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It’s the first week in December and I’m already prepared to fail at Christmas. I never complete a Jesse Tree devotional with the kids; I shop at the last minute; I rarely manage to open our home to others as much as planned before the chaos sets in, in the early days of the Christmas countdown when my intentions are oh, so good.

I’ve already given the kids my annual don’t set your expectations too high speech. Twice. It’s an integral part of my Christmas defense mechanism.

But somewhere beneath the self-imposed stress of the season—in rare moments of clarity—I know this truth: I can’t mess up Christmas because Christmas isn’t about me.

It isn’t about how well I decorate or if I figure out how to spatchcock a turkey or if we deliver baked goods to the neighbors.

It’s about Him, and that is all.

Please join me today at (in)courage to read the rest of the post!


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December 2014 Desktop Calendar


It’s currently 70 degrees at my house this first day of December, but I’m channeling Christmas cheer no matter the temperature! We decorated our trees instead of shopping on Black Friday, and I snapped a photo of this quirky red mushroom ornament from a set I found at IKEA last Christmas.

Last week our third son, who’s a freshman in college, was home for the first time since August—plus I caught a cold—so I didn’t share any great Christmas sales with you. But today, Cyber Monday, you can save 30% at DaySpring (excluding Black Friday markdowns) and receive a free ornament with coupon code 30MONDAY14.

Also, use code HOLIDAY30 for 30% off of one print book until midnight tonight at Amazon. Here are some great choices:

We love our new Christmas ornaments from Lisa Leonard! Use code cyberlove though tonight for a 30% discount off your order!

I’ll be running a review and giveaway soon with a few great finds for you or the tech-lover on your list!

Download December’s Desktop Calendar


Did you battle the stores or shop from home? Or are you like me and did none of the above?

{Disclosure: paid affiliate links used.}


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When You Ask Others to Pray


She looks me in the eye and says, “Do you have a group of people praying for you?” We met this morning, my new friend and I, but already she asks hard questions.

The truth is that no, I don’t have a group of people praying for me while I work on my second book. {I’m editor, writer, photographer, and secretary for a series of three books to be published by Revell in February 2015, 2016, and 2017, on the themes of faith, friendship, and marriage. Read more about it here.}

She tells me about a writing project when she asked people to pray for her. Later, she assumed she could handle things on her own and attempted a second one without this level of support. The results were drastically different.

“I’ll pray,” she nods, and I sense that hers is a friendship that will only grow and do me good in the years to come.

On Sunday morning I tell my church about my book(s) and ask for their prayers. It’s not easy to say and I can’t finish without tears. I hate to cry in public and I’m humbled, but I know I need this. My family and I have been in hard places during the year and a half I’ve written a book proposal, submitted my first book, and begun work on the second and third.

I want my people to be a part of this. This book is for them, for me, for you.

After church, friend after friend hugs me and pledges to pray. They ask questions and I feel them dip down to help shoulder my load; it feels lighter.

I covet your prayers, too.

Do you ask for prayer when you need it? How can I pray for you today?


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[Contest is closed: the winner is Terry C.]

The end of Daylight Savings Time combined with the ever-shortening days of fall throw my internal clock for a loop. I circle the house in the morning opening blinds to let in the sun’s rays, but close them again come early evening.

At this time of year my husband only sees daylight at home on weekends.

These mini days mess with my mood and my mind and often my patience shrinks like the daytime.

I miss the light: it makes me happy. It gives me life.

But God’s grace shines brightly in a dark world. As His blood-bought sons and daughters, it is our purpose to reflect that light, regardless of the season.

” . . . ye shine as lights in the world.” ~Philippians 2:15




“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” ~John 1:4

Everlasting Light Collection

DaySpring’s fresh new Everlasting Light product line features products that emphasize God’s creation: stars, constellations, light. Although I’m excited about the full collection, it’s the jewelry that first caught my eye. I love the mixed metals and the sparkle! I wear the stacked rings almost every day and I love to layer the Shine and the North Star Pendant Necklaces (affiliate product links below).

“. . .for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light . . .” ~Isaiah 60:20

Comment to Win!

Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a $50 coupon code for the Everlasting Light product(s) of your choice. What’s your favorite item in the collection?

Featured products:


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[Contest has ended: Charlotte is the winner!}

Straight No Chaser and I connected at the perfect time. Perfect for me, that is. I met the group in 2009 and have seen them every time they’ve performed in Atlanta, from Center Stage (twice) to the Cobb Energy Center to the Atlanta Civic Center to Chastain Amphitheater and now—to the Fabulous Fox!

Leave a comment at the bottom of this post for your chance to win tickets for two to see Straight No Chaser at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre on Friday, November 14!

Straight No Chaser, a men’s a cappella group founded in 1996 at Indiana University, reunited to perform at their 10 year reunion. Afterward founding member Randy Stine posted a 1998 video of their adaptation of the 12 Days of Christmas to YouTube. It created a stir online—currently exceeding 17 million views—that lead to a recording contract with Atlantic Records.


SNC held a blogger meet & greet when they first visited Atlanta in December of 2009 and thankfully, I was on the guest list. They were relatively unknown at the time: although everyone had seen the YouTube video, it took time before people connected it with the group or knew that they’d reunited and gone on tour.

Getting downtown on a weekday afternoon isn’t easy and the members of the group outnumbered the bloggers; I think there were three of us. But they fed us, invited us on stage, sang to us, and asked about us and our blogs. I was impressed. After hearing and meeting them, I knew I wanted to come back that evening for the concert, but I had a girls’ night out scheduled with my three best friends.

I couldn’t convince my girlfriends to change our plans and go to the concert, so I ate appetizers with them and then my husband picked me up and took me to see the show. I haven’t missed SNC in Atlanta since that night.


Straight No Chaser unites our family. Sometimes my kids and I barely tolerate each other’s music, but SNC appeals to us all in a roll-down-the-windows-and-sing-loudly kind of way. They perform covers of songs both old and new and I often prefer their renditions to the originals.

Because the group performed (and still performs, now under another name) for years at Indiana University, enough original members exist to replenish the group when marriage, parenthood, or change of career reduces its numbers. I’ve watched Dan Ponce leave for a career in journalism; “liked” SNC members’  wedding photos on Facebook; and cheered Ryan Ahlwardt as he and his wife decided to devote their lives to mentoring teens through Young Life and gave birth to a precious baby girl.


Straight No Chaser establishes a rapport with their audience and loyal fans are called Chasers. During concerts, the group takes pictures of the audience to post to Facebook, inviting fans to tag themselves. Even when they play venues that ordinarily prohibit photography and video, SNC allows it. After all, they were discovered on YouTube.

Here’s a video I took (while juggling my camera in the other hand) at the 2009 blogger meet & greet when I first met SNC. [Email subscribers click over to the blog for video content.]




What started it all—the 1998 video of the 12 Days of Christmas:

Find shows and tickets to Straight No Chaser’s current tour here.

See Straight No Chaser in Atlanta!

What a great time of year to hear Straight No Chaser—they’ve recorded three Christmas albums!

Leave a comment for your chance to win tickets for two to See Straight No Chaser in Atlanta on Friday, November 14! What’s your favorite Christmas song?

[Disclosure: Tickets provided both for me and for giveaway. Albums links are paid affiliate links.]


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My husband and I visited a winery and vineyard on our anniversary and thankfully we found a few clumps of grapes still on the vine. Although it wasn’t the best time of day, photographically speaking, I was able to crouch down and get some backlit images.

I’m still doing that only-a-tiny-sliver-of-this-image-is-in-focus thing with my macro lens, but I love the detail in the grapes. And did you see how I emphasized the backlight and then used a verse with light in it? Yeah, I can be clever that way.

Download November’s Desktop Calendar!


So 31 Days of Daily Grace begins with a desktop calendar and ends with one, too. I pray this one warms your soul as you ease into the cool of November. Enjoy!


{This is day 31 of a 31 day series, 31 Days of Daily Grace. Find all posts in this series here.}


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