Wednesday, February 29, 2012

ZOOBIES----It's a Winner!!!!

This has been one of my absolute favorite giveaways!  I wish ALL of you could have been winners!

Winner is comment #5

Congratulations, Jenn!!!!  Let me know if you would like the Giraffe or if you want to choose another one!

THREE HEARTS Dvd Review & Giveaway

Here we go...ready for the next round of reviews/giveaways?  By the way, HAPPY LEAP DAY! 

I was very excited for the opportunity to screen this movie.  My 14 year old daughter with a HUGE heart for missions had been very interested in wanting to see this movie. 


THREE HEARTS is an incredibly moving documentary type movie that features Cissie Graham Lynch, the daughter of Franklin Graham, granddaughter of Billy Graham.  The movie follows Cissie along as she interns for Samaritan's Purse, most specifically the Children's Heart Project.

Being that we are actively involved with various Samaritan's Purse ministries, we were so interested to see this movie. 

This particular project involves bringing Mongolian children to the United States for surgeries to repair serious heart defects.  In this film, you join in the journey of bringing three children to the US for surgeries to repair congenital heart defects that will be fatal without intervention.

The film is MOVING.  Even without reading the translations on the screen or listening to the interpreter, one thing is very apparent....the love of Christ knows no bounds, a mother's love is apparent even without understanding the language, and children are precious no matter their background. 

From a parent's stand point, watching the children's emotions and mother's trust in God and love of their children was just....emotional.  Beautiful. 

You will laugh, cry, and stand in awe.  Watching the live surgeries was incredible.  Seeing the tiny defective hearts come back to life....just leaves you speechless.

Three Hearts DVD

Youtube Trailer Links:
Youtube Trailer Links:
Christian Book Distributors Link:

One reader will receive a copy of the DVD.  Entering is as simple as leaving a comment on the post!  No hoops to jump through!  One comment will be chosen at random as the winner. ALL the giveways that I will be posting this week will end on March 10th. (Several more giveaways to come this week!). Winners should be announced on March 11th (hopefully!). Please be sure to leave your email in your comment if I don't have it or you sign in as anonymous.

"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."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Update #1 from Facebook "Fast"

I thought I'd write this post as an update to how things are in my "break" from facebook---a fast of sorts.  Several have asked in person or emailed me to find out if I survived! 

Yesterday, plain and simple was HARD.  I stopped counting at 50---the number of times I automatically reached for my phone or went to click on the link on the computer.  The "hand" habit is going to be the hardest to break.  It is crazy to admit, but nearly almost every thought yesterday was consumed by Facebook. 

Today, I report something surprising.  I did notice myself automatically grabbing my phone or flipping between webpage.  Yet, it happened probably less than 15 times.  Unbelievable!  I didn't even think of it much today UNLESS I was actually sitting at the computer working on something OR if I was sitting and waiting for something while I was out (which is when I spent LOTS of time on it). 

The results:  my head IS much clearer today.  I HAVE been able to complete many more full thoughts.  My level of agitation has been so much less.  I haven't been caught up so much of the negativity that was crowding out the good. 

I did have a couple of times that I wanted to update a status with something funny or inspirational.  I also took a couple of pictures and I typically automatically upload them.  I wanted to check in with a friend (which I did, but I had to go about it differently).  I DID send my husband a MEGA stack of emails throughout the day.  :)

A couple of times I did miss the inspiration I do so often crave, but I filled those gaps by praying and by going to specific blogs or websites that I do typically see while on facebook.  It just wasn't as convenient.

I will be back on---just still don't know when that will be.  It won't be before I have COMPLETELY broken the habit of always having it on or reaching for my phone.  One of the VERY first things I typically do every morning is log-on.  This morning I can honestly say it WAS NOT my first thought.  I've already been able to create a bit of white space around me. 

I know I should have been obedient to God WAY before now.  His spirit put this in my heart a LONG time ago, but I resisted.  Better late than never.  Once again, I know I've learned a powerful lesson.  I should be obedient IMMEDIATELY! 

Frugal Homeschool Tip!

One fairly common need in the homeschooling circle is the reality that you HAVE to be frugal.  I recently had a conversation with several friends and I was surprised when they didn't know this "frugal" tip to save money.  So this is just a VERY quick post to share it just in case YOU haven't thought of it before!

Sheet Protectors and Dry Erase Markers are essential!

How many times do you invest money in a workbook that it takes just a few seconds to complete a page?  Or what if your young child is just learning the basics of writing and needs LOTS of practice (I have a reluctant, left-handed 5 year old boy that this applies to!!!)? 

With my older kids, we went through workbooks so fast that I couldn't keep up with the cost.  I would go to Dollar Tree type stores and buy them inexpensively, but the quality was so lacking.  I love more costly workbooks (especially Kumon and Sylvan Learning), but to just use them once seems like a waste of money to me.  Also, with more than one child I hate to use things JUST once.

Simple page protectors solve that problem.  For pages that I tear out of the book (which I try to do most often with my left-handed child since he finds that more comfortable), I just slip it in the page protector and he is good to go.  Plus, for some reason he will happily write with a dry erase marker, but is hesitant with a pencil!

Many times, I will remove all the pages from a book and three hole punch them and put them in a binder.  Most especially if it's something I know that he will benefit from using multiple times.

For the other pages, the ones that I don't want to remove from the book or can't (library books, text books, or borrowed books) I use a Pendaflex plastic presentation folder.  It easily slips on either side of the book page!

There you go....just an easy tip to help save money.  You may already know this one, or it may be something new to you! 

What is YOUR favorite frugal homeschool tip that uses "ordinary" household objects or easily available items?

Mighty Macs: Movie Review & Giveaway

It is such an incredible blessing for me to have the opportunity to reviews different faith and family media resources.  It has been such a joy for our family. 

Many times there are books, movies, music that we would like to purchase and it just hasn't been available in the budget (most especially as we stick to our goals of becoming 100% debt free so that we can more freely give).  There are times that my heart is just overflowing with gratitude because what has become available is something someone in our family has been wanting to see/read.  Today and tomorrow's reviews are two of those that have been on our list and we are grateful beyond words for this opportunity. 

With that said, let me tell you about today's review and Giveaway!


Goad Family Review:  TWO thumbs up from all family members!  How amazing is that!

The boys loved the fact that it was a sports movie and didn't mind that it was all about girls.  They got a kick out of the fact that the girls played in dresses to their knees.  Our 10 year old laughed and talked through the whole movie, asking questions about the drills, rules, and "time" period.  It was great.

For my teenage daughter and my husband and I, we really loved it for more qualities than just the sports aspect.  Amongst the "fun" and "sports", were some powerful moments.  Most specifically, watching the struggles of each individual girl was heart-warming.  You just have to root for the underdog!  There was one particular moment, without giving it ALL away since I want YOU to watch the movie, that admit I did cry a bit because of the way the girls came together to make one of their teammates feel beautiful. 

As far as family friendly goes, I was pleased.  To watch a movie without sexual immorality, poor choice of language, etc.. .is such a blessing for our family.  It gives us time to enjoy being together.  Mighty Macs delivered not only with family friendliness, but also with GREAT entertainment. 

However, I will say there was one scene that did concern me a small amount.  Drinking alcohol is one of those controversial things that may or may not be offensive to your family.  For many families it isn't an issue, for others (like ours) we choose to fully abstain.  There was one very short scene in which alcohol is part of it.  Nothing major happened, no one was drunk, etc..., but it was there and I felt like I should mention it.

All in all, Mighty Macs was a GREAT success.  We had wanted to see it every time we saw it advertised in other family friendly movies.  Knowing we don't go "out" to movies more than a couple of times a year (due to cost of a larger family), they had asked often to purchase it.

We love watching movies that when they are finished you have laughed and that leaves you with a "feel good" moment.  Mighty Macs delivered!

Now: reader will win a copy of the DVD!    It's just as simple as leaving a comment on this post.  One comment will be chosen at random as the winner.  ALL the giveways that I will be posting this week will end on March 10th.  (Several more giveaways to come this week!).  Winners should be announced on March 11th (hopefully!).  Please be sure to leave your email in your comment if I don't have it or you sign in as anonymous. 


About the Movie:

It's 1971. Cathy Rush is a woman ahead of her time ... and she's about to embark on an adventure for the ages. A new era is dawning in the country and in collegiate athletics, where a national champion will be crowned for the first time in women's basketball.

In the lead up to this historical season, major universities are preparing their game plans to win that first title. Meanwhile a tiny all-women's Catholic college in Philadelphia has a more modest goal: find a coach before the season begins. Providentially, Cathy Rush is about to find Immaculata College.

Recently married, Cathy is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she's willing to do the hard work necessary to help her new team reach their goals—or perhaps she's just trying to achieve her unfulfilled dreams through them.

From the beginning, her challenges are as imposing as the big-school teams Immaculata will face on the court. Cathy learns there is no gymnasium on campus, she receives little support from the school's Mother Superior, and the school is in dire financial straits. To top it off, she may not even have enough players to field a team!

While it appears the Macs don't have a prayer, all hope is not lost. With the help of Sister Sunday—a spunky assistant coach—and the support of a booster club of elderly nuns, Coach Rush creates a new game plan that just might bring the team—and the school—together.

Will this pioneer buck cultural norms and spur her rag-tag team to unexpected heights? Or will her hard-driving ways create a wedge between the coach and everyone around her? One thing's for certain: there's never been anyone like Cathy Rush at Immaculata!"

“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.”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coming THIS week!

Preview of this coming week: 

It's Give-A-Way blitz!!!! 

Just by coincidence, I have several reviews coming up and their post dates happen to all be this week.  Reviews most often mean give-a-way and this is absolutely true this week! 

Be sure to check in this week beginning tomorrow (Tuesday)!  Check out the reviews for some great family friendly movies, music, and Christian fiction! 

The winner of the Zoobie Blanket Pet  (enter here) will also be announced. :) 

Ohh....of course there will be other posts along the way.  I have a fun DIY craft post, a homeschool tip, and some "from the heart" spiritual post in the works as well! 

Breaking a Habit: Courageous Step

Craving some calm.  Readjusting priorities.  Breaking some habits.  Preparing to live more courageously then ever. 

With that said:

I just did something I never thought I'd do. 

I shut off facebook. 

I don't know how long.  I don't know if God is leading me for just a day, a couple of days, a week or even longer. 

Right now, I just know this is what He needs me to do. 

It is hard.  Crazy hard for me.  As I write that, I feel strange.  I'm addicted to social media.  Hello, my name is Tracye.  I'm addicted. 

Yes, I use it for a great purpose.  It connects me to family (most especially those we aren't capable of seeing very often at all).  It connects me to moms with hearts like my own.  It connects me to great resources in my Christian walk, taking care of our home, and educating our children.  It connects me to my husband.  It connects me to friends that I CHERISH.

Yet, so much lately it has caused heartache.  Besides being a time drain, it's a heart drain at times.  Right now, while I'm searching, growing, changing, and listening to God....I need some calm.  I need to pull inward into my own home, heart, and immediate circle.

I've only been off a whole 5 minutes and I've probably thought about pulling it back up every three seconds.  Habit.  Need.  Countless times I've turned off the computer only to pull it back up on my phone within a few minutes.  Time. To. Break. The. Habit.

Enough to know that this was the right decision.  Easy? Nope.  Right? Yes.

Living out our word for the year is NOT going to be easy.  However, if I want my family to live courageously, my husband to be courageous, etc..  being courageous MUST also start with me. 

Step one is to give myself some "white space" to be able to hear from God, to hear my OWN thoughts, and to see what my next step is.  I can't do that if I don't give myself some space, TRUE quiet.

Two big things that I'm going to miss is the connection when prayer is needed or when I can join in praying for others.  Please contact me through other means if a situation comes up!  PLEASE.  The other thing is the true support I get from friends when I'm struggling or just by seeing their positive posts.  I'm going to miss that.  It feeds my heart in SUCH deep ways.  However, I'm confident God will fill in those gaps!

A few minutes ago, I sat the kids down and told them what I was doing.  My daughter's chin dropped literally to the ground.  She KNOWS how huge it is----how impossible it feels for her and knowing I'm even more "connected", she is stunned.  We both laughed about how much easier it would be if we were on a trip where we couldn't connect or where it wasn't allowed.  Yes, that WOULD be easier.  However, I'm committed to diving in deep and going where He leads.   My heart has known this was the right path for a LONG time, but I didn't have the courage or will power to do it. 

I tried doing it "silently", just by not posting, getting on, etc.  I even tried doing it be limiting it to certain times of the day or days of the week. 

I failed miserably. 

This way is what it takes.  It provides the accountability.

Yikes.....but oh so worth it right now!  A courageous step.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

B90 Check in Week 9 (Monday 2/27/12)

This week's assignment:

Monday  Jeremiah 33:23-Jeremiah 47:7
Tuesday  Jeremiah 48:1-Lamentations 1:22
Wednesday Lamentations 2:1-Ezekial 12:20
Thursday  Ezekiel 12:21-Ezekiel 23:39
Friday  Ezekiel 23:40-Ezekeal 35:15
Saturday  Ezekiel 36:1-Ezekiel 47:12
Sunday Ezekiel 47:13-Daniel 8:27

This is almost it....just keep holding on!  Just one more week and we will be ready to dive in to the NEW TESTAMENT and the life of Christ!

This week we find ourselves finishing Jeremiah, completing Lamentations and Ezekiel, and starting Daniel.  We will pass the mark of being 2/3 finished.  Isn't that amazing? 

Can you look back and pinpoint moments that God's word completely touched your heart?  Are there times that you just were overwhelmed with gratitude for things that He revealed?  Oh yes...there are DEFINITELY questions and have been struggles in getting this far, but what an amazing journey it has been!

This week and last week, quite a few of you let me know that you officially dropped out.  I wanted to be discouraged.  I wondered if maybe I should stop reading as well.  My own circumstances the last few weeks have made it very difficult to keep up.  I decided I couldn't quit.  I've come too far and His word means TOO much.  It has been causing too many positive life changes and heart changes.  I'm also not discouraged about our numbers.  I'm choosing to focus on how far each of you came.  My heart DOES hurt for you because I hate to see so many hard circumstances that came in the way.  As I've told many of you, NO amount of time is wasted.  God was with you EACH minute and He will be with you through the circumstances that have made continuing too difficult.  He was also be there with you as you continue to read at a much slower pace.  I believe it!!!! 

For those still hanging in with us......keep hanging in!  It doesn't matter if you three weeks behind....just don't quit.  Some of you ARE celebrating being caught up (and I WILL be caught up 100% by tomorrow morning, I'm currently about 1 day behind).  I'm proud of you.  This is NOT an easy task.  However, it's WORTH our time. 

I know for myself, even though I've made it through this challenge multiple times, there is nothing as life changing as being so constantly in His word.  What goes in, must come out.  When you are filling your heart full of scripture, it comes out when you need it most.  It has given me a connection to Him that is unbreakable.  It's easier to feel in touch with Him when you are spending a large quantity of time with Him.  It's been amazing.  It's been hard at times to keep up, but it's been SO VERY worth the effort. 

As always, each of you continue to be on my heart and in my prayers.  Even those of you that have decided this challenge is too much for you right now, I'm still praying.  I'm praying that God keeps you close through the storms you are facing.  For those of you that are still hanging in, I'm praying that you are renewed and that you keep feeling Him in powerful ways!

Have a great week!

See you next week as we get ready to jump in to the life of Christ in the New Testament!  What a joy!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Word of the Year

I can't help but smile when I think of writing this post.  I'm just slightly overdue in writing it.  Only about two months behind.  Better late than never?

We began choosing a word to make our focus for each year, three years ago specifically.  The word is then written at the top of our entryway message center as the first thing we see going out the door or coming in. 

2010:  Simplify....because we were running in too many directions and missing what mattered most

2011: Purpose...because we were searching for our purpose AND doing everything intentionally, "on" purpose.   It was actually April before I made that official word as our focus, so I guess I'm actually ahead of the game this year. :)  It was a struggle with the emotions that were so raw for me during those months. 

Purpose was our focus, but we also adopted "Stronger. Together." as our family theme.  That theme continues and is our focus in our marriage and our home.  It has come to mean so much.  More every day.  As a visual reminder, Kevin and Adriana had a dear friend make a vinyl transfer as a birthday surprise for me.  We put it on a mirror that came from my childhood home.  

2012 COURAGEOUS is our one word.  

First of all, the movie impacted us.  It impacted us WELL before it ever came out in theaters.  It impacted us well before we actually saw it.  We had been watching previews, reading excerpts from the script, reading/watching interviews with the writers/producers/etc...  I felt like our lives were changed well before Kevin and I sat in the theater on opening night, my Dad's birthday.  It touched us when we bought our tickets months ahead of time. 

Actually seeing the movie and letting it resonate in our hearts was powerful.  Tears flowed freely that night as well as some much need conversations.  Conversations that have STILL not ended.  Conversations that have sparked changes in both of us.  Though it may have been a movie geared towards fatherhood, it impacted us both in great ways.  Now having watched it as a family multiple times, it is one of those that has made a far lasting impression on ALL of us. 

Yes, we want to be courageous in the ways that the movie shows.  It has precipitated many of the recent changes that are taking place in our family.  It DID start a revolution in is.  One that is just beginning. 

Yet, courageous means MUCH more. 

We want  to:

  • Hold fast to our vales.  NO matter how alone.  No matter what the world says is normal.  No matter how many people laugh at us, make fun of us, etc...  (which is daily it seems!).  No matter who excludes us.  No matter who praises those that are living immorally.  In the words of Kevin, ZERO compromise.  Don't overlook "immorality" in part of a TV show or movie, just to watch the rest.  If it doesn't line up...we don't watch it.  We don't watch it as a family and we don't watch it as a couple.  That goes for what we listen to, read, wear, words we say, conversations we have, jokes we tell, places we attend, video games we play, etc...  Being courageous in remembering to "walk with integrity in our own home" (behind closed doors) is just as important as what we do that is visible to others.   Being courageous and STANDING up for those values. 
  • Intentional with praying, reading the Bible, devotionals individually, as a couple, and as a family----being courageous even when it isn't necessarily our comfort zone.  Being courageous to not let the bulk of our children's spiritual training come from church.  The church should supplement what they are receiving at home.  Working together----not letting someone else be responsible for it.
  •  Being courageous in letting our emotions be raw, being vulnerable, and transparent with each other.  No walls.  No defense mechanisms.  Connected. 
  • Being courageous to ask for or accepting help.  (This one is a big one for me!)
  • Being courageous in how we spend ALL of our time.  This one has obviously been big for me recently.  Saying no to GREAT things has been hard, but it is giving me new freedom to embrace the time I have NOW with my family. 
  • Being courageous in all aspects of being Holy Spirit led.  Letting Him lead in our home.  Radical obedience.  Walking in faith even out of our comfort zones.
  • Being courageous in how we spend our finances.  Saying NO now to wants so that we have more to give.  Saying NO now to wants so that we can say yes to financial freedom.
  • Being courageous in relationships.  This means many different things to us right now.  Some relationships have to be let go, some need more attention, some need to be valued and cherished.  THIS is a big one for us this year.
  • Being courageous in all aspects of the 24 hours of a day we are given.  For me, this means specifically turning over EVERY aspect of our school day, meeting the needs of each individual, making sure our home is run smoothly in every domestic aspect (and learning to LET SOME GO!), and making sure that my marriage is a top priority ALWAYS.
  • Being courageous in letting wounds heal, moving forward from hurt, etc.. 
  • Being courageous by letting God have full access to our hearts.  Sweeping out the corners.  Letting Him take over us more every day so that our hearts become more like His. 
  • Being courageous and not listening to the lies that we believe from Satan.
As a matter of fact, the list just keeps going the more I think about.  The even greater thing is that I don't know some of the ways He is going to ask us to be COURAGEOUS because so many heart changes are taking place in us right now.  The being COURAGEOUS part is just about giving Him more of us, being obedient, and bending towards His well and not asking Him to bend towards ours. 

COURAGEOUS most especially when things are falling apart and we have to walk in faith.  COURAGEOUS when we are hurting and want to give up on something.  COURAGEOUS when the path is difficult or lonely.  COURAGEOUS when we aren't certain which direction to go.  COURAGEOUS when we fail or have to seek forgiveness or forgive.  COURAGEOUS when the path doesn't make sense. 


I'm falling in love with this word more every day! 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Heart Back Home

The last several days have been rough for me.  It has been the first active full-on flare up of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE for short, lupus) I've had in at least 4-5 months.  I wasn't physically or emotionally prepared for it. Fortunately, just a few of the symptoms are still hanging around and causing me to have to "slow down".  Maybe another day or two and I'll be over the hump and back to "normal"---our at least "our" normal.

It seems that my little guy has been the most confused with seeing me physically struggling.  He just doesn't have as many memories of mom being sick as the other 2 (fortunately!).  Last night after church, he just seemed really upset and was VERY clingy and wanting my full attention.  He just wanted mommy. I took the time to read him a couple of extra stories in his favorite Bible story book that we've been reading together as part of our church doing "The Story".  He snuggled in beside me and went to sleep. 

Usually, Kevin has no issue carrying him up to bed (other than the fact it is a back breaking job that is getting more difficult easy he gets bigger AND more priceless).  This time, though he was still in a sleepy state, he kept pulling at me and crying that he just wanted to snuggle with mommy.   Even a couple of hours later, he was still in that thought mode.  He came back down and kept trying to wake up his Dad trying to get him to get out of the bed so HE could snuggle with me instead.  Though we stuck to the rule of him having sleep in his own bed until Kev gets up for work at 3:30, I had Kev go up and bring him down to snuggle with me then. 

He was hilarious and so sweet.  He snuggled in to his perfect little spot, which anyone that knows Bradlee well, knows that he is a FULL on snuggler.  I barely have room to breathe.  He kept saying "Ah, finally" over and over.  It was precious. 

It was a reminder of how precious motherhood is.  How valuable.  How much our kids CRAVE time with us. 

He had been feeling uneasy because Mom hadn't been herself for several days.  He needed that time with me.

It confirmed for my heart that the tough decisions I've made recently and am continuing to make are WORTH it.  Saying "no" to other things, so I can say "yes" to them----so very worth it.  I look forward to seeing how our family dynamics change in the coming weeks and months.  I've fully been physically present with them for so long, but I've been less emotionally present as time has gone on.  I can hardly wait to see what directions we go as my heart has found new encouragement to live in THIS moment.  Letting so much stress from the outside world go and giving them all of me.  It's a journey that is going to be well worth each "no". 

Though his needing me did confirm how valuable motherhood is, something else amazing happened.  A definite confirmation my heart needed that I was moving in the right direction. 

My prayers changed. 

The last several weeks I have REALLY struggled with personal prayers.  I've basically been having to pray, "Lord, you know my heart.  You know what I'm thinking, feeling, and trying to say...but I can't form the words."  There had just been so much chaos swirling that I couldn't focus.  I could easily pray for the needs of others and their situations.  I could easily pray for things "outside" of me, but when it came to my own heart/needs and things in the very depths of me....I just couldn't do it.  There was a wall.  There was a separation. 

Last night, after I got home from church and had officially completed my first "no" to great things----I was still emotional.  Still struggling with having given something up that my heart loved, but at complete peace for knowing the decision was the right one.  Even my kids are saying they can't imagine not seeing me participating in different activities, etc...  It's like trying to separate peanut butter from jelly once it's been combined.  I was already second guessing myself.  What will happen here?  How will this affect this?  Will this change a friendship with this person?  Will this prevent me from doing this? Did this friendship only thrive because I "served". The list went on and on.  

In the middle of my emotional break down (which I cried all the way home because it was a relief AND hard at the same time), a soothing calm entered my heart.  Over and over  I kept hearing the words to the song "Lord, Move or Move Me" (FFH).   

Sometimes in life we need God to move, we need Him to move mountains or to work our situations, etc..  Other times, we need to move.  We may simply need to move out of His way.  We may simply need to move IN His way and on His path.   I FINALLY let Him move me.  For so long, I had prayed for Him to change situations, give me this, gave me that, help me here, help me there, show me this, show me that.  He simply just needed me to MOVE.  To MOVE out of one way into another.  In my heart, I could feel the Holy Spirit soothing my soul with the words "I moved you. You didn't quit.  I moved you.  You're "no" is just a "yes" to what I have been WAITING to give you." Sort of like a "finally" or "about time".  Like a "now that we are on the same page, we can move on". 

With my emotions still raw, the house finally quiet....I did what I normally do.  I began to pray.  As I've done the last several weeks, I prayed for the needs around us, those outside of our own home.  Yet, instead of that out of focus, unable to form words that I've been struggling with when it came to my own heart and our own prayers flowed.  My heart was able to begin to empty the things it had been holding onto for so long. 

Another confirmation.  Confirmation that so much of this chaos, discontentment, and distress of the last month is lifting.  I don't know exactly where we are heading or what He is going to do next.  I don't know which changes of heart are going to happen or what else I have to change.  I know for certain that the days ahead are going to be worth it.  My heart is already finding that release. 

It just took me finally allowing Him to move me.  Move me back on the path He chose for me and called my heart to.  I don't know exactly what the picture will look like in a few months, but I'll gladly be here waiting for it.  For my heart is back home....Home where it belongs.  Connecting to the one that matters most, which connects me to the ones that matter most to me.  Home.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To Say Yes to Something, May Mean FIRST Saying NO

In the effort to "Scrape the Plate" (here), so many things have been up in the air.  I'm re-evaluating EVERY aspect of life.  Looking to see where God is leading and where I'm letting my own emotions lead the way.

Even good things, REALLY great things have to be taken off the list at times. 

Learning to say, "no", is so very hard for me.  Excruciating.  Gut-wrenching.  Soul-dividing.

Today, I did.  I'm stunned.  I KNOW I made the right decision for our family, but yet it was still so incredibly hard.   I sure hope saying "no" gets easier, because I know there are more of those ahead. 

Though I have incredible peace, it's still a strange place to be in.  Yet, I know that God has a reason, a purpose, and something different in place.  THAT confidence in Him makes moving a different direction exciting.  The greatest part of saying "no" is that I didn't say "no" out of spite or out of not wanting to serve or be used by Him.  I instead was saying "yes" to His plan for me and our family right now. 

My printer and computer are no longer communicating, so I've had to constantly email my husband with links of things I need printed.  Today, I had him print something for me that I had found as encouragment with some things I'm working through right now.  In the process, he found something else that he knew would speak to my heart.
By saying, "no", I said "yes" to our family:  to give myself more of a chance of LIVING WELL in my GOD ORDAINED role of motherhood. 

Sometimes, seeing things in black and white, on paper makes decisions SO very easy.   To say yes to something important, I had to first say no to something that was also important---but not nearly as important as what I said yes family. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

B90 Check in Week 8 (Monday 2/20/12)

Welcome back B90 readers!  Here we are ready to tackle days 50-56.  We will be spending the week in Isaiah and the first half of Jeremiah. 

It's such an unbelievable feeling to look back and see how far we've come and realize that we are over half the way through. 

I've heard from many of you this week and you are just REALLY struggling right now.  Satan has been on your backs so hard throwing distractions from every direction.  You've found it so hard to stay caught up and discouragement is growing.  I think we all feel it at some point along the way.  You are not alone. 

I can remember almost every time that I've participated in this journey that there has been a point that I've wanted to quit JUST because I felt like it was causing more trouble than good.  I'm just being honest and transparent.  There has always been a point that I felt that as I was growing in God's word, Satan attacked so hard that I wanted to quit.  I figured it would just make things easier on me. 

Let me just say:  It IS A LIE!  Satan is just wanting to defeat.  Troubles DO come and times are hard.  Distractions are overwhelming. 

Please don't give up.  You will come through the battles you are facing and the confidence you will have is indescribable.  Even though I've completed several times before, the last few weeks have also been hard for me as well.  It just seems to happen along the mid-way point for many of us.  My husband has never successfully completed this task and many times didn't make it past the first couple of weeks.  THIS time he is going to make it.  He has stayed caught up the entire time.  Well, until THIS week.  He too his hit that wall with powerful distractions.  Yet, with resolve, this morning he looked over at me on the way to church and said "I am going to catch up.  I am going to do this."  I believe him. 

I believe in you as well.  If you've thought of quitting or even if you have "quit"----jump back in.  Jump back in right where are you.  Forget what days the "calendar" says you should be on, and just start where you are. Take just ONE day at a time!

Satan seems to take so many things from us.  I know I've let him win over and over and I've listened to WAY too many lies of his.  Right now, join me in telling him to back off.  Let the Victory belong to Christ.  Let Him wrap His arms around you and support you through trying again AND winning!

Praying for each of you.  Praying that He gives us all a renewed purpose and drive.  Even if you aren't struggling with keeping up, I know that there are areas in your life that you feel defeated right now.  STAND strong!!!  Don't give up hope!!!

This week:

Monday  Isaiah  14:1-Isaiah 28:29
Tuesday  Isaiah  29:1-Isaiah 41:18
Wednesday  Isaiah 41:19-Isaiah 52:12
Thursday  Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 66:18
Friday  Isaiah 66:19-Jeremiah 10:13
Saturday  Jeremiah 10:14-Jeremiah 23:8
Sunday Jeremiah 23:9-Jeremiah 33:22

Saturday, February 18, 2012

ZOOBIES----SUPER fun giveaway & Review!!!!

UPDATE:  THIS giveaway is NOW closed!  Winner to be announced soon!

Are you ready for a FUN giveaway!  Though I consider it a great privilege and blessing, I typically review family friendly books, music, and movies.  This extra opportunity is one that I couldn't resist.

Introducing ZOOBIES!

OH my goodness, talking about instant LOVE!

When this little guy arrived several weeks ago, I KNEW he was going to QUICKLY become a treasured member of "our faimily". 

ZOOBIES are similar to the popular pillow pets, but SO much better!  They are THREE in one:  a stuffed animal, a pillow, AND a blanket! 

Bradlee chose Kojo the Croc as his blanket pal!  Here he is pictured as just the lovable toy.

Once you unhook the straps under his tummy, he opens as a pillow.

Inside the Croc's tummy is a blanket----you can use it attached (which is how Bradlee loves to use it) or you can completely use it separately. 

WE are in LOVE with this little creature!  The quality is top-notch and customer service/shipping time was SUPER!

They come in SO many adorable characters.  Some of our other favorites are the cow, hippo, monkey, pig, and zebra! 

They also come in a larger size (slumber pets), a smaller size for infants/toddlers (blankie babies), and some other adorable STORYTIME character book pals! 

Check out

For our readers, they are offering a 20% off coupon code.  Just use the code Parenthood.


They have offered to send one reader the Blanket Pet of his/her choice!  That means you get to look online and choose which one you like the best!! 

To enter (this is a little different than my other giveways), you MUST go to their facebook page and click "like" here.  Then go to their website, click on products and choose Blanket Pet.  Look around and see which is your favorite.  Leave a comment here on this post OR on my facebook link with YOUR favorite!  You will then be entered!  (So that means LIKE their facebook page and look online to see which one you like best, leave a comment of your favorite!).   Please be sure to leave an email address with your comment so I can contact you if you are the winner!

That's it!

Winner will be chosen at Random on February 29th---a fun way to celebrate Leap Day!

Here are a couple more pictures of Mr. Croc in action, being loved on by our 5 year old!

He just HAD to take him to our church lock-in last weekend!
 (Required Disclaimer:  We received a blanket pal in exchange for an honest review from Zoobies. These are my honest opinions about the product).

Scraping the Plate

I'm a recovering people-pleaser.  I say recovering because I'm still a work in process.  I recognize the "addiction" and am making strides to move away from it.

It has been a personality trait from an early age.  Honestly, I can't remember it ever not being part of me.

I was the good student, the teacher's pet from the start.  I had this "skill" even as early as Kindergarten.  I had this drive to do everything fast, perfect, and NEVER wanted to rock the boat.  I never wanted to disappoint ANYONE.  So many of my earliest childhood memories are most vividly remembered when they involved being the best at something and the most painful ones seemed to be when I wasn't.  B's were NEVER good enough.  I was anything BUT athletic, so I made up for it academically and by behavior.  Partly it came from a VERY strict upbringing and the fact that I didn't EVER want to be in trouble.  My dad definitely didn't put up with nonsense when we were little!  Love and affection seemed to be connected to good behavior and excelling.  Maybe I could have relaxed and would have been loved just as well, but in my heart I didn't really know if that was the case.  (Now, I KNOW that I would have been loved unconditionally!)

Fast forward many years and I think that personality trait has continued----to such a fault. 

I'm so ridiculously hard on my self.  I too often---WAY too often---get so caught up in what I think people might think of me.  Even worse, I get so completely caught up in my "own head" with my own demands and own expectations. 

It is ridiculous.  I KNOW it.  My heart knows better than to get wrapped up in it, but I still find myself "people-pleasing".  I even find myself "God-pleasing"----and just not stopping and accepting His grace.

In these struggles I've been facing these last weeks specifically,  so much heart change has been taking place.  I admit very openly, it has been incredibly unsettling.  Yet, at the same time there is such an overwhelming peace in the middle of the chaos.  That sounds crazy when I type the words.  I've been ANYTHING except calm lately in actuality.  Yet, in the very center of who I am, there is calm.  There is calm because I know deep in my heart that the chaos is pointing me to where I need to be.  I need to be in the center of His will, I need the redirection, I need the heart changes that He is initiating. 

See, in my desire to please everyone, I've lost track.  I've lost track of who I am and what my role is.  I've very much been reminded VIVIDLY that it's time to bring my focus back to the ones that matter most. 

I bought into the lie. ("hook, line, and sinker" us southern girls would say):

Being a mom just isn't enough. 

Though my heart KNOWS that it is and BELIEVES that it is, my actions and thoughts haven't lined up in that direction lately.

The world doesn't value the ministry of motherhood.  People in my life will never understand the damage they leave behind when they say that "it" isn't enough.  I let their words and their judgments hold me back.  Their words HURT, but it is MY FAULT for listening.  NO LONGER!

I've been running in circles trying to balance "everything else".  I don't want to disappoint others or God by not being enough, ministering enough, serving enough, or reaching out enough. 

I've found myself in the place that I have nothing left to give.  I've drained my own resources.

IT REALLY IS ENOUGH to be "just" a mom, IF I'm giving all of me to that task. 

Right now, I'm not.  It's time for a change.

It's time to be satisfied with MY God-given role in life----the roles that no one else can fulfill.  I'm the only wife to my husband and the only mother to my children.  (I've been repeating this statement often---writing it, reading it, etc... as many times a day as necessary).

My own past has driven me to overextend myself.  I HAVE to be superhero mom.  I don't want my kids to suffer from the same scars that I have from growing up and specifically from recent years.  In the quest to break that cycle and to give them all of me so that they can see the love of Christ and the love I have for them, I've dropped the ball.  I've burned out and crashed.  They aren't getting ME. 

As Priscilla Shirer says in the opening chapter of "The Resolution for Women", I'm not scraping the plate. 

What does that mean?

She talks about having an amazing dessert in front of her.  How she mindlessly ate all of it without taking the time to enjoy each and every bite.  When she looked down at her plate, no full bites were left.  Just a bit of crumbs, chocolate syrup, and whip cream.  With a new resolve, she scraped off every last morsel from the plate and savored it.  Every piece she could salvage of the delicious experience.  That bite was just as good as the first. She didn't want to miss anything on that plate.

I am missing so many things on my plate.  I'm leaving behind so much of the good stuff.

I keep looking forward to what is next instead of THIS moment.  I keep looking back, instead of THIS moment.  I've been enjoying our lives together, but I've not stopped and "soaked it in, relishing it, cherishing it, celebrating, it, appreciating it for what it is". 

I completely found myself in these following words she wrote, just as if she was pulling them from my own heart.  I knew I felt this way, but until I saw it written in black and white I didn't fully grasp the way I'm wrongly approaching life.  "This" is the source of a large portion of the "discontent" I've felt lately and finally having words to express it has definitely opened the door to some changes already taking place and to many more ahead.

"Only for the coming year will my husband be exactly like THIS.  Only for these fleeting moments will my children talk, look, and act exactly like THIS. And if I chose to hurry through them in an attempt to avoid the parts I didn't like, I'd simultaneously miss all the things I DID like about this season.

I recognized that by rushing through life, I'd been subtly devaluing those around me and the experiences I was involved in, not appreciating the importance and significance they bring to my life at this very moment, not grasping my responsibility for holding dear and treating well these gifts God has entrusted to me.  Instead of embracing the privilege of being a blessing to my husband, my children, my friends, and others, I'd been quietly communicating that I wanted them to change and speed up, to get busy being somebody else, someone who's more in line with what I want and need, to hurry along to a place where they could make me happier than they currently do.

That's been me.  Always looking toward the next moment, the next month, the next event, rarely allowing myself the privilege of fully participating and embracing the happenings that were right before me for that day."

That LAST sentence got me.  THAT is where my chaos has been lately.  Realizing that in the desire to be so much and function on so many levels, I've not stopped to just embrace THIS moment. 

And just as Priscilla says, "Before you know it, you've missed out on the JOYS IN THE JOURNEY, the growth that comes from battling through the difficulties, the sweet and savory experience of creating the memories."

It's time to scrape the plate.  Scraping EVERY last detail.  Embracing every morsel.  Not hurrying along to the next stage, next activity, or next "thing" on my list. 

Most especially, it's about FULLY embracing that this role of motherhood is a ministry and it is valuable. If it means separating myself from people that discourage me, have caused scars, etc...  than so be it.  If it's about saying "no" to other outside opportunities for awhile so I can focus on the inside of my own walls, than that is what it takes.  If it means giving up things I "think" I love to focus on the things I KNOW I love, it's no question of what to choose.

Right now, I'm specifically surrounding myself with encouraging, uplifting people that don't tear down or try to make me feel less than because I'm choosing to minister in my home.  I'm making sure that when opportunities come up, that I take the time to encourage another mom in similar seasons of life.  I'm specifically making sure that as I'm starting "new" that I'm starting with my heart in the right place, connected to the one that blessed me with this role and ministry.  I'm taking more time to renew my own heart, because if I don't have it to give, I just don't have it to give!!!! 

It's been an eye opening time.  It's been terrifying, unsettling, and heart wrenching at times.  Yet, I know the results are going to be tremendous as I bring my heart back towards home.  As I bring my heart back to the places I know it has been craving and missing.   I'll be trying new things....some will fail and some will succeed.  Regardless, it will be about scraping the plate for every morsel!  Focusing my heart in my own home and EMBRACING that gift----no longer feeling as if it isn't enough.  

Scraping the plate!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vineyard Music: I Love Your Presence Winner

Just a quick note:  The winner of this CD download is Sam (from Korea).  I've forwarded your email to them and you should receive an email with the link in a couple of days.  Hope it blesses you!

B90 Check in Week 7 (Monday 2/13/12)

This Week's Reading Plan:

Monday (13th) Psalm 89:14-Psalm 108:13
Tuesday (14th) Psalm 109:1-Psalm 134:3
Wednesday (15th) Psalm 135:1-Proverbs 6:35
Thursday (16th) Proverbs 7:1-Proverbs 20:21
Friday (17th)  Proverbs 20:22-Ecclesiastes 2:26
Saturday (18th) Ecclesiastes 3:1-Song of Solomon 8:14
Sunday (19th) Isaiah 1:1-Isaiah 13:22

Welcome back B90 readers!  This week brings a HUGE milestone.  HALFWAY!!!!!! 

We are currently enjoying the beautiful songs/poems/prose of Psalms.  We will journey through the wisdom of Proverbs.  In just two days of reading you will have completed Ecclesiastes.  We will find ourselves reading the entire book of Song of Solomon (and how fitting that it comes during the week of Valentines Day!).  We will end the week starting out in the book of Isaiah.  WOW!

It's quiet unbelievable to see how far we've come already! 

I'm hearing from MANY of you that at this point, you are struggling to keep up.  It is NOT unusual!  The "newness" of the challenge has worn off, you've passed through the "habit" forming days and now it's just something you get done each day.  I challenge you this week to look at it with new enthusiasm.  Perhaps change WHEN you read or WHERE you read.  Pray and ask God to give you a fresh new outlook.  Just like we all get a bit of spring fever as the dreary winter drags on, it can feel that way with this challenge.  JUST hang in there!!!!

I'm also hearing that many of you are VERY far behind and I want to encourage you to keep reading.  No amount of reading is wasted and no matter if you can make the 90 day mark or not----just don't give up! 

GRACE days!  This reading plan actually takes 88 days.  TWO FULL days are built in for those times that you just can't read. Days 89 & 90 are just purely for you to use as needed to catch up.  There are definitely times that we fall behind and need that extra cushion of time! 

I'm continuing to pray for each of you.  Those of you that have been posting specific needs or have emailed, I am keeping up with them even if I haven't been able to personally respond, yet. 

I just want to say how very proud I am of each of you this week.  If you are still hanging in with us----no matter how far behind----it speaks volumes about your commitment and your desire to spend time with God. 

Have a beautiful week!  Enjoy spending time in God's word.  As we celebrate Valentine's Day in different ways and on different levels, just remember how VERY MUCH God LOVES you!!!!  Even if you are single, struggling in your marriage, suffered loss........YOU ARE HIS VALENTINE!  Let his LOVE wash over each of you anew! 

I look forward to hearing from you throughout this week! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What is THAT?

This post is a bit different. Instead of writing *my* thoughts about a particular topic, I'm asking YOUR thoughts.

We've been a fan of Sidewalk Prophets for the last several years. With some of the members having local ties, we've been blessed to see them in various venues.

When I heard this song last week, I literally had a break down. It was one of THOSE songs that got me right in the soul and was saying some of the things that echoes what my heart desires.

I want to live like THAT. It says so well what I hope that others see in me. Often as I fail, I hope that people can still see my intention and my heart.

Specifically, the verse that starts at 1:40 is what I want to ask about.

I've been having this similar conversation with people, it's been mentioned in different forms at church more recently, and it's something that I've been personally thinking about for quite some time.

"People pass and even if they don't know my name, is there evidence that I've been changed. When they see me do they see you?"

My question is this:

If we want to live like this (which I do), what can others see that shows that WE ARE DIFFERENT?

I want to live so that when I walk by a stranger (or anyone else) that they recognize something different about me. What does THAT look like is my question.

What can they see?

Is it a smile that comes from the inside out? Is it being kind, having manners, being polite? Is it being gracious, thoughtful, and encouraging? Is it by serving? Is it by being dressed modestly?

OR is it MORE than that?

What does it take for Jesus to shine from the inside out so that the world can feel it? How does the world see and know that I am different without my even mentioning Christ and His love for us? What do they see and feel just by walking by that shows that I am different...that I am reflecting HIM?

I want this to be ME. As much as we've talked about it recently in different circles about how we should be striving to be LIKE question is WHAT IS THAT?

(P.S. I love EVERY aspect of this song. It is INCREDIBLE! I think I could blog about each sentence!)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I've Been Deceiving Myself

My close friends know that I've really not been myself for the last several weeks, especially the last one or two. 

I HAVE been happy.  Life on the outside has gone on pretty well.  Nothing specific has had me down.  As a matter of fact, great things HAVE been happening.

Yet, I've just not been "me".  It seemed to hit AFTER my insomnia (but wasn't a real factor in my lack of sleep at the time).  I've just been unsettled.  Easily agitated.  Out of focus.  Dropping balls when I'm usually very time efficient and excellent at multi-tasking.  Searching.  Stretching.  Battling heart issues and spiritual issues, pages long. 

My husband and I had talked and prayed constantly about what I was feeling.  We tried to pinpoint what it was that I was feeling and what we needed to do to remedy the situation.  Over several conversations, I poured out my heart on so many issues that were weighing me down.  I've been growing and changing and getting closer to God every single day on so many issues, but "something" was creating a roadblock.  We, together, still couldn't come up with what "the" problem was.

I hated it. It knocked me off my "game".  I felt as if I was spiraling out of control.  One thing after another seemed to go wrong JUST as I was getting closer and closer to being the woman I know God wanted me to be. 

To say I was tired is an understatement of epic proportions.  I just wanted peace.  I just wanted to rest. 

Then last night and today, there was finally a break through. 

I shared my deepest concerns with a dear friend and spiritual leader.  It was a risk (but yet I KNOW her enough to know that my heart was safe, I just was feeling vulnerable).  Though my thoughts were ALL-OVER the place, she still saw enough to offer some insight and to offer her prayers.  Her prayers move mountains!  She told me I was just simply doing too much.

She is right.  I know it.  Yet, the "too" much for the biggest part aren't things I can walk away from.  They are part of me.  I'm still a wife.  I'm still a mother.  I'm still a home educator for three different kids.  I'm still a daughter, friend, etc...  Other things I can't walk away from are things that I'm called to do and feel God is leading me on.  Can't change those things either.  Granted, there ARE things I can say no to and NEED to walk away from.  (Slowly in process of deciding what those things are.)

Today, I had the treat of having a few hours to myself while my kids participated in our Parent's Morning Out program at our church.  I had missed that time in the past couple of weeks for various reasons.  I kept trying to plan what I would do with that time.  Instead of my normal activities, I decided to just be still.  In that stillness, part of my answer came. 

Her words of "you are doing too much" just kept resonating in my heart over and over.  I kept trying to figure out how to reduce the roles or how to be more efficient.  In other words, how could I do more in less time. Yet, the words kept going through my head. 

Then I noticed something.  The focus on the word TOO wasn't the word getting the focus in that phrase any longer.  It had switched to YOU.  YOU are doing too much. 

It isn't about the things I'm doing (or not getting done).  It's about the fact that I am trying to do them.  I am relying on my own power and strength.  THAT is my problem.

I have been deceiving myself. 

I THOUGHT I was on track.  I THOUGHT I was giving all of me over to Him.  I THOUGHT I was following on the path He had for me. 

Though I have a great start in that, I haven't given Him all of me.  I haven't  surrendered every part of me and let Him take that control.  I spend too much time operating in my own strengths instead of letting Him rule my weaknesses. 

My weaknesses are constantly being illuminated right now.  I was going crazy because it seemed like they were constantly staring me in the face.  I felt like I needed to fix ALL of them at once.  Yet, all He needed for me to do was to give them TO HIM.  Stop trying to fix everything and just let Him have them.  Accept that He loves me right now, just as I am.  Yes, He loves me enough to not leave me where I am...but I fail so many times at accepting His unconditional love when I'm operating in my failures. 

I have been caught up in the comparison game.  I want to be like her.  Dress like her.  Act like her.  Have her confidence.  Have her quiet spirit.  Pray like her.  Have the opportunities like her.  Teach like her.  Look like her. Cook like her.  Plan like her.  I'm sure by now you get the point!

Truth is:  I am me.  I have to accept that.  A friend told me today that I can't be anyone else but me.  No matter how much I want to have this or that ministry, this or that gift, or reach this heart and that one....I am here at this point and time to do what God chose for ME.  When I stand before God some day, He isn't going to judge me according to what He has asked of someone else.  Just me.  What did you do with the gifts I gave you?  What did you do with what I asked of you?  I didn't ask you to be this....or that..... I gave you the job of wife, mother, teacher, etc...  How did you operate in those gifts and those ministries?

I am the only one in this world that can be the wife to my husband.  No one else was designed for Him.  Just me.  Therefore, comparing myself to someone else is pointless.

I am the only one that can be the mother to my children.  I may be different than "her"----but I am exactly who God chose for these kids. 

I am searching for ways to make our lives better, to grow spiritually, to be more like the woman God designed me to be.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Growth is GREAT.  I just have to stop and remember that God isn't wanting perfection.  He just wants me to be me, with Him working through me and IN me. 

Sometimes it's best to just stop and be still.  Sometimes it's about giving Him more of me and letting go of something I've held onto for way too long. 

Sometimes it's about ME stopping trying to fix things in my own power and turning it over to Him and letting Him do it.  NOT ME!

Tonight I'm focusing on a verse that is in tomorrow's B90 reading.  It is ministering to my heart in such a powerful way.

"Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God that saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. " (Psalm 25:4-5)

Believing that during this time of "searching" and trying to balance where I am in life right now and all of the many directions I'm going, that HE is going to lead me on the right path.  Every battle in my heart right now can be "calmed" just by surrendering every aspect and every detail to Him.  No matter what the concern is, He has the answer.  I just need to rest in Him and wait for the answer.  Don't rush ahead in my own power and try to solve it on my own. 

Break through.  No more deceiving myself. 

Cooper and Me and the Military Review and GIVEAWAY

Back early in December, I reviewed Cooper & Me and the Winter Adventure (here ).  Our 5 year old LOVED it. 

I was excited to have the opportunity to read the next installment for two reasons:  we truly loved the first book even though we had not previously heard of the series AND the topic is dear to our heart!

Cooper and Me and the Military

Two words:  pure love!

The Cooper series is written by Monique & Alexa Peters and illustrated by Alexa Peters &Melissa Peterson.   The authors are a mother daughter team and the illustrations are from the daughter as well (a young teen).  As mentioned in my previous review, what makes this series so different and desirable is the extra-learning activities that each one includes.  It's about more than JUST reading a GREAT book.  It takes it to the next level with engaging learning activities and real-life application.  You can even log onto the website for even more activities.  As a home educator, I LOVE this.

The main reason these books engage my son is the fact that the main character is a dog named Cooper.  In his stories, we are introduced to his animal friends and learn something VALUABLE about life. 

This particular story brings Trooper to us.  He is Cooper's best friend and was adopted by Gracie and Joe's parents who are both in the military.  The story is about how this family stays close while being separated at times.  For those of us with military family members, it strikes in even deeper cord.  Yet, you don't have to be a military family to enjoy the book.  It gives kids fantastic ways to understand a little bit about what happens when someone they love leaves and it gives a great sense of patriotism. 

The language of the story flows well and most definitely kept my child's attention (which is hard to do with an active 5 year old boy).  It is engaging and the illustrations are adorable.  A great thing about this series is the doors it opens for more conversation.  THAT is PRICELESS!

One very special part of this particular book that I just absolutely adore is in the "extra" activities.  It includes a touching, fill-in-the blank letter that even young kids can write that can be sent to active military.  A website address is listed for information about where and how to send it. 

For more information about Cooper and Me and the Military:

One reader can receive a copy of this precious book.  (Your book cover may look different, but the book itself will be the same. )  Just leave a comment on this post (or facebook post).  I will use to choose a winner on February 20th.   Just please be sure to leave your name and an email address so I can contact you (if I don't already have it!). 

Required 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.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sweet Tea

Most every southern girl knows a thing or two about sweet tea.  Until you've had REAL southern sweet tea, you've just not had "sweet" tea.  It's best described as "would you like a little tea with that sugar?"  A spoon can often nearly almost stand up by itself when submerged in the liquid.  Whether you like it or not, which I don't but my husband LOVES, you learn how to make it.  It's like a rite of passage for a southern girl.  As a matter of fact, it's probably one of the first things a young girl is taught to "cook".  Whether you like to drink it or not, sweet tea is thought of fondly in the south.  It's part of most social gatherings.  It's refreshing on a scorcher day or at the end of a day's hard work.  For many of us, we can't think of mason jars without thinking of sweet tea.  It's just part of who we are.  It's a treasure.

I have such a treasure in my life.  She's MY Sweet T. 

My kids call her Mema.  For most of my life, I called her Teresa.  In recent years, she has become T and eventually my Sweet T. 

Today is her birthday. 

It's one of those days that makes me a bit homesick.  I'd love to jump in the van and drive those 375 miles and be home.  I can't.  Yet, I'm fortunate to know that she's coming to visit in a few weeks and I can hardly wait. 

Happy Birthday to the one:
  • whose heart knows no bounds.  Loves unconditionally and without "strings" attached. 
  • taught me every Sunday school song you can imagine & causes me to smile every time I remember one and sing it to my children
  • has taken this last 13.5 months of grieving and handled it amazingly.  She hurts, but she carries on with dignity, grace, and hope.
  • though I don't get to spend nearly as much time with her as I wish, when I am blessed with it....time just slips away.
  • taught me the value of motherhood and the joy of seeking to be a little more of a Proverbs 31 woman every day
  • can make something from nothing with such creativity
  • though she didn't physically give birth to me, she loves as if she did.....the typical image of step-mom can't be put side by side with her in any shape, form, or fashion.  She became mine "full-time" when I was just a toddler. 
  • taught me the true value of giving my life to Christ----that it isn't about religion, that is about a personal relationship
  • can with just a simple text of I love you or I'm proud of you change my whole demeanor and remind  me of the reason I daily have to choose to do things differently than the world. 
Happy Birthday to my Sweet T/Tea....can't wait to celebrate in person with you in a few weeks!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Post to Laugh At!

I'm writing this post just so HOPEFULLY I can look back someday and LAUGH at it and not cry. 

Because today, I'm not laughing.

Today, I'm soaked in sweat.  OK---so I know us southern girls were always taught that we don't sweat, we just perspire.  Let me tell you, southern at heart or not, I'm dripping buckets of sweat.  Buckets.

Today, I'm gasping for breath and waiting for the post exercise endorphins to kick in. 

For the last several weeks, or maybe it's been a month or two (jeepers, I realize now I don't have any idea when I started), I have been focusing on my own health.  That has meant changing the way I eat, the way I look at food, the way I look at my body as something God gave me as a gift to take care of.  It has meant no excuses.  I've put myself back on the priority list.   I walk a significant amount most days of the week.  It has been HARD to fit that time in and not feel like I'm letting something else fall off the list.  Getting in a 30 minute walk just isn't enough to me.  I'm trying to stick with 5-6 miles each time. 

It has changed me.  It has obviously changed the way I look and drastically is changing the number on the scale.  I admit I'm having trouble seeing what others are seeing, but my brain is slowly catching up.  I still look in the mirror and see what I have left, not how far I've come.  However, I'm catching up and embracing it.  I'm taking before and after pictures and putting them side by side.  I tried on a dress that I wore well over a year ago.  At the time, I had lost several pounds but nowhere near what my goal was.  I was happy to get into that dress, even though it took some "gut-sucker" pantyhose and undergarments.  This last year, I reached a point I couldn't get in that dress at all.  In my moments of doubt last week, I thought of the dress.  I just KNEW I wouldn't be able to get it on.  I was right.  I couldn't wear it.  It wasn't because I couldn't squeeze in it, it WAS TOO BIG! 

With that said, let me tell you about today. 

I've always wanted to run.  I've never been a runner in the least, even in my younger days when I was "healthy" and stronger.  I forced myself to do it for a bit in college to get out of physical education and health classes.  (If you could run a certain distance in a specified amount of time, you could skip the class and get an A for the final.)

I got this idea in my head that since I can easily walk twice the distance of a 5K, I should start trying to run one.  (Let's totally ignore the fact that years ago when I was first diagnosed with lupus that my rheumatologist told me to WALK---never run.  Let's totally ignore the fact that I'm about 50 pounds heavier than those days.  Let's totally ignore that I'm 15 years older.)

I jumped on the bandwagon of the Couch to 5K.  You know that program that unfit people that have been glued to the couch can train to RUN a 5K in 8-9 weeks.  Of course a 5K is a short distance to run, right?  Surely, if an unfit couch potato can do this....I can do it, right?  I've been walking long distances.  I've reached my first 2 weight loss goals.  This should be easy, right?

HaHa...........HaHA......insert the most hilarious laugh you can imagine right here, right now.

Day 1 (you know the FIRST day of training that an unfit, couch glued potato can accomplish!) kicked my tail!

It should have been simple.  It should have been a breeze.

I almost thought I'd have to call 911 and I could just see the paramedics having to go into my scary basement, drag me off the treadmill, dressed in clothes I wouldn't dare be seen in publicly.  I don't know if I could have lived through the humiliation.  "Tracye, let me understand this: you were only on day one and couldn't survive without medical intervention. "  I could see the gossip columns in my head.  Forget gossip colums, the world has facebook.  Humiliation would be instant.

The good news is, I did it.  I had to imagine I was chasing after my kids being kidnapped.  I quoted scripture.  I sang songs in my head (couldn't do it out loud for sure!!!) I had to imagine all kinds of things to override my brain making me quit.  Yes, it would have been hilarious to have had a window into my brain.

The bad news, I may never do it again.  Such a simple task in reality.  Such a difficult task in MY reality. 

Maybe I'll stick with walking.  Maybe I'll come up with a different plan.  I do know I will keep moving.  I do know this isn't a sign that I will quit everything.  Maybe I will try again and it won't be as hard.  JUST maybe I might have to keep imagining all kinds of things to get me through those bursts of running. 

Today I may be crying.  Maybe some day I'll look back at this and laugh.  Laugh because of how hard it was in the beginning and how easy it has become. 

Perhaps, I'll just sit back and laugh at the fact that I tried and how hilarious it was to even consider the possibility. 

Regardless,  I will laugh.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

B90 Check in Week 6 (Monday 2-6-12)

Welcome back B90 readers!  Another week under our belts, bringing us all much closer to our goal!  The half-way point is ALMOST here!

This check-in post is a short one.  To be perfectly honest, I'm going to admit to just being behind on MANY things at the moment!  Yikes---time management seemed to be lacking on my end this week.  I let stress get the best of me too many times and didn't get as much accomplished as I needed to. Fortunately, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to get back on track!  Most especially, thankful that my heart has found some renewal and I'm ready to hit this week running (OK----as soon as I get the lesson plans done for my 3 kids for this week!). 

I do want to say thank you to each of you that followed up to either my email or commented on posts.  It was fantastic to hear from so many of you letting me know how things are going.  Many of you admit to being behind, but are still committed.  THAT is all that matters to me!  As I told many of you, I'm still going to keep cheering you on even if you don't make the 90 day mark!  Many of you shared some *tough* prayer requests this week as well.  Please know that I'm thinking of you, praying for you, and believing that God is in control even through difficulties.  Hold onto your faith with every fiber of your being!

I'm super excited that this week brings us to one of my favorite sections of the Bible.  I LOVE Psalms!!!!  It encourages my heart so often.  I realize that some of you don't share that same enthusiasm ( husband happens to be one of those!) because it's so long and so many sound the same.  Just hold on to the fact that whether you approach this week excited or with a bit of've come so far and half-way is just around the corner!!!! 

Keep at it!  Hang tight!  Embrace this week with new enthusiasm.  Regardless of where you are in the reading, TODAY is a new day!!!! 

Monday: Nehemiah 13:15-Job 7:21
Tuesday:  Job 8:1-Job 24:25
Wednesday: Job25:1-Job 41:34
Thursday: Job 42:1-Psalm 24:10
Friday: Psalm 25:1-Psalm 45:14
Saturday: Psalm 45:15-Psalm 69:21
Sunday: Psalm 69:22-Psalm 89:13

Friday, February 3, 2012

Full Disclosure Friday

Full Disclosure Friday.

One of my favorite homeschooling websites/blogs has a full disclosure Friday.  It's where the readers admit to a failure or to something they just can't imagine they are telling another person.  Yet, it typically ends up being something that many of us, when brave enough to admit it, are also guilty of.

Today, I have a disclosure of truth as well.  Many of you B90 readers are going to probably smile at this one! 

I STRUGGLE greatly with the Old Testament.  I get bogged down in the history, repetitiveness, constant killing, gore, sacrifices, genealogy, etc..

I KNOW they are important.  I KNOW they have extreme value.  I KNOW that it is important to not SKIP any parts.  I KNOW those things....

Yet, the temptation still remains.  I want to *rush* through and get to the parts I like better.  THAT is my full disclosure Friday admission.

However, oh my goodness......when I DO take the time to slow down, I've never been disappointed in what God shows me. 

This is my 4th time participating in B90.  I am STILL amazed with what I learn each time and how "old" things look  "new".

We are just finishing up Chronicles and this is one of those times that I would love to rush, skip, or put less effort in.  Thank goodness I didn't.  I saw things that touched my heart like never before.

Specifically, I love the story of Solomon.  I love how he prayed for wisdom and not only did the Lord grant that prayer, but he also give him wealth and splendor like none had ever seen.  That story always inspires me.  It encourages me so often to keep my focus and priorities in the right order and that God WILL provide the rest as well.  So much could be said about Solomon and his legacy. 

However, it is another part of the story that caught my attention for the VERY first time.  I think I missed the depth of this verse EVERY other time. 

You see, there was another part to the story of why Solomon was so successful.

His father prayed. 

1 Chronicles 29: 10-20

Most specifically vs. 19 is what truly spoke to me. 

"Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees...."

The passage as a whole is the entire prayer....but that verse GRASPED my heart.  I missed it every other time.

He prayed for his son.  Before Solomon ever became king, his father prayed for his role. 

I know the value of praying for my children.  I know that there is no one else on this earth that can petition God on their behalf anymore than their mother and father. 

Yet, I realize that I'm too caught up in TODAY.  I'm too often praying for THIS moment.  Many days we are in survival mode and our needs are immediate.   That is typical.  Parenting is hard AND it is impossible with out God.  No way around it.

However, I realize that I'm failing to think beyond this moment.  I need to be praying more often for their roles in the future.  More about things in the long-run and less about THIS moment.  I need to be praying more about things that LAST.  Yes, it's absolutely necessary to pray about day to day things.  Couldn't survive otherwise! 

I should be praying for them in their roles as mothers and
I should be praying for their future
I should be praying for their vocation, ministry role, and for God to be preparing them for whatever His task is for
I should be praying for their faith to withstand the onslaught of the

The list can go on indefinitely.

The Bible says that Solomon was granted a wise and understanding heart that no one else had ever had or ever would have.  God granted it on behalf of the prayer that he prayed when he first became king.  I also believe *THAT* moment of prayer was inspired by the prayer that his father had prayed before.  The prayer of his father paved the way for Solomon's heart to be seeking God in its full capacity.

Full Disclosure Friday:  If I had rushed through Chronicles, I would have missed it. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lord, Empty Me of Me

Growing pains. They hurt. Do you remember those days? Do you cringe as your children go through them---whether they be physical or emotional.

I'm going through growing pains----but of the opposite direction.

I'm seeking to become less. I want less of me.

Physically---absolutely. Ounce by ounce there is less of me every day. It's taking hard work, sacrifice, and commitment. Yet it is worth it. I didn't start this year off with resolutions, but it's quite ironic that I've ended up on the same path. I didn't jump on the bandwagon of January 1st "I'm going to eat healthy, exercise, and lose weight". But here I am...on that path. Maybe because it wasn't a resolution is why I'm succeeding. I just felt God leading me on that path and out of obedience to Him, I've started making the necessary changes.

Though physically, I'm wanting less of's the spiritual side that is causing the growing pains.

The pains of becoming less of me so I can be more filled with Him.

Letting go of control. Hard.
Accepting His will in His time over my own desires and my own timing. Ouch!
Giving over more of me---those deep hidden parts of me---to Him. Vulnerable!
Trying to look through His eyes at situations even when it reveals my own sin, disobedience, etc Double Ouch!

Carving away of me. It's painful. It's necessary. It's required.

Just as my physical body is changing, it doesn't come without cost. It doesn't come without commitment. It's uncomfortable. It's painful. It goes against what is in my comfort zone. It goes against habit. It goes against what is "easy".

The results are worth it. The changes are far reaching.

It's a work in progress. It's not going to happen overnight or nearly as quickly as I want. Physically---some days the scale doesn't show the results I hope, but I know the changes are happening. Some days I don't make the best decisions and I go backwards. Yet, each new day is a new start. Ounce by ounce.

Spiritually---it's a long process. Today I may make decisions that lead me closer to being more in step with the woman God has designed me to be. Yet, I may also make decisions to hold on to too much of "me" and the changes don't happen. I don't allow God to chisel me the way He needs. Today I may surrender. Tomorrow I may refuse out of my own selfish desires.

But the changes are happening. Each painful step of the way.

I want to be emptied of me. I want to be filled with Him. When others see me, I want them to see Him. They may see my physical shell, but what comes from the inside out I CRAVE to have it be Him they see. I don't want the world to see more of the "world". I don't want what they see to be tainted. I don't want them to look at me and see "normal." When they see me, I want them to see Him. Not my pride. Not my selfish ambition. I want them to see His love and radiance.

When I'm holding on to me, I can't become more of Him. Most especially those last things that I hold onto with both fists, the things that I hold onto as the last effort to keep from giving Him every last cell of my being.

I have a spot on my bathroom mirror that has a suction cup with Bible verses, encouraging quotes, and prayers that I purchased on etsy and my husband added additional sets at different holidays,etc... I keep coming back to this particular one this week. It just keeps drawing my heart back in.

"Lord, help me to fully enjoy this day no matter what it brings. Empty me of this world and fill me with You, and You alone."

What a powerful prayer. Admittedly, it's a scary one to pray. It opens the door for some more painful "growing". The kind of growing that reduces. Less of me. More of Him. Ounce by ounce. Cell by cell. Heart change by heart change.