The Seven Project: Intro

My small group just started a new study by Jen Hatmaker, called Seven.  This awesomely funny chick decided to shake up her family’s world by identifying seven areas of excess in their lives, and fighting back.  Each month, she chose a different area of excess to focus on.

Food, Clothes, Shopping, Media, Waste, Stress and Possessions.

Seven - Jen Hatmaker: My small group's journey to rid excess from our lives too!

So my Bible Study group decided to take the challenge with her, by following along and participating in the challenge each week {rather than month, like she did}.  Although technically, this was just the “intro” week for the group, Dave and I decided to start a week early, since we’ll be traveling next week and will have a hard time limiting our food.

So, for the first seven days, we will whittle our diet down to  seven items.  Total.

Chicken, pasta, lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, eggs and bell peppers.

This study comes at a perfect time…because all I can think about is “simplifying” lately.  On a daily basis, I’m horrified by the wasted food, unappreciated toys and plethora of clothes that compel me to think I have”nothing to wear.”  It’s quite sad.  And I’ve been fixated on it for awhile.  I stumbled across this article on Living Well, Spending Less about minimalism when it comes to toys, and it started snowballing from there.  So when my Small Group suggested this study, I went right out and bought Seven, and struggled to resist reading it immediately.  So I’m ecstatic to be jumping into this journey, and sharing it with you!

Stay tuned to hear the results of our version of The Seven Project: Foods!

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Breathing Room

I have a wonderful small group of women that I meet with on a weekly basis from my church.  Yes, we do Bible Studies.  But we also do deep conversations, laughter, rants, tears, and affirmations.  My Wednesday nights are what get me through the week.

Breathing Room - thoughts on Andy Stanley's study {Palmettos and Pigtails}

The study that we are currently doing is a video series by Andy Stanley, called “Breathing Room.”  We have discovered, as a group, that one of our biggest challenges and weaknesses is the lack of margin in our lives.  We ALL have a very hard time saying “No,” we are jamming as many activities, things and experiences into our lives as possible.  And for what?  Stress?  No sleep?  A messy house?    All for the sake of “keeping up” and “making the most of the time we have.”

In our attempts to make the most out of life, we lose control over what is important.  Our stress levels rise, our focus narrows…and so other areas suffer.  But it’s still so hard to give ourselves a little room to breathe.  A little less clutter.  We jam as much in because we have a fear of missing out on something, of falling behind, of not leaving a tiny imprint in our world.

Sad, but true.  I am a prime example.  I am a blogger.  A blogger that usually has a lot of photos in my posts.  I have three kids, whom I love more than anything….and I love to give them experiences and memories.  And, I love to document those experiences.  And although I don’t usually plan our family activities around the blog, I am always aware of opportunities to share about them on my blog.  So I really have to reel myself in from taking a million and three photos from every angle, and I have to consciously live in the moment…reminding myself to just enjoy the experience with my kids…not to worry so much about what I’ll write about, and if the lighting is good for photos.  Margin needed.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalms 90:12

The Breathing Room study is teaching us to cherish each moment.  One of the examples that Andy gave in the video, was to think about the little tiny blip of time that is our lifespan…when compared to God’s timeline.  Think about how fast our lives go and how quickly our children grow up, and then think about how fast it must seem to God.  Imagining the finite spanse of my lifetime makes me re-focus on what is really important.  The whole concept kind of blows my mind.

Remembering that our time is limited provides us with the wisdom to know how to spend our limited time
-Andy Stanley

Another pivotal moment in the video was the story of a woman who worked in Hospice, and asked people at the end of their lives what their greatest regrets were.  And the top two answers were, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” and “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to me, not what others expected of me.”

That second regret really hit home.  Initially, I’d say I don’t really worry what others think of me too much.  I’ve pretty much accepted the way I look, dress and act.  But then, digging deeper, I thought about my life in relation to how I portray it on my blog.  As much as I try to keep it real on here for you, there are certain pressures that I struggle to ignore.  I mean, I love Pinterest as much as the next gal, but  I have to admit that it does often make me feel a bit inferior to all of those crafty pinners.  The expectations for a blogger are high…in order to get paid, we are expected to have quality posts about stuff our readers care about…several times a week, with excellent photos, original ideas, and clean houses to stage everything in.  And thanks to Pinterest and Photoshop, that’s what a lot of you think our reality is.  I mean, who am I really trying to impress?

Family? Close friends?

Y’all know me better than that…you know that any clean surface of my home that is in a photo, really just has stuff shoved to the side {out of frame, of course}, that will resume it’s place as soon as the flash goes off.

Strangers who don’t know me personally?

Let’s be honest, most of them don’t care.  In fact…they probably aren’t even reading this because they didn’t find this post on Facebook or Pinterest.  There aren’t any pretty pictures.  And they don’t really care about getting to know the real me anyway.  They just want to know what my next project is.  So why do I feel so pressured to make them like me?  Golly….it’s like high school all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love that there are more of you than ever reading my thoughts on a weekly basis.  But I hope you want to know me.  And connect with the real me.

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Montreat 2014

My favorite summer tradition is going to Montreat, NC.  This tiny college town on the edge of Black Mountain and about 20 minutes northeast of Asheville is my Mecca.  Each summer the kids and I trek there to meet our oldest and bestest friends from Maryland.  They are youth councilors at the church we grew up in, and take their group of high schoolers to Montreat for the annual Presbyterian youth conference.

But luckily for us, the schedule at the conference is flexible enough that we get some amazing Betsy and Jay time while the teenagers are in their small groups in the middle of the day.

And now that my parents have moved to Florida, it’s really the only one reliable time that the kids get to see their God-parents!  I just love that all of our kids are so close in age….just wish they could spend more time together.

But there is another reason why I love taking the kids there each year.  It’s because of the actual conference.  The convergence of hundreds of teenagers from around the country.  Watching the interactions between groups of teens, participation in silly games, and getting a glimpse of their Christian journey is magical to me {especially since I lived it!}.   And I can specifically say that Betsy and Jay’s group of teens are “no exception.  My girls {especially Jayna} loooove the Big Kids.  She talked the whole way home about her new “Teenager Friends, ” Anna and Victoria…and how she wished she could stay longer to hang out with them.

Each year, I am tickled to briefly get to know these teens again {I watched most of them as babies when I was a teenager, volunteering in our church nursery!}.  I’m always amazing at how polite and caring they are, choosing to not only spend some of their free time with Betsy and Jay’s kids {who they know well}, but also with mine!

And sure, they are teenagers…so my kids get a little exposure to a little rough language, short shorts and rough play…but overall I feel just fine about having my girls look up to them.  And I can only hope my kids turn out just as well!

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The Bible Miniseries Giveaway

 Exciting news!  Have you seen the commercials for the new mini-series on the History Channel? The Bible will be airing beginning on March 3rd, and will be a 10 part mini-series.  The show will show events of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.  It will also feature some of the lesser known {but equally important} stories of the Bible….such as the stories of Rahab, Bathsheba and Joshua.

Bathsheba and the Baby from The Bible Mini Series

Bathsheba and the Baby from The Bible Mini Series

In addition to the series on television, they also have corresponding musical soundtracks, Bible studies, children’s books and apps.  The folks over at Grace Hill Media have been gracious enough to put together an awesome giveaway to celebrate this historic television event.

A Story of God & All of Us – Young Readers Edition

(Based on the mini-series, “The Bible”)

The Bible Mini Series Giveaway over at Palmettos and Pigtails

 “A STORY OF GOD AND ALL OF US is a sweeping narrative that dramatizes some of the most important events and characters in the Bible. The young reader’s edition of the novel contains abridged action-packed versions of the Bible’s most fascinating stories, featuring Moses, David, Daniel, John the Baptist and Jesus.   This edition includes an exclusive introduction by author Roma Downey and a photo insert including images from the companion epic TV miniseries “The Bible.””

The Bible Mini Series Giveaway over at Palmettos and Pigtails
I don’t know about you, but I am super excited about this mini-series…it’s been in my DVR queue for weeks now!  And I will be so jealous of the winner, because this is a great way to relate the mini-series to kids!
Mary reaching out to Jesus from The Bible Mini-Series

Mary reaching out to Jesus

A young David throwing water from The Bible Mini- Series

A young David throwing water

Want to see more?  Check out the video clips!

Remember, even if you have already done any of the entries {i.e. you already “like” me on Facebook} be sure to click on that entry because it totally counts for you!!  And please, please share this giveaway! (It  ends March 8th!)

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  I’m taking a few days off {away from the computer} to celebrate the holidays with my family!  See you next week!

Montreat 2012

Well, we are finally back from Montreat, NC and slowly getting back into the swing of things.  It’s amazing how even four days away can mess with your household!  Unlike last year, it was a beautiful week in the mountains….not too hot and no rain!  We shared my last post with the scrapbook photos with the high schoolers that Bets and Jay brought this year, and they loved it!  They were completely amazed at how I used a disposable camera (no retaking those blurry shots!), and at how cool the three of us were back then! =)

So, to recap…Bets and Jay are our best friends from Maryland.  They are our kids’ godparents, and their little Lulabelle is like our third daughter.  Betsy, Jay and I grew up together in our church, which they are still members of, and now the youth counselors at.  So they are continuing our church’s tradition of taking the youth group to Montreat each summer.  And since Montreat is just a couple of hours from us, the girls and I try to meet up with them for a couple of days while they are up there.  While the youth group stays in the lovely dorms at the college, the girls and I prefer the local Marriott!

And although Jayna did sleep in her own bed at night, this is what I awoke to each morning!

And since this trip was a first for Millie….I decided to bring and break in my brand new stroller.  Can I just say that it is awesome!  It has like 12 different sitting combinations, but the one we used was Millie in the front seat, Lulabelle sitting on the jump seat, and Jayna standing.

And Betsy pushing. Did I mention we were in the mountains?

We finally gave up on pushing all three girls, and put Millie in the front pack and made the big girls walk!

Jayna and Lulabelle were so stinkin’ cute together.  Jayna was all about playing the cool big sister….and although she is great with Amelia, I think she truely enjoyed manipulating helping Lulabelle…from buckling seatbelts for her, to convincing her that she liked pickles, to teaching her how to hula hoop!

And every year, the scenery just takes my breath away.  Lake Susan is like glass, framed by a baby blue sky and mountains.

Jay and some of the boys noticed huge fish sitting on some of the rocks at the bottom of the lake….tadpoles?  Man, they are gonna be some HUGE frogs!

But even the small details had me appreciating the scenery.  All of the buildings are stone, and they have gorgeous hydrangias around every corner.

I even caught this little inchworm hanging {literally} by a thread!

While the big kids were in small groups, we took the opportunity to spend some time with Betsy and Jay.  There is this cute little park at Montreat that has great playground equipment, and then several creeks running through for the kids to play in.

And although they tried hard not to get wet…both girls ended up soaking wet and laughing!

It’s a good thing Jay was willing to get wet too…that mountain water was COLD!

Now we just need to get Dave up here!!

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Attack of the Bunny Haters

So I was perusing my bloggy friends’ sites last night and came across Jon Acuff’s posting about Easter.  Now, I’m a bit biased since he is my BFF from Blissdom, but I really do enjoy reading his stuff.  He just has a way of grabbing your attention, and pulling you in to get a really great message.  In this case, here’s what grabbed my attention…and made me go to his site.

So at first, I was really afraid that this was Jon’s opinion about the Easter Bunny.  But, as I read on, it turns out a friend of his had gotten this picture as a POSTCARD from a CHURCH as an INVITATION to their EASTER service.  Hmmmm…as Jon pointed out, I really hope that the kids didn’t check the mail that day!

As a mom, I struggle with this concept as well.  I mean, I would never wish ill-will to any four-legged friend (especially a bunny….because they are just so stinkin’ cute!!).  However, how to integrate Jesus’ resurrection AND the Easter Bunny into one fun-filled holiday is a challenge.  Especially when you have a precocious three-year old who has a lot of questions.  Jayna and I had a little date yesterday afternoon.

We went to the playground and talked about Jesus.  She asked me about his life, what he looked like and who he played with.  We talked about how Easter is the celebration of Jesus  going up to Heaven to live with God and how much he loves us.  I told her that is the biggest reason we celebrate Easter, but that we honor Jesus’s life by celebrating all new life.  Which would include all things spring….flowers blooming, baby animals, etc.  We listed some baby animals, and she was able to make the connection between the baby chicks and eggs.  So hopefully I did a good job at trying to integrate both Jesus and the Easter Bunny while still keeping the emphasis on Jesus.  We’ll see, and I’m sure that with every year will come new questions!

But for now,  Jayna knows how much Jesus loves her (which is the most important thing for her to know right now, I think) and we can continue to be Bunny Lovers in this house too!

How do you deal with Easter Bunny confusion each year??

Spring in our Step

Happy Easter!  What a wonderful week we’ve had in preparation for Easter.  My parents came in late last week to enjoy the Flowertown Festival and the beach with us.  Luckily, the weather has been beautiful (some showers, but mostly cloudless skies and 80 degree weather), so we were able to spend a lot of time outside.  Jayna has always loved the beach, and I think Amelia will end up being a fan as well!

Although we don’t usually decorate for Easter, we di add a few Spring touches around the house.  Of course, there was the paper wreath I made, but I also added a Hydrangea and  Easter Egg centerpiece in our dining room.

And despite our diet, I also made Zucchini Cookies (without the frosting, so they are healthier!!)  And some chocolate covered strawberries for Jayna’s Easter party at school.  Jayna did her part by bringing home some lovely Spring-themed crafts, including dyeing eggs at school!

I also have been busy finishing the bowling ball for Jayna’s Easter Bunny Bowling Set, and making a taggy pillow for Amelia.

And of course, the true reason for the season….Although they mostly just cover Jesus rising and the celebration in school, Jayna had a lot of questions about the cross this year.  I didn’t really think I needed to go into too much detail yet, as she is so little and so sensitive.  But I did tell her that the cross is a symbol of Jesus’ gift to us.  He died so that we could live and be forgiven.  She seemed to kind of get that….she said, “like when I am bad and then I say sorry, you forgive me and God forgives me.”  So I left it at that.  We went to the playground and got some sticks to make these little crosses.

But, little girls will be little girls…she was still really excited to see the Easter Bunny too!  Jayna got to participate in three different egg hunts….one with her class at school, one with the church and one in our backyard.  The church’s celebration also included a visit from the Mr. Bunny himself, and a delicious spread of cookies!

Jayna was very concerned about all of the gum and other choking hazards, so I assured her we would leave them for the Easter Bunny, who would swap them out for kid friendly candy.  And sure enough, he left eggs filled with jelly beans all over our yard!  He also left tracks all over our house!

After a heavy scrutinizing, we discovered the tracks lead to the girls’ Easter Basket!  Filled with Bunny Bowling, Easter Veggie Tales, a taggy pillow, and a couple of Reese’s Peanut Butter Bunnies.  Jackpot!!

What was in your Easter Basket?

Happy Easter!!

Happy 3rd Birthday Jayna!

Dear Jayna,

It is hard to believe that you are three years old today!  I remember when you were born…you were such an easy baby!  You smiled as soon as you were born, and Oh! Your hair!  What beautiful hair you have always had!

You were so good to us newbie parents, sleeping through the night and eating well!  I had people stop me all the time out in public to compliment you.  You were the friendliest, most beautiful baby they had ever seen! (See? It wasn’t just me who thought so!)

And you have always been such a little ham!  You remind me of Loo Loo when she was little.  You love making faces, being silly and looking at yourself in the mirror!

Jayna, you already have such a kind soul.  You make friends very easily, and have always been good at sharing your toys.  You can be very sensitive though….you sometime will get upset just because someone else is crying!  We still have to monitor what you see on TV very closely, because if a character is upset-you start crying too!  And what a little tattle-tale you can be!  You come home from school with stories of the “bad boys.”  I know exactly who sat in time out, who didn’t share, and who had accidents in school each day!

I am so proud of your short little life already!  You never cease to amaze me with your smart-alec comments that most would only think could come out of a 12 year old’s mouth!  You are so smart, and are so independent….insisting on doing everything yourself.  I can’t believe that not only do you know all of your letters, sounds and numbers…you can also copy almost all of the letters of the alphabet and write your name!  And aren’t you a child of the times…you can work my smartphone better than I can!!  And although we certainly have our “toddler” moments, you are truly a joy to be around (most of the time!).

I love how kind you are to your little sister….you always have her needs in mind and are quick to babysit her or help feed her.  You are so gentle (most of the time) and so affectionate with her!  I hope you two are always best friends and continue to help and love each other unconditionally.

Jayna, your love for God makes my soul so glad….although you may not know what it means completely, your heart is so pure!  I love and admire how you crave knowledge about God and how appreciative you are already for all He has given you!  I’m always so touched when I catch you praying with Elly, or when I see you helping a friend or showing your gratitude.

Long story short, I can’t believe you are already three years old….and I can’t believe you are only three years old!  It has been such fun watching you grow so far, and I can’t wait to continue watching you turn into a kind, smart, beautiful little girl!  Happy Birthday Buggy!  I love you!

Love, Mommy

Christmas Wrap Up

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday weekend.  Our celebrations continue this weekend as we ring in the new year at not one, not two, but three New Year’s Eve Parties!

But first, I wanted to check in with you and tell you a little about our Christmas.  The weekend began on Thursday afternoon, when Mom Mom and GP arrived from up north.  After Amelia’s 4 month check-up, we met them in town and had a quick lunch before heading back to the house for naps.  On Friday, Dave and GP did a little fishing on our pond, while us girls started on the baking.  First up, Christmas cookies!

Obviously, Jayna did the majority of spoon licking and decorating.  Eat at your own risk, Santa!!  Next up was a gingerbread house.  But not only do we not like gingerbread, we also shutter at the thought of conformity! =)  We opted to try a rice krispy treat house instead.  Adorned with mint M&M’s, sixlets and Mike & Ike’s stuck on the roof with melted chocolate, we discovered that rice krispies work just as well!  The only disappointment was that our graham cracker roof just wouldn’t stay pitched…..so we opted for The Flintstone’s model instead!

After the girls went to bed that night, Loo Loo, Mom Mom and I stayed up late tidying up and finishing last-minute Christmas decor.

That’s right…you see more recycled pumpkins, and the two Christmas trees were handmade by yours truly, but I got the ideas here and here.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not a very creative person, but I’m an excellent copycat!!

Saturday morning, 9am.  Our doorbell rings with our first of many guests for our first annual Christmas Eve Brunch.  Growing up, my family went to a friend’s annual brunch to gather with friends, do crafts, and put in last-minute requests with Santa.  It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories, so we decided to duplicate it and start it as our own tradition this year.  We invited friends and family from our Sunday School class, as well as our neighborhood.  Although we anticipated mixed results being that it was Christmas Eve, we ended up with about 30 people coming for breakfast!  The kids decorated foam gingerbread children and decorated our felt Christmas tree, while the adults mingled around coffee and breakfast casseroles.  Around 10, the doorbell rang yet again, and Santa made a quick appearance for the children.  After he head back to the North Pole, families headed out to spend the days together and participate in their own Christmas traditions.

 Later that night, Sue Sue and Papaw joined us to fry a turkey for dinner and then we went to the early, kid-friendly church service. Our tradition on Christmas Eve is that the girls get to open one gift (from Ralph, our elf), a new pair of pajamas.

This year, Loo Loo must have thought the adults were going to feel left out, because she found us some new pajamas as well!

I won’t mention any names, but some of us were more comfortable in our footie pajamas than others!

Then, we all knocked off early…After all, everyone knows Santa can’t come until everyone is in bed!  The next morning, Jayna was up at the crack of dawn (to be expected), but was more interested in watching Little Einsteins than checking out what Santa had brought.  So we all took our time getting dressed and finally made it downstairs.  Jayna’s first reaction to the bean bag chair she had wanted soooo badly?  “It’s not purple!!”  We’ll be talking about being grateful next week!!  Nevertheless, the unwanted green color didn’t faze her…

And after opening an elephant shaped pillow and blanket (that matched Loo Loo’s), she was all set…no other presents necessary!

Jayna didn’t quite get the “open all of the presents” expectations.  She would open one, take it to her playroom, and we wouldn’t see her for a good ten minutes…..its like she wanted to enjoy just that gift for a little while before opening the next! We had to beg her  to finish opening so we could clean up and get started on fixing supper!

Even the panda slippers she received from Santa got a good ten minutes from Jayna (but she had to take off her footie pajamas in order to fully enjoy the pandas!).

It was a wonderful, laid back day…and the guys made Lowcountry Boil while the ladies drank coffee and nibbled on the ginormous fruit and cheese spread we had put out…not to mention the Overnight Coffee Crumble Cake I made (this recipe is a KEEPER!!!) Yum! Hope you enjoyed my quick synopsis of our weekend festivities….and thank you to our family afar for all of the lovely gifts!  Here’s a little sneak peek of something you will be getting in the next week or so!  Happy New Year!