Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Now that Christmas has passed everyone is turning their attention to New Year's resolutions. Top on many lists will be the ever popular aspiration to get more fit. Admittedly, I will be included in that group. Now that the baby is old enough to go with me to the gym I am anxious to reclaim my body...or atleast try. :)

Eating healthy, the second half of the "get more fit" equation, will also be important to those aiming to lose weight. Obviously, if you take in more calories than you can burn off there will be how shall we say it excess. And, if Big Macs are chosen over fruits and veggies, the impact on your body is certain to be more negative than positive.

We know this to be true so we make very concerted efforts to consume wisely. After all, we want to live a long, healthy life.

But food isn't the only thing we consume. I dare you to find a home that isn't consuming media and lots of it today. Cell phones. iPads. Computers. Music. Television. Etc. We use it in abundance and sadly, would be lost without it. In fact, the average student today consumes 7.5 hours of media per day and if you take multitasking into account that number jumps to 10 hours and 45 minutes.

This affects our health too. What we put in to our mind WILL BE reflected in our character. If what we put into our minds equates to a steady diet of potato chips, Coca-Cola, and double cheeseburgers, we shouldn't be surprised if our thoughts words, and actions, that come out are pure nastiness.

Shouldn't we be as concerned about our integrity as we were our figure?

Start 2012 off right with an honest look at your complete health. Assess what you are mentally digesting and make any changes necessary to preserve your character, respect your (future) spouse, and draw you nearer to the heart of God.

And guess what?

Pam and I's new book is OUT EARLY to help you make that poosible!

Although written for teens/young adults, it is a message that rings true for all of us. Containing honest questions and powerful stories about the impact of television, movies, music, gaming, pornography, sexting, facebook, twitter, cyber-bullying, etc., in a fun facebook like format, we challenge all readers to think carefully through their choices AND inspire you to use your media for good. Because you can in a powerful way. Seriously, the stories shared blew. me. away.

Just like food is going to be part of your everyday existence, media (in some form) will be too. So, while you assess your cuisine intake why not inventory your mind consumption too? It's critical to experiencing health in true fullness.

This matters.

Orders made through Pam's office will ship immediately. Make sure your home (and most importantly the teen you love) isn't without it!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Christmas in Pictures

This weekend was filled with family time and memory making moments.

Grace and Hannah were excited to put on their new dresses

And carry candles in church.

Ava celebrated her very first Christmas

She was at such a fun age to dress up

even at night.

As usual, we made our birthday cake for Jesus. This year Grace wanted to make cupcakes shaped into a cross.

Singing to our Savior makes the joyous event feel so real. It is a great way for both the young and old sense the most important birthday in history.

Another first for us this Christmas literally brought tears. Part of it is captured right here.

After reading Jesus' birth story verse by verse through Advent, Grace (6) read the entire story from my Bible for the first time.

And what a beautiful story it is. Immanuel - God WITH us - is here. In our highest of highs and lowest of lows we do not walk alone. Christ is present. Always.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

Every year in my house there is a discussion about when the Christmas tree should go up. If I had it my way it would be proudly displayed early November, but my husband has always felt strongly that we wait until the Thanksgiving meal has been eaten.

For a long time I couldn't explain why I wanted it up so early. I'd say that I found the glow of the Christmas lights relaxing and that was it...until I was writing this year and really studying the tree.

I have an incredible grandma. My love for her cannot be confined by words and every year since I was born she has gotten me a Hallmark ornament to commemorate something in my life. From my birth, to my hobbies, to my marriage, to our first home and so on, there is an ornament signifying the event on my tree. Once we started having children, she passed the tradition on to them - each getting one yearly.

When I married Charlie, a box of his ornaments made way to our first apartment. Inside were memories of his baptism, handmade gifts he'd made in Sunday School, and, since then, a Hallmark ESPN ornament that plays the theme song i.e. the "soothing sounds" that we fall asleep to each night.

Now new homemade treasures are making way to our house. Grace and Hannah have both crafted ornaments that remind me of special time shared in the school gym painting pottery, surprises made at church, and sweet gifts made at school. Even the star on top brings me back to the Menards trip where Grace was thoroughly convinced she found the "most beautiful tree topper ever." How do you say no to that?

Here's why I love the tree

This one unique decoration shares the story of our lives.

All of the ornaments represent who Charlie and I were as individuals before we met, our life as a couple, and the gift of being parents. I cherish it.

In the words of the carol "Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree! How richly God has decked thee!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Clusters

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making goodies with my former college roommate. Yesterday was the big day and since I haven't shared a recipe in a while I thought I'd let you in on our peanut cluster recipe because they are insanely good, embarassingly easy, and it makes a ton. Perfect for your holiday gatherings.

We tried them last year for the first time and they've definitely solidified themselves a spot in the yearly rotation.

So let's get cooking! Got your aprons on? :)

Here is what you need:
2 lbs white almond bark
1 (12oz) bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 (12oz) bag milk chocolate chips
2 lbs salted blanched peanuts

To make:
Melt the white almond bark and chocolate chips in the microwave. Stir in the salted peanuts and spoon the desired cluster sizes on to a waxed paper sheet. Let harden.

That's it. Yield = around 150 clusters.

I've got to say, this year we were especially efficient. Check out all this candy and we had some put away with more to go!

The only problem? We only have one treat with color that we "love." We've tried other recipes but haven't found one that is a keeper. that you know our dilemma will you share your favorite "pretty" homemade candy with me? Recipes and links in the comments WELCOME. Thank you!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


US Weekly just tweeted "Unless you've been living under a rock, you've glimpsed Lindsay Lohan's leaked playboy cover." Well, I'm happy to say that I've been living under a rock. I've not viewed the cover INTENTIONALLY but I did hear about it. You'd have to be disconnected from all things media not to get word of her recent little photo shoot.

I have to admit, when I first heard the news I was shocked. Quite frankly, I still picture her as a teenager and IMDb'd her to see if she was, in fact, legally old enough for this pornographic shoot. It turns out she has grown up since Mean Girls and, according to her age, she can. Then my heart turned to a place of utter sadness. This is a young girl born into a Catholic family drowing in the sinking sand of the worldly life. Whether it be family pain, a lack of good guidance, Hollywood pressure, or, sadly, a disconnect with God that has grown over time, Lohan has found her way into treatment on multiple occasions for alcohol and drugs, struggled with bulemia, and theft.

I'm wondering if Lindsay felt alone. At one time she seemed to have it all together and now people view her as the "good girl gone bad"...and because she gives them reason. But this photography stint seems to be a effort to make a grand entrance on a sadly (large) stage and say, "Look at me. I'm pretty. I have value."

She isn't alone there. We all want that, don't we?

But the source of our worth will directly impact our lived experience.

If Lindsay thinks this is going to attract people to her it is going to be for all the wrong reasons. When I checked some tweet responses post the intro response (none of which were appropriate for post), she has been reduced to the some of her parts. Not surprising since that is what pornography does. I suspect if this cover brings her back into the movie business it will not be for wholesome parts like The Parent Trap and any guys that place her pretty little arm around theirs will already have expectations for what follows dinner. She's let them see it all. Her bare skin is burned into their brains. All that's left is the physical.

Teen girls watching this please think. When you show guys on dates, sexts (which is illegal), or otherwise the lines of your body God meant for your spouse alone, the sexual imagery will increase the desire for touch. And moms reading this, TALK TALK TALK to your teens. If ever there was a time for discussion about being a Proverbs 31 type woman who adorns herself for her husband only this is it because one of their teen idols just very publically crossed the line from scantily clad, which all girl moms have had to discuss, to completely nude. New territory. And yet not so new in the sense that 20% of teens have sent or posted nude/semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves.

Boy moms, if you think you got a free pass on this one, guess again! Guess who was posting the reply tweets? Who wants to look at these pictures? It isn't girls getting ideas about what gives them worth. No. It is the males attracted to the female design. Unfortunately, the average teen spends one hour and forty minutes looking at pornography. But, it alters brain chemistry...setting unhealthy standards of comparison for a future spouse and horribly, horribly addicting. Boys, think. One day you will show your future spouse how you value her by whether or not you have focussed on what is right and pure (Phil 4:8) to gaurd your heart and mind.

We all want to be valued. We all want to have worth. But the good news is we do. And it isn't found in a pornographic cover shoot or relationship status or the size of your pants. It is in the baby whose birth we are all anticipating this advent season. Jesus came so that we might know the abundant life. Through His teaching we are drawn into relationship with One who knew us before we were conceived (Ephesians 1:11-12), provides for our every need (Matt 6:31-33), and encourages us (2 Thes 2:16-17) in every way because we are God's treasured people.

Our bodies are temples (1 Cor 6:19) designed with intention and care. If we believe this, it will directly impact our conduct. And, the desire to live a pure lifestyle because of Whose will result in attraction to another who wants to bring the fulfillment of His best. That is a win win.

My prayers are for Lindsay. Last I checked He doesn't want even one to perish (Matt 18:14) and I trust that if she truly discovers who He is and His heart for her she can be done with all the rest...just like everyone else who has fallen and come to see His incredible love.

Pam Stenzel and I's new book "Who's In Your Social Network" is available for preorder. It is dedicated to the influence of media, its impact, and encourages positive choices that will grow Godly character. (Including a chapter on pornography alone) I pray it will be a helpful resource for your personal life...and parents, for the discussions you must be having with your teens! The fun social networking writing style with teens' true stories, comments, and questions was a hit in book one and is certain to inspire again!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gifting Our Children

This poem needs little introduction. Tucked inside Grace's bag by her incredible teacher, I knew as I read it I needed to pay the encouragement forward. We can get busy this time of year in the name of saught after gifts, but what our little ones desire most is our hearts.

Gifts Money Can't Buy

What shall we give the children,

now that the holidays are almost here?

Toys, games and playthings

as we do every year?

Yes, for the magic of toyland

is part of the Yuletide lore,

To gladden the heart of childhood;

but I shall give something more.

I shall give them more patience,

a more sympathetic ear;

A little more time for laughter;

or tenderly dry a tear.

I shall take the time to teach them

the joy of doing some task;

I will try to find time to answer

more of the questions they ask.

Time to read books together

And take long walks in the sun;

Time for a bedtime story

after the day is done.

I shall give these to my children.

Weaving a closer tie;

Knitting our lives together

With gifts money can't buy.

Reprinted from the New York Parent-Teacher

Love your little ones well, friends!

Friday, December 2, 2011

How We're Adventing

Our family has always used Advent calendars. They've come in different forms: chocolates, an adorable wooden countdown, and Monday Grace brought home the staple ring tearaway from school.

While I have always loved Advent countdowns because they help control the overwhelming excitement kids feel as Christmas approaches, this year we saught to make Advent about more than how many days are left until Christmas. This year we wanted to dig into the true spirit of Christmas and live the story so that when Christmas arrives we can celebrate the completion of a journey we've been experiencing all month long.

To do this, my husband and I used a desire we heard expressed from the kids as our springboard. Apparently last year we had candy canes on the tree. Although we didn't remember this, both of the older girls did and they wished to have them back. What kid wouldn't?! So, I went to the store and picked up candy canes, which, by the way, now come in a million different flavors. They love Smarties so I selected those and went home for a date night of sorts with my hubby.

With the kids in bed, we gathered Christmas paper and the Bible. Writing one verse from the story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-20) on each piece of paper, we attached the note with ribbon and a number to each candy cane. Obviously there are more than 20 days to Advent, so the first candy cane's note explained what we were doing and that Jesus came as a baby because He loved them so much. Once all twenty verses are done, we wrote a couple discussion questions and we will end on Christmas with a note that says "Merry Christmas. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus."

Yesterday the girls woke up SUPER EXCITED. Grace turned the calendar page and immediately broke out in "Christmas is coming. Christmas is coming. I can't wait!" Hannah joined in the excitement... and then they noticed the tree. At first they were simply excited to see the return of candy canes, especially ones that had pink in them. :) But, when we explained that there would be something special on each note the joy escalated.

Last night at supper they got to find their first candy cane. Grace, who is six, read the note and asked to read each of the Scripture verses/notes for the rest of Advent. Melt my heart. This mama finds little voices reading the Word of the Lord EXTREMELY precious. We can't wait to feel the story all month long.

We will still use the adorable wooden countdown and Grace's paper paper tear away. Reminders all over all a good thing in a house with wee ones. But, getting into the true spirit of Christmas this Advent is going to be a blessed experience. I can already sense it.

Do you do anything unique for Advent? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stylish Hair Fun {With a Giveaway}

As a woman and mother to three girls, I think it is super fun when I find products that celebrate femininity in a stylish way so I'm thrilled to tell you about my new favorite etsy: hand made hair products from Love Bug Baby Boutique .

Recently, Hannah won a Love Bug Baby Boutique model search and these were made special for her. I LOVE this soft pink wrap

and the brighter one.

This headband has cool lines and Hannah, of course, loves the "diamonds" in all of them.

If you have a favorite animal or clothing line that you want something to match with, these are adorable options, are they not?

I first fell in love with this mom's stuff when my mom found these precious clips for Grace and Hannah at the sidewalk arts festival. My (adult) friend rocked one of these in a deep plum color for a reception and it looked awesome.

Ava got this wrap and clip. Great news! It was sized right for a baby head. Some swallow them up. Not Love Bug's! She also got a crochet hat. You can order the wraps, clips, and hats in any colors you want to mix and match as you desire.

Wraps, headbands, bows, hats, and clips galore are available at the Love Bug etsy shop and info on when Krista will be doing craft shows in your area can be found on her facebook fan page. These high quality, trendy products are perfect for those fresh out of the womb all the way into adulthood. I couldn't be more thankful to have made the discovery! Seriously, everything is charming.

AND, with the holidays right around the corner I'm excited to let you in on a special deal. Krista will include a free gift on any order you place through the end of the year when you refer to my blog in the my message to the seller box. Sooooooooooo.....look around her Etsy shop and get ordering! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Mother’s Thanksgiving Prayer

Dearest Lord,

Tonight I walked past the girls’ room. My hands were filled high with the fifth load of laundry and I was going through the mental checklist to prepare for our trip.

A heavy sigh from their room forced my head back.

I set the overflowing laundry basket down and smiled. You were wise to make children look so angelic when they sleep. Even on the most trying of days you right my mommy emotions when I look in and see those sweet, still, precious faces.

Sometimes I am guilty of wishing my kids to be robots. I want them to wake when I am ready. I wish for them to run on my time and listen the first time every time. When eight PM hits I want them to fall asleep instantly. Power off.

But these are children....

To finish reading my prayer post, please visit MODSquad

AND don't forget to enter the Ecclesiastes Bible Study giveaway. Only a little over a week left!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Look Who's Back in Town!

My in-laws!

Charlie and I were high school sweethearts. His family moved here our junior year of high school and by the end of the year we were a couple. Prior to officially dating, we were good friends so we spent a lot of time with each other's families. I quickly found out why Charlie was so incredible. He came from great parents. They valued faith, family, and togetherness. From the beginning, I felt at home with them and was thankful to call them family the day Charlie and I wed.

Adding to the gift, our families quickly grew close to be close friends. After Charlie and I married we started fun all worshipping on Christmas together and then sharing in a combined family meal. All the important life experiences were shared. It was golden.

When Grace was two, God called his parents to ministry in Pierre and from there to important work in Chicago. We were proud of their work and yet there was a hole. We are family people. We missed them in the church pew and at Sunday School performaces and dance recitals.

But today we give thanks to God who has called them into a new season of life. Sioux Falls is home once again. A house is purchased. They are moved in.

We can't wait to be able share suppers, drop by for quick hellos, maybe get a few more date nights when nama and hampa want some time with the girls :), and return to those simple family traditions that make life richer.

Welcome back, Gary & Andrea, we can't think of a better thanks to kick off Thanksgiving week than that of "welcome home" to you whom we so dearly love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dig Into Ecclesiastes with Stephanie Shott {A Bible Study Giveaway!}

One of the many reasons that I'm grateful for social media is the opportunity to "meet" new, incredible people. Included in those people is Stephanie Shott. She's funny. She's a family girl. And, most important, she's the "real deal" when it comes to a faithful sister in Christ.

When her new Bible Study on the book of Ecclesiastes came out, I jumped at the opportunity to bless you all with a chance to meet her too. The study is called "Ecclesiastes: Understanding What Matters Most" and today she's here to tell you all about it. Even more exciting, she's giving away a copy to one of you!

Stephanie, what is your new Bible study about and what you hope readers will get out of completing it?

We all want to know our lives count. And in our Christian conversations we talk a lot about living for eternity and having an eternal perspective, yet if we are honest, we often live as if this life is all there is.

Eternity is real and it awaits each one of us. There are no escape clauses.

Understanding What Matters Most is a six week study through the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s a journey that gives the reader an opportunity to personally sift the gamut of real life experiences and define their lives by what matters most. There are questions designed to examine the heart and inspire application.

Although many avoid Ecclesiastes, it is chock-full of wisdom - not only for Solomon, but for each of us. However, there are three overriding lessons I pray that each reader will walk away with.

1. We all long to define our existence with significance, yet the only way to truly do that is to make our eternity intentional. It’s a minute by minute choice of the will to filter the way we respond to life through the lens of eternity. I pray that Understanding What Matters Most will equip each reader with the necessary tools to do just that. We're all looking for answers, and Ecclesiastes really helps us understand how to make decisions and deal with our circumstances based on what is and what is not important in light of eternity.

2. The study of Ecclesiastes is certainly not for sissies! It deals with real issues and real life circumstances. I hope that readers will grasp the concept of eternity and the reality of our ultimate day of reckoning; I pray the truth of that reality will help them live each day in light of THAT day.

3. A more subtle but profound lesson we can learn from this study is to see the grace of God at work in Solomon's life and understand that same grace is available to us. Solomon was the wisest man to walk the planet, yet he blew it big time! Solomon’s life is proof that wisdom doesn’t always equal perfection! The beautiful truth is that God still used Solomon, even after he failed. I hope readers never forget that God is so much bigger than our failure - that His love for us transcends our ability to mess things up - that as long as we have breath, He still has a plan for our lives and the days we are given under the sun.

Sounds wonderful! How did God lay this book on your heart to write?

When I began writing Understanding What Matters Most, I didn't begin in hopes of publishing a book. Understanding What Matters Most was birthed from my own place of need. It was during a time when God had called us to the mission field and my 19 year old son didn't feel led to go. My maternal heart began to wrestle with the details of the call. I didn’t have a problem with the was the leaving that gripped my heart and clouded my view. Who was going to take care of him if something went wrong? What if he got hurt? What about our parents? I was trying desperately to make sense of that which didn't make sense at all.

That's when the Lord gently led me to Ecclesiastes and gave me a bird's-eye view of Solomon's own attempts to make sense of the details of his life. After he ran the gamut of life experiences, he understood what matters most. I knew I needed that kind of clarity. Not only for the circumstances surrounding our call to the mission field, but to help me walk through life with the imprint of eternity on my heart. My study of Ecclesiastes gave me the tools I needed to filter the essential from the non-essential in light of eternity. When God put it on my heart to send it to a publisher and they said yes, that’s when I knew He wanted to use it for more than just notes for a conference.

Who would most benefit from your study?

It’s primarily a Bible study for women. However, since I’m a veteran homeschool mom who remembers how hard it was to find a good Bible study for my children, I would also like to encourage homeschool moms to use it as a study for their high school students. What a great opportunity to walk through Ecclesiastes as they sit at Solomon’s feet and get a clear picture of how empty the pursuits of this life can be and how important it to live each day with eternity in view!

Awesome. How can my readers follow your writing or book you to speak at their events?

Where is the Bible study available?

Great! Thank you so much for taking the time to share, Stephanie. I'm so thankful you listened to God's voice and followed His call. I can't wait to see how He uses you and this study to inspire others.

Bio: Stephanie passionately conveys that women can trust Christ to be real in real life - regardless of where they are or what they are going through. From her own painful past, she reminds women that we are never too battered or broken for God.

Gifted and dynamic communicator, writer, and Women's Ministry Director. Down-to-earth speaking style is full of humor,enthusiasm,and a passion for God's word. Topics focus on: To know Christ, to grow in Christ, and to echo His heart to the world.

And now, Stephanie is going to graciously gift one of you lucky readers with one copy of this study. To enter to win please leave a comment in the comments with why you'd most like to read this study. Additional entry opportunities are available by 1) tweeting the link about this giveaway 2) sharing the post on facebook 3) following Stephanie's blog 4) officially following this blog (if you aren't yet). Be sure to leave a separate comment for each of the potential ways that you can enter to win with your name and email. The giveaway will remain open to anyone in the continental United States until Friday December 2 at noon central time.

***Congrats to #18! chose Tara (Created to be Beautiful), you are the winner of this wonderful new study. Enjoy! To all the rest, I pray you'll check into the study from one of the sites listed above :) ***

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The CD No One Should Be Without! {The Story}

Raise your hand if you like Mark Hall (Casting Crowns), Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, Mandisa, Amy Grant, Chris Tomlin, Francesca Battistelli, Todd Smith (Selah), Jeremy Camp, Bart Millard, Matthew West, Nichole Nordeman....

What? You love them all?

Me too. And guess what? These fine artists and many more are all part of a new album entitled "The Story." Angie Smith blogged about it with such enthusiasm that I had to check it out.

And I was blown away. Talk about a rockstar compilation of Christian artists!!!

Based off Max Lucado and Randy Frazee's writing, Nichole Nordeman and Bernie Harms lifted the voices of the Biblical people that shape our Christian foundation and placed us inside their heads.

When I read Scripture I can be guilty of reading through the story without putting myself inside the individual's shoes. And yet, if I claim a faith inspired by this history, it is so important to really think through the place and emotion of the people that mold our foundation.

Seriously, as I listen I find myself relating to the thief (Steven Curtis Champman) in my own life. I'm empowered by Esther's (Mandisa) guts. I'm tenderly encouraged my the faith filled Job (Todd Smith) who lives intense suffering. Having walked through losing his baby girl, that assignment rings genuine through his vocals. I could go on and on but the point is every song hits me because the heart of Scripture comes alive - including Jesus' (Mac Powell)heart for you. Sidenote: Grab a tissue.

The whole album can be yours with one simple click. And, if you are super lucky you can attend "The Story" tour and part of the proceeds from that will benefit World Vision, which you all know I gave mad props to early this week because they meet their goals and transform lives. Please don't tell me if you attend because I'd be insanely jealous...or do I'll pretend to live it through you. :)

With Christmas coming up, I just wanted to make sure you were all in "the know."

photo credit

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodbye Forever

If there is one thing I’m not good at it is goodbyes. When I form a relationship, I’m in it for the long haul.

About five years ago my eyes first locked on Andrea’s. Her big brown eyes seemed to beckon me through the computer screen and I could not look away.

She was adorable.

The weekend before I’d been at a Women of Faith conference. While there, they spoke about their partnership with World Vision. Although I’d been to WOF before and heard of their ministry, this year I came home feeling called to form a relationship with a child. Maybe it was the message from my sweet one year old saying “mama” into my phone. Maybe it was the thought that my baby girl was comfortable in a heated home full of hope with her amazing father while a baby girl elsewhere lived in a hut the size of my closet while her parents prayed for hope.

Two children born into two very different situations resulting in two very different lives.

Andrea shared Grace’s birthday and as my husband looked over World Vision’s materials he simply said, “Let’s do it.” A sponsorship was born. I have to admit, I didn’t expect our $30 per month to be life changing but, in my mind, that I was okay. If World Vision could use our dollars as a vehicle to help put food on their table, provide access to medical care, and give hope, that was sufficient.

Cecilia (Andrea’s mother) and I began to communicate. We’d write letters to one another and share about our families. As our girls grew, they entered into the conversations, growing excited about the lives of their friend afar. My girls drew pictures, told her about snow, and imagined living in a place so warm it never fell. Each time a World Vision envelope found its way to our mailbox opportunity seemed to multiply in Equador while joy swelled here in South Dakota.

Right before the girls’ sixth birthday another World Vision letter arrived. Quickly and excitedly, I opened the letter to read the grace filled note from a woman who had found her way into my heart.

But it wasn’t from her. It was from World Vision. The project goals were met. Andrea’s family was self sufficient.

Overwhelmed, I began to cry. I cried because I hadn’t written more. I cried because a relationship that had taken root was no longer going to grow. I cried because I didn’t want to tell the girls they couldn’t draw any more pictures for Andrea. AND, I cried because World Vision was so much more than I’d ever believed they could be. Using what couldn’t even buy us one dinner out, World Vision had walked alongside the community and taught the people to garden and breed animals. They transformed a destitute community into a more educated, self-sufficient community. Andrea and her family had grasped the hope they once dreamed of.

After we told the girls, they drew last pictures and we wrote a note sharing our heart. Shortly thereafter, we heard from Cecilia and she happily signed off “Goodbye forever!”

I couldn’t help but smile.

This month as we count our blessings, we graciously include World Vision because they made believers out of us. With the right people and the proper teaching, dire poverty can be broken. This is a goodbye worth celebrating.

Goodbye forever, Andrea and family. Hello, sweet Nayely. Your first letter with child artwork will be arriving soon. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parents of Boys, Welcome to the HPV Vaccine Dilemma

Parents of boys may soon experience the same vaccine dilemma parents of girls have lived for the last few years. Should we give our child the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine? Announced earlier today, a government advisory panel is now suggesting that males aged 11-12 get the three shot series.

Unlike many vaccines, this one promotes heated discussion because it crosses ethical dilemmas and religious convictions. The push to vaccinate kids before schools have even introduced them to integers and information on potential scary side effects to this relatively new vaccine leaves parents in a quandary.

From a medical perspective, I understand why they want to vaccinate early. Merck has been very honest that for the vaccine to be effective it must be given BEFORE any exposure to the disease. And, with students experimenting at younger ages, the age of vaccination necessarily goes down.

But it’s a tough choice. We have these tiny little people that God has entrusted to us and we love with all our hearts. We want to make right decision. And, I can’t tell you what that is. Sorry if you were looking for an easy answer. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I’m thankful I still have some years to watch the research, talk with trusted pediatricians, and pray about it before we have to make a choice for our girls.

Either way, getting the facts straight is critical. I’m concerned the name “HPV vaccine” will cause a false perception of what the shot series actually protects from. It is NOT a vaccine to protect from all HPV. While over 100 strains of HPV exist (over 30 of which are transmitted sexually), this vaccination is meant to protect from four types- 6, 11, 16, and 18. (Interestingly enough, prevention for 16 & 18 in males was just approved in December 2010). Do the math and you’ll quickly realize that HPV will still exist, as will warts, cervical, penile, anal and throat cancer. This is not a get out of HPV free card.

Sadly, condoms aren’t going to be the solution either. Since HPV is a skin to skin contact disease and latex can’t cover the entire genital region, young ones will still be infected and lives will be forever changed. This may be one reason more than one in two sexually active singles become infected with HPV. Even those trying to be “safe” aren’t.

As parents, we must recognize that the solution, the real get out of HPV free card, is found in risk elimination NOT risk reduction. For our sons and daughters to escape this threat, they must honor a NO GENITAL CONTACT before marriage boundary, vaccinated or not. We need to teach our kids not to rely on three little shots but to stand confident in Godly character. Boys must be taught that respecting healthy boundaries will help his date to feel safe and protect his future wife. Girls must find joy and beauty in hiding what God meant to be treasure for her future spouse alone. This is our job…to train up a child in the way he should go (Prov 22:6)…not to say yes to a shot, zip our mouths, and hope our children will dodge a bullet.

I’m not saying vaccinating for HPV is wrong (that is a decision to made between individual parents and God) or that kids raised in Christian homes won’t make ungodly choices. I am saying that the medical community wasn’t called to do our job. WE need to help our children understand that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and, consequently, they need to demand respect for themselves and show that same respect to others around them. WE need to be educated so that we can have the critical conversations with our kids about this topic and we must address it often so that our children continue to see us as the “go-to” person in their lives. Most of all, we must stay dialed into our Life Line, the Lord, so that we can act in His wisdom and feel confident in our parenting choices.

I find the most fascinating piece of this “push” to be the overt acknowledgement that they took a new look at the male vaccine recommendations not only because they are concerned about the boys’ health, but because they are concerned about transmission to girls who are not being vaccinated at the numbers they hoped for. Will boy parents buy into this reasoning? Will they be more receptive to the vaccine than girl parents apparently have been? Time will tell.

For more education and to help grow your teens in character, I would encourage you to read and then share Nobody Told Me with your teen. Their eyes will be opened to the truth and the voices of their peers will encourage them to make healthy choices.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What Feeds Your Soul?

This is the question the wise Luci Swindoll posed at this year’s Women of Faith.

I’ve been quiet in this space this month. It has been a crazy month to say the least. Pam and I have been working on final wording and graphics for Who’s In Your Social Network. I’ve jumped into the room mom role and have been researching and working with two other amazing moms to create a fun fall party for our sweet kindergarteners this Friday. The crisis pregnancy center that I volunteer with has required creative energy. And, on top of that, there is life. You know, like preparing meals, doing laundry, playing duck duck goose in the living room. :)

I can’t imagine a better life and yet, as a woman, I tend to think about everyone else before myself. That is why I thoroughly enjoyed attending Women of Faith IMAGINE this weekend. Women of Faith is my yearly “me” trip and I can’t imagine any better way to feed my soul.

If you’ve never been, I highly suggest gathering some girlfriends and road trippin’ it to the nearest event. As if car trips and pajama parties aren’t enough to seal a deal, the messages are life transforming.

Nicole Johnson referred to the event as the washing up of the misfits. It’s an arena full of women – no one perfect, each with their own story and “stuff” - but all passionate about their love for Christ. That in and of itself would be enough for me. But, as the thousands laugh and cry together a sisterhood is formed.

The first year that my mom went she came back with the packet on fire to talk about every speaker and vocal artist. I thought she was crazy until I experienced it for myself the next year. I fell in love and have been a group leader for seven years since. Obviously I’d love to go on and on about each person’s message and the power in it, but I don’t want to spoil your surprise when you go.

Hint. Hint.

I would say this.

No speaker at this conference will put on a pretty face and tell you how to be the perfect Christian. No speaker will preach at you and pretend to be without flaw. Rather, they will be vulnerable and transparent, combining their honest pain and valuable life experiences with faith-filled knowledge to blanket you in the One who sees you, knows you, and loves you far greater than you could ever “imagine.”

It doesn’t matter if you come feeling on top of the world, worn out, or unlovable. You will leave velcroed to Kyrios {The One to Whom I Belong} and confident of your immeasurable worth.

An added gift to the weekend was meeting Angie Smith, who actually gave me the most fun Greek lesson of my life during her talk.

Her blog, Bring the Rain, is without question my favorite blog ever and if you aren’t following it start NOW! Trust me, you'll thank me. (And be sure to go back and read this post because it's incredible.) Angie and I are twitter friends so it was fun to step out of the virtual communication world and give her neck a big squeeze in real life.

My batteries were spiritually recharged. My soul has been fed. I’m ready for the demands of everyday life…and I can’t wait for the fun to be had at Women of Faith “Celebrate” 2012.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pre-order Who's In Your Social Network

You know when you're having a ho-hum morning and you pull on a pair of jeans only to discover an unexpected dollar bill in the pocket unearthing mega excitement?

That is how I felt in my own life yesterday.

My day was going along as normal when I received communication about a potential interview for Pam and my new book: Who's In Your Social Network. At first I was confused. Not wanting to up the ante on something not yet available, Pam and I haven't even revealed the amazingly designed cover for this new treasure yet. Why do an interview if we can't direct people to get it?

And then we discovered that it is now available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! {Note that they both have a pre-order sale price right now...bonus!}

I couldn't contain my excitement. Squealing with joy, I attempted to share my happiness with my 4 year old and five month old girls who merely thought I'd lost my marbles so I phoned a more understanding crowd and shared the news with my husband. :)

This book is a break out on the media chapter of Nobody Told Me. Written in the same cool social networking like style, it covers all things media - movies, TV, music, pornography, social networking, etc.

And it is a must have for the teenagers in your life.

Media is like our diet. Just like food is a necessary part of life, media is a necessary part of our culture. All of us use it. None of us can avoid it, nor should we But, the type of media we consume will determine the way our character looks.

Inside the pages are powerful stories from students and adults who have learned the hard way, honest questions, a challenge for each teen to personally assess their own media diet, practical guidelines for healthy boundaries, and incredible examples of positive media and teens using it to change this world for God's glory.

According to a recent study, today's teens consume an average of 7.5 hours of media per day. When taking multitasking into account, that number jumps to 10 hours and 45 minutes. That is a lot of influence on one's thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Make sure the student you love gets the help they need to effectively think through their media choices so that they can exercise wisdom and walk in His ways!

And now, for the big cover reveal that you've all been waiting for

Isn't it cool?!

For those who use the links to pre-order, know the book is scheduled to be released the first week of January 2012. We pray it will bless your families.

Photo Credit

Friday, September 30, 2011

31 Days of Prayer for our Girls

"Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?" Corrie Ten Boom

Life as a mother can be overwhelming. Each day our girls face heartbreak and joy. There is drama and there is peace. There is success and there is failure. Many times there are big questions about navigating the waters of life situations and/or how circumstances fit into the big picture of faith.

And all of this happens quickly. In fact, if your home is anything like mine, it seems to snowball each day and then get thrown at you all at once.

How do you respond?

If you are anything like me your mind can spin in the intensity of the moment looking for a response that honors Him, encourages her, and promotes peace. And, if nothing comes then you offer up a quick prayer hoping for an immediate response.

But this is admittedly NOT the best approach. I need to start each day bathing my children in prayer so that I experience the comfort in knowing I'm being directed by God's Word and responding to every situation in His strength rather than my own. It makes for less stressful parenting.

Like anything in life, our responses are born out of habit and I'm thrilled to tell you that MODSquad is here to your rescue, helping you to place your daughter in God's hands first everyday with their new October series - 31 Days of Prayer for our Girls

MODSquad is an awesome community of moms walking along side one another to raise girls with intergrity and hearts for the Lord. It's been my honor to be a monthly writer for this group of moms who are so honest about everything from the issues of motherhood that make us want to pull our hair out to moments that make us smile so hard our face hurts. It is such an uplifting, encouraging space to be real and grow.

I hope you'll join MODSquad for this incredible month of posts. Each day will have a topic, bible verse, and a prayer. You can subscribe, have the posts emailed to you, or follow on Facebook. All the important details are here.

As today's post reminds, "The effective prayer of a righteous {mom} can accomplish much." James 5:16

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese & the Big Life Lessons

It was a day unlike most others. The laundry was piled up, dishes needed to be emptied from the dishwasher, and lunch needed to made. From a mother’s perspective, this is work. Through the eyes of my four year old, however, this is fun.

I like her viewpoint better.

Throwing the darks overhead like a basketball into the washer, Hannah laughed in amusement. After folding the freshly dried whites, she walked with purpose, delivering the clothes to their proper “home.” And, she beamed while unloading the lower level of the dishwasher all by herself.

These homemaking projects indicate growth and independence in her world...

To finish reading this post please visit MODSquad

Photo credit

Friday, September 23, 2011

Black Bean Corn Avacado Salsa

Recently I got a wild hair and decided to tackle homemade salsa. Unfortunately I didn’t have any recipes so I did what any rational person in 2011 would do. I tweeted requests for corn and black bean salsa. :) To my surprise, my friend Jess responded with a recipe that was literally Christmas to my taste buds so now I’m sharing it with all of you.

Let’s get started!

Black Bean Corn Avacado Salsa

2 can super sweet yellow/white corn
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes or fresh tomato
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro (I’m not a cilantro girl so I left this out)
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 finely chopped fresh jalapeno (remove seeds) I promise this is not at all hot in the salsa!
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup lime juice
2 avocados – peeled, pitted, and diced
Salt to taste

Mix all the above ingredients together and dip with your favorite chip!

This makes enough to feed the 5000 so if you’re making it for a gathering, you’re golden. If, on the other hand, you are making it as a fun starter for your family (of 5 or less) I’d suggest halving the recipe.

ENJOY and have a great weekend! We are set for some quality family time and I’m reading through the design pass of book two from our editor. Exciting posts will be coming your way in the next few months!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Little Kids, Kissing, & Dating

Recently a friend wrote me. While her daughter was in preschool, she witnessed two kids kissing and came home to proudly profess that she was going to ask a boy out the next day and wondered if he would kiss her. Trying to remain calm, cool, & collective (although inside going through the roof), she told her daughter that we save our kisses and then got online to ask me what to do.

My work with Pam means that I help provide a lot of relationship counsel to teens and their parents. Sadly, tweens are becoming a more and more popular age group with serious questions. But, to hear that four year olds have "ask him out" in their vocabulary gave even me pause.

I suppose it should come as no surprise. We live in a culture that promotes dating relationships from the get go. I've witnessed mothers say to their toddler child, "Is she your girlfriend?" or "That one is your boyfriend?" numerous times.

Because of my work in the CPC, we've avoided this. I've seen what happens to a girl who from the beginning gets the message that her value comes from being claimed by some boy and that having a boyfriend is necessary. They are the ones glued to their boyfriends while their friendships fail. And, they are the ones crying in fear as they await their pregnancy test result all the while explaining that they thought "love" meant crossing all sorts of dangerous boundaries.

From the time our children are born, we are sending them messages. Some would argue that these jokes are harmless, but I would say quite the opposite. Think about all the messages we send them when they are toddlers: how to sit still at the table (manners), to address others with care (respect), to act nicely to the people around them (love). The list goes on and on. Their brains are like sponges and we know this so we teach them when they are young attitudes and behaviors to live out through adulthood. Why do we think dating should be any different?

Society's model of dating shows that this attitude is prevalent. Kids talk about boyfriends/girlfriends before they even know what it is. Young girls are wearing future Mrs. Bieber shirts prior to understanding what makes a good spouse. They carry on into real life the "joke" adults laid before them early on. Boys feel macho because they can say they have a girl. Girls feel valued because she can say she's caught someone's eye. They date whoever asks, lack boundaries and make mistakes or realize once they are into this relationship that their values are being pressured and, ultimately, they walk away feeling hurt that "love" didn't feel so good.

Hence we don't joke about it or wear clothes that aren't age appropriate.

But all of our kids are going to hear the words or see children model something they heard or saw on TV. So then what?

I advised my friend first and foremost to tell the teacher what her daughter saw. No matter what, day care providers, teachers, playground safety, etc. NEEDS to know what is happening so the behavior can be stopped. I'm fairly confident that no facility with children this young would view this behavior acceptable.

And then there is the message for all, whether you've been the parent that "joked" or not. You can use these opportunities to send messages about what you DO want your child's dating to one day be.

Last week Grace heard the word "boyfriend." Apparently a little boy had his lips a-flappin trying to kiss some girl who said, "Don't. I have a boyfriend." When I asked if she knew what boyfriend meant and she said "no," I knew I could start sending messages to mold her future.

"Boyfriends are people you think that you could marry and until we are old enough to think about marriage God wants us to just be friends and not kiss."

As she grows older and can understand more, we will expand on that, talking about the ages that dating is appropriate, only entering into a relationship with someone that shares a deep love for Christ and genuinely respects her, and, of course, Godly boundaries.

Surely this doesn't mean that she (or her sisters) will never make mistakes, but it does mean that from a young age her dating mentality will run contrary to the "whoever asks" model. She is free to continue finding joy in being claimed by the One who made her and experience peace knowing she has caught the eye of her Savior. And, if she continues to trust His definition of love she will avoid the pain so many of her peers won't.

Clearly the message is setting in. She heard the word again the other day in a book about her student teacher (who is engaged) and said "That means he would be the kinda boy she would marry. Right, mom?" And, when that little boy with his lips a-flappin tried to get near my girl, he was immediately told "no" and then given a talking to about appropriate behavior by an adult.

Our words matter. Send messages to your children today that will build the framework for a healthy tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Domestic Diva Style Birthday Party

Birthdays were made to be celebrated and last weekend we had two in our house!

Since the older girls are so close in age, have the same friends (for now), and like similar things, we had a joint party for our two little domestic divas.

They LOVE to cook.

Because God created them with this interest, I feel that every opportunity to enhance the skill is an investment in their future. One day they will move out and having this knowledge will benefit them as a young single woman (and prayerfully as a Christian wife and mother).

So, thanks to the inspiration of my wise friend who did a lasagna making birthday party with older girls, we decided to make it into a party theme. The girls each made their own personal pan pizza.

Prior to their arrival, my husband and I taped waxed paper to our dining room table, filled bowls with various pizza toppings, and made individual sized pizza crusts. Once they were all to our home, they picked places to sit and started making pizza to their liking. Since they are young, we had all sorts of creativity

Hannah’s looked like a face

Grace’s was a flower

Another interesting face

And of course there were pizzas simply filled high with lots of cheese and topping goodness.

While waiting, they swung at a colorful piƱata. For some reason, this Target purchase was near impossible to break open so following many attempts both blind folded and not, Grace went to get daddy and the girls broke out in a supportive chant. “Charlie, Charlie…”

Check out that MLB form! :) After a few powerful swings, he was successful and candy poured out for a little take home sugar treat.

The girls loved their finished pizza product and were all very proud of their domestic accomplishment, talking about and showing each other their masterpieces. And, as we watched, we could do nothing but smile because a financially frugal party designed solely to play off their interests ended up promoting self confidence and a desire to get in the kitchen to do more.


Friday, September 9, 2011

{Peanut Product Free} Cake Pops!

The dilemma: Your child wants to take cake pops to school for their birthday but there is a peanut allergy in the class.

The solution: This recipe!

Today is my daughter's sixth birthday. She really wanted to make cake pops, however, one of the children in her class has a peanut allergy. Although individual's allergies are not the responsibility of other parents, these kids are in kindergarten. And, if I can make something that everyone can eat that would be my desire. After all, no child wants to be singled out as the kid that can't partake in the treat fun.

My research led me to two conclusions. 1) I have the utmost respect for people that live with peanut allergies. It seems that nearly every product has some kind of peanut, peanut oil, or is made in a place that has peanut products. The time needed to figure out a healthy diet and the options within that diet are limited. 2) There is not a lot of good, fun kid birthday friendly recipes available online. I did over two hours of research online and tweeted with some parents of children that have peanut allergies to come up with this solution. Then I emailed Grace's teacher the ingredients for her to forward to the child's mom to confirm that it was in fact okay.

So, for my fellow moms, I am posting this recipe. It will make your life easier and save you a lot of time! That said, check the boxes when you do go to make this to make sure nothing in the products or factories has changed since this post date.

You will need:

Betty Crocker Super Moist Cake Mix (Party Rainbow Chip)

Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting

Dec a Cake Non-Pareils Sprinkles

Bakers Semi-sweet chocolate squares

Having peanut free products, I used this recipe as a springboard for the cake pop fun.

To make it:

1) Bake the cake according to directions on the cake mix box. After the cake is cooked and cooled, crumble the cake into a very large bowl.

Now look at your fingers! If you have not taken off your jewelry now is the time to do so because it is about to get very messy!

2) Mix 1 can of frosting (with your hands) into the bowl of crumbled up cake. Once it is thoroughly mixed, refrigerate the mixture for 15 minutes.

3) Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil .

You do not want to make them larger because the stick will not be able to hold the weight of the cake. I had a few "flops" with the ones that were even slightly larger.

4) Chill in the freezer for 30 - 40 minutes.

5) Stick the lollipop sticks into them (not all the way to the top though) and cover them in melted chocolate. Stick them into a styrofoam block to dry.

6) While the chocolate is still "wet" decorate with sprinkles.

After they have dried, cover them in candy bags and close it off with a twisty or ribbon or whatever you choose. You can get those products at a cake specialty store.

I made the twisty into hearts because I'm a geek like that. :)

If you do not have a peanut allergy to consider, you can make this recipe with any brand cake mix and frosting. You could also you chocolate almond bark to save on money for dipping chocolate. And, obviously, you could decorate with any candy or drizzle with a different color dipping chocolate.

Grace and Hannah helped me make them but they weren't completely set until after they had gone to bed.

But as you can see, she was very excited when she saw the finished product this morning. Plus, not only were they the cake pops she asked for, but they were brown and today just happens to be brown day at school. Double bonus!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Are Never Beyond Hope

It was filled with color. A kind of floral fantasy that beckoned you nearer to study its rainbow of vibrant shades and appreciate the unique blossoms only an artistic God could design.

Noticing that the wave petunia stole my eye, my mother said, "It's yours. Happy Mother's Day."

My mother has a green thumb. Her gardens are always filled with color, shape, and trimmed perfection. Fast forward your mind to a Better Homes and Gardens look and there you have her back yard.

I pick it up and silently pray that I can maintain its beauty.

When I get the gift home, I proudly display the flower on my front entrance for all to see.

And then my crazy life happens. Children need my time, laundry requires my attention, book deadlines must be met, scorching heat keeps me from bringing the newborn out and suddenly what was once breath-taking looks like a pot of tiny dead sticks.

Oops. That's all I can say about that.

Every time I drive out of the driveway or play with the girls I think I've got to get rid of that eye sore. But I never get around to it. So there it sits in all its ugliness beyond a point of redemption.

Or so I think.

Until one day the girls ask to play sidewalk chalk. As I'm laying there getting my body traced, a blossom catches my eye.

It can't be.

Sure enough, there in the pot is evidence of a gorgeous petunia bursting forth.

And it was almost like God said, "Nothing is ever beyond redemption to me."

Smiling, I gave the flower a drink and began attempting to make what was once dead vibrant once more.

As I put the watering can down, I wondered what our lives would look like, how we would feel, if we truly believed God could do the same for us.

Have you ever felt weak, worn down, or lost? Has a decision you've made or something that has happened in your life caused you to spiritually wilt or emotionally die?

There is good news for all of us. The same artistic God that made the beautiful blossoms also created a depth of beauty in you. Your uniqueness steals His eye and He will work to bring forth new splendor when the furnace of life threatenes to steal your God-made glow.

We are works in progress always loved, always nurtured, and always filled with potential to live redeemed, vibrant lives.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where Are Your Eyes?

Last week our nation was glued to the television as Hurricane Irene approached US soil. Where would it hit? At what speed? What could be done to prepare? Did everyone have enough batteries and water?

Now we watch airlifts take food to cut off towns and hear people struggle with insurance reimbursements in the aftermath of her trail. News footage was and is of people scurrying around frantic and overwhelmed by this life situation.

I’ve never endured a hurricane. As a Midwesterner, the very thought of one freaks me out. But, I have lived situations outside of my control that have raised my blood pressure and induced panic.

Haven’t we all?

While watching footage, I looked up the meaning of the name Irene. Years ago I was in charge of games at a baby shower. Since I’m not into tasting baby food or putting funny stuff into diapers, I decided to make my own game. After looking up the meaning of everyone’s name that would be attending the shower, I created a mix and match of people’s names and their meanings. Obviously, the person with the most correct matches won.

The game was a hit. Most people didn’t know the meaning of their own name so it created a fun conversation piece.

Needless to say, I was surprised when I discovered Irene to mean “peace.” Clearly naming storms is solely about a name that correctly fits the letter and nothing beyond that because natural disasters never bring peace to those living them.

But there is another One whose name translates to peace – Jehovah Shalom. First named in Judges, Gideon is threshing wheat in private to hide from the invaders. And he is clearly scared and frustrated by all happening around him. Like you have probably uttered a time or two yourself (or at very minimum heard from a friend), he says, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).

For anyone unfamiliar with the rest of the story, Gideon asked for a sign that God was talking to him and went to prepare an offering for his guest. When he returned, the angel had him place the food offering on the rock, touched the end of his staff to it, and the food engulfed in flames – a miracle indicating God’s presence (Judges 6:17-20).

And this raises our question. Which has your primary focus? Irene or Christ? The hurricane in your own life (whether it be health uncertainty, financial struggles, work stress, broken relationships, natural disasters, etc) or your Jehovah Shalom?

In any area of distress we should do what we can to prepare, but where we then place our eyes will determine the peace we experience.

If our focus is solely on our situation - our storm - we cannot experience peace. We will run in circles trying to control what we cannot and expend all of our emotional energy fearing an outcome we do not yet know. But, if our eyes are on Him, we can slow down and do what we need to do when He calls us to do it. We can stop a spinning mind fast in its tracks and successfully take every thought captive. Even in the storm we can relax.

This is so beautifully illustrated in a version of the 23rd Psalm from Japan that Joanna Weaver shares in Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

The Lord is my Pace Setter
The Lord is my pace setter…I
shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals
He provides me with
images of stillness which restore my serenity
He leads me in a way of
efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace
Even though I
have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his
presence is here
His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by
anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility
My cup of joyous energy
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours
for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house for ever.

Certainly storms will crash our lives but we choose if our emotions follow an earthly situation or the Word of a divine God. He promises, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Peace in the storm. I love that.

In Him there is confidence in every step, a purpose in every action, and a unique calm every second of the day because we are operating in His strength rather than our own and, as a result, we walk victoriously.

We can only look one place at a time, however. I pray my gaze is steadfast on Jehovah Shalom. You?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Night to Remember

Yesterday my dear friend and co-author Pam Stenzel came to Sioux Falls.

Pam and I first met thirteen years ago. As a college sophomore I was exposed to her talk and inspired by her message. Shortly thereafter we met at a Perkins and the trajectory of my life changed. I began working in a local crisis pregnancy center and upon graduation started writing with Pam.

Eleven years of ministry help and curriculum development have passed and now we have our first book together - NOBODY TOLD ME. Being a voice of truth in a culture that perpetuates lies, we've taken actual emails of students questions, comments, and stories to expose lived consequences of sexual sin, provide needed education that many have never heard, and, most importantly, promote the goodness of God's design. Teens, parents, and all who work with youth are totally digging it.

Because we are in two very different seasons of life, Pam and I are rarely in the same place. Geographical distance divides our homes and she travelling the globe speaking to over a half million teens per year while I am leading the life of a young stay at home mom with three beautiful little girls. Our work together is done primarily by phone and email with an occassional trip here and there.

Last night Pam came my direction. Brought to Sioux Falls by Planning Life (crisis pregnancy center), she hit it out of the park to a crowd of many. People vacillated between wiping away tears to knee slapping laughter and lives were changed. Students sat between their parents and as they listened new avenues of communication opened. An area teen MOPS group came and left empowered to make new choices in the future. Educators, doctors, and counselors were empowered with new discussion tools. Youth groups and young dating couples left with much to discuss. And the stories attendees discussed with us....well gut wrenching is not adequate to describe them. Pam rocks and everyone just loved her to pieces.

After Pam finished speaking, we gifted some lucky winners with our book and then we did our first joint book signing. We met so many neat people and I got to reconnect with my favorite nurse who brought her daughter and a high school classmate who came with some girls from her church's youth group. Seriously, the smile was glued on my face!

I praise God for the work Planning Life does in our community and the center's effort to gift people in the area with a positive message. You should all follow the CPC on Facebook to stay "in the know" for future events that are certain to bless you. And, I thank God for bringing Pam into my life. Yes she is the best speaker I have ever heard and yes being her co-author is one of my greatest priveleges, but I count her friendship as one of my greatest blessings. I love that she has a heart for God that always has her prepared for deep, heartfelt spiritual discussions yet her everyday down-to-earth style makes her fun to laugh and hang with. My kids will tell you the same. Pam got a boost in the cool meter, if that is possible, when she brought them a fun connecter, construction straw set yesterday. I'm pretty sure they will be wanting to consume liquids all day. :)

I love her. I love our work. And, as my heart bursts with happiness for the many ways God worked last night, I know this will go down as a night to remember.

Make sure to follow Pam on Facebook to find out when she will be in your community. You won't want to miss her!


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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What Do You See in the Mirror?

Three way mirrors.

Three little words that invoke a multitude of emotion from the youngest of girls to the oldest of women.

On the one hand, we love this invention. It provides a real view of what our potential purchase looks like all the way around. On the other hand, we hate this invention for the very same reason. Regardless of a person’s body type, it has the capability of triggering major mental trauma.

Last weekend I braved the crowds...

Finish reading my post on ModSquad

Photo credit

Monday, August 22, 2011

We Have a Kindergartener

And she was clothed in love.

When I was growing up my grandma bought me new clothes for my first day of school each year. Now that I have my own children my mom asked if she could carry on the tradition which took no time to think, YES!

Grace chose this adorable bee outfit.

She coordinated from head to toe thanks to Gymboree's uber complete line.

There was not on ounce of hesitation on her end. She was so excited. Mom and dad's hearts, on the other hand, were flip flopping a litle bit.

It was my goal to "be strong" in front of Grace, but she foiled my plans when she started singing skinamarinky dinky dink to me by the flag pole. Yep, the tears fell.

Once we were inside, Grace found her spot right away and happily bid us farewell.

Praise be to God the day was a success. When I arrived to pick her up, I was suprised to find my hubby there to greet us. Grace told us all about making a picture of herself in her outfit, learning the school song, playing games, meeting new friends, and the list goes on.

Tonight when we were picking her outfit for tomorrow, she said, "I wish I had a shirt that said, 'I love my teacher.'" And, she is sitting at the table right now making her a picture. Obviously she made a big impact in only one day's time.

Thank the Lord for people with gifts and patience to educate little people. Clearly we are in for a wonderful year.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Lunch Box

Dear Grace,

On the table right now sits a lunch box ready to be packed for the very first time. Unlike all the rest of the items we purchased for kindergarten, this one causes a prolonged stare and forces me to catch my breath. The school box is a rite of passage. For the first time in your life, you will be away from me going to school all day.

And I can’t believe we got here so quickly.

One day that comment will most certainly cause you to roll your eyes and growl a “mo-om.” It always did for me. But now my mom doesn’t seem so off her rocker.

It feels like just yesterday that your dad and I were a spry young couple looking for our very first home. He wanted to quit throwing money into rent with nothing to show for it and we both very much wanted a baby.

We were praying for you nine years ago.

Our desire for you guided our home search. We wanted yard space for you to play. We wished for a low traffic street so that you would be safe. We preferred a quiet neighborhood in walking distance to a library, pool, and park for us to enjoy. Most of all, we hoped to be in a particular school district for you to attend elementary school.

When we finally got pregnant with you, we were over the top excited. Well, except for the crazy sick part but you were totally worth it. :) We painted your room, bought all the baby stuff, and began to imagine life with a baby.

Soon our dream became our reality. One night when I awoke my water broke and I knew that meant you would be here within 24 hours. I woke your father and told him that it was time to go. He asked me if I was sure and I said yes, at which point he quickly followed up with, “Can I take a shower first?” Apparently he wanted to look good for your grand entry into the world. On the way to the hospital, I became overwhelmed. What would life look like with you in it? In between contractions I uttered, “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

But after a long labor and a few stressful moments I heard your cry and all I wanted to do was hold you. I was ready. I had been ready for years and finally God had answered our prayers. Looking at your daddy, I saw a tear run down his cheek as he announced, “We have a girl.”

When they put you on my chest I had the tears. She’s beautiful. And I was in love. You put your tiny fingers around mine and I knew I only wanted to be with you. After you nursed your daddy picked you up again. As I watched him adore you, I fell in love with him in a whole new way. Our whole world changed for the better

And it feels like just yesterday.

But it wasn’t. You are growing quickly and somehow it is already time to send you off to this school we thought about nine years ago. Whoa.

Being home with you has been an incredible gift. Seeing your every “first,” playing games, taking walks to the park, reading books to you and now you reading them to me, snuggling on the couch, tickling you so that I can hear that amazing infectious laugh…it has become my everyday joy.

And now, as much as I want to hold you, I’m happy to hand you your lunch box and let you go to kindergarten because this is a life transition you are ready for. After all, you repeated again this morning that you wanted the day to go by fast so that your first day would be here. I love that. I was always in to school too. :)

So much opportunity lies ahead of you.

Watching you thrive in this new season of life makes me smile even as I type. I can’t wait to see your excitement as you show me school projects and tell me about all the new things you learn. Even more, I can’t wait to see how you shine for Him. You always say “I love God the most” and that calms my heart as I entrust you to your teacher for a full day. Always remember that as long as you cling to Him you will get through every situation you face. And, as long as you let your little light shine – and it shines oh so brightly - you will grow friendships and mature in unimaginable, awe-inspiring ways.

You are an amazing girl, sweetheart.

Have an awesome first day! And be sure to pay attention to your lunch box because there is a special note in it from me. I know. I’m a sap. I’ll be thinking about, praying over, and, quite honestly, missing you the whole day.

Life is changing but it is an exciting change.

Once that end of the day bell rings, however, be prepared. I'm going to smother you in hugs and kisses.

Bursting with love for you,


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sioux Falls Book Signing

It’s true!

I’m going to be doing a NOBODY TOLD ME signing event right here in my wonderful hometown. And it gets even better

My wonderful, witty incredible friend and co-author Pam Stenzel is going to be joining me!

After speaking at the United Nations, Kingdom Bound, and finishing work on our second book, Pam is making a stop here in the lovely Sioux Falls, South Dakota to do our first joint book signing since our book came out.

And, she’ll be speaking too!

I always say that she could talk about the color the sky and it would be captivating but our topic is much more important and she has a brilliant way of taking the awkward topic of sex and making it into a safe, comfortable, funny, enjoyable talk. Pam uses a perfect blend of fact and humor to educate everyone, bridge communication gaps, and empower students with the abstinence advantage.

I know, it’s going to rock so let me get you the details:

Everyone 12 and up is welcome
Planning Life will be hosting her at Gloria Dei Church (5500 E. 57th Street)
Sunday, August 28
Tickets are $10 each
Get your tickets by calling 605-521-8139 or at Crossroads
Remaining tickets will be sold at the door

Once she is done knocking your socks off with the best sex talk you ever hear we will start signing away. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

So put us on your calendar and come on out to say hello.

We can’t wait to meet you!
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