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My husband introduced me to Shauna Niequist several years ago. He had come across Cold Tangerines as a recommendation from several friends and wanted to see what all the raving was about it. We checked it out from the library because that is how our usual reading material goes and started reading it together. And surprising myself, I loved it.

Her writing style instantly became one of my  favorites. Her use of life and learning and description and word choice were perfect and for that, the reading was quite simply delightful. Like the walking in the clouds kind of delightful - that sparks memories and inspires. 

After reading it, we moved on to other books and studies and never looked for any other pieces by her.

Until April.

On our two and a half hour, childless drive to Redding in celebration of my birthday, we searched for a book to listen to and stumbled over her other books. We chose Bittersweet and listened, as miles ticked by and blue skies met the mountains, leaving the valley behind.

And I remembered just how much I loved the way she birthed stories out of her words and breathed life and redemption in to the hard seasons for all to hear.

I searched our local library for other works and came across her devotional, Savor, which takes parts of her books and turns them in to snippets to ponder and think on, along with a question or two. One devotional for each day of the year.

So, loving her rhythm of life that is stitched in to each page, I thought it would be fun and a bit crazy, to blog through Savor. Sharing a post (hopefully) daily, with grace days laced in between I'm sure, that corresponds to each day of the devotional, answering her prompts and questions.

I told the idea to Ricardo, to which he immediately checked Amazon for the devotional because the library only lends a book for so long and it just happened to be half off. It arrived in the mail as an early mother's day present and my biggest writing challenge. I have struggled with writing consistently and have a tendency to get clammy hands and for my mind to go blank when given a prompt, so it is a stretch.

I sat with the book the following morning next to my bible, questioning if I should try this. It is a big commitment to write every day and to share it openly. Possibly a little more than I can chew. But it sat there. Already purchased. A commitment in itself. After more prayer and over analyzing the whole thing, God urged me forward. He would provide the words, just as he provides for the birds of the air.

I cannot clearly see what this will look like, as the questions are scattered with life and God and all the things in between and I have not read them all because that would be cheating (right?!), so here's an adventure in writing through Savor. It will probably be messy and random and hopefully laced with smiles and laughter and honesty, from my heart to yours.

So, starting June 1st, the adventure will commence. 

If you would like to blog along, whether daily or weekly, I would love to have you for the journey; be sure to link back to the post. And if you are not a blogger, you can join along, too. Just leave your response and answers in the comments.

Here's to savoring the year.

Our final craft last year for Pocket Blessings was putting together smash books. It was my first time making one and decided to theme mine for mamahood and finding the joy in the daily. I searched and gathered and printed little quotes that were encouraging to me and smashed them together with pretty papers and stickers and the like. I ended up miss punching the holes to bind it together, never fully finishing it and tucking it nearly in to my craft cabinet.

I loved the thought of it and idea behind it and combining it with the concept of savoring joy moments by writing them down, enabling them to last longer. This lead me to creating sheets and templates and layouts. An easy print out of all the inspiration and quotes in one place, not so smashed together. A little more organized and a little more cohesive, which I find I am loving these days. Along with the inspiration, there are places to write down moments from the day that you enjoyed and a landing spot for you to look for the joy throughout the day when there seems none to be had.

It is a place to carefully look at life and what captures your heart and births thankfulness, despite the difficult or monotony of the day. Because life is about these moments. It is about breathing and laughing and finding the joy, no matter how hard or easy. It is about being fully present and feeling and thanking God for it all when it does not always make sense and choosing joy.

The notebook is a place to hold this season of life, the moments that make up your life from the grandiose to the minute. There are places for pictures and writing and washi tape and whatever else floats your boat. You can number them or date them. The ideas are limitless.

For Pocket Blessings this past month, we put together these little notebooks, so I thought I would share them with other mamas out there. Here's a little how to, if you are curious and looking for direction. 

The details:
To make the cover:

We cut cereal boxes and cover board down to 8.5" x 5.5" using a rotary cutter. Chipboard or old books would work great, too.

We covered them with paper and fabric. I personally loved the paper covers, they were a little easier to cover. A 12" x 12" paper can cover both the front and back, when cut in half. I left the insides uncovered but they can be covered, too.

Punch holes with a crop a dile. Depending on your thickness, you could use a hole punch but it will not have the fun and durable eyelets to finish it off, like so. 

There are a total of 28 different pages to print, which works best if you print on both sides.
Pages can be inserted in any order and reprinted to change the order of the pages.

Cut pages in half and hole punch. Be sure to punch holes at the same measurement as the cover.
Add rings and it is finished and ready to be decorated. 

Create one for yourself and one for a friend. They make a perfect gift for a new mom or an experienced one. If you make one, be sure to share your awesomeness via #findthejoytoday. 

Follow along and subscribe via email to get the free PDF download emailed to you. 

I met Julie and her friend, Jennifer in the hotel Starbucks when I attended the Allume Conference last fall. I ordered a drink and was planning on taking in the downtown view from the outside patio, soaking in just being there  across the country - childless, without any expectations and a God adventure on my sleeve (I have found it is easier to be open to these sorts of things when traveling alone, be to it to the grocery store or library or across the country, wherever it leads)  but as I waited for my name to be called, I started talking to Julie and Jennifer.

They invited me to enjoy the morning with them on the patio and I agreed. They were sweet and real and hospitable, even in an unfamiliar Starbucks. We spoke of God and life and our children and the fact we had no idea what we were doing at this conference, all as first time attendees but knew that this is where God was calling us to at this moment in time.

Julie is one of those easy to talk to people and real and deep and speaks with love and grace. Her heart is in each word she says and her authenticity is evident. She cares for her family and people and what God is doing in each person.

She shared about her book she was working on and we exchanged contact info, as we indulged in the last of our drinks and parted ways.

We have stayed in touch and she was gracious enough to share part of her journey in the Hearing God series at the beginning of the year. And now I am super excited to announce that the message that God has put on her heart to share, which is never easy to share, is being released today in her first book, No More Secrets: Set Free from Fear, Shame and Control by Discovering True Grace.

I was blessed with the privilege to get an advanced copy of the book a few weeks ago and read it through in one night. I love Julie's honesty and transparency to be herself and share issues that she has overcome through Christ. We do not all have the same struggles or the same fears but her message reaches past the actual struggle to the freedom from whatever is holding us back. Freedom that is found and rooted and Christ. Julie was sweet enough to let me pick her brain about her new book, so without further ado, here she is.


How did God lead you in to compiling your experiences in to a book?

Writing is how I process. So during this year of intense struggle, I filled my journal with thoughts, prayers and examples of all God taught me through His Word. I started blogging again and shared some of my journey there. One day I was sitting at the computer and I heard the Lord say, Ok, I want you to compile it all. I thought about it for weeks, and I couldn’t shake the sense that I was to turn this journey into a book.

I didn’t know if compiling it was for my continued processing and healing or if it would one day be a published book. So I just kept taking the next step. When I finished compiling everything I had written during that year, and read over it all several times, I put it away for a few months, continuing to pray for God’s guidance.

One day the next step was clear: find an editor. I found a writers’ group nearby, and so decided to check it out. My first time there, I hoped to just observe, but quickly found out I was the only one with material to read. Before I started reading, I told the leader, “I feel like God is asking me to make this a book.  So I want you to tell me if you think it has that potential.” When I finished reading the first chapter, she confirmed, yes, this could definitely be a book.

On the way home, I was unable to contain the tears from spilling down my cheek, totally overwhelmed at what God had put in front of me. The publishing process itself made me want to quit so I tried complaining to God about how I can’t do this. After I finished whining, I remember Him saying, But do you trust me? I decided then, my job was to write and what happened after that was up to Him.

Now here we are. He provided a wonderful editor that challenged me and pushed me to be more specific about my struggles. He carved out time for me to focus on finishing this project and I look forward to seeing what He does with these words.

"We think our church friends only want to hear the good stuff. We think we need to be strong for them and not let them see us hurting. Now we don’t have to wallow in self-pity, but we can be real. We must be real. We all need a place to share our brokenness, our temptations, and ask for prayer and help to overcome.: (No More Secrets) How has letting go of your fears and shame changed your friendships and yourself as a friend?

It’s funny you ask about friends. Circumstances in my life have changed so much over the last year that it’s actually been a lonely time for me. That plus all the time behind the computer it takes to write a book, I feel like my personal friendships have suffered.

I will say that the year I wrote this book, I identified fear of man as a big stronghold in my life. I care about what people think of me and I hate it when my actions negatively affect someone else.  

Sometimes even our obedience can do that. The Proverb says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We sharpen each other while we walk out what we sense God asking us to do. God had to break this fear of man in me so I will look to His approval over the approval of my friends.  This has hurt a few friendships lately and been very difficult.

"I just have to trust Him. Words that are so much easier to write than actually live out each day. To just keep walking when the road ends takes faith." (No More Secrets) What does trusting God look like practically in your life now and how has that changed since you were younger?

I would say earlier in my walk with God I had a set of expectations of how, when, and where I wanted God to answer my prayers. I expected Him to do certain things and when He didn’t, I grew frustrated.

I’ve learned to turn my expectations into expectancy. He hears my prayers and wants to answer me. He just may not do it like I want, when I want. Expectancy knows He will answer, and is eagerly on the lookout for how that will play out.

How have you grown since writing the book?

Oh goodness, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in this whole process. Dealing with fear is an on going process for me, rather than a once-and-for-all done deal. It seems to come in waves, but I’m getting quicker at recognizing fear’s footprints and dealing with it before it paralyzes me.

What is your biggest take away for readers? 

As long as we walk this earth, we’re going to be tempted. Often this temptation comes in the form of what we thought we could never do. Temptation itself is not sin, but temptation is not something to take lightly or think we are strong enough to handle. It wants to destroy us!

I love my husband’s illustration I share in the book about living life in a round room. A round room has no corners. Everything must be brought to the center and dealt with. It’s much easier to handle difficult issues when we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

This topic isn’t talked about much in the Christian community, especially when it comes to thinking too much about the opposite sex. That’s almost taboo. My prayer is that we can find the courage to talk about these issues and get them in the light. I see affairs affecting more and more families and it all starts in the mind. We have to figure out how to handle our thoughts and the temptations Satan sets for us, otherwise they turn into sin and eventually death.

A special thanks to Julie for sharing her story. You can find more about Julie on her blogFacebook page and of course in her book available on Amazon.