We’ve stayed quiet for quite some time about this… trying to mull over words, choose the right ones, lay them before the Lord and seek His heart on what’s weighing ours down.  Please hear our hearts before reading through this…

This is not a debate on what was behind an attack, or words, or a political party.  This is a discussion on how we treat people.  That’s it.  

Sometimes when things come through in the news I just shrug them off because really, truth seems so relative these days.  There are other times, however, that I genuinely cannot believe something could even be pretended to be true.  Like the comments regarding partial birth abortion, or Illinois’ sweeping vote to allow abortion at any stage and for any reason.  Or when there has been yet another unprovoked attack on a black life.  It’s mind blowing to me how we can veto any life and how far away we are getting from determining what life is, and whose life matters.

The same can be said for the most recent comments at a NC rally, in which protestors loudly and proudly proclaimed “Send them back.”

There is indeed a lot of speaking up, but unfortunately it’s the hateful kind of speaking up.  It’s the defending our position kind of speaking up.  Defending our privilege.  The alternative that we see to speaking up is a remaining silent.  It seems that now more than ever, silence and turning our heads in ignorance is what is killing millions of humans every year.  Literally, statistically, at our borders, our veterans, people on welfare, and people in abortion clinics.  

Whether or not we agree on the politics of our opposing party, the larger problem lies in the fact that people in our country, in 2019, have the mindset that “they” - those with different ideas and different backgrounds than us - don’t belong here.  In a country founded on swinging wide the doors, there is still a sweeping sentiment that “they” are an inconvenience.  

To every Bible Believing Christian that is fighting for life, please hear me loud and clear…..regardless of which life is at stake - we should be moved to the point of speaking up instead of turning a blind eye and remaining silent.  

Send them back is not ok.

Racism is not ok.

White privilege is not ok.

People are people are people are people.

Before getting behind the statement, “send them back,” we must be willing to open our doors.

Before defending the atrocity of immigration camps in the name of securing our borders, we (the Church) must be willing to come to their aid.

Before falling back on the fact that one entered illegally, we must and should be doing everything we can to help them become rightful citizens.

Before turning the TV off and shrugging our shoulders, we must be willing to speak up and live lovingly.  

Before turning a blind eye to the horrific words slammed towards a minority, we must recognize and take to heart that words have the ability to make or break someone!  


There is life and death in the power of the tongue, Proverbs 18:21

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, Matthew 12:34

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life, Proverbs 4:23

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence, Proverbs 10:11

Oh that we might recognize that the words, “send them back” are just not ok.  Nor are any words that are hateful, isolating, rooted in pride or privilege or fear that in turn are used to strike fear, to isolate, or condemn another.  If we could just put the period there instead of saying including a “…but….” to defend our position.

Sweet and wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ, might I implore, that if we, the Church at large, are wanting to see a decrease in the animosity and racist divide in our country, we have to make a willing and direct choice to go out of our comfort zone and be a bridge - through our speech and our actions.  The government was never founded to replace or replicate the call of the Church in caring for widows and orphans.  It was never founded to fund the care and well being of people looking for a safe place.  God actually saw the holes that the government would not fill and He had a beautiful and remarkable plan in place that would position Christians far and wide to be the hands and feet of Jesus meeting the needs of those seeking refuge.  We cannot rely on the government to act like Christ.  We ourselves must be willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work.  We must also be willing to lay aside our pride and speak up on behalf of every people.  This is our shot!  This is our chance!


Being a bridge, or a catalyst means going to and facilitating a Multicultural church (as in hiring people who look different from ourselves and each other to be on staff and in lead positions).  It means living in a multi-ethnic neighborhood.  Choosing schools that might be outside of our socioeconomic status.  Asking our friends who are of different races and backgrounds than us “what am I unknowingly doing that feels like an attack on your very being or makes you feel unseen?  What are things that I say and do that are offensive?”  It means looking around and recognizing that if the only non-white people in your life are adopted, it might be high time for a change in pace.  It means saying I’m sorry to the person you just offended when you told them their blended family on the elevator was so beautiful - as if our nod to diversity was checked off for the day.  Because for every decision we make based on white privilege, we are just a bunch of words with very little action behind them and living in complete contradiction to the gospel.  

Can we do both?  Speak life while also living lovingly?

John 13:35, By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Proverb 16:24, Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.


It is possible to be pro-every-life.  Not just the unborn.  It’s possible to uphold the laws of our country while also treating people humanely and tending to their needs.  And I think as believers, that is our highest call.  To be a living breathing life-giving example of heaven on earth — which is not just made up of white people.

xo, 

a really white girl, raised in a really white and southern world, transplanted to Chicagoland and faced with the reality that we’ve been doing it all wrong.

Cleaning Made Simple + Norwex Freebie!

Friends! We (Lily) switched to using Norwex cleaning products about 3 years ago and I can confidently say, I’m never going back. Cleaning has never been easier, more simplified, and safer for our family. However, the product guide can be super overwhelming and let’s be honest - life is busy and overwhelming is not what we want.

If you’ve been on the fence about Norwex or are just hearing about Norwex for the first time, this guide is for you :) I’ve put together our Top 5 Picks to clean your entire house, and are sure to save you money in the long run. No but really - only 5 cleaning products. For the whole house. The only thing missing is a mop - but try out these five items first and see what you think :) Money back if you’re not satisfied.

Fill out the form below - and receive your free guide to Simplified, Greener & Safer cleaning + a Freebie.

**Once you click “submit” the document link will be made available on this page.

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How To Effectively Sunscreen 1, 2, 3 or 9 Children. At the Beach.

Step 1: Pre-Beach preparations: Head on over to Walmart to gather up beach supplies.  [Which is the only reason you head to walmart because their carts - never go straight and always have a wonky wheel.  Am I right?]. On your way to sand toys you see cute display on isle 9 reminding you of your sunscreen need.

Step 2: Realize that the display at the end of isle 9 doesn’t include the “safe” sunscreens so you proceed to pharmacy/toiletry section next.  Which is at the OPPOSITE end of Walmart and you have to use every last bit of upper body strength to steer the cart with the wonky wheel without taking out any humans.

Step 3: Arrive to the pharmacy/toiletry section and spend approximately 32 minutes reading the labels on all the sunscreen options to make sure you choose well.  Because, ingredients matter, you tell yourself. They will thank me, you whisper. Three extra large bottles ought to do it! And maybe one extra can of the “no-no” spray just for touch ups.  

Step 4: Check out and wonder how on God’s green earth you just spent $72.00 on 3 bottles of sunscreen.  At WALMART. But again, it. Is. worth. It. Hardly any unsafe chemicals on these precious babies.

Step 5:  Day one of the beach and you are READY for the blazing sun.  Line children up and begin the half hour long process of getting every last inch of their bodies covered in sunscreen.  And since it is on the mineral side of sunscreens, everyone is coated a cute/slightly awkward shade of white. You are reminded of just how out of shape you are because the slather action has left you sweaty and winded.  Everyone is ecstatic that you survived what seemed like a full blown iron man. Sunscreening children is not for the faint of heart. But you did it and the sun has NO chance harming an-y-bod-y.

Step 6: Gather up all your necessary supplies, cooler, tent, sand toys, sunscreen for reapplication, and head on your merry way.  

Step 7: Get set up on beach.  Lay out towels. Position chairs.  Send children to play. Find your tasty beverage and sit your hiney down because you made it!  To the beach! Hallelujah it is glorious and peace filled and all is right with the world.

Step 8: Look at watch and realize you are a measly 34 minutes away from having to do it all over again.

Step 9: This is where you begin to say a prayer to ready your heart for what is about to take place.  You are close to calling all of your children out of the waves, who will inevitably need a snack right this very minute, tell them to sit on a towel and not touch the sand.  Sunscreen is coming! The struggle is real and so is Jesus. Holy Spirit please make me kind and patient.

Step 10: You are reminded once again how out of shape you are just by trying to get up out of your chair.  It is borderline concerning.

Step 11: Line up the kids and start with the faces - you work your way down and realize you are now bracing yourself against the resistance of a nice thick layer of sand which makes slathering that much harder.  Winded is an understatement.

Step 12: One look at those 12 legs standing in front of you, compleeetely coated in sand has you whipping that “no-no” spray right out of your beach bag and going to town trusting your great intentions at the beginning of the day will surely outweigh what you’re spraying all over their precious bodies.

Step 13: don’t forget to sunscreen their lips cause the reflection off the water is killer on calm water days and prevention is way better than post-burn-care.  Trust. Us.

Step 14: Start the timer for your next reapplication deadline, and remind yourself of all the calories you’ve surely burned while double fisting twizzlers into your mouth before the kids can see you.   

Step 15: On day 2, send husband to the store to buy more expensive sunscreen because three extra large bottles + one back up is not enough for even half your adorable family, so you’ve learned.

The Lie of Perfectionism

Perfectionism defined: 

While researching countless definitions of the term perfectionism, would you believe that there is actually not a single definition in which perfectionism is seen as a positive thing?  Miriam-Webster defines perfectionism as the doctrine that the perfection of moral character constitutes a person’s highest good.  Another definition describes it as a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.  It is seen as a striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, often accompanied by self-criticism and constant concern regarding other people’s evaluations and opinions.

I have a perfectionist in my home.  It can sometimes make homeschooling a battleground - even something as simple as pulling weeds.  This one likes to quit before he gets started if it’s something he assumes he won’t get right the first time.  Or he can get stuck on a worksheet for over an hour doodling cursive and picking at the table because to focus on something that might be a challenge is too exhausting to even attempt.  Because of this, when I was at a recent homeschool convention I decided to sit in on a talk about the link between perfectionism and anxiety.  I have listened to Colleen Kessler speak at previous conventions. She is a gem.  She has so much to speak into regarding children struggling with anxiety, and as she broke down perfectionism she shared this helpful insight:

Perfectionism manifested:

  1. I expect myself to be perfect

  2. I expect others to be perfect

  3. Others expect me to be perfect

While trying to keep the baby quiet in the back of the seminar, and simultaneously being sandwiched in between what felt like 100 other women, I felt the soft and gentle rebuke of the Father in my own life.  I have never once defined myself as a perfectionist.  I have struggled with anxiety and the feelings of being unloved; I have battled through the stress brought on by changes of plans or things not being done quite up to my standard.  But as I listened further I realized that for me, these were all evidences of perfectionism in my own life.  Most often, however, I never expect myself to be perfect.  In fact I often joke how completely imperfect and messy I often am!  But I do have a tendency to expect others to be perfect.  And the tremendous weight that others expect me to be perfect.

Why is that a bad thing?  Who cares?  Isn’t striving towards excellence a good thing?  

Maybe :)

But the reality with perfectionism is that perfectionism is never striving for excellence.  The feelings and beliefs that come if either of those three manifestations aren’t achieved have literally nothing to do with the pursuit of excellence for God’s glory.  The perfectionist, if willing to introspect just long enough to feel uncomfortable, often believes that if any of those things aren’t achieved, they are unloved.  It means that there is a constant striving to be loved.  

Therefore - as a perfectionist, I am waking up everyday, living a life feeling unworthy and unloved.  

So I keep trying

And keep failing

And keep trying again

And keep failing.

I make another list.  Eat a little less.  Speak a little more kindly.  Add a few more things to my plate.  Serve a little harder.  Commit to a little bit more.  Add another book to my list.  Clean a little deeper.  Pray a little harder.

And I fail again.

And so the cycle goes for the perfectionist.  It never ends.  

Friends, perfectionism is an impossible goal.  

But I just love to-do lists!  I feel so accomplished making a list, and getting it done!  I don’t rest well because I’m a perfectionist, you know.  

Sadly, for us :), we play it down and chalk it up to how we are wired.

For the perfectionist, hear this loud and clear, and with all the love my heart contains: it is not “just the way you are wired.”  

It is actually a form of self-rejection.

It is saying “I do not love myself (the way God loves me) therefore I must try harder.”

An interesting observation to be had, while Colleen was searching photos for her presentation she made mention that while browsing the word “perfectionism”, the most common image that appeared was a girl looking in the mirror battling an eating disorder.  Seeing something completely different than what was true.  

The problem with that belief, the one that tells us it’s just “how we are wired,” is that we are going against every single thing God has ever said about us, essentially declaring that He is wrong, and then holding others to a standard that not even HE holds us to.  Perfectionism, (all the empathetic gasps and sighs) is actually grumbling that what God has provided, what God has enabled, what God has done in and through His son Jesus…… is not enough.

My heart breaks writing this.  I am grieved that I have gone even a day believing that my ability to be loved is based on my performance.  I am grieved that I  have forsaken what God has said about me and instead put weight in what I am capable of doing.  I ’m saddened that I have looked at my children and husband and expected perfection.  I ’m heartbroken that when I look at my son battling with perfectionism, I have often been the one setting the impossible standard.  

But somehow, this has become acceptable today.  

Friends - dear and precious, loved by God friends…. God’s aim is and has never been perfection with us.  His aim is always grace.  God’s heart has never been unlovely towards you, it has bent over backwards to love the hell out of you!  

You will make mistakes.  And He still adores you.

You won’t get it all done, and He says come to me all those who are weary and I will give you rest!

You cannot ever be clean enough.  Oh, but His son has done all the cleansing necessary.  

So now what?  Us perfectionists, we need a plan, right?   :)

Well, I am sad to report, but the plan, is actually to stop doing.  

It means to force yourself to rest.

Walk away from the pile of laundry.

It means to look at your half cleaned bathroom and tell your husband “thank you!”

Though everything inside of us is screaming “do more” it means setting boundaries on what you are willing to commit to.

It means to put the scale away.

When you make a mistake, you own it, and move forward in the grace of God.  

You post it note scripture all over your house writing the words that you are loved, chosen, redeemed and made new in His sight.  You write that God weighs the heart not your outward appearance.  

It means during those moments when you feel your heart racing just a bit on the threshold of anxiety you cry out and say, “God, I know you love me.  Let it be enough.”

Overcoming perfection is 1) only made possible by His grace and gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives; And 2) It is not a commitment to thinking about ourselves a little less.  It is about putting Him on the throne far higher than ourselves.  It's such a backwards battle, right?  It is an obsession with trying to love self so much because we can't possibly accept someone else’s love for us.

If you are someone struggling with this, my prayer is that today is your day!  Today is the day you come back to what God says about you and begin to believe it again.  Or maybe for the first time.  If you are battling perfectionism, may I make a request of you?  Would you be willing to send us an email through our Contact Us?  It would be a tremendous joy and gift to pray for you by name regularly; to speak God’s truth over your life and the lives of those around you.  

Live loved today, dear one.  God gave everything He had to demonstrate His love for your precious and purposed heart.  


xo 

Lily

Summer Favorites, In the Culdesac

How about the days you want to be outside and still stay close to home?  Here, Kendall shares a great all-play family activity and others of us add product suggestions to use for those summer days spent in the cul-de-sac.  

At our house, since we do not give allowances, my kids are always looking for a way to make an extra buck.  A few summers ago, my son had been eyeing some Legos but didn’t have a means to buy them. In an effort to fund his mini-figure passion, he approached me about running a lemonade stand with his younger sister.   All I could think about was the time and energy it would take to help them pull that off.  Schlepping chairs, a table, signs and lemonade ingredients around was not my idea of a fun summertime activity.  Still, they persisted and so reluctantly I agreed.  Thirty minutes later, we headed to our favorite nearby greenway with cups, a banner and Minute Maid Lemonade in hand.  We set up our little stand and waited.  Not five minutes into set-up, the people started coming and I watched in amazement as my seven and five year-old launched their first venture!  The five year-old hustled for sales while the seven-year old coordinated all the logistics – pouring drinks, taking money and serving patrons of all ages.  They worked in tandem – the dream team – selling tasty treats to thirsty travelers along the way.  An hour and a half later they walked away with $60 in their mason jar and a thirst for entrepreneurial endeavors that lemonade can’t quench.  We spent the afternoon chatting about the potential of how to use our gifts to help others, the importance of tithing, saving and, of course, how they would spend their remaining earnings.  Three years later, we still run a lemonade stand at least once a summer.  It’s become a great vehicle for me to see and encourage their emerging strengths, teach them the value of hard work and the responsibility of having money.  The life lessons learned have been worth the start-up “costs” of time and energy.  These days I look forward to our Summer Lemonade Stand.

– Kendall, www.kendallpgilbert.com

As you welcome all of your lemonade customers and neighbors, I can think of few flowers more inviting than the peony.   They are the most fragrant and one of the most beautiful flowers in my honest opinion.  They bloom in May or June depending on the area you live.  Typically only blooming for a short time…but they are so worth the wait.  Since we are renting, all of our gardening is in containers this year, but peonies do well in a pot and can go with us when we settle into a home in a year or two.

 - Amanda, www.thehybridhome.net

These Micro Mini Scooters are an absolute favorite around here and we especially love riding them around our court on Summer evenings! I purchased them for each of the kids on their 2nd birthday and they have ridden them daily since then. The wheels are so quiet and smooth that the kids even ride them on our hardwood without any noise or damage!

–Katie, humblemotherhood.com

While spending the day outside, another hot weather favorite is freezer pops, though I get tired of needing to cut these open all the time, mostly because then I have to clean my scissors, too! One of my favorite hacks for these is taking a few extra seconds to freeze them standing upright in between the racks of my freezer shelf so I get a clean cut when I do open them! I got a few pairs of knit toddler-sized gloves or mittens from Dollar Tree last winter that I let them wear (one on each hand) for holding the popsicle when it's too cold for their little hands. They just get rinsed and dried or washed with the regular laundry as needed. They were a 2-pack at Dollar Tree back in December, so for 25-cents a glove, I don't mind if one goes missing. (We keep the proper winter gloves stored away until the right season.)

– Caitlin, missionofmotherhood.com

Last, but certainly not least, my sensitive-skinned children burn easily (ok fine, so does their mother), so we need something to protect their skin that isn't going to exacerbate eczema and other skin sensitivities. ThinkBaby Sunscreen, I love the smell, feel, and application of this sunscreen. Since it's chemical-free, it's safe to use on even the youngest babes -- I safely used it on my summer-born when she was a few weeks old. I love it for myself, too, because it doesn't rub off (yet cleans easily when I need it to), and it doesn't leave a greasy, sun-screeny smell behind. I've found it lots of places online and in store, but Amazon has a 3-pack which sweetens the deal. It's been my favorite for sensitive skin, and I've tried several others over the years!

– Caitlin, missionofmotherhood.com


Summer Favorites, Inside Fun

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Some summer days require inside activities, whether it’s rain, heat or just a necessary rest day, it’s nice to have some things on hand to make those days at home, just as special as the days on the go.  This list will certainly not disappoint, starting with breakfast.  

What fun to wake up to these Mickey Waffles!  We are a big Disney loving family. And when you can’t be in the parks, the next best thing is to bring the parks home. I have two high schoolers, and let’s be real, breakfast isn’t a top priority for them.  I recently found these Mickey Waffles in Target https://www.target.com/p/kellogg-s-eggo-mickey-mouse-frozen-homestyle-waffles-10ct/-/A-52087284 and can’t wait to surprise the girls with a fun summer breakfast. Add some fresh picked strawberries and home made whipped cream and summer will start off right guaranteed!

– Denean, www.deneanmelcher.com

Another fun idea to keep little and big people happy and hands busy, is homemade play-dough.  

Ingredients: Steps:

2 Cups White Flour Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl

¾ Cup Iodized Salt Carefully add oil and hot water

3 Tbs. Cream of Tarter Stir together until blended

1 ½ Tbs. Vegetable Oil Knead dough, and add more flour until you reach your 

2 Cups Boiling Water desired consistency.  

-Lily, www.thehybridhome.net

 

Bringing the outside in is one of my absolute favorite things and one way I do that is houseplants! This isn’t necessarily summer specific, but if you’re looking for some easy or very low maintenance plants then ZZ plants, Snake plants and pathos should be your go-tos. For my outdoor garden area I am loving Salvia bushes. They are stunning, hardy and attract pollinators! 

– Katie, humblemotherhood.com


Sometimes life hands you lemons. In the form of rain in summer. And then you need a backup indoor plan. And let’s face it, keeping three girls in the teen/tween ages occupied all summer can be trying.  This is one of our favorite games to play together,  Trivial Pursuit - Family Edition . I love that there are questions for kids and adults so we can keep a level playing field. 

-Denean, www.deneanmelcher.com

Another fun activity for those rainy or just necessary inside days, are Fuse Beads.  This kit will bring back all sorts of summer fun memories like crafting at camp with your BFF, LYLAS, forever and always!  These kits allow kids (and adults) to craft little figures, or to make keychains or gifts for others.  They are so much fun and easy to follow a pattern or to be creative and make something completely original.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NQF2YR3/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_c_api_i_ocy7Cb0JRW1Q6    

-Lily, www.thehybridhome.net

Finally, there is this resource for summer prep and activities "For the Children's Sake".  I “homeschool” Luke right now using the Charlotte Mason method and this book has been so helpful! She doesn’t recommend formal lessons until around 6 years old so we’re just doing a very gentle introduction of her methods; mainly focusing on things like habits, nature study, unstructured play time and digging deeper into learning about things as Luke directs. I’ve also started reading Charlotte Mason’s volumes as well, but Susan Macaulay has broken it down into a bit more of a bite size book for a busy mama like me!

– Katie, humblemotherhood.com

 

Summer Favorites, In the Backyard

Kick off summer by hosting a fun event for your kids, and their friends in your backyard.  Kendall and Katie share their awesome activity ideas, and Denean and Caitlin have some great suggestions to help it all come together.  

I am a summer girl at heart!  I love the warm sunshine, the sound of peepers late at night, the smell of honeysuckle, the taste of summertime vegetables and the site of lightning bugs glowing at twilight!  Our backyard has become a haven for all things summer.  Our kids spend hours in the sprinkler, we love to grill on the patio and we savor evenings with friends gathered around the table on our screened porch.  That same backyard has recently been transformed into an outdoor theatre and that is quickly becoming one of our favorite summer activities.  We hang a sheet against our house, borrow a projector, pop popcorn and invite friends to enjoy a movie under the stars.  There’s something magical about café lights glowing in the background, a huge screen lit up with a narrative and friends surrounded, engulfed in the Big Picture.  If you are looking for a fun activity to add to your Summer Bucket List, consider an outdoor movie!  You’ll make fabulous summer-time memories with friends!  -Kendall, www.kendallpgilbert.com

And if you need a place to find some good family friendly adventures to watch or books to read,
Hoopla https://www.hoopladigital.com/ is a free app offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, phone or TV.  There are items for all ages, in many categories that include mystery, self-help, children, religion, and biography. Hoopla will help us cross off items on our summer reading list, and will be very handy when sitting poolside. Sign up for a free account and borrow up to five titles monthly! –Denean, www.deneanmelcher.com

Speaking of sitting poolside, if staying wet and cool is more your speed, host a Water Day! I recently hosted a water day for some friends of ours and it was so much fun. I got a slip and slide, a sprinkler, and a kiddie pool from Walmart and did Caitlin’s bubble hack (definitely check out her tutorial below!), set out some watermelon chunks for a snack and the kids had a blast while us mamas chatted on the porch! Getting together with friends always leads to some of my most cherished memories, so gather your friends up and have some fun tiring the kiddos out! –Katie, humblemotherhood.com

Here is the Bubbles Hack! I have two girls ages 4 and (almost) 2, but we love having play dates with our friends and neighbors (affectionately named "Camp Caitlin," patent-pending). How do you entertain many toddlers? Bubbles. Now, I know what you're thinking, "toddlers spill stuff!" It's true, they do. But I got these bubbles (they sell them tons of other places too, Dollar Tree, Target, FoodLion, Harris Teeter, etc.), you know the ones -- the long skinny bubble containers. Here's the hack: I zip-tied them to a yard stick (paint stirrers work, too) and stuck them in the ground so they don't spill! I also used a 1-gallon water jug to make my own bubble solution so I can fill and refill on the cheap: 6 cups water, 1 cup dish soap, 1/4 cup corn syrup, stir slowly and repeat til the jug is full. I just keep the lid on it in the garage or screen porch out of reach of the toddlers (because, right, they spill stuff) and use a funnel like this one* to refill the solution as needed. –Caitlin, www.missionofmotherhood.com

For mastering your hosting skills, keeping little ones happy, and staying mess-free here are two necessary items. Listen, it is hot in NC in the summer. I mean like 90-degrees-on-Mother's-Day-hot. How do we cool off? One way is to go through ice cream like it's, well, melting. When you scoop that much ice cream, you need precision and efficiency. How? A good scooper. We've been through a LOT of ice cream scoops over the years, but this one is so good we bought 2 more. Dishwasher safe, too, so what's not to love? Get yours here*.  Alright so ice cream is obviously a fan favorite, but what if I don't want to wash dishes and spoons on one of our playdates, or what if I want to send all the tiny humans outside to enjoy a frozen treat? Well, popsicles are my go-to. We love drip-free popsicles (I get the variety pack from Costco) because they are allergy-free for the diverse group that comes over, but they're messy when it's hot! Here's the hack: I make a tiny cut/tear in the bottom of a paper cupcake liner* and slide the popsicle stick in. Easy-peasy, drip-free popsicle fun! –Caitlin, www.missionofmotherhood.com

 

 

 

Summer Favorites, For the Momma

Summertime, can mean a lot of great family and friend time, which is all good and wonderful…but we know that you also need to fit in some intentional time and choices for YOU.  So, we’ve got you covered momma. 

My time is limited in every area of my life and finding ways to simplify when possible is my life goal.  Part of my limited time means approximately no time to shop.  I really do love stitchfix.com especially when seasons change and I need a few staple pieces that will last.  I’m still wearing all the pieces I received as a birthday gift 4 years ago and not a one has worn out.  It’s easy to return, easy to request a stylist change, and most of all … easy to get dressed!  A note on their customer service —>  my husband tried it stitchfix men this winter & one of his belt loops broke on a brand new pair of khakis.   They sent him a new pair of pants, free of charge, and he got to keep both.  Wins all around in my book!

- Lily, www.thehybridhome.net

I have been indulging recently in homemade Iced Vanilla Chai Latte to combat the heat! It’s absolutely delicious, refreshing and the protein powder + cinnamon helps keep your blood sugar balanced as you go about your day. Directions: Mix Three tablespoons of half and half, 1/3cup of almond milk, one scoop of vanilla or unflavored protein powder, sprinkle of cinnamon, tiny dash of salt, bit of vanilla extract, and a cup using 1 or 2 bags of Vanilla Chai Tea. Put all the ingredients, except for the tea, into a mason jar and shake it up really well. Pour into the cup of tea over ice and enjoy!

– Katie, humblemotherhood.com

If you need your iced coffee on the quick and have some leftover morning brew, here’s another great recipe, using another favorite, Califia Farms Coffee Creamer … because iced coffee is better with this creamer.  Just trust your instincts that this combined with coffee and a dollop of chocolate syrup over ice, is just well, what summer dreams are made of.

- Lily, www.thehybridhome.net

How about some fuel, other than caffeine? Summer salads! One of my favorite things about the changing of seasons is also the shift of new favorites on our meal plan! In the fall I love soups and in the summer it’s salads on repeat. These are a few of my favorite simple, homemade dressings: Strawberry VinaigretteCilantro Dressing, basic Balsamic Vinnegrette (3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard, 1 clove of minced garlic, ½ cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste)

– Katie, humblemotherhood.com

 

And to keep those fresh salads, fruits and veggies clean, you have got to use Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak
https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/products/thieves-fruit-veggie-soak
One summer activity that we really look forward to is picking fresh summer fruit from our local orchard. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries.... my mouth waters at the thought. Since I’m not really sure what our orchard uses for pest control or how many people have handled the fresh veggies we buy at the pop-up farmers market, I use Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak to clean it all. It safely and effectively washes produce without toxins by using the cleansing power of naturally derived ingredients and essential oils. 

– Denean, www.deneanmelcher.com

Finally, how about some fuel for your soul?  "The Valley of Vision" devotional has been so refreshing for me. It’s a collection of Puritan prayers and on busy mornings where I can’t do my full devotional studies I love reading a prayer to refresh my Spirit with truth. – Katie, humblemotherhood.com


Summer Favorites, At The Water!

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Summer means time at the beach or the lake or pool.  We’ve teamed up with some of our favorite mama bloggers to round up a collection of super must have items to make your days at the water even more enjoyable. This is a collaborative series of articles from The Oak Grove Collective, of our Favorite Summer Things.

The first must have is a great bag to put ALL of your stuff in. This. Tote. Bag. In Extra Large.  If you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, this is massive,” you are one thousand percent correct.  But it is also every bit worth it’s massivity (eh, not a word).  It is my go-to for most family outings because I can put everything I need in O-N-E bag and call it a day.  It’s inside pockets are delightful and keep things organized while the exterior pocket ensures that I don't lose my keys.  It is currently being used for our 47 degree May baseball games that require winter attire for all members of our family, two fleece blankets, thermos’ of hot chocolate, diapers, snacks, etc.  However, I am hoping it soon converts to our beach bag full of sunscreen, towels and cheddar popcorn.  Go get one!! 

–Lily, www.thehybridhome.net  

Don’t forget the sunscreen!  As a fair skinned mother with a handful of fair-skinned children, I spend a hefty amount of summer vacation planning money on sunscreen.  A few years ago in an effort to ditch and switch some of the harmful things in our lives, I sought out some better, Yet Still Effective, sunscreen alternatives.  My favorite that I have found and as a plus has a 3-4 rating (depending on product) on the “Think Dirty” app is Alba Botanica Hawaiian sunscreen.  I love it and I love that it is a spray for keeping all 7 of our family members covered in record time and effectively keeping us from burning! 

–Amanda, www.thehybridhome.net

I don’t know about you but I can always use extra places to store and carry small items and snacks.   It seems in summer we are on the go, go go! Running kids to activities, to friends, to the pool... the time spent in the car is pretty plentiful. I love these reusable plastic bags by Full Circle. They are food-safe, BPA-free, have an air-tight "lock" seal design, are very sturdy, and come in a few different sizes and designs. Perfect to grab a snack or two to take in the car or pack in a lunch. 

–Denean, deneanmelcher.com 

Now that our snacks are covered, what about drinks?  No one likes a warm drink when it's hot outside, but no one likes a spilled drink, either. These Contigo Spill-Proof Insulated Cups are great because they come apart easily to dishwash, but they stay cold, can withstand toddlers "dropping" them, and they fit in most standard cupholders! Milk and sparkling water will start to siphon out of them, but regular cold water is virtually spill proof, with or without a straw. Ever need to leave your stuff in the car to run some errands and come back to hot water?! Not the case with these. But, if you don't like the stainless steel, we love this water-and-snack-cup combination. My very favorite way to keep track of drink cups and snack cups are these handy dishwasher safe silicone labels, or if you need more versatility, try these write-on ones (I even use one for the bottle I take with me to the gym).

– Caitlin, missionofmotherhood.com

 

And while we are out enjoying the sun and the flowers, and the beach, there is this fun and functional pouch from allshewrotenotes.com summer collection.  “Girls just wanna have sun” or maybe mine should say “Girls just wann have sunscreen” but either way, it makes me dream of beach days when I can quickly locate my phone, sunglasses, and chapstick and keep on enjoying the day.  It is so cute and happy, isn’t it? 

–Amanda, www.thehybridhome.net

Last but certainly not least is a good hair brush! Long hair + thick hair + wet hair = KNOTS! All three of my girls have long, thick hair, and whether you spend a summer at the pool, or a day at the beach, it usually results in some seriously knotty hair. This Wet Brush has saved the day so many times for us. It easily gets through knotted hair, wet or dry, without much complaint. It’s a must have for anyone with long or easily tangled hair!

–Denean, deneanmelcher.com 


3 Things I’m Vowing Not to do This Summer  - and a few things we are definitely doing this summer

Does anyone else ever feel those pressures?  To make a picture perfect summer?  Or offer an array of adorable snacks and plans and learning activities?  I ’m not sure if it’s the mom in me or the homeschool mom in me - or maybe just the schedule lover in me :)  But, as often happens when we are looking at what others are up to on the world wide interweb, I  can fall into the trap of overplanning and overstructuring.  Which, for me, hilariously leads to burn out or feeling like I  can’t keep up - with the very awesome summer plan that I  came up with 🤣

While I was reflecting on my childhood summers and asking my husband about his… we both nostalgically remembered how care-free our summers were.  How laid back and easy our mornings felt.  How our sweaty, muddy selves came in after a long days’ play full of popsicles and powdered lemonade, and completely crashed ready to go back at it again the next day.  There were moments of strawberry picking and theme parks scattered throughout, but for the vast majority of our summer memories it involved early morning cartoons, play-filled afternoons, and refreshing evening swims.  I want that for my kids this year.  


So, what am I vowing not to do this summer?  Well, for starters…

1. I vow to not take full responsibility for giving my kids a “fun” summer. I  don’t have to be the one organizing hide and seek and creating colored chalk paint.  I  don’t have to beef up their calendar full of extracurriculars.  And this year?  I won’t. Unless, of course, it is delivered to my doorstep or found in a library book with step by step directions that my children can read on their own.

2. I  vow to not let their summer take over my summer.  There is a constant war being waged in my mind and heart - the notion and rightness of the sacrifices motherhood undoubtedly brings, but also knowing there are clear and healthy boundaries to be drawn so that I  do not loose myself in the title of motherhood.  It’s my natural inclination to say yes - will you swing me?  yes.  Will you get me a glass of water?  yes.  Will you take me to the pool?  of course.  Will you play a game with me?  yes.  <— while those are all good, true and beautiful things, I must rid myself of the guilt of saying “no.”  Saying no can be a great thing when they are given the change to be independent; think for themselves; problem solve; get creative; serve one another.  I’m not doing them a disservice by showing them how to rest or how to take delight - and it affords me the chance to also say yes to this break I’ve been given as well before we go back into school this fall.  (this is not to be confused with self-absorption.  But rather a healthy way to set spirit-led boundaries).  

3. I vow to not wake up feeling the stress and hurry of the day ahead. When school hits we are on a relatively strict schedule; morning responsibilities and chores, Bible time, morning work, and many mornings a week we have classes and co-ops to attend.  On summer break, we don’t have these things, so we are only as schedule-bound as we decide.  So what am I deciding for us this year?  To not be bound to a strict morning routine.  To take it easy, soak in beautiful music and breakfast outside; lingering a little longer in the Word and with my coffee.  To take morning strolls in our pajamas if we so choose.  Will family Bible time, chores and responsibilities still happen?  Of course.  But it’s a season that we don’t have to rush…and summers and childhood don’t last forever..

So, these are things I’m not doing - but what exactly will be doing?  

This summer I am determined to keep things simple.  Popsicles.  Walks to the pool.  Early morning cartoons.  Cheetos.  Soaking up every bit of daylight and not being so concerned with maintaining a bedtime schedule.  Last minute friends popping by for s’mores. Afternoon reads with approximately zero thematic activities.  Pearler beads and water colors, so long as they’re amazon primed.  Hopscotch and four-square on repeat.  Unlimited juice pops and yes to all the fishing.  And to keep things somewhat exciting this summer, we are doing one fun outing a week, such as putt putt, menchie’s frozen yogurt, and a free day at six flags (God bless friends with season passes).  We’ll head to the library a few times to restock on read alouds and quiet time books, and I ’ll be sure to plug away at books just for me :)  And we’ll meet with our fun little play group once a week because mamas needs friend-time, too!

The fun is there, but the pressure is off.

And in true Hybrid Fashion…   Mainting summer schedules are not bad by any means —If you have hung around here for any period of time you know that I (Lily) thrive on routines and structure.  And when my littles were littler we maintained year round structure for the sanity of every last one of us!  But we are entering a new season in which some of my kids can walk to the fishing pond by themselves, ride their bikes to a neighbors house, and spend hours working on a lego invention without me worrying they’re actually coloring on their walls instead.  So, what is going to give your family life and joy this summer?  What’s going to offer you simplicity?  What is going to give you rest before the school year ahead?  Write them down, plan them out, and then do that.

xo

L

Favorite Things - April Edition!

Does anyone else check Amazon’s daily deals just for fun?

(ok I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: I do.)

This is undoubtedly going to be the most random list of items but consider it a favor because most of the items below are at LEAST 35% off and a stinking stellar deal!

For the kids:

Insect Lore Deluxe Butterfly Garden —>seriously my kids would do this over and over and over again.

Two Pack of Prextex Remote Control Racecars —> for the littler hands (3-5yrs) — this is on crazy mega sale

WikkiStix Traveler Play Set —>mine, ages 9, 7 and 4 1/2, love to play with these

Marble Run - build and rebuild!

Kidirace Rc Bumper Cars —>for a little bit older, probably 6+; the guy riding goes flying off when the cars bump :) makes for a fun game on rainy days!!

For the Ladies:

Joopin Sunglasses — crazy ridiculous afforadable - as in, cheaper than Walmart and Target.

All Recipes Subscription - insanely discounted, several of the recipes I’ve shared on Instagram have come from this magazine!

Pill Organizer - Maybe I should be embarrassed to post this. But I have a really hard time sticking to my vitamins! But I hate having bottles out on the counter. So I tuck this in the silverware drawer that is opened what feels like 34872394 times a day.

INSTANT POT! - The best sale I’ve seen so far, other than maybe on black Friday.

Until next time :)

A Lesson In Sacred Community (final in series)

For the final article of our community series, we decided to work together to try to dig a little deeper and expose some of the hindrances we have to finding community for ourselves. We can probably all agree that we enjoy the benefits of community when it is done well and we are known and loved and can mutually share in life and all of the highs and lows that it entails. It’s just “the getting” to that point with people that makes it hard and sometimes intimidating to get started. Sometimes, then the conclusion is that it isn’t really worth the work, or the heartache or the energy especially considering the uncertainty. So, we posed the question, “Why should intentionally living in community with others matter?” to uncover some of those stumbling blocks. We also decided to answer the question based on one major personality identity box that most of us can place ourselves in-the introvert and the extrovert.

So, why should intentionally living in community with others matter to the introvert and to the extrovert?  Why should it matter to any of us? We believe intentional community matters because it matters to God.  He desires for us to be vulnerable and in community with one another.  Seeking ways to love and serve others that may take us outside of our comfort zones.  This is not always an easy thing…right?  I mean it involves people, and relating to people can be hard, especially when we don’t understand them or they operate differently than we do.  

I suppose I will speak as the resident introvert since of the 2 of us, that label much more closely describes me (Amanda). I remember taking a personality test in college that concluded about me, (at that time anyway), that I was “an introvert, who functions as an extrovert”.  I remember feeling proud that I had confused the system.  To be honest I don’t like being labeled or to be put in “a box”…I actually like when I take the same personality test and can get a different answer than one I have gotten before. However, I have to say, that I have found the value of being known for who I am and understood more fully.  It has allowed me to know myself and in turn have a better understanding of my own needs and even being able to relate to others more confidently.  It has also given me the gift of embracing who I am, what I am gifted at, what ways I do relate well to others, and encouraging me to pursue people and relationships in and through my giftedness.   

For example I may not be as comfortable giving an impromptu toast to a friend at her large birthday celebration, but given some forethought and a note card I will do my best to use my words to make that person feel loved and special.  I may not want to go out to the big party on New Year’s eve, but I would be so happy to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about life.  Pursuing people from my perspective may look different, however, I am noticing and listening.  I can usually see the little nuances and familiar tells that let me know where a person is at and I can use that to show that person I care about what they are going through. I can write a note to encourage, or send a package with a small gift that communicates that you are important to me.  I can choose to be there in the hard moments of life, and maybe not say anything, not just because I prefer quiet, but because sometimes it’s better just to be present. 

 One of things I have come to terms with as an introvert seeking to live intentionally and in community with others, is that pushing myself to be with people and to be known is a healthy and good exercise in my journey. Truth be told, it is often easier for me to live in isolation. I love my alone time, I enjoy peace and quiet, I thrive in a controlled and serene environment. Quite frankly when you throw a person or people into the mix you often don’t have control, or quiet, or peace and definitely not alone time. BUT, I have learned that not only is that okay, it is actually often better for me to push myself into the unknown and discomfort in order to get outside of “me”.  The benefit for me of living in community is living in a less self-focused way and it actually empowers me to be intentional with others through the power of the Holy Spirit.     

When I had the idea to do this article together I suggested we tackle this topic from each of our sides of the introverted(Amanda)/ extroverted (Lily) coin and I simply posed this question to Lily: “Why does intentionally living in community matter to the extrovert?” I was surprised that she struggled, as I did, to flesh out, not only the benefit FOR others but FOR ourselves.   

The extrovert (Lily)- Well, now that we know the other half of life’s mysteries, I suppose I’ll dive into the extroverted side of things. To Amanda’s point about personality tests - I honestly don’t mind the outcome. But I struggle with answering. For example: “What if I pick the wrong thing?”, “Sometimes I feel that way, but not always.” “Yikes, I feel both of those feelings at the same time, how do I answer that question?” Personality tests actually go better for me if someone else takes them for me. So basically, I don’t know if that counts at all, and if I’m really an extrovert. But I feel fairly confident after being married to an introvert thru and thru, I’m for sure not that. I love being around people. Not always large groups - I love depth which often comes in smaller groups. But if we are going out to a festival, convention or restaurant, the more the merrier. I’m known to share too much right off the bat because I feel like we’ve been friends our whole lives and have already decided in my head that we will be friends forevermore. If I am home alone, I turn on the tv to live news channels so I don’t feel alone and feel like I’m experiencing the same day as people on tv, as opposed to say, a sitcom with actors. However :) having been married to the introvert, and most of my closest friends being introverts, I have learned so so much… about myself, about the Lord, about community.

 First, as much as I am energized by people, it is right and good and pleasing to also allow time for rest and being energized by the Lord. Which is so quiet, comparatively. But if I don’t allow time for rejuvenation and processing, I’m essentially using the idea of “community” to fill me up — which is, quite frankly, idolatry.

Another lesson learned in regards to the extrovert + community is that it is an opportunity to seek the Lord and operate by His leading when it comes the gifts of gathering and connecting. My natural inclination is to invite all the people, have all the gatherings, host all the parties, go on all the field trips and write all the hand written notes of affection and encouragement - which can be awesome! But community - and putting others needs and interests above my own (and even my own wiring) - offers the unique privilege and blessing to ask the Lord how others might be blessed and encouraged. Learning to operate in community being led By Him has been an opportunity for me to get outside of myself and look for a way to serve others as the Lord leads, and not just to my preference.

That being said - it is good - and ok - to recognize that your “type” is a gift purposed by God on purpose and for a purpose. Your God-given abilities are intended to share the love of Christ with others in a unique way that only you, by His grace, can do. God has given me a unique desire and delight in creating beauty, whether through meals or cozy spaces - and it is an absolute joy to invite others into that space. I don’t have to be embarrassed by that, but I can be thankful and use those tools as a means of connecting with others. With my natural inclination to gather and invite often comes the opportunity for the pursuit of others, which can sometimes feel draining or not worth it or maybe like it’s too difficult to connect.

However, we have to conclude and we really believe that personality type and how long it seems to be taking in creating that sacred community is never a good reason to not fight for community and inviting other people in. There is a great gift in both the introvert and the extrovert in that when submitted and yielded according to the Spirit, she can be a true and life-giving gift to any personality type. Embracing our own unique wiring and tendencies, is an opportunity to encourage others to find freedom and joy in the life-giving intention God desires in community…regardless of “type.”  Community is worth fighting for no matter what personality box you fit in or claim.  No matter who you are, you have something invaluable to offer to the rest of us. 

 

 

Gearing up for family time…

I don’t know about you all but I am so looking forward to some time to be with my kids, take a break from school, and spend some time outside and taking advantage of time together. Oh, and also no packing lunches, or sports practices, or alarm clocks! WooHoo.

Whether you are looking forward to Spring Break, thinking about the upcoming summer months, or just trying to make intentional memories as a family.  We are on a mission to take back our home, take back our family time, and take back the joy of being together. Really, this doesn’t mean we have to do more, it means we have to be intentional and sometimes even do less! We hope that you can find joy in making intentional memories and moments with your family and friends. If you need a little bit of a boost to know what to do, here you go.

We have a list of some of our tried and true games and activities, that have proven to be well worth their expense and many even have educational merit too.  Win-win.

 

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Pizza 31 game-originally sold at Hallmark stores, this is a fun and clever card game that helps kids (and adults) with their mental math and game strategy as they play. First hand to 31 wins or if you have a strong hand you can call “pizza delivery” and the round ends. It’s a favorite all around.

 

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 Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Jr. – this is by far one of our family’s favorite games.  The new “junior” edition, called First Journey is a shortened version of the beloved game and makes for a quicker and easier playtime for younger players. It is a fun strategy game where you have to determine your best routes to accomplish your destinations to win.  

 

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Yahtzee, travel edition- such a fun and classic game and I love the easy container to keep all of the pieces in.  We picked this up one time while visiting while away on a trip and everyone had so much fun learning and playing this classic game together.

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Uno-this one never gets old.  This has become a favorite with even our youngest child.  I love that even younger players can understand and see “matches” to make the next move.

 

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Magnet blocks-these are a great toy for any age, but they make for a fun and frustration free building time, as even the littlest hands can learn to get the magnets to stick together to build.  Which means, you can have a pretty impressive tower built, with little instruction and with lots of creativity. 

 

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Snap circuits-my 2 bigger boys (12 and 9) especially enjoy figuring out new configurations and making things run and fly and alarm with their snap circuit set. You can also build onto the sets with additional sets to make things bigger and better.

 

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Set-This card game happens to be one of my favorites, so I reintroduced it to the kids, thinking it would be a particular favorite for one of our children who has a “visual” learning brain like mine.  To win this game you have to be the first one to see a set of three matches. It is fun to learn!

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No Stress Chess

 This is a two for one game and great for little and bigs alike! In one version you play with a deck of cards that teaches about each piece and the ways in which it can move. Once your budding chess player gets the hang of it you can forgo the cards and play the old fashioned way.

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Q-bitz Jr. 

This game is adorable for little hands and incorporates hand eye coordination as well as acute awareness to patterns and shapes. It comes with four miniature boards, each with a different colored set of blocks. There are multiple variations of the game, all resulting in matching your individual blocks to a pattern on a card. If your little one likes a challenge, you can race one another, set a timer and more.

A Lesson in Sacred Community (Part two in series)

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Biblical Community: What To Do When You Don’t Have It

Years ago when we experienced a miscarriage I remember walking out of the doctor’s office on Easter Sunday with such shame and embarrassment.  It was unmerited -  I hadn’t done anything wrong, and nothing could have prevented what we were now walking through.  But there was such a raw and real vulnerability in which I felt so exposed - excitement and anticipation diminished with the simple yet hollow words, “I’m sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”  It was like a punch in the gut, exposing every bit of me in the most vulnerable of ways.

Having just celebrated the resurrected king, eternal life with Him forever and ever, we were also simultaneously grieving the loss of our precious precious unborn baby.  In those two conflicting emotional extremes, I returned home to my husband and 2 year old at the time, and while there was immense sadness there was also a specific verse that kept coming to mind.  Maybe you’re familiar with it?  

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I  seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I  have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  So I  will bless you as long as I  live; in your name I  will lift up my hands.” Psalm 63:1-4

On this desperately sad yet eternally hopeful day, His word declared forth His love and it’s overwhelming power.  His love, better than life here on earth itself - better than any life entrusted to us, better than anything we might have in the here and now - His love is just so much greater!  And for that, I could sing praises.  His words and His love got me through the sadness, walked me through the shame, and gave me the rock on which to stand.  

Fast forward 5 years later and I was rocking my now third-born in a new and unfamiliar town.  In the dead of winter.  A winter like we had not ever experienced growing up.  I remember deeply longing for friendships and community like we had back in our hometown.  It was so hard to break through the cultural differences in our new city.  We had our dear church family but were not in close enough proximity to do the everyday together.  We had just begun our homeschool journey, which can be isolating enough in and of itself.  It was a season in which I desperately desired to plop on the couch with dear friends on a whim and enjoy a cup of coffee.  But it didn’t come.  In fact, it kept not coming.  I think I asked my husband to meet up for lunch a record breaking number of times within a year, and we for sure got to know the local Chick Fil A as if they were family.  It was quite honestly, a really lonely season.  About a year after we moved a dearest friend gifted me with a beautiful hand-scripted framed print.  As I opened it and began to read the words my eyes filled with tears. 

Because your steadfast love

 is better than life, 

my lips will praise you.  

I  wept.  I needed to be reminded.  And the Lord…won’t He do it?  His love is better than any plans I could conjure up for myself.  His love far surpasses any playdate, any inclusion to a homeschool group, and all the last minute trips to the zoo with friends.  I could live my entire life without that desperately longed for “tribe” and still be just fine.  Because His love is greater than all of it.  

It was during this season, the one in which I lacked biblical community, that God actually taught me so much about himself and what to do anyways.  I want to share some of those lessons learned with you.

What do you do when the community you so desire, and the community scripture so often encourages, just doesn’t come?

You lean in to Him.  You go deeper with the Lord.  The lack of community never changes the God who created community in and of Himself.  He is a constant friend, His spirit a constant companion.  The depths of His love, His grace, and His mystery are never ceasing.  And He always shows up. You don’t stop pursuing people.  Just because community isn’t returned, isn’t as prioritized, or maybe just isn’t as feasible for those around you, doesn’t change the biblical principal and your ability to pursue it.  Pour out that which has been filled in your own life.  But make sure you are being filled from the well which never runs dry.  Cultivate and create.  Sometimes it is hard to accept that finding deep, crazy connected, large tribe community doesn’t come often - and that’s ok.  Your college besties, newlywed small group, and young parents bible study may have seen the glory days, and yay for that!!  However, that may not be for the season you are in. 

Take a look at the who God has given you.  Maybe it’s not what you envisioned, or (sigh) who you prefer… but God has purposed each and every day and place: community the heck of out it.  

xo

Lily

9 Intentional Gifts for Easter

I’m not really even sure where Easter baskets came in to play, or Easter egg hunts - there really is no biblical meaning behind them whatsoever :) But they’ve become a part of our Easter tradition, a fun way to celebrate and delight in our kids. As I’m gifting my kids I often think of what it must be like to be the Lord - constantly bestowing good and perfect gifts to his children. Just because He can; Just because He enjoys to see our joy and delight. Can you relate?

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If you’re looking for a few unique, intentional gifts for this Easter, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite things that make Easter baskets a little sweeter and a tad bit more meaningful.

1) Dayspring Dear God Girls Journal

2) The Beginners Bible Super Heroes of the Bible Sticker Book

3) NIV Beautiful Word Coloring Book for Teens

4) Doodle Through the Bible For Kids

5) Love Does for Kids

6) I Am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Tee for Kids and Teens

7) Dayspring Boys Journal

8) Mudlove Inspirational Bracelets

9) Count God’s Blessings Dot-to-Dot

Stewarding the Season

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See this little guy?  He is my most challenging.  He’s fire.  Fierce and hilarious.  Loving and spunky.  Insanely loyal but also loves a good battle.  From the moment he was born we have been in a constant state of “you are hilarious” slash “what do I do with you.”  Do you have one like that?  I’ve been around so many children in my life and I have never met a child with as much persistence and grit.  He has pushed me to the end of myself more than my other three children combined.  I have spent so many days looking forward to when he’s —- old.  “Man, when we get there it will be so much easier!”…or, “I can’t wait for him to be able to do this!”

The grass does always seem greener :)  Turns out busted pull ups all down the side of bunk beds are actually worse, in my opinion, than babies who wake up cranky for two years!

This spunky, funky, hilarious, delightful third child of mine has been a much needed a reminder over and over, interruption after interruption, bedtime battle after bedtime battle, to steward THIS season.  You see, my mind rarely slows down.  I am full of big ideas and I love a good dream.  Ask me what I’m thinking and it’s like the pop up ad that won’t go away until you press control+alt+delete for 30 seconds.  Events of what could be, so many goals and mountains to climb.  But it can, quite frankly, keep my mind aloof and focused on things that literally have zero priority in my life in this season.  My tough little one reminds me to steward this day.  Steward this heart.  Steward this season, not the seasons 2-5-10 years down the road.  I can take one next right step.  And steward this moment and this hour.  I can put down my phone, walk away from the dishes, set aside the goals, and let the laundry sit a while. The beauty in the prayer and scripture, “Teach us to number our days,” lies in that we get the perfect teacher willingly guiding us on what and how to steward.

Are there things clamoring for your attention that have you grasping for more or goals that maybe aren’t for now?  Do you find yourself in a season that keeps you looking ahead to whatever season might be next?  Don’t miss out on what God has entrusted to you NOW and the opportunities He has laid before you.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).”"


Choose well, today, dear friends!

A Lesson In Sacred Community (series)

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What does it look like to give and receive authentic and genuine gospel-fueled community; to be received for who you are and to give what you can genuinely give and to not be asked or required to do or give more than that?

From my perspective this was it.  It was the embodiment of loving others as you love yourself-or you yourself are loved.  It was December and just weeks after we had buried my mom.  I went up to visit my Dad and help him work through some things at the house and to pick out a grave marker for my mom’s grave.  It was my honor to be there and to do these hard things with my Dad, but we were exhausted after some emotional days and decisions.  After church we were invited to have lunch with a couple whom I have known my entire life.  They have deep history with my parents and my siblings and I.  Their youngest daughter was one of my best childhood friends and we roomed together in college.  So here we sat, knowing so much of each others lives, But this.  This season, this is new and foreign to everyone.  My mom was the first of their group of friends at church to die.  It was obvious in conversations with my parents’ friends and my peers that it was a stunning reminder of their own mortality and they all seemed to be taking stock of their relationships with each other.    So here we sat at a table with this couple, who we have known forever and are so familiar in so many ways, but who are treading this very unfamiliar and even uncomfortable terrain with my Dad.  I waited almost expecting a trite word or a casual and almost empty condolence to be spoken, but instead what happened over that meal was truly Holy Spirit filled and purposed.  I walked away feeling and knowing that my Dad was among people who are truly seeking the Lord’s wisdom and offering compassion and companionship to him.  I was so relieved, as I knew I would have to leave for home the next day, to know he would not be alone.  

And this is what I witnessed:

-They confessed that they could not understand what he was going through.  They allowed him the space to feel whatever it was that he wanted to feel and didn’t try to control or guide him by sharing similar experiences or show how they might be able to relate.  They just gave space and agreed that this was hard and that they wouldn’t try to understand.  

-They offered themselves.  They said to my Dad, “we know that you really don’t want to be around people right now, but also recognize that it may not be healthy for you to be alone all the time, so use us.”  Call us up for a meal and we will take you out and you don’t have to talk to us, we can just be together.  We will just be with you.  

-They prayed with him.  They prayed for hope and encouragement for him.  They prayed that God would be near.  They prayed for our family.   And from the sincerity  of this encounter I suspect that they continue to pray for my Dad and our family.  

-They cried with him.  They sat in his grief with him and they cried.  They grieved because they have lost a friend in my mom, but more so because their friend was grieving the loss of his wife.  They cried and waited.  In their compassion they showed that it is okay not to understand or even agree, but in this moment to just grieve and lament to the Lord that it hurts.  

-They gave space for him to speak and weep.  They didn’t try to finish his sentences or determine what needed to be said.  They allowed for time and silence.  And sometimes nothing came, just tears.  And that was okay too.  

They were there that day.  In every way I could think of.  They met him in his grief and they joined him there.  They provided a meal and companionship and gave of their time and comfort to be there that day.  They didn’t ask for anything in return or try to lighten the mood.  It was an honor to witness and an encouragement to my heart.   But even more than that, it was an image and a lesson in biblical community and loving one another.  

XO

Amanda

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Meet Amanda

Co-writer for The Hybrid Home, wife to Jason and mama to 5; living in Raleigh, North Carolina helping run she and her husband’s non-profit, Rooted To Live Ministries. She is passionate about women living their lives knowing who they are in the Lord and helping them find their voice.

Lent Reading Plan + Free Printable Bookmarks & Poster!

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As much as I love to prepare and ready my heart for Easter, it often gets away from me until the weekend of. This year we have created the sweetest Preparing for the Savior reading guide to walk you through the gospels during the lenten season. Each day covers about two chapters, suggesting a day of rest and reflection each Sunday, and finishes on Easter! We’ve created two adorable versions of this guide - one is a BOOKMARK (seriously…so sweet…and a really intentional gift to your small group or Bible Study…hint hint), and the other is a full page poster if you prefer hanging it somewhere around your home. We love these magnetic clips on Amazon for the fridge or chalkboard! The bookmarks are two to a page, and should be folded in half to include the entire reading guide.


To download your FREE Preparing for the Savior bookmark and poster, fill out the form below and use the links provided after submission.

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The watercolor images used in both the bookmark and page-sized poster are beautifully provided by Fox & Hazel and can be found here.

There is Hope

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My first memory of something being inconsistent in my home was probably around age four or five. I took a big gulp from a leftover kids cup in the fridge and came to a quick and bitter realization that it was not apple juice. It was the first time I remember being exposed to the sad truth of what was happening behind the smokescreen that was our life.

The pieces came together slowly for me as a child, not quite being able to name it, but aware something was vastly off; Looking back at old pictures I see a sweet, innocent and care-free spirit of the three, four and five year old version of me. That version of Lily is clueless and jolly; Social and energetic. But somewhere conditions deviated. Though I can’t recollect my age, it took place around the time I voiced my concern and questioned what was going on.

It happened when, as a little girl asking the innocent questions of “Why are you doing this? Why don’t you stop? Why are you so sad?” was faced with the painful and accusatory rebuttal:

“Maybe one day you can love me for who I am.”

It was the seed planted, the beginning of torment and the start of what would be decades believing and owning the lie that I was the problem.

One day you’ll be thankful for what you have.

One day you’ll see what I did do for you.

One day you’ll see the things I bought you.

One day you’ll…..

One day you...

One day you’ll see… that you and your words and your feelings were the problem.

I’m not sure what was more detrimental in my life - the actual emotional and verbal abuse, or the manipulation and twisting of truth to make me believe it was my fault and my burden to keep it hidden.

I stayed living under the lie that I was the problem and that my words, my voice, my opinions, my feelings were all utterly terrible. There was a hand placed over my mouth and my voice for 25 years; and even worse than believing the lie, I believed my life and my story had to remain hidden. I believed I had nothing to offer.

For anyone who has found themselves in an abusive relationship, or maybe you’re there now, you know all too well that blame is the number one tactic from the abuser. The abuser will go at great lengths to deflect and shift the focus in an effort to hide the lie.

However, the more consuming and severe reality for all of us, is that blame is the number one tactic from our accuser. We are all in a battle with one who comes to steal, kill and destroy(1) and our fight is not against flesh and blood (2). In fact, when Paul is telling the believers to guard and protect themselves against this spiritual battle, do you know what he starts with? He starts with the belt of truth(3). And our accuser knows all too well; he plants a seed and twists that truth, and then tells us to keep it hidden. He attempts to shift our focus and draw our attention away from this very thing that God is saying to put on.

The temptation therein lurks in the darkness. The lie that I have nothing to offer, the lie that I must keep silent, and the lie that says I must remain hidden prevents us from moving forward and putting on truth. However, Jesus and His sacrificial life, the words of His testimony and the Word recorded for all of time speaks otherwise. While it is true that love covers a multitude of sins (4), and love keeps no records of wrongs (5), it is also equally true that love protects (6) and rejoices in truth (7). Holding on to someone else’s choices, taking blame, and owning their shame and accusation isn’t protection and isn’t rejoicing in truth. It is not honoring. It is bowing down to the king of lies and believing what he has to say about you instead of what God himself has to say about you which, involves knowing and walking in TRUTH.

When we expose the sin, it becomes redeemable (8).

When we expose the hurt, it becomes healable (9).

When we expose the lie, He can replace it with truth (10).

When we are willing to accept truth, He brings freedom (11).

Job in his honest laments and outpouring refers to God as one who sets the lowly on high (12). We see a similar acknowledgment from David in Psalm 3:3, in which he refers to God as the shield around him, the one who lifts his head high also. During a recent teaching I learned that another word for lowly or downcast is the word shame. In these honest conversations with God we are seeing a sweet trait of the Lord in which he is intentionally bending down towards those being attacked, accused, tormented and abused; those who are covered in shame whether from another person directly or from the guilt and condemnation their choices have brought upon them, and lifting their precious heads. And when our heads are lifted and we choose to walk in the light, whether from our own sin or someone else’s, there is room to work with and freedom to be had. Don’t you see? The lies and manipulating of truth are what bring us shame. A wonderful and relatively well-known Bible teacher once coined the phrase, “doubt, fear, shame and blame are all part of satan’s stupid game.” (13) Oh, what truth it is! If that “thing” you’re holding onto is rooted in doubt, it’s not from Him. If fear and shame are keeping you hidden, lift up your gaze. If your mind is being flooded with blame and accusation, take heart! He longs to redeem what the accuser has attempted to destroy.

So many of us have been duped into believing a lie and are held in a hopeless form of bondage, feeling there is no way to look but down. But God actually says to the abused and to the accused: There is Hope! (14)

One of the more painful realities I’ve had to come to terms with is that while my shame and bondage come from a lie I was fed at an early age, the one who is hurting and abusing others is facing a different type of shame. The truth is that hurt people hurt people. Unhealed people go on living an unhealed life. Abused people go on abusing people. And to be honest, I have hurt a lot of people out of my own shame and hurt. Not on purpose or intentionally - I just wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be chosen. But God picked up my mess, brokenness and my longing to be desired and showed me that I am chosen. I am loved. I am longed for. He is safe. My voice and my heart are created by him and he loves them. My brokenness can be mended. Were it not for him, my life resembles one who abuses and accuses. Were it not for the cross, my path to healing and redemption do not exist.

Is there a lie that has been spoken over your life? A lie that started with just a little deviation from the truth? A lie you’ve claimed as yours to hide and bare alone?

Dear ones, the liar says Be quiet. Keep hidden. It’s not so bad. You aren’t worth being heard.

But the Redeemer says speak up, child. Walk in truth (15). My ways are good (16). You are worth it all (17).

  1. John 10:10 ESV

  2. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

  3. Esphesians 6:14 ESV

  4. 1 Peter 4:8 ESV

  5. 1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV

  6. 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV

  7. 1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV

  8. Ephesians 5:13-14 ESV

  9. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

  10. John 17:17 ESV

  11. John 8:32 ESV

  12. Job 5:11 ESV

  13. Breaking Free, Beth Moore, Living Proof Ministries

  14. Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV

  15. John 3:14 ESV

  16. Psalm 18:30 ESV

  17. John 3:16 ESV


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Meet Lily…

Co-Writer for The Hybrid Home, Lily is originally from North Carolina where she met Amanda Tovey, the other half of the “hybrid.” She currently resides in the northern suburbs of Chicago where she homeschools her four boys and partners in ministry with her college sweetheart, Billy. She is passionate about childhood education, discipleship, and equipping & encouraging women in whatever season they find themselves in.

 

Trading Lies for Truth.  THE truth. 

When we talked about doing this collaboration about Trading Lies for Truth and I first started to think about what lies I have believed, there were many that I could list, but really there is one lie that stood out as the one that I knew I needed to write out.  It is an on-going struggle and one that I am just now learning to identify and find freedom from through Christ’s long-suffering love and grace.   It is this: that my feelings are a burden or an inconvenience to the people around me.  It is honestly more deeply rooted in the lie that I am unworthy of love…complete, unabridged, unconditional love.  Want to know something?  The name Amanda, my name, means “worthy of love.”   The very thing that is a struggle for me to believe was intentionally given to me by my parents in their love for me and then spoken over me every single day of my life.  Amanda, you are worthy of love.  That was intended by God to speak the truth of His love for me, don’t you think?   

This lie, that my feelings are an inconvenience to the people around me, I think took root in my heart a long time ago and it probably came from a combination of ways and events and moments in my life.  But it all culminated in the lie that my feelings and my opinions and me are a burden.   Not always a burden, sometimes I am helpful and useful and maybe even delightful.   But only when I give the pleasant and edited version of myself; the self that has not a lot of need, that is independent and self-sustaining, the self that is calm and steady.   What would happen if I was completely needy, utterly falling apart, and had no plan or way to help myself.  What then?  Who would want to take care of that mess?  

Well, God would.  In fact he invites us to be unbound and says he will “bind up my wounds” and he says to the brokenhearted that he will heal (Psalm 147:3).  He invites me to be at the end of myself, to cry out to him in my distress and to converse with him about my questions and even accusations.  Look at the conversations in scripture between David and God, and Job and God.  They are bold and unedited and full of feeling and emotion.  They are low and high.  They are transparent and honest.  Oh man, to be that real with myself and with God!  

He invites.  In his love for us, God always invites us to something better and deeper than what we already know.  He wants us to be fully known and heard and then, and only then, can we truly understand and believe how great and full and wide and deep is God’s love for us.  

*Insert disclaimer here; I recognize that there can be wisdom to holding my tongue, and the truth of God’s word emphasizes intentional words and selfless acts.  However, Jesus always spoke truth in love and did not appease people.  So with that as my example, and as clumsy as I may be, I have to learn to find my voice and to say the things I need to say.   Believing the truth that my feelings are not a burden to people around me.    

The lie that I once believed, that says my feelings are a burden or an inconvenience to the people around me.  The lie that whispers to my heart, “your hurt is your fault,” “your discomfort is because of your own unrealistic expectations,” “you may not like this but don’t hurt someone else for the sake of being heard,” can be undone by telling and retelling the truth of God’s love for me:  

That God first loved.  

That Jesus came to save out of his love for us.  

That my behavior, my feelings, and my expression of hurt, sadness, or disappointment do not cut me off from the love of God.  More than that, I can be completely loved even in the moments of pain and hurt, and utter disappointment, in ugly crying, and tantrums, and lament.  Even in those moments I am worthy of love.  You are worthy of love.  I am not a burden but a delight.  I am not cast away but invited closer and closer to his throne and his loving and tender care.  

Because I am Worthy of His Love,

Amanda    


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Meet Amanda.

Co-writer for The Hybrid Home, wife to Jason and mama to 5; living in Raleigh, North Carolina helping run she and her husband’s non-profit, Rooted To Live Ministries. She is passionate about women living their lives knowing who they are in the Lord and helping them find their voice.