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!

Calm in the Chaos

Calm in the Chaos

As a mama to 5, 4 of them rambunctious boys, calm in the chaos always seemed like a funny joke. I assumed a calm home meant we listened to instrumental music all the time, everyone spoke in soothing, quiet voices, and nary an unkind word was spoken. How disappointed I was to realize my reality would never match up with my ideal.  I was wishing for the equivalent of an English tea room, when reality was more along the lines of a county fair. My aha moment came when I realized that calm has more to do with where my focus lies than what my circumstances look like.

Peace in the home begins and ends in my own heart.

As Ann Voskamp says, “Peace is a Person, not a place.” How right she is.  When I am looking to the perfect set of circumstances to bring peace, my peace will quickly be stolen the moment a fight breaks out, the washing machine overflows {again}, or I am interrupted while on the phone.

I have made a checklist of sorts for myself so I can cultivate that calm in my heart, which then translates into calm in my home. For me, it really comes down to these five things:

1. Am I taking time to refresh my soul personally in the Word?

If my day begins with time in the Word and in His Presence, filling up my soul and my mind with Him and His peace, that is the kind of peace that cannot quickly be taken away. Focusing on the peace that he gives in the midst of the mayhem is the only thing that will bring about a true peace in our hearts.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

2. Am I cultivating peace in my heart by carving out some time to rest and refresh myself each day?

Enjoying a cup of tea, a chapter of a delicious book, or a quiet nap may sound frivolous, but it goes a long way to cultivating peace in my heart.

3. Am I choosing to use words that convey and communicate peace to those around me? 

Allowing God’s Word to dwell in my heart so that when I am bumped what comes out is sweet.

The most important single aid to my ability to use my tongue for the glory of Jesus is allowing the Word of God to dwell in me so richly that I cannot speak with any other accent.” –Sinclair Ferguson, The Power of Words and the Glory of God

A cup full of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”- Amy Carmichael

“She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26

4. Am I choosing to love those around me and be patient with them, regardless of how I feel?

Sometimes, it is just simply choosing to do the right thing, even though my flesh wants to disrupt the peace.

I will resolve to love others with the sacrificial love with which I have been loved by God.  I will seek to trust Him to show His love through me by practicing being a servant and lover of all those He has placed in my arena of life.” –Sally Clarkson

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:7

5. When I fail, am I resting in Christ’s work on the Cross, rejoicing in the grace that He gives, and moving on?

I have been with the Lord Jesus, may the poor soul say. I have left my sins, my burdens with him; and He has given me His righteousness, wherewith I am going with boldness to God.” -John Owen

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Although life may never be quiet, I can choose to have a calm home by having a calm heart.

Want motherhood encouragement? Subscribe here to receive my ebook, Cultivating A Heart for Motherhood, free!

Good Job, Mama

I watched my kids weave through the pumpkins, enjoying the sun on my face and the brisk autumn air. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a mama, belly ready to burst, buying pumpkins with her little one. He was near 3 years old and a cute little button of energy. I observed as she maneuvered around pumpkins with her pumpkin-sized belly, hand holding her sweet, lively boy.

He asked for something, she told him no, and two seconds later he was on the ground flailing in the dirt, letting her know *exactly* what he thought.

To read the rest of the story, and have your heart encouraged today, join me at Sally Clarkson’s place, I Take Joy.


Want motherhood encouragement? Subscribe here to receive my ebook, Cultivating A Heart for Motherhood, free!


dear single mom

Dear Single Mom,

I want you to know I notice you. I have now for a while. How did I miss seeing you before?

As I watch you I am blown away. I am in awe of all you shoulder, all you bear. Quietly. Without fanfare.  Your tireless, selfless work. Your shoulders sagging a bit under all the responsibility. I don’t know how you do it. With no shoulder to cry on at the end of a long day. Who do you talk to when things are really hard?

I have left you out and I want to say I’m sorry. All the mom meetings, Bible studies, play dates, and “couple’s nights” you felt out of place or couldn’t attend because you were at work. My heart hurts to know I have done you wrong.

I want to know you. I want to include you. I want to cheer you on. I want to offer my shoulder when you need to cry. 

I promise not to put you into a box or a “single mom” category. I don’t know your story, and I don’t need to. I just know you are amazing. You are beautiful. And I want to hear your heart. 

And know that I see you and so does He. 

Come to the table, pull up a chair and let’s start the conversation….

hey amazing mama

Hey amazing mama. You. The messy, beautiful, grateful mama.

I see you. Throwing your hair up in a ponytail when you hear “Mama!” coming from down the hall as you wipe the sleep from your eyes. I see you grabbing coffee and some Bible verses as you smile across the countertop.

I see you. At the store with your yoga pants, little Superman hanging off the side of the cart, and the baby in the seat chewing on the handle. I see your kids eating their toast, still in their pajama pants with the little Elmos all over. I see your patience as you answer the thirty-fourth question in five minutes while simultaneously finding the groceries on your list. And the smile you give them. It makes their day.

I see you. Hauling your two littles into McDonald’s {yes, McDonald’s}. One kid hanging on your leg as you maneuver the break-your-arm-in-one-fell-swoop-device aka the infant car seat. I see you chasing down little Houdini as he escapes from your hand yet again. I see your exasperated sigh…and I watch it dissipate as you see that ketchup-smeared smile and can’t help but smile back.

I see you. Reading Go Dog Go for the fourteenth time in a row, giggling with your wee one each time you get to the fancy hat-with- all-the-things-hanging-off part. Yes, I see the laundry in the corner, but then I see you snuggle in close, smile, and go for number fifteen.

I see you. When the little tap on your shoulder comes one too many times and before you can think, the words, “Just stop it already” come spilling out and cut deep and you feel terrible. I see you doing the hard thing…swooping down with an I’m sorry and kisses and a heap of humility. And I see the smile the two of you share.

I see amazing. The amazing of your normal everyday. The amazing of little people with pudgy hands calling you mama. Yes, you. Messy, Beautiful, Grateful YOU. These precious, messy, exasperating, adorable pint-sized mixture of you and your husband call YOU mama. And they think you hung the moon.

And can I tell you something? Don’t compare. Don’t compare your gloriously messy everyday to Martha Stewart’s younger and hipper sister, Pinterest. 

And when you are tempted to compare your normal days to her highlight reel, remember this:

The only Person whose opinion counts looks at me and He finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth.” {Tim Keller}

Live out of that. Walk in that. The only One who matters sees you and says, “Hey Amazing Mama, you are doing a great job.”

Then, look into those big eyes looking up at you and realize they think so too.


Want more motherhood encouragement? Subscribe here to receive my ebook, Cultivating A Heart for Motherhood, free!

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.

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!

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.

Free E-book- Cultivating a Heart for Motherhood

I am really excited to give you a special gift, a free e-book, Cultivating a Heart for Motherhood!

This ebook is filled with encouragement for mothers, biblical wisdom, practical helps, and several print outs to help you on your journey of mothering well. This book is for every mother who needs vision, encouragement, and a breath of fresh air breathed into their mothering!

It is full of wisdom I have gleaned from my own experience, from my study of the Bible, and from drawing on the wisdom of godly mentors who have gone before me.

I hope and pray that this ebook will help you feel encouraged, empowered, and fulfilled in your job as a mom. There are devotions and simple challenges peppered throughout to help you solidify what you read. Here is a screenshot of some of what you will find inside:


I am so thankful for all of you, my faithful readers, so this is my gift to you, my dear subscribers!

Here is how you get the ebook:

1.Take a moment to subscribe to Grace Full Mama, if you have not already done so. You can also just enter your email address here:

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner


2. Check your email and confirm your subscription.

3. When a new post comes to your feed or email, you will find the link at the very bottom of that {and all} posts. Here is where you will find the link for the ebook. See the circle and the arrow at the bottom:

















*If the link does not work for you, please email me at thegracefullmama @ gmail dot com and I will send you the direct link!*

4. Be patient, it takes a few moments to download!

5. That’s it! Enjoy! Questions? Feel free to email with questions!

Planning for Refreshment- Refresh Your Soul Week 2

* I wrote this post before I knew what Sarah Mae was writing on. It is interesting how similar our thoughts are on this subject!*

Let me pray for us as we begin….

Lord, we are weary. We have tried, sadly, for too long to do life on our own. We choose now to abide in Your love, Your arms, Your truth. Refresh our souls as only You can. We wait expectantly for You. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields it’s fruit in season, and it’s leaf does not wither. We give You this year, our time, our schedules, our selves. Use them for Your glory and show us Your will in our lives. Amen.

The Lord will guide you always. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11

Last week we talked about refreshing yourself by letting some things go and making time to rest and enjoy life. Now, I want to take it a step further. We need to plan to be refreshed. Not just once, but on an ongoing basis.

We need to schedule in time to drink deeply from the well that is the Lord and find things that truly refresh our soul, instead of settling for what feels good in the moment but in the end leaves us feeling depleted. As I mentioned last week, habits of constant internet clicking, mindless eating, shopping {online or otherwise}, TV watching that is mindless instead of planned are some of these things.

Here is what I am saying. Plan for a little refreshment every day, every week, and a little something extra once a month or whenever you can swing it. 

Here is what works for me. I wake up early early so I can have quiet, with my coffee and my Bible, uninterrupted for an hour. In the afternoon, I take a nap for 30 minutes and then I read for 30 minutes {the twins listen to a book on the ipod}.

In the evening, I get into bed by 8:30 and spend a few quiet moments reflecting on my day. Then I read a relaxing book with a cup of Good Earth tea {my favorite!} in my special mug before lights out at 9. Should everyone have this schedule?! Of course not! My husband flies early so we get up at 4:30am, thus necessitating an early bedtime.

In addition to this, every few months I take a little vacation to the local hotel here in town. It is nothing special, but for 24 hours, I have quiet and air conditioning, which are hard to come by here. I take some music, candles, coffee, Bible, a book I am reading, and sometimes a special movie. I spend the afternoon resting and praying, the evening watching my movie and getting a good night’s sleep, and the morning before I go home, some time in the Word. This is what works for me and my family. Dave gladly sends me, because he doesn’t mind keeping the kids, and it actually helps him because I come back refreshed!

At one time I felt guilty for taking these times to refresh, feeling like I should be filling my time with more important things, giving my time and money to those that need it more desperately. However, I have learned taking care of myself and my relationship with the Lord is the most important thing. Christians these days have gotten things a bit turned around.

We are running around serving the Lord, without actually spending time with Him, ministering to Him or hearing from Him. Jesus frequently took time away from His ministry to be alone with the Lord.

As for me, I want to serve faithfully until the very end, so that means taking a little respite along the way. Otherwise I burn out. 

I want this to be true of me… “{S}He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.” Psalm 1:3

Find what works for you. Talk it over with those close to you, and figure out a plan of how to make it happen. I am already picturing a host of comments with a bunch of “yes buts”…. “we don’t have the money, my husband would never watch the kids, I don’t like to be alone,” etc.

My plan does not need to be your plan.

YOU come up with your plan with your family and the Lord, and then make it happen. Could you trade babysitting with a friend one morning a week? Could your hire someone to watch your kids while you take a nap? Could you ask a loved one to have your kids for a playdate once a week or once a month to give you some time to rest?

My challenge to you: Think about how you can plan for some refreshment in your day, your week, and your month. Pray over your plan and see what you can do to make it happen!

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