My Newest Travel Obsession

This post contains affiliate links

It’s summertime, and that means lots of us are on the road — a LOT!

Admittedly, we don’t travel nearly as much as we did when we lived overseas, but with my husband’s family 2 hours away, and my family 3 states away, we still have our fair share of road time.

So, I was so excited when I got the opportunity to try out the latest and greatest from The BeLOVED Life. Their new plush travel pillows are seriously my latest obsession when it comes to anything remotely related to travel. 

We got to try out the For God So Loved the World plush travel pillow recently, and I cannot say enough great things about it!

Photo courtesy of Dayspring

My 13 year old daughter used it on her school choir trip to Disneyland recently. The over-the-shoulder strap made it so easy to carry her suitcase, paperwork, and everything else, while still being able to bring a comfortable and stylish pillow along for the ride.

The phone pouch on the strap was amazing. It was the perfect size for her phone, and allowed her to keep it close by without risking it falling out of her pants pocket — not to mention it was much more comfortable for the 6 hour bus ride to not have a phone in her pocket!

There’s also a pocket/pouch on the backside of the pillow where she could slip a couple of snacks and a blanket.

When we got all settled in, she laid her head on it and said, “Oh my gosh, mom! This thing is so soft, I want to stuff my whole body inside the pocket!”

All in all, the pillow was a huge hit. Her friends all wanted one by the end of the trip.

Of course, as a mom, I love the positive messaging on the pillow itself, as well as the opportunity for my daughter to share the Bible with her friends and classmates in a non-threatening way. I also love that there are several different options of styles of pillows. Each has a unique positive message, and there are even ones the boys will love!

I mean, just look at this:

But even more than the adorable designs and positive, faith-filled messages, I love what Mimi and The BeLOVED Life are all about. Mimi says, “I felt like there was a void in the Christian market for colorful, trendy products that pre-teens could be proud to have and share with their friends.”

Mimi’s designs have been featured in Seventeen Magazine’s “Top 10 Back to School Products,” and reviewed by the TODAY Show.

“This new product,” Mimi continues, “was designed to bring life and energy and vibrance back into the pre-teen product market, and to get the kids excited about learning God’s Word, and growing in their faith.” How can you beat that, right?

Well, Mimi takes her faith and messaging to heart. That’s why The BeLOVED Life has “committed to joining the fight against physical, emotional, and cyber bully attacks” by pledging to donate 10% of each sale towards anti-bullying programs and non-profits for children.

Can you guys see why this product, company, and entrepreneur tick all the boxes for me?

Click here to get one of these adorable pillows, and know that you’re not only investing in your child’s spiritual well-being and growth, but also making a difference in the life of a child affected by bullying. Win-win if you ask me!

Pregnant With Hope

Pregnancy, by and large, is a phenomenon that happens to a woman.

The moment of conception, gender, hair color, and even moment of birth are completely out of the mother’s control.

The mother who is expecting a child wields very little – if any – control over the pregnancy, yet a tremendous amount of influence over it.

The choices she makes in a myriad of little things yield drastic differences. It seems nearly everything she does makes a difference in the health of her own body as well as that of the child within.

A baby can be born perfectly healthy with the mother living through pregnancy with a “life as usual” attitude; a baby can survive even when the mother makes catastrophic choices. But a baby and mother can thrive and enjoy an even higher quality of life and bonding when she takes steps to nurture herself and her unborn child – even in less than ideal circumstances.

Several years ago I came across the phrase “pregnant with hope” while reading. I don’t remember the context or in what I read it. But I do know the image that conjured in my mind.

I pictured someone so full of hope welling up inside them that they nearly burst with it – with no effort of their own. An incessantly, almost sickeningly, happy person with more naïveté than wisdom or desire for a real view of the world.

We live in a dark world. A dark world full of dark people capable of unthinkable evil. And hope, like a newly conceived baby, is fragile and can be easily trampled by the realities we face everyday in our neighborhoods, cities and on the television.

It’s easy to let the darkness reign and fill in the cracks where faith can’t provide a tidy answer or wrap life up into a pretty little object lesson with a perfectly packaged solution at the end of the puzzle. Hope gets buried among the grief, disgust and confusion of it all.

Yet hope, like that tender growing babe, while fragile and delicate is also strangely resilient; shockingly strong with a penchant for life.

Hope can survive throughout unimaginably difficult circumstances. Hope can grow and thrive and multiply without any outside effort on our part. The Author and Creator of our hope can do amazingly magnificent things through the medium of hope; and, lets face it, He needs no help from us just as a babe needs no concrete help from his mother to develop a heart, hands, fuzzy hair on his head.

Yet if we take time to nurture hope…

To feast on Food that nourishes and strengthens; to drink deep the Water of Life; to dream and plan and dream some more about what this hope might become. To take intentional steps to protect hope at all costs from the pollutants of this world… Oh how much deeper and stronger would that hope be that lays dormant within us so many days? How much more bonded would we become to the idea that hope can endure?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

So if we think happy thoughts all will be well? No, not even close. Yet if we fight against the darkness, beginning with our own thoughts – the ones so dark and misty it scares us to even acknowledge them – and consciously transform them to things of light, things of life, things of hope… Imagine the rebirth of spiritual brightness that would return to your heart. And then I do it and he does it and she does it… Oh I can see the hope blooming even now.

It seems to me, the more hope in this world that is set in things that are noble, honorable and lovely; nurtured in excellent, commendable things, the better off this world would be. Agreed?

You see, a hope nurtured does not remain merely hope. Hope spurs one on to action, to enforce change, to be the impetus of tangible deeds that plant a seed of hope in another. A hope nurtured grows and matures and transforms from unseen to seen. A hope nurtured and birthed into tangibility, by nature, breeds hope in those with whom it interacts. Hope begets hope; kindness begets kindness; honor begets honor. The hope you nurture within your own soul can become life-changing hope to someone else. Someone that might not have anyone else who can implant that first seedling other than you – and you might be completely unaware of it happening at all yet it is dependent upon the hope birthed from you.

So whether hope is but a tiny seed in your own heart or a burgeoning bloom nigh to tangible for those around you, can I encourage you to take time to nurture it? To protect it? To feed and encourage it to grow?

Tell me, what is something true, noble, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable or excellent to which you can turn your thoughts when the darkness threatens to crush your hope? Share it in the comments and let’s nurture a bit more hope in the world together. Who knows, what you say may be the very thing someone else needs to hear to pull them from the pit.

 

What Little League Taught Me About Faith

A soft breeze, warm with the heat of an Arizona October, brushes my face. The scent of stale popcorn, bubble gum, and dust hangs in the air. I squint against the bright sunlight and scan the field.

Ah! There he is.

My 6-year-old-the-size-of-a-9-year-old has assumed the ready position way out in left field. Again.

Never mind the pitcher hasn’t even made it to the mound yet, and that this is his third time in left field this game. He’s ready.

At last, the pitcher saunters to the mound, a wad of gum bulging his cheek.

“Alright, c’mon, kiddo. Just like we practiced!” A man’s voice rings louder than the din.

The kid, with scruffy hair hanging out the sides of his cap and his shirttail untucked nods decidedly as his dad. He stands tall and raises his gloved had in front of his chest. He squints at the catcher. Shakes off an imaginary call, checks the bases for stealing runners—never mind the fact that this is the first batter—and his shoulders rise and fall with a large sigh. He winds up and fires the ball. It sails far over the catcher’s head, clanks into the backstop, and a mad scramble ensues. Pitcher, catcher, and third baseman scramble for the ball. Dust and limbs flying everywhere.

“What was that, son? Don’t try to be Randy Johnson out there. Just. Play. Catch!”

The ball finally recovered, all the players return to their posts and in unison my son’s team assumes the ready position.

I smiled at the scene now so familiar. Every game was the same. Sure, the players rotated positions and a different pitcher took the mound every few innings, but the basic play was the same.

And it reminded me, oddly enough, of me.

It’s funny the things you ponder sitting in dusty camp chairs every Saturday for weeks on end, watching little boys and girls strive to be like their big league heroes.

And one thing I’ve realized over the weeks is that Little League baseball is a lot like my spiritual walk. And I’d venture to guess, it’s a lot like yours, too.

So, I wanted to share with you a few things Little League taught me about faith.

1. The game rarely ever goes like practice. So many times, I sat at practice and watched my son nail hit after hit. Or make stellar throws and speed around the bases, a wide grin splitting his face. But on game day. Oh, things were always different on game day. It was serious. He was nervous. He struck out far more often than he did in practice. And those throws? They never seemed to hit their mark. Sound familiar? Sitting in my cozy spot on the couch, dog in my lap, Bible in hand, my “practice” time is a joy. God’s word sings in my soul, profound insights burst in my mind and renewed purpose steels deep in my soul. Then comes Game Day. My kids wake up, the dog pukes on the rug, and my perfectly engaging lesson falls flat for my middle schools students. Suddenly those insights are a lead chain around my neck. The joy from my morning practice shoved aside by annoyance and frustration. Then comes The Big Game. You know, Game 7 of the World Series big. The notice of layoffs comes. Or the doctor calls. Or another bill arrives. Yes, it’s true. The game rarely ever goes like practice.

2. Ready Position is a big deal. It never failed to amuse me. One kid building sand castles at short stop. Another crawling around, tracing the path of a beetle. Yet another is picking his nose, confident he’s far enough in the outfield no one will notice. Suddenly, a voice splits the air. Coach. “Ready position, boys!” Obediently, they snap to Ready Position: forearms rested on thighs, knees bent ready to spring into action, eyes on the pitcher. After every play, they return to ready position. From this position, they can spring into action in any direction at any given moment. It’s designed for maximum speed and efficiency so they can pounce on the ball or lunge to make a catch. We have a ready position, too. Sometimes we need reminding. That’s why we tape Bible verses on mirrors and save them as lock screens on our devices. We listen to worship music in the car and start our day with prayer and Bible study. We need our hearts and minds in ready position. Postured with ears open, eyes wide, hearts softened, ready to spring into action at the slightest nudge of the Spirit. And if we get shaken, or after the action, we return. Ready for action. Ready to listen. Ready to jump when the ball comes our way.

3. Listen to the coach. Little boys like to run. Better yet, they like to run in dirt. I lost count of how many times a little leaguer sprinted around the bases, slid into home, only to be met by serious eyes. “I told you to hold off at second base. That is the fourth run, and now we have to change sides. If you had stopped when I asked, more people would have had the chance to bat.” Oh. Sometimes, we’re running full steam ahead, goal in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on. We can see our destination. We’re so close we can taste it. And then we hear that Still Small Voice imploring us. Slow down. Stop. Not yet. The tug-o-war of the heart ensues. But, it’s right there. I’m so close. “Stop.” We need to listen to our Coach. We were given the Holy Spirit as a gift. A guide. A coach. He knows what is best for us, and the best way for us to get there. He doesn’t tell us what to do just for the joy of hearing the sound of His own voice. No. There’s a game plan. A strategy. If we barrel ahead, we may interfere with what He has for us. Or for someone else. We may risk the entire game thinking we know better. We need to listen to the Coach.

4. Have fun! Many’s the time we had to remind our little baller that it was just a game. And while, yes, there are winners and losers…well, not in this age of Little League, but still. Work hard? Yes. Try your best? Absolutely. Take it seriously? For sure! But taking it seriously doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it! Sometimes we make following Christ look about as enjoyable as latrene duty or grave digging. Yes, it’s serious business. Eternity is on the line. But Christ himself said He came to give us life—abundant life! It’s ok to enjoy this life. This world. Our families. Our jobs. Our churches. There is great joy and freedom found in Christ and we would be well served to allow ourselves to fully embrace and experience that joy.

5. Cheer on your teammates. Our son’s coaches did a great job trying to instill the character of sportsmanship into the members of the team. They celebrated one another well. It can be all too easy to view others as competition. Especially when they are playing the position we wanted to play, better than we know we could play it. We need to support one another. Cheer one another one. Dust each other off when we fall, and celebrate the successes of those on our team. By the way, our team is humanity.

So, what do you think? Do you see yourself in these Little Leaguers? Which one do you sense the tug to work on? What other lessons have you found in the ordinary things of life?

My New Year’s Non-Resolution Lifesaver!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve been following me on Instagram for any amount of time, you’ll know that before Christmas, I started a new workout program. Just…don’t ask me how it’s going, mmmkay? Ha!

Well, I’ve been feeling the pull for a long time to get back to taking better care of myself — moving my body in ways that foster strength, energy, and joy — and feeding myself with food that not only tastes great, but fuels me and leaves me feeling empowered rather than guilty.

However, when it comes to getting meals on the table, I’m tired of:

  • scrambling to make something decent out of what’s in my fridge
  • resorting to compromise or convenience foods because I’m short on time and energy
  • battling weight gain and feeling discouraged that the family isn’t eating better
  • wasting money on restaurants, food that goes bad, and too many last-minute grocery runs
  • and feeling like cooking is a burden instead of a joy.

    Can you relate?

But 2018 can be the year we take control of what your family is eating once and for all.

I’ve discovered a plan that makes it easier to get homemade food on the table, eat in a way that supports your weight-loss goals, make dinner time less stressful (even on those busy days and weeks) and save money by eating at home more (and wasting less).

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If you’d prefer to have the whole collection of made-for-you meal plans, organized shopping lists, no-brainer tips, PLUS over 3,800 recipes for today’s most popular ways of cooking and eating, pay just $20 more and you’ll get every single thing in this bundle.

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Healthy Meal Planning

Does Your Heart need a Total Christmas Makeover?

I absolutely love Christmas. I always have.

This year, however, as the blessed day draws nearer, I feel a tightening in my chest. A heaviness settling on my shoulders and my teeth grind just a bit harder. I feel it…the suffocating pressure for a solid Christmas “performance” in my home.

I don’t usually feel this way, but I think the year of working full time outside the home for the first time in over a decade, combined with re-acclimating to the American culture and mindset to Perfect-All-The-Things has left me feeling a bit drained and, if I’m totally honest, a bit on-guard.

And then, I received a copy of Total Christmas Makeover by Melissa Spoelstra in the mail.

You guys.

I may have cried my way through the first chapter because it was such a freeing reminder.

A reminder to remember.

To recall and ponder and mull over what Christmas is really all about.

This book of 31 short devotions starts each day off with a Scripture, and then Melissa walks through an encouraging, inspiring (and even somewhat convicting) devotional thought. She also includes a few questions for reflection.

But my favorite part—aside from the Scriptures—are the A Practical Approach sections at the end of each day. Melissa offers practical, hands-on, and simple ideas for incorporating meaningful traditions into your family’s holiday season. And, no, it’s not a bunch of Pinterest-perfect crafts, and activities that will make you want to pull your hair out. Some of them even call for removing some of the traditions that are no longer working for your family, or have lost some of their meaning.

Total Christmas Makeover is freeing, uplifting, and just the breath of Holiday fresh air this frazzled mama needed. Especially since my kids have all but outgrown the Advent activities we’ve used the past several years (which I still love, by the way), Melissa’s practical and easy ideas for making meaningful memories and traditions are particularly welcome.

I received a copy of Total Christmas Makeover for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

FREE for My Email Subscribers!

Something new here at This Gal’s Journey since we re-launched is I now have an email subscription! Once every couple of weeks, I send out an email with the latest from the blog, my favorite things from around the web, and more! I promise, it’s not spammy at all!

And now, for my amazingly awesome subscribers, I have a shiny new FREEBIE! When you subscribe, you’ll get my Messy Faith Manifesto for free! The Manifesto outlines the idea that none of us should walk this journey of faith alone.

Have you subscribed for my email newsletter? No? Just sign up here: http://eepurl.com/c3x7FT

From One Working Mom to Another

Although I’ve been a working mom for nearly all of my children’s lives, the majority of that employment was quite non-traditional. As I’ve ventured into the world of working outside the home again, I’ve struggled with lots of feelings from guilt to frustration to enjoyment.

I notice other working moms more readily, and I see in their eyes the same struggles I work to hind behind my own. Today, at The Better Mom, I’m sharing a letter from one working mom to another. I hope you’ll join me, and I pray it encourages you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve just clicked over here from The Better Mom, welcome! Grab a cuppa and take a look around! I hope you’ll find community, friendship, and encouragement here in our little corner of the Web.

The Blessing of A Bloom

This post first appeared on my old blog a few years ago. It’s message resonated with me today, so I wanted to share it with you again.

We planted it back at the beginning of summer. Along with the strawberries that never quite made it, and the sweet pea that bloomed in beauty.

It was the first of the three plants to sprout, and the excitement was palpable. Day after day we’d rush to the pot to see what progress had been made overnight. Then, it just…stopped. Long, green shoots waved in the breeze with nary a bud in sight. Eventually we surmised it was a dud. Or we did something wrong. It just wasn’t going to bloom, and that was that.

I really need to just throw that thing away, I’d tell myself each time I’d walk in or out of the front door. It’s just taking up space. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Then…one day the tips began to change; to look a little like wheat. Ooh, this is it! We all thought. It’s going to bloom after all! And yet, there it sat in it’s wheat-like state for week after week. Such a disappointment. It had so much potential. It served to taunt me of all my own failures; a daily reminder of all the things that had promised to bloom, only to come up short in my own life.

Or in her life over there…she’s been working at that for years with nothing to show for it. Hrmph. She doesn’t know when enough is enough does she?


The morning dawned bright and clear with a brisk chill in the wind. We headed out like any other day for school, groceries, coffees and friends. And we stopped in our tracks. There on that useless, dud of a failed plant was the most striking purple and yellow bloom – and there were four more buds surrounding it!

I stood and stared at that delicate bloom, tears stinging my eyes. As the squeals of my children’s delight wafted on the air around me, a Still Small Voice whispered in my heart of hearts –

This is a promise. For you.

My mind immediately flooded with the myriad of tasks He had called me to before. Some days, some years before. Dreams and visions, some of which had nigh faded into the oblivion of just another thing I must have heard wrong.

Yet, just as we never know what is going on just under the surface of a tree or flower, so can one never be sure what is churning, germinating, growing, pushing through just beneath the surface of a heart; of a soul. He has not forgotten those things to which He has called me. Or you. He has not sat back and hoped for the best. No. Just beneath the surface of it all, yes, even way down deep, He has been cultivating and pruning and working.

And He has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. To weave the beauty and passion, heartache and hardship, into a tapestry the likes of which are not to be found anywhere other than here. In this heart. It won’t make life perfect, pain free, flawless or easy. But it will ensure that not one thing will be for naught. Not one tear will be wasted. Not one prayer will float beyond His hearing.

This weaving, this working, this mysterious melding of mundane with glorious takes the toil, pain, joy and sorrow and works it to the very best for the one who places it all in the hands of the Weaver. And to be in His hand, His gentle yet infinitely strong hand…oh how that is the very best place to be.

So now, as I pass that pot time and time again in the comings and goings of this life of mine I am reminded of that promise. And I cling to the hope of things unseen. This heart flutters with anticipation of what is to come. Eager to see how the beauty blooming just beneath the surface will push through the filth and dirt and manure to burst forth in glorious color. For I know it is coming.

 

Everything You Need to Start a Blog

*This post contains affiliate links

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