Books, Books, Books: A December Give-Away

Hey friends!

It’s December, and everyone needs a good stocking stuffer idea…or three! So this month, since our Superman (foster son) is having open-heart surgery, I thought I would highlight the three books that we have already started for his collection of books!

We are praying that his earthly heart will (someday) be both healed AND saved, and we think these tools will be great resources as we introduce Him to the ultimate HEART-HEALER…JESUS!

So let’s keep this short and sweet, so we can get busy baking our Christmas treats!

So what books am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away ONE copy of The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy, ONE copy of First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer by Danielle Hitchen, and ONE copy of The Biggest Story ABC by Kevin DeYoung!

And why am I giving away these books?

I think I already let the Santa out of the bag…but suffice to say, these are great resources for little, growing hearts!

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

There’s TOO many lines I could share, so let me just share this…

I LOVE the concise and simple way each of these books shares the GOOD NEWS from Old Testament to New Testament…and I LOVE the illustrations that capture the attention of little eyes!

So how can you win a copy of one of these books? 

In the comment section below, share your FAVORITE gift you are giving this year and at 10 PM (EST) on Sunday, I will randomly choose THREE of you to win ONE of these three books.

Happy soon-to-be-Christmas and may God continue to work in ALL of our HEARTS in ALL of the ways! 

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Nestled Courage

Hands down, our son is one of the most creative, imaginative souls I have ever met. He loves to create and re-create…re-create and create. Whether it be with paper, a roll of Scotch tape, bottles from the recycling bin, Legos, rope, branches from outside, toys from the toy box, or any other medium he can get his hands on, he uses it.

He re-creates movies he watches, concerts he views, and baseball games he attends. He sets up libraries, art classes, hospitals, construction companies, and fire stations. He makes cookie stands, Taco Trucks, football fields, gymnasiums, and has even attempted to re-create a theater production in the confines of his bedroom. He has pretended to be a teacher, a scientist, a therapist, the President, a train conductor, a garage door installer, a City Manager,…and any other professional worker you could re-create and imitate.

Every single Friday of 1st grade, he always chose the Imagination Tub as his reward for Fun Friday. With a tub of empty boxes, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and other odds and ends, he would leave the building at 2:25 with some “creation” in tow. He created mailboxes, laptops, bird feeders, chapter books, robots, and a myriad of other contraptions from the refuse found in that little, plastic tub.

For Christmas last year, the child squealed when he received a remote control car ream of paper and a carton filled with rolls of tape.

When he was a toddler, his grandparents sent him a box filled with packing peanuts because they knew of his love for creating, re-using, and re-purposing materials.

And barely a day passes where we don’t find a used piece of tape on the bottom of our socks from one of his many creations.

The kid is always creating.

But never have I seen him create with words. EVER.

So when our boy handed me his composition book filled with lyrics to a song he recently wrote, his book-loving, word-appreciating, blog-writing, counselor-mom (who was also a former English teacher) about melted into a puddle of parental pride.

I don’t know what I was expecting (maybe a version of Itsy Bitsy, Old McDonald, or some other jingle about a topic that interests elementary-aged boys that may or may not involve food, football, or farting), but I certainly wasn’t expecting what I read.

I’ve Got Courage

I’ve got courage that you will help me. 

I’ve got courage that you love me. 

Oh, I’ve got courage in you. 

Oh, I’ve got courage that you will be with me. 

Wait. What?!?

Over and over, I read and re-read the lyrics to his song. And as I read, my heart stilled and peace seemed to flood my soul.

I needed these words; I needed the promises of these words; and I needed the Truth of these words. 

As we prepare ourselves for our foster son’s open-heart surgery…

As we face a variety of unknowns related to future houses and potential jobs…

As we begin a new year…

As we ready ourselves for the court ruling that could end or extend our foster son’s placement in our home…

I needed to hear the words to I’ve Got Courage, and I needed to be reminded of the HOLY WHO behind the “you” in our son’s lyrics.

Courage (noun): the ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief

I’ve got courage that you will help me. 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I’ve got courage that you love me. 
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38

Oh, I’ve got courage in you

Oh, I’ve got courage that you will be with me.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Our son’s lyrics were directly from the WORD.

As the writer of the song wisely notes, our courage isn’t found in ourselves, our abilities, or our stuff. NOPE. Our courage is found in His help, and in His love, and in His presence. And because of that, we can face ALL of the hard and ALL of the unknowns with courage that is securely nestled in Him.

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The Night God Came for You, with His Ladder in Tow

Evie Rae,

I don’t want you to forget the special details of Friday, November 30th, 2018 (nor do I, for that matter), so I wanted to take a minute or two and write down the memories of this special evening when God lowered His ladder from heaven and reached down for your little heart!

We had just returned home from a fun-filled night that included Christmas lights, a horse-drawn wagon ride, and a family dinner to one of your favorites–Fuzzy’s Tacos! It was late and bed time had come and gone when we had returned home, but we decided to take the time and read our Advent book. And man, am I ever-glad we did!

Since “Superman” is having his heart surgery in the middle of Advent this year, we decided to start our readings early; we were on Day 8 that evening. As I opened the book, and began reading from Ann Voskamp’s, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, the Old Testament story of Jacob and his ladder dream covered the colorful pages.

“…The real amazing dream is that there are no ladders to climb up at all, ever, because Jesus comes down to get you…See, Jesus doesn’t just come down to show you the steps you have to take to get up to heaven–Jesus comes down makes Himself into the steps to carry you up to heaven. Everybody else may tell you the steps you have to take to get better But Jesus is the only One who becomes the steps to take you there Himself–because He love you already, just as you are. Jesus doesn’t wait for you to be good; He comes to be with us you…Jesus came from heaven to be with you…And Jesus is the ladder who wants to give you the gift of letting Him carry you up, no matter how far down you’ve fallen…” 

Quietly and intently, you listened.

At the end of the reading, it was your turn to hang the Jesse Tree ornament that evening. As you grabbed the wooden ornament with the ladder imprinted on it, I asked you the following question:

“Evie, what does the ladder mean?”

You responded quickly and confidently. “It means that Jesus is the ladder for me!”

“You’re right! Isn’t that awesome?”

You didn’t say anything and then you quietly said, “I think I’m going to ask Jesus to come live in my heart tomorrow.”

I’m not going to lie, I was surprised by your response.

Your brother had prayed for salvation on September 11, 2018 and when you heard the news, you simply and almost defiantly said, “I don’t need to pray that prayer.”

We didn’t push the topic or question your defiance, we just continued to pray that God would soften your heart in His perfect timing. And to be perfectly honest, I imagined that it wouldn’t be any time soon. So when you spoke of your desire to ask Jesus into your heart “tomorrow,” I was slightly stunned. As I sat in silence, recognizing that I had absolutely zero intention of doing any further pushing or prodding, your brother spoke instead.

“You know, Evie, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow. You could always ask Him tonight.” 

MORE SHOCK.

Your little blonde-head looked from Caden…to me…and then back to Caden. And though I hate to acknowledge this, I truly believed you were getting ready to give your brother a piece of your mind, and I assumed it would sound something along the lines of, “Caden, you don’t have to tell me!!!” Evie Rae, you are all kinds of sugar and spice, AND you are also all kinds of fiery and feisty! But you didn’t.

You looked back at me with big eyes and quietly said, “Mommy, can we go get Daddy? I want to ask Jesus into my heart.” 

I went and found your daddy immediately and then tucked your big brother into bed before climbing the stairs to your room. As I went to turn out the lights in your brother’s room, he simply asked, “Mommy? Is Evie old enough to understand what she is doing?”

To be honest, I didn’t have eloquent words, and I wasn’t entirely sure. I was six when I prayed for salvation, your brother was seven, and your daddy was eight. And here you were, at four, ready to accept God’s free gift of grace. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I said what I truly believed.

“Buddy, I know that God works in our hearts at all ages, and I am going to trust that God is doing that right now with Evie.”

As we knelt around your bed, your twinkle lights sparkled. Immediately, I was transported to 1989 when I prayed for salvation on my own bed with my daddy (your Papa) at my side. Tears began to well. I couldn’t believe this was happening and yet, I had been praying for this since the day I learned you were growing in my womb.

On February 21st, 2014 (4 days before your BIRTHday), I wrote to you…

“Evie, your name means life, lively, living. I am thankful for your precious life, and I pray that as God continues to sustain your life, you will be a soul that breathes life into others. I pray that your life would be a lively testimony to God’s grace in your life, and I pray that you would bring much glory to God through your living.”

Almost four years later, God was answering my prayer and breathing new life into your lively soul.

As we knelt at your bedside at close to 10 PM on Friday, November 30th, your daddy and I asked you several questions.

When we asked you why you wanted Jesus to come live in your heart, you answered, “I want Him to come work in my heart, and I want to go to heaven with all of you.”

When we asked you what it means to be saved, you said, “I am a sinner and Jesus took my spot.”

When we asked you what happens when God saves you, you answered, “God sees HE when He looks at me.”

We were blown away by the depth of your answers and the personal way you expressed your little-big faith.

And then Daddy asked you, “Why tonight?”

Immediately, you brought up Saturday, October 27th–the day you refused to dance at your final dance class…the day you made Mommy really angry…the day your daddy talked to you, at length, about your choices and your refusal to obey…the day where you announced (for the first time) that you were NOT sorry for your actions and had zero remorse for your behavior.

I will probably remember that day forever (not because of what you did) but because of what I didn’t do.

I didn’t respond with patience that day, Evie. I didn’t respond with kindness, and I certainly didn’t respond in a way that I am proud of. AND YET, God used that day to plant and water a seed in your heart. He used that day when I couldn’t see how. He used that day to pave a way for your salvation.

We were blown away, and my mama-heart was laid low.

Not ONCE since that day (almost two months prior) had we rehearsed your wrong, revisited your disobedience, or reminded you of your defiance that day. We had forgiven you, moved on, and thought you had, too.

And YET…here you were, on a cold, Friday evening, noting that Saturday as the reason for why you knew you needed a Savior.

Donned in a purple nightgown, we held your hands as you prayed for salvation. And though I cannot remember all that you said, I could hear the excitement and repentance in your voice. And as you finished, the angels rejoiced and heaven shouted with joy! Welcome to the family, Evie Rae!!!

Before I left your room, I pulled your blanket up to your chin, hugged your body, and you rehearsed the words we have rehearsed since you could speak them.

“I’m smart; I’m kind; I’m beautiful!” And then you added a new phrase (all on your own) that you had never uttered before. “And Jesus is working in my heart!!!” 

With wet cheeks, I responded, “Yes, sweet girl, He is. He is working in your heart.”

Evie Rae, we rejoice with you; we praise God for His ladder of love that reached down into your heart and saved you on November 30th, 2018; and we pray that God continues to work in your heart from now until eternity.

With all of our love,

Mommy and Daddy

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He Came to Mend Hearts

Counting down to Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. FAV-O-RITE!

I love the twinkling lights; I love the Christmas festivities; I love the decorating with memories; and I absolutely love the anticipation that Advent brings to both our home and hearts.

Every year, we drag out the box full of Christmas books (because yes, mama has a book-problem), and we ready our Advent preparations. Pulling from our storage, we dust off the wire Advent tree; we place the wooden Jesse Tree ornaments in a bowl; and we secure our treasured Advent book to the middle of the kitchen table.

And the waiting begins.

As we countdown to the arrival of Christmas and talk about our eagerness for the second coming of Christ, I love the intentional focus and the calm slowness that settles over our home. Christmas music plays in the background, cinnamon candles burn, and we deck the halls and walls with berries and burlap.

Every book we read…every winter festivity we attend…every cookie we bake…every gift we wrap, we point our eyes toward the Christ-child. And as we buy and wrap the gifts we both give and receive, we speak of the STAR who donned that wood-beamed TREE–the HOLY BABY that blessed the world with the grace-filled gift of mercy we call “salvation.”

I. love. this. season.

So when our foster son’s open-heart surgery was canceled for November and rescheduled for December 14th, the tears stung.

As I hung up the phone with the Children’s Hospital, the thought reverberated in my head.

But that’s right in the middle of Advent! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!! But that’s right in the middle of Advent!! 

And as the thought replayed, my heart became sour.

This wasn’t fair, and I was angry.

This wasn’t easy, and I was frustrated.

This wasn’t planned, and I was sad.

Friends, if I’m gonna keep it real, I let out a fist-shake to heaven and angry-whispered in the deepest parts of my soul, “This sacrifice is too much, God! TOO much! Haven’t we given enough? Why this? Why then? WHY?!?!?”

I wanted to be dancing to Christmas music and clinking mugs of hot chocolate…not sitting in a surgery waiting room!

I wanted to be decorating gingerbread houses in Christmas jammies and wrapping last-minute gifts…not huddled over a baby in an ICU bed with a scar down the middle of his chest!!

I wanted to be slowly and intentionally counting down to Christmas in the confines of my cozy home…not living out of a suitcase and eating from a hospital cafeteria!!!

I realize it doesn’t sound pretty or holy, but it’s entirely true.

I was frustrated, hurt, and all-kinds of mad and disappointed. And for the next two days, I stewed over the unplanned, unfair, difficulty of it all. My kids knew about my sadness; my husband knew about my frustration; and the Lord knew ALL about my anger.

And as I allowed myself more than enough space to grieve and simmer, the Lord was ever-so faithful and ever-so patient with my tantrum.

When I heard the words of His tender whisper, I had my head buried in a closet of old things that were receiving the wrath of my anger.

Ya know Jessica…the whole reason I came was because hearts needed mending.

I stopped dead in my angry purge, and the tears came. And they came, and they came, and they came.

It was true. It was entirely true.

And just as true as His whisper was, it was even more true that my heart was idolizing the countdown more than the Christ

Ouch.

Somewhere along the way, I had erected an idol in a corner of my heart that was labeled “Best ways to celebrate Advent” and without consciously being aware, my heart was becoming side-tracked by the stuff of celebrating rather than the Savior of the season.

Holy ouch.

I let His words simmer, and the Spirit spoke His Truth.

I came for your sadness; I came for your anger; and I came for your hurt. I came because of the disappointments; I came because of the difficult; and I came because things aren’t as I planned. I didn’t come because your life was “together” and your celebrations “perfect;” I came because they aren’t and would never be, apart from me. Jessica, I came for ALL kinds of busted plans and broken hearts (yours included), and I came because you needed rescue from YOU. 

It was true, Truth.

And just when I thought He was done, He whispered one more thing.

I don’t need your celebrations, Jessica; I need your worship. And sometimes worship looks like sacrificially serving–letting go of your desires and laying aside your plans. So maybe this year you’ll celebrate Christmas ME by loving a baby who is swaddled in ICU clothes and lying in a hospital bed. 

I was un-done. And truth be told, I still am.

So as we enter this Advent season, I find myself approaching the month of December with a tender heart and humbled knees–ready and willing to celebrate the Savior by offering hands of service and giving feet of sacrifice. Because isn’t that we He did that very, first Christmas for us?

Though He was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slaveand was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died [to self] a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

I have no clue what December holds, but I do know this: He came to mend hearts, and I’m so very glad He did.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

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Books, Books, Books: A November Give-Away

I had no clue what book I was going to give away this month. NONE.

So when I happened upon this title (several days after our foster son’s open-heart surgery was canceled/rescheduled and my heart felt like a puddle of raw mush), I devoured its contents within a week.

Friends, I have three small children, a part-time job, and a whole bunch of other things I need to do with my time…other than read…so this is kinda a big deal. But friends, this book was that good. 

It’s been the kind of book that I have stolen away (even if to read only a few pages at a time) as a baby has used my legs as a jungle gym and as I’ve waited for dinner meat to thaw. Truly, it’s been a man-written balm to my soul in a time when my heart, soul, and mind have needed some tender, loving care.

And maybe you’re there too? Or maybe you’ll be there soon? Either way, I want people to have this title, squirreled away on a book shelf, for a season where weary and hard are the themes and memes of your season.

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away THREE copies of Remember God by Annie F. Downs.

And why am I giving away this book?

Because my tender heart needed this read. In a season of weary and hard, I needed the reminder that God is “kind,” and I needed  to rehearse the Truth that there can be purpose in the pain, beauty in the struggle.

That is why; my one and only reason.

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

“Again, an empty space that God could have filled, but He didn’t.”

“And back on that Monday of the fast in June, I sat in my swirly chair just dumbfounded at the idea that God has said, thousands of years ago, He would be for me what other people didn’t know He could be. He has fed my heart and soul in ways I didn’t know He could do.”

“When being un-tethered is the gift. When the limp is the blessing. When the most beautiful thing is not the empty places being filled, but the empty places being seen.”

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a blessing that has come from your hard and at 10 PM (EST) on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day), I will randomly choose THREE of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy THANKSgiving (even in the midst of pain)! 

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A Big Star. A Big God. And Our Little Selves.

More nights than not, we gather ’round the table before bed time with a snack, a story, and a Scripture. As the kiddos munch and listen, we share tales and talk Truths. It’s been our routine for as long as I can remember and though it isn’t always orderly or easy, it’s one of my favorite times of day.

I love the slowness of the moments before bed time, and I love the stillness it brings to the ears and hearts that gather. Before the lights dim and the dreams start, we spend those last moments together. And I like that. I like that a lot.

So tonight as it was my turn (daddy and I share this special time of story-telling and shepherding), I read from our devotional, Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God and Science by Louie Giglio.

Tonight was all about the biggest and baddest stars in the solar system. As we talked about Betelgeuse–a star that could contain 262 trillion Earths inside of it–we marveled at the big-ness of God.

To be honest, I was having my own set of shock-and-awe emotions as I read. In astonishment, I semi-rhetorically asked, “Isn’t it amazing that the God who created the biggest of stars is also the same God that cares about our little selves?”

The kids nodded with mouths full of ice cream.

And then I followed up with another question.  To be honest, I assumed they wouldn’t have an answer for my question. But alas, they did. And like always, it was better than anything I could have shared from my mama-mouth.

My question…

“Why do you think it matters that we serve a God that is the creator of such BIG stars?”

Immediately, Caden piped up and said, “Because if He’s big then we can trust Him with everything in our lives.”

My 35 year-old self was blown away by his 7 year-old response.

Isn’t that the hard-fast Truth, friends?!?!

Because He is BIG, we can trust Him.

And as I let those words flood over me, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. But before I had time to really marinade in the minute, Caden immediately followed up with a set of words that hit my heart even harder than the first.

“Mommy, isn’t it super cool that God created BIG stars so far away and also comes down and is so near to us?”

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!??!?!?!

I am pretty sure I gave him a “deer-in-the-headlights” look as I nodded my head in absolute agreement.

I’m not sure how long it took for the words to form, but I said something along the brilliant lines of, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Yes, son. YES! In His BIG-NESS, He still pursues near-ness.

And for me, that’s exactly what my little soul needed to hear. I needed to be reminded that God is BIG…AND YET…He still draws near to my little self.

And maybe you need to hear it too?

God is BIG, and He is NEAR.

As I have sat and thought about the profound and Spirit-led words of our son, I can’t help but remember the sweet words of Peter 4:19–words that have been both honey and water to my tired and thirsty soul.

So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good. 

Did you catch that?

When we suffer while we doing good, we can entrust ourselves to WHO?

A FAITHFUL CREATOR!

The God who created those BIG, ‘ol stars is not only the same God that draws near to us in the middle of our “hard,” but He is also the same God who can handle all of that “hard.”

Friends, the God who created the star that can hold 262 trillion earths is the same God who comes down to our little earth, takes up residence in our little selves, and then empowers and refreshes our little, weary souls with His BIG SELF.

I don’t know about you, but that is comforting. WAAAAYYYYYY comforting.

There is nothing “too big.”

There is nothing “too hard.”

And there is nothing “too much” for the BIG God who draws near.

Let us then with confidence [confidence in the FAITHFUL CREATOR] draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace [when He draws near] to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Books, Books, Books: An October Give-Away

Since I have been getting over a terrible flu/cold/virus/germs from the pits of hell, I am going to make this introduction short and sweet because my fingers hurt and it’s time for some more meds.

Ready for this?

Happy Fall Ya’ll!

The end.

So what book am I giving away this month? 

I am giving away TWO copies of God Made Me and You: Celebrating God’s Design for Ethnic Diversity by Shai Linne.

And why am I giving away this book?

  1. Because it’s AWESOME!
  2. Because this book does a beautiful job of articulating God’s glory through His varied creations in a way that little hearts can understand!
  3. Because this book does a wonderful job of highlighting the Gospel-centered reasons for why we should celebrate diversity and why the curse has affected our celebration of diversity…again, in a way that little souls can digest!
  4. Because our big and little hearts need to read, speak, share, and think on these truths!
  5. Because the entire amazing book is written in a RHYME! NO JOKE! It’s amazing!

So what are a few of my favorite line(s) from this book? 

“Rachel and Billy; Keisha, Abigail, Todd-you’re wonderfully made in the image of God. Carlos, Jennifer, Tyler, Sean, Corey–God made you; you exist for His glory.”

“And now, because of the presence of sin, people hate for silly things like color of skin.”

“At the cross, we see what God’s love is about, There’s no type of person that Jesus left out.”

So how can you win a copy of this book? 

In the comment section below, share a fun, fall idea with me and at 10 PM (EST) on Thursday, I will randomly choose TWO of you to win a copy of this book!

Happy Fall, Happy Diversity! 

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