With you. With me.

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Since about August, I've been a part of the Saturday night worship team at our church. Humbled that the Lord allows me to help lead His church in songs to bring glory, honor and praise before Him. This past Saturday as the team was finishing the worship set, we led the church in a last song, Emmanuel (God With Us). I could barely hold my emotions in check. The word "Emmanuel" came to take a whole new meaning for me last Christmas and singing the words brought a fresh wave of rememberance. Emmanuel-God with us. Jesus with us. With you. With me. 

In every way, 2013 was quite a year. In early May we rejoiced with finding out we were pregnant. By mid-summer we had numerous complications and doctors visits which led to the knowledge of knowing one of two babies did not survive in the first trimester. Of the surviving twin, our doctor in Houston said the baby was quite the fighter. Soon after being cleared from high risk in my pregnancy we followed where the Lord was leading our family to the Dallas area. That fall and winter I celebrated the life growing inside of me yet also grieved the life that would never be here on earth. How do you grieve yet rejoice? God knows how. During last Christmas in the midst of such emotions, He atuned my heart to the word Emmanuel---God with us. With you. With me.

He reminded me what Mary might have felt with a growing miracle inside her. Rejoicing in God's miracle, yet fully knowing and grieving what the price of saving mankind would take one day. Jesus, laying down all rights of heavenly glory to put on flesh as a human. To dwell among men. To be tempted. Rejected. Misunderstood. Facing sin, yet not succumbed to it. The One who never submitted to sins seduction, having all mankind sins' weight and death burdened on His shoulders on the Cross at Calvary. Facing death, He conquered it and rose again to life. Now seated in heaven being our perfect sacrifice that we may accept and believe in Him for a restored relationship with God. Because of Emmanuel, Jesus with us, we have the hope of eternity with our God. We have the hope not only in our eternity but with His presence in our daily life. God with us. With us in the pain. With us in the beautiful. With us in the loss. With us in the miracle. Emmanuel-God with us. Jesus with us. With you. With me. 

Because of Christmas we rejoice in Emmanuel, God with us. Because of the cross we rejoice in Messiah, God saves us. Because of Christ Jesus we rejoice in Him, God redeems us. 

How beautiful that because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Jesus with us. With you dear one. With me. 


Six Ways to Survive Potty Training

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One thing I will not sugarcoat--potty training a little person is not for the faint of heart. Two of my three toddler daughters are diaper free. I feel like that right there needs an amen, hallelujah and a huge thank you Jesus!

When you begin to think about potty training, there will be strong opinions from mothers in all camps. {"Do not use pull-ups!" "Use pull-ups!" "You only need 3 days wearing nothing and they will get it!" "Take your time and your child will eventually get it!"} After having potty trained two little ladies, here's my opinion....do what works best for your child and your family. This post is in no way shape or form a "how to" potty train your child. This is more a fun How to Survive Potty Training post to all you moms out there that like me, see potty training as one of the hardest aspects of the toddler age.

1. Pick the right week to start.
For potty training, I pick a week out of our schedule that we are doing nothing, going no where; where our sole goal of that week is to hit the potty. We start on Monday morning with new panties and prayers that maybe once, baby girl will find the potty instead of the floor. Pick a week where you don't have to be anywhere or do anything but just help your child learn how to potty. This helps your child have more opportunities to learn when they are only 10 feet from a toilet and reduces a mom's stress on how to leave the house when your kid is learning.

2. Do all of your grocery and miscellaneous shopping before you start potty training.
Believe me: it is way easier on you momma if you do not have to leave your house with a 2-3 year old who might or might not make it to a potty on time. While "clean up on aisle five" does happen sometimes, give yourself a week of not needing to stress while at Kroger with your child.

3. Your favorite drink from Starbucks, Sonic, etc.
For both of my girls, things didn't click until about Wednesday.  On Tuesday night of potty training week I am always a mess. After spending two whole days of cleaning up things off the floor that should never be on your floor, I always hit Tuesday with a little doubt that my child will ever be able to go potty and am ready to give up. Insert God sending two saints my way. When I was potty training Emmalyn in Houston, a beautiful friend brought me the largest frappichino from Starbucks on the Tuesday night of potty training. It was like manna from heaven. While potty training Kaylin here in Dallas, another beautiful friend surprised me with an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  Ask a friend to bring you your favorite drink on day #2 of training and then pay it forward when you hear one of your friends is starting to potty train. 

4. Schedule YOU time for the evenings after you put the kids to bed.
After needing to be on your A-game all day....after cleaning up messes all day....after only talking in potty code all day...after never leaving a ten foot radius of the toilet....believe me, you will need some you time. The week of potty training Kaylin, I scheduled coffee dates with friends once every one was down or just went to Target to wander the aisles. 

5. Rewards 
Both Emmalyn and Kaylin liked receiving a reward once having a potty success. After every small success, even if it was just a little drop in the potty, the child got to pick out one M&M. Mom also got to pick out five M&Ms. I mean really, a mom needs to reward herself for this success too! I used M&Ms because they were small and just one as a reward wasn't going to ruin their next meal.  Also, I added the reward of a pedicure for myself once we had successfully made it through the week. Let's be honest, potty training is hard work for the parent. Pick something (a book, a Red Box movie, ice cream, etc.) to reward yourself with at the end of your potty training journey.

6. Grace
Mom, give yourself grace. Give your child grace. This is just a season. Yes a hard, at times messy season, but it will be a memory in a few months. I added potty training Kaylin to my prayer list three months before I began potty training her.  I knew I needed Jesus for parenting her through potty training. For patience. For peace. For grace.


no longer pretending

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Every kid tries it. Sometimes a kid even excels in this trick. It is the trick of pretending to be asleep. I remember telling my body to hold still, not to figet, and close my eyelids ever so lightly. The trick was always in the eyes. My four year old can lay perfectly still, pretending to be asleep but squeezes her eyelids shut so tight it looks as if she is squinting in the dark. The eyes always give away the truth.

The issue is that pretending sleep does not give your body rest it daily needs. It might fool others, but your body knows it is not shutting down into a dreamlike state. Just as our bodies require the deep rest only sleep can give, our souls need a deep rest only trusting in Christ can provide. I've had moments or seasons when I pretended my heart was still and in complete trust but in reality my heart was far from stillness. If anything, my heart was busy. Busy coming up with my own plans. Busy making lists of items needing crossed off. Busy thinking of the next week's schedule and how to make it all work. Busy worrying. Busy...busy....busy.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;" Psalm 37:7a

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a

Not stand still.
Not sit still.
Not stop still.
Be still.

To "be" something is to let it take over your everything. It is not a one time deed that starts, then stops. It is a state of continual being. Stillness is not just an act of the body, but of the heart and soul. To be still is to trust in faith in the Lord. To rest in Him. To wait on Him. To be with Him. To know the character of God.

Not do something good, and know that I am God. 
Not keep yourself busy, and know that I am God. 
Not act like you have it all together, and know that I am God.
Not try your own way first, and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am God. 

Why stillness?

Maybe because being still means we trust Him to act rather than forging our own ways and agendas. Maybe it is really not about us and the best way for us to realize that is when we are still and only have hope in the Lord acting on our behalf. When I am still and let God act in His timing, trusting Him to do something that only He can do, then He alone gets the glory. There is no chance of me stealing His glory.

In a world that says: be busy in order to be effective                                                    Be still.
                                  make your plans work no matter the cost.                                    Be still.
                                  keep up your social media status to prove your importance.       Be still.
                                           validate your worth by your success.                                           Be still.
 self-promotion is the only way to get ahead.                               Be still.

Proverbs 27:19 says, "As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person."

When does water best reflect an object? When it is stirred? Choppy? No, the best way for water to reflect something is when it is not moving. Only when water is calm and still will it give the best reflection.  I wonder if this is what the Solomon meant in the proverb. When we are still and trusting in God, our heart reflects our Lord and our trust in Him. 

Just like as a kid, trying to pretend I was asleep, my eyes always told the truth on my reality. There was no pretending the complete stillness that only comes with sleep. So too with our hearts.  There is no pretending trust in God. Our hearts will reflect the truth of our reality.

When our Lord is calling us to trust in Him, He asks us to "be still." When He's calling us into obedient action, He asks of us to "be strong and courageous."  (Deut 31:6; Josh 1:6, 9, 18; 2 Chron 22:13, 2 Chron 32:7). Stillness of our trust needs to coincide with strength and courage of obedience. Let us be known as a people of God who's hearts are not racing with worries and man-made plans. Let us be known as ones who wait on the Lord in complete trust, resting in stillness before the Lord. Let strength and courage flow from our lives as we put our trust in only God and Him moving on our behalf.



My Five Faves on the 1st

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I love when friends share referrals of books, products, recipes or any other idea that makes life a little easier. Pinterest is great, but scanning through thousands of ideas/products overwhelms me. On the first of the month, I'm going to try to post my five favorites from the past month. If you blog, please join with me on the 1st of the month. If you are not a blogger, comment below on some of your faves or comment in the Facebook post. I would love to hear about the stuff you enjoy.

1. World Market.

When I lived in St. Louis, this was one of my favorite stores. It has been years since I entered the doors of this store due to the distance while living in Houston. When I realized I now live 15 minutes away from one, I took my three little ladies here just as an excuse to get out of the house. What I remember of this store still remains: unique furniture and home decor inspired by cultures around the world. Little did I know that they now carry gorgeous jewelry and scarves. Move over Charming Charlie's.

2. "Praying Circles around Your Children" by Mark Batterson

Every year I make a reading goal of how many books I want to read, and the carpool line to pick up my daughter from PreK has helped me meet my goal. I finished this one on the last day of school. All parents need to read this one. This is the perfect little book to leave in your purse and pick up when you have a few minutes. Thank you to my MIL for giving this one to me.

3. Lowe's Valspar Ultra paint.

I love Benjamin Moore paint colors. Fan of the price for Benjamin Moore paint, not so much. Did you know that Lowes can match any designer color? (Thanks again to my fabulous sister for this tip). Lowes has every Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, etc color imaginable in their computer system and can replicate the exact match. The beauty of this: Valspar paint is half the price of Benjamin Moore. The Valspar Ultra was smooth going on the walls and only needed one coat.

4. Nosefrida 

Vivian caught her first cold this past month and the Nose Freida is a huge help for your little one's breathing. I'm not even going to attempt explaining how you use this as it sounds gross. Please trust me though. If you have an infant to child under one years old, this is a must have for colds. Our pediatrician in Houston (Blue Fish Pediatrics) recommended this product to us when Emmalyn had her first cold.

5. Priceline "Name Your Own Price"

In the past 5(ish) years that Priceline has had the "Name Your Own Price" option, I have never paid full price on a hotel room. We recently made a trip to Oklahoma and knew we were going to need a hotel room.  I used the Name Your Own Price option and paid 60% off the list price for a night at the Holiday Inn. Pretty much you say the area of town, the number of stars of the hotel, and how much you are willing to pay. Priceline then tells you if a hotel accepted your offer. Here's some tips for using the Name Your Own Price option:
1. To get the lowest price accepted on the room, you have to be willing to book the day of your trip.
2. Check out Priceline first to see what hotels are available in your desired area. See how many stars are used to describe the hotels you wish to stay in.
Example--when we went to Oklahoma, the town we were staying in had a Hampton Inn and a Holiday Inn, either of which I wanted to stay in. Since these were the only 2 1/2 star hotels in the area, I only placed offers on 2 1/2 star hotels.



The Great Switch of 2014

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It was time. Time to move our 4 year old to the guest bedroom, our 2 year old out of the nursey into the toddler room and our 4 month old out of the bassinet into the nursery. The great switch of 2014. First I needed to transform a guest bedroom into a big girl room that a four year old would love now and yet be able to grow into. Second, this transformation needed to happen with my Pottery Barn style on a Target budget.

Last fall I knew this great switch was inevitable so began looking for bedding options. I fell in love with the Sherbert Ribbons bedding from Land of Nod. They were discontinuing the line so I purchased the duvet on major clearance. 

My four year old's taste of wall color was "anything pink and sparkly." Yes, I'm totally that mom that refuses to paint the walls pink. I went with Benjamin Moore's Collingwood which is a beautiful gray but with a brown tone rather than blue tone. Again, my goal was something she could still grow with. Pink she loves today but may not next week. Sidenote: Lowes can color match any designer paint color. Used Valspar Ultra paint and by far the easiest paint to use and half the price!

The bunting banner above the bed I had previously made for a birthday party. I bought heavy cardboard bunting triangles from Hobby Lobby. I picked out three types of scrapbook paper to pull colors that I wanted. Cut out the paper to fit the cardboard bunting triangles and glue/tape on. I strung my bunting with a jute cord but you could use ribbon also. Thumbtacks into the ceiling are holding the banner in place. 

The white ruffle curtains and white ruffle bedskirt were both from Target. Pottery Barn has identical ruffle curtains and bedskirt but for double the price. The birdcage is another Hobby Lobby find. A little spay paint and you have a cute accent. 

My next project for this room is painting the nightstand. I've never painted wooden furniture but need a new decorating adventure!


My Five Faves for the First

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I love when friends share referrals of books, products, recipes or any other idea that makes life a little easier. Pinterest is great, but scanning through thousands of ideas/products overwhelms me. On the first of the month, I'm going to try to post my five favorites from the past month. If you blog, please join with me on the 1st of the month. If you are not a blogger, comment below on some of your faves or comment in the Facebook post. I would love to hear about the stuff you enjoy.

1. Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow coloring books

We recently made a 24 hour roundtrip road trip with 3 toddlers all 4 years and younger. My mom gave these coloring books for our older girls (4 and 2) to use on the way home. These coloring books were a HIT! The pen/paintbrush has a refillable cartridge you fill with water. The coloring pages reveal colors when wet. The best part about this: when the pages dry they turn back to white and then you color with water all over again. Melissa & Doug products are some of my favorite kids toys but this one is genius for road trips and flying with toddlers.

2. Hershey's 3x Dark Chocolate Cookies

Need I say more?! Big shout out to my sister for passing this recipe to me.

1 cup butter, cold
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp hot water
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
3.75 oz Hershey's Special Dark instant pudding mix
2 cups Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
3. Add the brown sugar and sugar. Beat for 1-2 minutes, until nearly creamy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time and mixing in between additions.
5. Dissolve the baking soda in the tablespoon of water. Add both the baking soda and the vanilla to the mixer and mix well. Mix in the salt.
6. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and pudding mix, and mix until dough forms.
7. Mix in the chocolate chips.
8. Scoop dough by tablespoons onto parchment lined or silicon lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart.
9. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

3. Essie nail polish "As Cute as a Button"

I love Essie products as they are long lasting and rarely chip. I picked up this color a few weeks ago and love that it is a coral so goes with any color combination. This will be my go to polish for summer.

4. "Mended" by Angie Smith

I received this book at a ministry conference last year but am just now picking it up. It is great read for anyone with a busy schedule. It is written almost like a devotional and has 31 chapters that are each around 3-4 pages. 

5. Kari Jobe's newest album Majestic

This worship album is powerful. Listen to "Forever" and I promise you will be hitting repeat.


Living beyond my fears

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You know you have a good friend when they push you to live beyond your fears. At 16 I had yet to push fear aside when it came to roller coasters. Having visited Disney World and Six Flags numerous times, I never was able to conjure up enough bravery to put my life in the hands of a iron (or wooden) contraption. My cousin and friend Christy knew that I would never go on a roller coaster on my own bravery.

For her 17th birthday she invited a few close friends to join her for a trip to Six Flags. I had asked before we left what she wanted as a gift for her birthday and all I could get out of her was that when we got there, she would come up with an idea for a gift. We enter the gates of Six Flags and Christy turns to me, "I know what I want for my birthday present. All I want is for you to ride one roller coaster." Believe me I tried bribing her with any other gift the souvenir shops were selling that day. She picked the coaster Mr. Freeze. Now this coaster in particular was chosen because it was literally the shortest in time. I counted the seconds as we watched while winding through the line. Sixty three of the longest seconds. What she didn't mention is that the coaster shoots you out of the gate, going from zero to 70 mph in less than 5 seconds. As we inched our way closer to the coaster fear gripped me. I began to shake I was so nervous. Sitting down in the coaster car I remember telling myself, all I needed to do was count to 63 and this would all be over with. I could hold my breath for 63 seconds couldn't I? About that time the green light lit up and I closed my eyes, inhaled as much air as I could possibly hold for 63 seconds, and death gripped the handlebar just in case the seat bar did not work. Whoosh! Off we went and for the first 10 seconds I just checked to make sure I was still alive but the next 53 seconds were the most exhilarating of my young life. I opened my eyes, exhaled in a loud shriek, and lifted my hands in the air. We stepped off the platform and I turned to Christy, "LET'S DO IT AGAIN!" Of course I thanked her too.

Fear has a way of telling you that you are not missing out on anything by not trying. I was content to spend my whole life never trying a roller coaster, sitting on the bench waiting for everyone else to finish the ride. I had allowed fear to tell me I wasn't missing anything. Yet after experiencing a roller coaster, I realized that the exhilaration of the ride is exactly what I love.

One of my personality traits has the potential in every situation to be a great asset or my downfall: I am a perfectionist. The good part of this trait is if I'm doing a task, I am all in and will do my best to make sure every detail is perfect. The accounting realm became my wheelhouse as it is an industry that encouraged every detail to be in order. The downfall: if what I attempted does not seem perfect in completion, the whole attempt seems like a complete failure. I was the kid who would cry with a test score of 95 because it meant I missed 5 points.  If I wasn't first in whatever I competed in, it was failure. Before trying something new, if I wasn't for sure that I could be the best at it, then I wouldn't even attempt at trying. Fear of failure became the tool the evil one began to whisper and use to get to keep me from stepping out in faith.

God has been opening my eyes to the grip that fear has held on my life. Fear of failure is my strongest fear, but others also held too strong of a hold on my everyday life. After years of living with strongholds of fear, how does one no longer let it control you?

You know what pushed me to let go of my fear of dying on a roller coaster? Love. I knew that Christy loved me and wanted the best for me. She only wanted me to try a roller coaster because in the end, she knew I would grow from the experience. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18) The more I understand and know the character of God, the less fear has a grip on me. The more I understand the unconditional love of the Father, the more I trust Him in faith rather than make excuses due to my fears.

In what area of your life are you letting fear hold you captive? Fear of disapproval of others, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of opening up to others, fear of failure, fear of success: these all have one thing in common. They keep you from living in faith. My husband has shared these truths in a past sermon: Faith asks you to trust. Fear tells you to control. Faith moves forward in action. Fear paralyzes. Faith stands in humble confidence. Fear questions whether you are good enough. Where faith is bold, fear cowers.

The question I've been turning in my mind has been this: What would I be doing if I no longer lived in fear?

Here are some of my answers:
1. Write. Hence the blog was created. Here's where my fears are being faced. Writing and sending it out into Internet space is scary. People can be harsh critics. I didn't get my undergrad or Master's in composition or English (I was a business undergrad/MBA type gal). I'm just a stay-at-home mom trying to share my reflections on what God is teaching me through written word. I know I'm not the best writer/blogger. Yet God is using my writing to prune away my fears of failure and of what others think.

2. Allow myself to fail forward. "Failing forward" is a term that was written by one of my favorite leadership authors John Maxwell. In his writings he leads the reader to recognize that we all are going to fail at something. Only the successful leaders understand that you use your failures as stepping stones for success. In parenting: What if my girls never see me fail forward but instead see me living comfortable and safe? Do I want them to replicate safety and comfort in their faith? Or do I want them to live out their faith with boldness and confidence? Do I allow my children to fail forward in the safety of my home so that it strengthens their character?

3. Risky in my faith: Fear of failure has kept me on numerous occasions from stepping out....to share my faith, to defend my faith, to step out in faith. I have heard it said that Christians should be some of the most riskiest people as the Lord is continuing to call them out in faith into action. I on the other hand have allowed my fear of failure to keep me safe. Safe from failure, yes, but safe from exciting adventures, unknown territory, and a faith that can literally make mountains move.

2 Timothy 1:7 says, "...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control."  The Greek word for fear in this verse is deilia which refers to one who retreats from battle, and has a strong tendency towards cowardice.

Let us not be known as one who flees from the battle out of fear. Let us go walking boldly in faith, knowing that because of God's perfect love, we can stand in power, love and self-control. Living a life of faith in Christ sometimes means exhaling that breath you've been holding, and letting go so you can raise your hands and enjoy the exhilarating ride.