the same city where we'd went to college. 

I knew for sure that like all marriages, ours would have it's hard times, but I didn't know it would also get sweeter over the years.

Last Friday marked 10 years of marriage for us- almost 12 years since that Christmas day on the pier.

At midnight, after a lovely {steak!} dinner and a movie, we walked down to the harbor on the lake where we were staying. 

the harbor
As we strolled along the pier, it was still warm, but a breeze was blowing across the water, so it was more than pleasant. As we held hands and walked along the water, we talked about all the adventures we'd had together in the past decade. It became a fun game of "do you remember that time?"

As we walked past the lighthouse, he asked me, "do you remember that time we walked down a pier like this..."

I laughed, and said, "I think it was just a little different....it was raining...and cold..."

He laughed too, then gently pulled my hand as he stopped and turned to stand in front of me.

"And I don't remember the lighthouse..." I added.

His voice caught just a little as he smiled and said, "do you remember how I was really nervous?" 

My heart started beating like crazy. So much like it did all those years ago.

I nodded as my eyes started to fill with tears.

His did too.

Then he kneeled down on the pier.

His eyes never left mine as his hand reached down into his pocket. "And do you remember how I got down on one knee, and reached in my pocket and pulled out a box..."  

Big fat tears started rolling down my cheeks.

"...and then I asked if you would marry me?"

I smiled as I furiously tried to wipe away the tears but they wouldn't stop. My eyes were a bit blurry, but I could see a shiny ring...

"Will you marry me?" he asked me again, 12 years later.

I couldn't stop crying and laughing as I said yes {again!}, and then he stood and we held each other for the longest time on the dark pier, not even caring that five people randomly decided to walk by at that very moment. 

By that point, we were both laughing and crying. As he put the ring on my finger, I couldn't help but ask him if he was nervous this time around because he thought I'd say no... :)

I love him so much. He knows me so, so well. He loves me so well. I think God designed this man for me. He knew that this man would be the one who would take care of my heart needs on this earth.

We're so blessed to have been given such a wonderful marriage. God has been so kind to us. We love the same things, we enjoy being together every chance we get, and we even like the same foods these days.

He works so hard for our family, and he even helps me with the house and puts the kids to bed at night. He leads our family and teaches our children how to live for Jesus. The word wonderful doesn't do him justice.

I've spent more than 1/3 of my life with him, and I can't wait to spend more.

I love you, baby. Happy anniversary.