Monday, March 31, 2014

My Monthly Picks || March 2014

Today is the final day of March! And so I'm beginning a new monthly series.

I glean encouragement from so many different sources and I love sharing what is currently speaking to me. So today I am beginning what will be a monthly "pick" post. Several have contacted me, asking for my recommendations on books, music, and various other tools and resources that help me and/or encourage me in my day-to-day life. To be honest, my lists are so long that it can get really overwhelming! So each month, I plan to post a list of my recommendations for the month: a song that has strengthened me, a book that has given me an extra "omph!" and any resource that has been spiritually profitable. :) Feel free to share your own picks in the comments below!

Scripture: Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the fruit of the spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." I have had this verse written on a board in my kitchen all month. Notice that it does not say fruits, but fruit. I cannot simply exhibit one trait of godliness and expect it to be enough. It's a package and if I am to walk in the Spirit as any who are born again should, then my life will bear the fruit of the Spirit.

Song: Audrey Assad has some beautiful lyrics. Her song, "Humble" has been on repeat on my playlist for weeks now. Read the lyrics and definitely buy the song here! It's worth every penny.

Book: Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand is one of the most spiritually awakening books I have ever held in my hands. When I first read it, I literally could not control my tears when I learned about the love of Christ manifested through this man's deep suffering and persecution. Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand began the Voice of the Martyrs ministry and have a powerful story. This book is one that I believe should be mandatory for every Christian to read.

Sermon: I have been meditating on this sermon since I listened to it earlier this month. It's so easy to be distracted in our Christian life by doing all the right things and having all the right motives and desires. However, if we simply rely on doing things the right way, going to the right places, and etc, we are really living through our flesh and not the spirit. This sermon by Eric Ludy is called "A Distracted Devotion" and you can watch the sermon or download it to your iPod here.

What about you? What has spoken to you this month and has drawn you closer to Jesus Christ? Feel free to share in the comments below! :)


Friday, March 28, 2014

Instilling Scripture into Young Hearts

The first five years of a child's life are what I call the "soaking years." They are sponges! They absorb everything and soak up so much information. And they learn quick! So it is vital that parents seize these formidable years to instill the Word of God in their children's little hearts. I want my children to know and love God's Word at an early age. I want their hearts to be primed so they will be tender and easily receptive when the voice of God speaks to them.

It's so important to saturate our children with Scripture. I'll be honest, in the hustle of the mornings, it's been hard for me to stop and sit down with my children and read the Bible to them. I finally said "No more!" We are in a war, and if I don't do my job in bringing them up with a knowledge and love for all things Jesus, then I've failed as a parent. My husband is diligent in praying with our kids every night before bed. Being as he leaves for work before they awake in the mornings, I decided to take breakfast time as "Bible time." Each morning, I sit them in their seats with their breakfast and I sit down with my coffee and my Bible. We read one chapter, I explain what I've read, then we go over Nathan's Bible verse. He has seven Scriptures memorized and can recite them easily with little to no help from me! Here are five tips for teaching Scripture to your toddler:

  1. Start small. The Scriptures that I have chosen to teach Nathan are either small or I have cut them in half. Don't overwhelm them, just start with an easy, small piece of a verse.
  2. Repetition! We go over each Scripture piece by piece. And then we repeat it over and over and over and over and....
  3. Be expressive. Use your eyes, your facial expressions, your body - whatever. Make whatever verse you have chosen come to life.
  4. Make it fun. I have literally rapped a Bible verse simply to make it fun and enjoyable. It works. We have danced. We have clapped. We have put a tune to the Scripture (we also use Scripture songs, which are a huge hit!) Whatever method you choose, make things fun and entertaining.
  5. Explain. Don't just teach them words. Teach them THE Word. Tell them what it means. Put it into their spectrum of understanding. That will go a long way to keeping it in their mind.

Today I am sharing the first six verses I taught Nathan. I carefully hand picked what verses I wanted him to learn so, as he grows, he will understand elements of coming to the Lord in salvation.

Click here for the free printable version.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And the Winner is.....

It was such fun to have the very first giveaway this past Monday, and I am very grateful to Jamie for asking me to take part in reviewing her products and to host the giveaway here on the blog. Now for the fun part! I am so excited to announce the winner of this beautiful Free to Be Soft wallet!

**drum roll**

The winner of the Thirty-One giveaway is....Michelle W!
Congratulations!! I have emailed the winner already, so check your email, Michelle! 
A big thanks to all who participated!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thirty-One review and Giveaway!

I received this product free of charge to review. I was not paid for my time to write this post. 
All opinions are my own.

When I was contacted by Jamie, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing her products, I was interested. I first heard about Thirty-One two years ago but, to be perfectly honest, I had never owned any of the items. That has now changed. She had me look through her website and was sweet enough to send me a catalog! After looking at all the items, I chose the Free to Be Soft Wallet. I didn't have a wallet that held everything it needed to, so I picked what I thought would work best for me. And I love it. I like the color and pattern choices, and the overall softness of it. My favorite thing is probably the side pocket, which is the perfect size to hold my cell phone. I get tired of carrying it in my hand or having it get lost in my purse.
I'm not sure if you are familiar with Thirty-One Gifts but it began as a great opportunity for Christian women to have their own business. Think Proverbs 31. :) I, for one, love bags but Thirty-One offers more than just wallets and purses. Totes, thermals, utility organizers - there are a lot of different options to choose from.

Now for the exciting news!
One reader will receive a Free to Be Soft Wallet - in the pattern of your choice - FREE!! All you have to do is enter the giveaway. There are four ways to enter: 

  1. Join Jamie's Corner on Facebook. This is her product Facebook group where you can be privy to specials and other offers.   
  2. Like the "Where Joy Is" Facebook page.   
  3. Fill out Jamie's 3-4 question survey, where you can request to join her monthly newsletter, receive a catalog or info about hosting a party or joining her team. 
  4. Place an order! Jamie is offering 10% off your entire order if it is placed under this giveaway. The 10% off will be taken once your order is submitted.
The giveaway will last until midnight tomorrow, so don't wait too long! Go on and enter for your chance at a great product!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Daughters at Home Interview

Today, I was featured over at A Noble Calling; a blog by Libby, a stay-at-home daughter who has a passion for growing closer to Jesus in her season of singleness. I have been very encouraged by her testimony and was honored to be interviewed for her new series, "Getting to Know Other Daughters at Home."

I definitely encourage you to check out her blog.

A Noble Calling

To read the interview, head on over to her page or click here!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Banana Pudding Cake

A few nights ago, I told Nathan that once he had his bath, I would get him a piece of cake. He looked at me with big, wide eyes and asked, "It yor birfday??"

I said, "No, it's not my birthday."

He got excited and asked, "It MY birfday??!"

*ahem* We DO eat cake on occasions other than birthdays... like on a Tuesday night. :) And this cake is a huge hit with Nathan. And with me too. Today I'm sharing it with you.

I love banana pudding. And I love cake. Why not put the two of them together, eh? :) This is a great recipe that I stumbled upon and modified. And boy, is it DELICIOUS!! Seriously. You are going to want to give this a go. Here's how you make it:

1 box yellow cake mix (& ingredients to make cake)
2 small boxes of instant banana pudding
4 c milk 
20 vanilla wafers, crushed 
8 oz whipped topping (optional)
sliced bananas (optional)

First, you need to bake your cake, according to the directions on the box. After the cake has cooled, poke some holes in it. Don't forget to do this! It makes it more moist and so much tastier! Make the holes deep enough, going all the way to bottom, and enough so it's even. Next, prepare your pudding mixture. Combine the milk and the instant pudding mix, whisking until there are no lumps. Pour it all over the cake, making sure you get the pudding into the holes you've made in the cake. Cover it up! The next few steps can be done according to your preference. The original recipe says to refrigerate for a couple of hours, then top with whipped cream, crushed vanilla wafers, and sliced bananas. I cover the cake with the wafers and forgo the whipped cream and bananas. Either way is delicious! Like I said, it's simply a matter of your personal preference. Regardless, it's absolutely mouthwatering and....chock full of calories. But it's okay to indulge every now and then. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Abstinence. Why True Love Isn't Waiting Anymore

We have been taught that love and sex are interchangeable. Love is a word we flippantly toss around, like a ball on a basketball court, and sex is nothing more than an expected, biological act. We've been conditioned to think this way, no doubt, by Hollywood's ever increasing stack of romantic films that plop two people in bed together for a heated night of passion. It's portrayed to be romantic and the normal thing to do when you are in a relationship, but all it is, is a knock-off counterfeit, full of the dirt and mire of sin.

Wait until marriage.

Just say "No!"

True Love Waits.

If you grew up in Church, there is a good chance you heard those phrases. I know I did. So did nearly everyone I grew up with. Maybe you had them inscribed on a ring or scribbled and pasted on your wall. I had the jewelry, the posters, the books, and would be among the first to raise my hand and proudly say that I was "saving myself" for marriage. Those things don't mean much, though. I have sat in many youth group services and I have heard many energetic youth leaders try to fire everyone up by shouting, "Just say "no!" to sin. We would pump our fists, stomp our feet, and thunderously yell with a good amount of believability. And yet, I would watch the same young people - my peers - sneak out into a back room to make-out or announce an unplanned pregnancy a few months later. 

So what went wrong?

By the grace of God, I waited and I did "say no" until marriage. But it wasn't the same for everyone. In fact, take a look around and you'd be hard pressed to find 10 high school teenagers who are still virgins, by choice. You see, catch phrases are fun, but they hold no power.

I am thankful for some of the youth leaders I have met in recent years who are fighting for the younger generation. Instead of watering down the truth in order to be more "relevant" and "appealing," they are doing all they can to lead them closer to Jesus Christ. Sadly, they are few and far between. Far too many youth leaders seem to assume that teenagers are incapable of living righteously, so they make out like it's normal to compromise and be to physically intimate, just so long as you hang on to the last few shreds of your virginity. This is dangerous ground and, because of this, every generation slips further and further away from pure and godly living, even with all the resources and events and youth rallies at their disposal. 

Over 50% of all marriages (both Christian and non-Christian) fail. That's a hefty amount of break-ups! It burdens my heart when I see an entire generation of young people who truly believe that broken homes, abusive situations, and pornography addictions are the new normal in marriage and family life. This is so far from God's design! So what's wrong? Why don't people believe that waiting is truly worth it in the end? Here's what I think:

1) They have not been taught to love and fear God. Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." We can spit out slogans and motto's all we want. We can be shown statistics, given a list of rules, be involved in youth events, and even memorize Scripture. But at the end of it all, it comes down to this one fact: If we don't have a genuine love for God and a reverent fear of His holiness, we probably won't obey His Word much, if ever. The aim should not be to produce more Christian teenagers who know the Bible stories but live no differently than those who have never encountered Christ. Our aim should be to raise up a generation of young people who are wholly surrendered to the Lord, and who love Him with all their being.

2) They haven't been shown a marriage relationship worth waiting for. Simply put: they just don't buy it. There are married Christian couples who have nothing positive to say about marriage, they just gripe and complain about how unsatisfied they are. They don't exhibit a Biblical, happy marital life, and the ones looking up to them...well, they see it. Actions speak louder than words. If the younger people do not see anything worth waiting for....seriously, why should they wait? It becomes a joke and a lie. But when they have caught a glimpse of a God-scripted life, the cultural picture in front of them won't be appealing anymore, because they have seen a vision of something far better. And they will want it. In my personal life, watching my parents fall more in love with age made me desire a marriage that was built and constructed by the same Constructor.

We have scores of young people who attend Church regularly, yet are struggling with the most basic moral issues. As parents and Church leaders, if something doesn't change, it will continue to go downhill and we will reap the harvest because of our disobedience. As a parent now, I want my children to pursue a life of purity and obedience to God. It's my primary job to not only teach my children the Bible, but teach them about the character and nature of God. If they can be taught to fall in love with God and with His Word, then they will have a desire to obey Him. As a wife, I want to obey Scripture and demonstrate a marital life that is not of this world to my children. When they see their mommy and daddy in love with Jesus and in love with one another, I'm convinced they will want it too.

Today I am praying for the hearts of today's young people. 

"This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face...."  - Psalm 24:6a

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

family update + my new favorite smoothie ingredient

Good morning, friends! I don't know about you, but the weather has been so beautiful here, even though we haven't all felt 100% to fully enjoy it.

Last week, my husband came down with bronchitis. Not fun. Never fun when your man is ill, especially when he doesn't get sick easily. But sick he was. Once he began to get better, Selah wound up getting the flu! I mean, really?! I thought flu season was over. Not fun at all. It's funny, when you think of motherhood, words like Lysol, quarantine, and 5 milliliters, don't normally come to mind. :)

Yesterday, though she was one sick little girl, she played a bit outside in the sunshine.

You wouldn't think she had fever....she's one tough cookie, that's for sure.

Nathan, thankfully, has been fine and he and I are in "prevention mode," taking lots of vitamins and things to keep us good and healthy. In other news, we are officially potty trained! Glory be. It only took 34 months, but who's counting? ;) He is doing very well and is excited about his birthday coming up next month. As for me, I seriously have an issue with him turning three, but whatever....moving on.

So, I have to tell you about my new favorite smoothie ingredient. Those who know me well know that I am a professed smoothie addict and I have tried lots of different combinations. Juicing and making smoothies are the main way I get more vitamins in my body as I'm not crazy about eating my vegetables. Ech. Anyway, I have a new favorite ingredient that I've been adding into my smoothies and I want to share it with you. 

 You ready?


Say wha?? ;)

Kefir (pronounced "kee-fer") is a lot like yogurt. It's a cultured milk product. It tastes very similar but has its differences. For starters, unlike yogurt, Kefir is actually a grain and no other milk culture forms grains, so it's definitely unique.
By the way, the smoothie pictured was the one I had for breakfast yesterday. All you need is a good handful of baby leaf spinach, a banana, a couple of strawberries, a handful of ice, and about 1/2 cup of Kefir. Delicious! And loaded with healthy benefits. 

Want to know more about Kefir?

It flushes out the bad bacteria from your intestines, it regulates digestion, metabolism, and the colon. Not bad.

But there's more.

It's been proven to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Kefir grains are made up of lactose and sugar-eating bacteria, which makes it awesome for diabetics and even those who are lactose intolerant. It's been said that it promotes an overall sense of well-being. That's good for those who deal with anxiety, depression, or hypertension.

Do your own research and you will find lots of more information about the benefits of Kefir. I found it in the milk section of our grocery store. :) 

Monday, March 10, 2014

To Those in Search of Greener Pastures

By the world's definition, I grew up a good girl. I was still a sinner, saved by grace, but I was what they call a goody-goody. I spent my years on one side of the fence watching people in my life straddle it, then finally jump to the other side. Some dabbled in the occult. Some turned to a homosexual lifestyle. Many had babies before husbands. A few acquired STDs. A handful left Church altogether while more than I can count waved the banner of Christianity while blatantly living in open sin.

I watched. And there was a long period where I was angry; so angry in fact that I let my anger override my passion to the point where I was overly harsh.

I don't remember the day. I just remember falling on my knees one afternoon asking God to give me a broken heart. I was tired of being angry at those who spat in the blood that saved me. I was tired of debating and trying to prove that God's way is always the best way. Being angry about it wasn't changing anything. So I didn't want it to make me angry anymore. Instead, I wanted it to break my heart into pieces. God answered that prayer. I still get angry, but just as quickly, I find myself a teary-eyed mess hurting over them rather than being outraged. You see, all we ever really need is Jesus. Just a full-fledged encounter with His holiness. *** I would love for you to truly know Him as I know Him. You can click here to find out how.

You might be dabbling in sin; rejecting the authority of Scripture; refusing to run into the open arms of Christ. If so, I want to say something to those of you on the other side of the fence:

It's not greener over there.

It's fun, no doubt. I can see that by the Instagram pictures and the Facebook posts. It's busy and full and I can tell that there is always a party going on somewhere. There's plenty of people to rally behind you no matter what decision you make. Life is about being happy. Life is about you. But friend, may I please share the truth with you? That grass isn't green.

Truthfully, it it is easy to live the way you want. No effort has to be put in doing things your way. It's easy to let your Bible collect dust on the shelf while you allow yourself to be swept away with the mentality that life is simply about finding greener pastures (instead of watering your own). You don't have to work too hard to go to one experience, one high, or one love after another. But if I may tell you the honest truth, just because it's easier doesn't mean it's going to make you happy or satisfied in any area of your life. There are no other greener pastures outside the will of God. It's only green where He is.

I'm a stubborn sheep. Honestly, I am obnoxious and loud and willfully disobedient. My Shepherd has had to use His staff numerous times to break me and bring me back into the safety of His will. And because of that, I can say with all gratefulness and satisfaction that the Lord has been good to me. He has taken care of me. I have never lacked for anything. He has blessed me with a peace I can't put into words.

Are you searching for greener pastures? Are you tired of doing things your way? Are you going from one thing to the next in order to fill that hole inside? Is it not exhausting to try and try to find rest for your heart.... to no avail?

Friend, run to Jesus; the One who offers rest and whose burden is light. Follow His footsteps, obey His voice, and friend, your grass will be green.

What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it. - John Bunyan

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

White As Snow

A little over a week ago, my husband and I returned from a getaway to Stowe, Vermont. I was enthralled by the quaint little town, the charming Inn where we cozied up by the fireplace, and the beautiful snow-covered mountains. My soul needed a breath of cold, quiet air. :) One afternoon, I walked down to the empty living area in front of the big bay windows. And I cried. I've seen snow before. But I'd never seen snow this beautiful. It wasn't the slushy, mud-and-grass precipitation that I'm accustomed to here in the south. This was a piercing white snowy wonderland. I watched as tiny little flakes fell down to the earth and a lump formed in my throat. It was like the Lord was whispering to me, "Quit worrying over the past. It's covered."

I love that snow falls gently. 

My spirit needs a tender touch when all is still. Far too often I let the noise of the world and the muck and mire of life steal my peace and my joy. And I suffer for it.

God speaks through everything, and I love that He chooses to work in silence as He blankets the ground with snow. There is no loud banging of thunder, no flashes of lightening, just silence as He quietly and gently covers the cold, hard ground with white. Boy, that's my story! How many times have I been too hardhearted to let Christ do a work in my life? How many times have I rebelled? Been unwilling? Mean-spirited? How many times have I refused to surrender and allow my spirit to be covered in white? Too many.

In Isaiah chapter 1, verse 18, God says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Below all that beautiful snow was wet mud, dead grass, and rough rocks. Nothing that would elicit a gasp of awe from me. But as I looked at the beautiful picture in front of my eyes, I couldn't see any of the less-than-pretty things because it was all covered in sparkling white, powdery snow. A pretty good picture of my human nature and selfish tendencies all washed away by the fresh touch of Jesus Christ.  I hope I never forget that...

There are days when the enemy attacks and steals my joy. There are moments when he viciously reminds me of all the mistakes I have made in my life, big and small. So today, if you are feeling assaulted by Satan, or if you are ready to be made white as snow, take joy in knowing that we have a God who delights in quieting us with His love, and rejoices in covering us with His blood. There is peace and there is life in walking in the snowy-white path of His forgiveness and holiness.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Easy Banana Bread Recipe

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed (I used three) 
    1/3 cup melted butter 
    1 cup sugar (they say you can easily use 3/4 cup, I went with a cup) 
    1 egg, beaten 
    1 teaspoon vanilla 
    1 teaspoon baking soda 
    1/4 teaspoon salt 
    1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
    dash of cinnamon (optional)
    nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Mash your bananas and slowly add in each ingredient, ending with the flour. Mix well. Pour into a greased and lightly floured pan, bake for an hour, and voila! You've got yourself some delicious banana bread!


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