Check Out My Crafty Q&A Interview

Hey friends! I hope that you are enjoying your last few hours of December and 2010!

I wanted to let you know that my dear friend Katie who blogs at {a place to dwell} interviewed me for a fun Crafty Q&A, where I get to chat with her about things like my favorite vintage finds, some tips for making the most out of thrift shopping, advice for sharing your faith on your blog as well as other questions that I had a lot of fun answering!

Read my Crafty Q&A interview at {a place to dwell}.

Thanks for interviewing me, Katie, and a happy New Year's Eve to everyone!

Merry Christmas, friends!

I hope all of you are enjoying your time with loved ones this holiday season and celebrating the fact the Messiah has come, and will someday come again. Maranatha!

I'm going to take the next week off from blogging, as the last days of December drift past, but will come back with the turning of the calendar and some more blog posts, continuing the Testimony Series as well as still a few more Q&A posts that are in the works.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your December!

Review of Dishwashing Products from ecoSTORE USA

Did you know that a few months ago, I tried to make my own dishwashing detergent for our dishwasher? Yep, I really did. I love that we can effectively mix up our own cleaning solutions with ordinary household staples like vinegar, and thought I'd extend that to the dishwasher. Unfortunately, I found that that wasn't nearly as effective and have gone back to using storebought dishwashing detergents.

Still, using ones that are less toxic are still important to me (which is one of the key reasons why I prefer anything homemade). So when the New Zealand-based company ecoSTORE USA asked me if I'd be interested in receiving a couple of their products for review, I was more than happy to give them a whirl!

ecoSTORE USA has a large variety of cleaning supplies (more than 100) for practically every need you might have, from cleaning your dishes, laundry, countertops, floors, furniture, toilets—nearly every surface within your home—and even your baby and pets! All of their products make use of plant-based ingredients (rather than man-made chemicals) to keep your home clean. That means there are no phosphates, no nitrates, no ammonia, no toxic petrochemicals, no chlorine, no EDTA, and no synthetic dyes or perfumes.

As I mentioned, I selected two of their dishwashing products to test out: Auto Dishwash Powder and Dishwash Liquid. One of the things you'll notice about many of ecoSTORE USA's products, is that they come in smaller sizes than traditional, chug-a-lug storebought ones. That's not because you're getting ripped off, but because each product is "super-concentrated" so that you only need to use a little for each use.

To this end, I've been using both products for about a month. When using the auto dishwash powder, you only have to use a tablespoon for each time you run the dishwasher. (As it turns out, the cap perfectly holds a tablespoon's worth of powder, so that has made it easy to measure out the required amount.) I run my dishwasher about once every day or day and half, and I've only used about a quarter of the 35.3-ounce bottle they provided. That means that one small container will last me all winter! Since it takes up less space under my sink, I really appreciate this element of ecoSTORE USA's philosophy.

Conversely, the dishwash liquid comes in a larger-than-normal bottle (32 ounces). I only use dishwashing liquid for handwashing, so this will last me an incredibly long time! And since it will be sitting on my countertop for an extended period, I love that it features a cute black-and-white photo of neatly stacked tea cups on its label, making it much more attractive than some of its overly-branded counterparts.

While you can find ecoSTORE USA products in some grocery and convenience shops throughout the country (including Meijer, Duane Reade and Plum Market), you can also find these items and more on their website, where, currently, most are on sale. (For example, both the autodish powder and the dishwash liquid I tried out are currently on sale for $8.50 each.) This is pricier than traditional market dishwashing products, but you can save by having it delivered straight to your home (shipping is free on orders over $25) and by knowing that, as their guiding mantra goes, "The end product must not only be good for the user, but good for the planet."

Visit the ecoSTORE USA website at for more information. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blog, where you can read their latest news and sign up for their e-newsletter.

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Rejoicing In A Morning Slowed

This morning I felt unusually peaceful and patient and calm and unhurried. As I sat at the breakfast table with my Bible opened wide, I did not rush through my daily reading like usual. Instead, I thumbed through the concordance at the end, looking up my latest curiosities, seeking stories I couldn't remember clearly, pausing over all the noted places where Scriptures speak of things like "joy."

I pulled out my notebook and journaled, a practice I all too often abandon when time seizes up and captures my attention, pulling me away from what truly is most eternally urgent for that which is simply of the moment.

It was so unusual, that I noticed it. Isn't that sad? I took note of the fact that today, I simply sat before the King and drank in his presence without regard to all the things calling to me, "Martha! Martha!"

I dearly welcomed this change of pace. And it got me wondering...why was today any different? Is it that I no longer have a day's worth of work duties beckoning me to the computer and to emails and to phone calls?

Then I remembered this morning's prayer. As I watched my husband walk out the front door, lunch in hand, I could tell he was feeling rushed. I could tell his morning was not getting off to the best start. So as I closed the door behind him, I prayed for him, that the ticking of the clock and burden of responsibilities might be overwhelmed by God's peace "which transcends all understanding." (Philippians 4:7)

I prayed that for my husband, and yet I realized that God, in his goodness, shared that gift even with me, though I hadn't realized that I needed it, too. What a kind and generous God we serve.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.
And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

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Joye's Testimony: "Let Me Love You"

This is another guest post in the series of reader testimonies about how God has worked in their lives and lavished them with his love. Today's post is from Joye of The Joyeful Journey and speaks to one of our greatest struggles as women: insecurities.

"You are beautiful." Three little words every woman longs to hear and most struggle painfully to believe. I know my own heart has been at odds with this elusive phrase.

I've felt woefully insecure much more often than I've ever felt truly beautiful.  I tried to tell myself that maybe I really didn't need to be beautiful after all, maybe beauty wasn't really that important.  But I never could completely convince my heart of this.  And in all my conversations with my glorious Heavenly Father, I realized that beauty was important to Him as well.

Hovering as an artist over his easel, God composed a world of breathtaking and wondrous loveliness. And the crowning glory of his creation?  Man and woman. Men he spun from the clay of the earth; strong, virile, and dominant. Women he fashioned from the rib of man; relational, life-giving, and beautiful. Both are formed in His image, both reflect different aspects of the nature of God. But the world since those perfect days of creation has attempted to re-write the beauty that God designed.  Somewhere along the way, the definition became exclusive. And I didn't feel like I quite fit the bill.

I vividly remember a heart wrenching time in my life when I was bound by insecurities and I was desperate for God to help me see myself the way He saw me. I'll never forget what He whispered to my soul. His gentle plea was simply, "Let me love you."

I dared in that moment to ask him how. How was I to let him love me?  I thought I was already. His patient smile hinted that I had much to learn. There was more, so much more to His love than I could even begin to imagine. And He began to show me. In glimpses,  in little gifts, in time-stopping moments when I felt bathed in a love too sweet for words. Slowly, tenderly, steadily, He revealed to me my inability to love myself had been keeping me from receiving my husband's love as well as the love of my Heavenly Father.

God has done some major heart re-construction since that illuminating moment. All my ugliness was laid out before him and He didn't flinch. He didn't run away. He didn't leave me in the hopeless mess of shattered pieces that I believed myself to be in.

No, He simply changed my looking glass. 

I had been peering into the wrong mirror.  A dirty old cracked mirror the world had hung up in my room years and years ago.  A mirror riddled with lies that I had too easily accepted. He replaced it with His own—the mirror of His Word.

And this mirror says I'm beautiful. In a million different ways, God is reminding me that I captivate His heart.

"The king is enthralled by your beauty. Honor him for he is your lord."  ~ Psalm 45: 11

God is not a man that he should lie.  He's crazy about us.  He delights in us. The Bible tells us that "as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." (Isaiah 62: 5) Wow. The God of the universe is head over heels in love with us!

Now, when I catch my reflection in His mirror, I find a woman washed in the love of a Savior, purchased by His very own life, accepted as His daughter, rejoiced over as His bride. 

I'm learning to let Him love me. To let Him write me love letters, send me flowers, bathe me in acceptance, sing songs of love over me. And everyday His love is surprising me.

This guest post is by Joye Dicharry, who writes the blog The Joyeful Journey. Joye is a woman who loves Jesus and is learning to let Him love her, too. She is passionate about making a home for her family while also making her heart God's home. She has about sixty children (her and her husband are youth pastors). She blogs at night when her five year old, twin two year olds, and eight month old baby are mostly sleeping. And sometimes she falls asleep and drools on her keyboard.

P.S. If you're interested in submitting a guest post testimony to be featured on Life Blessons, please visit the original post for details!

Your Questions Answered: My Baking Soda Shampoo

Q: I have been wanting try your baking soda shampoo! Are you still using it? What are the results? I have thin/fine slightly oily hair and I cannot imagine washing it every other day!

I first posted about using my baking-soda shampoo back in June, when I’d been using it consistently for about two months. It’s now December, and I’m still using it as my sole shampoo. I went to the salon a few weeks ago, and the stylist raved over how healthy my hair looked—the first time in my life I’ve ever received that compliment! I give all the credit to the baking-soda shampoo!

When I first started, I was almost immediately able to drop down to washing my hair every other day. (I documented my experience over the first couple of weeks here.) Like you, I tend to have thin, fine and oily hair, and had never imagined I could go more than a day without washing my hair! (I shared a little bit about that in my intro to the shampoo.) Since the shampoo is so simple to make and hardly takes any resources at all (just a tablespoon of baking soda!!), I’d really recommend you at least give it a shot and see if it works for you. I was able to see results even by day 2.

I was curious how this would affect other hair types. The other day, I received a glowing comment from someone with thick, curly hair who has also had great luck switching to a baking-soda shampoo. She said, “I have difficult curly/wavy hair and since washing my hair this way I finally like my hair. Wish I had tried this in high school. I never have a bad hair day now, and my hair is less frizzy, less greasy! It's been a year and a half and I don't think I'll ever shampoo my hair again.”

(I have read that those with thicker hair are recommended to use an apple-cider rinse as a conditioner. But I haven’t had a need to use it myself. Some have asked about using this—does anyone have any insights on how and how much to use? If so, please leave your insights in the comments! A few people have also asked about whether the baking soda shampoo is suitable for color-treated hair. Anyone know? I haven't dyed my hair in almost a decade, so I have no clue!)

A couple people have said that they've tried baking soda shampoo in the past without not-so-great results, but it seems that the overall consensus (from what I've read in the original post comments) is that people are finding that the baking soda shampoo works well for them. So, I figure, what's to lose?! If you want to give it a try, here’s the link to my experience using the baking soda shampoo and directions for making it yourself.

Q:I had a random question about how you "apply" your baking soda shampoo to your hair. I think my method ends up wasting a lot of it and I'm not even sure I'm getting the right amount on, so I was curious how you did it. I've just mixed it up in a cup and then poured some into my cupped hand and tossed it onto my head, flinging a lot of it over my head at the same time. Then I tried cleaning out an old hair spray bottle so that I could spray it onto my hair, but after my first attempt with that I realized that I didn't get the bottle completely free of hair spray. So...before I make my next attempt, I thought I would ask you!

I do find that I go through the baking-soda liquid pretty quickly (maybe every two weeks?), because I would much rather make sure that I'm getting enough on my hair rather than too little! But I use a little squirt bottle (a repurposed bottle with a pump head that used to hold face wash, see photo below). I just made sure I rinsed it well, and then ran it through the dishwasher (top shelf) for extra measure.

I’ve found that using the squirt bottle has been really helpful, because it controls how much of the liquid comes out and does keep a lot from going to waste. When it comes time to apply it, I just pump the baking soda solution on various parts of my hair; I’m guessing about 10 squirts per application.

That might be a lot, but since it is runny, I like to make sure I’m getting a good covering all over! I also like to keep an extra batch made up and ready in the shower so that when my first bottle runs out, I’ve already got a back-up waiting. Do a little digging around and I’ll bet you can find containers or bottles perfect to repurpose for your shampoo!

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?
Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions.

In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email. I have some questions in the queue regarding my thoughts on tattoos and some kitchen insights, so those and more to come!

Eating the Mystery

A quick quote from One Thousand Gifts that has stuck with me for the past few days:

When we are despairing, we can choose to live as Israelites gathering manna. For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna—a substance whose name literally means “What is it?” Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul-filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery.

May we too be willing to feast on that which God rains down on us,
even when it remains shrouded in mystery and does not make any sense.
May we trust
him with the gifts he gives!

A Holiday Decorating Dilemma

In my search for a nature-inspired tableau to ring in the holiday season, I walked down to the park and collected handfuls of pinecones and acorns and holly berries. I brought the stash home and went to work creating what I’ve come to call my “Christmas Jar.” I gingerly tucked each fallen foliage into the jar so that it looked intentional and festive. I got out the craft supplies and cut out some red felt and glued on some retro red-and-green ribbon to camouflage the jar’s previous life as the bearer of applesauce, as trumpeted on the lid.

I got out my box of decorations, combed through everything in our home that’s red and green and even ivory and brown. I found a tray festooned with gold swirls. I framed one of our Christmas cards and scattered some green and silver ornaments among the display, like I’ve seen in magazines. I dug out some Christmas stockings that I’d made, adorned with snowflakes and silvery puffy-painted hearts and all.

And then I realized that I really don’t have any place to put these things. We have no mantel, no corner TV stand, no bare bookshelves on which to show off the souvenirs of the season. Almost every table-top is already crammed with useful items or other purposefully-placed décor. Of course I could take the lamp off the side-table by our couch to make room for our miniature tinsel tree or I could stash away the artwork my friend made for me to make room for some sort of crafty garland. But that just doesn’t seem worth the exchange to me.

So for now, my holiday decorations are limited to the one spare space I could find: our coffee table. Strewn with the baubles and the small splash of red-and-green and nature’s mementos, this small tablescape becomes the one festive outlet in our home:

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Tamara's Testimony: "Taste and See"

This is another guest post in my series where readers share their own testimonies of how God has worked in their lives. Many thanks to Tamara from for sharing her story!

I grew up like any other good Pastor's daughter. My sunday school attendance was superb. Actually, at times I refer to my childhood as one long church service. I saw my parents' heartfelt devotion. I knew God existed, and I believed the Bible to be true. I never fully grasped the gospel and what it meant to me personally. There was to heart connection.

From the time I was nine till I turned thirteen, my life looked like your average preteen. I was a follower and I followed my older friends right at the heels. If they did it, I did it. I became very numb to my surroundings and even more so God. I wasn't even 13, and I did stuff I didn't understand with my teenage boyfriend, although, never fully engaging in intercourse. (Crazy... tell me about it.) I was dying on the inside as I struggled to keep it together on the outside.

If you ever want to know how to flip a preteen or teenager's life upside down: Move. Yes, moving will do just that. My parents ended up taking a position that allowed us to move. The move was very hard for me. Leaving my too-old-for-me boyfriend and bad influence, pot-smoking friends left me depressed, angry, and disgruntled.

My parents were on staff at a church as pastors and had met the youth pastor's wife. My mom and her hit it off. Soon after, my mom was forcing me to not only go to youth group but to the youth pastor's Bible study. Dragging my feet and arms folded across my chest, I went to Bible study. It just so happened that no one else decided to show up. It was me and the youth pastor's wife. She didn't know me. She knew my parents. She assumed that I was a wonderful Christian and would love nothing more than to have a prayer/worship time for two hours.

The first hour went creeping by as I thought of every possible excuse for her to bring me home. I felt so uncomfortable. I had my head in my lap and tried to sleep. All of a sudden, I was EXTREMELY awake. I kept trying to tune her out. I oddly couldn't. After awhile, I really started to listen as she prayed. She didn't know but she was praying things I'd been asking God about all my life, about things that have happened to me, so on and so on. She kept repeating this scripture, "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8), throughout the night.

Afterward, she drove me back home. The scripture kept playing over and over in my head. I went into my bedroom totally aware of God in my life and convicted of my sin, I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to come into my life. I never before understood the goodness of God. I had seen it though. But, never tasted it. That night I made a decision deep within my heart to pursue God. I knew I needed to apply that scripture to my life.

After that night, there was a major inward change. The outward change was progressive. But, I know that night changed my life for eternity.

This guest post is from Tamara who keeps up the lovely blog, Tamara is freshly married to her husband Ted. They live in Philadelphia where Ted serves in the US Coast Guard. Tamara enjoys all things domestic, blogging, and sharing Christ to the random homeless person.

P.S. If you're interested in submitting a guest post testimony to be featured on Life Blessons, please visit the original post for details!

Cultivating A Grateful Heart Even When It Hurts

Lately, I’ve started and stopped reading a couple of books, because they just seemed empty and trite, nothing for me to sink my teeth in. But yesterday, I started reading a new one that I have already poured myself into, a quarter of the way in less than 12 hours: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

I’d originally heard about the book from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking, who had mentioned it in a couple of posts. (Lindsay also keeps lists of all her book reading, which I get good recommendations and ideas from.)

One Thousand Gifts chronicles the author's exploration of a need for thanksgiving in all things—even in our greatest pain and struggles. She shares all the death that has ravaged her family, including her sister who was killed before she lived to know kindergarten and her nephews who died months after birth and her mother-in-law, lost to cancer. All these deaths that hurt and don’t seem to make any sense when we think of what it means for God to be "good."

This book is an exploration of those hard questions. Of what it means to be thankful even in those searing, scarring times. Poetic and beautiful and gut-wrenching and honest, Voskamp takes readers along as she probes the Bible, great theologians and the routine of everyday life for insights about this need for gratitude to encompass every portion of our lives.

“On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces…” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24) When Voskamp reads this, she writes, “Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound him and yield a bounty of joy….

Thanksgiving in the hardest of times was modeled perfectly by Christ. And it is a practice that God calls us to. Psalms 50:23 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may who him the salvation of God.” She says, “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer and crucifixion—this prepares the way for God to show us his fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from all sin that estranges us from Him.

It is in learning to be thankful for every moment, for the big, the little, the easy, the difficult, the inconvenient, the anguishing, that we are drawn deeper into our God’s embrace and, almost paradoxically, into a fulfilling joy.

This is about as far as I am into this heartfelt journey Voskamp takes readers on in One Thousand Gifts. I know, from reading Lindsay's reports on the book, that I've hardly scratched the surface of what this book is about. But it’s already got me thinking about my lack of gratitude for all that God has given me and my need for it to permeate my soul deeper. Like few other books of late, it has awakened me and encouraged me to take my faith deeper and farther in this regard.

“From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story. Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. . . . Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave,” Voskamp writes. “Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sins? Our fall was, has always been, and always will be that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.

(FYI: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp doesn't officially release until next month, but you can read the first three chapters on Zondervan's website. You can also pre-order it on Amazon.)


Your Questions Answered: How I Knew My Husband Was "The One"

QUESTION: Well, I do have a question and I hope it's not too personal. What confirmation did you receive that your husband was the one God had for you?

one of our engagement photos by fyrefly photography
I don’t think this is too personal at all, and in fact I think this is one of my favorite questions I’ve received yet! Probably mostly because I love sharing how God has directed decisions and circumstances in my life, as well as a good chance to brag on my husband, but also because I appreciate the chance to dispel any—for lack of a better word—misconceptions that I think can sometimes crop up when we start talking about finding “the one.”

When I was single, I really hoped that God would make it especially clear to me who I should marry. I had heard of people who had dreams that directed them to date a certain person to marry. I don’t doubt that God does work in those miraculous sorts of ways, but that was not the case for me. Instead, it was a pretty ordinary chain of events where I got to see more and more of my husband’s heart and trust that it was rooted in the Lord. And through those glimpses, I knew that I could trust him with my own heart.

If you’ve read the back story on what was going on in my life around the time that I first met my now-husband (here ya go, if you need to catch up), you know that at this time, I had just finished reading a very insightful and encouraging book from a biblical perspective called Get Married by Candice Watters and was passionately praying that the Lord would prepare me for my husband and would bring us together.

I’ll start off by saying that I think this aspect—prayer and preparing of the heart—is probably one of the first elements of recognizing that my husband was right for me. During the season of singleness leading up to meeting him, I was especially learning about the role of a Christian wife and actively trying to live out the virtues set forth in by the wife in Proverbs 31. It’s what Watters calls “live like you’re going to be married,” despite what circumstances (ie, singleness) might otherwise suggest. This active pursuit really went a long way in helping me see what mattered in a man—not his looks, job, salary, or (ahem) age. (Didjaknow? My husband is four years younger than me!) I realized that what really mattered was his heart for the Lord, and from that single facet, all else would fall into place.

I know people who make all sorts of list and qualifications to choose a husband. But I think there only has to be one: That he loves the Lord more than I do. When my husband and I were dating, that was the quality that stuck out to me so much. I couldn’t believe how much he read his Bible and how well he knew it. He loved the Word! Talking about God was one of the main topics of conversation from when we first started dating and it was that thread that drew us together.

Later as we dated, we had to learn how to deal with conflict. I remember one argument that we had very vividly. I was exasperated because I couldn’t get him to change his mind on a subject that I felt very strongly about. Then I realized that it’s not my job to make him change his mind, the only one who can do that is the Holy Spirit. So I stopped trying and instead started praying and decided to trust the Holy Spirit to speak to him. About an hour later, I got a phone call from him, with a softer heart, and we were able to smooth out the conversation. That interchange was a breakthrough in our relationship because it proved one thing: I could trust him to listen to the Holy Spirit. I knew that if he was obedient to God above all else, then I had nothing else to worry about. I could trust my heart to one who listened to and heeded the Lord!

I should also add that I don't necessarily believe there is only "one" person out there for anyone (though some are definitely better than others!). That being said, I can't imagine anyone better suited for me than my husband. Every day I am in more and more awe over this fact when I think about how kind and gentle and comforting my husband is with me. He is not perfect, but he is perfect for me.

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?
Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions.

In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email. I have some questions in the queue regarding my thoughts on faith, cooking advice, and how my baking soda shampoo is doing, so those and more to come!

(If you missed last week's Q&A, it was in regards to my decorating plans for the holidays.)   

Kate's Testimony: "Woman, you are forgiven."

This is the first guest post in a series I hope to continue where readers share their own testimonies of how God has worked in their lives. Many thanks to Kate from The Ingredient Detective for sharing her touching story!

I was brought up by faithful parents. I was taught to show reverence to God, to fear Him, and honour Him. 

When I was 16 I left my country home, and went to the city. Drunk on freedom and surrounded by new friends, I began to slip away from my parent’s world. I continued to go to church for a couple more years, but my heart was far, far from God.

During my late teens and early twenties, a series of dark and bitter experiences made me question everything I believed in. I found and lost love, ran away, had my heart broken, battled with depression, betrayal by a "friend", and at the tender age of 20, I buried my precious baby son.

In my grief, and utter despair, I wondered if God had ever existed? If He did, did He even care? I pictured Him, throwing His hands up in disgust, and leaving all of us sinful souls to our own devices. I gave up on God.

But He did not give up on me...

For a year after my baby, Isaac died, I struggled with my sorrow, my anger, and the never-ending questions, about why this had happened. (When I realised I was pregnant, I had promised to God that I would get my life together, and be a good mother, if He would only keep this child safe. But my baby was taken away from me anyway, so what was the use in trying to be good, I wondered? ) After a year of struggling through this, during (yet another!) dark and bitter experience, I suddenly understood that God had taken him away BECAUSE HE LOVED ME. And BECAUSE HE LOVED MY SON.

God took him away because He knew what my future held, knew what I was going to have to face.

And because He had a different plan for me.

When I saw all this clearly, despite my personal life being in utter chaos and confusion at the time, I knew that God surely did exist, and that He LOVED me, despite all of my mistakes, and all of my disbelieving.

And this was the very first step, in a long, long journey, back to God.

After a while, life seemed to settle down a bit. I was with a nice guy, I was working two jobs, and saving up for a deposit on a home. My boyfriend (now husband), was from Tonga, and he took me home to Tonga to visit his family for a couple of weeks.

I had never been outside Australia before, and I was not prepared for the poverty and the generosity of spirit that I found in Tonga.
I took a lot of presents and with me, thinking what a kind, generous person I was.

While we were there, we went to visit hubby’s uncle and his family. This family was dirt-poor. They lived in a tiny tin shack with no electricity, and no running water. The two youngest boys, were wearing their older sister's clothes, and they were torn and tattered.

They were cooking a dog over the hangi. I think the uncle's wife could tell I was feeling squeamish about eating dog, and before I had a chance to argue, she came out from the little shack with some coins, and sent one of the kids running to the corner shop to buy a tin of corned beef for me to eat.

I felt so ashamed and small, and I cried all the way home, thinking about that mother, who could have easily justified keeping the money to feed her own hungry children.

Tonga changed me. I’ve never been able to see the world the same, since. I came home, knowing that I was, indeed, blessed. Battle-scarred and world-weary, but very blessed.

We came back home to Australia, and decided to make a fresh start. We moved to a new town, where I knew no-one and had no job to go to, but it felt right. And it was right. Everything fell into place. We both got jobs. We bought a home, and we both went back to church. And then discovered that we had a baby on the way.

I often felt lonely during my pregnancy, with no family or friends nearby, and while sitting through church, Sunday after Sunday, I began to feel a yearning to have God in my life.

I had never felt this way before. In my youth, I considered myself a Christian, because it was the right thing to do, and I was scared that if I died, I would end up in hell. But now, I longed to feel God near me, and to know that He was with me, and with this precious life growing inside me.

I wondered how I could have Him in my life, after pushing Him away and ignoring Him for so long. I thought that maybe I could reach Him if I prayed, but it had been so long since I prayed, I didn't even know how to.

One night I was laying in my bed, and in desperation, I decided to try and reach out to God. I told Him all the things I was thankful for, every little thing I could think of, even the dark and dreadful experiences I had been through, because even though they broke my heart, they helped to mold me into the person I am now.

I did this every night, and after four or five nights, I started to feel something change. My heart, that was hard and bitter, started to become thankful and loving. I started to feel the presence of God come close to me. I cannot explain this, except to say, I just knew.

I had spent years wrestling with God, over who should control my life. I wanted to run my own life!!! And it had only brought me misery and pain.

In the end, I handed the reigns over to Him, gladly. I gave my life to God, but in the back of my mind, I was plagued with doubts, over whether I was really forgiven. Could he REALLY forgive a person like me?

I had made so many foolish mistakes, even though I had been brought up to know better. And not only that, but I had made the same mistakes over and over, and hurt people along the way.

One day, I was at home watching tv, and I just happened to flick over to the Australian Christian Channel. I started to listen to the preacher, and just before he finished, he said, "Somewhere out there, is a woman who's made some bad decisions, and she's wondering if she can be forgiven...Woman, you are forgiven."

I fell down on the floor, sobbing, because I knew it was for me.

It sounds crazy, but even before the man said it, I knew that he was about to say something for me. I just knew that God was about to tell me something.

That day, the weight of my past was lifted off me. I wanted to dance for joy, and sing it from the rooftops.

That God—awesome, almighty, all-knowing God
had forgiven me....

Yes, even me.

This guest post is from Kate of The Ingredient Detective. She says, "I'm a married mum of two small boys, living in Australia. Earlier this year, I began to feel that God had a calling on my life to raise awareness of health issues and fight for change, and after some reluctance on my part (because the task just seemed so enormous and overwhelming), I accepted the call and have since dedicated myself to teaching others about what is being put into our food and water supplies, beauty products, etc, and campaigning for change. I've been busy setting up a website (, and studying to become a kinesiologist."

P.S. If you're interested in submitting a guest post testimony to be featured on Life Blessons, please visit the original post for details!

Getting Ready to Kick Off Guest Post Series

I'm always impressed by those bloggers who sit down, every day, and write a new post.

Sometimes I go through droughts with feeling like blogging... There are times when I have tons of ideas for posts and might write three or four in a single day. And then, I can go weeks without writing a single new one, mindlessly posting from my draft folder. (Thank goodness for that draft folder!) That has been the case for me lately.

Which is why I'm very excited that a few of you have come to the rescue to share your testimonies, which I'll start posting this month, starting tomorrow! There's still room if you'd like to submit your own testimony to the mix; here's a link to the original post where I shared a bit more about what I'm looking for.

Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for the debut reader testimony to appear tomorrow morning. (And thanks in advance for pitching in and keeping the well from running dry!)

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Your Questions Answered: Holiday Decorating

I would like to know your decorating plans for Christmas.

Oh, boy. I hate to say it but I am not a very festive decorator. It’s not that I’m against it or anything, but I just don’t really think to do it. I guess it doesn’t seem worth all the hubbub to me and, honestly, the red-and-green really clashes with the color scheme I’ve already going on in our décor!

However, I am trying, bit by bit, to adopt more of a holiday spirit. Which is why a couple of years ago, I picked up a silver miniature Christmas tree and some matching ornaments at an after-Christmas sale. And last year, I pulled out a nativity scene my parents had given me. And displayed some other festive odds and ends I’ve collected, slowly over the years. You can see my decorating from last year, which I chronicled in this post.

This year, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. It likely will be pretty close to what I did last year, although I think I would like to do a more woodsy theme (think white, green, and brown featuring branches, pine cones and acorns) than the traditional red-and-green. (Those of you who know me well in real-life are probably not surprised by that at all! For everyone else, I really love woodsy things. Remember the artwork over our couch? So much so that my favorite Halloween costume a couple years back was as a garden gnome, and I used to have a collection of miniature “woodland creatures” on my desk at work.) 

I’ve started collecting some ideas for easy decorating ideas that can last longer than just the month of December but be fitting for the entire winter season. (Gotta get your effort's worth out of the decorating, if you ask me!)

When I was in Anthropologie a couple of weeks ago, they had jars filled with acorns and wrapped with pretty ribbon that I thought I could co-opt. I’ve also had a hankering to try my hand at a tiny terrarium-esque display. And the blogsphere has been overflowing with cute, crafty ideas for homemade wreaths made of everything from yarn to book pages.

Here are some of my favorite holiday decorating posts that I've read online recently that have kick-started my inspiration or given me something poignant to think about:

"The Use-What-We-Have Christmas" from Small Notebook (this really spells out my approach holiday decorating!)
"DIY Holiday Wreaths" from Creature Comforts (TONS of crafty ideas!)
"10 DIY Christmas Projects" from (including the book-pages wreath)
"Emily Thompson Wreaths" from Design*Sponge (more wreath ideas using twigs, pine cones and bright ribbons, like the one pictured above)
"Holiday Inspiration" pages that Marta Writes has collected from various magazines
"Gifted Magazine" from Creature Comforts (this is an online magazine that features all sorts of holiday-related inspiration from gifts to fashion to decorating; definitely check it out!)

In all honesty, I probably won’t get around to decorating for another week or two, but this question has given me a good kick toward thinking more about my decorating ideas, which I obviously could use!

Do you have any other holiday-decorating resources or ideas to share? If so, link them up in the comments!

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?
Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions.

In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email. I have some questions in the queue regarding my thoughts on faith, how I knew my husband was "the one," and how my baking soda shampoo is doing, so those and more to come!

(If you missed last week's Q&A, they were in regards to the fonts I use on my blog.)  

Update: My Immersion Blender from

Christmas came a couple weeks early this year! A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had been given the opportunity to review an item from, and that I was looking forward to trying out the Cuisinart immersion blender that I'd selected.

After selecting my immersion blender and shopping around on the CSN Stores website quite a bit, I wanted to share a couple of features that I especially appreciate. One of the first things is that they have an option where you can ask them to price match a product if you've found it for less elsewhere (including shipping costs). They may not always be able to price match exactly, but my experience is that they are usually willing to come down closer to the competitor's price, which is great! I don't know of any other websites willing to do that!

The other feature that I especially like is that if an item that you'd like to purchase is currently out-of-stock, you can have them email you as soon as they get more in their warehouse. I used this feature to buy my Cuisinart immersion blender and, a week or two later, once it was back in stock, I got an email and was able to make my transaction. I really appreciated it, because it saved me the trouble of having to go back every few days and see if the status had been updated. Of course I could have selected a different item that was in-stock, but I really wanted this specific one.

Why? Well, for starters, at $32.95, it's priced pretty squarely between the cheapest blenders ($15-ish) and the top-notch ones ($70+). I foresee using my blender mostly for soups, so I don't need anything extremely heavy-duty, but I also didn't want something that was going to break or burn or smoke (!) while I am using it. I've also found Cuisinart to be a pretty reliable name brand.

When it arrived recently (very well packaged, too, might I add), I was able to see, up-close and personal, how well-made this blender was. Now, I've never used any other stick blender, but because the blending element on this one is all metal (as opposed to many of the other cheaper kinds that are fully plastic) it comes with some heft. I was really surprised when I pulled it out of the box and it was over a foot long! Still, it's much more compact than a full-size blender and with so much less to clean up afterward! That is one of my main reasons for wanting one!

So far, I've only whipped up a pot of black bean soup with it, and it took care of the job with ease that left me very happy with my decision!

Find the Cuisinart SmartStick Hand Blender at

God, Brussel Sprouts & Getting the Job

"Sometimes I feel like God just wants to make me eat my brussel sprouts," she confessed in the dimly lit coffeehouse. "But I don't want brussel sprouts! I want ice-cream! But I'm afraid that God won't let me have what I want and is only going to give me what's 'good' for me."

The disappointment rang in her voice, and it was a sentiment I understood clearly: The fear that God makes us stomach what we don't want, keeping our hearts desires out of reach, under the guise that it's 'good' for us.

Of course, in our minds we know this isn't true. We know that God is good and loving and kind and generous and merciful and gracious. But oftentimes our hearts deceive us and we fall into this trap of second-guessing God's character. For my friend, it was regarding the area of dating, and she expected that God wouldn't give her a mate who was funny and attractive and adventurous like she dreamed of, but one who was boring and balding. "Brussels sprouts."

I've found myself in this same quandary and had to fight away the temptation of expecting God to disappoint me with brussel sprouts when his Word encourages us that so long as we "...delight in the LORD, ... he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

For months, my husband and I had been searching for stable full-time jobs. And for months, we've been praying, and for months family and friends have been praying. And for months, nothing seemed to be materializing. Our prayers droned and stretched on, and I started to feel like it was consuming my life.

Then, when I received word that my freelance job, which had been sustaining us since we moved here, was expiring and I had an end date in hand, I started wondering, Is God going to yank the rug out from under us on this? Has he brought us this far just to disappoint us? Is he going to make us eat brussel sprouts?

Though our circumstances might have spelled that, I caught myself in this moment and decided then and there that no matter what happened, I would still praise God for what he was doing and for what he was yet to do. I determined to continue to pray for this need of ours and (do my darnedest) to look forward to the future with joy.

As the Scriptures proclaim, "joy comes in the morning."

After months of waiting, the prayers materialized and my husband got the job--just in the nick of time when we needed it! Not surprisingly, my fears were proved wrong and for nothing. The Lord reminded me, every so gently, that he does not heartlessly dish out brussel sprouts to sap joy from us but instead lavishes us with richer blessings than we deserve. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." (James 1:17)

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What does our stuff say about us?

The other day, the maintenance guy for our apartment building came by to fix a few issues we'd had (clogged sinks, lights that had burnt out that we couldn't reach, that sorta thing). And as soon as he stepped in the apartment, worries started flying through my head like arrows: Are there are any underwear on the floor? Is the toilet flushed? What did we forget to put away?!

It was only once he left that I did a belated walk through of the apartment, sighing with relief when I saw that we had gotten off this time without any undue embarrassment other than your fair share of cozy, lived-in messiness.

But as I was looking around, I saw our stuff with new eyes. What might someone think that the books stacked on my husband's bedside table are titled "Towards Understanding Islam" and "Holiness," and his Bible is sitting squarely on our kitchen table? That the chalkboard in our kitchen reads "God began doing a good work in you and I am sure he will continue it until Jesus Christ comes again. - Phil. 1:6"? That we have our cake topper from our wedding framed and there's a little handwritten banner that hangs above, proclaiming "Happily Ever After"?

I'm not embarrassed by any of these things, especially not our faith and the prominent role it plays in our life and marriage.

But it all got me thinking about what a person's things communicate about them. What kinds of judgments do you come to about a person from their things? What kinds of insights can you make based on things?

I imagine that when you're traipsing in and out apartments everyday like our friendly maintenance worker, you stop paying very close attention. But it still seems interesting, how close you can get to a person without knowing anything about them except what you see...

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Answering Your Questions: Fonts on My Blog

Q: I was wondering how you were able to change your fonts on Blogger? I love the fact that its free, but I can seem to find the right template for me nor any wiggle room for changing the font or making it look nicer.

I mentioned before that I’m currently using the “Simple” template that Blogger offers, under the “Template Designer” option from your dashboard. When you get in there, under the Advanced options, you can tweak your fonts, including the size and face of the font for your text, post titles, date, widgets, etc. Now, there isn’t a huge variety of font choices to choose from, mostly just your standard Arial, Georgia, Courier, Trebuchet, Times New Roman, etc. While that does limit some creativity, you can’t really go crazy with your fonts because not every computer has the same fonts loaded on it, which can cause even more design problems! So in most cases, it’s better to stick to the tried-and-true fonts that are standard on nearly every computer out there.

One way around this, though, is to follow the tutorial posted on Kevin and Amanda, which my blog friend Emma tipped me off about! I used this tutorial to get the cool, curlicue font that shows up in the title for each post on my blog. (She also offers a tutorial to change the fonts in your entire blog, but I was happy just bringing some life to the titles!) Make sure you follow the tutorial very closely (I went through it super slowly to make sure I did each step correctly!), because if you leave any step out or mess up just a little, it won’t work. But the directions are solid and give you the ability to bring a bit more customization to your fonts. Amanda creates tons of unique fonts, which she posts for free, and for my titles, I'm using the font she created called, Pea Aimee.

The final way that I bring customization to my fonts is to create them in my design program on my computer and save and upload them onto my blog as an image. (Scan through my sidebar, and you’ll see this is what I did for the links in my sidebar that fall under “Topics of Conversation” and “Some of My Favorite Posts.”) This makes them static and can slow down my loading time, but it’s an easy way to play with your fonts and guarantee that your reader will be able to see them! If all else fails, try this! (I gave some more detailed instructions in last week's Q&A regarding this, which you can read here.)

Q: I also want to know about the fonts! I really like the corkboard travel map you made, and I think some of the fonts you used there are your blog's fonts.

Yes—you have a great eye! Two of the fonts I used in making my corkboard travel map are mainstays in my blog design. My aesthetics often carry over from one project to another, whether that’s decorating my kitchen, picking out a new sweater or designing my blog!

The fonts that I used for the map, in particular, are: Honey Script (the type used for “our” on the map), Simon Script (“adventures”) and Gungsuh (“together”). Gungsuh is a font that came standard with my laptop. The other two, however, are ones I downloaded from, a resource I recommended last week. You can download Honey Script font here, and you can download Simon Script font here.

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?
Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions.

In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email. I have some questions in the queue regarding my holiday decorations, thoughts on faith and how my baking soda shampoo is doing, so those and more to come!

(If you missed last week's Q&A, they were in regards to tweaking out your blog's design.)

A Testimony to God's Perfect Timing

It's been over a year since I started this humble blog of mine. And for the past year, I've been chronicling our search for stable employment. And I've been able to chronicle how, though we've been in limbo for more than a year regarding this situation, the Lord has never failed to provide for us. We have never had to dip into our savings to pay for rent or groceries. We have never not had a paycheck coming in, even when we'd been told that the job should have ended months ago.

God has been faithful.

And as we know, his faithfulness endures forever. So it is that I am thrilled to share the news with you all that what has been a year in the making is now coming to fruition after lesson upon lesson of patience and trust: My husband was officially offered a full-time, career job last week!

What's more, as it turns out, his first day will be Monday, November 29. Would you be surprised to know that this could not be any more perfect timing? The last day of my freelance gig is that Friday, December 3! Praise the Lord!!

And that's why it's so incredible to be able to page back through these posts that document the ups and downs of this journey: From just weeks after I quit my job to move to Atlanta and yet I found myself with a temporary freelance job that would support us, but was set to expire at the end of the year. My prayer requests for jobs and an awareness to continue to ask and ask and ask regarding this situation—even when it takes more than year's worth of asking. My struggle learning to embrace this unknown state and finding encouragement in the Psalms to press on.

There were the updates when there was nothing really to share and then when I found out my temporary job was officially coming to an end. And sharing the news when I didn't get the job and when I did (and had to turn it down).

It's through all these snippets of the hopes and fears and frustrations that took place along the way that we can see so clearly how far God has brought us and how he's sustained and nourished us along the way. Which keeps me saying, Praise the Lord!!

Of course I'm still looking for a job, but this latest provision makes the search much less of a burden and provides me a bit more time to look for something that fits. But even more, this reminds me that I really don't have anything to worry about, and that everything will work out, according to God's perfect timing.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Answering Your Questions: Blog Design

Recently, I invited you to ask me any questions you might have that I could answer in upcoming posts, whether it's follow-up regarding anything I've written about in the past, curiosities regarding any of my personal experiences, or your general blogging questions.

Here's my second installment of answers to two questions I received, which revolve around configuring your blog layout. (If you missed last week's Q&A, they were in regards to figuring out your blog's layout.) In the following weeks I will continue to respond to your questions, so please feel free to ask any that come to mind in the comments below or send me an email.

How do you create your blog banners, layouts, text (fonts). etc?

Well, I am no design whiz by any means. But I have had the great fortune of knowing and being exposed to tons of great design. Aside from a single magazine design class I took in college that taught me intro to Photoshop, almost all of my digital design abilities has been self-taught and (like my HTML knowledge) trial-by-error.

I will have to say that the one key for me and making my design look decent has been using the program Corel PaintShop Pro, which is like a light/affordable version of Photoshop. It came with me when I bought my Dell laptop a couple of years ago, and while I don’t know all the bells and whistles, it has treated me pretty well and works really well with layering, adding text, some standard photo-editing (although Photoshop blows it away!). So I use PaintShop Pro to edit all my images (whether it’s a photo to accompany a post or any of the images used in my design). (Here's a link to the version that I use, but they've since released newer ones that you can also check out.)

I know there are some free photo-editing sites online, like Picasa (which The Frugal Girl wrote about) and Picnik (which Jessica used on her redesign), but I haven’t tried either one yet. The one photo-related freebie I do love using is my Poladroid, which is a little application I downloaded that will turn any photo into a Polaroid (like my “about me” photo in the right-hand column). It’s a fun tool and not always predictable, much like real-life Polaroid pictures.

As far as fonts, I love discovering and downloading new fonts. (Probably rubbed off on me from my years working at a design magazine and continually being impressed by all the beautiful design work I was exposed to daily!) I usually find my fonts on freebie sites like or, although sometimes I’ll run across an article or blog post that lists “the top fonts of the year” or something like that (Design*Sponge recently posted some finds), which will tip me off to some great additions to my burgeoning collection!

I’ve received a couple of other questions about fonts, so I’ll answer them—and dive into fonts more in-depth—in my next Q&A!

Would you share how you got different fonts on your sidebar (ie, TOPICS OF CONVERSATION)? I changed my fonts on my posts, but am clueless as to adding fonts to the blog.

Basically, the fonts in my side bar are ones that I have downloaded specially from font-design websites (see recommendations above). However, they are not loaded directly onto my website, because websites can generally only support standard fonts like Arial, Georgia, Courier, Trebuchet, Times New Roman, etc, that people already have loaded onto their computers.

Instead, what I do is I open up my image-editing software (like I mentioned above, I use the program Corel PaintShop Pro). In the program, I just open a new document, type in the words I want to show up in the font that I've chosen and save it as a web-ready JPG.

Then, I upload the image onto my blog. While this makes them static and can slow down my loading time, it’s an easy way to play with your fonts and guarantee that your reader will be able to see them! This is what I've done for nearly every element on my blog that shows up in a non-standard font, from the categories in my sidebar to the text I use in many of the images that accompany my blog posts.

Like I mentioned, I’ve received a couple of other questions about fonts, so I’ll answer them—and dive into fonts more in-depth—in my next Q&A!

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Resources to Stretch Your Online Shopping

I've shared a few tips before of little and easy ways I've found to save money, without having to make any real sacrifices. Today I wanted to introduce another tactic that you can use whenever you do any online shopping to get cash back for your purchases (which is especially timely if you prefer to do much Christmas shopping online, like I do!).

How to get cash back for online shopping
The two sites that I'm recommending today, Ebates and Mr. Rebates, are completely free sites that link to various online merchants that you'd normally shop at. When you are going to buy something online, log into these sites first and see if they have any affiliations with the site you'll be shopping at. Then, all you have to do is click on the link from their site to the merchant of your choice and continue your purchase as usual. By clicking from their site to the merchant site, you'll actually get a percentage of your purchase back as a rebate. 

I wasn't really sure how these worked and whether they'd be worth it or not. However, I've tried these two out for a couple of months (with minimal online purchases, mind you) and can confidently recommend both of them, as I've received checks or gift cards from both without a hitch. 

A closer look at "Ebates" and "Mr. Rebates"
For example, if you are going to buy something from CafePress, you currently can get 22% of your purchase price back if you click through the Mr. Rebates link to that store and buy your purchase. Then, once you accumulate a certain amount of money, they will send you a check for the amount. (For Ebates, the threshold for refund is $5.01, and for Mr. Rebates it is $10.)

Plus, there are tons of websites (more than 1,000) that they offer rebates for shopping through, including,, Orbitz, eBay and tons of smaller sites I've never even heard of. (Although, noticeably, there are no bonuses for shopping at Amazon offered by either site.)

The rebate percentages often range in the single digits, though select shops do get higher percentages (like in the CafePress example above). It is free money to me, so even if it's just a few bucks here and there, it's been worth it to me. 

Sign up for free, plus extra perks
Everything about using these sites is completely free, from signing up for an account to getting your check sent to you. Plus, if you sign up for Ebates and make a purchase within 30 days, you can choose a bonus gift card. (I chose a $10 Home Depot gift card that came promptly once I made my first purchase. You can also choose a $10 gift card to Target or Barnes & Noble.) Or, if you sign up for Mr. Rebates, you'll get a $5 credit in your account to begin with.

Click here to sign up for Ebates (and chose your bonus gift card).
Click here to sign up for Mr. Rebates (and get a $5 credit to your account).

My experience using these cash-back sites
I like having both accounts because each offers different deals and sometimes one will offer a higher percentage back. There are other similar sites, but these are the two that I've liked most and used. Both sites also keep updates about any coupon codes a certain store might be currently offering that you can take advantage of, as well.

The only problem I've found is actually remembering to go to these sites first before making a purchase! It hasn't yet become a habit for me, and I've kicked myself afterward for forgetting to go to these sites first and missing out on some extra cash back! But if you can remember to use them even a handful of times, especially while you're doing some online Christmas shopping this season, I think you'll manage to rack up a nice bit of spare change.

(I started using them earlier in the summer and, including rebates and the promo gift card, have earned about $25. Considering I don't do all that much shopping to begin with, that's not too shabby!)

Click here to sign up for Ebates (and chose your bonus gift card).
Click here to sign up for Mr. Rebates (and get a $5 credit to your account).

It's only one extra click and results in a little free money, so I think it's definitely worth it! 

What I've Learned from Being a One-Car Couple

I first shared about our decision to get rid of Michael's truck and plunge into becoming a one-car family back in April. Now, more than six months later, I figured it was time for a little update, to share some of the things I've noticed and been learning as we go without in this arena.

Aside from the obvious financial benefits this decision has provided as we paid off what little debt we had and strive to build up other savings accounts, cutting back to one vehicle has reaped other, quite unexpected, benefits. Particularly in regards to learning to take account of my husband's needs, even in the smallest of circumstances, and becoming more flexible when it comes to my own time, desires and agenda.

To be honest, it hasn't been all that hard to live with one car: I work from home. The Starbucks that my husband works at is just down the street and he usually walks or rides his bike there. When he was in school, he also usually rode his bike to classes. However, it has been an adjustment when it comes to the little, daily outings that spring up, whether it's me running to the grocery store or library or my husband wanting to head over to a friend's house to practice music. It's in those exchanges that I feel like I've learned the most. It's forced me to become more thoughtful of him.

Before, I could just pick up and go because, well, I wanted to. I didn't really have to think about my husband's plans because he had his own vehicle to go to and fro. But now, I'm aware of how directly my plans can affect his, so we take the time to plan our days together, coming up with strategies for running errands and working with and around one another's schedules that make it more intentional.

It has also given us the opportunity to experience grace, hospitality and selfless love firsthand from friends and family when they are willing to go out of their way to pick me up when my husband is stuck in traffic or offer to drop me off when he needs the car for an appointment. It really has been so inspiring and such an encouragement to experience these little acts of kindness when people take time from their busy schedules to help us in these ways, without batting an eye or acting inconvenienced.

And so it's really lovely for me to see how something as inconsequential as a second car—hardly qualifying as a sacrifice at all—can work wonders in my heart to teach me lessons in humility and grace and love and selflessness.

Depending on where both of our job searches will take us and what they might require, I'm not sure what the future holds for us in regards to our vehicle count. I am well aware that it's not probable or realistic for most couples to make one car work when each spouse is working across town and has to be to work by nine. But, truth be told, I'd love to stick with one vehicle as long as possible!

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