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“I guess we won’t be able to get recessed lights for the living room,” I sighed. One by one, the two floor lamps we had used for lighting had broken. Only a lone table lamp now lit the room.

Our home is a 1950’s rancher that we’ve been remodeling. We had planned to install recessed lighting in the spring, but our vehicle had needed some major work, so we decided to put it off until autumn.

Now, autumn was quickly passing. It was getting dark earlier each day. And it was starting to look like we’d need a lot more than recessed lighting to get us through the long gloomy winter.

My husband, Josh, had just received the news we’d been anticipating for some weeks. Like many others in our struggling economy, he no longer had a job. His company was closing its doors.

Continue reading over at

What I’m Into Right Now


Listening: Serial, the podcast. Josh and I are hooked on Serial, a spin off of This American Life. Besides the fact it is a very well-done podcast that traces the murder of a high school student and the case that follows, it’s also local for us. Since all of this occurred in the Baltimore area, Josh and I are familiar with many of the the locations referenced all through-out the series, which makes it even more interesting.

Watching: We’re still working our way through Alias. It’s our go-to show to watch when we want to sit down and chill out in the evening. The plot twists and turns never end!

Reading: I finished The Girl on the Train in a few days. It had a riveting plot I couldn’t put down if you like psychological thrillers. I’m also in the middle of reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, Made for More by Hannah Anderson and I finally got around to Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequest. It’s been on my to-read list forever. It seemed like a cozy winter read to me and I’m loving it and looking forward to trying some of the recipes. Niequest has a wonderful writing style I’m enjoying very much.

Eating: I made this Bacon, Mushroom, Wild Rice Chowder last week and wow, was it a winner! Granted, the kids weren’t crazy about it but Josh and I loved it. I’m always looking for a new soup to add to our list for winter consumption and this one I’ll definitely be making again.

Drinking: This is my go-to hot chocolate right now. Yum. I don’t make the vanilla sugar though. I just use regular sugar and use vanilla creamer. Check it out.

What are you into right now?

Briana - February 17, 2015 - 10:58 am

That soup looks amazing and like one LA and I would love.

I’m currently into the Best Beef Stew you had on your blog a while back from “Life In Grace.” Deliciousness. I made it last night and plan to have it today with plenty to share with those recovering from surgery or sick (I know too many of them at the moment).

I am reading another Sara Jio book and just finished “Josie’s Story” which was incredibly meaningful to me as a mom with a child who frequents the hospitals and receives ongoing medical attention. I’m grateful for the ways in which this mom/author, Sorrel King, used her overwhelming grief for the good of others.
I’m also listening to (finally) “Boundaries with Kids,” a must read of me as a parent right now.

I’m also into layering clothes and socks because it is so stinking cold.

And lastly a little homeopathic goodness we have been trying this winter to stave off illness and help build immunity is:
1 c. raw honey
juice from 1.5 lemons
2 heaping Tbsp. of cinnamon
1 heaping Tbsp of tumeric
Put it all in a mason jar with a lid. Give it a firm shake. Take 1 Tbsp. morning and night, daily.

Mary - February 17, 2015 - 11:24 am

I love ALL of this!!! Thanks so much for sharing, it is so fun to hear what you’re into (and get good ideas for myself!!! :))!

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ruth Simons Interview


I’m not sure where I first discovered Ruth Simon’s blog, Gracelaced. But I quickly started following her. I found Ruth inspiring since she was a homeschool mom like myself and also a writer and artist. I’m always interested to see how other women work from home, are inspired creatively, and seek to continue using their talents. After I started following Ruth, she ended up opening a shop to sell her artwork, which has exploded over the past year. I’m excited to introduce my readers to this inspiring woman!


Tell us a little bit about you, your family, and what a normal day looks like for you?

I’m a Chinese-American mother of 6 boys (ages 1-12) and a wife to Troy for almost 17 years. My husband Troy was a preaching pastor for 7 years at a church we planted, but now serves as the headmaster to a Classical Christian school we started here in New Mexico that employs a part time home classroom schedule. That means, I homeschool 4 of my boys every other day at home, and run my blog and art business at on the days they are at school. Neither of us ever expected to do such big “start-ups” with our lives, but we are so grateful that God chooses to do more than we think we are able to do on our own.

Did you study art in college or are you self-taught? Did you envision pursuing a career in art?

I was a typical Chinese over-achieving academe, and pursued a degree in biochemistry with scholarships and grants, but during my second year of college, the Lord pursued my heart in ways deep ways, that ultimately led me to finish out my university studies with a fine arts degree. Back then, before blogs and social media…a career in art didn’t seem practical or faith and family friendly. So, no, I didn’t plan to pursue a career. I was just studying what I knew I loved.

What brought about the decision to open your shoppe?

I had been writing at the blog ( for 6 years at the time, and having recently joined Instagram, found a social media outlet that favored my love for words and images. In October of 2013, I joined in The Nester’s 30 days challenge to write on any topic for 30 days. I chose a theme “Drawing Close,” in which I would write and draw something for 30 days. My desire was to challenge myself to rediscover my love for art, and to include it in my blogging. The response was so supportive, and the requests to purchase artwork was so great, that I decided to open a shop to try it out. I opened my GraceLaced Shoppe the following month, with $300 worth of inventory. The rest, as they say, is history.

How do you carve out time for your artwork in the midst of life with six boys and homeschooling? Do you fit it in around the edges of your day, or do you have set times where you sit down and work?

When I first started, I painted during naptimes and often during lunch breaks. But, as the demands of the shoppe increased, orders overwhelmed what I could handle on my own, and custom order paintings began to pile up, I knew I needed to create better boundaries and more specific time for work.

I now paint in the evenings and afternoons during naptimes on days when the older boys are at school, and do minimal work on days when I’m homeschooling. As of 2015, I’ve hired the first part-time help I’ve ever had in 13 years of mothering.:)It was a tough decision, but as the shoppe grew, I knew it was necessary for me to manage my time well, steward the opportunity with discernment, and to find help in things that I can hire for.

Approximately how many pieces are you creating a week right now?

In original art, I paint an average of 2 a week for commissions. I’m always developing new artwork for the shoppe, but I’m also learning to paint “for fun” and to practice the art…for the process.


Your artwork is often inspired by Scripture. Do you have a specific mission in mind for your artwork? What takeaway do you hope someone gets from purchasing a Ruth Simons print or custom order?

You know, I didn’t actually begin with a particular desire to do scripture art, but I think my artwork just flows out of whatever the Lord is teaching me, and so, as I write, read, and work through the things that I desire to grow in…the artwork featuring scripture just flows out. I do offer many giclees, prints, and original paintings that don’t necessarily speak explicitly of God’s word; however, my desire remains the same: I want to inspire others to observe God’s faithful, creative, and merciful provision in his creation. Such faithfulness can be seen in the soft petal of a fading flower, as well as a sunset. I pray those who own my artwork find a reminder of God’s glory through the strokes, colors, and words scripted…that his praise would be quick on their lips on account of a beautiful reminder.

What encouragement do you have for other women who desire to use their artistic gifts in a meaningful way but have yet to find an outlet?

That is such a good question. I wrote something about this very thing recently “Creatives: 4 Things To Consider As You Pursue A Dream.”

But, I also like to tell those who are still waiting to see how the Lord will lead:

Despite how much I wanted “to do something” with my gifts and talents 10 years ago, I don’t think I would’ve been prepared like I am now. The Lord had me focus on being a mother, ministering from my kitchen table, and supporting my husband…that I might have the content, the wisdom, and the inspiration from which to create. Starting a business or creating art simply to succeed, grow financially, or keep up with peers is the most stifling thing to creativity. As artists, we simply cannot create anything authentic if we are not truly living, reading, growing, and becoming. My encouragement to all who desire to take their artistic dreams, and fly…is to joyfully walk first with the Lord, and treasure that above all else. Then, when the affirmation and acknowledgement of your work one day comes, you will not be so lured by the opinions of others, but the applause of One.

Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to be interviewed! I hope it will be an encouragement to others! 

Find Ruth online at the following online spaces:
Gracelaced Blog
Gracelaced Shoppe

Briana - February 10, 2015 - 9:09 am

That last paragraph was worth the entire article. So, so good!

Danielle - February 10, 2015 - 9:24 am

@Briana, I thought so too!

Wendy - February 10, 2015 - 1:00 pm

Love this so much! Thank you for featuring Ruth today, she blessed me greatly!

Amy L. Sullivan - February 12, 2015 - 11:42 am

So thrilled to meet you, Ruth! Look at those boys…ahhh, love it! I feel like high-fiving you for your answer to the last question.

Amy L. Sullivan - February 12, 2015 - 11:45 am

And I can see me wasting entirely too much scrolling through your Instagram pics! Beautiful.

Newborn Lessons

Last Christmas we received the best present we could ask for: the birth of our daughter.

Although she is not our first child and I knew what to expect when it comes to having a newborn in the house, each child is different and has their own personality. It takes some time to get to know this tiny new person who has just arrived into our home and family. And even though I’ve had other children, it’s easy to forget just how draining a sleepless night can be or the challenge of getting dinner on the table in-between feedings and diaper changes.

With each new baby we’ve brought home, they have gently taught me some valuable lessons. Lessons I hope to keep with me even after this stage is over and gone.

Join me over at For the Family to keep reading.

Change Together or Grow Apart | Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater


Ashleigh Slater is the first to be featured in the new series, “Inspire: Women Who Create.” Ashleigh is a writer, editor, and homeschooling mama to four. I came across Ashleigh’s personal blog during my own early blogging days sometime back in 2005. Currently, I work with her in a more professional capacity writing for the website she created: Ungrind. We even got to meet in real life once when she visited Baltimore for a conference!

Ashleigh writes about marriage with practical wisdom and humor in her new book, Team Us: Marriage Together. Check out my full review here. Today, she is writing about how a marriage relationship is always evolving and we can choose to either grow together or apart.

Before sharing her guest post today, I had this question for her:

As a busy home educating mom of four, how do you make time to consistently work from home as a writer?

Instituting quiet time almost every afternoon has been one of the keys for me to consistently working from home as a writer.  My kid don’t nap anymore (my three-year-old recently gave it up), so it’s a time of quiet in their rooms where they play or read or listen to “Adventures in Odyssey.” Normally, it lasts about two hours. This is when I can really focus intensely on writing or blogging or the work on my plate. After quiet time, if I’m needing more work time, the kids can do crafts or play or maybe watch a movie. I’m readily available to them, but still working. If I have a lot of projects or didn’t get as much done as I hoped, then I may work after the kids’ bedtime a bit before Ted and I spend time together.  I actually wrote a blog post on this subject recently and shared a few other things I do to balance kids and work. Check it out here:

Let’s welcome Ashleigh as she writes about changing together or growing apart in marriage.


The Ted I’m married to today isn’t the same Ted I married almost 12 years ago.

Sure, he has the same blue eyes. The same crazy hair worthy of his middle name Wolfgang. Yes, he still often stuns people with his dry, witty sense of humor. And, all these years later, his passion for soy sauce and politics (not necessarily in that order) remains rock solid.

But he’s also changed over the years.

He now eats leftovers instead of cereal for breakfast. He gets seriously excited to watch obscure black-and-white films like Crisis (all you Cary Grant fans out there may know that one). And, best of all, he now understands why adults go to Disney World … without their children. Although that one’s easier said than done.

The thing is, he’ll tell you the same thing about me. The Ashleigh he’s married to today isn’t the same Ashleigh he married almost 12 years ago. I’ve changed too.

Fortunately, our changes have brought us closer together. They’ve resulted in more points of connection. More shared interests. More mutual dreams. But I know that’s not always the case for couples.

I’d venture to guess that you and your husband have also changed since that day you promised “I do.” Because the reality is that none of us is static. So as long as we’re living, we all change. Without exception. (God, the Changeless One, is the only one who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.) Which means none of our relationships is static. They change too. Including our marriages.

So if change is inevitable, how can we better embrace it in our husbands and ultimately in our marriages?

I believe by being intentional to change together. Side by side. Hand in hand. Over the years, that’s what Ted and I have sought to do.

This doesn’t mean you’ll both change in exactly all of the same ways. Ted and I haven’t. Want an example? When it comes to music, he didn’t like dub step or scream-o when we got married. These days, he plays both at high volumes. Me? I tolerate them because I love him. (Except when our kids are winding down for bed. Then, not so much.)

Yep, almost twelve years later, we’re still two different people with two different personalities. Because the truth is, marriage wouldn’t be quite as much fun (or perhaps as challenging at times either) if we were identical; if our personalities merged. But what changing, together, does mean is there’ll be less of a chance we’ll wake up one morning and wonder how we became strangers.

What’s one way you and your husband can be intentional to change together?

An easy place to start is by seeking out and developing new common interests. New things you love to do together. By taking the time to literally share in the other’s “joy” by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something they like. Sushi, classic movies, camping, or perhaps even Dragon Con. You might just discover you like it too. Who knew?

I predict that 12 years from now, Ted won’t be the same Ted he is today. And I won’t be the same Ashleigh. Once again, we’ll have changed. But my hope is that we’ll have continued to change together. Side by side and hand in hand. A chapter or two later, our characters will change, the plot will develop, but we’ll still be co-starring in it together.



Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together from Moody Publishers. As the founder and editor of the webzine Ungrind and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she unites the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage readers. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh and her husband, Ted, have been married for twelve years. They have four daughters and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit