Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Look Back and A Blessing Forward

In 2010

...I lost my grandmother.

...I quit one of my part-time jobs.
...I resigned from leadership of my Bible study.
...I celebrated 10 years of  marriage to a wonderful man.

...I saw my oldest end Kindergarten and begin first grade.

...I saw my youngest's last Christmas pageant at preschool.
...I broke free of bondage.

...I recognized old chains to which I still remain tied.
...I started on a quest to read the Bible in one year.
...I started this blog to release my grief and ended up releasing (and finding) so much more.
...I rekindled love for charcoal and paper.

...I surrendered.
...I began my first vegetable garden in the backyard.

...I sponsored a child through World Vision.
...I ran a marathon.

...I got a promotion.
...I got published on-line.
...I started Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.


...I made new friends in this blogging community that have warmed my heart, shouldered my burdens, and loved me.
...I went to Women of Joy and my life was radically changed.
...I helped.
...I received.
...I loved.
...I was loved in return.

This is my blessing for you in the new year --

In everything may you find beauty, a ray of hope, or God's Hand at work.  Even in things you do not understand, that seem utterly hopeless and ugly, may you trust that He is good, He is faithful, He is with you.  May you breath in His sweet love.  May it radiate from your very being and reach those who do not know of its intensity, its loveliness, its fullness.  May you take on His challenges, may you hear His voice clearly, may you not be afraid to follow where He leads you.  May chains that have held you captive be broken.  May dreams that have seemed impossible come to fruition.  May the voids that lay barren in your heart be filled with in ways that you could never have imagined.  May you seek to serve, to love, to give.  In return, may you allow yourself to be served, to be loved, to receive.

Blessings abundant now, through 2011, through the end of time.

Jen

Monday, December 27, 2010

A New Kind of Balance & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

I hope your Christmas was beautiful.  I hope you were surrounded by light and His glory.  I hope that you are filled with peace, that your soul is at rest, and your heart looks to the hope that is Him in this coming new year.

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria.  To read more about us, please click here.  You are welcome anytime in this place.

Also, when Tiffini links up, please make an extra effort to visit her.  She is starting a new series that she would like you to be a part of.  It's about captivity, about freedom.  It is an exodus to restore, rebuild, and repair.  It's a journey to and with Jesus.

I've been thinking a lot about balance lately.  About the scales that exist in my mind.  Scales that I constantly use to measure how much I have done, how much I have given, how much I have received.  While I believe that I should have a well-balanced life, there are times when the scale would be better discarded.  It is difficult to embrace the fullness of something, to revel in the gift, if I have to stop and put it on the scale first.  It's a sort of guarded receiving that ends up not really being receiving at all if I'm just using it to measure myself.  What is the fun in that?

I have a plethora of examples that I could share with you, but they all boil down to this -- if someone gives me more than I give them, I am heart-broken.  I take their gift, put it on the scale, and think that I did not measure up.  I didn't spend enough, I didn't think hard enough, I didn't _________ enough.  I feel consumed by guilt and find it difficult to revel in the joy of the moment.  I immediately find myself apologizing -- so sorry that my gift did not measure up to theirs.  I make excuses, my words falter, I issue an enormous thank you, and then sit.  In guilt.  On my scale.  Off-balance.

My friend, Jenny (many of you know her through SDG), has a mission to show me that it is okay to receive and to not always give back in the exact same way, in the exact same amount, at the exact same time.  During this Christmas season, she's been giving me little unexpected gifts that catch me totally off-guard.  And she tells me that she expects nothing in return.  Nothing.  She lovingly teaches me how to find joy in the imbalanced.  She lovingly teaches me how to let myself be loved just because I am, not because of what I have done or what I can do.

I love to give gifts, but I have to say that this Christmas I didn't have the inspiration that I normally have. If you've read my blog before you might have seen the post about how my mission is to make my husband cry every year -- to bowl him over with a gift that touches his very soul.  On the way home from church this Christmas Eve, I started apologizing.  There is nothing under the tree that will make you cry this year, Craig.  I just couldn't pull anything together.  I'm sure you'll like your presents, but there is just nothing...astounding.  I'm so sorry.


His response, as we drove along the cold, wet road?  Maybe this is my year to step it up for you.


Two choices:  Allow myself to feel loved or allow myself to feel guilty.  Although it looks like an easy choice on paper, the first choice actually takes a lot more work, even though it feels better (and is better) in the end.  After all the presents had been opened, and he made me cry not once, but twice, I started apologizing.  And then, I stopped.  And in that moment, I allowed myself to feel loved.  Then this love inside me just overflowed into him. Random kisses in the hallway.  Words of praise.  Holding his hand. Natural expression of being filled, or rather allowing myself to be filled, with unconditional, no-strings-attached, love.

Such a better choice, that first one is.  Even though I received more than I gave in the realm of tangible gifts -- even though if you put all the gifts on the scale, their worth wouldn't quite balance out --somehow, in the end, what we gave each other was love.  And love has a way of bringing even the most unbalanced back to center.  Back to Him.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blissfully Domestic and 100th Post

It's my 100th post today.  Hooray!  Since it's the holidays and other things are calling my  name, I'm going to link this up to my Blissfully Domestic article that went live yesterday.

Merry Christmas!!

Here's a teaser:


Just yesterday, I stared at the two chocolate chips cookies left in the bag.  Yearning for a bit of a sweet snack after lunch, I dived in.  I could have stopped at one, but I honestly looked at the second cookie and said, “I don’t really care. I’ll eat it anyway.”
You see why I call myself a recovering food addict.

Stop.  Look.  Listen.

Not only was my stomach satisfied after one cookie, but somewhere in my mind, I knew that eating the second one was not the fruitful thing to do.  I had to numb myself to the fact that I was eating extra calories that I didn’t need and didn’t even want on some level.  Lies I told myself gave me the extra boost to tamp down the truth.  This is what I spent one minute believing – just long enough to eat that cookie:

I don’t really care if I gain three pounds or so.

I can always run an extra mile tomorrow.

One more cookie is not really going to hurt me.  I mean, it’s one cookie.

To continue reading, please click "here."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Perhaps It's Perfect Just the Way It Is & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

First of all...

Welcome  my dear, sweet girls!  So glad you are here today to share your heart.  If you are new to to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.


I don't know if you have seen the latest Chronicles of Narnia movie, The Dawn Treader, but there was one scene that really got me thinking.

In the scene, Lucy, who has torn out a page from The Book of Incantations, recites the spell to make her beautiful.  Lo and behold, Lucy's image of beauty is the image of her sister, Susan.  She looks into the mirror, sees herself transformed into her older sister, pushes open the mirror, which then envelopes her into a world in which she no longer exists.  Her brothers in this world know nothing of Lucy, of Narnia, or even of Aslan.  She realizes her mistake, cries out, and then suddenly, it is just her and Aslan.  Aslan talks to her in the mirror and what he says brings her to this conclusion:  Wishing she was like her sister meant that she wished herself away. Wishing herself away meant that her siblings never would come to know Narnia, nor Aslan.  Her life and their lives -- a completely different story.

I am simply terrible (terrible!) at remembering movie lines so of course, the very words that pierced my soul are lost and I cannot share them with you.  However, the premise of the scene, the idea that settled into my heart is this -- God has created us each perfectly according to His plan.  If we were created differently, our entire story would change.  Is that something that we want to risk?  Would I want to re-write my story just to be more beautiful, a faster runner, a smarter gal who could make more money, do more things, see more of the world?  What would I have had to trade for those other gifts?

What have I lamented about my life?  What have I wished I could have changed?

I remember spending probably half my life overweight -- especially in high school and college.  But if I was slender then, I know I would have gotten in trouble -- I probably would have still been just as insecure and willing to latch onto whatever boy crossed my path.  It was good that there were only a few boys...

Have you ever wished there was something you could change about yourself that was simply inherent?  Can you imagine how your life would have been different had your wishes come true?  Would different necessarily been better?

Merry Christmas, sweet friends!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Memories

Good Morning, Company Girls, Critty Joy Girls, and Caffeinated Randomness Girls!  Critty and Michelle have festive themes this week -- Christmas Creations and Memories. I'm taking the all-in-one approach here.
 
So, last week, if you read my blog, you will know that I my objective every Christmas is to make my husband cry...happy tears, of course.  Some years, I am successful and some, well, not so much.

My favorite Christmas memory, again, stems from a time when we had pretty much no disposable income.  We had a 19-month old, a one-month old, an $1100 mortgage, and a paycheck that stretched, um, not very far.  Craig made about $31,000 a year and I wasn't working, so you can do the math on that.

I had no money to buy Craig anything, so I had to use what I had -- an empty, chipped picture frame, an old photograph, and words.  Here is what went in the frame:


My Daddy’s Hands

My Daddy’s hands dry my eyes and wipe my tears.
They hold me close and draw me near.
They will check for monsters ‘neath my bed,
And pull my covers up to my head.
They clap for me when I do right,
He folds them up for prayers at night.

My Daddy’s hands are very strong,
I know they’ll always help me along,
For that first step or first heartbreak,
My Daddy’s hands will make me safe.
They will catch me when I fall,
And love me, love me through it all.

Gentle, gentle, these hands, they are,
Changing my diaper, pointing out a star.
Guiding my bike, fixing my toys,
My Daddy’s hands bring so much joy.
Checking homework, meeting boyfriends,
                                                  My Daddy’s hands are a Godsend. 


I have to say, there was nary a dry eye in the house.  The best part of that Christmas was that my sweet Grannie shared it with us -- it was the last Christmas we would spend together.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Joy in Waiting

Gadgetshop, DaliClock

Yesterday was so different.

I was constantly in the car, rushing from place to place, last minute items on my to-do list popping up in my brain, just in the nick of time so I could do this or that before picking up a child, or two.  I backed out of parking spots too quickly, I sped, I weaved too much, in and out of traffic lanes (Why must you travel 5 mph below the speed limit? I shouted at innocent cars).  At the house, it was a frantic dance to get out of town presents wrapped, boxed, and address, so that perhaps Hannah and I could avoid the long lines at the post office the next day.  Then it was dinner, homework, the bedtime routine.  A few more little things of work tidied up, a few more emails answered, a phone call to make.

And then, there was silence and I could muster only enough energy to simply turn on the TV and let my brain go numb for a bit while watching Bourne Identity for the 30th time.

These do not sounds like simple pleasures, and no, they are not.  My simple pleasure is the stark contrast between yesterday and the pace my life has been humming along with since God has begun the process of pruning activities.  At the end of the day, I sat back, realizing that I had lived my life at that breakneck speed almost every day.  No wonder I was normally grumbley, cranky, tired all the time.  I was continually ruled by the clock, not guided by God.  Time was my master, productivity was the game.  I found that even when I wasn't in a hurry, I remained stuck in the hurry-up mentality.  Thus, there was little room (or time) for His voice.  I had a plan, you see. 

But now, most days, I have time to wait to listen to see what God has planned for my day.  And, on some days, I can even find joy in that waiting.  Usually waiting makes me anxious. I keep peering around the corner, ready to see the next thing, do the next activity, engage in the next process.  But, right now, it's not about the next.  It's about the now.  In the waiting, I can take advantage of the peace, joy, and love that He gives me, His palm brimming with good gifts that I would have missed if I had kept looking to the beyond.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood & A Moment of Spewing

First of all...

Welcome  my dear, sweet girls!  So glad you are here today to share your heart.  If you are new to to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.



So...

On Friday, I had a bit of a meltdown.  I literally could not take one more hit, jump, or yell, so I banished the kids to their room until their dad came home.  Please don't think too badly of me -- Craig arrived home a mere 15 minutes later (thank goodness) and just the presence of another parental figure allowed me to take a deep breath and continue on.

But, in those fifteen minutes, I had to let something blow, so I grabbed a notebook and just started writing.  I am posting this, unedited, raw, and perhaps not very good piece of writing just in the name of realness.


Who are You?
Who do you say that I Am?
You wrestle with my soul.
You fight for Your glory.
You are the bestower of joy.
You are light in the dark.
A counselor, a lover, the balm
That heals my wounds.
A refiner that does not hesitate
To take me at my word:
Less of me, more of You, I plead,
Although I am unsure what that really entails.
I plead for escape, desperate for a different purpose,
But You keep me pressing on,
Pressing in, until I am
Pressed flat,
Unable to give another drop.
And then, some way, somehow,
You rescue me, but not in the way that I imagine.
The world is not fixed, the children not placated,
The woes still very real.
But…
Rescued nonetheless from the
Emptiness, from the
Dryness, from the depths of
Weariness.
You rise in me.
A sense of hope, a ray of brightness,
A fullness that can only be knows as JOY.
You never fail.
You come.
In all Your glory and in Your glory alone,
You come.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amy: The Story Behind Our Journey

Amy Sullivan.

If you don't know her, you simply must.  Her story will inspire you to dig deeper, to think broader, to live fuller lives.

And by full, you can bet I don't mean the over-indulgent, materialistic, stuffed definitions of full.  My prayer, as you read these graceful words, that you might pause, at the end to answer this question:

What is His?

Here's Amy:


Only two days after Christmas 2009 and my family wanted to spend a little cash. As if the typical holiday gifting wasn’t enough, we were determined to investigate all the after Christmas sales. Gift cards and cash filled our pockets, and although something seemed wrong about our endless spending, we weren’t actually using our money, we were simply spending money we received as gifts.

A new North Face jacket—check. A new set of Polly Pockets—check. More Christmas candy—check. A new baseball hat—check.

Walking past an artsy store we noticed a framed picture of the word “FAMILY”. This was different than anything we had seen before because each letter of the word “FAMILY” was a photograph of a real-life object representing the letter. The “F” a sideways view of a stoplight. The “A” an arch in a building. The “M” an iron curve of a bicycle rack. Inside the artsy store, a big box of photo letters sat inviting us to spell out anything we wanted. Great idea. Again, something we must have.

My husband and I brainstormed words that represented us. We wanted something original, something we could hang up. Something beyond the normal “Live, Laugh, Love” theme, but what?
           
“Ours” my husband suggested.

“Ours” I whispered back. Perfect.

Of course “Ours” fit us. Our house. Our cars. Our clothes. Our vacations. Our church. Our kids. Our desires and our endless list of wants.

Not long after, I framed the pictures, I stood admiring them, and I heard God whispering to me, Yes, all of this is yours, and that is a problem. What is mine?

His? I paused, convicted.

Nothing was His.

Standing in my room, staring at those framed letters, I knew my life had to change.

After two months of obsessing and praying, I created a blogger account. Then in May of 2010, I created a post. This anti-techy, anti-cell phone, anti-Facebook girl threw myself into cyberspace and began documenting my ideas, my family’s attempts, and my prayers regarding growing GIVING hearts.

And even better than just writing about giving, our family started living differently.

Prior journey towards GIVING GRACIOUSLY, I didn’t notice the needs around me. Now, not only do I see needs, but I’m physically unable to sit and do nothing about them. I can rattle off cool organizations, groups, and people who are inspiring change (The Affero Project, Delicate Fortress Creations, Compassion, and Craft Hope), and I am thrilled to join with them and be a part of change.

I’m not the only one replacing my once entitled attitude.

My husband is different.
“I’m exploring life outside my bubble of comfort, and it’s pushing me to get involved.”

My daughter is different.
“I’m learning just because you give doesn’t mean you have to give everything you have. You just have to give something.”

Our family is different.
No, we haven’t been transformed into sweet, loving, and generous people, but we are thankful and we are changing, and best of all, we have realized life isn’t about what is OURS, but it’s about what is HIS.

To read more of Amy's writings and and/or follow her blog, please visit by clicking HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Words from a Dear Friend

My friend, Allison, recently posted this note on Facebook.  As I read it, the words resonated in my heart, God's voice became clear, and I was at peace in the midst of the turmoil that has been rolling around in my head the last few days.

You see, I have been a woman without a plan.  And this woman, has NEVER been without a plan.  I keep asking God what the purpose of all these blog posts.  Am I going anywhere with this?  Will I ever publish words on actual paper?  Will I be called for something more?  How are You going to use all this?

Silence.

Well, not really.  He's speaking, but just not the words that I think I want to hear.  He's saying things like:

Wait.

Glorify Me.

Enjoy what you have now.

Don't worry.

Don't plan.

Don't project.

When, I read Allison's words today, it all sunk in.  I pray that you  might be blessed by her words as well.
So I got a new GPS app for my phone (that speaks!).  I was using it the other day and was quite annoyed to find out that, since I bought a very cheap app, it would not let me zoom out and see which route it would lead me on. If I could not see the big picture, how in the world could I trust that it would take me the correct way? GPS's are often wrong.  How could I put myself blindly in it's control? As I dealt with my annoyance and lack of trust, I realized I was not in a hurry and it might be a good exercise for me to deal with my control issues. So I drove, turning when it said to turn, eventually relaxing into enjoying my journey a bit as I let go of knowing the big picture and just following it's instructions. 

Then it hit me, I do this "need for control thing" to God every day! It's hard to live life not knowing the big picture. None of us does. Not knowing the big picture can make it quite difficult to know when and where to turn, and WHY. But if I am still and listen, and if I give over the right to be in control and to know why, God does let me know what the next turn will be. Unlike my GPS, He's actually NEVER been wrong (what I have chosen to do with His directions is where the problems cropped up). If I take a turn that's a less direct route toward my destination, He stays with me and gently "recalculates" without the annoyance in his voice I swear I hear in my GPS. Sometimes I have to turn off all the noise in my life to "hear" His gentle voice telling me to turn, just like I have to turn the radio off to hear my cheapo GPS. So my challenge now is, how to relax in the journey and enjoy the scenery, finding peace in the midst of the traffic, and roadblocks? I believe I find it one turn at a time.

Amen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Faves

Good Morning, Company Girls, Critty Joy Girls, and Caffeinated Randomness Girls!  Critty and Michelle have festive themes this week!  Over at Critty Joy's, we are linking up with our favorite Christmas movies and music.

{1} Christmas Movie

I'm not sure what my favorite movie is because I have not seen some mainstays such as Miracle on 34th Street or It's A Wonderful Life, but my favorite Christmas movie story has to do with...

It was our first married Christmas together.  We lived in a 600 sq. foot apartment built in who-knows-when and money was TIGHT.  Craig worked full-time and I went to school full-time, finishing up my Master's degree in teaching.  Oh, and we both commuted about 45 miles one way, in opposite directions.  Needless to say, part of the reason money was so tight is because we spent so much of it on gasoline.  Anyway, we set a small budget for each other and set out to make our first Christmas memorable.  Craig's big present from me was the Bible on CD-ROM and I  just thought he would fall all over himself when he opened it.  For sure, this would be a big hit.  A few days before Christmas, though, I happened to be at Target (dangerous, I tell you) or the grocery store...somewhere...and I saw the movie on the shelf for $9.99.  I had already spent all my pennies from the Christmas budget, but I also knew how much my new husband LOVED this movie.  I threw it in my cart, went home and wrapped it, thinking it might make him smile.

When he opened it, he cried.

My brand new husband, speechless and crying happy tears, all because this movie conjured up precious childhood memories.  

A new mission was formed in that moment.  I now try to make him cry every year.  

Sometimes I have been successful and sometimes not, but I must tell you, the years of the tears have been mostly when we have had very little money.  It's interesting what comes to mind when one must be creative in blessing someone and goes to show that the expensive gifts are not the only ones to be deeply treasured.  Maybe next week, I'll share the poem I wrote him.  It's called "My Daddy's Hands."

{2} Christmas Music

My absolute favorite (without a doubt, people) is Little Drummer Boy sung by Josh Groban.  Take it in here:
Today, as I drove to pick Hannah up from school, I was drinking in this song.  And, alone in the car, I thought about what it meant to play my drum for Him, my Jesus, Christ the King, the babe in the manger. 

I cannot play a drum, but I can write.  And my every word can be music to His ears if it is for His glory, and His glory alone.

Thank you for listening to my drumming...

Photobucket 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Slightly Odd Christmas Traditions

So the story goes that my mother-in-law, many years ago, was cross-stitching a new ornament for the Christmas tree.  Etched upon the white background, in festive green and red, was the simple word, "NOEL."  Well, at least it said that until she stitched on the ornament hanger upside down.  Being the ever-loving husband that he is, my father-in-law chuckled and said, "Look, honey, you made a LEON."  Being the good sport that she is, she dried her tears, laughed, and a tradition was born.  It was a big deal every year for the kids, who got to hang this LEON.  It stretched even into the years when the kids were bringing home potential spouses.  I distinctly remember the year that I got to hang it on their tree.  It is a rite of passage, a sign that you are welcomed into the family, a symbol of inclusion.

All the kids are grown up, married, and beholders of their own LEONs, so it is now not so much about hanging the original LEON as it is about hanging our own LEONs.  This year, it was my oldest daughter's turn.  Daddy lovingly scoped out the perfect branch, one that would be brilliantly back-lit by a white light.  Pictures were taken.  Smiles of pride beamed from Abby's face.  LEON had taken up residence in the newest of the family trees.  Home at last.

This year, after we had finished decorating the tree, I happened to glance up at the mantel.  Instead of the stocking holders spelling out the traditional NOEL, they now spelled...you guessed it...LEON.  My sweet Abby, still giddy with her precious responsibility, decided to take the tradition one step further.  My instinct was to laugh, tussle Abby's hair, and then quickly rearrange the letters back into their proper place.  You know, it is Christmas and all.

Yes, it is Christmas and all, which should mean there is room for the unexpected.  Who would have expected the Messiah to be born in a manger, surrounded by lowing animals and hay?  Who would have expected that His mother would be a young, common Jewish girl, whose hope was to marry the carpenter down the street?  Who would have expected that the King He was to become, would revel not in gold and glitz, but in the poor, needy, and helpless people.  To our eyes, there is nothing proper or perfect about these scenes.  And yet, they were created by the One who is perfect Himself. 

This Christmas, I pray that your simple pleasures would be found in the imperfect and unexpected.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You are Beautiful & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

I'm so glad you are back.  All through the week, I so look forward to this day, to catching up with you and seeing your sweet faces on my blog!  If you are new to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.



I am an encourager.  It is one of my spiritual giftings and I love to use it.  Today, I want to encourage you.  Last night, I was catching up on my 365 day Bible and I read these words:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  1 John 4: 9-12, NIV

I want to love.  I want God to live in me.  And oh, I want to be complete.  Sometimes I lose sight of the greatness of God's love for me.  I get bogged down in guilt.  I start weighing things on the proverbial scale and just feel that things are not measuring out quite right.  The things that are wrong cloud my vision so much so that I cannot see the millions of things that are going right.  I get so internal and so self-absorbed that I forget God loves me.  When I am remiss in absorbing this love, I am then remiss in loving.  And when I am remiss in loving, I am not complete.

So today, I want to remind you of God's love for you.  His love is free.  His love is pure.  His love transcends all sins, all faults, and all failures. It is yours to receive, fully and completely.  Allow yourself to be loved today and then, pass it on.

Please spend 4 minutes reveling in His love for you. 
Please, after you reveled, go visit these amazing ladies. 

Spread the joy.

Spread His love.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Guest Posting at Amy Sullivan


If you have not been to Amy Sullivan's blog, you must go.  It's not because I'm guest posting there today, but because God has truly blessed her with a heart that seeks after Him and His children in very real, tangible ways.

She blogs about giving.  About living.  Graciously.  She has made a huge impact on my life in how I give, in how I respond to God's prompting.  She has encouraged me to live out my faith because, as James says, faith without works is dead.

All this to say, as you travel over there to read my post, please spend a few moments reading her words.  Prepare to be changed as you journey with Jesus speaking through her.

Here's a little teaser...


Ages ago, I wrote a guest post about how I made a “selfless chart” for my family because I was going insane listening to my children argue over their toys, their turns, and anything else that could at any point in time be called “mine.”
I would love to tell you that since using the chart, my children are no longer selfish, that we have all banished our self-centered ways, that we rarely buy anything for ourselves, and that we spend hours volunteering in the homeless community.
The chart worked, but not quite that well. 
As with any behavior chart, once it’s filled up, the kids (and parents, too) seem to lose a bit of momentum toward exhibiting (and eliciting) the desired behavior because they are not working toward an external reward.  I think we all lost a bit of that motivation after we had our big family celebration, but I do believe that there were some fundamental shifts in our family dynamics. As with anything, routine practice forms habits.  Habits lead to lifestyle changes.  Lifestyle changes lead to deep internalizations of what we truly value and what we find to be most important.
 To finish reading, please click "here."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Boy, You Make Me Work...

I never want to disappoint my peeps, so here are the recipes mentioned in Friday's blog.  I hope you enjoy!!

No Bake Cookies (Peanut-butter free recipe)
Recipe from my Grannie (this one I have a copy of, written in her hand!)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 sticks margarine or butter
6 Tbsp coca

Put in saucepan, mix and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from stove and add:
3 cups oatmeal (3 minute oatmeal, or instant)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mix and set aside until cool.  Make into little balls and roll in confectioners sugar.



Egg, Sausage, and Cheese Casserole
Recipe from my great-grandmother on my mother's side.  Mom called her Bami. 

Photo credit: Sugar Free, Low Carb recipes
 1 lb. cooked sausage, drained1/2 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 slices extra thin Pepperidge Farm bread, crusts removed
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
1 tsp. dried mustard

Grease 9x13 casserole dish
Layer bread on bottom
Layer cheese
Layer sausage
Mix all other ingredients in a bowl.  Pour these ingredients in casserole dish.
Marinate overnight, covered.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.

Monkey Bread (the most fabulous recipe because it's Grannie's)
3 cans plain buttermilk biscuits (10 per can)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 stick margarine or butter

Mix cinnamon and sugar.
Melt block of butter.
Cut biscuits into quarters and place in large bowl.
Pour melted butter into bowl over biscuit pieces and toss.
Add cinnamon and sugar mixture and toss until pieces well coated.

Place in bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

There you go!  So excited that some of my family's recipes might make it to your table this holiday season!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Two of my dear bloggy friends are hosting very FUN, FESTIVE link-ups today.  And so I didn't have to choose between the two, I have figured out a way to combine both into one post!

Michelle, at Lost in the Prairies is the sweet hostess of Caffeinated Randomness.  During the Christmas/Advent season, her meme is about favorite things about Christmas.  Christy at Critty Joy is the wonderful hostess of Christmas Party Fridays and her meme this week focuses on favorite Christmas recipes and/or yummy food traditions.  As some of you may know, I love to eat, but hate to cook, so I'll be sticking with the food traditions and easy recipes only here. 

{1} No-Bake Cookies.  They do require a saucepan, but no oven.  Oh, and I never make mine with peanut butter, but I roll them in powdered sugar at the end.  Here's a link to a recipe for you since I'm too lazy to get my cookbook.  (Hey, it's getting late here!)
Photo credit:  The Washington Times
{2} Monkey Bread & Egg, Sausage, and Cheese Casserole.  This IS the Christmas morning breakfast.  My mom always makes the casserole, so I can only vaguely tell you how to do that, but I am the new queen of monkey bread making.  Grannie gave me the title after she became too sick to make it.  And now, since she is not here anymore, I have her bundt pan.  It's old.  It's scratched.  It's ugly.  But it makes monkey bread like no other.  Seasoned with love?
Photo credit: Luscious
{3} Speaking of Grannie, several years ago, she gave me her complete silver set.  This Thanksgiving since we celebrated at our house, I pulled it all out and set a beautiful table.  I'm going to use it for Christmas, too, just so I can touch the same things she did.  It's the little things, you know?
Photo credit: me!
{4} My husband's sister and her family live only about 5 minutes away from us, so for many years, we have celebrated together on Christmas Eve.  We usually make something that can cook in a crock-pot while we are at church so we can feed the kids and get them ready for bed at a decent hour (because I want to go to bed before dawn and there is always a few things I Santa needs to do before hitting the sack.)  Anyway, a few years ago, my husband's best friend (since they were 3 years old) and his family moved into our neighborhood from Louisiana.  They started joining us.  This year, we will also add some of their visiting guests.  I love the fact that it is such a hodge-podge of people.  Anyone is welcomed, if they can take all the noisy kids, that is!  This year's menu:  Baked Potato Soup, salad, bread, and wine.  Dessert?  Jesus' birthday cake, of course!
Christmas Eve 2009

I'm also linking up with the Company Girls at Home Sanctuary, too.  Such fun groups of friends everywhere!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

True Contentment

I have found myself, the last few days, longing for things of comfort.

...a stolen spoonful of milk chocolate icing.

...a fire, crackling and warm.

...scented Christmas candles, emitting smells of fresh pine needles and cinnamon.


...white lights gracing the Christmas tree.

And when I sat down, surrounded by all these things, I wasn't quite comforted.   And I realized, it wasn't comfort that I was seeking.

It was contentment.  

Contentment cannot brought about by things.  It is not manufactured.  It does not wrap its arms around me only when things are just so.  Contentment is a state of being that exists despite the unruly chaos around me.  It is a place of peace where my Savior reigns over all confusion, worry, and guilt.  It is a place where I can open myself up to His love despite my resentments, my loss, my fears. 

God gives me simple pleasures -- candles, fire, the comforts of a cozy and warm home --  to bless me, but not to fill me.  My fullness depends only upon one thing -- Jesus.  It is my relationship with Him that gives me safety, that gives me refuge, that gives me peace.  In Him, and in Him alone, am I content.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Will Be Over Before You Know It & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

I'm so glad you are back.  All through the week, I so look forward to this day, to catching up with you and seeing your sweet faces on my blog!  If you are new to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.





Treasure every minute.
Take in every milestone.
Don't think about the future, but enjoy the present, for it will be fleeting.
It will be over before you know it, so don't wish the time away.

I've heard these and similar phrases for over six years now.  They usually come after I have been complaining about my children -- their demands, their behavior, the playing, the cleaning, the whole Mommy kit-and-kaboodle.  Upon the words falling on my ears, I usually politely nod, or give a cursory Oh, I know and I DO enjoy every  moment so that to whomever I am speaking does not doubt my motherly love, my devotion to my children, or my sanity.  But the truth is that what I really wanted to hear was that IT'S OKAY TO HAVE MOMENTS WHEN YOU DON'T LIKE BEING A MOTHER.

Frankly, I'm not a little kid person.  I mean, I know HOW to interact with children.  I can teach them, I can play with them, but to be completely honest, it's not my favorite thing in the world.  It takes effort sometimes for me to want to play Barbies or Polly Pockets or Littlest Pet Shop.  I have a hard time keeping my cool when my daughter walks in from school and immediately starts picking on her younger sister.  I often neglect to pray for them everyday.  Sometimes I let them watch a little too much TV on a day when I just. need. some. time. alone.

This season of young child rearing has challenges.  Truthfully, I cannot wait for the day when I can spend hours talking to my daughters about what is really going on in their lives.  Meaty stuff.  Spiritual stuff.  Boy stuff (yikes!).  Because I am the queen of serious conversations.  I know how to have them and I know how to have them well.  So of course, I am going to look forward to the time when I might be able to do more things right than wrong in the rearing of my children.  (By the way, if you have older kids and feel the need to tell me that my teenagers will have nothing to do with me at that time in their lives, please don't.  I need my coping mechanisms.)

All of this is spewing from my fingertips because of the revelation that I had yesterday.  Hannah turned five.  We were finishing up hanging the Christmas decorations.  There was some loud clamoring over whether Hannah should have to share her brand new birthday toys.  And then, this thought popped into my head:

It will be over before you know it, so don't wish the time away.

All of the sudden, there I was in my old(er) age.  The house was quiet.  The girls were away at college.  There was no one to clamor about toys or Santa.  There were no red and green glass balls crashing to the floor.  There was no discussion of who was going to hang "Leon," the prized Christmas tree ornament.

The Empty Nest.

I realized at that moment how much I love being a mom.  Honestly, I cannot treasure every minute because some of them, well, stink.  But I think that this was God's little way of slowing me down and reminding me that maybe I'm not as bad at this gig as I thought I was.  So, especially during this Christmas season, I am going to try not yearn so much for the day when I can be master of my own scheduleTo not want to retreat as often into total silence.  To just live and let the days come as they may.  To cherish the good times and not lament the bad. To not feel guilty during those times when I just don't want to be "mom" at the moment.  So, to you, I say, it's okay to not treasure every moment.  It's okay to not love being a mom at every turn.  You are doing the best you can and God fills in the gaps with grace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Numbers Game & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up

I'm so glad you are back.  All through the week, I so look forward to this day, to catching up with you and seeing your sweet faces on my blog!  If you are new to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.



My life.  Seems it is ruled by numbers and has been for a very long time.

Numbers on the scale.
Numbers in the checkbook.
Numbers on my report cards.
Numbers on my jeans.
Numbers of followers.
Numbers on my watch, telling how fast I've run.
Numbers on the clock, telling me how little time I have left.
Numbers on my paycheck.
Numbers of comments.
Numbers of children.
Numbers on the mortgage statement.
Numbers of birthdays.
Numbers of kids who attended the Sunday school class.
Numbers...everywhere.

I've used them to decide if I've done a good job, if I've shown restraint, if I've pushed myself, if I'm competent, if I'm an athlete, if I'm balanced, if I'm fruitful, if I'm...worthy.

There should have been a commandment:  Thou shalt not live thy life by numbers.  

I cannot live life by these figures anymore.  Simply put, if I go by them, I will never fully measure up. I will never live up to my own expectations because there is always a number higher or a number lower.  As long as I can push the envelope, as long as I can strive, as long as I can achieve more, place higher, go lower, I will.  That is, if I continue to live by sums, paces, pounds, stats.

There is more to life than this.  There is something so much better than measuring, than comparing, than achieving.  All of those things make life about me.

Life is not about me.

So, maybe there is a commandment about this.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12: 1-2


The world is all about numbers.  I cannot live by the numbers while trying to live a life of sacrifice.  Numbers make me hungry, not for the spiritual fruits, but the poisoned ones.  I don't think worship entails trying to be the best, to achieve the most, to sit on top of the world.  Being pleasing to God often means taking the "other" path, the one that is not about my glory, but His.

I'm making a concerted effort to lay down these numbers, to stop playing the game, and to just live.  Some numbers are harder to surrender than others, honestly. Even as I ponder which ones to consider, I get a little knot in my stomach.  Tangibly, this is what I am going to do right now so to lessen my focus on the numbers and sharpen my focus on Him:

1.  I'm banning myself from the "Stats" tab on Blogger.  Because I write for Him.  Because I don't need glory.  Because the site-o-meter makes me think about me and I don't want to think about me so much.

2.  When my daughter comes home from school and tells me that there is a pajama drive at school for the needy children, I will not tell her that I have to check the balance of the "Giving envelope" before we head to Target.  I will tell her that we might have to sacrifice in some other areas but giving to people who have a real need is more important than us eating out at a restaurant, getting our car washed, or buying a new pair of shoes when clearly we have enough already.

3.  I'm going to spend less time trying to micro-manage my time and allow God to direct my day.  I'm going to be open to plan-changes instead of getting my panties in a wad.  I'm going to have faith that if He needs me here, whatever is happening over there will be good until I can make it.

What numbers control you?




Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Car in the Driveway

My brother came over last night to deliver the free turkey he got from the grocery store where he works.  I had run upstairs and happened to glance out the front window and I saw his car.  My grandmother's car.  In my driveway.

Does it still smell like her?  If I close my eyes, could I still see her sitting behind the wheel?

Due to the time it takes to get a title transferred from another state and an estate to finally close, my brother had not been able to actually drive the car until recently, even though he's had it since April.  So, really, it was quite the shock to see it sitting there even though I knew he'd been driving it.

What would it be like to run my hands over the steering wheel?  To touch the radio dial, to find some classical music that would have been pleasure upon her ears?  To look in the rear-view mirror and see...myself?

Today, I saw yesterday's mail laying on the table.  So busy and tired last night, I had not even noticed that Craig had brought it in.  A letter lay atop the magazines and other junk.  A small envelope with a stamp.  Hand-addressed with a return address label.  A real letter!

I took it to the couch and opened it.  It was from my Aunt Inez,  my grandmother's older sister, the one that loves to write letters and talk on the phone.  The one that I should have been better about writing, about calling, but haven't been.  Guilt.  She filled me on the latest news, some which I had heard and some which I hadn't.  I realized I would have known all of it if my grandmother was still alive.  So easy to keep up with the family when she was here. I took it for granted.

Her parting words to me, Still miss my little sister, and I know you miss your Grannie.  Find it so hard to believe that she's not down the street.

Me, too.
Grannie, Aunt Dint, Aunt Inez (Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil) 

Friday, November 19, 2010

How Do You See You?

Today, my Blissfully Domestic post went live.  Instead of requiring an extra click (because it's Friday and we are all tired), I'm just posting the whole thing here.  I write for the health section had have been doing a series about food addiction.  However, this month, I struck out on another path and wanted to share it with you.  A lot of this came from the responses from my Simple Pleasures link-up about my legs.  Hope you enjoy it!

How Do You See You?

Pimples.  Cellulite.  Flab.  Wrinkles.  A gray hair.  What do you see when you first look in the mirror?  Do the negative attributes jump out first?  Do you rush to lament the extra five pounds you gained?  Do you stress about the number of lines that appear on your forehead or the gray hairs that seemed to have eluded the last root touch-up?  Do you throw up your hands in frustration because no matter how much you exercise or how little you weigh, those little dimples never go away?

Choose to See What’s Right
Recently, it occurred to me that every time I looked in the mirror, what came to my mind first was the bad and the ugly, never the good.  It is ever so easy to find my flaws and to strategize on how I might be able to fix them.  With all the negativity taking up precious brain matter, it doesn’t leave much room for appreciation of what is good, of what is lovely.  The fuss over the “fixing” crowds out the opportunity to take pleasure in the imperfect. When I look at the mirror, I can choose to focus on the cellulite that appears on the fronts of my thighs.  I can turn around, view my backside, and tremor at the sight of jiggles.  Or, at the onset of these fixations, I can choose to see what is right with my body.  I can flex my calves and see the muscular curvature.  I can lean in close to the mirror and admire the golden flecks that sparkle from eyes.  I can be grateful because my heart still beats, my lungs still take in air without a struggle, and my legs still enable me to run far distances.

Media vs. Reality
When we look in the mirror, we need not to juxtapose ourselves with media images of perfection.  We can come to a mental place where we no longer use it as our measuring stick.  We do this by choosing to find joy in what we like about ourselves. When I learn to see the pleasurable and lovely things in the mirror, my self-talk changes.  When my self-talk changes, I have the power to project a positive self-image, which is good for me and for my daughters, who constantly absorb my words and actions.  I’m sure my daughters would agree that I am no super model. However, the fact that I don’t complain about my weight or my pimples or the wrinkles that grace my face, shows them that it is quite acceptable to not be a super model.  There is something lovely about each of us.  There is something of beauty to celebrate in everyone.  Teaching ourselves, and the generations that follow us, to recognize this allows us to shirk the media images, to live healthy lives, and to live out who we are created to be.

I'm linking up with Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary and Michelle at Lost in the Prairies!  Come see all the wonderful women there.

To view this article at Blissfully Domestic, please click "here."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Simple Pleasures: The Squeegee

photo source
Today's chore, among other things, was to clean the bathrooms.

I hate cleaning the bathrooms.  Unfortunately, so does my  husband and since I am afraid of little girls mixing with chemicals, the task falls to me.

Recently we had to replace our shower and since we were already spending money, we thought we would spend a little more to do away with the mildewy shower curtain and replace it with some pretty glass doors.

Did you know that glass shower doors just add work to the bathroom routine?  Before, with the shower curtain, if I was feeling particularly industrious, I would spray on some Tilex and walk away.  Shower doors require infinitely more elbow grease, unless of course, you use the squeegee after every shower.  It's so easy and fast even my husband will do it.  Miraculous.

As I squeegeed this morning after my shower, I had a revelation.  I had both doors parallel to each other, so one side was fully open.  I squeegeed the door on the inside of the shower.  Away went the water droplets.  Away went the soap splatters.  As I stood up, I thought to myself how it looked like I had cleaned nary a drop.  The second door, the one slid behind the clean one, which had not been touched, made the first door look like it had not been squeegeed at all.

Then, I thought -- Jesus is like a squeegee. I ask Him to forgive me.  He does.  He washes me clean.  Not a speck of dirt left.  I am pure (for that moment anyway).  But there are many times that I cannot fully comprehend the fullness of His forgiveness because I still see the sin.  I still see my mistakes just as I see the water and soap scum on the other shower door.  There is the me that Jesus sees -- forgiven, grace-filled, washed clean.  Then there is the me that I see, one that never has her past too far from her, that still carries the memory of her sins in her heart, that is still speckled with soap scum and hard-water stains.

I wonder how my life would change if I saw myself as Jesus does, without that second door that still holds my sin and shame?  I wonder what I waste.  I wonder what I might be.  I wonder what chains might be broken.

I'm linking up with Dayle at Simple Pleasures.
Project Simple Pleasures2

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood

I'm so glad you are back.  All through the week, I so look forward to this day, to catching up with you and seeing your sweet faces on my blog!  If you are new to Soli Deo Gloria, please click "here" to read about the heart behind this meme and to get the guidelines.   Don't forget to grab the button so that people who visit your blog will know where to find us in case they would like to share their hearts, too.




It seems like the past few days, God has been doing a little house-cleaning in my heart.  I've been convicted daily about various things, but the sweet part about it is that I recognized it for what it is -- God just trying to shore up my heart -- and didn't spend days lamenting my erroneous ways and diving into the pool of guilt.

The first thing that God and I worked on last week was my drinking habits.  I'm not a lush by any means, but I realized I had gotten to a point where at the end of the day I would readily look forward to a glass (or two) of wine.  Two weeks ago, I started thinking about a fast and if God was calling me to do one (and if so, for what purpose).  Then, last week, I read one of the devotionals in Heart of My Heart by Kristin Armstrong.  She writes, "A fast from anything removes its ownership over you and places it in the context of being owned by God.  It is a way to gain mastery over the things we struggle with."  The point is that I caught myself in this line of thinking that I needed a glass of wine to get through the rest of the night -- the fixing dinner, the bathing of children, the reading of books, getting them to stay in bed, etc.  What I needed, though, instead was to rely on God to help me to engage myself more fully in the process instead of hiding out from it.  What I needed was His strength, His energy, His love and not a worldly indulgence that can numb my senses and take the edge off.  The fast served the purpose of making sure that the wine was still subject to me and that I was not subject to it.  Being that alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, well, it's just a good test to take sometimes.

The second thing that has just wrung my heart was brought to my attention by Armstrong's devotional entry for yesterday.  The Bible verse is Proverbs 12:18, which says "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."  In her words, she states, "Even when we are frustrated, we must be mindful to choose words that are life-giving and that build a child's identity, not strip it down."  Immediately, the image of my oldest daughter's face popped into my mind -- the look upon it when I know that I have hurt her with my short temper, my exasperated voice.  It crushed my heart, that image.  I am so guilty of getting caught up in my moment, of living in my world where I must get things done, I must finish this, I must, I must, I must.  I become a whirlwind and when someone gets in my path, I leave disaster in my wake.  Even when I am frustrated -- even when I have heard the word "Mommy" fifteen times in fifteen seconds.  Even when I have gotten this, made that. Even when I have shuttled this person here and that person thereEven when this is the fourth time I've tried to sit down to work.  Even when...I must choose words that are life-giving.  I must use the opportunity to love.  After praying through this for much of the day, I realized that it doesn't mean that I need to meet their demands with a sugary-sweet Well, of course, my darlings!  It doesn't even mean that I must meet their demands at all if that is not warranted.  I think it just means having enough self-control so that I don't completely lose it and risk tearing them down.  Soooo glad there is grace and forgiveness in these relationships or I'd be in trouble!  Perhaps I should put aside the college-tuition account and instead focus on the therapy account.

Can't wait to read about what's going on with you!