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Dear Mushka,

Easter Basket Ideas (that focus on Jesus)

Easter Basket Ideas (that focus on Jesus)

While there is nothing inherently wrong with candy or bunnies, Easter is about abundantly more than what our culture has made it. 

If you're set on creating an Easter basket for your child, here are some ideas that can keep the focus on Jesus and spur on sweet, Gospel conversation!

1. Resurrection Eggs-- My boys can't wait to break these out every year. We usually start them 12 days before Easter (one egg per day), but if you don't have a set they'd be a wonderful thing to include in a basket this year to talk about all morning long.  

2. The Child Pack-- If your kids don't have Bible verse cards, this is the sweetest beginner pack made just for them. As soon as children can talk, they can memorize verses and these are perfect ones to begin with. Plus, they're adorable (if I do say so myself!). We have a few hanging in our boy's rooms :) 

3. A Cuddle + Kind Doll-- Every purchase provides 10+ meals to children in need. This could open up a conversation about how we use our blessings to serve others, or to prompt prayer for those who have less than you do. 

4. A Garden Tools Set-- Perhaps with some seeds, too. As you plant, you can talk about how God brings life, created all things, faithfully grows us, etc. 

5. A book like this one or this one-- Snuggle up and read about Jesus together, or even consider reading one of these around the lunch table with family & friends! 

6. A Jesus-Focused Activity Book-- Maybe with some new crayons, too.

Lent: What it is and What We're Doing

Lent: What it is and What We're Doing

Last year, I spent some time learning about the church calendar and how its seasons are basically in place to follow the life and death of Christ. Christ is born (Advent), he is acknowledged as divine (Epiphany), he is tempted in the desert and dies for our sins (Lent), he is resurrected (Easter), and then the Spirit comes upon believers (Pentecost). 

Following the calendar isn't meant to be "religious" or another thing on a to-do list. Instead, it's meant to stir up our hearts and challenge us to pause and reflect in particular ways throughout the year.

For Lent, the idea is that we deny ourselves something for 40 days to represent Jesus fasting 40 days and then being tempted by Satan in the desert. During this time, we stop filling ourselves with all the pleasures of the world and instead empty ourselves long enough to see our sin and brokenness. This may look like fasting from certain foods, social media, Netflix, shopping, etc. 

In A Hunger for God (which I highly recommend!), John Piper says, "If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great." 

Lent provides us an opportunity to set aside our normal go-tos and instead think on our fallen nature + Christ's beautiful sacrifice. It is meant to be a more sober, heavy season that ends as we welcome in the glory of Easter. 

This year, my husband and I are going to give up our nightly Netflix. We'll feel that void, for sure; It's become such a habit and way to mentally zone out for an hour or two! But we know that God will fill the time with more of His presence. It will open up more time for us to connect, read, pray together, etc. And mostly, it will help us rejoice more fully when Easter Sunday comes. 

In addition, I will use this season to focus what I teach and talk about with my boys. In this post I talk about some of our daily habits. During Lent, I'll use our meal times to focus in on discussing passages on our sin, repentance, and why Jesus had to come. 

I'll also leave these books out on the coffee table for us to grab and read all season long! 

1. A beautiful book! My boys are captivated by the pictures and story. 

2. Great for the week before Easter. Simple, perfect for the littlest ones! 

3. We love this book; read it with these eggs (we start them twelve days before Easter). A favorite around here!

4. We love this one, too. 

5. And of course, this Bible. There are lots of "lent" reading plans to follow with your little ones if you'd like! 

OUR HOUSE: CHRISTMAS TOUR

OUR HOUSE: CHRISTMAS TOUR

We moved into our house over the Summer so this is the first Christmas we're spending here. That always feels a little extra magical doesn't it? 

I promised you all a house tour months ago (whoops!) so I thought a little Christmas edition would be fun until I get around to a room-by-room post. Enjoy!

1. This fireplace is in the space we've turned into the dining room. We painted the brick and have plans to tile inside the no-longer-working fireplace space (and instead put a fireplace outside!) For now, the brass gate is up so that a certain toddler does not walk around soot-covered all day ;) 

I leave the "Give Thanks" banner up all November & December because it feels extra applicable around Christmas time. 

My favorite part is the The Little People nativity set in the corner. Mostly, my kids have fun throwing the people across the floor (#boys), but it also sparks sweet conversation. 

Mirror- Anthropologie (snagged on a big sale)

Small Trees & Give Thanks Banner- Target

White Bunting- Joann's Fabrics (I just snipped a few yards from a spool)

Brass Candle Sticks- Antique

Bigger Trees & Wreath & Basket- TJ Maxx

 

2. I found this dresser on Craigslist a few years ago and have loved moving it around from house to house. Right now, it's tucked into our kitchen and holds things like cloth napkins and table runners. 

The basket is for our mail and the large piece of art was a gift from my Dad a few years ago. It makes me think of him all the time :) 

I love layering in holiday pieces here for a little whimsy and fun. 

Abstract Art- One King's Lane

Born is the King Art- Salt Stains (she custom made this for me)

Nativity Art- Rifle Paper Co (I just framed a card)

Basket- Old

Wooden Tree & Lamp- Target 

 

3. I talked all about this book on this blog post & in my Instagram Stories (I saved them to my highlights-- "advent"), but this is where it will stay all month long. I leave this tray out on my kitchen counter as a constant call back towards God's word when I have a free minute. Having it right in front of my eyes has helped me keep my focus on Christ instead of social media.

Candle & Tree- Target

Tray- garage sale

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus- I'm so excited to begin this! 

Bible- I think mine is out of print, but this is a very similar option. 

 

4. Last year, we decided not to hang ornaments that didn't point our eyes back to Jesus. Of course, you can make so many things work (the rhino above... creation!), but it has been the sweetest way to turn our attention from a cultural Christmas to a Jesus-centered one. The boys love seeing their "first Christmas" photo ornament and talking about how Jesus came as a baby boy, too. 

 

5. This is the advent calendar I talked about on this blog post & in my Instagram Stories (I saved them to my highlights-- "advent"). It hangs in our dining room, where our Christmas tree is. Every morning, we'll pull out the ornament, read the corresponding verse, and hang it on the tree. I love how our tree displays the whole gospel story, from Genesis to Jesus, on Christmas morning. 

 

6. Our boys each have a touch of Christmas decor in their rooms, too. This banner is soft and perfect for little hands (we're getting really good at finding all the letters in "Merry Christmas"). 

And yes, that's the giant bear from Costco. My dad got it for Brooks three years ago and it is still a most-beloved item. 

Banner- TJ Maxx

Bed- Ikea

Sheets- Target

 

7. Another little peek at Brooks' room. Growing up, we always had a small tree of our choice as a night-light to use all season; I love passing down this tradition. It's the only colored-lights tree in the house and I have to admit, it's my favorite. 

 

8. We kept our kitchen pretty simple (although the two big windows are begging for some pine garland above them!)-- for now, just a wreath by the stove and a cozy cookbook in the basket is perfect. 

Basket- Target

Cutting Boards- Anthropologie clearance

Wreath- TJ Maxx

Book- The Year of Cozy 

 

9. This is my office & also our family library. It's my favorite room in the house, no surprise :) The chair is worn and faded so I just threw a king-sized coverlet on it and called it a day.

The art prints are so inspiring to me, four very different women all in conversation with one another. I often use it as a muse when I create new lines, picturing you all and your stories. 

Light- Pottery Barn 

Coverlet- I can't remember but here and here are similar

Pillow Cover- Etsy, shop no longer open 

Art- Elizabeth Mayville 

 

10. This is a cozy little spot in our living room. A flocked tree (from Goodwill!), a winter edition of The Magnolia Journal, and an extra blanket or two make a perfectly decorated space. 

We recently hung the gallery wall and, of course, I just want to stare at it all day long. My three men have my heart. xx

Frames- Ikea

Couch- Sprintz

Wire Basket & Tree- Goodwill 

Candle- Anthropologie 

Table- Overstock or Wayfair, I can't find a link. Sorry!

 

11. Here's a pulled back view of our living room. We added the walls to make the library on the end (it used to be one really long room) and use this space all day long, for reading and small groups and running in circles. The book basket on the table holds seasonal books, and my boys love to sit there and look through the new ones I put out. (Well, my 4 year old does. My 1 year old just likes to try to jump from the table to the couches...)

A bigger coffee table, piano, and maybe a layered rug are in the plans for one day, but I think there is such value in living in a space before you begin to add in/change too many things. 

Couch- Sprintz

Rug- Rugs USA

Table- Vintage

Art- DIY by me

Leather Chair- Vintage, from Robert's grandpa! 

Office Chair- World Market

***

As you can see, we love decorating with simple things (lights & trees mostly) that make us think of the Creator & Light of the World. Merry Christmas season, sisters. xx

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

ADVENT: WHY & HOW

As soon as Adam and Eve rebelled and sin separated man from God, God began instilling hope in His people through the promise of a redeemer. The Old Testament is one giant, exciting story of God's rescue plan. And, of course, at Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of what He promised—that He would provide a way for us to be near to Him once again, despite our sin and brokenness.

The season leading up to Christmas is called advent, meaning coming. It begins four Sundays before December 25-- December 2nd this year-- and allows us to build anticipation for who is coming. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. 

It is also a time for us to remember that we are still awaiting the second advent of Christ, when He comes again to bring us home and restore the world (John 14:2-3).

If you didn't grow up participating in advent, don't worry. I didn't either! We can learn and savor together :) There are many ways to celebrate the season, depending on tradition, background, family size, etc

· Many of you have seen or uses an advent calendar, typically made up of 24 spots containing verses, pictures, candy, etc to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, our expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.

In our family, we have little felt pieces that represent part of the Christian Story tucked into each slot as well as a corresponding Bible verse. We read & talk each morning and then hang our ornament on the tree. It's really beautiful to see the whole story represented there on Christmas morning. (The felt pieces go with this book but we don't use it yet-- a little over my boy's heads).

We also have this and love it, especially for littles ones who are just starting to understand the concept of Christmas. This is also a favorite around here during the month of December to simply start the conversation. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated!

· Another tradition is using an advent "wreath" made up of four or five candles (or just candles on a tray); it focuses on the idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World. Each Sunday, a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve with the idea of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness. 

Our family doesn't do this because #toddlersandfire, but I do love the idea of ever-increasing lights as Christmas day approaches! Lighting a candle and reading a family devotion together every Sunday evening is a wonderful & completely doable idea. 

·There are many advent devotion guides and reading plans to center you each day or each week. Here are some of my favorites: 

Unwrapping the Names of Jesus-- I just bought this and really like the setup; a devotion that can be read as a family each Sunday, a short devotion to read M-F, and then a small activity to do on Saturday that focuses on the week's theme. I can't wait to begin!

Join the Advent Chorus -- a free daily e-mail from the Revive Our Hearts team. There's also a matching book, but I don't think it's necessary if you don't want to buy something. 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus-- a book to read all month long; I did this last year and was so blessed.

Solid Joys Podcast-- a quick podcast to turn on while you're cooking, full of advent wisdom and truth from John Piper and the Desiring God team.

Treasuring God in Our Traditions-- it's not an advent book, per se, but it's full of ways to keep each holiday gospel-focused including sweet ideas for Christmas.

Prepare Him Room-- another family devotion to do all month long; I haven't done this one but have heard good things

Come Let Us Adore Him-- an advent devotion from Paul Tripp; this would be a great one for men/husband's to read and lead with!

Daily Advent Jesus Storybook Bible-- This is a free resource with an outline of how to use The Jesus Storybook Bible during each day of advent. Perfect for families!

Kids Books:

The Littlest Watchman - My 4 year old loves this story 

The Christmas Promise - Another great one for kids

 ···

No matter what you choose to do, remember that it's not about what you're doing. It's about why you're doing it! Engage your heart, slow down, focus on Jesus first before decorations and gifts and cookies. After all, HE is the good gift. 

I'm going to talk more about advent over on my Instagram Stories. I'll save them to my highlights so check them out here

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

GIFT GUIDES FOR HER, HIM, & LITTLES

There are many ways to anticipate the arrival of Christ and to keep our hearts focused on Him-- lights, feasts, songs, service projects... and even gifts. 

James 1:17 says "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

God is the very best gift-giver. Not only did He give us His son, but also every other good and wonderful thing in our lives. He takes delight in giving good gifts to us, which is why we can find delight in giving gifts to those we love. It's a way we can reflect His image!

Here are some ideas as you start planning out your gift-lists. How can we be intentional and Jesus-focused as we love our people well? 

For Her:

1. Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God- A short, inspirational book to remind her of the Godly (and very human) women who have gone before her.

2. The Promise Pack- 52 beautiful verse cards for her to put around her house or memorize, one for every week of the year.

3. A Dear Mushka Necklace- Because there is little better than jewelry that keeps our hearts and minds focused on Christ.

4. The Citizen Sweatshirt- It carries a forgiving fit and the much needed reminder that she is a citizen of Heaven. 

5. A Dear Mushka Gift Card- So she can pick the piece her heart most needs in this season.

6. Sing a New Song- A lovely breakdown of each Psalm for her to use as a guide when she's reading them. 

7. The Prayer Journal Pages- Help set her up for a more consistent prayer life in the New Year. Bonus: Print them off and put them in a pretty binder for her! 

8. Humble Roots- One of the best books I've read in a long time, she'll love it from beginning to end. 

9. An Art Print- Christ-focused beauty for her home. Bonus: Frame it for her! 

 

For Him:

1. ESV Scripture Journal Set- He'll have plenty of room to take notes inside; my husband uses these when He meets with some men to study scripture. You can also buy them individually!

2. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You- A really interesting, scientific, helpful read as he decides when and how to use his phone. 

3. Systematic Theology- The best (easy to understand) guide for his office on every theological topic imaginable. 

4. New Morning Mercies- A gospel-focused daily devotional that he'll absolutely love. Bonus: It could be read and discussed at the dinner table with the family!

5. A CS Lewis Set- Classics he'll want to read again and again. 

6. Candle- A perfectly manly scent for him to light as he opens his Bible and prays each morning.

7. Soli Deo Gloria Tee- Glory to God alone, forever and ever. 

8. Pens- Wonderful pens to mark up his Bible and/or journal with as he learns more about God.

9. Hillsong Art- Encouraging art for his office or space. My husband loves these song lyrics... what might be best for your "him"?

 

For Littles:

1. The Child Pack- Verse cards perfect for little hearts to memorize and learn the importance of. 

2. A Baby Believer Book- There are five in the series, each one lovely for young minds with bright colors and a clear focus. 

3. Getty Kids Hymnal- Beautiful music from Getty Kids made to get your family worshiping God through beloved hymns. 

4. God's Very Good Idea- A wonderful book on God's beautiful plan to make people different from one another. 

5. ABCs of the Attributes of God Cards- Is there a better way to learn your ABCs than to focus on God? 

6. The Biggest Story- Another ABC method of focusing on God. Theologically correct and helpful. Here's the (even better) version for older children!

7. Little People Noah's Ark- Perfect for bath time stories about God. They also make a manger scene option. 

8. Bible Infographics Book- A super fun book to look through and learn from!

9. The Precious Tee- Because it's true, no matter our race, Jesus loves us all the same.