Thursday, November 28

Thankful and Still

Today is Thanksgiving Day. And we're home being still. It's weird to not be having the traditional dinner or be in a house filled with the sights and sounds of Thanksgiving. And loads of loved ones.

But it's wonderful just being quiet today too. Jeremy has been working overtime since September, and I've missed him so much. We've all missed him. Four days together is just glorious, and it's rather wonderful this year to not be having the normal Thanksgiving festivities on Thanksgiving.

We'll be hosting a traditional dinner with all the trimmings tomorrow night with family and friends. And I can't wait. It is pretty much my favorite day of the year. But it's lovely to have this day to pause.

If I could only say one thing today, I'd say I'm thankful.
Of course.

{Story Photographic} by Carly Webber

If I had nothing but Jesus and the hope of heaven, It'd be enough. I pray my heart's stance would stay the same if it ever came to that.

Because it is everything.

“ change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”   - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

After all God has done for us through His son, Jesus, I can't believe He continues to give gifts. Amazingly good gifts.

The Holy Spirit.
Hardships. They help me see my need for a Strong One to lean on.

“The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”  

Church body.
Sickness. It helps me feel small, because I am after all.

“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can't I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.” 

The Word.
Change. This helps me trust.

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.”

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Maybe you'll join me as I read through Ann Voskamp's new advent devotional book, The Greatest Gift, this December? We start December 1st.

Friday, November 15

Revell Blog Tour for A MILLION LITTLE WAYS and a Giveaway!

We have a *WINNER*! Congratulations, Nicole Moffat! You've won a copy of A Million Little Ways. Wahoo!!! (I just noticed the first line was cut off these past few days... in case you were looking for the winner of our drawing, here she is!)

     "Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong?
You were born to make art. You were made to live art. You might not see yourself as an artist, but you are--in so many unexpected ways. In what you create, whether poetry or pie, sculpture or sand castle, calligraphy or conversation. It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are.
Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways."

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This month, I'm thrilled to be a part of the Revell Blog Tour for a most outstanding book, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman.

Never before have I dog-eared, pencil marked, and used a highlighter on the pages of a book, as I have this one. Emily's words spoke of things I didn't know existed outside my own thoughts. It felt like I'd been speaking a foreign language in my head these 36 years, and somebody finally wrote a book I can understand--in my language.

A Million Little Ways has helped me understand several things about myself. Due in part to this:

     "There is a real pull between exploring those things that make us come alive while, at the same time, being present to our responsibilities and our life stages. But why do we so often assume that pursuing those things we want to pursue can only be done at the expense of our responsibilities? Why can't we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we long to make and the reality of our truest identity?
     What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or to make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, for his glory and the benefit of others?" pg. 47

The book is laid out in three parts, each unearthing more of who we are and what we have to offer. And most importantly, who we are as image-bearers of God in the world as we glorify Him in a million little ways with the things we do, say, and create.

Part 1: Who is the Artist?
Part 2: Uncover the Art You Were Born to Make
Part 3: Release the Art You Were Made to Live

I consider my first read-through sort of like a rough draft, because I'll definitely need more time with this one. I will most likely turn right around and read it again. Something I've never done before. And that's saying something. Emily P. Freeman's beautiful style, and soul-soothing ways will have you hooked from the very first words.

If you decide to pick up and read A Million Little Ways, you won't be disappointed. I might even consider posting my address so you can send me the thank you note you will soon feel compelled to write!
"What are those things in the deepest part of who you are, the personality and desires and unique blending of history and circumstance and longing--what is most alive in you as you as you are united with Christ that you can now pour out as an offering unto God for the benefit of others?
     No matter how small, how weak, how meager. No matter what skill or training or lack. That's what it means to uncover the art you were born to make and release the art you were made to live." pg. 164

As pleased as I am to write this review, I'm even more delighted to be able to give a copy away to one of you dear readers! I just know you'll love it.

To be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment! I'll announce the winner Monday evening. So be sure to get your comment in by then, and then check back to see who has won!

*I was given a free copy of this book by Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 13

3 Things: a Car Crash, Preparedness, and an Anniversary

Hello, Wednesday, how do you do?

There are three things on my brain this morning, and they're coming at you in list form. I'll talk about the car crash first, just in case you were worried.

1.  20 years ago this week, I was a brand-new 16 year-old driver with a blue Subaru I purchased for $800 from my mom. It was the beginning of winter, and I was headed to school early that morning as the first person out of the house on roads that were covered in a sheet of black ice. But I had no clue.

It had rained through the night, but the roads looked wet, that's it. A few miles from home, I went around a bend in the road, and my wheels got stuck in a rut at the edge of the pavement where a shoulder would normally be.  Caught, like a train on the tracks, the car careened for the ditch. In my mind, I needed to get back on the road, not go diving into ditches. That would ruin everything. So I jerked the steering wheel to the left, pulling me back onto the road. But instead of placing me happily back into my lane, I was shot perpendicular into the oncoming lane and a flash of lights. A school bus immediately smashed into me, leaving me miraculously alive, but with a car that was cut in half behind the front seats. I won't go into every detail, but I'm thankful I lived past the age of 16. I was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, though the only injury suffered (that was detected at the time) was a scrape on my right hip from my seatbelt holding me firmly in place.

God gripped my heart in that moment sitting off the side of the road in the wreckage of my car.  Maybe He had something ahead for me. For my life. I'd better start paying attention. That was 20 years ago, and there isn't a day I forget as I drive around that corner.

2.  Today, I'm talking about being prepared in the face of homeschooling "disasters" over at The Homeschool Classroom. I'd be pleased to have you join me there!

3.  We're celebrating an anniversary of sorts here at The Scarlet Paisley! Seven years ago, I jumped into blogging, beginning in October 2006 on our family blog, and then over here in January 2012. There have been many, many times I've wondered why I was making the effort to continue. But I'm a message-sharer by nature, and blogging and writing is part of what makes me come alive. So here I am.

Here's what I wrote on that very first blog post, those seven years ago:

"Okay, so lately I've been checking friend's blogs on a daily basis and decided that it's time to get our own up and running. We have a lot going on with us and our kiddos, so I'm sure I can find a few things that are worth posting. I hope you enjoy your stops and I hope you stop by often!""

In honor of this anniversary, how about we do a roll call of sorts?

Even if you've never commented before, or not for a very long time, I'd love to send you a virtual hello! Please comment (feel free to comment Anonymously) and tell me how long you've been reading and what life stage you're in? Single? Married? Kids? Empty nest?

I've love to know who's "out there."

Good day to you... I'm back to the day after mopping up the spill of a half-gallon of milk. No kidding. It's a good way to get me to mop the kitchen floor and detail the table, I tell ya.
 so lately I've been checking friend's blogs on a daily basis and decided that it's time to get our own up and running. We have a lot going on with us and our kiddos, so I'm sure I can To get us started, here is a picture of Jen and I when
we were wee little girls. My Mom sent me this pic the other day, she and I both agree that I look like a certain 2 year old daughter of mine! Thanks, Mom. And thanks for the ride, Sis.

Friday, November 8

7 Ways to Serve as a Family During the Holidays

Good Morning! I'm pleased to be sharing ways to serve as a family during the holidays over at The Homeschool Classroom! Won't you join me there today?

Thursday, November 7

What if we wrote a book for moms? {The Crazy Idea}

Have you ever had a really crazy idea? One that is just so far beyond your reach, you can scarcely imagine breathing a word of it to anyone?

I've had many. Two of those sorts of ideas turned into my adopted three year-olds. Another had me painting our entryway and living room walls red while watching Marley & Me. Not all crazy ideas are crazy. But some do take enormous amounts of courage to act upon.

So with years of built up courage in my bones, I'm going to tell you a story about a crazy idea.

I was standing in my kitchen four years ago on a warm summer day, with a pile of dirty dishes to my left, thinking about moms everywhere. About how we've been tricked into believing a lie about the way good mothering should look. Our culture has pulled a fast one on us. And unfortunately we're buying it.

Something needed to be done. And fast.

Within an instant, I felt the overwhelming urge to make a phone call.

Creative Commons: Daniel Hurst Photography

I dialed my friend Anne-Renee, but no one was home. So I left her a cryptic message, asking her to call me back. She returned my call, and I proceeded to tell her about my ponderings and this crazy idea that wouldn't go away.

"What if we wrote a book for moms?" I eeked out, squeezing my eyes shut and pulling my shoulders up toward my ears, as I waited for an imaginary blow that would come as the words leaked out. She agreed. We should write a book.

And so we began, all those years ago, meeting in coffee shops, praying, talking on the phone, and exchanging emails as we honed the idea and got down to the work of dreaming and writing. There were quiet seasons where we didn't pick up the project at all. Times we wondered what in the world we were doing. Exactly who did we think we were, attempting to write a book? Every other person and their brother says they'd like to write a book. What made us think we had something to offer anyone?

Fast forward to February of 2013.

It was that time of year again. Time to register for the She Speaks speakers and writers conference that is held in Charlotte, North Carolina each July. That conference we'd been dying to attend since this idea of writing a book came into existence three and a half years earlier. With trembling hearts, we asked our husbands what they thought about us attending the conference in July. Because it wasn't exactly cheap, and it wasn't exactly held in our backyard. After some time in prayer and discussion, both husbands agreed. "You should go. This is the year."

And so we set to work on our toughest writing assignment yet: a book proposal and sample chapters.

You see, not only would we be attending our dream conference surrounded by 750 like-minded Christian women speakers and writers, we made the heart pounding decision to check the little box on the registration form that indicated we would like to pitch a book, our book, to the prominent Christian publishers who would be in attendance.

After months of pouring over our laptops, we gave birth at Office Depot on July 19th, to a 72-page, 8.5 x 11 inch baby. 

Oh my word. We were actually going to do this. And so were half the other women attending. In order to be ready for the conference and meetings with publishers, we worked non-stop from the first week of March until July writing a book proposal (no small feat) and preparing three sample chapters from our book.

And then we did it. In late July, we flew across the country with a box of book proposals and two bared souls in tow. We checked into the hotel after 24 hours of travel, and entered into three days of pure amazingness. We could never have dreamed up what would happen there.

In Dallas waiting for our flight into Charlotte!

We met the most amazing women. And had appointments with real life editors. Those hard-nosed dream squashers new writers fear with their lives.  Except they weren't hard-nosed dream squashers at all. They were wonderful. Like, let's be new friends kind of wonderful.

This was taken before our very first publisher appointment on the very first day. Behind the excited smiles and calculated outfits were sweaty palms and quickened pulses.
Our meetings were incredibly fun and encouraging. We had to keep pinching ourselves through the process. Was all of this really happening? Did that crazy idea really turn into this? Indeed it did.
Here we sit in November, three months after presenting our work, without a lot of answers. We are still in process with publishers, still praying, still hoping. But simply being still has been the greatest challenge of all. God is teaching us, stretching us, and asking us to follow Him through this.
And now we invite you to follow along too. Because a story is best when it's told.

Tuesday, November 5

I know you don't want to be changed, but...

This morning she woke with the intensity of a firecracker. There was no adorable baby babble or sweet calls for mama coming from down the hall; she simply screamed and yelled, moving me into her room much earlier than I'd expected. Usually, the moment I enter her room and rescue her, she moves seamlessly from gloom and doom to bright and sunny. As if she forgot she was howling like an animal caught in a trap just seconds before.

But today, she had her angry eyebrows affixed permanently onto her little face. (Thank you, Toy Story.) Upon lifting her out of her crib, I realized the diaper had leaked through and her red footie pajamas were now soaked. Immediately, I laid her down in front of my kneeling form to change her into something fresh and clean. But she resisted, coming completely unglued.

She tried to twist and turn every which way to get out of my grasp. But since I'm a mama who is not about let a child win a battle of the wills, I persisted. Rolling her back over again and again, keeping my heart set on what was best for her. Until finally, I stood her twenty-one pound body up so she was eye to eye with me and said,

"Emmalie, Mama needs to change you. I know you don't want to be changed, but you'll feel so much better when I'm done. I need you to be still for me."

And she did. She kept her brow furrowed, and gave me a bit of a stink eye, but didn't move or make a noise while I cleaned her up.

The words I said to my crabby baby replayed over and over in my mind. Then He spoke into my thoughts. Those words are for you, Amanda.

"I need to change you. I know you don't want to be changed, but you'll feel so much better when I'm done. I need you to be still for me."

Friday, November 1

{Day 31} The Finish and a Prayer - Psalm 19:14

I never thought Day 31 would actually arrive. Already by day two (or was it day one), of this month-long series, I seriously wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how this was going to play out, or if anybody would actually read it.

Would I be the first person to jump ship part way through?  I was thinking yes.


Looking back, I don't know how it all got written. Well, actually, I do know. The Spirit of God works mightily among His people! He displayed that to me numerous times in this process.

Some posts were written in the afternoon during naptime, and some days were so full, I didn't sit down to write until 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00 p.m (like now, as I wrap up what was started earlier). There were also days when Jeremy suggested I go to my room and write during dinner. I loved those days.

Hitting publish became a victory won each and every time.

Each new day was met with a blank slate. I didn't have any sort of plan. There was no outline telling me which Bible verses I'd highlight in which day's post, and what story or thought I'd use to illustrate it. There was just me, my laptop, a Bible, and a prayer.

One night, I was so exhausted that bailing out seemed to be way more plausible than thinking of one more thing to write about. I leaned my head back into the couch, and asked God with a sigh,

"What in the world do I write?"

Immediately, the words "fix your eyes" came to mind. This phrase was a direct lifeline from God, there was no denying that. I smiled and set my fingers to clacking, writing THIS post.

Then there was the day my ever-silly 5 year-old told me I should write about a chicken. And I did.

I've listened to sermons, read commentaries and books, and talked to the people in my life to gain ideas. But most of the material came straight out of my life.

I wrote about funky moods, intruders at the breakfast table, and why we need to share our struggles. I also wrote about people in the Bible such as Gideon, Jesus, and Peter. This is something I'd wanted to do more of, but the needed brainpower to do so wasn't always available.

I've enjoyed it. Truly I have. Though I may or may not throw a party tonight, and stay away from my blog for days on end. Or maybe just until November starts.

I hope you've enjoyed reading along as well.
Just so you know, I had you in mind as I was writing.

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How about I leave you with one final verse to close out the series?
This morning, I flipped open my Bible in the mood to read in the Psalms. Psalm 19:1 was fresh on my heart, and I wanted to remember what the rest of the section was about, so I turned there.
As I got to the end, I came to this familiar verse:

Psalm 19:14

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
I desire that for my life, don't you? This is a wonderful prayer to pray as you begin a new day, after you've screwed up, or anytime you want to get your heart headed in the right direction.
Will you pray this with me in closing?
May the words we speak and things we think on, be what you desire from us, God -- you are our steady place and have purchased our life back from the pit by taking our place on the cross. Thank you. Thank you.