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During a recent living room dance party, God reminded me of how Jesus tells us in Luke that "the kingdom belongs to such as these" (18:16). Who are the "these" he is referring to you might wonder? Children. The kingdom of God belongs to children. In Matthew he goes on to say "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (18:3). As the music blared on the speakers and Penny jumped from the couch in to my arms, the lyrics to the song playing rang true: this is what you do, you make me come alive." She twirled and we spun and danced in a circle and the music filled the room. It was there that God continued to show me glimpses of his glory that he put in this little girl that he made and gave her to me for a short time. In doing so, God has used her to make me come alive in ways that I never thought possible and continues to do so.

Here, have a listen:

The more that I hang out with my kiddos, the more that I see how true these statements are and the more God opens my eyes to see what Jesus was talking about in the verses. For the past three years I have been blessed to be the mama to one passionate little girl and a sweet little man who God has been using to teach me about his character and various other small lessons scattered amongst my days.

When you look at a child, there is so much life and so much joy compiled in to one teeny, tiny person that it is hard to believe it is contained so well and somehow does not burst outward. Somewhere over the years as bones grow and the baby fat disappears, joy is lost and complacency sets in. It is there that childhood is no more and the slogan "life is hard" may ring true. 

Finding Jesus makes you come alive, no matter the age. He awakens things in you that you may have thought were long over. You may find yourself enjoying things you did not think possible. Jesus has a way of awakening your soul and even returning you to that state of childhood euphoria and wonder and awe at everything around you. Like looking at your hand. Have you ever witnesses a baby examining his hand? The excitement and wonder found in something that he will most likely take for granted every day of his life. I pray that you would come alive and experience life through the eyes of a child with more anticipation and bliss than you have known.

Here's just a few tidbits about attributes of children that God has opened my eyes to lately, and I thought I would share:

  • They have a boldness about them, even the shy ones. They are confident and secure with themselves.
  • Passion for what they are doing radiates from them. Even after you give them a time warning to end the activity it can still be hard to pull them away.
  • They act the same in public and at home. They not afraid to be themselves. They do not care about what others are doing or comparing, they are simply happy to boldly be themselves. 
Yes, they are super simple but the simplest things make the biggest impact. Here's to truly coming alive in Christ and seeing the world through the eyes of a child. 
Personal bible study. It can be a daunting thing when you first dive in. Which book to read? Where to start? What does THAT mean? How does this apply to me?! So much can start to bubble about from one simple action that you may be overwhelmed at where to start. And of course you are reading your bible daily, right? There can be a lot of pressure to read your bible and do this and that when you start following Christ and get deeper in to the relationship. Just remind yourself that there is no competition. No comparison. Everyone is blazing their own journey with Christ and if you let Him take the lead and guide you, it will be your greatest adventure yet.

So back to bible study, I was in a lull in my personal studies a few years back and came across this method, referred to as SOAP. It really changed the way I read and studied the scriptures and left me with little notes from God, if you will, written in my own hand. Each morning I read a chapter or two in whatever book of the bible I am studying, depending on how much time I had, and then filled out each part of the SOAP acronym. It is truly awesome how much God will reveal from his word if you just take the time to study and listen.

What does SOAP stand for, you ask?

Scripture: Which scripture stuck out to you most? Write it down. 

Observation: What you think about the verse? What does God seem to be revealing through it?

Application: How do you apply this little truth to your life?

Prayer: Write a prayer asking how to implement this verse in to your life.

I have a notebook I use each day to keep it all in one place. I have heard of using binder paper and a file folder with each book of the bible on its own tab so you can keep all of the studies you have personally done for that particular book in one place. That seems super handy and eventually I will do that, too but for now it is all bound together in a notebook.

After the chapter is read, the verse or verses that I had stopped at during the reading or jumped off the page at me are written down. Then I underline or highlight or add brackets, whatever my little heart so desires, to the parts that are most important to me. This is the observation. I write a bit about what I think about the verse, what God seems to be revealing through it. Next, is how to apply this little truth to my life. Perhaps I do not know what it means and that is why the verse stuck out to me, so I look it up in the application part of my bible - life application bibles are awesome when you are new to studying the bible or have been for awhile. If there is nothing in it for that particular verse I will ask someone about it and start a little google search to see what others have said about it. God will reveal tidbits about it that way, too. I finish it all up with a little prayer. Prayers about implementing this verse in to my life and for forgiveness for doing otherwise. Yes, these verses may be used to convict you and for God to change your heart. Prayers of thankfulness and praise.

There is so much that God does during this time. All of this usually happens within thirty minutes or less but it makes a HUGE impact on my day. For me, trying to get up before the kiddos do seems to works best but not all days work that way. Naptimes or after breakfast during play time works occasionally, too. After awhile, looking back at what God has shown you through each of your entries is really rewarding. Scattering your pages are little incites and wisdom from the creator of heaven and earth. Wow. That is a gift you can give yourself daily, just take a few minutes.

I love to give this method to friends, so I thought I would leave you with a printable to post in your own personal notebook or one for a friend. There is nothing better than sharing a great way to get to know Jesus better. And a side note, washi tape is perfect for adhering it  to the inside of a notebook. Cute and fun.

Here's to losing yourself and knowing Jesus more. More studying and less scrolling and more peace than you know. Click image to download. 

For Father's day I had planned on doing one of those super cute printables that ask what is daddy's favorite color, food, thing to do etc. and have Penny answer the questions but with Ricardo being out of town for a week and Penny's third birthday the day before father's day, I never ended up getting to it. I did, however, start asking Penny the questions when I stumbled on the one that I imagined I would print out. 
Red was his favorite color, his favorite thing to do was play with is fairies (who doesn't right?) and then I asked why she loved him. I was taken back with her answer. She responded with "because he loves me." I thought for sure she would say because he plays fairies with her or swings her or gives her more ice cream than she should have. Surely, one of the things that he did for her would be the reason she loved him. Immediately, 1 John 4:19 came to mind, "we love because he first loved us." 
God loves us. He loves you. Unconditionally. Nothing you can do or say or have done will ever change that. He sent his son to die for your sins (John 3:16). He taught us how to love and gives hope. 
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

I think somewhere it is engrained in our hearts to love. Not based on merit or anything we can do, just pure love. We only know how to love because Jesus loved us. Because he died for us. He gave us hope. Hope in tomorrow. Hope in the worst of times. Hope for the better. Jesus is hope.
This week I wanted to share a new song that K-LOVE started playing that was made for their fan awards about a month ago, with several of its performing artists featured. (A fun little fun side note: all of the proceeds from this song go towatds rebuilding Detroit and bringing the city back to life. You can read more about that here.) The lyrics of this song radiate hope and its effects. And how amazing it is. Have a listen.

This song so encouraging, right? What is more encouraging than hope? What about the hope behind it? I pray that if you have not found hope in Christ, that you would. That you would trust him to do so and give yourself the best hope now and to come. Hope can change everything.

Here's restoration and rejuvenation. Less worry and more hope. Here's a little 8x10 of a few of my favorite lyrics, although it was hard to choose - the whole song is well written -  to encourage you. Click image to download.

While debriefing about the day with the hubby one night, I opened a bowl of cookie dough I had made earlier. If there is something I really enjoy eating, it is cookie dough. The point of making cookies is to eat the dough, naturally; although recently, pazookies are getting pretty close. As we talked and laughed and joked, I noticed myself taking bite after bite and hardly acknowledging the taste. Or even enjoying the taste. The thought was great. Yum cookie dough. But I was not enjoying it, simply aquiring more calories with each bite, so I stopped. I think that is how some moments are. They sound great and we whip out the camera, only to attempt to catch the moment and not savor or really enjoy what is in front of us. We miss the moment entirely.

With all of our technology and ability to capture the moments, it seems that I squander away some of the greatest ones attempting to catch something that never wanted to be caught in the first place. Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting to capture the moment that I miss it entirely all together. I scramble to find my phone and open the app. Is it on video or camera? Then I accidentally hit the power button and have to start all over. A black screen does not get me anywhere. By the time I am done fumbling, the moment has passed. The cute expression left and settled in to a more comfy one. My toddler has run away and disassembled her silly attire.

Solomon writes "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." (Ecclesiastes 3:1). He knows a thing or two about time. Not to mention he was the wisest man to live. There is a time for pictures. I am a huge photo person, if you have ever stepped foot in my house, you might have guessed. That being said, it is sooo easy to capture so many. Too many! Since my first digital camera, I have taken thousands of pictures. I have tons of Polaroids but digital made it easy to take thousands! More than anyone ever needs. The mystery was taken out of the picture with it. Are my eyes going to be open? Did I actually look at the camera? Now you are left with more expressions of the same moment than you will ever need, all in an instant.

I pray that you would take a moment and look around you. Look at what is next to you. Who is next to you. What God has strategically placed in your life at this very second. Take it all in. Because in a moment it will soon be gone and you may just realize that you did not appreciate it enough when you had it. Life may get repetitive and may take away your enjoyment all together if you let it. But choose to enjoy it. Enjoy time as it ticks away. Breathe it in, so when it is no more, you will have tasted it to the fullest. I challenge you to put down your phone. Put away your camera and take in your surroundings a little more. Perhaps less pictures will allow you to appreciate the ones you already have and take more meaningful ones when you do.

Here's to savoring the moment. Enjoying each bite on your taste buds. Truly enjoying the little things. Here's a little 8x10 of the verse to remind you to enjoy the moments. Click image to download.

Simple. That is a word that I have been struggling with the past few months. I have read a few books and such about it. The definition is straightforward enough: easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty. But the implementing of it that is the hard part and is difficult. I truly believe that less is more. Less clothes in the closet. Less toys on the shelf. Less to maintain and clean up. Less laundry to fold and less time spending picking out an outfit. Now that is a win-win. Getting there however is not as easy.

The past few months I have been working on what this will look like in my household and lifestyle. Going through things I no longer use and passing them on to some who can. Trying to be intentional with the items that I do have and that get brought in to our home. Being on a tight budget helps, too. It keeps random impulse buys at bay and therefore less messes and clutter.

This song by Keith and Kristyn Getty Has been in my head a lot lately, especially when I am tending our little garden. Really simple living. Getting to the roots of material possessions and focusing on more important things. Generations before us did not have the access to as many items as we have so readily available via Amazon with free shipping. And ready to wear clothes were not so ready, so closets were smaller and I am sure getting dressed was a breeze. Dress A. Dress B. Or dress C. In our consumerism driven culture it is hard to imagine having so little options. 

When Penny was born, we were blessed with an abundance of clothing for her. Her first year of life she hardly wore an outfit twice. And if she did it was one I really liked. The amount of options were overwhelming. I cannot blame Ricardo for never knowing what to pick out for her and which shirt went with which skirt and headband. Too many options. Too much space. Too much stuff. When someone says a teeny baby takes up space, it is no joke. That is if you let it.

This past December when our little man was born, I was determined not to have the same clothes frenzy. We were blessed this time with bunches of second hand clothing from friends whose little boys had out grown them. I kept my favorites and passed the others along to other mama's who were looking for clothes for their babes. What good is a bin full of clothes with a only a few items that baby is actually going to wear?

I don't mind him wearing the same outfit a few times. Perhaps even in the same week. Wearing the same outfit in our culture has such a negative connotation to it. She doesn't have enough money to shop for more. Poor thing. She wore that dress the other day! Who does that? She really needs to get another sweater. Having gone to school for fashion I know too well how often and common these thoughts are said out loud. I am guilty of the same in the past. Thankful for grace! Who wants to be judged because of what we wear?! Scripture says:

"your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." (1 Peter 3:3-4). 

So beautifully worded. I could go on and on about simple living. It's something God keeps teaching me and showing me how to and directing my focus to areas that need help. I am still horrible at it but I'm a work in progress. Praying God uses this song to touch your life in a simple way that only He can. Enjoy!

Here's to fewer items and more space. Less time focusing on what you need and more thankfulness for what you have. 

And a little 8x10 of the lyrics to inspire you to live a little simpler =) Click image to download.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of our marriage, nine and a half years as a couple and roughly fifteen years as friends. It is so fun to see where God has taken us. It was not even a year before we were married that we started our relationship with Jesus. Looking back, there would have been no way for our relationship to last, had we not met Jesus. I had perfected being stubborn, shutting down at confrontation (I am not a yeller), and getting my way in situations. Did I mention I come from a long line of strong willed women? When we decided to follow Jesus, our relationship changed in a way only God can do.

Several months before we were to say "I do," we attended a Rivercats game, the local AAA baseball team. We sat in the lawn seats, which is really just a big patch of grass on the away team's side and least expensive seats in the stadium. It is great to bring a blanket, hang out, people watch and not be confined in rows of seats. As we watched, an older gentleman came over to us and asked if we were dating or engaged. We answered yes and he proceeded to ask us if we knew Jesus. Yes, we just met him we had relied, to which he handed us a paper. He told us his name was Lloyd and about his wife, Bonnie, and how they had been married for years, which now I cannot recall how many, and how he volunteered at the stadium and made a little more small talk. Then he was on his way to other couples.

The paper we were handed was a list of their top ten for marriage. An amazing compilation of advice from a couple who experienced it first hand. An awesome gift to give someone who is in a relationship or about to be married or has been married for years. I know from my own experience that marriage is tough. Takes a lot of work. Sometimes more than you have strength to put in. But when you add Jesus to your marriage, everything changes. Grace changes. Love changes. And trust me, your marriage will never be the same.

I thought it would be fitting to share the list today and pray that if you find yourself in one of the above mentioned statuses that you would find some encouragement and benefit from someone who has been through it.

top ten list for marriage by Lloyd D. Reynolds

 10. Never yell at each other, unless the house is on fire. 

9. Celebrate the hundreds of things you like about each other rather than focusing on the two or three things that really bug you. 

8. Don't compare your spouse or your marriage with others. Each marriage and each spouse is unique. 

7. Don't leave - the way out is the way through. 

6. Take time to be sweethearts. Continue to date each other and spend occasional weekends away together. 

5. Develop genuine mutual respect and demonstrate it publicly and privately. 

4. Forgive each other when needed and be willing to say, "I'm sorry."

3. Love each other sacrificially and use the words, "I love you," often. 

2. Always enjoy talking to each other and talking to God together. Let God speak to you often as you read your bibles. 

1. Make lifetime commitments to each other and to your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Here's a little design spin that I put on it in an 8x10. Click picture to download.

In our modern culture we rush around with phrases like "I am so busy" and "I don't have time," as if we actually are in charge of our short existence on this planet. Everything starts getting complicated from there. Which school to send your child to. Which car will work for your family. Which neighborhood will suit your life style. Which church will meet your needs. The list goes on and on and time is invested in each situation and each decision.

Do not get me wrong, it is wise to consider different factors and weigh out the odds but at the end of the day, if you are truly loving God with all you have, these things fall into place. The decisions unfold and God makes away, even when it seems like it is not possible. If you have spent your time worrying about which house to purchase or focusing on the minute details of the car in question to purchase, you are losing precious time that could have been spent elsewhere. Playing with your toddler. Hanging out with a friend who needs encouragement. Calling your mama. Studying your bible. Maybe even memorizing a verse to help you defer the thoughts.

I recently saw a horrible car crash on the way home. A car flipped and the driver was stuck inside with a police officer standing in front, possibly talking to him. I have no idea if he was okay or not.The ambulance had not yet arrived on the scene. It was at an intersection I frequent almost daily. A crash has never bothered me so much. Prayers are always said in the passing but this time it seemed heavier as we drove past the cars and police and people. Perhaps it was the location. Maybe just a reminder. He could have been on his way home from the store grabbing groceries for dinner or on his way to visit a friend and then crash. I pray he is okay. In a moment everything can change. 

It's funny how simple life really is, yet so sad how much we complicate it. The bible says to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). And there it is. The essence of life summed up in two sentences. Sounds so simple. Our days are numbered and our days are so short! Focusing on God allows us to use our time wisely and not worry about the unknown. It keeps our eyes focused on His purpose and His plans. More of Him and less of us and suddenly the things of this world will grow strangely dim and perhaps your busyness will subside, too.

This song by Francesca Battistelli sums it up perfectly. Have a listen. 

Perhaps this 8x10 printable of a few of the lyrics will help you keep life in perspective.Click picture to download. 

When I gave my life to Jesus, my fears vanished. There was nothing left to fear. If I were to die, I knew I was all set. I was concerned about those I knew who had not yet met Jesus but I knew his timing would be perfect and not to worry about it.

Then I found out we were expecting. Somewhere along the positive pregnancy test fear was conceived, too. I worried I would lose the baby. I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant until after the first trimester for fear of miscarriage. I had a hard time believing I was going to be a mama. Our home remained free of baby paraphernalia until a friend brought over a cute basket with bath soaps. The little basket seemed so out of place in our small apartment. I continued to stay clear of any baby purchases for fear our place would be scattered with the paraphernalia without a baby to go along with it all.

Days and weeks and months went by. I checked the What to Expect app practically daily, reading interesting stats and tips and stories shared by other mamas. Baby continued to grow. All the tests looked great. Doctors said everything was fabulous. But I had read somewhere that someone's baby had this and that and no one knew and things got overlooked. Random scenarios played themselves over in my head.

When I went to my 37 week appointment, my doctor told me everything still looked great and that baby could be making her debut any day. What?! had yet to do anything baby related. The room was littered with all the gifts from the baby shower the week before. The bumpers still needed sewing. Clothes and blankets needed washing. Decals were to be put up. But in the back of my mind, the horrible scenarios continued to play out.

On a Friday evening, our little baby girl entered the world. Perfect in every way. I was officially a mama. And what was this mama to do? Read up on everything baby related. Sleeping. Eating. Developmental skills. I drove myself crazy. I needed an intervention, really. Months of worrying over everything. Was she breathing? Did she poop yet? Is the jaundice finally gone? Was she getting enough to eat? How is eczema treated? Is that rash part of the eczema or something else entirely? Projectile vomiting?! Was she rolling over yet? Was I doing everything I need to make her successful? Because everyone knows an infant needs to succeed. I was in constant fear that something was not right. And the books were of no help. Each one tells you something different.

One day God finally intervened. Well, I am sure he tried before hand, I just was not listening. I closed the books. Stopped comparing her to every baby I met or read about. I let her just be. No more nap attempts. No more failed routines. No more expectations. No more worry. No more fear. Peace returned in full capacity. It is amazing what listening to God will do, isn't it?

I wish I would have truly given everything to God to begin with. Truly surrendered her to Him at her baby dedication. Trying to make sure nothing bad happens is a horrible spot to be in seeing it is clearly is impossible. And the fear and worry make everything else so much harder. It takes the joy out of life. Of being a mama. Knowing God was with me and had her in his hands is comforting and would have been great to actually be living it out and believing it. Thankfully, God gave me another go at the whole thing and let me know He was with me every step of the way and continues to remind me He is watching over them and me, covering me with more peace that I even thought possible. 

Pregnancy number two started with more bumps than the first. Our first ultrasound there was no heart beat to be heard. The due date was unsure, so the doctor proceeded to tell us it could be too soon or I could have miscarried. The response was not what I was expecting, yet I was at peace about it. I knew that God was in control this time. I did not let fear get its grip on me. We waited. Another week. This time we had already told our family and close friends the day we found out and now we asked for prayers for our little baby. For God to do His thing. We returned. Beating away, we saw the heartbeat on the monitor and listened closely to the sound. The sound of life. The sound of hope. The sound of answered prayers. The sound of peace.

At our twenty week appointment we had our in depth ultrasound to check for the usual things. They checked and looked and poked and wrote on a piece of paper the sex baby, so we could take it to a bakery and find out with our family together that night. That afternoon I got a call from the doctor's office telling me that I needed to come back in for more pictures. Nothing is wrong, they assured me. Just need more pictures. More waiting. More peace followed. More waiting. More prayers. Everything was perfect. 

Over a month before my due date, I was in the hospital with contractions every three to five minutes and dilated to a three. The nurse looked at me and told us nonchalantly, baby could be coming today. Today?! We asked for more prayers for baby. The contractions finally stopped and we returned home. Two trips later, we had a healthy boy born about three weeks early. Healthy and perfect and covered in prayer, which is why we concluded that Elijah was a perfect middle name. A man of prayer. 

I pray that if you are living with fear or worry, you would turn it over to Jesus. It is amazing what it can do and how God will show you how to trust him all the more. Perfect love casts out fear and when we trust God, we allow ourselves to bask in his unfailing love. I wish I would have been able to do that with my first pregnancy but God redeemed it with my second and for that I am thankful. 

Isaiah 41:10 is one of my favorites about fear, so I thought I would leave you with an 8x10 printable, just in case you need a reminder. Click on picture to download. It is a great one to have memorized when fear creeps in.

Here's to more trusting and less fear. More smiles and less worry. 

I have no idea how it came about. Perhaps an article. A comment. A movie. Really I have no clue. Maybe that is a good thing. As long as I can remember, I have never liked to cry, especially in front of people. It always seemed so weak. And weak was not something I wanted to be associated with.

My freshman year of high school, my oldest brother moved back home from out of state and brought his girlfriend with him. Crying seemed to be part of her everyday ritual and I could not understand it. Needless to say, she and I did not kick it off. She missed her friends and family back home. I could care less. My empathy ran real deep. Get over it. I got so annoyed one day I told my little sister that she was a not-so-very-nice word, who in turn told my mama and her. When I came home that evening my mama approached me about it. His girlfriend sat in tears, yet again, but this time caused by me. I was forced to apologize. I am sure I got some sort of punishment but I cannot recall. The images of standing there so angry and annoyed are etched in to my memory. Angry my sister told on me. Angry there was more crying. Angry I said it out loud. I had no compassion. No remorse. No feelings but anger.

Over the course of my high school years, emotions bottled up. I didn't care. Didn't know where to place them. Didn't want to put them anywhere. So I wrote. I wrote a lot. About divorce. About not having an address to my name or my own bed to sleep in. And that cute boy in class. Perhaps too much time was spent on him. About the long car rides in the hideous car and crazy girlfriends. All mixed with a lot of anger and frustration and not understanding. Not able to do anything about my situation.

Somewhere I lost feeling. I lost compassion and empathy. I didn't cry. At least not in front of anyone on the off chance it occurred. My little sister would tell me I had a heart of stone. In a way, she was right.

Then I met Jesus. He has been working on my heart ever since. I remember one day in college group one of the girls brought in a newspaper with a tragic event running the headlines. I couldn't care less about it. She asked for us to pray for the situation. She really cared about it, even though it had nothing to do with her. That was moment God showed me that my heart was stone. That was the moment I prayed for God to change it. To really care about others. To pray for those who ask for it and those who do not. Allow me to truly feel. When you go so long without feeling you forget what it's like. And how strong you actually have to be to deal with the emotions that burst on the scene at any given moment of life. 

God is still working on my heart. He's been showing me crying is not all bad. That crying in joyful moments is okay, too. How righteous anger and anger are two completely different things and how to deal with them both. So thankful for a God who answers prayers and doesn't leave you how he found you. 

White as Snow by Jon Foreman was running through my head as I wrote this, so I must share. Music is embedded in my being and this one is on my heart daily. Have a listen. 


Would You create in me a clean heart
Oh God
Restore in me
The joy of Your salvation

Praying God touches your heart and changes you from who you are today, not that you are bad today but because God is in the business of making good things better.