Saturday, December 31, 2016

Final Winner of the Year :)

I am still in shock that 2016 is coming to an end. Honestly, how did this whole year go by already? When I look back at things that actually happened, it feels like forever ago, but at the same time I cannot believe a whole 12 months has already come and gone. I feel sad that a year is so short to me now, and I despair imagining my kids will be adults in what feels like a day. However, all of this reminds me to cherish my time with them amidst homeschooling chaos, fatigue-induced melt-downs, and accidental messes.

Alright, enough of my reminiscing and self-reminding jabber, you want to know who won, right? Of course!

Congratulations to.....

Chickie Brewer!!! I will email you, get your address and ship that giant, beautiful, bible out to you this coming week.

Thanks to all you lovely readers, to BlogAbout and The Blythe Daniel Agency.

I will have a moving update for you next week, which will mean fewer book reviews and giveaways the first couple months of the year, but I hope my blog will still contain some wonderful gems and surprises. You all have made my writing better, my blogging sweeter, and my ambitions more clear while reading and encouraging me throughout 2016. May 2017 be another year of growth despite pain, joy despite hardship, and love despite the challenges of life.

See you all next year ;)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Last Giveaway of the Year!

You guys, we are at the end of 2016! Can you believe it? I am still trying to figure out how this happened. A whole year has come and gone since I decided to blog here regularly and I feel like I am living in a different world than the one I inhabited last January. A lot has changed, and not just my circumstances (though some are very much the same), but I have changed too.

Today, I do not have a warm, inviting, Christmas or Holiday post for you. I'm much too off in the head for something as typical as that. Instead, I'm going to share some tid-bits about the fabulous bible I am giving away and save the Christmas shenanigans for another day. This post is made possible by The Blythe Daniel Agency and BlogAbout, and there are some affiliate links tucked in here too.

I used to own a really cute, pale-pink bible when I was a young girl. Later, it was upgraded by my parents to a thick, black bible with my name in gold letters printed onto the front. I still remember waiting at the book store with my dad while it was done. That black bible was my "go-to" for a long time, up until I was married and beyond actually. Pages are crumpled, highlighted, coffee-stained, and falling out from the spine. I now own a lovely red bible with a gorgeous floral print on the cover. It's a standard ESV bible, without any study-notes or space, and a concordance at the back that leaves me wanting. All this to say, I was very excited at the opportunity BlogAbout gave me to review this lovely NKJV Journal the Word Bible.

I ended up buying an ESV Study bible about the same time my Journal the Word bible came, and that made starting our church's bible study that much better! It was perfect having several different bibles and using as a reference to understand the Greek Paul originally used when writing to Titus.

First off, the beginning of this bible has several pages of explanations - the purpose of the King James scholars,  format of the bible, the old and new testaments texts, stuff like that. Then, it jumps right into the actual bible - just the bible, with lots of room on the side for notes. My bible is large text, which made making notes even easier. There are lines in the margins so it's easy to make your notes clean and orderly (as long as you have a steady hand - gulp). At the very end of the bible, there are several lined pages for notes, and that's it! So simple!

Here are a few pictures of what I've written in my bible from my time studying Titus.

I just love seeing those margins start to get filled in and words highlighted in vibrant colors!

Taking the time to look at what these words are in Greek was so helpful for increasing my understanding of what Paul truly meant when he was writing to Titus. It was pretty mind-blowing, actually. 

The outside of this particular version has a black, hard-cover, is large-print, and comes with a built-in, ribbon bookmark. It also has an elastic band that wraps from the back cover and loops over the front, to keep your bible in the best shape possible. That might be my favorite part besides the large margins. Don't you think it's super handy? Well, if you don't think so now, you will if you win this bible and start using it!

So how can you win this? I'm so glad you asked :) It's super easy. Click below to see what options you have and share, share, share!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did you enter? I hope so. I will draw a winner on Saturday and hopefully one of you will have a great opportunity to study the bible more deeply with this beautiful version and be able to keep track of the things you are learning from God's written, Holy word.

As for my commitment to write weekly, I'm not sure if I will continue this year. I thoroughly enjoy writing, I love to speak, and I cannot help sharing what I learn, but I am finding myself torn between so many endeavors lately. I have a few book projects I'm working on, schooling my children is not only close to a full-time job, but it is mentally exhausting, and I recently started sharing my love of Essential Oils intentionally, running a business with one of my little sisters. There are many more endeavors I wish I could pursue and it's hard to constantly sift through all of them, but I do want this space to be a help, and place of encouragement, and a blog that leads people to knowing God more deeply. I want all my readers to live with courage, pursuing the things the Holy Spirit leads them into, and I'm just too unsure of what that will look like for me this year to commit to anything specific in regards to the blogging frequency I hope to maintain. Besides all of this, we FINALLY bought a house and will be moving at the end of January (I love packing and unpacking, and I am going to say that a hundred times to try and make it true). Don't worry, I will give you a nice update on all of that soon enough.

Anyway, all this to stay, I hope you keep coming back here, and I hope I can inspire you to live for God in whatever your hands find to do. I will do my best to keep you updated on all our family's shenanigans, and we'll see who our lucky winner is this Saturday! Enjoy the end of 2016, and tell me what your favorite resolution this year will be. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Broken Winner!

Thank you to The Blythe Daniel Agency, BlogAbout, and Zondervan for making another awesome giveaway possible!

It seems a little contrary to win something about being broken. I mean, it's not fun to admit you're broken, much less being willing or even excited to work through that brokenness. But actually, our random winner is someone I know and love, someone who works hard not to hide her brokenness from me...

Congratulations Darlene Fleary!! You won a copy of Ann's The Broken Way DVD and Study Guide! I know you'll love it.

For all you other eager-beavers, I have another giveaway next week that I'm a little behind on. It's the NKJV Journal the Word Bible. It's huge, and large print, but perfect for studying God's work carefully and taking notes as you go. Stay tuned for that.

I will try to post a little update next week between my giveaway and winner post - my kids will be with Grandma and Grandpa for a bit, so I'll have some time to study, write, and even think in peace and quiet. Hallelujah, right?! Thanks again for sticking with me during this season of busyness and often silence. I hope it won't always be this way, but I am striving to be willing to live well in whatever season I find myself - broken, busy, failing, barely scraping by, thriving, whatever! Maybe not today, maybe not next year or even next week, but someday I'll live like that forever. What a relief!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Broken Day, Another Broken Giveaway.

Life often feels broken, especially in this age where we can see tragedy unfolding across the world via the news and social media. It's easy to find heart-wrenching stories, to watch people suffering unimaginable circumstances, and witness death all from the comfort of our homes. What do we do with that? How can we go about our lives, participating where we are able, and yet still function for the sake of our family?

Obviously, there are no clean-cut answers to these questions. We can detach, we can become consumed in good endeavors, and we can pray, but none of these ways of coping really give us much guidance as to what we can do right this minute to help ease the ache inside and make sense of it all. This is why I loved Ann's book so much. She doesn't give quick, simple answers to the overwhelming amount of pain suffered about the globe, but she doesn't ignore it either.

Ann Voskamp's book The Broken Way really exposes the life-long scars that brokenness brings. She also shares the life-long hope we have in relationship with God, and how He can use all our brokenness to bring about joy and communion we might not experience without having been broken first. It's a scary thing to lay your brokenness before others, and it can often lead to more heartache than feels worthwhile, but Ann's courage in sharing her struggle and her experience grows a unique hope and bravery in my own heart, causing me to share my brokenness less reluctantly.

Lucky for you, I have another giveaway, another way for you to dive into understanding how you can look at your brokenness in a way that will bring healing and sweet fellowship to the dark places you try to hide or forget about. I've browsed through the study guide and it is such a fabulous reminder of the goodness we can all receive when we share our heartaches, trauma, tragedy, and despair with those around us. Not only does it tell you of these things, it forces you to stop and think about your life, the things that feel hard, the ways you either avoid or cope with brokenness that are not healthy or life-giving. Then, it asks you to share them. Maybe not all your broken pieces, but baby steps, right?

Lately, I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. Everything people want from me feels overwhelming and threatens to lead me to tears and into a heap of inability. I know life won't feel this way forever, and I strive to trust God to give me the energy and means to meet all these requests and even demands, but I don't go to bed encouraged most days. However, I'm learning that my discouragement doesn't mean what I'm doing isn't worthwhile, and lack of motivation doesn't mean I'm messing things up. God uses all these struggles to help me know Him better, and the more I share it all with my dear ones, the closer I will be to them as well. Because of all this, and because of my desire to be more purposefully transparent, I am really looking forward to popping in my DVD and hitting this study guide with intention. It'll likely have to wait until after we move (haha, I need to update you guys on the house-situation!) but I hope that some of you will join me!

Next Wednesday, I will pick (or rather, will pick) one of you lucky folks to win a Study Guide and DVD for Ann's book The Broken Way. You will definitely need a copy of her book in order to work through this, so if you win and don't have the means to get a book, let me know! Enter here by participating in some or all of these little tasks...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much to The Blythe Daniel Agency and Zondervan for providing me and one of my lucky readers with this incredible source of encouragement! I will be back next week with a little update, some encouragement for you, and to announce our lucky winner. You get the most entries for sharing this blog post, so share shamelessly please :)

I love you all so much for sticking with me and reading my blog when I feel at a loss for words. It strengthens me to know that you actually want to hear my thoughts and read my words! Praise be to God for giving me people who encourage, motivate, and support my little endeavors. Enjoy your weekend, be a blessing to others, and be alright with being broken.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Regular Life.

It's been a while, huh?

I'm not entirely sure why I haven't written for a couple weeks. Life has been pretty ordinary, and my feelings are ever changing. One hour I am grateful and feeling undeservedly blessed to be living this life, then the next hour I am miserable, exhausted, complaining, and angry. Call it hormones, call it sin-nature, call it the insanity that stems from being with your kids 24/7, call it whatever you think it is, it's super annoying and becoming an old, frustrating story. 

I was going to say I never feel totally unable to cope, but that's not entirely true. I have my moments, maybe minutes, or even close to an hour every once in a while, but the demands of homeschooling and mothering a toddler force me to wake up & get stuff done, even if that stuff is wiping a bottom or helping another kid with some school-related task. I long to never feel overwhelmed, to never feel exhausted beyond repair, or to never feel crazily angry over the needs rising from those around me, kids or not. However, that longing has not been fulfilled, and I am not sure it ever will.

I have other times where I feel shamelessly awesome. I see my ambition, my creative ideas, my desire to run a successful business, my kids doing well with their learning, and I cannot help but feel pretty stinking incredible. But I know it's not because of me. It's not because of my efforts, or any innate goodness or brilliance I have. All of these good gifts are from the Father of Lights. Still, I don't know how to balance the easy and the difficult, how to endure the down periods without despair and to enjoy the wonderful times without attributing them to my own efforts. 

This struggle between these two extremes gives me constant conversation in my brain, incessantly picking apart everything I'm doing, weighing all the choices I'm making, and almost forcing me to consider each and every tiny step of my day with far too much weight of importance. Some of the thoughts that continue to linger are ...

- my readers will resent me for being ambitious. 
- my friends will fear being real with me, or asking me for help. 
- no one will support my endeavors. 
- my downfalls will look too silly for anyone to want to help me. 
- my desire for success will cause me to pursue something I shouldn't.
- my weaknesses are too awful and I will never overcome them.
- my ambition for excellence will appear as pride.
- maybe people really just don't like me at all.

Maybe these seem silly to you. Maybe you don't know me well enough to see me as someone with these kinds of insecurities. Maybe you think I'm a wimp for being unable to cope with many of these simple fears. Or maybe you can relate. Silly or not, fears take hold and guide our decisions unless we direct them to where they belong. God can defeat our fears and He wants to. All of my fears are about things that might happen, or thoughts unknown to me. Fear exists in the unknown, but God knows all. I'm seeing more clearly that overcoming my fear is rooted in trusting God with every single, tiny little thing.

As I read a devotion with the kids this morning, I read part of Psalm 139 and was reminded again how much God loves me and watches over me. 

"Oh LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, 
Behold, Oh LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, before and behind, 
And lay your hand upon me."

The Psalm goes on to talk about God knowing our motives, our life, our complete existence, and how little we understand of it all. This Psalm was written with David, having his own motives, earnestly telling God what he desires but ending with the same intention Jesus had: not my will, but yours. 

In all the wishy-washy ways I am wandering through my life, I hope to always end there, as David did, as Jesus did, and many other saints along the way. I want God's desires to be my desires. I want my desires to be earnest, truthful, coming from a pure heart. I know it's not fun to see my yucky motives and my bad coping mechanisms, but I want a renewed life, a free spirit, and a bold willingness to endure whatever God sees fit. Most of all, I want to do this with a joyful faith. I want to trust God enough to love it, even when I kind of hate it. 

I don't know how to attain this, and actually, I don't think it's possible without God's divine intervention. But the more I meditate on it, the more I focus on God's ability, presence, and absurd love for me, the more I see how it can happen. Then the chaos of kids, changing friendships, and an uncertain future is less scary. I'm more excited to see the next day, and less sad that it might be filled with more of the normal, average, stay-at-home drama. 

I know this doesn't give you a ton of practical use, but hopefully it will still help you strive toward being with God more often and more deeply. I'm not actually amazing, nor I am I complete mess. I am what God is making me, and I am hopeful that it will be better a year from now. And what really brings me courage and joy is knowing 100% that someday, I too will actually be perfect! Sure, it'll be the day I die, but it is also the day I will live perfect in peace, light, and love forever.