Friday, November 21, 2014

The Home I've come to love

During the 8+ years we've been married, we've lived in seven different cities, purchased two homes, and rented various apartments.  Each place has been unique in style, age, and function.  All of them have been home.

This place that we've been in for the past four months in Florida didn't feel like home when we first moved in.  We were without belongings for almost two weeks which stretched us, contributed to my closing the blinds and refusing to answer the doors, and we were frustrated living here for about two months.  The carpet and fixtures are dingy.  The rooms are smaller than we're used to.  We don't have a beautiful yard like our home in Georgia.

But something changed.  We began to feel at home here, not because the interior became more beautiful, but because our hearts accepted that this was the place God had for us right now.  Our home, this town, this season of life.  These months have been a gift, and our home has been a part of that gift.

Things are not centered on the walls.  My children decorate their room in ways that I dislike, and they love it and get much delight out of creating their own space.  Mason's bed is on the floor and doesn't look how I would want, but at least he's not falling out of it every night.  Our front porch has a random assortment of items on it, including a dead mum and fishing poles.  But these things are evidence to me of a fun hobby to enjoy, and not being overly worried about appearance (something I needed to work on).   The living room is missing two lamps because my son finally broke them after pulling them onto the floor multiple times.  You will see items where they 'don't belong', books placed haphazardly on bookshelves, and dead branches, pine cones, and seashells on the piano.  The upstairs bathroom door stays off of the hinges at all times (unless we have company like we do right now) because it's almost impossible to bathe my children with the door on.   And you'll notice a pillow behind the headboard in our master bedroom.  (When your bedroom backs up to your neighbor's bedroom, you have thin walls, and your bed squeaks....well, you get the reason for the pillow...)

I miss my granite counters, deep bathtub, large windows, window treatments, and extra square footage.  I look forward to the day when I have space to store papers and use my seasonal decor.  I would love to have neatly made beds and clear surfaces at the end of every day.  I like pretty things and beautifully decorated spaces.  Some day I'd like to have those things again.

But do you know what I've come to learn?  Those things are not necessary for me to feel at home.

Home is created when I cultivate an attitude of gratefulness and joy in my heart.  When I  accept God's plan, regardless of how different it is from my own.  I can choose to be thankful for what He has given me because I don't deserve any of it.  I can embrace the different places and circumstances He gives me because I trust that His purposes are good and best and He is at work in my life.

Today, I want to invite you into our home, the home I've come to love.

You won't find these pictures on Pinterest or in a magazine, but this is our life right now, and it is good.

May you have a blessed weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Next Steps & New Blog Name

Living in Florida has resulted in a new hobby for Bradley.  And, we found out yesterday that we'll be able to take this hobby with us!  Virginia Beach, here we come!!

We're looking forward to being closer to family and still being able to live near the water.  Now, we have a lot of decisions to make before the kids and I head out of here in just 6 weeks.  I already started looking into housing and schools yesterday.  This process can always be a bit overwhelming, so we'd appreciate your prayers as we strive to be wise in our choices.  I couldn't get to sleep last night thinking through all of the things that I need to get done.  I'm asking the Lord for calmness of spirit. 

It's been over a month now since I shared that I'll be launching a new blog.  Well, October was a full month for me writing every day, so I didn't have as much time to work on the finishing details of my new blog.  But, things are underway now, and hopefully sometime within the next 2 weeks, I'll be ready to start writing on my new space!

In the meantime, I've had to request a change to my Facebook page, and because of that, I decided to share the name of my blog with you now.  Here's my new name and logo:

I tossed around many ideas for a name, and finally landed on this one, and I love it.  It summarizes exactly the things that I enjoy writing about, plus it gives me the freedom to truly be what's called a 'lifestyle blog'.  That means I'm not limited to cooking or decorating, or even motherhood.  I can write about my life--whatever is happening--and my desire is to share all of that in light of the truth of God's Word.  Again, a more eloquently written description will be coming. :)

During the first few weeks of my blog launch, I'm planning to host some giveaways.  I'm really excited about this next step for my blog and I want to celebrate it.  For you, it's just a treat, because you'll have the opportunity to win some fun new things.  This is where some of you come in!  

If you own an Etsy shop, online store, sell a product that you think my readers would enjoy, or know someone who does, please contact me!  I'm looking to highlight some great products during this celebration giveaway.  You can email me at onlyfromscratch (at) gmail (dot) com.  

Here's what I'm looking for:

1. A shop who would be willing to donate an item(s) to be given away.

2. Shops who would provide discounts for Life with Truth readers.

3. Shops whose products I LOVE that I can purchase from and highlight in a blog post/giveaway.

Happy Friday to all of you!  

May you have a refreshing weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I Learned in October

It seems hard to believe that we're already into November!!  I went to the mall on Saturday and was shocked to hear Christmas music playing.  While I love the holiday season, I also really love November and I refuse to think about decorating and getting ready for Christmas right now.

Emily hosts these end of the month link-ups every month, and I love to think back through the different things I've learned.  Some serious, some silly, but all lessons worth noting.

1. Southern food continues to be my favorite to eat and cook.  I was sent a copy of the new Southern Living Community Cookbook to review, and let me just tell you it is hands down, the best cookbook I've ever used.  I've made several recipes from it, each of them being a hit.  Sweet Potato Biscuits, Butternut Squash Soup, Grillades and Grits, Sausage and Pinto Bean Dip, just to name a few that I've cooked so far.  I look forward to trying out more recipes, including a Hummingbird Cake, which has been on my 'to-do' list for awhile.

2.  Persimmons are a fruit that grows on trees.  They look like oval oranges, but aren't supposed to be eaten on their own; usually you put them into jams or baked goods.  We didn't taste any, so I can't comment on the flavor, but I had always been curious about these things.

3. Cotton fields are beautiful, particularly when the cotton is ready to be picked.  It's like big snowballs growing in a row.  We found this patch on a back road near an Alabama farm.  I might have picked some to take home...

4. Losing weight in my 20's was way easier than losing weight in my 30's.  In college, I could simply cut back on my calories.  I've found now that doesn't work.  Exercise and cutting back are necessary.  But, when I combine them, it works.  As of this morning I've lost 62 pounds since giving birth to Jennavieve 15 months ago.  This is very exciting to me, and it's fun to finally wear some clothes that have been collecting dust in my closet for the past few years.  My favorite pair of  red pants will be worn this year, without fear of ripping the seams when I bend over. Ha!

5. Running is way better with a friend.  I had a goal to try and do a 4-mile run by the end of October.  My sweet friend Trish was in town for the weekend and she agreed to accompany me on Friday.  With her help I did it!  Having someone to talk with made it go by more quickly, and I didn't even want to give up.  Now, my goal before Christmas is to try for a 6-mile run.  I may need to find a running friend :).

6.  Writing everyday on this blog is not realistic during this season of life.  I thoroughly enjoyed the #write31days challenge, and had fun with my topic, Made to Pour, but it's been nice to take a break the past few days from writing.

7. Fall does come to Florida, it's just not full of cold weather, brightly colored leaves, and snuggling under blankets.  There is beauty to be found, though, and the colors on these plants by the ocean are gorgeous.  I have always loved wearing shorts and a long-sleeved shirt, so this weather is perfect for me.  My sandaled feet are quite happy each day, and it's possible I'll still be wearing them come Thanksgiving.  I'm very much okay with that.

What did you learn in October?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 31 :: Concluding Thoughts

This month has been a fun challenge for me to try and write on the same topic every day.  At the beginning, I wasn't sure if I would make it through the whole month, but here we are and I didn't miss a single day.  I made a deal with myself that I would only keep going if it wasn't interfering with my family's needs.  The other part of the deal was that I had to enjoy it.  I'm thankful to say that I kept both ends of the deal with myself :)

But, here are some of my concluding thoughts on Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing, and the #write31days challenge:

1. There is MUCH more about living a life of blessing than I have written in these blog posts.  I crammed some of my thoughts into my posts, but many more are swirling in my head, and surely there are things that I'm still yet to learn.  It's a process.

2. My family is teaching me how to be a blesser as I live with them every day.

I asked Mallory one day, "What makes you happy?"  Her answer?  "Eating doughnuts makes me happy."  So, one of the ways I've learned to bless her is by doing fun things throughout the day.  She often gets lost in the shuffle of Isabella's schooling and Mason's therapy.  When I plan specific things for her to enjoy in the midst of running errands, she lights up.  We get muffins or doughnuts from the coffee shop, throw coins in the fountain, she puts the groceries in the cart at the store, and she even enjoys helping me clean the house.  I'm learning to understand each of my children and strive to minister to their hearts in special ways.

Mason--oh my, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to count the number of lessons I've learned from him.  Recently, though, he's been teaching me that being a blesser is rejoicing with others.  He finds great delight in others' happiness.   He loves watching kids play on the park and wants to join right in with them.  If we laugh, he laughs, and usually he has no idea what's so funny.  Everyone we encounter is a friend to him and he eagerly waves and says "Hi" to each person we pass by.  He doesn't hold back his joy, and I'm learning that in this freedom he feels, other people find delight in the things that make him happy.

Isabella thrives on playing with the kids in our neighborhood.  It doesn't matter who is out there, she wants to have fun with each one and says, 'Goodbye!  We'll play with you tomorrow!' a million times when we call her in for dinner each night.  If her friends are thirsty, she runs inside, fills up cups with ice and water and brings them a drink.  She gives without hesitation and her joy in giving inspires me. She loves her siblings well, and each of them adore her!  There is clapping and exclaiming from all of them when we pick her up from school each day.

Jennavieve is our little firecracker right now.  She can be full of delight one minute and cranky the next.  But she loves her brother.  Their relationship is precious and each day as I observe them I get to see firsthand what it means to love someone unconditionally.  Yes, they steal each other's toys and get mad at one another, but they have a bond that won't be broken and I love it.

My husband (I mentioned him earlier this month as one of my amazing blessers) just keeps on.  The sacrifices he makes for our family are wonderful and I couldn't be more thankful for a husband who fiercely loves each one of us.

3. I cannot continue to write a blog post every day.  This was not a new realization to me, but having it confirmed was quite helpful.  My new blog should be launched very soon (stay tuned for more info on that next week!!) and I've been thinking through how I'm going to make that transition.  Knowing my limits is wonderful as I look toward making my new blog really be a place where I can write, and hopefully write well.  Yes, challenging myself to write everyday certainly helped in some ways, but in this season of my life, it's just not realistic on a regular basis.

4.  There might be a few more posts coming on this topic, specifically some stories that I'd like to share with you.  The nice thing about writing on a blog is that you're not limited to a number of pages or confined by a publisher's deadlines and restrictions.  I can write whatever I want, whenever, and I can keep writing about living a life of blessing as God teaches me more and more what that looks like.

Thanks for joining me on this journey this month.  It's been fun for me, and I hope you've come away with some things to think on.

Happy Friday!  Happy end of October!

And, stay tuned for more info on my new blog coming soon...

This is Day 31 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 30 :: Pouring comes from a deeply contented heart

When I am content with what the Lord has given, or taken away, or not yet revealed, I can bless Him.

A heart that is content can see the success and joy in others without becoming envious.  Envy rots the bones and is a hindrance to blessing others.  When I compare my life to someone else's it becomes very easy to withhold serving and blessing them because I begin to feel they are undeserving.  

If I want to truly live a life of blessing, pouring out to the Lord and those around me, I must have a heart that is content.

"God carries his children through this world through a variety of conditions.  Sometimes we lack, and at other times we abound.  This allows our graces to be tested.  We will find that God's love is stable, certain, and constant in a variety of conditions.  God does not change, and his love is constant however our lives might change.  We must learn not to quarrel with God's government.  Let God do as he pleases as he brings us to heaven.  It is no matter what the way is like, or how rugged it is, as long as he brings us there.  God's grace is able to carry his children above all conditions."

Richard Sibbes, Voices from the Past, p 323

This is Day 30 of a series:  Made to Pour, living a life of Blessing

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 29 :: How to pour when I'm empty

Throughout this month as I've been thinking on my topic "Made to Pour" and learning what it looks like to live a life of blessing, there's been a nagging question in the back of my mind:

  How can I pour when I'm empty?

Maybe some of you wonder the same thing.  Life can be so busy and we go and go, give and give, and then we're spent.  Good things can be so draining.

In addition, hardship comes to all of us in different forms and these crises cause grief and pain that make us feel needy, not ready to give to others. 

I've been there.  I experienced months of soul-neediness and I learned that backing away from some of things that I typically did to serve others was okay. 

Being a part of the worship team at church was a way that I used my gifts to bless our church family.  But when I was working through the news that Mason had Down syndrome I couldn't play the piano without crying.  It's kind of hard to hit the right notes when you can't read the music, and messing up the band wouldn't have blessed anyone.  So, I backed off of this ministry for awhile.  

When Jennavieve was born and I was juggling two babies and two preschoolers, I had a hard time planning out my grocery list.  The thought of entertaining people in our home was way too overwhelming.  It took forever for me to cook dinner for a few extra people and I would get distracted, usually ending up in tears at the thought of having to talk to people for a few hours.  This was something we had always done, so giving it up for awhile was really hard.   But we knew it was best for our family, so we put that form of 'blessing' on hold.  

Did this mean I stopped being a blesser?   I hope not.  I think part of living a life of blessing is just being a follower of Christ.  If we are seeking to walk in the Spirit, then whatever we do, will bless others because it will point people to Jesus.  

I liked what one person said as a definition of being a blesser:  it's bringing someone to a point of seeing God more clearly for who He truly is.

Maybe by knowing our limits and living within those, we're helping others to realize that our relationship with God and service to Him is not about how much we do.  It's just being in Him.  When I watch people depend on the Lord, I see God as a God who loves, comforts, and strengthens His people.  This is a blessing.

Blessing others doesn't always have to be about serving others either.  It blesses me when I hear people's honesty about their pain, and still acknowledge God's goodness in the midst of their suffering.  So, even when you're backing away from doing, you can bless people by continuing to live a life of faith in God regardless of your circumstances.  

Not only have the challenges of life left me feeling empty, they also make me feel like I'm a mess.  

How do I bless the Lord when I'm a mess?  I think it's pretty simple: I have to realize that my mess is where He met me in the first place. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)  "Bless the Lord...who redeems your life from the pit" (Psalm 103:4)  So, if I think that my mess--whether I made it or not--is a hindrance to blessing the Lord then I've failed to understand God.  He is my Redeemer.  And His love never fails.  When I come to Him in the midst of my mess, His very presence becomes the most precious gift, and He continues to teach me that He is enough.

Blessing others when I'm a mess?  Maybe a break from some forms of service are needed so we can heal.  

But the truth is, we're all a mess, whether we realize it or not.  There is nothing in any of us that is capable of blessing anyone apart from the grace and strength of the Lord.  We are simply vessels.  

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us...For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh...So we do no lot lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day..." (portions of 2 Corinthians 4:7-16).

The acts we do of blessing others, pouring out, will probably look different from time to time, but we can live a life of blessing by allowing the power of God to shine through us so that others see Jesus, even when we feel empty and in the midst of our biggest messes. 

This is Day 29 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 28 :: On wondering how to bless

"What is the best way for us to encourage you?"

This was how my Mom started one of our evening conversations at the beach last month.

After we all joked that Starbucks gift cards, Chick-fil-a meals, or cash worked, we took turns sharing how we feel most encouraged.  There were a variety of answers:  written notes, a listening ear, words of praise, empathy, truth.  In  a group of just 8 people we differed in the ways we liked to receive encouragement.

So, I concluded that not everyone likes to be 'blessed' in the way that I do.  And if I'm struggling to figure it out?  Just ask.  

People around us might be hurting, struggling, or going through a challenging time.  And, yes, we can certainly depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us on how to minister to them.  But, I think sometimes we feel at a loss as to how to help and so we just don't do anything.

Maybe we need to say, "How can I best serve you right now?" 

I have always loved this verse.  There is so much packed into those few words about how our speech can hold power to impact someone in a positive way.  While it is a verse on speech, I think the principle can hold that any timely act of service or word of encouragement will bless someone.  

Maybe we need to sit down with those close to us and have a 'how can I encourage you' conversation.  It was really fun for our family to spend some time discussing this.  We all came away learning a little bit about one another.  

So, if you get a question from me about this, you'll know why :)

And, to the one who might be asked the question:  Tell them.  Be honest.  If someone is wanting to bless you, allow them that opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that it's really hard for me to receive help from people.  But I continue to learn that this whole 'living a life of blessing' isn't just for me.  If we're all striving to bless those around us, then we need to be willing to be blessed.  And just as giving blessing takes humility, receiving blessings also requires humility.  

This is Day 28 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing