Sunday, November 30, 2008

Celebrating Advent Anyway

Every year I determine that we will celebrate advent and not miss a single Sunday. And every year, without fail, we begin well enough, but fizzle out as the weeks tick by. Whiny children, unappreciative teens, and constant busyness combined with a lack of energy on the part of the parents all conspire to render Advent undone for another year.

But not this year.

This year I am going to take the crazy expectations out of the picture and just do the bare minimum. I haven't made special ornaments to hang or prepared crafts for us to do. I haven't made a special dessert and there is not an envelope of hot cocoa to be found in the house. I have checked the calendar, and we *should* be home each Sunday in Advent, so that's the first hurdle cleared. Now to just rally the troops and actually do it.

I have downloaded the advent guide that is available from Veritas Press and this afternoon I have spent some time reading posts like this one and this one to figure out what we need to do. (Here is a good guide with an explanation I found.) Yesterday I spent some time at the Christian bookstore near our house, pricing Advent wreaths and candles. I even had a prepacked set of candles in my hand for a mere $3.50. But I put it back, reasoning that we most likely have all the stuff to do it.

Turns out, I was wrong.

My lack of "proper" supplies almost deterred me. And to make matters worse, it's raining here-- raining so hard I don't dare venture out for the candles. And then as I was reading the different blog posts, I felt God whisper, "Don't get caught up in the details. Light a tealight, let Curt read the Scripture you already have and pray."

And so, this afternoon we are going to gather around the tv to watch our annual screening of Home Alone (we usually do this on Thanksgiving night but one of ours was gone and we had to wait for him to be home). Curt is going to pop a huge bowl of popcorn and they are going to be allowed to have Coke with it. And after the movie, we are going to light a tealight and gather around the table to listen to daddy read the passage from Isaiah and pray together as a family. Maybe sometime this week I will venture out for the "proper" advent supplies. Maybe by next Sunday I will have a special dessert planned and make some yummy hot cocoa to go with it. Maybe next Sunday's advent will be the picture perfect ideal I have in my head. Or maybe not. Maybe it will be just like the hodgepodge, thrown-together affair that it will be this evening.

Update: I added the photo at the top of my little makeshift Advent wreath-- which as you can see is not really a wreath at all! I found some votives we had in my candle drawer and used this little silver candle plate to hold them all in one place. I would like to add something to it, like some silver star garland or some little evergreen sprigs-- but I am fine to just leave it like it is, too. The important thing is that tonight we all gathered and observed Advent. It wasn't perfect, but it was a start.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

When Thanksgiving Gives You Leftovers...

Make Turkey Soup!

Today we got tired of leftovers. It was bound to happen. The trouble is, we got tired of leftovers when there was still a nearly-full ziploc bag of turkey left. So, I got creative and made soup. I took the bag of turkey and dumped it in the crockpot, then rummaged through my pantry for what to add. I found two cans of petite diced tomatoes that I had, a can of white northern beans and a can of kidney beans and dumped them all in. I then added a large carton of chicken broth and a jar of taco sauce that I had for some extra zip. But it still needed something... I remembered we had some leftover corn from Thanksgiving and dumped it in too. Then I added some garlic powder, some Italian seasoning, some cumin, some salt and pepper and my soup was done! I left it in the crockpot all day and it smelled and tasted delicious tonight when we sat down to eat it. I made some cornbread to go with it, which complemented the soup perfectly.

What have you all done with your leftovers? Are you still eating them or are you getting creative?
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Friday, November 28, 2008

An Awesome Giveaway! (And Welcome!)


First of all, welcome to all of you who are here today after reading the Proverbs 31 Devotion. I appreciate your visit!

Several weeks ago, I wrote this post and linked to this cross, which was what I asked my husband for last year and happily received. I am still not sure how I found this cross, but I was so glad I did. I still wear it often-- it is the perfect piece for moms-- beautiful yet looks great with those "errand running outfits" we often wear! And because it's silver, it goes with everything! Plus you can't beat the significance of each piece.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Lori Catlin Garcia expressing her appreciation for linking to her website-- apparently a lot of you guys ventured over there to check it out! When she wrote to me, I wrote back and asked her if she would be interested in doing a giveaway. I was even more pleasantly surprised when she wrote back and said yes!!

And so, my wonderful readers, thanks to Lori's generosity, you have a chance to win a cross! You could win one to give as a gift to someone special in your life this Christmas, or one to keep as a gift to yourself. Maybe you need that constant reminder that He is the One who calms the storms. Or maybe you need PEACE in today's economic tough times.

Lori had this to say about the contest:
We would LOVE for them to enter by submitting a short story, but they don't have to do that to win. It is, however, a great opportunity for aspiring writers to get some exposure. Also, if I use someone's story as inspiration for a cross, they will get the first piece produced from the line.

I want to publicly thank Lori for graciously doing this and urge all of you to venture over there and enter for your chance to win!! (NOTE: This contest is different in that you have to go to her site to enter-- leaving a comment here does not qualify you.)

To enter, click on this link. I can't wait to find out who wins!!! Lori will email the winners, but I will also announce it here just as soon as she tells me who the winner is. I am praying for the perfect person to win it.
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Christmas Post Day 4: Picking The Perfect Presents

Just in time for Black Friday! Are you heading out to brave the crowds? Flexing your budgeting muscles? Turning from the temptation to overspend? How will this season be affected by the dreadful state of the economy? Here's a good article for those of you who like to read about that sort of stuff-- I never really did until I wrote a book about finances, and now I am drawn to this sort of info! Go figure!

I thought that I would post a few links today for those who are needing some ideas as the official shopping season begins. Already done all your shopping? Well, good for you. Really, I applaud your organization and propensity for being prepared ahead of time. But for those of you non-overachiever types, here's some info you might need.

There are several gift guides circulating out there in the blogosphere. If you are like me, guides like these are great because too often you have NO idea what to buy! But I want a guide written by moms, for moms-- people with real budgets, not Oprah's idea of a great gift! I have found a few links you might want to check out by two of my friends from the Disney Mom Blogger trip:

Check out the Parent Sphere Holiday Giveaway Guide-- you might win some good gifts! Wouldn't that be nice?

And this one from Musings Of A Housewife had some neat suggestions.

Finally, I loved this link for gift ideas for giving books. I love to give books to kids and this list inspired me to think outside the box a bit! Books make great gifts and are relatively inexpensive. I usually hit my the Scholastic warehouse in my area for a bit of holiday shopping. If you are a homeschooler and don't know about this great resource, go to this site to see if there is one in your area, get registered and make time to go. Usually everything in the warehouse is half off. It's a great place to pick up stocking stuffers and gifts for the cousins!

Above all, over this weekend traditionally devoted to shopping, shopping, and more shopping, really think through what you are going to buy and why you are going to buy it. Does the person really need the item or are you just buying them something to say you did? Could that money be better spent some other way? Do you need to be honest with people this year and just say, "We love you and we are thinking of you, but this year we just can't give like we have in other years?"

I am even doing this with my children-- really thinking through what we buy them and evaluating what we cart into this house before I make suggestions to the folks who love them and want to buy for them. My kids, to be honest, rarely play with toys so spending money on toys for them is a waste. Clothes, craft supplies, dvd's and computer games are better uses of money. Those things will actually be used. I feel bad when I look at the broken and discarded toys littering their closets and forgotten under their beds. Why add to that?

I think that you will find that there is no shame in being honest this year and cutting back-- because so many people are in the exact same boat. Being the one to take the lead and tell the truth might just release someone else to do the same. And there is really no sense in going into debt to buy one more thing that someone doesn't really need in the name of saying you did. That's just my thoughts on the issue. If you want to give, give a donation in their honor. It will go a lot further than a pair of spa therapy socks or a touchless soap dispenser! I think this Christmas is going to be about assessing what we really need versus coveting things we merely want. And that is a change for the better.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to wish each and every one of you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. I pray that this day of marking our gratitude extends to the whole Christmas season-- in our home, and yours!

"Thou has given me so much...
Give me one thing more,
a grateful heart."
~George Herbert

I urge you to read this post today.

(For obvious reasons, I am skipping the daily Christmas post today but it will return tomorrow! See you then!)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Do We Do This Again?

I just got finished yelling at my daughter because she told me "no" when I told her to help with the house cleaning that is going on around here as we prepare for tomorrow.

As soon as I saw the hurt look on her face, I realized that this is not at all what I need to be doing to prepare for a day of focusing on what I am grateful for. How in the world does getting so tunnel visioned on my to-do list and a clean house communicate feelings of thankfulness and the image of a grateful heart to my children??

For me, tomorrow will be fun, but it will also be a production. My mom is helping make food, and that is a blessing. But while everyone else is watching parades and football and paging through the sale ads for Black Friday, I will be scurrying around cleaning and cooking, then cleaning and cooking some more. Because, somewhere in all the planning, I got the brilliant idea to host some of our friends for dessert in the evening.

I blame it on thirtysomething, the tv show. There is an episode in the first season where Hope declares that she is not going to host Thanksgiving and then all their friends pout because they say it won't be the same if they can't all be together. It made me want to have the same traditions with my friends-- hence the brilliant idea. Oh boy do I love me some thirtysomething. Truly. I have never gotten over it going off the air. No really, I am serious. And it may or may not be what I am watching when I allude to watching old tv shows on YouTube, but you didn't hear it here.

But I digress.

And so, we hope to make this dessert open house a Thanksgiving tradition amongst our friends-- and I am totally happy that we are doing it... I am just questioning why I felt the need to do both the meal and the party. Do you ever ask yourself, "What was I thinking???" There is something about committing to something when it seems a long way away that then gets bigger as it looms closer on the calendar... or maybe that's just me.

Oh well, back to supervise the chore process with the kids. I handed out lengthy lists to my children who are of the age to help. Boy oh boy, were they happy. And they are sort of wondering why I am sitting here on the computer while they work all around me... must go look busy now!
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Christmas Post Day 3: Keep The Kids Busy

This week on one of the days I had a lot to get done, we got this book (I checked it out from the library) and used a quick and easy recipe for making modeling clay. It didn't take any heat and we mixed it up in minutes. Best of all, we dug out some old cookie cutters and I let them dig into my utensil drawers and they played happily for a very long time. It felt good to have them doing something that wasn't electronic, as well as interacting with each other. During the next few busy weeks ahead of us, I would suggest trying some activities like this. Get some books like this one, or investigate your shelves, the internet, or your library for some craft books. Mark some simple things you want to try with your kids, then make sure you have all the supplies you will need in the house, so that doesn't become a deterrent. Make planning activities for your kids part of your holiday planning!

Don't have time for making clay? Here are some coloring pages you can print off for something quick to hand them. Let them work at the kitchen table on their coloring while you address cards or cook. Here are a few more just in case:

Coloring Book Fun

Ivy Joy's Christmas Coloring Pages

The Coloring Spot

Get them busy making gifts! Check out this simple video on fingerknitting. I think I am going to let my two older girls try this-- it would be fun to make some scarves! (I must admit that I have heard this mentioned in other blogs, but never knew what it was til now!)

This is a great link to spend some time at-- it features crafts, recipes and traditions submitted by various bloggers all gathered in one place! I plan to spend some time here with my list in hand! (Don't let that it's by homeschoolers deter you if you don't homeschool. There is some great information there.) Scroll down to get to the links.
I listed this link the other day-- but it pertains to today's post, so I am listing it again.

The trick is to keep them busy without a lot of fuss or mess-- and away from hours and hours in front of the tv or computer... which is so tempting on those long, cold, boring days!
Please share your tried and true tips for doing so by leaving a comment!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas Post Day 2: Planning For Christmas

Well folks, it is undeniably time to start getting ready for Christmas. Did you notice the date on the calendar? One month and counting!! How will you plan for your holiday festivities? Do you have good books you pull out year after year? Favorite recipes? Websites or blogs you will visit? Do you need to call family members to find out what their plans are and synchronize your calendars? Holiday parties to plan? Christmas cards to order and that elusive "perfect" photo of your family to attempt to capture?

For me the planning, starts with the food. (Does this surprise you?) I have favorite Christmas cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch that I love to get out and make lists of goodies I want to try, or remember the tried and true favorites I make year after year. This year I have my eye on this magazine and might just have to pick it up next time I am at the grocery store. What is it about Christmas that makes me want to buy every available magazine on the subject? I will most likely make a run this weekend and pick up the December editions of Hallmark magazine, Southern Living, Victoria-- and anything else that strikes my fancy! At the end of the day, these feasts for the eyes await me on my nightstand.

Do you need some inspiration in the planning department? I thought I would provide a few links that I have enjoyed:

Planning a Christmas party? Check out this guide.

Here's a great free guide from Flylady: The Holiday Control Journal.

Want to host a cookie exchange? Check out this site.

This article about "Ten Things To Do Before The Holidays" had some good information.

This is a great site-- even if you don't have 12 weeks to plan for the holidays.

This was a great collection of good ideas for kids at Christmas.

If you are hosting Christmas dinner this year, you might want to check out this site.

And by far if you don't already know about it yet, check out Organized Christmas for a wealth of information!

Hope these links help to inspire you to plan for a wonderful Christmas!
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Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Post Day 1: An Idea For Using The Christmas JOY Book

I received this idea from a reader and asked her permission to share it. I thought it was such a cool idea-- and it honestly never dawned on me to do what she has done-- but I am so glad she thought of it! Here is what she wrote:

"I wanted to thank you for your e-book A Recipe for Christmas Joy. What a different way to look at Christmas! The real way! Thanks for reminding me! I teach a bible study on Wednesday nights at my church and we just completed Lysa Terkeurst's book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. We are going to start back up in January with her other book What Happens When Women Walk in Faith.

With all that being said...we have 4 Wed. nights between now and Christmas and I have broken down your ebook and am wanting to do a study with it in 4 different sections. Just in case you're wondering, I'm not copying it off for the group. I'm just telling/sharing some of the info. that I've read and taken tons of notes on! I even called my friend (who sometimes helps me with bible study) and told her about it and made her purchase it! I'll let the group know where they can purchase the ebook from.

I read the Proverbs 31 devotions every day faithfully! Sometime ago I "accidentally" ran across the web site and have loved every minute of it! Everyday after reading the devotions I then click on the blog page to see what has to be said for the day. That is how I stumbled across your ebook! I printed it off and started reading it that very day! My husband and I were headed to a marriage retreat that same weekend so I was reading it on our 2 hr. drive to our destination. I was so excited and was sharing it with him (I really didn't think he was even listening to me). He then said...Amy you should do that in your Wed. night class. I said what a brilliant idea! Remember we were trying to fill 4 Wed.'s before Christmas. I didn't know exactly how we could make that work so I called Jodi and had her go to the website and order the book. She had it read before I got home from the retreat. I had shared with her about the Bible study and she thought it was a great idea! We got together and broke it down into 4 parts. We were both like little girls so excited for our new find!

Here is how we broke the book down in sections...

week 1) JOY: A Simple Recipe

week 2) Advent: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

week 3) 25 Ways To Make The Holidays Holy Days

week 4) Last we will host a Peppermint Tea! (what a great idea!)

With the 1st week being on JOY I'm actually wanting to set up a "centerpiece" with a Santa in the center...after a little discussion then I will change out the centerpiece with a nativity scene water globe. Showing who should be center of our Christmas time. I'm going to hand out different parts of the centerpiece before class starts and have them help me assemble it then I'll share a little and then make the change." Amy, Fairview, OK

I think these are excellent ideas and I look forward to hearing what else Amy comes up with out of her creative mind! Maybe you have a group of friends or a class at church that needs something to do during the weeks between now and December. Be sure and let me know if you also do this, as I would love to hear what you do and include your ideas in future versions of the book-- the funny thing about an ebook is that it can constantly be changed and added to! I am excited to hear that the book is blessing women who are looking for inspiration and encouragement to focus on Jesus as they find JOY in their holiday celebration!

(Want to win a copy of this book? Go here to read a review at Heart of the Matter online and leave a comment for your chance at winning!)
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

See Me, Mommy!

Last night when I arrived home from my day with my oldest daughter, my youngest daughter greeted me at the door, all smiles and light. I was busy putting away groceries and packages from our shopping trip, glancing at her, but not really focusing on her. After a few minutes of excited chattering, she ran up to my legs, hitting just at my knees. She banged her small hands on my legs and hollered, "See me, mommy! See me!"

I was looking without seeing. And I am ashamed to admit, this is not the only time it has happened. How many moments do I miss because I am sidetracked by busyness and trivialities, overlooking the most precious sights in the world, foolishly thinking they will be there later for me-- in that elusive place where time slows down long enough for me to see instead of glance, notice instead of neglect? But that time never comes.

So instead of waiting for someday, I want to spend this week-- this week of thankfulness and gratitude-- seeing. Stopping. Lingering. Calculating. Savoring. I want to see her like she needs to be seen. Hear her like she needs to be heard. Appreciating these many gifts for exactly what they are.
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Menu Plans and Other Plans

In Memory Of My Crockpot
Farewell My Faithful, Slow Cooking Friend
You will be remembered for your years of faithful service.

This week my plans look boring because we are staying home every day, except for errands we need to run. But they are far from boring because I have so much to get done between now and Thursday--- I will stay busy at home!
Here are my goals for this week:
  • Pick up the next Explode The Code for my son, who finally finished Book 1. Also get Wordly Wise for my 3rd grader.
  • Plan school for the month of December (we are taking this week off)

  • Finally go to the cleaners to pick up clothes that have been there for weeks.

  • Mail off an ebook that someone ordered but doesn't have email.

  • Buy a new crockpot.
  • Send out all the letters I need to send for people to sign off their permission to use their stories in our book.
  • Work on the Bible study for the speaker book I am currently pulling together.

  • Ironing

  • Make my Christmas planning notebook (more on this later)
  • Go shopping for Thanksgiving groceries
  • Clean and prepare my house for guests

  • Cook for Thanksgiving-- my mom and I are splitting the meal, so it shouldn't be too hard! I think this is the recipe I am going to use to make our turkey breast this year-- I am just thankful I am not cooking a big ole bird like I have in years past! Most likely, I will cook two of them just to make sure we have leftovers!

Here is our menu plan for this week:

Sunday) Daddy is bringing home Wendy's hamburgers (and a salad for me!)

Monday) Pasta Fagioli soup (never made it last week), cornbread

Tuesday) Taco Platter (seasoned meat, cheese, taco sauce, lettuce, tortilla chips all set out to assemble however you like)

Wednesday) Chicken and Pasta (marinated chicken strips sauteed then tossed with bottled pasta sauce, then served over penne pasta), salad

Thursday) Thanksgiving dinner!

Friday) leftovers

Saturday) Eggs, Hashbrowns, Bacon, Blueberry Muffins

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Yesterday, my 14yo daughter and I had a wonderful day together, just the two of us. This was a huge blessing to me and a good lesson in trusting God. I had planned to go to the Christmas show (three warehouse sized buildings filled with gifts, crafts, etc.) with a friend, and when that didn't happen, I was upset that my plans didn't work out. I had always planned to take my daughter, but as we walked around the Christmas Show, I realized I wouldn't have been as focused on her had my friend been with me. I would have missed the many moments of talking that we had. We laughed and shopped and were just together in the truest sense of the word. I came home happy and hopeful.

Raising teens is hard-- connecting with them on an individual basis when you have other kids can be even harder. I was thankful for the way things worked out-- even if it wasn't my plan, God had a better one. I felt Him whisper to me as we walked around together: "If you make investments in your children now, you will have given birth to your best friends later." Wow. What a lesson for me to take hold of.

I didn't spend much money at the show, but I did buy a few fun things:

  • My biggest splurge was on two semi-expensive handpainted Christmas ornaments from a favorite artist, whose paintings I have collected for years. Usually she has sold out of these ornaments by the time I get there, so it was a special treat for me to find two left, which I promptly scooped up!
  • I also bought the Chris Botti cd, December, which I am listening to as I write. Beautiful. (His version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is just gorgeous, and his "Ave Maria" will move you to tears.) This cd will be the soundtrack to my Christmas season this year, I am certain.
  • I also bought a string of beads that perfectly match the shirt I bought to wear to my parents' annual Christmas party, which takes place at a country club-- ooh la la! A very cool side note on that shirt-- my daughter and I found the exact same shirt at one of the little boutiques at the show. I paid $17 for it at Ross, and this boutique was selling it for $44! I was tickled at my bargain shopping abilities! Truly, not much else makes me as happy as knowing I got a steal of a deal like that.
  • Finally, I got a cute little topiary to put out at Christmas for a mere $5.
  • And a gift for my niece that I think she will really like.
  • Oh, and we just had to buy cinnamon roasted pecans and almonds and two boxes of strudel too. I brought that home to the rest of the family as a surprise dessert last night!
Today we are preparing the house for Thanksgiving. Curt is painting walls that need painting-- nothing like having company to inspire you! I will be cleaning the ovens and other areas of the house, and preparing a menu and shopping list for the big day. (I will be pulling out my copy of A Recipe For Christmas Joy to do that, as all my recipes are in there!) I might even string some twinkling white lights on our front porch railing to welcome our guests that evening! I can't wait for Thursday: the parades, perusing the paper to look at ads for Black Friday, listening to Alice's Restaurant (a tradition that hearkens back to my childhood when a local radio station always played this very long song on Thanksgiving Day) the family and friend time and, of course, eating the yummy food.

Be sure and keep checking back with me between now and Christmas, as this week I am kicking off a series of daily posts all centered around your family's Christmas celebration, including some exciting giveaways! That starts Monday and will be continued every Monday to Friday from now until Christmas. I hope that we can all share with each other and be inspired as we work towards making memories with our families, while keeping our priorities in place.
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The Best We Can Do... An Update

Some of you might remember a few posts ago, I asked you all to pray for Stacey, who had discovered mold in her home and, as a result, had to leave everything behind and live in a camper. Because they were renting the home, they were getting no insurance help.

She had written to tell me that a devotion I had written about HOME had helped her perspective during this trying time. I know that many of you prayed for her-- and I wanted to share what she recently wrote to me as a follow-up, just as yet another example of prayer being the best we can do. All glory, as Stacey wanted me to be sure to focus on, belongs to God for bringing resolution to this situation. Won't you join me in continuing to pray for a quick clean up so that this family could have the comforts of home restored by (or before) Christmas!

I just want to thank you for asking your readers to pray for us. I can not desribe the way it feels to know I was physically being carried by wings of those prayers. It is undescribeable. Thank you!We received good news this morning. A mold specialist was out here this morning. He will have a crew out here Monday at 9:30 taking out the walls and floors that have been affected by the mold. The A/C cleaning people will be here Tuesday and we can clean a majority of our furniture with a borax solution and it will be ok. We'll have to dispose of the mattresses, some furniture and particle board material, but we will at least be able to get in the house! We will be able to get back in the house on Tuesday! They will plastic off the kitchen and we will have to continue to cook over the open fire pit outside, the Coleman Stove and the toaster oven. I'm cooking my turkey over a fire pit this year....I realized I had allowed satan to steal my joy...shame on me! The contractor will start work on Monday a week. We should have a fully functioning kitchen by Christmas (as long as the insurance company doesn't delay sending us a check for the contractor!).Again, thank you for your prayers.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

How To Roast A Chicken

First, gather some simple ingredients-- some limes, some fresh herbs, and coarse ground salt and pepper... and olive oil, but obviously I forgot to put that in the photo. (Just pretend it's there.)
Then wash your chicken (in this case there are two there) and take out the yucky stuff they leave in it. Throw that away and put your chicken on the rack in your roasting pan. Stuff it with the limes (or lemons or oranges) and your fresh herbs. Just cram it all in there. Take a barbecue brush (mine came free on the bottle of KC Masterpiece) and brush olive oil all over the bird, then sprinkle liberally with the coarse ground salt and pepper.

Roast at 425 for about 45 minutes to an hour-- unless you have two chickens, which will necessitate lots of standing by the oven door waiting because it takes much longer for two of them to roast. Who knew? These took somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours for those little white thingies to pop out, telling me that they were, in fact, finally done.

I made two chickens, in case you were wondering, because I was taking a meal to a friend so I just doubled what I was making for my family. After I did this, I thought-- why not do that every time? It didn't take all that much longer and I could freeze the meat for other recipes that call for cooked chicken.

This is a good meal and a whole chicken is pretty cheap, usually. We served this with baked sweet potatoes and corn. We also had apple crisp for dessert that night-- a perfect fall meal, warm and hearty.

If you've never roasted a chicken, I suggest trying it. It's not hard and with roasting pans being on sale right now because of Thanksgiving, it's a good time to pick one up and give it a try!

PS. If you don't normally read the comments, I would suggest reading the comments on this post, as Fiddledeedee's comment is so funny, as always! :)
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The Highest Honor

The other night as I was putting my 3yo to bed, we said her prayers-- first she went, then me, just like we always do. But this night, she wanted another turn after I took mine. She bent her little head down and folded her little hands and began to thank God for her doll and her mommy and daddy and brothers and sisters. As she finished praying, she opened her eyes and looked at me, taking my face in her hands. Very lovingly she said, "Mommy, you teached me that."

There is no higher honor than realizing that you taught a little child how to pray. I am thankful that she reminded me what my highest honor and greatest calling is in that holy moment, in her little girl room, where dreams and faith are born.

(Welcome to all of you who drop by today after reading the devotion at Proverbs 31! Glad to have you here and I hope you'll keep coming back. From now until Christmas, I plan to focus on all the holiday preparations that are ahead of us by providing thoughts, ideas and recipes. And I even have some surprises up my sleeve as well! I hope you will join me here as we prepare our hearts and homes in the days ahead.)
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Imperfect Day

I think it's easy to read the blog posts of others and think to oneself, "Oh, her life is perfect. She has it so good!"

I try not to only include the good on my blog-- to include a healthy dose of the bad and the ugly as well. I have written before about achieving that balance between being encouraging and inspiring and being real. Because my life is not perfect and I am not always skipping around planning meals and crafts and spouting off deep spiritual thoughts. Sometimes, I have plain old bad days that are far from perfect.

Take my last 24 hours for instance.

Last night I had a tough conversation with a friend that came out of the blue. I was not emotionally prepared for it and it knocked me for a loop. The conversation rattled me and left me feeling really, really low. It has been hard to rise above it, much as I want to. Ever felt that way? Marriage and parenting is hard enough-- friendship should be easy. But I am learning that nothing this side of heaven that is worth having is going to come to us easily.

This morning I woke up late-- instead of having time to relax with a cup of coffee and do my quiet time I had to hit the ground running-- literally. I ran upstairs to wake my middle schooler, then ran back downstairs to get my shower, then out the door to take him to school. Somewhere in the middle of all that I remembered the conversation with my friend and felt sad all over again.

I returned home to make breakfast for my three younger ones and get them ready for CBS. Today was a luncheon day, and thankfully I was only responsible for the drinks and ice this time. I remembered that I needed to start the crockpot ribs I was making for dinner, so I pulled out the crockpot. Somehow, the cord caught on the cabinet door and the crockpot snapped out of my hands and went flying into the tile floor-- shattering one of my most used kitchen tools in no less than 1000 pieces all over the floor. It was a crockpot explosion. It was one of those moments where I just stood there staring at the mess, not quite capable of processing what had happened and what I was going to do with it.

The cleanup took a long, long time, as there were shards of ceramic crockpot everywhere, annoyingly caught in the grout of the tile floor. I got most of the mess cleaned up (I say most because I feel certain I will be finding shards for days, weeks, and even months. Hopefully not in anyone's bare foot!) and then I had to make up for lost time. I scanned my menu list to see if we had something else I could make since now my mode of cooking was destroyed. Nothing. I pulled a Scarlett O'Hara and said to myself, "I can't think about that right now-- I will think about that later." Then I moved onto the next part of my morning, which can best be described as searching.

I searched for a cooler for the ice. I searched for a pair of shoes for my youngest child. I searched for a scrap of patience, a shred of joy. I found the cooler and the shoes, eventually. The patience and joy? Not so much. I was running out of time and went into drill sergeant mode-- "Head em up, move em out! Let's go, let's go, let's go!" On the way out the door, I dropped the Dr. Pepper I was bringing for luncheon. Thankfully, it didn't explode but I wondered what would happen when we opened it at CBS. Could I please drop one more thing today?

It was 9:00 in the morning and I was sweating and exhausted.

I arrived at CBS only to discover that in all the craziness at home I had not packed my potty training 3yo any changes of clothes in case of an accident. Her teacher was very understanding, but I felt like a heel. Where was my award for "Most Unprepared Mother?" I knew I deserved it. When I got to my class, I noticed that my friend was remarkably thinner. I have been seeing her every week but I hadn't really noticed how thin she was getting until today. I asked her what she had been doing and she told me that she had lost 40 pounds. Then she let me in on the secret-- she had gone to a specialist that costs $400 per month to do it! Seeing as how that is not in our family budget, I sat down to do our lesson feeling even more down. Why am I always searching for that magic bullet where weight loss is concerned?

My time at CBS today was good. I would like to say that I had some sort of spiritual epiphany-- that I had some insight or remedy for reversing bad days revealed to me as we dug into God's word. But I didn't. We talked about the difference between God's jealousy and ours. We talked about how we have to return to Him with true repentance and He will return to us. We talked about how God loves Israel and will always protect them and will always come against any nation that tries to harm them. It was a good lesson. They all are. The fellowship and food at luncheon was good, as always. I left feeling the teensiest bit better and I guess that will have to be enough.

This afternoon I will unload dishes and help the 3yo with her continuing potty training and fold several loads of laundry and settle skirmishes between siblings and spend close to two hours in the car running carpool. I am not really looking forward to any of it. But it all has to be done. My life isn't perfect, and I am pretty sure yours isn't either. Just thought I would let you know that in my effort to keep things real. Because reality includes these kinds of days. And somehow it helps me to know I am not the only one who has them.

ETA: Ok, now we can add some guilt to complete the picture of my imperfection-- reading this made me realize I should have focused on what I have to be thankful for today. Which includes:
  • the sound of my children practicing their CBS songs on the way home from CBS, including my little toddler's voice singing all the animal sounds and laughing as she does
  • a husband willing to bring home pizzas when he hears that dinner was ruined by a broken crockpot
  • that there was no food in the crockpot when I dropped it-- it could have been a much bigger mess to clean!
  • a friend who offers to meet me in my driveway with wine after hearing about my bad day
  • my big teenage son leaning in the car to give me a hug goodbye for no reason at all-- in front of all his friends at school
  • a mom who calls me from the aisles of Walmart because she is Christmas shopping for my kids and wants to get the perfect presents
  • a day tomorrow that includes nothing but blessed, blissful white space on the calendar
  • always, always, always-- my family
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Jesse Tree

Yesterday, I received a wonderful gift from my friend Ann. I can call her friend now-- and for that I am more than glad. She is such an inspiration in my life, and the lives of others. Her blog, Holy Experience, has long been a blog I only go to when I have time to savor, time to linger. It is deep and rich and beautiful.

So when I received Ann's Jesse Tree Devotional, I was delighted. I quickly scanned the pages and was not disappointed. The book even contains ornaments-- you just copy them (or cut them out if you can bring yourself to cut into a book), put them on cardstock and laminate if you want to to make them last longer. Then you can hang them on a tree or make a banner to hang them on-- whatever you like. Easy! Convenient! Fun! (What mom doesn't love to hear those three words all used in one sentence?) And better yet-- an easy, convenient, and fun way to keep our family focused on Christ throughout the Christmas season.

I thought I would let you know all about this wonderful resource, just in case you are looking for something like this to use for your family this year. Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer just wrote a wonderful post about it, and also recommended Ann's book. So don't just take my word for it. (Reading Rainbow!)

Why are we discussing this now, prior to Thanksgiving when you aren't (according to my children) supposed to be discussing anything to do with Christmas? Well, because this Jesse Tree devotion begins on November 30th. So, if you want to do it and are particular about such things (as I am), you might want to get your copy ordered. To order your copy, click on this link. I know you will be blessed! Let me know if you order it!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Great Lapbook Link

I have had several of you write me privately, wondering what a lapbook is. Well, this link is a great explanation not just of what it is, but how to make one, step by step. I plan to bookmark this and come back to it again and again. Her gallery of mini-book folds is a priceless resource to refer to!
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A Turkey For Turkey Day

When the kids are bored next week, print this out and put them to work. It would make a cute centerpiece for the kids' table-- and if you print out the version that they can color themselves, it should keep them quite busy. That leaves more time for you to do all that baking and cooking and cleaning you have to do, right?
Going on a long car trip? Put them to work with a nice set of sharp new crayons or a fresh pack of markers and just maybe you will have some quiet in the backseat... but I'm not making any promises!

Here are some printable coloring pages I found on another blog. I think we will print some of these off to color next week when boredom sets in!
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Answering A Reader's Question

When I wrote this post, I received a question from a reader. I figured I would go ahead and answer it here, just in case any of you were interested in finding out how I *attempt* to get things done around here.

So...that is quite a list!!Practically speaking- how will you go about it w/a houseful of kids and life, laundry and dinner still going on? Do you choose one or two, Start it all? I REALLY want to know- this list is intimidating but exciting!

If you notice, I finished off that post with the disclaimer that I will NOT get all those things done! I leave myself plenty of wiggle room and know that with all the variables I have at work in my house, my best-laid plans can very quickly get pushed aside. I have found, however, that it does help me to stay on task if I make out a list such as the one I posted-- especially when we are going to have a long stretch of time at home. This list helps me in those moments when I am between tasks to be able to see what needs my attention next. Instead of frittering my time away reading blogs or aimlessly watching old tv shows on YouTube, I can get busy with something that needs doing!

In the last few days as I have worked towards that list, I have taken a little piece of paper and made a "sub-list" with enough tasks for that day. I recently read somehing Tricia Goyer does that I thought was a good idea. She knows that she can only realistically get three big jobs done per day-- so she writes those three things down and prioritizes them. Then she assigns them to herself in the order of priority. She has found that prioritizing the thing she wants to do least as first (I hope that makes sense!) helps her to go ahead and get it out of the way-- then she doesn't spend the day with whatever that is hanging over her head. (My apologies to Tricia if I didn't quote her exactly right-- I am quoting from memory, which is sometimes reliable, sometimes not.)

I don't work exactly that way, but I do find that going ahead and doing the things I don't want to do first makes my days much more pleasant. There are some things I can't let slide and they are-- as you mentioned-- dinner and laundry and dishes and keeping the house tidy. Notice I didn't say clean. I usually assign a few chores per day to the kids to keep the dirt down to the "barely noticeable" level-- but I have found that clutter bothers us more than dirt. Keeping the shoes by the back door put up so we don't trip over the pile, putting away stray Legos and dolls, sorting and filing papers so they don't pile up, and putting away laundry instead of leaving it in piles all goes a long way towards making our house feel cleaner. As long as the floors get vacuumed every few days, the kitchen floor gets mopped when needed, and the bathrooms cleaned weekly, I am good with that. I also rely on my kids to "do their part." Many hands do make light work and we can get the house clean in no time when we all work together. See? There is an advantage to having a lot of kids!!

Another thing I do is sort of mentally divide the day into segments. Mornings are meant for getting school done and taking care of housework. Afternoons (naptime) are meant for quiet activities and that's my time to pursue more personal interests like writing, blogging, and returning emails, etc. Evenings are meant for dinnertime and winding down. This is when I do things like catch up on blogs I like, read books, work on my visual journal, etc.

One final thing, I am rarely idle. I only sit down when I am writing or reading emails. Otherwise, I am typically up and around, circulating through the house doing stuff. If I find I have nothing to do, that's where that list comes in. I grab it and see what I can do right then. Then I get busy. I rarely talk on the phone or watch tv. And I *try* to resist the temptation to waste time on the internet.

As for how I juggle motherhood and my other duties, I just include the kids in most of what I do. If I am doing housework or cooking in the kitchen, typically my kids are right there with me, talking to me while I work and occasionally pitching in. Or they are outside playing or watching tv, or playing indoors while I am working in the next room. The older ones entertain themselves so we are in a good place with me being able to do my own thing from time to time. Many times, I sit on my bed and write with my laptop in my lap and a child or two or three piled on the bed beside me drawing, or reading, or doing schoolwork, or having loud and boisterous conversations with each other. I have learned to write with a fair amount of activity and noise going on. You can ask my friend Karen, as she has witnessed this with her own eyes! I didn't start out being able to do this, I just had to learn to block out noise and distractions over time. Even as I type this, the phone is ringing, the neighbor's dogs are barking, music is playing, and my daughter and her friend are playing loudly in the next room! Also, after dinner usually Curt spends time with the kids and this is a pretty consistent time for me to return emails, finish up writing projects, etc.

Sometimes I look back over a day and wonder where the time went. Other days the minutes drag by. Every day is different and I have learned to take them as they come, doing as much as I can with the time I have been given and letting the things that don't get done go. I carry quite a few items on my to do lists over to the next day, and have learned that that is the nature of my life. I can't get it all done-- I won't get it all done, ever.
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Sunday Evening Alphabet

A is for all the craft supplies I bought today at Michael's.

B is for blogs I am having fun catching up on this evening.

C is for the warm chocolate chip cookie my daughter just brought me. That I didn't have to bake because she is now old enough to do so.

D is for a teenage daughter who still likes to hang out with her mom-- even if it is just to go to the grocery store.

E is for the empty house I came home to after the grocery store. For five whole minutes we unloaded groceries without chaos.

F is for feet stomping loudly in the room above me. My children give a whole new meaning to the term "lead foot."

G is for groceries-- a pantry and fridge full of them! What a great feeling as we start a new week!

H is for hearing holiday music on three radio stations this afternoon when we were out. My daughter and I agreed it is still too early and turned the channel.

I is for Ipod, listening to Nichole Nordeman sing "No More Chains" as I brush my teeth is a nice way to end a day.

J is for Jack, my oldest son, who just wrapped up a run as Daddy Warbucks in Annie-- his first leading role. He did a great job and even shaved his head! We got to see the show twice this weekend. So. fun.

K is for keeping our night simple. We had a church service we had planned to go to, but with one sick child and two who were very tired, we decided that staying home instead would be a better plan for everyone. I am glad my husband made that wise call.

L is for the nice lunch we ended up eating at a restaurant today-- which is a rare treat. Timing necessitated it, and I am so glad it did. Curt and I had lunch with just our three girls and it was so nice.

M is for menu plan. I am proud of myself for making one this week and looking forward to trying some new recipes.

P is for potty training. We are making progress-- not giant leaps, but I will settle for little steps. I think this mama's heart needs for her to move slowly out of this final transition away from babyhood and into full-fledged little girl. It is bittersweet as over 16 years of little ones in diapers comes to an end. (Only a mother of many can appreciate that statement, so the rest of you just disregard.)

Q is for quiet-- everyone went to bed early or is doing homework somewhere. I am loving the silence.

R is for a day of rest? I didn't get a lot of rest today, but I do feel semi-prepared for a new week. And that's a good thing.

S is for sermon. As usual, we heard a good one today. Our pastor is preaching on finances and everything he is saying lines up so directly with what we believe, I have to stifle the urge to jump up and shout "amen!" when I hear him preach.

T is for thanksgiving-- I still have plans to work on this week.

U is for underbed storage box. I have decided I need one more to house our craft supplies, especially after our trip to Michael's. I am now the proud owner of a lifetime supply of pompoms and googly eyes.

V is for very tired. I am sort of sorry I started this whole alphabet entry thing, but I am determined to see it through to the end, now.

W is for writing this entry. I didn't think I would finish it, but it looks like I am going to now!

X is for x-tra sad that Monday is upon us. Please, weekend, don't go! You just got here!

Y is for the yellow box of Crayola washable paints I bought today. I can't wait to paint my kids hands and make the handprint turkey-- I can already imagine my big kids' faces when I share this little plan with them and they realize I expect them to play along!

Z is for where I am headed-- off to bed to catch some zzzzzz's.

Good night!

ETA: A little poem about the missing letters:
N and O are missing
That's very plain to see
It was late when I was writing
And I had NO energy!
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Plans For The Week

I am going to try to make a weekly habit of combining my plans for the week with my menu plan for the week here on the blog. Last week it didn't happen-- mostly because I was seriously lacking creativity in the menu planning department and had nothing inspiring to share! This week I at least made a menu plan-- don't know how creative it is, but it's better than last week's for sure!

Sunday) church, lunch out, grocery shopping, a trip to Michael's
Dinner: grilled cheese sandwiches and soup

Monday) school with the kids, haircut for me and 3yo, orthodontist appointment after school for 12yo
Dinner: loaded baked potato soup, cornbread, cooked apples

Tuesday) do school and crafts at home, take a meal to my friend Dawn
Dinner: roasted chicken w/rosemary and lime, baked sweet potatoes, corn, rosemary bread

Wednesday) Monday's Artists class, small group meeting in the evening
Dinner: barbecue chicken, couscous, peas

Thursday) CBS with luncheon time
Dinner: Ribs in the Crockpot, baked beans, french fries

Friday) school in the morning, field trip to alpaca farm with kids in the afternoon (praying for good weather for that since we will be outdoors!)
Dinner: Pasta Fagiola, rolls

Saturday) possible trip to the Southern Christmas Show
Dinner: sloppy joes, lima beans, fruit

I have listed out a few crafts I want to try to make between now and Thanksgiving. (For the list of books we will be reading, scroll down to my post on Thanksgiving plans.) I hit the jackpot with this site and found all the crafts we are going to do in one place. I plan to make the Thanksgiving corn craft, the leaf turkeys, and the pinecone turkeys. I would also like to get each of my kids' handprints and make a handprint turkey, too. Tonight my daughter and I will cut feathers for the "Gratitude Turkey" I linked to in my Thanksgiving plans post. I want to get started on this so we can add to it before the day gets here. I will try to take photos of what we have made and blog about it.

My goals for the week are slightly less ambitious than last week, as we will not be home as much so there will be less time for projects at home. I hope to get some writing done, as always. I still want to work on my visual journal (didn't ever happen last week) and get my Christmas notebook (more about that later) started. I have several good books sitting on my nightstand that I will close out my days with. On a sleepy Sunday afternoon like this one, that sounds especially inviting!
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Looking For A Great Gift For A Little Girl In Your Life?

Several months ago, I got an offer I couldn't refuse. The folks at Caring Corners offered to send me their new Mrs. Goodbee Dollhouse to review. I enthusiastically accepted their kind offer and waited eagerly for our (very large) package to arrive. When it did, my girls ripped into it and before I knew it, they were engrossed in hours of playing and setting it up.

This dollhouse is no ordinary dollhouse. With recordings in each room that encourage character and helpfulness, children learn while playing. There are plenty of rooms and the furniture is durable and child-friendly. My kids (even the boys) have spent hours and hours playing with it.

If you are looking for something special to put under the tree this Christmas, this is a great idea!

Check out Caring Corners at to learn more, or go here to see the commercial.
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Turkey Day Is Coming!

Gobble, gobble, gobble. Do you hear that? It's a turkey, signaling a warning to all of us: The big day is fast approaching. Are you ready?

This week I have been doing some planning, extending some invites, and searching the internet for good resources. So, I thought why hoard them? I will share what we are planning to do around here to celebrate Thanksgiving-- which is actually my favorite holiday-- I'll bet you didn't know that! Oh, don't get me wrong-- I love Christmas. But I love the simplicity of Thanksgiving. And, well, the food. The food is one of the reasons I insist on having Thanksgiving at home-- just so we can enjoy the leftovers for days. And I will eat them literally for days-- never tiring of them and feeling quite sad when the last dish is empty. I am definitely planning to try making this this year! Oh, and this too! Good thing I have two crockpots! And if cooking a turkey overwhelms you, well by all means just follow these directions to achieve turkey cooking nirvana with zero fuss! (I am out of crockpots by now, but you might not be.)

(ETA: I found another crockpot turkey cooking method! Go here to see it.)

So, here is what I am gleaning from as I plan our family Thanksgiving:

This link is a great place to start. I never knew Real Simple had such a great site! I have seen their magazine on the stands, but never bought one. This site is packed full of recipes and planning ideas. So check it out!

I loved this idea for those of you with children. It's a bit too late to count down to Thanksgiving-- but I plan to make this little guy this weekend and get the family writing their blessings down on his "feathers" over the course of the days between now and then. What a cute display, and a neat way to focus on what we are grateful for this year. Even in the midst of a bad economy, we still have so, so much. Our pastor has been reminding us of that lately.

Want to help your kids understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here is a list of books we are reading, in case you want to pick up a few from your library or check out your local bookstore and add a few copies to your home library to enjoy year after year:

  • Thanksgiving Is by Gail Gibbons
  • P Is For Pilgrim: A Thanksgiving Alphabet by Carol Crane
  • The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Peterkins' Thanksgiving by Elizabeth Spurr
  • Molly and The Magic Wishbone by Barbara McClintock
  • The Memory Cupboard: A Thanksgiving Story by Charlotte Herman
  • 1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace
  • Thanksgiving Day: A Time To Be Thankful by Elaine Landau
  • Thanksgiving At Our House by PK Hallinan
  • Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters
  • One Is A Feast For Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale by Judy Cox
  • Pilgrim Cat by Carol Peacock
  • Thank You Sarah, The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Anderson
  • One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians by BG Hennessy
  • Thanksgiving On Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
  • The First Thanksgiving by Linda Hayward
  • Cranberry Thanksgiving byWende and Harry Devlin
  • All About Turkeys by Jim Arnosky
  • Thanksgiving Fun by Ronne Randall
  • Best Thanksgiving Book by Pat Whitehead
  • Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indian Corn by Edna Barth
  • Evan Moor Theme Pockets November: "The First Thanksgiving"

I am still hoping to make a lapbook-- but a simple one. We will copy some favorite recipes, use some of the pages from the Theme Pockets book, list things we are thankful for, copy some verses on being thankful, and include a narration about the first thanksgiving according to what we learn from the books I listed above. My daughter has specifically reqested to learn about the tradition of breaking the wishbone-- which I know nothing about! She has asked if we can do that this year, because she read about it in a book.

I am planning to spend the coming week making some crafts and involving the kids in the preparations. I am spending today checking out this link, and this link for ideas... and maybe googling for more! Then I will make a shopping list to take to Michael's tomorrow afternoon in between church, my son's final play and strike, and a special prayer service at church in the evening.

What special things do you do in your family to get ready for Thanksgiving? Be sure and leave a comment, and if you have posted anything about it on your blog, leave a link so we can go check it out and be inspired!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

What I Hate I Do

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." Romans 7:15

He came home from work, tired I am sure. But instead of complaining, he rolled his sleeves up and jumped right in making french toast and frying bacon for our dinner. As he worked, he told me about the rough day he had had-- more than 100 people had been laid off at his company. We talked through what that was like for them, and whispered about what it would mean for us. I knew he was putting himself in their place-- going to work on an ordinary day, only to learn that he was no longer needed.

After dinner, he got the kids to clean up from dinner and then tackled bathtimes with the younger kids. After they were safely tucked into bed, he took one son with him to the store. He returned home happy, reeling off the things on the list he had gotten for me. "You didn't get the vitamins," I told him. "That was the whole reason you went!" His smile disappeared. Bewildered, he offered to go back out and get the vitamins if we really needed them. "Well, of course we do or I wouldn't have asked for them," I said. He left again. It was late. He was tired. His coworkers were probably huddled around their kitchen tables somewhere, strategizing how to make it through the holidays with no job, crunching numbers while their wives tried to not look worried-- and his thoughts were never far from them, I know.

He returned home for the second time, happy again, brandishing an off brand of the vitamins I had asked for. "These were buy one get one free!" he said, waving two boxes, one in each hand. I took one look at those boxes and sneered.

"There are some things you don't bargain shop for," I chided. He slunk off to the kitchen to stow the vitamins in the cabinet, out of sight. Later, he fell asleep on the couch, the book he had attempted to read rising and falling on his chest as he slept.

This is an actual scene from life at my house. This morning as I was in my prayer closet (my shower), God brought that scene to mind, allowing me to see my own ugliness in it. Here we see this really great guy trying to serve and love and give-- and here we see his snippy, unappreciative wife totally dropping the ball on loving and serving him in return. Instead we see the way she wants her own way and pouts like a two year old when she doesn't get it. We see that, once again, her need to say little unnecessary comments surfaces. We see her focusing on the negative and missing so much positive in the process.

What is wrong with me?

Just over a year ago, I had a friend lose her husband suddenly to a heart attack. As timing would have it, I got an email from her today, reminding me of another time when I was whining over something stupid and insignificant about my husband. He used to have this habit of leaving his discarded items of clothing on the floor in our bathroom, always in the same spot. Daily I would collect his clothes and grumble to myself: "I guess you expect the maid to get this for you. Wonder what would happen if I dropped my clothes in the floor and left them there? I'll tell you what would happen. Nothing! Because I don't have a maid to pick up after me!" No one could hear my muttered words, but it made me feel better to say them. Where was that verse about doing everything as unto the Lord? Certainly not hidden in my heart or flowing from my lips, no sirree!

The day I found out about my friend's husband, I rounded the corner from hanging up the phone and came face to face with those clothes on the floor, again. At that moment, I felt God whisper to me, "I'll bet she would give just about anything to see his clothes lying on the floor, still warm from his body heat. And yet you complain about them."

Today I was reminded again of what I have-- and what I stand to lose. My words wound or, at the very least, fall far short of what they could bring to my husband's life. I choose to nitpick instead of nurture. I choose to litigate instead of love. I hate these choices I make, and yet, again and again I go back to this same driving need to plead my case, assert my rights, get my way, and be first.

When God asks me to be willing to be last (Mark 9:35). In life. And in marriage.

I want to do better, to speak kinder, to look for the many good things instead of seizing on the bad. I want to be a wife who brings him good and not harm all the days of her life (Proverbs 31:12). I am working on it, but some days I fall right back into flesh patterns that are so evil and ugly I recoil at my own image when it's played out for me, like it was this morning as God got my attention. I should know better. I should do better.

Tomorrow, I will try again. And, honey? Thanks for hanging in there on the days when I don't.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Please Pray

If you all would scroll down to my post called "A Short Welcome Today," and click on the comments, you will see one that was left by a woman named Stacey. Stacey's story really affected me, so I wanted to ask you all to please, please pray for her and her family. I loved her attitude about hanging the devotion about "HOME" on the door of her pop-up camper-- I pray that I could have that good an attitude about what she is facing! Please join me in praying and, if you feel led, drop by Stacey's blog to let her know you are lifting her and her family up.

ETA: Stacey let me know that your prayers are getting her through right now. Thanks to those of you who popped by and left her a comment!
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Plans For Days At Home

Since my big kids are off school for the next several days, I am planning to hunker down at home and accomplish some stuff that needs to be done. You know the kind of stuff I mean:
  • Cleaning out both linen closets in the house-- and refolding and organizing the jumbled mess of towels, sheets and blankets in there
  • Making some sort of Thanksgiving plans-- grocery lists, menus, and plans to see friends and family. I definitely am going to add this recipe to my list! Yum!
  • Cleaning up the leaves that have been tracked in since my children decided that raking and jumping in the leaves is the height of excitement
  • Changing the sheets on the kids' beds
  • Inspiring the children to clean the upstairs-- where they live and I don't, so the mess is alllll them.
  • Working on my visual journal, which has remained largely untouched since I created it. I am ready to write down some fall notes, and then move on to Christmas plans and thoughts.
  • Filing and weeding out papers in my life management journal
  • Planning some fun stuff for our Thanksgiving homeschool unit, making a list of craft supplies we will need to make the crafts I am finding at The Crafty Crow and Make And Takes.
  • Baking things: pumpkin bread, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin cookies, and this great-sounding Rosemary Bread using the rosemary from my backyard. I feel so earthy writing that! My daughter was very quick to remind me that I didn't plant that rosemary (it was here when we bought the house)-- but isn't that beside the point?
  • Finally going on a leaf hunt and collecting leaves to use for said craft projects before they all turn brown. Then pressing the leaves. I found a great post about doing that, in case you also want to press leaves. Depending on where you live, it might be too late for that. But don't despair! If you are looking at piles of dead, brown leaves, here is a craft you can do!
  • Making a menu plan and a grocery list for our meals through the rest of the week and weekend. I am in a meal-planning slump and need to find some inspiration! Can you exist on baked goods in place of a meat, vegetable and starch?

I won't get all of this done, of course! But it helps to have plans to fill our days when we are going to be home for long stretches of time-- plans of things to accomplish and things to savor. I love days at home!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Short Welcome Today

Hi to everyone who stops by today after reading today's devotion! I appreciate your visit and hope you will make a habit of visiting my little corner of the internet! I have a sick little one, so I am tied to HOME all day. (If you didn't read the devotion, you won't get that reference!)

Since I don't have time to write a lot today, I will just share this wonderful quote with you all, as it pertains to the theme of my devotion:

"At the beginning of each day look at the items in your schedule for that day and consider how those events will offer you the opportunity to praise and serve God."
St Ignatius of Loyola

Wow-- what a cool shift in perspective! Instead of sighing over all we have to do, we could see abundant opportunities for ministry. I would love it if you all would share something that is on your "to do" list that is giving you the opportunity to praise and serve God today. Whatever you find yourself doing on this ordinary Wednesday, I pray you find God's unexpected blessings in unlikely places!
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Spiritual Breakfast

I started my morning off with a serving of Streams in the Desert with a heaping helping of Isaiah 55, followed by a side of Holy Experience, and finished off with a large shot of Kirk Franklin.

I can't think of a better way to start my morning-- and thanks to the fact that my kids are out of school for Veterans Day, I was able to have some real quiet time. I love it when I can have a big spiritual breakfast instead of just grabbing something quick before I rush out the door. It is ever so much better!
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Organizing Your Recipes

I love organizing and strive for organizational utopia, but I must admit that my recipes are the exception. I have an abundance of clipped recipes collected in assorted ways (shoved in a recipe box on my counter, pasted in journals, tucked in drawers). I also have a bunch of recipes that can be found in various cookbooks which I keep on shelves in my kitchen. I even discovered the other day that I have managed to lose a favorite cookbook! I mean, how does one lose a cookbook, exactly? I can't even imagine how that happened.

Where my recipes are concerned, *I* can put my hands on what I need pretty easily... usually... but no one else who entered my kitchen ever could. For this reason, I thought this article was very interesting:

Perhaps it will inspire someone out there! I think it sounds like a great new year's resolution! (I am not naive enough to think that I am going to tackle that project in the midst of all the holiday hubbub that will soon be upon us!) But it's good to dream!
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Monday, November 10, 2008

He Knows Your Name

I am home from an awesome weekend with the ladies of Eutawville, SC (and surrounding areas). We spent the weekend in beautiful Valle Crucis, NC at the Valle Crucis Conference Center. Over 100 ladies converged on that place for a weekend of worship and refreshment. We literally had a mountaintop experience! I got to speak four times and was blessed by the dynamic young worship leader, Lanae Hale. She has a very cool sound and played a concert for us on Saturday night that was part music, part testimony. We were all very blessed by her story of learning how much God loves her and how far His grace reached into her life. The ladies from this weekend were all very special and they have earned a place in my heart forever. I will never forget our time together! If you are visiting here after this weekend, thanks for stopping by and please keep in touch with me! I hated saying goodbye to you all!!

I left the retreat center after lunch yesterday about 1:30, intending to be home no later than 4:00. It was a beautiful day and the drive ahead seemed like it would be uneventful. I chatted on the phone with my husband and my friend Lisa, who spent the weekend with me at the retreat but had to leave early Sunday to be back home. I called to make sure she made it and when I hung up, I realized I had left clothes she had given me for my daughter back at the conference center. I was about 30 minutes away from the conference center by then, and everyone had left. I really hated the idea of turning around and going back-- but I also wanted to get those clothes that Lisa had been so sweet to bring us. So, I turned around. As I did, I got the distinct impression that this interruption was for a purpose. This helped me not to have a bad attitude as I trusted God and felt that perhaps He was protecting me with this delay.

I drove back to the conference center and the place was deserted. I didn't see the clothes sitting where I had left them. "Oh please Lord, don't let me have driven all the way back here for nothing!" I prayed. I drove down to another building to see if I could find anyone, but there was no one there. The place was deserted completely and it felt terribly lonely to see it that way when just hours before it had been filled with so much life. I drove back up to where the clothes were and parked for a second praying, "Please, please, please let the clothes be there." I looked up and someone had moved the clothes up under a covered porch onto a bench. Hallelujah! I was glad I hadn't come back for nothing. I loaded up the clothes into the back of my van and set out again. I thanked God that I had gotten the clothes I came for, and I thanked Him for whatever the purpose of this delay had been. I would soon find out.

I drove for as long as I could, but knew that I would need to stop for gas. I wanted to find a stop that had a Wendy's and a gas station in the same place so I could grab a large sweet tea for my ride. About an hour down the road, I found the place I was looking for and stopped, then it was back on the road and headed for home. I was an hour behind schedule, and anxious to get home. I enjoyed having my Ipod with me so I could listen to music I love while I drove. I immersed myself in some David Crowder, reviewing the weekend in my mind and thanking God for what He had done, while asking Him to continue working in the women's lives. It was not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

About an hour outside of Charlotte, I noticed something on the other side of the highway flying through the air. It took my mind a second to register that that something was a car. I watched in horror as the car was airborn, then hit the ground, only to flip and become airborn again, then finally come skidding to a stop. Dust and debris was flying around in the air as I drove up to the scene. People on both sides of the highway had slowed and the scene was surreal. Some people drove on. Others pulled over and stopped. I didn't know what to do. I felt God nudging me. "Get out and pray." I pulled over, parked my car, and joined the few others who were running towards the car. I have never witnessed an accident, and had never been someone who was first on the scene. In that moment, I knew exactly why my earlier delay had happened. I had a purpose in being there. I wasn't a medical professional, but I know the Great Physician personally!

I will never forget walking up to that car-- the smell of burning rubber, the glass scattered all over the highway. The car had come to a stop upside down, and the roof was completely crushed. To look at that car, you would have thought that there was no way the person inside would be okay. I feared the worst as three nurses and one trained paramedic who "just so happened" to be driving by ran to the car and those of us who had no medical training stood by and watched. I feared what they were going to find until I heard someone say, "We got her out. Was there anyone else in the car?" I think they feared someone could have been thrown.

As I waited, I surveyed the damage. There were cd's scattered all over the road, an umbrella, some pieces of mail. The normal things we keep in our car, yet they looked so out of place scattered on this stretch of highway. And then, miraculously, just beside the car, I saw a Bible. I heard God's voice urging me: She is one of mine. Go and pray with her. I was scared to death as to what I would see when I walked around that car to where the woman was with the nurses working on her. I didn't know that I could handle what I would see but I went. I stooped down to where they were gathered and asked, "Has anyone prayed with her?" There was silence for a moment and then someone answered, "No." I knelt down beside the bleeding, stunned woman. "Ma'am?" I asked. "Can I pray for you?"

She nodded, then turned to look at me, blood running down her face. "Yes, please. Please," she said. I laid my hands on her and began to pray out loud. Before I knew it, other people were laying their hands on her and praying. One woman agreed with me aloud. The whole scene-- the smell, the sounds, the voices-- all melted away as I felt the presence of God in that place. It was truly one of the most amazing moments of my life. After I finished praying, I knew that it was time for me to head home to my family. A policeman arrived, and I could hear the wail of the approaching sirens. Though I wanted to stay with her all the way to the hospital, I sensed that was not why I was there and I had accomplished my specific purpose at that scene.

As I walked away, God reminded me of the shirt I was wearing-- a tee shirt commemorating the retreat I had just been to. In large white letters on the back, it stated the theme of our weekend, "He knows your name." I was reminded of an earlier moment as I looked from the back of the conference at all those shirts and wondered what person out in the world would be comforted by this truth as these ladies traveled home. In that moment, I felt God whisper: That will be important for you later today. I had no idea in what way God would use that shirt, but I hope that as I walked past the witnesses who were marveling over this woman surviving the accident that they would realize that God indeed did know her name and save her life. Only God could orchestrate the events of the day the way He did. Though I still don't know that woman's name, He does. And I know without a doubt that He had His hand upon her, just as He does all of us.
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Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Hodgepodge Welcome Post

Welcome to all who stop by today from the Proverbs 31 devotion! I am getting packed and ready this morning to head out for a retreat this weekend with the ladies from Eutawville (SC) First Baptist Church in Valle Crucis, NC! We are anticipating a lovely weekend enjoying the beautiful NC mountains in the fall and hearing from God as we come away with Him, quieting the noises in our life and tuning our ears to hear His voice.

My devotion today was about all those little noises in our day-- and the purposes they can serve if we learn to pay attention. What is a little noise you are hearing in your life today? For me it is the noises of my teenagers-- they need my attention and my help with school. They seem grown up and capable-- so much so that I forget that they aren't grown and they aren't capable. My job as mom is far from over where they are concerned!

Finally, I got the nicest comment from one of the winners of my ebook giveaway and had to share it here:

"I quickly glanced through all the pages already. I can't wait to print them all out and start highlighting. I had better get a new highlighter because it looks like I'm going to be using it alot. I would encourage everyone to purchase this e-book they will definitely not regret it."

Thanks so much Angela! If you would like to buy a copy, just click on this link to take you to a secure ordering site. You will have your copy in a matter of minutes! Thanks to all who order! My family appreciates your support!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Things You Can Do To Start Getting Ready For Christmas-- No Really, I Am Serious

This past weekend, for reasons that are still a mystery to me, our local Christian radio station decided to play nonstop Christmas music. I wasn't ready for that yet. But, I do realize that with the calendar page turning to November, it is time to start thinking about the holidays-- both Thanksgiving and Christmas. With my ebook going back online this past weekend and all the great comments I got, I started feeling the urge to get prepared-- both practically and emotionally. I thought I would share some ways we can all start thinking about making our holidays special.

1.) Make out your gift list of things you want. (Yes, moms are allowed to want things!) I used to make my husband guess what it was he could buy me for Christmas-- and I always ended up disappointed. I wonder why?? And so, I learned that it helped him a lot to give him a list. Now, when I say a list, it isn't much, because we don't spend much on each other. My list might consist of books I want, or cd's, or a particular restaurant I would like to try, etc. Last year I sent him the link to a gorgeous handcrafted cross necklace I found online. With a few clicks, he had my Christmas gift bought without joining all the other aimless men in the mall-- and it was something I really wanted and was tickled to receive. Don't make your husband attempt to read your mind because he, ahem, can't. I can't predict what your husband will do, but mine was grateful that I didn't make him guess and made his shopping so much easier. Now I wouldn't have it any other way!

Here's my list of suggestions for this year. (I certainly don't expect to get all of it, it's just good to give lots of ideas in a variety of price ranges. Like everyone, we are tightening our belts around here, so a book or a cd might be all I get-- and that's fine!)

  • Cd's by Chris Botti-- he is my current musical fave (and no, he's not bad to look at either!). But I really do just like him for his music. Really. The fact that he is good looking is just a bonus. I want Italia, To Love Again, and Midnight Without You. His music is great to listen to while cooking or cleaning or writing because there are no words, so you can concentrate and let the music serve as your muse. (Go here to see him perform with Sting-- a truly magical combination.) And I will probably have to splurge and buy his December cd before then!
  • Books, plural: Martha Stewart's Cooking School, Marybeth (and yes, I do like her name AND the way she spells it) Hicks' book Bringing Up Geeks, Jon and Kate's new book Multiple Blessings and In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day are on my list, and I am sure that others will be added. Usually, Curt just gives me a giftcard so I can enjoy shopping for what I want.
  • A large colander. I need one for the large amounts of pasta I find myself making these days.
  • A photo bag I found here. It's expensive but I would love to have one!
  • A new comforter for our bed-- we need one desperately, so that's a gift we will give to each other.

This list will go to my mom as well, come to think of it!

2.) Start quizzing the kids and making their lists-- because if your house is anything like mine, grandparents and aunts are already asking for ideas. Make it easier on them and you by keeping a list, then noting who is giving who what. My lists get quite extensive at this time of year as I attempt to keep it all straight. Also, this is a good time to sit down with your spouse (if you haven't already) and discuss your Christmas budget. If money is tight this year (as it is for so many), decide now how you are going to handle it and begin praying that God would give you creative alternatives for gifts and that He would keep your heart focused where it needs to be, and not get distracted by the urge to buy, buy, buy.

3.) Start thinking about Thanksgiving. It's really not far away now! You can make shopping lists, figure out how and who you are going to celebrate the day with, what you are going to cook, gather recipes, etc. If you are homeschooling, it's time to be studying the first Thanksgiving and focusing on verses on gratitude. I am hoping to make our second lapbook on the subject of Thanksgiving. I already have lots of brown and natural and orange paper ready for our project.

4.) Buy my ebook! (Please excuse the shameless self promotion here.) I have included an entire holiday meal menu that is good at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a calendar of weekly goals to make your Christmas planning easier. Don't wait til December and then feel overwhelmed! Plus, reading through it will help get you in the spirit.

5.) Get your house cleaned and organized in anticipation of any guests or parties you might be hosting. Don't wait til the last minute. A little bit of work here and there in the coming weeks will keep you from rushing around all at once.

6.) Update your address book and begin looking at times to get a photo for the ole Christmas card, as well as some cute photo cards you might want to order. Lots of places offer discounts for ordering before a certain date, so it pays to think ahead.

7.) Buy doubles of certain things at the grocery store now so your budget isn't blown when it comes time to buy holiday food. Throw in an extra can of sweet potatoes or pumpkin or cranberry sauce, stock up on extra baking supplies like chocolate chips and flour.

8.) Double some recipes now and store stuff in your freezer to give as gifts or pull out for last minute guests. I make pumpkin bread that is delicious and makes three loaves at once. This is great cause you can eat one, give one, and freeze one for later! The recipe is in my ebook.

9.) Check your kids' school calendars if they are in school to see what their vacation time is, and how much time they will be home. Make plans for any trips or special activities you want to do during that time. Talk to your kids about what they would like to do so that everyone can get excited and have fun anticipating the extra family time.

10.) Make advent plans so you can gather supplies and talk with your family about a regular weekly time to do devotions. I learned of this great advent resource online, published by the folks at Veritas Press. I love Veritas' products-- and this one is no exception. (You might have to give it a few minutes to download.) Once you download it, you have a great Advent guide that is geared towards families. If you have never observed Advent before, this just might be the year to start!

Now it's your turn, what are some other ways that you are preparing your heart and home for the holidays? I would love to hear your ideas!
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