Saturday, March 14, 2015

What Do You Have in That Bag?!?

I have a bag that I carry, known around here as Mom's Bible Study bag.  Recently I've been asked by numerous people, "What do you carry in that bag?" So I thought I'd show you!  Here's the top view. 
 It's a Thirty-One bag, I'm not sure that they even make it any more?  But it is super sturdy!  I don't carry a purse, the red pouch is my wallet and I just throw everything else in this tote.  There several pockets on the outside, this side is where I keep my nametag for Bible Study Fellowship.
 On this side I keep my Post-It note pads and apparently my cheese sticks.
 Front view - I should call my bag in June is busting out all over.  Except she isn't.  All the seams are perfectly intact.
 Big books - I've got my Beth Moore Daniel study, a borrowed copy of Dianne Craft's Brain Integration Therapy, my planner, the green folder has my Bible Study Fellowship work in it, my Sunday school teacher's guide, an old Beth Moore Living Beyond Yourself that I'm copying notes out of, and a BJUPress catalog.
 I've got some Happy Mail in there, ready to mail out.
 Small books - my Bible, "Still Alice" (highly recommend), "A Thomas Jefferson Education" (also highly recommend), notebook, True Woman Manifesto (this always gets moved to last on my priority list, unfortunately).
 I've got two spiral bound notecard books, for scriptures for memory work, my wallet, my earbuds, van key with adorable keychain made my talented good friend, Jill and pencil pouch.

My pencil pouch is a bit on the full side as well.  I'm pretty particular about my writing utensils, I like a dull pencil but I really like these mechanical pencils, the lead thickness is 1.3mm, whereas a standard mechanical pencil is 0.7mm.  Standard pencil lead always breaks on me, but not these.  They are great!  I've also got my colored pens and watercolor pencils for Bible journaling, lots of medium thickness ballpoint pens, highlighter, and pretty Sharpie.
So, now you know, when you see me schlepping my Bible study bag around, what's in there!  I enjoy having everything right in one place.  If I get a chance to head to the coffee shop to work on Bible study homework, it's all in there.  When it's time to drive to guitar lessons and sit for an hour, I'm prepared.  When I settle in to my favorite chair to study my Bible, I've got everything I need gathered together.  If I want to go to bed early, I just lug the bag upstairs. 

Do you have a special space where you always read and study or do you have a basket or bag you store all of your needful things in?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Happy Mail!

There are lots of Happy Mail projects and blogs out there, basically bringing back the joy of receiving a real letter in the mail.  I don't know about you but most days everything in my mailbox is junk and other days it's just a bill or two.  No fun!  I have been so, so very bad about mailing cards in the past.  I have good intentions but it just doesn't happen.  I've even skipped Christmas cards for the past several years.

So I decided that this year is the year of Happy Mail for me! All the birthday cards, all the thank you notes, all the "I think you're the greatest kid I've never given birth to" cards, thinking of you notes, praying for you cards, you're so hilarious notes, you're really a great mom encouragement, it-really-stinks-that-you-have-to-go-through-this get the idea.  It's only March 12 and I think I've already mailed more things this year than any other year.

When I send Happy Mail I try to focus on the envelope.  I want the recipient to know when they open their mailbox there's something special in there.

 There are lots of ideas on Pinterest for envelope designs.  This little slobbery doggy's tail is on the other side.

 My middle son enjoys art and wanted to decorate some envelopes for thank you notes he was sending out.  This is a you see the butter and syrup?

 This was also a copy off of something from Pinterest.  I cut her dress from washi tape.  A cheery birthday wish!

Here's another one of my son's designs.  A friend of his showed him how to make this design.

And another one by my son after he saw my jar of love notes envelope above. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

I mailed this Happy Mail out to all of my Sunday School class, including my youngest son, who was so thrilled.  I mailed them their memory verse, ways to earn stickers in class, a secret mission and a candy.  Side note, I have since learned that mail doesn't get treated very carefully, even if you pay extra to hand stamp it.  Every single one of my Sunday School children reported back that their candy got crushed (somehow none of them seemed to care though and still ate it - ha!).  I asked the postal worker about this and she said stuff gets thrown around like you wouldn't believe, with packages thrown on top of envelopes thrown on top of all those pesky bills.  So the next time I mailed out candy I used padded envelopes and I think they all arrived intact.

These were fun to make!  I patterned these off of something I saw on Pinterest as well.  Mr. Steady's twin niece and nephew turned 6 and a friend turned 8! These went into padded envelopes.

Another Pinterest hack - I hate for my kids to miss Sunday School but I don't mind mailing their work to them!

 Sometimes I don't draw pictures but just play around with the typography.  

 And then there was the day two weeks ago when I opened my mailbox and got Happy Mail addressed to ME!  I could hardly believe it and it totally made my whole life. 

So how about you?  Have you sent any Happy Mail lately?  Have you received any Happy Mail?  What is the best thing you ever received in the mail? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Illustrated Faith

I bought a Journaling Bible two years ago after seeing the nice wide margins that allowed for notetaking.  This is the Bible that I have, it is no longer in print but there are a wide variety of journaling Bibles available.

A few months ago I stumbled on Valerie Wieners Instagram account and immediately fell in love with her art.  I was slack-jawed that she added her beautiful art to her Bible!

I am not an artist but I am a good copier and creativity is free, or really cheap, anti-depessant therapy.  I am also a very visual person so the idea of reading God's Word and mulling over what I've read and putting that into pictures was incredibly appealing to me.  So I tried it out.

Then I went back and tried adding some color to some of my existing notes.
Pretty fun!  But the pastels I was getting from my watercolor pencils just wasn't cutting it enough for me.  I unearthed my boys' watercolors and started really digging in.

I soon learned that this art form has a name, or several names, Illustrated Faith or Documented Faith.  I found other Instagram accounts like Stephanie Ackerman, Shanna Noel and Little Bit Funky.

Everybody does it differently.  This is my every day Bible but others have a study Bible and just journal and doodle in their Journaling Bible.  Some ladies use rubber stamps and stickers, others use water colors and Prisma Inks.  Some stick to the journaling margins, others cover their whole page.  

There are websites and Facebook groups and Alaskan cruises!  Oh my!  For me, this is simply my fringe hours with God.  Some of my notes are from Bible studies, sometimes I write another translation, sometimes it's just my own interpretation of what I've read.
I've started carrying a watercolor palette with me and at the coffee shop I ask for a small cup of water and plop myself next to a sunny window. 
Sometimes there is only enough time to get out the colored pens and pencils. 

Other times I'm gifted with more time and I plug in my earbuds and jam out on Pandora.  If you see me at McDonald's in full-on worship mode, don't be surprised if I'm raising my arms - just praising Jesus.
This one was a poor excuse of a hack from Pinterest.  My apologies to the original artist for ruining your picture!

I'm so blessed that God put this in my path and is using this to make the Bible come alive in a whole, new way for me.  His Word is alive and active in me and I'm so enjoying allowing it to bubble up in whatever imperfect, humble way He allows.

If you're interested in this, Valerie, Shanna, and Stephanie all have much more concise and beautiful descriptions than I could possibly add to.  I encourage you to check them out.  But even more than that, I encourage you to just get started.  Yes, you'll mess up (like the time I wrote Esther/Boaz when I meant to write Ruth/Boaz...still trying to come up with a creative way to cover that up), yes your pens might bleed through or dribble on your page, you might smudge your handwriting or misspell a word.  But your Bible is a part of your legacy.  I have my grandmother's and my great-grandmothers Bibles.  They are full of four-leaf clovers and obituaries cut from the newspaper.  I want my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to look back through my Bible and see what spoke to me, where I struggled, what verses I was working on memorizing.  This, to me, is a great legacy to leave.

If you don't want to doodle directly in your Bible, try buying a journal and seeing what images God's Word stirs in your mind.  Above all, don't get caught up in the details.  It's about drawing closer to Him and for HIS glory!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bar Barakah

Bar Barakah means “Son of the Blessing”.  Many traditions and cultures have a rite of passage; some at a certain age, others at a point of maturation determined by the parents.  Boys need to be called into manhood and girls need to be called into womanhood.  Jesus received a blessing from his Heavenly Father in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, God said, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Men, especially young men, long to hear their earthly fathers say, “I love you, I’m proud of you, I’m pleased with you”.  

Do you remember the particular moment when you knew you were a woman or a man?  How about when you were married…could you point to the day you became married?  Of course we can – it’s the day of our wedding and most of us know the approximate time, when the minister declared us husband and wife.  Craig S. Hill likens a Bar Barakah to a wedding in the sense that it is an opportunity for a father to say, in the presence of family and friends, “Today, Son, you are a man”.  Of course, all of this also applies to young girls…my husband and I just happen to have had three sons first before we had a daughter. 

Several years ago an Internet friend mentioned her son’s Bar Barakah.  I asked her about this and she explained to me that it was the Christian equivalent to a Jewish Bar Mitzvah.  I was familiar with the term, Bar Mitzvah, I knew it was a rite of passage but beyond that I wasn’t too sure what was involved.  My friend said they had read a book by Craig S. Hill titled “Bar Barakah” and I immediately ordered it and read it.
About a year ago my husband, Dan, and I started discussing this idea and we knew we wanted to do something special for Ashton, our oldest son’s 13th birthday.  Approximately six months before his birthday we started really praying about what to do and who to involve.  My husband already owned a book called, “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes so he and Ashton started meeting on Wednesday nights, after dinner, and reading through this book.  We explained the idea behind the Bar Barakah and Ashton got very interested and involved.

Through our studying we realized men who are very successful in life surround themselves with other successful people.  We wanted to choose mentors for Ashton in very specific areas.  We chose the areas of relationships, finance, work ethics, chivalry, and ministry.  Then we spent time praying and asking God to show us men whom Ashton already had some connection with who were strong in these areas.  God was very gracious and soon we had a list.  Dan contacted each of the men and gave them time to also pray about this.  We knew we were asking for a big commitment, to meet with Ashton on a regular and ongoing basis, and to mentor him in a specific area.  We received affirmation from each of the men God laid on our hearts.  These men became known as his Council.

The Bar Barakah is the blessing but Hill suggests parents make as big a deal of this as a graduation or a wedding.  Children need to know that you value this time and you are willing to make an investment for them.  Dan thought it was important for Ashton to be very involved in the planning so that he knows what party planning entails.  When they met on Wednesday nights they began to discuss details.  Ashton chose one of our ministers to officiate the ceremony alongside Dan, colors, the menu, venue, helped design invitations, made the guest list, and helped make many other decisions. 
We ordered our invitations from Tiny Prints and we were quite thrilled with their quality and service.  

The guest list was to be intimate, the five men who were invited to be part of Ashton’s council and their wives, our ministers and their wives, his Sunday school teacher and her husband, grandparents and his closest friends and their families.  We ended up having some additional 11th hour guests that I was absolutely thrilled to share in our day.

I have to be honest at this point and say that, as the mom, I felt kind of left out in the planning...which is kind of the point, that the son leaves the wing and safety of his mother and steps into the world of manhood.  So along the way I spent a lot of time in prayer and made a prayer garland as a decoration.  And I hired our most favorite photographer, Belle Hess, because I didn’t want to miss a moment of the ceremony and I knew I’d want this day captured on film.  Nearly all of the pictures shared here are her fantastic work!

Ashton wrote beautiful, scriptural commitments in several areas including serving Jesus, submission to authority, purity and others.  Our minister asked Dan and I to confirm similar commitments.

Each family was asked to bring a scripture, blessing or word of encouragement to share with Ashton.  The chairs were set up in a semi-circle while Dan and Ashton went to each man and Dan asked, “Will you accept my son as an equal?”  When the man answered to the affirmative, Dan asked if he had anything he would like to share.  Each man shared heartfelt words, some were eloquent, others were short and concise, but they were all important.  

Then Dan asked the women and children to stand on one side of the path and the men to stand on the other side.  At this point I prayed over Ashton and released him into manhood, while Dan and the other men called Ashton forth into manhood.  Ashton knelt and all the men laid hands on him and prayed special blessings over him. 

Dan and I then presented Ashton with special gifts, an Armor of God coin printed  with Ephesians 6:13-17 on it and a wristwatch.

After the ceremony we served chocolate fondue with strawberries, Oreos, and marshmallows, summer sausage, cheese and crackers, mocha punch and iced sweet tea. 

It was a very special day and I believe Ashton felt loved, special, and blessed.  So what now?  Ashton continues to meet with his Council on a semi-regular basis.  We gave each man full discretion to do what he sees fit, whether that means reading a book and discussing it, working in the workshop, or going out for a mocha latte and chatting about life.  Dan and Ashton continue to meet every Wednesday night and are continuing to work through “Disciplines of a Godly Man”.  Ashton’s Bar Barakah also influenced his homeschooling curriculum this year as he is reading a lot of biographies about great men and other great books for men.  


If this is something you think you’d like to learn more about, let me share some more thoughts and resources!  First of all, there is no one “right age” to have a Bar/Bat Barakah.  Some sources suggested an age range of 12-18.  One source suggested paying attention to when the child is showing interest in the opposite sex: paying more attention to personal grooming, showing physical signs of puberty, etc.  We wanted to be very proactive and we know at some point Ashton will want to seek out advice from people outside of his family.  We wanted to surround him with those people and foster relationships that we hope he will lean on when that time comes, hence his Council.

Some books that we highly recommend:
Bar Barakah: A Parent’s Guide to a Christian Bar Mitzvah (link is to the Kindle edition, we used the 1998 paperback edition but have since read recommendations for the updated version)

There are lots of great books out there in this area right now, I would love to hear about other ones that you have read and loved!  The Internet is, of course, a great resource and we gleaned from blogs and website about how others have conducted their son’s ceremonies.  

In the end, the most important thing that a parent can do is impart a blessing to their child.  I believe this with every fiber of my being.  It can be a special day with a special ceremony and all of your child’s special loved ones, or it can be in an intimate moment but don’t miss the opportunity to pour a blessing out on your child and say “You are my child in whom I am well pleased.”


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014

I've made New Year's resolutions in the past and broke them by January 2 or, one banner year, February 1.  I've tried picking just one word and trying to focus on that all year.  Let's just say I was very unintentional about being intentional.

I have lots of prayers for this year, lots of dreams, lots of plans, and lots of goals.  But what I desire more than anything is less of me, more of Jesus.  None of self, all of thee.

I am joyfully, expectantly, confidently, eagerly searching for what God has in store for me in 2014.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

eShakti - It's Like Having your Own Personal Tailor {$30 off Coupon Code!!!}

I very rarely even look at ads on the side of blogs and other websites I visit.  I'm sorry, I know that is how most of you feed your family and keep the lights on but I just don't look at them.

However, back in the spring a green polka dotted shirt caught my attention.  I had just learned a lot about myself through the Dress Your Truth website and knew that this particular shirt was made for a Type 1, which is my type.  Polka dots and asymmetrical lines?  Yes, please!

So I clicked on the picture and found myself in the very fun world of eShakti.  Have you ever tried a dress on and wished the sleeves were 2-inches longer and the neckline were just a smidge higher?  Me too!

Of course, the perfect solution would be to call up your favorite local seamstress, like Jill, to start from scratch and tailor your dress to your every curve and preference.  But sometimes you just really like a dress that you see on your screen and want to suit it to you a little more.  Or maybe, sadly, Jill isn't a 30 minute drive away from you? 

eShakti offers dresses, tops, skirts, jackets, and even bridesmaids dresses.  You can customize the neckline, sleeve, and length of most of their offerings.  You can add your own measurements and save them for future shopping.  You can even remove pockets and embellishments!
I greatly dislike buying clothes for myself but once I saw I could customize this shirt, plus as a new customer I received a $25 off code and free customizations, plus they were having a sale, plus I had a few bucks in my "blow" category, I knew that shirt was mine.

I entered my measurements, chose my custom neckline and sleeve length and waited very impatiently for my new shirt.  It fit perfectly!  I loved it!  I wore it once a week...ok, maybe twice a week, until the weather turned cooler and now am on the hunt for a fun cardigan to layer over it.

Want to try eShakti for yourself?  Well, the great news is they are offering my readers not a $25 off coupon like everyone else who visits their site but a $30 off coupon!  And right now they are having a 35% off sale until December 9th which means you can get a pretty fantastic deal and maybe even have a new something special to wear by Christmas!

Just enter the code JENNIFERZ8CX to get your $30 off (don't click the 'Register today for $25 off or else you'll miss out on the extra $5 off!).   Plus, you always get free customizations on your first order!  What's not to love?

So go shop around and see what unique and custom clothes you can order for yourself! 

Just for fun, go take a look and then come back and tell us what you'd like to buy!

*Links included in this post are affiliate links and I may receive some compensation for your referral purchase.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Poor Grandma, Part 3

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you might want to read them first.

My head spins with all that is in it.  So many contradictions, so many opinions. So much pull to things other than Him.  The devil is a cunning and crafty adversary and has lured an entire gender of this and every other industrialized nation into an ages old game of compare-and-contrast and hyper-exaggerated it.  Do the duos Rachel & Leah or Martha & Mary ring any bells?

One friend refuses to serve her children any soda other than diet, another searches out soda without high fructose corn syrup and yet another thinks it's child abuse for any parent to serve their children soda of any sort.  Which one loves their children more?

One friend is gluten-free, another feeds her children Paleo, and a yet another is a regular at the McDonald's drive-thru.  Which one is the better mother?

One friend will only buy fair-trade clothes, another says her new necklace that she bought on Etsy was "only" $60, and another friend cries as she can't find jeans at the thrift store that fit her children.  How do you know which one is a better steward of their money?

One friend says she has no time to be on Facebook and the other friend's feelings are hurt because she can be found on Facebook quite often so what does that mean about the way she spends her time?  And yet another friend apologizes about being on Facebook all the time and must explain her new fangled phone.  Which one uses her time wisely?

Only God can see the heart of each of these women.  I'm certain they are all wonderful mothers, doing the best they can.  We each make decisions for our family based on the information we have available.  Would it be edifying to say "Please tell me you don't feed your child aspartame?"  Would it be encouraging to say "I really hope you don't buy clothes made in a sweat-shop!" 

If we stop and think, do we feel judged and belittled by our friends or do the voices in our own head scream more than loud enough to make up for it all?  Did my friend *really* imply that if I am on Facebook I must be sitting around lollygagging all day long or do I feel guilty and therefore interpret what she said incorrectly?

Can we just give it all up?  Stop judging?  Stop comparing?  Stop looking at other peoples muscle mass, flower beds, children's birthday parties, SAT scores, marriages, residential square footage, on and on ad nauseum....and just live the life God wrote for me and me alone?  Love God, love your neighbor, serve others, die to self?