Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Word 2016

On the eve of this upcoming year, I am ready.  Ready to commit to my One Word that will shape my life, not only for the next 365 days, but for the rest of my lifetime.

We all have different ways of selecting that one word.  Sometimes we choose it randomly.  Sometimes God chooses it for us. Sometimes it is easy to select. Sometimes it comes with a bitter taste.

I was all prepared to announce my One Word days ago.  But then......

I went to the mail and found my Faithbox.  What a nice surprise it was!  I really wasn't expecting it until the first of the year, but was delighted to open it.

Greeting cards. Tea. Devotional. Planner. Bracelet.

And that question......

What's your purpose?

Isn't that the question we all want the answer to???

What is my purpose?


Stay at home mom


Factory Worker





And the list continues.

Throughout our lives, we make decisions based on what we feel our purpose should be.  We plan our futures based off this idea and it determines which college we go to, which company we work for, the person we marry, the number of children we have, the neighborhood we live in.  Many times we choose our purpose without considering God's purpose for our lives.

I'm no theologian or Bible scholar, but I do know this......

I was created to have a relationship with Christ. To know Him. To love Him. To glorify Him. To lead others to Him.

That's my purpose in life.  

Author Susanna Foth Aughtmon said, "It is not so much about following a career path as it is about following the path of Christ."  

I couldn't agree more.  

That is a difficult thing to admit because we all have hopes and dreams for our careers.  What I wouldn't give to be a stay at home writer/mama.  To be able to plan my day around Bible study, coffee, reading, and writing.  Ahhhh!  

I understand, and accept that this option is not in the cards for me right now.  I choose to be ok with that and will continue to take part in bible study each day and read and write when I can.  And coffee, well, as long as there's Folgers, and Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks......I'll always have coffee. 

But my purpose other than to live for Christ?  

What is that?

I've considered this a lot lately.  

And I've thought this.....

Sure, I love Jesus. I live for Him, but do I really live with PURPOSE?  Do I have a purposes each and every day?  

And no, not really.

I am a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl.

I don't make plans.

I don't make lists.

I just go with it (usually).

But what if I tried to intentionally live with purpose each day?

What if I made lists and goals?

What if?

Well, why not?  

So, there we have it.

My One Word for 2016.

So for the next 365 days, I will work to live with purpose, not that I want to be chained to To Do Lists, but that I know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.  That I am being intentional and doing things that are worthwhile and meaningful. And that in all of these things, I am doing them for the Lord, to grow His kingdom.

We need to know that there is purpose in all things.  God has a plan and why shouldn't we?  I need to be reminded that there is a purpose to getting the laundry done. I need to be reminded that there is purpose in the mess of life.  I need to know that my purpose as a teacher isn't always academic.  I want to be able to live with purpose AND see purpose in my daily life.

And letting my five year old write my One Word for me.....yes, there is purpose in that.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Year of Yes

It's that time of year for look back on 2015 and reflect on how things worked out.

I'm one of those really indecisive people.  I can't even choose what's for dinner.  So, for me to say, "Yes" to something is huge.

Saying "Yes" is very difficult, especially if the outcome will be life changing.  Sometimes that little 3 letter word just takes you out of your comfort zone.  

Here's a look back at some of my YES moments for 2015.

Active Duty
My husband and I talked a lot about the possibility of moving from Reserves to Active Duty.  Before that happened though, he took a leap from Reserves to National Guard.  Then we said YES to sending off the active duty packet.  That's a major risk uprooting your family, leaving all that is comfortable for the the unknown.  But we said YES.  

God said NO.

Jeff submitted his packet.  For whatever reason, his packet did not go before the board.

I'll admit, it was a somewhat disappointing.  I felt certain that God had called my husband to be an active duty Army Chaplain.  Maybe he has, but this just wasn't the time.  I don't know.  But we talked and prayed and said YES.  I think sometimes that's all God wants us to do,  just show we trust him.

Teacher of All Things
Really, I didn't have a choice in this.  At my school this year, we were told that we were going to teach ALL subject areas.  Yes, the girl that must have pencil and paper or a calculator to work out her math......I was going to be a math teacher for the first time in about 15 years.  I was not excited, but I knew there was absolutely NOTHING I could do about it.  

Mindset people!

I changed my mindset and said, "YES! I can do this!"

And I did.

Now, I'm not saying I was the perfect math teacher. NO WAY!  But I learned along with my students. I gave them my best effort, and you know.....It wasn't terrible.  Not everyday anyways!  There were days I enjoyed it. There were days my kids had fun and light bulbs went off.  There were notes and blog messages about how fun math class was. There was the parent conference where I heard, "Thank you. She is having such good year in math this year. She is so much more confident."

Because I said YES to changing my mindset about something I was uncomfortable with, I made it through a trying time.  And I encouraged some children along the way.

We Moved!
For a few years now, we have been unhappy with where we lived. Well, maybe not unhappy, just a little frustrated.  We had some amazing neighbors and some not so amazing neighbors. We lived on a dead end street that was busier than Grand Central Station.  So, we house hunted. For years.  In late winter and early spring, we got serious about finding a new home.  The Army had said "no," so it was time to move on, or across town anyway.  

There was a house we had been looking at for a couple of years. Yeah, we actually took a tour of this house several times, even during melting snow to make sure the basement didn't leak.  We wanted this was huge, in a good neighborhood, and well, huge.  It was a bit expensive and the owner wasn't budging on the price. And it needed updating. Lots of it. We looked at some other houses, said yes to one, but was told it sold 15 minutes after we left. Shucks.

Then we found The One. Although I didn't realize it was The One.  It was in the perfect neighborhood, but wasn't really what I expected. I just wasn't sure about it.  Jeff and I had a trip to Starbucks to discuss our reasons for wanting to move. This house was the answer.  We said YES and are loving our new home.  Great neighbors (I didn't know people actually welcomed you to the neighborhood with cookies).  Wonderful neighborhood. Horse farm in the backyard.  Kids for our boys to play with.  Almost no traffic.

We closed in May. Remodeled in June and July. Moved in days before Colin's 13th birthday (just in time for his party). And it's home.

Family and Fun

What good is life if we aren't enjoying it?  It's so easy to say NO to things because of messes, time, selfishness.....the list can go on.  But I'll tell you this, I have not regretted saying YES to fun this year, whether for me or my family.

We've been busy this year. Some of our favorite activities have been:
Singing in the car
Cuddling on the couch
Soccer (rec league and middle school)
Academic Team
Winter Xtreme
Birthday parties
Sitting around the fire
And the list could go on.  Regardless of the activity, we spent time together. We spent time apart. We enjoyed doing things that were meant for fun.  


Not only have I enjoyed saying YES to fun times with my family, but saying YES to Jesus is always a blessing.  Sunday School, VBS, Camp Creative, Back Yard Bible Club, Pancakes with Santa, Wednesday Night Nursery Duty.  You can never go wrong with saying YES to Jesus.  

I have found this year that the more I said YES to Him, the more my kids did too.  Colin has gotten more involved at church. He is involved in the Youth Group, Praise Band, and Adult Choir.  He also serves as an usher and runs the sound and video system.  Carson and Carter have also enjoyed staying dedicated to their nightly devotions and taking part in their classes and children's choir.  We have a lot of great conversations about faith and Jesus. There's nothing like serving God as a family. 

It is a wonderful feeling to look back and see that we are changed for the better for spending time with and saying YES to God. 

Five Minute Friday Retreat
I'm a big chicken when it comes to meeting new people.  And the thought of attending a weekend with 20 or more people I had never met in person......terrifying.  But with the encouragement of my husband, I signed up for the first ever Five Minute Friday Retreat. God never let me get nervous, and even though it was a crazy time of year, I never opted to back out.  

The retreat was a blessing in so many ways. 
New Friends
So much from a weekend at the lake with perfect strangers......sisters in Christ.....lovers of Jesus and words.   It's possible that I could never see these women in real life again, but they will always hold a special place in my heart.  

These, my friends, are some of my YES moments.  One thing I've learned is that someone else's big is our little (and vice versa).  And I'm ok with that.  My big is just learning to say YES more and see what God has in store for me.

What about you?  What did you say YES to this year.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Was I Gentle?

As 2015 came knocking on my door, I began to consider a word that I wanted to shape my life for the next 365 days.  That's hard to do if you want to be intentional about living the life God has planned for you.  Sometimes it takes looking in the mirror and finding that log that separates you from Christ.  

For me, that log was reacting instead of responding which caused me to be hateful and ill-tempered....aka....angry and yelling a lot.  

No mama wants to be remembered for that.  

At first I thought my problem was patience, or the lack of.  However, after a discussion during Sunday School, I realized that I wasn't gentle. Not the bull in a china shop gentle, but gentle, as in how I used my words and what my reactions were.

So, I vowed to be more gentle in 2015.  

To start, I had to find out what caused me to be ungentle.  That was easy.  I reacted.  I chose to spit out the first thing on my tongue.  Matthew 5:18 says, But the words you speak come from the heart--that's what defiles you.  

That, my friend, is a hard pill to swallow....that I had that "stuff" in my heart.  Not something you want to admit, although deep down, I knew it.  But why?  Why was it in my heart?

Plain and simple?  My relationship with God wasn't what it needed to be.

Now, I'm not saying that my relationship with Him is absolutely perfect now. It's not.  There are days I still give God a headache.  I'm the sweat on His brow, but He loves me anyway.

Little by little, I worked am working on my heart. Little by little my heart softens and I respond instead of react.

I'm dedicated to being the kind of mother that honors God.  The kind of mother that my children can be proud of, not live in fear of.  I'm dedicated to being the woman God has intended me to be.  I will extend grace by responding, not reacting.

Being gentle is a life long journey.  Some days are easier than others, but I have to remember to extend grace to myself, not if, but when I mess up.  Because mess up I will.

I thank God for walking on this journey with me, for helping me see my heart problem.

I will continue to listen for God's still small voice in those intense moments when I'm ready to fly off the handle.  I will continue to spend time with Him, not just once a day, but throughout the day to know Him, and be whom He wants me to be. My lifelong goal is to have Jesus inside each moment of my day, not just 30 minutes before work or at meal or bedtime prayers.  When I make Christ an integral part of my day, He is a part of me.  And that will cause love to flow from me in all that I do.

What about you, dear friend?  Did you chose a word to shape your year?  How did it go?

Monday, December 28, 2015

52 Books in 52 Weeks - 2015 Edition

This year, I took part in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Reading Challenge with my online friend Pattie.  I'll admit that I did NOT complete the challenge, but I did read some really awesome books.

These categories were successfully checked off my list:

a book that became a movie

a book published this year

a book with nonhuman characters

a book by a female author

a book from an author you love that you haven't read yet

a book based on a true story

a book that scares you

a book you can finish in one day

a book that made you cry

a graphic novel

a book you own but have never read

a book set during Christmas

a book written by an author with your same initials

a book you started but never finished

I currently have some books we can label "in progress." I'm currently reading All I Need is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans, War and Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the first book of the Percy Jackson series.  One or two of those may make the list before the end of the year.

I am looking forward to the 2016 Reading Challenge.  I know I am going to be reading Even if Not by my friend, Kaitlyn Bouchillon.  Be looking for its release in 2016.

How did your reading go this year?  What do you have on your list for the new year?

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Is It Really God's Job to Fix It?

With all the terror going on in the world, our country, our state, our cities, our homes.....We wonder where God is in all this.  The latest headlines read.....

But my question is this

Is it really God's job to fix it?

We treat God like a magic genie.

We stuff him back into the lamp until we want something.  Then, we rub the lamp expecting him to appear and grant our wishes.

I'm not a genius, but I know that's not the way it is supposed to work.

As I am reading my daily advent readings, I am reminded all the more that God created us out of love, His love for us.  And part of that love is to have a relationship with us.  Yes!  God wants us. He wants us to spend time with Him.  He wants to be a part of our the good and the bad.

But we are fallen and we only want Him in the bad.

It's in the bad that we pray for others.

It's in the bad that we seek Him to fix what's wrong.

It's in the bad we wonder where He is and why He isn't doing anything to make things better.

But after reading headlines and online posts about why God isn't doing anything, I am a reminded that He did do something....

God sent Christ.

And us.

And if we are in Christ and we are choosing to live our lives for Him, then we have the power to fix this to the best of our humanly abilities.

Another headline I read was this, displayed in my kitchen window....

And for me, this is the answer.

We must fear Him.

And we don't.

As a nation, we don't fear God.  And that's not to fear Him as in be scared to death of Him, which maybe we really need to be. But it is fear as in respect and acknowledge Him for who He is and what He can do.

Why should he show mercy to us?

We want to throw Him away.  Stick Him in a corner.  Rid our lives and homes of Him.  We want to pick and choose from the Bible what we should believe (if we choose to believe the Bible).  We want to justify and cry out "free choice" and "don't judge" and "it's my life" and then we wonder where things went wrong.

So why should He fix anything?

As a nation, if we really want to leave in peace, we must fear Him.

As a world, if we want this terror to stop, every heart and soul on this planet must choose to live for Him each and every day.

Until then, this..."this".....this pain and horror and terror won't end until Jesus returns.

But if we want things to get better until then, if we want to live in peace, we have to live for Jesus.  All of us. Not just my family. Not just my city. Not just my state. Not just my country. Not just my continent. But my whole world.

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 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'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?