The Speckled Goat's "Tops" of 2015

Hello, lovely readers! 2015 has been quite a year here on my little corner of the internet, and truly, it's all because of you.

For serious.

Without you reading my thoughts (as random as they often are), sharing them and commenting on them, this little blog wouldn't have grown nearly as much as it did this year. I'm indebted to you guys, and I'm humbled that you take the time to read what I have to say. Truly humbled.


Okay, enough with the mushy stuff. Let's get to doing a little review!


Through the Fog

Life feels foggy lately. We can't see what's coming up next, and we're afraid of hidden dangers. But there's one big difference for those of us who know Christ.... | The Speckled Goat

Driving home was going... well, not so great.

It was about ten o'clock, and the winter sun had gone down hours ago. I was headed back from my small group with a bunch of wonderful ladies, and my car seemed so quiet compared to all the conversation and laughter we'd been sharing.

As I turned down the road headed out of town, the fog closed in.

Winter fog in Iowa is no joke. It's thick, and it's cold- so cold that when the misty air hits the trees, the moisture freezes and makes landscapes that look like something out of a fairy tale. As beautiful as the final result is, it's not terribly fun to drive through.

I know the route very well, I trust my little car, and I knew I'd be home soon, but that didn't really help my white-knuckled anxiety.

Not really knowing what I would encounter just a few yards in front of me was kind of nerve-wracking- especially with the hidden dangers of deer, tractors, and obstacles in the road that were all very real possibilities.

It can be kind of scary to be heading in a direction without being able to really see where we're going.


Blessings this Week: 12.18.2015 Edition

We had a bit of a whirlwind few weeks (which is why I missed last week's blessings post- forgive me!). I'm going to attempt to catch up a little, here. Wish me luck. 

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After all that snow, we've had warm weather and rain, and lots and lots of mud. I just love these big, muddy boots on the porch.

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I'm reminded how thankful I am for our "Camp family." They are all so dear to us. 

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Protecting Hardwood Floors with Tennis Balls

New, beautiful hardwood floors have to be protected from furniture legs- but so many protectors are expensive or just don't work... see how she protected her floor with tennis balls!

Now that my hardwood floors have been refinished (hallelujah), I'm freaking out like a crazy person every time I drop a spoon ("Did it DENT my floor??").

It's all about authenticity, right?

Honestly, though, I know that these floors are going to be lived on. Life will happen on these floors. I will drop stuff and dent the floor. I will scratch it up. God willing, someday a child may scribble on it with crayon. That's life. I get it.

But, just because I know damage will happen doesn't mean that I won't prevent it if I can. We learned, during the restoration, that this is it for the kitchen- there's not enough of the hardwood left to refinish the floor again. When the time comes that the kitchen floor is kaput (hopefully like, 50 years from now), we'll be replacing it, not reclaiming it.

I'd like to keep my floors as protected as possible, and being that furniture tends to be the toughest on floors, I wanted to keep chair legs and tables from scraping up all our hard work.


Jammin' on my Planner: 2016 Planner Prep and Free Printables!

Planner pages free planner printable

It's been a while since I've shared anything about The Binder- but it's still alive (er, around?) and well. And well used.

Because a planner is only as good as you use it.

Also, I've been watching a heck of a lot of Parks and Recreation, and Leslie's planner love mirrors my own.

Because I'm a total crazy person and I'm still trying to find the perfect planner page set up, I moved from my day-on-two page structure last year...


Our Very Real Advent

The smell of fresh-baked cookies. A crackling fire in the fireplace. Red bows and candles in the window. Warm and bright and cozy and full of hazy-eyed wonder.

None of these things represent our Advent season this year.

This year, Advent looks like this:

There are two dehydrators on the table because I don't have counter space enough in the kitchen and the apples are starting to go so they had to be done now. A roll of toilet paper replaces a box of tissues because we haven't found the tissues yet, and he's been out in the cold and came in with a runny nose.


Five Traits of a Ministry-Minded Marriage

aquila and priscilla acts ministry marriage working together

It's well after dark, the snow is starting to fall, and I'm in a boiler room.

"Hand me that, please," he says, motioning to the tool, one that I'm not too confident naming, in my hand.

He's got a little sweat on his forehead as he works, and I think about how many people will now have warm rooms and hot showers because of his work... but they'll never know his name. He prepares a place for people to meet with God, working before they come and after they leave, but they never really know how much work he truly does.

This is ministry.

My husband and I have been working together- at the same ministry- for the past three years. The Camp that employs us has been a lot more than a job- it's a lifestyle, it's our family, it's our nights and weekends, it's our faith in action.

It's our mission.


Blessings this Week: 12.04.2015

As Christmas approaches, I'm trying to be intentional about avoiding some of the mayhem and really taking time to reflect- to think- to process- to be present. 

And counting my blessings is one way I do just that.

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Just to be sure that we didn't think this winter thing was a fluke, November went out with a howl, and more snow. 

(And my husband, who turned off the windshield wipers so I could get this shot, without me even asking.)


Refinishing Hardwood Floors: The Tips and The Tools

Reclaiming our hardwood floors ended up just like most remodels:

More time consuming than we expected it would be.

In part, that's because we're both working full time, and because there were some unexpected delays thrown in there.

And in part, it's because we're a little... optimistic.

In truth, refinishing our hardwood floors, by ourselves (with the exception of some much appreciated family and friends who we begged to come help us), was a lot of work. There are a lot of details that I didn't realize were a part of this project.

And we ended up needing a lot more stuff than I thought we would... a lot of it that I wouldn't have ever thought we could need. It's a really good thing that I have a hubby who's experienced in these kind of projects and had a lot of this on hand- otherwise we would have had to make far more trips to the hardware store than we did.


Reclaiming Christmas

Christmas morning dawned bright- and for all intents and purposes, it seemed a perfect, idyllic, postcard-worthy holiday. Still in our pajamas, my three sisters and I hovered around the tree that had been ringed with presents in colorful wrapping just overnight.

Even as a newly-thirteen-year-old, I could appreciate the beauty of the day, despite the fact that I sort of thought I was too old to show it.

There was just one problem, though; the anticipation, the wonder, the surprise... was gone.


Blessings this Week: 11.27.2015 Edition

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Give thanks, with a grateful heart, for blessings big and small! God is the Giver of all good things! 

You'll have to forgive me- with traveling and so forth for Thanksgiving, I wrote this post a little early, so all these blessings are from early in the week... maybe I should call it the 11.25.2015 Edition? I'll catch up next week. 

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Friday brought the first big snowstorm of the season- Winter is here. We got about 10 inches at our home. So beautiful! We're also grateful that we have a truck and got home safely.

And our retreat guests got safely to Camp, too.

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The next morning, we were greeted with this sunrise

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The little birds on our railing, feathers all puffed up

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Apple crisp. Tons of apple crisp.

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A lazy Sunday- just what we needed.

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Bunny rabbit tracks on the freshly fallen snow- and big deer tracks, too. 

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Snowballs and "camp kids."

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Have I mentioned how much I love these floors? Totally worth it. 

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I finally found our sheets and bedding (that were packed away, inexplicably, in the trunk that was in the living room. I'm a terrible packer...)-- so after about two months, we put away the sleeping bags and have a real bed again! 

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We have plans to see family this weekend- and I'm reminded just how blessed we are to have loved ones close enough to visit, as well as loved ones who are farther away. Our thoughts are with you all this season! 

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Here around the blog this week...

We heard from Cari- she shared with us as part of our Featured Farmers interviews. Even though Cari doesn't usually write about homesteading, she has lots of gems to share

I'm finally sharing the last step (!!!) of refinishing our hardwood floors- prepping and varnishing! What a project! 

Have a very happy Thanksgiving weekend- may you find blessings easily, and may your holiday be filled with joy!!

DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging habit, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. You may see a full disclosure by clicking on my "About" page. I will only promote products that I use, enjoy, or take a shine to. All opinions and reviews are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.


Prepping and Varnishing! (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 4)

Refinishing hardwood floors prepping and varnishing

Just when it seemed that I'd be covered in sawdust for eternity... our hardwood floors were: 

... and now there was just one more thing left on the list--


man vacuum hardwood floor shop vac


Featured Farmers: Cari's Story

Today's Featured Farmer is Cari of Everything Pretty.
While Cari doesn't write about her homesteading lifestyle on her blog, she has lots of wisdom to share with us today! Welcome, Cari, and thanks for joining us!

1. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I live on a small farm with my husband, three kids, a flock of chickens, homing pigeons, and two goats. We also have 300 fruit trees and almost an acre of garden that we grow non GMO vegetables organically. There are also berry bushes and nut trees on the farm that we harvest. Although it’s considered a small farm at 12 acres, it’s been designed for self-sufficiency.

I grew up in the country, but not on a farm. My husband grew up in a small town, but he spent a lot of time on his uncles’ farms. He loved the lifestyle, and we both wanted to get out of the city that we lived in.


Blessings this Week: 11.20.2015 Edition

How is it, that as the season of Thanks comes knocking at my door, I have the hardest time focusing on the blessings instead of on the "wants?"

Maybe you're there, too. 

This week has honestly felt hurried- rushed, over too quick. And in the midst of all my busyness and trying to remember all the things I should do, I need to do, I want to do... I forget the most important thing. 

Counting those blessings. 

The good news is that it's never to late to begin again- in fact, I can start over again right now: thanking God for those little things around me in this very moment. My warm flannel shirt, the smell of coffee in the air, the little plant on my desk. 

It's easy to do, but so, so important. 

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This place I still can't believe is ours

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Making apple crisp with Trevor

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This mama who let me get so near to her

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Rainy afternoons, and a cozy kitchen (despite all the unpacked boxes). 

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Unpacking progress. 

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The first snow of the season, and that it melted so quickly. 

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Just in case you missed it...

Here's what's been going on around The Speckled Goat this week! 

I'm starting to get caught up in writing about the process of reclaiming and refinishing our hardwood floors with these two posts: 


Now that we're in our home, our time of living out of duffel bags has come to an end. Our little two-week-tops adventure turned into a full 6 weeks of living with less- and these are the lessons I learned from the forced simplicity. 

As always, have a great week- and find the blessings! 

DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging habit, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. You may see a full disclosure by clicking on my "About" page. I will only promote products that I use, enjoy, or take a shine to. All opinions and reviews are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.


How to Repair a Hole in a Hardwood Floor

Repairing a hole in a hardwood floor- DIY

**This post contains affiliate links**

We interrupt your sanding-hardwood-floors pleasure to bring you...

Hole in Hardwood floor: repairing hole in hardwood floor

This hole.


My kitchen floor- the one I've been scraping glue off of and sanding down tirelessly? It had a hole in it.


Sanding Edges and Corners (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 3)

Sanding edges and corners hardwood floor refinish

**This post contains affiliate links**

Okay, so, we'd already pulled up carpet and removed glue from our hardwood floors, and then sanded them down using a drum sander. The next step was to sand those areas that the drum sander just couldn't hit- mainly the edges and the hard-to-reach spots.

Hardwood floor edges

See those dark edges? The drum sander couldn't reach all the way to each wall, so it was time to get out the edger. We rented an edging sander from our local hardware store, and called in some forced labor volunteers to help us out.

 Honestly, I don't know that we would have gotten everything done nearly as well or as quickly as we did without the help of our cousin and a co-worker who put in some long, crouched over hours helping us out. 


10 Lessons from Living with Less

living with less simple living

Unintentionally, we've been living out of duffel bags for an entire month.

Simplicity! .... accidentally.

We moved out of Shalom before the floors were finished in our new farmhouse. (You can see a little more about Shalom here, and if you're interested, here's all our home renovation projects on the farmhouse).

We thought it would be a week, maybe two at most, to finish up our hardwood floors and then we'd move in to our farmhouse. We packed up all of our belongings, except for the necessities we needed for a week in our camper.

And then my husband's back had issues, which effectively eliminated more than half of our "hardwood floors action team." Add in a couple of busy weekends at work, and our idea of one week turned into more than a full month.


Even though this wasn't what we planned, this whole situation has been quite the teacher. I've been interested in living more simply for a long time, but our circumstances forced us into it.

Granted, this wasn't the same as, say, taking a 6-week road trip around the country, or renting out our home and living with friends for months at a time. We didn't give all of our possessions away- they were simply packed up and waiting for us. But even through this not-terribly-extreme lesson in simplicity, we still learned a lot.

1) God Provides

It's easy to say that when things are going well, I realize, but it's when everything is going wrong that God's provision really comes into focus. He's been with us the entire time, working it all out for our good.

For example, if it wasn't for the fact that we work for a wonderful camp, we wouldn't have had a place to stay for weeks 1.5 - 5. We also were so provided for with paid sick days, and people who could cover for us at work. God also provided for us through the hands of great friends who faithfully prayed for us, brought us remedies, offered their help, and held us up with their kindness and encouragement.

2) "Home" Is a Flexible Concept

Home for the moment... 

In a little more than one month, we've gone from our home called Shalom to a camper in our backyard, to a cabin at camp, to a different cabin at camp (in the picture above), and finally to our farmhouse. For a homebody who loves her schedules, it's been... different.

Stretching, really.

And it's reminded me that "home?" It's not really a physical place, but more a state of mind.

3) No One Notices if You Only Have Seven Outfits

Yes, really.

My duffel-bag-closet includes two pairs of jeans, a skirt, three long sleeved shirts, four t-shirts, a cardigan, a little jacket thing that my husband calls "that cape," my orange scarf (the Menards one!), and my yellow flannel shirt. And two pairs of PJ's, but I didn't wear any of those to work.

It wasn't limiting at all, to have my clothing choices so narrowed down. Yeah, I wished I would have packed one warmer sweater or cardigan, and I really wish I'd brought my raincoat. But all in all, it was almost kind of freeing- I didn't have to sort through a full dresser to get ready in the morning.

And no one noticed. (Yes, I asked.)

This is the entirety of our clothing for the past month- with the exception of the clothes I was wearing, and our jackets. But otherwise, this was it. 

4) ... And, Only Having Seven Outfits Means Less Laundry

I was pretty stuck on my laundry-every-day schedule- in part because I'm forgetful and having the same habits every helps me to remember to do stuff.

But maybe, just maybe, the fact that my laundry room has a constant stream of clothes coming and going for only two people, is a sign that we have too many clothing items.

5) Versatile Items Are Key

With only seven outfits and two pairs of shoes (I know! Somehow, all my shoes got packed except my clogs and cowboy boots!), everything had to do double-duty.

My cowboy boots went well with the skirt and with jeans. A shirt that I wore on Tuesday at work was the same one I wore the next Sunday to church. The orange scarf went with a white t-shirt or the blue long-sleeved t. My yellow flannel shirt works with... everything. It works with everything.

6) We Have Too Many Personal Care Items

The only toiletries we brought were one bottle of 3-in-1 shampoo (my husband's... but he's a good sharer), a bar of soap, my (limited) makeup, a bottle of lotion, deodorant (we each have our own of those), toothpaste, toothbrushes, and my hairbrush (which I shared so my husband could brush his beard).

All the toiletries we used for a month fit into these two bags. Really. 

So, why do I have three boxes in storage labeled "Bathroom Toiletries?"

Do I really need three kinds of hair serums when I wear my hair in a ponytail more than 95% of the time? Or a whole bunch of unused gift lotions? Or all those nail polishes I don't use?

7) I Don't Need Much

Honestly, I did miss my books and my cozy chair. I missed having pictures on the wall that I've chosen and that bring me joy. I missed my favorite lamp, my Fall decorations...

But I don't need them. And while I would have told you that I know that none of these things are needs, in my heart, I really kind of felt like... like I needed them.

In truth, the only things I really need are clothing, food, and shelter. Living with less has taught me that in a very tangible way.

8) Organization Is Important

Yeah, this doesn't work. Let's just not even talk about this mess. 

When I couldn't find my phone charger while we were living in Shalom, it was no big deal. I'd just use my husband's, or the spare in the office. But when we started living out of duffel bags, we had one phone charger and not finding it was not an option.

Living with less meant that we had less stuff, yes, but it also meant that our stuff had to be organized and easy to find, because with only one pair of boots, I couldn't just choose another pair to put on in the morning.

9) It Is Possible to Be Content with Little

When we looked at living in our camper for just a little while, it was easy to have an adventure attitude. We started out October on a high note- lots of positive thinking and lots of fun.

And then Trevor needed care and was in pain, work was so busy, and it was so hard. It was so hard to be content in our very fluid living arrangements. It was hard to find peace when I didn't know what tomorrow would bring. And I just... I just really wanted a place to be completely comfortable- a place to call home.

In the middle of all that, I read,

" .... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:11-13

I can do all of this (being hungry, being in want, living in every situation and every circumstance), through him- through Christ.

I can be content with little and with uncertainty, because Jesus is more than enough. He's got this, and he'll give me strength. I did a lot of praying in those few weeks, and I think that yes, I was definitely strengthened through Jesus. 

10) We Are So Blessed, and That's Okay

I'll be completely honest, here: I like my stuff. 

I really do. I enjoy having decorations that bring me joy and allow me to make my home pretty and pleasing. I like having choices of what to wear. I like buying some things in bulk and stocking up. 

And we're blessed to have all those options. So, so blessed. 

It's tempting to use this time of having less as a way of shaming myself into giving away a lot of my stuff. Into feeling like wanting nice things makes me less.... spiritual. Less Christian, somehow. But I'm not going to let it do that. 

I have a friend who mentioned a while back that sometimes, she feels like she needs 'permission' to get rid of things that don't bring her joy or don't fit right or don't get used. I totally get that. I feel the same way a lot of the time. 

And I think this experience has done that a little bit for me- it's given me permission to say, you know, we don't really use all of this. 

We have seven travel mugs, for example. We don't need them, they take up space, and I really just don't even want to unpack and put them away. So I chose two for each of us, and I'm giving the rest away. We survived just fine without any travel mugs for the past month. Those extras won't be missed.

I think there's some fear in getting rid of stuff we don't really need. I fear that someday, we'll need that thing I gave away. I fear that our resources won't be able to get us what we need. And in some ways, that's financially responsible. In other ways, though, my fear of letting things go is really because I don't trust God the way I should. 

And, if the past month has taught me anything it's that I should trust Him. He'll provide.

We've been so blessed. We have so much. I'm not going to feel guilty about it- I'm going to try to use my resources and gifts to bless others.

It's not too late to join in the Be the Blessing Challenge- it's still going on until November 20-- and you can still comment on this post here with how you chose to be an encouragement to those around you- and you'll be entered for a giveaway! The odds are really good- so far only 7 people are entered!

Do you ever feel like you've got too much stuff? What do you do to keep it under control?


Blessings this Week: 11.13.2015 Edition

I'll be honest- this week was a bit of a struggle for me. I'm not a creature who likes change... and this week has just been full of it. From good changes (like moving in to our home!!), to bad changes, to inconvenient changes, this week has been a full one. 

But even in all this change, I can see God's hand at work. Not usually the way I'd do things, no. But He's busy- He's pouring on the blessings. I just have to be willing to see them. 

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The view from my bedroom window. I don't think I'll ever get tired of this. 

We moved in to our home (finally!) this week- and oh, it's so nice to be home.


Featured Farmers: Christine's Story

Today's Featured Farmer is Christine of A Fly on our Chicken Coop Wall.
Welcome, Christine, and thanks for joining us!

1. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I grew up on a dead-end street in a new neighborhood in a small city. I didn’t know a single person who had a garden, let alone a farm, until I was an adult. The only farm my husband had any experience with was his grandparents’ Christmas tree farm, which required nothing of my husband except cutting down the trees to sell.

Ten years ago, we moved to a 150-year old house with a 7 acre hobby farm. Besides our 6 children, we have 25 laying hens and 2 terrible farm dogs. During the spring and summer, we raise feeder pigs, care for our gigantic garden, and can/freeze as much food as we can. Since the property has been a working farm of one sort or another for all 150 years, we “inherited” all sorts of things, from barns to black raspberry bushes, to an outhouse, to a small apple and pear orchard, to a large number of mulberry trees scattered around the property.


A Case for Thanksgiving

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It was a whole month ago, already, that Christmas decorations started popping up right alongside the ghouls and witch hats in Menards.

Before Halloween, even, the Christmas trees were up and decorated, inspiring visions of shiny wrapped presents and lightly falling snow.

It was too soon, in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas.

I mean, I really love Christmas.

I'm one of those people who belt out Christmas songs, and I don't change that radio station even though it's the same ten songs over and over (and why in heaven's name they insist on playing boy-band versions of the classics is beyond me, but still).

I drink peppermint hot cocoa for an entire month. I have been known to lay under the Christmas tree just to look up at the lights and inhale that piney smell.

I love Christmas, but Thanksgiving has slowly become my favorite holiday.

It wasn't always that way. Like I said, I love Christmas.

But since spending time counting my daily blessings, since working on this habit of seeking joy in every circumstance, I value Thanksgiving so much more.

While Thanksgiving is not an inherently biblical holiday, giving thanks is a huge (huge) theme throughout the Bible.

Noah's first action after departing the ark was to build an altar and give thanks. 
Joshua told the tribes of Israel to make a memorial of stones so they would remember and give thanks to God who brought them to the Promised Land. 
At the Last Supper, Jesus gives thanks during the meal- an action we replicate in communion.
Paul begins most of his New Testament letters by giving thanks to God for fellow believers. 

The list goes on and on.

I can't help but think- in my own life, how often do I make a memorial? How often do I stop to make an altar?

If we're talking literally, here, my response would be... never. Even symbolically, though, I rarely make it a point to give more than a passing "Thanks, God," to the One who's given me everything.

And Paul says that's a dangerous place to be:

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images... " - Romans 1:22-24a

Even though we know God, if we neglect to glorify Him and give Him thanks, we risk becoming foolish and vulnerable.

Christmas is such an important holiday- I understand. For the Christian, Christmas is the celebration of our God who loves- who loves enough to come to us, even when we continually turn from Him. It's the beginning of our salvation, of our God come to earth to save us all.

It's about what God has done for us.

Thanksgiving is when we are intentional about how we respond.

See, the difference between being spoiled and being blessed is how we respond. The difference between entitlement and humbly taking hold of grace is our gratefulness.

I don't want to take my God's blessings in my life for granted. I don't want to forget His goodness to me. 

So, how do we do it?

There are so many traditions in place to help us celebrate holidays like Christmas- from Advent wreaths to Christmas pageants, we've pretty well got Christmas celebrations down. 

What traditions can we begin in Thanksgiving to help us intentionally celebrate and give thanks?

A couple of ideas: 

Make A Memorial

With A Tablecloth: Have every person present write what they're thankful for (using fabric markers) on a white tablecloth. Use the same tablecloth every year- it will serve as a kind of memorial throughout the years of how God has been faithful to your family. 

With a Stone: Hand out small stones to everyone, and have each person write what they're thankful for on their stone. Keep your Thankfulness Stones in a jar, and pull it out each year (or keep the jar in a prominent place throughout the year). 

With a Story: Every family has had difficult times that God has brought them through. Tell the story of those difficult times, and how God was faithful through it and worked it for your good. These family histories are a legacy!

Make Your Table Prayer Unique

I'm guilty of just saying the same prayer every time I sit down to a meal. It's quick, it's to the point, and then it's time to eat.

Making the table prayer at Thanksgiving a unique one is another way to mentally set apart this day in special thanks to God. Some different options include using a prayer that's been written by someone else. You could also say a Psalm of thanksgiving in a call-and-response sort of way to involve everyone at the table. Or, you could all sing a song of praise as a table blessing.

Give Thanks for One Another

Paul was super good at this one. I mentioned above that Paul usually begins or ends his letters with thanksgiving for those in the churches to whom he's writing, or for those in ministry alongside him.

A very simple activity to incorporate giving thanks for one another would be to write the name of each person on a sheet of paper- then have each person write a little something about why they're grateful for that person on the paper. Not only is it a way to give thanks for each other, but it also is a really nice way to appreciate and encourage everyone.

Or, try a twist on a Thanksgiving tradition you already have to include some gratefulness for the people around you. On your after dinner walk, talk about moments from the past year that have really blessed your heart through your family or friends.

However you make Thanksgiving special, this year, let's make sure that it's not just about turkey and mashed potatoes. Make your Thanksgiving intentional- because we're so blessed. Let's respond in gratitude.

What Thanksgiving traditions does your family have? Why are they meaningful to you?

DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging habit, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. You may see a full disclosure by clicking on my "About" page. I will only promote products that I use, enjoy, or take a shine to. All opinions and reviews are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.


Blessings This Week: 11.06.2015 Edition

This week has really just flown right by. 

It's in those quick weeks, the busy ones, when I need to count my blessings as a way to stop, to see this day and this moment. Because otherwise, those blessed moments will just pass me by. 

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These floors, those knee pads, those gloves, and the feeling of being almost done

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Sanding Hardwood Floors with a Drum Sander (Refinishing Hardwood Floors, Part 2)

**This post contains affiliate links**


Last time I wrote about our floors, I had just gotten done removing the carpet adhesive and vinyl glue from three rooms- it was the first step in refinishing our beautiful, original, 1934 hardwoods.

After that long process, I was so excited to get to sanding-- after all, it couldn't possibly take as long as scraping all that glue, right?



The Whole Story of the God Who Loves: Christmas! A Book Review

**This post is a book review, and contains an affiliate link**

I don't know when it was, exactly, that I started following Natasha Metzler's blog, but whenever it was, I became hooked. She writes so honestly and so beautifully, and her words about redemption and healing have many times been a catalyst for healing in me.

So, when I found out that she'd written a children's book for Christmas, I signed up for the "launch team;" both because I wanted to give back to such a wonderful woman... and also because I just really wanted to read the book!

I was not at all disappointed. Natasha's beautiful writing, her commitment to Truth, and her inspirational voice shine through in Christmas!.

Christmas! includes 25 well-known Bible stories, from creation to the resurrection. Natasha does a wonderful job of connecting each story to the overarching theme of the Bible: the God who loves. She explains each story in language a child would understand, without watering down the powerful truth of God's love leading up to the cross.

One thing that I really liked about the stories that are highlighted in Christmas! is that she included some biblical stories that you don't usually see in children's books (like the story of Hosea). She deals with delicate topics in a very tactful way, and uses the stories you don't typically see to really enrich the understanding of the redeeming love of God.

The illustrations are unique- I really love the textures that are used. The pictures are interesting, vibrant, and illustrate the Bible stories, but are abstract enough to spark imagination.

The only thing I didn't enjoy immensely about Christmas! is, well.... it's title.

I'm afraid that with a title like Christmas!, this wonderful book may be packed away with the tinsel and reindeer jammies, which would really be a shame. While there are 25 stories (perfect for reading one story a night leading up to Christmas), this book is definitely not only a Christmas tale- it's really more a story-version of a children's Bible.

I'd recommend this book, at any time of the year- and I'll also be purchasing a hard copy for myself to add to my little collection of children's literature.

If you'd like a copy of Christmas!, you can you can buy it on Amazon now!

DISCLOSURE: I received a digital copy of this book to read and review. No other compensation was provided.  You may see a full disclosure by clicking on my "About" page. I will only promote products that I use, enjoy, or take a shine to. All opinions and reviews are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.


Blessings this Week: 10.30.2015 Edition

Because those things that are unexpected usually end up being a blessing in my life. 

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A fun staff retreat this week

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A cancelled event- that the kids could all change weeks, that churches could bring even more kids, and that the timing worked out perfectly

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Wet leaves and rain smell


Featured Farmers: Amy's Story

Today's Featured Farmer is Amy of The Fewell Homestead.
Welcome, Amy, and thanks for joining us!

1. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I was born and raised in Virginia. Living out in the "plains" or "flat land" of VA was something I always wanted. My grandparents raised cattle and lived on a beautiful farm my entire life. I can remember spending summers there -- screen door open, the sound of bellowing calves. It was heaven for a child that had a nature soul. It wasn't until I married my husband that the mountains of VA became my newest adventure. I never thought I'd move away from the open fields as far as the eye could see, but I found a new and better option -- mountains with fields quietly gracing the mountainside. I was at home.

Even though I grew up around the farm, my husband and I didn't live that lifestyle after getting married. But shortly after buying our first home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, we decided to get a few chickens. A few chickens turned into some ducks....and some meat rabbits.....and here we are, thinking about dairy goats! All of this is happening on a half acre, which is unheard of. But we love showing people that it's possible.

We specialize in non-gmo, all natural care for our animals. We are a small hobby homestead -- meaning, we raise our animals for ourselves, and if we have something to share, we will, but it's not often. We are simply trying to get back to the way our ancestors lived. We treat our animals (and ourselves) holistically when necessary, never chemically. We believe animals should live a healthy and free life -- therefore, we encourage pasture raised chickens, ducks, and rabbits. We hope to buy a larger property in the next year or so, selling our current property as a "mini-homestead" with all structures included, and start brand new. We can't wait!


Tunnel Vision

Sometimes, I get tunnel vision.

When I was in college, I was focused on learning, on getting good grades, on doing the best I could. I rarely missed a lecture, got my papers done on time, and spent hours copying over my in-class notes to really commit them to memory.

I still have my planner from college- yes, okay, I keep my old planners... is that weird? Probably a little. Anyway, my college planner is full. It's full of notes about deadlines and assignments, special lab times and study sessions, days marked in red when I took exams or had a big project due.

But the one thing conspicuously missing from my old calendars is people. That planner doesn't contain any girls nights, outings into the heart of the city, volunteer activities. It doesn't say "Coffee with Meri!" "Call Shelley" or "Visit from KK!" with a purple smiley face.

And, you know? College was a great time for me, but I feel a little like it could have been so much more.

I get tunnel vision.

Sometimes, my faith looks like that, too. 

Sometimes my faith is really more about me than it is about others.

I love Bible studies, and there's one on Tuesday nights right now that I'm so interested in... but oh, if I could just do it by myself, that would be so much better.
I really enjoy hearing sermons from different pastors, but I prefer to just listen to podcasts... going to see that guest speaker, sitting with a bunch of people I don't know... seems like a lot of work.
I'll admit it- I'd much rather pray in the quiet comfort of my own home than with someone who's hurting. I'd much rather find my faith community online than with real people in real life.

I've narrowed my faith life down to learning to love God- learning about Him, learning about His Word- and not much else.

I'm far from perfect in the "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind" thing, but I sure am focused on it.

And I don't usually stop to think about what my tunnel vision is costing me.

See, there wasn't just one commandment that Jesus said was the greatest.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:35-38

Loving God isn't always easy, and I definitely don't have it down. But I'd say that I spend much more time nurturing my internal, personal faith than I do expressing God's love towards others- especially face to face.

To be completely honest, I think that this particular brand of tunnel vision is pretty typical of many North American Christians. There are exceptions, to be sure, but I'd say that internally-focused faith is common for many of us.

It's less risky. It's more convenient. There's less of a chance of being hurt, being rejected, or being uncomfortable when we stay home or can drop in and out of the conversations on our screens.

But we're not just called to love our God- we're called to be His hands and feet in the world.
We're commanded to love our neighbors- those real, human, flesh-and-blood people in front of us. We have the chance to work amazing miracles.

We're commanded to be a blessing because oh, how we've been blessed.
That's why I'm challenging myself- and you, too- to do just that. To be a blessing. To make a difference. To stand beside those real life people, and (for this month) be an encouragement to them.

I don't want to have tunnel vision that prevents me from seeing the need around me. I don't want to be so focused on my own walk that I forget to look up and see the waiting harvest.

I want to love my neighbors in this world. I want to be the blessing.

It's not too late to join the challenge-- click here to see some details and resources. And, as a little "thank you" and encouragement for you to join in, if you leave a comment on the challenge page, you'll be entered for a giveaway.

As people of the Cross, let's come together to not only love our God, but to spread His love to the world, one little encouragement at a time.

This post is linked up at Grace and Truth


Blessings this Week: 10.23.2015 Edition

This week has flown by so quickly- it was a busy one, full of ideas and plans and needs and things that had to be checked off my to-do list. 

It's easy, on weeks like these, to forget how important counting blessings really is. Finding the blessings is more than just another thing to add to my day- it's the practice that keeps me grateful, keeps my attitude (mostly) where it needs to be, and it brings me closer to my God. Because if I'm not counting those blessings actively and with purpose, ingratitude and entitlement will take root in my heart.

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Be the Blessing (a Challenge)

It's no secret that I believe that we are supremely blessed.

Even when we don't feel like it, even when we have trouble finding it, even when our blessings don't look the way we thought they would--- we are so, so blessed.

But the story doesn't end there.

We encounter God's goodness for a reason. 

We have a purpose. We have a mission. We have a job to do.

We're blessed to be a blessing.

I don't know about you, but I'm guilty of keeping God's goodness to myself a lot of the time. I focus in instead of looking up. I miss the harvest that's ready all around me.

I don't want to do that. I want to be a light, not just under a bushel or only in my own home or only in my comfort zone. After all, God went pretty far out of His way to bring us back to Him, and the cross was anything but comfortable.

In this stage, in this season of my life, I'm not called to do "big things," at least not the things that the world calls big. Right now, I'm in a place of making small steps, of sharing small blessings, of making seemingly insignificant gestures to my world and my community.

Sometimes, those small things? They make the biggest difference. 

I know. I've been a recipient, especially this past week, of so many little things- and man, have they kept me going.

So, I'm challenging myself. To get out there, To actually do the things I've thought about doing so many times. To make that call, to send that card, to take a step, to be the blessing.

(And what a gift it is! It's a gift to be the blessing, to be a little bit of good in a seemingly dark world, to share some kindness in a life that is often mean and cold, to extend a little gentleness into a harsh and gritty place.)

And I'm challenging you, too.

Because we may be small. We may be busy. We may be afraid- of rejection, of disappointment, of stepping out of the boat.

But we're also the blessing. We're the light.

And just think what could happen if the people of the light all did little things.

So, I'm challenging you (and myself, too) to do a little thing- something small, maybe something a little inconvenient, maybe something a little costly (either of time or of money or of resources)- to share the love of our big God in a real way.

Let's do this.

(Click the button below to see this month's challenge!)