Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Suck The Joy Right Out Of Everything

I suck the Joy right out of everything. I do. It's just that way with me.  I have even adopted the motto, "It's not about having fun....It's about making memories." I have got some lucky kids, huh?  People laugh when I say that, and I am not sure if it's because they're impressed that I am actually admitting something they already know and the awkwardness of the moment causes them to giggle or because they think I am kidding....but I'm not. I am so Type-A that I tend to take any fun/adventure/Joy out of most situations that stray from our normal schedule.  My poor husband, he asks me regularly where my self-destruct button is and he is only half kidding.  He challenges me. He stretches me. He invites me into the craziness of life with a smile and an amazing sense of adventure & humor. He is a much better teacher than I am a student.  With him as a dad, my kids really ARE lucky :)

Ok, back to my point. Joy-Sucking....This really is one area of my life that I am daily challenged in. I am not content to live a life void of Joy, I am just not very good at living one (yet).  I have tried different ways to counter act this in the past and I have found that living a life of actively Giving Thanks is the most effective way for me to do just that.  I do well with this for a while and then I settle back into routine and old (bad) habits creep back in. I forget to thank God daily and profess His goodness throughout my day and my Joy slowly fades away.  In January I started the Joy Dare with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience and have failed miserably in keeping up with it, mostly because I do not log into my blog everyday to update it. I am taking that tab down today and doing some serious revamping. (I will post more about that tomorrow.)

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things." ~ Philippians 4:8

I was challenged in a new way yesterday as I read through Lil Blue Boo's website. You remember the one I told you about the other day...the one with all the amazing tutorials?  Well, I sat down to scour her site for inspiration and that is EXACTLY what I found, but not just the crafty kind.  I opened her main page and saw this stunning picture of a woman that looked a lot like Ashley H. (The owner/editor/designer for Lil Blue Boo) with a shaved head and a headline that read The Cancer Chronicles. I was immediately intrigued and my first thought was, "How cool, she shaved her head in support of someone with cancer."  I decided to click on the first post only to find myself completely enthralled with the telling of her story and her battle with a rare form of cancer. 

I read through 11 months of blog posts in a day. I was amazed and inspired.  I laughed a lot, too which is odd to say when you are talking about reading the story of someone's battle with cancer, but it's true. My husband came home from work and I was glued to the computer, laughing out loud every so often and he finally said, "What are you doing?", I reply, "Oh just reading this blog about a woman that has cancer." *Silence* I know he thought I had lost it then, but I read out loud to him for a few minutes and he understood.  Yes, Ashley H. has cancer.  She has cancer and a GREAT sense of humor.....and a sweet family, a thriving business, tons of talent, looks uh-MAZ-ing without hair, has an incredible and undeniable faith in Christ and His plan for her life, awesome friends, and JOY.  In fact, her motto is "Choose Joy" (Way better than mine...poor kids! Lol.) 

Please remember to pray for her as her body heals from the ravages of cancer & chemo.  Pray for her family and business to thrive in every way. Pray that the cancer will never return and that God will bless them with more children whether by adoption or surrogacy.  Consider supporting her by visiting her Shop or Facebook page, and please-please-PLEASE do yourself a favor and read through The Cancer Chronicles. You will be blessed and challenged.  I feel renewed today and empowered to make the choice to count my blessings & Choose Joy. To choose it and share it and live it.  So, thanks Ashley for sharing your story.  I kinda wish we were neighbors, I'd bring you a donut....or 12 :)

This Post is linked up at:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ah, The Sock Bunny

My Sock Bunnies :)

I saw these a while back at an arts & crafts show and my kids instantly fell in love with them. I was certain I could make them for less than the $15.00 price tag but I wasn't completely sure how.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found an amazing and FREE tutorial by Lil Blue Boo.  

I decided yesterday was the day to whip out a few of these as Max is going on a trip soon to visit family and wants to bring gifts for some of the kids. I had all the supplies needed to make these and thought they would be great for the younger girls, so away I went. The bunny in the middle was the last one I made and it is by far the best. I am still trying to finish the nose on the green-eyed bunny, but I am using thread instead of embroidery floss so it has been a bit a challenge. Oh well, that keeps life interesting, right?

I am very pleased with how well these turned out and I plan to make more as soon as I gather up some more knee-highs. I have lots of nieces with birthdays this summer :) And to be honest, my boys are a little jealous ;)

Want to make some of these yourself ? Be sure to check out the Sock Bunny Tutorial  (or any of her other amazing projects) at Lil Blue Boo. You will be so glad you did!

This post is linked up at

Friday, June 1, 2012

For Ryan

My Childhood Best Friend, Melis & I
Graduation Day June 9, 2002
10 years ago on a sunny day in June, I stood before my family & friends and proudly accepted my High School Diploma.  I have lived a lot of life in those 10 years, and for the last 6 I have had the pleasure honor of being your Aunt.  Tonight, we will gather together to celebrate your accomplishments and usher you into life as an official all-grown-up-ready-take-on-the-world adult as you accept your own hard-earned Diploma.  I have thought a lot about this day all year, and although I am one of the newest additions to your amazing family, I know it will be an emotional roller coaster for us all. 

There seems like so much to say, and I know that this Summer leading up to College is going to be a blur, so I thought I would get it all out here.  A few months ago, I wrote here about living life as a Champion, and let me assure you that this day qualifies.  We are so proud of you and will be here cheering you on through every new accomplishment and trial.  I don't sit here today claiming to know everything, but I have learned a few lessons in my life and I think they are worth sharing.

#1.  Life doesn't turn on you overnight.  The slippery slope of life very rarely gives way all at once.  It starts with one small compromise at a time. Just as a road slowly washes away after each hard rain and eventually erodes away to nothing, the path of our lives can diminish the very same way.  Compromise is a dangerous and slow process.  You must be diligent in your Faith and careful of your steps to avoid the snare that compromise can bring.  My first (and seemingly insignificant) step on the path of compromise was dating a non-Christian at 17. Within a year, I was a frightened 18 year old with a newborn in my arms and trapped in a volatile relationship.  I never dreamed that this was the way my life would turn out. I was too strong, too smart for that.  I couldn't see the danger that lay ahead and the drastic change that small compromises can make if given enough time. Only by the Grace of God, was I able to get help and start the process of restoring my life.

#2.  God's Grace is Incalculable.  This is one I am still learning.  God's promises never expire. He is patient and His timing is perfect.  Eric is the fulfillment of a promise from God made to me as a little girl.  The promise that someday I would be a Dancer. I was made to be a Dancer.  I never understood what this promise meant, and frustration set in over the years as I tried to make this dream come true on my own. I had planned to attend TCU and enroll in their dance program when I got pregnant with Max.  I was devastated and certain that God had forgotten me, or that I had heard Him wrong.  I gave up, but He never did. His plan for my life never changed and I am so thankful. God's will for our lives is always for the best, even when it doesn't look that way.

#3.  This is only the beginning.  Your parents have done an amazing job raising you & Brad. (I pray our kids turn out half as good as you 2!)  I am so thankful that my boys have you as a role model. You are dedicated, hard working and genuine. You inspire those around you to be better.  Today, we recognize your accomplishment of finishing High School and in essence, an ending to childhood.  But, mostly we celebrate the beginning of your life as an adult. The chance to go out and conquer life and all it has to offer.  Don't lose sight of what is important in life and know that we will always be here for you.  Don't worry too much about the details, just cling to Christ and enjoy the ride!

"Heavenly Father,
I pray a blessing today over Ryan and his fellow graduates. I pray that you would give each of them clear direction and the courage to live a life that glorifies You.  Thank you for your goodness and faithfulness in my own life and for all the ways I know you will show Yourself to these young men and women. Draw each one to you and give them people in their lives to keep them accountable and edified.  Lord, please guard their hearts against compromise and the wooing of this world. Amen."

We love you, Ryan and we couldn't be more proud! Love, Ashley

Friday, May 25, 2012

Grace, Mercy and The Twins

"Every secret, every shame, every fear, every pain, live inside the dark-but that's not who we are.
We are children of the day." ~Kari Jobe, We Are

Grace and Mercy seem to be a recurring theme in my life these days.  I have been thinking and praying about them a lot...the need for them, the reminder of them and learning to accept them both is a daily struggle around here.  It seems every lesson in my life recently is followed by these 2 truths.  I can't deny my need for these amazing gifts, but I can't seem to wrap my mind around them either. 

Maybe it's because everywhere I go, I take their twins with me. Their evil twins. You know the ones....Guilt and Shame.  You notice I said "take them with me".  Carrying around Guilt and Shame is a choice, just as choosing to walk in Grace and Mercy are, and yet...I feel stuck between the two. It should be a no-brainer, right?  Walking in Grace and Mercy or under a cloud of Guilt, weighed down by Shame.....hmmmmmm. Decisions, decisions.

I hope you sense my sarcasm here, but honestly - when I sit back and examine objectively the two sides I am baffled at times as to why I have a hard time choosing the beautifully wrapped gift that Christ has laid before me fresh and new each morning.  My feet hit the floor and I throw on my dirty old rags instead of the beautiful robe He wants to adorn me with. 

I mean think about it, if my husband came home everyday with a present for me "just because" I would be thrilled. I wouldn't hit him with a list of questions, seeking out his ulterior motives and reminding him of all the not-so-wonderful things I have done in our marriage and try to talk him out of showering me with love.  God is no different. He wants to cover us with love and blessings.  He wants nothing more than fellowship with us. He wakes us up every morning to a beautiful sunrise and the chance to start fresh. He offers us Grace and Mercy strings attached.
"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

I have spent the last few weeks doing my mental gymnastics and trying to get a handle on this, and I have come to realize that (at least for me) there is a third part to this equation...Humility and Vulnerability.  In order for me to throw off the Guilt & Shame and walk in Grace & Mercy, I must be Humble (make mistakes, ask forgiveness, rely on Christ)  & Vulnerable (drop my guard, accept criticism or judgement, make myself susceptible to heartbreak or disappointment). Sounds like fun, yeah?  I didn't think so, either. 

A few weeks back, my amazing friend Brittany at My ABC Soup was sharing some of her testimony with our Monday Morning study group and she said something that has been playing over & over in my head and is helping to change my perspective on this matter.  "It is not who you are that holds you back, it's who you THINK you're not."  I am sure this is a re-quote and not an ABC original, but none-the-less, I had never heard it before and it has completely shifted the way I think about things....this topic in particular.

The fact of the matter is, the person I think I'm not is who I really want to be.  Free, Joyful, Holy, Humble, Gracious, Patient and yes, even Vulnerable for the Glory of Christ.  I can't be these things on my own, I need Christ DAILY.  I need to pick up His precious truths and adorn myself with them before anything else. I need to meditate on and trust in His word.  Because the truth is, He sees exactly who I am.  He sees His daughter, beautiful & blameless, bought for a price, an heir to the throne. 

I just love this new song by Kari Jobe, she sings beautifully and I love the reminder here to let our Light shine :)  We all have something to offer (even when we think we don't) and it is more attractive than anything this world can sell SHINE!

This post is linked up at

Yes, I'm still alive.

It has been an unacceptable (almost) 2 months since I last posted. I promise I am still alive and kicking, just a little undone these days. I have a few posts in the works that I have been mentally preparing for a while now and hope to have them up this week, plus a few crafty things I have been working on and an update on our Holiday weekend :) 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday + No School = A Great Day!

I was pretty excited when I realized that there there was no school on Good Friday this year.  Don't get me wrong, a day off from our normal morning routine is always welcome, but I was so glad to have a day with my kids to really focus on Easter and what we were are celebrating before all the busy-ness of the weekend takes over. 

We have made Resurrection Rolls every year, and this year was no exception so we started the morning off with an old favorite. I have included a short tutorial below in case these are new to you!
First, you need to gather your ingredients: 1 can of refrigerator crescent rolls, marshmallows, melted butter or margarine and cinnamon/sugar mix.

Roll the marshmallow in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar mix.  Explain that the marshmallow represents the body of Christ being prepared and anointed with oils & spices.

Next, place the marshmallow onto 1 section of the dough and wrap it tight to represent Christ's body being wrapped in fine linens before being placed into the tomb. 
(I let the kids wrap their own, but then went back and tried to pinch together all the seams, so the marshmallow wouldn't leak out.)

You then place your prepared rolls into the tomb (oven) and bake according to the directions on the package.

Finally, remove from oven, let cool and break open to reveal the tomb is empty and Christ is Risen!

This is a really quick & easy way to show young kids the story of Easter and we love it. Our rolls took about 12 minutes to bake, so I read the Easter story from the Gospel of Mark while we waited for them to finish. Logan is still a little young for this, but Max is plenty old enough to sit still for a few minutes and think about the true meaning of Easter. I hope you find the time to do this project with your kidlets this weekend!

I have seen several versions of an Easter Garden online recently (Thank you, Pinterest), but I have never made one, so I decided that this would be the year to make these adorable creations.  That being said, I planned on actually starting this project weeks ago so that I could use real grass seed for a real garden where something actually grows....but I dropped the ball.  I never did get the grass seed or soil, so last night I ran to our local Dollar Tree store and picked up some moss to use instead.  I think they still turned out great!

Here is another quick tutorial for our Easter gardens if you are interested in making one of your own. For each garden, you need 1 shallow tray or dish, 1 small pot, small rocks or pebbles, moss, poms poms, 1 decorative butterfly and a hot glue gun.

I was able to get all my supplies at the Dollar Tree, so we were able to make 3 full gardens for only $6.00!

First off, we decided to paint our trays with some spray paint I had on hand because they were clear and had bright orange stickers on the side that I couldn't get off.

Next, I attached each pot (which came in gray, how perfect!) to the tray using a hot glue gun and then let the kids spread rocks around the front half of their tray.

Once each of them had the rocks laid out, I helped them spread moss around the back half of the tray and then covered the top of the pot with hot glue and spread more moss on top.  I didn't glue everything down, partly for time's sake and mostly because I would like to disassemble them as much as possible to store and re-use them next year.

Finally, I let the boys pick out which pom poms they wanted me to use to make their caterpillar out of, hot glued them together and placed them in the pot.

I still need to look around today for something to use as the stone in front of the tomb, so that we can close it up and wait for Easter morning when a beautiful butterfly will emerge to replace the caterpillar as a sign of the Resurrection and new life!

I had a lot of fun with this project and I think the boys did, too! 


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review (Finally): The Good Wife's Guide: Embracing Your Role as a Help Meet

First of all, let me just say I am a big fan of Darlene Schacht and her ministry to women around the world, so I knew I would like this book....but I REALLY liked this book.  I was originally drawn to her blog a year or so ago because of it's title, "Time-Warp Wife".  I have said several times in the course of my marriage that I was born in the wrong era, that I would fit in much better as a housewife in the 1950's.  I don't say this because I am dying for a pink Cadillac, believe it's perfectly acceptable to vacuum in heels, or secretly hope the bee-hive makes a comeback. 

Candace Cameron-Bure wrote the foreword for this book and I believe she hits the nail on the head when she states, "I believe that families would be stronger today if we as women took back our femininity and invested more of our strength and power in our family."  To me, that is the difference between the 1950's housewife and now.  As a society in the 1950's we were still in touch with and accepting of the Biblical guidelines set for families and today our priorities are vastly different.  Men were men and women were women....and it was acceptable to appreciate the difference.

I understand that this book won't make everyone happy, especially those women out there adamantly fighting for women's liberation, but I agree wholeheartedly with Darlene's message. It is one based on Biblical principles and that is one thing that I don't want to be liberated from....TRUTH.  I knew after reading just the foreword and the introduction that Darlene and Candace both shared my heart about marriage and mothering.  In the introduction, Darlene writes, "As a Christian, I accept the Word of God to be true, and each time I apply it to my life I quickly discover that there is a good reason God put it there. His wisdom exceeds mine."  And in the foreword Candace so accurately states, "God created men and woman equally but differently.  He gave us separate roles that are of equal importance but different performance."  If you can also agree with these 2 statements and have a heart to grow as a wife and mother, you'll love this book, too!

Darlene's book is full of encouragement for all women in varying stages of life.  She sees no difference between a working mom, single mom, or stay at home mom. She encourages all women to make family their priority despite their present circumstances and encourages us not to compare one to another.  "That doesn't mean that we can't have our own interests or earn extra money, but it does mean that we are to prioritize family because that's what love does." (Pg. 32)  It's true that sometimes mom has to go to work.  That doesn't make a woman "less-than" or "disqualified", whether we work or stay home is not what defines us.  The Proverbs 31 woman is heralded for her service to her family but even she bought and sold, toiled and worked.  The point is not what you choose to do for work and if it comes attached to a paycheck.  What makes a good mother, a great help meet and a happy woman is the heart she has for her family.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of information, insightful analogies and scriptural encouragement found within the pages of The Good Wife's Guide.  I was blessed by the honesty and vulnerability Darlene possesses and her willingness to share with us.  More than that, she doesn't just leave you with some feel good stories and a can-do attitude, she is constantly leading us back to scripture and to Christ where our true strength is found.  I am thankful for women like Darlene, for the talents Christ has blessed them with and for the courage it takes to lay bare their hearts for the edification of others.

Darlene was also kind enough to include a whole section at the end of her book dedicated to the "how-to" of homemaking.  She includes organizing tips & tricks and some great cleaning schedules.  I would encourage you to order your own copy of this book.  I know you will be blessed by all she has to say, and her ministry is definitely worth supporting. 

*I did receive a complimentary copy of this book in return for my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.  Thank you!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My First Review!!!

I just received my copy of  Darlene Schacht's new book, "The Good Wife's Guide: Embracing Your Role as a Help Meet".  I am so excited for this book and to share my thoughts with you as soon as I finish it! Stay tuned for the full review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Valentine Your Husband Won't Throw Away

I know this an odd way to start a post on Valentine's Day, but let me just say that I am so thankful for the women in my life.  I have great friends that are in the trenches of toddler-hood right along with me and some amazing women that have been there, done that and are enjoying their grandchildren, and of course a great many that are somewhere in between.  I appreciate the perspective and encouragement these women bring to my life. 

I need mom friends that have grown children and can encourage me to enjoy each day and assure me that I will miss all the craziness of today. I also need mommies to share potty training horror stories with and to call for prayer when I have locked myself in the bathroom for a "mommy time out".  And sometimes, the friends I need the most are the ones that aren't quite finished with raising their little ones, but are just far enough down the road to convince me to keep going. Amen?

Ok, that being said, the following post is an outline given to me by an older, wiser woman a year or so ago about how to really write a love letter to your husband. It has been a blessing to me and I hope it helps you, too!

The Valentine Your Husband Won't Throw Away

Our goal today is to write a letter to our husbands that will communicate to him our love in a way that touches his heart.  We want to use words that speak love to him.

Take a minute and write down several things you respect about your husband.  It's not easy, because we don't think like they do.  We need to look at our basic differences so we can understand what respect really means and apply it to our lives.  

This is an important concept.  When we show our husbands respect, it motivates him to love us God's way!  It draws him to us!! Did you hear that?  Read it again. When we show our husbands respect, it motivates him to love us God's way and it draws him to us.

Our husbands need to hear how we respect him, expressed as just that.  Make a list, "I respect you for...."  Keep in mind his masculine characteristics.

Are you READY?  Write him a LOVE LETTER and use the word Respect.  Tell him in words he will understand.  When you touch his heart, he will bend over backwards to show his love to you!
You could say something like, "I really respect you for ________", "I admire you for ___________", "Signed respectfully, ______________", "The one who admires you, ________________".

A big word of caution.  You are going to get a very positive reaction if you choose to speak his language to him so it needs to be from your heart and not just a one time thing.  Trust me, if you pray about it and continue to grow in this area, your marriage will be so richly blessed! It may feel like you are manipulating him, but if you are honest in what you write, and your only intention is to have a better marriage, I assure you that you are not.  You are learning to speak his language. Your words will touch his heart, just as his "sweet nothings" can touch yours.

I admittedly only wrote one love letter like this to my husband, however; I have let this advice change the way I communicate with my husband on a daily basis. This small piece of advice has enriched our marriage in so many ways.  I have been blessed to learn how to better communicate with Eric, and learned to avoid many arguments that had centered around him feeling disrespected at times because of my approach to certain things.  I love my husband. He makes me feel safe, secure, loved and cherished. Why wouldn't I want him to feel the same?

So, if you have waited until the last minute to think about Valentine's Day (or not), why not take a few minutes and write him a love letter now? I promise you will not be disappointed, and neither will he!

Today's post is linked up with Time-Warp Wife

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Year of the Surgery

It started with Logan in April, then Max in August and now my sweet little Maggie in February. What a long 12 months this has been. 
I vividly remember the exhaustion of all those trips to Doernbecher.  I spent the better part of the month of April between pre & post operation appointments, way too many hours in the car, and trying to simultaneously comfort an unsure 2.5 year old boy with one arm while nursing my barely 2 week old baby with the other. 

Max's surgery to remove his tonsils was much less tiring in many ways, but I was not at all prepared for the recovery time and process. There was very little sleep for either of us the first week after the procedure.

Now, here we are 10 months later and I can't sleep the night before Maggie's surgery.  She is (finally) getting tubes in her ears after 4 months and 12+ ear infections. My poor girl needs relief, and so do I! 

I am so thankful for all the ways the Lord has provided for us this year and given us more grace for one another as we have been stretched to our limits & navigated these trials.  I praise God daily that my children are (for the most part) healthy and we do not have to wake up everyday and face losing one of them to a disease.  I know all too many mommas that do, or have. 
That being said, I am more than ready to say good-bye to "The Year of the Surgery" and (hopefully) hello to "The Year of Great Sleep".  Hey! A momma can dream, right!?!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bleary Eyed & Battle Weary

The last 3 weeks or so of this momma's life have been full and long.  I have been to at least a dozen doctor's appointments, comforted my sweet baby girl through 4 ear infections, made 3 visits to an ENT, 2 visits to Urgent Care, collected one "sample" (yuk), had to cancel a much needed date night, spent hours in prayer and had way too many nights with little to no sleep.  I am battle weary. I am tired. 

I have missed out on the quiet of nap time, since Maggie has been too fussy most of the time to really rest. I have missed blogging, having coffee with friends, talking on the phone with my mom, sewing, spending alone time with my husband and the list goes on.  I have sacrificed and I have cried out in frustration. But I have realized something.  As much as I try, I can't have it all.  At least not all in the same season.

  To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
8 A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8~

What a comfort this passage has been to me. I almost always hear it at funerals.  When time is gone and we are searching for comfort to see us through the days ahead. But only recently have I considered the application of these verses to my everyday life.  What about the days we only feel dead, but our hearts are still beating? The days that seem so dark and long and full that we aren't sure we will live to see the sun rise?  Don't we need these verses then, too?  I do. Maybe even more. 

I can't have Spring flowers in the dead of winter any more than I can have an immaculate house with kids at home.  I can try my best, count my blessings and enjoy the season I am in now...whether the brightest Summer day or the darkest Winter night. Someday I will be able to write in peace, use the bathroom alone or have an uninterrupted phone call and I am certain that I will wish for just one more day of craziness.  A too-loud house full of wrestling boys and up all night snuggling with my sick baby girl.

The days are still long and full. I am still bleary eyed & battle weary, but I am renewed at this thought. My heart is a little lighter as I head into tomorrow. I will enjoy this season and the next....and the next.  I will praise God for every one He gives and every way He uses them to minister and teach me more about who He is.  God is good.

This post is linked up at

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Student or Teacher?

A while back, a young woman in our congregation brought me a journal and explained that she was asking women in our church to write in it for her. She was hoping to gather bits of advice, encouragement and/or words of wisdom from those that had gone before her into this crazy world of womanhood.  Pretty smart of her, yeah? I thought so, too....what I couldn't figure out was why she was asking ME. 

I was a little taken back by the request and unsure of how to respond, so I laughed nervously and said, "Yeah, I'll take it, but if it's wisdom you're after you should ask....".  I didn't open it until I got home and only then did I realize just how little I had to offer.  There was great advice from Godly women already filling the pages and I only felt less adequate for the task at hand, so I avoided it.  I put it on my headboard and put it off until the ever-elusive "later". 

I am pretty sure I had that thing for months, all the while wrestling with the idea of it.  It wasn't so much that I couldn't come up with something to say, I just wasn't really sure that I should have been asked.  She was looking to those she deemed to be wise women, and I just didn't measure up. She had pages upon pages of advice from amazing women that had travelled much farther down this road than I.  Mothers and grandmothers, pastor's wives and missionaries, Titus 2 women and long time lovers of Christ.  What could I say that would be even remotely relevant or worthwhile compared to what these women had already shared?

You see, I was not much older than her when I decided that the plan God had for my life wasn't working out quite like I'd hoped and I could handle this life on my own.  I got pregnant with my oldest son, Max, that year. I was 17.  How could any advice I give to this girl be anything but hypocritical considering the choices I made at her age?  How could I encourage her to stay the course and follow Christ when I myself had been too weak to do so? I struggled with that one.  I cried out to God these same questions and for a while no answer came. 

And when the answer finally did come, it was one that surprised me.  God hadn't laid it on her heart to ask me because I had lived my life perfectly and made all the right choices, it was because I hadn't.  I wasn't being asked to measure up to the advice of other women or claim to have it all together.  I simply needed to share with her the Truth of my testimony and the words I wished someone would have shared with me at her age, had I been mature enough to ask. 

My life is a beautiful picture of God's grace.  He has redeemed me and made it more beautiful and blessed than I ever thought possible.  I am so thankful He decided that the tattered pieces of my life were worth His breath of life and that I have been made new.  I bet your redemption story is just as beautiful.  Whether you made it through life always walking the golden path, or like me have arrived to this day with a few more scars, you are loved & cherished just the same. 

Thank you, T, for asking to hear my "words of wisdom".  God has used you to stretch and grow me, to test my limits and increase my understanding of His love & mercy.  I am forever grateful ~A. Dancer

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Over or Do Better? - Gentleness Challenge Week 2

Here we are, heading into week 2 of The Gentleness Challenge.  How did your week go?  Anybody out there wishing for a "do over"?  I'm raising my hand!  That's not to say the week went horribly, but it sure didn't go perfectly.  I had some really great days and some not so great ones.  I have learned to recognize the time of day when I am most tired and pray up as those hours approach.  I feel like I had victory in some areas, like choosing playtime over household chores a few nights this week. It has alleviated a lot of irritability on my part and has helped give structure to our nighttime routine. Max has benefited from this the most.  He is much less whiny after school, because he knows that I will make time to sit down with him (and ignore the dishes, if necessary) before he goes to bed and do something fun.

"Yelling at a bud won't make it bloom"

That being said, I still have a LOT of work to do. I really liked what Courtney said on her original post, "Yelling at a bud won't make it bloom".  I read that, and think...duh! But isn't that the goal of parenting? To help our kids bloom and blossom into the person that God created them to be?  I cannot control or will a flower to bloom or grow by screaming at it anymore than I can my kids.  So why would I yell at them and expect different results? I think that might be the definition of insanity, folks.

I really appreciated the video that Courtney shared as well.  I tend to be the mom that nags and points outs faults. I don't want to be that mom. I want to speak words of life into my kids. I want them to know what Grace really means, and how in the world can they when I give them such a small margin for error?  I want to be more like the Lord and let my kindness lead to repentance.  I want them to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and for that to happen it may mean I have to step back a little and quiet down a lot.  They will never hear the Holy Spirit whispering to their hearts if I am screaming at them. Although I have been very encouraged by these realizations,  I am only now realizing how little self-control I have in this area. Grow me, Lord!

So, as much as I would like to erase the not-so-great mom moments of last week, that is just not the way life works. I think instead I will settle for a "do better", I will give myself & my kids more Grace and I will pray that we can learn from every success and failure in the future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday in November

Giving thanks is a habit, not just something we do once a year while we eat ourselves into oblivion.  It is a choice and a discipline, and it is not always easy.  Sure, when things are going well and all is right with my world, I am happy & thankful....but what about the hard days? The seasons in life when I am depressed, overwhelmed & exhausted? What about tragedies, heartbreak and loss? Do we give thanks then?  We should and we can.  Scripture tells us to "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you". (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I spent a lot of time dwelling on this verse last year.  As I prayed and asked God to help me be thankful, to Be Intentional about giving thanks, it became a little easier and made my life a whole lot better .  I know this change has come not in my own strength, but because of His power and my willingness to surrender this area of my life to Him.  I also know that this is a mindset that I need to renew daily in order to stay focused. 

That is why I am joining with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience in her Joy Dare, to count 1000 gifts in 2012.  She writes, "So I write it down –This crazy Joy Dare to do it all over again because I need it, to make this the habit before all the other habits — the joy habit — and count a full 1000 gifts in 2012. He deserves all my thanks and it’s impossible to give thanks and simultaneously feel fear."

Her writing is beautiful and inspiring and full of thanks.  I appreciate her honesty and her ability to see the gifts, the jewels hidden among the mundane of life, and to encourage us all to join in.  If you want to take the Joy Dare, to count 1000 gifts of your own in 2012, please click here to read more & download the Joy Dare Calendar for January.  Have a smart phone? Get the app here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Love is Patient, Love is Kind - Gentless Challenge Week 1

I am a yeller. I yell at my kids. Not all the time of course, but I short circuit some days & I yell.  I don't say this fact proudly as I am somehow justified in my actions. In fact, it comes with my head hung low, guilt in my heart and fear that I am not teaching them what love really is. That somehow my shortcomings in this area will cancel out or override the authenticity and depth of my love for them.  My kids know I am not perfect. Not only can they see it, I confess it to them...often.  There is no need to pretend.  I want them to know the truth, and the truth is that God is Love and in His mercy, He covers my shortcomings with his abundance and that is true love.  I show them love when I ask for forgiveness and when they extend forgiveness to me, I know they are getting it. They, too, are learning how to love.

If you, like me, lose it from time-to-time and want to be intentional about this area in your life I invite you to join me in The Gentleness Challenge.  Every Monday in the month of January, Courtney will post a video excerpt from her study of The Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson, that addresses this specific issue.  I will be praying for you as we walk this road together. 

Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love (God) Never Fails.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Be Intentional

Oh boy! The last 6 weeks have flown by in a haze as I have desperately tried to take in everything going on around me. I hate the knowledge that while I am living this life, I very rarely actually participate in it.  To be with my kids everyday & yet feel as though I missing out on their childhood is a maddening situation that I am sure many of you can relate to...and that is just one area of my life in which I feel like I am 'missing out'.  As I write this, I can think of a half-dozen tangents that I could take & realize how undisciplined I am in this area, as well. Yep, I'm a mess.

I guess that's the bad news, but the good news is: Tomorrow is a new day.  I know that with the re-setting of the calendar many of us re-plan, re-prioritize & resolve to do all those things we didn't do last year. While the start of a new year is always refreshing for me, one thing I have learned through this last year is that I don't need January 1st to start fresh.  Heck, I don't even need to wait until Monday (*Gasp*).  I am learning to take Christ at His word & believe the promise that His mercies are new every morning. What a freeing thought process this has been for me!  I don't have to feel frustrated or ashamed if (*when) I fail to meet the expectations I have set for myself.  Hallelujah!

I am setting about this year prayerfully & with one all encompassing goal in mind.  This year I resolve to Be Intentional.  I will be intentional about my time, my commitments, in the way I spend or don't spend our money, while parenting my children, during my time with the Lord and in every decision I make.  I will also fail. I will over commit. I will get wrapped up in 'doing' & forget to savor all the moments that make life worth living.  I will struggle to stay encouraged & focused....and I will cling to the promises of my God and learn more fully the meaning of Grace & Mercy

So join me.  Let's be intentional about this life we have been blessed with. Let your kids see you laugh more & complain less. Play with them & forget the laundry (or dishes, or messy beds, or whatever).  Find the wonder in the small things and enjoy them. Savor every minute, smell and sound of your day and those you spend it with.  Find joy in making your home a haven for your husband and really LIVE your life this year.  Be Intentional. And when you fail, praise the Lord for His Grace for a new day, His Mercy for our imperfections and His Strength to walk in His promises.

May God bless you in 2012!