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Focus on 2015 {Photos & Reflections}


2015... It seems like it passed by in such a blur! As I sit down to try to reflect on the year, I find that more than anything this was a year that taught us to "go with the flow" more. It hasn't been a bad year, but it has been one filled with challenges and growing pains for sure. As I prepare to head into 2016, I once again look back at our life in photos and recognize that there are treasures to be found in day to day life, even when there are few "big" events to look back on. 


As Aiden continues to grow, much of our life is centered on play. Sometimes that means nerf gun battles with Uncle Sam and Daddy, but more often it means just being open to how imagination and creativity can be found in any circumstance. Aiden's imagination continues to show me how the world can be an exciting place without the need for big plans or expensive toys. In his world, time is the most precious resource. I am trying to learn from him. 


It has been such a joy getting to see this little boy, my baby, grow and learn. I see his personality shining through in his quirky sense of humor and unique interests. I also see how he is surprisingly sensitive, often intense, and incredibly loving. I don't think I expected to have a son who was so compassionate and interested in making sure the people in his life know how loved they are. Sure, he also often carries a sword and can be found battling with start wars figures... but the love that he displays each day is so very sweet and sincere.


2015 was a year that brought extra opportunities to connect with family. It is exciting to watch Aiden grow along with his cousins. Being the only boy surrounded by little girls can be tough, but he loves each of them. I especially love seeing the special bond he has with his cousin who lives many hours away now. They were together a lot as babies, and whenever they are reunited they are like two little peas in a pod again. I didn't really have cousins I was close to growing up, so it is fun to watch these littles for bonds that will hopefully last a lifetime.


We began our official (or rather "almost official") journey as a homeschool family this year. I plan to post more about that later, but it has been quite the interesting experience. I am learning so much about both my little student and myself as we go! I am finding that my head and my heart don't often agree about how things should be done, but I am learning to trust my heart more and it seems to be working. I have also been really immersing myself in research and resources as I explore the probability that Aiden is gifted and what that means for how we school. I started the year disappointed that we weren't officially recognized homeschoolers (in this state you aren't until the child is 6 years old) but by the time holiday break arrived I was so very glad I have more time to figure things out.



Other highlights from the year:


  • Aiden continues to excel at taekwondo, and is now taking piano lessons. We enjoy giving him opportunities to learn and explore the things he is passionate about.
  • We traveled to western Nebraska for a weekend so that I could serve as wedding photographer for my niece. It was quite an adventure!
  • We continue to serve as Godparent Leaders for our high school small group. Our teens are seniors this year, which is hard to believe! We also adopted 2 students from the local university to support during the next 4 years. 
  • We have enjoyed time with our local friends, and also said goodbye to some dear friends who moved this year. I still marvel at how God has provided these special relationships for our family after years of feeling so isolated. 
  • In October we had a scare when my niece Kylee had to have her appendix out! Aiden spent some time being a hospital buddy for her.
  • I did some photography "jobs" in November and December, which was fun! I still don't see myself every doing it as more than a hobby though. 
  • I have been working as a virtual assistant for a blogging friend for a few months now. It has been wonderful to put my skills to use while providing some income for our family. This has quite possibly been the most challenging year we have had financially since Aiden was a baby, so that has been a blessing. We continue to see how God always provides for what we need. 
  • As December comes to a close we are awaiting the arrival of my new great nephew, and also preparing our home to welcome a sweet baby girl 3 days a week as I provide childcare for the daughter of one of our Pastor's.




There is so much more I could share, but it seems overwhelming to try to put it all in any kind of order. I have been blogging again for about 4 months now, and I definitely see where it is so valuable to have this space to record memories and keep a digital scrapbook of sorts. I am thankful that instagram holds much of what I have failed to record here during my absences, but I think that more than anything I want to focus on getting back to the root of why I started blogging as I plan for the coming year.



I want this to be that place where I can look back and see all the amazing things that happened when I was too busy going through things to fully appreciate them. I often find myself marveling at how rich my life is when I look back through photos. I miss when I had posts with the details and thoughts to go along with what those photos recorded. I want to focus in on the everyday... the moments that we so easily miss if we don't stop to appreciate them. These are the things I want to capture and celebrate... this life God has given full of both trials and great joys. A life that reveals His love for us as we learn to love each other fully and serve Him daily. A life most definitely worth treasuring. For now, though, I will leave you with more photos and a glimpse into where I hope this blog takes us in 2016.













LadyLike: Living Biblically

It is hard to figure out where to start a review* of this title, because it is refreshingly unique. Instead of being a book with chapters that flow from one to another and build on each other, LadyLike is a collection of essays. Written with passion and purpose, these essays both challenge and encourage women to live out their purpose as God's female children. As a collection of writings, this volume is powerful in its entirety while also very readable as individual pieces of prose.

Never have I read a book that addresses so many different facets of womanhood and topics that are an integral part of who we were created to be in one title. These pages contain essays about motherhood, marriage, infertility, miscarriage, vocation, submission, widowhood, celibacy... too many topics to list fully. Yet each of these is essential to understanding how God created the female to live out her life on earth. We may not ever experience every of the situations covered, but we learn from them. Perhaps equally important is that we learn how to live alongside those who are in each season, and need specific things from the church as a body of believers. This book teaches how to love as much as it teaches how to live.

I think the thing that stands out to me most about this book (well, when I wasn't chuckling at the dry wit and interesting word choices... ahem, is "ghettoizing" a word? Apparently spell-check confirms it is!) is how these two brave authors, Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle, say so many things that I have been silently thinking but rarely speak aloud. This book doesn't dance around ideas, and it is that upfront sharing of Biblical truth that often made me squirm as I read it. Sometimes it was because what I read challenged me as I recognized areas of my own character that needed attention. Often, though, I was taken aback because of how I agreed with what I was reading. Ideas about biblical womanhood are often quite counter-cultural. While I feel led to live that way more and more, I still shy away from talking about it. I am not sure I would say I completely agree with every statement in this book, but I loved being encouraged to examine what I do believe as I read each section.

I will say that there were particular sections that I read faster than others. In my own self-absorbed way of thinking, I of course focused in more on the pages that applied to my particular season. However, that doesn't mean I wasn't learning from the rest of the book. If anything, it means that this book is one that is very likely to be reread over and over as I go through different seasons of life. I appreciate books that I can pull out when I need to examine specific topics or ideas, and this is sure to be a resource I reach for often. For example, the essay titled "She Respects Her Husband" is one that I literally want to tear out of the book and carry around in my pocket.

The style of this book is unique not only in structure and variety of topics, but also in the writing style it employs. I appreciate the blend of intellectual and conversational. I absolutely love the fact that the essays are often rich in scriptural references to provide further study. I will say that there is a limit to how conversational I like my nonfiction titles. There are times when this book hovers right around that limit for me. I also am someone who can appreciate that "pop culture" references will help many readers connect to the material in a relevant way. I am not necessarily one of those readers. I get thrown off sometimes by talk of pinterest and the world's fascination with coconut oil and bridezillas... but this is not anything that would keep me from reading and enjoying this book. I like how these women kind of have a style that speaks to many different varieties of readers. In the end, the strength of the content is what makes this book so hard to put down. It is a remarkable blend of substance and style!

This is a book I was eager to read for many months before I finally got to dig into it, and I will say that it is everything I expected and more! I keep thinking that this would be a really good title to cover in a small group setting with women you were comfortable getting really honest with. I think the ideas that are brought into focus in this book are ones that we need to be talking about more, even if it is hard. We need to have conversations about what it really means to be a woman in today's "feminized secular society" (to quote the author of the foreword.) This book could easily provide the basis for these conversations among church groups, friends, mothers and daughters... I pray that as the book continues to find its way into homes and libraries that it might encourage women to really examine what it means to be created female and how we can fully live out God's design for our gender according to His will!

I definitely encourage you to pick up this title for yourself. You can find it in print or in ebook version on amazon or iBooks. As you read, I pray that the Spirit would open your heart and mind to seek truth, whether that is found within the pages of this book or in further study stemming from what you read. When you do get around to reading it, be sure to let me know what you think! I would love to hear how this book changes the lives of other women even as it is changing mine!

*Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this book so that I could read it and offer my honest and unbiased review. I may have jumped for joy when I received it, though, because it had already been on my "to read" list for quite a while, and my thoughts in this review are entirely my own!

On letting go...

Sometimes you just have to let go...

     of what you think you have learned;
          where you think you are headed;
               who you have been trying to be.

Sometimes you just have to stop...

     stop trying so hard;
          stop juggling too many things;
               stop relying on the same efforts that have failed to bear fruit.

Sometimes you have to be still...

     unplug;
          refocus;
               recharge.

All the while trusting that when you do, the things that matter most will still be there when you have the strength to try again.

And remember...

     That strength won't be found in trying harder.
          It won't be found in doing more.
               It doesn't come from within. 

It comes from above. 



Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. - Colossians 3:1-2




10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week


  1. Aiden earned another belt in taekwondo. I am so proud of this kid. He has worked really hard. 
  2. Decorating cookies with our college girls. We "adopted" a couple of college student through our church and we just love having them visit. We had a lot of fun with our cookie decorating, and then Aiden got them to play Trouble with him. He loves when they come to play!
  3. My brother helping us with our van. We have been having battery problems, and hopefully he fixed it this weekend! Aiden had fun "helping" him and asking lots of questions while he worked. 
  4. Dark chocolate peanut butter. (Grab a coupon here! I am excited to be working with SKIPPY natural right now!) We made some tasty treats with it, and Aiden wants to just eat it with a spoon all the time now ever since I let him be the "taste tester" ha! More about that in this post
  5. Aiden's darling imagination. I posted a photo on instagram of the "lego baby" he made the other night. It is little things like this every day that make me smile. 
  6. The school that is a part of our church had their Christmas worship this weekend. It was lovely. Aiden got to see his buddies in their robes, and I have to admit one of the best parts was when he yelled "Amen!" during Pastor's prayer. It got some chuckles from those around us, but I just love his enthusiasm. 
  7. My friend Emily who ran a super helpful errand for me and is often a sounding board for my many, many thoughts whether she wants to be or not, ha! And it makes me happy that she blogged recently! Twice!! Go visit her blog (one of the cutest blogs ever!!) and encourage her to meet that goal! 
  8. Making dipped pretzels with Aiden. What made HIM happy was eating lots of sprinkles during the process. 
  9. Snuggles with Aiden. He is just the sweetest, and I am so glad he is still such a big fan of his mama and snuggling up together! 
  10. A perfectly timed text from a dear friend with this video... 



I haven't been blogging much lately because things have been crazy busy here (and I hate saying that... busy is NOT my goal!) but I do have plans to keep up with it and am really looking forward to where 2016 will take me in this space! Thanks for reading, and for keeping me motivated to keep posting when things get nutty! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas week!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars - 2 Ways!



Let's just be honest here... we eat a lot of peanut butter in this family. While Aiden is a good eater, he still loves his PB&J sandwiches and I don't mind that one bit. Especially when we are out on the go, since they don't need to be refrigerated! So, when I was offered the opportunity to work with SKIPPY® Natural to do some holiday baking I was super excited. Aiden was too... especially when he got to be the "taste tester" before we began.


These quick and easy dark chocolate peanut butter cereal treats are the perfect choice for the holidays! One simple recipe gets you two fun and tasty desserts perfect for sharing! Add these to your Christmas cookie list, and grab a coupon for SKIPPY Natural to save on ingredients! #spon


I do traditionally make a couple of different peanut butter cookie recipes this time of year, but I wanted to try something a little different when I saw that one of the SKIPPY® Natural varieties was dark chocolate. Yum! Aiden is totally into gingerbread men this year, so we decided to make some Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars and cut them into gingerbread shapes. Of course, cutting them into shapes meant that there were "scraps" left over. Unlike when you are cutting sugar cookies, you cannot simply re-roll rice crispy treats. SO... I decided to turn them in to delightful little chocolate covered cereal balls!

These quick and easy dark chocolate peanut butter cereal treats are the perfect choice for the holidays! One simple recipe gets you two fun and tasty desserts perfect for sharing! Add these to your Christmas cookie list, and grab a coupon for SKIPPY Natural to save on ingredients! #spon #SKIPPYYIPPEE


This particular recipe does not require the standard marshmallows and butter, which was nice since I didn't have marshmallows on hand but I did have all the ingredients I needed to make these treats! Of course you will want to visit this page to grab a coupon and a find a local Walmart that carries SKIPPY® Natural to make sure you have what you need to get baking!!


INGREDIENTS

4 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup SKIPPY® Natural Creamy Peanut Butter with Dark Chocolate
Chocolate Almond Bark (for covering cereal balls)
Decorative touches for gingerbread men


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line cookie sheet with plastic wrap and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Pour cereal into large bowl.
  3. In medium saucepan, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat.
  4. Stir peanut butter into corn syrup mixture until smooth. Pour over cereal; stir to coat. Press evenly into cookie sheet, making it the desired thickness for gingerbread men.
  5. Let treats cool slightly, and then cut your gingerbread shapes with cookie cutter. 
  6. Once your shapes are all cut out, roll the remaining scraps of cereal treats into balls.
  7. Melt your almond bark according to package directions, and cover each of the cereal treat balls with chocolate and place on foil to cool and harden. Add sprinkles if desired. 

As you can see, I had great help for following these directions!


These quick and easy dark chocolate peanut butter cereal treats are the perfect choice for the holidays! One simple recipe gets you two fun and tasty desserts perfect for sharing! Add these to your Christmas cookie list, and grab a coupon for SKIPPY Natural to save on ingredients! #spon #SKIPPYYIPPEE

While creating tasty peanut butter treats was one of the end goals of this cooking adventure, it is equally important to have fun some fun with my son (which also means not worrying about the giant mess we made in the process.) He loves to be in the kitchen, and has been helping me with cooking and baking since he could first stir with a spoon! So for us the holiday baking is about more than the actual baked goods... it is about spending time together in the kitchen and sharing the love with friends and family once the treats are done.

These quick and easy dark chocolate peanut butter cereal treats are the perfect choice for the holidays! One simple recipe gets you two fun and tasty desserts perfect for sharing! Add these to your Christmas cookie list, and grab a coupon for SKIPPY Natural to save on ingredients! #spon #SKIPPYYIPPEE

Thank you to SKIPPY® Peanut Butter for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to try a new holiday recipe! Be sure to visit the SKIPPY® Peanut Butter Website for recipes, baking tips and more! Grab a coupon while you are there, and make sure to create some great memories while baking with your family this holiday season!

What recipe do YOU most look forward to making this year?



Fa la la la la {10 things that made me happy this week}


The first two weeks of December have gone by so quickly, I can't even believe it. I never imagined I would be working so much this month. While it is great to be able to help ease some of the financial burden we have been experiencing, it has meant a whole lot less time for the things I usually have going on this time of year. I have been working on giving myself grace as I focus more on what is really important, but I think taking some time to think of my 10 things is more important than ever this week!

  1. A lesson in simplicity from my 5-year-old. When presented with a whole page full of craft ideas he had his heart set on making simple candy canes from pony beads and pipe cleaners. That kid... always teaching me something!
  2. Another lesson from Aiden (he is always bringing me joy!) that made me smile was when he had Matt pause in the reading of a story about creation to bow his little head and pray to tell God that he loved His creation. Then they resumed the story. Excuse me while my heart melts. 
  3. How excited Kylee was about her bat-shaped salt dough ornaments. Sometimes I still manage to rock as an aunt. 
  4. Holden evening prayer for Advent services. This is my very favorite service, but usually it is done on Saturday night with a small crowd. To hear this beautiful, music-filled liturgy with so many voices on Wednesday night is a true gift. It is one of those things that just makes my heart overflow with worship and praise. 
  5. Our yearly cookie day with our dear friends. We missed the pumpkin patch this fall, and it kind of broke my heart. So I am so very happy we were able to keep this tradition!
  6. Black Pepper Oil. I kept saying I couldn't imagine ever buying it but for some reason it was one of those oils I always thought I wanted. So when I got the chance to combine sales and grab it I did and I kind of love it!
  7. Lasagna. After reading this post I knew I just had to make lasagna sometime soon! I made it for Matt's brother and it was just right. 
  8. Samuel. That kid. He is Matt's youngest brother and has always had a special place in my heart since he used to call me his sister when he was just a kid. He embraced me right away when I married Matt, and we are both left-handed so I like to thing we share that mutual awesomeness, ha! He is not exactly a kid anymore, but he is still an awesome little bro-in-law!
  9. Hot tea and good books. 
  10. My husband. He is amazing and has been such a blessing these past couple of weeks especially! 
And in case that wasn't enough... there is this...


What made YOU happy this week?




Bedtime Blend - a custom essential oil diffuser recipe

I started using essential oils early this year, and I have become quite a fan! I am not going to tell you they cure diseases, or that everything you have heard is true. I do, however, know that for someone like me who has a strong connection to different scents they are a blessing. (Anything more than that is up to you to research and decide for yourself!) We have tried several different blends from both Young Living and Plant Therapy for bedtime, but over time I have found that there is one custom blend that works really well for me!


This custom blend of essential oils is ideal for diffusing at night before bedtime to promote relaxation and help unwind from a busy day! Recipe given in both drop ratio and quantity to fill a 5ml bottle.


If you are familiar with any of the larger essential oil companies, you know that the selection can be overwhelming! While I still enjoy trying new blends (or synergies, or whatever your preferred oil company calls them), I have found that it is also really helpful to focus on individual oils that you know you like and can use in different ways according to your preference. This Bedtime Blend is one that comes from experimenting with different combinations of individual oils, and I seriously love it! No more experimenting needed, because I have found my perfect combination.

Here is what it took to fill an empty 5ml bottle (that I cleaned using the steps found here) with this Bedtime Blend:
  • 50 drops Lavender
  • 50 drops Ylang Ylang
  • 20 drops Cedarwood

Note: It seems like I have read that 5ml bottles hold 80-100 drops, but I fit 120 in with room to spare. It could be that I was counting drops from an individual bottle with a standard orifice reducer in place. Perhaps drop size differs based on oil? I am no expert by any means! I just know what smells good and helps me relax before bedtime!




Do you have a favorite essential oil blend? I would love to hear about it! 

Linking up with: Create Link InspireSITS Girls DIYDream Create InspireCreate & Share

Focusing on Family {portraits for a friend}

I had fun taking some family photos for my friend Cathy recently. I actually took a few for their Christmas card last year, so it was neat to get to do it again. If I were a professional, I could call them my first repeat customers, ha! It was especially fun getting to capture some sweet photos of their daughter. Last year she was not at all interested in being in front of my camera, but this year she was all about it. Their whole family is just so wonderful, and I really enjoyed taking these.


Do We Need a Little Christmas... or a little comfort?

Today I have a post from the archives to share. This was originally published when Aiden was just a babe. How these words still resonate with me, though. I hope this post will bless you today, as we seek the source of true joy this Christmas! 



Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute...


You may be familiar with this particular Christmas song... especially if you are a fan of Glee. This upbeat little tune captures the excitement of this season. Many find themselves anxious to start breaking out the decorations. In fact, it seems to come earlier every year! However, while there is a common frenzy to start the holiday celebrations with trees and tinsel, something often gets lost in the mix.

This particular song goes on to include these lyrics:

For I've grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.


Many of us can probably identify with this particular verse. We may be feeling the winter blues, or it may be something deeper. I have shared some of my current struggles recently: my husband recently lost his job, we have had a string of unfortunate events from car accidents to family problems, I continue to struggle with depression... the world has given me plenty of reasons to feel a little "leaner, colder, sadder, older." However, while I do love the sparkle of the lights and the glitter of the ornaments, those aren't the things that are going to really lift my spirit... at least not for any substantial amount of time!

This Sunday, we focused on a passage from the book of Isaiah. The full passage was Isaiah 40:1-11, and I encourage you to take some time to really read and absorb these verses! However, I will focus on just a few. First of all, this passage begins with an amazing gift to us:
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

Like the person in the jolly Christmas song, we are all looking for something to lift our spirits. We have been dragged down by the weight of sin in many ways. We look all around for ways to fill our lives with joy, when really all we need to do is look right here. Here we have words of peace. Of comfort.

I always like to listen carefully to the children's message when we have one, because let's face it... any good children's message gets right to the point. This week's illustration for the children's message was that of Pastor's favorite blanket. He talked about how he likes to snuggle up with his favorite blanket for comfort. I immediately thought of bubs snuggling with his favorite green lovey. I often sit and stare at his little angel face while he sleeps, thinking how peaceful he looks. As I was thinking of this, it struck me that I have been given the same peace and comfort. Only I have "grown a little older" and have a harder time accepting it.

It is all right there for us to read in God's word, though! Not only in this passage, but throughout the scriptures we have messages of peace and comfort. As I was thinking about all of this, I was also struck by the later verses in this passage:
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

I love how these verses exhibit both the power and might of the Lord, but also remind us that he is our shepherd. He is a great and victorious ruler, and yet he "gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart." Talk about comfort. Verse 11 paints such a vivid picture of tenderness and love. We have a God who loves us enough not only to forgive us, but also carry us.

So, while there is definitely plenty of reason to celebrate this time of year, it is important to remember that all of that tinsel and holly is not here to lift our spirits. Instead, it should be a way to express the joy that we already possess! The decorations and traditions certainly have a place, but they should be our outward expression of the gift of our Savior. Not an attempt to fill the void that only He can fill.



If you enjoyed this post, I would love it if you would sign up for my weekly email newsletter! I look forward to sharing more with you through this little bit of happiness sent to your inbox each week!


Fruity Pebble Sugar Cookies

One of the best parts of blogging is making amazing friends! I have also found that some of those friends encourage and inspire me on a regular basis. Back in "the good old days" of blogging, my friend Stephanie and I ran a photo challenge called Edit Me and we worked so well together and quickly became great friends. Stephanie kept blogging long after I quit, and so when I picked it back up again recently she has been a constant source of encouragement. So anyway (I know, I know... what does this have to do with cookies?!) she recently posted on her blog about the #SpreadCheer challenge. This is something that was practically made for me and Aiden. We both love to make goodies for our friends, and this was an excuse to do just that!


The challenge website suggests using cookie mix. Now, while I would normally lean toward making mine from scratch, I loved the idea of letting Aiden do the baking himself and this meant a lot less measuring. He bakes all the time, but I usually assist with measuring the dry ingredients especially. With this cookie mix he could just rip and dump. So we went for it. And I wanted to make them extra cheerful so we mixed in an unexpected ingredient... fruity pebbles cereal!


We prepared the cookies according to the package directions, and then we stirred in one cup of cereal. We then rolled the cookie dough in to balls like usual, and baked them according to the original directions on the cookie mix package. Once our cookies were baked, we got ready to make our deliveries! Well, first we sampled them of course! The fruity pebbles are perfect and make the cookies both tasty and cheerful!


My little elfy helper and I delivered our goodies to some friends, and we definitely spread some cheer along the way! I am sure there will be many more deliveries to other family and friends between now and Christmas! We are just getting started!



Be sure to head over to Stephanie's blog to get the latest updates on #SpreadCheer and coupons for supplies like cookie mix and parchment paper! She is also giving away $20 to one lucky ready... that could go a long way toward cookie supplies, ha! Or, you know... something equally fun!

Gifts for the Little Bookworm - #4Gifts

*Note: This is not a sponsored post. My love for these books is entirely my own! I did, however, reach out to the publisher who agreed to give me a copy of their new treasury (which we already own and love!) to give away to one of my readers! You can find that giveaway here!


Today's 4 Gifts post is the one I have been waiting for! If you follow me anywhere, especially on instagram, you know that I am the mama to a little bookworm. We love books. Especially used books! And library books! There is one kind of book that we always buy new, though, and that is our Arch Books. These are our number one choice for Bible storybooks, and I can't say enough how much we treasure them. The originals have been around since the '60s, and Matt and I both remember reading many of them when we were children. Now, we get to share them with Aiden! And there are plenty that are new to all of us! He is a huge fan of his "Jesus books" and reads at least one almost every day now. 

I love these particular books for three primary reasons: 

  1. They are scripture-based, and provide a guide for parents in every title! These books are about teaching children about God in a way that we are commanded to in Deuteronomy 6. They are written for children, but do not water down the Word.
  2. While being solid in their lessons, they are also FUN! They include rhyming text and a wide variety of illustrations. The illustrators differ from book to book, so as you collect them you get to see things in many different visual styles! I love that! 
  3. They are affordable! Any parent knows that books can be very expensive. These, however, are priced to get them into the hands of families! You can buy them individually for $2.49 or less (they have sales often) but they also offer a subscription service for families. We get a new shipment of Arch books quarterly, and they come at a great discount! They also sent us a free wooden shelf to hold our collection with the first shipment. You can find out about the Family Arch Book Club here. 



While I was browsing around the website, I noticed this compilation of Christmas arch books that is on sale right now. I think we will definitely need to pick this one up! While we have several Christmas books, it would be ideal to have a nice treasury of them like this! 



Click Here to look inside this book!

One more thing I should mention is that CPH has what I think is hands-down the best children's Bible around! We purchased this Bible for Aiden a couple of years ago, and it is the only one we use! We have been given a couple of others, but they don't really compare. I could write a whole post about this, but for the sake of this post I will keep this brief! This Bible is currently 33% off on the website, though, so now is the perfect time to check it out!


Don't forget to head over to my instagram to enter to win a copy of the Arch Books Treasury!


Charitable Giving - Lutheran Bible Translators


I love the idea of making donations to organizations that make a difference instead of buying gifts. If someone were to give to Lutheran Bible Translators on my behalf this year, I would be thrilled. It is so hard to imagine that there are people who do not have access to God's Word in their own language. We so often take it for granted that we can pick up a Bible and read for ourselves. I also rarely think about the fact that even when the Scriptures have been translated into a language, there is still the matter of education to see to, so that the people can actually read it for themselves. Here is some of what the LBT website has to say about this: 

Giving people access to God’s life-changing Word in their language involves translating the Bible in written form as well as equipping people with the skills to read and write in their language. Often it also involves creating audio versions of Scriptures, or helping people develop forms of worship that are meaningful within their culture.
Bible translation does not happen in isolation. Our field work often involves language development (recording history, creating dictionaries, documenting culture), health development (AIDS awareness, trauma healing training), and physical development (water systems, farming techniques). LBT will call upon specialist organizations to help with requests outside of our expertise.
There is definitely work to be done, and I thank God for those who are answering the call to do it! You can download a monthly prayer calendar from their website (December's can be found here) and you can also donate to this important work here.

Gift guide for the little bookworm in your life! These are our top picks for books to buy for Christmas - and they are all focused on God's Word! I also have a suggestion for some charitable giving to do this year!



Now for the #4Gifts GIVEAWAY!

 4 Gifts Christmas Giveaway! Target Gift Card, World Market Gift Card, and More!
$130 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles

5 Free Printables for Christmas Home Decor - #HFTHBlogHop

Don't forget to stop back later today for my post about my 4 Gifts: Read list!! You can go enter the giveaway on Instagram while you wait!! 


5 Free Printables for Christmas Home Decor

I would love to have a little home tour ready for today's #HFTHBlogHop post... but I just can't even. The past month has been crazy and I am lucky to even have decorated at this point! I am excited about the cheerful decor that has gone up, and I am loving the printables I used in different locations this year!! So, I thought I would share those for today!

The map printable is perfect in our homeschool area, and the Jesus is the Reason print went well with that one (on another wall in the same area)! The others I have used in the living room. I posted one shot here on Insta. I might try to get some photos taken this weekend. But it doesn't feel "done" yet, and I am not someone who has a natural knack for decorating! I leave that to talented friends like Emily and Stephanie! But Christmas I can handle. Make it merry and bright and call it good, right? :) Anyhow... on to the printables!

5 Free Printables for Christmas Home Decor that will help make your living spaces merry and bright for the holidays!

I think that people who make things like this available for free are angels sent to those of us who have no decorating skills, ha! I appreciate them sooooo much! Oh and that last one is actually a coloring page... there is a black and white to print to color. I know adult coloring is all the rage right now... and did I mention these are all FREE? Go show some love to these wonderful creative bloggers!


Now it is YOUR turn to share a post for the #HFTHBlogHop!! 


With the holidays just around the corner, we want to share our favorite Traditions, Gifts, Decor, Food & more and we want to know YOURS! Join your hosts Neely, Branson, Lauren, Julia and Natasha the first week of December as we link up and step into your home for the holidays! 

The days for this blog party will be themed... link up as many posts as you like each day, as long as they fit the theme for the day! 

  • Monday - Gifts 
  • Tuesday - Recipes/Crafts 
  • Wednesday - Traditions/Activities
  • Thursday - Decor
  • Friday - Free for All! (Link up any holiday-related post, or make up for any of the days you missed!)

Make sure to link up with us every day and use the hashtag #HFTHbloghop to share photos and posts on social media. We will be retweeting and reposting your posts throughout the week... and on through the holidays! We will also pin our favorites to the Home for the Holidays pinterest board! Come join the fun - find some new blogs and get your blog out there while spreading cheer throughout the blogosphere! 

It would be lovely if you would follow each of your hosts in some way! Feel free to give a shout out when you do so we can follow you as well!




Natasha @ Natasha Byrd

Julia @ The Quiet Grove 


Click to tweet and help us spread the word! 

Tweet: Join the #HTFHbloghop and spread holiday cheer throughout the blogosphere! http://bit.ly/1j84im9 @neelykins @bransonmerrill @talkofthetrains

Grab a button! 

Home for the Holidays Blog Hop
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