gracelaced: encouragement through the seasons of the heart

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 

Revelation 21:4-5

The words of Jesus are always trustworthy and true, and that's why I'm resting in His character this week in the midst of sorrow.

My friend Ruth at Gracelaced sent me her new book and journal as a gift this month and asked if I would share which season I am in right now and in some sort of perfect timing, I opened it to those verses she painted and found such comfort from God's Word. I wish I were in a happier season, but that is our life on earth isn't it? We don't choose which seasons come or when they come, but God's Word never fails to offer hope for every single one of them.

I so appreciate the fact that her beautiful book Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through the Seasons of the Heart is filled with Gospel truth; that it isn't full of fluffy comfort that only touches the surface, but she points you to trust in the Word of God instead of your own feelings in all of the seasons of life:

She encourages you with devotionals in "Winter" with topics on dwelling, leaning, brokenness, and rest; in "Spring" on pruning, delight, freedom, and being His; in "Summer" in rejoicing, meekness, coming to Him, and daily life; in "Fall" on being held, being carried, and finding your purpose and assurance in Christ. I haven't read through all the chapters yet, but I'm looking forward to digging in as we are pressing into a new and harder season of life in our house altogether.

And truly, my very favorite part of her entire book is an explanation and invitation to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ:

Because no part of life makes sense apart from our hope in Him. Without salvation in Him, we won't be able to know Him or His comfort or peace or joy. The Creator of all beauty is our God eternal, who ordains all things, and who is magnificent in every way. All of the earth will one day worship Him!! Oh what a wonderful day that will be, when there is no sorrow, no pain, no death, no tears, no sin, no sickness! He is so gracious and patient with mankind- knowing we are but dust. What joy it is to walk with Him, through all seasons of life. 

This is not an affiliate or sponsored post. I didn't receive any compensation for this post, nor are there affiliate links in it. I received the journal, the book, a small canvas tote bag, a print, and pencils from my real-life friend Ruth. :)

as the winds blow + stocking up

The hurricane storms never reached us in our part of East Texas, but we are feeling the winds and the cooler temps for sure. It's strange that the same storm can be so destructive just hours away and manage to be so pleasant here. 

Later on after work was finished, we headed out for a trip to Sam's club. I brought this to study on the way (we are always in the car way longer than we think!). Robert and I are taking this class together this fall and it's been great so far:

We ate a quick dinner at Sam's Club and got on to shopping. I am so glad it was empty because look how much of the aisle we take up these days! 


We're basically a freight train. :)

I couldn't resist these red peppers- I've never tried them but I was sold when I saw that they were packed in water instead of oil:

Sam's seems to be upping the ante in quality foods! I also picked up this new sauce as a chicken and rice dressing:

Even after all these years, I still can't believe we buy 25 lbs. of flour:

And, oh I was glad to get stocked back up on these:

And cucumbers too...

And then eggs- every time we eat we go through 18 and that's holding back. They could eat more... :)

Here's what our cart looked like by the end:

The little lady stayed asleep until she had a last minute blowout: :P

When we got home, I offered the kids a cup of milk before bedtime. After five of them had a little, this is what we had left of the new gallon:

I probably already need to go back to the store. :)

my third (!) ten-ager

When I think about last weekend, this verse comes to mind: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." Proverbs 19:21

We had lots of plans for Saturday, but they changed pretty quickly after we found out the bad news. But we did have an entire morning of working on this list:

Of course, it didn't all get done, and that was okay.

Before the kids awoke on Sunday morning, I iced the birthday cake:

And we had our cinnamon rolls (Pillsbury, canned): :)

We opened presents, and for their gift the boys wrote her a computer game and handed over ownership and all the company stock:  :)

Ava and Zane cut out a cardboard laptop and drew keys on it for her doll: 

Later that afternoon, we had lunch at the very ladylike La Madeleine:

And on the way home, we stopped by the toy store for her gift. With all these amazing girl lego sets to choose from she picked out a red tow truck and a blue truck/rv lego city combo! :)

One thing that I love about toy stores is that you don't feel bad trying out the items before you buy them: 

Ivy was surprisingly happy to stay seated since we missed her nap time:

as long as there are two matching shoes, we don't worry too much about which feet they're on ;)
 Then, almost as soon as we got home, I started in on the chicken parm:

It was the first time I've ever attempted it, and it ended up being a success! After battering, frying, and baking 5 lbs. of chicken breast, I have never been more relieved about the way a dish turned out. :)

And I think Isabella liked it too. :) She is a beautiful blessing to our family. She is growing up to be a very kind young woman, and she is so tenderhearted and serving. She is also growing in the knowledge of the Lord, and quickly discerns the answers to the hard questions her dad likes to ask the family. :)

God has blessed our family by giving us sweet Isabella!!  

happy, happy things this week

My cousin is growing worse, and between birthdays, weekend company, and work today we are just going with the flow and "doing the next thing" as Elisabeth Elliot would say.

Instead of creating goal lists that aren't essential at the moment, I decided I wanted to think about happier things right now. :)

Like daddies holding little daughters:

And the tiniest of flower presents:

Precious baby smiles:

Kids feeling well again after a week of sickness:

Coffee breaks and not even smelling dirty diapers anymore :)

Cake baking with my little partner:

And my two other "helpers"... :)

And old cake recipes that are absolutely delicious (and don't fall apart, ha!):

Oh, there are so many lovely things to be grateful for. :)

a psalm I'm clinging to right now

This Psalm is one that the Lord is making exceedingly precious to my soul this summer:

Psalm 16: You Will Not Abandon My Soul

Miktam[a] of David.

16 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.[b]
The sorrows of those who run after[c] another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.[f]
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

one thing that matters today

Blogging every day is fun, but it also means I feel the need to tell you all the things happening in my life every day. We're friends, so I can tell you about the not-so-great days too, right? This afternoon, we were busy working on the house and getting ready for a second Sunday birthday tomorrow when we got the call that a cousin was unexpectedly in the ICU and if we wanted to, we should come say goodbye if we before we lost the chance.

Aghhh, it makes your stomach hurt when you talk to someone you love (and grew up with) the week before and then the next week they're unable to speak and are likely to never wake up again. We went to see them and prayed for a miracle if it is the Lord's will. We don't know what will happen, but the Lord does. And He is always good, and He will be glorified in all the earth.

Right now it's super late and we're on the way home, and so we stopped at Whataburger for dinner. It's strange how the world always feels different when sad things happen, you know? It's like the world isn't the same.

It reminds us that we aren't home here. This life coming to an end for all of us soon enough. We don't know when we will breathe our last breath, or speak our last sentence. Only one thing will matter soon enough. When you stand before God, will Jesus know you? Will you have lived for Him, because He made you a new creature through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the washing of His blood to cover your sins? Is He the reason you have hope?

God has allowed you the breath in your lungs today. Will you repent and believe and trust Him with your whole life? Our God is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory!!

sweet and salty (healthier) homemade popcorn

One of our favorite treats is popcorn around here because it's both cheap and fairly easy to make! I use a huge, heavy skillet that makes shaking the popcorn a little difficult, but I love that I can cook a ton at once. Of course with our crew the entire pan is gone in a flash, but at least it's enough for everyone to get a good portion. :)

The other night I was craving something sweet and found this recipe for healthier sweet and salty popcorn. I went to the kitchen and made it right away:

The "caramel" is made with maple syrup and 2 tablespoons of butter instead of the refined sugar and a stick of butter I normally like to use. :) I also loved that you don't have to bake this recipe- you just pour the syrup over the popcorn and mix it up with salt.

Unfortunately we're out of popcorn kernels at the moment (and I forgot to add it to my Walmart pickup list yesterday!), or I would totally make another batch right now! The baby is growing fast these days and I am starving again (it comes and goes). :) I was trying to count how many times I'm feeding her and it's about every 1-2 hours or so, or somewhere between 10-14x per day now. The last time we checked, she was up to 10.5 lbs at 6 weeks, so at least I know all this food I'm consuming is going to a good cause! ha!

Speaking of taking one for the team ;), we have one more birthday this weekend to conclude our summer streak, and a certain little girl requested three of my favorites for her 10th birthday (chicken parmesan, salad, and chocolate cake). The baby and I are very much looking forward to that dinner! :P

Have a great weekend!!

my new second favorite book

Back in June, while we were on our babymoon trip, we stumbled upon a Half Price Books where God ordained that we should find several books to encourage us right when we needed it (and at half price, nonetheless, haha!). Who had any idea that one of the books we "randomly" purchased would become my favorite non-fiction book outside of the Bible?

The Shadow of the Almighty is a story weaved from the letters and journals of Jim Elliot, a missionary to Ecuador who was killed in 1956.

Here are just a few of my new favorite Jim Elliot quotes:

"Live every day as if the Son of Man were at the door, and gear your thinking to the fleeting moment. Just how can it be redeemed? Walk as if the next step would carry you across the threshold of Heaven. Pray. The saint who advances on his knees never retreats."

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus."

"Overcome anything in the confidence of your union with Him, so that contemplating trial, enduring persecution or loneliness, you may know the blessedness of the 'joy set before,' for 'We are the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.' And what are sheep doing going into the gate? What is their purpose inside those courts? To bleat melodies and enjoy the company of the flock? No. Those sheep were headed for the altar. Their pasture feeding had been for one purpose: to test them and fatten them for bloody sacrifice. Give Him thanks, then, that you have been counted worthy of His altars. Enter into the work with praise."

I'm resisting the urge to retype half the book for you- it's that good! If you haven't already read it, you have to put it on your must-read list. The Lord used it to encourage me in so many ways!

full to loathing.

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. 
Proverbs 27:7

Christmas has always been one of my most favorite times of the year. When I was a child, my whole family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, would come to stay at my family's house for the night. To see them, eat a big meal, and open presents together was the highlight of our Christmas break and the event my brother and I anticipated all year long.

My parents always had a tradition of letting us open one gift the night before Christmas morning. Our immediate family was the only one who had this particular custom, so all the aunts, uncles, and cousins would sit nearby watching while we unwrapped the first gift of the season.

One year, when I was about 10 years old, we gathered as usual in the living room for our Christmas Eve tradition. As my parents were getting the film and camcorder ready to capture the moment, my brother and I both sat in the middle of the brown, carpeted floor surrounded by our family. We were thrilled to find out what lay inside the two neatly wrapped presents in front of us.

My parents gave us the go-ahead, and the camera began to roll as we tore into our gifts. The expression on my face as I opened mine went from eager delight to sheer disappointment when I discovered that my present appeared to be... a package of socks.

I examined them more closely only to find that they were indeed, socks. Then, with the entire room watching- cousins, aunts, and uncles, I threw the package down in front of me, curled my lip with disgust and cried, "Socks!?!"

It was a moment I would be ashamed of for the rest of my life.

I'd like to think I've grown up since then, but I'm not sure I've changed much at all.

Today at 34, I look in the mirror at my postpartum body, curl my lip, and cry out with disgust..."Fat!!"

More than 20 years later, I am still despising the blessing of the practical gifts of God. Like the package of socks I was given to keep my feet warm, God gave me a body that works perfectly, grows a baby, and then delivers and feeds a child exclusively for more than half a year. But I want something else. Something skinnier, something less flabby; something I determine is better than what He gave me.

Just like the petulant 10-year-old version of myself, I loathe calling what I need a gift.

The reason? Because I am spoiled.

I am full and ungrateful.

Just like the 10-year-old who already had socks in her drawer, I have so many blessings and good gifts that I am blind to the fact that even having one healthy baby is a blessing, much less the gift of the perfect food He gave me for my baby to eat and grow.

What a sinful, wicked wretch I am.

Oh Lord God, please forgive me. I don't deserve your good gifts. Please turn my eyes away from worthless desires and make my heart clean through your Son who defeated sin and death and rose again. Thank you for salvation, for your love for me... for redeeming me while I was yet a sinner.

tuesday talk: brighter days, eclipse action, & experimental cooking

Our Tuesday has been much slower than our Monday, thanks to a feverish big kid. We are all camping out today, enjoying lots of episodes of Octonauts while we keep her company in the living room. :)

Yesterday, however, we managed to do school on schedule and it was much brighter thanks to these kind of smiles all morning:

Then before we knew it, it was time to watch the eclipse:

Luckily, we had a couple of options with which we could view it: these pinhole plates...

They definitely worked, but it wasn't super interesting to see a teeny tiny shadow: :)

But these glasses were awesome for looking right at it:

Even with the glasses, we still made the kids look so quickly they nearly got whiplash. :) While they were entertained outside, I started experimenting with grilled flatbreads:

I made some experimental curry dip to go with it- just sour cream, salt, parsley, and a little pre-made curry seasoning to go with our basmati rice. It was actually a great combo!

We had Bible study in the early evening so we had to make dinner much sooner than usual. Of course I had my little sidekick close by while we rushed around:

I love her. :) This baby girl is only 6 weeks old and is not supposed to be growing up this fast!

She's back in the sling again with her older sister crowding her for a spot in my lap as I'm about to start dinner (pasta, salad, and bread!) and then (Lord-willing) exercise before it gets too late! :)