Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I'm Baaaack! (And a Gift Guide for the Kids)

Nashville, TN. 

I'm back, y'all! It's been quite a year, and I can't believe it's already December. Phew! Just when I started to feel like a human again after a summer of morning sickness, our fall tour started, and I haven't really had a chance to come up for air yet. We're in the middle of our Christmas tour now, and I'm taking my last day at home until the 21st to work on some *online* Christmas shopping. I thought it would be fun to do a little post on some of the things we might be getting our kids this year in case you're stumped.

Last year we adopted the "Want, Need, Wear, Read" philosophy of gift-giving for our kids, and it was such a success! We really want them to have a healthy view of Christmas, and part of that is not going overboard with gifts, and focusing on others. We are doing a toy purge when I get home from tour to give to some local charities, and each of the kids packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child this year for the first time. They LOVED it, and I loved seeing their eyes light up at the joy of giving. 

Here are ten gift ideas for the kiddos on your list this Christmas:





Bata & Batuta is Filipino for "cute little kid." How sweet is that? This husband and wife-run company has a mission to share the power of play with children in need. They focus on orphans, kids who are sick, and those living in poverty. So for every toy purchased, one is donated to a child in need. How sweet is that? I love the idea that my dollar is not just going toward bringing my child joy, but that it's also helping a child somewhere in the world who needs to feel loved. 





My son has been able to spell his name for a long time. He's convinced that "E" is his letter. So when I saw this brilliant personalized book, I knew it was the perfect gift for his "Read" present. Basically, you choose whether the book is for a boy or girl and then enter your child's name. A one of a kind book is instantly created for your child. The premise is that your child has lost his or her name and has to go on a magical adventure to find it, along the way meeting creatures who give them letters. At the very end of the book, they find their name. You can preview the whole thing before buying, and it's just pretty darn cute. I can't wait to read this with Eli this year! 

3) Wood Fox Rattle, $14

These organic, eco-friendly rattles would make sweet gifts for the babies in your life. With a nice smooth surface, soothing sound, and a fun shape perfect for teething, I think baby boy Goodwin is going to need one when he makes his appearance in March! Each rattle is made in Seattle by Manzanita Kids and is finished with a homemade organic jojoba oil/beeswax polish. 



I grew up listening to these on cassette, and they hold the most wonderful memories for me. I bought my kids the CD about God's Love last year, and they've memorized most of the Scripture songs. I will hear my 3-year-old walking around the house singing, "this is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins!" No sweeter way to get the Word of God into our kids hearts than through music. I plan to buy this whole set as a family gift under the tree this year. 



Eli is learning to read and has really taken an interest in sounding out words and rhyming.  I can't wait to see what he learns while playing with this wonderful little set! 


6) Wooden Tea Set, $47.50

We're not getting this for Audrey this year because she has plenty of tea set items, but she loves tea parties so much, and this is such a fantastic set for the little girl in your life! It's got so many great pieces and is made by a small etsy artisan. Perfect for pretend play and hours of tea parties!


You all know I love Wildly Co, so I couldn't leave them off the list for this Christmas! I love that this hoodie is cozy, neutral, and soft, and like all Wildly's clothes, it's ethically made in the USA. It also comes in navy and would look equally cute on a girl as a boy. Kids don't need a hoodie? How about this adorable Mint Swing Top or Charcoal Sport Pants




Waldorf dolls are a huge investment and one I'm not sure I'm ready to make yet for my 3-year-old, but with a new baby coming in March, it might be something we get her for her birthday in July. The beauty of the weighted doll is that its made with organic millet (a grain), lavender, and wool--all natural materials that are easy to care for and good for the environment. The concept of the weighted doll is that it feels life-like in your arms, and it teaches little ones how to correctly hold a baby. Pair that with scent of lavender mixed in with the millet and the soft velour outfit, and you've got yourself one cuddly baby doll that can also be passed down as an heirloom. Love it!


9) Wikki Stix, $22.15

These are addictively fun to play and craft with.  My kids love them and yours will too! There are smaller sets for less money if you don't want to commit to such huge box.

10) Alphabet Puzzle, $19.50 

I love this puzzle. It's all wooden and the colors are adorable. It's on Audrey's wish list this year!

Have a beautiful Christmas, and enjoy the season with the ones you love!

- Francesca

Friday, August 14, 2015

He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures


Nashville, TN.

Well, I'm still alive. It's funny how a lack of online presence can really make people think you've fallen off the face of the earth. 10 years ago, the idea of having an "online presence" didn't even factor into my daily life. I'll never forget sitting across the table from my friend John Mays at a Starbucks on my first trip to Nashville in 2005 and hearing about Myspace and Facebook for the first time. Times sure have changed.

There have been a few reasons for my absence both on the blog and on social media. First, I just needed a break. I don't think the human mind was designed to be bombarded with information every nanosecond of every day. Constant scrolling, reading, absorbing, and comparing isn't necessarily healthy. So I took a break. And honestly, I've loved it. I don't think I'll be back on twitter and instagram everyday. It's just too much for me. But this blog is something I've missed, and I definitely want to be better about posting.

So much has happened in the last few months--not the least of which is the fact that my husband and I are expecting Baby #3! We are so thrilled, and I can't wait to meet this little one in March!!!

On that note, I've had pretty crazy morning sickness for the past few weeks. We're talking, I can't walk more than 5 steps without gagging. Anyone who has seen me play a show in August has probably thought, why is that poor girl dry heaving in the middle "He Knows My Name?" Well, now you know why. :)

I struggled with "morning" sickness with both of my other pregnancies, but this one takes the cake. It's been non-stop, y'all. Mamas, doctors, nurses--I welcome any and all advice that you can give.  I've tried essential oils (which you know I love, but I currently can't stand the smell of anything), eating protein every hour, the Unisom/B6 combo, and eating watermelon, and nothing has helped significantly. I feel good for approximately one hour in the morning right when I wake up, and 1 hour at night right before I go to bed, but the rest of the day is pretty much misery unless I'm lying in bed.  Even then it's iffy.

The hardest part of this for me has been feeling like my life is on hold. It's one constant cycle of waking up, trying to eat, hugging the kids, going back to bed and watching more TV than I'd ever care to, and wondering if I can make it through a shower without throwing up. Then back to bed. It's HARD. I like to be in constant motion--cleaning, cooking, organizing, working, going, doing, accomplishing, being productive. I don't like feeling helpless. The fact that I've made it through 7 shows in the few weeks is only Jesus. I've walked onstage for almost every one thinking I couldn't physically do it, but miraculously, He's gotten me through every one.  Even when the sun was beating down right on me and my black stage clothes for 60 minutes, and I thought I was going to pass out. God is faithful.

I was talking to my mom this morning and telling her how I feel like I just can't function, and how it's been so hard to be helpless. It doesn't feel natural. I just want to accomplish something. She reminded me of one of my favorite Psalms. Psalm 231-3a says, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me besides the still water. He restores my soul."

She said, sometimes the Lord makes us lie down in green pastures. He doesn't give us a choice but to rest. And we shouldn't run from it. Maybe He just wants more time with me. Maybe He wants to speak to my heart. Maybe I should turn off the TV and turn up the worship music and just listen to what He's saying in this season. Yes, its hard. No, I don't want to go through this for one more minute. But if Jesus is my shepherd, and He's making me lie down in green pastures right now, then I will soak it up. Because he also restores my soul. I'm believing for that in this season. What are you believing for?

Francesca

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell[a] in the house of the Lord
Forever.

(Top photo found here.)


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wildly Co. Giveaway!


Atlanta, GA.

I love kids clothes.  Especially classic, ethically made basics.  So when Wildly Co. offered to do a giveaway, I was very quick to say yes!  I've been a fan of their clothes since last fall when I placed my first order.  Haley's blog is one of the first I ever followed five years ago, and I'm thrilled about their new venture.  Here's a little backstory for you:

Last year, Mike and Hayley Morgan set out to come up with a business the whole family could be involved in.  Mike, working for a global corporation, along with Hayley, blogger at The Tiny Twig, co-founder of The Influence Networkand upcoming author for Zondervan, felt a calling to integrate their faith and businesses more closely with their family.  They set out to grow something together for good: your good, their kids' good, and mostly for God's glory. 



Since Wildly Co. launched, they successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign and produced a collection of exclusive and unique quality kids' basics.  This week, Mike and Hayley are inviting a few of their Kickstarter backers and bloggers to see behind the scenes of their  production process. Wildly Co.'s story is one of families buying clothes that will provides healing, dignity, and a trade for other families. You can follow along on Instagram with the hashtag #dresswildly. 

Their tag line is "Best of the Basics, Ethically Made."  I've found that kids don't need a million clothes.  It slows them down when it's time to get dressed, makes laundry more difficult, and could instill a lifelong habit of overconsumption.  If we buy our kids fewer, nicer things and let them wear them out, I believe we're teaching lots of good things at once.  Plus, neutral basics make it SO simple to combine different pieces without worrying if they will match.  It fits nicely with my whole "uniform" philosophy, doesn't it?

I'm a real customer of Wildly Co.--they didn't send me any free product to review, just asked me to talk about my actual experiences with their clothes.  We own a swing top, skirt, pair of jeans, sport pants, two t-shirts, and one pair of leggings.  We love everything.  Audrey loves her skirt because its twirly, but I love it because it has shorts underneath, so when she's running around on the playground, I'm not worried about modesty.  Eli loves his t-shirts because they're longer and slimmer than most 4T shirts, and they're so soft with no itchy tags.  Clothes your kids can really play in?  Yes please.  



Wildly Co. clothes are all ethically made.  They employ fair labor practices, are USA made, fair trade, and they are creating sustainable jobs.  And they are generously offering a $100 gift card to one of you!  The giveaway is only open for the next two days, so get moving!  To win, enter the rafflecopter giveaway below!  Winner will be chosen by the weekend!  

Cheers to all of you!
-Francesca

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Week of Surprises!


Atlanta, GA.

I'm sitting in a recliner at my in-laws house, cookies are in the oven baking, the kids are playing happily, and vacation has begun.  It’s been a busy week and a half since the Bible Tour ended, but it’s been jam-packed with fun!  I had a beautiful afternoon tea party with my girlfriends, a late night tea and chocolate date that felt like a sleepover, helped out at a garage sale, went to an adorable gender reveal party, had a double date with sweet friends, got to go church for the first time in months, had a wings and basketball night with our wonderful nanny and her hubby who we never get one-on-one time with, went to our favorite taco place, had so much good family time, looked at a pretty shed for our backyard, and I ACTUALLY COOKED more than one night in a row.  It’s been wonderful! 


THEN, on Wednesday, I thought I was going to sing at a fundraiser with Amy Grant.  But when we walked into the country club with my guitar, after having just said goodbye to the kids and gotten a quick bite to eat, we opened the door to the room, and there were 50 of my closest friends and all our family yelling surprise!  


I can’t even tell you how special it was.  My birthday isn't until the 18th, so I wasn't expecting it at all.  Matt pulled off the sweetest, best surprise party of all time.  It was just perfection.  My sis-in-law made the cake (she is AMAZING and you all need to hire her ASAP), she and our sweet friend/assistant Rachel did all the flower arrangements, and the food, I’m told, was delicious.  I was so busy being loved on, I forgot to eat!  :) 


THEN, the next morning I was scheduled to lead worship and share some songs and stories with the girls at the Nashville Mercy Ministries house.  So my parents who were in town asked to tag along, nonchalantly.  We worshiped did some fun questions and answers and were about done, when suddenly the President of my label walked in and took the mic.  He then proceeded to present me with a #1 plaque for “He Knows My Name” for my second massive surprise of the week!  It was so special because that song is so connected to Mercy, and it has been so meaningful to me that they have been such partners in this song and seeing it reach so many.  If you haven’t seen the video, you need to watch it (below).  The stories these girls share are so touching.



THEN, we drove across town to a radio event where I got to sing some more songs for radio friends.  My label asked if we’d like to go eat lunch after, and when we walked into a mexican restaurant and saw SO many people from the label and songwriters from the album there to surprise me AGAIN!  It was like an overload of joy and emotion and happiness!  We were celebrating the fact that my album has been out a year and all the amazing things God has done since then.  So basically I am just riding on a cloud right now, feeling so loved.  


I am so overwhelmed and overjoyed.  I’m not 30 yet, but it’s a milestone year, and I am pumped about it.  I know Jesus is taking me deeper, and I believe this will be a year of profound freedom in Jesus' name!  

Until next time...
-Francesca



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mother's Day Giveaway with fashionABLE! (Giveaway is now CLOSED.)



Nashville, TN.

Ahh, home.  You have no idea how good it feels to type that word.  Nothing against Detroit, or San Francisco, or Attica, Indiana, but man, it feels good to be home.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and I’m so excited to spend some time in Georgia with my mom and mother-in-law this weekend (as well as the rest of our families) to celebrate!  In honor of Mother’s Day, I'm so excited to announce a giveaway with one of my very favorite companies!!  

I’ve known Marisa at fashionABLE for several years (she’s married my friend Jeff Pardo who co-wrote the title track of my latest album with me, "If We’re Honest," as well as many others over the years), and she was so kind to work with me on a very exciting GIVEAWAY for you guys!  But first, a little more about fashionABLE.

fashionABLE’s mission is to create sustainable business in Africa, with a focus on vulnerable women and women-led business.  They believe that the solutions to ending poverty lie in creating economic opportunity, and that lasting change happens when we move beyond charity and focus on producing jobs that promote dignity.  Don’t you love that?  

One of my favorite things about them is that every fashionABLE product is named after one of the heroic women they work with and comes with a note saying what she is ABLE to do because of your purchase.  It's so inspiring, and it's a reminder that your dollars are going to help support real women. As a working mom, it brings me so much joy to know that I can make responsible purchases that help provide dignified jobs for these women, so they can support themselves and their families.  What a blessing!

So, on to the giveaway!  I’ve picked out 4 of my favorite pieces to highlight, and one lucky winner will receive them ALL!  





1. The new Agnes Foldover Crossbody, hand-crafted in Kenya, is named after Agnes who is ABLE to support her family.

This beautiful leather bag features sections of contrasting suede.  A zip-top compartment keeps your essentials secure and folds over and snaps closed over an easy access front pocket.  There is an additional full pocket in the back of the bag, and the straps are adjustable.  I’ve been carrying it everywhere—it’s perfect for date night and the grocery store—I love it so much!  Purchase here.

2. The Tizita Bracelets, hand-made in Ethiopia from recycled metal, are named after Tizita who is ABLE to achieve her dreams.

I love the story these bracelets carry—they're crafted from beads repurposed from bullet casings and scrap metal found by farmers in the Entoto mountains in Ethiopia. The Entoto community is a place of healing for those affected by HIV/AIDS, treating them with dignity + respect, and providing a fair opportunity to support their families. Each set of bracelets come with 2 pewter + 1 antique gold strand, and they are stretchy & easy to layer.  So simple and pretty!  Purchase here.


3. The Mehari Blanket, hand-woven in Ethiopia, is named after Mehari who is ABLE to send her two children to school.

This blanket can be used both indoor + outdoors!  It’s machine washable, and is the perfect size for impromptu picnics at the park.  It's available in 2 colors--strawberry or indigo--and I want both! :)  Purchase here.


4. The Selam Scarf, hand-woven in Ethiopia, is named after Selam, who is ABLE to see that her children are proud of her.

This is one of fashionABLE’s staple products, with new color options revealed each season.  I love the classic ivory + black, which goes with everything.  It’s hand-woven from 100% Ethiopian cotton, and is a medium weight that can transition into all seasons. Purchase here.


To be eligible to win all four of my fashionABLE favorites, go follow fashionABLE on all of their social media channels & then come back & comment letting me know that you did! 

(Extra credit: head over to livefashionABLE.com + come back here to tell me what YOUR favorite item is!)




AND — the fine folks at fashionABLE have offered up a coupon code to you guys: use code HONEYCOMB through May 10th to get 10% off + free shipping on all orders!!!



I wish you all could win!  Cheers! :)
-Francesca

And the winner is... Kristin. G!  Kristin, an email will be coming to you soon!  Congratulations! :) 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On Wearing the Same Thing Every Day



San Antonio, TX

A couple of weeks ago I read an article titled "The Science of Simplicity: Why Successful People Wear the Same Thing Every Day."  I thought it was a fascinating idea, that men like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and many presidents wear (or wore) the exact same thing every day to pare down on mental clutter and decision-making.  Then a few nights ago I read another article about a woman who started wearing the same thing to work as an art director, and she has had some of the most interesting responses from co-workers.  One of her bosses almost gave her a raise because he was afraid she didn't have the money to buy more clothes!  <<I'm not linking to the article because it's got some ads on the website I don't necessarily want to endorse, but if you want to look it up, just google Matilda Kahl.  It's gone totally viral.>>

I thought the idea was pretty groundbreaking.  I mean, how many times have I been in a hurry to leave the house and been stressed because I couldn't decide what to wear, which in turn made me late and even more stressed?  And how many parents and teachers sing the praises of school uniforms for children?  It seemed like something I should start implementing in my life.

And then it hit me...


I already do this!!!

I pick one outfit per tour and I wear it every night, without fail.  I haven't always done this, mind you.  At the beginning of my career, I thought I needed to wear different clothes every night, but good gracious, do you know how difficult it is to pick out ONE ensemble that meets all the requirements I have for stage clothes?  They have to be comfortable, modest, not too boring, but not too flashy, and then there is this intangible factor--a feeling I have to get while wearing the clothes.  Like I am comfortable in my own skin and not wearing a "costume."  If I feel strange in the clothes, it affects my performance and my ability to really focus on what I'm there to do instead of on how I feel or look in my clothes.  So, one outfit per tour is all I can muster.  Maybe if I can find another top that works as an alternate, I will bring it out, but I won't change anything else about the look, and it's been life-changing!

It goes beyond the stage, though.  It used to be that during the day before it was time for stage clothes, I would wear something different every day backstage.  But even that has become too much when I'm traveling and working and being creative every day, not to mention taking care of my kiddos.  So by default, or out of pure desperation, I have developed somewhat of a "day uniform" as well.  It consists of: black legging jeans, black moto boots (similar here), an Everlane t-shirt or Madewell top (similar here), and a long black cardigan.   The only jewelry I wear these days are rings.  Besides my wedding rings, these two (both gifts from the world's best husband) are in constant rotation.  They are so delicate and wearable and timeless.  I can't get enough!


Here's a picture of me today in the Madewell tee. 



It's really freed me up to be more productive and creative and also to enjoy my surroundings and the people I'm traveling with, instead of always being concerned with what I'm wearing.  And I don't think anyone's even noticed!

I know my job is a bit unique, but I think the same rules apply in whatever job you find yourself in--a lot of my mom friends who stay at home have come to wear the same thing each day too, for the same reasons.  I'd love to know if any of you have a daily uniform and how it's affected your life.  If not, would you ever consider wearing the same thing every day?  Do you find that picking out your clothes is a lot of work?  Has anyone but me read this funny little book?

xo!
Francesca

P.S. My soundtrack for this post was Dave Barnes' "Hymns For Her."

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2015



Oklahoma City, OK

Hello, lovelies!  I hope you're having a great week.  We are on the home stretch of our last of five tours in a row.  It's the last weekend of the Bible Tour, and while I'll really miss the amazing people we've been on the road with these past three weeks, I'm excited to be home for a good long while.  I'm actually going to put my suitcase under my bed and not look at it for a few weeks. Hallelujah!  :)  

I've been on a social media fast since Sunday, and its been rocking my world.  So good to have space to think, breathe, pray, and stay more connected to friends through real conversations instead of through instagram and twitter.  It's been amazing.  I spent all afternoon with my dear friend Laura Hackett Park yesterday in Kansas City, drinking coffee, and having long, wonderful talks about Jesus and family and ministry and life--ahh, I want to relive that day.  Just perfect!  

I didn't realize how soon Mother's Day was until looking at Pinterest a few days ago and noticing all the gift guides starting to appear in my feed.  I'm a pretty big procrastinator when it comes to gift-giving for some reason, so I figured I would get a jumpstart this year and wanted to share some of the fun things I found with you too, to help those of you like me! ;)  Here are a few of the things I think my own mom would love, and maybe yours will too!  

~~~

1. Rifle Paper Recipe Box, $40.  This beautiful keepsake from Rifle Paper Co. (pictured above) is perfect for storing her treasured recipes for chocolate chip cookies, tomato sauce, and of course, chicken soup.  Purchase here

2. Large Bolga Basket, $40.  I have two of these in my living room, and I adore them.  They're great for stashing books, blankets, towels, or toys.  Each fair trade basket is unique and handwoven in Ghana.  You can purchase them at my sweet friend, Katlin's, web shop here (along with some of the sweetest clothes and toys for your kiddos)!



3. Earth Tu Face Skin Stick, $34.  I haven't tried this, but it's supposed to be wonderful.  Great for all kinds of skin and perfect to toss in her purse for when she needs extra moisturizing on the go.  Purchase here.



4. Triangles Tea Towel by Jenny Pennywood, $24.  This would look so lovely hanging in her kitchen.  It's hand printed in San Francisco and is so, so pretty.  Purchase here.
5. Marble Cheese Board, $58.  I just love this.  Perfect for her crudites, aperitifs, and fancy cheeses at dinner parties.  It would also look great just sitting on her counter (and mine:)!  Purchase here.



6. Vintage Madeleine Pan, $52.  Vintage and made in France.  Pretty much all I need to know!  For the mom who is an avid baker or just loves pretty things in her kitchen.  Purchase on Etsy, here.



7. Candle Holder House, $49.  How cute is this?!  I love that its an art piece and also serves a purpose.  Can you imagine a whole table full of these lit with the lights low?  Purchase on Etsy, here.



8. Emilia Necklace by Burdees, $16.  The loveliest long, gold locket to keep a photo of her hubby or kids in.  Delicate, feminine, and gorgeous.  (I have this and wear it all the time!)  Purchase here.



9. Essential Oil Diffuser, $110.  This Bamboo diffuser from Young Living uses ultrasonic technology to disperse essential oils into the air to purify the air.  This diffuser features an LED light, timer settings, and it comes with free 5ml essential oil bottles of Tangerine and Peppermint!  If you become a wholesale Young Living member, you can receive 24% off this and every future order.  (Be sure to put in my member number 1417446 in the Sponsor and Enroller boxes when signing up here.)



10.  Agnes Foldover Crossbody Bag, $138.  This beautiful suede and leather bag by fashionABLE is basically the perfect bag.  I love it so much that I'm planning a post (and giveaway!) with fashionABLE soon so I can tell you more about how amazing this bag is.  My mom saw it last time she came to visit and might have even requested it for Mother's Day, so... :)  Purchase here
I hope this gave you some ideas for the moms in your life this Mother's Day!  And I'll be back on instagram on Monday, so I'll probably bombard you with a million photos from the past week...fair warning! :)

Francesca