Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's not too late to join in!

If you were thinking about joining us for the Christmas Cookie Swap, but haven't signed up yet, it's not too late! I'll be pairing up swap buddies on Thursday, so check out THIS post & follow the instructions to join in! And feel free to share it on your blog, facebook, twitter, etc.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday Phone Dump...one day late

Yesterday was crazy & I never had a chance to do my Friday Phone Dump post, so here goes! When you're done looking at my pictures, go over to your own blog & dump all your pictures from your phone for the past week & let us see them. Link back here & comment so I can go look at your pictures, too! Here's my week in pictures.

Sometimes we all need a reminder.

Last weekend, Sarah went to a sleepover at a friend's house. She came home mid-morning, ate lunch and then sat down to watch some TV. It dawned on me about 1/2 an hour later that she was watching some reality show about women in prison. So I went to check on her & found her like this in Larry's recliner. Even at nearly 11 years old, I love to watch her sleep. So sweet!

Samuel was on a campout with his Scout troop last weekend. When I went into his room & looked in his backpack for papers he needed to complete for school, I opened his binder & found these papers. They were all neatly written (his handwriting is usually very poor---thank you, Concerta!) and the words were so sweet. I had my phone in the room with me, so I pulled it out & snapped some pictures. You may want to click on each one & make it bigger so you can read it all.

"The lords Greatest creation is you all of us every last human on earth."

"The only opinon that matters is His. Lord God"

"The Lord will always love you for he made you. His opinyon is the only one that matters."

"For god is first And I am last I do all Things through him. King of Kinds, lord of lords, Chist, Jesus, Savor, King, Mesya, Creator, Unseen, lord all mighty"

"Jesus Is my super Hero"

There are times when Samuel makes me wonder if he's not going to be our boundary-pusher as a teenager, the one we will have to really watch & worry about him hanging out with a 'bad crowd'. And then there are days when I find things like this in his binder. He wrote this all by himself at school one day, with no provocation from Larry & I or his teachers at church. And when I see things like this, I think to myself, he's going to be alright. So proud of him!

Wipe your tears & get back to the rest of the pictures with me.

Getting ready for work (hair & make up) in the dark when the power goes out is so much fun. Putting on make up with a tiny hand mirror by the window is a real treat. HA! Of course, I tried to avoid mirrors once I arrived at work where the power was on. There's no telling how clown-y I looked that day! ha ha!

On the way home from Larry's family Thanksgiving get together this week, we stopped at the same gas station we always do. I have teased Larry about taking me to the "classy" gas station so I had to take a picture of this to show him. In the ladies' bathroom, this mirror is over the sink. Mind you, the sink is on the left side of this mirror, so there's no way you could see yourself in the mirror while standing at the sink, thanks to the 2 foot tall Coors can. And to add to the class, the same mirror is cracked all the way down the right end. I'm telling you....it's a fine establishment. (giggle!) And I didn't even get a picture of the (ahem) bubble gum machine on the wall to the right of the mirror. Oh yes, there really is...in the ladies' bathroom.

As soon as Thanksgiving was over, the tree went up! It's Christmas at my house now!

And for the weekly self-portrait, here ya go!

Have a great week!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

Years ago when I first became a full time stay at home mom, my husband admitted to me that he was struggling with a little jealousy at his workplace. Many of the other men were getting new trucks. One guy got one & then the chain reaction started. One by one, nearly every guy on staff got a new truck! With us living on just one income, it wasn't possible for us. And to be honest, the truck he had was perfectly fine. But seeing all those shiny new trucks made him want one!

Many years & lots of maturity later, we are both so glad that he didn't get a new truck back then. We understand now that a new truck would have meant a higher payment, higher insurance premiums, and in that situation, a higher gas bill because those trucks were larger & had bigger engines & bigger gas tanks!

All these years later, I've found myself struggling with a touch of the green-eyed monster lately. I am not typically a jealous person. I find great pleasure in seeking out ways to save money and have not ever spent a great deal of time sitting around, feeling sorry for myself about things we don't have. The truth is, we have plenty. Everyone is clothed & fed and we have a roof over our heads. What more do we need? (nothing!)
But lately, I've found myself rolling around in some miry muck at the bottom of a nasty pit of envy & jealousy.

You know the "one up" game? The one where you compare your life or accomplishments with another person's & try to "one up" them by listing your 1-step-better-than-theirs achievements? I've been doing that. But it's like a twisted reverse version ... more like "Are you as poor as I am?". Someone will mention being broke & I find myself rolling my eyes & thinking "I bet I'm more broke than you are. I bet I have fewer dollars in my bank account than you. I bet I have to make do with less gas, less food, less clothing, less whatever than you. You don't have it as bad as me."

When friends talked about going to Black Friday sales this morning, buying electronics and other items, I couldn't help but think poorly of them. As if their savings, their good spending habits, their higher incomes (& good deals!) were meant to hurt & offend me.

A friend privately mentioned her husband's annual income recently & I secretly got mad about it. This is a girlfriend who has shared before how little they make and their struggle to make ends meet. And now this? Her husband's salary alone is more than Larry & I make combined! But they live in a different part of the country where the cost of living is different, so they may very well feel just as strapped as we do based on their cost of living.

What in the world is wrong with me?? Why am I so concerned with how broke I am & how much everyone else (at least in my mind) has? Geez Louise! I've spent much of my day rolling that around in my head & wondering why I have felt this way lately & it all comes down to one thing.

Envy. Greed. Selfishness.

I realize those are buzz words at this time of year when so many people have a bad case of the "gimmes". The truth is, I can't name ONE SINGLE ITEM that I want (or need) for Christmas. In fact, my only woe this year is the fact that I can't afford to GIVE more. Not to fill stockings or pile presents under our own tree, but to help other people. I would love to be able to hand out cash to every Salvation Army bell ringer... and to give to every love offering, every charity, every missionary I would like to support.... to begin sponsoring a child in several countries... to get a handful of angels off the angel trees we see locally & send them gifts... to be able to help a single mom or a poor family. Not having money to spare to help other people bums me out far more than not having extra money to pile more crap into my kids' closets.

But somehow hearing how much other people are spending on their children's Christmas gifts or their Black Friday purchases has bothered me today. Maybe on some level, it's noble in some weird, screwed up way because I see such waste in those 3 AM purchases. How many children could've been sponsored for the cost of that Playstation? How many Bibles could we have sent to the mission field with the cost of that TV? But really...it's just selfishness. I want to have some money to waste, too!

Or I THINK I do anyway.

The truth is, God has been showering me with Scriptures and reminders of what He really wants for me all day. They've shown up in the craziest places. But isn't that just like God to make sure I see them by placing them strategically throughout my day? Early this morning, a friend posted this one as her status on Facebook.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

And that one reminded me of this Scripture by Paul in Philippians chapter 4.

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. 16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17 I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

A website I was looking at had this picture.

While driving to the grocery store tonight, I passed a neighborhood where a girlfriend lives & something she said 3-4 years ago replayed in my mind. She was telling me how convicted she was about complaining about her awful job at the time. She said,

"God has told me that He's not going to give me something better until I'm thankful for what I have! Until I can drop to my knees every morning & praise Him for giving me this horrible job, and truly mean it!, He is not going to move mountains or change the tides on my behalf!"

While sitting here writing this post, the Casting Crowns song "Praise You in this Storm" has played through my mind over & over. Especially this part.

I was sure by now God You would have reached down And wiped our tears away Stepped in and saved the day But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining As the thunder rolls I barely hear You whisper through the rain "I'm with you" And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands and praise the God who gives And takes away
And I'll praise You in this storm And I will lift my hands For You are who You are No matter where I am And every tear I've cried You hold in Your hand You never left my side And though my heart is torn I will praise You in this storm

Tonight I can't help but fall on my face before Him. To ask forgiveness. To praise Him.

To thank Him for my very life, for my family, for my friends, for Scripture, for provision of our every need, for reminders all around me to focus on Him & be content with what I have. And for this struggle.

Lord, help me thank you for the fight to survive each month. For the negative numbers on the bank website. For the tough, hard stuff. For every lesson You're teaching me the hard way, because I obviously don't listen when You try to show me any other way.
Jesus, make me hungry....but ONLY for you! Remind me that you, ONLY you, can truly satisfy me. Drop me to my knees again & again. It's only there that I can truly see the things I have & there that I lose sight of what others have. It's there that you show me you are ALL I need.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He's good.

It's near the end of the month & as some of you know, that means it's crunch time for us financially. And I don't just mean we might bounce a check or two (or ten). Sigh.

Last night, when I crawled into bed, I had just checked the bank account online. I was frustrated. But I talked to God about it & determined that worry and sitting around thinking about it would do me *no good*, so I just let it go & tried to put it into the hands of God for the night. I started thinking of Scriptures in relation to our situation, mostly trying to think of ones about worry & trusting God. The old stand-by (Proverbs 3:5-6) came to mind. It says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart & lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." In other words, don't try to figure it out yourself, lean on Him for guidance & let Him handle it. But beyond that verse, I couldn't think of anything else. I was tired, so I went to sleep.

All throughout the night, literally every 45 minutes to an hour, I was awakened. I needed to go potty a few times, but some of the times I just woke up for no apparent reason. And funny thing...every single time, God put a particular Bible verse in my mind. I couldn't think of where it was located exactly or even all of the words! All I could remember was "God will give exceedingly & abundantly..." I took great comfort in feeling like He was trying to convey to me that He was going to go over & above our needs, that He would provide abundantly & to rest in that.

This morning I decided that I'd look it up today & figure out the rest of the verse to see what it was really about. Tonight I looked it up & the whole second half of the chapter really has to be read to get the full effect. Here it is, from Ephesians 3.

14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

21Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gonna keep the list going...

In the spring of this year, I discovered this book, along with about 5 million other people. At the time, it was almost like every single woman I knew was reading it. One of my BFFs began a book club at her house for some friends to get together & discuss the book weekly. I joined in because I love to read & I love her.
But, I will be honest. It was hard to read. Not because the topic was 'hard to swallow' but because the author's writing style was very, very difficult for me. It was sort of like asking a 1st grader to read Shakespeare. In the dark. Written in Latin. While doing jumping jacks. On a bed of nails. While dodging flaming arrows. While blindfolded.

Ok, so maybe it wasn't that bad, but it was very hard for me. Her fancy writing style made it hard for me to enjoy reading the book. After about 4 or 5 chapters, I gave up on reading the book because it became a chore. To sit down & do mental gymnastics to get through each chapter about the beauty of the soap bubbles in her sink and photography of plates full of grated cheese just wasn't on my agenda at the time. It was a very busy season of the year and I just couldn't stick with it.

But somehow, I loved the book anyway.

Although her style was hard for me, there are so many gems throughout the book. Amazing quotes, deep thoughts, heart-pounding visions of what a life filled with thankfulness really looks like. There are so many things I underlined & highlighted in those first several chapters that even now, all these months later, I'm still digesting them.

The point of the entire book is living a life of gratitude. Seeking out things that you can thank God for, looking for reasons to be grateful even in the most awful circumstances in life. The author encourages readers to get a little pad of paper, a small notebook, a blank journal... whatever....and begin making a list of the blessings in life. When you know that your goal is to reach 1000 items on your list, you start seeing things in a different light. All the sudden, you realize how amazing the lightbulbs that haven't burnt out are....how fascinating the sunbeams coming through the windows can be....how happy you are to have electricity & running water & a roof over your head. Every little thing becomes an object of beauty.

While reading the book, I bought a little spiral notebook & began my list. I reached #307 before I lost the notebook in the piles of crap on my desk filed it away to pick up & work on later.

Over the course of the past month, most of the Facebook world has participated in an annual ritual where we post once a day about something we're thankful for. And then I recently re-discovered a friend's blog where she has kept a running list of things she's grateful for since reading this book. She's long past 1000 items on her list.

I've realized how much joy it brings me to find those little things to be thankful for because, let's just be honest, I've had a lot to cry & whine about in the past year of very hard financial times. I could gripe about having to hold down 5 jobs right now, or I could thank God for providing the opportunities to work & provide for my family when so many are without work. It's all in how you look at things, ya know. Intentionally refocusing my heart & mind on things I can be thankful for has been a chore at times, but when I get my eyes in the right place (on Him!) the peace & comfort He gives astounds me.

Today I cleaned off my desk for the first time in months removed the little notebook from where I had filed it and flipped through the pages. It warms my heart to see all the things I thanked God for a few months ago -- things that I have since taken forgranted. I am anxious to get back to keeping my list. My hope is to go far beyond 1000 items like my friend has.

Just a random sampling of items from my list:

#2 ice cold Coke
#17 air conditioning & heat
#18 ceiling fans for my hot-natured family members
#20 dancing--watching with amazement
#24 the scent of Gain laundry detergent
#40 the scent baking apple bread
#46 bookshelves full of books
#53 a free TV that has lasted for years
#60 bubble baths
#66 quilts falling apart from years of wear
#88 the USPS
#91 honesty in our LIFE group
#103 soft pillows on my bed
#110 rain
#116 singing along with the radio & messing up the lyrics
#121 lifelong friends
#133 open conversations with my kids
#147 footrubs from the kids
#156 workout buddy that keeps me accountable
#161 watching friends fall in love & grow
#166 Sarah sitting on the porch, watching the rain
#186 Tim Hawkins comedy
#201 "sticky" babies in our family
#207 Immodium A.D. (ha ha....I wonder if anyone's gotten this far on reading my list)
#219 Larry's chances to fill the pulpit again
#245 clean dishes
#253 Sudoku
#267 school provided band instruments
#273 wheelchairs & happy smiles from the little boy riding in it
#299 pictures (memories!)
#302 watching Tara take pictures -- such a sweet blessing
#304 Activia yogurt

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Phone Dump

It's that time of the week again: time to dump out all your cell phone pictures on your blog. Link back here & let me know in the comments so I can come peek at your pictures. Here's my week!

On Wednesday night, one of the kiddos I was watching got a little crazy with the Cross cookie cutter. I think we had about a dozen purple crosses lined up on the table before he was done.

I will never understand boy brains. One night last week after Samuel's shower, I went into the bathroom & found an empty applesauce cup in the trash next to the toilet. Nice huh? Everyone eats a snack on the toilet, right?

Speaking of snacks, I saw this in the grocery store tonight. Digestive Wheat Biscuits. Doesn't that sound tasty? (gag)

We've had rain several times this week, so I've been burning my candles a lot. I love to burn them for the scent, but when it's rainy, I'm always wondering if my electricity will go out & I will need the candle for light. I am SO happy to support a ministry of my girlfriend, Mandy. She makes these candles & the profits go to for the silent. Don't know what that is? Click HERE to find out. Like the candle? Go to Facebook & search for Shine Your Light candles.

See? I told you it rained! (I'm a little obsessed with cool-looking clouds.)

Some of Sarah's weekly photography practice. (These are her favorite shoes!)

...and this is her goofy attempt at looking like a hippie by using her headband & making a 70s look. ha ha!

Pumpkin oatmeal. Plain oatmeal + a couple spoonfuls of canned pumpkin + a little butter & raw sugar = YUM!!!

One of the highlights of my week! One of my very bestest girlfriends gave me this Bible for my birthday! I was totally WOWed by it! It's my first ESV!!! I haven't had a chance to really delve into it yet, but I know it will be awesome. I may still carry my NIV Life Applications Study Bible to church, but this one will be my word study/compare versions/cross-reference tool. No doubt it time, it will become my go-to-church & use-it-all-the-time Bible as well because my NIV is quickly falling apart!

Remember how I told you last week that we had started Samuel on ADHD medicine? I had to brag on him. This is the cleanest I've seen his room in a couple of years! Wow! Way to go, buddy! Seriously, I don't think I've been able to see this much of his carpet since we moved into this house in 2005!!

And for this week's self-portrait....you know those women who can roll right out of bed & without doing their hair or make up, they look amazing?

Yeah....I'm not one of them.

What a difference 10 minutes, a little make up & a curling iron can make. Thank goodness for modern inventions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lead me home.

This morning before we left to get everyone to school, the kids ran out of time & no one had a chance to go out & feed and water Daisy, our basset hound. This happens frequently and when it does, I know the job is mine when I get back home from driving them. This morning, however, I went to clean a coworker's home before I came back home.

Upon arriving back home a little more than an hour later, I walked to the front door prepared to grab the keys to the shed (where the dog food is stored) and head to the backyard. But before I made it to the front door, my very frightened, nervous & shaken looking Daisy ran up to greet me on our porch. She was obviously very antsy. I knew something was up & she was scared. Immediately, I wondered HOW she got out of our fence in the backyard. She's NEVER been outside the fence by herself. My mind immediately whirled with thoughts of "How did she get out? How long has she been out? Is she hurt? Did someone bring her back home?"

I went to the backyard with her & found that one of the gates to the yard was opened just a tiny bit --- just wide enough for her to get out. I realized then that it must've been left ajar last night. And since no one went out to check on Daisy this morning, I worried that perhaps she got out sometime last night and could've been wandering all night long! Or maybe she got out just minutes before I got home and had not gone far? Our next door neighbor said that he had seen Daisy in his backyard this morning, so perhaps she only made it that far & then panicked because she couldn't figure out how to get back INTO our yard. Once she found her mommy on the front porch & was safely returned to her yard, she curled up in her doghouse & went to sleep....I'm sure exhausted from her scary little adventure, whether it lasted 15 minutes or 8 hours!

Later today, as I thought about her whirlwind morning, I realized how much I desire to be like Daisy. She realized she was in trouble & ran to me for help. And it was only after everything was back to normal, when she was returned to the place she knew was safe, that she was able to rest. I want to always remember to run to God, frantic for the safety of His shelter. How often do we seek Him with a sense of urgency, a worried look on our face as we RUN to His arms? Do we hunger for His word & run to the foot of the Cross?

Lord, lead me to the Cross again & again.

Savior I come
Quiet my soul remember
Redemption's hill
Where Your blood was spilled
For my ransom

Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

You were as I
Tempted and trialed
You are
Te word became flesh
Bore my sin and death
Now you're risen


To your heart
To your heart
Lead me to your heart
Lead me to your heart

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday Phone Dump (oops...it's Saturday)

Last night I was soooo sleepy I couldn't stay awake long enough to do my usual Friday Phone Dump post. So even though this is technically a Saturday phone dump, here we go!

If you choose to participate on your blog, link back here & let me know in the comments so I can take a peek at your pictures! Here is my week in pictures from my cell phone.

Several days ago on Facebook, a girlfriend posted that she was reading a book that sounded really good. I commented that I should add it to my reading list & asked about borrowing her copy. A couple of our friends commented about it as well & I was certain it would be a good one. Guess what? Wednesday was my birthday & that very same book showed up on my doorstep with an anonymous card. I know it must've been one of those sweet ladies I was discussing the book with, but I don't know which one. And I love that!!!! Sweet girlfriend surprises are the BEST! Thank you girls!!

And speaking of Wednesday being my birthday....I don't count calories on my birthday!

Larry brought me this AMAZING burger from Burger King for lunch. Maybe it's because I don't eat fast food burgers very often, but this thing was soooo good. It was one of their new Chef's Choice bacon cheeseburgers. I sat there eating it at work, wondering how long it would be before my boss asked me to leave the building because I think I Mmmmmmmm'd a few hundred times while I was eating it. Wow. I totally recommend you try one!

And I don't buy Ben & Jerry's very often (too expensive!!) but my birthday was a special occasion. This stuff was fabulous!

Wednesday night when I picked up Samuel from youth group, this is where I found him. I love that he looks forward to going every week. He enjoys hanging out & getting to know the older kids. And hey, what 11 yr old boy wouldn't love getting to play foosball at church? (I have no idea if I spelled foosball right.)

After a day of not counting calories I was back at the gym first thing Thursday morning. I tried this bike that day. It's a seated bike where you pedal out in front of you rather than a regular style stationary bike. I had to laugh at these handle bars, though. If you were to lean forward & hold onto them, you'd hit your wrists with your knees every time you pedal. I'm a short-legged girl (I'm only 5' 3.5") and look at how close my knees came to those handle bars. What on earth would a 6ft man do if he wanted to hold those handles?

On Thursday, Savannah was doing a little work at the church office for one of the pastors & was only going to be there for about an hour. We had to kill some time, because it didn't make sense to drive home & then turn around & come right back, so Samuel, Sarah & I went to get a snack at Smashburger. (Their fried pickles are the BEST anywhere!)

Of course, Sarah grabbed my phone & instructed me to lean in toward her. She then told me how to pose in each picture. First we have the happy picture. Just your usual smiles...

...then the silly face one....

...and then the mug shot. ha ha ha ha! (Don't we look menacing?)

And then we noticed how bright the sun was & shadow pictures followed. But this is the only one that turned out. Sarah wanted me to get a picture of her tongue's shadow. HA! Do you see it? She's sticking it out!

On Friday, I was able to go to Sarah's school after I got off work. They were having their annual American Diabetes Association walk. I walked with Sarah & her buddy Madison. Those are two very silly little girls. They kept me giggling the whole time.

See? I really was there. Of course, the sun was SO bright I couldn't really look at the camera.

I found it interesting that suddenly in the last few days, we have lots of these strange things on our ground. I hear people saying that they're leaves. Hmm....hard to believe that when it's still as warm as it is 5 out of every 7 days! I thought that leaves only fell from the trees during the season of Fall. Does this mean that Fall weather is coming soon? My fingers are crossed!

I love my new background on my computer!

Give me a cold Dr. Pepper, a package of sharpened pencils & one of these books and leave me alone a few hours. I love these things!

And it wouldn't be a Friday Phone Dump post without a few embarrassing self portraits.

First we have the kissy face....taken for a friend who was having a bad day. I sent her some hugs & kisses via text message. It worked. She got a smile out of it.

Then we have the driving myself to work self portrait. Don't worry. I wasn't moving when I took this. I was trying to get a picture of me in my glasses for a friend who wanted to see them. Yes, I wear glasses when I drive. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see the stop sign I was stopped at when I took this picture. I'm terribly near-sighted.

And last but certainly not any less embarassing, we have the no make up, haven't had enough sleep in days, end of the day of sitting in my yard running a yard sale look. So delightful.