Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Why Easter is my Favorite Holiday

Easter, Church, Family, Tradition, Sader Meal, Communion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Crucifixion, Reverence, Worship, One Body

Easter.  No gifts for adults.  No pumpkin pie.  No twinkle lights upon the tree.

And yet, it is my absolute favorite holiday.  As Easter approaches, my heart fills with the joy that Christmas magic brings to children each year.  Though the week will be extremely busy, I anxiously anticipate Holy Week for a couple of reasons.

You see, first, it is the one time of the year where I feel like the church really acts like the family they should be.  Our focus turns to the One who should have our focus constantly and we are reminded of the reason we all gather in the first place - because of the love of Christ.  Second, because of that focus, there is a beautiful reverence we sometimes lack throughout the year. 

Yes, Christmas does the same thing on a certain level.  However, do to the demands of the world, everyone is busy, rushing around like ants at a picnic.  During Christmas, church is usually reserved for Christmas Eve.  

For some churches, this may also be true at Easter - a lot of rushing around for a big service on Easter Sunday.  But our church does things differently this time of year.  

It starts Maundy Thursday as we gather for the Sader Meal and foot washing.  Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of foot washing.  However, it serves a significant purpose - a reminder of how we are to be a servant for all, just as Christ has been for us.  My favorite part of the evening is the Sader Meal - a brief glimpse at the history and tradition that our Savior personally participated in!!  Though we have been attending this service for years (both now and at the church I grew up in) - I still love talking about the significance that each piece of the meal represents.  Everything they did was intentional.  When did we lose that!?!  I am so excited to share this tradition with Little Miss when she is a bit older, to teach her how significant the reverence of the night is as we conclude with a candle light service.

Easter, Church, Family, Tradition, Sader Meal, Communion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Crucifixion, Reverence, Worship, One Body

Then Good Friday arrives.  This night holds special significance for me personally.  Our church goes to a production of the Easter story each year....an hour north at the church I grew up in, the church where I accepted Christ as my Savior and was first welcomed, wholeheartedly, into the family of God.  It is the one time of the year that I have two of my church families together in one place.  And my heart soars because of that.  It reminds me that one day we will all be together again, in one place, worshipping the Lord.

The retelling of the Easter story never gets old for me either.  Though I have seen and participated in the same play for years and years....and years....it still reminds me of the sacrifice Christ made for us - that because of His scars I am free!!!  And as Little Miss grows, I cannot wait to tell her about all the behind-the-scenes shenanigans, about why I was brought to tears on that very stage, and about how THIS story is HER story - that Christ went through all of that (and more) so that SHE could have freedom and eternal life with Him.  This year, I imagine the animals will be the highlight.  And she will love the children and the singing.  But as each year passes, she will understand more and more.

Easter, Church, Family, Tradition, Sader Meal, Communion, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Crucifixion, Reverence, Worship, One Body

And last, but not least, comes Easter Sunday.  We have two services with breakfast between.  Since each service is different, we attend both - we never want to miss an opportunity to worship the Lord as one body.  I am glad, however, that the first service is no longer at sunrise.  That means I get plenty of beauty sleep and I get to enjoy extra time in the house of the Lord.  There is just something different in the air on Easter morning - maybe it is just my heart.  But there is a reverence, a joy, a heightened awareness of the Spirit that all too often goes unnoticed.

So I guess in conclusion, Easter is my favorite because it gives me a glimpse of what it will be like one glorious day.  The Church will come together as a whole - united as one.  We will forever and always be reverent and joyful in the light of His glory and grace.  And we will never forget, even for a moment, the Greatest Story Ever Told, we will never forget just how much He loves us.

When Easter comes around each year, I feel like we remember all of that, if only for a moment.  We worship together as one, there is reverence and awe and recognition of who He is.

Wouldn't it be great if every Sunday were like that?

The choice is mine.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

We Have Been Married for FIVE Years!!

5 years.

I have been married for FIVE years!

It is absolutely unreal.

Yesterday morning at breakfast we were talking about how different our life looks now.  And how it probably isn't exactly what we imagined 5 years ago.  On the not-meeting-par side of things, I definitely thought we would have more money.  And neither of us ever imagined we would live in a town smaller than where we grew up.  I probably thought we would have at least one more kid but I'm sure Hubby thought we wouldn't even have Miss A yet.  haha.  I saw myself not working at all (possibly volunteering, but not working).  On that note, I NEVER, EVER thought I would be teaching sex ed (yikes!).  And I definitely pictured a house with pictures on the walls (currently, the only room we have decorated is the nursery...and it is super cute!).  

But there are so many things that are better than we could have ever imagined.  Having all of my family in one place (one house in fact) is super unexpected (especially the addition of a sister-in-law).  We both love the jobs that we have - especially because I'm getting paid to work at a place where I very easily could have ended up volunteering!  I never thought I would enjoy talking to junior high and high school students about sexual integrity - but every time I leave that classroom, I am glowing from the inside out.  God somehow managed to allow me to have my dream job (behind the scenes at a non-profit) AND allowed me to be a *mostly* stay-at-home mom.  But more importantly, we absolutely love being parents - more than I ever thought possible.  I think that is the biggest unexpected curve ball - how much you love your kids.  Even if I had known 5 years ago that she would be a reality today, I couldn't have anticipated the joy that overflows from my heart as I kiss her goodnight.  5 years ago, I could have never dreamt up the journey that brought Hubby and I here today.  I have seen us both grow in phenomenal ways - usually by looking back. 

God brought us together.  He brought us here.  I'm sure he had a good laugh at our 5 year "plans."  What He gave us was so much better than what we ever asked for, so much better than we ever imagined.  I can't wait to see where the next 5 years takes us.

So with that being said....here's a fun guess:

In 5 years we will have at least 2 more kids (maybe more).

We will have finished our bedroom suite and painted every wall in this house.

I will be homeschooling Miss A.  Or unschooling.  Maybe.

My walls will be decorated.....maybe......

We still won't get the whole "parenting" thing but we will love it and have fun in the middle of the mess.

Justin and I will be growing even more.  Closer together, closer to God.

Outside of those hypothetical ponderings - only God can know.

But I can't wait to see what He has in store.

So far, so beyond good.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hands-Free Pumping Bra!

Anyone who has breastfed for any amount of time, knows that any contraption to make it easier is a life saver!  ;)

When I saw this hands free pumping bra, I was ecstatic!!  Pumping and being able to use both hands at the same time?!?  

Gift, Perfect, Nursing, Breastfeeding, Baby Shower, Push Present, Birthday, Christmas, 1st Baby, 2nd Baby, 3rd Baby, Children, Pumping, Working Mom, Stay at Home Mom, SAHM, WAHM, Hands Free, Bra, Nursing Bra, Pumping Bra, Handsfree Pumping
The perfect nursing bra!  (Photo credit goes to BeliBea)
 We have cut our nursing down to just one session in the morning and one in the evening.  Mostly, it was because I was sick of pumping while I was at work or away from Baby Girl for any amount of time.  Maybe, just maybe I wouldn't have stopped as soon if pumping wasn't a pain in the behind.  This bra, from BeliBea could have made a world of a difference for us.

The BeliBea motto is this: "Nursing mothers demand a new maternity bra that is comfortable but affordable, flexible and durable, simple yet clever - this is the bra line for nursing mothers everywhere."

And I believe it!!  This is my go-to bra.  It is extremely comfortable, offers great support (without wires), and it doesn't have a weird shape that shows when I'm wearing my everyday clothes.  Always concealed.  Always comfy.  Plus, there is enough padding that no one knows when I'm cold....if you catch my drift.  ;)

Affordable, I suppose, is a matter of opinion.  The Nourish bra runs $49.95, which is way more than i want to spend on a bra (I am pretty cheap).  However, I know, first-hand, that you get what you pay for.  I found nursing bras for under $10 at a bargain store.  They are stretched out, tattered, misshapen, and the elastics are shot!  I won't be able to use them for my next child.  I will have to go through the whole process again.  Nourish from BeliBea is so well made, I have no doubt that it will last me through my next couple of kiddos.  Even if I wear it every single day!

But what about that hands free pumping thing??  Does it really work??  Unfortunately, I do not have the right type of pump for this bra to help.  Again, this is because I'm cheap.  Since I wasn't planning on work much, I got the cheapest pump I could find.  The pump attaches directly to the breast shield, no tubing or anything else.  Let me show you why this is a problem:

Gift, Perfect, Nursing, Breastfeeding, Baby Shower, Push Present, Medela, Freemie, Birthday, Christmas, 1st Baby, 2nd Baby, 3rd Baby, Children, Pumping, Working Mom, Stay at Home Mom, SAHM, WAHM, Hands Free, Bra, Nursing Bra, Pumping Bra, Handsfree Pumping
The bra naturally pulled the shield against my chest....
Gift, Perfect, Nursing, Breastfeeding, Baby Shower, Push Present, Birthday, Christmas, 1st Baby, 2nd Baby, 3rd Baby, Children, Pumping, Working Mom, Stay at Home Mom, SAHM, WAHM, Hands Free, Bra, Nursing Bra, Pumping Bra, Handsfree Pumping
Until I attached the actual pump....then it instantly pulled away as the pump was too heavy (this picture was taken at the same angle...and you can see a whole lot more of my tank top since it was pulling forward).  I still had to use one hand to keep it in place.

I'm hoping with the next baby I will able to buy (or maybe win) a better pump.  In which case, this bra will be perfect.  One great feature is that there are two separate clasps and dual panels - you remove the first layer for hands-free pumping and the second layer to nurse.

Gift, Perfect, Nursing, Breastfeeding, Baby Shower, Push Present, Medela, Freemie, Birthday, Christmas, 1st Baby, 2nd Baby, 3rd Baby, Children, Pumping, Working Mom, Stay at Home Mom, SAHM, WAHM, Hands Free, Bra, Nursing Bra, Pumping Bra, Handsfree Pumping
Two clasps

In the meantime, it is STILL MY FAVORITE NURSING BRA!!  Seriously....I want to wear it every day.  It may be my favorite bra in general...

BeliBea Nourish would make a fantastic gift - think Baby Showers, Push Present, New Mom, 2nd Kid, 3rd Kid, Birthday, Christmas, etc.    ;)   If you know a mom who is currently breastfeeding - she will LOVE this gift, I promise!

Don't forget to checkout BeliBea's website.  And follow them on your favorite social media:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Responding to God's Call

God has placed a calling on YOUR life.  Every single person is a part of God's plan to further the kingdom.  Every. Single. Person.  Yes, that means you.

God didn't call you to just sit in a church pew every Sunday.  He didn't call you to pray a couple of times a week.  He didn't call you to sit on a board at your church.  He didn't call you to make sure your bible sits out on the coffee table.  

While all of those things are good and may be a part of the call He has placed on your life....

God has called YOU to go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).  

That calling looks different for every person.  But that is the ultimate goal of the calling that has been placed upon each of our lives - to make disciples, to further the kingdom.  By entering into a relationship with Christ, you are accepting your responsibility in furthering the kingdom.

So now that you are aware that you have been called to make disciples of every nation, how will you respond?

Let's turn to Genesis 12 for some inspiration.

In chapter 11, we are first introduced to Abram (aka Abraham), briefly, through a genealogy.  The very first verse of chapter 12, we see that God has called Abram:

1 Now the Lord said to Abram,
'Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;

4 So Abram went forth as the Lord has spoken to him....

The Lord spoke and Abram obeyed.  Plain and simple.  Obedience is the best way to respond to God's call.  You could try and avoid what the Lord has called you to, as Jonah did (see the Book of Jonah), or you can obey.  "The Lord said to...Go forth....So Abram went forth...."

Do you respond to God's call like that?  Are you willing to leave where you are (comfort zone, physical location, emotional state, etc.) in order to follow the plan God has for you?  Or are you dragging your feet?

I know that You have called me to go and make disciples Lord, but that is waaaaay out of my comfort zone.  Give me a couple of years and then maybe I will be ready.  I need time to prepare myself.  

I know I told You I would be ready in a couple of years, but I'm just so busy right now.  With my new job and two kids, I barely have time for myself let alone the chance to go out and talk to other people.  Just wait for work to slow down.

Yeah, I'm working part time now.  But I'm just not ready to go, Lord.  Isn't coming to church on Sunday good enough for You?  I read my Bible and pray.  I even tithe and help out at dinners!  Maybe another time....  There are other people more equipped than I am.  If anyone knew what I had done in my past....  Lord, call someone else.  This isn't for me.

Sound familiar?  What if Abram had responded that way??  He may never have become Abraham.  And Abraham is the father of Israel!!  An entire nation!

Responding to God's call does not just affect you, it affects generations to come!  You are living a story that will outlast you!  In verse 7, the Lord tells Abram, who is childless at the time, that he will give this land (Canaan) to his descendants.  God is not just looking out for this generation but also for the next and the next and....well, you get the picture.  You must think bigger than yourself.

Abraham, Abram, Genesis 12, Bible, Scripture, Devotion, Daily, Call, Follow, Obey, Sin, Lie, Qualified, Good enough

But maybe you aren't qualified.  Maybe you don't fit "the bill."  You have some horrible sin in your past that people would hold against you.  You can't make disciples!  You have never read a theology book.  And you certainly don't want to speak in public.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called"?

Abram, most certainly was not perfect.  In fact, in the very same chapter we see him diligently obey God's call to "go," we also see him sin.

11 It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, 'See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'; and they will kill me, but they will let you live, 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you."

Abram lied to Pharaoh about his wife!!  She was taken into Pharaoh's house (Admittedly, Sarai is just as much to blame here...)!  Abram messed up.  And this is seen immediately after he responded to God's call in obedience.  This is so very intentional!  God wants us to see that we do not have to be perfect to follow the Lord's leading.  He still used Abram, and He will still use you!

Let's back up for a moment.  Do you remember when I said that your response to God's call isn't just about you?  It affects other people and generations to come.  Sin is the exact same way.  It does not just affect you!

17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife.  18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, 'What is this you have done to me?  Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?'

Because of Abram (and Sarai's) lie, the Lord struck Pharaoh's house with plagues!  Abram's sin immediately had an effect on other people.  And I think it is safe to assume that some people could have died from this plague, which means that generations there after were affected.

Sometimes our response to God's call, when it is not obedience, is sin.  James 4:17 reads, "Therefore, to one who knows the right things to do and does not do it, to him it is sin."  If you know the right thing to do and you don't do it, it is a sin.

And that  sin doesn't just affect you.  It affects the people around you and generations to come.

How will you respond to God's call today?

Will you ignore Him?  Pretend like you didn't hear?  Make up an excuse as to why you shouldn't respond?

Or will you obey?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

4 Must Know Cloth Diaper Resources

As many of you know, we have been cloth diapering for almost a year now.  My, how time flies!!  I wouldn't trade a minute of it.  We bought disposables for one week while on vacation this summer and I am SO glad we don't have to spend that kind of money all the time.  I would be working just to pay for diapers!!

It isn't always breezy though.  Initially, it can be very difficult to figure out what diapers you should use.  Plus, the up front cost  can be a bit much.  And then there's the laundry...which can be a bit difficult to figure out (though it doesn't have to be a difficult process).

So on this crazy fun journey of cloth diapering, I have come across a few different resources that I couldn't live without.  They are listed below in no particular order.  ;)

1.  For ANY questions or help trouble shooting I highly recommend the Change Diapers Facebook Group.  It is a wonderful group full of drama-free ladies.  I have turned to them with questions multiple times and always gotten the answer(s) I need.  They also share cloth diaper giveaways which means potential FREE diapers!! Maria Moser, blogger of Change Diapers runs the group.  She is one awesome lady, and her blog is also a great resource!

2. Padded Tush Stats (PTS) is an awesome resource in itself - great for checking out reviews and stats on a TON of different diapers.  But, the thing I absolutely love about PTS is their Cloth Diaper Retailer Database.  Do you need a specific insert but want to make sure you are getting the best deal?  You can search for retailers that carry that brand AND designate what you want the shipping cost to be!  I always spend time looking for the best deal and this cuts my time in half....or more!

3.  Having issues with stink?  Is your laundry routine not working?  Fluff Love University has a fantastic troubleshoot guide.  It saved me from having to strip my diapers.  When we decided to cloth diaper, I got a few different detergents to see which I liked best.  Turns out one of those is REALLY not a good idea (Charlie's) and another was just plain not getting my diapers clean (Nellie's).  But I wouldn't have realized they were the issue for my stink without the help of Fluff Love University.  Now my original detergent is on its way in the mail (Country Save).  Looking back, I'm not sure how I didn't realize that switching detergents was the problem.

4. Looking for a great deal?  Or do you need to get rid of some of your diapers? .99 Cloth Diaper Auctions is a group on Facebook that is quickly becoming my new favorite!  We need newborn diapers and training pants so I've been keeping my eye out on there.  While I haven't found anything we needed yet, there have been a TON of great deals on things that I wanted but had to resist.  This is a great place to go if you are just starting out and need to build a stash.  Plus, it gives you the opportunity to try a few different diapers at minimal cost.  AND, I have every intention of selling my diapers on here...especially because we don't have any big brands (BumGenius, Grovia, etc).

So those are my 4 must know cloth diapering resources.

What resource would you add to the list??

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Aelah Grace: 11 Months

I'm a little late, as usual.  Aelah turned 11 months about 12 days ago.

11 months!!  I can't believe it.  Nope.  I'm in denial.  My BABY will NOT be a toddler in less than a month.  Not happening.  Rewind.  Stop time.  Someone do something!  Hit. The. Brakes!!

11 months is hard mom!!  Really....I just want to play with this sticker and you won't let me...  Not cool.

How am I growing?

Stayed laying for .05 seconds....but I got a somewhat decent shot!

Most of the chub is gone.  :(  
She just never stops moving.  lol.  But she is also getting taller!  All of the sudden she can grab things off the top of my desk...or out of the trash can.  Yikes!  Every day is a new adventure!

How am I sleeping?

Pretty good.  No big changes.  Though getting teeth means she is up a little earlier or in the middle of the night once or twice.... But it doesn't stick, thankfully...

How am I eating?

Great!  She never stops.  haha.  Always snacking and always wanting more.  She brings me her empty snack cup and if she sees a snack pouch, you better watch out!  She will go bananas!!  And while it sounds cute....this girl is serious when it comes to food.  See food.  Eat it.  That's her motto.

What else is new?

She is just a new person every single day.  She loves to read, waves at everyone, says "hi" and "hey" and dances like there is no tomorrow.  She cracks me up!  I never know what to expect anymore!!

My favorite pics from the past month:

She was helping Uncle Luke fix things......

Our "Gigi is babysitting again!" outfit.  Great Grandma LOVES the Pirates.  After a miraculously short bout with cancer, Gigi was finally back to hang out.  So we wore a special outfit just for her.  :)

What. a. Doll.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Aelah Grace: 10 Months

Oh that face...
What in the world happened to my baby!?!  Did I blink??  I'm officially starting to understand how parents say it goes so fast.  Didn't I just bring her home from the hospital?  And it never slows down does it?  I am really trying to treasure little moments but my, oh, my...they are still flyin' by!

Laying in the basket may be a thing of the past.  lol.
How am I growing?

She is probably losing weight because she is not slowing down.  Every single day she just moves faster and faster!  haha.  I have to admit, it is so much fun.

How am I sleeping?

Can't complain.  She actually bumped her bed time up a half an hour on her own.  So instead of going to bed at 8:30, she is usually ready around 8.  She wakes between 6 and 7 to eat and I wake her up at 7:30 for the day.  Naps are anywhere from 1 hour to almost 3 hours and 2 or 3 times a day.  As far as sleep goes, we are blessed for sure!

How am I eating?

Like a champ.  I'm still tremendously glad we decided to do Baby Led Weaning.  She eats everything and anything we give her - spicy, sour, green, orange....you name it!  It is a bit messier though...

She LOVES black beans....especially when we have black bean tacos and they are cooked and mashed a bit with salsa.  But, yeah....messy...

What else is new?

It is truly amazing how much they change in such a little time isn't it?!?  She finally got her first tooth while we are on vacation in Michigan (the first week of August, so about 9 1/2 months).  But, the biggest thing is that she started walking!!  A week before she turned 10 months, she just woke up in the morning and decided today was the day.  She went from taking 3 or 4 steps towards a person to walking across the room to get what she wanted over night.  It has been so fun to watch her learn!


Here are my favorite pictures from this past month:

I love how she puts her arm on the side.  So sweet.  <3
Her first parade!

Quite possibly my favorite picture ever!  She was laughing about something on America's Got Talent, her hair is everywhere....too much!  :)
Snuggles with Daddy.  It is the only word I think she is really aware of at this point.  I tell her Daddy is going to be home soon and she gets so excited and says "Da!"  Any time I say 'Daddy' that is the typical response.

She loved hanging out in the lake at Uncle Jason's and Aunt Nicole's house in Michigan!