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On Forgiveness

We have talked about forgiveness a lot this week at home. It started with a conversation about a horrific event that happened at the Mall of America to a young boy last week. Evil is everywhere in this world, we are not exempt from it and honestly when we hear stories, especially stories about children getting hurt, we are outraged.

Our youngest son was visibly upset upon hearing what had happened to this innocent boy. He spoke angry words of revenge at what should happen to the man who committed the crime. I get it, I do. But I said to him that revenge wasn’t the answer. Yes this man would have to pay for his crime, we have a legal system set up to manage that…but ultimately we are called to have hearts of forgiveness.

He was shocked by what I said and asked me an incredibly difficult question. “So if he had done that to me mom, would you forgive him?”

Ugh. That’s some reality right there. It is easy for me to say we need to forgive, but could I really do it if it happened to me? I was honest and told him that I hoped that I was never put in a situation where I was called to that kind of radical forgiveness. But what I did know was that when we live with resentment against someone else, it is like a poison. Often times our hatred towards the “enemy” only ends up hurting us more than the intended person.

I have heard it said that forgiveness isn’t letting someone off the hook for what they have done, rather letting go of the bitterness/hatred you are feeling so that you can move forward.

And then I told Elijah that if this man, who had committed this heinous act, at some point came to a true repentance of his actions and asked God for forgiveness, that I believed God would forgive him.

“No way!” he said…

It doesn’t make sense does it? So I used that time to tell him about a man named Paul, a mighty disciple of God who at one time was named Saul and spent his days persecuting and murdering Christians for their faith. Yes, for centuries God has been using sinners and radically transforming them for His glory.

That night we did one of our Bible lessons and it was part of the story of David. The lesson before had told of his mighty defeat of Goliath. How God had called him and anointed him. But this evenings story looked at the sinful side of David’s heart. How he longed for Bathsheba, took her for his own, got her pregnant and then had her husband killed at war so he wouldn’t be found out.

“But I thought he was a hero?” our daughter said.

From hero to murderer….

And yet, because of David’s willingness to repent and ask for forgiveness, God forgave him, blessed him and used him in amazing ways. And while many of us won’t find ourselves on either end of that extreme spectrum, hero nor murderer, we all fall somewhere in between don’t we?

To illustrate further, Dominic drew this picture of a ladder, and wrote the word “fib” at the very bottom rung and “murder” at the very top. He filled it in with other things, ways we sin and hurt others in varying intensity. And we talked about how we like to rate our sin. We like to say that my sin isn’t as bad as that sin. But on the other side of the page he drew the word God at the top and the word sin at the bottom. Telling the kids that to God, sin was sin. Then he drew a cross extending the entire page and we talked about how Jesus’ death on the cross covered our sins.

It was powerful.

Look I probably sound like a broken record because I say this time and time again. I don’t know that I can fully grasp the unconditional love and forgiveness that God has offered to me. The weightiness of it, especially during this season is ever present. I am more aware of my own sinfulness and the incredible gift of forgiveness that God has offered to me.

So as we enter into the next few days, let us reflect on what God has done for us. If there are things we need to repent for, be swift about it. If there are things we need to be forgiving of, for the sake of our hearts, let us try with God’s help and example to be forgiving. The body of Jesus was broken beyond recognition for us, let us not forget that sacrifice. May the overwhelming nature of that gift draw us ever closer to seeking to know God more.

I Want to Be…..

I have a quiet morning here at the office. Dominic is travelling out of town for the day and while I have a mountain of work that needs to be done, I wanted to take a moment to share how God has been moving in my heart.

I had a rare opportunity to make a short trip to Sioux Falls (my old hometown and the neighboring “big city”) on Sunday afternoon. I had several returns that I needed to make that I didn’t want to mail back and I wanted to make a run to Costco. We don’t get there often, but when we do we stock up on all the things. Since we had the threat (now likelihood) of an impending blizzard in the forecast, a supply run seemed appropriate.

I love time in the car alone by myself. I can crank up the music and sing LOUD. I don’t have a lot of time in the car without kids to do that and so these trips always feel like a gift to me.

Earlier that day one of our VBS coordinators from church had given me the CD with all the newest songs. I help lead the music and dancing portion of the evening during VBS and it is one of the highlights of my summer. It brings me SO MUCH JOY! I am NOT a dancer by nature. Erin (an actual dancer) creates all the moves and then about a week or so before VBS starts she teaches me and I do my best. But I find it easiest to get the dance moves down when I already have the lyrics memorized.

So I figured that my car time was the perfect time to rock out to some Roar VBS tunes! The music is so fun this year. The theme is “Life is Wild, God is Good.” And all of the music speaks to that message. Life can be hard and crazy and ever changing but God is good and He is present and always there for us.

Each year it seems like the music, the themes in our VBS lessons meet MY spirit in a way that I need so deeply. Last year our theme was Shipwrecked and the idea that God was our rescue. 2018 was a hard year for several reasons and especially in the late spring, early summer. As much joy as that week of VBS brought me, I found myself almost in tears over the worship music. Crying out to God to rescue me. Be my strength Lord because I can’t do this on my own…

And as I was listening to the music for this year I realized that it was such a celebration of God’s goodness. One of the songs is called Thankful. The lyrics spoke to me and described exactly how I want to live my life.

“I like to think about the goodness of the Lord. He gives me everything I need and so much more. And I just want to life my hands, and say that I love him, I just want to lift my heart in praise. I want to be thankful, I want to be grateful. I want to remember everything that the Lord has done. I want to be thankful, I want to be grateful, I want to be, I want to be, I want to be….”

This season we are in right now, while so very busy and filled with its own challenges, is a gift. I am SO very grateful for all the things God has done in and through me and for my family. I know the heartache we were experiencing a year ago and praise God for His faithfulness as He walked us through that season.

I just don’t want to forget. Because I know that be it another year, or two, maybe even a month or two from now we could be walking through another difficult season. (It is inevitable…we live in a fallen world) And God’s goodness WILL still remain. Yes there are times that we may only be able to cry out for rescue, but God is there and He is faithful. And in those times of great struggle we need to remember everything the Lord has done.

And sharing our stories of hope can be an encouragement to someone else who is hurting. Knowing that we are not alone in this journey is comforting, so that is one reason I feel called to write here….I want you to know that I understand the overwhelming darkness but have also danced in the light of God’s goodness. One thing that I know for sure is that God continues to supply me with everything I need and even in the darkest of times, His peace is felt.

Take some time today and make a list of all the ways God has been faithful to you. Write them down, keep them in a place that you can see them so you won’t forget. So in those dark moments you can cling to the reminder that God has been faithful, He has redeemed your broken places and trust that He will again.

I want to be thankful.

I want to be grateful.

I want to be…..

The God of Hope…

It has been a minute since I have written. I haven’t been diligent about taking the time to sit down and write when I need to. And while there is a large painting project waiting on me right now and cleaning and laundry that needs to be taken care of, there are times that I NEED to write and today is one of those times.

As few weeks ago I found an old CD of a recorded talk that I gave back in 2009. I was asked to speak at a conference and share my story, my experience, strength and hope. At the time Dominic and I were just days (9 to be exact) away from delivering our 3rd son Elijah. I have said it here before, but our marriage and our story is a reflection of the great work of God’s grace and mercy.

Listening to that CD, hearing some of the details that I did share….the things we could laugh about at that point. Knowing all of the things that were just to painful to vocalize, wondering again how we possibly survived. Our selfishness and self-centeredness was like a viscous beast in our home and it created rifts in the very fabric of our marriage. We should not have survived the trauma we inflicted on one another.

But God, in His great mercy rescued us. He sent people in our path that guided us back to Him. We learned to love again, to trust Him. And we learned how to trust one another. It is a miracle, our story. But when I hear myself in 2009 I realize how very child-like I still was in my faith. Believing that if we just did things the “right way” that God would reward us.

Seeing all the years of hurt between us as a punishment as sorts from God…here we were “behaving” so maybe God will answer our prayers the way we want, things won’t be difficult anymore. You know, life on easy street.

If you have been reading here any length of time you will know that our life since 2009 has been anything but easy street. There have been more challenges than I expected, heartbreak that I didn’t think I could bear, deep pits of depression and also (of course) many, many blessings.

And with each trial, each roadblock, each blessing…my faith grows. My hope in the God that has walked me through each moment increases. I know that God is faithful because I have seen His faithfulness time and time again. But can I be honest with you? I still struggle when things get hard! I still question God and ask Him why. Some days I yell and scream and beg Him to make it all better because the weight is too much to bear…

But the difference between the me pre-2009 and the me today is that I keep wrestling with this faith walk. I think more than not I am running towards God instead of running away. For many years I shut Him out of my life. I was angry and bitter and felt like He wasn’t listening to me anyways…so I stopped praying.

Today I don’t know any other response than TO run to Him. To cry out when it is too much, to sing praises when I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all He has done. To keep praying, over and over, even if it is the same prayer that I have said for 100 days in a row.

I helped lead worship today at church. I love to sing but leading terrifies me. My heart races every time and I feel a little sick. I was talking with a friend before the service and she knows this is an area of struggle for me and I shared with her something my best friend and I discussed in the past.

For us, no matter how often we lead (or speak) we feel overcome with nerves. We have prayed about it but it doesn’t get better. And we have both come to realize that maybe that is something we will always struggle with because it keeps us closer to God. Our natural prideful nature would get the best of us if we didn’t have to fully rely on God to get us through.

Today as we were singing No Longer Slaves, I looked out and saw Gail’s daughter Jazzi singing. If you want to read more about Gail and how she is recovering after her stroke you can read more at her CaringBridge site. Here was this young woman singing out “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God” while her mom is slowly recovering from a life altering stroke. It was all I could do to stop myself from breaking down right there.

THAT is such a picture of faith isn’t it? Worshiping God in the midst of the biggest trial their family has faced. There have been days in the last 8 years where I have sat in church unable to sing. My heart was so overcome with fear and worry, or anger and sin that I had to sit in silence. But oh to be filled with HOPE from the God that gives us hope, to find JOY in worship and PEACE in His presence. Such a powerful gift that was for me today.

I don’t know where you are today. In the middle of a struggle, overwhelmed by fear, stuck in a cycle of despair? Can I encourage you to bring it all to the Father? I can’t promise that your situation will immediately change, but I can promise that as you continue to put your trust in a God that can redeem the broken, you will find Hope and Joy and Peace that only comes from fellowship with Him. Rest in that truth today.

That Time I Left Hobby Lobby Empty-Handed and other Musings

I wrote this post last week but then didn’t have an opportunity to share it…so I am doing it today. Since I am now in the final month of my discretionary spending freeze I thought I should recap a bit how February went!

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Happy Friday friends! Can I just tell you how glad I am that it is Friday?! It feels like it has been another LONG week. Maybe it is the constant snow, or the unseasonably cold temps or the beautiful sunset pics my mom sent me from California….but I am longing for sunshine, warmer temps and some time away.

I shared last week that I was disappointed when plans that I wanted to make with Dominic to get away for even a weekend seemed to be falling through. Seeing people share their vacation pics and wallowing in my own self-pity about not being able to go anywhere is a dangerous place for someone like me.

It is so easy to get focused on what I don’t have, to miss ALL the blessings I do have. But even knowing this it is easy for me to get sucked into the desire to want to do something to make me feel better about my present situation.

I had to go to Sioux Falls yesterday for a Dr’s appointment and a hair appointment. I was supposed to see my Dr the month prior but a snowstorm forced me to reschedule. Thankfully I was able to make plans on the same day as my hair appointment and make a day trip out of it.

As a little side note can I just say that I adore my OB/GYN. Years ago, in an emergency situation, she saved my life (and my ability to have 3 more children) in a surgery when a large cyst on my ovary exploded and I bled internally for 8+ hours. She is someone that I fully trust. She comes into the exam room and sits down and says tell me all about your family, what’s happening with your business…she doesn’t rush through the appointment, she takes time to talk through any concerns and I couldn’t be more grateful for her.

Her exam revealed a small (likely not concerning, benign feeling) lump in one of my breasts. I had a mammogram in October and they didn’t find anything then, so hopefully it is nothing. We are going to do a recheck in 8 weeks and if it hasn’t changed (or it has) we will do further diagnostics as needed. I can’t even feel it myself, but it was a reminder to me why taking time to have an annual physical is so important. I am not allowing myself the head space to worry about this at this time…but rather am grateful that I made me and my physical health a priority.

So I share this to encourage you. If you need – make that annual appointment if you haven’t had one recently!

So I had about 2 1/2 hours in between my Dr’s appointment and my hair appointment. I only get to Sioux Falls about every 3 months, so I was excited to do a little running around…but very aware that I was still on my discretionary spending freeze.

I had voxed my best friend on the way to town. I had a few things that I was going to be looking for. Dominic and I had talked about it – we have this space on our bedroom wall above a dresser that needs some artwork and I wanted a couple of new throw blankets for the living room.

BUT I also knew how I was feeling inside. It has been almost 2 months. And after these past few weeks the “desire’ to spend was strong. I knew that I had been given the ok to look (and buy) something but I didn’t want to buy JUST to buy.

Hobby Lobby was my first stop and while I took a few pictures of things and sent them to Dominic, I just didn’t find anything that I absolutely LOVED. I ALWAYS find something at Hobby Lobby, but that day I just didn’t. I couldn’t believe it myself when I walked out the doors empty handed! The same thing happened at Home Goods and Kirklands.

And you know what? It felt good!

And the fact that your best friend gets it and celebrates with me…even better!

Next was a trip to Costco where admittedly I spent a pretty penny on a cart full of grocery items. I also bought a new pack of socks for both Dominic and I. But I stayed away from all the other things, the areas that held items that had a habit of jumping into my cart when I didn’t need them.

I continued my Excel tracking for the month of February and was again shocked at how much we spend on food. Apparently the amount we spend is fairly typical for a family our size. Buying fresher foods costs more. We rarely eat out, we have leftovers most days for lunch. I think overall, even though the amount is higher than I thought it would be, it is for something good for our family.

I am also tracking our clothing expenses, our medical expenses (which we had a bunch of in February with an ER visit, follow up appointment and a large dentist bill for the family), and all the “extras.” So I have a main spreadsheet with every expenditure, and then additional spreadsheets that track those specific items. Yes it is extra work but it helps me break it out and see it for what it is.

At the end of my tracking time I want to be able to see how much we spent on “extra” things. Things like books orders from school, school yearbooks, and a new rug for our living room that Dominic and I agreed together to blow the discretionary spending freeze and order for our living room. These are those items that IF I needed to cut something from our budget, these could be the first things that would go.

I was talking to Dominic yesterday about a purchase I was going to make for a couple of clothing items I needed to order for the kids. Everything was on a great sale, I have always tried to shop frugally. It felt silly calling him over to my desk to show him what I was going to order to “get his permission.” I have always done the shopping for everyone and overall I typically only buy for the kids when they need something.

But I had to remember that the reason I am walking through this season is because I built some really bad habits. I spent when I shouldn’t have, and worse…I hid things and was dishonest more often than I would care to admit. I told him that I was trying to build a new “muscle.” One that included more honesty and certainly more pause when it came to spending.

This month continued to be a challenge for me. I added items into a cart at Old Navy and Evy’s Tree only to later close and cancel those transactions before I made the purchases. I promise you, I can justify just about anything. I found the CUTEST casual dress at Old Navy and it was only $12! But it is WINTER here and right now I just don’t need it. And who knows if I would even still love it come summer! I can’t just buy something because I can, or because I want to feel better. This process has helped me slowly see that I need to turn those impulses over to God and ask Him to help refine me in the areas that I struggle.

And I don’t want to run right out on April 1st back into my old bad habits. I want this time to be transformative, I am praying that God will continue to change me and am grateful for all that I have learned in the process!

Lord, Empty Me of Me…

It has been a long winter. And everyone in the Midwest shouted AMEN! More than just the snow and wind, the frigid temps and the missing days of school, this winter season that began with this new year has been a hard one for me.

I said it before, I knew that choosing to embark on a discretionary spending freeze was going to challenge me but I was hoping that the rest of life wouldn’t also follow suit. I was wrong. The year started with a difficult phone call and a reminder that nothing is certain. We walked into the next few weeks and faced computer and software transition challenges that just about drove me to drink, and I am NOT a drinker…so just know it was BAD.

We have had 6 or 7…maybe 8 full days of no school, plus multiple early outs and late starts. Our kids don’t know what it looks like to attend school for a full week anymore. It has affected their attitudes and parenting has quite frankly been a challenge.

We had 3 of us down with Influenza A, which included a very unfortunate visit to our local ER at 3:30am one morning. It was a rough two weeks and one that I hope we don’t have to revisit anytime soon.

And honestly, I have found myself in a repetitive state of discontentment.

I don’t like admitting that because it makes me sound ungrateful and whiny. And I am. I know it. Recently one of our own friends and church member suffered a stroke after a routine surgery and a brain tumor was found. Her future is uncertain and I believe she is only 50…maybe 49. The heaviness of her situation and her family’s has weighed on me for over a week and I feel guilty for even complaining about the petty issues that I have been dealing with.

But I still find myself there. In that icky place where I know my heart needs some serious work. It is easy to become indifferent though. To stay in this place of discontentment, to allow myself to continue to focus on the negative and see where it takes me.

I know where that kind of thinking takes me and it isn’t healthy or safe. My pride is my own worst enemy, my unwillingness to take responsibility for my negative thinking can and will lead me to a place that is harmful for anyone around me. I don’t want to walk through life with a scowl on my face…apparently that has been common on me as of late.

Lent begins on Wednesday and so it seems fitting that I take the next 40 days to spend some serious time in prayer over my heart. To ask God to empty me of those things that aren’t of Him, those things that can’t and won’t bring Him glory and to fill me with His presence.

I have read the Circle Maker by Mark Batterson a couple of times and in that book he talks about circling something in prayer for 40 days. So I am going to do that. I am going to fervently pray over my attitude, my marriage and my family. And I am going to pray that God would do a work in me during that time.

I know that when we step out in faith and make a declaration that we are going to do something like this that the enemy attacks seem to amp up. At least that is what seems to happen in my own life. It is scary really, to anticipate what might come at me in the next 40 days but I know that this commitment to communion with God in this way is needed and necessary….so I am going to trust that He will give me the strength to walk this journey.

I don’t know about you, but when I find myself at that place where something HAS to change…it is time. And that time is now. I would covet your prayers during this season and if you want to join me in prayer over this next 40 days would you leave a comment below and I will be praying for protection for you as well.

How I Meal Plan

I thought I would take just a minute and share here how we do meal planning in our home. It isn’t anything really fancy and I can’t share a bunch of spectacular, pinnable recipes with you. But I will share what works for us and maybe you could share what works for you too?!

I enjoy cooking and baking but I get tired of making the decisions about what we are going to have each night. And the reality for us is I need to have something planned/prepped ahead of time or dinner time would be cereal and eggs most nights. We work long hours so crock pot meals or things that I can plan in advance are important!

Coming home {late} and having the kids ask what’s for dinner would frustrate and overwhelm me. So several months ago I sat down and made a list of some of their most favorite meals. Every Saturday we will pull the list out and I will ask one or all of the kids to pick a couple of the meals as options for the following week.

Now when I cook, I make big portions. We always have leftovers. So I don’t need 5 meals to plan. Usually 3 gets us through the week. Yes there may be a night we have a pizza or eggs and cereal, let’s be real it happens. And with all the snow days we have had lately, our leftovers have not lasted as long because we are eating them at lunch too. But for a typical week I plan to prep for 3 meals.

Once they have made their choices I will look to see what ingredients I already have to make those meals, and then add the things I don’t to my shopping list. Anything that I can cook/prep in advance I will do on either Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon. I like to brown any hamburger or cook any chicken required on those days so they can be stored, either frozen or refrigerated, depending on how quickly in the week we plan to use them.

I also try to have a couple of freezer meals on hand in the event that we change our mind about a meal or {hello snow days for DAYS} and we need some extras. Right now I have a jumbo shells, tator tot hotdish and a spaghetti ham bake frozen meal that we can use.

On Saturday morning I also always make up a large batch of kodiak cake waffles. I started buying their protein packed pancake mix last year at the recommendation of a friend. My kids adapted quickly to the flavor difference, and I liked that the waffles were a much healthier version than the Eggos I had previously purchased. {Here’s a little tip….add a tsp of vanilla per cup of mix to add a little sweetness/flavor}

I make a full 5 cup package each Saturday and then we cut the waffles into 1/4’s and once they have cooled I freeze the pieces in gallon bags. In the mornings the kids pull out the waffles and rewarm them in the toaster! Easy, healthy, filling breakfast and they typically last all week!

This week we are trying to clean out our freezer a little so we are frying up some walleye today that Dominic caught last spring, having pork roast with carrots and potatoes on Sunday, I am frying up the chicken now that will be used to make white bean chicken chili and we also plan to grill hamburgers and pepperjack brats at some point in the week. We fill in where needed with fruit, rice, and various sides. But this type of planning ahead helps relieve some of my stress when it comes to our meal prep and it allows my kids to be actively involved as well!

Last week it seemed like we ate a lot of pasta so we knew we didn’t want any of that this week! On the week Karlena was in change of picking meal choices, she only wanted pizza….so I had to help come up with some ideas that week! It isn’t a perfect system, but it seems to be working overall for us! How to do meal prep each week?

And So I Journey On….

Our pastor has spent the last 5 weeks walking us through the book of Jonah. I love this type of study, one where we piece apart the scripture verse by verse. When they share background about the time period, a better understanding about what the verses mean. It has been a powerful and convicting series for me.

Sometimes it is easier when we are not confronted and convicted with our sin isn’t it?! Jonah found himself there, sleeping in the belly of a ship, while he was the very reason that the storm was raging. Once the shipmates confronted him, he admitted to his sin. v. 12  “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” {This was Karlena’s favorite part of the story!}

We would rather hide and pretend it isn’t there, until it can’t be ignored any longer. And even then, we may find ourselves repentant and cry out to God – just like Jonah did from the belly of the fish…but have our hearts really been changed?

I feel like I have been trudging through the last 6 weeks of this new year. Seriously has it only been 6 weeks?! It feels like a lifetime. Maybe it is the fact that for the last week I have been dealing with the plague in my home…my children finally, finally seem to be on the mend and {of course} it seems that I am now coming down with something. I could cry. I should be working right now but I can’t focus and my head and body hurts and I just want to cry because I did everything to try and protect myself this past week (while Dominic did nothing) and I am getting sick (and he is fine!) I may be holding a resentment over that. I will pray about it….

Maybe it is the heart work that I feel like God is walking me through over this spending freeze. I am learning a lot yes, but mostly I am being confronted with my own selfishness and sinfulness and while I can admit it is there, I can also just as easily point to someone else and say “yeah but look at that….am I really that bad?!”

I have found myself discontented. I voxed my best girlfriends and said that I just want to run away. Not forever mind you…but for a time. Dominic and I were supposed to go on this trip last October and we had to cancel it. I still fully agree with why we made that choice…but it also was such a disappointment not to be able to get away. So I have been longing to try and arrange something, anything to escape for a weekend away.

Up until now there have been roadblocks. Timing wasn’t good, prices too high, doors closed for various reasons but then yesterday I thought that “the stars had aligned” and I might be able to pull something together. I almost booked the airline tickets without asking Dominic, but in an effort to really stay true to this issue of being open about my spending, I waited until we could talk about it.

As you can imagine the incredibly LOW price I found on the airfare was a very limited time offer and because I didn’t jump immediately, I missed out. Dominic had some other ideas about some fun things we could do instead. Ways we could do a family trip later in the year, or a more affordable way we could get away to the Cities for the weekend instead. Both valid but not what I wanted.

When things don’t go MY WAY, how do I respond?!

Our pastor asked if we are a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? I have always been half empty. Focused on the negative. I don’t like that part of me. I try and focus on gratitude but the reality is, when things don’t go my way I instantly feel slighted. “It’s not fair!”

I guess the positive is that I have started to recognize this character defect much sooner when it happens. I used to wallow in self-pity for days/weeks. Today I can see it for what it is and recognize it as an opportunity for God to teach me something new. Even when I am not happy about it.

And hopefully I can use these moments as teachable opportunities for my kids as well.

Yesterday Elijah came to me upset about something at school. In the upcoming school musical he was assigned the drum to play when he really wanted to play the xylophone. He said the drum is sooo easy and his part isn’t hard at all. He just has to keep a constant beat. I told him that I was sorry and immediately he responded “I know, I know, life isn’t fair…”

And he is right – life isn’t fair. But I told him that doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard to accept when things don’t go our way. I told him that when I am doing something I don’t really want to do I try and turn my heart towards how that activity could honor God. That when we do our best with a good attitude, it can honor Him.

And then I reminded him that the drum has a very important part in the band. The drum keeps the beat for the rest of the musicians. So having a good drummer that can play well is so important. Even if it feels insignificant, it is integral to the entire performance.

There are days that the mundane parts of my life seem insignificant. I start wishing for a getaway that will bring me something that I think I can’t find at home. When the reality has been I haven’t done a great job in being intentional about making time for rest and connection here a priority.

I have a choice to make every day. Some days that choice comes without even thinking and I can find gratitude immediately. Other days I have to fight for it, I have to pray that God would continue to refine my heart so that it would be more like His. That is the continual faith walk isn’t it? A constant renewing of our heart and mind to the things of Christ. I pray He gives me strength for the continued journey because I know it won’t be easy. If it were though…I wouldn’t need Him like I do, so desperately. And so I journey on.

I’m Right Here, You Are Not Alone

“I’m right here, you are not alone…” I whispered those words out loud to Elijah as he fell back asleep. I was laying on our couch while my youngest son slept on the floor next to me. The hum of the humidifier was masked by the labored sound of his breathing.

The night before had been a scary one for me. I shared the following on Facebook yesterday.

“This wasn’t how I planned to spend my early morning hours. Elijah had a dry scratchy, throat on Sunday morning. No fever, no other symptoms. Fine all day. Wanted to go to the church Super bowl party. He ran around a bit and all of a sudden was super tired and his throat was hurting. I had him sit and rest and eventually he fell asleep. He woke up and he had lost his voice, throat in bad shape so Dominic took him home. I arrived home a short time later and he had a fever of 103. It all came on so quickly. 

He fell asleep and next thing I knew it was 3:30am and he is crying at my bed telling me he can’t breathe. He sounded terrible, couldn’t take a deep breath and we didn’t know what to do. Dominic had him take a shower to see if the steam would loosen things up but it didn’t help…so I took him to the ER. Not really where you want to end up but I wasn’t sure what was going on and if I could wait 4 hours for the clinic to open.

Making those decisions is hard. We don’t just always rush to the Dr and certainly not the ER…but it was confirmed that he had Influenza A and croup. He was given a medicine/treatment that helped open his upper airway and is has made a tremendous difference already. He still has a fever and has completely lost his voice. The Dr said this could hang on for 7-10 days.

Would you say a little pray for our Elijah. For quick healing and that this stays out of his lungs. Also please pray for protection for the rest of us.”


It seems as though the croup is causing us more problems right now than even the Influenza. When we were in the ER they had an O2 monitor on Elijah. It said that his oxygen levels were really good. He stayed right around 97-98%. So while it felt like he couldn’t breathe, the reality was his body was getting enough oxygen.

But tell that to the boy who feels like he is suffocating and can’t take a full breath. I am certain it is terrifying. At one point last night he was just crying that he was so scared. He was worried that his throat was going to continue to close and he would die. Because that is how it felt to him.

I rubbed his back and tried to calm him. I told him over and over that his oxygen level was fine. He asked me how I knew. I didn’t, but I prayed that I was right. I told him to go take a hot shower to try that and I admitted to Karlena that I was so so worried about my boy. “We need a miracle” I said.

Several minutes went by and Elijah came back down. The hot water had caused him to cough really hard and he threw up. Apparently a “bunch of snot came out” (sorry for the grossness of it all) and when that happened he was finally able to breathe more freely. Praise God!

Karlena looked at me and said “Mom, you wanted a miracle and you got a miracle.” I will take it. Miracle or not…it was such a relief for a few hours.

I knew that I wanted to be near him so that I could hear him while he slept. Neither one of us slept well last night. He was up several times, coughing and struggling to breathe well. Not as bad as the night before…but certainly not a night of peaceful rest.

Each time he would stir awake I would whisper those words, “I’m right here, you are not alone…” I know he is scared right now and I needed him to know that I wasn’t going to leave his side.

And in the dark of the middle of the night I knew that I had heard those same words over and over in my spirit. “I’m right here, you are not alone…” There have been many moments that I was the one awake and afraid. Worried about what was going to happen, wondering if things were going to be ok…struggling to breathe. Yet God was always there for me. Comforting me with peace even in the unknown, being my firm foundation when I could not stand on my own.

I am able to be that comfort to my son because my Father has been that shelter for me time and time again. I felt such a feeling of gratefulness last night. I am not happy about my son’s present circumstance and I wish I could take it from him…but I am so grateful to know that God is with us in every moment. We are not alone.

I don’t know what circumstance may be crushing your spirit, making it hard for you to breathe…but may I remind you that you can give those fears and worries over to God. He IS with you and you are not alone.

January “No Spend” Recap

Example Budget Form

Well the first month in my 1st Quarter spending freeze is over and I thought I would come here and just share some of my highs and my lows!

I knew that going on this budget would be difficult for me. I have an impulse problem, I shared about that. And specifically I seem to be even more impulsive when I am struggling (angry, sad, grumpy etc…) Well January was a TOUGH month. From computer problems that extended on for weeks and made me VERY crabby, to general stresses with work and home life – I was over January by about the 7th.

I called my best friend and said I just wanted to buy something, anything to feel better. A true indication that there is a problem if I feel like that is the only thing that will cure my woes.

For the most part I was determined. I wanted to be able to remain strong. I wanted to break old, bad habits and create better, more healthy new ones. I can’t say that I am totally there yet but I feel like I am on my way.

I shared earlier this month that I started an Excel spreadsheet to track all of our spending. I wanted to be able to look at the month and see where we had spent our money and on what. I worked on finalizing that this morning and it was very interesting.

We spend a LOT on food. More than I realized. When we had met with our financial adviser and he had asked us to estimate that number I told him at least half the amount we apparently actually spend. And that doesn’t include a cost for household supplies. Now some of my expenditures in January won’t need to be repeated in February.

I had a 10% off coupon from Walmart to order online with them by the 15th. It was good up to $20 off – which means I needed to spend $200 on items to get the full 10% off discount value. To do this I ordered 3 bulk packs of toilet paper, kleenex, several jars of spaghetti sauce and noodles and cereal. All things we use pretty regularly and many items that will last us well into February and maybe even March.

It will be interesting to see how that number fluctuates in the months going forward. But doing this exercise opened my eyes to what we really spend and helps me plan going forward.

While there were many “wins” this month, I didn’t end this month perfectly either. There were lots of conversations about spending. More than once I told the kids no when they asked if they could purchase a movie or a mod on their Kindle. I did say that we could talk to Dominic about it and see if it was something he agreed to. Interestingly the topic didn’t come up again…hmmm.

There were some purchases that I made that absolutely would be considered “discretionary” but in the grand scheme were minimal and necessary (justify much?!) Karlena doesn’t fuss with her hair at all. She rarely lets me comb it, so when she mentioned wanting to find something that would dry and maybe style her hair a little I perked up. When I just blow dry her hair it becomes a tangled, huge mess. Most days she was going to school with pretty wet hair.

I had seen a Revlon Hairdryer/Brush combo advertised online and it had a bunch of good reviews. It went on sale from $60 to $43 and I had $14 in Amazon free credit points built up…so I bought it. It is AMAZING. I know we could have waited until after April to purchase this, but it has worked so well, and so quickly…it was worth every cent.

I also bought myself a new $12 belt. Again I didn’t NEED it right this moment – but I saw it and bought it. That was my biggest fail this month I suppose. I justified it again because I told Dominic, it was cheap and my old one is wearing out. But the reality was I didn’t need it right then and could have waited until my older one really bit the bullet. I see it for what it is. I needed to get something and this was an easy out for me.

I did also go out to eat twice, once with some girlfriends and once with a larger group of girlfriends. Total those meals cost me $34. And our family went out to eat for fun one night at Perkins. For a family of 5 we spent $69. The food was ok but it was a reminder to me why we don’t often eat out. I can make much more food (and better IMO) for much cheaper.

Some unexpected but needed expenses came up when I had to buy new shoes for Karlena and new snow boots for Elijah. I also decided (with Dominic’s full approval) to shop ahead and purchased a new larger winter coat for Elijah for next fall/winter. He will need the larger size and this one was on 60% off clearance so it made sense to buy it now instead of at a more expensive cost later this year.

Again I am tracking on my spreadsheet on a separate form to record all clothing expenses so that I can see how much that adds up to over the course of a year as well.

I am sure that all of this spending and budget talk is boring but it is good practice for me to not only spend some time looking back at my month, the wins and the losses, as well as making a record for later. I don’t want this time to be one of just suffering through 90 days and then going right back to my bad habits.

I have said it before, I need to develop better habits and response mechanisms. Maybe I will walk away from this experience with a budget that helps me stay on track. Maybe I will be able to continue to say no when the purchase isn’t a need right now. Maybe this will develop in me that pause that I have been lacking.

I was talking with a friend last night and said that I had gotten into such a habit of impulse that I would just buy things and ended up not loving them. Now my closet has things in it I force myself to wear not because I love them or the way I look but because I don’t want the cost the be wasted. If nothing else, this will hopefully help me to be more considerate of the whys of my purchases.

So while January was a bear in many ways it was also eye opening and valuable and I am grateful that I am going through this.

#CurlyGirl Hair Routine Revisited

My Deva Curl Favorites

A few years ago I shared my #CurlyGirl hair routine here. You can go back and read that post if you are interested. Some of the things I wrote about have stayed the same and several things have changed since that post so I thought that I would do an update again!

Let me start by saying that I am NO expert. I have found things that work well for MY hair. My type of curly hair is likely different than yours (if you have curly hair) so the best advise I can give you is to keep trying things until you find something that works for you! There is a LOT of information out there, lots of methods and books etc. and it can get overwhelming to know what to try.

I will be sharing the things that have worked best for me and maybe will give you a place to start on your own journey!

When I posted last I was still getting perms. If you can believe it, I have been perm free for over 2 years now! I used to perm my hair every 18 months or so. I thought that I needed to do that to keep the curl. I never had a cut that I loved and wouldn’t have considered not getting a perm.

BUT one day I decided to see if I could find a stylist that specialized in cutting curly hair. I had seen the”Deva Curl” method online and I found a girl in Sioux Falls that was a master stylist. Going to a hair appointment that is a 2 hr drive away was not ideal, but I was willing to try it because I felt like I had never really had a cut that worked for me.

Mickie cut my hair in a completely new way. First of all if you have curly hair it should be cut DRY! Mickie cuts my hair dry and with the wave of the curl. This was the most nontraditional haircut I had ever had but when it was done I had a shape to my hair that was amazing. It was seriously THE BEST haircut of my life. 42 years I waited for that cut. 42 years.

I was worried about what would happen when my re-perm date came around again because Mickie didn’t do those…but she said she thought that because of the correct haircut I might find I didn’t need/want it. Man was she right! The cut made all the difference and I have been shocked at how much natural curl I seem to have!

So onto my styling routine. I do use mostly Deva Curl products. They are expensive, but they work great and a little goes a long way. My hair feels better when I use these products. My stylist recommended that I only shampoo once to twice a week. I do that on Wednesday and Sunday. On the other days I wet my hair and put a small amount of conditioner in it and rinse it out. I also put a small amount of conditioner in as a leave in. Helps with tangles.

When I get out of the shower I immediately lightly pick through my hair and apply a nickle sized amount of Deva Curl Ultra defining gel onto my dripping wet hair. I do this all with my head upside down. Then I use my Deva Curl towel (which I got for free when I ordered a large set of shampoo and conditioner) and squeeze out a bunch of the moisture.

Then I apply some mousse. Currently I am using a Loreal Curl Defining Mousse that they no longer make. I have a stockpile of about 6 cans left…after that is gone I am going to have to find a replacement and I am sad. I have tried a few other brands and hate them. The Loreal brand was alcohol free and not sticky. It gave me volume but not crunchy curls. I wish they still made it! Finally I put a nickle sized amount of Deva Curl B leave in on and then I re- scrunch my hair (still upside down) with my towel.

The towel is great because it takes out moisture without causing frizz like a regular towel can. You can use a t-shirt as well – which I did a few years ago, but this towel works even better!

So here is what my hair looks like after all my product has been applied but it is still pretty wet.

Product applied and the front pulled back so I can dry it. Sans make-up!

So I am one that hates to have hair in my face so I always pull my hair back. To add some volume to your crown, you can pull your hair up and clip it in loops a little while drying. I pull my hair back and it drys and stay that way. You could opt to let it down again after it is dry I suppose.

Next I go to phase 2, the drying phase. Now I know this will sound weird to most people…but it has worked for me and while I dry my hair I do my makeup, so it is like a 2 in one. We have a smaller space heater in our spare bedroom and I sit in front of that space heater and let the warm air dry my hair. I used to sit and scrunch my hair while it dried…but I learned that is “breaking the curl cast” and we don’t want that.

Instead I put on my makeup and basically when I am done with that, the top layer of my hair is mostly dry. Here is my hair dry.

Hair dry not styled

I suppose I could leave my hair like this…but I just feel like (at least for the professional office setting I work at) this look is a little unpolished – for me. So I do take a few minutes and curl just a couple of sections on my hair. I would say this part of the process takes less than 7 minutes. I curl maybe 5-6 curls on each side. Sometimes if it is getting closer to my next cut it may be a little more…my hair starts to get unruly. But for the most part it is a quick process.

Hair curled

I don’t really pick through the curls much until after they are completely cooled. I will spray with a little hairspray and then later tousle them up a bit. The curls “fall” a bit throughout the day but I don’t mind that at all. I typically don’t have to re-curl anything. A few years ago I would sometimes curl my hair a 2nd time during the day because the curls wouldn’t hold! Crazy!

What has been great about this new process is that I went from getting my hair cut every 7 weeks to now every 11-12 weeks. My hair is healthier (and happier) than it has ever been. It is also shorter than I used to wear it. As much as I liked a longer style…my hair looks and feels the best at this length.

So there you go! All you need – and maybe didn’t want to know – about my #Curlygirl routine. And before I go let me also say this…I know that my routine might seem like a lot for some people. Even when I am not leaving the house for a day I will get up and get fully ready at some point. It is that thing I do for me that makes me feel good. There have been days I have wished for stick straight hair that I could comb and go, or long hair that would give me a cute messy bun…but I just don’t have that hair. I have learned to love my hair and embrace my routine. So find what makes you feel good and do that for you!

And if you do have curly hair – do you have a favorite mousse? I am going to be in the market soon. Leave me a comment if you do!

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