Make 2017 a Great Year

Happy New Year 2017 | encouragement for busy moms

Happy new year 2017!

My Facebook feed this week has been filled with friends bemoaning the last year. Apparently, it’s been hard for a lot of people — filled with stress, sadness, and hardship. The Bernard family has had our share of challenges, too.

So — I’m excited about the new year ahead! 2017 is gonna rock, and we’ll encourage one another to make it the BEST year yet. Where do you need encouragement for a great year? In what area do you most struggle? How can I help you?

Is it spiritual discipline? Is it health? Relationships? Job and money? Stress and anxiety?

Whatever it is, I want to work with you and encourage you to help you THRIVE in 2017.

Join me beginning January 1 on my blog Facebook page for a happy new year 2017. I’m going to take the first 17 days of January to share 17 ways to make your 2017 *SPARKLE*. I’ll post a brief video each day to share some ideas and encouragement.

Make sure you LIKE and FOLLOW my Facebook page so you can join the fun.

Because we all need more *SPARKLE* in our lives, right?

Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

Some days just feel so — well — ordinary. Get up, dress, eat, work, clean clothes and dishes, tuck everyone in, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. Advent worship | Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

I’ve spent much of my adult years whining and upset about the fact that I haven’t yet done anything “extraordinary.” The year I turned 40, I was depressed for six months because I felt that all my “best years” were behind me and I had little to show for it.

Do you ever feel that you’re just “ordinary” — nothing extra special with little to offer? I do.

Here’s the truth of the matter, though. We are “ordinary,” in the sense that we are the created, but the desire — that longing for something bigger and greater than ourselves — is not wrong. The desire for greatness in fact points to a greater reality (it’s the whining and complaining and self-centeredness that’s wrong and for which we must repent).

God in his wisdom and mercy uses the ordinary to do the most extraordinary things! Think about it; that is his primary mode of action today. The Bible talks of all the “ordinary” people he called into his service. He uses men and women to affect change.

So I’m not surprised at all that he chose the most ordinary of ordinary humans to first notify of Jesus’ birth. After all, Jesus himself became so very ordinary — being born as a helpless baby to a young couple in a barn — that I dare say we should expect nothing else.

When I think of shepherds and the way that Jesus came into the world, I’m encouraged. I’m assured that in God’s economy we are all useful, even if we see ourselves, our situations, and our gifts as “ordinary.”

That brings me joy, indeed.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. You can light the third candle on the Advent wreath and lead the family in a brief time of worship as suggested below. For more ideas for celebrating Advent and Christmas with your kids, check out my new free ebook, A Different Christmas This Year.

ordinary | Advent worship | Christmas traditions | different Christmas this yearThird Sunday of Advent: The Shepherds 

Gather around the Advent wreath. Briefly explain how shepherds were regarded in Jesus’ day: People didn’t like shepherds very much. They thought they were dirty and lowly. They considered their job kind of gross: they were in fields for a long time with smelly sheep. But God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first! He didn’t go to the Kings and Queens or even the church leaders. He chose ordinary people to receive the news.

Why is it significant that God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first? Why should that give us joy?

Advent Sunday #3: Candle of Joy
Read Luke 2:14-17 and light the first and second purple candles and the pink candle: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

 

Advent worship | Second Sunday of Advent | Christmas traditionIt’s not even December as I write this, but our holiday season has taken off like a rocket ship launched into outer space. This week alone, we have daily wrestling practice, soccer practice, two wrestling matches, two basketball (cheer) games, cheer practice, dance class, youth group, band practice, all-day band event at school, and a soccer game. That doesn’t even include dental appointments that I had to cancel because who has time for oral hygiene and dental care?

Chaos. How, why are our lives so crazy? How in the world do we even enjoy Christmas?

We did get our decorations up this weekend, which was a fun family activity, plus I have a slew of cheesy Christmas Hallmark movies on the DVR recorded from the free cable on Thanksgiving weekend. Those things do help bring a sense of calming to an otherwise insane week at our house. (Of course, who has time to watch movies? Maybe I’ll get through them before Easter.)

The other thing we aim to do is light our Advent wreath and have a brief time of family worship most nights of the week. I’ve also subscribed to receive a daily Advent prayer from one of my church’s pastors. You can sign up, too, if you like. Click here.

It’s hard to stay on track and out of the insanity this time of year. It is super-hard — not gonna lie. But it is our goal.

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I’m Starving. Are You? Seeking Simplicity in a Culture of Excess

Seeking Simplicity in a Culture of Excess

My heart is screaming for simplicity.

The other night my daughter whined at me, “Mom, why didn’t you buy the ‘Cheer Mom’ t-shirt? It’s so cute!”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Because if I were to buy every t-shirt offered, we’d have taken out a second mortgage by now!”

Really — there’s a t-shirt (or three) for every activity, event, club, competition, team, and game at my kids’ school. Not to mention tumblers, socks, lanyards, and hoodies.

Choice fatigue is everywhere, and I am so sick of it.

It’s one reason why I love shopping at Aldi. For most items, there’s one brand and a size or two. Period. Decision made.

Our culture is cannibalizing itself on excess in just about every sphere. Hundreds of TV channels, blogs, and social media sites scream to inundate us with connection and entertainment.

If our kids want to dance or play a sport, they need not limit themselves to a couple of hours a week. No – they can, literally, devote more time (and money) to their extracurricular life than some folks give college studies, part-time jobs, and marriages.

Our culture is a sea of excess. The mentality is that if “a little” is good, then “a lot” must be great!

But I think this is a dangerous lie that is detrimental to us in many ways.

  • We have insatiable appetites. When we are fed on less-than-satisfying fare, we remain hungry. Munching on popcorn and cotton candy is oh-so-delicious for a time but ultimately leads to a greater depletion and more hunger. Then when we survey all the beautiful offerings at the carnival stand, we are fooled into thinking that this or that shiny treat will satisfy. All of the attractive choices and options in our culture only make us more needy, less fulfilled, and take us farther away from true satiation.
  • We are distracted to the point of paralysis. All of these choices make me lazy and motionless. When I have so many seemingly “worthy” options for spending my money, my free time, and my energy, I often choose a convenient distraction or get lost in a mindless activity that deceptively promises to fill me up. In my life, this distraction is the ultimate disrupter to an abundant life lived with and for Christ, which means the Enemy is all too pleased. Distraction keeps me from doing the things of God, including worship and service.
  • Just because we can doesn’t mean we should — or that it’s good for us. Our choice culture — which includes 8 different brands and styles of toilet paper or 10 different combo meals that can be ordered “your way” in any size you’d like — perpetuates a destructive lie. We believe that we are living full and abundant lives, but the cycle of discard/upgrade/customize is actually a wicked mirage. It’s a never-ending give and take that bankrupts its victims in every way.

Have you experienced this? Are you weary of simply making decisions? Are you tired of trying to juggle everything? Are you sick of buying junk to contain your junk?

I know I feel suffocated. I want simplicity.

Our family feels a little bit “stuck” right now. We feel the tug of the world to join in the craziness — to buy into the delusions that “things” and activities are the keys to fulfillment.

Yet we know better.

Where is true fulfillment? Who ultimately satisfies? Who became nothing so that we can — TRULY — have everything?

The answer is in Christ. When we die to self, and seek him, we find rest, peace, joy, and contentment.

In him, we are empowered to boldly scream at the bondage of excess, “You lie to me and will not have control over me anymore.”

That’s far more satisfying than anything a super-sized meal deal can offer.

Favorite Summertime Essential Oils

favorite summertime essential oils

There’s not one season that I’d want to face without essential oils. But I especially can’t imagine summer oil-less!

I’ve come up with seven reasons why I especially love my essential oils during the summer months.

Summertime Essential Oils

1. Lime essential oil is a favorite in all my summer recipes. I make margaritas, mojitos, guacamole, fresh salsa (with garden-fresh tomatoes and cilantro), limeade, and lime cake with my beloved lime oil. Yum!

2. Melaleuca essential oil helps your feet stay clear of any yuckies you may pick up at the swimming pool or in the communal showers at camp. I know; it’s gross to think about, but it’s not nearly as bad if you’ve got Melaleuca on hand. It’s also great for any scratches and owies.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Can Your Family Afford to Eat Out?

Can Your Family afford to eat out | Tips for Healthy, Cheap Dining With Kids
Disclosure: I received a complimentary lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen in exchange for a review on social media. All opinions are my own.

Can your family afford to eat out? | Tips for Healthy, Cheap Dining With Kids

Can your family afford to eat out? For our family of five, dining out is super-expensive. Unfortunately, we have limited options within our budget that would qualify as “good food.” Even a fast food meal for us totals in the $30-$40 range. That’s why I was so excited to learn about Zoe’s Kitchen‘s new Mediterrean Family Meals.

For that same $30 – $40, our family can eat a much healthier and much fresher meal at Zoe’s. Plus there’s a LOT of food in a meal—hopefully enough for leftovers for lunch the next day.

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Keep Your Home Based Business Going When Life Gets Crazy

home based businessLiving our lives to the fullest—that’s one reason why we’ve decided to have a home based business, right? Whether you’re freelancing and contracting with clients, representing a product in a direct sales company, or managing your own website selling goods or services, you appreciate the flexibility to do what needs to be done on your own schedule.

I consider it a blessing to be able to be home when my kids are home from school in the afternoons. I love having the flexibility of being able to rearrange my day to attend a mid-day honors program or help set up and decorate for my daughter’s band awards night.

I guess there’s always a flip side, though, right?

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

5 Easy Steps to Start a Blog

5 Easy Steps to Start a Blog

I have been writing a blog since 2008 and I have worked as a blog editor/manager and ghost blogger since 2009. Every week or so, I have someone ask me about how to start a blog.

This is by no means an exhaustive explanation, but I offer you my best overall tips for how to start a blog:

1. First, decide where you see the blog going—will it be for hobby or for profit? Would you EVER want to make money on the blog? Even if you don’t think you’ll want to make money on the blog, I believe you should set up as if you did. Here’s why.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

5 Secrets For Standardized Testing Success

5 secrets for standardized testing success

Yes, it’s here once again! Standardized testing time in Tennessee. You can hear the collective groans around the state this week as parents, teachers, and kids feel the pressure of test-taking.

How do you prepare your kids for doing their best when they face any kind of exam, presentation, or project? I have a few tried-and-true tools that I always pull out during standardized testing week and anytime that the kids need an extra “boost” to perform at optimal level.

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

Establish the Work of My Hands

establish the work of my handsI’ve been washing dishes by hand for several weeks now. Our dishwasher broke a few months ago, and it’s not repairable. We need a new one but have put off the purchase until we can find a great bargain and save up enough cash to buy one.

I don’t mind terribly dish washing by hand (don’t get me wrong,though; I’d love to have a working dishwasher again!) because I recognize there’s a real benefit in doing manual labor with your hands.

What is it about working with our hands that can be revelatory, inspirational, insightful, and, ultimately, healing?

[Read more…]

Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.