Saturday, January 30, 2010

Week in review

**Whew** It's Saturday! We ditched our "normal" routine of not having much on the ol' agenda...for a jam packed, fun week of activities, events, etc. Gotta admit - it was wonderful! I'm so thankful that Ava was healthy all week and we were able to do so many fun things... winter has just been taking its time here and being inside soooo much was wearing us all a little thin. Here are some things we did this week -

Monday: a WHOLE LOTTA this --> Laundry day is actually one of my fave house chores. Weird, I know, but I do love doing it! And I had a lot of "catch up" work to get done as I was a sluggard about it last week. So this pretty much was our entire monday day.

Tuesday: Playdate with our "Mom's playgroup" at church. It ended up only being me and Ava with one other momma and her three kiddos - but still lots of fun! Ava has bumped up to the toddler nursery and just loves playing with the "big kid" toys! And I enjoyed some great conversation with a friend, over our mugs of coffee, of course! Tuesday night I was able to sneak out for a little bit with another friend, just she and I, for some more coffee at a little coffee place here in Des Moines called Smokey Row. Brad is happy to let me go out and I am so thankful for his selflessness in that area...because, momma needs some time away now and again!

Wednesday: This is our big day of ministry with the teens. We have youth group (The Mix) at night and it's the highlight of our week! This week we were learning about Jesus and the 3 offices He holds - Prophet, Priest and King. My hubby is an excellent teacher and I am so proud of him! Wednesday night after we got home, Miss Ava needed a bath. And this was the night she discovered how to turn on the shower! (uh oh...) So, yes, a VERY eventful Wednesday evening! And a good clean up job post bath time. :(

Thursday: Company's coming!!! We had some friends over for dinner Thursday night and I made my first Sausage Lasagna. Turned out to be very tasty! The recipe was really easy and can be found in any Betty Crocker cookbook. I just took some extra liberties with ingredients and added in extra parsley as I have tons to use up prior to it going bad.

Friday: I heard/saw a rumor about The Children's Place having their $2.99 sale so we headed to Jordan Creek for some shopping. Ava is growing out of everything so we needed to stock up. And, we can do $2.99! Sure enough we struck Gold!!! I was able to purchase 9 items (much needed items) and love what we found! Then I walked next door and found some shoes for the girl - I got two pair for a total of $8!!! So happy to have found exactly what we needed and for so cheap! And an added bonus to this trip was, of course, the play place! Ava loves running around on those cushiony, foamy, slides and jumbo butterflies, etc. And secretly, Brad loves it too! Can you see them?
The highlight of my week was going to "Cabin Fever Cure" last night at my friend Emily's house. Our church puts on this event every year as a way for women to get out of the house and spend time together! Each home hosts a different "theme" or activity for ladies to get involved in - or, in my case, learn from the host about something. Emily opened up her home to teach us some tricks to decorating on a budget. Her home is warm, welcoming and very well done and she makes close to everything she uses in her decorating! I left with a ton of ideas and am eager to get back to work on this house! It was also really refreshing just to visit with other ladies and hear about whats going on in their worlds.... I always come home more friendly, loving, and renewed after visits like that.
To end our exciting, busy, week we have a family birthday party and a dinner with friends tonight. I am so thankful for so many fun, out of the norm, things to do this week! Coming up next week... I'll start working on Valentines day decor. I'm starting small...but, you gotta start somewhere!

Friday, January 29, 2010


Ava Edyn...
With your greenish eyes and silly smiles...
Purring like a tiger - and with the same fight...

13 Months have passed. She's def not a baby anymore. But sometimes, when I hold her real close she still curls into the newborn ball and relaxes into my arms. She still smells like a baby - with the soft scent of baby lotion, clean clothes and rubber toys. Her voice is strong, but sweet. She gives open mouth kisses and bear hugs. She loves, without caring who receives.

I know all too soon you'll be all grown up.
So for now, I'm treasuring these days. I'm treasuring these hours and minutes with you and your tiny hands... tiny giggles... and big mischief...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A day in the life of a SAHM

I woke up this morning...earlier then norm. Just woke up. Usually my alarm clock is Ava jibbering "momma, momma" or Brad's Droid beeping endlessly - which, makes me grumpy. Not so much a great way to wake up. Clarification - the Droid makes me grumpy, not the calling of a little monkey next door.
As soon as my alertness came to me I had the thought - "I should get up and grab some quiet time with my God". Only...I waited too long and then fell back to sleep. But then a few minutes later, I woke up again. Ava was still asleep and I could hear the shower running... strange. Only strange because usually the shower wakes Ava up.
So, while it was still calm - I took my chances (my second chance, ahem...) at some quiet time. I cuddled up on the oversized chair with my bible, journal and a pen. I opened up to 1 Peter and let the word of God speak. And while I'm reading it occurs to me that I need to do this specific thing more often. There is value and gain to getting up and preparing your mind and life for a day. There's a supernatural peace and serenity to starting a day with the Lord of all creation. I rarely do this, but...I'm trying. Ava slept in for another 35 minutes and I know full well that it was because God allowed her that time...and me that time. Because I know that my personal God knew my heart needed his words this am. Jesus, our prophet, needed to speak to me through His word and remind me of one thing... "gird up the loins of your mind". And, that's all I needed - and that's all I meditated on for those 30 minutes (and 5 to make a pot of coffee).

Because although I'm not out in an office reporting to a supervisor, or... working construction, or counting money for a company or... whatever... my full time job takes mental strength. And, though very partial... my "client" is the most important.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It all comes back to who HE is

"For this says the Lord,
Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited;
I am the Lord, and there is no other."
Isaiah 45: 18

This morning I caught 5 brief minutes of the Today show. Despite its obvious liberal lean, I have to admit that I still enjoy catching a few minutes here and there. I enjoy their money saving ideas, cleaning reviews, etc. You know...all the home making stuff. And, I enjoy Matt Lauer - we've been watching him since we got married and sometimes I feel like we are related. Weird, but, whatever. Anyway, this morning Meredith Viera was interviewing Ted Haggards wife. If you aren't familiar with THAT whole story - google it, and be prepared to be sad. Long story short - big time mega church pastor turns gay, supposedly. While I don't know all the details, from what I gathered this morning, the couple is in therapy and Ted has repented and turned back to heterosexuality. He was on Oprah (good grief...obnoxious sigh) the other day where he made some kind of statement about how he wasn't having that struggle anymore and had changed. Of course everyone is skeptical, except... his wife. Who just sits so calmly and sweetly and very "pastor-wifeishly" by with her meek smile and gentle nature. Meredith could not understand (very obviously) why Mrs. Haggard was still with Pastor Ted. She kept prying at the question, "why?", "Why stay when in your book you very clearly even state that you were repulsed...." etc. Mrs. Haggard without even a second of hesitation on national television says, "because I love him and I honor our marriage" and a bunch of other things that got drown out in the midst of other morning noise in our home... and while I didn't hear what Meredith's response was...her face said it all. "You Christian folk, are nuts!".

The last few days scripture about WHO God is just blazes through my mind. Random times and people inspire it. This morning, again, while I watched my 5 minutes of morning "news" the Lord again laid it on my heart, "You can love ANYONE because I love you and sent my son for you...". {gulp} So, yes, Mrs. Haggard, you are nuts for loving this man who hurt you so deeply. You are crazy for accepting him back into your life, bed, and home. You are out of your mind to pursue therapy and a continued relationship with this man...according to everything our sinful human nature tells us. But, you are obedient and God bless you. Your humility and grace and outstanding LOVE for this man despite hideous sin is a challenge to me. The way you acknowledge God through this whole situation is outstanding. It all comes back to who God is. Creator of the heavens, architect of the earth, potter of the soul and body of man, God. Because God loves us {and sent His son} we can love anyone...

I had a jillion other little things to chat Ava has bumped up to toddler nursery, deals I found online and the continuation of snow...but, doesn't seem all that important anymore.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some freebies I've found

I'm by no means one of those "always seeking freebies and good deals" gals. I wish I knew more about money saving and getting things free, then I do, but for now I'll settle for every now and again seeing a commerical saying something is free.

Brush your teeth? Well, Arm and Hammer has a free sample of their toothpaste here.
Love Aveeno products? Or... want to pretend you do with a free sample of their brand spankin' new shampoo? Well then hop on over to here.

That's my two cents for the day. "Stuff" can never satisfy - but, its kinda fun to find these little things now and again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Where are all the "good" people???

It's ok... you can laugh. Or, maybe you can cry with me.
It's been a semi-rough week of ministry. It's been a very rough last few days...and to be totally honest - a horrible night last night. This passage keeps playing through my mind - constantly - which is odd to me, because I've never REALLY studied it.

"What then? Are we better then they? Not all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written..
"There is NONE righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is NONE who does good, no, not ONE."
Romans 3: 9-12

While I'm not at liberty to share just exactly every concern on my heart - I am burdened for teenagers and that might be enough said today. Why did God choose us? How can we help people and grow people and show people the Love of Christ? These are just questions at the tip of my hypothetical iceberg in my brain. (nice word picture... I know) Why is it so hard to pray? Why is it so hard to seek God? And, of course, I know this answer...

Here's a shout out to all you involved in youth ministry, well, any ministry, really...but, for those of you in the trenches today and feeling it - I'm with you. And even better, GOD is with us! Score! And, here's a little challenge that hits home with my heart today - next time you are in church on Sunday/Wednesday/whenev... say hi to a teen. Smile at them. Ask them what their name is? Connect. They are watching you. They are trying to learn how to be adults. And, unfortunately... most of the time they aren't learning from the church. Let's change that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not home yet

In case you are wondering... why is my life/world/everything like this?! Quick reminder... we aren't home yet. Well, at least, we aren't to our heavenly home. I'm not a huge fan of "The Message", but, this passage was especially encouraging to me today... and I hope it can be for you, too. Be encouraged today, fellow travelers! :)
I think SCC says it second best... here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Attn: Ankeny Target Shoppers

I realize only a very small few of you who read this live near me... and I apologize for this teaser...however, perhaps this is happening near you, also. ???
Today at Target (in Ankeny) I found a rack - one of those "on the end" racks FULL of amazing deals. Clorox bleach, Snuggle fab. softener, Mr. Clean products, Charmin TP, Tide "coldwater" detergent, etc. Everything was under $12! The bleach is $1 something, Mr. Clean is around the low $2's... just really really good. It was across from the pharmacy section.

So, if you like those nice brand name items you might wanna go check it out. I had coupons for some of those things, on top of those prices... so even better! :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When the going gets tough...

{sigh, a loooong sigh} I'm not a huge fan of Maxine and her comic strip - she's pretty crass for the most part, but, today is a Maxine feeling kind of morning and this comic strip was for me. Why, you ask? Oh let me just tell you...
Two days ago I checked my mailbox. I got my new workout DVD, two new books, misc junk mail and... our gas/energy bill. Usually not a big deal. So I open up all the good mail first - look at the books and mentally prep myself for the dvd that I would "attempt" later that day. Then I open the bill.
I am not even kidding you when I tell you that our gas/energy bill is $275!!! With a little teasing note towards the bottom, "your next reading will be Feb. 13th" if to say, "haha and we'll be coming after more of your money next month". Yes, I do have a smidge of an attitude about this. I know that I just need to get my "big girl" pants on and deal with it. It's winter, it's freezing, and we have 9ft ceilings. That being said - if you are visting our home anytime soon wear extra clothes. I've turned the thermostat down to a balmy 60, dressed Ava in layers and brought out extra blankets in lieu of gas heat!!! WHO can afford that much for heat?! Ok... I'm over it. The Lord knows and has a purpose for even this...

Continuing on with the theme of freezing weather... our ice storm has ended, but the results are stunning. Here is our backyard at this present time...Our tree is falling apart because its completely coated in ice. Poor tree. We are very thankful for the Lord's protection - so much has fallen off the tree, but it's always away from our house, when it could very easily have been ON our house/garage. Ava seems to think its all pretty cool and loves the sound of the huge branches coated with ice cracking off the tree. Our camera's snow option makes her look all "glowy"... i heart her. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A lil' more organized

Right now, as I was typing (well, reading all of your blogs, first) a HUGE branch fell off of our tree and landed on our neighbors fence. You see - we are in the middle of a fairly bad ICE STORM. Ew. God has constantly had His hand of protection over us... the branches ALWAYS fall either to the left or the right onto our neighbors fences...and NEVER on our home. PRAISE BE TO GOD! (because those are some big branches) Not to worry, tho. Everything will be alright.

Anyway, this morning I wanted to share two more organization ideas that I have recently incorporated into my newly organized life. (bah - don't look at my living room this morning...) We can't have it all together at once, can we?! :) Ahem... One is the coupon organizer and the other is making the most of storage space.
This little coupon book to the left here is very helpful to me. I know ladies who have very extensive binders, trapper keepers (remember those), photo album type things... but, this works for me. And the key is not to do what everyone else does - but find what works for you. So, last year I purchased this small coupon keeper from Gooseberry Patch and it has been doing a great job. There are dividers for each "section" of food things and an added section for "restaurants/misc" which I love to slip in all those gift cards, date night ideas, etc. I used to take just the coupons I was planning on using to the grocery store - but recently I've been taking this whole book. It's small enough to fit in my purse and now that I have ALL my coupons on hand I am finding better deals that I can actually take advantage of. Nothing worse then seeing and deal, knowing you have the coupon AT HOME, and having to settle for something else. {pout, pout} Here's a look inside... Nothing too fancy, but very helpful. Need more coupon-controlling ideas? I'd LOVE for you to hear about my binder-lady friend, Miss Amy...she is on the ball with this stuff!

Next... using storage wisely and to the max! When we bought this house some of the selling points for me were: 1) the built ins! 2) the big basement 3) two car detached garage. I loved those three things because I figured we'd have plenty of space to keep our stuff, and keep it well. Meaning, coats won't mold if left forgotten for 3 years. (why yes, that HAS happened to us) My most favorite thing is our hutch in the dining room - it has 3 large pull out drawers and two smaller ones towards the top. Here's a peek - and yes, we are still trying to decorate so I'm not set on this whole picture frame haven look. :) Anyway, in the last few weeks I have gotten my act together and made this space into an awesomely organized storage machine! Top right small drawer is now for games and our one lone phone book, top large drawer is gift bags, wrapping paper and small gifts to be given, middle drawer is for table linens and small crafts and bottom drawer is now home to ALL of my reusable shopping bags. Wanna see? This is so helpful for me. If I need a quick gift bag I can now just go to my drawer and pick one - rather then trudging through our disaster of a basement to find the big box full of them. Same with games. And since I'm constantly using the shopping bags it just makes sense - and clears out some space under our sink for other things. And this project took all of 2 hours. :) {sigh} The feeling of being organized is a good one. Now, I just need to conquer that basement...
I'd love to hear your organization ideas. Coupons, storage, etc. I'm always looking for new ideas as I'm new to this whole home owning thing... :) Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Creative Praying

Yep - still cold, snowy and winter out there. Ava from time to time goes to this window to check out the outside "situation". I'm trying to teach her to say, "snow", but I think she thinks I'm saying, "no", that lesson is not going well.

Happy Monday, by the way. I hope your weekend was refreshing. Mine was. Somehow I still always feel SO sleepy on Monday morning, though. Brad had the opportunity on Saturday to head down to Hope Ministries with 5 of our teens and help the homeless in Des Moines. Something I love MOST about my hubby is his passion for the lost...and the broken of the world. He's taken the teens twice now to serve with this ministry and each time he has great stories to share. Saturday they actually went to the tent camps to visit the homeless who are surviving in tents down by the river. Sad. If you are interested in finding ways to get involved with something like that - and live in Des Moines - I attempted a link above. Don't hold back!

There isn't a lot of "new and exciting" in our life right now, which, is okay for me. However, there is now a little more music in our home. :) Brad has picked up his guitair again (literally) and is taking some lessons. I love hearing him play the same two verses over and over...
Ava, as you can imagine, is captivated by this wooden "toy" that daddy has. And from time to time Brad lets her strum a cord and she does a silly dance then just walks away. We've found that if we let her try most anything just once - she's satisfied and then goes on with her business. I, personally, am thrilled that he's playing. I love the sound of guitair and have visions of romantic serenades or mini-worship sessions in our living room. I've been missing music... well, home made music!

Can I ask you a question? How's your prayer life? Do you pray? How? What methods do you use? Where do you pray? What do you pray? Who do you pray for?

Prayer is something that sometimes boggles my mind. Somedays I feel like I'm walking around in a state of prayer all day - thinking about people, bringing them before the throne. I pray while folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, picking up toys...
But then other days, which sadly seems like most days, I have SUCH a hard time praying. I try to sit and focus and end up thinking of something else or doing something else. I try to pray through scripture but get caught up or dare I say... bored?! (just bein' honest) Sometimes I start praying and just end up crying, which is great...but... ... ...
And I've heard from so many people that they have this experience as well. Am I overthinking prayer? Boggling, see. We do know that prayer is our way of communicating with the God of the universe - our personal, intimate, loving God. I think one of my biggest obstacles is - I just get overwhelmed by how much there really is to pray for. Sick people, lost people, jobs, children, salvations, missions, money, wisdom, teens, parents, soliders, churches, terrorists, presidents, directions, ... and the list could literally go on a full blogs-worth! Over the years I've heard a workshop or two about prayer. Mind you, I did go to a bible college. I've heard ideas about keeping a prayer journal, a prayer box complete with dividers and 3 x 5 cards, a prayer shawl (no joke) that you wear only for prayer times to keep you focused. I've sat through intense prayer groups, prayer meetings at church and prayer walks down hallways and over soccer fields. Each effective (I guess) at the time. Yet somehow, as I continue on in my own walk of faith I have to fight to keep prayer ALIVE in my life. Don't get me wrong. I am so grateful for the ability that we have to pray. I'm thrilled with so many ideas and suggestions for prayer times. I'm thankful for creative friends, RA's, teachers and parents who have given advice on the topic over my lifetime...
Maybe Elizabeth George states how I feel the best,

"It's fun to talk about prayer and easy to think about prayer. But to actually put your feet - and heart - on the pathway to prayer, to make your desire to pray a reality, requires discipline."

Discipline. Ding, ding, ding.... and there we have my biggest issue. On the days that I just can't seem to simmer down and get to it - it's about my lack of discipline. I allow things and issues to overwhelm me rather then just stopping and bringing them to the feet of Jesus. Ever battle with that one?!
In college, my soph. year I had an incredible RA, Jennie Bensen. She was wise and funny and personable and loved to have a good time. But over all of that - she was deep and godly and sought God in her life. On her desk she had this rolodex style picture frame. I noticed it often because she had all these missionary prayer cards in it. Strange, I thought. Those things usually just ended up in my bible because I felt guilty about not taking one and praying for missionaries. So I would very sly-like take one from their table, smile at them, slip the card into my bible never to be seen again... eek. (just bein' honest, again) But here she had page after page of them. Eventually I got around to asking her about it - she explained that was her method of praying for missionaries. She would slip their cards into the slots and each day flip it and pray for a new missionary. GENIUS! Long story (obviously) very short... I have one now. And instead of just all missionaries I have now added unsaved family members, far away friends, new cousins (babies) and friends battling infertility. It is my visual reminder DAILY to stop and pray. And, for the most part... it's been working!
So, I'll ask again. What are you doing with your prayer life? Have a creative way? And, who are you praying for? Now for me... it's time for some quiet time, and looks like today I'm praying for the Nikitins. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Recipes to share

Well, the endeavor to bless my family with healthy, delicious, planned meals is going splendidly! And I've enjoyed having healthy, planned lunches the next day. Which is something new! :)
I have a few recipes that I must share - especially if you are a soup lover, chocolate fanatic or like salmon. Very diverse eating week we've had...but it was great! {and...did I mention healthy?!}
Lemony Lentil Soup with Greens

2 t. canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot or 2 small, peel and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
12 c. low sodium chicken broth (3 large progresso boxes)
16 oz. pkg. green lentils (I used split green peas because I couldn't find the lentils)
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. salt
8 c. chopped kale leaves
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. fine grated lemon peel (zest)

1) Heat oil in a 6qt. pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring, 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, covered, stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until carrots soften. Add 12 c. broth, lentils (peas), basil, thyme, and salt. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to low; add kale.
2) Cook 30-35 minutes, or until lentils are tender, add additional broth if needed. (I didn't) Stir in lemon juice and top with grated peel before serving. (makes 8 servings)
*I topped ours with shredded cheddar as well because cheese goes with EVERYTHING! :)

Really, really GOOD! My friend Crystal came down from Minnesota last week and we had this for two days!! It's hearty and delish and the peas gave it a little more texture as they never really get completely tender. And, KALE, well, thats just delish! It's a perfect soup for a cold day. I served it with herb breadsticks. Yum! I only wish I had a pot like this to cook it in!

Mediterranean Salmon Wraps

2 (5oz) cans or pouches skinless, boneless salmon, drained
1/4 c. chopped FRESH parsley
1/4 c. chopped pitted kalamata olives (we skipped these)
1/4 c. fine diced red onion
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. shredded lemon peel
2 T. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
12 leaves of Romaine lettuce
4 large whole wheat tortillas (9 in. diameter)
1/2 c. roasted red sweet red peppers, sliced (I used jarred)
1 lg. ripe tomato, halved and sliced (we skipped this, too)

1) In medium bowl, combine salmon, parsley, olives, onion, oil, lemon juice and peel. Season with salt and pepper (fresh ground pepper IS the best!).
2) To make each wrap - place 3 lettuce leaves, ribs removed, on a tortilla. Top each with a quarter of the salmon salad, top with a few red peppers and tomato slices. Fold tortilla over and roll up.
Now, I don't know how mediterranean it really was for our family since I skipped olives and tomatoes. But, I still liked it! Brad even ate one and he is NOT a fish eater!! I had never made anything with salmon before - but this was quick, easy and super healthy. Ava loved it, too! And, the next day I just stirred a cup of rice into the salmon salad and ate it that way - even better. :) WARNING: IT WILL STINK UP YOUR FRIDGE IF YOU DON'T USE GOOD STORAGE!

Last... this one might not qualify for the "healthy" rating I mentioned earlier. But, what it lacks in physical nutrients - it abounds with mental satisfaction. Think about it.
Caramel Brownies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 (1 oz) squares unsweet. baking chocolate
4 large eggs
2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. all-purp flour
2 t. vanilla extract (if you have REAL, even better)
1 c. chopped pecans (or fave nut, or none)
12 oz. chocolate chunks or chips
14 oz. soft caramels, unwrapped
1/4 c. heavy cream (gulp!)

1) Heat oven to 350. Line a 13x9 pan with nonstick foil or regular foil coated with nonstick spray.
2) In large micro-safe bowl, melt together butter and unsweet choco on high for 2 minutes; stir until smooth. Whisk in eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Spread 1/2 the batter into pan. Sprinkle with 1 c. choco pieces.
3) In med-size saucepan, melt caramels and heavy cream together over med-low heat until smooth. (about 5 mins) Evenly pour over brownie batter in pan. Spread with remaining batter. Sprinkle with remaining choco chunks.
4) Bake until top is dry - about 35 mins. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack. Lift brownie from pan with foil and cut into squares.

Yep. They are awesome. I cut them into TINY bars and plan on sharing them with people from church this weekend. Trust me, you don't want to be left alone with these things!!! If you can't find the wrapped caramels they have a new product out: caramel balls - in the choco chip section - I used those and they worked just fine.
Let me know if you try any of these! What a treat and blessing to be able to encourage and love on my family in the area of feeding them! Bottoms up! (courtesy of Ava)

Friday, January 15, 2010


As I continue on in this "new" life here in IA I've been able to meet so many really cool people. I know that's a horribly lame description, but, it's true. I've met teachers, mothers, doctors, tax guys, nurses and nobodys. I feel blessed to be here, serving God and the teens of SBC. But something that seems to be taking longer then I anticipated was the making of deep, personal friendships. And, I've always battled through that awkward "making friends" stage in every phase of my life. I used to blame the fact that I never had sisters so I had trouble relating to other girls. But, then I have friends who come from families just like mine who have handfuls of close friends. I dunno. I thought living in an all girls dorm would help this "issue" of mine... but, even then it was "interesting" to say the very least. Who knew girls could be so...catty?! Even having roomates after college I still found myself really struggling to make good close girlfriends. What IS my deal? But, I know I'm not alone in this. And I am striving to learn how. Sometimes its a hollow feeling inside. I'm hours from my "old friends". And yes, sure, we could call each other - but, I hate talking on the phone and who doesn't?! I miss the familiarity of what was... I miss the comfort of being able to chat with people who really knew me. I miss my family, especially my sis-in-laws, even though one lives in FL and I don't see her that often...

But, I can rejoice! God has us here for a very awesome reason - and friends will come. I know things aren't always in my timing, or ever really, and that's ok. The thought keeps coming to mind over and over, "in order to have friends you have to be a friend" - and, I'm trying. I'm looking and praying for God to show me people and bring people into my life. And, He will, and if not - I can learn to be content with that. I wonder how Jesus must have felt? While he wasn't an emotional female - I wonder what his times of loneliness felt like? The creator of all feeling alone. It doesn't seem right - but we know from scripture that he battled every human temptation and feeling just as we do now.

So, if you live here and see me and I'm over the top "trying"... you'll know why. I'm convinced that relationships are vital and I so desire them. I'm also a work in progress and still trying to figure myself out, awkwardness and all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Praying for Haiti

I know many of you have posts on this horrible earthquake situation in Haiti. Many of you have personal ties with the country either from past trips, knowing people there now or possibly supporting a missionary in that country. I'm in the last category. I grew up in Ohio and my parents church supports Miss Beth Newton - she works as a nurse/dr's assistant in Haiti. In June of 2008 my parents and several others from the church were able to fly down and help the people of Haiti build a church building, expand their hospital and bring TONS of hospital type things (pain relievers, syringes, towels). Carrie Swartz was able to take many pics of the location they worked in and I wanted to share them with you - let them break your heart for a country living below the poverty line. To your right is a typical street market - notice the produce on the ground, probably on burlap sacks. Do you see the shanty type buildings? There are children and animals and cars everywhere all at once.

The heat is overwhelming.

The smell is overwhelming. I've heard it described many ways... waste, fleshy, sour. And this is their typical day. Trying to make a living however they can.

Notice their homes. Yep, homes. This lady's kitchen is that green counter top behind her. The poverty is extreme. This picture is a family that isn't doing, "too bad".

My husband mentioned to me yesterday that as he sat at work and watched the story unfold on the news - he cried. The pictures they are posting are just total devastation. And, we feel helpless. But, we can pray. We can trust God. We can financially support those who can physically GO and do something about it.
God has called us to care for the "least of these". Pray for the people of Haiti. Pray for our military men and women who will go to do search and rescue - but in reality will probably just be searching. They will see things that will change them...forever. What can our churches do? What can we do?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Long Winter... Pausleyland style

Is it really STILL January?

Now before you call me fickle for always talking about how fast every other month/season/holiday goes - and now semi-whining about how slow this one is going... let me 'splain!
Ava continues to have one head cold after another. Now we have one or two days here and there that she feels great and is all smiles and giggles and loves playing, etc. But, for the most part we have been home bound due to snot, coughing and...whining. I am not complaining. I love this season of motherhood as much as the next - however, it is hard. Thankfully, God's grace and strength have been ABOUNDING! I've only felt like I was "losing my mind" twice, I think. {hehe} So, all this to say - when I looked at the calendar this morning I just almost couldn't believe it's only Jan. 13th! I know I'm not the only SAHM out there that battles this time of year - either, so I'm interested in your ideas as to how to make winter with a 1 year old more creative. Do share. :)

Here are some things I've tried to do around the house to 1) Make Ava have a little more "adventure" while not feeling good. 2) Just make the place look a little more cheery.
- Toothbrushing! We hadn't gotten into the habit of this yet, although she already has 8 teeth! 8! So, I instituted toothbrushing. She loved it so much, that for 4 days straight this was her favorite toy and her teeth got quite the attention! This eased MUCH of the whining for those 4 days! (however, the stairs, I think, also got a nice dose of scrubbing with that toothbrush...ugh) You win some, you lose some. In this case I was desperate for a pause in the whining.

Another day... DADDY! Never underestimate the power that Daddy has on any situation. Ava loves her daddy, as do most children I'm sure. But, with daddy, there tends to be LESS whining and some magical healing powers, to boot! Brad took a day or two to go into work a few minutes later so he could give our sickie a little more lovins. He's incredible, isn't it he!? And we thank God he's able to do that every now and again.

This last week we got a huge box in the mail from my parents. It was a brand new glider-rocker! We've always wanted one and it was such a great Christmas suprise! {and a hint for more grandbabies, those sly dogs!} Anyway, this glider came with a ginormous box...perfect for sick princess girls to fill with stuffed animals and play in. :) Although she was only interested in this for 1 day - it was still a really fun way to play for a whole day!

Another day - I thought maybe she was getting bored with just having a basket full of toys. So, I cleaned out one of our bookshelves and dedicated two whole shelves for her favorite things. She knows how to open the door, now, and what a treat to have her OWN shelves! Oh the smiles I got from this little idea.
Makes it worth ALL the hassle. :)

So, yea, just a few things I came up with during this time of feeling like winter will never end. But, still, despite these long hard, cold, days. My heart is still warm to be in my home with my daughter. I'm capturing so many moments in my memory. We are connecting and bonding and learning how to love each other. Every snuggle is a precious gift, each time where she just doesn't feel well and lays on my chest brings me that much closer to understanding this precious little gal. I love being home. I love this life the Lord allows me to have. I wouldn't trade it, winter days, or Ava's colds...for anything. :)

Friday, January 8, 2010


Ava has had one cold after another this winter. She's never REALLY sick - just sniffles and the ever running nose. Which, we can handle that. But it is starting to drain on me. Maybe moreso this morning after we were wakened last night to a crying baby at 2:45am. She was HOT to the touch...burning. I was proud of myself for being able to think clearly and remedy the situation. We gave her some tylenol, put a very cold rag on the back of her neck and head, and then I rocked her... I rocked that baby girl till that fever went down, and it didn't take nearly as long as I was thinking. I was able to pray for my sis-in-law who has a new baby, JJ. She's exhausted from being a new mom - sleep deprived, questioning, irritable, frazzled. So as I rocked, I prayed, for Amy and for Ava and for JJ. Somehow, through my own tiredness I felt so thankful that I could pray and thankful that I could rock my girl to sleep. I had forgotten what these "middle of the night" escapades felt like - and no doubt in my mind God allowed me one last night so I could feel what Amy is going through and pray for her more appropriately. While my eyes drooped and back hurt from sitting in the rickety ol' rocking chair...

This cold will go away, eventually, but today and right now - I'm feeling a little frazzled.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

hachnassat orchim...

In case you aren't familiar with Hebrew - hachnassat orchim is HOSPITALITY, or, "the welcoming of guests", to be totally specific.

In college I was a nanny. Not just any nanny to any family... but to the rabbi of Clarks Summit, PA's kids! At the time I began they had only 4 - Mendel (5) Yosef (4) Avremil (2) and Shua (5 months). From day one of beginning I fell in love. Not only did I love the kids, but I was super intrigued with the Jewish lifestyle. Chana, the mom, and Benni (Rabbi R. I should say) had 4 really fancy bookshelves in their front entry room chocked full of Jewish literature. Some of it looked ancient, and some fairly new. When the kids would nap I was always eager to check out the books... only to find out, they were ALL in Hebrew or yiddish and I was plum out of luck! There were one or two new releases that were readable...but once I got started I realized how over my head they were and I just let it go.

The kids were almost always dressed up. Think Children's Place dress clothes... all the time, playing outside, riding bikes, building towers with blocks...always. The two older boys sported their adorable kippa's -

and the younger two were still under 2 so they did not. However, Avremil had gorgeous brown curls all over! They had the traditional milk and meat sinks on opposite sides of the kitchen - and the meat and milk dishes to boot. The master bedroom showcased two single beds rather then the all American queen or king size bed. Chana, wore a wig and dressed to the nines mostly all the time - except, a few times she wore a head covering while we worked at home. They ran a local chabad, or library/discovery center, in town. I watched them recite the shema (Deut. 6) and other prayers, I helped them prep for shabbat before sundown and many times did the clean up for them, as they weren't allowed. A few times they tried to explain what kosher meant...I always felt a little more confused after ward. Anyway, I loved this family. We couldn't be more different in our faith beliefs - behaviors - and opinions...but, they were still very good at treating this nanny with kindness. Since working for them all those years ago, I've maintained this interest in Jewish life. I often catch myself watching specials on PBS or the History channel if something comes on about the Jewish nation. I think Hebrew and yiddish sound beautiful and mysterious... I even kind of like the idea of all the special prayers, etc. So, when I came across Lauren Winner's book - "Mudhouse Sabbath", written by a lady who has converted from Judaism to Christianity I was hooked to buy it! (yea, I'm that easy)

Lauren has gone through 11 topics ranging from sabbath to prayer to aging and has compared and contrasted the two "religions". I liked that she wasn't "PRO" for either one all the time...which, after reading the book I now agree. Just because we, as Christ followers, have our own way of doing church, doesn't mean we always do it right. And Jewish folk, steeped in great tradition are missing out on some things as well. Obviously to start, still waiting for a messiah, that we Christians worship as Jesus! I won't get into all the points and illustrations but I did want to share my joy over one chapter in specific - the one my blog post is titled after - Hospitality. This topic is on my mind all the time. We bought a house we could be hospitable. We are scrimping and saving pennies so we can finish painting, get some furniture, etc. to welcome folks in! I love having people in my home - cooking for them, caring for them. It's a treat to have our driveway full of new cars and our kitchen table crowded :) However, I still often times feel that wall of, "oh, its just too much work", or, "my house isn't done yet", or "well, they probably won't like what I'm cooking so we'll wait another month." Anyone else?!

In Chapter 4 Lauren had a few quick thoughts on this topic - and I wanted to share them with you, my blogging friends...
* "it [hospitality] is part of what the church is supposed to be: a community of people practicing hospitality."
* "Apostle Paul placed such high value on hospitality that he listed it - along with temperance, sobriety, and gentleness - among the characteristics required of leaders of the church."
* " the invitation that we as Christians extend to one another is not simply an invitation into our homes or to our tables; what we ask of other people is that they enter into our lives."

I finished, Mudhouse Sabbath, lastnight. It was a very quick and interesting read. She has great things and comparision/contrasts that have helped me think through my own spiritual disciplines and my lifestyle. Especially the task/opportunity of showing hospitality. How are you doing with welcoming people into your life?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Monday Muse [ on Tuesday ]

Real quick I had to share a new Muse...

Well, not SO new - just something I hadn't had in almost 2 years and rediscovered.
If you happen to live in FL or possibly NJ you know all about Barnie's Coffee. Lucky Ducks. This coffee, "Santa's White Christmas" is probably the BEST flavored coffee I've ever had! It has undertones of butterscotch and all kinds of yummy-ness. And, while its brewing your house will smell amazing!
If you are a coffee lover, check out, and check out all of their variety. And, if you have a few extra Christmas bucks left over (ahem, does anyone?!) try a sample bag! You won't be disappointed! I have my pound of delish whole beans stored away and I ration it everyday...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Surrender : The Heart that God Controls

Yesterday I began a new book called, "Surrender, The Heart that God Controls", by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She also authored, "Lies Women Believe" and several others - but I'm only familiar with the one. Today's chapter was about "The battle for Control". {ouch}

My MIL gave me this book in my stocking this year for Christmas. I was eager to dive in, well, I battle with control type things...more often then I care to admit to. :) There I said it! Now, I'm sure my MIL doesn't think that about me or even know that - unless I had confided it to her at some point. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to recieve it and I'm so looking forward to seeing from God's word ways to grow. God knows what we NEED to read, doesn't he!?

In this chapter we looked at Psalm 104 and the very obvious description of how God is in control of all creation. Nancy pointed out, "Psalm 104 describes the original, ideal state." Meaning, we were made to be in "control" by God. She made a great point that for us, for Adam and Eve in the very beginning, "surrender was - and still is - the source and means of true freedom and fullness." It was only after Adam and Eve believed the lie that THEY could control themselves and their own world...that things just fell apart and instead of controlling their lives, they were now controlled. Things they thought they could rule over became tyrants to them.
She had several other great thoughts throughout the chapter -

"To surrender to the Creator's control is not onerous or burdensome; it is, in fact, the place of blessing, fullness, and peace." And... in reaction to God's view of the collective "US" after the fall of Adam and Eve, "Possessing absolute power, He could have chosen to bludgeon His rebellious creatures into submission. However, because He desires a loving, personal relationship with men and women, created in His likeness, He has opted first to WOO and WIN the hearts of His creatures. He wants their willing, volitional surrender." I read that line several times and just felt such a sense of thankfulness for my personal, loving God. I needed to be reminded of that this morning. God isn't sitting by waiting for me to fail - but rather, loving me and even wooing me.

Today, I'm just feeling so grateful that sin doesn't control me. That I have freedom in Christ and my surrender to Him is GLAD! I'm thankful for a God who I don't control - I didn't make Him and I don't fully understand Him...He is mysterious and bigger then myself.
"God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." Acts 17:24-25

Monday, January 4, 2010

Starting off right {eating}

As mentioned in a previous post - I am working towards being more organized with menu planning. Would you believe I've been consistent almost 3 days now?! My family has been happily (on time) and healthfully fed for 3 days! Praise be to God for giving me the motivation and conviction to get myself in gear! It really does all come back to Him!

I wanted to share a recipe with you - what we had for Sunday lunch (and dinner, leftovers!) yesterday. It's a vegetarian chili. None of the people in my family are vegetarians but it sounded delish AND saved money as it was made from mostly pantry canned items and spices. I was skeptical as I made the dish...because I loooove my meat, but this chili was just incredible! Best of all - my non-bean hubby liked it, raved about it... score! Second best is - I have plenty to pack away in the freezer for another freezing day. Third best is... its a pretty healthy dish. :)

Big-Batch Vegetarian Lentil Chili (taken from BHG, January 2010)

4 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
12oz. bag frozen chopped green peppers (I used the pictsweet brand)
12oz. bag frozen chopped onions
2 c. dry red lentils, rinsed and drained (or any lentil if you can't find red)
1/4c. chili powder
2 T. garlic powder
8oz. can tomato sauce
6oz. can tomato paste
2 c. shredded cheddar or choice cheese to top!
tortilla chips* (optional)

1) In 8qt. dutch oven combine undrained tomatoes, rinsed and drained beans, 3 c. water, green peppers and onions, dry lentils, chili powder and garlic powder. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, stir occasionally.
2) Stir in tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 1/8t. ground black pepper; heat through. Serve with cheese and chips.
*can be frozen for up to 3 months
*makes 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings

Enjoy! It will for sure warm you up!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Bear In There
by Shel Silverstein

There's a Polar Bear In our Frigidaire--He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.

With his seat in the meat

And his face in the fish

And his big hairy paws In the buttery dish,

He's nibbling the noodles, He's munching the rice,

He's slurping the soda, He's licking the ice.

And he lets out a roar

If you open the door.

And it gives me a scare To know he's in there--

That Polary Bear In our Fridgitydaire.
Ok, so maybe its not quite THAT cold (as the pic of the bear)... but, the weather man says it will be a high of ZERO. A high?! So for today... myself along with my little family will stay bundled up in the house - enjoying some hot coffee and couches covered in blankets. Who says winter can't be fun!?

Friday, January 1, 2010

It IS that day

Happy 2010 peoples!

This day was always very special in my family not only because of the celebration of a new year, but, because of this...
So, while my house is filled with the smell of kielbasa and kraut in the crock pot - I'm heading back to bed for a nap. My blond haired alarm clock still went off at 7am this morning. :)