At The Cross (and a $5 Flash Sale)

I received this cross to review from Dayspring. This post contains affiliate links.

I need you to know I am not a chalkboard artist. I love to write and I was a teacher, but writing on chalkboards was never my favorite. If someone wants to find a few extra hours a week for me and come over to give me chalkboard art lessons, I would be a willing student because I LOVE the look of chalkboards of all kinds.

You also need to know that I have a hard time letting things go. I’m not talking about forgiving people or holding grudges. I struggle with giving my worries and fears and disappointments to God and leaving them in His hands. I need to take this advice that I give to my kids about handling disappointment, but I’m still a work-in-progress myself.

When this chalkboard cross from Dayspring arrived at my doorstep, I thought about all the cute designs I could put on it if I was a better chalk artist, but God put just one simple reminder in my head:

“at the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life”

Cross Close

I knew right away what He was telling me. I need to surrender those hurt, negative feelings and LEAVE them there at the cross. My sin nature leads me to try to pick them up and carry them on my own, but He wants them LEFT AT THE CROSS.

Cross Tall

It’s just a chalkboard cross, but in the hands of God it became so much more. The art isn’t beautiful, but to me, it is a powerful visual reminder of His promise to carry my burdens.

Cross Wide

The cross means different things to different people and that is the beauty of this blank chalkboard cross – you can use it as you need and as God leads to speak life, freedom, hope into your home!

I would love for each of you to have one, so I partnered with Dayspring to give you an amazing discount! From now until Monday, August 8, use the code ERIN5 to get your own small chalkboard cross for only $5!

Want to get free shipping on your order? Grab several of these $5 small chalkboard crosses to use as gifts and add some faith-inspired school supplies to put your order over $50 and shipping will be free! There is also an awesome $5 flash sale featuring 28 more items going on right now, so stock up on these great deals while you’re getting your $5 cross!

Don’t miss out on this exclusive flash sale – the $5 chalkboard cross with code ERIN5 expires Monday, August 8th!

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At Home in the Good Life

I received this necklace for review from Cents of Style. This post contains affiliate links.

I grew up in South Dakota. The same city and state my whole childhood. I loved “my” state.

When it came time to choose a college, however, I needed to spread my wings a little. I didn’t fly too far, just to neighboring Nebraska, where I found my place as a Husker. Lincoln was just supposed to be my college home, but it became much more.

In Lincoln, I found a personal relationship with Jesus. My faith changed and grew and made me a new person in Christ starting my freshman year of college.

In Lincoln, I met my husband. We were both in the Cornhusker Marching Band. He proposed to me in the Sunken Gardens. We got married in Lincoln and made it through some major challenges together in those first few years.

In Lincoln, we bought our first home. Just two months before our first child was born, we found a cute little place to call our own. We moved in record time with the largest moving crew of friends ever just one month before Big J made his arrival.

In Lincoln, all three of our children were born. Three handsome boys joined our family in the span of six years. Each boy was dedicated to the Lord at our church in Lincoln.

We no longer live in Lincoln, but we have found our place here in Nebraska. It truly is the Good Life. While South Dakota will always be my birth state, Nebraska is home.

When I saw the new state necklace design from Cents of Style, featuring the state name and the coordinates of that state’s capitol, I knew immediately it would be a treasure for me.

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Lincoln is the capitol of Nebraska and holds a very special place in my heart, for all the reasons listed above and more.

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I was hesitant to leave Lincoln at first, but we love our new hometown and I can’t imagine living anywhere else but Nebraska. I still love Lincoln and I can hold it and all its wonderful memories close with this beautiful double-bar necklace.

State Necklace Alone

This new state necklace design- with state name and capitol coordinates – AND the original Cents of Style state necklace are just $11.99 each with free shipping this weekend with the code NEWSTATE at checkout!

Tell me about the state that has captured your heart! Which state necklace will you order and why?

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When You Don’t Know What to Pray

I like to spend time with Jesus when I run outside.

This morning, my heart was aching for three women who are very dear to me. Each is going through her own personal tragedy right now and I can’t get them off of my mind. I’ve been praying for them for weeks and months, but today, words failed me.

The heartache for each women is reaching new depths this week and I felt led to pray for them, but I didn’t even know what to pray. Everything that came to mind seemed so trivial, pointless, not enough. I was so frustrated, but God is so good and He reminded me of a truth I need so desperately at that very moment.

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. -Romans 8:26

That’s exactly how I felt: weak. I can’t really do anything physical to help these women right now, so I thought prayer would be my way of “helping.” When I couldn’t even come up with what exactly to pray, I felt weak and helpless.

God met me in my weakness.

I prayed this very thing, “Lord, I don’t even know what these precious ladies need right now, but you do. I lift them up to you right now and ask for You to hold them close. Amen.” I know He heard me and I know the Spirit did the work where my words failed.

When you don't know what to pray

There are so many reasons we might not know what to pray: an unspecified prayer request, a prompting from the Lord to pray for someone without any other details, an unfamiliar situation, or a tough decision with no clear right answer.

I find myself in this place often. Sometimes I try to force it and come up with prayers that sound pretty good, even though no one but myself is hearing them. Not today. My sadness and frustration was too deep and that’s where the Spirit shows up.

We don’t have to have the right words. The Spirit knows our hearts and knows the needs of our loved ones. This is the time and place for us to recognize our weakness, rest in His strength, and let His power take over. Our friends and family are safe and loved in His hands.

Don’t give up on praying because you can’t find the words. The Lord gives us the Spirit to intercede for us and He fills in all the gaps.

If you need prayer for yourself or a loved one, please let me know in the comments. No details necessary – the Lord knows your heart and it would be an honor to lift your name and needs to Him.

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The One Way I Know How to Be Brave Today

I received the featured product to review from Cents of Style. All opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.

I feel just about everything except brave today.

I felt brave seven months ago when I decided I would train for my first marathon the following spring.

I felt brave when I filled out my registration for the Fargo Marathon and sent it in.

I felt brave as I started my marathon training plan in February with my eyes set on conquering my next running goal.

I even felt brave as I finished my 20-miler a month ago, the longest run I would do during my marathon training.

Today, the day before my first marathon, those brave feelings escape me, so I’m writing this now to remind myself of the brave moments that led me to this one.

I’m also writing this to remember that I am not brave on my own. I am brave because my God looks at me and says, “You can be brave because I am with You.”

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We’ve taught our boys since they were little to approach life and the things God calls us to with faith and bravery. Joshua 1:9 is a key verse we refer back to often:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

This is a lovely promise, but it’s not just that. This is a command. A command WITH a promise: be strong, be courageous, be brave BECAUSE the Lord my God is always with me. 

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The feelings of bravery will come and go a million times before I cross the starting line and every step of the 26.2 miles, but God is not that wishy-washy. Unlike my feelings, He is steady and true. He will never leave me or forsake me and that is the source of my bravery today, tomorrow, and every day of my life here on earth. Standing in this truth is the one way I know how to be brave today.

I’m wearing my Be Brave shirt from Cents of Style today as we drive north to Fargo for my first marathon. It is just the encouragement I need running through my head as the time to run (a REALLY long way) draws closer. Be brave – embrace it with me (and maybe pray for an extra does of it for me?!) today!

What do you need the push to “BE” today? Cents of Style has an amazing Be Series with messages for each of us: be brave, be still, be true, be kind, be bold.

COS Be Series

This beautiful collection of shirts, hats, and jewelry from the Be Series is 50% off with the code BEYOU today! You also get free shipping! Choose your word and grab your favorite styles before they are gone!

One last thing: I’m running this marathon tomorrow in support of The Mercy House, a maternity home in Kenya. I need less than $100 to reach my fundraising goal, so every little bit helps! Would you consider making a donation of any amount to help us hit $262 before the race starts? Thank you so much!

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Teaching Kids About the Character of a Jesus-Follower

I received this book to review. I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

So here’s the deal…

I’m not a big fan of what the world thinks a “Christian” looks like these days. If you were to ask a person on the street about the character traits of a Jesus-follower, I’m afraid you would hear words like self-righteous, judgmental, and close-minded. These are ugly words and the furthest thing from the character of Jesus.

This is the world in which we are raising our children. It is more important than ever to teach our kids to be Jesus-followers not just in name, but in everything we do. My character has to speak louder than any label I may claim. And I want the character of my boys to do the same.  

When we look at the life of Jesus, there are so many character traits for us to emulate and teach to our kids. I like to narrow down our focus when the kids are little and build upon it as they grow and mature in their faith.

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I Will Follow Jesus, a bible storybook by Judah and Chelsea Smith, is a great starting point for sharing these character traits of a Jesus-follower with our young kiddos. Every family should choose their own focus, but here are a few we emphasize from an early age:

Loving

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. -1 John 4:18

Jesus loved people. All people. He loved like no one ever has because He is God and God is love. When we look at the two most important commandments given to us by God, they come down to love. Love God. Love people. A Jesus follower is loving.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:36-38

Brave

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9

We’ve already talked about the negative view much of the world has of Christians. Living and loving boldly in the name of Jesus takes courage. One day it might look like standing up for a classmate who is getting picked on at recess. Another day it may mean stepping out of your comfort zone to share a bible verse with someone who needs encouragement. We’re not scaling physical mountains, but sharing the love of Jesus in a hostile world most definitely requires bravery. And Jesus is the one who makes us brave!

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… -1 Peter 3:15

Humble

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk this earth, yet He was humble, even to the point of death. We live in a world where pride matters and we don’t want our pride hurt. Being a Jesus-follower means leaving our pride at the foot of the cross and walking in humility.

What does humility look like for our kids? Sometimes it means putting others’ needs before our own, which goes hand in hand with loving well. It also means not always having to be “right” all the time. We have some stubborn boys in this house (they might get that from their mama), and they like to be right about things. They also like to correct someone when they are wrong. A humble person knows how to take constructive criticism, as well when to keep their “right” thoughts to themselves. If we as Christians are always pointing out what others are doing wrong, we are exhibiting pride and opening ourselves up to a big fall when someone catches us in sin.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18

When we look to Jesus and see His grace and mercy to us even when we were still sinners, we can’t help but be humble.

We can talk about all these characteristics to help our children in their walk of faith, but being a Jesus-follower comes down to one thing. We must be willing to follow what Jesus asks of us – no matter the cost, no matter what we look like.

We look at the life of Jesus, as told so well for kids in I Will Follow Jesus, for how to live, but we must also pray and listen for His voice, calling us to do the work He has just for us here on earth. Invite your kids to live out these characteristics, open their heart to the call of Jesus in their life, and follow Him!

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” -Matthew 16:24

I Will Follow Jesus

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away three copies of I Will Follow Jesus to you lovely people! Just use the widget below to enter!

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Holy Week 101 for Parents and Kids

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Although we have observed Holy Week in our own way as a family, when I asked my oldest son what he knew about Holy Week, his first question was, “What is Holy Week?” I apparently had never specifically labeled the week with that title, so my question and his response opened up a wonderful conversation about the week leading up to Easter!

Holy Week is extraordinarily significant to Christians and I have always felt strong desire to share all aspects of what Jesus went through in that week with our children. Maybe that is your desire as well. In my post over at Tommy Nelson today, I recorded some of the more relevant questions and answers from the conversation with my son in the hopes that it would be a guide for your own conversation with your child. Think of it as “Holy Week 101!”

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Head over to Tommy Nelson to read the answers to my son’s questions, including:

  • What is Holy Week?
  • What happened to Jesus during Holy Week?
  • What am I supposed to do during Holy Week?

We’ve kept The Story of Easter board book around our house to help introduce the events of this week to our kids at a young age. And we always follow this simple plan with the Jesus Storybook Bible as a family to remember the events leading up to and including Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Do you observe Holy Week as a family? What are some of your favorite traditions?

 

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Knowing God by Naming Names

I have included affiliate and referral links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

We take names very seriously in our house.

The Hubby and I pored over the meanings and bible verses as we chose names for our three sons. We prayed, asking God to guide us in choosing each name, and He answered each time. In our dining room, a print hangs on the wall with the first and middle name of each boy along with the bible verse that goes with that name.

A name holds so much. In our society, your name is your identity. When people know your name, you feel valued and important. You feel known.

My kids get this feeling. When they started at a new school this year, hearing another classmate call them by name, inviting them to play at recess or sit with them at lunch, was a huge victory.

God wants our kids to know Him in this way. He wants them to know His NAMES (yes, plural) and to call out to Him with those names. And I believe when our kids know the variety of names by which we can call God, they will know Him even better. As it says in the Bible:

Those who know your name put their trust in you. —Psalm 9:10

Knowing God helps us, and our kids, trust Him better. That’s a pretty awesome reason to get to know His names, right?!

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What names of God should you share with your kids first? Let’s start with these:

Immanuel

This is a name we hear a lot around Christmas time, but I like to keep in my mind year round. “Immanuel” means “God with us.” Before my kids know about all the ways God works in their lives, I want them to know He is always with them! Because God is with us, He can be all the things we need Him to be in our lives.

Rabbi

Jesus was often called “Rabbi,” which means teacher. I understand not all kids have a good relationship with their teacher, but I’ve always connected with Jesus as a teacher and my kids do as well. He is not here to scold us, but to teach and guide us through His Word. The best teachers lead by example and we see that holy example all over the Gospels.

Jehovah-Jireh

“Jehovah-Jireh” is a name for God that means “God will provide.” I love this name because it is something we can be on the lookout for as a family. When we talk about God as our provider, we are also opening the eyes of our children to watch for how He shows up to provide in our lives. Whether it comes through meeting financial, physical, or emotional needs, I want all of us to be on alert for the care and faithfulness of God. He provides for each one of us, sometimes in unusual ways, but always abundantly and graciously.

We also think of God as our Shepherd, Comforter, Healer, Father, and Friend. He is the Great I Am. The names go on and on because He is everything we need and more. If you’re looking to share more about the names of God with your children, you will love I Am: 40 Reasons to Trust God by Diane Stortz. This book, available for pre-order right now, offers bible stories, prayers, and devotions all centered around the names of God. It is perfect for family devotions or for your readers to enjoy on their own!

What names of God do you love?

 

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Avoiding the Holiday Hangover

I have included affiliate and referral links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

We all know the holiday hustle and bustle well. The months of October, November, and December are full of reasons to celebrate, which makes them my very favorite time of year.

There is one problem with this being my favorite time of year: I want to do ALL THE THINGS. You should see my Pinterest boards for Fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Full to the brim. And having too many ideas, like I do thanks to the lovely internet, usually leads to doing too many things in an already busy time of year.

I became particularly over-zealous about holiday activities once kids entered the picture. This Advent calendar and that Christmas countdown and all the baking and crafty ideas just had to be done or my kids would be deprived of a meaningful Christmas. Yep, that’s the lie I believed. And Christmas time became stressful, not joyful.

Last year, I wanted the joy back. I didn’t want to come to the end of the holiday season and be glad it was all finally over. It is one thing to pack the season full of memories and another thing to become crazy-obsessed-stressed super Christmas mom who doesn’t take time to savor the season for herself. Memories get lost in the stress.

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Avoiding the holiday hangover – where you feel like you’ve been put through the ringer instead of celebrating the birth of our Savior – starts with admitting you have a problem. No, this is not a self-help book, but I needed to wake up and see the stress I was experiencing and causing with all of my good Christmas ideas. Too much good is still too much.

The second step for me was being intentional, and more specifically, intentionally saying no. I adore all of the Advent calendars and devotions that have been created for kids and families. I will probably sharing lots of them with you. But we don’t do ALL of them every year and neither should you. Before the seasons starts, evaluate your options and pick a devotion or calendar that suits the ages and stages of your kids. Because we have two elementary-age boys and one preschooler, we may do two different devotions this year to fit their levels. That’s where I draw the line. Make your own line and stick to it!

Why do I feel the need to be so strict with myself? I’ve found that on my way to giving myself a holiday hangover, I leave no room for what God might bring our way during the Christmas season. I don’t savor the moments because I’m always trying to check something off the list. I want to breathe and notice and celebrate this magical time of year.

As I have been reading through Savor, a daily devotional by Shauna Niequist, I have been struck by the detail in which she can describe seemingly ordinary moments and, in doing so, makes them sound life-changing. All because she was really paying attention and living in that moment. These devotions have led me to see so much beauty in the daily things and I don’t want to lose that in the midst of Christmas hurry. I want these holiday moments to be more vivid, more full of life and joy. I want them to be moments that make me smile when all is said and done.

No holiday hangover for me this year. And you can choose the same. Join me in drawing a line, leaving room for joy, and savoring this Advent season!

What will you + your family do or NOT do in order to avoid the holiday stress hangover this year?

 

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Just When You Think He’s Not Listening

We have that one child who seems like he never hears us the first time around. Getting his attention and holding it isn’t always easy. While he is very smart and does so well in school, sometimes I’ve wondered if anything we say is soaking in.

Do you have a child like that? Let me give you a little hope today.

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As we drove to school one morning last week, our three-year-old asked: “When do we get to be with Jesus?”

That’s a pretty deep question for 7:30 in the morning while stuck in stop-and-go traffic. I took a big breath and readied my answer, but seven-year-old Little J chimed in first.

“We get to be with Jesus when we go to heaven! And in heaven, there is no pain or sickness or sadness. It’s all happy!”

This definitely got my attention in the best way possible. Double J (our three-year-old) seemed very interested as well and his big brother wasn’t done yet.

“You get to go to heaven if you ask Jesus into your heart! Big J and I have both asked Jesus to come into our hearts so we’ll be in heaven with Him. You can ask Him, too!”

Cue the big mommy tears.

Our rides to school in the morning have been a highlight of my day. We always start with prayer and then the kids take turns picking music to listen to and sing. It feels like some calm in the middle of a chaotic morning.

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But that morning last week. That morning topped them all. The child who doesn’t always listen, who seems to often be in his own little world…he has most certainly been listening. He has soaked up the true meaning of the Gospel over the years, and he was fully ready to share it with his little brother, without being asked.

His younger brother has been listening as well, because in the midst of hiding tears of joy behind my sunglasses and trying to keep my blurry eyes on the road, I heard his little three-year-old voice say:

“And Jesus is in heaven because He died on the cross and rose from the tomb!”

All those days of reading Bible stories over and over again, of memorizing verses and singing worship songs, of answering the same questions over and over again…they are 100% worth it, moms and dads. Our kids coming to know the love and saving power of Jesus is all His grace, but you are doing His good work when you share the Good News with your children day after day.

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In the days following, three-year-old Double J has talked a lot about heaven and death and what he will get to take with Him. So much of this is a mystery even to us as mature Christians, so I don’t have all the answers for him. He’s pretty sad that his Duplos won’t go with him to heaven. But I love the conversation that is happening in our home, all because our seven-year-old was bold in sharing the message of salvation he has been hearing all through his young life.

All this discussion led to a few little words with big weight from our youngest earlier this week:

“Mommy, I can’t wait to be with Jesus in heaven.”

Me neither, buddy.

May we all live with the boldness, the faith, and the joy of our children, soaking up every little bit of God’s goodness.

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Simply Tuesday

I received this book to review as part of the Simply Tuesday launch team. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve been reading A LOT this summer, keeping books stashed by my bed and near the kitchen and in my purse so I’m never without something to read. And I’ve been reading some GOOD books, the kind I have to tell you about.

I have to start with Tuesday. Simply Tuesday to be exact. Because, well, it IS Tuesday.

Simply Tuesday blanket

I’ve always felt quite comfortable with Tuesdays. I don’t mind Mondays all that much because they are the start of a new week, a blank slate. But Mondays also come with some rough reentry from weekend fun and long to-do lists.

I couldn’t really put my finger on why Tuesdays appealed to me, but author Emily P. Freeman helped me identify those reasons and then led me on a journey of things not about Tuesday at all in her newest book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.

Tuesday holds the ordinary, the everyday, and the small.

Emily’s words spoke to me about motherhood and writing and faith and just about every area of my life. This idea of small wasn’t something I knew I wanted so much, but every page of Simply Tuesday had me longing for more small moments of sitting – sitting with my Jesus, my family, my friends, my work. I have always been a busy doer, but the idea of sitting in the small has become more appealing to me with each passing year.

Here, on our ordinary Tuesdays, is where we make our homes and learn to be human.

I found myself breathing deep with each page, finding words I needed about contentment, platform, home, and hurry. How did Emily know I needed all these things in one book? Well, God knew, and as I underlined words on almost every page, I knew I didn’t want those words to slip away.

I want to stay small in his presence, not because I’m scared, but because I’m his. I want this to be a relief rather than a frustration.

There are so many truths in this book I need to chew on daily. The prayers at the end of each chapter are both honestly raw and poetically beautiful.

May we chase the flashes of hope that visit us in ordinary time, gather all the light in your presence, and trust you to string it together for our good and for your glory.

Jesus has been calling me to dig in deeper with Him and in my home. Simply Tuesday drew me closer to both of these. It went everywhere with me this summer.

Simply Tuesday Sandals

The stack of books in my house is monumental and I’ve been trying to give more away as I finish them, but I’m not sure I can let go of this one quite yet. I need to soak in this message, sit on a bench with it a little longer.

Small is good. Small moments are valuable. Being small in the presence of Christ is the best place to be.

It’s Tuesday and this small Tuesday is simply wonderful.

Simply Tuesday was JUST released today and I want all of you to read it! The paperback is only $7.17 on Amazon right now! Grab your copy and while you’re at it, sign up for Emily’s free video series that encourages us to stop being held hostage by hustle!

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