Friday, August 14, 2015

Summer 2015 in Review

For years now, I have ended every summer feeling frazzled and irritated, unrested and not ready to give up the break from work & school.  I've perpetually over-scheduled myself for years during the summer which means when the summer ends, I don't feel like I've had a summer at all. 

So this year, when summer began I made a specific point to NOT SCHEDULE ANYTHING for the entire summer.  I didn't want to plan on any day trips or museum visits or well...anything.  I wanted to finally find out what summer looks like when you don't have something written on every single day of the calendar.

Don't worry.  We didn't just sit in the house every day all summer long and never did ANYTHING.  We went swimming.  And ran errands.  And shopped a little.  And ate at restaurants.  And visited friends.  And watched movies.  But it was all done spontaneously whenever we felt like doing it.  And THAT, my friends, made all the difference in the world!  I couldn't do this year-round because I really thrive on having a schedule and a routine with structure.  But from now on this is what my summers will look like if I can pull it off!

The summer of 2015 looked like this for us:

The kids and I have watched 8 seasons of Friends.  (Season 9 is in the mail on its way now.  Yes I know it's on Netflix but I prefer to watch it on DVD because I have been collecting the seasons for years & want to be able to go back & re-watch or loan them to friends occasionally.)

Larry and I took a weekend trip away for our anniversary.

Sarah spent the night with friends several times and went on a weekend trip with a friend's family.

Sam has fished more times than I can count and has been to my parents' house to help kill and slaughter hogs several times.  {Yes, we're THAT country.}

I went to Dallas one weekend to see Kari Jobe and Christine Caine.

I've been to lunch with a couple girlfriends just because we could.

I did three days of in-service at my school in late July.

I've slept late and taken naps.  (Well, not LATE really, but later than I sleep during the school year.)

Sam went to athletic training camp 4 days a week for most of June & July, then began 2-a-day football practices last week.

Sarah started band 2-a-days the first week of August.

Savannah got a new job at a veterinarian clinic in June and loves it.  She has also done lots of sitting:  baby, dog and house.  She is working on applications for NEXT Fall's college choices.

Larry filled in for a pastor at a church in his hometown several times.

I subbed at the preschool where I used to work twice.

I got a new (to me) mini-van that I love.  In fact, I'm going to pick up the license plates for it tomorrow.

I've read several books.


It's been a lazy, fabulous, wonderful summer.  I will miss the leisure of sleeping later and having a lot of down time, but this summer of fabulousness is drawing to a close.  It's been a great one!  Until next year..........

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Stag Leap Country Inn -- Deer Haven cabin

Last year for our 20th anniversary, Larry and I went back to our first home: Nacogdoches, TX.  That is the small college town in east Texas where we lived when we got married.  You can read about that trip HERE.  We try to make an effort to take a short overnight or weekend trip every year for our anniversary, but after twenty years of the same basic trip over & over, we wanted to do something different.  {Usually, we go somewhere, stay in a hotel--almost always a Holiday Inn Express, visit 1-2 local sights & then come home.}  So this year, I asked around on Facebook to see if anyone could suggest a semi-local place to go that was a little different.  After lots of suggestions, I settled on a place that looked really neat.  Ironically, it was back in Nacogdoches, but the place we stayed couldn't have been more different than a Holiday Inn Express.

Friday, we left home about lunchtime and after a short stop for lunch on the way, arrived at Stag Leap in Nacogdoches.  It's about five miles out of town.  This sweet little sign greets you at the main house driveway.


The owners met us at the door of the main house to welcome us and gave us directions to our cabin, which was about 2 1/2 miles down the road, totally secluded from the rest of the world.  Seriously, friends, my troubles melted away when we turned down this driveway...


....and pulled up in front of this sweet little cabin.



This front porch.  Oh my soul.  That rocking chair was just about my favorite place to be all weekend, right beside my sweet husband who was fond of that swing.


 
On the side of the cabin, there was this little patio area with a grill, table and chairs, and a wonderful, deep jacuzzi.  Oh the time spent there, staring at the stars, relaxing!



The front yard area was spacious, tree lined and SO quiet.





The side and back yards were equally wide-open & peaceful.


The driveway leading to the property (which was closed by a gate at the end) is wayyyy over there.


Backyard views:



And later in the evening, the front yard & front of the cabin:


The interior did not fail to wow us, either!  The owners had come over a few hours prior & turned on the ceiling fans and A/C, which was so very welcome since it was 100+ degrees outside.  Everything inside looked just like (or even better!) than what we saw on the website.

The living room area:

This little book was by the phone.  It included brochures for all sorts of tourist attractions in town, maps to restaurants, schools, churches and just about anything else you could imagine needing during your stay.


There was a full-sized pull-out Murphy bed in this pretty cabinet.  (We didn't use it, but it was neat to see that it was available for guests if they had children with them.)


The TV came equipped with satellite TV, which was charmingly set to an easy-listening station when we arrived.  There was a loveseat, recliner and gas fireplace as well.


Also in the living room area, there was a chest full of board games.



And the TV cabinet was full of movies and books to enjoy during your stay.


The kitchen was awesome!  A fridge full of breakfast foods, cabinets full of dishes, towels, utensils, a sweet little dining set.  You could almost get away with never leaving the cabin all weekend!






As you can see in the pic above, the bathroom was right off the main living area.  Let's just pretend that the seat to the toilet is down.  :)


The bedroom was also right off the main living area, through a door to the right of the bathroom.  (There was also a door that connected the bedroom & bathroom.)  The chest at the foot of the bed held more blankets & sheets for the Murphy bed in the living room.  The armoire (see picture below) held pillows for the Murphy bed.




After a hot day out in town both days we were there, we enjoyed quiet evenings in the jacuzzi tub, playing games from the living room chest, swinging/rocking on the porch or just propped up in the living room watching TV and resting.





And the mornings were easy as there were canned cinnamon rolls ready to make provided in the fridge!  (I was reading the comments from previous guests in the cabin's guest book, and then wrote my own, while I enjoyed breakfast Saturday morning.)


This morning when it came time to pack up the suitcase and head home, we had a hard time saying good-bye to this quiet little retreat.  So peaceful, so relaxing, so perfect for a get away!  If you are thinking of travelling in east Texas and need a quiet haven, a private, secluded little peace of paradise, I strongly recommend that you take a look at Stag Leap, specifically the Deer Haven cabin where we stayed.  (They have several other cabins as well!)  You can find more info about them on their website.  You can find it here:  http://stagleap.com/

I told the owners I would be writing a blog review of our stay at their cabin when I got home & shared the URL for this blog site in my comment in the guest book.  I hope they find it and can share it with future guests!  If you came to this post due to that comment in the guest book or through the Stag Leap family, please comment or email me and let me know.  (Email address is at the top right of this page.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How ProBio5 has helped my IBS

NOTE 1:  This post contains the word poop quite a few times.  It is necessary for the explanation of the product I am talking about & is handled in a mature, medical sort of fashion.  If that makes you squeamish or grosses you out, you may want to skip this post.

NOTE 2:  I am NOT selling this product.  I am not affiliated with Plexus in any way other than being a buyer of their products.  This review is simply because I have been very impressed with the way Probio5 has worked for me and I wanted to share my experience. I know a lot of people who deal with tummy issues that it might help as well!

Those of us who battle tummy troubles often don't want to discuss it because quite honestly, it makes people uncomfortable and therefore makes us feel more so like we have a dread disease.  It's embarrassing enough to have to deal with issues that give us gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc. without having to talk about it & watch people squirm.  So most of us DON'T talk about it.  It's weird so we avoid it at all costs.  Sometimes, even with our doctors.  Tests & procedures relating to intestinal problems are not pleasant so we suffer in silence to avoid it all.

Or at least that's the case for me!  So, here we go:  the first time I've talked publicly about a very private, not-so-nice topic.  But I'm putting myself on the line in hopes that other people who suffer will eventually find this blog post and get help from their doctors or the right supplements & products.  For me, that magic product is ProBio5 from Plexus.  It has changed so much for me!


For most of my adult life, I have battled IBS.  I know I had symptoms and issues off an on as a child & into my teen years but it became a bigger problem in my 20s and 30s.  From what I've read, that's pretty common among IBS patients.  I remember my dad talking about his "nervous stomach" when I was a kid and I guess I just assumed I inherited that from him.  IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is the umbrella term that GI doctors give to a wide variety of symptoms that affect sufferers in different ways.  Generally, once they rule out big, major, life-threatening stuff, they call the rest of us with GI issues IBS patients.  IBS means that your GI tract is very sensitive and will respond to diet and stress in a yucky way.  It could mean constipation, gas, bloating, explosive diarrhea, frequent potty trips or a host of other symptoms.

For me, IBS means that I poop at least 10-12 times a day.  (Yes, I'm totally serious about that number.) Some of those times are the very urgent, goosebumps raising on my arms, sweating & running to the potty NOW type of poops.  That usually happens if I'm under a lot of stress or have eaten a food that has flared up my gut.  But even without these "no-no" foods or major stress, going to the bathroom a million times a day is just part of my life.

I have a list of foods that I know I CANNOT eat at all because I will be in the bathroom before I finish what's on my plate.  Other foods also cause trouble, but not quite as violently.  Stress can cause symptoms.  Medicines can cause trouble for some people.  For me, ANY food/drink with fake sweeteners cause symptoms. In general, IBS makes me go to the potty a LOT & can be triggered by a number of things.

For most people, pooping happens once in the morning upon waking and maybe once more later in the day.  Their poops are typically consistent both in frequency and umm...firmness.  For me, pooping is a part of my day all day long, every day.  I usually tend toward looser stools, nearly to the point of diarrhea.  That isn't such a major issue as long as I'm in a place where there are bathrooms available or I am not involved in an activity (work, church, school, etc) that makes going to the bathroom a million times impossible.

Here's where the ProBio5 comes in.

Over the years, I've been told that I should take a probiotic.  I have bought over the counter drug store probiotics for a long time.  I've tried Phillips Colon Health, Align, Culturelle and many others from health food stores and other places.  A month's worth of any of them is around $30.  But here's the thing.  While taking all of those products, I could never tell if it was actually doing anything or not.  There was no change at all in my IBS symptoms.  I just felt like I was taking them "because I should."  I never knew if they were really doing me any good.  I guess you could say I took them out of some sort of obligation rather than because they gave me some great benefit or relief from IBS.

Last fall, I began using a Plexus product that ended up being a dud for me.  I drank their Slim drink for 7 months with almost zero results.  After many hundreds of dollars were spent on it, I finally gave it up.  (I wrote a whole review about that product as well.  You can read it **HERE**.)  Even though the drink didn't work out for me, I began trying their probiotic in January of this year.  At the time, I really just did it to help the girl who was selling.  I figured I would spend the same as what I was spending at the drugstore to buy the Plexus probiotic & it would help her sales.  I figured it would be the same as every other probiotic I've taken.  Boy was I surprised.

The first day I took the ProBio5, I pooped a million times early in the day.  I worried that I'd really messed up by starting the product that day because I was due to see my gynecologist that morning.  But fortunately Poopageddeon 2015 ended early enough that I could shower & make it to the doctor on time.  After that morning, I was a little scared to continue taking it at all.  But I decided to give it a few more days and see if I had the same issue every day.  Thank goodness I did not.  It took about a week of taking ProBio5 for me to start seeing results.  But once I did...WOW!  On the days when I forgot to take it, I could TOTALLY see a difference.

I began noticing that I'd wake up in the morning, poop once like a regular person and then I wouldn't have to "go" again until late in the day.  And neither one was "explosive" or urgent in nature.  Both times I would have a firm, normal sort of poop.  It was shocking to see how quickly my GI tract "leveled out" and began functioning like a normal person's!  I don't feel like I'm controlled by how many times a day I have to find a bathroom.  I don't feel like I must constantly eyeball my food & determine if I will have time to deal with trips to the bathroom or if I should skip eating it altogether.  Of course, there are still foods that I try to avoid because I don't want to risk it.  I still know that some foods just really don't jive with my tummy.  But in general, my symptoms of IBS are sooooooooooooo much better!!

When I miss a dose, or worse, if I miss taking it for a few days in a row, I see all those old IBS issues flaring up & coming right back! No product will ever CURE my IBS, but this one *definitely* has made my life so much easier.  ProBio5 has decreased by symptoms dramatically and keeps my GI system working like it should.  I am so thankful that I found it!!

And FYI:  if you decide to get it on the company's auto-ship program it's $31/mo.  If you're going to spend that much monthly on probiotics, buy one that actually works & does something!!  Otherwise you're just throwing money down the toilet.  Literally.

Friday, May 29, 2015

What's Going on in Liz's World?

Today was the kids' last day of school, so I wanted to do a quick update on what their lives look like these days.
SAVANNAH's last day of her first year of college was actually a couple of weeks ago.  She is at our local junior college on a full ride academic scholarship.  She has done very well this year.  She ended the year with a 4.0 GPA.  She thought she had her eye set on the school she would transfer to a year from now when she's done with junior college but her sights have changed a bit.  She would still love to go to that school (in Ohio) but she's opened her options up a little bit.  She is looking into some other schools that offer similar programs but are perhaps a little closer to home or cheaper.  Right now, she's got about 5 or 6 schools all over the country with strong animation programs that she's considering.  Unfortunately, none of them are in Texas and this mama is already struggling with that separation.  Sigh.

A few days before school got out, she found out that her incredible, flexible, well-paying, wonderful part time doctor's office job is ending on June 5th.  She was devastated.  {I should note:  She was not fired.  They just need to hire someone full-time to do her job, so they're laying her off.}  Since that time, she's been looking for another part-time job.  She can work full-time this summer and would really love doing so, but needs a place that understands she will have to drop back on hours in the fall when school starts back up.  But she needs this place to also understand that she will still need enough hours to pay her bills (car, insurance, cell phone.)  At this point, she's a week away from unemployment and has not found a new job.  She is actually considering living off her savings (she has plenty, really) for the summer and just doing a lot of babysitting to fill in the gaps.  Then in the fall, she plans to go back to the work-study office on campus and will try to get a campus job.  The joys of adulthood & responsibility!

SAMUEL finished 9th grade today.  This year he was in Pre-AP (honors) English.  I think he took the class to prove to himself that he could do it.  And while it was hard sometimes, he made it through the year with passing grades!  Of course, he decided by this spring that while it was nice, he didn't think he wanted to do that again next year.  ha ha!  He also did a bit of clawing his way to the finish line with Algebra, but again, finished the year with passing grades, so we'll take it!

Sam has had a fun year.  He played football in the fall, ran track in the spring and then did spring football after track season was over.  Last summer, he went to a training camp with the athletics department 4 days a week all summer & he plans to do the same this summer as well.  When he was in between sports at school, he stayed after school 2-3 days/week to work out in the weight room.  He has LOVED the year.  Larry & I, however, can't figure out where this fitness-crazed kid came from.  Heaven knows neither of us are gym rats.  (But maybe we could take some lessons from him!)

SARAH finished 8th grade today.  Yikes.  This fall I'll have my BABY going to high school.  Her 8th grade year has been good.  She's stretched her wings and made a lot of new friends this year that she is really close to.  I'll give her about two weeks of summer relaxing before she starts telling me how bored she is & how much she misses her friends.  ha ha!  She is definitely my most social kid of the three.  She is always asking me about going to a movie or the mall or spending the night with a friend.

As far as school things go, Sarah was in band the past 3 years so this fall she will begin high school band.  I am SO proud of our district's band program.  Between the 6th grade beginner band, the (7th & 8th) junior high band and the (9th-12th) HS bands, there are about 700 kids involved in band.  And they all LOVE it.  I can't wait to see another Reeves kid on the field, marching & playing.  Very exciting!  And this year, we'll have a JV football game one night (where we'll watch Sam play) and then a Varsity football game on Fri night (where we'll watch Sarah march.)  While fall is constant & steady & busy, busy, busy for us, it's a fun season of life & I'm already excited about it!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Longing.

Blaise Pascal once said "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."

As hokey as it may sound, I am finding that more and more true lately.

Don't get me wrong.  I've always known I need Jesus.  I've never given in to the idea that anything else in life -- money, jobs, relationships, etc -- can fill that thirst.  At least not intellectually anyway.  I can recognize the need for Christ and my deficiency without His presence daily in my mind. I can see how only He can fill the gaps & satisfy my soul.  But having been adrift without a steady church home for the last 3/4 of a year, I see it more & more every day.

Don't be mistaken.  I am not saying that finding a church would fill the God-sized hole in my heart.  I am not mixing up the two.  Church does not equal God. Going to a place where I hang out with people who believe similarly to myself, being taught, singing songs....that is not the same thing as my personal relationship with God.  It does not equate to personal study of Scripture or daily prayer or filling my mind with music that uplifts me and points me toward Him.

But it sure does help.

Long ago, a wise friend told me "We are not meant to live a Lone Ranger life as Christians." meaning that we are not meant to do things alone.  We need community.  We need relationships.  We need counsel and accountability.  While I am totally an introvert, I can't agree more that we DO need Godly people in our lives.  We need people who love us and care about us in the good stuff and the hard, yucky parts of life.  We need to belong and feel like we're a part of something.

But lately, I am not feeling like I'm a part of much.  I have felt a big, gaping, painful hole where I feel lost and tossed by the wind.  And I suppose on some level I've recognized that and have begun filling that part of me with other stuff.  With events.  With people.  With social issues, social media, books, movies, TV shows.  I see people living their lives with all this "stuff" crammed into their lives all the time and they seem happy enough.  Some are Christians, some are not.  But I'm realizing more and more that I simply can't live this way.  And it's my own fault that I've packed my heart full of other stuff.  This is not who I am.  I miss being in Bible study and having talks with friends about faith and how it impacts daily life.  I miss ministry and serving.  I miss feeling like I am surrounded by family every Sunday while I close my eyes & feel the presence of the Holy Spirit envelop me.  I miss worship on such a deep level I can't even put it into words.  I am aching for His closeness every day. And while the lack of a church home has certainly impacted all of this, my own depravity and tendency to wander has not helped my case.

I was listening to Hillsong today on youtube (THIS video to be specific) and I was overcome with His presence in my bedroom while I was folding laundry.  Click the link...read the lyrics in the video's description.  Desperate for you...drench my soul....I hunger and thirst....Like a rushing wind, Jesus breathe within...Like a mighty storm, stir my soul.  Oh sweet Jesus, I needed these words today.  I need them every day.

Oh Father, help me to see when I am filling up this God-sized hole with anything else.  Help me to seek your face more fervently.  Help me to fill my free time with worship and praise and gratitude.  Help me focus.  Help me search for YOU in every minute.  Let my life bring you glory and honor.  I love you.

Church hunting

I grew up in church.  Every Sunday morning, every Sunday night, every Wednesday night.  I married a man who went to another denomination but he was just as actively involved.  Our kids have been raised going to church every week, too.  My relationship with Christ is very important to me.  I thrive in good worship, good teaching, sweet friendships and opportunities to serve in ministry.

Eight months ago our family began searching for a new church home.  We hated to leave our old church, but our season there had come to an end.

We first visited a Methodist church that was great but it was the very first place we visited, so we hated to make a snap decision based on one visit.  Our son wasn't 'sold' on it either, so we just kept moving on.

Then we visited a very packed large Baptist church.  It was too big, too crowded....and my husband wasn't sold on the atmosphere of it.  So we kept looking.

We visited a charismatic non-denominational church that was a nice size, but that was about the only good thing we could say for it.  No one was rude or mean or anything...it was just way too much...everything...for us.

We visited a lovely, sweet little congregation at a community church (non-denominational) which endeared themselves to us really quickly, but after 2-3 weeks of visits, we knew it wasn't a good fit for us long-term.  There were maybe 10 kids total (birth through 18) and the vast majority of the 65 people who were there were over 60.  It just didn't seem like the right place for a family who has kids that need a youth group.

We visited a local Church of Christ that didn't suit us as well.  We're not really connected to the traditions involved at a Church of Christ, so it really wasn't a good fit for us.  But I must say, there were a thousand super-sweet white haired men & ladies who were very friendly.  I think we talked to each one of them individually for 15 minutes before we left the building at 3:00 PM.  The service was over at 11.  (big grin--just kidding!)

We visited a non-denominational church about 15 minutes from home for several months and fell in love.  We thought we'd finally found our home, but then discovered that our daughter, who very much needs relationships & activity & the social side of a youth group was not really getting that at this church.  The only youth involvement she had was on Sunday morning (because the Wed night group freaked her out & was not a good fit for her) and it just wasn't cutting it.  Our son refused to go to any of the youth stuff because there were no boys his age & it felt very uncomfortable to him.  So after about four months of feeling 'at home' in every other way, we left with our tails between our legs.  We had already fallen in love with the pastor, the worship time, the small-town country feel....but it just wasn't the right place.  {I'm positive that if we didn't have kids that we needed to find a place for, Larry & I would've joined & stayed forever.}

After leaving, we went back to the Methodist church we had visited first just to have a place to go for a couple weeks while we decided what to do next.  I am thankful for so many connections around town so it is simple to slip in the doors of so many churches & sit in on a service.  We live in a the smallest big town I know of.  Lots of connections at dozens of churches, so there are plenty of places we could visit.  Samuel's feelings had not changed about this church, so we knew we weren't staying but it was a good place to fill the gap for a couple weeks.

We visited a satellite campus of a very large Baptist church next.  It was very, well...Baptist.  Don't worry.  It's okay.  I can say that.  I grew up in a southern Baptist church.  It didn't fit us at all.  Between the attack-greeters with stick on name tags at the door when  you walk in and the off-beat hokey music and the simulcast preaching from the bigger campus in town....it just didn't feel right.

We then visited a local Assembly of God church for 2 or 3 weeks & while I loved it, I think that's mostly because I know almost the entire church already and it just felt very comfortable for me.  My son, however, said he couldn't put into words exactly how he felt....just that this was not a place he'd ever get comfortable.  He has since given us a list of things he wants to see in a church & pretty much none of those things are fulfilled at this AG church, so we're journeying on.

Tomorrow morning, we're visiting another Baptist church.  I've watched some of their services online.  It looks good & I think it might be a good fit.  We have a number of friends who go there.  But I'm long past being able to predict what the rest of the family will think.  I'm just crossing my fingers & praying.

Honestly, as long as they teach the four basic beliefs of Christianity, I don't care what the sign out front says.  Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentacostal Holy Ghost-filled, Conservative Lutheran, non-denominational, Assembly of God, Church of Christ.........whatever.  I'll sign up & get my free toaster with any church if we can just find a place to get involved that everyone is happy.  {By the way, those 4 things are the virgin birth, Christ's atoning death, the resurrection & the 2nd coming.  Everything else is just fluff.}

I'm tired. 
I'm ready to be done hunting. 
I'm ready to settle in, get connected, get involved in serving & ministering. 
I'm weary of the search. 
I miss those close relationships & connection. 
I miss having a church to call my own. 
None of us are made for this lone ranger Christian thing. 
I need community & fellowship & accountability & solid teaching on a regular basis.


Pray for us?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

As least I'm not as bad as.....

Recently I found myself looking at a woman I know, thinking about how heavy she has gotten.  Chubby thighs, a round behind, flabby arms, a big belly.  All I could see when I looked at her was her size.  I know.  SO rude.  Especially since I am clearly no skinny Barbie doll, I have NO room to talk.  But that's what I was doing.  I kept thinking "...at least I'm not as big as HER."  {As if that somehow gives me permission to eat another cupcake.}

And then it happened.  I saw a picture of myself.  She was in the background.  And we looked to be about the same size.

Ouch.

This morning I was thinking about that on my drive to work and something hit me.  How often do we look at someone else's sin and think "Well at least I don't do XYZ like that person."  We think that our sins are not 'as bad' as those of others, but really, a sin is a sin is a sin.  Every one of them creates a disconnect between us and God.  Every sin breaks His heart.  When God looks at our lives & sees our sins, He sees the ugliness and pain.  When he looks at our picture, He sees that other person in the background.  And our sins look the same size.