How the Gospel Changes Things and Bible Study Ideas

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Have you ever had the insatiable need to hear from God? I had this need earlier in the week to abandon all distractions and get alone with God and my Bible. It seemed like I lived this week at a constant race pace and I was beginning to stress myself out to the maximum. The end of the year can be rough and even rougher are the unknowns about planning for a new school year (especially when a wrench has been thrown into your supposed plan.)

For me the urge to get alone with God can sometimes go unfulfilled due to a busy schedule and constantly having a toddler in tow, but I’ve had enough! No more putting off the time I need for myself to grow closer to God for some planned activity or event. I focused on what really mattered and got myself secluded and alone with God.

On my way home from work I organized my essentials. I had my Bible, journal, pens, and stopped at my favorite drive thru for the essential coffee 🙂 I drove to a serene and quiet location, rolled down the windows, and turned off the radio. I had aimed at creating the best atmosphere for myself to really listen to God without the worry of being distracted. With a few moments to spare before needing to relieve the baby sitter I sat in the presence of God.

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At first I was quiet. I waited for God to prompt my heart with a thought and direction. Once I felt like God had given me a clear purpose for this encounter I began a journey through the scriptures. Some were scriptures I felt him calling me to and others came from using the tools in my Bible and Bible app (She Reads Truth) to guide me. After I read through God’s Word and how it aligned with my current circumstance and subject I talked to God about my life.

I guess I should just come right out and say that God was calling me to re-examine the Gospel. For too long I’ve been living as if the Gospel is not the GOOD NEWS that its name refers to. I’ve been burdening myself which keeps me from experiencing the freedom of grace. I’ve allowed myself to view the Gospel as something that I don’t need a daily reminder of when in actuality the only healthy way to see the Gospel is to remember its purpose and impact DAILY.

What is the Gospel? The Gospel loosely means, The GOOD NEWS. This news is that while we are still sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Our sinfulness had separated us from God, but God sent His Son who was blameless to receive our guilt so that we could have a relationship with God and the opportunity to enter into eternity with our Father in Heaven (John 3:16)

Why did God do this? God did not choose to save me or anyone else because of anything we had done. Just like everyone else I am a screw up. I’ve never done anything to earn my welcome into God’s family except accepting that gift. Jesus never said that He came for those who had their life together, read their Bibles, went to church every Sunday, had only Christian friends, and never used curse words…luckily for me! On the contrary in Matthew 9:12-13 Jesus says that he came for the sick and the sinners. Amen, because that’s me!

God sent His Son to give us an example of true love and to give us hope in a broken and lost world. Lately, I’ve done a terrible job remembering the Gospel. It is so fundamental to the life of every Christian, but it is all too often overlooked. We zero-in on our current circumstances or get stressed out about things of no consequence and neglect the joy that should be present at all times in our lives. Instead of claiming Christ and His victory in my life I’ve been claiming defeat and accepting failure.

During this encounter God really dealt with my heart and showed me ways that I am allowing my own anxiety to steal my joy and rob me of the peace that accepting the Gospel is all about. The beauty of the Gospel is that once you’ve repented and been forgiven the sin is done. You don’t have to continue on sinning or fear that you’ve fallen so far that God can’t help you. I no longer need to live defeated or battle with the anxiety that weighs me down. Because I have accepted Christ the Spirit lives within me and I need only to allow Him to work in my life. I need to surrender control of my life and trust God and His ways for me.

One way I have resolved to encounter God more in ways like I did this week is by committing to a Bible reading plan. After quite some time sifting through reading plans on the internet I found one that seemed appealing. I won’t lie, I’ve been down this road before. God has convicted me that I haven’t been making the Bible a huge priority so I set out to fulfill some version of “The Bible in a Year” plan. With good intentions I begin the plan, but after an illness, trip, or busy day I fall behind and accept defeat. This time around I’m going a different route. Being an avid reader, English teacher, and one with a minor in Bible I decided to try an genre based reading plan. If I can maintain the pace I should be able to read through the entire Bible in one year, but if it takes me longer it won’t kill me. The difference about this plan is that each day you are reading something different than the day before. The daily plans are based on different genres so one day you may read a Psalm excerpt, while the next the focus may be on prophetic literature. I find this appealing because it first of all keeps my attention and second of all exposes me to various types of writings in one week.

With this being the beginning of my summer vacation I think that there is no better time to try out some sort of reading plan. I found this reading plan on a blog by a man named Alex Tran. I am nearly a week in and I love it! God is already teaching me so much and my life is beginning to resemble joy and peace once more. If you are convicted or in the market for a Bible plan please check out some of the Bible plans and options listed on Alex’s site. Here is a look at the plan I am doing, but he has an article titled, 23 Reading Plans to Satisfy Anyone.

Genre Reading Plan:

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Please share how the Gospel has affected your perspective and any Bible Reading plans that have worked for you!

Motivating Momma: Autumn

Since May is a month of celebrating mothers I have been working on my first ever interview series for my blog called Motivating Mommas. One thing that I have learned that is vital to motherhood is finding other mothers who encourage you and inspire you to be better. I tend to seek wisdom from women who have been where I am and made it through. If you are interested in appearing in this series on my blog please let me know!

When I began my journey in blogging I could have never imagined the friendships I would form with women near and far. My blog has offered opportunities for me to encourage and be encouraged by women all over the world. There are some women I have begun to correspond with on a regular basis and today I would like to share one of them with you.

Autumn is a motivating momma. She has overcome many obstacles in her life and still maintains the energy and patience that raising a toddler requires. She oftentimes posts about her journey through motherhood on her blog Welcome to My World, a blog about life, love, loss, and cancer. I find her blog particularly motivating because I can relate to so much. Our daughters are the same age and going through many of the same phases at the same time. I love to see what works in her household and communicate back and forth about our lives. I know that we don’t know each other beyond the blogging world, but I consider her a friend.

Please take a few minutes and read through my interview with Autumn. Also, check out the link above to see her blog.

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1. How many kids do you have and what are their ages?

I have three children. My step-son Logan is 15, our son Mason is in Heaven and he would be 3 1/2 and our daughter Avery is 2 ½

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in the early stages of motherhood?

I had quite a few but I think lack of sleep was very hard on me. Since I was going through chemo until Avery was 3 months old I was doubly exhausted. I really did practice sleep when the baby sleeps. Not every time she slept but probably more than I would have if I would have felt better. Luckily she would sleep for a good three hours in-between feedings and on the weekends or if my husband had off we would take turns and do every other night so we could both get some sleep.

3. What lessons did you learn from your own mother?

I would say the biggest was that it was perfectly fine to stay at home with my daughter. I had worked ever since I started high school and sometimes two jobs. I had never planned on staying home because I didn’t think it would be possible. When I was pregnant with my son I started to think that I eventually wanted to stay home with him. After I had our daughter I went back to work but with daycare issues we decided it would be better if I stayed home with her. It has definitely been a transition from working to staying at home but I feel that we made the best choice for our family.

4. What is your most recent struggle as a mother?

The most recent struggle I have is wondering whether I am enough for my daughter. We try and get out and socialize and do educational things but I always wonder if I am giving her enough. I am by no means a teacher but I do my best. I have thought about trying to find a daycare for her one or two days a week but I am undecided on that.

5. What is the most meaningful lesson you have learned about being a mother?

Patience. I am/was the most inpatient person. Both of my children have taught me to have more patience and just take it easy. After we lost our son and even when I was pregnant with him I realized I needed to slow down and enjoy life more. With my daughter I definitely have more patience than I ever did before. We love to go outside and go for walks or blow bubbles. Things I would have never taken time for before I had kids. I am so grateful to both of my kids for teaching me this very important lesson.

6. What advice would you give to a new mom?

I would have to say listen to your baby. You know your baby better than any book or anyone for that matter. Definitely don’t let someone make you feel bad for your decisions because every baby is different. I thought I was going to follow every parenting book to a tee. I finally started doing things that worked for Avery and things started going better. Yes, I did some things a little earlier than what is suggested like feeding her cereal but she was crying because she was so hungry and she spit up a lot. The crying would start around 5:00 p.m. and go for about an hour. I decided I couldn’t listen to her cry anymore because I felt so bad for her. The more formula she was given the more she would spit up. After giving her a little cereal in the evening she quit crying as much and her spitting up got better. I couldn’t believe the change in her. She was so happy!

7. How do you make time for yourself despite the demands and pace of motherhood?

My alone time usually consists of exercising which it totally fine with me. Whether it’s hiking, going for a walk or the gym I always try to get at least four days of exercise in a week. I am lucky because my dad has workout equipment at his house so I can go over there and workout and he will watch my daughter for me. I also get my hair done probably once a month. I normally would not be going that much but I am totally gray Sometimes writing is my alone time. Most of the time I am writing with my daughter crawling all over me. If my husband is home I can sneak upstairs or outside and write. It’s so funny because even though it can be frustrating having Avery crawl on me when I am writing I miss her when she is not around.

8. What is your favorite part of motherhood?

My favorite part. There are seriously so many. When I am showing Avery something new and she starts to understand I just love that. I love being able to teach her things and I love how excited she gets when she understands something. I also love the cuddles and that right now I am her bff. Avery has always loved to cuddle and it is great! Okay I couldn’t pick one 😉

9. Do you have any established family routines?

With Avery we go to the park or go to the YMCA and go swimming. I love going swimming together. With Logan we do have some shows we watch together and we usually make popcorn and just hang out.

10. What are three fun (non-motherhood) facts about you?

Three fun non-motherhood facts. Hmmm.

I have only been on a plane twice and that was to fly to San Diego and back home with two of my best girlfriends. We weren’t there for long but we it was a blast. We ate, drank, shopped and hung out. It was a total girl’s trip and I loved every minute of it!

Not sure if this fun but it is probably kind of funny. I just purchased my first pair of leggings a couple of months ago. I am positive that now that I have some they will go out of style. The same gal that convinced me to buy the leggings asked me if I wanted to try on jeggings but I am not ready for jeggings.

I am an only child. It is fun but it can still be lonely at times.

Summer Party Maxi Dress

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There are so many things I love about summer. The long evenings, the beautiful sun, the great outdoors, and the functionality of the maxi dress. For years I have been intimidated by the long dresses in the shops. On hangers, each one looks like it is double my height and would never fit me in my wildest dreams. I am of meager stature, so the idea of one dress covering from shoulders to toe seemed to me as though it may highlight my lack of height. But, one day all of my prejudices toward maxi dresses were proven incorrect when I got the guts to try one on at TJ Maxx. I instantly fell in love with the light-weight, easy appeal of the dress. And ever since my first maxi dress purchase I have continued to seek out new dresses in fun patterns and colors.

Another thing I enjoy about the maxi dress is the fact that they are accepted attire for nearly every event. At school, I throw a cardigan over the top to give it the professional look. For a day in the park or outdoors the maxi dress is fine without any additions. For evening parties, dates, or bonfires a maxi dress looks great with a denim jacket or light cover-up. Maxi dresses are so versatile it’s ridiculous. I’m a fan of fun and colorful patterns so the dress above is one of my favorites and go-to summer party dresses.

Do you have a summer outfit staple?

An Inspiration Board (for a reader)

One of my more recent struggles has been to come up with the perfect gift for my little sister on her graduation day. My sister is so important and unique to me that I wanted to find the perfect gift to show her how much I care. For weeks I scoured Pinterest and top blog sites, but to no avail. Last week after many failed attempts at locating a gift idea I had a plan. My master plan was to take my sister out for coffee and figure out exactly what she wanted and get that for her.

Over the course of our coffee experience I tried to pick apart our conversation and even on multiple occasions came right out and asked her what she hoped to receive, but my stubborn sister refused to give me any ideas. That night I racked my brain trying to come up with the perfect gift. I started a list of all things I knew my sister liked:

-coffee

-books

-reading

-writing

-fashion

And after a good fifteen minutes or so of staring blankly at the list I began to form an idea in my head that included many aspects of her hobbies and personality. I decided to create an inspiration board for her office/study room that is inspired by the books that she reads and the wisdom she gains from her personal reading adventures.

I hopped into the car and took a journey to the nearest Hobby Lobby. In a matter of ten minutes I had loaded my cart with cute paper, a frame, washi tape, a stamp, an ink pad, index cards, duct tape, tacks, and four cork boards.

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The first step in the process involved decorating the index cards. I turned them from drab to fab with duct tape, washi tape, and a stamp. I chose a coffee mug stamp because of her passion for a good cup of coffee and then used a teal ink pad for the stamp because I know she likes the color a lot. I didn’t want the ink to be too bold because my hope was that she would use the index cards to record wisdom and quotes from the books she reads. The teal ink pad I chose provided more of a water-mark appearance. It turned out exactly as I’d hoped.

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The next step in the process involved me lining one side of each cork board with a strip of the duct tape. Once again simple duct tape embellishment made a boring, plain cork board more aesthetic and charming. Lastly, I used a sheet of burlap, chevron scrapbook paper and measured it to fit into the 8×10 frame that I found. On the frame I recorded a quote that I knew she would appreciate:

“To read is to live a thousand lives…” (this quote is a conglomeration of several quotes. I found it online.)

My husband and I broke into my parents’ house while they were dropping off my sister at graduation (not really, we have a key) and we mounted and hung the inspiration board on the wall.

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My sister is planning to major in English. She is an avid reader and loves to record quotes from her favorite books. This is a passion we both share and a big part of our relationship. I think it is only fitting to provide her an organized and coordinated location to hang her notes of wisdom.

I’m definitely not the most crafty and artistic person, but I really enjoy gifting personalized originals that come from the heart. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my sister’s intellectual spirit and passion for reading.

Have you ever made or received a personalized gift? Please share in the comments below!

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Monday Menu: Italian Meatball Soup

This recipe is a quick and easy soup similar to Italian Wedding Soup as it features meatballs, noodles, and broth. This is a kid-friendly meal (my daughter loves it) and I can whip this up quickly for a busy night. I hope you enjoy!

Italian Meatball Soup:

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Ingredients:

2 cans low sodium chicken broth (28 oz)

1 cup water

1 cup penne pasta or shell pasta

16 frozen meatballs

1 cup pizza sauce

shredded cheese

Recipe:

1. Begin the recipe by cooking the meatballs according to their packaging. Most meatball packages allow for the option of microwave cooking which is the quickest way to speed along the process if you are short on time.

2. Combine the broth and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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3. Once boiled, add the pasta and meatballs. Return to a boil and cook until the pasta is done. DO NOT DRAIN!

4. Reduce heat and stir in the pizza sauce. Cook an additional two minutes or until thoroughly heated.

5. Top with cheese before serving.

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Serve this soup with a crusted bread and fresh romaine salad.

This recipe makes 4-6 servings. We always have leftovers for the lunch the next day or two.

Enjoy!

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My Sister on Her Graduation Day

Today is the day that my baby sister graduates high school. I know it is probably about time that I stop referring to her as the baby, but when you can remember teaching someone to talk, walk, and read they will forever be young in your eyes. My eighteen year old sister is one-of-a-kind. She has always been such a driven and focused person. There is nothing in her life that she has not given 100% of herself to accomplish. She works hard always and sets goals for herself that are above and beyond those of others her age. Sometimes I forget that she is only eighteen because her wisdom is beyond her years.

Happy graduation, Morgan! Enjoy your day and congratulations on being the salutatorian for the class of 2015! We are so proud of you!!!

IMG_0767Pre-School Graduation (2001)

IMG_0769Little Miss Pumpkin Show (2003)

IMG_0785 Thanksgiving (2007)

IMG_0784 Last day of elementary school (2008)

IMG_0783 (1) my wedding (2011)

IMG_0780 London (2013)

IMG_0781 London (2013)

IMG_0779 Portsmouth (2013)

IMG_0782 Go carting in Eastleigh (2013)

IMG_0778 Ashley’s Wedding (2014)

A Book Review: All the Bright Places

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

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Title: All the Bright Places

Author: Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Copyright Date: 2015

One thing that my husband and I have in common is our shared love for literature. Although he prefers the biography/memoir genre he knows my heart is in Young Adult fiction. I was so pleased that this year for Mother’s Day he gifted a couple of books for me from my summer list. Summer hasn’t hit yet, but I have now accomplished one of my summer must-reads from my earlier post, Motivating Readers and Myself.

All the Bright Places is about two seniors battling with emotional issues and scars. The two meet on a bell tower ledge at their high school where each is prepared to take their own life. Before this event Violet and Finch are practically strangers, but this encounter brings them together and helps to form a bond between two troubled teens.

Theodore Finch is the school freak. He lives up to his label with his off-the-wall attitude and behavior. Brought up in a home of instability Finch uses his absent father as a scapegoat and lives his life barely awake. His world is dark and he feels very little until he meets Violet on the ledge of the bell tower.

Violet Markey is a popular ex-cheerleader who suffers from survivor’s guilt. A few months back she was in a car accident with her older sister and best friend, Eleanor. When her sister passes away in the accident Violet is left in a constant state of grief and is counting down the days until she can leave this town and the memories of her sister. One day she finds herself on the ledge of the bell tower because she doesn’t think she can keep on living without her sister.

After they convince one another to continue living they begin to foster a relationship that is built on their common hurts. Shortly after the bell tower incident their US Geography teacher assigns the class a project where they venture to different landmarks in their home state of Indiana. Violet and Finch use this assignment to find the beauty in the world around them and the mission of venturing to these places gives them a sense of purpose.

A majority of this book was uplifting and full of hope. Themes in this story include love, acceptance, and finding one’s purpose. I fell in love with the characters and with conclusion of the book I experienced an emotional response. I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what happened to the main characters in the end. Ultimately, the ending of the book was not what I had hoped and I was disappointed, but I understand the lessons that the author was trying to teach using her own experiences as inspiration.