Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Yes, We "Elf on The Shelf"

I've seen the debates (ahem, memes) about Elf on the Shelf.  I mean really.....using an elf to make your kids behave before Christmas???? What about the belt on the shelf? Or just straight up do what you're supposed to do.

Yeah.  That stuff is out there.

But yes, at my house, we have an elf.

World, meet Bill Skylander Hotdog.

Bill is a great addition to our family Christmas traditions.

When we adopted him last year, we were afraid we'd made a mistake.  After going in to Target to shop, we came out to see him buckled in the seat.  The little sucker was already into mischief less than 2 hours after his adoption.

But Bill is also lots of fun. This guy....you never know what he will do.

Bill is a fun fella. Full of mischief, but we anxiously wait to see what he will do next.

We don't press the issue of him tattling back to Santa about the kids' behavior.  They know our expectations, and they know the consequences.  We don't need Bill for that, or a belt for that matter.

Whether Bill comes for a few days and hangs out our house or Santa comes down our chimney (Yes! We have a fireplace this year!), the most important thing about Christmas is remembering why we celebrate.

In my family, we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus.

He is our focus of our Christmas celebrations.  When we give gifts, as our children receive gifts, we keep in mind that Jesus is the greatest gift of all.  Our kids know that Bill and Santa are fun, but Jesus is the whole reason we have Christmas.

And we celebrate Him every day.

We talk about Jesus every day.

We read about Jesus every day.

We pray to God every day thanking Him for Jesus.

Jesus is the center of our family, not just at Christmas, but every day.

So, yes, we "elf on the shelf," but most importantly, we live for Jesus.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Past Makes Us Who We Are Today

After publishing my last blog post, my husband read over it and commented on this section:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, For everything there is a season, as time for everything under heaven.”  For me, the changing seasons are a reminder of that.  When the leaves start to fall, when the first snowflake floats across the sky, when the flowers start to bloom, and when the heat of the day takes our breath away, well, those moments serve as reminders that life is full of change. There are beginnings and endings and stories and moments in between.  And honestly, I am thankful for that change. I don’t want to stay in November forever and relive that moment my husband boards a plane for Afghanistan. I don’t want to stay in the season of deployment or sickness or family crisis. I need rebirth. I need change. I crave the smell of freshly cut spring grass and the sound of summer thunderstorms.  Changing seasons remind me that there is always hope.

What he told me was this....

"I don't live in those seasons, but they are a part of me.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about being in Afghanistan.  I don't dwell on it, but it is a part of who I am."

I had to think about it for a moment, and then I agreed.

I think about the seasons of life that have changed me, that although I don't wish to relive those moments, they are a part of me and have made an impact on my life.

My miscarriage was probably the first thing that came to mind.

There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't think about that season.  In a matter of weeks, my life changed.  From finding out that you are pregnant with baby number 4 to finding out that child has stopped growing to actually losing your baby from your body.....that changed me.  I never knew that I could love someone I've never met face to face that much.  I never knew that baby would still be a part of me.  As I sat looking at the stockings hanging from the mantle last night, I fought back tears, knowing that an almost two year old should have a stocking up there too.

But in all that devastation, I learned something else.  I learned just how much God loves me.

Now, I don't know why I had a miscarriage.  I'm not going to question those specifics.  But I do know that God took care of me.  He provided for me in so many amazing ways.  Through my husband, my doctor, my nurses, and my friends and family, God's love was evident.  The peace He gave me is indescribable.  And now, I'm more aware.....I'm not claiming to be the best mom in the world by any means, but I've learned to focus on my children, to give them my full attention, to cherish each moment with them.  I find myself just watching them, taking them in, deep into my soul.  Their love, their laughter, their innocence.

Jeff's deployment also changed me, impacting who I am today.  Deployment is rough, I'm not gonna lie, but God works through all things.  He provided for our family during deployment.  He kept my husband safe.  He gave me peace during times that I thought there would be none.  He gave me an amazing church family to care for us and pray for us.  I've learned not to take my husband for granted.  He is a gift, an amazing husband, father, and servant.  As I've watched him care for his soldiers, I am moved.  He has a gift, an ability to connect with others and speak truth to them.

And through this thing called deployment, I learned that I'm not alone.  There are women who did this before me, alongside me, and continue so after me.  I've learned all the more that I don't have it all together, and that's just fine.  As long as I have God, He will provide for me in ways I could never imagine.

And as I type these words, I'm seeing a pattern.....Do you?

It's not in those mountaintop moments that I realize how much I need God.  It's in those valleys when it seems hope is gone, when I feel lost, when I feel afraid, when I'm weak....it's those moments that I realize my great need for Him.  And it's then when I feel Him closest to me, when He reveals Himself to me in amazing ways.

Those are the Valleys of Blessings.

And I'm thankful for them.

Without those seasons of life, I would become prideful. I would push God aside and claim my victories as my own.  But Christ is the one who has overcome the world for me. And so I am thankful for those seasons that remind me of my neediness for Christ.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Can You Find Something to be Thankful For?

Let’s just be real for a moment.

Sometimes, it is just really hard to be grateful.

Money’s tight.
Someone is sick.
Kids aren’t getting along.
Car breaks down. Again.
Toilet’s clogged.
Spouse is away.
The holidays are upon us and that just means extra pounds and family drama.

There are just always seems to be so many things that make us want to shake our heads, crawl under a rock, or a really comfy blanket, and stay there.

Sometimes, we might even ask, “What do I have to be thankful about?”

Honestly, I think we’ve all been there, so I’d like to offer you some suggestions based on my personal “thankful list.”

Mentioning God first may seem a little obvious, but how often do we truly THANK HIM and are THANKFUL FOR HIM.  Just knowing that God loves me no matter what, on my good days and my bad days, well, that just becomes overwhelming.  And the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins??? If I had nothing else to be thankful for, that would be enough! I’m thankful for God’s Word as well.  Where else can I find love, friendship, advice, and food for the soul?

Yes, maybe another obvious choice, but don’t we often take our spouses for granted?  We rush off to our day to day business and just expect they know we love and appreciate them.  But really, we need to live daily knowing we are not promised tomorrow. We need to be thankful for the little things:

a morning kiss, bad breath and all
a fresh cup of coffee you didn’t have to pour
an unexpected lunch date or take out dinner
sharing your favorite dessert at your local DQ
help doing the laundry or dishes
butterflies when he still flirts with you
flowers for no reason or to make up for a fight
the sacrifice of his little part in making this world a better place

For those of us that are military wives, we can’t afford to take our spouses for granted.  No matter what rough patch we may be going through, we should show our thankfulness for our husbands.

Whether ours or someone else’s, children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). Yes, this morning I was annoyed with the fussing and demands of my 3 children just moments after posting on Instagram they were a blessing.  Really and truly, they are a blessing.  God chose me to be their mom, and I am thankful for them, messy rooms, stinky socks, and all.  We can learn so much from children.  Their innocence is refreshing and life changing.

Whether lifelong or brand new, friends are important.  God didn’t create us to be alone. He created us for a relationship with Him, after all.  And part of that relationship is being in fellowship with others.  Some friendships are learning experiences, while some friendships are only for a season. Others are for a lifetime.  Either way, I believe that God places people in our lives for a reason, and I’ve found that all of my friendships have made an impact on my life.

Some complain there is a lot wrong with our country, but there is also a lot right with our country.  I still believe that this is a great place to live.  Our country was built on a strong foundation.  We can choose to let that foundation crumble, or we can fight to keep it strong.  I am thankful to be here, in America, because I know first-hand the sacrifice of what keeps this country free.

Career (or not)
Whether you choose to work or stay at home, either is a blessing. For me, I get frustrated with the “business” and secretarial parts of education, but I love teaching. I love seeing the students “get it” after all their hard work.  Yes, some days, I want to stay home. Some days, I want to change careers, but I’m blessed to be able to help provide for my family while doing something meaningful.

Whether you live on post, in an apartment, or the nicest house in town, you have a roof over your head.  The number of homeless increases each day.  I am thankful that my children are able to come home to the walls that make our house and the hearts that make it a home.

Laundry, Dirty Dishes, and Toys
“Stuff” can be overwhelming. As I’m writing, the washer and dryer or running, the dishwasher is almost full, boxes from our summer move remain unpacked, and there are toys and crumbs on the floor.  But for all those things, I choose to be thankful. 

Dirty dishes mean we had food to eat.
Laundry to wash means we had clothes to wear.
Toys mean that my children are able to play and pretend with things that interest them.

Changing Seasons
Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, For everything there is a season, as time for everything under heaven.”  For me, the changing seasons are a reminder of that.  When the leaves start to fall, when the first snowflake floats across the sky, when the flowers start to bloom, and when the heat of the day takes our breath away, well, those moments serve as reminders that life is full of change. There are beginnings and endings and stories and moments in between.  And honestly, I am thankful for that change. I don’t want to stay in November forever and relive that moment my husband boards a plane for Afghanistan. I don’t want to stay in the season of deployment or sickness or family crisis. I need rebirth. I need change. I crave the smell of freshly cut spring grass and the sound of summer thunderstorms.  Changing seasons remind me that there is always hope.

Online Communities
For someone who feels socially awkward, online communities have helped me live my dream of being a writer, giving me the chance to share words.  I’ve met new friends here, friends that although I’ve never met in real life, we still have this bond that is strong.  Communities such as Wives of Faith, Planting Roots, and Five Minute Friday will always have a special place in my heart.

You see, there is so much to be thankful for. We just have to open our eyes, get out from under that blanket and look.  Blessings surround us and are never too small to mention. So, I ask you, what do you have to be thankful for?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Weary

So, Kate’s word this week is weary.  I’m from the south. We don’t get weary. We get tired.

And ya’ll…..

I’m tired.

Physically, I need some rest.  Late nights. Early mornings. Going and going all day long. 

Mentally, I need some rest.  I want to veg out, watch Christmas movies, an NCIS marathon (or 90210 or Homeland).  I want my brain to do NOTHING.

As a mama, I’m tired.  I’m tired of fussing and stopping arguments.  I’m tired of backtalking and hateful attitudes.  And while I’m on the subject….Pray for me. I have a teenager.  Oh.

But in all this weariness…

My heart

My soul

My body

I find rest.

I find rest in Christ.

And I don’t know how to put it into elaborate words, so I will say it simply.

When I’m weary, Christ gives me rest.

In Him, I find peace.  I find hope. I find joy.

And we are all going through something that makes us weary, and I tell you, girl….There’s Jesus.  He wants you to bring him all your burdens.  He wants you to lay them down at His cross. He wants to give you strength and rest.

And my five minutes are up, but let me tell you this.

Whether you are a tired mama

A military wife

A warrior battling disease

Whether your finances are in shambles

Your marriage is falling apart

You don’t know where you will lay your head tonight

Take it to Christ.  He wants you to lean on Him.  He wants to give you rest for your weary self. 

I’ve been there.

I’ve been weary from deployment and finances and my career and sick children and miscarriage and - - - - and Christ was there.  When I chose to carry my burdens to Him, he met me right where I was and gave me rest, gave me peace, gave me hope.

And Christ can do that for you too.

Just say Jesus.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Today was a wonderful day.  A friend from church organized a Backyard Bible Club for a mobile home park near our church.  Those kids and their families showed up.  One guy showed up in a big way.

This guy from the mobile home park is not a member of our church, but he does attend when his work schedule allows. The kids come and seem to love it. We definitely love them.

Although he wasn't part of the group that was there to serve, he served in a big way.

The first thing he did was show up.  How else can you see what God wants you to do if you fail to show up?

He volunteered to take some food back to his home and heat it up for the ladies.  They were afraid it wouldn't be warm enough and in time for lunch. So he carried the crock pot full of chili to and from his house.

He monitored the activities. He chatted with us and his neighbors.  He put himself out there socially, which isn't always easy to do.

When it was time to clean up, he helped. As some of the church guys were loading the garbage up to take back to the church, he wouldn't allow it.  He said to leave it and he would take care of it.  He was assured that we didn't mind taking it back. He assured us he didn't mind carrying it off to their dumpster.

But this guy....he served.  He may not realize it or not, but he served Christ today. And it melted my heart.

We can all do something.

Remember the lady who poured the oil on Jesus and rubbed his feet with oil and her hair?  That was all she had. She served.

Remember the widow who gave the little money she had?  The rich people didn't think it was worth anything, but it was all she had. She served.

We can't all sing.

We can't all do crafts.

We can't all paint faces.

We can't all play an instrument.

We can't all teach or preach or perform.

We can all serve.

We can serve the food.

We can toss a ball to a two year old.

We can monitor activities so kids are safe and have fun.

We can go down the inflatable slide with each kid who asks.

We can take a hotdog and drink to the elderly lady who can't walk to the food line.

We can have a conversation with a stranger.

We can learn someone's name.

We can pick up the trash at the end of the day.

We can show up and see what happens when we say YES to serving Jesus.

I encourage you to show up and show your children the many ways to show the love of Christ to others.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Five Minute Friday: Trust

Trusting others is hard. People let us down all the time.  Sometimes on purpose. Sometimes, well, because they are people and that means they're imperfect.

But man, it hurts not to be able to trust.  Especially those you love.

In my life, I've learned to trust God.  For many of us, it's difficult because we have been let down by those closest to us.

So, we are weary of Him.

I've seen God be trustworthy because He is faithful.

Although I haven't always agreed with Him, He's never let me down.

I realized the other day that my baby should be 18 months old.  Oh, such fun age.  I was saddened to be reminded that I'll never know that baby this side of heaven.

But in August of 2013, I had to trust that God knew what He was doing.  That no matter what the ultrasound would show, whether my baby was alive or had stopped growing inside of me, I had to trust that God would take care of me.

And He did.

The news devastated me.

But God provided for me.

He provided for me through the doctor and nurses.

He provided for me through my husband.

He provided for me through my friends and family.

He provided for me through my church.

He provided.

And in that, He held true to His Word.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Dear Annie

No, I'm not going to get all weird and write a letter to Annie Downs, but I will say this...

Annie, I don't know you, but I do know you, and I thank you for being brave. Girl, we have got be long lost sisters.

I mean really.

Moments, yes, just moments ago, I finished the last words in Annie's book Let's All Be Brave.  And just so you know, I am adding it to my list of 52 Book in 52 Weeks under the category a book that scares me.

Because you know what.....being brave scares me.

I am the least brave person I know. Well, until I read Annie's book.

Seriously though.

In so many ways, she touched my heart.  I laughed. I cried. I had to explain to my five year old why Mama was writing in her book when his school librarian has just taught him not to.

And I did. I underlined and circled and put brackets and cute clouds around Annie's words.

And as I read Annie's words, I felt braver.

I felt God tugging at my heart.

And I was reminded that I am brave.

I married my high school (ahem middle school) sweet heart and have supported his desire to serve God and country. We've been married for 16 years, together for 26.

I am the mama of 3 boys. 'Nuf said.

I am a teacher to these elementary school kids who look to me for hope and direction.

I connect with these women each week in a choir room at church (no, I don't sing) and we laugh and cry together about being moms and wives and women of God.

I went to a retreat where I knew NOT one person there, yet we all knew each other's hearts and wishes and dreams. I found my people.

I come here in this space in hopes of sharing words of experience and encouragement to hopefully add something to your life.

And in me, deep inside me, I have this desire to do something more with these words. That's led me to begin my first book. Whether or not it actually publishes or sells is out of my control, but taking that step in actually following my dream...

Well, all of that is brave.

And in all of this reading and laughing and crying....

I was slapped in the face with this.....

I struggle people.  I like to eat. I like to drink. I like food and beverages. I know my habits aren't healthy. No one needs to tell me that.  But Annie reminded me that it takes courage to stop thinking and start doing. So I will embark on a new journey.  A journey to get a healthier, braver me.  Something I've always known I've needed to do, but never said yes to doing.

God works like that. He uses these complete strangers and their words to get our attention. It's found in their books, on their blogs, in their songs.

God speaks. We just have to listen.

Annie, thank you for listening. Thank you for being a tool to reach people like me. Women (or fellas) that feel like they are the least brave people in the world.  Thank you for reminding me that it takes courage to be me, the me that God created.  And to be me.....that's brave.


I have to also say thank you to Zondervan for giving me Annie's book as part of the Five Minute Friday Retreat.  What a wonderful gift!

Did You Plan a Wedding or a Marriage?

My husband and I just celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary last Friday. Sixteen years. That's a lot of years, Tony.  

We are what you would call high school sweethearts. Actually, we met when I was in middle school and started dating toward the end of my 7th grade year.  That was 26 years ago.  A lot has happened in those 26 years (and can I just say, I feel very old referring to that time as 26 years ago. Only old people talk about things that were "back in the day.").

We attended each other's junior and and senior proms. Danced together at homecoming dances. Cruised town in his candy apple red Chevy Nova with bench seats drinking slushies from Sonic.  We may have even made out a little in that car too, but I'd never tell.  We were there for each other's high school and college graduations. We had many firsts together.  Fun filled vacations, concerts, roller coaster rides.

Jeff proposed at sunset on the beach in June of 1998. I thought he was pulling at his underwear, not pulling a diamond ring out of his pocket.  He asked, I said yes, and we began planning a wedding.  

We planned the wedding. Not the marriage.  

And as I type out those words, I think about how much time, effort, and money we put into weddings. One single day.

To plan our wedding, I bought the necessities: magazines and wedding planning books. I sent off for every catalog I could think of.

I read them multiple times to make sure I was on target to having the perfect day.  I'd been to weddings that were ugly, unorganized, or boring, and I made a vow to have the perfect wedding.

I began getting free samples of invitations and printed napkins to compare prices and find something we liked.  

I made lists and more lists and lists for my lists.

I started dress shopping and tried on dress after dress after dress until I found The One.

Our total cost for the wedding day was about $2000. Probably not much more than that.  

All in all, I think we had a beautiful wedding.  The weather was perfect for the first of October in south central Kentucky.  Our friends and family filled the church. My aunts showed up with food for the reception which was a nice surprise.  Although the only food we got was the bite of cake we fed each other, everything was perfect. 

Looking back, I think about planning a wedding versus preparing for marriage.  In all honesty, we probably did very little in preparing for our marriage.  We were required to take a premarital counseling class with our pastor.  That was it.  

One of the things we had to complete was an Expectations Questionnaire.

1. How do you expect to be treated after you are married?

2. What are to be your areas of responsibility within the marriage and family?

3. What are to be your spouse's areas of responsibility within the marriage and family?

4. What were your father's responsibilities within the family?

5. What were your mother's responsibilities within the family?

6. Write a short autobiography about yourself. Describe  your childhood, religious background, major conflicts with parents, siblings, and/or God.

7. What are your plans for the future?

Those are all very good questions. Questions that all couples need to ask and discuss.

But I looked at one of my answers to question #2, and my heart smiled at my 22 year old self.


Work on the marriage.

Work on the marriage to keep it strong.

Work on the marriage to keep it strong and successful.

At 22 years old, I knew that a strong successful marriage took work.

Having the marriage I wanted would not just happen.  It would take effort. On my part and my husband's part. Before saying my vows, I was dedicated to doing that work.

I also knew, after having dated this man for many years before, that there was nothing I could do to ever change him.  I was marrying him, his quirks, and everything that would ever gross or freak me out. I was ok with that. I wanted to spend my life with him, and I knew that I would put a lot into this marriage.

When we said, "I do," my husband and I were not Christians.  We made a vow before God to keep our marriage sacred, but we had not yet given our hearts to him.  That would come some time later.  However, I had always prayed for our marriage. I had always prayed for my husband.  I had always prayed to be the wife he needed me to be.

And I still do.

We don't air our dirty laundry for all to hear.

We don't involve other people in the privacy of our marriage.

We pray.

God is the all knowing. God is the healer. God is the provider.  God is number one in our marriage.

I think one of the most difficult things about keeping our marriage strong would be putting my husband first since having children.  Now, I know that there are those of you who put your children first and your husband comes last, but I want you to consider what that does to your marriage.

Being a first time mom is hard.  Its even harder to have those deep, romantic moments with your husband. You are sleep deprived. You stink. You have spit up and poop stained clothes.  Being a new mom isn't very attractive.  But still. Your husband must come first.

As women, we want our husbands to love us and show us that love.  Our husbands want us to respect them and show them that respect.

We can fuss about our husbands not meeting our needs, but we have to ask ourselves, "What have I done for my husband?"

The best thing I can do for my husband is belong to Christ. He must come first. If my relationship with Christ is flawed, then my relationship with my husband will be flawed. If my relationship with my husband is flawed, then my relationship with my children will be flawed.

It all starts with Christ.

So many women have a problem with the word submission.  They cringe and laugh and run.  But girls. I'm telling you. It's biblical.  Submission doesn't mean to be a doormat.  It means to be the wife God has called you to be.  Really. You should read Sara Horn's book My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife.  

In all of this, I am asking you, did you plan a wedding or a marriage?  Most of us plan weddings and give little to no thought about what happens once the honeymoon is over.  What do you do when it gets hard? When the bills can't be paid? When illness comes?  When Satan tries to destroy what God deems as holy?

Marriage is work. It's hard work.  It's good work. I encourage you as you are filling your hope chest or taking things out of it, be sure that God is there with you.  Be sure that God is first in your marriage.  Seek Him.  You won't have a perfect marriage. You'll have a God centered marriage.  

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

On the Fence?

First off, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone that has participated in the survey. Whether you have chosen to participate with me and this group or not, your feed back is very helpful.

For those that sent me your email, I will be contacting you very soon with more information.

For those of you that are on the fence,  let me say a few words of encouragement.

You are not alone in your journey.  Whether you decide to participate with me or not, you still have a heart to become the woman God intends you to be.  That is your first step, that acknowledgment that something just isn't right and you want to make it better, make it holy, make it God's.

You do not have to participate in this group to do that.  You just have to make a commitment to meet Jesus right where you are and let Him do a good work in you.

If you have questions, please feel free to email me.  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have that will help you make your decision.  Again, either way, this is up to you and God.  While I hope you would join me, I fully understand if you don't.  I will still be here to encourage you.

If you are new to this conversation, I invite you read this blog post and take my survey.