What I’m Reading This Summer

We are heading out for a few glorious days at the beach. We are driving to the nearest coast and collapsing in some sand. I am realizing just how badly we need to get away –because Galveston, Texas ain’t exactly known for post cards. But there’s water and sand and relaxation and no complaints around here.

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I am bringing a bag full of books. I’ve started all of these (multitask much?) and am anxious to read and relax.

Here’s what I’m reading this summer (click the cover to buy a copy):

Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement:: This book intrigued me and I just pulled it out of the mail last week. I think the title says it all. Can’t wait to dig in.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet:: Boomama makes me laugh and just a few pages in, her book is full of sentimental stories and a lot of chuckles.

There You Will Find Me {Beach Reading}:: My niece gave this inspirational young adult book to my daughter while she was cooped up in bed from her oral surgery. She read it in 2 days and bought the next one on Kindle for $3. They talked me into reading it…perfect easy reading for the beach!

The $100 Startup:: I bought this book for my husband who gets the entrepreneur itch every once in awhile. Who doesn’t love the idea of starting something for a $100?

At the table

Dinner time is our family time to talk and read together. Here’s what’s on the our table this summer:

Running for My Life :: My husband read this book in two days and couldn’t put it down. He said it was amazing and an unimaginable story of survival and faith from one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  I can’t wait to get started. It’s up next for our read around the table with our kids.

End of the Spear :: This isn’t a new book, but after recently hearing Steve Saints testimony after a life-changing injury, I was reminded of this great man’s unbelievable story. I’ve seen the movie and I can’t wait to read the book with my family. A friend sent it to me and said it reads like Robinson Crusoe.

My Life: A Guided Tour :: My dad read this autobiography (of the man who started Tyndale Publishers and wrote the Living Bible) during his recovery recently and couldn’t put it down. He said he cried like a baby. I can’t wait to dig into it!

What is your must-read of the summer?

[These affiliate links will take you to Amazon, my favorite place to buy books]

How to Host a Kid’s Day

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Several years ago, between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, one of my kids asked, “When is Kid’s Day?”

We responded, “Everyday.”

Well, because it is.

Somewhere along the way, my husband and I decided to create a real Kid’s Day to shock and amaze our kids, especially after a challenging school year turned victorious. The idea was a hit.

So, every summer we surprise them with a special day, just for them. (This year was the first day after the last day of school). It gets trickier to surprise them every year. There is even lying (gasp) involved. We told them we were running errands all day (boring!) and then we pulled in the parking lot of Toys R Us.

I knew it was going to be a shocker when my 6 year old said, “What is this store?”

I was also quite proud of her question.

Then on the count of 1-2-3 we yelled, “Happy Kid’s Day” and pelted them with silly string.

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In the car–because we are wild and crazy like that.

Kid’s Day can be anything you want to make it. We got two of our kids a new scooter and one a new bike. (We do 3 gifts at Christmas and so a “big” toy is always a treat). We stipulated their visit to the toy store with two rules: 1. It must be an outdoor item 2. You have this much _____ to spend. In the past, we’ve taken a family overnight, years ago we bought a Wii…It’s not really about the WHAT. It’s just a day to focus on your kids and let them know you celebrate them.

We had a fun lunch and spent the rest of our Kid’s Day outside riding and scooting (and cleaning up silly string out of the car. Oops).

How to Host a Kid’s Day:

  1. Pick a random day (the element of surprise makes it so much more fun)
  2. Plan something fun (ice cream, beach day, toy store)
  3. Make it easy or elaborate (silly string to overnight, it’s up to you)
  4. Repeat once a year

WFMW: Stay Focusd App

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I’m excited to introduce my friend Sarah Mae to you today. She is sharing one of her favorite tips.

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Today I want to share with you one of my favorite time-management apps; It’s called Stay Focused, and it helps me not get sucked into wasting time on Facebook and Twitter.

Stay Focused is an app that can be used with Chrome, an Internet browser provided by Google. It allows you to set daily time limits on the sites you know you spend too much wasted time on. For example, I allow myself 40 minutes a day of Twitter and Facebook time, so when that 40 minutes has been reached, those sites are blocked on my computer until the next day. You can choose which sites you want to block. Maybe Twitter and Facebook don’t phase you, but cat videos on YouTube? Trouble. The great thing is that you can decide whether you want to spend the time allotment in one block of time, or spread it out throughout the day.

Also, the makers of Stay Focused are funny:

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Stay Focused is free, and it works for me!

P.S. If you struggle with spending too much time online and not enough time engaging and enjoying your real life, you might want to check out my new eBook, The UnWired Mom – Choosing to Live Free in an Internet Addicted World

Mercy Ink {Giveaway}

Congrats to random commenter #68, Carol Darden! 

My first job in high school was in a Hallmark, sorting cards and secretly reading every one of them.

I have an unhealthy love for paper and pencils and I read the Thesaurus FOR FUN.

My walls have signs and slogans and Scripture. I love words on pillows and t-shirts. I love reading books filled with words.

And most of all, I love writing words down.

Like this:

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And this:

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Words are powerful.

Mercy Ink is a sweet Etsy shop, and the story behind the words is awesome. Lauren Mills, is the ordinary gal behind the Mercy Ink  shop + blog. Lauren and her husband, Adrian, a youth pastor, have been married for nearly eight years and have three littles at home, ages 2, 4, and 6. In January 2013, after waiting on the call for more than seven years, the Mills began the process of adopting from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Right now 100% of the shop profits benefit their adoption fund. [so thank you in advance for supporting this little family!]

Today, I’m giving away $50 to this great shop. Check it out and tell me which words speak to you.

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When You Need Light in the Dark Places

I think I am depressed.

I’ve been here before. So maybe I recognize this place. It’s different. It’s the same.

But don’t worry, I know my way out of this twisting tunnel. I just walk towards the light.

It’s not like the scary hormonal roller coaster I rode into the valley after my son was born with high highs and low lows, unexpected dips and turns. It was a wild ride and I desperately wanted off. And it’s different from the dark weeks that followed my marriage falling apart, when I couldn’t eat or sleep or function because I focused every ounce of energy on forgiveness and love.

I can see now what I couldn’t see then and I can honestly thank God for those past broken places. Broken places heal stronger. And I can only hope one day in the future this will make sense to me.

It’s sort of like the first time I returned from Kenya:

I’m getting dressed and making dinner, folding clothes and allowing obscene amounts of Netflix in my house. I am functioning, but in a fog, filled with a deep, abiding sorrow and a heavy cloud hovering even on all the good in my life.

But I’ve learned in the valley when you’re face to face with grief and pain and change, God doesn’t always make sense.

Three years ago, when I stood on this filthy path and asked God how he could allow His people to suffer, He asked me the same thing.

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I haven’t been the same since that day. It’s etched on my soul. I asked God to break my heart with what broke His, He has. Over and over. Sometimes it looks like a hopeless pregnant girl in the slum or a dirty baby sitting on a pile of trash. Sometimes it’s a heart attack or heartache.

And sometimes it’s both at the same time.

When Jesus looked over the city and had compassion on the people, he didn’t just love them, He suffered with them.

I’m beginning to understand what that kind of love looks like, that kind of compassion is about hurting with those who hurt.

I’ve never experienced more joy or more sorrow or felt more meaning to my life than I have in the past couple of years. I’ve never felt more alive or more desperate to touch His hem.

The darkness in our lives only makes Jesus shine brighter. Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

I believe we are created for two reasons: to fellowship with God and to bring Him glory.

I want to do both.

Even when neither make sense.

 

What Every Husband Needs to Hear

 

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I wrote this to honor my husband on Father’s Day, but didn’t have a chance to post it last week. Thanks for all the emails and love.

 

When he walked thru the door, I let out the breath I’d been holding for days. The pinch in-between my shoulders eased and the throbbing in my head paused.

My husband was home.

He is my other half, the calm to my temper, the quiet to my chatter, the hard shoulder for my weary head.

Grief has changed us this year. The easy ebb and flow of our union has been harder, but our love has gone deeper. I can feel it in my bones and when we are away from each other, it’s like I’m split in two.

I let the day spill out. Just mom stuff mixed with work and weariness. I hadn’t started dinner, I had one kid pouting, the laundry in various stages, there was even a twin mattress on my front porch from sickness and a dog in need of another bath because she insists on rolling in dead things. He put his hands on my shoulders and he listened. Then he sent me to Target.

He’d gotten up hours before the sun that day, spent the remainder in a pressure pot at work, rushed in to lend a hand and the first thing he does is touch my soul.

What Every Husband Needs to Hear:

(I filled in the blanks for my husband, you fill them in for yours)

  • I Appreciate You: In the nearly 19 years we’ve been married, you have been a bank teller, a pastor, a church custodian (while being a pastor), mowed lawns, worked for my dad, been a salesman and a part time, volunteer bookkeeper. In all our seasons, the good, the bad and the ugly (I’ll let you guess), I have never once doubted your ability or desire to provide for our family. Husband-you have helped me pursue my dream of being a writer, while sidelining your own. You said yes to a crazy dream that changed our lives. You are the rock of our family because you put your faith in The Rock of Jesus.
  • I Love You for Being the Fun Parent: You’ve rolled down grassy hills, dressed up for Halloween, played Princess Makeover (you look great in pink) and rough-housed with kids at bedtime for over a decade. Being fun comes easy for you. You don’t worry about messes or your agenda, you simply enjoy your children. And all your fun with all my rules, make us a pretty good parenting pair.
  • Thank You for Doing all the Stuff I Don’t (or Can’t) (or Won’t):You’ve carried my too-heavy floral purse without batting an eye, you are the Master Ninja of cleaning up vomit and hairballs and poop (and you name it) and you unload the dishwasher because you know it’s my least favorite job. I love that you do it because you love me and us and I love that about you.
  • I Still Want You: We’ve endured years of painful infertility, a failed adoption, a miscarriage, two strong-willed girls, a child who is afraid of the dark and years of children in and out of our bed. You give me B-12 shots every Monday and don’t mind my mommy middle. You’ve wanted me through various sizes and moods and years and it thrills me. I may not say it often or show it enough, but never doubt I still long for you. Marriage is like fine wine, it’s getting better with age.
  • Thanks for Being Here: I know that you’re not perfect. You might read this and think of all the things you’re not, but in a fatherless culture,  and a society of broken marriages, you have stayed. When our marriage nearly ended, you fought to stay. When we got on the roller coaster ride of parenting, you dug in your heels. You are here and most days, even when we have no idea what we’re doing, you never leave. And that’s enough every day.
  • Trials Will Make Us Stronger: The past six months have been difficult in so many ways. I know you are tired. Challenges leave us on edge and sometimes broken. But the adversity and trials we face strengthen us and I know we will make it.

Pick one or two and tell your husband. He needs to hear encouraging words from you.

WFMW: Memory Keeping with Project Life

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My friend Jessica from The Mom Creative is filling in for me today while I take a few days to tend to my daughter. You might remember her from her WFMW receipt organization post.

When Kristen asked me to write today, I was a little nervous. What could I share that both works for me and that would be helpful to many of you? As I considered a variety of ideas, the one that kept coming up in my mind was my system for memory keeping, Project Life.

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Have you heard of it?

Y’all, if you haven’t, you are in for a treat today.

This memory keeping system has taken the crazy out of my scrapbooking and left me with thousands of photos in albums (and not sitting collecting dust on my hard drive). I love it so much and I am so excited to share it with you today.

Check out this super cute, super short video that does a perfect job of explaining Project Life.

What is Project Life? from Becky Higgins LLC on Vimeo.

As a mom who works full-time outside the home, I love that Project Life makes it easy for me to record my family’s memories. All you need to start are an album is a core kit (I’m using Jade this year), a 12×12 album and some page protectors (I recommend starting with the Big Variety Pack 2 ). I love using a bunch of different sized and style page protectors in my album. I typically buy my products on Amazon, but a bunch of retailers are now selling Project Life products too.

This is my fifth year doing a Project Life album to document my family’s story. In my album are photos, birthday invitations, Instagrams, school artwork, cards and so much more. All the memorabilia and different page protectors make it so much fun to look at.

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Plus, like I said before, it’s easy. And that’s SO important.

To learn more about Project Life or to get some inspiration, check out these posts:

  • Project Life Tuesday series: A weekly link-up where I share my layout from the previous week, plus Project Lifers from around the world share their pages
  • Project Life: 20 Questions Answered
  • The Mom Creative’s Project Life YouTube Playlist: Occasionally I do a video sharing new Project Life products or recent layouts. For those that like visual inspiration, this is for you!
  • Project Life on Pinterest: Lots of inspiration for those of you who love to pin.
  • Project Life founder Becky Higgins’ blog: Becky’s blog is chock full of useful information, inspiration and tips for using Project Life. Plus she’s a busy working wife and mom. You’ll love her.

Project Life works for me.

How to Find God On a Monday

“Mama?”

“Hmmm?”

“Are you gonna cry again today?” she asked.

My hand stopped writing mid-sentence and just hearing her words, I could feel the tears threaten.

“Probably.”

She smiled and patted my hand. “Okay, just checking.”

My father had a heart attack on Saturday and spent Father’s Day having a nearly 3 hour procedure to save his life. My oldest has a difficult oral surgery  tomorrow and will be in bed most of the week.  In between, I am grieving someone I loved in Kenya and praying for Maureen and our Mercy House girls in the depths of sorrow mingled with the joy of two more babies born on Friday and through most of it, my husband was out of town. And I was out of my mind.

I haven’t slept well in a week and it’s Monday again. The week ahead is daunting, but instead of chasing after it, I’m looking for the new mercies in it.

Terrell, my husband, overheard me say to my 6 year old, “It’s been a hard week, honey.” He said, thinking of his sister who died  in January, “It’s been a hard year.”

He’s right. I am just a fragile clay jar, pressed on every side, but not crushed, sustained inwardly by a living God. He keeps me going:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…..

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” -From 2 Corinthians Chapter 4

Maybe your in a season of trials and you need this promise, too.

How to find God on this Monday:

  • Choose gratitude no matter what. Keeping a list of things we are thankful for doesn’t change the situation, it changes us.
  • Choose to let go of what doesn’t matter-dirty room, piles of laundry, it’s okay.
  • Choose to let Him carry the burden. I’m reminding myself that difficult days don’t take God by surprise, He’s right in the middle of it.
  • Choose to trust His heart for you when you can’t understand where His hand is leading.

I can’t thank y’all enough for your love and prayers the past week. I can feel them.