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I love hearing stories of God's grace in the lives of others. I love it even more when it's someone I've watched walk through the pain and into a deeper understanding of the grace God gives us. I'm honored to have one of those special people sharing here today.

I first met Christy when she was my sister's roommate in college. Years later, I would work alongside her in a ministry office. I had no idea the pain that was hiding behind her beautiful (and consistent) smile every day. Christy's story reveals a pain I know so many have faced, and I'm thankful she's sharing her it here today...

Walking the path of heartache can be full of dark days, but, when offered to God, the beauty born in that darkness has divine purpose | thereisgrace.com

My first marriage was the most painful experience of my life but it’s also where I learned the depths of God’s love and healing. Because of that, I open my heart and let others see where I have traveled.

I married a man I met at Bible College and embarked on what I thought would be my dreams come true. Within the first year, I began to see signs of addiction but I didn’t have the life skills to truly recognize the red flags. So, I just kept thinking things would get back to normal.

By the third year, he was someone I didn’t know – from alcohol to drugs to pornography to gambling to unexplained absences and I had no idea what to do. I hid. I cried. I prayed. I stuffed those emotions that were desperate to get out.

Day after day, I prayed and clung to God in a way I never thought possible. Yet, there was no change and I was stuck relationally. I was a married woman living the life of a very single woman – spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially.

I went through years of heartbreak, disappointment and deception caused by the one man who swore to protect, cherish and love me. He broke every promise he ever made and, in the process, he broke my heart. I didn’t know the damage that was being done at the time because I was just trying to survive.

After seven years of this cycle, something clicked inside me and I decided it was time to leave. So, I moved back home and he went to a program called Teen Challenge.

During that year and a half he was in Teen Challenge, I started dealing with my pain and emotions. While working through the disappointment my life had become, I found that God still had many dreams He wanted to bring to pass. I went back to college to finish my associate’s degree. I began to blossom into me – a stronger me. It was the beginning of my independence and finding the woman God created.

After completing Teen Challenge, he did well for a few months but then relapsed. After ten years of marriage and no real change, I could no longer keep walking this road. I felt a release to move on without him.

I filed for divorce and moved to Missouri to finish my bachelor’s degree. It was really hard to leave my family and friends who had become my comfort and support system, but I knew it was time for the next season of my life.

Today, I stand on the other side of that whole experience a different person. I have met and married my soul mate – a word I could never truly use before. While I have other battles to face, my life is full and my heart is whole. Those years of brokenness not only gave me perspective, but I also learned some key lessons.

The enemy’s plan is to snuff out life, especially when it’s painful, but God’s plan is to grow beauty and purpose from pain. Walking the path of heartache can be full of dark days, but, when offered to God, the beauty born in that darkness has divine purpose. God grew me into a woman that solely depends on Him and has used my story to minister to others in a way it never could have had I not gone through that painful time.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)

When I was entangled in heartache, it was so easy to stop living, but God didn’t create me to just exist. Living through pain takes courage but it doesn’t have to be in my own strength. On the days I didn’t want to do life, I found that God’s sustaining strength was perfected in me through my weakness.

Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:19)

I could look back on those years and see them as wasted, but God doesn’t waste pain. In fact, He specializes in bringing the spectacular from pain. God has redeemed beyond what I lost in my first marriage and He has used my suffering to bring others to His healing hand.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

Christy is a city girl from Oklahoma who has converted to country living in Missouri with her husband, Dave. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, chocolate chip cookies and deep conversation. Christy blogs about her life experiences and how she walks out her faith in every season. Visit her at In the Making.

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There's nothing quite like a girls' weekend, am I right ladies? We all love our families, but there's something about being with people who don't need you to cut their meat or sign another permission slip. And it's all the better when those people are some of your dearest girlfriends...girls who share similar interests and with whom you can just be you... not mom, not homemaker, not chief cook and bottle washer...just a girl in cute shoes and a carefree smile.

I had the chance to do just that a couple of weeks ago. I spent three days with a few girlfriends (over 7,000 girlfriends, to be exact) at the Designed for Life Conference. It was an amazing time of worship, laughter, fun treats, and challenging messages. If you've never experienced a dynamic women's conference, here's why you should consider coming to Designed for Life next year:

7 Reasons You need to attend the Designed for Life conference | thereisgrace.com

Girl time: I promise you won't have to wipe anyone's nose or watch any Nick Jr. You can spend your whole time talking about frivolous things like shoes and handbags or dive into the deep end and discuss the deeper meanings of life.

The Boutique: Seriously, I'm not even a hard-core shopper, and I love the boutique! So much fun stuff...and you can shop as long as you want without having to take someone to the bathroom!

Fun Surprises: Pre-service games and giveaways to special gifts and parting treats. You'll be thrilled and treasured all at the same time. If gifts is your love language, do NOT miss this conference!

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Special thanks to my friends for letting me hijack their cute pic! ;)

Connection: Whether you come with a group or by yourself, you'll find unexpected friendships born and established friendships grow deeper. If you end up coming alone, don't worry, there's The Meeting Place where you can connect with other girls. Who knows, you might just make a lifelong friend!

Amazing worship: From the first note, worship at DFL is full-on. There's no "building up to the final session." The DFL worship team comes to worship from the get-go. If you're not ready to jump in at first, don't worry, you will be soon!

Challenging speakers: Chris Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Charlotte Gambill...these are the powerhouse women who brought God's Word to the conference this year. They are world-renown, quality teachers of the Word. And they did not disappoint. Check out the speakers for next year's conference...you don't want to miss it.

God moments: There's something about getting away from the normal routine of life and setting aside time to focus on God and all that He has for you. Yes, God speaks to us in our everyday moments, but I believe it's in those moments we truly set aside for Him that He can do even greater things in us. That's what DFL is all about.

Each session this year felt like the message was specifically targeted to me, personally, and my situation. And I talked to so many other girls who felt the same way. Only God could do that, and that's ultimately what makes DFL a conference worth coming to...God shows up and meets you where you are.

I realize a big conference isn't everyone's "thing." If that's you, I understand. But I want to encourage you to not let your personal preference keep you from all that God has for you. You will be a better woman, wife, mother, employee, and friend when you go back home. Because no one can encounter God for three days straight and not leave changed.

DFL Recap - 2015 Promo from James River Church on Vimeo.

Check out what's in store for DFL 2015.

Alright, DFL sisters...these were only 7 reasons. What are your favorite reasons for coming to DFL? What was your favorite DFL memory? Let me hear from you!

 

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My love affair with fall flavors is no secret. Each year when the leaves begin to turn and there's a hint of crispness in the air, I get an uncontrollable urge to bake. I don't just stick with tried-and-true recipes, either. I scour Pinterest for the latest concoction of fall delicacies. In fact, I've got an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to it!

I'm not picky, either...if it's got apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, or any combination of them, I'll try it. That usually makes my family nervous...especially my husband whose mantra is, "If it's not broke, don't fix it" (meaning, don't mess with what already works). But I like to branch out and try new things. Most of the time it turns out well. Sometimes it doesn't.

Then there are those moments when you find...perfection. One recipe that becomes a staple each season. One that you look forward to making...and sharing...and eating every year. Like this decadent Apple Spice Cake that has served my family well for more than 10 years.

Sure, you could make this cake anytime with your average, store-bought apples. And it will be good. But it won't be the same as making it in the fall with fresh, locally-grown apples...yum!

A nut-free recipe for Apple Spice Cake with options for egg-free/dairy-free. Perfect for Fall!

That's why I'm sharing the recipe for Foodie Friday over at Missouri Women Bloggers. Hop on over to check it out; you won't be disappointed! (Yes, it's got sugar, and for those who know me...no, I didn't eat any this year!) ;)

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It's officially Fall...my FAVORITE time of year. Here in the Midwest, that means cooler weather, warm beverages, pumpkin yumminess, and of course, the seasonal clothing switch-out.

Unless you have closets the size of my garage, you know what I mean: twice a year (in the spring and in the fall) you pack away all your off-season clothes and unpack appropriate wear for the upcoming season (good-bye flip flops; hello hoodies and boots!).

If you have children who are still growing, you know this is also a great opportunity to take inventory of what still fits and what needs to be purchased before the temperature drops too far. And, if you have kids in that age range, you're familiar with the concept of a children's consignment sale--an event where mothers can bring clothing, toys, books, DVDs, electronics, etc. their children have outgrown and offer them up for a reasonable price (usually). For a mom, it's a great way to clean out those closets, make a little cash, and stock your child's entire wardrobe for the upcoming season.

And that is exactly what I do.

There's just one problem: once I'm in this giant sale, with so many cute outfits and adorable shoes, my eyes glaze over and I go garage-sale crazy. You know the condition...it's usually preceded by such statements as: "I'm not sure this will fit her, but it's only $3!" And "I doubt he'll ever wear this, but how can I pass it up? It's such a great deal!"

Yes, my friends: Garage Sale Crazy.

That is how we end up with 247  shirts (195 of which are black with a cute character on the front), but only 3 pair of pants for each child.

After years of this struggle, I've determined I need a plan going into such situations. I can no longer rely on my memory alone to guide me. I need a list (oh, how I do love lists!).

So, I created one. (Actually, I created two...one for boys, one for girls.)

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

Ever wished you had a list of the clothes your child needs for the upcoming season. Well, here you go! Free printable of Fall clothing for boys and girls | www.thereisgrace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then I thought, Hey. I bet other moms could use the same thing.

So I decided to share it with you.

Whether you use it for a consignment sale, garage/yard sale shopping, or just tuck it in your purse in case you hit a sale at the mall, I hope you find it helpful.

You can track of the basics your children still need (undies, socks, PJs, shirts, pants), plus how many and what colors. (Anyone else ever end up with 15 pair of white leggings, when you really need brown?)

There's also a place for seasonal items like holiday outfits and snow suit/boots so you won't be the mom at Target the night before the big snow storm, fighting over the last pair of size 2 snow boots. ;)

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Click to download: Fall Clothes Printable-BOYS, Fall-Clothes-Printable-GIRLS

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Don't let the title fool you...I have never been Miss American anything! Today, I am honored to welcome my good friend Casey Gibbons of Realife Casey.

I first met Casey more than 15 years ago when she began attending the youth ministry where I volunteered. As I got to know Casey over the next few years, a great friendship blossomed and grew. We have spent hours talking about ministry and writing, sharing motherhood woes and triumphs,  and walking through personal and physical challenges together. Now, we have the privilege of watching our children grow in friendship (a blessing to this Mama, for sure!).

As a wife, mom to 6, writer, ministry leader, and blogger, Casey is one of those "how does she do it all?" women. But she's the first to tell you she relies heavily on grace (and admit sometimes it doesn't all get done!) She remains as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and she has graciously allowed me to share this post (from June 2013) about her experience as Miss American Teen. Please welcome, my  friend Casey Gibbons:

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As a former pageant girl, you can imagine my excitement when I turned on the TV last night to check the weather only to find that the Miss USA competition was just begininng! It was perfect timing. My husband was already in bed so I didn't have to turn it off due to immodesty and my five little girls were in bed so I didn't have to have a two hour training session on finding confidence aside from how a person looks. It was just me and the tv.

Although pageants are much different than when I participated, a flash of memory lane rushed through my body. It was 15 years ago that I was crowned Miss American Teen 1998 in Orlando, FL. It was a dream come true for my 18 yr old world. After months of hard work preparation and competition, God allowed me to win the national title. Yes, I cried. My family cheered. My hometown celebrated. My school friends went fan crazy. And I spent the next year going all over the country speaking, helping causes, serving communities, and living it up best I could.

Without boring most of you, all I can say about my pageant experiences was that I had the time of my life. My whole family participated with all the excitement. For us, it was making memories and doing something together. And I learned how to handle myself in public speaking and formal settings. I was challenged in my ability to lead in the community and in my school with grades and participation. My body was held accountable and my mind was sharpened during those days. In addition, I made a ton of friends and was able to share Christ to hundreds of girls.

Fast forward to now. As my eyes are glazed over thinking about my time "conquering the world" with a young in-shape body, glamorous clothes, fancy food, high-rise hotels, personal makeup and hair artists, talent shows and fame, I am keenly aware of my current state of being.

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My body has given birth to five children, my clothes are worn out Pj's, my food tonight is animal crackers and yogurt served in a Veggie Tales bowl, my housing arrangement is a low-rise that smells like rotten eggs from the soaking pan days old, my hair hasn't been washed in four days, I haven't worn an ounce of makeup for over two weeks, my talent consists of rocking my coughing toddler back to sleep, and I am now famous among needy EGR (extra grace required) teenage girls who are texting me even though we just got home from being together for a week.

Yes, life is different now. But I am writing today with good news! There is a verse Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that challenges me.

I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I have learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I am just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I have found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:11-13, The Message)

There is such a strength in being content in all circumstances. Although I had wonderful memories from my pageant days, I can be content in the current stage of life! My joy and satisfaction comes from the Lord, not in how outward things are going for me. As I sit here looking and feeling completely different than 15 years ago, I am still full of joy at the place God has me. This doesn't make sense in natural thinking but it's true! As long as you are where God wants you to be doing what He wants you to do then you will be okay!

Don't fret friends! Don't look to your past accomplishments and wishful thinking for the "old days". God has a plan for you TODAY in the workplace, the home, the school, the church, the store, on vacation, and anywhere else you find yourself! You may be have different circumstances but God is with you! Because of the joy that can only come by God's grace, I am loving my life and you can too! There is no need to wait for things to "be like they used to be" so we can be happy again. Life changes. Things happen. We have a promise from the Lord that He is with us and will give us all we need to face life as it is, today!

So, I don't know about you but I am embracing my place in the world I now live in. I am not 18 and I am not a pageant girl. But what I am is a woman who is content is all cirmcumstances at all times as the Lord gives me strength.

I praise Him for the past, lean on Him in the present and look with anticipation for the future! And my prayer is that you will too.

caseyCasey is author of A Girl's Life with God and well-known speaker to girls of all ages. She has been married to her best friend, Scotty, for 14 years. They have five daughters, ages 12, 10, 9, 7, and 4, and they welcomed their first son this summer!  Casey blogs about motherhood, ministry, home education, and life in general at Realife Casey!

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This summer, my family and I visited the beach. That's a pretty big deal for this Midwestern girl. I can probably count on two hands the times I've seen the ocean up close and personal.

As every girl knows, a trip to the beach requires a new swimsuit...which, of course, means the dreaded trip to find a new swimsuit. Such a trip would have been traumatic enough in my 20s as I would have lamented over my not-so-supermodel physique. (Oh, the things we worry about in our 20s!) It would have been slightly more troubling in my 30s as I attempted to camouflage the effects of birthing two babies and the toll those babies had taken on my body. But in my 40s...

Well, in my 40s one would hope it would have been different.

I've heard it said, and I believe it to be true, that after 40 you really don't care what others think. Sure, I'd like to look like Cindy Crawford, but that ain't gonna happen. I've stopped holding on to the dream. I have finally found comfort in my own skin and come to grips with my own physique...cue the victory parade!

But now I faced a new obstacle: scars.

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My first surgery in 2010 left me with a 6-inch scar running down the back of my left thigh. Of course I know it's there, but since it's on the back of my leg and it's faded over the last few years, it's easy to forget about. This time, however, there was a new scar, and this one wasn't so easy to hide...my port.

For those who don't know, a port is a small device implanted just under the skin for the purpose of delivering chemotherapy drugs. While I am thankful to have had it during chemo, I wasn't looking forward to toting it along on my vacation. It's implanted right under my right collar bone, so it was easy to cover up with clothing through the long, cold winter. But now it was swim suit season. That was a whole new ball game.

Unlike the one on the back of my leg, this was one scar I could not ignore. When someone looked at my face, there it was...a few inches below my chin, looking like it was about to burst out from under my skin. It was unmistakable. It was unavoidable.

That is when I decided...it would just have to be seen, and I (and everyone at Ft. Walton Beach) would just have to live with it!

Strangely enough, it didn't bother me once my feet hit the sand. :) I figured those who didn't know what it was could probably care less. And those who did know what it was...well, they would understand.

They would know that it's more than an ugly protrusion under my skin.

More than a disfigurement.

It's a physical marker of the battle I am waging. A weapon in my arsenal.

That's the thing about scars...those of us who have them understand what they represent. We don't see the ugly or the imperfection. We see the struggle. The fight. The victory.

As I type this, I am recovering from yet another surgery, and I have yet another scar. Before all is said and done, I'll likely have two more.

I don't like scars. Not because they're ugly, but because they represent pain. Deep pain. Pain no one should have to endure.

They remind us of a time when we were weak, vulnerable.

And for that reason, I'm learning to appreciate my scars. I don't know that I'll ever grow to love them. But I pray I will always remember what they represent...

"My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10)

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While I am recovering from surgery this week, my lovely friend, Kristianne, is stopping by to grace us with her beautiful words. I first met Kristianne in January when I received one of her Compassion Bags. We spoke on the phone a few weeks later and I knew it was a friendship born in heaven. Over the last few months, we have spoken often--sharing our hearts, baring our souls, and covering one another in prayer.

Kristianne is the founder of Compassion That Compels, an amazing ministry to women who are battling cancer. You really need to go check out her web site and hear her heart for women!

But first...I'd like you to meet my friend, Kristianne...

love-smells

Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

love-smell-1Grace’s ringlet curls wrapped around her spangly bracelets as she leaned across our bubble gum tea party. She wiggled her index finger in the space between our faces. “C’mere, mommy…real close and breathe big with me,” and we did as if together, we could breathe in tiny moments like solid molecules.

“Mmmm…I love you. You stink really good today, mommy.” Of course, I completely understood that it was the scent of my perfume but what Grace really smelled was my love.

Everybodys love smells different.

love-smells-2My Italian grandma was never a gushing geyser of sentiments but I do remember the endless flow of Little Debbies that grew within the pockets of her flowered, polyester housecoat and sent me on cream filling waves across her kitchen linoleum to the gold, shag-carpeted guest room. I never knew what treasures waited behind the real imitation wood closet doors with their shiny brass knobs. There were always stacks of toys, games, and primary-colored, striped clothes that, if they were too big for me, I could pass to my older sister and too small, given to a younger cousin.

My grandmas love smelled like a mix of garlic and mothballs.

In the Old Testament, around the time of the battles between the ites and the ambivalent Israelites, animal sacrifices were pleasing aromas to God. I’ve read the New Testament starting with the red letters enough to know what Jesus saw, heard, tasted, touched but what did Jesus smell?

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  (2 Corinthians 2:16)

Lazarus was dead for four days

A woman with an issue of blood for 12 years

Legion and his tomb dwelling demons

And how about that mid-dinner pedi Jesus did for all of his disciples? 

Let’s face it, what Jesus had to smell would leave us gagging. Nowhere do we read about Jesus priming his hand sanitizer bottle or getting into a Febreze spraying frenzy after each encounter.

Not a mention of what He smelled, because maybe what Jesus smelled was love.

Live a life filled with love following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.     (Ephesians 5:2)

Retracing the steps across and around the decades of my life, I see first my 20’s “if God loved me.” Then, 30’s “when he loves me”. Now in my 40’s and no longer an “unsecure person”,  but firmly rooted in faith and realizing that grace isn’t acquired like a scouting merit badge, it’s because He is love.

He loves me because God is love, and to Jesus, I hopefully stink really good.

kristianneKristianne is a writer, speaker and founder of Compassion That Compels. Her life of love is filled to overflowing for her husband Royal, and their daughters Grace and Annelise. Collecting people and gardening are among her passions. Painting lives in brilliant hues of God’s love and compassion is her purpose. Join Kristianne on Facebook Compassion That Compels. Follow her on Twitter Kristiannefaith and Instagram.

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Last weekend someone mentioned to me that they hadn't seen anything from my blog in their inbox lately. They were starting to worry and asked if they might have inadvertently unsubscribed from my blog.  I assured them that, no, they had not unsubscribed; the lack of correspondence was entirely my fault.

In case you, too, have noticed the crickets around here over the last several weeks, I thought I'd share what I have been up to. Plus, two exciting announcements at the end...don't miss them!:

Last month my daughter and I went to camp . It was awesome, as you can see:

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We barely had time to do laundry and catch up on sleep before we piled into our van for a two-day road trip so we could do this...

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And this...

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Ah....those were the days.

We arrived home just in time for a quick visit from family before we began the mad dash to the first day of school. Every year, I forget how crazy the days can be leading up to the start of school: shopping for supplies, shopping for clothes, organizing supplies, and preparing for 180 days of packed lunches. (Are you in the midst of the craziness and in need of inspiration? Check out my Back to School board on Pinterest!)

It's a wonder we made it to the first day, but we did--successfully sending them off to 4th and 1st grades!

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Of course, in the midst of it all, there were the ongoing doctor's visits, scans, and check-ups that come with battling cancer, plus the changes in our diet and lifestyle to support our ongoing battle.

Whew! Just writing it all down wears me out! So, now that we're all caught up let's get on to the announcements (insert drumroll here)...

The first BIG announcement: I will be having surgery next Tuesday, August 26 to remove the first of the three tumors! While surgery is never fun and always a little scary, we are excited about this for a couple of reasons: 1) We were told last year we wouldn't get to this point...but, of course, we know that GOD IS BIGGER than cancer!! 2. This is the first time in a year that ALL my doctors are on the same page...a miracle in its own right! :)

While I will be posting on occasion, my main focus will be on recovery in the next few weeks. So I've asked a few friends to stop in from time to time and grace us with a guest post. I'm excited about hearing from them...you won't want to miss it!

As I go into surgery next week, I would greatly appreciate your prayers, especially for the following: Logistics--we have a fantastic support system, but there is still a lot of juggling involved to accommodate everyone's schedules and specific needs;  Peace--we know God is going before us, but there are moments of anxiety when one is facing surgery of any kind; Healing--We are praying for an easier-than-expected procedure--free from any complications--and for a quick recovery. Thank you!

Now, for the second BIG announcement....

Unshakable-coming-soon 500

It's coming...MY GOD'S STORY!! There are still some details to work out, and of course the timeline will have to accommodate surgery and recovery, but I couldn't stand to keep it a secret any longer!

If you want to be among the first to know when it's available (and receive special discounts), subscribe by entering your e-mail in the sidebar!

So, what have you been up to this summer?
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My daughter and I head to church camp next week. Am I crazy to voluntarily spend four days with a group of 4th and 5th grade girls at age 41? Maybe. But I know how important a camp experience is for kids (if you want to know how important, read this post.) I also realize in a few short years my girl won't want me tagging along to camp. So when she said she wanted me be a leader again this year, I signed us both up! (And who are we kidding...I love camp!)

Sitting in the leadership training last weekend, I realized that in my many years of camp experience, I've encountered several "rock star" leaders. These are the leaders who made camp memorable and successful for the campers, the other leaders, and even the camp staff.

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I've also seen some who, well...didn't. If you've been to camp, there's a good chance you've seen them, too...

My Way or the Highway Ray
Ray has certain preferences and doesn't mind telling you about them. He doesn't like potatoes, so he gripes about the food. He's not a morning person, so he grumbles about the 7:00 am staff meetings. He's not big on getting wet, so he thinks the water games are lame...and he lets everyone know. Don't be this guy: Check your preferences at the door. Be a team player, and remember it's not about you! Don't like the top bunk? Determine you will love it for this week. (And dream about your own, comfy bed waiting for you at home!)

Clueless Carissa
Carissa's group is always late and never where they're supposed to be. It's not because she's new; it's because she's unaware and uninformed. She's always one step behind her group so the more seasoned campers discover they can walk right over her, which they do mercilessly. Don't be this girl: Be informed; read the rules and attend leadership training and meetings. Talk to other leaders and discover the no-nos and the must-dos. Most of all, remember you are the leader and follow the advice of my high school youth pastor: "When in doubt, take charge!"

Party Marty
Marty is all fun all the time. The campers love him, and he's a big hit from the cafeteria to the activity field. So what's the problem? He doesn't know when to stop. His group is rowdy and out of control. They quickly learn to not take anything (including safety and rules) seriously. Camp leadership can't trust him and end up spending valuable time and resources keeping on eye on him. Don't be this guy: Be the adult. Have fun, but be responsible. When it's time to be serious, lead by example. When it's time to sleep, bring the energy level down and get some sleep yourself. Then when it's time for fun, lead the way and party on!

Militant Marsha
Marsha is all business, no play. Her girls know the sound of her whistle (or shriek), and fall in accordingly. They march from event to event and eat in silence. They win the Cleanest Bunk award every year (you can bounce a quarter off those bunks!) They are the first to each activity and set out to win every event (and if they don't, their leader is a poor loser.) Don't be this girl: Relax, and have fun. This isn't the army; it's not even the Girl Scouts. There's nothing wrong with winning events or having a clean bunk, but that's not really the end-goal of camp. Remember, it's OK to cut loose and have a little fun, too!

Rock Star Rick and Rebecca
Rick and Rebecca used vacation time to come to camp, but they realize this week is anything but a vacation; it's not about them...it's about the campers. They came ready to build relationships and invest in others. You'd never know they "aren't the outdoorsy type" because they put on their big-boy and big-girl pants when they got on the bus. They are encouraging of others and cheer on the campers whether they are winning or losing. The campers love them...especially those who started out shy and withdrawn (because Rick and Rebecca made a point to draw them in.) They came ready to work hard and serve others. They eagerly jump in wherever they're needed. That's why they're heroes, not only to the campers, but to the staff as well. Rick and Rebecca make every camp experience a success!

Do you have any rock-star camp experiences (either as a leader or a camper)?

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase The Veggie Book from the link below, I receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you.

Until recently, my veggie repertoire consisted of canned green beans and frozen corn. If I was feeling especially fancy, I'd throw some corn cobs on the grill, or chop up a salad. (Yes, be jealous of my culinary skills.) I knew veggies are good for me and my family, but I didn't know how to select or prepare them so that they were anything but tolerable. Now, I'm happy to say, I've introduced my family to new foods, including veggies, and to my surprise, even my one anti-veggie child has started eating them...he actually asked for salad the other night. I'd say that's a victory!

I didn't do it alone, however. Our recent journey into healthier eating has not only opened my eyes to new foods (and ways to prepare them), it's also led me to many new resources. One of those resources is The Veggie Book. This is more than just a cookbook. It's like having your own personal Veggie Coach (who doesn't need one of those, right?).

the-veggie-book

Here's what I love about this book:

It's simple. I'm still adjusting to this new way of shopping and eating, and it can honestly become overwhelming at times. The Veggie Book is chocked full of veggies I am familiar with...whether it's new ways to prepare old favorites or highlighting veggies I've heard of, but never been brave enough to buy or prepare. No dandelion greens or gai lan here. Chances are you've heard of every single vegetable in this book. You've probably seen them time and again in the produce section of your grocery store. And, if you're like me, you've thought Hmmm, I should get that, but I have no idea what to do with it! That excuse will no longer fly, my friend!

It's thorough. The Veggie Book is a collaboration of three author-moms who tested the 52+ recipes on their own husbands and kids. In addition to the tried-and-true recipes, The Veggie Book gives you information on each vegetable's nutrition (because how many of us really know why we should eat more asparagus?!), how to select good produce (can I hear an "amen"?!) plus tips for washing, storing, and preparing it. They also include tips for making stock, seasoning your dishes, and which veggies are important to purchase organic.

It's affordable. A new adventure in eating healthy is expensive enough...with all the new foods, testing new recipes, and initial moves to whole, healthier foods. I know the payoff is worth it, but I think anyone would agree the first steps can seem overwhelming mentally and financially. Moms, at only $9.95, it's a great deal for a priceless weapon in your culinary arsenal. (Seriously, I made the Buttered Cabbage for dinner last night, and my husband had seconds...seconds on cabbage!)

In case you're still not convinced, the authors of The Veggie Book have offered to give one of you, my dear readers, a copy of their book! See details below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a  free copy of  The Veggie Book for my honest review.
As always, opinions  stated are 100% mine.

Happy Eating!
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