Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Mended by Angie Smith

As the familiar saying goes, “Nobody’s perfect.”  While this is certainly true, it can be easy to misinterpret this to mean that I am hopeless, a lost cause.  If I’m already a failure and nothing I do can help me, what use is there in trying?  Of course not one of us walking on the earth today is perfect and we are all, in fact, broken.  We struggle with shame, shortcomings, vices, and a pile of other sins that leave us feeling like a shattered vessel.  It is this image that Angie Smith uses in her devotional book Mended to represent the life of the believer who comes to Jesus feeling destroyed, useless, and disappointing. 
Smith begins her book by describing a bit about her experience of smashing a pitcher and then painstakingly reconstructing it piece by piece.  When the glue had dried and its previous form achieved, Smith realized that each of us is like the broken pitcher, imperfect and flawed but re-created in Christ into something new.  He doesn’t magically morph us into an earthly version of perfection, but instead meets us when the pieces are scattered and helps us rebuild a life where his grace can be seen through our weakness.  The image of the shattered pitcher becomes a metaphor that Smith returns to again and again through the chapters of her book.
Each chapter is derived from Smith’s writings on her blog, Bring the Rain.  She revises the entries into a more devotional-friendly style so the reader isn’t left feeling like they are just scrolling through a website.  Her writing is detailed and personal, frequently challenging the reader to thinking critically about their heart, their struggles, their fears, and their questions.  She doesn’t pull any punches, to be sure.
Smith clearly experiences her Savior and her faith in a very physical way.  In the chapter entitled The Scarlet Cord, the author describes how she refocuses on Christ by imagining him right in front of her and in her mind’s eye she reaches out and touches his face, the thorns on his head, the terrible wounds that cover his body that he endured for our sake.  Moments like this were very powerful for me to read, but difficult for me to relate to, not because it was written poorly (quite the opposite!), but because I just don’t experience my faith in that way.  On the other hand, I love the way that Smith pulls out events from the Bible such as Rahab in Jericho, Lot’s wife, and Peter stepping out of the boat to help the reader identify with the people who appear in God’s Word.  Smith also uses several anecdotes from her own journey, from her painful experience of losing her infant daughter to her ability to learn a truth about God from pulling weeds in her lawn.
Angie Smith truly has a gift for writing to women.  She connects with them with Jesus in a way that not many can.  I underlined a lot of passages and made several notes in the margin to re-read when I’m feeling insufficient, undeserving, and too broken for God to fix.  I enjoyed this book very much and I definitely recommend reading it slowly and purposefully, with a journal and a Bible at the ready because Smith provides several opportunities for deeper study and meditation.   

Saturday, December 29, 2012


So check out what Thomas decided to start doing on Christmas Eve.  No joke, kids.  This boy was fully capable of taking steps here and there for quite some time now, but it was like he just all of a sudden figured, "Know what?  I'm going walk now."

And just like that we have lost our baby and gained a "walker."  Not a "walker" like man-eating zombie "walker," but a somewhat in between baby and toddler kind of walker.

I'm going to be quiet now and go have some coffee before I attempt to blog in a coherent fashion, K?

P.S.  Happy New Year!  (I'm hoping to drop in again with a cutsie little post before the ball drops, but we shall see.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Break

We're getting ready to celebrate Christmas with our family, so we'll be taking a little blog hiatus until after things settle down a bit from the holiday.  Here's wishing you all safe travels (if you're going anywhere), wonderful fellowship with friends and family, and delicious food! 

May the miracle of Jesus' birth fill you with joy!  Talk to you soon!

Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let it Rain?

Yeah, so our schools were cancelled today due to weather.

Ummmm....huh?  Folks, I live in WISCONSIN.  When our schools close due to weather, it's usually because we are getting dumped on with about a foot of snow or the temperature has plummeted so low that your boogers freeze inside your nose in the time it takes you to walk to the school bus.

But, RAIN?  What gives, Mother Nature?  Is this some kind of cruel joke?  I see Facebook photos from the little village we just moved from where my former neighbors are outside building massive snow forts today.  A friend of mine is going to walk to the Post Office today to mail her Christmas snowshoes.

Meanwhile, it rains.

My kids are a little bummed because they were really looking forward to this Snowpocalype that everyone told us was coming.  Instead of making snowmen and sledding, we are stuck inside.  Blech.  Actually, it's probably a good thing and here's why:

 My baby has pinkeye and an ear infection. 

If you need us, we'll be here.....listening to Christmas music and watching the *ahem* RAIN.  And administering eye drops and antibiotics.

What a strange day.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday - Pink Scarves Edition

I love scarves; scarves are my favorite.  Or is it smiling?

 Grey shirt - The Limited, Turquoise Cords - LOFT, Cute baby - My womb, Pink Infinity Scarf - Jaxon Jill Designs

I do love my two infinity scarves because they are pretty much foolproof.  Unfortunately, I haven't spent enough time on Pinterest to master the 248 ways to tie a scarf just yet, so I did end up with some moments like this.

I manged to figure out something respectable in time to whip together this outfit earlier this fall.

Mustard Sweater - The Limited, Purple Cord Mini - LOFT, Tights - Target, Boots - b.o.c. (gift), Scarf - I have no idea!!

Perhaps it's best I stick to my infinity scarf.

Ah....that's better.

 Green top - The Limited, Skinny Jeans - New York & Company, Boots - b.o.c. (via the genius of my mother in law), Pink Infinity Scarf - Jaxon Jill Designs

Pink scarves rock.  Amen.

Linking up once again over at The Pleated Poppy for some amazing fashion inspiration!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Project Life Tuesday - Week 37

The Mom CreativeWelcome to Project Life Tuesday!  The catching up continues.  My goal is to try to be a month or less behind by the time 2012 actually ends, so I'm really glad to be making some gradual progress.  My book is finished up to October 20th, so I should have plenty to share with you over the next few weeks. 

Is anyone else stalking Becky Higgins' blog to see when the Seafoam or Olive kits are going to land?  I'm going with Seafoam for 2013 and I am really looking forward to getting it in my hot little hands.

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

So, here is my Week 37:

This week, I had one insert (Design F) in addition to the two Design A pages.  I usually like to do things in as much of chronological order as possible, but the layout about the baby shower you see on the right just really didn't work to include in the previous week, so it got popped in here.  It will probably annoy me for the rest of my life every time I look at my book, but such is life.  :)

This is a great method to do with a Design F.  I use one big journaling card and number stickers to write all the journaling for every photo in a single place.  I included one 4x6 photo at the top, but just sliced it in half to make it take up two spots.  Then it was just all iPhone photos and Instagrams for the rest!  The Instagrams I printed at 3x3 and mounted them on some Cobalt cardstock to allow them to fit in the pockets.

Probably my favorite photo from this insert.  I just love this shot my cousin-in-law got of Aunt Maribeth and me laughing like crazy.  If you want to read the whole story behind this photo, you can get the scoop here.  

Thus concluded the out of order insert side A.

Here's the left Design A page:

Lots of iPhone photos, Instagrams, washi tape, and Martha Stewart labels here.  Nothing fancy.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love the fact that Project Life doesn't require anything "fancy" to be fantastic?!  Because I do.  Love that fact, that is.

Moving along.

This is the flip side of the Design F.  As you can see, I took a totally different approach then the baby shower page, but it still works!  I actually cut three 4x6 photos right down the middle to make 'em fit in this bad boy.  I also used a little Bubble Frame experiment in that left hand 3x4 slot and a couple Thickers for the "3!"

And here is the right Design A:

I swear, that whole purple theme showed up on this page completely by accident.  I love it when that happens.  :)

Woohoo!!  I'm this close to being able to share October with you!  Yay for getting caught up!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Running to His Arms

Sunday morning I cried during church.  Nothing much new there because I often get caught up in the emotion of worship and find myself unable to control the waterworks.  But today, I just got taken off guard and I was this close to having to sit down and compose myself.

As we sang this song to our Lord, I couldn't help but really dwell on the words.

You are good, You are good  
When there's nothing good in me  
You are love, You are love  
On display for all to see  
You are light, You are light  
When the darkness closes in  
You are hope, You are hope 
You have covered all my sin
You are peace, You are peace  

When my fear is crippling  
You are true, You are true 
Even in my wandering  
You are joy, You are joy  
You're the reason that I sing 
You are life, You are life, 
In You death has lost its sting
Oh, I'm running to Your arms, 

I'm running to Your arms 
The riches of Your love 
Will always be enough 
Nothing compares to Your embrace 
Light of the world forever reign

At a time when things look so dark and the sting of death is so sharp, we can look to Him.  As I raised my voice in praise (admittedly somewhat off-key), I imagined Jesus kneeling down with his arms wide open in a warm embrace ready to welcome those 20 children as they ran into his arms.  Nothing compares to his embrace.  It was just too much.  The image of those beautiful children running into the arms of their Savior had me crying.  I imagined the countless hugs I have shared with my sons and how heart-breaking it would be to lose them.  At the same time, I earn for the day when I too will run into the arms of Jesus, when I will never again have to experience the sorrows of this world. 

May we continue to seek him, even on days when the darkness seems so deep and God seems so distant.  

He is good.  He is peace.  He is still on the throne.  Be strong and wait on Him.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Rescue us from this world where men cause such pain and suffering.  

Speaking of embraces, I have spent a lot of time since Friday giving some serious snuggles to my loves.

Have a blessed Monday, friends.  In the words of one of my favorite preachers, "You are loved."

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Prayer for Newtown

There really isn't much I can say about the event that happened today because I'm having trouble even processing it in my brain, let alone having any success creating any coherent language to express how it makes me feel.  The idea that someone would target children just baffles my mind to the point of exhaustion and makes my heart break in a way I cannot describe. 

My hands were shaking for at least an hour after I heard the news of the shooting and I had a hard time leaving my house to go to work because I just wanted to cuddle my kids and never let them leave again.

As the details emerge and as the country mourns and slowly heals, I can only pray that this horrific tragedy will draw people closer to Jesus so he can gather them into his arms and experience their pain with them.  For God knows the pain of losing a child and He has walked this road before.  I won't sit here and say I have any inkling whatsoever what those parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and neighbors are feeling tonight. 

We may never understand. 

But we can pray.

Heavenly Father, this tragedy is just incomprehensible.  We will never know why this man did what he did or why such a terrible thing could happen to children.  Please be with those who lost loved ones today, children and adults alike.  The excruciating pain they are feeling tonight can only be understood and eased by you.  May we draw near to you and seek your comfort.  May we remember that you are still on the throne.  The community of Newtown is going to need you desperately Father.  May you be their resting place, their sanctuary, and their healer.  Amen.

Hug your kids, loved ones.  Give 'em big fat kisses and tell them you love them to to moon and back.  Tonight especially, hold them extra special tight.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Book Basket and GIVEAWAY!

There's a wonderful idea floating around Pinterest to wrap a whole stack of Christmas books individually and open one every night as a kind of reading themed Advent.  I think that's amazing and I might give it a go next year, but for now I thought I might share with you some of our favorite Christmas books in case you're looking for some good ones to read to your little ones in preparation for the holiday!

I keep these books in that cute basket I found at Michael's (50% off!) nestled right next to the Christmas tree so they are easy for the kids to access and flip through whenever they want.  Granted, this leads to a lot of this:

But at least I know he's interested!

Elf on the Shelf - Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard about this one!  We got our elf last year and the kids just love running out every morning to find "Buddy."  Now, we don't really "do Santa" in our family, but our kids still like to read the story of the little elf flying back to Santa every night to report on behavior.  It just so happens that our elf is a special classification who reports directly to God.  (I know, I know.  We are that family.)

Llama Llama Holiday Drama - Shopping, sales, ribbons galore!  It's enough drama to send this little llama into a tizzy!  It's so easy for kids (and adults) to get swept away by all the "stuff" of the holidays and this cute little book is great for trying to take away all that drama and remind us to slow down and enjoy Christmas!

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad - We love love love the Little Critter books in this house and this one is no exception.  Little Critter wants so badly to do special things for his parents on Christmas, but they often end in disaster.  Nevertheless, they appreciate his effort and this funny little story always gets my kids giggling!

Bear Stays up for Christmas - This series of books is awesome.  From Bear Wants More to Bear's Loose Tooth, the simple rhyme schemes and darling stories make these instant favorites with my boys.  This story of Bear trying to stay awake to enjoy Christmas with his friends is just so endearing.  I love it!

Little Critter's The Night Before Christmas - Another Little Critter story!  This one just takes the classic poem and puts it in the setting of a Critter.  Adorable.

Olivia Helps with Christmas - My three year old picks this book pretty much every single night.  If you haven't yet experienced the Olivia books, RUN (don't walk for goodness sake!) to your nearest used book store and grab one.  They are wonderful!  In this Christmas tale, Olivia burns the cookies, chops the top off the family Christmas tree, paints a self-portrait, and belts out the chorus to "Angels We Have Heard on High."  Easily a top choice from our book basket!

You Can Do It Sam - A very sweet story about a little bear named Sam who bakes cakes to deliver to his neighbors for Christmas.  A cute reminder to spread joy this holiday!

God Gave Us Christmas - When a bear cub wants to know what Christmas is all about, his mama takes him on an adventure to discover how God gave us Christmas in the form of a little baby boy born to save the world.  I adore this book.  It's a great story about the true meaning of Christmas!

The Polar Express - No collection of Christmas books is complete without this story of the little boy who travels to the North Pole and received a silver bell from Santa's sleigh.  The illustrations are just gorgeous and my kids are enthralled by this tale.

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect - I have to thank Erin at Sunny Side Up for introducing me to this book.  It's so neat!  It's the story of a little tree in the Queen's forest who tries so hard to grow up to be perfect so it can one day have the honor of being the royal Christmas Tree.  Instead, it gives shelter to a rabbit, a warm spot for a wren, and food for a deer and its perfect form becomes flawed.  But in the flaws, the Queen sees beauty of the love of God.  A beautiful book.

Christmas Is Here - Another great choice for emphasizing the real meaning of Christmas.  All the words in this book come right out of the King James Bible and it is the simplicity of this book that makes it so wonderful.

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving - Please tell me I'm not the only one who has loved this bear family since childhood!  You can always count on Mama and Papa Bear to set their cubs straight when it comes to morals, behavior, and values.  Love it.

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas - A funny spin on the familiar poem, this one can be a mouthful to read out loud, but any pirate-loving kids in your family will think this one is a real hoot!

These three are all books I discovered at a used book store last Christmas that have found a home in our collection.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - I really don't think any explanation is required for this classic.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The story of the elf-dentist, outcast reindeer, and Yukon Cornelius.  I will always love this!

Clifford's Christmas - What's not to love about a big red dog who saves Santa Claus?!


Books always make an amazing gift, so I'm going to hook up one lucky reader with a copy of The Polar Express!
This is a brand new, hardcover copy of this Christmas classic, complete with an audio CD of the one and only Liam Neeson reading it!


TO ENTER:  Just leave a comment with your name and the state (or country!) you live in along with your all time favorite holiday book! 

EXTRA ENTRIES:  (leave an additional comment for each so you can earn extra entries!)
1.  Pin this Post on Pinterest - leave another comment with your Pinterest username so I can check it out!
2.  Tweet this Giveaway!  Just copy and Tweet: Share some holiday cheer and enter to win The Polar Express from @slkooiman at Arena Five!
3.  "Like" Arena Five on Facebook! 

Entries will be accepted until Sunday, December 16th so I can send you your prize in time for you to get it wrapped and under the tree.  Good luck!

UPDATE:  The winner has been picked!
That means our winner is....

I also like you on Facebook!!
Sarah Jo

Congrats Sarah Jo!  I will send your new book to you shortly!  :)  Thanks to everyone for entering!

Disclosure Statement:  The links to the books in this post are connected to my Amazon Affiliate account so if you were to purchase any of them, I would be given like a half a penny commission or some such nonsense.  Just wanted you to know.  :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday - I *heart* Jackets Edition

 The response to the inaugural installment of WIWW was very encouraging, so I guess I'm going to have to actually change out of my green Albanese's Bocce sweatshirt and pajama pants and make an effort to get dressed so I can take a photo of my outfit because (*gasp*) people are actually clicking on my blog and looking at what I wear.....

.....and telling me that I don't look like a schlumpy frumpy hot mess.

Motivation if I've ever heard it!

Now, forgive me because I had no clue I was going to be joining in on WIWW when I first started taking these photos.  Initially, I was posting these to Instagram before I left the house just to make sure I wasn't heading to the grocery store looking like a color blind circus clown.  I'll try to improve my outfit-wearing-and-sharing photo taking abilities as we progress here.

Moving right along....

Jacket - New York & Company, Tank Top - Old Navy, Jeans - Hudson from Macy's, Tote Bag - Gussy Sews, Necklace - Lisa Leonard Designs

Please ignore all the chaos that is going on behind me in pretty much every single photo, K?

I've discovered that I really love jackets!  I discovered these two little gems and I enjoy trying to pair different things with them.   The brown jacket above is lightweight enough that I don't feel overwhelmed, but gives me a good amount of warmth for fall or early winter.  I love how it helps create a waist!  And my Gussy Sews tote is one of my favorite items in my whole closet.  It doubles as a gym bag, diaper bag, going to the doctor and gotta bring the iPad LeapPad Leapster Explorer snacks water bottles and anything else to keep the kids entertained so they don't burn the place down bag.

Jacket - Target, Grey long sleeved shirt - The Limited, Modern Straight Turquoise Cords - LOFT, Flats - Target, Necklace - Lisa Leonard Designs

This is an outfit I would NEVER have worn several months ago.  The idea of wearing turquoise cords alone would have sent me into a tailspin, but pairing them with leopard print flats would have been out of the question.  That being said, I love this outfit.  It's so comfy and I was pleasantly surprised to see how petite it made me look. 

Linking up at The Pleated Poppy again!  I am just in awe of the fashionistas over there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Project Life Tuesday - Week 36

The Mom CreativeWelcome to Project Life Tuesday!  The catching up continues.  My goal is to try to be a month or less behind by the time 2012 actually ends, so I'm really glad to be making some gradual progress.  My book is finished up to October 20th, so I should have plenty to share with you over the next few weeks.  We also need to chat about our plans for 2013!

If you're looking for inspiration on what others are doing with their Project Life, you can check out my board on Pinterest and be sure to link up on The Mom Creative!

On with Week 36.

Simple layout this inserts!

Little mix of regular photos, Instagrams, and some journaling stickers.  I added quite a bit of text in Photoshop Elements before printing on this page.

My oldest went to his first day of 4K.  It was so darn cute!!!

Lots of Instagrams mounted on cardstock on this side.  The filler card in the second 3x4 spot is a freebie from Becky Higgins' website.

Hope you had a great week!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Got One! Just Bearly.

When I think about it, I'm surprised it took this long for Thomas to catch on to how he could really mess with Mommy during his monthly photo shoot. 

At the end of every month, I take a photo of Thomas sitting next to this Badger teddy bear and it has been so neat to be able to see how much he has grown.  Since he was born on the 31st of the month, it works out perfectly to record his monthly "birthday" as it passes.

This time, however, the little stinker was feeling frisky.

Can't really tell if he's trying to eat the bear or body slam him.

 Ummmm...Thomas?  Where are you?

 Only his foot is in focus in that one!

 I think he's going to try to hold the bear hostage, but I might be overreacting just a bit.

 Forget this, Mommy.  Teddy Bear and I will be in my trailer.

In the midst of all that mess, I was lucky enough to be able to discover this little gem:

It's a keeper! 

Here's how he has grown over the past couple months:

Love you, little fella!

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