Monthly Mission: Paper for Water

Remember my fun blogging friend, Amanda (aka OhAmanda with the cute pixie hair), who invited me to be a part of the Little Praise blogging tour for Yancy? Well, Amanda always has great God-sized ideas for helping parents impress God’s love on the hearts of their children (things like Truth in the Tinsel…).

This newest idea of hers is fabulous. Truly.

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Each month this year she will highlight a different service project families can do together. Last month, Erin from Home with the Boys hosted the Nickels for Nets project. Her boys collected enough nickels to purchase 10 mosquito nets to protect children in Africa from contracting Malaria. So cool!

I’m thrilled to share Paper for Water as the March Monthly Mission.

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I love the family behind this ministry (not just because of our awesome carpooling situation…). (If you don’t remember their story…read this article from Yahoo Finance: Little Sisters, Big Hearts & Incredible Charity. or watch this video with your kiddos:)


Basically Isabelle & Katherine learned to fold orgami from their father who is half-Japanese. Around the same time they learned about the water crisis in the world…

11% of the world’s population do not have safe water to drink and coupled with poor sanitation, this results in 4,000 children dying every day.” (wateraidamerica.org)

They heard about little girls in Africa and India who spent time hauling water instead of playing and going to school. In wanting to help in some way, they started folding origami ornaments and selling them, donating the money to Living Water International.

When we met the Adams sisters they had raised $17,000 to build 3 wells. In the past year,  (with the help of a very generous matching donor) these girls have raised over a hundred thousand dollars to build water wells. Very, very cool. 

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What inspires me is their focus on this project. Spending hours during the week and weekends folding origami ornaments, teaching others to fold and spreading the word about the need for water around the world, choosing service over self. 

Like Erin wrote last month, “Monthly Missions are all about teaching our kiddos to do the “hard things.” Serving, giving, making a difference for those who are in need.”

And yes the Adams girls are receiving awards and meeting ambassadors and making television appearances, but they are also giving up some of their comfort and conveniences to save lives across the globe. They found there is great joy in serving others.

If your family would like to join us in helping out Paper for Water, here are the weekly project ideas/challenges for March:

1st week: Go through your craft supplies and collect paper to donate. Then Isabelle & Katherine (and their helpers) can fold the paper into ornaments. The ideal origami paper comes in squares of 3×3, 4×4, or 6×6. (no card stock or tissue paper; patterns welcomed).

2nd week: Go through your jewelry box or craft supplies and collect beads or charms the girls can add to hang on the origami ornaments (see examples of charms below).

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3rd week: It’s World Water Day on March 22nd. This week any time you would normally spend money on a soda/coke/pop/icedtea/coffee, consider saving that money & donating it to Living Water International (make checks payable to Living Water International…send to address below).

4th week: The Adams girls used their talent of folding origami to help others. Brainstorm with your children what gifts/talents/resources you could use to help others. For example, I thought my boys could make duct tape wallets to sell and give the proceeds to Living Water International. Or maybe since it’s spring cleaning time, have a garage sale and donate the money. Be creative!

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Mail your donations (paper/beads/charms & checks made out to Living Water International) to: Paper For Water P.O. Box 720999, Dallas, TX 75372-0999.

Let’s help provide water to the thirsty through our few simple gifts!

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You Never Know the Burden Someone Else is Carrying

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For the past two years the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, we have sat on bleachers and cheered as high school bands passed by & giant balloons shaped like famous characters crowded the sky. Just when we had perfected the plan for where to park & sit, the parade coordinators changed the route.

Street closures and traffic caused a little strain in our marital communication. Finally we found a parking garage which appeared to be relatively close to our seats. Just like last year I brought blankets to lay down on the bleachers. And just like last year  I packed snacks and water for hungry kiddos waiting for the parade to start.

Strapping the Baby Bjorn on Bruce, I awkwardly slipped in Knox. Then in sherpa-like style I carried the diaper bag, snack backpack and three blankets. The boys’ appropriate excitement led them to run ahead of us and get too close to the street. Yelling out “STOP! Boys stay on the sidewalk. Slow down!” as blankets slipped from my arms. With each block we walked I felt my attitude slipping. It didn’t take much. I was already in a grumpy place, remember?

We arrived at our bleachers a few minutes before the parade started. This was good news considering we had little boys to keep entertained every moment until the first float arrived. But the flip side of arriving so late…packed bleachers. Finding room for a group of 6 adults and 8 children proved to be difficult.

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So we spread ourselves out among a section of seats. Price and his buddy chose to sit together. Unfortunately sitting together meant pulling santa hats over their eyes and kicking their legs with excitement. The worst part of their choice…the couple sitting in front of them repeatedly getting kicked in the bottom by two silly, squirmy boys.

In apologizing for the boys and moving them down a few rows (with more “leg” room), I started chatting with the “kicking” victim. One conversational topic led to another. That’s when she pointed out the people in the bleachers across the street from us. In my flustered state I hadn’t yet noticed they were all wearing the same shirt, just in different colors.

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“They are with the Snowball Express program. Children (and their parents) who lost a loved one in military service were flown here for free by American Airlines for fun weekend…Six Flags Amusement Park, Fort Worth Stockyards, and the parade.”

My mouth gaped open in disbelief…All those people lost a family member in military action?”

I found this news story:

“The Snowball Express is in the air, making the holidays brighter for military families who have lost loved ones in the War on Terror. 1700 children and spouses of fallen military heroes are being flown to Dallas/Fort Worth. …American Airlines flight crews are donating their time to make the trip possible.”

While complaining about inconvenient parking, over-crowded bleachers, sweating from the blankets I had carried in 80 degree weather, I looked across at the sea of faces who have a legitimate right to complain. In that moment the parade took on a whole new meaning.

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I stood with them saluting the flag. A symbol of what their loved one died to protect. Freedom to attend a parade in Dallas, Texas in the United States of America.

I cheered when they cheered for balloon carriers to spin the balloons. I wanted a good show more badly than ever…for them. Thank you Dallas Tap Dazzlers in sparkling costumes & cowboy hats for kicking your 65-year-old legs and amazing us with your energy & joy.

The biggest cheers came not for the Nickelodeon superstar or Batman, but for the Navy Seals marching with the “Carry the Load” organization. Created by two Navy Seals as a way to remember our veterans in a tangible way on Memorial Day. “It’s a life-changing journey for participants as they walk or run as long as they can in the 20-hour period (carrying heavy backpacks) . . . Like the service members they honor, they carry more than they have to, longer than they think they can.” 

Watching these bleachers full of those left behind, I see the joy on their faces as the “Carry the Load” banner passes. The salutes. The honor.

I had a high school teacher who once told me, “You never know the burden someone else is carrying.”

Focused on my comfort & convenience I never would have considered such enormous pain & suffering could exist in those sitting just across the street from me at a Christmas parade. Someone pointed it out to me. It was an intentional choice to see them. 

This Christmas season I have the opportunity to “bump” into a lot of new people/strangers. At the post office. Toys ‘R Us. The craft store. The grocery store. Visiting Santa. I want to try to stop and consider life from their perspective.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

If the Starbucks barista doesn’t give me eye contact & seems to need a strong cup of coffee, I don’t want to take it personally. I hope to pray for her (in the quiet of my mind). While checking out at the grocery store, I don’t want to just scroll through Facebook on my phone. But to look at the face of the cashier and ask him/her about a favorite Christmas memory or how he/she will spend the holidays.

In replacing “me” with “He”, I must consider the burdens of others. To see them the way God sees them.

What burden are you carrying today? Share below so I can pray for you (or feel free to email me: GodCenteredMom@gmail.com)

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Check out the “Light ’em Up” website. 100 ideas for random acts of kindness this holiday season. love it!

“It’s a Girl”: three deadliest words in the world

** I hope this post can provide prospective for your day instead of discouragement. If the words bring weight, pray. The burden you feel is your heart breaking for what breaks His. But remember you have been called to minister to your kids. love them well today and count your blessings. and pray.**

If you’ve read GodCenteredMom for the past year you know I was a “tad” disappointed (major understatement) when I learned our 4th child was a boy instead of the elusive girl.

Now, of course, I am thrilled-head-over-heels-in-love with our sweet Knox. And wouldn’t trade him for a thousand girls…but my heart broke when I read these words:

“In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide.”                       –www.ItsaGirlmovie.com 

Last Spring I first heard about the film, “It’s a Girl”, and watched this–> trailer:

The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son.” -www.ItsaGirlmovie.com

I had to see this film. So I arranged to have a screening at my home. Fortunately, sweet & loyal friends offered to come watch it with me (a weighty topic for a Monday night). Stories included in the movie covered the topics of:

  • Female Infanticide: The Indian woman who flippantly, with a smirk, shares how she strangled 8 (EIGHT) daughters before having her son. Or the women who demonstrate how they suffocate their girl babies. Explaining how killing them in one minute is merciful, given the lifetime of suffering these girls may endure.
  • Dowry Death: One Hindi saying compares having a daughter to raising a child for someone else. Because in their culture once a daughter marries she is no longer responsible for taking care of her parents. Her parents do not have access to any wealth she and her husband earn. With the dowry system for each daughter you pay a dowry and for each son you earn a dowry (land, cattle, goods, money). Daughter=money out; Son=money in.
  • Forced Abortion and Forced Sterilization: One family interviewed live in rural China (different laws from Urban One Child Policy). Their first child was a girl, given the rural law, they were allowed to try for a 2nd child. Another daughter.  Grandparents convinced them to try for a boy (an illegal 3rd child). Paid informants told the Chinese government about the pregnancy. Officers came to arrest the mother and force her to have an abortion. She escaped and fled to go have the baby. When the baby was 5 months old, she and her husband moved away to work in a factory, spreading the three girls to live with different relatives.  All they want is to be together with their girls, but returning means imprisonment.
  • Child Trafficking: Ironically, girl children in China are a commodity. The movie shares the story of a little girl who was kidnapped in front of her house by a family who wanted a girl for their son to marry. Fortunately this family found their daughter (after a year of searching) and the kidnappers were imprisoned. (FYI there are 37 million more men than women in China right now).

Horrific. Evil.

“Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in
context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.”–www.Itsagirlmovie.com

After watching the film, wiping our eyes, we sat defeated. We felt ill-equipped to make change in this enormous issue. I asked, “Does it seem the world is more evil?”

One of my friends shared her answer to the issue:

The book of Judges (in the Bible) occurs in a time when women were not valued. “People of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 2:11, 3:7…over and over in Judges). In Judges 19 we read the account of a man offering his virgin daughter and a concubine to evil men. Those men raped the concubine all night, killing her. She was then taken and chopped into 12 pieces sent to each tribe of Israel as a warning. EVIL.

The book of the Bible which follows Judges is the book of “Ruth”. If you are familiar with this story you know the tender care, honor and respect Boaz showed towards Ruth.

Did you know the book of Ruth begins with the words, “In the day when judges ruled…”? Meaning during a time (the book of Judges), when women were defiled and chopped into pieces, a man loved a woman well. The difference with Boaz was his heart. He believed in Yahweh, the one true God. He didn’t do what was right in his own eyes but obeyed the Lord.

Evil is present. It has been present. Men will do what is right in their own eyes if their heart is not changed. May we stop now and pray for hearts to change.

*A friend posted this link to a DTS article on ways to help fight trafficking…feel they would help in these issues as well: 20 things you can do to stop human trafficking

What She Could, She Did {The Sacrifice of Moms Matters}

*A sermon given by Abe Kuruvilla of Dallas Theological Seminary June 2, 2011 on Mark 14 inspired this post.*

She was a God-centered woman. Although no name is given for her, her sacrifice was tangible. God put on flesh. She stood in His presence with a humble heart. A simple alabaster jar, worth a year’s salary, broken for Him. Concern for herself absent as she poured the jar’s contents over His earthly head.

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But she had critics…they believed the money spent on the ointment should have gone to the poor. They scolded her, in front of Jesus. Yet he defended her saying,

“leave her…A good deed she has done to Me. For you will always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good  to them; but you do not have Me always. What she could, she did.” Mark 14:6-8

“What she could, she did.” Her gift was:

  •  Profuse: It went above and beyond. She gave all she could give.
    • Do we as moms see our jobs as a direct service to God? Do we go above and beyond? Or do we just get the job done…get it over with…get through the day? 
  • Pure in quality: She purchased the best quality ointment. The best she could find.  
    • As moms, do we give our kids the “best quality mom”? Do they get premium attention or the leftovers? 
  • Precious: Her gift was expensive…the equivalent of one year’s salary.
    • Some of us chose to literally lose salaries to give the precious gift of time serving our kids. Some give up being with their kids to make money for their famiy. Both sacrifices are precious. We may give up leadership roles, other service opportunities, or alone time so that we can be fully present with our families.
  • Praise-worthy: Jesus declares, “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” This woman, with no name, would forever be remembered. 
    • If you humble yourself by loving your children in the small things (feeding them, kissing skinned knees, changing diapers), in due time He will lift you up. 

 May your daily sacrifices for your children bring God glory because they are profuse, pure, precious, and praise-worthy. You may have critics who think your sacrifice is wasted. To God your sacrifice is essential. Fortunately all that matters is what He thinks!

*This post was edited from its original version posted on June 8, 2011

Soul-cure {better than a pedicure}

When you have 3 young children…and you are 35 weeks pregnant…and your husband is out of town for a week…and you get a 5 hour break in the day…what should you do?

Shop? Read a book? Get a pedicure?

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These are the things I thought about doing during my “break”. But I had made a commitment months ago. I had said I would be a friend and teacher to a sweet mom who was a refugee from Burundi (East African country surrounded by Rwanda, Congo, Tanzania).

Two weeks prior I had driven out to meet with her and she had slept in and missed our “date.” Which contributed to my weak desire to make the effort to keep my commitment. But I went.

God is good.

If we offer ourselves in the smallest ways, He shows up in BIG ways.

I arrived and she was hosting friends who are refugees from Somalia. The conversation with her friends begins with questions about birth control. I offered what information I could…via the internet.

Those same friends have almost $2000 in medical bills from an emergency room visit and asked if I could help fill out a form for medical assistance.

We sat down together. I learned they have no jobs. No money. No insurance. They were only at the hospital for a few hours.

After filling out the forms, the husband asked how my friend from Burundi and I know each other. We shared how we met through her sister &  my friend from church. He asked if I’m Catholic. The conversation turned spiritual…

We told him we attend Northwest Bible Church. He nodded and said, “Oh Christian…that’s the same as my belief…Muslim. The Koran & the Bible are the same.”

Perhaps because I had taken the time to help him with his insurance forms (meeting a physical need), he openly discussed Christianity and Islam with me.

We shared our beliefs and he began to see some differences…

  • I believe Jesus is God. He believes Jesus was a prophet and could not be God.
  • I believe we were separated from God due to sin and Jesus provided access to God. He believes through cleansing rituals, clothing, prayer he has access to God.
  • I believe Jesus took on the sins of the world, died, rose again and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. He believes Jesus is in heaven.
  • I believe I can read the Bible and interpret it through power of the Holy Spirit. He believes only those in his church can interpret and understand the Koran.

Despite the differences I gain an appreciation of his reverence for God. He shared how seriously he takes the time he spends in prayer. He shared how intimately the communion is between himself and God…taking his cares and concerns, not to a friend, but to his powerful God.

I share what God had taught me this week through a passage in Psalm 4. Due to modern technology, I am able to share it to him in his heart language…Swahili (Thank you Bible app on my iPhone!).

I see in his eyes a tenderness as he hears me reading Swahili…this pregnant American mom attempting to make a connection.

On a day when I “should” have sought pampering, I begrudgingly showed up to serve. In offering my meager gifts, God blessed me.

I  left that apartment with a full Spirit. I received a “soul-cure.” I hadn’t just attempted to meet physical needs (which of course as moms we need to do). I had met spiritual needs that I didn’t even know needed filling.

Again it’s the backwards economy of God…empty of yourself and be filled. Give and you will receive.

If you are feeling soul-empty, if depression weighs heavy on your heart, if exhaustion is your constant companion…perhaps its the time to go against what the “world” would say you need (comfort & convenience) and instead give. serve. minister.

I guarantee you will be the one who is blessed.

*side-note…this week I was ministered to. I accepted meals. I accepted offers to watch my children. It’s hard to say “yes” to help but in doing so I realize it allows someone else to experience “soul-cure.”

Linking up with: Thought Provoking Thursdays 

Simple Way to Give Generously {Operation Christmas Child}

My favorite activity to do with my boys as the holidays approach is to purchase, pack and pray for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) Shoeboxes. It’s a wonderful, tangible way to love on children and give hope this season. AND a great way to get your children involved!

If this is your first time to pack a shoebox here are some steps to success!

1) WATCH A OCC VIDEO

I like to watch a video with my boys before we go purchase the items for the box…so they remember who we are buying them for. Here is a link to all the OCC videos, followed by the one I thought young children would understand best. OCC Videos

Overview Video to show your little kids:
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

 2) CHECK OUT WHAT to include and HOW TO PACK A SHOEBOX

Each year I forget what I can and can’t pack in a shoebox. So here is the link on How to pack a shoebox & what to include. Basically no liquids and no war/aggressive/military items. I like to buy plastic shoe box containers but you don’t have to.

The link will also give you this label to print off and put on your box:

3) DECIDE IF BOX IS FOR BOY/GIRL & AGE RANGE

Decide with your child if your box will be for a boy or girl and what age range. My boys usually chose boys (which is good since there are fewer boxes sent for boys than girls) and they usually chose the age they are.

4) MAKE IT PERSONAL

 Include a picture of your family and a note from your children…if your child can’t write yet, have them color or draw a picture. Here are two pages you can print off for your child to fill out and send with the box: About Me Coloring Pages

5) PAY TO SHIP IT (and FOLLOW IT!) 

Once you have it packed and labeled, go online and pay the $7 to ship the box and when you pay online you have the option to follow where your box will be delivered. Which is great for educating small children as well. Follow where your box goes

6) PRAY

Pray with your children for the child that will receive that box. Pray that it will bring joy and hope. Pray that God will use this gift to draw them to the gift of His Son.

7) DROP IT OFF 

Some churches/MOPS/schools have places to drop-off boxes this week (Nov 14th to 21st is collection week) Here is a link to the Drop-off locations near you.

8) THE GREATEST JOURNEY 

Doesn’t end with the shoebox! There is a discipleship program that is offered to OCC shoebox recipients called “The Greatest Journey”. They learn how to become faithful followers of Christ!

For more info on packing a shoebox, check out these great posts by some awesome women (including an idea for what to include in your box):

VERY Thorough post on OCC Shoeboxes: Top Ten Reasons & How-to (including a video by Veggies Tales) by Mommy on Fire

Verses on the poor that can be read/memorized with your children are a great way to tie-in truth.  We also try to discuss how we have been blessed with resources so we are sharing our blessing but they are blessed with abundant joy.  Gratitude. Love.  It comes so easily to others who don’t live in an upside down world. (I don’t want my crew to feel like we are looking “down” on the poor but rather sharing the gifts God has given us and realizing that they gift us, too.)”

 

“You too can bless a child with that skill!!!  Simply download and print this free guide.  Place it in your shoebox gift, along with a skein of yarn and a hook.  Nestle them among the other items you’ve chosen for the special child who will receive your gift, and voila!  All set!”

Boxes of Hope by Denise in Bloom

Simple shoeboxes that can bring a change and leave an impact on a child’s life. Its so small compared to what American children across the country will receive–what my kids will receive this coming holiday. Its the least we can do.”
 

Operation Christmas Child: A Pictorial by Mommy on Fire

Shoe Box Distribution in Uganda 2008 2 

to those who can’t get there fast enough in Uganda. Because Faith is a verb!”

Few Favorites Friday: November 11th

1. Candy Experiments

I wrote a post this week about sharing what you love with your kids, so they can know you better and what makes you unique (and so you don’t forget what you enjoy!).

Well I LOVE candy and I was a science major in college, so when I saw the link to science experiments with leftover Halloween candy I had to try them. The first experiment was “Color chromatography with M&Ms”.

“The word “chroma” means color and “graph” means to write or document.  So this experiment is documenting the true colors of our candy. We chose M&Ms as our test subject.  There are 6 colors of M&Ms – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and brown.  However, those dye colors are not listed as ingredients.  Instead, other colors are blended to make these 6 beautiful colors. But which colors are found in each?  That’s what candy chromatography is going to tell us!” -The Quirky Mommas

The boys favorite part was melting the M&Ms in drops of water and putting the colored water on the filter. They didn’t really care about the results of the experiment. =)

The second experiment we did was to guess which candies would sink & which would float. We made our hypothesis first and then ran the tests.

The only candy we found that floated was the 3 musketeers (marshmallow filling…less dense). The boys thought that was very cool. But they enjoyed eating our “test subjects” the most!

2. White orchid tea

I also wrote this week about making the time to have “In Real Life” friendships. Sunday night I went out with a group of friends to a fancy restaurant…but not for dinner. Instead we enjoyed the yummy desserts and fancy tea. Don’t you love this set-up? I tried a new scrumptious tea called White Orchid.

3. Adventures of Tintin books

My boy mom mentor, Leslie, was so sweet and loaned my boys her copy of the Tintin book “The Secret of the Unicorn”. They absolutely loved it and so this week I used my wonderful Amazon prime membership and ordered the next book in the series, “Red Rackham’s Treasure”. It arrived in a couple days (free shipping!) and my oldest son’s best friend sat on the couch and read it to him.

If you have young elementary school boys, check out the “Adventures of Tintin” books (there is a movie coming out this December directed by Steven Spielberg based on the two books in the series I mentioned above).

4. Little Bites Muffins

It used to be that my 2-year-old would eat anything. Now with the busyness of toddlerhood it’s hard to find anything that interests him…particularly for breakfast. I finally landed on a winner. He loves these little mini-muffins by Entenmanns. 

Each box has 5 pouches and each pouch has 4 muffins. He loves to hold one muffin in each hand. whew!

5. Emerging Butterflies

Remember our little caterpillars?

When I got back from Relevant we noticed they had formed their chrysalides

This past weekend they emerged. All within 24 hrs of each other. It was amazing to watch something so innate. Each of these creatures had never done what they were doing. They immediately came out and clung to the mesh side and unfurled their wings.

The beauty of transformation.

6. Stories that motivate to action

This week I have been reading the stories of several women who are in Ecuador right now with Compassion International. They are witnessing the difference Compassion sponsorship makes for these families. If you have not read their stories please take the time this weekend to do so…you won’t regret it. I will warn you that they will convict you and you may experience your own beautiful transformation.

Here is the link to all their blogs: http://blog.compassion.com/compassion-bloggers-travel-in-ecuador/ 

If you can only read one post…read this one: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/11/when-you-are-in-desperate-need-of-hope/

What were some of your favorites this week?