Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Reading Challenge (For Kids!)

If you are here from Money Saving Mom, thanks for taking the time to check out my post!

    My sister introduced me to the concept of a year-long reading challenge. There are a multitude of challenges for adults all over the internet, ranging from as few as 12 books to as many as hundreds! It is exciting to think about picking a list, and delving into new books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose on my own. I like the idea of having some direction for my choices, ordinarily I choose the same genres over and over.

    And so do my kids! I decided that it would be fun to create a challenge specifically for them.  The great part about this is that you can decide exactly how to define the selections. Do all of them, do some of them, use them to create your own list. Pick books on your child’s reading level or read to them, if you prefer. If you have an avid reader on your hands, have them do each type twice! 
     The challenge has twenty types of books, so a little less than one every two weeks. I think that kids aged 6-12 will probably glean the most from it, but even an adult could use it! The best part is that you should be able to find books for every one in your local library. Encourage your kids to reach for authors with whom they may be unfamiliar. This challenge is intended to help your children "read outside the box". Let me know what you think!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Goals in Retrospect

      I am my own worst critic. You may think really nasty things about me on the other side of your computer screen-you may just read my blog so you can feel better about yourself. But nothing that you say probably comes close to the horrid things I tell myself about myself. That isn’t very productive, though, and while it is a hard habit to break, I am working to try to remember that I have value as a person, and I do actually make goals and accomplish them. Part of the problem, though, is that I don’t keep very good track of what I have done, and my frail memory fails me. But I know that I did things I set out to do in 2015, and by golly, I am going to write them down for posterity (or just old age!)

In 2015 I:

1. Read out loud more. I read the kids all the “Chronicles of Narnia” books, after finishing a biography of C.S. Lewis. We also read “Dangerous Journey”, and a biography of John Bunyan. We read a bunch more, but I am glad that we got those pairings down.

2. Completed T-25. I am a sucker for a Shaun T workout, and finishing T-25 (several times) is something I am proud of, even if it isn’t the hardest one I’ve ever done.

3. Blogged for 30 consecutive days. And it was all about gratitude! I am pretty pleased with that one.

4. Started therapy. It is a long story, and one I am not comfortable sharing yet. I struggle with anxiety and lots of other things, and I have wanted/needed to get some help for a while. I finally took the plunge, and it was terrifying. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing some results in 2016.

5. Took a weekend trip away with Joel. We went to Seattle for his birthday in July and it was really wonderful.

6. Put more art in my house. I have always longed to have more unique pieces. Mass produced has its place, but I wanted a little more personal touch. I bought a piece I love this summer, and a friend of my sister’s made me another really cool piece. And my niece made me an awesome original for Christmas that I am so excited about!

7. Bought more red for my wardrobe. Weird, right? But for years I have had a dearth of this color in my closet. And I worked to remedy that this year, and I have been really pleased with the results!

8. Planned and executed a community service project. With my sister, Katy’s, help (she was really the catalyst) we put together a gift-making workshop for kids at a transitional living facility. It was so great to have that opportunity.

9. Kept a plant alive! For a whole year! Buoyed by my success I was emboldened to purchase a *second* plant and I am happy to say my basil is thriving beautifully alongside the original Norfolk pine. I even re-planted the pine with success. Woohoo!

10. Finished reading the Bible in a different translation. I have probably read the Bible through 10 times or more, but it has always been in NIV. I find that varying translations stimulates my thinking, so this year I did NKJV. It brought back my childhood!

11. Replaced our futon. It was a long year without a sofa, and I have been appreciating our new one. So. Much.

12. Started Jocelyn in dance lessons. I put this on *my* list because it falls into the category of “adulting” that I hate the most. But I did it anyway.

13. Tried more new restaurants. I probably tried more new/local places in the last year than I have in my whole life. And I have loved it.

14. Learned some more creative hairstyles. I’ve never been one to be happy with wearing my hair the same way every day, but this year I really expanded my repertoire.

15. Started recycling. I was very excited to discover that we had recycling containers onsite in our complex. It has been a little bit of extra work, but I am glad we can do it.

     I think I will stop there, since it is “2015”. If I have time this week, I may share some of my hopes and plans for 2016. I don’t do “resolutions” since I don’t like to make promises that I am not certain I can keep, but I do definitely have goals, and I would love to put them out there for some accountability and also to see what I have accomplished next December! What are some of the things you are pleased to have done this year?

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas is for Everyone

     The snow is gently falling. I sit on the sofa in my very clean living room (even the carpet has been freshly steamed), with a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts sitting under my coordinating tree. My children sit at the table putting together adorable gingerbread trains, writing things like "Jesus is born" and "Peace on Earth" on them, while talking about how angels brought the good news to the shepherds. My favorite carols play in the background, and I sip the coffee my sweet husband brought me as a surprise. I think about the lovely lunch I just had with my extended family and I sigh with contentment as I look forward to sharing dinner and laughter with them later that evening. It really is the perfect Christmas Eve...

   No, this is not a dream. It really is how Christmas Eve went down this year. Pretty perfect, right? It might not be your ideal Christmas, but it still sounds pretty sweet. Now, don't worry-I don't share all this to make you jealous. I really do appreciate this Christmas wonder, but in a large part that is because I have had so many Christmases that were, shall we say, not quite as photo-worthy. Like the ones where my husband was deployed to a war zone. Or the one where my niece laying dying in the hospital awaiting a heart transplant. Or the ones where my entire family was sick-everyone restricted to their bed or the bathroom (if you know what I mean). Ones where I was separated from friends and family, because of life or my own selfishness. Ones where I was sad and lonely-or even afraid. 

   Which got me to thinking: does Christmas "mean" more to me on the years when everything goes just right? When my plans actually come to fruition and everything isn't a haze of stress and hurry? Or does it mean more when I am floundering, incapable of completing any tasks due to my overwhelming circumstances? Does it? Should it?

    And then I realized something-Christmas, as in Christ's birth, is awesome, miraculous and awe-inspiring no matter where I am, or how I am. Christmas, WHEN GOD CAME TO EARTH (yes, I am shouting now) should be amazing whatever life looks like. And it can be. Consider that:

The shepherds were poor, and consumed by the tasks of everyday life.
Jesus came for them.
Mary and Joseph had been hurtled into a strange and unknown situation, one they were completely unable to control.
Jesus came for them.

The wise men were at the top of their game, abounding in riches and knowledge.
Jesus came for them.

The people of Bethlehem were completely unaware (and unprepared).
Jesus came for them.

Herod was consumed by sin and the desire for power. 
Jesus came for him.

The Romans were enjoying prosperity and prestige.
Jesus came for them.

The innkeeper was harried and hurried, stressed and overwhelmed.
Jesus came for him.

Anna and Simeon were watching and praying. They were nearing the end of their earthly lives.
Jesus came for them.

   “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (HCSB)

   This might be the worst Christmas of your life. You may be suffering, struggling, barely hanging on. Jesus came for you. This might be the best Christmas of your life. Perfect job, wonderful family, amazing life. Jesus came for you. This might be a run-of-the-mill Christmas. You might not remember it next month, much less next year, due to its boring normalcy. Jesus came for you.

JESUS CAME FOR EVERYONE.  Everyone means you.

    Christ's birth-the means for Him to come to earth to live, and then die for my sins, your sins, anyone's sins who trusts in Him, is what Christmas is all about. And no matter where your December 25th falls on the spectrum of perfection, Jesus came for you. I hope your Christmas is wonderful, and I know that it can be if you remember this: Christmas is for everyone. No matter what you are going through in life, Christmas is for you because Jesus is for you. And the very best part is that isn't limited to December 25th. It is for all year, every year.

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 (NIV)
   Nothing on earth can separate you from the love Christ brought on that first Christmas, if you allow Him to be Lord of your life. Nothing you're going through can change the fact that Christmas is for you. And that makes it pretty darn awesome, no matter what. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Dark and Twisty...Christmas?


      The carols I like the best are the melancholy ones. When I was young, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" was always my favorite. I remember "discovering" the "Carol of the Bells" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". As an adult, I adore "In the Bleak Midwinter"-anything, deep, low and a little bit haunting.

    And it has become more apparent to me, this Christmas, as to why that is. I read, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" with my kids this year. I vaguely remembered liking it the one time I read it as a kid, and I wanted to revisit it. Now, all grown-up, it hit me what that book is really all about: the "IM" perfection of Christ's birth. Recognizing that it was *real* and therefore, it wasn't the flawless fairytale we picture it as.

   What?! It is paramount to blasphemy to say that, right? But listen: I am not at all implying that our Savior's birth wasn't exactly as the Lord intended it to be. It followed the ancient prophecies, it happened right when it needed to, just as it should it. But it wasn't the softly glowing lights and hay-scented stable we all want to imagine it was.

    Mary didn't deliver without pain-as a matter of fact, if she had it would have directly contradicted the curse that the Lord had established at the beginning of the world. Nothing in the New Testament implies that things were easy for Joseph or Mary, they left behind security, friends and even family in their journeys with Jesus, and they never returned to their hometown. Jesus birth is starkly contradicted by death-of all the babies two and under thanks to jealous Herod. I don't care what kind of shepherds the angels appeared to-if they kept earthly sheep, it wasn't in an odor-free clean room.

   Christmas was messy. Christ's birth occurred into *our* world. A pain-filled, war-torn, frightening, disaster. We abused, misused and destroyed the purity of creation and ourselves in the process. And it wasn't pretty. It was quite the opposite. And we deserved every bit of it.

    But that didn't change the truth that Jesus birth was strange. Don't overlook that. There is very little about it that was intended to be "normal". Even back then, thousands of years ago, babies were born in their *homes* and they weren't laid in mangers, whether they were in stables or not. Mary was humble, and faithful, but I'm sure she didn't specifically ask the Lord to be allowed to deliver miles away from family, after being denied a simple hotel room.
"...she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." Luke 2:7 (NIV)
    But that kind of was the point, wasn't it? The whole story reminds us that God's ways are not our ways. He wasn't writing the latest issue of "Better Homes and Gardens". He was authoring a way for us to join Him in eternity. He wasn't interested in impressing us with material goods and showy claims to power. He didn't need to prove to us to He is God, because before any of us were He was (and still is),"I AM". He didn't need to do it our way, He wanted to allow us an opportunity to do it His way.

    Christmas didn't need to be "perfect" by the world's standards, because Jesus is perfect by every standard. No earthly circumstance, situation or setting could ever measure up to that. No person involved in His birth could ever compare. So, it is folly to imagine that "Holy Night" as all filmy haloes and warm barns. It was meant to be a stark contrast between the absolute, unattainable, undeniable supremacy of Christ and us. Lowly, powerless, frail. We could never go to Him on our own, so He came to us.
"Remember, Christ, our Savior
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray..."
-"God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"

While we were still sinners...
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it....The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:5 &14 (NIV) 
   So, I don't have to make that first night something it isn't. I don't have to fight and manipulate and struggle to make this Season something it never was to begin with. This celebration of Christ's birth?  It isn't about what I can do, or who I can impress, or how I can make it be anything. It isn't about *me* at all, other than like every other human, I am in desperate need of salvation that I can in no way provide for myself. Jesus is perfect. Christmas isn't-by the measures of this earth. It never has been, and it never will be. And it doesn't need to be-the contrast between our lack and His abundance is just fine. He came in a strange, unusual, mysterious way. He came into darkness because He *is* the light. He came to our twisted, winding road, because He is the straight "Way". So, maybe that is why I like my carols with a touch of melancholy and a little bleaker than most-because from the get go, I like the reminder that the first Christmas has always been a little dark and twisty. And that's just the way it was meant to be. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 30

      I made it! When I imagined what I would be feeling by the end of this challenge, I didn't picture it being quite such a difficult month. Even now, my maternal grandmother is still in the hospital, and my niece has been re-admitted for the second time. The sad part is, that all those difficult things made me realize something: personally, I don't struggle as much with praising God in the difficult things that are major. Rather, I had the hardest days being grateful when the ordinary problems of life, the little frustrations and minor inconveniences, seemed to pile up. Today was one of those days, but I can still be thankful.

Today I am thankful:

1.For a doctor's appointment tomorrow. I started experiencing some pretty intense pain in my shoulder, and I am thankful that a medical professional is going to be able to check it out soon.

2. For successful ideas. I am so glad when something works out the way I pictured it.

3. For clean sheets. Going to bed is always lovely, but the pleasure is doubled when the linens are fresh.

4. For books that make me cry-in a good way. The kids and I just finished the "Chronicles of Narnia" series. The end makes me cry. every. time. And I love it!

5. For thoughts of heaven. I want to meet the Lord on His time, but I am so looking forward to going "home" when that day comes.

6. For a husband who grills. And does it well! Steak is always good, no matter that it was only 20 degrees out.

7. For kids who love asparagus. I hated it as a child, so I am glad they love it!

8. For muffins. I actually really love a muffin-but not for breakfast! I like them as a snack, especially if they have chocolate chips in them.

9. For modern medicines. I can't imagine living in a time when you couldn't take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to cure most of what ails you.

10. That each day is a new start. I may not have done all I wanted today, but tomorrow is another opportunity to glorify the Lord.

11. For cloth napkins. I don't use them because I'm "fancy", or snobby, or particularly "green". I just like the way they feel! I much prefer them over paper.

12. For my vacuum cleaner. Especially when I decide to dump an *entire* bag of chocolate chips all over my carpeted kitchen.

13. For different Bible translations and versions. I am currently reading Matthew in the "Message". I know many people feel that borders on blasphemy, but it is really giving me good insights.

14. That the rent is paid. We get to stay here for December, yay! ;)

15. That my mother made me learn how to type. It comes in pretty handy.

16. That Joel made most of dinner. It was great to have a night "off" that didn't involve eating out.

17. That I found something I was looking for. And the price was right! Bonus.

18. Challenging things. And I don't just mean this thankful one. I sometimes feel that I am stuck, or stunted, and I am glad the Lord allows things to come into my life to stretch and grow me, even if it makes me uncomfortable at the time, that later show me that He really has given me the ability to do more than I could have guessed.

19. That I live in a place of such prosperity that I get to *choose* to limit my things. That choice is not made for me by the state of my finances, or lack of accessibility.

20. That God's will is not hidden from me. He is just waiting for me to ask.

21. For bobby pins. Many a bun brought to you courtesy of them.

22. For the bulk bins at Winco. They are full of fun things! I found gummies to match my Christmas decor.

23. For all the seasons. I love all of them.

24. That it is the season for making candy. I *love* to make candy!

25. That Christmas makes me cry. Jesus is the reason for the season-and the tears.

26. That I get to set up our Christmas tree. Even if it is only a "fake" one.

27. For poetry. And the thoughts and beauty it can inspire.

28. For God's awesomeness. I really can't find the words to say much more about that.

29. That I have listed 465 things to be thankful for this month! (Including the next one.)

30. That even though this challenge is over, there is an endless supply of things to be thankful for, all possible because of Christ.

  I'm D-O-N-E with this challenge, and I feel pretty darn proud of myself! Did you make it?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 29

   Lest you should think that I had forgotten about the fourth member of my little family, I did not. Jocelyn got a list on her birthday, and I did one for Joel a couple of days ago, so I will have my Carson "thankful things" today. It isn't fair for him to get the whole 29 things, though, since I didn't even do that many for Joel, so I will mix it up a little.

Today I am thankful:

1. That Carson has the gift of hospitality. I certainly don't! But he loves to entertain and frequently invites people over.

2. That he is so loyal. If you are his friend, you are friends for life.

3. That he is so meticulous. I love his little detail-oriented personality.

4. That he has such a good memory. He keeps me on track all the time! He remembers names, appointments, my cell phone...I call him my "little brain".

5. That he loves to make me coffee. He makes me a cup pretty much every Sunday morning, and Thursdays during co-op quarters. It is so adorable-he calls it "new and improved Carson coffee" every time.

6. That he loves to help. The way to his heart is to ask him to help you with something. It makes him feel special (and comes in awfully handy!).

7. That he *likes* to do chores. Clean the bathroom, especially and vacuum.

8. That he is my cuddle bug. His love language is touch, and it took me a while to realize it (I don't even register on the chart for that one, its so far down on my personal list), but now I like that he curls up on the sofa next to me. He loves to have his hair petted, too!

9. That he is so persnickety about his appearance. Sometimes this makes me a teeny bit un-thankful (like when his favorite jeans are in the wash) but usually I appreciate that he gives thought to how he looks.

10. For his imagination. It may sometimes seem that his sister has cornered the market on creativity, but he has his fair share. I love the names he comes up with for his stuffed animals, and he is constantly coming up with nicknames for everyone (Including me-what he calls me changes on a daily basis!).

11. That he is so smart. Teaching him is usually a pleasure because he catches on so quickly and he doesn't mind seat work.

12. His ability to make friends. He has so many friends-at the complex, at church, at co-op. He has friends I don't even know about, I'm sure.

13. That he loves being outside. Sun, rain or snow, he is willing to be outside. I am glad I don't have to force him to go!

14. That he loves cooking. He recently learned to scramble eggs and wants to make them. all.the.time. He is dying to help me make Christmas candy!

15. That he loves reading the Bible. He is working really hard to read the "real" versions completely by himself.

16. His energy. He is constantly on the move-unless he is dead asleep.

17. That he loves our family. He really likes for the four of us to be together.

18. That he looks up to his dad. He couldn't have a better role model.

19. For his love for little people. He adores babies, and he is actually pretty good with them!

20. That he appreciates little things. He loves to hang out at the house and watch a movie, or get coffee. He is my little coffee buddy, obviously!

21. That he has his own personality. He likes to please people, but he still has his own opinions.

22. That he is thoughtful. He really considers other people's feelings.

23. That he loves giving gifts. He always wants to buy things for others that he thinks they would like.

24. That he is so loving and isn't afraid to show it. He will make a great husband and father some day!

Switching tracks...

25. For the great sermon today. I love it when I feel like it applies directly to my life.

26. For people who are praying for me. It is vital to my spiritual walk and means the world to me.

27. For good Sunday School curriculum. I love the Gospel Project we are using, I am learning so much.

28. For the Southern Baptist denomination. I am so proud to be SBC. I know we won't be the only ones in heaven, and lots of other churches teach the truth. But I love our missional focus, and adherence to the unadulterated Word of God.

29. For the people who work so hard to make our church work. And I am glad that sometimes I get to be one of them!

   How was your Sunday? Lots to be thankful for?

G.I.G.-Day 28

  These last few days are where the rubber meets the road. It is easy to think of thankful things in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, everyone is talking about it and promoting the idea of gratitude. However, now we are in "Christmas" full swing (not that I mind) but it is really testing my mettle to continue with this challenge. However, as I told my husband just today, I did *not* want it to be easy! The whole meaning of challenge is a test, something that requires above average output. My lists may become increasingly more random, but that's okay, it doesn't mean I am any less thankful.

Today I am thankful for:

1. Table top games. I was introduced to this term recently, we always called them "board games" or just "games" growing up, but whatever the term, I really like them!

2. Pizza. We had it two nights in a row and I am *still* thankful for it. It is truly one of my favorite foods.

3. Vocabulary. I am thankful that there are a variety of words to use to express myself, and I love learning new ones!

4. Spell check. It doesn't render all writings mistake-free, but it certainly does help.

5. Toothbrushes. On my behalf, and that of others.

6. Kelly taking our Christmas card photos. She did a really great job, especially considering she doesn't have too much practice with rambunctious, non-cooperative families. ;)

7. Button-front shirts. Instantly ups the class of any outfit.

8. That my jaw quit hurting. I was struggling with clenching my teeth (due to stress) and I think it has finally resolved.

9. Snow. I don't love the cold, but snow is so beautiful and festive, so I will think of its positive attributes.

10. Bible websites. They make learning about the Word so much easier, and I think it is just wonderful that there are so many free ones.

11. Mugs. Because it makes it so much easier to enjoy coffee. And hot chocolate.

12. Gloves. Especially the kind that have the touch-compatible fingers. This time of year I keep a pair in every coat!

13. Cheesecake. I love cheesecake. It is the perfect dessert to me!

14. Computers. They often frustrate me, but I couldn't imagine life without them.

15. Chapstick. My lips need it badly this time of year.

16. Lotion. Ditto the above, for my skin.

17. Alphabetization. Follow me on this one: it makes organizing so many things simpler, and it is just darn neat!

18. Friends who are doing this challenge with me. It is keeping me accountable, and is so encouraging!

19. Commenters on my blog and Facebook page. I am not "fishing" here, but it really is wonderful when someone takes a minute to leave a little message for me. It really brightens my day.

20. That I already bought the stamps for my Christmas cards. I love marking little things like that off my to-do list.

21. Curling irons. Otherwise, my hair would be hopelessly straight.

22. Colors. I know this is very abstract, but I am thankful for a creative God who loves variety and color.

23. My lime green sofa pillows. They make me happy. And they are so plump!

24. Christmas parties. I have a few on the calendar in the next weeks and I am looking forward to each of them.

25. My Christmas CDs. I am looking forward to getting them out. I have a carefully selected collection and I love every one.

26. Trays. I use them for lots of things: carrying food, organizing things, on my end tables instead of coasters. I really like them.

27. Candles. They smell good, and the flames are really enchanting.

28. That there are some things I will never have to do again. Like have my wisdom teeth removed. I am glad you only have to do that once, and I already have!

    Are you done being thankful this month? Or are you pleasantly surprised to still find things to list?

Friday, November 27, 2015

G.I.G-Day 27

     I cannot lie: one of the things I was most excited about when we decided to move here was knowing that we would *finally* have some family nearby to babysit! We had sweet friends who would take our kids when we lived in Colorado, but we tried to save those favors for special occasions. Now, we have much more frequent "dates", for things like random Tuesdays! It is really nice.

   Really, I get excited any time that I can just hang out with Joel. He is truly my favorite person, and that is saying a lot since we have been together 14 years. Anyway, I figured if I could devote an entire day to things I am thankful for about Josie, then Joel definitely deserved his own day.

Today I am thankful that Joel:

1. Makes me laugh. He always has, and I love that often he goes out of his way to elicit a smile or laugh from me.

2. Is such a good dad. He has always taken the lead role in parenting. I am so thankful for that, because surprisingly, I am a pushover when it comes to discipline.

3. That he continues to seek to grow spiritually. It is really inspiring.

4. Is so handsome. I know, shallow, but I am thankful God let me have a good-looking one. ;)

5. Works so hard. No matter what he does, he is not afraid of hard work.

6. Is not a complainer. He really isn't, and he has taught me a lot about contentment.

7. Is not afraid to lead. He doesn't demand to be in charge, but when he is placed in those positions he is confident and worthy of respect.

8. Has a heart for service. He doesn't mind getting his hands dirty, and he doesn't demand recognition for it, either.

9. Is willing to work on bettering our marriage. He has matured so much in our relationship-often he humbles me with his response to contention or disagreement. He sets a godly example.

10. Is easy to please. Simple things, like breakfast in bed and clean socks, make him happy. If I cook his favorite meal it makes him ecstatic!

11. Is so handy. He can fix so many things, and has good practical solutions for most problems around the house.

12. Prays with us. It is so important to me, and I am glad it is important to him, too.

13. Is humble. He doesn't seek accolades or acclaim, he is just satisfied with a job well done.

14. Appreciates the beauty of nature. I have, in recent years, discovered a deep love for the glory of creation (because it so perfectly reflects our Creator) and I am glad Joel shares that with me.

15. Doesn't baby me. I am glad that he wants the best for me, and in that regard he works with me, instead of doing everything for me. It has helped me to grow as a person.

16. Encourages me to try new things. I am a 'fraidy cat when it comes to the unknown, but I am learning that it can be exciting.

17. Isn't an anxious person. I need that to counter-balance my own neuroticisms.

18. Likes hanging out with me. Quality time is my love language, so I am glad for this!

19. Is a good sport. About crazy photo shoots, blog obsessions, crafting messes, party planning...should I go on?

20. Puts our family first. He is willing to sacrifice to be with us, and I appreciate that.

21. Helps around the house. He doesn't do dishes, but he is willing to do a lot of other chores.

22. Is kind. He may seem gruff, but he is really has a tender heart where it counts.

23. Is patient. I know, I have tested it often. :)

24. Is responsible. With bills, with possessions, with our family. He can be trusted, and I am so thankful for that.

25. Holds me accountable. He doesn't let me rampage without reminding me that often I had a hand in the craziness. I need that.

26. Really loves me. He doesn't give perfection, but he doesn't demand it, either. He would give his life for me, and I know that he works to show me in many ways each day.

27. Loves Jesus. He does, and while he may not always shout it from the rooftops, he lives it in his life.

     I love that listing many things each day has given me the opportunity to express gratitude for more than just surface things. What is something, or someone, that you are thankful about many things, not just one?


Thursday, November 26, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 26

   So, today is the pinnacle of all "thankfulness", The most begrudging ingrate can usually produce one or two things to be thankful for on this day. However, I do not feel the least compunction about listing all the "usual" things today, as I have been stunningly creative all month, right?  I won't be done after today, anyway, as November still has four days left, so I reserved the right to not have to rack my brain for random things today, as I will most likely have to do it tomorrow.

   But seriously, these are the things that I am thankful for every day, I just don't always say it. I probably should, because the act of speaking things you are grateful for only further heightens your gratitude. But today, on the holiday that more than any other is dedicated to recalling blessings and recognizing the graciousness of the Lord in our lives.

So today I am thankful for:

1. Jesus. He is the only thing that makes thankfulness a possibility.

2. His free gift of salvation.  The only reason for living.

3. My mom. Especially glad she made dinner today, but always thankful for her love and wisdom.

4. My dad. He instilled a good work ethic in me by modeling it himself. He has always loved us and wanted the Lord's best in our lives.

5. My sister, Robyn. Maybe someday I will be awesome like you, but for right now let us just remember that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

6. My brother, Clark. Your endless perseverance always inspires me.

7. My sister, Katy. You aren't afraid to be your own person and that rubs off on me in a good way. And you crack me up.

8. My sister, Lisa Dawn. You exude a cheerful confidence, and are a wonderful homemaker.

9. My sister, Kelly. I am so glad that I've gotten to know you better since moving here. I really like you, and you have been my go-to for so many things.

10. My brother, Luke. You are really a fantastic guy. And that isn't something I say about many teenage boys. You are godly, and kind. And you babysit...

11. My brother, Mark. You are such a good friend to my kids, and never treat Carson like a baby. He loves you so much!

12. Grace. I practice self-loathing far more often than I should. Humility is necessary for a believer, but I don't think the Lord intends for us to constantly dislike how He made us. I am thankful for grace that allows me to continue to grow and mature out of bad habits without belittling us.

13. Second chances. And third, and get what I am saying. Since we haven't invented time travel yet, I am thankful that the Lord allows us to keep trying.

14. Hope. This has been my word for this year, not intentionally, but rather just in how life has played out. It is truly the anchor for my soul, and it is not a "wish for", it is a "know it, just waiting on it". Jesus is hope and that has been proven over and over for me.

15. Our home. It is tiny by some standards, huge by others, but for this Goldilocks it is just right for right now. I don't tend to live my life by a plan, so I am content with that being enough.

16. Our car. It isn't "fancy" but it is paid for, and it gets great gas mileage. And we can afford the tires for it. That is enough to merit gratitude in my book.

17. First world problems. The internet is down, my fancy smart phone is not working, the dishwasher doesn't like my new dish tabs. Cry me a river-and I am talking to myself! I do have "real" problems, but I am thankful when I sit back and realize that I can take these minor inconveniences as an opportunity to remind myself that there are many worse things.

18. Health. Over and over this year I have seen those I love struggle with health issues both big and small. I really am thankful that for time being we have good health. If we lose it tomorrow that does not mean we are any less blessed, but for now I am grateful for having it.

19. Our church. We have come through the fire this year and been refined. I have never seen a group of people fight attacks like we have and triumph. It is inspiring and definitely has merited "memory stone" status. And I know God is not through with us yet.

20. Clean water. This is something I truly do *not* take for granted. I don't have any moving stories to share, but the Lord has impressed on me that this is something to be thankful for, as it is a privilege denied to many.

21. Freedom. It may sound trite, but it isn't. Freedom to homeschool, freedom to worship the Lord, freedom to wear pants. I am thankful for all my freedoms, large and small, and pray that I will not abuse them, but guard them carefully.

22. Prayer. I get to talk to *GOD*. About anything, about everything. That is something so huge I can't really express it in words. My heart is overflowing thinking about it.

23. The Word. And He talks to me. In the most beautiful way. I am so thankful for the Bible and how the Lord has spoken to my heart and changed my life through His written Word.

24. My husband. He really deserves sainthood. I love him more than he knows.

25. My kids. I would have never guessed I would like them so much.

26. My future. It is secure in Christ. And that is all I need to know to know that it is going to be good.

Today was the day for "big ones". What are the things you are the most thankful for?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 25

    Sometimes being thankful can be about the "nots" just as much as the "haves". What I mean is that sometimes the absence of something, or the lack, is just as much a reason for gratitude as the fullness or possession of something. It got me thinking about all the things that I am grateful that I don't have or, are not happening.

So today I am thankful:

1. That Joel is not working. He was working as a tow driver last year, and he pulled Thanksgiving, so he wasn't able to leave town to come out to my parents. I am really glad that is not the case this year.

2. That he is not deployed. He missed Thanksgiving for that, too.

3. That I am not hundreds of miles away from my parents. They are just minutes away!

4. That I am not in charge of the turkey. Enough said.

5. That it is not the week of the windstorm. Almost everyone I know has their power back on.

6. That we are not eating at a restaurant. Lots of people think this is a good idea. It is mostly people who have never done it. I have, and I do not recommend it if it can be avoided. Thanksgiving is about home for me!

7. That I am not alone. The essence of Thanksgiving is sharing it with others. I am so thankful for family, and in years past, friends, who have shared this day with our family.

8. That I do not have to work on Black Friday. It was fun when I did it, but I am glad that I get to *shop* this year!

9. That I do not have to take my kids Black Friday shopping with me. My brother is going to keep them. Yay!

10. That I do not have to "shop" with my family by phone. We get to do it in person!

11. That I do not have to worry about food. There is always plenty, both tomorrow and everyday.

12. That I do not  have a birthday to celebrate tomorrow. Jocelyn loves when her birthday falls on Thanksgiving, and I don't mind it, but I am glad that is all over for this year.

13. That I do not have to host. I love a party-but the planning and decorating part. After that, I am fine with leaving. I am glad my mom is hosting!

14. That I am not confused about Who I am thanking. I always feel badly for people who aren't believers-who in the world do they give thanks to? Themselves? I am so thankful I know Who deserves my thanks!

15. That I am not just responsible for the olives and the cranberry sauce. Aka: opening cans. I finally cook well enough to be given "real" jobs,

16. That I do not have any food allergies. I always feel sorry for those who struggle with that. Sad for the goodness they have to miss out on!

17. That I am not praying for my niece to get out of the hospital. Thankful she is at home this year-praying she stays there!

18. That I am not on break from school. Every day is a party, I have graduated! All done with that!

19. That I am not fasting desserts this year. I did that last year, and it was for a good reason, but I can thankful for dessert this year!

20. That we are not fighting bad weather. Plenty of experience there.

21. That our little family is not fighting any serious health issues. I am praying for my those in my extended family who are, but I am thankful that neither Joel, I or either of the kids is struggling with anything major.

22. That we are not in a time of famine. There is plenty to be thankful for.

23. That we are not traveling. It is not one of my favorite things to do this time of year.

24. That I do not have to eat dark meat. My mom doesn't make me. ;)

25. That I do not have to stop be thankful once Thanksgiving is over. As a matter of fact, I am supposed to be thankful all the time!

What are some "nots" you are thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

To Jocelyn, On Your Tenth Birthday

I am assuming by now that you are used to your brother photo-bombing...;)

Dear Jocelyn,
              Double-digits! Finally! You've been waiting for this day since your birthday last year. Ten *is* pretty special, but I think that about all of your birthdays. I was nervous about your party-you've never had that many girls before. I shouldn't have worried, you are always the consummate hostess, making everyone feel welcomed.

    I always admire that about you-you can talk to anyone. You aren't afraid people will like you, and you shouldn't be. Adults are always telling me that you are so friendly and polite. You might talk a little too much (you came by that honestly!) but I think people would rather have more than less.

   You have done so much growing up this year, and in the very best of ways. You've tried new things, like taking dance, that are helping you to mature and become a very godly young woman. You aren't afraid to be yourself, and that is good because you are pretty wonderful.

   Your birthday party had to be big, because you are friends with everyone! You probably would have invited ten more girls if I had let you. You can talk to anyone, and you see the best in everyone. Your bubbly, encouraging nature makes it hard to not like you!

     And I think the biggest reason why everyone likes you is because you are constantly seeking opportunities to be more like Jesus. You really care about what the Bible has to say to you,and you want to apply it. Your faith is enormous-you know the Lord is faithful, so why is there any reason to doubt? Once you accepted Jesus you did what you always do: jumped in with both feet. And you have never looked back. You inspire me with your walk, and that is pretty impressive, since I have been at it a while myself. ;)

    I know we are on a down-hill slope to the teenage years, and that makes many parents nervous. I don't know what that will look like, but if you stay on the path you are on, I think I might be in for some delightful surprises. You aren't perfect, you've never claimed to be, but you do want to be more like Jesus, and I think that will pull us through.

   For now, though, I plan on enjoying these sweet fleeting days, when you are still very much a little girl. You take joy in childish things, and I hope you hold onto that for as long as possible. You still love dolls, and playgrounds, and playing in the snow. I am going to try to keep those things fun for as long as I can. Your enthusiasm for the small things in life is something I pray you never outgrow.

     I will be praying for lots of things-but most of all, that you stay close to Jesus. No matter what life brings, He is what it is all about. You are His, and He has good, good things in store for you. And I am glad I get to be a part of that. I love you, my happy, charming little girl. I hope you had a wonderful birthday-you deserve it.

                                                                                 Love Always,

G.I.G.-Day 24

     Today is Jocelyn's birthday. I always write my kids a letter on their birthdays, and post it here on the blog. I thought about combining the two today, but that felt a little bit like cheating. So I will post the letter later, but I do want today to be all about Josie, and I know it won't be a problem to find twenty-four things that I am thankful for about her.

Today I am thankful that Josie is:

1. So loving. She really does love other people.

2. So kind. She likes to do little things to make others happy.

3. So helpful. She loves to clear strangers' trays at restaurants, much to their surprise. It is adorable.

4. So creative. I have never seen anyone who can literally take scraps and trash and turn them into cute and imaginative creations like she can.

5. So resilient. There isn't much that gets her down.

6. So happy. That is one of the first things almost everyone says about her!

7. So sweet. She has been leaving me the most thoughtful little notes lately-its adorable.

8. So brave. She is not afraid of anything-or anyone. Nothing daunts her.

9. So in love with Jesus. That has been my prayer for her since birth, and it has been answered over and over.

10. So mission-minded. She really does want the *whole* world to know about Jesus, and she is starting in her own backyard-literally.

11. So smart. She doesn't always show it, because she isn't concerned with "impressing" people, but she is pretty darn intelligent.

12. So adventurous. She loves to try new things.

13. Not easily pressured. I never realized what a blessing that is in a child until I had the opportunity to really observe them. She doesn't go with the crowd for the sake of pleasing others-and this has been a good thing more often than not.

14. Easy to get along with. People like to spend time with her.

14. Friendly. I had a hard time with this as a kid and I really admire it in her.

15. In love with the Word. Reading it, memorizing it, talking about it. I like to think she gets that from me. ;)

16. Persevering. She doesn't give up easily. 

17. Concerned with doing right. She really wants to obey the Lord, and probably more than anything else, that is how I get her to correct her behavior, by reminding her what God wants her to do.

18. Full of energy. She is always bouncing around, and never seems to tire of helping others.

19. A dedicated church-goer. She loves the Body and never gets tired of going to church. I have never had her complain about it.

20. Polite. Another things she often receives compliments on-it makes my heart happy.

21. A good big sister. She loves Carson, and is really a good example for him.

22. Teachable. She is strong-willed, but as she matures in Christ she becomes more and more willing to learn.

23. Easy to please. Little things make her happy, which makes it fun to give her any little thing. She isn't hard to buy things for.

24. Good at sharing. Really important since her brother is terrible at it.;)

  I could probably list even more things that I am thankful for, but I will talk about that in my letter. Who makes you thankful today?

G.I.G.-Day 23

 It is late, so I will cut straight to the chase.

Today I am thankful:

1. For "free" fun. We volunteered to help with the Zero Waste effort at Gonzaga and it was a lot of fun.

2. For ice cream in waffle cones. Especially if it is free as a "thank you" for volunteering!

3. For french fries. Especially when they are steak cut.

4. For kids who appreciate simple pleasures. I would like to think they learned that from me and their dad.

5. For being together as a family. I am truly thankful for this every day, I just happened to mention it today.

6. For my brother-in-law Daniel. We lovingly call him "the Lorax" because he is jut the "greenest" guy I know. I appreciate many things about him, not the least of which is his passion for sustainability and incredible knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. I am thankful Katy (and God!) brought him into our family.

7. For samples. The kind they give out from Costco. They are just fun!

8. For kind strangers. You don't realize how many opportunities you have during the day to really be nice to someone, until you are on the receiving end in a service position. I am glad that some people are really out-of-their way kind.

9. For car washes. Especially after you car endured a ridiculous wind storm and has been filthy for a week.

10. For time to catch my breath. It seems life has been incredibly hectic for like...the past year! Yesterday and today have been a pleasant opportunity to not feel like I was going non-stop.

11. For chances to share my opinion. I am not always right, but it is always nice to feel heard.

12. That my grandmother seems to be doing better. The doctors feel like they have handle on what happened over the weekend and she seems to be on an upswing.

13. For my Keurig. My afternoon cup of coffee is one of my favorite rituals. I don't think I can actually operate a "real" coffee pot, so I am thankful for my little one-cup wonder.

14. For mocha mix. It makes my coffee just perfect!

15. For a trash dumpster. I have T.D.A. That stands for "Trash Day Anxiety". It is hereditary, I got it from my mother. Having a dumpster that I am *not* responsible for taking to the curb is the cure for TDA. It is one of those ridiculous little things, but honestly: I am grateful for it.

16. For fresh contact lenses. If you don't wear contacts, you won't understand, but putting in new lenses-it is so wonderful.

17. For hand-me-downs. For both me and the kids. It is a great way to help the earth, and my pocketbook! And my kids actually think hand-me-downs are better than new clothes. They are more special to them!

18. For a generous family. Curriculum, clothes, and a million other little things (especially cups of coffee!). All my extended family is willing to give with no strings attached, and it makes my world a better place.

19. For this time of year. And I don't just mean Christmas. There is something I really love about November. It holds so much promise.

20. For thoughts of heaven. I have been reading C.S. Lewis' "The Last Battle" with the kids, and the images of heaven that he paints just fill my heart with joy.

21. For gift wrap. Wrapping wins over bags any day in my book-and presentation is everything!

22. For laughter. God was so gracious to give us humor and the ability to appreciate the funny side of life. It makes things bearable.

23. For public bathrooms. I am pretty sure that we take this for granted far too often. If you have ever had need of one and been unable to find one, you get why this made the list!

    The randomness clearly never ceases! Are you thankful for bathrooms today, or something more serious?

Monday, November 23, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 22

    Sometimes the loveliest days are the ones that you are not expecting to be particularly lovely, just rather ordinary. That was today. Nothing special, but that was part of its charm.

Today I am thankful:

1. That even though the power was still out at the church, we had service anyway. It was a particularly good service, too.

2. That we have someone in our church who plays acoustic guitar. So that we could instruments to go with our singing, even without power.

3. That people were good sports about the whole thing. Sometimes it is hard, especially as adults, to put up with little minor inconveniences, but no one complained.

4. For hot showers. I do not lack appreciation for being clean, but not only that, but for how nice the whole task itself is.

5. For a little time to myself. I do not often have time alone at home, but today I did. I don't like to spend too much time by myself, but as it is a rare occurrence, I appreciated it.

6. For old movies. I adore the styles of the fifties, and entertained myself today by watching several classics I had never seen before.

7. For God coincidences. I had just written #6 when I got a text from Joel that he was with my sister, Kelly. Her car had been broken into while she was at work, and he "happened"  to be nearby. He was able to be there in 5 minutes to help her get things figured out. That, in my mind, is God working things out in His perfect way.

8. That she is safe. I am sad that someone thought breaking her window was an okay thing to do, but glad that she wasn't physically harmed in any way. Because windows can be replaced but sisters can't.

9. That I had a chance to  put Matthew 25:35 into action. I often miss those opportunities to "feed the hungry, and clothe the naked" because I overthink it. That didn't happen today.

10. For having dinner with my sister, Katy. We haven't had much time to see each other lately, so it was nice to hang out.

11. For our space heater. We don't use our baseboard heaters (for a myriad of reasons) and we don't need to with that little thing. It makes our living room toasty.

12. That ribbon was on clearance. In colors to match my Christmas decorations and coordinating gift wrap.

13. That I was able to make some progress on some projects on my list. I actually have a whole notebook dedicated to activities, to-do's, and events in the next few weeks. It was nice to check some things off!

14. That my basil is thriving. I am a notorious plant killer, and I have had this plant since September. I'm pretty sure that is a record!

15. For Master Blasts from Sonic. If you have never had the Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Dream...well, I'm sad for you. It's epic.

16. For pebble ice. Also from Sonic. (That one is for you, Kate. ;) )

17. For deep conversations with thoughtful people. I love fluff, and superficial things at times. But other times I want to be challenged, and questioned. It helps me to grow and mature.

18. For listening ears. I am truly thankful for people who ask questions that they really want to hear the answers to, and are really concerned about you.

19. That I don't have an early morning. Because obviously, it is a late night-for me, anyway!

20. For lamps. I really detest overhead lighting, and I love how homey lamps make a place feel.

21. For Christmas carols. Yes, even in November. I won't apologize.

22. For keyboards. I don't think most of the time we even notice them, but we would be sorely tried to use all this technology without them. ;)

Despite the excitement between numbers 6 and 7, it was really a good day overall. How was your's?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

G.I.G.-Day 21

  I don't really know what is going on, but I do not doubt that the Lord placed it on my heart to do this gratitude challenge in a month where He knew there was going to be a whole lot going on. So far, my paternal grandmother has passed away, my niece has been hospitalized for a host of life-threatening issues, my town was hit by a windstorm that squashed decades-long records for power outages, and my maternal grandmother found out she has more cancer, after recent enduring chemo and radiation for brain cancer. And that's just the "big" stuff. Today, that same grandmother had to be rushed to the hospital with a very high fever, and we still aren't sure what is going on. It's hitting me pretty hard, and I am really learning to give thanks in all circumstances, trial by fire edition, if you know what I'm saying?

   And surprisingly (or maybe not so much so, if you are saved), in the midst of all that there *are* things for which to be thankful! I haven't really listed too many "big" things-and there is a reason for that: it is easy to give thanks for those usually. If you ask children, they can list those. But I think that true gratitude encompasses EVERYTHING, both things large and small. And I think that by choosing to focus on the not-so-obvious, which I kind of have to in the process of listing over 400 things this month, it hits on exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be a more conscious observer of all the great things in my life, to realize that in each and every situation there are things that not only should I say, "thanks" for, there are things which I *must* surrender praise to only the Lord for, as He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. No matter the size.

 So onto my list for today...
I am thankful that:

1. We had such generous donations towards Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. It is so fun to see what people were inspired to give.

2. They are all signed, sealed and delivered. At least on our end! It was quite the process to sort, label and get 37 shoeboxes to the donation site, but we did it! My organized aunt was planning on helping me, but since she needed to be with my grandmother, Kelly came to my rescue.

3. There are 37 children that we are showing the love of Christ to, in ways both tangible and intangible. If you doubt that these boxes are physical expressions of the Gospel, you need to go check out OCC's website.

4. We can be a small part of a big effort. There are hundreds of thousands of boxes delivered every year. We are a drop in the bucket-but all those drops together are creating mighty ocean waves. Being part of that is humbling.

5. The Gospel is for everyone. Rich or poor, near or far, old or young. God is so good...

6. Tomorrow is uncertain, but there is no need to worry. It is almost impossible at times not to worry. My grandmother is ill, my husband is not getting a paycheck, my future seems unclear. But I do NOT have to worry. I can choose to have faith and know the Lord is in control. It seems a pity that I only get to list this once, as I could certainly use the reminder every day.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

7. I do not have to lose hope. There is always hope-He is called Jesus.

8. I am being renewed day by day. Just like the manna the Israelites received, I get enough every day for each day. Never too little, never too much, but I don't have to worry about provision.

9.This is all just momentary. In the light of eternity, all our troubles are "light and momentary". Even when they seem heavy and eternal, they aren't.

10. We can fix our eyes on the unseen. It doesn't make sense, in human terms. But taken by faith, it makes more sense than anything in the world.

11. What is seen is temporary. Oh! I am sooo thankful that this isn't all there is. So, very, very, thankful.
12. What is unseen is eternal. That the most glorious things of all are most definitely ahead of me. That the very best, most perfect time in my life isn't in this life.

13. Scripture makes me cry. Almost without fail. And I am thankful for that because I am not a big "cry-er". If I am moved, it is pretty significant. And I am glad that the Word is one of those things.

14. I can be sad. Jesus was, and since He was perfect, I know that it isn't sinful. I can tell Jesus about my sorrow and He can give me peace. It might seem weird to be thankful for what most consider a negative emotion, but I see it as part of the humanity that allows us to not only understand each other, but recognize how badly we need salvation.

15. I have people with which to share my sorrows. Grief is bearable when borne together.

16. It won't last forever. See #9.

17. Most of my family are believers. Oh, how sweet it is to claim these promises and share these burdens together.

18. Every cloud has silver lining. But only for those who are in Christ Jesus. Without Him, there aren't even any clouds, only darkness. But for a believer, "all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord...". (Romans 8:28)

19. Hymns. My mind is constantly flooded with Scripture, and that frequently brings old, familiar, comforting hymns to mind. It is so lovely... "'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus...just to take Him at His Word, just to rest upon His promise...just to know, "Thus saith the Lord." Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I've proved Him o'er and o'er, Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh for grace, to trust Him more..." How can that not make you feel better?

20. I can sing. I didn't say well, or in public, but for a voice, and a little tune, even if it is only for myself and the Lord.

21. There are always miracles. I've seen them. And whether or not any of these situations that I'm experiencing today, or in the future, merits one I cannot say. But I am grateful for them just the same.

I know you are humming a hymn now. What are you singing? Is it a song of thanks?

Friday, November 20, 2015

G.I.G-Day 20

   Today was Jocelyn's party! I have heaved a gigantic sigh of relief, for sure. I really get worked up over this stuff, I know "first world problems", worrying that my kid's completely unnecessary, totally extraneous birthday shindig won't go off without a hitch. However, that's where I am right now, so I am just owning it.

Today I am thankful:

1. That the party is over! It is always lovely to look back on the memories, but you have to live through it first.

2. That I have (as Lisa Dawn put it) "an army of party minions.". Seriously, I do not know how people do these things by themselves. My family was *awesome* today. My aunt loaned her house and loads of her cute stuff (besides doing a billion other things), Lisa Dawn and Kelly pitched in and made decor and set up stuff, Katy came and "judged" the event, even my mom (who had just come home from my grandmother's funeral and had traveled all day and all yesterday!) came and did all the dishes. They are all lifesavers.

3. That my parents and brothers arrived back home safely. It is tricky time of year for a road trip!

4. For dinner with my parents. All my married life, until last year, we lived no less than 18 hours or more away. I am grateful that I can go to dinner with my parents, go home to my own bed and do it all again the next day if I want!

5. For my talented cousin, Cayla. She did all the chalkboard art for Josie's party, and it was gorgeous. She is a really cool teenager, and I appreciate her.

6. For my other dear cousin, Autumn. She is such a sweet and precious friend to Josie. She never treats Josie as inferior, even though Autumn is over two years older. I love their friendship.

7. For my uncle Cory, who even though he had a house full of little (loud!) girls running around, did not complain and he has to get up at 1am to go to work! He very kindly opened his home and never said a thing.

8. That the party went well. We had a few "adjustments" but in the end, I think all the girls had fun. If you weighed fun in sprinkles and frosting (it was a Cupcake Wars themed party) they had a blast!

9. For last minute ideas that worked. I did not do nearly as much party prep as I usually do, and even flying by the seat of my pants, it all worked out. Probably due much more in part to today's #2 than any of my genius.

10. For sprinkles. If you know me, generally I hate sprinkles. However, they were a necessary ingredient for pulling off this party, and they are pretty cute. They do get everywhere and taste gross, but they look cute doing it. And you must have them for a cupcake party.

11. For Jocelyn's guests. She invited all her friends from co-op. I know enough about this age to know that having 10 little girls who all get along, and are kind and thoughtful and godly is a *very* rare thing. She is truly blessed to have that group to call friends.

12. For having fun. My sisters and I all decided to decorate our own cupcakes, while the girls were working on their challenge. I love that we can laugh and have fun together.

13. For garlands. They make all parties, and lots of other things, better.

14. For Carson's good attitude. He was the only boy at the party, and he was so sweet about it. He was very excited to be a "judge".

15. That Joel is off for the season. It will be harder for our budget, but I am looking forward to having lots of time with him. Especially because...

16. We are going on a mission trip! I am over the moon to finally get to go on a short-term mission trip to a foreign country. We are joining my dad, my sister Lisa Dawn and my brother Luke on a trip to Honduras in January. It is the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

17. That the Lord is going to provide the money. We don't have it, but I believe we will. I don't know how, I don't know when. But I really feel like He called us, and I believe that He will provide. He always has, and according to what I read in the Word, He always will.

18. That He fulfills desires. I still kind of feel like the whole thing might be a dream. It has been something I have longed for since I was a child. However, every time I have prayed about going in the past the answer has clearly been, "no". This time, it was out of the blue (isn't it always?) and I am so grateful that the Lord does give us the desires of our heart-in His perfect time.

19. That I get to be a part of His plan to preach the Gospel to the whole world. That privilege blows my mind. He would trust *me* to share His plan of salvation? Whoa. That is a really big deal.

20. For a truly good day. Being thankful has been tough-my attitude these last few days has been horrible. I have been fighting to focus on the good. But today was a wonderful day, and I am going to be thankful for that.

Is there anything that you are thankful for that hasn't happened yet? Do you think it is possible to be thankful for future events? I do-because all the promises of God are true, even those in the future. Those are so secure, I can be thankful for them before they even occur! How about you?


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