Thursday, February 26, 2015

3 Ways To Screen Netflix (and other forms of entertainment)

Yesterday I explained why the media diet your children are on is so important, but how do we know what is healthy when it comes to the entertainment they consume?

The answer is that it's pretty much the same way we figure out what is healthy when it comes to the food they consume, and it's easier than you think!

1. Read the Labels

Just like the packaged food we buy is required to have nutrition information, the shows you watch do too! They are called TV Parental Guidelines and appear in the upper left hand corner.

I am shocked at how many people do not know what those letters stand for (and for a while I was one of them). If you have wondered yourself than here you go-

  • Y is all children
  • Y7 is directed to older children
  • TV Y7 FV is appropriate for older children, but may contain more intense violence
  • TVG stands for General Audience
  • TVPG stand for Parental Guidance
  • TV14 is Parents strongly cautioned and probably not appropriate for chidden under 14
  • TVMA is for mature audience only (unsuitable for anyone under 17)

  • D is dialogue (which I used to think was drug references)
  • L is for crude language
  • S is sex
  • V is violence
  • FV is fantasy violence

And here is my nerdy little secret, although these ratings are intended to help parents know what is suitable for children, my husband and I use them as adults. Can you imagine!? We are grown ups that are allowed to watch whatever we want and yet we CHOOSE to filter some stuff out according to the TV ratings. We are that crazy.

2. Do your research

Just like at the grocery store you can't always count on on the FDA when you get really serious about your diet you have to actually do some research to see what is in the foods you are eating. Same thing with TV  and movies, the little labels don't tell the whole story. That's why I love Focus on the Family's Plugged In  website. You can look up any show, movie, music, or video game and it will give you a thorough review of what to expect according to specific categories which include

  • Positive Elements
  • Spiritual Content
  • Sexual Content
  • Violent Content
  • Crude or Profane Language
  • Drug and Alcohol Content
  • Other Negative Elements

There very well may be spoilers when you have this much detail in your review, but this resource has been absolutely critical for me. I want to kiss the computer screen when I look up a movie for my kids and realize what I avoided exposing them to thanks to this website! And again, I would be lying if I didn't admit to using it to see what I wanted to invest my personal time watching.

Common Sense Media is a very similar concept to Plugged In and is an excellent resource. The main  difference that I am aware of is that Plugged In is from a specifically christian perspective. The advantage of Common Sense Media is that many of their reviews are built right into Netflix. 

If you are browsing Netflix and click on the title of a show or movie, then you will see the members star rating, and the description. It's kind of hidden, but if you scroll down on the right you will see movie details, awards, rating, and then BOOM "Common Sense Media Rating".

Click on that to get a detailed description of how kid friendly the content of the show is. I just randomly chose Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and My Fake Fiance' for screen shots to show you what it looks like . 

This is such a great option for me when searching for what to watch because I usually want to read the description anyway and then you have this Common Sense rating conveniently right there.

3. Don't put the junk where they can access it

Another Netflix option that I am so grateful for is the customized account settings.

When our kids browse through Netflix they only have access to children's programing, which is so nice even if only to avoid some of those disturbing movie covers. To set up this option click on your account icon in the upper right hand corner then select manage accounts and click on that to create an individual account for everyone in your family. For your children's accounts you can check the box that says children 12 and under. Then you can click the option for little kids or older kids to make it even more customized. We don't have TV,  (we have a TV screen, but we don't have access to any channels) but for those that do the V-Chip is a great way to do the same thing I have just described here. If your TV was purchased in the past 15 years than it has one!

Almost all of our modern day technological devices conveniently have parental controls built in you just have to know how to use them. 

For us this means having passwords on the Wii and Apple TV. No little early morning risers can just sneak in the living room and watch TV or play games without going through us first because they have to have the password.

To set this up on the Apple TV go to the main menu then select Settings >General>Restrictions and choose a 4 digit pin number.

To set this up on the Wii go to options>Wii Settings then pus the +button, and click parental controls. Then Click yes and a make a 4 digit pin number.

And here are some other links for parental control setup for the iPhone/iPad, Xbox, You Tube, and Amazon instant video.

Just remember, that while these features are certainly helpful they are NOT a substitute for parents actively observing and deciding what is being viewed in their home.   

Those are just 3 basic tips for trying filter what our children are watching. This of course is only scratching the surface. My children aren't old enough to have their own gadgets or use the internet yet. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it and I'll do another post twice as long for how to screen that content! I loved reading the comments yesterday about how some moms have chosen to make reading or outdoor playtime and artistic expressions the priority in their home. Why not tell the TV to take a backseat, especially during these critical formative years. I like that! However, if you're children are going to have any television or movie time at all, these resources are such a blessing for parents to really know just how healthy or UNHEALTHY their media choices are. 

If you have any other advice or tips for content filtering please share in the comments. I know this list isn't exhaustive and I'd love to hear from you! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Healthy Media Habits For Children

Last week I blogged about the entertainment industry, 50 Shades of Grey and all that stuff (and there is a lot of STUFF). I really appreciate the tremendous amount of supportive feedback I got from you all, but that was for adults. What about what our kids are watching?

How do we know what is appropriate entertainment for our children in a culture that is saturated with disrespect, lust, greed, and all kinds of mixed spiritual messages? 

To some degree it's the same way we find things that are healthy for our kids to eat in a culture that is obsessed with sugar, preservatives, and convenience food. I'll admit that I am not the best example of feeding my kids a healthy diet, but I have made it a major focus this year and since then the magnitude of the junk they consume is becoming apparent to me.

We don't have to let food trends and cereal commercials determine what we feed our children, the same way we don't have to let production companies dictate what they consume on a spiritual level.

We have the opportunity as the gatekeeper of our homes to decide right now what kinds of content our children are viewing on television or in movies.

Children, especially preschool age, are little sponges. At that stage they are observing and soaking up everything they see every waking hour and using it to shape their worldview and learn how to navigate through life. So this TV stuff is pretty important, but what do we do about it?

Just like with diets there are hundreds of different approaches to living a healthy lifestyle. What your kids watch and how much they watch is a very personal decision. However, no matter what your convictions are you have to know how to implement them.

First of all whether food or TV, leading by example is going to be the most effective thing you can do. This is really true in any area of parenting. "Your words and standards will carry more weight if you practice what you preach and limit the amount of time you watch TV or spend on the computer. Also, your kids notice the kinds of movies and shows you watch, so model responsibility there as well." (from the book "Wild Things The Art of Nurturing Boys")

Another TV tip that goes hand and hand with the food comparison is to focus on the positive and make an activity out of it. If your children are involved in cooking with you, or really engaged in learning about gardening they are more likely to want to eat healthy.

So consider watching TV with your child. I know, that is the one time you have to break away, but on occasion you can really see what it is that they are consuming and take the opportunity to talk about it whether it's good or bad. For example "Oh, that was not a nice. They shouldn't call people idiots". It's also a great time to discuss emotions or interests with your child. On the contrary, If you just bark out orders about what they should be eating or watching it is less likely to be a habit they will ever truly obtain.

These are just a couple of the many strategies for implementing media boundaries and guidelines in an effective way.

Tomorrow I am going to share some really practical advice on how to use some of the free content filtering options that are available.

So check back then for Part two (Monitoring TV and Netflix).

Monday, February 23, 2015

My First Guest Post

I know this might be confusing because I just announced my first guest post a couple weeks ago, but this time I am the guest.

This is my first time getting to share on another blog and I am so honored and just giddy over the whole opportunity. Thank you so much to Holly Barrett for featuring this post for today's Testimony Tuesday.

 I hope it touches people's hearts. It has been an emotional experience to step out and share and I felt the Lord healing broken parts of me as I wrote it.

Here is a just a little excerpt from what you will find on Holly Barrett's blog today:

" I picture my [future] self as a very experienced, mature woman that has more wisdom than I do now. The woman who has made it to the other side of this journey. The woman who's finally somehow arrived?  She will share my testimony.
 So when Holly put out inquiries for submitting guest posts I didn’t think it applied to me. I don't have a testimony, or the one I do have isn't ready. I'm just trying to stay afloat in the storm. Then the Lord spoke to my heart and showed me that I am in fact a testimony of His grace, His provision, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, and His patience as I am..." 
To read the rest please visit Holly Barrett .org

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Little Girl's Birthday Parties

SJ's birthday is two weeks away and I am in full blown party mode. When I get going with party planning you have to use the emergency brakes just to get me to stop talking about cake and decorations.

 The theme this year is Tea Party. There maybe a sneak peak coming soon to share a little bit of what I am dreaming up, but until then let's look back at some of SJ's other parties.

I never would have thought of myself as "That Mom". The big pinterest party type. But for the record, half of my children's theme parties where pinned onto pinterest long before I had an account or even knew it existed. I just enjoy celebrating and creating, so birthday parties allow me to do both.

SJ's first birthday was a cupcake theme

You have to visit the link to get the full effect with some close up photos, but thanks to my BFF who is a professional baker we had 70 GORGEOUS cupcakes that tasted insanely delicious. I want to recreate this for my birthday! Anyway, when I was pregnant with SJ we had announced to the entire church that we were having a girl by bringing pink cupcakes to a fellowship dinner. So that is what inspired this party.

The following year I was all pinked out, so I went a completely opposite direction with this Green Eggs and Ham party.

 This is my second most popular party on the pinterest circuit.  Again, you have to see the original post, but there are so many fun tiny details like green deviled eggs and green beverages. It was such an awesome party.

Then last year we went with a donut theme. I don't know why all the themes are food related, but HEY it works. 

Click the link to see the incredible brunch spread with donut hole fruit kabobs, and a SJ's adorable donut invitations. SJ's offscreen name is Sedona and when she was just a tiny baby her two year old brother thought her name was donut. Sometimes we still call her our little donut so that is where the inspiration for her 4th birthday party came from.

Besides each party being food related there was also a bit of a book theme.

For the 1st birthday we gave her "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake

Then her 2nd birthday the book was "Green Eggs and Ham" of course.

 And lastly the 4th party was "If You Give a Dog a Donut

So this year I need to find a Tea Party Children's Book. Let me know if you have any suggestions. I am so excited for the whimsical tea party that is just around the corner. It's going to be in our teeny tiny apartment this year so that will be a challenge, but I've got some tricks up my sleeve. I think SJ and her guests will be delighted!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

21 Reasons to Enjoy the Winter

The weather this week has gotten so bad that the Harlan Kentucky police department put out a warrant for Queen Elsa's arrest. A massive storm has dropped more than a foot of snow over the past few days and yesterday the temperatures hardly ever got above 0! That's not the norm for this area. Being a Kentucky girl myself, I thought it was awesome that the police updated their Facebook with

"Suspect is a blonde female last seen wearing a long blue dress and is known to burst into song "Let it Go!"  As you can see by the weather she is very dangerous."

Seriously though, winter is one of my favorite times of year, but I understand why it isn't all that popular when February and March roll around. Sure Elsa's tag line is "the cold never bothered me anyway" but she was obviously in denial when she sang that song. I don't care who you are, eventually the cold gets old!

Nonetheless, we can't change the fact that there is still technically one month left before the spring equinox (March 20th) and if I remember correctly the ground hog did see his shadow. So let's make the most of it! Here are is my personal list of...

1. You aren’t likely to get sweaty which is nice for a lot of reasons.

2. You can keep your groceries or leftovers in your car for long lengths of time because they will stay refrigerated.

3. Boots. Scarfs. Hats. Boot socks. Anything knitted. Leather coats. Wool sweaters. Trapper hats. Flannel. I could just do a list of 21 things that are exclusively winter fashion related.

4. The sheer joy and nostalgia of watching children experience a snow day!

5. Less skin is showing in winter. I know this means there are lot of guys and gals that are just devastated that they can’t  show/see butt cheeks and cleavage, but I personally DO NOT miss that part of the warm weather.

6. On a similar note, no worries if you are pale and out of shape, this is NOT swimsuit season.

7. Winter Sports. If it’s cold and not snowy where you are then this won’t apply, but just think of all the ways to stay active that you can’t do in the warm weather; snowboarding, ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, and more!

8. Running your heater in your car is cheaper than running the AC or driving with windows down when it's hot out. Same thing if you have a fireplace to keep your house warmed up!

9.  Hot chocolate, chai lattes, hot toddies, peppermint mochas, and whatever warm drink you enjoy.

10. You know how to dress each day. I love springtime, but don’t you hate those in-between season when you start the day in a sweater and boots, but by 1:00 pm you are absolutely burning up? Or when the weather changes so frequently that you can't really plan ahead or easily pack for a trip.


11. No pesky bugs to shoo away.

12.  Short daylight hours means that kids settle down and go to bed earlier than when it’s 9:00 pm and still sunny out so you are trying to convince them that IT IS NIGHT TIME and they need to sleep! 

13. It's the perfect opportunity to cuddle  up with the ones you love.

14. Favorite chili or soup season.   

15.  Whether it's rough roads, snow days, or just nasty out you are forced to slow down and take it easy. Sometimes we need that extra incentive.

16.  It’s not HOT! When it's 99 degrees out you'll think about winter and either miss the cold, or at least stop whining about the heat. 

17.  It's a season of hope, because you hope it will end soon right? 

18.  Less yard work

19.  A time for a relaxing with two of my favorite things, soaking in a hot bath and then curling up with a good book.

20. Some amazing vegetables are in season this time of year like parsnips, leeks and chard.

21. Humidity hair is not an issue and those rosy cheeks are cuter than any blush money can buy. 

I could keep going, but I was originally stopping at 20, so I am definitely cutting it off now. I hope this list is helpful for all those suffering through these final winter weeks. Hang in there and try to look on the bright side even if the bright side is an overcast cloudy day. 

Ice Cube Treasure Hunt

I was right! Yesterday school was cancelled and today too. What is one to do with all that snow and time off? How about a Treasure Hunt?

I just happened to be scrolling through my Facebook early in the morning, before the kids woke up and a friend posted a picture of some ice cube trays full of colorful ice and said she was going to hide them in the snow for a little scavenger hunt.

 I immediately fell in love with the idea and already had the necessary supplies on hand

Ice cube trays
Food coloring
A snowy area

So I filled our Ikea ice cube trays with water and added food coloring to each one.

Then I put them in the freezer for four hours.

I was going to hide them in the snow, but that ended up not being necessary. I just picked out a living room size area in the ground and tossed the ice cubes up in the air, letting them land where they may.
The only problem was, we had 6 inches of snow and each ice cube sank like a rock being swallowed up into the white abyss. This heart shaped one was one of the only one I could take a photo of because the rest were completely invisible. 

It still worked out though. My little excavators immediately went to work looking for the rainbow treasure.

I helped point them in the right direction and showed them how to look by kicking through the snow and stopping when they spotted bright colors.

The challenge level with this amount of snow would probably be great for a youth group or even adults! Even though it was tricky for my group, and we only ended up collecting about half of the ones I made, the kids still really enjoy the whole experience.

They got so excited each time they discovered another fish, star or heart. The great thing about the whole idea of using ice is that the ones we couldn't find are just going to melt away or maybe be a fun discovery for one of our dog walking neighbors.

If your kids are some of the thousands throughout the country experiencing back-to-back-to-back snow days then you may want to consider this fun little outdoor activity. It's so easy, I threw it together without any preplanning at all! I will admit that next time I'll ease up on the food coloring. I just used way too much and it got pretty messy. It washes off though, so it's no big deal, but next time one drop will do.

All in all this was a perfect outdoor snow day activity that is fun for any age level. We'll definitely do this one again some time.

Now time to warm up with some toasty hot chocolate and a hot bath! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our Extreme Weekend

We had an extra special long weekend and not just because of Valentine's day. In fact the official February 14th Valentine's day was really uneventful around here other than having donuts for breakfast. Seriously though, Holtman's Donuts in Cincinnati are my most favorite among favorites when it comes to sweets.

Speaking of sweets J and I were able to go to the church's Divine Desserts Valentine's party.

Just before things got started our pastor's wife approached us to see if we would be willing to volunteer to be dessert judges. Well you don't have to ask me twice! We had to rank prettiest and most delicious and let's just say I think I have found my new calling.

As if the night couldn't get any sweeter we were also asked to come up for one of the many games they had, and this particular one was titled the "Hot Lips Contest". It entailed slathering on the sample tube of lipstick you were given and then covering your spouse with as many kisses as possible in one minute.

 My brother and his wife were the winners. Keep in mind they got pregnant on their honeymoon and so far they've had three kids in four years. So I guess they give kisses like they have babies... in rapid succession. Sorry, I had to throw that one in there since I know they will see this.  

Moving right along, the next day we were able to enjoy some family time at the water park. 

WATER PARK? In February? In OHIO!? 

Why, yes actually.

Since it was President's day J and the kid's had no school so we went to an INDOOR water park called Coco Key. Someone got a groupon deal for us, and we weren't about to let a little snow storm keep us from the family fun we had planned.

It was a little surreal trudging into the resort dressed head to toe in winter attire, before changing in the locker rooms. I couldn't help, but crack up at the irony of it all. There were mothers dressed up like eskimos watching their children splash in the pool, there were mittens next to snorkels, and beach towels alongside snow boots.

The craziest part of all of for me were the 40 foot water slides! You spend about 45 seconds swirling around through the tube before getting shot back into the warm water inside. These rides really got my adrenal going, especially knowing that I was just one layer of fiberglass away from snowfall and icicles!

And I'm not going to lie, I am sure they tried to keep everything warmed up inside, but with it being less than 5 degrees out I'm guessing there is only so much you can do and there were some moments we were all shivering a bit. One thing is for sure, this is one family getaway we will never forget! 

The next day we should have resumed our regularly scheduled programing, but instead school was cancelled due to snow. So we decided to embrace the weather this time around and we went sledding, followed by a snowball fight.

 J was a little too aggressive as he may have forgotten how much older and bigger he is than everyone else. Being the loving father that he is though he allowed each of us to have a free throw and chuck a snowball right at his face. Don't feel bad for him, he had it coming. 

I predict that won't be the only snow day this week given the current forecast.

It's snow time here in Ohio. That's pretty much what's been going on in our part of the world. How was your Holiday weekend? 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What We Have is a Forest Fire

This post is for my sisters and brothers in Christ. I’m going to quote Matt Walsh here because it expresses my point perfectly

“It would be difficult to explain all of this to someone who is not a Christian. Not impossible, but difficult. At the very least, it would require another 10,000 words or so to first convince them to accept the basic premise of Christian morality… But for Christians, we know that we do not make choices in a void.”

I have so desperately wanted to forgo blogging about measles, 50 Shades of Grey, or the president’s breakfast speech, but I guess something eventually was going to give, so the winner is….

50 Shades of Grey!

Don’t worry though, I am not going to beat a dead horse here. I'll leave all the beatings for the movie, but if you want to read some great posts about why it’s destructive then I can lead you to dozens  hundreds of links about that topic. What I want to know is

Why does this come as such a shock to us?

 To be clear, I understand this movie takes things a step further. It’s not just Christians that are upset about this one. Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t just push the envelope. It shreds the envelope into a million little pieces and then burns it to ensure there will never be an envelope again. So it doesn’t bother me that people are rising up against this kind of garbage. I signed a petition myself. And if anyone is all for respecting women and anti-abuse it's ME. The thing that concerns me about all of this hubbub is that it is too little, too late.

Because sex sells and even as Christians we have been buying it in BULK!

We have fueled this flame for a long time and now that it’s a forest fire, we’re like “Oh no. How could this be?”

I look at media these days and I can only imagine, according to what God says in His Word that it grieves him. Most of it is evil and full of a destructive sinful nature, yet so many of us as Christians EAT. IT. UP. I am not judging you. I can understand why sometimes the good outweighs the bad and you just have to live "in and not of" the world.

I do get that, but it breaks my heart that it takes a film like 50 Shades of Grey, full of pornographic erotica mixed with violence and abuse to draw the line! Really!? We couldn’t have drawn the line 10 years ago with, I don't know, The Wedding Crashers?

By the way, I didn’t see The Wedding Crashers, but I heard about it from some of my Christian friends that did spend money on the film and I also read the review on Plugged in online. If you read that synopsis you will know why all this rape, nudity, lack of respect for virginity, and all out perversion has been a staple in our entertainment for a long time. Obviously that is just one example of thousands. And for those that think if you haven't read the book or watched the movies then you really can't say anything, that's like saying you have to eat poison first as a way to decide whether or not it is toxic.

I look at it like this. Let’s say I had a teenage son that started smoking and I turned a blind eye. Then I didn’t want to be too preachy when he first tried Marijuana so I did nothing. To make matters worse I spent money to support his new LSD addiction. I never really condoned the actual drug abuse, I just didn't do anything about it because overall he is a good kid, there is just that one part that's bad and I close my eyes when it comes up. Then one day I was absolutely shocked because I learned that he was addicted to Heroin. I shouted at him “How could this happen!? This can kill you. It has to stop!" and went on a mission to bring awareness to the dangers of Heroin.

50 shades of Grey is like Heroin. It might be worse than some of the other things we've seen, but drugs are drugs and sin is sin. I'm glad I have seen so many Christians publicly outraged by this movie, but what if we win? What if 50 Shades tanks at the box office? Then we go back to watching Game of Thrones and The Bachelor?  Do we just continue to be entertained by countless other forms of lust, infidelity, and the attack on sexuality and family that is rampant in Hollywood? I am stopping myself from giving a painful amount of examples, because it's really not about a list of movies. I know that.

Which is why I am not saying we should campaign against every single movie that hits the big screen. This industry has no reference point for morality and I don't expect them to accommodate  Biblical truths. I DO expect christians to. I guess. I mean, not to step on any toes.

I’ll admit I am extra conservative in that area, but even then, I am sure I have read books or watched a show that some people could find offensive. This is not about condemnation.

 I just think we really need to step back and use this whole 50 Shades explosion to evaluate where we are as followers of Christ and ask “am I feeding this destructive culture?" The only way you can answer that question is to ask God and look in His Word (note the verse below). And while I am on my soap box, can we please stop calling anyone with conviction “religious” or “legalistic”.

Maybe it’s not too late to put out this fire. I just hope we can own up to the fact that maybe we had some involvement in it to begin with.

Psalm 101:2-4 NLT

I will be careful to live a blameless life- when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. 

This post is linked up with Grace and Truth, check out other inspirational christian living posts HERE.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How We Met Wrap Up

I have been so blessed this week to welcome 5 incredible couples onto my little space of the blogosphere. What a joy this valentine's series has turned out to be. After having never had a guest post before I learned a lot. It turns out it isn't as easy as just hitting publish. Totally worth all the effort though.

Now that we have seen the stories of how these couples met (or if you haven't you can click here to access all the links from this week) I wanted to share how I met them!

1. I met Karin 17 years ago in theater arts my freshmen year of high school. She has truly been one of the most inspirational people I have known. I mean that! Her passion is to serve the Lord and she has done that through mission trips, teaching low income ESL students, then moving to Slovakia for 3 years and teaching over there. After that she actually taught at a juvenile detention center and her students were minors who had committed a variety of the worst crimes you can think of. She couldn't even use a stapler because it was considered contriban. And now she is working towards starting a counciling center with her husband.

I love you Karin, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to blog here.

2. This introduction will be much shorter since I have only known Kailei for 2 weeks! We "met" via instagram. I read her story of meeting her sweetheart in preschool and I asked her if she would be interested in doing one of my first ever guest posts. She was so generous to pull everything together for me and share it with all of you.

Thank you so much Kaili. Everyone LOVED reading your story.

3. I have known Andrea for about 10 years now. You may recognize her from sharing Homeschool tips during my Lots of Hope in a Little Home series. Her younger sister is one of my best friends. I wanted to have married couples from all parts of marriage to submit stories and I had newly weds and then I had 25 + years, but the couple that I had scheduled to represent the that big gap between 1 and 25 years had to drop out at the last minute. I know Andrea and Mike had a neat story and I frantically asked her if she could fill in at the very last minute. She whipped something up in no time.

There has been such a positive response from everyone that read your story Andrea. I really appreciate you helping me out in a  pinch!

4. When I wrote my 31 day series on Teachable Parenting back in October I was connected with Jennifer Peppito. She was doing 31 days of Heavenly Mothering. Our topics very much complimented one another and we learned that our value systems and priorities for our families were a lot alike. Jennifer just wants to show Jesus to her family! It's been wonderful getting to know her over the past few months.

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your love story and testimony. You have  such a way with words and it was an honor to have you blog here this week. 

5. Last but not least, most of you already know this, but I didn't mention it directly on this blog. The man that wrote yesterdays story was MY DAD! He briefly mentioned his career as an artist, but if you have seen his work you would get the full effect. He's really good! Here is a painting he did for my brother's music studio using just a palette knife. 

And this was one he painted for my kitchen. I LOVE IT.

My mom on the other hand is creative, but her artistic endeavors stopped at stick figures. That's why I love the irony of the fact that when they met, she was trying to draw his truck!

Dad, your story (and mom's story) has touched many people and will continue to do so. Thanks again for letting me hassle you with emails, texts, and phone calls!

I know not everyone is a fan of hearing sappy love stories, but one thing that was so perfect about each of these five stories is that they were vulnerable. I never instructed anyone to mention "the hard parts of marriage" and yet they all did. They each admitted their struggles, and that God's grace is what has held them together. I hope this series was fun and uplifting, and I also hope no one missed the parts that acknowledge that marriage and relationships in general are tough. There is a process that sometimes can be painful to endure. It's hard work, or as Karin put it, the three legged race for life! It's amazing though when God is in the middle.

Happy Valentine's Day!