Come Together...

At my church, each week we recite the Apostle's Creed, which lists the core tenets of the Christian faith. We start off saying, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord." We continue on, listing off the things we believe about Jesus. Then we say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins..."

In this context, the term 'catholic church' is not referring to Roman Catholicism as we know it today but simply refers to the universal Church of believers. And the communion of saints is talking about the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and dead.

The Body of Christ—His church—is a powerful thing that I don't think we always recognize. It's not just the Christians we know or who go to our church. We are intimately connected with every Christian everywhere, who has ever lived. It is a crazy concept but it shows the power of the Body coming together.

For more than a year, I oversaw the Women Praying Boldly prayer group that I kicked off last summer as a way to band together and encourage women who are still waiting for God to write their love stories and bring them together with a godly spouse. Because life has gotten crazy with a kiddo who's crawling around like crazy, I recently passed the torch along to two other women (Leeann and Jen) who are now overseeing the group and keeping it going, growing and vibrant. (If you want to find out more about the Women Praying Boldly prayer group, you can read more about it here and sign up to receive the monthly e-newsletters here.)

Over the course of the almost two years that I started and grew the group, I received emails from women from all over the country, even throughout the world, who tell me how much they need this, how much it means to them to get prayer from and to pray for another woman, who feels the exact same way, even if she’s on the other side of the globe. I’ve heard how this challenge to keep praying and keep praying even when your circumstances never seem to change has been a challenge for them to come to know God more and deeper and fuller.

While we celebrate with the women who became engaged during the span of the project, there are others who have instead found heartbreak even in spite of all this prayer. And yet, in the midst of it, many of those same heartbroken and disappointed have told me how God’s used this time to draw them closer into His own love, how they started off looking for one thing and ended up finding something far better that they hadn’t realized was missing from their relationship with God. And it’s a journey we have taken together, sharing the ups and downs, the disappointments and the times of joy, even when they come from the most surprising of places.

What we are doing in this group—what we are doing together—matters. (Which is why I was so pleased that these ladies were willing to take over for me!)

There is truly power in us coming together to pray for one another, to encourage one another through the Holy Spirit, to plead strength and mercy on each others accounts.

In Hebrews 12 it says:"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. ... Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."

Yes, friends. Let us endure together and keep our eyes on Jesus.


(If you want to find out more about the Women Praying Boldly prayer group, you can read more about it here and sign up to receive the monthly e-newsletters here.)

Related Posts
Women Praying Boldly Initiative: Will You Join Us? 
Praying for Other People 
The encouraging testimonies of answered prayers

A Prayer for All the Mamas Out There

Through blogging and sharing about all the difficulty I had during Claire’s early months, I’ve heard from a lot of you who experienced those same struggles and tears. And encouragement that it does get better (even though I hated hearing that at the time). That encouragement meant so much to me and I needed the camaraderie that honest motherhood can offer—that truly helped me get through some of the hardest days. And so, I wanted to take a moment to pay it forward, to all those new mothers out there who are struggling today. This prayer’s for you.

Oh Lord.

Thank you for motherhood. Thank you that it is a gift that you give to us. And I pray that, like with the best of all gifts, we will cherish it and hold it dear, even if it feels more like a penalty right now than a pleasure. Because I know that you will see to it that it will—someday, hopefully someday soon—feel like a pleasure, feel like the blessing that it is.

I pray that you will walk us through these days and that you will give us grace to whimper and crawl and heave ourselves through them. That we will do what we can to survive them and that, in the midst of all that, that you will be working wonders. In us, in our faith, in our children.

Because the truth is, that you wouldn’t bring us to this place if you weren’t going to do something with it, with us. You don’t bring struggle to us for the sake of struggle. You always have a purpose. Let us see that. Let us look for your redemption in these moments. Let us open our eyes to what you are already doing. Give us grace to look for that and to hope for that, even now.

Let us trust that we can do this, with your help. That you wouldn’t have trusted us with this child if you didn’t know we could handle it. Let us forget about all the woulda, shoulda, better-do-it-the-right-way adages that all the parenting “experts” throw at us. Give us the grace and permission to forget about those things and to listen to you—the only true parenting expert for our one-of-a-kind baby.

Grow us in the midst of these days that often feel like one big mess. Teach us patience and forgiveness and controlling our emotions and seeing you in the smallest of places. Open our hearts and teach us vulnerability and that our weakness is beautiful. Teach us to open up and ask for help and to be honest about the hardship. And in those places, bless us. Show us your love. Show us that you are always with us, even when it feels like you have closed your ears to our prayers and are ignoring us. Give us strength to ignore those lies and to trust you and to keep praying (for the thousandth time) for help and rescue.

And then, I pray, rescue us. We know that you do finish what you’ve started. So work here. We know you won’t leave us in this place of hardship forever. Give us the strength to hope and wait on you. And then the blessing of watching you work. Here, in this place. Now.

Thank you for your unending, ever-present love. And the fact that you are always redeeming. We love you, we trust you. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Related Posts
Finding My Purpose: Setting Goals for Motherhood
The Grace in "Spirit-Led Parenting"

God is At Work Here

One of my prayers of late has been that God would redeem those first months of Claire's life for me. The months when everything felt hard and awful and miserable. That he would take them and make motherhood something of beauty to me. Make it shine and glimmer and glisten like I never imagined.

It's not that I haven't loved Claire—it's insane how much I love her. But I struggle to love the sacrifice and giving up and giving away that is motherhood, which pretty much defined those early months of life. Things today are so much better, but I'm still healing from that season. There are still wounds that are tender to the touch. And so, my prayer persists.

At our new church, we just started up a women's Bible study and in my small group, I shared this prayer request of mine. The thing is, I know that God wants to do this for me. He has whispered to my heart that he wants to redeem that season, that he wants to show me how beautiful motherhood can be, the blessing that it is. And so I ask for this prayer because I know he wants to give it to me, I know he will. So I asked that prayer expectantly, knowingly.

And so it happened that after praying this prayer for weeks now and sharing it with my new friends-in-faith, I felt my eyes opening. I felt a sense of awe for this daughter of mine step in like never before. I have always been in love with her and proud of her and had fun with her. But there's been a novelty in it of late.

An awe of the little things, the moments when I hold her close in the middle of the night after she's woken to eat. Just holding her heavy little body close, and walking her back to her crib, her head nestled in my arm, breathing softly and without a care against me.

I am finally learning to savor these moments, to savor this season. Hallelujah. Truly, God is at work here.

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
- Psalm 27:13

Related Posts
The Mercy of Second Chances
Why We Can't Give Up…


Updating My Style as a Mom and My Favorite Fashion Finds for Fall (Sponsored Post)

Becoming a mom has changed the way I view my style. It's all too easy to want to be in a T-shirt and sweats all day, as I spend my day stooping up and down, changing diapers, nursing, and cuddling my daughter. But of course, because I spend so much time tending to Claire, it's important to me to take a little time each day to tend to myself. And that starts with getting ready in the morning so that when I look in the mirror, I feel good about myself.

Recently, I took a hard look at my closet and realized that it was time for an update. It was two years ago when I first took a heavy hand to my wardrobe and filtered it down to the key pieces that I loved. Now that my body and lifestyle have changed, it was time my wardrobe reflected those changes.

I want my wardrobe to be filled with clothes that I love but that also work hard for me and life with an infant: They need to be comfortable enough to wear all day long but have the polish that make me feel like the adult I am, like a grown woman raising a daughter. As I've started to prune my wardrobe and add to it, I've kept those two priorities as the filters through which I consider any new purchases.

In time for autumn, Meijer has rolled out their new, fall line of clothes and gave me a gift-card to shop the selection. While there are lots of fun and fashionable finds including some enviable tunics and chiffon tops that I loved (which you can browse in their online lookbook), I ended up picking out two items that I think will be real workhorse additions to my wardrobe:

First up is a sweatshirt—yes, a sweatshirt. But it is the most beautiful sweatshirt you'll find out there. I love the details that dress it up, including the side and sleeve tabs that ruche the edges, the tailored hemline and the small pocket. But what we really love about any good sweatshirt is how it feels. And this is no different. It's cozy with oh-so-soft fleece that is perfect for the cool breezes that are starting to settle in this time of year.

The second item I picked up was a new purse. As you can see, my color palette right now is filled with gray, and I truly believe there's no other color for me when it comes to a purse. The purse I was previously using was also gray, and I used it for over a year without ever feeling the need to switch out to a new purse. That's lasting power. I love the size of this one: Not too big, not too small. And I really like the versatility of the strap and handle, so that I can throw it over my shoulder, hoist it over my wrist, or wear it crossbody-style so I don't have to worry about it falling off my shoulder when I'm carrying Claire.

As the seasons evolve, so does my style. And, thanks to some of the latest finds at Meijer, I'm ready for both of those changes.

Related Posts
How to Pare Down Your Closet and Be Happy With It
Living with Less: Why I Got Rid of Half My Clothes

In exchange for this review, I received a gift card to shop the new fall looks at Meijer. However, as always, any and all opinions are my own.


Suggestions?: Five-Minute Blog Post Ideas

I recently read about the idea of taking five minutes—only five minutes—to create blog posts. And even though I often feel so strapped for time, I know I can always spare five minutes. So I thought that it would be a good practice to take five minutes each week to come up with one off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment post to keep this place fresh.

But rather than come up with topics on my own, I wanted to open the floor up to you guys, to see if there were any things you’d be interested in reading about on here? Anything about Claire, the move, settling in, etc.? Remember, I want to keep it to about five minutes, so try to keep questions simple or specific enough to be answered quickly.

I’m hoping this will also help kick-start my creativity and institute better blogging habits that have tended to fall by the wayside since adding a little one to my daily routines! Thanks for your ideas and input!

Related Posts
Your Questions Answered Series

I Am Brave (And So Are You)

I don’t often think of myself as a brave person: I prefer to go places and try new things with someone else (namely, my husband). I don’t love change. I don’t even like swimming. I’m happiest getting to sit at home with my loved ones or take a walk out in nature on a lovely day.

But when I was doing my Bible reading the other day, I came across a verse that turned all this on its head. Bravery doesn’t have to mean you swim with the sharks or take off with just the clothes on your back to travel to a far-off land.

No. Bravery is more than that:

“We live by what we believe, not by what we can see. So I say that we have courage.” 2 Corinthians 5:7-8

I’ve heard people quote that verse before, but I’ve never let it sink in, settle into my soul and whisper to it: You are so brave. You are weak, but you are so strong. Strong and brave and everything else I’d never use to describe myself all because of the simple fact that I believe. Because all those other things that we think describe bravery are just actions. But belief, faith, is on the one had so much more than that and yet so much simpler.
It is beautiful in its simplicity. And comforting to this heart of mine that doesn’t often feel very brave.

Yet, I am. Because my belief has taken me incredible places, given me the courage to make incredible choices, made what could have been an ordinary life into something truly, really incredible.

And, yet, though I knew at the time those were all leaps of faith—I wasn’t always quite sure how they would work out, where they would lead to and what would come next—I never felt like I was gambling or putting my future at risk. Because my heart was rooted in that one thing: Belief. And when that is what is the guiding force, it never fails. I never have to worry.

I simply have to be brave and believe.

Related Posts
A Season of Struggles and a Prayer for Reprieve
The Truth About My Inadequacies: A Lesson from the Bible

Win Claire’s Newest Toy: Cora the Smart Cub

When Claire was just a month or two old, she was content to just lie still and marvel at the world around her—no toys necessary. I could lay her on the ground and go about my business: Making breakfast, showering, dressing, and didn’t have to worry about her whining or complaining. The world was just that interesting to her!

These days, though, the novelty has worn off and toys have become her best friends. The key is finding one that holds her attention before she tries to scamper off in hot pursuit of a pet or a stray magazine.

I was able to receive and review Cora the Smart Cub from VTech to let Claire play with and share about here—as well as host a giveaway for one of you to win one for the kiddo in your life, too! Read on for that…

When we first received Cora, I started looking through the manual and realized that you can program Cora (by hooking her up via USB cable to your computer) and personalize her specifically for your own kid—including programming her to say your child's name, remember her birthday, provide daily greetings that are synced up to your time zone, sing songs that you get to pick out, even integrate your child’s favorite toys/foods/colors/friends/family members into story time. (Oh, and you can select your favorite story-time prompts, as well.)

Once I realized all those hidden aspects possible with the toy, I really started to get excited about Cora! I love that when I turn her on she says, "Good morning, Claire!" and "You're my best friend, Claire." Isn't technology so incredible?!

One of the other biggest things I like about Cora is that she is really intuitive to play with: The icons clearly mark which appendage prompts what. For instance, if Claire wants to listen to music (which I programmed in from a long list), then she can hit Cora’s feet. Oh yeah, and she doesn’t just keep going and going and going—if you don’t play with Cora within 40 seconds, she can take a hint and automatically turns off.

Cora is intended for kids six months to three years, so Claire is just at the cusp for playing with this. She still hasn’t learned her own name, so the novelty of that hasn’t hit her yet, but she loves the light-up heart, how soft Cora is (cozy like fleece), cuddly (great for chewing on and wrestling with!), and listening to the sounds and songs she makes. I let Claire take her in the car and it readily keeps her entertained!

If you’d like to enter to win your own Cora the Smart Cub, please take a moment to let me know in the comments and what you think is the best thing about Cora the Smart Cub. Please submit your responses (and include a way to contact you if it isn’t visible in your profile) by Wednesday, September 18, when I’ll select and contact a winner. (The VTech product, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by VTech.)

You can also find Cora the Smart Cub on Amazon.

Celebrating the Morning (Sponsored Post)

Mornings are my favorite part of the day. You'll remember that even before Claire came (with her sometimes early wake-up calls!), I've been partial to this time of day when the sun streams through curtains and dapples window sills announcing a fresh start.

I love getting up, making a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, a cup of coffee (cold in the summer, hot in winter, please), and relaxing in the day's quiet before the chaos and to-do lists of life kick into high gear. It's relaxation at its simplest and a chance to savor the day that's at hand.

It's a little like giving thanks before the miracle that Ann Voskamp writes about in One Thousand Gifts.

In that original ode to morning, I wrote:
It’s so simple, really. It’s life at its most basic. The sun comes up and then goes down, and so we follow along with it. ... And yet, that’s the beauty of it all. It’s a constant reminder that a new day will always dawn. There’s always another chance to throw open the curtains and let the Son shine in. No matter what yesterday may have held—heartache or hunger, health or happiness—there’s always another day to draw closer to that which truly matters, to remember what we’re here for, and that somehow he holds all of this—the sun and all of it—in his hands. Even us.
(Read more in this post.)
Isn't that the truth? A reminder I continually need to take note of and whisper to my heart.

In celebration of the back-to-school season (a fresh start in and of itself!) and to make mornings easier on us all, Publix is running a breakfast-savings sale where select General Mills kid cereals (including Kix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch) are buy one, get one free. Hurry to take advantage of the savings, because this latest sale ends September 11.

What do mornings mean for you? How do you savor them?

Related Posts
Rejoicing In A Morning Slowed
A Morning Prayer to Start Today

The information and a gift card to sample the sale were provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark.

Dear Claire: 6-Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,

Well, dear, you are six months. Six months! I can barely believe we've made it this far. I remember only a couple of months ago, it felt impossible that time would ever take us to this mark. But here we are. And I think we are both loving life more now than ever!

Right now, the word I use to describe you the most is "wild." But in a good, larger-than-life, ball-of-energy, full-of-smiles way. You are wild and vivacious and happy and excited about every. single. thing. I named you "Claire," because I liked the meaning behind it—"bright." And you truly are bright and radiate so much joy and happiness. You're a ball of sunshine who loves everyone and pretty much everything. It could not have been a more fitting name.

I think you're showing yourself to be quite the extrovert—which is so different from myself and your dad. We both are introverts who love to stay at home and hang out, reading books or putzing around on our own. But you love going out and meeting new people. You try to make eye contact with everyone you meet and smile wildly at them when you finally do—I won't be surprised one bit if you run for class president someday or end up on a stage filled with applause.

Speaking of being on a stage, you also have really become vocal lately. Like loud. All the time. You love being bounced so that you can play with sounds and hear them vibrate. You learned how to shriek and squeal so that people come running because we think you're in pain—but really you're just bored or wanting extra attention. You keep us all on our toes!

Right now, your new loves include paper (magazines have become your favorite toy!) and bouncing (we have consequently bought you a doorway jumper and a stationary jumparoo, both of which you get a kick out of!). You still love putting anything and everything in your mouth, but haven't had any teeth break through yet. You also are starting to get into animals and get a crazy, wild-eyed look of delight when you see any come nearby. So much so that I think your grandparents' pets are what finally motivated you to learn to crawl; the first time I saw you actually crawl (rather than do a modified version of "the worm" to move around) was when you saw my parents' dog and wanted to try to catch him! This just began this week so right now you're still feeling it out, but I know you'll be whizzing around in no time!

We've also started letting you try new foods. You've tried a lot here and there in bits and pieces, but mostly we've introduced you to bananas, apples, pears, plums, green beans, sweet potatoes, watermelon, avocado, barley and rice cereals. So far you haven't really liked the veggies (not even the sweet potatoes!), but we'll keep trying. (Because I can't believe a child of mine doesn't like sweet potatoes, deep down!)

Not surprisingly, thanks to all those new nutrients and nourishment, you continue to grow like a weed, busting out of clothes and growing that head-of-hair of yours like nobody's business. And growing a larger-than-life personality to boot. That's been the most fun for me, watching you come to life and sparkle and shine in such beautiful, wonderful, inspiring (and, let's be honest, sometimes exhausting!) ways. Here's to another month ahead of us!


Related Posts
Dear Claire: 5 Month Update 
A Look Back at Claire's First Month

Grocery Stores and Getting Out of the House as a New Mom (Sponsored Post)

(obviously not Claire, but so cute!)

Now that Claire is older (look for another update about the latest tomorrow!), able to go longer between naps (about two hours of awake time right now) and I've got my own set of wheels, getting out of the house has become much easier than in those first days as a new mom.

Consequently, I've been trying to make an effort to get out of the house at least once a week, whether it's just taking Claire for a walk around the neighborhood or running up to the supermarket for last-minute groceries. There's something rejuvenating about the mere act of getting out into the fresh air—I don't think I quite appreciated that until I became a mom!

That's why I was excited when I heard about the latest sale going on at Publix groceries stores. If you're like me and find that your grocery list is filled with things that never seem to go on sale—things like produce, meat, baked goods—then this is the sale for you, because those are exactly what are on sale during their latest event: Fresh Savings. (You'll find other staples features in the sale as well, including cereals from General Mills, Tostitos tortilla chips, Breyers products, and even eggs!)

To me, that's a win-win: a chance to get out of the house, pick up essentials on the cheap and then have the time and money left over to do other things—like enjoying these last days of summer before autumn officially arrives!

The Fresh Savings sale is going on at Publix now through September 12. For more details, please visit

The information and a gift card to sample the sale was provided by General Mills and Publix® through MyBlogSpark.


Homemade Veggie Burger Recipe: Quick, Easy and Freezer-Friendly

,It's only been in the past month or so that I've had the energy and time to start getting creative in the kitchen again. (Although, notably, most of my culinary efforts of late have been whipping up simple foods for Claire to try!).

Which is why I love this recipe, which I first tried late in my pregnancy: It's so forgiving (you cannot mess it up, it's so easy!) and it makes a ton, which I was able to freeze and then heat up whenever I needed a quick meal once Claire was here. As a new mom, those two elements cannot be under-appreciated!

This is a recipe for making homemade veggie burgers. Besides making a bunch of patties (18 for me, though that depends on how large you make them), I also like that these stick together really well—an important element for any burger!

1 package of firm tofu (14-16oz.)
2 cups rolled oats
3 cups black beans (or two 15oz. cans, drained)
3 cups cooked barley or rice
2 garlic cloves
½ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 teaspoons cumin
2½ tablespoons oregano
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

Combine in a food processor until blended. Form into patties, and fry until browned on heated skillet. (Spray or add oil to pan if necessary to avoid sticking.) Flip to brown other side. Depending on the size you make them, recipe should make between 16-20 patties.

If you want to freeze these, form them into patties but do not fry on skillet! Instead, line a cookie sheet with wax paper and add patties then freeze. Once hard, you can peel them from paper and seal in a freezer bag. Then, when you want to cook them, remove from freezer and you can add them directly to hot skillet (no defrosting necessary; just make sure they brown on both sides and are heated through).

Related Posts
Homemade Black Bean Burgers Recipe
Chicken Burger Recipe: The Secret to The Perfect, Juicy Burger

Next Post Previous Post
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...