I’m over at (in)courage today, writing about a lesson learned in the dark.

Would love to hear from you over there…click here to read :)

Ang

Blissdom and Randomness…

So I ended up going to Blissdom today and it was FANTASTIC. I have a phobia of conferences but I was blown away by how sweet everyone is. I’m going back tomorrow…I’m getting so brave, aren’t I? It has been really good for me to work past some social phobias :)

OK, so two other random things before I hit the sack. I changed my twitter name to @angiesmith19 so it would be a little easier. I don’t know if it will automatically bump you or if you will need to change it so I wanted to give you a head’s up :)

Also, I have talked quite a bit about Kelsey, who is technically our “nanny” but is really more of a family member at this point. We love her dearly, and so appreciate her heart for the needy. She is about to leave for a mission trip to Guatemala and they are a little (a lot) short on funds. She is trusting the Lord with it, and I know He will come through in one way or another but today is her birthday and I thought it would be a great time to ask if anyone reading might want to reach out and help. Please don’t ever feel like I’m pressuring you for money, it is just something I love to be able to throw out in the event that the Lord pricks your heart and you want to join in :) If that is the case, please sent me whatever you are comfortable with (angelac519@gmail.com on paypal and put “kelsey” in the notes). If you don’t feel led to share, could I ask for you to pray for her trip? Click here to read about what she will be doing :) You can also give directly on her site if you prefer.

OK, that’s all for now…gotta get some sleep for tomorrow! If you’re there, make sure and say hey!!!

Blessings and love,
Ang

I Am Digging This Place…

One of my favorite things about having a blog is the fact that I can share things that I really believe in with everyone, and most of the time that happens when I just stumble upon something I think is really cool. Well, our sweet Kelsey told me the other day that her youth group was working on a new place here in Nashville, and today we all headed over there.

Y’all.

Audra and I have always talked about wanting to have a coffee shop where moms could come and let their kids run around and play while they chatted, had Bible study, took creative classes, looked for their sanity etc, but OH MY WORD this place is way beyond what I had pictured. Just so you all know, they don’t have the slightest clue that I have this blog or anything, and might think I am a total fruit loop for stalking them. What can I say? That’s my sti-lo.

In case you live near here and haven’t heard of it, it’s called Sodium (I keep calling it caffeine but I think that’s because I’m on deadline). Here’s the gist of it…

It is really big, like a really cool warehouse kind of thing, and it is run by Christians. The whole intention of it is to provide an opportunity for families to be together. These are just a few of the things they have there: A theatre area, classes for kids (art, science, math tutoring, music, and on and on…), dozens and dozens of comfy couches, a cafe with delicious coffee, a rock-climbing wall, a giant treehouse/for thingy, a play town, a baby area, a video game area (coming soon…think plasmas and high tech gear), a game room with ping-pong, pool, etc and tons of other cool stuff like a ginormous stage for concerts and stuff.

They have family game nights and lots of other opportunities for community. For example, they have a Superbowl party coming up where they will show the Superbowl on the big movie screen, but when halftime comes they will have their own entertainment (to make sure it’s age appropriate). They also encourage churches to rent it out for Bible studies etc, and it would be a GREAT spot for that.

They did a rock concert recently and over 200 teens came out…brilliant, right??? I know they are teaming up with the Fish here in town for a concert coming up, and I just think the whole thing is genius.
I am so excited to have such a cool place to hang out and just wanted to pass it along in case you live nearby and want to bring your family out. It is on Columbia in Franklin before you get to the new Target and all that stuff…and you can totally bring your own food in so I’m thinking I’m going to make the Chick-Fil-A my go-to meal :)

Anyway, just wanted to pass it along…here is the website for more info…

I think the pricing is really reasonable. You can pay each time you go or pay $50 for the whole family for a month or $250 for the year. That includes all the classes and stuff, too!!!!! I mean, for real. I can’t take my four girls anywhere, let alone music and art classes, for less than that!!!

Tell them I sent you if you go, because they have no idea who I am and they will probably be totally confused.

:)

See you there!!!
Ang

P.S. If you are one of the ladies that was there and talked to Kelsey before I came, I hope I get to meet you next time! I’ll be the one with the big coffee cup :)

Logos

*I started to post this last night and then thought I might add some photos so I took it right down, but I guess it still came up in google reader…oops! Here it is (again!) and this time you can leave comments… Sorry!!!*

I have gotten so many emails over the years that have asked me about how I study my Bible, and I have not done a great job about writing about it. I love a new year because there’s something so refreshing about a proverbial do-over, so I was thinking this would be a good time to share a couple things that have helped me over the years.

I have been a Christian for exactly ten years (as of yesterday :) ). When I first started reading the Bible I was stressed out because I’m an academic by nature and I couldn’t figure out how to cram it all in in an efficient way. Seriously. I know that sounds pitiful but I nearly gave up on reading because it seemed so overwhelming. One day I swallowed my pride, walked into a local bookstore, and bought myself a children’s Bible. That turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did because it made it digestible in a way that the big-girl Bible’s didn’t. It helped me understand the chronology of the Bible, as well as the key people and places along the way.

And also?

Cute pictures.

Honest to goodness I really recommend starting here if you have never read the Bible before, and just take it at a slow pace until you get your bearings a little.

After awhile I started to graduate to the tissue-paper Bible and I went to the store again to get one. For the record, this can also be an overwhelming process, as there are approximately 1,200,346,568 or so versions and they all look good. Everyone has a different opinion about this but I tend to like to read from the ESV version but memorize from the NIV version. Don’t laugh at me, but I’m kind of quirky about the way the Bible feels in my hands…I’m not a huge fan of the magnet-over-the-top kind because it feels all uneven when I’m reading.

I’m a fan of leather as far as the cover goes because they’re really durable. My all time favorite Bible is the Hebrew Greek Key Word Study Bible in the NIV version, because it makes it super easy to look in the back and find the original Hebrew or Greek (which often really changes the way you understand the passage). I also love to be able to see where else these words show up so I can compare them. In addition, it is fat and brings instant credibility if you are at Starbucks studying. For extra points, feel free to nod incessantly and whisper something about Aramaic. Or say “Pentateuch.” People never see that coming.

For those of you who love Beth Moore the way I do (let’s take a moment, shall we? Ahh, better now.) you will be happy to know that she endorses this particular Bible and that her daughters read it. Incidentally, Melissa is pretty much the smartest person I have ever met in real life and I’m pretty sure she read the Bible in English just to humor us peons in India.  At one point she said something about a present-participle something or other in Greek and I stared at the wall because I’m a writer and I’m not convinced I know what that is in English. But I nodded and scrunched my face up like I was considering the implications, which is key.

I must say I am a huge fan of The One Year Chronological Bible (NIV) because it goes, well, chronologically.

This post may have been a bad idea.

Anyway, it is really great because you can see how things really happened and not necessarily in the order of the Bible. For example, if there is a story in more than one Gospel, they will appear together instead of by book. It has really helped me understand who was a contemporary of whom and it really changes the story when you see it laid out like that.

I want to tell you about some books that I love, but I really want to emphasize that these are not a substitute for Scripture. You have to be in the Word, first and foremost. The rest of it helps bring clarity and encourage you to keep pressing on, but the life-giving power God’s Word has is incomparable.

Here are some really quick tips that have helped me when I read Scripture:
1. Always pray before you begin to read, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you go and bring the
    Word to life in a way that inspires you to live it out. I promise He will do it!!!

2. Have a pen or highlighter and something to write on in the event that you see something you want to
    process a little more later. I have a couple different journals for different things but one I like to use I
    just created myself. I took a cheap-o notebook from Target and stuck homemade tabs throughout it for
    different books of the Bible. That way when I am reading Genesis, I just take notes on that book and
    it’s great for recording things you might not always remember, like lineage etc. I mostly use this one
    for facts and I have another journal for thoughts, prayers, anything that jumps out at me.

3. I like to have some other books handy in case I want to look up a reference for more information. It’s
    great to have a Bible dictionary, Hebrew or Greek dictionary, and any other aids that help, such as
    maps, timelines etc.

4. I try to pick a time when I don’t think I will be disturbed (moms, I hear you laughing and I realize how
    ridiculous this sounds!!!) such as morning or while the girls are in gymnastics class etc. I think there is
    a lot to be said for starting off your day with a quiet time, and to the end that this is possible I highly
    recommend it.

5. I like to have candles, chocolates, and a personal masseuse on hand when I dig in. I think that’s in the
   Bible somewhere.

6. I have to be disciplined about not reading the Bible with an agenda. It is so easy for me to slip into
    academic mode and try to analyze what I’m reading, and it takes a good amount of self-restraint for me
    to simply let the Word of God speak to me. There is a great book called Experiencing the Depths of 
    Jesus Christ that ministered to me as I learned how to truly meditate on the Word. It gave me peace to
    stop thinking about reading Scripture like it was a goal to get through it. I love the peace that comes
    from choosing a short verse and just letting myself read it over and over, processing the way the Lord
    illuminates it for me when I do.

If you are interested in reading a book that will give you the basics about the Bible, there are two I highly recommend and I’m sure I have talked about them on my blog before because for all my years of searching they are still two of my favorites. The first is more basic and is called The Bare Bones Bible Handbook and the second is What the Bible is All About (so good). They both go on sale several times a year at Lifeway, and I have seen them each as cheap as $5.

Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop some profound advice.

The most important thing about reading your Bible is actually opening it up and doing it.

I’m fantastic about making plans and having the best of intentions, but the power isn’t released in the wanting to do it. God says His Word will not return to Him void, and I can testify that it has been true for me. God never fails to meet me there, but I have to show up myself.

I know this is all kind of basic information but I wanted to share something in the hopes that if you all have other questions I can go from there. My passion is making the Bible feel accessible to people who feel intimidated by it, and I would love to answer anything I can to encourage you to experience it for yourself.

Please feel free to comment here with any suggestions, questions, or comments and I’ll do my best to answer them! I’m so excited to here from those of you who have book recommendations, advice, or methods that have been helpful to you.

See you soon!!! (Now go read :) )

Ang

Announcing Our Bloom Selection

We aren’t even going to try and restrain our excitement on this one.

For years we have both loved this author and prayed for the day that there would be a real, live book we could hold (and highlight mercilessly) and the day has finally come. You will no doubt share our enthusiasm, and please take the last part to heart and invest in a set of good highlighters.

You will surely need to restock before the book’s end.

It is with great pleasure and an enormous amount of respect that we announce our very first book as a part of (in)courage. It couldn’t be a more perfect fit, and we are so passionate about not only its message, but the heart of the writer herself. Yes, HERself. You knew we would pick a lady for the first one, didn’t you?!?!?!

Go ahead and watch the video that follows in order to hear our big announcement…we are so glad you are here and are ecstatic about sharing this next season of spiritual growth with you.

Enjoy!

And for more information on the book club, including how to get the book for only $10, click here to visit the new Bloom page on (in)courage.

With love,
Ang, Jess, and the rest of the team at Bloom (in)courage :)

Prayer

There are just those moments in life where you realize you need to stop what you’re doing and pray. My inbox is always filled with stories that bring me to this place, and sometimes I feel the Lord has prompted me to share those prayer requests with you all. This is one of those stories…

If you follow me on Twitter you have probably seen this already, but for those who haven’t…

Joanne is a stranger to me, but a sister in Christ. I have been to her blog before and have loved her heart as a mother, homeschooler, and just an all-around neat lady. She is the kind of woman you would want to hang with in the kitchen and enjoy coffee with. Yesterday I had a rush of tweets come in and spend a good part of the day in prayer for her and today I am doing the same.

This woman needs our prayer, Sundays. She had a stroke yesterday and her daughter found her unresponsive on the treadmill, suffering from a seizure. She has just had surgery to remove a part of her skull to help with the swelling but there is significant trauma to her brain and her husband and daughters (one named Audrey:)) are waiting and praying that she will wake up.

I would really like to pass along the link to her blog where her husband is giving updates, and you can also follow him on twitter for updates as well.

If I didn’t believe in the power of prayer, i wouldn’t ask it of you. Between the floods in Queensland, the shootings in Arizona, and every other heart-breaking story I am processing with a heavy heart, I am reminded that we serve a great God Who we can’t always understand but we can ALWAYS trust.

I am speechless with hope in Him, on my knees in prayer for the brokenness we face.

Will you join me, please?

Feel free to leave prayer requests in the comments, and include links if you would like. Let’s take some time today to close our computers and bow low in prayer together. I have always loved Psalm 27 for times of confusion…

Psalm 27
Of David.
1The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,a
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
4One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
5For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
6Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8My heart says of you, “Seek hisb face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
10Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
11Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.
13I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.


BIG News

No, I’m not pregnant.

I always feel like I need to clarify because anytime someone says they have big news it seems like they are preggers. Jess is. Does that count?

I have been chomping at the bit to share some really exciting news with you all and everything is falling into place amazingly well. Jess and I are so happy to let you all in on what has been going on behind the scenes at Bloom.

We LOVE this book club, and we so believe in what it will continue to do, and we are OVERJOYED to announce that it is not only going to continue, but do so in a way that will make it even better.

For the past year and a half, we have been involved with DaySpring’s (In)Courage, and I cannot tell you what this group of ladies mean to both of us. When they approached me initially about being one of their contributers I was totally overwhelmed and told Jess I didn’t think I could manage it, but she said, “Ang, I think you should make time. These girls are really special, and I think you’ll kick yourself if you don’t.”

She was (as usual) 100% right, and if you could see the way my inbox fills on a weekly basis with the prayers, love, and support of this community of women, you would believe me. Not only do we respect every single lady involved in (in)courage, we believe in the mission and the hearts of everyone involved in creating this place of refuge. I finally got to meet a bunch of them at Relevant, and I can’t tell you all the joy it gave me to connect with the real deal and to know they were exactly what I had hoped.

So, when they approached us about combining Bloom as the book club arm of (in)courage, we were ecstatic. For the past several months we have been hammering out details (and by “we” I mean Jess. I just nodded a lot and decided she was even smarter than I thought), and we are thrilled to announce that we have officially merged with (in)courage.

What does all this mean for you? Well, there’s good news and more good news.

Unless you are sick of me and Jess, in which case there is good news and not-so-good-news.

While Bloom will now be featured on the (in)courage site, not much will change from a practical standpoint – you will just now find Bloom on incourage.me instead of here.

It was really important to us that the integrity of Bloom was maintained, as well as the mission of being able to provide books to those who can’t afford them. I am so happy to tell you that not only have they embraced this model, but they have made it more efficient and generous than this little 2-woman team would have been able to.

As far as the videos and such, it will still be our smiling faces you see, but you will have a MUCH larger community and many more opportunities to connect with one another, which is such an important component to the ministry of (in)courage.

We would love to answer any questions you might have, but in the meantime please make sure to hop over here and sign up for the new and improved Bloom (in)courage book club.

In addition, the Bloom blogfrog community is going to now be a part of the (in)courage blogfrog community (for simplicity sake). We hope that you will join it, knowing that you will be well-loved and much prayed-for in this new haven.

I can’t thank (in)courage enough for not only embracing what we had begun, but loving our “baby” like it was their own, and watching it blossom (pun fully intended) has been such an amazing answer to prayer.  With work, parenting, writing, and on and on, Jess and I felt so bad when there were delays with posts/videos etc, and this will allow us to do what we love to do and have the support we need to do it well. It’s the new and improved Bloom….aaahhhh…

Next Monday, January 17, we will announce the title of the next book selection. We have never been so excited about a book. It is going to be life-changing (it has already greatly impacted our lives). We have already shot ALL the videos and you are in for a treat.

Feel free to hop over to (in)courage today to see the introduction video we made for the site. Jess and I cracked ourselves up – and you will likely laugh at with us too.

We will see you soon, and we can’t wait to share our next book journey with you sweet friends.

All our love,
Ang and Jess

Sweet Charlotte Girl…

You have my sweet nanny Kelsey to thank for these…is Charlotte not the most delicious baby? I can’t get enough of her sweet face and chunky little legs. So grateful to be her mommy :)  
I am tempted to ask you who you think she looks like BEFORE I post some baby pictures to support my case…thoughts?

I love this girl :)