Wednesday, June 30, 2010

4th of July Family Fun!

Hi Friends! :) I recently received the following note in my mailbag...

Dear Cindy,
Any suggestions for 4th of July Family Fun? I would like to do some fun things, but not sure where to start. You are my “party go to expert”....

I'm so glad you asked, dear friend! I am busy in 4th of July planning mode (my family would tell you I get a little excited about the 4th) ~ and would love to share my family~friendly ideas with you!

I've already pulled out our 4th of July books. This is my favorite.....

I've also stocked up on 4th of July t-shirts (it's a tradition, everyone gets a new 4th of July shirt from Target or Old Navy ~ for $4 you can't beat it!).

I purchased cheap red, white, and blue nail polish, and my girls and I will give each other festive pedicures before the big day! ( Nail ideas here)

And how will our family celebrate on the 4th of July??

Typically, I get up early and head to the bakery for festive doughnuts (we rarely have doughnuts in the morning, so this is a special treat).

Here's a fun early morning picture from a few years ago....

Next we head to a local Parade. I love it! We invite lots of friends and family, and have a mini "tail gate" before the parade starts. I bring a basket filled with doughnuts, juice, fruit, etc.. and lots of festive napkins.

For the kids, I stock a bag filled with color sheets, paper lunch bags to catch the candy (and markers for them to decorate the bag while we wait for the parade to start).

I also bring the nail polish again (and paint more toes while we wait), tattoos, leis, and mini flags. If you haven't guessed ~ I am a kid magnet that day (and love every minute of it!!)

In the afternoon, we fill our day with ...

Crafts ~ideas here or here or here

Coloring Sheets, Word Searches, Mazes ~ here

Games ~ here

Of course, it wouldn't be a celebration without 4th of July BINGO with red, white, and blue M & M's ~ here

We spend late afternoon celebrating with dear friends and family. Typically I need to bring side dishes along, so here are some of my favorite simple kid-friendly food ideas...

* Red and blue finger jello (star shaped, of course)

* Cupcakes for the kids (Fun Recipe here and here)

* Flag cake (Recipe here) Always a huge hit!

And then, of course, it wouldn't be the 4th without fireworks!!

Whew!! What a day ~ I can hardly wait!!

Do you have any tradition or family fun ideas to celebrate the 4th?? Share with us please ~ I'd love to hear from you!!!

Have a wonderful, joy-filled 4th of July!! May I encourage you to "mark this moment" in some special way. Your kids will remember. You will remember. :)

Many blessings to you!!

P.S. For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head over to We Are That Family.

P.S.S. My celebration ideas are obviously very kid-friendly. If you're looking for more "grown up" recipe ideas, there are more great recipes here and here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Fun Surprise ~ and a little help from YOU!!

Hey Friends!

I just love fun, encouraging surprises...don't you?! :)

Lately I've noticed I've been receiving a lot of blog traffic from a website I didn't recognize. And then yesterday, would you believe, I received this note....

Good afternoon!

(We) are delighted to inform you that you have been nominated for a 2010 BlogLuxe Award! Congratulations - you deserve it! ......Good luck! Even though there are only two winners per category....we're crossing our fingers for ALL of you! Thanks for being so amazing and creating such wonderful blogs!

Wow! The 2010 BlogLuxe Award is being presented in New York City right before one of the biggest Blogging Conferences of the year. And my little *She Sparkles* blog was nominated in the Inspirational Blog category. Can you believe it??

(Thank you to whoever nominated me. You make me blush ~ smile!)

Hopefully you know me well enough by now to know that my greatest desire is to serve an audience of One. I am intentional about not using this blog to make a profit, toot my own horn, or serve my own agenda.

I'm just a simple girl who lived an extremely defeated life, sampled the "smorgasboard of life", nearly lost my life (literally!), and has now fallen head over heels in love with Jesus.

My greatest desire is to share Jesus, while having a BLAST with LIFE along the way! To be affirmed in this way (by being nominated for this award) is a special token of encouragement, and I am grateful. think that this voting process could lead others to my blog makes me smile from ear to ear!! If you are here for the first time, WELCOME!!

I hope you'll check out my testimony (here) or some of my favorite posts (here, here, or here). I am so glad you stopped by!

And, dear bloggy friends, if you have been inspired at all by *She Sparkles* and would like to vote, I would love your help. There's no monetary prize to be won, just recognition for a job well done. You can click on the link below and vote here...

Once you click on the link, scroll down to the Inspiration category and check *She Sparkles*. You will be sent an e-mail to finalize and confirm your entry. You can vote once per day until July 12th if you'd like. What fun! :)

Most importantly, please know the friendships and encouragement I have received from YOU ~ dear friends ~ has made the *She Sparkles* experience so much fun!! You inspire me to look for JOY in the midst of my everyday "life as a mom" living. And that's the greatest award of all!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! May your day be filled with God's richest blessings!!!

P.S. How will you celebrate the 4th of July this year? I look forward to this holiday all year long!! For tomorrow's post I'll share my 4th of July Family Fun ideas! I'd love to hear your plans as well!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Mailbox Question: How do you do it all??

One of the most frequent questions I receive is...,

"Cindy, how do you do it? You're married, have 4 kids, a speaking ministry, write a blog, lead a Bible study, etc... How do you do it all??".

My answer is simple ~ I don't.

Whereas it is true I am married, have 4 awesome kids, love speaking and sharing what God has done in my life, and enjoy all of the great friends I've made on my blog *She Sparkles* ~ the truth is that are a lot of things I don't do.

In fact, here are some of the things I've learned about trying to do it all....

1. "Trying to do it all" doesn't work.

For many, many years I tried to do it all. In my life before Christ, I tried to be...

Super Employee (i.e. workaholic).
Super Thin (i.e. eating disorder).
Super Mom (I was a single mom, it was a ton of work and I never slept!).
Super Perfectly Clean and Organized Home Owner.

It was empty and defeated living.

My search for perfection led me down a path of horribly unhealthy, self-defeating behaviors, and eventually almost cost me my life (literally ~ you can read more here). I am committed to never going back to being Super Woman!!

2. Know your Purpose

I now try to live very intentionally each and every day (while still having a lot of fun along the way)!! :) I spent time each season reflecting on my purpose, and try to make daily choices reflecting those decisions.

3. Prioritize your Time

On my quest for intentional, purposeful living, I have learned it is crucial to prioritize my days. Am I the only one that can turn on the computer to send a quick note, and realize 2 hours later that I forgot what I went to the computer to do?? Ahhh!!

I spent time each morning reflecting on my priorities ~ and then plan my day accordingly. Unfortunately, it also means I must say NO to a lot of things. For this season, I am choosing to not watch TV. I will never be known for my gardening skills. When friends come over, I usually feed them ice cream, tacos or pizza (I'm not kidding). I haven't been to the mall in months.

I'm learning I must say NO to good things in order to say YES to God's best.

Of course, this isn't always easy. Just this past weekend, a wonderfully talented woman I met at the Speaker's Conference asked me to go to dinner Friday night. I would have loved to spend more time with her! But in my heart, I knew my purpose and priority of wife and mom must come first.

Instead, I spent the night playing kickball with my family and enjoying ice cream on our deck. I trust God will allow me to spend time with this dear woman another time (even though she lives in VA!). Saying NO to good things isn't easy, but I truly believe God will bless our desire to keep our priorities in line.

4. Ask for Help

Asking for help has been the hardest, yet most healthy thing I've learned on my quest for sane, whole living. Here are some "helps" I currently have in place ~

* I've been blessed with a prayer team that lifts my family and all my speaking engagements in prayer.

* I have a college girl that comes over once a week (for the whole day - yippee!) so I can pray, study and write.

* My mom and mother-in-law frequently feed us on Bible study nights.

* I have a cleaning service (and they drive a car that lets the whole neighborhood know when they are over!!!). No secrets here!

* My husband John does all of our laundry. (bless you, honey!)

There is no way I could keep the full schedule I maintain without help from my family and friends!

Isn't it freeing to not have to pretend that we are capable of doing it all?? I love just being ME (the non-gardener, pizza buying ME), and I sure sleep much better these days!

Please know I do not have it all figured out! I'm on a journey, just like you. But the more we can be honest and realistic about what we are capable of doing (and what our floors really look like most days), the more we can free each other from trying to be perfect!! Life's too challenging on its own, much less pretending that we have it altogether, don't you think??

I love how Beth Moore puts it ~ We can't do all things for the Glory of God. How true!!

So, what has God called you to do?? Speak? Write? Be a Mom? Work outside the home? Be a Grandma?? What healthy habits have you put into place to live a healthy, full life?? Are there things God is asking you to let go of while you pursue His purpose for you?? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Share with us please!!

May God guide you as you prioritize your days, may He help you say NO to good things and YES to the best, and fill you with an abundance of His peace and joy as you pursue His purpose for your life!!

God's richest blessings to you~

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Monday's with Beth ~ coming SOON!

Hey Friends! I made it home from my Speaker's Conference! Woo Hoo! I can't wait to fill you in on the AMAZING time I had and some of the awesome friends I met! Thank you so much for your kind words, encouragement, and prayer as I was preparing! I promise to share more later this week!!
For today, I must fill you in on our Summer Bible Study that starts Monday, June 28th!! Yippee! I can't wait!!

First, some fun history..... In 2006, my best friend Julie and I led a Bible study in her home. There were 12 of us that journeyed together that summer. Here's the original gang...

Soon the group began to grow and grow! We moved from Julie's living room to her basement. A dear woman named Mary Swierenga (an amazing prayer warrior and Bible teacher) began to mentor us. The group GREW AND GREW....

Julie sensed we should move to a location where even more women could come and join us! She went to the leaders of her church (Sunshine Church), and they graciously embraced the idea of hosting this gathering of women.
I stepped in as the Bible teacher. The first season, winter 2009, the group grew to 40 women. I loved it! I was in my "sweet spot".

(Here's a fun picture from when they surprised me on my birthday....)

Since that time, the group has continued to GROW!! Women bring friends who bring friends who bring friends! All different churches, all different ages, all different stages of life! Last spring, we outgrew our meeting space and began gathering in Sunshine's main auditorium. Woo Hoo!! Over the years, one thing has stayed the same ~ our commitment to providing a welcoming, safe, and fun place to learn more about Jesus and His great love for us!!

This summer, we are switching from our "normal" routine and hosting "Monday's with Beth". We have powerful teachings from one of our all-time favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore, and can't wait to share them with you!!

Monday’s with Beth is definitely something you will want to invite your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to! We have a variety of special surprises planned this summer ~ testimonies, live worship, etc.. The teachings are all 1 hour in length, and then we’ll have time for food & fellowship cream sundae bar the first week!! Yum!!

Whether you are a new believer, have been studying the Bible your whole life, or still trying to figure this whole "Jesus thing" out ~ we would love to have you join us! We'll start each week at 7:00 PM in the Sunshine Sanctuary. Come as you are, bring your Bible, and sit back and get ready to dig deep in the Word. No homework. No cost. Regardless of your church home, all women are welcome!!

Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions! Tomorrow we'll be learning about "The Captivity of Activity". Here's a sneak peek of a little Beth....

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have an AMAZING, joy-filled week!!

P.S. Monday's with Beth will meet 4 Monday's this summer ~ June 28th, & July 12, 19, and 26th. The teachings do not build on one another ~ so come to any or all that work for your schedule! We would love to meet YOU!!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A little help from my friends - YOU! :)

Hey friends! Happy Wednesday to you!! Hope you are having a Wonderful Week!!

I'm busy getting ready to head to a Speaker's Conference for the next 3 days. I'll have the opportunity to share 4 different presentations, while receiving feedback on my content and delivery skills. Yikes! You have to know this brings up every insecurity and fear in me!! Nothing like getting a "report card" after pouring out your heart before a group! Thankfully, I've attended this conference in the past (so I know what to expect) ~ but my stomach is in knots nonetheless!!

One message I'm working on for tomorrow is a 3 minute illustration, with a spiritual application at the end. (And yes, they have a stop watch to time you). May I practice on you?? Sorry I'm not quite brave enough for a "vlog" yet...but here's my written work....

Have you ever wondered, "God, where are You??".

I mean, we learn as a small child in Sunday School that God is everywhere - but have you ever tilted your head back and asked the God of the Universe, "Where are YOU??"

I have - and although it seems like yesterday - it was actually winter, 1998.
I was a single mom to a delightful little boy named Jake,
Engaged to a wonderful Christian man named David, and we were in the midst of planning our beautiful wedding.....
life couldn't get any better.

And then, in one phone call and with the words,
"I'm sorry, Cindy, David has been killed" -
my life was forever changed.

Two weeks later, freezing cold, in the middle of shoveling my driveway, with snow up to my waist (or so it seemed) ~
I found myself asking the question - "God, where are You?".

Although actually it went more like this -
"OK GOD, WHERE ARE YOU?? You said You'd never leave me nor forsake me, but WHERE ARE YOU?? Jake's freezing, he has icicles hanging from his eyelashes for crying out loud.
I'm cold,
I've got this whole driveway to shovel,
David's gone ~ this just isn't fair, God. WHERE ARE YOU????"

I even shook my shovel in anger at the Lord that day.

Moments later, a car stopped and a young college kid hopped out.

"Hey lady", he called, "this looks like a pretty big driveway for you and your son. Go on in the house and let me take care of the shoveling for you."

Big, wet tears streamed down my cheeks as I whispered the words, "Thank you, thank you, thank you...."

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the Israelites (and us!) of God's promise to never leave us nor forsake us. The next time life circumstances cause YOU to wonder, "God, where are You??".....go ahead and ask Him,
He might be closer than you think.

What do you think?? I'd love your feedback!! I also will be sharing my full testimony (and that will be videotaped and critiqued). Yikes again!! And speaking of fears and insecurity...I'd love to hear what fears you wrestle with, and what steps you are taking to combat them!! Like Beth Moore always says, "Let's do the thing afraid!!" I'd love to learn from you!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Many blessings to you!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Family Fun ~ Summer Fun from A to Z

Welcome to Friday "Family Fun"! During the summer, I'm going to devote every Friday to sharing different inexpensive, exciting Family Fun Ideas! Woo Hoo!

For the past few days, we've talked about summer activities. I mentioned how I go about coming up with a summer plan (recap here), our daily summer schedule (recap here), but for today, let's just talk FUN!

Here are some simple, inexpensive ways for you to make the most of your summer ~ A to Z style!!

(A quick disclaimer....I've tried to think of things that you could participate in regardless of the city you live in. For my Grand Rapids friends, many of the ideas in blue have links that will lead you to more specific local times and information. For all of the ideas, I tried to think of inexpensive ideas ~ if it costs more than $5 per person, I did not include it on the list). Enjoy!

*Summer Family Fun ideas from A to Z*....

A - Airport ~ My kids love having a picnic at the airport! My amazing mom purchased binoculars for each of the kids (from garage sales), and the kids LOVE running around watching the planes come in OR turn your backyard/garage into your own Art Camp (ideas

B- Bowling; bike rides; bubbles (check out bubble games here); Block party (check out these great ideas here); boating; the beach

C - Camp-out in the Family Room. Grab your sleeping bags, flashlights, and smores, and get ready for fun! (more camping ideas here); OR sidewalk chalk

D - Dance Party ~ Find some fun 70's or 80's music, crank it up, and let the fun begin!

E - Eat out (the food court at the mall is always a fun experience for kids)

F- Catch some Fireflies OR Family Fun Night ~ Invite over another family for food, fun, and fellowship

G - Game Night ~ Have everyone pick a favorite board game to play. (More Game Night ideas here)

H - Hawaiian party ~ Host your own luau! Grab a beach towel, bathing suit, beach ball, and any leis you might have around your house ~ and let the fun begin! You can even play Hawaii Bingo (More Hawaii ideas here)

I - Ice Cream Sundae Night (info here)

J - Jump rope (complete with your favorite jump rope songs here)

K - Krispy Kreme doughnuts ~ wait until the Krispy Kreme light is on, and then go in for your free doughnut!

L - Letterboxing ~ If you haven't tried Letterboxing before, you must! (Get started
here or our family's letterboxing fun here) OR Lemonade Stand

M - Movie Night ~ Fun Family Movie Night ideas
here OR Miniature Golf

N - Nature Walk ~ Enjoy the beautiful weather with a Nature Walk! Give each of the kids a brown lunch bag with items listed on it to collect and/or discover. (Also, if you live in the Grand Rapids area, click here to join the Connect with Nature Challenge! It sounds great!)

O - Opposite Day ~ Do everything backwards! Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast OR enjoy the great Outdoor Games (lots of game ideas here)

P - Host a Potluck OR Pick fresh fruit/veggies OR Pizza Party ~ Let the kids make their own pizza

Q - Quiet time ~ head to your local library for some quiet reading and/or story time activities. (The link for Kent District Library events ~ here)

R - Road trip ~ Let the kids help plan a Road Trip! Depending on your financial situation and the ages of your children, you can plan a Road Trip near or far. Do you have a relative or friend you could visit? A park you've always wanted to experience? Maybe it's time for a Road Trip! Remember, part of the fun is in the planning ~ so let everyone look at the maps, write out the itnerary, pack the snacks, bring activities for the car, and more!

S - Smores (yummy recipes here) OR Scavenger Hunt (ideas here) OR Sandbox fun

T - Treasure Hunt (My favorite treasure hunt clues are found
here. I use them all the time! My kids love Treasure hunts ~ so do their friends) OR host a Tea Party (ideas here) OR go tubing

U - Underwater activities ~ Find a local swimming pool and swim, swim, swim! Another idea...we sometimes go to to bid on a hotel for the night. In Grand Rapids, you can stay at a nice 3 star hotel for $40. The kids love it ~ they swim for hours and hours (and I love room service ~ no cooking for mom)!!

V - Volunteer. I usually invite a friend's 3 kids over for the day to provide free child care while she works. Or you could mow a lawn. Walk a neighbor's dog. Pick up trash. The ideas are endless... OR send your kids to VBS (Vacation Bible School) ~ Grand Rapids VBS list here

W - Walk! Walk to the nearest park. Or walk around the block backwards. OR have a Water balloon fight War!

X - eXercise. Set up a family exercise experience! (Get started here)

. Go to the YMCA or another local gym. Many will let you try their facility for free for the day.

Z - Head to the Zoo! (Grand Rapids' John Ball Park link

Woo Hoo!! I'm so excited for Summer!
What a perfect opportunity to enjoy our children and participate in many of the outings and activities we can’t fit into our school-day schedule. Let's make our ordinary summer days "extraordinary"!! :)

What family fun activities do you have planned this summer?? I'd love to hear from you! In fact, why not link up below AND leave a comment too?! And please don't forget to link back to *She Sparkles*, so others can find more Fantastic Family Fun Ideas!

May your Summer be filled to the brim with much joy, laughter, and fun, family moments!!

P.S. A special thanks to GR,
Family Fun, Parents Magazine, Kaboose, Chocolate Cake Moments, and for letting me pass along some of your fun family ideas!

P.S.S. If you are participating in Friday Family Fun Ideas, click the blue "Enter" below, and then enter your name and URL (blog address). Thanks for sharing your Family Fun ideas!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Works for Me Wednesday ~ Summer Daily Schedule

Summer is definitely here! I adore the beautiful, sunshiny days, bike rides to the park, extra time with family and friends, and yummy summer foods ~ fresh watermelon, strawberries, salsa, and ice cream, of course! Woo Hoo!

Yesterday I shared how I am intentional about heading into the Summer Season with purpose and a plan (recap here). Today I'll share what I've learned about bringing order and structure to our daily lives...our official Bultema "Build A Healthy Day" Daily Summer Schedule. :)

As you know, I have 4 kids ~ ages 15, 8, 7, and 6. My hope each summer is to provide a home full of love, fun and warmth, while also teaching them Christlike character and responsibility. In the past, I've tried to create a summer schedule with times and activities (i.e. 8:00 quiet time, 8:30 breakfast, 9:00 outdoors time, etc..) Unfortunately for us, it never works. It rains, my eldest son sleeps until noon, the kids wake up starved at 6:00 AM, etc.. By week 3 of summer, I've given up.

This summer, I decided to try something new! Ultimately my desire is to focus on teaching the kids how to build a healthy day ~ physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
So for each family member (yes, including me and John too!!) ~ I made a sheet called "Building a Healthy Day". I included all different aspects ~ reading the Bible, exercise, drinking water, reading 20 minutes, chores, etc..

I printed off the sheets on a different color of paper for each family member. At our family meeting, I shared the new Daily Schedules, and gave everyone a chance to personalize their new schedule with stickers, etc.. After the schedules were personalized, I took them to get laminated (I went to Staples ~ only 99 cents each). Now that the schedules are laminated, we can use dry erase markers on them each day!

Here are some pictures....

You can see on the fridge a folder I made to keep all of our schedules. And here's a schedule more up close ~ here's my schedule (on sunshiny yellow paper)...

And Manda's nicely decorated schedule...

We still have a chore chart to keep track of their daily chores. I change the chore chart once a week (have to keep everything fair, you know ~ smile!) If you need ideas for chore charts, there are many ideas on the web. Here's some from Parent Magazine to get you started ~ here

This is our first official week of using the "Building A Healthy Day" schedule. So far it is working GREAT! I love watching the kids grab their water bottle to make sure they drink their water, head outdoors to get their exercise time in, and practice their Memory verse to check that square too. My hope is that by using the Daily Schedule, it will help create healthy, God-honoring habits that will last a lifetime!! And that works for me!!

Do you have a Summer Scheduling tip to share?? Please leave a comment ~ I love hearing your ideas! And for more Works for Me Wednesday tips, take a peek here!

Have a fun, joy-filled day!!

P.S. The winners from the Seeds Family Worship CD Giveaway are Karen M., Jen T., Julie R., Jill M, and Heather D. (Winners, please e-mail me your mailing address). Thanks to all who entered!! And a HUGE thank you to Seeds for generously donating the CD's, and for coming out with such awesome scripture music!! Woo Hoo!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday's Tip ~ Creating the Best Summer Ever!

Day 2 of Summer Vacation at our home, and we're not bored yet! Woo Hoo!! My hope is that Summer 2010 will be filled with much fun, adventure, laughter, creativity, and amazing family times!

I'll be honest...for many years, summer felt random, chaotic and like I was always 1 day behind. I struggled without having a plan, the kids bickered with each other, I was discouraged, and at the end of summer I would think, "What in the world was that?". I was convinced there must be a better way to create a season full of joy and family fun! I desired to fully enjoy summer with my kids!

Thankfully, those defeated days of summer are gone! Today I'll share some of what I've learned, and my personal tips on creating the best summer ever for you and your family!

1. Start with the end in mind.

Towards the beginning of each summer vacation, I carve out time to sit down and begin a summer plan.
Typically I go away by myself on a "summer planning" overnight, but this year I hired a sitter for the afternoon. Whatever works best ~ but I've found having some concentrated planning time is key.

I take an old, extra calendar and cut & paste together June, July, and August. I fill in the days of any birthdays, holidays, pre-planned activities, etc. This helps me to look at the summer as a whole.

2. Pray

I pray over our summer. I ask God to fill our days with His plans, His blessings, His opportunities, His joy & peace, etc... I ask Him to lead and guide me as a mom, and for our family to enjoy His gift of rest and refreshment (although summer isn't too restful with 4 kids...but that's another post ~ smile). I commit our summer to Him.

3. Intentional Planning

I spend time reflecting on the following questions...

* What do I want to have accomplished before the kids go back to school? (i.e. trips, home projects, etc..)

* What are 3 Character qualities I want to work on with the kids? What are corresponding Scripture verses to go along with the character traits?

(This summer we are working on loving kindness in June, generosity in July, and peace in August)

* Are there activities I want to make sure we do (i.e. go to the beach, library, visit grandma, etc..)

* Are there families I want to make sure we invite over for Sundae Night or for supper?

* What could John and I do over the summer to strengthen our marriage? (i.e planning a "mini moon").

* Is there something I could attend to learn and grow? (i.e. this year I'm attending two speaking/writing conferences)

And then, with pencil and/or post-it notes, I take the ideas I've come up with, and begin to add them to our summer calendar. It's fun to watch as the summer begins to take shape!

4. Invite the family to participate.

After I've come up with some things I think would be helpful (I've learned my girls will never pick the museum, and the boys will skip over the library!), I ask for the family to participate.

For example, at our family meeting this past Sunday, I gave an index card to each family member. On one side I asked them to write down something they really want to do this summer (something realistic and inexpensive ~ "go to Disney World" is not allowed!). On the other side, I asked them to think of a family they'd like to invite over.

We then spent time sharing our ideas with each other (common answers were "the beach", "the boat", "swimming"). I'll take their ideas and add it to our summer calendar. This way, at the end of August, each one of us has been able to participate in activities that are significant and meaningful to us. I'll also add the ideas to our "Family Fun Box". This way, we always have things to do if we have a free afternoon and/or evening.

I've learned it's helpful to know what everyone is thinking in June. John said he'd really like to spend time out on Lake Michigan with the boat this summer. Knowing this at the beginning of summer, I can make sure we keep weekends free to do just that (especially after baseball season is over). Make sense??

5. Implement the Plan

Once I have more of a sense of what we'd all like to accomplish this summer, I begin to implement the plan.

For us, I try to have 1 day a week that we have a big activity (last year we had "Friday Field Trips"). My son Benj likes to "be home", so it's helpful if he knows on Friday we'll head out for fun, and the other days he can chill around the house.

I can also start making phone calls for play dates, and having family's over for fun! By looking ahead, it allows for plenty of planning time for special occassions ~ including Father's Day, Jake's 16th birthday, our 10 year Anniversary, 4th of July, Benj's 8th birthday, my Mom's birthday, and more! (Lots to celebrate ~ Woo Hoo!!)

6. Be flexible

Last year I came down with a horrible ear infection at the end of July. For most of August I was miserable. Our "Friday Field Trips" went out the window. A good day was a day I could get up and move around pain free.

But you know what...we still had a wonderful summer. The key was being flexible and finding the joy in every day ~ even if our plan was thrown out the window. Knowing that I had committed the summer to God, I could rest in His plan (although it looked much different than I was thinking). God knows what He is doing!!

If you have ever desired more structure to your summer days, you may want to try my Summer Planning Tips. I know some mom's would prefer to "wing it" and enjoy the lazy days of summer ~ and that's ok too!! However you decide to spend your summer, just be sure to live each moment to the full (even if that's enjoying a quiet moment in a lounge chair reading a book)!

What about for you?? What makes your summer enjoyable, memorable, and fun?? What are your hopes for Summer 2010? I'd love to hear from you!!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your day be filled with much laughter and joy!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marriage Monday: The Power of Prayer

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Seeds Family Worship GIVEAWAY, join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Monday, June 14th at 9:00 PM EST to enter!

Today I am thrilled to join my dear friend Julie from Come Have A Peace for Marriage Mondays! John is headed to his first day at his new job (Praise the Lord!) ~ so I'm going to spend my normal blogging time praying for him and this new opportunity! Enjoy a Marriage Monday repeat.... I'm off to pray for my man!!

First, I should let you know ~ I am not a marriage expert. I am not a trained therapist or counselor. I've not written any profound marriage books. I am just a simple girl, passionately in love with Jesus and my man, trying to figure out how to enjoy marriage and celebrate life together. Thankfully, by God's grace, we will celebrate 10 years together this August! (Can I get a "woo hoo"?!)

I wish I could tell you it's been 9 1/2 years of pure bliss ~ but I'd be lying. I now look at marriage like a roller coaster ~ an adventure filled with its ups (and downs), twists and turns, excitement and fun, and unfortunately, sometimes, hang on tight, "why did I say yes to this thing?!" times as well.

Thankfully, John and I are enjoying a "Wow, this is really fun" season! And do you know what's the number one thing I've learned to strengthen our marriage over the past decade of being together? The power of prayer!

Years ago, I read Stormie Omartian's book the The Power of a Praying Wife. (If you haven't read it before, please go here ~ you can read/download the first chapter!) Stormie does an awesome job of reminding us of the power and importance of lifting our husbands in prayer.

After a very difficult season of our marriage a few years ago (one that I wasn't sure we were going to make through) ~ I made a promise that I would pray for John and our marriage every single day.

Unfortunately, at first, I struggled with how to make my promise a reality. You know how it goes ~ life gets busy, right? Kids take up our time, energy, affection. Family members get sick. Life keeps going. We get sidetracked with so many other things to do.

But what I've learned is this....I must make time to pray for John and our marriage. Even if it's while I'm brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, or sick on the couch ~ I've made the predetermined decision, regardless of my circumstances, I will pray for my husband and our marriage every single day.

Like Nike says, "Just do it" :)

If you feel like it or not....

If he was loving this morning or not...

If he's praying for you or not....


One thing that has really helped me make my promise a reality is my Prayer Guide (click here for my Prayer Guide recap).

Using my prayer guide, I can look at John as I pray, record my prayers, and have a list of specific things to pray for him. (See the yellow post-it notes in the pic? My little Sarah used to sit on my lap while I prayed for "Daddy" and write out her prayers too. Aren't her little notes sweet??)

(In the picture on the left is a download called 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband. You can print it off here)

Please know, I do not use my Prayer Guide everyday (I sure wish I did). There are some days that my prayer time is while I walk the dog, or sit at the bus stop waiting for the kids ~ but thankfully, I can see the FRUIT from committing to praying for our marriage and John every single day. Prayer has breathed new, fresh life into a marriage that was fading fast. Prayer works...of this I am sure!

What about for you?? What have you found has been helpful to strengthen your marriage?? I'd love to hear from you! Also, be sure to join Julie at
Marriage Mondays for more great marriage tips!!

Many blessings to you this week!! Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Family Fun Ideas ~ Come Join the Fun!

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Seeds Family Worship GIVEAWAY, please join the fun! I have 5 different, awesome CD's to giveaway. Woo Hoo!! (Click here for more information). You have until Monday, June 14th to enter. I'd love to hear from you! :)

Welcome to Friday "Family Fun" Ideas! I'm excited to have my amazing bloggy friend, Sue from Chocolate Cake Moments, guest posting for me. I have been so encouraged and inspired by Sue's passion for family! I know you'll enjoy meeting her today as she shares some ideas to keep your kids busy now that school has ended.

Take it away, Sue....

It’s Summertime and the kids want out! After being cooped up all winter and celebrating the last day of school, everybody is anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors again.

However, as a parent with two kids of my own, I’ve discovered that summer can be as challenging for adults as it is liberating for kids. Once the charm of sleeping in wears off, I know it’s not long before I’ll be hearing the dreaded refrain of “Mommy, I’m bored!” Even if they go to summer day camps, the novelty of an unstructured day will eventually wear off, too.

In my experience, preparation is the best way to avoid the B-word. With a little creativity and planning, you can stockpile an arsenal of fun activities to throw at your kids before they can even say “bored.” Get them outside and enjoying the sunshine while it lasts (giving you a little well-deserved space in the process).

* 5 Ideas to Get Your Kids Out of the House This Summer *

1. Organize Family or Neighborhood Olympics that includes events like hula hoop competition, 3-legged races, water balloon toss, or egg and spoon races.

2. Lemonade Stand. Nothing says summer like cool, refreshing lemonade. Help the kids set up a stand, make a sign and get their first batch of lemonade ready. Other than coming in for more supplies every now and then, I know this keeps my kids completely occupied for hours. They set up their shade umbrellas, get the boom box playing Kids Bop, and they’re happy as can be with some old-fashioned fun.

3. Organize a Photo Scavenger Hunt. Grab the camera, head outdoors and tell the kids to take pictures of items around a theme – colors, numbers, alphabet, or a list of items you create. (With digital cameras, this is so easy and fun. You can also delete all of the pictures when you are done. No wasted film!) For more on how to plan a photo scavenger hunt, read this - here

4. Host a Neighborhood Fire Pit. While this is an evening activity, have the kids work on setting it up during the day. Get them to set up the Baggo Game or the Bocce Ball, put chairs out on the driveway, and pass out invitations to the neighbors.

5. Walk to the Local Farmers Market. Farmers Markets are a fun, relaxing way to spend some quality time with my kids. We’re together, outside in the sunshine, discovering new foods, promoting local farmers, and exercising. That’s almost an overload of family goodness, but we deal. Take the dog and make it a family adventure. Want ideas on what to do at the Farmers Market? -

I hope these ideas have inspired you to organize some family adventures and get the kids outside and enjoying the season. Looking for more simple, creative and most importantly fun ideas on how to spend time with your family? Read my post on 5 Ideas for Date Night with Your Kids - here .

Sue Kirchner is the founder and President of The Chocolate Cake Club (, an e-boutique that aims to inspire and help busy families have more fun, so they can have more “Chocolate Cake Moments” – when they are smiling, relaxed, and enjoying their family.

Sue is also the publisher of the Chocolate Cake Moments blog (, which shares tips and ideas on how to schedule more family fun and laughter. When she’s not working, she’s home having fun with her husband and two kids.

Thanks so much, Sue!!

And if you, dear bloggy friend, want to share some Family Fun Ideas on this Fantastic Friday, I'd love for you to link up below AND leave a comment too. Please don't forget to link back HERE, so others can find more Fantastic Family Fun Ideas!

Have a super weekend filled with lots of laughter, joy, and fun family time!!

If you are participating in Friday Family Fun Ideas, click the blue "Enter" below, and then enter your name and URL (blog address) in the form below. Thanks for sharing your Family Fun ideas!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Things I Love Thursday ~ Seeds Family Worship

Hey Friends! Happy Thursday to you! Today I'm thrilled to join Jill (my friend and neighbor from The Diaper Diaries) in Things I Love Thursday!

There are many things that I love...God's Word being right at the top of the list! And as you know, I'm always looking for new and creative ways to fill my heart and head with God's Truth.

As we head into summer, I've been busy putting together a Scripture Memory plan for my kids (and myself too!). I'm not above bribing ~ so I told the gang if they can memorize 12 new verses this summer (one per week) the end of August I'd take them to Great Wolf Lodge. Of course, they were totally excited about this idea! We'll see how it goes! :)

One awesome Scripture memory resource that I came across years ago (back when I was Children's Director at Mars Hill Bible Church) was Seeds Family Worship CD's. Seeds does an excellent job of creating amazing songs to help scripture memory simple (as my kids would say "easey, peasy...") and very kid-friendly. Don't just take my word for it, take a listen....

(P.S. Warning ~ you will have this Scripture verse stuck in your head the rest of the day! But that's a good thing!)

Want to hear more?? Click here for more song samples! While you are on the Seeds website, be sure to check out the Family Worship Ideas, Memory Verse Cards, Parent Resources, and more!!

And guess what?? The amazing folks from Seeds Family Worship have given me 5 Seeds Worship CD's to give away to you!!! 5 Cd's = 5 blessed winners!! Woo Hoo!!

To Win my Seeds Family Worship CD Giveaway: Please leave a comment in the comment section answering the following questions:

Why would you like to win one of the Seeds Family Worship CD's?

Extra Entries:

•Follow *She Sparkles* via Google Friends Connect
•Subscribe to *She Sparkles*
•Mention the giveaway on Facebook
•Add my *She Sparkles* button to your blog
•Tweet about this giveaway including a link to this post

Please be sure to leave me a comment to let me know your extra entries.

RULES: Starts today, Thursday, June 10th and ends Monday, June 14th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog on Tuesday, June 15tth.

If your email address is not connected to your ID, please leave your email address with your comment or email it to me at with the subject "Giveaway".

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!! May the Lord bless you with an abundance of His love, joy, and peace today!!!

P.S. Remember how I shared I'm working on a personal Scripture memorizing plan for myself also?? Well, the team at Seeds has a list of 55 powerful verses to memorize (click here).

Many of the verses I know, but my goal is to know the whole list by end of August. Anyone want to join with me on this challenge?? I love having fun challenges, and I especially enjoy having accountability and partners! Can I count you in??

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Good Word!

Happy Wonderful, Word~filled Wednesday to you!! I have to tell blessed me with your sweet words of encouragement and excitement regarding our recent good news (recap here). Thanks for sharing in our joy!!

I'm you have a favorite devotion you are using this summer?? I'm still enjoying my current favorite...Jesus Calling. Today's word was so powerful ~ I just had to share it with you!!

From Jesus to you...

Seek to live in My Love, which covers a multitude of sins: not only others' sins but also yours. Wear My Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe. Have no fear, for perfect Love decimates fear. Look at other people through lenses of Love: see them from My perspective. This is how you walk in the Light, and it pleases Me.

I want My Body of believers to be radiant with the Light of My Presence. How I grieve when pockets of darkness increasingly dim the Love-Light. Return to Me, your First Love! Gaze at Me in the splendor of holiness, and My Love will once again envelop you in Light.

1 Peter 4:8, 1 John 4:18, Revelation 2:4

I've been reflecting on these powerful words today. How I long to look at others ~ my family, my friends, my neighbors, even the guy who teases my dog...and myself...through lenses of God's perfect Love!

When I've sensed "discouragement" creep in (i.e. when my kids were fighting again and it made me want to pull out my hair!), I've been picturing myself putting on "Love glasses" and looking at things through a different lense. Asking God to help me see others from His perfect, loving perspective, rather than my own. (And you know what, it's helped!)

For today, on this "Word~filled Wednesday", I'd love to hear from you! What does this devotion say to you?? Or did you have a favorite Word this week?? What Bible study are you going through this summer?? Please share with us something that God is teaching you!!

May you have a Wonderful, Word-filled Wednesday!! You are special to Him, special to me!! Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles**!

God's richest blessings to you!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ordinary Tuesday's (& some really Great News!)

I recently came across this quote in a parenting magazine...

"The best bit of wisdom I received from my mother was really quite simple: children need ordinary Tuesdays....."

This quote made me think...Am I giving my children ordinary Tuesdays?? What does an ordinary Tuesday look like for us?? What are the everyday activities that form our simple little life?

So here's a sneak peek into our Ordinary Tuesday today...

1. I went to my daughter Sarah's Kindergarten Reader's Theater at school.

2. John and I enjoyed lunch together at the Omlette Shoppe. We went to celebrate his....(drum roll please)....NEW JOB!! Praise the Lord!!

Starting next week, John will be the Controller at Railside Golf Course here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We are thrilled about this new opportunity!!

(Thank you, dear bloggy friends, for your faithful prayer support and encouragement on this journey! What a blessing!)

3. After lunch, John spent the afternoon cutting down trees!

I'm not kidding! Even in the rain, he cut down two trees in our yard, pulled out a whole section of bushes, spread new mulch, and so much more!

I decided I'd better get out of his way!

4. So...I spent the afternoon at the bookstore working on my book proposal!

5. After school, I took Benj & Amanda to gymnastics.

6. And lastly, I brought home pizza for dinner!

So there's a "sneak peek" into our ordinary Tuesday....although I must admit ~ I have a hard time thinking any day is "ordinary". You know me...any ordinary day is an opportunity to celebrate our extraordinary God and the gift of life He's given to us!!

What does an ordinary Tuesday look like for you?? How did you spend your day?? I hope it was Terrific!! :)

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. May God bless you with a fresh measure of His love, joy and peace!!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin