Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Let There Be Light" Children's Book Review


Let There Be Light
by Desmond Tutu
illustrated by Nancy Tillman

Let There Be Light is Desmond Tutu’s personal paraphrase of the creation story for children.  He takes the Genesis account {days 1-7} & puts it into a simple, shortened format with a bit of his own flair.  The pictures to go along with the words were created by New York Times bestselling author of On the Night You Were Born Nancy Tillman.  Tillman definitely implemented an African feel, to go along with the author’s homeland, in her vibrant artwork which depicts giraffe, elephants, lions, & grasslands {to name a few}.  The board book format of this work makes it sturdy for even the very young, though it is not so small, as some board books, that grown up hands can’t easily hold it & read it aloud to the young ones in their life.  Let There Be Light is a sweet way to introduce the little to God’s big creation story in a way that they can easily understand.  Although it does not get into at all the story of Adam & Eve - it is strictly about the creation week - it is a great book to give children a peek into the history of their world & humanity’s beginnings.

Bookish Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: This board book would be a sweet addition to a new baby gift, as well!

*I received this book as a complimentary copy from the publisher (through the BookLook Blogger program) in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry {Christ}mas

Merry {Christ}mas 2014

Praying this day fills you with the inexpressible joy of knowing Christ as your Savior, & that this joy would overflow into the rest of your days in living each one for Him.  He came for you.

Merry {Christ}mas,
-Bess-

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Perfect Gift



Happy Christmas Eve,
-Bess-

When It Just Doesn't Feel Like Christmas

He is With Us
There's a wreath on my door, a lit tree in my living room, & Silent Night is playing over the radio, but it just doesn't feel like Christmas...  I wish I could say I'm writing this in retrospect - that this feeling {or lack of feeling} was not happening this year, but somewhere safely healed over in my past.  But, nope.  It's here & now in this year.

Some Decembers roll in & out & the warmth of Christmas eludes us.  The causes are innumerable & unique: death, depression, lost jobs, unfilled dreams, life changes, illness, loneliness, commercialism, expectations, family feuds...  Sometimes it's even unnameable as to the reason why.  My own story this year involves a combination of broken family ties - divorce - & the fact that this Christmas {& the ones to come} just won't look like Christmases of the past.  New normals are seldom easily established, but this time of year makes it doubly hard.

However, there is hope.  There is hope.  Those words stir something deep down.  Christmas is all about hope & love.  God came down into our darkness, weakness, & messy sinful, broken world to bring a Light of Hope, which demonstrates better than any calligraphy-scripted Bible verse His love for us.  He came down here!

He is with us.  Emmanuel is here.  Even when it doesn't feel like it, & we need the wisdom of retrospect that we just don't have right now, but one day will, to know that yes, He was there with us when Christmas just didn't feel like Christmas.  When pain was deep & the night was long & the tears were caught by Him in so many jars, He was present & He is the present given that first Christmas to compel an unworthy world to embrace an unbelievable worth.  You are of great worth & value to the King.  Immeasurably.

I found myself visiting a dear friend in the nursing home recently, & I stayed with her to listen to a Christmas concert.  Going through the motions, I put a smile on my face & shared it with the group of singing volunteers, my friend, & the other graying residents of the home.  I clapped at the end of each song, & kept my mask on perfectly {almost fooling myself}, until one old gentleman requested "Away in a Manger."  When these lyrics were sung & I looked over to see the gentleman softly singing the words, my disguise slipped...

 I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky.
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, & love me, I pray!

Tears itched to spill out, & I looked away, trying to readjust my almost undone masked facade.  No matter the feelings, or lack thereof, no matter the hurt & struggle, Jesus desires to be with us this season & always - that is why He came.  Even when we can't feel His presence, He is close by our side.  I pray that He will give you a strength & joy through Christ this season.  He is with you, no matter the feeling, no matter the sorrow.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, & shall bring forth a Son, & they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
-Matthew 1:23

Merry {Christ}mas & Much Love to the Hurting,
-Bess-



Saturday, December 20, 2014

What I Really Want This Year

Christmas List

Yep, that's it.

{Christ}mas Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: What's on your list this year?

P.P.S.: Linking up with Kiki & the gang!

Print This! {Merry & Bright Reindeer}


Need a quick card or simple gift tag?  Try this free printable whipped up just for those last minute Christmas folks {like me}. =)

Love for the Printing,
-Bess-

P.S.: Be merry & bright!  Shine His light!

INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the image & save to your computer {or copy & paste}.  Open in a word document, resize if necessary, print, & have a very merry Christmas!

CONDITIONS OF USE: My printables are free for personal use only.  Feel free to share them on Pinterest provided you credit & link back to http://bessbag.blogspot.com/ {Bess' Bag}.  If you want to blog about these printables, or share a project you created using them, it would be fabulous, just be sure to credit & link back to http://bessbag.blogspot.com/ {Bess' Bag} (feel free to use 1 or 2 of my photos, but please don't share the actual printable on your site - just add a link to it).  Thanks & enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dear Single Christmas Girl, {Repost}

I first penned this back in 2010 & it remains one of my favorite posts... &, yep, it still applies to me.  If it applies to you, too, I pray this letter stirs encouragement in your soul this Christmas & into the new year.  Immanuel, God is with us.

Dear Single Christmas Girl

Dear Single Christmas Girl,

I know you… forced to hold your own mittened hands to keep them warm.  You walk wistfully under suspended mistletoe & let out a small inner sigh… I know you, because I’m you, too.

Christmas & other holidays can be especially trying on the single girl’s heart.  So many secular seasonal songs that blast over the buzz of shoppers & invade our radios tell us that being with someone at Christmas is downright required for true happiness.  Take a look:

“When we finally kiss goodnight/ How I'll hate going out in the storm!/ But if you'll really hold me tight/ All the way home I'll be warm” (Let it Snow).

“My world is filled with cheer, & you/...& as I look around/ Your eyes outshine the town, they do/This Christmas” (This Christmas).

“I'm just gonna keep on waiting/ Underneath the mistletoe…/ Baby all I want for Christmas is you” (All I Want for Christmas is You).

I want to stick my tongue out at singlehood (& these songs, too=)!

Take a peek at what the Bible tells us…
Dear Single Christmas Girl II

The Lord appears to Joseph in a dream instructing him to take Mary as his wife as planned, because what is done in her is of God. Matthew 1:23 reads, “The virgin will be with child & will give birth to a son, & they will call Him Immanuel’ – which means ‘God with us.’” This Christmas you may feel un-chosen, lonely, not special, or unworthy of a guy’s second glance, but know this & consider it deeply in your heart this year: the Maker of the universe & all things, the King of Kings, Mighty God, Heavenly Father loved (insert name) so much that He gave you a piece of Him on earth – a piece that would be like (insert name)… tired, hungry, tempted, sad, excited, disappointed, happy, lonely… a piece that would be beaten, abused, mocked, & crucified, just so (insert name) could have the opportunity to know real peace & be with Him forever. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a truer love than that! It makes the lyrics above seem like mere meaningless mumbles.

Listen to what this song tells us…



Did you catch that lyric? “How many gods have poured out their hearts/ To romance a world that is torn all apart?” (How Many Kings, Downhere). God is still with us today, loving us in spite of us, & seeking our love so that we can experience eternity safe from pain, hurt, & free from all the tears of this earth & the afterlife that scorches. Even if you are (like me) going through a boyfriend-less Christmas, remember “Immanueal… God is with us.” You may appear solo to the world, but if you are God’s you’re never alone.

Love & the Merriest of Christmases,

-Bess- + Her King, {Truest Love} Father God

P.S.: His love is perfect, immeasurably better than any mortal man's... just think How Many Kings...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Song Love {December Playlist}



I just couldn't choose only 3 Christmas songs to share this December, so I'm bringing you a whole playlist of some of my favorites!  Hope you enjoy em while you're wrapping up those gifts, sending those cards, baking those cookies, & having those people over. =) No matter what you're doing this year, I hope this music points you back to the reason for it all: God's amazing love for us through the gift of Jesus!

Merry {Christ}mas!
-Bess-

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chipboard + Ribbon NOEL Bunting


Have I mentioned I heart buntings & garlands?  I'm sure I have, but it's worth saying again.  Here'a a little DIY I whipped up to hang outside {though it would look good anywhere}!


Here's What You Need:
chipboard {mine is a chipboard ring-bound book I took apart from Michael's}, paint/foam brush {if you like}, glitter ribbon, heavy baker's twine, gluestick 


Here's What You Do:
Paint your chipboard whatever color you wish {or leave it in its natural state}.  Cut pieces of glittery ribbon to create the word "NOEL" & carefully use your gluestick to adhere them to the chipboard.  String bunting pieces onto heavy baker's twine & hang up {I used a hammer & small nails to knot the twine around}.  


I'm later than usual with my Christmas projects & decor, but it's just been busy here lately.  How is your decorating coming along?

Merry {Christ}mas,
-Bess-

P.S.: Jesus is the reason for the season!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hello December!

Hello December!

I've been yearning for you.
For your festive shine & cheer.
Your well wishes & gifts - oh, what a Gift!

Hope is ushered with your coming -
Abounding love that you wrapped in rough cloth
And Light brighter than the sun.

Who am I that I am worthy?
You compel an unworthy world to 
Embrace an unbelievable worth.

Love,
-Bess-

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving & His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him & praise His name." 
-Psalm 100:4

I hope sometime today you find a moment to stop, count your blessings, & thank God.  He is good & faithful always.

Love,
-Bess-

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

5 Scrapbooking Essentials

5 Scrapbook Essentials
I've been into scrapbooking for what feels like forever, but I confess I'm terrible at finishing projects.  Last year's Christmas mini album is still sitting disassembled in a box in my closet.  {Sad.}  But I'm working on improving - cause while it's fun to work on a scrapbook layout or album, it's most satisfying to actually finish one!  Never gotten into scrapbooking or a beginner?  Here's 5 essentials to get you started...  {You'll have to supply the chutzpah to see it through, as no anti-procrastinating drugs have been safely passed by the FDA.} =) 

1. ALBUM: Plain albums are typically cheaper & can be easily personalized & jazzed up.
2. PAGE PROTECTORS: Make sure they're the right size for your album/photos.
3. EMBELLISHMENTS: Let your creativity take over! Whether you're a minimalist or your motto is "the more, the better" – make your album your own!
4. JOURNALING CARDS: These are the perfect place for captions & jotting down memories.
5. PHOTOS: Whether it's special occasions, milestones, or everyday shots, photos make the scrapbook!

Scrapbooking Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: Do you scrapbook?  Are you a Project Life-er? =) Are you contemplating creating a December Daily?  Leave a comment with your memory keeping thoughts.

P.P.S.: Linking up with Kiki & the gang! =)
In Its Time

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessings Wall DIY

I wanted a way to document my blessings, as well as my friends' & family's who stop by.  Here's what I came up with!

What You Need:
brown wrapping paper {I got mine at the Dollar Tree (it has a design on one side, but is plain on the other)}; thumb tacks {2-4}; chalk

What You Do:
Secure your wrapping paper to the wall with thumb tacks.  {I used only one roll this year {hoping this will be the start of a tradition}, but I think it would be cool if you used several & covered an entire wall with blessings - especially if you're having a big shindig!}  If you, however, have a bumpy/stucco wall, I suggest you tack one or more thin foam poster boards underneath your brown paper, so you'll have a smoother surface to write on.  Add your blessings & invite your guests to do the same.  Make sure to keep the chalk nearby!


Quick Tip: You can easily create a point on a new piece of chalk by using a regular hand held pencil sharpener.  Try it!

Love & Blessings,
-Bess-

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bess Style: Plaid is Rad!

I love a good plaid!  I think it comes from the tartan-esque feel & my Scottish fetish.  Add ruffles & it's two of my faves in one!  Here's what I'm wearing:

peplum sweater {tucked into skirt}...Ann Taylor LOFT {thrifted}
wide belt...Banana Republic {thrifted}
plaid ruffle skirt...American Living {JCPenney}
tights...Target
ankle wedge boots...Old Navy {thrifted}

Style Love,
-Bess-

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zondervan Plush Bible Review


This Bible from Zondervan's "Plush Bible Collection" makes me smile & think of godly girly-girls everywhere!  It's a standard print NIV {Old & New Testament} featuring a padded hardcover {hence the "plush" feel} in pink sparkle leopard.  The sparkle part can't truly be seen in the picture, but can be easily seen in person as tiny little silvery shiny specks all over the furry cover.  The pink presentation page {with accompanying verse, Psalm 119:105, “Your Word is a lamp for my feet, & a light on my path.”} found in the very front makes this Bible perfect for gift giving purposes.  The font is easy to read & the size seems just right {not too big, not too small} & Jesus' words are in traditional red print.  A short preface from the Committee on Bible Translation can be found in the front, outlining the background of this updated New International Version.  A "Table of Weights & Measures" can be found in the back.  The Bible definitely does have a plush, yet sturdy feel, & there’s certainly no need for a Bible cover.  This trendy & stylishly-covered NIV would be perfect for tweens, teens, college girls, or any pink/purple leopard loving woman. =)

Bookish Love,
-Bess-

*I received this Bible as a complimentary copy from the publisher (through the BookLook Blogger program) in exchange for my honest review.

A Message of Strength in Christ From Naghmeh Abedini



Naghmeh  Abedini's husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, has been imprisoned in Iran for about 2 years for refusing to deny Christ & for preaching the Gospel even while in prison.  Suffering unknown torture, beatings, & mistreatment, he continues to stand strong through Christ Jesus, as does his wife, who you will hear from in the video.  I hope it blesses you deeply, too, & helps you to seek abiding in Christ whatever struggle & pain you are facing today.  

Love in Christ,
-Bess-

P.S.: To hear a little more from this message click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

6 Easy DIY Napkin Rings

I love the idea of using cloth napkins, but in all honesty, I get around to actually using em once in a blue moon.  I want to change that, & so I thought if I fashioned some napkin rings I'd get into using them on a more regular basis.  Here's hoping!  I think these would be a fabulous addition to the upcoming holiday dinner table!  

Super Easy:
1. Fill little drawstring sacks with candies & tie around napkins.  In this case, the napkin ring can double as a favor for guests to take with them!

2. Fold the napkin in a square or rectangle & tie present-style with tinsel or ribbon.

3. Look for over-sized buttons like these at the craft store {though any button will do}.  Thread twine or thin ribbon crisscross through the buttonholes & tie around your napkin, securing in the back with a loose knot or bow.

Bit More Work, But Still So Easy:
4. String beads onto craft wire & form into a small circle by twisting wire ends together.  Take plain gift tags or labels & personalize with each guests' name & tie around the napkin rings.  Not only will each guest feel special, but they'll know right where to sit!


5. Cut thin strips of felt {mine are approximately 1 1/2 in. X 6 in.}.  Take a button & sew it onto one end of the felt strip & carefully snip a hole with scissors in the other end {make sure the hole will fit your button well}.


6. Again, string beads onto craft wire {or you could use jewelry elastic} & form into a small circle by twisting the wire ends together {or by tying a knot if you're using elastic}.  Create a simple tassel & secure around your napkin ring at the place where you twisted the wires together {your tassel will work great to conceal any visible wires}.

DIY Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: I hope this has inspired you to get busy & create your own napkin rings for all the little special days that fill up the calendar {all 365 of em}!  I love a bit of fancy in the midst of regular life, & in my book, napkin rings are pretty fancy stuff. =)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

FREE Music Alert!

MusicalityYou know how I shared that I love Sara Groves' music in my latest "Currently" post? Well, right now you can get her song "When the Saints" {one of my many favorites from her} for free + 9 more from various Christian artists!  All you must do is sign-up to get CCM's {Christ - Community - Music} e-mail updates.  Pretty painless for 10 free songs, right?  Click here to sign-up & get your free music!

Love Ya,
-Bess-

P.S.: Isn't free stuff grand?  I'm thinking Jesus' gift of everlasting life & forgiveness through His sacrifice on the cross for us.  Free stuff is the best!!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trending: Faux-Fur Vests {With Styling Tips}

Trending: Faux-Fur Vests
Have you seen these furry vests popping up all over this autumn?  From Target to Forever21 {showcased here} to high-end designers, these vests are the cat's pajamas!  But, don't fret they're all faux!

Not sure how to style one of these?  Keep reading & let that fear of resembling a yak or cave girl go the way of the woolly mammoth!  {That is, extinct.}

Faux-Fur Vest Tip 1.
Furry vests aren't actually anything new, they've been around before. They can definitely have a boho/hippie feel & what better way to pair em than with a vintage-style, patterned frock?


Faux-Fur Vest Tip 2.
Most fur vests are collarless, which makes them the perfect match for a collared shirt {or bow blouse}.  Dress it down with a chambray shirt or make it work-appropriate with a pretty silk button-down.


Faux-Fur Vest Tip 3.

Make it fit for a fancy dinner out by pairing it over a top or dress with a sequined, lacy, or otherwise fabulously embellished sleeve.


Faux-Fur Vest Tip 4.
Maybe the furry vest just isn't your style.  You can still try out the faux-fur trend, just go for smaller bits of fluff.

Style Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: How do you wear any furry wardrobe pieces?

Friday, November 7, 2014

3 Free Thanksgiving Printables {+ Font}!

I'm all about giving Thanksgiving its own special place.  Don't get me wrong, I'm uber-excited about the approach of Christmas {my favorite holiday ever}, but I don't want to miss the grateful heart & autumnal beauty of the current season.  In honor of Thanksgiving {& its cozy, homespun feel}, I've whipped up 3 simple printables to remind you to savor this November.  The font used for these is called "Autumn Gifts" by West Wind Fonts & is 100% free {click here to get it for yourself & create even more}!

I designed these with no background to save your ink {you're welcome}, & so you can print them on colored paper or scrapbook paper with a minimal design {if you wish} + Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for all those simple gifts & blessings we often overlook.  There's a beautiful fanciness to not being fancy sometimes.



INSTRUCTIONS: Click on each image, then right click & save to your computer {or copy & paste}.  Open in a word document, resize if necessary, print, & have a blessed Thanksgiving!

CONDITIONS OF USE FOR PRINTABLES: My printables are free for personal use only. Feel free to share them on Pinterest provided you credit & link back to http://bessbag.blogspot.com/ {Bess' Bag}. If you want to blog about these printables, or share a project you created using them, it would be fabulous, just be sure to credit & link back to http://bessbag.blogspot.com/ {Bess' Bag} (feel free to use 1 or 2 photos, but please don't share the actual printable on your site - just add a link to it). Thanks & enjoy!

Love for the Printing,
-Bess-

P.S.: Gather together.  Give thanks.  Count blessings.  Repeat.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Currently {November}

+Looking forward to celebrating my b-day more this weekend!  28 years, man!

+Creating tissue paper tassels & other Thanksgiving-y projects that I can't wait to share soon.  I've had a couple fails & made a few messes, but it's all good.

+Drinking Alka-Seltzer Plus trying to get over my second icky cold of autumn!

+Looking for a great classic {that I've never read} to dive into on this start of my 28th year.  Any suggestions?

+Loving the coziness of this season!  {You know what I mean?}

+Thankful that I live in a country where I can vote.

+Counting my blessings!  God is good!!!

+Listening to Sara Groves tunes.  I find her lyrics so thoughtful & real.

+Excited about the holiday season we're on the cusp of!  Giddy about it, really!

Love,
-Bess-

P.S.: What are you up to lately?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Another Year Older

Happy Birthday!

Yep, it's my birthday & I'm excited about it!  Sometimes we {especially us females} have trouble making peace with adding yet another candle to the cake & ahem, aging.  I've been there, too - when that age that you're turning seems so old - which I think it always does {or at least has the potential to}!  

Adding years is all a part of living this life God has for you!  He's given us only so much time on this planet & it's a mystery to how long we've got... so we've got to make each day count.  Whether it's your real honest-to-goodness birthday today or an un-birthday day, celebrate, live joyfully, share the good news of Jesus, love, laugh, cry, seek His grace & forgiveness, keep marching, pray, & live this life you've been given - oh, & blow out every candle each year with abandon!


Love {The One Year Older},

-Bess-

P.S.: Don't forget to make a wish!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Song Love {November}


"Beautiful" by Dan Bremnes


"What We're Here For" by The Afters


"No Man is an Island" by Tenth Avenue North

Musical Love,
-Bess-

Monday, November 3, 2014

Snapshots

First time buying gourds for fall!  I love how they are strangely sculptural {God makes amazing things, doesn't He!}  The lady that sold them said when they begin to go bad to plant them in an old flower bed & next year there should be gourds aplenty {with little work}.  Love that, but don't think my apt. people would be so amused.  I can see it now, I went straight over the typical cat fetish & became the "Crazy Gourd Lady."

A fallish bouquet - because sometimes you just have to buy yourself a bunch of flowers.  Just cause.  {Click here to learn how to recreate this DIY vase.}

A sweet little note from a little {1st grade} girl I subbed for last week.  Tiny blessings like this make my day!

I found these boots in perfect condition at a thrift shop for about $6!

Snapshot Love,
-Bess-

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hello November!

Hello November!

I've been waiting for you.
Waiting for your cozy festivities
& gatherings with frosty breath -
A harvest of dear ones - silver & gold -
Glowing round a table -
As a wreath of love.
A recounting of blessings - old & new -
Sweet November, may we carry 
Your grateful heart
Eternally - all the year through.

Love,
-Bess-

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ghost Buster

Bric-a-brac


"Do you believe in ghosts, Miss Orne?" asked Maud, who did, in spite of the comic explanation of this one.  "Not the old-fashioned sort, but there is a modern kind that we are all afraid of more or less," answered Miss Orne, with a half-playful, half-serious look at the girls around her.  "Do tell about them, please," begged Kitty, while the rest looked both surprised & interested.  "There is one which I am very anxious to keep you from fearing.  Women are especially haunted by it, & it prevents them from doing, being, & thinking all that they might & ought.  'What will people say?' is the name of this formidable ghost; & it does much harm, for few of us have the courage to live up to what we know to be right in all things."

-Jerseys, or the Girls' Ghost by Louisa May Alcott

Don't be haunted, sister.

Love {& Ghost-Busting},
-Bess-

Friday, October 24, 2014

10 Scarf Tying Ideas



Scarves are such an easy-peasy way to update an outfit + they're the perfect fall accessory for those downright chilly-cold blustery days - & there are so many ways to tie em!  Here's 10 styles to try this autumn from Stella & Dot!

Love & Scarves,
-Bess-

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hipster-ish Pumpkins



All you need are pumpkins, paint, & some decorative wood veneer pieces {I got mine from Michael's craft store}.  I found it took at least a couple layers of paint to cover each pumpkin, so be sure to allow time for drying in between coats.  Next, glue on your wood veneer pieces & let dry {you can use something like Elmer's or hot glue if you prefer}.




I have to say, I think the little specs guy is a cutie!


These might be heavy on the ish of hipster-ish, but it seemed appropriate at the time. =) 


Booyah {er, Love},
-Bess-