Moving Forward in 2014

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Last week I shared with you what worked best for me in 2013.  I want to be a person who learns from my mistakes and is encouraged by my progress.  I also want to prayerfully consider my plans and goals, and make sure they are in alignment with the word of God and his plans for my life.  I was amazed at how quickly these goals for the year came to me.  True self-reflection often points us in the right direction.

If you haven’t set goals for 2014, don’t feel like it’s too late.  January 1st is a great time to begin working toward changes, but really there is no better day than today.  Jimmie and I used this guide from The Art of Simple as a launching point.

So, here they are!  My goals for 2014:

Personal Goals:

Develop in the following areas:

1. Be present.  Whoever I am with deserves my full attention, whether it is my family, a friend, someone at my job, or God himself.  I want to eliminate distractions and focus on whoever I am with.   I want to be conscious of the beauty and blessings that surround me, whether in nature or in the life God has blessed me with.

2. Be intentional.  I don’t want to simply hope for the changes I know need to come about in my life or in the work I do.  I want to plan better, set goals, and be accountable for my progress.

3. Be joyful.  I need to smile and play more, especially at home.  A daily gratitude journal will help me focus on the gifts that God gives me each and every day.

4.  Relax.  My stress levels have been enormously high.  I need to set realistic expectations for myself.  I need to focus on my priority list and nothing else.  I need to take time to decompress.  I may need a massage from time to time to relieve the tension I carry.

Learning Goals:

1.  Read at least two books per month.  One should be spiritually edifying.  Use Goodreads app to keep track.

2.  Complete at least four Kay Arthur Bible Studies.

3.  Learn to use my camera in manual mode.

Physical Goals:

1.  Maintain a paleo lifestyle the majority of the time.

2.  Slowly introduce running into my lifestyle.

Marriage/Family Goals:

1.  Take time to relax.

2.  Go out on occasional dates.

3.  Have family devotion time at least two nights per week.

4.  Take a family vacation.

Accountability:

To stay accountable in accomplishing my goals, I will:

1.  Use my weekly calendar to schedule study times and devotion times.

2.  Schedule a monthly check-in with Jimmie to go over our progress.

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These do not include my goals for Gathering.  Thankfully, we have frequent leadership, team, and launch meetings in which we set goals and keep one another accountable.  It is also my goal to devote my time and energy to each item on my priority list.  These are just a few things that stood out to me as needs in my life.

What about you?  Do you have any resolutions?  Any goals for 2014?  Do you have any thoughts or advice for me in reaching my goals?  I would love your feedback.

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What I Gather About Priorities

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I was having one of those months.  Even though my calendar told me there was enough time to fulfill my commitments, my body and spirit were telling me otherwise.

All good things.

When I can help, I want to help.  It’s hard for me to come up with excuses to get out of doing things that matter.  It is in my nature to jump in and give my all, especially when it is for a good cause.

And yet…

My spirit wasn’t at rest.  I was feeling unsettled, foggy, tense.  My muscles were aching, my temper was short and I felt resentment creeping up in me.

My heart was crying out to God for an answer, for help, for a life boat.

(Enter the still, small voice of a gentle Savior)

So I sat down and made a priority list.  I have never done this in my life.  I have had a vague internal list of priorities in my head, but never anything concrete… never anything I could point to and say “No.  I can’t do that.  See?  It’s not on my list.”

I kept my list to ten items.  Of course, these ten items have sub-categories, so really my list is a lot longer than ten, but setting the limit at ten things made me feel sane again.  What made my list?  Here they are:

1. My relationship with God

2. My Marriage

3. My Family

4. Serving Others

5. Gathering

6. Missions

7. Myself

8. My Blog

9. Young Lives

10. Work

Let me make it really clear… ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME.  The things that aren’t so important to me didn’t make the list (unless they are a sub-category).  This list is a work in progress, and I am asking God for help in any edits I make.  During this process I have learned a few things.

1.  My current lifestyle doesn’t match up to my priorities list.  My relationship with God may be number one on my list, but there are days when God gets only the leftovers of my time and energy, if He gets anything at all.  I may say that my family is more important than my church, but when I go days without spending quality time with my kids because of church commitments, something is wrong.  This current list may not reflect where I am currently am, but it gives me a guideline to follow for where I want to end up.

2.  Numbering my priorities gives me power.  Mostly, it gives me power to say no.  If something isn’t on my list, unless it is really important, I’m not investing my time into it.  Of course, my priority list must be in alignment with scripture and how I feel God leading me.  If I make my blog number one on my list and say no to other things, I need God to hit me over the head with something.  My priorities must align with His.

3.  A priority list helps me get organized.  Even though I was busy all the time before I made my list, I didn’t really understand just how much I was committed to.  Putting it on paper was my wake-up call to get my life organized.  I made some changes on my calendar, made a decision to eliminate some distractions, and got busy.

I’m really thankful God led me to take a step back and examine my life.  I never want to get so busy that I can’t rest in His presence.  I never want to be doing so many  good things that I forget why I’m doing them.  I never want to have a mile long to-do list and in turn see the most important things suffer.  My prayer is for God to help me keep my priorities in check and always be in alignment with His purpose for me.

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What about you?  Do you have a priority list?  Do you have a hard time saying no?  Do you see that your priorities are not in alignment with the Word of God?  What steps have you or can you take to get your priorities in check?  I would love your feedback!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

We Are Gathering

Dear Dad, Letter 3

 

A Gathering of Links XVI

links It’s that time again! I have been saving up all of my favorite links to share with you, and as usual, some of them are fantastic. But first… some updates on life in the Rennard house…..

Our church, Gathering, has had morning prayer every day this week from 6-7. It has been so amazing to gather with friends and pray while we watch the sun rise. I think I have always known in the back of my mind how powerful consistent early morning prayer can be, but this is the first time I have experienced it in such a profound way. Sitting in my living room, surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ, ushering in a new day with prayer and consecration felt sacred and holy.

I started back to work at the preschool last week. Isabel goes with me and LOVES her class. I love being able to peek in her room and see her interacting with the other kids. Ava has had a great first three weeks and joined the school choir. Her passion seems to be music, and this excites me. After years of struggling through violin practices and lessons, she has turned a corner and can MAKE MUSIC! Violin is a difficult instrument and she still has a long way to go, but as my mom says, “Once they realize they can make music, everything changes.” We are over a month into our wheat-free diet and going strong. Here is some first day of school cuteness for you:

firstday firstday2 Let’s get to some links! My most popular post from the last two weeks is: Dear Dad, Letter 1.

That doesn’t include my posts that gets lots of hits from Pinterest.  These are:

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

My favorite links, in no particular order:

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Deeper Story, There Are No Trophies Here

11 of the Greatest Hymns in Church History at (in)Courage.  This is really cool.

On Truth, Specks, and the Blinding Goodness of  God at Narrow Paths to Higher Places

Over at Rachel Held Evans, What Would Jesus Do (With His Enemy)?

In Which I Will Become More Undignified from Sarah Bessey

At A Holy Experience, When You’re Ready to Wear Who You Really Are

You don’t hate me.  You hate my brand.  From Rachel Held Evans

From Tim Brister, From Strangers to Missionaries:  A Neighborhood Strategy for Mission

Food Love:

Broccoli Slaw at Smitten Kitchen

At A Beautiful Mess, It’s Smoothie Time!

How to be a Great Dinner Party Guest from Shauna Niequist.

Marriage and Parenting:

In Which I Beg Barbie’s Pardon from Sarah Bessey.

Worst End of Summer Mom Ever from Jen Hatmaker.  So funny.

How Mothers Are Made from Lisa-Jo Baker

From Addie Zierman, For the One Who Married Young

Home Love:

From Design Mom’s Living With Kids series, Living With Kids:  Emily Hart.  I love this home.

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So there you have it!  Grab a cup of coffee, sit outside on a summer afternoon and read some of these posts for inspiration.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!  Have a great weekend!

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I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie)

Dear Jimmie,

Today is your birthday.  You are 32 and I realize that I have spent over half of my life loving you.  I can’t remember the exact moment I fell in love, but I remember whispering to a friend at such a young age, “I will marry him.”

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The road hasn’t been easy.  Not by any means.  You comforted me through the greatest loss I faced at 16.  You patiently waited while I searched for something or someone to fill up that hole in my heart.  Had I only paid attention from the start, I would have realized that your unselfish love always pointed me to the only one who could fill that void.

We were too young.  Of course we were.  And yet I knew, I knew, I KNEW… God had sent you into my life.  He sent me into yours.  I had lost the man I loved all of my childhood, and God sent you to me early…. a precious gift.  I would never trade even one of those early years.  Married at 19 simply means we have had more years to love each other.

I haven’t forgotten.  The day you forgave… instantly… my transgressions with a gracious embrace that turned me toward the light and freedom of love.  That is who you are.  One who forgives.

The rocky road we walked, recognizing that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

We had weaknesses, let’s not forget.

And then we had the kind of new beginning that only a resurrected Savior can offer.  You loved me through those times and I will never forget.   You chose me over and over again, demonstrating the kind of love that has no boundaries, made possible only by your continual choice to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

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I witnessed as you and I propelled, as the minister prophesied…. propelled into a ministry that was more terrifying and rewarding than I ever could have imagined.  We walked those dusty streets in the tropical sun, and were reborn again.  Reborn into a purpose beyond anything we could ask or think.  I watched you transform into an empty, willing vessel.  And I was proud.

Despite your youth, you proclaimed the gospel, stood for justice and mercy, held your ground, and poured yourself into people and purpose.  Your compassion and love for humanity poured from you, in prayers, lifestyle and conversation.

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I will never forget what it felt like to be united for a common purpose in a strange land that somehow felt like home…. away from everything and everyone familiar, we walked hand-in-hand through the new terrain. Our marriage and our love were reborn and we have never been the same.

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Some people have us all wrong, thinking I am strong because I communicate more.  Or thinking I am the forgiving one because I put on a smile in the midst of heartbreak and anger.

But you…. you exude strength.  You are filled with the strength that comes only from having an unquestionable purpose.  You work and pray and work and pray to see the Kingdom come.  You forgive freely, praying earnestly for your enemies.  You are so filled with the love of God that it spills out into all aspects of your life.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

When I interject my name in the place of “love” in this passage from Corinthians, I feel like a liar.  When I interject your name, Jimmie, I feel like I am accurately describing so many aspects of your personality.  You have loved me patiently, in spite of my irritability and stubbornness.  You are kind to all.  On and on it goes.  You endure all things.  Your love never ends.

You are the human face of God’s love in my life.  You love me enough to call me out on my nonsense.  You love me enough to make space for my gifts and callings.  You love me enough to forgive, time and time again, no matter how great or small the offense.  You love me enough to pull me up when I’m sinking.  You love me enough to point me to Jesus…. every time.

rachael

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I have never gushed about you in public like this.  I know you prefer to fly under the radar.  I know you never want people to see you, only Jesus.  But today you are 32 and I celebrate you.  I honor you.  And I can only hope to love you the way you love all.

Happy Birthday.

Yours,

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A Gathering of Links XII

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It’s that time again!  I love linking you up to my favorite posts of the week and this week there are a LOT!  First, some highlights from my week…

We had a relaxing three-day weekend, spent mostly at home.

Some exciting things are on the horizon for Gathering!

Ava had her last day of school and is home for the summer!

A long-time friend was married, seemed incredibly happy and had a gorgeous wedding.  Here we are, getting ready to leave for the celebration:

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We actually planted at the community garden!  All of my husband’s hard work is finally paying off.  The garden is looking fantastic and we are all eager to taste the (literal) fruits of our labor!

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Now let’s get to it and link you up!

My most read post of the week was Gathering Self-Control (and an announcement).  Thanks for all of the positive feedback!  We now have at least 10 adults committing to all or part of this challenge.  Day 1 down.  Lots to go.

Marriage and Family:

On Loving Well from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.  I can’t tell you how much this post resonated with me.  My love language is also acts of service, and I found myself relating to so much of what she discussed, especially after having just written What I Gather About Myself as Mom!  Love this post!

At A Holy Experience, When strong mamas feel quite weak.  This was so insightful.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, How to Fall in Love.  Again.  Because we all must choose to fall in love over and over again.

Spiritual Reflection:

At A Deeper Story, Lessons from a Fundamental Baptist on Memorial Day.  I enjoyed this perspective.

Food Love:

Info about the paleo diet at Simple Mom.  Our family is attempting to transition to a more paleo-friendly diet and I found this really helpful.

Fried pickles at A Beautiful Mess, because who doesn’t love fried pickles??

Also at A Beautiful Mess, Three Super Healthy Salads.  Because months and months of no sweets = new food choices necessary.

For Fun:

I’m going to make these Washi Wildflowers from Girl in the Garage with Ava.  They are so cheerful and I love that they won’t ever wilt.

So.  Funny.  From Jen Hatmaker, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.  This made me laugh out loud.  Truly.

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So there you have it!  Those were my favorite blog posts from the week.  What are you reading these days?  Have you discovered any new blogs I need to check out?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope your weekend was fantastic and that the coming week is full of sunshine and joy!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to Rachael Gathers and get posts delivered right to your inbox!  You can do that HERE!

 

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A Gathering of Links X

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I haven’t compiled a link list for a couple of weeks, so today you are getting the best of the best!

Thanks to all of you, my top posts from the last few weeks were…..

Langstons Gather

What I Gather about $5,200 and Braces and

What I Gather about Chelsea

I really love being able to share my heart and experiences with all of you, and I especially love the feedback I get from my posts.

Now, for the best of the best.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Rachel Held Evans - Is God’s Presence Limited to Scripture? and Ask a Pentecostal

From Jen Hatmaker at A Deeper Story – Wherever it Rises

From Nish Weiseth – A Personal Revival

When Our Exceptions Cannot Be Our Rules at See Preston Blog

Friendship:

At A Deeper Story – The Friendship Divorce

Love and Marriage:

A must-read from Sarah Bessey.

Parenting:

You Are Not My Work of Art at A Deeper Story.

From  A Bowl Full of Lemons – Snack Ideas for Summer

I’m also excited to share a couple of books I’m currently reading.

Follow Me by David Platt.  If you haven’t read David Platt’s books, I would highly recommend them to you.  Also, find some of his sermons online!  He is a passionate and dynamic speaker.

I recently heard of Jonathan Martin and ordered his new book, Prototype.  There is also a lot of buzz about one of his recent sermons.  I am halfway through the sermon and now understand what all the buzz is about.  You can listen to his sermon, Obscurity, here along with many other sermons.

I will leave you with some of my favorite Instagrams from the last few weeks.

(Subscribe to Rachael Gathers HERE)

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A Gathering of Links VIII

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Have you subscribed to Rachael Gathers yet?  If not, please do so HERE.  You will get an e-mail updating you of new posts and can even read the blog right in your inbox!

This week the big focus on Rachael Gathers is the Helping Hands sponsorship program for orphans in Uganda.  If you aren’t quite sure about making the commitment to sponsor an orphan, let me just say it has made such a positive impact on our family and of course makes a tremendous impact in the life of a hungry child in Uganda.

Thanks to all of you, my most popular post this week was Gathering at a Garden.

There is lots happening in the Rennard house!  Jimmie has been focused on the community garden.  Our niece who lives with us is getting ready to move to New Jersey, but also just had a pretty serious car accident.  So we have been occupied with trying to sort out insurance issues while also getting her packed up.  Ava is ready for school to be out and Isabel is in a tap-dancing stage.

Here are my favorite links from this past week.  I hope you enjoy them!

Spiritual Insight and Inspiration:

From Guy at A Deeper Family, on sadness.

From Sarah Bessey.  Yes to this!

This inspired me…. over at Sarah Markley.

For the Home:

From A Beautiful Mess, I really love this gallery wall.

I absolutely love this home.  I think I could move in tomorrow and not change a thing… from Design Mom.

Marriage Talk:

Honest Talk About Marriage in the Middle of Life by Sarah Markley.

Food Love:

Over at Simple Bites… empanadas.  Because one of my earliest memories is making empanadas with a visitor from Colombia.

Just Because:

This video over at Design Mom is beautiful and moving.

Over at Oprah, the best novels of 2012.  Has anyone read any of these?

Instagram’s Envy Effect by Shauna Niequist

I will leave you with my favorite Instagrams from the week.  Have a fantastic week!

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My Friday babysitting charge… so precious.
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Hanging out on the dining room table!
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Spring. Lovely.

What I Gather About…. Here

 

Five Minute Friday

Today’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is HERE.  To participate, check out Lisa-Jo Baker’s page here.  How we do it?  Set a timer for 5 minutes and write… no over-thinking or editing.  This is what I gather about here.

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When I think about our here, I think about the there that got us here.  Those months spent in the tropical sun, fighting with mosquitoes and fire ants.  Figuring out how to stay cool and keep our girl safe.

I think about meetings making decisions that were way too big for us to make and the threat of being followed.  That there, in Cuba, is what I think about.

I think about the late nights with no TV or entertainment, when we were forced to talk well into the night, find our joy in simply being in each other’s company.  I think about how we were forced to grow spiritually together, in order to be able to help those we were sent to help.  I think about the heat, the challenges of living without conveniences, the long walks on dusty roads, the table games for entertainment.  I think of meeting person after person who didn’t speak our language, either verbally or culturally.

That there is what got us here.  That was the preparation for this rocky road we have walked, hand in hand.  The there, getting to know you and lean on you and learn you is what got me here.  And here we are, with wide spaces in front of us.  We are here because of the there and for that I will always be grateful.

Maybe one day our here will be in the tropical sun again.  For now, my heart is at rest, here with you by my side.  I have learned, because of the there, that my here is wherever you are.

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A Gathering of Links VI

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It has been two weeks since my last gathering of links post, so this one may be a little longer than usual!

It amazes me how much things can change in such a short time.  Two weeks ago we got about a foot of snow here in Indiana.  Today I spent the day working with my family in the community garden, in a t-shirt, in 70 degree weather.  I even have a mild sunburn to show for it!  It is just another demonstration of God and the mysterious ways He works.  He makes all things new, sometimes in ways that are beyond anything we could ask or think.

Thanks to all my fabulous readers, my most popular post in the last two weeks was A Good Friday Gathering.  My favorite post was the one that poured from my heart… What I Gather About the Walk to Golgotha.

Here are some of my favorite posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  Why not grab a cup of coffee, sit out on your deck, and enjoy some evening reading?  You won’t regret it with these links!

Easter Reflection:

From Jen Hatmaker, A Broken Hallelujah.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

From Melissa Greene at A Deeper Story, Easter Snow.

From Kathy Escobar, Easter Hope(less).

At A Deeper Story, The Red Balloon.

For Spiritual Inspiration:

From Mary DeMuth, The Enoughness of Enough.  I can so relate to this post.

Interesting perspective on the gay marriage debate at A Deeper Story.

From Sarah Markley, Kneeling in the Dirt.

Turning Hate Mail Into Origami from Rachel Held Evans.

Parenting:

Lisa-Jo Baker’s On Letting Our Girls Be Ourselves.

On Marriage:

Addie at A Deeper Story:  Unequally Yoked.

The Case for Not Marrying Young from Leigh at A Deeper Family.  What a great perspective!

Home Inspiration:

I love the bright colors in this featured home from Design Mom.

I love this tray from Jen at Girl in the Garage.

Food Love:

Anyone love making granola as much as me?  Check out this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen.

At A Beautiful Mess, mini pineapple upside down cakes.  YUM!

And…

Such helpful iPhoneography tips from A Simple Mom.  Loved this!

Was anyone else able to enjoy the beautiful weather today?  What have you been reading and loving lately?  I would love to hear from you!

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to my blog, would you take just a moment to subscribe?  Just enter your e-mail address at the top of my page where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” – Thanks and I hope the start to your week is fantastic!!

 

A Gathering of Links V

blog2-1It is later than normal for my weekly post of links.  I have been stuck in bed for four days with some kind of flu/sinus infection-type illness.  Thankfully I’m feeling better today, although my muscles feel like I have just run a marathon without any conditioning.  Let’s look at the bright side… there’s at least a foot of snow outside.  Oh, that’s not the bright side?

While I haven’t been thrilled with the illnesses in my home or the horrible weather launching spring 2013, I must admit that anytime I get really sick, like stuck-in-bed-for-days-sick, it gives me a new appreciation for my health and my life.  It makes me want to live it fully and take advantage of the time I have.  So what better time to get sick and better again than the week of Easter?  I am anticipating so much this year.  I know that spring is coming and with it will come new life and beauty.

I will talk more about Easter later this week, but for now I want to direct you to some great links from the past week or so.

First off, thanks to my fantastic readers, my most popular post this past week was A Gathering of Goodwill Finds.  My own personal favorite was What I Gather About Layers, Life and Spring.  That post was breathed to me by the Holy Spirit and encouraged me so.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Lisa Jo Baker, on hospitality

From Jen Hatmaker.  I love how bold and honest she is, while still demonstrating such love.

My FAVORITE post of the week… I wish I had a son to share this with…. from A Holy Experience.

For Parents:

From Sarah Markley, on Knitting Us Well Together.

On Marriage:

From my friend over at Becoming Whitney, Desperation.

For Easter:

Design Mom’s painted egg cartons.  I hope to find time this week to make these for my girls.

Pioneer Woman’s fun rice krispie eggs.

Food Love:

Because I lived in Cuba… from A Beautiful Mess, banana chips.  Also, their 25 breakfasts to love.

From Oh Happy Day, churros?  Yes, please!

Inspiration:

From my friend Jen at Girl in the Garage, on overcoming fear.

What about you?  What books are on your nightstand?  What have you read this week that has inspired you?  Any favorite recipes or blogs to share with the rest of us?  I would love your feedback!