And The Destinations Are . . .

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

 

After dinner one night, our family did something spontaneous. We made a list of all the places we wanted to travel to before our kids leave home.

That was four years ago.

We debated and narrowed down and the final list was amazing and crazy. It was audacious. We didn’t talk about how our family would travel to Paris, Hawaii, Colorado, New York City, Washington DC, the Grand Canyon and other amazing places.

But that didn’t stop us from dreaming. Since we started Mercy House in 2010, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa periodically and we fell in love with traveling and exploring together.

One by one, we are marking destinations off the list. We won’t see them all, but we will see a few. (One way we save? We label empty water bottles with destinations and tuck every extra (and unexpected) dollar we can spare into the bottles. It’s taken years for some trips, but it’s slowly working).

When Groupon asked if we wanted to take a local and an out-of-state getaway, we jumped at the chance.

For our local getaway, we scoured the Groupon Getaways choices and tried to narrow down them down. Texas is not only huge, there’s so much to see and do. We’ve spent time in Galveston and we love the hills of San Antonio and the plains of West Texas.  Sometimes the most beautiful places are right under our noses. We just have to get in the car and go find them.

IMG_8171

We ended up picking Austin, Texas. There’s so much to see and do there and we’ve never taken the time to fully explore it, even though it’s only three hours from us. We also wanted to do our part to help keep it weird.

KAWTieDyeTanks5444TKTD_med

Our son had a chance to compete in the Texas Archery Championship at University of Texas, so we thought it would be a great family getaway. On our list for the weekend: hunting down great thrift shopping and eating at out-of-the-way local restaurants.

FullSizeRender

Plus, food trucks.

rsz_11rsz_atx_trucks_trailers

Groupon makes it super easy to book a getaway with just a few clicks. You can just add your location and dates of travel and search dozens of destinations. The easy-to-understand layout of the pages allows users to easily clock on calendar dates for the vacation that you want. Plus, Groupon’s discounts can’t be beat.

For our out-of-state trip, the choice (and debate) was extensive. Our kids saw snow last year for the first time (yes, poor Texas children) and a restful snowy mountain getaway sounded appealing. But we also wanted the chance to see, explore and learn about a new city.

Our second grader has been studying US history and she said, “I need to see this.”

VVLin2v4_400x400

Washington DC won!

Besides getting as close to the White House as possible, we can’t wait to explore the Smithsonian, all the government buildings and Eastern Market. We’ve also heard there are some amazing places to eat and trying new places is always an adventure.

interior

I can’t wait tell you more about our trips for #MyGrouponGetaway!

credit: image 1, image 2, image 3, image 4

Visit Sponsors Site

Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Get Away

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’d like to say this year (all six weeks of it) has been unseasonably busy. But let’s be honest, it’s been this way for the past 5 years. With job challenges and growing kids and pending book deadlines, end of the year non-profit demands, drainage issues in a very muddy backyard, oil leaks in the car, it’s been hectic.

I also wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I would change that moment yesterday when my dog punctured my large styrofoam cup of sweet tea and it emptied into my shoes during carline drop off.

In general, I love my life and I’m thankful for (almost all of) it. But I do long for a slow, calm day.

Bench and tree silhouette viewing to serene lake

When Terrell asked me what I wanted to do for the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend, I said, “I want to get away with my family.” Which should not be confused with”I want to run away from my family.”

Because how can both sound good at the same exact time?

So, it seemed sort of providential that the very next day, the good people at Groupon asked if we wanted to choose a local (and a not-so-local) Getaway of our choice.

Yeah, we will have to really think hard about that one. Give me a second.

Okay, um, yes, please.

We’ve spent some time browsing the Groupon Getaways portal and I was amazed at all the choices! We narrowed down our choice to the hill country in Texas. But do you know what’s hard? Choosing where to stay when there are so many amazing choices. It was a burden. I know you pity us.

get away

If you could choose a local (by car) spot to getaway to, where would you go? 

Stay tuned…. #MyGrouponGetaway

Visit Sponsors Site

Some Suggestions For Your (Tired) Eyes

I’m entering this New Year tired.

Not just the sleepy kind. I’m a do-er. I feel most alive when I’m in action. I can hardly sit still even when my eyes can barely stay open. I keep a notepad by my bed to write down the thoughts that just won’t hush. I make phone calls when I drive. I fold laundry while I help with homework. I answer emails–well, constantly. I read in the carline and bathtub and at music lessons-because why waste that precious time?

Maybe that’s why the books piled on my nightstand are ironic-they all have a central theme of rest.

And they are beckoning me to listen.

Own Your Life

Maybe they will speak to you, too (affiliate links included):

I got to read an early copy of Sally Clarkson’s new book and it was so encouraging. Sally is a parenting guru and she has inspired and blessed countless mothers. Synopsis: “Do you ever long for days full of joy and energy—days that bring out the best version of you rather than leave you exhausted? Do you sometimes catch yourself wishing life was more impactful and fulfilling? In a world that’s moving so fast, it’s easy to lose your sense of purpose. So now is the time to make each moment of your ordinary, everyday, beautiful existence count. It’s time to own your life.” YES.

I am honored to have a couple of my stories in Dawn Camp’s first book. Dawn is a talented photographer and this book is filled with amazing stories from popular bloggers, complete with incredible pictures. Synopsis: “Combining heartfelt stories from some of today’s foremost writers with Dawn’s stunning photography of God’s incredible creation, The Beauty of Graceis your haven of calm contemplation amid the chaos. This inspiring collection includes stories of cultivating friendship, waiting on God, choosing joy, staying connected, learning to trust, and much more. If you’re in need of a little peace, a little quiet, a little beauty, find comfort in this: you’re invited to experience them all within the pages of this soul-stirring book.”

My friend Jessica Turner’s first book is sure to be an inspiring guide to making time for you. She’s a dear friend and no one manages time better. She’s taught me a lot about self-care and I can’t wait to dig into this book! Synopsis: “In this practical and liberating book, Jessica Turner empowers women to take back pockets of time they already have in their day in order to practice self-care and do the things they love. Turner uses her own experiences and those of women across the country to teach readers how to balance their many responsibilities while still taking time to invest in themselves.”

Just the title of Stacey and Brooke’s new book has me cheering! I know both these gals personally and their heart beats for mothers. And y’all-I know all about messes. Synopsis: Do you ever feel like you’re fresh out of amazing? Daily pouring yourself out for your family, you’re tired, overwhelmed, and have nothing left to give. Hope for the Weary Mom is an honest look at where you find yourself living. In their new book, bloggers Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin (creators of the online communities Mothers of Daughters and The MOB Society) lead you to the God who meets you in your mess and show you that you don’t walk through life alone.

Our family watched The Good Lie last weekend (we rented it on Amazon). I don’t normally recommend movies because we can all find a lot wrong with them. I think this one moved me so much because it reminded me a lot of my favorite all-time book and I had just worked with 60 women from The Refugee Project that day. Our family loved this movie and it led to some very good conversations. It has stirred up a lot in me and I can’t wait to see where it leads us. Please read the Plugged In Online review. And if you still haven’t read my favorite book -Running for My Life-what are you waiting for? This book did deep things in me. It’s what made me say yes to refugees on Friday which resulted in Fair Trade Friday which is why I’m so tired. See how God works?

 

————

Don’t forget Works For Me Wednesday has moved to its new home!

The Beauty of Unwrapping Christmas Every Day (Even the Ugly Ones)

I had grand plans for the first night of Advent.

Just imagine the setting with me: Holy Christmas music in the background, my family breaking bread together over a lovely home cooked meal, while we politely asked about each other’s day and write down a long list of our blessings. We would listen intently to the daily reading, reflect quietly as we pondered the truth and then gather around our Jesse tree to place the first ornament on it together.

But somehow on the first night of Advent, we ended up eating overpriced sandwiches at Schlotzsky’s across from our church because our kids were running late for youth group. We had a lovely family fight (complete with teen eye rolls, tween grumbling and whining from the whole lot) for good measure.  By the time I remembered the new Advent book I tucked into my purse at the last minute, I felt like a failure.

I’m pretty sure everyone sighed loudly when they saw it, too. Because failure is good at convincing us it’s too late, even before we even start.

Terrell pushed through and read Ann’s words aloud in that sandwich shop: “There was this family-Jesse’s family. A family that was like yours…a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God….They failed and fell and were like a fallen tree.”

I smiled at him as he read on about the miraculous shoot springing up from that hopeless family stump…”out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder back to God….”

I swallowed down my frustration and in the first few sentences of this book, I didn’t remember my failure.

I remembered what God can do with it.

When we got home, I asked my baby to place the first Jesse tree ornament on the tree. There was no music and it was far from holy. And she reminded me twice she wasn’t a baby.

But even without the perfect setting, it was still important.

We can’t quit, even on the ugly days.

FullSizeRender 5

Because it’s not the gifts under the tree our children will remember–the must-have electronics, the hottest toys–it’s the traditions.

This week, she wanted the stockings hung in order, just so. She asked for loud Christmas music while we decorated the tree and she arranged and rearranged  Baby Jesus as the Star of Season- just like last year and the one before.

Christmas

Traditions are more than hot chocolate while looking at Christmas lights or opening new matching pajamas on Christmas Eve while listening to Dad read The Night Before Christmas.

And that’s why we push through our failed plans and our own failures. Because traditions are the act of passing down what we believe to our children.

It’s not just a great idea; it’s a gift we give our kids. We practice and retell truth and it works it’s way into their hearts.

FullSizeRender

IMG_7648

And there is no better opportunity to teach these important truths this time of year.

Because the Gift has come.

FullSizeRender 4

Christmas is for The Unwrapping.

More than anything, I long to slow down the rush of the Season, to linger, to focus on the meaning behind the traditions. I want to remember why we remember and I want to pass the Truth to my children.

FullSizeRender 3

Counting down the days to Christmas isn’t just a fun family activity. It’s not just another thing to add to our list. Celebrating Advent makes us reflect on the meaning behind the grand tree and gifts we give to each other. It makes us pause in the craziness of the season and remember the reason for it.

FullSizeRender 2

Advent is the best tradition to unwrap Christmas with our family because it’s the best way to pass down Truth.

IMG_7645

It’s the retelling of the Greatest Story. And it’s not just for the first 24 days of December.

It’s the intentional, meaningful, day-by-day unwrapping of the Greatest Gift ever given.

Even on the ugly days.

Especially then.

————————————-

The book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
The ornaments pictured above. Or download ornaments.

[This post is sponsored by Tyndale Publishers. All opinions and ideas are mine.]

What’s On My Reading List This Fall {Recommended Reads & Free Books}

Fall is here and I feel like I’m falling behind. I’m in the middle of a crazy-busy season of life, but I’m determined to slow down and read. It’s how I know I’m taking care of myself. It’s a great way to relax, reflect and respond. Here are the awesome books (click on the my affiliate links below to read more about each book) I’m planning on digging into this fall:

  • Decorating Cookies Party by Bridget Edwards (Recipe book)  | My dear friend (and former next door neighbor) Bridget, has done it again! This week she released another cookie cookbook and it’s an amazing, picture-filled DIY cookie party guide. She’s got me itching to break out my mixer. Remember when I made these? I’m not exactly a baker, but I am on page 33 (!). I was honored to attend Bridget’s cookie party and it was so fun and delicious. I ate them all. Leave a comment on this post and you could win a copy!

SONY DSC sneakpeekpostdecoratingcookiespartycollage2 sneakpeekpostdecoratingcookiespartycollageparty

  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp (Children’s book) | I cannot wait to get my hands on Ann’s newest book for our family. It will be our guide this Advent Season. It’s full of daily Scripture passages and specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme.

61FMe05U7ZL

  • God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner (Children’s book: ) | I’m planning on adding this book to my Christmas list to all the littles in my life. I love the beautiful art and the Gospel message.

A1PKwygjuGL

91y8TH47GnL

  • Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan (Faith book)| I’ve actually read this book and it was absolutely life-changing. I can’t recommend Revolution in World Missions, written by the founder of Gospel for Asia, enough. And guess what? Everyone gets a FREE copy. Click and get yours today.

B1-Banner---Quantcast---470x246

 

Leave a comment to win Bridget’s fun new cookie party book and make sure you click here to get a free copy of a book that will change the way you see the world!

[Updated with Winner: Congrats to random winner, Summer!]