Friday, December 14, 2012

Proud Mommy Moments: Hugs

I know.  I know.  I've once again, been a very naughty blogger... I promise there will be more to come.  I thought It would be fun to come out of blogger hiding with a Proud Mommy Moment courtesy of Miss Autumn.

Let me first say that Autumn is a pure joy.  She's 2 1/2 and so far we've managed to miss the terrible-two stage.  *knock on all the wood I can find around me* She's funny, brave, smart and just a lover.

Earlier this week Autumn and I were on a search around town for peanut-free pecans.  I had a recipe I wanted to make and was searching high and low for a store and company who had pecans that wouldn't kill me with traces of peanuts.  I was frustrated, worn out and tired at being at yet another store (I really, really dislike grocery shopping and I get really tired of not being able to find peanut-free products).  After a last-ditch effort looking through a large organic section, to no avail, I was done.  Suddenly, Autumn decides she needed a hug.  A big-old, giant, squeeze-me-super tight, Autumn hug.  The thing is, she wouldn't let go.  So, I pushed her through the store for the next 30 minutes with her arms tight around my neck.  We got lots of weird looks... but I needed that big hug and I'm thankful she knew I needed it.

We never did find pecans.  But a big Autumn-size hug seemed to make up for it.

If you need an Autumn-size hug today, maybe a pic will do.  Here she is cheesing it up with my glasses...

Any proud (or not so proud) mommy moments you'd like to share.  Comment below or link up with Emmy Mom!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Proud Mommy Moments: Abs

On Thursday, I was catching up on some intellectual literature by reading the latest issue of Marie Claire.  Don't judge...

Anyway, Autumn decided to join me.  She sat on my lap and pointed to Gwen Stefani, on the cover, and said "momma".  Does that look like Momma??  Yea.

Good answer.  Especially considering Gwen's rock-hard abs are clearly visible and I haven't seen mine sine 2005.

So, on we go, reading brain-stimulating articles.  Then comes up another picture, which Autumn points to and again says "momma".

Oooo.  Burn.

It was Pamela Anderson.

And at that moment, my bubble burst.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vertical Church: Chapter 4 An Epic Failure

The church in North America is fading - fast.  If you are a Christian that sentence should hit you hard.  If it didn't, please take a look at some numbers that James MacDonald lays out in this chapter (pg. 130):

  • 6,000 churches close their doors every year
  • Only 1 in 10 pastors retire while still in the ministry
  • Less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church
  • Only 15% of churches are growing numerically in the U.S.
  • 800 new church plants survive each year
  • 10,000 new churches would be needed each year to keep up with population growth
If you are a numbers-person like I am, than those numbers should hurt.  If you're a growing Christian who is sold-out for Christ, you should be concerned.  If you love the Church, you should want better.  We need better.

We've tried the horizontal approach.  We've welcomed business leadership principles, man-centered strategies and entrepreneurship to teach us how to reach customers - the unsaved.  We have replaced lethargic legalism with competency church.  Our approach has been wrong. (p. 134)

I urge you to pick up a copy of this book.  I read this chapter 3 times, and it hurt every time to read it.  I'm not a pastor, I'm not an elder or a deacon.  But I'm sold out for Christ and I want the church to be healthy, growing, thriving and making disciples.  I want that for you.  And I want that in my church.

If you've followed our story, than you know that this winter Joel and I found Harvest Bible Chapel.  Our lives have been changed as we work alongside other sold-out Christians to plant a church near where we live.  We are excited to be part of a church that is ridiculously excited to build a Christ-focused church where people are saved, lives are changed, disciples are made and God is glorified.

I don't know where you are in life as you're reading this - if you go to church, if you're growing in your church - maybe you're church homeless right now.  But God wants you in a church where He is welcomed, His Word is preached and the Great Commission is fulfilled.  So, how do you know if you need to look for a new church home?  I sat down with our pastor and we discussed some Biblical reasons for leaving a church. I pray that these reasons may give you some guidance and peace.

When to leave a church...

  1. When a church isn't preaching the Gospel.  Either the Gospel isn't been proclaimed on Sunday or the church has adopted a false version of the Gospel.  (Gal. 1:6-9)
  2. When a church is not preaching/teaching sound Biblical doctrine.  (Romans 16:17)
  3. When the church leadership does not model or promote a Biblical lifestyle.  (Phil. 3:17, I Pt. 5:3)
  4. When the church refuses to practice church discipline.  (I Cor. 5:6-8)
  5. When your spiritual gifts are not being used.  (Romans 12:3-8)
  6. When you're not growing in your walk under the leadership of the church.
If you're a Christian, Sunday should be your favorite day of the week.  You should look forward to Sunday morning all week - and you should leave the church doors saying I can't wait to go back.  My prayer is that would be your experience, if not, pray what God would have for you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

10 Things to Smile About: August

Well, summer seemed to come and go way too fast.  We had a great time together as a family and made some very special memories.  But I have to admit, the last two weeks before school started were hard - lots of meltdowns from my oldest min-me.  She was ready for school.  And I was ready for a routine.

Here are 10 things that made me smile in August:

1. Seeing the Stanley Cup with some good friends.

2. Starbucks' Refresher in Very Berry Hibiscus - amazing!

3.  Some haircuts before school

4.  Crossing some important to-dos off my list for our church launch.

5. Rescuing my parents from an unfortunate my-keys-fell-in-the-river incident and coming across this sign...

6.  Some incredible quiet time reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers - every day the message speaks right to my heart.  

7.  One last hoorah before school started - took Gracie to her first baseball game

8.  OPI's Germany collection.... I thought it would be very un-German of me not to buy at least a few

9.  Hunger Games on DVD!

10.  School started & my 1st grader finally has her routine back - and so does her very happy momma

What did you love the most about August?  Link up with my friend EmmyMom!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

7-Day Cleanse: My Thoughts and Results

Last week, I started a seven day cleanse.  Some of you may have followed along with my results on Facebook... I've received a lot of questions about my experience and thought it may be useful to put them in a post for you.

First off, I've been asked why I decided to do this?  Well, Grace started school last week so I'm trying to get back into the routine of getting to the gym regularly.  I thought the cleanse would be a good jump-start to working out 4-5 times a week.

Here's the guide that I used for last week - What do you think of the GM diet?   The link has the food schedule for Sunday - Saturday with a recipe for a special soup and then some other guidelines and things to consider.

So, onto my daily diet:
Sunday - all fruits except bananas
I loved the first day!  I ate a ton of melon, some grapes and two fruit smoothies - I love the Naked smoothies.  This day I drank over 90 ounces of water.
By the end of day one I was down exactly 3 pounds.

Monday - all vegetables
This was a hard day for me.  I started out with the recommended baked potato for breakfast - I put a tiny bit of butter and salt and pepper on top.  For lunch I grilled a mix of onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes - a batch I ate throughout the day.  By about 4:00 I was extremely weak.  So I went out and got the ingredients for spaghetti squash marinara and felt much better after dinner.  I drank about 80 ounces of water and 2 cups of black coffee.

Tuesday - all fruits and vegetables
I had 2 more of the Naked fruit smoothies, and the leftovers of the spaghetti squash marinara and the grilled vegetables.  I drank about 80 ounces of water and 2 cups of black coffee.

Wednesday - bananas and milk
I started the day with 2 cups of coffee with a splash of 1% milk.  During the day I drank 3 glasses of 1% milk and ate about 4 large bananas.  I drank about 80 ounces of water and had 2 cups of black coffee.  Surprisingly I felt full and satisfied and noticed my cravings for salt and sweets start to fade.

Thursday - feast day - beef, tomatoes and lots of water
They call this feast day.  I think I would give it a different name!  By day four, I was ready for some protein, although I could not eat the amount of beef they recommended.  I made three hamburger patties made from ground sirloin, a little salt and pepper and some sun-dried tomatoes.  I ate 2 bowls of vegetable soup.  I had about 3 tomatoes with some onion salt on them and drank over 90 ounces of water.  I also had a glass of unsweetened iced green tea.

Friday - beef and vegetables
Again, not my favorite day.  Although I felt full, I remember wanting fruit on day 5.  On day 6 I sauteed some beef tips with salt and pepper and a tad of oil.  As for vegetables, I ate some more tomatoes, corn and green beans and also had a bowl of vegetable soup.  I drank over 90 ounces of water and had 1 cup of black coffee.

Saturday - brown rice, fruit juices and vegetables
I was excited about the last day!  On day 7 I made a batch of brown rice and had peas, carrots, mushroom, green beans and tomatoes.  I also had one Naked fruit smoothie.  I drank about 80 ounces of water and had 2 cups of black coffee.  That night, I slipped and had a McDonald's cheeseburger for dinner.

By Sunday morning, day 8, I was down a total of 8.6 pounds!

Some things I've noticed this week is that my cravings for sweets has really gone down.  I'm also drinking a whole lot more water than normal - trying to maintain about 80 ounces a day.  I may consider doing the cleanse again, but most likely will choose a few days a month to just eat fruits and vegetables.

On the link above, it gives a recipe for "special soup".  Nothing about it sounded good to me and I heard that it tasted horrible.  So my special soup consisted of vegetable broth, onions, carrots and tomatoes.  I put in some salt and pepper and a few bay leaves and let it come together for about 45 minutes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tough Truth for Military Kids

Yesterday afternoon, Grace and I had this conversation in the car on the way home from school...

Grace:  Do we still use canons?
Me: I don't know.  That's a daddy-question.
Grace:  Do they have canons at Daddy's work?
Me:  I don't think so.  But they have bombs.
Grace:  Bombs?  Like Fruit Ninja?
Me:  Exactly

Tonight during dinner, out of the blue Grace asks me this question...

Grace:  When will Daddy have to go back to Iraq?
Me:  Iraq?  I hope never again.  The war there is over for us.
Grace:  There aren't more wars?
Me:  Well, yes there are still wars going on.  But Daddy doesn't have to go right now to fight in those.
Grace:  Daddy goes there to fight for us, right?
Me:  Yep!  Daddy wants us all to be safe.
Grace:  I wish there weren't wars.  Aren't you glad Daddy didn't die when he was away?
Me:  Oh my gosh, yes.  I'm so happy Daddy came home to us.

These are such hard conversations.  These topics don't come up often.  Joel's been home now 1 1/2 years - the longest stretch since Grace has been born.  So topics like war, soldiers dying and people being killed overseas don't come up in our house too often.  For the past 1 1/2 years, life here has seemed normal.  Not quite civilian-life normal, but still pretty quiet.

I just pray that God would grant me wisdom for these hard conversations.  These aren't things I would have ever dreamed to talk about with my 6 year old.

Do any of you military moms have advice for how to handle these hard topics?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Vertical Church: Chapter 3 Glory

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus
throughout all generations, 
forever and ever.  Amen.  Ephesians 3:21

In February, I sat in a hotel conference room with about 40 other people.  We were all there to find out one thing - to find out more about this church plant we all had heard about.  We all came from various churches all around our area - God drew us together that night.  As our pastor was speaking and sharing about the vision for this new church, one word stood out to me - glory.  Now, glory is something we Christians hear about often and say and sing about frequently.  But there was something about the way our pastor spoke about glory that made me think.  Why is he so passionate about bringing God's glory to this town?  Isn't that what every church ultimately works for?

James MacDonald sums-up this big God-word in chapter 3:  Remember that glory is any manifestation of God, glory is evidence for God, it is proof of God's existence.  Glory is when we see something that could not be by itself, which is everything our eyes fall upon.  And while the creation is whispering His glory and the saved are singing His glory, the gospel of the Son is heralding the message:  there's a God, there's a God, there's a God! (pg. 99)

So, glory is a God word.  It's a church word.  We use it a lot.  We say we're doing it in the church. But are we really glorifying the Almighty?  Church has become a horizontal pursuit - proclaiming truth while ignoring grace, avoiding truth while teaching an ubiblical view of grace, clinging to personal comfort in worship, allowing preaching on the pastor's thoughts and experiences rather than proclaiming God's word... these are all part of the horizontal church (John 1:14, John 7:18, Mark 12:30).  But God never intended the church to be horizontal.  It is supposed to be Vertical - man seeking God's glory and God displaying His manifest presence.

Let's stop making church about me.  Let's put an end to seeking out our comfort zones within the church walls.  Let's stop using church to pursue our own desires, our ambitions.  Let's start proclaiming God's glory.  Let's start seeking it.

Show us your glory, Lord!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Summer in Photos

Since I've been a very naughty blogger, I haven't shared a lot about our summer.  So, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into our full and very fun summer in pictures.  Hope you had a wonderful few months!

Lots of time at our zoo

1st ride on a train in New Hampshire
A unusual smile from el Hub

End of a great 5K

1st trip to the ocean for the girls

Love lighthouses & this one was perfect

Many trips to the dairy farm in New Hampshire for yummy milk and eggs

Visiting my best friend from college & her awesomely patient husband. Love Seattle!

Did you know Bison & Buffalo are different???

God's awesome creation - Mt Rainier

Yummy Oreo martinis

Grace's 1st riding lessons

Our sweet friends and their new little one

4-wheeling with my best friend

Celebrating 9 years of marriage - and he even (kinda) smiled

Autumn sorting toys - love it!

Seeing the Stanley Cup

Hair cuts before school starts

One last "hoorah" this summer at a baseball game

1st Grade

Grace started 1st grade on Monday.  Each year, from preschool to now, I'm surprised that it's possible that she's old enough for school.  Why is my baby growing up???  It's a hard thing for me, as I'm gathering from all your Twitter and Facebook posts, is a hard thing for most of you, too.

Grace and I packed her school bag weeks ago - carefully reading and re-reading her list, labeling her name on about a thousand different items and packing and re-packing, until her bag was just right.  Her clothes have been washed and hung up in her closet.  Shoes have been bought and put aside so they aren't marked up until the last-possible minute.  All of this planning and organizing, and you would think that I would have remembered earlier than a week before school that I planned to work on her spelling and math with her this summer.  I bought a workbook the first week in June to go over with her... and now school has started, and we haven't even begun her "summer" workbook.  Oh, well.  We had fun at the pool, the park and New Hampshire... and fun is what summer is about anyway.

It was a good first day.  She goes to a very small school, so all but two of the students this year were in her Kindergarten class.  Grace seems to love her new teacher and is loving being in a school routine again.  That girl THRIVES on routine.

Can't wait to see how much she learns and grows this school year.  I can't wait to see her continue to grow in confidence.

And since her first day of school was a great success, I thought she deserved a treat...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vertical Church: Chapter 2 Manifest Presence

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory." Psalm 115:1

Last week, I wrote about Chapter 1 - God's transcendence... that yearning inside of all of us for the eternal.

This week the topic isn't any lighter.  God's glory and manifest presence.  I'll be honest, this chapter has a lot of weight to it.  I've read it several times now and my pages are covered in highlighter ink.  As I've read the pages again and again, I've come to realize how important these truths are and how central they are to the church.

As I've thought about His manifest presence and glory, I've come to realize how necessary both are to the church and in our daily walk with the Lord.  Let me share with you one example of God's manifest presence in my life...

In February of 2007, Joel left for his first tour in Iraq.  This was our first deployment as a couple, and my jaded understanding that being married to a military man was all fun and romantic quickly shifted.  I didn't know how I was going to cope as a "single mom" while he was away at war, let alone how I was going to deal with the gravity of what Joel was about to do while deployed.  My emotions were up, down and completely unpredictable.  The weight of all of the unknowns was almost too much to bear.

D-day came.  The day us military wives dread.  I cried on and off all day, but tried to keep things as positive as I could for Joel and our then 11 month old Grace.  Soon, Joel's best friend came to the house to bring Joel to the base.  We said our goodbyes, I shed a few tears and soon he was out of the house, down the driveway, and gone from sight.  

I remember Grace standing in the middle of our living room floor in her footie pajamas, like it was just another night.  As she giggled and played, I fell to pieces.  Before long, I was balled-up in the middle of our living room, on the floor, weeping.  I still can feel how my whole body shook - as I thought about the man I loved on his way to many, many months of unknowns.  In those few moments, I felt alone, afraid and without strength.

I called out to God.  Please Lord, help me.  I need You.  I can't do this without You.  Be with me.

For those of you who know God's manifest presence - who've felt it - it won't surprise you to know that in that moment of complete weakness and helplessness, God's presence fell on me.  He was near.

In the few hours that followed, God was with me as I talked with Gracie.  He was with me as I loved on her, read to her and tucked her into bed.  His presence was with me and before me as I carried on those many months.  He carried me through.  He was near.

Sometime, in the middle of that deployment, I came across a sign at a local store that summed up my prayer... my prayer for that deployment, the two that came after that one, and for all the times in between.  It hangs in my kitchen, and is a constant reminder of my yearning for God's presence in my life, His nearness.

We need His manifest presence.  It should be our desire as a church to have His presence, His nearness on us and with us each Sunday.  That's what I want in a church, and He wants that, too.  In Exodus 33, we see a glimpse of a conversation between God and Moses.  Moses was a great man of God, a great man of faith.  But in these verses we see that Moses didn't want to go anywhere that God wasn't.  God continued to remind Moses, to calm him by saying My presence will go with you.

I don't want to take one step in my life without the presence of God with me and before me.  I don't want to go to a church where God doesn't show up.  I need Him with me.  I want His weight on me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vertical Church: Chapter 1

In high school, while at a Christian youth conference, I sat in an auditorium surrounded by kids my age.  Most of us in that room had heard of Christ before.  Most of us knew what salvation was and I would imagine, most of us had accepted Christ as a young child.  So there I sat, a teenager secure in her salvation - going on about 10 years as a "Christian".  We sang songs together, listened to a message... some of us took notes.  At the end of that night, the speaker prayed the "sinner's prayer".  You know the one...

If you are tired of living a life apart from God... 
If you realize that you are a sinner in need of Divine grace...  
If you want to accept Christ's free gift and follow Him...
 pray this prayer with me...

It was a prayer I heard so often as a young Christian who went to church every week with my family.  I knew the prayer.  I knew the Gospel.

But something happened at that moment.  While the speaker was asking us to accept Christ, my world shifted.  In that moment, my soul yearned for something greater - greater than my mediocre, lazy Christian life.  I knew of Him, but I didn't know Him.  I loved Him, but my love for Him was shallow.  The life that I lead as a Christian girl was dull.

At that moment my heart hurt.  I wanted more.  I wanted more of Him.  I wanted to know Him better.  To serve Him better.  To love Him with all that I had.

A few minutes later, I found myself sitting between my sister and my youth group leader, weeping.  I  was literally crying out to God.  I wanted the God of the universe, the Almighty, to fall on me, take over my life and rule my heart.

My life was forever changed at that moment.  Although I had many times of falling back into a lazy Christian life - when I became content in the knowledge of God and not His heart - when I was satisfied with living half for Him...  But God always took a hold of me.  Whether it was during times witnessing to Joel before he got saved, or when an initial positive result for cancer came back negative the next day... or the moment I held my daughters for the first time, or even last spring, when God started peeling away the layers of my heart.  I yearn for God's transcendence, for eternity.  You do, too.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "he has put eternity into man's heart".  It's in all of us - we long for a God that cannot be measured.

James MacDonald discusses this further in chapter one, and perfectly sums up where my struggles have been with my relationship with God:
The dilemma of the human race is not that we are unaware of God but that when push comes to shove, we value ourselves more highly than we value God.  The core of humanity's sin problem is not a horizontal behavior to be corrected, but a Vertical relationship to be restored... All are aware of a God, but most do not acknowledge His rightful place.  (pg. 56)

When I struggle with how I see God, my relationship with Him shifts.  And always for the worse.

A Longing in Our Church
The thing I'm most excited for with our new church is seeing lives changed.  I can't wait to see what happens when our Eternal God changes the hearts of men, women and children in our church.

When God shows up, lives are changed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vertical Church: The Very Beginning

First Things First
Over the years, I've been in many churches.  Churches of various denominations, beliefs and worship styles.  So, let me be clear about this - as I blog my way through Vertical Church, my thoughts are merely my own and not some hidden criticism of any church that I've been to or have been actively involved in.  I am also not saying that there is one way to do church. My only desire if for God's glory in the church - and that's why I'm so excited about this book.

You should also know that Joel I and attend a Harvest Bible Chapel.  We are actually helping to plant a Harvest Bible Chapel and have been incredibly blessed by the process.  James MacDonald, who wrote Vertical Church, is the founding pastor of Harvest and we love his direct, clear, practical teaching.  So, I've already experienced some of the truths that James lays-out in the book.

So, Let's Get Started
Yesterday, Vertical Church finally arrived... I ordered a few books and a CD.  As I sit on my bed and flipped through the book, my heart was instantly gripped by the message.  Tears came to my eyes.  And I know this won't be the last time.

This book - the idea really of a Vertical Church - stirs my heart.  How powerful would it be if Christians today would move away from the horizontal experience of church, and instead set their eyes, minds and hearts above?

I don't know where you're at with church... Do you attend?  Do you quickly rush to your car as soon as the service is over?  Are you involved?  Do you want to be involved, but can't get connected?  Do you feel ministered to?  Do you feel loved?  Does the sermon leave you confused or bored?  Does the sermon grip your heart?  Is the gospel proclaimed?  Are you growing in your faith?  Are you held accountable?  Does your church fear change?  Does your church change after every cultural shift?

Many today leave church feeling unsatisfied, even frustrated or grieved by their experience (pg. 22).  And what happens when people feel that way?  They leave their church, hoping to find another one that will meet their heart-needs.

Right away, James MacDonald gets to the crux and says that once we seek to honor God, God Himself shows up and builds.  Brokenness is being mended, sickness is being healed, the lost are being found, and families that were floundering are finding fulfillment in a weekly encounter with God Himself, who is the unmistakable constant of a Vertical Church. (pg. 23)

So, I have to ask then, is your church Vertical?

For Leaders & Church-Goers
Vertical Church isn't just for church leaders.  It's for every single Christian today.  Something isn't working in most churches.  You know it.  I know it.  We all need to desire a church that is for God, about God, through God, and to the glory of His great Son. (pg. 27)

From Here on Out
There are 8 chapters total in Vertical Church.  The first four deal with the theology behind going Vertical. The remaining four chapters deal with the "how" of a Vertical Church.

Each week I will take a chapter and share my thoughts with you.  I hope that you'll pick up a copy and join me.  I'd love to know your thoughts, excitements and experiences!

Let's do this!

Today, I'll leave you with this - think about it, meditate upon it and ask God to open your heart...

Deep within we long for the Father of all galaxies
 to fall on us weekly and take us to the mat with His full weight.
Is that happening in your church?  
When was the last time you were gripped by the greatness of God?  (pg. 20)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Going Vertical

I've been a Christian since I was 5 years old.  As a young child, sitting on the counter in a church kitchen at an AWANA program, I asked Jesus to be my savior and told Him I would follow Him.  In the 25+ years as a follower of Christ, I have gone through times of incredible growth, times of struggle and times in the desert.  In the 25+ years as a follower of Christ, I have been in many churches - all types of denominations, theological-leanings, worship styles and beliefs.  God was praised in some, man was glorified in others.

The Church today is not perfect.  You know that.  Whether you're a believer in Jesus or not, you know that the Church is imperfect. As long as man is at the wheel, the Church will fail.  It may have failed you. But what happens when we put aside our own interests, or own comforts, our own agenda and seek to glorify Him alone - seek to glorify God above all else?  What happens then?

If you know Joel and I well, you know that this past spring we decided to do something crazy.  I mean really crazy.  I mean something I never, ever thought I would be a part of.  We are part of a church plant.  Crazy, right?

When I thought of church plants before, I either thought of missionaries planting a church in a far-away country or some crazy people trying to set-up church in a movie theater in the States.  But here we are, part of a church plant.  Seven months ago, we left what was comfortable to follow in obedience...

In these seven months, we have developed great friendships. We have people in our lives who love us, want to know us and want to do life with us.  I have friends in this church who push me constantly toward a better, truer, richer relationship with Christ.  We have a pastor who knows us.  He understands our unique military life and has committed to stand beside us, no matter what life may bring.

Above all, our church is dedicated to bring God's glory.  So what does that mean?  What does it look like for a church to stop being man-focused, and instead set its sight on Him and Him alone?  Well, that's what I'm excited to blog about this month.  A church that goes Vertical.

Next week, I'll start blogging my way through Vertical Church, a book by James MacDonald.  I hope you'll join me, and together we can learn about what is means to go vertical.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Proud Mommy Moments: Riding with Confidence

For those of you who know our little Grace, you probably know that she can be very shy at times and has a difficult time trying new things.  She can be extremely anxious about new things... going from complete-calm to total-freak-out in no time.  After lots of talks, Joel and I think that 3 deployments in 4 years has caused her to cling to routine and things she knows well.  She struggles with things outside of her little comfort zone. She thrives on routine and the things she knows.

The last few years, I've been waiting and watching - wondering what things will interest her.  What will her hobbies be?  Will she like sports?  What will catch her attention?  What will she fall in love with?  I've tried hard not to push her... but just let something grab her.

That something has grabbed her and it's horses.  I know loving horses isn't unusual for a 6 year-old.  But it's the one thing that she's totally in love with.  She has STACKS of horse books that she pours over.  I mean, seriously, pours herself over... studying pictures, memorizing pictures, asking a million questions about something I know so-little about.  Pretty regularly, I will go into her room at 11 pm, ready to go to bed myself, and find her bed covered in horse books.

So, horses are her thing.  And now that's she's found her thing, we were excited to get her involved.  I found a great place in our area that offers riding lessons.  They work a look with disabled kids - from extreme physical disabilities to learning disabilities and anxiety issues.  I knew they would be able to work with Grace, so I couldn't wait to let Grace know she was signed-up for riding lessons.

For the last several months, Grace has asked me daily when riding lessons would start... and a billion other questions about riding that I know nothing about.  And then the big day came and both of us were bursting with excitement.  Well, me with jealously.  But she was totally excited.

And she did awesome.  My little girl who is so anxious about nearly everything was so ready to meet the horses, help groom them, pet them and get on one.  She's gone three times now and each week, she grows in confidence and skill.  This past weekend, she did her first trail ride, and did so well.  She was in her element.

These last three deployments have had their effect on her.  They've caused her to cling to the known and feel anxious about things beyond her control.  We continue to pray that God would calm her heart and anxieties.  And I know He will.  Right now, we are just thankful, that these horses seem to be a part of that process.

Head over to EmmyMom and link-up with us for Proud Mommy Moments!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

9 Years!

Today, Joel and I are celebrating our 9 year anniversary.  Probably like most couples, we always think back on the years we've been together - those sweet first few months of marriage, the times of uncertainty and challenge, and the times that are just plain tough.  The past nine years have been both blissful and painful.

All in all, we have grown together through it.  We have learned our own strengths and weaknesses because of each other.  And we've learned that in all things, we have to work together and not against each other.

Joel's deployments have created their own challenges for us.  If you've been following this blog for a while, you've probably read about them.  But if you're new here or are new friends of ours, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of our first homecoming story.  Joel's first homecoming from Iraq was a major turning point in our marriage.  And it's those months that I think back to often - remembering how much we struggled, how much  we hurt and how much grace God poured on us during them.  We never want to go back to that place, although we're grateful for the experience and the refining God did in our lives during that time.

Nine years ago I was starry-eyed about marriage.  All I could see was rainbows, hearts and fairy dust in our future.  But marriage is not those things.  And I'm thankful for the man God gave me - to push me, grow me, love me, pick me up and help lead me through our lives together.


I love you more today than I did yesterday.  Thank you for always loving me, always encouraging me, always seeing the best in me.  Thank you for working so hard for our family and for standing up for what's right, even when it's hard.  I can't imagine my life without you.  I can't imagine life without our little family.  Through all the obstacles of life, I'm honored to walk this road with you.  Praying that God would grow us together this year and that He would show us how to love each other better and more purely.

All my love,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It Hasn't Felt Right to Write

I just realized that it's been well over a month since my last post.  I've gotten lots of requests for new posts... but I always respond that I only post when I'm inspired.  This blog has, since the beginning, been about transparency and honesty.  And I simply can't write when it doesn't feel right.

But just because I've been away does not mean life has been quiet.  I feel more busy and a whole lot more overwhelmed than I have in months.  But it's a good overwhelmed - Grace is on break from school, we've been on vacation for the past several weeks and we have lots of projects brewing-away.

Now that vacations are over, I have some posts I'd like to do soon.  So, I'll be back - sooner than later, I hope!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Proud Mommy Moments: She's Ready!

I'm linking up this week with Emmy Mom for Proud Mommy Moments - a fun and easy post where I get to share what moments tickled my heart or made me turn red in embarrassment from my kids.  This week, I'm pretty darn tickled.

Two weeks ago, Grace went through some testing to evaluate her readiness for 1st grade.  In normal Jill-fashion, I stressed out about this test and began quizzing Grace nightly on things that she would be tested on.  Joel kept reminding me that it was just Kindergarten, and that I needed to chill.  But that's just not me.

Yesterday the results came home, and I ripped the envelope open as soon as Grace handed it to me.  And wouldn't you know, she did great!  She tested perfectly in letter identification and comprehension and interpretation.  She also tested near-perfect in phonemic awareness and mathematical knowledge.

Again, I realize this is Kindergarten... but when it's your kid, you're proud!  She's grown so much this year... she loves to figure out how to spell words and she loves "quizzing" Joel and I in math while we're driving around in the car.

I can't wait to see how her mind and heart continue to grow... 1st Grade is coming up way to fast!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Me in the Mirror

I know it's been a while since I wrote a legitimate post.  Sorry for the hiatus - it wasn't planned, but I needed it.

The last two months has been both equally great and difficult.  In so many ways, God has shown up and provided me with abundantly more than I've asked of Him.  In other ways, He has allowed me to go through some pretty muddy times.  Hard times.  And that's what this is all about.

For those who are Christians, you know there are too many times in our walk that we feel that everything is going pretty well.  There are no obvious tribulations.  Relationships are good.  We're pretty happy, and maybe even joyful at times.  There are no obvious sins in our life.  We're basically coasting through.

That's been me for the last while.  Joel and I are doing pretty well - no major problems or fights but we're not really growing a whole lot.  My friendships are good, but they could be better.  I'm pretty content most of the time, but still have moments when I want more out of life than what God has given me.  I don't have any major sins that I'm dealing with.  My relationship with God is good.  Steady.

But if you're mature in your faith, you know that our relationships should be moving forward.  Our relationship with Christ should be growing.  We should always be aware of areas in our life where God is pushing us to grow - convicting us.  We are to also be content all of the time with what God has given us now - knowing that God gives us what we need today, and we don't need to worry about the next day, month or year. 

Last month, I went with a group from our church to a church conference in Chicago.  It was amazing - our group really grew together and God showed up in big ways.  Lives were changed. The first night of the conference, we started with worship.  I mean amazing worship.  In normal Jill-form, I started crying pretty heavily.  A friend turned to me, gave me a hug and asked if God was peeling away some layers.  I told her, no, that I am just a crier.  But the truth was He was.  He was beginning the process of peeling back some areas in my life - bitterness, hurt, loneliness, pride...  Throughout the next few days, God continued to show me where I've put up walls and He was tearing them down.

See, during the last few months, I haven't seen obvious sin in my life.  I don't cheat, steal, lust... you know, Ten Commandment-type sins.  I haven't been dealing with the big ones.  But God has revealed so many areas in my where I am living apart from Him - apart from His perfection.

During times of conviction, I have found that you either flee from God or run to Him.  Well, I've been running toward Him.  My quiet times have been more consistent and meaningful then they've been in a long time.  And while it feels good to be in His arms and under the Spirit, it is hard.  The peeling back of those layers is hard.  It hurts.

In the mornings, I've taken a break from listening to my iPod in the bathroom and have instead started listening to sermons.  I listen to James MacDonald with the Walk in the Word app on my phone.  In the past few weeks, I've listened to sermons about guilt, fear, people pleasing, and living for futility.  Sometimes at church it's easy to space-out during a sermon and not allow the pastor's words to penetrate your heart.  But I've found that during my 25-minute routine in front of the mirror every morning, that it's impossible to look myself in the face - look at my reflection, while listening to God's Word be preached - and not be convicted.  And it's during those mornings that God has pushed on my heart the hardest. 

So, that's where I am today.  God is pushing on my heart - hard.  He is showing me the areas in my life that I've chosen to live, apart from Him. 

I'll write about those areas more.  I'm still trying to process through it all.  But there are some things that I've blogged about struggling with before, that God has shown me that I'm still struggling with. 

If you want to know where my heart is right now, read Psalm 139.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

10 Things to Smile About: April

Wow!  April is over - how in the world did that happen?  It was a crazy month around here - a good month, but a bit of a blur.  So here are 10 things that made me smile last month...

1.  Grace continuing to grow in knowledge and in her heart.  She came home with this handwriting work from school - this made my heart so happy.  God is growing her.

2.  Easter.  We had a lovely brunch with my parents, followed by an Easter egg hunt.  With all that's been going on in life, this was a truly sweet day.

3.  Lots and lots of time with new friends.  I'm amazed how quickly I've grown to love a group of people, I've only known for a short time.

5.  Continued success with our journey to become debt free. Our grand total since September 2011 is $10,900.  Lots of hard work to do still.  But we've made a ton of progress and I can't wait to know how it feels to be able to say "we are debt free".

6.  A new workout routine that I'm incorporating with my workouts at the YMCA.  The workouts are hard, sweaty, but somehow super fun.  I'm seeing some good progress in just one month... can't wait to finally be ok with swimsuit season.

7.  Going to Harvest University in Chicagoland with my new church... wonderful teaching, inspiring ministry and God-glorifying worship.  It was truly amazing.

8.  A sleepover with 3 Kindergartners.  It was crazy.  It was loud.  It was exhausting.  It was fun.  Oh, and thanks Mom, for putting up with all my sleepovers.  I had no idea!

9.  Our first trip to the zoo this season. 

10.  With only a month of school left, we are making fun plans for the summer - a trip to the East coast, a trip to Seattle and some horse riding lessons for Miss Grace.

Friday, April 20, 2012

She's 2 & I'm Sad About It

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, then you are well aware that Autumn turned 2 today.  I'm sorry, but I'm one of those moms who is so in love with my kids that I expect you to be, too.  And you should.  Because they're pretty awesome kids and super cute, too.

Anyway, we celebrated Autumn's birthday the same way we did with Grace when she turned 2 - with a trip to Build-a-Bear and then lunch at Chuck-E-Cheese.  The trip to Build-a-Bear was hysterical - she went crazy and ran from one thing to the next... free from her stroller and with so much stimuli.  It was fun and she now has a bear named Crissy.  We were then off to a heartburn-inducing lunch at Chuck-E-Cheese.  It was fun.  And I'm pretty sure Joel and I had as much fun as Autumn did, because skee ball is awesome.

At the end the day, a dear friend came over and had dinner with us and helped to celebrate Autumn's special day.  While the kids were playing, I confessed to my friend that although we had a lot of fun today, I felt like I was mourning Autumn turning 2.  As a mom, you always want  your kids to grow.  There would be something wrong if  you never wanted your kids to grow in age, knowledge and understanding.  That is your job as a mom - to make sure they get from being a newborn to a thriving adult.

But I'm having a hard time with it.  Something about 2 says that I need to say goodbye to Autumn as a baby.  And I'm not quite ready to do that.  But she is - as evidenced with two new Autumn words today: "mall" and "pizza".  My baby isn't quite a baby anymore.

Happy birthday, my sweet, funny little girl!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watch Your Own Kids, Pretty Please

Every once in a while, I like to get my soapbox out and stand on it for a bit.  Today is one of those days...

It was a gorgeous day yesterday, so I decided to take the girls to the park after I picked Grace up from school.  We picked up some drinks at Wendy's and were on our way to play until dinnertime.  When I got there, there was only one other child, a 4-year old girl who played while her grandmother sat on a bench with her face buried in a newspaper. 

About 10 minutes after we got there, the grandmother packed up her newspaper, got up from her bench, and walked to her car.  She didn't say ANYTHING to her granddaughter.  She just left.  Her granddaughter ran after her, probably worried that she was going to be left behind.  After a while, the little girl came back to the play area, while her grandmother sat in her car.

Now the parking lot is probably 70-100 yards away from the play area.  Not really all that close.  So for the next 20 minutes, I am left to watch and play with my girls, and now this other kid... It came to a point when I realized that I didn't want to be responsible for someone else's child.  I shouldn't be.  But I was left responsible.  Because obviously a 60+ year old lady can't watch her own granddaughter.

Two things made me upset... 1- I was left to watch a kid who wasn't mine.  Not to mention I didn't know her at all.  2- The grandmother made a choice not to be involved with her granddaugther's play.  Seems awful selfish and unloving to me.

So I left with my girls... with the other little girl trailing behind us to our car.  As I walked by the grandmother, who was now yelling at the little girl to get in the car, I did say something... something to the effect "you can't just leave her like that".  Of course she said she was watching.  Whatever.

We used to go to a park closer to our house.  But I haven't been there in 2 years, because every time I would go, I would end up "watching" every one's children while they sat in a pavilion and hung out with their friends.  Now it's one thing if you have a 8, 9, or 10 year old... but don't leave your toddlers alone.  And don't expect another adult to watch them.

I'm kinda thinking it would be a good, yet passive aggressive idea to get a sweatshirt just for park trips... it could read on the back I'm watching my own kids.  I don't want to watch yours.  Any betther ideas?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Post: Exercise Your Pallet

How “ugly” wood can add beauty to your home...

Stress and depression are common ailments these days. Whether it be you job, money, or even having a loved one in the military, avoiding stress can be a daunting task. Though doctors prescribe pills and therapists prescribe sessions, sometimes those things don’t cut it. Some turn to exercise, vacations, long distance phone calls to family members or their man/woman overseas, but who would have thought DYI projects could help lend a hand?

The truth is, adding a little something of your own to your house, gardening, or writing can help take you mind of things for awhile and reduce stress. The confidence boost that comes of completing a project is what enables this. For this article I have decided to talk about making items out of palette wood. It is something I enjoy and is a free way to make some cool things.

Finding raw materials can often be the most expensive part of a new project. A growing trend among the do-it-yourself crowd has been to salvage and reuse materials that have been discarded after their initial use. One of the most popular items over the last few years has been the wooden shipping pallet.

It is estimated that ¼ of the wood harvested in the United States is used for constructing shipping pallets. Used by companies to package and secure large amounts of items, these wooden pieces are forgotten once the shipments are received and the products stored away. Often they are used only once before being stacked in an ally or shipped off to take up space in a landfill.

The solution to the problem is simple and easy. Recycle the wood from the pallets for projects around the house! The Internet is filled with blueprints and instructions on crafting anything from a birdhouse to a bed platform using the wood from recycled pallets. There are endless examples of end tables, swinging outdoor chairs, coffee tables and computer desks that are easy to make and require nothing but the pallets, some screws or nails and a little bit of paint.

Enterprising green thumbs have found plenty of uses for pallets in their backyards. From using them to build compost bins or hanging gardens, the pallets provide an inexpensive way to build an environmentally-friendly garden. Some ambitious builders have even gone so far as to build cabins and storage sheds using nothing but recycled shipping pallets!

Reusing wooden shipping pallets is a fun, inexpensive way to help the environment and create one-of-a-kind projects that can be used for years to come.

About My Guest Blogger:
My name is Allison and I am a fun-loving, adventurous being. When my job doesn’t have me traveling I normally guest blog, ride my horse, or hang out with friends. I normally write about natural health and healing, but I Love writing about projects and eco friendly DYI projects.

Allison can be reached through her blog, Musings of a Curious Mind

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 Things to Smile About: March

March is by-far, one of my favorite months.  Not only is my birthday in March (*cough*) but March always means spring and spring just makes me happy.

So, here are 10 things that made me smile this month...

1.  Shamrock shakes... those things are a both lethal and delicious.  It's probably a good thing that McDonald's doesn't sell them year-round!

2.  Grace turned 6!

3.  Road trips!

4.  God's continued leading in our lives... this time He has lead us to help with a church plant.  We are so ready for this challenge!

5.  Warmer weather means the grill has returned to it's home outside... many hot dogs have been consumed in March.

6.  I turned one year older, too... but I'll still be 29 forever.

7.  Spring means spring/summer clothes shopping... which I've done within budget, mind you.  I can't wait to wear some new dresses soon.

8.  Tulips.  Oh my gosh, I adore tulips.

9.  Hunger Games.  Yes, I'm one of those people.  I'm on the 3rd book right now... and Joel treated me to a 9:45 am showing on Sunday.  9:45 am is a weird time to watch a movie with the smell of popcorn all around - & it brings out the weirdest people.

10.  Sunny, warm weather. 

Anything make you smile this month?