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Dear Mushka,

One Another's in Scripture
The phrase "one another" is from the Greek word allelon, which occurs 100+ times in the New Testament, teaching us how to relate to one another. When we obey God's wisdom in these areas, we're able to enjoy true Christian community and reflect Christ's light to the world.

➡️ Take heart if raising your children, loving your spouse, caring for a friend, and interacting with a neighbor feels challenging- God knew it would be so!

➡️ See below for some of the "one anothers" He's called us to, in his wisdom and grace. Ask for His help applying them to your relationships today!

➡️ Shop the products I was immediately able to find in our store relating to "one another"!

 

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An interview with founder: Katie Lewis!

What does your typical Summer day look like? 

Our four boys are currently ages 7- 9mo so we do a lot of playing outside, reading together, and ... did I mention playing outside? I'm also continuing a bit of schooling over the Summer, both for consistency and to give myself a little wiggle room when baby no.5 comes this Fall. (My goal is 3x a week of reading, math, and writing practice.)

Daily, we all have a quiet time from 1-3pm. I work, the three oldest play quietly in their own space, and the baby naps.

The afternoons/evenings are for swimming together, grilling, and catching lightening bugs!

How do you balance being a mom and working? 

I'm not sure there is such a thing as "balance" in this area, but I do think we can set boundaries, ask God for clarity on where to put our time, and trust Him to accomplish His plans for us within our limited hours and energy. 

For our family, this currently looks like Robert taking the boys for a few hours during their "Monday Man Camp" while I work on Dear Mushka content at home. Beyond that, I work during our family's daily quiet time + occasionally will pop in on social media throughout the day. 

With a small business, there is always more work to do. Instead of focusing on everything I'm not doing, I try to celebrate what I am able to do-- and to enjoy being a mother rather than becoming bitter over the time it takes away from my career. 

 

Summer makes me think of traveling-- where's your dream spot?

One day, I'd love to take an extended trip to Southern France and Italy. There's so much history & beauty (and bread) there! I'd also love to tour the Holy Lands with an expert guide-- what an experience that I imagine would make the Bible come alive in a new way. 

That being said, I believe we'll get to explore the New Earth for eternity eventually. This helps me enjoy exactly where I am for now and not worry about seeing it all before I die. There will be time!

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Almost every DM product comes straight from my time spent with the Lord, a personal need I have, and/or a need I see a friend having. An example of this would be our Lord, Teach Us to Pray cards (31 daily prayer cards to pray on repeat each month). I wanted a way to remember to pray over specific areas in my childrens' lives that I wouldn't think of naturally-- I made these to help guide myself over the course of a month. And judging by how many of you have grabbed them, I think you needed them, too!

 

Are there any new products coming out that you're particularly excited about? 

I've been working hard to create "care boxes" for a few specific topics, with the goal being to have a desireable and meaningful box of goodies all ready for you to order and have shipped directly to someone. It's been a challenge to create a box full of items within a reasonable pricepoint, but I think I'm almost there! This is the kind of go-to gift a lot of us would love to receive... I can't wait for them to launch! 

 

So... what exactly do you do at Dear Mushka?

Originally, I did it all! As we've added children to our family and I've found my own giftings (and shortcomings) I've happily narrowed down my focus. Now, I'm primarily in charge of new product creation from start to finish (which includes design, sourcing, creation, photography, and website listings).  I also run our social media platforms, creating graphics for those and trying to stay up to date on necessary trends. 

My favorite roles, though, are the ones that fall under a "ministry" category-- like sharing what discipleship looks like in our home and praying for you all as you share bits of your life with me. 

 

What's your favorite piece you've ever designed?

Sheesh, that's a hard question! Choosing is like narrowing down a favorite child, which I can't do, but there are a few pieces that stand out right now.

The Together Necklace is our adoption necklace I designed after one of our adoptions. It has a triangle to represent the three people groups that make up an adoption (birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) and a heart hanging in the middle to represent the love between them all.

I was just starting to understand the crucial role a birth family plays in the extended life of a child, and also wanted a significant gift to give to our dear birth mothers. This design means so much to me-- even more now, as I've watched so many customers buy it for a friend going through the adoption process or gift it to their own birth mothers.

Thank you, Lord, for the necklace & truths found in its cooresponding verses!

 

Okay, summer-season rapid fire: 

What's your summer uniform? A breezy cotton dress- the easiest thing for me to wear while I'm growing this little baby, and also wonderful for tossing on over a bathingsuit

On a scale of 1-10, how much do you love summer? 9. Swimming, gardening, slow mornings, adventures... these are a few of my favorite things. It'd be a 10 but mosquitoes and I are not friends. 

Favorite Summer DM product? The Adorn Bandana, hands down. I wear one constantly! (But I also have a Bee Swaddle set aside for this little baby...)

Any summer goals? To prepapre for baby no.5 mostly- shuffling kids' rooms around, purging to make more room, and teaching the older children some helpful skills so they'll need me just a little less while I'm occupied with a baby. 

Favorite summer scent? Tomato plants- they make me think of my Dad!

Summer reading? I tend to pick up novels more in the summer for some reason. I recommend Safely Home!

 

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Highs and Lows Feeling Chart

At the dinner table, we practice the art of conversation by taking turns asking each other what our high & low was for the day.

This allows us to follow Romans 12:15 as we "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep."

(It's also good practice for waiting patiently, listening attentively, asking others-focused questions, etc.)

Recently, we added "and how did that make you feel?" to the question. It encourages deeper reflection and helps us as we bring our joys and cares to one another and to the Lord.

For example, did falling down make us anxious? Did helping a brother encourage confidence? Did working hard result in us feeling invigorated?

If so, how does God meet us there? What does His word say about this? We don't always answer this aloud, but it's a good practice to begin- even internally- as we match our hearts with truth.

For help, we printed off the chart below for quick access. It allows us to go beyond "happy" and "sad" together. Try it! Just save the image to your computer and print it off!

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Have an art print you love but aren't sure how to frame it? Here are some of our favorites! You'll see these in our product photography... and all around our homes! 

Shop them all here! 

 

Best gold antique frames

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How to Pray with the Verse Memorization Tabs

This year, I started a new prayer "system" using a product we've had in the shop for years now: The Verse Memorization Tabs! This system has helped me know exactly what I'm praying for each day, which frees my mind and also reassures me that it will all be covered over the course of a month.

Pair it with our new Lord, Teach Us prayer pack and you'll be able to pray for your children in powerful, scriptural areas month after month!

Here's what you'll need:

1. The Verse Memorization Tabs & Lord Teach Us Pack 

2. A box to store your tabs and cards in. A recipe tin works great for this; you can see my favorites here.

3. Extra cards to write on, like our blank cards or 4x6 index cards

Here's what you do: 

1. Put the tabs inside your box

2. Put a Lord Teach Us card behind each of the date of the month tabs (1-31)

3. Fill out other cards based on what you'd like to pray for each day, thinking through how often you'd like to pray over each area. You can also make these cards over the course of time, as the Holy Spirit leads you.

For example, the card that goes behind your Daily tab might have basic areas like The Lord's Prayer or the ACTS acronym (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication) on it. 

Behind the Even and Odd tabs, you might have a few cards for your closest family members, current anxieties you're working with the Lord through, or prayers for the salvation of those around you.

Behind the Monday-Sunday tabs, you might have bigger topics you'd like to cover each week like your local church, your city, your marriage, missionaries, the school your children go to, your workplace, etc

Then, behind your 1-31 tabs, you can make a card for the various people in your life you'd like to pray over each month. Think about your friends, extended family members, the women in your Bible study group, etc

On Thursdays, I pray over Dear Mushka! Here's what my current card looks like. 

4. Once you've made your cards, place them behind the appropriate tabs. But don't panic! Cards can be rotated with ease so nothing is set in stone. Perhaps this month a card needs frequent prayer so it goes behind your Even tab; Next month, you may be able to move it to a date of the month tab. 

5. Each day, open your box and pray the cards behind the appropriate tabs. You'll pray the prayers behind four dividers:

·Daily

·Odd or Even

·Day of the Week

·Date of the Month

For example, if today is Sunday, August 1 I would pray the cards behind Daily, Odd (1 is an odd number), Sunday, and 1. Tomorrow, I would pray the cards behind Daily, Even, Monday, and 2. 

Over the course of a month, you will have lifted up so many areas and people to God, trusting that He hears our prayers and works through them. What a gift! 

Bonus: As God answers your prayer, make a note right on the card as a testament to His mercy and grace. Each year, you can pull out your notecards and staple them together with the date on top like a prayer journal. Start fresh the next year! 

Note: If you already use this system to memorize scripture, feel free to combine the two methods! I like to pray the verses I've memorized over the prayer topics on the cards behind the same tabs. 

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NYC WEEKEND WITH KIDS

We just got back from a trip to NYC with our 6 & 4 year old and had the best time. Here's a little recap of our trip with some tips for traveling with to the city with kids! 

Day 1: 

We flew into NJ and took a taxi to our apartment. Some friends generously let us stay at their place while they were out of town so we were in the Tribecca area, which is very residential and family friendly. I'd recommend this area with children for sure! Lots of playgrounds, other kids around, and a Target if you need something crucial. 

We grabbed lunch at a local diner, which is always a winner for kids. Basically anything they want is available. Check! 

Then we walked down to the Hudson River/ Pier 65 area. There you'll find views of Lady Liberty, New Jersey, so many boats, and lots of playgrounds to explore. We could have stayed here for hours! It's a really dreamy area. 

For dinner we grabbed a slice of pizza and looked at the One Trade Center building. We didn't go inside on this trip, but it's pretty incredible. Just practicing walking on the right side of the sidewalk was enough for our kids haha

Day 2: 

Robert ran out and grabbed us bagels (Zuckers) for breakfast and brought them back to the apartment. 

Then we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. It's a really cool experience and great for kids! In DUMBO, our boys threw rocks into the East River and climbed all over the playground there. We grabbed a quick bite and then took a ferry back across to Manhattan. I'd love to do the Staten Island ferry in the future. 

We rested each afternoon, which was helpful with little ones. They watched a show and played with Legos while we read or sat out on the patio. 

That evening, we took a Subway to Bryant Park. There was still free ice skating going on and lots to look at. The library was closed due to COVID, but they got to see the lions and run across the stairs. We had dinner at Shake Shack (which we have & love in Nashville, but it started in NYC so it felt extra special). 

Day 3: 

It was a rainy day so we grabbed brunch at Sarabeths (the pancakes are truly amazing) and then headed to the Museum of Natural History. There was so much to see, most of it really entertaining for even young ones who couldn't read. They loved all the bones and animal replicas! 

We were starving when we came out so we walked the Upper West Side looking for lunch. Jacob's Pickles is a favorite of mine in this area, but the wait was too long so we ended up at Jake's Dilemma. It was a bar but had great food. 

Central Park would have been next on our list (it's right across the street from the museum) but it was still raining so instead we headed back home for a movie evening. Night at the Museum was the perfect pick since we'd just been in the museum! 

For dinner, we ordered Chinese takeout and pretended to be locals ;) 

Day 4: 

The boys were really hungry when they woke up so we grabbed quick bagels again and I made a note get breakfast groceries for future trips. 

Then we took a subway up to Central Park, where we strolled and climbed the giant rocks and found lots of playgrounds and considered the zoo (not this trip) and just enjoyed Spring in NYC. It was our boys' highlight for sure- they're already talking about our next trip back. 

For lunch we ate street hot dogs and then got Sprinkles cupcakes. They're really the best cupcakes I've ever had (Nashville, bring one back!) Then, Robert gifted me and my Godmother who we brought along with us an afternoon to shop and play without little ones while he took the boys back to the apartment to relax. For dinner they got Chipotle (sometimes something familiar is best) and we got Los Tacos-- the best. Somewhere in there, we also got Waffled and Dignes in Bryant Park which are worth a try. So yummy!

Day 5: 

We had an early flight so we woke up, packed, cleaned up, and headed to the airport. We brought our boys' iPads for a movie on the plane and they did wonderfully. 

For our first trip with kids to the city, it was a dream. I think the key was scheduling in time to play on playgrounds each day and building in some rest time. They couldn't shop or eat at nice restaurants, and Broadway was closed due to COVID, so we enjoyed low-key activities and had a great time. Thank you, Lord, for this gift of a trip! 

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Easter Favorites

Leading up to Easter:

In our family, we start the Resurrection Eggs 12 days before Easter. Each day, we open one egg and read the story behind it (provided in the booklet). The next day, someone tells the story up to that point and then adds an egg. It provides a great visual and also verbal practice! The book, Benjamin's Box, is a wonderful addition here. 

 

You can also walk through Holy Week, which is from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday (March 28-April 4).

For little ones, we like the Baby Believers board book. 

For slightly older children, we love the Jesus Storybook Bible. Here's a reading plan to follow through Holy Week. 

A paper chain countdown, coloring pages, and other crafts are also wonderful ways to make the week come alive. A quick Google or Pinterest search will pull up lots of ideas. We're going to try some of these this year. 

 

For even older children (and adults), you can follow a "real time" guide through Holy Week with appropriate readings. Like this one!

New to us this year are the "Story of the Cross" books from Creation to Revelation. I think they'll help us tell the story as well as a sweet activity! 

On Easter Day:

We want to keep Jesus the focus of our Easter Sunday so we try to keep all gifts and play focused on His great name! We usually gift our children a new book that we snuggle up to read at some point during the day. 

 Here are a few of our favorites:

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Katie's Books Read in 2020

I had a goal to read 52 books this year, and was able to meet (and surpass!) it. Though there were few that I wouldn't recommend, I've bolded my very favorites. You can click the photos for direct links. 

 

MEMOIRS / BIOGRAPHIES

I could read this genre more than any other. What a joy to peek inside men an women's lives, as they (or others) remember!

1. A Circle of Quiet | This had been on my to-read list for a few years, and I enjoyed it. Written by the author of A Wrinkle in Time (among many other books), it read like a stream of consciousness about art and writing and family and home. It is book one in a series, though I didn't get around to the others... yet. 

2. Becoming Elisabeth Elliot | My mother in law gifted this to me, knowing how much I love Elisabeth Elliot, and it didn't disappoint. It's about the first half of her life- up until she leaves the jungle with her daughter- and encouraged my faith (as all books about/by Elisabeth do). I'm looking forward to the part two!

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | I picked this up at our beach house this Summer, and was sucked in completely. What a wonderful, thought-provoking story! I was talking to everyone about it for weeks. 

 4. A Severe Mercy | A re-read for me, and just as wonderful as the first time around. A beautiful story about love and faith, with a peek into C.S. Lewis's life, too. 

5. Left to Tell | This has been on my shelf for years, I must admit, and I can't believe I waited so long to read it. I knew almost nothing about the Rwandan Holocaust before I began this book, and was in shock for days. It led me into some serious questions with the Lord about suffering and pain, which He was so kind to meet me in. I praise Him for Immaculee's life!  

6. A Chance to Die | Amy Carmichael was hugely influential to Elisabeth Elliot's faith and I enjoyed learning about her life and mission work in India. Like so many of the books above, this both deepened and challenged my faith. Additionally, it sparked in me a daily prayer for the unreached people groups in India. I may never go to them, but I pray for Amy's work to be continued in the Lord. 

7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings | This was my first Maya Angelou book, and I enjoyed it. She grew up in a different world than I did, which popped my white & upper class bubble beautifully. I need books and influence like this! (There is sexual abuse in her story, which I was glad to know about beforehand.)

8. What is a Girl Worth? | Gymnast Rachael Denhollander's story of sexual abuse at the hands of her doctor. It was eye-opening for me, in the best way, as I learned the psychology of why a victim wouldn't speak up, and then how hard it is to win a case against an offender. I'm so grateful she told her story!

9. Hamilton, the Revolution | I saw Hamilton in January, which led to a deep dive into Alexander Hamilton's life. Robert was so over me reading this book because every five minutes I'd say "did you know...!" I, on the other hand, loved every minute of it! Lin Manuel Miranda is such an incredible artist, isn't he? 

10. Alexander Hamilton | At 818 pages, this won for longest book read this year. I thought it would take me a month, but it read quickly and I so enjoyed the history (both in what we know as fact and what remains a mystery). The Revolutionary War period of U.S. history has always been fascinating to me so this only fueled my fire. 

NOVELS

I try to limit my novel reading, knowing I'd choose this genre over more edifying book choices if I let myself. Still, a few found their way in this year on vacations and over Christmas break.  

11. The Giver of Stars | Not my favorite of Jojo Moyes books, but I did enjoy the idea of traveling librarians and melted into the story quickly. It made for a quick and easy read. 

12. The Dutch House | This was the last book I read in 2020, and was a real winner for me. The story was slow, flashing back and forth between the present and the past, with minimal plot line and still-- I was sucked right in, following the precious friendship of sister and brother along. I hear Tom Hanks reads the audiobook version, which would have been delightful if I'd been an audiobook listener. 

13. Hannah Coulter | My first Wendell Berry book, but certainly not my last. The writing here is just beautiful and had me underlining paragraphs the whole way through. I can't wait to read more in this series!

14. The Vanishing Half | I saw this on multiple "must read" lists, but did not enjoy it like I thought I might. Don't get me wrong, it was a good novel and met the purpose of easy entertainment, but it was forgettable (for me). 

15. The Space Between Words | I borrow this from a family member over the Summer. Though it did more than entertain me for a few days, I did enjoy the story and was surprised by the ending! 

16. The Nickel Boys | Based on a true story, I was sucked in to this whole plot line. I'd like to read more of Whitehead's books. 

17. My Dear Hamilton | Ah, the Hamilton deep dive continues haha. This is a fiction story, based off of as many real life details as the authors could get, and I soaked up every word. I knew Hamilton was going to die and still-- reading it from Eliza's perspective had me shocked & then sobbing. I loved it! 

18. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | I would call this a favorite novel of mine. I've read it multiple times over the last ten years, and always enjoy hearing about life in Brooklyn as a poor child during the first two decades of the 20th century. (Go on and file anything about New York City under "Katie's Favorites") 

19. Where the Forest Meets the Stars | I read this at the recommendation of some of you and thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy, a little suspenseful, a good read. 

GARDENING

I've found a real passion, here, and learn so much through books on this topic. They tend to be quick reads that I also reference again later. I'm planning a large garden for 2021 so I particularly wanted wisdom on best practices for setting up a space like this.  

20. The Complete Gardener | I learn something from every gardening book I read and in this one it was the reminder to plan, plan, plan before I execute. He also made a note about a low spot in his garden, which always floods-- this was helpful, as our yard sits low and I don't want constant flooding here. 

21. Fresh Eggs Daily | Okay, not a garden book per se, but chickens and gardens go hand in hand. I learned so much in this little book and can't wait until we have chickens in our backyard! 

22. Groundbreaking Food Gardens | A book full of other peoples garden plots. I made note of many layouts and potential vegetables to grow, both. Helpful! 

23. Patina Living | Does anyone else follow @velvetandlinen on Instagram? I was completely sucked into their farm at the beginning of this year, and have gleaned so much inspiration from their books, blog, and IG account. 

24. Patina Farm | Ditto to above.

25. Month by Month Gardening for Tennessee and Kentucky | A guide for our zone, in particular. There's no sense falling in love with plants that don't grow well here in zone 7!

26. Washington's Gardens at Mount Vernon | Of course, a study on Hamilton led to a study on George Washington, who had incredible gardens. I'd love to visit Mount Vernon one day. With that said, I read this as I also studied racism in our country and looked at his gardens, made by slaves' hands, with a heavy heart. 

27. A Year in Flowers | I'm a fan of anything Erin & the Floret team do, and this book was no different. It added to my to-grow list massively, and was inspiring (as all her work is). If you're looking to start a cut flower garden, I can't recommend floretflowers.com more!

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

An all-encompassing category for me, as almost every book in this list could be placed here. Still, these had a specific focus on Christ and grew me in beautiful, necessary ways. 

28. Galatians for You | I read this as I studied the book of Galatians in depth and still find myself thinking about Keller's words. Highly recommend!

29. The Reason for God | I read this after I finished Left to Tell (the book about the Rwandan Holocaust) and really wrestled with the Lord on matters regarding suffering. Not only did these chapters encourage me in my own faith, but they also gave me words to discuss hard issues with non believers. I'll reference this again, I'm sure. 

30. Beautifully Distinct | A series of essays on all sorts of topics from many women I've grown to love from afar. It would be a good book to read and discuss with a group. 

31. Hind's Feet on High Places | I feel like I've been living under a rock for just discovering this book! It's an allegory of the Christian life, much like Pilgrim's Progress, and is wonderful. The imagery has come to mind repetitively this year. 

32. Adorning the Dark | I'm a fan of anything Andrew Peterson does, and this book was no different. His words on the creative process, in particular, were exactly what I needed to read. I underlined much of this book, and took notes on other works of art the mentioned to look into, too. 

33. Gentle and Lowly | This book was life-changing. It's one of those books that makes you wonder how you were ever a Christ follower without really knowing his character. I'll never read the Bible the same way. 

34. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness | This is more of a pamphlet, really, but I was on a Tim Keller kick so I read this, too. 

35. 1 Peter | This was the most scholarly commentary I'd ever read, and I can't say I'd recommend it-- though I did learn so much (including the fact that there are some men and women who think on a completely different level than me). 

36. Boundaries for Your Soul | I read this at the encouragement of my husband, and enjoyed it. I think it was part of the catalyst into beginning counseling-- there was only so much I could do with the information I'd gleaned from these pages. 

37. Adore | Part book, part daily devotion. Sara is a beautiful writer who draws you straight into the arms of Christ. She taught me to adore, using scripture, years ago. This book would make a wonderful gift. 

38. Stop Calling Me Beautiful | I love Phylicia Masonheimer. We see the world similarly, except she's so much smarter than I am haha. I'd love to read this book with a group of younger women! 

39. You are the Girl for the Job | This was not the book I needed to read, in particular, but I'll cheer Jess Connolly on all the way! There were many girls at our church who could not stop talking about her words here-- she has such an ability to speak straight to the heart of women. 

HOLIDAY

These books could all fall under the previous category, but I thought it would be helpful to sort them separately. 

40. Jesus, Keep me Near the Cross | I read this during the Lenten season. It's a beautiful series of essays. Add it to your list for February if you've never read it!

41. 40 Days of Decrease | I also read this during the Lenten season this year (I'm now not sure why I read two?) and fell in love with Chole's writing. It's also a beautiful book. 

42. Hidden Christmas | My Tim Keller kick continued straight into Christmas when I realized I'd never read this book of his before. I didn't learn much, but it was a quick and enjoyable read. 

43. The True Saint Nicholas | Our family decided to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day (Dec 6) this year, so I wanted to learn as much about him as I could. As it turns out, much of his life is a mystery, so this book took creative liberties to weave together a wonderful story. It was an entertaining read, though I didn't incorporate much of it into what I taught our children. 

44. Treasuring God in our Traditions | I quickly reread this book this year as I prepared to teach on Advent. It's full of wisdom on creating traditions in your home! I took many ideas from Noel the first time I read it, years ago. 

45. The Circle of Seasons | If you're interested in following the church calendar, this book is a wonderful read. Beautifully written, she'll suck you right into falling along. 

 

RACISM

I've been reading books on this topic for a few years now and found myself setting down the books and moving towards action this year. For information, I listened to (so many) podcast episodes and attended local groups like Be the Bridge and The Public- a local organization.  

46. Why are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria | Tatum talks a lot about the psychology behind this topic. Her words were eye-opening, and also helpful as I navigate being a white mother to Black children. Her conveyor belt simile on racism was incredibly helpful for me. 

47. The New Jim Crow | Most of this book ended up being repeat information for me, as I'd heard Alexander speak on documentaries. Still, the problem of mass incarceration is something that needs to be acknowledges and dealt with. I don't know the answers, but I did commit to pray over this topic each week. 

PARENTING

I try not to read too many parenting books, as it can feel like information overload to an unhelpful level. This year, I did find myself looking for help in a few specific areas, though, and was grateful for these resources! 

48. The Connected Parent | The Connected Child is a book often recommended in the adoption community, and this sequel was perhaps more helpful than the first. I'd recommend it for any parent, not just an adoptive one, as almost all of us have our our trauma to work through. 

49. Homeschool Bravely | I read this as we began to homeschool our kindergartener for the first time. It did not offer me much (at least this year), but maybe it will be a helpful re-read down the road. 

50. Awaking Wonder | Sally Clarkson is a spiritual mentor for me (from afar) and I loved this book, as I do with most of her works. She helps me be a more present, joyful mother. 

51. From Fear to Love | A fellow adoptive parent recommended this book as one of his favorites. For me, it was meh-- but proof that God uses all sorts of resources to restore our souls and offer us wisdom. 

52. Let Them Be Kids | An encouraging book about motherhood and fun and memories. Like her first book, it's packed with ideas to inspire your own family rhythms and traditions. And she's hilarious. I did find myself praising God for the resources (like a flexible schedule, the help of a spouse, extra cash, etc) to do many of these ideas, as I know it isn't the case for everyone. 

 

CHILDREN

We read to our children all day long, but these are the chapter books we read at bedtime this year. I read 52 books without them, but do think they deserve their own numbers! 

53. Pax | A beautiful novel about a boy and his fox. My 6 year old was tuned in, but it went over our younger boys' heads for sure. 

54. The One and Only Ivan | We read this before watching the movie on Disney+ It's written in short, interesting chapters and is really captivating. 

55-61 The Logan Family Series | Actually, I didn't read these with the boys, I read them for myself. I remembered reading Roll of Thunder in middle school, and found the books to be weightier as an adult. They paint a helpful picture of life as a Black family in America, and will be a great series to read with our kids when they get older. The Land was my favorite out of all of them. 

62-77 (I think) The Roald Dahl Collection | I found this boxset at Costco and decided to read through them with the boys. He uses some language I chose to skip (words like "stupid"), but overall these were delightful to re-read as an adult. I remembered loving The BFG and it was even better than I'd made it out to be! 

And there you have it! I keep a record of the books I read on Goodreads- it's helpful to look back over the years. 

 

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Bags for those in Need

This year, our family put together 24 bags for people-in-need we pass on the side of the road. Our plan is to keep them in the car, ready to go at a moment's notice, so we don't miss an opportunity to serve someone. 

I read multiple articles on best inclusions and came up with these ten items to put in a gallon sized bag:

1. A toothbrush. These came to $.49/piece

2. Toothpaste $.87/piece

3. Hand warmers if you're doing this during the Winter $.65/piece

4. Socks (the most requested item-- don't go the cheap route here) $1.94/pair

5. Packets of tuna $.98/pouch

6. Plastic water bottle $.10/bottle

7. Peanut Butter Crackers $.40/pack

8. Nail Clippers $.37/piece

9. Individually wrapped wipes $.16/wipe

10. Kind hand written note that conveys God's love and their humanity. 

If you included one of each item, these bags would come to around $6.00/piece. That feels incredibly doable! Additionally, you could include more of each item or money/ gift cards to places like McDonalds. 

 

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The Parable of the Seeds & How It Applies To Us Today

This morning I was reading Luke 8 - the Parable of the Seeds - and felt called to give encouragement from the Word today. This well-known story hit me in a different way as I was studying the passage. I thought about the gardener scattering seed to grow and how it landed all over the place - on the path, the rock, the thorns and the soil. It led me to thinking about how we as believers share the Word with others.

It made me want to be extra intentional about where I’m throwing my seeds and how I’m planting them. Am I content to occasionally toss out a Bible verse on a pretty Instagram post? Perhaps I’m just throwing seed on the path. We’re told that the devil takes the Word from hearts to prevent salvation, just like the birds came and ate the seeds that lay exposed.

Sometimes we share the Gospel, but don’t follow through with teaching about discipleship and sharing how truly good the Word is. People hear it, they love it and accept it with joy, but they don’t know what to do when they’re tested and so they fall away from the faith.

The parable goes on to say that sometimes the thorns capture us and we are swept away by the cares of the world. 

Then there is this small group where the seed actually lands on good soil - those people with “a noble and good heart who hear the Word, retain it and by persevering prepare a good crop.”

I’d love to just encourage us all today that as we’re scattering seeds (to our children, coworkers, neighbours), we’re intentional and prayerful! Not flippant or not even scattering. 

This all tied in with an old John Piper sermon about 1 John 2 where it talks about loving God and not loving the world. Timothy 2 tells us that people will be lovers of self and money, appearing to be religious, but not truly loving God. 

For those of you questioning your faith and if you’re truly saved, if you feel like your “seed” has landed in these other places that are not soil, press into God - draw near to the Lord (James 4:8) and He will draw near to you.

If you’re chasing the world (spouse, children, money, etc.), pause and dig into the Word. It’s active and living and will change us. Cry out to Jesus, ask Him to reveal the Father to you. Then we’ll be able to throw off the sin that entangles us.

If you’re a believer, but God feels far away right now or you feel you’re indifferent, do what you did when you wanted to become a Christian. The same spirit that saved you continues to sanctify. It’s only by His power that we’re grown - what a promise! Dive into His Word! And continue to remove your sins and idols. Pray for the Holy Spirit to change you! Ask Jesus to continue to reveal the Father to you; over and over again.

Praise Him for using us to scatter seeds and for growing the fruit within us. We can’t do any of it without His power and plan.

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