Saturday, December 30, 2017

Final post of 2017: Encouragement, habits, and favorite books!

Today is the last Friday of 2017!! So I am sharing some of my top pics, blog posts, and of course favorite books, because as you know I am a big book reader and advocate of reading! I am also sharing a little peek into my goal/habit process. I hope each of you had a Merry Christmas and are excited about another new year!! This is a great time to spend the time to pray and be still, reflect on the past year, to ponder, and thinking of the possibilities. To dream and be intentional with God's plans for your life and those around you He has placed in your life. This quote by Sally Clarkson speaks about preparing and decluttering for the New Year:
 "Give Me your attention and get control of your spirit. Be quiet. Be still. Recognize My sovereignty and transcendence. Remember what Jesus said, “Our Father who art in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus modeled His understanding that My will is what you need to rest in. I am in heaven and I see all things—the future, the past, your children, your relationships, –all your clutter. Give them to Me. Quiet your soul and rest in My strength and power."

Many of my book loving friends are posting pictures or sharing lists of the books they have read this year and I love looking at their lists to see what they read! I enjoy seeing what we read in common, what they read and I haven't, and what I may want to add to my book list. I was going to get a picture of the books I read, but that would require me going through my bookshelves, and that would require time, which I would love to do for you, but I am trying to simplify and work on some projects right now that need my attention at home. I did start using Good Reads this year so it is somewhat up to date on my reading, but there are many books I have read that I have not added, like the read alouds I read with my children, and I am determining if that is worth adding or not, hmmm?? Soooo, instead what I will share with you are my top favorites reads of 2017. This year was a little hard, because there are so many good books! Some of my favorite reads are from book reviews or author launches I was a part of and others were books I choose to read. What I will tell you, and I think this is very important and something I did this year, is I planned what books I wanted to read. Of course, throughout the year I did add to that list, but it helped to keep my reading time focused and helpful. I don't just want to pick up a book and start reading it. I take some time to plan what books will be helpful and good reads for me. What I read, may not be what you need, so another reason why not to share my entire book list with you, is because I don't want you thinking because I read this, you should too. Instead, research the book by looking up the author and reading the subject, forward, and lastly some of the endorsements for the book. I also like to read some of my favorite blogging reviewers too. This helps me to see if a particular book is what I am needing to read at the time. Also, don't waste your time finishing a book if it is not resonating with you or boring you to death, because there are so many books and so little time to waste on one book. Who knows that book you put down now, may be a book you pick up later and is what you need at that time. If not give it away! There is someone out there for that book!

My favorite reads of 2017 (in no particular order):
  • The Mission of Motherhood, by Sally Clarkson
  • Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely, by Holley Gerth
  • Chasing Francis, by Ian Morgan Cron
  • You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, by James Smith
  • Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin
  • EveryDay With Jesus Daily Bible, devotions by Selwyn Hughes
  • Deeper Waters, By Denise HUghes
  • Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges
  • Prayer, Worshiping Jesus, and The Wisdom of God, all by A.W. Tozer (I recommend all of his books, favorite author)
  • Prayer, Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, by Timothy Keller
  • Beauty In The Word, by Stratford Caldecott
Recently started or almost finished, but will be favorites and recommendations I would add:
  • New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp
  • The Insantiy of God by Nik Ripken
  • Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Now to share with you my top blog posts of 2017, some of these are surprising and others not:
Of course, a few top photo posts of 2017 from Instagram, because pictures are sometimes just too adorable and memories, oh don't get me started:

Now that I have shared some of 2017 with you, I need to get back to reflecting on the year in a whole and writing down some goals (good habits to make) for 2018. My process starts with looking at what do I want to change, what are some bad habits I have formed, what do I hope to be able to say at the end of the year, and what are some good habits I want to be doing. This year I am using Powersheets to help, because I am a checklist person and planner. Here is my process so far (in no particular order and subject to change):
  • healthy meal planning, resulting in more energy and time 
  • more crafting and being artistic, resulting in using gifts and nourishing creativity   
  • more outside/nature, resulting in seeing the beauty of God in nature and gratitude for His creation
  • intentional prayer time, resulting in seeing God in everything and growth in Spirit
  • cultivate a life-giving home through homeschooling and homemaking, loving my people well, resulting in gratitude, joy, and honoring God in all I do
  • simplify in many areas, resulting in more intentional focus and eliminating unnecessary distractions
  • always grow in my faith, rooted deeply in faith, resulting in fruitful attitudes, changed hearts, and eternal impacts made
Each of these will have more details and small take actions steps added. I don't want to rush the process, but instead focus on developing good habits and that many times takes small slow steps to result in powerful changes. As I have been going through this process, three words keep coming to mind: flourish, simplify, and abide. These three words are powerful in themselves, so I really don't have (one) a word of the year, set aside to focus on, which many people do, but instead I want to focus on the three words and what they mean to me:
Flourish: create, faith, joy, hope, brave, alive in Spirit, diligent
Simplify: slow, grace, focus, choose well
Abide: believe, faith, trust, obey

Feel free to share in the comments some of your favorite reads and hopes for 2018, and any prayer requests!! I love hearing from you, sharing encoruagement, and praying for you.

Leaving you with some posts for the end of the year encouragement:
We’ve often heard the comment “Well, it is what it is. There is not much I can do to change things.” This statement is not true.  As parents, we have an incredible amount of influence in determining the type of life we live, and we leave that power on the table if we allow our family’s culture to be created organically, by default.
This calling to be a conduit of God’s love is a task worthy of careful consideration. Building a home that glorifies God – a home where its traditions, its daily rhythms, its family roles, and its priorities are informed by and constrained by Scripture – is something that takes intentionality and it is not done without concerted effort.
So, to lure you onto this happiest of all paths to heaven, let me hold out to you seven reasons to read and meditate on the Bible every day next year.
If you don’t give some strategic thought to what you will and will not read, large amounts of your life will be eaten up next year reading demanding, urgent-sounding, trivial, or peripheral things, and you’ll hardly notice how much time they consume. You’ll simply get to next December and wonder where all the time went and why you managed to read so little of what you wish you had read.
As the new year dawns, may you and I not be driven or bound by legalistic diets. But may we be found wanting. May we desire what’s truly good for our bodies and souls. May we not be too easily pleased with either kind of junk food. May we truly crave God’s good gifts of physical and spiritual nourishment.
2018 reading challenges for both men and women

 ➽📓Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up 💕 and
Porch Storiesand Fresh Market Friday and Messy Marriage 

and Dance With Jesus and Tell His Story and Blessed But Stressed and God Sized Dreams and Break Through Homeschooling

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Memories and HOPE

Wow, so hard to believe another year is about gone, 2017 has gone by in a flurry it almost seems! Just a side note a flurry is a rare thing in the south, but when they do come, they leave fast! So maybe that wasn't the best use of a word, but it sure does feel like this year has gone by fast. Anyhow this is the time of year I reflect. This time of year I enjoy looking at pictures of wonderful memories from Christmas time pasts also, so I thought I share a few, (these are some pictures from when I started blogging, so it only goes back so far and is limited):

Oh Zeke, he has it so "ruff".
Christmas cookie baking with the family!
This manger a precious gift!
Living far from family is sometimes hard, I love it when family comes to visit us! Christmas with my parents!

Making goodie trays for gifts!
JOY! Christmas lights!
This is one of my favorite memories, one I will never forget! Lots of answered prayers and most important life changes!

Loud, joyful noise!
My littles and yes Bear too!
Homemade Jesse tree ornaments from MOPS friends!
My little reindeer, his first performance!
SNOW!!! This was at our Kentucky home!

Kids manger and count-down!
Gingerbread house decorating!
Christmas card pic!
Celebrating my dad's 60th birthday, yes a near Christmas birthday!
PJ day at preschool!
Aidan's first Santa pic!
Little man's first Christmas and our first Christmas in Kentucky!

So, not many pics from this year on the blog. It was the year we bought a house and moved at Christmas time, plus I was pregnant with little man. But I got the tree up!

Family rocking chair, first Christmas in Bellville!
Playing with Christmas ornaments at a friends home!

Houston Children's Museum!

First Christmas light parade!

First Christmas as parents!
Family visit from the hub's side: dad and grandma Lois! 
This girl's first Christmas!

When I look at these memories from December pasts, it reminds me of so many wonderful times and how much I have to be thankful for! Sometimes, I get sad, because we have family we don't get to see at this time of year, but we celebrate through the mail, phone calls, and other yearly visits. Growing up I lived within five minutes of my grandparents and almost all my family, so we always had big gatherings and yes I miss those, but I have learned to treasure those times and focus on the joy of new memories AND the most important reason for Christmas. That we may reflect on the birth that happened over 2000 years ago, that brought a change for all of us. It is the reason Christmas exists after all. The choice to live in peace and joy because of Jesus Christ, the choice to have the greatest gift ever, eternal life! So please don't miss it, enjoy celebrating and making precisous memories with your loved ones, but also may we set our focus on Jesus Christ: our King, Light of the World, Prince of Peace, Resurrection and Life, Messiah, the Truth, Holy One, Lord, Lion of Judah, God, High Priest, Alpha and Omega, True Vine, Bread of Life, Good Shepherd, Immanuel, Son of Man, Man of Sorrows, Lamb of God  (from Unwrapping the Names of Jesus devotional). The one word for me is HOPE, because of Jesus I am full of hope, hope for things I am waiting, hope during hard times, hope for a future, hope when I worry, hope for when I mess up, hope when I wonder..., that one word HOPE brings me so much peace. Thank you, Jesus, for leaving heaven and coming to earth, to set us free! My hope is for each person I know to have very Merry Christmas!! You are loved!!

For your ears, two of my favorite songs to listen at Christmas:
O Holy Night

Silent Night

Thursday, December 14, 2017

You Are What You Love

I recently finished reading You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith, I think this may be one of my favorite reads of the year! I am still pondering over it all. But the one thing that stood out to me is we need to be careful what we worship; it will shape what you want; and therefore what you make and how you work.  I so resonate with these words and the importance. I consider myself more of a classical learner and teacher. On our homeschool whiteboard, I have written our focus to be Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, this is what the classical teachers teach and talk about in many of their books. My focus needs to be and it comes from God's Word to cultivate what is excellent! Philippians 4:8  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 
The author asks us to ask, as Jesus did in John 1:38, "What do you want?" So we are what we want! "Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow." Instead of focusing on what we think, we need to attend to our loves, those will be different for many of us. Reading this book will cause you to look at the core of who you are, what and how you worship, your habits, and it also helps us to understand why many are not coming to a true faith in Christ. Such a good read for everyone!
"Since our hearts are made to find their end in God, we will experience a besetting anxiety and restlessness when we try to love substitutes. To be human is to have a heart. You can not love. So the question isn’t whether you will love something as ultimate; the question is what you will love as ultimate. And you are what you love."
"The reminder for us is this: if the heart is like a compass, an erotic homing device, then we need to (regularly) calibrate our hearts, tuning them to be directed to the Creator, our magnetic north."
What I love about God is when I finish reading something like that, He puts things in front of me to remind me of what matters most:
~ You can’t simply think your way to holiness. Sanctification isn’t just about the acquisition of the right information; it’s about the rehabituation of our heart habits. It’s a matter of learning how to love (rightly) again. And that takes practice.
~"Warriors have rituals!"(VMP Society)
~We are constantly moving in one direction or another-either toward God or toward something else. (my Pastor)
~Living well depends on the reordering of our loves. To love anything more than God, hardens the heart, making us less able to feel and to sense. Which makes us poor artists. (Prayer, Timothy Keller)
~This from a friend, Audria posted.. Contemporary man is often cut off from nature; he lives in a world that is reduced to a universe of tarmac, concrete, and all kinds of screens. He is the prisoner of a fabricated world, a virtual world, the projection of his own fantasies, instead of being in contact with creation. As a result, he is sometimes cut off from God—and from himself (Jacques Philippe, Thirsting for Prayer).
~It’s simple math, really. Everything minus Jesus equals nothing, and Jesus plus nothing equals everything. With Jesus, every other person, place, or thing we are given to enjoy is bonus—not something to plug our emotional umbilical cords into, but rather something to offer thanks for to God.

Being that this book focuses a bit on rhythms and liturgical tradition to be our focus in all we do (and building good habits), here are some of ours this season. In addition, next week when we break from homeschooling, we will bake cookies and share with neighbors, build a gingerbread house, and go sing Christmas carols at a local nursing home.
We watch Christmas movies!
Decorate our learning area, read Christmas devotions and books, and listen to Christmas music!
We go see Christmas lights!
Make homemade gifts, treats, and gifts!
Go through the lineage of Jesus, using the Jesse Tree.
Light Advent candles.
Decorate our home and listen to these two play the piano! (a picture of them before their piano recital)

 ➽📓Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up 💕 and
Porch Storiesand Fresh Market Friday 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Where are you?

Sharing a page from one of our favorite Christmas books, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. God asks, "Where are you?" That question just really stood out to me, how many times do we try to hide, ignore, or run from God? Like we could, but even more how many of us choose not to hear His call for them? My pastor shared some sad statics recently about the number of people in a certain age group attending church regularly. I started researching statics and y'all it is scary sad! My heart-breaks, people are missing out on the life-changing goodness that comes from knowing Jesus! They are missing out on being with a community of believers, where we can hold one another accountable and be encouraged by other believers! Going to church is hard sometimes (I know, been there), but if we continue to attend (make it a habit Hebrews 10:25), Jesus works on us and probably we'll find that person that says "me too". None of us are perfect, but Jesus is and He has a purpose for you, it may be what you think is small, but none the less it is certainly purposeful! So please if you are struggling, don't miss out, for when Jesus said, "For small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." He knew that there be many that would not choose Him. But yet, God is faithful and just, and He gives us the choice to follow Him.

So this week I made a great stride in my prayer life, to be intentional in prayer and have begun writing down monthly prayer requests for all different areas and needs. It helps me to stay focused! From that I became aware of the many things on my heart, some friends battling depression, anxiety, heartbreak, loss and the needs in this world. And many lost people, it breaks my heart! But I know that Jesus has overcome, that is where my HOPE is! So for me, I withdraw from the negativity and focus on the blessings and I pray, Lord what is it you want me to do? I pray for those suffering that they will find the PEACE they need in JESUS CHRIST and go to Him and trust Him. I know it is hard to trust, I struggle with it. However, it is something the Lord has been helping me with. This journey of faith, has taught me we have to trust, and God is always good, we may not understand, but His ways are always right. Trust and obey! Believe, that is what faith is...
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ~Hebrews 11:1 
For we live by faith, not sight ~2 Corinthians 5:7

Taking time to sit with Jesus is so important, it is something I am always reminded of during Advent season. Let's get back to letting Him lead and that starts with sitting with Him, getting to know Him. Oh Lord help me to keep the focus on you in this world! To not let all the shiny distractions take my attention, help me to be on guard, remain aware of your presence, fix my eyes on you~Jesus! Amen!

 ➽📓Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart weekly link-up 💕 and
Porch Storiesand Fresh Market Friday