Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who Can Satisfy My Soul?



Do you ever go through seasons of life where adversity seems to be around every corner?  I just went through several months where it seemed that no matter what I did, I ran into obstacles of different kinds.  Most of them were uninvited into my life and surprised me when they showed up.  I'm not sure if this is something that happens around my age or not (I'll be turning 40 later this year), but I can say that these unwelcome trials threw me for a loop.


I've encountered many losses over the last year.  I'm still scratching my head at some of the losses wondering how and why these things happened.  I'm still at a loss for words on how my feelings were affected by these unpleasant encounters and events.  For several weeks, well, several months in some cases, I found myself wondering around like a lost puppy dog not sure how to react or what to do or where to go or even who to talk to.  In some of these cases I felt insignificant...and I wondered if I ever was significant to begin with.

It's amazing how when I go through trials, the Enemy (the devil), likes to throw in a few of his lies as well. The Bible says that he's the father of lies and that his only mission on this earth is to still, kill and destroy.  I admit that I let him in a few times.  I let him tell me that I wasn't important enough, good enough, worthy enough, young enough, pretty enough, healthy enough, wealthy enough, smart enough, funny enough.......and you know what???...He was right!!!  I am NOTHING without Christ!!!  I also know that I don't have to be anything to anyone else because I'm already significant in God's eyes.

I may have encountered some losses, but in the end I believe that the Lord will use it for my good and His good.  Even though I still miss the things I've lost, He's the only One that can truly satisfy my soul.  He's more than enough for me!  Just like the disciples, all I need to do is follow Him!  He'll take care of the rest!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Last "First"



Today was a very special day in our house.   For the past several days we've been anticipating this very night.  Her tooth had been wiggly for almost 2 weeks, but this morning when she woke up it was only dangling by a thread.  I touched the tooth to see how loose it was and without any help from me it fell into my hand.  Emalee squealed with delight because this would be the night that the Tooth Fairy would finally visit!  
In an attempt to get Emalee to clean the toys off of her bedroom floor I said, "Emalee, before you go to bed tonight you need to pick the toys up off your floor and put them away so that the Tooth Fairy doesn't trip on them."  Without hesitation my bright little five year old stated very matter-of-factly, "No I don't need too.  She has wings.  She'll fly over them!"  I couldn't argue with that!  However, she still cleaned her room for tonight's guest of honor!  
I suppose that I've become a bit nostalgic the last few weeks.  You see, my baby is starting Kindergarten, my middle child is in middle school and my oldest has been driving for almost a year already.  Time keeps ticking by and somehow my babies are growing up!  When I first became a mother almost 17 years ago I had a hard time imagining the future, but somehow the future is this present day.  Tonight will be the last "first" visit that the Tooth Fairy makes to our home.  It kind of makes me sad.  
As I reminisced today, I recalled a poem that one of my friends shared with me last year.  I thought I'd share it on the blog today.  
We said our night time prayers and now Emalee is tucked in bed with her special Tooth Fairy pillow that her grandma made for her.  The tooth is tucked inside the pocket and the Tooth Fairy is just waiting for one excited little girl to drift off to sleep so she can exchange the tooth for some money.  Tomorrow will be a new day for new memories to be made.


"Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts.
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst. 
But one day you will move away and leave to me your past,
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts.

The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips...
Last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip...
Last time when you had a binky stuck inside your mouth...
The last time that you crawled across the floor of this old house. 

Last time when you ran to me, still small enough to hold,
Last time when you said you'd marry me when you grew old.
Precious, simple moments and bright flashes from the past,
Would I have held you longer if I'd known they were the last? 

Your last few hours of kindergarten, last days of first grade...
Last at bat in Little League, last colored paper made.. 
Last time that I tucked you in for one last midday nap...
Last time when you wore your beat-up Green Bay Packers cap. 

Last time you caught a frog in that old backyard pond...
Last time when you ran barefoot across our fresh-cut lawn,
Silly scattered images to represent your past. 
Would I have taken pictures...if I'd known they were the last? 

The last dark night you slipped in bed and slept between us two,
When last I read to you of God or Horton Hears a Who!
Last time that I smelled your hair and prayed after your shower...
Last time that we held devotions in the evening hours. 

The last time you were M.J. in our games of give-and-go...
Last time that you made an angel in the melting snow.
I never even said good-bye to yesterdays long passed. 
Would I have marked the moments...if I'd known they were the last? 

Last piano lesson, and last soccer goal you kicked...
The last few weeks of middle school, last flowers that you picked.
Last time that you needed me for rides from here to there...
The last time that you spent the night with that old tattered bear.

Last time that I helped you with a math or spelling test,
Last time when I shouted your room was a mess. 
Time and life moved quicker, taking pieces of your past.
Would I have stretched the moments...if I'd known they were the last? 

The last time that you needed help with details of a dance...
Last time that you asked me for advice about romance. 
Last time that you talked to me about your hopes and dreams.
Last time that you wore a jersey for your high school team. 

I watched you grow and never noticed seasons as they passed.
I wish I could've frozen time, to hold on to your lasts.
For come tomorrow morning life will never be the same. 
You'll pledge forever to your girl, and she will take your name.

And I will watch you, knowing God has blessed you with this day.
I never would have wanted, Luke, to somehow make you stay. 
They say a son's a son until he takes for him a wife.
You're grown-up now;  it's time to go and start your brand new life. 

One last hug, one last good-bye, one quick and hurried kiss...
One last time to understand just how much you'll be missed. 
I'll watch you leave and think how quickly childhood sped past.
Would I have held on longer....if I'd known it was your last?" 

Poem was quoted from the book, "Rejoice", by Karen Kingsbury.  Pages 209-210.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Pursuit Of My Heart

It's been a long time since I've posted anything on this blog. Not long ago a friend of mine asked me if I was blogging anymore. That was a good and fair question to ask. I took a break. A much needed break from blogging. It's been good. It gave me time to clear my head and time to refocus.

 This past year has been tough. I'll not share the details, but the Lord has been working on me through it and showing me some things about myself that I didn't know we're there. Some of it was good and some of it was ugly. Let me just say that the ugly wasn't very easy to take in or deal with, so it's taken a lot of time to deal with and process it all.

 I'm so very grateful to serve a God that loves me so much that He shows me the ugly. I'm so very blessed that He sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within me to whisper in my ear the hard things, convicting me until I fall to my knees in repentance. I'm so very undeserving of a Father that loves me just as I am! There's no telling what shape this blog will take in the future, but I do know that I'm being shaped and conformed more into my Savior's image, so don't be surprised to read more about Him here. :)

On that note....
My firstborn, 16 year old, David, left early this morning for his first international mission trip.  He was so excited to go.  He'll be in the Dominican Republic for 9 days working in a school.  He'll be painting the school, going door to door in the area and working a VBS for a few days.  He'll get one leisure day where the team that he's with will get to go to the beach and do some shopping.  He asked for some words of wisdom late last night from me and my husband.  After thinking back to my first international mission trip I reminded him that the trip wasn't about him, but about the people he was going to serve.  I assured him that if he went with a mindset to truly serve others with the love of Christ, that the Lord in return would certainly teach him great things as well.  The things I learned on my first international mission trip still yield fruit in my life today.  I pray that this is the case with David as well as the rest of the team.

I'll leave with a prayer.  I was touched by it as it's so similar to what I wrote above (only much more eloquent) and where the Lord has been dealing with me.  A huge THANK YOU to my friend, "Cat", for posting this personal prayer on facebook for me to see, copy and paste!  :)

Lord, when I get distracted, when I get overwhelmed, when I get lured away, when I hide... I thank You for continuing to pursue my heart, to win it, to make it Your own. Thank You for surprising me with Your mercy. Thank You for whispering Your love in my ear, humming Your grace in my heart, and waiting for me in the secret places day after day after day after day after day after day.......




Monday, April 23, 2012

Setting Boundaries...Follow Up



Not too long ago I asked for advice on my facebook page about boundaries.  I got some good feedback on the page and then some feedback that was messaged privately to me.  It seems to me that this is not an uncommon issue and something that all of us at some point deal with.  I decided to share a little bit about what sparked that topic in the first place and how I've decided to deal with it.

A few weeks ago, someone in my life purposely encroached, yet again, on my personal boundaries in hopes of getting a response out of me.  This was not the first time this had happened.  In fact, this was just one of many, many times this has happened.  Because of the position this person holds in my life I've done my best to respectfully deal with or ignore these attempts of hurting me over the years.  I thought that this was the right thing to do...the Christian thing to do.  Another thing...I've never purposefully or intentionally, hurt this person back.  I always had hopes that the attacks that they have thrown at me would one day, eventually stop.

Well, I came the the realization a few weeks ago that the attacks will never stop no matter how much I walk on egg shells!  Within a span of 2 weeks I was wrongfully attacked (that's the word I call it) by this person a total of 6 times!  I did not respond to any attack as I felt that any response I gave them would give them more ammunition in their quest to hurt me.

I've prayed, I've cried, I've sought the Lord on this matter.  I even asked my readers how they handle boundaries.  Well, after evaluating the situation and how it's gone unchanged for nearly 2 decades of my life, I decided that I needed to do something drastic.  I felt a peace about this from the Lord.  He showed me that I CAN NOT change the person that does this to me, but that I can change the way I respond. I CAN CHANGE ME!

So, after several days of praying, thinking and seeking wise counsel, my husband and I decided to set up boundaries with this person.  It's been extremely difficult and something we never dreamed we would have to do.  It has not only affected us and the offender, but other people that we all interact with.  In some cases it's been downright uncomfortable and awkward.  Our hopes are that this person will maybe one day realize that they can no longer use me for their personal dart board when they are upset, scared, angry, feel rejected, feel unloved and/or whatever other feelings they have as a result of whatever it is that sparks these internal rages within them.

I'm writing this because I've learned a lot about myself during this process. Early on in this relationship I didn't voice my opinion nearly enough, I didn't voice my hurts, likes, dislikes and complied in order to keep peace  I also didn't tell this person that the things they say to me and about me to other people hurt me.  In essence, I TAUGHT this person that it was okay to abuse me in this way.  Yes, you read that right.  I take full responsibility in that area.  When I came to the realization that I was responsible for the way I reacted to their behavior I decided to no longer live under their manipulative, controlling, passive-aggressive, sporadic behavior any longer and I chose to scale way back on our relationship.

This has been heart breaking to me.  I love this person very much and I'm deeply saddened that things have come to this point, but for my own sense of well being I did what needed to be done.  In my heart of hearts I desire to have a good relationship with this person and I will continue to pray that they seek treatment, and accept help for their mental illness so that reconciliation can happen.

I normally don't recommend psychological help websites here on my blog, but I found this one to be extremely helpful for me to understand exactly what I have been up against.  I'm posting it here in case it might help someone else that reads this.  www.bpdcentral.com

If you read this far, thank you for letting me share a little bit of my world with you.  Feel free to comment, but please note that comments that mention specific names of people and comments that are mean or rude will be deleted.

~Heather

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Emalee's 5th Gotcha Day!




5th Gotcha Day  3/27/12
Boy does time fly!  I knew this day was approaching, but all of the sudden it's here...Emalee's 5th Gotcha Day!  I've posted photo's of all her Gotcha Day's so far except her fourth one.  She was sick last year on that day.  I did snap a photo of her a few days later, but can't seem to find it right now.  I'll post it later!  Interestingly enough, she's sick this year too, but I at least got her to pose for a photo.  She even let me do her hair before taking it!  :)

I was reminded today how thankful we are for the opportunity to "live life" with our children today.  Each day is precious and should not be taken for granted.  For some reason the Lord saw fit to give us fragile pregnancies.  I miscarried our first baby at 12 weeks.  I went into labor with David at 24 weeks gestation, remained on bed rest with him until he was born at 37 1/2 weeks.  Jacob was almost the same story, except bed rest started at 30 weeks and he was born at 32 weeks.  Both boys were NICU babies.  Emalee's paper pregnancy was supposed to last 6-10 months and instead took 2 1/2 years!
Those days were hard, but I wouldn't trade them for the world!  The days of worrying and waiting led me to more praying and relying on the Lord to take care of and hold my babies when I couldn't.

I just want to say again how grateful I am for the brave woman that made a decision to not only carry Emalee, but chose adoption!  She is held high in my heart, she is one of my hero's.  I pray for you and only hope that one day you'll get to meet and hold the little girl we both call "daughter."  Thank you for the sacrifice you made so that I could be her Mommy.











Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday's Menu: Week 3 of Eating From the Pantry

Hey, Good Lookin' Recipe Box

This will be our third and final week of eating from the pantry/freezer.  It's been fun doing this and seeing how much money we've saved by using what we already have.  We were able to cut our grocery budget by over half of what we normally spend!

This week the only things I need to purchase to complete our menu is as follows:
2 lbs cheese...mozzarella and cheddar
Hamburger buns
Parmesan cheese
All-purpose flour
Spinach
Ham (some for of fashion of it)
Fruit (whatever is on sale that we like)
I also heard of a sale on corned beef in my area so I may grab one of those.

Monday:
French's Crunchy Onion Chicken
Roasted Asparagus
Rice

Tuesday:
Homemade Pizza
Corn
Salad

Wednesday:
Pork Roast
Potatoes/gravy
Salad

Thursday:
Turkey Burgers
Noodles
Salad

Friday:
Quiche w/ham in it
Biscuits & gravy
Fresh fruit

Saturday:
Black eyed peas and ham
Cornbread
Spinach

Sunday:
Leftovers


Desserts/Snacks:
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Apple sauce
Tomatoes 
Celery sticks
Boiled eggs
Fruit


Breakfast:
Cereal
Toast with Strawberry jam
Eggs
Oatmeal

Lunch:
PBJ sandwiches
Lunchmeat sandwiches
Leftovers
Ravioli

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One Sweet Potato Pie going in the oven and one already out!


Boy did I mess up today!  I was making a sweet potato pie and mixed up my crust.  Unfortunately, I misread the directions and used 1 cup of shortening instead of 1/3 cup!  I eventually figured out where my mistake was made.  There was no other option than to add more ingredients to make more crusts or throw it out.  I'm not a "throw it out" kind of gal as that wouldn't be frugal.  So, I've spent the entire day in the kitchen.  Not exactly what I planned for today, but fortunately, I had the time to go ahead and bake.

I thought I'd make three pies since I tripled the crust recipe, but only made two and just made my bottom crusts thicker than normal.  While the kitchen was already messy I went ahead and made 3 dozen banana bread muffins.  I'm thinking that I'm gonna have some very happy boys in this house tonight!  :-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Simple "Thanks!"

Six years ago I was driving down one of the roads I travel frequently in our neighborhood heading home from shopping with my son, Jacob.  He was 7 years old at the time.  As we approached an oncoming intersection we witnessed a terrible accident.  One car ran the stop sign at full speed and T-boned another car at full force.  They were both going around 30-40 miles per hour.  Both cars briefly flew up in the air and made an awful noise somewhat like an explosion!

I was terrified!  We were the only other car on the road at the time.  I knew that I had to act.  I instructed Jacob to stay in the car until I came back.  I told him that I MUST check on the people and make sure they are okay.  Honestly, the accident was so bad, I truly didn't know what I was dealing with.  I was expecting a fatality.  My heart was pounding.  As soon as I opened my door I heard screaming coming from one of the cars.  At that moment I was just thankful that someone had survived and was alive.

I ran to the car closest to me.  As I started to look around to check for injuries I first came upon a little girl.  She was in a car seat and I guessed her to be around 4 years old.  She was sitting right where the other car struck and she received the majority of injuries.  Her face was covered in blood and broken glass.  She was having a hard time breathing.  I was guessing that her nose was broken.  Her window was broken out and most of the glass went right in her face.  I couldn't make out her face from all the blood.  She was crying.  Both of her parents were in the car.  Her dad was able to get out and was in quite the panic just yelling and screaming.  A man that lived in the neighborhood came out of his house and were trying to deal with him.  The mom was not doing so well.  I went to her side of the car.  Her leg was pinned in, she had visible injuries from the impact and then I looked down to see that she was about 7 months pregnant!  There was nothing I could do, but wait for an ambulance to arrive.  I held the mom's hand, tried to keep her calm and prayed over her.  The driver of the other car was able to get out and walk, more neighbors were helping him, so I knew he was fine.

I stayed long enough to see the Jaws Of Life cut open the little girls door so they could get her out and loaded into the ambulance.  I made sure that everyone was taken care of before I left.  I drove home in a daze.  I thought about these people and wondered about them for a long time.  My husband was telling the story of what happened to a co-worker a few weeks after the accident and his co-worker happened to know the family.  At some point he must have told them my name.  I was just glad to hear from him that everyone survived and was fine.

Well, yesterday, six years after the accident I received the following private message via Facebook:

Hi Heather! 6 years ago, you stayed with me and kept me calm after we were in a car accident. I have wanted to say thank you many times, and just didn't for some reason, so I am doing it now! You have no idea how much it means to me that you would do that for a total stranger! ~Melissa

I was so surprised and so glad to hear from the mother that was involved in this accident!  It got me to thinking...How many times we miss the opportunity to say a simple "thank you" to those that have touched our lives.  (Now, before you think I'm judging this lady, I'm not.  I never expected to hear from her again.  It's not like I gave her my name and number at the scene of the accident so that she could call and thank me some day!)

The word, THANKS, appears 73 times in the King James version of the Bible.  That's not including the words Thankful, Thankfulness, Thanksgiving, or other words such as Grateful, Gratitude, etc.  I'm pretty certain the Lord wanted us to have a thankful heart and to be thankful people.  

I know that I fail miserably at this sometimes.  I take many of my gifts and circumstances for granted without uttering a "thank you" to whom the "thank you" is due...be it God or man.

So, I'm glad that Melissa wrote me yesterday....no, I'm thankful that she wrote me.  It's given me something to chew on the next few days as I deliberately work on having a thankful heart.

1 Chronicles 16:34
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Monday's Menu: Week 2 of Eating From The Pantry

Hey, Good Lookin' Recipe Box
I wasn't sure if I could pull off another week of eating from the pantry, but after going through my freezer, pantry I'm always amazed by how much food I have.  Also, we ate leftovers more than once last week, so I was able to stretch my menu into this week!  So, here's the plan is for this week:

Monday:
Turkey Burgers, topped with fresh Avocado's (something else to do with those .19 cent avocado's Aldi has on sale right now.)  By the way, I found THIS recipe that I might try some day too!
Broccoli & Cheese Rice
Salad

Tuesday:
Hamburger Soup (didn't make this last week)
Cornbread
Salad

Wednesday:
French's Crunchy Onion Chicken
Flavored Noodles
Salad

Thursday:
Chicken Spaghetti
Guacamole Dip & chips

Friday:
Salisbury Steak
Mashed potatoes/gravy
Frozen Green beans sauteed w/Onions and Brown Sugar

Saturday and Sunday:
Leftovers


Desserts/Snacks:
Sweet Potato Pie (made like Pumpkin Pie, but with sweet potatoes instead (boiled and pureed)
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Apple sauce
Clementines
Tomatoes 
Celery sticks
Carrots
Boiled eggs


Breakfast:
Cereal
Toast with Strawberry jam
Eggs
Leftover pancakes
Oatmeal

Lunch:
PBJ sandwiches
Lunchmeat sandwiches
Leftovers
Ravioli

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday's Menu: Eating From The Pantry

Hey, Good Lookin' Recipe Box

We'll be eating from the pantry/freezer this week at my house.  This is something I try to do once every few months to make sure that nothing  is forgotten about, thrown out and wasted.  It's also a very easy way to save money.

There are many ways to be a good steward of our finances.  Eating from the pantry is just one of the many ways that we can do that.  I'm always amazed at how many meals I can make just by using what I have on hand.  Sometimes I have to get pretty creative, especially if I decide to eat from the pantry for an extended period of time, like a month or more, but it can also be very fun and rewarding in the end.

We have a weekly budget for groceries, so when we eat from the pantry that is just money we don't spend.  It can go toward something we're saving for, something we need, or we can choose to be givers of what we saved.  It's always fun to decide what to do with it.

Now, when I say we eat from the pantry that doesn't mean that we starve to death!  I  normally have plenty of staples such as rice, pasta and meat in my freezer.  Also, I will still shop during that week.  I generally make my menu up and see what I still need.  For example, I made up my menu for this week and saw that I still needed to buy milk, eggs, bananas and I need some bleach (no, not for eating, but cleaning my sink).  So, I'll go out today and get those things and then I WILL NOT enter a grocery store again until next week.

When we eat from the pantry the menu isn't always the greatest, but I don't think mine looks too shabby for this week.  However, if I were to continue this next week the meals would probably start looking a little more creative!  ;)

Here's what's on the menu:

Desserts/Snacks:
Texas Brownies (for company on Monday)
Banana Bread
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Breakfast:
Cereal
Toast with Strawberry jam
Eggs
Leftover pancakes
Oatmeal

Lunch:
PBJ sandwiches
Lunchmeat sandwiches
Leftovers
Ravioli

Dinners:


Monday~
Slow Cooked Pepper Steak (I'm using ground round instead of steak)
Rice
Salad

Tuesday~
Salisbury Steak (this isn't exactly what I do, but very similar)
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Baked Asparagus
Homemade bread

Wednesday~
Chili Mac
Corn
Deviled Eggs

Thursday~
Chicken 'n Dumplings (I don't have a recipe as I just make mine from scratch. This link is very similar to mine except I leave the veggies in!)
Bread
Fresh Fruit

Friday~
Leftovers

Saturday~
Hamburger Soup
Cornbread
Salad

Sunday~
A good friend of mine has Cereal Night at their house on Sunday's.  I've tried, but that isn't working at my house.  However, last night my family had "fend for yourself" night and it worked pretty well.  Basically, it was a compilation of whatever they could find in the fridge that was leftover from the week.  No one complained and everyone ate just fine.  They also had the choice of eating breakfast food.  We had leftover soup, pancakes, Tater Tot casserole and salad so as you can see nobody starved to death!  ;)  I'm going to try this again next Sunday! ;)  We usually have our bigger meal at lunch time and I haven't planned that out yet!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's Back: True Moment Tuesdays





True Moment Tuesday's has been MIA over the last several weeks while I've sat back and took a break from blogging.  Today it's back!  
What is TMT?  
Well, basically it's anything random that I want to share that's happened within the previous week of the post.  I want to capture those every day things that happen in life and not take them for granted.  I'll try hard to keep things on the positive side, but don't be surprised if I share a struggle or two, or three, etc, etc.  If there's an appropriate photo I'll post that too!  That's what it's about...the True Moments...the real me.


Why is it that kids say the funniest things in the car?  We've had our fair share of funny car moments so I thought I'd share a couple of them.  




Several years ago, my then 4 year old son, Jacob, was being babysat by a friend of mine.  My friend picked him up from preschool while I was at an appointment.  His preschool is just down the street from a graveyard.  During previous rides to preschool Jacob and I had talked about the graveyard.  He was very interested in the graves, people dying and often asked what happened to the bodies.  I wanted Jacob to understand that when we die our bodies stay in the ground, but our souls are eternal and if we're a Christian, go to be with God.  
Well, as my friend was rounding the corner by the graveyard with Jacob in tow, she heard from the backseat of the car, "Hey, do you know what that place is?  It's where they bury your skin!"  :)




Here's another funny thing that my 5 year old, Emalee, said just last week:
We were driving to church last Wednesday night.  As my husband drove I was talking to Emalee telling her that she would be going to AWANA.  Somewhere in the last several weeks Emalee has learned the phrase, "No way, Jose`" and we've been trying to teach her not to say that.  So when I told her she would be going to AWANA she said, "No way, Jose`!" (insert her giggles as she knows she's not supposed to say that)  I said, "Emalee, my name is not Jose`...I've told you that several times."  There was a brief pause as she thought about what to say next.  Then I heard (giggles included), "No way Ho!"  We all busted up laughing and she laughed too although she didn't know why it was so funny!  I told her she can call me "Jose`" if she wanted too!  :)




All kids say funny things.  Do you have anything funny you'd like to share?  Leave a comment here on the blog or over on the Facebook page and share it with the rest of us! 


Have a great Valentine's Day everyone!


~Heather

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From the Archives: Celebrating Valentine's Day Without Breaking The Bank









I've been working on compiling a list of ideas to celebrate Valentine's Day without breaking the bank.  Times are tough in our economy today and the retail market does a great job to make us feel like we're missing out on Valentine's Day if we don't celebrate it the way that they market it.  I'm not saying that it's bad or wrong to buy a dozen roses, box of chocolates or even go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner.  However, if that's not in your budget I would suggest that you talk with your spouse (or significant other) and discuss what expectations you have for Valentine's Day.  Then agree on something and stick to it.

The following is a list of things I thought of to celebrate Valentine's Day simply.  Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other ideas.


  • Take a walk downtown and browse the shops together.
  • Stroll around some thrift stores or flea markets together.
  • Have a date night at home after the kids go to bed.  Watch a movie, pop some popcorn and cuddle up on the couch!  
  • Write love letters to each other.
  • Make Valentine's Day coupons (couldn't leave that one out could I?) for each other.  You can get creative with this one...one back rub, one night out w/the girls, I'll mow the lawn, car wash, etc.  I found some pre-made HERE, HERE and HERE.
  • Play games at home together...cards, monopoly, etc.  Invite the kids too if you want!
  • After the kids go to bed put on some of your favorite music and dance together.
  • Make a Valentine breakfast for your spouse.  Don't forget to make heart shaped pancakes!
  • Put a note or gift in your husband's (or wife's) lunch box on Valentine's Day morning.
  • Make a book reflecting on special memories that you've made through the years.
  • Draw a heart on the bathroom mirror for your spouse to see when the get home from work.
  • Make a sweet dessert to share w/each other.
  • Know your spouses love language...my husband's is Acts of Service.  Do something for him that focuses on that the rest of the day.
  • Give each other a massage at the end of the day.
  • Make a special dinner to share together after the kids go to bed. (Feed the kids beforehand!) 

CVS: Updated Coupon Policy




The CVS Corporate Coupon Policy has been updated.
The biggest change is the verbiage regarding Buy One, Get One FREE sales and coupons.
Two coupons may be used on a Buy One, Get One Free promotion as long as it does not exceed the item total.
Ex. Suave Shampoo is on sale for $2.00 Buy One, Get One Free and the customer is purchasing two shampoos; customer may use two coupons for $1.00 each and pay the applicable tax.
Buy One, Get One Free promotions may be combined with Buy One, Get One Free Coupons. Customers are responsible for paying applicable tax.
Ex. Suave Shampoo is on sale for $2.00 BOGO and customer has a MFG coupon for Suave BOGO. Customer will receive both items for free but will need to pay any applicable tax.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Prone To Wander

prone to wander
Photo credit




Most mornings I wake up and within minutes, sometimes seconds, I usually have a song in my heart that I start humming.  This morning I woke up humming the tune to an old hymn that I love.  It kind of summed up how I spent a good portion of my weekend.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above."

Saturday morning I was challenged, yet again, to take time to read and fill out a Spiritual Evaluation Form.  It had challenging questions where I had to rate myself from 1-10 (1=never and 10= all the time).  Here's an example of some of those questions:


  • I pray daily for an increase of love in my heart, soul and mind for God.
  • I am aware of and guard against my self-centeredness and the trust I place in myself.
  • I live the life of a servant.

After taking the time to truly look deep within at myself by rating each one of the several questions honestly,  I came to the conclusion that I can not do all these things and will never be able to measure up to this standard!  It was right then in the midst of that thought that the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I was right.  It's not possible for me to do all of this.  There's no way that I, in and of myself, can live a righteous life on my own.  My sinful nature is one that is "prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love."  He reminded me that it is in Christ and Christ alone that I have become righteous.  This brought me to a place of brokenness and repentance before the Lord.  How thankful I am that my God is a God of forgiveness, compassion and restoration.  How great is our God!  "Rejoice in His Salvation!" Psalm 35:9


Note:  One of the best spiritual evaluation forms I've ever read and done myself is located right HERE.  If you are a Christian (and even if you're not) I challenge you to print out this form and go through it with an honest, open heart.  You'll be amazed at what the Lord reveals to you as you work through it!
Also, there are many other evaluation forms (Potential Pitfalls, Heart Attitudes, Marriage, etc.) located right HERE.  

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit, Till released from flesh and sin, Yet from what I do inherit, Here Thy praises I’ll begin; Here I raise my Ebenezer; Here by Thy great help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood; How His kindness yet pursues me Mortal tongue can never tell, Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face; Clothed then in blood washed linen How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace; Come, my Lord, no longer tarry, Take my ransomed soul away; Send thine angels now to carry Me to realms of endless day.



Monday, January 30, 2012

Becoming Debt Free...NO MORE CREDIT CARDS!!!




I was hoping to wrap up this series in 2011, but that just didn't happen!  However, I am able to wrap it up now!  If you hung in there and read all the posts in this series you understand just how long it's taken us to get to this point.

I'm happy to announce that as of this week we are paying off all of our debt except the mortgage!!! WooHoooo!!!  That means anything on credit will be paid in full!!!  I would love to throw out numerical figures for all of you too see, but after speaking with my husband he really didn't want the entire world knowing all of our business.  He's okay with me sharing our story, just not every aspect of it.  ;)

So, that being said....It was around this time last year when I got a message from a friend of mine.  We had both adopted children internationally a few years prior and she was informing me of a change the IRS made to the Adoption Tax Credit.  Here's a portion of what she wrote:
First of all, have you heard that it's refundable for the first time this year? Read this article and start planning your trip to Disneyworld! 

The "article" she referred to is found right HERE.

As you can all imagine, I was beyond thrilled once I understood what this meant for our family.  And the fact that this was retroactive back to 2005 meant that our adoption of Emalee was included in this change!

For the first time since we've been married I decided to have a CPA do our taxes.  We had to amend 2 prior years and then file for 2010 as well.  We got them mailed in April of last year and couldn't wait to get our return!

We didn't hear anything from the IRS until August when we got a letter stating that they were requesting more information about our adoption and we needed to send them "proof" of our adoption (which we did in April).  So, I made copies of everything (again) and sent it in.

We waited, and waited and waited some more....I grew impatient.  Very, very impatient!!!  I continued to get letters from the IRS.  In fact, I got a letter EVERY MONTH of 2011 that either said they were still working on our case, or that they needed more "proof" of Emalee's adoption.  I sent "proof" of Emalee's adoption to the IRS FOUR times!

This entire process has been a mess from the beginning.  The IRS was NOT ready for how many people would take them up on this new Adoption Tax Refund.  They were not prepared, didn't have enough staff to review the cases and on top of that had to make sure that the people who applied weren't committing tax fraud (which is on reason we had to send so much proof).

After a few months went by I applied for a Tax Advocate in November.  I heard from my Tax Advocate in December and she assured me that they were working on our case and that I would hear from her again in January.  Hmmm...I wasn't sure if I believed her at that point.
In fact, by the end of 2011 I figured that if we were going to get the return it would come, and if not...well, we'd just have to swallow that!

Last week, my Tax Advocate called to in form us that our case was finally approved!  She told us the amount of the refund and the mail out date.  I am so very happy to have this all over with!

Now, to the fun part of this story....

This was something Brian and I never planned on.  We knew back in 2007 when we adopted Emalee that there was an Adoption Tax Credit.  However, we didn't qualify for it due to the income guidelines.  We knew that the Lord wanted us to adopt Emalee, so not getting a tax credit wasn't going to stop us from adopting her.  You might recall in a previous post  that I shared a few ways that God was providing financially for this adoption.  He assured us that if we were to obey Him that He would provide.  It seriously was a  HUGE leap of faith on our part, because we knew that we didn't have the finances to see this adoption through.  But, God saw the bigger picture! (I think we forget that sometimes!)  ;)

Half of the amount we needed to adopt Emalee was provided by our church, family, friends and a couple of adoption grants.  The other half was on us!  We borrowed the money (something I still wouldn't recommend!) and just planned on paying it over the course of the next several years.  That was all fine and dandy until my health went South on me!  We started accumulating medical bills and found ourselves in a huge financial mess!

With a lot of hard work by cutting costs and saving every little bit we could,  we were able to pay off half of what we owed last year. When we saw how much we would be getting back on the Adoption Tax Refund we knew there was a great possibility of paying off all of our credit debt in full with it...and that's exactly what we've been able to do!

It feels so good to be out of bondage to the credit companies.  I can't tell you how much pressure is off our shoulders.   I can even physically see the change in my husband.  It makes me feel all the more happy about this situation just to know that he doesn't have to worry so much about providing.  By the way...he's an awesome provider for our family.  I couldn't have married a harder working man and am so grateful that the Lord put us together!  (Just an extra .02 cents from me!)

I don't want to wrap up this post without acknowledging that we believe this was definitely an act of God.  We don't know why he chose to bless us in this way.  All we can do is thank Him and do our best to never get in a situation like this again.  We've vowed to NEVER put medical bills on our credit cards again!  We will NOT be using our credit cards again either!  We are thrilled to finally be in a position where we can give more and save more.  We thank the Lord for providing for us in a way that we would have never imagined!  We're excited to see what the future holds!



If you haven't had a chance to read the many posts that I've written in this series you can find them all right HERE.



Monday, January 16, 2012

One Foot In Front of the Other

Photo Credit



I did it!  I finally did it!  I know that for some of you what I'm about to announce that I accomplished this morning isn't on a grand scheme, but it is for me....

I finally took a walk this morning!!!  It was glorious!!!  I got up, took Emalee to preschool, smelled the fresh air (we're having unseasonably warm weather in the Ozarks) and decided that today would be the day.  The day to get out of my horrible, awful morning routine and get outside and walk.

You see, it's really not my goal in life to sit and do nothing.  Okay, that might be a bit exaggerated,  I do things, but I certainly don't do everything that I used to do.  A few years ago I was walking every day.  However, I have this ugly disease that sucks bits and pieces of my every day pleasures away from me.  The ability to walk and exercise has been one of those things that it's taken.

This morning I made a decision to take that part of me back!  So, I put on my comfy clothes, laced up my tennis shoes, went outside and put one foot in front of the other.  It wasn't a very long walk...I didn't come close to a 5K, but it sure was nice to smell the fresh air and do some talking with my Savior.

One of my goals for this year is to get more exercise in.  This morning was a great day to start that goal!

What are some goals you have this year?  How are you doing at accomplishing those so far?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: The Money Saving Mom's Budget



In November, of 2011 I was delighted to find out that I was one of 200 bloggers chosen to receive a preview edition of The Money Saving Mom's Budget, written by one of my favorite bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom.  I have scoured the pages of this book over the last several weeks and am delighted to say that this book does not disappoint.

I've been a fan of Crystal's blog for awhile now and love her tender, humble spirit.  Yet, she has a determination with a bit a spunk!  Her personality shines in her book!

The first few chapters are my favorite part of the book (although the entire book is a wonderful read).  She writes of the importance of setting goals, but what I like most is how she teaches us step by step how to get there.  The first chapter is appropriately titled "If you don't know where you're going, any train will get you there."  The second chapter is all about clutter and chaos.  She shows us the importance of streamlining these and eliminating them from our lives.  She teaches about time management and organization and how these two things have an impact on our budget.

Did I say budget?  Oh yes, she went in depth on the importance of having a budget.   This is something that I'm personally passionate about as my husband and I struggled with this for many years.  I love this paragraph in chapter 3:

The point is to make a budget that works for you and then to work the budget.  The best of intentions won't get you anywhere unless you also have follow-through.  You can have the most beautifully laid out budget in the world, but if you don't use it, nothing will change. 

There are a lot of worksheets provided in the back of the book for budgeting, goal setting, time management and a grocery price book.  There are also several helpful websites listed throughout the book and helpful advice on having a successful garage sale, how to plan a vacation on a budget, how to save money on contacts, how to dress your children for free...and many more ideas!

The best part about this book....Crystal and her husband Jesse are graciously offing every single penny made on this book to support  Compassion International- an organization that helps to feed and clothe needy children around the world.


I wanted to pause here and just give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to Crystal for writing this book.  I love that it's written in a format where everyday, ordinary people can pick it up and understand it.  I love her passion for helping people get on the right track toward not only financial freedom, but also personal contentment no matter what their income.  I also love that she has a passion to reach out beyond her blog readers to meet the physical needs of children around the world.  Thank you, Crystal, for going out of your comfort zone on this project!  


Guess what I'm most excited about?  I get to give one of you a FREE copy of Crystal's book!  The first one of you that post on my facebook wall will be the lucky winner!  I'll contact you after you post!  Good luck!  Update:  This giveaway is now expired!


Remember, you can always purchase a copy of Crystal's book right HERE.  It was released yesterday nationwide.  Watch Crystal's excitement about its release right HERE.



 I was not paid to write this review other than receiving a free copy of the book. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Goals

I've been thinking about some of the goals I have for 2012.  I don't really make "resolutions" as I feel that I just set myself up for failure if I don't complete one of those tasks.  Here are just a few of my 2012 goals....I'll add to this list later as I come up with more!

Books to Read:


Nobody has encouraged me to read books more than Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom.  Although I don't know her personally, I love reading her blog as it's uplifting and encouraging to me.  Over the last few years of reading MSM I've been intrigued as I've watched Crystal devour several books in a year.  I never thought I had much time to read, but this year I'm making a plan and sticking to it.  I'm starting slow with a goal of one book per month.  I'm also reading the Bible in a year and will be reading several books aloud to my daughter as well along with whatever Bible study I will be in.
The following are the 12 books I've picked to read this year.

1.  Radical
2.  The Money Saving Mom's Budget (with a book review on this blog coming soon!)
3.  Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day
4.  Sweet Deception
5.  I Kissed Dating Goodbye
6.  Do Hard Things
7.  Kisses From Katie
8.  Crazy Love
9.  What He Must Be If He Wants To Marry My Daughter
10.  A Mother's Heart
11.  Parenting With Love & Logic
12.  Have A New You By Friday


Health/Fitness:


1.  Exercise:  This is one goal I can honestly say that I'm not thrilled about.  I do NOT like to exercise...and with my HES it's even harder for me to accomplish such a daunting task.  There are days that I can barely get out of bed in the morning, days that I'm not breathing well and days that my pulse is wacky.  However, I'm hoping that if I add just a touch of exercise to my lifestyle, maybe...just maybe I'll be able to build up to being more consistent in this area.....and maybe some of my HES symptoms will improve.  Only time will tell!  So, about a month ago a neighbor of mine was getting rid of her treadmill and called asking if I wanted it.  I almost said, no, but somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I needed to try.  So I'll gradually start walking and and see what happens!
2.  Drink more water and cut out more soda!
3.  Make and eat more whole foods for my family and work on cutting out all the "extra's" that we find in processed foods.  This will be a hard one as my family usually resists this type of change, but I think if I take it slowly they'll adjust.


Tackle the Clutter!


I'll continue to tackle the clutter in my home and get more organized.  This seems to be an on-going battle of mine and although my home isn't a disastrous mess it has its quirks and crannies that I need to overcome.  This year I'm finding Get Organized Wizard  to be helpful to read through.

1.  Clean out the storage room.  Collect things that need to go on Craigslist and get them listed and sold!
2.  I would love to have an area in my home designated for a craft work space.  From time to time I like to make things and it irritates me to no end that I have to drag everything out and then put it all back up. I'm hoping that once the storage room is clean I can make myself a craft corner in there!  :)
3.  Finish painting the basement.
4.   Implement this rule:  If something new enters the house, something old must leave the house!  This works well with almost anything, but especially toys and clothing.
5.  Go through all books I own that I have already read and take them to the book store to trade in for more books or cash.
6.  Go through the file cabinet (I'm really dreading this one) and burn all papers that don't matter anymore.  Set up new files for papers that do matter.
7.  Set up a daily time management system.


Financial:

We're hoping to become debt free in the next few months (other than the mortgage).  It's taken longer than expected due to unforeseen circumstances.  Once we accomplish that task we'll need to sit down and work on our other financial goals...
Just in case you're wondering we're using the Financial Peace University plan.


Spiritual:


1.  Continue being involved in my local church,  continue participating in my monthly mentoring group and monthly fellowship group.
2.  Seek out new guests that attend our church and invite them over for dinner and games.
3.  Write encouraging notes/cards to the sick and home bound in our church.
4.  Continue tithing 10% of our income to our local church.
5.  Once out of debt give above our tithe to other ministries that we support.
6.  Once Emalee's schooling schedule allows get back into my weekly Bible study group.
7.  Attend True Woman 2012!  (I'm so excited about this since TW 2010 was so much fun!)


Marriage:

1.  Go on at least one date per month.
2.  Pray for my husband daily.
3.  Save money to go on a marriage retreat weekend.


Children/Family:


1.  Continue to encourage both boys to live a life of purity.  Come along side them in this goal by reading and discussing a few books together (numbers 5, 6 and 9 in my book list above).
2.  Help boys looks for way to make extra income over the next few months.  Ex. mowing yards, yard work for neighbors, part-time job, etc.
3.  Work on teaching boys how to manage their finances.
4.  Continue working on Emalee's speech goals
5.  Begin working on Emalee's adoption "Life Book"
6.  Attend and volunteer in Korea Camp this summer
7.  Plan summer vacation
8.  Read at least 15 minutes per day out loud to Emalee
9.  Get Emalee prepped for Kindergarten in the Fall!  Yikes!