Archived - My Reflection of Something
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2016... what a year! Let's review...


  • Celebrated the marriage of my sister, Ryann!
  • Started caring for a sweet baby girl 3 days each week.
  • Spent lots of time with our newborn great-nephew and loved watching him grow!
  • Moved across town in with my mom at the end of the summer. 
  • Traveled to Missouri a couple of times, and enjoyed every minute there!
  • Met our best friend Erin's sweet new baby girl and soaked up lots of snuggles.
  • Finished out our 4 years as Godparent Leaders at church, and watched our kids all graduate from High School, along with our nephew Brodie.
  • Had the best Thanksgiving ever!


  • Turned SIX!
  • Earned 500 points and a medal in the library summer reading challenge. He is quite the bookworm, and can almost always be found with a Geronimo Stilton book nearby.
  • Broke his first board at Tae Kwon Do and has earned additional belts to become a Camo Belt now.
  • Took up the game of chess, joined chess club at the library and continues to impress us with his skills. Soon we will be unable to beat him (he already has beat both his parents on occasion).
  • Continued his homeschooling, studying a wide variety of things from piano to nature studies to astronomy. He loves science and writing his own stories. He has a family-only blog where he loves to create posts.
  • Enjoyed learning more about college football with Grandma... he is quite a Huskers fan!
  • Got his first "grown-up" Bible, and loves to study the Word and journal about it!
  • Improved at riding his bike with training wheels, and enjoyed moving to a house with a sidewalk out front so he can ride his scooter.
  • Enjoyed lots of fun times with family, cousins and friends!

  • Cut off (and donated) 16 inches of hair! 
  • Continues to stay home with Aiden, serving as his primary homeschool teacher.
  • Helped plan an awesome VBS and worked on the Godparent program at church before beginning a sabbatical from church work. 
  • Enjoys finding time to study the Word and has been learning a lot about prayer.
  • Recently rediscovered the fun of fitbit challenges when the siblings all got one!
  • Has appreciated the opportunities to serve her friends and family this year during the tough times, as well as celebrating the good ones with them!

  • Continues to work at Tenneco, although he has changed departments here and there. He is a jack of all trades there and has made great friends.
  • Serves as communion assistant at church, and even manages to find robes long enough for him.
  • Enjoys connecting with his brothers via playstation, and spending time with his brother Sam who still lives here in town. 
And of course there are lots of great photos...

Faith, Fitbit and the Failures of Instagram Algorithms

I have been spending less time online lately... partly because I have been feeling the need to take extra time being present (which means taking way fewer photos) and partly because I have been so frustrated with Instagram lately that it just makes sharing less fun. I am a stay-at-home, homeschool mom... which means that often Instagram is my place to go for doses of adult interaction during the day!

In recent months, I have been trying to follow fewer and fewer people, because with the non-sequential feeds I feel like I miss a lot from my friends who aren't using the app to try to build a following or get massive likes and comments. Yet these are often the people I want to connect with during the day! There are definitely times when I want to be inspired and keep up with my blogging friends and those who curate their feeds and promote them. But I feel like those are often the only accounts I see!

I also want to be able to take my personal account private again. I have struggled with the question of public or private many times over the years. I blog, so clearly I have decided that for me it is worth sharing publicly about certain things. Yet there is still something more organic about instagram that makes me want to keep it more private. Or at least there used to be.

I mentioned that I have been feeling the need to be more present lately. I feel like it is often hard to find a balance (not that I have any love for the concept of balance, but that is another post entirely) between capturing the everyday and focusing on unplugging more. I go back and forth so often, but I listened to an episode of At Home the other day that reminded me why I like to document the little things. One of the gals (I am bad at keeping track of who says what on that podcast) talked about going through a dark season and how much it helped her to be able to look at her feed and see that there were still moments of joy amid the sorrow. I have often felt this way.

I regularly scroll through those photos when I struggle... because I do stay home and care for my little family and our home, it is easy to feel like I am not "doing enough" or "making a difference" in my chosen vocation. However when I see the beauty of our everyday, it keeps me going. I see growth and progress more readily when it comes in the form of a series of square little images, all neatly arranged and ready to provide a glimpse into the way this season is being used by God.

So, I treasure my personal feed and the snapshot of my journey it provides. And yet, I also love the way that instagram provides encouragement and accountability for my faith and fitness journey. This is why I tend to keep my account public. I love the connections that can be created through hashtags and groups. I appreciate the opportunity to share my studies, the books I love, fitbit accomplishments... I want to continue to share these things.

So, I am once again (I have tried this before for both my Bible study groups and my fitness efforts) going to try to keep 2 accounts on Insta... one for documenting life (@bransonmerrill) and one for sharing my faith and fitbit studies and steps (@faithandfitbit). Maybe this will help me to once again find that encouragement and fellowship that I used to treasure on this platform. I sure hope so! I know that just complaining about algorithms isn't going to do me any good. Time to try to make the system work for me!

Folded Paper Wreath Tutorial - with a fun twist!

Earlier this week I attended a holiday craft night at our local library. One of the projects we completed was a cute origami paper wreath ornament. I loved making the ornament out of book pages, but when I got home I realized they would also be a great use for the rather large collection of scrapbook paper that I have accumulated! I also got to thinking... wouldn't this be a creative way to send a little Christmas cheer to Grandma from Aiden? The ornaments do not need to be glued together... so they could also be easily taken apart by the recipient to reveal a little message inside each folded section! Then they can be reassembled and displayed as a cheerful holiday decoration.

Aiden was very excited to create this special wreath for his Grandma! I will share the step-by-step below, but he also wanted to make a video of the process! You can find that at the bottom of this post. This is such a simple little project! Little hands will need some help, but Aiden was able to do most of the work on his. I also want to point out that the folds do not have to be perfect. When working with kids, my inner perfectionist can get the best of me at times! You can see, though, that his folds were not super precise but you cannot tell in the finished product! (Of course the folds can also be tightened up by an adult if needed along the way.) 

Materials Needed: 
Paper cutter or scissors
Ribbon or string for hanging
(optional) items for decorating: glue, glitter, sequins, stickers, ribbon, etc. 

Step 1 - Choose your papers. While I prefer uniformity, Aiden clearly likes to be more creative in his choices. You can use any combination of papers. Just make sure the rectangles are equal in size and the ratio is 2:1. So these rectangles are 6"x3" but the ones I used for my ornaments were 3"x1.5" or even 2"x1". We chose the larger size for his project so that it would be easier for his little hands to work with and would leave plenty of room for writing the messages inside! 

Step 2 - With a single rectangle, place the paper with the back side up. Then fold the paper in half the long way, so that you have a long rectangle with the front of the paper visible on each side. 

Step 3 - With the folded side at the top of the rectangle, fold the corners up from the bottom to create triangular ends. When both corners are folded up, your paper should now look like a little boat. 

Step 4 - Fold the ends of the boat together, with the corner flaps facing in. Aiden says that the paper should now look like a little shoe!

Repeat steps 1-4 with the remaining rectangles until you have 8 little "shoe" pieces.

Step 5 - Take 2 pieces, and make sure that they are facing the same way. Turn one piece toward the other, and insert its points into the little pockets of the other piece. You want one point in each pocket. Slide the pieces together. 

Step 6 - Continue this process of assembling the wreath. Make sure with each piece that your pieces are sloping in the same direction before your turn one to insert the points into the pockets. 

Now, if you are just making ornaments, then at this point all you need to do is add a hanger and you are good to go! However, if you are making your wreath into a greeting this is where you will add your "secret messages" to each piece. Now technically I think I would actually write the messages before even folding the pieces... but because I wanted the tutorial for the wreaths themselves first we added our messages afterwards! Either way works!

Step 7 - Add a message inside each piece of the wreath, and then reassemble the wreath. Don't forget to include a note when you send it to the desired recipient, letting them know to look inside each piece for their message! 

Step 8 - If you want to decorate your wreath, now is the time! You can add gems, glitter, stickers, a bow... there are lots of possibilities!

Let the glue dry on any decorations you may have added, and you are ready to display or deliver your paper wreath! This was definitely a fun project, and I am sure there will be more wreaths being made between now and Christmas! 

Here is Aiden's video tutorial of the assembly steps for this project:

If you decide to do this project for the holidays I would love to see how it turns out! Feel free to post a photo and tag me on instagram! (@bransonmerrill)

And feel free to pin this post to save it for later! 

Folded Paper Wreath Ornament Craft Tutorial

Why I Refuse to "Start Over"

Yesterday I shared this photo on instagram as my current motivation for working harder on being active. I mentioned the fact that I am coming back from the very worst I have ever felt physically. It is hard to admit that without getting angry at myself. I look at this photo and remember how good I was feeling at that point in time. I know that there is no excuse for allowing myself to backslide to a place I never wanted to be again. I also know that dwelling on that fact is going to get me absolutely nowhere. So, instead I am focusing on where I am right now.

Just before Thanksgiving, my little sister got a fitbit. The night before that I had miraculously found mine. It was in a spot I know I had looked a million times. I love when things like that happen. Anyhow, over Thanksgiving while my other little sister was home, Kenna and I were doing our best to top each other's steps. This got Ryann interested, and suddenly it was black Friday and she was ordering her own! And then my little brother caught the bug and now here we are about 2 weeks later, all trying to out-step each other daily.

In those 2 weeks I have definitely more than double my activity level. I may grumble about sore muscles and wanting a nap, but I definitely feel SO much better already. My energy level had bottomed out before all this started, and now I am actually sleeping at night and ready to move in the mornings. I am getting way more done in a typical day, and I am more focused (to a degree... I am still a mess... just a slightly more focused mess, ha!). I am loving the banter back and forth with my siblings and a good friend in our challenge group. I feel more connected to them even if we can't be together in person.

I found myself thinking this morning how unusual it is to have this kind of vigor during December. Usually this is a month of less activity. Maybe that will be an added boost for us as we end that initial 30 days that can often be the turning point right when the rest of the world gets all health crazy for that month or so after New Year's! Not to mention the fact that Christmas break means no babysitting for me so I will need a push to keep moving during that time with no baby to chase during the day!

I know it is so easy to get excited when things are new and then let them slide. However, I also know from experience that sometimes things just kind of "click" and a lasting change is possible! I just wish I could pinpoint exactly what derailed me last time (or the time before that) so I could be aware of the traps that lie in wait. It is my hope that having it be a family thing will provide a level of support that wasn't there before. I am just excited to embrace this season of physical progress, and make the most of it.

I used to be motivated by the quote that says "If you are tired of starting over, stop giving up." It is a valid point, but it is also such an all-or-nothing absolute. I am not good with absolutes. Instead I am focusing on this day... this moment... this next step. I am not "starting over" - that holds the baggage of a past failure. I am just starting now.

From Fitbit Friends to Snapchat Silliness {10 things that made me happy this week}

Last week was such an adventure with my family in town that this week has been rough. I have been in a bit of a funk, and I just can't seem to find a rhythm. Blogging more lately has been good for me, and every time I jump back in I realize how much I need the time to sit and just think and write and focus on something that is my own. I used to love doing the 10 things that made me happy this week posts, so I thought I would jump back into that this week! When I am in a funk it always helps to stop and think about the good stuff in my life! So, let's see here...

1. My siblings joining fitbit! There was a point in time when fitbit really worked for me, but between lost devices and life's changing seasons I had lost any drive to be active. This week I have been killing it because I now have a super fun and competitive challenge group again! I am hoping this new energy last for a long, long time because I am already feeling better!

2. Mornings with Matt - We are continuing to make time (almost) every morning to pray together before the day begins and it has been so, so good. It is even getting easier for me to get up super early. I used to be lucky to be ready by 7 when my daycare baby arrived, and now I am up before 5:30 and more or less coherent enough to have quality time by then. Ha!

3. Speaking of daycare, I didn't have my daycare cutie last week, and I missed her! She brings so many smiles to our days, and an extra dose of snuggles too. She definitely made me happy this week. 

4. New books to read always makes me happy!! I got some great ones from the CPH Thanksgiving sale, and I can't wait to dive in to them. Of course the fitbitting is cutting in to the reading... I wish I liked audio books more because that would be a great solution! But if I am going to read I need to be able to highlight and write and reflect... so I am just going to work on making more time to read daily!

5. Last night Aiden took a stack of paper and set up his "office" where he said his job was to give people money from his piggy bank and write reports. He then brought me a paper of his contact information with a web address and twitter handle for his office, along with a warning sign that said "Do Not Send Joke Emails." I thought I would die laughing on the inside. Of course I was all business on the outside... you gotta take him seriously when he gets into these characters! This kid always makes me happy!

6. Hiland Dairy Mocha Iced Coffee most definitely makes me happy. I am working with them on a sponsored campaign right now, and I am totally hooked on this stuff. I used it to create a recipe (which I posted here) but I have also been drinking it every day. I have been mixing 1/3 coffee, 1/3 Hiland mocha iced coffee & 1/3 Hiland vanilla almond milk. Perfection!

7. I joined a instagram Bible study group for Advent, and it is such a blessing to be studying again with some of my favorite people! I have been flying solo for quite a while now, and I had forgotten how much I love having a group of sisters in Christ as part of my morning time! 

8. My sisters convinced me to download snapchat again, and I have laughed so much this week. They are such nuts, and I have to admit that it is a fun way to keep in tough. So much silliness! 

9. Bob Ross on Netflix and how much Aiden loves it... his sense of wonder is contagious!

10. Being given opportunities to be God's hands and feet for people He has placed in our life. As I continue to struggle with loneliness and isolation, I am being taught that it is still important to reach out in love and look for opportunities to connect and serve. 

What made YOU happy this week? I would love to hear about it! 

Hello, Fall!

When I put this post in drafts, Fall was just beginning. Now, I would give quite a bit for those days of mild temperatures and t-shirts outdoors. It is downright COLD here this morning! Not to mention the fact that Aiden has lost another tooth or two since I took these photos, ha! I still wanted to share them, though. 

This was such a fun day with my boy. After I took a few photos of him, he got to take the camera and take some photos of his own. I love that he is so excited about nature and the changing seasons.

Sharing the beauty of creation with him tends to reignite my sense of wonder as well. This is one of the reasons nature study is such a big part of our homeschool... there is always something new to learn, and many things to appreciate each day!

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. 
- Mother Teresa

Make it a Merry Mocha Morning!

This year I hosted Thanksgiving for 25 people, and if I learned (or rather RE-learned) one thing it was to always have plenty of baked goods on hand! I knew that some of our guests would be staying for a few days, so I had whipped up some tasty treats for breakfast for these guests. I admit I was a little surprised when everything was gone before the morning after our big feast even arrived! For Christmas, I will be baking up a cookie storm (as usual) but I also wanted to come up with a great breakfast to serve... preferably one that would store well and be ready to go first thing in the morning for our early birds.

Of course, when I think about breakfast I am all about the coffee. I tried this amazing Mocha Iced Coffee from Hiland Dairy, and knew I wanted to make a mocha treat for my visitors. I also wanted something fairly substantial with whole grains to keep my guests happy. Baked oatmeal sounded like the perfect solution! So, I am excited to share this new {quick & easy} recipe today.

Great recipes start with great ingredients, and I am particularly happy to be partnering with Hiland Dairy to bring you this recipe. We talk a lot about shopping local for gifts during the holidays, and with these quality dairy products from local farmers I can do that with my baking as well! Not only that, but Hiland Dairy is giving away a year's worth of products for the holidays! Just think of the extra goodies you could make! Be sure to enter to win HERE.

Mocha Baked Oatmeal with Cherries, Flax and Walnuts

3 cups oats
1/3 cup milled flax seed
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Hiland Dairy butter, melted
1 cup Hiland Dairy Mocha Iced Coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup walnuts

In large bowl combine oats, flax seed, sugar and baking soda. Stir in eggs, butter, vanilla and Hiland Dairy Mocha Iced Coffee. Add in dried cherries and walnuts, and stir until well mixed. Pour batter into a 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cover until ready to serve.

Do you have a favorite breakfast for serving to overnight guests? I would love to hear about it! And don't forget to pop over and enter the GIVEAWAY from Hiland Dairy!

(Feel free to pin this recipe for later!)

Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold - Ephesians 4:27 Playground Lesson

Recently, we have been working a lot on anger management with Aiden. He is definitely a bit of an "intense" child, and sometimes that can be hard to deal with. I often remind myself that this intensity and depth of feeling will serve him well someday, allowing him to commit to things with passion and really serve God with vigor. Right now, though, it is our job too help him learn how to harness his intensity and learn to use it for good. That sounds kind of super-hero-ish somehow. It kind of fits in the way that God gives each of us gifts that, when combined with His supernatural power, can be used to further His kingdom in a powerful way. 

So, when trying to figure out how to help my little guy learn to manage his emotions I of course turn to scripture. I know that this is a lesson I am not really ready to teach him on my own... after all, I am no poster child for managing my emotions! A friend who has had her own experiences raising an intense child directed me to Ephesians 4. This whole chapter is a good one to red when it comes to raising children. The first section deals with unity and maturity in the body of Christ, and as parents that is really our main goal, right? Helping our children learn and grow in love for our Creator and Redeemer, and love for His people, is what it is all about. We want them to become mature and live in unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the hardest parts of dealing with intense anger in a child is that it threatens the unity of the family. I think that this is a passage that has food for thought in that area. 

When it comes to the actual emotion of anger, though, I focused on the next section of this chapter - specifically on verses 26-27: 

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

This is the verse that Aiden has been working on memorizing and then calling to mind when that bubble of anger starts to grow. We use the visual of a bubble that needs to be popped before it gets so big that it bursts. When that bubble starts to grow, we want to make sure to address it so that we don't "give the devil a foothold." He really grabbed on to verse 27 in particular. My little Christian soldier is definitely aware of the need to see the devil as a real opponent. So, I wanted to give him a way to really put an experience with that verse that would illustrated what it meant to have a foothold.

I immediately thought of the climbing wall at the park. So, one morning we headed over there for a little object lesson of sorts. I asked Aiden to stand at the base of the climbing wall, and had him recite his verse. I focused in on verse 27, and asked him what it thought it meant to have a foothold. I asked him to attempt to climb the wall without using his feet. He tried a couple of times, and of course was unable to make any progress. Then, I asked him to use the footholds to climb the wall. He scrambled right up the wall to the top without any problem. This, I explained, is what it means to have a foothold, and how easy it is for the devil to get to us when we let our anger control us.

Of course, as I sit here writing this post I think of how I could have expanded the lesson. He got the point, and we had a great talk about how we want to keep from giving the enemy opportunities to climb into our hearts the way that he was able to climb the wall. I wish now, however, that I had then asked him to climb one more time, thinking of examples of specific footholds with each step of the climb. We could have included things like angry words, slamming doors, growling, hitting, etc. as specific footholds.  Maybe we will do that soon to reinforce the lesson and address some specific behaviors.

I really want to emphasize here that we are very careful to explain to Aiden that feelings are not specifically bad. Being angry is not sinful God Himself is known to get angry. His is a righteous anger, but it is still anger. Feelings are indicators, and it is important to recognize them as valid and natural. It isn't the feeling that we focus on... it is how that feeling makes us behave. There are healthy ways to deal with even the most negative feelings. This is why we talk a lot about the beginning of verse 26: In your anger, do not sin. It doesn't say "don't get angry." It tells us that when we are angry we need to be careful not to let it cause us to respond in sinful ways.

We have also discussed with him that remaining line of this passage: "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This line could lend itself to a whole different lesson, but one thing we have talked about is that while there is a good literal application of this line (making amends before the end of each day) there is also perhaps more to it. We have talked about how Jesus is the Light of the World, and how He lights our path. When we give in to anger to the point that we are driven to rage, we are falling into darkness instead of clinging to the light of Christ. When we let the sun go down and the darkness win, this is a dangerous place to be.

This topic is one that can certainly be heavy and serious. I liked that after we had a good talk we were still at the playground and he was able to run and play for a while. I love when object lessons are further enforced by being tied to an enjoyable experience. A park day is always a bonus!

Thoughts on the Changing of Life's Seasons

The older I get, the more I appreciate the more moderate seasons. This year, I am downright in love with Fall. Of course as a homeschooler, summer doesn't hold the excitement that it probably would if Aiden was in school all year. And winter? Winter is for the birds (or rather I wish I could migrate south like a bird when it arrives!). Give me Fall and Spring and I am a happy girl. 

I definitely feel like my season of life the past year or so has been anything but a moderate season. It feels like it has been an endless cycle of difficult times and challenging situations. Just over the past week, it seems as if things are finally starting to change a bit. Like the promise of falling leaves, I can see signs of a quieter time popping up around me. This Fall I see signs of change in places other than the trees, though. I see it in the changing smile of a little boy who is growing up. As he loses his baby teeth, he also seems to be losing some of his dependence on me. That can be hard on a mama. I have struggled with it over the first half of this year, and it has taken until now for me to start accepting the idea of having a boy who is not quite my baby anymore. 

My changing relationship with Aiden has challenged me as a mother, but it has also provided opportunities for me to look at who I am as a wife - and as a women beyond the walls of our home. When he was little, I was so consumed by the (often exhausting) need to be "on" 24/7 that I definitely lost focus a bit in other areas. Now, I am seeing glimpses of how someday I will find myself without a child needing daily attention, and it makes me think of how I invest my time in other areas. I don't regret for a moment devoting myself fully to the role of mother, but I do see how perhaps having that singular focus left other areas of life unattended. I am entering into a new season of life, and with the changing of seasons always comes some maintenance and preparation. 

I have definitely felt moved to spend a good part of that preparation time investing in my marriage, and concentrating on how I can grow as a wife moving into this new season. Parenting can crowd out some important things like intentional time together if we aren't careful. This week I started trying to make more of an effort to really connect with my husband by getting up super early to have coffee and pray with him before he leaves for work. Aiden is such a night owl that evenings have never been easy for me and Matt to have time together. I wish it hadn't taken me so long to realize that one possible answer was for me to just get up earlier. I am not super excited about being up so early, but it is certainly worth it to have that face time and prayer time each day. 

It may seem a bit premature to be thinking about what life will be like for me and Matt when Aiden is grown. After all, he is only six years old! Yet I know that taking better care of our marriage now is about more than preparing for the day when we (theoretically) become "empty nesters." It is also about having a unified vision for our family as we continue to move into the territory of raising a child who has his own ideas and emotions and (someday all too soon) hormones to deal with. Gone are the toddler days when discipline was mostly about distraction and redirection. Now we have this huge task of providing this little boy with deeper understanding of what it means to live life as a child of God. This is such an important time for us to be firmly united as husband and wife, and dedicated to promoting family unity. 

While life is by no means easy right now, I do feel like I am more at peace perhaps than I have been for a while now. It isn't anything I can put my finger on, but I know that having the peace of God is way past my understanding most of the time. I find myself very conscious of how precious each day is lately, and how I want to really focus on living instead of just getting through each day. Whether that means an extra game of chess, a trip to the park, or just silly snuggles and stories, I know that these precious days with a little boy counting on me will not last forever. Like the vibrant orange leaves on my favorite autumn tree, I need to appreciate them now. And all the better if I do so with my amazing husband right beside me. Families are such an incredible blessing, no matter the season! (But I could still live without winter coming anytime soon... ha!)

When Truth and Fiction Collide - The Story People

If there is one thing I love about a good Christian fiction novel, it is when reading about the life of a fictional character brings much-needed truth into my own life. That definitely happened while reading The Story People. If you want to read my review of this novel, you can do so here. Here on the blog, however, I would just like to share some of what my reading of this particular title got me thinking about the ideas of vocation, purpose and making tough choices. 

"How do you know you are where you're supposed to be?"

This is most definitely a question I have struggled with many times. Even now, as we consider where we will live next year, I find myself in that place of anxiety again. No matter how often I remind myself to lay decisions like this at the feet of my Heavenly Father and trust He will direct my path, I still find myself trying to pick those worries back up over and over. For years, we have felt like we are torn between two homes. Both places have so much to offer, and so off and on we have tried to figure out where we are supposed to be. The hard part is that there is no clear choice. We see the opportunity to grow and serve in both locations, but we can't see where God wants us for sure. This is the dilemma that immediately came to mind when I read page 187 of this novel where one of the main characters was given this advice: 

It's not about finding the perfect set of circumstances - there is no such thing in this fallen world. It's about being faithful in the circumstances you're in. God simply calls us to be faithful, but even in faithfulness, peace can elude us if we're not fully trusting God. If we spend our time worrying over a perceived lack of peace and direction, we are missing the point and skipping over the whole trust part. The point is to be faithful and to set our minds on Christ, and to trust in Him alone. It may sound simplistic, but oftentimes we complicate and muddy things through human reasoning. (emphasis mine)

To say that I am an overthinker would be a huge understatement. This is something I feel like I need to be working on right now. Just the other night (shortly before I read this page of this book) I lay in bed thinking that some people think that the idea of salvation through Christ is too easy. I, on the other hand, struggle with the simplicity more than I would a list of rules to follow. I like rules. I like direction. I like goals. I just want to be told exactly what to do most of the time. (Not that I am great at following through with it when I am, but that is beside the point.) My brain is constantly running on overdrive, and it would be so much easier if I could just quiet it down. I remember a sermon by one of our pastors that included something along the line of "beware of the buts," which was memorable not only because it was giggle-worthy (come on... it is) but because it was so very me. I am that person who wants to insert the "but" at the end of my profession of faith: I am saved through grace... but...

I know there is no "but" at the end of that statement. Yet I still have a hard time letting go of it. It all feels too easy... which makes it really hard. I loved that the author used the passage in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that tells us that "God chooses the simple things to confound the wise."  It is only when I start trying to rely on my own understanding that I begin trying to add limitations or requirements to God's free gift of salvation. If I rely on His wisdom... if I cling to the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and let it guard my heart and mind... I realize that it truly is just that simple. As the book goes on to state:

"Just look at the cross - there can be nothing more simple and powerful than that, and yet we humans love to tamper and play with the clarity God has given!"

When I apply this to my own decision-making, I realize that the truth of the matter is that there is no perfect place for us to live. We have been given the freedom to make choices like the one we are facing, and in the end what we need to do is look at where we can serve and how we will seek God in the place we end up in. God is not limited by our weakness, and we can be confident that even if we make choices that are less than ideal, there will always be grace waiting for us and opportunities for growth. And often, like they did for the characters in this work of fiction, the choices we make will yield results that we never could have considered with our limited view of God's eternal plan.

I really enjoyed this book, and am so thankful I was given the opportunity to be on the release team for it! You can pick up your copy here.

Photo Flashback - Missouri Creek Visit

You know when you sit down to edit photos and realize that the ones you are working on are from when your best friend is still pregnant... with the child who is now 6 months old? Oh, maybe that is just me. Actually, I have some from even earlier in her pregnancy too, but let's not even talk about that. Anyhow, I so loved going back through these photos. This day was just perfect... lunch at one of our favorite finds from a random drive together (oh hey... you know I have photos from THAT time that I don't think I ever finish editing, and that was like 2 years ago, ha! I really hate editing...) and then a trip to a state park. Erin had her darling little girl in a little dress and pretty sandals... and then Aunt Branson let her wade in a creek, ha! I am always the one letting kids make messes, and this was no exception. 

I absolutely cannot wait to be back in Missouri where this can be a normal occurrence instead of a once a year thing. And maybe with Erin around to remind me in person to edit some photos it will actually get done! But then she will also be able to scold me in person for posting photos of her all pregnant after I made her walk so much she thought it would induce labor. Not that it will stop me... she looks gorgeous pregnant!