All That We Behold

foggy mountains

Hoping that today you behold many blessings
(even if you have to look hard to find them!).
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Manic Mornings & Quaker Breakfast Shakes

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Go! Go! Hurry up!
Get your backpack!
Did you brush your teeth? Where’s your reading folder?
No, there’s no time – you’ll just have to buy your lunch.
Ack! Ew! Get me a burp cloth, please! Please?!
Okay, let’s go.
Oh My Gosh, don’t slam the door!!!

Anyone else have mornings that sound like this? I do – pretty much every day.

And lately, making sure Annalyn (and I) get a decent breakfast before diving headfirst into the day is more difficult than ever. (I don’t want to blame the baby, but…well…it’s kind of because of the baby…)

When I was pregnant, all I wanted – all I could STAND – was a plain bagel loaded with plain cream cheese. But now that I’m starting to want to eat a bit healthier, I need to find another breakfast solution. Plus, Annalyn is just sick of the bagel routine.

In my fantasy world (the one where I get up early and cross things off my to-do list and generally have it together), I’d scramble some eggs and serve them up with some turkey sausage. Or I’d make and freeze smoothies or breakfast sandwiches in advance, providing a healthy, convenient breakfast for my family.

In the real world? I’m doing good to shake some dry cereal into a bowl and toss my daughter a yogurt tube.

Enter Quaker Breakfast Shakes.

quaker shakes

When Quaker contacted me about reviewing their shakes, I jumped on the offer. Because HELLO? A breakfast I can just grab out of the fridge and take with me? I’m ALL OVER THAT.

The Quaker Breakfast Shakes come in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. I tried both the chocolate and the strawberry, and both were really good. They did taste a little oatmeal-y, but since I like oatmeal, I didn’t mind. And I knew that meant Quaker means business when it says, “Whole Grain Goodness to Go!”

[In case you're wondering, each shake also has 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.]

So, if your mornings look anything like mine and you want an easy, healthy breakfast option, try out Quaker Breakfast Shakes. You can even get a $2.00 off coupon to try them out the first time. Just click here!

This post was created in partnership with Quaker. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Photo source

The Difference Orange Makes

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We got to church early that summer morning, though not quite as early as we wanted to. As usual. We parked and speed-walked through the parking lot, snapping at Annalyn to HURRY UP. As soon as we walked into the building, we all headed to Kids City – Mark to serve as security, me to lead the student volunteers in Praise Parkway, and Annalyn to bounce between the two of us.

At one point Mark sent Annalyn to me so he could take attendance of all the classrooms and tally the total number of kids attending first service. She didn’t want to. She wanted to stay with her dad.

As I tried to finish setting up the room and talk with my students, make a few last-minute changes to our slides and run a quick sound check, my sweet, strong-willed daughter was climbing on chairs, complaining about my instructions to be quiet and sit still, and begging to go find her dad. No amount of explanation or reasoning calmed her down – neither did threats or bribery, in case you’re wondering. Her whining escalated alarmingly fast into a full-blown meltdown.

The whole thing reached its peak when I picked her up – not an easy task for a pregnant mom to do with her tall and oh-so-angry five-year-old – and dragged her down the hall into the bathroom. Where her screams – and my own yelling – proceeded to echo off the cinderblock walls.

Awesome. I was HOPING everyone in the church could hear this absolute MESS of a situation.

Because it WAS a mess. My daughter was a disobedient, irrational, out-of-control mess. I was an angry, frustrated, short-tempered mess. After yelling, threatening and lecturing, after totally losing my cool and any control I still had left, I caught my reflection in the mirror. Immediately, I looked away, pretending not to see how ugly my own behavior was, and I marched my still-crying daughter out of the bathroom.

As we headed back toward the classrooms, we ran into my friend and the director of Kids City. I looked at her helplessly and admitted, “I don’t know what to do.” She offered to talk with Annalyn, and I said, “Have at it.”

My friend talked to my daughter – and miraculously, my baby girl finally calmed down. She even went to her classroom without much of a fuss, standing stubbornly at the door only until her teachers noticed her and shouted, “Come in, Annalyn! We’re playing a game! Do you want to play?”

Feeling heavy and exhausted – and extremely embarrassed – I walked back to Praise Parkway. As I was wiping tears of my own and preparing for second service, my friend Erich walked in the room.

“Hey, are you going to the baptism service after church?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I was going to, but this has been a terrible morning,” I said. “Probably not.”

“Oh. Well, okay. I was just going to tell you that Parker is being baptized . . . and he mentions you in his testimony.”

What?!

Parker is Erich’s son and one of my student volunteers, and I had no idea he was planning to be baptized that day. I certainly didn’t realize he would want to talk about me when he did it!

Even after sitting through church, I felt lousy. And that’s saying a lot, since worship and a sermon almost always makes me feel better, no matter what baggage I carry into service. But this morning had been one of the very worst in my parenting career, and I was just So. Very. Tired.

Still, I couldn’t very well let Parker down. We’d only been serving together in Kids City for about six months, but like all the kids I worked with, he was important to me. I wanted to be there for him, so I picked up Annalyn from her classroom and headed outside. (This baptism service was part of our summer picnic and held beside the playground of the elementary school we met in.)

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Parker was the first one to climb into the round tub of water, along with his parents. I was still chewing my [third] hot dog when our pastor began reading a statement Parker had written. He talked about how he loved Jesus and fully believed because of the influence and example of several people. Of course he listed his parents, small group leaders and family friends, but then he said my name.

He said my name.

Until that moment I had not thought I was doing anything special at all. Sure, I got to church a little bit early and hung out with the kids serving in Praise Parkway. We hooked up the speakers and fiddled with the cords connecting the laptop to the sound board. Sometimes they told me about their week, what was going on at school or at home. Sometimes we just joked about how many peppermints they could snitch from the snack table up front and whose turn it was to get drinks for the team.

But I never once imagined I was making any kind of eternal impact on those kids. I just thought I was filling a need, completing a task. If anything, I thought my service was making a difference for the younger kids who came into Praise Parkway to sing songs and hear a story. But the middle schoolers I worked beside? Sure, I was leading them, but I had no idea I was serving them, too.

Until the moment I watched Parker climb in the water, and he said my name.

That Sunday was one of the worst days of my parenting life – and one of the best days of my ministry life.

It was also the perfect illustration of parents and church working together for the good of the children.

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My church uses Orange curriculum for our children’s ministry, and its main strategy is to create a partnership between parents and the church to influence the hearts and lives and children. Orange refutes the idea that spiritual formation is the “job” of the church and encourages parents to be active in teaching their kids about God’s love.

On that Sunday morning last summer, the truth of Orange’s philosophy could not have been clearer to me. When I failed my own kiddo, my friend and her teachers were there to help out. And even though I didn’t realize it, I was making the same kind of difference in my friend’s son just by showing up every week and serving with him in Praise Parkway.

I’m incredibly grateful for our church family – both for the privilege of serving and leading, and for being served and led. And when it comes to my work in Kids City and my daughter’s experience of church, it’s strongly influenced by Orange. Which is why I’m super excited to attend the Orange Conference in Atlanta later this month!

[The chance to see the Sisterchicks doesn’t hurt either, but that’s a completely separate post!]

If you serve in children’s ministry at your church (or at home), I highly recommend the Orange Conference. It’s not too late to register, and it will be well worth your investment. For more information about Orange, visit the website here.

Disclosure: I have received a ticket to the Orange Conference, but all opinions here are my own. Photo sources here.

Perfectionism with a Sensitive Twist

I’ve read many different theories on perfectionism, but I’d never considered this one from my friend Jessie. What she’s sharing today MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. So, please, take a read and welcome her warmly!

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I’ve always thought I was a pretty strange person.

I fit into many of the categories you ascribe to firstborn children … overachiever, bossy, serious perhaps to a fault. But there was one area where I never knew quite where I fell: perfectionism.

In some ways I am an uber-perfectionist. I worked as a copy editor, which requires an eye trained for detail and rules. When I am serving others my cooking, I freak out if everything doesn’t look like the cover of Southern Living. I read books from cover to cover and never skip to the end, because that would be cheating.

And yet, I struggle with being a major slob. I am disorganized. My apartment is a wreck 95% of the time, I almost never mop the floors, and I find things under the couch that you DEFINITELY don’t want to discover there. I forget appointments, and as my daughter would be happy to tell you, my handwritten chalkboard calendar is still on January – a travesty in her book.

It wasn’t until I recently that I discovered the issue. I had borrowed a copy of The Highly Sensitive Child from a friend, wondering what to do with my oldest child, my daughter Libbie. She is 5 and still gags on vegetables, won’t wear pants that button or snap, and cries at the drop of a hat.

I can’t tell you if Libbie is highly sensitive – maybe in a way, maybe not. But I can tell you something: I SURE AM. Everything author Dr. Elaine Aron wrote made me nod and nearly gasp at its accuracy in my own life. One of the things she describes is how highly sensitive people are often perfectionists, but only in areas where they naturally succeed.

So. Now I know I am not a total weirdo. There is a name for people like me, who felt tears coming on if they made a spelling error on an English essay but could not have cared less about health class. (I think I made a C+ IN MIDDLE SCHOOL HEALTH. Yeah.)

If you’re a struggling semi-perfectionist like me, here are some tips from my own experience.

Love what you love and accept who God made you to be.

I am never going to be a person who naturally keeps my house spotless, no matter how many times I berate myself about it. I can get frustrated, cry, be angry at my husband for not helping, declare that I will be better, whatever … none of it is going to help. What helps me do things that I don’t really want to do? Making lists or schedules and attempting to follow them. Remembering that mercies are new every morning and living in God’s strength, not mine.

Let it go.

Isn’t that a song right now? (I am so bummed I let my mom take Libbie to see Frozen and so I haven’t seen it!) When you sense yourself letting the perfectionist side take over, breathe deeply. Try to see the future. Tomorrow will it matter if your bread burned? Or will you laugh about it, throw it out, and know no one will really miss it. One time I freaked out because my husband and I tried to make a new dish to serve to our college friend and her boyfriend, whom we had just met. It was AWFUL and didn’t make nearly enough for four adults. We went and got Thai food instead, and we still giggle about it, eight years later.

Receive grace.

There are times you are going to make a major mistake. Maybe you’ll let a Beth Moore Bible study go to print with the word majesty spelled with a g instead of a j. (I wouldn’t speak from experience, of course. Ahem.) Maybe you’ll cry because your sister’s fiance is coming over and all the potatoes are sticking to the pan. (NOT ME! Nope!!) Maybe you’ll see the baby eat a crayon or sticker or whoevenknowswhat off the carpet and think if only I were a good housekeeper. Everybody makes mistakes, whether they’re willing to admit them on the Internet or not. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is dwell in grace instead of condemnation. Dust yourself off and try, try again.

Jessie Weaver is a Highly Sensitive Semi-Perfectionist living a messy life in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother to three kids: Libbie, 5; David, 3; and Joshua, 10 months. She and her husband live on campus at a private boarding school, where they also “parent” 30 high-school boys in their dorm.

{Photo by Amber Karnes}

6 Things to Do When You Fail at Your Goals

6 things to do when you fail your goals

Please welcome my friend (and fellow TV-lover!) Amy Bennett as she shares some encouragement and real-life tips with us for dealing with unmet goals. Thanks for guest posting, Amy!

We’re halfway through January already! And if you’re like me, your goals are already starting to slip through your fingers—and that’s putting it nicely.  When we fail at meeting our goals, it’s really easy to slip into believing we’re failures at everything and give it all up.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Here are 6 things we can do when we fail at our goals:

Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Before you look at your losses, celebrate your wins.  Maybe you haven’t exercised, but have you made your bed every day?  Celebrate!  Even if you haven’t met your goal 100%, celebrate what you DID accomplish. Write it out.  I made my bed for 14 days.  I flossed for 14 days.  Woohoo!  Celebrate!

Admit Your Failures

Cue the sad music—admit where you failed.  As they say, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.  Sit back down with your goals and highlight the lagging goals.  Don’t beat yourself up when you do this—it’s been two weeks and I have yet to crack open one of the devotionals I committed to doing this year.

Evaluate the Failure

Once you know where you’ve failed, ask yourself a few questions:

Is this goal specific and measurable enough?  Maybe you are feeling like you failed because your goal is too broad. A goal of “eating healthy” isn’t going to make anyone feel like a winner.  Something like “only use 1 teaspoon of sugar in my coffee instead of a tablespoon” is much more doable—and measurable (literally)–than “eating healthy.”

Is this goal too aggressive?  Maybe you made a goal that was 10 steps too hard. If you haven’t been working out and your goal was to exercise 1 hour, 7 days a week, maybe it’s just too big of a leap.

Is this goal still really important to me?  Maybe you’re like me and you get a little too goal-happy.  See if the goal is still something that is important to accomplish.

What is stopping me from making this goal?  Time? Laziness? Ignorance? Really think about what’s stopping you.

Adjust the goal

If you’re not meeting your goal, make adjustments.

If your goal was not specific enough or too aggressive, start smaller.  Maybe you made a goal to exercise five times a week.  Instead, make it a goal to exercise once a week.  If you find you are able to meet it for a month, adjust it to be two days a week.  Think small.

If the goal is not still important to you, just strike it out. No one is going to be upset if you decide making your bed every day just isn’t as important as you thought.

If time is an issue and you still want to meet that goal, you’re going to have to give something up to make it happen.  Find something in your schedule that can be given up—come on, I know that hour of Netflix on Thursday night can wait—and then schedule your goal in place of it.  If you schedule it, it’s much more likely to happen.

If you haven’t met a goal yet because you don’t know how to complete it, get educated!  Find someone you know that is already doing what you want to do and get some help.  People love to share their knowledge about a subject, given the chance.  I may always put off canning because I don’t know how.  Maybe this is the year I invite someone over to do it with me the first time.  Also, the Internet is jam-packed with tutorials. Commit to learn about the goal first if it’s stopping you from actually doing the goal.

If you find you’re just plain ignoring the goal, perhaps it’s time to find an accountability partner.  Find someone you know who will ask if you’ve done it. Give them a date and permission to ask you about it. It’s amazing how motivated we get when we know someone else is involved!

Start Again

The beginning of the year is a fun time to make new resolutions, but there is nothing wrong with treating tomorrow like New Year’s Day.  There’s no rule anywhere that says we can’t begin again tomorrow. It’s much better to achieve your goals by 25% than not at all. Don’t give up!  Progress is progress, even if it isn’t exactly like you hoped.

Give Yourself Grace

We all have bad days, lazy days, busy days.  Some days it just isn’t going to be perfect.  As Mary says, give up the illusion it will be. Goals are goals, not laws.  Give yourself grace not to meet them perfectly.

While I find it extremely important to make goals, I also find it extremely important to be able to handle it when it doesn’t go the way you want.  I hope these tips have helped you get back on track.

What goals are you struggling with so far?

Amy Bennett is wife to her police officer husband, Scott and mommy to two beautiful girls, Emma and Lexi. They reside in South Carolina, in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina with their two dogs Tucker and Bella and a picket fence to hold them all in. Amy spends her day writing code for a bank and her evenings writing blog posts at AmyJBennett.com.