Who I Am With You

posted in: Books | 0

I love it when a book comes in the mail – and you read it, love it – and it introduces you to a whole new author that you’ve not read before.  When I finished Who I Am With You – I read one of Hatcher’s Christmas novellas over the winter holidays.

Who I Am With You tells a story of learning how to move on after heartache – moving on after life doesn’t turn out how you think it is supposed to.  It is endearing and a good Christian Romance that isn’t too cheesy.

At 300 pages it is a lovely day read, curled up in a blanket on a couch!

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the book – and all opinions are my own.

Here is a giveaway where you can win a copy of the book!  Go check it out!

Best Ways to Pamper Mom (giveaway)

posted in: mothering | 16

May is here in all its gorgeousness and it is a month to celebrate moms.  Moms all play a special role in our lives (whether birth, foster, adopted, or mentor mom).  We owe a lot to our moms: knowing how to tie our shoes, feeding us, making our school lunches, driving carpool, talking late in to the night about first boyfriends, being our biggest cheerleaders, praying for us, celebrating our biggest and smallest victories.  The list never ends.

How do you celebrate your mom?  Or another way to ask it: how would you like to be celebrated?  This is a list of the ways that would be good to pamper me with – and hopefully you can get some ideas to pamper your mom with (or give the list to your husband and ask him).

  1.  A night away or a weekend away (solo or a couple’s weekend – no kids).  This is honestly what I ask for every year.  Depending on our budget it might be a day or night away by myself or just a day in town doing my favorite things without the kids.  The top three within a few hours of ATL that I would love to stay at is: Old Edwards Inn, Blackberry Farm, or Serenbe.  We’ve celebrated a birthday at Serenbe, but would love the chance to stay there and eat at their amazing restaurant.  Of course for me, the beach is ideal, and I’m always home there, but right now its a little far for an overnight.  It if were a luxury beach trip, I’d stay here.  This year for me I’m getting a day off to do some things I love.  I’m heading south of ATL to do a styled shoot then stay and enjoy brunch, coffee, hiking, exploring, shopping, all by myself, which is so refreshing.

2.  A great meal.  We moms usually spend a lot of time in the kitchen or the drive-thru line or the grocery store.  It is fun to be able to eat without working for it.  My mister and I are going to a new-to-us place in Buckhead this May.  My mister and I love food.  For us though, we’ve learned that we love good food but the prices are so high for good food here in ATL, that we’d rather just cook it at home after the boys go to bed.  And we love to cook for each other.


3.  Gifts.  My mister and I love giving gifts.  When our bank account doesn’t let us give as big or as often as we would like, we have to get creative.  Something both of us do for each other is we keep a gift list.  It is a google doc list that both of us can always see and edit, and we love to surprise each other when we can.  Right now, here are some of the things on my list.  A subscription to this magazine, a gift card to this place (my fave in ATL), or concerts to some of my favorite artists.

4.  Pampering.  What woman doesn’t enjoy some pampering from time to time?  Whether its a facial or a massage, a manicure or a pedicure, time at the spa is usually quiet and wonderful.  But, sometimes you can’t get to the spa.  Its hard especially with young kids.  Well, if you don’t have time or money to get away to a spa this Mother’s Day, I’ve got a special package just for you. The ladies at Moody Sisters, who I have worked with before creating delicious healthy recipes, have given me a special Spring package just for you, a blessed winner.  The set you will receive if you win includes: this scrub, this lotion, and this powder.  I’ve been using this for the last month and love it.  My face always feels super soft after the scrub.  My skin feels refreshed in the morning when I wake up (even my hands, because of course that’s how I put on the scrub).  The floral smell reminds me of spring in the South so I definitely love that.  Moody Sisters makes all of their skin care line with natural ingredients.  I love how they interact with their customers and want to make you feel special, especially as a Mom this Mother’s Day.  And you don’t have to leave your house to be pampered.  After your kids go to bed, turn on a shot bath or shower, play some music, use these Moody Sister’s products, and you’ll be all set!

So, here’s how you get entered to win.

  1.  Leave a comment on the blog telling me what your favorite Mother’s Day gift would be.
  2. For another entry: go over to Moody Sisters and tell me what you would like to use next.

And to all you mamas out there – you are loved.  You are delighted in.  You are seen and known.

You’ll also get some lovely goodies from me.  This post is sponsored by Moody Sisters and all thoughts are my own.

Sadness in a Joyful Season

posted in: Books | 0

It is just 9 days before Christmas, everyone is hurrying around, crossing items off their lists, getting dressed up to attend Christmas parties, and drinking eggnog.  Maybe blaring Christmas music from the ipods and car radios.  Making peppermint bark and addressing those family Christmas cards.

It is definitely meant to be a joyful season – the reason being is that Jesus came to earth as a baby and we celebrate that at Christmas time.

But, what do you if your holidays are mixed with sadness?  This world is full of sadness, and maybe, as you look back over 2016, you realize that your life is more sad than happy, not going quite like you wanted or hoped it would.

Sadness is not a sin.  We see throughout the Psalms (especially) that the writers were sad: they were saddened by the events going on around them.  They were sad because of things happening to them.  They were just sad.  And that was ok.  We need to dwell on what is going to happen with our sadness?  Do we have to immediately dismiss it and never deal with it – no.  We need to think about it, think about why we are sad, maybe get someone to help think through our sadness, and let God have it.  Let Him take away your sadness.

You may be sad because of relationships that are broken.  You may be sad because you’ve lost loved ones over the past year.  Maybe you are sad because you were hoping to share Christmas with a new baby but that baby was lost to a miscarriage.  There is so much sadness.  We need to be mindful of other’s sadness and have compassion on them.

Tanika Fitzgerald, in her book Miscarried Joy, helps point women to the gospel who have suffered a miscarriage, but the truths that she encourages women with would be applicable to anyone who who has been dealing with hurt and needs some help helping your heart.  You need to hear these gospel truths that God is for you, delights in you, and is working in you even through pain.  This season of Advent and Christmas can help you realize that there will come a time when Jesus makes everything sad become untrue (thanks Sally Lloyd-Jones for that one).

You can win a copy of Miscarried Joy and other goodies before Christmas!


How to Find Practical Parenting Help (and giveaway)

posted in: Books, parenting | 5

One thing that I think every parent longs for is a how-to manual.  Well, maybe that, sleep, silence, and some time alone, and more money, but I digress.

How-to manuals do not exist.  They don’t.  I think it is mainly because every child is different so I don’t know how anyone would write one anyway.

I’ve only been parenting for over 4 years now – two boys are different then I thought they would be, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just different.  So, where do I turn for parenting advice?

Actually, my number one piece of advice on how to find parenting advice: seek out parents whose parenting style (and kids) you actually like/respect.  Find a couple who has parented well (and of course, every parent makes mistakes) and ask them to hang out with you (and your kids) and give you pointers.  In our parenting careers, there are a few parenting pairs who are further along in the parenting journey than we are – that we respect them, their walk with God, and how their kids have turned out – and we ask them questions.  When I’m facing a decision or a discipline issue, I want tangible advice, so I text a friend or send an email to a few moms.  They are a wealth of information.

Here’s what you need to do though.  If you ask a few people, and they may each give you different advice – you still have to work it out in your own home.  I take in all the advice, run it by my husband, talk to him about it, get on the same page, try it out, and maybe still regroup if that doesn’t work.  Everyone will give you advice on how to raise your kids – but you can’t possibly take all the advice you receive.  God has given you a teammate (hopefully) in your spouse, and he’s given you the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom and partnership, prayer and community.

Another helpful tool in the parenting game is books.  I’m an avid reader and honestly had read most of the philosophical parenting Christian books before I even had kids.  I worked in ministry with parents and went to seminary in the Christian education department.  But, man, it is different applying all of those when you have kids.  One book I recently have read is Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Became Parents by Gary Chapman (of the Five Love Languages fame).  Through general topics, real-life experience, humor, and practical steps, talking points, and hope – he helps parents navigate through some big obstacles in parenting.  I wasn’t surprised by any of his topics, and most of his advice was a refresher course, but so helpful to hear tips from someone who has been there and done that. One of the aspects of the book I like the most is the talking points at the end of each chapter.  Parenting is tough.  When you are talking about it with your spouse, or if you are a solo parent, with others – you are already anchored with questions to ask, or discussion questions to help point you in the right direction.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, then just leave me a comment with the best piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received.  That’s it.  Thanks to Sidedoor Communications and Northfield Publishing for the chance to read this book, give a copy away, and all opinions are my own.

Ways to Fight for Your Marriage (Giveaway)

posted in: Uncategorized | 6


Some things in life are not worth fighting over: team sports, lesser theological topics, some political issues, etc.  But, there are definitely some things worth fighting for: marriage is one of them.  And the only one you are totally responsible for is your own.  Yes, you can pour into other couples and their marriage and you can disciple others, but ultimately you are only responsible for your own.

Being married for 5 years, and having gone through some really difficult circumstances in those 5 years: out-of-state moves, job changes, traumatic birth, another birth soon after, commission jobs, change in life direction, loss of friendships, damaging personal relationships…we’ve had to fight for our marriage.

Here are some things we do to fight for our marriage:

  1.  Sometimes, you go to bed angry.  Ok – we’ve all heard the saying don’t go to bed angry, and the principle is biblical (don’t let the sun go down upon your anger).  We’ve learned that one thing we can do when we are angry with each other is sometimes just go to bed.  When we are tired and crabby and angry – we usually don’t have healthy conversations.  So, we will call it a night, go to bed, and typically by morning, we are better.  We will still have some things to talk about, but we have rested, prayed, and calmed down.
  2. Taco Night.  Often times during the week my husband and I don’t eat meals together.  He’s at work, I eat with the kids, he gets home late, etc.  But, on Sunday nights, as far as it is up to us, about 830pm, after the kids are in bed, I get Chipotle tacos and guac – 12$ if we buy two guacs.  We sit on the couch, talk, eat, laugh.  Sometimes we will talk for about 3 hours – something we did when we were dating, married but didn’t have children, you know the scene.  Sometimes we will watch a show on Netflix (right now: Leverage, West Wing, Blacklist).  Just sitting shoulder to shoulder, eating yummy food (that I didn’t have to cook), and talking or just being with each other – ends our weekend, long Sunday, and spurs us on to be married another week.  I love it!
  3. Being in the Word.  We do not do our devotions together.  We actually find it hard to pray together and it is something we are working at.  But, we do each have time in the Word each day, and that helps us love God and love each other better.  I often tell him what I need: more of Jesus, more of him.  Two things I can never have too much of.  Cary and Dena Dyer have written a book for couples, a compilation of their story as a couple, humor, biblical wisdom for married couples, and discussion questions.  A couple things I really liked about the book was they shared their own stories.  Some marriage books give tips and pointers but don’t delve into their personal marriage any.  I love people’s stories and I want to know how they live their marriage each day.  Another thing I liked was the talking points at the end of each chapter.  Some couples find it hard to talk – or find things to talk about – and need help.  One thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t see my husband reading this book.  It didn’t seem to fit a guy writing/reading style.  I know most books are bought and read by women.  So, maybe how a wife could do incorporate Love at First Fight into her marriage is by bringing up some of the questions to her husband.
  4. Get the long vision.  I heard one time that marriage is a long walk in the same direction.  Get a long vision of marriage.  We seemingly have been in one hard season after another in our 5 years of marriage.  And maybe one day the hard season will end, but we know that we wouldn’t want to walk these hard seasons alone, or with anyone else.

If you would like to win a copy of Love at First Fight, just leave a comment on your best marriage tip.  Sponsored by Shiloh Publishers and Sidedoor Communications.  All thoughts are my own.

Do You Struggle with Shame? (Interview and Giveaway)

posted in: Books | 2

In today’s world, as a woman with any title, career, family status, marital status, or body type – you have probably struggled with shame over something.

Maybe its your infertility and you think its your fault?

Maybe its over your husband’s sexual sin – or your own sexual sin?

Maybe its because your children regularly disobey you in public settings?

Maybe its because you binge or purge with your relationship with food?

Maybe its because your house doesn’t look like a Pottery Barn magazine like the rest of the homes in the neighborhood?

Maybe its because of the debt that you know has a hold on you – and your checkbook?

Maybe its because you are the only single woman at your high school reunion?

All of these situations can produce shame.  But, they don’t have to.  If you are in Christ, there doesn’t need to be any shame.  You are righteous in Christ.  You can not be condemned (Romans 8).  He is yours and you are His.  Sin, rightly so, needs to be repented of and turned away from – but you don’t need to feel shame.  Shame even happens in relationships in our churches.  Maybe we don’t live up to certain standards.  Oh, friends, don’t let shame run your heart and mind.

Laura Dingman recently published a study on shame and how we can let the Word and Jesus help us.  I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions (to help you get to know the book and her better).  Keep reading and there will be a great giveaway at the bottom of this post:

Why this study?  Why now?

I think a lot of writers end up penning what they’ve learned firsthand. That’s my experience, anyway. I feel like I can only write about that which I have lived. These are lessons God has taught me over the past several years. Lessons about who I really am in Christ. Lessons about why I really hide and how I deal with shame. Lessons about what it looks like to partner with friends for the sake of the Gospel. Lessons about God’s relentless love that just never quits pursuing. So, the short answer is it happens to be what I’ve been learning. The other piece is it seems to be a conversation I’m having a lot with people I’m doing life with—whether in ministry or just life in general. Shame cripples us and keeps us from so many things. The conversations about connection are growing right now as well. The Gospel story offers a solution to shedding shame and connecting with others. It seems to be relevant in our current cultural climate.

As you teach women to study the word, what is the one thing you hope they walk away with?

I pray they have a greater understanding of how Christ actually views them. That Jesus loves them enough to give his life away. That He values them and they matter to the Kingdom. I pray they know they were once lost and now have a place at the table with the King.


For those who want to be a writer, or ministry leader, how do you balance ministry life and personal life? 

This is something I’m still trying to learn!

Don’t be afraid to say no.

Don’t be afraid to prioritize the relationships that matter most—the ones under your roof.

Beth Moore has a great quote: “God will never call you to sacrifice your intimacy with Him on the altar of ministry.” This is so true. I think it’s also true of intimacy in your most important relationships as well. If something is suffering—your family life, your relationship with God, the fruit of the Spirit, your awareness of God’s presence—you’re probably doing something God hasn’t called you to do. It’s that simple.

So much of the time we do more than we need to do. We are driven by “should.” Wayne Cordeiro wrote an excellent book called Leading on Empty in which he talks about your 5%. He explains that as leaders we typically focus on the 95% instead of the 5%. Your 5% consists of things only YOU can do. For me, I’m Matt’s only wife (and I’d like to keep it that way!), and Abigail’s only momma. No one else can substitute for me in those areas. No one else can care for or steward my body for me. These are the things in my 5%. I’m a writer. Other people can write. I’m a worship leader. Other people can lead worship. I’m a Bible teacher. Other people can teach the Bible. If I lose sight of my 5% because of the 95%, I’m out of balance and in need of recalibrating. It’s hard to say no in our culture because we don’t want to disappoint people. I’m a recovering perfectionist and a people pleaser, so it’s extra hard for me. But when I do exercise the power of a well-placed no—which ultimately leads to the even greater power of a well-placed yes—the difference astounds me.

The more my identity is secured in Christ, the easier it is for me to stay balanced. I’m not searching for approval and acceptance based on what I’m achieving. Instead, I’m allowing the Creator to love me and give me worth. And from that place, I can do good works He planned for me long ago.

Laura’s book, I Am Found, is helpful with Scripture, probing questions, and her desire is for you not to be perfect, but to rest in and pursue Jesus.  His love for you – let that be where you find your identity.  If you would like to win a copy, please leave a comment here or on social media with a verse that helps you when you have those less-than-perfect moments.  Thankful that she wrote this study and allows women to come wholly to the Word to experience freedom in the gospel.

Thanks Side Door Communications for the book and the giveaway.  All opinions are my own.



Colors, Pre-Teens, and the Bible (Giveaway)

posted in: Bible | 1

Back in my pre-married days, way back even pre-seminary days, I started out in ministry doing youth ministry.  A few people in St. Augustine believed in me, and let me love on teenagers through the ministry of Young Life, and the local church, Anastasia Baptist.  I’m grateful for those people in my life who believed in the gifts and heart that God had given me.

I still, even 2+ decades later, still love teenagers and discipling them – helping them pour into relationships, Jesus, and the Word.

The Color Code Bible (in NKJV) is a helpful new Bible perfect for young teenagers (or even pre-teens) with a fun way for them to start learning how to study the Bible on their own.  A neat and very helpful way to get teenagers to study the Bible is by introducing them to topical studies.  This Bible is helpful in that by giving them colors on certain topics of the Bible, like God, Jesus, sin, praise, assurance of heaven and hope, etc.

If you are wanting a new Bible to give to your son or daughter (or niece, nephew, grandchild), this would make a great gift.  And why not study along with them – that may spur them on to study the Bible for themselves even more.

If you would like to win a copy of this, (Thanks Tommy Nelson for my copy and the giveaway copy), just answer the following: what is your favorite way to connect with your teenager/pre-teen?

Engaging Your Kids with the Bible

posted in: Bible, Books | 5

Now that school is starting back, most people are quickly engaging their kids with lots of tools to help them learn: ipads, calculators, folders, trapper keepers (wait, that was 30 years ago), fun pencils, Lisa Frank goodies, locker mirrors, back packs, lunch boxes with a favorite character on it.

A mom I know asked on facebook last night when did sending a kids to school get so expensive?  Everything adds up – all in the name of engaging the learner.

Something I loved from when I was a kid was going to the dentist and reading Highlights.  I loved it.  I can’t wait till my kids get old enough to read them.  One of my favorite features in each magazine was the story with the pictures in them (instead of the word).

So, when I received the Look and Tell Bible I was so excited because it was like my favorite kids magazine in the Bible.  How neat.

I had another mom over and showed this to her.  She tried to let her son read it, but some of the names in the stories were hard to figure out.  My kids only know general times like lion, ark, etc.  They wouldn’t know a lot of the specific Bible characters yet.

But, I think this book does really well at engaging older preschool children – maybe 4-5 year olds.  If you would like to win a copy of this beautiful hardback book with lots of fun Bible stories in it, just tell me what your favorite school supply was when you were growing up!  (Or maybe you still have a favorite school supply).

Thanks Tommy Nelson for this book, and the giveaway copy.  All opinions are my own.


The Word and Music (Giveaway)

We have started to see some exciting things in our boys!  They are not only able to learn the Word, but they are eager to do it!

When we moved into our new rental home, we started making a concerted effort to teach our kids the Word.  We knew this would not only help us but also help them.  We started with “When I am afraid I will trust in you.”  Then we have been working on Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”  It is so cute to hear them say it, to say it at random times, and to want to say it all by themselves.

Another great way to teach kids Scripture is through music.  And Seeds Worship has some great music that teaches kids the Word of God.  It is a joy to hear them singing in the backseat as we drive to donut day, to church, or to the park.

One of my favorites right now by Seeds is their Praise CD.  Has some great verses on it for kids (and adults) about trusting, our words, and the Word of God.  I love singing along to it – and even getting my littles to “dance” in the car with me – so when others look in from the outside they won’t think I’m the only strange one.  The songs Sing for Joy and Mighty to Save are two of my personal faves that I just SING LOUD on!  I want to teach my children to sing for everything they have – sing with abandon to the God who created them.

If you would like to win the Praise CD from Seeds, just tell me what songs you and your children love to sing.  And I’ll pick a winner soon.

Seeds sent me these CDs to listen to and love, but all opinions are my own!

Helping Your Children Be Adventurers (Book Giveaway)

posted in: Books, parenting | 1

Good Night Little Love

One of the biggest delights I get as a mommy to littles is their “wow” or the “oooooh” when they see new things.  Or how they exclaim “the lions” when they know we are going to the zoo.  Or when my little is watching How To Train Your Dragon and he pretends he is a dinosaur breathing fire.

Their little imaginations are fantastic.

And I want to help them be adventurers with their imaginations.  So, we color, and read, and watch cartoons to help them learn to see new worlds.  We go to the zoo to help them learn about animals.  We go to parks to play with friends who might not look exactly like us.

I want to take them to see the world…some day.  But until then maybe we can just pray for missionaries who are serving Jesus around the world.  And eat guacamole with the hopes of going Mexico one day (wait, that may be a dream of mine to return to the country that gives me my favorite appetizer).

The new book that Tommy Nelson sent me – just in time for Valentine’s Day – is all about you, your little love, and the many adventurers you will have.  Here are some examples from the book and how you can do them in your own home or with your own little love:

“Stars shimmer in the sky” – when we leave the gym and if it is dark, we look at the sky and try to find the moon.  Maybe we’ll see some stars.  I want to tell them how God created all we see and he created them for his glory and our good.

“What happy paths we’ll take” – getting out and getting physical activity is not only fun but also healthy.  There are several trails around our city and we like exploring them and finding sticks, rock, leaves, and bugs (I have boys, right?).

“Our friends will tag along.” – This is a great one to start insisting to your children that the friends they make will influence them.  This is an important message in the Proverbs.

“We’ll look at mirrored faces” – We go to a local pond and look in the water.  We waive at ourselves.  This is a good point to make: our outward countenance should reflect what is in our heart.  Like the songs says, I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart…”

“We’ll smell the pretty roses.” – This would be a good investment: teach your children to love on others by simple acts of kindness – like bringing flowers to widows in your neighborhood or church, or to single mothers (especially this time of year), or bring donuts! Yum.  Just teach them to be a blessing to others – even with a homemade card.  Some friends were watching our boys yesterday and my boys delivered homemade valentines when they returned to our house.  What a sweet gesture.

“We fold our hands to pray.” – Our littler boy – when we go to pray at the dinner table, bows his head and folds his hands.  That’s the cutest little clasp.  But, I love it, so sweet.  I pray that he will grow up to love Jesus with all his heart, even more than he loves cookies and balls.

God has a great adventure awaiting your child.  Help them see it.  What is something you like doing with your toddler to help them be on an adventure.  Answer this question and I’ll a book to give away to one winner.  Will pick it on Sunday!