12 Strangers And A Redwood Tree

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12 Strangers And A Redwood Tree

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I’m about to embark on a 10 week journey with 11 complete strangers. The twelve of us will meet for the first time this week, babies on our hips and Bibles in our hands. And hopefully, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, we will resemble Redwood trees.

Several months ago I started hearing a whisper to my heart. Our church, like many of yours, provides support for small groups, or what we call “Life Groups” so that our fairly large church body can better fellowship and build relationships with one another as it describes in the book of Hebrews:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

The goal is to “do life” together in community-just as God desires us to do! But as moms with young children, it’s not easy to get away for a couple of hours every week to meet and talk about Spiritual things.

That’s when I began to consider offering to host a group where moms could come and study God’s Word with toddlers in tow and where babies were welcome on laps while we talk about how God desires us to live.

It will be noisy. Peppered with interruptions from 2 year olds. Someone will fall and scrape their knee and need to sit on Mommy’s lap for prayer time.

My new Labrador puppy may bark her head off while we try to talk about our need for just a little bit of peace and quiet once in a while.

Moms will rise early that morning and make several trips to the car loaded down with diaper bags, and blueberry muffins to share. Keys will dangle from their mouths while they hold a baby bottle in one hand and much-needed coffee in the other. It will take 20 minutes to load everyone into the car and shift it into gear. Someone may cry because they left their binky behind. Everyone will wonder what they got themselves into.

And it will be worth it.

As one of our pastors shared this weekend, the reason we make such efforts for community is because it matters so much to God that we gather together and encourage one another on towards love and good deeds. The goal is to resemble the startlingly majestic Redwood Trees whose heights reach 350 feet tall.

You would think that such an enormous tree would require deep roots, but that’s not the case. Shallow roots of only five or six feet deep sustain these giants-because they grow in groves, enabling roots to spread nearly 100 feet from the trunk, entwining and fusing with the roots of their neighbors. As a community, growing together and linking arms, they can withstand the forces of nature-whether toppling winds or raging floods assault them.

I can’t imagine what will befall any of us as we gather for this next Life Group session. We can’t guess what winds of change or deep waters we may face nor can we determine what victories and triumphs we will get to rejoice over together. But we do know that when we make ourselves available despite our obstacles, that God will not waste that time.

He will show up with all the Holiness of Heaven at our disposal and He won’t mind when we have to duck out of our discussion to change a diaper or settle a squabble. And one by one the 12 of us will stand a little taller as we go out from our fellowship together. We will feel a little more sure-footed, and our chins will lift a bit higher to the sky. The trees that canopy above us as we meet in my backyard will take on new meaning as our hearts fuse together, much like the roots of the grand Redwoods.

YOUR TURN! Do you meet together in a Bible study or Life Group? What challenges do you face? Has it been worth it?

 

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What To Say When Your Husband Forgets To Pay The Bill…Again.

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What To Say When Your Husband Forgets To Pay The Bill...Again!

What if every word you said today stemmed from a heart that was disciplined enough to only say words that would lift up those who listened?

What if every word you said today was said in a loving tone?

What if every word you said today was uttered with gentleness?

What if every word you said today was meant to bless and not curse?

What if every word you said today revealed how well you thought of the people around you?

What if every word you said today brought healing?

What if every word you said today showed respect?

What if every word you said today dripped with mercy and grace?

Even is someone failed you miserably. Even if someone was disobeying you. Even if someone was speaking harshly to you. Even if someone did something foolish. Even if someone hurt you. Even if someone is strong-willed. Or unkind. Or tired and grumpy.

What if you spoke lovingly even when your husband missed that payment? Or still didn’t finish painting the bathroom? Or if that friend said she would come today but then she made another excuse? What if she disappoints you again? Or betrays you.

What if the people who are supposed to know you better than that believe the lies?

Ephesians 4:29-32, (MSG)
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Personally, if I focused on just this passage for the next five years, I would have a lot of work to do to apply this Truth in my life.

Make these tips a first practical step towards speaking words that bring life and honor God:

1.) Get in the habit of pausing before you speak, especially if your emotions and temper begin to rise.

2.) If need be, walk away for a moment so that you can control your tongue. Then return as soon as possible and speak with loving-kindness.

3.) Make this your continual prayer throughout the day:

“Lord, give me self-control over my tongue and help me to say only words that will edify. Cleanse my heart and make my words sincere! In Jesus name, Amen!”

4.) Be purposeful to affirm and encourage the people around you in specific ways with specific words, just because you care for them and want them to be uplifted.

Close your eyes and imagine what your home or work-life would look like if you applied Ephesians 4 to your life? Imagine the growth in your spiritual walk with God if you were a man or woman whose words were always the right ones for any given moment and in every situation. I want to be that kind of woman, don’t you?

 

YOUR TURN! Do you have a runaway tongue that needs work in this area too? Do you want that to change?

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The Day I Saw A Tourist Drown

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motherofknights:

This was a day I will never forget…..

Originally posted on motherofknights:

 The Day I Saw A Tourist Drown

It was a coastal wind and it was biting. We were at our usual spot on the beach in Santa Monica early-at a time when few others had yet to wake up from the night. Towels served as insufficient blankets, noses popping out for air as we sat on the sand, watching our brothers surf.

Eventually, the usual crowd of sun-seekers would come, but for now, it was just our small group and a few tourists who had come to take advantage of the beach outside their hotels. A typical morning that would soon become the day we stood trembling, our hands formed in teepees against our lips, eyes strained open in fear.

The boys had finished their morning surf session and we all sat on the wet sand, watching the tumultuous waves of a sudden riptide.

We had learned from a young age to allow the vast ocean…

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God, Are You Avoiding Me?

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God, Are You Avoiding Me

The Lord woke me in the middle of the night and my mind went straight to thinking about a hurtful situation in my life. No manner of fluffing of pillows and tossing or turning allowed me to ignore it.
So I prayed-with tears.

Some situations in our lives require lengthy grieving-and for me, this injustice towards me is so unfathomable that I have to keep my eyes on Christ and not on those who seek to hurt me.

I’m not alone in these feelings-it’s a dilemma as old as the origin of sin. I’m betting that some of you can relate to a similar experience at this very moment!

The Psalms have always been a source of comfort to me when deep emotions surface in my heart. This morning, Psalm 10 fit the bill and perhaps it’s what you need to hear too.

Psalm 10, (MSG)

1-2 GOD, are you avoiding me?
Where are you when I need you?
Full of hot air, the wicked
are hot on the trail of the poor.
Trip them up, tangle them up
in their fine-tuned plots.

3-4 The wicked are windbags,
the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub GOD,
their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls:
“Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”

5-6 They care nothing for what you think;
if you get in their way, they blow you off.
They live (they think) a charmed life:
“We can’t go wrong. This is our lucky year!”

7-8 They carry a mouthful of hexes,
their tongues spit venom like adders.
They hide behind ordinary people,
then pounce on their victims.

9 They mark the luckless,
then wait like a hunter in a blind;
When the poor wretch wanders too close,
they stab him in the back.

10-11 The hapless fool is kicked to the ground,
the unlucky victim is brutally axed.
He thinks God has dumped him,
he’s sure that God is indifferent to his plight.

12-13 Time to get up, GOD—get moving.
The luckless think they’re Godforsaken.
They wonder why the wicked scorn God
and get away with it,
Why the wicked are so cocksure
they’ll never come up for audit.

14 But you know all about it—
the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless
will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down:
orphans won’t be orphans forever.

15-16 Break the wicked right arms,
break all the evil left arms.
Search and destroy
every sign of crime.
GOD’s grace and order wins;
godlessness loses.

17-18 The victim’s faint pulse picks up;
the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood
as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents,
the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over,
the rule of the gang lords is ended.

Just like the Psalmist, I’m praying honestly to God about how I’m feeling and that includes some protesting and a lot of frank language. By the time the Psalmist finishes his lament, his “pulse picks up” and his perspective shifts to the eternal when “The reign of terror is over.” It’s a perfect example to me of how we must take the time to communicate with the Lord and that our hearts and minds change for the better when we do.

Has some hurt been stewing in your brain and heart lately? Maybe it’s time to pray Psalm 10.

So often we want to circumvent suffering-escape it, rush it, or avoid it altogether. But we can’t be disciples if we don’t accept suffering. Instead of viewing your cross as a burden today, carry it with purpose and gratitude knowing that you hold a sacred symbol of God’s love for you. Change the way you think about your trial and believe God when He says that you can have joy in any circumstance, and that He will make beauty from ashes.

God’s not avoiding me. In fact, the trials that I face are the very things that draw me to Him. I’m limping along today as the thorn in my side twists deeper, there is no doubt about it. But the more that I turn to my Comforter, the easier it will be to eventually stand up under it.

YOUR TURN! Do you need prayer today too? Let me know, and I will pray for you!

 

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well! View an Exciting Reality Show Life By Design, A TV Project with Lisa LeonardHolley Gerth, and Dee Kasberger!

 

I’m No Longer The Only Girl In My House! Meet Rosey!!

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Well, we finally did it. It’s been three years since we made the promise to Oliver (7), and this weekend, we followed through.

My husband says that a boy must have a dog. I was never sold on that idea, but I was pretty sure that I would be outnumbered in our house, and I was right.

You see, I’m just not a dog person. I love animals, but I prefer to have cats.

Three years ago, Oliver began asking for a dog. I knew that he needed to be old enough to handle some of the responsibilities so we agreed that if he still wanted a dog after he graduated from kindergarten, that we would get him one.

Honestly, I anticipated that he would forget about it. Or change his mind.

He didn’t.

Kindergarten came and went. Oliver’s excitement for a dog grew. Summer came and went. Oliver’s excitement grew. First grade came…and Oliver began to question whether or not we were going to keep our promise.

So, we let our “yes be yes” and we began the process of seriously looking for the right dog for us! Sure enough, after years of praying for just the right dog for our family, countless hours of researching pet care and supplies, and hunting down the best rescue facilities in our area, we brought home our new puppy this weekend!!

And, it’s a GIRL!!! I’m no longer the only female in our house. Phew.

MEET ROSEY!!

Meet Rosey

 Oliver chose Rosey and named her, himself. He also chose a pink dog tag for her, and a pink leash, since she is a little girl. I wasn’t complaining. Pink at our house! :)

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When we went to the rescue shelter, we got a chance to play with several other dogs but Rosey was the very first one we saw and played with there. We left the shelter empty-handed, and then went back a second time later that day to make sure she was the right dog for us and we were the right people for her. Several other people were interested in her too-and she had only arrived at the shelter the day before! When Oliver and I went back the second time, we knew that she would be coming home with us.

Rosey is a black Labrador and she is 8 months old. We hit the jackpot with Rosey because she knows how to sit and stay, go outside for potty breaks, and loves to ride in the car! She also spent her first night in the house with us and never barked or had a potty accident!

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It turns out that Rosey wants to sit on the boys laps while driving in the car. We are learning things as we go along! Yikes!! :)

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We took her for a long family walk to our local park with my dear soul-sister friend, Joanne who is an expert on dogs and a life-saver in helping us get situated with Rosey. Then, today, we took her to a local dog park to socialize with friends! She did GREAT!

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These little guys were happy to stand on big rocks at the dog park to observe and stay out of the way!

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Auntie Joanne came with us to the dog park too and brought her rescue dog, Sierra.

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At this point, we are training her to not jump up on us, go potty in a designated area of the yard, and not to bark on the rare occasion that she does so.

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We have a SERIOUS drought in California right now and many families are letting their grass dry since we can’t water it well. Rosey doesn’t seem to mind our dustbowl at the moment.

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Even though I’m not a dog person by nature, I do love Rosey and she is a very good girl. God blessed us with just the right puppy! For me, this is one of those areas where I am trusting and yielding to my husband’s leading about getting a dog as well as going outside of my comfort zone for the sake of my little boys. It’s all about love!

So, I’m taking a big breath heading into this next week with this new addition to our family and I’m counting on you guys to pray for me!

YOUR TURN! Do you have any tips or recommendations for dog training, accessories, must-have items, or other insights about dogs and puppies? Do you have a Lab? We are all ears for whatever you can share with us!!!

 

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well! View an Exciting Reality Show Life By Design, A TV Project with Lisa LeonardHolley Gerth, and Dee Kasberger!

10 Ways To Help Your Struggling Teen At School, From A HS Teacher

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10 Ways To Help Your Struggling Teen At School, From A HS Teacher

The couple sat down in the desks I had pulled together at the front of the classroom into a semi-circle as I opened my lesson plans and grade book. Their son, Adam, was in my 10th grade English class and we had just finished the 1st semester.

“He’s just not doing his homework.” They sighed. “We don’t understand! How can he let his grades drop and not do his homework?”

It was more of an accusation than a question. But it was desperate.

“I know exactly why.” I said calmly.

They leaned in close for the answer.

“Because he is 16.” I stated simply.

Crickets chirped momentarily while they let that sink in. I went on to explain that often times, teenagers simply don’t grasp the “big picture” of how doing tonight’s homework is truly the foundation for their work ethic years down the road in the future.

So what’s a parent to do when they get frustrated by their high schooler’s lack of motivation and immaturity? What can you do when their grades are slipping?

Here are 10 tips to help you keep your sanity and hopefully equip your teen to be successful too!

1.) Understand That They Are Immature

I saw the gamut of parental involvement as a teacher for nearly 10 years. The worst kind of parent was the one who required that their child behave like a 30 year old and expected them to make the same choices they would as a parent-even though the teenager had not had the advantage of years of maturity!  Keep your expectations reasonable! On the flip side, don’t be dismissive that “teens will be teens” and throw all standards out the window. Balance is key! Evaluate yourself as a parent to determine if your expectations are reasonable at this age.

2.) Don’t Punish Them. Enable Them!

Parents often have a knee-jerk reaction to a low report card or some other indication that their child is falling short. They dive head-on into restrictions and ground their child or take away a privilege until their grades improve without really getting to the heart of the matter. Then the student feels completely defeated and becomes bitter and hardened. Not exactly fertile ground for growth either personally or academically.

Is your child spending too much time playing video games? Then lovingly explain that game time will be decreased or rearranged temporarily so that you as the parent can help them focus and get their work done. Consider carefully to determine what needs to change, instead of drastic changes in one fell swoop. Go back to some of the basics and make sure that your child has a quiet place to work at home, encourage them to get better sleep, and monitor their grades online if your school has that capability.

3.) Negotiate

Now that your babies are no longer babies-they have arrived at a new level of independence. As they mature, I believe that it is more important than ever to give them a VOICE.

Instead of approaching conversations about school as an authoritarian who tells them exactly what to do, allow them to be part of the conversation. Ask them what they think needs to happen in order to improve. Give them an opportunity to evaluate what is going on and share that with you.

Propose a few options that you think will equip them to finish their homework or improve in a subject area and then ask them their opinion or for ideas they may have to help themselves. When I did this as a teacher, I was never disappointed in the options the students themselves proposed, and often they were more restrictive on themselves than I would have been! Plus, you are not suddenly the “bad guy” because they joined you in finding a solution.

4.) Reevaluate Often

Once you have had a good plan in place, don’t go on autopilot. Take the time to set up a bi-monthly call or email with your child’s teacher to follow up. Check to see if the new changes you have made are having any effect or not and if something is simply not working, then try a different approach. Be careful not to smother your child in this process. The goal is not to make them feel like a little kid whose every move is being watched. It’s simply diligence on your part-you don’t even have to make your child aware of the parent/teacher interactions!

Again, bring your child into this process and have them reevaluate themselves too. It will take some tweaking along the way!

5.) Enlist The Insight of Their Teachers

I’ll admit, conferences with parents at the high school level were far and few between. But sometimes, it is necessary. Go into the meeting optimistic, give the teacher the benefit of the doubt until you have a decent conversation with them, and look at them as your advocate and resource. There are rare exceptions when it becomes clear that the teacher is not holding their end of the bargain as a teacher, but typically, teachers love their subject matter and their kids. Go into the meeting as a listener first, and then share with them why you are concerned. Ask them for their expert advice and opinions.

And don’t be afraid to politely ask them to consider changes. One time, I had assigned a major paper and given the students a month to complete it. The last week of that month was a vacation. After the assignments were due, one parent approached me and very nicely suggested to not assign papers after a vacation because their immature child spent the whole time writing instead of working ahead of time. It ruined their family time together. That made a lot of sense to me. I never assigned a paper to be due after a vacation again.

6.) Find A Tutor

Personally, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t set appointments with my students or offer hours for kids to come in and work with me one-on-one or have quiet study time in my classroom. I knew that the bottom line was that some kids were going to need that kind of focused attention.

Not all teachers can or will do that. If your child is struggling with a particular math concept or can’t seem to organize their thoughts for an essay, then do not hesitate to hire a tutor, or find a peer or local college student who would volunteer to help your child. I had a peer in my own grade in high school who tutored me in math for several years and eventually, my highest grade in college as an English major would be from my math class. I went on to teach math as part of my 6th grade classes my first two years teaching and I loved every moment of it. There is hope! Tutors can be pricey, but in my opinion, they are worth it.

7.) Lose The Frown. Use Positive Reinforcement!

When those moments of failure or setbacks come, even if your child seems indifferent, train yourself as a parent to focus on positive reinforcement. Watch your body language when you are talking through what happened with your child. Give them hope instead of simply coming down hard on them.

Become a champion and a cheerleader of your child’s progress, no matter how small. Find the good and let them know that you notice. They may seem too cool for school or mom and dad’s affection, but do not make the mistake of believing them. They NEED your affirmation, encouragement, and steadfast love for them more than ever. Not your disappointment. That never motivated anyone! Even if it seems that they are not responding to your positive reinforcement, it’s not about you. Trust me, it’s working. Give it time.

8.) Reward Them

I’m not opposed to setting up some form of reward system but don’t dangle it like an unattainable carrot. Offer rewards of some nature in small doses instead of telling your C student that if they get straight A’s that you will take them to the World Series. That can easily backfire! You may not have an A student. That’s okay! I’ll take a D student who is working their tail off over a prideful and lazy A student any day of the week.

Honestly, I believe that the rewards should be based on EFFORT and by achieving the standards you agree to together-like doing homework right after school or completing homework well for a month at a time. I know it’s easy to focus on the grades, but turn your attention instead to measurable growth. It will empower your child to feel successful instead of overwhelming them and making them feel helpless to achieve an enticing reward.

9) Just Do The Good Parenting

If there is one thing that I hope you will hear the most from these tips it’s this: Take the measure of success off of the results in your child and place it on yourself and how you handle your child personally. Take the focus off of performance and onto relationship. I’m not saying to do away with standards; I’m simply saying that it’s critical to keep your bond with your son or daughter at the forefront. Above all else, give your kids your best instead of simply requiring theirs.

Don’t get exasperated by their lack of care or motivation-just keep doing the good parenting!

10.) Let Them Go 

Ultimately, your child is on their way to becoming an adult in a few short years. Their choices will be totally outside of your watchful eye. Don’t let them go too soon, but know that you have to give them freedom to fail and freedom to succeed.

What will you have when they are gone? You will have a relationship. Protect that now. Speak to them with respect and make choices together so that you are keeping that relationship intact. Acknowledge their maturity and the good choices they make. Even if you advised them to choose college A but they want to travel 1,000 miles away to college B. Allow them to make these kinds of decisions and send them off into the world feeling empowered.

Parenting in the teen years is not easy, I know. But as a teacher of pre-teens and teens for nearly 10 years, all I could ever see when I looked across the classroom was potential.  These challenges are not the end of the world, but the springboard into a new one.

Make it a time neither of you will regret.

YOUR TURN! How many teens do you have at home? What tips would you share with other parents about helping them navigate junior high and high school? If you enjoyed this post, please SHARE it with others!

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well! View an Exciting Reality Show Life By Design, A TV Project with Lisa LeonardHolley Gerth, and Dee Kasberger!

Gone Fishing! Pictures Of Life As A Boy Mom-Not Perfect, But Perfect For Me!

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 Gone Fishing! Pictures Of Life As A Boy Mom, Not Perfect, But Perfect For Me!

Do you ever wake up and wonder what happened to the life you always imagined? Maybe the one you are living is much better than you ever dreamed. Maybe not. Mine? It’s just….different. :)

Here’s what I mean.

I spent the last day of summer before school started last week, fishing. I never imagined that I would plan fishing trips with my kids, but that’s part of the deal when you have all boys. I know there are plenty of girls who LOVE to fish, but I’m not one of them. Going fishing is a very tangible picture of my love for my husband and my sons.

My friend Jenny Sulpizio is a mom who understands that our ideas of the perfect family, life, and role as a mom can either derail us or make us thrive. I wrote a guest post for her on her blog about our fishing trip last week and how my ideals of being a girl mom someday had to fade so that I could be the boy mom that God made me to be.

I hope you will go over and read it! It’s one of my favorite posts that I have written this year!

Meanwhile, here are some fun pictures from our escapade to the lake!

Daddy teaching the boys how to hook a worm. Ugh. They loved it, of course.

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Gathering Around

Oakley leans in close while I stayed as far away as possible. I actually enjoy the fishing part, but I can’t handle the baiting. These dudes are all boy, as they should be!

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Guy is in his element here, showing the boys how to hold the pole and cast the line. He is amazingly patient with them, never loses his cool, and is up for anything. I was single much longer than I wanted to be, and everyone told me there were a lot of fish in the sea, but I’m so glad I landed him!

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Daddy Teaching

Oliver, age 7. He was a pro.

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Oliver and Daddy

Quinn, age 4. He was in his element.

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Quinn Fishing

Oakley, age 3. He didn’t love the sun in his eyes but other than that, he was all for it. He is so mature for his age that I can’t believe he is only just turned 3 this month.

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Oakley Fishing

Fishing was fun, but Oakley spent the majority of his time climbing under the pier and throwing rocks at the squirrels who kept trying to steal our lunch. :)

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Oakley Surrounded By Rocks

I may as well admit here that I probably spoil this kid. Can you blame me?

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Oakley On The Rocks

It turns out that the fish weren’t biting much that day. Quinn enjoyed every moment, none-the-less. He is my joy boy. I don’t know anyone who is more exuberant about life. He is a gift.

Hook, Line, and Sinker, Quinn Fishing From Rocks

Ta Da!!! God was good to give us one small fish for Ollie. He caught a fish 2 years ago on a quick trip with his Grandpa so this was his second catch! Never mind the size. It’s a fish!!!!

Hook, Line, and Sinker, It's A Fish!

There are more pictures of me with the boys on instagram! Check them out too! It ended up being a perfect day-which doesn’t mean everything ran smoothly, tears weren’t shed, tons of fish were caught, and the shade lingered. It just means that I cherished what God has given me, and we counted our many blessings. God has a way of multiplying those too.

Don’t forget to read my post,”Fishing For Perfection” over at Jenny’s blog today! :)

YOUR TURN! How is your life different than you imagined it would be? Are you on instagram? Share your account name and follow me too so we can catch up! A picture’s worth a thousand words.

Follow me on Facebook for more inspiration and discussion! Find me on Twitter: Amber Lia and Instagram: MotherOfKnights. Start pinning on Pinterest as well! View an Exciting Reality Show Life By Design, A TV Project with Lisa LeonardHolley Gerth, and Dee Kasberger!