Sunday, December 30, 2012

No More Perfect Moms Challenge

I have a confession to make. 
My name is Tracye and I suffer from "Perfection Infection."
I know that I can't be perfect.  I know that my kids don't need a perfect mom (after all, they can't be perfect they don't want or need perfect!).   My husband definitely doesn't need a perfect wife and he most certainly isn't going to get one. He married me.  My home isn't perfect.  My body is far from perfect. 
Yet, perfection is what I strive for.  I'm infected.  I don't truly want perfection, but perfection is STILL what I strive for.  Who really needs that pressure?  But oh boy----do we moms EVER put that pressure on ourselves and others.
Learning to let go of that is a journey worth taking. 
Have you ever fought and battled with your kids/spouse getting out the door for church?  Sometimes a scenario like this *might* happen in our house on a Sunday morning:
You're already running behind because someone hit snooze too many times.  Someone took too long in the shower and didn't leave sufficient time for the spouse to have a turn.  Child one can't find his shoes.  Child two can't find his Bible.  Child three:  are you planning on wearing that?  The fighting between the kids over something insignificant rises a few thousand MORE decibel levels.  Looking in the mirror, all you can see is that your muffin top is no longer a muffin, it's like a multi-layer cake now!  The "gut-sucker" no longer holds you in. The "girls" are definitely not shaped the way they once were.  The gray hair is no longer hidden.  The husband tells you to quit being so hard on yourself that he truly loves you as you are.  Yet, you just nod and smile while inside you are screaming "yea right, I have eyes and can see!" Then you are finally ready to leave and you walk out of the bedroom/bathroom and see the mess that has been left in the living room and you come unglued.  After all, what if someone comes to the door? Oh yes, that spirit of preparing for worship has gone out the door because Mom is livid....and if Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy!  Once everyone is loaded in the van, someone realizes that oops they forget it was their day to take the dog out.  By the time you arrive at church, you are far beyond stressed, steam is literally rolling from your ears, you've got the "mom" look down to a science, and then.....
The door on the van opens and suddenly there is this magic smile on your face! 
Yep, the infection bit.  By all means, you can't go into church being REAL. You want to feel as put together as all the other moms appear to be! 
But inside.....
It's an ugly war.
Just this morning, I was getting ready for church and I have a GIANT (talking Godzilla size) zit looking back at me in the mirror.  This morning didn't self destruct like the above scenario (which by the way was LAST week!), but the perfection infection was still taking over.  I covered the monstrosity on my face and was quite pleased with how well I hid it.  I even pointed out to my husband that I was thrilled with the fact that it wasn't glaring at me.  Yet, that zit hurt all through church.  It was painfully obvious to me that I might have covered it with makeup....but it was still there. 
I might can cover a stain or hole in my shirt with a strategically placed scarf and pin.  However, the stain/hole is still there.
We ALL wear masks.  Masks that hide the ugly things inside of us, but the things about masks are that they only temporarily hide or disguise.  Things we don't want others to see.  We compare our insides to others outsides.  We think we don't measure up.  We live in fear that others are judging us and we wrongly judge others.  OUCH! 
Author Jill Savage has written an AMAZING book called "No More Perfect Moms" and it is a LIFE-CHANGING book that gets to the heart of the "Perfection Infection".  Early last month I applied to be a part of 100 women across the nation to be part of her book launch team and last week found out I was selected as part of the team.  Because of that, I have been able to read an advanced copy of the book before it releases in February.  As a matter of fact, I've already read it cover to cover twice this week and am anxiously awaiting for my physical copy to arrive so I can start highlighting and writing notes like crazy (some of you that know me well: YES....I've already bought new highlighters, colored pens, and a new notebook!!!  LOL!) Speaking of perfection, I almost talked myself out of applying.  Clicking submit on that application was just about enough to give me a heart attack and I second guessed myself for days after the fact.  In the spirit of being honest, I admit that I was quite grumpy with my kids while I was typing out my responses.  I might have been wanting to speak softly like Michelle Duggar, but my family was getting ANYTHING but that! Talking about being totally imperfect! 
 Hey wait---maybe THAT is something I am perfect at.  Being imperfect.
In the coming weeks, I can't wait to share with you my journey through the book and attempting to get REAL and applying the antidotes to cure this soul draining infection of perfection! 
For now, let me HIGHLY encourage you to:
  • Sign up for Jill's 31 Day Email challenge that is about to start on January 1st. I signed up before I even had the chance to pre-read the book.  Let me just say:  I'm VERY excited!  I know it's going to bring about some incredible changes in my own heart and hope you'll consider joining in! (The book is NOT necessary for this challenge!) 
  • Check out No More Perfect Mom's Website for great resources (many coming soon!)
  • Purchase "No More Perfect Moms"  However, WAIT until the week of February 4-9th!  By doing so, we can hopefully concentrate enough sales to help this make it on the New York Best Seller's List so that it can get in the hands of more moms.  By purchasing during this time period, there will be some great bonus offers to say thank you!
  • Attend Hearts at Home National Conference March 15-16th in Bloomington, IL on the ISU campus.  There is nothing else that encourages my heart anymore than this weekend event!  You will cry, you will laugh, and you will cry from laughing so hard.  Best of all, you will find that you are NOT alone in your struggles and needs of motherhood.  Great for moms of all ages.  Hey wait, did I mention that I had a moment of breakdown to find that some of the workshops were geared for women over 35?  That used to be "old " to me.  Now, I fall into that category.  Can someone explain how that happened?  :) 
The perfect infection almost took another bite out of me tonight.  I feel so much pressure to "write" a perfect post to encourage you to GET this book in your hands.  It isn't because I need to impress.  It isn't because the launch team has come with pressure. As a matter of fact, I feel BEYOND blessed to be part of this group.  My heart has already been significantly touched by reading so much from the other team members.

 It's because I KNOW it's valuable.  I know that it CAN change your role as a mother in a positive direction.  It's because I want you to see my heart through the next several weeks of talking about the journey. 

Because it matters.  Because it REALLY matters. 

Friday, December 28, 2012


I'm FINALLY back.  My break from blogging to reevaluate some priorities, seek some direction, make some changes, and create some "space" for awhile was a great break.  More about some of that to come in the weeks ahead!  Many changes, new directions, and a heart set back on fire! Some great things ahead this year! 

Jumping in with both feet...

For the last several years, we've chosen a focus word for the year.  We display it predominantly so that we see it often.  Specifically, we keep it written on our large dry-erase board that is in our entry way.  We see it when we are coming in and out of the garage.  A reminder during all of our "going outs" and "coming ins".

Some years it has been difficult to decide on  a meaningful word that truly fits what we are wanting for our family.  Last year it was the end of February before I finally made a decision. 

You can read all about that and a recap of the previous years in this post

Quick recap:

2010 Simplify
2011 Purpose
2012 Courageous and a special focus on "Stronger. Together" as a family and marriage theme.

This year I'm way ahead of the game.  The decision was easy. 

We were actually in the middle of worship last week and as we were singing, some of the words rolled all over my heart in a new way.  The Holy Spirit was definitely at work. 

Refiner's Fire (Brian Doerksen) and Jesus at the Center (Hillsong) both brought me into a place of worship that I had been craving for so very long. 

(Refiner's Fire Lyrics)
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold
Refiner's fire
My heart's one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within
(portions of Jesus at the Center)

Jesus be the center of my life
 Jesus be the center of my life
From beginning to the end
It will always be, it's always been You Jesus

Nothing else matters, nothing in this world will do
Jesus You're the center, everything revolves around You
Jesus You
These two songs have CONSTANTLY been on repeat loop in my heart since we began attending a new church several weeks ago (more about that in coming weeks).  When we sang these in worship last Sunday, I immediately felt a stirring that THIS is what I want my year to be.  The word of the year hadn't even crossed my radar yet.  As a matter of fact, the new year has completely jumped up on me.  It's as if so many dates this last year have surprised me even though I've planned for them.  I planned and planned for Christmas and stayed on track, but it honestly still surprised me when it actually arrives, despite the countdown in front of my face. 
Those two words have been in my spirit from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. 
2013:  Choose
So many things in life are about making a choice. Otherwise we let life just happen to us.
  • I CHOOSE to be holy.
  • I CHOOSE to live set apart.
  • I CHOOSE to do your will.
  • I CHOOSE to fix my thoughts on YOU.
  • I CHOOSE to be obedient (hopefully the FIRST time---not after multiple requests---yikes, not been so great about that lately!).
  • I CHOOSE to make choices that put Jesus at the Center.
  • I CHOOSE to let go of the perfection infection (MUCH more about that to come!).
  • I CHOOSE to make my marriage a priority above everything; second only to God.
  • I CHOOSE to be real.  Show vulnerability and weaknesses.
  • I CHOOSE to seek His will and WALK in it, even out of my comfort zone. I CHOOSE to be ready to do that will.
  • I CHOOSE to say no to things that don't line up with His Word, regardless, of how many others are saying yes. (This one has been a BIG one for us!)
  • I CHOOSE to accept Grace when I fail, which I WILL and OFTEN!  However, I will CHOOSE to not use grace as an excuse to do what I want.  I CHOOSE not to cheapen His sacrifice.
  • I CHOOSE to say no to things that pull us away from our financial goals.
  • I CHOOSE to say no to things that cause my priorities to be out of line or wear me too thin.
  • I CHOOSE to work on letting go of anger, bitterness, jealousy, and all of those other ugly emotions that create walls.
  • I CHOOSE to spend time with Him in order to be able to hear His voice more clearly.
  • I CHOOSE to spend time with those that bring me closer to Him. I CHOOSE to surround myself with other women that are "in the trenches" and that provide encouragement AND accountability.
  • I CHOOSE to build up others with words, not tear them down.
  • I CHOOSE to make our home an inviting place to be.
  • I CHOOSE to be the best teacher I can for our children.  Allow Him to fill in any gaps.  Seek assistance in areas that we are struggling. Trust my instincts.  Make goals and work towards them. 
  • I CHOOSE to live in a attitude of TRUE gratitude. 
  • I CHOOSE to live life more fully and abundantly.
  • I CHOOSE laughter. 
  •  I CHOOSE joy.
  • I CHOOSE to forgive: others and myself. 
  • I CHOOSE to focus on my own gifts and talents and avoid being jealous of others.
  • I CHOOSE to accept that His will may not match up with mine and that I will be faithful and trust when it doesn't. 
  • I CHOOSE to teach my children by action AND words (not just words) what it means to believe in and serve Christ.
  • I CHOOSE to control my emotions and not let them control me (LOVING "Unglued" by Lysa Terkeurst)
  • I CHOOSE to ....
That list can go on indefinitely. These are ones that just flew from the fingertips without much deep introspection.  It's not a check off list that I'm going to get right.  It's one that just keeps my heart focused on Him in all aspects, drawing me closer to Him in the way He has designed.
It's about choosing.  It doesn't just happen.  It won't just happen. 
I'm choosing to make this year different.  I'm choosing to see how much more I can give God of myself.  I'm choosing to see where a life more fully committed to Him will lead.  Less of me, more of Him.  Falling down and getting back up.  Reaching up when answers feel so far away.  Trusting in the most difficult circumstances.  Choosing Him. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Love our Kids Need

Parenting. Is. Not. For. Wimps. 

Enough said.

It's hard than I ever dreamed, most especially when you want to raise kids according to scripture, not according to what the world says is normal. 

It forces you to your knees.  It forces you to rely heavily on God. No way around it.

And it's hard.

Did I mention it's hard?

I've got so much to learn.  This list tends to grow by the second. 

Yet, there are some things I know to be true.  Tonight I'm focusing on that. 

Kids need LOVE.

They need to know three important things about love.

They need to know that we LOVE God.  They need to know our love for God is real---not just for show.  Not just on Sunday morning.  They need to know that what you say you believe is what you walk.  When you fail, and you WILL, they need to know that you are willing to ask for forgiveness.  They need to know that God is your priority above all else.  They don't just need your words.  They need your actions. They need to know that when faced with hard decisions, you are willing to go to God and ask for direction.  They need to see us walk in obedience even when it's much easier to do what the world says. 

They need to know that mom and dad LOVE each other.  They need to see it.  I firmly believe that kids needs to see affection between their parents.  They need to see how to treat their future spouse and they need to see what to look for when choosing their future partner.  A home without affection leaves too many questions in their hearts as to whether mom or dad truly love each other.  Dance in the kitchen.  Hold hands.  Laugh together.  Snuggle on the couch.  Yes, don't be afraid to *gasp* kiss in front of them.  They may pretend it grosses them out, but in reality it sends a clear message that they are in a stable home.  Recently, someone criticized me for posting this picture:
Let me tell you:  I love it.  I cherish it.  It's us.  It's the real us.  When I said something to the kids about the criticism, they literally laughed out loud.  Their response centered on the fact that it's far from damaging for them.  That it in fact gives them confidence.  As a matter of fact, they begin to get worried when the affection starts to dwindle because we are running in too many directions.  A kiss at the door when their dad is walking in from work, says I value him and he is the priority.  The best part of that conversation was that it ended with my daughter laughing and making the promise that if we ever were so old and unable to be cared for to the point that we needed to put in a nursing home, she promised that our wheelchairs would be close enough together that we could still dance.  A promise!  Yes, I think that speaks volumes as to whether they are being "damaged" by such pictures! :)
They need to know that we LOVE them. I don't mean buying their love with things.  I mean ALL aspects of love.  Our time (both quality AND quantity).  They need to know that we will fight for them and protect them.  They need to know that we love them enough to discipline them and train them.  Love isn't in the form of being their friend.  Parents first.  They need affection and one-on-one focus and attention.  They need to know that they are our world, but they still have responsibilities and not to expect things to be handed to them.  They need REAL love, not love that the world says is normal.  Above all, they need US.  All of us.  The world is going to knock them down, but they need to know our love is unconditional and belongs to them regardless of their behavior.  They need to see us model the love of Christ for them----so that we can point them towards Him. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Choosing Joy...and Moving On

I choose joy.

I choose peace.

I choose love.

I choose family. 

I choose to embrace.

Because of Him.  Because of the gifts He has abundantly poured out.  Not because I deserve them in the least, but because of His grace. 

Two years passed earlier this week since the moment our worlds turned upside down with the "simple" news that Dad was sick.  Two years that started the five week whirlwind journey that took our breathe away. (my thoughts last year as this day passed by).

The holidays are hard.  I can't lie. 

Two years ago the week of Christmas, we were fighting for life and fighting to let go.  Not something we EVER imagined five weeks prior. 

On the eve of Christmas Eve, we were placing our Daddy's hands in the hands of our savior....while most were scrambling with last minute holiday gifts, cooking, etc... Instead of wrapping gifts and watching the joy and anticipation take over our children, we were watching hearts break.  We were picking out a casket and writing obituaries, making calls, and trying to claw out of a fog. 

On Christmas Eve, we were picking out songs and pictures for slideshows and displays.  We were scrambling to find clothes for ourselves and the kids to wear to the visitation and services ahead. We were trying to decide how to still give our kids some version of holiday joy in hearts that were shutdown of all things joyful.  We were digging through boxes, bags, and suitcases to find as many of the kids holiday gifts that friends had frantically packed two days prior as they ran through our home trying to find anything and everything they could think of that we might need in the coming days.  Nothing like the holidays we had been expecting or dreaming of.  We watched our kids look at wrapped presents with such confusion and turmoil.

On Christmas Day, we spent our day standing in a funeral home sharing memories, sharing broken hearts with friends and family from near and far, finding strength in the most unusual places, having breakdowns in even stranger places.  A day of reality that still feels so unreal. Not a day of "Christmas" we ever imagined possible. 

The day after Christmas, the day that is typically spent quietly with our family of five, we spent with our "family" of hundreds.  A white Christmas of all things.  The day that many spend in shopping chaos, we spent celebrating the life of a man that was bigger than life and trying to say "see you later".  We saw God come down in His glory in ways we never imagined.  No matter the heartache, the power of those days are ETCHED in our memories. 

You see, once you've taken that journey your life is forever changed.  To take that journey on a holiday adds such a layer of emotions that are indescribable. 

Last year, Thanksgiving and Christmas just couldn't be the same.  As much as I wanted it to be, as much as I tried and tried relentlessly, I just couldn't bring that joy back into our home.  The chaos in my brain was just too much.  We tried for the kids.  It failed. 

The holiday spirit seemed to evaporate.  We poured ourselves into the celebration of Christ's birth as our focus and THAT was well beyond more beautiful than we've ever experienced in years prior.  As beautiful as that was to feel in our home, it was still so empty.  It was suffocating.

I felt guilty.  I felt guilty because I couldn't bring the joy back.  I felt guilty because though Christ was more celebrated in our home than ever, it wasn't "enough" to fill the void.  How dare I admit that?  Wasn't that like saying HE wasn't enough.  I felt guilty for feeling so sad and depressed.  After all, as such a strong, Christian woman on the outside shouldn't I have been able to keep all of that in check in my heart? 

Now here we are, a new year and a new opportunity.  Will the joy return?  Will the lights return to they eyes of our children?  Can we celebrate without the heartache sitting so heavy?

Yes and No.

No, we won't get through the season without heartache.  Reality?  I don't get through a single day without some reminder of the hole left behind.  Every year is going to be a reminder.  No getting around it. 

Yes, the joy will return.  How do I know?  Because it's already here.

The desire to decorate, celebrate and embrace the season with fresh eyes and heart....has already arrived. 

What made the difference?  Time and choice.

Time doesn't erase, but it does offer new levels of healing with each day.
Choice allows your brain and heart time to line up with their conflicting sides. 

I don't want everyone of my children's holidays to become "dark" and dreary.  I want them to remember their amazing grandfather with joy.  I even want them to remember those really hard weeks, but with a sense of hope and community.  I want them to remember the friends that rallied around each of us, the Holy Spirit that carried us, and the laughter that did seep in!  I want them to remember the fact that when we couldn't, God did.  I want them to yearn for heaven. 

Those things can only happen if we begin to move past the deepest hurts.  Not ignore them, but embrace and move forward.  We are NOT forgetting him.  We are just making the choice to embrace the good.  Embrace the joy. 

Christmas is for joy.  Celebrations of the most amazing gift ever given.  Christ.  Yet, it's also the time to embrace our families even more and hold them even tighter because they are the gift that He has given us. 

We are moving on.  Wait....I don't like how that sounds.  Rather than moving on....we are just moving differently.  A new reality.  It was forced upon us, without our understanding, but trusting that God's ways our MUCH bigger than ours.  We can't stay in the darkness.  We have to embrace the light.  You know what:  Daddy gave us that message with his life as a whole, but he specifically gave us that message in his last days.  That doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt..........oh boy, does it ever.  But....embracing joy is the priority.  Choosing life.  Choosing joy.  Choosing family.  Choosing trust. Choosing love.

*Let me also take a moment here, to make a statement.  This isn't meant to hurt anyone, it's just meant to cause us all to think about how we handle a new situation. Our hearts are heavy as we think about life going on and moving in new directions.  Daddy is never leaving our hearts.  He is never going to be second best.  He is never going to be replaced.  Yet, please remember this:  it's hard to be alone.  Memories don't go away.  Love doesn't fade even when that person is physically gone but in our hearts, etched in places that CANNOT be removed.  Please offer love, acceptance, and grace to those in the process of starting over.  It's hard.  Harder than many can imagine.  When a widow/widower finds a chance to feel love again, whether romantic or friendship, please allow and support it.  Don't judge.  Don't try to decide whether it's been long enough. You are not the one that can make that decision for someone else. Don't make a situation that is so conflicting in the heart/brain even harder.  They've already been through MORE than enough heartache to last a life time.  Don't add to it.  Being a widow/widower doesn't come with an instruction manual and each day has to be taken, one day at a time.  Specifically, in our situation, I just want to say this: our blessing has been given.   It may be new territory for our hearts and brains and we don't have an instruction manual either, but out of love and wanting our beloved family member to enjoy as much as life as possible....we support.  It may be out of our "comfort" zone and feel strange, but OUR comfort isn't the question.  WE support. Enough said.*

Monday, October 8, 2012

HEAR ME giveaway/review INCREDIBLE!

Matthew West, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, Brandon Heath, Christ August, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith....the list goes on.

Incredible voices.  Solo artists in Christian music that are household names in many Christian homes that love contemporary music.  Whether new or a bit mention the name and a song immediately pops in your head.

A new name that I honestly believe will be on such lists in many homes in the coming years:

Kyle Sherman.

I was offered the opportunity to review his first album before it is released tomorrow (October 9th).  In the last 10 days or so that I've had his music in my hands, I think I've listened from beginning to end 30 times or more.  This wasn't one of those reviews that I listened to a couple of times, enjoyed and then didn't spend much time listening after the fact.

This one GOT me.

Incredible voice, lyrics with depth that reached in and grabbed my heart from the first second.

Those of you that know me well, KNOW I love contemporary Christian music and how it MOVES me, provides healing and puts my heart into an immediate mode of worship.

This album and artist MOVED me like only some of my favorite artists have been able to do.

Songs such as Hear Me, Come to Me, Healing Coming Down, He prayed for Me, etc...  wrapped their lyrics around my heart and have STUCK in my head.

Just this morning, lyrics from "One True Friend" were the first thoughts in my head as I woke up.  That was a beautiful thing to know that the first words in my heart this morning was that Jesus is always our one TRUE friend, no matter what is going around us!

Kyle Sherman.  We WILL be hearing more from him.

I'm THRILLED to get this in the hands of one of you.  THIS is one you will definitely listen to over and over (it's actually playing in our house for at least the 5th time today!).  

Leave a comment to enter and be sure to leave an email contact!  Winner will be chosen at RANDOM on the 15th! 

Album Bio
Fort Worth-based singer-songwriter Kyle Sherman recently signed on as the flagship artist to brand new label RayLynn Records, an opportunity that presented itself during a time period when a record deal wasn't even on his radar.

"It's crazy how God works," Kyle says. 'Five years ago, I pushed pretty hard to do my own thing as a singer-songwriter, but every well I approached would dry up. It clearly wasn't the right time." So Kyle continued on a path of leading worship, taking a full-time role as worship leader at Lifechurch.TV's Fort Worth campus under the leadership of renowned pastor/author Craig Groeschel.

Just 3-years later Kyle made it back to Nashville, pouring his heart into a microphone at Sony studio with veteran producer and country singer-songwriter Mark Collie making his first album. God is faithful. Hear Me, the result of those sessions, is an eclectic and authentic mix of rootsy, southern soul.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Lesson from an Apron

Aprons tell stories.

They are symbolic of many things in my life and in my God-given role as a wife and mother.

I think I could write pages about why I love them, cherish them, and embrace them with such an importance.  Yet, for the sake of time I'll just say:  they are just something that speak depth, history, and love.  Some women love shoes.  I love aprons.  No matter how many I have, I get excited like I kid on Christmas morning when I receive a new one (especially ones handed down or handmade).

Tonight an apron taught me another valuable lesson.  We've often laughed after the fact about all of the "strange" places God finds me and teaches me something I'm needing.  Tonight was another such night.

The last few weeks I've found myself in a very odd place.  Our family is stretching and growing....and searching.  We are struggling with the direction of the world and what it means to us as a family.  We feel the attack of Satan on us every direction we turn.  God is making it very clear that He is preparing us for something and as we wait for His direction, we are finding ourselves torn and broken.  Especially me.

I'm drained.  I'm spilled out.  I don't feel as if I have much to offer or give right now. We don't know if this is a time to pull inward as a family and just "hole up" for awhile or if God is getting ready to "move" us in another direction.  It's become very apparent by many recent situations that we are not in the right place in some different areas.

Because I'm highly emotional and tender hearted, I'm finding myself broken and frustrated much quicker than ever.  Even today, I found myself sitting in my closet floor having a melt-down.  Feeling as if I'm failing my family and those around me.  Feeling as if God is asking the wrong person to do things for Him.  Doesn't He know my weaknesses?  Doesn't He know I feel incapable?  Doesn't He think He can find someone else? Doesn't He know that my scars, wounds, and baggage are just not what He needs to fulfill His purpose?

Kevin met me in that floor.  He lovingly and prayerfully brought me to back to the real world.  Back to the place of picking myself back up and getting back on with life.  Helping to put my focus back in the right place.  Speaking truth to drown out the lies I've been letting in my heart and head.  He allowed God to use him to bring me back to a place of allowing God to minister to me even deeper.

And He did that.....through an apron.

I have a stash of aprons hanging in my kitchen on the shelf that Kevin made me at Christmas from antique window molding and porcelain knobs.  I noticed that they had become pretty unsightly. I gathered them all up and did ANOTHER load of laundry.  When they came out of the dryer, they somehow had become tangled in one giant ball.  A knotted mess.

Like me.

Knowing they couldn't be left like that, I start the untangling process and pulled out the ironing board and iron.

* Gasp *

For those of you that know me well........I don't iron.  Practically ever.  It's a standing joke that before I agreed to marry Kevin I had to make sure he knew that I would do ALMOST anything to take care of him, but ironing just wasn't one of those things I would do often.  Our marriage deal was pretty much sealed when I found out that He actually "enjoys" it (or at least tolerates it!).

He came in and offered to iron them tonight, but for some reason I TRULY wanted to do the task.

Reason:  God was working in my heart at that moment.

He was showing me that something all tangled, wrinkled and that looks pretty useless can turn out to be something beautiful.

Applying heat and pressure can make things beautiful again.  It's a refining process.

Just like the place we are right now.  He is refining us for a new purpose.

Stains. Wrinkles. Scars. Wounds.

All of it.

To make us new again.

So we can be used.

My aprons may be well worn, well-used, and stained.  Yet they have a purpose.  They have a story.  

They have been made "new" again.  

God is making me new again.  To be used.  He's in the process of applying heat and pressure right now to make us more usable for Him.  We just have to hang on through the process. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Kingdom Come Now" review and giveaway

It's been awhile since I've hosted a give-a-way and I'm thrilled to be able to offer some great Christian music today and then another one next week!  

Vineyard Worship
THIS IS YOUR KINGDOM COME NOW - featuring Casey Corum & Friends
Live from the Sugar Land Vineyard
(releases Tuesday, 10/2)
Album Bio
This dynamic new album features veteran worship leader and songwriter Casey Corum and a cast of friends recorded before a full house over two nights at Corum's home church. Listeners will also be introduced to the powerful voices of Torri Baker (Vineyard Church - Columbus, Ohio) and Crispin Schroeder (Northshore Vineyard - Covington, Louisiana), as well as a 17-voice gospel choir. Threads of R&B, gospel, and modern rock are woven together to create a fresh sound while, at the same time, being deeply rooted in the hallmark Vineyard worship value of intimacy with God.

My review: In the last year, I've reviewed several albums from Vineyard Music.  I've enjoyed the different genres of great worship music presented on each of them. With that said, let me just say, this newest one is by and large my favorite! Not only did I LOVE the style of the majority of the songs, they spoke to my heart.  REALLY touched my heart in a deep way, well beyond the surface!  There is nothing like feeling the weight of the world just melt away when you can come into His presence through music.  That is worship.  That is what this particular album did for my heart.  "This is Your Kingdom Come Now" is an album that I am certain I will listening to again and again!  

I'd love to get a copy of this into the hands of one of you!  One winner will receive a copy.  Entering is simple this time:  just leave a comment letting me know you want to enter.  Be sure to leave your name and email (most especially if you use the anonymous setting for comment).  Otherwise I can't contact you!  Enter to win through Monday the 8th at 6 PM (central).  I hope to announce the winner on Tuesday the 9th!  

Required fine print: "Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in 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."

Combating Lies

In this day in age of the takeover of social media, it's becoming increasingly hard to not get caught up in the "world" and get lost in a distorted view of ourselves.

I'm ALL for social media when you are cautious about how you use it.

However, there are times you realize you are just as swept up in the hoopla as the next person.

Today, I'm keeping it real.

In this social media hyped world, I think we get inundated with images of perfection.  "She" is the perfect mom.  "She" is the perfect wife.  "She" always looks like a super-model. "She" never loses the juggling act and drops the ball.  "She" has it easy.  "Her" kids are prim, proper, and well-mannered.

Yes, those don't really exist.  We just tend to see the good because that is what is most often posted or written about.

Yet, we live in a REAL world.

Keeping it real says:  I'm not like that and it's OK.

Keeping it real says:  I'm struggling.  I'm failing.  I'm far from perfection.

Today, I'm keeping it real.

I've got caught up in the comparison trap.  I've been comparing myself to too many others and feeling as if I don't measure up.

It doesn't matter that I know the truth.  I've still fallen into that trap.  A lie of Satan.

We've embarked on an incredible journey with our elementary kids (about 85 1-5th graders) on Wednesday nights.  Our staff put together a FANTASTIC program this semester that we call Combat 607.  We get all decked out in our camo gear and show up READY to combat the lies of Satan.  Spiritual warfare.  We are going through popular lies that Satan tells us and we learn how to combat it with the truth of God and scripture.  My heart has been overwhelmed seeing the enthusiasm of the kids and listening to them repeat scripture that is hidden in their hearts.  I'm not talking little 5 or 6 word verses.  I'm talking passages.  Some of these kids can put us as parents to shame!

In the teaching, which is obviously meant for the kids, I've found that I'm learning just as much as they are.

I'm realizing that I've been in a battle and I've not been pulling out the power that LIVES inside of me.

I've been listening to lies.

At the risk of being more vulnerable than normal, I admit that I have abandonment issues.  I have confidence issues that stem from being an in process reformed perfectionist.  I just now am fully embracing the meaning of unconditional love.  I greatly struggle with balancing what forgiveness means and what it doesn't (that's a HUGE one!).

I realized that I was allowing the lies of Satan in my own heart.  For me, it was most apparent in my responses to what I would see on facebook.

Because of my own struggles and past (they do shape us!---we just have to learn healthy ways to respond), I was getting so caught up in the comparison trap that I was crushing my own spirit and blocking my connection with God.

Why does that person support him/her, but totally ignore me?  How does that person always keep it together?  I can't do anything NEARLY as good as that person, so why bother? That person clicks "like" on EVERY one of that person's posts....but if I had put the exact same thing, they would have avoided my post like the plague.  I could go on and on........

It was breaking me.

It sounds ridiculous to write it out now, but at the same time I KNOW I'm not the only one facing it.

We want people to like us.  We want to be seen as having it all together.  We want to be connected.

THAT is why social media sites like facebook and twitter have exploded.

We want our voices to be heard.

We want people to support us.  Acknowledge us.  We want people to see inside of us and still like us.

Yet, we are ending up disconnecting.  We end up discouraging ourselves and others.

I've been caught up listening the the lies of Satan.

You don't matter.  You aren't good enough.  No one sees you.


The truth is found throughout scripture.

The battle is won with the truth of God.

I just failed to embrace it fully enough.  I "know" the truth.  I just haven't been applying the truth.  I've not been waging war against the lies.  I've just been accepting them as normal and as reality.  Lies may hurt.  Lies can destroy if allowed to take root.

Yet, TRUTH is MORE powerful.  Today, I choose to embrace the truth.  Even if it means repeating it over and over so that it moves from my head to my heart or from my heart to my head.  Even if it means shutting off the outside world for awhile.  Even if it means avoiding relationships that are toxic.

Embracing the truth.  Combating the lies.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If YOU don't, who will?

Something important has been on my heart the last week or longer.  I've wanted to share my thoughts about it, but every time I've sat down I've become distracted.

I know that is that mean ole Satan up to tricks.

He wants me distracted and he wants you distracted.

When we are distracted, he can attack, divide, and destroy.


It's such a reflection of Christ and His love for us.

Ours has been through the dark waters that left us feeling destroyed, sinking, and unable to get out of the pit of despair.

We've been on the side of wondering how to survive.  NEVER something I ever want to experience again, not even in the slightest form.

Today, we are thriving, growing, and overflowing with unconditional, DEEP love.

Actually, two weeks from today, we will be celebrating 17 years.  It's unreal.

Yet, even though we have an INCREDIBLE marriage that people comment on OFTEN, we still struggle.

It's VERY easy to fall back into the old traps.  The ones that started us down a path of destruction.

For me, I can easily panic when just the slightest hint of those dark days return.  Most often, that happens when we are running in too many directions and not stopping to focus completely on each other and communicating in each other's distinct love languages.

For our marriage, we quickly lose connection when we aren't praying, studying, and putting our own relationships with Christ first.  HE HAS to be above everything else or we fall apart.  In those moments when  we begin slipping apart, Satan walks right in and attacks us in our vulnerable and weak places.  It's easy to let that spiral out of control if we aren't proactive and careful.

How do we combat that?  How do we make sure that we don't backtrack?

The answer is both simple and complex.

It's prayer.

This month I'm following along with Women Living Well and participating in focusing on reviving our marriage.  It doesn't matter how great it might be right now, we HAVE to be PROACTIVE to keep it that way.

Prayer has been the topic this first week.

It's vital.

"If you don't pray for you spouse--who will?"

Who on earth knows you better than your spouse?  Who knows you more intimately?  Who knows your heart, your needs, your flaws, your desires, and your weaknesses?  Who knows most about what is going on in your daily life, including the things that the world doesn't see?

My spouse.

Kevin knows me as well as I know myself and sometimes even more so.  I know more about him and his needs/heart than anyone else.

It's my responsibility to battle for him.

YES, I said responsibility.

I'm failing him and our marriage when I get lazy and distracted and don't consistently and thoroughly pray on his behalf.

Yes, those prayers of bless him, protect him, uplift him, etc... are important.


it's the others that are vital.

The ones where I TRULY go to God on his behalf.  In depth.  Specific.

Others may pray for him (and I'm certain that a few do!), but it is my RESPONSIBILITY to be the most consistent.

God gave him to me as an extension of His love for me.  To grow together.

Marriage makes us one.  Literally.

When I'm short-changing him, I'm short-changing myself.

Then the weaknesses show up.  Cracks.  Distractions.  Temptations.

When we are actively, purposely coming together as one----nothing can defeat.  Days may be hard and we may face incredible obstacles, but we go there together AS ONE.

The challenge for this week:

Take a week and focus on praying specifically for your spouse.  It can LITERALLY revive a marriage that is broken.  It can move one from ordinary to extraordinary.  Even if you don't "feel" a difference, you can be confident that it is at work in your own heart and God is at work on your behalf.

Don't allow Satan a moment to sneak in and create division or enlarge cracks.  Stay connected.  Truly be one as God designed.  It's beautiful when you are!

Friday, September 7, 2012


Pesky mosquitoes.  

A real pain they are.  

Seems like the past couple of days these little critters have left us laughing hysterically.  Laughter in the home is a MUST.  It chases away negativity and hard times.  

We've been having to "guard" ourselves and the babies against bites in recent weeks if we are out because our area is under warnings for West Nile being confirmed.  For that reason, we've not gone on as many walks or trips to the playground.  

Pesky things.  Annoying. 

Yesterday, we were sitting waiting for a LONG line to move and we were VERY pressed for time to get to the next thing on the schedule.  To pass the time, my daughter and I were both on our phones on facebook.  She was laughing about something a friend had posted.  I saw a picture that literally caused tears to roll roll down my face and I had to read it to her, which in turn had us both laughing so hard that people walking by were giving us crazy looks.  

"You know that person you REALLY, REALLY want to slap.  Go ahead.  Just yell "mosquito" first. "

Now, I'm the first to admit that is definitely not the most spiritual statement and I did have to tell her that we probably shouldn't actually ACT on it.  Yet, it was a good laughter break because we both are dealing with people in our lives that are causing us great emotional difficulties.  We ARE trying to let God teach us how to love these people in our lives and we constantly are discussing ways to allow that to happen. But.....

It was funny.  

Different times today,  we've yelled mosquito when something has annoyed us or been stressful.  It's been a great tool to release the stress and "move on" from our negative feelings and frustration.  

Earlier this afternoon, I read another statement about mosquitoes that stopped me in my tracks.  At first it caused another great laugh because we LOVE it.  However, as the afternoon has progressed the statement has gotten deeper in my heart to the point that it has "run all over me with Holy Ghost goosebumps" (you Southerners understand that statement!).  

" I want to be so full of Christ, that when a mosquito bites me it flies away singing "Power in the Blood"."

Oh my goodness, isn't that the truth!

I literally want Him oozing from every pore in my body.  I want Him to be all that people see. I want every thought from my head and heart to come from Him, about Him, and reflect Him.

So much that when I'm stressed or hurt by people that my heart immediately allows the love of Christ to flow through me, soothing the hurt in my heart and offering grace and forgiveness to the offender.  

There are days that I may feel like yelling "mosquito" to diffuse the hurt or stress, but I pray that there are more and more days of them flying away singing "Power in the Blood."

Just please, Lord, don't send an actual mosquito this way to prove your point.  I REALLY hate those things!  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time...Too Fast

Those of us that are moms (or dads), know there are moments that come along and just leave you shaking your head in wonder.


Yes, there were women in grocery stores that warned me to soak in each day.

Yes, there were mentors in my life that warned me to not wish away any single days.


It happened anyway.

Now, here I sit with a vivid awakening of how quickly time has fleeted.

Yesterday, I had a tiny, thirteen pound one year old daughter.  She was SO very tiny and full of life.  Nothing slowed her down.  Her tiny size was just the little bit of motivation she needed to do everything faster than everyone else.  She set out to prove how very capable she was of anything at a very young age.  Doctors could find no medical reason of why she was so tiny and so healthy.  We knew it was just because she was so busy!

She never stopped.

Yet, tomorrow she is now old enough and big enough to start driver's ed.

It is a milestone of epic proportions to this mom's heart.  She's big enough?  She's old enough?  It's the reality of driving.  It's her first "classroom" experience (outside of church or other homeschool groups).

Oh, I have no doubts in her abilities.  I have no doubt she is going to succeed.  I have no doubts that God has a purpose for her life.

THAT is the issue.

He has a purpose and a HUGE plan for her life.  This mom knows that His plan is most likely going to put her on the other side of the world in the near future.  After all, she has a heart similar to mine and her heart is for missions and orphans.  His plan hasn't been revealed to us yet, but our hearts know that her calling is becoming more and more clear that she won't be just a few houses down the street.

Oh, my heart.

You see, I know that as mothers our role from day one is to let go.  To teach our children how to live as adults without us.  To be productive and on their own.  To find their own wings, passions, and to live as God designed THEM.

I KNOW that.

It's obvious I LOVE being with my kids.  So much, that it became my full time career (being home and home educating).  Without a doubt, I love to see them grow, learn, and become more and more of who God designed them to be.


When I look at her now, my eyes may see the beautiful young woman of God that she is....

But my heart sees this....

Priority Adjustment

Every once in awhile, we all have hard weeks that make us look inward and evaluate priorities.  Weeks that are a struggle or that just seem "off".  

Last week was one such week for me. 

I found myself knocked down with a flare-up that ended up with some very different symptoms than were not typical for me.  I REFUSE to go the doctor almost always when I'm sick.  I think it had actually been almost six years since the last time I gave in.  Those that know me well know that I have a pretty big case of "white coat" syndrome and have a pretty big phobia of doctors/medical offices (mostly from the ordeal we faced with Peyton).  I finally gave in and had Kevin take me to the clinic. Ended up that I had pneumonia and was having some serious heart rate issues while my body was fighting the infection.  

Amazingly, within 24 hours of antibiotics and some breathing treatments, I was WELL on my way to feeling human again.  The great thing about taking them so infrequently is that when you need them your body GREATLY benefits.  

What I wasn't expecting was how much of a struggle it would be to take care of the simple tasks.  I was warned that it would take awhile to feel normal, but I guess I thought I could avoid those warnings!  Whew...not!  

Fortunately, this week started incredibly better.  I'm feeling a little more tired at the end of the day than typical, but I'm almost back to my energizer bunny self.  My husband laughs and says that I get more accomplished when I'm sick than he does on a good day----but it's not a laughing matter to me.  I felt run over and my to-do list was getting longer and more out of control.  Thank goodness my energy is rebounding because our week is overloaded with extra activities and responsibilities.  

Unfortunately, what I noticed this week was that while I was greatly improving physically, spiritually I wasn't.  I was dragging far more than just in a physical sense.  

Some great things had been happening and I should have been feeling contentment and confidence from having kept things on track while I was down.  Kevin kept telling me how proud he was of the fact that we kept school on track, the house was "workable" (though not near my normal standards), I'd had a great time taking care of my babies, etc... Yet, I didn't feel it.  I felt disconnect.  

Then last night I realized WHY.

When I went in to survival mode of trying to keep one foot in front of the other, I let the most important relationship slip.  

I let go of God being my  number one priority.  My one-on-one time with Him had slipped down my list.  

Prayers become one line sentences and requests.  "Help me".  "Sustain me." "Thank you."  Those type things.  

While "those" are important and necessary, they lacked depth.  They lacked truly getting in my heart and connecting.  

I get up earlier than my kids and try to squeeze in some Bible reading and devotional studies before the babies arrive and before we start our school day. 

I needed every last minute of sleep I could get, so I began to skip that time. 

I planned on reading at night, but I collapsed in bed.  

Truly connecting with Kevin and having our necessary in depth, heart-to-heart conversations also became few and far between.  We reverted to the basics and the "necessary" discussions to keep the home afloat.  "Don't forget to...." , "Will you...", and "Did you...." became the bulk of our conversations.  It takes MUCH more than that to sustain and grow a healthy marriage.

No wonder I felt disconnect.  No wonder that even in joyful moments, I didn't feel the same level of praise and thankfulness.  No wonder I went to bed at night feeling a bit empty.

I'd let the most important things slip.  

I'm not who I am and can't be who I'm created to be when I'm not putting my relationship with Christ FIRST.  I can't operate in survival mode.  He is my first love and I must ALWAYS remember that, even when life is difficult and overwhelming.  

If that relationship isn't growing and strong, then my relationship with Kevin quickly can become stagnant and  "normal".  We aren't normal.  We don't want to be normal.  We want to be extraordinary and work hard to make sure our relationship reflects that.  

Thank goodness my heart got the wake-up call that it needed.  Though I needed physical healing and strength, my heart also needed a boost and to be fully connected to the source of life. 

Priorities readjusted.  Hearts reconnected. Operating from the source of life.  Just in time.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Full Disclosure Friday: Seeking Approval

In keeping with the "Full Disclosure Friday" theme....

another transparent, honest post.

I believe in honesty...even when it leaves you vulnerable.

I'm frustrated.

Well, that is an understatement.  I guess perhaps if I'm "fully disclosing" I should admit that I'm furious. Hurt. Sick.

There, I've admitted it.

I'm struggling with an issue.  One that isn't pretty.  One that reveals a struggle within my fleshly side that shows just how far from perfection and godliness I am.  Sitting in my own sin.  Needing His grace.

I'm aggravated.

I am totally caught up in the fact that I continue to allow the opinions of others to taunt me, hurt me, drive me in the wrong direction.

I'm tired of it.  I do NOT want it to matter.  I don't want to care.  I want to hold on to the confidence I have in Christ.  I want to stand tall in the fact that I know He is leading my life and directing my paths.

Yet, unfortunately, I fail at letting that be enough.

I think too much about what others think.  I look too often to their approval and I get stuck in the pit of their disapproval.

Even though I know....

their opinion doesn't matter.  It never will.

But it does.

I hate it.

I hate that part of me.

I keep asking God to rip it out and redirect my attention to His face, His ways, and His filling of every gap in my heart.

Yet, here I sit.  Once again.  Hurting again.  Wondering what I have to do to be good enough.  Even though I know without a doubt that I am already good enough.  My life should speak for itself.  Christ lives in me.  No other quality or trait matters or compares.

Yet....I sit.  Waiting for approval.

Knowing their approval is the least of my worries.

But it sits as a priority in my heart.

Ugly.  Paralyzing.  Disgusting.

Disclosure admits that though I say it doesn't matter, it does.  "Their" words hurt.  "Their" actions hurt.  "Their"  inaction hurts worse.  "Their" bold approval of others and disregard of me (or my children, husband, or family) hurts.

I KNOW better than to take stock in "their" opinions.  After all, I often tell my kids to not worry what others think.  Their keeping a clean heart before God and giving Him their best is what matters.

That IS the truth.

Yet, the truth still hurts.

I keep wondering and asking God why things continue to be the way they are in a few situations.  I keep wondering when He will change the circumstances.  All I hear in response is:  trust and wait.

I'm not so good at the waiting part.

I constantly and vividly look for the lessons in trials.  I keep my heart open for what it is that He is teaching or asking of me when in the middle of struggles.

Impatiently.  Waiting.  Desperately. Seeking.  Not giving up.  Not giving in.

I don't need the applause and approval of certain individuals to know that I'm doing something right.  Yet, being transparent, don't we all seek it on some level?  Doesn't it sting when it doesn't come.

The real question I'm trying to learn to answer is:  what now?

Do I wallow in self-pity?  Do I rage at the injustice of situations?  Do I act in defiance and lash out?  Do I let those hurtful situations justify poor behavior in response?

Unfortunately I have to admit I'm guilty of all of them at some point or another.  Not something to be proud of.

I typically try to let it drive me to improve, do more, succeed harder.  Though I realize that is a wrong response as well.  Nothing wrong with improving, but the attitude of my heart in these situations isn't as pure in nature as it should be.

Instead, the desire of my heart is for God to rip all of those negative responses out and fill me with His love, His grace, and His heart.

Thank goodness I'm a work in process.  Thank goodness He doesn't demand perfection.

He seems to be giving me LOTS of practice will dealing with these "negative" emotions lately.  I just pray that I learn VERY quickly to respond more in His way and less of mine SOON.  I sure hope I learn what He is trying to teach me quickly.

Mold me.  Teach me.  Fill me.

He's using that chisel on me and it's quite painful at times.  I want to rush through the process and get to the final result immediately.  Yet, I know I have to go through the process.  Each painful chipping away of the "ugly" one tap at a time.  Ouch.

Week in Review 1

First "week" of school of 2012-2013 is in the books!  (Actually only had 4 days.  We started Tuesday and had planned to take today off, but the kids demanded we have it!.  I sure hope this enthusiasm will continue!).

This year, we are taking a Five in A Row approach with MANY added in activities to expand learning deeper with Bradlee.

I'm also using Horizons Math and Kumon for supplement.  I'm using Explode the Code Level 2 and 2.5 along with Christian Light Education Language Arts to supplement the FIAR.  For Bible, I'm combining several different things to create our curriculum ("What's in the Bible" DVD series is a heavy focus at this point).

This week our FIAR  "rowing" is "The Story About Ping" so we had a duck and China themed week.

Here is Bradlee's week in pictures.  The big kids aren't much too interested in me documenting their school day in pictures.  :)

Here are the highlights:
Duck Pond with rubber ducks and blue punch
First Day of School Printable (have the matching page for the last day of school)
Reading Ping (with one of our little buddies joining in!)
Predicting buoyancy and recording actual answers

Math (Horizons)
Painted paper plate/handprint ducks (and both of the babies also joined in!)

Praying Jonah craft.  We talked about how both Ping and Jonah didn't listen the first time and what the consequences  of their disobedience were.  Both Jonah and Ping learned their lesson and became obedient.
Kumon Supplement "Time"

Flag of China and Chinese Paper Lantern

 We also spent a lot of time reading and working through our phonics/language books.  I was quite surprised with how amazing this week went.  It was fantastic to see how much easier it was with his ability to sit still and focus MUCH better than last year.  He also FINALLY doesn't refuse to color.  THAT is huge!  (Do you know how many times activities include "color __________ red " or something similar! It was a MAJOR battle last year!) 

The biggest surprise for me was how well we still managed to get everything on our list done with the babies. They were fantastic.  As often as possible, I included them in with what we were doing and took GREAT advantage of nap times.  We still managed to keep the house in tip-top shape and even hosted a dinner with some neighbors on Wednesday night.  I absolutely felt like a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth and have been WIPED out physically at the end of the day, but I have been overjoyed with how well things have gone. I'm sure there will be many days that are a BOMB----but I'm going to celebrate EACH and EVERY one of the victories so far.  

The best news:  we are ALL looking forward to the next weeks with anticipation and excitement.  That is the most priceless feeling.  We will be taking most of this next week off because of a much looked forward to visit from my Sweet T (which is why I started earlier this year than normal).  After that, we will be ready to "row" "Storm in the Night" and I am most excited for this week more than any I've planned so far.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

School time! 2012-2013

School is officially underway with the Goad crew.

Kicking off our 11th year of homeschooling has been so bittersweet.  It's so hard to believe where we started, where we are, where we are going, and just embracing each day!  Hard to believe that I only have three years left with my oldest and we are just really getting started with my youngest.  

This year, I've completely changed the direction of our education approach.  I just felt like God has been leading my heart in a different direction and needing me to get more hands on and invest MORE of myself into what we are doing.  That approach was "crazy" to many since life is more hectic than ever, especially with having two young toddlers in the house (currently 12 months and 13 months).  My head screamed go simple, but yet my heart knew it was time to go deeper.  

I spent the entire summer choosing curriculum, budgeting, ordering, and creating lesson plans.  Pinterest and other internet sites and I became attached at the hip! I spent countless hours: planning, stressing, planning, and stressing some more.  Eventually I relaxed and enjoyed the process, but I can't say it was that way all along! When I finally finished lesson plans that will take us all the way through Columbus Day, I literally squealed, shouted, and cried.  SUCH a huge relief and excitement all wrapped up into one.  I also gathered EVERY needed supply and boxed them according to each week/topic/child so that they are completely ready to go.  THAT is what is saving my sanity!

One of the biggest struggles I have had in lesson planning is that we ALWAYS get off track.  When that happens, my entire lesson plan book is off and I get frustrated beyond imagination (even to the point of stopping planning and that leads to DISASTER!).  I was so excited to find an idea on pinterest that literally made life so easy. 

Planning with post-it notes! A teacher posted how she used them by drawing grids in a notebook and then moves them around as needed.  I loved that idea, but hers needed a little bit of tweaking to work for our family (more subjects, needing more on a page).  With a little bit more research, I found one that used smaller post-its and it works perfectly.  Each subject is color-coded and can be moved around when we miss a day or don't finish.  It was a life-saver during the planning process!!!

Once those pages we're filled, I was ready to go (this particular page we have Friday off)

The absolute best part of the first day of school are the REQUIRED pictures in my book.  This year we put a different twist to them and I loved it!  (We are all wearing new homeschool back to school shirts purchased from Great Products!)  

And we started the year off with an end of summer/back to school weekend with treats and a fun trip to Starved Rock State Park for some hiking.  

(Adriana says the boys are "Scary").

Ready for a new year!  New goals.  New ways.  New inspiration.  Ready to tackle things in the way God is leading.

I may feel like a ping-pong ball bouncing between my three kids, the two babies I take care of, household responsibilities, volunteer roles, keeping connected to God in powerful new ways, and keeping my husband is top priority..........BUT God brought me here and He has yet to leave me.  He will equip.  He will guide.  He will provide rest and comfort.  He will be there on the days that I pull my hair out!  :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just to be Home

It's Friday for another hour, so it's the perfect timing for a "Full Disclosure Friday" post.

I've spent weeks stressed about many different things going on our lives.  I've remained joyful, hopeful, and tried so very hard to not let the stress overtake.  I've succeeded much of the time.  Yet, others....

I've failed.

I've felt such a heavy weight that is so hard to describe.  Tonight for the first time in so long I TRULY laughed and felt light again.  My heart was open without reserve.

In those moments, I realized what some of the weight has been.


I'm simply homesick.

It's been almost a year since I've been home.

We love, value, and cherish our lives here.  "Here" is where we have turned a house into a home for our family.  "Here" is where I've found myself in ways I didn't know possible.  Where I've grown into my own skin and found a deeper faith and connection with God.  "Here" is home for us.  "Here" is where life happens and joy has overflowed.  "Here" is where our marriage has healed, restored, and exploded.  "Here" is where God has placed us for a purpose.

But home is still home.

They say you can't go home again.

But I want to.

I need to.

I wish there was a way to just pack up, take a month, and go home.

Oh yes, there is family we miss and we would cherish time with.  Babies I've only seen in pictures, but never touched, smelled, or snuggled.  Relatives that mean the world.

I'd love to be home again.  It still hurts immensely to go home and not see Daddy waiting, but I still want to go home.  Drive those curves and pull up that hill to Windy Hill Angus Farm which we've lovingly called "Hurst B&B" the last several years.  Sit on that back porch with a view that proves that God created an amazingly intricate world for our pleasure.  Listen to the crickets and see the stars like they are as close as just reaching up and grabbing them.  Rub my hand over his tractor and look at his pride and joy classic cars (don't DARE touch those!!!! LOL!) Sit in his chair.  Sit at his big desk and spin around in his office chair.  How on earth could something be so organized and so disorganized at the same time?  Just see his files still sitting on his desk in his "PERFECT", teeny-tiny handwriting that seems so out of character for such a large, powerful man.  Oh yes, how I wish I could go home.  Even though "home" isn't the same without him.

I'd love to sit with Teresa.  OK---sitting isn't the right word.  It would be scrapbooking, cooking, gardening, sewing, or running every which way doing something that would put Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart to shame.  Just to sit and talk.  Oh my.  To go home again.

To go just down the road a mile and sit with Granny and Pa.  Listen to their stories and learn.  Reminisce about the most amazing childhood memories sitting on their swing.  Learning so much about life that I didn't know I was learning at the time.  Some biscuits and grape jelly wouldn't hurt either. People may try, but you just can't duplicate it.  Oh my.  To go home again.

Yet, as amazing as that would be, it's far more than that.

I'm homesick for so much more.

The pace of life. The simplicity.

How I wish I could just sit with so many that mean so much to Kevin, myself, and the two of us together.  Those we've learned so much from.  Those we've laughed with.  Those we've cried with.  Those that have shaped us through the hardest times of our lives.  Most especially those that led us along our paths that deepened our walks with Christ.  To get those hugs from special people that just can't be replaced through email/letters/facebook.  Just to go home again and SOAK it in.  No rush.  Ears and hearts open to the conversations that matter.

How I really wish we could just sit and listen to so many preachers that we crave to hear from.  Those that have already gained their heavenly rewards.  Those that are preaching from pulpits in different places.  Those that preached the Bible without regards to political correctness.  Those that brought life to scripture.  Even some that we value even though we've not heard them in person----those that have grown up with us that are now ministers.  Oh how, I wish we could go home and sit awhile. Get our toes stepped on, our sin exposed.  Driven to change.  Encouraged. Uplifted.

To soak in that praise and worship that is distinctly "home".  The kind where you feel God moving in your heart before you ever hear the first note on the piano/keyboard.  Seeing those special people with their fingers flying over the keys as if their hands never touched them.

Community church camp.
Friday night football and 5th Quarter services afterwards.
Back porch rockers.
Sweet tea in a mason jar.  Catching lightning bugs in those jars later in the night.
Cranking the handle on the ice cream freezer and waiting with mouth watering anticipation.
Hills, valleys, and curves that "tickle your tummy" as Bradlee says when we visit.

Just to go home again.

Maybe it's that our kids are growing up.  A new chapter of school is beginning.  The realization that some we hold dear aren't always going to be with us.  Maybe it's the melancholy of watching some of Adriana's friends that we value so dearly leaving for college.  Maybe it's seeing pictures of things from home and missing it.

Maybe it's just that longing that God has placed in us to crave heaven.  Our real home.

Just to be home.