Thursday, June 22, 2017

Amazon Giftcard {Giveaway}

Hey Readers! Just as a "thank you" and because I so appreciate you, here is the chance for you to win a little Amazon happy: Enter to win a $10 Gift Card to Amazon below. There are multiple ways to enter. Thanks for entering!

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*This giveaway is in no way associated with any social media platform. Giveaway winner will be contacted via the email provided in the widget and must respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen.
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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Finding Grace in Chocolate Cake



I love when God sends me reminders of His beautiful grace. It usually happens when I least expect it, but it always happens right when I need it. Tonight, it was in a piece of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.

I had about thirty minutes in my car this evening without any kiddos in the backseat fighting and I spent some time reflecting on how different my life is now from two years ago. I thought about how I was happily heading to a get together where food would be involved when two years ago I would have come up with every excuse in the book to not attend so that I wouldn't have to answer questions about why I wasn't eating. 

Instead I probably would have been keeping myself busy to avoid eating or forcing myself to run ridiculous amounts to make sure I hit an insane number of steps on my FitBit. I would've been weighing myself for the fifth or sixth time.

And as the song "Chain Breaker" by Zach Williams came on the radio, my heart was full of gratitude that that cycle is no longer what my life looks like. Praise God that He rescues. Praise God for His mercy and transforming power.

Transformed. That's the word that popped into my head when I sat looking at an empty plate earlier tonight. To be able to sit and eat a meal with precious friends and then to follow that meal with chocolate cake and ice cream may not seem like a big deal to many, but for me, it's something that I didn't think I would ever do two years ago. 

But before I ate that cake, I had a moment where the beauty of His grace overwhelmed me. Grace that has allowed me to be here. Grace that has taught me to grant myself grace to enjoy life and those precious moments. Grace that has taught me to appreciate life and the gift that it is. Grace that has taught me to cherish the people God places in my life and to see them for the treasure that they are. Grace that has taught me who I am in Christ and through that, defeated the eating disorder that ravaged so much of my life. 

Because without that grace, I wouldn't have eaten that chocolate cake. Without that grace I don't even know if I would be alive. But grace broke the chains that held me trapped in a dark corner for so long. Grace says, you were meant for so much more than this. Grace says, you never have to go back to that place. Grace says, you can't even imagine the beautiful things that are in store. Grace says, you are so much more than what has happened to you; you are more than any mistakes you've made. Grace says, you don't have to be perfect because you serve the One who is. Grace says, come as you are.

Friend, if you are stuck in your own struggle, no matter what it may be, grace says: Come to the table. Come just as you are

Let His grace rescue you; let it break those chains holding you down. Let grace allow you to run unashamedly to the cross with those broken chains lifted high. Let His grace transform you.

Because His grace, sets people free. It transforms people. It means that you never have to walk back to that storm you're in. It means that the only time you have to look back, is to marvel at how far He has brought you. 

His grace is all around me. And tonight, He reminded me of its beauty in a piece of chocolate cake.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
~Psalm 34:8
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Hosting an Event {Tips & Tricks}



There is something so exciting about the thought of hosting a party or other event. I think that usually it's because when I am hosting, there is something to be celebrated. Whether it be a new baby on the way, an upcoming wedding, or someone's birthday, it's always exciting to gather with friends and family to celebrate.

But these events don't just happen on their own. There is quite a bit of planning and effort that go into them and if you're getting ready to host an event, I hope that you will find this post to be helpful in your efforts. 

I'm a checklist kind of girl so it's always good to start off with a checklist. Checklists are a great way to help you stay organized and to help make sure that you don't forget anything for the big event. Your checklist will probably vary depending on what kind of event you have, but there are some things they all have in common such as: a location, date & time, food, guest list, invitations, decorations, etc.

Deciding on a location is obviously a pretty big decision. You'll need to decide whether you want to host the party in a home or at another location. Wherever you decide to throw your party, you'll need to make sure that there is adequate space for the number of guests you are inviting.

I have to sit down and make a guest list and I am really not sure how you can throw a party without one. I would be the one who left somebody off if I didn't do this every time. If you're throwing a party such as a wedding shower or baby shower, you will of course have the honoree create a guest list of the people that they would like to be invited. Create a list that has the names and addresses of each person being invited that will allow you to check them off as you go when preparing invites.

Once you have a completed guest list and have an idea of how many people may be coming (oh, RSVP's are a lifesaver!), you can begin to plan the food. If there are multiple hostesses, this is a good thing for you all to sit down together to plan. The time of day that you are having the event can affect your menu. If it's during a meal time, you will want more filling food versus an event that occurs during brunch or mid-afternoon in which you would probably have more finger foods and snacks. Either way, try to work together to plan a menu that has foods that compliment each other but also provide enough variety that there is something for everyone. I always like to make sure that ice water or bottled water is available as a drink for anyone who may not enjoy the other options. It's a pretty safe option to have! Once you have a menu in place, you'll need to decide who will bring what items and make sure everyone is on the same page (have a designated person send out an email to all of the hostesses recapping what you decided on).

Now it's time to pick some invitations. For the most part I have always been a paper invitation girl, until I had two kids. Then it just seemed like I never had time to sit down and write out invitations and instead resorted to just creating an event on Facebook and inviting via that or through a text which I never really felt great about doing. This is why I am super excited to try out Paperless Post for my next event. Paperless Post has so many designs for you to choose from for every occasion. You can choose to send cards via email or send actually paper invitations. But here's the best part if you're like me and you spend all of your time chasing kiddos: you can upload an address book and have your invitation sent to each contact that you choose. So whether you want to send an electronic invite or stick to a traditional paper invite, you can do so in a few quick and easy steps without a huge time investment. Plus the designs are trendy and unique and available in a variety of styles to catch your guests' eyes. They also have photo card options which I love (I love photo invites that also create a keepsake!). 

They also have some "Just Because" cards that are super cute. I sent some of these out to try out Paperless Post for myself to see if it really is as easy as it seems. I was able to completely customize my cards with fonts and colors, right down to the pattern on the inside of the envelope. It was so easy to upload an address book and send them out and the site even offers a status in the "Post Box" that shows when recipients open their digital card. I LOVE sending cards so I will definitely be using this site for more than just invitations. 

When your event gets close, it's time to decorate. I love to browse Pinterest for different ideas for decorations and I'm usually not disappointed by the variety of ideas that are available there.

The most important part of any event is to enjoy the time with those that come to share in the gathering. Time is precious and these will be cherished memories. Enjoy some small talk over some good food, celebrate, take some photos, and don't stress if everything doesn't go exactly 100% like you planned (it rarely does but you will probably be the only one to notice). 

What advice would you add that has helped you throw a successful party?

*I received a promotional product in exchange for this post. All opinions are honest opinions of the writer. This post is in no way associated with any social media platform. 
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The Shack: Coming Soon + {Giveaway}

Coming soon to Blu-Ray and DVD on May 30 is The Shack, based on the worldwide best-selling novel by William P. Young. An inspiring story, The Shack has over 22 million copies in print. 

This film brought to you by Lionsgate and starring Sam Worthington (Avatar, Hacksaw Ridge), Octavia Spencer (Academy Award Winner of Best Supporting Actress for The Help, 2011), and Tim McGraw (country music superstar, The Blind Side) is a story that follows a father's story through the loss of a child. The film follows the experience of this father through love, loss, forgiveness, and faith. 

This film as been awarded the Dove Faith Friendly Seal of Approval and has been labeled as "powerful and gripping" by The Dove Foundation.

After a family tragedy, the father, Mack (Sam Worthington), sets out on a transformative spiritual journey that begins with a crisis of faith in which he questions God's existence and the purpose of life. When Mack is unable to move past this family tragedy, he receives a mysterious invitation to an abandoned shack where God reveals Himself in the form of three strangers. This story of Mack's spiritual journey is sure to have viewers wanting to press play over and over again. 

Check out the official trailer below:


Be sure to check out The Shack on Social Media:
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Website

You can enter to win a copy of #TheShack on Blu-Ray/DVD ($39.99 value) in the giveaway widget below:
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*Giveaway is in no way associated with any social media platform. Open to residents of the US. Shipping of giveaway item may take up to 4-6 weeks. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win again. Winner will be contacted via email and must respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. 
*This is a sponsored post on behalf of Review Wire Media for Lionsgate. I received information to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Beyond Borders



Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I need to write about something I encountered a few months ago. I was so taken aback at the time that it happened that I really didn't have words to write.

Anyone that is friends with me on social media is most likely accustomed to me sharing articles and posts about sexual assault and human trafficking advocacy and a few months ago was no different when I shared a post of a celebrity who plays a big part of working in the world of rescuing children from human trafficking. You may know the celebrity I'm referring to but I don't even want to get into that. You may or may not like them, and again, I don't want to get into that. Because, quite frankly, it really doesn't matter.

Whatever anyone's opinion of the person, the words he spoke in the video I shared about the huge problem of human trafficking were very true. But then came some comments from someone that when you summed them all up (and subtracted the personal opinions about the celebrity because again that's not important), the comments basically said that we should only worry about taking care of American children and not worry about children anywhere else.

I was completely shocked. I'm pretty sure I had to scoop my jaw up off of the floor. Y'all I love my country. No it's not perfect and I will advocate for change where I think it is needed, but at the end of the day, I do love my country. But I also love people. I love children. And I love Jesus. And I can't fathom someone not caring about a child just because they aren't in America. 

My love for Jesus has to come first. And because my love for Jesus has to come first, my love for people has to come next. All people. I struggled and struggled with a heart that felt that any child is any less worthy of life and love than my own girls simply because of where they were born. Y'all it broke me. Because you hear about these things but to actually see someone's heart convicted with those beliefs broke my heart.

All I could think about were the precious Haitian children that I was so blessed to spend time with for a week a few months before and that my husband and I are preparing to go back to. 

"A worldview bound by borders is outdated."

I saw this quote on Pinterest last night and it got my heart stirring again about this encounter from months ago. Not only is a worldview bound by borders outdated, but it's not Biblical. 

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...
~Matthew 28:19

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
~Acts 1:8

He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation."
~Mark 16:15

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
~Romans 10:13-14

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
~John 3:16

For God so loved the world. He didn't just love the country you live in. He didn't just command us to love and take care of those in our country or our state or our neighborhood. Everyone. 

This isn't a political discussion. This isn't a post about what our country should do with finances. This is a post about me; a post about you; a post about any individual who claims to follow Christ and what that means.

Nowhere in the Bible are we bound by borders. Rather, we are charged to cross borders. Whether its a border of race, religion, socioeconomic status, a country border, an ocean, and on and on and on. If you and I claim to love and follow Jesus, we are called to carry that love and that passion and that purpose beyond any border. 

"Don't settle for the American Dream when God is offering you the Great Commission."
~Eric Simmons

I'm not saying every single person is called to get on an airplane and go overseas. What I am saying, is that no matter where God calls you to go, you are to go. What I am saying is that we are called to love one another as Christ loved us. We are called to recognize that when we are commanded to "love our neighbors as ourself" the word "neighbor" is not limited to those who live next door, or in our town, or our state, or our country. The word "neighbor" is not bound only to those who share our values and beliefs. It has no boundaries. When we put boundaries on our love for other people we are trying to put boundaries on a limitless love by a God who gave everything for every single person. Every. Single. One. We are called to love when others would understand if we didn't. We are called to forgive when no one expects us to. We are called to give beyond human expectations. We are called to go beyond any border. We are called to serve the least of these. 

"We have taken the command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations, and mutated it into a comfortable call to come, be baptized, and sit in one location."
~David Platt

I used the example of the human trafficking post above not because I want to go on the attack against anyone who feels that way, but because I want to challenge you and challenge myself. I'm not perfect. I wish I could tell you that I had never tried to put limits on where I would be willing to go for the sake of Christ. So this is a challenge and a reminder to myself as well. But friend, let's you and I look deep in our hearts and see where we are placing limits, intentionally or not, on the limitless love of a God who isn't bound my any borders or limits.

I started this post with that simple song that I used to sing as a child because sometimes going back to the simple songs we sing to our children can remind us that too often we complicate the Great Commission. We add all of these components like politics or personal feelings & opinions that shouldn't be there. Love. Go. Share. Love. 

"The price is certainly high for people who don't know Christ and who live in a world where Christians shrink back from self-denying faith and settle into self-indulging faith. While Christians choose to spend their lives fulfilling the American dream instead of giving their lives to proclaiming the kingdom of God, literally billions in need of the Gospel remain in the dark."
~David Platt
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

He Already Knows



I adore how God always has the perfect way of reminding me that He already knows every single moment of my life. He has known since before He wove me together in my mother's womb and before He breathed air into my lungs. I know this, and yet, still I fret and worry and need His reminders sometimes.

As I have spent the last couple of weeks praying over something, I have waited anxiously to see what the outcome would be. And then today, God orchestrated a sweet divine appointment like only He can, and reminded me that no matter the outcome, He has it all under control.

A woman crossed my path today and in the first moments of our conversation, she revealed to me that she had recently lost a baby to stillbirth. Immediately my heart leapt as we connected through our shared stories and the peace I felt in that moment was indescribable. That little God-ordained appointment was just the peace and reminder that my nervous heart needed. He had that unexpected moment in His hand and He has everything else in His hand right there with it. 

He has already written the years, the days, and the moments. He knows what is to come and He has a perfect plan woven into all of it. Just as He perfectly orchestrated this meeting between this newly bereaved mother and myself, He perfectly orchestrates every moment of our lives and we need only to trust in Him and that perfect plan.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. ~Isaiah 43:2

Friend, I don't know what you are worried about today, but I do know this: God's got it. He's got you. Read those words from Isaiah and remember that He is there with you every single step of the way, whatever you are going through. He is fighting for you and advocating for you. He loves you. He cherishes you. Cling to that truth, friend. Hold on to the promise that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. You are loved.
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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Hold Your Head High


"Shame has no place here."

Those words penetrated my heart this morning. Over and over God poured them into my soul.

Shame is a destroyer. It detracts from the truth of God's mercy and grace. It causes you to forget your value and worth as a child of the Most High King. 

I know shame well. We are more than acquaintances unfortunately. I first met shame in my own life and got to know it very well. Now, in working with sexual assault survivors, I have continued to encounter shame over and over again. 

The funny thing about shame is that usually you can only see the true identity of shame when it is occupying someone else. It's easy for me to look into the faces of survivors and tell them that they have nothing to be ashamed of. But when shame inhabits your own heart, it is much more difficult to see the truth. When shame is there speaking directly to your own heart, it is hard to silence it.

One thing I see in my work with survivors is that shame is much stronger if it has visited before for the same reasons. These survivors are thrown straight into the pits of shame and despair if this is not the first time they have experienced abuse. Their mind immediately walks with shame into the paths of: "What is wrong with me? There must be something wrong with me that has caused this to happen more than once."

Not only do they walk down that path with shame, but they hold its hand and cling to it because they so desperately want to make sense of their storm that they will cling to this false belief in order to feel some comfort or control.

Friend, I have been there. More than I would like to admit. I have clung to shame. I have worn it like a badge that I worked hard to earn.

But hear me right now, friend: Shame is a liar.

And as a child of God, shame has no place here.

The truth is that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world of fallen people and we will have to walk through some hard, hard things. We will wonder why it's happening and shame will tell us that it is all our fault even when it isn't. Shame does not belong in your heart. It has no place there.

Shame will keep us from confiding in those closest to us. Shame causes us to hide our hurts and our struggles and our fears. But God tells us to share those things. He tells us to bear one another's burdens.

Whatever shame is telling you today, let it go. Call shame the liar that it is. Whatever shame is causing you to hide from the body of believers that God has placed alongside you, break those barriers and speak your heart. If shame is causing you to hang your head, lift your eyes. Hold your head high in the knowledge of your identity as a beloved child of God. He sees your heart. He sees your hurts and your struggles and your fears. Let Him in.
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