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A Beautiful Storm

Storm Brewing

Today I enjoyed watching storm clouds roll in while I was playing outside with my daughter.  Mostly, I enjoyed watching the amazement in her eyes.  I can’t blame her for being captivated because it was a beautiful storm.  I wish my pictures did it justice.

Amazed

About thirty seconds after I shot this photo it poured down.  We had a blast!

Happiness and Beauty

Happiness

Happiness resides in the ability to appreciate little things. In a friends smile, in dinner with a loved one, in a cozy sweater, in walking and focusing on the trees, flowers, ground, sky, and in the beauty of nature.

What beautiful thing have you taken note of today?

The Beauty of Childhood

Enjoy the Little Things

Enjoy the little things.

Girl Putting on Makeup

Today I’m enjoying the beauty of childhood.

The Beauty Of a Walk

Embrace the Beauty of a Walk

If you’re ever feeling unmotivated, down in the dumps, angry or just plain crummy, go and take a walk.  It’s a fabulous way to hit the reset button on your emotions.  There’s something about getting moving, being in nature, and getting away from distractions of life that can help you get over any emotional hump.  Even if you’re in a good mood it will raise your spirits even higher.

Today, enjoy the beauty of a walk.

Embracing the Beauty in the Everyday

Starting today and lasting through the month of October, I’ll be participating in The Nester’s 31 Days series.  Each day I’ll share a little bit about Embracing the Beauty in the Everyday of life.  I hope you’ll join me in this journey!

Embracing the Beauty in the Everyday

 

Day 1 – Beauty Of a Book

Day 5 – The Beauty of a Walk

Day 7 – The Beauty of Childhood

Day 8 – Happiness and Beauty

Day 10 – A Beautiful Storm

The Beauty Of a Book

Embracing the Beauty in the Everyday

This month’s theme is Embracing the Beauty in the Everyday.  The everyday things of life can be beautiful but too often we’re too busy to slow down and see them.  This month I want to purposefully slow down and reflect on something each day that we can be thankful for and see the beauty in.

Mug and a book

Today’s everyday moment for me was enjoying a warm cup of tea while reading a good book.  Do you realize what a blessing it is to even be able to read?  It does my soul good to remember that while I take reading for granted many, many people in the world today can’t read.  Think about that for a moment and really let it sink in.  While my words my not be profound and they sure aren’t the most eloquent you’ll ever read it is still an enormous privilege that you can read them. Most certainly not because they’re mine but because you have the ability to read.

Have you ever noticed the magic that happens when you give books to children?  Their smiles widen and their eyes sparkle and dance as their imagination awakens.

As adults we can lose that enchantment as we’re forced to read dry text books and long legal documents but reading can take us anywhere and make us become anything we want to be.

Love of Books Is the Best of All

Can you tell I’m passionate about reading?  Being a busy mom of two I don’t have time to pour into books like I did before but I still manage to sneak a book or two in every month.

One of my recent favorites is pictured above.  I had the honor of being asked to write an endorsement for this book and after reading it I was more than pleased to do so.  It’s an refreshingly honest and immensely encouraging book.  Here’s what it’s Amazon description says,

Do regret and shame over your failures, sins, and shortcomings make you wonder how you could ever be loved, much less used, by a holy God? Tracie Miles felt the same way until she discovered the path to healing, peace, and significance.

She helps you recognize that God not only has a purpose for you, but He has prepared you for your divine purpose based specifically on the experiences of your past.

If you’re looking for a new book to enjoy, this is a great pick!  Plus, it’s on sale right now on Amazon from $14.99 to only $11.09.

Whatever you’re reading right now, slow down and be thankful for the opportunity to.

Have a beautiful day!

5 Ways to Feel More Beautiful

5 Ways to Feel More Beautiful

I’ve been thinking a lot about beauty lately, as I always do, but this time I was focusing primarily on outward beauty.  You know, what everyone else sees and judges you by.  You know me, I think that people should spend the majority of their time focusing on inward beauty and developing better character traits, helping others, etc.  However, every woman wants to feel attractive on the outside too and that’s okay!  Going through life changes such as growing older, an illness, becoming pregnant {yep, that’s me!}, or gaining weight {me also!} can make us feel less than attractive…to put it mildly.  I was thinking of a few ways that I try to make myself feel more beautiful and I thought I would share them with you in case you need to feel more beautiful today.  Remember that you are beautiful, even when you don’t feel like it!

1. Have something sparkly.
Don’t tell your husband I’m telling you to go out and buy diamonds {Although that might not be a bad idea either! ha!}.  Keep something sparkly around you.  Lip gloss, nail polish, a sparkly pen, etc.  If you’re not into sparkles, then surround yourself with your favorite colors and textures.

In school, I was always terrible in English class.  Literature was great, spelling was okay, but grammar was pitiful.  {I can see all of you grammar folk shaking your head in agreement.  I know, I’m sorry!}  Most of my school notebooks were plain white or black but my English 101 notebook was beautiful.  My definition of beautiful changed from year to year but it was always something that gave me a little smile inside whenever I looked at it.  Surround yourself with things that make you smile.

2.  Make someone else smile every day.
I used to have a friend whose goal was to make someone smile every day.  This was the end all be all goal of his life and while I certainly didn’t agree with that I did take note of his personal challenge.  Obviously, it had an impact on me as I’m still thinking about it and writing about it 10 years later.  When you do something for someone else it makes you feel good about yourself.  That’s not why you should do nice things for others but it’s a nice side effect and it’s a good habit to get into.

3. Smile, smile, smile.
Studies have proven that smiling people are more attractive.  That’s a good enough reason to smile, isn’t it?  Plus, I read somewhere that your brain gets an instant mood boost when your facial muscles contract and that boost of happiness is maintained as people smile back at you.

That reminds me of a poster that was in our high school cafeteria that read, “Smile.  Start an epidemic.”  If smiling doesn’t come natural to you practice while you’re alone and then practice in front of others at least once a day.  Try it and see if you don’t feel more beautiful and confident.

4. Work out.
I know people are groaning as they read this step.  How? Well, because I’m groaning too.  I don’t like working out, at least in the formal sense of the word.  I don’t own tennis shoes or yoga pants.  Crazy, right?  I like music though and dancing silly with my daughter, I like taking exploring walks with her, I like swimming, and I like shopping.  Those aren’t typically things people consider exercise but every bit of activity helps keep you healthy and boost your spirits.  Any safe activity that raises your heart rate is exercise in my book.

When you exercise it gives you a spring in your step.  You’ll smile easier, you’ll feel good about yourself knowing you’re taking care of your body, and your face will just glow.

5. Surround yourself with smells.
Smells are the biggest triggers of memory.  The sense of smell is powerful.  Surround yourself with scents that make you feel good.  Wear your favorite perfume {discount perfume is okay too}, light a candle that embodies the current season, or keep your favorite Wallflower plugged in at work.  Be mindful of those around you that may have a sensitive sense of smell but if you can, allow yourself embrace different scents.  Wearing perfume will help you feel better about yourself and smelling it through the day will make you smile a little on the inside.

Those are my five favorite ways to make myself feel more beautiful.

What about you?  What do you do to make yourself feel more beautiful?  

A Lifesaving Transplant and Hope

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine who is going through a trial no mom should have to face.  I’ll let her tell you her story in her own words.  My desire is that this post will help you cling to God for the struggles in your life, that you’ll pray for this family and sweet little Ephraim, and lastly, that some of you might consider donating to help this family through this dark valley.  I’ve known Rebecca since college and I absolutely love her.  I’ll turn this post over to her now…

I have grown quite accustomed to living out of a suitcase. I wish I could say it’s because I’m a jet-setter and a world traveling adventurer but it’s nothing quite that glorious. In fact, many would consider it the exact opposite. My son was born with failing kidneys-Posterior Urethral valves, Vesicoureteral Reflux, and Renal Hypodysplasia, or so “they” call it. It’s just a whole bunch of hullabaloo words to say “Your son is dying”. At least, that’s what I would have said had you asked me what it all meant back when he was first diagnosed. As you can imagine, raising a child with a whole host of life threatening diagnoses’ inevitably means a lot of hospital stays, hence my intimate familiarity with living out of a suitcase. If you ever need tips on packing for a hospital stay— I’m your gal. I even have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to sleep comfortably on those sorry excuses for a pull out couch most hospital rooms have. Regardless of how comfortable I‘ve become spending my nights in a cold and sterile hospital room, I still have not grown accustomed to the sounds that often surround me-especially at night.  I’m a sensitive soul, and just like recalling a joyous memory at the smell of a familiar aroma, noise, be it harmonious or horrifying, stirs my emotions easily. I can’t help but hear the whirring of my son’s feeding tube machine, his multiple IV drips and med pump machines, the random alarming of a pulse ox or his blood pressure being taken, the alarms of a heart rate too high or too low, the quickening of a nurses steps coming down the hall to rescue a child in distress, the cries of the tiny baby next-door who is barely visible underneath all the wires and the restless sleep of my precious firstborn struggling against the pain and discomfort his ailing body feels. I close my eyes as if to block out the noise, willing my raw emotions to stay at bay. My eyes flutter open to another all too familiar sound and I watch as the Children’s Helicopter prepares to land just outside our window, life-flighting one more child to this hospital with one more life threatening diagnoses. I’m heart sick and this time the tears fall unbidden. “I’ll never get used to this.” I whisper.

Toddler in Need of a Transplant - How you can help!

Oh, how I yearn to cuddle that baby next-door, to rescue these particular children from the effects of renal and multi organ failure, I long to pray over the child being life-flighted in, eradicate the need for life support machines of all kinds, I want to cure cancer, see every child in this hospital relieved of their pain and save the world. But even more than all of that, I want nothing more than to save the life of my own son. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone. Alas, I cannot save him. I cannot take his place. I cannot heal him, fashion him a new kidney or promise him a brighter tomorrow…only my Savior can do those things,…and I know He sometimes chooses not to.

The Harding Family

I do not understand His ways, nor His thoughts, they’re so much higher than mine! The view from where I’m standing could not possibly reveal the picture of the whole horizon. I am so often at a crossroads left with only a choice. Faithful trust or foolish worry. Today, I choose to trust, praying for more miracles that only God can take the glory for. Tomorrow, I choose to trust, knowing His will is far better than my own. He is sovereign even if those miracles I pray for never come to fruition. Forever, I will choose to trust because there is no other Hero who is more qualified to rescue the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve than Jesus Christ, my Lord!!! I cling to Him as my soul groans with all of creation in longing for His final return. I long to see Jesus make all things new, to set all things right in this world once more. We weren’t meant to die, you know. Children weren’t meant to die,…and yet, I often find myself sitting in a hospital room watching my son do exactly what he was never meant to do. Die. I’m reminded of it almost daily.

Harding Kids

It seems almost surreal. Over dramatic, really. I mean, he isn’t really dying,…right? He can’t be. He’s only 4 and this stuff only happens in the movies…Wrong. He is dying. His organs have failed and short of a miracle, my son would no longer be able to survive without the life-saving need for hemo dialysis. Dialysis. A nightmarish word, really. My husband and I have spent over 4 years working, praying, and believing Ephraim was meant to journey on apart from the need for dialysis. We held on to the hope of a pre-emptive kidney transplant because staying away from dialysis meant we could bypass the reality that our son was really dying. His kidneys failed too fast for that and dialysis was our only hope to survive through the next week. Now, for the past 6 months my son has lived for that machine. We spend the better part of his week attached to it, a giant blood cleaning machine doing the work his kidneys failed to do. My family and I are habitually tired, chronically exhausted from juggling a 1 year old, a 2 year old and a 4 year old on dialysis, we struggle with disappointment, battle the feelings of being completely overwhelmed and yet we are so very grateful. Hopeful, even. God IS good. He will lead us through the valley of the shadow, He will provide wisdom along the way, He will pour out His peace upon us and bring us comfort when we haven’t any. We have seen His hand at work in the life of our son from the day we found out his diagnoses. I was 15 weeks pregnant and time after time, day after day doctors gave us no hope he would ever survive the challenges that came his way. Miracles happened, doctors watched in awe and our son grew to the old age of 4 going on 40. Every day is a celebration of another moment to enjoy him-and each other. Every day is a reminder that there is One who makes ALL things new, every morning, with every breath. Even living out of a suitcase, bogged down with burdens, or stumbling around in the darkness I have hope that sets me free. I’ve experienced what rejoicing in our sufferings produces; endurance, the strength of character and hope…and believe me, God’s Word says it perfectly, “Hope does not disappoint.” Romans 5:1-5

Playing Doctor

I want to encourage you as you read this; Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re facing, I entreat each of you to cling to hope. While our expectations may disappoint us, hope, hope IN Christ-never will!

On October 24th, I will once again hand over my baby boy to be taken in to surgery for the umpteenth time (I’ve lost track,…) but this time my son’s life will be made like-new again. He’ll have the chance to live life apart from machines, to feel free to be more like a normal 4 year old, to act like a normal 4 year old. He gets a second chance at life as God has provided a living donor willing to sacrifice one of her kidneys in order to save my son. There are no words to describe such a beautiful gift. No one can explain it, it’s just grace. It’s beautiful. Please join with us and pray for Ephraim’s Kidney Transplant!

Want to read more about Ephraim’s Story and receive updates? Visit COTAforEphraimH.com and watch the video, read the updates, “Like” us on Facebook at “Ephraim’s Encouragers” and donate to help save his life. Praying for world transformation through Christ!

Come, Lord Jesus!

-Rebecca R. Harding

Happiness is…

Happiness is a sunny day.

Happiness is wearing a long sleeve t-shirt.

Happiness is a warm cup of coffee on a cool morning.

Happiness is your favorite song playing on the radio.

Happiness is a hug from a friend.

Happiness is a new coat of nail polish.

Happiness is the laughter of a child.

Happiness is an encouraging text message in the middle of the day.

Happiness is snail mail.

Happiness is blueberry muffins.

Happiness is watching a movie with a warm puppy on your lap.

Happiness is laughing so hard you can’t breathe.

Happiness is the blank pages of a new journal.

Happiness is an unlikely friendship.

Happiness is an empty laundry basket.

Happiness is hearing your name from someone you didn’t think knew your name.

Happiness is the straight lines on the carpet after vacuuming.

Happiness is a newly ironed shirt.

It’s the little things in life.

Now that I’m finished, it’s your turn.

Happiness is…

My Traditional Braces vs Invisalign

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

My teeth aren’t as straight as I would like for them to be.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way but I HAD BRACES.  Every time I think of my braces I get frustrated.  I had THE worst orthodontist.  I mean, I’m sure he was a great guy and all but he was not in the right profession.

I had the old fashioned metal braces with bonded brackets that were connected by a metal wire that went across my entire mouth to the edges where it connected with metal pieces that were fit snugly over my teeth.  It wasn’t pretty.  I always tried get the white rubber bands on my braces {when my orthodontist had them} because I didn’t want to draw any unneeded attention to them.

Not only were my braces unattractive but they hurt!  I’m not talking about the teeth-moving-pain that is expected but the wires on the end would come loose and poke my gums.  Ouch!  Sometimes the brackets themselves would be sharp and cut my gums.  I was given wax to put over top of them so they didn’t rub my gums.  They were sharp when my finger rubbed over them so of course it tore up my gums.  I’m confident this wasn’t a normal experience for most braces wearers. All of my friends that had braces ate whatever they wanted and the brackets never came off.  Me, I was a rule follower.  I avoided the foods I was told to and my brackets still came off!  It was frustrating.  When I would go in for an appointment he would re-adhere the brackets that came off and reuse the wires.  I didn’t know until later that this wasn’t common practice.

Again, I’m sure my orthodontist was a nice guy and maybe he had state of the art equipment 20 years before I was his patient but it was long outdated by the time I was there.  I can remember vividly that he was grinding down two of my teeth {at least he saved me from vampire teeth!} with a drill that he had to pump with his foot.  I’m not kidding!  There’s no way I could make this stuff up.

When it was time to get my braces off I was given a mouth piece to wear on my top teeth for three months.  After that I was told that I didn’t have to wear it any longer.  You can bet that I was counting down those months!  Unfortunately, I later found out that he gave me horrible advice and to keep the progress I had made I needed to continue to wear my mouth piece at night.  My husband had braces and he still has a built in little brace on the back of his teeth to keep them straight.

 invisalign

I could go on with my orthodontist horror stories but I’ll stop.  I’m sad that my parents paid so much money for my teeth to still be crooked just a short while after I had them removed.  I’m sad that my teeth are still crooked.  I’m sad that they didn’t have the sophisticated braces like Invisalign when I was younger.

Just as the orthodontist my husband had was using took advantage of newer technology, many orthodontists today are using the latest technology they have available by using Invisalign.  If you’re not familiar, these aligners are made of lightweight plastic that sits smoothly on the teeth {which is bound to be much more comfortable than metal shoved between your teeth!}.  The cost is similar to traditional braces but usually requires fewer office appointments, shorter visits, and no shameful “emergency” visits for a broken bracket.  To find out more information on Invisalign you can check out the Invisalign Website.

Invisalign vs Braces

If you or your child is considering Invisalign try out their Invisalign Smile Assessment to see if you or your child is a good candidate for Invisalign.  If it looks like these would be a good match for you, you can use the Invisalign Doctor Locator to find a doctor nearest you.

To stay up to date on the latest Invisalign news you can follow Invisalign on Twitter or “like” Invisalign on Facebook.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.