December 22, 2014

The true gift of Christmas

My dad posted this on his Facebook page this morning and I thought it was a great reminder during this Christmas season! It helps me remember the true gift of Christmas: 

Three days to Christmas! Yesterday I made a suggestion to our congregation for the week ahead that I hope you will also consider. First, take a blank sheet of paper and write the angel's announcement in Luke 2:10-11 at the top of the page and then place the folded piece of paper in a gift box. Wrap it, put your name on it, and place it under your Christmas tree.
Second, this is not a gift to be opened with family or friends. Instead, at some point when you can be alone on Christmas Day, open the gift privately. Read the angel's announcement and circle the words "for you" or "unto you". Realize that Christmas is more than the celebration of the birth of God's Son. It is even more than the celebration of the birth of a Savior. It is more personal than that. It is the celebration of the birth of "your" Savior. As the angel announced,
"Today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (NASB)."

Personalize this on Christmas Day. Take the sheet of paper with the angel's announcement and begin to write down your painful regrets from 2014--words which should never have been spoken, actions you wish you could now take back, choices that moved you away from God instead of toward Him. Be as honest with God as you possibly can be and write them down. Acknowledge your sin before Him.
Having completed your painful list, read the angel's announcement once again. Confess your faith in Jesus' ability to forgive. He was born a Savior in order to take away ALL your sin. Place your trust then in Him and His power to forgive sin, especially the ones you struggled the most to admit. Commit your list to Him in prayer and then return it to the gift box.
Finally, with a grateful heart, take the gift box and place it in the garbage. On the days following Christmas Day, 4 million tons of wrapping paper and boxes will be thrown away. Because of the sufficiency of Jesus' love and forgiveness, allow your list of 2014 regrets to be carried away because this Christmas you are celebrating the birth of your Savior!
Will you do it? It may give you a fresh perspective on why we celebrate Christmas!

-Stephen Lowrie - 

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December 17, 2014

How to quickly (and easily) etch glass

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products I mention in the post. 

I've never claimed to be a particularly crafty person. Don't get me wrong. I love to create things, but they don't always turn out well (ahem . . . the newborn hat I tried to knit ended up being large enough for a giant man).

Anyhow. Those days are over. I have found my crafty calling. Etched glass.

It looks phenomenal and uber impressive, but it is seriously one of the easiest things in the world to do! You can have the project completed from start to finish in under 10 minutes, and it is super affordable too (chances are, you probably have half of the supplies in your house right now).

So . . . what do you need?


  • Armour Etch (I found mine at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% off coupon, but you can also find it at Amazon and have it shipped straight to your little ole house - no need to drag screaming toddlers into a store full of shiny breakable objects). 
  • Stickers - Again, I found mine at Hobby Lobby, but pretty much any crafting store will have what you need. You can use any basic sticker that you like. Amazon has a great assortment of sticker/stencils that you can re-position and re-use. My Hobby Lobby had a limited selection of the re-positionable variety, but yours might be better. You cannot use a standard stencil with this because the acid will seep under it. The stencil style will let the letter or image appear etched.(like in the letter "B" on the glass container at the top of the post). The regular sticker will leave the letter/image clear with the area around it etched (Like the name "Sarah" in the bottom picture on the glass). 
  • Brush - I used a basic crafting brush (H.L. once again), but you may have some already on hand. 
  • Painters Tape. 
  • Glass (You can etch pretty much ANYTHING. So far, I've done a wine glass, a casserole dish, a mug, a bowl, and a glass canister.) 
  • Small plastic scraper (optional)
A word about Armour Etch - PLEASE use caution. This is a strong acid . . .it eats through glass, so you probably want to avoid getting it on your skin . . .just maybe. This is also a craft that might be best to do sans kiddos. You will also want to make sure that you store this up out of the each of little hands. It can be fatal if swallowed, and although it comes equipped with a childproof lid, it's better to be safe than sorry. 

That being said, I don't usually use gloves (I work very carefully with it right by a sink), but it probably wouldn't hurt to use a pair of gloves with this project just to be on the safe side. 

If you're a visual learner, I've put together a video demonstration (or you can scroll down for written directions). 


  1. Select a glass dish, plate, bowl, or cup. If you're doing a word or phrase with multiple stickers, I like to create a line with my painter's tape just to make sure that my letters are straight. 
  2. Use alphabet stickers to create the word you would like to etch. Press all of the stickers down completely. Make sure there are no gaps or spaces for the acid to get under. 
  3. Remove the Painter's tape that you used to create your straight line. 
  4. Create a painter's tape border around the area to be etched. I like to leave about half an inch all the way around the text. Make sure the tape is straight and has no bubbles or crinkles in it. Press the tape down to ensure you have a strong seal between the tape and the glass. 
  5. Using your crafting brush, liberally coat the marked off area with the Armour Etch. You want to make sure that you have plenty of product covering the area to be etched. 
  6. Set your timer for 3-4 minutes and allow the acid to do its work. 
  7. (Optional) - to save a bit of money, you can re-use the Armour Etch. Take your small plastic scraper and gently scoop/squeegee the amour etch off our your surface and back into your jar. Make sure not to accidentally lift up your stickers. This step helps your supplies last a loooooooong time. Again, use caution to make sure you don't get it on your skin. 
  8. With most of the acid removed. Take your item to the sink and rinse it under running water. Make sure to remove all the visible acid from the surface. While still under running water, remove your painters tape and your stickers/repositionable stencils. 
  9. Rinse/wipe your dish to make sure you've removed any remaining etching solution. 
  10. Impress your friends with your custom etched glass items!
**Note: If you own a machine like a Silhouette or Cricut, you can cut any number of phrases or images to use in glass etching. If you're like me and don't have one of those fabulous contraptions, you could also try to create an image using contact paper or sticky vinyl. 

Do note that if you place a word on the underside of a dish (not simply inside/on top of it), you will need to make sure the letters are mirror images so that when you're looking through the glass, the word will be facing the right direction.

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December 15, 2014

Overcoming an Over-stuff-ed Christmas

 I don't know what it is about these last few weeks, but it seems like everywhere I turn, I'm surrounded by "stuff."

The boys room is overflowing with toys, costumes, and clothes strewn all over the floor.

My bedroom features piles and piles of plain ole stuff: papers that need to be discarded, summer clothes that still haven't made it out to the storage shed, and books that have been propped up against a wall - waiting for months to be read.

This is my "Quick! Someone's coming over, let's cram everything into a corner of my bedroom" pile.
(Please don't tell me I'm the only one who does this . . .)
It feels suffocating.

So, I sit and wonder - how did it get to this point? What can I do to address this problem? Why do I feel compelled to ignore the growing stacks of "stuff" that refuse to go away on their own?

Here's the deal: In general, we all have more than we need. We have more than enough clothing and shoes. More than enough home decor. Our children have WAY more toys than any one child could possibly play with.

And then Christmas rolls around, and I think to myself - I don't want to bring more stuff into an already stuffed house.

I think my life/house would be better off if I cut the clutter. If I SERIOUSLY took the time to go through the closets, the garage, my strategically placed piles, and asked myself these three questions:

  1. Does this item help or hinder my goals for my home?
    • Does this object have a purpose in my home or is it just taking up space? 
    • When was the last time I used this item? Does it justify holding onto it? 
    • How difficult (or expensive) would it be to replace this item later on if I decided I needed it?
  2. Does it fit? Do I wear it regularly?
    • I've discovered post-three babies, that my body is just not quite the same any more. It's shaped differently. I probably don't need to hang on to that pair of jeans from high school. By the time I fit into them again, the clothes will more than likely be out of style. . . although it may take me long enough that they'll be back in style again by the time they fit ;-)
    • Do you wear the shoes in your closet or do they just take up space?
    • Do your purses or scarves see the light of day on a regular basis or could the space be used for a better purpose.. 
  3. Why am I holding onto this item?
    • Do I keep this for sentimental reasons? 
    • Is it a gift that I feel guilty for getting rid of? 
    • Do I think I might need it . . . someday in the distant future? 

I've joked with my husband that if we ever move again, I'm donating everything and starting from scratch again. (After moving/packing four times in the first five years of marriage, I was done with the ole putting "stuff" into boxes routine.)

Soooooo . . . .all that to say. That I've been feeling convicted that I'm allowing "stuff" to crowd out the more important things. A cluttered home makes me feel cluttered mentally. My kids don't have room to play on their floors due to all of the toys on the floor.

It's all. too. much.

I'm tired of it.

SO, here's what I plan to do.

For Christmas, we're not going hog-wild with the giving of "stuff" because #1) We already have an abundance #2) That's not really what Christmas is all about #3) There are better ways to spend our resources.

My boys will be receiving
1) Something they want (a fun toy or game)
2) Something they need
3) Something to wear
4) Something to read

Santa will be contributing three fun "toys" for Christmas morning.

As far as the stuff that's currently taking up residence in my home, I am planning a strategic room-by-room purge.
  • The extra toys/outgrown children's items will make their way to a consignment sale. 
  • The extra home decor/household items will be sold (and the money put toward needed home repairs), 
  • The clothing, shoes, and bags will be donated to a local clothing mission.  

I consider you my friends. Thanks for letting my spew my mental "stuff" all over the interwebs. I think life will be better all around if I can learn how to be intentional with our time, possessions, and talents.

When it comes down to it - stuff can help or it can hinder. It can be a blessing or a burden. It can rule you or you can rule it. The stuff itself is neutral - it's what you do with it that makes the difference.

This Christmas, I want to be intentional about enjoying the people around my tree and not just the stuff under it.

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December 11, 2014

Luke 2:14

This is one of my favorite verses from the Christmas story! I hope you are getting excited for Christmas this year! I know we are at my house. 

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December 5, 2014

Why I'm glad Jesus isn't like Santa Claus

Have I mentioned how much I love Christmas?

Love. It.

I love the sights, the smells, the sounds of the holiday season.

The other day, the boys and I were listening to some Christmas tunes online and I heard the classic song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and it got me thinking - I'm sure glad that Jesus isn't like Santa Claus.

Don't get me wrong. Santa can be fun. We love leaving cookies and milk and spreading oats and glitter on the lawn for the reindeer. We hang up our stockings and watch Christmas movies featuring the big red guy, but we obviously know that Christmas is not about him. The original Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) did the things he did because of the true meaning of Christmas - the gift of the Savior (and he did it all without the aid of magical reindeer or hard-working elves).

For whatever reason that night, the song "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" really caught my attention, and it made me grateful.

You better watch out. You better not cry.
"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." John 11: 33

You better not pout
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

I'm telling you why - Santa Claus is coming to town.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” - Acts 1:11

He's making a list. He's checking it twice
"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:8-12

Gonna find out who's naughty or nice
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake 
"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me." Psalm 3:5

He knows if you've been bad or good,  
"God, You know my foolishness, and my guilty acts are not hidden from You." Psalm 69:5

So be good for goodness sake.
"Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins." Ecclesiastes 7:20

Santa's a busy man he has no time to play
"Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!" Luke 12:7

He's got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas day.
"I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." John 10:10

I don't know about you, but I'd take compassion, grace, and abundant life over a stocking full of candy canes any ole day.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't a "bash Santa" post. We do the Santa thing in our house, but we always talk about the "whys" of Christmas. Why did Saint Nicholas feel compelled to help those in need? Why do we celebrate Christmas as a family in the first place?

Why did God send a baby to be born in a stable and worshiped by some ordinary shepherds? The Christmas story itself is magical and meaningful, and the best part of all - it will never break, it will never be outgrown. It's the gift that keeps on giving. The gift of God's love and grace in the form of a tiny infant. It's a gift we could never earn on our own, and a gift that was freely given to us even when we didn't deserve it. We deserved coal, but we received compassion.

He's the reason why Christmas means so much to me.   


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December 4, 2014

Want to learn how to save at the grocery store?

This post contains affiliate links

As a single-income family, we've had to learn how to stretch a dollar. I know a lot of a families struggle and want to learn how to get the most bang for their buck!

Crystal Paine from the popular blog "Money Saving Mom" is hosting a class on how to cut your grocery expenses: Grocery University.

To celebrate the launch, she's offering the class for 50% off, but only until Midnight eastern.

For only $4.97 you get:

*A comprehensive saving strategy
*139 minutes of audio
*A 40 page workbook
*BONUS: Rock Bottom Price Database PDF

If you've ever wondered whether it's possible to shrink your grocery bill (even if you're already using coupons, etc), I'd recommend giving Grocery University a try.

. . . and the best part - if you decide you don't like it, they'll give you your money back as part of their 60 day guarantee. 

I know, that my family could benefit from saving money, so I wanted to pass on the opportunity to you,

There are only a few hours left to take advantage of the 50% off discount!

This post contains affiliate links

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December 1, 2014

Breakfast with the Fisherman

The fisherman walked along the shore of the sea. Bits of rocks and sand slipped beneath the straps of his sandals, but he was too lost in his thoughts to notice. A few others walked along slowly behind him, the sound of their footsteps broke the silence that laid heavy between them.

“I’m going fishing.”

Peter walked toward the small fishing boat shored a few paces away. John sped up, coming alongside him.

“We’ll go with you.”

James and Nathanael helped Peter slide the boat away from the shoreline. They were an interesting crew. Peter spent most of his life on these waters. After the events of the last few weeks, he needed to return to something familiar. Something that felt safe. Something he understood.

They dropped their nets into the water. The sound of the waves gently crashed against the side of the boat. It was peaceful here. They waited. They checked their nets, but nothing was there. Not even the smallest of fish could be seen among the knotted rope.

Great, thought Peter, as he worked through the knots in the net. I’ve failed as a disciple, and now I can’t even do the one thing I thought I knew how to do. I’m a fisherman who can’t even catch one single fish.

The sun had just begun its ascent over the hills. The lights streamed down the hillside and rested on the sapphire waters. In the distance, a man walked along the shoreline. His words carried on the morning breeze.

“Children, do you have any fish?”

Thomas shouted back. “No. Not a single one.”

The man walked a little closer, his body a silhouette against the rising sun.

“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

The words felt familiar. What did they have to lose? They dropped their nets back into the rippling water. Soon, the sea was alive with activity. Fish smacked the surface of the water, twisting and thrashing within the nets. All seven of them tried to pull the net back into the boat, but it was too heavy.

Peter squinted toward the shoreline. His heart started racing.  John joined him at the side of the boat. He looked down at the net full of fish and back up at the man standing on the shoreline. John slapped a hand against the fisherman’s shoulder. “It’s the Lord!”

“Thomas! Throw me my robe!” Peter quickly threw his arms into the sleeves and before anyone could stop him, he jumped right into the water, sending a splash that soaked the robes of those standing nearby.

Peter could see him more clearly now. With every ounce of energy he had left, he headed straight toward this man on the shoreline. The Lord. The one he had rejected. The one who said he would make him a fisher of men.

He rung out his robes as he walked toward a charcoal fire situated a few feet away. The smell of fish reminded him of how hungry he was. The bread. The coals. The memories all began flooding back.
Jesus placed his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “Bring some of the fish that you just caught.”

Peter joined the other disciples on the boat as they hauled the net to the shore. They laid them out along the beach, all 153 of them. Yet despite their large size and large quantity, their nets were still in perfect condition.

“Come have breakfast!” Jesus walked toward the charcoal fire and had a seat, gesturing for the others to come do the same. The sizzle of the fish on the fire was soon followed by the smell of breakfast cooking. They realized how hungry they were. Not just for the food, but for his company.

Though he looked different from what they were accustomed to, none of the disciples dared to ask “Who are you?” They knew deep within that it was the Lord. This was just like him. Peter remembered the last time Jesus asked him to lower his nets after a night of no fish. Same result. When the Master tells you to drop your nets, you drop them. He takes care of the rest.

Jesus came and took the loaf of bread and passed it around to the disciples. He then took the fish and passed it to Thomas who shared it among this unlikely band of brothers. They sat in silence for a while -each enjoying what their Lord had provided. Each inwardly treasuring the chance to sit down and have a meal with him again. How many times had they done this very thing over the last few years? 

Things were different now, and yet. in a way they remained the same. He was their Rabbi, but he was also their Lord. Peter would never have predicted that this was how the story would turn out that day he left his fishing boat and followed Jesus. Yet here they sat. Eating breakfast with the one who commands the seas. Breaking bread with the Bread of Life who was broken for them.

 John 21:1-14

Lord, help me to know where to cast my nets. I know that on my own, I'll come up empty. Help me to listen for your voice and be obedient to do as you say. Grant me the passion of Peter, to jump out of the boat and run toward you. Thank you for forgiving our shortcomings and for using broken people to accomplish amazing things for your name's sake. 


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