Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 Goals Update

My goals with my dinner, because they looked a little more interesting that way. ;)
       I don't think I ever shared my goals for 2017. Each year I try to choose a couple different areas to focus on, and I usually try to be fairly specific. I don't always complete everything, but it is motivating to have some things to focus on, and I always figure that progress is a reward in and of itself.

    I have done some big time "adulting" lately: I scheduled a dentist's appointment (We changed insurances, so it was a lot more complicated than just calling for a date.), we bought a new mattress (I bravely purchased one online. It is due to be delivered new week, we are very excited to see if our leap of faith is rewarded!), I have been doing some serious de-cluttering as part of my Lent discipline, and of course, all the usual every day things that accompany being a stay-at-home wife and homeschooling mom!

    But anyway, I decided that I was proud of myself for the progress that I am making, and my 2017 goal progress is part of it! So, here are my goals (Don't make fun of them!) and where I am at:

1. Decrease sugary drinks, and the amount of sugar in drinks. This one I wasn't hugely specific writing it down, but I had some certain things in mind. I love my afternoon coffee, and I had moved away from measuring the amount of sweetened creamer I used, and I had also been drinking soda almost every day. I have been recording the days that I have not had soda, and that is really helping. Actually, as of today, I haven't had any soda in a week! I have cut the amount of creamer I am using at home in half, too. Also, I have gone back to ordering a small size if I am drinking coffee out, which is definitely decreasing my sugared drink intake. This goal won't be accomplished if I don't maintain it, so that is really my focus now.

2. Learn to use eye shadow. Zero progress on this one. Just being honest. The only thing I have done is tell my youngest sister she has to help me. Hoping to mark this one off this summer, I should probably start by actually buying some eye shadow!

3. Finish T & T book. My kids are in Awana, and my husband and I volunteer. I, personally, though, have never done any of the books. They changed the 3rd-6th grade program this year and all the students are doing the same book. I decided that would be a good point for me to jump in, so I am working through the book with my kids.Memorizing Bible verses is an area I really needed to work on. I am a little behind right now, but I found a really cool app called "Verses" that I am using now, and it has made a huge difference! I should be done with this goal by May, if I manage to get back on track. It would be fantastic if I finished up at the same time as my kids! Carson has been a huge encouragement to me in this area, and I am so proud of myself. I have learned over twenty new verses since September!

4. Read twelve books I already own. I have finished three, and I am fairly sure that I should be able to accomplish this, as I tend to read more over the summer. I am working on a fourth, but I am tackling some of the classics, and they tend to be more "slog" than "skim"! I wanted to read books I owned versus borrowing them, as I kind of tend to buy a book then stick it on a shelf while I try to get through books I have borrowed from family or the library. (I may have cheated a tiny bit by buying "The Handmaid's Tale" but I figured once I purchased it, it qualified as a book I owned! And I'm making the rules, anyway. It was totally worth it, by the way, if you like dystopian novels!)

5. Finish three photo books. I made big time progress on that this weekend! I had a "free" book code, so I got to work. I was doing really well, then I got a second code! I had to hustle, but I finished with 30 minutes left before the code expired. Pretty proud that I knocked two out of three off! However, the last minute crunch was a good thing in that it motivated me to get the next few months of photos uploaded and organize a ton of others. I am hoping now to finish 2014 in the next few months. I usually put 2-3 months in each book, and yes, I am definitely behind, but I also started using Chatbooks, so I have printed photos starting in January 2015, so I will get caught up eventually! I've made so much headway in this area since I began, I am confident that some day I won't have years worth of un-printed photos looming over my head. Someday.

     I don't have a hard-and-fast rule about only making goals at the beginning of the year, although I do enjoy the freshness of January 1st. I made a goal in February to finish a specific workout program, and I will do that next week, Lord willing! So where are you with your goals?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

National Park Baby Shower

      I haven't posted any baby showers in a while, but it isn't because I haven't done any. I actually did an outdoor "lumberjack" themed shower back in the fall, but I didn't post about it. That one came together fairly easily and actually turned out cuter than I had even hoped. This story is a little different...

    As a refresher if you are reading this and you don't know me "in real life", I am from a large family and have five sisters. My oldest sister has kids, I, of course, have kids, but none of the "little girls" (the collective nickname for the set of sisters that are separated from my oldest sister and me by at least ten years or more) hadn't reached that milestone. Until this year! The fourth sister is expecting, due in April, and everyone is deliriously happy for her, she is made to be a mom.

    So, that mandated a better than ordinary shower effort. I truly do put my heart into any party that I plan, but this one, well, I wanted it to be *special*. Which meant it caused me to completely freak out. I could NOT get my "vision" for the look to come together. I spent excessive amounts of time on Pinterest, and discussed it at length with the other sisters but I was still having a hard time getting it to come together.

    We went with a National Park theme because, if you have ever checked out any of my other shower themes, you know I love to use the nursery decor as the jumping-off point for ideas. I love that many of the shower items can be re-used in the nursery, and it also helps to narrow down the billions of themes the Internet is happy to barrage you with. So, since she was doing a NP theme for the nursery (with colors of turquoise and orange) that dictated the shower theme.

    Yeah. Not as easy as it sounds! I felt like we veered a tiny bit into "camping" but you can't hardly think of one without the other. That may be why it was so hard for me to channel inspiration, because I do *NOT* camp. But I do love a National Park, I can thank my Dad for that. He didn't come to the shower, but I know he really appreciated the theme and is proud that he instilled in all of us kids a deep appreciation for America's parks!

   I frequently have to remind myself that when I am struggling with a party, I just need to do something. Crafting helps me to sort out what direction I want to take. The first piece I made for this shower was my favorite: a mobile. I crafted every little mountain and cloud with my own two hands. I love that the sun is the focal point, and helps to tie in the orange. I hung it in the middle of the circle of chairs. If you don't recognize the drab walls and enormous room from previous parties, it's the fellowship hall at our church. It's a beast to decorate, and I would know because I've done it a number of times! However, it is a great blank slate, and the best place to hold the 30+ women who attended. 
   Seriously, I think people are under the mis-impression that I have it all together. Nope. Wrong. I was literally gluing moss to the "L" (that's the baby's first initial) at 9:00 am. The shower was at 10:00 am. Yup. That's how I roll. I used the "vase-within-a-vase" technique for the tulips. The little jars have tea lights in them and they are from Hobby Lobby. I just added the brown ribbon for hanging. The outer vase was lined with these cool wood slices from Hobby Lobby that my oldest sister supplied. She also sent the pieces to put together the favors in the center.

  The favors were easy-trail mix, of course! I created the labels with the Avery online label making software and printed them onto Avery label stickers. My oldest sister sent the bags (they are brown paper eco-friendly sandwich sacks, so cute!), we filled them with a serving of trail mix, closed them with washi and slapped the label on. My dear husband actually put them together after I made him a sample. The "yeti" pun was my own creation-I cannot resist the opportunity to be "pun-y"! Ha!

   You can see it best in this photo but the "table cloths" are actually pieces of brown kraft wrapping paper from the Dollar Tree. My mom and daughter stamped them with the arrows to up the cute factor.
    This printable is a riff that I did on one from Pinterest that I couldn't source. I loved the image of the lantern with the verse on it, so I found a similar graphic on PicMonkey. I will try to put the printable up on the blog. Eventually!
   My husband is still recovering from knee surgery so he got big time sucked in to baby shower prep. He painted the little cone mountains and tree for me. Big heart eye emoji for a guy who pitches in and does not judge his wife (too harshly) for her tendencies to go overboard and be a giant walking stress ball leading up to these events. The owl vase is from my home and the beautiful orange Gerbera daisies are from Trader Joe's. The confetti is from Hobby Lobby, and the Yosemite canvas is TJ Maxx, I believe. (My mom bought it for my sister.)
   These images are from old calendars that my sister bought at a discount. I loved the visual impact that gave, and they filled up a pretty decent chunk of space for cheap. That is always a win in my book!

  Not the best photo of me. The guest of honor was as cute as a button, though! She hardly looks pregnant. However awful I may look, it still gives a better idea of the scale of the collage.

     I like pulling furniture into this large space because it makes it feel less sterile.  The stuffed animals are ones my sister has collected for the baby's room (She graciously lent me things she already had so that I wouldn't go over budget!) My oldest sister supplied the cute tree cut-outs, they are wood pieces with the bark left on. I made a garland with them and more of the log slices to form the baby's initials. The middle name is a secret, so I left that blank until after he is born. The arrows are from Hobby Lobby, I propped them up in a vase with rocks, the canvas from TJ Maxx. One of my sweet cousins made the origami forest and foxes (so cute!) and the lantern is an old VBS prop. The little trees I borrowed from my church. For a small church, we have a great selection of decor pieces.
    The really cool NP canvas is actually my Dad's. It has a space for each park and he has stickers on all the ones he has visited. Fun! My expecting sister wanted to make the mountain garland, so as weird as it is for the guest of honor to make decorations, I couldn't turn her down. The moose head is a stuffed animal, the garland of mounted heads are clearance Target ornaments.
   The tent is hilarious. I really wanted one, but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. This is actually PVC pipes I found at the church rigged together and covered with orange plastic tablecloths. It is held together by hopes and prayers! Ha! It was a perfect place to put the gifts. The cool mountain backdrop was painted by another talented cousin. I have zero actual art ability. The trees were loaned from my aunt, and the bears are a fun story. My sister got one as child (maybe 3 years old?) and when she found out she was having a boy she found one on eBay and bought it so the baby would have a matching one. So sweet!
My mom handled all the food. (I cannot do both, no matter how hard I try.) and did a great job. She recreated these cute campfire cupcakes from Pinterest. My aunt made the cool food labels.
   I looooved how this turned out. It is well over one hundred triangle punches I hot-glued to ribbon and hung in an ombre pattern on a branch from my aunt's yard. It served as the backdrop to the food table.
My mom provided the cute metal crate, the stuffed animals and the "Adventure" sign. They are all from Hobby Lobby. 

   I hand-sewed the teepee pillow, and created the printable in PicMonkey, again based on a Pinterest image (although that one did not have Scripture). The metal bin is from Hobby Lobby. The National Parks lantern is my brother's.
   One of my sisters made the hedgehog cheese ball. So cute! The really fun part is that the baby's nickname is "Hedgehog" or "Hedgie" for short. So perfect, too.

 This is one thing that I wished had photographed better. I used twine and tiny clothespins (from the Dollar Tree) to hang my sister's collection of WPA National Parks postcards. It was fun to see the one that I had sent her years ago! I was honored that she kept it.
My youngest sister came up with this adorable game based on one we played online. We set up a table covered with more wrapping paper and simply printed the instruction on it with Sharpie. We made a numbered list and encouraged people to add a children's song, book or movie title to it, but to substitute at least one of the words in the title with "Hedgehog" or "Hedgie". You could do this with any baby nickname, or any shower associated word. We told the guests to continue to add their entries during the party, and to initial them. We also said we would end the game at a undisclosed time. We had over 60 entries by the time we ended, and gave prizes to the last two on the list. It was a great way to keep people talking!

   It was a really fun shower. We are just getting started in the "sister shower" department, though. Another wedding later this year, and I am guessing this is only the beginning of the babies...Not sad about that, for sure!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Holding Out Hope

    I don't hate winter. I am actually a "four seasons" kind of girl. I like the changes each season brings. I love lots of things about winter: wearing sweaters (I own 33 cardigans for a reason! #notaminimalist) soups and stews, Christmas, hot coffee, snuggly blankets, and marveling over each unique snowflake. There are things I don't love, of course, like constantly clearing snow off my car, slipping on the ice, cold feet, and driving in bad weather.

   And every year, around this time, I get a little bit "done" with winter. It has been particularly bad this year, because since Joel has been out of commission (He had ACL and meniscus surgery and cannot even put his foot down for six weeks!) I've been doing double the amount of work I usually do. As I left this morning to take him to physical therapy, I slipped on the ice. I didn't go all the way down, but I have landed on my behind three times already this winter. Poor Joel had to navigate all that on crutches, which is why he has only left the house twice in the last two weeks. I am tired of doing all the driving, all the car scraping, all the grocery shopping, all the cooking, cleaning, and general household-running that he is usually so good to help with. I know I sound whiny, and that so many have it much worse, but as the kids said when they were little while waving their hands frantically, "all duh!".

   And after steering my car through a slide on the icy road all I could think is, "I wish it were summer. And the roads were dry and the weather was warm. And Joel was better."

    The fact of the matter is, I *know* summer will come. (Yes, I know spring is first!) Way back in the beginning the Lord promised us:

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
Genesis 8:22

  And I know that is true because I have seen it in my own life. Further back than I can remember the cycle of the seasons has been unbroken. And I realized, that is what hope really is. I don't know what exact day summer will come. Yes, it is marked on the calendar but we all know how *that* really goes. It is hard to think about summer right now with two feet of snow on the ground. We have had more snow this year than in many years. We had weeks of temperatures below twenty degrees. I haven't seen grass since November. I am thrilled that the sun has finally started setting after 4 pm (on the three days out of seven that I can even see it), however it is still.so.hard.  But I would bet my life on the fact that there will be summer in the year 2017. (Unless Jesus comes back, and I will take that any day!)

    And I just can't think of a better definition of hope. For a believer "hope" isn't wishing, like the rest of the world thinks it is.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
Confidence. Assurance. Not guessing, or wishing, or speculating, or gambling. It's a guarantee. And that is the hope we have in Christ.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:1-5 

   I don't have to worry, because I have a guarantee. This frustrating, seemingly endless, plodding, not-so-great part will end, and it will result in God being glorified. Winter WILL lead to summer and my suffering will produce perseverance if I don't give up and lose heart. I have hope. Such great, marvelous, life-changing hope. And it is 100 % guaranteed, more certain even than the changing of the seasons. True hope isn't fragile, or perishable, or in need of coddling. True hope knows what the future holds, even if I don't have a date for my calendar. True hope will see me through.

   These seasons, both the physical and the figurative, aren't going to last forever. I know, because I have hope.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


    Eight and half years. A deployment, two moves, eight job changes, three houses (not including the three months we lived with my mom). Lots of teaching: my kids, VBS, women's Bible study, co-op, adult Sunday School. Vacations, travels, trips to foreign countries near and far. The death of both of my grandmothers. A heart transplant for my niece. 500 posts.

    This blog. It is hard to believe that I have typed my way through all that living. I've been published by bigger blogs, better blogs. I have photographed, and made graphics, and put together Bible reading guides, an Advent devotional, new recipes, tons of thank-you gifts and many festivities. I have 30 days of party planning, and things I am thankful for. I've added a Facebook page and joined Instagram.

   And if I have thought about quitting once, I've thought about it a million times. I have to remind myself that this blog was never for fame or fortune, because if it was I have failed abysmally. It was just a chance to put myself out there, an opportunity to expose small bits of my heart and home with anyone willing to take a few minutes to read my little thoughts.

    And I have. This blog became something I would have never imagined. It has been my place on the web to share my thoughts and feelings, but most importantly, my faith. I know there are plenty of posts that no one on here but my family has read, and that is okay. Because sometimes, these words are simply a prayer, begging the Lord to use me in the smallest of ways, allowing me to say something that would point to His glory even if it is in broken and halting words.

  It is continually changing, but it has always been constant in this one thing: it is me. The trying, the failing, the fears, the triumphs. I write because some days I literally *have* to. I have always dreamed of becoming an author, and while I usually deny it, in all honesty this little piece of the internet has given me that chance. No one tells me what to say, no one tells me how to say it. It has brought me to tears more times than I care to recall.

   I went through several Scripture choices before I settled on the one that has been my tagline for several years now. It is a snippet of Ephesians 5:16 which says,in context with verses 15 and 17:

 "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."
     I love all of the Word but there are certain parts that I would have to confess are my favorites. These verses, this is the cry of my heart. I just want to be wise. I want to understand the Lord's will. I am so thankful that He allows me to share here. I am so thankful that He allows me to spread His Word in my own small way. I know that often, due to the pull of the sin nature and fear, I don't make the most of *every* opportunity, but this blog has helped me to make the most of far more than I would have. The Lord has used it to mold me, pull me out of my shell, teach me how to share, and to love better. And I am very thankful for that.

   And I am so thankful for you. If you are reading this, I am truly thankful that you give up a little of your time to share it with me. You may have never left a comment, pinned a post, followed me on Facebook or even stopped by here with any great regularity. But I see the little number go up when a post is viewed and even if I don't know you, I know you were there. You spent a few minutes getting to know me and I am grateful. I hope that if there is ever any way you think I could make more of my opportunities, I would love to hear it. If there is any way I can ever show Christ to you, please let me know. I hope to be here for a while, as long as the Lord allows, making the most of every opportunity...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Faith Doesn't Mean You're Fine


    So, I know for a few people who are close to me that the things that I said about 2017 not necessarily being the antidote to the woes of 2016 has proven true in some really awful ways. We are only a couple of weeks into the first month of the new year and yet so many things have already gone so wrong. The things that have happened will for certain leave this year etched in their memories and it isn't even 5% of the way over yet, so there are still plenty of opportunities for the other 95% to hold its fair share of unexpected, sometimes life-changing, and very possible negative, events.

     Personally, our family is still dealing with the aftermath of things that happened in 2016 and didn't magically disappear when the clock struck midnight on January 1st. My husband was seriously injured at work and can't really begin to heal or even recover until he has extensive knee surgery. Which still isn't scheduled, even though he was injured in November. We are just waiting while he lives every day in pain. And it is so hard. We don't know when he will be able to return to work, or if the promised recovery period will be as arduous as we have been told. We are on "hold"-not knowing what the next few months will bring.

   And it is seems like the right thing to say is that we are okay. We believe that the Lord holds the future, that He hasn't overlooked any of these things that have completely turned our every day routines on their heads and cut up our future plans to ribbons. We know He has a plan, and better yet, a purpose.

  But it still hurts. Some days, fear or worry, or both, rob us of sleep. We get up in the morning not knowing what the day holds, trying to convince ourselves things will get better, holding our breath without daring to think that they might possibly get worse. That maybe the events that have crushed us yesterday, last week, last month, will be something that we would gladly suffer again in order to avoid the devastation that lies just out of sight. Because, as my dear husband loves to say, "the only easy day was yesterday".

    So where does the hope come in? What good does faith do in these circumstances? Aren't we supposed to "grin and bear it"? When "sorrows like sea billows roll", aren't we supposed to say, "it is well with my soul"?  Doesn't it seem that our response should be, when hearing of our troubles well-meaning friends inquire as to our well-being, that we are, "fine"? Just, fine, thank you. And be sure to follow up with the certainty that this is the Lord's will, that we are confident that better days lie just ahead? We are fine, just fine. But is that really what faith requires of us? To profess, in the worst of times that we are "fine"?

     "Be gracious to me, Lord,

because I am in distress;
my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow
my whole being as well. 
Indeed, my life is consumed with grief
and my years with groaning;
my strength has failed
because of my sinfulness,
and my bones waste away." 

Psalm 31:8-9 HCSB
 And it wasn't just David...

"Why did I come out of the womb

to see only struggle and sorrow,
to end my life in shame?"

Jeremiah 20:18 HCSB

Figuring this is just an Old Testament condition? How about Paul?

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit that I have intense sorrow and continual anguish in my heart." Romans 9:1-2 HCSB

What? Faith doesn't mean that you're fine? Nope. Sometimes, life is just hard. And the Lord doesn't expect us to paste on a smile when crappy things happen and pretend that we don't care, that we aren't shaken, that we are immune to the sorrows of this broken, fallen world. See, in saying that we shouldn't wallow in our grief, which is true, that we shouldn't mourn as those that have no hope, which is also true, we have somehow translated those things to mean that we can't stop for two seconds and say, "This is hard. I don't want to do this! I am not sure what to do. " That we can't shed tears of anger, or sorrow, or just being profoundly overwhelmed.

  Life is hard. Sin is real and it means that bad things will happen-both to good people and bad people. That sometimes we will bring difficult consequences down on ourselves, but sometimes we will truly be the victim of troubles that we had no hand in creating. And it is okay to not be okay with that.

  Just because we have eternal hope in Jesus doesn't mean we must pretend that we live on a different planet when the world is falling apart. As a believer I DO have faith that God is working, even in the most awful of times. But it doesn't mean that I can never say that something is just.so. hard.

    The difference is, that I know the One who wants to hear my complaints, the One who wants to bear my burdens, the One who wants to ease my sorrows. And in the midst of my hard times, I can say,

"I must tell Jesus all of my trials,
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me,
He ever loves and cares for His own.

  • I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
    I cannot bear my burdens alone;
    I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
    Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
  • Tempted and tried I need a great Savior,
    One who can help my burdens to bear;
    I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus:
    He all my cares and sorrows will share." -Elisha Hoffman
  •   So, feel free to stop saying you are fine when your dreams are burning to ashes. The Lord doesn't ask you to say that you're okay when you couldn't possibly be. He just asks that we remember that He is always there, that He loves us more than we could possibly fathom, and that He will make a way-though the reality is that it may take far longer than we want, and there may be more tragedies than triumphs as you go.
  • "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,

        who daily bears our burdens.
    Our God is a God who saves;
        from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death." Psalm 68:19-20 NIV
  • The escape from death may not come this side of heaven, but we are promised eternal life through Christ. So even though your faith doesn't necessarily mean you are fine, it does mean you have a future. And it is pretty darn glorious...


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