With All Joy

Children's sermons, resources for parents, and a little life

Reading and Leading Through the Psalms

Men, let’s face it. Being the spiritual leader of our families is a daunting task… and it should be. For most of us, there is no higher calling, so feeling a little overwhelmed is only natural. It is a good thing because it shows we understand the significance of the task. But we can also be intimidated for some other, not so good reasons. Not the least of these reasons is a feeling of personal, spiritual inadequacy. It is that lack of confidence that I hope to address with this series, “Reading and Leading”, which will provide a framework for studying the Bible both on your own and with your family. To begin, we are going to lay a foundation for how to read and study the Bible in general. Then in the coming weeks we are going take a closer look at how to approach specific books (or types of books) of the Bible in particular. To break things up, I will also periodically post on other topics related to being a father/husband.


Disclaimer: The psalms are not my favorite part of the Bible to read, and I find them quite difficult to study.  That said, I believe that they too are the inspired word of God, useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:17), and I do believe that they can be especially useful in family worship.  That is because these musical poems were designed to lead the people of Israel in worship, and I think that they can still teach us a thing or two about worshiping the great I AM today.

Introduction to the Psalms

Before we dive into our weekly example, we need to address some interpretative difficulties specific to the psalms.  First, we need to understand that each psalm functions as an intact literary unit with a purpose.  The purpose of the psalms varies widely throughout the book, but the psalms can be grouped into broad categories, which can help us better comprehend them.  These categories include laments, psalms of thanksgiving, hymns of praise, psalms of salvation history, psalms of celebration and affirmation, wisdom psalms, psalms of trust, and imprecatory psalms (address our anger to God).  Whatever category they fit into (and psalms can span several of these categories), the psalms are always poetic and incorporate common poetic devices such as imagery, allusions, metaphors, hyperbole, etc.  One device that is extremely common in the psalms is called parallelism, which is when a pair of lines play off of one another, either by reiteration or contradiction.  For example, Psalm 78:4 says,

“We will not hide them from their children,

but tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the LORD, and

his might,

and the wonders that he has done.”

The poetic nature of the psalms can present some interpretative difficulties because it means that we should not read the psalms literally, per se.  If you find yourself bogged down, I encourage you to pick up some of the resources that I mentioned in my first post of this series.  I would also suggest C. S. Lewis’ book Reflections on the Psalms.

So without further ado… Let’s open up our Bibles to Psalm 78.

Question #1: What Does It Say?

First things first, we need to try to assign this psalm a category.  What do you think?  I think it is a combination of a wisdom psalm and a psalm of salvation history.  That sort of tells you something about the main thesis or overall goal of the psalm, doesn’t it?  Fortunately, we are not left on our own, even to figure out something as basic as that.  In verses 2-8, the psalmist comes right out and tells us that his goal is to inspire the current generation of Israelites to pass on their faith to the future generations (note that this is not limited to this psalm, but the theme is repeated in Psalm 145:4).  He then spends the rest of the psalm recapping the grand story of God’s salvation of his chosen people.  This can really be broken down into three events that repeat in a cyclic fashion.

Cycle of God's Wrath and Mercy

It is clear that the psalmist really wants the children of the people of Israel, and their children, to understand God’s wrath and God’s mercy.

Question #2 What Does It Mean?

This psalm is an honest evaluation of the human condition- naturally rebellious against God (side note- all sin is a form of rebellion against God).  Of course, this is not just a theme here, but elsewhere in Scripture (see Romans 3Psalm 14; Psalm 53; and Isaiah 53:6).  But more than that, it tells us how God deals with our rebellion.  In his holiness, he hates it, and he righteously punishes it.  Like a father, he disciplines those who rebel because he loves them (Hebrews 12:5-6).  But God is not only just, he is merciful.  Is this not exactly who God proclaimed himself to be to Moses when he hid him in the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33-34)?  The history of Israel is filled with countless stories of God’s mercy toward them.  It is clear that the psalmist hoped that the remembrance of these truths of God’s holiness and his mercy, and the act of passing them on to the coming generations would help them to remain faithful to God and not fall into rebellion against him.

As Christians, we see an even bigger picture of redemption history than the psalmist did.  We know the rest of the story, and we understand that God’s wrath and mercy were ultimately and simultaneously manifested on the cross.  It was at that point that the cycle was broken.  God is still holy and he still hates sin, but sin was dealt with on the cross and his mercy and grace triumphed over it (Roman 6:6).  God is both the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).  How much more should we revel in Him than the psalmist ever could?

What Do I Do About It?

This psalm is a direct challenge to spiritual leaders.  It puts the human condition of rebellion front and center.  We would do well to never forget that we, our spouses and our children are all sinners and our natural tendency is to rebel against God.  Therefore, the first thing that this passage calls us to do is to pray for obedient hearts in our own lives and in our families.  More than that, it gives us a practical way to instill in each of us the desire to be obedient.  How do we do that?  We have to know and teach the salvation story to our families.  We need to ensure that they understand the doctrine of sin and grasp the gravity of their own rebellion against God.  We need to help them understand the importance of the atonement and what exactly it means for them.  In short, we do not merely need to teach them God’s story, but we need to show them where they fit into.  Then and only then will they have a reason to follow him.

20121002_084952Joey has been happily married to his wife, Mikah, for three years. In March of 2012 he was blessed with the new title of father.  When he is not at home playing with his wife and daughter or serving in his many roles in his church, he is working to earn an MD/PhD to become a physician-scientist.


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Grace Notes – Adios January!

Grace notes is the portion of this blog where I get to share a little about my week.  Just as much as I need to be reminded of joy in my daily duties, I also need to be constantly reminded of the grace that is extended to me every day.  It is so easy to get caught up in the small occurrences or dwell on misspoken words of the day or week.  My God loves me and forgives me – I need to constantly remember this and extend myself that same grace when I mess up.

Monthly Wrap-Up

Thanks to everyone who has embraced the new space here at With All Joy.  We rounded out this month with about 2,200 views, which is pretty awesome for this tiny blog.  :)  Here are the top posts for this month (beginning with the most viewed).

  1. On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom
  2. Becoming a Woman Who Loves – Chapter 4
  3. Never Left Alone
  4. Yarn for Christmas
  5. Reading and Leading Through the Parables
  6. Book Review | Love’s Memory 
  7. Comfort and Release
  8. Heart-Service
  9. Becoming a Woman Who Loves – Chapter 5
  10. Dad’s Birthday Present

Last {week}

Busy, busy, busy.  El and I have been away from the house a lot this week, and, as a result, our house has imploded.  When we have been home, I have been using much of my spare time on entering all of the participants for Upward Soccer into the online system – I did about 25 new entries on the deadline for early admission the other day that took me about three hours after all of the confirmation emails had been sent out.  Whew!  But, I am still very happy to have a little extra job, especially since we will be enrolling El into the church day school for next year!

I am super excited to get her into the Tots class three days a week.  I’m excited for the new experiences she will get from other children her own age and from the teachers, not to mention the few hours of quiet it will give me!  Yes, I still plan on homeschooling, even a little next year, but the Day School will give her the opportunity to make friendships and work on things like sharing.  Plus, I will get to meet other moms with children the same age as El – hooray for future play dates!

Otherwise, my Dad’s birthday on Tuesday was probably my favorite time of the week.  We had lunch together with his Little Lima Bean (El’s nickname from him) and then walked all around downtown.  And yes, he loved his present.  :)


playing in the park with Papa

Adventures of El


First of all, it’s still hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that El’s little legs can support her.  She has been unsteadily cruising her way around the coffee table and semi-successfully making the switch from coffee table to couch this week.  El is also working on kneeling to sit instead of plopping on her bottom.  I guess we’re getting really close to the free stand.

Second, I can’t believe that I am already planning her first birthday.  It sounds like she might be getting her first baby doll (a Bitty Baby) from her Grandma.  It would be really nice if she would poke the doll in the eyes instead of me, a new fascination of hers.  Here’s to hoping.  :)

I don’t know why, but El has been super cuddly lately.  We either sit together on the couch in the mornings under a blanket while I drink my coffee or (if I’m still tired) we snuggle in the bed for a few minutes.  Best. Moments. Ever.


Facebook Fragments

My life as told by Facebook statuses.  Only one this week; you would think I was busy or something!

“That is the first time I have found my stride in FOREVER! If that happens more often, I may rekindle my relationship with running. :)”

What’s for Dinner?

I have only cooked once this week, and it wasn’t terrific.  So, no recipe this week!

In the Works



Our year-long (with a few interruptions) trek through Romans begins this week!  The first children’s sermon with family study guide will be posted on Saturday (hopefully).  I am super excited and understandably nervous about this series, but I have already been blessed by the materials given to me by my minister and by the group of church leaders who meet weekly to discuss each section of Romans.

*2013 Siesta Scripture Memory Team*

Click on the link above to join the LivingProof Live Ladies (and myself) on a journey to commit 24 verses of scripture to memory for the year.  Here I will record what I am currently working on and either why I am memorizing that particular verse or what I have learned about that verse.  If you are participating, I would love to know what you are memorizing!

Isaiah 41:10

fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Thanks —> linking up with the Gratitude Community

A few blogs I read have a gratitude community where they keep count of their blessings; I loved the idea.  Does anyone want to keep count with me?

91.  For how hard my husband works now so that he might have more time in the future

92.  For surprisingly beautiful days in January

93.  Mighty wind that point to the mighty and majesty of God

94.  fits of giggles

95.  a warm, cuddly dog

96.  hot, bubbly bath and a good book

97.  long walks in beautiful places with my Dad on his birthday

98.  the joy simple sticks and leaves can bring to El

99.  dirty pants that point to a happy, healthy, and curious daughter

100.  quiet dinners and late-night talks with a husband who loves me so

101.  surprise by joy in the mundane


  • that I serve Joey in helpful and loving ways after long shifts at work
  • patience with El during those long days at home
  • my mother-in-law began chemotherapy this week
  • prayers for a friend who just announced her pregnancy!
  • prayers for another friend who passed her due date yesterday
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Dad’s Birthday Present

The Reveal!

If you read the Grace Notes from last Thursday, you may have seen this picture as a little teaser:

20130122_173526So, would you like to know what I made?  I made a stole for my Dad’s birthday.  Since I have crafted in adulthood, I haven’t been able to make anything for my Dad; so I was super excited when I came up with this idea.  First, I had to pick a crochet pattern I liked.

Then, it took me an atrociously long time to find a fabric I liked to go wit the Puritan Square (I didn’t want to use the standard brocade, because I thought it would over power the doily).  I finally settled on a white, simply textured satin for the body of the stole and a matching champagne to back the doilies (plus fringe and stiff batting).

I didn’t use a pattern, but I did use a borrowed stole to help me get the correct dimensions (when finished, it measured about 91 inches, including the tassel).  I hand pieced the blocks of satin and doilies.

20130123_110039I ironed the seams flat, cut out the backing and the batting, pinned it all together, and wa-la!


Click to enlarge the picture

Most stoles have a cross at the neck, so I {shakily} added a Jerusalem cross, and I added a little message to the back of the stole.


I have have a few ideas on how to improve this if I were to do it again (and I would love to, by the way!), namely, working on my stitching.  I was so excited to give this to my Dad today.

Happy Birthday, Dad!  I loved the time we spent together today!






On Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

We’re breaking from the usual Fatherhood Fridays to give a very busy (and slightly sick) Joey some rest.  In the meantime, I recently wrote this note for a friend who was asking advice about staying home with her (future) family.


I’m so glad that you asked! First of all, congratulations; this is an exciting time!

My personal story is that I never felt the urge to be a stay at home mom until my last semester of college (about six months before I found out that I was pregnant). To make a long story short, God put just about every barrier up to dissuade me from teaching special education in a public setting even though it had been a long-time passion of mine. As this was happening, I had the most intense desire to start a family and to be the primary caregiver. Interestingly, though we had never really talked about it, this was Joey’s desire as well. After putting aside the plans that I had made for myself, the decision was easy.

I do tend to go a little stir-crazy, so I did find a job while I was pregnant (teaching at a church day school), and I’ve had to/am still working on finding the balance for myself in staying home. It’s really important to schedule some things for yourself once you are comfortable with others babysitting for a little while (but El did attend quite a few staff meetings and Bible studies with me until very recently). I am on the staff at our church with most of the work being from home – writing children’s sermons keeps me accountable for my own spiritual walk while challenging me intellectually. I also attend a mom’s group and a couple Bible studies. Oh, and I have a blog. :)

Yes, there are some monetary sacrifices, but there are ways to make care-taking very cheap (cloth diapers and making your own baby food, for example). But more than the income, it will be an intense sacrifice of yourself. You will be stretched further than you ever thought possible and love more than you ever thought you could. Being a mom is the most difficult but most satisfying job there is. It sounds like God has already put that desire in your heart. I would encourage you to pray with your husband and follow what God is leading you to do.


I encouraged my friend to write or call if she needed to talk any more, and I would love to extend the same invitation to you.  If there is anything you think I could help you with, or if you want to know a little more about my story, just ask.  Joy to you, friend!

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Comfort and Release

Lessons learned from my daughter in the early hours of the morning

It is late, pitch black, but the sounds of the party downstairs still break through the thin barriers of our dark room. We are so happy to be with old friends during the day, but nighttime, as the only parents in the group, is a struggle. Our little social butterfly has finally surrendered to sleep when, bang! “Happy New Year” rings throughout the house. Body tenses, eyes snap open, a whimper turns into a pitiful wail that speaks volumes of her exhaustion. I lift my warm, heavy bundle who, somehow, still fits perfectly against my chest. As I settle into bed, she struggles against the restraints of comfort, wanting to fast forward to morning, to action.

Read the rest at The Life of Faith

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Matthew 18:20 Mondays – Becoming a Woman Who Loves – Chapter 6

I apologize for the tardiness of this post.  Between a teething baby who has kept me up for the past few nights and the need to catch up on some housework, I never got around to writing this post yesterday.  Now it is 4am (I’m not awake entirely by choice), and I have been provided with some very quiet time to write and reflect.  :)


Loving the Saints

When God was merciful, when He revealed Jesus Christ to us as our Brother, when He won our hearts by His love, this was the beginning of our instruction in divine love.  When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with our brethren   When we received forgiveness instead of judgement, we, too, were made ready to forgive our brethren.  What God did to us, we then owed to others.  The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our brotherly love, the less were we living by God’s mercy and love.  Thus God Himself taught us to meet one another as God has met us in Christ.  -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This chapter met me right where I was, again.  I got up early, feeling good about myself, sat down to do this study in the quite of the morning, and then, my husband came downstairs to eat his cereal.  A few people know this about me, but I despise eating noises, especially crunchy things.  I tried to continue to study downstairs, but eventually had to continue my quiet time in our bedroom. I’m not sure what is necessarily correct when it comes to pet peeves, but I know that my heart response to my husband was not godly (and therein lies the problem with pet peeves).

And, so, we continue our talk with the difficulty of loving the saints.  I still have parts of chapter 5 floating around my head, especially how radical the “most excellent way” of Biblical love is in our time and culture.  There might be fleeting thoughts of, “okay, loving like God isn’t so hard” until we are faced with the first challenge – loving the people who should be easy to love: other Christians.  Raise your hand if you are thinking of someone right now.  Yep, me too.

The Body of Christ

I believe that loving the saints is so difficult because we were created to be in community.  Just as our Triune God exists has a mystical example of community, so we too were created to be in constant relation with Him and with the body of Believers.  So, why is it so hard?  Because God desires our hearts over sacrifice, over acts of service, because he calls us to work together for His Kingdom, Satan’s first attack is going to be through our relationships.  And we are sinful people.  Sinful person + sinful person = strife unless we have the conviction of the Holy Spirit urging us to put aside our selfish ways.

What is the purpose of the body?  I think that Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:11-16 exemplify it well.  I was really struck by the wide varieties of gifts we can be given as a group so that we can work together for the common good.  I also noticed, in the Ephesians passage, that Paul makes a point to include persons of the prestigious and lowly states as necessary members of our ministry on earth.

Christians are not independent of each other: they should not seek to be so.  We are not the body of Christ individually, but we are collectively.  We are not set to stand alone but with others.  We can help others and be helped ourselves.  Another’s work may be needful for the success of ours, ours for the success of another’s.  One supplies just what the other lacks.  So that if all supply what they can, the body becomes perfect in working.  -H. Bremner

Love for the Body

How, then, do we embrace our need for community?  First, we need to recognize that there is only one Body and it is vital to our spiritual growth and maturity.  Therefore, we must approach the community with which God has gifted us with an eagerness to maintain unity through peace.  Love and peace from above will force us to bear all things, hope all things, and believe all things through the power of the Holy Spirit, because, if we cannot love our brother, then we cannot love God.

The body of Christ is such an amazing thing.  It is a group of sinful people, choosing to love one another, succeeding only through the power of the Holy Spirit, and using their God-given gifts to serve one another and help spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is the greatest challenge of my life, to love, but I must remember that Jesus has commanded us to love with a sacrificial love.  I must remember that I, along with each and every other brother and sister in Christ, am vital to the purpose of the Body and to never withhold the talent that was given to me for the common good.  I must remember that my all of my brothers and sisters, including my husband, are sinners, and if I try, through my own might, to maintain our relationships, then we will fail.  But, if I choose to love the Body, relying on the strength and character of God, then we will remain unified.


This is a Bible study, so we need some discussion!  I have written some of my reflections; now share what ideas or verses resonated with you in the comments section below.  Please feel free to be a part of the discussion even if you are not doing the home study!

This week’s memory verse:


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Never Left Alone


Sanctity of Life Sundayneverleftalone

ThemeWe can never be orphaned because God has adopted us as His sons and daughters.  He cherishes each and every life.

Scripture:  John 14:15-21

MaterialsSuite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major (or any other piece by Bach), a slideshow or printed cards of famous orphans

Opening:  Have children sit in a circle.  Introduce yourself.  Light the candle and say, “We can’t see God, but we can see his light in the world.  This candle reminds us that God is here with us.”  Say a quick opening prayer for your time together and lead the Lord’s Prayer.

Lesson:  Who can tell me what it means to be an “orphan”.  What does it mean to be adopted?  Allow and guide answers as necessary.  To be orphaned means that a person has lost both of their parents either through death or through other circumstances.  The life and future of an orphan can be very uncertain, because people are so shaped by those who love and take care of them.  Adoption is an amazing thing for an orphan.  When someone is adopted by a new family, that family cares for them in the very same way they care and love their own children.

Begin music.  We are going to have a little history lesson and learn about three orphans whose lives would have been very different had it not been for the families who adopted them.  The first little boy we are going to talk about was orphaned when he was nine years old.  After moving half way across the United States, he was adopted by an uncle who taught him the importance of hard work.  Forty-four years later, after many different jobs and experiences, this little boy became the thirty-first president of the United States, Herbert Hoover.  He was President in a very difficult time but is known for creating many job opportunities and helping the poorest families during the Great Depression.

The next little boy was born as a slave and was kidnapped with his mother and sister when he was only one week old!  The master who owned this little boy’s family searched for his missing slaves but only found the little baby.  Fortunately for the little baby, this white family adopted him and raised him as their own son.  For the time they were in, this was a very strange and dangerous thing for a white family to do, but they cared for and taught this little boy until he left home to attend school.  This little boy became a great scientist known for his work with farmers and peanuts; his name was George Washington Carver.

The last little boy we are going to talk about was orphaned when he was ten years old.  After he lost his parents, he was adopted by his oldest brother, who was a great musician.  While shadowing his older brother, this little boy learned all about music, how to play many different types of instruments, and met many famous composers.  When he grew up, he wrote many beautiful pieces of music, including the one we are listening to now – his name was Johann Sebastian Bach.

None of these men could have achieved what they did without someone realizing that their lives were valuable and that they were worth the time and effort to raise them.  In the same way, God, our Heavenly Father, sees value in our lives and has adopted us as His sons and daughters.  Jesus told his disciples that he would not leave them as orphans, and because Jesus conquered death, he has not been separated from us.  He also sent his Holy Spirit to be with us – so we might feel alone, sad or scared sometimes, but we will never be without the comfort of God, our Father who loves and cares for us as much as he loves and cares for his own son, Jesus.

Closing PrayerDear God, thank you so much for bringing us into your family.  Thank you for showing us that we are loved and cherished in your eyes.  Help us to treat everyone in our lives with that same love and respect, and teach the world that everyone is worthwhile.  Amen.

~ Family Study Guide ~

John 14:15-21

Monday – verse 15

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

  1. Why do we have rules or commandments?  What would life (at home, at school, on the road, etc.) be like if there were no rules?  What is the purpose of commandments in the Bible for us today?
  2. This passage in John comes after Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon die.  He asks them to remember all that he has taught them and reminds them that the natural actions of loving him are doing the things he commanded.  As a family, pray that you will cherish the words of God in your heart and that you will live out the commandments, rules, in your daily lives.

Tuesday – verses 16-17

“and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

  1. Why do you think Jesus thought it was necessary to send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to the disciples after he left the earth?  Did he not trust that they could spread the Word by themselves?
  2. Obviously, we cannot do anything in our own power – we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  Discuss how the Holy Spirit can help you with something difficult you are facing now.  Pray together for each other and for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you in whatever path you directed.

Wednesday – verses 18-19

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.”

  1. Jesus is saying that even though he will die, he will not be leaving, or orphaning us.  How is his death different?
  2. To us, Jesus’ resurrection is a miracle, something only he could do.  He lives!  But why do we, ordinary people, get to share in his victory, his life after death?  Thank God tonight, as a family, for the amazing love God demonstrated by having his only Son die the death that was meant for us.

Thursday – verse 20

“In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

  1. Cover your eyes with your fingers.  How much can you see?  Would you be able to move around very well?  Of course not!  Jesus said many things to his disciples that confused them, but here he was telling them that soon everything will be made clear, and they will be able to understand.
  2. Is there something in the Bible, or something Jesus has said that confuses you?  Talk about it as a family and then pray that the Holy Spirit will make God’s Word clear to you.

Friday – verse 21

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

  1. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Your actions speak louder than your words”?  What does it mean?  How does following Jesus’ commandments show that we love him?
  2. Look up the word “manifest”.  What does it mean?  How will Jesus manifest himself to us today?  (Remember, it can also be a feeling.)  As a family, pray that your love for Christ will be made clear to everyone through your actions and that Jesus will send us his comfort and love.

Saturday – Prepare for Worship

Together, review and reflect on this week’s lesson from John 14.  Did anything profoundly affect you?  Did any verses stick with you?  Did any of the discussions or prayers affect your bond as a family?

Preview the reading for Sunday, Luke 4:14-21.  This reading cannot be found in the children’s Bibles, but you may consider using the NIV or The Message if you have younger children.  Ask them if they have any questions about the passage.  Help clarify where you can, and write down any questions to which you do not know the answers.  It would be wonderful for you to take those questions to church and see if they are answered in the sermon.  If they are not, have your child ask your minister after the service.  I can guarantee that he will be thrilled!

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Grace Notes

Grace notes is the portion of this blog where I get to share a little about my week.  Just as much as I need to be reminded of joy in my daily duties, I also need to be constantly reminded of the grace that is extended to me every day.  It is so easy to get caught up in the small occurrences or dwell on misspoken words of the day or week.  My God loves me and forgives me – I need to constantly remember this and extend myself that same grace when I mess up.

Last {Month!}

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!  I feel like we have been gone for so long!  I could have started back up last week, but I feel like it took us (and by us, I mean me) a good five days to recoup from the holidays.

The Christmas Eve services went really well this year.  Instead of having a family service and a midnight service, we had two family services, so that meant two sermons from me.  I have not done a children’s sermon for Christmas before and have definitely not delivered one of these sermons in front of the whole church.  But, I did it!  And it went pretty well.

We had so much fun with El’s first Christmas.  Of course, she was way more excited about the paper and bows than the actual gifts, but we got it all on video, all three Christmases.  I was so glad that 1) Christmas was split up for her (morning at our house, evening at Joey’s Mom’s house, and the next day with my parents) and 2) people were pretty reserved with gift giving.  El doesn’t need a lot, and I’m really happy that no one set a hard precedent for themselves on future Christmases. Her two favorite gifts were a pink ride on motorcycle from my grandparents and a Spanish-speaking “laptop” from Joey’s biological Mom.  She’s getting pretty good around on the motorcycle now.

Every year for New Year’s, Joey’s college friends get together for a few days.  This year, we met up in Atlanta and had a lot to celebrate.  It was the first time most of them had met El, one couple got engaged a few days before we arrived, and another couple is expecting their first baby in April.  It was interesting being the only parents there, but El loved being the center of attention.  Check out some of the beautiful pictures one of our friends, Taylor, took for us while we were there (and go visit her website!).

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The only real downs were from the past two days – I probably broke my pinky toe on Monday, and I had a migraine yesterday while having El to myself all day.

Adventures of El

El is busy, busy, busy.  She is thoroughly enjoying her new toys, clothes, and books (but especially the books).  The funny thing about Christmas with babies is that they open a few presents and then pass out for a little while, open some more, sleep some more, and so on until all the gifts are opened.  I think what El enjoyed the most about Christmas morning was her first taste of a sweet – monkey bread!  I swear her eyes changed when the sugar hit her.  :)

Speaking of food, she has tasted her first bits of dairy.  She is not too fond of cheese (she’ll learn), but she loved, loved her first cup of milk.  And, somehow, she has already discovered how to make bubbles with it, silly girl.  I also think that milk makes her a little hyper – I have never seen her crawl so quickly as she did that first day!

Otherwise, we’ve started a little homeschooling – more like structuring her day a little more.  We started with a documentary on the 1930′s and then watched a video on Rome (just kidding, but she may have absorbed a little of the documentaries while I was folding laundry).  I loved some of the ideas from Intentional Homeschool about intentional toddler time (even though mine is not quite a toddler yet).

What’s for Dinner?

I’ve heard that some readers still want to know what I am up to in the kitchen, but I have had so many crafts to post lately that I have neglected the What’s for Dinner? portion of the blog.  I also have not been terribly creative lately, and, truthfully, there are whole blogs dedicated to amazing cuisine, so I am not going to try to compete.  However, I will share what recipes I have found and cooked this week.  Enjoy!


Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash


Skinny Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy


Creamy Cauliflower Puree


In the Works

Blog -  What do you think of the new web design?  We are so excited about the new website.  The blog is also now open to advertising and an etsy shop might be opening soon for Ella Baby Headbands!  Have you checked out the review on Love’s Memory yet?  A super fun launch party for the book is happening on January 15th where you could win my first three headbands along with other fun prizes.  

Reading - 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp (a very awesome Christmas gift) and I am about to start Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe (which I received for free through BookSneeze.com).  Joey is reading King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus and Bringing Up Girls (which I wrote a review for).

Writing - a lot and working on some guest posts.  I have one in my head about the migraines I get.

Online Community

*2013 Siesta Scripture Memory Team*

Click on the link above to join the LivingProof Live Ladies (and myself) on a journey to commit 24 verses of scripture to memory for the year.  Here I will record what I am currently working on and either why I am memorizing that particular verse or what I have learned about that verse.  If you are participating, I would love to know what you are memorizing!

  • Hebrews 4:12 – (a catch up) I memorized this one to start off the year and to hold fast in my heart the importance of keeping scripture in my heart.
  • John 15:5 – I am particularly struck by the last part: “…for apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Thanks —> linking up with the Gratitude Community

A few blogs I read have a gratitude community where they keep count of their blessings; I loved the idea.  Does anyone want to keep count with me?

60.  For Tylenol

61.  Watching El dance

62.  Baby giggles – brighten any day

63.  The close bond of friends

64.  A prayer gathering over New Year’s

65.  Generosity and love from our family

66.  The beautiful message and joy Christmas brings

67. Inspiring articles from Christian women around the internet

68.  My husband’s heart and thoughtfulness


  • Praise for my mother-in-law’s last radiation treatment today, the tumor has shrunk significantly
  • An internet friend, The Lovely Crow, who has had some terrible news lately
  • For everyone involved in children’s ministry

Photo Dump

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