Praying through Proverbs: 31 Days of Marriage Strengthening Prayers

I’m thrilled to let you know that I’ve teamed up with my Canadian blogging friend, Darlene Schacht of Time-Warp Wife, to offer a 31 day marriage series this October. We’re Praying through Proverbs with married couples all over the world at her MarriagePrayers.Today site.

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I’ve read Darlene’s blog for years and her articles have helped me become a better wife in so many ways, so becoming real-life friends and now working on a prayer series together is a huge honor and blessing.

You can read all the details about this beautiful new series in Darlene’s lovely announcement.

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Left to Right: Mandi, Ashleigh, me & Darlene at Allume 2014 in Charleston, SC

Tell me one good thing going on in your own life right now – I’d love to rejoice with you.


The Most Important Thing To Remember in 2015

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I had it all planned out in my mind – an incredible organization post to start 2015. Links to fabulous printables, inspiring words… basically some huge fan-fare to celebrate this time of year when everyone is making their annual organization goals.

But when I tried to write that post, the words just wouldn’t come this time. Because it wasn’t from my heart. Because I know that organizational tools are fun, but those tools won’t do the work for us.

Organizing is hard. Organizing can be discouraging. Organizing isn’t always fun.

And honestly? Organization isn’t always the most important thing.

While so many of us (including me) are gearing up to declutter in January, some others are just trying to get through today. My preacher’s 17 month old niece died of cancer on Monday. So tiny. So precious.

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Their family is spending their New Year in a funeral home, mourning a life that had barely started to live. They’re trying to answer questions from Alaina’s tiny siblings and cousins who don’t understand why she’s lying in a casket and will never wake up. How did she get to Jesus? they ask. Why can’t we go visit her?

Hospital bills have piled up but that’s not yet their main concern because they’re just trying to survive the moment.

Condolences are offered, prayers are cried out from Christians all across the world, and yet we know we can’t take away the family’s pain. It breaks my heart and tears stream down my cheeks as we sing the 4th verse of Jesus Loves Me in church tonight:

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

By the end of the song, I’m a snotty mess and rush to the bathroom to finish crying so I can clean my face and hands.

For 2015, the most important word on my heart isn’t organization. It’s intention. I want to intentionally choose to be with my kids. I want to be intentional about my writing goals so I can serve my readers without neglecting my family. I want to choose the best because I’m not promised that the best will be here tomorrow – I’m only promised this moment.

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Yes, I do want to be intentional about reorganizing my home. But not just for the sake of organization. I want to reorganize my house so that I can be free to spend more quality time with my husband and children. Our house is easier to keep clean when there’s less clutter. And we can welcome people into our home without panicking.

We can relax better. We can snuggle up with a good book without a glaring mess in our peripheral vision.

I have amazing organizational plans for 2015 that I’m going to share with you within the next few days. But for now, let’s make a decision to live 2015 with intention. We can simplify. We should know our why.

And yes, let’s organize. But let’s organize with purpose so our homes can serve our families, not the other way around.

Special Note: If you’d like to help the Day family, will you consider donating a few dollars to go towards Alaina’s exorbitant medical bills? No amount is too small – even $5.00 is a blessing – and I’d love for my readers here to rally around the Day family so we can show our love and support in their time of heavy grieving.

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The Christmas Cookie Disaster

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My sweet girls and I are baking cookies. Christmas songs are playing in the background, even though it’s only November. The holiday music is our little secret – we almost always turn it off before my husband gets home from work. The entire setting is picture perfect, something you’d see on a Christmas greeting card.

For about ten seconds.

Then someone licks her hands and shoves her slobbery fingers right back into the batter. And the other child shrieks in disgust while she snatches the bowl away. Tears, screams, and shoving ensue. Someone is nudged off a stool and someone else licks her spoon then tries to use the same spoon to gather up spilled batter from the counter.

“Disgusting! MOMMY!” the tidy one cries out.

“It’s yummy! Try some!” the spontaneous one retorts, shoving the drooled-on spoon in her sister’s face.

I’m squeezing my head with both hands, something I do when I’m trying to keep my brain – and my temper – intact.

Why did I do this to myself? I wonder. Why didn’t I just turn on a movie and let them sit on the couch while I made these cookies in peace?

Then I hear it from the speakers. Christmas Shoes. It gives me chills every time. I stand still, listening, for just a few seconds.

I’m reminded that not everybody is lucky enough to have a parent – or a child – to bake with. Not everyone receives homemade cookies, or can even afford to purchase store bought ones.

Some people have true sorrows. Something more than slobbered-on cookie dough and impatient attitudes.

I’ve had some of those hardships.

Like when my husband and I both lost our jobs on the same day. Eight months pregnant and nearly penniless, not knowing where our next meal was coming from. Then being well below poverty level for the next three years while we worked to get his business off the ground.

Real sorrow also happened when I lost four family members in nine months. And then again when I experienced scary health issues, which have thankfully been resolved.

Baking cookies? I can redeem this.

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“Here,” I say to my youngest, wiping her face with a warm cloth and hugging her gently. “I understand. I used to eat cookie dough too. Sometimes I still do!”

She giggles, the tears drying on her cheeks, and offers me a taste.

Then I turn to my oldest and whisper, “I understand how you feel. Being a big sister is tough sometimes. But you know what? I wish I’d been nicer to my brothers when we were growing up. I can never take back the mean things I said. And the germs will bake out. It’s okay.”

A few hours later, after the hurt feelings have mended and the cookies have cooled, we layer the treats on paper plates, wrap the goodies in plastic, and bundle ourselves up. Then we walk out into the twilight so we can deliver our lopsided packages to neighbors.

There’s joy on my little ones’ faces as they serve others and share something they made with their own hands. I smile too, knowing these are lessons they’ll never forget.

The hassle, the tears, the mess? It’s all worth it. They’re still learning. And I am too.

You may also like:

7 Simple Ways Kids Can Serve Others

How to Slow Down and Savor the Holidays

Link up your own posts!

I’m so excited to be cohosting this holiday link-up party with Keri from Living in this Season!

Keri was a HUGE help to me when my inbox was bursting with organizational questions last month and I quickly realized that I really enjoy Keri’s writing style! Keri truly has a servant attitude and her blog is full of great organization ideas, simple craft projects, and uplifting parenting encouragement.

I especially love Keri’s post today about a simple Thanksgiving tree – in fact, I think I’m going to break out the construction paper and make one this afternoon with my sweet daughters!

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Now it’s your turn! What have you been writing about? This link-up is open until Tuesday, November 11th, 2014. It can be any family-friendly post that you’d like to share with other readers!

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Incredible Books about Relationships

Many of my in-real-life friends know that I love to recommend books – even if it’s something I haven’t read yet! I’ll say things like, “Have you heard about this book? So-and-so read it and it’s really good – you should read it too!”

But today, my friends, I’m only telling you about relationship books that I’ve actually read and LOVE.
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Hands-Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford

I completely agree with the author when she says that, “Hands free Mama is your guide to putting down the phone, burning the to-do list, and letting go of perfection to grasp what really matters!”

Rachel removes the shame that comes from parenting guilt as she offers hope to the mama who’s struggling. This is a must-read for any mother who spends a lot of time on technology or who thinks she’s too busy to spend quality time with her kids.

His Needs, Her Needs by Williard F. Harley Jr.

It’s no big secret that men and women are different! So it makes sense that we need different things from each-other. Harley thoroughly discusses those differences and needs, as well as teaches his readers how to meet their spouse’s top desires.

My husband and I read His Needs, Her Needs together when our oldest was just a baby and the things we learned in this book have been invaluable to our marriage throughout the years.

Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst

I read Unglued with the hopes of gaining a few new tips about handling negative emotions a little better. I came away with so much more than that.

I learned that burying feelings inside is just as harmful as letting them out improperly. I was given tips, tools, and scripture for how to properly handle confrontation, disappointment, anger, and other types of conflict.

{Read my full Unglued review here or view the book on Amazon.}

Frumps to Pumps by Sarah Mae

Does a book about clothes even belong on this relationship list? I believe it does because it can be hard to be taken seriously by others if we’re always wearing old t-shirts and ratty jeans, or if we’re frumpy and grumpy.

Frumps to Pumps was just what I needed for the motivation to get – and stay – dressed in cute clothes every day! Since starting Sarah’s challenge, I feel better, I look better, I’m more productive, and I don’t panic when the doorbell rings.

{Read my full Frumps to Pumps review here or view the book on Amazon.}

The Bible by God

From marriage and friendships to parenting and loss, The Bible is the wisest relationship book that will ever exist, and the more I read it, the more I learn. It’s a book that never stops being new!

What fabulous books have I missed – let me know in the comments!