4 Things I Learned This Winter

Linking up with Emily Freeman’s What I Learned series for Winter. Subjects vary and serve as little gems I’ve discovered over the last few months. It’s just for fun. Enjoy!

1. Rapunzel is in Frozen!

It’s fitting this is the movie we watched ad nauseam over the winter months. But it wasn’t until last week I noticed the Disney ‘Tangled’ princess as an Easter egg in Frozen. Since the movie was released in 2013 you probably already knew this. If not, you can find it on YouTube and see where she pops up.

 

2. Cozy minimalism is my house style

We moved into our new house in December and I hesitated (read: intimidated) to put anything on the walls. What if I mess up and hate it? Enter Myquillyn Smith (a.k.a. The Nester). Her book is called Cozy Minimalist Home. She gave me guidelines to follow for interior design. It was like a weight lifted and I finally had the confidence to decorate a home I could love.

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3. All about that lipstick

From IT Cosmetics, Vitality Lip Flush Stain 4 in 1 Hydrating Lipstick. Less gooey than lip gloss, stays on longer than regular lipstick. It’s like your chapstick but fancier.

 

4. Collaborating with other readers and writers is fun!

I signed up to be on a book launch team for the first time. Emily P. Freeman has a new book coming out in April called The Next Right Thing, the same name as her podcast. I didn’t know what to expect, but interacting with the team on Facebook has been a great experience. It goes to show that people with the same interest can complement each other’s work instead of compare and compete.

On another note of collaboration, I recently asked parents with special needs children to submit their stories for me to host on my blog. One goal I have for ‘Redeemed In Grace’ is to be a voice for families who would like to be heard in special needs parenting. If you or someone you know might be interested, send them my way 🙂

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Grace upon grace,

April

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4 things I learned this summer

Fall is my favorite. The weather in Alabama doesn’t really change until almost November, but seasonal house decor and pumpkin spice lattes and college football are in the lineup. Even though this summer had plenty of hard, there were also more naps, playtime, and grilling out.

There isn’t such a thing as “perfect” and that goes for each season we’re in (literally and figuratively). As a mom to a sweet boy on the autism spectrum I craved finding ways to fill myself up in small ways while still attending to his needs. Here are things I learned this summer.

1. Decluttering is therapeutic.

We are planning to move in a few months to the next town over so I’ve slowly been going through closets, sorting out what we don’t need or use anymore. Those things get donated. It’s funny what motivates you to become a minimalist. I really don’t feel like moving junk from one house to another, so this has been a surprisingly great stress reliever.

2. Audiobook + an actual book = efficiency

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It’s no secret that Jesse and I visited the library this summer almost once a week. I tend to check out fiction books instead of buying them for lots of reasons (bookshelf space, what if I hate the book, money…). But my summer brain doesn’t have as much energy or time, so I checked out of the library an audiobook, along with the book itself. Listening to the CD in the car and picking up with the book at home helped me stay in the story more and not give up on finishing it. Also, it’s fun!

3. YouTube workouts saved my exercise routine.

Part of having Jesse at home this summer meant I wasn’t going to the gym to workout. Which is really fine by me because it just feels gross and stinky and germy anyway. But I was missing the mental health benefits from exercising, as well as needing something low-impact to help with my low back aches. Well. Little did I know that finding an exercise regime that I actually liked was as easy as turning on my t.v. You can find plenty of exercise options through YouTube. I have really enjoyed the 20-30 minute Pilates videos by PopSugar fitness.

4. Creativity takes courage and intention.

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I read again Hannah Anderson’s book ‘Made for More’ this summer. I can’t recommend it enough for other women. Not only is she a writer and someone I want to be when I grow up, she’s also a wife and mother. Anderson recently interviewed another artist/mom on how she incorporates her calling as an artist with the calling of motherhood.

Honestly it’s still something I struggle with. But I’m also learning that God put in each of us different gifts He intends for you and me to use. If we aren’t exercising those passions in some form, no matter how small, it’s disobedience. Because the Lord can use my meager loaves and fish to multiply exponentially if He chooses to. I’m only required to act.

Looking forward to hearing about your summer learnings. What is one thing you like about summer? What is one thing you’re glad to see go?

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

 

What I Learned: Fall Edition

When I remember, I try to participate in a community post organized by Emily Freeman, titled What We Learned. It’s a good way to press pause on this season before the next one rolls around. The topics can be about anything really. This autumnal post ranges from a food I rediscovered, encouragement for parents with a special needs child, learning to do hard things, and keeping it simple.

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Head on over to see more seasonal posts from others and what they are learning too. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are 5 things I learned this fall:

 

  1.  I like apples again and apparently so does my child.

I don’t know when I stopped eating apples, but it’s been a few years I’m sure (unless it happened to be covered in caramel- duh). But I saw a Pioneer Woman recipe to make an apple tart so I marched myself to the grocery store and bought a bag of Honey crisp apples. I never got around to actually making the recipe because Jesse and I accidentally devoured most of them.

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I had no idea he liked apples. He didn’t last year, but somewhere in between he took a fancy to them. He prefers them just plain, but I like apples with peanut butter, or fruit dip or salt or even in a turkey sandwich! Still planning to make that recipe, but who knew it would evolve into more than an apple tart?

 

  1.  Listening to another mom talk about her child with autism made me cry.

I listened to a podcast interview from a mom who has a young adult autistic son. It was very helpful to hear her perspective, since I’m more on the front end of the journey. Terri Conlin shares her experience in her son’s diagnosis at an early age, dealing with behavioral issues, learning obstacles, as well as how siblings fit into the mix.

Her feelings match my own. I found myself blinking back tears because even though the autism spectrum is broad, the emotional rollercoaster is very much the same. She helped me remember that I am not alone in this. Raising a special needs child can be a maddening enigma, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

You can find Terri’s interview on the God Centered Mom Podcast . She also writes lovely words on her blog www.whitepitchers.com. I hope her message encourages you or someone you know with a child on the autism spectrum.

 

  1.  Running is a great stress reliever.

This fall I started running consistently in order to prepare for two 5K races. There is something intoxicatingly free about running outside. As the weather cooled down I tied up my shoelaces to do just that. I’m not very fast, but I can run distance with enough preparation. Just to finish the first race was my goal. The second race happened this past week and I ran a personal best in my running time.

 

After a bizarre collapse and my heart going into atrial fibrillation last fall, I silently thanked God for allowing me the privilege to run again- to have a healthy body. I don’t take it for granted at all. It showed me that with God’s grace, I could discipline myself to do hard things – like running a race, finishing, and running well.

 

 4. I don’t love Daylight Savings Time.

I don’t know what important person came up with the idea to move the clocks in the fall/winter so we have LESS daylight, but I am not a fan. It gets dark by 4pm and I’m ready to crawl into my pajamas by 6pm because it feels so much later than what it actually is. Would it be so bad to do away with DST altogether?

 

5. Keep It Simple Sweetie (K.I.S.S.) is more than just an acronym.

If the holiday season stresses you out this is a saying to practice. As I started to get the Christmas decorations out this year, a familiar cloud of anxiety loomed overhead. Up until now I have put up TWO Christmas trees (because I’m a crazy person) and crammed every single decoration we own in whatever white space was left.

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I’m not a fan of clutter or excess, so this was the exact opposite of what I find relaxing and enjoyable. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I’m a grown up. This is my house. There aren’t Christmas police that say I have to deck the halls to the brim of losing my mind.

So this year I put up ONE tree and half of the decorations. I have to say that I absolutely love it. It won’t be a bear to take down after the New Year and my family’s everyday clutter is still welcome.

 

What are ways you keep this season of Advent? Are there hard things you have to do or want to do but haven’t yet? Maybe you listened to or read something encouraging you can pass along to others. Or perhaps you too tried a new food or rediscovered an old favorite. I hope you enjoyed fall as much as I did. I was a little surprised by how brilliant the colors were in Alabama! That’s always the best I think, to be surprised by beauty and count it as a blessing.

 

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Goodbye to summer (with a few observations)

Taking time to thoughtfully think back about summer before rushing into fall. We’ve already finished almost a month of school, so the summer season for us has officially ended. Emily Freeman encourages other writers to join her on her blog to record what you’ve learned before stepping into another season. I like this approach because if we never reflect on the mundane to the serious, we miss learning from our own experiences, or just to be thankful for what was. Even if you don’t formally make your own list to share, consider jotting down a few things to see how God has provided and blessed your life.

 

  1. June is the best month of summer

The weather in Alabama has yet to reach full humidity and still pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoors. Excitement over the weeks ahead filled with no scheduling or school chauffeuring is at its peak. June is the month I want to do all things summer like eat watermelon, ice cream, take a trip to the beach, and pack as many pool days to the Y as possible.

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  1. I read more during summer vacation

It seems counterintuitive since a lot of my time is spoken for during these months. But reading (especially fiction) was how I relaxed best in my downtime. Jesse and I also visited our local library about once a week so that heavily contributed to my reading habit.

 

  1. Spiritual growth usually happens so slowly you barely notice it

 I usually equate change with results that are immediate or easy to see. But my spirit doesn’t operate that way. Some days I’ve wondered if God is actively at work in my life at all. Recently I was flipping through old journals from 5 years ago. I am not the same person I was then.

As I read those entries I can see now how God used life situations and relationships to shape who I am today. Little by little (sometimes at a snail’s pace) His own are transformed into the likeness of Christ. The best part is God’s promise to not quit on us until He has finished His purpose for us. His faithfulness to me prompts my heart to stay faithful right back.

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  1. Summer vacation is the hardest and sweetest time with my son

 I don’t know how two opposite realities are held together but they do. Jesse is my only child and 6 years old. Most days I am his main playmate and friend. While we did attempt a few play dates over the summer, his autism prevents typical social interaction with his peers, so it is honestly easier to keep things simple with just the two of us on outings.

Completely exhausted at the end of each day, I also realized that this was a season to cherish. He won’t always be this age, this size, forever. Jesse is still young enough where he wants to cuddle occasionally and spend time together. I don’t take that for granted but genuinely give thanks to God for the sweet moments – and even the hard ones. It may be messy, but summer vacation with my son is a very good gift.

 

  1. Laughing relieves stress and keeps me sane

 One of Jesse’s major struggles is his inability to sleep through the night. He either has a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. By default, I usually wake up when I hear him in the middle of the night, if not multiple times. By the second or third time, I am fully awake and have made the couch a makeshift bed for the remainder of the night.

I start scrolling through Instagram at 3am and find accounts dedicated to parent humor 🙂 Being able to laugh as a parent is key to not losing your mind when things don’t go well. I’m entertained for a while as I wait to drift back to sleep on the lumpy couch, my mood and outlook on life in motherhood a little brighter, and even funny.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Winter Epiphanies & Favorites

 

 

Winter can be blah after the holidays are over. January and February feel bleak, cold and gray. This winter was unusually warm though, with a few spring-like days sprinkled in almost each week here in Alabama. I do like winter because I enjoy hibernating under a cozy blanket with a cup of coffee. However, on days that felt especially claustrophobic those unexpected days of sunshine were a breath of fresh air. A few other things this season made the winter months more pleasant. I made a list of 7 things I enjoyed or learned these past few months. Maybe you’ll find something on here to check out for yourself or just find encouragement.

 

  1. Glorious in the Mundane podcast by Christy Nockels

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I stumbled upon this back in December and have listened to every. single. episode. Christy has the wonderful ability to communicate her heart to her listeners. Her love for the Lord is undeniable. It’s in every episode. Plus she also interviews guests like Chris Tomlin, Beth Moore, Ellie Holcomb and Matt Redman. She encourages me to live out my faith with vulnerability and humility.

 

2. Write it down

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A friend gave me a sweet pink journal last month. It’s The Simplified Journal  by Emily Ley. The front cover says: “I will hold myself to a standard of Grace not perfection.” I love that quote. Plus it’s an organized journal which for me, helps declutter my brain in each proper section. I don’t know about you, but I can’t internalize things for very long or else things start to go very, very wrong. So writing down thoughts, feelings, or occasions can be a good practice. I even write out prayers sometimes so when I go back and read some of the entries, it is amazing to see how the Lord has worked in specific situations.

 

3. ‘The Crown’ on Netflix

This show is a look into Queen Elizabeth II’s life when she takes the throne upon her father’s untimely death. I love British monarch dramas and this didn’t disappoint. If anything, tune in to see John Lithgow play Winston Churchill. The man should win an Emmy.

 

4. Tavern Style Pot Roast for the win

Campbell’s Tavern Style Pot Roast sauce is going to change your life. I’m being a little dramatic but it is the easiest cooking you’ll ever do and dinner will be amazing. With this, you just plop a roast in the slow cooker and pour this sauce over it and you are done.

 

5. Permission to nap

I recently realized why I prefer summer vacation to the school year. When my five year old, Jesse, has rest/quiet time at home during the day I also give myself time to rest. But in the school year it feels like laziness. Why is that? Learning to be still is hard but I’m understanding that times of rest are necessary too and even productive, just in a different way.

 

6. Flowers make me happy

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I started buying flowers on sale in December to spruce up the dining room table. I do this about once a month as a small treat to myself. Now they usually go up on the mantel and just make me smile. Sometimes little things can make a big impact. It’s something I look forward to buying now. And if you live near an Aldi store, they usually have a small arrangement of flowers super cheap! Have I ever mentioned how much I love Aldi??

 

7. Becoming a planner is a good thing

I am not a natural planner or details oriented. I would rather leave that to someone else and just go with the flow. But that doesn’t always happen and if there is something fun or interesting I’d like to do then a plan of action must be set in motion. Sometimes I need to be the one to make it happen and invite someone else along. I did this recently by attending the Broken + Free tour in Nashville, and asking a friend to go with me. We had a fabulous time!

 

So is there anything you loved or learned over the winter? Every season Emily Freeman hosts all bloggers to join and share their seasonal favorites. I always find something new or interesting from someone else’s perspective, which is why I like linking up to her blog for these special posts.

 

Sometimes we do need to take time to look back, for a mental inventory of things we can be thankful for or encouraged by, even in the hardest of moments or seasons of life. Spring is just around the corner and I’m anticipating it, but I hope not to write off Winter too quickly either. That’s the lesson I want to learn: to find gratitude and beauty in every literal season and seasons of life.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

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

 

when you need to be reminded

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Recently I was reminded that I need to be reminded. Sometimes as a believer I forget who I am in Christ. Part of this problem is occupying my mind with what the world says, thinks and does. Worse, when I believe the lies about who I am, or rather, who I am not. The Bible talks about defending ourselves with the armor of God. So, what does that look like exactly? One active way is to memorize Bible verses.

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

I have dipped my toe in memorizing Scripture in the past but not really pursued it. Most of the verses written on my heart are the fruits of years in Awanas growing up, an old cassette tape singing truth, and Bible class during the awkward years.

Lately there has been a gnawing in my spirit for more – more of God. The restless hunger prompted action. I find that when I commit His Word to my mind, the heart changes too. I begin to love the Bible all over again. God’s Word really is alive as it awakens parts of me I didn’t realize were dormant.

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Speaking Scripture aloud that flows from within is life giving. Slowly, like a bloom that just needs water, light, and time, I begin to spread out my petals little by little. Tight fists can’t receive anything. I open my hands wide and He starts the work of satisfying my soul. Day by day this process occurs. His blessing of filling is not a one-time act. No, in His extravagant love God gives us Himself every day. His mercies are fresh each moment.

So how is this done practically in a world that seeks to snuff out God altogether? Well, the Israelites used to write Scripture and bind them on their foreheads. God knows we are a forgetful bunch so He graciously tells us over and over to remember and do not forget. When we get caught up in the blessings or the trials of life our focus is shifted off of Him and onto the circumstances.

To help combat that, I have started writing out a verse each day to meditate on and try to memorize. I write the first letter of each word on my hand plus the Bible reference. It fades away throughout the day between hand washing and scrubbing pans in the sink. That’s kind of the point so hopefully at the end of the day I have memorized one verse.

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“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5

Personally this way is less intimidating than remembering whole chunks of Scripture at once. I still might memorize a passage, but it is one verse at a time. As the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” (which forgive the example, because, gross). Somehow this way my goal seems realistic. I also secretly hope a stranger notices the scribbles on my hand and inquires about it. What a unique opportunity to quote Scripture huh?!

Is there something you dream of achieving but the obstacles look insurmountable? I’d like to gently encourage you that you do not have to master it all at once. Inch by inch, day by day; chip away at it, whatever it is. You’ll soon see progress, looking back over your shoulder at what was accomplished, and the mountain you climbed without even realizing it. Failure is not starting at all.

Maybe start a journey of committing Scripture to memory too. It helps us claim our identity when we feel lost in a sea of forgetfulness. Remember who you are, whose you are. You belong to Someone. We are a free people, redeemed by grace. We don’t have to listen to what the world says or even care about what they think about us. Use the truth filter God has given us in His Word. You have a place at His table, as His daughter or son, as His beloved.

 

Grace upon grace,

April