Friday, December 10, 2010

Thirteen, Really?

My first born turned 13 yesterday so I am now officially the mother of a teenager. How did that happen? Where did those 13 years go? How fast will the next few years go? Three more years until he's driving, five more years until he's in college, and on and on.

But to be honest, I'm not even thinking about those things right now. What I am thinking about and what's really distressing is that he is now officially the tallest member of our household (and by far has the biggest feet) - at 13!!

I think we have a few years before the princess overtakes us.

I'm really not short for a woman. I swear! Guess I'll have to break out the heels from now on.

Do you know how weird it is to have parent/child 'discussions' with someone who's taller than you are? Well, I find it weird (but maybe that's just me). Fortunately, he's a good kid so we don't have to have those discussions often.

Wonder if he would notice a cinder block on his head while sleeping - but I guess that would only work if he slept standing up. Any suggestions on how to stunt his growth? Just kidding! The better question would be how to fund his eating habits.

Happy birthday to our long-limbed, knobby-kneed teenager. We love you Brandon!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taking of the Annual Christmas Photo

I always have the best intentions and grandest ideas when it comes to the yearly Christmas photo. But December always seems to sneak up on me and I'm left scrambling in order to get a photo taken in time to be printed and inserted into Christmas cards so they get mailed before New Year. And of course, this year was no different.

I tried to pick a time when everyone would already be decked out in somewhat decent, Christmas-y attire. This way there would be less complaining about having to get 'dressed up' (relatively speaking) for nothing. It was also important to pick a time when the princess was in a good mood. So I chose after nap time today right before we headed out the door to see our church's annual Christmas program. In theory it was perfect timing. Let's see how it went.

Me: "Stand over there and let me take your picture."
Mia: "I want to see the baby."
Me: "In a minute, now stand there. Well, okay, you can kneel like your brothers."
Oh look - what's on Brandon's knee?
Oh not, what's that thing in the corner? Brandon, where are your shoes? Let's try this one more time.
OK guys, she's trying to escape. Hold on to her.
You didn't hold on to her.
Don't you want to have your picture taken any more?
Are we not done yet?

And the winner is:
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Favorite Christmas Tradition - The Jesse Tree

Christmas traditions are a big deal at our house. Each of us has our favorites - from breakfast with Santa at the local fire department to getting our tree from the same tree farm every year to watching a Charlie Brown Christmas for about the billionth time.

But one tradition that is very important to all of us is the Jesse Tree. A friend of mine introduced me to this about four years ago and it quickly became a family favorite. It's kind of like an Advent calendar but covers Creation to Jesus' birth rather than just highlighting the Nativity story.

We begin on Dec. 1 and hang one ornament a day through Christmas Day. Each ornament represents a symbol from the Old and New Testament and traces the heritage of Jesus from Creation through His birth. We also read a devotion that explains the significance of what that day's ornament represents.

I could only show the first two days on the tree because that's as far as we've gotten.
This is the devotional book we use - you can get it on Amazon.

Part of what makes this so special is that all of the ornaments are handmade. We got 25 women to pick a day/symbol and then they made 25 pf the same ornament. Then we met back up several weeks later (obviously you want to start this well before Dec. 1 if you plan on doing it that year) and had an ornament swap. Each of us brought all 25 of the same ornaments but left with 25 different ornaments - one for each day. If you're not crafty, don't panic. Some ornaments ended up being very ornate - but some are very simple or even store-bought. But that's OK - because what's so cool about this is seeing how everyone interprets their symbol.

A snapshot of all 25 ornaments from one of my three sets
I've done this three times now - so I have three different sets. I plan to give a set to each of my kids when they leave home so that they can carry on this tradition with their families.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 30 - Peace Out

It's hard to believe today is the last day of my 30 Days of Thanks Challenge. And lest anyone think I have forgotten one of my children, rest assured that is not the case. (Believe it or not, there was a rhyme or reason to the dates I chose to write about my kids and Tim - it corresponded to the day of the month that their birthday is on.)

Today I am thankful for my mellow middle child Joshua. He never gets too bent out of shape about anything and is often willing to go with the flow (except when it comes to disagreements with his brother). He's been that way pretty much since birth. His life was probably the most disrupted when Mia came into the picture but he took it in stride and is a very good big brother.

Joshua is definitely not afraid to go out on a limb and try something new. This has exposed us to several new sports for our family - both of which carry a high risk of bodily harm - but he doesn't seem to mind. He's also our social butterfly and can find someone to hang with wherever he goes. Both of those traits will take him far (as long as he makes it through school without getting into to much trouble for running his mouth).

And while he may be a big middle schooler now, Joshua never acts too cool to snuggle with his mom - and for that I am very thankful.

I hope that my 30 Days of Thanks has challenged you to pause and reflect on all you have to be thankful for. My goal moving forward is to continue to reflect daily on all my blessings - big, small, mundane, extraordinary - even if I'm not writing about them. I hope by doing this I can have an attitude of thankfulness 365 days a year.

So in the words of Joshua - PEACE OUT.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 29 - Me?

Am I really thankful for me? Am I thankful for who I am? Am I thankful for who God has made me? Yes, yes, and yes.

Up until today, I hadn't anticipated writing about myself - it seems a little odd. But the book I was reading in during my quiet time (which just so happens to be the same book that motivated me to take on this challenge) made me rethink this. After all, God created us as we are - complete with our faults and deficiencies - for a reason. He knew what type of personality I would need, what talents He would gift me with, and what weaknesses I would have that would make me draw nearer to Him. He knows what I'm capable of and what makes me cringe. He knows everything about me because He uniquely designed me that way. And while there are many traits I see in others that I don't possess but would like to have as well as attributes that I do have but would rather not, I'm still thankful that God chose me to be me.

I'm pretty sure He knows what He's doing so I'll keep relying on that even when I feel less than adequate. Because (to quote a song from my childhood)...

You gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me.
(The Butterfly Song)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day 28 - Random Bits of Thankfulness

Today my thoughts are a little all over the place. It's not that I couldn't think of anything to be thankful for - in fact, it was just the opposite. There were so many things swirling in my head it was hard to pick just one. So today's format is a little different. I'm thankful for:

...the rare wholesome television movie (yes, I'm talking about the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie).
...having sons who are now old enough to get on the roof and hang the Christmas lights.
...cold temperatures (after all it is almost Christmas).
...stress-free bedtimes.
...singing Christmas carols in church. crowds at the grocery store.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 27 - Long Weekends

You really can't beat a four-day weekend, can you? I love long weekends because it actually seems like we can balance fun and relaxation with productivity and our to-do lists. Today I am particularly thankful for the productivity part.

We always seem to have lots of projects going on around our house - current ones include Christmas decorating and backyard landscaping all while maneuvering a very curious and 'helpful' two-year old. We also tend to have to juggle our projects with the myriad of sporting events every weekend (although right now we are on a bit of a hiatus - and I'm relishing that). This seems to extend the length of time that projects take at our house. But when you throw in a long weekend so much gets accomplished and that's a wonderful feeling.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our long weekend together as a family having fun while being productive and I can't wait for the next one (whenever that may be). And hey, we haven't even get tired of each other yet and that's always a plus!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 26 - Lines and Leftovers

After a fairly full day of shopping, I was very thankful to have a fridge full of leftovers for dinner. Not only was this a nice convenience but it was just another reminder of the abundance that I have been blessed with. Also reminders were the Christmas gifts purchased for loved ones today.

As I was shopping with the masses, I made it a point to remember how blessed I truly am and let that shape my attitude today. No grumpiness when an item wasn't found, when wait times exceeded the normal limit or when parking spaces were few and far between. And you know what - it really changed my day. Instead of returning stressed and frazzled, I came home perfectly content (OK - maybe a bit sleepy, but that was only because I arose at 4:30 a.m.). Whether I achieved finding that must-have item or not, I recognize that I am blessed beyond belief and for that I am thankful.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 25 - Family, Floats and Food

Those three words sum up my Thanksgiving and for that I'm thankful. What better way to spend the day than by sharing my traditions with the next generation. The princess and I watched the entire Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and then all five of us feasted on our traditional Thanksgiving fare. It was calm and uneventful - and considering the past month that's perfectly fine by me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Day 24 - They Still Have To Work

Today was a typical day-before-Thanksgiving. I hung out with the kids and began preparations for tomorrow's feast. My goal was to get as much done ahead of time so that I can hang out on the couch watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade all morning long. I want to have as much time 'off' tomorrow as possible. After all it is Thanksgiving.

Well as I was preparing about a billion pounds of sweet potato casserole to be distributed tomorrow to on-duty firemen and police officers, the reality began to sink in that there are people who don't get tomorrow off to spend with family. Having the holidays off to celebrate with family and friends is something that I have always taken for granted. So today I am thankful for those who are sacrificing their family time to protect us (firemen and police officers) or care for those who are ailing (doctors and nurses) even during the holidays.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 23 - I Just Love To Talk

These were the words uttered by my 2-year old the other day. And believe me, they couldn't be more true. But that's OK (most of the time) because those precious noises - whether words or song - are a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminder of the joy that Princess Mia has brought to our family.

I'm very thankful to be the mom to this pint-sized, personality-filled little girl. She provides daily entertainment not only for our family, but for the neighbors, the check-out ladies at the grocery store, and countless others who come into contact with her. If you meet her on the street, you best be ready to acknowledge her presence because you really don't have a choice.

God knew what he was doing by waiting nine years after Joshua to bless us with the Princess. It takes all four of us just to keep up with her. But none of us would have it any other way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 22 - Whew

Believe it or not, I have the occasional day where I feel completely overwhelmed - whether it's with parenting, my to-do list around the house, errands, etc. Well, today was one of those few-and-far between days. The princess decided nap time was optional unless mommy was with her - unfortunately I generally need those 2 - 2 1/2 hours to be productive (and besides, I hate naps). One of my boys (who shall remain nameless) decided that shooting spit balls in class was a good idea - NOT! Mixed in between was the weekly mountain of laundry, grocery shopping for items that don't seem to exist anymore, picking up the other child as he is still recovering. You get the picture - and I'm sure you can relate.

Anyway now that I've vented about my day, I'm ready to be thankful. Thankful that I am the mom to three very unique children, thankful that I can stay at home so that I can handle these tasks myself, thankful that I have numerous grocery stores within a 5-mile radius. And most of all, I'm thankful that I simply made it through today and that tomorrow I get to start anew!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 21 - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Church We Go

Every Sunday (and several other times throughout the week), we pile in the car and head off to church without thinking twice about safety. We go into a building that is obviously a church - not a building disguised to look like something else. We do not have to meet underground or keep it a secret. We are free to worship as we please. Oh how thankful I am for this - and oh how often I take it for granted.

We are fortunate to live in a country where we can worship out in the open with very little risk - yes, there are extreme situations where this is not the case but generally speaking. And yes, there will be people who disagree with us, but just as we are free to worship they are free to disagree. Having people who disagree with me or perhaps even ridicule me for my beliefs is a small price to pay compared to those that live in countries where worshiping is illegal and even punishable by death.

So the next time you head off to church in broad daylight remember how good we really do have it and say a little prayer of thanksgiving for that opportunity.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 20 - My Eeyore

Eeyore has always been my most favorite character from Winnie-the-Pooh. (This is actually quite ironic since I'm probably the least like him.) But I just love Eeyore. In fact, I loved him so much I married him.

That's right - you read that correctly. I married my Eeyore almost 15 years ago. Now at the time I didn't really know I was marrying Eeyore (well I knew that my Eeyore shared similar personality traits with the Eeyore of the Hundred Acre Wood) - but I actually didn't find out until a few months later during a marriage enrichment seminar when we took the Myers-Briggs test. Tim's personality type was the same as Eeyore - mine was the extreme exact opposite. But we have learned over the years through much trial and error that it's OK because our fundamental values and beliefs are the same; it's simply how we approach them that's different.

I'm very thankful for those differences and for my absolutely 'perfect-for-me' husband. I know that there is no one else out there that could complement me like he does. To paraphrase a completely cheesy song - he's the apple to my pie, the straw to my berry, the peanut butter to my jelly.

Besides being like Eeyore, there are many other reasons that I love him and that I'm thankful for him. Here are just a few (because I could go on and on) - he constantly puts my needs and his babies' needs before his own; he's not above helping with the day-to-day running of the household; and he works hard so I can be at home with the kiddos.

I'm so thankful for the last 15 years - here's to 50 more.

I love you, Eeyore!

Day 19 - O Holy Night

(Getting this one in just under the wire.)

I heard my first Christmas music of the season today. I know, I know - it may seem early by most people's standards but it's never too early for mine. It's just one of my many favorite Christmas traditions in our family that I look forward to each year. And today I am thankful for all the wonderful memories that are built around those traditions. I'm excited about creating even more memories as we enter this blessed season of celebrating Christ's birth.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 18 - Colors on the Run

Clear blue skies. A crispness in the air. Red, orange and gold hues painting the earth's canvas. A 45-minute run all by myself. That's what I'm thankful for today. (Not that I mind taking the 27-pound two-year old with me in her jogging stroller, but then I would have missed out on the other things while trying not to collapse on the hills in our neighborhood.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 17 - When You Least Expect It

I'm not a huge fan of having to run errands every day (especially when it requires toting around a very independent 2-year old) - so I try to consolidate whenever possible. It's even better if one of her big brothers goes with me so that I have reinforcements if needed. That was my goal today when I decided to try being efficient and squeeze in an out-of-the-way errand before heading to church for our regular Wednesday activities.

To make a long story short, my errand didn't pan out the way it was supposed to because my destination was closed by the time I got there (a minor detail that I forgot to check into before I went). But that's OK because we were having some quality conversation time with each other that we probably would have missed out on otherwise and for that I'm thankful.

Now driving around in vain isn't exactly the way I prefer to spend time with them - but it just reminded me that special moments can happen when we least expect them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 16 - Modern Marvels (At Least To Me)

Does the name Josephine Cochrane ring a bell with any of you? Probably not. But she is whom I am thankful for today. (And just in case any of you were wondering - yes, my mother-in-law is named Josephine. No, this is not her. But I am thankful for her because without her I would not have my wonderful husband. But I digress.) Josephine Cochrane is the mother of the marvelous invention that has become a standard in modern kitchens across America - the dishwasher.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that of all the chores/duties/tasks that I do on a regular basis washing dishes is one that I detest the most. Even so, I take that little machine for granted. But today as I stood at the kitchen sink washing the piles of pots and pans that I don't put in the dishwasher (I know, I'm weird that way), I started thinking about how many more dishes there would be to wash if that convenient little appliance weren't there. And what about all the other little machines that make our lives so much easier than they were for some of our ancestors - the oven, the microwave, the vacuum cleaner, and the list goes on and on.

OK - so maybe today's post is a little goofy. But seriously, if we really stop and think about all the conveniences that we take for granted, you'd be surprised at how much we really have to be thankful for. (Remember that in the morning while you enjoy your big cup of coffee that you brewed in 10 minutes in your own kitchen.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 15 - Snugglepuppy Time

Two of my most favorite times of day are nap time and bedtime - partly for the obvious reasons (I can sit down for more than two seconds) but mostly because of the quality snuggle time I get with the little princess.

Yes, I am one of those moms who sits and cuddles with her babies in order to get them to sleep. We read books and then listen to peaceful lullabies as she drifts off into her sweet dreams. I'm very thankful for that snuggle time because in the grand scheme of life it doesn't last very long - I know from first hand experience. It seemed like an eternity before Brandon and Joshua went to bed on their own, but looking back it was such a short time. So this time around (which is most likely the last time around) I want to make sure I enjoy it and cherish it for as long as possible.

Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a good bedtime book for your special little one (Christmas is coming up you know), the princess recommends Snugglepuppy by Sandra Boynton.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 14 - Bless Their Hearts

My son Joshua participated in an in-town youth retreat this past weekend with our church. He had a blast - and do you know how I could tell? He looked absolutely exhausted and he barely had any voice left. This can only mean two things - little sleep, lots of loudness. This also means that the adults who helped also got very little sleep and had to tolerate the loudness. But I'm so thankful for those adults who were willing to sacrifice their time, their sleep, their homes all so that these kids could have loads of fun while growing closer to God.

Day 13 - Saturday Night's Alright For...

sitting on the couch with my sweeties watching a movie (a chick flick to be exact). Simple, yes - easy to achieve, no (especially since the only other female member of the family goes to sleep by 9:00 p.m. so it's virtually unheard of that any other movie genre besides action grace our television screen). But today it happened - and for that I'm very thankful.

To think that there was a time in my life where the thought of having to actually stay at home on a Saturday night with nothing better to do besides just watching a movie was simply horrifying to me. That most certainly is no longer the case. Since a large portion of most of our Saturdays are spent on a sports' field somewhere, Saturday nights often turn into playing catch up from the week past or, if we're lucky, getting a jump start on the week upcoming.

But not tonight. Tonight was blissfully boring.

And yes, my post is late, but it was a long movie! ;-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 12 - S'mores

What's not to be thankful for - chocolate, graham crackers, and little synthetic white blobs of gooey sweetness all melded together! But there's so much more to those yummy little treats - they symbolize good old fashioned fun around a campfire during one of my favorite seasons (fall) with great friends creating lasting memories. (I know, I know - so very sweet and sappy, right? It must be all that marshmallow fluff oozing out my fingertips.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 11 - Let Freedom Ring

I have to admit that I often take for granted the freedoms that I invoke on a daily basis. Today I am reminded of how thankful I am for those freedoms and how thankful I am for those who have and continue to defend those freedoms.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 10 - He Brings Home The Bacon I don't have to. Today (well, everyday - even when he's traveling) I'm thankful that my husband has a job that allows me to be a stay-at-home mom. This hasn't always been the case. But we both knew this was something we wanted so when the opportunity presented itself five years ago we jumped on it. It hasn't always been easy for various reasons, but I think we both agree that it's been worth it. I'm also thankful that he doesn't mind working hard to support his family (while I sit at home and eat my bon bons - just kidding!).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 9 - Proud To Be Awesome

That's my first-born child's motto. So I guess that makes my motto: "Proud to be awesome's mom." And I am proud to be Brandon's mom. I am very thankful that God saw fit to plop him in my arms almost 13 years ago (well maybe it wasn't as easy as a plop but that's OK - I still love him).

And yes, he is as confident as his self-proclaimed motto states. His strong sense of self and self-confidence along with his drive and determination have served him well during his first 13 years - and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for him. He gives 100% in everything he does - be it school, sports or simply life in general. He also has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn't feel the need to follow the crowd. He knows who he is and whose he is and isn't afraid to be true to himself.

I could go on and on about how awesome he is but I think you get the picture. (Don't get me wrong now, he has his faults but I'm thankful for those too.) Besides, he reads my blog and I'd hate for him to get a big head. :-)

Oh, and I almost forgot. What's not to love about a kid who promises to buy a beach house in the Caribbean for his mom when he becomes a rich and famous professional athlete.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 8 - Wash, Dry, Fold

Laundry - you read that right. Laundry. I'm thankful for laundry. Now this isn't one of those things that comes naturally, but rather a conscious decision to look at things from a different perspective. Every Monday (laundry day), I can look at those piles of lights, darks, towels, etc. and trudge my way through the sorting, washing, drying, folding, putting away.

Or I can look at them and be reminded of the four precious people that I have the privilege of caring for.

Or I can look at them and be reminded of the abundance of material blessings that I have to be thankful for - because if I'm doing laundry that means I'm fortunate enough to have clothes to wear.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 7 - You Never Outgrow Them

Parents, that is.

There have been many situations during my adult life where I've needed my mom and dad and they've willingly dropped everything to rush to my aide (just this past week for one). And I am so very thankful for them - although I'm sure my expressions of gratitude are quite inadequate. But that doesn't seem to matter to them. Because I know the next time something comes up - preferably something a little less stressful and a lot more fun - they will be right there ready to lend a helping hand.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 6 - Dinner's Ready

At first glance this post may appear to be about food - but it's not. It's about so much more than that. (Although don't get me wrong - food is a wonderful thing and I am very thankful to have more than enough to feed myself and my family when so many others do not.) It's about being thankful for time spent together during family dinners regardless of what's on the menu.

Eating dinner as a complete family unit is very important to each of us, but it's not always easy to pull off. Between conflicting sports' schedules, work, meetings, and a two-year old, it takes commitment and sometimes the willingness to eat at 8:30 p.m. There are certainly many other ways to get in quality family time - but for me, nothing can replace coming together around the table to share the day's highlights, complaints, revelations, laughs, and just life in general.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 5 - Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?

I don't know about you, but the people in my neighborhood are some of my best and dearest friends and for that I am truly thankful. They are always willing to bail you out of life's little jams (i.e., need a cup of sugar) or see you through life's biggest trials (i.e., waiting on your child's diagnosis) - whatever the need they are there. I am without a doubt blessed by their presence in my life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4 - Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Bed I Go

Another long day = another short post.

As I type this, I am sitting in my nice, comfy, large bed and for that I am very thankful. My baby is home and I am fortunate to not have to sit watch again in a most uncomfortable hospital chair. Thankfully I was there only one night, but there are so many parents who do that night after night for weeks on end. I can't even imagine. And because of those parents, I will not take sleeping in my own bed for granted anymore.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 3 - Little Post, Big Thanks

Whew what a day - but what a good day! There are soooo many things I could put on here today but I'm going to keep it short and sweet.

I'm thankful that my sweet baby boy (OK, he's almost 13 but he's still my baby) did not have a cancerous mass in his cheekbone. Huge praise and thanks to God that it was something that was easily fixable with no long-lasting repercussions. And how could I forget the two other beautiful babies that are at home with dad and the grandparents right now. I'm so very blessed - and after being on this pediatric ward, I won't take that for granted.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 2 - Vocation and Location

I am so thankful that there are people in this world that God has called to spend many years of their life in school to become things like pediatric neurosurgeons. I can't imagine the time and energy it takes to do something that requires that much dedication and discipline. The knowledge and skill that these men and women are blessed with simply amazes me.

I am also thankful to live in a town just 30 minutes away from one of the best children's hospitals around. The people that work there definitely have a special gift to make you feel at ease in sometimes a very uneasy and scary situation.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1 - Give Thanks in ALL Things

30 Days of Thanks

Today begins my "30 Days of Thanks" challenge. Here's an excerpt from a devotion that I put together for a women's church group meeting last Tuesday that explains the background for the challenge as well as the challenge itself.

Oct. 26, 2010 - A Single Act of Thanksgiving to an Attitude of Gratitude

We’ve had quite the flurry of activity in our close-knit little neighborhood this last week and a half – everything from major brain surgery and a miraculous recovery to the birth of a beautiful new baby. During major events like these, it’s not very difficult to remember to give thanks for all that our amazing God can do and does. But the reality is – whether good or bad – normal life for most of us is not characterized by such mega events, at least not on a daily basis.

“Normal life” – for me anyway – is cleaning finger paintings done with toothpaste on the bathroom cabinets, making sure homework is done, sweeping up mud tracked in on stinky cleats off the floor, cooking, grocery shopping, paying the bills, removing shoes from the front-porch roof, etc. So where does thankfulness fit into normal life? I think all too often it gets shoved in a corner (I know I’m guilty of this) and then life rolls along with its little bumps and twists and it’s not until something big happens that we remember to purposely thank God for all that He is and does.

So my question that I’m putting out there to all of you is “How do we transform those moments of deliberate thankfulness into lives characterized by ‘an attitude of gratitude’?

Even before all the recent activities, I had been thinking about thankfulness for several weeks. It seemed to be a common theme in devotions I had read, Scriptures that I ran across, blogs that I had been reading and then just last week the Bible study that I am doing.

In her book Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl, Lysa TerKeurst says that “thanksgiving is the secret to attitude adjustment” and “a person whose life is characterized by constant praise and thanksgiving despite their circumstances will shift from just verbalizing their praise and thanksgiving to living it out loud through their courageous stance for Christ.”

I know we still have a month to go before the holiday that focuses on giving thanks. But how often do we get overwhelmed by all that there is to do surrounding Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas? That leads to stress, which leads to grumbling and short fuses which leads to just general yuckiness and sometimes ungratefulness.

But this year I really want to make the effort to approach things differently. So I’ve decided to challenge myself with 30 Days of Thanks. Now I’m an on-again off-again blogger (would prefer to be more on-again but it’s funny how my family prefers clean clothes and food over random blog posts). But I have decided beginning Nov. 1 I am going to blog every day about the things that I am most thankful for – many of these things are not the ‘aha’ moments – they are simply moments woven throughout my daily life.

So I challenge you to also take a few minutes of each day throughout the month to let God know what you’re thankful for and pretty soon your intentional act of thankfulness will be transformed into an attitude of gratitude. Not only will that change us but it will go a long way to changing the lives of others around us – and as God’s disciples, isn’t that what we really want?

I knew stating this challenge to the public (i.e., all the women in my group) would provide some accountability for me. But hey, I have lots to be thankful for so how hard can it be other than the fact that I have to make time to document it each day.

Well, that's at least what I thought until last Thursday, just two days later. My whole world was shaken a bit. I was told by my kids' pediatrician that one of my babies could be facing a very serious health situation. Serious enough to be meeting with a specialist at a nearby children's hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) a.m. - just one week after writing my devotion.

To say that I have run through a gamut of emotions from last Thursday until today would be an understatement. My thoughts have been all over the place. In fact, I contemplated 'postponing' my challenge. But then these verses kept coming to mind.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thess. 5:16 - 18

So while I admit I'm not thankful for my current circumstance, I can still be thankful despite my circumstance. I look forward to sharing the many things - both big and small - that I'm thankful for during the next 30 days.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Have To - OR - Able To

Do you ever have those days where you're bemoaning your to-do list before you ever set foot out of bed? You know the kind - "I have to do this" or "I have to do that." If you don't, then I applaud you because you are definitely a better person than I am.

Today wasn't necessarily one of those days, but it was cleaning day. And as I began gathering my supplies...

and occupying Mia with clutter-free activities (i.e., a TV show - I know, I know, shame on me), I remembered something I heard at a women's conference a few weeks ago.

What if, instead of focusing on the "I have to's," we focused on the "I am able to's?" (Lots of weird punctuation there - not sure if it's correct, but anyway.) So "I have to clean my house" turns into "I am able to clean my house because I am healthy and physically able." Or "I am able to clean my house because I have a house to clean which shouldn't be taken for granted these days."

As I dusted, vacuumed dog hair, cleaned toilets, vacuumed dog hair, mopped the floors, vacuumed dog hair, I kept mulling this thought over and over in my mind and began to apply it to other situations that frequently come about during my typical day.

I have to eat leftovers for dinner. ----> I am able to eat leftovers for dinner because I have good (not scrounged from a dumpster) food in the fridge to eat.

I have to take the boys to practice for the millionth time this week. ----> I am able to take the boys to practice because they are healthy and God has blessed them with athletic abilities. Or I am able to take the boys to practice because my minivan still runs and allows me to drive them where they need to go. (For those of you that know anything about my minivan this is a miracle in and of itself.)

Now I realize all of my examples are seemingly mundane tasks, but the sum of them makes up a lot of what I do (and what I feel God has called me to do) at this season of my life. So you can see how just changing a few simple words can make a huge impact on my daily outlook.

And just because my house only looks this clean for about an hour every two weeks, I thought I'd document it.

Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer List Recap

Remember the 'Summer List'? Wasn't it just yesterday when we came up with it?

Now that summer is theoretically over I thought it might be fun to recap what we accomplished. Remember, this was a no-limitations brainstorming session so some things didn't quite happen this summer. But hey, there's always next year!

1) Bowling...let me just say that there are no pro-bowlers among us.

2) Tie-dye t-shirts...exploring our crafty side.

3 & 4) Block party and homemade ice cream...we killed two birds with one stone on this one. Had our 'last hurrah' neighborhood gathering on Labor Day and made homemade Cheerwine ice cream - not so good in my book, but it got eaten by others.

5) Fishing...technically this was from Memorial Day. But that's the beginning of summer, right?

6) Shaving cream entertainment, but they LOOOOVVVEEDD it.

7) Water balloon fight...OK, I'm seeing a theme here. But we're really not violent people.

8) Baseball game...Sorry no pics here. Mia and I bailed on this one because it was 100 degrees outside. But the boys and Tim caught a Durham Bulls game.

9) of my favs.

10) Washington, D.C...this one was really good too. Although I missed my baby terribly while we were gone.

11) 5K...we picked the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. A very moving experience. Just look at all those people.

12) Gym...No pics on this one for sure. But I did manage to get several workouts in thanks to my WONDERFUL baby sitters.

13) Blog...This one was another one of my items, obviously. But we see how well that turned out. But hey, it's fall and I'm determined to make a new start!

14) IronKids Triathlon...not for the faint of heart. My very athletic and physically fit boys hurt BAD after this one.

15) Pool...of course we did this one. It's a summer staple around here (but with 3 kids, well OK, with one toddler, it was difficult to get photos.)

16) Asheville...We spent some good quality time with the grandparents.

17) Krispy Kreme...thank goodness it's a long way from our house.

Not bad for us first timers. We had a great summer filled with lots of wonderful memories. I will definitely try this again next year - let's just hope the boys don't outgrow it too soon! (The thought of them actually outgrowing it ever makes me very sad - so let's just not think about that.)

Since we seem to be fairly successful with lists, maybe it's time for me to make a Fall Project To Do List. Better get started - the holidays will be here before we know it.

Here's to creating many more wonderful memories - no matter what time of year!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Re: New You

As I write this, more than 320 women are preparing to descend upon Apex United Methodist Church for its first ever women's conference...Re: New You 2010, featuring Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries. And let me just tell you I am SO excited because I know God is going to do an awesome work in the lives of these women.

Over the last few months I have had the privilege to work with an amazing group of ladies in preparation and planning for this event. And even if I don't get to hear one word of Lysa's message, I will have already been blessed beyond measure by the women on our team.

God truly handcrafted this team. There are women from all walks of life - young, younger; children, no children; married, single; long-time members, newcomers - and with all types of gifts (e.g., hospitality, creativity, project management). Whatever we had a need for, you name it and someone stepped forward to do it. Now how awesome is that? But we all had one common desire - to show the love of Christ to the women in our community and beyond.

With that said, I just want to lift up a special prayer for these women - both attendees and organizers - that they will experience the full measure of Christ's love and then feel compelled to share it with others.

Now it's off to take care of the last few details (including hair, make-up and cute shoes) - but remember...

...for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:22 - 23

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mr. Tim and the Family Go to Washington

Since summer seems to be sneaking on by with little regard to my need for keeping my blog updated,  I guess I'll just jump back in with both feet by highlighting some of the items that we have checked off on our Summer Fun List. (By the way, this list has been great for reminding us on some of our slower days that we have actually done lots of fun things this summer - and we're not finished yet.)

One of our more major items on our to-do list was a trip to D.C. This trip has been a long time in the making. We were supposed to go 2 summers ago - but I got pregnant with Mia and the thought of July in D.C. pregnant made me want to poke my eyeballs out. Then last year Mia was too young to leave and again the thought of taking a baby to D.C. made me want to poke my eyeballs out. So this year was it. Mia was old enough to leave with the grandparents - so off the rest of us went to explore the nation's capital.
Day 1:

Smile for the camera boys! (Even though you're cramped in the tiny back seat of our rental car.)

D.C. is only about 4 1/2 hours from where we live, so we drove. It wasn't too bad since we weren't traveling with a toddler. I mean two tween/teen boys - they popped in the ear buds and we never heard from them. Probably the only peace and quiet we had the whole trip.

First stop - Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum at Dulles - Airplanes, airplanes and more airplanes.

Just a little excited to be here. Although I think the big boy (not pictured) was the most excited about this stop.

The Concord - very big, very fast, very nice.

Joshua's fav - the SR 71-Blackbird

Space Shuttle - Enterprise. One word: HUGE.

Future astronauts?

Enola Gay

After Udvar-Hazy, we went and checked in at our hotel. We stayed in Arlington just across the bridge from Georgetown. We could not have picked a better location. Right near a Metro stop, great view of the Potomac - just generally great.

So we dropped our bags and ventured out. Remember I mentioned we were close to a Metro stop - yeah well, we decided not to take advantage of it our first night there. Let's just say the key on our little guide map was a bit deceiving - so after having driven 4 - 5 hours, toured a museum that is in a gigantic airplane hangar, and having temps close to the 100 degree mark, we took off on foot to visit the monuments. (Just thought I'd give you that background so when we all look wilted in the next few photos you'll know why.)

We started with the Iwo Jima Memorial. It was on our side of the river. But notice how you can see the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Doesn't look to far you say? So off we go.

And go, and go, and go we went. Perception is a funny thing.

We made it. And what do you know - there's the Leaning Tower of...wait, I mean, the Washington Monument. We tried for 10 minutes to get that thing straight in the photo, but it just wasn't cooperating.

The Lincoln Memorial - how come when you see this in movies there's no one on the steps?

After hanging out a few minutes with Abe, we hobbled to the nearest Metro stop and quickly found out what we had been missing. Thank goodness for public transportation (never thought I'd say that being from the suburbs).

Our vacation was off to a good start - despite having bunions on our feet. More to come - stay tuned!