May Mayhem: the 5 things I learned

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May was a little crazy wasn’t it? End of the year celebrations and preparations for the fall school year all clash in one month. I am ready for the rhythm of slow with no-where to be by 8am each day thank you very much. I could tell the teachers were drained too, all pushing toward that finish line. Well, summer is here. But before you start applying sunscreen and head to the pool, here are a few things I learned in the mayhem of May.

  1. Sugar makes me tired.

I took a three-month hiatus from coffee recently (who was that crazy person?) to taper off from caffeine. Well the problem it turns out wasn’t necessarily the caffeine as it was the sugar I put into my coffee. Sprite causes energy crashes too and that’s caffeine free, but loaded with sugar! So, I have acquired a taste for coffee without sugar and now all is right with the world.

 

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“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

  1. Memorizing Scripture can be easy!

Do you struggle to memorize Bible verses? Well, I did and one day I saw a picture on Instagram from Mary Kate Robertson who wrote a verse on her hand. I thought it was a great idea to have a daily reminder on something I see everyday – my hand or wrist. I wrote about how I try to do this and I hope you find it helpful.

 

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  1. Parents are usually the best advocates for their kids.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called The United States of Autism. A concerned father who has an autistic son set out with a film crew driving all over the country interviewing other families living with the reality of autism.

Some of those parents are fierce, going toe-to-toe with state legislature and even Congress, petitioning for insurance coverage for therapies or investigating the Health Department in vaccine requirements for children. Some believe there is a correlation between the number of vaccinations a child receives at one time and autism. Others debunk this idea and conclude it is mostly genetic. Fascinating stuff. Meanwhile, the autism numbers continue to climb and it seems the parents are the only voices speaking up for these children.

 

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  1. Let’s address how Crazy Busy we are.

In the Western culture especially we are crazy busy. Kevin DeYoung, pastor, speaker and writer, struggles with juggling it all too, which is why he wrote Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About A (Really) Big Problem. We push ourselves beyond our limits and it is killing us.

DeYoung talks about stewarding our time and why saying ‘yes’ to more than we should is really a heart issue. That got my attention, especially when he concludes that a lot of our busyness stems from pride in various forms. It’s a short read and definitely something to think about.

 

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  1. This month marks the 1 year anniversary of Redeemed In Grace.

I cannot believe it has already been a year since I took a deep breath and hit publish on Redeemed In Grace for the very first time. I have loved doing this – the writing, connecting, learning, and even iPhone photography (no one was more surprised than me).

I am thankful to you, who have taken your valuable time to read what I write. Thank you!!

The Lord continues to teach me more about Him and myself. I realize I’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how great God is. He leaves me hungry for more of Him, so this blog is part of that journey – learning in knowledge, growing in grace; redeemed by Him and for Him.

However your summer looks I hope you find time to slow down a bit and:

eat watermelon,

(and ice cream),

walk barefoot,

go to the library,

grill out,

and watch the Summer Olympics of course!

Have a happy June 🙂

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

All About April

Happy April!

I realize the obnoxious use of self in the title however the post really is all about the month. It just also happens to be my name. Never pass up a good pun, friends.

This month’s finds are for the cook who would just like to press the ‘easy’ button every now and then, family celebrations, the lost art of penmanship and the best DIY show ever. Enjoy!

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  1. The Frugal Girls

It’s 3pm and you have no clue what you’re going to feed your tribe for dinner. Why do they need to eat every. single. day?…(half kidding). So your culinary skills are spent and you need an easy fix. Go to The Frugal Girls immediately and never worry about dinner problems ever again. (And all the moms rejoice!). The Frugal Girls offer tons of easy, affordable, crockpot recipes. Trust me, you’ll be a rock star and your family will thank you for feeding them tonight.

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  1. God Centered Mom Podcast

I’ve mentioned before how I love the Mom Struggling Well podcast. Well, Emily Thomas recently recommended another one on her show called the God Centered Mom. It has blessed me you guys. I think any mom, regardless of what season she is in can benefit from podcasts like these. I hope you give them both a try and that you are encouraged as well.

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  1. The Master Penman

Apparently the art of penmanship is a fading art due to the modern world of technology. Kids don’t learn to craft their writing when laptops are available in every classroom from a wee age. Jake Weidmann is one of twelve Master Penmen in the world and he is also the youngest by three decades.

Maybe it’s the writer in me that is so fascinated by this. I still write out my posts first with pen and paper. Take a look at this very skilled artist and how he wields a pen.

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  1. Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman

I’m open on my blog about having a son on the autism spectrum. Since April is Autism Awareness month I thought I’d share a book I’ve just read. This book is an insightful read into the mind of an autistic child.

It’s a gem for parents or any friend or family member who has a loved one on the spectrum. Raun Kaufman established the Autism Treatment Center of America under The Son-Rise Program. He is witty and a great cheerleader for our kids! Kaufman recalls having autism as a child and how his parents helped him overcome his challenges – as in cured.

I promise this book isn’t hokey. He offers techniques and activities to help, but most importantly your attitude as the parent. Kaufman encourages parents to “[see] your child’s abilities rather than focusing on supposed deficiencies” (p. 268).

If you know someone who could use encouragement with an autistic child, maybe wrap this one up as a special gift just for them.

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  1. Surprises and celebrations

April is a big month of partying in my family. My grandfather, aunt, and dad all have birthdays this month crammed into one week. Squeeze into that Jason’s and my anniversary. Jesse’s birthday is about a week later.

What made this one special is my dad turning 60 and throwing him a surprise party at his favorite restaurant (Cracker Barrel anyone?). Mom managed to keep it a secret and got him there none the wiser. Family and friends came to help celebrate and the look on dad’s face was priceless when he walked in.

Another milestone was Jesse turning a whole hand. So we decided to go big this year. We haven’t done huge birthday parties in the past, because it’s been a mercurial thing for our little guy. He has had trouble in the past with hearing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song and any kind of cheering or candles. This year? This year a blessing happened. The party went off without a hitch and we. sang. to. him. We sang our sweet boy ‘Happy Birthday’ as he stood on a chair to see everyone, wearing his birthday crown (another miracle).

Celebrating life moments are important. It doesn’t always have to be flashy and spectacular. Sometimes it can be. What matters are the people we honor and how we make them feel on their special moments. Loving others well looks like keeping a surprise secret, showing up, birthday cake, balloons, hugs, the gift of laughter, and food of course.

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  1. Fixer Upper

I recently started watching this show and concluded one thing. I am definitely not a DIY girl, but sure enjoy sitting on my couch watching others transform something blah into spectacular. Chip and Joanna Gaines are so adorable with each other too. This show on HGTV (or Netflix, yay!) is worth watching just to hear Chip’s quirky quips and antics (one time he ate a cockroach) or see Joanna’s flawless taste in interior design.

 

What are things you’re into this month? Did you have things to celebrate or occasions to remember? Hopefully it was a good month for you as well. Looking forward to walking through May with you. What is the saying, “spring comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”? I think we’re at the lamb part you guys. Press on into May!

 

March Madness

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Spring is here. It is refreshing to see life bloom again. Color everywhere and warmer weather, hooray! March felt a little heavy, personally and around the world. While nations argued and it seems as if evil is winning we as believers hold on to something more. Praise God this isn’t my home! I have a sure hope of better things to come.

Despite all of the negative news that determined to overpower my senses, there were glimpses of God’s grace, beauty and even fun all around. Here are 6 things I enjoyed in March:

 

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

  1. I now understand why The Martian was nominated in the Comedy category at the Oscars.

I know I’m late to the party on this one since I just watched it. It’s not your typical comedy by any means, more like a dramedy. To keep the movie light and interesting, quips are sprinkled throughout making this film delightful to see. Matt Damon does a superb job carrying most of the scenes solo. I found it to be a mix between Apollo 13 and Castaway (notably both Tom Hanks movies).

Growing up in an “all things NASA” city and really enjoying The Martian I think qualifies me as a solidified space nerd. I surprised even myself on that one.

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  1. Karen Carpenter was crazy talented

Jason and I watched a PBS special on The Carpenters a few weeks ago. I had no idea Karen played the drums before she started singing. That was her thing before they all realized she had the most enchanting voice ever. Who knew?

She also had a contralto singing voice, the lowest female voice type. It is said to be the most rare of female vocals with less than 1% of the population.

 

  1. Apparently I have a high sensitivity to caffeine

After my morning cup of coffee I would always have huge crashes and felt half-asleep (Dead woman walking). So, to counter the zombie look I’m in the middle of “coming clean” from caffeinated beverages for a solid 3 months! I do feel a lot better after only a few weeks. This is just an experiment, or complete insanity.

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4. We live in a mad, mad, mad world

Politics has sucked me in. All I hear about is the “anger” the voters have, and yeah I get it. I’m both fascinated and appalled by it all. There were quite a few “super” Tuesdays, candidates dropping out and immature exchanges back and forth. I’m sorry, is this the 8th grade or a presidential election?

My hope when everything feels unsettled on the verge of collapse is that God is on His throne. God is still God. Ultimately I place my hope in Him and not man.

 

 

5. If you are on Instagram like the 400 million other users, check out these incredible landscape photographers:

@william_patino

@quietachiever

@intrepidphotos

These talented people travel all over the world capturing breath-taking views of God’s creation. I’m always left in awe over our Great God and Creator of the Universe. What an amazing gift He gives us through His beauty.

What things did you see, listen to or learn in March? Do you and your family have any traditions that you celebrate for Easter? Ours was low-key this year and I enjoyed it. Celebrating our Risen Savior and Living Hope this month makes everything else pale in comparison.

I pray that you are filled with peace and joy as we step into one of my favorite months, my name’s sake you guys!

Grace upon grace,

April

 

My Coffee Addiction

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For those who know me, you understand my appreciation of the coffee bean; some may even call it love. The thing is, I talk about it so much that others have concluded I’m a 12 cups-a-day addict. Not so, friend. In the past I have just reallllly looked forward to my morning cup of joe. My sanity and irritability level depended on it.

I occasionally indulged in a second cup by early afternoon, especially in the winter, but that was more for warmth than anything else. Caffeine after 3pm just makes me jumpy and jittery like a spooked cat (or my parents’ insane dog).

I always had a huge crash from coffee, leaving me feeling zombie-like. There is regular tired and then there is the heavy, exhausted curl up on the couch and never get up tired. My whole body felt like it was weighted down with no energy.

So, like a crazy person I decided to do the next logical thing. Roughly over a month ago, I stopped drinking coffee cold turkey. It’s funny because I said that I wasn’t a coffee addict, but my body told me otherwise. The next day consisted of a full-blown migraine. It wasn’t pretty ya’ll. But after getting over that I have felt like an entirely different human being: calmer, nicer, not likely to fall asleep at 10am… I still get tired occasionally like every other normal person because hello, life? But I don’t feel like a zombie either.

I am also known for getting frequent headaches. Basically anytime the wind changes direction it seems like I have one. It’s due partly to living in an area surrounded by hills, which is the equivalent to living in a bowl with all pollen, air pressure, pet dander, and grass serving as a petri dish for the natives. I don’t claim to have a firm knowledge on how all this works, I only experience it, but I digress.

Would you believe I have had just a couple since coming off caffeine? That takes the percentage down like 85% or something. And it’s a down right miracle compared to a couple each week!

All I’m saying is that one simple change has made a big difference. Even my husband Jason notices I’m a little sweeter, patient, and present in life. It just goes to show that life changes don’t have to be big, drastic (although this might qualify), or scary. Sometimes an effective change can be very simple, like choosing to take vitamins, drink more water, or walk outside for 30 minutes a day. I realize my examples are all health related, but it doesn’t have to be for you. Choose something that would help you feel better physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. After a while you forget to have to make yourself, and discipline becomes habit.

Do I miss coffee? Heck yes. And eventually I may treat myself to a latte or iced coffee, but it won’t be a regular thing anymore. I feel so much better that the benefits actually outweigh my love for the coffee bean.

Is there a simple change you have been thinking about making? I’d love to know! Share in the comments section.

Grace upon grace,

April

 

February Favorites

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February is the month of love, hearts, chocolate, pink and red. Even so, there is still more winter which means cold and gray and for some reason, at least where I live, lots of rain. I try to look around for the little things to smile about in the sludge of winter. Something about every cloud has a silver lining right? Anyway, here a few things that made me happy this month. This is for the mom who is struggling, the aspiring organizer, and the thrifty shopper.

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  1. Podcast – Mom Struggling Well

I’m fairly new to the podcast world and I feel like I’ve struck gold with this one. This podcast is for every mom who feels like she isn’t doing the mom thing right. You know, like your fear that Junior just might grow up to be a criminal because you feed him more sugary cereal than organic squash?

Each episode Emily Thomas interviews another mom about personal trials she is experiencing with her kids. Topics range from adoption stories, perseverance in the thick of it, raising a child with autism, to discovering your own passions. Emily is heartfelt and so funny. You really can’t go wrong listening to this mix of encouragement, laughter and wisdom. Let’s stop comparing our skills and just support each other. Give yourself some grace today and maybe change your perspective from struggling, to struggling well.

 

  1. Ikea turquoise cart

So there’s a story of a woman who lived in a house with a desk full of cluttered incoming mail she didn’t know what to do with. Until one day the Lazy Genius told her that this magical cart would solve all her problems! That woman is me. (Surprise)

You guys, I am not a DIY, handy Mandy (the girl version) kind of gal, but this utility cart? Super easy to put together. I’m not kidding. Even for me, this is saying a lot. Now all of the mail and junk that mocked my lack of organizational skills is tucked away out of sight.

Use yours as an art cart for the kids, a food serving station, or maybe even a coffee bar? Also, I somehow feel like an official adult now with my first ever Ikea purchase. It sounds soo grown up.

 

  1. Target $1-3 (sometimes $5) section

Target is really stepping up their game with this corner of treasures. I love shopping at Target, but sometimes I go in to get 3 things that end up costing me $100! So, to get my Target fix and not break the bank, I’ve been eyeing this section more. Keeping with the organization theme, here are a few things I found in the Target poor smart nook:

A wooden tray organizer which will now serve as home for my bracelets, lipstick, and other girl things; Chic magnets for the fridge; A cute chalkboard for the kitchen; Stickers for Jesse that should last him for weeks (under $1 because it was discounted); A ‘Celebrate’ sign that will be used for many birthdays to come and other happy occasions.

See? Easy, affordable, and charming. Dave Ramsey would be proud.

What are some of your favorite finds from February? Share in the comments section!

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

January Gems

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I don’t know about you but lately I have been getting a case of the ‘winter blahs’. One can only take so many gray, overcast skies am I right? Plus I have never lived anywhere else but the humid South and anything below sixty degrees is out of my comfort zone. Our family tends to become like bears in a cave during the winter months. We hibernate. But there are little gems to get you through the cold season and I’m here to help.

Eyes of gratitude and living in the present take practice. Winter is especially difficult for me because I can sometimes run ahead of life myself wishing this day away attempting to hurry spring along. So in an effort to keep a light heart and joyful spirit I’ve compiled a short list of things I have “discovered”, learned, or enjoyed this month. Here they are in no particular order:

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1) Downton Abbey

Sigh. Need I say more? Keywords here are: stunning costumes, brilliant scenery and British accents. I was definitely born in the wrong era (and country apparently) but besides that this show is like a mental break for my brain on Sunday night. I push away the thoughts of Monday and upcoming week looming overhead, and indulge into a very different (more sophisticated) world for an hour.

I can’t get enough of snarky, sometimes sweet, Mary and all her beau suitors. Will she or won’t she ever find a love like Matthew again? (I’m betting no, but that’s just me being a cynic).

And poor Edith. I mean, that is her catchphrase: “Poor Edith!” Nothing good ever happens to that woman until now. She is starting to find her own way and branch out from under the Grantham wing.

So far the best event that has happened was Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes wedding – I mean Mrs. Carson, but actually everyone will still call her Mrs. Hughes because that’s not weird at all.

It’s a shame that this is the last season but smart to quit while still wildly popular. I’ll savor these last few episodes with a cup of tea and a blueberry scone… well maybe not really but it sounds very “Downton Abbey”, don’t you think? Pinky up.

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2) ‘A Million Little Ways’ by Emily P. Freeman

This book truly is a little gem. For some reason I’m turtle slow in getting started on my reading list this year but Emily Freeman’s words have been a familiar companion throughout the month. Have you ever wondered what gifts you have to offer the rest of us? Maybe you think you don’t but desperately hope you’re wrong.

Emily helps the reader see that we are image bearers of God, who is Creator God. We were made to do two things: worship the Lord and create. Creating has many sides and isn’t limited to the traditional view of painting, music, or acting. It can be designing and sewing a dress, engineering a software program, constructing a building or bridge, or cooking a delicious meal. You can be a butcher, a baker or candle stick maker and still create.

It also doesn’t mean we are limited to just one gift and that’s all we get either. Emily says,

“I don’t believe there is one great thing I was made to do in this world. I believe there is one great God I was made to glorify. And there will be many ways, a million little ways, I will declare his glory with my life” (40).

Creating comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not something reserved only for the artistic elite (whoever that is). You too can “uncover the art you were made to live” because you are God’s workmanship, made to reflect Him in every way and that dear reader, includes creating with your hands, your head, or your heart.

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3) When Calls the Heart

If you’re like me and sometimes have a hard time finding anything decent on TV then I am excited to share with you this show. Most shows on TV are just plain trash or stupid. I don’t necessarily want to watch a movie either because that takes too much time and my attention span is sadly not that long.

For the last few months I was on the hunt for something not super cheesy, but still clean in content with a storyline that would keep me interested. Well. This little show is my Netflix unwind. It’s a Hallmark production, which I confess, didn’t leave me with high expectations for it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The plot surrounds a young and optimistic teacher, Elizabeth Thatcher, who heads out to a small coal-mining town. She leaves her affluent family and surroundings behind, and gets more than she bargained for. Elizabeth learns a different way of life, a town that is recently recovering from heartache over a terrible tragedy. She finds that the humble people of the town have just as much to teach her as she does them.

If you need something heartwarming during the cold winter days, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Hang in there the first few episodes. It might be a little clunky as all new beginnings are, and the actors are just getting their feet wet. By episode three I was in tears I tell you. Bring a box of Kleenex.

I hope you have had a wonderful January and discovered some of your own gems along the way!

Grace upon grace,

April