Some encouragement for your weekend . . . .
Well, God sure is funny.
A couple weeks ago, we (Heidi and Becky) attended an AMAZING conference for women writers and speakers called She Speaks, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries (love those gals). We went expecting God to show us the next big thing for our blog. And he did.
It just wasn’t quite what we expected. Not by a long shot.
Did I mention God is funny?
There’s a wonderful story in the details, but for now we’ll give you the highlights.
Heidi scored her dream gig as a virtual assistant to the fabulous Miss Courtney DeFeo of Lil Light o’Mine blogging/product designing/book writing fame and is now hard at work launching her multi-client virtual wonder woman business, aptly named Sidekick Adventures. God has opened wide the doors, and our favorite havenista is going places, y’all.
Becky got some encouraging affirmation to refocus on her writing pursuits—stay tuned for exactly what that means (she’s figuring it out, too), but the bottom line is this:
We lifted Haven Help Us up to the Lord. And he told us to let it go.
What does that look like? Well, we’re not quite sure yet. We’re considering selling or transferring management of the blog so that someone else of God’s choosing can take what we’ve started and run with it. Maybe we’ll stay on as contributors. Maybe not. We’re trusting God with next steps because let us just tell you, he showed himself FAITHFUL at that conference and continues to affirm us every step of the what-in-the-world-are-we-doing way.
You all have blessed us beyond words with your support and encouragement for Haven Help Us, and we only hope this little online space has blessed and encouraged you as well. Please know we are not disappearing! Becky would love for you to stay connected through her devotional blog, Time Out with Becky Kopitzke at www.beckykopitzke.com. Like her on Facebook, follow her devotional board on Pinterest, or subscribe to receive her weekly encouragement straight to your inbox. Her posts offer inspiration and solidarity for fellow frazzled, flawed and fabulous moms, wives, and just women in general.
And Heidi will be hard at work behind the scenes to make other bloggers’ lives easier, which is a gift God has given her, and we’re thrilled he’s giving her the opportunity to use it for his glory.
So. If you know anybody who wants to run a blog . . . let us know.
Because God is funny.
And wouldn’t it be just like him to deliver a new Haven Help Us manager from out of our very own community here at HHU. Much love to you all. We’ll keep you posted on the transfer details once they come together. Meanwhile, blessings from our havens to yours!
Chances are, we all know someone with a food allergy. Peanuts, dairy, eggs, wheat—the list of food allergens seems to grow along with our food supply. Even if your own family is untouched by food allergies, your kids are probably in school, daycare, or church groups with children who cannot tolerate certain foods. So, given the increasing prevalence of food allergies in our kids’ environments, how can we support others with these restrictions?
Our friend Shannon Yang is here to give us some helpful insight. Shannon’s son copes with several serious food allergies, including a potentially life-threatening airborne peanut allergy. We want to spread the word that by taking some simple steps, fellow moms and kids can help provide a safer, more accepting environment for friends with food allergies. Here’s how.
First, it’s important to realize there is a difference between a food intolerance/sensitivity (i.e., gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.) and a food allergy.
A food intolerance or sensitivity may cause discomfort in the body such as GI issues, headaches, congestion, etc.; however, people with sensitivities can still consume the food either by eating it or touching it without suffering life-threatening harm. Think of how a seasonal allergy (grass, pollen, mold, dust) can cause itchy and watery eyes, congestion and sneezing, and so seasonal allergy sufferers take an over-the-counter allergy medication (Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra, Benadryl) or get allergy shots to address their symptoms. Without meds, they might be miserable, but not typically in serious danger.
A food allergy, however, is life-threatening, and coming in contact with the allergen may cause a severe anaphylactic immune response resulting in death. Coming in contact with the allergen can include:
You can help keep everyone safe by following some simple habits.
1) Have your child wash their hands with soap and water when eating something that they know playmates/classmates are allergic to.
2) If a friend with food allergies visits your home, clean any surfaces that may have come in contact with an allergen using Clorox wipes. Clorox wipes are the only wipes on the market proven to actually “kill” food allergen proteins.
3) Consider asking allergy parents if there are alternate snacks/treats for classroom birthday parties, or choose to hand out non-food items so that everyone in the class can be included. Allergy parents are often grateful when others are sensitive to their child’s food allergies and can offer safe ideas for snacks/treats that all kids will enjoy. Please also remember, that allergy parents will often provide their own safe snacks/treats for their child.
4) Parents can educate their own children about being sensitive to food allergies and how to advocate for their friends. The very first time my son had an allergic reaction in his classroom at school, his classmates noted the reaction and notified the teacher.
Here’s a list of helpful resources for more information and allergen-free products!
1. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) website, http://www.foodallergy.org/
2. Libre Naturals (Canada)
3. The Green Polka Dot Box (requires membership to take part)
4. Gimball’s candy online and seasonally at some local stores (Festival Foods, Walmart)
5. The Natural Candy Store online
6. Peanut Free Planet (Canada)
7. Vermont Nut Free online
9. Trader Joe’s
10. Whole Foods
Local stores for Fox Valley area friends:
Happy Bellies Bakery on Richmond Street in Appleton
The Free Market in Appleton
Red Radish in Neenah
Copps/Pick ‘n Save
Today I am honored to share with you one of my very favorite voices in the blogging world, my (now real-life!) friend Alicia Bruxvoort. I first met Alicia through some mutual blog link-ups, and we began following each other online, sending encouragement back and forth and eventually exchanging e-mails about writing, motherhood, faith and Barbies. Alicia’s words are God-centered, wise, uplifting, and kind—just like her personality. This past weekend, I was blessed to finally get the chance to meet Alicia in person at the Proverbs 31 annual conference for women writers and speakers, She Speaks. Oh how I wish you could all get to to know her, too. This post is a great start. Read more from Alicia on her blog, The Overflow.
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We’d argued on our drive to the hospital.
I’d soon be lying belly-up on an exam table covered with a scratchy disposable sheet and trying not to squirm as the skin on my stretched-out belly was covered with clear cold goo.
We were just moments from our first glimpse of the baby tucked beneath my heart. But despite our anticipation, my husband and I couldn’t agree on one thing: Should we find out the sex of our baby or not?
My husband was voting yes.
I insisted no.
Two years before, we’d chosen to go for the moment-of-arrival surprise with our firstborn, and I couldn’t imagine why my man wanted to spoil the fun the second time around.
I had loved the thrill of hearing the doctor say, “You have a boy!” after my son had slipped from womb to world in the pre-dawn hours of that momentous August day. And since I was the one whose sweat and labored breathing would push baby number two from watery darkness to light, I figured I deserved a weighted vote.
So when the silvery-haired ultrasound tech asked if we’d like to know the gender of the baby, I gave my husband the evil eye and put clear words to my preference. No thanks. We want to be surprised!
My mate didn’t dispute my final call, but he did leave the hospital with measurably less excitement than his victorious wife.
In fact, from that point forward, my man seemed oddly detached from the miracle that was steadily morphing my belly into the shape of a giant basketball. Consumed with medical-school rotations and endless hours of hospital work, Rob moved through his days like a stupefied robot, rarely acknowledging the impending arrival of our second child.
Though his excitement had been palpable during my first pregnancy, my husband’s emotions seemed frozen throughout the second. He didn’t cuddle in close at night, his hands perched on my protruding stomach in hopes of feeling those little feet kicking happy beneath my skin.
He didn’t place wet lips to my bulge and whisper secret daddy messages to the tiny one inside. Or talk about the challenges and the fun of becoming a family of four.
He didn’t call our toddling two-year-old big brother or dream with me about the sibling season to come.
It was as if my man couldn’t see the gift growing right beneath his nose, the blessing burgeoning right beneath his wife’s aching heart.
As the weeks ensued, I reeled between anger and grief. I felt robbed of the joy I’d assumed we’d share as God grew another baby in my womb. And saddened by husband’s quiet apathy.
I couldn’t understand Rob’s waning wonder. After all, he could enjoy our gift without morning sickness or heartburn! Surely he had reason to stand in awe.
But no matter how hard I tried to boost his enthusiasm, I was helpless to change my husband’s heart.
Then, just weeks from due date, my doctor recommended an unplanned ultrasound to check on our baby’s questionable size. Rob was stuck at work on that late summer’s afternoon, so I drove to the hospital alone, my mind a muddle of prayers and angst.
By that point, I was desperate for a way to open Rob’s eyes. My obdurate insistence on experiencing a surprise in the delivery room no longer seemed as important as my desire to share the thrill of the journey with the love of my life.
The ultrasound tech greeted me with a comforting smile and handed me a mint green hospital gown. When she dimmed the lights, a holy hush settled over the room, and I stared at a grainy silhouette of our second child.
The baby on the screen began sucking it’s tiny thumb. And my heart ached with the weight of wonder.
Then, suddenly, I had an idea.
I pulled a small yellow post-it note from my purse and asked the attending technician to scrawl the gender of our child on the slip of paper. She nodded knowingly and wrote something in slow, choppy scrawl.
Next, I asked if she had an envelope. She rummaged through a nearby drawer and eventually excavated something small and white.
I grinned and asked if she could slide the post-it-note into the envelope, so I wouldn’t see what she’d written.
My accomplice nodded again, her eyes alight with understanding. Then she handed me a towel to wipe the goo from my belly and sent me home with a small slip of hope tucked in the depths of my purse.
That evening over dinner, I handed Rob the envelope and explained what it contained. At first he just looked at me with quiet confusion.
But as he began to understand what I was offering, a smile slowly spread across his face. Excusing himself from the table, he grabbed the envelope and headed to the bedroom. Within moments, he returned with an unmistakeable sparkle dancing in those deep green orbs.
For the remainder of my pregnancy, my husband was a new man. He couldn’t keep his hands off my bulging belly, couldn’t stop prodding the toes kicking willy-nilly beneath my stretched-out skin, and he couldn’t resist wondering aloud about the child who would soon fill our empty crib.
When our tiny bundle of wrinkles and wails arrived three weeks later, her Daddy’s smile ignited the room.
We named her Elizabeth Grace, for she was, indeed, an undeserved gift.
When our steady stream of well-wishers had gone home for the night, I settled myself into the hospital bed and savored the sight of my husband contentedly rocking our baby girl in his arms. And while Elizabeth’s eyelids fluttered on the edge of dreams and sleep, I asked her daddy about the transformation that had happened just weeks before her arrival.
“What was it that finally got you excited?” I asked over the sing-song squeak of the old oak rocking chair.
Rob planted a tender kiss on our daughter’s soft pink cheek. “I guess it was that little slip of paper.”
A subtle shade of crimson crept from his neck to his forehead and with a sheepish grin, he admitted, “Once I knew we were having a girl, I began to call her by name.”
He glanced at the wiggly miracle in his arms and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess that’s what finally made her seem real to me.”
Sometimes naming a gift helps us to see it more clearly.
I think God knows that.
Maybe that’s why, through the poetic pen of the Psalmist, He urges us to remember our blessings.
“O my soul… don’t forget a single blessing!”
(Psalm 103:2, The Message)
A gift becomes real when we give it a name; unforgettable when we pause to thank God for it.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
The One who is timeless invites us to carve out time to give thanks. Not because He needs our gratitude, but because we do.
In the midst of our hurrying and flurrying, our striving and struggling, we can race right by the gifts scattered lavishly at our feet (or planted under our noses or tucked beneath our hearts). But the deliberate habit of thanksgiving restores our sight.
So make a list, tell a friend, utter a prayer, or compose a song.
Tell a story, keep a journal or post a praise.
Practice the habit of gratitude frequently and faithfully, and the odds are, you’ll see a few gifts that have been there all along, just waiting to be named.
“Maybe I don’t know they are gifts, really, until I write them down and see what they look like.” —Ann Voskamp, 1000 Gifts Devotional book
Naming a blessing doesn’t change the gift; it just puts skin on it.
And then we are able to see clearly the amazing shape of grace.
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A writer, speaker, and abundant-life seeker, Alicia is mom to five fabulous kids and wife to that handsome boy who sat behind her in the fifth grade. She scales Mount Laundry daily and delights in the wild adventure of following Jesus wherever He leads. She is a member of the Proverbs 31 writing team and ministers to an audience of a million women world-wide through her online devotions for “Encouragement for Today.” Her work is featured in Always There, a devotional book celebrating the presence of God in the trenches of motherhood, and in magazines like Thriving Family, MomSense, Today’s Christian Woman, Proverbs 31 Woman, and Power for Living. Alicia is passionate about inspiring women to experience the life Jesus promised when he declared, “I’ve come so that you might have….life to the full.” (John 10:10) She blogs weekly at The Overflow! Where faith is spilled and souls are filled.
Whoever said parenting squelches your night life never had kids like mine.
My eyelids popped open, startled out of sound sleep. Slowly, the hazy shape of a youngster appeared at my bedside, clutching a pillow in one hand and a doll in the other. She started to cry.
“What is it, sweetheart? What’s wrong?”
“My tummy hurts!”
Oh, boy. Here we go. I whipped off my covers and slapped two bare feet to the floor. With a hand on the small of her back, I led my four-year-old first to the bathroom for a Tums, then to the family room sofa. I tucked her beneath a warm blanket and stationed a bucket on her lap, just in case. Then I camped on the floor for the next two hours while she dozed on and off.
Nurse Mom sees plenty of nighttime action.
My kids wake at midnight from coughing fits and scary dreams.
They tiptoe to my bedroom in pitch darkness to inform me they need to go potty.
They crawl out of bed in tears because they can’t find a favorite stuffed animal tucked deep beneath the covers. They expect me to find it.
They talk in their sleep.
The bump their heads on the wall.
They’re hungry. So they tap my shoulder at 2 a.m. asking for a snack.
Sometimes they just want to know if it’s morning yet and can they please watch TV?
No, no you cannot. Not at 3 o’clock in the blessed a.m. Please go back to bed. Mommy needs her sleep.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship,” (Romans 12:1).
Have you ever thought of fatigue as worship? It never crossed my mind, until a friend described her approach to surviving newborn feedings. “Every time the baby woke me up to eat,” she explained, “I prayed, ‘Lord, this is my sacrifice to you.’”
Think about that for a minute. Sleep loss is part of the parenting deal. Babies eat round the clock. Toddlers suffer night terrors. Teens drive the car to the basketball game. So we worry. We ache. We stay up too late scouring Pinterest or dropping JPGs into photo books because there is no earlier quiet time to indulge.
Energy is a luxury.
But this tired body, these burning, bloodshot eyeballs, these maniac tears dripping from pure exhaustion. Could it be? It’s all an offering of thanks—to the One who granted me the gift of motherhood.
Yes, my children mutate me into a zombie some days. But would I trade them for a lifetime of peaceful slumber?
“Sweetheart, how does your tummy feel?” I leaned over the sofa and brushed disheveled locks of hair away from my daughter’s eyes. Stiff muscles in my neck rebelled against their makeshift cot on the floor.
“Better.” She cracked a weak smile.
“Do you want to go back to your bed? You’d be more comfortable there.”
“No, Momma. I want to sleep in your bed.”
Of course. So do I.
I scooped her off the sofa and carried her to my room. She snuggled into the center of our king-size mattress and fell fast asleep. I listened to the gentle rhythm of her breathing, inhaled the scent of her strawberry shampoo, and watched her cheeks glow in the moonlight.
Sleep? Sometimes it’s overrated. In all my years of childless freedom, I never saw a nighttime scene so spectacular as this.
A few hours later, I woke to sunlight peeking through the window blinds—and the dull pressure of a foot shoved against my forehead. My daughter’s lanky limbs sprawled perpendicular across the bed.
Well, Lord, I thought, this is my crazy life. My sacrifice to you.
I am blessed beyond measure.
Reproduce a beautiful English bedroom by opting for floor length drapes that start high, near the ceiling, and puddle slightly on the floor. Invest in several sets of bedding that is comfortable and attractive but not over-modern, edgy or trendy. Bear in mind, at all times, that you are aiming for comfort and reliability first with aesthetic appeal coming a close second.
No English-inspired bedroom can be considered complete without something large and bulky at the foot of the bed! You can choose a traditional ottoman (perhaps even one that matches the bed?) or a large old truck, suitcase or similar, depending on your tastes and budget.
The true beauty of English décor will not strike you straight away; there is none of the drama and impact of more cosmopolitan, modern décor. Choose bedspread features with demure colours and muted patterns, ensuring that they will all work together to create the right subtly understated effect. Bedspreads that are inclined to English décor themes are available at Yorkshire Linen and I would suggest them to everyone.
A very basic bedroom can be given an English appeal with just one or two touches of cosy luxury. This works best in very small bedrooms where there is little room for ornament. You will find that the addition of a luxury throw and matching cushions can make for surprisingly attractive bedroom décor.
My kids are addicted to carbs. Graham crackers, breakfast cereal, Goldfish, scones—if it crunches or tastes like a cookie, they want it. That’s why I’m so excited about this fantastic homemade cinnamon granola (with—bonus!—sweet honey roasted almonds, yum).
This recipe comes compliments of our good friend Heidi Scott. I love the list of wholesome ingredients packed with protein and fiber, like wheat germ, whole oats, and ground flaxseed, plus natural sugars (honey and maple syrup). I even snagged a jar of locally produced honey at a farm stand a couple weeks ago just for this recipe, although, I confess I swallowed a few spoonfuls first just for fun. Every good chef taste-tests her ingredients, right? This rule is especially true when dealing with chocolate.
I hope you enjoy this homemade cinnamon granola as much as my family does. It’s delicious by the handful for snacking, mixed with dried fruit, sprinkled over yogurt or ice cream, or served with warm or cold milk and sliced fruit for breakfast. Yum!
My baby is no longer a baby. Where oh where did the last five years go? How do our kids grow up so fast?? [sniff sniff]
When I decided I will allow my youngest to turn 5 instead of being little forever, we figured we should get down to party planning. This year’s theme: a carnival party!
If you’ve been reading over the past month, you’ll remember this post where I shared a picture from Pinterest of a popcorn bar. I’ve been just itching for a reason to host one. Well, everybody has popcorn at a carnival, right? I got to live out my dreams! Thank you, Delaney, for allowing Mommy to fulfill her popcorn bar needs through your birthday party.
Popcorn and birthday cake sounds a little heavy though, eh? How about ice cream!! Since we’re having a popcorn bar, let’s have an ice cream sundae bar, too. So that’s exactly what we did.
Here’s the party in pictures for you!
We had regular popcorn along with caramel corn, M&M’s, pretzels and peanuts. Everyone got their own polka dot bag and made a personalized popcorn “mix.” They had great fun mixing and eating.
Of course, we had to have pink lemonade to go with our popcorn!
While we were eating our popcorn, we attended the Carnival Dog Show! My sister was in town visiting with her dog, Oliver. Oliver has been taking agility classes and was a fabulous performer showing us how he could bow, weave through the poles, and jump the fence!
After the dog show, we had a water balloon toss (and fight), which was the favorite part of the party for many! Sorry I don’t have any pictures of that. I was being attacked by water balloons and a friend was holding my camera for me!
Then it was present and birthday treat time. The wrapping paper was quickly tossed aside and fun games and baby dolls were the center of attention. While the kids looked the gifts over, I prepared a cup of ice cream for the birthday girl. We put a number 5 candle in the ice cream and sang happy birthday. Then it was sundae time! The kids (and adults) had a blast at the sundae bar. We had a variety of ice cream flavors, chocolate syrup, pretzel M&M’s, mint M&M’s, and waffle cone pieces for toppings.
It was a really fun party and at only an hour and a half in length it was perfect for the little kids. It was super easy to plan and super easy to prepare the party food!
Have you had any parties lately? What was your theme? Did you have a popcorn bar??
We’ve been reviewing lots of children’s books lately, but today this one is for the moms!
1. A Million Little Ways // Emily Freeman
A simple look at how everyone is an artist. No matter what you do, you were made to create art and give glory to God. That art could be homemaking, owning a business, or simply being the best wife or mother you can be. Love this encouraging book!
2. Start // Jon Acuff
I am in the midst of reading this book right now and love the encouragement it gives you to just go ahead and do what you should do. You will make excuses forever. This book is applicable on so many fronts. Go ahead and just START!
3. The Nesting Place // Myquillyn Smith
Love. This. Book. It is such an encouragement to me as a very imperfect decorator that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. This book chronicles the journey and many houses of The Nester as she realizes she can’t keep waiting on the right house to settle into. She begins to embrace right where she’s at and makes each place a cozy home for her family. Lots of great decorating ideas, too!
4. You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream // Holley Gerth
Have some dreams and ideas floating around in your head? Do they seem impossible yet your heart really wants to pursue them? This book will be encouragement for your soul. Holley walks you through discovering your God-sized dreams and how to follow them.
5. 168 Hours—You Have More Time Than You Think // Laura Vanderkam
This book was such an encouragement to me as I always feel like I’m running out of time, or there is never enough time to do what I need to get done each day. Laura will encourage you to keep track of exactly what it is you do each day. She has great ideas for maximizing your schedule and making good use of all 168 hours each week.
What are you reading this summer? Do tell!
This post is inspired by Fanatics.com, a unique sporting apparel company committed to providing quality merchandise for all your sporting needs. We’re taking the “Family Fanatics” challenge by sharing reasons we enjoy sports as a family. Check out their huge selection at Fanatics.com!
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I am 100% exhausted.
And I have a fancy wristband to prove it.
I have screamed my lungs out while being flung down a dark tunnel. I have shot baskets, clung to a giant snake, and willingly accepted standing beneath a 5,000 gallon bucket of water dumped on my head.
All in the name of fun with my family at a water park.
My legs are shaky, my fingers are pruney, but my heart is happy. There is nothing quite like enjoying good exercise and laughs with my favorite people. We wouldn’t have it any other way. You see, in my house we live for sports. Since our chief income-earner has a degree in Physical Education, we have always been very much into sports. Our favorites are football, hockey, track and field, soccer, and gymnastics. Whether as a coach or athlete, these sports have a special place in our lives.
As residents of the great state of Wisconsin, we are inherent die-hard Packers fans. Sundays mean jersey days. Our church pastor knows better than to give a long sermon during football season. Pull up some chairs, pop the popcorn, and get ready to yell at the television. Football is our game, and we love it!
From the football season, our family rolls right into pucks, sticks, and smelly equipment. We find ourselves voluntarily sitting on ice cold bleachers sipping lukewarm hot chocolate.
Flips, rolls, tucks and back hip circles are our vocabulary for most of the year. Gymnastics is a year-round sport. There is no off season. You have to continue practicing to keep your strength and endurance high. What better way to learn the meaning of the words perseverance and sportsmanship?
Sports are busy, no doubt. So how do we enjoy family time if we’re always running from one activity to another? We attend more sports!! My husband’s titles of coach and athletic director carry great responsibility. But they also provide many opportunities. Our family gets to attend high school athletic events and spend quality time together when my husband is working. We are thankful for the chance to enjoy family outings while at the same time earning money. The bonus? We get to cheer on our team, eat more popcorn, and enjoy a night out!
As the soccer cleats come out for the first summer practice tomorrow night, we are thankful. Thankful that we have strong bodies and minds and can play organized sports. Thankful for our favorite teams we love to cheer for. Thankful for good role models to show our children the benefits of hard work and perseverance. But most of all—we’re thankful for sports. Whether cheering on the sidelines or in front of the television, memories are made as we all spend time together.
What about you? Does your family enjoy sporting activities? How do sports play a role in your quality family time? We’d love to hear about it!