Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Spring" Zoo Day!

I know a lot of you are still experiencing snow and cold, but here in SC, we're wearing flip flops and everything is in bloom and we are taking trips to the zoo before it get to hot to stand being outdoors... haha! Daddy had a long weekend off last/this week, and so we went to the zoo on Monday :)!

First zoo picture of the year! Mama was watching this picture being taken, and she let us know, "From now on, it's age order or stair steps." We can't do both anymore!

First we went to see the seals, and we spent quite some time there, as we waited and stuck around for the feeding, as well. One of the employees brought out a piece of seal skin for everybody to touch. I declined, but some of my siblings let us know that it felt like... Daddy's hair. Interesting. Haha! It *was* more furry than it looks when it's wet.

The sea lions were taken out for years, they wanted to great a more friendly habitat for them. Now they have an indoor viewing and a outdoor viewing and an over head viewing, and a seal added to the mix! The feedings don't include as many "tricks" as they did formerly; I think that might be partly because most of the sea lions and the seal are new to captivity, being rescue animals.

I don't usually share Daddy's pictures that don't have people in them, because I never know what he wants to do with them, but I had to share this one. It really looks like this seal is smiling for the camera, haha! Actually, though, he was grunting like a little pig ;).

Watching the feeding :).

The gorillas were being civilized for once... most of them were sleeping. Ha! They have really gross feet.... *ugh* But Noah liked this one.

<3 He's so cute.

They always have to climb to orangutan statue...

Peter wouldn't go into the bird exhibit for... reasons ;)... but Josiah wanted to go and did wonderful with it! I don't know if it's because he knew what to expect this time or if it's just he's older or we have birds now, but he held his cup the whole time and didn't scream, even though they were EVERYwhere that day. Mama was told that the animals are crazy on Monday, because they are expecting to be fed as much as they were on the weekend, and they aren't because very few people are there. Poor things, haha!

I mean, look at all those, haha! Mama was holding Noah and the cup, and she had soooooo many birds on her. I expected Noah to be scared no matter if he likes birds or not, but he wasn't!

For just a little more, you can upgrade your membership and get free rides, food to feed the animals, etc, for the year. So the merry-go-round has been a new attraction to all the little ones :). Noah wouldn't sit on an animal, but I held him on a seat and he seemed to enjoy it. Then we played "Poohsticks" over the bridge, because Josiah was disappointed when the merry-go-ride was done, and Josiah won!

He liked the slide more, though ;).

Emmi-Lou Who <3. Peter told us he wanted to see the penguins... asked over and over. When we got there, we discovered he wanted to climb in the fake tree in the exhibit, haha! The toucan flew (something it never does, haha... it usually just sits, like the koala bears ;)), and impressed Daddy with it's wingspan! Our zoo is one of the leading zoos for raising toucans, which is neat, but I have never seen a baby. It's sad, haha! They had baby shark pups last year, but I didn't recognize any of them either. They also got a couple more lions, which makes me feels better, because the one left was so sad alone...

Josiah's favorite part was the outlet plugs in the sea lion indoor viewing... haha! And Abbi wanted to know when the Naked Mole Rats were going to get clothes... they are really nasty looking, y'all, but the other something they had in the same exhibit (it had fur, I don't remember what it was) was running through the "hamster tunnels" and ran into another, and ran back OUT the tube backwards, and it was hilarious... it didn't really run, it like, quickly hopped... or something. It was humorous!

We left right at closing time, and as we got everybody buckled into car seats, Josiah told Tori, "That was nice, and that was good." That's high praise from that little man ;). We picked up some pizza on the way home and everybody tried to get Noah to talk about the zoo ;). Mama asked him that night if he saw the giraffe, the zebra, the birds, the fish. He answered yes to each, then squinched up his little eyes and thought for a minute, and Mama mentioned he was trying to think of another animal, but couldn't remember the name, and then he shouted something... it took us a few times of him repeating it before Bethi realized he was saying animals, Mama must have jogged his memory :). The day was nice, and it was good ;).

Rejoicing in Hope,

Saturday, February 24, 2018

He Said, "You will find Rest for Your Souls"

"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning: great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion', says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." -Lamentations 3:21-26

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in Whom I trust." -Psalm 91:1-2

"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -Matthew 11:28-29


Here it is, almost March, and this is my New Year's Resolution post. But that's okay, because I didn't make resolutions this year anyway.

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions. See, as a list-maker/follower, I love to make them and feel like I should love following them. But I do better with short term lists... I like to just write down what needs done on a "master list" and then I pick things off of that to put on my daily to-do list. Resolutions are hard for me, because it's hard sometimes to see even a day ahead. In fact, you can't at all; you just have a general idea of how it might go, given the past, if the Lord doesn't have big plans you don't know about. A year out is too broad a time to make plans for that are definitely going to be changed. I always ended up discouraged as I looked at my uncompleted resolution list, which made me discouraged making out my new one... or made me throw it in a drawer and decide that this year, I wouldn't have goals. 

This New Year's season, I wrestled with those facts up until I woke up and lay thinking in bed about this problem on New Year's Day -which less than stellar "growth-bringing" decision did I want to make this year to set me up for failure (not kidding, that's about what I asked myself)? I have a lot that I want to do in this year... but they are all things that I cannot guarantee, because they are in God's control. Those couldn't be resolutions, they would almost surely be broken in some way or other, because His ways are not my ways, and there are a LOT of variables hanging around the three biggest hopes I have for this year. I just couldn't plan them. And to plan anything smaller just seemed to mock the word "resolutions". But I didn't want to give up moving forward.

And then I began thinking about the concept of rest. And I realized, I could make this word my goal for the year. Because if I did everything to fit into this word, I would be doing all that I wanted to be doing, without it being about a checklist, which was exactly what I was wanting. 

Because the word "Rest" encompasses so much.

On the one hand, if I am accomplishing things that need done, instead of avoiding them and dreading them, it brings that rest that comes with things being done well. And accomplishing the things that need done frees you up to be able to take times of needed refreshment without guilt, which is many times more restful than a "break" after simply spinning your wheels all day. 

With that in mind, I have been trying to do what is right in front of me, to do the things that usually I only think about even if it's something I would usually be uncomfortable with, and push myself a little harder to get more done than I think it's possible when I look at my to-do list at 5:30 and would usually want to give up. I'm also doing things like reading books and writing, rather than browsing social media as often as I might be tempted to, as real refreshing times of physical rest.

But more importantly, I want to rest in the Lord.

I want to rest in His plan for my year. I want to rest knowing that He knows what is best for me. I want to rest in the knowledge that He is in control... I don't have to be all things to all people, because I can't. That's His role. I am just someone He uses to bring about His purposes, if I am willing to rest in His guidance and do the things He places before me to do. I want to rest in the promises of His word, and draw closer to Him. 

And really, that's what it's all about; and also the only growth that truly matters for any of us; to grow in Christ, made into His image and having our spirit aligned with His. 

And with that in mind, I have been trying to steep myself in the words and works of God. I have been setting more time aside to read the Bible, and been making the effort to fit extra bible studies into my week. I've been trying to read more books to spur me on in good works, and listen to more sermons expounding the Word of the Lord, listening to more "hymns and spiritual songs", and spending more time in prayer, because while I am becoming more willing to admit that I cannot be of any use to others without Christ's work in me and those around me, I am also realizing what a privilege it is that we can petition the God of the Universe and bring every burden before Him.

And it's amazing... here I thought that I chose this word for my year. But as the past couple of months have rolled by, I have realized two things: One... The word and concept of rest has been brought to my attention, and has been placed throughout the books and studies I have picked up more in the past two months than in the past two years. I totally believe that God knew this was what I needed to learn this year. And two, I also believe that He placed the desire to learn that lesson on my heart at the perfect time. Any earlier and I may have burnt out before I had a chance to see it's value. I needed to be able to search it out a bit before I could feel it's true value and strive to keep it at the front of my mind. But in the past two weeks, I have realized that it couldn't have been given any later, either. Because if it had, I wouldn't have the lessons I had learned through it for the paths He has me walking right now. Paths that are helping me realize my need to rest in Christ, and yet also the reason that I have to be able to rest in Christ. 

I have a feeling I'll talk quite a bit about "Rest" on my blog in the next months. The bible study Mama gave me for Christmas focuses on rest for the first section -another thing that God worked out, because neither of us were thinking about this at that time! It gave me such a smile to realize that when I first opened the book to study. There are a lot of thoughts within it that I want to be able to share at some point. And I am learning new thoughts about rest frequently. The first was that rest and trust go hand in hand... you cannot, will not, have one without the other. You cannot rest in the Lord if you are not trusting Him. Another thing that was brought to my attention lately was that surrender goes alone with rest... because the ultimate test of resting in the Lord is if you are able to surrender your "good things" for His "best things", no matter the cost. 

Ultimately, it's about giving God His place of authority in our lives, instead of having the pride and foolishness to think that our worry or work can change one thing in our favor. It is only as we Rest in Him, humbly admitting that He is Lord, that we can truly and faithfully serve Him with quiet joy. 

And if the Lord can use this journey to bless any of you as I share my heart, I give Him the praise, for I know my own inability to do anything of worth without His grace. Let us serve Him together <3. 

Rejoicing in Hope,

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Beautiful, Messy, Dependent

My siblings and I are nearing the end of our three-month bible read through, and are currently in the letters of Paul. I love to spend time in the Psalms, and to re-read the gospel of John over and over... but I am also always drawn into the letters of Paul. They are truth-filled. They are full of passion. And they are filled with a beautiful love and care.

Paul loved others. He couldn't help it. The love he knew God had poured out on him just overflowed out of his heart, and he saw everybody he met as another person who needed the same love. And so he always, unashamedly, unwaveringly, and unselfishly gave them the Word of the Lord. Told them of His love. Gave them the good news, and told them that grace, salvation by the blood of the Lamb, was for all. Without ceasing. It was his life mission, given -and obeyed- from God.

But another thing that I love about the writings of Paul is that even in the midst of teaching, correcting, rebuking, and showing these people God's love, he couldn't contain his own love for these people. Reading through Paul's letters, passages such as these make me pause for a moment...

"...Without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gifts to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both your's and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented) in order that I might reap some harvest among you as among the rest of the gentiles..." -Romans 1

"...I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. ...Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved..." -Romans 9 & 10

"For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you." -1 Corinthians 2:4

"...But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoice still more. For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret -though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved in repentance.... therefore we are comforted...." -1 Corinthians 7

"...Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you... for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. ...I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. ....If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account..." -Philemon

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us." -1 Thessalonians 2:8

This love, this encouragement, is beautiful. The fact that he took the time to write with such care letters to these churches is something I love so much. When I read these books of the bible, I realize that they hold truth for me today, and I love to study them any chance I get, but I always remember that these were written with specific people in Paul's mind... and I can never forget that they were written by a real person, as well.

Because I have been in a place before where I wanted to be with someone, to encourage them in the faith in person, and the Lord hasn't brought that about. I have been in that place where I have had to write words of truth to a friend who was erring, like Paul did to the Corinthian church... real people that he loved. And I know the affliction and anguish of heart that is accompanied with this action of love. I know that feeling of regret at the thought of their pain when they receive it. But I also know the feeling of comfort when the Lord uses my feeble, broken words, written in fear so great that I could never speak them over the phone, to bring them truth and hope. And I know the sheer helplessness that I have to save others. I am more selfish than Paul... but even I am able to feel a small likeness to the love that would give up something deeply loved, desired, and sought after, just to see those I love know Christ.

 It's a beautiful, messy, painful, humbling and dependent place to be.

It's a path I'm walking again.

That path were something terribly painful is happening to someone I love, whether by the natural causes of their own sin, or by a blow that comes out of nowhere and leaves them clinging to the Lord, asking for His strength just to hold on to some small bit of hope. And I can't do anything for them. Not really. But I feel led to speak words of comfort, encouragement, or rebuke. And I pray that the Lord holds them, and uses my imperfect words to bring some ray of His truth to rest in their hearts.

It's something that makes me feel like my heart is being torn out and brings tears to my eyes late at night, as I can't find the words to pray, and just ask the Lord to use this for His glory, and bring beauty from the pain through showing them more of His grace in this valley.

No matter what the cause, I wish I could protect them, shield them from the pain. I ache to comfort, to encourage, to bring hope to their crying heart. I yearn -I have plead- to be able to be used to bring them some sort of peace through the storm.

But right now... walking this road again, reading the letters of Paul, and reaching the end of myself in a situation that feels bigger than those that I have been put in at times in the past, I am reminded of one thing.

I can't do this.

I've never been able to do this. I've known it, of course. But when you are given proof that not even sharing your heart through written words can do any good whatsoever if the Lord doesn't step in and change something... it brings it home a little more. Or a lot more.

Paul wrote in love. But the only thing that made that writing of any use was the repentance of the people's hearts when they read those words. That repentance was only possible by the grace of God. He is the only one who can bring peace, comfort, joy, hope, healing.

God gave Paul the love for these people. God gave the truths that would set those people's hearts burning for His righteousness. God gave Paul the words to say to remind them of that truth. God gave the people a heart of repentance. God worked it all out so that those words reached their hearts at the perfect moment, and they turned from their sin.

But Isaiah was sent to give truth to Israel long before that. "How long, O Lord?" he asked. "How long until these people hear your words and repent, turn toward the righteousness of your truth?"

Not until Isaiah was gone. Not until after the captivity. Not at any time while the truths I am putting into your mouth are being prophesied. Go do it anyway.

God doesn't guarantee that those we speak truth to will turn. And if it's not His will, they won't. I am dependent on Him for the fruit of my words. It's not up to me. It's a humbling thought. And honestly, it's comforting. No matter how beautiful or painful what he brings about is, no matter how messy my emotions may get as I obediently reach out in love and offer His truth to others, His grace still remains, and He is the one who brings it to bear on the hearts that need it.

It's a beautiful, messy, painful, and humbling place to be, obeying Christ in ways such as this. And I'm so glad I'm dependent on Him in the midst of it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Snail Mail Blessings Book Subscription "Tour"!

Some of you may know Ashley, a fellow blogger at Precious Moments and fellow Etsy seller from the shop Snail Mail Blessings on Etsy. I received one of her book subscriptions yesterday, and I wanted to share with you my package :)! Each month's subscription is different; I got the February one! Ashley mails these out early the month they are scheduled to come out, even though she "has" about three weeks to get it done, so you aren't left wondering when it will reach you :). She also packaged it carefully to avoid damage, including a note on the back to make sure I didn't use scissors to break into it... which was a good call, because I was already reaching for scissors before I noticed it ;). 

Opening it up, it's like she's sent you a little gift package! Individual items were wrapped in tissue paper and ribbons, and then they were all tied together with yet another ribbon :)!

I loved this little touch, it showed simple gratefulness and was eye-pleasing <3!

The colors of these little hearts in the blue and white stripes made me happy, too :)!

Ashley put together a package that went with the theme of the story she sent out - "My Heart - Christ's Home". Have you ever read it? It is a creative and thought provoking story. What if you were really to invite Jesus as a guest into your house? What would He see, and what would He think of your actions? Would you invite Him to be Lord of your house, or would you turn from Him?

The little house coaster was truly adorable, and beautifully made!

Oh, this little scripture word art! I absolutely love lettering and watercolor backgrounds... but that little bird just adds so much to this card, I want to squeeze him, haha :). Not very nice to do, maybe, but look at his little glasses! Heehee :). I wish I could watercolor like that!

The complete round up of package goodies :)! I was given an extra booklet with topical bible verses for times of need sorted into it, and some tea, along with the items I pictured above :). One thing that really stood out to me was that Ashley sent not only a coupon code for future purchases, and a little extra note of encouragement, but also a list of every item that was being included in that month's subscription so that I could be sure that I got all my items :)! Ashley's customer service is wonderful, she's thought of everything :)!

If you are interested in getting a book subscription, they come out once every two months, and you can get them from Ashley's shop, "Snail Mail Blessings".

What are some good books you have read this month :)? What are some things you would love to receive in a book subscription package? Have you checked out Snail Mail Blessings :)?!

Rejoicing in Hope,
Bri :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Not a Monthly Wrap-Up Post

That wasn't sarcastic or satirical. It's actually not.

Last year I tried my hand out on something I had always wanted to do and on something that I loved reading on other people's blogs and something that I found I really loved putting together, too; monthly wrap-up posts.

But despite it being SO MUCH FUN when I was actually doing it, it took five or more hours out of each month just to write those posts, so I could never get to it "on time". And so it would nag at my mind for usually eight to twelve days out of thirty each month. And I would feel like I couldn't do a DIFFERENT post until that post was out. And then once it WAS posted, I either felt like I'd just posted and y'all wouldn't want to see anything already or, more usually, that I DIDN'T want to spend another hour and half on the blog so soon. About November, I decided I wanted to finish the year out, but I could do three blog posts in the same amount of time if I spread it out over the month, with a whole lot less feelings of failure. It was one of those "practical" decisions of my goal for Rest (which I'll talk about more sometime), and I'm not regretting that decision.

But, regardless of that; I did still have some weird little moments saved in draft form. And I did have some pictures on my phone, which, though blurry, are 3 times easier to upload to blogger than from the camera. So, it's not as long as formerly. And I'm not organizing it like I used to. But here's a few small things to look back on :)!


My brain: "I need to go..."
My words: "I need to glow."
Thank you very much, self, I prefer the term sparkle.

Tori: "Show me your muscles!"
Peter: *flexes his hand right into his head* "...Ow."

Abbi and Emmi playing "Life", while keeping a running conversation between the peg characters as they move along:
Abbi: loses all of her money
Emmi: "Hey Mom, can we get lunch?!"
Abbi: "No!"
Emmi: "Awwwww, why not?"
Abbi: "BECAUSE. We're not getting lunch; we're *getting* poor!"

Random idle thought: why do people command others to eat cake on their birthday? I mean, it makes us non-cake-lovers feel like a disappointment to you when you give such a sincere and animated command to EAT  SOME CAKE!, and we have to tell you that we can't see wasting our birthday on cake. We don't tell you to eat brownies on YOUR birthday... even though you should. Haha!


I made donuts while I listened to a sermon one Monday morning. Donuts are so much fun to make... and take so long thanks to needing like 3 1/2 dozen mini donuts, haha! Listening to sermons has been another of those little decisions of Resting :)...

I love to hang up quotes and bible verses all over my room. The goal is to change them every few weeks, but I didn't change the Christmas ones until I undecorated, haha. And Emmi just reminded me last night that I forgot the scripture references, oops. Do you see how Rest slipped into these, too?

Two things I enjoyed last month: marking things off to-do lists, and attending our Church's first conference since we moved into the new sanctuary. It took some effort and some planning and some late nights, but it was worth it. It was refreshing, it provided food for thought, and gave me a chance to connect with our church a little more :). The theme was Biblical Responses to the Gospel, and there was beautiful singing at the beginning of the sessions, and it was a wonderful week :).

He's still one of the cutest. That grin. The way he loves to read. His hair that is getting curlier in the front, but still doesn't curl as much in the front as in the back, haha! He has started pretending he is a puppy... he crawls around and "woof!"s and pants (and, if we aren't careful, licks, yuck), and I have been trying to get a picture, but every time I stop petting his head to get out my phone, he leaves...

Gramma got me this book, called "Should I Share My Ice Cream". I saved it to read with the little ones, so it took a few weeks to get alllll of them together at the same time. But when I did... if you want a biography of me... well, here it is. Indecisive, ice cream loving, glasses wearing, sentimental, easy to touch, plans always going askew or backwards and yet life being full of the little moments that make happy endings, me. It was short, but it was spot on! I told my gramma, and she said she wished she'd read it... she just saw glasses and ice cream. Haha!

We were given a bag of knit items by a kind lady at church,and Noah was positively dashing in his church sweater and this hat, even if it still had the tag on!

Lots of games with my little sibs made my early January extra fun! Peter was so studious over this Othello game!

This six page, double sided letter took me a whole afternoon to write. But it was so. much. fun. I love when conversation, even on the page, is not forced!


And I have a little shop announcement! Here's what I shared on shop's social media this afternoon...

"So, I am doing things just a little bit different this weekend! Are you ready for a sale and a chance to win a giveaway?!

If I get $25 worth of sales in my shop this week, one of YOU gets a free item of your choice ($26 or less in value) for helping me reach that!

You don't have to make a big purchase, though! My lace bookmarks are 50% this weekend, and then smallest of them is only $2.25 right now. For less than three dollars, you get a chance at a free $26 item!

Or, you could just spend $25 yourself and automatically win it... it's totally fair per the rules ;). Just make your purchases by Sunday night!" And I would very much appreciate if you would share this "event" as well :)! Comment and let me know if you do, so  I can thank those who deserve it <3.

Love in Christ to each of you,
Bri <3