Thursday, August 30, 2018

some things I've loved on the interwebs this week

I thought I'd share some things I've been watching/listening to this week, that I have either listened to for a while, or that I've recently found that I love.  Two of my favorite things are good messages from teachers/speakers that I respect and admire (when they're talking about Jesus) and some good praise and worship music. 

Here goes.

First up is my current favorite song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir.  We learned this last weekend at our choir rehearsal camp, and I have listened to it on repeat ever since.  Also, I am completely unable to get through this entire song without crying.  The Lord is so good, my friends, and He has been so kind, compassionate, and faithful to my family.  Listen to these words.



Next up is this sermon by Francis Chan.  It has forever changed my prayer life.  No longer do I pray, the old, normal way.  I pray for my friends, my family, and others I know of who are lost this way now.  It's a half hour, so if you have anytime at all to spare, listen to this. 




I've mentioned how much I love Instagram.  It's because I follow people like Dave and Ashley Willis, who post things like this image you see above.  If I'm going to spend time on social media, I want to be encouraged, uplifted, and inspired in my prayer life and in my walk with the Lord.  And y'all.  This is solid marriage advice.

I know this in my heart, this saying above, but life is hard, and when you throw in being exhausted or sick, I get so grumpy.  In times when I'm like that, is when I forget that we're a team.  Todd and I are different people, and we have differing approaches sometimes, but rather than fight, I need to remember this.  Sometimes I forget.  I need to remind myself to pray this every single day.  Being married is not easy, but when I see things like this, it helps me to be a better version of what God intended for me to be as a wife. 

I'll add one more thing about this topic above, and that is that as wives, we must submit both to God and to our husbands.  The Lord intended for the man to be the head of the home, as our protective covering, and the spiritual leader.  God will hold him accountable for this someday.  Wives are not intended to "wear the pants" in the family, and if that is something you struggle with like I do from time to time, pray!  Ask God to help you in this.  I pray that all the time, and I promise, He always helps me.

Moving on. 

Here's my other favorite song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.



Even my son Jonah loves this song.  It's so good!  We've been singing this for a while in church, a couple of months at the least, and every time I sing it, I love it even more.

Switching musical gears, I also walk around singing this song all the time.  The words say, "Fear, he is a liar."  But I take them as satan is a liar.  (Little s on that ugly name intended.  As one of my favorite bible teachers says, he doesn't deserve a capital letter before his name.)



One more: this version of Be Thou My Vision by Audrey Assad.



Well, I have several things to do today, so because of that, I'll stop with these things.  Thanks for reading my blog!  Love to all. 


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What's Up Wednesday



I'm linking up with Shay (and her friends) from MixAndMatchMama for this blog post.

1. What we're eating this week:

Well, I made a GIANT pot of taco soup for my Mom's birthday dinner last night, so we'll be finishing that off in the coming nights.  We're all about to be gone for several nights in a row, as well, so it'll be a 'you're on your own' type thing, too.

Also, this.


Mom left half her birthday cake here with us.  Praise the Lord, from Whom all blessings flow.  This is ridiculously good.

2.  What I'm reminiscing about:


I spent the first half of yesterday deep cleaning the downstairs, and this hit me like a ton of bricks.  I love (and sometimes hate) then and now pictures.  That first one is just precious to me, and what I felt like were the good old days.  They loved eating meals outside on the deck, and our backyard was THE place to be.



See?  We had all the good stuff in our yard, and all the neighborhood kids were always here.

(By the way, that was the time they made their own zip line in our yard, from the playground fort to the fence, and then talked Noah into trying it out.)

3.  What we've been up to:

I'm still recovering from being sick last week.  Our weather changed again and it hit me all over again on Monday, and I felt like I had an asthma attack coming on.

Also, Drew started his freshman year of college this week.

And Jonah and Noah are in their second week of their sophomore year of high school.

4.  What I'm dreading:

Have you read the Farmer's Almanac prediction of our winter?  It's not looking great, if you're anything like me or Lorelai Gilmore.  They predicted a warmer, wet winter all across the country.

5.  What I'm working on:

Decluttering this house.  Deep cleaning it, including the wood blinds.  I got a good start on this yesterday.  Also, thank the good Lord for making Jonah the way He did.  Jonah cleaned the tornado closet and the pantry yesterday, which really helped me out, while I went and grocery shopped.

6.  What I'm excited about:

September!  I think it's my favorite month of the year, only second to December.  It seems like every September, the mornings and evenings take a plunge, temperature wise.

7.  What I'm watching/reading:

It's almost fall, so I started over again (for the fourth time) my favorite show of all time: Gilmore Girls.  Also I'm reading two books, My Oxford Year (for pleasure) and The Jerusalem Secret (for book club).

8.  What I'm listening to:


This.  Over and over and over again on Spotify.  I love worship music!

9.  What I'm wearing:

So I have this adorable friend named Melanie at church.  I met her about four years ago, during a day when we volunteered to decorate Christmas trees for church with the music ministry.  She's the next phase in life ahead of me.  All her kids are grown, she has FOUR BOYS, and she  homeschooled them all.  We found all this out about each other that first day we met.  I just love her to pieces, and I've gotten to know her even more since we sing on praise team at church together.

She has worked independently for Premier Design Jewelry for a long time, and while she still sells the jewelry, she has started helping people shop their closets to make a fuller, trendier wardrobe.  She posts these videos on Facebook telling how to do that, and I watch them all the time.  She inspired me to start making more effort in the way I dress.  Though I love t-shirts and still have a bunch, I did not wear one of the old ones even ONE TIME all summer.

Because of all that I said, I try to look cute every time I leave my house, even if it's just to a friend's house for book club.  I bought several shirts over the summer (and will again probably sometime soon) and try to wear them with different pants or shorts and jewelry to make them into more than just one outfit.  While I will never win any fashion award, I try to buy things that are not too trendy or busy in pattern or color.  It's a little tricky to dress nice and still not own too many clothes, but somehow, it works.  (I try to have a wardrobe that borders on minimalism.)  That means I have four pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, a couple of pairs of cropped pants, some dressier pants for church, a bunch of shirts, two dresses (one that I'm saving for my nephew's wedding), and several pieces that can be worn over shirts.  And I just switch them all up to make them different from time to time.  Like I said, somehow it all works.


Here's one example.  I will not wear the shoes in this picture, but some cute rose gold birkenstocks I have, and I'll add a necklace that's short in length.

I will add here that making more of an effort with the way I look has helped me to feel better about myself.  I still have days when I can't stand how I look or what my hair is doing, but mostly, if I am put together outwardly, I feel like I have more confidence.  The spiritual side of me has to also say that none of this matters, accept for my heart.  Jesus only looks at our heart, not our outward appearance.  Balance is key, and I need to also remember to not make anything like the above an idol in my life. 

That was WAY longer than it should have been, but I digress.

10.  What I'm doing this weekend:

Oh my WORD.  I am so excited about this weekend!  One of my sisters is hitting a milestone birthday on September 2, and to celebrate, we're going to Nashville for two nights!  I cannot WAIT!  We will leave early Saturday morning and come home later on Monday.

11.  What I'm looking forward to next month:

I'm going to try to pull out all the fall decorations from the attic.  I love decking it all out for fall!  I'll switch all the candles back to the fall ones, put out pumpkins and front porch stuff and it will stay there until Thanksgiving night.  Like I said, September is my favorite month, only second to December.

12.  What else is new:

I'm pretty sure that about sums up life lately.  I'm still getting used to having only TWO boys at home all day, every day.  We're adjusting.  And having to think about breakfast again is weird.  Since Drew leaves so early for his Monday and Wednesday classes, he needs to eat a really good breakfast.  I bought a whole bunch of stuff for him with this in mind yesterday.

If you made it all the way to the end, way to go.

Thanks for reading my blog!  Love to all.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

my mom

Today is my sweet mom's birthday.  I thought I'd share about her today, since I haven't done that in a long time.  (This post could also be titled, 'Shades of Jen's Hair'.) 


Mom is one of my very best friends.  I talk to her almost everyday, though she won't call me too often because she doesn't want to interrupt our school day.  And even though I tell her that is not at all the case, she still won't overstep.  I think that is the most considerate thing ever. 

Mom ALWAYS put herself last when I was young, and that is still the case.  My favorite thing when my kids were babies and young toddlers, was going to her house for dinner.  It was one night I never had to cook, clean, or take care of my kids.  We would get there, Mom would take the boys and be the one in charge, while Todd and I could actually sit and relax with a good meal.  That, my friends, is heaven to a young mom.

I also remember Mom being insanely gifted with a newborn baby, and crying every time she would walk out my door when they first born.  I always thought to myself what a great pediatric nurse she would have been, and though that didn't work out, I'm glad my sisters and I could provide her with lots of babies to love and nurture. 

When I was young, my friends always wanted to come over to my house, because it was well known around these parts that my mama could cook like nobody's business.  Todd can attest to that as well, because when we started dating, I think he ate dinner with us most nights.  She could get him to try foods he'd never eaten before, and to this day, some of the things he still loves are because of her.  Mom, thanks for passing down to me your love of cooking!  And also, thanks for always giving me great dinner ideas.  (I cannot tell you how many times I've called her from the parking lot of the grocery store, asking for meal ideas, because I was in a cooking rut.) 


Her fried chicken is so good, it will make you cry.  The same is true for her fried okra and fried green tomatoes, her chocolate cake, her cornbread, her DRESSING (my FAVORITE), her fried pies, and my boys will tell you she makes the BEST panini sandwich around.  I could go on and on, but I'll stop myself.  You get the picture.

My favorite thing that we do has transpired in the past few years, and that is that we love running errands together.  My boys have all gotten older, and we see her way less than we used to, so after some time has passed without us seeing each other, she'll call and ask if I want to go to lunch and to run around.  So we'll eat, and then we'll run errands together.  I'm kinda like her chauffeur, because I LOVE to drive her car and she always lets me.  (It reminds me of our old Suburban that I loved and miss!)  We'll eat, and then she may need to run somewhere, then I'll need to go to Costco, or we'll want to get our nails done or something equally as mundane and lovely.  I love those everyday, little, seemingly unimportant moments.  We always have so much to talk about and before we know it, when we part, we will have solved all the world's problems. 


Times like that are my very favorite.  I'm a quality time person, as in, that is my love language.  I never care what we do, I just like being along for the ride.  This rings true in all the relationships in my life, whether  it's with my husband, kids, parents, siblings or friends.  Those moments mean the world to me. 

So, Mom, thank you for giving me quality time.  Thank you for being such a wonderful example of a mom, and for teaching me how to be one to my boys.  Thank you for always showing me humility and selflessness.  I pray that I can be half the mom to my boys that you were/ARE to me.  I love you so much! 

And if you're not my mom reading this, thanks for reading my blog.  Love to all! 

Monday, August 27, 2018

when your morning (or life in general) doesn't go as planned


I had such great intentions for this morning.  It's Drew's first day of his freshman year in college, and I had thought yesterday about the kind of picture I could take of him to post on social media as a proud mom moment.  I'm rolling my eyes at myself as I write that, because even though I did pay attention in church, that was when I had that thought.

All my kids forbid pictures most days now, though, so I knew it would have to be something like a picture of his bedroom after he left, or his backpack and to-go Yeti cup filled with the coffee I had made for him, or something else similar.  I even spent time scrolling through old pictures this morning, of a picture of him from when he was young, so I could write a sentimental post about him.

I'm still rolling my eyes at myself, but now I'm also shaking my head at myself.

Sometimes social media makes me really, really dumb.  And other times it makes me feel like a complete mom failure.

I'll stop here and add a spiritual side to this, because there is a spiritual picture to everything in life.  I believe that the enemy THRIVES in moments like this.  I tend to want to throw a pity party for myself, and I tend to feel like I've screwed up my kids in some horrible way, so much so that they'll need professional counseling someday.  Thankfully, though, the Lord usually gets a hold of me before I sink too far down into that pit.  That was the case today.  I realized the enemy was struggling to gain some footing over how I was feeling about all the things I didn't do with Drew before he left, and I just got up and moved on with my morning.  I am so thankful to God for how He pulls me up out of the pit, and I am so glad that He shows me when the enemy is trying to work.  This would be a good moment to pray on the spiritual armor of God, when things like this happen.  Sometimes I do that, and other times, I forget.

If you know me at all, you know I love social media.  Well, Instagram.  I love Instagram.  I somewhat tolerate Facebook and only get on to clear off my notifications.  Just give me all the pictures, and I'm happy.  Anyway, when I opened up Facebook this morning (even though I knew better than to do this, I did it anyway), those thoughts of how I'd failed to take a picture of him for his first day rose to the surface, as I saw picture after picture of college students, or things my friends did with their sons or daughters before they left for school.  I didn't sit and scroll, though, when I saw it, I just got off my phone and came over to the computer to start this blog post.

And even though I literally fell asleep close to midnight and woke up at five this morning praying for Drew, I failed to pray WITH him before he walked out the door.  The morning became weird, because he decided he wanted to leave really early so he could go grab breakfast somewhere and he wanted to get there in plenty of time to find out where he needed to go, because he'd never been to the downtown campus.  Because of that, he was out the door, and instead of calling him back or following him out to his truck, I just stood at the dining room window and watched him until he left, praying over him the whole time.

I guess that's the point of this post.  Even when something doesn't go like we think it will, it's not wasted time.  It's never too late to pray over one of your kids, even if it's not WITH them.  Realistically, that just doesn't usually happen in our house nowadays.  I know of families who are able to get it together enough to do family devotions or prayer each morning, and though I did do those things with my boys when they were younger, it never goes that way now.  I do always ask if they're spending time praying, though, and reading the word of God.  I think it's great if you're able to keep doing those things with your kids.  But I think it's okay if you don't continue on in those things, if you adapt them as they grow in age, or if you forget some or most mornings. 

And if you're anything like me, don't beat yourself up over that fact.  God knew when I woke up at five o'clock this morning, how the morning would already go, and He doesn't hold that against me, praise His holy name.  I think we're hard on ourselves as human beings because of social media.  As much as I love it most of the time, I have to remind myself of these things over and over (and over and over again).  We are never immune to getting stuck in the horrible trap of comparison, and sometimes we just have to put down our phones and walk away.  Trust me when I say that I am saying that for myself.  I get stuck in that pit so often, as I scroll through days like today, or if I see someone's perfectly put together house.  I will keep on reminding myself of this, as long as I stay on social media.

God is so very gracious to me to remind me of these things, and He is always bringing His words and these truths to my mind.  I'm so glad He does that, because I always need it, and will continue to need the constant reminders.  I pray this encourages someone who needs reminding of this today.  As a friend once told me, "Get a hold of yourself and pull it together!"  God knows.  He is sovereign.  And He is the One in control, making all the plans that He has already decided upon.  He is such a good Father to me.

Thanks for reading!  Love to all.

(P.s.  If you're one of the ones who posted such things about your student this morning, know that my issue with that was not at all with you!  I love seeing things like that.  The issue is ME and my heart.  I had to work it out with God before I wrote this.  Please keep on posting your sweet pictures!)

Friday, August 24, 2018

a fun night out

I didn't mean to take a blogging break, but that's what happens when you're not quite up to par.  I live near Memphis, for anyone who doesn't know me, and we are known for our notoriously RIDICULOUS weather.  We had a front with rain come through one day, and then we had a cool front move in right after.  That made my sinuses go crazy and I've been dealing with it all week and just trying to get better.  (Medicine does help.)

I've carried on with plans on two days this week, but everything else I had to cancel, including my plans for today.  I do have a haircut in two hours, though, and I am not canceling that!  #mamaneedsahaircut

Last night was the night I've been looking forward to for two weeks.  We got all dressed up and went to dinner and a play.  My husband's (and his dad's) company repairs medical equipment, and one of their customers is the World Cataract Foundation, located here in Memphis.  Any time they need anything done, they donate their services to them at no charge.  Because of that, and as a thank you, we were given tickets to a cocktail hour and a play.  The play was Newsies, and it did not disappoint! 

It was everything I thought it would be, and more.  The music was incredible and the dancing made me want to get up there and join them.  (That would've been a show!)  I loved seeing the stage my husband performed on when he was about thirteen years old, when he was in A Christmas Carol.  I've heard him talk about it for years, and he liked describing everything to me.  I about died laughing when he leaned over and told me, "I'm pretty sure I thought the stage and theater were a lot bigger than this."  To his little thirteen year old self, I'm sure it was huge. 

Anyway, if you're near me, you should go see for yourself.  The play was at Theatre Memphis, and will be playing for a while.  (I think.) 

Here are some pictures from the night.


Left to right, our oldest son Graham and his girlfriend Rachel, Todd, me, Phyllis and Wiley, my hubby's parents.  They have one other employee that works with them, Ron, but he and his wife were unable to come with us.  Maybe next year we'll get a repeat and join us.


A more close up of Graham and Rachel. 

(I loved the green wall behind them and made them pose there.)


 And Toddley and me. 

I love him and am so glad we got to have a fun night out.  It's been a minute since we've had a date night, and we need another one soon, maybe just the two of us next time. 

I was so thankful to the Lord for how He made me feel better last night!  Every other night this week, I have felt terrible, and that was not the case last night.  I just kept sipping my water and eating all the cough drops my mom-in-love brought for me.  I had two dear and sweet friends praying for me, because I really wanted to enjoy the night and not be miserable. 

Thanks to them both for lifting me up in prayer! 

Happy Friday, friends.  Love to all. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday things

This week is going by so fast!  I was hoping it wouldn't be that way, because I don't know how ready for Monday we all are around here (when we start school again).  I don't know why this still takes me by surprise, but whatever. 

Because it's Thursday, and the day of all things #throwback, here's a cute picture of my twins when they were about four.


They used to love having picnics on the back porch.  Funny story: they always asked me to buy those little sandwiches in the freezer called Uncrustables, and they were so expensive, so I just always made my own for them.  I invested in one of those Pampered Chef cutting things that was round and cut off the crusts, and that was what they had for lunch almost every single day. 

That was the only time in their life they ever enjoyed sandwiches.

This was my view at the kitchen table Tuesday afternoon.


It's one of my favorite sights, this table full of bible study materials.  It's been a long time since it looked like that, but I had a lot going on that particular day, and all my stuff took up the whole table, almost.  Any day it looks like this is a good day. 

I haven't seen my sweet mom in almost two weeks, so when she asked me to go to lunch yesterday, I jumped at the chance.  Then we ran a couple of errands. 


Yesterday was such a pretty day.  I was in the car waiting for her when I took this picture, and I said on Instagram that my favorite thing is to just share regular life moments together with people I love.  So even though running errands can be so boring, it's way better when I'm with Mom!  I'm just a simple girl and quality time is my love language. 

I ended up staying home from church when I found out nobody was going to be here (this is such an introvert problem and I needed to recharge) and watched a couple of shows before my hubby made his way back home.  We've been ships passing in the night lately, so I'm looking forward to a night at home with all of us here tonight as we say see ya later to one of Drew's friends about to leave for college.


Speaking of my hubby...we get to go to this next Thursday night!  I am so excited, it's kinda ridiculous, and it's a long story, but we get to go for FREE!  That makes it even better.  It's fun to get dressed up and go out every once in a while, so I'm really looking forward to that night. 

I was looking back at the last post I wrote this morning, the one where I talked about homeschooling and the curriculum we use, and I saw that I had a comment...so imagine my surprise when I opened it up to see who had commented and saw that it was the son of the founder of the company that puts out my favorite curriculum...Notgrass.  So thank you, Mr. Notgrass, for your comment on my blog, and if you ever want to send some free stuff my way for me talk about and brag on, feel free.  :)  (But even if you don't do that, your curriculum is still my favorite.)  It's weird that he found my blog post.  I was really surprised. 

Anyway.  Today I HAVE to catch up on all the laundry.  This week has been so busy that I've gotten way behind.  I also need to make a quick grocery store run, and I'm contemplating making a couple of my boys go for me.  I need to clean the house.  I need to do bible study homework.  There's so much.  I am looking forward to a day of not much, though, other than the few things I mentioned. 

Well.  Thanks for reading!  I suppose I need to get started on some of that stuff I just mentioned.  Love to all! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

routines

I love summer so much.  I love the easy days, the laid back-ness of it all, and I am always ready for a break from school and routines come every May.

By the end of summer, however, I am so ready for life to resume normalcy once again.  We have friends in and out of the house all summer, and so are my boys, so when school starts back for the kids around us in our area, I love taking a full week and getting the house back in order and cleaned really well and getting prepared for our school year ahead.  When they were little I would push their first day off as long as I could, but now that they're older and in high school, it's harder to keep up if we do that.  Cramming a lot of work into less days is hard on them, and it never turns out well if we have to do that.

For us, school will start next Monday.  I ordered some new curriculum for them, for this year, and I'm excited to receive it and to go through it with them.  We did a lot of computer subjects last year, and though I have one who doesn't mind that, I do have one that needs a physical book, preferably with pretty, colored pages. 

Our shelves are all ready and I have some books for them waiting to be read.  We may not go through all of these pictured at the bottom, because part of their U.S. History this year has recommended reading with it, so we will use some of those books and combine it with some other literature they'll be doing.  I have people ask me about curriculum and what we use, and my answer is a little of everything and anything that works for us. 

For math, we use Math U See, which is a dvd guided curriculum.  They'll be in geometry this year.

For science, we are also using a dvd guided curriculum and I am excited about not having to be their teacher for biology.  I can't remember the exact name, but it's something like Biology According to the Days of Creation.  The dvd kid comes with a download and printable book for them to use, and will teach them how to fill out lab reports, so it does count as biology with lab.

For grammar and literature, we use Daily Grams for tenth grade, and our literature book is by Bob Jones University, on the elements of literature.  I may add in another book for grammar to supplement. 

We do our own thing for bible and some other electives, things I find online or that I already have and can't think of at the moment. 

I am most excited about their history this year, and it's by Notgrass.  Graham and Drew used that same curriculum for government and economics, and loved it.  Well, I don't know if that's true.  Their mom sure loved it, though.

Other things listed that they'll be doing in school are Spanish (Rosetta Stone), home economics, intern/apprenticeship, business communications, life skills, physical education, and work experience.  A lot of that my husband contributes to, thanks to the family business.  Our church contributes to this as well.  For example, Jonah is the head of the technical team for the student ministry.  It takes about three hours each Wednesday, sometimes more and sometimes less, and he is responsible for hooking things up to extension cords, and he plans the lights and lyrics that are needed.  When he's not working on it there, he's thinking about it and running it through his head here. 

All that being said, we are ready for their sophomore year!  It's weird just having two at home this year, but I'm sure we'll manage just fine. 


Thanks for reading!  Love to all. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

back to school stuff and prayer resources

It's so crazy that summer break is over around here.  All the kids who hadn't already started back last week started back today, and I am loving all the cute FB pictures of their first day outfits.  I remember one year when I totally forgot to take ANY pictures at all, and I also remember starting to homeschool and having my own version of back to school pictures.  If I posted one right this minute, it would be of them all sleeping.  They're still passed out.  #homeschoolperks

We won't start this week, but next.  With friends in and out of the house all summer long, I like to take a week that is just us, and clean things out and straighten all the rooms, and get a game plan in order.  I organized the homeschool shelves at the beginning of the summer, so that's done, and our new curriculum is on the way.  It should arrive midweek.  (I LOVE new curriculum!)

I found a couple of really great back-to-school articles yesterday that I thought I would share with you.  I love this first one, from a teacher's perspective.  This is a great reminder to pray for the teachers and all the support staff.  I have several friends who are back in full time work for the first time in a while this year, and I even thought of some of them, as they start their new positions.

This first one is called When God is in the Classroom.  Click here to read it for yourself.

Before I started homeschooling my kids, I was in the pioneer group of praying moms for our local elementary school.  We had a teacher there who lost two of her grown kids in a very tragic plane crash, and we started off by meeting in the back parking lot at the school, then we grew each week, until we finally started calling ourselves a chapter of the Moms In Prayer (then it was called Moms In Touch) prayer group.  We would meet on Monday every single week, praying for certain teachers and staffers, then we would write them encouraging letters and take goodies to them for the lounge.  I've heard that today it has grown to a large attendance.  How exciting that our little group of five or six was the one who got that started.  #passingthetorch

Also, I've been a staff person at the elementary school.  My title was lunchroom monitor, but all that means is that I was the one in charge of all the students while they ate lunch each day.  I loved that job so much, because I got to know every single student.  It would surprise you to see how fast I could point all the new students out, because I knew I hadn't seen them before.  I used to walk the aisles by their tables and pray over all of them.  There were so many days that I wasn't in a mood to talk to adults (one year in particular was so hard), so I would just talk to the students and pray and lean in close for hugs when they would ask for one.  I always prayed that God would use me there, and I know that He did.

I wish I could tell you how many students and teacher assistants tell me that on the days when I wasn't there, it seemed that chaos and turmoil happened the entire lunch period.  I'm not saying that I was the cause of the peace that would be present when I was there, but I know that Jesus did that through me.  I do have peace in Him, even in times when it's scary or hard, and that was when I realized that it was a tangible thing that others could feel while I was around.  How amazing is God, to work that way through us?

Also, know that I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging, because that is not my intention.  I am, however, bragging on how awesome God is and to tell you that He does work in ways like this.  It's so exciting to be used by Him, and usually while that is going on, I'm totally unaware at that moment.  I'll hear someone say something after the fact, and realize later that God was just moving in a circumstance.  (This is one of the million reasons why I journal.  I love to write things like this down.)

My point in even mentioning all of that above is that I have been the one who worked in school, and I know God Himself worked in me and through me during my years that were spent there.  (Four.)  He will do that for you, too, if you're now one that works in schools.

Another great article I found yesterday are some prayers to pray over your children or grandchildren while they're in school.  Click here to read this one.

I love to pray.  It's one of the greatest privileges we have, as believers, and it's such a powerful thing for us to do for others in our lives.  (And ourselves, we need to pray for ourselves, too!)  Prayer is something that the Lord made close to my heart, and He used several different people to show me this.  One is a friend who was the teacher at a homeschool moms bible study group I was a part of.  Denise also loved to pray, and so did a couple of her friends, and she would have them come and talk to us while we were on summer break.  Her friend Anne is the one who said to not neglect praying for yourself, and she used the airplane demonstration to make the point.  (If you're in need of oxygen while on a plane, first give some to yourself, and then go on to others...otherwise you'll be of no help.)  Denise also encouraged me to find a prayer partner, and that is how I came to know and love one of my very best friends, Abbey.

Donna Gaines is the wife of pastor Steve Gaines, who is the head pastor at Bellevue here in Memphis.  She is the one from whom the idea of my prayer notebook came from.  Here is that link, if you're interested, of a video she made on this topic.  It's a wonderful resource, and includes some printables if you want to make your own, just scroll to the bottom.  Also, here is a link for Donna's personal blog.    I've also used Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martian, and a prayer book about family by Sylvia Gunter called Prayer Portions.  Denise mentioned this book to me, but Donna Gaines also references the book.

There are so many wonderful things out there for you to use, but here are a few of mine.  One huge inspiration in my personal life is my very favorite movie, The War Room.  That movie spurred a book called Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and it is also wonderful.  My church is so good about giving us resources as well, and one that I've gotten lately is a way for us to pray over the marriages in my church.  I love to read Christian, nonfiction books, too, that help me a lot.  One like Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, and some lighter memoir type books like Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson are a couple of my favorites.  These are just a few things I've used over the years that inspire my prayer life.  I don't always pray from my notebook, or spend a ton of time doing this actually sitting down.  Here lately my prayer life has been a little more sporadic with times and such, and more than a few times, my boys have walked in on me talking to the Lord.  I just talk to Him all day long, because most days I'm alone downstairs or in my house.  It's just where God has me right now, but I kinda love this phase.

I hope all of this inspires you in your prayer life.  It is never too late to start, or never too early, for that matter.  If you're a younger girl reading this, do you pray for your future husband?  If not, you should!  And then consider reading the Christy Miller series of books by Robin Jones Gunn.  And if you're dating?  I would encourage you to pray for yourself first and foremost.  Ask God to help keep you focused on Him more than anyone else, and work on your relationship with the Lord.  If you do that, He will take care of your other relationships, whether with family members, friends, or the one you're dating.  Start with yourself.  If you're a younger mom, I cannot encourage you enough to start a prayer notebook.  It'll help keep you focused when your world is a little crazy.

Happy Monday to you, my friends.  Thanks for reading my blog!  Love to all.

P.S. I am leaving you with a picture of them from several years ago.  Sometimes in my mind, I still think they're this age.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

encouragement for Thursday

I thought I would share a bit of what I have been encouraged by this week. 

I know that not every day in the life of a believer feels like a "mountain top" type of day.  In fact, most days don't feel like that at all.  I have said this a million times and will probably say it a million more - life is hard.  Even life with Jesus is hard.  I cannot even begin to imagine what life would look like without the hope we have in Him. 

That being said, I think all of us go through ruts in our quiet times.  Some of us don't HAVE quiet times.  About that, I would suggest praying and asking for God's help.  I pray all the time that He would make me crave Him and time with Him more than anything else, including water and food.  He is faithful to answer that prayer.

Even if we do consistently have quiet time, we can get in a rut.  I know with me, sometimes it feels mundane, but about that I would say to you what a friend once said to me: Press in to the Lord.  He is near!  Having someone I am accountable to helps tremendously.  For instance, right now the women in my church are reading through the chronological bible in a year.  Some days that reading is hard, like it is right now for me in Jeremiah, and we just have to stick with it and get it done.  On September 24, we will cross over into the new testament!  I am always surprised that I have stuck with it, but I know the Lord has just helped me do this again.  Like I said, He is always near. 

Having a few close friends I can talk about Jesus with also helps tremendously.  He is my favorite subject and I love talking about the things He teaches me in His word. 

All that being said, in my bible study homework yesterday, I was so encouraged by a few verses I read out of Isaiah.  About this study, it's a very personal study, more so than I've ever done before.  I told my best friend last night that I might burn this book when I'm finished with it!  I don't know if I want anyone to see the things I've written inside.  The author invites us to just get real and honest with God.  He knows our thoughts anyway, so she encourages us to pour out our hearts and even questions to Him. 

I've been shocked at all that He has given me to write, though why I'm so surprised I don't know.  I prayed and asked Him to help me be real with Him, all pretenses and facades cast to the side.  I would say that He has been faithful to help me in this.  I love these verses I read yesterday, about not being afraid.


It's the ones I underlined in yellow.  "Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand."  Verse ten out of chapter forty-one. 

And: "For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"  Verse thirteen out of the same chapter.

I struggle with anxiety a lot, and can often turn mole hills into giant mountains, so these verses encourage my heart so much.  How amazing that God holds onto us with His right hand!  I picture a father with his child...that is how He is with us.

Also, for the second time in as many years, my friend Missy and I went to Bellevue last night, a huge church in our city, to hear Jim Cymbala preach.  He is the pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle church in Brooklyn, New York.  Every year Bellevue has Awesome August and Jim Cymbala is always the one to kick it off.


Jim is just a regular guy, who loves the Lord with all his heart.  His church is a house of prayer, as he calls it, and they love the Lord and worship Him unabashedly.  They started out small, but they run three services on Sunday each week, and in each service, every seat in the place is filled.  People line up at the doors to get inside (as we did when we went a couple of years ago) and the Lord just meets them there week after week.  But I've heard that the Tuesday night prayer service is really special.  I wish I could pinpoint what makes that church so different than my own church, but all I can say is that maybe there is more of a desperation in the people in that area in NYC.  It's outside of the bible belt, obviously, and so many people there who attend are recovering prostitutes, homosexuals, alcoholics and drug addicts.  He said that, when we went.  We just don't always see that, where I live in the South.  It was so refreshing to be in the midst of all those dear people when we were there two years ago.  Anyway, about last night.

He preached on John 15.  This chapter is one of my favorites in all of the bible.  It's all about abiding (or remaining) in the Lord.  I think it even went along with what I was so encouraged by yesterday.  When we abide in Him, closely abiding day by day, that leaves much less room to be fearful or anxious about circumstances going on in our lives.  Some of the things he said were questions like how do we abide in Him?  We can abide in Him through prayer, and by reading His word.  DAILY.  Not just one day a week!  Now, I know that life happens, and we all miss a day here and there of quiet time.  That is normal.  But don't let too many of those days happen.  More often than not, we need to be spending consistent time with the Lord in prayer and in bible reading. 

I love how he started this sermon last night.  His question was, "What is the purpose of my existence?"  The answer to that is simple: To glorify God.  How do we glorify God?  By abiding in Him.  When we abide in Him, we bear fruit.  Examples of that fruit would be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Two other examples would be by showing mercy and forgiving others. 

He used a plant to drive this home, and I love the imagery it gave me.  Each little branch of that plant he used was attached to the main vine.  The second you cut off a branch, even though it might look healthy still, it's dead.  It cannot grow and produce more branches if it's not attached to the main vine.  That is the same with us, as we are the branch and He is the vine.  (All of these scriptures were from John 15, so you should go read the whole chapter.)  Apart from the vine (the Vine), we can do nothing. 

He also prunes the branches, so they can grow more and produce even more fruit.  Pruning is painful, but necessary.  That reminds me of the two crepe myrtles that flank the ends of my house.  Each spring, Todd prunes them down to nothing.  It looks terrible when he does that, and I always dread when he pulls out the shears each year.  But before I even know it, in just a couple of short weeks usually, new flowers and shoots are blooming and starting to appear where he pruned them.  It's amazing!  And they grow so quickly, even more and more beautiful than they were the previous summer.  It's the same way with us, when the Lord prunes us.  It makes us even closer to Him than we were ever before, and I always want more of Jesus.  Who wouldn't? 

Just a little food for thought on this lovely Thursday.

Most of all that above was from my notes from the sermon last night.  I'm sure if you go to the Bellevue church website (in Memphis), you may be able to listen online, because these few words did not at all do justice to hearing him preach on this. 

Thanks for reading.  Love to all. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

traditions

I am a huge fan of traditions.  As the boys have gotten older, we've let some things go, and some things have continued.  Last night was one such time. 

Todd called me early in the day and asked me what I thought of something fun for us all to do that night.  Every year for the boys' birthday, they ask to go eat at Texas De Brazil.  We used to do one kid at a time, but when that got too complicated, we just started taking them all at once.  Last year, Todd purchased a VIP card that gets half off each meal, up to twelve meals at a time.  (It's a use it once thing and then you're done.)  Because of that VIP card, we let them invite friends.  Unfortunately, we cannot pay for all of these friends, so we talk to the parents and ask if they can come with us, and then we give them an amount to send that includes the tax and a good tip. 

So that's what we did last night.  They each invited some friends, and we took two vehicles and made the trek downtown.  (Graham was one of the drivers.) 


I have a few favorites here: the salad bar with the delicious lobster bisque soup, the little rolls with cheese in the middle, and bacon wrapped grilled chicken.  I could just eat that and be done, but I do try a little of everything. 

I took a picture of part of our table on the sly. 


Four of us were not pictured.  We had eleven with us.  (Those boys get every dollar worth of food they consume.  Us girls, maybe not so much.)

We all ate until we were stuffed (but some of us stopped short of that--me), then we walked over to The Peabody Hotel.


I'm pretty sure every year we have an argument over whether or not they're going to jump in the elevator.  They are never allowed, because a few of us are terrified of elevators (Drew, Noah, and me).  We love going up to the rooftop.


And got up there just in time to see this.  It's so pretty!  I love the Memphis skyline.  You can see part of the bridge on the right, and that's the mighty Mississippi you see, as well.  The kids walked all around while we were up there, but I stood right where I was and stared at this view.  I think partly because all my food had finally settled and I was miserable all of a sudden. 

I used to love going here with this one, back in the days before we were married.


I love the fact that now our kids love it here, too. 

We stayed up there for at least thirty minutes, then we rode the elevator back down to the mezzanine level.


It's really a beautiful place.  The kids walked around this level and Todd and I sat on one of the couches.


There are these old phone booths they still have on this level, and they love using them to call each other.  Jonah walked around trying to find a haunted hallway, but I don't think he found one.  (That makes me laugh.) 

We finally left and walked back to our car.  I turn into a pumpkin at ten every night, and it was fast approaching.  It was a really fun, totally unplanned night.  We've noticed that in our family, at least, those are always the best nights.  We can never replicate them when we try, but we always love spending time with our boys, and the few extra make things more fun. 

Another night that is always my favorite is when we celebrate our birthdays with my in-loves.  We are both December birthdays, and we always celebrate on the night of Todd's birthday, which is the twenty seventh.  It's always equally as fun, because we always go downtown again. 

If you're reading this and are local to me, and have never taken your family downtown to explore, you really need to do this.  It's so much fun to walk around and see new things, and it is beautiful.  And most of it is free, so that's pretty hard to top.  I knew a family once whose kids had been all over the place on vacation, but they'd never been downtown, and when they saw a parking meter, they had no idea what it was.  That's always sad to me.  Get out and get to know the city you live in, or the big city you live near. 

I hope we keep this tradition forever, even when our kids are grown and have families of their own. 

Thanks for reading!  Love to all. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

catching up

I didn't do my typical Friday Favorites post last week because we had to be out the door so early that morning.  We didn't do lunch with my dad, either, because we helped my friend move her mom into an apartment. 

We were there until about noon or shortly after, then we stopped at one of our favorite places for lunch, The Cookout.  It's this fast food place that has really cheap prices for a huge amount of food, and to top it all off, they are a Christian company, the food is DELICIOUS, and they play music about Jesus.  Even Chick Fil A doesn't do that anymore, I think because of the complaints.  They have bible verses on all their cups too, I think it's Proverbs 1:7, which is the one about the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. 

How cool is that? 

After lunch, I dropped the boys off at home, then I had to go return my friend's husband's truck and pick up my car.  Drew and Jonah helped another friend move some stuff to her house.  I took a nap when I got home. 

That night I had dinner with one of my best friends for her birthday (which we celebrated late), and had a great time catching up and then praying together in my car before we left.  I posted this verse on Instagram about our time together, because we had a powerful time of prayer.


I am so thankful for praying friends!

On Saturday, I spent the day either reading, doing laundry, or watching Netflix.  It was GLORIOUS.  My husband and oldest son worked that night, and my night of doing nothing continued.  I had leftover lasagna for dinner. 

Sunday was church!  I also attended went night for a special "family meeting" we had, then I was back home for dinner and more Netflix.  Todd worked again that night. 

Monday has become my grocery shopping day, and I've been trying to be better about planning out actual meals (because it seems like I neglect to cook dinner in June and part of July), so I did that, then I went to church that night to help out with a choir thing.  (This picture below was me planning out the week and combining my phone calendar with this paper one that I leave out on the desk in the living room.) 


Yesterday was spent around the house as well, but with a birthday lunch thrown in the mix, while my house was a disaster.


Seriously.  Dirty dishes were everywhere, the dishwasher held clean dishes (I had to get forks out of there), the floor was not vacuumed well (I did vacuum the most common spots that always attracts dog hair), and it was not at all planned.  (I had planned to go to them instead, but everything changed.)  In the middle of all that mess, though, the Lord reminded me of some things.  That is to be hospital always, and not just when it's convenient or when my house is clean.  He also reminded me to be available.  I have such introverted tendencies that it's easy to use that as an excuse, and I do that all the time.  I love being alone and at home in my comfiest of clothes.  But I'm not supposed to be that way.  I have opportunities all the time to live life along side people, and yesterday was a reminder to do that more, and to be on the lookout for more opportunities. 

After this, I did finally clean the kitchen. 

I met a former student that I had in a bible fellowship class at church for coffee at Starbucks, and we caught up for almost two hours.  She leaves for college again soon (she'll be a junior this year), and it had been way too long since we had met.  We plan on meeting one more time before she leaves in the middle of August. 


So, we ran out of data in our house and the hubby turned off our internet so that we wouldn't be charged extra money yesterday.  Because of that, I started this book, and continued to read it until ten o'clock last night.  It is the BEST book!  It's also on sale for about $5 at Lifeway right now, so you should buy a copy for yourself.  I can't share this one, because of all that I've written inside.  At the end of each chapter, she asks questions to expand on what that chapter was about, and it is surprising how much was flowing from my pen.  Apparently this book is striking a chord within me, and it was a much needed book for me to read right now in my life.  (I've had it since May!  God knew I needed it now, though.) 

Also?  I love Lisa Harper.  I'm so drawn to her teaching right now, and her writing is even more beautiful.  She is very real and raw, and there are no pretenses with her.  I love that so much.


One of the questions I read was what I thought of the statement that God is happy with me.  I immediately thought of this verse in Zephaniah.  It's one of my favorites, and so I went there again last night and read it for at least the millionth time, but isn't it amazing to think of God delighting in us with singing? 

Maybe because I love worship music so much, but that thought is just beautiful to me.  You know He doesn't see us as we actually are, but He sees us as His treasured possession, already made new in Him. 

I will say it again.  You should consider buying this book.  It's one of the best I've ever read.  I'm TWO short chapters away from finishing it, but I'm kinda dreading it being over.

Well, I need to fold some clothes and get dressed.  Noah and I have dental appointments today.  (Drew and Jonah are working for a friend again and will have their appointments soon.)  Thanks for reading! 

Love to all. 

weekending- my favorite moments

  Happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend—mine was really good. Here are some of my top moments from the weekend. I read. A lot. I fini...