When You Can’t See God in Your Story

What's Your God Story?Have you ever felt like even though you’re doing all the right things, God seems glaringly absent in your daily life?

Does it seem no matter how hard you work, things just don’t seem to get better and the outlook seems bleak?

I have so been there, friend. I want to encourage you, though, that God is present and He is whispering His story of love and grace to you every single day.

Join me at The Better Mom today as I talk about finding our God Stories. Check it out and then I’d love to hear what your God Story is!

If you’ve just joined us from The Better Mom, I want to welcome you! I’m so glad you’re hear! Feel free to grab a nice cuppa and look around awhile!

How to Make Christmas Truly Meaningful and FUN! {Truth in the Tinsel GIVEAWAY!!!}

***This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!***

I used a random number generator and the winner is….comment #5!! (Any comments from me where not factored into the total number). Congrats! I have contacted the winner via email. >IMG_1871.JPG

What comes to mind when you think of the Christmas season?

Joy? Reflection? Family?

Stress? Shopping? Pressure? Chaos? Is it over yet?

For those of us in the western world, Christmas seems to bring quite the hodgepodge of emotions, and conjure a myriad of thoughts and expectations. Particularly in the Pintrest-Crazy Internet Land, it can be easy to succumb to the notion that our homes must spotless, decorated to the nines and our children perfectly behaved and able to recite the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth from heart as well as sing Here Comes Santa Claus with the best of ‘em.

My heart is racing just thinking of it all. The cooking, the shopping, the shipping of packages (and the trips to the post office it requires – gag me with a  spoon, please!), more cooking. Don’t forget the teacher gifts – handmade and all organic and fair-trade of course, the church play and those six dozen brownies we agreed to make for the class party at school. Anyone else beginning to feel like a zombie yet??

Yeah, me too.

That’s why a few years ago I was really searching for a way to make Christmas a truly meaningful time for our family. A time when we set aside the chaos that the busy-ness of the season can bring and really focus on why we were celebrating. I was thrilled when I found an Advent curriculum complete with Bible readings, devotional thoughts, and even hymns to go with it! My little heart pitter-pattered as I envisioned our family circled around the fire, cocoa in hand, all listening quietly to the 50-verse Bible readings and then each one in turn offering a thoughtful insight. I’m talking revival right there in our living room!

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Truth in the Tinsel GiveawayOh, sorry. It’s just that that particular curriculum required sitting still for more than five seconds.

Enter Truth in the Tinsel.

This is more than an curriculum – its an adventure!

It is designed to begin December 1, and you do one lesson, with a small craft, per day until Christmas. Before you’re eyes glaze over at the thought of a craft every.day., hear me out.

Amanda White, the creator of Truth in the Tinsel, created it when her kids were very small. She gets it. Not only has she lined out amazing, fun lessons, she’s made it as easy as possible for mom (and dad)! Each lesson has a short Bible reading, a short devotional thought and then the craft. There is even a hyperlink to the Bible verses, so you can just click through to read them if you’re not familiar or comfortable with flipping through a paper Bible.

There is also a master supply list for the crafts, as well as a daily list so you can easily look and see what you need for a particular day. She has also created a couple of different schedules. If every day is a bit overwhelming for you, you can just study the main characters. She has really taken all of the guess work out of really celebrating the Reason for Christmas.

Flexibility is the key here. If you don’t have the things for that day’s craft, no problem! Skip the craft, or use what you do have. Or, you can also download printable ornaments for each day. Print and color. Simple, no? (If you want to see more in-depth details about the lessons and crafts, check out the Manger Mondays tab at the top of this page.)

Perhaps the thing I love most about Truth in the Tinsel is how it instills in my children – and in myself – a deep understanding and connection to the Christmas story – the birth of Christ – and it’s meaning. My kids understand not only that Christmas is important, but why. And it was all done in about 20 minutes each evening, having fun.

I’m so excited and grateful that Amanda is graciously and generously giving one of you awesome readers a copy of the Truth in the Tinsel eBook and the printable ornaments!!

This giveaway, since it is all digital, is open world wide and will run from Monday, November 3 – Friday, November 7. I will announce the winner no later than Monday, November 10.

Don’t want to wait to get your hands on a copy? Or want to buy it if you don’t win? You can get 20% off of the eBook until December 25th using the code GALSJOURNEY.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this blog post and tell me: What is your favorite thing about the Christmas season?

To earn one extra entry, share this giveaway either on Twitter or Facebook, then come back here and leave a second comment telling me how you shared.

Good luck!

 

*This post contains an affiliate link.

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You Say Potato, I Say…Zulassungsbescheinigung

We get a lot of comments from people about how lucky we are to live where we do, how exotic our lives must be, and one question we get asked all.the.time:

What’s it like living in a foreign country?? 

 Let me tell you a story…

Today, I needed to run some errands. I needed a winter coat – like, a real winter coat, not the cute little cotton thing I had last winter – and I needed to get some things checked out on the car. In case you didn’t know, it snows in Austria. I mean, the Alps? Hullooo! So, it would stand to reason that on occasion, one needs to drive on said snow (and ice) during the winter months. (It’s also totally the law that every car be fitted with winter tires from October to April).

I’d like to share with you the conversation I had with the man at the tire shop about getting an estimate on winter tires. This entire conversation happened in German, so I have provided the translated version here for your enjoyment.

Me: Hello, I would like to get an estimate on winter tires and wheels, please.

Tire Man (TM): Of course! Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: … I’m sorry, what was that?

TM: No problem. Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: I’m very sorry, I don’t know what that is.

TM: *chuckle* Oh, right. It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: But…what is that?

TM: It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: I’m sorry, I am new to Austria and I don’t know what a zu… zus…what a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is.

TM: Oh, haha, of course. It is a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *blank stare*

TM: *blank stare*

Me: …

TM: …

You Say Potato...

Eventually I did find the Zulassungsbescheinigung…at home, in a file.

Me: Could you maybe write it down for me?

TM: *reaches into a drawer and pulls out what looks like a European driver’s license*

Me: Oh!! *pulls out my European driver’s license* This??

TM: Exactly!! Oh…no. This is a driver’s license. You need a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *headdesk*

The End.

You may think I embellished this story for humor’s sake, I assure you I did not. (okay, I didn’t actually say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but whatever word protruded from my lips was just as nonsensical, I assure you.)

If fairness to Mr. Tireman, he probably felt that he was in fact giving me an accurate description of the item, because that’s how German works. All those big, long words German is so famous for? They are a bunch of smaller words jammed together so that it very accurately and in great detail describes the item, location or office/department to which it refers. Zulassungsbescheinigung probably means “little card containing all the pertinent information pertaining to your car ever in the history of man”, because that’s what it is. And, as I learned today, any time you need work or inspections done on your car, you must present this.

Later this afternoon, I went to a second tire shop for another estimate. When TM2 asked me for my Zulassungsbescheinigung, I grinned slyly to let him know I’m hip to the code and whipped out my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious before he could even finish saying the word. Booyah.

Yes, living in Vienna (or any European place) has its amazing highlights. Just the other day, I was buying paper towels and coffee in the shadow of the world-renowned Stefansdom Catherdral. I mean, wow. So many times we stop in the middle of our day and just look around and take it in because we – how do the kids say it these days? –  just can’t even. Sometimes we literally can’t even.

However, most days…this my friends – this conversation right here – is what it’s like to live in a foreign country.

The Best Gifts are the Ones We Don’t Ask For

You’re four today.

FOUR.

You love Star Wars and big trucks, your sisters and the color green – followed closely by blue and orange.

You have a laugh that goes for miles, your joy even farther. You bring energy, life, love, mad-crazy-hugs and a new perspective to this family.

Isaac CollageAs I sit and remember this day unfolding four years ago…the waiting, the wondering, the worrying if we were both going to be okay. I remember you coming thundering, screaming into this world and exploding my heart into a million pieces.

It may be your birthday, lil man, but I am the one receiving the gift.

We’ve all heard before that God’s ways are not our ways. They are higher, holier, more mysterious and not to be understood fully. The Bible also says that God is the most amazing gift giver. If I, a mom who messes up, loses her temper, gets lazy, gets tired and frustrated knows how to give good gifts to my children – and revels in doing so! (I’m so giddy for you to open your gifts, dude, I can’t stand it!) – how much more wonderful is God, the awesome and perfect Creator of the universe at giving gifts?!

And boy did He knock it out of the park with you!

What’s more amazing is that you are an extra special gift. You’re the gift that God had hiding in the corner only to bring out at the last second when we thought the party was over. You were the gift we didn’t know to ask for, and then with a teary-secret-keeping smile He pulls His hands out from behind His back…

And hands us you.

Oh, the breath taking awe, my son. What a humbling, honoring, laughter-filled gift you are!

With every tackle hug, every belly laugh, every dragon fight, every Captain-America-Weilding-A-Light-Saber-Fighting-Off-Ninjas moment, I stand in utter awe of the little man you are – and are becoming.

I am so thankful that God knows how to give such good gifts – and that He delights so much in it.

So enjoy your day, Buddy. Fall asleep tonight clutching your blankie (don’t worry, it’s totally manly to sleep with one) and your newest favorite toy and rest deep and well knowing that you are loved, you are cherished, you are special.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you.

Just Do It?

Wow, friends…..wow. It has been a heckuva year and a half, ain’t it??

When I wrote this post back in February 2013, I had absolutely no idea what the future held for our family. But, basically, that post means this blog has been essentially dormant for the better part of two years. I’ve had my monthly posts over at The Better Mom, and the occasional post here and there, but by and large I have been silent.

Just Do ItFirst, it was the bustle and busy of our six months in the States. Then it was the stress and uncertainty of not being able to return to Ireland. And for the last 10 months or so it has been the transition and adjustment into our new home and culture here in Vienna.

Through it all, the words just…wouldn’t come. What had become a true source of refreshment, insight and stress-reflief for me (writing) became stress-inducing. When I used to find inspiration and life lessons out and about in the real world, now I was using all my energy and strength to just….function.

Our first several months here in Vienna were filled with apartment hunting, language learning, and generally just figuring out how to, you know, get to the grocery store, how to function in the grocery store without looking like a total freak, settling in to a new home, new schools, etc. I desperately wanted to get back to writing and sharing life with you all…after all, silence is the blog killer, right?? But deep down I really sensed it needed to be a season of silence. Active silence, though. I time of listening, learning, growing.

Now, however, I kind of feel like I’m hiding…avoiding. I’ve been waiting for the inspiration to return, and have not been trying to actively seek it out. It has sort of become now one of those things I know I need to do for my own good, for my own health. Like eating well or working out. You know once you do it you will feel so much better, so much stronger. Yet getting started is the hardest part. Pushing play or stepping out the door for a run…passing by the bakery and opting instead for a home-prepared, nutrient packed meal might as well be climbing Mount Everest. It’s simple physics, really. That whole inertia thing – you know, how an object at rest will tend to stay at rest.

Friends, I have truly needed rest. I’ve needed quiet, introspection, and to walk around for awhile with eyes wide open, mouth clamped shut and just take it all in. However now, I believe I need to get back into action. The inspiration? Still absent. The beauty? I’m still having to intentionally and actively seek it, rather than it slapping me in the face as soon as I open my front door.

Yet…I’m an object at rest…I’m going to attempt to take the first steps of coming back here, of “working out” with you all. I can’t promise there will be deep, beautiful word pictures flowing forth from my fingers to your screens. It may be more like the very first workout on the season opener of The Biggest Loser…awkward…painful…breath taking – but not in a good way. But, friends, you’ve been a safe place for me over the last three years and I trust you will continue to be.

I’m going to just…do it. And hope and pray the feeling follows action. I’ve been waiting until I felt more like myself before sitting down to do the hard work of writing. But could it be that perhaps…just maybe…I won’t truly start to feel like myself until I let the words come free again?

So, thank you for those who have stuck around through the silence. And to those of you who have incredibly joined our little community over the last two years and continued to visit. I look forward to seeing more of you all again.

So…here we go….let’s….do it.

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