April 23, 2017


Some of the women from church have been discussing Jerry Bridges' classic work, Trusting God. I was first introduced to this book years ago, and it was (and continues to be) very helpful in helping me understand God's sovereignty.

This is one of many, many quotes I've marked in my book. It was worth sharing, and I had a few extra minutes this morning (as I'm home with my sick hubby). Read the book, often.

January 27, 2017

Analog vs Digital (or How I Use a Bullet Journal)

This post contains affiliate links.

The author of one of my favorite e-newsletters recently confessed that she's struggling in her attempted transition to using a bullet journal. I've experienced a similar struggle over the past couple of years; in fact, last year I attempted to go full-on digital*. And failed.

My search for the perfect calendar/project system began in high school (nerd alert!) when I became yearbook co-editor. A few years later, my employer brought in a time management expert to teach us how to use the system he'd developed, and I was hooked. Over the years, I experimented with other systems, finally coming up with a funky hybrid that worked well for me... at least at the office. Once I came home to work, all bets were off.

When I started homeschooling, I knew that my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach just wasn't going to cut it. A wise woman recommended this book (sadly, no longer in print) and, while her unit approach to homeschooling wasn't for me, her home/task organization tips and charts saved my sanity, especially when my kids were younger.

Years went by, I drifted through various planners and systems... then I discovered the bullet journal idea. It's a big idea, because it's completely customizable. It doesn't require a huge financial investment, and it can flex as I go. And while I'm pretty good at making lists and adding things to my calendar, I did find one weakness in my use of a Bullet Journal: me, or rather me sometimes forgetting to check it and letting things fall through the cracks. And that's what led me to try to go full analog with Todoist and Cozi last year. But there was just one problem. I'm more of an analog person. I enjoy writing things down, turning pages, seeing what a previous day or month looked like.

Besides those things, the biggest reason I stuck with the bullet journal is just the ability to keep all those stinking lists I write in one place. Good things that happen can be telegraphed onto a monthly or daily page, but I can also add a little more info on a journal or gratitude page, if I want. That list of books I want to read or need to review is easy to include, and I love seeing things get checked off. Random quotes, snippets of poetry, blog post ideas, prayer requests, inspiration, hostess notes -- there's a logical way to fit it all in. I can make it mine.

This year, my plan has morphed into an analog/digital hybrid (and we'll see how that goes). I use my bullet journal for the basics, such as the monthly calendar page and daily to do lists. But I also use the reminder app on my phone for time sensitive things (like "finish taxes once and for all" or "give dog monthly meds" or if I'm out and about and need a quick brain dump (because I usually think of things I need to do at exactly the moment I cannot do them). I use Trello for projects that relate to internet resources. And I'm wholly devoted to the Cozi app for our family calendar and quick shopping lists.

Here's another confession: at some point, I got a bit sidetracked by all the overwhelmingly pretty and creative bullet journals out there on Instagram and Pinterest. Look, that's fine for some, but most of the time, it's all I can do to keep things legible, much less beautiful. So I've decided to save my creativity for things I want to see and share -- encouraging words on index cards for my family, favorite quotes on my chalkboard wall, handwritten notes to friends. 
So here's my encouragement to the struggling e-newsletter author: 
...give a try for a couple of months, but make it yours. That's the beauty of the whole thing. Let it be a tool to help you live the life you want to live, to free you to use your gifts, to serve God and others, and to just be able to think. And as I re-read those last sentences, I think to myself, "There's a life lesson in there, even beyond my bullet journal."

*This book prompted my analog attempt; while the digital approach didn't work for me, the principles set forth in this book are still foundational in my current analog/hybrid approach.

January 7, 2017

Don't Waste Your Snow Sunday

I originally posted this January 23, 2016, but have made a few updates for this posting in 2017.

Our church has cancelled tomorrow's church activities, thanks to Winter Storm Jonas (in 2017, it's Winter Storm Helena). I'm reminded of a time when our oldest was about eight years old. We were staying home from church (due to some complications in my pregnancy), and Jeff told Christopher on Saturday night that we were going to have church at home the next day. When Jeff and I came out to the living room that Sunday morning, we discovered that our son had built a small pulpit out of boxes and books, had selected some songs for us to sing, and had even hand-written bulletins for us! He had a very definite idea of what church should look like!

As I'm sure many of you will be kept home, too, it seemed like a good time to share some ideas for worshiping at home when you are prevented from meeting together (Hebrews 10:23-25). You won't need hand-written bulletins and a make-shift pulpit for any of these, but I have included some links that might be helpful.
  1. Listen to (or watch) one of your own church's previous sermons. There may be one you missed while serving in the nursery, traveling over the summer or holidays, or home with a sick child. Or there may be a favorite you'd like to chew on a bit more. For those at my church, a few recommendations might be The Real Grinch of Christmas (only 28 minutes!), Walking Worthy, or Putting on an Honest Intimacy. Tip: Find at least one take-away for your family to encourage one another in throughout the week.
  2. Watch another church's live-streamed service. This allows you to see the full service, not simply the sermon. You can still participate to a limited degree, and it's a great opportunity to work with young children on church etiquette. Faith Bible Church and Grace Community Church both offer live-streaming of their services, and you can be certain of God-honoring worship and a sound biblical sermon. Tip: Some live-streaming requires you to set up an account prior to watching. Be sure to check on this prior to the service time to avoid being delayed.
  3. Watch (or listen to) a previously recorded sermon from a church other than your own. Both Faith Bible and Grace Community have sermon video available; you can also find audio via their websites or podcasts. Other messages I'd recommend include If God is for Us, Who Can be Against Us? by Don Whitney, and The Church: The Beginning and End of Missions by Thabiti Anyabwile. Tip: Take a few notes to help prompt some discussion afterward.
  4. Read aloud to your family, and talk about what you read. Whether you read a portion of Scripture (maybe from the book your pastor is preaching through), or a book that has encouraged you in your own walk of faith, or a missionary biography (some of these are free to download) share it with your family. Tip: Read enthusiastically -- you and your family will enjoy it more.
  5. Sing together. Find some favorite songs and worship together! If you grew up singing hymns, but your kids aren't as familiar with hymns, this is a great time to introduce them to some solid, time-tested favorites . Or, if you're not as familiar with some of the newer music your church sings, now's your chance to practice together. Maybe there's a song that particularly reminds you of the gospel (In Christ Alone, anyone?); this is a wonderful time to sing it together and discuss its truths with your family. Tip: You don't have to be musically or vocally gifted to do this. Singing together karaoke-style is fine!
  6. Pray together. Really pray together. Tip: Tim Challies shares some wisdom from John Piper about how to pray, and I believe this would be helpful for families praying together.
  7. Enjoy this unique time with your family. Whatever you decide to do, relax and have joy in it. Tip: Remember that the word worship literally means worthness (not workness!). 
 I'd love to hear how your family has worshiped together during times when you've been hindered from going to church. Please share in the comments!

Photo: AnnaKate took this photo of Bella two years ago during an unusual snow event in Middle Georgia. This is pretty much representative of Bella's attitude about the snow, which contrasts sharply with my own.