purging

2014 has been a time of purging.

And I don’t mean anything to do with food or drinks.

I feel like all year has been filled with spurts of organizing and getting rid of things. Redefining my goals for things and possessions. Trashing, donating, moving, etc.

and it feels so good.

This morning, my guy and I had a little texting convo that went like this:

text

He’s a winner. And the house did/does still look like some wreckage has passed through.

I came across this picture {via this site} and loved it for many reasons.

lovely and clean

But you know the biggest one?

It’s clean. There are no piles of junk sitting in the corner, under the sofa, etc.

Now, I realize the fact that I have 3 kids is going to make my house look quite a bit different. And I’m totally cool with that. My intent is not to make it look like no kids live in my home – so the fact that there are toys out is awesome. (unless it’s a block with sharp edges and it comes in contact with my foot. then it’s not so awesome.)

The fact that I have stuff sitting in my home that I haven’t used in over a year and probably won’t for another 5? totally not awesome. So I’m working on it. And it’s quite freeing, believe it or not. I actually vacuumed under my bed this morning. Hello. Who does that? Clearly I don’t.

So, are any of you in a great purging mood? Let’s have a yard sale together.
No, let’s not. Too much work. 

Let’s celebrate instead by going out and buying more stuff to fill up all our new empty space.
ahem.

“Let all things be done decently & in order.”
1 Corinthians 14:40

take it to Jesus.

overwhelmed

when life piles up on you.

when the pressures seem to multiply.

there’s an answer for that.

overwhelmed2

God doesn’t give us overwhelming situations so that we will be overwhelmed, but so that we’ll give them to Him.

Recently, there have been a lot of areas in my life where I feel burdened and overwhelmed:
several friends rejecting Jesus and pursuing sin.
a sweet Pastor dying suddenly of a heart attack.
my close friend having a miscarriage.
coming off a full summer.
my husband beginning work on his doctoral degree.

In all these things, the lesson God keeps teaching me is this:
God wants these pressures to take me closer to Him. Closer.

Got problems? Pressures? Overwhelmed?
Take it to Jesus. Just keep running to Him.

 

Women of the Word :: book review + giveaway

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I was pretty stoked to read it.

Women of the Word :: book review + giveaway

Although I’ve been reading & studying the Bible for years, I have never read a book about how to study the Bible. So I dove right into this book with an open heart.

Overview

The first 2 chapters deal with common misconceptions of Bible study as well as why women should be interested in honing these skills. The next 5 chapters go through the 5 “P’s” of Bible study. Wilkin advises to study with:

  • Purpose

“From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is telling us about the reign and rule of God.”

“Studying the Bible with purpose means keeping its overarching message in view at all times.”

  • Perspective

Wilkin warns that you may feel as though you’re back in English class during this chapter on studying with perspective. And with good reason. She offers 5 helpful questions to ask while reading the Word to gain perspective on both cultural and historical contexts.

“Knowing the purpose for which a text was written guards us from reading it solely for our own purposes.” [chapter 4]

  • Patience

Sometimes, people can come to the Bible looking for something to encourage them in their day ahead. Instead Wilkin offers this advice: “Rather than reading a specific text to try to meet an immediate need, give the benefits of your study permission to be stored away for future use.” [chapter 5]

  • Process

This chapter is all about Wilkin’s process for studying the Bible, including what materials she uses and the questions she forces herself to answer from the text. She walks you through 3 stages of understanding: Comprehension, Interpretation, & Application.

  • Prayer

“Prayer is what changes our study from the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of God himself.”

“let prayerfulness imbue your study from start to finish.” [chapter 7]

The final chapters are entitled Pulling It All Together [chapter 8] & Help for Teachers [chapter 9] and offer final tips for both the student & teacher of the Bible.

Personal Analysis

Women of the Word very directly challenged my methods of Bible study. I’ve never been one to just flip open my Bible to a random passage and claim that as my divine message for the day. So I guess I thought since I already thoughtfully and systematically read through portions of Scripture, I didn’t have much to learn. I guess I was wrong. ;)

Actually, this book has been so helpful to my understanding of Bible study that I’ve been referring to it each morning during my personal devotions. I’m working through the book of Ephesians and attempting to study with the “5 P’s.”

I have already recommended this book to several of my friends, so of course I recommend it to you as well. This is an excellent resource both for individuals and groups. In fact, I think this would be a great book to go through with a friend and then study the same book of the Bible together. Grow closer together while you draw near to God. Just a thought.

I leave you with one of my favorite sections from the ‘Conclusion’ of this book:

“Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is a means to love God more, and to live differently because we have learned to behold him better. And it is a means to become what we behold. The reciprocal love of God is a love that transforms.”

I contacted Crossway to see if they would be willing to give away 2 copies of Women of the Word and they said yes! Just enter below – 2 winners will each receive 1 copy of this book. I trust it will be a resource that will serve to advance your understanding of the Bible & draw your heart closer to Jesus!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

aaaaaaand we’re back!

The past 3 weeks have been full! I mentioned a little bit of our activity here, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I wanted to give you a little re-cap of our missions trip to Brazil. Most of it will just be in picture format. Our main goals were to help the missionary family we were working with by assisting with VBS, a youth rally, tiling in several church rooms, and other outreach activities like English classes & canvassing.

Naturally, I didn’t take pictures of every activity. But I chose several that I thought you would enjoy and would give you a little taste of what happened over the past couple weeks. I’ll give a little recap at the end in case you wonder what in the world is going on in these pics:
brazil recap

1. chillin’ in the Charlotte airport, just waiting for our flights…
2. the chillin’ got boring for some people, so they proceeded to do pushups. I was totally content to be bored.
3. we made it! this was a sign in the Brazil airport that I just thought was too cool to pass up.
4. this sweet family had us in their home for dinner. the food = amazing. I was a little nervous about it, because I was planning to eat whatever they served. there was no need for nervousness. everything was delicious & there were no adverse effects. in case you were wondering. ahem.
5. this guy. love him. and hats are awesome too. especially when you’re shoveling sand + dirt and you look like a hot mess.
6 -7. these kids were just about the ages of my kids. and so I hung out with them a lot. I took videos of them being silly and Anna Grace loves watching them!
8. snack time at VBS. this little guy’s smile and laugh were so contagious!
9. I looked over during the youth rally and saw Jonathan protecting this little girl from the big ball. I mean…I just had to take a pic. #whataguy
10. some friends I met during the youth rally. they taught me Portuguese & I taught them English. thankfully, they knew way more English than I knew Portuguese, so we were able to communicate pretty well.
11. Big Ball at the youth rally! they loved it!
12. the flight home. AKA discarded food trays & a fun movie.
13. first sighting of my beautiful Charlotte.
14. okay, this was clearly the best part about coming home. these 3 precious kids stylin’ in their Brazil shirts while Daddy reads them a story.

Overall, the trip went well and we’re thankful for the many times we saw God answer our prayers. He gave much grace and we are so grateful!

 

you don’t have to understand

Before my kids take a nap, I usually read at least 1 story to them. Sometimes it’s Curious George or Madeline. Sometimes it’s a few chapters out of Proverbs. Lately, I’ve been reading some stories out of this Bible story book. We’ve already gone through it a couple times for our evening devotions, so the stories aren’t new. But I’ve really enjoyed reading through them again.

Recently, I read “The Present” – which is the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac. If you haven’t heard this story, you can read it here

A couple sections from this story stood out to me:

“Put his boy on the altar and kill him as the sacrifice? How could God want him to do such a terrible thing? Abraham didn’t understand. But he knew that God was his father who loved him. And so Abraham trusted him.”

and again with Isaac:

“They built an altar and laid the wood on top. Abraham asked his son to climb on top of the wood. Isaac didn’t understand but he knew his father loved him. And so he trusted him.”

Do you see how their belief motivated their actions?
Abraham believed God. And so he obeyed even though he didn’t understand.

You don’t have to understand in order to obey. You don’t have to know how everything will turn out in the end before you take the first step. That’s what faith is. People who believe in Jesus don’t live for what they can see. They don’t make decisions because they see the final product. They live their lives based on what they can’t see.

Weird, right?

In a culture obsessed with the visible, God calls believers to be consumed with the invisible.

I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to be strapped to people’s opinions and my ever-changing emotions. Like Abraham, I can choose to obey based on who God is and what He has said.

Goodness. That’s who I want to be.
How about you?

 

 

taking stock

The next several weeks are a bit packed, so I’m trying to be super strict about vitamins, water, rest, hand-washing, etc. to keep the germies away. And of course, that means I’m upping the healthy routines for my littles as well. Thankfully, they love the taste of their vitamins + drops {wrote about them here}, so that makes it easy all around.

Anyway, I read this post last week and wanted to play along {original post here}, so here’s a little snapshot of my life in a nutshell…

taking stock

Making : cleaning products with this
Cooking : freaky greek pasta & this from this book (that I borrowed from my library)
Drinking : water. and coffee with this creamer
Reading : just finished this
Wanting : people to just follow Jesus instead of their hearts. myself included.
Looking : for a striped skirt
Playing : Uno Moo with my kids {Nate is surprisingly good}
Wasting : time playing Scramble. good game. in moderation.
Sewing : absolutely nothing
Wishing : that I could paint
Enjoying : the sweet smiles + laughs from my baby Miles
Waiting : to see how God will answer some specific prayer requests
Liking : fedoras. like this one.
Wondering : what to get for my husband’s 30th birthday
Loving : hanging out with my fam. especially outside
Hoping : to sell some items on craigslist
Marveling : at God’s amazing love
Needing : to practice this kind of love
Smelling : the black cherry popsicle I just finished
Wearing : pink capris I finally fit back into
Following : this workout program. except not completely because of our crazy schedule this summer.
Noticing : the gorgeous blue of the sky
Knowing : that God is worth trusting
Thinking : about the fact that 2014 is halfway over
Feeling : desperate for wisdom
Bookmarking : this. obvs.
Opening : pickle jars. my kids are in love.
Giggling : actually, I don’t care for the word giggle. My sister and I used to make fun of it. but I’m amused by my kids constantly. and this made me laugh out loud.
Feeling : like it’s time for my kids to wake up and play with me.

Wanna play along?
Just copy & paste the text below into your own post. Let me know if you do — I’d love to read your answers!

Making:
Cooking:
Drinking:
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Wasting:
Sewing:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving: 
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Feeling:
Bookmarking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:

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clean + simple

For the past few months, the design of this site has been getting on my nerves. Everything was so cluttered. I kept seeing different sites that I loved and I finally realized what they all had in common. They were simple. Clean. Uncluttered. And they were beautiful.

I am clearly not a graphic designer. Nor am I good at behind the scenes computer coding craziness.  And so I was super hesitant to try to change anything because I just knew it would take a meeellion years.

Lo and behold. The new site design has arrived. And a meeellion years have not passed.

new look

If you’re reading this via email, click here to see the clean + simple loveliness.

One of my fave features is the mobile version. I mean, seriously. How long does it take a girl to get a decent mobile version of her site? Clearly it takes a long time. But now you see this… {excuse the top & bottom parts that I was too lazy to crop out of the screenshots.}

new design BST

And if you want to get to a specific topic, just click on the “Menu” and this drop down list will appear:

new design BST

OR you can scroll to the bottom to either search the site or check out the most recent posts.

new design BST

There may still be some wonky issues, so if you see any, please let me know via facebook or email {brownsugartoast {AT} gmail {DOT} com}.

So far, though, I just breathe a sigh of relief every time I see the new design.
Ahhhh…so clean + simple. I love it.

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grace. and more grace.

Summers are our busy season. Due to Jonathan’s job as youth pastor, we are able to take kids to camp, lead teens on missions trip, and be heavily involved in our church’s summer outreach for kids. It’s seriously awesome!
Like anything, though, it also has parts that are difficult. Like the part where we leave our sweet babies each summer during missions trip.

Rip.my.heart.out. Times 3. Need I remind you how amazingly awesome my babies are?
I will – just in case you forgot.

littleyears3

I mean, I know babies are a lot of work. It’s true. You lose sleep and sanity, non-spit-up-on-clothes and the ability to wear fun accessories that resemble candy. But it doesn’t matter. They’re awesome. And God gives grace to take the good + not-so-good and overwhelm you with the good when the bad seems to outweigh it all.

Speaking of that grace… I’m needing it in a big way as we go through these summer activities.

Sometimes, I try to just muscle my way through difficult things because I think “there are a million people going through harder things than I am right now, so I shouldn’t even consider this ______ a trial.”

And then halfway through {if I make it that far}, I wonder why I’m having such a hard time. And so I pray to God for grace to help me through.

I’m learning to pray for grace and give it all to God before anything even starts. No matter how small it is compared to someone else’s struggle. Jesus has a way of making life situations just for me – things that He knows will push my buttons. And make me lose patience unless I’m getting it from Him.

God’s grace. Grace that will pardon and cleanse within. Grace that is greater than all my sin. Grace and strength to choose God’s way instead of my own.

My way is one of impatience. selfishness. weakness masked as strength.
His way is love. peace. joy. strength that never falters.

God, help me to choose your way. I need grace. and more grace.

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