Simple Advent

Simple Advent

My ideas for Advent may not be the most stellar, cute, or original, but they are Advent traditions that work well for our family. I have found that simple is what gets done around here, so that is what we stick with!

 I really like the simplicity and Christ-centeredness of our current traditions. And that is my goal….to make Christmas all about Christ!

The Advent Book. I love this book. Each day has a beautiful door for kids to open, revealing more of the story of Christ’s birth (word for word from the Bible). Since every day you begin at the beginning and continue until you open the new door, by Christmas Day the kids have all of Luke 2 memorized!

A Simple Advent Book and Candleholder

We are using this book from Elyse Fitzpatrick this year. I love it because it is simple, Gospel-centered, and has readings for adults and kids, along with some super easy activity ideas. You can find it here. In this book, they recommended this Irish Advent Candleholder, so we will be using it as well.41h7ZLRHN1L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

Advent Calendar. A sweet friend made one of these for us.  A simple felt calendar with beautiful clay ornaments representing the daily Scripture, one for each day leading up to Christmas. Simple and special. We brought it in our suitcase from Indonesia to ensure we would have it this year.


Shepherd’s Pouches. An idea I found in the book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noel Piper. Each child gets a pouch in which to collect money to give to Jesus on Christmas Day. We are going to use our money to buy relief packets for those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan. It will be interesting to see how my kids come up with ways to make money.

Birthday Party. On Christmas Day, we will celebrate Jesus’ birth by having cake, giving Him our Shepherd’s Pouches, and singing carols to Him!

I am looking forward to a Christmas season spent with my wonderful family and focusing on Him!

Yes, that is our tree in the picture above. It is from last year, when we lived in Indonesia. And, yes, it’s fake.{grin}

What are your favorite traditions? I would love to hear!

introducing johari creations {and a giveaway!}

Allow me to introduce a beautiful business that gives me goosebumps. Johari Creations was created by my friend, Erika, and her friend Lindsy. Erika has always been one of the coolest women I know. She lives her life sold out for the sake of the gospel. This business is no exception.

These women have an eye for the beautiful, a love for the lost, and a desire to come alongside the struggling and at-risk. I love their heart, their mission, and I LOVE their products!

Here is their mission in their own words:

 ”Johari Creations is a marketplace for handcrafted products made by artisans in developing countries around the world. We seek to come alongside our artisan partners with sustainable incomes, holistic development and shared work and responsibility. We believe amazing beauty can come from poverty and while the artisans handcraft stunning products, it is the artisans themselves we celebrate as “johari” – the Swahili word for jewel.
When I saw that Erika was launching this new business, I wanted to get involved. Erika and Lindsy gifted me with this beautiful necklace, a stunning piece made in Ethiopia and Uganda. I wanted to wear something from the land that is to become my home, and wearing a piece of Uganda around my neck brings tears to my eyes. {I wasn’t able to post a picture of me with the necklace because my husband’s computer broke…long story.}
This is what it is all about. Supporting and empowering our sisters around the world. Johari represents many countries around the world with many different products, but I have to say, my favorites are the ones from Uganda. Here is just one of the beautiful Ugandan artisans:

And now, I want you to join me in getting the word out about Johari Creations! You can learn more about them by following them at these places: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Also, maybe do some of your Christmas shopping at their website? Here is a coupon code for 20% off  your purchase: gracefullmama20

And now, you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate to Johari Creations! There are so many fun things at their website, so head on over to see what you would choose if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Booty and God’s Glory

I pull up my jeans and they stretch over my thighs, a bit snug. Immediately my frenemies, those words that have been with me these long thirty-something years, come for a visit. I sigh and let their hurtful words wash over my mind. “You need to lose weight. You aren’t worth anything. You are so ugly,” they whisper in their mocking voice.

I head to a party and I see her. She looks great, and rather than being happy for her, rather than saying the words I know would make her day, I invite my insidious pals back into my head for a pow-wow. “I need to cut back. I can’t enjoy this food. I have to start running again. I’m no good,” they shriek with increasing volume.

I push the grocery cart through the gauntlet of magazines. The latest and greatest new perfect-looking celebrity has lost weight. Doesn’t she look amazing? The glossy photos call to me, their siren song of, “You’re not good enough. If only you’d try this one thing.….”

And so it goes. 

Maybe you’re thinking, what does she have to worry about, she’s slim. I’m so tired of thin girls crying about your weight. I hear you.

But I want to point this out: SHAME KNOWS NO SIZE.

Shaming words don’t care if you are size two or twenty-two, size four or forty-four. They speak to us the same. 

Shame has been with me each and every day. Until now.

I’m done. I’m so done.

I’m declaring war on my selfish, self-focused pride. The pride that says my worth is tied to my weight, rather than to the One who died for me.

I’m done looking at myself, instead of at Him. As Tim Keller says, “By comparing ourselves to other people and trying to make ourselves look better than others, we are boasting. Trying to recommend ourselves, trying to create a self-esteem resume because we are desperate to fill our sense of inadequacy and emptiness. The ego is so busy. So busy all the time.” {The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness}

My ego has been too busy and it has left me deflated and exhausted. Looking at the Gospel and God’s glory, on the other hand, leaves me feeling full.

Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less….A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person.” {Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness}

I want that. I want to be neither a self-hating person or a self-loving person. I want to be a gospel-humble person.

Here is my prescription:

1. Take a good hard look at the Gospel and God’s glory. Let His glory expand and let Him become BIG in my heart and life. Worship HIM instead of myself.

2. Focus on what really matters…eternity, and not my booty.

2. Take those thoughts captive. Kick them out.And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2

3. Believe this: My worth is NOT equal to my weight. Look to Christ for my worth and nothing else. “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

4. Walk in freedom! Live in the light and love of God’s amazing grace!

What does this mean for me? A lot more grace for my body. A lot more acceptance. A lot more, well, maybe a lot more booty.
If you see me, my booty might be a bit bigger, but so is my view of God’s glory. 

Do you struggle with these things? Do you want to join me? What is YOUR story? Please share in the comments!

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*I am not saying that being healthy and exercising is bad or wrong! Not at all. I’m simply sharing that over-focusing on outward appearance can be.*

A Messy, Beautiful, Grateful Mama

Our family is in the midst of a month-long camping trip. In a tent. The seven of us loaded up our car with camping gear and set off for some of the most beautiful national parks in the country. Some called us cool. Others {the ones who have done it before} called us insane. I think we are a bit of both.

The pictures on Instagram paint a beautiful picture of a family enjoying God’s scenery and each other. And we have. And we are. But it only tells the pretty bits of the story. Because who wants to take pictures of fights over “my space” in the backseat or the potty accident that threatens to push mama over the edge?

Real moments with real people aren’t Pinterest-worthy or Instagramable. The real story, the full story, is that life is messy. We are messy.

I am a messy mama.

The more sinners you pile in a car or a tent, the more opportunity  for sin to spill and get all over everybody.

Ugly words when he bumps her while climbing into the back seat.
Patience wears thin when she takes forever to brush her teeth and boys hop back and forth on feet waiting and watching their
breath in the wind.
 Harsh criticism leaps from lips when sleeping bags are accidently stolen in the middle of a frostbitten night.
Sinful words escape when he wants to check and recheck the tie-downs and she just wants to get going already.

Life together and being a mom is just so darn messy. My sin, staring me in the face is uncomfortable and mothering is incredibly humbling. Can I get an AMEN?!

I am a messy, beautiful, grateful mama and am going to find the beautiful in this mess.

I am going to embrace the awkwardness of the mess.

When I fail, lose my temper, I am going to press in. Ask for forgiveness. Get grace. Start again. And use my failings to point to the Gospel.  As Jerry Bridges said, “We truly appreciate the gospel when we become desperate for it.”  And desperate I am.

When our perspective of this life is nearsighted, we come to believe that what is in front of us is all there is. We resist doing the awkward things entailed in walking in love. We despise the hard work it takes to run the race.” -Gloria FurmanGlimpses of Grace

I am going to look up and see True Beauty.

We become what we gaze upon. And so I am going to look on His glory, His love, His beauty, and find myself changed when I do. “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

I am going to be grateful.

Grateful for these messy beautiful moments, because I will never get them back. Because they are growing as fast as I can blink. And in a few short years, I will be thinking back wistfully to these moments, wishing to live them again. I am going to grab the moments that take my breath away, and hold them in my heart forever. 

Sometimes the messiest moments in our lives turn out to be the most beautiful, the most breathtaking, the most cherished.

And the messiest mamas can be the most beautiful as they point to The Most Beautiful One of all.  

So here’s to us, you and me.

Messy, Beautiful, Grateful Mamas.

On Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going

It’s been a while, a looong while since I’ve been in this space. I’d like to apologize, but the truth is I’m not really sorry. Sort of. I’m sorry for being inconsistent and flaky, but I’m not sorry for being gone.

Gone is a fitting word. I’ve been gone. A bit of everywhere and nowhere.

Our family packed up and left our life in Indonesia in late May. It was planned, as our Heavenly Father asked us to continue our story in a new and different country. However, I had no idea just how difficult it would be to leave our home {still is}. 

The grief of leaving loved ones and a life, that, although difficult was made beautiful by HIM, was painful. Really painful. Still painful. 

Indonesia will be forever etched on my heart, and the people carried with me everywhere I go in this world.

And, as we came back to the States for a furlough before we head out again, people welcomed us back by saying, “Welcome Home.” But the thing is, America is no longer home for this nomadic family. 

Yes, we love the good ol’ US of A, our family, friends, and Taco Bell, and all the cheese sandwiches we can eat, but we feel so, well foreign. And I didn’t expect it. And so, this born and bred American had to grieve twice. Once for leaving our Indonesian home and once for coming “home” that doesn’t feel like home. It was difficult to arrive in Indonesia eight years ago, feeling like we didn’t fit, and it is equally difficult coming back “home” and realizing you don’t fit here either.

And to be honest? This missionary mama is tired and burned out. Weary. These bones are weary. Really weary.  And I’ve learned to accept brokenness as a gift.

A good gift from Him. HE is showing me to place my trust in Him alone, not on my physical address. He gives me hope. “And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5 

As I look at what Christ did for me on the Cross, my inheritance here and now, and in the future, my heart sings. Eternity feels close. My REAL home, the home my nesting heart is longing for, is with Him in heaven. So each day, I have to remind this heart so prone to wander, to, as Jonathan Edwards said, “Stamp eternity on my eyeballs.” When I lose perspective, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and anxious, but when I turn my eyes on my dear Heavenly Father, His Son, and His Word, my soul is strengthened.

As I meditate on His Words, my soul is refreshed…

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26,27

And as He strengthens me, He has begun to fill my heart with love for our next earthly home….

A little country in the east of Africa, and Lord-willing our sojourning family will land there in February. To go again.To begin again. To fall in love again. To feel uncomfortable again. To be driven to our knees in sweet surrender all over again.

The country called Uganda will be our new address. But our HOME is with HIM. Amen.

Have You Forgotten Your Identity? {Because He Loves Me Book Study Week 2}


For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith….For whoever lack these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleanse from his former sins.” 2 Peter 1:5,9

I am a quote girl. I have this entire chapter heavily underlined, and so, instead of me trying to explain, I am just going to share what I am learning through meaningful quotes!

Take some time to really read these quotes and let them sink down deep.

Chapter 2 is called Identity Amnesia. What is that? 

The epidemic is seen is serious Christian book that focus on improving our outer behaviors such as communication skills or self-discipline, or even overcoming sin, without much reference to God’s love for us or his ongoing work in us. It’s seen in the hymns and choruses we sing in which we declare our determination to follow Christ without a mention of his determination to cause us to do so.” 

Even though we believe the gospel, the occasions in which the gospel (the incarnation, sinless life, death, bodily resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God) actually intersect and powerfully affect our daily life are infrequent.”

“We assent to these precious truths about Scripture but we frequently find ourselves living life like practical atheists.”

“How has the gospel defined and shaped you?”

“Most of us view God’s love and the gospel as elementary topics meant to get us in the front door of faith, and they are that. But we’ve forgotten how these truths are also to transform us every moment of every day.”

“This kind of disconnect between our stated beliefs–my identity is that I’m one who’d been loved immeasurably by God and am one with him–and our practical beliefs–my identity and self-worth are determined by whether I’m popular, respected, a winner, and well-fed…”

“[When we understand the gospel] We’ll love God because he has first and marvelously loved us, and this love will overflow to others as well (I John 4:8-9). These gospel truths are not insignificant, something only for beginners. (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) The gospel message–you have been cleansed from sin–is the pinnacle of God’s loving work in the world, and just as it is this work that saves us, it is also this work that transforms and sustains us. The gospel is the message that must remain paramount throughout all our life.”

“‘Who are you?’ with the answer, ‘A child of God!’ but that’s a truth that must be pressed into our consciousness every moment of every day. When dissed by our friends, when we’re struggling with pain, when falling into sin (again!), we’re still his children. And that is the most important thing about who were are. God has graciously chosen, adopted, and sealed us for his own glory. He is giving himself to us, and if we’re not distracted by our self-efforts and self-trust, we will respond by defining ourselves by that love. Who are you? You’re his, he is yours, and you’ve been cleansed from sin. And that’s all the identity any of us need.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened….through his flesh….let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:19-22

“He has called us, ‘Be Mine.’” If you’re his child, he wants to assure you of his unchangeable love for you and your place in him even now. We can boldly respond to him in the full assurance that he really does love us, that he really has welcome us to himself and made us his own.” 

This chapter has given me a lot to think about. I am speechless. 

Questions for reflection and discussion:

-What most impacted you in this chapter?

-Have you suffered from Identity Amnesia?

-Are these truths from the gospel impacting your life every day?

How do you join the conversation? Two options:

*Leave a comment below, and feel free to discuss with others there!

*Write a blog post either answering these questions or with your own reactions to the chapter, and link up your blog post below! (Remember to add the title and url for the specific post and not your blog url and name. Thanks!)

(It’s not too late to read along. If you haven’t purchased a copy of the book, you can do so here.)

 Join us again next week as Ruth over at GraceLaced discusses Chapter 3!

Delighting in God’s Beauty-Refresh Your Soul Week 4

I love nature. I am a Northwest girl, who loves a good hike, a picnic outside, or a day trip to the beach. Nothing speaks to my soul as deeply as a beautiful mountain, a sweeping landscape, or an immense ocean that seems endless.

Some people are not. They would prefer the mall to the trail. That’s ok. I love indoor things too. My challenge for us today is to look for beauty and take an extra moment to be thankful for it and to relish it more than we usually would. Where I live, there is some real beauty, but it is interspersed with trash piles and cracking cement. I have had to become a beauty hunter to find and appreciate beauty in my every day. And, guess what?  I have found as Ann Voskamp says, “The life that counts blessings discovers its yielding more than it seems.” When I started to hunt for beauty, to see God’s handiwork all around me, I found it everywhere, and in some unlikely places.

But let’s not enjoy beauty simply for beauty’s sake. Let us see the beauty all around us, and use it to point us to God’s glory.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work if His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2

God’s creation is telling us something about HIM!

What if the Iguazu Falls {one of the wonders of the world} were put there to tell us about the person who put them there? More to the point, what if everything was put here to tell us something about Him?” Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open

But no created thing can satisfy the cravings of our heart. As Augustine says, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

And even more than this, the beauty that we find points us to THE most beautiful One, Jesus Christ.

The real desirability is found in Christ. God made every created beauty in this world as an expression of Christ’s beauty and the beauty of the Father’s love for the Son. All beauty is a breadcrumb path that leads us to Christ.” -Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open

Have you spent time meditating on Christ’s beauty? The beauty of what was done, finished, completed on the Cross. Can you fathom the love the Father has for the Son, and the love the Father has for us? I can’t. I can’t even fathom it. 

Here are some things that have turned my heart to God in praise this week:

  • an orchid purchased for $12.00
  • flickering candlelight
  • delicious coffee in the early morning
  • the giggle of my son
  • a butterfly hatching on our banana tree
  • laughing hard when Hudson does his crazy dance
  • fruit-lots of it, mangoes, papaya, bananas of all shape, size, and color, rambutan {hairy fruit}, etc
  • the tired, satisfied smile of a hubby coming home after a long, hard day of serving people in the jungle
  • fresh baked bread
  • MAGNUM BAR {I think these are pretty beautiful!}
  • rubbing backs of boys too old to cuddle, but want to be touched just the same
  • discussing literature with a friend over a drink at the air-conditioned hotel {bliss!}
  • the whoops and hollers of boys having a nerf gun fight that overtakes the whole house
  • blooming roses
  • the smell of gardenias picked on the side of the road

Frederick Langbridge says it so eloquently in his famous quote,” Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.”

Take a few moments today and find the beauty around you. And let it turn your heart in awe to the True Beauty found in Jesus Christ. What beauty have you found this week?

Previous Posts in this series:

What is Your Question About Marriage?

These are my parents. Aren’t they cute? They have been married for 41 years and have been on the Family Life Weekend to Remember Speaker Team since I was in high school {that’s a looonnng time!}. My dad is a full-time pastor, and they speak for Family Life several weekends a year.

My wonderful mom is joining me here at Grace Full Mama on Mondays in February, and we are going to do a series on marriage together! I am so excited! I don’t promise we will get it all right, but we are working hard to bring you some godly wisdom and encouragement for your marriage!

So, here is my question to you:  What is your question about marriage? What is the one question you would like to ask an older woman on the topic of marriage? Or what one topic would you like to hear about?  Let us know in the comments!

Don’t forget to subscribe to get your free copy of my ebook, Cultivating a Heart for Motherhood!

Redeeming Childbirth- Wonderful Resource!

Angie Tolpin and I met when both of our oldest children were just 6 weeks old. We connected deeply from that moment, and have been dear friends since. I’ll admit when she told me she was writing a book on childbirth, I cringed. Not because of her! Not at all. But, you see, childbirth is a touchy subject for me. I have been inadvertently stung by words of those who have had “normal” or “natural” births, feeling that I was somehow less than.

I have had 4 C-sections. Because of an aneurism in my brain, normal or natural childbirth was never an option for me. Before I ever got pregnant, I knew I would always need to go the C-section route. Also? During my C-sections, I didn’t feel very spiritual. Oh, I did pray. A lot. But my prayers went something like this, “Lord, please, please, please don’t let me die on the operating table. Don’t let my aneurism explode or let me hemorrhage or anything else. Please let my baby {or babies} be healthy. Please Lord.

So I figured because of these two things, this book was not for me. I was so wrong! In fact, I needed this message so much.

Angie has written a beautiful book on bringing in the Lord into your pregnancy, birth, and mothering experience with the intent of uniting women around this topic. What a breath of fresh air! 

With wisdom, grace, humility, and enthusiasm, Angie guides a mother-to-be to glorify the Lord through the hard times, through the beauty and the pain. This book is a gift, and I pray that you will love it and be blessed by it! {Just so you know, I have not finished reading the book yet, but I fully trust and love Angie, so I know I can recommend it!}


Go here to purchase your copy!

Growth & Study Guide

Also, since this week is launch week for the book, there are some great giveaways, including an iPad mini! Go here to see the great giveaways and to download the free Growth and Study Guide!

I pray, along with Angie, that you will be blessed, encouraged, and strengthened by this message.

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