December 3, 2012

KLOVE Acoustic Christmas Tour

I'm so excited that Christmas time is here! It really is my favorite time of year. Nothing helps me get in the holiday spirit more than some good Christmas music. This year, KLOVE is presenting the Acoustic Christmas Tour sponsored by World Vision's Survive to Five, Grand Canyon University, and 25 Entertainment.

The tour features Grammy nominee Sanctus Real, Sidewalk Prophets, and Dara Maclean.

I had a chance to speak with Dara Maclean after their opening night in Oklahoma City, OK.

"When people are coming to an evening on the Acoustic Christmas tour they’re going to experience a really intimate set," said Maclean. "I’m doing a three piece jazz set, and then Sidewalk Prophets does more than that, but it’s more of a stripped down version. For me, just the evening in itself is so intimate. It’s Christmas music, and when you’re with people who are so sweet and supportive, it’s kind of like you are with family."

As part of the Acoustic Christmas Tour, KLOVE is also partnering with World Vision's Survive to Five program with a goal of sponsoring 600 children between the ages newborn to five. As a mom in America, it's hard to imagine my preschoolers facing death due to malnutrition, malaria, and other preventable diseases, but for many mothers in countries around the world, this fear is a reality. World Vision's Survive to Five program seeks to combat these preventable deaths through child sponsorship. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the Christmas season than to bring hope and help to a child on the other side of the world. 

The tour promises to provide a great evening of entertainment that is safe for the whole family. 
“Christmas is our favorite time of year. Celebrating the birth of Christ through song and stories always gets us
excited, and getting to tour the country and do just that make it the most wonderful time of year for certain. We are honored to team up with our family at 25 Entertainment and our dear friends at K-LOVE to pour out our hearts alongside the awesomeness that is Sanctus Real and our good friend Dara Maclean. It is going to be a fun and worshipful time, and we are counting down the days until Christmas time is here,” says Dave Frey of Sidewalk Prophets.

The Acoustic Christmas Tour provides the audience a chance for an intimate evening of Christmas music and worship. They'll be travelling to fifteen locations across the country.

Acoustic Christmas Tour Dates:
November 29, 2012 Oklahoma City, OK First Church of the Nazarene
November 30, 2012 Amarillo, TX Church at Quail Creek
December 1, 2012 Albuquerque, NM Eastern Hills Baptist Church
December 2 , 2012 Denver, CO West Bowles Community Church
December 4, 2012 Bozeman, MT Journey Church
December 5, 2012 Pasco, WA Faith Assembly Pasco
December 6, 2012 Bend, OR Christian Life Center
December 7, 2012 Portland, OR New Hope Community Church
December 8, 2012 Sacramento, CA Warehouse Ministries
December 9, 2012 Fresno, CA Warnors Theatre
December 10, 2012 Reno, NV Sparks Christian Fellowship
December 12, 2012 San Diego, CA Skyline Church
December 13, 2012 Phoenix, AZ Grand Canyon University
December 15, 2012 Midland, TX Mid Cities Community Church
December 16, 2012 San Antonio, TX Oak Hills Church

Tickets are on sale now. Tour sponsors include: K-LOVE, World Vision’s Survive to Five, Grand Canyon
University and 25 Entertainment. For more information on K- LOVE and 25 Entertainment’s Acoustic
Christmas Tour, please visit: or check them out on Facebook at

**Come back tomorrow for my interview with Dove Award Nominee, Dara Maclean. **


November 16, 2012

(1/2) Marathon Mom

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . ."
Hebrews 12:1

This weekend I did something I never really thought would be possible. I ran a half-marathon. To those who don't know me, you might think, "What's the big deal? It's not like you ran a full marathon." But for those who do know me, you will know that before February 2012, I couldn't even run a mile. Slowly and surely, I built up my endurance. I had a goal in mind and I was determined to reach it. 

I now completely understand why Paul and other biblical writers use the race analogy to describe the Christian faith. It's not a sprint. It's more like a marathon. 

The power of encouragement
I remember at one point in the race I passed under an overpass discovered a hill full of people. Some held signs with handwritten messages. Others cheered on runners with bells and whistles. They clapped and they cheered. They encouraged us to keep running, not to give up. Their encouragement lifted my spirit and I picked up my feet. I kept running. 

Because the race was on a Sunday, I didn't have my own cheering squad to root me on in person. These people I had never met encouraged me to keep going. 

The course I ran was an out and back style, meaning that I ran about 6.5 miles and then turned around and headed back toward the starting line. This meant that at certain points of the race, those who were ahead of me and had already reached the turn-around point were headed in my direction. 

Every now and then, one of those runners on their way to the finish line would shout out words of encouragement. "Keep going! You're almost there! You can do it!" 

The same is true of the Christian life. The writer of Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. When I passed under that overpass and saw the crowd of people sitting on the hillside, the last thing I wanted to do was to slow my pace and start walking. Why? There was a crowd of witnesses. I picked up my pace and I kept running. 

Scripture says that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Sometimes it consists of people running the race alongside us, other times it's people we've never met who encourage us from the sidelines - through their words and through the stories of their lives. 

Running is just as much mental as it is physical
Want to know how to run a half-marathon? It's easy - don't stop running. Even if your legs are tired and you'd rather just call it a day, keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

During the months I trained before the race I observed something about myself. If I had a negative attitude about my ability to do something, it made it that much harder to do it. If while on a long run I repeated "I can't do this. I can't do this. I want to stop right now." Then it felt like the miles went on forever and each step was a struggle. If I changed my thoughts to reflect positive things like "Each step is making me stronger. I can do this. Keep moving. Look how far you've come," I found that although the run was still challenging, it no longer felt overwhelming. 

The same is true in my every day life. It's not that difficult to find something to complain about. If I wanted to, I could dwell on everything that's not going right. It would make my days long and suck the joy right out of life. Or, I could consciously choose to practice gratitude. Gratitude changes attitude. Trust me, it's something I have to intentionally do. I'm pretty good at throwing my own pity parties. Complaining (even if the words never come out of my mouth) is a surefire way to place a spotlight on the negative. This is true when it comes to my thoughts about my spouse, my children, or my current situation in life. It's easy to highlight the bad; it's more of a challenge to play Pollyanna and look for the silver lining, but it makes life so much more enjoyable (not just for you, but for those around you). 

Appreciate Accountability
When I was training for my race, I was very intentional about making my goal known? Why? Because if other people knew of my plans, I was less likely to back out and give up. I knew that there were people from all different phases of my life who were following my progress and cheering me on. I posted my runs on Facebook and used neat apps like the Nike Running App to let people know when I was out running. The Nike App generates a "cheer" that you can hear whenever someone likes your run on Facebook. It's ridiculous how much those little cheers from a simulated crowd motivated me when I was on my long runs. 

Even though I ran by myself on Sunday morning, I felt like I was carrying my friends along with me. I could hear their cheers. I know others were praying for me (and for the thunderstorm that threatened to strike in the middle of the race window). 

Accountability is risky because it means exposing your potential failures to others, but in the end it also enables you to reach your full potential. 

Never give up. Never Surrender.
Is it weird to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my half-marathon experience? The training was tedious and tiring, but the race itself was well worth it. It was good for body and soul. It taught me a lot about myself and about faith and perseverance. When I was running it felt like worship.  

The movie Chariots of Fire tells the story of Scottish runner, Eric Liddell (I got to see his Olympic medals when I was studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh). At one point in the movie, Liddell says:

You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race. 
I definitely didn't win the race (I was much closer to last place than to first place), but I finished. Thanks to all who encouraged me along the way. Your words of encouragement kept me running. 

Thanks to my little sister who stood in the cold rain at the finish line.
It was fun. I'm definitely glad I did it. If I can do it (a self-avowed hater of running), trust me, anyone can. 

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." 
1 Corinthians 9:24-25


September 22, 2012

Hello Fall Giveaway! Win $1000 cash!

Welcome to Hello Fall $1000 Cash Giveaway

Happy Home and Family and Jenn’s Blah Blah Blog together with the most amazing group of bloggers are bringing you once again another FABULOUS event where one very lucky reader will win $1000 cold hard cash!
Special thanks to: Diva Fabulosa & Beauty and Fashion Diva  

So what would you do with a thousand dollars if you win, tell us your plan :)?

Fall is my favorite season and a thousand dollars would make it even more fun! Best of luck to you all! 

Don't forget to share this giveaway with your friends!

  • Giveaway will run September 22 at 12:01 am EST – October 22 at 11:59 PM EST
  • You must be 18 years or older to enter.
  • Must have a paypal account
  • Entries will be verified so please don’t cheat, it’s a waste of time.

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Goodluck everyone!   Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for shipment of prize, nor did I accept any form of payment to promote this event. All entries will be verified.

August 25, 2012

"The Stars Shine Bright" by Sibella Giorello

Special Agent Raleigh Harmon has made some mistakes in the past, mistakes that now threaten her future in law enforcement. Sent undercover to discover the reasons behind the mysterious deaths of several leading racehorses, Raleigh seeks to discover the truth while working through her own personal struggles and questions.

I know very little about horses. I know even less about the FBI and law enforcement, but after reading The Stars Shine Bright I feel like I had a small glimpse into that world. I enjoyed Giorello's writing style and found the story to be very interesting. I have not read any of the other books in the series, and although the book can stand alone to a certain extent, I think I would have benefited from reading the previous books in the series (this is the fifth book). The author tries to discreetly fill you in on what you missed in case you haven't read the others, but it's not quite the same as living the story along with the character.

I'm usually pretty picky, but I liked this book. I think Giorello did a great job weaving the story together. I was hooked from the first chapter. I love this genre of mystery/suspense. The author does an exceptional job of weaving intrigue and information. The book was well done and I look forward to reading more of Giorello's work in the future.

Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the latest book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire! 

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire
  • The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

Just click one of the icons below to enter. Tell your friends about Sibella's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter


August 11, 2012

We're Better Together

I sink down onto my living room couch surrounded by seemingly endless mounds of laundry.  Cheerios are ground into my carpet. "Bob the Builder" plays on Netflix for the fourth time this morning. There is not another toilet-trained human being in sight. This is my life. This is my current season. I'm the mother of two preschoolers. I'm exhausted.

When I'm home, it's easy to think that I'm the only one who feels like an inadequate mother, who knows that my housekeeping has not quite obtained June Cleaver status, who honestly would rather eat a donut than run a mile at the gym. But I've learned that I'm not alone. We're all in this together and it's that togetherness that makes the unending days of laundry and diapers bearable.

We were created for community, especially during the difficult days of early motherhood. There is truly no other time in life where we are more exhausted, more vulnerable, and more in need of a friend to come alongside us and help us carry the load - even if it's nothing more than saying "Hey, it's OK, I haven't taken a shower today either."

Sweet mom, you're not in this alone. We've been there too. Not one of us is perfect. Our children are not perfect. Our husbands are not perfect. We are a beautiful mess, but ya know what? God is pleased when we come before Him in all of our messiness and say "I may not be perfect, but You are - and that is more than enough."

God loves using imperfect people. The Bible is full of examples of flawed, imperfect people who were used by God simply because they were available and willing. Moses stuttered and had a bit of a temper. Abraham lied on more than one occassion because he was scared. Rachel and Leah battled insecurity and jealousy. Naomi struggled with bitterness.

The only perfect person in the Bible was Jesus. Even the disciples who hung out with him for three years still managed to mess up on more than one occasion. That is encouraging to me. I don't have to be perfect for God to love me. I don't even have to be perfect for God to use me. I just have to be willing and ready. To be obedient to His voice when I sense His leading.

I'm typing this post from a cozy hotel room in a glorious resort BY MYSELF. Pre-kiddo days,  I would have thought "Why would anyone want to go somewhere without their family?" Two kids later and I'm basking in the unknown glory of an uninterrupted shower. My kids are tucked in safe and sound at Grandma and Papi's house. My husband is back in New Mexico holding down the fort while I am in Dallas for the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) conference surrounded by 2,000 of the most incredible women you'll ever meet.

It has been such an encouragement to be here at the MOPS convention. I've been surrounded by so many amazing moms who understand my stage of life and this season of mothering. I've listened to encouraging speakers who have reminded me that even from my tiny living room, surrounded by toddler chaos, I can still impact the world.

From my cluttered couch it's hard to see the big picture. Sometimes I forget that I'm not alone in my fight against laundry and in my crusade against crushed cheerios. I'm not the only woman struggling to know how to blend who I am as a woman with who I am as a mother. We're in this together and we're better together.


July 29, 2012

I don't hate gay people

Before you read the rest of this post, I want to make a few quick disclaimers: This is a controversial topic and I know that people are very passionate about both sides of this issue. Please understand that the purpose of this post is not to start a heated debate or to make anyone upset. If you agree or disagree with me, that's okay, but please don't be disrespectful to anyone. This is something that's been on my mind a lot lately, and I feel the need to share my personal point of view.  

I don't hate gay people. That might sound shocking coming from a southern preacher's wife who grew up smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, but in light of the whole recent Chick-fil-a controversy, I felt compelled to clear the air. Do I disagree with homosexuality based on my religious beliefs - yes. Does disagreeing with someone's lifestyle mean that I hate them? Absolutely not.

I can't help but feel a bit defensive when Christians are labeled as ignorant, bigoted, homophobic morons. I can't speak for everyone (I'm sure that there are some angry, extreme people wandering around out there), but the majority of us choose to respectfully disagree. I never, ever, ever, ever, EVER think another human being deserves to be mistreated, ridiculed, or abused. Ever. That type of behavior should never be tolerated and it's not what the message of Christianity is about. I will fiercely defend any human being who is being bullied or abused regardless of their gender, race, or sexual preference.

Here's the deal - I know there's a lot of debate over the whole marriage issue. For me personally, I believe that God created marriage to be a symbolic image of the relationship between Christ and the Church. From the very beginning, the marriage relationship was meant to image divine realities, so when people want to "redefine" marriage, it's natural that those who adhere to these religious teachings feel the need to become defensive of the traditional definition of marriage.

As a Christian, I have chosen to live my life according to the teachings of the Bible. I do not have the freedom to pick and choose what I agree with and what I do not. I've heard the argument on more than one occasion that if we choose to label homosexuality as a sin then we need to adhere to all of the Levitical law (in regards to facial hair, skin conditions, diet, etc.).

The Israelites of the Old Testament (of which the book of Leviticus is a part) entered into a special covenant with God. God gave them a series of guidelines and laws which were intended to set them apart from the other nations around them - to make them a distinct group of people. Some of those restrictions included dietary law, punishments for those who broke the law, and guidance for daily living. These were special instructions to a designated people at a designated time. The Israelites and God entered into this special covenental agreement in which God agreed to bless and be with them if they kept their side of the promise.

The modern day church is not a part of the same covenant that God made with the nation of Israel. The church is a part of the new covenant that took place after the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In this covenant we gain access to God through faith in Jesus, and although we are still called to live life differently from those who do not believe, it has more to do with inward character and behavioral changes than any peculiar outward manifestations.

I have also heard on numerous occasions that Jesus said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Yep, that passage is in the Bible, but strangely enough, no one bothers to quote the words that immediately follow. Jesus then turns to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and tells her to "Go and sin no more." Implying that what she was doing was not right and she needed to stop. Jesus didn't just say, "Hey, it's OK, no one's perfect, do whatever you want to do." He dispersed an angry crowd whose sole intent was to trick Jesus into doing something that they could use against him and turned it into a moment for redemption. He didn't condemn her to death, he tried to lead her to life by urging her to stop a behavior that could cause her harm.

With that being said, I do not expect  non-Christians to adhere to the same types of standards and values that I do. Why would they? I do believe that living your life according to Biblical principles is the best way. It's what I plan on teaching to my children. I have no control over the choices that other people make. If someone disagrees with what the Bible says they have the freedom to do so.

I don't believe it's intolerant and hateful to disagree with someone's choices. Lest you think that the Bible only singles out homosexuality, it also says that heterosexual sex between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman is also a sin (regardless of if you're a teenage couple or a 30-something.) I'm just as much opposed to premarital sex as I am to any other sexual sin. Is it old-fashioned? According to today's standards, probably so, but that's ok. I wholeheartedly believe that the standards set out in the Bible were created for our own well-being, not because God is some cosmic kill-joy. We all sin. Each and every one of us. No one is perfect. I'm not going to condemn, but I will stand by what I believe is right. 

Here's my summary:
1) It's OK to disagree with another person's choices. It's OK to express your own personal convictions. It is not OK to ridicule, abuse, or mistreat another human being because they make choices you disagree with. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean that they hate you. They just disagree. 

2) I do believe that homosexuality is a deviation from God's plan for human sexuality - that the original design was for marriage to be between a man and a woman and that marriage was designed to teach us more about our relationship with God.

3) ALL sin separates us from a relationship with God. Adultery, sex outside of marraige, lust, and homosexuality are equally prohibited in the Bible.
4) Because we live in America, where we have the freedom to vote based upon our own personal beliefs and opinions, I have the right to support or oppose legislation that contradicts my personally held convictions. People who hold different opinions are equally entitled to make their voice heard through their vote. Because we live in a democracy, each individual has a say.  

I know this is not a popular opinion. I know that some people might label me as ignorant and hateful, but I'm really not, and honestly, those type of stereotypes are hurtful. I don't hate gay people. God has given us the free will to make our own choices, and people are free to choose whatever they want to. He's not going to force us to be holy robots, but as a good parent, he has also given guidelines for those who claim to be his children. Homosexuality, according to the Bible, is something that those who claim the name of Christ are not to participate in.

Tolerance is America's new holy grail. We are supposed to be tolerant of everything - even if it's in opposition to our religious beliefs. We're not allowed to respectfully disagree. You know what, I think love should be our new catch phrase. I can disagree with you and still love you in the process. You can disagree with me and that's fine. I'm not going to label you as bigoted and "Christ-tophobic." I'm not going to feel threatened when someone holds a differing viewpoint. I'm going to stand by what I believe in, just as you choose to stand by what you believe in.

Maybe you'll want to boycott me. If so, I guess I have no control over that. Maybe you'll stop reading my blog or tell all your friends to unlike my facebook page because I'm one of those crazy Christians who disagrees with your point of view. You have that freedom, but I hope you'll stick around. 

Thanks for hearing me out. I just felt like I needed to express what was on my heart and mind. If you're a homosexual who has been mistreated by those who claim the name of Christ, I apologize. That is not the message of Christianity. Christianity is about redemption and love - a God who pursued us even when we were opposing Him at every turn. He doesn't waver on His standards for holiness, but he welcomes us as we are and continues to shape and mold us into His image.


July 20, 2012

Where is God when tragedy strikes?

Something deep within our souls tells us this is wrong. Parents should not have to bury their children. Infants should not struggle for their lives. Mothers should not be taken away from their children. Toddlers should not have to battle cancer. These things cause pain because deep within us we know that this is not the way that things were meant to be. We feel the "lostness" of the situation and it grieves us.

Beloved, we live in a broken world, but this is not the way things were meant to be. God is not the source of these heartaches - the enemy is.

Jesus said that "The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10).

Later, the apostle Peter describes our enemy as a roaring lion "seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8). 

His aim is to cause us to doubt the goodness of God. This is not a new scheme. He's been at it since the beginning of time. He was able to tempt Adam and Eve by leading them to question whether or not God was really looking out for their best interests. 
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

Precious ones, it's hard to understand why tragedies happen. There is no easy explanation or cliche answer you can give to take away the heartache and pain. We live in a broken world full of sickness, pain, and death. Unfortunately, as a result of the fall, we do know both good and evil. . . and it's the evil that's in this world that breaks our hearts. 

There is comfort in knowing that God is a God of justice, and that one day, each person will give an account before God for their actions. Even those who seem to escape justice in this lifetime will not escape His justice. The enemy has free reign of this world for the time being, but his time is running out.  

God hears the cries of the brokenhearted. The book of Revelation states that one day, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

It grieves my heart to see the seemingly senseless suffering in the world around me, but I'm reminded that this broken world is not my home. God has a rescue plan to restore the brokenhearted, to bring beauty from ashes and the oil of gladness to those who mourn, a spirit of praise instead of despair.

Where is God when tragedy strikes? I assure you, He is there in their midst, providing comfort and strength to those left behind, redeeming what the enemy intended for destruction.

One day things will be as they were always meant to be. Death will be destroyed. There will be no more suffering or pain. Until then, we pray -asking our God of mercy and peace to fill hearts and minds with a sense of his presence, to bring healing to bodies and minds, and for his kingdom to come, on earth as it is in heaven. 


July 16, 2012

Nature's Sleep Memory Foam Slippers - Review and Giveaway

I'm a mom. A busy mom. I don't usually have a lot of time to just put my feet up and relax at the end of the day. My solution? Wear comfy slippers while I'm busy running around the house. Nature's Sleep, the folks who bring you fabulous mattresses have adapted their memory foam technology to cushion your tootsies.

I had the opportunity to try the closed toe Nature's Sleep Memory Foam Slippers in blue. I loved the memory foam in them. They form around your feet to provide you with a comfortable fit. They are nice and warm which will be absolutely wonderful for cool mornings and evenings.

They have a very durable rubber sole. I wear them outside to go check the mail or grab something from the car. I like that there are treads on the bottom of the slipper to help provide a bit of traction.

I've been wearing them for a few weeks now and they've held up to the challenge. My oldest son spilled a glass of milk on them. My youngest son has tried to eat them, but they've still held up to the test.

Nature's Sleep offers a variety of products: mattresses, toppers, pet beds, and even foundations and frames.

One lucky reader will have an opportunity to win a pair for themselves. (Giveaway open to US only and ends on 7/25).

Check out the Rafflecopter form to enter (if it takes a while to load, try refreshing the page).

Best of luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 I received a complimentary pair of slippers from Nature's Sleep to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed are my honest thoughts of the product. I was not obligated to give a positive review. 

July 4, 2012

$200 Amazon Blast Free Blogger Event Sign-Ups

Are you looking to gain more Facebook fans or publicity for your blog? There's a new $200 Amazon Blast giveaway starting on July 15th and ending on August 15th.

Event Details:
*The giveaway will go live on July 15, 2012
*Open Worldwide
*Prize: $200 Amazon Gift Card *1 winner*
*To participate, all you have to do is share the sign-up info in a blog post and fill out the form here

Sign Up Fee & Info:
- NO COST for the first link (Facebook Page only) (additional links are $3 each)
There are also a few co-host spots available for those who might be interested! 


June 23, 2012

Lover of Emptiness

"This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can't even look at what he's doing, can't even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, "This is crazy." Isaiah 44:20 (The Message)

In Isaiah 44, God brings this charge against his people: You are worshiping unworthy things - things made with human hands, things that are not gods at all. They were so blinded by what they were doing, that as another translation states, they can't say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" (Isaiah 44:20, NIV)

In the previous chapter, God challenges His people to take him to court and evaluate what He has said and done for them. No other god has told them what was to come. No other god has provided forgiveness and a way of escape. God says that they have proven themselves to be no gods at all.

It's harder to pinpoint idols these days. I doubt the majority of us are going into our backyards, hacking down a tree and carving it up into something we kneel before and pray to. But the comparison is not totally lost.

In the illustration God gives in Isaiah 44, He describes a man who goes out, cuts down a tree and uses part of the wood as fuel to cook his food over and then uses the other half of the wood to make something to worship. For some reason it doesn't dawn on him that he's essentially worshiping firewood.

It's really not so different from what we do. With part of our money we go out and buy food to feed our families and with the other portion we turn it into something we worship. We each have our own gods of choice - a nice home, cars, the latest gadgets and technology, a beautiful appearance, a big bank account etc. We may not physically bow down in front of them, but we worship them with our hearts, with our thoughts, and with our time.

We look to them to satisfy and to save us, but in the end they will only disappoint. But somehow, like the man in the illustration, we don't notice that the thing we're holding onto in our right hand is a lie. It has no power to save us. It cannot tell us what will happen tomorrow, and it's certainly not looking out for our best interests. It's a created thing: with half, we eat our food and with the other half we bow down and worship.

God calls them on their foolishness, but he doesn't just leave them in their current condition. He admonishes them to come back to their senses:

"I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud,  you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel." Isaiah 44:22-23

Help me to recognize when I'm worshiping something that has no power to save me. Help me to recognize that the thing I hold in my right hand is a lie. Thank you for being a God who sweeps away my offenses like a cloud and my sins like the morning mist. You alone have the power to save. You have done great things. Thank you for being a God who calls us out when we're in the wrong and restores us to a right relationship with you. 


June 22, 2012

Hurry Up and Wait: The Blessings and Blues of Living on a Budget

My husband and I went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University back in January of 2011. I was pregnant with my second child and we were looking to buy our first home. We were fortunate not to have a great deal of debt. We were like most Americans, we had a car loan, a student loan, some medical bills and a few small credit cards bills that we paid in full each month. Still, when you added it all up, it came to around $10,500.

After a lot of discipline, hard work, and selling a TON of miscellaneous stuff we didn't really want or need, we were able to pay off the full amount of our debt in less than a year. For a two-income family that might not seem like that much money, but for our household, it was a sizable percentage of our income. If you look at your finances and feel discouraged, I just want to let you know that IT CAN BE DONE.

I'm not going to lie, living on a budget takes discipline, and discipline is hard work. There are a lot of times when you have to just wait. I have had to resist the urge to just go out and buy what I want (even if it is on sale and its a great deal).

At the moment our countertops are cracked and warped and our dishwasher has a hole in it thanks to a plastic lid that fell and melted on the heating element. Pre-budget Sarah would have checked the bank account and if there was money available I would have just gone out and bought what I wanted (probably putting it on a 0% interest credit card). I've always been frugal, never paying full price, shopping around for the best deal, but I admit I was a bit of an impulse purchaser. If I liked it and it was a good price, I bought it. . . and paid for it later.

If I'm honest, I don't really like telling myself no. I would love to just go out and buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. I'd love to travel and remodel my home. Heck, I'd even love to just go out to lunch with friends a few times a month without worrying about using up all of our "Restaurant" money. I'd love to just go out for a day of pampering and get my hair and nails done, but for the time being, Pro-cuts and Sally Hanson will do.

I suppose learning patience is just part of growing up. A child wants what they want when they want it. An adult is willing to delay gratification until the proper time. I have to tell myself "no" now so that I can tell myself "yes" later. 

One day I will replace my counter tops (albeit they will probably be topped with fake granite laminate instead of the real thing), but for now I'll just hurry up and wait. There are other, more pressing concerns: my husband's tuition for the Fall semester, replenishing our emergency fund after $1k in home repairs, saving up for the inevitable replacement car since both of our vehicles are nine years old, building up 3-6 months of living expenses in savings.

I must admit that living on a budget does have its advantages. I find it to be significantly less stressful. They call it debt freedom for a reason - it really does feel liberating not to owe anyone money. I know how much our bills are and when they are due. I very seldom have to worry about an "unexpected" event because we've usually gotten everything planned out far in advance. We even have an emergency fund in place for those things you can't plan for. And the best part, I never have to worry about missing a payment, because there are no payments. . . ahh that's a good feeling (it will get even better when we pay off our house one day).

It sounds hokey, but sometimes when I'm tempted to gripe about what I don't have, I take the time to remember that I have quite a bit. Other mothers around the country and around the world would be so thankful for what I have. I can honestly say that even though I may not have everything I want, I really do have everything that I need, and for that I am truly grateful.


June 19, 2012

Not "Just" a Stay-at-Home Mom

I lean up against the counter at the doctor's office. My two year old fidgets on my hip as I fill out the paperwork to see our town's new pediatrician. The woman behind the desk works her way through a checklist of questions.

“Your employer, ma'am?"

I sign a paper with one hand, hold my toddler with the other arm, and simultaneously rock my infant's car seat with my foot. 

"Oh, I'm just a stay-at-home mom." 

JUST a stay-at-home mom? I catch myself as soon as the words slip out of my mouth. You would never hear a doctor say "Oh, I'm JUST a doctor." Why do I feel like this is something to apologize for rather than something to be proud of? 

The last century brought about some fantastic, positive changes for women – we can get a good education, exercise our political freedoms, and influence society in the workforce. Unfortunately, it has also shouldered many moms with guilt. To be honest, I've struggled with fears that I'm wasting my abilities reading "Hop on Pop" seven times a day. I'm smart. I'm educated. I could be successful. I could make a name for myself.

But what if the name I want most is “Mom”?

As a girl, I was told that I could be anything, but very few ever encouraged me to pursue full-time motherhood. That was taboo – a holdover from a previous era when women spent their days in heels and pearls, polishing the silver for their dinner guests. Unfortunately, in their zeal to open up the doors of possibility for a future generation, they’ve given the impression that caring for a home and family is beneath the enlightened woman.

If you choose to work outside the home whether due to financial necessity or simply because you have found a career that you love, there's no shame in that at all. But I think it's important for millions of moms to know that what they do is important and valuable, even if there are no annual bonus checks or performance reviews to confirm it. 

Your education and life experiences enrich the lives of your children. They have shaped you into the person you are today. They are not wasted.

Next time someone asks you what you do for a living? Stand up straight and proudly proclaim: I've got the best job in the world - I'm a mom. 

June 9, 2012

Free Shaklee Products #Cinchspiration

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago I applied to the Shaklee #Cinchspiration blogger campaign. There were a whopping 264 applicants, but only 50 positions available. I have to admit, I was pretty disapointed when (along with 214 other people) I didn't make the cut.

One of the reasons I really wanted to participate in the program was for the opportunity to try their Cinch inch loss program free of charge. I've done some research online on a couple different programs and this one seemed to have some great success (people lose an average of 16.3 lbs of fat over the 12 week period, but they keep their lean muscle )- the only downside, living on a limited budget, I couldn't afford to buy it on my own.

I really didn't want to give up. I've been exercising religiously since January, but to be honest, my diet hasn't always been the best (some of my family's favorite food choices are pizza, burgers and fries, chicken nuggets, etc.).  I know that until I get my eating habits under control these last 20 lbs of jiggle are not going to budge.

In the midst of my "Woe is me" pity party, a friend told me about the Shaklee referral program. Whenever someone orders $25 worth of products from your referral link, you are credited with a $25 of free product of your choice. They don't have to join or become a Shaklee member, all they have to do is make a $25 product purchase. Plus they can get 15% off their first order

There are tons of great things to choose from. If you're one of the fortunate few who don't struggle with weight issues, there is an exceptional line of green, non-toxic, concentrated cleaners. (I bought the H2 organic household cleaner and their concentrated dish soap). We had a lady come to our MOPS group last year to let us try them, and I really liked them. I can wipe of my kiddos toys or high chair without having to worry about toxic or dangerous chemicals. There's no strong odor to give you a headache and it's super effective. You can use the concentrated cleaner for everything from windows, to counters, to degreasing a dirty stove top. You just mix the concentrate with water and put it in a spray bottle of your choice.

They have a Get Clean Basic H2 Sample kit for just $25 that contains enough concentrate to make 100 sixteen ounce bottles of non-toxic cleaner. (It's much cheaper than buying cleaning solutions at the store - plus these are non-toxic, safe and organic).

They've also got a wide assortment of vitamins, sports nutrition, and beauty products.

If eight people purchase $25 of products through my link, I'll have enough credits to buy my first Cinch starter kit and get on my way to my healthiest weight.

Maybe you're a blogger like me, and would like to earn free products or do the Cinch program on your own. You can share your personal referral link on your Facebook page, Twitter account, or on your favorite social media platform. Even if you're not a blogger, you can participate in the program by sharing on your personal accounts!

They're also running a promotion for the Cinch program through the end of July. If you buy three months of their Cinch Transformation Kit on auto-ship then you get your fourth month for free.

If you're just interested in buying a product you do not have to have a membership, plus you'll get 15% off your first order.

If you're interested interested in signing up for the referral program you can do that here.

*In order to earn the free products you will need to sign up for the membership  (The $19.95 fee gets you great discounts on products you order during the year, and it gives you a unique referral link to share with your friends and family). But the good news if just one person orders through your link then you will have already covered the cost of the membership and then some. 

**I'm not a Shaklee distributor, I don't earn anything from your purchase apart from the $25 referral bonus that I mentioned. I'm just your average blogger trying to earn my way to a healthy weight! Hopefully you can too!


June 8, 2012

Running to Texas (weeks 5 & 6)

Summer is rapidly approaching and my deadline is looming. I've got about two more months to cover the 411 mile distance to the 2012 MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Convention in Grapevine, TX.

I was able to enjoy some beautiful scenery during my walks/runs on our family vacation in Glorieta, New Mexico. I've got to admit it was a beautiful change from the gym treadmill and my usual neighborhood route.

 I have to admit that the higher altitude and hills made it super tough to run. It was a great work out though, and the views certainly made up for any discomfort. It was just beautiful!

Here's my summary for the last two weeks.

Tues. 5/22 - biked 3 miles
Thu. 5/24 - ran 2 miles
Friday 5/25 - walked 2 miles, ran 1
Sat 5/26 - ran 2 miles, walked 1
Sun. 5/27 - walked 1 mile
 Week 5 summary - 12 miles

Mon. 5/28 - rest
Tue. 5/29 - Ran 1 mile, biked 4
Wed. 5/30 -2 miles
Thu. 5/31 - 2.25 miles
Fri. 6/1 - 2 miles
Sat. 6/2  - rest
Week 6 summary - 9.25 miles

I am making slow progress. I've got a lot of ground to cover. I think I'm going to need to start biking more since I'm able to quickly cover more distance (I can usually cover twice the distance that I can when I'm running in the same amount of time). I think it's going to take a mini-miracle to get me there. If my calculations are correct, I've got about 10 weeks left and 316 miles left to travel. That means I need to get in about 31 miles a week . . . oh dear. It's not totally impossible, but it's certainly a challenge finding the time to get those miles in. I'm going to try my darndest though.

Here's where I've come so far:

Week 1: 14.05 miles
Week 2: 37.025 miles
Week 3: 6 miles
Week 4: 16 miles
Week 5: 12 miles
Week 6: 9.25 miles

Total: 94.3 miles (I'm almost 25% of the way there).

Fundraising goal $60/$500
  (not quite there yet either)

Where am I on the map?

I'm trying not to get discouraged, but it's such a massive distance to travel. Fortunately, I'm right on the outskirts of Lubbock, TX so I am making some progress. I'm just going to need to double my efforts. Maybe I should just start wearing a pedometer and count my steps as well, lol.

Well, there's your update for the week. To read about the rest of my journey (and why I'm running 411 miles to convention), check out the links below!

*I would walk 500 miles 
*Week 2.5 update
*Week 4 update


June 5, 2012

Quarter Life Crisis

I guess it's technically too late to have a quarter-life crises (unless I plan on living to the ripe ole age of 112, of course), but I can't think of a better way to describe this season of life. 

A few days ago I asked some of my Facebook friends to sum up their current daily life with one word. Some of the responses included words like blessed, crazy, hectic, fulfilling, and one honest response of "sucks." If I had to pick one word to define my life right now, I think I would choose the word "scattered." 


  [skat-erd]  Show IPA
distributed or occurring at widely spaced and usually irregular intervals: scattered villages; scattered showers.
dispersed; disorganized: scattered forces.
distracted or disorganized: scattered thoughts.

The phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" comes to mind. If I focus on my blog, then my housework suffers. If I spend time at the gym getting my body in shape, then I'm not spending time with my family. If I work on generating a little extra income, then I am taking time away from my children. All of these things are good things, but I feel like they each are pulling me in a different direction at the same time. I want to channel all of these good things in the same direction. 

I feel like I need to take a weekend, sit by myself, and get a plan together. To find some way to lasso these scattered ideas and activities into one cohesive unit. To streamline, so to speak, the many facets of my life (woman, wife, mother, blogger, frugal housewife). 

Lots of businesses and ministries have what they call a mission statement. It defines their purpose for existence. That's what I'm looking for - a deep down, soul-confirming mission - a central plan around which I can focus my energies and attention.

What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want my legacy to be? What is truly important and what is just wasting my time (nobody better mention Facebook or Pinterest - surely I'm not the only one attached to these time-suckers)? 

I think that I often go about my daily life without paying attention. I never stop to think, "Is this moving me in the direction of my heart's desire or away from it?" What am I working toward? What do I want the end result to be?

I'm looking for a central purpose. The Westminster Confession states that the "Chief end of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever." True, but how does that pan out in the individual's life? How has He equipped me to know and enjoy Him? How does this affect the way I interact with my family and friends? The way I spend my time and money? How does this influence my priorities? I want to see this principle wrapped up in my own skin. What would Sarah look like if her chief purpose was to know and enjoy God forever? How would this change the course of my day?

I was listening to a bible study last night while I was running at the gym. Beth Moore made the statement that we were all created for holy passion - if we don't fill our  life with holy passion, another lesser passion will always take its place (jealousy, anger, worry, greed). Christ doesn't want to be our top priority he wants to be our life. 

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4 (emphasis mine)

My quarter life crises involves reconciling the holy with the ordinary. The eternal with the temporal. I don't want to go out and buy a sports car - I want my life to be significant. I don't want to race through the next twenty years at a scattered and frantic pace and look back on all of the missed opportunities. I want to make a difference. In the scheme of eternity, I want to matter. 

Where do I begin? I'm going to work on my personal mission statement and you can bet your bippy I'll share it with you. You hold me accountable.  

Do you have a personal mission statement? What do you think God placed you on this earth to do? I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to share in the comments section below!


June 3, 2012

Diamond Candles Blogger Opportunity

Diamond Candles has an opportunity for 100 bloggers to particpate in a blogger review program. If you're interested all you have to do is fill out a form with your information.

Space is limited, so if you're interested, go ahead and sign up. :-)



Dealing with Disappointment

This week hasn't gone the way I hoped it would.

Rejection isn't easy. It's not easy on the elementary school playground and it's not easy as a grown-up either. I had my heart set on the #cinchspiration blogging program, but it didn't quite pan out.

I was going to work so hard, lose 30 lbs, get in the best shape of my life and win the $10,000 contract. With it, I could pay the rest of my husband's tuition, beef up our emergency fund, and cover some of life's everyday expenses. I had it all worked out in my head. It was the perfect plan. The answer to my prayers. The only downside - it didn't happen. I was left feeling disappointed and discouraged.

It makes me wonder - perhaps God withholds the "good" because it is not the best (either for us or for our family). Does that lessen the sting of disappointment? Probably not, but it helps to put it in perspective. If I truly believe that God is in control and that he has a plan for my life, should I feel discouraged when my plans doesn't align with His? It comes down to the crux of faith - do I live out what I believe? Can I trust that God's ways are better than my own? Can I rejoice in the fact that he has something else in store?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 

Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. 
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” 
 Isaiah 55:8-13

God tells us that he does things differently. His ways and thoughts are different than our own. This whole "name it and claim it" mentality is not Biblical. As a Father, he welcomes us to bring our petitions and requests to Him, but sometimes he has to tell us "no." To demand that he do our bidding and always give us what we want, is not a sign of faith, but sign of childish pride. God will do what he wants to do, but the good news is that he has a plan, and it's ultimately for our own good and for his glory.

I'm thankful for my children. God uses them to teach me lessons that I'm sometimes too dense to get otherwise. My son loves cookies. Cookies are good. He sometimes wants them to the point that he gets seriously distraught if I don't give him cookies exactly when he wants them. Would I be a good parent if I always gave my son what he wanted when he wanted it? Would he grow and be healthy if I only fed him cookies? 

Sometimes the things I want are cookie equivalents. They would be enjoyable and good, but they may not be the healthiest option for me, and God, as the perfect parent, knows when to turn down my request for something good in exchange for something that I need. 

I really wanted to participate in the program, but I have to trust that there is something else in store. Something that is not only good, but great - something that accomplishes His purposes in a way that I can't always recognize. 

I think it's perfectly natural to be disappointed, but instead of throwing myself a pity party (complete with a pint of Ben & Jerry's), I have to consider that God has something else in store. A perfect plan with eternal purposes. I choose to trust his timing and believe his promises. 

" And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28