the most thrilling words

Oh sweet friends, it doesn't get more exciting than this, does it?!! Jesus is ALIVE!!! :D

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said...
Matthew 28:6 

pregnancy update: baby #5, 22 weeks... and a surprise?

22 weeks! Hey, we're officially on the downhill side now! :D

So... we had our big ultrasound this week. As we walked into the room, the tech asked us if we want to find out the gender of the baby. 

We told him yes... or well, that we already know, but it couldn't hurt to make sure. :)

So he puts the jelly all over the cold wand and brings to the side of my belly, and instantly we see this perfect little bottom appear on the screen.

"Oh," he says, without looking up from the screen. "Is it a girl?"

Rob and I instantly look at each other with wide eyes. Not according to the last ultrasound we had at 16 weeks!

"I don't know- is it?" I ask. 

My heart started pounding in my chest as we waited for him to tell us...

Oh my goodness, what will we do with a girl? I start thinking about having a third girl, and her name, and it feels like my whole world is changing suddenly. We've already bought boy stuff...we've been calling him... er, her... a boy name all this time.

All these thoughts start flying around in my head....I'm squinting as hard as I can at the tiny screen, craning my neck to see what he's seeing. This is our 5th baby, so for the last 4 ultrasounds or so I've been able tell what gender it is before the tech announces it. And I'm not seeing any little boy parts either. Nope... nothing there.

"Hmm..well..." he says, as he adjusts the wand on my belly just a little. "I don't see any..."

"Wait, no, there it is... he was just hiding from us!" 

And... all of the sudden I can breathe again. Phew

Goodness, man. Do not mess with a pregnant girl like that. :)

I really never cared one way or the other about a specific gender, but somehow changing it in the middle seemed huge and scary! :) 

So... it's still a boy. He made sure and showed us repeatedly after that! ;)

Here's my 22 week update:

How I'm feeling:
Tired. Really, really {really} tired, and I can only guess it's because the baby has been growing like a weed. My belly is very much showing now, and I have no energy whatsoever. :) Allergy season is in full swing, and I've never noticed the pollen bothering me until this year. I'm sneezy, stuffy, and can't breathe at night which makes me grumpy too. ;)

If I had to guess, I would imagine this is the middle of the heavy growth spurt that normally happens from about week 18 to week 32 or so for me... :) I usually grow really fast and feel the most tired when the baby is growing the most {well, percentage-wise anyway. :) }.

I haven't been very hungry this week, but I have been working hard to make sure I get lots of protein. I have been loving my grilled chicken with buffalo sauce, cottage cheese, and greek yogurt for most meals. I'm liking mostly plain things- nothing too spicy or sour or flavored. {other than the buffalo sauce- I don't know why I love it, but I do!}

I noticed about mid-week that I was completely exhausted, and remembered I hadn't eaten many carbs since Saturday because I just didn't want any. I ate a sandwich and some fro-yo for lunch on Wednesday and felt much better. So now I'm just trying to remember to eat some bread/sugar every now and then so that I don't get too low on energy. This preggo body is always keeping me on my toes!

Body Changes:
Everything is growing on schedule, and average as far as I can tell for me. It's just happening as my body wants to, and that's the way it goes in my pregnancies.

I find myself rubbing my belly now and again, and it's so fun. :) I am slowly outgrowing some of my clothes every week, and in the past 3 weeks I've become fully preggo looking. Strangers are asking me what I'm having. :)

I pulled out my maternity clothes today and realized they were now 10 years old. WHAT in the world? I must have been at this for a while! A decade of style changes makes a bit of a difference for sure. :)

3 weeks later makes a big difference! :)

I'm slowing way down here for sure, because the tiredness is killing me in this department. I teach my classes and feel fine, but I have little energy to do much else right now, which is discouraging, but hopefully it's just because of the stage I'm in at the moment. I exercise 1-1.5 hours, 4 or 5 days/week right now, which is probably more than plenty in reality, though it's far less than I'm used to doing. I'm trying to take it easy and sleep/rest more since I'm having to move more weight around when I work out. :)

He was right in the middle percentile for everything and measured about 2 days ahead of my due date, weighing in at a little over 1 lb. I  was so excited to see his little arms and legs moving on the screen. He gets the hiccups frequently and I saw him having them during the ultrasound. Oh, baby cuteness. It made me really get excited about holding his little hands and cuddling and nursing him when he gets here. :)

Birth plans:
We've started talking about the logistics of having a birthing pool in the house, and I can't tell you how excited I am about that! I have never been able to get in the water in labor before!

At my last appointment, one of the midwives asked me to list what pregnancy books and birthing stories I've read, and it made me laugh because I think I've gobbled up every pregnancy book written over the last 10 years. I loved reading them all.

But oddly enough, I haven't picked up a single one this time around. And I don't even want to read birth stories because I can REMEMBER that feeling, you know what I mean? I've done it four times already, and while it gets easier once you've done it before, it's never, ever EASY.

I was thinking, please don't make me read any stories or watch any movies right now- I promise I don't need to. Birthing has forever been etched into my memory. And my body will start shaking involuntarily like I'm in transition just imagining it.... :P

All I can say is that it's such a good thing you get a baby at the end of your labor. Seeing and kissing them for the first time is the most exciting thing. Ever. 

8 hours of labor + snuggly sweet baby boy at the end = totally worth it. I think I'm actually looking forward to that day getting here. :)

Only 18 weeks to go!! wohoo! 

Can you instantly remember what it felt like to be in labor when you hear a story too? When was your biggest pregnancy growth spurt?

Ever used a birthing pool before? {Will we run out of hot water trying to fill it up? I have no idea!}

Have you ever had an ultrasound tech be wrong about the gender? How/when did you find out?

this week's GW finds: banana republic, fisher price, + osh kosh

I made a little GW {Goodwill} run yesterday, and wasn't too disappointed. :) I didn't have the greatest finds ever, but I liked what I came home with! :)

Here's what I found:

This cute pear potholder for $1.99- I thought it should have really been .99 but the pears sold me. :)
And a few sweet little baby clothes: 
jacket- brand new w/tags Osh Kosh for $3.97, shorts and Carter's jumper .99 each}
I found a couple of tops and a dress to show you later {folded pics just won't do!}, but I was more excited about these Banana Republic sandals for $3.99! I go through a pair of sandals nearly every year... I'm hard on shoes because I wear the same ones all the time. :)

important thrifting tip: don't be afraid to try on shoes that aren't your size. You never know- they might just fit! {well, except for that Frye sandal in size 5 I tried on one time... 4 sizes may be going too far...}

And then for one more dollar than the shoes {GW pricing logic is a mystery to me}, I scored this precious baby bouncer for our little one!

$4.99? I love you again, GW.
I also bought the kids a few hardback books- Little House on the Prairie, Disney books, and Nancy Drew for .79 each. I like books at GW prices so much more than Amazon! :)

It wasn't too shabby for one run, eh? :) I think it's probably more than I've found in the last 5 visits to our local store combined. So it was a good day! :D

Have you scored any great thrifting finds recently? :)

How are the prices at your GW? 
Ours seem to keep going up and up.

Do you have brand new Target surplus items at your thrift store?
We do- and usually they're cheaper than the last Target clearance price they went for, though sometimes the mark them up more than Target did, which always makes me laugh! Usually the manager will come down if that's the case though. :)

finding your God-given ministries + and how you can preach the Gospel right now

Okay, so, do you remember the Great Commission?

 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inb the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19

I always thought that seemed like the hugest task for every Christian. I imagined I had to be somewhere in a desert in Pakistan teaching English to preach the Gospel and make disciples of people who had never heard of Jesus.

And while I don't think I would mind doing that {it used to be my dream, actually}, I realized somewhere along the way that for now, I've been given the same task here where God has placed me, and I've been given tons of people to preach the Gospel to right where I am.

I was focusing on the big missionary call, I guess- it didn't occur to me that God could use that verse in my life here in the States with people who have heard the Gospel before. In my mind, I had to "go" somewhere before I could make disciples. :) But the coolest thing is that the disciples did go and preach the Gospel like Jesus commanded them to, and here I am in the USA, thousands of years later, knowing the Gospel! :D

Over the last few years, I think God has shown me that the disciples can be {and need to be} made right here, too. {I don't know what He has planned for us in the future! ;)}. And His harvest is plenty- all around us, and in every single nation, everywhere!

This makes me so excited- no matter where you are, or who you are- God has given you a ministry too! 

The disciples had a specific ministry that was given to them, and you do too! Did you realize that you have a great deal of influence in the lives of others?

You have been given a particular group of people in your life- a group that is completely unique to you- on purpose, by the Lord of Hosts. And your life displays the gospel to them!

It's so crazy to me: every single person has their own sphere of influence.

You've been given a ministry of your very own- to the people God Himself has sovereignly placed in your life- and your influence is far-reaching! And like Jesus' ministry when He taught and walked with His disciples and family, your greatest influence also happens with the people with whom you spend the most time.

the circles of influence

I made a little visual of what I'm talking about. I call it the circles of influence:

Here's how it works: when God is the center of your life, His influence flows outward through you to others. And you have the most influence in the lives of the people in the circles closest to you, because you spend the most time with them.

Did you realize your family is your biggest ministry and place to share and live the Gospel? I don't know why it took me so long to realize that!

You will spend years and years of your life with your spouse, and they will refine you, and when your life is centered on God, His heart will shine through you to your husband! :)

The same with your children- though we are with them less than our spouses, they live with us for so many years- and we get to teach them most of what they will know about the world- including how Jesus has changed our lives.

these little people are the ones I have the biggest influence on.
But our ministries don't just stop there- they keep working outward. When our eyes are on Him, God shines through us, our marriages, our families, outside to our extended families and friends. Our very lives become a display of the Gospel, not to mention our ability and the opportunity to speak the words of truth to our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles... you probably get the idea. :D

Your influence and life- whether you are walking in the light or not- spreads outward still to our friends, co-workers, people we meet at the gym, people we talk to at church- even to people we talk to in the checkout line at Walmart!

Isn't that so amazing? And so scary too?

erasing our doubts with Scripture

When you realize the size of your ministry right now- it makes you want to drop to your knees and not leave them, doesn't it? We have such a great responsibility! How can we even handle that?

Then all of these fears and doubts start to come and keep us from sharing the Gospel with the people around us. We start to think:

1. I don't know enough.
You don't have to know all kinds of theology to know Jesus. When you are saved, He gives you His Spirit, who brings all knowledge of Him! And We can't know anything about God without Him, anyway! :D You don't have to be a theologian or even go to church for years, for the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and teach you what you need to know for the moment. :) He does it through your heart, and His Word, and He will give you the right answer when you seek Him with everything.

You don't have to have all the answers for questioning people, either. Your God knows the answers, and He will guide you when to speak, and when to be silent. :)

2. I'm not good enough.
Here's the best news ever: no one is! There are no righteous people. Not a single person outside of Jesus can be good enough! :D You are a sinner, in need of a Savior, just like every other person in your life.

You don't have to be good enough, because Jesus paid for your sins on the cross. Do you want to do better? Sure- I think God has given us a desire to be more like Him, and our hearts grieve when we sin. But we always have to remember that His grace is sufficient for us- and the work has already been done. We couldn't do enough to be saved, and we can't do enough to keep our salvation. It is a gift from God.

3. I'm afraid of offending people I know.
Me too, sometimes. I think we all are at some point! But here's what the Bible says- everything will be revealed in the end anyway- and they will know the truth. And what can they really do to you, anyway:

Matthew 10: 26“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.f 

Most of us are a far cry from being killed for what we say about Jesus. We might be disliked, but really, we have nothing to lose. Our God is the only one we will stand before in the end.

4. One person isn't going to matter, anyway.
It might be easy for us to justify this fear more on the outermost circles, but I think we can't deny that our influence is huge within our families. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6, when we train up our children in the way they should go, even when they grow old, they won't depart from it. That's crazy, isn't it?

So how we act and react to our family now changes the way they act and react to us and others in the future. And even though the responsibility is great, I'm probably messing up here the most.

In fact, right now as I'm writing this, Ava wants me to stop and print her out coloring sheet after sheet, and I don't want to be patient with her. Nothing in me wants to get up and fix the printer that's broken again or get her cereal while I'm in the middle of reading my Bible. :(

But then I realize how impatient I'm being with her. I'm not showing her how patient God is with me. I'm not even giving her the same grace I've been given and don't deserve {and I'm not 3 years old!}.

Ugh. But why am I not? Because I'd rather selfishly do what I want to do instead of putting the needs of others first.{sin}. I don't even want to help the helpless 3-year-old.

And even more, the way I respond to her is teaching her how to respond to other people when they ask her to do things she doesn't want to do when she grows up.

That kind of responsibility and influence seems too great to bear, doesn't it?

I think it is.

I can't even be good enough to show my smallest child how to be good.

That's how desperate I am for Jesus.

See, my circle of influence will produce terrible fruit if left on it's own.

If I don't have God as my strength, and at the core of my life-  my sin will influence my husband and children and family, and on and on that influence will spread.

how we can share the Gospel with others

But if God is my strength and my portion- I'm no longer doing this through me- it's Him doing the work.

If my heart is a cup that is empty and broken for Him to fill- He will fill it to overflowing, and His water will spill out to all of the other circles. And it's not me doing that- it's Him.

Alone, I won't have the right words to say to that lady in the checkout line. 

Alone, I could never teach the heart of my son to be willing to share with others.

Alone, I could never know enough about the Bible to share the truth with one friend.

Alone, I can't even bring up the desire to stop what I'm doing for a small child.

I can't do any part of this life without Him.

You see, sharing the Gospel with people around you isn't about knowing the most Scriptures, or being the best rule follower, or being able to defend Creationism or anything else.

It's about knowing the Gospel from your heart- your core, because you know what the Lord has done for you, an unrighteous and unholy sinner- who has been made clean and pure because of what Jesus did for you. And because of what God is doing in your heart, He will bring the light to those around you.

When the Gospel- what Jesus did on the cross- dying for your sins and defeating death so that you can live- affects your heart from it's very core- your heart changes, and everyone can see it.

Does that mean you don't have to speak then? I can't imagine that! A heart that has been changed by the Holy Spirit could hardly contain the truth and keep it quiet! :D You won't be able to not share!

Isn't that the best news ever, though? You have no ability outside of what God gives you. You won't ever be good enough. He is the source of life and of the light- you can't spread it on your own, any more than you could create it! :D

Jesus has done the work, and He will do the work in you!

perfect people need not apply

You don't have to be perfect {trust me, you can't anyway!}. God has already fulfilled it!! :D

All you have to do is look to Him for your light. Keep your eyes on Him, and His light will shine through you like the morning sun. Give up your desires- and your defenses and doubts- and He will work through you like crazy. Oh!!!! It's so incredible!

Love Him- spend time with Him in the Word and in prayer, and your heart will start to love others more and more.

Your influence is great- God has given you these people in your life- don't try to bear that on your own.   Live for Jesus, and the light of the Gospel will shine through you because of the Holy Spirit at work!

God is so good to us- He redeemed us and is making us new. What can He not do with the people in your life too? :) No matter where you are- how long you've been saved- God can do this very same thing in you.

Oh, sweet friends, I pray that we can focus our eyes on our Savior and what He has done for us, and that His work will shine outward to even strangers in our lives! I know He can do it, and He will do it when we ask Him! :D

How have you ever seen your influence or responses affecting your family?

Have you ever felt those doubts like I have? How did God change your heart? I would LOVE to hear what God is doing in your life! :D 

Any praises for what God has done recently in your life? Please tell us so we can rejoice with you!

menus and goals this week {mediterranean salads and mexican lime soup}

from the dashing dish! doesn't that look amazing?

menu plans for this week:
: whole wheat spaghetti with homemade sauce {I bought whole wheat on accident, and don't love it...? I can't get used to ww pasta. Luckily, I'm having chicken and tomato soup :D}
: east texas caviar with lettuce wraps
: chicken fajitas with onions and beans and rice
: baked potatoes and sour cream
: mediterranean chickpea salad {pictured above}... the kids will eat something simple or frozen?
: this mexican lime chicken soup with artisan bread

williams sonoma soup recipe
chicken and cottage cheese {me}
baked potatoes
sandwiches and baked chips for the kids' school lunches
lunch out
beans and rice

protein bars {me}
frosted mini wheats
biscuits on Sunday morning

greek yogurt {me}
banana ice cream

7 goals for this week:

Here are a few quick goals in addition to regular responsibilities:
1. memorize verses I didn't finish before
2. start a baby project
3. run 3 times this week- if possible {some days I just don't feel right, and can't. The baby is getting out there and some days it's downright uncomfortable! :)}
4. rearrange pantry room/treadmill
5. list one Craigslist item
6. clean out two shelves in the fridge {so ambitious, I know}
7. get up and go to bed earlier than my spring break routine :)

My favorite thing about setting goals is that it's no big deal if I don't get to them {most of the time}, but if I do at least 1/2 of them, I've done more than I would have without them! :D

What are your goals for the week?

Have you ever had a cucumber chickpea salad like that? It sounds like the stuff cravings are made of! :D

Do you sell on Craigslist? Have you had good luck?

all you can eat cantaloupe, fortune cookies, and lazy weekends

So remember how I asked you on Thursday what I should do without kids at home? :D Well, somehow I must have found a way to fill up the days. :P Most of my free time last week was spent sleeping, eating, reading, and dating. :D And barely exercising. :D Hey, it was a spring break for mama too! {thank you, mom, for keeping the kids!! :D}

I didn't touch our sink full of dishes for two whole days, and didn't fold an ounce of the piled up laundry until Saturday afternoon before the kids came home. :)

On Friday afternoon, we went to three World Market stores looking for a clearance shelf for the pantry. We didn't end up buying one, but I did find this adorable little guy for $12.99! {and I even had a 10% coupon on top of that! yay!}

I so need a name.
We have a routine ultrasound coming up on Wednesday this week, and I'm pretty sure this baby will break all the percentile barriers after I loaded him up with lots and lots of food in the past few days! ;) The hunger is taking over any and all healthy eating willpower about every other day now. :D 

I mean really, what girl eats at a Chinese food buffet and starts with three plates?? 

{And a ridiculously sized water?!? I like how the camera angle makes all of my plates {lol} look tiny and my water look enormous.}

So, did you want to know the trick to avoiding that overstuffed feeling at a Chinese buffet? Stick with California sushi rolls {no raw for me} and fruit so you can eat plate after plate of yummy cantaloupe and honeydew. :) I ate a little of that chicken in the middle and on the right and then realized I would never make it to the second round unless I stayed with the lighter stuff. That's frugality at work right there- I always try to eat the highest number of pounds per dollar I spend. ;)

I ate until I was happy {not stuffed thanks to strategic buffeting, hey!}, and then was really impressed by my fortune cookie:

I thought of how true that really is- how we are called to love and stay the truth, but extend grace to those who are lost in error... being careful that we don't fall in the same way:
17But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18Theyf said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22And have mercy on those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garmentgstained by the flesh. ::: Jude
Isn't it so exciting when a Chinese fortune cookie makes you think of Scripture? :)

I anxiously waited for Rob to open his {he was much more stuffed, and took his time getting to it}, wondering what bit of wisdom was lying inside his cookie...

Here's what it said:
And....there you go. 

Apparently it contained such great wisdom that it was completely over our heads, so if you happen to grasp the underlying proverb behind this one, please let us know... :)

Later the same day, our little baby boy must have been even happier to gain another ounce or two after we went to a local fancy restaurant with a gift card we needed to use... 
And I even got dressed! In a dress! :D I pulled out my Easter outfit from last year since it would still go over my belly. :D I do believe my belly popped last week- I had at least five strangers ask me what I was having. :D 
The food was fabulous, and the sleep was even better, but I'm thankful the kiddos are back and life is getting back to normal! :D I had fun without them, but the house stayed a little too clean, you know? ;)
That and I think I ate so much food my ribs are hurting this weekend. I'm hoping that goes away with the return of my regular food rotation! {It seems a bit too early for sore ribs, doesn't it?} :)

I'm trying to hop back into goals and menus, and I'm hoping I can get at least one more long nap before life gets back to normal. :) Here's to a hopefully slow homeschooling day as we ease back into our routine post-spring break. :)

How was your weekend?

Do you feel happy when you get back into a routine after a break too?
Most of the time! I'm hoping since we didn't leave overnight last week, this one will be much easier on me. :)

Have you ever eaten Chinese food? Do you love it or not so much? 
I really like Asian food, but I usually only eat sushi and steamed rice- the other dishes are usually too heavy for me. I guess I would say I prefer non-breaded, non-fried, non-sugared versions with lots of veggies. I used to love sweet and sour chicken, so I couldn't resist trying it again at dinner last week! :D

cheap dates, faux pedicures, and my new favorite diaper bag

Our house is feeling very strange this morning. And very, very quiet.

Here's what the back of the Tahoe looked like yesterday:
My mom has the kiddos at her place for a few days of their spring break, and I'm not sure what to do with myself! :) I have never been at home without kids for more than a few hours. Seriously. :)

About five minutes after we dropped them off, Rob asked "do you hear that?" and I looked at him and laughed and said, "silence? .... ooooh, it's okay, honey..." He was a little sad! {oh, I love how much he loves them.} I'm not the talker of the family {are you surprised? I still am}, so the silence doesn't bother me too much. :)

We came home, and I took a nap, then we went on a fun date last night... and in true thrifty Thursday fashion, I have to share this pic of our $5 piece of Italian Creme Cake:
And yes, that is an entire cake. :)

Here's a cheap frugal tip: if you hate spending $5 on a small piece of freezer-burned cake at a fancy bistros like we do, head to the nearest grocery store bakery and eat all the fresh cake you want for the same price... :)

Now that's what I'm talking about. That man knows how to speak my love language. {And see how the cake is turned toward me? He's the perfect husband, I tell you.}

With all my free time today, I was extremely tempted to go get my toenails painted now that it's getting harder to bend over in the front... ;) But even having no kids to worry about, for some reason I hated the idea of spending $15-$30 to get my toenails painted. I used to love going every now and then when the kids were little- it was so relaxing and totally worth the money to get away and have pretty nails. :)

But for the last year or so I haven't wanted to go spend the money, so I always end up doing it myself at the last minute and end up just as happy- especially after the kids step on my toes five minutes later! But I am definitely weird and like cutting my own hair too... :P

So I thought long and hard about it today, and ended up just doing a quick coat with one of my favorite colors- High Roller from Ulta:

And now I'm thinking about using the money I "saved" {ha!} to go to Goodwill and buy a whole outfit, and then go eat lunch? :) It's always crazy when you start putting spending money in GW terms... :P

Or I could just put it back in the bank after investing in this sweet little diaper bag. I found it at a secondhand store for half of what they're going for on eBay right now! :) I was so, so excited, and I loved the aqua color! :D

I'm hoping to use it until the baby doesn't need it anymore, then sell it for more than what I paid on eBay. :D Even if I don't make a profit, I'm thinking I'll at least get my money back from it. :)

Oh, and I wanted to tell you one more thing... the random $5 winner from Monday is:

Mary Poppins is one of my favorite movies. I saw it on Broadway this summer. It was incredible.

Kristen, please email me when you get the chance, and I'll send your cash over! :D

What's your favorite diaper bag brand? 
Petunia Pickle Bottom has constantly been my favorite because I can always resell them! :D

Do you have a frugal {and a little weird} date story too?
sshhh, don't tell.... for our 9th anniversary we watched Netflix at McDonald's in the Playland because it was better than the movies and there were no kids around... lol!

What do you do without kids at home?
Someone please tell me, I have no idea!

homemaking hack #3: hair gear organization

Warning: the following homemaking hack may not apply to people without a headband obsession. :)

I have professed my love for headbands in the past, and even took a week to fast from them because I was so addicted. ;)

But if you are in love with headbands like me, this easy little organization trick might work for you!

I hang all of my hair gear on an over-the-door towel hook in the bathroom like this:

That's probably not even all of my collection. :P 
I'm sure I could dig a few more out of the bathroom drawers, my purse, my gym bag, and my nightstand. :)

I love using this hook method because I can see which headband I want to wear, and it keeps them from getting all messy and tangled in the bathroom drawers. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled out a headband from the drawer without looking at it and worn it in public with a big smudge of makeup on the top of it. So this headband rack has also technically saved me from tons of embarrassment too. ;)

Sometimes I put my ponytail holders on the top hooks, but at the moment I've lost them all and need to buy another new package. Are ponytail holders one-time use only at your house too? Mine either break when I try to put them in my hair or they disappear to the same place where all the missing socks are right now. And I've yet to find that place. Have you? {oooh... I've never looked under the dryer!}.

If you're not a headband person, you could use this kind of rack to organize your necklaces and bracelets on your bathroom door. I'm still using this to organize my jewelry, but this door rack sometimes holds my jewelry temporarily too. :)

And I was thinking if you have lots of hair bows, you could also tie a pretty ribbon on each hook to make one of those cute little girl bow holders. {I just love girly hair bows, don't you? We need more of those around here... but both of my girls seem to be genetically inclined to lose them for some reason...??}.

I bought my hook rack at Marshall's for somewhere around $10 a few years ago, and it's been working hard for us ever since... and hey, it can do double duty and hold clean clothes and towels too! :)

How do you store your hair accessories? 

Thick-haired friends- what is the best brand of ponytail holders to buy? I'm so cheap I buy the dollar package and end up breaking every one before they even go twice around my hair!!

Do you ever find yourself wearing the same hairdo over and over, just because it's comfortable?
I have to keep my hair out of my eyes when I workout, so I keep falling back to the same headband style. I like having the hair off of my neck too for some reason... :)

on letting go of your dreams

Oh, I used to have so many dreams.

I dreamed of having a big house, a nice car, a degree, lots of money... of traveling the world, taking sweet vacations, being super fit, being a labor and delivery nurse and then later getting my certification as a midwife...

Then somewhere along the way my dreams started to change.

Some of them were fulfilled over the years, and for some I've lost my desire completely.

The ones that were fulfilled always came with a surprise at the end. They were great and all, but in the end, were so meaningless after they were done. They were nice, but in the big picture, what did they really matter?

I really never expected that reaching a dream goal would be unsatisfying. But like getting a big house, there's always more to chase after with each one. There's always a better car, getting more education, more recognition, a more exclusive trip, becoming more fit... it's never ending.

And over the last few years, I feel like God has been so, so good to me to show me just how unfulfilling each of those things are. And part of me {the human part} has been a little sad to lose those dreams. I really don't want any of them anymore because I know they are empty. And that feels a little weird for this American girl.

I think in part of this culture, we are drilled and taught to dream big dreams- to go for what you want. To know that you can have it if you work hard enough. And even in Christian circles, so many times you'll hear all of your dreams can be fulfilled if you ask God to help you and you believe He will.

But the more I study the Bible, the less I see of people's own dreams being fulfilled, and the more I see of God's glory being revealed in their less than ideal situations.

The human part of me wants this relationship with God to be kind of a give and take. God, I give you this, but I want this to happen because I followed you. For so many years, I said I will follow you, God, but please don't let me die while my children are young. Please protect my children from harm. But lately, I think He's killing that kind of prayer in me. And it's a very good thing.

When I look at the people of faith in the Bible, I see over and over a life given to God completely....human dreams lost and then replaced with the desire to do the will of God.

I mean, even thousands of years ago, a girl would never dream that she would lose her husband and follow her mother-in-law to a foreign country to be gleaning grain in fields with the poor, only later to marry a very rich man and be part of the lineage of Jesus and the great-grandmother of the king of Israel.

...A wife of a great man would never dream that she would be 90 years old before God gave her a single child.

...A humble man afraid to speak publicly would never dream that he would lead millions out of slavery to wander in the desert for 40 years, and never enter the promised land.

...A favored youngest boy would never dream up that he would be sold into slavery to foreigners by his brothers, then be thrown in prison for years for something he didn't do, only later to become second only to the Pharaoh of Egypt and later save the entire nation of Israel.

...A prophet would never dream that his call would be to tell his people God's message they would reject over and over again until they were ruined.

...A sweet young girl betrothed to marry a carpenter would never dream she would become pregnant before she was married with the very Messiah, the Son of God.

...The disciples never dreamed they would leave their house, their family, their jobs to follow this Messiah who was so greatly loved and so greatly despised, only to see him beaten and die a tortuous death on a cross among criminals, and rise from the dead on the third day.

...A devout Jew who persecuted and killed those followers of Jesus would never dream he himself would later give his own life up for Jesus, and be imprisoned and beaten for the sake of the very same man.

Over and over and over again, we see that God is completely sovereign in every single situation, and that His plans are not our plans. Our dreams can't compare with what He has in store for us. And sometimes {most of the time even?} what He has in store for us looks nothing like what we dreamed of.

When I look at these stories, I don't see people begging God to fulfill what they dream of in life, and Him answering. I see God taking regular people and giving them faith- changing their hearts to willingly do what brings God glory, and His plan being fulfilled through them in the strangest of ways, and often at the loss of their comfort and even their lives.

But that is such good news, because God's ways are so much higher than our ways- His wisdom so much deeper, so much wiser than ours:

Romans 11
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

We can trust God with all of our lives- even all of our dreams and hopes!

You see, our own dreams are tainted with our fleshly desires. We seek our own comfort, our own protection, our own loves.

Our dreams don't involve our hearts being broken, or losing the way we like our lives. We don't dream of losing our husbands, our children, our homes. But that might be what God has for us in this life.

Yet God's ways are so much higher, so much bigger than ours. We can rejoice that His plan is so much better than ours, because we not only have those human examples in the Bible- we also have one perfect example of God's plan and glory at work:

The Son of God came to live on this earth, and His purpose was this:
John 6:38
 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus, the Son of God- the one we worship, humbled Himself as King of the Universe to being without a home, to being beaten and mocked and killed by sinners for the sake of the will of the God. Remember why:
Hebrews 12
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

It was for the joy that was set before him that He endured the shame. He was doing the will of His father so that all might come to believe in Him and be saved!

Hebrews 2:8-9
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

So God's plan asked His own Son, the Lord of hosts, to become lower than the angels, so that He might redeem all of mankind through His suffering and death. I think we can all agree that is not one human's dream.

If God's plans for His Son include giving up His life to horrible suffering and death, are we not called to the same?

Romans 8
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.
Future Glory
18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

We have to give up our own desires, our own will, our own body here on this earth like Christ did. We are heirs with Christ if we do the same. And we can do this, because when we believe, He gives us the same Spirit He gave Jesus!

Our dreams, our hopes, our desires- we can lay them all at the feet of Jesus. Jesus did the same, and gave up His own will so that He could do the will of His Father and save us!

When we set our eyes on Jesus, and give our hearts to do His will, He changes us to long for the things He wants instead of what we want for ourselves.

When you look to Him, what is so amazing is that He gives you faith to believe that His way is truly better than our own. And His way might be painful for a time- we might not see why He is destroying all of our old dreams. But He is doing it for our good, and for His glory.

I love the way C.S. Lewis puts it:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
You see, God is so much wiser, so much more wonderful than we ever could be. Our human dreams are so, so small- but God has so much bigger plans for our lives! We can trust Him with everything!

Give all of your dreams to Jesus- ask Him to make your heart long to do His will and not your own. Don't worry- we can't do it on our own anyway! His Spirit will help us, will give us faith. Beg God to help you give up your own desires so that His will can be your desire instead of your own.

You never know what might happen. He might end up fulfilling some of those very dreams when you give them to Him, or He might have bigger or different plans for you.

Like all the stories of the faith in the Bible- you might not see the end result of His plans in this life, but you can trust that He is good and His plan is sovereign. Your God is worthy of your heart and your life. 

Oh, sweet friend. Dreams are nothing without Him. Nothing here on this earth will satisfy you. Better is one day in the court of God, than thousands elsewhere.

When you give your heart and your life up in submission to God, there is no happier, no more satisfying place to be. No earthly dream can compare to walking with the Lord of Hosts. He is so good, and He wants all of your heart, your soul, and your mind. All of your trust.

Oh, that we would give it all to Him. His dreams are so much better than ours. Our decent little cottage has nothing on His palace. :)

How have you seen God change your dreams over the years?

What dreams has He fulfilled? Which ones were you glad He didn't fulfill?
When I was a teenager, I dreamed of having no children, or at least not any until I was 28. I'm so glad He didn't let me have that dream fulfilled! Instead, I had 4 children by the time I was 26, and He's worked in my life in so many ways because of that different outcome. :)

kicking off spring break + $5 to the first person who guesses...

We decided to kick off Spring Break with a little crazy we went shopping at Sam's Club! Whoop! Well, it was like Disneyland for a hungry pregnant girl anyway. ;)

The kids are out of school for the next week, so we've been trying to come up with a few little things they like. I love how excited the kids get over the smallest stuff. :) We took them rollerblading and biking on the trail Saturday, and they were thrilled.

Yesterday at Sam's, we surprised them with one of their favorite cereals- Lucky Charms {perfect for St. Patrick's Day, no? :)} And they couldn't remember ever having Funyuns, which I absolutely couldn't believe. How did we miss that important childhood rite of passage? Funyuns were one of my favorites when I was a little girl.

Okay, I won't lie... I still love them now. :)

I stocked up on my grapefruit supply while we were there...

And some of this little bit of heaven I was out of for two weeks:

Those were both lovely, but I do believe I was more excited to find this in the corner of Sam's than the kids were about their Lucky Charms:

That is the most perfect watermelon ever created, right there...

Oh, my goodness, yum.... I dug in while I cut it up, and felt my belly grow at least 3 inches almost instantly. It was so worth it, but I couldn't see my feet!

{so did you notice what was on my shirt? I was rocking the hub's tee last night, and I hadn't a clue until Rob smiled and said how cute I looked in his shirt with a toilet on it. I couldn't stop laughing...I had taken a picture of a potty on my belly and never even noticed it... too much baby on the brain. :D} 

I made turkey burgers and fries for the kids to celebrate their first night of Spring Break. I'll have to share more about it later, but I have a new cooking method and now turkey burgers are amazing! {It's been hard to make a good turkey burger with 93/7!}

I met almost all of my goals for last week... all except for defrosting the freezer. I did clean it out, but I wasn't prepared to have to actually move it outside when I wrote my list. :)

So anyway.... you know how awesome it is when you find $50 in your coat pocket from last year? {that never happened, but that would be awesome wouldn't it?} That's what it was like when I found an entire pan of cinnamon rolls in the back of my freezer when I cleaned it out yesterday...

Cinnamon rolls > watermelon. Even frozen ones.

That's how good Sunday was at our house. It kept getting better and better. :)

We cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, and all stayed up late watching this movie...$5 goes to the first person who correctly guesses what movie it is in the comments:

For real. I'll send you $5!  :) And I'll send $5 to one randomly chosen person who guesses or just comments by midnight tonight too! So you have two chances to win some coffee money! hehee. I love you guys! :D

Watermelon, turkey burgers, Lucky Charms, late night movies, 70 degrees and sunny.... spring break, here we come! We've been waiting for you! :)

What are you excited about doing this spring? 
Wearing flip flops and feeling the sun burn on my face.

Do you have a favorite fruit or veggie that makes you do a happy dance in the store when you see it for the first time each year? 
Watermelon. Hands down. Cantaloupe and blackberries right behind it. :)

Favorite classic movie?
Not the one I was watching last night. :)