thrifty find: graco baby gear

When I mentioned my bread maker yesterday, I realized it had been a few weeks since I shared one of my favorite thrifty finds with you. :) I love thrifting, but I haven't been able to go all the time in the past few months like I used to. 

Something about being pregnant makes your house become like a magnet for you- you don't ever want to leave, and then once you have to, you want to go right back home and you don't even know why. :) I used to be such a go, go, go person, but I don't mind staying home at all anymore- I kind of love it now. :)

Besides meals and painting lists, I haven't been planning ahead much either, but right after we found out we were having a boy, I started mentally making a list of all the things we would need for this little one. :D I can't believe that it will be 8 years in May since we've had a newborn boy in the house. {I tell my boys to stop growing up already, but they just won't listen!}. :)

Even though it's been several years, I've saved almost everything baby-related {I just recently started giving big kid clothes away because we have way too many}, so we really don't need much as far as I can tell. 

The one big thing we did "need" was a gender-neutral carseat. I absolutely love our last one- it is a lovely purple-gray Laura Ashley Graco carseat in this pattern:

I bought it used for $60 a few years ago, and we still have it in the attic because I just can't seem to part with it. It could work if we needed it to, of course, but the purple flowers seemed a bit girly for this little guy. I had been researching patterns online and came across this Rittenhouse pattern that could work for either a boy or a girl:

I really liked it, but the car seat with one base was $159 new. Ouch! Is it me, or does that seem like how much the car seat and stroller together used to cost??

I really wasn't sure I could ever part with that much cash for just a car seat. Even if I resold it, it would be for a big loss.

I figured I had months to try to find one for a good deal, but the week before we did our ultrasound, I found one with two bases used for a fraction of the price! Crazy how that works. :)

The day after we found out it was a boy, I emailed and met the girl who had it. It was one owner, in great condition, never had been in an accident, still under the manufacturer's expiration date by years, and even had the instructions with it! {AAP guidelines for buying used car seats here}.

The used car seat price? 


I saved over $100 and got the carseat I wanted, just by letting someone else use it for a few months. :)

Gotta love buying secondhand! :D

What thrifty deals have you scored lately? I'd love to hear!

Do you love staying home like I do these days? It's something magnetic and irresistible, isn't it??

Have you ever bought baby items used? 

I jumped on the used bandwagon after the first baby. Everything was brand new for him {and we were so blessed to be given almost all of it!}. Later, when we had to buy something ourselves, we tried to find it used. That and we were broke, so new wasn't an option. LOL! We did buy a brand new purple Bumbo once when they first came out.

Do you have a favorite color or pattern you find yourself liking on everything, even baby stuff?

With my first baby I bought all Noah's Ark stuff, but with the last few I tend to buy what I like to look at the most- pretty diaper bags, cute non-baby fabrics, etc. Hey, the baby doesn't care anyway, right? :) Right now I'm loving the damask and chevron prints, and lots of funky bright florals. I'm trying to keep it gender neutral, but just I'm in love with big flowers, you know?

homemaking hack #1: silverware jars

We've got a super busy day planned today- I'm covering two exercise classes for friends and I need to hit the post office and then Sam's club for a grocery run. I made my menu plans last night and was dreaming hoping to keep it under $100. Then I actually started listing what I needed. Yeah. Sam's and $100 week + grocery trips are not happening. Ha! At least I did the math before I went instead of letting the register do it for me. That has happened way more than once. ;)

We were out of everything breakfast related as of yesterday, so last night I mixed up some bread and set the timer on the bread machine. I used to make homemade bread all the time, but since I went bread-free last year I haven't gotten back in the habit. Now I'm thinking I might try it again on a regular basis. Everyone in the family loves hot bread. :) It had been so long that I forgot to set the crust to light, but it was still really good!

Here's the recipe I used. I hadn't tried that one before, but it was good. {I can't compare it to my Artisan bread, though! Not even in the same category.}

Here is the awesome bread machine I use- I stole it from GW for $10, and blogged about it during my 31 days of thrifting series!

But I couldn't get on with my week without showing you one of my more recent homemaking hacks. :) I have several of these planned to share with you guys in the near future. {*mischievous grin*}

This one is life changing. In the kitchen, anyway. ;)

Wait for it.... it's big....

I've started to leave all of my useful silverware out on the counter. 

Crazy, huh? 

You know me, I like to live on the wild side. :)

Though we stopped sorting them by size long, long ago and just used a big double caddy in the drawer, I was super tired of walking across the kitchen to grab a fork when I was cooking and preparing dinner on the other side. {or maybe I was just lazy...} I could have moved it all to another drawer close by, but I'm loving not having to cross the kitchen and open the drawer. 

Apparently, I either eat all the time, or I'm making food all the time, because I was having to get in that hard-to-pull drawer like every five seconds.

I could hide the jars when we have company, but the truth is, I like the way they look. Kind of like I'm having a dinner party on my counter every day. :)

And I estimate that I'm saving at least 15 steps and 30 seconds every day. hehehe.

It's officially a homemaking hack I'm quite fond of now. :)

So tell me...

What do you do with your silverware? 

Are you a silverware sorter? Or are you living the wild life like me? :P

Do you love your bread maker too? Any great recipes to share?? I'm always on the lookout! 

how to get rid of that heavy burden in your chest

Over the last few months I do believe I have been through every emotion known to man. And you know I never exaggerate. :) But it really did feel like it.

Normal life, conflict, exhaustion, sadness, joy, anger, love- it seems like you feel everything more when hormones are involved. Or it could just be that I'm a woman, and I always have. :)

Through it all, God has been so good to me.

When I had been feeling down or overwhelmed or sad, or had a desire to dwell on something that I shouldn't over the past few months, He taught me something that helped me leave those feelings behind and that has without fail, restored my joy.

Every time I think about a situation or want to dwell on something that makes sad, angry, or upset, I ask Him to help me, and here's what He tells my heart:

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Fix your eyes on me, He says to my spirit. Set your mind on what is good- and the only thing that is truly good is Jesus Himself.

Hebrews 12:1-2
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Holy, righteous, worthy of praise, full of love and mercy, redeeming the lost and making them new.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

When I ask Him for help, my weighed-down spirit starts to praise Him- I start thinking about who He is, and thanking Him for what He has done. I start focusing on Jesus and giving Him praise, and the burden in my heart really starts to disappear.

Before I know it, I can only dwell on the goodness of God, and He has taken my heart's burden away.

It's completely unexplainable. It's supernatural- no amount of positive thinking will do what this does.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus, the Holy Spirit overcomes my worry, my anxiety, my anger, my sadness by setting my heart on my one true Hope. He reminds me of who is in charge of it all.

No weight in my heart or heavy burden compares to the one who is King over all creation.

There is no hope apart from Him. When I praise Him, I remember my hope is in him alone, and it gives me joy again.

Psalm 42:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

I remember one week a couple of months ago, when I was at the peak of the worst part of my sickness that God had been showing me this for the first time. I remember feeling like I had nothing left to give, and I told Him that.

And then God, in my weakness, took me and helped me put my eyes on Him instead of how I felt, or how much I wanted to give up. "Set your eyes on Jesus" became the phrase I couldn't get out of my head, in a good way. I had to repeat it over and over, and it gave my thoughts the right direction every time.

That very Sunday after that week, my friend Ashlee was leading worship with her husband, and the Holy Spirit led her to share what was on her heart about the song we were singing. And oh, I couldn't stop crying when I heard it.

She told us that when she was feeling down the week before, the Lord had reminded her soul to bless Him. She shared that He had showed her that it was not just a phrase that we worship or sing praise to, but a command for our soul to bless the name of the Lord, no matter what we felt like.

Psalm 103
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Oh, how I LOVE the Holy Spirit! The tears came overflowing, because it was the very thing God had been saying to me when I was feeling down that same week. She said it so perfectly, and it was so encouraging to my heart. Our God is so ALIVE!! He is moving and working!! He speaks to us in so many ways!!!

Bless the Lord, O my soul. 

Look on what the Lord has done.

Set your eyes on me, He says. I will make your burdens light.

Matthew 11
 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Whatever your weight may be today, I want to encourage you- give it to Jesus by looking to Him for help.

Set your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Just praise Him.

He already knows your burden, and He will make it light.

Bless Him, even when you don't feel like it. When you want to dwell on that one thing that makes your chest heavy- start to praise the Lord for who He is and what He has done.

He is the Lord God Almighty who created the very air you are breathing right now.

What can He not do with your situation?

Praise Him, even when you are sad or hurt or just plain weary. Like Ashlee said so well- command your soul to bless Him.

Pray His Word over and over if you don't know what to say. David said it so well for us:

Psalm 34:
1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Oh, sweet friend, taste and see that the Lord is good- blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

It's a promise. And it's true. I can tell you.

Look to Him, and He will give you rest from these troubles and make your burdens light.

Oh, how He is merciful to our stubborn hearts! He helps us in our weakness.

Psalm 28
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Trust in Him, my strength and my shield.

He is good, and His mercy endures forever.

Will you fix your eyes and your hope on Him today?

With song, you can give thanks to Him like we did in worship on that Sunday. Did you guess what we were singing? :)

How have you seen Him working in your heart to lift your anxiety? 

Do you have a story of His goodness to you when you felt the heavy weight removed? Please share! :D You might encourage someone else's heart today!

a dozen things that make me smile

Here are a few things that made me smile this morning:

1. Reading your comments on this post from this weekend, hearing your stories and seeing you guys have an awesome love for each other and a desire to help each other in comment threads. I so love every one of you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

2. Waking up to a clean kitchen. Oh, it feels good! :D

3. Last week's flowers from the hubs, just because {I was probably grumpy}, and a cake stand left out from our big gender reveal. :)

4. Almost instant Starbucks coffee. And never having to see coffee grounds again.

5. Happy dishes we can actually use!

6. Finding the results of having your 3-year-old clean off the plates from the table last night. She was being so helpful I didn't even think to see what she was doing! I really couldn't stop laughing when I found this in the bathroom later:

7. Baby boy clothes. And cheery baby fabric, hopefully to be made into something useful soon. :)

8. Lots of paint. Exterior house paint. It's happening!! Whoop!

9. My current craving: citrus. I can't get enough grapefruit. I have a feeling it will change when watermelon season comes along though. ;)

10. Star Wars legos that are now the DIY decor of choice. :) 

11. Pink Easter hats. I'm going to enjoy this girl phase to the fullest while it lasts. :)

12. Boys that sit down and do their work on their own. {okay, okay, that makes me grin like crazy. :)}

What makes you smile today? :)

Do you have "DIY" lego decor all over your house too? :D

Or do you have a favorite set of dishes you love to use? 

I love the Mikasa French Countryside set I got for my birthday a few years ago. We scored the entire set on Craigslist for $50! {Serving bowls, gravy boat, cream and sugar too!} I was so excited.

And those $5 anthro bowls are my favorite too. :D

should Christians use birth control? my story.

Today I was going to post about a raw carrot cake recipe, and nothing went right. And then somehow I ended up writing about our birth control story today. Yeah.

I know that birth control, contraception, and artificial reproductive technologies can be big dividing issues for many Christians today. But I really believe they are issues we can't afford to overlook as followers of Jesus in this culture. 

But before we go there, I want to tell you my story. :)

I was engaged at 18 and married at 19. We were young and happy and had lots of plans that didn't include any little people for a very long time. A dog, definitely, but no little people. I took birth control pills to make sure of that.

But my world and my opinions about birth control drastically changed within a few months of us getting married {over 10 years ago now!}. The more I read the Bible and grew closer to God, the more convicted I felt that we were disregarding God's blessing of children in seeking after our own desires by taking birth control pills.

I was 20 and in my last semester of college and I wanted a career, money, and a red Jeep Liberty {seriously}. And I didn't want to have children until I was 28, if at all. {Why I gave myself a random 8 years, I have no idea}. In fact, we had often joked about being DINKS when we got out of college- double income, no kids.

Slowly I started to feel the conviction that we were meant to bear children, but then God completely wrecked me when I read on my own package of birth control pills and saw that it had three ways of keeping me from getting pregnant: by preventing ovulation {which I thought was the only way}, and then two more: to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, and the third one was the real shocker: to prevent the egg from implanting in the uterus by changing the thick lining of the wall of the uterus and making it reject the egg.

No one had ever told me I could possibly be making my body reject a fertilized egg. As a Christian, I strongly believed that life begins at fertilization, and this was too much for me to take. It meant I could be aborting our babies. 

And oh, I prayed and prayed about it all. Hormonal birth control just seemed so wrong once I understood what it could do. And I won't even mention how witchy it made me feel all the time. Witchy and newly married is not a good combo, by the way.

So I brought all the facts to my new husband and he agreed with me right away. We decided not to use hormones anymore, and to welcome any children God would give us then. Within two weeks, we were pregnant with our first baby, Elijah.

I honestly wish I could say I never looked back and could leave this part out, but after having Noah 27 months after that first decision, I bought into fear and my own selfishness again, and took a lower-dose pill for a couple of months that didn't have that wording in the package. 

And I became a hormonal mess again thanks to those tiny blue pills. I regretted taking them within a couple weeks, because I was afraid of the truth of what could happen inside of me, and I knew how instantly my personality had changed when I started taking them. 

At the time, I was in full-time nursing school and working part-time every weekend with two babies and a young husband, but God didn't let go of me and leave me to myself. He changed my heart again, and gave me mercy and changed my path completely within a few months. 

I still regret those foolish two months today. It's even worse to me than the first time I took them. But God gives grace and forgiveness, and I ask for His mercy when I feel that guilt weighing on me.

finding out the facts

Now I realize that some of you know a ton about the mechanisms of birth control pills and IUD's, but some Christians do not have any idea what they can actually do in your body. And there's so much deception in our culture about these topics, which is not terribly surprising when we take a step back to see the truth about the blessings of children we find in the Bible.  

It's important to remember, that "in the absence of biblical conviction, people will go the way of culture."{Sally Clarkson}. The same is true here. We will go the way everyone else does unless we know the truth of God's Word.

I'm certainly no expert on the topic, but I think it's important to search out the facts as stewards of these lives God has given us. I can also testify that God has changed my life in a wonderful way because I chose to leave those hormones behind. I believe my marriage is so much happier than it would have been on those hormones that make you act and feel differently. And having children has changed me for good, and brought me even closer to God.

Everyone's story will be different of course, and there is much to consider in each situation that is between the Lord and the couple themselves when it comes to contraception. Every person should consider and pray about what God desires with their spouse, looking to the Bible for truth and the Holy Spirit for guidance, as well as examining their own hearts for their true motives. We both agree ours had been very selfish. 

I can't tell you what to do when it comes to contraceptives; I can only tell you my story, and point to what resources we have to help navigate this hard topic. I really and truly believe that issue of birth control is a huge one we need to bring to light in the Christian community, and I'm so, so glad that a large body of believers has addressed it in a very specific manner. 

a helpful resource

The Village Church, part of the Acts 29 network {like the church I'm in}, has prayerfully put together a very thorough but loving and un-legalistic view on contraception and artificial reproductive technologies. It's totally worth the time to read. It is saturated with the Gospel, but at the same time doesn't neglect the truth of the harmful sides of using some types of contraception.

Not everyone will agree with them or all of what they say, of course, but I think they do a very good job of addressing these issues with grace.

Here are a few excerpts:
Discussions about contraception and reproduction must also take into account the biblical blessing of offspring. Children are to be cherished as good gifts from a gracious God. Problems arise whenever this truth is forgotten or neglected. Some fail to embrace the goodness of the gift of children, instead viewing them as inconvenient. Others fail to remember that children are undeserved blessings that we are not entitled to. Neither disposition of the heart is healthy or right. Where children are neglected, disregarded, abused, idolized or demanded, God’s intention is compromised. As sons and daughters of a good and generous Father, we are called to possess humble and glad hearts that embrace the gifts that He has given and trust Him with those He has not.
In light of this reality, convenience, comfort and covetousness are not the lenses through which we are to evaluate medicine and science. Rather, our charge is to assess the use of contraceptive and reproductive technologies on the basis of the preservation and protection of human life. Forms that truly uphold and honor the sanctity of life for the glory of God are acceptable, while those that do not are not. Our God is good, and He has given us life in both creation and redemption. Let us be wise and faithful stewards of the gifts that He gives and trust Him even when inconvenient, uncomfortable and painful.

Here's the link again.

living for Jesus

I think it's so important that we remember that we have been given this life for the glory of God. It's not for ourselves. That's the hard part to remember for me.

The world tells you to do whatever makes you happy in this life. But Jesus says, love me with everything, and die to yourselves to find true life.

The world tells you to make money and much of yourself with your possessions and your abilities. But our Lord tells us not to worry about money, and to give up your possessions and abilities for the sake of Him and others.

The world tells you to forget about the person that hurt you. But Jesus tells us to forgive the person that hurt you, and love them.

Everywhere we turn, we are called to do the opposite of what the world tells us to do.

So with that in mind, I want to leave you with this question:

How closely does your opinion of children resemble the rest of the world's? And how closely do your actions reflect the same? 

Where else do you find yourself leaning into the way of the culture in this life?

Oh, I know we are never going to be perfect in this life, but it's so important that we give Jesus everything. All of us. All of our desires, everything we love to hold close to us. He is so worthy of every part of us, sweet friend. Ask Him for guidance in every single part of your life. He is so good. He will not lead you astray. You can give Him every part of your life, and put all of your trust in Him.

Oh, that we would love Him with all of us.

How has birth control affected your life? Do you have a story like mine? 
How have you seen God change your life with these topics? 

{and if you do comment or reply, please, please do so in love and with respect for your fellow believers. Unkindness will be deleted. :) }

the closet is open!

The closet is open!! Hop on over to check it out! :)

I've re-opened my online store here! I had intended to post everything straight into the blog this time, but this ended up being so much simpler than adding Paypal buttons and calculating separate shipping costs {which I figured out, after I spent a good while working on it. :) Naturally!}.

And using this store system, you should know exactly when something has sold out. :D But you have to check out fairly quickly- since there is only one of each, the item won't be held for you until it's paid for, of course.

Everything you need to know about shipping should be found over here at the store. I tried to keep shipping costs as low as possible for you. :D

Have fun shopping! And let me know if you have any questions! :D

continuing to praise in the valley {an update}

They added more pictures to my nephew Jacob's memorial website last week- you can check them out here.
This one was my favorite after they told us the story of how Jake did a hilarious speech at school on why he and Barbie couldn't get along:

And oh my goodness, I am so blessed by my sister-in-law Christy- she wrote this post this morning on her blog and you just have to go and read it all. Here's a little of what she said:

Reading my last post - about my brave little girl and how she belongs to my God... Knowing with all of my heart that God has purpose much greater than I can imagine in all that has taken place... it is still so hard for this momma heart in me to believe it is real.

My boy.
My 15 year old son...
My first born...

Well, he is resting - free from sin and pain and burdens. He is in Heaven with my Jesus, and my momma.

But, yet I am here. I am hurting to the depth of my soul this morning. As my body is racked with pain and my soul is crying out to God Most High for comfort... I am telling my God that He is worthy.

Even in the unknown- in scary situations like seizures and MRI's, even in this valley, she continues to praise God. I cannot tell you how much this makes my heart glad. Oh, God is good. 

If you can, would you hop over to her blog and leave a comment to encourage her heart today as she's walking through this? And would you continue to pray that his family would feel His comfort and that He would be so tangibly present to Christy, holding her close as she aches for her sweet boy?

Thank you! Much love to you sweet friends!

another round of Mandy's Closet coming soon!

It's been too long since we had a Mandy's Closet session! :D

I tried to do one before Christmas- I took all the pictures and everything, but it also happened to coincide with the peak time of my first trimester sickness, so that project never came to be. :)

Instead of doing a big shop with lots of items like we did last time, I'm just going to list a few things each month {Lord-willing} and give you the chance to buy them right here on the blog. I'm hoping doing smaller listings here on the blog more often will help me handle all the orders a bit more easily and that having the sales more often will give you all an equal chance to score some fun finds. We'll see! :P

This time I have a few different clothing/shoe sizes too for those of you who were asking! :D And of course, the prices will be comparable to a thrift store or eBay. :)

So meet me here tomorrow? Maybe? haha! {I'm trying to learn to never say anything will happen for sure! You know how it goes!} There should be some pretty awesome deals!!

walking through the trial of hormones

baby #5: 5 weeks, 16 weeks.... oh, what a journey the first trimester is!
In the last few weeks, I've been feeling the truth of this verse:
Psalm 126:5
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
It seems like joy is so much sweeter after the tears.

I can tell you this: I don't have anything that would ever qualify as a great trial in my life. But being pregnant with four little kids and a husband was pretty rough for a few weeks in the beginning.

I felt terrible. From about the sixth to tenth weeks of my pregnancy, I was just longing for each day to be over. I felt so sick, but not sick enough to be on the couch all day. I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to move, I didn't want to lay down, and I didn't even want to read anything on the computer {that was the worst one!}. 

I remember somewhere around the 5th week, I realized I was starting to feel like a crazy person. Within 10 minutes time, I felt anxious, angry, and felt like hopelessly crying all at one time. It was such a drastic change from the week before when I felt normal, and I seriously couldn't take it. 

I cried into my husband's shoulder and told him that I felt really awful, and I was sorry I was so hormonal, and I was afraid it would be like this for a long time. Of course he was a sweetheart and told me that it would be okay because I was making him a little baby. Oh, that man. :)

I knew it was all because of the hormones, but it didn't matter: I still burst into tears again and laid on my bed and just cried. I prayed and begged God to tell me why in the world was pregnancy so hard if it was what He wanted me to do? Why would He make it harder on me if He wanted me to have this baby?

And why did He give women these hormones that felt like death and made you feel like a crazy person anyway? How does that help anything? What purpose do they serve? They just make me impatient with my family, cause me to answer in haste with anger and sharp words, and make me feel miserable all the time.

The answer came back quietly to my heart: 

Hormones only amplify what's already inside of you.

Oh my goodness. Aggghhhhhh. 

If there was no sin nature in my heart, the hormones wouldn't be able to make me sin. 

Which just made me cry all the more.

I was feeling so good before I got pregnant- I felt so joyful, growing closer to God, and things were going well. And then I felt like we were obedient to the Holy Spirit's leading to have more children, and then all of the sudden it felt like God wrecked me.

I just felt so confused. I knew He wouldn't give up on me- I knew He was still there, and that He wanted me here, but I felt so bad physically and mentally that I felt like I had nothing left to give Him.

Over and over I prayed for Him not to let me fall away from Him- to hold me close to Him, because I knew without a doubt that He would.

I knew that He wouldn't forsake me, no matter how I felt, or what I did, or how well I did or didn't pray. And I cried and cried and cried to Him. I was so upset.

I knew this was a trial that I had to walk through- it sounds silly, but for me, these hormones were a very real trial. 

I knew God was working on me- He was showing me what would come out so easily when I was pushed. He broke me over and over again. I felt like such a wimp. Oh, I was so very bad at it. 

It was such a hard time for me- I felt alone and tired sometimes, and sometimes He came close and gave me strength when I asked for it. He was never far, and I knew it. I didn't doubt He would give me the strength, but I didn't always ask for it, unfortunately. I was too tired, too upset.

It was so hard to walk through, but He didn't let me go. I don't know what His purposes are {and I still wish we didn't have to deal with hormones}, but I know for sure that God showed me more about myself when I was down like that, and that He was sanctifying me in that type of suffering.

He showed me even more just how much I needed Him and how hard life would be without Him.

He brought out all kinds of ugly dirt inside and then washed it clean.

And even better than that, He gave me back even greater joy after those terrible weeks were over.

It doesn't make sense, but joy feels so much sweeter after you have been through the sorrow.

It seems true of people who are walking through terrible pain and loss- that God supernaturally comforts you like He did my sister-in-law who lost her son two weeks ago today. It's like Spurgeon says: God comforts you in trials in such a way you could have never experienced if you hadn't gone through it

Seeing Christy's loss, and walking through those weeks of sickness and hormones, it's never been more true for me that His ways are not our ways. I don't think there's any way in the world we'd choose suffering to bring us closer to God.

But His plan is so much better than ours. And He doesn't leave us in our suffering- He sanctifies and cleanses us in it and then brings us closer to Him.

And while we can only experience part of His joy now, one day we will experience His glory in full. He is taking us through all of this, making us more like Jesus now, so that we can experience His full joy on that day when He returns.

Through these trials, it's like we are dying to ourselves- to our sin- to our desires, so that we can lose our life completely in Jesus. We've got nothing left of ourselves after they're over.

3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is youra life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:3-4

And in losing ourselves like that, though it sounds impossible to our human minds, we have joy because we are His, and He will bring us comfort and will show us His glory in our trials:

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:13

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:5
Of course, my little trial was hardly one of great suffering compared to the trials of others, but God used it to open my eyes and draw me closer to Him- to show me how much I need Him and nothing else.

I just want to encourage you- if you are walking through hard things right now, He will not forsake you. Don't stop trusting Him. He is good, and everything He gives you is for a purpose, and for your good and His glory. You may not understand it now {you might even feel terrible}, but He will not leave you alone.

It's a promise, friend, and I've seen it happen in my life. 

Not only does joy come in the morning, this joy He gives you comes back sweeter than you'd ever imagine. He is that good to us. :)

Have you seen God redeem something that was awful and make it for your good? It's so good to hear testimonies of His faithfulness- especially when you are walking through it.

Have hormones been a very real trial at times for you too?

and it's a..... {gender reveal baby #5}

it's a....
We had a last-minute gender reveal party this weekend, and it was so much fun. :) Only Rob and I knew this baby's gender, so we wanted to make it extra special when we told the kids.

I'll tell you though, making a gender cake might have been the most difficult baking project I've ever done. It was ridiculously hard to hide colorful crumbs under white icing. Next time I'll have to do chocolate icing. ;)

The top layer of the cake fell apart in three huge pieces as I was icing it Saturday afternoon {the reveal just 4 hours out!}, but I totally believe the Lord rescued me when He made me think to get the other cake plate we have and flip it over. Otherwise I might have fallen apart too. ;)

I think it turned out pretty well when it was all said and done:

I used buttercream icing, and added yellow sugar crystals and five little peeps for this baby:

Five little peeps. Wow. A friend told me I had a handful now! Hey, so when strangers tell me I've got my hands full, I can tell them, well technically just one hand full. heheh.

It's fun having kids with this guy. He's such a good daddy, and I think he liked having a cake party as much as I did.

Before we cut the cake, we made everyone vote for blue or pink {and tell me how much they'd pay me if they were wrong}:

lindsay {left},  abbie, and my sweet mom-in-law who took most of the pictures and votes!}

It ended up being heavy on the blue side {and apparently no one wanted to pay me}:

After everyone voted, we gathered in the dining room for the big surprise:

We finally cut the cake....



I love the looks on all the faces here:

and it was....

Blue! Aqua, maybe Tiffany blue, but definitely blue! :D

Which means we're so excited to have another one of these in the house after 8 years:

{My sister-in-law Cayse made two signs for me- one girl and one boy! Isn't that the sweetest thing ever? :D}

But now the girls will officially be outnumbered! :D We have about 24 weeks left to pull our equal rank. :D

I can't wait to share more about all this crazy pregnancy stuff! So much has happened {and not happened}, but my energy is finally returning and we are in project mode again. We bought an infant car seat this weekend, and I bought two boy outfits last week. :D It's exciting to prepare for this kind of deadline. :) I'll keep you posted, if that's okay with you guys!

So.... I know several of you are mamas of many- do you have any tips for getting ready for baby #5? 

Any tips for making the last few months of having just 4 extra special?

Have you ever been to a gender reveal party? Or made a colorful surprise cake?

Any tips on how not to eat this entire plate of cake leftovers? I want to eat it ALL.

oh baby!

So did you notice the big news yesterday? :) 

{I think y'all did! :D Thank you all so much for your sweet words!!}

We're having our 5th baby in July or August!! :D 

Yesterday I added that fun little detail at the end of our v-day recap. Sneaky, huh? :) We had so much fun seeing our baby on Thursday. It was a big surprise for us- we never get to see them quite this early. I was thrilled! :)

We found out what we are having, and to make it even more fun for the kids, we decided to do a gender reveal cake tonight! 

This little baby was hiding from us at first. I love this modesty shot! Smart one. :)

We have two boys {9 and 7} and two girls {5 and 3}, so 3 of us will soon be outnumbered!
I can't wait to share all the details {and the gender!} with you on Monday! :D