Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the Pages of Fiction---Part 2---the REAL story of ME

I alluded a few days back to the fact that God has put some “tough” blogs in my heart to write. As a matter of fact, *this* one is one that I’ve really been avoiding for a long time. I thought if I pushed it off, the “calling” would go away.

Oh boy…I was wrong.

Not only did God tell me that now was the time, He made it loud and clear. Yesterday’s post about Him finding me in a book of fiction and then asking me to do something out of my comfort zone was also the final push to get this one done.
I’m a writer, NEVER a talker. The majority of the time, if I have something to say I’m going to write and seldom sit down and have the conversation. Before I was able to write this particular post, I HAD to sit down with Kevin and have some very tough conversations. I didn’t want him blindsided with some of the content of this post. Though he said he never wants to “edit” what I write, I did feel like I needed him to know which direction I was going. It was just an incredibly deep conversation. One that should have happened YEARS (yes, YEARS!) ago.

For the most part, the gravity of this post is the depths to which it takes me. Many times I write things that leave me feeling a bit vulnerable, this one takes it to a whole new level.

I’ve said often that I should stop being surprised with how God gets my attention because He does show up in some of the strangest ways. Ways that leave no room for doubt that He was talking to me. Though I’ve felt led to write this post for so long and was completely disobedient to His calling, I now can’t get anything else done until I’ve made it happen. Again….He got my attention in the craziest of ways. This time it was again in the pages of a book of fiction. Again, one by Karen Kingsbury.

While “Sweet T” was here visiting not only didn’t I blog, but I also didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure and relaxation. The first night she was gone, I decided I NEEDED to read a book. I was feeling emotional from her leaving and I needed to “zone” out in a good book. I wasn’t for sure if I had any library books left in our basket. When I looked, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see one. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even remember checking it out. It actually somewhat struck me as odd to the point that I pulled up our library account online to see if I did indeed check it out. It wasn’t that it was a strange book, it was just more along the lines of not remembering when I got that particular one. Happy to have it, though still a bit surprised, I couldn’t wait to read it.

It didn’t take long until the book literally took my breath away. I easily get swept away in books, which is why I finish them so quickly and so often. Yet this one gripped me in such a different way. As I turned the pages of the book, I was agitated in a huge way. Beads of sweat covered me and my breathing was rapid, though I couldn’t put it down. It wasn’t a thriller. It wasn’t anything of the sort. It was a typical Kingsbury book. What was happening was that I was finding myself in those pages. Finding myself in the deepest, darkest times of my life. The days that depression overtook me in such powerful ways and with a grip that wouldn’t release now matter what I did.

As I read the voices in the character’s head, it was as if I was reading my own thoughts. When she, Maggie, would describe the breaks with reality, I was feeling it just like it was yesterday. What got me so deeply was for the first time EVER there were words to my feelings during that time of my life. For all of that time, I needed Kevin to understand me but couldn’t find the words to describe the place I was in. For the first time, those words were there.

I read a large portion of the book in a near panic attack. Literally. It was that powerful for me since I had been there.

The great thing about the book is that it ended well with the character whole, her marriage restored, and her faith in Christ complete and thorough. The same ending as my story. Yet, the journey of getting to that point just took my breath way.

In the story, Maggie left her husband Ben. She thought HE was to blame for her problems. She blamed HIM for not knowing and seeing her. She walked away from their marriage and checked herself into a therapy center with no intention of returning to him. While reading through her thought process and Ben’s reactions, I found so many parallels to that time in my life. Her struggles of not being able to make him SEE HER for HER caused such a gut-wrenching reaction in me.

I understood for the first time that to this day I think I was still holding onto some unhealthy resentment towards Kevin. I didn’t realize it until I was reading the book and finding rage and frustration rising within my own heart. It’s amazing the things that God revealed to me as I read along with such a work of “fiction”. A big portion of what I had to do last night by the Holy Spirit’s guiding was to admit to Kevin what the book revealed to me. I had to make the decision to release him from the resentment that I had been carrying. I had to share some deep, painful memories. I had to be honest with him about some of that time of my life. I had to be willing to share so much of me that I wanted to keep hidden.

Hidden. Masks. Those two words can greatly describe that time in my life.

I was the QUEEN of staying hidden behind the mask. Yes, a few people knew me well enough to know that something was seriously wrong with me. However, in general, just like the character in the book, I was a PRO at having a smile on the outside in public, but at home behind close doors I was something incredibly different. The outside world didn’t see much more than an exhausted mom.

What they didn’t see? They didn’t see the mom who was literally dying inside. They didn’t see the mom that was well beyond just a bit sad or discouraged. They didn’t see the mom that went from moments of complete despondency to fits of rage. They didn’t see the mom that even to this day is missing large portions of her memories. I can look at pictures and KNOW I did things with the kids (and LOTS of things), but I don’t have the actual memory of doing it. They didn’t see the mom that would never get out of bed for days in a row. The mom who would hide in her closet because reality just seemed to hard to face. They didn’t see the mom that thought her mind was splitting into pieces. They didn’t see the mom that was so deep in an abyss of darkness that she could literally almost feel the breath of Satan on her neck and the light of Christ seemed so far out of reach. They didn’t see the mom that entertained thoughts of suicide many more times than she cares to admit.

It was excruciating. Just like the character in the book, the greatest struggle I had during that time was the fact that I was a Christian and battling clinical depression. After all, can’t we pray everything away? Can’t we solve EVERY problem with a little bit more faith? The more I thought of that, the more I thought something was wrong with me. I began to lose all aspects of my faith. On the outside, you would never know it. Again….hidden….masks. I could walk the walk and talk the talk for people to believe I was OK. Yet, I was anything BUT Ok. 

Praise God---I am NO longer in that dark place. God has absolutely given me victory over that darkness. To this day, I’m not sure what my trigger was. Perhaps it was a combination of postpartum depression and depression that can be hard  to manage with SLE (lupus). Whatever it was, I needed help. Yet, I thought “good” Christian girls didn’t need help. The LAST thing I needed to hear was to pray more, trust God more, or anything of the sort. NOW, I realize that getting “help” would have been much more than that.

I don’t know what changed or when the change took place in me. I wish I did. I asked Kevin some tough questions last night. One question was if he recognized when things began to turn around and he can’t pinpoint it either. What we know is this: I’m not in that pit of agony any longer. That is one absolutely positive thing I’ve learned in this last year of loss on so many levels (dad, miscarriage, family relationships) and numerous obstacles. IF deep depression were still a battle for me at this point, I can without a shadow of a doubt say I wouldn’t be here. That is a scary thought to admit. Yet, being honest (and vulnerable) it is the truth. Yes, I absolutely have days of overwhelming emotion and heavy grief but they don’t overtake me into that same place of suffocating darkness. Instead, I can feel the sadness, embrace it, and hold onto other positives. In that darkness, there were no positives.

The reason I was led to write this post is because I KNOW without a doubt I’m not alone. I KNOW that someone that reads my blog is battling this monster. The situations may be different and the triggers may be something completely different, but yet YOU are in that darkness and don’t know how to climb out. I implore you to NOT be the stubborn, weak person that I was. REACH OUT! Take down that mask. Risk coming out from hiding behind the smile that doesn’t reach your eyes. As a matter of fact, I write these words with my heart being heavy for some specific women in my life right now. Because I’ve been there, I think I feel it with others much easier. My heart is heavy and I walk with you in empathy. Don’t buy into the lies that you are just a weak Christian and that you don’t measure up. Lies. PURE lies! I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Those lies DESTROY.

Now, looking back I feel blessed in ways that words can’t express. God saved me. If I’m brave and honest, I can go back in time and pinpoint times and situations that could have ended much differently. I can remember how much darkness surrounded me and the voices that were so loud at the time.  Then---I couldn’t feel any hope and I sure didn’t see any light. Now---I can look back and say that the light HAD to be there and WAS there. My eyes were just closed.

I admit to struggling OFTEN with that time period now. I can’t get that time back with my children. I can’t get that time back with my husband. I can’t erase every bad memory and I can't remember things I do want to remember. I suffered greatly in my spiritual walk and missed MANY opportunities to be of service. Many times, I get VERY down on myself for all of that wasted time. Satan often uses that time frame and my raw emotions that are wrapped up in it to reach me and make me ineffective now. I’m learning to fight back against him and claim the REAL victory that Christ provided.

I don’t know why God pulled me out of that pit. I don’t even know why I went through it to begin with. What I know is this: there is a reason. There is a purpose. He didn’t have to save me from the darkness, but He did. He spared me. He literally saved my life. I sometimes get scared to think about what could have happened to my children. Yet, I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that He protected EACH of us.

For that person reading that feels the darkness: please don’t give up. Your victory is also waiting. The darkness CAN end. The distance between you and God that feels so much bigger than a vast abyss really isn’t as far as you think it is. I promise you!

For those reading that haven’t experienced the overwhelming aspects of depression, LOVE on those that are facing it. Part of removing the stigma of getting help for depression begins with us. We have to make the person suffering understand that getting help is not a sign of weakness (like I thought!). It’s actually a sign of strength (which I didn’t have!). Depression is more than just a spiritual issue. We wouldn’t dare condemn a person for receiving treatment for cancer. Getting help in whatever form necessary for depression is no different. Even if you aren’t sure if someone is just discouraged or depressed, offer encouragement. It might just make the difference that is needed. Something little becomes BIG when God is in it!

On a side note, the book itself is called “When JOY Came to Stay”. Though the book title has a double meaning ( and one I don’t want to give away if you ever want to read the book), I’m so overwhelmed that JOY has come to live in my heart. For a long time after the darkness lifted, I was still in a panic that it would return. I no longer even live in that fear. I truly feel victorious and there is nothing I have ever been more grateful for in my life.

In closing, (about time, right!?)…. just to further show how God used this book and His timing to get my attention let me leave you with this last thought. I described earlier how I don’t remember picking up this book at the library. Guess what else? I’ve read the book before. I normally don’t have any trouble remembering which of her books I’ve read. Yet for some reason, I was WELL through the book before I realized that I had already read it. I came to very a pivotal point in the book and I immediately had a flash of what was coming next, something I shouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it. Without a doubt, God chose this time for me to read it, feel what I’ve felt, have those deep conversations with Kevin, and write this post. He is demanding my obedience, even though I feel extremely vulnerable in sharing such a big part of me. A part that I don’t like the world to see. We all like to be seen as strong, capable, and WHOLE….it’s hard to share those parts of us that are anything but! If nothing else, I can finally say I was obedient to His call. The rest is up to Him!

A verse that I held on so tightly during the time and one that I still cling to today: (then) it was my hope as I tried to cling onto a “ray of light” and (now) I know it was reaching me deeper than I thought. Now, it’s my life-line for when I step out in faith (like right now!).

“This is my command---be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 He WAS with me in the darkness and He is continuously with me now----no matter the situation or what He is asking of me. I trust that!

Give-a-Way----Busy Homeschool Moms!

I've blogged a couple of times about the impact the book "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to...Romance:  nurturing your marriage through the homeschool years" has had on my marriage.  I've recommended it several times and now I'm THRILLED to be giving a copy of it away! 

My copy:

As you can see, my copy has post-it flags all over it!  When I'm reading a book, I highlight like crazy.  When I put a "flag" on a page it means not only did I love what it said, but I also felt like it was shareable or quotable.   You can tell that I found lots of aspects of the book shareable!

Winner's Copy:

A nice new copy ready to be shipped.  No flags and no highlighting gone crazy!  :)

Though I could write endlessly about the great content of the book (and I have on different occasions), I would just rather leave you with part of the description on the back of the book. 

Homeschooling offers parents the best opportunity to shepherd their children both academically and spiritually.  Yes, it's worth it.  But do you ever feel as if your life is "all homeschool--all the time?"

Do you ever wonder where the girl your husband married went?  This book is for every mom who has collapsed into bed at the end of the day, looked into the eyes of her husband and promised "tomorrow" she'd have time for him.  Trouble is, tomorrow finds her more exhausted than the day before.

If you have ever felt caught between the demands of homeschooling your children and meeting the needs of your husband, you're not alone.  Read and discover how even a busy homeschool mom can make time to nurture her marriage.  It's not as hard as you think---and more important than you may realize.

I will say this, the content of the book CAN change your marriage.  As a matter of fact, I think it is an excellent book for BUSY moms in general---not just homeschoolers.  Granted, it is written from the perspective of a homeschool mom for other homeschool moms, but it definitely packs some truth for all moms! 

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post with your name, how many kids you have, and whether or not you homeschool.  That simple.  Be sure to include your email address if you sign in as "anonymous" so that I will be able to contact you if you are the winner!  The winner will be chosen randomly Sunday evening November 6th. 

DIY Lip Balm----AMAZING!

I've been asked to post more do-it-yourself, homemaking, and crafty type things.  Since I LOVE those things, I'm eager to oblige!  :)

For the past several years, we have been wanting to make the switch to a nearly all handmade Christmas.  We felt like we had gotten lost in the commercialism of the holidays and had gotten far away from the true meaning.  Last year we made some of the greatest strides in adjusting to the new mindset that we were wanting to embrace.  Though I was very unprepared for how quickly Christmas would change for us with Dad's very rapid battle with cancer and death during the holidays, the changes we had already made definitely helped us through an incredibly difficult time.  This year, we are planning on going full speed ahead with our plans of changing our mindset of the holidays. 

One of the greatest ways of doing that in my opinion is to return to the days of homemade, made with the heart gifts. 

I had anticipating doing this project last year, but as you can imagine...time took a different meaning to us!  I was determined to do it this year!  I have a tentative list of projects I want to complete and I'm already working towards getting as many as possible done as early as I can.  Last weekend I marked the first round of this project off my list and I was WAY more than pleased with the results!

Lip Balm.  I've always want to make it.  Even as a teenager I wanted to do it, but never did.  While I was shopping for the bottles and packaging for my pure vanilla extract, I came across a page in the catalog of the company I purchased my bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs that talked about that very project.  I put it aside to do later, but I was a bit hesitant because some of the ingredients were quite expensive.  I wanted a simple YET effective version.   Gretchen---a great friend and a cousin through Kevin---had posted a link last year on her blog about the version she had made.  Looking back through, I decided that her recipe was MUCH more along the lines of what I could handle budget wise. 

It was a success!  Not only did I enjoy making it, there was no stress involved!  I absolutely have fallen in love with the end result.  I purchased high quality, organic or natural ingredients.  I wanted to make sure that the end product would be the best possible.  Not only did I want to make sure that it was "giftable", I wanted to make sure that it would be a product I would love!  LOVE----oh yes!  Every member of our family has begged for their own.  I know like mine better than the pomegranate Burts Bees I was addicted to.  Peyton's lips were so chapped they were bleeding.  Within 48 hours, he was completely healed.  Enough said.

How to:
  • Gather all your ingredients and needed supplies.  I used a Pyrex measuring cup and the microwave since I don't have a double broiler.  I purchased the tubes and the majority of my ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs and was VERY pleased with all aspects!  This recipe will make approximately 24-25 tubes.  I used a medicine syringe to fill the tubes and it worked like a charm!
  • Recipe:  4 Tablespoons cosmetic/food grade Beeswax pellets, 4 Tablespoons coconut oil (I bought mine at Beachy's Amish Bulk Foods), 4 Tablespoons grapeseed oil and your fragrance of choice.  I used about 9 drops of tangerine essential oil.  Though it doesn't really flavor the balm, it smells wonderful.  My next batch will be peppermint. 
  • Measure your beeswax out in your Pyrex cup.  In microwave, melt the pellets.  The key is to only heat for about 30 seconds each time and stir.  It took about 5 times for mine to completely melt.  DO NOT heat more than 30 seconds at a time.
  • Once melted, add your coconut oil.  My coconut oil is now in solid state because the house is definitely colder than 76 degrees.  In warmer months, I could simply stir it in at this point.  Because it was solid, I had to repeat the same procedure as above.  It only took one 30 second burst in the microwave.
  • Add your grapeseed oil until well mixed and everything is fully melted. 
  • Add your essential oils.
  • At this point, you are ready to pour into your tubes.  The syringe method worked PERFECTLY for me.  Some tips I learned:  if you get towards the end of filling your tubes and the wax is beginning to harden in your syringe...microwave it for just a few seconds to keep the syringe warm!  I also kept a bowl of VERY hot water close by to sit my Pyrex and syringe in to give me a bit longer to fill the tubes.  I was distracted with the kids so I wasn't able to fill as quickly as I needed and the heated water/microwaved syringe worked like a charm!!!! 
  • As your tubes begin to harden, the liquid will shrink a bit.  Just use your syringe to add a bit more!
  • You are done!  THAT easy!
Now, if you want to just use them at home you don't necessarily have to be decorative.  For the boys, I simply just wrote their initials on them with a sharpie.  Simple enough.

For us girls and for gift giving, I wanted to be a bit more "creative".  Most people just use a sticker made from a return address label or something similar.  I liked that idea and started designing my labels to print when I thought about ALL OF THOSE STACKS of scrapbooking paper I have.  I got out my paper cutter and played around with a few strips until I got the size I wanted.  Then I went through and found my favorites and cut out enough to cover all of my remaining tubes (that the boys hadn't STOLEN!!!...LOL).  I ran each piece of scrap paper through my Xyron sticker machine and carefully wrapped them around the tubes.  I'm sure a bit of double sided tape would have also worked.  

The end result:

I can hardly wait to get started on another batch (or two or was so much fun).  Aside from the tubes, the original supplies I purchased will make MANY batches!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In The Pages of Fiction

I've talked OFTEN about how God reaches me in some of the oddest ways.  Many times it is through music and through solid teachings found in books written by Christian women.  Tonight, He did it again in the pages of a book.  However, it was a work of fiction.  Yet, that work of fiction reached me so deep that I know my heart is different than it was two hours ago. 

Two hours ago.  I started a new book.  Two hours and 333 pages later, my heart was changed.  Well, it happened somewhere in the middle of those pages.  It started early on and by the time I was at the end, I knew I was changed. 

Karen Kingsbury----there is just no other fiction writer like her.  The way she can write a book and grab me and reach my heart is unparalleled.  No matter who the characters are or what they are struggling with, I come out with something worth applying to my own life. 

Tonight was absolutely no exception. 

In the pages of "Shades of Blue", my heart took a transformation.  Though the characters were dealing with a  different battle on the surface (abortion) than those battles I am facing at the moment, my heart was incredibly moved.  It was moved so much in the pages of the book that I began to feel a tug on my heart to take an action that was out of my comfort zone (EXTREMELY).  I continued to brush it off, but as I turned the pages of the book I become more and more convinced that the Holy Spirit was guiding me.  No doubt.   Though I won't go into details of *that* action at this point, I am committing to it "publicly" for accountability sake.  The more I thought about it, the deeper it reached my heart. 

As I was coming back downstairs after having finished reading the book while enjoying an amazing hot bath after a physically exhausting day, I immediately felt the tug of Satan trying to talk me out of what I had committed to.  However, my resolve was stronger than his tactics.  Though my task won't be easy (is anything important EVER easy?), I'm still committed. 

Within 5 seconds of walking through the door of our bedroom, Kevin met me.  He met me with the explanation of something HE wanted to do.  Something God had LEAD him to do.  Something completely out of HIS comfort zone.  HE followed through and I absolutely believe today marks the first day of an incredible new chapter of our lives. 

While God was working on my heart through the pages of a book of fiction, little did I know that standing in the kitchen He was doing the same thing in the heart of my husband.  Coincidence?  Not in a million years. 

Oh....the ways that God works......always leaves me speechless.  Why on earth do I ever limit Him or doubt Him?  When will I EVER learn to not put Him in a little box? 

Though I admit that I'm a bit terrified to step out of my comfort zone and follow through with what He is asking me to do, I know without a doubt it will open the doors to more blessings.  He always rewards obedience and usually in ways I never dreamed possible.  Though my "task" isn't earth shattering, it is the step towards something bigger and greater.  Just waiting to see what that bigger and greater is.  All because of the move of the Holy Spirit while reading the pages of an excellent book of fiction.

It immediately reminded me of the verse that reminds us to think on "pure" things.  By feeding my heart with such things, God reached my heart.  Had I been using my "free" time and watching a show on TV that lacked morals or reading a book that was less than appropriate....this moment would not have happened.  Just goes to show that how we spend our free time TRULY matters.  Without. A. Doubt.

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."  Philippians 4:8

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another Admission of Failure

I mentioned in one of my posts yesterday that I had LOTS of posts sitting in my brain/heart that I HAD to get caught up on.  I was having trouble sleeping last night because they were swirling around in my head, so I made a list of everything that I needed to catch up on. The list was overwhelming!  However, I was able to sleep after that list was made.  Now, I just have to find the time and put in the effort to knock the list down and add anything else to it that comes to mind again! 

I also mentioned yesterday that some of the posts weren't going to be easy to write because they were "deep" or might leave me a bit vulnerable, yet God wasn't going to let me rest until I did it.  This post falls somewhere in the middle.  It isn't a very difficult one to write in regards to sharing my thoughts, bit it falls in the difficult category because I feel the weight of wanting it to TRULY be what God wants me to say on the subject matter.  It just feels heavy because I feel so strongly that the message needs to be read by someone struggling.  I've said often that my heart made a switch and *this* became a ministry opportunity for me.  Sure, some posts are just for fun or for sake of memories and tradition, but others are so much more!

Here goes...

I've messed up.  I'm ready to admit it.  I've known it for a LONG time, but I've just in my own power not fixed it.  I imagine I'm not the only one facing this issue. 

The issue is this:  trying to BE and DO all and missing the point.  COMPLETELY missing the target. 

I've been reading about it from others, especially moms.  I've been warned about it in numerous blogs, emails, and devotionals.  I've had the conversation with complete strangers that God allowed me to met in various "cyber-world" locations that are like-minded and now much more than strangers.  I've talked often about what I call the Mary or Martha complex. 

It is a HUGE struggle.  My heart is hard-wired to give EVERYTHING.  My personality is driven by service.  From a young age I was perfection driven because THAT is what gave me the results I needed.  Praise.  Satisfaction.  Attention.  Trust me: I didn't want NEGATIVE attention in my home growing up.  I didn't want to disappoint.  I became the "good" girl from early on.  I didn't want to disappoint my family and most especially God.  Grace is a hard concept for me to accept.  I believe it----but accepting it DEEP in my heart is hard.

Fast forward a few years.  Add in a marriage.  Add in a few kids.  Add in the calling of being a stay at home mother.  Add in the even greater task of the calling to home educate.  You get the picture.

So, here I am this DRIVEN person that thrives on perfection and I am living in this world with great demands that are anything BUT perfect.  I want to be super-mom.  Fail. I want to have a spotless house that is organized in EVERY aspect.  Fail.  I want to live a healthy life that includes exercise, healthy from scratch meals, etc... Fail.  I want each day of school to be the vision I have in my head of a perfect day.  The kind of day that would earn me teacher of the year in a "normal" school setting.  Picture perfect.  Fail.  I want to be the greatest wife on the planet.  Fail.  I want to be Martha Stewart (in regards to her crafting skills, not her "other" traits....).  Fail.  I want to be Betty Crocker.  Fail.  I want to feed my family everything organic, from scratch and gourmet.  I want to meal plan and have a freezer full of food that can be pulled without more than a minute of notice.  Mac & Cheese out of box? Yikes.  Fail.  I want to be a good steward of every penny that comes in to our home.  Yet, I'm often guilty of letting the thrill of the hunt of the bargain become my idol.  Ouch.  Fail.  I want my home to rival something out of magazine.  Fail.  I want my kids to be so well behaved and perfect little creatures that will change the world.  Fail!  (Have I mentioned that a certain child made it to story time two weeks ago with NO shoes on his feet?)  I want to be this amazing woman of God that gets everything right.  BIGGEST fail!

I know we all have a set of different skills and we are each blessed with different talents.  It's easy to fall in the trap of jealousy.  I've fought against that.  I'm learning to embrace my own talents and looking less at those of others.  Yet there are other times that I look around and all I see is FAIL tattooed across my forehead and heart.  *She* makes life look so easy.  *She* looks like a million bucks walking down the street with her children (while I look down at my frumpiness!).  *She* bakes fresh bread every day.  *She* makes homeschooling look so natural and easy.  *She* never seems to struggle with saying the right thing.  *She* is so graceful and NEVER trips over her own feet.  *She* just has it ALL together. 

I, Tracye, am not *SHE*.  As much as I try, I fail.  I just can't get it right. 

But here is the truth.  I'm not meant to be.  Plain and simple.

Here is where the truth has really touched me.  Four specific things in the last days have SEALED that in my heart.  Though my heart has already been opening to that truth and reality because God has been doing a work in my heart, some specific things have touched me recently.

One:  there was a moment while Teresa was here that I was just a bit overwhelmed with her incredible talents.  I temporarily wondered why I couldn't do the things she does.  Yet, a few minutes later she was in awe of something I had done that she didn't know how to do.  It's a balance.  It was a reminder of how in the body of Christ we are all given different gifts, but all together we make a whole.  We weren't meant to all have EVERY talent and gift.  Someone else's strengthens don't minimize mine.  They are just different.  My strengths don't overshadow those of someone else.

Two:  I am driven to be a Proverbs 31 woman.  I want that to be my legacy.  However, I fail to remember that she didn't do ALL those things in one day.  It was how she lived her life as a whole, not her list of accomplishments in one day.  This came to life to me one day this week in a powerful way.  I wear a bracelet that serves as a reminder of the woman I want to be.  I'm HUGE on visual reminders (especially of scripture and of things that I value as important).  I was drawn over and over to the bracelet and God spoke to my heart.  It was like He kept bringing it into my vision and at first I couldn't understand why.  Then like a light switch being flipped, it hit me.  The bracelet only contains ONE verse reference.  Verse 30.  "Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised."  THAT is the most important verse in my opinion.  What matters the most is the condition of my heart and whom I serve.  God isn't checking off a list each day to see where I failed and where I succeeded.  He is interested in my HEART. 

Three:  perhaps the greatest wake up call came last week when I read a statement on a facebook page of a homeschool speaker I greatly value.  Between what she posted and the comments from other moms, I got the message.  I got it well! 

"A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread - she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children. She had invested time and energy in pursuing the "path" because she thought it was part of the spiritual homeschool package."

Those words rolled all over me.  Even if you aren't a homeschool mom, I know you can identify.  We I get so caught up in doing things the way I think they should look just because I think that is what is expected of me.  I forget that what God called me to IS going to look different than what it looks like for someone else.  What I need to remember and I often fail at is this:  my KIDS are what matters.  Fresh baked bread, hot cookies, fresh laundry, a clean kitchen......those are GREAT things, but not what in reality matters.  THEY do.  My husband DOES.  Just because *she* may successfully be able to balance it all AND give her kids the real attention they deserve doesn't mean I will be able to.  Truth is:  something is probably missing out in *her* life as well.  I have to remember that appearances can be deceiving.

Four:  Yesterday at church, the *deal* was sealed on my heart.  The message truly reached a deep part of me.  We were singing "Unfailing Love" and as I found myself lost in the worship, I heard that still small voice whispering to me.  The first few times we sang these specific words, my heart was wrapped up in how I feel knowing that God loves me that way.  "You have my heart and I am yours forever. You are my strength, God of grace and power.  And everything you hold in your hand, you still make time for me, I can't understand."  I was bathed in the comfort those words brought my needy heart.  God of the entire universe still has time for tiny, insignificant me.  However, after a time or two of singing the words had gone by that small voice singing in my heart was that of a child.  "Still you make time for me, I can't understand."  It hit me.  It hit me heard.  My actions don't matter if I'm not putting my child first.  It doesn't matter how much effort I put into making our house a home if I'm not willing to stop everything I'm doing to TRULY focus on them.  Dishes will wait.  Dust will return 3 seconds after I chase it away.  Those mis-matched socks will multiply again in the morning.  A sandwich or a bowl of cereal is REALLY a good enough dinner.  The legacy I want to leave my children is that they KNOW I was willing to take TIME for them.  I want them to FEEL that love and commitment.  They can see that though I have a million things to balance that I still will make time for them.  Don't I feel incredible when my husband drops what he is doing or a friend takes time out of her busy schedule to do something for me?  I want them to experience that same feeling.  I want them to grow up with that feeling of knowing that even though their mom was super busy and did all she good  do to keep everything balanced that I put it all aside to make TIME for them.  They need that feeling of "I don't know how she did it, but she did!". 

That is the failure.  That is where I'm willing to admit that I'm not getting it right.  I'm too wrapped up in what I think our home, our day, and our lives should look like.  I easily get wrapped up in what I think is expected or demanded of me and forget that the condition of my heart is what truly matters.  The hearts of my children truly matter.  There is not a set formula of what our day needs to look like to be considered successful, but what matters is that at the end of the day that my children go to bed with the confidence that they are loved completely and thoroughly.  I shamefully admit:  that doesn't always happen.  I think they go to bed thinking at times that I was more concerned with whether the house was clean or if I kept up "my" images.  Fail.  Yet, mercies are so fortunately new every single morning and each day gives me a new chance to make sure they know that they matter more than all the other "things".  I also can embrace the grace that I'm not going to get it all right and that God is there helping fill in those gaps and providing me with all the tools I heart just has to be open. 

Birthday Blessings

(image courtesy of JF Image Design)

Just over an hour ago, the clock struck 12:01 and I was able to be the first one to officially wish my husband Happy Birthday.  It was one of those rare times that he was up at midnight! 

Happy Birthday to the man who:
  • walks each day in integrity
  • whose work ethic is unparalleled
  • can make me laugh even when I REALLY don't want to
  • gets slap happy goofy on weekends and the kids and I CHERISH those moments
  • whose highest calling is evident in the kind of father he wants to be and tries harder to be every day
  • agrees to my crazy schemes even when they are out of his comfort zone (crazy Halloween costumes, green hair on St. Patty's day)
  • partners with me equally in daily life whether that be cooking, cleaning, or anything else that is needed
  • lives his life under the authority of Christ (even though he feels like he is failing more often than succeeding, I KNOW his heart)
  • beats himself up constantly for past mistakes & finds it hard to forgive himself but forgives others FREELY and without HESITATION
  • treats me with respect and is a role model for the kind of man our daughter should seek someday
  • is openly affectionate
  • gives constantly of his time and resources, has a servant's heart
  • gets back up when people or situations knock him down
  • SNORES (just had to throw that one in since that snoring happens to be distracting at the moment)
  • strives to make our home Christ-centered even when the world says it doesn't matter
  • causes me to constantly be striving to walk closer with God every day so that we can together fulfill the purpose He has for our family
  • NEVER EVER hesitates when someone is in need of help
  • is happy with very little-----it isn't material things that he values
  • LOVES books and information, but NEVER finishes a book that he starts
  • Knows my love language and speaks it well even though it doesn't necessarily match his (though it was a hard lesson learned!)
  • tries again and again even when he fails
  • gives the most amazing backwards hugs on this planet!
  • more incredibly handsome every day (you KNOW I'm very partial to those gray hairs!!!)
  • in a nutshell:  a man of God and my best friend!
Kevin, I hope that today you put aside EVERYTHING negative that is going through your head and let the REALITY of who you are soak in.  You ARE an incredible man and I'm the most blessed woman on earth to have you as my husband.  Yes, there are times I absolutely want to pull my hair out and you drive me bonkers----but you are worth EVERY single second!  You are a tremendous man of God.  I know you feel like you never measure up, but I can see your heart and the desires you have.  Thank you for the laughter you provide.  Thank you for being my rock.  I'm more grateful EVERY single second for the relationship we have.  It is a RARE treasure!  Now, make today speed by so you can come home and dig into those amazing oreo cupcakes that are calling MY your name.  I've managed to leave your fudge alone, but I'm not sure how long I can resist those cupcakes! I'm looking forward to celebrating with you!  Save me a dance!  :)

P.S.  You should be proud of me for choosing your gift.  I actually went in a store, TALKED to a sales person and ASKED questions.  You know me, that is a STRETCH outside of my box! There is a first for everything.  :) 

P.S #2:  Please remember that since I didn't make you go up on stage this morning during birthday time in Wonder-Way that you should be so kind to me in a few weeks.

P.S #3:  Thank you for stopping snoring.  I might can sleep now!  :)

P.S #4:  If you've forgotten how old you are, just ask me and I'll remind you like always.  Let's just say it's a downhill slide now to 50!  (Oh wait....let's skip that part because that means I'm a downhill slide to 40...jeepers!) 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Little Duck Organics---Review

More and more every single day I am becoming concerned with what we are putting into our bodies.   I am not *freaky* about it YET, but it is becoming a greater priority with each passing day. 

Two problems I am running into often with eating organically is cost and taste.  Unfortunately, healthy doesn't always mean TASTY because of our reliance for so long on additives, sugar, and other things that have tricked our taste buds.  When I find a product that my kids LOVE I literally get giddy. 

I have found a snack that is meant for toddlers, but I have to admit that I am so incredibly in love with them that I'm just as likely to be caught eating them.  Even though Bradlee is WELL beyond the toddler stage of just beginning to eat toddler foods, he has a favorite snack.  It's a snack that tastes AMAZING and I can absolutely have confidence in feeding him.  In regards to pricing, it isn't cheap.  However, it isn't extremely expensive either.  This is one of those items that I'm willing to pay for!  You know if I say that----you KNOW I must love it!

Let me introduce you to our favorite:

Strawberry Mango Tiny Fruits!  One word:  AMAZING!

The details that matter:
  • 100% organic fruit
  • NON-GMO verified (meaning that is is not genetically engineered)
  • Gluten Free (which is becoming increasingly important for MANY families)
  • No added sugar
All of these mean that I can feel GREAT about feeding it to my children eating it myself. 

I recently received a couple of packages from Little Duck Organics and Bradlee attacked the box immediately just because he knew from the little duck what was inside the box.  I easily barely managed to share a bag with a friend whose son recently began eating solid foods and is concerned with what she feeds him.  His review:  he loved the blueberry apple.   How incredible is that... a product that is enjoyed by the intended target age group (those just beginning solids and toddlers), my 5 year old claims it is has favorite, it is enjoyed by my 10 and 14 year old, and this ummm.... upper 30-something loves them!  Can't beat that! 

Flavors:  strawberry mango, blueberry apple, apple banana

A nutritionist friend of mine tells me that some new products are in the works from this company (which happened to be started by a dad in search of organic, no-sugar added snacks for his children).  I'm excited to see what that might be!

You can check out Little Duck Organics on their website here.  I generally order mine from Amazon or

One word of caution:  it's VERY easy to eat an entire bag in ONE sitting.  I won't name names about who might be guilty of doing that, but it would probably be the 5 year old and the 30 something living in our home.  :)

I'm Back....

I'm back......

After having an incredibly blessed visit by my step-mom, I'm ready to get back in gear.  I wouldn't trade the world for those two weeks.  I admit that today the house STILL feels empty without her.  However, I'm ready to get back on track with normal.  "Normal" being school, housework, meal planning, and BLOGGING!  Let me tell you....I am behind on many things.  I did my best to put "normal" aside and focus on our time together. I have a growing list of posts that are waiting to be written and I'm ready to gear up and get them done.  During these two weeks, God has DEFINITELY been laying them on my heart.  He's about to take me out of my comfort zone on some of them!  Some of them I've been praying over about the best way to word them and others I've asked Him to take off my heart, but He has had other plans.  I'll just have to be obedient!

I also have some reviews to write and some give-a-ways to get started in the coming days.   I'm excited to be sharing some product and book reviews.  God has recently opened some doors I wasn't expecting when I started this "little" blog!  I'm thrilled to be working with some companies and media groups that are in favor of family-friendly products and can't wait to see where it all leads!'s going to be a busy week and I can't wait to get started!  I do covet your prayers as I struggle to write some "deeper" posts in the coming days.  I always feel a bit vulnerable at those times, but God has NEVER let those moments go by without showing me afterwards why He wanted me to write each one.  I know this time will be no different as long as I'm following his leading.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Leading a Life of Integrity: Begins at Home

I've taken a bit of a blogging break this week since we've had my step-mom visiting and she'll be here next week as well.  Though  my heart has been full of blogging moments, I've just not let the writing be the priority.  I wanted to make sure that we spend every minute with her as we can since our time is always so limited! 

However, today has been pegged a lazy day with no agenda.  Even talked with the principal yesterday and decided it was a no school day.  Ahh......  :)  As a matter of fact, it's just the boys here with me at the moment.  My daughter committed to a 2nd craft fair two weeks after her first one coming up next weekend and is greatly in need of some necessary supplies.  My Sweet T volunteered to take her to Hobby Lobby so they could shop for what she need in peace!  Ahh......LOVE it!  My daughter may come home with a giant dent in her bank account, but it will pay off in the end!

I'm always amazed at how just a few words can really change a life or how just a few words can put priorities back in place.  We've definitely had those moments, especially in the last year.  The whole world can change in a fraction of a second when you hear words such as "we have to let you go" or "there is nothing more we can do for you" and even that dreaded "c" word that is robbing families when a doctor drops it like a bomb.  It can be good news with "you're pregnant" or "will you marry me?" Just a few words, with big impacts.  Think about those "I love you", "I miss you", "you mean so much to me"...kind of moments. 

Those big, life-changing words can be found through-out scripture.  I read one this morning and to be honest I really didn't catch the impact all the times I had read it before.  I guess it just "blended" in with the rest of the words and until this week when the words jumped off the page.  Oh that it has...the words are just pounding through my head and heart.  I LOVE those moments.  The moments when scripture comes alive and it pours into every deep crevice it can find.  The moments when you get the holy ghost goose bumps (hey...I'm a southern girl at heart, I don't know how else to describe it!). 

"I will lead a life of integrity in my own home."  (Psalm 101: 2b)  NLT

Having that verse jump out, I had to take it a step deeper and see how it was worded in other versions.   The place I was reading it quoted NIV "I will walk in my house with a blameless heart."  Looking the verse up on Biblos, showed some of these other versions:
  • ESV "I will walk with integrity of heart within my house."
  • NASB "I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart."
  • King James "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
It all comes down to this:  Integrity begins at home.  Just like the theme of the movie "Courageous"...honor begins at home.  Integrity, honor, "perfect" heart...however you want to word begins in our homes.

Let's face the truth.  It's pretty easy to live that life in public.  It's pretty easy to look "religious" in public, especially at church.  It's what happens behind closed doors that matters.  How we treat our spouses and children behind closed doors is a bit much more difficult task!  Yet, THAT is where it matters most.  

How easy is it to "bite off" our husband's head when we are tired or frustrated?  How easy is it to lose patience with our children when we feel like they aren't meeting our standards or they fail to do something they've been asked to do countless times?  EXTREMELY easy.  It's something I fail at multiple times a day.  Yet, the Bible doesn't say make excuses.  It doesn't say that it doesn't matter.   The Bible is full of instructions on how to live.  Not once does it say, it's ok to live one life for the world and another behind closed doors.  God knows our hearts.  He sees what we hide from others.  Just like we may buzz around and deep clean when visitors are coming (hmmmm.....maybe I did this recently!!!!) because we don't want them to see how we REALLY are (the cobwebs, the bottom of the trashcan, behind the closet doors, etc).  God knows the real us.  Our spouses and children see us as well.  The REAL us behind those doors MATTER.  It's a huge reality!  It's an incredible responsibility.

Truth is:  I'm going to fail and I'm going to fail OFTEN.  God's grace is amazing.  Forgiveness and repentance are essential.   I can never reach perfection.  I can't beat myself up night after night when the house is quiet because I failed so many times that day.   Yet, it can't become my excuse.  That is the problem with so many things in life.  We take on the attitude of we can't reach perfection, so why try?  God is going to forgive, so why bother?  The condition of our hearts truly matter. 

Know what I noticed as I read into that verse even deeper?   It was the first half of the verse and the verse that followed.  In the first part David says "I will be CAREFUL to live a blameless life" and he asks for God's help.  THAT is the key portion that spoke to me.  It says to me be VIGILANT and SEEK to be careful in all things.  It says to call on God for help.  It doesn't say attempt it on your own.  It doesn't say give it a half-way effort.  It constantly says to guard our hearts, follow his commandments, to not be a stumbling block for others that are immature in their faith, and to be set apart.  Perfection isn't attainable, but with God's help I can strive to be more like him each day.  I have to accept that some days happen that I want to crawl back in bed and hide because I've completely bombed the day.  Those days are about seeking forgiveness, accepting grace, and moving ahead with new mercies. 

Verse 3 also caught my attention.  It encouraged me GREATLY in continuing to guard my heart and the hearts of my children by the choices we are making in regards to what we choose to watch, listen to, etc...  "I will refuse to look at anything vile or vulgar".  THAT is part of what is going to help me as I seek to live a life of godly integrity.  The timing was perfect for me to read that today.  I felt myself waver a bit in recent weeks in regards to some decisions we've made in our stance on some issues.  We held firm, but I admit I heard the voices of the world ringing in my head louder than I would like to admit.  Reading this verse together with verse 2 was a great encouragement!  I cannot lead the life of integrity that I desire if those images and filling my heart and mind.  I'm grateful that we've stood our ground.  The rewards are beginning to be seen.  It's well worth the "sting" of not fitting in! 

There is no doubt that I'm a GREAT supporter of the movie Courageous.  It had already been transforming our hearts EVEN before we were blessed to watch the movie on opening night.  The impacts are just beginning to be felt as the message is beginning to soak in more every day.  Though the movie was targeting fathers, it absolutely convicted me on every level as well.  It is causing to me think about so many things (which will be in blogs to come).  The main thing is that it's time to be courageous on every level.  Part of doing that is to stop making excuses and to stop doing things half-way.  I'm not happy with half-way good enough and I'm tired of watching from the side-lines on some issues. 

Though this blog post is lengthy in itself (when is it not?  LOL!), I encourage you to read this words that are beautifully written about the walking with integrity in my own home verse.  I don't find it coincidental that as I found myself drawn to this verse the last few days, that I found this post sitting in my inbox waiting to be read. 

Living a life of godly integrity happens within the walls of our own homes first. That’s really where we are authenticated. For me, what God sees and knows of me in my home and with my family is most important to me, rather than how others perceive me elsewhere. If I am living a life surrendered to Him inside my home and with my family, that life will flow naturally and freely everywhere else. It will be genuine and self-evident.

God sees and meets me when I spend quiet time with Him. God sees me when I love and serve my husband with respect and joy. God sees me when I handle His Word with tenderness and invest it into my children’s hearts. He also sees me when I fail miserably in these areas and fall to my knees for forgiveness as my heart aches with the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and thus brings forth His life. He sees and knows the real me.

If my husband sees and knows that I am seeking God daily and abiding in Him continually, then my heart is at rest and filled with joy knowing he has confidence in me. He knows I desire an authentic life before our God and in our home. My husband’s confidence in me because I love and fear the Lord is priceless. I want the same to be true of me as it is written about the Proverbs 31 woman. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.” Proverbs 31:11 (NIV) I want to be that crown on his head and jewel around his neck, and that must happen in our home with deep authenticity. It doesn’t happen in social settings with shallow facades.

We know that a wise woman seeks to have a blameless heart in her home. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1 (NIV) The destructive hands of pride and selfishness will tear apart the beautiful gifts with which God has entrusted me. I so earnestly want to be the wise woman building up my home and family.

Walking with a blameless heart is a standard set by God, and I am reminded of that moment-by-moment (especially when I am grumpy!). The study note in my NIV Bible explains that blameless is “spiritual and moral integrity”. (Blue Letter Bible: Psalm 101:2) Even when we really blow it and our uglies are everywhere, our godly integrity, born by His grace and out of a vibrant relationship with Him, brings us back to a humble heart before the Lord. When we fail, God and those around us will see our true remorse and desire to be right with Him and with those we have offended.

For a gal like me, to have a blameless heart and to "pursue holiness" (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV) seem like lofty ambitions. Yet, what a relief that God has wonderfully designed us to depend on Him for our godly integrity. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV) Abiding in His truth and yielding to the Holy Spirit, we can walk with a blameless heart and a clear conscience before Him in our own homes and beyond our four walls. What peace and freedom that brings my heart!

You can read more posts by the same author that are sure to speak to your heart on His Table for Two.  It is quickly becoming one of my favorites!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Last night after Kevin and I went out for our weekly date, we stopped to buy a few groceries.  While I was standing in front of the shelves looking at a particular item, I overheard a mom telling her son that she wishes she could buy the healthier version of that specific item but she would have to buy the cheaper one that had practically nothing healthy in it.  It just happened to be that I had several coupons in my purse that would make the "better" item even cheaper than the "lesser" version.  I handed her a stack and just told her I had extras and the look on her face was priceless.   It was more than the fact that a stranger gave her something completely unexpected, it was the realization that she could purchase the healthier version for her family.  Feeding a family healthy foods on a limited budget or even in middle class categories is extremely difficult.  Kevin and I have often talked about that in recent months as we've been trying our best to transition to as many organic, preservative-free, whole grain and whole foods as possible.  I often have that "same" look on my face as that mom did in the grocery store.  I WANT the better quality, the least processed product but many times I have to settle for the less desired product. 

As I got home and thought more about the feeling and upon remembering it this morning, I was struck with the word "settling".  I'm ashamed to admit how often I do just that.  Sure, I may do it in the grocery store, but it's on the deeper that level that I'm talking about.  How often do I settle for the world's version of truth?  How often do I settle for the lies of Satan in my head?  How often do I settle and do things "just" enough to get by?  Do I find myself wavering a bit (EVEN if I eventually stick to my guns!!) because the voices of the world are so strong in telling me that what I'm doing differently doesn't matter?  The "world" has settled for "just-OK", but do I want to settle as well?

Of course that answer is NO.  I hate "settling" for less than the best in the grocery store, but even more I hate to settle on life issues.  I don't want to get to the end of my life and stand at the point of judgment and answer "I just settled.".  The Matthew West song "Motions" is going through my head today as I think about how easy it is to "settle" and how my passion is and should continue to be to NOT let that be an excuse.  Granted, some days are hard because it feels like I'm fighting an uphill battle or I'm just PLAIN exhausted.  However, it's THOSE days that not going through the motions matters the most.

This might hurt
It’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care
If I break
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just OK
Is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions

No regrets
Not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love
Make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something

Take me all the way
Take me all the way
Take me all the way

I don't want to live life with regrets.  Every day is about making a choice to fight through the "nothingness" of life and to live it with passion.  God didn't design is to live "so-so" and "ho-hum" lives.  Yes, those days inevitably happen.  Our goals should be to let those be as few and far between as possible.  He doesn't want us to settle.  He wants joy and love to overflow us and peace and contentment to be wrapped around us like a blanket on a freezing IL winter day.  Some days it is an absolute battle of letting our hearts defeat our mind.  It's easy for us to believe the lies the world and Satan tell.  It's important that we find ways to silence the voices.  We need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need the support of close friends that keep us accountable. We need the bonds of a spouse that is a spiritual leader in our home.  (Stronger. Together.)  We need the one-on-one time in God's word and in conversation with Him.  We need laughter and joy. 

When I use coupons (or when I shared them with a stranger), I'm able to not settle for the less desired product.  When I surround myself with the word of God and other tools that keep me accountable and connected to God,  I don't have to settle on the big issues either.  I don't find myself just going through the motions!  However, as soon as I start to let those things slide I absolutely find myself living a life full of "less-thans" and "settling"....a life that is just about getting through the day and going through the motions.  A type of life that struggles overshadow the blessings I've been given.  Days when darkness over takes light.  Those days are NOT worth it.   I don't want to settle and I don't want you to either!  We are designed for greater good than to just be living through the motions!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Give-a-Way Winner---Prefense

Today's FAST announcement in regards to the winner of the Prefense give-a-way is....................

GRETCHEN (Extraordinary Ordinary Life).

Since I already had your address, it has been forwarded to Prefense and they anticipate shipping your prize on Friday!  Congratulations!

Yes, this may be my shortest post in my blogging history!

More give-a-ways to come in future weeks!