Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Intentions and Goals

So, I kindof love a new year.  A fresh beginning.  A new slate.  A jumping off point for things.

I think I like New Year's more now as an adult since I don't have the beginning of a school year to serve as my jumping off point.  I used to not really think about the new year in January, because to me, the new year started in August when school did.  It's amazing really how long it has taken me to adjust into not having a school year be the starting point of things.

Anyways, I've been giving a lot of thought to what I want 2014 to look like.  2013 was a pretty stellar year, and I don't think I realized it until I started reflecting back on it.  But more happened than what I first thought.   And while we can't predict what will happen in a year, and while I always want to give God lots of margin to totally blow my socks off, there are some specific things I want to aspire to and be intentional about.  So here they are, my plans and hopes for 2014.
  • Have people over at our house. I haven't done this mostly because we just moved in five months ago and have been renovating.  But I can already tell that I have this idea that my house as to be put together and perfect, which is a total lie.  I am going to have people over in the midst of our mess, and stop apologizing for the mess.  People are worth having over despite the state of my household cleanliness.
  • Find systems that work.  I am an organizer by nature and am constantly changing how I do things.  Life changes, and so my systems need to change.  I have a few areas that are just lacking in how I do them.  I need to find better ways to organize time and things that works for me.  The more organized I am, the better I feel and the more energy I have.
  • Simplify.  I want to get rid of excess, both in terms of material possessions and things that waste time.  Some of this is going to involve setting limits on things like the internet.  Some of this is going to involve me praying through and figuring what God wants ME to do.  Because He does not intend for me to do everything.  I want to narrow down and focus so that I can do what God wants me to, and do it well.
  • Go deeper with God.  Amazingly (because I know it does wonders for and to me) I do not seek Him out as much or as well as I should.  This year I want this to be different.  I need to be intentional.  I need to read his word and pray. And then repeat daily.  I think I am having a hard time knowing where and how to fit this in.   Mornings don't work for me to have an intentional time with Him because I go straight to the gym and then to work and my brain does not function well enough at that time anyways.  Evenings are pretty much my only option at this point in life.  So my goal (and I want to start this NOW) is to set aside time each day to retreat into our bedroom (because I cannot commune with Jesus while my husband or a TV-or both-are in the room) and spend some minutes alone and quiet.  This is a must do, because regardless of what else happens or what else I do, if I don't be with Jesus, I have wasted my time.
  • Focus on my relationship with Dave.  This goes without saying because he is my husband and is my priority human relationship.  And because I love him to pieces and it if were possible to make a full time job out of hanging out with him, that's what I would want to do :)  I don't want lists or ideas of how to "be there for my husband" (sorry Pinterest), I just want to continue to be present and be intentional.  To listen and encourage and talk to him.
  • Write, write, write.  God has unleashed an obsession with writing in me this past year.  And I must say, I am a little paranoid that I'm going to lose that momentum and passion.  I want to make writing a habit.  I want to be disciplined because even on days when I am scared to write or just feel like I can't do it, somehow those words make it to the page if I just sit and make myself.
  • Invest in who God has given me.  I need to stop comparing friendship in my 30's to what it was when I was in my 20's.  I am not going to have big groups of friends anymore.  And I am OK with that.  I need to focus on those God has given me and love them well.
  • Finish things on my house to do list.  The first on this list is the Dining Room, which I have an unnatural and totally surprising motivation to tackle right now.  (That blasted wallpaper fiasco really did me in I think and the past month I haven't cared one iota about the dining room).  Closets need to be organized.  Pictures need to be put on walls.  Etc. Etc. Etc. (Did you read that with Yul Briner in mind?  If so, cool points for you)
  • Catch up on my scrapbook and stay more current with it.  I am woefully behind.  I've started switching over from regular scrapbooking to Project Life.  Have you heard of it?  If not, go and google it and be amazed.  I love to scrapbook and love this approach because it's easier and not as daunting.  I want scrapbooking to be something I enjoy and not a chore I dread, or else why do it?  I want to get caught up with this year and stay on it.  I also (at some point) want to go back and redo all of my college scrapbooks in Project Life style so that hopefully those years of memories fit in 1 (maybe 2) albums and not the four they are in now, which are falling apart.
  • Pay down debt.  We have four little areas of debt.  Three of those four will be paid off by July of this year.  Hallelujah!  Then all we'll have left is the hubs' student loans, but putting the payments from the 3 towards that one when they are paid off will help.  My loans will be paid off in May, and sweetness, it will be good to have only one payment and not two going to the good old department of education.
  • Take care of myself physically.  This is an ongoing one.  I finally feel back to normal (mostly) after my horrible years long bout with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Praises to Jesus!  I want to continue hitting the gym and improving my nutrition.  I also have a few areas of natural and holistic care that I want to research and start incorporating into my normal routine.



Listening: no longer to Christmas music.  Boo!  I am back to my normal Pandora mix of things.  Though I am getting a little bored with some of my stations.  I need a fresh change I think.
Eating: too much.  Good gravy, I did so good not overdoing it too much at Thanksgiving but I did not succeed at Christmas.  I need to detox and eat only raw kale and water for about two weeks.  I go through periods like this where I swear I am not going to eat for two weeks because I feel so gross but then 45 minutes later am chowing down on fruit snacks like I don't know where my next meal will come from.  I need to stop baking for a while and let my body mellow out.

Drinking: Water and coffee.  And it's scary how well I can survive on just those two alone.

Wearing: too many doggone layers.  And they all are infused with static and so cling in odd ways to me and to each other.  I detest winter.  Oh spring, please hurry!

Feeling: Tired and overwhelmed.  I had a horrid cold a couple weeks ago and it has left my body all out of whack.  And my to do list for January is huge.  I mean, big enough to come alive and swallow small children whole.  So, I am trying to break things down into manageable chunks.  I don't think it helps that I am still coming down from a sugar high.

Weather: Cold and rainy.  I console myself with the fact that in six weeks I will be in (hopefully) sunny (please oh Jesus make it so) warm Florida.

Wanting: To have the motivation to plow through this upcoming week, getting lots done so that it fuels me and gives me energy.

Needing: My energy levels back (darn cold!), and to vacuum my house because it has been way, way, way too long since I have done that.

Thinking: About this upcoming year and all that Dave and I hope to get done.  And how I don't want to reduce an entire year to a list of things to get done or accomplish.  I want it to unfold and I want to seek out good things and live.  I want to know Jesus in knew ways and get lost in his words.

Enjoying: All the time we have had with friends lately.  Dinners, breakfasts, coffee.  Some with people I see a lot, others with people I rarely see.  I have loved it.  And am going to miss it like crazy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing for a New Year

I don't do resolutions but I do like doing goals and thinking about what I want life to look like in the year ahead.  Before I came up with my goals for 2014, I thought it would be helpful to look back on 2013.  To think about what worked and what I'm grateful for.  So here we go:

  • Our house:  this came about through a lot of prayer, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of organization.  (all things I want to continue)  After we actually owned the sucker, it transformed through a lot of sheer will and hard work.  This will continue in 2014 because there are a lot of small projects I would like to get done.
  • We paid down some debt in 2013.  A fair amount considering what we make and that we also bought a house.  We're still playing around with our budget since living in the new house changes things.  But I'm being diligent about recording specifics and hope that we can continue to be frugal and wise with our money.
  • I felt invested in relationships, which I love.  My community doesn't look like what it once did.  A lot of it exists outside of my physical address.  But maintaining those long distance relationships is working.  I need to stay on top of that.  Letters, phone calls, emails, and lots of coffee and get togethers with those that live close by.
  • I wrote!!  2 books and started a 3rd which has been so much fun.  I want to continue this in 2014.  To write and rewrite.  
  • Dave and I grew in our relationship, which is something I will always want.
  • My relationship with God broadened, some in ways I was seeking and some in ways that took me by surprise. I do however need to be more intentional about this, which is really a double edged sword for me.  Because I need to be disciplined but that can turn really quickly into rendering God to something on my to-do list.  Still looking to find balance on that one.
  • I have started to learn more about not having to do everything.  About simplifying and focusing on certain things and not everything.  I am a bit spastic and generally want to add everything imaginable to my to do list.  I have learned a little about cutting back this year but it is something I definitely need to be intentional about this coming year.
  • Similarly, in 2013 I started to discern what I should not attempt because it's an "ought to".  To leave things off my list.  Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • Got back into working out hard-finally!
So what didn't work in 2013?
  • worry
  • stress
  • letting things pile up too much
  • not looking out for myself
  • being cautious
  • not doing
  • excuses
I'm trying to put together a list of goals for 2014, but really, maybe I should label them "intentions" and not "goals".  I don't want things I can just cross off a list.  I want to develop behaviors and habits and new ways of thinking.  Which means that I'll need to shed a bunch of old behaviors and habits and ways of thinking.  Which is the best (and only, really) way to do it.  So, for now, I'll mull over what worked and what didn't.  And go from there.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas come and gone again

Are you one of those people that gets sad when Christmas is over?  I've always been that way.  Even though my type A-ness is usually itching to get back into a normal routine again, I always feel a little sad on Christmas night, when I know that once the day is over, the magic dies a little and it's a whole year until it comes again.

I love Christmas time.  Almost as much as I love summer, which is the next thing I am counting down to.

Christmas was really low key for us this year.  No traveling which was nice.  We got up early Christmas morning and skyped with family so we could watch our niece and nephew open gifts.  Then we were lazy bums and watched tv and I read a book.  For dinner we went and enjoyed food and good company with some dear friends of ours.  

I always think that Christmas is more fun when you have kids around, but I must say, I was really thankful for our quiet Christmas with just the two of us.  It was restful and comforting.  And it's not like we didn't have some childlikeness in our Christmas, as proven by these pics of various superheroes and villains which appeared all over in different positions.

Hulk was a great tree stand.  

He also wanted to proclaim the goodness of Jesus having come.

Why yes, those are ninjas fighting on a rope in front of our tree.  Because why wouldn't they be there?

I'm thankful for Christmas.  For a season to celebrate Jesus and decorate things and eat our weight in sugar cookies.   I love popping over to our neighbors with goodies and making cinnamon rolls for friends.  I love getting cards in the mail.  I love filling Dave's stocking with candy.  I love that we keep our tree up well after Christmas and let the memory of the season linger into the new year.  Because it only seems fitting to me that we start a new year with a visible reminder of Christ in our lives.

So now these little days between Christmas and January are here.  We're both back at work, and honestly, this week has been blissful.  I am the only one here and have gotten so much done with no one here to bother me that I could cry out of gratefulness.  My spirit is calm when things are done, which speaks to my spiritual immaturity as much as it does my type A personality.  Because I shouldn't let tasks and days and stresses flip my sin button on so easily.  But I do.  And instead of resolving to do better this year, I'll fall on my face in front of Jesus and ask Him to let me see Him.  As He truly is and not as I make him out to be.  He is not just a bigger, better version of me.  He is altogether different.  I crave that different right now.  To know that He is absolutely God.  To know that I am made in His image, but by no means do I look like Him.  He is made of that which I am not.  He thinks differently than I do.  He strung the cosmos together with a spoken word.  And dreamed me up on a whim I think.  I'm pretty crazy in love with Him.  Even the parts of Him that are so big and so holy that they scare me to pieces.

I hope this year, more than anything else, that He frightens me with His bigness.  Oh how great our wide and vast and doable God.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree!

After a long search to find a live tree for a reasonable price (I swear, you could mark up something 300% in West Knox.  It's amazing how snobbery and perceived self importance can drive up prices), we finally ended up driving a couple counties over to find our tree.  It was still more than we wanted to pay, but it was our only option.  And it's a fir, not a pine (no thank you), and it's beautiful.  Very full and well proportioned and fresh from the mountains of NC.  Behold, the Ungleich Christmas tree!

I love real trees, but admittedly, we might end up going fake because with tree prices being what they are here, holy smokes, that's a lot of money over the years.  We could either have a live tree for the next 20 years or use that money to buy a used sedan.

We found this tree topper at Home Depot.  Luckily, the hubs found this star behind a stack of different stars.  And we like this one way better.  Score!  Hulk wanted to proclaim the coming of Christ with the angels.  We have converted him.  Let it be said, that no one is monster enough to not accept Jesus :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baking Extravaganza

So Friday, my counter top looked like this:

This doesn't include the 8 bars of cream cheese in my fridge.  Baking has happened all weekend.

Many wondrous things were made.  A lot of them had cream cheese in them.  Or chocolate.  Most of them had both.

You should feel really disappointed this morning if you're not a coworker of mine or my husband.  Because the tasty little orbs and squares of happiness I made from these ingredients are destined for them

Though if you come by our house, it's possible I made or will be making extras for us.  So come on over ;)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Thoughts

So I haven't been reading through an Advent devotional or anything this year.  Some years I've done that. This year I haven't.  Mostly because I didn't seek anything specific out and plan on it. But I have been thinking about things a lot.  Weirdly enough, I am reading through Genesis right now.  And I love how God always ties things together.

I have a borderline obsession with the Old Testament.  Well, parts of it anyways.  You get me in the prophets and my brain is what it was in college in my calculus class that was taught by someone who didn't speak a word of English:  very confused and muddled.  Mostly because I have such an ignorance of history and sequence of events and though I love the words, I lose the story itself in places in the OT because I just don't know where to place it.

But I adore other parts.  Genesis specifically.  There is so, so much in Genesis.  So many stories layered on top of each other.  And I love them.  I cannot wait to get to heaven and have Jesus fill in the gaps for me.  Because there's a lot we don't know and my little imagination just goes all crazy like it's on an acid trip or something, wanting to plug in the holes and imagining all the things we're not told.  I've started reading through Genesis again because I bought this little gem at the last Beth Moore conference I was at.  It is a great resource!

This week I've been in Genesis 3.  Where Adam and Eve have sinned and are ashamed of their nakedness and God is sending them away.  And I got caught up in the part where it says God gave them animal skins for clothing.  That is the first reference to death in the Bible.  God killed animals to give them clothing.  Already, a substitution.  Blood being shed for their benefit.  I think sometimes we forget that the Bible reads more like a dark fairy tale than a children's book.  These stories are not tame and gentle.  They are wild and filled with blood and death and horror.  And life and hope and redemption.

I've been thinking about that this week.  And about Emmanuel, God with us.  Both in the sense that we have his Spirit living inside of us, and in the fact that He came to earth.

We put up our nativity scenes and we think the story a lullaby, so sweet and soothing.  But it's theme is power.  Battle.

Imagine the scene in heaven:  They know the enemy is watching, tracking.  Wanting the Son to appear because in the enemy's pride he thinks he can defeat him.  It is not silent nights and sweet kisses that heaven is thinking of.  It is fury and war.  But in that, a plan, thought of so long ago.  The mighty God-Son Jesus will wrap his Godness in flesh and in an act of humility that should leave us stupified, will let himself start as a cell, and grow to be a baby.

Do you get it?  It is not Silent Night.  It is not the image on a Christmas card.  It reads more like a Bourne movie.  Enemies and chases and a wild desperation on the enemy's part.  Battles between good and bad being fought in a realm unseen over a manger in Bethlehem.  Jesus snuck in covertly.  He let his essence, his Godness, be put into the tiny, totally dependent form of a child.  All for the saving of a people who do not deserve it but for which he is prepared to offer himself anyways.  And in his making his way into this world (in a way that was painful and loud and not gentle and serene), things did not calm down.

I've gone from thinking of the story as a picture in a storybook Bible.  I think of it more with the intensity of 300 or Gladiator.  More gripping than reading through Hunger Games or being on the edge of my chair when Dave and I battle it out in Call of Duty.  I see it now from this perspective of intensity and battle.  It is epic.

And in thinking of Jesus I think of hope.  Expectancy. Of things wished for.  Prayed for.  All things fulfilled in Him.  Not by his answering the way we want but by He himself.  And always, always, hope.  Hope buoys me some days and betrays me others.  She is a merciless companion.  Always taunting you when you just want to throw her to the curb.  Sometimes we want to give up on hope.  But she sticks around, ever nagging me.  I think of Christmas.  Of this season where we celebrate hope fulfilled.  In ways the world wasn't expecting or waiting for.  But hope was fulfilled nonetheless.

So maybe instead of reading through a devotional this year, all wrapped up cozy in my house, I will instead watch a bloody war movie and think of the battles being fought in the spiritual realms.  I'll read the story online of the girl who at age 12 was sold into prostitution and I will think of Jesus and know that that's the reason why he put on our flesh and came here.  To give that girl life.  To buy us all back.  We don't have a nativity scene at our house.  But I will look at the Hulk and GI Joe figures in our living room right now (because we are goofballs and yes, we have them) and I will think those figures of war and intense battle more fitting.  And I will thank God once again for hope, for Jesus, for being the God-General of angel armies who will one day come and lay to waste the lies and horrors of the world in which we live.  And I will put my face to the floor begging him to show me how to show Christ to this hurting world.

Because he is more than a quiet child in a manger who coos and smells sweet and doesn't cry or make a fuss like we have deceived ourselves into thinking.  He is hope and life.  Everything we want.  And everything we still wait for.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little advent poem

I was going through some old books of writing (some people have sketchbooks, I have books of words) and came across this poem that I wrote a few years ago.  It made me think of this time of year.  Of advent and Emmanuel, God is with us.  With us.  Maybe that should be the title.  Hope it reminds you of how extraordinary His coming to us was.  And is.

Sweetest glimpse of glory
Breath of holies all my own.
Spirit's no longer waiting;
Has now made his way home.

Heart made of the Master,
It's beat made of the Son,
Bittersweet blood of Calvary;
my sins since made undone.

I've stepped into his skin;
or has he stepped into mine?
Behaviors at once both of us;
are they yours or are they mine?

I used to walk beside you,
but now I walk within.
I'll share all your goodness;
you share all my sin.

Sweetest Savior Jesus, Spirit wholly mine,
Love extraordinary, and altogether thine.
Breath of life into my body, holy blood
bought for my veins;
Spirit of renewal
to blot out my crimson stains.

You and I move as one,
separate yet complete,
As I love through your own heart
and walk within your feet.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Toys of Christmas past

So, Christmas is upon us!  Are you excited?  Are you blaring Christmas music every chance you get?  Are you annoyed that B97.5 plays the same version of Christmas songs over and over and over instead of changing it up?  

So I thought I would harken back to my childhood days and highlight some of the best gifts I got for Christmas as a kid.  Get ready to flash back to the 80's and 90's.

1.  Baby Heather

I got this when I was 4 I think.  She was totally cool.  All electronic (which in 1986/87, was a big to do).  She talked.  She also broke a lot and I remember having to take her back a lot.  But she was totally awesome.  And about the same size as me.  

2.  Cabbage Patch Kids

You kids raised on Tickle me Elmos and Furbies have no idea how much you missed out having good toys as a kid.  I was little at the height of the Cabbage Patch Kids explosion.  I had several.

My favorite was one that had hair just like the one in this pic.  I saw her at the store (I think we were in Service Merchandise.  If you don't know that store, you are a youngun!)  Anyways, I thought she was ugly.  So I pointed to her and told my mom I didn't want that one.  Which somehow got misunderstood as "I want that one."  And she showed up under my tree that Christmas.  And, soft-hearted, uber compassionate child that I was, I was terrified that she would know I didn't like her and hadn't wanted her.  So I showed her extra love and attention.  And she became my favorite. I still have her.  Her name is Jenny and I cut her bangs when I was six and her silken curls look like rat's nests now.  But she is loved.  And practically a person to me.  If our house caught fire I would grab Dave and her and let the rest burn.

3.  Barbie House

Mine didn't look exactly like this, but it was similar.  Cardboard, cheap plastic, and that elevator.  Good, good times.  I made an addition for mine out of a cardboard box because the inhabitants had kids and do you see a bedroom in this sucker for children?  No.  The addition was pretty sweet.  It had wallpaper and carpet.  Oh yes.  Wanna know who lived in this sweet little house?

4.  Midge and Alan

I got the entire wedding party for Christmas one year.  I had every Barbie chair I owned out for the wedding, and all the guests were dressed up.  I used a big, white Ace bandage for the aisle runner and my mom played the Wedding March on the piano.  I am not making this up.

So Midge and Alan got married and then got busy.  'Cause they had a lot of kids.  Hence the addition mentioned in #3.  

5.  Quints. 

Did anyone else have these?  Five little kids, all numbered.  Which makes sense 'cause if I had quints I would give them numbers instead of names, too.  I jest.  I named mine (Jessica, Billy, Amy, Tommy, and Susan.  Holy crap, I still remember that.  That is insane. I couldn't tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday but I can tell you the names of my plastic dolls.  Craziness).  Anywho, these were fun.  I had the 5 little color coded dogs that went with them and their older triplet cousins.  Which now, sounds a little kinky, doesn't it?  

6.  American Girl

I was borderline too old for Samantha when I got her.  But I was a late bloomer and didn't grow up as quickly as my peers I think.  I used to pour over the American Girl catalog, just looking at all the pictures over and over.  My mom made all of Samantha's clothes, and I still have all of them, waiting for my daughter to inherit.

I still have Midge and Alan for any daughters we have.  It will be very sad if Dave and I have only boys.  Although, really, I would prefer boys to girls.

7.  The complete Little House on the Prairie Books

This is probably my most used gift of all time, and the books I have reread the most in my lifetime (which is saying a lot because I reread books the way some people reuse someone else's jokes as their own.  Don't deny it; you know you have that friend that does that).  I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder as a kid.  (Not the tv show either.  I grew up without cable.  If it wasn't on ABC, I never saw it).  These were wonderful. And my set looks more used than this because I read them so much.  My mom sewed me prairie dresses and sun bonnets and I would stalk in the woods in whatever little reality my head created.  Granted, we did not live on a prairie.  But my imagination is vast.  No real prairie needed.

8.  Christy Miller series

I read all 12 books in 3 days I think. These books are amazing.  And I know it sounds cheesy and over the top to say that they changed my life.  But they really did.  I wasn't involved in a church growing up and these books were like my youth group.  Full of wisdom and life lessons.  I read the Sierra Jensen series too, and all the other books that came out about Christy and Todd.  Swoon.  I want to visit Newport Beach and pretend that a fancy house I see is Bob and Marty's.  

9.  Band of Brothers

Ok, so technically this isn't a gift I got.  It was one I gave.  To my dad.  And I loved it as much as he did.  I grew up watching westerns and war movies.  And this series.  Oh man, the right words don't exist to give it justice.  Wonderful story.  True story.  I keep telling Dave and we need to buy these.  He's never seen them.  If you haven't, you need to.  Completely epic.  And I always cry or want to at the end.  

"Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?"  
"No, but I served in a company of heroes."  

10.  Chronicles of Narnia

I was in college before I read any of the Narnia stories.  Growing up I wasn't a huge fantasy genre person (which is funny because I love it now).  I read these and nearly came undone.  Oh CS Lewis.  The things we owe you.  These books combined the two things I love most:  stories and the gospel.  I got things from this about Jesus and the gospel that I never had seen or realized before.  The Silver Chair is my favorite story.  I want to read these stories aloud to my babies some day.  I hated that in the movies Lucy didn't have blond hair.  I think she is the character from literature I most identify with.  If God looks like Aslan in heaven, I will not think it unfitting.  Although, I imagine that God's voice is more James Earl Jones than Liam Neeson.  That's just me though.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Picture This

Finally, there are things hanging on my walls!  There is something in my female nature that has been dying for this to happen.  So, I finally figured out some things, and hung our first two things in our entry way.

The "U" was a gift from my friend Lacy.  Sidenote:  Having your last name start with U means that either 1.  you can't find anything with U because some companies don't believe in wasting time on such an unused letter, or 2.  you get things half off because they can't sell them.  The "Home Sweet Home" printable was free.  Thanks Pinterest! :)

These are two poems I wrote that were on a background that didn't match our new bedroom color.  So, once I changed them out with some scrapbook paper I already had, these were ready to roll.

I couldn't get a good pic but you can kinda tell from this one that the blue in the paper matches the wall color so well.
I have a rough plan in mind for the Living Room, but some of the pics for that room are heavy and involve wall anchors, studs, and my husband (though he is a stud too, just different from the kind I need to hang heavy things on my walls).  For now, these 4 little guys are up, and I think they are a pretty wonderful start.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ode to Lacy

So today is my friend Lacy's birthday!

Lacy and I met...gosh, 6 years ago?  7?  I'm not even sure.  We were in the same small group together at church.  She is one of the best friends God has ever given me, and I cannot imagine having gone through the past few years without her friendship.

Lace is the very definition of a good friend.  She is faithful and kind, and able to empathize in a way that is truly a gift.

She is the type of friend who puts your needs above her own.  Case in point, when the same jerk wad who broke her heart just a few weeks prior broke mine too, she was the one I called.  And she was the one who came over to my house and cried with me and sat with me.  Do you get that?  She had just had her heart broken by this same person, and she came right over late at night after he had been a jerk to me.  Yeah. She's awesome.  Selfless and loving, and forgiving.

And did I mention awesome?

Lace and I bonded over that.  And over Disney movies and Icees.  We both worked as nannies and she's the one I would call and open by saying "How long would they put me in jail for if I threw this child out the window??!!"  and she totally got it.

I drove out to Texas with her when she moved.  I still remember where in Knoxville I was driving when she called to tell me she was engaged.  I still remember what it was like when she called to tell me she was pregnant.

The day that Dave and I first kissed (which was my first kiss ever) I called Lace in my excitement and rambled on for the longest time about it, completely forgetting that that day was also her birthday.

She didn't say a word, just let me enjoy sharing that first kiss.

Did I mention that she's awesome?

I love that even though we are so many miles away now, that we stay close.  That we talk almost weekly.  That she is the person I text when I need immediate prayer.  That she is the person I call when I am in a crisis or just need to vent.  I know that I could tell her anything, and she would love me and still be my friend.

I love that over the years we have prayed for husbands, and seen God bring them.  That we have prayed for answers, and doors to open, and windows to close, and hearts to change...and seen them all happen.  I love seeing God work through the life of my friend.  She has found favor with him, and I am so blessed to know her.

So happy birthday my dear, sweet friend!  My life is better because you are in it.  I am so thankful for you!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


So we've been decorating the living room:

Terminator used to rule.  Then we bought Hulk.  Arnold must have said something snarky, cause Hulk got angry..

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Our Christmases Will be Over the Top

I know there are a lot of different opinions on parenting, and on what is right and what is best.  Especially among Christians.  This isn't meant to be a judgement or condemnation of those who do things different.  

This is just me explaining what we plan to do and why.

I know lots of people who have really embraced the whole idea of a simple Christmas.  Less spending.  Less gifts.  Less commercialism.

That's great.  We certainly as a culture have lost the idea of what the season is really for.

I know people who give their kids three gifts because Jesus got three gifts.  I know others who adhere to the "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read" idea.  And there is nothing wrong with those things.  At all.  I have friends who do things like this and I have listened to the reasoning and wisdom behind it, and have heard them explain how they will use these things to help emphasize Jesus.  And that's awesome.

That is not how we are going to do it.

Christmas will be HUGE in our house.  Our kids will have stockings heaped full of goodness.  And gifts coming out of their ears.  Christmas morning will be big and loud and messy.

And extravagant.

No, we will not spend a fortune.
Yes, we will keep Christ first.
Because here's what I think and why I want to do it:

I want my kids to know that no one celebrates like God does.  And that no should celebrate more than His people.

I want them to know that God is not always practical.  That He blesses us beyond measure.

And we will not have an Elf on the Shelf to try to manipulate our children into good behavior.  Because we want our kids to know that even though we try to be good, that gifts and blessings aren't based on behavior.  You cannot always earn them.

We will let them believe in Santa, because I want my children to know that magic is real.  And that some things cannot be explained, but simply can be believed in.  And that life is fun and beautiful.

We will read the Nativity story and I hope we can make it come alive for our children.  We will bake a birthday cake for Jesus just like my mom did for us when I was small.  We will give and be thankful.  We will sing and dance and have colored paper and a tacky, beautiful tree and it will be loaded down with presents.  Because sometimes, you need to stop trying to earn it.  You need to stop trying to be more, to be better.  And you need to experience an all out extravagant display.  Because my goodness, isn't that what Christmas was?  What Jesus coming for us was?  The ultimate, whoa baby, I cannot believe I got this, good thing.



And Jesus always loved a good party.

So, that's why our Christmases will be an all out, over the top affair.  So someday when we have kids and you hear of it and see of it, and you are tempted to contrast it to whatever it is your family does, well, you can.  And you can think we're over the top and emphasizing the wrong thing or whatever else you want.

We'll still let you come over and have some of our birthday cake :)

So, December:

Am ridiculously excited about this:

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies of all time.  I nearly cry during the opening every time I watch it.  The dancing scene before they sing "Goodnight" is my favorite part.

December 5th, I am waiting for you!

Also crazy excited about this:

Because Mary Poppins is also in my top 10.  My movie love would be different without Julie Andrews.  Hubs is lovingly taking me to see this.

December is going to be a good month!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some thoughts on happiness

So, lately I've been thinking about being happy.  And about what that looks like.

I used to think that happiness was a final destination.  Something you achieved or got to when things are settled or resolved in some way.

But last week I realized how happy I was.  And how there are some big things I'm in the middle of, and things that need to be restored and resolved.  There are things I have questions about and things going on that I'm not sure how they'll turn out.  There are things unsettled.  Not all things.  Just some things.

I guess I feel very much in the middle.  Not everything is roses and rainbows.  And so many things are up in the air.

But I'm so happy.

And it took me by surprise to realize it.  Not that I thought that I was miserable before or anything.  I think I just had this idea in my head that being happy was an event, like graduating or getting married or arriving at your vacation destination.  But it's not.

You can be happy in the middle of uncertainty and big, scary things happening.

Happiness is not determined by place or circumstance.  It's not confined by those things either.

So here's to being happy no matter where you are, or how in the middle of things you feel.

Find happiness where you are today.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On our way to slaughter, but it will be sunny

So tonight we are leaving for sunny Florida.  

Hubs and I have tickets to the Syracuse/FSU game on Saturday.  If you know anything about college football this season you know that the game will be a slaughter. FSU will wipe their noses with Syracause.

But we will be in sunny Florida, which makes it easier to bear (at least for me).

We get to see one of our friends in Chattanooga which is very exciting.

My friend who lives in Tallahassee that I have not seen in...five years?  (Five!) will sadly be out of town.  Which makes me very sad.

But, regardless of that, we will have a good time.

Hopefully :)

It's been such a crazy week. I've felt a little under the weather all week so haven't gone to the gym or felt like doing much.  And you can tell.  Our house is a mess.  My car looks like a tornado ran through it.  I can't find my cell phone today (which is rare for me to lose...where is that sucker?)  I babysat last night for a couple who went to the Eagles concert here in town.

They got home at 12:30.

Which means I got home at 1 AM.

On top of that my brain has been strung out as if on crack this week.  I've started writing the sequel to my book and ya'll, it is intense.  And it's built up so much in my brain because earlier this week I finally pieced together my outline and then it was like fireworks going off in my brain:  dialogue and events and sequences all flashing through, keeping me from sleeping all week (boo!).

I really like my sleep.

So I've been working to get all of this things out of my head and stitched together in some semblance of order, making notes of things so I can go back and write them later.  I'm a little bit nutso when I get like this; so many story elements flying through my head.  The only relief is to catch them and make them mind by putting them on paper.

For now, we are off for a long weekend where hopefully I've written enough and I can be away from story long enough that my brain finally quiets down and I can sleep.

And if not, well, there will be sunshine. :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wallpaper Woes

So last weekend I hallucinated.  I had this idea that I would tear down wallpaper in our dining room and paint all in one weekend.  Obviously I was delusional.

I painted the bottom portion and the trim and that went well.

And then there was the wallpaper.  I had tugged at a corner and it came up relatively easy.

See this?  That is deception.

Lovely, yes?  Exactly.  This stuff had to go.
So, I had my wallpaper dissolving fluid, a scorer, and a scraper.  They say this is all you need.


Here is what you really need:
Some of this.  Probably a lot of it.

One of these. 

And this.

I kid.


'Cause the problem with wallpaper that's been on your wall for 30 or so years is that it's gotten kinda cozy where it is and it doesn't want to come off.  Ever.  I mean really, the military should find a way to use this stuff as a weapon because it will either kill you or drive you insane.  Forget bamboo shoots up the fingernails, make someone try to deal with this, and I guarantee you they will start talking.  I am sending an email to the CIA with this recommendation.

Anyways, so after about the 20th coat of dissolving liquid it finally started moving.  And it did this:

Yes, it took my drywall with it.  Evidently they got married sometime in the midst of the wallpaper's lifetime here and could not be separated.  Fabulous.
So, after many, many hours of spraying and scoring and scrubbing and spewing forth some very unladylike and unrighteous language, I finally started making progress.

Finally, wall paper free walls!  

The walls look pretty bad, but I am hoping we can salvage what is there.  

So, it's still going to take a while because there is so much residue left on the walls that is so so hard to get off.  I did discover that white vinegar works just as well as the $16 bottle of dissolving stuff I bought at Home Depot.  So we'll use that from now.  It's cheaper.  And not going to give me cancer (double win!)

Once the walls are finally gunk free (which is going to take quite a while), then I'm going to putty and sand and see if I can make our bumpy walls a little smoother before I paint.  According to my calculations the walls will be done and painted about the time our kid enters kindergarten.

And we don't have a kid.

Baby steps.  I come home a couple nights a week and scrape away while blaring music.  It makes for a good time.  And is a good way to get rid of pent up aggression.

I still may end up burning the place down.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Today is your birthday!

Today is my husband's birthday.  He is hands down, my very favorite person.

After being together for four years, I still never get tired of being with him.   Which says a lot, because I am a total introvert and normally tire of people in general no matter how much I love them.  Never with him.  Some days at work I'll just miss him so much.  Saw him in the morning, will see him at night, but in the in between, I miss him like crazy.

He's sweet, and strong.  I love that he can fix my car and do things around the house.  He's handy.  I like it.
And he grills things to perfection.  No charred food at our house.  (You think this is silly but trust me ladies, you marry a guy who burns things to a crisp all the time and you'll see what I mean)

He's funny, and always, always, always can make me laugh.  I can hide my emotions from anyone but him.  He always can tell what's going on with me.  And he always tries to cheer me up (and's uncanny really) when I am feeling down.  I underestimate him a lot.  He's better than what I give him credit, or what I deserve.

He's tolerant of me which is saying something because I am border line neurotic and can't understand sometimes why anyone would want to hang out with me. But he chooses me, day after day, and loves me, even when I do things that elicit this reaction:

So happy, happy birthday to my best friend, my partner in crime, my love.

I'm so thankful God made you, and that you're you!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So lately...

1.  Am loving this song:

"Lord I find you in the seeking,
Lord I find you in the doubt-
And to know You is to love You
And to know so little else."

I mean, slap you in the face, punch you in the gut, worship inducing words right there.  Sometimes I need those moments--those songs, those words--that break me over my love of Christ and His unmerited favor towards me.

2.  And, hello, the Divergent trailer:

Kill me now.  The movies will be nowhere near as good as the books (because they never are), but they will be fantastic.  I am starting to read the series all the way through this week.

3.  So Daylight Savings.  Ah, the abyss of darkness.  Boo.  Humans were made to enjoy sunshine.  I realized that on Wednesday it was gorgeous and 70 out and I went outside in the sun all of 60 seconds.  For shame.  I already miss the sun.  Sigh...

4.  Coffee is fantastic.

Enough said.

5.  I have been sleeping on our LoveSac (which is this huge, ginormous bean bag sofa type of thing) in the living room this week.  We started sleeping in the living room because Dave did a project in the garage that resulted in some serious get high odors wafting up into the house, especially our bedroom.  The smell left, but we stayed in the living room.  I think we continue sleeping there just because we can.

Do any of us really grow up?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A very merry unbirthday...

So yesterday was my half birthday.

I realized it in the afternoon, which was very discouraging, because hello!  I could have been half celebrating all day!  Eating half a cake, taking a half day off of work, having half a parade in my honor...Birthdays are a big deal to me.

And half birthdays are good markers of time.  They make me stop and evaluate.

It's been 6 months since my last birthday and a lot has happened.  On my last birthday we were trying to buy our house but in the middle of it.  And it was crazy stressful.

Since then, we bought the house and have done scads of work on it.  We've had 2 sets of visitors.  I've finished the rough (and I mean rough) draft of my story.  Gotten back into hour long workouts.  Had my car suffer a stroke.  (She's recovered mostly now, thank goodness).  And God has pulled me to intercede and pray more, which has been really rewarding, not just for prayers answered but for the power I feel He is showing me through it.

So what will the next 6 months hold?  I have some goals in mind.  Things in the house I would like to get done like finishing the trim in the kitchen and dining room, getting pics on the wall, doing some improvements in the yard.

I want to continue to craft my story and start on the sequel, which is going to be hard but wonderful I think if I can be disciplined enough to let it come to life.

There are people I am DYING to see and spend time with.  People I need to talk to on the phone more.  Letters I want to send and gifts I want to buy.

There are things I need to do to be obedient to God.  Things I want to learn.  That I need to learn.

I wonder what the next 6 months will hold and am excited and half scared out of my mind.  Six months isn't long.  But I've learned what it's amazing what God can pack into 180 days or so.

I'm giving him room to move.  Let's see what He does.

And in the meantime, enjoy half a cake!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Allegiant and Redemption

So first I want to say that if you haven't read Allegiant and have no idea what I am talking about, please still keep reading.  I am going to reference this book, but there's still some good stuff here.

And secondly I want to say that if you are planning on reading Allegiant and haven't, please, please do not read this.  Because I am going to reference how it ends, and I don't want you to read the ending here.  You need to experience that in the story.

That being said, here we go.

So I've been thinking a lot lately about redemption.

Redemption is a huge thing to me.  And not just because I am a Christian and Christ redeemed me on the cross.  Though that is huge, I have learned that redemption goes beyond that.  I've learned that all things can be redeemed.  Relationships, pasts, choices.

But not how we think sometimes.  We are redeemed from being sinners and having that define us, but we still struggle with sin.

We need redemption.  More than we realize.  I have brokenness as a result of my own sin and the pain others have inflicted on me.  And some there just because that's how a fallen world goes sometimes.  I have fissures running deep in my family.  My best friend chose to walk away from me years ago.  I remember callous words spoken, the things stolen from me.  And I'm not the only one.  We all experience, and are (because really, it is our very existence and not just something we experience) broken.  Shattered and damaged.

We are walking wounded.

The end of Allegiant left me completely undone.  And I know I sound like a 12 year old girl, but hear me out.

The ending wasn't what I wanted.  I could see it coming and was yelling to myself, "No, no, no!".  But as much as I hated the ending at first, I loved it.  Because it painted a better picture of redemption than a "better" ending that didn't involve Tris dying could have.  Four wanted a better ending.  He expected it.

And I think with us, sometimes it's the same.  We want full redemption.  Now.  But full redemption does not come in this life.

Sometimes infertilty is redeemed through adoption and you never get to know that feeling of life inside of you.  Sometimes redemption is finding worth after divorce.  Sometimes redemption is a thriving life of singleness that never ends in marriage.  When I hear "I dreamed I dream" from Les Mes I think of people like Fantine who do not get their redemption in this lifetime.  Who die without knowing it.

I am so broken.  So many splits and cracks and scars mar my soul.  I am aware of it daily.  And I used to think that victory meant getting past that.  But now I think differently.

The ending of Allegiant reminded me how broken I am.

Mostly, it reminds me of Jesus.  And of his followers who were so sure and so certain that Jesus was going to take over.  To make all bad things good.  They were Four, looking for ever after (or some semblance of it) with Tris.

They did not get it.

Instead of the glorious ending they had longed for and been so sure of, they were left.

And I think that's why reading Allegiant totally undid me.  Not just because Tris died (though admittedly I would have cried just at that). But because it resonates within me.  Because it is truth.  We are broken people, in a broken world, and more often than not redemption looks like gritting our teeth and being brave in the normal day.  And I think this place I find myself in, teetering between absolute desperation at the state of things and the longing for things to be right, to be as they are supposed to be--is hope.  And I think that's what He to be for us.  A broken people waiting for full and complete redemption.  For now we live in factions and battle wars both literal and figurative.  And people are taken from us, and we are seared with scars.  But we must keep going on.

Sometimes it overwhelms me, this brokenness of the world.  Of myself.  And I wonder what I should be doing to be Jesus to people because if I am honest with myself, the answer to "What am I doing to help?"  is "not a damn thing."  That is the truth of it.  And I ache, in so deep a part of myself I keep discovering it, to make things right.  And perhaps that's just Jesus in me, because He is the only thing whole in me.  The only thing not damaged.  The one thing that keeps me pushing forward.

When I was in high school and college, the thought of dying and going to heaven scared me more than comforted me.  And even now, the thought of my life ending--of things undone, of leaving Dave who I love with a love so deep I can't tell where it comes from, makes me ache.  But at the same time, this wholeness inside of me calls to itself.  The part of Jesus that exists in a different life, in a different form...the wholeness in me recognizes Him and aches for him.  Deep calls to deep the Bible says, and I think this is what it means.  The part of me that knows wholeness that aches for wholeness everywhere.

I've reread the ending of Allegiant so many times now, crying each time I do.  Because I see it.  I see Peter and John, and all the others, so sure of what was supposed to happen, so certain of it.  And things ended so, so badly.  They had to.  But who they loved got taken.  And they are left.

And I know that this is why I love stories so much.  I am not a scholar.  Sometimes I'll hear Beth Moore or Greg Pinkner point something out from Scripture and it's so obvious but something I would not have noticed on my own.  I don't see things in Scripture that way.

But this layering of a story upon a story; using the emotion of one to see the truth in the other...this is what I get.  This is how I grow.  This is what Jesus uses to show me what He means.  I never realized it was like this for me until in college, when I read The Chronicles of Narnia and the gospel came alive for me in ways it hadn't before. I have found Jesus in Twilight and in Les Mes and in 300 and in countless other tales he uses to show me who He is.

Four was right, life does damage us.

But we can be mended.  And I think that is the most important thing I've learned.  That things can be righted.  Completely.  And if they can't...if the worst does happen, that I can survive that too.

So, thank you Veronica Roth for writing that ending.  Even though it must have split you in two.  I think only a person who could fully understand redemption could have written that ending.

And thank you Jesus.  For redemption, in all it's forms.  For stories.  For being the best story, that still leaves me undone, even as I live it out.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On my bookshelf: October

Here's a list of all that I read in October:

1. Mockingjay:  Suzanne Collins

This was a reread.  I read Catching Fire a few weeks ago to remind myself of details before the movie comes out in November, and well, you can't read Catching Fire and not just keep going.  Love this series.  This book was less dark reading it the second time, I guess because I already knew who was going to die and how it all ended, which certainly made it easier to read.

2.  Beyond the Summerland: LB Graham
Couldn't get into this one.  It was just too much.  Too many names (names of characters, of places, of horses, of weapons).  It dragged and dragged so I finally gave up about 100 pages into it.

3.  Behind the Scenes at the Museum:  Kate Atkinson
I loved her "Life After Life" but couldn't get into this one.  Granted, "Life after Life" was hard to get into too and I ended up loving it.  But I couldn't make myself keep going with this one.

4.  Throne of Glass: Sarah Maas
This was a reread to prepare for the sequel.  (I have to refresh my brain like that). I think I liked this book the first go round but really liked it the second go round.

5.  Crown of Midnight:  Sarah Maas
The sequel to Throne of Glass.  Ah, loved it!  The author has 8-9 books in this series planned, and I am hoping they all get published.  I cried at the end.

6.  Allegiant: Veronica Roth

This is the end to the Divergent series, which I really think may be my favorite series ever.  You have no idea how much it means that I say that.  I've NEVER had a favorite book.  There's always been quite a few.  These have left me undone.  I won't ruin it for you by telling you how this last one turns out, but I was left completely undone.  I sound like a 12 year old saying it, but it absolutely split my soul in two.

I think that's why I love stories.  Because they have that ability.  Because even though they are fiction, there are truths in them that resonate within us.  So very deeply sometimes.  And that is what this did to me.  Because the world is broken.  And redemption is possible.  No matter how broken things get.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thoughts this morning

So my latest project has been trying to get picture frames redone and figure out what rooms I want what frames in.  I've been mostly focusing on the master bedroom first because I have a good idea of what I want in there and the colors are pretty limited so it's the easiest to work with.  I have these two poems that I wrote that I have framed in our bedroom. The colors I had used to put them on and for the background in our old house totally clashes with the blue in our bedroom now so I redid them.  I was able to use just papers and things I had on hand to redo them, which I love because that means one less errand and less money.  I am definitely of the mindset of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!" Well, mostly.  :)

Anyways, while I was at it I used some of the same paper to redo three little frames that I had and wanted to switch out.  I took them into the bedroom to see how they would look and loved them.  The colors go so well with our wall color and will add so much to the space.  I'll get them up on the walls soon.

It was one of those fulfilling projects where I had this rough idea in mind of what I thought it would look like and it turned out so much better.  And it didn't cost me because I used things I already had.  And as looked at the pictures propped against the wall and was so pleased it reminded me again of the goodness of God.

God is so big.  But I think we forget how close and intimate he can be.  To say that God is small doesn't sound right, but I guess that's what I mean.  I forget that while He holds the world in His hands He also is small enough to bless me with a fulfilling craft project and cute backgrounds for poems that will hang on the walls in our room.  Such a little thing, but I was just so overwhelmed with how good God is to me.  To us.  To his bride.

I think I forget this more often that I realize.  Sometimes I carry around burdens I shouldn't.  And I catch myself falling back into that ancient line of thinking that God is holding out.  That He's not really good.  That He's not going to give me things.

Lies, ancient as the world.

Because if God is good enough to bless me with a pretty decoration for my wall, isn't he not just capable of but inclined to give me so much more?  Why is it that we as a church make him out to be such a miser?  He gives more than we give him credit for.

I'm thankful for His reminder of His smallness.  Because somehow it reminds me of His bigness.  It's like when people got all worked up about Kate Middleton goofing around with some people playing volleyball last week (in heels no less).  Somehow that little thing made her seem more like a princess.  Because it made her seem more real or accessible.  And it endears her to people.  God being small is like that.  It reminds me how accessible and relational He is.  Here is this God of power and glory, touching my life with goodness in the tiniest of ways.

Sometimes we need to see God through a telescope, to see the depths and vastness of His glory and all that He is capable of.  Sometimes though, we need a microscope.  To glimpse Him in the smallest of things.

Today I'm thankful for the big and small of Him, and everything in between.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Picture this

So, I have been dying to get some pictures out so Sunday afternoon I drug them all out (minus the really large ones still propped against the wall in the living room) and laid them all out in the back bedroom.  This is the current mess I am dealing with.

This is only part of them.

Ah, there's more.

I have pictures and picture frames coming out of my ears, and I am having a hard time figuring out what I want to put where.  I think I've figured out what's going in our bedroom.  But the living room has tons of space and then there's the hallway to think about, and do I want anything in the dining room?  The tricky part is that in our old house we had a mantle and the way furniture was we had more space for tabletop frames.  Here that's not the case so I'm having to rethink how I want things as some of these frames can't be hung up.  It's a fun project that's going to turn into a pretty involved one because while I'mm figuring things out I am switching out and updating photos and I'm going to end up repainting quite a few of these.  So many decisions!  Plus we haven't figured out exactly the lay out of the living room so I don't want stuff on the walls until we get furniture figured out.  For now, I have about 4 weeks until we have guests who will need this bed and room.  I just need to get it figured out before then!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Shed some light on it

My wonderful father-in-law knocked a ton of things off of our to-do list while he was here.  He also made about 16 trips to Home Depot.  And my mother-in-law made goulash.  And lasagna.  I really think they need to come visit more often.

Anywho, one of the projects my father in law did was change out this gaudy chandelier

to this nicer, working one:

So much better, yes?  We can actually see in the dining room now.  Which was really fun because while they were here we actually ate a meal on our dining room table.  I don't know that there has ever been a meal consumed at that table before.  Dave and I don't eat on it now (we eat in the living room 'cause we're fancy and formal like that).  But it's nice to know that when we have people over, we'll have a place to put them.

I have big plans for the dining room, which includes stripping down that horridly dark wallpaper and repainting the entire thing.  I have the paint, I just need to get the motivation to do it.  Hopefully in the next month or so I'll get that taken care of. In the mean time, at least I can see what I'm doing in there.