A Little Girl’s Fairy-Tale & Dress Up Photo Session

color bride shotWith three big brothers, little Delaney is pretty good at waiting her turn.  Finally I had some spare moments to spend on my precious daughter (who will out-grow dressing up sooner than I can blink my eyes) and my amateur hobby of photography.  The results were just precious, and I had to share them!

snazzysassycolor mirror closeupwider color brideblack and whitecute picmore brideblack and wadorable color mirrorfavorite shot from above

black and white close upfancy dressupblack and white mirror close upmore fancy dress upDelaney bridelovely color in woodsThis was such a special and memorable photography session…little girls don’t stay little forever!

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It’s a Calling…Bringing Up Boys

brothers black and whiteI didn’t realize what was happening when they handed me my first precious little baby boy.  And I still didn’t realize it when they handed me my second little son, but wen the third little boy was lying in my arms, I knew I was well on  my way to a unique place.  Mothering multiple sons is a special calling, and without even realizing it, it was a calling that God had placed on my life.  In just a span of thirty-four months, I went from being just a young wife to wife and a mother of three sons…surrounded by “male-ness”.  Not a word, you say…Oh believe me, “male-ness” IS a word-it’s very well understood by the other ladies in this special club I belong to.  What a shift from the days of growing up an only child.  One little girl…and homeschooled at that!  I grew up loving quiet things, pretty things, and cats…so why on earth would I be chosen to raise a pack of loud, testosterone filled, crazy BOYS?  Well, I actually believe my whole life was a preparation for this journey.  I longed for siblings, but not just any siblings-I longed for brothers-brothers that I would never have. When we began to have little boys, fourteen years ago, I was thrilled as each little boy was born! But it was still shocking.  Here are some of the tid-bits I have learned on this journey-much of it is from wise, experienced women who have paved the way for grown up girly-girls like me, as well as experts along the way like Dr. Dobson.

1. It’s natural for boys to be competitive. 

Everything is a race, a competition, a game.  In mothering these men-in-training, we will be ahead of this game, if we work with this natural bend and not against it.  This is where fighting comes in, which must, of course, be managed.  Some boy competitions need adult intervention, and some just need adult supervision.  It’s never alright for a brother to be insulted or bullied, and of-course, those are the moments for intervention.  Good competition is SO healthy for these boys, and can really be used as a great motivational tool!  Many times I have been able to use their competitive side to motivate my sons to strive for greatness.

2. Most boys are born with a healthy amount of natural aggression.

Oh boy, this is where the moms of girls are gasping, and perhaps even moms of just one little boy…but this is actually true & healthy…so let me explain…

All boys will eventually grow into men.  Men will have responsibilities and duties that are “Provider and Protector” based.  I am so thankful for my godly husband.  He would lay down his life for this family.  He rises before the sun is up, and works, most days until it has set again.  That does not just develope one day- it is a life-time in the making. Little boys are born with a very un-fettered sense of adventure.  The pushing, the shouting, the fighting, the building, the competing, the hunting…it’s all part of the strong male nature that will someday be necessary for the strength and leadership that is required of an adult male.  I often say, “Mothering boys is not for wimps!”, and this is SO true!  There is a fine-line to walk here.  One must realize that this is in their nature, but it must be TRAINED! Oh the humiliation I felt when my three year old son intentionally pee-peed on the bathroom wall of a local mega-church! He may have been only three, but we took him home and punished him.  In-fact, we took it so seriously, that we did not move forward, until we knew that he understood how unacceptable this was.  He did not respond well, and most of the next day he spent in various methods of punishment, but by 5:00pm on that Monday night, we had reached a break-through.  He got it, and we moved forward. Harsh?  No. Appropriate.  Boys are born with a natural aggression, but they have no idea how to use this appropriately.  They must not be shamed in their maleness, but disciplined and lovingly shaped, so that they will use this strength as a positive and not run over those around them and use it as a negative.

3.Boys aren’t pretty..This is not for wimps, folks!

This statement may not be true if you have only one boy, but mothers of multiple boys understand this in a unique way.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s like the sleepover that never ends!  The intense male energy of several boys…together…all of the time, is something that not everyone could endure.  If you have been chosen for this journey, there is a reason!  God thinks you can do it!  And there will be some crazy moments that you just need to chill out and laugh…

cup in a cup holder

I know someone just gasped..well, then this post just isn’t for you.  But it absolutely cracked me up!  I was all dressed up for church yesterday, and I was backing the car out of the garage, when I spotted this.  A cup…in a cup holder!  I know you “boy mammas” just laughed your heads off.

But seriously, you just can’t sweat the small stuff.  Discipline when discipline is needed. Comfort when comfort is needed.  Train when training is needed.  And LOVE all of the time!

jill and her boys

Please don’t leave without leaving me a note!

My Quick and Easy Eggplant Parmesan (healthier too!)

eggplant parmisian pic 2I just love Eggplant Parmesan, but it can be pricey!  Once in a while I can find it on sale for only $.99, as was the case this week.  I bought one, and then remembered-they don’t last long.  So yesterday I sliced it up & prepared six meal-portions, which are now waiting for me in the freezer. ( a great work-day meal!)  I thought I’d share my easy method of preparing this tasty dish!

Eggplant Parmesan (Jilly B’s Version)

INGREDIENTS:

-one eggplant

-2 to 3 TB oil for frying

-grated Italian cheese (Italian blend/ pizza blend/ Parmesan/ YOUR choice)

-one small red onion, diced

-one can diced tomatoes with roasted garlic adn onions

-garlic  &  salt

DIRECTIONS:

-Slice the eggplant into 1/3-1/2” slices

-heat oil in large frying pan

-place eggplant in hot oil & season with garlic and salt

-let brown on each side, until tender and nicely golden brown

-While still in pan, generously top with cheese

-Remove eggplant from pan & place in oven on 350degrees

-Place tomatoes and diced onion in frying pan and saute until tender.  Season with salt and more garlic

-Remove eggplant from oven (5min. in oven is plenty-you simply want cheese to fully melt)

-Plate the eggplant & top with tomatoe & onion mixture.

-Top it off with a small additional sprinkling of cheese-sooo yummy!

Free Family Resource

I wanted to share this great freebie from Focus on the Family.

This month they are giving away a FREE DOWNLOADABLE activity to help you share your faith with your children!  You can’t beat that!  Free Family Resource.  I hope you will check this out.  It’s so important to share our faith with our kiddos, and it’s also important to answer their tough questions.  This month Focus on the Family featured some excellent discussion reguarding this important topic.  Hope you enjoy!

BBQ Potato-Easy & Delicious

famous dave potatoMy family absolutely loves Famous Dave’s restaurants, because they are huge BBQ lovers!  My personal favorite dish there is their BBQ baked potato.  I love it so much, that I have experimented with my own version of this yummy dish…and here are the results:

LIST OF INGREDIENTS:

baked potato

butter

shredded cheddar cheese

sliced brisket or shredded pork or ham ( I usually use deli shaved ham)

BBQ sauce

sour cream & green onions (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

*Bake the potato & coat with butter & salt.  I like to slice the potatos into 1″ thick slices & arrange on plate

top with butter & shredded cheese-(lightly salt the potato, butter & cheese)

combine brisket (or shredded pork or shredded deli shaved ham) with BBQ sauce & heat

Add the BBQ meat to the potato

top with a light additional drizzle of BBQ sauce

If desired, add sour cream & green onions

YUMMY!

A Vintage Back to School Party, Betsy McCall Style!

First grade was coming for my little girl…no stopping it, so why not celebrate it?  She had a blast with three special friends, and we celebrated in style!  I found a delightful vintage print of the paper doll series “Betsy McCall”, entitled “Betsy McCall goes to School”.  I added some modern touches, complete with some free printables.  Here’s our fun little party:angled over head shotoverhead shot of tableplace settingslip strawsfavor bagscookiesfavor treatsangled over head shotbetsy mccall goes to schoolhanging decorgirls w lip strawsoverhead shottable shot pretty

We had a blast!  Here is the link to the lovely free printables that we were able to use for the party: http://emmyandgabbie.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/freebie-printable-party-supplies-rainbow-sherbet/    These were wonderful & can be found on the blog Emmy+Gabby.

Here is the link for the cute “straw lips”: http://www.fun-stuff-to-do.com/chocolate-cherry-party.html  What a delightful, whimsical touch! They can be located at Fun-Stuff-To-Do.com.

 

My little sweetie had a wonderful time!  Here’s a pic of Delaney on her first day of FIRST GRADE!DelaneyCheck out my Pinterest boards for many great Free Printables!

http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/free-party-printables/

http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/print-it-baby/

Planning a Party Using Free Printables from Pinterest

Parties are super fun, but let’s face it-they can be very expensive.  Pinterest is great for providing ideas to throw incredible parties, but I’ve found myself spending much more than I intended on some great Pinterest idea.  So my mission this summer, was to see if I could host parties using Pinterest “free printables”.  My goal was to spend $20 or less on the entire party…Is it possible?  YES!  Here are two of my experimental Pinterest (free printables) parties:

Football Party:

football table piccookies and wter bottlescandy 1 w football wrappersfootball water bottlefootball table decorfootball guys

candy 3candy 2

The “football wrappers” on the water bottles & on the willie wonka sugar packs, are actually hot-dog wrappers, and can be located through this link:  http://blog.forrent.com/apt_life/kids-tailgate-fun

The cup-cake/ cookie toppers can be located through this link: http://blog.hwtm.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/BigGameBash_CircleToppers2.pdf

The bunting and sign can be found at this link: http://worthyoftheprize.blogspot.com/2012/10/free-football-party-printables.html

To add a little bit of excitement to the party, you can see that I added a candy buffet; which was a huge success!

The Basketball party was also a hit!

basketball tabledress up durantcups and cookies awesomecookiescupswhole tablehanging decorcookies and cups

I had to be a bit more creative in finding printable basketball items.  Most of the basketball party printables are for purchase only, but I did find a few.  I was able to make it work by being creative, and piecing together several different items.

The cute little “Dress Up Durant” art was actually from ESPN: http://www.behance.net/gallery/ESPN/2169699

The cup-cake/cookie toppers, I also used on the cups!: http://www.scribd.com/doc/86092411/March-Madness-Basketball-Cupcake-Food-pick-Circles

The bunting, I made by printing a basketball scrap-book paper & cutting it myself.

The sign was actually a greeting card that I re-sized and printed as a picture: http://www.greetingsisland.com/prints/PrintPosting.aspx?card=Basketball&id=2049

cookies

The cookies were a great replacement for cup-cakes & they were SUPER EASY!

Reeces Peanut Butter Cup Cookies:

1-devil’s food cake mix

2-eggs

1/2 cup oil

1/3 cup apple sauce

MIX together

add one entire bag of peanut butter chips

Bake @ 350 degrees for roughly 15 min.  Check after 10min.

I hope you will check out my Pinterest board to check out tons of more FREE PARTY PRINTABLES!  http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/free-party-printables/ , as well as my other board PRINT IT BABY http://pinterest.com/jillyannb/print-it-baby/

Coming soon, will be my post, “A Vintage Back to School Party, Betsy McCall Style!”. Stay posted to see my latest party, hosted for my little first-grade daughter, as she and her friends celebrated the beginning of school…Betsy McCall style!

Athens VBS at Word of Life Church

vbs word of life church
Last week was a big week for Word of life church-VBS 2013! It was such a success, as we reached so many children in our community with the wonderful message of God’s love. The prep started months ago, as our wonderful Kid’s Ministry Director, Sami Young put hours of planning, preparation, and prayer into this power-packed week of ministry. I’m a design lover, so I began to hunt for the perfect way to turn our non-traditional church into Athens, Greece. We were so very blessed when a friend from another church provided a faux, brick wall that had originated from Silver Dollar City! It was a little easier said than done, as it came in four, ten and a half foot rough sections…but my sweet hubby came through for me, helping me pick it up and transport it.  Then came the real fun…sawing, sawing, and even more sawing of the THICKEST styrofoam I’ve ever seen!  Wow, not something I’m ever again hoping to do, but so worth it.  After that Delaney and I touched up the paint on the fronts of the walls & edged out all of the sides that would be visible.  Then, we set it up-right in our own back-yard-just to see if it looked anything like the stone structures in Athens…Whew!  It did!

vbs creating the set

Here is a pictorial summary of this delightful week!

vbs athens window

Athen’s window to the sea…

vbs mural

Lovely mural painted by my friend Tiffany

vbs enterance

The entry-way where very excited children came through to hear the gospel each night!

vbs other athens view

The Athens stage (love the lighting Pastor Kevin!)

vbs marketplace

The market-place, thanks to so many workers, as well as many women who were willing to part with decor from their own homes for the week we borrowed it!

vbs fishers of men

The Fishers of men transformation for our baptismal area-great idea Sami!

vbs paul's tent

Paul’s tent.  Athens VBS is all centered around Paul’s dangerous journey to share God’s love.  The children spent the week experiencing Paul’s stop in Athens, Greece.  Each night they would “crawl” into Paul’s tent where “Paul” shared God’s love with them!

vbs paul

Paul did such a wonderful job!

vbs dionesias

Dionysus, waiting to go into Paul’s tent…another great volunteer!

vbs sami

Sami, our amazing Kid’s Ministry Director!

vbs worship

My favorite part of the night, leading the kiddos in worship!

vbs singing

The kids loved “Yes It’s True”, our theme song!  We tended to go a little wild over this one!

vbs marketplace

vbs marketplace

More market-place fun.

vbs more marketplaceEven more market-place fun-so many wonderful volunteers behind all of this.

vbs prayingThe last night was very special for so many reasons, but most of all because it was the night Paul gave an altar call.  We were able to pray with the children-some  wanted prayer for their families, and some gave their lives to Christ!

vbs parents

We invited the parents to come back about 15 minutes early, so they could be part of our ending worship service.  What a wonderful week!

vbs word of life church

And thanks to countless volunteers (even some parents stayed and helped), Word of Life was ready for Sunday services in a little over an hour!

http://www.wordoflifemarionville.tv/

visit our church website to see what God is doing in our church and community!

Is There a Happily Ever After?

It’s that time of year again-our anniversary! Woo hoo! Sixteen years! But early on in our marriage there were some very dark days. Last year I shared our testimony, and I want to share it again. If you are in need of help in your marriage and would like resources, feel free to ask. I hope this is a blessing to you!

javawithjill

Fifteen years ago tonight was a very busy night.  Decorating, eating steak cooked to perfection, enjoying my friends and family,practicing walking down the aisle of the church, spending one last night as “Jill Tracy”.  The very next day I would be marrying the most wonderful man in the world!

The next two and a half years were fabulous…more decorating, first an apartment, then a cute little duplex, and then a baby’s room.  Beautiful Brayden entered our lives, and we were off to the things fairy tales were made of…and then it happened…LIFE hit us like a grenade explosion in the middle of a quiet, sun-lit garden. One entire year of horrid…and horrid it was!  You’ve seen it, when horrid explodes all over a marriage, but what happens next is what separates the weak from the strong.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to walk away and start over fresh? Well now, just remember…

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A Land Where Accidents Don’t Exist/ Living in a Society Without Mercy

mercy blog pic of farm
Little Joe. A name I’ve grown familiar with, but whom I’ve never met-never could meet.  Joe is my father’s older brother, who never got the opportunity to be “older”.  A couple of months before my father was born, Joe was tragically killed, in what was undeniably an accident.  Now in their seventy’s, Joe’s living siblings still talk about him…reminisce…wonder “what if”…

This family was a hard-working farm family, who’s children learned to toil from sun-up to sun-down from the mature age of seven.  As an older teen was called away to help the father in the field, the little siblings were momentarily unattended.  That’s the moment that it happened-that regretful moment that cannot be gotten back. Joe wandered away and fell into a milk depository on the farm, and sadly his little life was lost-but not forgotten.

In recent years, Joe’s name has come up many times.  Each time that I hear it I am struck with a nagging feeling, and it has caused me to reflect on the society in which Joe died and the stark contrast to the society we live in today. Undeniably, Joe’s death was an accident. Period.  No one would ever suggest otherwise.  But similar events in recent times, have met with very different endings, because we now live in a society that cannot accept anything as an accident.  In fact, our society demands blood, punishment, an eye for an eye. The world we are now engaged in, refuses to look into a tragedy and extend mercy.  Mercy, it would seem, simply does not exist-or at least it’s rarely thought to be appropriate to administer it. But is an unmerciful approach correct, simply because it’s what we are becoming accustomed to in the land we now live?

Let’s look at a similar situation with incredibly different results.  I remember a dad charged with the death of his son, just a few short years ago, because of a tragic situation.  The dad, a minister, went to the church where he served, with his toddler son in the back-seat, strapped into his car-seat.  He arrived at the church, and in the habit of going to the church alone, he went into the church-completely forgetting his little boy.  Unfortunately, his little boy died a terrible death. It must have been an unimaginable pain for that family to bear. Apparently it wasn’t considered enough pain by the local prosecutor’s office, because soon that dad (who had no criminal history and was a wonderful husband and father by all accounts) was brought up on criminal charges. No mercy. No wrong unpunished. No death un-avenged. No such thing as accidents…immediately my mind went to little Joe and his family all those years ago. How different that innocent tragedy would have been had it happened today. Is it appropriate to force the letter of the law into a tragic situation that is not criminal in nature? I would humbly suggest it is not appropriate or even beneficial to the family or our society at large.

I can’t help but think of recent criminal cases. Because sometimes events occur that are not accidental in nature. Sometimes intentionally or unintentionally a law is broken, and pain is unloaded on someone who didn’t deserve to be hurt. When this type of pain occurs, we want justice!  Or do we? Is what we are truly after really something more like…revenge? Is it really justice that we are seeking? Or are we truly seeking blood, are we secretly feeding an inner hate? As Christians, it is important to look at what our inner motivation is, but also to explore the idea of mercy. Jesus administered mercy. Remember the woman at the well? Living in sin, clearly an adulterous woman with a very tangled web of immorality, this woman was forgiven by Jesus. His followers were fine with her being forgiven, but then Jesus did something unimaginable to them…he ACCEPTED her! Accepted her as a believer, accepted her as a follower, accepted her as a (gasp!) friend. And what about that scrawny little man hiding in a tree? That annoying, tax-collector Zaccheas. Jesus also forgave and be-friended him-even going to his home! And then there is the big one…DAVID, the man after God’s own heart. Wait! He was a murderer! He was an adulterer! He was an egotistical law breaker! But God had mercy on David. God forgave him, and inserted David into the blood line of his own son, Jesus! But is it realistic to accept mercy in modern, criminal cases? Is it appropriate to administer mercy or allow a convicted criminal to walk, having served less than the law would allow, or to welcome with open arms someone who previously has lived a criminal existence? Let’s look at some modern examples.

Chuck Colson, special counsel to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, was imprisoned in 1974, and served seven months in a federal prison. He came out of prison a changed man. He became a Christian, devoted his life to ministry and founded a prison ministry that is still in existence today. Though he has now gone to his heavenly home, his ministry to hundreds of thousands of Americans, incarcerated and free alike, show that a tainted past is not an effective means of measuring one’s ability to serve or make a difference in our society. Imagine if he had never been given a second chance.

Troy Hartman, a Pastor at a successful church in the mid-west, has impacted thousands of young lives. But several years earlier, Troy was a young college student, living a pretty non-committed existence, when he drove under the influence of alcohol, crashing his Ford Explorer and killing his best friend, Matthew Jones.  Just days after this tragedy, Matthew’s mother spoke to Troy and told him that she loved him and she forgave him!  Matthew’s family welcomed Troy at the funeral with opened arms. What a lovely picture of forgiveness!  But wait!  There’s more…she told him to forgive himself, and that God could bring good from the tragic death of her son.  To this day, the families remain in close, family-like contact.  THIS is what mercy looks like.  THIS is what forgiveness looks like.

A merciful response to life’s low-points is my challenge to you and to myself.  It’s so easy to pass judgement.  It’s so natural to want revenge, but God has shown us in His word the example of mercy.  Unmerited favor.  Undeserved kindness and forgiveness.  Little Joe’s death is my personal reminder that in the big picture of life, tragedy and mistakes are inevitable.  His legacy lives on, paving the way for a priceless lesson in extending mercy to our fellow man.

Photography by Lynda Magley
References:TroyHartman.com/ Wikipedia:Charles Colson