It’s Fri-YAY! Let’s eat some carrot cake…

So, I had a #Mamalifehack all lined up to show you today, but after a week without Shaun here (not a bad week at all…just, you know, a WEEK), I thought that perhaps the best Mama-tip I could share today might be this one.

cake

And that would be…when you’ve had “a week,” allow yourself a slice of THEE best carrot cake you will ever taste.

{I know it looks like chocolate cake, but it isn’t; that’s just what happens when you take your pictures with the last slivers of the day’s light}

I have posted about it at least twice before (and every single time I’ve made it for any event, people have asked for the recipe). But I made it again yesterday as a bribe reward for the kids being suuuuper helpful with chores (oh, and because…cake), and it was so amazingly moist and melt-in-your-mouth-yummy that I just had to share again. I did.

A couple of tips:

1. Pay NO mind whatsoever to the bake time. I have no idea why it suggests 35 minutes for a three layer cake, but mine took 20 on the dot (and I’d say my oven cooks pretty accurately), and if I’d cooked it a couple of minutes longer, it would have been too dry.

2. If you like nuts at all, DO add some chopped up pecans to the batter. OH. MY. It adds so much depth to the flavor and texture.

3. This recipe calls for 1 cup and 1/2 of vegetable oil (!!!), so I like to make it a teeeensy bit healthier by turning 1/2 a cup of that into apple sauce. It makes everything even moister without adding unnecessary oil. (I’ve done it with a cup of apple sauce too, and it was still great).

4. If you don’t have an awesome cream cheese icing recipe, you can try mine (which is more of a “recipe” than a recipe, if you know what I’m sayin’):

  • 8 oz. (FULL FAT) cream cheese (slightly softened)
  • 1/2 stick of butter (slightly softened)
  • 2-3 tbs. of milk
  • 32 oz. of good quality powdered sugar (I don’t care about name brand stuff, but, trust me, in this case, it makes a difference)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Whip your softened cream cheese + butter until creamy, then add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until it begins to take on a frosting texture. When it gets too thick to spread, add the milk + vanilla. Keep adding powdered sugar until you have thick, creamy frosting that holds its shape but still spreads easily. It may not take the entire 32 oz. bag, but it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little powdered sugar because runny cream cheese frosting is just a bummer.

So, there you have it. Something to put even more YAY in your Friday. I’m off to have a piece of cake for breakfast. (I tell myself this is because I’m teaching BODYCOMBAT later, but let’s be real: I would have eaten it anyway).

Okay, so spill: what do you do to make “a week” better?

A Jamberry Jamboree (+ a Giveaway for YOU!)

It’s always fun when blogging buddies go way back as real-life buddies too, which is exactly the case with my friend, Kelli, from Eat Pray Read Love. She and I grew up in the same small East Texas town, and it was really fun to reconnect over blogging years later and then over our shared love of scoring cheap deals (she’s great at money-saving tips and tricks and has tons of ideas on her blog), BODYCOMBAT, and small humans (she has four of her own).

kelli

{Here she is with her pastor-hubby}

So, when she reached out and asked if I’d like to give Jamberry Nails a try, I bit. Hard. I mean, I’ve been pretty open here about my less-than-stellar nails. Also, my polish addiction. And while I can see a big difference in the appearance/health of my nails when I use It Works Hair Skin and Nails (my hair stylist told me the other day that my nails were so shiny, they looked buffed), I’m never going to have diamond-hard nails with lovely white tips. Which is fine. I wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them anyway.

But I still like to keep them looking decent, which is why I try to apply a quick coat of paint every so often. Problem is, between washing dishes and wiping behinds and sudsing up small bodies at bath time, the paint usually only lasts a day…two, if I’m lucky.

Which is why I was especially intrigued–not only by all the cute patterns that Jamberry offers–but by the claims that their wraps stay put for two weeks +.

Do WHAT?!

I had a hard time believing it, but people I trusted (Kelli among them) were raving about these suckers.

So, I chose a fun, funky pattern called Birds of a Feather, and Kelli kindly popped them in the mail for me.

When they arrived, I carefully read through the included instructions and then started applying them…while my girls and I watched Young Victoria (we’ve been on a Jane Austen + period movie kick lately).

Honestly, I felt a bit unsure that I was doing it right and super-awkward. But I didn’t let that deter me. I had fully expected a learning curve. I also expected the process to be slow. I tend to be painfully methodical the first time I do anything, so when I finally finished my left hand after about 40 minutes of stop-start wrapping, I decided to call it good for the moment. Or rather I had to decide that or run out of time to get my children ready for the gym.

Here’s what I had at that point.

jamberryIG

Y’all.

I walked around with only my left hand done for…10 days. Ridiculous, I know. But the good news is that–even though my wraps had numerous little imperfections in the seal, due to my novice application–those babies hung in there for 10 days!

Of course, the second I posted the above pic to FB, I got a deluge of advice from Jamberry lovers about the best application process.

One particular term kept popping up, and it was intriguing enough that I tracked down this video of “the baggie method,” on Youtube. (Seriously. If you’re a Jamberry user and haven’t watched this yet, DO IT! So helpful).

People, if only I had done this the first time. I mean, yes, the instructions that come with the product are clear and good enough (potentially), but the whole stretching thing the lady in the video describes along with her method of simply clipping the ends instead of filing them…game-changers.

jamberry

{Ezra took this pic. Impressive, right?}

My second application took about 50 minutes total (still not fast, but I was going step by step through the process of the video, so it was kind of like starting over), and, whereas last time, my feelings at the end were, Maaaaaaybe I did that sort of right?…this time I feel confident that my jams will at least match the record set by their poorly applied predecessors. And I could feel myself getting faster and faster the more than my muscle memory absorbed the process.

jamberry1

(Couldn’t resist including the slightly creepy, blurry Evy-head in the background :) )

ANYhoo, here’s the short list of what I like about my wraps:

  • They stay on forever. Seriously. 10 + days is an eternity for your nails to look decent.
  • They look fabulous on short nails. I keep cutting mine down, down, down to avoid the inevitable peeling I always experience at the tips, and even though it didn’t even seem like there was that much for the wraps to adhere to on some nails, they immediately made my stubby nails look pretty.
  • They come in pretty much an endless array of colors + patterns.
  • Each set gives you enough wraps to do your full nails twice + a pedicure (you’d have to do some trimming, but it’s not very hard).

As far as cons:

  • The time it takes to apply them is really my only complaint. But after only two applications, I can tell that I’m already getting a lot faster and more confident with the process, and I can only see that improving over time and with repetition. And plus, even if you wear them daily, if you get a good seal, you shouldn’t have to put them on again for 2 weeks. (TWO!)

I’m already dreaming up the next pattern + color combo I’d like. Here are some of my faves.

jamberry collage

Also, ALSO, Kelli is being kind enough to give away a single sheet of Jamberry Nail Wraps (you’ll have your choice of several options), a file, and an orange stick to one lucky gal!

jamberrygiveaway

All you have to do to be entered is answering the following question using the options I’ve given you below.

Have you ever tried Jamberry Nail Wraps?

A) No, but I’d love to get my hands on some (hardy-har…punny)

B) Yes, but I’d love to get my hands on more

C) No, but my interest ends with the giveaway

D) Yes, but my interest ends with the giveaway

If you answer A or B, then Kelli will follow up with you about getting some Jamberry for yourself!

Also, also, ALSO (forget useful terms like “P.S.”), Kelli and I are hosting an online Jamberry party. Which is basically my greedy little way of saying, if you are intrigued by the wraps and want to try/buy for yourself, then would you pretty please do it at my party? (I know, I know. What an opportunist).

But seriously, no hard feelings if you don’t. I’m a fan either way.

Updated House Tour

I’ve had several people recently asking where they could see more pics of our home. I’ve always redirected them to the “House Tour” tab at the top of the page. But the thing is, that tab had not been updated in…ages.

Well, I finally sat down last week and took a few minutes to add the rest (more or less) of the room reveals that I’ve done here on the blog.

So, if you’ve just been dying to take a gander at all of the spaces (both the way they were decorated originally and in their updated states), then be sure to click on the House Tour tab at the top of the page. Here’s a peek at what you’ll see.

housetourcollage

Color! Pattern! Accessories! What can I say? Neutral is not my middle name. :)

P.S. I know that the last two days have been blog posts of the announcement variety, but I’ve got something super-fun for you tomorrow, so don’t give up on me yet!

Shop My Closet Last Calls + a Winner!

Hey guys!

First things first–the winner of last week’s Younique giveaway is:

sabrina

Check your email, girlie, and we’ll get your goodies out to you soon!

Next, I LUUUUUUURVED your responses to Friday’s “embarrassing” post. Seriously. I laughed so hard. And one response, in particular, got quite a rise out of pretty much everybody who read it (quick! go read if you haven’t already; you’ll know which one it is right away!).

In other news, I’ve done a couple of rounds of Shop My Closet over at @mifmcloset on Instagram in the last couple of weeks, and y’all just about cleaned me out both times, but I did have a few things left, and I thought I’d offer them here on a first come, first served basis (everything over there is auction-style).

Prices include shipping. The first person to leave a comment with her Paypal email address for each item gets it!

Shipping to U.S. and Canada only ($2 extra/item for Canada).

1.

shopmycloset1

Dark plum Merona halter dress. Size 2. Runs large. Hits right above my knee
Worn once.
$10 SHIPPED.

2.

shopmycloset2

ALYNPAIGE gray knit dress. Size 7/8. Fits like a small. Hits 3-4 inches above my knee (in 5’7″ish), which is too short for me, so keep that in mind if you’re concerned about length. Silver zipper runs the length of the bodice. (There are belt loops, but no belt included; also, very slight, barely noticeable pilling on the lower part of the torso).

$8 shipped

3.

 

shopmycloset3

We Vera blouse. Size 8. Fits like a small.

$7 shipped.

4.

shopmycloset4

Mossimo dress. Size Medium. Could work for a small too. Worn once.

$9 shipped.

5. shopmycloset5

9 & Co. Faux suede black shooties. Size 8 1/2. TTS. Only worn twice.

$15 shipped.

6.

shopmycloset6

Talbot embroidered cream-colored midi skirt. Size 4. Fits more like a 2. Has a very Anthro-esque feel.

Hits mid-shin.

$8 shipped

7.

shopmycloset7

Nine West orange top. Size small. TTS. Tassel ties on sleeves (see right sleeve).

$7 shipped.

8.

shopmycloset

shopmycloset8

New York and Co. Cotton sateen orange dress. New Without Tags. Size 6. TTS. Hits me mid-knee. Very flattering silhouette.

$12 shipped

I’ll also be posting a new batch of clothes sometime today (hopefully), so if you aren’t already following, you may want to hop over to Instagram and follow along with @mifmcloset to get first dibs.

How Embarrassing…

I am easily embarrassed for other people. As in, I get mild anxiety when someone tipsy tries to give a heartfelt, rambling Oscar acceptance speech, and I’m better off leaving the room.

embarrassing1

When it comes to myself, I’m most embarrassed when I misread a social situation. For example, that moment earlier this week on St. Patty’s Day when a friend’s husband walked up and stood much closer to me than usual, and I thought for some reason that we were going to do that awkward back-pat-side-hug-with-space-still-between-us greeting (and then made my best attempt to execute this nearly impossible move) when all he wanted to do was find out if I was wearing green so he could pinch me (I wasn’t…because getting six children + myself to the gym with all of us dressed in ANY color ranks slightly higher than avoiding pinches).

Or that time I thought Kendi was trying to shake my hand when she was really reaching for the clothes I was holding, and I ended up holding hands with her for a monumentally awkward moment or three. Cue: me, trying to sink through the floor.

What’s that you say? You’d like to hear more of my embarrassing moments?

All right, then.

Let’s travel back in time to my ultra-cool community college days when I, an over-achieving, exceptionally nerdy 15-year-old freshman, sat on the front/middle seat in every single class so as not to miss one word of instruction (I’m kind of embarrassed for myself already, and I haven’t even gotten to the story yet).

One day, in History 1301, which was taught by the diminutive, soft-spoken, dryly funny Dr. Parks, I was doing my level best to subdue a bout of ribcage-punishing hiccups, while scribbling notes and trying to resist the inevitable drowsiness that comes with after-lunch classes in warm rooms.

When I could fight it off no longer, I allowed myself one enormous yawn, the kind that leaves you suspended with your mouth gaping for a good 5 seconds.

Well.

Right in the middle of said yawn, I could feel my diaphragm begin to spasm with a hiccup. Desperate, I tried to hinge my jaw shut in time. To no avail.

And do you know what happens when you hiccup violently while your mouth is open wider than its ever been in your life? You make noises that resemble the mating call of an orca whale…that just swallowed a terrified zebra. Only 47 times louder. In the world’s quietest room.

And then you hear the titters of laughter, along with a snort or two (because your incredible vocal feat just woke up those two dudes snoozing in the back corner), and you feel the burning sensation of 27 pairs of eyes boring holes in the back of your skull as you attempt to fold your body into a smaller-than-desk-sized shape, since disappearing completely is not exactly an option.

embarrassing2

Of course, that little episode was nothing compared to that time I was playing keyboards for the worship team. In the midst of a particularly quiet moment, as I played slow, gentle chords on the string pad–my simulated cello notes providing the perfect, worshipful accompaniment to our worship leader’s exhortations to focus our hearts and minds on Jesus–my fingers slipped, and my knuckles bumped one of the 1,034 buttons on the console. Suddenly, the auditorium was filled with the raucous sounds of…Polka.

Seriously.

“Just close your eyes, and let Jesus speak to your…” OOMPA OOMPA OOMPA-PA!

Every eye snapped open. Every head jerked toward me (not hard since I was standing front and center on a stage).

I dove toward the power button, punched it, and then just stood there for a second, beet red, before slowly, sheepishly giving a double thumbs up. And then, everybody clapped.

It. was. awesome (-ly bad).

embarrassing

Aaaaaaand now it’s your turn.

These are, by far, my favorite kinds of posts because I get to hear from YOU. So, spill your most cringe-worthy, embarrassing moments so we can all laugh at with you. Pretty please? I promise it’ll be fun!

Mama Life Hacks: Easy Chick-Fil-A Knock-off Breakfast Sandwich

Most Tuesday nights, you can find us in the (torturously long) Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line. (Side note: did you know that “tortUous” is a word? It means “windy,” “twisty,” or “complicated/confusing.” I just learned that today).

It’s our favorite family fast food restaurant (pretty much our only one, actually) (say that five times fast, by the way), and Tuesday nights are kids eat free nights (one kids’ meal for every adult meal ordered), which means that we can feed our entire family for $20.

Our tab is usually a bit higher than that, though, because I almost always order an extra sandwich or two to bring home.

Shaun likes his sandwiches best cold for breakfast (such a sweet, handsome weirdo, my husband), but one morning, I got a brilliant idea to make “his” sandwich stretch a bit further so that everybody could enjoy some Chick-Fil-A yumminess for breakfast without a) another trip into town and b) the expense of buying individual sandwiches.

It was such a big hit that it’s fast become our Wednesday morning breakfast routine.

Here’s what I do:

First, I scramble about a dozen eggs in my usual way (a good splash of milk, generous salt and pepper).

Then I chop up the chicken from a Chick-Fil-A sandwich into tiny chunks and toss it into the eggs fresh off the stove (the hot eggs warm the chicken through in no time).

chicken eggs

I’ll serve them to my kids in bowls (everyone except Simon absolutely LOVES them; not sure what his problem is since he like scrambled eggs and Chick-Fil-A chicken separately). But for me and Shaun, I’ll toast the bun from the sandwich + whatever bread we have at home with a little cheddar, and then pile them up with what we have now dubbed, “Chicken Eggs.” (We’re creative geniuses. Next thing you know, we’ll be naming a baby, “Girl,” or, better yet, “Human”).

Paired with a little Chick-Fil-A sauce (and I do mean a little…that stuff is a heart attack in a tiny plastic pouch), the result is two ridiculously delicious breakfast sandwiches + enough eggs to feed the rest of the family (usually with leftovers) for about $6.

Of course, when you just so happened to have gone to Sam’s the day before and, moreover, just so happened to have let your kids talk you into bringing home a giant box of even more giant croissants…

Well, let’s just say that breakfast this morning was especially decadent.

breakfast sandwich

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes, just something small like an especially yummy, restaurant-style breakfast (and the knowledge that I did it on the cheap) is enough to start my morning off on a really good note and keep it rolling all day long.

What about you guys? Any fun restaurant hacks to share?

Or any other little tip or trick to make Mama-life a little easier (cheaper!) and more manageable?

I’m all ears!

P.S. Don’t forget to tag your tips in social media with #mamalifehacks so I can feature YOU!

P.P.S. Have you entered our fun Younique giveaway yet? Entries close TONIGHT!

Well, this is Younique! (BB review + a Giveaway for YOU!)

If y’all remember, I did a review of Younique 3D fiber lashes, eye pigments, and brushes about a year ago. I was really impressed with everything I tried, so when my friend, Crystal, whom I’ve known since middle school, asked me if I’d like to try out Younique’s BB Cream, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

crustal1

{Such a pretty girl, inside and out}

The fact that I’d just bought a drugstore BB Cream that was not working for me at all miiiiiight have contributed to my eagerness to test out a more high-quality product.

Here’s the thing. I don’t have the best skin in the world. I don’t have the worst skin in the world either. But it’s just not naturally flawless (or even unnaturally flawless…never flawless is the idea). I’m super-fair (but with the 5,348 pictures of me on this here blog, I’m guessing you already knew that), which means that I’m prone to fine lines and wrinkles. And pretty much constant blemishes + splotchy redness scream, “Hormones were here.” (Hormones? Me, a mother of 6? Never). Not to mention my under-eye circles that stick around long after my babies start sleeping through the night.

Enter my skin’s saving grace: BB cream. I can’t do full-on foundation. It’s just too heavy for me. I end up looking like I have stage makeup on. And while, with three girls 4 and under, there’s enough drama for a dozen Tony awards a day up in here, I’d really rather one of them not be for “Best Cake Face.”

But a good BB cream gives me the right base I need for adding powder or one of my other fancy tricks…like, I don’t know, concealer (I know! What’s next? Contouring??).

Of course, a bad BB cream…well, that just makes things worse.

But I am very happy to report to that Younique’s Flawless BB Cream is not a bad one. It is, by far, the best one I’ve tried, in fact.

Here is my face au naturel. Well, there’s some leftover Sunday morning + afternoon nap eye makeup, but I’m not wearing anything on my skin.

no makeup

Honestly, while I did nothing to this picture except lighten it a bit, since it was taken in a rather dark room, it’s kinder than it should be. I didn’t get a chance to take pictures until late afternoon, and the lighting just wasn’t there for a super-sharp picture. So, feel free to imagine lots more wrinkles and blotchiness because they’re there.

Normally, I would apply a layer of moisturizer with sunscreen before anything else, but I wanted to show how smoothly Younique’s BB cream goes on unmoisturized skin, so I skipped that step this time.

bb cream

It’s not a huge difference (which I like; I still want to look like me), and I have yet to tackle my under-eye circles in this pic, but my skin is considerably more even-toned and less ghostly (but not orange! not a fan of the orange look) after nothing more than a layer of BB cream.

Just so you know, here is my entire arsenal of skin makeup.

makeupselection

After concealer, a good pass with the powder/foundation sponge, some mascara, and lip gloss, here is what I end up with.

full makeup

Yes, I realize that it looks like I got all sneaky and changed lighting on purpose, but, honestly, my photographer (AKA Shaun) was out working in the garden with the boys, and by the time I finished my primping, we had lost our light for photos anyway, so a yellow bathroom light selfie it was!

So, here are my thoughts on Younique BB Flawless Complexion Enhancer:

PROS

  • It’s super creamy and has a nice “weight” to it, which means that it slides across my semi-dry skin with ease and soaks in nicely
  • It matches my skin tone perfectly. Like spot-on. Crystal told me she uses this shade (Bisque) for tons of her clients, and it works well on a variety of skin tones.
  • It smooths/evens out my blotchiness and tones down blemish redness.
  • It covers much better than any other cream I’ve tried (which are all a little too sheer) but isn’t thick and cakey like foundation.

CONS

  • It doesn’t come with a built-in sunscreen.

That’s really it. I love everything else about this cream, and I plan on reordering it as soon as I run out.

Also, I read recently that it’s a common misconception that when you layer moisturizer with sunscreen + makeup with sunscreen that you can add the coverage together for a combined total of the two SPFs. The actual truth, apparently, is that they cancel each other out a bit, and you can take an average of the two (ergo: 50 SPF + 20 SPF = 35 SPF).

So, I’m actually better off wearing a moisturizer with high SPF as my base (which is what I do anyway) and adding a BB cream without SPF on top of that.

Now, if only I could find a concealer that banishes under-eye circles to the 7th level of you-know-where…where they belong. (Feel free to throw suggestions my way).

ANYhoo, after that glowing review (har, har…glowing…for a skincare review…good one, Abs), I’m sure you’re all dying to try some Younique products for yourself.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

One lucky duck will win a Younique lip gloss in their best-selling shade (read: universally flattering), Luxe.

lip gloss1

AND I’ll even send it to you in an adorable pouch of your color choice!

lip gloss

Also, if you’re interested in getting some other products for yourself, Crystal’s got you covered! (You can also contact her at cmada{at}aol{dot}com. And she has tons of great pics and tips on her Facebook page).

All you have to do to be entered to win is answer the following question, using the options I’ve provided.

Have you ever tried any Younique makeup products?

A) No, but I would like to

B) Yes, but I would like to try more

C) No, but my interest in Younique products ends with the giveaway

D) Yes, but my interest in the Younique products ends with the giveaway

{If you answer A or B, Crystal will follow up with you about getting your hands on products!}

Just be sure to leave some way for me to contact you if you win!

Mama Life Hacks {Tip 3}: $1 Magic Spatula

Confession: I turned off the email notifications on my phone the second I pressed “post” on my “Choose” blog.

Not because I doubted a) that I was supposed to write it or b) that God’s word would stand, but because it’s really hard to get those little “comment notification” dings on your phone all day long after you’ve written a hard post and open them, one a time, with one eye squinted half-shut and your chin tucked in, not knowing whether it’s going to be an affirmation or an attack.

Honestly, I expected a lot of the latter. Anytime you talk about truth, especially of the Biblical variety, they’re bound to come.

Except this time, apparently.

Out of 80+ responses here and on social media, I received not one hateful comment.

Yesterday, I looked at my husband said, “Um, did I do something wrong?”

And he leveled this look at me that kind of said, “I’m sorry, but are you actually complaining about the fact that people aren’t yell-typing at you?”

Anyway.

It’s probably a good thing that I don’t know most of you personally because, as much as I’m not usually a big huggy type, after reading all of the lovely, encouraging, downright inspiring things you wrote in the past few days, I’d probably be all up in your grill, making us all 50 kinds of uncomfortable.

So, all that to say: Thank you.

I am just as convinced as always that I have the nicest, awesomest readers ever, and I am thankful to God for each of you. Truly.

Okay. Moving on…

What if I told you that $1 could change your life? Or at the very least your kitchen habits.

magic spatula

Yup, that rather streaky little fella there has been a bit of a revelation in my kitchen since Mandy gave it to me for Christmas (don’t worry; that wasn’t my entire gift).

But before you go diving for the comment section to give me suggestions for how to get the streaks off of it, let me expound upon this unassuming little tool’s many virtues.

First, it is THEE thing (I just borrowed that spelling from the hilarious Grace of Camp Patton because, well, I just like it) for getting even the gooiest, stickiest, most baked on cookies of them all off of the pan in one neat swipe.

Seriously. This may sound kind of minor, but, take it from a woman whose favorite chocolate chip cookies include bake-directly-onto-the-pan-and-never-come-off toffee bits…this is kind of a big deal.

Also?

It’s an excellent stuck-on-food scraper for anything from burnt cheese to dried on eggs to…whatever.

Speaking of eggs, if you ever wanted to make yourself thee (there I go again) best fried egg with no broken yolk…yup. This little miracle can do that too.

And, perhaps best of all, it makes for an incredibly effective butcher block and floor scraper.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we eat a lot of Raisin Bran around here. AKA g.l.u.e.

Seriously, that stuff gets so stinking stuck on, well, everything. But especially wood and tile. But this little spatula doesn’t even blink an eye. It just goes to town, peeling all of that gluey, bran-flake mess off of any surface I’ve yet to tackle with it.

So, there you have it, folks. My (and Mandy’s–she has been to known to rave about its qualities as well) pick for this week’s Mama Life Hack.

Get yourself on down to your nearest Dollar Store and grab ya one. No thank you notes necessary.

If you’re thinking of sending chocolate, however, my address is…

Oh, whoops. I just remembered what my husband would think about that idea. :(

ANYhoo, now it’s your turn to tell me about YOUR favorite kitchen tool. Or how to get the streaks off of my magic spatula. Or…anything else that might make all of our collective Mama-lives just a little bit simpler and more manageable.

P.S. Don’t forget to tag your tips out in social media land with the hashtag #mamalifehacks. I’ve already gotten several I’m going to feature soon.

P.P.S. Y’all pretty much cleaned me out on my last closet sale, but I’m about to post another round of cheap, cute closet goodies, so if that’s your thing, head on over to @mifmcloset on Instagram (for some reason, that link is not going to the instagram account, but if you search for @mifmcloset, the account will show up) and follow along for the best deals!

Choose

I’ve been mulling over some of the responses to this post that I wrote a little over three weeks ago for, well, um, a little over three weeks now.

I had hoped to post a follow up blog sooner, but I don’t write posts like this one lightly. Or quickly. (Seriously. If I got paid minimum hourly wage for the time it’s taken me to write this post, I’d have a nice chunk of change).

I’ve been praying for three weeks now that the Lord would make the words of my mouth (AKA the strokes of these keys) and the meditations of my heart pleasing to Him as I wrestled with how to, essentially, respond to the responses.

None of them surprised me particularly. Or upset me. Although the person who told me she didn’t think it was appropriate for me to write about my thoughts on morality in movies on a “home and lifestyle” blog did make me chuckle a little.

Because I don’t remember ever defining this little corner of the internet as an anything-nailed-down-specific blog.

It’s just me. All of me. Which usually translates as pictures of my kids, what we ate, what I wore, what I crafted, how I’m coping (or not) with motherhood, what the Lord is teaching me, what my house looks like at any given moment (+ a heaping dose of how crazy it drove me to get it decent-looking enough to show you guys). Etc. etc. etc. Ad nauseum.

But of all the roles that define me: wife, mother, writer, fitness addict, daughter, sister, friend…

The one that is dearest to my heart is this:

Bible-believing Christian.

It honestly pains me that I can’t just type, “Christian,” without having to add the “Bible-believing” part…because I don’t believe there is any other kind.

Because what is a Christian but a Christ-follower?

And where can we learn about Jesus the Christ except in the Bible?

Nowhere nearly as reliable, that’s where.

Which is why, when I read phrases in the comments like, “That may be your Biblical truth, but it’s not mine,” or, “I’m a Christian, but I would never judge others’ choices,” or, “The Bible can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and it’s up to the individual to determine its meaning,” I knew I had to clarify, at the very least, where I stand.

I believe the Bible is the infallible, unerring word of God.

It is a historical document written by multiple authors and made up of 66 books, which spans approximately 1,500 years, and yet carries a single thread of purpose and theme throughout–that of mankind’s need for reconciliation to God as a result of his sin and of the provision for that reconciliation in the fully man/fully God form of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.

It contains numerous prophetical passages about Jesus–where he would be born (Micah 5:2), his virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), his sacrifice for our sin on the cross and the manner of his death and burial (Isaiah 53), his penultimate words on the cross and the fact that his hands and feet would be pierced and that his persecutors would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22), his resurrection (Psalm 16:10) and many more–all of which were fulfilled and recorded in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection.

A popular argument for dismissing the Bible as an authoritative source of truth is: “Well, it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus’ birth, and there have been numerous translations and interpretations since then, so there’s no real way of knowing what anybody really meant at the time.”

But the fact is that the Bible is the only ancient document in existence which can boast extant (currently existing) accounts of pivotal events (Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, for example) within 100 years of their happening and a complete copy of the entire Bible within 300 years. Those first century copies mean eyewitness, firsthand accounts, people.

And do you know what scholars have found when they compare the 2015 accounts of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well or the resurrection of Lazarus or the feeding of the 5,000 with the same accounts from 1,900 years ago? They are the same.

When a woman came to Jesus and anointed his head from an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, Jesus responded to his disciples’ outraged response by saying that she had done a beautiful thing and that “wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

And that’s exactly what is still happening today.

In fact, Bruce Metzger–a professor at Princeton (hardly a bastion of conservative evangelical Christian thought) during his lifetime (he died in 2007) and arguably the greatest American New Testament scholar of the 20th century–has gone so far to say that 99.4% of what we have in the Bible today is corroborated by the earliest copies that still exist now.

So, that whole, “It’s changed over time and doesn’t say the same thing now as it did then,” bit just doesn’t fly.

Also, for those who are all about Jesus and the New Testament but prefer to ignore the Old, I would ask you this question:

Did you know that Jesus quoted almost every single Old Testament book?

Not in a passing, anecdotal way either. But authoritatively.

He quoted multiple verses from Deuteronomy to slam the door in the face of the devil’s temptation in the desert.

He referenced Isaiah 53:12 to talk about his own death.

He quoted from Genesis (1:27 and 2:24) when he condemned divorce.

And on and on.

(So, if it was good enough for Jesus, and you love Jesus…? I think you see where I’m going).

Obviously, this becomes a problem when we are fine with his exhortations to, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and, “Judge not lest you be judged,” but uncomfortable when he references Leviticus.

(The real problem, of course, is that “love your neighbor” is a direct quote from Leviticus)

Speaking of judging…

This might be the most hot-button word of our culture today.

And yet. I challenge the most open-minded person to truly refrain from making judgments…

About the mom on the playground who is paying more attention to her phone than her kids way up on the slide.

About the pregnant girl who is puffing on a cigarette as she pumps her gas.

About the lady in the grocery store with two overweight children and a basketful of nothing but Pop Tarts, soda, and cheese puffs.

Whether we admit it or not, we draw conclusions about the rightness and wrongness of others’ behaviors, usually based on our own backgrounds or what our culture dictates.

But everybody’s background is different. And cultural standards shift and change as surely as the sands under the pull of the tide.

So, rather than balance my standards for right and wrong on the ever-tipping scale of societal standards, I ground them in the Bible, and I let it do my judging for me. It tells me that it is wrong to lie, to steal, to kill…and I dare say that even those who ignore the Bible altogether at best or are greatly offended by it at worst agree with these.  I would even go so far as to say that we’re all pretty okay with calling those who commit these–I’ll say it–sins wrong.

But things get a lot dicier when we enter the realm of what we have politely termed “lifestyle choices.”

“Lifestyle choices” that Jesus plainly called “sexual immorality.” Because that’s the thing: as much as Jesus, these days, has been cast as the ultimate hippie dude–an easygoing yogi type with long, soft hair and an even softer attitude toward sinners, the truth is that Jesus was pretty darn judgmental (by our society’s standards).

He told the woman caught in adultery, after he had shamed all of her accusers away, “Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.” His lack of condemnation was predicated on his command to leave her life of sin. No consideration for her circumstances. No interest in whether her husband appreciated her enough or if he had cheated on her too. Just a simple condition: stop sinning. Pretty judgmental if you ask me.

He called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” and asked them rhetorically how they expected to escape being “condemned to hell.” Super judgey right? And downright rude. Unless, of course, he was right.

Yes, he ate with “sinners,” but isn’t the mere fact that he labeled them sinners–that he called them “sick” and in need of doctoring–kind of a judgment on their lifestyle choices?

Jesus could, in fact, be considered the most judgmental ever, since his standards begin, not with actions, but motives. He takes morality one step further by saying that even a lustful thought makes you an adulterer and a hateful attitude towards your brother is the same as murder.

In other words, there is no such thing as a “harmless” dalliance in erotica. It can’t just be a “fantasy” or an “escape.” We will be held accountable for “every idle word.” It should come as no surprise, then, that when we read a “romance” (code for: sexually explicit) novel or watch a movie that glorifies extra-marital sex (of any kind), and they lead our thoughts in a lustful direction, according to Jesus, we are committing adultery on our husbands.

I worked at my university’s writing center when I was 19-years-old, and I distinctly remember a colleague saying, “Man, Jesus was so cool. He never got mad about anything. He always saw the good in everybody.”

I nearly choked on my swig of water. Because this Jesus is found nowhere in the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible was filled with righteous anger when he saw the money lenders defiling the house of God. He literally drove them from the building and flipped their tables over. The Jesus of the Bible never said that, if you look hard enough, you’ll find the good in everybody. Or that we are the product of our circumstances. Or that, while some of our actions may be bad, at our core, we’re basically decent.

What he did say was this: “Out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” 

Ouch.

So, what’s my point? That Jesus was some fault-finding ogre?

No.

My point is that Jesus, the most compassionate, loving being ever to exist on planet Earth–God incarnate who, though he himself knew no sin, became sin for us that we could be declared righteous–knew that transformation trumps tolerance. Every time.

He also knew that, while “there is only one Lawgiver and Judge who is able to save and to destroy,” the kind of judgment that discerns between right and wrong is absolutely essential to life.

I am not able–nor should I try–to do the kind of judging that “saves and destroys” eternally. Only God is. But I am able–in some cases encouraged (1 Cor. 2:15, Matt. 18:15, Amos 5:14-15, Psalm 37:30)–to judge (discern, determine, find out, ascertain) whether an action is right or wrong, using the Bible as my guide.

If we lump the saving and destroying judgment (God’s) in with the determining between right and wrong judgment (ours), we doom ourselves to a life of moral uncertainty at best and moral depravity at worst. Because without unchanging standards, when, exactly, does an action become “bad enough” to judge? And on what basis?

Jesus, himself, gives us a model for church discipline that begins with the words, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you,” and follows up the oft-quoted-out-of-context, “Judge not lest you be judged” with, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

But, Abbie, if Jesus came, as he said, not to “abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them,” and corroborated the Old Testament, then why are there so many denominations within Christianity? Isn’t that proof that the Bible can’t be taken seriously?

Honestly, this argument has never made sense to me.

Let’s say that an award-winning chocolate cake is served to a group of people who all have varying reactions.

One thinks it’s good but has always been more of a brownie-guy. One thinks it could have used a healthy dose of walnuts. One wishes the icing had been made from milk rather than dark chocolate.

Three different reactions. Same cake. So, do these different cake “interpretations” mean that the recipe’s no good? After all, it was created by a master baker, who tested his process multiple times and used the best kitchen equipment and most accurate measuring tools to create his masterpiece. Oh, and it’s been tasted by hundreds of others, all of whom agree that it’s absolutely scrumptious.

The answer is to go to the source. Look at the recipe. Were quality ingredients used? Are the ratios correct? Did the baker follow the recipe correctly? If so, then the issue is with the tasters, not the cake.

The same is true of the Bible. But don’t take my word for it. Study it for yourself. Dig deep into God’s word and see where it leads you. Don’t just subscribe to our culture’s response or even what you’re told in church on Sunday without ever taking the time to really determine whether it stands the test of scrutiny.

Will you find that there are issues open for debate?

Sure.

Ravi Zacharias says: “Uniformity of belief does not always mean uniformity of expression.” Which is why some Christians believe they should send their children to public school, while others believe that homeschooling is best. The same goes for the drinking of or abstaining from wine. Or the wearing of pants vs. skirts. Christians on either side of these debates could provide some form of Biblical support for their stances and might never come to complete agreement.

These issues are hardly salvation essentials, though, and the lack of agreement is no more a reflection on the Bible than the varying tasters’ opinions are on the chocolate cake.

But repeated, consistent, crystal-clear admonitions, beginning in the Old Testament and continuing throughout the entirety of the New to abstain from sex outside of marriage, adultery, homosexuality, cheating, lying, jealousy, disrespect to parents, and murder? (This is a great resource, in case you want some specific references for what the Bible has to say on these topics).

These are the essentials, and to say that they are not because a) you don’t like them or b) they clash with our culture’s emphasis on moral relativism is no “interpretation” but, instead, a direct contradiction of the Bible as a whole, including the very clear words of Jesus the Christ.

The very same Jesus who said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” and, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4 says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Y’all.

I feel that itch in my ears sometimes. I do. This post is, by no means, some manifesto about how I’ve got everything all figured out and do it all perfectly. Not even close.

That is why I am so grateful for the Bible and that, just as I said on Friday, truth is truth, regardless of emotion. Because when my emotions lead me astray–when they convince me that this little tidbit of gossip really isn’t so very harmful or watching that sex scene won’t really undermine my marriage or that angry outburst at my children wasn’t really my fault, I can always, always return to Scripture and remember that my heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked.”

Which is why, every time I or one of my friends or anyone else who calls themselves a Christian says something like, “I, personally, don’t feel convicted about ______________,” we need to remember to look at what the Bible says on the subject and then be humble enough to admit that, “I, personally,” is not a statement of authority but is, in fact, too often a permission to sin.

Of course, the best–most absolutely glorious–truth of the Bible is not that it tells us that we are sinners and shows us how but that it provides a way for atonement.

1 Timothy 1:9 says, “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Or maybe you’ve heard it put this way: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

More and more, it becomes apparent to me that it is time for we who identify ourselves as Christians to “choose this day whom {we} will serve.”

Because either Jesus and his word are the source of eternal truth. Or we are. Our actions call us out. We can no longer straddle a fence of saying we love Jesus but not obeying him.

CHOOSE

I know myself too well to choose me. I am a sinner saved by grace. I choose Jesus. But I choose the Jesus of the Bible. He’s the only one that’s real.

Theo is 2 Months Old!

Okay, so Theo isn’t exactly 2 months old. I would have to be waaaaaay more on top of things that I currently am to be that exact. But, with the whole 6 kids to care for (and feed! why must I always give them all the food?!), I’m going to call 4 days “late” pretty good. Either that, or we’re just going to say that I’m reeeeeeeeeally early for his 3 month pictures. And–let’s be real—no lady with half a dozen children is ever early to anything.

ANYhoo, calendar semantics aside, Theo is 2 months-ish, and so it’s time for me to show you the mandatory cute pictures. I really loved the way his one month fancy camera pics turned out, but this month (and probably every month hereafter), we’re back to the grainy cell phone pics.

Good thing he’s got the best smile in the history of ever to make up for the low picture quality.

happyboycollage1 I mean, seriously, how could we care about blurriness and the fact that his outfit is on backwards (which I kind of love because he is our little caboose right now) when there is so much sweetness in six little squares?

The best of the bestest parts, though, is that these pictures are accurate representations of this little boy 95% of the time.

Theo is a dream baby. He naps, he smiles, he eats, he poops, he cycles his little hands and feet through the air, he snuggles, he snores (seriously, it’s adorable, but he’s loud), he giggles (yup, straight up), he coos on command (especially for his daddy), he sleeps all night, and he just generally brings so much joy to our family that I sometimes just stare at him and think, “What did we ever do without you, kid?”

God is so, so gracious to me. This would be just as true if Theo were colicky and sickly and grouchy. It would be true if he projectile vomited on me 10 times a day and never slept a wink at night.

(Although, emotionally, I might not “feel” the truth as deeply; thank the Lord that truth is truth, regardless of our emotions).

But I never want to take a “good” baby for granted. I never want to think, “Well, of course he’s good. That’s what I deserve.”

Because it’s totally not.

I can only say that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

And I am so thankful for the good and perfect gift that is Theo.