Monday, August 31, 2009

Daybook For The Last Day Of August

Outside my window… it's dark because I am writing on Sunday night. Another week will soon begin whether I am ready for it or not.

I am thinking… about the week ahead. We have somewhere to be every night this week and nearly every day. That is not normal for us so I am trying to gear up for it.

I am thankful for… life, home, food, church. Simple things that aren't really simple. They are miraculous.

From the learning rooms… Some sort of homeschooling plan for my one child that is homeschooling this year would be nice. A friend emailed to ask why I haven't posted a plan on my blog. Ummm, because I don't have one?? Must work on that this week but am still feeeling uninspired to be honest. When I come up with one, I will post it here.

From the kitchen… leftover strawberry cake from my 4yo's birthday on Saturday. I baked two-- one to share and one to eat. I also have plans to make some Rice Krispy treats for my 7yo who claims that those are his favorite dessert.

I am wearing… blue track pants and a blue Elevation tee shirt

I am creating… a talk for a group on Thursday night. I am excited to revamp my organization and balance talk and make it less heavy on the inspiration with more practical, doable information. That's a good thing because I am giving it several times this school year!

I am going… to have a good week. I am.

I am reading… a collection of magazines: Writer's Digest, Southern Living, Cooking With Paula Deen and Above Rubies.

I am hoping… to make some important decisions this week. More about that later. These decisions overshadowed my week last week, which is the reason that posts were scarce around here. Will try to do better this week on that.

I am hearing… the dryer running and the pitter patter of little feet that should be tucked in bed.

Around the house… a list of chores await me bright and early Monday morning-- ironing, a bathroom to clean, and organizing the four yo's closet.

One of my favorite things… Listening to my youngest sing every word of Hoedown Throwdown from the Hannah Montana movie. We are so proud.

A few plans for the rest of the week: visiting with a friend on Tuesday, the pool with friends on Thursday, preschool open house on Wednesday and the first day of preschool on Friday. Also, my husband needs to buy a car soon as right now we are a one car family. With 8 people going in multiple directions at any given time, that ain't workin.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Make It A Great Day!

Yesterday I got an email where the sender signed with the phrase "Make It A Great Day!"

I liked this sentiment. Instead of the passive "have a great day" (the day kind of comes at you) she took an active approach: make it a great day. Don't just sit back and let things happen, get out there and do something to change things!

As I wrote yesterday, I was having a bad morning. One of those mornings where life felt like it was crashing down around my shoulders and bad news lurked in every corner. I wanted to get back in bed and pull the covers over my head. I wanted to start the day over or at least just end it sooner. But since none of those things were an option, I resolved to do whatever I could to literally make it a great day.

So, this is what I did:

I surfed some blogs that consistently turn my heart towards home, my true ministry. Elizabeth Foss' blog and Kelli's There Is No Place Like Home always fit that bill. I also jumped over to Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea for some good book suggestions. A few beautiful picture books reserved at the library always helps with my perspective, I find.

I also made plans with some friends to do something fun today. This gave me something to look forward to.

I read through a recipe book and planned out some meals I could cook. Then I planned a yummy dessert I could bake later in the day, sent to me by my aunt. (Recipe at the bottom of this post.)

I turned on some music and turned off the tv. I tidied up and made my bed. I talked to a good friend via email chat and together we solved the world's problems. Then I turned off the computer and focused on my children, who needed a mom who was engaged in their lives.

If you are visiting from the devotion that ran today, I think that this post goes with that devotion perfectly-- and I didn't even plan it! I had to stop seeing my day as partly cloudy and get out there and look for the partly sunny moments. I found that when I started looking for them, I found them, hidden around the corner, down the hall, and under some stuff. But there nonetheless.

What do you do to make it a great day? I would love to hear your ideas! They can be silly or spiritual, practical or poetic. Let's help each other find our sunny moments!

And as promised here's a cake that is sure to clear away any lingering clouds...


1 (18.25 oz) German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 (15 oz) Coconut-Pecan Frosting
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
1 c. water

Preheat oven to 350.This can be made in either a 9 x 13 or Bundt pan. Baking time is the same on either one.

Mix all ingredients (including the icing), in mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake 50-60 miunutes. Remove from oven to wire rack and allow cooling for 10 minutes. Invert onto serving plate and dust with powdered sugar.You can also make this using a yellow cake mix and it's called a COCONUT CHIFFON CAKE.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Blissfully Happy?

"Are all the Proverbs 31 ladies just blissfully happy all the time?" the woman asked. She didn't ask me. She asked a friend of mine, who repeated it to me. I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud when I heard it.

Blissfully happy?

Uhhhh, no. Yes, we write and speak about walking closely with God and we encourage others in their pursuit of being godly women. We share our successes and our failures. And we do try to find the silver lining in the dark clouds of life. But are we blissfully happy while we do it? Not all the time.

We are normal women dealing with the normal, "in-this-world-you-will-have-trouble" stuff of life. We have money problems and marriage problems, kid problems and job problems. We struggle. We fail. We wonder. You should see our private prayer requests to each other: mammogram scares, undiagnosed mystery illnesses, financial problems, wayward children, suffering children, spiritual warfare, long waits for answers to prayer, disappointment.

But in the midst of it all, we keep coming back to Him. To renew us, refresh us, strengthen us and encourage us. And we turn to each other for prayer, for verses sent to lift our spirits and point us back to where we need to be, for a laugh (You can always count on this group of women to laugh...), and sometimes for shared tears.

Blissfully happy?

As I type this, my husband and I are in a fight. We don't fight nearly as much as we used to in the early days of our marriage, but there are still times that miscommunication or misunderstandings sneak up to bite us. When it happens, it feels like our world slides off kilter. Two of my girls are fighting over sharing paints, their voices escalating, spilling into my concentration level. The economy has affected our family and left us wondering about money decisions-- financial book or not, we have lots of responsibilities and it takes a lot to juggle it all. My 7yo took a nasty spill this weekend and is walking around with a big goose egg on his head and the skin scraped off his nose. He cried this morning about going to school because he was so embarrassed for people to see him. No, life is not blissfully happy at our house.

And yet, there is still this deep, abiding joy that resides within me, and within all the other P31 ladies. Not because we love all of our circumstances all of the time, but because we trust the One who allowed those circumstances to weave them together for our good, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future and a hope. We might not be blissfully happy, but we still manage to find scraps of joy here and there. It might not be much, but somehow it's always just enough.

Blissfully happy? No.

Supernaturally joyful? Yes.

Not because of who we are, but because of who He is. Not because of what is happening, but because of what already happened.
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Saving Money On Those Back To School Purchases

I wrote a post for our Financially Free blog on back to school buying with a link to a great article. I shared a story about how God creatively solved a buying problem I was having as we have navigated through the expense of buying homeschool curriculum, school uniforms, and a myriad of school supplies in the last few days. Be sure and check it out!
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Menus and Musings

The past two days have been a blur but I am happy to report that three of my children are now tucked safely away in their classrooms with most of the stuff on their back to school shopping lists in their possession.

Aaaaahhhh. Allow me to enjoy the silence and just sit for a few minutes.

Since I am still sort of detoxing from coming back from vacation and plunging right into back to school mode, I don't have a whole lot of insight to share yet. So I thought that today, even though it's not a Monday, I would share our menu from now until next Wednesday. Since I was running low on energy and creativity this week, I went with some fall-back recipes, some old standbys that have stood the test of time with my family.

At the end I included a link to the recipe for the wonderful cake I baked for my oldest's birthday. As my friend Ariel said, "It's slap your mama good!" Of course, when I repeated that to my husband, my kids all got a devious glint in their eyes that had me a little afraid...

Monday) Fake Chick Fil A. (So named by my husband and children.) This is just those frozen Tyson chicken patties on buns with pickles, shredded lettuce and their choice of mustard. I served it with potato chips and grapes for an easy meal after a day of running like crazy and not arriving home til 5:30. Quick and easy was the name of the game-- and without the cost of eating out!

Tuesday) Marinated Grilled Chicken served over salad greens, french bread, sliced watermelon. Chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday) Grilled pork chops, pasta salad, leftover salad. Leftover cake for dessert.

Thursday) Chicken and stuffing in the crockpot, black eyed peas.

Friday) Homemade pizza

Saturday) Grilled hamburgers, french fries

Sunday) Pancakes and bacon

Monday) Spaghetti

Tuesday) Barbecue chicken, wild rice, peas

Wednesday) Tacos

And here's the recipe for that cake... but don't say I didn't warn you. It's totally addicting and impossible to just have a small piece.
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Monday, August 17, 2009


Today is my oldest's birthday. He's 17 on the 17th-- the only time in his life that will happen. I have a birthday cake to bake but first I must go and buy ingredients. We have no groceries in the house so a big grocery trip is in my immediate future.

My kids who are going to school start in two days. TWO. DAYS. We have uniforms and school supplies to buy, not to mention an open house to attend tonight.

Thankfully we washed most all of our clothes before leaving the beach so I am not inundated with laundry. And we cleaned our house before we left so there's not a lot of cleaning to be done. But in the meantime, I have lots to do, and very little time to post about our trip.

I mainly just wanted to say, we are home, we are happy, we had a great time-- one of the best family vacations I can remember in years. I will share details (and pictures) with you soon... I promise!
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Lands End Twitter Party

Lands End is hosting a Twitter party this Thursday night, the 20th of August. To participate and have a chance to win 20 product giveaways, just go to #landsend from 7 to 9 pm central time. This is a great way to get ready to go back to school since Lands End will be answering back to school shopping questions!
In the meantime, you can let your kids have some fun designing their own fantasy backpack. Above is the picture of the one I designed for myself with a beach theme, since that's where we just were. To design yours, just go to Maybe a visit to this website will help the kids get excited about going back to school? Naaaah.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last Day...

We've packed

IBC root beer (in the bottles, a must)

A bag of cookies and a box of granola bars

Sunscreen (we've gone through four bottles this week!)

A cooler full of drinks


Skim board my son bought with his own money this week-- keeps him busy for hours

Boogie board

Shovels and buckets-- keeps the three year old busy for hours

Chairs-- keeps mom and dad busy for hours. Sitting is good.

We are pros at packing it all by now. We've gotten into a beach groove and now we must return home just as it has become part of our lives. I am excited to spend our last day at the beach, but equally sad. It is hard for this good thing to come to an end.

I will see you Monday, when I will post about the highlights of our vacation. It's been a great one.
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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Beach Routine

Ok, I lied. Here I am, blogging from the beach. My uncle went and installed wireless in his house so now I have internet access and, well, like a moth to flame is all I can say about that...

This is the routine we have settled into at the beach:

8-8:30 am: wake up, make Tazo Zen green tea to sip while doing my quiet time and journaling

9:00 am: make another cup of Tazo Zen green tea and sip it while logging onto the internet to check emails, update Twitter, and do various other mindless things. Ignore kids' requests to go to the beach NOW. Ignore fights that erupt because kids are bored and want to go to the beach NOW. Explain that it is just too early to go and we will go... eventually. Encourage them to sleep later. As if. Point out that the beach house has all the cable channels we don't have anymore and encourage them to watch said channels. Point out very cool blocks that my teacher aunt Frances has provided for kids who visit the beach house.

10:00 am: Join kids in wondering why the time is going so slow. Make two slices of turkey bacon and eat that with watermelon. Congratulate self on not eating the sugar cereal we have allowed or the donuts we have bought for "fun vacation breakfast foods."

10:30 am: Work on some edits for the book. I know. This is me, working on vacation but I like what I am doing so it doesn't count.

11:00 am: Finally announce that it is time to go to the beach. Wiggle children into bathing suits and pack inordinate amounts of junk into back of car. Load children into car to drive several blocks down the beach to my in-law's house. Carry chairs, towels, quilts, sand toys, and cooler like pack mules over to the beach while trying to keep up with children. Look at husband and smile because, though we complain, we wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

11:30 am: Begin the sunscreening process. Lather down wiggly, already sand-coated children while they complain and wrench away. Lecture children about the dangers of the sun. Remind them how fortunate they are to have parents that care about their skin. In the process, forget all about putting sunscreen on yourself. Only realize that later after your face is burned and you go around looking like a lobster, which your husband delights in calling you.

Noon: Flop down in chair and rest. Ignore children's requests to "get in the water," "build a sandcastle," or "go deep." Try to have adult conversation with in-laws, which is impossible with 12 kids milling around this week. (We brought ours plus one, Curt's sister brought her two and his step-sister brought her three. Seven of the 12 are aged 7 and under and 4 are teenagers. I'm just sayin.)

12:15 pm: Begin handing out lunch. Eat lowfat granola bar and banana and congratulate self on not eating chips and Little Debbies like everyone else.

12:30 pm: Throw away wrappers and other lunch trash in trash cans that are located very, very far away from family compound. Flop down from long walk. Sit and soak up rays, still oblivious that you have not put sunscreen on yourself.

1:00 pm: Hand out drinks from cooler to kids who are "so thirsty."

1:30 pm: Attempt to read book you brought to beach. Read two lines.

2:00 pm: Finally agree to get in the water, only to discover it is COLD! In August! Go back to your chair and hope the water warms up somehow while you are there this week.

2:30 pm: Wonder about burning sensation and determine that perhaps it would be best to get out of the sun. Feel stupid for forgetting sunscreen for self. Pack up three year old to return home while husband and other children stay.

3:00 pm: Come home and get running clothes on. Get online even though you shouldn't. Waste time on computer. Bathe 3yo who is coated with sand.

3:00 pm: Tell teenagers who are home that they have kid watching duty while you go run. Run three miles in 100 degree heat. Congratulate self for exercising on vacation. Ignore faint feeling from running in 100 degree heat.

4:00 pm: Husband and other children come home. Showers and getting dressed all around. Is the hot water gone? It would seem so. Husband is such a man-- he is giddy over the outdoor shower and plans to shower there every day. What. Ever.

5:00 pm: Head to the grocery store to buy various things we need. Navigate crowds while attempting to keep up with three wandering children. Say no approximately 100 times.

6:00 pm: Head home and pour a much-deserved glass of wine. Sip it and enjoy. Feel very happy to be at the beach, with family. Ignore nagging tiredness.

6:30 pm: Head to in-law's house for dinner. Feel grateful that they are there and that you are not responsible for every dinner this week.

7:30 pm: Watch kids play the Wii at in-laws. Feel body begin to relax into tired stupor.

9:00 pm: Head home to get kids to bed. Think about reading a book or watching tv but decide to succumb to tiredness instead. Fall into bed, grateful, tired, and very happy.
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Friday, August 07, 2009

A Vacation Theme

In a few hours we leave for our annual trip to Ocean Isle Beach, NC, courtesy of my generous and kind Uncle Bob, who makes this vacation possible by giving us the use of his beautiful beach house. In the meantime, I have a lot of packing and preparing to do to get 9 people ready to vacation (my daughter is taking a friend).

But before I go, I wanted to share this verse I found this morning. I have claimed it as my theme verse for this week of vacation-- a rest for my soul.

Psalm 131 (New International Version): 1-2

1 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. (my Bible note says this means "excessive ambition-- ouch!)

2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I am praying that during this time I will lay down any excessive ambition or haughty behavior and still and quiet my soul before the Lord. That through time in God's word, long prayer-filled walks on the beach, and time spent savoring my family, I will come home with a quiet soul-- one that doesn't long for more, but looks around and rejoices in what is.

I will see you guys back here soon-- I do not plan to post during the next week. Why? See verses above! But maybe God will give me something I just have to share. If so, I might surprise you!

PS. I have a devotion running today on P31-- actually Curt wrote it, but I get equal billing... love it when that happens! :) He's a good sport and he's written some excellent posts on our financial blog so be sure and check it out!
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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Psalm 66

Kids are fighting, complaining, whining.

To-do list is calling.

Emails begging to be responded to.

Vacation packing to be done.

Instead I sit with my journal and my Bible and drink Him in.

Psalm 66:5, "Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf."

Psalm 66:16, "Come and listen, all you who fear God, let me tell you what he has done for me."

I begin to list the things in my journal, taking time to write out what he has done. My joy swells. The noise diminishes. My life is good, rich, full. He has brought me out to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:12)

I need this reminder.

Come and see what God has done. What would you write down in response? Would love to hear your answers.
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Captured Memories: She Speaks Post Part 2

This year's She Speaks was wonderful. I had fun, heard from God, and was challenged and stretched. What could be better than that? A public thank you goes out to my husband for holding down the fort while I was gone for FIVE. WHOLE. DAYS.
Our tradition is to all go out to lunch together after the conference is packed away and the attendees have left. We look forward to the time to visit and wrap up the weekend before going our separate ways. I look forward to this time as much as I look forward to the conference. This year we were driving to eat when I got a call from my husband that he had just run into a guard rail when his car wheels slid on wet pavement. The car is torn up but thankfully, no one was hurt, except for seat belt burns on my daughter's neck. I really saw God's hand on my family even as I sadly told my friends I was skipping lunch to go be with my shaken up family. I hate I didn't get to say goodbye, but I hold the memories in my heart and anxiously await next year's She Speaks where, Lord willing, we will all be together again. I thought I would share some of the memories I hold in my heart:
Mackenzie Ehman signing while Cheri Keaggy sang on Sunday morning. I loved watching her sign the words.

Me and my daughter on Sunday morning. I am so blessed to have her there with me, sharing in this ministry we both love and catching a vision for God's purpose for her future.

Best friends together again-- Hope just returned from Africa in time for the conference to begin. I love that these two girls share this time together every year and God made sure this year was no exception by getting Hope back in the nick of time!

Me and my friend Melissa Milbourn. She was in my very first critique group. God grew an amazing friendship out of that connection and I was SO glad she was able to be there this year!

The SheReads fiction book club for women was launched at She Speaks this year. I am going to be heading up this brand new division of the ministry and will be posting more about it when we officially launch on September 1st. This is Mary DeMuth giving away the very last copy of Daisy Chain, one of our first picks, to Micca Campbell. We gave away 400 books this weekend. Many thanks to those of you who indicated an interest in this new venture. We are so excited to recommend great Christian fiction to women and I can't wait to tell you more about it!

The three stooges. I mean, Mary, me and Ariel Allison Lawhon (my partner in all the SheReads craziness and one of my very best friends). Her book eye of the god is one of our picks for the fall as well.

Me and Ariel--Ariel stayed with me after the conference ended. We talk every day via chat so it was wonderful to get to talk face to face. It was hard to say goodbye as she boarded a plane for TX on Monday morning bright and early.

Micca Campbell, me, and Rachel Olsen-- my goodness I love these girls!

My baklava baking buddy, Zoe Elmore. I love this woman to pieces. We are all Greek today, right Zoe?

My dear friend Tammy Garlock. Some of you may remember her story of losing her son Brian in a car accident a little over a year ago. Her story is courageous and inspirational. I am blessed to know her and can't wait to see what God is going to do through her life.

This is Vern. Vern brings pretty jewelry to She Speaks every year that makes me so happy when I look at it, I can't tell you. I bought two necklaces from her this year that I can't wait to wear! Love me some Vern!!

My wonderful speaker evaluation group. They put up with me for a whole weekend and are all excellent speakers. I anticipate hearing great stories about what God is doing with them in the years to come. You blessed me, ladies!

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sometimes What He Speaks Is Not What We Expect

Late Saturday night, I sat down and wrote my evaluations for my group. I tried hard to find something to critique them on but it was difficult. Like a proud mama, I thought they had all done wonderfully and struggled to find something to tell them they could work on. But they didn't come to hear all good things, so I owed it to them to praise them but also give them tips for polishing their speaking.

One of the ladies had used Jeremiah 29:11 as the verse that she was talking on. When she stated it, I sort of internally rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "That's a tired verse that everyone quotes. Come up with something more original." So that was my feedback for her (said in a much nicer way, of course). After all, I have learned from writing devotions that people want to be introduced to a new verse that they have never heard before, not the same old same old. So I felt perfectly justified in my comment. But I have to admit there was a check in my spirit as I wrote it.

So on Sunday morning our group sat together as we listened to the morning message, presented by Renee Swope. And guess what one of the verses she used was? Here I was telling one of my group members not to use that verse and one of our very own was using it! I gulped internally and wondered if God was trying to teach me something. I thought about my bag holding the evaluations... and the words written on one of them.

After the message, we had a chance to go up to the cross they had set up at the front of the room and receive a promise from God-- verses printed on little cards that were laying at the foot of the cross. As I walked, I asked God for the perfect promise for me. A promise that would speak to where I am right now and the issues I am dealing with. As I reached for the card, I felt God saying to me, "That one right there. That one is for you." I picked it up and walked over to the side.

You guessed it. Jeremiah 29:11 printed big as day. God gave me a promise indeed-- but He also taught me a lesson. How dare I get immune to the power of any one of His verses! How dare I think it's overused, unoriginal, and tired? This is His Word I am talking about! I couldn't even focus on what the verse was saying as I absorbed His admonishment. He had just put me in my place as He is so faithful to do. I am learning there is still so much to learn.

After the session was over, it was time to hand out the evaluation sheets. I saved this girl's sheet to last and asked to speak to her privately. As I handed her the sheet, I told her this story. I apologized for what I had written and told her how wrong I was. I never intended to share it here, but this morning I felt God leading me to. She Speaks is about hearing from God and learning what He has to teach us. I am grateful for the wakeup call He issued to me on Sunday morning. And I am proud to say that Jeremiah 29:11 is His promise to me:

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

For more posts about She Speaks, go to
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Monday, August 03, 2009

Dazed And Confused... Or, The Day After She Speaks Post

What I should be doing...


Cleaning house

Making a to-do list based on what I learned at She Speaks this weekend

Thinking about dinner, and groceries

Responding to emails that came in during the 5 days I didn't check emails

Updating Twitter, Facebook, my blog and any other social media device I might have forgotten.

Working out on the treadmill after a nearly 2 week break due to my sinus infection and She Speaks.

Writing a letter to my husband telling him how special these last 18 years of marriage have been as we celebrate our anniversary today, August 3rd.

Showering. Yeah, showering would be a good idea.

What I am doing...

Eating dark chocolate

Sitting on my bed

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