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

Hitting the Road {and a direct link to my free ebook!}

Our homeless family is hitting the road for a road trip/ tent camping trip for 30 days. We are either the coolest parents ever or completely insane!

If you want to follow our journey, follow us HERE on Instagram. We will be posting pictures along the way!

Also, if you are looking for the link to my Cultivating a Heart for Motherhood Ebook, here it is! Just click on the image below for your free ebook. To learn more about the ebook, read this post.

 And finally, thank you so much for your feedback on yesterday’s post. You are such an encouragement to me!

If you are interested in learning more about Uganda, I encourage you to read my very favorite blogs these days:

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet {Sara blesses my heart so much with her worshipful posts, and her heart for adoption}

The Farmer’s Wife Tells All {Lara is always full of funny things to say, and recently brought her daughter, Mary, home from Uganda}

Mandie Joy {Mandie Joy has an amazing story unfolding right now!}

and of course, Katie Davis from Kisses from Katie. This sweet young girl that has inspired so many of us!

Maybe you can see where my heart is headed with this?! To God be the glory!

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.

It’s What We Do

The question I get a lot is, What exactly do you guys do in Indonesia?

The answer? My hubby, Dave, serves as a missionary pilot with MAF {Mission Aviation Fellowship} I’m so proud of him!

Watch this short video to find out more {the first guy is my hunky husband!}:

Click here if you can’t see the video.

Want to know more?

You can read my husband’s blog here.  See more about what MAF does in Indonesia and around the world and read their blog.  And find MAF on Facebook!

To God be the glory!

When You Feel Like You’ve Failed

 This is my story, my before Indonesia story. It brings tears in the telling, and the pain still rings true today. But rather than a story of failure and depression, it is a story of God’s faithfulness and the hope that is found in Him.

It begins in high school. Every summer I worked in the Alaskan “bush” at a Bible camp. I lived and breathed Alaska. I ate up all of the showerless days, canoe rides, fishing, and endless long talks about God with searching children and teens. During college, I continued to go to Alaska in the summers because my heart was forever intertwined with its beautiful people.

A few years later, Dave and I met, fell in love, and married. He finished flight training at Moody Aviation, and fresh out of college, the Lord called us to Alaska.

We raised support in record time and set off to the Alaskan bush, with a bouncing baby boy, Britton, not yet one year old.

The first few months of life in the Alaskan bush were wonderful. The little village, above the Arctic Circle, was full of beautiful native people who became fast friends . . . especially the kids and teens.  Living in a small 380 square foot cabin, with no running water and hunting our own food didn’t phase me. I loved the adventure of it all.

And then. And then. Winter came {in August} and the days became shorter and melded into non-existent, with the sun grazing the horizon at noon. The temperatures continued to drop, and drop, and drop, until they settled in around negative fifty degrees on most days, with negative seventy on the coldest days.

As the snow swirled outside our thin plywood walls, the perfect storm began to swirl in my heart and soul.

The teens and children began to open up, to share, and it broke my heart.  I was totally unprepared for the reality these children shared with me, the reality they faced in their lives on a daily basis.  Our home became a refuge for children when their parents were drinking, or worse, and I began to take on each and every one’s pain.  Words like sexual abuse, suicide, neglect and alcohol abuse became faces, instead of just words. And I was devastated.

I desperately hung on to my little family and tried to guard young Britton while dealing with the morning sickness of a new pregnancy, Hannah.

And as the storm of depression, anxiety, and pain swirled in me, it erupted onto my relationship with Dave. Married less than three years and so young and naive, we began to take out our stress and pain on each other with angry words.

Ultimately, I felt as though I was drowning in a sea of despair with no way out.

And as I imploded, I hardly knew how to ask for help. It went from bad to worse, and, after two years, we left that dear little village in Alaska. We returned home, battered, beaten up, and what I viewed as “failures.”

I was officially done with mission work of any and ALL kind, and wanted nothing to do with the topic.  We returned to our hometown and Dave got a job in construction.

There, in the midst of “failure”, God showed up.  In so many little ways, He brought people to love on us. He brought us into a community of God lovin’ people who didn’t care how messed up and burned out I was. Over time, He restored my soul, so that this girl who never wanted to hear “missions” mentioned again was excited, even thrilled, to head overseas to an island in Indonesia we now call home. He showed me He is in control….He doesn’t need me to accomplish His work, I just get to be a part of it!

 The right circumstances, the right words from Him, to restore my soul.

He took my anger, my depression, my failure, and turned it into wisdom, experience, and hope. It took what I thought to be a colossal failure and made it into the best “boot camp” experience of my life.

If you are feeling broken, worn down, depressed today, I hope my story of brokenness can give you hope.

Remember beauty really does come from the ashes, and in God’s family, there are no failures, or better yet, there are nothing BUT failures. We are all failures. If we weren’t failures the cross would not have been needed.  But it is and we are.

So, what do you need if you are feeling broken?

1.Community. Find those people who will love on you . . . the ones who will speak truth, allow you to be broken, but also point you to the cross.

2. Christ. He died and covered ALL failings, big and small. Turn to Him with your pain and your failure.  Allow Him to carry the burden of your pain.

3. Confidence. Confidence to be a mess in front of people. Confidence in God’s plan for your life. You have no idea how God might use today’s failings in tomorrow’s triumphs. Cling to hope. If He has overcome the world, He can surely overcome your current mess.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33

God is in the business of using broken, used-up people for His glory!
If you are feeling broken, I Invite you to leave a comment, anonymous or otherwise, so I might say a word of prayer for you today.

Mercy House

I love to see what God is doing around the world.  And the story of The Mercy House in Kenya is no exception. I cry every time I watch the video of how God took Kristen{We Are That Family} to Kenya and messed with her {in the best sense} and called her to be a part of what He is doing there.

Mercy House is a maternity house for at-risk pregnant girls. It gives them a chance. A chance to live, a chance for their babies to live, and a chance to hear the Good News of the Gospel. As we look at ways to be Jesus’ hands and feet around the world, we want to make sure that we are helping instead of hurting {causing dependence or giving hand outs}.  That is why I love the Mercy House. It is run by nationals on the ground and is committed to helping girls get back on their feet.

Take a moment to watch this video about the story of Mercy House….

How can you get involved? By shopping at their store! The Mercy House store has just had it’s grand re-opening and if you use the code: REGRAND you can get 20% off.

How else? By praying for this ministry and the young girls who are a part of this program. May God be glorified in Kenya through this ministry.

He Sees You

*This is a repost from the archives, one that I return to again and again*

Today, I want to encourage you to be God’s YOU.

And,what if you feel like you work hard and no one notices? You pour out your heart, your time, your life, and you are not seeing the results that you want.  You feel like no one sees you.  

Well, I want to introduce you to a friend…..

She goes by Tinang Kule, which means simply, “mother of Kule”.  Her real name? I don’t know….I have never heard it.  It, like her personal identity, has been quieted….never to be spoken again.

Her life is given in total sacrifice to others, even her own name is sacrificed and she is known only as the mother of her first-born.  Her day begins early.  She starts the fire to begin cooking so that others might eat.  It is hot and laborious work.

She smiles and sweats.   She is happy that everyone likes her cooking.  The satisfied nods of appreciation are enough for her.

She stokes the fire and carries on.

Task runs into task as she continues to cook and clean, care for and nurture.  She hears the MAF airplane overhead and she rushes to get a brown paper wrapped package full of fried rice for the pilot….my husband.  She is intent on having it there for him when he arrives.  Each day she does this, for whichever pilot might land in her village to serve her people.

She rushes down the dirt road with a thermos full of hot tea and the brown paper package.

I am humbled.

She asks me if I have any laundry.  I sheepishly say yes.  She picks up the bag of filth and we walk to the river.  She crouches down and begins to beat the clothes one by one against a rock, a rhythm of beating and twisting and soaking and twisting again.  I try to help….the kids bathing nearby in the river giggle as I, the white lady, try to do it right.  It is difficult and monotonous. 

I whisper to the mother of Kule, “This is so much work…it doesn’t matter, you don’t need to wash our clothes.”

She replies with a big smile, “Oh no, I love to wash clothes.”

And she means it.

Seriously? She loves to wake up early with the only thing to look forward to is serving? Where is her recognition, her moment in the spotlight? Where is her identity?

She doesn’t even have a name to call her own.  Tears spring to my eyes.  Am I willing to do the same? To go unnoticed? The answer….embarrassingly is no.


Sure I am willing to sacrifice, to serve my family, to go mostly without recognition.  But, there is that little part that wants to be known, to be recognized, to be called by my name.

She smiles and I see Jesus all over her.  His is the name that she is known by….it is her identity.  He sees her.  And it is enough.

It is E-N-O-U-G-H.

He sees you.  He is proud of you.  He adores you.  His praise is the only praise we need.  His love fills our need for identity

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “He will rejoice over you with singing, He will quiet you with His love.”

Do you believe it? Is it enough for you?


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The Best Way to be Radical

I love the big, grand, sweeping stories.  The moments that take your breath away.  I love big radical movements, ones where the speaker calls you to the front to give something away, something big.  Ones that are inspiring, that change the course of your life in a single moment.  I cry reading books like Through Gates of Splendor or Safely Home where the people in the story make a sacrifice so great, it takes your breath away.

I also cry my eyes out over less sacrificial, but still moving moments. In an episode of the show, Little House on the Prairie, Pa gets hurt and can’t work. If the Ingalls family can’t harvest their crops, then they will have no food,  and they will die of starvation that winter. And then, just when you think all is lost, the whole town marches across the horizon to help him harvest his crop and Pa {Michael Landon} bursts into tears {which, by the way, he does in pretty much every episode}. And I am right there with him, bawling my eyes out.  

We all love story. We love feeling something deep in our soul that inspires us and incites change.  I don’t think I am much different.  And, by and large, it is so good.  I see people rising up, being inspired to change, and not settle for status quo.  Again, so, so good.  My only thought is that there are times where we as Christians get the cart before the horse, a sort of Mary versus Martha scenario.

I am wondering if we are so caught up in the surrender, the “doing big things for God” and being radical, that we are forgetting to spend time with Him? Am I? Michael Horton in his book, Christless Christianity says this, “We can lose Christ by distraction as easily as by denial. ‘Christless Christianity’ can happen through addition as well as subtraction.”

And, if we are forgetting to know and love God first, what does all the “good works” really mean? Aren’t we just a bunch of good people, “doing” social justice, and forgetting the thing that is most important of all? Are we seeking Him? According to the Westminster Catechism in answer to the question,What is the chief end of man? the answer is, To glorify God and enjoy Him forever, or as John Piper puts it, “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

I am convicted more and more that the most radical thing that you and I can do is to spend time with Him, at His feet, in His Word, in prayer, and in worship.  These things are unseen but have a huge ripple effect into the rest of  life.  

I want to remember this: “I am not primarily a worker for God; I am first and foremost a lover of God.  This is who I am.” -Linda Dillow, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul

And, all those little, quiet moments spent on our knees turn into one big, sweeping  life that is radical.

“More than that, I count all things to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ and may be found in Him…..” Philippians 3:8


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Linking up with The Better Mom, Women Living Well, and Time Warp Wife



A Life of Surrender

As I ponder my last post, I want to express to you that I am nobody. Please, as you read my words on surrender and choosing “here”, do not put me on a pedestal. I don’t belong there.  I am just a normal average girl that struggles the same as every other girl. Maybe more.

Don’t think for one second that my sacrifice is any harder than yours. It’s not.

Jim Elliot said it best, “Missionaries are very human folks just doing what they’re asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.

And since I view every Christian believer as a missionary, wherever they happen to live, we are just a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt our beloved Somebody, aren’t we?

The truth is, we all, each one of us, if we are living a life surrendered to His will, have our own crosses to bear.  Our own sacrifices to make.  They all look different, but they all feel very much the same.  And most of those sacrifices, no matter where we live on the globe are mostly made up of those small moments woven in and throughout our days.

Surrender is usually dying to self on a daily basis and most often found in the mundane.” Jennie Allen, Anything

Following the Lord and doing what He asks of you isn’t always easy.  It is a long obedience, one of many mundane moments.  It isn’t all lights and fame and excitement.  It’s a lot of little moments of choosing to live for the unseen. Moments that can be downright difficult. But ones that can be equally beautiful.

Someone asked me, “What does a life of sacrifice look like? What exactly does living in surrender mean?”

I think a life of surrender means being so in love with our Savior that we willingly fling up our hands and tell Him we are willing to do whatever He asks of us, no matter what that means.  And, doing it every day, again and again. 

 Therefore I urge your brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

Offering the life He has given us back to Him, to be used however He wishes.  Even if that means small things.  Things like making your husband’s favorite dinner, or chatting with the lady in line in front of you at the grocery store, or rubbing your son’s back when you are so tired and all you can think about is crawling into bed.

It means starting out each day with the precious Savior with open hands and saying, How can I serve You today? 

It means living with Heaven in view and being about kingdom work, even in the midst of car repairs, haircuts, and Little League. It’s seeing your life and the people in it through HIS eyes. And using the gifts he has given you, “your thing”, to serve as you look towards Heaven.

What if heaven and God and forever became our normal? Wouldn’t that change everything?”- Jennie Allen, Anything

It is being willing, because of love, to pray this prayer of Betty Scott Stam,

Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life.  I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever.  Fill me and seal me with Your Holy Spirit.  Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.

And trusting Him with the outcome.

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Photo credit: My wonderful and talented hubby, Dave.

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