About This Blog Silence…

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I’m still here! And if you’re connected with me on social media, you know I’m still alive, but busy! Every time I think I have a few moments to sit down and write here, life happens and I’ve learned to just go with that flow. But I do miss writing here.

So what have I been up to during this busy season?

Family Stuff

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Big J had his first basketball game. We’ve been watching football and mourning the end of our team’s season. Puzzles and playing outside and cookies and mommy-son dates and homeschool…lots of good family stuff.

Date Night

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Our much needed first date night of 2015 was to see Into the Woods. I loved it. So much. And after having watched it, I would not let my own kids see it until they are quite a bit older. It is a wonderful musical, but the themes are quite mature and I’m not sure they even get most of the movie. But I will probably be buying the movie and watching it on repeat, singing along with every word. Of course, the best part of  seeing the movie was with whom I saw it – he’s my favorite.

Training

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I still can’t believe how much I love running, but I do. This month, I’ve been training to get a new 10K personal record. The Hubby and I are doing a unique 10K race out of town next weekend, so we’ll see then how the training pays off! I love using my Believe Training Journal to plan my workouts and then record how they went. Would you be interested in knowing more about my weekly exercise plan?

Reading

I’m devouring some great books this month and rediscovering just how much reading fills me up. I finished Lisa T. Bergren’s River of Time series – five books, Christian young adult fiction, set in 14th century Italy, exciting and lots of fun. I cried when it was over. Yes, I get a little invested in fiction books.

I’m reading three other fabulous books right now, too – Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner, and Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. I’m really enjoying all of them and have a long list to choose from when these are done!

This is life, people. And instead of being upset or anxious when I don’t have time to write, I’m taking it as a hint that I need to breathe, to live NOW and write later. This post from Shauna Niequist has me thinking deeply about how much of life I have missed and how much more I want to notice everything.

I have a bunch of fun things to share with you this week, including two great exclusive discounts for you on some of my FAVORITE things, so don’t go away! I’m still here and I’m thankful you are, too!

What have YOU been up to this first month of 2015?

 

 

 

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Prayer + Motherhood

I’ve been on my knees a lot to start this new year. It seems that when one declares a word for the year, that very thing may be the thing you for which you have to fight the hardest.

I believe that also goes for anything to which we are truly dedicated. Our marriage, our children, our ministry. The enemy doesn’t want us focused on these good things. And so the most important things in our lives are also often the most challenging.

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Motherhood is one of those for me – something I’ve always wanted, something I treasure, something I want to do well. And yet it is also more difficult than I could have ever imagined.

As I’ve tried to proceed in 2015 with JOY, I’ve grasped new glimpses where I didn’t see it before, but I’ve also been met with much discouragement in the form of distraction and arguing and disobedience. I often feel beat down by the end of the day.

I’m not saying this is all my children’s fault. I’ve made plenty of negative choices, particularly in my role as mom, that have left me worn, losing my focus on joy. But I haven’t given up. I can’t ever give up because I’m mothering with an eye on eternity.

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Through it all, prayer has been my saving grace. Early morning prayers for wisdom and love. Midday prayers for a peaceful afternoon. Evening prayers asking for forgiveness and new mercies for the next day. Prayers all day long to find the joy in all of it.

Boys Reading BW blog

I don’t tend to write out my prayers, but the focus on the Tommy Nelson blog this month is on prayer and God just spilled these words out of me as I wrote my heart for moms of boys – and for me. I’m not writing + praying as a mom who has figured out this boy-raising thing, but as a mom who desperately wants God to show me what these boys – MY BOYS – need from their mother. I need His wisdom. I need His strength. I need His grace. And so do my boys.

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I used to think God was calling me to be a mother because I would be good at it. {insert my laughter here} Now I know motherhood is my calling because it is always refining me and keeping me dependent on my God. Motherhood draws me close to Him + prayer is our best form of communication.

Moms – join me in prayer this week, this month, this year? Whether you are a mom of boys, a single parent {or sometimes single}, a woman who longs to be a mom, or any mother – someone is praying the same prayer you are. And there are more motherhood prayers yet to come on Tommy Nelson this month, so stay tuned!

If you have a specific prayer request related to motherhood, share it in the comments or feel free to email it to me. It would be my joy to pray for you today!

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What I Wore: Symbology

I received the top mentioned in this post for 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!

Fair trade accessories have been a staple for me for a while and they are not too hard to find these days. But fair trade clothing was elusive to me until recently. And it was worth the wait because I am discovering some great pieces for my capsule wardrobe that also support the artists who made them in a fair way!

Before I show you my new favorite tunic, I need you to know something: I love elephants. Ok, now you are prepared for this awesome…

WIWW Elephantspaired with GAP mint skinny cords and wild copper Tieks 

This Kissing Elephants Tunic is from Symbology Clothing, a company who employs marginalized artisans, with a special focus on women, and preserves traditional artforms threatened by globalization.

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I love this top for so many reasons. First of all, the elephants. Of course. The length of the tunic is perfect to cover my rear end and the length of the sleeves can be adjusted with the button cuffs! The fabric is lightweight and super comfortable. And I love the cut of the neckline. This tunic could be dressed up for a date night or bundled up for fall frolicking with your kids!

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paired with comfy skinnies, burgundy combat boots,  fashionABLE scarf – and wind!

Symbology has SO many cute tops, dress, kimonos, skirts, and more! Through Sunday, October 19th, you can get 10% off your Symbology order with the code HOMEWITHSYMBOLOGY {all caps} at checkout!

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In case you were wondering, YES, I did wear the same top twice in the last week. That’s how much I love it. And I know you’ll love Symbology – the mission, the design, the prints – just as much as I do!

What are you loving from Symbology? A top? Dress? Skirt?

linking up with What I Wore Wednesday at The Pleated Poppy

 

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Fall Family Fun!

The past week has been full of all sorts of fall family fun – my favorite kind of fun! I recently wrote on the Tommy Nelson blog about simple fall break ideas – things to do locally when you can’t get away for long but want to enjoy some autumnal activities! Here’s what we’ve been up to as we enjoy the change in seasons…

First stop: the pumpkin patch!

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And then the Monster Mash Fun Run/Walk to finish out our Miracle Marathon

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It was super fun to meet up with blog reader and Miracle Marathon team member Erika, her boys, and her mom! We all enjoyed the activities, the walk, and each other’s company! We also met Curt Tomasevicz, former Husker football player and Olympic bobsledder! How fun that he let us hold his Olympic medals?!

Speaking of the Miracle Marathon, the miles have been logged, but it’s not too late to donate! I still have a ways to go to reach my $272 goal, but you can help me out and give until November 1st!

Don’t forget to check out my fall break ideas over at Tommy Nelson to make the most of my favorite season!

What kind of fall fun does your family enjoy?

 

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#SheSharesTruth: The End of Nehemiah

I just finished reading the book of Nehemiah. Scratch that. I’ve read the book of Nehemiah before. It wasn’t very memorable. This time I studied it. 17 days of in-depth slow reading, study note devouring, journaling, praying. It won’t be a book I soon forget now.

The Nehemiah study was from She Reads Truth and the lessons I learned from it were numerous. Lessons on prayer and faith and leadership and boldness. But I’m going to start at the end today.

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A little back story of Nehemiah before I get to the end in case you’re unfamiliar {spoiler alert!}:

Nehemiah was working as the king’s cup bearer in Babylon when he heard the wall protecting Jerusalem had been destroyed and his people were unprotected. After much prayer, Nehemiah asks the king’s permission to go rebuild the wall. The king grants his request and Nehemiah heads back to Jerusalem for 12 years to head up the wall rebuilding project. He is a wise, God-fearing leader and, with his direction, the people of Jerusalem are once again protected. They rededicate themselves and their holy city to God.

But then…

Nehemiah leaves to go back to his duties with the king and the people backslide. They start intermarrying with pagans, breaking the commandments laid out by God, living in disobedience. The book of Nehemiah ends with him rebuking many in Jerusalem for breaking the covenant they JUST renewed.

Not the happy ending I was expecting and not the results Nehemiah had prayed for either.

So here is today’s question: Why does the book of Nehemiah end the way it does? What does God want us to see here about Himself and the Church?

During my reading of Nehemiah, God was speaking to me about my “building project” – my family. Day after day, the words in Nehemiah were convicting, inspiring, encouraging to me as a wife and mother. So in this ending, I saw another lesson for me as a mother.

Nehemiah did everything God asked him to do. He was in constant prayer. He was one of the wisest leaders in all of the Bible. And still the people fell away from their renewed commitment of faith.

I am not a perfect mother or wife or homemaker, but even if I follow everything God asks me to do, pray all day long and wisely steward the time and resources of our family, I can’t control the outcome. My children have free will. They are sinners just like me. My faithfulness and wise leadership don’t guarantee their obedience.

This might be a discouraging lesson, but I think it is also meant to take some of the pressure off for me as a mom. Nehemiah has taught me to pray, trust, and act on God’s will and leave the rest in His hands. Just like Nehemiah, I can only do what I can do. The bad choices of those under my leadership, including my kiddos, does not make me a failure.

Breathe that in, ladies. We are not failures because of our children’s choices.

Nehemiah went through a similar process to mothering: years of caring for the people, building up the wall to protect them, praying fervently, and then the big letdown of their disobedience. But in his wisdom, Nehemiah continued to stand for what is right and pray to his Heavenly Father.

Why does Nehemiah end with this big bummer? To remind me to keep on seeking His will, doing the next right thing, and praying hard for those in my care, no matter what those around me choose. And I will never give up on that. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.

Nehemiah 63

 

I’m linking up with the #shesharestruth community today – read the thoughts of other women on this ending of Nehemiah over at the She Reads Truth site!

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out with the old, in with the new

I’ve struggled with exercise-induced asthma since I was a teenager. Well, I didn’t struggle with it a whole lot unless I was doing something really active, and up until a few years ago that wasn’t much! Seasonal allergies seemed to make it worse as well. This was a major hurdle I needed to face as I took up running and I did so armed with inhalers and determination.

It wasn’t until last year, when meeting with a new doctor, that I learned something about the way my breathing works that could help me avoid these asthmatic symptoms while running. She told me when I was feeling like I couldn’t take a full, deep breath, I needed to try to blow out as much air as possible. I won’t say anything technically or medically right here, but basically the “old” air in my lungs was leaving no room for “new” air. I needed to focus more on the exhale before I tried to get a good inhale.

I was skeptical at first, but, for me, it really does work. I still don’t feel like my breathing is normal, especially while running, but I am much more able to control it when I concentrate on “out with the old, in with the new.”

This is the rhythm I find in life and faith as well. I like to start new things. These new things are usually good things, meant to help me with time management or my prayer life or loving my family better. But in the process, I often hold on to the old, even if just by a thread, because it feels comfortable, familiar, non-threatening.

Out with the Old

Trying to add new to my life while holding on to the old leaves me gasping for air, desperate for a full, refreshing breath. Getting up early to spend more time with the Lord before everyone wakes up doesn’t work so well when I hold on to the comfort of late nights reading or watching TV. Frustration sets in quickly when I make up a new schedule but let the old time-wasting habits hang around.

Our pastor spoke this weekend on the ways the enemy seduces us, gradually drawing us away from God with things we don’t consider sins. We rationalize these things as not harmful even though they distract us from relationship with God. We need to recognize the seduction and repent of our part in it, but the last step was the key and the one that really got me. Replacement. Get the old, self-centered, time-wasting, worldly ways out and fill in that space with the true, real, satisfying pleasures of God.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ~Galatians 5:16

It really is not enough for us to just take on the new. Colossians 3 is often quoted for its verses about putting on the virtues of love, compassion, kindness, and so on, but do you know what comes before that? Paul FIRST asks the people of Colossae to put to death the old – all manner of evil, impure things. It is only after the old is gone that the new can be put on.

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. ~Colossians 3:5-10 12-15

When it feels heavy to put on the virtues of Christ, it is usually because we haven’t let go of the things of old yet. Layering kindness on top of bitterness or envy just feels fake and stifling. Stuffing down anger with pretend patience won’t feel refreshing in any way.

This week, as we draw closer to the time set aside to remember our Savior’s death for my sins, I’m reexamining my repentance of old and choosing to clean house in my soul. I need to make room for more of Him and that means getting rid of the sins, the time-wasters, the unnecessary. And in it’s place will be the best kind of new – the new things of Him refreshing, restoring, and continuing the good works He has planned for me.

Acts 3 19 20

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Surprised by Motherhood

My dear Lisa-Jo wrote a book. Surprised by Motherhood. It is her journey of never wanting to be a mom.  Of losing her own mom. Of South Africa and the Ukraine and the United States. Of becoming a mom. And of being surprised by all things motherhood, especially the wonder of it all.

I was surprised by motherhood, as well, but in a very different way.

I always wanted to be a mother. As a child, I enjoyed holding babies and taking care of the younger kids. My sister and I even fought over who got to hold the newest baby cousin and for how long. I started babysitting at an early age, partially because of the money, but also because it was fun for me. Even in high school, I was voted “would make the best mom” in my senior class. And I loved that.

I worked at a daycare. I taught elementary school for five years. I really thought I had motherhood all figured out and was ready to tackle it head on. When Big J was born, motherhood felt exhausting, but still pretty natural. He got older, we added siblings for him, and then I got my surprise.

“It was like discovering a superpower – becoming a mom for the first time. It has led me to believe that motherhood should come with a superhero cape along with the free diaper bag and samples you get when the hospital sends you, otherwise defenseless, home.”

Motherhood is hard. Way harder than I ever imagined. And I don’t think it is all the kids’ fault. I know it’s not. I think I was surprised so much by motherhood because it made me confront just how selfish I am and how much I’ve always wanted to be in control. Yep, motherhood will mess with all those things in a big way.

“I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids. I didn’t know I was angry and quick to keep a list of wrongs done to me, of slight slights, of everything I felt entitled to and was happy to demand.”

But motherhood is also hard because I love these sons of mine more than I knew was possible. I want so much for them. I feel like I should never stop praying for them. All the emotions I feel towards my children and magnified because of the great love I feel for them. My boys can be the cause for great joy, great sorrow, great frustration…all in the same day. Lisa-Jo says, “Sometimes you don’t realize you have a temper until you have kids.” And, “Nothing can hurt as much as the fears we carry for our children.” This could not be more true.

Boys Looking Up Blog

If I’m being real honest here, I have always been terrible at follow-through, especially with long-term tasks. Motherhood is definitely long-term and NOT following through is not an option for me, so I am being stretched and grown in unimaginable ways. Some days the stretching hurts, but when I pause long enough to see God at work, I feel and see so much more clearly…

“With this boy wrapped in my arms, this flesh and blood and bone that I had grown in my womb, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense.”

These days I’m being surprised by finding new ways to enjoy motherhood. Much of this comes from knowing that no mom thinks her job is easy. There is great relief in that knowledge.

It also comes from learning more about the amazing boys God has given us and the ways He in which He has connected us. I feel like a student all over again. And I’m making my strengths work for me – being silly and dancing more, communicating more effectively with the boys, finding ways to be positive during the rough days.

Surprised by Motherhood

If you were sitting near me when I started reading this beautiful, transparent memoir of motherhood, you would have been passing me Kleenex after Kleenex as I related so closely with Lisa-Jo’s words, despite our very different stories.

And I’m needing a Kleenex now as I write this and realize just how I needed to hear her real, nitty-gritty, wonder-filled motherhood story. How every mom needs to read the ups and downs of someone else’s motherhood story to realize just how brave and not alone they are. Lisa-Jo gets it. She gets me. She gets us, moms.

Congrats, Lisa-Jo. Your newest baby is just gorgeous.

Surprised by Motherhood is available TODAY! Yes, TODAY! Order now!

 

*I received a copy of this book to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

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Having An Internal Focus This Lent

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!

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.

Holey_Wholly_Holy full cover

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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When Visiting a Bookstore Feels Like Visiting Your Friends

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!

I don’t make it to bookstores very often as Amazon and my Kindle fill my need for books quite well, but this weekend I took the boys to Barnes and Noble to kill some time in their children’s section.

The boys devour books just like their mama, so when I mentioned a bookstore trip, they were giddy. And I was giddy as well because when I perused the shelves of the Christian living section, I felt like I was visiting my dear friends…

Now, it may only be their books, but these books are the babies of wonderful friends, gracious women, and lovely Jesus-followers. And I did a little happy dance in the aisle as I found these gems tucked away on the shelf.

And yes, I did rearrange a few of them – not out of their alphabetical area – just to showcase books people NEED to be reading. It was very fun to have the boys excited to see my friends’ books there as well! They were pointing out many of the names they’ve heard me mention and books they’ve seen on my nightstand. {I’m reading You’re Going to Be Okay right now and it is SO good} I loved every minute of it!

With more friends releasing books recently and in the future, we might have to visit them at the bookstore more often!

And speaking of books by dear friends, the ebook version of Praying for Boys is just $1.99 TODAY ONLY! If you haven’t bought your copy yet or want to buy some to gift to boy mom friends, DO IT TODAY!

What great books are you reading right now?

 

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I See You

It was a full weekend.

I was a wife, a mother, a writer, a reader…

Weekend Reader

a baker, a chef, a snow-shoveler, a stuffed animal surgeon…

Stuffed Animal Surgeon

a babysitter, a basketball mom…

Babysitter

a runner, a {disappointed} football fan, a worshipper and child of the Great I Am.

And right in the middle of it all, as I was enjoying myself but also looking around for some sort of approval or pat on the back for all those little and not-so-little things we moms and dads do in the course two, too-short weekend days, God gently whispered to me…

I see you.

I was shoveling at the moment and that little whisper took my breath away.

Analog weekends have been a struggle for me to follow strictly, not because I want an escape from being present with my family, but because I like the approval and recognition that social media brings. Yep, I like to be validated. Having another mom “like” my picture or comment on my status is like a big high five in the middle of my day. And that’s not always bad, but when they become more important than being present, well, then we have a problem…

Those three words were what I needed right when I needed them. From my audience of One.

His whisper this weekend brought me to a new place – a place where I WANT to be free of the need for recognition. A new place where He alone can fill my need for validation, for approval, for love.

Sweet mama, as you start this week where you may not hear one single thank you for all the diapers changed and clothes washed and countless other deeds done, He sees you. He delights in you. He loves you.

And He’s the only high five you need.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139:1-10 {NLT}

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