Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

What to do on a snowy day? Make a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup! I just assembled my own recipe, so I thought I would share it here. I was inspired by this post from Renee Swope, who made her chicken noodle soup for us awhile ago and my kids loved it!

This is how I made ours:

I used some leftover chicken we had from two different meals last week-- rotisserie chicken and grilled chicken. I froze the shredded chicken meat and thawed it to use in the soup. Whenever you have leftover cooked chicken you can just throw it in a freezer bag til you get enough to use in soup or any other recipe that calls for cooked chicken.

I put the chicken in the crockpot and then I added 3 boxes of chicken broth-- the 16 oz size.

Then I got out my dutch oven and added cut up carrots (a bag of the baby carrots sliced into thin rounds), several stalks of celery diced fine and chopped onions. I also added salt, pepper and bay leaves, and covered it all with water. I brought that to a boil and then turned it down to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Then I dumped all of that-- including the water, which is now vegetable broth holding all the nutrients of the veggies-- into the crockpot. I added some garlic salt and about 1/2 a Tbsp of Italian seasoning. I am letting that cook all day and then just before serving will cook up a box of rotini pasta and add it. My kids like the fun twirly shapes.

I can smell the soup cooking and can't wait to eat it!
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Unexpected Friendships

Friends come into your life in many ways. Robin (pictured with me) and I met at She Speaks in 2003. She had just been widowed for the second time in a freak boating accident. I had heard about her before I met her. I didn't know what to say to someone who had seen such tragedy. I was intimidated to talk to her, to be honest. I remember when she gave her testimony I just couldn't wrap by brain around that kind of loss.
After she spoke I have no idea what I said to her, or why, but we began to talk. What began as a casual conversation became several hours of us just slipping into an empty room in the middle of She Speaks and talking. It was the beginning of an unexpected friendship.
Thanks to the miracle of email, she and I were able to keep up after She Speaks. She went back to her home in the Adirondack Mountains of NY state to mother her 4 boys. I stayed in the south and begged her to move down here. She said she would let me know what God told her to do. And I respected that. Finally, after 4 years of having a house on the market, she sold it and moved to a town about 2 hours from me. It wasn't next door, but it would do. At least we were kind of close by. I could live with that.
Last Tuesday, Robin drove to spend the day with me. We talked and had lunch and talked and got her hair cut and talked and attempted to shop but were too busy talking so we never got out of the car and went to Starbucks and talked some more. Then we were just having so much fun talking that she decided to stay for dinner with my family and then she just said "Oh why not" and stayed for our small group meeting. She arrived home 12 hours after she got to my house. It was a day for catching up, for celebrating a friendship that bloomed in an unlikely place-- in the soil of grief and loss but with the water and sunshine of laughter and girlfriend time.
I am grateful that sometimes God sends us these unexpected packages called friends. This one in particular has been a huge blessing to me. I told my small group when I introduced her the other night that she is one of my heroes. And that's the truth. I am blessed to know her and I look forward to more 12 hour marathon friendship days in the future!
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Friday, January 29, 2010

God's Insight Into My Marriage

Yesterday I wrote about the price of my dreams and promised that I would share what God recently showed me about my marriage. Last week things came to a head and we ended up in his car talking things out while the kids were inside the house and couldn't hear. (You do what you can for privacy in our house.) I had told him I wanted to "go over our calendars" which was really just code for "I need to tell you all the things I need to do and places I need to be and I need you to agree with it and be here for the kids."

He saw right through my little plan and called me on it. "I'm not your nanny," he said. There was contempt in his voice when he said it, pent-up anger that we needed to deal with. So we did. And I was honest with him for the first time about how I felt. I took off my brave, chin-up, I-can-do-this face and told him how scared I was about all that I have on me and how I am struggling with being away from my kids and not the physically and mentally present mom I once was. I told him that this is not the normal I want. That it might have to be our normal for awhile because of commitments I have made-- but it is not the life I am ascribing to permanently. I want to write, but I want to do so at a sloooower pace. I want to find a better balance.

Our talk softened him but left me a bit rattled. He seemed buoyed by hearing my heart. I think he thought his wife was changing on him and leaving her family behind in the process. He needed to know that-- while my life doesn't reflect it right now-- they are still my number one priority. While he seemed to feel better after our talk in the car, the next morning I was still chewing on things. Did I need to stop doing something now? Was it asking too much of my family to wait til summer when things will settle down? And what about my marriage? I didn't want damage to occur while I looked the other way.

Knowing that my husband is not my god-- I went to my God. I could hear my husband's opinion and take it to heart, but I needed to hear from the One who is all-knowing, the One who created me, and him, and our children and who knows us all better than we know ourselves. And so I went to my prayer closet (the shower) and poured out my heart before Him. I told Him to tell me what to do. I asked Him what was wrong with Curt and me and what I should do about it.

As He answered, I listened. He showed me that I needed to not quit or change anything. He assured me that this was a finite situation: there was a beginning to it and there will be an end. It won't always be this crazy and we can take steps to make sure it never gets this way again. In the meantime, I need to see my commitments through and trust that Curt being home to take up my slack is one of the blessings that's been hidden in this job loss trial.

And then He clearly showed me what's wrong with our relationship. "It's out of whack," He impressed on my heart. "When Curt said, 'I'm not your nanny,' it was because he was feeling like you were expecting him to be your helper. And that's not the way I designed your marriage to work. You are to be his helper. So change your attitude. Stop expecting him to help you and start asking nicely. Don't take advantage of his presence in the house. Look for ways you can still be his helpmeet, even though he seems very capable. Now humble yourself and go tell him what I just told you."

So I went to Curt and told him. He visibly relaxed as I spoke, the defensive bristle I have noticed whenever he sees me coming softened. He smiled and said, "I know this is coming from God because this isn't something you would ever come up with on your own!" And he was right. I don't often think about being his helper. I do tend to want him to help me. How easily I get it backwards.

And so I am trying to do what God asked of me-- looking for ways to help him, pulling back on how much I ask for his help unless I really need it, giving him space and time to do what he needs to do as he looks for a job instead of pouting because I have a lot to do and he's not there to pick up my slack. He wasn't designed to be my helper, I was designed to be his. For some of you that is going to really bother you to hear me say. But don't shoot the messenger. These are not my words, but God's. (Genesis 2:18, I Corinthians 11:8-9) It's what He's asking of me, and maybe of you too. I don't know your situation. But I know that for me, seeking His insight made all the difference in a very tense situation with my husband. I am determined to not give Satan a foothold as we walk through his unemployment coupled with one of the busiest times in my life. If that's my goal then I have to be willing to live life according to God's design and not the world's.

Going to God really changed my perspective. I am glad I went to Him immediately rather than waiting like I usually do. He's a great marriage counselor. I need to remember that in the future.

James 4:10, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up."
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Price of Dreams

Last year I decided to follow my long-held dreams of becoming a novelist. It was scary. I feared rejection so badly I didn't even want to try. What if I put myself out there and found out I had no hope of ever reaching that dream? What if I had to lay that dream down and get a new one? Would I even know how to after all these years? For a long time, I didn't even try because of those fears. It was safer to hold onto my dream, keep it close where I could pet and admire it-- not send it off into the world to be trampled and crushed.

Well you know the rest of the story... or maybe you don't, depending on how long you've been reading this blog. I met this girl who started turning the screws on me to pursue this dream, to take it out of the greenhouse and expose it to the elements. She wouldn't let up to the point that I finally just did it. It wasn't that I stopped being fearful, it was that she just wore me down. And she might have helped me believe just a little bit that it was possible.

So, I submitted this novel that she talked me into writing, even though a lot of the time the writing of the whole novel felt like a big fat waste. But then this publishing company that I really loved offered me a contract for not one but two novels. And then the publishing company shocked me when they moved the first book up a year, which meant a tight time deadline for getting the book out in time.

Which brings me to the price of dreams. Make no mistake: I am living my dreams. It is amazing. I am finally becoming a published novelist. It's everything-- and nothing-- I imagined when I was a little girl and teen and young woman who dreamed of such things. It is surreal, yet very real. Because dreams, I am learning, come with a price.

Suddenly the calmness that lent itself to me being able to write a whole novel on my own terms last year looks positively lovely. Moving up the novel condensed everything from cover design to editing schedule to endorsement requests to... you get the point. I am not complaining, I think this was the best way for me to go through this-- a quick gulp and it's done. But I would be dishonest if I didn't admit to you guys who are moms and wives balancing family and demands that pursuing-- and living-- your dreams comes with a price.

And sometimes your family pays that price.

You all probably know that my husband is out of work. That in itself is hard. But it's especially hard for me to be busy and him to have not a lot going on. Our roles have been reversed and it feels unnatural. He is used to charging out of the house in the mornings with a purpose and a destination. But lately he has been the one staying home while I run out of the house. The balance of our home is off and neither one of us can do anything about it. We have to just do what's in front of us, and hope that we can learn from this tough time the same as we have learned from other ones. (God gave me some insight about that that I will share tomorrow.)

It's also affected my mothering. My son had to write an essay about me and he had trouble coming up with things I do with him. You must know that broke my heart. I went from homeschooling him last year-- cooking with him, taking him everywhere I went, eating every meal with him, doing crafts, reading aloud, etc.-- to him struggling to come up with a few things to include in his paragraph because I am gone a lot more now, trying to keep up with deadlines. I am not the same mom I was before I pursued my dreams. I want to be, but time does not allow. Right now I can not change that. I can only take comfort in the fact that, when I am gone, he is with his dad. And yet, I miss the mom I used to be.

So what do I do about it? I put my nose to the grindstone and finish all my to-do's, with my eye on the prize of turning in my second novel and my first one coming out this summer. I keep on speaking and running She Reads and try not to think about the amount of work I have on me. Because I know that I am not different from any other busy woman, I am just not used to it. Instead, I look forward to lazy days at the pool with my kids, to a week at the beach, to T-I-M-E I do not have now. I pray that God gives us all enough grace to cover this time and try to focus on the fact that God is sovereign. We are surprised at the timing of how all this has shaken out, but He is not.

Still, I am not the mom or wife I want to be right now and that will continue to bug me. I feel I need to say that-- so you all don't think I am balancing it all perfectly and life has rocked along unhindered by the extra things I have taken on this past year. We are walking it out, but with a limp. I love what I am doing, but I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that there has been a pricetag attached to this dream. I am so, so grateful for the opportunities I have been given. So please don't hear ungratefulness in this post. But I am also struggling to persevere and my heart keeps looking backwards to times when I could just be a mom without other things interfering. Motherhood is, I am learning, my true passion, my best dream.

I will figure all of this out. I will make my peace with it, find the balance that has been eluding me. I will slow down my writing pace, say no to other things, and get back to what's important. I have discovered more about my limits through this experience. I do not share this here to whine, but to offer a glimpse of my reality. I am glad I pursued my dreams and I would not change anything that's happened. But I am dropping balls; I am not perfect and neither is my family. In the interest of keeping this blog of mine gut-level honest, I just needed to say that. Just in case you had the wrong idea and thought all of this is wonderful and easy. I know I present the wonderful side a lot. But there is a dark side. To not give you a glimpse of that every so often would be wrong and would do you all a disservice. I would be inventing some impossible standard that you all could kill yourselves trying to keep, but it would be an unobtainable illusion.

In short, I recommend following your dreams. But I also recommend you do it with the knowledge that nothing in life is free. Not even dreams.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... a gray, rainy day. A day when summer feels very far away.

I am thinking... how nice it is to have my husband in the den teaching my son the ins and outs of football. A neat memory for them both.

I am thankful for... surviving week one of my diet with only *some* cheating.

I am wearing.... pink and white striped pajamas, pink and white fluffy socks

I am remembering... the nice long time with God I spent this morning, the things I learned from reading His Word, a great sermon preached by my pastor when we went to church last night.

I am going... to strive to get my to-do list the rest of the way knocked out this week. I am giving myself a deadline of this week to wrap up lots of loose ends so I can go back to writing novel #2 the first week in February.

I am currently reading... Write Your Heart Out by Rebecca McClanahan and some books for She Reads

I am hoping... to be a better, more focused, hands-on mom this week. I have been admittedly distracted in past weeks by my to-do list. I do not like that and am aiming to stop it.

On my mind... my daughter turned 10 this past week. We celebrated with a wonderful cake decorating party. The girls who came loved it and so did I. It was my favorite birthday party I have ever thrown! Friday night I took her to get her ears pierced and then she and my older daughter and I went to Red Robin for dinner, then ventured to Starbucks for drinks after, then on to the dollar store to buy junk to put in little favor bags for the party. I am still thinking about what a fun night it was for all of us.

Pondering these words... "When you start journaling regularly, a funny thing happens. When you're grocery shopping or coaching Little League or helping your mom with her plants, ideas come to you. You suddenly find yourself recording things you want to feed into the next day's writing session. When you ignore those flashes long enough, when you don't write them down, they stop coming. But when you get in the habit of writing them down, you find that more come-- and that you're nurturing your development as a writer." (From an article by Heather Sellers in the Feb 2010 edition of Writer's Digest)

From the kitchen... diet food for me-- lots of meat and watermelon and salads galore.

Around the house... cleaned out some books this past week and it felt so good. We donated them to a local Christian library. The ladies were so grateful for the books and I was so happy to have the shelf space up in our bonus room! A happy trade for both parties!

One of my favorite things... easy birthday parties that aren't terribly expensive either!
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dailyness and Diets

After an inadvertant hiatus in posting, I wanted to post a little update about the dailyness of my life:

The last few days I have been spending a lot of time on She Reads. We are revamping She Reads so that now we will offer a selection per month instead of 3 selections per quarter. I know that sounds like semantics, but I think it's going to streamline things for us, and allow us to more effectively focus on one book/author at a time. Having 3 at once was confusing for us and readers, we were finding. So you asked and we answered. Now if you want to host a monthly She Reads book club, you can do so! We will provide you with the book selection and the opportunity to get to know the author. We've got some exciting features coming up in February, so keep checking over there to see what we're up to.

I just got my copyedits back on The Mailbox. These newest edits are due Feb 1 so I have some work ahead of me in the next ten days. I have also been working on endorsements and writing some other parts of the book and trying to start some marketing efforts. June will be here before we know it!

We've had some warm days that were a teaser for spring. Oh how my soul leapt at the prospect of spring! Green! Warmth! Sunshine! We also got our vacation on the calendar (thanks Uncle Bob, as always!) and that made me long for those days on the beach and the exhilaration of running with my favorite music in my ears, inhaling the sweet beach air as I do. Sigh. Today is supposed to be 40 and raining. January and February (and some of March for that matter) be gone!

Yesterday was my daughter's tenth birthday. We will celebrate this Saturday with a party at a local cake decorating shop, where each of her friends gets to decorate (and eat) their own mini cake. She can hardly wait and I am just grateful the mess is not going to be in my house! My daughter is also getting her ears pierced. She was very disappointed that I didn't take her on her birthday, but weekdays are hard to fit anything else in. I struggle with pulling off birthdays-- sometimes they sneak up on me no matter how much I try to plan in advance. Anyone else have this problem? Last night found us eating a storebought chocolate chip cookie cake and ice cream. Thankfully, this child does not feel like her birthday is complete unless she gets a storebought chocolate chip cookie cake so I don't think she felt cheated.

Finally, I am back on THE DIET. Which means I was not eating the cookie cake or the ice cream last night. Ok, maybe I had a bite of ice cream. Why did I go back on it? Well, I gained 4 pounds over Christmas. Between not being able to work out as regularly and sitting so much as I was going through the edits for the book and then the bad eating habits associated with Christmas, I gained weight. And that did not sit right with me. I realize 4 pounds isn't a lot of weight, but it was a direction (up) I wasn't willing to go. So I determined it was time for some offensive action. I had to get back on track with my eating. I started on Monday. While everyone was talking about Martin Luther King and his dreams of freedom, I was dreaming of being free from worrying about my weight! I am so happy I took those 30 pounds off last year. It is my serious intent to not put them back on. And I just might be aiming to lose a few more this go-round. I think it would be fun to hit the weight I was when I got married by the time I turn 40 in May.

What am I eating you may be wondering? Well no fun stuff-- no whites-- flour, sugar, etc. Not even whole grains. For this particular diet, I have basically the same thing every day.

Breakfast: grapefruit or cantaloupe, 2 poached eggs or 2 strips of turkey bacon

Lunch: a big salad made from field greens, cut up deli turkey, cut up strawberries and dressing I make myself from 2 tsp balsamic vinegar and 4 tsp evoo with a generous amount of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This salad is one of the reasons I was able to go back to the diet with some amount of excitement. It tastes so good and refreshing and it is very filling!

Dinner: some form of meat-- chicken breast, hamburger patty, etc. and some steamed broccoli or cut up watermelon

I am only drinking water or herbal tea. It's Thursday as I write this. I started the diet Monday and I am already down to only 2.5 pounds gained from the 4 I was trying to shed. I love quick results!!

I will also promise you this-- eating this way does make you feel better. And that was one of the main reasons I was able to psych myself into going back on the diet. Once you detox off sugar and caffeine (I never went back to caffeine so it was much easier this time), you do feel much better-- more energy, you sleep better, you think clearer, etc. I was noticing over Christmas that I was having trouble getting up in the morning, and was waking a lot at night. This week I can already tell I am sleeping better. This morning I was up wide-eyed and raring to go at 5am! So I can testify that, while eating this way isn't the easy way to go, it is very beneficial to your health. Isn't that always how it is? Anything worth doing isn't going to be easy??

If any of you are dieting, I hope you will take heart in knowing you are not alone. I worked hard to shed the weight from 6 pregnancies, and I don't intend to let the weight creep back on. I know too many people that happened to and the only thing I can think of to do is to be proactive about it now instead of lamenting about it later. So keep up the good work if you are resolving to lose weight in 2010. And if you started out well but have fallen off, get back in the game!

Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can...
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Monday) Hamburgers on the grill, Chips, Cut up Fruit

Tuesday) Rotisserie Chicken, Stove Top Stuffing, Green Beans (small group night)

Wednesday) Baked Potato Soup topped with shredded cheese and bacon bits

Thursday) Country Style Steak with gravy over egg noodles, Corn

Friday) Leftover Buffet (aka GYO: Get Your Own)

Am also hoping this week to make a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread and cinnamon bread to stock up the freezer. For small group I am also planning to make a warm apple cobbler recipe my aunt sent to me this past week. I will let you know if it was good and share the recipe since I am planning to adapt it. My small group will serve as guinea pigs, as usual!
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... warmer than it was. That's a relief!

I am thinking... about devotions I want to write for Proverbs 31. Sometimes I will write a devotion months and months before I turn it in. I just label it and put it in a folder to go out for a month in the future. In this way I don't feel under deadline to write. I had two things happen to me this week that made good devotion fodder so I went ahead and wrote them. I try to do that as often as I can. It helps to try to stay ahead and I can write from a place of enjoyment and not pressure. I think the writing reflects both.

I am thankful for... time to work on stuff I need to get done. The other day I sat down and wrote out everything on my mind that I needed to take care of. I had a list of 21 things. On Friday I did nothing but tackle as many of those things as I could while Curt occupied the kids. I got 8 of the 21 crossed off!

I am wearing... jeans and an Elevation sweatshirt-- cozy

I am remembering... all the people in my life I want to make an effort to keep up with.

I am going... to keep scheduling time with those people, being intentional about keeping relationships at the forefront of my priority list, no matter how busy I am.

I am currently reading... Writing For The Soul by Jerry Jenkins and a book for She Reads that is top secret! We are making new plans over at She Reads-- be sure and hop over there to read our recent announcement! I am very excited about the great novels we are getting ready to share with you all in 2010!

I am hoping... to keep hacking away at that to-do list so that I can focus on writing the novel I have due June 1.

On my mind... characters and plot points for another novel. It's a sickness.

Noticing that... my 4 yo can pick out her name and some letters now. She is growing up and preschool is certainly helping with her learning!

Pondering these words... "One thing I learned in the early stages of my novel was the difference between writer's block and the lack of discipline. When I looked at my writing as a career and not a hobby, my energies shifted. Writing became my fire, the thing that brought me joy above all else. It wasn't the thing I'd do when "in the mood"-- it was what I needed to do and wanted to do." Beth Hoffman, author of the new novel Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt

From the kitchen... planning a menu as we speak that will be posted tomorrow. Later today I will go on a big grocery run.

Around the house... cleaning, laundry, dishes... the usual.

One of my favorite things... 7 yo boys with buzz cuts and devilish grins.

For more daybook links, check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview Update

Thanks to all of you who commented or emailed to say you are praying and to ask how Curt's job interview went. My prayer for him was that he would walk away saying that he felt like he did well and didn't have regrets about answering questions a certain way. Well I am happy to report that he said he felt like it went as well as it could possibly go. That's a big praise for me because now no matter what happens he won't be able to wonder if he could have done better, answered a question more effectively, etc. I am thankful to the men in his life who stepped in and prayed for him, offered resume and interview tips, and just encouraged him in general. He received several texts just before the interview from men saying they were praying for him. That was huge. If you are one of those men, thank you.

So now we wait. They said it could take a week or two. We have peace. We feel God's protection and provision. We know He holds us in the palm of His hands and, as several of you suggested, that He has plans to give us a hope and a future. Thanks to all of you who have prayed, written or called. Your care and concern have been a big part of the peace we are surrounded with. Yesterday I put this verse on an index card and posted it on our refrigerator as a reminder during this time:

Isaiah 26:12, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (NIV)
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On 4 Year Olds And Other Things

Me to 4yo: "Did you know you are very loud?"

4yo to me: "No. But I know you're very wonderful!"

It doesn't get any sweeter than that!

I am still here, just using this week to catch up on a growing to-do list so I can focus my full attention on my new novel. Last week as I was writing, my thoughts kept drifting back to what I "should" be doing. So this week has been about speaking business and writing P31 devos and She Reads plans and taking care of some things the publisher needs from me. If all goes well, I will be back to writing unencumbered by next week. That's the plan at least.

Curt has an interview tomorrow. We would appreciate your prayers for God's will in this. I am trusting Him to close and open the right doors in the coming weeks. More than ever, I sense His plan in all this and really do have peace. He is taking care of us. I have seen that in the emails saying you all are praying. I saw it in the generosity of the person who sent us the Netbook she bought but hadn't used, so she gave it to us instead. I have seen it in the little blessings that have unexpectedly come along. The way that anxiety and chaos aren't taking over our home. Instead we are the same happy, laughing, bickering, crying family we were before he got laid off. It's good to know that an external major life change doesn't have to result in an internal major life change. I know prayers are key in all of this. I sense that prayers have carried us through the last 3 weeks.

I will keep you posted.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Here is what the Whalens are eating this week!

*** Just as a disclaimer because I get this question a lot. I do eat normal foods again. Once I hit my goal weight, I went back to normal food. I now just use daily exercise as a way to maintain my goal. I stopped the diet in May and have pretty much eaten what I wanted since then. And yes, that includes sweets!

Monday) Italian Chicken Soup (recipe below), Cornbread

Tuesday) Pizza (Domino's!), Apple Crisp for dessert for small group

Wednesday) Pancakes and Sausages, cooked apples

Thursday) Spaghetti

Friday) Country Style Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Italian Chicken Soup:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. oil
28 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cans chicken broth
1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning blend
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
10 oz. pkg frozen mixed vegetables
2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken

In a Dutch oven, saute onion in oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, broth, potatoes and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add vegetables and chicken, simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. (I usually simmer for several hours.)

This soup is good with french bread, cornbread, rolls, or garlic toast. Take your pick!
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Daybook For Sunday January 10, 2010

Outside my window... the coldest weather I can remember in quite some time. I find nothing redeeming about winter once Christmas is over.

I am thinking... about a Bible study I will be teaching for single moms starting the last Thursday of this month. This was an unexpected opportunity but one that both Curt and I felt I should do. So I am preparing and planning for it between now and then. It's on Proverbs 31, which is fitting, don't you think?

I am thankful for... a husband who goes out in the cold to get me chicken lo mein from the Chinese place just because I want it.

I am wearing... a sweatshirt, flannel plaid pj pants, thick socks. And I am still cold!

I am remembering... how much simpler my life was when my kids were smaller. Now they are all over the place all the time. It's hard to keep up with all their whereabouts!!

I am going... as few places as possible in this cold weather! Did I say I think that I am allergic to cold weather?

I am currently reading... writing books: Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes, The Art of War For Writers, Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance... and some books for She Reads-- top secret what they are!

I am hoping... to get a lot done this week. I have a lofty list of goals to tackle.

Pondering these words... "To fill the hour and leave no crevice... that is happiness." Ralph Waldo Emerson

From the kitchen... savory, warm, comfort foods for cold weather (posting my menu tomorrow). Pumpkin bread that never got baked over the holidays but will still taste good.

Around the house... as little housework as possible. Laundry, dishes, and chores for the kids.

One of my favorite things... hot chocolate, warm pjs and a good book!
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Friday, January 08, 2010

On Prayer Boxes and Plans

You may have figured out by my lack of posts lately that I am back to writing. My new novel is due June 1 so I have my work cut out for me! I have set a goal of writing 2000 words per day every day for 40 days straight. So far, so good. At this rate I should be finished with my first draft (but most assuredly NOT my last) by mid February. Of course, I am willing to stretch that to late February because I know that glitches will come and I will not stick perfectly with my plan.

But it's good to have one nonetheless.

So, since I am not addding much content of my own. I am going to try and pop by here daily and at least link to a post that I think is worth reading.

Today's is this prayer box idea. Before you toss all your Christmas cards, here's a great idea of what to do with them! I will be back Monday with another link and I just might try to do a menu plan and daybook entry too. I do love blogging and while I may go MIA every so often, know that I will always return.

And now I am off to work out on the treadmill. In addition to attempting to write 2000 words per day I am also trying NOT to miss a single day on the treadmill. Ah, January, the month of goals, ideals and good intentions!
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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Talents in 10

I am starting out this year with a Bible study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean called Secrets Jesus Shared. It is a study of the parables Jesus told and I am totally loving it!

Today I read about the parable of the talents and was struck anew by this familiar story. I wanted to share what I learned as it is totally appropriate in this first full week of the new year. The point with the talents was not to waste them or hide them. To take the risk of investment instead.

I journaled about what talents-- spiritual gifts, natural talents, faith, opportunities, time, relationships-- God might be calling me to take risks with. He doesn't want me to sit on any of these things.

My life in the past 6 years has been about learning to take risks for Him, to say yes to the things He asks me to do, not worrying about the consequences or fretting about how I might appear to others. I am still learning what that looks like, training my ears to hear a voice that is usually but a whisper amidst the other, urgent noises in my life. I am seeing that when I go out and invest, He shows up and celebrates with me. Two of the servants knew this about their master but one perceived that his master was harsh and unforgiving, waiting for him to mess up... so he decided to play it safe. God is not waiting for me to fail, He is waiting for me to try. When I step out, as my pastor says, He steps in.

One thing that really stuck out to me was the master's response to the two servants who doubled their talents. He said, "Well done good and faithful servant." That's what we always hear people say they want to hear from God. But look what that servant had to do to hear that-- take a risk and invest the talents. What does that say we need to do in order to hear that when we one day stand before Him?

What talents might He be asking you to invest this year? What risks is He asking you to take? I pray that you and God will have some celebrating to do when He comes back to see what you did with what He gave you.
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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday Night

So, it's Sunday night and I am feeling like I need to write a blog post but I have nothing to say except umm, Christmas break is over. Officially. Tomorrow the kids go back to school. But my husband does not go back to work. Which feels so weird. We are trying to negotiate what that will look like. Will he help out more with the driving of the carpools? Will he cook dinner? Can I leave and come back hours and hours later?

These questions will have different answers every day, it sounds like. We are writing new rules around here and, the way I figure it if life is true to form, by the time we figure it all out, he'll get a job and this new normal will be out the window.

Oh and also, if you are the author of blogs I read regularly, please post something new and inspiring, because I am tired of seeing your Christmas posts up. Christmas is over. It's a new year. Time for inspiring new blog posts full of promise about a great future in a whole new decade.

Ok so I've said my peace. For now. My husband is laying beside me reading as I type this and he really does not like it when I type on the computer while he is trying to read. He doesn't like the noise it makes. What. Ever.

Will be back with more valuable wisdom soon. Stay tuned.
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Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Day

How will you spend this first day of not just a new year, but a new decade?

We will have some friends over and eat our traditional New Year's Day dinner-- pork for health, black-eyed peas for luck, and greens for wealth. We'll throw in some rice and gravy and cornbread for taste! Last night in talking with friends I discovered that there are many variations on this meal according to what region you live in. Ours is definitely the southern version!

I will also spend some time meditating on my verse for the year. Some of you remember me writing about this in the past. One of you asked me to share mine for this year so I will. It's the verse I wrote about a few days ago-- Isaiah 9:6. When I was reading the part about Jesus being the Prince of Peace, the note in my Bible pointed out that the peace He gives is total peace: wholeness, prosperity, tranquility. God whispered to me: "You need that peace." So I made a note in my journal and claimed that as my verse for 2010. The interesting thing is, that was on the 13th of December... five days before Curt lost his job. God was preparing me, prompting me, to seek peace before I knew I needed it. That is just His way. So I am seeking the Prince of Peace in every circumstance, at every turn this year. That will be my challenge from the spills at the dinner table to career decisions to trusting Him to take care of us during Curt's unemployment.

I will go over the goals I have been jotting down in the past few weeks and make a poster which I plan to hang on the back of my closet door so I will see it often. I am going to make a place to record the date that I complete each goal as a fun (yes, fun!) challenge to myself. In 2009 I read a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen that inspired me to write down my goals and find ways to be accountable to seeing them through instead of burying them in a drawer as I have done in the past. This post has great info on goal setting so check it out for some inspiration and a series of questions to ask yourself. Do you set resolutions or goals? What's the best way to set goals that work? Here's a great post that goes into more detail on that.

Finally, I read in my e-newsletter by Julie Druck called "A Heart For Home" that the new year is also a great time to review the past year-- the lessons you learned, the people who've made an impact in your life, significant achievements, moments, memories, etc. She called this taking an inventory of your year and I think it sounds like another great way to spend New Year's Day.

Whatever you spend today doing, I hope you take some time to mark this change in a way that feels significant to you. If you don't have a journal, start one! (I did this year and I have to say I am loving it-- it has made my quiet times so much richer and interactive!) If you haven't set goals, start a list! If you want to claim a verse for the year, open your Bible and pray for God to direct you to the perfect one for you! If you want to commit to growing closer to God, choose a Bible study you can begin doing every morning... no more excuses!

I love fresh starts and clean blank slates. Today is one. Enjoy it!
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