a few of my favorite things

Happy New Year!  i don’t know about you, but our holiday season came and went with such a flurry, i can barely believe it all even happened.  we are getting back into the groove, and so with the new year upon us, i thought that it’d be fun to share with you a few of my new favorite things, and also to give you a peek into life lately.

here goes…

i’m currently reading a few books on my Kindle that i am loving:
Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity
The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful (this Kindle edition is currently on sale for $3.79)


The Nesting Place is so encouraging…and Interrupted is so so challenging…in a really good way.  read them with me, and then maybe we can talk about them!

and speaking of books…y’all…this cookbook…oh my:
100 Days of Real Food

cookbookyou can see all my post-its…that’s cause i want to pretty much make every recipe in the book.  i’ve already made a bunch.  last night i attempted the Veggie Pancakes with zucchini, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes…and my kids raved.  i’ve also made the Mac n Cheese, the BBQ sauce, the Taco Seasoning, and a few others, and so far, all have been big hits.  y’all…this cookbook is the real deal.

and yes…we are still trying to eat as cleanly as possible.  we are a bit more lenient than we were when we first began our clean eating journey a few years ago, but treats are still treats and not expected parts of our everyday.  most of it has just become a way of life for us now, and i don’t think we will ever really go back.  however, when we are out, or with other people, that’s a whole different story, because we have decided that we love people more than we love our rules.  someday i’ll have to post about just that.

but speaking of Clean Eating…this is not…but its oh so good!

Oregon Chai: The Original Chai Tea Latte Concentrate


it is made with Organic Evaporated Cane Juice (basically sugar, no matter how fancy that sounds), and honey, so it does qualify as a treat in our house.  but i use this on occasion for a little pick me up, and its amazing.  you can also get it at Trader Joe’s.

if you aren’t wanting the sugar, the absolute BEST chai tea i’ve ever had is this one:
Stash Tea Chai Spice Black Tea.  i make it with milk and a splash of honey or maple syrup, and it tastes just like Panera’s Chai Tea Lattes.  i’d take a picture for you of the box, but unfortunately,  i just used my last bag, and since the only other place i can find it (besides Amazon) is at The Fresh Market, i am in need of making the trip or placing an order.

and did you happen to notice that Ikea Milk-frother?  that was a bday gift from a friend, and its changed my tea drinking life forever!  the key, which i learned from her, is to use skim milk, and froth it BEFORE you heat it.  then heat it for just under 30 seconds.  perfection.

i am currently loving my new chairs that i found in my neighbors’ garbage:


can you believe someone was throwing those beauties away?  they did have a little bit of sharpie drawings on them, and the upholstery was stained, but that’s nothing that a little bit of paint, wax, and some leftover duck cloth can’t take care of!  chairs2

which brings me to my next fave…Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, specifically Old White.  i have pretty much painted the majority of the furniture in my house with this color.  boring, perhaps, but i love how it freshens up and brightens up my house:chalkpaintspeaking of my house, i’m drooling over this:

IMG_3752i’ve been in the market for a coffee table for our living room for a while now, and as much as i’d LOVE to make this one of my favorite things, i am so spoiled by all of the amazing and inexpensive furniture i’ve snagged at GoodWill, off Craigslist, and on the side of the road, that i simply cannot justify spending $250 on a coffee table.  oh…and i also don’t have $250!  but honestly, if i did have the money, i’d totally buy it…cause its that perfect.  so if you are local and see ANYTHING like this for about 1/6th of the price, LMK!

and since we are on the subject of house things, i stole this from a dear friend in our City Group’s White Elephant Christmas gift exchange, and at first i felt really bad, but now that i use it every single stinkin’ day, i don’t feel bad anymore:
Ceramic Electric Candle Warmer


y’all…this thing is amazing.  let me tell you why…you know these candles?  the ones from Anthropologie that smell like Heaven, but that cost close to Hell?
candlejust kidding about that.  they are $28, but still…i think that’s crazy for a candle.  anyway…i’ve gotten a few as gifts over the years, and now its my favorite, and i have to have one to burn all the time.  but for some reason, there is always still quite a bit of wax left in the jar once the the wick will no longer light.  and i don’t know about you, but that always felt so upsetting and wasteful to me.  enter in this candle warmer.  i stuck those old jars with all that leftover wax in my freezer, and once frozen, took a knife and got all the remaining wax out…it came out in hunks like this (this is about half of what i got.  i’m currently burning the other half):
candlethen you just set the hunks in the top of your candle warmer, plug it in, and let it go.  it melts the hunks into liquid wax and burns and burns and burns…forever…making your house smell like Heaven once again.  literally, it seems as if it hardly runs out.  and if you ever want to change the wax you are burning, you just put the top part of the warmer in the freezer for a bit, and pop out that wax and start again.  seriously, this thing is totally worth having.  and my grocery store sells those little candle tarts that you are supposed to use in them, so that’s pretty convenient and cheap too, if i ever wanted to change up the scent.

okay…so i love this chore chart, cause its one of the smartest things we’ve ever done.  i totally copied a friend, who so sweetly supplied me with the frame to get my own family started.  to create the chart, i just used stuff i had laying around the house.   i didn’t realize that my kids could actually help out…a lot…with house responsibilities.  its been great.  and to be honest, there really isn’t much complaining.  yet.  but we are going on 2 months, and so far, so good.  we gave them each pretty doable chores (daily ones, like make your bed, set and clear the table, sweep the kitchen, water the garden…and weekend ones, like mop the kitchen, clean their bathroom, windex the french doors).  they can pretty much do them quickly and easily, and it crosses one more thing off my own list.  plus, its teaching them responsibility and the importance of working together as a family…and its teaching them to appreciate the work involved in maintaining a home.  case in point, Bella had just windexed the French Doors, when Canaan comes barreling in from outside with his hands all over the doors.  Bella instantly yells out, “i JUST cleaned those!!  Be careful!”  hmmm…that sounds so familiar.  i think its good for them to understand and respect the work that goes into the house.


in case you are wondering, Berkeley’s chores are to daily give kisses, and to learn a new word on the weekends.  :)

speaking of watering the garden, our little backyard garden is another of my favorite things:garden

i’m especially excited that our broccoli is beginning to sprout:

brocolli growth

because this next quick recipe for broccoli, which is my favorite and which i CRAVE, will blow your mind:
broccoliPre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  cut off the stalks from the broccoli, leaving just the florets.  lay the florets out on a cookie sheet, and drizzle with olive oil.  generously sprinkle with garlic salt.  don’t hold back.  toss all together with your hands until the broccoli is well coated.  roast for 10 minutes, stir broccoli, and roast some more.  you want to roast until some of the broccoli is crunchy and a dark golden brown.  you will be afraid that you are burning it, but the crunchy, burned looking pieces are the best.  seriously…this is THE MOST AMAZING way to eat broccoli.  you are welcome.

and while I’m in the kitchen cooking this broccoli, or pretty much doing anything else, Berkeley can be found in her current favorite little spot, wedged between the window and the kitchen table:


sometimes with one of her new favorite toys, My Pal Scout:


do y’all know about this?  its adorable.  you basically go online with the directions provided (its really simple and quick) and you program the dog with your child’s name and a few of their favorite things, like favorite animal, color, and food.  the dog talks to you when you press different buttons, spells out your child’s name, sings songs about your child, all while using your child’s name and favorite things.  Berk LOVES it!

switching gears now…it took me a couple tries to finally find a Red Lipstick that i love, but after my friend let me test her’s, i discovered that it was exactly what i’ve been searching for:  Maybelline Red Revival 645 Lipcolor


speaking of things i’ve been searching for…i’ve tried to find the perfect pair of sunglasses for years.  i’ve gone through multiple pairs from Target and Forever 21, and some i liked, but never were just quite right.  however, i have finally found THE pair: Ray-Ban Cockpit Aviator Sunglasses .  they are slightly smaller than the traditional Ray-Ban Aviators that you see around, and although i like the look of aviators, they always seemed a little too big on my face.  i always felt like a bug with big eyes when i wore them.  so the slightly smaller frames on these are really perfect.  i’ve never before had a “real” pair of sunglasses, so when i was given these for my birthday, from basically my entire family, they became one of my favorite things in a matter of seconds.


and since i love y’all and want to be a good friend, i couldn’t just show you pictures of lipstick and sunglasses without showing you for real…on a real live person.  so even though i HATE selfies with a passion, my love for you won out.  so if you can stand the greasy hair and no makeup (besides the lipstick), here is what these things really look like, because, as much as i wanted the pictures alone to do them justice, they just don’t:


so there you have it.  you are welcome.  and you most likely won’t be getting another one for a LOOONG time, cause it just feels awkward, and it requires me to actually change out of my PJ’s.  oh…and also… cause this is how selfies really go down:


and while we are on the subject of selfies, i’ll show you one of my feet.  i have a current obsession with Lace Trimmed Boot Socks:


the ones i’m wearing were a gift from my SIL, and i’m pretty sure she got them at Charlotte Russe.

and that sweater you see?  yeah.  i pretty much wear it everyday.


i got it on MASSIVE clearance at Anthro last year.  i have learned that eventually everything goes on massive clearance at some point, so sometimes you can really find some amazing deals if you are willing to wait and look.

and since we are talking clearance, i must show you my all time favorite camera bag…that i actually got for free:


its a Jo’s Totes, and i have wanted the exact same one for many years.  my friend gave it to me, as she was getting rid of it.  seriously…best camera bag ever.

i’m addicted to gum, unfortunately.  i know i know…its got bad stuff in it.  but i can’t help it.  this one is my current favorite.  and although it does lose its taste after a while, its worth it anyway for that initial kick.


i’m also addicted to drinking…not alcohol, lest you are concerned.  water, actually.  not kidding.  its a problem.  i get thirsty quickly, and when i do, it will be all i can think about until i can drink something.  which is why i carry one of these everywhere i go. the middle one is my favorite: Plastic Tumbler with Straw, 24-Ounce:


i got these personalized verse cards for my birthday, and i think they are one of the coolest gifts.  i have them sitting on my desk so i can flip them each day.  i think they might’ve been off Etsy, but i’m not sure.  versecards

and speaking of my desk, we had to get creative with the limited space in our house, so we put our desk at the foot of our bed.  it was the Hub’s suggestion, only because he didn’t want it taking up space in the garage anymore.  so i did what any good wife would do, and i laughed at his suggestion, called it somewhat ridiculous, told him it would never work…and then Pinterested it…and it turns out…that desks at the foots of beds are actually a thing.  so i stood corrected.  and not only do i love the functionality of it, but i also adore the way it looks:

deski have a DIY upholstered headboard as one of my next projects, since we recently upgraded to that king bed.  (which, btw, is a life-changer.)  if it works out the way i’m hoping, i’ll try to do a tutorial.  but for now, picture a creamy, linen headboard with gold nail-head trim….

if you have a little boy, then this might become a favorite of your’s too.  cause if your car is like mine, then it might smell like a mixture of sweat, dirty soccer shoes, and toots:  Febreze Car Vent Clips


i’m showing you this one, so that i can show you the next one too.  but i got these bluetooth speakers for Christmas: Sentey® Bluetooth Stereo Speaker B-trek S4

and i use them to listen to lots of things, but currently the Serial Podcast series, because its become another one of my current obsessions.  please tell me some of you have listened to this!  if not, just go check it out.  its captivating, and will make your exercise routine, your walks, your runs, your jogs, your drives, your painting of furniture, your cooking, your cleaning, etc. go by so much faster.  but don’t listen to them with kids around, cause they would be scary for kids, and there are bad words, which the narrator (LOVE HER!) sometimes warns you about ahead of time.

oh…and that iPhone case cover can be found here:
Rifle Paper Co – Botanical Rose Iphone 5/5s Hard Case with Rubber Inlay.  but i’m pretty sure it will go on sale again, so wait for it.  :)

since we are on the subject of iPhones, i have this app on my phone called ReadingPlan, and i am currently working on reading through the Bible this year.  i’ve done this before, but it took me 2 years to the day…so in other words, i’m not that great at keeping up with it, and will most likely get very behind!  but its so helpful for me to have a goal in mind and something set each day to read.  i really like this one, because its always accessible on my phone, and super easy to start and follow.


the specific plan i’m doing is called Book at a Time, and here’s an example of how its broken up each day:


lest you think that makes me spiritual and holy, let me show you the TV series that is currently our favorite:gossipgirl

wow, oh wow, oh wow.  this is just pure entertainment.  we finished HIMYM over Christmas break, and needed something new to watch.  so we tried this one on for size, and man…i was instantly hooked.   now…don’t go around saying that i told you to go watch HIMYM or Gossip Girl.  there’s not a whole lot that is redeeming about these shows.  my grandparents used to have a little sign sitting above their TV that said, “What Would Jesus Watch?”  i’m honestly not sure what Jesus would watch, but all i know is that i love Him, He loves me, and i also love Gossip Girl, HIMYM, and the Bachelor.  i haven’t quite figured out what all that means….

when i’m not tuning into the Gossip of teenage life in Upper Class Manhattan, you can possibly find me hanging out in our backyard, which is another one of my favorite things right now.  there is still lots of work to do once spring rolls in, but for now, we hang out back there all the time with friends and family.


Jake and the kiddos surprised me on my birthday with those cool Clear Globe Bulb String Lights strung all along our back fence.  they really light up the yard at night:


and Santa brought the trampoline as a huge surprise for the kids!  


i’m pretty sure he must’ve found a killer Black Friday deal (if they have those in the North Pole) cause otherwise, it wouldn’t be in our backyard.  but here’s one that is similar:  15 foot Trampoline with Enclosure

and just for kicks, here’s a little 15 second video of the reaction on Christmas morning.  Priceless. (if you are reading through an email subscription, you will have to click through to my blog to watch the video there.)

okay, my friends.  that about sums it up for now.  its fun for me to compile all my current favorite things.  hope you enjoyed!  and i’d love to hear if you share any of my favorite things, or if there is something you think would be a favorite thing of mine, but maybe i just don’t know about it yet!  so feel free to pass those along to me!

until next time,




Eli’s back…once again!

seeing that we are now about halfway done with Eli’s visit (cannot come soon enough.  seriously.  i have a love/hate relationship with this Elf), i thought i’d show you what he’s been up to so far.

he arrived this year with luggage full of little red elf hats, and a note that said,
“C, B, & B:
i’m back!
did you miss me?
did you miss me?
did you miss me?
i missed you!!!
- Eli”


his first night, he made himself a little twin buddy with Legos:2legotext

Eli must know of my kids’ love of the Brady Bunch.  seems as if he didn’t want to be forgotten:3bradybunchtext

Playing Duck Duck Goose with all of Berkeley’s duck friends:4duckduckgoosetext

i think this one was in honor of the Crazies’ Uncle, who is studying to be a meteorologist.  Eli must’ve known that Uncle Patrick had just passed his huge PhD exam with flying colors:5weathermantext

this one might be my favorite OF ALL TIME!  Eli held a garage sale:



i thought you might enjoy seeing the details.  by the looks of it, it seems as if Eli has been to a number of garage sales in his day!  he sure seems to know what he’s doing…




i had to leave town for a night, and i got a text with this picture from Jake the next morning, of Eli on my side of the bed.  thank you, Eli, for validating me, and confirming that there is, in fact, a lot of snoring that happens at night:8snoringtext

pretty impressed by Eli’s camp set-up here:


i was not all that thrilled to wake up and find out that Eli had ruined my birthday cake the night before my party:elicaketext

but i think he felt bad about it, because the next day i woke up and found him cleaning my windows:11windowwashingtext

that “Big Shot B-Ball Dude” got worked by Eli the Elf.  Eli’s dunking form was impressive.  we have been getting calls from NBA agents all week:elidunktext

by the looks of it, Eli and his girlfriend, Rapunzel, had a very fun date night at the Photo Booth.  they even had a photo strip to prove it:


very much wondering what he’s gonna come up with for the rest of the month.  no really…i’m really curious.  i can’t imagine what else he can do for another 13 days.   8-O

but i hope your crazies are enjoying your elves as much as mine are enjoying our’s.  its a good thing, cause i contemplated writing to Santa this year and asking him to keep Eli in the North Pole…but then a few weeks ago, unbeknownst to her that i was thinking about going on an Elf strike, Bella said to me, “you know what, Mom?  Christmas wouldn’t be that merry if Eli doesn’t come.”  and…Berkeley wakes up every morning calling out, “Eeeeeewwwwwiiiii!”  i wish i were kidding.  looks like he’s gonna have a standing flight to FL in December for many many years to come.

DSC_0628 copy

also…i’ve decided that i’m no longer going to make excuses when it comes to this blog.  i’m gonna come here when i can come here, and not feel one bit bad about it when i can’t.  i feel like my life is busier than ever.  the older kiddos have me running all over town, and the little one has me running all over my house.  so basically…i’m just running all day long!  i LOVE coming here and writing…but sometimes the things you love to do have to wait a bit when you are in the thick of being a mommy.  but i like knowing that y’all are here when i find time to drop in.  so thank you.  one day, i have a feeling i’ll be back more consistently.  for now, i’ll come when i can.  so i’ll see you when i see you!  in the meantime, i kinda mini-blog on my Instagram, so you can follow along there for updates in-between.  my user name is leanak.

the Nutcracker is tomorrow, and if you’ve been around awhile, then you’ll know what a BIG deal that is in our house.  i’m hoping i’ll find a chance to breathe after this weekend.  so here’s hoping i see you again very soon!





i’m gonna warn you…this is a doozy of a post.  its long-er…but it might just speak to your heart in a way that you didn’t even know you needed speaking.  so stick in here with me, will ya?  maybe i’ll give you a cookie when you are done (just kidding, but if i could, i would.  or at least a handful of leftover Halloween Candy!)


this subject has been stirring around in me over the last few years.  i think ever since I was preggo and sick, and felt kinda useless, and now that i’ve had Berkeley, and am back in the feeding, napping, and pooping world of babies, which means i’m often inside my house, with a one year old, for a large portion of each day….without as much freedom to do the things i used to be able to do…i’ve often wondered what my life is supposed to look like now.  in the past, i had more opportunities to do ministry, be with people, go on mission trips, be “used” by God.  but the idea of being used by God seems like a hard concept right now.

i keep hearing things about this word giftedness…using our gifts, stepping into our gifts…and its left me wondering what giftedness means for me now….what does being used by God look like for me, a SAHM, or even just a busy women, with full full days?


for so long, i didn’t really feel like i was anything all that special.  i certainly didn’t feel like i had anything special about me that God could use that was unique or purposeful.  i just kinda felt like a run of the mill person.  does that make sense?  i wonder if anyone else feels like that too.  just kinda normal, living my normal life.  perhaps even slightly boring.


isn’t it so easy for us to see giftedness in other people, yet so hard for us to believe its true of us too?  i think that there is something within us that struggles to believe that we might actually have something within us, some giftedness, that could be used for a big purpose!

I learned something recently about My Little Ponies. Bella taught me this. (with the absence of cable, my kids are resorted to only watching Netflix, so that pretty much means The Brady Bunch and My Little Pony.  so we know everything there is to know about “the story of a man named Brady” and unicorns, alicorns, and pegasuses!!)  anyway, she told me that each My Little Pony has a little mark on their backsides called a “cutie mark.”  each cutie mark symbolizes that Pony’s special and unique talent or ability….their gift!  Below, you will see a Baker, an Apple Bucker (as opposed to an “apple picker.”  her family owns an apple orchard, and her special skill is to buck the apple tree with her hind legs to get the apples down), a couple Party Planners (ponies after my own heart), and a professional Roller Skater.


So these MLPs get to trot around their little land of Equestria, with their cutie mark plastered to their bottom, for everyone to see.  and they just get to go through life, just doing their thing…cause they know exactly what they are good at and what they were meant to do, and all the other ponies know too cause they can see it on each other’s backsides.  doesn’t that kinda sound dreamy?  (i mean, besides having a tattoo on my backside for everyone to look at all-the-live-long-day, but the other part about knowing for sure my gifts and what i’m meant to do…yeah…that part sounds good!)


Unfortunately, we don’t live in Equestria. And we don’t get cutie marks on our little backsides that tell us and everyone around us what our gifts are. Its not that easy for us.  but why is it hard to know the things God has created us to do, and why does it so often feel overwhelming to think about?

here’s a definition of giftedness, cause i think it can be a tricky word: “A person’s inborn ability to do something well.  Giftedness is the unique way in which you function. Your giftedness is not just what you can do, but what you were born to do, enjoy doing, and do well.

the more i think about and read about giftedness, i also think that our giftedness is the means God uses for us to be apart of His Bigger Story.

i mean…doesn’t that kinda sound exciting?  that there is something that we were created for and born to do??  and don’t we all kinda want to be apart of a bigger story?  i want my life to count for something, don’t you?  i don’t want to just live this boring, day in day out routine!  i want to be apart of a Bigger Story!!  Don’t we all on some level want to be doing the very things we were born to do…and for God to use them in extra-ordinary ways?


But as exciting as that makes it sound…it just doesn’t come easily. We aren’t My Little Ponies with cutie marks, prancing around knowing how and where to use our gifts. We live in a world that makes this tricky.  but God knew that…

look what He says in 2 Timothy 1:6:

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…”

i love this.  God is basically saying that we’ve been given a gift…from Him!!

i doubt this all the time.  i so often wonder if there’s anything special and unique within me that God wants to use.  But God is saying here that yes…we’ve all been given something.  so the question then is, what is it, and why is it so hard sometimes for us to figure out how to use it?

But there’s something else here too….

God is reminding us to fan into flame our gift. this does not sound to me like its merely a suggestion. There is something about this that speaks of intentionality.  i think God is calling us to intentionally fan into flame our gift.  does that make you feel nervous?  if you are like me, the thought of that sounds a little overwhelming.  like one more thing to add to the to-do list.  but picture this verse for a second….What happens when a flame isn’t fanned?  it kinda fades out, doesn’t it?  i don’t know about you…but if its true that i’ve got a flame, i’d love for it to become a big fire as opposed to just a flickering little spark…

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do y’all watch Survivor?  have i told you before that Jake and I have watched every single episode of every single season?  its one of of our faves.  i think it started right around the time we got married, and it became our show.  and we’ve been hooked ever since.  and Jeff Probst…yeah…i pretty much {heart} him big time.  i mean, i always thought he was an amazing host, but then he came out with a series of kids’ books that my kiddos LOVE, and he just rachet-ed up my favorites list pretty fast!

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anyway…you know how Jeff P is always reminding the players that fire is one of the most important things in the game of Survivor, and that they need to get on that fire right away?  so what’s the very first thing the teams on Survivor do?  (well…if they are smart, anyway.)  they get to work starting a fire.  well, now that we are what…like 29 seasons into Survivor…somehow they’ve all become woosies and are given flint after the first reward ceremony.  (come on, people.  its Survivor….surviving is the whole point!  but i digress…)  see, back in the beginning seasons of Survivor, they weren’t given diddly-crud…so they had to spend hours and days rubbing two sticks together to start a fire.  well…what would happen as soon as a spark came?  the WHOLE team would be all up on that thing, fanning it, and blowing on it, and adding twigs all up in there…so that the spark would turn into a big ol’ fire.  cause they knew that it was gonna take some sort of effort to get a real fire going….

i think that’s the word picture we are getting here.

(now before you go all Gospel Police on me…like…”you mean you’re telling me i got to DO something?”  just keep reading, will  ya?)

In order for our gifts to erupt into a fire…there has to be some intentionality…some fanning.  and that fanning…well, it takes some effort.  But here’s the good news…God isn’t Jeff Probst (even though i think Jeff Probst is WAY cool, and i wish he had an Instagram account, cause i would love to follow along!!)  see, God doesn’t just throw flint at us and tell us to go start a fire.  He does one better…He gives us the actual flame.


You know what else Bella told me about My Little Ponies?  They have to earn their cutie marks. They aren’t born with them. they have to do something that warrants them getting the mark, and then they get to go and use their gift.  Y’all…we don’t have to earn our gifts. They have been freely been given to us. God is simply reminding us to use them!!

so you know what God is saying in that verse 6?  pretty much this:  “I’ve given you a gift. so now go use it!”

pretty simple.  so…the question is…why don’t we? What stops us from fanning into flame, simply using, our gifts?

I thought about this a long time. I thought about what personally for me stops me from intentionally fanning into flame my gifts. i made a list.  and you know what every single thing on that list boiled down to?

Fear.  (big surprise there, huh?)


And then you know what I realized? That this is the very next thing that God says in 2 Timothy after saying that we have a gift and to go use it….

v 7:  ”for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

did you catch that?  see…God KNEW that fear would be our downfall when it came to our gifts!  but i’ll come back to that.


Let me tell you some of the thoughts that run through my mind…some of my fears…as I think about my giftedness, and I would bet they are the same fears you have too:

Am I really even that gifted at anything?
what are my gifts anyway?
Are you gonna think my gift is important or needed?
I’m afraid its not as good as someone else.
Is it Spiritual enough?
Are you gonna think that I think that i’m awesome if I step into this gift I think I have? I’m afraid of seeming full of myself, arrogant.
I’m afraid that once I put it out there, I might not really be as gifted as I thought…what will people think?
I’m afraid I might fail.

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That list could go on and on and on…couldn’t it?

you know what really stuck out to me about my fears when it comes to my giftedness?   (heck…my fears when it comes to lots of things….)

pretty much all of them have to do with the same thing…

its those dreaded word{s} for women….dun dun duuuuunnnnn….

Comparison and Competition:

y’all…my heart so quickly becomes crippled by comparison and competition when it comes to my gifts.  man oh man…comparison is DEATH i tell you, for a blogger.  and its about killed me and my blog hundreds of times.

since I myself am a blogger, I enjoy and value other people’s blogs. So one Sunday afternoon, i decided to just escape and go lay in bed, still in my PJ’s, cause our church service isn’t until Sunday evenings…so while Berkeley was napping and the older kids were i’m sure playing on some kind of electronic device…I start going through my blog list, and i began to check out a blog that I sometimes read…

and the woman is a well-known song writer and a worship artist…and she just happens to blog on the side. well, she had posted a video about how she was celebrating Sunday with her family. This video was of her playing the guitar and singing a worship song with her kids that she had written. It was like watching angels sing….little cherubs staring up into their mother’s face, full of love and sweetness. Her voice was incredible. The words she had written were beautiful…she could play the guitar!! Her giftedness was SO evident!!!

well…as i’m celebrating the Sabbath with my family by laying in bed by myself in my PJ’s, i recall that over on my blog, I had just posted a video of my daughter making a bowl guacamole.


the comparison game immediately started in my heart, and i quickly realized…there was really no comparison. A guacamole recipe compared to a personally written and sung worship song…while playing the guiar…with your kids joining in??  If I even suggested to my children that we get out the guitar and sing some worship songs together…well…let’s just say, that just wouldn’t go over well with a certain 10 year old whom shall go unnamed. I immediately began to make my list in my head of all the ways she was so much better than i was. Was her gift for worship and singing and mothering absolutely beautiful? YES! But the comparison crippled me. I immediately questioned my own giftedness, wondered how in the world God wanted to use my gifts for His glory. I mean…if I could just sing, or write a worship song, or even play the guitar….or mother in a way that my kids actually might like singing worship songs with me….Now that’s giftedness!!  but taking a picture of a bowl of guacamole? Not so much…

and i’m willing to bet that comparison can stifle you and your gifts to death if you let it…

Let me show you how this might happen:

Last Christmas, Bella desperately wanted an American Girl Doll horse for Christmas….like…it was the only thing on her list.


so of course, i wanted to get her that horse!!  so i get on the website, and it takes me about 30 seconds to realize that Chestnut is just not gonna happen….it was way outside our Christmas budget.  slightly disappointed…scratch that…pretty ticked, which just turned into very determined…i begin some research.  and i find that Pottery Barn Kids sells a line of dolls that are very similar to AG dolls…the same size, the same look….so all of the clothes and accessories and animals are interchangeable with AG Dolls…and they are LESS EXPENSIVE than AG!!  and like everything Pottery Barn, somehow they just make everything look better, and beautiful, and classy….and they trick your brain into thinking you just MUST HAVE EVERYTHING THEY SELL!!! (brilliant, PB, brilliant!  you’ve done it again.  you deserve a round of applause!)  well PBK just happened to have a horse, and as soon as I laid my eyes on that thing, i just knew it would be perfect for Bella.


i mean…i know my girl better than anyone…i’m her mom…and i just knew…this horse was perfect for her.  it was also on sale (score), and momma had herself a PB gift card (massive score!!)  so i bought that horse, along with a whole set of horse jumps, and a saddle, and stirrups…basically the whole shebang…and i didn’t have to spend a dime.  take that, AG with your overpriced horse.  i’m a momma with a strong will, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

so anyway….Christmas morning rolls around, and i cannot wait for her to open this gift.  i set it at the back of the pile, so she’s gotta wait…  (muah ha ha!!)


and all morning, the hope is mounting.  with every gift opened, Bella gets more and more hopeful…”mom…do you think he brought it?  do you think Santa brought the horse??”  this is going exactly as i envisioned….

well….she finally gets to the last box, and I whip out the video camera to capture the reaction, because i just KNOW she’s gonna love it…it is, after all, perfect for her.  so…she opens it…

drumroll please….

and immediately bursts into tears. like sobbing, bawling, uncontrollable crying.

not the reaction i was hoping for.

through her tears, she says this,  ”Mom…Santa got it all wrong!!! this is not the right gift! This isn’t like Emily’s!!”

see…she knew…because she had played with the real AG horse at her friend Emily’s house…and the horse in her box wasn’t the horse that Emily had.

so i control my burning angry, and hold back the thoughts that were going like this in my brain….”girl…you had darn well better like that horse, cause momma used her PB gift card and i could’ve had myself some new pillows!!!”  i thankfully said that in my head only and not out loud ..and instead suggested that she at least take the thing out of the box and check it out.


and so she does, reluctantly, and still very unsure that this gift is any kind of good at all.


and she gets her doll, and sets it on top.  and she plays for a minute.  and then she comes over to me, wiping her tears, and she whispers this, “mommy…this horse…is actually WAY better than Chestnut!! Its softer, prettier, my doll fits on it better.  its really perfect for me.  i’m gonna name it Cimmanim.”  (aka:  Cinnamon)


thank you.  thank you.  i feel like i should take a bow.  i nailed it.  err…i mean Santa nailed it.

but that’s not the point :)

here’s the point…The ONLY reason she didn’t enjoy that gift initially or even want to take it out of the box…even though it was perfect for her…was because she was comparing it to her friend’s gift…

Sound familiar? We may not be a 7 year old on Christmas morning crying over a horse…but do we not sometimes act the same exact way when it comes to our gifts???

I think we do that. We initially discredit our gifts…and sometimes don’t even take them out of the box…because they seem to be not as great as someone else’s, even though they are perfect for us.

here’s the reality…God has given us unique, and special, and perfect for us gifts….and when we compare, and when we wish we had someone else’s, we fail to see the beauty in what has been given specifically to us, personally. And i think one of the main reasons we don’t use our gifts is because we think they are not good enough…and we think they aren’t good enough because they might happen to be different than what someone else has.

comparison and competition are deadly.


you know another thing that stops me, and that i think as fellow believers we sometimes (maybe unintentionally) make each other believe and that i think as Christians we just need to GET THE HECK OVER???!!!

Is my gift spiritual enough? gag me with a spoon, already.

for so long i felt like my gifts were just kinda silly and certainly weren’t spiritual.

before i had kids, i was on staff at a church. using my gifts for God…i didn’t really think much about it, cause it was kinda my job.  but now…now i’m a mom.  and the ministry opportunities that in the past had been obvious and more easy to do, are not really doable for me anymore, with the ages of my kids.


I want to be used by God.  and so i’ve been thinking about this idea of giftedness and what God wants to use me for, and i start to think about what kinds of things I feel like I was made to do. What makes me feel alive when I do it? Well…those things that i came up with…they aren’t really all that spiritual:

taking pictures, baking and trying new recipes, sewing crib bumpers and Halloween costumes and cheap skirts out of old bedsheets, decorating my home, planning my kids birthday parties, writing and story-telling, garage sale-ing… I mean…how does God want to use those things?

I wonder if that’s the place we often find ourselves? We want something more…we are longing to be apart of God’s bigger story…but we don’t know how to get there. And all too often we think its got to be in the form of some ministry or spiritual position to do it. And so we discredit the gifts we do have.

i’m currently caught between two worlds right now.  first off, i’m in the older, school-aged kid world.  so yeah, they are at school for a large chunk of the day, but as soon as they step into my car in car line, its non-stop…chatting, fighting, talking over each other, driving to all their activities and sports, doing homework, projects…

like turning this:


into this:DSC_0508

(btw:   if anyone has to make a model or diorama of a waterfall…like, ever in life…then you just let me know, cause i got you covered, my friend!  jake suggested we put the thing up on the blog when all is said and done and try to sell it to one of you mommas out there who, like me, might get to the point where you’d maybe give your right arm to have it already done for you.  (i realize that would be cheating, as my kids adamantly told me as they were overhearing our convo.)  but truth be told.  i’d pay one of you precious peeps to take it, if it would prevent the fighting and crying and all out stress that the thing caused us…err…i mean me.)

but besides all that, the emotional and mental energy that is required to parent my older kids…its more than i bargained for a lot of days.  its sweet at times, don’t get me wrong.  but i’m in uncharted territory here, y’all…the constant attitudes and discipline, bad moods, and flat out disobedience, trying to remain consistent with disciple and consequences but losing track and giving in and just plain not caring anymore sometimes….the conversations about hurt feelings, and bullies (dang you, bullies.  we are dealing with one right now, and i can barely stand it.  i’m afraid it might just do me in completely.  my heart is way too sensitive, and grows about a billion times more sensitive when you are messing with my sweet child who you are only picking on because he is just too darn kind to bully back.  if i didn’t have a husband who reigns me in, Momma Bear would’ve already handled said bully..and i’m guessing it wouldn’t have been pretty), and divorce, and crushes, and growing up, and everything that accompanies that…oh my word…i have NO clue what i’m doing.


but then i’m also in the Baby/Toddler world (which in and of itself is enough, i tell you, to make me want to stick my head in a pot of coffee and not come out until bedtime…and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like coffee!)  the physical energy that a toddler (and her messes require)…y’all…i’m just plain ol’, flat out, tired!! and then the armpit of the day comes…you know what i’m talking about…the cooking of the dinner, the bathtimes, and the bedtimes…


some days, I barely have enough energy to pour cereal into bowls for dinner…the thought of doing anything more is completely overwhelming and impossible.  so this using my gifts stuff???!!  tell me again how i’m supposed to do that??  when my gifts don’t even seem all that important!

are you in that place with me?  where you really do want to be used by God…but the thought of doing anything MORE is completely overwhelming?

please hear the FREEDOM in what i think God would say to us:

i LOVE this verse:

1 Corinthians 7:20,
“Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them”

other translations say this, “remain at your station.” you know what i’m realizing, and what has freed my heart more than just about anything lately?  that using our gifts….doesn’t always mean that we leave the situation we are already in. maybe we need to start thinking about this as finding ways to utilize our gifts right where God currently has placed us!!


This is what I mean by that…i’m not saying that using our gifts won’t take creativity, or effort, or be sacrificial. And that we should just forget about it when it gets hard.  i actually think the very nature of using our gifts is sacrificial.

but this…this next thing is what my heart BEATS for….
there are times when we are so busy pursuing the “more” that we neglect the God-given opportunities right in front of us to use our gifts.

The Hubs often says this phrase: “The ideal destroys the reality.”

We have to be cautious that our pursuit of the “more”…our pursuit of our gifts…our pursuit of being “used” by God…does not distract us from what our reality is…and the ways God wants us to use our gifts right where we are.

i think there is a current movement in the Christian world…to go do BIG and crazy things for God. Go live a Radical life for God. hear this…i don’t disagree with that AT ALL!!  my family knows and loves and supports people who are currently living crazy, radical lives for God.  for years there has been a slight longing in my heart for God to move my family to Haiti…now that would be big and radical and crazy!!!  but, oh man….i think that sometimes, maybe all too often…our pursuit of the BIG, CRAZY, RADICAL life for God blocks us from seeing the BIG RADICAL life right in front of us, where we are right now.

i could write a whole blog post on just that.  i kinda did a while back (although my life looks different now).  but some people were not happy with me about what i wrote, because i think for lots of us, we so easily slide into our identity being found in what we are DOING for God.  for some reason, this idea of living a radical, big life for God strikes a cord with people.  maybe it makes us feel like we are worthy of His love, if we are willing to be so radical and crazy for Him.  when i think about this struggle that i see in myself and other Christians, my heart beats all fast, and i get all passionate and expressive.  i don’t know why it stirs so much within me.  i think i just sooo long for myself and for other people like me to feel freedom…that this Radical Christian life might just be the one we are already living…


so when thinking about my giftedness, and this fear that my gifts are silly, or not good enough or not “spiritual” enough…

Maybe we need to stop creating so many divisions between the what is secular and what is sacred. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize that quite possibly EVERYTHING is sacred and spiritual.

God says in Luke 19 that Even the rocks will cry out to the glory of God. If God can use a rock to proclaim His glory, i’m pretty sure he can use my unique gifts that may not fit into a spiritual box.

listen to what God says in 1 Corinthians 10:31…

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

now did you really just read that, or did you let your eyes just kinda skip right over that cause you’ve heard it before?  (no shame….i do that too…i’m with you, sista!) see…this is one of those verses that some of us have probably heard hundreds of times, so it might become all blah blah blah to us.

but look…really look…at what this is saying.  ”whatever you do….”  the original language that this verse was written in is greek, and the greek word for “whatever” actually is this:

“Pas”…which means…”some of all types.”

did you see that??  What that verse is basically saying is that “some of all types” bring glory to God. Y’all…we are whatevers! We are the “some of all types.” think about it for a minute…think about your circle of friends or your family or your church…the different gifts and talents and abilities represented within a group of people…its some of all types, isn’t it?!!   see, we are meant to be different, to be some of all types. we are not supposed to fit into some spiritual box. the world needs us to be “whatevers”.


but even more than that…We are “some of all types” working for the exact same purpose = to bring glory to God.

You know what else the reality of us being “whatevers” makes me realize? That we are free to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders!!  cause if you are “some of all types”, and I am “some of all types”, and we are supposed to be unique and each called to the same mission but with a different way of getting there…then that just frees me to cheer you on! Forget me no longer being good enough….you are no longer my competition…you are my partner!!  we are on the same team! we are whatevers together…working for the Glory of God!

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What this verse is NOT saying is this: that you can only bring glory to God if you do this specific thing in this specific way…like this specific person. no…it says the opposite….all types can bring glory to God.

Our fear of comparison and also of our gifts not being good enough or spiritual enough? They just get to fade away in light of this verse.

okay…honestly…I’ve massively struggled with this over the years.  in fact, its been debilitating at times. As I look back on my life…I’ve tended to be a copy-cat in life.  ugh…i hate admitting that, but its true.  I’ve seen ways that God is using other people and i’ve thought…i need to be like that! and so i position myself to try to be used like that.  (that never really works, btw).  but do you know something amazing?  every time that feeling creeps in…do you know what i hear in my heart?  i hear God literally saying to my heart, this simple phrase, over and over and over again…“LeAna…I’ve called different people to different things.”

can we just pause for a second and let that sink in?  is that not THE most freeing and amazing thing ever??  what if we believed that about every part of life…as mommies, as wives, as home-owners, as job-holders, as ________ (fill in the blank.)  how stinkin’ freeing could it be if we quit holding ourselves and other people to some standard of how we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to be doing…and instead believed that we are all meant to be different, and created to do things differently???


see…we are not supposed to be the same. There are so many different ways to do things.  so many different ways to bring God glory!! and instead of frustrating each other with the pressure of having to do it the “right” way, or the “Christian” way, we instead get to celebrate the different ways and the different gifts!  we were not made to be copy-cats. We were made to be unique and different and to celebrate the fact that we are “some of all types.”

so that list of fears from earlier…the things that hold me back from seeing and using my gifts…they just get to fade away in light of that freedom.

so you know how it mentioned earlier that fear holds us back…and so God went ahead and spoke about that in the very next verse?

Look again at what He tells us:

v 7: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”

God has to remind us that we have been given the Spirit, because otherwise, our fears will take over.


and you know what’s cool about the Spirit?  He’s marked by boldness.  so basically, we have Supernatural Boldness within us.  Tim Keller (LOVE him.  can’t wait to hang with him in Heaven one day)…he calls it Humble Boldness. I LOVE the thought, especially as it relates to giftedness. What if we were a people who are marked by humble boldness when it comes to our gifts!!

this is what Tim Keller says: “the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count.”

this truth….that we are loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count…how might that change our insecurities regarding our giftedness? What freedom that could bring!

we’ve been to a couple weddings recently as a family, and my sweet Bella…that kid breaks it down on the dance floor!!  like…completely busts a move!  (as you can see below, so does her brother, but if he knew anyone was watching him, he would want to crawl into a hole.  he hates attention…my girl thrives off it.  funny how that happens.)  anyway…if you’ve ever seen 7 year olds dance…they aren’t really polished dancers, they don’t really know exactly what they are doing…so her skills…are far from perfect. but she just gets out there and does her thing. But if you’ve ever been to a wedding where kids are dancing, than you know that its hard to not find great joy in watching them.  they are just fun to watch!  well…Bella knew people were watching her and enjoying her.  so after one of these weddings, she came up to me, and DEAD SERIOUS, says to me, “mom…i had NO IDEA that i was THAT good of a dancer!!” she had no insecurities, because all she knew was that pleasure was being poured out over her as she was dancing. that is what made her bold, and what made all of her insecurities fade away!


y’all…that’s like us. When we know and believe that God’s pleasure is poured out over us, all the time, which means also when we are using our gifts…that’s what makes us bold!!

but…Here’s a caution…our gifts…they cannot become our purpose. The second our purpose and identity is defined by our giftedness…is the second we’ve missed the whole point.

Okay…so what’s the point then? If our giftedness is not for our own identity…and if the point is not to just bring purpose to our lives…

v 9-10 of that 2 Timothy passage…i’ll summarize….because they tell us the purpose of our gifts:
“God saved us, called us, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel!!!”

why do we have gifts? Because we have something GRAND to give away!! we have the best news ever….that we’ve been saved!


We have a Rescuer!!! God has brought us from death to life. we have a God who came and traded places with us on the cross…gave us His perfect life in exchange for our imperfect life. So that now when God looks at us, He looks at us as if we had never sinned!  see…we are no longer defined by our sin, because God only sees Jesus’ perfection and righteousness covering over our imperfection and unrighteousness. There is no better news to share with the world. That is why we fan into flame our gifts. When that truth moves our hearts, the desire to bring God glory through our gifts is simply a byproduct. Its the why behind all this!! OUR GIFTS ARE THE MEANS GOD USES TO GIVE AWAY HIS GOOD NEWS!!


Okay…so now what? Maybe you are buying into this idea that you have a gift…and that God wants you to use it, and maybe you are even seeing some of your fears and insecurities fade away. But I bet you are wondering what this might look like for you.

Honestly…I don’t know what that looks like for you individually. But I do know this beyond a shadow of a doubt…God knows. in fact, He’s mapped it out for you before the beginning of time. He knows the gifts He’s given us and how He wants us to use them for His glory. So if you want to know…go ask Him. He will always answer His children!!!

the other thing I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt, because Scripture says it but also because i’ve personally experienced him doing….i do know that He can do more with your gifts for His Glory than you could possibly imagine or conjure up yourself.


 back when Jake was a youth pastor, we used to have parent volunteers fulfill certain roles within our ministry.  sometimes we would train them up to lead our discipleship groups, some would speak at our Sunday morning services, some would be chaperones on trips.  well one day, a mom who’s kids had all come through our ministry, came to Jake and said that she wanted to help out and volunteer, but that the roles that we had were not good fits for her.  so Jake asked her, “well, what do you like to do?  what are good at?”

she responded, totally joking, and said, “Well..i like to shop and i’m pretty good at it!”

you know what was crazy?  Her gift, that she didn’t even realize was a gift, was exactly what we needed.

see, we held a big event every week called That Thing.  it started at 7:37 pm on Wednesday nights, and masses of high school kids would come, and would bring their friends.  one of the main things that drew them to come were these CRAZY games we would play.


here’s an example of just one game, and i wish i had a picture to show you of it, cause it would make you gag for real:  we would go to McDonalds, buy a few Happy Meals, and throw every part of it in a blender together…cheeseburger, fries, and orange soda or a milkshake.  then we’d blend the whole thing up all together, and the first kid to drink the whole thing without puking would win.

i don’t know what was so attractive about that game…

but kids loved it.  and they threw up every time, hence the reason we don’t have a picture, because i always had to leave the room when playing that game, cause momma has herself one very weak stomach and one very sensitive gag reflex!!  (fun fact…i cannot clean up puke.  Jake is the Puke Cleaner-Upper.  cause if momma tries to do it, then we’ve got ourselves double puke.  so he just takes the job right off the bat to spare us all of a double header.)

so anyway…that’s just one example of a game we would play, but we would play a whole bunch of crazy games every week, and then there would be a short but relevant Gospel message.  but i’m telling you….the kids came for the games.


and because of the nature of the games, we needed the most random of supplies in order to hold this event.  well, for years, jake and i would drive all over town for days beforehand, gathering up all these supplies.  so when that momma came to jake and said she wanted to help…AND that she was good at shopping…guess what she became?  yep…our official shopper.  and do you know…she did that for YEARS!!  every week, Jake would give her a list.  then she would drive all over town, to multiple stores, to gather our entire list of supplies, and she would find the best deals…and then deliver them all to the church so we could hold this event for all these kids.  she did this week after week…year after year.


now i KNOW that there are kids…who came to That Thing because of the games…and who had such a blast that they came the next week and the next week and the next week…but who also had the Gospel message poured out over them week after week after week…and eventually gave their hearts to Jesus…all because of a silly game that that mom trekked all over town to buy supplies for. And now those precious youth ministry kids…they are adults…and getting married…


(photo cred:  Daisy Mai Photography)

and having kids themselves….and are passing on a legacy of the Gospel through the generations…that started out with a silly game that required someone to shop for….

you see…that mom…she used what she was good at…what she liked to do…and she leveraged it for the glory of God. And generations are being impacted because of that….

might sound silly…shopping is a gift?  i don’t know….but that…that to me is how gifts work.

God can use the very things that we feel like are insignificant….for great significance!!!

We step into the things that make us come alive, the things that we are good at….with boldness…and we are intentional about our purpose…to bring God Glory. And we trust that Jesus is going to fill in the gaps. We can’t see the bigger picture of how are gifts work. We don’t always get to see the immediate fruit of using our gifts. But we can certainly trust that He’s got it.

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And so for this reason I remind you…to fan into flame your gift from God…who has given you a spirit not of fear, but of humble boldness…to proclaim the best news ever to the world….all for His glory!!