Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Dark Room

...Darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness that may be felt...there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days...(Exodus 10:21-22)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. (Matthew 27:45)

Recently I heard an illustration in conjunction with these two stories/verses. The illustration of a darkroom.

A film developing darkroom. Film can only be properly developed in complete darkness. The only reason film/photos work later in the light is because they were developed in the darkness. The work was done right-in the darkroom.

In the darkest times of our lives we feel despair. We can't see the light. We can't see how God is working. We can't see how anything is going to be right again. Often darkness is accompanied by fear, panic, immobility.

We make the mistake in that dark moment of thinking that nothing is happening.

But, God develops us in the darkness. God develops His plan in the darkness. God develops His purpose in the darkness. God is preparing things so His glory bursts out in light-from the darkness.

Our sins were paid for in the hours of darkness while Jesus Christ was on the cross. Their burden and filthy unholiness. Their penalty. Their weight. It was all born in those dark hours on the cross.

God accomplished His most magnificent work in the darkness of the cross.

Does it make you wonder what God is doing in the darkness surrounding your life right now? Does it give you hope and peace in the darkness?

God is refining us in the darkness. He is developing His character in us in the darkness. He is waiting to reveal Himself and His purposes. God is doing His work right in the darkroom.

The question I willing to wait it out and let Him develop His purpose in me?


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sometimes I Amaze Myself...

With my own ridiculousness and stupidity.


So, yesterday I spent almost an hour at Hobby Lobby. Which in and of itself is not a bad thing. Because Hobby Lobby is like my favorite store. Ever.

But, the reason I was in HL was ridiculous.

My sil and I are throwing a bridal shower for the daughter of a good friend. The shower isn't until the end of May, but we are thinking we should get the invites out soon so that people can plan on attending.

Which is why I was in Hobby Lobby.

To buy the supplies for 50 invitations. Or to buy 50 invitations-if I could find ones I liked.

Except I couldn't.

It is an almost 4th of July wedding, the groom is in the Marines, and the color is navy with pops of red. Stars and stripes forever seems like a great theme for the shower.

I paced up and down the aisles of HL (four kids in tow), looking at cards, card stock, stickers, stamps, ink, and more ink.

What are the cheapest stickers? Why is this ink more/less expensive? Is one ink pad enough? Big letter stamps? Little letter stamps? Blue card stock or red card stock? White? Star stickers? Gold stars? Silver stars? Red, white and blue stars?

What a draining list of choices.

After a good long time, I came up with a plan, and paid for it.

I was dreading the thought of printing, stamping, cutting and sticker-ing 50 invitations.

I had visions. But, my visions were not peaceful arts and crafts visions. They were looking more like first grade art project visions.

Have I mentioned that I hate cutting? I had to cut in Kindergarten. I have been scarred ever since.

I am not an arts and crafty sort of person. The prospect gives me hives.

My kids even asked me as we were leaving why in the world I was making the invitations when my sol has all the art supplies and enjoys doing that kind of thing. (short answer, she is going to CA next week and she doesn't need the stress of thinking about invitations either before the trip or directly after.)

My kids know me better than I know myself.

Well, I know myself. I am just trying to push through the pain.

My BFF laughed when I told her my idea. She knows my proclivities too. Yeah. As does my husband. And my sil.

So, guess who gave me a brilliant idea this morning? God? My sil? Myself? Someone gave me permission to get off the crazy train.

I'm not exactly sure but somehow we got on the idea of printing up something online. Voila'! Click over to Snapfish. Design a cool and unique shower invite optimizing the 4th of July, red, white and blue, stars and stripes theme.

10 minutes, people! That's all it took.

No cutting. No stickers. No fancy handwriting. No stamping.

Coming to a mailbox near me sometime in the next week.


I am more relaxed when I focus on using my gifts. I do a few. Organizing. Planning. Cooking. I thrive on writing. I enjoy doing a wee bit of decorating-especially in my own home. I am a facilitator. A teacher.

And not an arts and crafts teacher either.

I am stressed when I try to do things that aren't my gifts. Even though I genuinely want to bless someone else with this action. Making invitations is so not my gift. Arts and crafts and the idea of making something over and over and over again stresses me out. Overwhelms me. Gives me headaches and hives.

Sometimes it is necessary to do things out of our comfort zone. Sometimes those things are how we grow and/or discover new loves. But, sometimes it is the better part of prudence to admit defeat, and focus on the things that truly are our gifts.

To order online invitations. (that were 50% off, and are costing way less time, money and effort than the homemade versions) To make a trip back to Hobby Lobby with a bag full of returns. To focus on the menu and cooking.

To live in the sigh of relief that invites will be going out. Nice invites. With the minimum amount of stress from me.

Let's give up the sigh of defeat that accompanies the phrase good enough. Let's give ourselves the freedom to realize it is just possibly good. Or even better. And maybe even best.

It isn't good enough. It is good.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ode to Candy Holidays

*Note: this probably could also be named Owed to Candy Holidays...

It should be noted that holidays, for me, are all about the candy.

Not the decorations. Not the spiritual significance.(though that is important. I just forget amidst the candy on occasion) Not even the food (though that would be a close second). Not the gatherings. And certainly not the gifts...

It's all about the candy. And the bummer fact is that we are now in the candy deficit months. The candy-less holiday months.

So, this is the candy breakdown starting with Halloween, and running about 6 consecutive months-plus or minus-depending on where Easter falls on a given year.

Halloween is summed up in the candy corns, but preferably the candy corn pumpkins. Something about the sugary goodness is much more pronounced and more delicious in the pumpkins, as opposed to the corns. But, beggars won't be choosers.

Christmas is chocolate. The bells and the balls of solid chocolate. Or peanut butter filled chocolate. Or sweet cream filled chocolate.

Valentine's Day, on the other hand, has nothing to do with chocolate. It is too over-priced at this time of year. No, Valentine's Day is best enjoyed through conversation hearts. Those nuggets of sweetness that beat Twitter any day of the year for minimum number of characters to get your point across.

And Easter. Ah...Easter. Peeps. Need I say anything more? Marshmallow covered in pink or yellow or blue sugar? Wow! But, the amazing thing about Easter is not just the Peeps, but the jelly beans. Preferably, the fruit flavored jelly bellies. Hmmm...Or how about those Cadbury Eggs? Mmmm. Chocolate Eggs filled with drippy, rich fondant. Heavenly. Or, at least what my version of heaven tastes like...

Yes. It is sad.

Sad that when I am lamenting the holidays and the next six months, that my husband knew exactly what I was going to say about the absence of holiday...candy. He literally took the words right out of my mouth. I guess I am predictable if nothing else.
So, at least one one these offspring take off after their mom. It might be the one on the far right.
She, who must not be named, stayed up the night of our Easter Egg hunt to eat all of her sister's bounty.
Let's just say that the sister was not pleased. And the culprit was on a sugar high...

Someone really should come up with a candy concoction for Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. They'd make a fortune. From me.

Which, incidentally, is why I run, and swim, and bike.

Just sayin'.

Happy Tuesday.=)

Monday, April 21, 2014

What Makes You Cry?

We are all instructed to follow the path that makes us happy. Do the things that make us happy. 

Don't worry, be happy.

(I just dated myself, didn't I?!)

There is nothing wrong with doing things or pursuing things that make you happy.

But, what you really should analyze are the things that make you cry.

The things that make you cry show your core. They show what is really important to you. They show you what makes you tick.

So, what makes you cry?

-I cry reading poetry and drinking coffee at Panera. (I know. I am the picture of pathetic.)

-I cry reading the Road Less Travelled. Anytime. It makes me tear up every.time. Maybe because it has been the story of my life...

-I cry when I write about motherhood. The responsibility and trust of it all overwhelms me. I feel so small, yet so loved.

-I cry as I cross the finish line in my longer races.

-I cry as I watch others crossing the finish line. I cry because I am thinking of the back stories that are involved for each and every person.

-I cry when I watch the Olympics. I think the athlete in me gets it-on a very small scale. The sacrifice. The hard work. The persistence. The choices. The discipline. 

-I cry when I tell stories. Stories about real people. Real moms and dads. Real kids. Real struggles and triumphs. I cry when I tell not real stories too. I cry when the message of the story touches my heart and changes my thinking.

-I cry when I can't see the whole story. When I know God is present and working, when I know He is faithful, but I can't see the how or why yet.

-I cry when I watch old movies. Only old movies. And the same old movies that I used to give my mom a hard time about watching and crying.

-I cry when I get an eyebrow wax. Does that count? I also almost fall asleep in the 2 minutes it takes for them to prep me and put that nice first layer of warm wax on. And then I cry when they rip the wax off.

-I cry over my sin and failures. Over my weaknesses. 

-I cry when my children are hurt. Sometimes when they are hurt physically, but more when their feelings are hurt. It is my mama bear instinct. 

I find this crying thing interesting, because I never used to be a crier. Maybe it is hormones. Maybe God has softened my heart and allowed me to become more empathetic. Because I cry now because of understanding. That is what makes me cry. Not so much my own pain, but what my pain has taught me about other people's pain. I cry because on some scale I get it.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?

(Psalm 56:8)

That's an amazing thought. God keeps track of our tears. Whether they are over a loss or a triumph, a story or movie, our pain or someone else's. Our tears are precious and known to God.

Have you ever considered what makes you cry?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life Lately with Chicken Broccoli Casserole

-The working title for this post has been "some recipe". I finally changed it today. Obviously I was not at my most inspired earlier this week.

-You may have noticed that I have cut back to posting about 4 times a week. It really has not been an intentional and deliberate decision. I am just finding that between life and working, 4 is what I can handle these days. I am going to try to make it a specific day-not as much random. But, I think it will be a good thing for this space right now.

-Running. We are in the midst of training for our longest race of the year. May 10 marks the third time I will run our local 25K (15-1/2 miles). I have been running 4 days a week and it has been good. Hard, but definitely good. My favorite runs are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I get up at 5:40 to drink coffee with Mr. Hippie, and then we hit the road by 6:30. I love seeing the moon hanging in the sky and then the sun rise. So gorgeous.

-I am dropping off my bike today for a spring tune-up. I am really excited about feeling the wind and sun on my face again. I feel like I am in a cocoon when I am riding. Just me and the sun, zippin' along.

-I have been reading Emily Freeman's A Million Little Ways. I am enjoying it, though she actually spoke a lot of its ideas at a conference I went to a year and a half ago. I have several heavy hitting books on my nightstand right now. I am wondering if I should space them out with some pulp fiction or just get busy and read.

-We have 3 weeks left of school! Yes, I am excited! It is always a debate in my mind whether to take spring break or not. And then it is a struggle to get re-motivated after spring break. But, we are motivated-to finish and finish strong. I am really happy with how this year went and I am looking forward to spending some time, probably in July, mapping out next year's plan.
this is the sight that greets me at the end of each of my working days. School work to be corrected....

-She Plans Dinner...I have 20 subscribers. I am very thankful for each of them, and I am praying for many more. I have started running some ads, hoping to gain more exposure. I am enjoying planning new menus and finding/testing new recipes. I am excited to see where this all leads. I have been working at least 2 Thursdays a month. This is enough time to keep me on top of what needs done, though I am also sneaking in working hours on other days of the week.

-I have decided that Panera Bread may be the official unofficial office of bloggers, but personally, I prefer the library. It is quiet, free, and way.less.crowded.
She Plans Dinner...use to coupon code SPRING to save $5 off any plan!

-Life has been busy, but I also feel like some of the stress from the major issues of the winter are is seeping away. People are paying up accounts for my husband's roofing business, and he has tons of new work. She Plans Dinner is launched and most of the technical stuff has been figured out. The weather is warmer and sunnier and the trees are filling out. Hope has sprung as well as spring.

-The biggest concern of my winter is still a concern. God is still refining. Me and others around me. Sometimes something new comes up and it feels like the wound has been re-opened and probed. But, mostly, healing and growth is happening.

-I am planning and dreaming about grilling and salads for summer, but we are still in the middle of soups and casseroles at our house.

I tried this recipe a couple weeks ago. It is easy and tasty. Definitely in the Classic Comfort category.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cooked and cubed
1-16 ounce bag broccoli
3 cups cooked rice
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp curry (or 1 tsp chopped chipotle pepper in abobo sauce)
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese
bread crumbs

-To cook chicken, you can either cube the breasts and sauté until cooked through. Or you can place the whole breasts in a microwave safe container, cover with plastic wrap (vented on the corner) and microwave for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through.
-Bring broccoli to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes-until crisp tender.
-Use leftover rice or steam a new batch.
-Layer cooked rice, chicken and broccoli in a 9x13" baking dish.
-Make a sauce of the soups, mayo, curry powder, and lemon juice. Pour over the top of the broccoli and chicken.
-Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and top with the bread crumbs.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

What have you been up to?


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Fashion DayDreams

I spent a little bit of time at the mall this week. I am liking some of the newer trends in for the spring and summer.

Polka dots and bright colors are in. Fitted tops and flared skirts. So cute. So feminine. So flattering. There is a nice mix of maxi and mini. Though you won't catch me in a mini anything.

I was not as thrilled with the prices. Even at 40% off, each of the three dresses that caught my eye would ring in at over $80. I can cloth my entire family for a season with $80.But, if money grew on trees, I know where I'd by a dress-or three....

I took some time to style this polka dot dress on Polyvore. Have you ever used Polyvore? I find it a bit of fun and a bit of a headache. But maybe the headache is because I am not truly a fashionista. Not even at heart...

Spring Fashion

So, basically my wardrobe consists of black, white, brown and coral. No joke. Which is why it isn't surprising-to me, at least-that I'd accessorize this dress with pops of coral. Probably no necklace, but a stack of bangles, a showy ring, and a big bag. (which would be for self defense-in case someone decided to attack me, I'd be able to whack them with my purse.

I like the feel of the fabric of this dress. It was almost a jersey knit. But nice. Very comfortable. I think I would style it with white sandals, and a chunky white necklace. Although, those nude sandals are pretty cool too.

As for this one...I don't know why, but I liked it. I am not a stripes person. But this one caught my eye. I like the cut. The material was heavy. Almost like a polyester or heavy knit. I would wear a retro-y red necklace with it. Like one from CarolineShop

Do you buy a new dress for Easter? Or make one? My mom always bought or made me a new dress for Easter every year. I loved my Easter dresses. Here is Meres in my absolute favorite Easter dress when I was a little girl! I loved the smocking and the twirly skirt.

I have sort of kept up the dress tradition with my girls. Not so much for myself anymore. 

Regardless, if you could, what dress would you buy for Easter?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Importance of Daily Devotions with Children

Do you have daily devotions with your kids?

I do.

We miss some days. Especially during summer break. But, for the most part, the kids and I spend time most days reading the Bible, memorizing verses, praying and singing.

It is so very important-for many reasons.

I grew up doing family devotions. Every morning, at 5:15, my dad would holler "good morning!" up our stairs. He would call each of us kids by name. We were expected to jump out of bed immediately, get hugged, get dressed, get chores started and be ready for family devotions at 5:45.

We would read a chapter from Proverbs. We memorized chapters and chapters from the Bible. Psalms, chapters from Romans, John and Matthew. And even the entire book of Revelation.

It was quite the production. Quite the discipline.

I didn't particularly enjoy it growing up, but I am so thankful now for that foundation in my life.

Today, if you head over to Womanhood with Purpose, you can read the how's and what's and why's of my daily devotion time with my kids.