Provisions

When we got back from this trip we were greeted by the squishing of our toes in the corner of our dining room carpet.

Somehow water had leaked into the house while we were away and soaked through the dining room carpet as well as part of our tiled pantry.

Personally, I preferred the squishing of my toes in the sand of the Bahama beaches, but whatever. :-)

The hubs pulled the carpet back and set up a fan and we thought we had it all figured out.

Until a few weeks later when I went in the pantry to pull out my craft bin and low and behold discovered a garden of mold growing.

This led to the discovery that the outside of our house had a bunch of cracks which led to the unveiling of more mold that stretched all along the left side of the kitchen which led to the ripping out of cabinets which led to the relocation of waffle makers and mixing bowls and utensil drawers which led to the entire pantry needing to be stored on the dining room table which led to my children thinking that our home was now a Grand Corral buffet open all day long which led to the realization that we had absolutely no money to fix anything which led to us contacting our insurance for help.

As much as the water damage and mold was a big pain, the prospect of getting some financial assistance to fix things up was kind of exciting.

So I did what anyone would do.

I started a board on Pinterest for a kitchen remodel.

I’ve always been pretty happy with our kitchen.  It’s old and it has some funny quirks, but they never bothered me.

That is, until I began pinning.

Then I became hopelessly troubled that I didn’t have granite countertops and 42″ cabinets.

Armed with the knowledge that our insurance adjustor was ‘busy working behind the scenes’ with the claims department, we visited Home Depot and started dreaming up our perfect kitchen.  I began praying that insurance would give us a specific amount so that I could get my granite countertops AND possibly throw in some updated appliances AND maybe have a bit left over to replace the carpets.

**You know, totally and completely not selfish prayers.**

7 weeks later and we received a call that our insurance would not be helping us.

Not one little bit.

And I found myself feeling kind of grumpy.

What about my beautiful new kitchen?  What about my stainless steel things?  What about my granite?

And the Lord whispered to my spirit,

“Insurance is not your provider.  I AM your provider.”

Talk about a swift kick to the knees.

I repented of my selfish prayers.  The ones that didn’t take into account all the people in the universe who live in homes with dirt floors and no kitchens AT ALL.

I thanked God for giving us all that we could ever ask for or need in Jesus Christ.

Then something amazing happened.

Over the next few days, a man at church approached my hubby and said that he felt the Lord telling him to help us fix the leaks on the outside of our house as well as help repaint the exterior.  Then another man approached the hubby and said he could help rebuild the damaged cabinets.  Then another man took care of all the mold.  Then a few friends showed up with casseroles.

Then a friend of my neighbor’s found out about my Summer Bucket List and told me she worked at Benjamin Moore and could give us paint for my beloved yellow front door.

And we found ourselves completely and utterly in awe of the Lord’s provision.

In reflection, I am so humbled by how quick I was to exalt money to a position that was equated with my happiness.  As if receiving a large sum of money would fulfill the deepest desires of my soul.

As if a double oven could even do that.

When I look around our home, I see my Father’s handprints. I see the dining table that my parents bought for us.  I see the bookshelves a dear friend in college gave to us as newlyweds.  I see the crib and changing table from a former student’s mom.  I see a playhouse from my mother-in-law.  I see a couch we bought for a steal because the manager felt moved to accept our offer.  I see a bed given to us from another friend.  I see a dresser that we found in the garbage.  I see the mirror that a friend bought for me as a happy gift when our baby was in the hospital.  I see the dresser that used to be my brother’s.  I see the piano given to us by a girl we knew at Florida State.  I see our bedroom furniture that belonged to my parents when they first got married.

Provisions.  Needs met.  Every single one with a story behind it.  A reminder of GOD’s faithful provision through precious, obedient people.

Like the Church as described in Acts 2.

That is the stuff that works itself into our souls.

So as we face these ‘trials’ – these fallen world problems – I’m trying to train myself to see things with eyes fixed on a different home.

A home that is way more perfect than any of the ones in Southern Living.

A home that won’t ever have settling cracks or mold or damaged cabinetry.

A home that is full of glorious riches far greater than a check from insurance.

A home that is eternally provided for us through the perfect work of Christ.

This perspective gives freedom to be patient while it looks like your kitchen vomited its contents all over the living room (going on week 8).  It gives peace in knowing that He sees what we need.  It gives overwhelming gratitude when needs are creatively met.

And it gives joy to be fully trusting in the One who knows best.

Which reminds me…  I picked out a color for our front door -

pure joyBenjamin Moore – Pure Joy #327.

:-)

- Julie

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Your Greatest Success (Is Not In a Selfie)

your greatest success

The other day I posted a photo of myself on Instagram and then found myself checking my phone every few minutes to see who liked it.

After about an hour, I decided that it didn’t get as many likes as I had hoped, so I took it down – a little ashamed and a little embarrassed.

Then I went on to obsess about what my next social media share would be and how to redeem that deleted fail.

Am I 13 years old???? :-)

No, but I am one who tends to struggle with being a people pleaser.

This part of my personality can be a great blessing because it helps me think about how I can love and serve people better.

But it can also become a curse if all I focus on is how to make people happy.

That’s why social media stuff can be dangerous for pleasers.  Sometimes we care too much.

Sometimes we get a little too focused on promoting ourselves because we like being ‘liked.’

Then our identity gets all tied up in what the people say.

We are often left with the thought – if the likes were not enough then I must not be enough.

And we feel like we have failed.

Ah, friends.

What if real success is something completely different than what our social media-driven world has to offer?

What if our greatest successes were the things that NO ONE on the planet could see in an Instagram or Facebook feed?

Consider Abraham…  Do you think Abraham would have stopped to post a selfie before almost sacrificing his son, Isaac, on top of Mount Moriah?

No…  His act was one of quiet obedience.  He didn’t share it with anyone but His Father.

And God credited that humble act as one of Abraham’s greatest successes.

What about Mary?  Do you suppose she would have snapped a shot of the opening of the cave before entering it to birth the Savior and hashtagged the photo #heregoesnothing?

No…  She quietly submitted to the Lord’s leading and entered that cave alone.  Only God, her husband, and some animals saw that precious choice.

Now think of your own successes – the quiet ones.  The ones that never pop up on a mobile device.

Like when you chose not to yell at your kids today.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you got up early to read your Bible and pray.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you sat with your child and built some Legos instead of checked email.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose not to wear the sexy shoes to church.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you decided to praise Him instead of be anxious.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you didn’t click that link to an inappropriate website or read that questionable book.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose contentment while standing in a room with laundry piles, stained carpets, and unidentifiable odor.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you made the effort to go to church even though it would interrupt the baby’s schedule.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you didn’t nag your husband but complimented him instead.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you decided that you would not compare yourself to that other woman.

God saw that as a great success.

Like how you took extra moments at bed time to read a Bible story and pray with your child.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose love instead of bitterness or anger or gossip.

God saw that as a great success.

God saw it.

Not your here today, gone tomorrow ‘friends.’

As we grow in the Lord our focus should become less about how to make ourselves ‘liked’ more.

Less about needing the approval of the planet to feel successful and good about ourselves.

As we grow in the Lord our focus becomes more about the quiet little things that only God sees because He is the one we want to make happy.

Lately I have been rehearsing this verse from Psalm 86:12 over and over in my heart,

“I will glorify YOUR name forever.”

Not my name.

Jesus’ name.

Jesus, who never posted about all his miracles.  Jesus, who didn’t take a selfie with the woman at the well.  Jesus, who didn’t throw his arm around the resurrected Lazarus for a quick pic.

Jesus, who was often trying to GET AWAY from the crowds.

Jesus, who after feeding thousands of people with just 5 loaves of bread and a few fish, quietly slipped off to pray instead of sticking around to hear how many people ‘liked’ his meal.

Because Jesus was more interested in hearing his Father’s voice of loving assurance, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” than being affirmed by the voices of the people (the same people who would inevitably be hungry again in a few hours).

Are selfies bad?  Is Facebook wrong?

No, we just have to be aware of our motives before making a post.

Then we remember to find our worth and value in Jesus, who didn’t just ‘like’ us, but LOVED us enough to die in our place so that we would never have to feel like failures again.

And that, sweet readers, is really and truly the only success that matters.

- Julie :-)

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”

Lyrics from Be Thou My Vision

Baking With Grandmommy

baking with grandmommy 1.jpgbaking with grandmommy1.jpgbaking with grandmommy 6.jpgbaking with grandmommy.jpgbaking with grandmommy 3.jpgbaking with grandmommy 5.jpgbaking with grandmommy 4.jpgbaking with grandmommy 7.jpgbaking with grandmommy 8.jpgWe spent a morning with Grandmommy (the hubby’s grandma) last week.

She didn’t freak out when the Happy Buddy flung sugar across the counter and all over the floor.

She didn’t mind that the snickerdoodles were shaped like baby carrots instead of melon balls.

She knew the importance for a little helper to push buttons like set the timer and turn off the oven.

She stayed patient even when it took about 5 minutes (and a few distracted trips to play with Legos) to fill up the measuring cups with Crisco or flour.

She let him have the first bite (and several dozen more).

She sent us home with 2 giant bags of goodies.  And a couple of pizzas.

She praised and encouraged and inspired my budding little chef.

She gave us memories to treasure forever.

She was a reminder to me that her and Grandaddy’s faith was what God used to inspire my father-in-law’s faith which was what helped inspire my husband’s faith which inspires my own and my boys’ faith every day.

I hope that one day I will get to bake with my sons’ children’s children (phew).

I won’t be as lovely or spirited as Grandmommy when I’m 86.

I will probably be bald, in a wheelchair, have no teeth, and look like a human raisin -

But we will make some pretty scrumptious snickerdoodles and we will talk about how great our God is.

:-)

Thank you, sweet Grandmommy, for your precious faithfulness.

This family knows Jesus because of it.

- Julie

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:1-2 (ESV)

On Being Your Hubby’s Friend

How to be a good friend to your husband. SO adorable!

In the beginning, the hubby and I were not too fond of each other.

He was a dark, brooding musician-type who liked to run orderly high school worship team rehearsals and be on time to everything.

I, on the other hand, was a bouncy, cheerleader-type who liked to burst into rehearsals late and maybe take over on the drums for a solo that echoed the great Muppet called Animal.

I drove him crazy.

He made me roll my eyes at all the taking-life-so-seriously.

We were 14 and 15 years old.

But one day I was riding in a van full of hair-sprayed JV cheerleaders and I heard a girl in the back seat announce that she was going to marry my now hubby when she turned 18 and I remember very distinctly smirking to myself and thinking,

“In your dreams, sister.  That boy is mine.”

Because somewhere along the way the hubby and I realized that our differences filled up the gaps we each had.

My bubbly personality offered him a fresh and positive perspective.

His wise and thoughtful manner opened my eyes to a much deeper and productive (and punctual) way of life.

Thus began the start of sending each other beeps in the middle of the night (remember beepers??? We had special codes and everything.  I feel old just talking about it) , lonnnnng conversations at the local coffee shop, and putting notes in each other’s lockers.

We became friends.

And that, sweet readers, is the foundation for a really great marriage.

But how do you stay friends with your spouse when you’re not in high school with lots of free time, endless amounts of energy, and stars in your eyes?

How do you stay friends when life gets busy, kids come along, finances are crunched, and you’re just so, so tired?

The hubby and I have pursued to stay each other’s BFF for the last 13 years – and while it hasn’t been perfect or easy – we’ve found these 7 thoughts to be super helpful along the way.

#1 – Have FUN together

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT)

We cannot let life’s stressors and schedules and the raising of children suck the fun out of our relationships.  We may have to put in some effort to go out and have fun now (like get a babysitter and then pay her $10,000), but it is always worth it.

And of course there’s always fun to be had at home after the kids are in bed.  Like drawing portraits of one another or playing with tin foil or having a jellybean tasting contest.

Or playing Strip Battle Ship. ;-)

#2 – Ears and empathy

“My dear brothers and sisters, always be more willing to listen than to speak. Keep control of your anger.” James 1:19 (ERV) 

You get together with your gal pals and you gab and gab about everything under the sun and usually there isn’t a moment where you’re like, “Um what did you say? I wasn’t paying attention.”

If your hubby is talking to you, LISTEN TO HIM.

Sometimes we complain that our hubbies won’t talk deep with us but maybe he’s just learned that we don’t think what he says is important.  For example, when he talks to you about the smaller things in life – like how his day was or what’s happening at work, do you have your computer open to Pinterest or are your fingers busy texting your mom or are you more interested in the interruptions of your children then what he has to say?  (I have regrettably done all of these things.)

Lock your kids on the patio for a few minutes each day and hide your phone on top of the fridge if you have no self-control like me and have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve who’s driving what kid to such-and-such activity.

And if he does happen to open up and share about something he is struggling with – like a tough boss, perhaps – don’t try to fix it.  Do what you do with your girlfriends and say things like,

“That is awful.  I’m so sorry.  He doesn’t realize the gift he’s got in you!  You want me to go rip his hair out?”

#3 – Take an interest

One of my girlfriends is an artist.  When I am at her house, I get excited about what new pieces she is working on or I fuss over something she just finished.  I ask if she needs help preparing for an upcoming art show.

I am married to a gamer.  My man loves his XBox.  So occasionally I’ll sit on the couch with him and watch the pandemonium that is happening on the screen and comment on how amazing he is to even understand where he is on the board – let alone know where everyone else is so that he can blow them to smithereens.

It’s really quite remarkable.

And I may not have actually scuba dived with him, but I watch all of his dive videos with great enthusiasm.

The point is, just like I make an effort to be interested in my girlfriends’ hobbies, I try to take an interest in the things my husband enjoys and vice versa.

I mean, the guy watches Gilmore Girls with me when I know he’d probably rather poke his eye with a fork.

#4 – Set some boundaries

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 (ESV)

Make sure that the friendship you have with your hubby is your top priority.

We have to be careful that we don’t build a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex who isn’t our spouse.

I really like the boundaries that THIS GAL and her hubby created to safeguard their marriage from inappropriate relationships and highly encourage every couple to discuss and implement them.

#5 – The little things

“Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10 (ESV)

I like to do lots of little things for my girlfriends to let them know I love them (like all of THESE IDEAS).

Since our hubbies are our friends, too, then we can also love them in this way.

Stick love notes in his pocket before work, send him flirty text messages, make him his favorite dessert, get his car washed and vacuumed, bring him a glass of water when he’s out in the yard working, greet him at the door happily when he comes home, put toothpaste on his toothbrush, laugh at his jokes, snuggle, say thank you like ALL THE TIME, change the wallpaper on his phone to a cute photo of the two of you, and everything on THIS LIST.

#7 – Cheer him on

“When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger.” Ephesians 4:29 (ERV)

Let’s say your bestie was getting ready to potty train her kid or go to Veggie Boot Camp with her picky eater.

As her friend, you would not be judging her methods.  Rather you’d be overflowing with verbage like,

“YOU GOT THIS!  I KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS!  HOW CAN I PRAY FOR YOU?  YOU ARE A WARRIOR MOMMY!!!!!

So when your hubby is trying to install dry wall for the first time, or dress your kids for church, or lead worship every Sunday, don’t judge his methods.

You’re on the same team.

Encourage him.

Be his cheerleader.

(And maybe wear one of those cute skirts for him while you’re at it.)

#7 – Accept each other – flaws and all

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at ALL times.”

Here’s the thing.  Marriage is made up of 2 imperfect people.  People who have baggage and annoying habits and sin struggles and, unfortunately, maybe even addictions.

A true friend can look past all that rubbish and remember who the other really is.

**Who God created them to be.**

Adam and Eve pranced around the garden together – perfect and free.  Companions in the purest form.  But when sin entered their sanctuary, they had to put on those awkward outfits made out of leaves.  Whenever they looked at each other those leaves must have been a painful reminder of their fall -

The Fall.

As they faced the brokenness of their new world, I would imagine those two had to regularly cup each other’s faces and whisper,

“Baby, I see past those fig leaves.  This is not who you are.  You are good, you are beautiful, and you were made just for me.”

If your marriage is struggling right now, dear readers, ask the Lord how you can start implementing these thoughts into your relationship.

Because the world (and quite possibly that Pinterest we were looking at while not listening to our hubbies) will tell you that your marriage needs more romance or more sex.  And while these things are super great and super important to relationships, it is more friendship that will help set the foundation for you and your husband growing close again.

And when you think about it, this man you married is really the only friend you have that you get to have a sleepover with every. single. night. of the week for forever and ever.

How to be a good friend to your husband. SO adorable!So make the most of it.

- Julie :-)

“You’ve captured my heart, dear friend.  You looked at me and I fell in love.” Song of Solomon 4:9 (The Message)

*Photo Credit – {{the amazing}} 1313 Photography*

Life In The Cow Car

Have you ever reached that point with your kids where all you can think about is going to Chick-Fil-A because at least someone there thinks it is a pleasure to serve YOU?

:-)

After putting the couch cushions back on the sofa for the 100th time, we booked it to that magical land of cheeky cows and selfless employees and an hour of peaceful mealtime and playing.

The second we hit the indoor play area, the Happy Baby began pointing to the top of the play structure where the white Chick-Fil-A cow car hung.  He pointed and grunted and waved his arms in desire to go up there.  I encouraged him to climb the steps, but knew it would be super difficult for him to do.

There was another mommy sitting next to me who also had 2 children running around.  She asked me how old the Happy Baby was.  I told her that the Happy Baby was 2 and watched her look over my boy for several seconds.

She said that her child was 2 as well and I followed her gaze to a bouncy blond-haired girl who could have probably squished my 2-year-old with one of her big toes.

I immediately felt insecure.

Compared to her strong and energetic daughter who was running around, climbing up the play structure and coming down the slide 4 times in the same amount of time it took mine to climb one step, my boy’s physical weaknesses were kind of obvious.

I found myself blurting out how the Happy Baby has a muscle weakness and that is why he was having such a hard time doing what came so naturally to her same-aged daughter.

While I sat fretting and comparing over in the corner, the Happy Buddy was racing up to his little brother, pulling on his arm, trying to get him to climb the structure and get to the white car he had expressed such interest in initially.

I told my firstborn, “I love that you are trying to help your brother do what he wants to do, but I don’t think he can climb up there, pal.  It is a lot of work for him.  Go play.  Your brother will hang here at the bottom.”

Because my kid is so obedient, he went straight back to pulling the Happy Baby’s arm, commanding his brother to climb up the structure with him.

It was starting to become a bit of an ordeal, so again I said, “Son, let your brother go.  He can’t get up there.”

As I turned back to the other mom, I overheard the Happy Buddy in the background saying.

“You can do this, brother!  You’re doing it!  Look at you!  You’re so strong!”

I glanced over toward the structure and saw the Happy Baby slowly climbing each stair with a big smile on his face as his brother coached him from behind.

Next thing I knew I was whipping out my camera and taking a photo of the two of them up in the cow car.

Later that day as I was putting the couch cushions back on the couch again and thinking about the mom at Chick-Fil-A and the Happy Baby’s victory, the Lord revealed something to me.

While I had been busy focusing on my son’s weaknesses, the Happy Buddy had been busy coaching his brother beyond them.

And you know what?  My sweet little boy doesn’t say much, but he hears EVERYTHING.

He probably heard me telling that mom about his ‘hypotonia’ and thought the same thing.

He probably thought he would never make it up that jungle gym.

His thoughts were limited by what I told him he could do.

Until someone came and told him otherwise.

When I tell my child, “You are weak,” he will more than likely think he is weak.

When we tell our child, “You’re a bad boy!” he will more than likely think he is, indeed, bad.

When we mention to the other moms at the pool, “My child is small for her age,” she might start feeling like something is wrong with her.

Or how often do we say, “He’s my wild child,” to everyone and anyone who interacts with us.

Even the toddler clothing industry doesn’t help us with the onesies and T-Shirts offering helpful phrases across the chest like, “Mommy’s Little Monster” or “Here Comes Trouble.”

Those kinds of words only set them up for a life of living at the bottom of the playground.

Or staying the monster his onesie says he is.

I’m thinking Gideon’s mom must have put him in a onesie that said, “Not good enough.”

Because Gideon thought he was the ‘weakest and the least in his father’s house’ when an angel of the Lord paid him a visit (Judges 6:15).

But God called him a ‘mighty man of valor’.

And with that encouragement, Gideon ended up playing a critical role in the deliverance of Israel from idols and enemies.

We must begin to view our children not as under the law of sin and death (you are a bad boy, you are weak, you are a monster) or what our world has cast as a standard for them (your child’s size, development, diagnosis, looks)  but view them as under the umbrella of God’s grace and love (you are a good boy who made a bad choice, you are a mighty warrior, you can do this – God is with you, you are a daughter/son of the King, you are beautiful, you are fearfully and wonderfully made).

Our call as mommies is to remind our children (over and over and over again) who they really are.

Who God tells them they are.

So when the Happy Buddy speaks unkindly to his brother, I try to remind him that that is not who he is.  I’ll say, “You are not a mean boy.  You are loving and you care deeply for your brother.”

When I ask the Happy Buddy to help me bring in the groceries, if he obeys (woohoo!), I will say, “Wow, you are a helper.  Thank you.”

When one of my kids takes initiative to brush his own teeth, put clothes in the hamper, clean up toys without me reminding them – and, let’s be honest, this happens about as often as presidential elections – I say with a boatload of enthusiasm, “You are responsible!

When we go to bed at night I pray prayers of thanks that my boys are learning to be obedient young men (even if we had a day of consequences and time-outs and mommy hiding out in the bathroom).

I always tell my boys before bed (something I learned from one of the video messages in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free study),

“I believe you have what it takes to be a great man and I am so proud to be your mama.”

And the Happy Buddy recently taught me how important it is to remind his little brother that he is STRONG in the Lord.

These kinds of words bring life and truth to my children’s hearts so that when they are faced with the jungle gyms of life, they won’t be stuck at the bottom believing that they don’t have what it takes.

So make it your mission to cheer your kids up the obstacles of this playground of a world.

the cow car.jpgBecause life in the cow car is pretty good.

- Julie :-)

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” Proverbs 10:11 (ESV)

10 Things I Want To Do This Summer

10 things i want to do this summer..jpgEvery Summer I try to put together a list of things I want our family to do (you can see our Summer Bucket List from last year HERE).

This year, though, I wanted to make a little Summer Bucket List for myself, if you will.

Because making tin foil rivers and figuring out the best recipe for homemade bubbles is awesome and all, but there are a few things I am interested in personally accomplishing over the next couple of months.

1. Paint the front door YELLOW.

I have been kind of obsessed with yellow doors lately (you can see some of the ones I have been pinning HERE).  If we somehow fall into some extra money this summer, it will be going toward this bright and happy project.

2. Dye my hair like Lorelai Gilmore’s.

Oh my goodness.  Gilmore Girls.  One of my favorite shows of all time.  Why, oh why did they have to stop after only 7 seasons?  I am making the hubs watch the entire series with me this summer (along with So You Think You Can Dance).   Every time we watch it, I drool over Lorelai’s hair color.  It’s like this deep chocolatey brown but with beautiful red highlights.  I’m feeling adventurous.

I am also secretly dreaming about getting my nose pierced this summer.

It’s quite possible I am having a mid-life crisis. :-)

3. Take the kids to the dentist.

I am HORRIBLE at remembering to brush my children’s teeth.  So I have been avoiding the dentist like the plague because I know they are going to punish me with disapproving stares when they see the evidence of neglect in my kids’ mouths.

Not to mention that I don’t like going to the dentist and haven’t quite figured out how to cast this particular person in a positive light for my children.  I used to tremble in the waiting room as a kid.  Not even the treasure chest or 152 flavors of flouride treatments could change my opinion.  And these days I am always getting in trouble for not flossing.  Also my last pregnancy apparently sucked every last bit of health from my gums, so my trips to the dentist now usually end up with me looking like a scene out of the Vampire Diaries and wondering what having dentures will be like one day.

4. Teach my kids to swim.

Another area of neglect is that I have not yet taught my kids how to swim.

And we live in FLORIDA, people.

Not a fan of all the time it takes to put sunscreen on squirming little people so we generally don’t go to pools or the beach that often.

There is an indoor swim academy right by our house, however, and they were offering this AMAZING deal for 4 swimming lessons so I snatched it up.  It’s time we get this figured out so the hubs and I can actually have fun at family swim parties and trips to the beach instead of playing Rock Paper Scissors to see who will do CPR if necessary.

5. Finish my Bible study.

I have fallen in love with Lysa TerKeurst and am eating up everything she has to offer.  I did THIS BOOK earlier in the year and now I am doing THIS ONE called What Happens When Women Say Yes To God.

Remember my post about The Prayer Chair?  Yeah, well, I haven’t been the best about waking up early these days, so my times with the Lord have been a little less consistent but definitely more creative.  5 minutes alone in the bathroom?  Let’s dig into God’s Word.  At a red light?  Let’s finish up Chapter 6’s study questions.

I’m hoping that the summer will be a bit more relaxed and I will be able to finally figure out exactly how to say yes to God. :-)

6. Respond to people who comment on Happy Home Fairy things.

I’ve been writing this blog since 2010 and I have been AWFUL at responding to all the sweet people (like my top commenters Debbie, April and Brandi, to name a few) who take the time to let me know they liked a post or printable or to just share an encouraging word.  I seriously read EVERY SINGLE ONE and they bless me MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW, but I have just never been able to figure out a good response groove.  Like if I respond to one, then I feel I have to respond to them all (even though there really aren’t a whole lot to manage).

I’m kind of an all or nothing kind of girl.  Like if I can’t remember to brush my kids’ teeth every day then I might as well not brush them at all.

Lately, though, I have been really desiring to grow this blog and I think one of the things that I could do better is taking the time to connect with my readers.  So, this summer I am going to do my very best to reply to every commenter.  Even the ones on Instagram.  And maybe Facebook. :-)

7. Get 10,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, I have this little dream of reaching 10,000 likes.  I wish I had more time to pour into social media things.  To be honest, I am AWFUL at writing status updates.  I feel like there are people who just think in status updates and are constantly rolling out these intelligent and inspiring words.

Not me.

It sometimes takes me hours (and several trial runs by the hubs) to come up with something that I think is worthy enough to be shared.  Plus, for the same reason I completely failed as an independent consultant for a home party business, I hate promoting myself.  I always feel like I am bothering people with stuff about… me.

I suppose if I bothered them they could ‘unlike’ me, but then I would just feel bad about that.

Maybe the answer here is that I am just not cut out to have a huge, exploding blog and should revise some of these summer dreams to be more along the lines of ways I can be a better mom.

Because clearly I spend too much time blogging and not enough time preserving my children’s pearly whites.

8. Go see a movie.

Man, when the hubs and I were in college we lived near a dollar theater and we went to the movies almost every weekend.  It was the greatest.

Then we had kids.

Isn’t it funny how going to the movies now seems like such a huge and expensive event?

But seeing a movie with my love is one of my fondest memories.  Especially in the summertime.  I love wearing a flowy dress and walking hand and hand through the parking lot after a good flick.  Possibly holding ice cream cones with our other free hand.

9. Soak up every minute with my kids.

I really want to be intentional about loving every relaxed-paced second I have this summer with my 2 little buddies.  I will be making the transition from part-time to full-time teaching in the fall so these next 2 months are going to be incredibly precious as we savor laid back mornings, running through the sprinklers (since they can’t swim yet), and having after dinner Dubstep dance parties.

10. Holding on to JOY when it gets hot.

Other than our trip to the Bahamas, we’ve been encountering a series of unfortunate events involving our house, our mortgage, water damage, mold, medical bills, insurance, my husband’s chronic back pain, illness, and job stresses.

Just the other day I said to no one in particular, “Are we in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?”

But then I quickly remembered that JESUS was in that furnace, too – right there with them.

And I vowed to walk in the same kind of trust and obedience as those 3 faithful men.

Even when things get hot.

And in summertime in South Florida, it’s kind of inevitable. :-)

So that’s my list.

What’s on yours?

(And if you answer this question by commenting below, I will reply to you – pinky swear.)

- Julie

Bahama Mama and Scuba Drama

photo (1) (1)I have never been on a fancy trip to an exotic place.

Pretty much any vacation opportunity that my family or my marriage has had in the last 30 years has been with Mickey and 10,000 over-tired children and their stressed out parents in Orlando.

But this week our church staff was offered the chance to visit a private island in the Bahamas and – here’s the best part – they could bring their wives as well.

BAM.  Whoever said that the penny-pinching life of being in ministry had no perks??

So we packaged up our children and sent them to grandparents and I borrowed a large, floppy beach hat from a friend and picked up a new book at Barnes and Noble and we hopped on an airplane that I thought might break in half about 25 minutes into the flight.

photo (2) (1)I also should mention that I had to buy a new bathing suit for this trip because after having 2 children I may or may not have, on a dark and bloated night, burned thrown away any item of clothing that uncovered my torso and thighs.

I was super hesitant when we arrived at the beautiful lagoon and the moment came for me to remove my swimsuit cover-up.

But there is something about the Bahamas that sort of sets your spirit free.

You know what they say (or maybe it’s just my husband?), “What happens in the Bahamas, stays in the Bahamas.”

I am fairly certain that this applies to my cellulite and underarm pudge.

While revealing my post-partum bikini body took some convincing, it took me about 5 seconds of toes in the sand to feel good about the fact that I don’t have to fluff pillows or be responsible for the incredibly exhausting task of coming up with meal ideas 3-4 times a day for 3 people that never seem to stop being hungry.

One of whom recently declared that he wants to start eating Paleo, but doesn’t like about 3/4 of Paleo-friendly foods.  {{sigh}}

Now one thing you need to know about the hubs (other than his recent dietary changes) is that he is quite passionate about scuba diving.

IMG_7339IMG_7344This passion is not a shared one, my friends.

Oh, I love watching his videos and seeing the photos from all his underwater escapades, but getting me to put on a trillion pounds of gear and then entrust my entire life to a rusty tank on my back is not exactly my cup of tea.

The hubs tried to explain to me some basics of diving like the importance of equalizing your ears as you descend and ascend and I was already overwhelmed.  I am not one of those people that can think about 100 things at once.  I’m sure I would get down there and see a pretty fish and think, “Oh, wow.  That’s pretty,” and then blow up my ear drums.

But I was bound and determined the 2 months prior this trip to be a ‘cool wife’ and engage in this activity with my husband.  I prayed and prayed that I would be able to get over myself long enough to come alongside my man in something that he loves with so much of his heart.

The only problem, however, is that I am apparently very claustrophobic.

I couldn’t even snorkel, people.  I thought I was going to DIE in that mask.

IMG_7417I wish I had a story of victory for you.  I wish I had a photo of me at 70 feet below sea level spearing a Grouper or wrestling a shark or looking wicked sexy in a wetsuit or something totally rad like that.

But the only pictures of me you will find from this trip are those where I am lounging in an Adirondack chair, getting burned suntanning, using a striped maxi-skirt from Target to cover my muffin top, and rooting my husband on from the safety of the sandy beaches.

I spent some time discussing this with the Lord because I had set some expectation in my heart that not scuba diving=bad wife and overall failure as a Christian to obey all those verses about not being afraid.  But He reminded me that our marriage vows didn’t really say anything about “to love and to scuba,” so I think I can still be a good wife without sporting a regulator.

As for the fear part, I just chalk it up to being healthy because, you know, I have kids waiting for me back home and I don’t want to get eaten by a shark.

IMG_7334We had a great time, but now it’s back to reality and repairing the leak in the outside wall of our house that soaked the carpet in our dining room while we were away, working on Home Loan Modification paperwork, and figuring out what’s for dinner.

Does anyone know any good Paleo recipes?

- Julie :-)

How To Dress Appropriately Without Becoming A Nun

How to Dress Appropriately Without Becoming a Nun - 5 questions to ask before getting dressed. This is funny and eye-opening!When I was in high school I went through a very, very short-lived stage where I found it incredibly thrilling and rebellious to wear a shirt that bared my midriff.

My best friend and I went out one night to a concert and I wore said scandalous top and felt so powerful as guy after guy took note of my belly button.

They probably also took note of the fact that I was the color of paste, had fifteen hundred pimples under my hair-sprayed bangs, and wore high-heeled sneakers that made me stumble every few steps and quickly gunned it in the other direction.

Regardless, it is no secret that God has made women to be lovely and beautiful creatures – even if some of us struggle with our weight, backne, and untamable hair {ahem}.

It’s also no secret that men like the way women look and can often struggle in a situation if a woman is anywhere within a 2 mile radius wearing something that exposes a lot of cleavage or thigh or earloabs.

Because my husband says if I wore a potato sack he would STILL be tempted to wonder what I might be wearing under that potato sack.

But while we are not responsible for what a man does in his heart after he has seen something attractive, we are responsible for finding ways to dress that please the Lord.

And when we love the Lord in that way, we love our precious brothers and help them not have to work so dang hard to look away.

It’s super important for you to know that I am not advising y’all to drop your closet of clothes at the nearest thrift store and go buy nun outfits.  Christian women can still look adorable and fashionable.  Thanks to my mom, I think I look pretty good most of the time.

And before you go thinking I’m somewhat of a prude, you must know that I like to make sure that I save all my scandalous clothes for behind the closed doors of my home with my beloved (wink).

But when I am getting dressed to go to work or church or the supermarket, I usually try to assess the appropriateness of an outfit by asking myself a few questions.

1.  Is it too tight?

If you can see the outline of your who-ha in it – it’s too tight.  The end.

2.  Is it too short?

We had an event at our church recently and I complimented a girl on her cute black leggings and she said, “Thanks!  When I got into this skirt I realized it was too short so I threw these on.”

Bless her.  I could have hugged her for taking the extra time and enduring another layer of clothing in South Florida heat for choosing to dress appropriately.

What a great trick.  Short dress or skirt?  Leggings.  Boom.

I’ve always followed this tip myself because my knees look like they belong to a 90 year old woman.  I’m doing EVERYONE a favor by not bringing them out.

But I encourage you not to mistake leggings as a suitable pair of pants.  Unless your shirt is long enough to cover your bum, this is generally not a good idea (refer to tip #1).

A few weeks ago I decided that I wanted to lure my husband into bed by squeezing into a super tight pair of leggings.  I fed our children, put them to bed and then walked out to the living room and in front of the television where he was sure to see me.

I did my best impression of a sexy purring kitten and bent over to, “Oops!” pick something up and at that point I thought I would have drawn him in hook, line, and sinker, but instead he let out a horrific cry and said, “WHAT IS ALL OVER YOUR BOTTOM?!”

Turns out I had fed our children peanut butter for dinner and had somewhere along the way sat in it.

3.  Is it see through?

I always thought of slips as something old ladies wore.

But, I’ve trained myself to think about it because sometimes that cute maxi skirt can reveal a sexy silhouette of curves when hit with the right amount of back light (something I am especially conscious of because I sing on the worship team every week at church where back lighting abounds).

Not to mention if you’re shopping for clothes at places like Wal-Mart (that would be me) then you know the quality/thickness of fabric is not going to be something that Ralph Lauren would be proud of.

Repeat after me – slips are your friend.

And so are camis.  There have been plenty of shirts that I have put on only to find that you can see my undergarments through and through.  Camis take care of this in a snap.  I like these ones from Gap.

4.  Will it distract?

I was recently lamenting with some friends about the time in high school when I was about to sing a solo in our Sunday morning church service and some well-meaning deacon thought it was a good idea to drop the air conditioning down to 62 at about the same time I was walking on stage.

At least that’s what it felt like to me and my nips.

Yes, you heard me.  This was the last time I was EVER caught walking around without a padded bra.

I highly doubt anyone was able to enter into worship with all the activity going on under my shirt.

5.  What are my motives with this outfit?

Romans 13:14 says, “But be like the Lord Jesus Christ, so that when people see what you do, they will see Christ. Don’t think about how to satisfy the desires of your sinful self.”

Often when I am getting dressed to go somewhere I can sense in my spirit the difference between whether I am wearing an outfit because my ‘sinful self’ wants to get noticed or if my heart is full of simply wanting people to see Christ in me (instead of my hot bod).

Which, I humbly admit, is somewhat stretched out and sagging these days.

But that is neither here nor there.

The point is, if you love Jesus, then you will want to honor Him in EVERY area of your life.  Including how you dress.

Because really the best way to look awesome is letting His light and love spill out of you instead of your boobs. :-)

- Julie

It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from inside you—the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That beauty will never disappear. It is worth very much to God.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 (ERV) 

**P.S. If you are a nun and reading this, I understand that these days you wear super comfortable and conservative clothing much like I am encouraging us all to do in this post.  When I wrote the title for this post, I was thinking along the lines of Sister Act.  Thank you for setting such a great example for us! Xoxo**

Dear Mom Who Has a Baby in the NICU on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom Who Has a Baby in the NICU.jpgDear Mom Who Has a Baby in the NICU on Mother’s Day,

I see you.

I see you sitting next to that incubator.

I see you mourning the loss of a dream you had – a dream that included a neatly packaged birth plan and perfectly perfect baby.

I see you leaving the hospital without a baby in your arms.

I see you shedding silent tears while the nurse adjusts your baby’s O2 levels.

I see you feeling insecure that the NICU staff appears to know more about your child than you do.

I see you carrying the heavy load of What if’s about your baby’s health.

I see you eating hospital food day after day.

I see you scrubbing and scrubbing and scrubbing every last germ and dirt particle and skin off of your hands (and wrists and forearms and elbows) sometimes several times a day.

I see you worrying that all that adhesive they use to hold his nasal cannula in place is irritating his skin.

I see you anxiously hoping that today’s nurse will be be a good one.

I see you looking around frantically as the room fills with more dings and bells than an arcade.

I see you learning words like pulse oximeter, gavage, C-PAP, and surfactant.

I see you pumping faithfully every 2-3 hours around the clock.

I see you trying to hide rocks in your baby’s diaper before the scale comes in so you can get home faster.

I see you becoming a pro at converting grams to pounds.

I see you feeding your baby through an NG feeding tube and wondering how in the world that could be comfortable for him.

I see you dealing with social workers and insurance people and doctor after doctor and feeling like your brain is going to explode from information overload.  Suddenly deciding what diaper pail to buy seems so insignificant.

I see you researching on the internet (which is generally not the best idea, but you will do it anyway because you are a mama).

I see you trying to balance time at the hospital and time at home with your other child(ren).

I see you bringing goodies to the nurses who care for your little buddy.

I see you making hard decisions.  Really, really hard decisions.

I see you trying to learn the names of the bazillion different doctors that are monitoring your baby’s health.

I see you wishing you could hold your baby, but sometimes there are just too many of those darn leads and respiratory equipment in the way.

I see you praying and praying and praying to go home.

I see you.

And on this Mother’s Day I want you to know that God sees you, too.

God sees you and wants you to know that He is with you.

He wants you to know that He is very familiar with the pain of watching your own child suffer.

And He wants you to know that motherhood is so much more than those perfectly perfect expectations we dream about and make Pinterest boards about for 9 whole months.

Motherhood is realizing that our babies belong to Jesus first – that He knows what is best for them.

Motherhood is holding those babies – ventilator and all – up to the heavens in total and complete surrender of will, much like Jesus did on the cross.

Motherhood is resting assured that IT IS WELL, even in the NICU.

Even in the NICU on Mother’s Day.

I am so sorry for your pain.  I am so sorry that your journey of motherhood began this way.

But I am not sorry for the lessons that being in the NICU has and is teaching you, sweet mama.

You are learning how to depend on Him wholeheartedly.  You are learning to be strong and courageous.  You are learning to rest in Him.  You are learning to listen to His voice.  You are learning to celebrate small victories and find peace in impossible circumstances.  You are learning to walk by faith and not by sight (or doctor’s diagnoses).  You are learning that God has the last word concerning your child’s future.  You are learning to trust Him completely with Desats and Bradycardia and X-Rays and the roller coaster life inside the walls of a neonatal intensive care unit.

So this Mother’s Day, dear Mom with her baby in the NICU, remember that He sees you.

He loves you.

He is drawing you closer to Him.

And He’s got this.

- Julie

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

**See my Top 10 Reasons Why Having a Baby in the NICU is Awesome HERE.**