Monday, November 30, 2009
I am thinking... it will be a long time before all of our kids are sleeping in in the mornings
I am thankful for... a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend filled with fun memories
I am wearing... pajamas I got on sale on Black Friday years and years ago, but I still love 'em!
I am remembering... my grandparents. The holidays always stir up strong memories of them. That was multiplied by my aunt bringing over my grandmother's nativity set to me. She didn't want it anymore and asked if I did. Of course!
I am going... to buy ingredients to make a bunch of banana bread today. I will freeze it and can use it for gifts in a few weeks. I found over-ripe bananas for sale at the grocery yesterday and snatched up a large bag for $1! My kids are begging me to put chocolate chips in some of the loaves. Good thing chocolate chips are on sale right now!
I am reading... Whistlin Dixie in a Nor'Easter. Cute book! Also reading Christmas cookbooks aplenty.
I am hoping... that I can get this next round of edits done before my editor has her baby! (She's due December 12th.)
On my mind... the Christmas conference I am leading next weekend in Eutawville SC. It promises to be a fun day and I am excited about the 3 messages I will be sharing. I led this church's women's retreat last November and am headed back to spend more time with these wonderful ladies. I can't wait to see them again.
From the learning rooms... Christmas books are on hold at the library for nightly bedtime stories.
From the kitchen... banana bread and a menu plan I have yet to make. Tonight is spaghetti so that's easy. I already have Friday night's dinner for Curt and the kids frozen so that's one less thing I have to think about. That just leaves Tuesday night, Wednesday night and Thursday night.
Around the house... need to take the Thanksgiving decorations down and put up the Christmas ones... eventually.
Plans for the week... plunging back into edits after a week break that was perfectly timed for Thanksgiving and to give me time to prepare for next weekend's conference (thank You Lord!), my 4yo's Christmas play at her preschool is this week, small group meeting after two weeks off, and who knows what else.
One of my favorite things... time at home with my family with no big plans.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I thought that as we enter this Christmas season this was a fitting verse for two reasons. The first reason: it reminds us of where our focus should be each day. Not on shopping or baking or spending, but on our hearts being set apart for Christ. This isn't something we can just hope for. It's something we have to be intentional about. Today begins advent. Advent means "to prepare." We can use the coming days to prepare our hearts for His coming all over again, anticipating Him like a child anticipates the gifts on Christmas morning. We can seek Him anew, recommitting our time and our intentions to learn more about Him and draw close to Him. What better time than now?
The second reason: As we are committing our hearts, we need to be on the lookout for hearts that need the encouragement-- the hope-- that we have found. Now more than ever there are people looking for hope, wanting to know, "How can you have hope when the news is so bad?" Each morning we can ask God to show us who needs some encouragement from us; who needs a hug; who needs us to pause, look into their eyes and really listen; who needs us to pray for them, with them; who needs us to develop a relationship with them that will ultimately lead them to Him.
I am learning that leading others to the Lord-- for me at least-- isn't a once and done thing. It's a process, an investment that grows over time and is built on trust. I don't just give one answer for the hope that I have, I give many. And with that, people see my Jesus as real, and trustworthy. And, Lord willing, they begin to want the same in their life. I have to be prepared to share what's going on in my life-- what He's teaching me-- and let Him do the rest. The challenge for me is to persevere and not give up.
Who is looking for an answer from you this Christmas? Who is watching to see how you respond when times are hard? You may never know the impact you will make as you go about your daily life. Not preaching, just sharing Him honestly and openly. Always prepared to give an answer...
Friday, November 27, 2009
I can't wait to watch on Sunday night! Leave me a comment if you plan to watch it or if you read this and you already did watch it. I will comment and let you know what I thought about it.
Want to know more about this movie? Check out the interview with Jonathan at She Reads.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
I am listening to... The George Winston holiday Pandora channel. Beautiful instrumentals of favorite Christmas songs that are so peaceful to work to. My kids say it's too early but I say nonsense!
I am wearing... pajamas that I have had since the 90's. They are white with red roses all over them. My family makes fun of them but they are my most comfy pj's.
To be fit and happy... getting that 500 calorie workout in every day. Can't say the same for eating right with the holidays upon us. Am aiming to do the diet again in earnest in January, a perfect month for dieting. Nov/Dec is not. Especially when one is on deadline for some very tough edits. I might be fit but I won't be happy.
I am thankful for... a van that runs again. I was without it for three days last week and that was not fun.
I am pondering... the things I am thankful for each day so I can send my "thankful report" to my friend Melissa each night.
I am reading... Stein On Writing, The Southern Living Christmas Cookbook, Christmas Kitchen by Gooseberry Patch
From the kitchen... getting ready to cook Thanksgiving lunch and host a dessert social that night. Light fare from now til then. Easy meals that don't require a lot of time in the kitchen. I see Domino's in our future. And maybe Chick fil a.
I am creating... Advent plans. Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional starts November 30th. If I can get my act together we might be ready to start it!
From the learning room... Some Jan Brett books, Milly and the Macy's Day Parade, Thanksgiving At Our House
On my iPod... Andrea Bocelli's new Christmas cd, courtesy of my mom
Around the house... cleaning and preparing. Must get my table centerpiece and settings all figured out so there are no surprises on the big day.
One of my favorite things... the way my heart turns toward home in earnest around this time of year. I don't have to force myself or talk myself into it.
A few plans for the rest of the week... hosting small group on Tuesday, lots of grocery shopping, hopefully turning in my manuscript to my editor for this round of edits (we're almost there!), seeing The Blind Side on Friday night with my honey. We tried this past weekend but it was sold out. Having a housefull on Thursday.
A Picture Thought I Am Sharing: A 4 year old princess
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I wrote this verse in my journal this week. I was feeling some financial anguish and it was getting me down more than I wanted it to. In this verse the word "anguish" literally means "tight place." So when we are in a tight place-- stressful, overwhelmed, crowded by the demands on us-- God answers by setting us free, literally providing a larger place. I needed Him to set me free, to relax that tight squeeze I was feeling. And I can say that, while the circumstances haven't changed, my perspective has. I don't feel the tightness-- the anxiety I felt when I cried to Him. I know He is with me and I have nothing to fear, even an uncertain future. He is sovereign and I can rest in that.
If you are feeling anxious about something, cry out to the Lord and witness His amazing ability to set you free.
Friday, November 20, 2009
When my friend and I chatted yesterday about her really bad day I confessed that I was having a really bad day too. We found out yesterday that our van has to have a new transmission. It will cost $1500. Right here at Christmas. I wasn't happy. I went around feeling like the sky was falling. The economy has definitely affected us and it feels like the financial security we worked so hard to obtain is fast giving way.
My friend commented that she knows she needs to be more grateful. She said that she is concentrating on being more grateful-- especially at this time of year. I told her that I knew I needed to do the same. So I issued both of us a challenge right then. I told her that she and I were going to search out the things we could be grateful for and then send each other an email with what we found at the end of every day between now and Thanksgiving.
So that's what we're going to do. Instead of dwelling on the bad, we are going to search for the good. And instead of just devoting one day to being thankful we are going to spend this next week focus on gratitude, documenting it and then sharing it. I am excited about this challenge and glad to have a friend who will join me in this crazy plan. Thanks for being a good sport Melissa!
And finally this is a great post on being grateful.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
At our event on Tuesday night, a woman asked me if I was going to be able to go somewhere and relax for Thanksgiving. With a big smile I told her, "Oh no, I am having Thanksgiving lunch at my house and then we are hosting a dessert open house that night. It will be a busy day!"
She shook her head. "Just what you need! More stress!"
The truth is, I am looking forward to this Thanksgiving more than ever. It will be a day to just focus on my family and not on my to-do list.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the foods, the attitude of only focusing on what we are thankful for and not on the gifts like we will be doing in a month. There is a sense of anticipation in the air of Christmas coming... but the stress hasn't hit yet and there is just pure excitement. We eat pumpkin spice donuts from Krispy Kreme for breakfast. We watch the Macy's parade. Then it's time for football and feasting. When the meal is over and the kitchen swept clean, I put my feet up for a couple of hours and savor the sale ads, deciding if there's anything worth getting up at 4 or 5 am for. (Usually I decide no!) Then I put pies in the oven, light some candles, and we open our doors for guests. For the next several hours people come and go, eating and talking. The noise is deafening at times, the environment crazy and crowded. It's Thanksgiving at our house and I wouldn't change a thing.
The other day I saw a sale ad for a complete Thanksgiving feast from the grocery store and chuckled to myself. My husband still talks about the year his mom did that when he was a kid. In her defense she was a busy working mom and didn't have time to put on a big production. But Curt never forgot it. He practically wrote it into our vows: "To love, honor, and cook Thanksgiving dinner." It's a big deal to him so I have tackled the turkey and learned how to make a delicious sweet potato casserole and all the other stuff that goes with making a feast he looks forward to all year.
If cooking Thanksgiving intimidates you, I thought I would share some resources that I have found to help out. First, in my ebook A Recipe For Christmas Joy, I have a complete holiday meal with all the recipes I personally use. So you might want to check that out. I give several ways I have used to make a turkey... including how to cook a turkey breast that is frozen. So if you forget to thaw your turkey, you have a backup method! Voila! Crisis avoided!
Just fyi-- I most always cook a turkey breast. If we are having a big crowd (like this year) I cook two. We prefer white meat so the other parts are just wasted anyway. And cooking a turkey breast is much simpler. My advice: look for ways like this to diminish the stress of the meal and focus on the fun. I even have a recipe that is so simple and yummy that I will share. Put a (thawed) turkey breast in your crockpot. Mix a can of cranberry sauce, a packet of onion soup mix, and a can of water in a bowl with a whisk. Pour it over the turkey breast and cook it all day. This is falling-off-the-bone good. Add a few simple favorites-- some green beans, some corn, some sweet potato casserole and some Sister Schubert's Parker House Rolls and you got yourself a great meal! Ok, you can add some stuffing/dressing if you must. :) The main thing is, don't stress yourself out. Here's another great option for cooking your turkey in the crockpot.
If you are planning to cook the whole bird, my friend Charlie has created a very funny and informative turkey tutorial video on her blog. Charlie has a wonderful sense of humor and that comes through in this video. Just the name of her blog makes me laugh! If you are someone who wants to watch something before you do it, check out this video.
And if you want something to keep the kids busy on Wednesday while you are prepping your meal, let them make these cute Turkey centerpieces. These look like something even this craft-challenged mom could do!
Whatever you are doing, spend some time today thinking through ways you can plan a great Thanksgiving. Maybe it's time to start a new tradition. Maybe you need to sit down and make out your grocery list and get your coupons and sale ads in order so you can get the best deals. Maybe you need to start now, a week ahead of time, focusing on all you have to be thankful for-- instead of saving it just for the one day. Maybe there's someone on your heart that God is nudging you to invite over for Thanksgiving. Our family is hosting two girls who are far from their families this Thanksgiving and can't get home. So we are serving as a substitute family for them and are so excited about it! Listen to those nudgings in the days to come.
I would love to hear what your favorite traditions are or if you are trying something new this year. Maybe you'll help our family discover something new to incorporate into our thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Luann helped with the book table, prayed for us and was just her usual lovely self. Be sure and check out her weekly radio show, Encouragement Cafe.
Robin and I used to attend church together years ago. She moved to Winston Salem a few years back but we were able to reconnect last night. She brought pictures of homeschool events we did together and Curt had a good time laughing at my hairdo's and large glasses I wore in the 90's. Thanks honey! I was, incidentally, pregnant in most of the pictures.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
So I was doing my Bible study and ended up in Hebrews. Specifically Hebrews 10:35-36. This is what it says:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to
persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he
I noticed that I had written a date in the margin. I do that when a verse really ministers to me. Sometimes I can go back and say, "Oh that was when my son was in the hospital." "That was when my grandfather died." But this one I couldn't figure out at first. What was going on in July of 03? Like most mothers, I figured out how old my kids were at that point (it's the timeline of my life...). It dawned on me that that was the summer I committed to write a book and enter into this world of ministry. I can still remember calling my friend Lysa and saying with confidence, "I am going to do this. I am going to stop saying 'someday.'" Right around the time I placed that phone call, I marked that passage.
I stared down at the date and calculated how long it had been since I wrote that. More than six years. I stared at the word "persevere" and knew that, when I marked that verse, I had no idea how long my journey would take. And then I realized that I had just spent the bulk of my time with God bemoaning the fruition of my writing and ministry dreams. I was complaining about my deadline for the novel and whining about the speaking commitments I have coming up. As I re-read those verses I had marked long ago, God got my attention. He had given me what He had promised, opening doors of writing and speaking that were only dreams 6 years ago. My perseverance had paid off.
And how did I react? By pouting about it.
I know. It makes no sense. Why would I do that? Instead of pouting, I should be praising. Instead of sulking, I should be savoring. Instead of regretting, I should be rejoicing. I clearly needed an attitude adjustment. Sitting there this morning, my journaling changed. I started thanking God for the opportunities He has given me. I determined that, from now on I am going to move forward with an attitude of praise. I am not going to worry about what lies ahead. I am not going to whine to God about all that's on my plate. I am going to celebrate where He has me... and how far He has brought me. I am going to trust that none of what's happening comes as a surprise to Him, and that He will supply my needs like manna-- just enough of what I need for that day. No more, no less.
Today my assignment is to prepare to speak tonight. I am going to stand back and watch Him show up. I am going to remember the opening lines of those verses, "So do not throw away your confidence." And remember that my confidence is not in myself, but in Him.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
How do we "consider everything a loss"? We hold onto everything in this life loosely. Nothing becomes more important than following hard after Him, than wanting and trusting His will for our lives. I heard recently that the best prayer we can pray is "Whatever Lord." We open our hands and let Him take things out and put things in according to His plan. When those things aren't what we want, we find a way to accept that. Not because we understand but because we trust that He is indeed working all things together for our good. (Romans 8:28) We look past the hardship to the glory that He will receive in the process. We say to Him: You are enough. Everything else is rubbish. And in the process we find abundant life, freedom, and grace. Priceless treasures we can't obtain any other way but through knowing Him.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I have learned that most of all.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
And below are some good links I found on how to create a Christmas binder to help me stay organized. You might remember last year I made one of these, and I have been thinking I need to get it back out and revamp it for this year. I figured in all my researching, I could share what I found with you! I hope these links inspire you to start thinking about organizing your holidays.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The other day my friend Ariel and I were discussing birth order and which combinations make for the best marriages. She said that she and her husband were the combination that's supposed to work the best: a firstborn married to a baby of the family. Knowing the answer already, I asked her what the worst combination is. She answered, "Two firstborns."
Yep. That would be me and Curt. Two very strong personalities battling it out, willing to go to the mat over just about everything. Now we don't fight all the time, and we don't fight nearly as much as we did at first. But we can still get into a fight-- usually out of nowhere and usually over nothing. When we got in a fight a few weeks ago, my oldest asked me what we were fighting about. I told him the honest truth, "Something stupid that neither of us will remember later."
"Why do you do that?" he asked.
I told him, "That's marriage honey. Two people trying to live together all the time are bound to disagree. And sometimes they fight. Plain and simple."
But maybe it's just us. I know some couples don't fight. They are blessed. We are... not in that category.
So let's just say I've had to learn a thing or two about fighting-- how to respond, when to respond, and if I should respond. I don't respond perfectly all the time. Not even half the time. But every so often I do respond correctly, where once I had no idea how to get it right. Every year I get a little better at dealing with the desires that battle within me. Instead of acting selfishly I am learning to pray, to walk in truth, to take each thought captive and to be silent. None of it is easy, but it does work when I remember to do it. God wants to teach us through our struggles and He can use our marriages as training ground to make us more like Him. The trick is, we have to let Him.
And not fight Him on it. :)
Monday, November 09, 2009
Friday, November 06, 2009
I shall return on Monday with a post about doing those little things God asks of you. I'll see you then!
Thursday, November 05, 2009
My friend Molly Gold is doing a great video series on what you can be doing now to plan for the coming holidays-- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's too.
Go here to see the list of her videos (parts I and II are up and she adds one each week):
And you can download her free holiday planner here. I don't know about you but just looking at that checklist makes my heart feel all fluttery!
And here's a countdown for what we can be doing now to get ready for Thanksgiving at the end of this month:
Finally, don't forget to order my ebook A Recipe For Christmas Joy. This book takes you from Thanksgiving all the way through New Year's and is filled with recipes and fun ideas to make your holidays wonderful. There's a planning countdown in there written by Lysa TerKeurst, ideas for saving money at Christmas, and instructions for gifts you can make, along with new traditions you can begin with your family. Just go to my resource page at P31 to place your order and within minutes it will arrive in your inbox! http://shopp31.com/marybethwhalensresources.aspx
Get it now so you can start PLANNING to have a memorable, wonderful Christmas!
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
For a long time, I thought that those extra pounds were just part of having six children, that the weight was part of my sacrifice to bring them into the world. (I wore the martyr mantle well.) But that wasn't true at all. With commitment and determination and a LOT of God's help (My mom has named this diet the "Jesus help me diet." She's lost 40 pounds doing the same program I did. Go mom!!) I did lose the weight and I am SO glad I did. Check out Karen's interview with me here:
Now to just muster up the determination to take the dieting plunge one more time and lose those last pesky 5-10 pounds... I guess we know what one of my goals for 2010 will be!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
I agree with her that blogging is making a comeback-- or could if those of us who blog are focused and intentional about our blogging efforts. I hope I do that here. I continue to balance the tightrope of social media-- Facebook and Twitter and blogging oh my! Not to mention my other writing-- books, devotions for P31, the occasional article. Oh, and blogging for She Reads and our financial blog too. Ack! What do I do first?
I try to make this blog my first priority-- I like Facebook and Twitter but I can't communicate there to the degree that I do here. Who I am and what I believe are best displayed in this format. I don't want blogs to die out because I am one who has benefitted greatly from women who have shared information, inspiration and ideas with me via their blogs. The community of blogging is still a powerful one. I intend to do my part to keep it a vital part of the social media landscape.
Monday, November 02, 2009
I am thinking... about our pastor's challenge to fast from complaining for 7 days. I did good until last night when I got home and my husband's car was blocking my way in the drive. I came in the house complaining and by the time I was done Curt informed me I owed "The Ugly Jar" $3. (We put in a dollar every time we complain.)
I am thankful for... the month of November-- a whole month to focus on thankfulness! (And not complaining.)
I am wearing... black track pants and a blue polar fleece New Balance sweatshirt, fuzzy blue socks. The height of style.
I am remembering... how great our weekend was. The Nester's yard sale on Saturday morning. (Didn't buy any cute decorating stuff but I did find a very cute apron with my initial monogrammed on it and some clothes for my 7yo boy.) A "Sweet Treat" cake decorating class for my girls followed by lunch that afternoon. A party at our church on Saturday night after the service. Writing at Barnes and Noble on Sunday followed by a movie with a friend.
I am going... to be working on plotting my next novel this week while my first one is with the editor. Also getting ready for Hearts at Home this coming weekend!
I am reading... After You by Julie Buxbaum, Stein On Writing by Sol Stein and Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser
I am hoping... to watch Castle tonight... if I can stay up that late. With the time change, 10 is really 11 and that is WAY past my bedtime! If not I can catch it on Hulu on Tuesday.
On my mind... my new novel. How can I say what I want to say through the characters' lives? How can I add layers so the story is not too linear and straightforward? I was writing with a friend who writes nonfiction yesterday and she kept shaking her head at me. She decided that fiction writing is too much work. She is probably right. But I have a compulsion to do it anyway.
From the learning rooms... time to reserve books at the library on Thanksgiving-- the traditions, the history, the attitude of gratefulness. These will make up our nightly read alouds.
Noticing that... I complain more when I am in the car than anywhere else. This morning my son reminded me that I am lucky to have a vehicle at all. Who teaches him this stuff? :) He also reminded me I owed the ugly jar a dollar.
Pondering these words... Happiness is a symptom of circumstances but joy is a product of perspective. God is still good, so I will be grateful. (Quote from my pastor's sermon this weekend.)
From the kitchen... baked potato soup for dinner tonight. Per several requests, the recipe is at the bottom of this post. We top ours with bacon bits or crumbled real bacon and shredded cheese.
Around the house... catching up from a weekend of being gone a lot. It was worth it.
One of my favorite things... books. Be sure and check out She Reads this week. We are announcing our new picks for winter!
Baked Potato Soup
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 lg onion chopped
1 can chicken broth plus 1 can of water
3 large potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
Peel and cube potatoes. Cook in boiling water until tender. Drain and set aside potatoes.
Melt butter in Dutch oven over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Stir in onion, cook for 2 minutes or until tender (should be translucent). Add chicken broth and water. Stir. Add cooked potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir in milk and cook until heated through and thickened.
(I double this recipe for our family. I use a whole bag of potatoes and it makes plenty but we need plenty because this is a soup my whole family goes back for seconds on!)
Sunday, November 01, 2009
This verse breaks down into 3 parts that all speak to me:
1. It is good to be near God. Earlier in this same psalm, the psalmist describes how he messed up-- he had a bitter spirit and was senseless and ignorant. Anyone relate? He says he was "a brute beast" before God. Been there! And in the very next verse he says, YET (emphasis mine) he is always with God-- God holds his right hand. (Psalm 73:21-23) I love this picture-- no matter how we act, we show Him our worst, YET He is right there, sticking by us. He doesn't drop our hand and retreat from us. "It is good to be near God" has two meanings to me: 1) I need to spend time with Him, to be refueled by His presence and 2) He is near me even when I don't deserve it. Either way, it is good.
2. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge. Please see my devotion from last week about what it means to make the Lord your refuge. I need to have Him to run to because everything and everyone else will most assuredly fail me, but He never will.
3. I will tell of all Your deeds. How can I tell of all His deeds-- the ones I witness in the lives of others, the ones that happen directly to me, the ones I read about in the Word. I have chosen to tell through speaking and writing, but am I telling in my daily life, my one on one interactions? I need to keep telling of all His deeds and offering hope to those He brings into my life who need to hear about it. They need to know that He will do the same for them.
This one verse spoke volumes to me this morning. I intend to post it somewhere visible in my house (my dresser mirror, my bathroom mirror, my refrigerator) and meditate on these valuable truths all week long. Hope it ministers to someone else out there!