Tuesday, June 24, 2014

8 Affordable Essentials for the Beach Mom

Beach living now characterizes our family, and just in time for summer!  We've been living, or semi-living, we're still in a hotel --in sunny Florida now for five days and it didn't take long for me to realize that there are some essentials for me as a "Beach Mom". 

I love seeing people's favorite picks for various things, but when I go to the websites that they highlight, I usually find that the items recommended are WAY out of my budget.  So, I've rounded up some affordable essentials that I either have, or am planning to purchase for our summer at the beach.  

1// Extra Large Canvas Tote.  A classic from Lands End.  This has been on my secret wish list for a long time.  Now that we're carrying things around on our walks to the beach, I may have to order one. I would use this for books, towels, and other items that I don't prefer to get sandy.  {I'm not sure it's possible to go to the beach and walk away without sand on everything, but I'm sure going to try!}

2//Denim Shorts from Loft.  I bought a pair of these 6" inseam shorts when we visited Florida back in May.  They are my favorite shorts.  Not too short, comfortable, and classy.  Even better, they are on sale right now for 50% off!  Some colors are out of stock, but I'm going to keep checking because as hot as it has been, I'll be wearing out the one pair I have. 

3//Utility Tote from Thirty-One.  I have this in blue and it's great for anything wet and sandy because it's vinyl and you can just rinse it out.  

4//Studded Sandals.  I only tried these on in the store, but they were comfortable and affordable.  I usually purchase sandals from Target, and my current pair is on its third summer; not bad for $12.99, but I think they're on their last leg.

5//Straw Hat from H&M.  This is certainly not essential, but I'd like to have a stylish hat to help shade my eyes and face from the sun.  This one is super affordable and I love the polka dot sash.

6//Maxi Dress from Old Navy.  This would work great as a cover-up or just for running errands around town.  It's really hot here, and sometimes dresses and skirts win out on keeping me cool over a pair of shorts and a tank top.  These are also on sale right now, if you've been looking for one.

7//Surprised by Motherhood, by Lisa-Jo Baker.  Excellent book on being a mom.  I cried and laughed my way through this one.  Dayspring currently has this on sale for $12.99.  Reading at the beach doesn't always happen for me, but in the rare moment that everyone is blissfully occupied and relatively still, I might get in a few pages. 

8//Water Bottle.  Mine is currently packed away and in storage somewhere here in town.  We won't get our belongings for another couple of weeks, but as soon as we do, this will be filled up at all times.  I even bought some cheap ones at Wal-Mart for the kids.

What are your beach, or summer, essentials?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friendship begins with my attitude

Last night our family of six rolled into our new town.  We packed up our house in Georgia, said goodbye to friends and familiarity, and now we're living out of suitcases and a hotel room for the next week while we wait for our home to be ready for move-in.

Moving is always an adventure.  Some might say it's a logistical nightmare, others won't even consider moving because of the hassle that entails.  We're a military family, so it's just what we do.  I guess I've gotten used to boxing up our stuff, finding my way around new places, and learning new layouts of grocery stores {why is every Target and Wal-Mart different??}.

One thing that I haven't gotten used to is friendships.

Maintaining friendships with people where we've formerly lived is challenging.  Pushing myself to make friends in new places is scary.

Oh, sure, I have hundreds of friends on Facebook, a few connections on Instagram, and you, my blog readers.  And, I certainly value each of these.

I think we were made for more than just liking each others' pictures and commenting on statuses and such. Friendships need to take place away from our screens, face-to-face, on the phone talking, sharing the messy parts, not just our post-worthy pictures and witty statuses.

My two oldest girls were playing on the swing at my sister's house the other day.  Laughing, taking turns pushing each other, sometimes swinging alone.  Their interactions reminded me of how easy it was to make friends when I was a kid.  Sometimes I just needed someone to push me on the swing.  After a few turns, we would switch places, without even saying anything.  Before long, we'd be playing tag, going over to play at each other's house, and whispering secrets at slumber parties.

Without even knowing it, we were inviting, receiving, sharing and growing.

Why has it become so difficult as adults?

I'm sure there are many people who could answer that question and unearth lots of psychological issues that I am quite unqualified to understand, let alone explain.  For me, I think it boils down to my selfishness.

Friendship, good friendship, begins with my attitude.  I have to stop thinking about myself.

So simple, really, but over and over God shows me just how selfish I am.  With my time, my house, my stuff, my family.

1 Peter 3:8 says, "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."

I had never read this with the idea of friendship in mind, but this past week, it struck me:  each of these commands are others-focused and sort of summarize how to be a good friend.

Unity of  mind.  In the body of Christ we are one, and we hold to the truth which should be fleshed out in harmony with one another.

Sympathy.  I have to feel with others, come alongside them and weep or rejoice, whichever they are doing at any given moment.

It seems pretty obvious here that if I am to sympathize with others then I need to know what's happening in their life.  I have to ask questions and spend time with them.  Most people will not divulge their deepest challenges without the foundation of a solid relationship, and that takes time spent together.

Even people who don't know the Lord need our sympathy.  Often times, through the challenges of life, we're given more opportunities to openly share about our hope in Jesus.  What greater truth can we give to someone who is hurting than the truth of the gospel!

Brotherly love.  Love those who are near to me.  True love will result in service.  Giving my time to listen or drink a cup of coffee together, opening my home to share a meal, helping out when people are in need.  These are practical evidences of love.

Tender heart.  This is much like sympathy, only a little bit deeper.  John MacArthur, in his commentary on 1 Peter says, "Much like sympathetic, the expression calls for being so affected by the pain of others as to feel it deeply, following the kind of tenderhearted compassion God, through His Son, has for sinners" (188).

This means that I also need to be willing to share my own heart.  Openness can't just be one-sided.  And, if we're supposed to feel with one another, then we need to make ourselves vulnerable, allowing others to walk through life with us, even if it means that they see what a mess we are.

Humble mind.  The  most challenging thing for me.  Always regarding others before myself, just as Jesus did, is tough.  But, we're instructed to (Philippians 2:3); it's not optional.

Most likely in friendship there will be giving and receiving.  Sometimes the only receiving may be joy in knowing that you are serving and loving.  Either way, a humble mind is essential.


Next Thursday I will open the door to a new home, in a new community, surrounded by new people.

My prayer is that God will continue to teach me how to be a purposeful friend.  That He will help me to open up my door and let people in, open my heart and allow people to be known and to know me, and love people in true friendship.

How do you strive to be a purposeful friend?

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Last Morning & Jesus is Enough

Today is the last morning I'll wake up in this house, head downstairs to make the coffee, and sit in my chair to journal and read my Bible.  I'm a creature of habit, a routine girl by nature, and I especially treasure my quiet morning times while everyone else is sleeping.

As I wrote in my journal this morning and stared at the boxes piled up around me, I started looking ahead: what will our new home be like?  Where will I put my chair?  How long will it take to feel settled?  Will the kids like it?  Will I like it?  What lessons are we going to learn?

And, then I started thinking back on the 3 1/2 years we've lived in this home.  We've had some great memories here.  And we've had some tough times, too.  Some of my hardest days have been spent on the floor of this home, crying out to God for answers, help, strength, and grace.

He gave it.  He gave me strength to be a mother.  He gave me help to embrace the unexpected and to rejoice in it.  He has poured out His grace in my life in countless ways.  He has become more precious to me than I could ever imagine.

It was in this home that I learned Jesus is enough.  

We face trials that we don't understand, but God has a purpose.  And even if we never have answers for what He does, we can be confident that He will use them to prove our faith.

Trials in life are likened to what fire does to gold.  When gold is placed in the fire, all of the impurities rise to the surface, and they're skimmed off and discarded.

When we are put into the fire of trials, it is meant to bring our impurities to the surface.  God uses those trials to sift out what needs to be removed in order for us to be purified and made more into His likeness.

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:6-7

And what's the result?  The result is that our more pure faith then results in praise to Jesus.  We can rejoice in those trials because they are being used to strengthen our faith and make us more like Christ.

I don't know what God has in store for the next chapter of our lives.  But I do know that whatever comes our way, we can trust God.  We can trust that He will do whatever it takes to continue to purify us and to make us more like Him.