Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to India I Go

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow…without my family…to go to India, and in many ways it still doesn’t seem real.  India captured a part of my heart over 6 years ago and the people in this land have changed me.

I haven’t stepped foot on the soil since I was 5 months pregnant with Selah and I’m curious to discover how much more the poverty and the children will affect me now that I am a Momma. 

I still remember one face the first day that I walked the streets of India.  Her pleading eyes and dirty hands lifted up to me.  My heart broke in India like it has never been broken before – it was a needed breaking – it was a look into reality – into the face of much of the world that we can easily ignore.  It was a “break my heart for what breaks Yours” moment, and her face changed me.

I can never prepare the teams that I take for the heart-break that they will encounter.  The poverty is all consuming, the culture so different, and with long held beliefs in karma and millions of gods the hopelessness can be deafening.  Josh describes India as an assault on all your senses, and although it’s usually taken as a negative description, I’ve discovered that in my life, I usually need that assault.

I need to be shaken – to be reminded of what the world faces while I’m busy posting cute pictures of my girls on Instagram.  I need to be woken up – not just to the pain but to the truth of God’s great hope.

This is from a school that I visited on my 2nd trip to India.  I LOVE what SOS is doing to feed & educate children!
And I’ve seen the hope of God more clearly in India than in anywhere else in the world.  Perhaps it’s because it’s in such contrast with the devastation…but regardless, in India, it is always more clear to me than ever that He alone is the answer.

The first year I went I was changed by that little girl on the street, but I was also changed by former prostitutes that I met in a church located in the heart of the red-light district.  The service was loud and exciting.  Jesus was there and the gospel was clear.  At the conclusion of the service, communion was served and tears pricked my eyes as men and women – outcasts previously – stood in the aisle eagerly awaiting the bread and cup.  I was asked to walk between these faces and serve the bread.

That walk down the aisle changed me.  I saw hope and freedom and joy in the eyes of so many women who I knew had previously been surrounded with fear and lies and death.  As these precious ones reached out for the bread I was ashamed of the way I casually come to His table.  They fully knew of His truth and they were immersed in His kingdom…and as their hands reached out they were literally reaching for life!  Their eyes shown with such hope and joy that by the time I reached the end of that aisle I was weeping in wonder at this God that I not only serve, but in that moment was representing.

India always changes me.  And so although I’ve got a 3-year old and 18-month old, I told my husband last year…I’ve got to get to India.  If I’m to continue to serve specifically in the areas of missions & prayer at my church – I’ve got to go – I need to see what He is doing and I want to be a small part of His light in this place that always imparts back into my soul.
This is from a Women's Conference that I spoke at a few years ago - I LOVE the women of India!  They are more powerful than they know.

So would you pray for me?  I’m taking 5 extraordinary women with me.  None are from my home church, as I felt the Lord direct me to spread this experience and His heart-beat with others.  So I invited specific friends and acquaintances that God showed me and I’m beyond excited to walk with these girls.

We have a busy week ahead of us: Women’s Meetings will be a big part, and we will also have 3 days in which we focus on the area of human trafficking.  I’m especially burdened by one day in which we have the opportunity to encourage the men and women who work on the front lines to battle this horrible injustice – we will spend a day with those who rescue, and I’m praying that our time breathes a bit of God’s love and refreshment into their lives.

Would you also pray for my sweet family?  Pray that the days go by quickly and with great fun for my girls.  Pray for God’s grace for my husband and parents who will watch my girls.

And would you pray for India?  Pray that God would continue to make Himself known, that the church would be strengthened, and that injustice would vanish. 

Where laundry is done...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What I'm Into This Fall

There is finally a briskness in the air here in West Texas and I am most definitely happy about it.  I've been ready for the fall for the last month because the fall means boots, sweaters, warm drinks, baking, visits from international friends and crafts with my girls.  I LOVE fall - can you feel my joy?

I want you to love the fall too!  And I thought that maybe just maybe you would like to hear about 5 things that I'm really into this fall.  I know that I'd love to hear about what you are loving right now!  So here we go:

1.  My New Lace Up Boots
I have long had a love affair with boots.  It goes back to my bright yellow cowboy boots that I got in the fourth grade - they were awesome!  So every fall I look at what is new and fashionable in the boot world, and then I try to invest in a good pair.

I've been eyeing lace up boots for sometime but just wasn't too sure that I could pull them off.  However, I was in TJ Maxx last week and found these beauties.  The price was right, and I got brave and decided that if I had confidence I could pull them off!

I also feel like I'm a woman from the 1800's

2.  Healthier Yet More Delicious Food
I went on a fast last month, and before you think that means I'm super spiritual or a health fanatic, let me be honest...I'm not.  I'm 34 years old and a pastor, and this is the FIRST time I think I have truly fasted.  And it was HARD!!!  I didn't like it, and yet I'm also so glad I did it.  It was something just between myself and God, and He did some needed things in my heart and life during those 21 days.  It was a time good for the soul, but it also ended up being good for my body as I discovered in those 21 days that I eat a lot of crap.  I did the Daniel fast, which basically eliminated my four favorite food groups: bread (really most carbs),  sugar, caffeine, and pretty much anything processed.

In some ways I had to relearn to eat, and I discovered that REAL food actually tastes better than so much of the processed food out there (now, I still love me some pasta and the occasional Oreos), but I left those 21 days with a desire to try to cook more and eat more real food.  I tried out new recipes, and discovered that although there is work involved in eating healthier, it paid off because I've felt better and like knowing what is going onto our family plates.

These are my 3 favorite discoveries that I keep making (the recipes will be at the end of this blog):

Roasted Broccoli (or any veggie for that matter)- The first time I made this broccoli I proclaimed it a game changer on Facebook & I'm still singing it's praises!  I simply tossed bite size pieces in olive oil and sprinkled some sea salt over it and cooked it at 350 for 10-15 minutes (my oven is hot so I usually cook things shorter).  I seriously felt like I was eating french fries - DELICIOUS!

I don't have a picture of my broccoli, but here are sweet potatoes that I also roasted.

Banana, Oat, & Chocolate Chip Muffins - I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try one day when I was REALLY missing anything that resembled bread.  And OH MY GOODNESS - I was shocked!  It was actually one of the best muffins ever - and it was so nice that it wasn't too sweet.  I didn't feel like I was just eating cake (which is honestly what most muffins are - morning cake ;)).  Please get the recipe below & try it out!

Please ignore my muffin pan...
Homemade Granola - I have ALWAYS loved homemade granola.  My mom makes it often but this was my first time to try it out for myself.  I used Barefoot Contessa's recipe off of Food Network with a few tweaks.  You can find the original recipe here & I'll write out my version down below.

And the BEST thing is that all three of these recipes were easy.  I was under the impression that to eat healthier I would need more prowess in the kitchen, but these three recipes have given me confidence...and if I can do this anyone can.

3.  Shauna Niequist's Writing - I just discovered Shauna Niequist, but once I did I've made her my crush and promply went out and purchased all of her books.  Maybe because she's a pastor's daughter or maybe because she is brutally honest or maybe because she sometimes lives on the water (and I'm insanely jealous of that scenario) or maybe because I get glimpses of myself when I read her words - for all these reasons and more - I want to be like her when I grow up!

If you haven't read any of her writing, you can start here:

And then you should run out and buy her books.  Her latest, Bread & Wine is my favorite.

4.  My Dining Room
I wrote a couple months ago about transforming my living room and dining room with a coat of white paint, and I showed off a few changes in my living room.  My dining room, however, has had a difficult time emerging.  I had different ideas, but I was hesitant to pull the trigger on any purchases.  I finally remembered some great advice about decorating - find one thing you LOVE and use that as the starting place.  So I started looking at art and I finally found a picture of the world that is in bold colors and I just knew that it was for me.

We are passionate about exposing our family to the nations - we travel when we can and tell stories about friends and strangers all over the world.  I love how colorful the world is and how it expands my heart every time I meet people from other nations - so this piece of art is fitting.

The room continues to emerge, but I'm excited that as fall has come and we gather around our table to eat; we will literally have the nations near to remind us of friends and those for whom we pray!

5.  My Favorite Apps
I'm not very app savvy, but when I find an app that I like I tend to use it A LOT!  Here are my current favorites:

Feedly - This is a well known app if you read many blogs, but if you don't know about it and wish you had access on the go to your favorite reads, this is a great option!

IHOPKC- I'm a fan of the prayer room at IHOP in Kansas City & I often turn it on when I'm home alone with the girls.  I am so excited that you can now listen on your phone and you can even listen to archives based on type of set or worship leader.

VSCOcam - This is my new favorite photo app and after a couple weeks of use I LOVE it!  It allows you to control the filters and make slight changes to your phone pics.  In fact, every picture on this blog was edited with VSCOcam.  Below you can see another example of this fun app - before & after:

Before VSCOcam
After VSCOcam
 So that's what I'm into this fall!  What about you?  Anything that is making you feel fallish?  Any new things that you'd like to share with me or those who visit the blog?  Would love to hear from you!

Banana, Oat, & Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • 3 mashed bananas (the more ripe the better!)
  • 1 cup vanilla Almond milk (any milk should work)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Baking powder
  • 3 cups Old Fashion or Rolled Oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix all ingredients except the chocolate chips together, and let sit while you prepare the muffin pans.
Spray a muffin pan and/or liners with with non-stick spray.
Stir the chocolate chips into the oatmeal batter.
Bake 20-30 minutes, you’ll see the edges just starting to brown and they will be firm to the touch.

Homemade Granola
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup good honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, and cherries together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture. Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the liquids. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What I Learned While Traveling the World with My Babies this Summer (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, the main lesson that I learned while traveling to Europe with my babies this summer is that God can be glorified in a place where we focus on doing less and being more.  This is hard for me.  I like to be busy.  I like to do things, but I'm learning day by day to embrace His grace and walk in it.

I'm also learning to find joy and His fingerprints in the messes of life.  I don't like messes either, but this simple lesson was on full display as we traveled to Europe this summer with our girls (honestly, is it even POSSIBLE to travel with a 3 year old & 13 month old without a giant mess in your wake?)...and I think I'm starting to get it.  God can be in the midst of the mess.  He isn't nearly as uncomfortable as I am, and He really does love using the foolish and weak parts of our lives to show off.  Here's two ways He demonstrated this to me on our trip:

Fashion Class and "Glitter Nails" in Czech Republic
We were teaching in a creative arts camp while in Czech Republic and I was assigned to help my
amazing friend Dita teach fashion class.  Now, while I DO love a good pair of shoes & sometimes tune into Fashion Police, I am far from a fashionista and I know next to nothing about designing clothes, which is what this class would be doing.

Leading up to the camp, Dita would email me her amazing ideas (creating wedding dresses out of plastic, t-shirt transformation, and a lecture on Grace Kelly style), and often asked what I wanted to contribute.  Contribute?  As in teach something about fashion?  I had nothing.  I scoured Pinterest, but discovered that my best ideas had been done in previous years at the camp.  The only idea that I had to offer that seemed of interest was "glitter nails."  Now, I had never done "glitter nails."  I had read about it on Pinterest and seen some successful ventures on the hands of a few friends.  It looked easy enough, and I felt confident as I purchased numerous shades of polish & glitter from Wal-Mart - I could make this fabulous!

Dita gives the girls her opinion on their latest des
My first day in fashion class was fun albeit a little overwhelming.  I was trying to get into a rhythm of juggling my babies while also connecting with the young people, and I just tried to stay up.  We colored fashion designs and played with pastels to get a feeling for how color works with fabric.  I smiled at the sweet girls in our class and had barely exchanged names when our 3 hours class was finished.

Each day got progressively easier while the projects were progressively harder.  We created dresses, painted t-shirts, and designed wedding gowns out of plastic.  I quickly realized that I needed to at least try to help with fabrics & design.  I remember clearly trying to help my girls with the wedding dress and thinking to myself, "I am making a mess!"  And in that moment, I felt God whisper, "I can be in a mess...just keep working at it."  And so I stapled and fitted plastic on our model.  We laughed together and little by little we transformed yards of white plastic into a beautiful gown that I was quite proud of (if I do say so myself).

The final day of camp we had a fashion show & party where each class was able to show off what they had learned.  As we prepared for our walk down the cat-walk, Dita asked if I could give each of the girls "glitter nails" so we could look fierce.  Absolutely!

And so, in the last few minutes of class with these precious girls, I helped create another mess.  We started to paint and add glitter to our fingers when I realized that we were not looking like the Pinterest pictures that I had seen.  It was a mess.  At first I wanted to panic with the realization that this was not living up to my preconceived ideas of fabulous "glitter nails" when I looked around to see that the girls didn't see the lack of perfection that I was so sensitive to...instead, these girls who had bonded over the previous week were oohing and aahing over one another's hands.  There was laughter in the room, and more than a couple of the girls asked if I could paint their nails for them (I was, after all the "glitter nail" expert).  And in that stuffy classroom across globe, I felt the presence of God.

With sparkles of glitter on these young women that I now loved, I silently prayed that they would find Him.  May they be drawn to the One who makes life radiant.  May they see that He alone can redeem and create beauty from the messes we are so prone to create.

Pastel drawings as we practiced with color

Our plastic wedding dresses as modeled in the fashion show

Selah's FAVORITE moment of the entire trip - modeling her t-shirt in the fashion show

Puddle Jumping in Norway
Our week in Norway was focused on prayer and encouraging our good friends (Sean & Hannah) as they prepare to plant a church in September.  Again, we would "do missions" by just "being with them."  Everyday was spent prayer walking for a couple of hours & then we would simply hang out - talking, dreaming, bouncing ideas off one another.  In the midst of this talking and prayer, we had five children in their house, which could only mean one thing - plenty of messes.

I gave up after a couple of hours trying to pick up after my girls.  It was a loosing battle, and we all decided to just relax and let them have some fun.  In my mind, this was fine when we were at home, but when it was time to do our prayer walks we should be extra spiritual - no messes.

I think God was laughing at my attempts to be spiritual, because on our very first prayer walk we definitely encountered a mess.  We walked to a school where they plan on meeting for their church services, and because it had been raining for days the parking lot was dotted with puddles as big as a playa lake.  Our kids were in strollers, and so the adults took a few minutes to walk around the school praying and seeking God...and being spiritual.  I was focused in prayer when I heard my daughter's laughter across the parking lot.

As I looked up, I realized that she & Sean's oldest son had gotten out of the strollers and were running, jumping, and splashing in the giant puddles!  My first thought was that she would be soaked, and that I wasn't up to the mess that would certainly ensue, when I was reminded of my recent lesson in Czech Republic - God can be in the mess.

And so, I decided to let her play, and I stood back and smiled at the joy of these two small children.  It was better than Disney World!  They laughed and shrieked, and before I knew it, all of the adults were cheering them on.  God spoke to my heart a lot that day - about jumping a little more...about trusting Him even when what is before me looks like a mess...about the joy that is all around if I will look for it...and about this church plant.  Our friends are probably going to make a mess or two.  They will definitely be forced to jump out of their comfortable and clean lives to make an impact in Norway, but they are saying yes to God and ready to make a mess for Him.

We prayed that day while our kids jumped in puddles that this school would be a blessing for their church...that they would find favor there & that God would get glory as they make a mess for His kingdom.  And guess what?  Two weeks later, they met with the principal of that school and were given three rooms to meet in each week...for free.  Let the puddle jumping begin in Norway!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I Learned While Traveling the World with My Babies This Summer (Part 1)

It's been a month since we were in Czech Republic, but as I've reflected over the last couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few lessons that I learned while away.  For those of you unaware of our family adventure, Josh and I decided to take our two girls with us this year as we led a short-term missions team to Czech Republic.  We then sent the team home and traveled for another week to Norway so we could see our friends and spend some time praying with them as they prepare to plant a church next month.

When we first decided to take our girls with us I knew it was the right decision in my heart.  Josh and I have traveled internationally in a short-term capacity for years.  In fact, some of our dearest friends now live across the globe, and before I became pregnant I had a bit of a bargaining session with God.  It went something like this:

Me: If I agree to this whole kid thing, what is it going to do to our love and sense of calling when it comes to international travel and missions?

God: I don't understand?

Me: Well, do I have to give it all up?

God: No.

Me: Well, how is it going to work?

God: You'll see.

Me: I don't like this answer.  I would like you to expound please.

God: You'll see.

Me: Again, I need more details before I commit to these children I think You intend for me to have.

God: Sigh...Paige, some things in your life are gonna change - change for the better actually - and you'll just have to trust me on this one.  But I will tell you this about travel.  It's going to change too, but overall, if I give you the grace and love for the nations, don't you think I can grace your kids too?  You and Josh know that I've called you as a family to this...and that calling can extend to new additions of your family...including small additions.

Me: you promise?

God: Trust Me.

****Hope you know, I just took great liberty with this conversation, but in general it went something like that, and from that day forward I had an internal sense and belief that God would give grace to my girls for whatever He wanted us to do as a family.

So, I knew in my heart that travelling as a family was the right thing, but I have to confess that as the date of the trip drew near I began to panic.  How would the flight work?  I mean, I have a 13 month old who crawls and moves and is BUSY!  How would I keep her at bay for a 10 hour flight?  And what about jet lag?  Packing?  And our poor team?  Would the 7 young people traveling with us explode at some point with Selah's amazing propensity to ask "Why?" 57 times in a row?

Suffice it to say, I started to pray a lot and I made plenty of lists.  The morning that we left I woke up with my stomach in knots, and it wasn't until we had been on our longest flight for a couple of hours that I finally took a deep breath and remembered God's promise to me - my girls had His grace for this trip.

And His grace is always sufficient.

We helped with a creative arts camp in Czech Republic & one day Haven got to be a model for the photography class.  She was definitely up for the task!

Throughout the trip I was continually amazed at His grace.  My girls laughed more, played more, and slept more than I could have ever imagined!  The team embraced my babies and someone seemed to always have them on their hips.  And not only that...but I saw how God wanted to use my girls to bring His love into the lives of the amazing young people we met in Czech Republic.  A 13 month old with a big toothy grin can bring down defenses like nothing else, and I found myself having easy conversations because they were kicked off with laughter at my kids antics.

These sweet girls were in my fashion class that helped out with & they were quite smitten with Haven
So, the greatest lesson that I learned while we were away was that if God says it...He can do it.

Also, there really is something to doing less and being more.  I read that statement a while back, and I'm realizing that in essence this what I did on this trip.  At one point I was feeling the pressure that perhaps I wasn't DOING ENOUGH at the camp because of the needs of my girls.  Wasn't I supposed to be helping more?

I texted my mom & mother-in-law about this frustration and asked for them to pray, when my mother-in-law sent me this text:
     God's Love is being communicated greatly through your family of 4.  So rest in that.  Meaningful 
     conversations may "look" differently this trip, but KNOW THIS, His will IS being performed, and 
     you are grooming two amazing missionaries, even now, carried in your arms.

Such wisdom and such truth.

And now, as I'm back in "real life" I'm asking myself how I can be more while doing I can bring my girls more fully into the life I know I'm called to live...and how I can rest in His promise of grace.

Josh talking with the team all while juggling his girls
The plane ride was one of Selah's favorite parts!  The time went fast, and there are plenty of great blogs out there with ideas on how to keep your kids entertained on long flights.
Selah enjoyed painting in fashion class...she jumped right in with the "big girls"
And our amazing team made my girls laugh to know end.  In all honesty, they may have been tired of Selah's "roars" in their face (she was a lion or something for a couple days) but they were the best people to travel with

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Little Nugget Turns One

I'm slowly sharing about the five things I discovered while away from my blog the last 3 months.  So far, I've written about how paint transformed our home, that I am now a fan of garage sales, and the books I read over the last few months.

What I am most excited to share is that my little nugget (Haven Joy) turned one! 

How does this fact coincide with learning?  Well, I must say that her party was VASTLY different than the first birthday party that I threw Selah.  If you have never read about the disaster that was her first birthday you can do so here, but suffice it to say - I tried to be SUPER mom and failed miserably. 

With Selah I spent months scouring Pinterest and I did my best to show the world that I was a success as a new mom.  In essence, Selah's party became an exercise in trying to show off my mothering prowess and it was not until I burned the food, found my pinterest crafts falling apart, and had the disposal back up that I finally gave up and remembered that the day was not about me at all.  It was a day to celebrate the bundle of joy who had completely wrecked my life (in all the good ways).

With this lesson stilled seared in my brain, I determined to keep Haven's soiree low key (also, I kind of forgot that her birthday was coming until we were less than 2 weeks out- sorry, second child).  So, what I learned while I was away is that you can still have a great (even cutesy/Pinterest worthy) party without the undue stress that I find far too many mothers placing upon themselves.

Here is what we did to celebrate little nugget's special day:

Simple Table Decor focusing on the Little Nugget
 I decided to have a cook-out and decorate with a picnic motif.  Why?  Because I had most of the decorations and because we were in fact just doing a simply family cook-out to celebrate.  I honestly spent less than $20 on decorations & some fun things for the bigger cousins to do.  The Dollar Store was my best friend - I purchased all paper goods, the plastic table cloth that I used as a runner, and picnic gear!

I decided to purchase bubbles for the bigger cousins to play with and the girls had fun blowing and chasing the bubbles around the yard.

 I didn't worry about any other type of entertainment - we just laid out quilts, let the children squeal as they chased one another in the yard, and chatted over juicy burgers and hot dogs - simple.  I'm learning that I like simple.

The only thing that I did spend time on was the cake.  I had just watch The Pioneer Woman make the most delicious looking cake on her show (can you say Nutella, Chocolate and Strawberries), and I determined that I must give it a try.  I have to confess that I was PROUD of myself when I finished this beauty.

However, by the time the party started the whipped cream has partially melted so my creation was less than stellar...but that's okay!

I also learned that I'm quite expressive when celebrating my little nugget.

And by "expressive" I mean frightening
And then the main event occurred.  We stripped down the baby and let her have some cake.

It was a special evening, a night filled with laughter, great food, the toothy grin of our sweet Haven girl.  Happy Birthday Haven Joy!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reading Love and My Summer Reading List - More of What I've Learned While Away from Blogging

While I was on my break from blogging, I was falling in love again with reading.  Since I was a young girl I have loved to read (In fact, my parents have a great story about grounding me from my books when I was was devastating to my little life).

My love affair with books has had highs and lows, with seasons where I consume fiction and seasons where I trudge through books of theology both loving and hating the work.  I have had seasons where I read book after book voraciously and then there are the recent seasons in which I read more slowly. 
For the last couple of years I have read more slowly because I have put rules on myself when it comes to reading.  I have told myself I MUST finish every book on my night stand before I can move on to another book, and you know what?  Sometimes I just don't like a book and so I don't want to finish it!

Well, while I was on my blog break I decided it was time to read whatever my heart fancied.  No more rules, no more guilt about the unread books piling up around my house.  I was going to fall in love again with reading...and I did just that!

Here is what I've read over the last couple months:
The Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.  I have been a long time reader of Rachel's blog - sometimes giving her a fist pump in whole hearted agreement and other times completely disagreeing with her opinions.  As I've read her blog, I realized I really like Rachel.  I wish I could be as open and opinionated without the fear of retribution that she receives on her blog.  So, when I read about her book, I was immediately intrigued and bought it for my phone (yes, sometimes I read on my phone).  Rachel takes a year of her life to literally live out what the Bible says about being a woman (she even lives in a tent one month during her period to uphold the Old Testament laws about living seperate when "unclean").  To me, the book was humorous, insightful, and I was surprised at the humility of Rachel as well as the beautiful lessons God taught her on this journey.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.  Jen has gotten quite a bit of buzz recently on the internet, and it is about time.  This lady is hilarious, honest, and not afraid to tell the world how it is.  Interrupted is the story of God's abrupt interruption in her and her husband's life in which they begin to ask big questions about church and whether or not Christians are really living a life that reaches those who are often forgotten.  This book convicted me and stirred me and I probably need to reread it.

Assaulted by Joy: The Redemption of a Cynic by Stephen Simpson.  This memoir is one that I picked up for 50 cents at a book sale, and one day I just felt drawn to read it.  It is a memoir of a self-described jerk and his journey to finding joy.  Spoiler alert - his wife ends up having QUADRUPLETS...and that just bascially brings him to his knees and to some beautiful realities about joy.

Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle.  Loved this story of Melanie becoming a mother to Caroline.  Melanie told story about story about the crazy and sweet moments that come with motherhood.  This is a great book for any mother to read.  You will relate, laugh, and relate some more!

Love the One You are With by Emily Giffin and The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore - these are a couple of fiction books I read over the last few months that were kind of mindless.  The best thing I can say about these two is that The French Gardener inspired me to start working in my yard, which I needed to do desperately!

Obviously, I like to read memoirs & personal stories! 

In the last week I have had a few people ask for suggestions of what to read this summer.  Not sure what you are in the mood for, but I thought I'd let you know what I'm planning on reading this summer!

Jesus, the CIA, My Father and Me by Ian Morgan Cron.  I'm actually almost finished with this and I have loved it. 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.  I have read several suggested reading lists by women I admire and this book is almost always listed.  Josh actually bought me this book over a month ago and encouraged me to read it.  I'm planning on focusing on it while in Europe in July.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brow.  I feel like everytime I turn around or troll the internet someone is talking about the brilliance of Brene Brown.  I need to be more vulnerable, so can't wait to read this one!

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.  I read Shauna's blog and she inspires me.  Josh and I have been talking lately about how we need to open our table more often and have people really become community in our lives.  I feel like this book with give me the kick in the pants and the encouragement to do just that.

Paul's Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary) by Gordon Fee.  In the last six months I have been drawn to Philippians like a moth to a flame.  It has always held a special place in my heart, but as I dig in more to the gold in this book, I just want to know more.  I respect Gordon Fee, and I love a good commentary so this was an easy choice for me.

Persuasion by Jane Austen. I love Jane Austen.  I have since my junior year in high school, and most who know me would guess that Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Austen book.  As I get older, Persuasion is now my favorite.  It is more subtle and yet the ending is exhilarating and will make you swoon!  If you have never read this lesser known Austen masterpiece you should read it this summer.  I always read one Austen novel a summer, and this year it will be Persuasion.

How about you?  What is on your list to read this summer?

Monday, June 10, 2013

10 Tips for a Successful Garage Sale - What I've Learned While Taking a Blog Break

I've been quiet on the blog for the past 3 months, but I'm back and sharing a few things that I've learned while away.  I first shared about how Paint Transformed My Life and today I want to tell you about something else I have is a secret: 

I am a Garage Sale Rock Star (and I believe you can be one too)
Growing up I helped my mom with multiple garage sales and I LOATHED them.  In almost 13 years of marriage Josh and I have never attempted to do one - I was scared!  When I thought of garage sales I pictured unnecessary haggling (you know, someone offering you 10 cents for something that is only a quarter to begin's a QUARTER people!)  I also envisioned massive amounts of work with little pay-off, and so everytime over the last 13 years that the thought of a garage sale crept into my mind, I would immediately pack up our junk and just give it away.

However, since we are taking our family of 4 to Europe this summer for missions we have been looking for anyway possible to make some extra money (*cough - Josh's singing telegrams).  I decided a garage sale was in order and we had 4 families donate to our cause.  We had a massive amount of junk...and some good stuff too.  But it was worth it because at the end of 3 hard days of work, we made over $2,000!

I've had a couple people ask me if I have any tips for a successful garage sale after this, and although it may have been an absolute fluke, I feel like I did learn some things that ended up making this venture successful.  So here are my 10 tips to becoming a Garage Sale Rock Star (take them for what they are worth - about 10 cents):

1.  Ask rich friends to donate stuff to your sale ;)
I'm only half joking here.  People in the US have too much stuff and many people would happily give you their junk if you simply asked.  We asked only a handful of people and everyone we asked was happy to donate!  We offered to pick up their donated items, and for many of them they saw this as a way to bless us AND they got rid of items like a life size Pluto stuffed animal - it was a win-win for everyone!

2. The High-Low Pricing Game 
(Price Items to Sell BUT Also Price Slightly Above What You Want)
People want to feel like they are getting a deal at a garage sale, so items should be priced cheaply.  HOWEVER, people also want to feel like they worked to get that deal and will almost always ask you to come down on your price.  Therefore, there is a fine line in pricing.  As I priced items I would ask myself what the minimum I wanted for the item (so that I could keep it cheap), and then I would price it slightly higher.

For instance, if I wanted $5 for an item I would price it at $7 or $8.  This gave me room to negotiate and I didn't start the day off frustrated that I wasn't making what I felt was a fair price.

We let Selah keep $1 of her profits and went to the dollar store
3.  Let Your Kids Join in the Fun
We talked up the garage sale to Selah for weeks and she decided that she wanted to have a cookie/lemonade stand.  She was quite the sales girl too!  Starting at 8am she asked almost every person who came into our yard if they would like to buy a cookie...and who can say no to this face?

Needless to say, we SOLD OUT of cookies at 11am on Friday...and she had a blast while making a little extra cash.

4.  Use Social Media 
The power of Facebook and Twitter really is amazing in situations like this.  We probably sold over $500 worth of stuff to friends and acquaintances via facebook.  I made an album of pictures and posted them to facebook the night before our sale.  Before we opened our garage doors on Friday morning we had reserved 5 items for friends and several others were requesting our address to come check out our wares for themselves.

So don't be afraid to use social media to highlight your garage sale.  Your stuff could be just what a friend has been searching for, AND it makes the day more fun as friends pop by to see what you have for sale!

5.   Choose the Date for your Sale Wisely
We had our Garage Sale the Friday & Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.  I initially thought this was going to be a poor decision, but after speaking with several of our garage sale patrons who frequent garage sales, I discovered that this ended up in our benefit.  There were very few who had garage sales this weekend and so we had little competition.  This was a fluke for us...but I do think that choosing your date wisely is important.

Think about when pay day falls each month...
Think about the weather...

And consider opening your sale for Friday and Saturday.  We had an excellent crowd come by on Friday morning - people who came with a purpose.

6.  Write a Great Ad 
I started calling our garage sale "The EPIC Garage Sale" a couple of weeks before it ever occurred.  I was trying to psyche myself up for this giant task that I was inwardly dreading so I kept calling it epic to try and make it sound fun and important.  Because it was in my mind, we used the word Epic in all of our ads.  It was silly really...but I had numerous people come by and say - "Is THIS the EPIC Garage Sale?"

Words like giant or big or multi-family are used often so try using an adjective that is out of the ordinary and perhaps you will hook a few more buyers who are intrigued by your creativity.

The rest of our ad was just a list of items we had for sale.  No fancy sentences or flowery statements, just a straight forward list (furniture, electronics, home decor, children's items, stroller, rugs, grill, sporting equipment, etc).

7.  Display Items Well
Sorting through piles...
I learned this from an HGTV show - display items so that they look their best.  I am kicking myself that I deleted these pictures, but I displayed my rugs nicely, sat chairs and a side table on them, and over and over people stopped to take a closer look because they could picture those items in a house.  I also tried to categorize items so that as you walked around the garage you could see all the home decor in one place, all the sports equipment in one place (I actually called it the section of Good Intentions), etc.

Lastly, we set out the items that we felt would draw people to the sale in the driveway close to the road.  So, as people drove past they could see furniture, our grill, a child's play table, etc.  "If you TEMPT them they will come."

8.  Keep Your Eyes on Valuable Small Items
We had two small electronics stolen during our sale and it almost ruined the sale for me.  I was mad at myself because I had intended to keep an eye on these gems.  BUT, with over 20 people in our garage, wearing Haven in a baby carrier, and helping Selah to pour lemonade, there was a good hour when I lost track and found myself looking up to realize a video camera and digital camera were gone.  UGH!

So, come up with a plan.  Have family or friends help out and just keep an eye on small valuables.

9.  Close Early & Make Final Deals
There is no sense in staying open until 6pm if the crowds disappear at 2pm.  End on a winning note and try to avoid exhaustion.  Most garage sale shoppers know to get there early so your best opportunity to make a profit is in the morning.  As your crowd disappears (especially on Friday) don't be afraid to close down at 1 or 2pm (remember, you still have another day to sell and you will need your energy). 

On Saturday as the day progresses start slashing prices and let everyone know that you will make them a deal.  We wanted to empty as much of our merchandise as possible so we made some killer deals at 1pm on Saturday.  It felt good to wrap things up by making sales of $50 and watching as people loaded our stuff into their cars.

10.  Let People Know Your Story and Listen to Theirs
We had a few conversations over the course of two days that helped us to let go of a few items that had sentimental value.  In fact, we had one conversation with a family from Czech Republic who ended up purchasing a desk from us.  We listened to their story of moving to America and their dilemma in trying to find any furniture with a European flare.  We also got to share about our trip to Czech Republic and we made a brief connection right there in the garage.  

I sold some baby stuff to a new mother and we connected over stories of sleepless nights and new born smiles.  I actually concluded the weekend with a new appreciation of connecting with others in my community - I met a widow who lives five houses down and yet who always stays behind her closed door.  Josh talked business with a few who came through our garage, and this sale...that I was woefully dreading became a weekend of small conversations that left me grateful to live in a city like Lubbock.

So those are my 10 tips from our garage to yours!  And perhaps the best tip of all - Give Thanks!  Whether you make $2,000 or $200 - people are buying your things that you no longer want.  So, choose a weekend, sort through your junk, get some friends to donate to your cause, and have fun meeting new people!  I hope at the end of your next garage sale you too feel like a Garage Sale Rock Star!
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