my one goal for 2013 + planning goals in the new year

I'm just getting back from a little time away from everything- the hubs and I went to Hot Springs for three days while my mom kept the kiddos {thanks Mom!!}. It was so relaxing, but Rob and I both decided we missed the chaos a little bit. :) We were ready to come back home. We don't know how to sit still for too long. :)

But I can't say I'm quite ready for the new year. I keep wanting to think about setting a bunch of goals for the year, but I'm trying to restrain myself from planning everything out this time.

I tend to get crazy and a little too ambitious with my goals- and I always end up doing more than I thought I could, but never all of what I wanted to do. Which drives me crazy sometimes. And I even knew that going into 2012! Ha! Does that happen to you too? :)

This year I'm working on just a couple of ideas to try, and I think I'm going to plan out my months as they come along instead of so far in advance. If one thing's for sure, my plans are not His plans. :)

My one big goal this year is to grow in Christ. I want to fall more in love and become more like Him, and I want to look less like myself at the end of 2013. Oh, I just can't get enough of Him, you guys! Even when I go through dry seasons in my quiet time, my heart somehow cries out to Him to keep me in His hand- to not let me slip away from Him, even a little bit. And that encourages me, because it is the Holy Spirit interceding for me. I know it's not me.

Becoming a better mama and wife, staying disciplined in my work, learning more about Him- all the things I desire to grow in this year, really depend on Him working in me first. He decides my priorities, and He changes my heart.

I'm excited about what is to come in 2013. I can't wait to see what He does, and how He guides the months ahead! Soon I'll make out a few goals for January {maybe even including a little fitness challenge! :D}, and share those with you, but for now I'm enjoying the last few sweet hours of 2012.

Thank you Jesus, for this beautiful, beautiful year.

what a merry day...

Oh, this day.

He was born.

He lived.

He died.

He rose.

We live.

He left us His Spirit as a promise, and one day soon He will return for His bride.

We celebrate Him today-what was, what is, and what is to come.

The great I AM.

Jesus, we praise you!

Thank you that we are given a chance to worship you today, and every day. Thank you for giving us salvation and true joy!!

We eagerly wait for you to make your appearance.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

p.s. I'm taking a bit of a blogging break through the new year to celebrate with my family. I'll be back soon!! Merry, merry Christmas friends!!

how we have hope in the face of evil

Their precious Noah, age 6, who was killed last Friday at school. My own little Noah is just 7.
After Friday, how do we go back to regular life?

I think it's the question on everyone's heart today.

My heart aches for the families of the children and teachers that died in Connecticut last week. I can't begin to imagine the grief and anger they must face right now.

I feel angry that an evil boy-man can go in and take the lives of little children.

I'm angry that he killed himself. That he's not alive to see what he did. I realize He will face a much more serious judge than here on earth, but I still can't believe that he was so cowardly.

I don't know if I should be angry or not, honestly. We are called to love, but my chest burns because I can't believe a human being would be capable of such an atrocity. It's just so evil.

But there is nothing new under the sun, my brother Josh reminds me. Evil men have been taking the lives of children and the innocent for centuries. 

How could I forget?

Around this time more than two thousand years ago, a decree went out from the government that all of the first-born sons under 2 in Bethlehem were to be killed. That's why Mary and Joseph had to take Jesus and flee to Egypt.

Can you imagine your government killing your first-born baby boy?

How about the government demanding the life of any of your newborn baby boys like Pharaoh did in the time of Moses?

Or your government deciding to murder your disabled child like Hitler did not even 75 years ago?

And what about people deciding to kill their own children? 

1.2 million innocent babies died in our very own country last year.

It seems to me that evil hates innocence. Evil wants to kill innocence.

How is this possible? So many people ask why a good God would allow this to happen.

My question in return is, why would mankind allow this to happen? Why do we allow it to happen?

The responsibility is ours. The consequences are ours.

Man is desperately wicked. 

From the fall in the garden, we have been seeking our own way apart from God. We are completely unable to bring ourselves to goodness. 

History just shows us that man continues to sin, and even in the same way. 

We are forever lost without a chance- doomed to repeat history- unless someone comes to redeem us.

And only Jesus, the Son of God, did that. 

He was innocent, but He gave Himself up. 

We killed Him, the spotless Lamb, just like all those madmen killed those innocent children. 


Because evil wants to kill innocence.  Evil hates good.

Our sins put Jesus on the cross that day. We crucified Him with our lies, our disobedience, our hate. He died because of what we did. 

But God in His amazing GLORY, defeated our sin in that moment- through the death and resurrection of His perfect Son, we became able to be made clean and perfect like He is. In a moment, we went from murderers to adopted, righteous sons and daughters made new in His likeness. 


What is that incredible, crazy mercy?

Oh, do you see it??

We have no hope aside from Jesus!

But God is so, so merciful. 

God's eyes weren't closed when the Connecticut shooting happened. He sees the evil happening here. Like Ninevah, this country's evil has come up before God

And He sent a Way for us to repent- to be saved, just like He did for that evil city.

God is as full of mercy today as He was in Ninevah's day. They were a culture known for loving violence {does it seem strange that we as a culture today love to watch it in movies, TV, video games, and the news?}, but God had great pity on them, and gave them the chance to repent. 

He saw their 120,000 who didn't know their right hand from their left. He saw their tiny innocent ones, and He didn't want them to die. 

God isn't willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance: 
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Like the persistent widow demanding justice from the judge in Luke 18, our human heart cries for justice when evil does us wrong. But do we remember that we were once the evil-doer? And that God had mercy on us?

My heart is angry for the children that died, and I want to see that a punishment is given to the person who did it. My heart wants justice for the innocent. I want what is wrong to be made right. Everyone in this place does. 

This world is broken. We can all see that. Anyone can see that.

The question is, are we willing to see what we did to the Redeemer of all things?

He died for our sins. He was innocent. Spotless. Pure.  

Will we turn from our sins, and put our hope in Him alone? He waits with great patience for us to come to Him. 

What can we do as believers as we look for His return? For this broken world to be made new and clean and right again? 

Oh, and we can't miss how Jesus finishes the parable of the widow with this important question:
"Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18:8

Will he find us faithful at the end? Will you put your hope in Him today?

Jesus, thank you for your great mercy toward us. We are sinners desperately in need of you, and we praise you for giving us a way to come before you. We eagerly await your return, Jesus. Please comfort the broken-hearted as only you can do, God. You can imagine their grief, Lord. Oh Jesus, we come before you asking that you would be the light in the darkness of this situation. Show them your glory, Lord, and give them hope, Father. We love and praise you God, and we long for you to come.

the $10 business | buckle your seatbelt {investment #4}

I feel so much better today!! I think your prayers worked, because I slept like a baby last night. Thank you, Lord!! :D

Remember the $10 business? {I'm still working on it, slowly!}. I'll post more of these as I get a chance!

I found this Harvey's seatbelt bag at Goodwill in great condition for $7.57:

These sell for $138 online, and they're actually made out of seat belts!  They're really well made bags, and pretty too. And no one will be able to rip it off your shoulder, that's for sure!

I sold my sweet little find for $35- making about $27 before taxes! :D Wohoo! :D

$126.69 + $27.43= $154.12 in four transactions {I started with $10!}.

After doing a few of these earlier this year, I realized that spending my free time shopping to make extra money isn't really high on my priority list. :) And I stopped doing as much thrifting after our Goodwill remodeled and prices went up. But if it's feasible for my family, I hope to do more of these kinds of transactions soon!

how to be like Jesus as a woman today {when you’re weary}

what it looks like to follow Jesus as a woman in today's world

Do you ever feel like you have little ones hanging on your legs all day long? Asking you for things constantly?

Jesus did too. :)

He even had adults pulling on his robe. Every person wanting something from Him. Touch me, heal me, help me.

Just imagining that scenario makes me twitch a bit.

Worse than the worst paparazzi- these people were infected, possessed, bleeding, leprous- and they all wanted to get to Jesus. To touch Him. To talk to Him.

Jesus certainly wasn’t a germaphobe, was He?

He had these needy people all over him, all the time, and over and over He had compassion on them.

I wonder how long would it take for my compassion tank to run out? Like two days? But He never runs out.

I love seeing in the Gospels how Jesus dealt with the needy people. I get tired just reading all He did {in between walking miles and miles everywhere}. When I would call it quits mentally, He has compassion and keeps on healing the sick and teaching the hearts of the lost. In almost every town.

I’m thinking, how does Jesus keep on? I know He has to be tired. I have just four little kids and a husband, and I get tired of constantly being needed. How does His human body keep going? Surely He felt something like I do today?

Then I see it: in the midst of all the ministry, over and over again He slips away from the crowd to be alone with His Father.

It even says it here in Luke 5:16: “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Sometimes after the day ends, and many times before the day begins, Jesus recharges Himself in the presence of His Father.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

Wherever He is, He finds a quiet place to hear Him. To walk with Him.

So many times before and after big events in Jesus’ ministry, we find Him withdrawing to places He can be alone with God.

That last night in the Garden- He prayed all night. The culmination of His ministry here on earth was preceded by and soaked in prayer.

I know you’re thinking what I have before- but I have all these little children and I’m never alone. I have so much to do, all the time.

I think in light of the Scriptures, we have no excuse. :)

God Himself wore flesh, and everywhere He went He was followed by people needing Him to do something. To teach them something. Not so different from mamas.

And yet, even with all the work He had to do, He found Himself needing to be alone in the presence of God.

Perhaps we need the same. Before, after, during the day- it doesn’t matter when.

If you feel like you don’t have a moment to yourself, you’re in great company. Jesus understands. :)

And just like God provided a chance for Jesus to be alone with Him, He will do the same for you. He will refresh you with His Spirit, just like He did for His Son.

You have the Holy Spirit in you, speaking to your heart. I know if you ask, He will give you a moment to hear His voice.

It’s not the law of course- you don’t have to have any certain “quiet time” every day. God provides you with His Spirit everywhere! But looking at the example of Jesus, I think we would so benefit from being alone with Him regularly.

I know for me, a lot of times I read the Bible on the couch with the kids running around, but I can’t pray with little people talking all around me. I can’t. I need to be alone- I need to speak with God- I need to hear Him.

My heart burns and seeks God, and I want no distractions when He is calling me. Most of the time it’s in the morning, but sometimes in the middle of the day I can hide in the bedroom or the laundry room for a few minutes. Or in the bath at night.

If you feel God pulling you away for a moment, stop and go to your room or the laundry room or a closet, and pray to Him. He wants your heart, and you already know this, but your constant serving is draining on you, sweet friend.

You need to refresh your spirit in Him- to set your mind on things above so that you can continue in your well-doing. He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might, He increases strength!

This morning I woke up really early because I have this awful sinus pressure. I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I woke up before the kiddos and had time alone with God. I told Him right away I had nothing today- that I am weak and tired and broken, and He said to me, when I am weak, He is strong.

And you know what? He gave me energy. Energy to brush hair. To put clothes in the dryer. To clean up the house. To do a load of laundry. To write two articles. To not have a terrible attitude because the center of my face hurts.

He gives you strength.

When you’re tired, find your rest in Him. Find anywhere you can to have a minute alone with God.

He will give you your strength. He did it for His Son, and He promises the same for you today.

Seek Him, my friend.

gift guide for men {$35 and under}

I had a ton of fun making a gift guide for the ladies last week, so I thought I would share a men's gift guide based on things I know my man likes. :D

My hubs is a techie, but he's a handyman too. He's single-handedly remodeled the entire downstairs of our house so far. He's also very good at inventing things. And working out. :D {I like to tell him it must be because he has an amazing fitness instructor. Ahem. ;)}

So here are a few gift items he might want, use, or already love:

When we met, he got endless amounts of teasing from my dad that his favorite movie had the words princess and bride in it. I think my dad may have even called it the princess diaries once or twice. But Rob stuck to his guns, and still proudly admits his favorite movie of all time is:

And with "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..."

I have to admit, it's the best movie ever. :D

Headphones are also at the top of his wish list- he loves to listen to the Bible and audiobooks while he remodels our.entire.home... ;)

$5.58 with really excellent reviews, and they come in lots of colors! {also apparently, they were recommended by Consumer Reports!}
And this may or may not be what I'm getting the hubs for Christmas. {don't tell!} It's a table top set that makes any table into a ping pong table. :D I'm excited about this one too!

We saw this over at Restoration Hardware, and he fell in love with this:

Here is a slightly less stylish Amazon version for $12.93 shipped.

And both my husband and my brother profess great love for their comfortable zipped fleece jackets. I know why- I love them too! They are perfect for wearing around the house all day:

And I mentioned that Rob loves to listen to books while he does house repairs... this year he mentioned he would love to listen to this audio book again:

{That book is amazing- I think it's good for every Christian to read! It's a fictional work of letters written between the ranks of the demons as they work on Christians. It really makes you think!}

And you know every guy needs another flash drive! This one is special because it's crazy tiny:

And if the man on your list works out, he really might like this blender bottle my husband LOVES:

It's the only "glass" my hubs uses every day. ;)

And I loved this classic Timex. If I didn't just buy him a watch, I would totally buy this for him this Christmas:

{It was selling for much, much more on the J. Crew website a year ago!}

And while the last gift definitely does not qualify to be exciting, I think every man loves a great pair of super comfortable socks that will last {comfort is always the #1 priority for most guys I know!}:

What kinds of gifts does your guy love? Would you say comfort is at the top of his list too? :D

{p.s. the amazon links above contain my affiliate information, so that if you should decide to buy those items, {bh} will get a small percentage! yay for affiliate programs!}

coming soon...a Mandy's Closet pop-up sale!!

I'm working on a fun little project today!

Within the next week or so, I'll be posting another round of Mandy's Closet!! :D

In case you missed the first round, it's like shopping at the thrift store from home! :D

Each item is a unique find from my closet, and the prices will be the same as you would find at the thrift store or eBay, just without all of the hunting!

Here are some items I'll be listing: Cole Haan Nike Air leather boots, a leather military-style jacket, a metallic leather Coach purse, sweaters, blazers, a Fossil leather bag, Joe's Jeans, Giani Bini leather heels, Citizens of Humanity jeans, a silk olive green dress, Frye strappy heels, Christian books, home decor, and more.

I'm so excited!! :D I am super thrilled to be able to share a few of my finds with you! :D 

signs of life in our home

I am so amazed at how spending time with Jesus totally transforms your perspective. I can remember last week a time when having to deal with all of this would have made me feel overwhelmed:

The paper snowflakes all over the living room...

the muffin crumbs everywhere...

random junk to put away {and more crumbs}...

laundry to do...

and the never empty sink of dishes...

Not so long ago, seeing those things would have forced me to take a deep breath and tackle them as soon as possible.

But this morning, they aren't my taskmasters. 

Instead, they are beautiful signs of life at my house.

Of tiny hands creating...

of mouths being fed...

of little bodies being clothed.

It's amazing how walking with Jesus takes the temporary and gives it an eternal perspective.

These precious lives have been entrusted to me. They are His, yet they are in my care.

Do I love them the way my Father loves me?

Oh, I want to so badly.

I love how my Father is so patient with me. How I make messes, and He takes care of them for me.

I stumble, and He picks me up. Yet He doesn't tell me how awful I was for falling. I sin, and He forgives and is still merciful to me.

He holds my hand through it all. And that's what I want to do for them too.

My Father is helping me focus on my little ones instead of the mess this week. And you know what? The mess doesn't matter at all anymore.

It's such an incredible mercy- only He could change this stubborn heart.

He's taking my eyes off the temporary and showing me what really matters.

They are His little ones too.

I praise you, Lord, for the precious signs of life in our home. Thank you for food, and dishes to eat it on; clothing, and a place to wash it; for the eight little busy hands and eight little growing feet you've given me to care for. Please help me to keep my eyes on what is important in this time I have with them. Help me to show them the way to you by displaying your love to them.

10 fun online gifts for women {gift guide: $1-$40}

I must confess: I love seeing gift guides all over blogland this time of year. It so much fun to have someone else shop and then give me all their great ideas! :)

When I buy gifts for others, I really want them to like what I've spent my time and effort on to give them. Is that weird? I just really like to try to find something that person might actually like. :D 

I'd rather give the person the money I spent than to give them something they'll never use. You know what I mean?  When it comes to gift giving, I really want to spend my money wisely. So I like to do lots of research. :) 

In case you're like me, just for fun, I've gathered a list of 10 things I really like {and some of them, I have been given myself and love}, in case you're looking for a great gift for a woman between 25 and 35 years old. :) {I say that because I'm right in the middle of that range. You can be 19 and 55 and still like them all too! There are no rules! :D hehee!} 

This year I've become a shopping hermit, and I've pretty much decided I don't want to leave my house to shop. I don't know what's up with that, but for those of you who are there with me, all of these gifts can be purchased online. YAY! 

Here are my top 10 online gifts:

My husband gave me this candle for my birthday, and I think every single person that has smelled it has really liked it. It's a scent called Volcano, and it's this sweet citrus smell that reminds us of the pink Starburst candy {specific enough? ha!}. It's been a very special gift that has lasted through the months.


I don't have this, but I thought it was adorable and very affordable:

$12.50 on Etsy

So funky, and fun! I love unusual hair accessories, especially when they're cheap!
$1.56 with free shipping {I haven't tried it but it has excellent reviews!}.

 This one is so special to me because this ministry was started by a local doctor and his wife and is near and dear to many people in my city. I love, love, love PCM. :D I don't have this, but I think it's gorgeous, and I love that the money goes to a great cause:


$1.37 with free shipping? Yes, please.

6. Pretty? Scalp Massager
Here's something weird I've been wanting to try because it could be very amazing {the reviews say it is, anyway!}. It could be an awesome stocking stuffer for just $1.13 with free shipping:

One of my all-time favorite books, and an awesome conversation starter {I'll have to tell you that story some day!}:

Wait for a sale since they are $39 {regular price}, but these are so cute and real leather so I'm guessing you'll get years out of them:

I have a set of these in orange, white, and aqua, and we use them all.the.time. They are beautiful and functional, and they don't break or chip easily. They would be the perfect gift for someone who loves vintage kitchen stuff but won't spend $5 on a bowl:

set of 6 for $30 {you can buy them in-store by the single bowl}

This is my favorite perfume. It's really affordable and I love the way it smells. Plus, I love the rollerball because it takes me years to use a bottle of perfume. I could keep this size for almost a year:


And those are some of my favorite online gifts this year! What are your favorite gifts to give? Please share! I know so many of us are still searching for a perfect gift!

{p.s. the amazon links contain my affiliate information, so that if you should decide to buy those items, I might get a small percentage! no pressure. haha! :D}