I Saw a Sign. A Purple Sign. It was from God.


13 Christian SongsSo, I joined a gym. It’s kind of funny how it happened. I had become very concerned that at my mid-30-ish age that I was in such poor shape. Aches and pains were coming way too frequently for my liking. I began to see myself two decades down the line too frail to be able to enjoy retirement and my grandchildren and, most importantly, to be able to do ministry.

I had tried the whole running thing. I’ll just say it. You runners are plain crazy. I have the utmost respect for you but I just don’t get it. Not even the beautiful spring mornings were enough to keep me wanting to do it – and I was only running (ahem, walking mostly) less than a mile.

I had tried Zumba on my Xbox Kinect. That worked great until my Zumba game quit working; plus, I had gotten bored with the 30-minute routine and wasn’t coordinated enough to jump to the hour one.

So my horribly out of shape self decided to do the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. My desire has always been to do ministry and I hope someday I can travel and speak and serve. But that would become difficult if I don’t take care of my body now.

Now I will give you permission to laugh at me. I truly believe God has a sense of humor. Not long after I began praying that God would show me how to get in shape and find a plan I would stick with, I saw a sign.

A purple sign. On the side of the road. That said $10 per month.

Planet Fitness was opening in my town. It was from God. 🙂

courtesy: annarbor.com

So I talked with my husband and not only did I sign up but I also signed him up. I began on the treadmill – mostly walking – catching up on my favorite podcasts a few times per week. Then one day I was on the elliptical and decided to turn on some Christian music after a podcast had ended. I was amazed at how much more energy I had once I was listening to these upbeat tunes. I went from going 1 mile on the elliptical to 2.5 simply by the music I was listening to.

(That very night I saw on the news ticker that a new study showed a higher level of performance in exercise when listening to upbeat music. Just thought I’d throw that in.)

Then I got serious. I began doing searches for Christian music workout tunes and came upon this post by Running Rachel. I quickly looked up some of her suggestions and added them to my playlist.

Below is my playlist that I’ve tweaked to my personal routine. These give me 49 minutes on the elliptical, which equates to about 4.5 miles. I chose about 10 minutes of warm-up songs, followed by a sort of interval workout until finishing with “All the People Said Amen.” I’ll also note that all of these songs were free to download for Amazon Prime members.*

1. Beautiful Day by Jamie Grace

2. Burning in My Soul by Matt Maher

3. He Moves You Move by Audio Adrenaline

4. I Feel So Alive by Capital Kings

5. My Lighthouse by Rend Collective

6. Build Your Kingdom Here by Rend Collective

7. Just a Friend by Jamie Grace

8. Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

9. Do Life Big by Jamie Grace

10. Greater by MercyMe

11. White Boots by Jamie Grace

12. Every Good Thing by The Afters

13. All the People Said Amen by Matt Maher

If you’re looking for some upbeat, positive, Christ-centered workout music, or just some music to lift your mood, these are some to get you started. For those of you who listen to Christian music during your workout, do you have others to add to the list? I’d love to get a second playlist started!

*If you’re am Amazon Prime member, simply download the Amazon Music app to your smartphone. Search for the songs individually (some albums will not be free for Prime members but the individual songs are). Or click the links above and add them to your library in Amazon. From the app simply organize into a separate playlist. Be sure to download the songs to your “device” and not just keep them on the cloud; otherwise you’ll use data when you’re playing them unconnected to Wi-Fi.
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Kroger Deals to Stock Your Pantry and to Give Generously

If you’ve been following my blog since it began, you know I started out by posting great deals on grocery and household items. I was working toward slashing my grocery budget in order to become a full-time mom. Over the last year I’ve shifted my focus to my true passion – writing about my Christian faith in everyday life and how the Bible speaks in our generation.

But my adrenaline surge at good deals hasn’t gone by the wayside! I still have to shop sales and coupon to keep on a budget, especially with rising food prices. And I also want to be able to have room in the budget to give to our church’s food pantry. To do all that, it’s critical for me to take advantage of good deals when they come.

This week is one of those weeks. You should have seen me in Kroger this morning, snapping pictures of items so I could go back and see what coupon match-ups would make good deals. And some of these are good deals without any coupons!

So get your pen in hand, your newspaper inserts ready (if you have them), and paper in your printer. Get ready to stock up for your own family and I challenge you to use these deals to help with whatever food pantry, ministry, or non-profit you support.

All of these items are part of Kroger’s Buy 10 Get $5 off sale. So that means you must buy in increments of 10 to get the full value.


Campbell’s Chunky Soup: $0.32
Less $1/3 Campbell’s soups from 11/5 Smartsource Insert
OR $0.50/2 printable here
Buy 3 and get $1.00 off your next order (Update: the Catalina did not print for me. I will be contacting them but from what I read on other blogs, they will mail me the coupon.)

Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce: $0.99



Swanson Broths (can): $0.49

Swanson Broths (cartons): $0.99
Sale: $1.49
Less $1.00/2 coupon here
OR $0.60/2 from 10/5 SmartSource


Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken Soup: $0.49
Less $1.00/5 coupon here
(other Campbell’s condensed soup are also on sale)


Green Giant Canned Vegetables: $0.50


Skinner Pastas: $0.38


Heinz Gravy: $0.79

Stove Top Stuffing: $0.99
(I’ve bought this for around $0.60 in previous years after coupons but it’s hard to tell whether it will go that low this year or if this is the best deal.)


Celestial Tea: $0.99
Less $1.00/1 coupon from 10/5 SmartSource

Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate: $0.59
LESS $0.40/1 printable coupon here


Carnation Evaporated Milk: $0.62
LESS $0.55/2 printable coupon here or 11/2 Smartsource insert


Pillsbury Cake Mix: $0.54
LESS $0.35/1 from 11/2 RedPlum insert


Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce: $0.49
LESS $1/2 printable


Kleenex Tissues: $0.74
LESS $0.75/3 printable


Marie Callender’s Pies: $4.49

Edwards Pies: $4.49

Mrs. Smith’s Pies: $3.49


Breyer’s Ice Cream or Turkey Hill Ice Cream: $2.99


Green Giant Veggie Tortilla Chips: $0.99


Chex Mix: $0.49
LESS $1/2 from 10/26 Smartsource insert
OR $0.50/2 Kroger digital coupon


Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn: $0.74
LESS $1.50/2 from 10/26 Smartsource insert

Doritos: $1.99

Minute Maid Pure Squeezed Orange Juice: $0.99
LESS $1/2 Kroger digital coupon


Land O’Lakes Stick Butter: $2.99
(Last year this was $1.99. I’m not sure if a better deal will come or if prices are simply higher this year.)

There are  many other good deals at Kroger this week. Those above are just the best ones I’ve found. Let me know if you see any others!

Thanks to Kroger Krazy for info on several of these deals. I love this site but since not all deals are the same in our region, not everything on that site is the same (most are, however). The deals above are what I found in going in my Arkansas Kroger this morning.

I hope this list will help you stock your pantry and give generously this season!

*If you’re looking to begin shopping sales and coupons to slash your grocery budget as a way of life, check out my audio teaching ( part 1 and 2) on how I did it and how you can, too!*

Coming in November!
Glory in the Garden: 30 Days of Devotionals
FREE e-version for e-mail subscribers!
Sign up!
Click the link above to receive Glory in the Garden for free when it is released in late November!
*The paperback version will also be available – a great Christmas gift!*

Saving Money on Groceries Part 2 (Audio)

If you enjoyed listening in on our MOMs class last week on saving money on groceries, check out this week’s conclusion.

We talked discussed:

  • the current Kroger ad – what was a stock-up deal and what was simply advertising
  • how I got cereal for $0.32 per box a few weeks ago and shampoo for free last week
  • tricks for keeping up with the sales and coupons in the most time-efficient manner possible
  • what items you can make on your own with little effort and time, which will save you money
  • how to garden strategically to save money

I referred to a book I used quite a bit for making my own alternatives to store-bought options, such as chicken broth and ranch dressing. The book is called Easy. Homemade. and you can check it out here.

For some reason it recorded in two 15-minute segments this time. Click the links below:

Saving Money on Groceries Part 2a

Saving Money on Groceries Part 2b

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Saving Money on Groceries Part 1 (Audio)

Last night I taught a class on Saving Money on Groceries (and couponing) at the MOMs class I’ve taught at my church for the past 7 years. We had just completed doing Courtney Joseph’s book Women Living Well and we had discussed being faithful with our money in our household. Several of the women expressed interest in learning how to save on groceries and household items after I told them I had saved 1/3 off my grocery bill by doing this. (I began doing this when I was endeavoring to leave my job and stay home with my children.)

Although I have gone away from the “money saving” part of my blog in past months, I thought you might be interested in the recording of my class last night. We didn’t finish, so I’ll be recording the conclusion next week and will post it.  Beneath the link to hear last night’s lesson, which is about 30 minutes, I’ve included links to the resources I listed in the class.  Happy saving!

Saving Money on Groceries Part 1  – Click to Listen


Helpful Blogs:

Coupon Databases: (direct link)
Faithful Provisions
Money Saving Mom
Common Sense with Money
Southern Savers

Price List:
Provisions (.pdf) and Provisions iPhone App

Helpful Phone Apps:
Kroger Mobile App
Ibotta (this is my referral link, which means I get compensated if you sign up for the program)
Saving Star
Checkout 51 (I have not tried this but it was suggested in class.)

I hope you enjoy this and are able to utilize these tips and resources to save your family money!

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Reclaiming My Love Affair with the To-Do List (and a peek inside today’s list)

The Simplest, Most Effective, Guilt-Free To-Do List ...Ever

Daily life has been a little more tricky to manage since summer has begun. Last week Drew had surgery to remove the rods from his leg so we weren’t able to go outside or leave the house. That led to my having to be a little more intentional about how I spent my time.

I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of girl anyway.

So I dusted off a good habit I’ve just gotten too lazy to do of late: my to-do list. But this time, instead of having every day of the week mapped out already, I made it simpler. Each morning, I simply wrote down 5-6 things I’d like to accomplish that day. It seems that morning is when my mind swirls with “gotta-do’s,” and instead of letting them create chaos in my head (and unrealistic pressure on myself which makes me become control-freak mom), I decided to just write them down.

I know it seems too simple, but I was amazed at how smooth my days have gone after doing this one thing. I get more done and feel more accomplished.

How has it made life easier?

  • I don’t put things on the list that I don’t think I can realistically get done; things that can wait get put off until tomorrow.
  • I’m more motivated to complete short tasks instead of taking “quick” social media breaks.
  • My kids see my list (and they have their own), so we all work on our own chores together. The nag factor and the boredom in the home has decreased dramatically.

So what’s on my to-do list today?

Process tomatoes. My Roma tomatoes are bearing 3-4 pounds per day, so I have to keep up with making them into sauce while they’re fresh. Today, with the kids’ help, I was able to process almost 2 quarts in about 45 minutes.


Freeze cucumbers. My cucumbers are bearing well, too, and I have a frozen cucumber recipe from a friend that I LOVE. Since the processing of the tomatoes took the time it did, I haven’t completed that task yet, but I hope to after the nap/rest time.

Make menu plan. Last week Kroger had such a good sale that I bought all sale items instead of menu planning first. So I needed to plan our meals this week with what I already have in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. That took less than 5 minutes but now I’m set for the week!

Garden. I found a fantastic author/blogger, Melissa K. Norris, who gives GREAT resources on homesteading. During one of her podcasts, she made a simple statement on how to keep up with the garden: Do a little every day. It seemed so simple but since I’ve been making that commitment – to do something in the garden 30 minutes – 1 hour each day (except Sundays) – I’ve noticed a real difference in how my garden has been looking. Today I did weeding in my melon patch while Alyssa and Drew picked blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and tomatoes.

Clean toilets. Just because…yeah.


Create promo for the couponing/grocery savings class in MOMs next week. Next week I’m excited to be presenting my couponing/saving money on groceries class to the MOMs class I teach. I want to create something that the other MOMs can share online so perhaps others might be interested in coming. I haven’t finished that one yet but am hoping to during nap time.

See, isn’t that pretty simple? Admittedly, I can be a slave to a to-do list but in this case it is working to my advantage. I’m not putting on too much, and I’m giving myself a break when I’m done. I don’t keep adding on tasks. That has enabled me to have a smoother, more productive day, with plenty of time to enjoy my kiddos.

What about you? What tools do you use to manage your household, particularly in the summer?



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When a Response to Interruption Reveals the Heart

1 Corinthians 13_13“Mom!!!” Alyssa called to me from the dining room. Frustrated at the umpteenth interruption while I was trying to write, I bitterly responded with a clipped, “What?!”

“I love you,” she replied sweetly.

Guilt nipped at me as I replayed the events of the last hour. In her room, Alyssa refused to nap. She sang, she talked, she called, “Mom, can I get out now?” a dozen times. Each time my response was less patient and more agitated. Didn’t she understand I needed this time? I was trying to concentrate on my writing and putting together next week’s Summer in the Vine devotionals. All for God, after all.

But I knew…the moment my response held bitterness instead of love, I should have stopped what I was doing. God would never call me to a task where I would have to respond to anyone in the way I responded to Alyssa. Even if it wasn’t hateful, my tone told her, “What I’m doing is more important than what you have to say at this moment.”

My Father is a God of love. He values people over projects.

And the moment I gave into my frustration by choosing my task over my daughter, I was failing to trust God to provide the time, inspiration, and opportunity to do what He has called me to do.

What is your sign that you need to slow down, even if it’s just for a moment? For me, it was the second Alyssa became an interruption instead of someone to nurture and love. This doesn’t mean I always drop everything for her but that no matter what I do – even if it is a gentle, “Go back to bed, sweetheart” – I am doing it out of love for her. I am valuing her above my tasks.

If I speak in the languages of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 HCSB

I’m sure there would be a nice way to end this post but a little girl just came to sit in my lap, and I’m going to let her stay as long as she wants.


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Savoring the Season

Untitled design(2)As I breathed in the early morning air, the fragrance of honeysuckles washed over me. Bathed in nature’s aromatherapy, I savored every breath, knowing the sweet aroma would be short-lived. In just a week, the intoxicating scent would be a memory.

The same feeling had nibbled at my heart as I had looked upon my spring jonquils and tulips just months before. Vibrant in color while their backdrop still portrayed a canvas of winter, I knew their beauty was only for a season. In time, the blooms dropped, just as the honeysuckle scent would fade away.

Just like nature, I thought as the essence of honeysuckles filled my nostrils, our lives flow in seasons.

There was the joyful season when my greatest excitement was the next basketball game with my dad as the coach. There was the exhilarating season of my freshman year of college when I fell in love Matt. There was the hard season when Matt, Drew, and I lived in a 400-square foot apartment while he had been laid off and my father-in-law was fighting cancer. There was the breathless season of living in survival mode as a working mom of two little ones.

And now I am in the season of staying home with my children while pursuing the writing dream I’ve had for years.

Keeping a healthy balance between those two hasn’t been easy. My heart wants to launch into writing. Ideas spin in my head and line my notebook. I feel like a sprinter in the starting blocks waiting for the gun.

But my children are little.

And while I feel led to a greater freedom to pursue writing and ministry more than ever before, I must intentionally protect my time and this season with Drew and Alyssa. Investing in them and ministering to their young hearts must be my priority.

The honeysuckles remind me that I must savor this moment, this season, because it won’t last. I’ll always have writing, but I won’t always have my littles.


Moms with littles, can I just say it’s okay to have dreams? God has equipped every believer with one or more spiritual gifts to be used for the building up of his church (Ephesians 4:11-16). So if you have a desire to use your gifting, embrace it. But we also must be aware that God’s perfect timing is not always our own. King David had to wait 15 years from the time he was anointed to the time he became king. During those 15 years, he served God where he was, strengthening the skills and character he would need as king. Let’s take heart and embrace the gifting within us, while being wise about our current season. Because we know the sweetness – and the challenges! – of this season won’t last forever.



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My Story Part 6: A New Way of Life

From Working MommaThis is my story of “Coming Home” after being a working mother for six years.  You can read part 1 of my story here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, and part 5 here.

I have been a stay-at-home mom now for over a year.  The transition wasn’t near as bumpy as I expected it to be.  It helped that Drew was in school and Alyssa continued to go to Mother’s Day Out two days per week.  This helped me ease into my new lifestyle and continue to pursue my own interests.

The biggest difference in my way of life that I noticed was a slower pace.  I actually had time to sit down and enjoy my kids.  I wasn’t rushing from one task to another just to keep everything from crumbling on top of me.  I wasn’t limited to 30-minute meals.  I could grocery shop on a day other than when the rest of the city was shopping.  I could enjoy play dates.

I also was able to stay home with Drew when he was sick or take Alyssa to the doctor without taking off work. I didn’t have to worry about a job when Drew broke his leg.  I was able to thoroughly enjoy our first summer together.  I was also able to spend much more time with my mom and go to her doctor appointments.

My biggest challenge is resisting my task-oriented nature and simply “being” with my kids.  I always see something else that needs to be done instead of living in the moment with them.  I didn’t become a natural kid-person when I quit my job to stay home with them. Those challenges still remain.  I learned to rely on God’s strength and not my own, sometimes the hard way.  I blogged on my struggles and victories in the early days here.

Do I miss working? No. Do I miss my job? Sometimes. Do I miss my former coworkers? Absolutely. I worked with some of the greatest people I have ever known at Cogswell Motors. But being able to be available to my children is a much greater joy.

It’s the little things. Like running errands with Alyssa by my side. Going to every one of Drew’s school events, even the ones during the day. Having an early dinner so we can play together outside afterward. Going to the library together every Wednesday after school. Having no anxiety when a child comes down with a fever.  Planning playdates on the spur of the moment. Knowing I have the whole summer to make memories with my kids.

Some things money just can’t buy.

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My Story Part 5: Reservations Along the Way

From Working MommaThis is my story of “Coming Home” after being a working mother for six years.  You can read part 1 of my story here, part 2 here., part 3 here, and part 4 here.

I’ve always felt that when it comes to making a major change in my life, I should not seek to get “away” from something; instead, if possible, I should be aiming “toward” something better.  (Exceptions, of course, are fleeing from sin.)

In 2008 the automotive industry endured a tough year, and our dealership was no exception.  It was necessary to downsize my department through attrition, and circumstances were challenging.  I even considered finding another job, but when it came down to it, I felt that when the time came to leave my job, I needed to be leaving to pursue something better, not leaving to “get away” from difficulty.

I got my wish, because as I started approaching the time of leaving my job, at which I had worked over 9 years, it couldn’t have been a better time for the company.  The auto industry was rebounding, my department was having our best year ever, and the owner of the company (my direct boss) demonstrated his full confidence in my abilities.  I loved my job.

That’s when it hit me that coming home might not be the rose garden I had originally pictured it.  You see, I had always been successful in whatever I pursued. I was valedictorian of my high school class, graduated college with a 3.9 GPA, and was entrusted to launch and manage a brand new department at the dealership at the age of 23.

I had to face the fact that my own self-confidence was largely fueled at my job.  What would happen to me when I came home?

Home was where I felt the least competent.  I wasn’t the best housekeeper.  I couldn’t seem to maintain a consistency in discipline for Drew like I would have liked.  I got impatient frequently.  I tried to control my temper when things didn’t go my way but sometimes I lost it.

I was successful at work because I was task-oriented and I could control whatever I needed to for the most part.  Home was a completely different environment.  I couldn’t control my children’s every decision.  I couldn’t control my reactions much of the time.  I couldn’t control my own compulsivity to get all the home tasks completed before spending quality with my children.  Spending any length of time with my them on a weekend caused me to desire to go back to work so I could fill my self-confidence tank up again.  Being at home depleted it.

What in the world was I going to do at home about this?

Read the final part of my story next week: A New Way of Life


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My Story Part 4: The Second Step Home (the “extreme” couponing days)

From Working MommaThis is my story of “Coming Home” after being a working mother for six years.  You can read part 1 of my story here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

After feeling like I had a pretty good handle on the submission thing – not that I had mastered it but at least I knew what was required – I felt led to take a drastic step.  Up until this point, I knew that when I quit my job, we would have to tighten our financial belts – in the future.  But I knew that God was calling me to tighten up what I could now.  A particular passage really spoke to me. It is the one that says that “he who is faithful in little will be put in charge of much.” (Luke 16)

I realized that what might seem “little” with two incomes, would be “much” with one.  I needed to learn to become more responsible with money.  Matt has always handled our finances, and for the most part, the only part of our finances that I’ve ever really had control over was our grocery and household budget.  And that was an area that I knew would need to be corrected when I stayed home.

I felt convicted to start becoming more responsible in that area before we ever had the need to do so.  I felt that easily spending $600 per month on groceries and household items plus eating out a few meals per week left ample room to improve.

The first thing I did was start following money saving web sites like Money Saving Mom, Faithful Provisions, and Common Sense with Money.  Money Saving Mom taught me how to grocery shop – matching coupons with sales for example. She would post her grocery shopping trips and I learned her tricks.  Faithful Provisions taught me how to build a stockpile of foods when they are at their lowest price.  Common Sense with Money (along with the other two as well) would post the best coupon match-ups (and where to find the coupons) with deals at the stores I shopped at.  In essence, I was learning long-term strategies while catching the “deals” as they came about.  Through these deals I stocked up on many items such as toothpaste, body wash, razors, sanitary needs, deodorant, and other toiletries for next to nothing.

I also started making homemade bread and rolls instead of buying them (thanks to a friend finding a good deal on a breadmaker, and my learning how to freeze rolls for weeknights).  I started soaking my own beans instead of using pricey canned beans.  I started saving leftover meats for use in other meals.   I started buying large packs of items and repackaging them instead of buying the convenient “to-go” containers.  Little by little, savings were adding up.

I ended up cutting $200 off our grocery budget. And although $200 is significant, it obviously wasn’t enough to make up for my full-time income.  What I learned from this whole venture was that God was more interested in my heart.  He wanted me to be faithful in little.  And soon that “little” would be much.

Next week I will share Part 5: Reservations Along the Way

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*Disclaimer: I recognize that the working vs. stay-at-home mom debate has been fuel for countless mommy wars.  I want no part of that.  I know the reality that many women who work outside the home have no choice in the matter.  I also know many choose to work for other reasons.  The purpose for this series isn’t to convince anyone that being home is the only right decision because I don’t believe that.  Instead, I simply want to share my story for those who might find our path helpful in *prayerfully* discerning which path they might take.  My deepest desire is that we would all support one another.  I welcome comments that achieve that end. I seek for us to build each other up – no matter where we are – and not tear down. Thank you for letting me share this very personal part of my journey with you!