My Favorite Posts from 2012

As 2012 begins to fade away, I thought it'd be fun to look back over the year and pick out some of my favorite posts that I've written--everything from what I was learning about God to how I was fixing up my new home to sharing the news that a little bundle of joy is on the way! I hope you enjoy re-visiting some of these oldies but goodies as much as I have!

The Only Resolution That Really Matters
With a new year comes new plans and goals and all varieties of resolutions. While I’m not much of a resolution maker (though I do have a fun one up my sleeve I will be sharing soon!), one of the things that I have marked the new year with the past couple of years has been to use this fresh start to settle on a Bible reading plan that will guide me for the following months.

Learning to Love the Life You Have: What I've Been Reading Lately
I’ve found myself drawn to books on the topic of loving the life you have now, with all its bumps and dips and scratches and imperfections. I suppose it can be all too easy to wish our lives away for something easier, prettier, happier, healthier—the list goes on and on—that we never take the time to appreciate that which sits right before us, right this moment. But that is not the way I want to live my life. Instead, I want to take the humble life that God has given me and learn to see—and embrace and appreciate—the glittering gifts that lie in its folds. So, that has been the guiding force behind the books I’ve been reading lately, and I wanted to share a couple of reviews on some of those books...

A Few of My Favorite Things: Bible Study Resources Edition
In this Bible Study Resources Edition of "A Few of My Favorite Things," I look at five of the resources that I find most essential to nurturing a deep quiet time with the Lord and his Word each day.

The Importance of Having a Devotion Journal (And How I Created My Own)
One of the most important items in my experience for getting the most out of my daily time with the Lord is having a devotion journal. That's the place where I can take notes on what I'm reading, record prayer requests and answers, journal out my day and keep track of anything else that comes to mind while I'm sitting at the Lord's feet. I think I've finally found one that really works for me. One that takes the best of all the worlds of all the different kinds of tried—from notebooks to binders—and melds them into one...

What Real Faith Looks Like
When the hard times come, it’s not that my prayers and praise ever stop. Like Job, I’m well aware that, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10) I’m ready to accept what God is allowing and even praise him in the midst, but am I willing to praise him more than I ever have before? That is faith.

A New Understanding of Suffering
For much of my life, I’ve known suffering in abstract ways—things like waiting on marriage or pregnancy, making due with a small income, feeling un-cool and left-out in social circles. But I have never really known suffering in a physical, daily and constant-reminder kind of way until now. So I decided to start digging through the Bible for verses on suffering, as a way to help myself adjust to this newfound element in my life.

Our Love Story: The Prelude
This is the first post in a series I did, retelling the story of how my husband and I met, fell in love and got married within the course of a year. You can see all of the posts in the series here.

There’s A Secret I’ve Been Keeping…
Guess what? I'm pregnant! (And in case you missed it, we're having a little girl!)

Overcoming the Fear of Miscarriage: Learning to Trust God with My Own Emotions
I took my fear of miscarriage and I laid it bare before a group of ladies in my community. As I laid this fear bare, though, I saw it for what it really was: It stems not from being able to trust God in that situation but from not being able to trust myself, namely my own emotions. If it were to happen, would I descend into depression and crumble in the face of that sadness? Would I be overcome by those feelings of loss and self-pity? Do I have the strength to keep on loving and leaning and looking forward rather than backward? Frankly, my own emotions scare me and I have no idea how I'd respond to that kind of loss. I felt God telling me that I need to learn to trust even my own emotions over to him.

Playing With Paint Colors: Choosing A Palette for Our Entire House
When I was first thinking about the colors for our house, I kept coming back to a vision of soft blues and grays and creams. But I wondered if it was too bland, too similar. But now, I feel emboldened to trust my gut. I’ve been doing a little bit of thinking, of palette dreaming. Here are some ideas of what I’m thinking...

On Buying a Small House
To many folks, our three-bedroom ranch home is rather small when you start talking about working from home and hoping to have kids someday. But to us? Well that was one of the things we loved about it...

Making a Mirror with Spraypaint & Creating New Storage in the Process!
This is one of my favorite (and probably the most successful) of the craft projects I've taken on while living in our new house: turning an old media cabinet into a sophisticated storage unit with just a couple cans of mirror spray paint.

Misconceptions in Blogland
Without even realizing it, I’d bought into the idea that what I saw on the screen was all there was to it. Hardships must not exist. Feelings of loneliness or jealousy never plague. Cross words never pierce the days or make you wish you could hit the “undo” button. The folks on the other side of the screen? They're never the ones wishing for something different. Of course, though, we know that in reality, that is far from true.

Encouragement for the Times When You Want to Give Up Blogging

The important thing is not to dwell on how many people read Pioneer Woman as opposed to your blog, but to accept that blogging is a process. I am sure there were days when Pioneer Woman herself thought about throwing in the towel. But look where she is now—because she stuck with it. We have to stop dwelling on the things we can’t control—like how many people visit a blog or leave a comment—and instead deal with the things we can control—like whether we’re writing quality content and taking time to pen compelling stories.

My Advice About How to Improve Your Writing For Your Blog
When someone asks me about how I cultivate my writing on my blog, I look at blog writing as having two distinct aspects: First, it’s how you tell stories (the words you use, the phrases, imagery, etc.). Secondly, it’s what you tell stories about (more like the plot-line of the posts, what is the big picture of the post?).

6 Tips to Improve Your Blog
Here are six of the key things that I’ve done with my own blog that I think have been vital to making my blog as successful as it has become...


Some of the Crafts I've Made for the Baby

For the past couple of weeks, ever since we got the bulk of the work for the nursery finished (read: painted and major furniture in place, which you can see here), I took a break from any new baby craft projects. Sure, I hung her clothes in place and started sorting through her toys, but my ever-growing to-do list sat untouched.

Until the other week when I realized that time was ticking away. I'm now three-quarters of the way done, baking this little bun of mine. Which means I have less than 10 weeks to tie up all the loose ends that await!

So, I got back to it and started doing some crafting projects to better prepare for this little one. (Because I don't count on having much idle time for stitching and sewing once she arrives!)

Here's a look at a few of the craft projects I've completed for her:

FELT SHOES: I actually made these over the summer, before we knew whether we were having a boy or a girl, which is why they're pretty manly. Once she's older (and actually might "need" some house slippers) I'd like to make another pair in a lighter, more feminine shade (maybe a pale green or light gray), but for now these are a good practice pair!

WATERPROOF BIBS: These are crafted using some of those plastic table covers for the front and soft, knit fabric on the back, fastened with snaps. I imagine they'll come in quite useful once she's eating solid food (particularly the bib on the left that folds up to make a pocket and catch some of those pesky crumbs!).

CONVERT-A-WASHCLOTH TO A BIB: How smart is this? (I saw the idea for it in my Pinterest feed.) Just fasten a length of ribbon to some kind of clips (I used alligator clips, but you can also use suspender clips) and you can turn any washcloth into an instant bib and then easily toss into the laundry for cleaning! (By the way, I love these washcloths.)

TURBAN HAT: For the days when she's tiny and we're still battling the February and March chilly air, I wanted to have a cute hat option for her, besides just the standard-issue beanies. Then, I saw people selling knit turbans for babies and, since I failed miserably when I tried to learn to knit a few years ago, I decided to make a fabric one for her, in a pale sage hue. Then, I made another one out of a white T-shirt so that it will match any of her outfits!

HEADBANDS: While I was searching for the turban hat tutorial, I came across a turban headband tutorial to make the green headband on the left. Why not?! I figure this will still be able to sit over her ears and keep them warm--and cute at the same time! Then (when I was searching for ribbons to make the washcloth bib fastener, above) I found a length of extra-wide ribbon in my stash that I decided to convert into another headband for her. Needless to say, she's got quite the array of headwear options now!

PLUSH TAG TOY: I hear babies like those tag toys out there, so I decided to make my own out of some velour fabric and a bunch of ribbon remnants. Then I stitched a smiley face on the front and stuffed her so she's squishy (making sure that everything was stitched on durably!).

BLACK-AND-WHITE RATTLE: When I posted about my baby registry items, Susanne suggested getting a black-and-white toy for the baby while her vision is still limited to high-contrast. Inspired, I pulled out some black-and-white striped fabric and made a soft rattle (inside is a sealed, childproof prescription bottle that has some beads and wrapped with multiple layers of fabric to soften it up) that she can hold and shake while also (hopefully) capturing her attention with the high-contrast colors.

P.S. If you like these crafts or are interested in the sources for them, feel free to peruse my Pinterest feed, where I've bookmarked a variety of tutorials and craft ideas for all sorts of things, including our baby-on-the-way!

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My Seventh Month of Pregnancy

Seven months, you guys. I've been pregnant for seven months! That means that in two more months, this little baby we've slowly been getting to know will actually be here! It's incredible how far we've come and unbelievable how close we are to the end!

Here's an update about how the past month has treated me, and some festive photos to celebrate the season!

BABY. She is now roughly the size of an eggplant, measuring 14 inches and nearly 3 pounds. As she keeps growing, her movements become more and more obvious. Today, in church, I could feel her squirming and put my hand over the spot and it seriously felt like an arm nudging across. That's the first time any specific body part has been perceivable in the slightest. I also think I'm beginning to feel her hiccups!

ME. As for me, I am honestly surprised at how great I feel. I can confidently say this is the best I've felt all pregnancy, considering I'm now into the swing of my third trimester and my stomach is growing at an incredible pace. (For evidence, compare these photos with those from just a month ago!)

I've got lots of energy and haven't been too tired, so I'm able to live life quite normally. Sometimes my stomach does hurt from where it's stretching out (I can tell from that, my hunger and if I get really tired for a day or two that she's going through a growth spurt), so I've been slathering on cocoa butter and watching as my belly button is starting to flip out.

(My second trimester, on the other hand, which usually the best for most women, was marred by a trip to the hospital and a couple weeks recovering from that, only to come down with a miserable cold for another week or so.)

BABY STUFF. Last month, our family threw us two showers to celebrate our little bundle of joy, and so she's now got a closet stocked with clothes, is stocked with enough baby lotion and bodywash to easily get her through her first year, and some fun toys that I can't wait to introduce her to! The love and generosity she's experienced has been incredible and we feel so blessed at the outpouring she's received!

BABY CRAFTS. Oh my. I have been on a crafting spree lately. I plan on posting an update specifically about some of those projects soon, but in a nutshell I've made her a couple toys, a headband, pair of shoes, bibs, and some nursing gear for myself. I also started working on putting together a baby book for her tracking the pregnancy (and integrating those letters my husband and I have been writing her). And there's quite a bit more still on the agenda!

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The Things I'm Buying for Baby and A Glimpse Into My Baby Registry

Over the past couple of months, I’ve queried your input and opinions on a number of baby-related topics, such as what to look for in a diaper bag and if a baby monitor is really necessary. You all were so generous sharing your insights, I thought it would only be fair to share an update with you how I put all those comments to use, as well as touch on my choices and approaches to other baby-related items. To make things easier for you to browse, I created a baby registry with a bunch of the things that I picked out for our little one. You can check out that baby registry here.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve queried your input and opinions on a number of baby-related topics, such as what to look for in a diaper bag and if a baby monitor is really necessary. You all were so generous sharing your insights, I thought it would only be fair to share an update with you how I put all those comments to use, as well as touch on my choices and approaches to other baby-related items.

To make things easier for you to browse, I created a baby registry with a bunch of the things that I picked out for our little one. You can check out that baby registry here.

Otherwise, as I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to buying anything—baby-related or not—I’m quite the minimalist. On the one hand, I've been trying to streamline these things and not fall into that total consumerist trap of "I have to buy everything for the baby!" But, on the flip side, I realize that there are some things that can really make your life easier.

So when it’s come to selecting items for the baby, I’ve tried to think long and hard about my lifestyle: that of a stay-at-home-mom, doing some freelance writing on the side, and living in a small house with only one car that my husband and I share. Those things means that I spend a lot of time at home. So I decided to pick out an inexpensive stroller (not knowing how much use it will really get) and a simple monitor (since you all convinced me it was nice item to have!). And because our house is smaller, I wanted to keep lots of extra things to a minimum (and consequently am forgoing extras like a changing table).

Also, I tried to keep in mind our limited funds and figure out what I wanted to spend on and where I wanted to save. I decided I would rather prioritize things like a sturdy, ergonomic baby carrier (that my husband and I can both share) and high quality cloth diapers over things like a closet-full of clothes. So I picked up baby clothes at thrift stores or when they were on clearance, and asked family and friends who wanted to buy us clothes, to stick to ones that were more gender-neutral so that if we have a boy in the future, he can reuse them.

We have also been either given or able to borrow some of the big-ticket things like the crib that my niece had recently outgrown and the comfy chairs from my mother-in-law that will serve us for nursing. A lot of people choose to buy rocking chairs or gliders for nursing, but since we already had these chairs available for free, it made sense to use them and put the money that would be spent on a glider toward other things (like those mentioned above).

And I spent a lot of time researching every item that went into that list, reading online reviews as well as searching fellow bloggers' posts about their recommendations to narrow things down. Consequently, I am hoping that each purchase will prove a good choice and even investment.

So, without further ado, here are some of the favorite things that ended up on my baby registry, (although you can check out a more complete list of everything here):

(first row)
This book was mentioned on another blog and credited as a life-saver for this first-time mom because it explains when babies are going through fussy changes and why
This gym with a piano that she can kick against to help her learn to coordinate her movements
(second row) 
This too-cute teether is totally trendy, but I've heard such great things about it (even from other otherwise-frugal moms)
Ergonomic baby carrier that can be worn by me or my husband for long periods of time, and this carrier for using around the house and while she's a newborn and too tiny for the Ergo
Infant car seat to carry her around easily when she's still small
Convertible car seat for once she outgrows the infant seat but still should remain rear-facing
(third row)
Plush sensory toy to keep baby occupied and discovering new sounds, textures and colors
Prefold diapers, diaper covers and a wet bag for cloth diapering
Large swaddling blankets with tons of uses! 

Do you have any favorite baby-registry items or products you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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Celebrating A Year In Our House

I can’t believe it but somehow, a year has passed since we first bought and moved into this house of ours. A lot has happened in these past twelve months: First, we saw God open up the opportunity for us to move here. Then, we did a bunch of DIY projects to make the place feel more like home. We watched the seasons change all around us as surprises sprang up around us and I explored the natural wonders of this wild yard of ours. But most of all, it was in this house that we found out we were expecting our first baby.

I remember when we first moved in and it still felt all surreal. I was still grasping for phantom light switches in the places they’d been in our old apartment. Now, it feels like home. Even the places that stick out like sore thumbs (the half-finished crown molding in a couple of rooms, for instance) now are familiar and, in some ways, comforting. Because they are no longer foreign but they are the quirks of home—of our home.

I’ve watched as we take on little projects here and there, learning and growing as homeowners. Rooms have been transformed from drab tan boxes into places that reflect us. They hold all number of craft projects and personal touches, announcing to the world that this place is ours. It is where we call home.

And this home will continue to see changes. Likely more routine upgrades like painting the remaining walls, fixing those pesky crown molding issues, doing something about that tangle of a yard of ours. But also bringing a baby into here, introducing her to her new home. Where the paint color might not match the rug or the wood finishes might clash, but love abounds.

That’s home.

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Making Progress on Decorating the Nursery

I've been thinking for quite some time about the room that will someday be my little girl's. I shared an inspiration-board post with some of my ideas and brainstorming for decorating this room for her:

But it's taken me quite some time to get around to actually working on the room. (Although I place a lot of that blame on my impromptu hospital stay and kidney calamity for much of October.)

Finally, though, it's coming together. It's still not finished yet, as I regroup and try to figure out how I want to tackle the artwork and wall decorations for the room. (Which I'm beginning to realize seems always to be a hang up for me when I'm decorating any given room.)

At any rate, progress is being made, so I wanted to share a progress report with you...

In my mood-board post for the nursery, I mentioned that I wanted to go anti-nursery and paint the walls cream. I have to admit that I love cream walls. (That was something I always loved about apartment living--walls were always painted neutral colors, of which cream was often a popular choice.)

But I always chickened out of painting my own walls white or cream. I am not quite sure why, if it feels like a waste painting a wall white when you could be painting a vibrant, splashy color, or if I don't trust my own instincts.

With this room, though, I finally committed to giving my love-for-white-walls life. After doing some research on paint colors, I picked the hue "Swiss Coffee" from BEHR, which they sent me to spruce up the baby's room. The name makes it sound like it would be tan, but it is actually the perfect shade of milky cream. I like it because at first glance, though it looks white, it has just enough cream in it to soften it up and keep it from being stark and sterile. In fact, "Swiss Coffee" is one of their most popular shades for cream!

And since we were DIY-ing this project, we picked their Premium Plus Self-Priming, Zero VOC and Low Odor Interior Paint, so that we wouldn't have to worry about me breathing in any pesky fumes that might hurt the baby. Plus, they offer it in an eggshell finish, which is a good finish for kids' rooms since it is easy to clean!

Here's what the room looked like before we painted it (previously it served as our home office, which I featured in this post):

Those tan walls may not look it in the photos, but they were not in great condition. There were quite a few scuff marks and holes and glow-in-the-dark-stars that had been painted over (instead of peeled off before applying the paint). Fortunately, with a little spackle and two coats of the BEHR paint, all those imperfections melted away—even the dozen or so glow-in-the-dark stars that I wasn't able to scrape off!

Then, we started moving the furniture into the room, making use of as many good-quality hand-me-downs as possible to save money.

Here's what it's looking like now:

I love how the creamy walls makes the yellow and teals of the accents pop and allows me to have more fun with those accessories.

And, don't worry; I'll share more specifics about the room in a later post and keep you updated once I make some decisions on the artwork. But so far, I am loving how this room is coming together and heralding the arrival of our little girl, waiting in the wings!

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Adam and Eve, and a God Who Orchestrates It All

I recently shared about a book I've been reading through and loving: Jesus: A Theography. I was just reading a section that made me stop my reading and sit, once again, in awe of what God has done in my life, particularly in regards to my marriage, and the fact that it's the thing he's been doing all along, ever since the first man and woman in bringing them together.

(I chronicled the whole story about how God brought me and my husband together in a series called, "Our Love Story," which you can read through here, if you missed it.)

The authors are talking about the Genesis 2 creation story, where God has made Adam from the dirt and, upon seeing that he is alone, makes all the animals (from more dirt) to give his creation a suitable companion or helper. But none are found. So, he puts Adam to sleep and fashions woman from Adam's rib.

The authors illuminate what happens next in the story: "Once the woman was split apart from him, God 'brought her to the man,' an image that foreshadows the bridal attendant taking the bride to the bridegroom.

When I read that sentence, the word that popped out to me the most was the word "God." It was God who took the woman to the man. They weren't left wandering around the garden only to bump into one another and then fall in love. No, God orchestrated the entire thing, from start to finish, even to bringing them together and introducing them.

That is what I have seen God to do for me in my own life, and it has made for an incredible journey that still takes my breath away to remember all the crazy facets of it.

But it also made me think of all you others out there who are waiting to be that companion, who are waiting to have this story be your own story. I think of you because I remember that season of waiting, too.

And so I pray the wisdom of this Scripture over you: That it would be God who brings you to your mate and that, just as Adam waited on God to bring along his perfect companion, you too would be encouraged in your waiting.

(And, if you need encouragement while you wait, consider signing up for the monthly Women Praying Boldly newsletter that I send out to a group of one hundred or so women who are committed to praying for one another as they all await God to work this very same way in their lives!)

Plus, you can read more about this book in my review, or you can find Jesus: A Theography on Amazon.

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