Monday, December 22, 2014

What Are Your Christmas Traditions?


“Sometimes the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” ~ Nicholas Sparks

Christmas week is here. People are travelling. Music is playing. Families are gathering. And, for many, the pause from everyday routine opens the door to special yearly routines. Those of Christmas traditions.
In our house the goodies have been made and our Storybook Bible Advert time is nearing an end, but on Christmas Eve we will... 
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Change History

My husband tells a story of when his mom was nominated to be the Bishop of South Dakota. “If I moon the audience will it keep people from voting for you?” I’m grateful she shushed him in a motherly way and went on to win the election because at the age of 16 it landed Charlie in my homeroom. We were dating by the end of junior year and the rest is history. I love him mad.

And I love the people who raised him to seek God, cherish family, and treat women well.

Thursday, his mother Andrea, whose work brought Charlie and I together, retired. After serving 37 years in ordained ministry that has left her mark of hope and goodness on four Midwest states and globally through her position on a malaria campaign, she will retreat from public ministry to start a new chapter in life.

In one of her sermon’s Andrea gave the congregants two words to take empower their faith life lived out. Change. History.

Do you feel like you’re doing it?  

What can feel a grand notion was reduced to its simplest parts.

Acknowledge that we live in a world of need. Wounds of division. Disease and depravity. Empty hearts. Causes that need to be elevated. Education that needs to be championed. Every day we cross need and resolution begins with refusing to turn our eyes away.

Believe you can be a difference maker.  Giving this sermon on World Malaria Day, Andrea used example of her involvement in this cause. When she first began coordinating this initiative a child died every 30 seconds of malaria. As she and her team started getting information out, speaking,  and gathering funds, life for those affected began to change. More education was delivered, clinics with trained healthcare workers to diagnose and treat were built, and, mosquito nets were gifted to families. The numbers began to change, with a child now dying once every 60 seconds. It is still too many, she preached, but it is a huge step in the right direction.

History is changed.

 In simply making ourselves available, The Lord takes what we have to offer in our humanity and multiplies it through the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe newness.

One of the things I most love about my mother-in-law is her brave faith. Throughout her career, she has not only been aware of The Lord’s stirrings, but she has responded to them. Even if the calling has felt larger than her or down right scary. I wish I could tell you I claim the same but the truth is that is a struggle for me. I like to hang in my comfort zone. To be God’s girl in places that feel pleasant to me and situations I, for some reason, feel educated enough to “take on.” I like to know that there is going to be success. My head sometimes does weird “calculations” as to whether or not personal investments will be worth it.  I know it doesn’t look pretty in print, although I'd like to think I’m alone.

What my mother-in-law leaves in the minds of colleagues, pastors, various leaders, parishioners, family, and friends is going to vary from person to person. But for me it is a legacy of radical faith. Of truly trusting God.   Of trying to quiet the “what ifs” to see what could really be. Of believing that any stirring from The Lord is one worth following because somehow in Heavenly calculations this leaves no possibility for failure. At least not from the perspective of wasted time. She inspires me to try.

Friends, it is you and I. It is the scared ones. The people that feel weak and unqualified. The mother and father whose resistant kid wants to moon a bunch of pastors. WE are His people. And He’s asking us to listen, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

Andrea, Say Anything Jewelry helped us kids design this beautiful custom hand-stamped necklace as the perfect way to honor your ministry.



Wear it knowing you have done probably more than you ever set out to do, and you’ve inspired a watching world to do the same.

XOXO

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

What I Wore: Elf {Quote} Shirt by Skreened

I've been kind of quiet in this space lately, primarily because early December is a busy time in life. Particularly in the life of a young mom.  Christmas recitals, programs, and events seemingly dominate and bless every calendar day.

However, I had to show y'all my newest shirt.

It is no secret that I LOVE the movie Elf. I could watch it every day of the Christmas season. In fact, I could easily watch it at any point in the year. EVERY line is hilarious. And awesome.

So, when my friend Angie Smith modeled hers on Instagram last year I filed it away in the "get that next year" mental department and ordered my favorite line from the movie



Which I revealed at Grace's third grade gingerbread house event. The night before I tweeted "Why, yes, it is 9:54 pm and I'm making homemade gingerbread house frosting for the 3rd grader. I try to be a happy elf." Its unveiling seemed timely.

Skreened has nearly every line from the movie, making it especially difficult to decide. I mean, how do you decide when every line makes you smile? "You Smell Like Beef and Cheese" "Buddy the Elf What's Your Favorite Color?" "The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer is Singing Loud for All to Hear" "I'm Sorry I Ruined Your Lives and Crammed Eleven Cookies Into the VCR." I die.

You can customize the colors and shirt styles. My hubby went with the same quote on a long sleeve T with a different font and graphic. I love smiling with him :)


Right now you can get a 10% discount with the code HOLIDAY10, and their shirts often go on sale if you check back.  Their customer service is AMAZING. Our first shirts came with the screened image reversed so they corrected their error at no cost and allowed us to keep the first shirts. You can't beat that!

So, here's how the gingerbread house turned out.



Tons of her classmates commented on how much they liked the shirt, at least temporarily giving me "cool mom" status, AND now I have another awesome Elf shirt to wear to Hannah's school party on Friday.  YES!

What is your favorite Elf quote?


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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent Using The Jesus Storybook Bible

I can't believe how fast the month of November has flown by.  Our Attitude of Gratitude tablecloth was a hit and as I prepared my table for Advent today the children requested that I leave the tablecloth out for our final few days of writing.  If you didn't get a chance to try this this year, I highly recommend it for next year.  The girls were so excited to write all they were grateful for we actually had to limit the writing to supper time so all our thanks could fit.  We will be repeating every November from now on.  It was so fun to sit down to supper each night and all say what we wrote and why.

Gathering around the table for the "special event" really focused our home of busy little bodies so for advent this year I wanted to bring the focus there as well. So I came up with this:




Advent using The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Ava received The Jesus Storybook Bible as her three year old bible at church this year. 



It is a beautiful bible will gorgeous illustrations and all the Old Testament stories brilliantly point to the birth of Christ.

My friend Erin, over at Home With the Boys, posted this reading plan years before we had the bible and I'd never forgotten it. 





So now I'm going to put it to use. :) If you don't follow her blog, you'll want to start now.  She is sweet and uplifting and just a blessing to the blogging universe.

To make it an around the table event, I ran to Target and found this Can-O-Tags for $5. I love how heavy weight they are, the words on them, and that I will have many left for presents I wrap, tying our adventing heart to the giving spirit under our tree.


On the back of 24 I wrote the date and story title from the Jesus Storybook Bible.


Then I placed the tags around my "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" angel for advent. And, I spruced it up with the pine cones from last month's table and a few little ball ornaments from the dollar section. I adore how perfectly everything thematically fell together.


Beginning December 1 we will gather as a family around the table.  The girls' task will be to find the tag with the matching day and together we will read the bible story.

I can't wait!

How are you adventing with your littles this year?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Being the Difference in a Broken World


If there’s anything the news has captured this week it is that even though we are a society capable of sending an email anywhere on the map in seconds and can invite people from anyplace on the globe into our living room through Facetime we still fail to bridge the gap with our neighbor. Struggles to start conversations have created chasms. Blinders have left us ignorant. And the result is brokenness.

We live in what is touted the greatest nation in the world.  Many of us have faith in a God who graciously breathes life into us and beckons us to be His hands and feet.

Yet we watch and freeze.

And I don’t know if it is a lack of awareness, or a desire for ease, or simply being overwhelmed by all the forms of tragedy tucked away in our culture but it burned me and stole precious hours of sleep.

How is one person supposed to respond to any of it?  

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I’m just as human as you.

But, yesterday morning I woke up bright and early and went to my children’s school with an excited spirit and my cup of coffee cheering me on after what basically amounted to a glorified nap the night before.

Organized by two teachers and a supportive administration, our students collected and purchased fleece thanks to the generosity of our school community and together students, staff, and volunteers worked to tie blankets for a local organization that delivers warmth (through blankets) to the homeless. Leave it to teachers. They are truly of the heart to nurture becoming better people not just create smarter learners. 

And so, through little hands tying fleece, the world shines brighter.  They worked with gusto to get their tie blanket done - one kindergartener even telling me about his strong muscles making it possible. They smiled and talked and laughed and dreamed about the children these blankets would serve. They took a step towards bridging a gap (that should rattle us all) in the spirit of peace and love.

When the day was done and my back was reminding me of my age after sitting on the gym floor so much, I climbed into my mommy minivan with pause. Tears welled in my eyes. The school is making purposeful effort for kids to help kids so that goodwill and compassion might be their way of life.

And they did it one tie at a time.

Our God created us all with different passions. Different gifts. Different burdening to different issues. But I have to believe that He did so with the perfect recipe so that if each of us acted in the areas we feel impassioned all these divides would fade away because they would all be met. Love wins. Hope fills the void. Accord begets relationship.
 
 

So today I humbly challenge you to start with where you are with the spaces that grieve your heart. Work with gusto. Make a blanket for the homeless. Bring a meal to the single mom. Become a mentor for a struggling child. Invest added time with your own children to reinforce healthy families. Lead a group. Become a foster parent. Bring food to the food pantry. Shake a veteran's hand. Get trained to help at your local crisis pregnancy center. Swing your hammer to build a community. Tutor or teach how to read. Join the fight in human trafficking. WHATEVER.
The fact is the needs of the world are big and struggles daunting, but together we can be the difference. 


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Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Choose Joy When Joy Feels So Far Away

We’ve officially moved into Thanksgiving week.  People are buzzing with turkey preps, packing, family gatherings, and talk of thanksgiving.

But what for those who feel suffocated by life at the moment? How do you choose joy when joy feels so far away?

When diagnosis threatens, children go astray, job security is tenuous, marriages are on the edge, family discord makes the idea of a family table seem like an earthly version of the Hot Place, or maybe there is an empty chair there for the first time and the stuff of life just weighs like a millstone.  What then?

I pray you are not in this boat, but I know some of you are and it can make the seasonal joy feel trite.  And I want to speak into your heart today.

Joy isn’t gone.  JOY ISN’T GONE!!!!!
My bible study had me in Ezekiel this morning. Israel was dead as a nation. Hope was lost.  Days came and went but the sun never seemed to shine.  Not to unlike how life sometimes feels. In a vision, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones – a visual of the death Israel’s hearts are living.  And,
 
 

I smiled at a God who was preparing my heart for a true understanding of gratitude. 
Because I realized that of all the times that I've felt weakest in my life...


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Monday, November 17, 2014

5 Things Your Child Needs from You Today


I’ve been keeping a secret. It’s been in the works since last spring and now I finally get to tell you about it.

I’m teaching a mother-daughter dance class for moms and their first-through fifth grade daughters!!! {The same studio I grew up dancing in so how is that for awesome?!}

The dream came about when some of us danced with our daughters in the Christmas dance recital. Mothers expressed interest in the waiting area of continuing into spring, and I, a mother alongside them who also happens to work with struggling teens, realized this was the perfect opportunity.  Why not capitalize on her passion to create moments that matter?

I could give you a million statistical reasons to sell you on why together time is child important. I could tell you about the heartbreaking number of elementary school girls who are dieting without their parents knowing. I could brief you on bullying and this note that makes every parent think twice. I could share how youths who don’t know a true understanding of love often fall into the arms of counterfeit love and suffer life-changing pregnancies and STDs.  I could but I won’t. Because this weekend I found out a sweet little elementary girl lost one of her parents and suddenly statistics feel trite. In an unpredictable world, THIS is why it is important to do something unique with your child-




Your child needs your time-We “give” our children a lot of things. We put them to dance, drive them to soccer, usher them to piano, basketball, youth group, and the list goes on. We’ve been told that keeping our children busy will keep them out of trouble so taking them to good and noble things in the name of “opportunity” makes us feel better. But, if togetherness isn’t built in we are missing the most important thing to helping them stay on the track we wish for them. They don’t get to hear our heart, know what we believe and value, and understand our personal dreams. There is no substitute for YOU. A check can put your child in a lot of things, but it will never carry the same investment as bonding with you.

 

Your child needs to feel praised and secure-This world is really great at knocking all of us down, beginning with the least confident on the playground. We aren’t born with inflated self-confidence. It comes in knowing who we are. For your child to know they are loved no matter what, they can come to you with anything, and hear you speak the special qualities you identify in them will promote the emotional support they need to stand strong in trying times.

 

Your child needs you to listen- Multitasking is a trademark of our culture that may destroy more than build up. How many times is your child answering your questions or trying to talk with you while you’re making supper, answering a text, or reading something from their backpack? It happens in my house. But, when we give them our eyes and free ourselves of distraction we silently say, “you are my priority.” And, it allows our children moments to unfurl all they are needing to say.

 

Your child needs limits-Undoubtedly within this time when our children know they are secure to say whatever and we will give them our ears, some tough topics will emerge. Questions of self-worth, beauty, quality friends, how we use our words, media influence, things that make us happy and sad and what we’d like to do (all to be discussed through one-on-one directed stretch time in my class) will emerge. Older children might bring up drugs, alcohol, and sex. And, this is your time to kindly tell them what YOU believe. Contrary to popular thought, our children don’t want us to be there friend. They need someone to help steer them in a healthy direction or their friends and the media will become their compass. Known values and boundaries create security when children know the why behind it and, in a tough world, they CRAVE that.

 

Your child needs something shared with you-To have an activity/event to do together one-on-one creates connectedness. It’s like a love language without words that naturally continues bringing your child back to you so that you can nurture the parent-child bond, ensuring opportunity to be together, chat, laugh, and cry. {My hubby gets this through All Pro Dad and daddy/daughter dates. I’m excited to make this my special time.}

Every child needs these keys from their parent to grow up healthy and strong.  I encourage you to be intentional to build in this time with your child(ren) today. In doing so, you will keep the lines of communication open and ensure that you will remain their go-to person. I’m grateful for an opportunity to teach a class focusing on this with my young ones. It will enhance that foundation before adolescence hits J

Mom and dad, YOU matter!

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

3 Kids, 3 Stages, Books to Enjoy Throughout the Ages {National Young Readers Week}

It’s National Young Readers Week! As an author it makes me giddy with excitement to celebrate the love of reading with littles. As a mom, I get nostalgic watching my kids work for their free Pizza Hut personal pan pizzas I loved as a child.

Needless to say, when I was inspired by Casper to share our family’s favorite bedtime stories I was all in.  I mean, what greater joy is there than climbing atop a comfy mattress and getting lost in good book?

Since we’re at three different ages and stages in our house, my husband and I get in on three very different reading levels. These are their favs-

Ava (3) loves:
 

Just In Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado- This is probably my favorite children’s book of all time. Beginning with “Long, long ago, God made a decision – a very important decision…one that I’m really glad He made. He made the decision to make you ,” the story shares everything that we want our children to know. They are special, unique, chosen, and loved regardless of circumstance. Through sweet wording children hear how their parent wants to be there and talk them through it all, and how God will embrace and forever bind us. This book cannot be over-read. {Note: This story is equally fitting for adoption and makes an a very special baby gift}

 


Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson by Elizabeth Schaefer- Ava’s two primary loves in life at this point include dance and Peppa Pig. The combination of the two is priceless entertainment in her world.


 

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.- Eric Carle’s eye catching pictures make this fun to pick up and the textual idea repetition make this an easy toddler first read. Hence, when we have Bible time at night right before prayers this is Ava's contribution because she likes to read on her own and feel “part” of the tradition. :)

Hannah’s (7) favorites include:



The Chicken of the Family by Mary Amato- This hilarious story is about a family with three sisters, which resembles our own. In it, the older two harass the baby, telling her she’s a chicken rather than a human. Through conniving techniques, they get Henrietta to actually believe it is true and she finds the feeling of home at a chicken farm down the road. When her sisters come to get her and persuade her home before they get in trouble, lots of laughter ensues.

 
 
 
 

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo-   Every one of these books is a hit. Unlike most pigs, Mercy loves cookies and toast with butter, dressing up, and sleeping in a human bed. She’s Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s pet that acts more like a child, and each story takes readers on a fun adventure in her life.

 


I Am Loved by Sheila Walsh- From the Gigi, God’s Little Princess line (which I’ve posted about before here and here), this devotional-like gem takes real issues girls in this season of life face and encourages them through readings, promises, prayers, and Scripture to help empower them and deepen their trust in their Maker. Hannah shares a section of this each night at Bible time.

Grace’s (9) go-to grabs include:



Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney– This laugh-out-loud line of books is the story of a family that has its own problems and strengths.  Greg, the main character, is in middle school. He’s got two “annoying” brothers – Manny, the toddler, and Rodrick, his older band-playing brother. Throughout the series, he encounters troubles with them as well as his crush, Holly Hills, and in his attempts to resolve them hilarity usually results.

 


Secret Keeper Girl Fiction Series by Dannah Gresh- This is a fun four part fiction series packed with an eternal message. In each of the books, the featured girl faces a real-life issue – a crush, breaking a school rule, embarrassment over parents, and wanting to be part of the “cool” lunch table – resulting in a decision that lands her in detention. While there, the main character finds acceptance in a group of positive peers called the Secret Keeper Club. In this healthy friendship, messages about dangerous obsessions, materialism, forgiveness, and being yourself prepares young readers to close the book a strong, more God-centered girl.  

 
Connect Bible (Augsburg Fortress)– This awesome Bible is complete with visually appealing icons and connects that help young one’s/readers navigate their way around the story and see God’s loving hand and consistent message shared throughout Scripture. Grace reads a passage each night at family Bible time.  


What do your young readers like to read when you snuggle up?

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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Attitude of Gratitude Tablecloth {A November Family Exercise}

I don't know about your family, but the Nesdahl's are in need of remembering our abundant blessings.

Yes, I write a Christian blog but my family is no different than yours.  Sometimes the kids bicker and have selective hearing.  My husband and I can be guilty of looking through the Sunday advertisements with wishful eyes or complaining about the old carpet and feeling like we are somehow lacking even though compared to most of the globe we are rich. {Did you know that if you have any money saved, a hobby that requires some equipment or supplies, a variety of clothes in your closet, two cars (in any condition), and live in your own home, you are in the top 5% of the world’s wealthy? True story according to Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions and Eternity}

So for the month of November we are going to intentionally focus our hearts.



I made a pumpkin centerpiece, bought a cheap plastic tablecloth, and fell victim to the heavenly smell of the cinnamon pinecone packets in the storefront. Together they make up our November dining room table d├ęcor.



Starting on the first we will each write one thing a day that we are thankful for on the tablecloth.  Any dinner guests we have during the month will be invited to join in as well.  And, as days pass and the notations multiply we will have an amazing visual of just how blessed we are.

If my kids were a little older I'd go with a nicer tablecloth, but with the tiny tot in the house I'd be a fool to think we won't have several spills :)  The party aisle plastic will wipe nicely and no thanks notes will be lost in the process. It's the meaning, not the look.

One of my favorite Proverbs is "Above all else, guard you heart, for everything you do flows from it" (4:23).  I earnestly believe that in intentionally focusing our heart on noting the many blessings we have the natural outflow of that will be a more grateful life.

And I want that for everyone under my roof, don't you?

Now, as for how I'm going to break Ava of writing on tablecloths after this month, I am not sure. Suggestions welcome :)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Dear Daughter, Let Me Tell You A Little Something About that Beauty Commercial

I’m emptying the dishwasher when I hear the beauty defying cream commercial begin to play. My girls, eating their cereal while watching innocent children’s programming, hear promises of younger looking skin in an effort to resist the clock.

“Mom, do you use that stuff?”

Grace, old enough to be in tune to the inferences of these commercials but young enough to still take a “guarantee” at face value, wants to know.

“Nope.”

“Why not?,” she instantly inquires.

I pause to give Jesus time to return and gift me a get out of jail free card. He does not.

Teach.

 


As a mother in the trenches facing worldly Goliath’s, I fill my lungs with air, hoping that infused in the oxygen will be the answer made simple. My heart knows this tiny question has huge ramifications.

“Well, I like make up and, when you’re old enough, you can wear it too, if you wish.”

I’m not anti beauty products, and it’s critical she hear me say this because I don’t want her to think that it is the actual cosmetics that are the enemy. Like most women, I apply some make-up every morning. And, as the mom of girls, I can already imagine fun bonding times in front of the mirror. My mom applied my wedding makeup. A moment I will forever hold dear.

“But, just because they say that a product will do something doesn’t mean it actually will.”

Nobody in the commercial mentioned that 75% of new beauty products on the market fail. To do so would make us question these promises they are touting and we are buying hook, line, and sinker. American’s spend $426 billion dollars a year in beauty and personal care .

“Sadly, people try and make a lot of things in this life sound really good to make you think something that isn’t necessarily true.”

Like our “need” for the products. Knowing that all women have to wrestle with the beauty issue, brands have now gone so far as to prey on our insecurities to secure their profits. In a new study to “identify when women feel most vulnerable about their appearance throughout the week in order to determine the best timing for beauty product messages and promotions,” mornings were found to be the time females feel the least beautiful. It follows then that this would be a prime time to lure us in and explains why my children saw the ad when they did. Isn’t that nice? Beyond that, teenagers, who will arguably struggle most with this issue, wear a target. During television shows most often watched by teen girls, 56% of commercials used beauty as a product appeal. There isn’t a concealer in the world that can cover up what lies beneath the timing of these ads.

“Grace, the thing is they try to tell you you need these things to be beautiful and true beauty comes from God not from any cream in a bottle.”

And that is what I am anti – the enemy is found in the message that...

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Don't Miss the Diamonds


This past weekend I took my annual trip to Women of Faith.

I did some power shopping, ate life-changing food with a very special group of ladies, and listened to moving messages and powerful concerts that dusted off the weary places and polished what was already shining to nurture an exchanged life. 

I’m always certain I will enjoy myself.  I’m never certain how God will shake me.

Sheila Walsh took the stage Friday night with story of her childhood. “When I was young I used to love to walk along the shore after a big storm and find all the treasures that washed up.” Paralleling it to storms in our own life and the riches placed by the One who knows our story and loves us through it, she went on to communicate, “One time I even found an engagement ring.”

The visual got under my skin.

After an amazing Natalie Grant concert, we filtered out of the Xcel Center a huddle of women thinning in the night sky.

“I can’t shake what Sheila said,” I told my friend Carol as my feet moved on autopilot toward the hotel, “because really life is a storm. Not in the sense that there is always catastrophe or big problem, but just in the sense that we are busy and have a million things on our plate. I don’t want to miss the diamonds washing up in my everyday because I’m so focused on all the things, ya know?”  She’s a sweet friend with a steadfast spirit and I had to know, “What stuck out to you tonight?”

And then from behind a woman we did not know fused herself into our conversation. Although the only light to be found was from the streetlamps above, there was an undeniable moisture glistening in her eyes. 

“My daughter-in-law arranged this trip for her and I but she was just diagnosed with breast cancer that has metastasized to her liver so she can’t be around the crowds because she’s started chemo.”Alone and saddened by the swelling waves of life, she gently unfurled her story. Blessed to be invited somehow in, I asked for her daughter-in-law’s name so that I could pray. She happily gave it to me, and then parted ways with the smallest smile on her lips. 

SLOW DOWN. PAY ATTENTION. God smacked me upside the head.

It was a diamond moment honestly made easy for me because I was in a setting stripped of my normal life schedule and demands.  The only thing on my mind during this yearly trip is Jesus and drawing nearer.

“So how do I transpose this desired awareness from the bubble of a faith conference to the surge of everyday life?” The call/question rolled off my lips to my group.

God makes himself fully available to me but do I make myself fully available to Him? The honest answer is no.  Sometimes in my routine I’m guilty of tunnel vision.  I get so caught up in the chaos of human experience to make life roll smoothly that I lose sight of the treasures intended to make life richer.  

Will we see the diamonds or walk on by?

I’m working on it…

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Friend, What Did You See In That Selfie?

Friend,

I noticed you just took a selfie. Can I ask what you saw when you looked into it? Don’t worry. You’re safe with me.
 
 

This world is rapidly changing.  Gone are the days of planned picture sessions with dropped off film in a bag whose results remained a mystery.  Now we are a 24/7 ready people with cameras on our phones and our phones always on us, creating mirror moments all the time.  The outcome of this change is a mixed bag, at best.

Selfies can be so much fun. I love their ability to capture any moment in time. I love how I can actually appear in a photo or two with the fam because before I was always the one taking them and rarely actually in them. :) These documented, unplanned photo moments make for a better scrapbook of life, and that is awesome.

But there is the flip side. The ugly side when we gaze into our phone screen and see ugly in us. I am a faith-filled woman but I still live in human skin. Maybe if I just changed my angle I’d look skinnier or if I lower my chin my nose look better or…you fill in the blank with whatever critique just ran through your head.  So one picture turns into another picture followed by more critique and then another picture until the quest for imagined perfection blinds you of all the beauty staring back at you.

A light-hearted, random moment gets twisted into something frustrating and staged. Because we take the picture often with intention of posting it and since we want people to like what we see the purity of the moment can morph into an acting job complete with filters as our airbrush. 

Do you see yourself in that picture, friend? Or are you a character?

Social media pushes us to the seek the approval of many when we’re really just here to gratify the heart of One.

And He says,


Child,

I KNEW YOU BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN YOUR MOTHER’S WOMB. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN I SET YOU APART.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes” 1 Peter 3:3

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

So Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

 For we are God’s masterpiece.” Ephesians 2:10

“Be strong and courageous.” Deuteronomy 31:6

“YOU ARE ALTOGETHER BEAUTIFUL, MY DARLING, THERE IS NO FLAW IN YOU.” (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Love, God

Paint your moments, friend, not an image.  For you have been uniquely crafted by the Maker of it all.  This world of technology has changed things but it doesn’t have to change us.

As you read this today please know I’m praying over you.  And, if you’re a tween/teen who has found your way here, I ask a special hedge of protection around your heart.

May we all live boldly as our authentic selves and redefine beauty along the way. 

 
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Monday, October 6, 2014

What Does a Purity Ring Say, Anyway?


Mom, Can you come in here? I think there’s a mouse in my room. A Barbie just fell.”

For the record, I hate mice and if I had any fear there actually could be a mouse I would’ve sent my husband.  But, with a history of zero mice in the house and a brimming over the top of the basket Barbie collection, my confidence in the situation led me right into her room.

“Honey, there is no mouse, “ I assured.  “Were the Barbies piled high over the top?”

“Yes”

“So do you think it’s reasonable that you accidentally just knocked her over getting back into bed?”

“Ya, that makes the most sense.”

I thought our conversation was done and pivoted to exit the room.

“Mom, how do you know who you are going to date? I mean, you can’t just be walking around and then all of a sudden be dating.”

Why do these conversations always come from left field? Weren’t we just worried about a mouse?

She loves 19 Kids and Counting and on recent episodes Jill is preparing for marriage.   Knowing this was going to be a longer chat, I crawled into bed beside her.

“Long before you date any boy you think about the qualities you want in a date.  Things like knowing them well, that they love Jesus, and that they treat girls nice… because you only want to go on a date with someone that respects you and dad approves of. It’s important to be slow and selective.”

“I know some boys who love Jesus and treat girls nice in my class, mom,” Hannah pipes in from the top bunk. “Should I start a list of potentials for when I’m older?”

That girl is always good for comic relief and, while it came from a true place of sincerity in her heart, I was grateful for the laughter it bubbled, lightening the moment.

“You can wait, Hannah. We aren’t dating anyone before we’re 16.  You’ve got some years to focus just on friendship.”

I’m ready to go but the wheels are still clearly spinning in Grace’s head.

“So if you’re careful about who you date then how do you know if the person you date is the person you are supposed to marry?”

She’s N-I-N-E! I know this is the planting of seeds and falls directly into the lap of my work but I’m still a normal parent, desperately praying to get this right.

“That takes time too.  And a whole lotta prayer.  As you date and talk to God and that person about how you are feeling God shows you if you are better together. Your dad is my best friend.  We love being together but we also strengthen each other in tough times or when we are sad, and he inspires me to live for God in all the decisions we make. God gave me a ‘for sure’ feeling that I didn’t want to spend a day without him.”

“Okay. So when should I be married by?”

I smiled through the darkness at the innocence of a curious little person trying to figure out what makes a fulfilling, successful life. “Not everyone gets married. The best life comes in living for The One not in finding someone.  You just need to listen to His voice and trust it always because God has a plan for your joy and ignoring what He desires for you always leads to pain.”

“Alright. Thanks for the talk and picking up my Barbie.”

I exited their room and promptly rewarded myself with a huge peppermint patty stuffed chocolate cookie bar.  Holy cow did I deserve it and boy was I thankful to return to the mundane folding of the laundry.

However, as I folded, I peered into their room.  Two tiny little heads, crazy hair all over their face, who mean the world to me.  Two girls I wish I could shield of every pain.  Two girls I pray never settle.

So what of the purity ring thing?

Like many of you my husband and I intend to one day have special one on one dates with each of our girls to accompany the “big talk” and gift them with a reminder of their value, giving object permanence to the importance of their life, body, and purity.

But, why?  What is the end goal of these rings, necklaces, or whatever we choose?

 
 

And God makes very clear ALWAYS POINT TO ME.

In a world of Barbie and Disney where happily ever after most often comes in the finding of a spouse we need to be mindful as parents that the underlying messages and giving of these somewhat common gifts doesn’t sell self-completion through marriage.  To do so is to set some of our children up for feelings of failure and it makes their primary focus finding “the one” instead of keeping a steadfast mind on “THE ONE” who truly has their best at heart.  Motivation is found in the flesh rather than experiencing true reward in the Spirit.  It sends the message, “I am not complete until…” 

I never want that for my girls and I’m quite confident you don’t want that for your kids either.

So it is with that in mind that one day we will present a gift with the message, “Wear this as a reminder of The Bridegroom that loves you more than any human ever will.  Trust in His heart and his boundaries and live for Him because then eternal fulfillment will be yours.  Please wear this as a reminder that you ARE whole.  And if, one day, a man of God blesses your life, take it off for the ring symbolizing a life committed to jointly serve, but always keep this as memento of who you are.”

And then I shall promptly reward myself with dessert once more J

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I Love These Faces {Family Pictures 2014}

My girls love to get their picture taken.  When they play house, one of them is often "Michelle" with a V-Tech camera in hand :)  Needless to say, when the calendar date actually read, "pictures with Michelle," they were squealing with excitement.  We gussied up, headed to the park before sunset, and I can't stop smiling at the personalities perfectly captured...

Grace - 9



Hannah - 7



Ava - 3


And this



I love these faces!
 
 
Our girls are no longer babies.  I look at these stunners and yearn with everything in me to protect their innocence and keep their inner light aglow.  Navigating that in today's world will be a challenge, but God has set on my heart discussing a few of those issues this month.  I hope you'll join me!


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Who Is Your Solomon?

I open my Bible Study and begin to fall in love with him. Solomon, a king whose leadership I’ve somehow missed in all my years, is only a child when he takes the throne, but his wisdom bears spiritual fruit I want to eat of.

In a dream, God grants him opportunity to ask any one thing he wants, and Solomon’s answer is, “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).

It is granted and this wise leader immediately stands out amongst the rest because his motives are different from the rest. Humble rather than heady, Solomon became a vessel. “From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom,” Lucado & Frazee write (The Story), leaving inspired, enlightened, guided, and stronger in the faith. Even when the queen of Sheba tried to test him, he remained steady. In Solomon’s presence people seem to feel the presence of the Lord.

Enamored, I drive to study and join my gal pals around the table. “Can you imagine a leader guiding like this? Whose desire above anything else is to know God’s heart and act accordingly?” I ask.

So often we shake our heads and bemoan what we see in the world around us. Messes feel too big. Hurt runs too deep. And, we just want to throw our arms in the air pleading, “Jesus, come.”

And He reminds I have, and I am.

“Is there anyone you admire in this way?,” I dare inquire. A leader who seeks God first, becomes a magnet by virtue of their acumen and whose warmth is as inviting to the spirit as the coffee I’m sipping is to my soul.



And I immediately identify a Solomon in my life.

She opens her mouth with wisdom & on her tongue is the law of kindness. Proverbs 31:26

This person sits on a throne of sorts, though you will rarely find her there. In this woman’s life...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

{No Bake} Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

You guys! I opened my Delicious Desserts Pinterest board the other day and tragedy struck.  One of our family's favorite desserts linked to a different dessertThis cannot be.  My mind raced.  I mean, how could this and my hand-held frother die in the same day?  It's like the taste bud happiness gods were against me :)

Obviously all recipes that increase to life satisfaction still need to be on good ol' fashion recipe cards.  This one included.

Since everyone is busy but can always use a tasty, simple recipe in their back pocket, today I bring you a link that will work and not change.  No siree. 

These tiny delicacies are no bake, no egg, no time consuming goodness perfect for school birthday treats, parties, or a simple family movie night.

But, be warned, they won't last long!



Ingredients:
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
6 ounces miniature chocolate chips
chocolate flavored microwaveable almond bark

To make:
* cream the butter and brown sugar together
* blend in vanilla extract and flour until smooth
* mix in miniature chocolate chips
* roll into 1 inch balls and place in fridge
* melt as many almond bark squares as desired (I use 3 per batch)
* remove balls, drizzle chocolate on top, and place back in fridge to set


I typically make my balls slightly smaller than an inch and yield approximately 50 treats.  A lot of delicious in only a tiny amount time.  I like it! And I'm confident you will too :)
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to Throw the Best Cupcake Theme Birthday Party in Town

Three words. Oh. My. Cupcakes.

Yep. That's your answer.

This week is a big birthday week in our house. Grace will celebrate her golden ninth and Hannah turns seven. When talking about their theme idea - and this has been a carefully considered discussion since basically the first of the year - they landed on a cupcake theme.



Because they love Oh My Cupcakes, a local Christian based company whose mission is "To shine God's love and make people smile...with cupcakes," I called and was blown away by how awesome they were to work with.

These party kits were just $8 a box. 



Along with a two full size cupcakes, each child was able to pick their own sprinkle, candy, and icing color, making each box custom and special.  Just like the girls.  Grace and Hannah's had candles to add extra spark to their celebration. 

Much to our surprise, the space was decorated for our girls.


 




We loved the warm feel it gave the room and felt so blessed that they went this extra mile to make our girls feel valued.

As if they hadn't done enough, Oh My Cupcakes allowed us to borrow their pin the candle on the cupcake game so I didn't have to make one.  Good thing because I couldn't make one nearly this cute.



I also printed off this free Birthday Bingo download friendly for all ages to play



As a fun transition game to get the girls back to the table for the cupcake fun.

They decorated in style with these very fitting headbands I found on Target clearance,


And they moved their heaping tubes of icing to create cupcakes with their own unique flair.  Once all the cupcakes were finished, the girls went around the table to display their design and share what they named it.  We had everything from the elegant "Winter Wonderland" to our three year old's "Poop."  We Nesdahl's know how to keep things classy :)





It was most definitely a good time had by all.  And, to top off the joy found in sharing time with their besties, Hannah's kindergarten teacher, affectionately known as her "second mom," came to join in the fun.  She's the best. I wouldn't be surprised if Hannah invites her to be in her wedding someday.  Not. Even. Kidding. 
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