This past month has been a busy one for our family. Between school, activities, birthdays and gatherings, I’ve had little time to sit and catch up on current world events. I had heard about the typhoon that had hit the Philippines, but with everything else, it just stayed on the periphery of my life, not really registering as I carried on my daily duties.
Praying over our gift.

And then this past week I got a letter from World Vision, an organization that -- among many things -- sends aid to areas of the world affected by disaster. I had a few minutes before my daughter got off the bus so I sat down, seeing the letter was about the devastation that had hit the Philippines. Determined to be intentional and to stop, to finally take the time to know what had happened.

What I read was shocking. Thousands thought dead. The worst storm on record. Hundreds of thousands of people and families displaced. The greatest needs being food, water, shelter -- basic necessities that I rarely give a second thought. As the shock began to wear off, I realized how long I had waited before really taking the time to sit and take it all in. Kyle got home and I told him about what had happened. We agreed we needed to do something. We would talk with the children at supper that night, determined to always share our concern for others with our kids, not wanting to scare them, but always wanting them to know and be a part of our giving to others.

Circles of Faith is featuring our Second Annual Advent Acts of Kindness today! You can join the fun by following along on our Facebook page and Twitter. Look for #AdventKindness with all our posts, and be sure to add it to yours as well.

Photo by Brainedge on Flickr.
Here's an excerpt from Kendra's post:

Christmas. It’s a season of giving to others and remembering Jesus and his birth. 

But for many of us, especially with children, our season of celebration can turn into one of duty and chaos as we shop, buy, bake, and wrap our way through. Suddenly this time of year when we want to reflect, relax, and make memories becomes anything BUT what we’ve dreamt it could be!

This is where I and two close friends found ourselves last November as we faced another Christmas season. So we decided we wanted to do something different -- sure, there would still be presents and trees, cookies and stockings -- but we wanted to shift the focus off ourselves and our families and back to the true meaning of the season: Jesus and giving to others.

We decided that during the 25 days leading up to Christmas, we would focus on giving to others in our neighborhoods, communities, country, and even the world.

Read the rest here.
Today, we're excited to be linking up with SheLoves Magazine for our Second Annual Advent Acts of Kindness!

Their amazing staff has agreed to join us in committing one kind act each day in December leading up to Christmas. Join the fun by following along on their Facebook and Twitter: @shelovesmag with #shelovesadvent.

And, of course, join us on The Ruth Experience's Facebook page and Twitter: @RuthExperience. Look for #AdventKindness with all our posts, and be sure to add it to yours as well.

Here's an excerpt from Julie's post:

It happened just this past week when I swung by the local mall with my two small children. I was intently focused on getting their shaggy, straggly hair cut before all the relatives arrive for Thanksgiving.

The furthest thing from my mind in that moment was Christmas.

That is, until I stumbled upon the mall’s new temporary resident: Santa.

As I looked for a quick exit, any escape route to avoid the inevitable, the little voices next to me told me I was too late.

Two observant sets of eyes turned to me …“Santa?”

Every December I struggle with how to refocus my family’s attention on Christ, on giving, and on thinking of something or someone other than ourselves, or on what Santa might bring, or the presents on our list.

Read the rest here.

Image by TschiAe via Flickr
 It was the day after Halloween, and as I swept into a local store to grab a few items I skidded to a halt in disbelief: 

Christmas trees. Up. Decorated. What the what?!? 

I almost checked the date on my phone to make sure I hadn’t accidentally skipped 30 or so days.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. L.O.V.E. Christmas. What I don’t love is all the commercialism that goes along with it.  

Last year, two of my friends and I started a counter-revolution against the commercialism of Christmas.

If you are thinking picket signs and three angry women standing on a street corner shouting, you’re going down the wrong path.
I bought my daughter Elise's first Barbie the other day. I felt a little conflicted over it -- the unrealistic body shape, the picture-perfect makeup and hair, the feet permanently arched to accommodate high heels -- but in the end, succumbed.

Elise -- my beautiful, smart, kind girl
I could spend time trying to justify my choice. I could tell you that we have a house full to overflowing with projects and toys that will help my daughters gain confidence, that the culture of princesses that pervades our society is offset by other interests. I could tell you that I found the most modest doll I could find, which happened to be the "Barbie for President" doll. And I could tell you that yes, I tell my daughters that they are beautiful, but I also tell them that they are smart, and capable, and kind, and generous. 

And all of that would be true -- but I'm not sure if it matters. 

Because in the end, my daughters' sense of beauty -- and the self-worth that underpins it -- will come, primarily, from me. From my example.
This past spring was busy. Too busy. As I hurried from day to day, trying to get all my lists done but always lagging a bit behind, I felt God calling me to let some things go. Step down from some groups and ministries I enjoyed. At first I balked, not wanting to stop. But as spring went on and I found myself pregnant and dealing with nausea most days, I began to crave rest.
Photo by Adam Pniak on Flickr.

So I did it. I let go of some of my “busyness.” Determined to rest. Believing that was what God was calling me to do. And I felt good about it.

The summer went by with a lot of time spent doing kids’ activities and family trips, spending time together. It was wonderful. And I didn’t really notice what I’d lost.

But then this fall came. The kids went back to school. I had more time at home -- more time to myself. And I began to feel like I needed those things back. I dropped my son off at preschool, the same place a group of women were meeting to plan for an organization that I loved, one I’d been part of and then let go in the spring.

And I left feeling sad. Unsure. Is this really what God has for me?

As I lay in bed that afternoon, worn out from cleaning our rental property the day before, I realized how hard this season of rest is for me. That for as much as we say rest is good and wouldn’t we all like a little more down time, a quieter season in life, most of us never really stop to do it. Myself included.

Because for this woman who likes to: Go. Be. Do. It’s been hard to simply: Stop. Wait. Rest.

Hey friends!
Photo by Nina Matthews on Flickr.

Today we are sharing with you some wonderful links to inspire and encourage you this weekend, as well as some amazing sites we've been honored to share at this past week.

Check them out, leave a comment and enjoy!

-The Girls of TRE

What I Gained When I Lost the Panty Hose by Kristin Gordley

Healing Pains by Kathy Banta

Freedom From Expectiations by Kristin Demery

No Water Please: A Call to Preserve by Ashley Skillman

Mean Girls: Adult Online Edition by Kendra Roehl

Preparing for the Holidays with Chronic Illness by Esther Aspling

Exaggerated Expectations by Tabby Finton

Be Bold by Kendra Roehl
Today I am excited to be posting over at Blogs By Christian Women. I'm writing about overcoming my fear of exposure and my desire to be bold. Here is a portion of my post:

This past month, I have been reading through the book of Jeremiah. It’s a somewhat depressing interesting book that chronicles the people of Israel, who had rebelled against God, and Jeremiah’s role to speak truth to them even when it was unpopular.

As I read, I am struck by how often he was one man, standing alone, in a sea of other prophets who were telling the people everything was fine, they were all good with God. Jeremiah was the only one who spoke truth to the people. Hard truth. Honest truth. Even if they didn’t like it. Even if HE didn’t like it. He was obedient to God.

I imagine Jeremiah must have felt very vulnerable at times. Maybe too honest.

Although I cannot imagine what this was like exactly for Jeremiah (no one has threatened my life or wellbeing over something I’ve said), I can understand the vulnerability he must have felt.

Being a writer and a blogger is amazing. It can bring community and honesty, healing and renewal. But there is also a side of being a writer that is scary; putting yourself and your story out there for others to read and know is sometimes daunting.

I worry what others may think of me.

You can read the full post here. 

I’m terrified of public speaking. And today, I have to face my fear. 
It's infinitely worth it to face our fears.
When I say I’m terrified, it’s not like I kill spiders with the biggest shoes I own or I hurl myself onto chairs when I see mice, although both of those things are true. 

When I say I’m terrified, I mean it. For me, it's a deeply visceral unease – I feel nauseous like I’ve got morning sickness or the 24-hour flu, with an added dose of heart-pounding anxiety thrown in for good measure. 

Photo by Vancouver Film School on Flickr.
Yesterday I attended my oldest son’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting at school. I couldn’t be more proud. In the past several years, after being in a stable environment, he has made leaps and bounds in his educational progress, meeting grade level (finally!) in math and reading. Many problem areas, diagnosis, and concerns he once had on his school record have now been removed. He is finally seeing success.

And yet with all the good that he has done, he still struggles at times. Struggles with study habits, with speech, and with the written word. His dad and I spend hours each day helping him figure out good ways to organize his thoughts, hold him accountable for work that’s due, and help him with the endless stream of homework.