Thursday, December 16, 2010

Random Thoughts - Holiday Edition

I could have sworn last Thursday was Thanksgiving, then I blinked and now Christmas is eight days away?  Really?

I have come to realize that Christmas is literally a labor of love (which I enjoy, I will not complain at all).  I like everything about this season (except the longer lines and lack of close parking spaces):

If you have facebook and read my last, last post here, then you are aware that I've been getting some good deals.  Like the photo cards for $4.90 shipped to my doorstep.  Never mind it took me a grand total of 2 hours and 15 minutes to create them and #1's head may be partially chopped off and I may have spelled our last name wrong since I basically gave up before I proofed it.  There were so many technical glitches that if I would have had to do one more thing to it, bad things like it disappearing without being saved, would probably happen.  I could not bare it any longer and just clicked on check-out before the men in the little white suits showed up calling my name.

Speaking of my name, someone very sweet left a beautiful note in my youth group stocking.  She looked up my name which means "honey bee" and shared some thoughts on how that translates and it blessed me to tears!  I must steal her idea and make someone else cry now.

Oh, some exciting news!  My van was vibrating and making some awful noises like the engine was dropping out of it or something.  So, I took it into our neighborhood auto shop  today and my mechanic said it was way overdue for an oil change, needed a new air filter and some other thingy.  He said he has no idea how any air got through my filter.  When I went to pick up the van, he had the filter laying on the ground and told me in all his years of auto service he had never seen an air filter that dirty (and, he is in his sixties). My response was to throw my hands in the air victoriously and yell "YES!!  That is quite an accomplishment, isn't it?".  I now have a legacy, people.  I think he may keep that air filter as a the fake mouth filled with gingivitis at the dentist office. And, the icing on the cake was that whatever part he replaced had completely collapsed and the nasty noise was metal rubbing on metal.  Thank you, Lord for my guardian angel.

I have baked more cookies in the last ten days than the entire last eleven months combined.  And, we take them everywhere we go.  I'm pretty sure Target is going to start accepting sugar cookie cutouts next year as a form of payment.  Seriously, there is a plate of cookies on our counter almost every night that everyone has been instructed: "DO NOT EAT".  I know most of you can relate.

Our elementary "holiday" concert was tonight complete with second grade reindeer, Feliz navidad and Hanukkah songs. Besides my beautiful #2 dancing to a song with friends, the highlight was the boy down in the front, yellow shirt dancing with his own choreography.  It's kids like that who win people money on national TV.  Of course, we recorded it. Along with everyone else in the room.

It's too cold to go shop.  It's too cold to go anywhere really.

Last night at our youth group's Open Mic Night, I listened to my sweet #1 play keyboard and sing the Christmas song she wrote.  Despite being sick, I think she sounded fantastic. And, The Husband didn't do so shabby accompanying her on drums.

Our Advent study has stalled due to sickness and schedules, however we have vowed to finish all 20 days of it, even if it takes until until March.  We decided that it does not really matter what time of the year we study about Jesus....I guess I always put the emphasis on around Christmas so I could counteract the materialistic part of it.  I would like to think as my kids are growing up, they are starting to "get it".  And, when they are not reviewing their mile-long wish lists, I think they do get it.

Perhaps next year I will do a Daniel fast between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Ha that I typed that it looks so extreme.  I guess my point is that I am sick of eating.

To all of you out there baking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and feeling blessed when you pause from the busy-ness for a moment to think of the great gift of Love given to all of us.  Then, put that next tray of cookies in the oven!

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Own Little World is Not About Me

For those of you who know me well, you know that I am a little on the ADD side as far as "keeping busy".  I don't sit much, I am always thinking of what I will do next and I cram a lot of things into a relatively short span of 24 hours. While most of you think I'm a bit crazy,  I enjoy it.  However, the Lord has been working on my "busy" heart this year.  Some days are better than others.  I had another gut check this weekend as I was at the grocery store (the second one of the day, I might add since it was a freezer stock up due to the success of the Great Grocery Challenge).  This was the first time in months I suffered sticker shock over how much money I shelled out for food.  I had been out running errands and wanted to get home to cook dinner so we could head out to church.  As usual, time was not on my side since I threw in a couple of stops not on the original plan.  I had justified that I was alone so I could scope out a few last minute gifts for the girls, but that was not successful.

When it was my turn to check-out I heard singing and looked over to the Salvation Army bucket.  There was a dad and two little girls singing Christmas carols and I thought in passing how cute and I'm pretty sure I would not have the guts to sing in the grocery store no matter how cute my kids were.  Nobody even looked at them.  Of course, these thoughts were in my subconscious, the far back corner of my brain as I hurried from the store thinking HOLY COW, I spent a lot of money in there.  Then, as the door closed behind me it was like waking up from a dream.  Why did I just walk by preoccupied and not put a $1 in the kettle?  I took another step towards the parking lot rationalizing I had to get outta there and get home.  Plus, it isn't as if I don't already give.....c'mon I could go down the laundry list.  God was not impressed with all that, He is much more concerned with the condition of my heart and in that instant I understood it wasn't just about the money.  Looking down at the tremendous blessing of food in my cart I felt ashamed of myself.  I swung my cart around while grabbing my $1 (thank you, Lord I actually had cash on me for once) and went in the "out" door.  I stuck my money in the kettle as the younger girl was reading the Night Before Christmas and her dad was helping her.  However, the older girl (maybe 7 years old?) turned around and with a small smile said thank you and merry Christmas.  I will never forget the way she looked at me....her eyes shining.  This entire exchange took all of ten seconds, however by the time I hit the parking lot I was in tears.  When I got in the van Matthew West was singing My Own Little World, which made me cry harder. It was like that song was written for that moment!  I cried the entire drive home and prayed for God to help me be more aware of who and what was happening around me.   I asked Him to forgive me for ignoring His quiet voice prompting me to move in compassion when I was too distracted or busy to pay attention.  And, I felt so much peace and joy.

Here are the lyrics to My Own Little World....thank you, Jesus for the eye opener:

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry, always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket, shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population: me

I try to stay awake during Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate, but I never give ’til it hurts
I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
Yeah, it’s easy to do when it’s
Population: me

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a better purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world oooh

Well, I stopped at a red light, looked out my window
I saw a cardboard sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
Above that sign was the face of a human
and I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?”
So I rolled down the window and I looked her in the eye
I thought how many times have I just passed her by?
So I gave her some money then I drove on through
And my own little world reached
Population: two

What if there’s a bigger picture?
What if I’m missing out?
What if there’s a better purpose
I should be living right now
Outside my own little world yeah, yeah
My own little world oooh

Father break my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
and put Your Light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me

Well I know there's a bigger picture
and I don't wanna miss it now
Well I know there's a plan and a purpose
That I could be living right now
Outside my own little world oooh

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Happening Again

I am staying up into the wee hours of the morning saving ridiculous amounts of money on things I may or may not need.

Like my sixty photo cards at for $4.90 shipped.  Except for the fact that I worked on them from 10:23 pm until 12:02 am and because of cookies and other techy glitches that are beyond my realm of understanding, I never finished them until I slept about six hours and gave it another try this morning.  But, hello???  I couldn't get sixty cheesy cards at Ollie's for $4.90 and these have photos on them and our name (hopefully...since I was so sick of starting over 1.2 bazillion times for all I know they could end up just a red and green background with Merry Christmas printed on them and for $4.90 who cares if they do?).

Then, we have my CVS deal where I picked up four Zhu Zhu pets for $9.98 with these coupons (I bought one and got three free).  I had to get a rain check for the almonds on sale for $2.50 with my $2.50 off coupon (yup, that equals free).

And, just in case you are wondering if I need to get a life (or some sleep, since 5-6 hours a night is not conducive for my completing my final school project that I work on simultaneously as I surf the web for coupons and freebies) I also have Brita water pitcher coupons that are $5 off each one and Buy One Get One, even though no one I know needs one, it just makes me feel so good to get a $20 pitcher for $7.50 (I think that's about right...that's why I tell my kids it is very important to study their word problems in math...if Mommy has two $5 off coupons and wants to purchase two Space Saver Brita water pitchers for $19.99 and there is a Buy One Get One Free rebate on them, how much will each pitcher end up costing?).  Got me three packs of this $2.70 lip gloss five pack from Target...shipped free right to my home. I also picked up a darling pair of black dress pants at JC Penney for $4.99 (original price $29.99) for #2's winter concert.  Coupons are my friend...I just glaze over when a new one catches my eye.....

In my surfing I have also gotten several delightful gift ideas that cost next to nothing, however I am going to be solicited out the wazoo for giving out my e-mail to register on dozens of websites to get free stuff.  I like free stuff even more than coupons and wazoo will survive.

I am now on a mission to use my $5 off Hungry, Hungry Hippos coupon on the travel size game for $4.99 that has been out of stock at Target (obviously I am not the only savvy coupon aficionado in the area).  Yes, my kids are too old for the game but Target will pay me a penny to buy it from them with this coupon....and it will make me even more money next summer when it sits on my fifty cent table at our yard sale.

Go over to Money Saving Moms and become just as semi-obsessed as I'll save some money if you don't mind it costing you time (or sleep).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent - We All Have a Part

Somehow by the miraculous grace of God I have manged to start our much anticipated Advent activities (or, as #3 says, Mom, what are we doing tonight for "Abdomen"? I have no idea why...she never had a problem remembering it is called Advent before).  But, oddly enough since our theme is Parts of the Body (of Christ) I guess we can call it Abdomen to be "punny".

I am in the midst of working on my final project for the Class O'Dread I am taking, so there wasn't much time to prepare what we would do.  I always like to make up my own Advent theme/activities and the girls have grown to look forward to it expectantly.  So, I prayed and felt like the Lord was going to give me ideas like manna.  One day at a time.  I didn't really like the one day at a time idea, because I am a planner.  I felt as if He told me I was more than welcome to prepare Advent activities and scriptures in advance without Him, but if I wanted it to be His heart and life-changing then I was to follow His day at a time.  Funny how I thought I was doing something for the kids and here is our gracious God working on my heart that likes to carry out its own agenda at times when God's plans don't make much sense in that moment.

So, each night after dinner, I pray and God gives me a scripture and literally within five minutes I have a teaching and activities. And, while the little object lessons are fun, we have ended up discussing some deep issues each night about feeling defeated, insecure and gossiping when we were not even aware we do it.  We end each lesson with the good news that God can heal us, help us to live more like Him and to be a true blessing to everyone around us!  Our main Advent verse is 1 Corinthians 12:12:

Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ.

Any other families out there doing an Advent study?  It's not too late to start!  Here is a link to some ideas and if you type "Advent" in my search box, you will get various posts over the last three years about things we have done.  The Internet is also a great source to get additional ideas, but let God lead you....even if it is one day at a time!

Monday, December 6, 2010

"Passionate Patience"

I love my life despite:

  • my mini-van with 144,000 miles on it is going into the shop tomorrow for who knows what's wrong with it
  • the medical bills from #2's procedure that are still outstanding
  • being disappointed and defeated in certain circumstances
  • enduring a college class that I have really been struggling in
  • needing to lose about 30 pounds and not finding the time or motivation to do anything about it
When our circumstances seem as if we get over one mountain, only to find another one, I am comforted by this:

Romans 5:3-5 (The Message version)

There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

In the midst of the struggles and difficulties I find myself in, something is changing inside of me.  I am more grateful for our health and our home and the food we have on our table.  I have a hope that when God allows the storms to pass through it is only so that we can grow in character and wisdom.  I need to take all of my problems out of the spotlight and instead, choose to shine that light on my loving God. 
  • Thank you, God for a vehicle that is paid for and has lasted us so long.
  • Thank you, Lord that those medical tests that #2 had done showed us that she has nothing that is life-threatening or severe.
  • Thank you, God that your plan is bigger than just the parts I can see.
  • Thank you, Lord that this Law & Ethics class is over in a week!
  • Thank you, God for sweatpants and stretchy jeans....alright, I probably need to work on this one!