Thursday, December 9, 2010

white envelope giving

The coolest thing happened at church a few weeks ago.

Our Pastor was finishing up a short series on giving.  I think many pastors hate doing "the money talk", but ours looked forward to it.  My favorite part of the series was when he pointed out that we need to give out of our story, out of how generously we have been blessed by our generous God.  So often we give out of duty, out of a set of rules or expectations...or even guilt.  Instead, we should give out of grateful hearts, remembering what has been given us.

OK, fast forward to the end of the service on week two of the two-week series.  (I told you it was short!) That is when the pastor makes his plug for more sacrificial giving to the church, right?  Kicks off a building campaign, right?  Nope.  Instead, the ushers came forward with handfuls of white envelopes.  Each family got an envelope.  Inside the envelopes?  Cash!  No less than $20 and one envelope even had $1000.  What were these for?  We were to use the contents to bless someone else in need.  It was to be done personally (not given to an organization).  Other than that, the sky is the limit.

Wow.  Who would expect the church to give us money instead of ask for more?

The hope is that this money will bless our city in all sorts of small ways.  We pray that God multiplies it in the lives affected.  However, what is going on in our hearts is even bigger than that.

Many in our church family have found themselves challenged by this project.  Giving money away should be easy...but it hasn't been for many.  We are learning.

Here is what my family is learning anew:  First, we live insulated from people in need.  We don't cross paths with the poor.  Our daily travels and associations have us around people with plenty.  Maybe not everything they want, but plenty. We like it that way, we don't have to feel the pain of others if we don't see them.  Ouch.

Those we do know, we don't know well enough to know what they need.  We know our neighbors--we wave, borrow tools from each other, talk about all sorts of things.  Yet, as we thought of our neighbors, we couldn't identify if anyone was struggling in a way we could bless them.  Yes, we know this one is recently divorced, this one is a relatively new widow, this one is out of work.  We know circumstances, but not what they need.

It's terribly convicting.  We have money to give away and don't know who to bless with it, or who needs it.  Yikes.

So, we've come up with a few ideas.  Don't you worry--we will bless someone.  But.  But the real (however painful) blessing is ours.  We've been given the gift of awareness.  We thought that because we care about the less fortunate, we sponsor a compassion child, we make a few charitable donations, that meant we were caring for the needy.

However, the needy are all around us.  I know it.  I also now know I don't really know anything about any of them...   I'm so glad my white envelope of cash has shone light on my ignorance.  I pray that God gives me His eyes to see the needs all around me, to be willing to be involved in messy situations, and to give to others out of the generous Gift I've been given.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Confession Time

I have a few confessions for you this Saturday morning.

I didn't wake up until 8 am.

I am still in bed at 10 am.

Hubby is dozing and snoring next to me in a prescription pain med-induced slumber.  My doggie is curled up in as small of a ball as he can get into right next to him.  My teenaged daughter is sleeping off a migraine-dominated week in her room.  My 10 year old son is playing the wii downstairs--I can hear his running commentary up here.

I took this pic of Patch with my ipod a few days ago when he was all snuggled up in our unmade bed.  It was most fitting for my post this morning...
It seems I have nothing to do.  But another confession?  My comfy bed is in a very messy room at the moment, with laundry screaming to be done.  There is shopping to do, bills to pay, classrooms to set up for church tomorrow, and some much-needed family organization to conquer.

I tell myself I'm enjoying a rare moment of quiet and rest and happily catching up on blogs.  And I am.

But in reality, I know when I get up, I need to hit the ground running.  So my feet are staying under the covers for a bit longer....

Happy Saturday, bloggies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Company Girl Coffee 12.3


It's been forever since I linked up with the company girls--a fun group of bloggies who hang out over at Home Sanctuary.  I don't know what happened...lost my blogging mojo for a while.  Nothing in my head seemed to want to be written down.  I think I'm getting back into the swing of things now--although life sure seems full these days, so not sure how often I'll manage a post.

Are you enjoying the Christmas season?  I'm so excited about Christmas this year.  Last year, for whatever reason, I had trouble finding the mood.  This year, it kicked in early.  I've bought some gifts (early for me), I've decorated (as much as I'm going to this year) and I've been listening to Christmas music any chance I get.

Today is my day off, and I have more than a day's worth of things I would like to get done.  I have laundry up to my eyeballs, Christmas gift plans to make, grocery shopping to do, bills to pay, house to clean, bank to visit, etc.  I actually look forward to doing all (ok, most) of these things...just wish I could pause time so I could do them all today.  Hubby's home with back pain...pain shots scheduled for Monday again.  He might be able to help me with things he can do from his perch on the couch.

I've been searching for a new way to celebrate advent this year with my family.  We settled on reading through a book I've had for years:

It explains the whole story of Christmas from Creation to Jesus' Birth.  It's our first time through...but I'm sure we'll love it.  We are trying to light a candle and read one chapter a night.

In other news, I am starting treatment for my neck issues--an MRI showed arthritis and bulging discs.  I am seeing Dave's back doctor and he said most 40-somethings would show something like that in an MRI, pain or no pain.  Apparently, we are all slowly falling apart!   He is not sure if that is the trigger of my problem, but I am so encouraged that he completely gets my issues--he described my headaches and neck pain to me like he has had it itself!  He thinks I'm fixable (at least this part of me {smile}).  I start some aggressive physical therapy massage soon, as well as taking some arthritis medicine daily like an old person.  But, here's to being able to turn my head normally!

Oh, and I must share this link for when you need some mindless fun.  It allows you to make your own snowflake, and I must admit it's a bit addicting!  I've convinced myself I am teaching symmetry to the kids...but deep down I know I'm just playing.  Give it a try!

Well, life isn't perfect, girls, but it's full and it's Good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

still festive...

Even though we didn't put up our tree, we did decorate for Christmas.  The nativity set sits prominently on a table in the living room.  A collection of stars are on the mantle.  Our shelf is filled with our many Christmas books.  New red and white snowflake pillows are on the couch (got them at Target--have you seen them?).  You can't miss Christmas at our house, even though we are missing that tree. 

So I thought I would show you a few pictures of festivity.

Bubba and I filled a leather chest we normally keep CDs in with some greenery and berries we had in our Christmas boxes.  We added some stars ( I get a little obsessed with stars at Christmastime...) and an adorable bird I received as a birthday present.  I think it looks cute sitting in the midst of all that Christmassy stuff.

Last year, I was given this cool jewelry tree as a gift.  At Christmastime, I think it looks great showcasing some beautiful ornaments...a Christmas tree of sorts.  What do you think?

I saw this at my doctor's office the other day, and I must admit I am tempted to buy one for the kids...isn't it cute?
charlie brown christmas tree

I hope you are enjoying the signs of Christmas around your place too--even if you're a tree-skipper this year like me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

no tree??

We put the Christmas decorations up this weekend.  I love Christmas decorations.  It is always fun for the house to be decked out with symbols of the joy we feel because God came to be with us.  But guess what?  We didn't put up our tree this year.  I know, I know...that qualifies me as some sort of a scrooge.   We have reasons.  Traveling schedules, hubby's back issues, and mostly a desire to simplify--all played into our decision.

Plus, I have an ornament thing.  I LOVE Christmas ornaments.  Many of ours are gifts from loved ones or attached to memories of each year.  We have ornaments to remember vacations, every Disney trip, babies, new homes, our dog, and other family milestones.  We have precious homemade ornaments from the kids.  We have special ornaments in honor of the special babies that live in heaven:  Earl (Dave's sister's firstborn-1992), Aidan (our little guy-1999) and Sadie (my sister's sweet girl--2009).  We also have many ornaments that point us to Christ's birth that are special to us.  Almost all of our ornaments are packed away with care in their own wrapping, many in their original boxes.  I even have written the dates and the gift givers on most of the boxes as well.    {OK, maybe I'm a little uptight about the ornament boxes...} And we have tons.  We can't even get them all on the tree anymore.  But I love our full, eclectic, tree.

our tree last year
We watched a decorating special this weekend, and I am sure our tree breaks many of the holiday decorating rules...but who cares?  It's ours, it's special to us, and we love it.

And we didn't put it up this year.  In our {my?} desire to simplify our holiday season a bit--it was the thing if we eliminated would have the greatest impact on our time and on our energy.  As you can imagine, all that ornament abundance makes for a time consuming endeavor.  Especially on the put-away end of things.  And somehow, no one is as excited about that part...

Christmas isn't a tree, right?  I'm ALL about traditions, but am trying to learn not to put them ahead of sanity, peace and health.  I can get a little perfectionistic in my expectations.  My desire to simplify this season comes from a desire to leave space for some other traditions...celebrating advent with story and togetherness and peaceful waiting.  Those things get crowded out pretty easily when I am busy with all the have-tos and all the make-it-wonderfuls.

I'm sure none of you are scroogy-tree-skippers like me, but I love to hear creative ideas on making the season more than just a bunch of to-dos, enjoyable as they might be.  So, are any of you trying to simplify this year?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Our family of four each made a list of 20 or so things we are thankful for as we watched the Macy's parade this morning.  I typed them into and came up with this word cloud to represent our hearts today.

Our blessings number more than we can even list, and it's hard to put into words the deep appreciation we have for God's Goodness in our lives.  Because God is a Redeemer, we can even be thankful for the cruddy things...because we know He can make Good out of bad.

I hope today finds you and yours giving thanks with a grateful heart.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

fighting for it...

Hubby and I got a few days away this last week!  We celebrated our 20th in May, and had a generous gift given us to use specifically for some time away together.  Schedules, busyness, back pain, indecision--all contributed to us not making it happen over these last months.  We finally found a weekend that seemed to work...and decided on a resort in Vail to visit for a few days.  It wasn't ideal timing...there was a baby dedication at church that Sunday and, as Children's Ministry Director, I normally help facilitate.  But my dear Pastor believed in the need to get away as much as we did...and happily gave me permission to not be there.

It was finally coming together!  Then the battle began.  Dave's back got pretty bad, causing him to miss work.  We misplaced the gift certificate we were hoping to use for part of the expense.  Snowy forecasts on both of our driving days made us leary about driving the mountain roads...especially when the driving could fall to me due to Dave's back.  (I have very limited driving-on-mountain-roads-in-snow experience.)  And we learned (how did I not know this?) that our sweet niece Maisie would be one of the babies being dedicated on Sunday...couldn't miss that!

So we almost gave up on the whole thing.

BUT, God was on our side and gave me a simple idea.  Change our plans.  We could go a day early and return before Sunday.  We could change our plans to downtown Denver--closer to home and no mountains to conquer.  We decided the hotel room was the destination rather than a beautiful spot we searched the internet for a hotel with really nice rooms.  We decided on the Ritz-Carlton and were not disappointed.

we tried several times unsuccessfully to get both of us and the whole Ritz sign in the pic...

We had a large room, an incredibly comfortable bed, and no need to sight-see or do anything in particular.  No plans or schedule, or agenda.  We order room service for breakfast and stayed in our hotel robes until noon.  It was fantastic.

our bed turned down for the evening
We found that by eliminating distractions, and the need to be anywhere or do anything at any particular time, allowed us to really connect.  It made me aware of how often important conversations are cut short or don't even happen in our day to day lives--cause our brains are always moving on to the "next thing".  It's hard to connect in a significant way at that pace.

And, even 20 years later (or probably even moreso 20 years later) we need to connect.  The long, intimate conversations we shared were priceless.  I'm so glad we fought for this time, and I'm celebrating it with emily at Chatting at the Sky today.

Sunday, November 7, 2010



That's what my four year old nephew said when I told him how I old I was on this birthday.  I kinda feel that way too--44--whoa.

Yup, Saturday was my birthday.  But I started celebrating on Friday with a birthday lunch with my mom, my sis and my baby niece.  We had a nice time chatting and eating yumminess.  I decided that weightwatchers would have to wait 'til Monday.  :0)
maisie jane.  
Saturday brought an early morning as hubby and I attended "Love and War"--a half-day marriage conference held live here in CO, but simulcast across the country.   The speakers were John and Stasi Eldredge, and it was really good.  I took tons of notes and will need to process all I learned for a good while.

Saturday night we celebrated Bubba's and my birthday with the family--my sister's family and my parents.  We went out for vietnamese food (my choice--yum!) and then returned to our home for gifts and peanut butter cup ice cream cake.  Ohmy.  However-many weightwatchers points that slice was worth--it was worth every. single. one!!

me and my new slanket!
birthday boy
Then Sunday morning I received a lovely surprise at church.  The kids and teachers on my team surprised me with beautiful flowers, a 12 pack of diet coke, and a calligraphy of one of my favorite verses.  They sang to me, too.  Can't ask for more than that...
my birthday presents from the teachers and kids at church
isn't this beautiful?  Thanks Tamara!
The best moment of the morning, however, was getting to pray with a few kiddos who decided to follow Jesus for the first time today.  What a privilege.  Oh happy day!
praying with the kids
I guess turning 44 has been pretty cool.  Except for the part where I remember how old I am.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm marveling...

Bubba is ten today.  Double-digits!  It's easy for warm reflections to fill my mind.  I am sentimental looking back at the way God used this tiny boy as a balm of healing to my wounded heart.  Smiles cross my face as I remember the cute little tike he was.  I suppose it could be bittersweet to realize how grown up my youngest is.

(Indulge me as I share three of my favorite little-bubba pics--I can't resist.)

 a decade ago
riding shotgun in poppop's rv

ring-bearer extraordinaire

However, today I want to celebrate who God has made Bubba to be.  With each year, his unique make-up, his gifts and talents, his personality, are revealed with a bit more clarity.  We marvel at God's workmanship in creating this boy.

We got another glimpse of Bubba through the eyes of his teachers last week at his parent-teacher conference.  His teachers used these words to describe him:

a joy
enthusiastic learner
sees God in life easily
a strong faith--he "gets it" 
a careful communicator 
a deep thinker
hard worker
quick to serve
bold to share his faith verbally

We did talk briefly about some of his academic challenges, but the conference focused on qualities that will exist well-past his 4th grade academic achievements.

My heart swells.  Not with pride (well, maybe a little) but with gratitude.  Gratitude for teachers who take the time to really know my son.  Gratitude for their willingness to share their observations with us, rather than just focusing on reading and math.  Gratitude for this marvelous boy that God has given us the privilege of parenting.

October 2010
Unwrapping the gifts of my son and of special teachers today with emily at chatting at the sky.

Monday, November 1, 2010

weekend pics

I'm usually a Halloweenie.  In other words, not really into Halloween.  I don't do scary.  Hate it.  Fun costumes and candy I like--but bloody and scary and freaky not so much.  Our neighborhood really embraces the scary...and it's creepy around these parts on October 31.

I'm always glad for November 1st.

However, we decided our alternative halloween celebrations were not very neighborly, and decided to participate this year.  We decided to do a food drive as part of our trick or treating, and to serve hot cider to the parents who came by.  We enjoyed ourselves--and got to see lots of cuties come by--dressed in all manner of costumes. 

The one that got the biggest chuckle out of me last night was a teenaged guy who came by dressed as a large gift box--complete with pink wrapping and fancy bows.  On his box was a gift tag that read:  "To:  Ladies  From:  God"  That guy needs to work on his self-esteem huh?

Our weekend also included having friends and family help us lug Bubba's heavy new loft bed up to his room, as well as Bubba's last soccer game of the season--complete with team party afterwards.  We also got to attend a Harvest Party at a friends farm that was great fun.

Here are some pics of our full but fun weekend.

Bubba's soccer team party. 
Bubba as a Chilean Miner--ready for a halloween party at a friend's.

Pickle as a greek goddess--ready for the party too.

Pickle finds a kitten in our friends' barn during the party.

Pumpkin carving contest--first encounter of Bubba's with the pulp.  blech!

Pickle getting creative.
The finished product--can you tell it's a fish bowl?

Hubby manning our trick or treat station on Halloween--candy for kids, hot cider for parents and a food drive.

A little ladybug stopped by--sweet Maisie!

My sis Kerry and her sweet ladybug.

Ladybug's big brother as a race car driver.

Pickle's friend joined she, Bubba and Caleb for trick or treating and food collection.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I’ve been on a bloggie break of sorts.  I needed to take a break to take care of some pressing needs at home, and I recognize that while writing is an outlet for me, it can also be an escape.  I needed to stay engaged.

I have truly missed blogland, but I must admit I've been hesitant to come back.  I’m still not together at home.  There is still more laundry to do, more errands to run, more appointments to make.  However, I’m realizing that if I wait until I feel all the way caught up, I’ll be waiting a long, long time.  Like forever.  So, I’m easing back in.

Thanks to those of you who encouraged me in taking a break and those who let me know I was missed.  How sweet to have such life-giving friends in blogland.  I truly missed you.

I decided I should post a top-ten list of newsiness (is that a word?) from my hiatus.  So here goes with more than you really wanted to know:

10.  We played.  The kids had a day off of school and we visited a nearby town, wandering aimlessly, eating treats (see below) and best of all, visiting a penny arcade!  I’ll post more about that fun day soon.
one of my favorite treats--perfect for a fall fun day
9.  I drove.   I’ve heard about it for years.  The High School Youth Group’s Great Pumpkin Chase event.  This year I was recruited to drive on this race around town finding clues that ultimately led us to the great pumpkin and a party.  I had a great time with Pickle and her friends, although I almost ran her over once, and accidently drove down the wrong side of the road.  Yikes!  We came in fourth place.  Not too bad for a rookie.

8.  We partied.   My sweet sissie Kerry started a new home business with Thirty-One Gifts.  I hosted one of her first parties and it was great fun.  I got to see people I hadn’t seen in a while—and ended the night with plans to get together for coffee (diet coke for me) with most of them.  I also got some great stuff—can’t wait until my order comes! If you are unfamiliar, check out the lovelies on Kerry’s webpage .

7.  We bought.  We made our first craigslist purchase.  We wanted to get Bubba a loft bed for his birthday and were having trouble finding what we wanted at a price that we could afford.  So I did what many others have told me about…surfed Craigslist.  I was busy with it for a few weeks—but it paid off!  We pick up Bubba’s new bed tonight!  I feel so green and recycle-ly.

6.  I was magnetic.  (or at least the particles in my body were, or something like that).  I had an MRI--a first for me.  I am not too good with small spaces and had many praying for me.  I know of people who have freaked out and needed to reschedule with sedation, and I just didn’t have the time or money for that.  I was surprised at how quickly I felt the anxiety once the machine started.  Eyes clamped shut (my strategy—I could be lying anywhere, right?). I felt my body tingling and jumped when the noise began.  My breathing quickened and my heart started beating a bit too fast…ohboy.  Then I felt the prayers.  I slowed down my breathing.  I quoted scripture.  I kept my eyes closed.  I did fine.  I don’t want to, but I could do it again.  Whew.

5.  We visited.  My college roommate for the first two years was Suzie.  Suzie married Doug, the guy she met and started dating early in our freshman year.  They are married now and wonderful friends of ours.   We don’t think we’ve seen each other in almost 20 years. They live in the Ukraine, where they are serving as missionaries.  The short story is that Doug and their 20 year old son, Nick—whom I’d last seen as a baby—were passing through town.  We got to spend a few precious hours with them, and I even got to speak with Suz on Doug’s cell.  She is on the other side of the world and sounded like she was on the next block.  What a treat.

4.  I tried something new.  My mom sent me a link to emealz—a meal planning service.  It costs $5 a month and each week I download a menu and shopping list.  The even cooler thing is that I could choose a menu that calculated weightwatchers points for me (still doing that) and was specific to the store I shop in!  It’s pretty cool.  We’ve liked the meals—and the meal-planning I hate is done for me!  Check it out here.

3.  We joined.  The  gym, that is.  It’s been a while since we belonged to a health club, but hubby needs to swim to help his back, and Pickle is no longer a dancer and needed to do something to keep fit.  We did a family plan, and so far we are all really liking it.  I’m going slow, but I hope to one day be kinda-sorta in shape. 

2.  I cried.  I’m not sure exactly why.  My doctor’s office called with the results of my MRI.  I have arthritis and a herniated disc in my neck.  When I called hubby to tell him, I burst into tears.  I think the emotion came from realizing that I had a real reason to be whining about my neck for two years…and I wasn’t imagining that something was wrong.  Oh, and I had PMS.  I’m sure that had nothing to do with the tears.  Anyway I see the doctor tomorrow to find out treatment options.

And... number 1. We rejoice!   Dave’s back has stayed better!  I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s like he’s back from a very long trip.  He is himself again, and we had missed that guy.  Please thank God on our behalf and pray that it lasts!

Well, you are pretty caught up now.  Forgive the rambling, I'm nothing if not wordy.  But you knew that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

do we dare hope?

Do we dare to hope?

This is what has been going through my head this morning since my hubby said these words to me, "You know, I think the pains shots might be working...".

If you've read theGoodlife much, you know that hubby has been dealing with frustrating and often debilitating back pain for over a year.  We've tried different doctors, different meds, different procedures to no avail.  We've been excited by potential solutions, only to have them disappoint.

And you see, pain is not just physical pain.  It drains.  It is depressing.  All four of us have found ourselves more than frustrated, more than once. It eats at our family life, at our ability to enjoy things together.  It eats at relationships, cause the energy goes to surviving.  It steals moments we thought were a given.

Last week, hubby had yet another procedure.  Pain shots into a different area--the joints between ribs and vertebrae.  (Did you know those were joints?  Me either.)  He spent a miserable week off of ibuprofen in preparation.  He spent the five days after the procedure in worse pain than before.  Stink.  Another procedure that didn't seem to be helping.  Doc said it could still be normal for it not to be working yet.  Don't give up hope yet.  OK.

And then Tuesday it wasn't terrible.  And then yesterday was pretty good.  And then his words this morning...

"Thank you God" was my verbal response.

The response in my heart was different.  It was guarded.  Protecting itself from more disappointment.  Do I dare hope we've found the answer or at least part of the answer?  Or do I steal myself for what might come in a day or a week?

I understand why I feel this way.  I bet you do too.  I bet you've been there in one circumstance or another...wondering if you dare to hope?  It feels like a normal response, but I'm not sure if it's the right one.

I know the Author of Hope.  Shouldn't I be able to hope freely at the words I've longed to hear?  At the slight smile on hubby's face?

I am not going to wrap up this post with an answer to those questions.  I want to hear what you have to say...and I'll keep thinking on it myself.

(by the way, didn't plan to blog again so soon after closing my laptop, but I felt free to blurt this out this morning...)

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