Having An Internal Focus This Lent

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Throughout my whole life, Lent has been a very special, reflective time of year, but it has also been generally focused on external things. Some of these external things have produced great internal change and closeness with Jesus, such as the Daniel Fast I did two different years and my commitment to yell less and pray more last year.

I attended an online class by my friend Jessi last week about walking with Jesus this Lent in a more intentional and meaningful way. That class had me asking God during a run this weekend, “What do you want Lent to be about for me this year? What do you want me to be about for YOU this Lent, God?”

Internal Focus for Lent

The immediate promptings in my soul were twofold:

  1. It needs to be about ALL of me. Me as a whole.
  2. I need to be reminding just how very much He is FOR me.

That is some heavy stuff for me, but Lent is a somber, reflective time. And it culminates in so much joy and hope. I imagine this is just what He wants for me this year, too.

So I haven’t decided to fast in any way yet, but two books just happened to come into my view this past week and they will be helping me keep this internal God-focus for the 40 days of Lent.

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Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, written by the lovely Kris Camealy, is book #1. I’ve had this book sitting on my Kindle shelf just waiting for Lent to roll around and I can’t wait to dive in. I love the imagery of journeying through these 40 days, moving from broken to surrendered to claiming the grace He has for us. Kris has a beautiful heart for Jesus and encouraging others as they walk with Him.

Just today, a companion workbook for Holey, Wholly, Holy was released AND there is an online community of women going through the book this Lent as well!

Book #2 showed up in Kris’ Instagram feed this weekend just hours after God and I had our conversation about my Lent focus. It’s called God for Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and EasterDuring Advent and Christmas, we celebrate that He came to be WITH us, but this FOR us part is really grabbing a hold of me right now.  I’m anxious to read more and embrace this truth with all that I am. If anything proves how much He is FOR me, it is what He endured for me leading up to and on the cross.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 5th this year and that is when I will start reading through Holey, Wholly, Holy with the online study group. I would love to have you join us!

And to celebrate the release of the companion workbook, Kris is graciously given me one PDF set of the book AND workbook to giveaway here today! Just enter below!

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Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

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!

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway

I was slow to jump on the coconut oil bandwagon, but now it is a staple used in our home every day for reason or another!

Most often, our coconut oil is used in the kitchen. Popcorn cooked in a pan on the stove in coconut oil with just a little salt added afterward is divine. The boys ask for coconut oil popcorn all the time! I throw some in when making this fabulous Slow Cooker Chicken Soup. And I’m always finding new places to substitute it into recipes!

Tropical Traditions is a new discovery for me, but it is a standard online source for the best coconut oil around, especially with their Gold Label products. If you’re like me and have been a little confused about all the differently labeled kinds of coconut oil, this post does a great job explaining virgin coconut oil, the kind sold by Tropical Traditions!

If this coconut oil world is all new to you and you’re wondering just how you might use coconut oil, you’ll find lots of ideas and recipes here!

Since the FDA does not want us to discuss the health benefits of coconut oil on a page where it is being sold or given away, here is the best website to read about the health benefits of coconut oil: http://coconutoil.com

Based on the quality of product, the wealth of knowledge and information, and the high level of customer service, I highly recommend Tropical Traditions for all your coconut oil purchases!

And now to the fun part…

I am giving away a quart of Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions! Just enter below!

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*If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

**Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

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Noonday Collection {Giveaway!}

The winner of the Blue Nile giveaway is Dianne Hall! Congrats! You can still use the discount at Blue Nile through the end of the month!

This whole fair trade/ethical fashion kick is going to get me in trouble financially…

But it’s hard to feel guilty about buying fabulous clothes and accessories when you know your purchases are providing sustainable income for men and women all over the world.

Noonday has been a leader in this movement and I am so excited to be sharing with you about them today!

Noonday uses fashion and design to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable.

This is how Noonday began…

Noonday Collection’s first trunk show was hosted by founder, Jessica Honegger, in her home as a means to raise money to adopt her son and third child from Rwanda. The style and purpose of the products drew an overwhelming response, and the business quickly grew beyond a fundraiser {and her head is still spinning}. Thanks to Noonday sales, Jessica and her hubby brought home their son Jack in October of 2011. Orphan care and prevention remain a core value. At Noonday Collection, we believe every child belongs in a family.

Noonday is now a network of lovely ambassadors hosting trunk shows and changing lives across the globe. To see more of the impact of Noonday, you have to visit this page on their site! What an amazing thing!

And, seriously, all of the products are just gorgeous. Noonday sent me these earrings…

Noonday Earrings

I am a BIG fan of mixed metals, so these Crescent Moon earrings could not be more perfect.

Noonday Earrings Close

I love the size. I love the shape. I love that I know the person who made them in India has a job because of Noonday.

To celebrate the work of Noonday and the holiday season, we’re giving away this fabulous Golden Trio Necklace

Noonday Golden Trio

The 24″ long Golden Trio Necklace was made with love in Uganda from hammered metal and handcrafted paper beads. Isn’t it just beautiful?! Just enter below for your chance to win!

And please shop Noonday this Christmas – it will be a gift to a loved one AND the artisans that make up Noonday! {Order by December 17th to get your items in time for Christmas!}

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I received these earrings from Noonday Style to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

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Blue Nile Branch Necklace Giveaway!

‘Tis the season for gift-giving, and I have a lovely gift to share with you thanks to Blue Nile!

Blue Nile Box

Blue Nile sent me two of these sweet blue boxes – one for me and one for you – and inside is this gorgeous necklace…

Blue Nile necklace

The Branch necklace is a timeless sterling silver piece – delicate, classy, and just the right touch of shine around any woman’s neck!

Blue Nile Neck

I paired mine with a collared shirt the other day and fell in love! I know I can wear it with so many outfits. It’s the kind of necklace that goes with just about any outfit!

I know you want one of your own, so how about that giveaway?! Just enter below to win!

And if you want to do a little shopping over at Blue Nile, just use the code BNHH10 to get 10% off your order through January 1st!

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**I was provided two necklaces – one to review and one to giveaway – from Blue Nile. I was not compensated in any other way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.

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$100 Giveaway with Checks in the Mail!

Checks seem to be losing their place in our society, but not completely! We still use checks to pay our babysitters and our hair stylist. Checks are convenient for a mail-in registration or paying back a friend for buying your concert ticket. And I still do get a few actual paper paychecks!

When The Hubby and I got married, we had a VERY different approach to managing that good old checkbook. My approach was more of a “forget about it” girl, while The Hubby was a “write-down-all-the-things-and-double-check” guy. Those two approaches don’t mesh very well. And it was mine that needed to go. It took some time – who are we kidding, I’m still trying to keep up with it – but we are at a much better place in our checkbook balancing life. Now if only there was more money to keep that balance higher :)

Checks in the Mail

Speaking of money, how about winning some holiday cash? Make sure you open your Valpak envelope this month! Valpak and Checks in the Mail have teamed up to giveaway $100 checks in blue envelopes all over the country. Open yours today!

If you don’t receive a blue envelope in your mailbox every month you can enter to win $100 below or visit Valpak.com to enter to win $5000!

Ten winners will each win $100 from Checks in the Mail. Only one winner per email address. Giveaway ends November 22, 2013. By submitting your email address you are agreeing to share that email with Checks in the Mail

This is a sponsored post.

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The Girl with Good Intentions {Giveaway}

I “met” Jenny Youngman through Twitter and, being a total sucker for discovering new music, was giddy to get a chance to hear her newest album and share it with you!

Jenny is a mama to four little ones {including twins!}, making meaningful music and working as an artist-partner with International Justice Mission and to raise awareness and support in the fight against human trafficking.

Her new album, The Girl with Good Intentions, just released this August, and is full of songs with which I could deeply relate. Along with a gorgeous voice, Jenny’s lyrics are moving and thoughtful and so inspiring.

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The title song especially grabbed me with this chorus…

Cause I’m the girl with good intentions
With a heart of compassion I just get distracted
I’ve shed tears for this world
But Lord, your kingdom is coming
And I just want to do something good

How many times have I had these EXACT THOUGHTS?! I love the album’s focus on moving from safe, good intentions, to brave, bold movements for the Kingdom.

Later in the album, the song “To Be Brave” has this line that I can’t shake…

Somewhere along the way
We learn to play it safe
And we forget Jesus made us to be fearless
To live in the light of the day
To be brave

I don’t want to just KNOW this truth. I want to LIVE it and teach my boys to live it as well! He made us to be fearless in Him! Jenny’s words are inspiring to me as a woman, a Christian, and a mom.

If you would like to listen to any songs off this album, you can head over to Jenny’s website to hear each song, read the lyrics, and get your own copy of the album!

And Jenny has graciously offered to give away three signed copies of The Girl with Good Intentions to you! I know the winners will be so blessed by Jenny’s music!

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I was provided with a review copy of this album. I was not compensated in any other way for this post, all opinions are 100% my own!

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MOPS: The Community I Needed at Just the Right Time

As if having a second child isn’t enough of a change, we also went through me leaving my job to stay home, trying to sell a house, and The Hubby starting medical school all at the same time back in 2008.

I’m pretty sure we had gone insane.

Being these things we are life changes we really wanted, we were happy to go through them. But I also knew I needed a little help getting into my stay-at-home mom groove. You may think being a teacher would have prepared me to be at home with little ones all day. Um, no. It’s very different.

And that’s when MOPS entered my life. Actually, I had been jealous of all my stay-at-home mom friends attending MOPS for two years after I had Big J while I continued working. I was ready for it.

The first morning of MOPS arrived and I was getting the kiddos – 2 years old and 2 months old – and Little J had one of his biggest blowouts EVER. Yes, it was that memorable. At least it was at home, but all you mamas out there know how that can just throw off your morning, right?!

We made it to MOPS…somehow in clean clothing…and Big J had no trouble going to childcare. I happily settled in to a table with some warm breakfast foods and pretty tables and I was surrounded by other ADULTS! I was still reeling a little from our messy morning, but it just felt so good to sit there and have a conversation.

Now here’s my favorite part, because this is when the community of MOPS became just what I needed at just the right time…

The MOPS coordinator got up to introduce the leadership team and each one was giving away one of her favorite things. She started and said her kids were prone to massive blowouts and that a stain stick had become her best friend. The person whose child had most recently had a blowout would win the stain stick! BINGO! I was the winner!

It may sound weird that I bonded with these moms over poop, but it’s true. It doesn’t get much more real than that, people, and in that moment I felt like they GOT ME.

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Some of my MOPS friends at our glam end-of-the-year awards ceremony!

I continued in MOPS for three years, with two years as a co-coordinator, and stopped going to homeschool Big J. Those three years of connecting, bonding, encouraging moms really changed me in so many areas. It was great for my transition to staying at home because I was surrounded by moms going through the same daily joys and trails, as well as ones who had been there, done that, and SURVIVED!

And what makes MOPS different is that faith is at the center of it all. Even when we are home along with our kids, we’re never actually alone. He is walking with us every step of the way. One year, the MOPS verse of the year was from Psalm 139 and I think of it often…

even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. ~Psalm 139:10

Even there represents EVERYWHERE. He is always with us, always seeing us, always guiding us, even in the laundry room and the kitchen and the doctor’s office and the playground and the grocery store.

I am feeling very blessed today to share with you about MOPS because I believe so strongly in what they are doing to connect and empower moms in Christ, but I’m even more excited because I get to giveaway a one year MOPS membership! Just enter below!

Thank you to MOPS for asking me to be a part of this fun month and giveaway! Check out the MOPS site for all the benefits of membership and to find a group near you. And take a peek at their brand new blog, Hello, Darling while you’re there!

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LifeLight 2013!

Many years ago, The Hubby and I joined thousands of people in a cornfield on the outskirts on Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a free Christian music festival featuring some of my favorite singers and bands. It was a super fun weekend and we went back a couple of years in a row, bringing friends with us to experience the awesomeness.

It had been eight years since I last attended LifeLight. Kids and work and school had prevented us from attending and I was itching to go back, especially after hearing my current favorite band, For King and Country, would be there!

The Hubby had to work over Labor Day weekend, so the kids and I headed up to stay with my parents and get our groove on at LifeLight!

LifeLight is a three-day is a Christian music festival that has now moved out to a permanent location in the country near Sioux Falls. It is always Labor Day weekend, always free, and always amazing. Hundreds of thousands of people attend over those three days – it’s really incredible event to be a part of!

We were going to go out two of the nights, but Saturday’s heat made it a little too unbearable, especially for the younger ones. We decided to just go out Sunday night, and stayed home to watch the Huskers pull out a way-too-close win instead. It also stormed later that night, so I’m glad we were all tucked in at home!

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Sunday was the day Big J and I really cared about attending anyway, with For King and Country and Newsboys on stage! The younger two stayed home and we went with my best friend from home to enjoy an evening of AMAZING concerts.

Here are a few pictures from our super fun time…

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LifeLight 2013a

LifeLight 2013b

Big J is a HUGE KLOVE fan, so meeting JD Chandler, one of the on-air guys, was super cool for him! And they gave him a fun little radio which he has carried around ever since! I bought him the bracelet as a little reminder of our special evening together!

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Perfect bag to take out the festival. Love my FreeSet bags!LifeLight 2013i

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LifeLight 2013c

For King and Country was who I went to LifeLight to see and They. Were. INCREDIBLE. They really put on quite a show, especially with a wide variety of percussion. I love their heart for seeing women treated as priceless, not as objects or worthless. That was a really moving moment for me. Oh yeah, and they sang my favorite prayer right now. Just perfect.

LifeLight 2013 A

My friend came armed with homemade cookies for the whole group we were sitting with. I wanted to eat the whole bag, but we had already indulged in “the unhealthiest dinner ever,” according to Big J, so I restrained myself…a little.

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LifeLight 2013 B

LifeLight 2013 C

This boy was SO excited for the Newsboys he could hardly stand it. And we had to wait a while for them to start, but it was totally worth it to be upfront when they came on stage…

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LifeLight 2013h
We had put out a Twitter plea for the to perform The League of Incredible Vegetables theme song, but no such luck. Big J was in total awe of Duncan Phillips, the drummer, the whole time. I think his eyes were glued there. And then the drum platform started spinning while he was playing and Big J’s mind was totally blown. It was pretty darn cool. And so was hearing a bunch of favorites along with lots of new goodies from their upcoming album, Restart!

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We also got to meet the guys from We Are Leo, a band I just discovered because of LifeLight and Twitter! I checked them out on YouTube and loved all of the songs I heard, and so did the kids! I immediately wanted to add several of the songs to my running playlist! They were so nice and gave us a couple of autographed CDs to give away to you!

If you are anywhere near Sioux Falls next Labor Day, you need to make your way to LifeLight. And it really is a family event, so bring everybody! It is full of worship and fun and great memories. You can even camp out there! Maybe we’ll see you there!

By the way, the best part of LifeLight? A night alone with my favorite seven-year-old who is starting to love Christian music just as much as I do! It was a really special date for us and I enjoyed every moment: signing, eating, looking around, and lots of snuggling! It was just what we needed.

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FIVE YEARS!!!

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!

Well, friends, it’s been a good run, but after five years of blogging – exactly five years ago today – I think enough is enough, don’t you?

JUST KIDDING!

I can’t even believe where God has taken me over the past five years with blogging. Home with the Boys started as a tiny little personal blog to keep family and friends updated about all the new changes in our life – a second baby, me staying home, and the start of medical school. Now it is a creative outlet, a place to share the words God places in my heart and the things our family loves, a wonderfully fun place to connect with all of you!

I am humbled by the way He grown me in this journey and by the incredible friends I have made because of the blogging world. Some of my very favorite people in the world I met because of blogging. Now if only we lived closer…

I want to celebrate YOU today. If you weren’t reading and commenting, I’m not sure this would have kept going for so long. God has used all of you to encourage me, inspire me, grow me. I am so thankful for all of you and I pray for you often.

Any good celebration has gifts, and I’m going with a “My Favorite Things” theme for some pretty awesome giveaways to celebrate five years! These giveaways are a collection of some of my favorite things I’ve discovered through blogging! Check out these FIVE fabulous prize packages for FIVE fabulous years:

Five Years Giveaway

Giveaway #1:

Lisa Leonard - Well with My Soul Necklace

Giveaway #2:

Rusted Chain GC 520

Giveaway #3:

Redeemed - Found & Treasured - Large Purse

Giveaway #4:

guardyourheartgraydenimncross_md

Giveaway #5:

  • “Guard Your Heart” 20×20 cafe mount from the Just for Boys collection by Red Letter Words
  • A signed paperback copy of Hope for the Weary Mom by my sweet, mom-inspiring friends Brooke McGlothlin & Stacey Thacker
  • The Character Collection {Seeds of Character & The Character of God} from Seeds Family Worship, my favorite music to have on in our home and a VERY important organization for me through these five years of blogging
  • Winner’s choice of U-NEEKS plush, notepad, & puffy stickers set from DaySpring

*****

HOLY COW, right?! I am so thankful for all of these friends who are celebrating with us! They are all such a blessing and so are you!

I love you guys. Seriously.

Now before I get all weepy, go get yourself entered to win!

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The Best Meal Planning Tool I’ve Ever Used!

This is NOT a paid review. I just LOVE this so much, I HAD to tell you about it! 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!

Raise your hand if meal planning is one of your biggest struggles as school starts up again!

Summer is kind of a free-for-all when it comes to food around here – snacking, late dinners, leftovers. But our school schedule along with extra activities demands that I be more structured. And my grocery budget thanks me for it as well.

When it comes to meal planning, I have tried EVERYTHING. Calendars, lists, pen & paper, digital, binders…seriously, I have tried it all in an effort to stay more on track with food prep and budget.

I honestly scrolled right past the tweets and posts about Plan to Eat when they first popped up because I didn’t think it could be any different or better than all the things I had already tried. And I really wasn’t interested in a paid meal planning service.

But the 30-day free trial reeled me in, and before a week had even passed, I was hooked.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Plan to Eat is different than other meal planning options and works well for our family for several reasons:

1. We are picky eaters. We do not do well with someone else sending a menu to prepare for the week. Plan to Eat is for YOUR favorite recipes.

2. When I want new recipe ideas, I want them from a friend who has actually tried them and loves them. Plan to Eat has a social aspect – find your friends on the service, browse their recipes, and add the ones you want to try to your recipes!

3. I find the majority of my recipes online, from friends’ blogs or social media posts or on Pinterest, and I want to have all those great recipes organized in one place. Plan to Eat makes it very easy to add recipes directly from a website or blog post with copying and pasting the whole thing! There is even a bookmark you can add to your browser’s tool bar to click on and automatically add a recipe!

4. The $39 annual fee is SO small compared to most online services. And I’m sure I’ve saved that much on groceries by being more organized! {And stay tuned later in this post for a way to get it for even less…}

I could go on and on about my adoration for Plan to Eat, but I really think you just have to try it to see how much you’ll love it. Really – go sign up for the 30-day FREE trial, find me on there {homewiththeboys}, and start

If you get in there and feel a little overwhelmed about where to start, feel free to ask any questions by email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever! My friend Kat wrote an AWESOME series on using Plan to Eat, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel! She covers everything!

To celebrate the start of the school year and help you get back on track, I have a super special Plan to Eat treat ONLY for you, my friends! Check this out…

PTE-coupon

You MUST take advantage of this now! I don’t think you’ll even need until August 31st to decide to go all in!

And there’s more!

We’re giving away TWO one-year meal planning subscriptions to Plan to Eat, each valued at $39! Thank you PTE! We love you!

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