Nothing to Prove

I just finished the book Nothing to Prove and the workbook Proven. Every Monday, for the past couple of months, 4 other ladies and I got together to discuss this book, pray, and encourage one another.

I really enjoyed this study. I felt like Jennie did a great job encouraging women to cease striving without going soft on the importance of spiritual disciplines and cultivating a true relationship with Christ. I find so many books, studies, and blog posts tend to sway one direction or the other, but she was able to maintain that tension and I was really impressed and encouraged.

“There are no spiritual helicopters out of the desert, just the old, common, gorgeous, lingering roads paved by our forefathers in faith and designed by God. Knees on the ground. Words formed to God in prayer. Bibles marked up and worn out. Hours spent with the only One who satisfies and delights our souls.”

“There is nothing holy about authenticity without repentance. Authenticity without repentance is narcissism. Authenticity is the necessary soil for repentance, but if healing comes from Jesus, then confession is only the first step.”

The main point of this book is that we cannot please both God and man. Our focus should never be on pleasing people and winning approval from others, but rather pleasing God. We must find our value, worth, and purpose in Him alone. When we do this we can cease striving and come into what he has for us.

“It’s not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be.”

“We can’t make light of the vision, but we also cannot accomplish any of the purposes of God unless we do them with the power and the resources and the energy of God.”

“If I were your enemy, this is what I would do:

Make you believe you need permission to lead.

Make you believe you are helpless.

Make you believe you are insignificant.

Make you believe that God wants your decorum and behavior.”

“Maybe you belive that Jesus is enough, but then why are you not pulled up near to Him every chance you get? Why do we keep running to everything on earth except Him??

“Jesus lived with a deep security in His identity. He lived settled, content, dependent, with nothing to prove and with a clear goal of displaying His Father’s love to every person He encountered….He lived fully engaged with His whole heart, mind, body, emotions.”

That sounds amazing to me!

“Do you want to know why we are so tired? Because we don’t believe God. There is no remedy for your striving apart from finding your identity in Christ. He is your enough, and the degree to which you believe that is the degree to which you will stop striving, stop performing, stop trying to prove yourself.”

Those are much-needed words to a reformed people-pleaser like me.

The weekly study questions in the study guide, Proven, were pretty basic. As we finished the study we realized there is a facilitator guide in the very back of the book and we all felt those discussion questions were much better. Oh well, it was a good group of ladies and we never lacked for discussion.

I’m grateful for this study and am glad to have a hard-copy of the book to keep and refer back to and lend out to others. It was well done and makes me curious to seek out her other studies!





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Creek Day

Our field is so overgrown right now which makes it a pain to traverse, but we decided to face it so that we could check on the creek. You’d think, after 6 years of living here, that we’d have a path or trail blazed but no…so it’s a real adventure each time.


The flooding that we had in April really did a number on the creek! I was amazed at how different it is now. One part is completely blocked off by a number of downed trees. It’s deeper in some parts and the banks have been washed away in others.

The water was still flowing pretty well, but I know that won’t last for much longer. Sadly. I wish it was always like this. Of course, then I worry about what could be in that water. I have no idea where this water comes from. Hmm, something to investigate.


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Elephant Rock

Where did May run off to? I swear it was here just a moment ago!

Ben and I took the boys to Elephant Rock State Park with some friends. We had such a nice time. It was a perfect day.

Bouldering, or scrambling, is one of our favorite things to do. ERSP is perfect. You can walk the paved trail, through the woods, around the boulders, or you can climb on and through the boulders.

What goes up must come down.


Tight Quarters


The park is about 1.5 hrs from our house so we packed a lunch and ate there. The drive there and back is so pretty and peaceful. Lots of winding, country roads. I’m glad we went and hope we can make it a regular occurrence!

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Nolen Family Vacation 2017: Days 14 and 15

Friday, April 28th

Homeward Bound

We got up and were packed and ready to go at a good time. We’d planned on stopping at Rock City, but they closed at 6 and we didn’t arrive until 6:30. There was still plenty of daylight so we thought we’d stroll downtown Chattanooga, but we ended up passing up the right exit and by the time we ate dinner and then figured out where we needed to go, it was getting dark. Instead, we drove a bit further before stopping for the night, knowing that would put us that much closer to home the next day.

Saturday, April 29th


After weeks with little to no rain, we were coming home to the exact opposite. There was talk of flooding and some were predicting that the flooding would meet or exceed what we’d experience just a year ago!

We made great time and pulled into the driveway at about 2:30. Before doing anything, I had to vaccuum. 2 weeks of cat hair during shedding season is something to behold! After unpacking the car and trailer we loved on our kitties and then I set to work unpacking. Ben grabbed dinner since we had no food in the house and by the time we went to bed that night I’d unpacked everything, finished the laundry, and put everything away. It was almost like we’d never left!

The cats had really missed us. Boy Cat had a large bald spot where he’d been pulling out his fur. They both followed us around and needed a lot of affection and reassurance.

I’m so grateful for this vacation and they time we had to see new areas and spend time together, but there truly is no place like home. We’re blessed to call Missouri our home and while I love visiting other places, there is nowhere else I’d want to live!


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Yard Work, Yard Work, Yard Work

That has been our theme lately.

Ever since our addition, we’ve been doing a lot to recover our yard. The machines that were driven back and forth tore up the yard horribly. We did a lot of grunt work filling in low spots, spreading grass seed and clover, and even resorted to putting down sod.

Our next step was to put in flower beds. I had a nice bed right in front of the porch, but we needed something on the right, in front of the right “wing” of the house, and in front of the left “wing” of the house. I put a row of hostas on the right because it’s shaded by a massive oak tree. The left side was harder because it’s a bigger bed and partially shaded. I planted a few things last Spring, then a few more last Fall. I even resorted to transplanting some pretty-ish plants from our field, just to fill in some space.

After getting home from vacation we were gung-ho to get started on the yard, but we had a solid week and a half of rain. Once that dried up we could get started. We decided to tackle The Beast.

The Beast is the side yard between the addition and the driveway. It’s been a pain in our backsides for 2 years now. At first, it was just dirt and rock. Nothing would grow here. That’s how poor the soil was.

We were able to bring in some good dirt and spread that around, but we had so much rain that we struggled to keep the dirt from washing away. Finally, we had some dry weather so we put more dirt down, dragged a huge log over, and even put down some sod up at the top just to keep it from all washing away. That Fall I’d picked up a few end-of-season plants and just planted them randomly at the top. Weeds and grass, but mainly weeds, began to grow and we were so grateful to have something to stop the soil erosion that we just let it go.

The sod we’d placed was in random spots and therefor difficult to mow. Ben doesn’t do much weed-eating so it grew up straggly and ugly. It was such an eyesore!

Finally, after vacation, we decided to tackle this area. I decided to do plants and mulch at the top and garden beds at the bottom. Home Depot had a great deal on garden beds so I got 2 4×4 beds for $40 shipped, right before we left for vacation. Once home, Ben put the beds together, leveled them out, and then put weed barrier down.

We had a food-grade barrel floating around that we decided to cut in half, spray paint, and then fill with dirt to act as planters. The boys helped us fill/top off all of the planters with the trailer of dirt we picked up and pretty soon we had this:

It’s still ugly, but it’s progress! More planters will go behind the beds in the bottom picture – Ben has one build already. Smaller beds will go in front. We’ll spread pea gravel between the beds on the lower half and much on the upper half. One day, we’ll put in a nice fence to keep the deer at bay. This year we’ll just see hope for the best.

So, we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s coming along! With a yard as large as ours there’s always something to be done, but it will be so nice to have this ugly area cleaned up and looking pretty and producing veggies and herbs.

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Mother’s Day 2017

We decided to go to the Botanical Gardens – along with the majority of people in the St. Louis area, apparently! It was busy!

The boys and I were here about 6 weeks ago, but so much has changed since then!

Iris garden

Dr. Suess Plants


We stayed for about 2 hours. It ended up being hotter than we thought it would be so we all wore out quickly.

My boys!

Yard work has consumed much of our time lately (more on that in a following post) so we didn’t do anything fancy. I bought myself 2 daylillies and a new doormat and we ate dinner at Chipotle’s. Karen surprised me with an adorable owl basket she’d crocheted.

With church, MOBOT, and dinner, the day went fast! I’m grateful for Mother’s Day to celebrate mothers and to celebrate being a mother. I’m thankful for these boys and all they bring to my life. They’ve enriched my life in ways I never dreamed possible and I cannot imagine life without them!


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Rock Out

Luke performed in his end-of-season-show this past Saturday. I’m really proud of all the hard work he put in!

He played electric guitar on several songs and bass on several songs. I was really impressed with his bass-playing because he doesn’t own a bass! Which means he learned and practiced at rehearsals only! This kid blows me away.

I think he really enjoyed his stage time and we enjoyed watching him and the other kids play. Lots of good music and lots of talent!

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Nolen Family Vacation 2017: Day 13

Thursday, April 27th


Today we got an even later start. We lounged around the house, played in the pool, did some laundry, and then visited a couple of the large gift shops in the area.

It’s right about this point in vacation that I’m really starting to miss home. I miss my bed. I miss my cats. I’m ready to be home!

I don’t think we made it to the park until about 3 or 4pm. We revisited some of our favorite rides and places.

We finally got to see the dragon blow fire!

By the time the night show started we were dead tired and so hungry. I’m not sure if it was because of those things or what, but the show wasn’t really very good. It was a tribute to movies through the years. At first it was neat because they project onto a sheet of water in the middle of a large pond. After about 15 minutes we were over it and decided to make our way toward food.

Random: Momma duck and her babies at Universal!

I’m sad that we left the Hardrock Cafe for last. Luke LOVES all things rock and this is the largest Hardrock in the country. We were just too tired to appreciate it. We did look around a little after we ate, but everyone was tired and it’s a long walk back to the car and about a 25 minute drive back to our rental.

I’ve had people ask how many days needed for Universal and I think 3 is the minimum if you’re a Harry Potter fan. You’ll want to look into every store. You’ll want to ride, or at least walk through the lines, at every ride. The line for the Hogwarts ride, for example, was an experience in itself.

All our time there and I didn’t feel like we spent much time in the NYC portion of the park, at all, which is a shame because it looked neat. We did the Jimmy Fallon ride, but that was it for that entire section!

Also, a good many of their rides are not true coasters, but are the motion-simulated, 3-D rides which means that there’s more to do than traditional theme parks. I know a lot of people who hate coasters so that time-suck is eliminated for them, but if they like other sorts of rides then they’ll have plenty to choose from.

We loved Universal and look forward to returning some day!

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Nolen Family Vacation 2017: Day 12

Wednesday, April 26th

Universal Day 2

Today we slept in a bit. Chelsea and Nate had to head back home so we spent the morning with them before they left.

We arrived at Universal around noon. First thing we did was to ride the Hogwarts train the other way. I rode the Rocket with Luke and Ben. Unfortunately, it whips your head around and I was woozy afterward. We went on to ride Shrek and Dueling Dragons. The crowds were really light so we got right on.

King’s Cross Station

Hogwart’s Express

Luggage trolley at King’s Cross

The rice trick worked great for my phone. I was so relieved! Too bad it slipped out of my back pocket and into a toilet. Now it’s dead-dead. Shoot!

Lunch was eaten at the other HP restaurant, The Leaky Cauldron.

Stan the night bus driver.

Gabe has a think for carousels so we road the Suess Carousel. I still hadn’t recovered for the coasters and needed to just sit for a bit. Tim and I rested while the rest of the crew did the Poisiden ride.

Dinner was at the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. It had a really neat steampunk vibe and the desserts were amazing!! Such a yummy splurge.

We knew we wanted to stay and watch the night time show, but decided to leave that for our last day. We were exhausted!


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Nolen Family Vacation 2017: Day 11

Tuesday, April 25th

Universal Studios

We’re big Harry Potter nerds here so Universal was so exciting for us. Years ago, when we went to Disney, we all had a good time, but we’ve never been super huge Disney fans so the boys enjoyed themselves, but they were beside themselves. It was neat to see them so looking forward to something.

Ben’s feet were really hurting and he was limping from the get-go. I really felt for him, but he insisted we press on. He was as excited as we were! 

We booked it to the Hulk ride first thing. Gabe adamantly refused to ride it so he and I sat out. After that we walked back toward the Harry Potter portion of the park. This is easily where we spent most of our time. We went into and just oohed and ahhed. We ate dinner at the Three Broomsticks and had a tasty butterbeer.

Diagon Alley

Both boys bought interactive wands. The park has several places where you can use your wand to perform “magic”.

We rode the Hogwarts Express, the Escape from Gringotts, Spiderman, Kong, and the Simpsons ride.

After tearing ourselves away from HP, we moved over to the Simpsons section of the park. Ben was excited!

No, he didn’t eat this donut alone!

We ate dinner at Red Oven and then headed back to the Airbnb. Once again we managed to stay up late chatting and hanging out. Chelsea wasn’t about to pay for Universal tickets when she couldn’t ride most of the rides, so she and Nate spent the day deep sea fishing. It was fun to catch each other up on how we’d spent our days.

We were all tired and Ben’s feet were really bothering him, but we’d had a great day and were excited to get up and do it all again!

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