Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013- A Year in Review

2013 brought a lot of changes, losses, and growth here at the Pratt household. I went from a part time worker and full time mom with the closure of our hospital. We lost family members and friends this year. We became a stronger family. We learned to cut costs and how wasteful we were before. We learned to downsize while moving into a bigger house. We learned how blessed we truly are.

I gave up keeping up with what I have read because there was just so much. I do know that I read over 200 books this year which is a record for me. ( Expect a whole lot of book reviews this week- I am behind.) My boys have finally started to pick up books and read them on their own without a lot of begging this past year. They still have a long way to go but we are getting there.

I went on a adventure that put me far out of my comfort zone and I grew spiritually from it. I am looking forward to 2014 using what I learned and growing from it even more.

I took a dream and made it a reality this year. It was a year of discovery and growth there as well.

So what can you look for in 2014- well a lot.

Of course there will be more book reviews and product reviews. I will share more recipes. And there will be a lot of writing. But one thing you can look to change is the amount of posting. I will post on the blog at least once a week but I have felt that sometimes content has suffered for frequency. I am also going to combine our family blogging with this blog. It has suffered big time because I just don't have the time to keep up 2 blogs.

So Happy New Year and here's to a wonderful 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

"The Redcoats Are Coming" an Imagination Station Review.

The Redcoats Are Coming!: 13 (AIO Imagination Station Books) is a fun book from the Imagination Station series. Patrick and Beth are about to go on vacation and want to learn a little more about their destination. They enter the Imagination Station and it takes them to a time of Paul Revere, John Hancock, and the Revolutionary War.

My 9 year old and I enjoyed reading this book together along with his History unit about the American Revolution. I am definitely a huge fan of the Imagination Station books and this one held to my expectations. I highly recommend this book for kids and also for a fun family read. I love the fact that I do not have to worry when my kids pick up this book because they will not only learn something but there is no questionable material in the story.

**I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.**

***Affiliated links used in this post.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I will be on hiatus from the blog until 2014. We have a lot of family events and a dear friend and fellow dreamer is coming to spend some time at my house over the next couple of weeks so I want to concentrate on that. I want to thank everyone of you for a wonderful year and here's to many more.

Monday, December 16, 2013

One Word 2014

2013 was the year of dreaming. And after a lot of thought and prayer I have finally picked my word for 2014 and it is not what I originally thought it would be.

Originally my word for 2014 was going to be "GO". But after a lot of thought that word just didn't seem to fit. So my word for 2014 is:

Create Joy.
Create Hope.
Create Vision.
Create Awareness.
Create Love.

I am excited to see where 2014 takes me and what is created throughout the year.

What is your word for 2014?????

Friday, December 13, 2013

End Bible Poverty- Christmas Edition

How many of you give Bibles as gifts at Christmas? I do.

You want to know another way that you can give back this Christmas?

Visit www.endbiblepoverty.org and donate just $10 and you will place a Bible in the hands of someone who needs one. A Bible that will be in their native language so they can read it without having a translator. A great gift for someone that will never stop giving.

The Seed Company has translators all over the world who will make sure that a Bible will go to someone in their country and that person will get the right Bible for them. Give the gift of God's word this Christmas!

**Please pray for the translators all over the world. There have been some attacks and even deaths recently that leaves a hole in the hearts of the End Bible Poverty family.**

Friday, December 6, 2013

Home Depot and the Policy YOU Should Know About

As you know we moved earlier this year. We have put off installing the duct work for the central unit until now. Mainly because you can't buy the size we need in the store and we had to order online. Well Black Friday rolls around and Home Depot had free shipping. So we ordered it. Then Monday we got the shipping confirmation. I started tracking on Tuesday and wondered why in the world my duct work was heading north when it should have been heading south. Then I noticed late Tuesday night that it was being shipping to Connecticut. Um, I live in Georgia. So we made the decision that I would call first thing Wednesday morning since it was so late when we noticed this.

Welcome to Wednesday morning. I call customer support. I will say that the girl I talked to was very, very nice even if I can't remember her name. She checks and sure enough- they sent it to the wrong place. So per policy
1. They would cancel our order.
2. In 10 business days they would refund our money
3. I could place a NEW order with a discount code and they would reship.


I didn't make the mistake and yet I am the one being punished for their error. They should be all rights send us duct work without us having to do anything else. And since we used Paypal to pay for our order we have to wait until they finally refund our money to Paypal transfer the money back to our account and then re- order the items.

I'm sorry but there is something wrong with a policy that makes the customer have to do all the work when the company made the error.

So I want to make sure that all of you are aware of this policy. If you order something from homedepot.com and THEY make an error such as shipping to the wrong place then YOU will be responsible for doing all the leg work to get your order. And they will not really offer you that much of a discount- 10%. And if the free shipping promo is over then you now have to pay shipping.

Also did I mention that this is for our heater. So because we paid them so much for this duct work and we have to wait for them to refund our money we also have to now wait to go somewhere else and get duct work. So no central heat in December. Let's just say that I am one very unsatisfied customer and will not be ordering anything online from Home Depot again.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gift Ideas- Kids

Shopping for the kids tends to be easy when they are younger. But I am at a complete loss for my 13 year old. So he is getting a lot of gift cards this year. So here are 9 ideas for kids of all age groups.

1. Gift cards to Barnes and Noble for books. My oldest loves to read so this works for him.
2. Clothing store gift cards. This actually works for lots of age groups. But with older kids it works so that they don't hate what you bought.
3. Sole Hope or Freeset USA shirts.
4. Ear buds!
5. Electronics
6. Sole Hope shoes for babies.
7. Action Figures for both boys and girls.
8. Button Beauties! You can order these from my friend Lani at her Etsy store. https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheCrazyGraceStore. I have seen them in person and I love them. I want a daughter just so I can get her one.
9. Fisher-Price Mike the Knight: Glendragon Castle Playset (can you guess what Santa is bringing Miles). He loves this thing. Everytime we are at the store he plays with it and asks to buy it. Great for younger kids.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Liebster Award

My dear friend Kristin at The Riches of His Love nominated me for the Liebster Award. Basically it is a way to introduce "smaller" blogs to new people. Kristin is honestly one of the most amazing people that I know. We finally met at Allume after "knowing" each other for about 10 months through the God Sized Dream Team. I am so honored that she thought of me! So here goes.

11 Random Things About Me:
1. I am not an outdoors person AT ALL. But I love to go on nature walks with my kids.
2. I hate grammar while I am writing but can't stand to see anyone else use bad grammar.
3. I can stay at home and read for days on end if everyone would just leave me alone.
4. I love to paint and draw.
5. I love to cook but hate to clean up.
6. I love to make lists (they just don't always get followed).
7. I am my mom's only child.
8. I am not an animal person and really don't understand why there are stricter laws about animal abuse than there are about child abuse.
9. I hate to fly.
10. I also hate to drive. I would much rather be the passenger in the vehicle.
11. I have a very irrational fear of bridges and overpasses.

Now to the 11 questions Kristin asked me.
1. What is your favorite time of day?
   About 6:30 in the morning when I am the only one up in the house. Even if it only lasts for about 5        minutes.
2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    Scotland or Ireland.
3. What is your biggest pet peeve?
    When there is a perfectly good laundry basket in the bathrooms and yet someone takes their clothes      off and leaves them in a trail all through the house. AND when a person refuses to take                        responsibility for the choices they make.
4. Salty or Sweet?
    BOTH! If I have something sweet I need something salty to go with it and vice versa.
5. If you could have one wish granted what would it be?
    Win the big, big, big game lottery so that I can give to all of the causes that are close to my heart         and still be able to pay my bills.
6. What is your middle name?
7. What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
     Driving around to look at lights with my kids.
8. What book are you currently reading?
    I really hate to admit this but "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "God is Able". And just so you know I           honestly skip over the "juicy" parts of Fifty Shades because I don't feel like the book needs all that in      it. It is a pretty good story without it.
9. What is the last package you received in the mail?
  The "Thrill of Hope" cd from Delonna Gibbs. IF I waited and wrote this tomorrow my last package      would still have been from Delonna Gibbs because my Black Friday purchase will be here today.
10. How many loads of laundry do you do in a week?
     Over 20. And sometimes I think I re-wash clothes because the kids just throw them in the floor            instead of putting them up.
11. What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?
   To be honest, the 2 gifts that John has surprised me with- a Nook tablet and Ugg boots. Mainly            because it has been the only times that he has gotten me gifts with out me spelling it out for him or        buying it myself.

Okay. SO I am going to nominate 3 other blogs.

1. Christine Wright at www.livingjoel225.com. She is a fellow dreamer and a very dear friend. Especially since the first time I met her in person was when I showed up at her house to go on a road trip.
2. Teri Lynne Underwood at www.terilynneunderwood.com. Even though I really consider her a bigger blogger. She is my Dream Buddy and my fellow Auburn fan.
3. Crystal Stine at www.crystalstine.me. Same with Teri Lynne, to me she is a bigger blogger BUT this woman is such an encourager!

SO my 11 questions for the above bloggers ARE:

1. What is your favorite Bible verse?
2. Are you a coffee drinker?
3. Cupcakes with or without sprinkles?
4. If you could travel to one place on this earth and spend 2 weeks, where would you go?
5. What is your favorite "go to" gift for people?
6. Reading- actual book or an e-reader?
7. Are you a light or a heavy packer for trips?
8. What is your favorite movie?
9. What is your favorite music genre?
10. If you could meet one person in the world (living) who would it be?
11. What is your favorite college team?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gift ideas for the Guys

So let's continue with gift ideas this week. Today is about the guys.

1. Earbuds are always a winner.
2. Microwavable Pork Rinds. Y'all my husband and father-in-law love these things.
3. Ball Room Jeans from Duluth Trading Company are good too. Actually anything from this store is good.
4-6. Books and gift cards to their favorite stores are always good.
7. An Ipod Touch
8. Coffee from Just Love Coffee is another gift that gives back.
9. Tees from Sole Hope or Freeset make great gifts too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gift Ideas for Women

So this week I am going to do a series about gift ideas. I know that Christmas is right around the corner and that we can all use a little help with ideas. So today we are going to talk about ideas for women.

1. This is from the Lyrics for Life collection at Dayspring. Bless the Lord O My Soul is my personal favorite.

2. The Dream Mug is another favorite from Dayspring.

3. The Choose Joy pillow is also from Dayspring.

4. This Bondhu Bag is from Freeset so if you buy this bag you are also giving back.

5. The Freeset shirt is honestly one of the most comfortable shirts you will ever own. But buy one size up because they will shrink the first time you wash them. They have different styles available.

6. I love Glory Haus frames. They have several sizes to chose from as well.

7. Sole Hope is another shop where when you buy you give back. I love their shirts.

8. I also love this Sole Hope Jacket. It is light weight and extremely comfortable.

9. And of course gift cards from her favorite store is always good.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Men's ideas and later this week I will have a giveaway.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Updated links for (In)Mercy!!!!!!

I know that I posted this on Monday and that it is only Wednesday BUT I have updated links for you for PHASE 5 of the Mercy House Fundraiser.
(In)Mercy Line at Dayspring

An update from Kristin about the first 4 phases.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"God is Able" {A review}

God is Able  is my first Priscilla Shirer book EVER. I know- cue the strange looks. Either way- she is now on my authors to read list.

Are you questioning if God is still able? Do you doubt that he can really get it done? Then this is the book for you. Through scripture, through encouragement, and through personal stories, Shirer shows us that God IS ABLE. God can do anything. 

I know that for me, there is never doubt that God is able. My question is always "Why?" Why is the answer always no? Why did God let this happen? Why did God allow that person to die? 
Is that you too? Then pick up this book.

Great book for a book club, a study, or a gift.

**I received a copy of this book through Icon Media in exchange for my review. Opinions are my own.**
***Affiliated links used.***

"Whispers of Hope" {a review}

I am not a huge Beth Moore fan. Please don't hold that against me. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed "Whispers of Hope: 10 weeks of devotional and prayer". This book is  a devotional and a prayer journal all wrapped up into one.

The introduction gives you an explaination of the P.R.A.I.S.E. prayer format.
P- Praise
R- Repentence
A- Acknowledgment
I- Intersession
S- Supplication for Self
E- Equipping

Each day is set up as follows:
Scripture Reading
Prayer Journal

If you do the math that is 70 days of prayer journalling! Of course you can stretch that out or condense it. It is of course up to you. I will definitely be going back and doing the prayer journal and devotionals now that I am done with the review.

This would be a great Christmas gift for a friend, secret sister, or a Sunday School teacher. When day 1 gives you this:
"What God is doing in your life right now may not make sense to you, but it's not because he is nonsensical. It's because He's creative. God wants us to surrender to His will, but we tend to want a blueprint of His plans so we can decide whether or not to surrender" (pg 5); how can you not want this book?????

So check it out to day here:Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer today!

**I received a copy of this book from Icon Media in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.**

***Affiliated links used.***

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mercy House Update and one final phase

It has been an honor and a privilege to blog for Mercy House and to help raise money for them. I met Kristin and heard her speak at Allume and it just solidified the cause in my heart. I know that I mentioned that by the time we got to Allume that the first four phases of the project had been FULLY FUNDED! And with in the first 10 mins of a call for help at Allume $4000 had been raised.

So here we are at the week of Thanksgiving when most Americans will start their Christmas shopping. So how about this year you give a gift that will keep giving. Donate to Mercy House and then give a card showing how much you gave in honor of your family member. Or downsize your budget and give to Mercy House as a family for Christmas. Dayspring even has a line of items that you can buy and give as a gift that will go towards this project. Click here to check out the gorgeous tee shirt (that I have- it is the most comfortable shirt! But buy a size up because it will shrink when washed.), an amazing poster (it is even more amazing in person), or some postcards for the note writer in your life.   Because y'all- it has been amazing to see the project happen at speeds we never imagined when starting. Let's see if we can get all 5 phases fully funded by the end of this campaign!!!!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Winter in Full Bloom" {a review}

Her mom's confession changes Lily's life forever. A search that leads to Australia sparks an unexpected romance that can lead to happiness or heartbreak depending on where Lily's search leads. 

This was my first Anita Higman novel that certainly will not be my last.
Winter in Full Bloom is an endearing novel with family secrets and romance equally balanced. I did spend most of this novel waiting for the other shoe to drop and I was fully satisfied with the ending.

With Christmas right around the corner this would be a good gift for the reader in your life.

** I received this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

***Affiliated links used.**

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Journey of a Dream

1 year.
One year ago, Holley Gerth recognized some part of me that I am still not sure of and made me a part of her God Sized Dream Team. 100 women- 100 dreams- 1 woman who wanted to help us realize what dream God had given us and to help us get there. I don't really remember what I told Holley my dream was outside of growing a blog to encourage other moms and women so that they knew they were not alone and to someday write a book. Well- little did I know that my dream today would be so far from writing a book. And just look at this blog- part of that dream has come true.
About 4-6 months in, I realized that I was already living the dream that I had had as a child. I was a stay at home mom. Those struggles have brought me to my knees more times than I want to admit and probably should have more times than I let it.
In March of 2013, I bought a ticket to a blogging conference called Allume. It went along with my dream and God was saying "go". I can't even begin to tell you all the things that happened that made the trip almost not happen. But God kept making a way. I would never have believed what he had in store for me.
I met my "dream team" sisters and turned online friendships into real life ones. I fell in love with an organization called Sole Hope. And I had a new dream in my heart. At the end of this heart changing weekend, God pushed me to go talk to this particular woman and tell her I wanted to speak next year. I didn't do it. I pulled a Moses. "Why me? I hate public speaking. I have no platform, I have no experience, and I don't have a large following. Who would want to hear me speak?" But God kept at it and about a week after being home- I sent that woman an email telling her. Of course she is on a sabbatical from all things Allume for a few weeks so who knows if and when I hear from her but I followed God's pushing.
This journey of dreaming has been complicated, wild, fulfilling, scary, and so, so worth every step. I have sisters that God has given me at a time in my life that I need them. I have this space to encourage and dream. I am (in)courage leader. And I get to review books! (God definitely blessed me there.)
So about this space here. I am going to be using it for great things in the months to come. I am going to promote, support, and raise awareness about all these organizations that I am unable to financially support; Sole Hope, Compassion, The Seed Company/ End Bible Poverty, and Exodus Road.
God has given me a dream, a space, and a voice. Holley and this team have given me the confidence and support to dream these dreams and to reach for the stars.

So HAPPY ANNIVERSARY DREAM TEAM!!!!!!! And Happy Birthday Holley! Here is to another year of God working in our lives, dreaming, and seeing where this journey takes us!

*Want to learn more about helping Hentown Mama grow, supporting a mission trip to Uganda with Sole Hope in late 2014-early 2015, helping me go to a Dream Team meet up in Branson in March, or help me go back to Allume next year? You can check out the partnership opp. tab at the top of the page or email me at laura@hentownmama.com.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How Can You Help In The Philippines?

Have you been watching the news about the super storm that hit the Philippines? Have you seen the devastation there? Can you even imagine?
Here in south GA, the weather is cold. As in freeze warning cold (in November! And just so you know I am not a plan of the cold at all. That is why I live in south GA.) But you know what? I am sitting in my house, with a heater and a fireplace, food in the kitchen, blankets, and most importantly I know where all my family members are. So already today, I am 100 times more at peace then the people affected by this super storm halfway around the world. It is warm in the Philippines right now but these people have no homes, no way of knowing where their next meal is coming from, no way to know if the water is contaminated or not, and worst of all they don't know where all their family members are. Whole villages are gone- WHOLE VILLAGES! Thousands of people are homeless, missing, or dead.
Compassion is just one organization that is getting involved. It is personal for Compassion. They have sponsored children who are missing. They have sponsors all over the U.S. waiting for word about their children. Children that are parts of their families. So what can you do?

1. PRAY!- You can pray. Pray for everyone involved. Their safety, healing, and love. Pray for the missing people to be found. Pray for the injured to be healed. Pray for the rescue workers. Prayer doesn't cost us anything and ALL of us can do it.

2. DONATE- If you are financially able you can click the button below and donate to Compassion to help in the efforts over there.
Help Children Affected by Philippines Typhoon 
Do you want to know more? You can CLICK HERE for more information about Compassion and their relief efforts.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Loving Yourself

I am going to tell y'all right off the bat that it is ironic that I am writing this post today because I am feeling rejected and a little depressed. But not for the reason behind the post.

I have struggled with weight for several years now- 9 to be exact. Since my second child. And I am not "big". But a size 12 has been a constant struggle. I did lose back down to an 8 but a pregnancy soon followed and that went out the window. So for 3 years I have heard from people who supposedly love me that I am huge, fluffy, fat, and embarrassing. Just last week my grandmother tried to give me and 2X shirt and warned me it might be a little tight since I was so big now. So here's the thing that I have realized. I am happy in my size 12 body. Seriously. I don't have a lot of clothes that really fit but I will work on that. I like to eat. And when I was smaller I couldn't eat like I wanted to and I was so obsessed with a scale that I was miserable. And I actually spent Allume wearing a large sweater to cover up my "fat rolls" because no matter what I wore they were there and I was embarrassed. But for some reason coming home from that changed my perspective.

I am not worried about it anymore. And seriously if my being "fat" embarrasses you then I promise it would be better for you to just not be seen with me and not be my friend. I need real friends not people who are my friend because of how I look. And if I apply for a job and the reason I didn't get it is because it was more important for you to hire a size 2 person because it looks better in the office that is fine too. I didn't need that job. (Irony being that I desperately need a part time job right now) Obviously you are not a company that I need to work for. This world is so obsessed with weight and looks that no one cares about character any more. When you sit through a church service and hear about how we should all love exercise and that having a little weight on you is not serving God well there is something seriously wrong. (And yes I am sure that the statements were not actually meant that way but when more than one person came away from it with that feeling it isn't okay.)

So for myself, my well being, and for my kids- I love myself for what I am. And right now that is a size 12, emotionally exhausted and wrecked, mom of 4 boys, with a deep and growing love for God who is okay with what she looks like.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sole Hope

At Allume I met this wonderful woman named Asher. She was beautiful inside and out. And then she told us her story. About a desire to do God's will and how that led to the founding of Sole Hope.

And my heart was sold on the whole thing. I had already signed up for the Sole Hope impact opportunity to cut old blue jeans into the beginnings of shoes. But I went ahead bought a Party Kit to take back to our youth group. I sent a text telling a friend that I had done it and the ball is rolling.
Then came my friend Mel. Mel told Asher she wanted to come and help. And my heart was opened even more. God is saying "GO!" And you know what I am listening. My plan is to go for 10-14 days in 2014 and do all that I can to help Sole Hope while I am there. I have applied to be an ambassador for the organization. I am in the planning stages of several "Cutting Parties". I proudly wear my jacket so that people will ask me "what is Sole Hope?"
But you know what? Sole Hope needs so much more right now. They need supplies for removing the jiggers. And that's where you come in. You can help two ways:
1. Set up a collection box at your church, your office, or anywhere else that will allow you.
Photo credit: Sole Hope Blog
Collect neosporin, bandaids, gloves, gauze pads and wraps, large safety pins, numbing cream, and stickers for children. Then you send all of that to:
Sole Hope
PO Box 1492
Asheville, NC 28802
2. Collect change and send it to the address above. (or collect the change and then send a check for the amount collected to them) They will purchase the medical supplies and get them to Uganda where they are needed.

There are of course other ways to help Sole Hope. You can hold a cutting party or you can make a donation. Just head over to www.solehope.com  and find out all the information.

Oh and a shameless plug- I will begin fundraising for a trip to Sole Hope in January 2014. If you would like to help me get there you can email me at laura@hentownmama.com and I will send you more information. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

"Coming Home For Christmas"

I am about to completely date myself. But do y'all remember Amy Jo Johnson from the original Power Rangers? She was the most amazing pink ranger that they have ever had. Well, I have really liked her as an actress since then and it has been fun to watch her become a better one over the years. She has a new movie out at Walmart just in time for Christmas. "Coming Home for Christmas" is a great new, family movie that my whole house enjoyed.

Kate walks out on her sister's wedding, tearing a hole in the fabric her that holds her family together that cannot be repaired. Mel went through with her wedding only to have her life not turn out how she thought. Their parents Wendy and Al, lose their daughters, their house, and their joy in the years that follow the split. But when their house is sold and all hope of getting it back fades away, Wendy and Al separate. This prompts Kate to try and repair all the holes in their family and to bring Christmas home one last time. What she didn't count on was meeting the owner of the new house and falling for him. Will this derail her plans? Can she "fix" what she broke?

We watched this movie as a family and we all really enjoyed it. I loved not having to worry about what my boys were going to see and hear. This is a story of love, redemption, and of course Christmas cookies. I definitely say head to Walmart and pick up a copy today. Or LEAVE A COMMENT TELLING ME WHAT YOUR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIE IS and I will pick a winner next Monday afternoon. 
**I received a copy of this movie for review and giveaway through Fly By Promotions in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Behind the Scenes- The Costumes

We don't trick-or-treat. For several reasons with the main one being how far we live from town and where people trick-or-treat. So we always dress up for our annual church Fall Festival. This year the festival was later than Halloween so I, being the smart person I am, decided that I was not buying costumes until the day of or the day before- you know because they would be on sale. Let me just tell you- DON'T DO THAT!!!!! I went to the store and had to dig through 1 buggy where they had placed all the costumes. It was a hard fought battle to find the two we did find. Thank goodness I had a clown costume left over from VBS! My soon-to-be 9 year old (in 10 more days) had a literal meltdown in the middle of Walmart because I wouldn't buy him a grim reaper costume. My 3 year old had a meltdown because I would not buy a Buzz Lightyear costume that was big enough to fit my 13 year old. And my 7 year old was happy with what he found.
So we get home and cook and cook and cook. (Cake pops are not something I will be attempting again.) And then we got into costumes. My 13 year old decides at the last minute to dress up so all he had was camo. Worked for me! And then came the question I had been avoiding all day. "What are you and Daddy dressing up as?" Apparently my 3 year old would not accept nothing. So I quickly changed into my Allume shirt and throw on my name tag. I was a conference attendee. My hubby was a solider with the full vest and all. And he was okay with dressing up UNTIL we got to the party and NO other adult was dressed up. There are normally at least 3 other adults dressed up- NOBODY this year! He was not happy. But the hostess quickly ran inside and put on a costume just for him.
This was the first year that costumes were actually an issue in our house. Believe me I will do it differently next year. Especially since I will not be at home. I will again be at Allume the weekend we tentatively have down. So I will have costumes before hand and I will not let the kids talk their daddy into dressing up. 

Did you do the whole costume thing this year? What did your kids dress up as?   

Monday, November 4, 2013

What if You Couldn't Read Your Bible?

A couple of months ago, the youth at our church raised money to buy Bibles for Uganda. Bibles that they could read because they were in their native language. And it made me wonder what we would do if we did not speak english and there were no Bibles that we could read. We would be lost and we would have to rely on someone else to read us the word. And we would have no way to know the truth ourselves or dig in further when we wanted to. Would we really know God the way we needed to?

This is just a sample article from Seedlinks. The web and print magazine that comes from The Seed Company and End Bible Poverty. All you have to do is go to www.endbiblepoverty.org. From there you can watch the amazing videos that show you what you can do and where your money goes, read stories that will warm your heart, and learn how to give.

Think about something. If it only takes $10 to translate a Bible into another language and put it into the hands of a mother or a child in Brazil, Uganda, or another country, are you really able to say "no"? For my family that is basically not going out to eat once a month and we can purchase 3-4 Bibles. That says a lot.

What can you do?

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Friday, November 1, 2013

When Mama Needs Abundant Grace

I was gone from home for 5 days. I have been home for 5 days. The problem is that the 5 days I was gone were filled with so much that sleep was the last thing on my mind. Since being home it is all that is on my mind. I am honestly still not sleeping because my mind will not turn off. So I have begged for grace from God, from my hubby, and from my kids. I am so glad that my oldest can get himself up, ready, and on the bus by himself- if not he would not have been at school this week. I have not gotten anything done as far as housework and only the bare minimum as far as laundry goes. Grace has been abundant here this week. Grace for the "craziness" I picked up while at Allume, grace in changing my dreams and throwing everyone for a loop, grace for the lack of housework being done, grace for the lack of "mommy duties" being completed, and grace from God for the lack of patience I have had with people who are questioning my new dreams and decisions. And grace from God for taking my time and questioning when he said "go" and I said "no" or "why". Grace freely given but not really deserved. Grace that I am thankful for.

Linking up today with Lisa Jo Baker and the Five Minute Friday Crew. 

Frame 232

The Kennedy assignation is one of the most followed events in the world to this day with conspiracy theories coming out everyday. In "Frame 232" Wil Mara explores one theory with an exciting, action packed sequence of events.

The Babushka Lady, that's how Margaret Baker will forever be known to the media, the government, and the conspiracy theorist. Margaret holds that secret and the secret of proof of a second assassin close to her heart and in a safety deposit box that only 3 people know about. After her death that number goes up to 4. Her daughter Sheila opens the box and is shocked by what she finds. After bringing Jason Hammond on board to help her decide what to do, she unknowingly sets in motion the events that will change their lives forever. Adventure and action fill the rest of the story as they discover who is actually behind the assassination and bring to end the theories that have floated around for years.

I will confess that it took me a little while to get into this book. It is not my normal go-to reading material. But once interest sparked, I couldn't put the book down. As a wife of a conspiracy theory lover, I can highly recommend this book to those just like him. This is the perfect gift for a guy (or gal) who buys into conspiracy with a passion. A little slow to start but action quickly builds making this a great read.

With Christmas coming, keep this book on your list as a great gift!

**I received this book from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.**

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Balancing Act- the end and a sneak peak of what's to come

Happy Halloween! Today is the last day of this series that was not quite 31 days. And also the beginning of a little break for me because I have a lot going on this month. I have about 15 birthdays to celebrate this month, a holiday, and a wedding. So postings this month will be sporadic and mostly reviews.
So here is a little preview of some things that you will see in the near future:
- Allume handed me a new dream. One that I am holding close to my heart for now but I will soon (Decemberish) do a Video post all about it.
- Allume also asked me to step out of my comfort zone so we are going to be getting uncomfortable on here when I get back to normal.
- I discovered a new organization and you will be hearing all about it and how to be involved.
- And of course there will continue to be reviews and giveaways so keep a look out for them.

So I will see you soon and I am looking forward to what is to come!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Balancing Act- True Confessions of an Imperfect Mom

No graphic is coming- sorry. Because this really has nothing to do with balancing anything. I just felt bad that there were only 2 days left in a 31 day series and I am probably not going to actually finish it.

So here's the deal. I am not a perfect mom. I have no plans to be. Perfection is over rated. I feel like greatness comes from failure and so it must be going to happen soon as much failing as I am doing. Someone told me that they didn't like a certain blogger because she felt that blogger gave moms permission to not strive for perfection. Well- I love that blogger. Because I can relate. I am absolutely not saying don't strive to be the best mom for your kids but I don't want to be perfect. I sometimes feel like bloggers give off that "I'm perfect. I do no wrong." vibe. And I want to apologize now if I have ever done that.

My house is a mess. I still have not unpacked from this past weekend. And I have not cooked since being at home. There really is no plans for that to happen before tomorrow. I am exhausted. I have a very short fuse. AND we have soccer practice tonight. My head is full of ideas and posts and I just want to get them out and onto paper (or screen) before they fly back out again. So the housework will suffer for a couple of days. As is the cooking because let's face it that just is not on my interest radar for right now. It will be okay though. I promise. Because it will get done- eventually.

I tried that whole not yelling at my kids challenge. Complete and utter FAILURE. I didn't make it one day. I didn't make it a full hour through today. I have some hard headed children and sometimes that is the only way that they stop and listen.

I spank my kids. I know that is taboo today but oh well. It works in our house. I actually had someone threaten to call the cops on me last week because I spanked my 3 year old after he ran out into the parking lot at soccer practice. I told them to go ahead. Needless to say she didn't do it. It's not child abuse to spank your kids. It's being a parent. It's teaching them that there are consequences to their actions.

I let them eat ice cream for breakfast (or lunch). Somedays it's okay to do that. I wouldn't do it everyday but every once in awhile. Go ahead and admit that you do it for yourself. Let the kids in on it every once in awhile.

They have holes in their underwear. I readily admit that especially after hearing Ann Voskamp admit it about her household. I can't even tell you where the holes came from. But I can promise you that a couple of them came from climbing trees and acting a fool outside because I have seen the pants that they have torn the holes in too.

I don't always engage with my children like I should. Somedays I let them go play outside while I sit on the couch and read a book or watch Hulu. I need the break and they do too. And somedays I use this computer and social media as an escape to ignore their yelling and bickering.

I am not a perfect mom, wife, person. I don't want to be. Because being perfect means that you need no one. And we all need God. We all need Jesus. And perfection does not exist without them. I am content to be broken and imperfect and to fail- because that makes me have to rely on God. To hand things over to him. I will take that over perfect any day of the week. That does not mean that I am happy with my brokenness all the time. But I am happy to know that I can hand it over to God and he is going to do a better job that I ever could do on my own.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Allume and the Changes It Made

So in all honesty I went to Allume to learn to blog better and to meet a few people on my "bucket list". God obviously had other plans. Because y'all I didn't get anything about blogging out of the weekend. What I got was conviction, life, brokenness, a new mission, and a new dream. I know that that will translate into this blog. It was so unexpected. It was so real. It was so wonderful. Y'all I saw true music worship instead of what I am used to. I saw where my failures are as a worshipper, a mom, and a wife. I developed a true pull and heart for missions (John is kind of worried but thankfully understands), and I heard God tell me what his dream is for me (and it scares me to no end). My heart was shattered in a way I didn't know that it could be and God told me where to go from there. My dream changed and  my heart changed.

    I am glad that I "knew" my dream sisters before going I will honestly admit. But I had never met them inRL. So after driving to Tallahassee and finding this house (and my GPS taking me on the very scenic route to there and Starbucks) I walk up to the front door. From the second she opened the door I knew that this completely online friendship became a sisterhood. We drove for a little over 8 hours even though it was only supposed to take 6 and a half. We played the game of dueling GPS's and took a lot of wrong turns. Most of them were because we were talking so much we paid no attention to those GPS's. We FINALLY get to Greenville and check into our hotel room. This was quickly followed by a late night of talking with new inRL friends but old online friends. This online friendship that seamlessly flowed into real life is still amazing me today. We are sisters and it was not a meeting of friends it was a family reunion. When we met up with the rest of these amazing women on Thursday the family reunion only continued. I am grateful for these women who helped to keep me grounded and engaged the entire time.
Photo by Melissa Aldrich

    That first night was filled with uncomfortableness and awe. I've said it before and I will say it again here. I am Church of Christ. So worship music with instrumentals, hands raised, and non-hymnal is not my norm. I love "Christian" music and I love to sing it but it has never been in my vocabulary as "worship" music- until this trip. Y'all- I have been doing it all wrong. I am not saying that I think instrumental music has a place in my worship service by no means. I am saying that seeing these men and women at this conference sing with eyes closed, hands raised, and their whole heart and mind focused on God and Jesus was eye opening and convictional (don't you love how I make up words sometimes?). I sat there uncomfortable but in awe. And then Ann Voskamp starts to speak. Oh my word. God pours out of this women in a way that you can't help but stop and listen. She is so soft spoken, kind, and lovely in person and then she stands on stage and she is powerful. Her voice does not have to be more this soft spoken lyrical music but there is power behind it. A power that says God is here. God loves you. God wants you! Oh be still my heart!!!!

   The second day was full of sessions, naps, and more goodness. I went and I heard Holley speak and went to a blogging session to only be quickly followed by this overwhelming need for quiet and rest. So I scapped my afternoon session plans and took a nap. But I was up in time to go to hear Phil Vischer (aka the "veggie tales man"). To be reminded about how important our story is and being reminded about being conscious of how we live that story was great. At dinner that night, we heard Jennie Allen speak and realized how broken I am but that it is where I need to be. I need to be broken. I need to be able to say "Jesus- I can't do this without you. I need you!" I also loved hearing her say "Batman and parables- I'm a dork!" This woman was real as real could be. But the truly defining moment of the night came with Anthony Evans who told the sound guy to turn off the track. And then came "It is well with my soul". Y'all I tell you God was in that room. Never in my life have I heard anything so beautiful. 

God was already working on my heart. He was. I could feel it. I was already raw. But Saturday morning was what I was looking forward to the most. Bianca Olthoff was the speaker. My first "real" blog that I followed. She had already inspired me. Her passion, her knowledge, her love for Christ, and her drive to end slavery in this world today. I was ready. I was prepared with kleenex that I could not find at the time. And I was still completely and totally shattered. As in I still have tears streaming down my face as I remember the total pull and shattering that happened. Tears flowed unchecked. And God worked on me through her. And my dear sister/friend/fellow dreamer reminded me to get a picture and to talk to talk to her again. (I was actually washing my hands in the bathroom Thursday night when she came walking in and I turned and introduced myself to her wet hands and all because I did not want to miss it.) So I waited. I helped the sponsor of the meal clean up to let the line go down. I stood there. I told myself I was not going to cry in front of her. (I did- as in the complete ugly cry.) And I got that picture. I told this woman how much I admired her. And she told me to listen to the mission laid on my heart. To keep going. To remember that I make a difference too. I have a voice to use. And in those words a new dream blossomed. 

I did not make it to sessions that morning. It just didn't happen. Instead I poured out my heart to the woman and listened to her advice. That afternoon I worked with an amazing organization called Sole Hope and you will hear more about it in the months to come! I then met with friends. Got some books signed. I took pictures with friends. I also spent time writing in prayer journals for friends who I am even more thankful for now. 

 Sunday brought me home. Had me pouring my heart out to John and hoping that he understood. God used this weekend to change me and made me even more certain that I will be back next year. I am going to give Logan time to rest but my dream will begin in a couple of weeks. Because if these women can use their voices to spread the word of God, to encourage others, and to not stay in their comfort zones- I can too. I am about to get uncomfortable. And that is what God wants me to do. This time, I am listening!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Balancing Act- Quiet Time

Quiet time is at a premium when you have kids. But it is very necessary for both mom and the kids. One great way to get this if you are a stay at home mom is at nap time. My children have decided that they no longer need naps but I do try and get them to at least go to their rooms and be quiet for an hour everyday. It sometimes works. I know that most of us use that time to accomplish stuff that otherwise goes undone but every once in a while or everyday (which ever you prefer- I like everyday) I like to use that time to read, write, or even nap if my 3 year old will cooperate. It is definitely one of those things that I say be deliberate about. For those of you who work, I used to relish in the drive time. I know that you can't read or nap then but you can definitely have quiet time and use the time to think and pray. Or you can take advantage of an empty car and let your inner rock star come out.

How do you spend quiet time? What do you do during your quiet time?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Balancing Act- Dishes + OCD

I am going to admit that when it comes to washing dishes I am a little OCD. I wash in a certain order- glasses, mugs, bowls, plates, silverware, casserole dishes, and the pots/ pans. And if for some reason I miss a glass I have to start back over with new water. I also have to wash dishes in hot water. If the water turns cold before I get done then I have to get new water in the sink.
So as much as I would love to have someone else help me wash dishes and I do often hand that chore off to my oldest, I cannot be in the room when someone else does it. I want to go in and take over because no one else in the house will wash them in the right order. I may or may not rewash a glass before I use it if someone else has done the dishes.
Oh and they are absolutely never washed as well if you use another liquid other than Dawn.

Are you a little OCD about any particular chore? Do you wash your dishes in a certain order?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Balancing Act: Somedays You Just Have To Be Lazy

Some days you just have to be lazy. If you don't you spend all your time cooking, cleaning, and taking care of others and you will lose yourself. Of course if you are like me then that one lazy day may end up with extra work the next day but it is oh so worth it. On my lazy days I like to read. And I read a lot anyway but those days there is a book in my hand all day. I recently read 2 books that I want to share with you.

Book #1

"Jewel of the Pacific" by Linda Lee Chaiken is a interesting read. It is book 3 in a series called The Dawn of Hawaii. I actually did not realize that when I requested it. You can read the story without having read the rest of the books and you will be okay- just a little confused at the beginning. After that you're good.

Eden and Rafe have been through a lot. Then a fire almost takes Eden's life and Rafe loses his eyesight. A series of misunderstandings leads to heartbreak for them both. With strife in the Hawaiian government and both families heavily involved, will they find there way back to each other?

Even though this is the 3rd book in a series it is able to hold its own. You can invest in the story and the characters without a lot of the background provided in the first 2 books. You definitely find yourself getting mad at some characters and cheering others on. And you know how you are watching a movie and you keep telling the characters to watch out or keep going? You definitely do that here.

This is a period in history that I actually don't know a lot about but this book made me interested. The story is set before Hawaii becomes a territory of the United States and tells a little of the history of the leper island communities. It is definitely an  interesting time in history.

Book #2

"Unspoken" by Dee Henderson is the story of Charlotte and Bryce. Charlotte inherits a large collection of coins and decides to sell them to Bryce. Bryce takes on the challenge after stating that he was a "bored". But Bryce gets more than he bargains for. Ann and Paul are investigating a cold case and find new leads to a break. Not everything is as it seems and digging brings up some hard questions and memories.

In my opinion a good book plays out in your head like a movie. This is one of those books. I found myself wishing that someone could turn this book into a movie until I remembered how much they would change to do it. Suspenseful, page turner is just one way to describe the story. I enjoyed reading it and absolutely did not see all the twists that came.

Great ending to the story but it is also left open for further stories about the characters. I am adding Henderson to my authors to look for list and will be looking for new books by her.

**I received "Jewel of the Pacific" from Moody Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. **
***I received "Unspoken" from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.***

Friday, October 25, 2013

Balancing Act- Making Lists and Sticking To Them

I used to be that person who went to the grocery store without a list. Well I had one in my head but never down on paper. My husband was the same way. The lesson that we learned- we always ended up making multiple trips because we wouldn't get something- we needed a WRITTEN list. Since making a grocery list we have saved time and money. Or we did until my husband started going off the list. Lesson learned really quickly that we have to stick with a list.

I am also a to-do list fanatic. I have to have a to-do list if I am going to get anything done around the house. It's the way that I function. So I make a to-do list every morning. And I stay with it. And if it doesn't get done it gets moved to the next day. I try my best to stick to the list.

Life became easier for me when I realized that making realistic to-do lists was the key to my success. You may be different. For me lists are the key. What is organizational style????

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thoughts from Allume

Tonight was the first night of Allume! I have met some of the greatest people, had a road trip of 8 hours to get here (it was only supposed to be 6), had the most amazing conversations, and have been this complete extrovert at times that I do not recognize. After almost having to cancel my trip a couple of weeks ago, I came to Allume with no expectations, no lists, and more of a faith that God would put me where he wants me with the people he wants me with. He has honestly already done this and I stand (or sit in the bed) in awe of the power he has here. My goal became go grow in God and don't worry about growing the blog about the time the whole ticket craziness happened and I am telling you if the next 3 days are like the last 2, I will meet that goal because I already have. These women from my Dream Team are like family- there is no holding back with them. I met one of the amazing ladies from the (In) Courager group that I lead. I met Lisa Jo Baker and I was so star struck I didnt think to get a picture. I also met Bianca Olthoff in the bathroom tonight. I felt so stupid turning around from washing my hands and introducing myself but I knew I would never get another chance. So I met her in the bathroom. Seriously! I am already blessed beyond measure from this trip and can't thank Michelle Pickle Statefarm, a consignment sale, and my hubby enough for this trip!

Balancing Act- Laundry, Laundry Everywhere.

Is it just me or does the laundry  seem to multiply and be never ending? Well in my household it is way behind right now. We have not moved our washer and dryer over yet so I blame the fact that we have to go over to the other house. But in reality it is because I hate doing this chore. Separating lights and darks, towels, whites, etc just makes me cringe. And let's not even get started on the whole ironing agenda. So I am always open to suggestions. 6 people in a household results in lots of laundry. Our system right now is to wash two loads of clothes a day. That means 3 trips out there. Once we get everything moved (hopefully this weekend) then the system will change to at least one load of each person's clothes until I get caught up (if there is such a thing). I didn't used to separate stuff but have found lately with my oldest uniforms that it is necessary evil. So now I separate everything. It takes so much longer. And I also didn't use to iron- hello, that's what a dryer is for. But then came uniforms, so now I iron everything. Laundry tips and advice- go!