Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."

~Carl Bard~

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gift Ideas - #3

Christmas Eve is here...ready or not! We celebrated here at home with our little family last night. At 11:10 p.m.  Yeah, it was exhausting, after a busy day at work followed by a couple of hours of last minute shopping. But the kids were excitedly persistent, and they won. It did buy us a morning to sleep in, so I guess that is a worthwhile trade.  :-)

We have done a really large variety of gifts this year, and that has made giving a little more interesting.

Last year, a student gifted me with this adorable painted pail that reads "Merry Munchies." It was full of goodies, which I emptied with help from my junk food lovin' kids.  This year, I chose a recipient, filled the pail with items I knew were her personal favorites, dropped it into a clear bag, and tied it with raffia. Not only did I clear one item from my stash, but someone else received a nice gift!  :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gift Ideas - #2

Last Christmas, one of my students gifted me a painted, stemmed glass loaded with different candies.  Through the next several weeks, I really enjoyed having this decorating my desk. It was the perfect small snack during those "need some chocolate" moments.

Stemmed glass (decorated or not), confetti,
a round styrofoam ball, straight pins, candy

This year, I have decided to re-gift the stemware part, and add new candies. Mine (pictured above) isn't quite as pretty as the original because I didn't get the perfect shape/size of candy for layering. If I remember correctly, holiday tootsie rolls (which I couldn't find) were in the first one. This would make a great gift for a co-worker or an employer. A girl who cleans houses recently asked me about gifting her employer (who is rich and in need of I suggested a gift of food - pie, buckeyes, cheese ball - but this would be a perfect gift for that situation. It lets them know you care without spending a ton of money and risking the purchase of something they already have or don't need. I hope you are wrapping up your shopping with ease! We pared our list down to 49 this year. Yes, that is 49 people on my Christmas list, not even counting Greg or myself. If there's anything left, I guess we might decided to add ourselves, putting it up to 51. :-) Last year we were somewhere around 55, and we decided to draw names in one gift exchange which helped to pull the number down somewhat.

Our first Christmas gathering is now history.  We celebrated with my family last Saturday.  This coming weekend will find us in Cincinnati with all of our extended Yount family (oh, the wonderful, happy craziness and noise!), and New Year's weekend will be celebrated with our Burley family in Michigan. 

Praying for safe travels and good health!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 13...Live In The Moment

Well, it's been a long "13 Days"...more like 30?  :-)  I guess that's what happens when you don't expect life to throw so many curves within a three week period!  It was to be a busy month, with a large fundraiser, school Thanksgiving dinner, Thanksgiving holiday, church Christmas dinner, and school Christmas play, but so many extra things piled was almost eerie how many things happened in one month around here!

But...we've survived, and other than a minor glitch (like me having a sinus infection, ear infection, and bronchitis) it may still prove to be a holly, jolly Christmas!  I think this little exercise in focusing on being thankful has helped me to navigate all the stress much better than I would have otherwise. 

Now, here we are on Day 13.  I saw a sign this week that gave me a poignant reminder.  It read:


These weren't new words to me.  I'm a big fan of primitive decor, and little signs sporting catchy phrases such as these are abundant in primitive shops.  However, I think it spoke to me a little stronger this week because days like I have experienced recently are days that could easily be wished away.
How many times have we been guilty of the "I can't wait until..." mentality?  Whether it's getting the kids through unpleasant stages, hoping for more financial stability, achieving educational goals...we wish away the moments that bring pain and discomfort, not understanding that they weave themselves through the good times to make the beautiful tapestry we call life.
I mentioned a few days ago that my co-worker's mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She passed away last night, exactly thirty days after her diagnosis. Such a shock...completely unexpected.  She was 63 years old and looking toward retirement.  Twenty years ago, the age of 63 would have seemed like "old" age to me, but today that seems like a life cut short.  There is still so much living to be done in those golden years. 

It reminds me again of the importance of living "in the moment." Not "for the moment," but "in the moment."  The difference is clear.  I chuckle inside when I hear people talk about the "good 'ole days."  I can only imagine that if they had actually lived in the "good 'ole days," they would have longed for the "better 'ole days" that would have occurred sometime previous to the "good 'ole days."  Could it be that we justify our neglect of the present by living in the past or wishing for the future?

"Forever is composed of nows." - Emily Dickinson

As we plunge full force into the Christmas season, let's not be consumed with either what has been or what is yet to come.  Instead let's drink in every detail of the blessed present, being in tune with what others may or may not be saying, watching for opportunities to make a difference in the life of someone who needs us now. 

This is one of my very favorite books, written by one of my very favorite authors, Gloria Gaither.  The title of the book is also the title to one of her timeless lyrics, Fully Alive.  This prayer has been a call to action in my life, and I trust that it will bless you today.

Don't let me miss all the glory around me,
Waiting for heaven someday to come.
Open my eyes to miraculous Monday,
And make my feet march to eternity's drum.

Don't let me wait for some far off forever,
To say what I feel to the ones I hold dear.
Risking the pain and the joy of loving,
Keep me awake and alive while I'm here.

Fully alive in Your Spirit,
Lord, make me fully alive!
Fully aware of Your presence, Lord,
Totally, fully alive!

Be blessed today as you live in the moment!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gift Ideas - #1

Gift-giving can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of pressure, especially if the budget is very limited or the recipient is hard to buy for.  There are a few gifts that seem to stand out to me, and I thought I would share them.  If you're having a hard time, one of these ideas might help to give you a burst of inspiration.  :-) Today's idea is one of my favorites.

Family Cookbook

When I was a teenager, my Aunt Andrea Yount compiled a family cookbook for each of us teen nieces.  It's no secret that our family is blessed with amazing cooks, and she used recipes belonging to herself, as well as my mom, my Mamaw Yount, and my aunts Jean, Carol, and Sarah.  Some of these would be their "signature" recipes, the ones they typically bring to family gatherings. 

Andrea used a three-ring photo album, and wrote the recipes on white paper.  It is divided into sections with tabs, and has stickers to indicate which family member submitted the recipe.  Some of the recipes have special notes from the family member such as, "Uncle Joe's favorite...", which makes it extra special.

Next week when I see these wonderful women, I plan to take a photo of them and add it to my recipe album.

This gift will probably be one of the few that will be passed on from me to my daughters (I will have to make one for Allison). I suppose this could be put together for less than $10, but the value to me is PRICELESS!

Have you been given a gift that holds a special place in your heart? Feel free to share. We could all use new ideas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What's Your Color?

I'm in love with this little man, and a few more just like him! Snowmen are so festive and so stinkin' cute! He has siblings all over my house.  :-)

After 13 years with the same tree decked with multicolored lights, we decided to switch things up a bit. We used all white lights, added a new tree skirt and stockings, and I placed white and red berry sprigs randomly throughout the tree.

The kids were hesitant to switch to white lights cause they are "anytime" lights, but everyone was willing to give it a chance.

It's turned out to be a really beautiful tree, but it just doesn't seem quite right without the blaze of color.

So I'm already wondering about next year...maybe it will bring a bigger house so we can have one of each!

Anyone want to share your colors and why you choose them?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day 12...Bloom

A few weeks ago, I heard Joel Osteen speaking on the topic of his new book "Every Day A Friday."  The premise of the book is about intentionally shifting our perspective from the "I have to" to the "I get to,"  and I was more than a little convicted by Pastor Osteen's words.  Too many times I have been guilty of taking for granted the opportunities that God has given me. I may have even considered them burdensome.  Rather than saying, "I am blessed to be able to get up and do what I love,"  I might take a more negative tone and think something like, "Ugh.  Another day."  Granted, not being a morning person sometimes affects my a.m. self-talk, but that's no excuse.  :-)

How we face our days and the tasks they contain (whether pleasant, difficult, or somewhere in between) is important.  Not only are we impacted by our attitude, but so are all of those with whom we connect.  Whether it is being at home with children, attending meetings with professionals, teaching in the classroom, or working the drive-thru at McDonald's, others can quickly sense when we are unhappy or unfulfilled. 

The familiar phrase "bloom where you are planted" indicates that we are to take root right where we are, and make the best of it, and that usually seems like good advice.  However, there are times when "where we land" isn't where we want to take root.  And there isn't a more unsatisfied person than one who is living outside of his or her calling.  That person often struggles with the "I have to" versus the "I get to" mentality because they aren't doing what they were created to do.

So, I often ask God, "Am I planted in the center of Your will?"  He assures me that I am, and that I should continue to "bloom"...happily, contentedly, and with a positive outlook, for that makes all the difference!

They say we are most thankful for what we have after it's taken from us.  It would be tragic for us to have to become an invalid to appreciate mobility, become unemployed to appreciate a job, lose a spouse to appreciate companionship and love, lose religious freedom to appreciate the opportunity for public worship, or become incapable of doing the things we do every day to appreciate the beauty and necessity of both the mundane and the extraordinary opportunities we are given.

"Thank God every day when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know."
-- Basil Carpenter

Action Step:  Whether we're doing laundry, changing diapers, studying for exams, cleaning the church, helping with homework, or ___________________________ (fill in that blank!), our attitude toward the task sends a message!  Blooming is more than just poking our head above the soil.  Blooming is engaging everything within us to emerge with strength, to face the challenge,  and to open beautifully. 
Let's BLOOM!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 11...Rest In His Promises

Two verses of Scripture that were brought to my attention this morning remind me of why God's Word is so unbelievably precious to His children.  As someone who doesn't deal well with things I can't "fix," this week has tested my strength, my patience, and my faith.  Although I have tried to crowd doubt from my mind, my humanity keeps me from denying it altogether, and it sometimes catches me unaware. 
I don't doubt God, I doubt myself. 

But maybe that's a good thing.  It reminds me that, as much as I feel in control, I'm not.  As much as I think I have it together, it's only an illusion.

Ephesians 6:10 says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might."

Me+Me=Nothing.  God+Me=Enough.

And a promise for my present circumstances?  Not to worry.  Psalm 55:22 has that taken care of,
"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."

This requires some action on our part.  "Casting" isn't as easy as it sounds!  We have to trust that our burden is headed to a safe place, not a place of abandonment.  And we have to roll it completely off of ourselves, knowing that He is more than able to shoulder whatever we are carrying.
I leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs -

Trust His Heart

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don't
See how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
Sometimes blind us to the truth
Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
And you just don't see him,
Remember your never alone

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When don't see his plan
When you can't trace his hand
Trust His Heart

He sees the master plan
He holds the future in his hand,
So don't live as those who have no hope,
All our hope is found in him.
We see the present clearly
He sees the first and last
And like a tapestry He's weaving you and me,
To someday be just like him

He alone is faithful and true
He alone knows what is best for you

When you can't trace his hand
When you don't see his plan
When you don't understand
Trust His Heart

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more -- a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.
George Herbert

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Day 10...Teach 'Em Young

Have you ever been around a child who is so completely and genuinely thankful for everything?  It is refreshing to feel the gratitude that flows from their hearts.  My kids typically reached a peak in their outward expressions at about age 3 or 4.  Allison is still in that stage, although not as intensely as she was a few months ago.  I have had them look at me through tears of excruciating pain and thank me for giving them medicine.  They have thanked me for hugs.  They have thanked me for a million things that kids typically take for granted. Everyone they are around notices their grateful spirit. 

Unfortunately, this natural responsiveness doesn't stick for long, at least from my observance.  Kids become more shy about their thank you's.  They get sidetracked, they get used to benefits, and they fail to express what may (or may not) be in their hearts.

As a child, I learned much about being thankful from my parents.  Living in a parsonage, we probably received more 'blessings' from others than most people who work the average job.  These blessings were given as gifts of appreciation from people who were thankful for my parents investment, and these blessings helped to supplement a very meager ministry income.

But there was one thing that I knew without a doubt:  my parents never 'expected' people to gift them, and they never took those gifts for granted.  To this day, my mom hand writes thank you notes for every little thing she is given.  I love that about her. It has shown me that no matter how hectic her life is as a full time nurse/educator, pastor's wife, mom, grandma, etc., she is never too busy to return thanks in a tangible way.

I have tried (and failed miserably at times) to continue this pattern in our home.  Having three of the kids birthdays so close to Christmas means that many of our blessings come in a big clump.  :-)
And getting boys to write thank-you notes isn't the easiest thing in the world.  But I still think it is important.  I must not be in the majority, because I can't remember the last time I received a thank you note written by someone under the age of 18!  I would love to ask a group of moms how they approach this topic, because I know there are probably good alternative ideas that haven't hit me just yet.

I may start having the older children send thank you emails.  This would cut the cost a little, but would still help them develop a good habit along with creative writing skills.  That's a thought for this year.  Until then, we will gather around the table with our best pens and some pretty note cards...and we will write.

More than the writing, I want to help them develop gratitude as a daily discipline. And it's our job as parents to model the behaviors and attitudes that will lead them to that place.

"How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child's personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people."
-- Sir John Templeton

Action Step:  Encourage children to be thankful for opportunities that they would otherwise consider routine, such as a toothbrush with clean water and paste for brushing.  Offer thanks for every meal...before and even after.  Cut back on "luxuries"...not to be mean, but to increase their value to the children.  Help them to become 'gratitude leaders' within their peer groups.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 9...In Everything...Give Thanks

Boy, the last week sure has had its share of twists and turns.  As we enjoyed a laid back Thanksgiving weekend, we hadn't a clue of what the next few days would bring.  Sunday afternoon found me in the Urgent Care with Ryan, who was diagnosed with a large spot of pneumonia in his right lung.  The P.A. was even a little shocked with the results of the x-ray.  Ryan didn't have many of the typical symptoms of pneumonia, and we kept thinking that it was just a cold that would eventually go away. 

So, we began the routine of antibiotics, fluids, breathing treatments, and all that goes along with pneumonia.  And he began to recover well.

Then comes Wednesday, a fairly typical day until Kaitlynn had an accident which you can catch up on here.  I still get sick inside when I think about the first sight that I saw after she injured her mouth.  I cringe when I remember how she reacted when she first saw it in the mirror.  I get frustrated when I recall how no one at the hospital or dentist was equipped to help us. I wish a thousand times over that I had made her quit when I saw her doing the goofing off that resulted in this injury.

But just as quickly as all of these thoughts flood my mind, they are overwhelmed by the wall of thankfulness that I have been building for the last few weeks. And God begins to show me how He can work all of this for our good.  After all, He protected our little girl from what could have been a horrible tragedy.  He has a plan.  I am content to rest in that plan.  And if this accident can forever teach our daughter that the consequences of disobedience and a bad decision can be horrible, then it's worth it. 

It's easy to be thankful when things are good.  It's even easier when things are great.  But when the days and weeks seem set us back more than they take us forward, it's easy for our "thank you's" to turn to questioning and doubt.

I'm finding that a grateful heart exists, not only because of good days and good gifts, but simply because gratitude is becoming a part of my character.  Because I am conforming to the Image of a Person who embodies gratitude.  If my focus can be to accept my circumstances with a heart of gratitude, then every day is a good day, and every moment is a good and perfect gift. 

"Gratitude ... goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. "
--Henri J. M. Nouwen

Action Step:  List three of your most recent frustrations.  Think of three ways in which God used each of those trials to benefit you.  Then listen to this song:

Blessings - Laura Story
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if each promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win, we know
That pain reminds this hearts,
That this is not, this is not our home.....
It's not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

What if my greatest disappointments,
Or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy.
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 8...Know Your Makeup

And I'm not talking Mary Kay or Cover Girl!

Last week I faced some exhausting moments. You probably did, too. I'm finding out that being 35 is a little different than being 25...go figure.  One of the benefits of growing older is the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to analyze our own personality and temperament to maximize our best possible actions and reactions.  To become someone whom God can trust to exert self-control and represent Him well, regardless of how we feel.

I've never wished that I had been a man instead of a woman, but I do envy the ability of a man to compartmentalize and to seemingly disengage their emotions in order to get a job done.  That's a pretty sweet little thing they have going for them!

Since, as a woman, I'm made up completely different than that, I'm much more prone to a head explosion.  The whole time I'm engaged in a task, my mind has the power to move faster than an Olympic runner and cover everything that has happened, hasn't happened, might happen, might not happen, will happen, will not get the picture. 

One of the lessons I have learned is that when I'm tired, overwhelmed, or over-committed, things appear to be about a thousand times worse than they really are.  I doubt my ability to follow through on commitments, I am preoccupied, I become disorganized, and sometimes I become paralyzed with anxiety.   I also become self-reliant, rather than being constant in prayer and asking my Heavenly Father to walk the journey with me. 

What happens when all of those crazy emotions/feelings take control?  The weaknesses in my personality have the opportunity to fester and grow.  They hijack who I have become, and make me susceptible to attitudes and actions that take me to places I don't want to go, emotionally and spiritually.

One of the reasons that I love the study of the personalities is that it opens up a whole realm of understanding about the uniqueness of the individual, as well as the creative genius of our amazing God.  To observe a woman become validated in who she is...what an exciting moment in time! And then to watch her take that information, along with all of the honesty and courage she can muster, and use it to benefit all of her relationships, her place in the home, her obligations at church, and wherever else she finds herself.  It's beautiful.

Knowing my makeup makes it easier for me to make decisions, love others, accept life's challenges, and have a heart of gratitude. 

Action Step: A woman who knows her makeup is one who accepts herself as God created her (not living with the 'I wish' mentality), and daily focuses on using her unique set of emotions and skills to bring out good things in herself and everyone around her.  Getting to that point requires
an acknowledgement of what is, as well as what has been (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and a heartfelt thankfulness to God for allowing our experiences to bring us to where we are today.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
—Melody Beattie

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 7...Decisions, Decisions

My decisions matter, especially to them.

Who knew the little things could matter so much? As I sit here in the waiting room of a doctor's office, I'm reminded of the significance of "little things." Although not a germ "freak," I consider myself to be quite aware of the microscopic bacterium that are undoubtedly covering every square inch of this place.  Eeeewww...get me out of here! 

But just as one teeny little germ can wreak havoc on my health, one teeny little decision can change the course of my destiny. 

I like the analogy that my dad uses when preaching and teaching about choices.  He says that life is kind of like a computer.  At start up, the menu is wide.  There are lots of icons, lots of opportunities.  As we make decisions, the menu narrows and we are restrained by the choices we have made.  Unfortunately, there isn't a little "x" at the top of life's page that offers an escape from our choices.  We carry the baggage from our decisions...whatever they may be. 

Every day I make choices.  Some are small.  Others are much larger.  Some seem small enough, but have long-term consequences. 
Had I known that wearing my hair up on my head in the same way for so many days/months would leave me with a golf-ball sized bald spot on the back of my scalp, I would have chosen a different hair style.  Did I purposefully mess up my mop of thick hair?  No, but whether or not I meant to, I live with the consequence.
Most days, I over-eat and under-exercise.  I can give you a million excuses, but they don't change the consequence of my choice.

My mom was pretty diligent in teaching us the concept of sowing and reaping.  At the time, I was kind of sick of hearing about it, but she did it right...she had me scared to death of making wrong decisions.  On days that my head wasn't attached right, I made good decisions just because she taught me to do it.  On principle.  Most days, I made right decisions because I knew that the opportunities that followed would be determined by my choices.  Plus I wanted to do right, and I wanted to please God.  How those things work to one's advantage!

But my obligation to good decisions isn't over just because I've spent a decent portion of my life working at it.  In fact, it's only beginning.  Now there are four sets of eyes watching me make my choices.  My choices affect their menu, as well.  What makes us think we are the only ones that live with the consequences of our decisions?  I've heard too many stories in the last two weeks to believe that. 

So, I have to remain diligent in decision making.

The small things count. 

The big things count. 

Everything counts.

"We win or lose by what we choose."

Action step: People who make good decisions seem to be more thankful.  Watch people who consistently make bad decisions.  I see blame, ungratefulness, even bitterness. 
Ask God for guidance in all decisions, then choose as He directs.  No decision is too small to bring before Him.  Elizabeth George says to divide index cards into squares and write down decisions so that they are handy for prayer. 
My thankfulness seems to multiply when I sense His guidance in my life.  That's a blessing worth sharing!

It's What's For Dinner...

Looking for something warm, filling, and loaded with flavor?  Cook yourself some chicken breasts, shred them, add Santa Fe Philly Cooking Creme, and throw in a little taco blend shredded cheese.  Spoon mix into tortilla shells, wrap, and line in baking pan.  Toss a little more cheese on top...for good measure..or extra calories.  Bake for a few minutes, then garnish with sauteed green onion and tomato.  Serve with spanish rice and refried beans for a meal you're sure to love!  :-)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 6...Prepare to Reroute

As I figured, my plan for 13 consecutive, daily posts was derailed within a week. Between my schedule and blogger not cooperating too well, I've been tempted to call it quits. But since that attitude is not one that I want my children or my students to exhibit, I'll adapt and continue. :-)

My situation reminds me of times that I use navigation to find my way through unfamiliar territory. On many trips I make at least one wrong turn, and my navigation flashes a notification that reads "Rerouting." It immediately maps a plan to get me to my destination from the road that I unintentionally traveled. How I wish I had this handy tool the day of my brother's wedding...when my sister and I found ourselves driving in circles through Illinois cornfields, just praying we would make it back to the church in time for the ceremony!

But how much more frustrating is it when life becomes unpredictable? For most of us, a whole lot. Women typically like stability. Stability provides us with security, and makes us feel somewhat in control. But what happens when all of the sudden we come upon a detour, or we make a wrong turn? Do we give up? Do we lose our ambition to try? Or do we simply pray for patience and reroute?

One of my best friends, my coworker, my "big sister", Marea, found herself in such a situation just this week. She awoke Thursday morning with lots of plans for the weekend. It was to be a busy, busy weekend for our school. By lunchtime she had received the shocking news that her mom was diagnosed with cancer, and by dinnertime, she was on a plane to NY.
As I thought about how my weekend was impacted because of her circumstances, I could hardly fathom the adjustments she made within those few hours, in addition to the overwhelming range of emotions she was and is facing.

Life is unpredictable. We cannot gauge with any amount of certainty what will happen a week, a day, or even an hour from now. How do we deal with that?

Planning is a Biblical concept, but so is accepting that our plan isn't always God's plan. That's difficult for me to swallow, but I know that it's true.

Flexibility is a character trait that I want to further develop. Why? Because our level of contentment is significantly affected by our ability to be flexible. Have you ever seen a baby or a young child who is used to rigid routines? What happens when a little detour arises? They become the most discontented little people on the planet! They tend to make everyone around them miserable, as well.
A woman who has learned to be flexible has learned one of the secrets to a contented heart.
I want to be that woman.

Action Step: If my day or my week were to be completely interrupted because of the needs of another, how would I react? Would I graciously sacrifice my schedule, my plans, my agenda? Or would I recoil in anger and frustration? What can I let go of in order to become more flexible? How can I prioritize to allow margin?  Chewing on this...

"Do not get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time."
Galatians 6:9

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Read Coming Soon!

Although I use several websites for coupon matchups, deals, and printables, Money Saving Mom is my #1 go to resource.  Crystal Paine offers a perfect blend of ideas, advice, and encouragement for busy homemakers, moms, and women in general. 
I am so exited that she has published a book full wisdom from her years of experience with budgeting, couponing, parenting, and marriage!
It's even garnered the endorsement of Dave Ramsey...and that's sayin' something!

To pre-order Crystal's book, head on over to Amazon.  They'll take it from there!

***As a side note, please pray for my friend and co-worker, Marea.  She received some troubling news regarding the health of her mother, and she is getting ready to hop a plane to New York to be with her family later this afternoon.  I know she would appreciate the prayer support as you think about it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 5...Let It Go.

This picture makes me laugh.  Just the pure innocence
of two little sisters playing dress up. 
Who can believe we are just a week out from Thanksgiving? My goodness, time is moving along! It happens to be one of those weeks where a quiet moment is a rare find.  This weekend our school will be holding a fundraiser, and somehow it has gone from 'manageable' to 'huge'.  We are cooking and selling bbq ck dinners at two locations, having a baked goods sale both places, and having an indoor "garage" sale at one of them.  I'm not sure about the wisdom of doing all of that 5 days before Thanksgiving, but hopefully the Lord will bless our efforts.  He always does.  :-)

Let It Go.  Those words seem to imply that we're hanging on to something heavy, and that might be the case, but more often than not, it's the little things that accumulate and weigh us down.   Things like piles, about which my friend Char so effectively blogged a few days ago. 

My house is full of piles right now.  They are everywhere, and at this point I have zero margin to work on them.  Some days it eats at me, other days I'm too tired to care.  We are in maintenance mode right now, with not much hope for progress anytime soon. 

So what is the best response?  Typically, I stresss about it.  I freak out that someone might stop by unexpectedly and see the mess and judge me because of it.  Tonight, after reading Char's post, I looked at the piles and said, "Thank you, God, for Your blessings.  Even if they are in piles right now!"  And I'm hoping I can have the same mindset when I leave them to go to work in the morning.  There will be another day for sorting, filing, trashing, and stacking.  In the meantime, I've got to let it go. 

Does it mean I have to turn into an irresponsible slob?  No, but it does mean that I can relax and not allow myself to be controlled by my present circumstances.  I can't allow what I can't change to drain my energy and my joy.  I'll get to it...eventually.  And probably before Thanksgiving. 

Action Step: Maybe your frustration isn't clutter.  Maybe it's smaller.  Or maybe it's much bigger.  If you can, for a few days, let it go.  Savor the season.  Go digging in your dresser for a scarf, some sunglasses, slippers, and an umbrella.  Then go dancing in the living room.  Or not.  Whatever you do, lighten up and let it go. 

Psalm 30:11 "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth, and clothed me with gladness."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day Four...Be On Guard

Each weekday morning, I reach for my phone and work through the ritual:
  • Check texts, email, tweets, and weather
  • If I have time, see what's new at Drudge and Fox News
  • Read the verse of the day from Daily Bible (not meant to be sole source of spiritual nourishment, but helps kick start the day).
By the time I'm finished, I'm typically alert enough to get out of bed without landing on my nose.  If you're not a morning person, maybe you can sympathize!  They say most people are in  their deep sleep stage around 3-5 a.m.  I'm convinced that mine occurs around 7.  Anyway, that's my excuse and I don't have another that sounds as good, so that will have to do for now.  :-)

Although it may sound simple, the verse of the day usually has great significance for my circumstances or situation that I face that day, and I'm thankful that God cares enough to use just a few words to give me courage, comfort, or contentment.

I wanted to use this morning's verse as a springboard for Day 4 of Thirteen Days to Thankful.  It is found in Luke 12:15 where Jesus says, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  I love reading the words that came right from the mouth of Jesus.  Although the whole Bible is inspired by God, there is something special to me about the instructions that God's Son gave to common people during His short years on earth. 

Every single day my mailbox and newspapers are loaded with temptation.  Especially during this 6-8 week period preceding Christmas.  Can you believe how much these department stores spend on mailers and ads?  In Sunday's paper, one of the local jewelers had published what was practically a book featuring their products.  Although I know their profits are huge this time of year, I could hardly believe that they could justify something like that!  And it's not just my mailbox and newspaper that have me tempted.  When I blog hop, I see beautiful homes, well-dressed kids, attractive wardrobes, and other 'things' would try to trap me in the sin of covetousness.

Jesus knew human nature would be lured by the desire for things that others have, and he specifically warns us to be on guard against it.  He challenges us to work toward the things that really count, and to invest in eternal riches, rather than material possessions that will ultimately pass away. 

We tend to think that children are the ones who have the most difficulty with covetousness, but how many times is our own attitude mirrored in theirs?  It's overwhelming to think about our responsibility as examples.

"You say, 'If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.' You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled."
 --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Action Step:  Read Luke 12 and ask God to weed out all traces of covetousness in your life.  Then dig to find the real reasons for your covetous spirit.  Are you discontented?  Do you live to impress?  Are there misplaced priorities in your life?  There are many reasons why we would be tempted to this sin, but when we seek to pinpoint our personal motivation, we become better armed for resistance.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day Three...Listen To Your Heart.

As I type these words from the comfort of my mommy chair (otherwise known as a glider rocker), I am taking in all of the goodness that God has poured out on me.  At one end of the living room, the fireplace is blazing with orange light as the wood crackles beneath the intense heat.   Little Alli runs back and forth from one thing to the next, hardly satisfied to sit quietly, as Katie (all decked out in her cozy pjs) sits on the couch enjoying a bowl of ice cream.  Ryan has decided that ice cream sounds good to him, so he joins Kate on the couch, while Evan has the loveseat to himself as he multitasks his ice cream and his DS.  The love of my life has decided to stretch out on the floor.  Sometimes that is the only place his 6'8" frame can genuinely get comfortable. 

My head tells me to get up and do something.  To try to strike one more task off of a mom's unending list.  Not to waste time lingering.  Morning is coming.  There are uniforms to be ironed.  There are lunches to be packed.  There is laundry to fold.
But my heart tells me otherwise.  It says that I am about 385 days shy of having a teenager in my house, and even less than that from sending my baby to kindergarten. 

This moment matters.

My heart says to listen carefully to the sounds about me and record them in my memory, for certainly I will never again hear them in the same way.  It urges me to gaze upon every scene as if I will never see it again, because the images will never appear just as they do tonight..

And as the children are tucked into bed, and the blazing flames turn to nothing more than an amber glow, my heart is at peace because I listened.

A thankful heart is one that sees great value in what it already has and does its best never to take those things for granted.

Action step: Take a look at what is going on around you this moment and pick out something that you always want to remember. Focus on it. Memorize it. Cherish it. And, if you wish, share it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day Two...Laugh Often

Today we celebrated three birthdays!  My baby and my brother share a November 13th birthday, and my oldest was born on November 19th, and will officially grow older this Saturday. was a busy afternoon with lots of drama.  Birthdays are so much fun!  Now the day is winding down, and it's time to continue with 13 Days to Thankful.

When we become too busy or overwhelmed, one of the first things we lose is our ability to see see the humor in daily life.  We tend to view everything through the cloudy lens of our frustration and stress.  I find myself in this cycle now and then, and I have to step back, breathe, and lighten up! 

A few weeks ago, Greg and I had an impromptu date.  My dad was babysitting while we met with our accountant for a few minutes, and although we were gone for an hour or so, it obviously wasn't long enough for the kids.  When we stopped back to pick them up, they had locked the door and hidden themselves in various places around the house.  Like most parents, we didn't mind the extra few minutes to ourselves, and decided to pick up some dinner at Skyline.
Greg quickly determined that it was one of those 'Stephanie needs to chill' evenings, and used his sarcastic sense of humor to my advantage.  I don't know how long it had been since I laughed that hard!  Within a couple of hours, I felt like a different person simply because of a free, God-given, therapeutic technique...laughter.

Kaitlynn, our blondie

Our sweet little blonde gives us at least a laugh a day. Today she came flying in the room (in typical fashion), and said, "Did God have a wife?" Her question caught me off guard, and before I could give her an answer she said, "Well, did He have a son?" Knowing that she knew that answer, I started to remind her, but again she cut me off. "If He didn't have a wife, how did He have a son?" She finished off with, "Now that's a good question, isn't it!" Somehow I don't find myself getting into the technicalities of all of that with her right now. Greg (typical guy) muttered something about God working through Mary, and she said, "Oh, yeah..." and was off to her next busy moment.
God gave her to me to keep me laughing.  I'm so thankful for the gift of truly is the best medicine!

Action Step: When was the last time you really laughed?  Has it been too long?  Let yourself relax!  Put a smile on your face...that'll get you halfway there!  Then put on a Depends or whatever you might need in case your laughter gets you more than you bargain for.

***Job 8:21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day One...Value Friendship

"Friends are some of life's greatest blessings."

The idea for 13 Days to Thankful came to me several weeks ago, and I came close to discarding it because I felt like I was too busy to commit to two weeks of daily posts.  But I decided that it was a worthy journey for my own mind and spirit, so here I am on Day #1, and of course, it's almost midnight.

Today was different than any I have had in a long time, thanks to three amazing girlfriends.  If you were to ask why they are so special, I could give you a million reasons!  Each of them exemplifies many of the traits of the Proverbs 31 woman, and I just consider myself a blessed person to be able to spend five minutes (let alone a whole day) enjoying their company!  Thanks Wendy, Marea, & Stephanie.  I enjoyed laughing myself sick with you in the Black Swamp!  LOL!

Friends are an important part of life.  Although not everyone is an extroverted sanguine, everyone needs a friend...and really, everyone needs several friends.  Healthy relationships are a crucial part of a healthy life.  More than that, friendship is a Biblical theme, and you can probably think of several key friendships from the Scriptures that are set as examples for us. 

Many people have what is often called a 'best friend', a trusted person with whom they can be transparent.  My husband fills that role in my life, and I'm so thankful that God gave me someone who knows when to listen and when to speak, loves to make me laugh, and holds me when I cry.  He's my best friend.  

But we need more than just a best friend, we need an army of friends.

And let's face it.  Friendships take time, they take energy, and they take maintenance.  But they are so worth the investment!  Let me give you three reasons:
  • Friendship provides mutual accountability. 
When we mutually make ourselves vulnerable by sharing our time and our hearts, we begin to understand what makes people tick.  We learn their strengths and weaknesses, their gifts and abilities, their dreams and goals, and yes, their areas of struggle and even failure.  And if the friendship is healthy, we begin to have mutual expectations that require a constant betterment.  We want the best for each other, even when the best isn't the easiest or the most fun.  We help one another avoid bad decisions, and celebrate successes and accomplishments.
A couple of months ago at a Women of Worth meeting, I became rather transparent about an issue in my life that I am struggling to change.  At that point, I was tired, frustrated, and feeling like a complete failure.  Although my struggle wasn't a sin, it was an area of personal discipline that I really needed to implement.  As I shared as only a tired, emotional woman could, I felt the arms of my women's group surround my heart and lift me up.  I knew they would be praying for me, and that they were more than ready to help shoulder my burden.  What a blessing it was just to know they cared, not to mention the accountability they were willing to give!
On a recent evening, I spent a large block of time helping a friend work through some emotional issues.  Before we parted ways, we agreed to some steps to promote healing.  Moving forward, our friendship will offer accountablity and help to be an agent for change in her life.
  • Friendship provides mutual support.
How many times have you shared with a friend in need and then watched them give of themselves for you when the time came?  When we bought our first home, it was in pathetic shape. Guess who came to help us take care of some of the issues that were a little beyond our expertise?  Our friends.  And 9 years later, we haven't forgotten.  When we had our first baby and I had an extended recovery because of an unexpected emergency c-section, guess who brought us meals, gifts, and kind words?  Family...and yes, our friends.  12 years later, it is still fresh on our minds.
Friendship isn't a selfish venture, but it's such a blessing to see how God uses this tool to take care of His people!  Whether it is taking a meal to a family who has experienced illness, offering to watch children so a couple can take a much-needed date, or extending a hug and a prayer with one who just needs to feel us near, friends play such a supportive role.
  • Friendship provides mutual encouragement.
When we can do nothing else for someone, we can be a friend.  Sometimes it isn't possible to solve another's dilemma, heal their sickness, or change their circumstances, but really, that's not our job anyway.   We are called to be a friend.  To be an encourager. 
I often think of my cousin and friend, Heather.  She is a missionary wife and mom of 5 beautiful children, living in Argentina.  I love to follow her blog and read the responses of her friends because I know that on many days those comments are fuel to her soul.  They provide her so much encouragement for this journey that she and her husband are traveling!  How different would her days be without her friends?  And it's mutual because we've all been encouraged by Heather's contagious smile and her words of cheer. 
Encouragement is something that each of us can give.  It is free, it is readily available if we ask God for opportunities, and it can never be too lavishly applied. 

Action Step:  Analyze your closest friendships and be sure that they are healthy.  Friendships should not suck the life out of you.  Mutual giving and mutual receiving are two important factors of healthy friendships.  As Christians, we should be investing in people who have absolutely nothing to offer us,  but we should have a solid group of friendships outside of these relationships.
If you haven't opened yourself up to friendships, let me encourage you not to deny yourself and others of this precious gift that God has made available.  God has given us the simple instructions:  "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly...", and as we make ourselves available with a spirit of friendliness, there will be no shortage on people who line up to take us up on our offer.

I'm so thankful for the host of friends that God has given us.  Although we typically reserve Saturday for family, I am amazed to know that we could spend several years worth of Saturdays with different genuine friends...and never run out!  Wow!  God is good! 

Tomorrow will be busy, but I'll try to be back to continue the countdown! If you're not sure what that's about, click here.  And don't forget about the gift card!  :-)

Have a blessed Lord's Day!

image credit

Friday, November 11, 2011

13 Days to Thankful...

Autumn is my favorite season, but there's always been a little bit of tension about which holiday lands at the top of my list.  Easter and Christmas are both blessed and amazing days, mostly because of the depth of spiritual significance, but in my mind I find myself very much looking forward to and savoring the days surrounding Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving seems to embody so many of the components that make my life happy and complete. 

I typically approach the days of Thanksgiving with really good intentions: a few extra minutes each day expressing thanks to my Heavenly Father, warm conversations with friends about the blessings of life, cooking and baking to fill my family's hearts with comfort, and showing genuine appreciation to my man and my children for all that they mean to my life.

But, if I'm not careful, my intentions are quickly derailed by the all of the distractions that life can provide.  Not only has Fall become one of the busiest times of the year, Thanksgiving has literally being hijacked by the commercialization of Christmas.

Back in October, Kaitlynn and I went to the mall for some shopping.  While we were in the car, Kaitlynn began to talk about Christmas and how much she loved the mall at Christmastime.  A few minutes later, she was stunned to see that the mall had already decked its halls.  She looked at me with the most astonished face and said, "Mom, did we miss the school Thanksgiving dinner?"  I laughed, understanding her momentary confusion, and explained to her a little about marketing gimmicks and how they increase sales.  She was relieved to know that one of her favorite events was still to come, and went about enjoying the tinsel and lights.

Later on, I replayed that conversation in my mind and it connected.

Many times I become so focused on the future that I completely miss the moment!

I don't know about you, but I don't want to "wake up" in December and realize that I missed Thanksgiving.   So, beginning Saturday the 12th, I'm going to embark on a short journey I'm calling

"13 Days to Thankful"

I hope you'll participate...everyone who does will be entered into a drawing for a $10 WalMart card!  And who couldn't use one of those?  :-)

See you then!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another Duggar...Thoughts?

Whether or not you care, you probably are aware that the Duggars are set to welcome number 20.  I say they are "set" because after like #8 or #9 I seriously wonder if anyone even notices that there is another body in the house!  :-) 

I am kept so busy with our current family size, that I'm not sure how to even process what a day at the Duggar house would look like.  But they seem to be doing a really good job raising a house full of charactered kids, and that is commendable.

What amazes me is the amount of anger the Duggar's decision is generating among a segment of the population.  Of course, those whose primary concern is "Mother Earth" are all in a wad, and then there are those who can't find it within themselves to believe that a large family can be raised without government assistance and are ticked off - I'm not getting that one, since the Duggars are not depending on our tax dollars.  Then there are a few who think Michelle is killing her own body by going through this process so many times. 

What I'm not hearing as much is that Baby Josie had to be delivered tremendously early (3-1/2 mos.) because of Michelle's health.  Now, Michelle could go on to have healthy prenancies and babies from here on out, but is it responsible to place such a risk upon a developing, pre-born baby?  I can't imagine the stress Little Josie's body went through for all of those months that she was struggling to survive and develop outside of her mother's body. 

So, not that it is any of my business whatsover, but I guess I do have an opinion.  :-)

Hope your Thursday is wonderful!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Currently Reading (sort of)...

How come it takes 31 days to get it clean and like 3.5 seconds to reduce it to chaos?
(this book seems really good, but I found out you actually have to be home for 31 days to
make it work...may try again sometime)
Read a few chapters...more anxious than ever...probably need to start over.
Swenson really has his finger on the pulse of the typical American...
but I was so busy (hmmm) when I read it that I hardly remember what it said.
Need to start over.

This book was a gift from one of my kindergarten students who graduated from
the Learning to Read program in May.  It is a wake up call for those of us who claim to be
Christian yet find ourselves so wrapped up in the comforts of home, family, and the American
dream that we fail to live out our faith in practical, New Testament terms.
It's the only book I read cover to cover...and I find myself convicted. 
I'm pretty sure the "Currently Reading" list to your right has been unedited since the beginning of  summer.  That's pretty lame, considering the summer of 2011 was going to be the summer of books for me.  Now that I no longer spend my days changing diapers, nursing hungry mouths, scrubbing out spit-up stains, and potty training ('s been over a year already???), I'm supposed to have time to kill...or so I thought.
 Instead, we filled our summer with other things, and the only substantial reading I completed was in my Bible.  I'm good with that, considering God's Word is the most important Book, but I sometimes I crave words of wisdom and encouragement from someone who is living the same crazy, hectic, hormonal life I'm living.  Someone who can help me organize my closet, understand my pre-teen, and be the amazing wife my husband deserves. 
So, I'm heading into fall with some pretty decent intentions.  Our Women of Worth group is doing Elizabeth George's A Woman After God's Own Heart Bible study, and I'm thrilled to go through that one again.  What a great book.  My online study group is tackling I John (I'm having a hard time keeping up, but I'm not giving up!), and I think I will add Cheri Fuller's Raising Motivated Kids to my fall lineup. 
Is there a favorite read you've picked up lately?  I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Easiest Meatloaf Ever!

I may have posted this recipe earlier (not sure), and I love it!  I'm a decent cook, but I'm not crazy about using a bazillion ingredients, not to mention having a bazillion dishes to clean up afterward.  Plus, considering the limited amount of time that we are home, I need recipes that are quick and easy.  There are so many ways to make a good meatloaf, but this one eliminates lots of hassle without compromising taste.  My kids would agree.  :-)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Perspective of a 7-year-old...

"Mom, I think you should retire, stay home, get some stuff done, and make some money!" 

Sounds good. I'll take it under advisement.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Becoming A Princess...

One of my favorite questions to ask a little person is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The answers are fairly predictable...likely I will hear the words fireman, teacher, or mommy in the response. But every now and then, a little angel will say (with blushing cheeks, batting eyes, and a slight curtsy), "I'm going to be a princess when I grow up!" I always indulge them a bit, saying something like, "Wow! I bet you'll make a great princess!" If I have time for some interesting conversation, I may even ask, "Can you tell me what a princess does?" Inevitably the response includes, "She marries a handsome prince and wears beautiful dresses and tiaras!" Now that provides some perspective!

The wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William in the early spring was the first glimpse of "real" princess life for my daughters, and the excitement in their eyes was dramatically increased my own interest in the big event.  What girl wouldn't love a real life fairy tale? 

According to (which happens to be a favorite app of mine), a princess is defined as "a non-reigning female member of a royal family."  Royal family?  I Peter 2:9 says something about royalty, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."  What an amazing thought to realize that I am God's princess!  Not because I feel pretty, or have a wardrobe that would dazzle a commoner, but because He has chosen me, and I have accepted!  I didn't have to enter a contest, lose a hundred pounds, cover up my freckles, master an instrument, or be the perfect housewife.  I am simply because of Who He is! And I so needed that today!

I'm reminded, though, that being a princess isn't all about the glamour of the position.  It's about being an example.  It's about really being a part of the royal family...protecting it and advancing its cause. It's about being unable to exhibit more outward beauty than what I possess inwardly .   It's about spending a large part of my day doing the King's business...because, in fact, it's all about Him.  It's also about choosing each moment of each day to remember that I am different, that I am held to a higher standard.  People will be examining my life.  Period.  Would Kate say that her favorite part of being a princess is that she is watched all.the.time by people who adore her as well as people who can't wait to see her fail? Probably not, but she would also tell you that it comes with the turf.  And that if she keeps proper perspective and clear communication within the royal family, she can, with confidence, overcome all of it. 
My girls think it would be cool to be a princess.  I can't blame's a girl's dream.  But to think that I get to train them to be princesses in God's royal family is just more than I can imagine!  What a responsibility, and what an honor. 
I've been scouring our local library and mediamobile for God-honoring materials to use as classroom supplements.  I came across a book that we will hopefully acquire for our own library.  Emilie Barnes is a fantastic author, and this book for little girls is a perfect fit.  I would recommend it for your own little princess!

Be blessed as you walk in royalty today!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Just Chillin'...

in this lovely fall weather!  The boys and Greg are at the church working on an extended project, and the girls and I are taking advantage of the peace and quiet.  Thank God for Fridays, candles, pjs, warm blankets, satellite radio, and (at least for this week) National Quartet Convention!  Although not an event I would particularly enjoy attending, picking up bits and pieces in my living room has been kind of nice.  It's also nice to be able to simply switch channels at will...some of the SG is just a little too S for me.  :-)
The library mediamobile was at school the other day, and another patron was chatting with the driver while I was browsing for a few books for my kindergarten classroom.  "I hate fall and everything about it," the patron said in dramatic fashion.  "Me too, " the driver piped in, "I love snow, but if it's gonna snow it better shut everything down!"
 I didn't feel like my opinion would be very welcome because fall is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year.  I know everything is dying, there is a bite in the air, and the days seem short, but nothing spells comfort like a pot of simmering soup, the scent of burning leaves, the beauty of mums and pumpkins, and the warmth of a cozy sweatshirt.
Fall beckons each of the senses and entices them to indulge extravagantly.   Go ahead...savor the season, and have a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Miracles Are Happening...

I guess I'll take this moment to be a little transparent and share that this last week has been kind of difficult.  Nothing earthshattering has occured, but my emotions have been in the tank.  Every woman has a right to that now and then, I suppose.  But I'm not used to it, I don't like it, and I wish it would go away!  A lot of devastating things have happened recently, and because of social networking and other media, "burden-bearing" can become overwhelming.
This morning I read a story that brought me an extra dose of encouragement, and I wanted to share it.
photo from picture window
Dale was enjoying a swim in the ocean with his church youth group when he was taken by a rip tide.  He was gone for twenty minutes, but a miracle happened.  You can read the story by clicking this link- picture window.  The photos are amazing. 
Dale's friends have also set up a blog to report recent happenings - Prayers for Dale.  Although it's difficult to understand why God answers prayer in different ways - some through healing, some through suffering, some through death - He knows what is best. 
While I'm on topic, I would ask my friends to put Anna Lewis on their prayer list.  She the young wife of one of my childhood friends here in Lima.  She and Justin have a little boy, and Anna was getting close to delivering her little girl when she had a biking accident that forever changed her life.  This occurred approximately three weeks ago.  Most of you are thinking the same thing I thought, "Biking at 9 mos pregnant???"  They are avid bikers, and she had continued to do this throughout the pregnancy with no problems.  This particular day, she was following Justin, and he when he swerved to avoid a curb, she hit his back tire.  She immediately cradled her stomach with her arms, and the back of her skull hit the concrete twice.  The baby was taken by c-section, and Anna was kept in an induced coma, with brain trauma and without much hope.
Just two days ago, we received word that as she slowly was brought out of sedation, miracles began to occur.  She is responding (as much as possible with tubes, etc.), and Justin was able to tell her that she had been out for two weeks, had a baby girl, and had brain surgery.  He showed her a picture their little boy and the baby girl, and she was captivated.  He couldn't take it anymore, and brought the baby in for her to see.  She raised her head and kissed her little angel. 
The extent of permanent damage isn't yet known, but God is helping Anna, and she is going to have a story to tell, that's for sure!  Please keep her in your prayers.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keepin' It Simple...

I love this photo of my niece, Aubrey.  She wasn't feeling too
well, and I took her a goody bag.  She enjoyed the coloring
book and crayons, as well as the fruit roll ups and other snacks
that I tucked in the bag!
Simplicity isn't a term that is often practiced in our culture, and that realization becomes more clear at certain times of the year.  As we head into yet another over-commercialized season, I find myself being tempted to indulge in the seeming endless array of accessories that are touted as "essential" for students and teachers. I'm enticed by the new coordinating organizational tools, totes, planning helps, and tech gadgets, and so are my kids.  It's easy to see how analysts come up with the enormous figures that represent the cost of getting "back to school," and it's kind of mind-boggling to think that we as parents can so easily become so suckered into this merchant's game. "Wants" come masked as "needs," and before we know it, we have spent hundreds of unnecessary dollars on things that really have no impact on the overall process of learning and retention.
But isn't this fairly typical?  Look at the average birthday party, Christmas celebration, graduation, and wedding...the numbers are staggering!  And the pressure is, too. 
A couple of years ago, I decided I wasn't going to get caught up in the back-to-school hype.  Although we want to provide for the needs of our kids, we define that term a little more narrow than most.  At the end of the 2010 school year, I put all of their existing supplies in a box for safe keeping through the summer.  The following August, we pulled it all out (half-used pencils, partial notebooks, everything), and decided what we could put into use again.  That saved a ton!  We did the same with uniforms.
This year, now that I am much more alert to "deals", we are watching each week's ads to see what's free or dirt cheap.  It is difficult to drag the kids through office supply stores, especially when they see things they "need" for school that aren't on sale yet, but I keep reinforcing the trait of patience, encouraging them to check next week! 
So far, we have snagged these:
  • 5 count. mechanical pencils - $1 (reg $3.89)
  • 2 count scissors - $.99 (reg $1.99)
  • protractor - $.05 (reg $1.99)
  • pencil pouch - $.05 (reg. $1.99)
  • 2-pocket folder with 3 prong - $.05 (reg $.25)
  • 10 count #2 pencils - $.10 (reg $.99)
  • wooden ruler - $.01 (reg $1.58)
  • 24 count crayons - $.01 (reg $.99)
  • hp photo paper - $1 (reg $10.99)
  • 1" durable binder - $1.79 (reg $3.29)
  • composition notebook - $.50 (reg $1.79)
  • backpack and lunch combo  - free with $15 purchase (another girl and I went together to get this one cause it took so many items to reach $15 with the sales!)
By starting when the kids were young, we avoided a lot of expectations and preconceived ideas, and this has been helpful!  Our premise includes:
  • Backpacks are reusable.  You will only get one as your other one wears out.
  • Licensed items are probably not happening.  In the event of a great sale, you may get lucky.  :-)
  • If your tennis shoes or school shoes wear out in March and you receive new ones at that time, you may or may not receive new ones at the beginning of the school year.  If you keep them nice, they may still look fairly new.  If they still fit and aren't sporting holes, you'll probably be wearing them back to school.
  • Uniforms are to be given some respect.  They are durable, and one shirt can eventually clothe several kids if care is taken.
  • Your lunch will consist of a minimal amount of pre-packaged "cool" lunch items.  Hopefully, you'll be taking leftover home cooked foods, but since that's not always possible, bologna sandwiches, baggies of chips, and pb&j will be part of your diet.  Each item will not be in it's own cute little wrapper, but will likely be coming from a much larger sized package and put into zip bags. ***Exceptions are made for items like juice pouches (Capri Sun or Kool-Aid) or yogurt (Go-Gurt or Danimals) that are found on sale and with coupons. 
  • When you go on field trips, you will not be given extra money for gift shops, etc.  If you want to use your own money, be wise. 
  • Your ability to learn is neither inhibited nor enhanced by whether or not you receive a pile of new stuff with which to begin each year, rather it lies within your determination to do your best in reading, comprehension, and critical thinking.
Teaching for thirteen years has taught me a few things.  My students who receive the highest grades in the classroom and on standardized tests tend to be the kids who have less "stuff" to distract them.  They are focused, diligent, and willing to do the things that many other students consider a waste of time.  These are the traits that I want to encourage my children to pursue this school year.

Is there anything you are doing this year, either to save money or encourage contentment?  I'd love to hear about it!