I Won!!!

I won! I won! The first thing I read when I checked my blog yesterday was a comment from Melanie of Elegant Custom Blogs on my Blog Makeover post. I won a FREE custom blog design, valued at $50! I get a custom header, background, color coordination of links, template, and installation! I was so excited, I was almost jumping up and down!

And my day kept getting better. I braved the heat to walk over to our neighborhood Barnes and Noble and found the perfect birthday present for my favorite six year olds, a book called “A Treasury for Six Year Olds.” While they just turned six, they’re already VERY good readers.  I wasn’t sure if they were ready for chapter books, and I knew they were past the beginning reader books, but this one had a variety of stories, poems, and the like. BTW, you know you’re home schooled when you LIKE getting books for your birthday 🙂 

When I returned, I stopped to check the mail and found my birthday present from Brian waiting: my first Better Homes and Gardens Magazine! AND it came with a little recipe book. I’ve already perused the whole thing, but I’m excited to go back and read it more in depth. 

After lunch, I decided to venture out again. When Brian and I were grocery shopping last weekend, we passed an enormous Goodwill. Come to find out, it was only about a block or two from our apartment. So once again I braved the heat to discover the treasures of Goodwill. I have NEVER seen such a Goodwill. It was INCREDIBLE. I found so many cool things, and I took pictures of other things for my wish list. But, I will save that for another post! Stay tuned! 🙂

Decor Dilemmas and Fortuitous Finds

I’ve really been getting into all the decor and crafty blogs lately, ever since I found out that Brian did get me a  birthday present after all: a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens (he totally forgot about it!). While I’m impatiently waiting for it to arrive, I’ve been soaking up ideas from the blog world. I have found some great stuff! I love My Domestic Bliss, because she finds the most amazing stuff on Craig’s list, at garage sales, and in the trash! (Stay tuned for my Craig’s list find) She shares everything from recipes to . Another favorite of mine is My Desert Cottage, A. because she lives in Arizona too, and B. because she has fabulous shabby chic style and ingenious creations, including tutorials!
This is decor dilemma #1: my fireplace. Now, the corner shelves aren’t the issue, nor is the metal butterfly, is the lack of anything interesting below that point. 
So, I added my fortuitous find from Anthropologie that I mentioned buying earlier. This is how it looked for a few days. 
While it looks better, maybe, than it did before, it’s just not enough to balance all the stuff on the shelves and the butterfly. So I added a hat box that I got as a wedding gift, and a few books, and got this:  
The big picture looks like this: 
I’m much happier with it this way. Maybe sometime I can get a hat box that matches better too. What do you think of this arrangement? Any suggestions? I love getting help.  
Ok, design dilemma #2. This lamp is sitting on the sofa table in our dining room. 
Confession: I really don’t like this lamp. At all. It’s HUGE, and heavy, and really old. But, it belonged to Brian’s great-grandmother, so he says it’s not going anywhere. So I’d like to know, what would you do to make it look better? Any pictures or links you’d like to share for ideas? I’m open to any suggestions! 
Now it’s story time! So I decided I wanted to get a coffee table and a couch with my birthday money. Where can you find a coffee table or a couch for $75? Craig’s list! It’s the BEST. I have never been on it before, but after reading through Domestic Bliss’s tips, I had to check it out, and Ooh la la! I’m in love. I searched through pages of listings for coffee tables under $50, and get this: they weren’t all crappy college apartment tables! The moving sales were the best, but sometimes people were just getting new furniture and didn’t have room. I found tons of potential coffee tables, and created a Word document with the pictures and emailed it to Brian. He wasn’t as thrilled as I was with the $10 ones or the really unique ones, and he didn’t seem to share my love of shabby chic/French country style. It took us awhile, but we finally decided on a $30 old English style table. Gorgeous red-gold color, fancy carvings, and…two glass panels. I don’t like glass panels, because they’re a pain to clean, not to mention a safety hazard for our future children. But I compromised because of the price and it was pretty. 
In the description, it mentioned a “small chip” in the glass. It wasn’t no small chip; there was a chunk of glass missing! There was no setting something on top to hide it; it would have to be replaced. I calculated it mentally: 18″x18, thick, 1″ beveled edge, lightly tinted, and scalloped corners = expensive. We said no thanks and drove away, but the owner called us a few minutes later, offering to give it to us for $10. Brian told me he guessed the price of glass was $150, so I said no, but thanks again. The owner said she had no idea glass cost that much, but if we priced it out and found out it was less, we could still have it for $10. I called a glass company the next day, and the quote? $185, not including tax. So I went back to the computer and started over. But, it was good practice in saying no! I think I needed that. 
I finally narrowed it down to my top 6, and got an ok from Brian to call on the first one. I left a message and sent an email, and went to call the second one. It was gone! The beautiful black rustic French cottage table was sold. So I called my third choice, a white table with a shelf and two drawers. She was busy at the moment, so we set up a time for an hour later. Right after I got off the phone, my first choice called back. I was almost too excited to sit down and eat supper, but we ate fast and were out the door. The pictures didn’t do it justice! Actually, there were two pieces, the coffee table and a matching end table, with a pull out compartment and cup-holders. I called the white table lady back and canceled, and we took these home. 
Guess how much? Asking price: $50. Paid price: $40. I can’t believe he took $10 less. I actually offered that by accident, because I’d read the posting wrong online and thought it said they were $30, and so when Brian offered him $50 I interjected with $40. And we got them! Aren’t they perfect
Have you shopped on Craig’s list before? What’s the best thing you’ve found? If you decided to start today, there’s a few cedar chests out there that I’ve got my name on! Not officially, but I’ll be really disappointed if you buy them all up before I get one! 

Letters from the Past

Reading Old Letters,1999 by Maria Jose Aguilar Gutierrez

I’ve been working on the spare room, going through all the boxes of stuff that weren’t critical or that we weren’t sure what to do with. I found a few interesting things that made me feel like writing.

I found letters from my first “crush.” We were both outsiders, on the fringe, so we banded together for company. Soon, I found that I depended on the time of talking to him after church every Sunday. This was when I was 12. He’d been leaving messages in our car, in my coat pockets, or in the church foyer for awhile. I didn’t know I actually kept all of those little notes, and all the letters! We secretly wrote to each other when it became clear that my parents didn’t approve of our “friendship.” It was giddily exciting and romantic, and a really bad idea! He was thoughtful, always knew what to say to cheer me up, was always there for me….and wanted to marry me once I finished high school. That’s where the problem lay: I knew God had other plans for me. Looking him in the eyes and telling him we couldn’t be friends anymore was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point. I felt like he was my only friend in the world. After a long while we became friends again, but didn’t go over so well when I started dating a different guy. He said things about my boyfriend that I didn’t like, I got mad, he got mad, I stopped talking to him, he tried harder to talk to me- it came to a rocky, painful end. He definitely wasn’t without blame, but I wish it hadn’t ended like it did.

I put those letters in stack in the middle of the floor.

iStock, collectingpapermemories.com

I found a little envelope, and laughed out loud at the contents. Inside was one heart shaped, foil wrapped German chocolate, a graduation invitation, a thank you card for attending the said graduation open house, two church bulletins-one from a midnight Christmas Eve service and one from a Sunday in the spring, and a letter I wrote to the giver of those items after we broke up, and obviously never delivered. It was a very nice letter, actually. I have NO idea why I kept this stuff! It wasn’t even very related to our relationship, except maybe the Christmas Eve bulletin. I didn’t feel any regrets reading them; I have lots of good memories, and I’ve forgiven and forgotten the rest.

I added the envelope to the pile. 

I found papers I’d written for classes in high school, notes from my favorite teachers, notes from my least favorite teacher, conversations scribbled between me and my friend who sat next to me in choir.

I found memories, sad, fond, encouraging, disheartening, revealing, and humorous. But I don’t need these letters anymore. The memories will stay with me for a long time. The memories of people I looked to for validation and love, instead of resting in Christ’s alone. The memories of people I tried to please and failed.   The memories of relationships broken, and some restored. It’s my prayer that they will all be restored one day. 

Isn’t the love of God something wonderful? He knows us, better than we know ourselves, and He still chose us. I’ve been reading Ephesians, and this passage stood out to me: 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 1-10)

I paraphrased and personalized it this way in my journal: 

Oh God, I praise you for your mercy that loved when I was lost in sin. You see Christ’s payment on the cross when you look at me. You saved me to showcase the riches of your grace. I am your workmanship, created new for your purpose – doing good. Thank you for preparing a plan for my life.

God’s love is free! And it’s unconditional! Let’s reflect on that today. And, let’s show that kind of love to someone else today!

Tuesday Tip- Finances

Budget. Oh yes, I said it, the dreaded B-word. Maybe for you it’s not so dreaded, or maybe you never speak of it, much less think of it. I personally got all tense and fidgety when Brian finally succeeded in sitting me down to go over it last night. I remember the struggle of making ends meet while I was a kid, and the chills running up and down my spine when mom told me we were “in the hole,” which I took to mean we were literally going to be thrown into a big, black gaping hole. (I also thought my mom was going to boil me alive in a pot on the stove when she told me I was “in hot water” for ruining her laundry hamper… yep.)

A few things have helped me to overcome my fear of finances:

  • Brian is actually good at math and using excel. That makes it much easier for me, since then all I have to do is offer helpful suggestions (We have how much for clothes each month?!),  and thoughtful insights (Where’s the shoe fund?).
  • Knowing that God is taking care of us, and He loves us. He cares for even the flowers and the sparrows! Read Matthew 6 for a amazing reminder of His concern and provision for us. 
  • Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover. 
We picked it up at the bookstore, but you could probably buy it online for less. If you want to honor God with your finances, this book will lay it out for you in no uncertain terms. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it certainly is clear. This is from the inside flap: 

Instead of promising the normal dose of quick fixes, Ramsey offers a bold, no-nonsense approach to money matters, providing not only the how-to but also a grounded and uplifting hope for getting out of debt and achieving total financial health.

Ramsey debunks the many myths of money…and attacks the illusions and downright deceptions of the American dream, which encourages nothing but overspending and massive amounts of debt….

The Total Money Makeover is all about “renewing your mind,” using God’s ways of handling money (over 800 scriptures deal with money) to be “transformed” (made over). It’s a plan to stop being “conformed” to the ways of the world and as ridiculously broke as the rest of our culture. 

 And this isn’t theory. It works every single time. It works because it is simple. it works because it gets to the heart of the money problems: You. 

Brian and I are lucky, because we’ve never had credit cards, so we haven’t been sucked into that cycle of credit card debt. But, we have gone to college! And that means loans, loans, and more loans. Also, we have a car that isn’t entirely paid off. It adds up to about $30,000. But with the plan we have in place, we hope to be debt free in about two years, and still have a decent sized emergency savings fund. It may mean some sacrifices ( Traveling back to Iowa to visit is not in the budget. It just couldn’t fit), as Dave says, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

Here’s a few crazy but true stats from the book:

  • 90% of people in our culture buy things they can’t afford
  • 88% of college seniors have credit card debt- before they even have a job
And a few myths that I’d always thought were true:
  • “Car payments are a way of life: you’ll always have one.” “Staying away from car payments by driving reliable used cars is what the average millionaire does.” 
  • “You should get a credit card to build your credit.” “You won’t sue credit with your Total Money Makeover, except maybe for a mortgage, and you don’t need a credit card for that.”
  • “You need a credit card to rent a car, check into a hotel, or buy online.” “A debit card will do all that.”
  • “The debit card has more risk than a credit card.” “Nope.” He explains that if you run it as credit, you will get the same protection as companies offer credit cards. You can read the policy on Visa’s website. 
Crazy stuff, right? I encourage you to check out his website for more information about his program and books if your financial situation isn’t exactly honoring to God, and you are ready to make it right. 
And that is my Tuesday Tip! Please share with us if you’ve used his program before, or have other strategies for battling debt or managing finances! 

Blog Makeover

Have I mentioned the Sits 31 days build a better blog challenge? While it has been overwhelming at times, I’ve picked up a lot of useful information and tips for better writing, and I’ve been inspired to make a few changes. Thus, you’ll notice the “About Me” section to the right is gone, and instead there’s a tab at the the top called “About Scribbles.” That’s where it went. Since it looked so empty without my husband’s and my smiling faces, I had to add the little coffee picture, which you may recall from my Coffee Love post.

Even with the 31 dbbb thing, I’m still very computer-ly illiterate, so making these few changes turned out to be quite the ordeal. Since I can never be satisfied with my writing, I edited the new About page for over an hour, and then I copied and accidentally dragged text around in the paragraph, and so of course I just hit control Z, my rescue button. This time it failed me. My ENTIRE POST DISAPPEARED. And no amount of control Z was bringing it back. I cried. Actually, I lay on the floor and bawled. My blogging career might have been over, but Brian came to my rescue like the knight in shining armor he is. Luckily, I’d left a preview window open, so Brian took a few screen shots of it and re-typed the entire post into a Word Document for me!

I feel that a makeover is in order. I’ve been somewhat unsatisfied with this background. The column for the posts is too narrow for large pictures, and there’s lots of unused room along the edges. Also, I’m going back and forth on the birds and branch. You see, I’ve always loved butterflies. Blue ones. I didn’t shop around enough when picking my background, because there are lots of butterfly backgrounds. And there’s the issue of the title: Scribbles from Emily. Birds and branches don’t have much to do with scribbles. But, there’s some sweet backgrounds in the Blogger Template Designer with books and lined notebook paper. If my blog title was something about a nest maybe, then the current background would fit very well. I’ll save that for when I start my interior design business: Emily’s Nest. Hmmm…

melbourne.park.hyatt.com

Anyway, I think that the perfect design would combine butterflies and notebook paper, however, I have yet to find such a design. BUT, I have entered a drawing for a FREE custom blog giveaway, at Elegant Custom Blogs. Vote for me! Just kidding, there’s no voting. And I will be unselfish and even suggest that you enter if you feel your blog could use a face-lift.

In the meantime, I really need your help. I’m terrible at making decisions. So if I don’t win the blog design, which of the following backgrounds would you vote for? Also, for your own benefit, there’s lots of blogging buttons, even some headers and other extras on these sites you might want to give your own blog a little facial.

Shabby Blogs: Daydream Believer, Aqua Butterfly, Bella Butterfly, or Nature Walk
Blogaholic Designs: Leslie, Maddy
Blogger Template Designer: I don’t think you can see this unless you have a Blogger blog. It’s one of the options under the Design Tab. Select a template, such as Picture Window, then go to Backgrounds, Arts, and there you’ll find the book ones and notebook paper.

There, now that you’ve checked out the links, you’ve seen some great options and probably don’t feel the need to enter the giveaway, right?!

Kidding. But seriously, I could use some feedback on picking a blog background, or on keeping the same one even, if you feel that it fits my blog. Also, if you have suggestions for more pages to go along the top, or other cosmetic issues, I’d love to hear it!

A Love Filled Day

What a perfect day!

It didn’t go like I planned. I figured: my birthday, my plan, my favorite food, I do what I want. But when I tried to talk to Brian about what I wanted to do for my birthday, it didn’t go so well.
“I’m going to plan it for you!” He insisted.
“But it’s my birthday, shouldn’t I get to do what I want?!”
“No!”
Oh. Great.
“We’re going to do something cool for your birthday, not something lame like going to a mall.”
Ouch. That’s what I had wanted to do.
“Don’t you trust me to plan something you’ll really like?”
Ummm…

Waiting to find out what he planned for me was a good exercise in letting go of some of my selfish desires. My birthday really isn’t all about me, I realized, because now I’m one with someone else. After I stopped trying to control my birthday, I found I anticipated it even more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so loved on my birthday. I’m loving this whole second-family package that came with marrying Brian.

I slept in later than I had wanted to, but I woke up feeling fully refreshed. I dressed up in my favorite dress, a little blue and white pinstripe cotton confection of cuteness. I put a bow in my hair, and fixed coffee for myself in my fancy mug. I put out a new tablecloth and added a centerpiece. Soon after I finished my morning Bible reading and prayer, my mother-in-law sent me a text wishing me a happy birthday, and so did my older sister. My older sister also texted me a picture of my niece, who is growing up fast!

My big plan for the day was to check out the stores on the fancy strip mall a block or two away. Thanks to our cell phone rebates, I had $50 that Brian said I could spend on whatever I wanted. As I was about to leave, my mother-in-law called me to wish me a happy birthday in person. We talked while I finished my coffee, got my purse, walked to mail boxes and checked the mail, and walked all the way to the first store. At some point my phone started beeping, and after hanging up I discovered a text from my father-in-law waiting, also wishing me a happy birthday.

Anthropologie was the first store on my list to explore. If you’ve never been to an Anthropologie, you need to go. Even if you don’t buy anything. It’s expensive, but it’s SO fascinating! In addition to fabulous clothes, they sell cosmetics, kitchen decor and utensils, wall decor, furniture, dishes, bedding, curtains, towels, tablecloths, jewelry, accessories, purses, stationary, books…all kinds of unique treasures. I had to look at everything- it was all artsy, indie, exotic, or charming, and it all had a special handmade or hand-designed feel. You just have to go yourself; I’m running out of adjectives to describe it! I snagged a couple steal-of-a-deals: a beautiful soft and flowy sweater originally $88 for $20, and a beautiful turquoise flower pot. I can’t decide were to put it; in the kitchen window, on the front porch, on the patio, or above the fireplace nook. It has a lot of potential!

After spending almost three hours in Anthropologie, I moved on, past beauty shops, Chico’s, and White House Black Market, to Barnes and Noble. There was a reason for this; I hydrated myself amply before leaving my apartment as a cautionary measure in this heat, but by the time I got to Anthropologie, I already had to go. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any bathrooms! They had beautiful dressing rooms with pretty candles burning and comfy couches, but nowhere to pee. I don’t know when I’ve been so happy to use a public restroom as when I arrived at Barnes and Noble!

I perused the sale bins, shelves, and piles, but nothing really jumped out at me until I found my way to the journals and sketch books and decided on a journal with a striking bright blue butterfly on the cover. If you know me, you know how obsessed I am with butterflies! And, as an extra bonus, it was on sale 🙂 My lovely sister-in-law texted me and told me she’d call me tomorrow to find out how my whole day went. About that time, I got another phone call, this time from my father-in-law! He took time while he was working to give me a call and wish me happy birthday. While we were talking, I got that call-waiting beep in my ear again, and discovered after the call ended that it was Brian. He picked me up at the bookstore so that I didn’t have to walk back in the heat.

Then, I made my birthday cake while he took a nap. Ok, not this cake, but I wish!

 Nati’s Cakes

I LOVE cupcakes!!! I made myself a dozen pink roses! The pink frosting is strawberry flavored. Brian didn’t want to eat pink cupcakes, so I frosted some with white confetti frosting just for him. 
Then, it was time for the Big Birthday Surprise! Brian packed a cooler and tote with food he’d bought on the way home from work and paper products, and off we went! 
We drove and drove, out of Phoenix and into cowboy country. No seriously, we passed several Man on Horseback Crossing signs! 
Finally the secret came out: I saw a sign that read “Canyon Lake.” We twisted and turned up the mountain, and I tried to snap pictures along the way. 
Our first glimpse of the lake.
This surprise picnic was reminiscent of the surprise picnic Brian planned for me after he proposed! I never would have dreamed that we’d be having another picnic in Arizona almost a year later! 
The spot we picked was picturesque, but we were pretty sure we could hear a couple rattlesnakes close by! 
After the picnic, we came back to the apartment to eat the cupcakes and open presents. Brian sang “Happy Birthday” me; it was so sweet! 
I had two presents to open, both from my mother-in-law. Brian’s present to me was all the thoughtful planning and preparation he put into our lovely picnic. My grandmother-in-law also sent me a card with a present in it!
In case you were wondering, I do have a biological family too, with a mom and dad, two sisters and three brothers.  I assumed they’d forgotten about my birthday, since I didn’t hear anything from them all day, even though I got text messages from acquaintances, and a facebook wall full of birthday wishes, many from people I hadn’t seen or talked to in a long time. I finally did talk to my family, but I cheated. I texted my dad a picture of the cupcakes, and he then texted me “Happy Birthday.” When I replied that I thought they’d forgotten it was my birthday, he decided to call me after all. He wished me a happy birthday, and I told him about my day, and caught up on goings ons at home. He eventually gave the phone to mom. 
“What do you want to talk to me about?” she almost snapped. 
I wanted to say, Uh, it’s my birthday! I’m twenty! All grown up! Are you…glad? Proud? Do you care? But instead I stuttered, “Well, I just, um, figured I hadn’t talked to you for a little while…”
“Yeah, I was starting to wonder because I hadn’t heard from you in a while, and I heard about those inmates that got out.”
“Huh? Inmates? In Phoenix?” 
“They got one in Colorado, but they think the others are hanging out there in Phoenix. You better get a newspaper.”
Ok, mom. I listened as she told me all about how the boys were doing, especially Ethan, my middle brother who suffers from epilepsy, how they were installing a security system, and redecorating the basement bedroom. She told me she mailed a car for me the day before (Birthday shopping happens the day before in my family!). Finally, I had to go, because it was much past Brian’s bedtime, and he really needed his rest before getting up at 4:30 for work. 
She never said “Happy Birthday.” 
But before she hung up, she did say, “I love you.” 
And that was the best birthday present she could have given me. 

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved god, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 5:9-11)

I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I was Wednesday and Thursday with all the love and thoughtfulness behind all the text and facebook messages, phone calls, and cards. You showed me God’s love through your actions! I know that I’m not alone, and He will continue to supply my needs. 

Coffee Love

Because we were out of both creamer and milk, today I decided to make iced coffee. Besides coffee and ice, I added sugar and artificial vanilla flavoring. After I added the sugar, I realized that the coffee probably needed to be hot, otherwise it wouldn’t dissolve. So I had to pour it back into the mug to warm it up, and pour it back into the glass afterwards, which created interesting splatters. Well, that inspired me to have a little photo shoot! These are the photos edited.   

I edited these pictures in picnik.com. Click on them to see them larger. 
What do you think? I’m an amateur at this, so your impressions, opinions, expertise or tips would be most welcome. 
By the way, I LOVE coffee 😉 

Whatever is True

Well, the second half of my week did not go as anticipated. On Thursday I suddenly realized that this Sunday was August 1st. I mean, I’d known July was almost gone, and I’d known for a long time that all the units for my two online Astronomy classes were due August 1st, but I didn’t really get the connection with THIS SUNDAY. Until yesterday. I had six units for one class and five for the other to complete. I’ve knocked it down to three and a half total left as of right now, but it hasn’t been fun. So, instead of researching all the fun things I wanted to write about yesterday, I’ve been staring blankly at my computer screen, trying to match the orbit of a baseball with either Orbit 2: Semi-major axis 3189km, highly eccentric, or Orbit 4. Semi-major axis 22,000 miles (35,000 km), eccentricity 0. And I don’t even know what a “Semi-major axis” is.

The last two days have been discouraging for me; I feel like I’m not doing well in my classes, so I think I’m a bad student. I feel like I’m not doing well at fixing meals, or unpacking the guest room, or cleaning the apartment, so I think I’m a failure at housekeeping. I’m SO grouchy and touchy every morning when I fix Brian’s lunch, and I’m always frustrated by my lack of productivity by the time he comes home, that I must not be doing a job as a wife either. Plus, I’m worried about the state of our finances, because I don’t know exactly how we’re doing with our budget, and I feel like since Brian isn’t worried, he must not care, and since he isn’t interested in making plans for my birthday, he must not care about that either, which means the he must not care about me, right? 

God reminded me of the sermon I heard last Sunday morning. Pastor Joel explained “Thoughts lead to Actions which lead to Feelings which leads to more Thoughts.” So wrong thinking leads to wrong doing, which leads to wrong feeling, and more wrong thinking, and so on. This is the cycle anyone who has suffered from anxiety or depression will recognize. It’s how fears, worry, and despair get started and soon become so ingrained that they are second nature.

That’s what I’ve been doing the last two days, wrong thinking about myself and about Brian, leading to wrong doing and wrong feeling and more wrong thinking. I need to renew my mind, start thinking true thoughts, and then doing what is right, and wait for the right feelings to follow. I need to realize that I made a mistake with my class, but I need to do all I can to rectify it and get it finished. I need to recognize that the housekeeping can go by the wayside for this week, until I get these classes finished, and that I don’t have to do it all. I need to remember that Brian is not the enemy, and it’s not fair to take out my frustration or exhaustion on him. And I need to get enough sleep. I need realize that Brian’s lack of concern over our finances probably means that my worry is unnecessary, and I can trust him to take care of me. I need to remember that Brian loves me deeply, and he does care about me, and my birthday, and I just need a little patience. 

I’ve been listening to the Christian radio a lot lately, and there’s a Dr. with a talk show who always talks about “The Power of One Thing,” or focusing on one thing at a time, growing in one area, fighting one temptation, parenting one situation, completing one essay, doing one good deed, at a time. I read this blog post by Simple Mom, and it totally reinforced the idea of doing one thing, even if it’s for only 15 minutes. Often we are perfectionists and think that if we can’t do it ALL just right, right now, then why even start? That kind of wrong thinking keeps us from right doing, and we don’t do anything. Go read the article, it’s worth the two minutes, and I know it will be a blessing to you as it was for me. 

When you find yourself feeling discouraged or dissatisfied, what are your thinking patterns like? Are your thoughts true? Are they noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Praiseworthy? Excellent? If you are at all like me, you know your thoughts are often quite different. How does the way you think affect the way you feel, or vise versa? What do you do to change that unhealthy cycle? 

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)

 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Let’s remember these criteria for our thoughts this weekend! See you next week!  

Birthday Traditions: What’s Yours?

Today is one week from my birthday.

This birthday is different from any birthday I’ve ever had, or probably will have.

I’m excited, because I’m moving to a whole new level: I won’t be a teenager any more. I’ll be two decades old. It will be the first birthday I’ll celebrate as a married woman, with my new immediate family – Brian.

And I’m apprehensive, because I’m moving to a whole new level:  I will be a real adult. I’ll be old. And it will be the first birthday I’ve celebrated across the country from almost all family and friends.

Deep down, I always love birthdays. My older sister’s birthday is before mine, and growing up, I remember telling mom that it wasn’t “fair” that I had to wait an ENTIRE month for mine to come. It wasn’t even an entire month, it was only 20 days. And I counted down every last one until it was my turn to bask in the birthday candlelight and the undivided attention of my family.

Oh, I remember the magic of birthday cakes lit by glow of little pink and white striped tapers, the shyness when all eyes were turned to me as mom led the singing of that ancient refrain: “Happy Birthday To Yooooou,” the sweetness of Betty Crocker frosting, the mystery of unopened presents, the satisfaction of getting just what you wanted.

Sadly, more recently birthdays with the family have been last minute, rush to the store the day before events with Walmart sale cakes. And the presents, well, you pick them out yourself usually. On the occasions that you don’t go to the store with mom, you can rest assured that you’re not going to get anything on your list, and you probably won’t get more than 2 presents. Not much anticipation either anymore: my brothers may or may not even be able to tell you the date of their birthdays. But, I think things are beginning to turn around. My little sister resurrected the Birthday Sign tradition, which is a handwritten and creatively themed banner that hangs by the kitchen table for the week of the birthday.

Speaking of traditions, I know a family that celebrates a Birthday Week, and every day of the week they do something special for the birthday girl or boy. Brian’s family always has peanuts and M&M’s with the cake and ice cream. Maybe you don’t celebrate birthdays at all. Maybe you eat pie instead of cake. What’s your family’s tradition? What do you do to make a birthday special?

Photo by: juliiet24 Photobucket

Blogging Blues

This week I’ve been sort-of following a summer-long Build a Better Blog challenge by SITs, The Secret is In the Sauce. If you haven’t heard of them, click on the link or button on here and follow them right away. If you have a blog, you won’t regret it! I find new favorite sites from their featured blogger of the day, and I’ve learned a TON about blogging. Mainly, that blogging well is really an art form requiring lots of strategy and computer know-how in addition to writing skill.

I see now that my original concept of a blog was very naive. I thought I’d just write posts now and then, people would find them, read them, follow me, and post comments, all on their own. After all, I didn’t notice Julie in Julie and Julia posting her posts to facebook, twitter, stumbleupon, and RSS feeds…whatever those are…and she was a hit! Well, based on the fact that lots of people tell me they read my blog, but don’t FOLLOW ME, and prefer to send me emails or facebook messages instead of commenting on my posts, I’m beginning to see that it takes more than a new background, new widgets, and diary-esque posts to have followers (Btw: you don’t have to have a blog to follow mine). Don’t get me wrong; I’ve greatly enjoyed the emails, facebook messages, and in-person comments! But I always find myself wishing I could copy and paste what you say onto my blog so that others can enjoy it too. After all, that’s what blogging is all about- sharing, meeting new people, and learning new things (and support!).

I’m beginning to wonder, if I don’t have a Twitter account, if I never figure out how to add the facebook “like” button, if I don’t learn how to embed videos, if I don’t know how to network, is my blog a failure??? What if I can’t define my niche? What if my page and my posts don’t have a matching theme? What if I don’t have a blog button? What if nobody thinks I’m funny?

In the midst of all the new information inundating me that I may never really understand (What is SEO?), I have picked up a few things: Good writing has an Audience. To have an Audience, writing must have a Purpose, and this Purpose should be clearly stated. That brings up more questions: What is the purpose of this blog? Why do I blog? Why do I care whether or not people follow me or even read anything I write? 
  •  This blog is to keep my friends and family up to date. It is also to provide encouragement and hopefully insight to those who read it. I also want to share helpful information and tips on various topics. Now, how do I sum that up in a nice sounding phrase? Any suggestions? 
  • I blog because, well, I LIKE it. I really do. I LOVE reading posts by blogs that I follow. I especially love honing my writing skills and developing my computer knowledge. I love the idea of having my life, my ideas, me – out there for people to read about. I’m not really sure why that is, except that it’s very validating. 
  • Why do I care… now that is the question. If this blog is for my family and friends’ benefit, why does it matter to me whether or not those family members and friends want to publicly identify with it? I’ve thought about it long and hard, and the only reason I can come up with is that I am selfish. Yep, it’s true. The little girl inside me is standing on a chair, yelling red-faced about something but really meaning: “NOTICE ME! I want ATTENTION! I want, I want…”

 Which leads me to the next question, what do I want out of it? I want to feel like I’m good at something. I want to feel liked, accepted, and loved. And this blog, and my attempts to make it successful  are only one small expression of that very human desire. 

However, while I know it’s a very real, very human desire, I also know that this blog isn’t going to fulfill it, even if I do someday have 100’s of faithful followers and figure out what an RSS feed does. 
Really, I don’t need to be affirmed through this blog, because I (should) know who I am. I’m a jar of clay. (See verse in the blog subtitle) Empty. 
If I’m going to keep blogging and keep my sanity, I’m going to need to remind myself often of the main Purpose of this blog: Glorifying God. He’s the only one who can fill this jar of clay and pour it out as a blessing to others. So, this is my Blog Building Challenge: 
  • To focus on developing the writing skills God has given me, instead of comparing myself to others, with the purpose of glorifying Him by blessing others. 
  • To focus on sharing honestly with my readers, instead of counting my followers. 
  • To enjoy writing, both that of other bloggers and my own.  
  • To do this, one day at a time. 
Thanks for reading this far…I think this post was more for me than you. But, if you have an idea, a suggestion, or a word of encouragement for me, I’d love to hear from you- in person, email, facebook, messenger pigeon, note in a bottle, smoke signals…however you prefer, just not in an RSS feed.  
(Photo credit: www.Dreamstime.com)