Huge Bible Journaling Give Away

I am SO excited about this give away!! Y’all, I have to tell you! I have been using these amazing Bible Journaling products for over a year now. I LOVE the products that Dayspring and Illustrated Faith puts out to encourage women to be in God’s Word!

I have been decluttering around my home and realized I could NEVER use this much washi tape, all of these stamps, ink pads and amazing items.

So, I want to SHARE THE LOVE with one of you!!

This box of goodies will go to ONE blessed winner and contains HUNDREDS of dollars of Bible journaling items as well as a few other goodies I am putting in the box!

All of the items in the box are from Dayspring & Illustrated Faith. There are multiple Devotional Journaling Kits, zipper bags, stamp sets, washi tape, patterned paper, ink stamps and more.

Give Away Details

Please click on this Rafflecopter Give Away to be entered!

U.S. entrants only. Give Away ends 5/15

a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Products in the Shop

Head to the shop to see new mugs & notecards! 

3 Reasons We’re Lonely and How to Cure It Now

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{Please help me welcome Lea Ann Garfias to the blog today!}

Like every great mom, I exert enormous amounts of time socializing my children. The extra classes, music rehearsals, soccer practices, part-time jobs, parties, play dates, and church activities crowd the calendar into a cacophony of social commitments — for everyone but me. Everyone is having fun with their friends except me.

I thirst for friends every bit as much, nay, more than my children do. I yearn for a kindred spirit, a companion in arms, a gal-pal. My husband is great — no, he’s smokin’ hot and crazy funny — but he doesn’t get coffee, clothes, and mental exhaustion jokes like a true girlfriend. The need is real.

But when I finally realize my thirst, it’s too late. I’m already emotionally dehydrated, parched from lack of fellowship. I have companions, prayer warriors, and soul sisters right there at my left hand, waiting for me to reach out, and I don’t even see them. All I can see is my to-do list in my right hand. My own life, my own agenda, my own needs grow great in my own sight until everyone else has faded to invisibility.

So I minimize the problem. Seriously, when was the last time we saw a mother keel over from thirst inside the Sack-n-Save? “Mom down with dehydration on aisle 7!” blares the loudspeaker. Tsk, tsk. Should have brought her water bottle, or bought a coffee on the way in, or at least sipped some of her toddler’s apple juice, we think as we nudge our cart around the corpse. Amateur.

Of course getting thirsty isn’t that big a deal — until you are admitted into the hospital for kidney problems (don’t ask me how I know). Similarly, neglecting friendships isn’t that big a deal — until our very souls are on life support.

Those dark days come when we desperately need a prayer warrior, a confidante, a warm hand. The days when the laundry won’t end, the phone won’t stop ringing, and the toddlers won’t stop destroying. The days when the sky falls, the diagnosis comes back, the job ends, the parent dies, the teen rebels, the church splits. The days when all our carefully laid plans and gingerly balanced spinning plates come crashing down, shattering at our feet. The days the dreams die.

Who do we call when we have no words to say? Who do we turn to when the burden sickens our bellies? Who can hold our sighs and our secrets until the skies clear?

God Himself knows we need others, and He declared it not good, not right at all that we be alone (Genesis 1:18). We are created for communion, for companionship. Our togetherness itself glorifies God as His ultimate plan for unified praise.

We need friends, and a friend needs us. It’s a basic life principle that we too easily forget, too casually set aside, until suddenly we find ourselves unprepared for troubles.

Two are better than one,

Because they have a good reward for their labor.

For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.

But woe to him who is alone when he falls,

For he has no one to help him up.

Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;

But how can one be warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.

And a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12; NKJV).

We struggle to make friends, making excuses instead. I’m shy. I’m an introvert. I am busy at home with my children all day. I work full time. I work from home. My church is too big; my church is too small. The church people are not friendly; there are too many cliques. But that’s all we make — excuses. More small reasons to ignore the greatest working of God through me.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NKJV).

God works His love into my life, through my life, out of my life. He reaches out of Himself to love me, shape me, grace me with His likeness, and I reflect Him by doing the same, reaching outside my four walls toward others. God’s love sees through my eyes the needs, reaches through my hands toward the needy.

Thus, the shining badge of faith becomes loving friendship. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35; NKJV).

So there are two reasons we find ourselves lonely; yea, three situations that find us without a companion: a cross-country move, a selfish attitude, a schedule that leaves no room for others. The good news is, we can cure all of those.

Moving Away

I’ve moved eight times in my life and across the country twice as an adult. I can assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt that even introverts can make friends quickly in a new town with this simple speech:

Hi, my name is _____________. I just moved here from ___________.

That’s it. Most of the time, a stranger will do the rest of the talking for you after that, maybe asking a few questions to get to know you. They will pretty much fill you in on what you need to know about the street, organization, or store you find yourself in at the time. After that, just accept her invitation to meet at the park / come over for dinner / visit her church. Keep repeating the speech until you have met so many people you can’t remember their names.

A Selfish Attitude

The second cause of loneliness, a selfish attitude, is harder to overcome, because we first have to recognize it. Indeed, it took me way too long, too many years, to recognize the real fallacy of my thinking. I was focused on the wrong things — friends for me. How selfish is that? But of course, I don’t need friends. As long as I continue evaluating relationships based on what they are doing for me, then I’m not going to value the people and opportunities that God has blessed me with. I’m not loving the way Christ loves if I’m only loving myself.

Sometimes I’m not looking to the friend at the left because I’m whining that there is nothing at the tip of my right hand. I demand my friend dress a certain way, educate her children like I do, attend my church, agree with me on politics, doctrine, music, and movies. Stay right in this place, and then I will allow you to meet my needs.

How foolish is that? Such critical attitudes oppose the very love Christ demonstrates on our behalf. The Pharisaical pride in status and association slips into our hearts and lives easier than we care to admit. God places people, loves people in various backgrounds and perspectives all around me. He’s calling me to look around and reach out.

Busy Schedules

Finally, we may be lonely because scheduling conflicts render our calendars more important than Christ-like love. Task-oriented overachievers like me fail to remember that the things we do are less important than the people we touch. If I complete all the to-do lists of men and of angels and have no time to talk with a live person, I am a worthless machine or a faithless robot (to paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13).

God’s plan is to use each of us in extraordinary ways . . . through these ordinary relationships. Our spouse. Our children. Our friends. We are not called to celebrity or fame, we are called to loving relationships. That all starts when we simply reach out.

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LEA ANN GARFIAS believes there is enough coffee in the world to make even dreadful Thursdays tolerable. In her book Rocking Ordinary (New Leaf Press), she helps ordinary moms realize their extraordinary influence. When she’s not homeschooling her four children, cheering at soccer matches, or performing the violin, she’s passed out asleep. You’ll find evidence of her existence at lagarfias.com.

Holding on to Hope in the Face of Addiction

Holding On To Hope

Please help me welcome my sweet friend Caroline Duncan to the blog today. She is sharing from the heartache of her own family’s story in the hopes of helping even one of you to know you are not alone and that there is always hope…

I walked down the steep basement stairs alongside my mother, holding hands as we descended, afraid of what kind of wreckage we would find. My brother had broken in again, this time too deliberately to be mistaken for a drugged attempt to find a place to sleep. As we surveyed the mess before us, I watched my mother’s face go pale, changing quickly from confusion to despair: a look I saw on her face far too often. Our precious books were ruined. Eleven years of stable, treasured memories were suddenly altered; destroyed. Surprisingly, grief is the first wave to hit you in a drug related crisis. There is a deep loss of the person that comes with the breaking down of memories with who you once knew.

In 1999 the United States Mint started making state quarter coins as part of an initiative to honor each state in our nation. I was eight years old at the time. I had an older brother who was eleven, a younger brother who was four, and the most spectacular parents. My dad worked during the day and came home for a brief window before going out again to his night classes shortly before our bedtime. During his time at home, we would build pine straw forts, play Legos, or chase him around the house on all fours, us being the dogs and him being the possum to catch. We would finally overtake him all at once, bringing our possum down and erupting into laughter, punching, and roughhousing. My mother was always finding sweet and interesting things for us to do together.  For one of these activities, she bought three ‘state quarter collection books.’ They were tri-fold cardboard covered in red, white, and blue and with a map of the United States inside where you could push the quarter of each state in its place. We opened our after-school presents excitedly and wrote our names in our own books. Over the course of the next eight or ten years, we collected quarters for our books.

Every time we got an Icee at the gas station or my mother checked out at a store, we excitedly searched through the change for a state quarter. Each time it was followed with ‘Whose turn is it to put the new quarter in their book?’ If there were three state quarters, we each got one. We would hold them tightly in our hands until we got home. Our mother would get our books and we would push our quarters into their places, comparing who had what states left and who had the most quarters.  As we got older, the excitement of getting a quarter faded, but the competition remained on who would get all their quarters first. We mostly cared to show mom that we loved her and cared that she created a fun memory for us. I don’t remember when each of us got them or who won, but I know I was almost 14 by the time my book was filled. Our books sat propped up on the bookshelves, a secure memory of togetherness and intentionality shown by our beloved parents.

As a 20-year-old at the bottom of those basement stairs, I held my emptied quarter book in my hands and held back tears while I watched my mother hold my brothers’ books in disbelief. How did we get here? What had our loved one needed so badly that he would steal our quarters from our books; corrupting valued memories with the ones he loved most? Knowing that the quarters only equaled $37.50, not nearly enough for the next hit of drugs, in exchange for priceless memories was too much pain to bear.

That is the strangest thing I’ve learned about addiction:  it is a process of grieving that steals memories and damages your past as much as your present and future. Questions relentlessly press on us when we stare into the face of addiction, questions about God and questions about ourselves. Where is God when we can’t find one another? Where is God when the present darkness takes over memories we’ve already made? Where is God when despair replaces hope and when disappointment becomes as natural as breathing?

Addiction spreads as quickly as a wildfire, affecting friends, family, co-workers, schoolmates, sometimes before the beloved addict even knows what they have started. The effects of the addiction slowly but surely break you down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I have learned much in my 25 years but have not learned it all, and am so very far from mastering one of the most basic concepts; hope. After becoming a Christian at age 15 I struggled with guilt over not having hope in the face of addiction. It felt strange to my young mind that a Christian would struggle with hope, since hope in Jesus and the cross is the basis for our belief system. Shouldn’t I have faith like a child and hope for the best, letting go of the pain of the past and fear of the future? As I’ve grown older, I realized that it felt strange to me to feel hopeless because so many in the church aren’t honest about their own problems grasping it. I went from a confused (but seeking answers) 15 year old to a bitter 19 year old and then moved to a complete disillusionment with Christians by the time I graduated college as a 22 year old.

In the last few years, I have finally learned that God still brings freedom and hope, even in the face of hopelessness and the shame over feeling the loss of hope in my spiritual life. Together, we have forged through more addiction-related crisis and painful moments than I care to recall. God and I, we have moved through the moments hand in hand, sometimes walking steadily, and sometimes feeling like I couldn’t get my face off the ground and wipe my tears away to manage one more breath.

Hope, alongside life, seems to operate in past, present, and future tense. Those early days spent getting our quarters and being children were filled with hope, untouched by addiction and grief. Satan tries to use addiction to not only ruin your present days and worry for the future, but it also takes you backwards, wondering what you could have done differently, and wondering if life was as charmed and simple as you saw it then. Luckily, through Christ, I have cast off shame from my struggle to believe, my struggle to hope. Thankfully, I serve a living God, a strong God, a faithful when I’m faith-less, God. Romans 4:18A; 20-21 says, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” God has showed me that while I will pray in hope against addiction, and without knowing what kind of answers I will get to those prayers, I can grasp onto the hope that God has given me through my own deliverance.

God has promised to be there. God has promised me that He holds my heart and my family in his hands, giving me Hope. Always giving me more hope.

**Read the new spiritual memoir, All The Pretty Things, by Edie Wadsworth for another story of HOPE and REDEMPTION in the midst of addiction and loss. 

 

caroline-picI’m Caroline Duncan. I live just outside of Asheville, North Carolina in Swannanoa with my husband Curt & my beautiful eight month old daughter Arden. We serve at Biltmore Church where Curt is the Student Pastor. After growing up with addiction intertwining itself around myself and many of my family members, I found freedom through Jesus Christ and have sought hard after Him and encouraging others to find their own freedom. My very favorite thing in the world is to come alongside others on a daily basis and fight for hope amidst our struggles. I spend my days molding my sweet girl, doing ministry work alongside our awesome church, making, taking, & eating tons of food, and having intriguing conversations with our students, usually over a waffle house table, about living a fulfilling life with God.

Our God Stories

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{Thank you to my dear friend, Denise, for this guest post. Keep reading for the give away at the end of the post!} 

Writing a book and birthing a baby seem to be a pretty common comparison. And now I see why. Being the clever person that I am, I have tried to come up with a better analogy—mainly to get the visual of “that face” out of my mind—you know the one of the woman being told just one more push. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find one that communicates all the components and emotions quite as well.

Candace was the first person outside my family that I gave a book to. She was the first person I trusted with my baby. I knew that she was gentle and kind and encouraging. I knew that if she had to tell me it was terrible, she would do it with so much grace, I would probably not even realize she was doing it. Candace is a nice person and a good friend.

As it turns out, I think she may have liked it, since she came back to buy ten more and invited me to share about it on her blog.

My baby, Little Cabin on the Trail, is my attempt at convincing people to be intentional about making meaningful memories and to be intentional about becoming their family storytellers. Our personal stories have great value and are the glue that connects generations.

I do realize that some of you are just trying to make it through the day with little ones, and you probably don’t care about generation-connecting at this point. That’s okay. You may just need to think of your stories as the glue that keeps your children in their seats at the dinner table. Yep, start telling stories about your childhood, and I guarantee a captive audience.

The book breaks down the process in true storytelling fashion. I share a lot of my own family tales that have the potential to make you laugh or cry or both. We’ve traveled the roads of adventure, faith, and even grief. And we’ve met many colorful people along the way. Oh, don’t go thinking we are anything special, because we are just as ordinary as the next family.

As a matter of fact, one of my ordinary children told me this year that he hated Christmas. What? After I just wrote and published a book where I touted the benefits and importance of family traditions? He made me wish I had not been quite so generous with my compliments of his achievements in the chapter entitled “Family Fodder.”

No sense expounding on that subject. Let’s move on to the chapter, “Extreme Faith,” where I share the importance of setting up some memorial stones to remind our families when God came through for us in big ways.  An excerpt:

This chapter is about storytelling that is the result of serious risk-taking, not the in-the-moment-take-a-chance kind where not much is at stake. Serous risk-taking is usually preceded by serious prayer and planning as well as some serious nail-biting. It can be compared to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry land. When it is over, you are given the opportunity and, I think, the responsibility to to set up some memorial stones for your future generations.

Referring to this section of my book, a reader recently sent the following question:

“I hate to sound unspiritual, so I humbly ask . . . What do you mean by ‘memorial stones’?”

I told her to read Joshua 4 where the Israelites had just crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, and Joshua instructed them to take twelve stones from the river bed to make a memorial.

And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (verses 21-24)

I don’t know about you, but I think the timing of Joshua’s idea was both brilliant (it was a lot easier to gather the rocks while the river bed was dry) and a little discouraging (he was assuming that they would need to be reminded of such a great event).

I don’t think I would have needed a pile of rocks to remember to talk about a thing like the sea being parted.

And yet . . .

I have forgotten.

I have forgotten to tell my children many things—important things.

I have forgotten to tell my children of times when God has provided, comforted, directed, forgiven . . . I have neglected to tell them the God stories that make our family unique, stories that grew out of love and faith and hardship and everyday life.

Sometimes we do need to stop and pick up those stones and make those memorials. Sometimes we need to be reminded to tell those stories. Because just like in the times of Joshua, our God stories are this generation’s memorial stones. They will be what waters the seeds of hope in our children’s hearts for years to come.

memorialstones

When we go to visit the real Little Cabin on the Trail in Damascus, Virginia, we almost always walk along the creek looking for treasures: broken pieces of bottles, plates, cups, and whatever that have traveled downstream. Every single item carries with it a piece of the past. Unlike at the beach where such treasures are scarce, we’ve collected enough of the smooth, colorful creek glass to fill many jars. I can only imagine the lives of the Appalachian people that are represented by each piece.

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Those pieces of glass also represent the faithfulness of God in our lives. They have become my memorial stones, giving testimony of a time when God came through for us when our hearts were so broken that we doubted they would ever heal. They remind me how we came to own the Little Cabin on the Trail and how the book of the same name grew to be what it is.

I don’t think I will ever tire of the hunt—even if I fill 12 jars. Because I love being reminded and I need to be reminded that “the hand of the Lord is mighty.” And in years to come, I hope my children and their children will look at those jars and be reminded to tell the story of when God parted the sea for our family.

And just in case they do forget, I wrote about it in my book.

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Denise Mahr Voccola is a dear friend of mine. She has spent her life bravely walking the balance beam between responsible and crazy in her quest to make meaningful, storytelling-worthy memories with her family. Three generations of her family share a historic home in Morristown, Tennessee. She and her two daughters, Kelly and Tessa, also share a blog home, Fifty Seventy Ninety. You can also see pictures from each chapter of her book on this page

 

Give Away Details

This give away is now closed! Congrats to Morgan, Debbie and Kristina! 

Waiting on God: Your Stories {Give Away}

Learning to Wait on God Your Stories  MercyIsNew.com

What is the trial God has placed before you? Infertility? Adoption? Depression? Health issues? Marriage? Ministry? Moving? Grief? Whatever your struggle is, the women who have shared as a part of this series have blessed me tremendously with their words of hope as they have turned to God amidst their pain.

I cannot believe we are at the end of this amazing series. 16 phenomenal women have shared how they have waited on the Lord, in good times and bad, how their faith has grown and their trust has been deepened.

What I love most about these stories is that not all of them had happy endings. Just like in life, for each of us, we don’t always get the fairy tale ending we’ve been dreaming of. Yet, so often that is what we find ourselves waiting on. So, when we do find ourselves waiting on the wrong things, we become fear filled, we lack peace and we are discontent.

When we learn to place our hope in God alone, when we truly wait for Him and not our circumstances to change, THEN we are filled with His peace.

I encourage you to read back over each of these posts and let your heart be encouraged.

Give Away Details

This give away is now closed, the winner is Donna! Thank you all for entering!

Prizes for One Winner

Print copy of Wait Only Upon God.

Wait Only Upon God Devotional

 

One Great is His Faithfulness Coffee Mug

Great is His Faithfulness mug 2