Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Busy Bag: Part 2

Keeping up with the request for learning activities/homeschool related/and busy bag posts.....

Today Bradlee found a new busy bag in his workbox drawers.  He really liked this one.  I originally saw something similar on childcareland.com, but their version was too simple for him.  So I decided to "tweak" it a little and make it more on his learning level. 

I purchased the learning links from Oriental Trading in a pack of 500 because I included this bag in my latest busy bag swap and needed 30 sets of the activity.  I paid about $10 for the bulk bag, but I previously bought smaller packages at Wal-Mart in the aisle with educational workbooks.

I made basic cards with a wordprocessing program.  For Bradlee, I chose to do number WORDS since he isn't as proficient in reading and spelling the words as I would like him to be.  I also made a few easy addition problems for the swap and than some additional cards for Bradlee (he is more advanced in math computation than the target age of the swap).  Cut out cards.  Punch a hole under each number or word, laminate, cut out, and re-punch the holes.  Ready to use. 

He likes this activity so well that I think I will make some additional cards with some CVC words and leave out the vowel, provide 3 different options, and let him choose the correct one by hooking his link under the  answer.  Basically same procedure as the pumpkin poke math.  Endless opportunities!

*Don't forget to enter the FFH CD "One Silent Night" giveaway here.  It ends on Thursday!*

*Coming VERY soon.....a planner giveaway for homeschool moms....just in time to start next semester a bit more organized.  Not like I have a problem with being organized.  HAHAHAHAH!!!!*

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Deals & Leftovers

Whether you love it or hate it----today is without a doubt the notorious Black Friday.  You may be one of those that camped out last night to get front in line to purchase gifts on your list at a discount.  You may be one of those (like me!) that spent a bit of time online getting some deals from the comfort of your own home.  You may be one of those that refuses to shop at all today. 

Regardless of where you find yourself on that list, I implore you to consider the greatest deal ever given. 

Eternal life, no cost to you.  The cost was paid on the cross.  The cost was IMMEASURABLE, but there is no cost to you.  It's just up to you to accept the gift.  No bumper to bumper traffic.  No fighting for parking.  No waiting in line for hours. 

This special deal requires no money.  Not even a promo code or discount coupon.  It doesn't need to cause you any stress as you try to figure out how to make room in the budget for the purchase. 

It's just a matter of heart and acceptance. 

The customer service is like no other.  It's one on one and personal.  The line is never long and the desk is never closed.  No need to go from one department manager to another.  You are immediately connected to THE ONE IN CHARGE.

It's priceless.  It's the greatest gift you can ever accept.  It's the greatest gift ever given. 

As today kicks off the "official" Christmas holiday season, take the time today to put your focus on the reason we celebrate.  Take the focus off the gifts, money, stress.....and focus on the manger.  Focus on the cross.  Nothing else matters. 

Today is also one of the biggest days for leftovers.  Though my fridge isn't full this year of leftovers since we were blessed to attend an incredible "feast" with some of Kevin's extended family, others of you will have bowls, platters, and plates galore stacked with leftovers.  The day after Thanksgiving is notorious for those "leftovers".

I want to encourage you to stop and think about another type of leftover.  The leftovers we give to each other.  It's something I'm constantly convicted about and constantly battling. 

I don't want to give Kevin the leftovers of me....and I don't want his either.  My kids may spend nearly 24/7 with me, but I still don't want to be guilty of just giving them the leftovers.  We pack our days so full of things we THINK we have to.  We leave the best of us at work and bring home very little to our families in regards to "us".  Our hobbies take over our time.  We waste countless hours running around doing things that don't matter in reality.  We think our kids have to be involved in dozens of activities.  We think we need "me" time (don't get me wrong....some IS ABSOLUTELY necessary, but there is a definite balance!).  We plop ourselves down in front of TVs for hours on end.  Gosh, we can't even sit together at a family gathering without looking around and seeing dozens of phones connected to the internet.  Our time is so divided. 

This time of year it is absolutely critical that we work to not be giving leftovers to those we love.  We can all open our planners and see how just overbooked we are as we run from place to place celebrating the holidays or preparing for them.  The result is that we have nothing left to give to those that matter most to us. 

Today, stop.  Stop and see where you can make adjustments.  Do you need to take things off your list?  Can you cancel something and spend some one on one time with your spouse?  Can you turn off the TV, turn on some Christmas music and pull out some board games, crafts, or books?  Can you knock something off your list and simplify?  Do your kids really need 15 gifts that they won't remember by this time next year?  Would it be a greater impact on their future if you instead invested time with them instead of money?  What about stopping and sending a heartfelt card or letter to someone spending much of their time alone?  Pick up the phone?  Send an email.  Find a way to connect.

As a culture, we've gone TOO far away from what the holiday time of the year is about.  It shouldn't be about causing yourself such stress as you try to find ways to pay for gifts that TRULY don't really mean much.  As a family, we've been fighting HARD against culture on so many levels and Christmas is a HUGE battle.  We "want" to fit in and make everyone happy.  Yet, at what cost?  Are our marriages worth the stress that being too busy and too financially burdened brings?  Are our children learning the TRUE meaning of Christmas or are they learning to expect and want more and more?  I guarantee that God is NOT wanting us to celebrate His birth by being in debt, stressed out and on edge.

I don't have all the answers of how to flip the holidays back to the focus it should be.  Sometimes it is such a hard battle to be "counter-cultural". I do know this, you HAVE to start.  You have to make a decision that from this point on we are doing things differently.  Some family members may not be happy when they don't see the big gifts under their trees.  It's ok.  It really is.  Some people may not value the hours spent on gifts that are made from the heart.  It's ok.  It really is.  Some of us know that no matter the amount of money you spend on someone, it probably is still not "enough".  Someone can always do more.  It's ok.  It really is.  Some may not understand why you are not attending their gathering, party, or activity.  They may not understand you need to keep things simple and focus on your own family.  It's ok.  It really is. 

You just have to start somewhere.  Your kids REALLY are going to be ok with less.  I promise they gain more!  They gain the purity of the holidays.  They gain the value of family and faith.  Those things can't be wrapped up in red, gold, and silver paper.  Yet, those things have life long results.  Ones that matter.  Ones that change the world. 

Accept the best deal ever given:  the gift of eternal life. 

Give those you love the best of you----not the left-overs.

Fight against the "normal" holidays and simplify.  Put the TRUE focus of Christmas as the focus.  Not the packages.  Not the parties.  Not the endless financial stress.  Give of yourself. 

These are my wishes for the holiday season that starts today.  Last year was definitely different than I ever dreamed and my heart is obviously heavy right now, but before life took such a stark detour we were already moving towards the holidays being different.  May Christmas 2011 be the year that we move closer and closer to the meaning of the holidays.  May we find ways to continue what we started!  It's my Christmas wish.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grace Effect---- Giveaway Winner

Just a quick note:

Congratulations to Amanda C!  Be on the look out for an email from me about getting your book out to you!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Family Movie Night "Game of Your Life" Review

It is incredibly HARD to find movies that meet OUR standards of family friendly.  I get excited when we do find something that the entire family can watch together. 

Several months ago, NBC started airing movies geared towards the family (with main sponsors Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart).  We've only missed seeing one of them so far.

I was offered the opportunity to watch the newest installment before it airs on December 2 (7 central time) on NBC. 

GAME OF YOUR LIFE---gets a thumbs up from our family for being appropriate for family viewing.  Though it is definitely more interesting to older kids and teens, even Bradlee enjoyed the video game development aspects.  My boys love ALL things technology! 

The movie's story line centers around Zach Taylor as he starts his freshman year of college in a prestigious video game design program.  Zach and his teammates are to design a video game as part of their first semester project----a crucial one that will determine if they are allowed to stay in the program.  The "meat" of the story is about how the team must come together and how an individual's choices can affect the entire team.  Zach is faced with some very hard decisions and has to work through what his priorities are and what matters most.  Without giving a way too much of the story line (since I want you to watch the movie for yourself!), I think that many times we are faced with similar choices.  Though the choice itself may obviously be different, we often have the same type to make.  Should we bend rules and cut corners because our present needs are great or do we live a life of integrity no matter what?  If we do make the wrong choice, what do we do next?  How do we rectify what we've done wrong.  A good depiction of loyalty and forgiveness is also presented in the movie and I loved that aspect. 

I enjoyed watching Zach as he was faced with hard choices.  I loved watching "moral lessons" played out in a movie that was family friendly.  Definitely a great movie for teens! 

Though I admit, this installment of Family Movie Night was maybe not my favorite of all that have aired---I did enjoy it!   I'm thankful that media executives are considering the wants and desires of families to be able to watch something together that is TRULY family-friendly, moral/values based, and fun to enjoy together.  I highly encourage you to tune in on December 2nd so that we can send the message that YES we want more of these type movies.  Show your support of family friendly programming!!!

Website: http://www.familymovienight.com/game-of-your-life/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/familymovienight
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/fmnib
Trailer: http://vimeo.com/31917601

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mary, Did You Know?

Though I have many "favorite" songs during the holidays, this one has always touched me deeply. It has had an even greater impact after becoming a mother.

There is nothing on earth that can compare to that moment when you are handed your child for the first time (and I know that it happens with adoption as well!). I know some moms struggle with the bonding taking place over several days, but for many of us that first second we hold him/her there is something that happens in our heart. I know that with each of my children there was an instant love, protection, overwhelming joy and gratitude. Though I was nervous that it wouldn't happen again after the first one, I worried needlessly. An instant bond, an unbreakable one of unconditional love, instantly filled my heart.

As I think about Mary, I wonder. I wonder what she felt when her arms first held her son. I wonder, did she know? Did she have any idea what the future held for that precious child? Did she have any idea of the impact he would make on mankind for all of eternity?

Can you just imagine? Can you imagine her heart? She had already experienced a miracle by his conception. She'd already experienced hardship and emotional battles. Think about how people must have looked at her. Judgmental. Shunning. Yet, she was carrying the GREAT I AM! Can you imagine the weight that was on her shoulders?

His birth was not anything like she planned or expected. Can you imagine giving birth to your first child in a stable? Talking about humble beginnings for royalty!!!

As she held him in her arms, can you imagine the bonding she had with him? She knew she was holding a miracle. Even as much as us moms experience that amazing feeling of holding our child, it had to completely pale in comparison to what she was feeling.

I remember looking at each of my children and gazing at them with awe. Miraculous. Innocent. Ecstatic love. But to be holding your son.....THE CHRIST. Doesn't the thought just overwhelm you?

As I held each of mine, I can remember holding them with amazement and wondering what God had in store for each of them. I talk often about the instant "Mountain Mover" filling my heart when I held Bradlee. Each of those moments with each child is just a moment that can't be erased in my heart. As much as I looked at them and wondered where God would lead them, I can only imagine what Mary's heart must have been thinking.

Did she know that the precious innocent life she held would be beaten, betrayed, hung to die on the cross for the sins of the world? Talking about a TALL order for a child. We want to protect our children, even before they are born we have that protective nature. In her heart, did she want to run and hide him from the world? Did she have any sense of the gravity of the life that she held?

I wonder if she had any concept that the son she delivered would soon deliver her and all of mankind? Did she have any idea of the miracles he would perform?

How often do we think about the things we are responsible for in raising our children? We don't often consider the impact they have on us. Yet, so often they change our lives far more than we can ever change or influence theirs. I know I often learn more from my children than I can ever teach them. Imagine if that child you held was Christ.

Mary's heart. Her thoughts. Her emotions. Her sense of the future.

I can only imagine.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

FFH: One Silent Night Review & Giveaway CHRISTMAS!

I have been an FFH fan for MANY years.  When offered the chance to review their first Christmas CD, I was thrilled!

Can I just say this:  It did NOT disappoint!  In the last two weeks I bet we have listened to it more than a hundred times, literally!  It seems to be constantly playing either from my computer or from my Ipod speakers!  TRULY love it! 

Though I normally am CRAZY about the holidays and easily get in the Christmas spirit, this year it has admittedly been a huge struggle.  Obviously, what I'm feeling is normal and expected.  Losing someone you love is hard no matter what, but when that loss coincides with a holiday such as Christmas....it adds in such a layer of emotions that is hard to describe until you've been there.  Christmas, the most holy time of the year, now carries the greatest pain for me.  Struggling to emotionally handle these coming weeks is ....well....exhausting. 

When I downloaded and played this CD for the first time, something magical happened.  A weight temporarily lifted and I was swept away.  Literally!  When it plays, I find myself completely entranced in the beautiful AND fun aspects of the season.  My heart can embrace the beauty of the season without my heart aching with loss.

Some of the songs are classic, upbeat ones (Jingle Bell Rock for example) and we all find ourselves dancing around the kitchen until someone explodes into fits of laughter.  Some others are just soft and a bit romantic and Kevin and I will steal a dance and a kiss or two (who needs mistletoe?).  Then others.....oh those others....they absolutely just bring you into the presence of Christ and the complete reason why we celebrate this season.  The title track "One Silent Night" is absolutely incredible.  It feels like the world stops for those five minutes.  The same thing happens with "Glorious Impossible". 

I expected to enjoy the CD, but I found that I received much more than just "enjoyment".  A bit of healing.  A bit of strength.  Lots of laughter.  Connection to our savior in the chaos of a normal day and most especially moments to connect and slow down as the holiday stress hits.

The great news is that one of you can also enjoy a downloadable version of this CD.  Instead of receiving an actual hard copy, you will be provided with a link that will allow you to download it to your computer.  Trust me----if I was able to do it without any problem---I imagine you can too!  I was able to download mine easily and transfer it to my Ipod even though I have to admit I've never done it before!  I usually leave something like that up to the experts in the house----my kids!!!  :)

To enter, leave a comment telling me your favorite thing about Christmas or your favorite Christmas memory!  I can't wait to hear from you!  Giveaway will end December 1st so that you can have the entire month of December to enjoy the music.

If you aren't the winner, I highly recommend adding FFH:  One Silent Night to your wish list! 

Now, I do have to throw one slight negative in.  I am just being honest!  I admit that the first song on the CD somewhat was surprising to me.  It's fun.  It has a fun beat.  I like it.  However, it just really seems out of place.  "Baby It's Cold Outside"---fun song----but just surprising to me to be on this particular CD because of the banter back and forth/topic.  It isn't necessarily "bad" or wrong----it just didn't fit with the other songs. 

Other than that,  I can't say a single negative thing about it.....unless of course, it stops playing and I have to get back up to hit re-start!!!  :)

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/FFHMusic
iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-silent-night/id474548207

As always, I must include this disclaimer: Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A REAL, Imperfect Family

Tonight I read a book that will have it's own post in the coming days, but there was something in it that touched me deeply.  The statement was just a general one somewhat in the conclusion of the book.  The "meat" of the story was basically over and the authors were just winding down and getting to the point of letting the message of the book sink into the reader's heart. 

Yet, in that wrap-up God found me and moved all over me.  He found a way to touch a tender point that had been rubbing a raw spot within my soul. 

"Like all families, we have yelling, fighting, hurt feelings, messy rooms, and other aspects of a normal family life.  But above all, we desire to be a family centered on God, fierce in our commitment to Him and to each other."

Here is some honesty.  Everyone says they like it when I'm raw and honest.  Well, here is another round....

I've become a bit overwhelmingly caught up in the things that are failures in my opinion. 

I have this HUGE desire to raise a family with Christ as the center, be the most incredible wife I possibly can be for my husband, resemble the Proverbs 31 woman as much as possible, be a servant of Christ, etc...  (that list goes on and on!).  Yet, I feel like I'm dropping the ball.

There are minutes I want to pull my hair out because the kids are picking on each other relentlessly even though I'm looking at them blue in the face as I try to remind them again and again that in this house we treat each other with unconditional love and respect.  You know the drill. 

I ask them to do something and they half way do it or don't do it all.  In one ear and out the other syndrome.

I want to run and hide because not five minutes before the house was clean and now someone is at the door and it looks like a tornado ripped through. 

I want to bang my head on the table or computer because I'm reteaching the same skill over and over when three days ago he/she showed competency and mastery. 

I want to hide my head in shame because I've failed to put Kevin as a top priority or I take some kind of frustration out on him that is undeserving.

I planned to answer my child with a soft voice and tenderly correct, but instead I resorted to the raised voice or "because I said so". 

I thought I was over this or that, but yet that bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, anger, etc... keeps creeping back in. 

I did this......I didn't do that.......I wish I did that....I wish I didn't do that...

All of those negatives have been overtaking my heart in recent weeks.  On the outside, everything has looked fine to everyone.  Yet, on the inside.....total different story.  Negative self talk.  Inability to see the GREAT things.  Turmoil about not measuring up. 

When I read those few lines in the book, it made me stop.  It made me see that these things I call failures are NOT failures.  They are just real, normal life.  If life was perfect and my home/family was perfect in all aspects, I wouldn't have need for God.  "Failing" keeps me off the pedestal----either from putting myself on top of one or by letting others put me on one.  In this family, we do real.....we don't do perfect.

What matters is this:  it's the second half of that statement.  "But above all, we desire to be a family centered on God, fierce in our commitment to Him and each other."  Truthfully, I've never read a statement that describes our family and the desires of my heart any better.  Is there anything better?  Is there any goal any greater?  No. 

As long as our hearts are in the right place and our focus is on the right things, the little things that aren't perfect no longer matter. 

A couple of lines later in the book was this:  "There's just something so beautiful about knowing we're a family and knowing that God knit us together". 

Yes, I agree.  There IS just something beautiful about our family.  There IS just something beautiful knowing that God knit us together.

Tonight, my heart isn't as heavy and my wounds aren't as raw.  The failures don't scream as loudly.  The negative self-talk and the lies of Satan are a bit less audible.  I'm embracing the beauty of what God has given me! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thinking Big---Dreaming Big

It's so easy to put God in a box. 

Our LITTLE box.

Yet, I should know by now it's pointless.

He wasn't meant to be in a box.  He doesn't want us in a little box either.

Inside of each of us He has put dreams and desires.  Admittedly, sometimes those dreams and desires are selfish or just "normal".  They just make us who we are.  Maybe it has something to do with our hobbies or our passions. Then there are those that He puts in us that make us want to grow and do things for Him. 

Sometimes they feel little in the scheme of things.  After all, aren't each of us just a little nobody in a big world?  Can we make any kind of difference?

Absolutely.  I've always been told that "little is much when God is in it".  It doesn't matter how insignificant we feel.  God has this amazing power to make our "little",  BIG! 

Right now I'm excited about some doors that God is opening.  I'm not certain exactly where it is leading or how long it's going to take for my "little" to be BIG, but without a doubt things are starting to happen.  The doors opening have also begun to give me a clearer vision of some of my purpose and my "what" else.  The little hints God is giving is absolutely making the wheels turn in my head and making me THINK BIG.  Dreaming.  Hoping.  Believing. 

It's also a bit intimidating.  Deciding if I'm listening to the Holy Spirit or riding on emotion is always tough.  Sometimes I jump before I look and find out later it was emotion.  I'm being cautious and prayerfully waiting things out, but EVERY direction I'm turning right now is another nudge that He IS leading.  It's intimidating because though I know the direction, I don't know the steps or the how-to's.  I don't know the exact plan or what God is actually wanting.  Yet, I'm happy because I have a direction and each step feels more comfortable and gives me more confidence that He is at work. 

God isn't going to let me stay in a little box.  He is taking me step by step out of my comfort zone.   The way he is leading is NOT what I expected, but looking back now I can see there were hints along the way. 

Sometimes I feel like the dreams that are forming in my head/heart are silly and pointless, but with each passing day I'm realizing that maybe they aren't.  Maybe God was waiting all along for me to just start paying attention to Him and to stop putting himself and myself in a box. 

All I know right now is this:  if I'm going to dream, I better start dreaming BIG.  Every time I walk into my friend's office at church and see her "Think Big" on her wall, I'm beginning to think maybe it's a message to me as well. 

As I started writing this post, I already heard Satan telling me I was off base.  I'm enthusiastic for no reason.  I'm crazy.  Fail.  Incapable.  Off-base.  Who do you think you are?  You name it....I'm hearing it. 


I unexpectedly got another nod that I'm in the right direction.  I just need to be patient.  Another little door cracked open. 

Thanks, God!  I needed your voice to drown out those negative ones.  Your timing is absolutely always perfect!  Please take my little (minute, miniscule, tiny) and make it YOUR BIG!  Teach me every day how much bigger than my box you are!  Keep my eyes on you and help me to listen to you.  When I'm off-base (which I know I often am), immediately put me on the right path. 

Your Daughter (the one who is learning by baby steps to THINK BIG & outside the box!)

Remembering to Live Like This IS OUR Temporary Home

Some of you may have already watched this music video from where I posted it earlier in the day on facebook.

I don't know how many times I've found myself drawn to listening to it today, but the more I listened the more a blog post formed in my heart.

Temporary Home.

Don't we ALL forget too many times that what we call "life" is just a short stop.

Obviously the song means so very much to me because of the emotions it stirs up as I will forever have the memory of my daddy telling Kevin and I how he had already seen Jesus and kept pointing up saying he was going home during those last few hours we had with him. Such a painful time to remember and the most beautiful memory of my entire life.

When I push aside "those" emotions that draw me to this song, I can't help but think about how we do tend to forget that the lives we have right now are just temporary.

Hard times. Temporary.
Loneliness. Temporary.
Uncertainty. Temporary.

Every single unpleasant thing we EVER have to deal with is JUST temporary. Victory is waiting. Restoration is waiting.

On the other side of the coin, even the BEST things in life are temporary. The great news is that when this life is over, there is nothing but GREATNESS ahead.

It doesn't matter how short or long our life is. It is just a small portion.

I think often to how our elementary children's minister talks to the kids about making good choices. She often reminds them that good choices have to be made because "this" part of life is just a tiny portion of the "rest" of our lives. Life here on earth is just a tiny portion (to which they put their finger and thumb together to signify small). Our life in eternity is never ending (to which they stretch their arms as wide as they can go). Another special friend shared a video link with me that used a giant length of rope (MASSIVE) and the end was tipped in red. The red portion was life on earth and the rest of the length of rope was our eternal life.

Yet knowing this, we still don't "get" it. We (including myself) forget to live our lives based on that promise.

We scurry around to get more stuff. Can't take it with us.
We treat people as if they will always be with us. Death can come any instant.
We take for granted EVERY single blessing we've been given. It can be gone in a blink of an eye.

When this life is over, we will either be with Christ or separated from Him forever. Forever is the length of rope, not the tip. Forever is the outstretched arms, not the fingers pressed together.

We forget that decisions we make RIGHT now matter and will determine whether our forever is with Christ or separated from Him. We think we will have tomorrow to change our lives. Tomorrow is not promised.

I spend countless hours and continuous effort to make our house a home for my husband and my children. Yet, I have to remember that no matter how much it FEELS like home, it's only temporary. It is still just 4 walls. As the song says, just windows and rooms that we are just passing through. The investment I put into their spiritual lives and heart matter more than anything else I can ever do for them. I don't often do enough.

I'm really struck today by the thought of how sometimes God asks me (and you) to do things that seem "hard" or uncomfortable. He may ask us to step out of our comfort zone. He may ask us something that "seems" crazy. He may tell us something we shouldn't do because it is wrong. That "something" may make us unpopular as people around us do it. It may be EXTREMELY hard.

What I'm reminded of today (and VERY convicted about in my own heart) is this: why do I worry so much about how uncomfortable I am or how hard something may be? Why do I struggle so much with things that are out of my box? I have to remember that whatever I'm feeling right now or however hard the task at hand is, it's just a short portion. It's just a short portion that determines the "rest". Surely I can tough out a short portion (even the uncomfortable things) when I realize that it matters for the outstretched arms and length of rope. Surely I can handle those few seconds of strange looks when Kevin and I bow our heads to pray at a restaurant. Surely I can handle those butterflies that make me nauseous when I have to do something out of my comfort zone. Surely I can handle those "judgmental" stares and comments about the choices we are making to be "different". Those are just the red tip or fingers pressed together moments. Surely I can and surely you can, too. We just have to adjust our hearts towards remembering this IS our temporary home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


There is a little 5 year old that OWNS my heart.  Actually all of my kids and husband own it.  They own every little corner of it!

Yet, there is something about my little guy.  He is openly affectionate and his desire for my love is insatiable.   There are days that he will stop in the middle of playing a game on Wii, run to my room and say "Big Hug & Kiss Mom" and then go back to his game.  Every morning, though I BEG for him to go back to sleep and give me JUST five more minutes, he HAS to have my full attention.  Full attention means FULL body hugs and snuggles.  He isn't content with just a little squeeze and kiss.  He wants it ALL.  Let me tell you, I'm MORE than happy to take those few minutes because I know there will come a day that he will continue to grow up and my hugs and kisses will become less important to him.  Boo! 

Then there is this habit in the middle of the night that just warms my heart like nothing else. I've never seen anything like it before.  He comes down in the middle of the night (usually around 1 AM) for nothing more than to say "I love you, Mom" and for a hug and kiss.  He immediately goes back upstairs alone and gets in his bed and back to sleep.  He doesn't ask for a drink of water, go to the potty, or ask for anything (at least on this trip anyway!!!).  It doesn't matter how warm his bed is and how cold the house is.  It doesn't matter how much energy it takes.  He HAS to make that middle of the night trip. 

Oh how I love that little guy...

But it makes me think of something else.  It makes me wonder if I have that same hunger to be with my heavenly father.  Do I have that same desire to connect with Him the same way that Bradlee hungers to be with me?

I definitely spend time with Him.  I definitely try to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  My soul craves to be connected with Him.


Is my desire so strong that I want to be with Him enough to "figuratively" get out of my very warm bed when the house is only 56 degrees.   Do I put in that extra effort that requires me to go from one end of the house to the other just to be with Him?  Do I stop what I'm doing just because I'm so overwhelmed with the need to be with Him?

I know what I want my answer to be.  Yet, I know what my REAL answer is.  Unfortunately.

Some days I do have that insatiable desire, the desire that makes me STOP everything else just to sit as His feet.  But so many other days...

I'm too busy.  The noise of the outside world is just too loud.  My selfish desires overtake.  I'm lazy.  Good intentions don't necessarily met up with actions. 

Today I'm reminded that I need to more like my 5 year old.  I need to TRULY crave my time "snuggled up" with my savior as if nothing else in the world matters. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Grace Effect Book Review and Giveaway


I have such a heart for it.  Even if, right now, the answer is no.  There are just too many obstacles in our way right now.  Some of those God can provide ways around if the time is ever right.  Other obstacles would mean  laws have to be amended FIRST (mostly dealing with my health history excluding me). 

Though our answer is no for now, my heart is STILL huge in the fact that it desires it.

When I was asked to review a book (and give away a copy) that dealt with adoption, I had no hesitation in saying yes.  Smack dab in the middle of reading the book was Orphan Sunday.  Timing was perfect! 

(Adriana and I wearing our shirts that day.  We both have hearts for Africa.)
 The Book:

"The Grace Effect:  How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief" by Larry Alex Taunton

The book takes you on a journey that the author and his family made to bring their daughter, Sasha, home from the Ukraine. 

It is a FANTASTIC book.  However, it was a HARD book for me to read.  It's one of those books that we SHOULD read, but the heartbreak it contains is unspeakable.  Mr. Taunton didn't hold back the realities of the struggles his family faced.  If a book of this such doesn't move your heart about the injustice in this world...nothing really will. 

I admit that my biggest scope of information concerning international adoption is wrapped up in Africa.  The majority of those we know that have adopted and whose detailed stories we have followed have mostly been from Ethiopia and a few from China.  This was my first in depth look at the Ukraine.  Oh my......the journey this family took to bring this precious child home.  Unreal. 

The book also highlighted for me just how very little I know about that area of the world and unfortunately how much history I don't remember.  I admit that I struggled to "keep up" in parts of the books.  Fortunately the story was so compelling that I stuck with it.  The author is a historian and apologist and that side of him definitely shows in the writing of the story.  Yet, his incredible love for his daughter spoke even louder. 

"There is a simple means for determining the goodness of any society, and it is not found in economic or political terms.  It is in this:  how do they treat their poor, their widowed, and their orphaned?"  That question has stuck with me since reading the book.   Ouch!

Another part of the book talked about education and I loved it.  The author was talking about the struggles of learning to communicate and the ways that they achieved successes.   "Teachers, curricula, and schools of instruction come and go.  If parents, the only constant throughout the entire process, are missing from the equation, the educational void it creates is incalculable."  How very true!  Of course I value that statement as a homeschooling mother, but I also value it for the teachers in traditional schools that battle that on a daily basis.  They are so limited on what they can do if a child isn't getting parental involvement at home.  They are fighting a constant battle that is getting harder and harder to win!

Two of my most favorite parts of the book are when he describes the sky on the day that Sasha officially became theirs.  The other is the description of teaching her to ride a bike and how the entire park erupted in cheers when she finally was pedaling on her own.  Such sweet, tender moments in the book.

If your heart is for the orphan and adoption, I highly recommend ordering a copy of  "The Grace Effect".   Most especially if you are considering the path of adoption in the Ukraine, it is a MUST read. 

One of you can win a copy!  Just respond to this blog post (OR the facebook link where I share this post) and tell me you are interested in reading it.  Giveaway will end on the night of November 22nd.

More information about the book/author can be found:
Website: http://www.fixed-point.org/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fixedpoint?ref=nf
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Effect-Reverse-Corruption-Unbelief/dp/1595554408

*Must include the following:  “Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or

services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it

on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally

and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance

with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the

Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”*



Jason Gray- Remind Me Who I Am

There are days when I need a reminder of "Who I Am"....
Today has been such a day....
Thankful for how music reaches the soul in a way that nothing else can.
It can wash away every doubt and let my soul be invaded with TRUTH.

Busy Bags: My Educational Obsession

By request:  more homeschooling and a day in the life type posts.  Here we go!

Many of you know that I'm a HUGE fan of busy bags and that I consider them my greatest "tool" in teaching my 5 year old. 

Busy bags are self contained activities that are ready to go with everything needed stored in a ziploc type bag.  They can contain just about anything and can be for any age from early toddler on up to mid-elementary school level.  I basically compare them to what was called "centers" in traditional school.  Same principle....just in a bag ready to be used ANYWHERE.  Many moms assemble these bags to have while waiting at appointments, when they need 3 minutes to answer a phone call, etc...

I use large quantities of them for the greatest majority of Bradlee's school day.  He is a very hands on learner and needs to be constantly moving and have a WIDE array of activities.  These bags work especially well for us since I use the "workbox" system.  I also am a HUGE believer that the best way for a young child to learn is through play. 

Over the last 6 months, I've participated in and coordinated busy bag swaps with women all over the United States and Canada.  It has been an amazing experience not only in the bags that have come in, but the friendships I've made along the way have been fantastic.  It has opened another door to a connection with so many other moms, homeschool families, and early elementary teachers.  I've also been greatly blessed to have met an amazing, inspiring woman that headed up this project.  Now that she has moved her swaps over from her original blog to a brand new website Kidlet Occupation, I've been blessed to help out as needed when her swaps "overflow" with participants. 

A swap basically means that each mom makes 30 identical bags of a specific activity, ships those bags to a coordinator.  The coordinator receives the 30 large boxes and divides up the bags so that each person gets 30 different activities and reships them to the participants.  Each participant only has to focus on making the one activity and in return receives 30 different ones.  Trust me:  it's much easier to purchase supplies and make one type of bag than to buy TONS of different materials to make all kinds of activities.  It works great!  The creativity is fantastic and now my stash is enormous!  Bradlee is constantly learning and doesn't get bored while learning.  Organizing is a breeze!

Between the bags I've made/received, the file folder games and activities I had for Peyton, and my "obsession" with making new ones that I find on pinterest and my favorite blogs....I think I now have probably have about 200 activities.  Since I use a minimum of 6 a day for him in his workboxes (his other drawers are filled with worksheets/workbooks and our Bible study activities), it takes a HUGE stash to keep him busy.

One of his busy bags from the Math & Reading K-2nd Swap

Counting Coconuts

Roll dice, add them together, and place the appropriate coconuts on the felt board

Counting out his coconuts
Making of one of our own busy bags earlier this week:

Printing, cutting, punching holes, laminating, punching holes and cutting out addition facts

Showing his cards in action

Pumpkin Poke:  poke your pencil through the correct answer and flip your card to see if it is correct.  SUPER self-correcting activity!  (Bradlee's smiling because he is correct!).  I have these type activities sorted for all facts and can add them to his bag as he progresses. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Almost a Year...

It is so hard to believe that this weekend is wrapping up.  Geez...it's hard to believe that the year is almost wrapping up.  I think back and feel like I should still be in the month of March of April!  We started the weekend off with high hopes of accomplishing a giant list of "hopeful" things on my to-do list.  While we didn't get it all done, we did make such a huge dent that I feel like I can start the week off much more prepared and organized.  Wahoo!

Today I've thought so much about how quickly time is passing by.  Basically in a blink of an eye.  Some tough days are behind us and some very hard ones are yet to come. 

Yesterday was a hard day.  It marked 8 years since Kevin's mother passed away.  It seems like this year was the hardest it had been since the very beginning.  I know it especially was for Kevin.  It's so hard to watch someone you love hurt, especially when that someone is usually as SOLID AS A ROCK.  I think that perhaps because of how hard this year has been for me, our children, and our family just made him extra sensitive to his own loss.  Hard stuff. 

I don't have many "firsts" left during this first year since losing Dad.   I know that the week after this first year is over won't bring about a magic pill of the pain going away, but I'm ready to have the last "firsts" over with. 

Tomorrow is a HARD one.  In my head, I've been dreading this one as one of the top ones and I really don't know why.  Tomorrow is the day that I woke up and wrote: "I am thankful that God is the "great physician" and that he can bring about healing---physical, emotional, spiritual and even of the "heart" " in my gratitude posting for the day.  I had woken up that morning just overwhelmed with gratitude that God is a God of healing.  I was praying for healing of some family members and was finally feeling healing of the heart on some tough issues.  I was confident and faithful that God was about to unleash His power. 

Little did I know.....

Little did I know that at 7:36 that night my phone would vibrate with a completely shocking text.  A text that said that my dad was at the ER having some serious issues and the details were grim.  I knew in those moments instantly what we were dealing with.  Though I prayed faithfully for the results to come back differently or less severe, I knew.  I knew life changed in those few seconds.  I never had the peace that God was going to heal Daddy on earth.  I never wavered in my feelings that I knew He would carry us ALL and that He would be with us every step of the way.  I just knew that the type of miracle that was needed was just TOO big.  Oh, no doubt....God COULD have done it. Nothing is too hard for Him. I just knew in my heart that His plan was going to be different than the plan I wanted.  I was unprepared for how quickly things would decline and how quickly he would be gone.  I still struggle with that more than anything.

I've thought so much about this year.  I've been dreading tomorrow for so long and just the thought of how it's going to feel tomorrow is somewhat terrifying.  Yet, I know that when the day is over I'll still be hanging on tight and moving ahead in faith. 

Somethings about this year and what I've learned.

  • I'm stronger than I ever believed possible.  While he was sick, in his final hours, and in those first days after his death I had to do things I never imagined.  My normally timid self disappeared and I found a boldness I've never experienced before.  In the following months, countless times I had to have conversations or do things that I didn't think I could do.  I found a strength deep inside that I didn't know existed. 
  • I'm weaker than I ever dreamed.  You never realize just how dependent on God you are until the rug is pulled out from under you.  Literally feeling Him have to breathe for me so many times shows just how much I had to rely on Him to make it through.  The countless times, especially those completely random ones, that I've become a puddle on the floor because it hurts so much to have such an empty spot or to see others I love hurt and not be able to take it away....creates such a weakness that is so hard to describe unless you've experienced it first hand.
  • My memory is an odd thing.  It's amazing how OLD memories flood my heart and warm my soul.  Things long forgotten come back so often and it's an amazing thing.  Yet on the other hand, I'm already forgetting things that I never want to forget.  Most especially, I'm forgetting what he sounded like.  He had such a very distinctive voice.....yet, it's getting harder  and harder to remember it.  If I hear it, I instantly know it is him but to just hear it in my head is getting hard.  Unfortunately, Daddy HATED cameras and having him on video is few and far between.  The few I have, I find myself going back and listening to just hear him so I don't forget anymore. 
  • What I learned about grief in college (Social Work major) really doesn't mean anything.  I may have aced every test and knew the answer to most every question, it really meant nothing when I experienced it.  Though I know what to expect and what not to expect, it's so VERY different when it's your own heart and brain that is going through it.  It's like being a parent.  You think you know all the answers from reading the recommended books, but then they hand you that precious little baby and you soon realize the information in the books no longer matter. 
  • Time really does go on.  The world moves along with or without you.  People forget quickly that your grief is still strong.  Time really does go on and I HAVE to go on....no matter how difficult it may seem at times.  Grief is hard for EVERYONE, but when you have been entrusted by God with young children the task becomes so much greater. 
  • JOY is still possible.  Though this year has been incredibly hard, it has been the most peaceful and the most joyful I've ever experienced.  I think because the days and moments of joy are so much more brilliant than the dark ones, I just embrace them more.  At first being happy was hard.  I felt guilty even though I know I shouldn't have been.  Now I'm embracing that joy and celebrating it with more gusto than ever.  Though this year has been unspeakable....it's been the greatest year for my marriage, our family, and spiritually.   I think dark days just make the bright ones so much brighter!
  • God really is just one heartbeat away.  For years I struggled to "connect" and felt like He was so far away.  This year has shown me that He is really closer than I ever thought.  That footprints in the sand poem is absolutely true.  For so long, He was just carrying me. 
  • I know that the pain isn't going to go away. Next year REALLY isn't going to be any easier than this one.  It will just be different.  I've been warned that it may even be harder.  That's OK.  What I've learned this year is that I WILL MAKE IT. 
  • I've learned just how amazing of a support system I have.  My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude with the friendships that I've made and just how incredible they are.  Some "old" friends have continued to be so uplifting and I treasure them.  Many "new" friends have been the ones that have stood holding up my arms just as Aaron and Hur did for Moses.  They've fought the battle for me so many times and I firmly believe that it has made all the difference in the world!   For many months, I got caught up in the disappointments of certain individuals that should have been supportive and weren't.  The pain from that was excruciating, but I am finally to the point that my heart can grasp on to the ones that have been good for my heart and move past those that weren't.
  • I've learned that my husband is the most precious treasure I've ever been given.  Though at times he hasn't known how to help in the way I've needed it, HE NEVER GAVE UP!  To say he has been a rock for me is such an understatement.  This year has brought such tremendous growth and we've never been happier.  Granted, it's not always as perfect as we want but we don't give up.  "Battles" that could literally go on for weeks or months because of our stubborn, selfish sides get solved MUCH quicker because we don't want to waste a minute by having distance between us.  This year has taught us the value of time and what it means to be "Stronger. Together."
  • The hardest lesson learned this year is PERMANENCE.  Reality is harsh.  It seems like each day brings about a reminder of the "nots" and "wont".  He is not here for.....  He won't be here for....  As hard as it is for me to not have him, it's so much harder when your kids are a daily reminder of what he isn't here for.  Not here for the little or big things in their lives and THAT is harder than I ever dreamed. 
Though it's hard and I'm such an emotional mess at times, I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for the incredible gift I was given when my father was alive.  I'm incredibly thankful for the gift that I'm continued to be blessed with even though he is no longer physically here.  His love and legacy live on.  It's here in me.  It's here in my children.  It's here in tangible and intangible ways.  The love of God is here wrapped around me on the hardest days.  Nothing can ever replace those things.  Death only lasts for so long.  Reunion will happen.  Life will continue here and I'm absolutely embracing it with every ounce of being.  Probably the biggest thing I've learned is that time is nothing more than a vapor.  Things can change in a heartbeat.  Hold on to those you love, live life with no regrets AND keep your eyes open for each and every blessing.  They are kisses from heaven. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Authentic Faith---Not JUST your PARENTS Faith!

As a parent there are so many things I want to get right.  So many things become "priority" in teaching our kids. 

I often get overwhelmed.  Practically on a daily basis.  When those really hard days come, I try to stop (TRY!) and sit back and put the moment in perspective.  When I can't do it all, what are the things that absolutely matter most? 

That list is still long enough that it still can paralyze because it's so long.  Yet, it almost always comes to matters of love and faith. 

Though there are many important things, ESSENTIAL things, that I don't want to "mess up"----there is one that almost always rises to the top of the list. 

It's the matter of faith.  NOT religion.  Going to church doesn't make me a Christian anymore than standing in my garage makes me a car.  It's the real faith that I'm talking about.  The moving beyond religion.  The actual personal one on one relationship with Christ. 

It's easy to mess up as a parent.  Good grief----just look around!  I'm never going to get it all right.  I'm not even going to get a high percentage of it all right.  Yet, some things REALLY matter.

Matters of faith are one on the list that I hope to get as close to as right as I can. 

One thing that matters so significantly to me is passing on our faith to our children. 

One of my greatest fears since becoming a mother is that my kids would grow up and reject their faith someday.  If you look around you can see examples of that happening every direction you turn. 

Some people claim that if you shelter your kids too much they will end up running as far away from all things "religious" when they are given their first taste of freedom.  I can't say that doesn't happen.  I watched it happen from the first moment I walked on the campus of my Christian college.  I watched one "good" girl after another stumble and fall. 

On the other hand, I was as sheltered as you could absolutely get.  As a matter of fact, I had more freedom on campus than I did at home.  Most girls complained about the strictness of rules (curfew, dating rules, dress code, etc...), but I on the other hand LOVED it.   Kevin used to pick me up for dates at school because I could stay out SEVERAL hours later than if I were at home.  Most of the other girls left campus to date.  I was even engaged to him and my dad still had the rule that I couldn't call him on the phone----he had to call me and the time limit was 15 minutes. Yes---even when I was 20!   I was raised with very strict standards to say the least. 

Yes, I struggled with making decisions and deciding for myself what was right and wrong.  Sometimes I pushed the line WAY too close and even crossed over the line more times than I wish.  Yet, I didn't run from my faith.  I didn't turn into the "wild" girl.  Therefore, the "sheltering" argument doesn't hold up in my opinion.  I do believe there is some validity to it, but not nearly as much as people claim.  If I had gone "wild", it wouldn't have been my parent's strictness/sheltering to blame.  It would have been MY fault and because of my own sinful nature and selfishness.  "Sheltering" actual gave me the roots to STICK to my faith. 

So, how do you parent in such a way that moves your child from having your faith because they are trying to please you and living by your standards to that of having it for themselves? 

I don't have that full answer.  It's an answer I'm searching for because it matters greatly to my heart.  It's one of those things I do NOT want to get wrong.  I believe that God can fill in many gaps when I'm lacking, but this is one of those areas that I don't want to fail at. 

Though I don't have the complete answers, I do have some ideas of how to give it the best that I can.

It starts with my faith being authentic.  My kids have to see me completely sold out for Christ.  No sitting on the fence.  None of this one toe in God's world and the other nine in the world.  Not even 7 in God's word and 3 in the world. I'm either all in for Christ or I'm in the "world". 

That doesn't mean that I'm going to be perfect and without sin.  It means I have to be transparent enough to let them see my struggles.
  • When I fail, they have to see me seek forgiveness and make restitution. 
  • They have to see me step out in faith, even when it's hard or out of my comfort zone.  They NEED to see my leaning on God for strength.  They need to see the Holy Spirit living in me.
  • They have to see me offering them grace and forgiveness.  They need to see me accepting it for myself. 
  • I need to live a life of gratitude and make sure that I'm pointing out OFTEN that our blessings come from God's favor. 
  • I need to live a life of joy and passion.
Ouch!  Guess I have LOTS of things to work on!

Most importantly, I think it comes down to living the same life in front of them that we do behind closed doors.  What I mean by that is this:  NO double standards.  That means if a word is not appropriate for them to say, it isn't for me either.  If a show isn't appropriate for them to watch, it isn't appropriate for me either (with few exceptions).  It means for us (and many friends disagree with us on this point, even ones I greatly honor and respect, and I'm OK with that), that we don't have drinks sitting in the fridge that are strictly for "adults".  If I don't want them to lie or break rules, than I should do my best to not do it either.  That means don't ask them to lie and say they are 9 when they are 10 if they get in somewhere free if they are under 10.  That means don't lie about their age so they can have a facebook account.  That means if a person in a store gives back too much change---don't pocket it.  Just a few weeks ago, I was able to use that as example.  We were shopping at our favorite craft/repurposing store and I bought several bags of things.  When I got to the van, I realized I had a small item in my hand that I had been carrying with my keys because I didn't want to lose it.  It was only 25 cents in value.  It was going to take me a minimum of 3 minutes to go back in and pay for it.  The kids would never have even known the difference.  I needed to let them see me do the honest thing.   The list of walking the walk, talking the talk and not living double standards could go on indefinitely.  We are often not getting it right. 

Other times they don't see the best of me.  The see my real struggles with anger and frustration.  They see my heartbreak and brokenness----and oh boy have they seen that this past year.  They see the results of broken relationships.  They see when we have need for God to answer prayers----in the little things and in the big things.  They see us openly seeking His will.

I think those are the keys to helping them develop authentic faith that they can claim as their own.  Being careful to not say "do as I say, not as I do" goes a LONG way in helping them move from "our" faith to "theirs".  They see our faith as VERY personal and deep.  They don't see it as a "Sunday only" kind of mentality.  It makes up who we are.  Even when we fail, it is still part of us and they witness the rebuilding and restoration that comes from a relationship with Christ.

I absolutely wish there were things I did more of.  There are always regrets of things I've done and even more regrets of things I wish I had done that I didn't do.  I miss teachable moments EVERY single day.  As a matter of fact, praying WITH them is something I wish I did more often and was more comfortable with.  I pray FOR them constantly, both in the moment and in deep prayer times.....but praying WITH them is a struggle.  Some friends are great about finding teachable moments every which direction they turn and though I'm decent at it, it doesn't come as easily as I wish.  I wish I had a "softer" personality at times and wasn't so easily frustrated.  That "soft voice" kind of mom----that isn't me (though I'm working REALLY hard at trying to change it). 

The point is this:  I'm not getting it right.  I'm not getting it all wrong.  I'm trying.  THEY SEE THAT!  They see that perfection doesn't get you into heaven.  They also see that acting anyway you want doesn't either.  They without a doubt know that I don't believe in religion, that I believe in relationship.  They know that their Dad and I are willing to be "outsiders" even amongst our friends if it means holding fast to our beliefs.  We openly talk about how hard it is to go against what the world says is right.  They see us make our stand and not back down just to make it easier on us (even though it's a struggle).  They know that we question what is right and what is wrong and we search for answers when we aren't sure.  They see us dig into God's word or seek advice when we aren't sure what to do.  We try our hardest to avoid the "because I said so" (95% of the time anyway... somedays that IS a good enough answer...). 

Our family is real.  Though we would like to be cover models for "Thriving Family" or some other Focus on the Family magazine/book or Sunday School curriculum cover----what you get instead is REAL.  The kind of fall on your face, run smack dab into the door, trip over your own two feet kind of family.  They get authentic.  I believe it's "that" authentic that helps take them from our faith to their faith and allows it to be authentic for them.  They don't see the "well, Dad (or Mom) said we shouldn't do this or that, but they do it".  What they see is, "Mom and Dad believe in this or that enough to not do it even when no one is looking."  That is authenticity.   They also know that when we drop the ball, we admit it and we do our best to make it right. 

I've read this statement in some form many times.  I read it again the other day on a facebook page and it really stuck with me. 

"In this house we do second chances, we do grace, we do real, we do mistakes, we do I'm sorry, we do loud really well, we do hugs, we do family, we do love."  

I believe that is the best way we are ever going to be able to take the God-given, God-entrusted gifts of our three children and teach them the keys they need to move from having our faith, to having their own. 

*P.S.  Don't forget to enter the Revolution Worship LIVE CD giveaway here.  It ends Friday.*

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winner & Giveaway Reminder

Winner of Busy Homeschool Mom book giveaway:  Gretchen!

Don't forget that EVERYONE can enter for the possibility to win the Revolution Worship LIVE CD here!  Ends Friday the 11th. 

Communication---2 Way Street

Let me just say that the last 5 hours have been extreme CHAOS in regards to communication.  Little did I know, the problem has been going on for a minimum of two days.  I was oblivious until everything began to fall apart.

Long story short:  my outgoing email is sitting somewhere out in cyberspace going nowhere.  Being that I've sent about 300 emails in the last 48 hours, it's a very significant issue.  The problem is:  there is no rhyme or reason to which ones are actually going out and which ones are "floating".   I can be in a direct email conversation back and forth with someone and some of my responses will deliver and others---even though I'm replying to the same email!  Let me just tell you....this has caused some EXTREME confusion and frustration tonight.  Let's just say:  I had to give into a diet coke (cheater!!!!) and am eating a giant bowl of ice cream at the moment.  :)

Fortunately, there is a temporary solution.  I can use a different email account and things work as they are supposed to.  The good news is that I'm slowly getting in touch with the people that I've been trying to communicate within recent days, especially 30+ individuals from today.  Yikes!  The bad news is that my regular email provider can't determine the problem at this point.  Now that I know there is a problem, I'm diligently working to get in touch with those people that I need to via the alternate account.  Jeepers!

As I look back over the last couple of days, I'm now able to fill in the blanks of why I didn't seem to "connect" with some people I was corresponding with.   So many times details were missing or things didn't line up. I never dreamed they weren't getting some of my emails.  Conversations just felt off and I wasn't for sure why.

All of this has made me stop and think about communication and how important it is that it goes BOTH ways.  If you have a break down in communication, things can QUICKLY fall apart.  That is absolutely true in MANY areas like marriage, parenting, and in the business world.  Every which direction you turn, it is important to be on the same page communicating in both directions:  listening and speaking.

What really struck me tonight is how both aspects are CRUCIAL in my relationship with Christ.  I HAVE to talk with Him (through prayer) on a REGULAR basis.  Sporadic doesn't work.  Only in hard times doesn't work.  It HAS to be consistent, often, and more than just on the surface. 

On the flip side, I have to be LISTENING.  I admit---this is a HARD one for me!  It's just as crucial to have my ears and heart open to what He is saying as it is for me to be talking to Him.  Drowning out all the other voices and noise is hard for me.  Really hard! 

Just like today's chaos came from only one side of communication happening, my world falls apart if I'm not talking with Him and listening as well.  If one aspect starts to slip away, chaos ensues.  Disconnect happens.  I feel like we are on different pages.  Both aspects of communication have to work together.  Miss out on one, the other doesn't much matter. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Obedience----SO hard!

Obedience.  It's a great word.  It's a positive one.  One that brings peaceful scenes to mind.  Prim and proper children.  Calm pets.  Things working according to plan.  It's a calming word.

Disobedience.  It's not so great of a word.  It doesn't bring about peace.  It's about chaos.  Disappointment.  Guilt.  Conviction.  Disorderly kids.  Breaking rules.  Disturbance.  All things negative. 

In our house we are working hard at achieving the "peaceful" one.  Immediate obedience, without hesitation.  Doing what is asked the first time.  Completely. 

Results?  Let's just say we are a work in process.  Granted, some days are a bit better than others.  Some days are well.....just not so good. 

I have high expectations.  When I ask my kids to do something, I expect it to be done.  I expect it to be done instantly, with a good attitude, and done in such a way that shows that it was done at the best of their ability.  I want them to follow through cheerfully, without question and absolutely without a begrudging attitude. 

DREAM on!  It seldom happens that way.  Grace is needed.  Forgiveness must be offered.  Reminders have to be given.  Training, retraining, and retraining again must take place. 

God looks at me the same way. 

He desires for me to do what He asks the first time and with the proper attitude.  Yet, I fail MANY times.  OK---I fail CONSTANTLY. 

I question.  I hesitate.  I might give in, but often do so without the right attitude.  Sometimes, I refuse.  Sometimes I'm willfully disobedient because "my" way is not "His" way.  Sometimes I want to obey but I put it off for another time.  Just like when one of my kids say "in a minute" and then they get busy and forget.  Sometimes my kids pretend they didn't hear me.  I wonder how many times I do that with God.  More times than I want to admit.  How many times do I say "not now, in a minute" and then don't follow through.  OUCH!  That one hurt my toes!

However, the beauty of the love of God can be compared to that of a parent that is patiently teaching his or her child.  As a mother, I want the best for my kids.  I want them to be obedient with a right attitude ALL the time.  Yet they fail.  I don't give up on them when they do.  I keep trying.  I keep teaching.  I keep forgiving.  Sometimes discipline IS required.  Sometimes just extra love and grace are what is required. 

I don't give up on my kids.  I may get frustrated.  I may have to correct them. Just because they fail to do what is asked doesn't mean I withdraw my love.  No matter how many times it takes in teaching them to do something, I don't give up on them.  No matter if I have to ask them to do something over and over, I don't quit. 

I'm so grateful that God doesn't give up on me.  I'm thankful that He is like a patient parent when it comes to teaching me something or asking obedience of me.  I KNOW He wants me to listen the first time.  I KNOW He wants me to "get it right" the first time.  I KNOW He expects obedience.  Yet, when I fall short He just keeps offering forgiveness, grace, and more opportunities to try again. 

"If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times".......have you ever said that to your kids?  I'm ashamed to admit that I have. 

Thank goodness, God doesn't say that to us.  Instead, He just stretches out His scarred hands and offers love.  He covers my sins.  He loves unconditionally.  What amazing LOVE that is. 

I'm embracing that.  I'm claiming that.  I'm praying to become more like Him in the way I parent.  I'm praying to be more obedient the FIRST time and with the RIGHT attitude.  Grateful tonight that God loves me (and YOU) more than we can EVER imagine.  He does expect things of us and requires things from us.  I'm thankful his love is deeper than I can fathom.  I'm thankful that His forgiveness reaches as far as the east is from the west.  I'm thankful He NEVER, EVER gives up on me! 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Revolution Worsip LIVE Review & Giveaway

Are you ready? 

It's time for another review AND a giveaway! 

Revolution Worship LIVE!

First:  let me give you information provided by Revolution & then I'll give you my honest review of what I thought about the music! 

Revolution Worship…Live At Joy Church International”, is a tremendous Praise & Worship album with a powerfully inspiring collection of songs that is unparalleled to any other Praise & Worship series in it’s category. Filled with meaningful lyrics and sincere, personal worship, “Revolution Worship…Live At Joy Church International” masterfully demonstrates authenticity at it’s best. From fiery, electrifying tracks with edgy, rock-driven guitar to peaceful, intimate tracks, this album focuses on pointing attention to God.

And because it’s recorded live, you get to experience the congregational feel of being in a vibrant church service.

Infusing musical quality with a spiritual impact that raises the bar on what to expect in new Praise & Worship music, “Revolution Worship…Live At Joy Church International” brings you a brand new worship experience.

From start to finish, this release is about the act of ministering uncompromisingly God-centered music through pure, heart-felt praise!

Facebook Video with samples of the music!

Now, my thoughts:

I definitely loved the sincerity of the singers.  Listening left no doubt in my mind that their hearts were coming through the music.  Isn't that what worship is about?  Words mean nothing if the heart isn't behind it.  The greatest thing I can say about Revolution Worship LIVE is that when I listened, I was moved. 

One of my favorites is "We Lift You Up".  It immediately put my heart in the right frame of mind and I've found myself gravitating to replaying it over and over.  The words were powerful.  Any of you that read my blog very often know that music is my sanity saver.  It never fails that a bad day can immediately take a turn for the better when just the right song plays.  Christian music connects us to our Savior and I LOVE that!

Something else that I absolutely loved about Revolution Worship LIVE is that the message of salvation was included.  I can't say that I've ever heard that done on a music CD before.   "This CD has been all about worship.  But worship begins with RELATIONSHIP!"  Can't get more truthful than that!  We can sing the words all day, but without a personal relationship with Christ it is meaningless.  I applaud the worship team that put this CD together for including the message of salvation.  "It's not about BEING GOOD, it's about BELONGING to God. It's not about behavior modification.  It's actually about life transformation.  It's not about what you have or haven't done.  It's all about what Jesus Christ has done for you."  My favorite statement in the prayer of salvation track is this:  "He loves you like you are the only person in this world to love!"  I also loved how it talks about without relationship with Him, he is just your creator.  Yet, once you are in a relationship with Him, he becomes your FATHER.  Such precious words for a hurting world!  Never is the message spoken with condemnation!  Excellent job, Revolution Worship LIVE!

All in all, the music is great.  I obviously felt drawn more to some songs than others, but I think that is true of most every CD.  I was thrilled with the quality of the instrumental music/worship band.  I loved the variety of songs and the different "types" of music presented.  At times they were soft, peaceful songs that calmed my heart and others were ones that make you "want to get up and rock out" (according to my 5 year old!).

Great news:  one of you can WIN your own copy!  Have to love that!  Keep it for yourself or give it as a gift!

Simply leave a comment on this post!  (Please be sure to leave your name and an email for contact, if you choose to use the anonymous sign up option.  Otherwise, I will have no way to contact you if you are selected as the winner.)  No jumping through hoops required.  Giveaway will end on Friday night the 11th and winner will be announced during that weekend.  Winner will be chosen at random!

I encourage you to click the link above and watch/listen to the video on facebook to hear portions of the music! 

*A little bit of necessary fine print*  (Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cleaning out Closets

This morning I got up, put on nice clothes, and loaded the kids up for Parent's Morning Out.  I was SO excited to head out and have a couple of hours to do some shopping without kids in tow.  THEN I opened the garage door.  I knew it was raining, but I didn't know it was miserably cold and raining hard.  It was one of those days that umbrellas were completely useless.  After dropping the kids off and grabbing a drive-thru breakfast, I headed back home.  I broke the Thursday morning rule.  The rule that says I can't come home and do anything domestic or school related. 

I don't regret it one bit.

I came back home and put the COMFY clothes on and attacked a much overdue task.  I consented to finally giving in to the fact that winter is quickly coming and unfortunately will be here to stay for way too many months.  I finally moved out the spring/summer clothes and brought in the fall/summer. 

The best part of the task is that I FINALLY did what I had been wanting to do for a VERY long time.  Instead of just hanging up the right season and putting the "old" season in their appropriate Rubbermaid totes, I actually went through EVERYTHING with a very critical eye.  If I didn't LOVE it, it got boxed up for charity.  That means if it didn't fit properly (even if I WANTED it to), if I didn't wear it last year, or if it didn't make me feel good wearing it....it went in the charity box(es). 

What I found is this:  it brought GREAT freedom, but it was EXTREMELY hard.  I realized just how much emotional attachment we as women tend to have with our clothes.  I had to push past the "but it was such a great bargain" and the but "I wore that to....." 

I've been wanting to head towards the minimalist closet for such a long time, but just now took the plunge.  I kept only things that were multi-functional.  Gone were those things that I would NEVER find a match for or that limited me to one choice of outfit.  Now my focus can be on making completely new outfits by just changing out accessories and scarves. 

First round of purging...this pile grew after going back through another time or two

Going through pants with a critical eye

One section done!

My closet may contain about a third of what it did, but what I found is that I now actually have MORE clothes than before.  Even better:  I can find it!  I can visually see what I can change up.  I even have a list of missing pieces to purchase.  Now, if I head out to consignment stores/Goodwill/etc..  I won't just be buying anything that fits and is affordable.  I will just be in search of specific items.  When I find something that I might have normally bought, I can have the freedom to say "I like that.  It's a great bargain.  Yet, someone else can gather that treasure!"  Aha moment!

Something else happened as I went through each and every piece of clothing.  I began to think of how God wants me to do the same thing on a different level.  Of course this wouldn't be my blog if I didn't have some kind of spiritual twist to add!  :)

Some items were HARD to get rid of even though I knew they would just hang there passed over for another year.  There are things in my life that God wants me to get rid of, but yet I find myself still hanging on to them.  Some things were EASY to get rid of because I had no emotional attachment to them.  There are things that I need to get rid of in my life and truthfully it won't be hard.  I just need to do it.  Some things in my life need to go, it's just a matter of taking the time to do it or making the commitment. Some things in my closet didn't get tossed on the first round or two, but I eventually boxed them up.  I think God has some of those things for me to get rid of in my spiritual life.  Those kind of things that on the surface don't seem so wrong, but when you dig deeper I KNOW they are.  The kind of things that the world says are OK, but in my heart I know aren't.  There were a few things in my closet that I held onto that maybe I shouldn't have.  I just couldn't break that attachment.  I know there are things in my heart that are the same way.  Hopefully, I'll find the strength to let them go in both closets:  the one in reality and the one in my heart! 

(As a reminder, don't forget to enter the current giveaway here before Sunday night....especially for homeschool moms!)