Monday, April 29, 2013

Bridal Shower and a Prom Dress

I already told you my life has been jam-packed lately.  I don't really take pictures of these things that I'm doing for about 22 hours per day, and I don't think you want to read my descriptions of all I've accomplished and/or survived in the last week.

But I can show you a couple of the fun things.

I co-host all the baby and bridal showers at my church with my good friend Patty.  She always gets the table cloths, plates, napkins, and punch.  I always make and decorate cupcakes (and sometimes cookies) and come up with the games for the showers.

I don't know why, but it has never occurred to me to take pictures of the showers we've thrown together over the last couple of years.  That's kind of a bummer since each one is totally unique.  We always try to match the colors and theme of the wedding or the baby's nursery.

The bridal shower that we hosted this past weekend was for a very special young woman named Missy.  I've known Missy for about 8-9 years, and Patty has known her for 17 years.  Missy is getting ready to marry a pretty fantastic guy, and her giddiness is contagious.

Missy gave me an inspiration photo for the colors she really wanted:

I saved that picture on my phone and took it with me everywhere.  I usually make the cupcake toppers out of marshmallow fondant so they can be cute and match the theme but also be edible.  I was nervous about matching that green, so I decided to try something different this time.

I used my Silhouette SD, which is a machine that cuts paper, cardstock, and even some fabrics.  It connects to my computer and uses a special software program.  I can purchase shapes to import into the software.  Then I create the shapes/designs I want, load my paper into the Silhouette, and let it do the cutting for me.

I found green and brown cardstock at Hobby Lobby and brainstormed for a few ideas for cupcake toppers.  I came up with "J + M" for the groom's and bride's first initials, "A" for their last name (his last name, her soon-to-be last name), and their wedding date.

I later wrote the wedding date on the toppers in the bottom row here.

My Silhouette blade was dull, so I had to go over every cut by hand with my craft knife (like a scalpel).  Then I glued the green and brown layers together with a glue stick to form the fronts of the toppers.  I hot glued those to lollipop sticks, and then I hot glued solid colored circles to the backs of the sticks.

I promise the colors looked better in person.  They were a pretty good match to Missy's picture.

I tried to snap a couple quick pictures on my phone at the shower.  Sorry for the horrible quality.

I also made homemade slice-and-bake cookies with green sprinkles around some and chocolate sprinkles around the others.

So when I say I'm busy, it's usually with something like this where I spent three days making cupcakes toppers and two days baking goodies (the cookies and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting).

I've already started working on the next shower.  It's a bridal shower, and the wedding colors are "lapis" and gray.  I've never heard of lapis.  Apparently, according to the bride, it's a dark color that borders right between deep purple and navy blue.  I already spent an hour last night at Hobby Lobby just walking around trying to find this mysterious color and figure out how to work it into the shower.  I'll let you know how that works out.

Another project I recently completed was altering a prom dress for Jared's little sister Caitlin.  She is a senior in high school, and her prom was this past Saturday.  I thought working on her dress would be pretty straightforward after I altered my own bridesmaid dress last year, but it turned out that her dress was even more complicated!  Luckily, I only had to alter one part, so I was able to figure it out.

I went over to her house on Saturday (after the boys' swim lessons and after I attended a baby shower but before I attended a family gathering/going away party) so I could take pictures of her all done up in her dress.  She also wanted to use one of the pictures for her graduation announcements.  I don't think she'd mind if I give you a peek at her pictures.  After we got home from the family party Saturday night, I stayed up until 1:00 A.M. editing these pictures so I could give them to her the next day (after I attended church, taught a Sunday school class, and hosted a bridal shower).  Do you see why I'm exhausted?

Anyway, the pictures.

I was standing out in the rain while she tried to stay under the overhang on their front porch.

And we just had to get a picture of Caitlin with her six-month-old daughter Addison.  You may remember Addison from this post.  She was the smallest newborn baby I've ever held!

The last year of Caitlin's life has been a challenge.  These pictures gave us a chance to celebrate little things like how beautiful Caitlin looked and big things like choosing a picture for her graduation.  We are so proud of her for making it to graduation!  I certainly enjoyed my girly time with Caitlin taking these pictures.

So there you have it:  a little bit of evidence that I actually accomplished something in the last few days other than giving myself a headache.


Crazy Life

My word.  Life can go from normal crazy to crazy crazy without warning.

The last two weeks or so have built up to the point of feeling like I'm drowning.  I'm sure you've all been there.

My white board to-do list was literally full, with no room to write anything else.  Each time I completed a task and erased it, I had to fill that space almost immediately with another to-do.  I've had meetings, attended a baby shower, hosted a bridal shower, met with teachers about Griffin, gathered with family, planned Nolan's upcoming birthday party, shopped for multiple gifts, altered a prom dress, took prom pictures, altered my own shirt, wrote a heartfelt letter to a retiring teacher, baked tons of treats, studied a Sunday school lesson, and done all the tasks necessary to keep up with a house and children.  That list is just from the last 2-3 days.

In addition to being overscheduled and overworked, I have been feeling the weight of so much going on around me.  It just seems like nearly everyone in my little world has been going through very tough times.  Unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, seriously ill children, etc.  My daily troubles are nothing compared to the burdens my friends and loved ones are carrying.

I often feel the emotions of people around me.  I believe it's part of how God created me so I can connect with others.  I genuinely celebrate with their joy and grieve with their sorrow.  It's a gift.  However, as with any gift, I have to use it as intended.  This means I have to work to not be overly sensitive, which is hard because I can't just turn it on and off.  I have to continue to ask for discernment so I don't misinterpret others.  And I also have to beware of taking on too much of other people's negative emotions. 

Last week I found myself carrying more than my share of the heavy burdens around me.  God designed me to show compassion to people and to be inspired to take action when I can.  But he never intended for me to sink under the weight of what only he can carry.  I was reminded of God's offer for us to bring our burdens to him, and I know that means I have the privilege of carrying burdens to God on behalf of my loved ones.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yolk is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30
It almost makes me laugh to think of God saying his burden is light.  He's just taking care of every person in the world.  No biggie.

I've wrestled with the question of why my life is going well while others are facing such difficult circumstances.  I think it's God's plan for people to support each other, and right now it's my turn to play a supporting role.  I'm sure the roles will switch within these relationships in the future.

Maybe a little sooner than I'd like.  Jared is getting ready to leave for a two-week trip.  These two weeks that he'll be gone contain more activities, appointments, and events than possibly any other two-week period in our life that I can remember.  Seriously. 

I don't want to do all of these things by myself.  I can't do a lot of them by myself.  Do you know what I dislike more than doing hard things by myself?  Asking for help.

I cherish getting to be the helper, and I loathe accepting that I need help from others.  It doesn't really make sense.  But it's the truth of where I am right now.  And I'm pretty sure God sets up these stints of crazy single motherhood so I'm forced to ask others for help.

So for the rest of this week, I'm going to continue to relish being a supporter.  I'm trying to trust God to take care of me and my kids after Jared leaves on Friday.  No matter what craziness life throws at me during this dreaded two-week period, it all falls under the jurisdiction of God's "light" burden. 

I'm just looking forward to getting back to normal crazy.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Compliments & Timing

Yesterday I learned a little something about the timing of compliments.

There's a mom I run into several times per week because our sons attend the same school.  I always think she is adorable.  She has a fantastic figure, cute hair, great teeth.  I always want to tell her she's adorable, but I don't want to embarrass her in front of the other parents.

Yesterday presented a rare opportunity where this mom and I were the only ones left after school while our kids played together. 

But I chickened out and didn't say anything.

We started walking to our cars, but then her son called my son over to talk again.  This time, I didn't want to miss my opportunity.

I said, "I always want to tell you this, but I never want to embarrass you.  I think you are adorable."  I told her a few details of why I think she's cute. 

Her reaction was awesome.  She confessed that she has been feeling very down about her looks lately.  She even said she's been driving her husband crazy asking if she's still as pretty as when they met.  She said the compliment made a huge difference for her right now.

My simple statement that I was too timid to say before was exactly what this uncertain mom needed to hear.

What a challenge/reminder to me to speak my mind when I'm thinking positive things about people around me.  It's worth getting over my fear of sounding weird in order to encourage others.

I thought God was teaching me about giving compliments right at the time that other people need to hear them.  Little did I know he had more in mind for me yesterday.

I had been carrying a secret fear/insecurity for a day or two.  I hadn't even discussed it with Jared. 

Last night I had a meeting at church, and we finished before the church service so several of us stood around talking until the service let out.  Out of nowhere, a woman gave me an unexpected compliment.  As I stood there trying to receive her compliment, I was stunned that her words spoke directly to my secret insecurity.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stop my eyes from welling up.  Oh well.  At least now she knows that God used her to give me the right compliment at the right time.  And God allowed me to see both sides of how compliments can heal.

It can be difficult to speak compliments, for many reasons.  It's also challenging to receive a compliment when it's something you don't already believe about yourself.

But my challenge to you is to speak up when you have something nice to say, and hold your tongue and simply receive kind words when they come your way.

As I was thinking about all of this while driving this morning, the song "Remind Me Who I Am" by Jason Gray came on the radio.  He clearly understood me when he wrote this song.  The chorus says "Tell me once again who I am to you."  I feel that way.  I ask God over and over and over to remind me.  I still haven't figured out how to rest in my identity in Him.  I'm working on it.

I hope to live out the line that says, "I'm the one you love.  That will be enough."


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tooth Fairy Tales

Our web of parental lies has now expanded to include the Tooth Fairy.

Nolan lost his first tooth (one of his top front teeth) on February 20 of this year.  He had waited a looong time to lose his first tooth, considering he's nearly 7 years old and wrapping up first grade.

We knew this tooth was super close to coming out, and he ended up losing it at school.  Kids who lose teeth at school get to go see the nurse and get a special necklace to hold their tooth.  He ran out to me after school, and I could see the tooth necklace around his neck.

It's been so much fun admiring my baby boy with his adorable hole in his mouth whenever he talks to me.  I told him I remember when he first got that tooth, and now I can't believe he lost it! 

Nolan wrote a note for the tooth fairy and put his note and tooth under his pillow that night.  He had a hard time falling asleep, and he ended up sleeping with his hand on the note!

Here's what he wrote to the tooth fairy:

Dear Tooth Fairy, I lost my first tooth and waited e-x-t-r-a long so can I [have] at least 5 bucks if not can I have a mini nerf gun.  Love, Nolan  {Oh and can you tell me your name, how old you are, and if you are a boy or girl.}

That boy makes me smile.

So we carefully removed the tooth and note from under Nolan's protective grip, and we left this note along with $1:

Dear Nolan, You sure did wait a l-o-n-g time to lose that tooth!  I am so proud of you for waiting patiently!  Since you will be losing lots of teeth, and your brother and sister will eventually lose lots of teeth, I will be paying you $1.00 per tooth.  Maybe you can earn more money or a mini Nerf gun by doing chores for your parents.  Love, Tooth Fairy {P.S. You can just call me Tooth Fairy.  I am very old, and I am a girl.}

Nolan begged us to tell him whether we had written the note, but we managed to be vague and give diplomatic answers. 

Well, Nolan waited a long time to start losing teeth, but now he's on a roll.  He has lost two teeth in the last week!

Luckily, I had three crisp snail dollars on hand for these unexpected lost teeth.

Nolan's second tooth lost was one of his bottom front teeth.

You can see that his adult tooth had already poked through before he lost the baby tooth.  The adult tooth was growing in behind the baby tooth, and we are hoping it'll straighten out now that the baby tooth is gone.

Nolan lost the other bottom front tooth yesterday after school.  He was very nervous about losing his first tooth, but he pulled out Tooth #2 and Tooth #3 by himself with no hesitation.  Yesterday's tooth was the only one that really bled.

The letters between Nolan and the Tooth Fairy continued with each of these two teeth lost.  And he had a hard time falling asleep both nights. :)

Dear Tooth Fairy, I have lost my 2nd tooth but this time I had to be REALLY brave because I pulled it out and here are some questions at the bottom.  What's your name?  What's your favorite meal?  What do you use teeth for?  Love, Nolan (Yes, that is his tooth in the baggie.)

We decided to start typing our replies since I'm not very good at disguising my handwriting.

Sorry this one is hard to read.  I think you'll find it entertaining if you do manage to read it though!

And here are the letters from last night:

Dear Tooth Fairy, Hi I lost my third tooth and I pulled it out all by myself again and sorry it was not long ago when I lost my 2nd tooth and use my tooth wisely!  from Nolan

Griffin had asked Nolan to ask the Tooth Fairy for a new tooth brush (for Griffin).  Jared overheard the conversation, so we included a new toothbrush for Griffin along with Nolan's note and $1.

It's crazy to see the holes in Nolan's mouth when he talks.  He loves seeing what he can eat and drink through the holes.  It's like a new game.  Seeing that bottom adult tooth peaking through reminds me that Nolan is growing and changing.  It makes me happy and sad.

So there you have it.  We've relegated Santa to his place behind Jesus, we've managed to dodge the Easter Bunny altogether, and we have spun a web of lies as the Tooth Fairy.  At least typing the letters lets us say, "No, we didn't write that letter."

It's all part of the parenting experience!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vacation DVDs

We are planning a big family vacation in June.  We will be vacationing with my sister, brother, cousin, and everyone's spouses and children.  Getting to our vacation hot spot will take two days of driving (and another two days on the return end).

Two days trapped riding in the car with three children ages 7, 5, and 3. 

I will bring lots of options for entertainment, including books for reading, activity and coloring books, games, activities, etc.  But let's not kid ourselves here:  there will be lots of entertainment in the form of watching DVDs.

Before I had kids, I had a long mental list of things I would never do as a parent.  That list included letting my kids watch movies in the car.  I thought it was ridiculous that kids needed to be entertained in the car. 

Then our life changed to include school.  Now we have to get to Nolan's school early each afternoon just to find a parking spot, and my kids have to sit in the car for 30-45 minutes.  When I realized that this daily wait required something more than coloring books, I changed my parenting boundaries to include DVDs in the car.

Now "Watching DVDs in the car" is on a new list:  Things I Swore I'd Never Do As A Parent But Ended Up Doing Anyway.  It sits right below "Letting the kids eat PopTarts for breakfast."

What was I saying?  Oh yes, DVDs for the drive to vacation. 

Our current DVD collection is pretty limited.  We have just a couple kids' movies and a few discs of children's shows.  Our favorites include Curious George and Peep.  If you're not familiar with the show Peep, I highly recommend it.  It used to air on TLC when Nolan was a baby.  I don't think it's currently on tv at all.  It cute and educational.

I thought it would be fun to get some new DVDs for our vacation drive.  I shopped carefully and found some fantastic options on Amazon.  I aimed for about $5 per DVD (some were more, some were less).  I had money set aside for this purchase, so I bought quite a few.

Here are all my selections, if you're interested:

I also bought a DVD book that can hold 32 discs ($10 at Kmart):

I spent a good chunk of the kids' naptime opening DVD packaging.  Boy, those things are a pain!  I put each disc into a slot in the DVD book.

Then I dug around in my craft/office supplies and found some labels (about the size of name tags).

I only needed one label for this project.  I cut the label into four strips, and I wrote numbers 1-32 on the strips.

Then I cut between the numbers so I had individual stickers with each number.  There are certainly prettier ways to do this, but I just wanted to use what I had on hand.  I was tempted to do something on my computer (tapping into my font addiction), but I chose the fast/easy route.

I applied one number sticker to each page of the disc book.

Even though I only had 22 discs, I went ahead and labeled all 32 pages in case we get more later.

This is not just some compulsive way for me to keep track of my DVDs.  I had a plan in mind to make this more fun for the kids on our way to/from vacation.

I got a piece of notebook paper and wrote the numbers 1-32.

Then I cut them into individual strips with one number each.

I left 23-32 intact since I don't need them at this time.

I folded the strips and put them in a plastic sandwich bag.  I included the extra numbers in case I need them later.

So, here's the plan.  When we are driving to our vacation spot and the kids are ready to watch something, I will let one child (they will take turns) pull a number out of the bag.  I will retrieve the corresponding DVD, and that's what they will watch.  I'm hoping this will cut down on arguments trying to get the kids to agree on what to watch.  I will explain to the kids that they may not like the current selection but may love the next.  Plus I'm hoping the element of mystery (they won't know what the DVDs are ahead of time) and just having something new to watch will be enough to keep them entertained.

I'll let you know how it goes!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Special Date

I had a great conversation with God last week.  It was Thursday morning.  Unfortunately, the rest of Thursday turned out to be one of the worst days I've had in quite some time.  I'm just now getting a break from the craziness (a.k.a. my life) to tell you about it.

I start each day by reading a page in my Jesus Calling book.  If you're not familiar with the book, each day's devotion is written from the perspective of God talking to the reader.

Here's what last Thursday's said:
       This is the day that I have made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.  Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life.  Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since I am the Author of your circumstances.  The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Me for them.  This act of faith frees you from resentment and frees Me to work My ways into the situation, so that good emerges from it.
       To find Joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries.  I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four-hour segments.  I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time.  Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past.  There is abundant Life in My Presence today.  (Psalm 118:24; Philippians 3:13-14)
As I was getting ready for my day, I thought about that line that said, "Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life."  I wanted to start my day that way.

So I began praying and trying to offer God my open hands, mind, and heart to receive what he had planned for my day.  That's hard for a girl like me.  I like to know what's around the corner.  I like to stay on top of what's happening with my family.  That's a nice way of saying I like to be in control.

As I was praying and willing myself to do this difficult thing of yielding my day to God, he gave me a very clear mental image to understand this concept.

Sometimes God speaks to me this way, by simply bringing a thought to my mind.  It seems very much like my own thought, but I just know that he's the author of it.

The mental image he gave me was of Jared planning a surprise date for me.  He had carefully planned out every detail and wanted me to ride along and wait for him to show me each part.  We had to drive through some not-so-nice places in order to get to the places he had carefully selected for our date.

I felt God challenging me to imagine how Jared would feel if I questioned him at every turn and stop.  He would start out so excited to surprise me with all his romantic details, and I would be wearing away at his excitement if I questioned him the whole way and refused to simply ride along and let him do the date as he had planned.

I'm sure you already follow the connection of how this mental image relates to me trusting God to plan my day and show me his plans in his timing.  God just knows me well enough to explain it in terms I can easily understand. 

I would hate to ruin Jared's carefully thought-out plans for our time together.  And because I can understand that, I can make the connection that I also don't want to ruin the carefully thought-out plans that God has for each day.

Look at today as a date with God.  He already has it planned out for you.  Will you follow along attentively and let him show you what he has chosen just for you?


P.S.  Remember how I had this great conversation with God in the morning, and then the rest of my day was horribly stressful?  Well, God was in that, too.  I may not understand why that day was so difficult, but I had already made a commitment to trust God with however the day went.  Spiritually, I trusted God.  But physically and emotionally, I was exhausted.  I held it together until Thursday night at my Women's Bible Study, when I accidentally started crying while trying to tell the ladies about my day.  I couldn't stop the tears, so I just gave in.  God nudged me to use this moment of vulnerability to finally tell these ladies about Griffin's Asperger's diagnosis, which I had not previously discussed.  God drove me through some not-so-nice places on Thursday in order to take me to the places he had planned. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Birthday Reflections

Today is my 31st birthday.  It has been a great day.

There's a big difference between kid birthdays and adult birthdays.

This morning at breakfast Griffin asked, "So mom, what theme did you choose for your birthday?"  I chuckled and told him I didn't pick one because I wasn't having a birthday party.  Nolan chimed in, "Then what's the point of a birthday?"

We did enjoy doughnuts for breakfast. :)  Jared made me eggs Benedict for dinner with a few alterations for my dietary restrictions.  Eggs Benedict has been my choice for birthday dinner since we were in college (or maybe longer ago than that).  My friend Megan baked delicious cookies for me and our whole Sunday school class.  I may be 50+ pounds lighter than I used to be, but I still enjoy tasty treats on my birthday.

And I didn't exercise today.  Birthday rules.

We still had our usual crazy Sunday morning, complete with a few extra struggles with the kids.  Originally, I was secretly hoping that someone from my Sunday school class would offer to teach for me today so I could have a week off.  It was especially difficult to find time to study my lesson last week while Jared was gone.

But when I got to church this morning, I realized that I really did want to teach my class.  Those are my people.  I care to my core about them.  Even though I get nervous to the point of nausea each and every week (about teaching), I loved spending my birthday morning with my friends from church.  It was also so fun to get birthday greetings, hugs, and even a few cards.

After we got home from church, I changed into pajamas.  And I stayed in them the rest of the day.  It was glorious.  I really wanted to do something creative, but I ended up spending time on Pinterest and other websites looking at creative ideas.

I did spend time admiring my kids.  Nora and I put together a puzzle, and I colored with Nora and Nolan.  Griffin kept blowing me kisses all day long.

The boys made me birthday cards, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever.

Front of Griffin's card:  Happy Birthday Mom

Inside Griffin's card:  I {heart} You

Amazing, right?

Later in the day, Nolan proudly brought me a card of his own.

Front of Nolan's card:  To Mom, From Nolan

Inside Nolan's card:  Happy B-day Mommy, Hope you have a g-r-e-a-t B-day!  The picture says I {heart} and has an arrow pointing to a drawing of me.

Seriously, these are the things that keep me going.

I told Jared that last year was such a milestone birthday.  I felt like I had accomplished so much by my 30th birthday.  It was also a celebration of my weight loss journey.

This year I naturally looked back on my life since my 30th birthday to assess my accomplishments.  I told Jared that I didn't feel like I've accomplished anything in the last year.  His reply was, "A child with Asperger's.  That's what you've accomplished."

I suppose he's right.  Last year at this time, we hadn't even begun the evaluation process with Griffin.  This year, we have learned so much about him in addition to getting his actual diagnosis.  I had not realized that all of the "Griffin stuff" has gone down in the last year.

I'll be honest.  It's been a rough week with Griffin and the Asperger's.  A stupid dentist appointment (Griffin getting a filling) did me in, and I ended up breaking down in front of my Bible study ladies.  We're in a rough patch. 

I don't know why these patches catch me off guard.  Did I really think parenting should be easy?  It's work.  Some days are a lot more work than others.  The last year has been a bit grueling in the parenthood department.  But the hard moments have given us new eyes for the victorious moments. 

So the year from 29-30 was about losing weight, taking a little more pride in my appearance (within reason!), and finding release through blogging.  The year from 30-31 was about facing parenting challenges head on and growing in my relationship with God.

What will the next year hold?  I'll let you know as soon as I do.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Limited Listening

My husband is on another continent.  That means I have to accept that I can't actually do it all.  I can do my chores and Jared's.  I can accept help from others for times when I need to leave my kids (meetings, Bible study, etc.).  I can keep up with laundry and dishes.  I can study my Sunday school lesson for this Sunday. 

But some stuff falls through the larger-than-usual cracks.  Dinners are not very creative.  Every surface in my house needs to be wiped (preferably with disinfecting wipes).  My hair is reminiscent of a mangy poodle.  I probably won't complete my Bible study homework this week.

That's okay.  I'm trying to take care of things that fall into certain categories:  school, church, health, safety, hygiene.  Sometimes other stuff has to wait.

And I think blogging this week falls into the category of "has to wait."  So rather than giving you nothing but silence for a week (or more), I decided to post something I've previously written.

Before I started a blog, writing was already in my blood.  Sometimes I would just sit and type into a Word document.  Sometimes it was to mark an occasion or capture a memory.  Sometimes it was to organize my thoughts.  Many of these random writings are deeply personal, but I found one that I wouldn't mind sharing. 

It's a little long, but you've got plenty of time to read it since I probably won't be able to write again this week. :)

I forgot to date this particular document, but I know it was written some time last school year (because I mentioned that Nolan was in kindergarten).  Enjoy!
Limited Listening
                I used to have this roadblock to my prayer.  I desperately wanted to be a prayer warrior, to know that God’s power was unleashed when I prayed.  I wanted to be one of those women who talks to God like he’s her daddy or her best friend.  But I just had this obstacle.  And the obstacle was this:  if God is all-knowing, then why do I need to tell him what’s going on and what I want him to do about it?
                I talked to my husband about this mental block.  He did his best to explain it to me, but I still struggled.  I was afraid to really discuss the extent of my struggle with my Bible study group because I didn’t want them to know that I was a long-time Christian who still didn’t understand the purpose of prayer.  I prayed and asked God to help me understand prayer.  And still I struggled.
                I recently read the book The Shack by WM. Paul Young.  In the book Young characterizes the trinity of God in three distinctly different but divinely connected human forms.  In one scene, the main character is sitting at a dinner table talking to the human forms of God.  God asks the main character about his children and wife.  The man instinctively reacts as any parent would and begins talking about his precious children and his lovely wife.  Then he interrupts himself and asks why God would even ask him about his family when God already knows everything about them.  God teaches the man about ways in which God chooses to limit himself for our sake. 
                God says that he chooses to limit himself out of respect for this man, in order to facilitate and honor their relationship.  He says that he chooses not to “bring to mind” his knowledge of these family members while the man is talking, and he takes great delight in seeing them through the man’s eyes.  He goes on to talk about power in relationships and how we can nurture relationships by choosing to limit ourselves to serve the other person.
                This example has been coming to mind lately as I’m striving to have a closer relationship with God.  I know that prayer is my communication with God, and I can’t have a good relationship without communication.  This description may be from a fictional book, but it helps my human mind to better understand that I’m not wasting God’s time by telling him stuff he already knows. 
                It finally clicked for me when I was thinking about my interactions with my oldest son, who is now is kindergarten.  He learns so much each day at school.  All the time he will randomly declare some fact that he learned at school.  I am amazed as he says, “Hey, that’s a compound word!” and even uses hand motions to show me how to break down and then rejoin the parts of a compound word.  He tells me new words he has learned how to spell and how to use different punctuation marks.  I don’t respond to him by gruffly telling him that I already know all these things.  I don’t remind him of how much older and wiser I am.  I stop and listen and marvel at his growing wealth of knowledge.  I light up as I realize that my precious child is capable of grasping all these new concepts.  When he tells me detailed stories of mundane happenings in his little world, I stare at the soft curves of his face and study the way his mouth moves when he is talking.
                When he tells me things that I already know, I listen and enjoy spending time with my child.  I think I can finally start to understand the analogy between me as a human parent and God as my heavenly Father.  He doesn’t mind that he already knows what I’m telling him.  He delights in seeing me learn.  He marvels at his creation, and he enjoys spending time with his child.
I'm sure many of you can relate.  I have such a horrible memory, and I know I end up telling people things I've already told them.  Sometimes people just tell me I've already told them, but I know there are lots of times when people graciously listen again as if they don't already know what I'm going to say.  It's the same concept in an everyday format.

Have a great week!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Moving Wall Decals

As we are prepping our house to put it on the market, we've been tackling large and small projects.

One small project was to remove the decals from the walls in the boys' room.  I wanted to keep them in case they want them in the new house.

I just peeled each one off the wall, starting with the largest ones first, and placed each one on some wax paper.  Then I added the smaller decals in the remaining space on the wax paper.

I left the wax paper connected to the roll until I had it filled with all the decals.  Then I cut it off the roll, rolled up my paper full of decals, and secured it with a rubber band.  When we are ready to put them up again, I can easily peel them off the wax paper and apply them to the new walls.

Just a little tip for moving vinyl wall decals from one wall (or home!) to another.


Greek Yogurt

I have heard so much about Greek yogurt lately, but I still didn't quite understand what all the hype was about.

Of course I used my friend Google to help me solve the mystery.

The most helpful article I found was entitled Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt:  Which Is More Healthful?  I recommend reading it if you're as curious as I was about Greek Yogurt.

Once I understood Greek yogurt a little better, I wanted to check out what's available at my local grocery store (Kroger).

I started by purchasing two kinds:

Greek Yogurt with Caramelized Almonds
Greek Yogurt with Honey

I liked both kinds--with almonds and with honey.  So then I bought the Kroger brand Greek yogurt with honey and crushed some almonds to mix in.  I loved the combination! 

However, the calories and fat were creeping up when I ate my little concoction.  So I wanted to see what I could do with some plain or vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt.

I'll share my favorite use for each (plain and vanilla).

I mixed a little Ranch dressing seasoning into plain nonfat Greek yogurt to make a pretzel dip.  It's so tasty!  And one little cup of this Ranch dip keeps well in the fridge and lasts me several days.

For a sweeter version, I started with vanilla Greek yogurt.

I mixed in about a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  It made a delicious apple dip.  This version also keeps well in the fridge and is enough for about three apples or so per cup of yogurt.  (I wasn't sure if I would need a whisk or mixer, but the peanut butter just mixed right in with a good old fashioned spoon.)

Since I've been experimenting with different brands and flavors of Greek yogurt, I have discovered that the kind with honey irritates my sensitive stomach (Is it the yogurt?  The honey?  The almonds I add?  Who knows).  I haven't had any trouble with the other kinds though.  Greek yogurt also has a much lower lactose level than regular yogurt, and the live cultures help your stomach digest it.  So it's worth a try if you're lactose intolerant.

Just wanted to share another new food I've tried!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our New World Map

Jared has been traveling for his job for a few years.  Sometimes I have trouble remembering all the places he's been.

We've both wanted to track his travels somehow, and I finally came up with something.

I started by purchasing a 24"x36" bulletin board at Walmart for $9.97.  There were different frame colors, and I chose one with a black frame.

Then I found a map I liked on  I chose one that's 24"x36" and has time zones on the top and country flags on the bottom.

Click here for the exact map I bought.  The map was $8.99 and I found a discount code for 20% off (I just searched Google and found a good code on  I had to pay shipping, so the map total was around $12.

Now, you might think that since the cork board was 24"x36" and the map was 24"x36" that they would fit together perfectly.  Nope.  Not the case.

I had to cut off the strip of flags from the bottom, which I wasn't too happy about.

Then I was able to fit the map over the cork board, sliding the edges under the black frame.  I put blue map pins in the corners to hold the map in place.

I bought a package of map pins from Staples (I already had the light blue ones on hand but didn't have enough total for this project).  They were about $5, which I thought was a bit much.

When I got home, I realized these pins are too long for my project.  They would stick out too far from the map, and I was afraid they would get bumped off the map by passersby or little hands.  So I searched and searched and searched.

Then I found the perfect thing at Office Depot.

These pins are shorter, and I only needed 3 colors anyway.  Click here for these exact map pins.

*Discount alert:  These exact packages of map pins are $1.99 on, but in store they are a whopping $3.69!  I had printed out the description/picture of them from the website so I could find the right item, so I showed the clerk the price on my printout.  She price matched them for me!  I needed two packages, so I got them both for only slightly more than what one would have cost in store.  She said they'll always price match with competitors or with their own website.

We decided to use red pins for places we've been together, white pins for places Jared has been, and black pins for places Jared only briefly visited. 

Jared went through his passport and old travel documents and created a list of places he's been.  He made a table with columns labeled Continent, Country, City, and Help Locating.

The places highlighted in yellow are locations where Jared briefly stopped but didn't stay.

The last step was just locating each place on Jared's list and pinning it on our map.  This was a great geography refresher for me!  I had to Google a few places to figure out where they were.

I couldn't fit all the pins in the UK area because we've been to several different places there, and the pins are too close together.

For the U.S. we decided to only mark places we've been together since he's been all over America for work, and it would be hard to fit pins in all those places on this little map. 

For now, we hung up the map in the boys' room.  Nora loves to touch the pins but insists that she won't move them. :)

It feels good to complete one of my long-term dream projects!