Priorities

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Man, life gets busy.  Doesn’t it?  I mean, seriously.  I sat down to lunch with a dear friend yesterday.  She moved to Michigan almost a year ago.  But as we talked, we realized a full year went by between when I saw her last and their move.  Because as we also discussed, the years fly by, but the days go by so slow.  ‘Tis the season.  We have a four and a half year old, and a two and a half year old.  The hours between when room time is done and when bed time arrives are the longest of the day.  They typically include a lot of extreme emotions, too – lots of laughter, and lots of screaming and crying (and that’s just the kids… not to mention the rollercoaster I ride with them…)  And it’s honestly so hard to get up every day, knowing the rollercoaster awaits, and look at my to do list and to prioritize what is really important, and what is fluff that can wait til the next day.

Y’all!  Please tell me I’m not alone in this struggle.  Stephen Covey makes it sound so dang easy.  Oh, just put things into categories, and then go with it.  It doesn’t matter how many cute stickers I put in my planner, y’all.  Some days, I don’t just use them.  I don’t write down all the things that need to be done because they are just too many to write.  I don’t need to write “dishes” and “laundry” on my calendar every day.  No, they have become as inevitable to me as death and taxes.  Every single day of my life as a mom of two kids, those things will haunt me.  Until one day they won’t, and then I will wonder at how long it takes for the laundry to pile, and how many hours the sink will sit totally empty.  And I’ll miss it.  I know I will.  Because I spend time with friends who are empty nesters, and they tell me to treasure these moments.

So I’m trying.  I try to prioritize my kids needs first.  I’m trying to stop and take time to build with magnets and play with trains and push them on the swings.  Because work and housework and responsibilities like paying bills and planning church lessons are all a means to an end.  They are good things.  Things that need to happen because I have committed myself to them.  But those things will amazingly still be there to do when the kids are long gone.  They won’t be little forever.  As evidenced by the fact that we have now lived in this house five and a half years… we’ve been married eight and a half years… and our two beautiful babies aren’t babies any more.  Time keeps marching on.  As I sit and type this, the house is silent.  It’s just the hum of the refrigerator, the bubbling of the fish tank, and… the ticking of the clock.  Because time is marching.  Always.

This past week in my Bible study at church we heard some amazing words from Beth Moore.  She read a survey question from a mom that hit me.  This mom said “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.”  Beth went on to say that when we lean on God, “[He] can take our mourning and turn it to wild dancing.”  That really has resonated with me.  Because I so often get caught up in the fears and sadness of whatever emotional rollercoaster my kids are riding.  And then I realize that it’s my job to help them lean on Him to help get off the ride.  Granted, Gray is too young to understand, but Becca is very much in tune to talking to God and asking Him for help.  So I guess all of this is to say that this week I have started realizing my number one priority is to lean on Him, and to put my kids in a close second – teaching them to also lean on Him.  Everything else is just details.  They fall way down the priority list.  Because really, if I lean on Him, and teach them to lean on Him, everything else will fall into place.  No, the dishes won’t do themselves, and sadly neither will the laundry.  But I will find strength to do the things that need to be done when I FIRST place my trust in Him.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it IS the most important.

How are you prioritizing your life?  It’s a challenge to remember to keep God first.  Sometimes it’s hard to even put the kids above all the chores!  It’s a daily struggle.  As Beth Moore says (in her Esther study), “It’s tough being a woman who feels responsible for the ‘how.'”  But y’all, the beautiful truth she goes on to share is what has gotten me through this week.  She said, “Girlfriend, we are called to OBEDIENCE, not to figure out how to solve everything!”  Isn’t that beautiful?  Read it again.  We are called to OBEDIENCE, NOT to figure out how to solve every problem.  So put God first.  And let Him organize the rest of your priorities.  Because all those things are important.  Friendships are important.  But when you listen to Him, He will bring you back together with a long lost friend at exactly the right moment.  Trust me.  That’s exactly what happened to me this week.  It all works out because He’s got the details.  Let Him handle your priorities.  When the emotional and physical rollercoaster you’re riding is just too much and you feel like the drama is going to pull you into the deep, let Him come in and rescue you.  He promises He will.  And y’all, He KEEPS HIS PROMISES!

Be blessed!

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Being a Mom in 2017


This year holds a lot. My oldest baby will turn five this year. Five. She’ll start to kindergarten in the fall. Gray will cut more teeth, learn more words, and discover new physical abilities. But being a mom of two little ones in 2017 is so much more than the big milestones.

It’s waking up with a sinus headache at 3 am and finally conceeding to the need to get up, eat some crackers, put on some peppermint oil, and take some Advil. It’s walking in and turning on the Christmas tree that needs to be put away because its soft glow is so calming and simply peaceful.

It’s a tiny zebra left on the automan and an airplane on the couch. It’s homeschool papers spread on the bar next to travel agency work and Christmas gifts that still need to find a home. It’s looking past the chaos to feel the peace within about the parenting decisions we’re making.

It’s the memories. Oh the memories. From just a few hours ago – of cuddles with my sweet girl and her telling me I’m the best mommy in the whole world. Of my precious boy saying “I wuff you Mommy,” totally on his own as I laid him into his bed last night. And from ten (how could it have already been TEN?) days ago, when I woke early and anxiously awaited their waking and running down the stairs to see the gifts that Santa brought. Oh the peace that comes in those joyous memories.

But being a mom of two little ones also comes with lots of struggle. They both are working hard to discover who they are, and both of them have strong wills and are willing to fight hard for their independence. I know this will grow them into strong, responsible, world-changing adults. But it pulls at my heart when their wills conflict, and fighting insues. It tears at my insides when they go against my gentle requests and I have to get stern and yes, even submit punishment that sometimes in my frustration comes out quite a bit too harsh. In those moments I fight hard to find the peace I wish they were fighting for, and not against.

And it’s not just them I feel I battle on a daily basis. It’s the laundry and the dishes and the crumbs of food and playdoh and pieces of sensory bin activities that are just forever plaguing me with task after task. It’s the responsibilities that go hand in hand with working from home, homeschooling preschool (that isn’t really PREschool level anything), and the desire to do more of my own hobbies and just never. Finding. Enough. Time! And yet, I still find ways to carve out time for the things I want to do- the things that bring me peace.

In the past, I have selected a word of focus for the year, or purposefully not selected anything for various reasons. But this year in 2017, I am choosing to focus on peace. It’s something I pray for our world, for our nation, for our state and for our city. But most of all, it’s something I pray for our family and for my heart. I pray that in the midst of the struggle, in the midst of the clutter, in the midst of the wonderful, that I would always be able to stop and find peace. Contentment with what I have been given. Joy in the blessings- even the sorrow. And that I would be able to bring God’s peace into our family in a calm, gentle way that also displays His strength and His power, that my children and my husband might see in me just a tiny glimpse of Heaven’s peace.

Maybe this is why I’ve always had a negotiator personality. Maybe this is my time. Like the great queen of ancient Persia, Esther, this is the time God has called me to stand up and be that peaceful negotiator that He made me to be. For such a time as this.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

All Things Gingerbread

So, here we sit.  Just two days until Christmas Eve.  And if you are anything like me, you are frantically trying to figure out ways to occupy your children, who are more than ready to kill each other.  Y’all, I have even pulled out the “Santa doesn’t bring gifts to children who aren’t kind to each other and their parents” line.  It’s gettin hectic over here.  Plus, I still have gifts left to wrap, bows left to tie, a house to clean, and a whole mountain range of clean laundry to fold and put away (since I conquered the washing part yesterday, thank the Lord!)

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The one thing that seems to be my saving grace the last two days has been All Things Gingerbread.  Seriously.  I threw together some gingerbread play dough, and since we made gingerbread cookies last week, the kids are so excited about this play dough!!!  I gave them the same little cookie cutters we used for our cookies, and they have had a blast making “cookies” and “cookie pops” and then yesterday they even got out Gray’s little construction trucks and informed me that the play dough looks like dirt, and it’s super fun to put into the construction trucks, apparently!  (So sad I didn’t get any pics of them playing, but y’all, seriously – they were happy, playing TOGETHER, and I was taking full advantage and fixing dinner – in peace!!!)

Today I plan to make another batch so they each have their own big ball of it, give them the giant gingerbread man cookie cutter (aff link thank you!), some buttons, some pipe cleaners (for hair or whatever else they get creative and come up with) and let them go to town making their own gingerbread friends!  (Fits great with the fact that we’re frantically finishing up our Christmas Around the World unit (link to the file on TPT) and today is Germany… which is where the gingerbread traditions originated!  Plus, I’m using a Gingerbread Girl organizational chart (it’s in this FREEBIE file on TPT!) today to diagram about the Gingerbread Girl book by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Aff link, thank you!)… dang, doesn’t this make me seem so organized?  HA!  Seriously, y’all… I’m not.  Being real, I originally planned to do this stuff yesterday, but can’t find the Gingerbread Girl book in the vast cavernous mess of books in Becca’s room, and if all else fails, I may try to find a youtube or just say screw it and forget the organizational chart and attempt to do it next year.) (Keepin’ it real here.)  (Also keepin’ it real – if you made it through the mess of links and () in this paragraph, I love you.  HA!)

The best part about play dough is it takes WAY less time to make than it does for me to write this blog post, which I’ve been intending to write for a couple days now.  So you can do it!  Buy yourself a little time (and patience!)… and better yet, stop everything and sit down and play WITH them.  Playing play dough is so calming for me.  Have you tried it lately?  Becca and I loved making “cookie pops” and then “selling” them to each other to work on her money skills!

Here’s the recipe for my Gingerbread play dough:

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And because I know some of you sweet mamas are going crazy and trying to find a gingerbread cookie recipe that your kids will actually eat… use mine.  It’s super easy and even my pickiest eater loves them!  I make these every single year.  Without fail.  Even if I don’t make any other cookies.  I’m in love with them.  Which is why I felt a picture of my tattered, dirty recipe card page was the best way to share it with you.  This recipe is WELL loved.

And so are you, dear blog reader.  Merry Christmas!  May you be richly blessed this holiday season.

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Keeping Christ in CHRISTmas

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It’s hard in the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season to keep the focus where it should be… So might I make a suggestion?  You’re already going to be doing craft projects and activities… what if you just tweaked them a bit to make sure that your focus is on Christ?  Don’t worry – I’m not suggesting you invent the wheel here!  Nope, Alicia Michelle of Your Vibrant Family has already done it for you!  (And no, it’s not too late to get it TODAY!)

When I found out about her Christmas system, I was excited to be a reviewer!  (Full discloser – I received the set in exchange for my review – these opinions shared here are my own, and links to purchase the set are affiliate links that financially benefit our family – THANK YOU!) But once we started using the system, I started to love it even more!  I read through her ideas, and something she said really hit me.  I mean, I had head knowledge, but there was something about reading it… this is what she said:

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And suddenly, reading this, I realized that it was ok to not cram pack every single day with activity.  It was even ok to not do our annual Christmas cookie exchange this year… and instead use the funds to purchase some special craft activities that we could do together as a family, and sponsor an angel from our church’s angel tree.

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Becca and I painted these wooden letters and as we did, we talked about why we chose “Joy” as her middle name, and also talked about that JOY can stand for putting Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself. It was a really fun time painting together, and a great, deep conversation!

Having this mindset and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas has helped my attitude toward the season so much!  It’s amazing.  I mean, it seems so simple.  Because it is.

Check out the Christ-Centered Christmas Banner we have put together from Alicia’s set… (You can purchase your copy of the set here!)

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How we used the banner pieces:
Gray is 2 1/2 and LOVES to stick stickers!  It’s a fabulous way for him to work on hand-eye coordination and build his fine motor skills, so I’m always looking for more sticker opportunities for him.  He decorated the “Light of the World” banner piece with sparkly star stickers, and we talked about the star that shone over the stable where baby Jesus was born.  We also talked about that Jesus can be called the “Light of the World.”  Did he get it? I wasn’t sure.  But the other night he made the connection when he made a star ornament at our church carnival and he said “It’s Jesus’ star over the manger!  Is the ‘Light of the world!'”  He also used stickers to decorate the “Merry Christmas” banner piece.  He really enjoyed decorating – and when I got the banner hung up, he loved seeing his work on the wall!

Becca is working hard on her handwriting skills, but isn’t super fond of copywork.  So – I thought it might be more fun if she could do her copywork onto banner pieces to be hung on the wall.  She jumped on it and was so excited!  She wrote Psalm 34:18 on the “Hope” banner piece, and on the “Joy” banner piece, she wrote “J is for Jesus” from the poem we read (also in the set!) about the meaning of the candy cane.  Then she chose to draw a picture of Jesus on that banner piece as well.

I added a couple of family pictures to the other banner pieces to tie the focus to our specific family.  Then, since we typically have a sign in the middle of our art display wall (I originally posted about this wall here), I used Alicia’s beautiful background paper that I printed on my color printer, and then ran it through my laser printer once it was totally dry… and developed a beautiful advent count-down calendar to fit in the frame that regularly hangs there… that we can mark with a dry erase marker!  (If you purchase this set, please let me know, and as a thank you for your purchase, I will email you your FREE PDF copy of the “O Come, O Come Immanual” advent countdown calendar – that can easily be printed on top of her decorative paper!  It’s not too late to start it!)

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I am so pleased with how the whole wall turned out.  I love that it’s visible from downstairs in our living room, and that it’s in a place where the kids will see it regularly (upstairs near their rooms) to remember where our focus should be this holiday season.

Another activity we did from this set was actually one I used with our AWANA K-2 group this week.  We talked about the meaning of the candy cane, and the kids strung beads on pipe cleaners to make candy canes.  They got to keep one, and take one to a friend at school – along with the candy cane poem printable from the set – as a Christmas gift to share Jesus with their friends!  The kids had so much fun and were really excited to have a gift to take to friends.  They colored the sheets in their classes once they had said their verses, or could take them home to color before giving to their friend.  I’ll be doing the same thing with Becca this weekend – she’ll get to make candy canes to give to her friends, and can color the sheet as a Christmas card.

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It’s so easy to use this set to stay on track, to keep your focus, and yet still accomplish all the goals you normally have during the holiday season!  I so appreciate Alicia’s creation of this set, and look forward to using these parts (and more!) next year.  I love that there’s so many different options, and I can use what works for our family now, and then still have new things we can add on or swap out next year, or the next!

Might I add…   Don’t think if it’s after December 1st that you can’t start this!!!!  It is never too late to get your focus right, and there’s always room to do stuff next year, but if you wait to get it, you’ll forget!  So click here to get it today and use what you can, and just allow it to build in the future.  You won’t regret it.  That I can promise.

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Click Here! Affiliate link – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Snap-a-Day Advent Photo Challenge

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Last year I stumbled upon a photo challenge for advent, and I jumped in!  I looked up Bible verses to go with each one, wrote them on index cards, and put them in cute envelopes to be opened by Becca each night before bed.

This year, I’ve teamed up with that blogger- the one who does the photo challenge each year- and Allison Gringas and I are happy to bring you the Snap-a-Day Advent Challenge- now with FREE printable Bible verse cards for each day! 

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Simply share your photos daily on IG with #SnapAdvent and tag Allison @reconciledtoyou, and me @cdhinnant!  This printable makes it quick and easy for you to do a Bible verse with your child nightly, and combine it with the fun of a photo challenge!  You don’t even have to look up the verses- they are typed on each card for you in the NIV version (sample shown below).

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We are so excited to offer this to you FREE, and pray that it will bless your family.  Just print on any printer, cut, and enjoy!  Please do tag us both on your photos so we know that you’re benefiting from this printable!  God bless, and may you have an amazing Advent season as we prepare for Christ’s birth!