Probably like many of you, I love photography. I am a little obsessed with taking pictures. In the early years of motherhood, after leaving my corporate job to stay home with my babies while my husband traveling most of the time (supporting our family well), I had lots of moments without adults to talk to! It could have been lonely, but I took it all in. And in the moments when my babies wanted me there close by to play, or while I fed them, changed their diapers, and rocked them to sleep, I prayed…a lot.
And I took in all the sights, feelings, (smells even) in. I can’t tell you how much I loved being able to be outside in the backyard with the sun shining down through the trees while my babies played, and I thanked God. I thanked Him often, for my husband, for these babies, for our house, and I said I’d never take it for granted, that I get to enjoy all of these precious gifts!
“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
Realize God’s Sovereignty
I had a camera that I wore out, and then my sweet husband surprised me with an upgraded camera for Mother’s day one year…it is still one of my favorite all-time gifts. Because I get to take in the whole scene in my lens, and capture that moment, forever. During those quiet times with God, my prayers began to get deeper, and my quiet times longer, and it was a season of God saturating me with His Word. I am so thankful for that time, and now, for those pictures I took, that remind me of what that season was like.
Because now, it’s incredibly busy. I never thought I’d say that with two in school but it is!! Our involvement and responsibilities are just that much more, and there’s so much at stake with kids! I have to remind myself to be still, and take it all in. When I do, I realize God’s infinite wisdom and sovereignty and trustworthiness. When I don’t, I doubt, fear, and want to grab back my control over my life, instead of giving it to Him where it belongs. I don’t know about you, but being still is where we find peace, and joy, and faith, and hope, and love, and all of the other good fruits of the Spirit.
Yay! We made it to 2021! What a crazy year 2020 is, and while I am not naive enough to think that everything is going to instantly be better in 2021, I have HOPE. What are your new goals for 2021? I feel like we’ve all been through an incredible storm (and still are) and we are stronger for it. I pray for our health and safety in this turbulent time, and I pray we keep our focus on Christ.
Focus on Christ
My biggest mistake several years ago during a “storm” in my life was to take my eyes off of Christ and onto the waves around me. Christ is and will always be our anchor and our hope. Don’t be like me or like Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. Whenever we take our eyes off of him and onto the storm, we lose our focus and fall.
Time in the Garden
This year, I have many goals, and one thing that helps me to focus on Him is time in the garden. While most of my quiet times are indoors this time of year, getting outside on a sunny day and weeding or even planting new seeds is so good for my soul. It gives me a chance to spend time with God, my first priority, and helps me prioritize all of the other things competing for time.
Our garden in January is not full; some of the beds are resting, but I love to always have something growing. We always need to keep things growing, even as change is happening around us that we can’t always control. Right now, its just lettuce, collard greens, broccoli (I was excited that those seeds grew into real broccoli stalks!), sugar snap peas, snapdragons, and a bunch of herbs that I keep year round like lavender, rosemary, mint, oregano, parsley, and chives. It’s low maintenance and keeps me out there just long enough to get some Vitamin D and focus for my priority goals.
Grow Your Own Garden
Want to try growing your own herb garden? Here is an easy and charming herb garden kit from Etsy you can try to build your own garden in your windowsill or patio!
So, if you want to grow a great garden, it starts with great soil. This will get you started!
2021 is going to be a great year! What are your goals, concerns, prayer needs? I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. May God bless you in 2021!
2020… a year like no other! Back in March, when this whole shutdown started, I distinctly feel God telling me it’s time to rest. I don’t mean rest entirely, but rest in Him, rest in His faithfulness and goodness, His provision and His mercy. It has been quite a year, but He has brought us through until now!
2020 into Focus
Christmas is soon upon us. We celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, whether with our families physically, virtually, or in spirit, and we need to wrap this year up with a renewed focus on our Creator. 2020 needs to put our lives into focus, which I suggest, may be why God allowed all of these things to happen?
I am in my office, looking at page traffic on Mom’s Priority, and a popular page is a product for Ann Voskamp’s Greatest Gift set. It has been around a few years, but I’m looking at it now, and I think the time is right for our family to renew our focus on Christ.
Greatest Gift Advent Devotional
We have a tradition to read a Bible verse relating to the coming Christ every day in December. The Bible verses are clothespinned to a strand of garland strung along our bannister. As we take turns reading the verses, we take an Andes mint as a reward (usually just for our son- he is the only one who really appreciates them!). It’s just been a fun tradition and Bible reading time for our family for Advent. Maybe we miss a night or two and read several at a time- we’re not super strict about it. But, that time, coming around the table to read the Bible…it’s holy and I hope the tradition sticks with our kids and they pass it down to their families.
Anyways! This Greatest Gift book and set… it hit me this morning and I think we need to get it, to go along with our Advent tradition. Our kids are getting older and it is somewhat juvenile, but the message of God’s sovereignty…how he cared for us and planned it all before even Jesus came along, way back in the Old Testament… I want to reflect on that before our kids are grown!
Advent in 2020
Our church routine has not been what it used to be, and maybe you are in a similar situation. As parents, we still have the most important responsibility to teach all of these eternal things to our kids! (Deuteronomy 5:6-9) Here is the link for the booklet and devotions (from DaySpring) or here for the devotional book (from Amazon) if you are interested in this advent devotional as well. Just enough time to get it here before Advent begins! There are plenty of other great devotionals out there. I’d love to hear what you are planning for Advent this year! Send me an email or comment below!
Do you know someone who needs a word of encouragement? More likely, do you know anyone who does not? Since March, our lives in the United States (and a little earlier in other countries) have been upended by this virus called Covid 19. Counting back…can you believe it has been six months?!
I believe we are all stronger for it. This time has demanded a ton of flexibility, creativity, love for others, and resolve. We realize more than ever the importance of community, even if it is virtual. Now as our kids are getting back into school, whether virtual or in person, we have to work together to make it all work.
Quickly, I want to share with you some great encouraging gifts on Dayspring that are affordable and perfect for gifts! If there is someone in your life you want to encourage, take a look at these great encouraging gifts: decor, mugs, calendars, kids books, and planners. These clearance prices on encouraging gifts are fantastic, and I cannot think of a more appropriate, simple way to let someone know you are encouraging them and praying for them. Extra 25% off Clearance Items with Code CLEARANCE25 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 8!
As much as we all want this virus to go away, it isn’t leaving fast enough! As you make plans for back to school and other events, don’t forget to get a few face masks for your family. If your kids are required to wear them daily, you will want to have multiple.
I am predicting places will sell out again, so I have bought several Vera Bradley face masks for each of us. We also have more masculine masks on hand for the guys like these masks here. We can make them if we have to (hopefully not, because my sewing skills and more importantly, my patience (!) are little), but having one that fits well is so important!
Well- made Face Masks
I purchased these Vera Bradley face masks online and and I am so pleased with them. I don’t tolerate anything on my face well but these were surprisingly good. Vera Bradley even created liners to go inside of them. The elastic fits well over our ears, and the size of the mask is great for me. My daughter says her mask is a little too high over her nose, but she loves the Vera patterns. Made from Vera Bradley’s soft signature cotton, these non-medical face masks come in a ton of amazing prints and colors. Plus, they’re designed with care to be washable, breathable and comfortable to wear.
God is in Control
You moms probably agree with me that having everything up in the air is hard to get used to! Nothing is set on the calendar like it used to be, and while I love that freedom in a way, it’s also painful! So, we literally have to prepare for multiple plans at the same time. Buying face masks and lots of food is my only way of planning!
As we pray and prepare, wait and see, we remember that God is still on His Throne and He is sovereign over all of this going on in our crazy world! We prepare for this and that, but we stay focused on Him and wait with expectant Hope.
One of our favorite spots to gather is the backyard fire pit. Settled under large shade oak trees, this spot is peaceful and with all of the shade, much cooler than the rest of the property. We like to roast marshmallows and make smores, and have even cooked dinner over this fire pit! We can sit and stay awhile because the chairs are so comfortable.
I want to make memories with our friends and family that last, and this has been a great spot for that already, since moving here six months ago. We didn’t bring the old Adirondack chairs from our other house because even though they were teak, they were really worn and we wanted to get a new set. The previous chairs, though, lasted for a good 15 years! They were made of long-lasting teak wood, and they will still probably last for more years. I found the new Adirondack chairs at the same place- Sam’s club- for an amazing price- less than $150 each. I am hoping we get as much use out of these as the previous couple of chairs.
These Adirondack chairs are also made of teak wood and are incredibly comfortable. We’re not tiny people, but we fit in them well and they are a relaxing spot to rest. They are not too difficult to assemble- my 10 year old son with the help of my husband put them together in little time! I am so in love with them! We’ve moved them to the lawn when we’ve had people over and they look great.
Our fire pit is not neatly manicured, but so peaceful. We love light strands over the fire pit and in the backyard in general! They add an ambience to the yard that makes you want to hang around. Some of my favorites are found here.
The Adirondack chairs for your reference were purchased online from Sam’s Club. If you have a premium membership, you do not have to pay shipping for any orders, which came in handy for these chairs as well as other nonperishable food and toiletry items during this time. These chairs are such a bargain compared to other places I’ve shopped! We are loving this fire pit and these Adirondack chairs and hope we get 15 years out of these at least like we did our last pair of chairs! For other projects we are working in, check out Mom’s Priority.
Who else loves to stalk Zillow and realtor.com for home listings? It can’t be just me! For years now, we’ve talked about buying land and having “land and horses.” We were always held back with nothing for sale or reasonably priced in our excellent school district. We loved our house and we loved our neighborhood too, and didn’t want to leave the community.
For 2 years of that time, this house on 15 acres that we live in now sat for sale and empty for at least 6 months of that time. It said “well-maintained” but I beg to differ! It has “good bones” seems more appropriate. I saw it for sale in the perfect location- right outside the neighborhood in our growing area where large tracts of land are becoming rare. Every time I saw it, though, I prayed, “please, God, no!” because it needed SOOO much work. I am not kidding, and long story short, we got that house after 2 years of watching it sit on the market! We set out to create the perfect master retreat before we moved in.
I wake up thankful every day! It still needs so much work to bring it up to date and the exterior is not pretty (yet!), but these woods and trails on these 15 acres, the pasture we are building out front for the horses, and all of the beautiful nature and peace and SPACE we have now to move around- it definitely has my heart.
How to Create Your Perfect Master Bath Retreat
Before, I shared the master bedroom remodel– you can read about it here. Today I want to share with you our elegant master bath remodel. We took elements we liked from our last home’s bathroom remodel and used it again, because we moved before we could really enjoy that room. Here are 5 Tips to creating your perfect master bath retreat!
Incorporate Items From Places You’ve Been Together – It really does bring back good memories of times we spent in different places. You should try it in your home! We added a tile rug like we saw in a hotel in North Carolina, and a chandelier we found in Florida. You can try to recreate what you saw or buy an item while you are there.
Choose Calming Colors and Décor – For the bathroom, we opted for no signs that we have to read or intricate photos of people. Instead, calming artwork, elegant sconces and mirrors, and muted colors.
Collect Design Ideas and Plan in Detail First – I love to look at designer magazines, pinterest and Instagram. Find styles you like and follow them. Mom’s Priority has a full board of décor pictures on Pinterest from talented designers.
Find thick, micro-wicking towels, rugs, and robes for luxury and clean. Some of my favorite towels are from Macys- Hotel Collection. I also like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods for these items.
Choose Easy to Clean Materials – My idea of a calming, elegant master bath is one that feels clean most of the time. The grey and white is so calming and clean-looking. Since we went with
First, here are pictures from before. The house was built in 1985 and I think this pink tile is original! We weren’t huge fans of the fan, the sky lights, not having a separate room for the toilet or really any of the tile. But, the space was great for a master bath and it was a fun project!
Demolition and Remodel
It was quite a process to tear everything out to the studs, create new walls, level out the floor, smooth the ceiling and walls, move plumbing and electrical some, tile, and paint walls. The demolition was such an incredible mess!
We absolutely love this cost- effective master bathroom! In our previous home, we used grey and white marble, which I absolutely love! But, this room was much larger than our other master and with all of the projects we were doing in order to move in here, we couldn’t justify the marble in this room. Instead, we used basket weave marble in a small space in the middle of the floor as a tile rug, and ceramic tile throughout.
The basket weave marble tile reminds me of the gracious bathrooms at the Old Edwards Inn’s Half Mile Farm in Highlands, NC. An absolutely beautiful and peaceful place to visit as a couple, I think of that place (and their amazing breakfasts!) every time I look at it!
Throughout the rest of the room, we used ceramic grey and white tile, and grey grout. The free standing soaker tub is a favorite, and combining oil rubbed bronze and vintage gold fixtures make me happy! The large double vanity is from Home Depot- it is a solid piece of furniture with marble top that they delivered while we were away and we had to get a crew of guys to get it to the master bathroom space! Incredibly heavy!! I spray painted the pulls oil rubbed bronze to match everything else. I would definitely recommend this version of Rust-Oleum. The coverage is great and it dries quickly and smooth.
The vanity was a solid piece of furniture at a great price, except that the handles were chrome. Easy fix!
Master Bath Tub
We love the simple monogrammed towels, and the ladder towel rack my son and dad made! The curtains are stand-ins until I make or buy something with better movement, but I like that they are black out, so we are using them for now. This tub is just perfect, and we saved money by buying one with an internal faucet. Many of the free standing tubs require a separate free standing mount filler, which added significantly to the cost of the remodel. We were thankful for this economical tub option.
The vintage gold sconces and gold mirrors add that elegance and are a good fit for the high ceiling. The hanging chandelier was a purchase of ours on a trip to Seaside, FL. One of our favorite places to go, we remember the beach and our many trips there when we look up at it!
Master Bath Overall
Overall, we are pleased with how this bathroom remodel turned out. I appreciate the calming affect of this room and its simple elegance. I can’t wait to share with you the before and after of the other 2 main level bathrooms that we renovated.
Taking on a fixer upper of this magnitude is not for the faint of heart. We are just crazy enough to do it, and love it most of the time! In fact, we often say these days that all of this work is keeping us from going crazy during the quarantine! There is always a project to do! Now you may want to create your master bath retreat! I seriously doubt you will ever regret it. Send me your thoughts/projects at email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again, time to get outside more and enjoy the outdoors, for our health! At the same time, we know we need to apply safe sunscreen on ourselves and our kids. Is it just me, or do the ingredient lists on the back of these sunscreens we use scare you too? You know there is a problem when my usually non-sensitive kids are complaining of face sunscreen causing their faces to feel burned. I’ve read about chemicals in sunscreens causing problems with a person’s endocrine system, and more research needs to be done. We all need to do our best at determining what’s best for our own families.
You may be looking for safe sunscreens because you are planning a trip and your resort is banning chemical sunscreens. I didn’t know this until recently, but the chemicals in the traditional sunscreens are being blamed for coral reef disappearances. So, resorts in Hawaii and the Florida Keys especially are beginning to ban chemical sunscreens.
Everything is a balance, and we are all just doing our best, BUT I want to share with you sunscreens we’ve found that may be a little healthier and more natural. Here is a list of 7 safe sunscreens for you to try.
Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist or endocrinologist, and am sharing products that have helped me and my family and friends. Please see a doctor for medical advice.
What’s great about this sunscreen is it is “Hypoallergenic and Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Gluten, Cruelty and Paraben Free to ensure a fun day in the sun,” according to their description. It’s oil-free, smells great, and doesn’t irritate our family’s skin like some others do.
We all have so many fun times to look forward to with the weather warming up, and I hope you take a look at these safe(r) sunscreen suggestions for your family. We could also add to this safe sunscreen list Rodan and Fields and Beauty Counter products. There will always be give and take with the pros and cons of each product and each of us as moms has to make the best decision for our families at the time (and no judging!). Wishing you many fun and safe memories with your family this summer, whether is be at the beach, the lake, or at home in your backyard.
For other posts, encouragement, or to join our community, please visit Mom’s Priority.
During this time of quarantine and social distancing with Covid-19, everyone is looking for safer ways to shop. We don’t want to unnecessarily risk our health, but we obviously need food and other items to live and be comfortable. The problem is: all of the retailers are overwhelmed, online and in stores. Everyone is eating and living at home right now. Delivery and pickup windows are limited, as is product availability. As an experienced online grocery shopper, I would like to share with you how to buy groceries online during quarantine.
Probably the biggest takeaway is to plan ahead. Because you may have to wait several days to get the items you need, you need to plan ahead. This is hard for many of us. Think about what items you need for meals. Honestly, cooking three meals a day at home has been a big change for me and our house, but we are adjusting (most days) and I am thankful to have the food at home to cook with. We are adding recipes to the Mom’s Priority website to help you find new recipes to eat at home.
Go for Healthy
Secondly, aim for healthy meals and snacks. Now is the time to spend the extra money and time on healthy fruits and vegetables. Our bodies need good nutrition to guard against this virus and other ailments to good health. With all of the extra time, we have expanded our vegetable and herb garden this Spring. I am looking for ways to incorporate more vegetables especially in our meals.
Third, be patient and realize that you will probably not get everything you need in one shopping “trip.” Items are out of stock in some stores and not in others. This shouldn’t last forever, but for now, you may need to shop multiple online retailers to get the items you need. Also, allowing for substitutes on items is a good idea right now.
Online Grocery Options- High Service
If you want to order online and have someone do the picking in the store for you, these are your best bets. Buy groceries online during quarantine with these companies.
Instacart is a service that will pick up and deliver groceries from major stores, such as Publix, BJ’s, Costco, Aldi, etc. Once the order is placed, an Instacart shopper in the area will make the grocery run for the customer. Wait times with Instacart are typically about 2 days. You can purchase a $99 annual Instacart membership that will allow free grocery delivery for orders over $35. I would also consider that you may pay more for items bought through Instacart, and you should expect to tip well in this time of Covid19. Some items will be out of stock in the grocery stores, and you can give directions to your shopper as to allow substitutes.
Walmart Grocery and Curbside Pickup
When you use Walmart Grocery, you reserve a pickup time slot (do this first thing, before you go through the website to “shop”, to make sure a reasonable time slot is available) , then you order your items online through their website or app, and decide whether to allow substitutions or not. Once you have ordered your items, a day or two later you can go at your appointed time, pull up to the curb at your local Walmart (over 3,000 locations in the U.S. currently handle pickup services), and a Walmart associate will load the items into your car.
Online Grocery Delivery via Mail
For online grocery, we buy perishable items and toiletries as much as possible online and have them delivered to our house. Pantry items, toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, all are purchased online when available, and delivered right to our house. We use walmart.com, samsclub.com, and Amazon home page‘>Amazon has millions of grocery items, some delivered next day and some through their Whole Foods subsidiary. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial‘>here.
Sam’s Club is a great place to purchase bulk toiletry and nonperishable food items. Also, you can schedule in-store pickup of your online order, but getting a time for pickup may be tricky right now.
Other Online Grocery Options
There are many other smaller delivery services available, more than we have time to go into here. Retailers like FreshDirect, Shipt, Postmates, Thrive Market, Peapod, Sun Basket, and Boxed, among others, are great to check out for niche, gourmet, and organic items. You can see that we have been covering online grocery for many years, and this difficult time for us all is causing us to change habits and shop online for groceries. As the times continue to evolve check back here for more updates on how to safely and affordably shop for groceries online. One last thing, if you are new to online shopping, make sure you read this to keep your credit card information secure. Stay safe and healthy!
An assuredly major mark in future world history, this Covid-19 Pandemic is life-altering and habit-changing. Who knew that in the matter of a month’s time, we could go from our “normal” lives of working, going to school, eating out at restaurants, shopping in stores at leisure, playing sports, rushing around…to staying home, completing schoolwork, work, shopping, all online. Parenting during Covid-19 is not for the faint of heart, and we are all just doing our best. We all have different situations: some have “essential” jobs and others may be filing for unemployment. Some have young kids who can be exhausting to keep busy, and others have teenagers who wish for peace. We all know of someone who is sick, and we do our best to stay healthy ourselves. As we all parent through this time, we have to be patient and forgiving with ourselves.
My daughter and I have started walking 3 miles a day with our dogs. We still get up at a reasonable hour because I believe we need to be on somewhat of a schedule for our health and for school and online work, but we do not set alarms. We watch TV together and play games. As a family, we work around our (new-to-us-that-needs work) property.
During this time, my husband and I have decided to let the kids watch more TV, play more video games, and facetime and talk on the phone and text more often, because that IS their social time with their friends right now, and we believe they need that.
This whole quarantine thing is getting old, even for this introvert, but we want to be a part of the solution for our community and country. As we pray for those who are sick, or on the front lines, we also pray we do not get sick.
Healthier Eating Habits
During this crazy time, it’s not unusual to eat 3 real, homecooked meals a day around the table as a family. We are eating healthier these days. I make sure we get our fruits and vegetables and real food, not as much processed. Simple meals we like, made with real ingredients. I can’t say we are losing weight, though, because we are home and eating ALL THE TIME! Our animals wonder what is up because their humans are always here!! This whole quarantine thing is very strange. Every morning we wake up and think it’s a dream, but quickly realize the reality we are in.
Parenting During Covid-19
It all sounds strange, but there is so much good to this situation too. While being at home together all the time brings its own set of stressors, and we are fortunate to have a large property and house (fixer upper, but still, we can all retreat to our own corners!), I have found that this time is forcing us to deal with some parenting issues that in our busyness, get relegated to the back burners.
For too long, we have gone from commitment to commitment, with little time to slow down. Our kids are in school with their teachers and then at their after school activities, and we are parenting in the margins. And we are all generally exhausted at best then! But now, we get the opportunity to love each other family member through this situation, and slow down, appreciate each other, and work through the issues as they come up!
This is important to me, and I am thankful for this time to slow down. I don’t want to get to the finish line, and I’m not sure where that even is, maybe when they go off to college or maybe it’s way beyond that, and realize that we didn’t do the work that mattered. Proverbs 31- even though I fail often, this is my ideal. I want to make sure we parented where it mattered. That our kids knew that we were in their corners and that we expected growing character and integrity among them. More than anything, I want them to know that their worth is in God’s high view and calling of them, and everybody else’s falls less than that.
I occasionally read new parenting books, and I’ve ordered a few new ones to start soon. We want to be faithful to the calling of being parents. I would love to hear what parenting books have shaped your role as parents. Some that I have read through in the past are below. I believe it’s so important to pray for our children continually and teach them, as it says in Deuteronomy 6:5-9. These books have been insightful to us through this parenting journey.
What insightful books have you read that you recommend? You can comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This Covid-19 came out of nowhere to us, but God is not surprised. We can use this time to glorify Him by enjoying the people he has given us in our families and working to love them better. Praying for all of you readers to have peace, sanity, wisdom, love, and good health in this time!