Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Long 2009

Where did the time go? I can't believe 2009 is over and tomorrow begins a new year.

This past year has been filled with many highs and lows but if I had to choose one to describe the last twelve months I'd definitely say it has been a year of great moments sprinkled with many blessings.

Although our checking account is much smaller now and we no longer live in our beautiful dream house on the lake, our family has witnessed God's faithfulness in amazing ways.

Our children have thrived at their schools and had accident free sport seasons of football and basketball. We've all remained extremely healthy and survived the swine flu epidemic even without getting flu shots. Keith and I have grown closer together and our marriage is stronger than ever before. While my friends have lost family members in 2009, we have lost no one in our immediate or extended family. Yes, I'd say we definitely have a lot to be thankful for.

This morning I sat down and made my New Year's resolution list. It looks a lot different than last year's list which consisted of several specific goals I wanted to achieve. Typical things like eating healthier, taking daily vitamins, exercising more, a committed daily time with God, and consistent writing in my blog. I haven't been so good with the consistent writing though. My resolution list for 2010 looks like this:

1. Asking for God's will in every situation and not going to Him with my never ending wish list hoping He'd say yes to every request.

2. Thanking God in every situation whether it's good or bad. It's taken me some time but I've slowly learned that He does work out every circumstance for my good no matter what it looks like at first.

3. Bring glory and honor to God in everything that I do. This will be extremely challenging but I know that all things are possible through Him.

Sure, I still want to eat healthier, exercise, take my daily vitamins, and continue bogging but I know that if I seek Him first then all these practical things will taken care of too.

Now for some wonderful news that I received today. My dad has battled with cancer for the last three years. He was diagnosed with a form of lymphatic leukemia which basically means he develops cancer in his blood which attacks his lymph nodes. This past Summer he went through a radical round of chemo treatments. He returned last week for a thorough pet scan to see if the cancer returned. He called me today and told me that the results shows he's cancer free!

I have my P31, face book, and W.O.W. friends to thank. I sent out an email to them this morning and within 20 minutes I had almost 30 replies saying "I'm praying for your dad". Prayer is so powerful and we've certainly witnessed this first hand today.

Yes, 2010 is already starting off great. There is so much to look forward to and believe God for. I'd love to know what you're hoping for in 2010. Do you have any New Year's resolutions? What happened in 2009 that you're thankful for? How would you describe this past year in a few words?

Happy New Year sweet friends. You have been such a blessing to me and I am so very thankful for each one of you!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

The gifts have been opened, the pictures have been taken, the Christmas meal has been eaten, and the Christmas story has once again been read.

As our family enjoys a cold rainy day indoors, we relish in the pleasures of just being together on this very special day. When I think of all the hours we spent shopping for gifts, decorating the tree, hanging up lights, wrapping presents, attending holiday events, baking cookies, volunteering at church, celebrating with friends, and watching Christmas specials on t.v., it's hard to believe that all those preparations have culminated just for today.

I never did get our Christmas cards ordered and mailed out this year. We did get the family photos taken last week though. Right after a snow storm passed though our area. I'm thinking a Happy New Year's card would be nice for family and friends to receive from us. Our boys have changed so much these past 12 months that many of our relatives wouldn't even recognize them if they passed them on the street... hence the reason to send out cards.

Keith bought Brody and Carson air soft guns this year. Since they can't go outside to play (it is still raining), Keith has decided to set up a bull's eye target in the center of our fireplace so they can do some practice shooting. (I'm not kidding). I have little yellow pellets all of the floor. Some body's gonna be picking them up this evening and it's not going to be me.

Carson just came in holding his forehead. He tried to hit the fireplace target with his gun but the pellet missed and hit one of the ceramic logs instead. It ricoshed back and hit him between the eyes. I'm thankful that he didn't take one out. I seem to remember seeing safety googles in the packaging but for the life of me I can't undestand why no one is wearing them.

I bought Keith an air soft gun too so he could play along with the boys. He is such a big kid at heart. He's already used up all his pellets so I'm sure we'll be making a run to Wal-Mart tomorrow for more.

I just love Christmas time and it really has nothing to do with the presents. To me Christmas is all about spending time with my family, making special memories, and celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This morning I woke up extra early so I could enjoy our beautiful Christmas tree while I sipped a cup of warm coffee and read through the Christmas story in Luke 2. As I sat all snuggled up in my favorite blanket, I thought about Mary and how she lacked the comforts and basic necessities that first Christmas night as she held her new born son in her arms. Humble beginnings, miraculous moments, and eternal results.

As night falls and everyone gets ready for bed, we plan to watch the Nativity movie together. I can't imagine a better way to end our special Christmas day. We have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Testify this Christmas

Here are the photos I promised. This is a picture of my family. My husband's name is Keith and our two son's are Brody (14 yrs) and Carson (10 yrs)

Here is a not so good photo of the entire group. As you can tell, I'll lacking in quality picture taking capabilities.

This is Brody with some of his friends; Caleb, Alex, and Kerry

Wishing you all a great weekend filled with fun moments with your families.
Many blessings,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Cradle That Rocked the World

I just love this time of year. Christmas is fast approaching and before long I'll be writing 2010 on all of my personal checks. I've been busy decorating my home but haven't bought a single Christmas gift. My husband and I have asked our two boys, Brody and Carson, what they would like for Christmas this year and they honestly do not know. We are so blessed and truly have more than we really need. Besides, my favorite part of Christmas is not wrapped up in the those gifts. It's really the way we celebrate as a family and the special memories that are created each year.

I'll tell you about one of our favorite annual events in just a minute. First let me welcome you if you're joining me from my good friend, Karen Ehman's blog. Karen is interviewing me today as part of her 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway. If you haven't met Karen yet, be sure to check out her blog. Karen is an incredibly talented writer and speaker. Plus, she's one of the funniest gals I know. Just thinking about her makes me smile. Karen is celebrating this month with her blog readers through her special Christmas giveaway and today I'm giving away a Proverbs 31 t-shirt to someone so be sure to pop on over and register. You don't want to miss out of this one!

Now, back to one of my favorite holiday celebrations. Each year my son, Brody sings in a city wide teen choir called Testify. After months of long practices, they perform Christmas concerts at local churches, children's homes, and civic centers. It is so amazing to see over 140 teenagers worshipping God and proclaiming the birth of Jesus through songs, dance, and drama. As a mom, I couldn't be more proud of him.

This year their theme is "The Cradle that Rocked the World". When I really stop and think about that statement, I am easily brought to tears. To wrap my mind around the fact that God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to live a life of complete humility for the redemption of man is an overwhelming thought. To think that Jesus left his heavenly home, completely filled with almighty power, only to empty himself and be wrapped in human flesh which probably consisted of no more than eight pounds is so incredible.

Yes, Jesus eventually grew out of that little cradle. He grew in stature and favor with God and man. He healed the blind, made the sick well, and performed many miracles. He died on a wooden cross for you and for me. Yet, on the third day He conquered death itself and rose from the grave. Now that is something to celebrate!

Yes, that cradle certainly rocked the world and will continue to rock the world until Christ returns to this earth once again in all of His glory and majesty. My prayer for you this Christmas season is that while your busy decorating, shopping for gifts, baking all those yummy Christmas cookies, and celebrating with friends and family that you'll set aside some special time to be with Jesus. To thank Him for all that He's done for you and to celebrate His presence in your life today.

Yes, the cradle that rocked the world - yesterday, today, and forever!

I wanted to post some pictures that I took this weekend at my son's concert but for some reason my computer isn't cooperating with me this morning. Please stop by tomorrow and I'll have them up for you.

Over the summer, Testify will travel to different states with another production so if you'd like to host them at your church, please write and let me know. They are an awesome group of teenagers who love the Lord and are passionate about spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thanks again for stopping by. If you have a minute, please leave a comment and introduce yourself. That would mean so much to me.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unexpected Surprises

We have an unexpected guest staying with us this Christmas season. His name is Nicholas and he's from the North Pole :)

My son, Carson, came home from school last week all excited and eager to share with me about something that was taking place in his classroom. Several of his classroom buddies had received elves from the North Pole. Carson referred to it has having an "Elf on the Shelf". I hadn't heard anything about these elves. Then again, I haven't watched the news lately.

Carson really wanted an elf and said we needed to place saltine crackers, a small glass of water, and one of his shoes by the fireplace for the elf to arrive. That evening Carson carefully arranged everything near the fireplace but in the morning there was no elf to be found.

He was so disappointed and with tears in his eyes said "I'll be the only kid in my class that doesn't have an elf this year". He suggested that maybe he did something wrong and that's why the elf didn't arrive. I assured him that the elf most likely got detained by some big important assignment at the North Pole and not to get discouraged.

The following evening we placed out the crackers, water, one of Carson's smelling tennis shoes and sure enough, the elf appeared overnight! Carson was so excited he could hardly stand it. He quickly began writing a letter to the elf that was filled with lots of questions. He wanted to know all about his new friend, especially what his name was.

Well, since last week we've found out quite a bit about this little guy. First off, his name is Nicholas. He is nocturnal and gets into a lot of mischief at night when we're sleeping. He loves saltine crackers and water but leaves crumbs all over the place. He likes to dig in sock drawers, toy bins, and the kitchen pantry. During the day, he carefully watches what goes on in our house, making sure that Carson is being a good boy and obeying his parents.

Carson just loves his new friend Nicholas and is so proud of him. Just this weekend, Carson invited several of his neighborhood friends over the meet Nicholas. In fact, Carson wanted you to meet Nicholas too and asked me to please do a blog post this morning. I told him I would as long as I was able to post a picture of him and Nicholas together. He gladly agreed.

Here they are. I kinda think they look a lot a like too!

Merry Christmas,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Overwhelmed by Your To-Do List?

Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed by your to-do list?

I sure do! If fact, more times than I'd like to admit. I've already sensed that today would be one of those overwhelming days.

Our family was out of town last week visiting my brother and his family for the Thanksgiving holiday. We had such an incredible time and what made it so special was that we just "hung out" the entire time. Our boys were completely content playing with their cousins. They had no interest in going to local attractions or doing any sight-seeing. I know... amazing, isn't it?

We returned home over the weekend and this morning reality slapped us all in the face at 5:45 am when it was time to get everyone ready for school and work. After Brody & Carson hopped on their buses, I snuggled up with a delicious cup of hazelnut coffee and my bible to have some quiet time. With so much on my plate today, I knew the best place to start was with Jesus.

I've been studying about prayer lately so I took some extra time to pray specifically through some situations that had been bothering me. When I was finished, I felt so encouraged and rejuvenated.

I grabbed a notepad and began jotting down my "to-do" list. One page turned into two pages and then three. With each turn of the notepad sheet, my encouragement turned to discouragement. I had so many items on my "to-do" list that I had to create subsections!

All that rejuvenation which held me only moments ago quickly disintegrated and I was left with a complete sense of frustration and wondering what on earth I should do first.

Am I the only woman on planet earth who can get so easily distracted and frazzled by a little piece of paper with line items on it?

Honestly, what would really happen if I didn't complete my to-do list. Well, for starters, the bills wouldn't get paid, the laundry wouldn't get done, and we'd have no food in the house.

Are you wondering what I did with that to-do list? Well, I wanted to burn it, crawl back into bed, and sleep for two more hours. Instead, I mentally handed my to-do list over to God. Since I've been studying prayer lately, I thought maybe God would help me out with my dilemma.

I told Him the things I felt were a priority for today but asked Him to show me what daily assignments He had chosen for me instead.

One by one, I went down the list and as I did, I realized something. Some of these things really
didn't need to be done today. In fact, they could wait until tomorrow or even the end of this week. I also noticed that some of these items could be delegated to other family members.

The most amazing thing was that God actually added some items to my to-do list. One was to send an encouraging email to a friend whose father just had open heart surgery last week. Another was to call my mom and wish her a "Happy Birthday" ... I COMPLETELY forgot it was her birthday today! I'm so glad Jesus reminded me. Another addition to my list was to tell my husband three things that I love about him and let him know how much I appreciate all that he does for our family.

Wow! God had given me three new assignments and I hadn't even had breakfast yet.

So what has this little exercise accomplished for me this morning?

For starters, I no longer am discouraged. If fact, that overwhelming feeling has been replaced with joy and a wonderful sense of peace. Also, my list has been condensed in a way that is realistic for my day. But most importantly I made a conscious decision to take my concerns to God right away instead of trying to figure things out on my own. He responded to my plea for help by showing me what's really important and what matters to Him today.

Do you have a long "to-do" list right now?

If so, I'd like to challenge you to take that list to God. Prayerfully ask Him to show you what items on that list needs to be accomplished today. I bet He'll prompt you to scratch off some things and delegate others to family members. He may even add some other daily assignments that you didn't even think about.

Oh, I sure hope He does! If so, please let me know. I'd love to hear how He's working in your life today.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful

Our family made a last minute decision to visit my brother and his family in Florida for Thanksgiving this year. I'm so glad we decided to throw our cares to the wind and do something totally spontaneous for a change.

My brother has a condo right on the beach that happened to be available this week. I've never packed three suitcases so fast in all my life. After a ten hour drive filled with movies, lots of reading, and only two pit stops we arrived safely with smiles our faces. My husband has a tendency to drive with a heavy foot so the fact that we made it to Florida accident-free is something to be thankful about.

Speaking of thankfulness, I just wanted to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to all of you!

As I sit at my laptop, I can't help but be distracted by the view out my window. I'm completely captivated by the beautiful white sand, crystal blue sky, emerald green water and those gorgeous pounding waves. There's a light breeze allowing the palm trees to dance and the only words that comes to my mind at this very moment is "I am so thankful".

Although this year had been tough... I mean REALLY tough for our family when it comes to finances, I can't help but reflect on how many wonderful moments we've had and how blessed we really are.

Today our family will celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family for the first time in five years. My nieces and nephews have grown so much since the last time we've seen them. I'm really looking forward to seeing my uncle and his new bride now that they've moved to Florida from Munich, Germany.

I hope that you have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family today. Whether that's extended family, church family, adopted family or friends that have become your family.

Many blessings and prayers to all of you this Thanksgiving season!

With much love,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chocolate Chip Waffles and a Downey Dryer Sheet

My alarm went off at 5:50 am this morning. This is my normal wake up time during the week which is why I love weekends so much.

Here's the deal. I don't climb out of bed until 6:00 am but having those extra ten minutes is a real luxury to me. I use that time to enjoy the warmth of my cozy soft blankets, the sound of complete stillness in my home and a quiet conversation with God.

First, I say good morning to Him. Then I thank Him for a safe and restful night of sleep. Before the grandfather clock in our foyer strikes 6:00 am, I mentally run through my to-do list for the day and ask Him what needs to be the priorities and what can wait until the next day.

This morning Carson (our youngest son) was up earlier than normal. It's because he fell asleep on our sofa, while reading last night, at 7:30 pm. We let him sleep there until 9:45 pm then carried him up to bed. He was obviously exhausted from our busy weekend and slept almost twelve hours long!

I fixed chocolate chip waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast. Yum, yum, yum. I know this won't win me the most balanced breakfast award but my boys love chocolate chip waffles so once a week we just go for it.

The waffles were a big hit and before Carson headed upstairs to brush his teeth, he asked "Mom, will you stick my shirt and jacket in the dryer?" He had a big ole smile plastered across his face and I knew exactly what he meant.

Carson didn't want me dry his shirt and jacket because they were damp. Or, because they were wrinkled. He wanted me to place them in the dryer so they would be warm and soft when he put them on.

Now that our weather is cooler and mornings greet us with lower temperatures, Carson has been asking me to warm up his jacket and shirt every morning. It's become our special little routine that puts a smile on his face every single time. As he slips on his Downey scented, warm, and soft shirt, he response with a resounding "aahhh, that feels SO good!". His reaction always puts a smile on my face too and I respond by wrapping my arms around him with a big bear hug.

As he bounced out the door and ran for bus stop this morning, I couldn't help but feel good inside. This morning I was seeing myself as a "good mom".

A mom that fixed her children chocolate chip waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for breakfast.

A mom that packed their lunch boxes and included a small pack of Skittles as an extra surprise.

A mom that got their backpacks and shoes together by the door so they wouldn't forget anything.

And yes, a mom that even put her son's clothes in the dryer so they would be warm when he put them on.

Do I do this every morning.... No, sirree (not sure about that spelling).

Often times, I'm pushing my boys out the door with a granola bar hanging out of their mouths, shoes in one hand and an open backpack (with it's contents spilling out) in the other.

Aahh, this morning was special and I'm relishing in the memories of it.

Come to think of it, I believe it's those small things that we do for our children that mean the most to them. Things that don't cost a lot of money or require much sacrifice. Just the simple things that say " I notice and I love you".

Maybe tomorrow I'll whip up some french toast (from the freezer, of course) and do it all over again.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Do Shells Stick to Hard Boiled Eggs?

This morning I was craving homemade chicken salad like you wouldn't believe.

Now, I want you to know that I rarely have cravings for food. Eating is more like a necessity than an enjoyment for me.

When our family lived in New Orleans I would often crave Cajun boiled shrimp, crab meat au gratin, or spicy jambalaya but once out of the Big Easy, food seemed to be much more bland, boring, and not worth craving. Not today though. Today, I wanted homemade chicken salad like no body's business.

While I waited for my boiled eggs to cool, I decided to chop up the chicken, celery and mixed it all together with some Hellman's light mayo and herb seasonings. I couldn't wait to enjoy my little creation!

My excitement slowly turned to frustration when I began to peel the hard boiled eggs. Some of the shells came off so easily and without a fight but others hung on for dear life as if they were holding onto a life preserver in the middle of a raging storm. When I was finally done peeling all the eggs, half of them looked perfect and the other half appeared to have just be a fight with a chicken... and the chicken won.

For years I have struggled with successfully boiling eggs ( pretty lame, huh?). Am I the only person who can't keep shells from sticking? With all the difficult tasks that a woman faces in her daily routine, are boiled eggs going to defeat her? I decided to settle this dilemma once and for all! What did I do? I googled, of course and here's what I found out.

Tips on cooking boiled eggs:

1. Place eggs in very cold water

Well, I messed up from the get-go. I always use hot water because I want the eggs to hurry up and boil really fast. I figured hot water comes to a boil a lot quicker than cold water, right?

2. Cover the pot and wait for water to come to a boil.

O.k., second mistake. I never put a lid on my pot. No wonder why my eggs come out so lousy. I'm doing this totally wrong!

3. Once eggs come to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 10-12 minutes.

Alright, now I feel like a complete idiot. I would never think to remove them from the heat once they start boiling. Isn't that when they just begin to cook? I normally boil the heck out of them for 10-12 minutes. Poor little things. Now I'm wondering why they haven't turned to rubber all these years.

4. Empty the water out and replace with fresh water and ice cubes. This is called giving your eggs an ice bath.

Nope, I don't do this either. I normally just drain the water and let them cool. An ice bath sound sounds kind of fun though.

Well, thanks to the Internet, I now know how to boil and peel eggs perfectly. Hopefully, you do too after reading my post. If you have any other helpful tips for me about boiling eggs, I'd love to hear them. Actually, if you have any other helpful hints about anything related to cooking, I'd love to hear them. I'm not the best when it comes to culinary craftiness.

Before I sign off, I'm leaving you with a really awesome way to peel eggs. I'm going to try this one out next time. Check it out.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rise & Shine Conference

I'm in Cedar Falls, Iowa this weekend with my good friend Renee Swope. I work with Renee, at Proverbs 31 Ministries, as her assistant. One of the many special perks of my job is getting to travel with Renee to her speaking events.

We are here for the Rise and Shine Women's Conference at Orchard Hills Community Church. This is their very first women's event and I can say without a doubt that these Midwest girls know how to put on an event! Approximately 250 women attended and they all had big smiles on their faces. It was definitely an atmosphere of excitement and great anticipation.

During the closing session, the women were asked to write down their doubts and burdens on an index card, bring them up to the front, and lay them down at the foot of the cross. In place of their index card, they were given one of God's promises, which was a scripture verse, that they could take home with them. It was so wonderful to see these women respond to the promises they had received.

My heart is very full as I reminisce over the many special moments these last two days. I will really miss these sweet women. They are truly a group of girls that love Jesus with all their heart!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now what do I do?

It was time to come to grips with my shopping addiction.

First, I had to realize that my decision to shop excessively was nothing shy of sin in my life. My wonderful husband was working so hard to put money into our checking account and I was spending it faster then he could make it. Deep down inside, I knew it was wrong but I continued to rationalize with every single purchase I made.

On September 15, 2009, I wrote in my bible the following words, "60 day shopping fast".

I had decided that the only way to beat this thing was to go cold turkey. That morning I made an oath to God that I would not purchase anything for myself or for my house (accept for food and cleaning products)during the next 60 days. I wrote it down in my bible as a way of holding myself accountable. I told my bible study friends about my 60 day plan and encouraged them to check out my shopping cart if they ever saw me in Target. I emailed my family and close friends and asked them to pray for me. I also told my husband and of course, he was thrilled!

It's been 42 days since I made that agreement with God. In all honesty, I'm totally shocked that I've gone this far. I truly didn't think I'd last 3 days!

Has it been easy? No way! It's been incredibly tough. I've had to pray my way past the clearance racks, shoe section, and accessory stands of my favorite stores. I've put away all my Ballard Design catalogs and haven't stepped foot in a Kirkland's Home store.

The good news is that I've stuck with it. How? It's totally been by the grace and strength of God. There is absolutely no way I could have done this without Him. Every time I think about cheating, He reminds me of the commitment I made on September 15, 2009 and it keeps me going.

What I'm realizing through all of this is that my desire to shop was my way of filling an empty place in my heart. I'd shop when I was angry or down about something. I'd shop when I was stressed because "I needed a little pick-me-up". I'd even shop when I was bored because it brought a little excitement to my day. Bringing home a new sweater or pair of earrings always put a smile on this girl's face. That was... until the guilt set in... and it always did.

Now, when I'm angry or stressed, instead of running to the store, I run to God. He's teaching me so much about myself. He's helping me with my struggles and showing me healthy ways to deal with my problems.

Through it all, I'm feeling more content with my life than ever before. I'm way more productive, now that I'm not wasting hours at the mall. Best of all, I'm not afraid to open up my credit card statements each month to see the balance due.

I'm learning that there's more to life than shopping.... way more!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Shopping Problem?

Do you remember last month, when I shared about my ah-ha moment? Maybe not or maybe your new to my blog so I'll quickly give a recap...

I was standing in the middle of our family's storage room. You know, the space where everything goes when you don't have a designated "place" for it? I had started the tumultuous job of packing up all our belongings as we prepared to move to our new home. I decided to start in the storage room because it was the most cluttered room in our house. I had procrastinated long enough and my plan was to clear out the entire room before my boys got home from school. Ha!! Ya, right :)

Well, it didn't take me all day to clear out our storage room. It took me days. Yes, days!

There were boxes, boxes, and more boxes. All filled with stuff, stuff, and more stuff.

What on earth was I thinking when I took all those pictures on our family vacation to Nevada? How many snapshots does a girl need of the same mountain? Besides, who has time to put family photos in pretty little memory albums, anyway?

What about that box of silver serving platters and bowls that my mom gave me. They had been in boxes for years. I couldn't stand the thought of giving them away but honestly, I couldn't see myself polishing off all that tarnish and actually using them either.

Oh, yes, then there were the three boxes of school yearbooks (K-12th grade). I had forgotten how dorky I looked back then... not to mention the other kids in my class!

Along with the real old stuff was much newer stuff.

The winter coat I had bought last season. The sofa table I purchased while shopping with friends. They said it would go great in my living room. All those silk flowers that I purchased to make a beautiful flower arrangement for my dining room table. Oops... I never got around to taking that flower decorating class last year.

Oh, I almost forgot... ah-ha moment. Sorry, I can get easily distracted at times.

My ah-ha moment came when I realized that my unhealthy love for shopping had grown into a super sized bad habit. Actually, I'll go as far to say an unhealthy addiction. O.K., I said it.

Unhealthy addition.

At first I thought my ah-ha moment was some crazy random thought. I really didn't have a shopping problem, did I?

As the days followed and I began to tackle the other rooms in my house, I would find a Target bag here and a Stein Mart bag there, filled with things I had bought and crammed into closets, dresser drawers and kitchen cabinets.

But wait a minute. Doesn't a girl have the right to do a little shopping every now an then?

A new top or a cool pair a shoes always seemed to make me feel good. You can never have enough decorative throw pillows, candle sticks, or area rugs to spruce up your house while you try to keep up with the latest HGTV designer shows.

Besides, Keith wasn't really complaining when I'd come home with something new from the mall. Well, actually that isn't completely true. Here's the honest truth... if I thought he may be a little upset, I'd just conveniently keep my bags in the trunk of my car then bring them inside when he wasn't home.

Oh, don't even say it! I know some of you have done the same thing too...right?

I knew my shopping had gotten a little out of control but an actual addiction? Could that be possible?

Yes, Mam. It could be possible and it was starting to look like I had a major problem on my hands and it had nothing to do with packing and moving.

O.k, it's time to share.

Have you ever had an ah-ha moment sort of like mine? It may have nothing to do with shopping but some other "thing" in your life that you recognized as an unhealthy habit?

Maybe something that you've been doing for so long that it feels completely natural and makes total sense to you.

Maybe something that you've known deep down inside, in your little soul wasn't right, but you rationalized it anyway, just like I did.

Maybe thoughts like "I deserve this" or "It's no big deal" have been part of your vocabulary lately.

Can you relate?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Drum Roll Please.......

Congratulations Doreen! You're the winner of my birthday give-away. I hope you enjoy the $10 gift card to Target.

Thank you to everyone for sharing your birthday stories. I really enjoyed reading each one of them and getting to know you better.

This give-away was so much fun! I'll definitely do it again.

Have a great weekend and please stop by next week. I'd love to visit again.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers: 4
Timestamp: 2009-10-17 14:21:33 UTC

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Give-Away

Today is my birthday and I've decided to celebrate by giving someone else a gift.

Here is how it works...

Please tell me what your absolute favorite birthday gift was from a previous birthday. If you can't think of a favorite gift, then tell me what your favorite birthday memory is? Be sure to share why this gift or memory is so special to you.

Leave me a comment with your full name and email address. That way if you win, I'll know how to get in touch with you.

Oh ya... I almost forgot! I'm giving away a $10 gift card to Starbucks.

That way you can invite a friend for coffee or buy something for yourself from their great gift stands. I just love their mugs and the handles don't get hot when you put them in the microwave.

If you're not a fan of Starbucks (which I can't even imagine), I'd be happy to give a $10 gift card to Target instead. Everyone loves Target!

I'll select a winner on Friday night (October 16) so you have plenty of time to leave me a comment and/or tell a friend about my give-away. The more the merrier.

I'm really looking forward to reading about your special birthday gift or memory!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Where Have You Been?

Last week, I really needed a break from unpacking boxes from our recent move. So, I convinced my husband to play some tennis before our boys got home from school. He was all on board with the idea (I think he needed a break too) so off we went.

When I walked into the tennis shop, I heard someone yell out "Where have you been?!?!" I turned around and saw one of the tennis pros who was standing behind the counter. I smiled and thought to myself, "Gee, how much time do you actually have for me to answer that question?". Instead, I said "I've been in therapy!" He responded by saying "for your head?" (now that sounds like something a man would say) My response... "No, for my foot!"

At that moment, I realized it had been exactly four months to the day that I limped off the tennis court, drove myself to the sports orthopedic doctor, and found out that I had Stage 3 ligament damage in my left foot (from rolling over a stray ball). This would be my very first day back on the courts since my accident.

In all honesty, I was a little nervous and anxious as I began to slowly maneuver run around the court. I kept looking down at my feet, searching for any sign of stay tennis balls that might be near me.

My husband throws a wicked serve and he was having no mercy at all :) After about thirty minutes, he had me pacing back an forth, totally out of breath, and sweating like a crazy woman.

The more I ran around the court, the more comfortable I began to feel. I was so excited to actually be playing tennis again after such a long break. By the end of the hour, I felt my confidence coming back.

As I sat down to write this morning, I thought maybe some of you might be asking, "Where Have You Been?". I just checked and my last blog post was almost a month ago. That is just unthinkable in the blogging world and I owe you all a huge apology.

I didn't plan to go this long without writing. In fact, I've thought about writing each day. So much has happened over the last few weeks and I can't wait to share some things I've learned through the process. This is our fourth move in four and a half years. A girl is bound to learn some things about moving when it becomes an annual event for her.

Even though I wanted to write, the busyness of our move kept getting in the way.
All those overloaded moving boxes kept staring at me every time I went in and out of our garage. My husband was also "encouraging" me along. He was chewing at the bit to park his dual cab truck in the garage and all those boxes with my nice little decorations were in his way. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if I was more motivated by the idea of having everything unpacked and in its proper place or by the fact that Keith was driving me bananas about that doggone truck of his.

Now that we're all settled in, my goal is to blog 2-3 times a week. I wish I could blog more but quite honestly, writing doesn't come easy to me at all. I always thought that since I'm rarely at a lost for words when talking that writing would be super simple. That is surely not the case.

Just like stepping on that tennis court last week, I'm feeling a little apprehensive about writing. A little nervous and anxious about my content and choice of words. Hopefully, I'll become more comfortable with time and practice. Hopefully, I'll begin to enjoy it like so many of my friends who write regularly.

I'm curious about something. Does writing come easily for you? Do you have a blog of your own? If so, please send me your link as I'd love to check it out. How long have you been writing? Does writing get easier the more you do it? Everyone keeps telling me that I have to "find my own voice". Well, it's safe to say, that I haven't found it yet...I'm still looking.

Any of your suggestions about blogging would be great. I'd really love to get your feedback on this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Me and My Stuff

The last 10 days can be summed up in very few words: boxes, trash bags and strapping tape.

We finalized the contract on our home and found a new place to live. While our boys are in school, Keith and I have been busy packing up our belonging and getting ready for moving day.

On Monday, I tackled our storage room. This is an unfinished area in our home that was originally planned to be a home theater. We never got around to actually doing the renovations, so instead we used it to store all of our "stuff".

I've dreaded having to deal with this space more than any other room in our house. I knew it was going to take the most effort so I decided to tackle it head on.

When I opened the doors, boxed stacked almost to the ceiling, greeted me. I immediately felt overwhelmed just by the sight of it all.

Where would I start? How long was this going to take? Who was going to help me?

Christmas decorations, office supplies, old books, baby keepsakes, unused printers, and family photo albums were spewed all over the room. I could see them but couldn't actually get to them because I had furniture and decorating accessories in the way.

Back in April, when we put our home on the market, I went through and did a little staging, in hopes that our house would sell quickly. I went through each room and put away extra candle sticks, silk plants, area rugs, flower arrangements, picture frames and even furniture. Everything went into our storage room. I could just close the door and pretend that they didn't exist. Out of sight, out of mind.

I could no longer pretend anymore. One by one, I went through each box, sorting, organizing and deciding what I would keep or give away. Two hours into the project I was in tears. Even with all my hard work and good intentions, the room didn't look any different. There was still stuff everywhere.

In total frustration, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "I have too much stuff!"

As I looked around the room at all my pretty decorations, I thought about how much fun it was when I bought them. How excited I was to bring them home and proudly display them throughout my house. Oh, how my little decorations brought me so much joy!

Now these same decorations had become a huge burden. Like little nooses around my neck, weighing me down. I didn't want to be bothered with them anymore. They seemed of no use to me. I now resented them. I didn't like my stuff. If fact, at that moment, I wanted to light a match and torch everything.

In all honesty, I've known for a long time, that I have an unhealthy love for shopping. Nothing gets me more pumped up than a early bird sale at Kohl's with an additional 20% off coupon. How about those buy one, get one free specials. Boy, do these deals make my heart race!

I've rationalized buying things because I could get them for less. I'd often tell my husband, "Honey, I only buy what's on sale so it saves us money." His response was always "Don't buy anything and then you'll actually save us money."

As I stood alone in my storage room, with all my stuff, I had one of those ah-ha moments. I realized that my unhealthy love for shopping had grown into a super sized habitual addiction. One that I thought I could control, but in reality, I couldn't and I still can't. There's more to tell you, but not today. This post is too long already.

Can I ask you something though?

Do you have an unhealthy love for shopping too? Are you tempted by those 50% clearance racks? Do you often times find yourself in the clothing department at Super Target when your original plan was to only pick up eggs, milk, and a loaf of bread?

Has shopping become an addiction for you?

Maybe you've had an unhealthy love for shopping in the past but have learned to do without. Maybe you can now say "no" to those want (not need) items. Maybe you can now make a trip to your local TJ Maxx and not feel like you have to buy everything in site.

I'd love to hear how you've been able to say "no" to unhealthy shopping and how it has made a difference in your life.

I'll tell you more about my ah-ha moment tomorrow. But, for now, I've got to get back to packing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

September is Taxing

I'm celebrating this morning. Why? Because I've finally completed my 2008 personal and corporate tax returns.

Honesty, here it is September 2009 and for the past 3 days, I've been fumbling through medical receipts and personal expense forms, that are dated well over a year ago. Is that not insane?

When I posted a comment about this on my face book page, I received several responses. The comments ranged anywhere from "I haven't completed my taxes either!" to "Are you serious? Oh my goodness!"

I'm sure you're wondering why I've waited so long. Well, it's because I loath doing my taxes each year. I could of chosen the word hate to describe how I feel but loath sounds so much more intense. Yes, I loath doing my taxes.

Gathering all that information and putting it into the computer is so tedious and incredibly time consuming. Each year I procrastinate and then find myself in crisis mode trying to get everything finished before the dead line. I absolutely dread it. In fact, I'd go as far to say that I'd rather have a root canal done than file my taxes. Now, that is pretty bad!

I was on the phone yesterday with my C.P.A.. She asked why I didn't just put all of my tax information into a simple excel spread sheet. She told me that the majority of her clients submit their taxes that way and it's completely acceptable. It would take a lot less time and would be so much easier.

I explained to my C.P.A. that I have a Type A personality and everything has to be done just so. Putting my tax figures into my fancy accounting software package and printing out all those nice clean impressive reports looks so much better. It actually makes me even feel better. Weird, huh? Yes, I know.

O.k., I have issues, but you probably know this already. Really, who cares about how the information looks on a sheet of paper. Just as long as the information is correct. That's what matters. Well, I tell myself this but that's not what I end up doing. If you're a Type A personality person, I know you're nodding your head up and down right now and saying "yes, yes, yes!"

Plus, I think it's sort of a generational curse. I can remember going with my dad to drop off his personal tax return when I was a little girl. He also would wait until the very last day to file his return. I remember him driving us to the city and going to the main post office, just to make sure his return would be postmarked correctly. I was around 9 years old, it was dark outside, and I was in my pajamas. He really did wait until the last minute to file his return! He also has one of those Type A personalities. See, I told you it was generations.

The good news is that I've already begun compiling my tax information for 2009 and even started putting some entries into my fancy accounting software package. Obviously, I haven't dealt with my Type A personality issues and still love seeing all my tax figures printed out on those fancy reports.

My goal is to have my 2009 tax returns completed and ready for my C.P.A. by the end February 2010.

We shall see :)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Missing Him

My husband, Keith, was out of town last week in New Orleans, Louisiana. We both grew up in Cajun Country so it was like returning home for him. I would LOVE to have gone, but with school and football season back in full swing, it was just impossible. Besides, I was excited about attending Lysa TerKeurst's book launch this weekend at Southbrook Church in Weddington, NC.

Keith would call several times a day and tell me what great meal he was having, at one of our favorite restaurants. It was driving my taste buds absolutely crazy! New Orleans is known for their delectable dishes and delicious desserts. My mouth would actually water while he described the sauteed jumbo shrimp with lumped crab meat stuffing or the homemade bread pudding with butter sauce and whipped cream on top.

He mentioned about all the friends and family members he was getting to see. How the aunts and uncles were appearing older and acting feistier than ever before. How the nieces and nephews were barely recognizable because they had grown so much.

As we talked, he would say something hilarious and I would laugh until tears were streaming down my face. When it was time to say good-bye, I'd hang up the phone and instantly feel an emptiness inside which accompanied a twinge of sadness. It was then that I realized...

I missed hearing his voice.

While Keith was gone, I didn't sleep very well, at all! I kept waking up at night, hearing little sounds that would startle or frighten me. I'd check the doors several times at night, making sure they were locked. One morning as I was coming out of a deep sleep, and reached my hand over to the other side of our bed, expecting to touch his arm, but then realized he wasn't there.

When Keith is home, I feel safe and secure. I know that if anything goes wrong, he will handle it. I don't worry about the doors being locked or the strange sounds that I hear at night. While Keith was away, I realized ...

I missed his protection.

Saturday night, Carson had his first scrimmage game of the football season. He was really nervous and had a mini meltdown while getting dressed for the game. I tried calling Keith so he could encourage Carson and calm him down. I was doing my best to pump Carson up with "you can do it" cheers but he wasn't buying it. I knew that if Keith was home, he would be able to motivate Carson in a way that I couldn't.

By the time we arrived at the field, the stadium was packed with people. I saw several friends and met new ones during the two hour scrimmage. But, with all those people around me and with all the great conversations, I still felt lonely inside. I wasn't sure why but it finally dawned on me that I missed Keith.

He wasn't there with me to cheer Carson on to victory. He wasn't there to answer one of my numerous ditzy football questions (after four years, I'm still trying to learn the rules of this game called football). On the ride home, I thought about all the great tackles that Carson had. Tackles that Keith didn't get to see. It was at that moment I realized....

I missed his presence.

Keith returned home this morning and I was so glad to finally see him. Although it was really nice to have a break from cooking those big meals, washing those extra loads of laundry, and
not having to share the t.v. remote with anyone, I'd much rather have Keith back home with us.

I'm so thankful that he's returned safely and our family is complete again. I really missed him while he was away and so did the boys. I know he missed us too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Would You Rather?

Our youngest son, Carson, doesn't like to read. If fact, I'd go as far to say that he actually hates reading. As a mom, this breaks my heart because I know how important fundamental reading is when it comes to Carson's educational development.

I read once that children who read a lot are more likely to score higher on tests and have higher grade point averages than children who don't. This really concerned me so I needed to take action and get real creative on ways to make reading fun.

Just last week, I found a new game at my local Target store called, "You Gotta Be Kidding!, The Crazy Game of Would You Rather..?" It's made by Zobmondo and looked like a great family game. After reading through the brief description on the back of the box, I decided it would be a fun way for Carson to practice his reading, plus, it would create a special interaction time for our family.

Here's how the game works:

Each person picks a card, reads aloud one of the four choices available, then gives time for each player to make their own selection as to which answer they would choose. I'll give you an example below. This was one of the cards Carson picked last night while we were playing.

Would you rather...
Choice #1. Be stuck on an island for 2 years with 20 friends of your choice.
Choice #2. Be stuck on an island for 2 years with 20 famous people of your choice.

My choice was #1 and Carson's choice was #2. When I asked him to name three famous people that he'd like to be stuck on an island with he said:

" the famous chef, Emeril, so he can cook my meals."
" Lebron James, so he can play basketball with me"
" Beyonce, because she can dance really good"

Let me tell you what, you can learn a lot about what your kids are thinking by playing this game!
After the game was over, we headed up to Carson's room, and I tucked him into bed. We talked about how fun the game was and Carson said he couldn't wait to play it again, but next time he wanted Keith and Brody to play too.

As Carson dosed off to sleep, I started to think about how my life is full of choices. Everyday I'm faced with situations where I need to make a decision when given two or more options.

Sometimes I'm faced with a really good vs. really bad option so the choice is obvious and easy to make. Other times, I'm faced with two good options or even two bad options so the process of choosing is much more difficult.

Sometimes, other people in my life make choices and then I'm forced to live out those choices, whether good or bad, which ultimately effect my reality, not to mention my already busy schedule.

In fact, just yesterday Brody's teacher made a choice to hold his class 20 extra minutes after school ended because the pick up line traffic was really bad. My son rides a transportation service van home each day. The van has 14 other students that were eager to leave (along with the driver) so the van left without him. Because of that teacher's choice, I was forced to leave work, go pick up my son, and bring him home which ended up taking over an hour and a half. I wasn't able to finish the project I was working on which really frustrated me.

Life has so many choices and my decisions to these choices impact not only my life but others around me.

The key is to choose wisely.

Even though I know this, I often find myself rushing through my decision making. I've learned the hard way that it's never good to make a decision in a hurry. Hasty decisions almost always result in not so good choices which leave me faced with unfavorable circumstances to deal with.

Sometimes my choices are based on pleasing others. Oh, this is a big one and I could write a week's worth of blog posts about being a people pleaser! A low self esteem and desire for others' approval can often times skew my thought process and result in bad choices that are based not on what's best for me and my situation but what I think will make other people happy.

If only I would pause, place, and pray.

Pause and really think through my choices. Ask myself what would be the best decision based on the facts, current circumstances, and how this decision will effect me and the people that I love.

Take my choices to God and place them before Him. Tell Him what I'm thinking and how I feel about the choices I have to make. Let Him know what I believe would be the best decision and why.

Then pray and ask God to reveal His will in my situation. He knows my past, present, and future. He knows my personality, weaknesses, and strengths. He knows what ultimately would be the best choice for me.

Yes, if only I would pause, place, and pray before making my choices. Then I believe that the God of the Universe would pause, even in the midst of all His creation, just for me, and place His desire, for me and my circumstances, in my heart. And, if I quiet myself and listen to His voice, then act on what He tells me to do, I can make the right choice with confidence.

What about you? Do you struggle like me? Do you have trouble when it comes to making the right choice? Do you hurry through your decision making then end up with messy circumstances that need to be dealt with? Do you make choices in hopes of getting someone's approval?

If only we would pause, place, and pray.

Monday, August 24, 2009

High School ... here we come!

So much has happened this weekend and I can't wait to tell you all the details but I'm dedicating today's post to our oldest son, Brody.

Today is a very special day in the DiPascal family. It's one of those milestone moments that you have to capture with photos and journaling. So, even though my to-do list is a mile long and people are requiring things of me today, I'm choosing to pause, reflect, write and memorize this special day.

Today is a milestone moment because it's Brody's first day of High School!

I can't believe my little boy is no longer little. I can't believe he's a Freshman this year. I can't believe he's starting to shave his slightly noticeable mustache. I just can't believe it!

We woke up extra early so Brody could organize his new school supplies and get his backpack ready. Plus, I had to allow plenty of time for taking photos. :) Brody bounced out of bed but I was moving rather slowing because I didn't get much sleep the night before.

Last night, I was abruptly awoken by a terrible lightning and thunderstorm. It passed though our area quickly but I couldn't fall back to sleep. After laying in bed, wide awake for 15 minutes, I decided to get up and check on the boys. It was in Brody's room where I decided to linger for a while. After checking his covers and picking up dirty clothes off the floor (yes, even in the middle of the night I'm doing chores), I felt a nudging to kneel down by his bedside and pray. I still remember to this day, my mom praying by my bedside when I was a little girl.

I prayed that God would bless Brody with an awesome first year of High School That He would surround Brody with Godly classmates and teachers. That He would protect Brody while he was on campus and in route to and from home. That He would give Brody favor with his teachers and administrators and that his freshmen days at Pine Lake Preparatory would be filled with wonderful and milestone memories.

My whispering prayers accidentally woke Brody up. He raised his head, looked at me, patted me on the forehead, smiled, and passed out again. He didn't ask what I was doing because he knew already. Ya see, Brody has found me several times, kneeling by his bedside, and praying. My heart's desire as a mom is that he too will remember these special moments just like I did with my mom. That one day he too will kneel by the bedside of his children and pray over them while they sleep.

God had taken what first seemed like an interrupted thunderstorm and turned it into a special milestone moment between a mom, her son, and her God.

When it was time for him to leave, I could tell that he was a little nervous but excited in a really good way. Instead of riding the bus, I let him ride to school with his best friend, Caleb. Caleb & Brody have known each other since they were two years old. As they stood together, laughing at each other, I couldn't help but remember them as little toddlers, playing with balls, Legos and Lincoln logs.

Yes, time has flown and my little boy has grown. Today is certainly a milestone moment that I will remember for a lifetime.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We'll miss you, David

This morning, our nephew, David, packed up his things and left for college. All year long we had been planning for him to spend the Summer with us and what a Summer it has been!

It seems like just yesterday when he pulled into our driveway with his brand new candy apple red Dodge Ram pickup truck. He would also want you to know that it is a dual cab, with standard drive, and has an rockin' stereo system.

David has been an amazing mentor for our two boys this Summer and some how has miraculously kept them from fighting with each other. He taught Brody how to wake board and Carson how to play spoons.

David has also been a great workout partner for my husband, Keith and finally got him motivated enough to return to the gym. I'm seeing muscles on Keith's arms and chest that I haven't seen in years!

David has been an awesome encourager for me. He loves to eat my home cooked meals and is always ready for left overs. Some of his favorite Summer dishes were cole slaw, brownies, and homemade guacamole with chips.

Although David stayed with us for a very short time, he has left his memorable fingerprints on one of us. Memories that will last a lifetime.

Get ready Louisiana Tech... here he comes!!!

We love you, David and miss you already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's Official

It's official...

We received a contract on our home yesterday afternoon. Although I had been preparing myself for months, seeing the contract in black & white literally took my breath away.

Now it's time to pray, pick, purge, pack, place, and pleasure.

PRAY - Originally the buyer's agent requested that we be out of our home by September 1st. That would be 14 days from now.... not realistic at all. We've negotiated a date of October 1st. I'm asking God to help us through this very stressful time of transitioning from one home to another. I could spend my time worrying, over analysing, and second guessing the details or I can choose to rest in His plans, provision, promises, and presence. I'm purposefully choosing to rest in Him.

PICK - This will be our fifth home in the four years we've lived North Carolina. With all this moving experience, you would think finding a new home would be second nature to our family but it's not. It's still VERY stressful, especially when it has to be done in such a short period of time. Several of the homes we've looked at over the Summer are no longer on the market so we'll have to start from scratch. We need to find a home quickly in the midst of school starting, my traveling schedule in September, filing my 2008 tax returns (the extension we requested is up September 15th) and hurricane season (my husband is a Catastrophic Claims Adjuster and this is the busiest time of the year for him). I've questioned God's timing in all this but I really need to trust Him even though it makes absolutely no sense to me.

PURGE - Ahhh, the joy of cleaning through closets and drawers. This is when I'll find that cute little tennis jacket I've been looking for or my son's portable hard drive that he misplaced last year. Purging takes time and a lot of patience. However, when it's over with there's a wonderful feeling of freedom that follows. Having gotten rid of extra stuff make me feel a little lighter and much more organized.

PACK - We do all our packing & moving... ridiculous but true. I've given up on moving boxes a long time ago. Instead, I've purchased plastic bins from our local Target & Wal-Mart stores. I can reuse them over and over again. Plus, they stack and store so easily. The only good thing about not hiring a moving company and doing it ourselves is I'm always guaranteed to loose those extra pounds that have some how accumulated around my waistline. I lost 14 lbs during our last move and I still ate whatever I wanted.

PLACE - It's amazing how you can take your stuff, put it in a new spot, and it looks completely different. This is the fun part of moving for me. I like mixing up decorations and having new spots to hang pictures and paintings. It helps me to enjoy them in a whole new way.

PLEASURE - Once we've prayed about the move, picked a new house, purged our old things, packed our belongings and placed them in our new house, it's time to find pleasure. Finding pleasure in our new home will start with prayers of thanksgiving. Telling God how thankful we are that He's provided a new place for us to call home. Asking Him to fill every room with His presence and give us many wonderful new experiences that will be treasured for a life time.

Yes, It's official... we are moving. Although I've dreaded this day and prayed that it would never come, I have to constantly remind myself of the passage God gave me several weeks ago. It was on that very unusual day, when this particular couple, who is now purchasing our home, knocked on our door unexpectedly and asked to see our house. After they left, I sat in my favorite chair, feeling all alone, and questioning God's plan for our future. During those few moments, God brought me to an unfamiliar place in scripture but revealed a very powerful and personal truth to my heart. A truth that I needed to hear then and would tightly hold onto for the weeks and months to come. Yes, He is so faithful!

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.
2 Samuel 7: 11

Monday, August 17, 2009

See-Saw Summer

One week from today our Summer break will be officially over. By 6:00am my children will be tumbling out of bed, my husband will be getting dressed to take them to the bus stop, and I'll be in the kitchen making breakfast and packing lunches. Just thinking about it makes me a little sad. The last three months have gone by so fast and as I take time to reflect, the best words to describe our Summer break would be a wild seesaw ride.

When I first think of the word seesaw, I instantly imagine two children alternately riding up and down while seated on opposite ends of a plank that is balanced in the middle but Webster's dictionary has some other definitions for seesaw:

1. an up and down, back and forth movement or procedure.

2. to keep changing one's decision, opinion, or attitude; vacillate

Our family has experienced moments this Summer that have been exciting, joy-filled, and left us with wonderful lasting memories. I call these our see-saw Ups. We have also had some situations and circumstances that have been extremely difficult and challenging. Ones that have left us discouraged, fearful and questioning God's plan for our lives. I call these our see-saw Downs.

Here are just a few...

Up: Our nephew, David, decided to come live with us during his college break. He's been such a joy. Somehow he has this amazing way of keeping Brody and Carson from getting on each others' last nerve.

Down: Two days before school let out, I hurt myself playing tennis and tore a bunch of ligaments in my foot. I spent the first four weeks of our Summer break on complete bed rest, crutches and visits to my physical therapist.

Up: Our oldest son, Brody, went on a mission trip with Testify (a city wide youth choir). While on tour, he had some incredible life changing experiences and spiritually grew closer in his relationship with God.

Down: My husband, Keith, didn't get the big construction project he had worked so hard on. The potential client picked someone else which meant no income for us.... again.

Up: Our son, Carson, went on his very first away camp to Look Up Lodge. Although he was very hesitant about being away from us, he returned home with a huge smile on his face and says he wants to go back next year.

Down: We have a couple from California interested in buying our home. Now I know that your thinking "this is an Up not a Down" but not really. This was our dream home and secretly I prayed that we would be able to stay here for many, many years. Our family has so many wonderful memories living on the lake. The thought of leaving instantly brings me to tears.

Up: My sister is flying in today for a week long visit. I'm really excited and looking forward the time we'll have together.

Down: We had to cancel our family trip to Washington D.C. because I wouldn't be able to walk around on my injured foot. This decision left me with serious mommy guilt that I've had to work through.

Up: We rented a mountain cabin with friends and went to the Biltmore Estate instead. We had a fantastic time, relaxed with friends, and saved a LOT of money too.

Yep, I can honestly say it has been a see-saw summer for our family. We have certainly had our Ups and Downs experiences. We have gone back and forth on many big decisions that will drastically effect our future. We have been guilty of changing our opinion about certain people and certain things. We've had good and bad attitudes and vacillated multiple times on what direction we should go.

Yet something wonderful has come out of this See-Saw Summer. Through all the Ups and Downs, I can honestly say that we did see the hand of God move in our lives this Summer. We have watched as He has orchestrated our circumstances for good. In the center of this crazy ride, we saw doors open and situations unfold which confirmed His love for us. God's daily provision has guided us through some very rough waters.

Although we changed our opinions about people, went back and forth with our attitudes and emotions, and vacillated a lot; God never changed His opinion about us and never vacillated about he plan for our future.

Yes, it certainly has been a See-Saw Summer.

One that has brought our family closer together.

One that has strengthened our marriage.

One that has drawn us to a place of dependence.

One that has lead us to the feet of Jesus where we have found rest, renewal, and strength.

One that our family will never forget.

Lord, who am I am what is my family that you would have brought us this far?
2 Samuel 7:18

Monday, July 27, 2009

When the Load is Heavy

Just last week I had decided that it was time to clean out my office. I had collected way too many telephone books, pamphlets, magazines, books, and office supplies over the last year. If you'd look at my office, it would appear very tidy and clean... from a distance. What you wouldn't see is plethora of stuff hidden underneath my desk, in cabinet drawers and my office closet. Hidden but still there.

I went to the kitchen to retrieve a huge black trash bag, the 30 gallon hefty size, and returned to my office. It took about an hour to completely fill the trash bag. Through the process, I was amazed at how much stuff I had collected. Papers that were once considered very important to me where no long useful or needed. Books that I thought I'd want forever but no longer cared to keep. Pamphlets and magazines that I just had to have but were now dust collectors. Just STUFF that was taking up space.

I felt such a sense of freedom when I tied the knot on my completely full trash bag. It was as if I had shed 10 pounds of weight from my life. I went to carry the bag out to the trash but when I went to lift it up, I realized just how heavy it was. My office is in my basement, which meant I'd have to carry the bag up a long flight of stairs. This was not going to be an easy task.

As I headed for the stairway, Carson came running down the stairs to see where I had been for the last 60 minutes. When he saw me lugging the trash bag, he quickly say "Mom, let me get that for you."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Good Idea vs. A God Idea - Part 2

Yesterday, I shared with you about the unexpected guests that showed up at my door the other day. It was a Realtor and potential client that were coming to view our home, which has been on the market for several months. I had no advance notice that they were coming and our home was in no way shape or form ready for this surprise showing.

After their little visit, I plopped down into my favorite chair and began asking God a bunch of questions. I sat and prayed for a while then pulled out my bible and began to read some scripture verses that had become my favorites over the last couple of weeks.

I started to think about all the stories I had recently heard from friends and relatives who were trying to sell, refinance or buy a new home. I wondered if we would be able to get financing since Keith is self employed. I wondered if finding another house meant our boys would have to switch schools. I thought about all the hard work involved in moving. The more I thought, the more discouraged I became.

I glanced back down at my bible and flipped through several pages in the book of Psalms. I some how ended up in 2 Samuel 7. It was there that I read a story about King David and how he longed to build a house for the Lord. It would be the permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. When I read verse 11, it was as if a light went off in my head;

"The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you"

This verse in my bible was already highlighted, which meant I had read it before but today it had an entirely new and personal meaning to me. God was confirming in His Word that He would establish a house for us. I didn't need to wonder why God has allowed this untimely visit.
I didn't need to worry about where we would live next. I didn't need to know all the details. All I needed to do was trust that He would take care of us. Here was my confirmation, right smack in the middle of 2 Samuel, that He would establish a home for us to live in.

What about your current situation? What area in your life are you asking God to establish for you? Here, try filling in the blanks below;

"The Lord declares to __________ that the Lord Himself will establish a ______ for you.

Maybe it's a new job you've been looking for.

Maybe it's a restored marriage.

Maybe it's a better relationship with your child.

Maybe it's a financial miracle.

Maybe it's your calling.

Whatever your situation. No matter what struggles you are facing. Trust God and know that He is establishing something good and everlasting in your life. You don't need to know all the details. Walk in faith, one step at a time, confidently knowing that whatever He establishes cannot be taken away or destroyed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Good Idea vs. A God Idea - Part 1

Well, our house has been on the market for three months now. When we originally listed our home with a realtor, I told my husband, "Don't expect it to sell overnight." At that time, I had no idea how true those words would be.

In the past, when we would decide to sell a home, we never used a realtor. We'd just stick a sign in our front yard and within two weeks a contract would be signed. Assuming the same thing would happen with our existing home was a big mistake.

Although I absolutely love our home and would like nothing more than to stay here forever, our finances or lack there of, has required us to make this difficult move.

Last Friday, we received an unexpected knock at our door. My husband had fallen asleep on our bed and I was folding a mound of clothes that some how ended up on my laundry table. The kids were out playing with friends and I hadn't gotten around to making my bed or straightening up around the house.

As I walked to the door, I could see two women standing on my front porch, peeking in through the glass windows. As I opened the door, I noticed that one was wearing a badge with her name on it. At first, I thought they were selling something but as the introductions were made, I could feel the muscles in the back of my neck begin to tighten.

These two women were actually a realtor and potential client that wanted to see our home... at that very moment! No notice. No advanced call saying that they were coming over. No scheduled appointment. Just a knock at the door and a simple request. Well, actually, it wasn't simple at all. I politely asked them to walk around the yard and give me a few minutes to tidy up. Then I flew into the bedroom, woke up Keith out of what appeared to be a very deep sleep and started shoving everything that was misplaced into dresser drawers and closets. Keith ran upstairs, while scratching his head in confusion, only to find that the kids hadn't made their beds either and the game room was an absolute mess!

While panic and pandemonium set in, I kept telling myself, "Just stay calm, just stay calm, just stay calm." The doorbell rang again and there they were, peeking through my windows again.

As I let them in, I apologized profusely and explained that I hadn't gotten around to cleaning up yet. I had a smile on my face but deep down inside, I was completely mortified. No woman wants unexpected company when their house is a wreck... at least, not this women.

The showing only lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like a hour. As I showed them around, the potential client peeked inside all of our closets and storage space. She even had a camera and was taking pictures.

As they left, I thanked them for coming and politely waved good-bye. I then calmly closed the door, walked into my kitchen, looked up to my ceiling with my hands waving and said "What was that for?" I walked over and plopped down into my cozy prayer chair. It was time for God and I to have a talk and I planned to do most the talking

"I just don't get it," I told Him. " You know that we're trying to put our best foot forward to sell our home. We want it to look perfect whenever a client or realtor comes over. We know that each showing is critical and could potentially be the sale we've been waiting for. Why would you allow someone to come over, totally unexpected, when our house is a mess? Is this what you wanted?"

Tomorrow, I'll share with you what God shared with me, after my little temper tantrum. But for now, let me ask you, does God ever do things so totally unexpected that you raise up your hands to Him and say "What was that for?"

Do you often times feel like you have a good plan or idea, one that is all perfect and tidy. Yet, along comes God, only to throw, what seems at the time, a wrench in everything?

Could it be that your good idea is not a God idea? Could it be that what seems to be His will is not His will at all? Could it be that your plan doesn't line up to His plan for you at all?

I'd love to hear what you think...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Table Talk - Part Two

"Slow down, your eating to fast!"

I was shocked as I watched my youngest son, Carson, scarfing down his food as if he hadn't eaten in a week.

Once again, it was dinner time. I had spent the last two hours preparing a southern style, home cooked meal, if I say so myself. Keith and I were still in the kitchen preparing our plates with all those delicious sides when I turned to see Carson "in motion". His fork was moving so fast, from his plate to his mouth, that it looked like some sort of new aerobic bicep exercise.

He spotted my glaring eyes, which by the way, my family calls the "burn a hole right through ya glare" and immediately smiled with that "oops, I'm busted" look on his face. He quickly put his fork down and by this time everyone was at the dinner table waiting for me. So, I returned to the task at hand - fixing my plate and heading towards the table.

As I got closer, I spotted Carson's plate and it was completely empty. We hadn't even said grace yet! Needless to say, I was completely frustrated. I asked Carson why he had eaten his dinner so fast and he said, "Mom, there's this great show on and I want to watch it. Can I be excused now?" I looked at Keith to see his response. Surely he'd say no. Instead, Keith gave Carson the nod and off he went to watch his t.v. show.

At that moment, I decided this wasn't a battle I was willing to fight. Although I didn't agree with Keith's decision, I realized this request was an exception and not the norm. Still, I felt a little sad all through dinner. I really wanted Carson to spend time with us as a family. This was our table talk time and I had been looking forward to it.

When dinner was over with and I was cleaning up the dishes, God whispered in my heart " Leah, I know your disappointed that Carson rushed through dinner so that he could watch t.v.. It's like when you rush through your quiet time with me to start on your to-do list for the day." Ouch!

Although it hurt, it was completely true. Often times, I do rush through my devotion time to get other things accomplished. I'm so anxious to move onto the next task at hand, as if my time with the Lord is a line item on my to-do list that needs to be checked off. To think that the God of the Universe sets aside time to spend with me and I'm so "busy" that I don't have time to be with him.

Do you find yourself rushing through your quiet time too?

Is your mind easily distracted with other thoughts when your trying to read through scripture?

Do you ever drift off into la la land while praying?

I'd love to know if you struggle with these things too.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Table Talk - Part One

One one my favorite things to do as a family is eat dinner together. With our crazy schedule, we rarely have breakfast or lunch as a family but dinner is different. We make it an absolute priority to be together around 6:00 p.m. every evening. It's become a wonderful tradition in our home that everyone looks forward too. In fact, even when Keith is traveling, the boys will ask just to make sure, "we are going to have dinner together, right?"

This dinner tradition is so important to us that when sports season rolls around, we often delay dinner until practice is over with. Many times this means eating at 8:00 or even 9:00 at night. My kids don't mind. They like staying up later on school nights. They think that's really cool. Now that we're in summer mode, I don't mind either.

There is just something special about sitting around the dinner table and talking about what everyone did that day. The most amazing conversations can be stirred by a simple question such as "What was the best part of your day?" or "What part of the day didn't you like?".

As parents, Keith and I have found ourselves in unexpected yet thankful moments when one of those questions will burst open a conversation where our children express their hidden dreams, secret hurts and even lingering fears about a particular topic. All this via a simple dinner conversation.

I once read a statistic which stated that families that ate together on a regular basis had better relationships and their children were more likely to stay out of trouble. This is not the reason why we have dinner together as a family every night but it sure is very encouraging.

When we've finished eating, most of the time we pull out a book which I purchased from Focus on the Family years ago. It kid friendly questions about the bible. Our boys take turns reading a question and then ask everyone at the table what they think the answer is. After everyone has gotten a chance to share their answer, one of our boys reads the correct answer and corresponding bible verse.

This produces even more question like "Well, what about this..." or "That's not what so-and-so thinks!" or "I thought the bible said this...?"

It's a lot of fun and we consider this our family devotion time. After all, we're all together, enjoying food and each others' company. I think it's the perfect setting for teaching God's principles to our children.

When we've completed our discussion on that particular question, one our boys put the date next to it as a reminder that we already covered it for future reference. One day this book will be completely filled with dates. Now that will be awesome!

There are some things I LOVE about our dinners together or what I like to call table talk. Tomorrow I'll share with you what I don't like about it.