the secret behind the southern child’s Easter outfit {a must-read for mama’s this Easter!}

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Easter outfits are kind of a big deal in the South.

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Seriously, this Sunday you will find children dressed in not only their Sunday best but their Southern best. There will be so much lace that newcomers attending church will wonder if we are all here for a wedding instead of to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. We southern mamas just can’t help ourselves. From heirloom dresses for our girls to tall white socks on our boys, we love a good ole’ fashioned outfit on our children. I will plead guilty this Sunday for making our girls wear big bows in their hair and for Ridley to not have a single trace of Ninja Turtles in his attire. Making memories, people, making memories.

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Of course, to make memories, we have to take the family Easter picture, right? You know, the one where we are all squinting on the front porch with the sun glaring in our eyes and the bright fuschia azaleas blooming in the background. We smile the fake smile even though we are so over wearing our new outfits and so ready to eat our ham and take a nap (Ridley will be wearing his Ninja Turtle pajamas by this point, rest assured). Since the Easter picture can be somewhat forced, I took the liberty of snapping a few pre-Easter shots when we were at the beach recently just in case Easter morning involved some meltdown over candy or presents or something so not in the name of Jesus.  While I managed to get several lovely shots, many looked a little something like this:

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Getting three kids under the age of six to all smile and sit still at the camera is no easy task people! But, I’m such a fan of the few I did capture of my sweet things:

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Adeline, five years old

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Maralee, five years old

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Ridley, two years old

Since Ridley is two, this is the year of the light oil portrait. I had Robertson’s Photography in Montgomery make light oil paintings of Adeline and Maralee in their custom Easter dresses, and I’m so looking forward to having Ridley’s portrait made by Phil Robertson this spring. It is an investment, but I do think it is a beautiful keepsake to remember that these childhood years weren’t always so crazy.

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Because I wanted Ridley to have an heirloom outfit to pass down to his children one day, I asked Mrs. Sally, the owner of The Sewing House in Dothan, to make him an outfit. I wish I could have taken lessons from her to make it myself, but I’m afraid that I’m very out of practice and don’t have the time like I did when the twins were little to stay up and work on it. Even though I didn’t make it, it is evident that Mrs. Sally made this outfit with love. It’s perfectly tailored and not too “girly” for our little guy. He looks so big, doesn’t he?

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When we moved to Dothan, I had taken a class on hand embroidery at The Smock Shoppe and had begun embroidering Maralee’s dress. But, then I put it down and never picked it back up. I had bought the lace too, but it just sat in my sewing bag for TWO YEARS. I showed this to Mrs. Sally, and she was able to take what I had started and turned it into a beautiful A-line dress. She had to make Adeline’s pink dress from scratch, and I think she did a fantastic job. Hand embroidery is such detailed work, and those roses are for the advanced sewer (I do not fall into that category!). Here’s a close up look at her handiwork:

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Some people of the more practical mind might call these outfits showy and unnecessary. Trust me, I get that children’s clothes are expensive and they grow out of them. But I think there is something sacred about putting on beautiful clothes for special occasions that completely justifies the money spent. Sure, my kids will only wear these outfits a handful of times but if we take care of them, they can be passed down for generations to come. Maralee loves to sleep with my yellow baby blanket. One day, she might love to wear my wedding veil. Why not give my children clothes that can make them smile when they adorn them on their children twenty years from now? 

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Yes, Easter is about celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s not about the fancy clothes and meal but the fancy clothes and meal do draw us into a spirit of celebration. When we miss this, we miss the reason for the beautiful outfits and our children become part of a parade on our Facebook home page. But, when we can recognize the symbolism and the beauty and enjoy the day instead of fussing or fighting over socks and bows and shoes, then we can truly enter into holy communion with Christ, our Savior. He really doesn’t care what we wear, and He won’t turn us away, no matter how we are dressed.

So put your kids in the fancy outfits. Or don’t. However you dress them and decide to dress yourself this Sunday, just remember that your family is not a show and there is no prize. Come to the altar, in your fancy dress or your ragamuffin garments, and give God thanks for creating His son as a man, who understands all the hurt and happiness that we experience, and teaches us kindness and forgiveness and so many other things that we desperately need to know to make it during our short time here on earth. Sound good?

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Happy Easter, from our family to yours!

Till next time, let your light shine,

Blessings, christen

when motherhood looks different than planned

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We are better together.
Women need other women to encourage them, cry with them, and laugh with them. Any age or stage of life we are in, we are truly better together. This is the theme for Covenant’s Women’s Conference this April 15th and 16th. I’m so excited to be speaking at this event, along with my fellow M.O.M. Initiative friends Stephanie Shott, Debbie Taylor Williams, and Melinda Means. I’ve had the chance to get to know these ladies over the years and I just know that by the end of this weekend, you will love their hearts as much as I do. Here’s what I love about each of them:
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Stephanie is a visionary and dreamer. She’s the founder of The M.O.M. Initiative and led this conference in Jacksonville two years ago. She’s also the writer of a great book for moms called The Making of a Mom.
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Debbie reminds me so much of Beth Moore. She’s a Texas girl, author of Plan A Mom in a Plan B World and is so passionate about prayer. She will literally pray with you the moment you tell her that you need prayers. She’s also fearless…when we traveled to Colorado on our TMI Retreat, she rode the ski tube down the hill like a champ! Love her spirit!
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Melinda and I met at our Jacksonville retreat and she has become such a good friend to me since then. I treasure her advice and love running into her at different women events. She is the women’s ministry coordinator at her church and I loved reading her book Mothering From Scratch when it released last year. She’s truly a gift!
The four of us represent the different stages of motherhood from being a grandmother, mom of adult children, teenagers, and preschoolers, so we really hope to relate to whatever stage of motherhood you might be in or about to begin. 
This conference is not just for moms. We will be focusing our messages around a woman’s heart and have sessions about relationships and leadership/mentoring. Even if you can only come for half of the day on Saturday, I encourage you to come and enjoy a weekend of renewal and encouragement. It’s going to be lots of fun!
To buy your ticket and sign up for breakout sessions, head here.
If you’d like a sneak peek at one of the talks I’ll be leading, head on over to The M.O.M. Initiative to read more about when motherhood looks different than planned.
I hope you join us on April 15th & 16th!
Till next time, let your light shine,
Blessings, christen

puppy love {Ridley’s 2nd birthday party sweetness!}

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Our Ridley boy is two.

How this happened? I still don’t know.

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Since his birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day and he loves dogs, the theme for his party this year was “Puppy Love.” I had so much fun planning the details and tried to keep everything very low key yet fun for the kids.

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The color pallete was simple – red, white, yellow, and dark brown.

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Ridley has this really cute John John with an appliqued puppy dog and we used that as inspiration for his party package which includes an invitation, banner, food labels, gift bag labels, and a coloring page.

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Our guest list for this party included our extended family and a few close friends who had children Ridley’s age and older siblings for the girls to play with. We held the party in our playroom (pictures coming soon of this recent before-and-after project!) and the weather was so nice that guests could sit on the back patio too.

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Activities for the kids included a Valentine cookie decorating station, coloring pages, and a play puppy station. I had ordered some mini heart shaped balloons that the little kids had fun playing with and the big kids enjoyed getting to run around outside. Simple, simple, simple!

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For food, we had “hot dogs,” “puppy chow,” “dog biscuits,” and I ordered Ridley a heart-shaped cookie cake with a puppy dog on it (he loves cookies and chocolate!). My mother-in-law also brought a dip. Have you ever tried cooking hot dogs in a crockpot? I tried it for this party and it cut down on mess in my kitchen. I just put the hot dogs in my crockpot four hours before the party and turned them once every hour. The dog biscuits were Scooby-Doo snacks that I bought at the grocery store and the puppy chow was offered as a salty Cheese Nip snack mix and a sweet Chex Mix blend. Here’s the Chex Mix Puppy Chow recipe from The Recipe Critic:

Supplies:

5 oz. Almond bark or white chocolate chips

1/2 cup Powdered sugar

1 tsp Shortening

1 cup Strawberry cake mix

5 cups Chex cereal

5 0z Candy melts, red (I used one that had a peppermint flavor to it…yum!)

1/2 package Valentine’s chocolate m & m’s.

Make it:

Divide chex mix into two separate bowls. Melt half the white chocolate/almond bark and the shortening and pour into one bowl of Chex mix. Coat the Chex mix with the almond bark and then dump into a ziplock bag. Mix together have the powdered sugar and the strawberry cake mix together and then pour into the ziplock bag. Shake the Chex mix so it is covered with the sugar/cake mix. Next, melt the remainder chocolate bark with the candy melts and pour into second bowl of Chex mix. Coat the Chex mis with the melted chocoate and pour into a ziplock bag. Use the remainder of your powdered sugar to cover the Chex Mix. Pour half of both bags into bowl and sprinkle Valentine’s m&m’s on top. Munch and enjoy!

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I found cute paper products at Michael’s for his party that went with our Valentine’s theme and bought balloons and candles from TomKat studio. I bought a heart rug for the entry of my playroom and dog bowls to serve the food in at Target and had the Artist Tree make me a Valentine’s Day door hanger.

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To get clever with the dog theme, we gave Ridley’s guests bouncy balls that I found at The Dollar Tree with the saying, “We had a ball! Thanks for coming to Ridley’s 2nd Birthday Party.” It was super cute and a very inexpensive gift!

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Being Ridley’s mom is such a treat and I really enjoyed getting to celebrate his second birthday with our family and friends. As a party planning mama, sometimes I let the details and the work of planning a party exhaust me. Keeping everything simple and the guest list minimal really helped me enjoy the party.

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Now that we have a two year old in our lives, he is communicating with his favorite words: “mama” “whoa!” “dog,” “woof, woof,” “no,” and “tur-tle.” He loves watching Ninja Turtles, chasing his sisters, and eating anything we put in front of him. He’s transitioned recently into a toddler bed yet his faded blue blanket still follows him everywhere he goes. Ridley is also beginning to potty train and has started attending the same school as the girls. He’s all boy but he sure does love his sisters. I can’t help but let them tackle one another with hugs and kisses when it is time to pick them up. Ridley weighs 28.5 pounds and is 35 inches tall.

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Ridley is still my baby but he’s growing into a little boy. I love his full-on kisses, high-pitched laugh, and white-blonde hair more than I ever thought possible. Even though I know the toddler years are going to be full of meltdowns and challenges, I’m trying my best to savor the sweet moments that make life with children so very special. Celebrating his birthday was one way for us to rejoice in the life of our boy and I’m so thankful for everyone that joined us.

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To see more party packages and printables, head on over to our Etsy shop.

You can also follow my “Fun Party Ideas” board on Pinterest for more inspiration!

Celebrating you,

Christen

i heart chip and joanna gaines. you too? {read more about The Magnolia Story}

If you’ve ever wanted more of Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, now is your chance! This sweet couple has written a memoir of their life together called The Magnolia Story and it releases mid-October (but you can pre-order it now! woo-hoo!!). How adorable are they on the cover of their book?

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The Magnolia Story, written with New York Times bestselling collaborator Mark Dagostino, documents the “first couple of home improvement” and their life together – starting way back in their pre-fame days. “Writing a book is a tough job,” Joanna says. “But reliving years of memories together was so fun. Chip is a great storyteller, and I actually found that I have a knack for remembering details. We made a pretty good team and had a blast working on it together.”

If you aren’t a fan of Fixer Upper (yet!), here are the reasons why I’ve fallen in love with Chip and Jo-Jo:
  1. Joanna’s style is impeccable yet comfortable. From her wardrobe to the homes she designs, her style impresses me with it’s easy, down-home elegance. She uses lots of white and bring color into her design subtly but in just the right places. Every house that I’ve seen transformed on Fixer Upper makes me want to sit and get comfortable!
  2. Chip makes me laugh. He’s easy-going, light-hearted, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I love it when he goes with Joanna to the antique markets because he always walks out with something crazy!
  3. They turn a broken home into a beautiful home. They take the worst houses in the best neighborhoods and completely transform the way they look. As an owner of a renovated home, I have such an appreciation for other people who take a risk on homes that need a good dose of TLC.
  4. They are creative entrepreneurs. Chip and Joanna are inspiring because not only do they have their show, but the Magnolia Homes brand is amazing. From the Magnolia Market to Joanna’s new Magnolia Made home and paint line, they are transforming family homes not just in Waco but all over the world. (ps – I heard Liddon Furniture in Dothan is carrying her Magnolia Made line!!)
  5. They share their faith through serving others, being kind, and involving their kids in the design process. We need more families like the Gaines on television people.

I’m excited to be part of the Stree Team (aka the #shiplappers) who gets to share behind-the-scenes updates about The Magnolia Story so be sure to follow me on Instagram for updates! Remember, if you want to pre-order The Magnolia Story, you can purchase it here.

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Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

Art. Walk. Shop. {find me at Naomi & Olive this weekend!}

Art. Walk. Shop.

Sounds like a fun Saturday, don’t you think?

The Mural City Art Walk is happening this Saturday in downtown Dothan. Raleigh and I have attended the Art Walk the past two years and it is so much fun for our whole family.

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Walking down Foster Street, there will be over 50 local artists, food, and activities for the kids. Also, the forecast is 72 degrees and sunny. Can’t get any better than that, can it?!

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One of my favorite shops on Foster Street is Naomi & Olive (you too?).

This Saturday, I’m excited to get to hang out inside Christy’s lovely shop and sign copies of Practice Hospitality. If you are heading downtown, please stop in and say hello! The Art Walk is from 10-5 and Naomi & Olive has tons of unique gifts and home decor items made by Alabama artists. Come and check it out!

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If you aren’t able to make it downtown this weekend, you can still purchase a copy on our Etsy shop.  As always, thank you for your support! I truly wish I could hug each of your necks and tell you thank you, thank you, thank you! #lovemypeople

Here’s to the weekend!

Christen

how to teach your kids to practice hospitality

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This year, I thought it would be fun to have the kids tag along to deliver Valentine’s Day treats. We decided to gift our pediatrician’s office and my OBGYN since Ridley was about to celebrate his first birthday. We had to wait until one o’clock to deliver the gifts, so we played at a playground for an hour after school. I thought this would be a good idea but it backfired, making us all tired, hungry, and ready to go home.  I promised the girls we would be quick, but you can guess what happened next. Major meltdown.

Yep.  You know the kind. The kind where one child pitches a fit over putting her shoes on and where the other one wants to take every-single-toy-that-she-owns inside with her and the kind where your baby arches his back refusing to be buckled into his car seat. The kind where mommy loses her patience and says in a tone a bit too sharp to “Stop crying! We need to go.”

But instead of admitting defeat to the meltdown, we unbuckled and try to make our sticky faces, wild hair, and smelly diapers presentable before we walked inside, smiling like the happy family we appeared to be. But I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Am I really teaching my kids about love right now?”

To read more, head on over to The M.O.M. Initiative.

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*This is an excerpt from Christen’s new devotional, Practice Hospitality centered around Romans 12:9-13 which teaches that hospitality is love in action. Divided into three sections, you will understand what it means to release, receive, and rejoice and how we are all called to living a life of invitation. The devotional also features some of our favorite recipes for entertaining including Acre’s sweet potato bread pudding, homemade pizza dough, fancy (but easy!) salad and more. These recipes will cure any hostess jitters and have your guests begging for seconds! Purchase your copy of Practice Hospitality on Etsy. 

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Christen will be speaking about how to practice hospitality with your kids at our Better Together Conference in Dothan, Al on April 15th-16th 2016. Buy your tickets here!

how to break busy, choose joy and stop being supermom {books I love}

I love to read.

Give me time to browse a bookstore or sit on the beach with a good book and you’ve made me one happy little lady. I need words and their ability to sweep me into a faraway land of romance or give me courage to do that thing God has called me to do.  With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be fun today to share some of the books I’m loving right now. I think you just might love them too.

Breaking Busy

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Breaking Busy is by Alli Worthington and holds so much practical insight on how to find peace and purpose in a world of crazy. I fell in love with Alli’s teachings this year through my Propel Bible study and have really enjoyed learning from her in this book. I relate to Alli because she’s been an event planner, mompreneur, and teacher. In Breaking Busy, she shares how she has overcome this world of busyness by finding her sweet spot, nurturing relationships, and finding peace in a world of worry. This book has helped me let go of expectations and make better decisions with how I spend my time. It’s a great book for women who find themselves ragged and in need of advice on how to rest in what God wants them to do in life.

Choose Joy

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In Choose Joy, Mary Carver weaves together stories written by Sara Frankl, who died from a terminal disease in 2011. This book is teaching me that joy does not come from our circumstances and daily we have a choice to choose how we want to live. This phrase “choose joy” sits at my computer and is a great reminder that there is no guarantee for tomorrow so we must choose to live with joy today. Mary is part of a writers group that I am in and I’m so proud of her for having the courage to share such a difficult story with such beauty. If you are going through a tough season in life, this book is for you.

The SuperMom Myth

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“This book isn’t about raising kids…it’s about raising moms.” Becky Kopitzke shares this message on the back of her book, The SuperMom Myth, and I can totally relate to needing help with this myth. I find myself so easily distracted by many of the “dirty villains” she writes about in her book (anger, fear, and busyness) instead of resting in the superpower of God’s grace, love, and mercy. Becky is a real mom who understand the real struggle of not feeling good enough. I recommend this book not only because Becky is a fellow writer for The M.O.M. Initiative, but she has become such a cheerleader to me on writing and motherhood. This book is great to give to your mom friends (or to read for yourself!).

I hope you love these books as much as I do. Do you have a favorite book that you are reading right now? If so, share in the comments!

BIRTHDAY COUPON

Also, in honor of Ridley’s second birthday tomorrow, we are having a 20% off sale on all items in our Etsy shop (includes Practice Hospitality!). Use coupon code BIRTHDAYBASH at checkout.

Start shopping now. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Till next time, let your light shine,

Blessings, christen

 

 

how to escape the busyness of Christmas

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Does anyone else feel like they are running the 500 yard dash to Christmas? 

From decorating the Christmas tree, addressing Christmas cards, buying and wrapping presents, making Christmas sweets, to attending festive Christmas parties, we jam in so much activity in such a short amount of time. We over eat, over extend, and over buy ourselves into a month-long race, only to end up at the finish line exhausted and wondering why we over-complicated a season that is meant to be rejoiced and savored.

Christmas doesn’t have to be a race.

To read more, head on over to The M.O.M. Initiative. 

More gifts from Hallmark for Christmas!

Who’s still got some Christmas shopping to do?

As I shared last month, Hallmark has some great gifts for the holidays this year. I’ve stocked up on gifts for family members and some secret Santa gifts. Check out this video to see some of my favorites:

 

Flickering Lantern Decoration

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I love how this festive lantern reminds us that Jesus is the light of this world. Perfect decoration to go on your mantle or bookshelf or to give as a gift to a family member.

Snowman Tea Towel and Spatula set

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This snowman is just too cute and is the perfect gift for the aunt, grandmother, or friend that loves to bake.

Plaid Wrapping Paper

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I’m also loving their plaid wrapping paper this year. It is double-sided and reminds me of an old-fashioned Christmas. As I mentioned in the video, I just cut up a strip of wrapping paper and taped it to this bag to look like a Christmas tree. It was super quick and a simple way to jazz up a plain brown bag.

Next time you are out shopping, take a peek inside Hallmark to pick up some gifts to go under your tree. You can also shop online if you don’t want to mess with the crowds. Either way, I hope you find something that you love. Happy shopping!

Celebrating you,

Christen

rejoice – practice hospitality