Experiencing the Cross + Resurrection as a Family

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Remember when I said last week that I had a little surprise I wanted to share in regards to observing Lent and Easter with your family? Well, if you follow me on any social media, then you found out yesterday what that surprise is. But if not, here you go…

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That’s right! My amazing friend, Amanda, author of Truth in the Tinsel and writer at ohAmanda.com, released a brand new ebook yesterday all about experiencing the Cross and Resurrection as a family.

I say “experiencing” because A Sense of the Resurrection is all about creating memorable experiences based on Scripture using the five senses.  It’s about moving from feeling to understanding to believing in our Savior and His great sacrifice for all of us. The ebook contains 12 activities which will lead your family through Jesus’ anointing, the Last Supper, Peter’s denial, the cross, the empty tomb and more. Through it all, your home will be transformed into a memorial to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Obviously our family has not gone through these activities as the book was just released yesterday! But I did get a sneak peek of this amazing ebook earlier in the week, and here was my response {in tears as I typed, mind you}:

For years, I have searched for ways to make the days leading up to Easter more real, intentional, meaningful for my children. Easter is fun and joyful like Christmas, but Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, and death are a completely different story. With A Sense of the Resurrection, Amanda White has tackled this sensitive topic of eternal importance in a way my children and I will never forget. Scriptures, activities, and discussion questions are well thought out and Amanda encourages each parent to read through it all ahead of time to gauge how best to approach the subject matter with their children. I anticipate this ebook changing so much about how we observe this time of year as a family, as well as our hearts.

Maybe you, like me, have been searching for just the right way to approach the death and resurrection of our Savior with your children. Friends, I truly believe this ebook will be that approach for me and for you.

I would suggest ordering your copy of A Sense of the Resurrection now so you have time to read through it for yourself before presenting it to your children in the weeks leading up to Easter. And don’t rush it. Spread out the 12 activities and let the meaning sink in and God work in all of your hearts.

How do you approach the death and resurrection of Jesus with your children? Or have you, like me, been looking for some help for this important, but difficult subject?

 

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A Heart For Africa

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I’m not one of those women who thought I would someday end up as a missionary, living amongst the people of a far-off, impoverished country, serving and loving them full time.

I always thought I would end up a mom, maybe a stay-at-home mom, and here I am.

But I didn’t always think God would get my heart all stirred up for the people of Africa the way He has over the past few years.

It started with sponsoring a Compassion child from Tanzania and blossomed from there. We’ve supported organizations like live FashionABLE, Mocha Club, The Root Collective, Johari Creations, AWANA, and more that are making a difference in the lives of people all over Africa. Every time I wear a shirt or scarf or piece of jewelry from these places, I am moved to pray for the hands that made, the hearts that are finding hope.

But my heart for Africa really took root when Kristen Welch and her family shared their idea of building a maternity home in Kenya…and it happened.

I remember reading and praying about every stage along the way as they raised money, found a location, welcomed girls and then babies, and it just gets more and more amazing all the time. He is at work at Mercy House Kenya.

Kristen and family recently introduced a new way to support the ever-growing vision for rescuing and supporting young, pregnant girls in Kenya and it was just perfect for the hands in our home!

Heart for Africa

The Love Mercy kits provide you the supplies to make some really easy bracelets that can be sold to raise money for Mercy House Kenya! For just $10 – no shipping – we received a package with supplies for 25 bracelets.

Heart for Africa Kit

Big J took on the task of cutting pre-marked slits on both sides of the printed cards…

Heart for Africa J Cutting

Little J tried his hand at threading the heart beads onto the twine…

Heart for Africa j bead

But that proved a little difficult so I took it over while he positioned the bracelets on the cards…

Heart for Africa j bracelet

We had a great assembly line going and finished our 25 bracelets in about 3o minutes!

Heart for Africa Finished

This activity tied in perfectly with school as Big J and I have been learning about Africa in geography! And we took some time to discuss the verse that drives the mission of Mercy House Kenya

Heart for Africa Micah

We have this verse on a beautiful print {also in support of Mercy House} in our living room, so the boys recognized it, but talking about WHILE helping others has quite a different impact…on all of us. I also really appreciated the included suggestions in the kit for explaining to children the ways Mercy House Kenya helps girls and babies.

I highly recommend this activity/service project for families or small groups or any group, especially parents and kids as it is easy and very meaningful!

And if you’re interested in buying one of these Love Mercy bracelets to support Mercy House Kenya, let us know! The boys would be more than happy to sell you one or more! We’ll have them available through Friday, March 28th or until they are gone!

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My Favorite Lent Resources for the Whole Family

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I wrote last week about the two books I will be using to focus my mind on more of God and the truth that He is FOR me during Lent this year. I’m all about keeping this time of year simple and meaningful, so I considered not sharing any more Lent resources with you as to not be overwhelming. But then I said, “Erin, this is what you do! Tell people things you love and let them figure out what is right for them!”

So here I go, sharing a handful of books and products for you and your family to use to be intentional with your mindset this Lent!

Lent Resources for the Whole Family

Reflective Lent Journal from Naptime Diaries

This gorgeous 40 day, undated journal contains scripture prompts and room to write on each page. Jessi, creator at Naptime Diaries says, “There are four sections to the book – Hope, Follow, Live, & Bless – and the scriptures are intentionally picked to help you grow closer to the Lord as you read different passages from all over the Bible.” If you would like yours in time for Lent this year, please order by 5pm ET TODAY!

Mosaic Bible

I received this Bible a few years ago and was drawn to the gorgeous artwork, but found so much more. Along with the full NLT Bible text, the Mosaic Bible features weekly readings and devotions based on the church seasons, including Lent. I love the insights I gained from the quotes, hymns, poems, and more in this Bible! I’m mentioning it as a Lent resource, but it is wonderful for year-round Scripture meditation.

The Jesus Storybook Bible

I’m sorry if you’re sick of hearing about the Jesus Storybook Bible from me, but I’m not really sorry because I will never stop telling people they MUST have this for their family! With Advent, we spent 25 days reading from it leading up to Christmas, but for Easter, I just did a week lead-up with the kids and it was just right. I made a reading plan for Easter week with the Jesus Storybook Bible complete with simple, but powerful activities and a free printable. And you could always start earlier in the Lenten season and read the whole life of Jesus, too! I think we may do that this year!

Trail to the Tree: An Easter Devotional from Ann Voskamp

I’m a big fan of everything God speaks through Ann, and while I haven’t done this with our family yet, I have it saved for when they boys are a little older. It might be just the right thing for you and your children this year. It includes reflections for each day of lent and printables to make an Easter tree. Ann says she made this because, “Easter is more important than Christmas.” And once again, she is spot on. This devotional is free to all of her blog subscribers, so if you’re already one, it’s at the bottom of the posts you receive in your email. And if you’re not, go subscribe now!

Action Bible Easter Story

The Action Bible is by far the favorite “big kid” Bible in our house, so I’m thrilled to tell you that, right now for a limited time, the Kindle version of the Action Bible Easter Story is FREE! Every house of boys should own the full Action Bible, but this is a great starting point to get your boys interested in this graphic novel/comic book-style Bible storybook AND the most important story of Jesus’s sacrifice to save us. Grab this quick before the price goes back up!

I have one more surprise Lent resource to share next week, but until then, here is one last gem I want to mention…

My sweet friend Jennifer has written an important book called Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – And Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. It won’t be available until April 1, but you’re going to want to pre-order it now. Trust me.

While Love Idol isn’t a Lent-specific book, the message and soul-searching found within are very much in line with what Lent is all about – sacrificing the things we hold on to so tightly to have more of Jesus. And I would love for you to join me in the Love Idol Movement this Lent: We are letting go of the love idols that are taking up space in our hearts — space that belong to God alone. You can read more about Jennifer’s heart for this movement on her blog and join the movement on Facebook.

I will end this post with the question I am asking myself and praying about as part of the Love Idol Movement. I would love for you to join me in doing the same and we can come back here next Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, to share the idol we are letting go…

Where do the idols of approval and love lurk in my life? How can I practically and prayerfully give that idol up – for good and for GOD?

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Fixer-Upper: Lessons on Love from a Disney Song

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My love for the move Frozen knows no bounds, and the biggest reason is the fabulous music. I bought the soundtrack for myself the boys for Valentine’s Day and it has been playing nonstop, with everyone signing along, ever since.

By now, everyone knows the most popular song, “Let It Go.” It’s being added to my running playlist because I love it SO MUCH and want it belting in my ear as I let it all go in a race.

But another song from the movie has really captured my heart and it’s not because of the amazing vocals like Ms. Indina Menzel in “Let It Go.” Tucked away as track #9 on the soundtrack, “Fixer-Upper” might have escaped your notice, but you might want to search it out for yourself.

Fixer Upper

First of all, “Fixer-Upper” is a funny little song sung by the troll family of Kristoff. They are trying to figure out why Anna and Kristoff aren’t pursuing each other romantically and their first assumption is that Anna has noticed all of Kristoff’s flaws, which they are happy to catalog for her. When they discover that Anna is engaged, they change their tune and say that she is the one needing fixing so they can be together.

While their motives for singing may be superficial, the message the song conveys is anything but shallow.

Let’s start here:

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
That’s what it’s all about!

One of the boys and I got into this last week when he was upset about something he had done and said he hated himself. When we arrived at the root of his feelings, I helped him realize he really hates the sin and not himself. And he needed this reminder about sin that applies even {and especially} to his mommy:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~Romans 3:23

We are all fixer-uppers because we are all sinners. No exceptions.

We’re not sayin’ you can change him,
‘Cause people don’t really change.
We’re only saying that love’s a force
That’s powerful and strange.
People make bad choices if they’re mad,
Or scared, or stressed.
Throw a little love their way.

And you’ll bring out their best.

I don’t agree with the line about “people don’t really change,” but I do agree that WE can’t change anyone. But we CAN love. And love does some pretty amazing things. Just ask Bob Goff. {one of my favorite books from last year}

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. ~Romans 12:10

And that whole part about making bad choices?! So much truth. I’ve spoken harsh words to my children or husband when I was stressed about something completely unrelated to them. I’ve reacted hastily when scared. If these bad decisions are something we all struggle with {and I think we do}, we should know to react with more compassion and love – the kind we would like to receive in the same situation. 

Father! Sister! Brother!

We need each other to raise
Us up and round us out.

God didn’t put us in families and communities to judge and tear down one another. He put us together to lift one another up, using the unique and wonderful giftings from Him to bless one another – to round each other out!

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. ~Romans 12:6-8

We all need fixing. We all need love. And that all comes back to our need for God.

Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
But when push comes to shove.

The only fixer-upper fixer
That can fix up a fixer-upper is true love!

The true love that transforms is not from us, but from Love himself. His love has the power to take all those things about us that need fixing – our sin, our doubts, our fears – and do a miraculous work through them…

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~Romans 5:3-5

This fixer-upper right here, writing to you now, takes great comfort and delight in the hope produced by the love of God in my life. It’s my job, my calling, my joy to share that life-changing love with other fixer-uppers.

Let’s throw a little more love each other’s way and watch as God brings out the best in all of us.

And go listen to the song if you haven’t. It’s super cute and will have you singing about love the rest of the day!

 

*”Fixer-Upper” lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

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Growing Vegetables + Children

This is where I usually tell you that today is another Five Minute Friday, where Lisa-Jo gives us a prompt and invites us to write for FIVE MINUTES ONLY, no editing, no rethinking, no shame.

But this isn’t just any Five-Minute Friday. Yes, it IS Friday. Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, but the kind of love we’re sharing here today goes beyond a one day holiday. You’ll see…

Today’s prompt: Garden.

*****

And go…

The gardening analogies were lost on me until we bought a house with landscaping that needed to be kept up. I had always said I had a black thumb but that wasn’t really the issue – the issue was my own lack of persistence, patience, diligence.

Garden Kids

There is no garden quite like motherhood, where I am toiling to produce the fruit of Christ in my children and He is working to produce the fruit of the Spirit in me. There is daily planting, daily digging, daily weed-pulling, and if I don’t remember His call to not grow weary in doing good, it might all just be too much.

My mama soul has been turned over and over again just like the dirt. Every part of me feels the joy and pain, the lift and weight of the toil of parenting, and I live in a place where everything I could ever need is in reach for me without physical labor.

God is working on my heart, pulling up the weeds of selfishness, bringing forth new growth of love and service, showing me beauty and joy in swept floors and folded laundry.

Garden LisaJo

The work of beautiful women around the world, literally planting and harvesting to nourish their families, body and soul, is finding root in my heart, giving me a vision for true service to my family.

Garden Women

They grow vegetables AND children, even children who aren’t their own, loving them as if they were. And while I haven’t latched on to the whole vegetable garden in my own backyard, I am a mother who is growing children and, as Lisa-Jo says, “There is nothing ordinary about being a mom.”

Stop.

*****

Today a bunch of not-so-ordinary moms are linking arms and running forward in love to show the world LOVE is a VERB. It goes out and does crazy stuff like build a center for a community in South Africa in need of a safe place for sustainable food, child care, economic empowerment, job skills trainings, a gathering place for church, classrooms for HIV/Aids education, and a playground for their kids. THAT is love and we can show it today.

It all starts today with a garden. A vegetable garden. And that’s just Phase One.

You can donate through the project on Pure Charity. And you can also purchase a gorgeous necklace through one of my favorites, KraftyKash, from her “Fall in Love With the World Next Door” line and $12 from each sale will help fund the Maubane Community Center in South Africa.

I’m just giddy and teary and overwhelmed by so many coming together to love on these kids, this community. Love IS a verb. Let’s do this.

 

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The Best of 2013

Ooh, 2013 was quite a year, wasn’t it?!

As I was looking back over the year to put together this post of my bests and favorites for the year, it seemed like a LONG year. We packed a lot into these twelve months and I’m sure I’ve forgotten half the wonderful things that happened! So I’m just going to apologize now for leaving some stuff out because it’s bound to happen with this mom-brain…

Best of 2013

Top Blog Posts of 2013

{according to Google Analytics}

  1. 10 Favorite Christian Running Songs {May 2013}
  2. Why a Mom’s Body Image Matters to Her Sons
  3. Less Yelling, More Praying: Bible Verses to Pray
  4. My Half Marathon Playlist
  5. Insanity Mom
  6. High Five Morning Routine for Kids
  7. The Love Dare for Parents
  8. My Experience with Stitch Fix {you can read about my follow-up experience here}
  9. 13.1 Books for 2013 {I read at least 13 books this year, but didn’t get to all of these!}
  10. Easter Week with the Jesus Storybook Bible

Rhythm of Boys

Favorite Books of 2013

Raw Emotion

Favorite Songs of 2013

  • Middle of Your Heart by For King and Country
  • Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher
  • Awake My Soul by Chris Tomlin
  • The League of Incredible Vegetables by Newsboys

Vegas Poolside Couple

Favorite Moments of 2013

Really, it was an amazing year. A year to celebrate.

And God stretched me a lot this year, as well. Most of the time I was kicking and screaming as He tried to help me grow, which left me tired and frustrated, but my eyes are much wider open to His plans for me going into 2014. He gave me a word a few months ago that I will share with you tomorrow as my word of the year and I’m holding tightly to it changing the way He works in EVERY part of my life!

I want to leave you with one thought as this year ends and a new begins…

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us… ~David Crowder

This is not a time to dwell on the regrets of 2013, but to bask in His great love and move forward into 2014! Oh, how He loves you, friend, and has big plans for each of us this new year!

Thank you to all who have joined us along the way and those who have been here for years – I treasure each one of you and pray for you often!

Happy New Year!

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Four Christmases: Part One

Yep, you read that right! We’re having four different Christmases this year! Such is the life of a doctor’s family who has to be on home call for seven straight days over the holidays – things will be a little spread out!

We spent our first Christmas with  The Hubby’s family this past weekend. It was full of yummy meals, a carousel ride, ice skating, opening presents, and lots of great family time!

The boys were a little apprehensive about ice skating at first, but by the end Big J was saying, “Look Ma! No hands!” and Little J was acting pretty fearless as well!

Christmas 2013 Part 1i

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Christmas 2013 Part 1f

Christmas 2013 Part 1c

Christmas 2013 Part 1g

Christmas 2013 Part 1h
Christmas 2013 Part 1k

Christmas 2013 Part 1n

Gma Gpa Skating Rink

Christmas 2013 Part 1a

Christmas 2013 Part 1b

Christmas 2013 Part 1l

Um, when did those three boys get so big? They just look too old in this picture. Too old.

Our next Christmas isn’t until Christmas Day, so this week we’re finishing up school and baking away to send treats with The Hubby to work! We all know I can’t bake and keep those things in the house without going into a sugar coma…

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The Family That Runs Together…

A friend recently told me Thanksgiving Day is now the most road-raced day in the country! And while we weren’t in a road race, our family joined the many others racing Thanksgiving morning before consuming all the yummy holiday food!

The Hubby ran a trail half marathon {the same one we did last Thanksgiving} in much colder, windier temps than we endured last year! He also crushed our time from last year without me to slow him down, but said it was much lonelier!

Thanksgiving 2013n

Thanksgiving 2013m

Thanksgiving 2013p

And the boys asked the night before Thanksgiving if they could run the 400m Lil’ Gobbler trail run with me after Daddy’s race! Of course, we said yes! So we bundled up to cheer on The Hubby and then run a little ourselves…

Thanksgiving 2013b
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Thanksgiving 2013g Thanksgiving 2013c
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Thanksgiving 2013e Thanksgiving 2013f

Thanksgiving 2013h

It was the boys’ first official race and we were so proud of them for taking it on, especially in that weather! Brrr! The Hubby and Double J stayed in the van to keep warm while we did the Lil’ Gobbler, so the boys ran to show them their medals after the race!

To cap off our running holiday, I did a Jingle Bell Run to benefit the Arthritis Foundation the day after Thanksgiving! I love a good fun run for charity! 

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They gave each of us jingle bells to tie to our shoelaces and we ran through beautifully lit up areas for Christmas! Fun and festive! And a 8:52 pace – not too shabby!

I love that we all got a little running in this holiday – even Double J did a few laps around the table! The family that runs together, right?!

Did you do a race or fun run this past long weekend? What are your favorite holiday races?

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Girls’ FaceTime

A little FaceTime with my niece!

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Outlet Malls + Mustard Pants

This past weekend, a big outlet mall opened here in Nebraska. My awesome hubby suggested I invite my mom and sister for an opening weekend shopping extravaganza while he watched the kiddos.

He’s a keeper, that one.

The nearest outlet mall to us before was over three hours away, so I was a little giddy about this one opening up a whole lot closer. And I was even more giddy about a girls’ day shopping with my mom and sister!

Girls at Outlets

We did Christmas shopping. We found clothes for our kiddos. We had fun looking at cute maternity stuff for my sister, who is due with baby #2 on Big J’s birthday in April! Isn’t she cute?!

Maternity Outlet

Of course, I had to do a little looking around for myself! I will definitely be back to the Nike store for some running gear. That place was huge!

Nike Outlet

The only thing I snagged for myself was on clearance at J. Crew! I had no idea I wanted mustard pants until I tried these comfy corduroys on…

Mustard Pants and Stripes

These are the matchstick style and ended up only being $18! Those are the kind of deals I love at outlet malls! I paired with a new clearance top from DownEast Basics, a necklace from Charming Charlie, and some low pointy heels {but I will probably switch to flats by the end of the day}!

Mustard Pants and Pointy Shoes

I’ve been pinning outfit ideas for these mustard pants over on my In My Closet board and there are more ways to wear them than I would have thought!

Are you an outlet mall shopper? What’s your best find at an outlet store?

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