Thanksgiving, Love, Gifts, and Prayer

Part of me feels like counting blessings like barbecue pizza and candles is trivial, in light of some bad news I received yesterday, that I’ll get to later in this post. But really, all is a gift from God. And in times like these, I have to focus on finding beauty, even in small, trivial things, to remember that God is good.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I was thankful for…

Family
We had Thanksgiving dinner with some of our church family; our senior pastor, his wife and kids, and his extended family, as well as some of their friends. Later, we played games and socialized until my SIL arrived. 
Brian’s older sister drove over from LA to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us. She probably doesn’t appreciate this sort-of candid shot, but it’s the only picture I took all weekend with her in it. 
Food
Barbeque Blue Burger, Garlic Fries, and  Baked Potato Fries
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich and Beet Salad
Pumpkin Pie Shake

Barbeque Chicken Pizza
Originally, I was going to fix a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner for the three of us on Friday. Instead, we decided to do some errands and go shopping, and eat at Joe’s Farm Grill. I think we made the right choice!
Sales and Coupons
So we did do a little shopping on Friday, at about two in the afternoon, so all the early morning crazies had gone to bed. Andrea gave me a coupon for a free signature item at Bath and Body Works with a purchase. Well, Brian had told me weeks earlier that he really wanted a peppermint scented candle. Bath and Body Works candles were buy one get one free, a really good deal considering that one usually cost $20.
   
So, I got Brian the peppermint candle and myself the evergreen one, and a lotion for free!
I also got good deals on some other things I wanted. While I don’t like the idea of going crazy on Black Friday and buying a bunch of stuff right after we were supposedly so thankful for all we had, it was a gift to be able to get good deals on some things that had been on my list for awhile. 
Relaxation
From Thursday to Sunday, we slept in, and I wore my pjs most of the morning. We also watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 and 2, and the special features. After those movies, we transitioned into the Christmas spirit with Elf, White Christmas, and A Miracle on 34th Street. 
While watching White Christmas, Andrea baked an apple crisp, and I made a pumpkin pie.

I read in Better Homes and Gardens that baking is a great stress reliever because it makes you focus on one thing at a time. Plus, eating the dessert is a good stress reliever too.
I’m also thankful for…
  • Christmas music, and that I can now play it loud and proud.
  • The Christmas decor strewn around the dining room, waiting to be put up.
  • Brian allowed me to go shopping, however unwillingly.
  • Brian told me at random times over the weekend that I looked cute, or “cute as a button.” How sweet 🙂
  • Getting to meet a high school friend of Andrea’s who lives in Phoenix. We all met up for lunch, and she was a super sweet girl and fun to talk to. Plus, it’s always nice to meet fellow Iowans, especially those who attended Iowa State University. 
  • I’m thankful that Brian is skilled at fixing cars. Not only does he keep our cars in good shape, but he was able to fix Andrea’s broken door handle over the weekend.
  • Brian mailed my residency application. It’s been a long time in the making, and I so appreciate that he’s handled the paperwork, putting it together, and getting it sent. 
  • Brian and I have had several good talks about life, work, and what we as a family should do. I love his heart for people and for serving God. 
  • When I emailed Brian yesterday to tell him that I was going to be very busy with final projects this week, he readily offered to help with dinner, dishes, and house cleaning this week. 
  • He is also doing a great job at finding potential houses and analyzing our finances.
  • Yesterday he got us pre-approved for financing. 
  • I’m very thankful that Brian understands how loans, credit scores, etc. work. Because when he tries to explain to me how they decide how much money to loan us, I don’t understand a word.
I’m most thankful that I have Brian to lean on. Last night I got a phone call from my dad, which usually isn’t a good sign. My Aunt Joy, who, as I’ve told you about before, was diagnosed with brain cancer, was in the hospital in critical condition. Her brain is swelling, and the doctors are trying to get it under control. 
My dad and my older sister said she has gone downhill fast. She’s very swollen from the steroids she’s been taking for the pain, she’s losing her short term memory, has difficulty speaking and walking, and started having seizures last week. 
I’m afraid that this might mean that we have less time left with her than we thought. 
When I got off the phone with my dad, Brian was there to hold me. I’m very thankful for him. And, I’m very thankful to those of you who follow me on facebook and let me know that you were praying. Thank you so much for your prayers. Please don’t stop. 

Join me at these blogs to practice gratefulness…


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Love and Gifts

Today I’m combining the challenge from Newlywed’s Bliss with counting gifts.

Dear Brian,

1. Thank you for listening so sympathetically all week as I struggled with a research paper for school.
2. And thank you for telling me “I believe in you,” when I was ready to give up on it entirely on Friday night.
3. And that same night, I love that you brought me Starbucks, it definitely helped!
4. I love your willingness to fix dinner on nights when I’m busy. It lifts a huge load of stress off of my shoulders.
5. I love that you’re a very creative and adventurous cook, and you’re good at making something with whatever we have.
6. I love that you took the time Saturday afternoon to clean out the inside of the Ford. You knew it’s messy state had been bothering me, so I really appreciate that you took care of it! Thank you for taking good care of both of our vehicles.
7. I love that although you resist doing something outside of your comfort zone, afterwards you’re glad that you did.
8. I love the fact that you are so talented at grocery shopping. It’s such a blessing to me, because I really don’t enjoy doing it at all, and you can do it faster and better than I can any day.
9. I love that you’re seeking what God wants you to do with your life, and you want to serve Him more than just make money.
10. I love that you want to make a difference in the world by loving people.

A few excerpts from my gratitude journal…

593. A breakthrough idea for the gift guide. Keeping it on pintrest saved me hours of time!
594. Every one of my blog readers. You are a gift!
595. Brian’s work load has gotten lighter.
601. We had a great turn out for our first week of linking up at Newlywed’s Bliss. Reading your posts was a gift, and I hope writing them was a blessing to you.
604. Brian taking the dog to the park. So nice to have total quiet, and some of the dog’s energy used up.
607. An encouraging facebook message from my best friend.
608. A letter from our sponsor child in Honduras, Bessi, with a picture of herself. Tears on my part.
609. I smashed my fingers in a window, but after keeping ice on them for awhile, I was able to finish typing the aforementioned research paper. They’re only a tiny bit sore now, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to type the paper with one hand.
610. Brian’s sister is coming to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us!

Will you join me in giving thanks for your spouse this month? What gifts have you been blessed with TODAY?


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Gifts, Large and Small

Taking time to be thankful on a Monday evening…
556. Breakfast, Bible Study, and journaling on the patio. That’s Greek yogurt and blackberries there in my bowl. I’ve really enjoyed spending some quiet time outside in the mornings, since it’s been a little cooler here lately. 
557. Early mornings. I’ve been trying to get up at 5:30 a.m. to help Brian with his lunch and see him off to work. Then I eat my breakfast and exercise. I’ve really enjoyed having more time in the mornings!

558. A wonderful weekend with the youth group. On Saturday, we had a youth group service project followed by swimming at the senior pastor’s house. We cleaned the youth room, which hadn’t even been vacuumed in at least the year we’ve been attending church there, if not longer. We also cleaned the carpets, which was very needed. 

Before
After!

In addition to cleaning and organizing the youth room, we cleaned and did yard work at the home of an elderly couple in our church.

It was a blessing to work alongside the teens. They had such good attitudes and servant’s hearts, and were downright hilarious! Afterwards, I finally felt like they liked us. In the whole time we’ve been leading the group, I’ve always felt a little resented, and finally after working and playing together Saturday, I really feel like they do like us and are glad we’re there.

559. A wonderful Sunday. Brian did a great job teaching Sunday school in the morning and youth group that evening. I really enjoyed both lessons, and I think the teens did too.

560. I have an amazing husband. I really do. Sometimes his insight and thoughtfulness just blow me away. Sunday night one of the guys was really getting on my nerves. He tends to be disruptive and more than a little annoying most of the time, and it was really bad during youth group. Brian got onto him about something and the kid walked off and went outside. Brian took time to follow him out there and talk one on one to find out what was really going on in his life. He then and offered to help the situations that were most on his mind by giving him some math tutoring and taking him to the church men and boy’s campout this weekend.

And even though he strained his back this week and is in quite a bit of pain, he’s trying hard to keep a positive attitude, which I really appreciate.

561. Next weekend is the Women of Faith Conference in Phoenix! I can’t wait!

562. The weekend after that is the Ladies’ Retreat! Brian had to force me to go last year, and I had such a great time. I’m really looking forward to this year. September is going to fly by with all these weekend events.

563. October 3rd is the tentative launch for my new blog endeavor! I’m very excited, even though there is a lot to be done in the meantime.

564. Friday is the first day of fall. It’s been a little cooler here in the valley, at least in the mornings, and it definitely feels like it. I’m hoping to do some fall clothes shopping here in the next couple weeks so that I have some new things to wear to the conferences, and just because!

So now I want to know, what are you grateful for this week? Did any special gifts come your way?

When I Don’t Feel Like Being Spiritual

My phone rang, and I knew it had to be my advisor. I’d emailed her twice, explaining that I was applying for residency at Arizona State University for the fall ’11 semester, and asking if there was anything else I could do to change from being an online ASU student to an on campus student.

I survived the last school year, but barely. When we moved to Arizona a year ago, I transferred to Arizona State University’s online program. It had it’s perks: we didn’t have to buy a second car right away, or pay out of state tuition, and I could do school in my pj’s, if I wanted. But after a semester, I felt like I couldn’t take any more. After being actively involved in campus ministry and campus life for two years, I felt almost completely isolated and cut off. It didn’t help that some of my teachers felt the need to burden us with heaps of busy-work, and some had no idea what they were teaching. Last semester, my classes had me in tears…every day. 

I resigned myself to another semester of online classes, with hopes of going on campus for my final semester of college. So when I found out that the deadline for applying for residency for the fall semester wasn’t until August 24th, I was over the moon with excitement that maybe, just maybe, I could go on campus for my entire senior year.

Hence, the frenzy of emailing advisors and pouring over stacks of residency paperwork. Then, my advisor called.

“I can switch you over to on campus right now, if you want!” She said. “But your tuition will look pretty ugly until your residency application is approved.”

“Well, can we see if the classes I need are open on-campus first?” I asked. She looked up my class numbers, and there just happened to be a handful of seats left open in every class!

“You’ll need to drop all of the online classes you’re registered for right now, and after I switch you to on-campus, we can register you for the on-campus classes….oh…that’s interesting,” her tone changed. “It seems that even the on-campus students are taking their classes online this semester. All those classes are being offered as what we call icourses…so that means you wouldn’t actually be on campus, even as an on-campus student.” 

All my built up hopes came tumbling down. The only reason to switch from being an online student to an on-campus student would be the lower price of in-state tuition versus paying per credit. But, we’d have to pay the out of state tuition price until our application was approved, if it was approved. It wasn’t worth that gamble when I’d still be taking classes at home. 

I had a good cry, but consoled myself with “well, there’s still next semester. At least there’s a chance that they’ll offer my classes on-campus next semester.” Then Brian got home.

As I folded clothes, he flopped on the bed. “Whatcha been doing babe?” I asked.

“Trying unsuccessfully to get your residency,” he said. “Unsuccessfully, because you’re not going to go on-campus next semester either.” 

I continued putting away the clothes in silence as he explained. Apparently, the paperwork that Brian’s parents have to fill out (yes, they have to fill out paperwork, that’s how crazy trying to get residency is!) stated that the information they provide needs to prove that Brian has been financially independent in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Well, Brian wasn’t financially independent until we got married in 2010. “So, for you to be approved as an Arizona resident, you have to be married to an Arizona resident, and one who has been financially independent for at least two years. There’s no way you’ll get approved.

I left the room for awhile. I didn’t feel like being spiritual about this. I felt like being angry. 

Angry at Brian for not understanding how important this was to me.
Angry at ASU for making it so difficult to classify as a resident.
And as it came out later, when Brian and I finally talked about it, angry at God.

Why did God make Brian get a job in Arizona? Why did He give Brian a job where he’s miserable 99% of the time? Why couldn’t He have given him the design engineering job that was close to Ames? I could have finished my last two years of college at Iowa State University. Why did He make us move far from our families and friends?  I thought I’d worked through all this and resolved to trust God about it a long time ago. I was wrong.

I know none of this was by accident. God could have given Brian that job in Iowa, I could have continued at Iowa State, we could have had a group of over half a dozen young married couples to spend time with.

Brian said “God has a plan,” and “He’s not concerned about our happiness, but our holiness,” which is all well and good, but when you’re feeling the pangs of disappointment and visualizing what life could have been like if God had had a different plan, pat answers fall flat.

I didn’t feel like being spiritual.

I was angry all Friday evening and Saturday morning. Then God had enough.

I was rehashing again how miserable I felt and how much I dreaded school starting, and a familiar song began to play on the radio. It was familiar, because I sang it for special music at church a few months ago.

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel you near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if each promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win, we know
That pain reminds this hearts,
That this is not, this is not our home…..
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

What if my greatest disappointments,
Or the aching of this life,
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.
What if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?

The truth flooded my heart and mind.

  • The truth is, I don’t know that staying in Iowa would have been as wonderful as I imagine it to be. Living in Iowa and attending ISU would have had trials too.
  • The truth is, I would never have met some of the wonderful friends and mentors I have now if we hadn’t moved to Arizona.
  • The truth is, I might have never started blogging seriously if we hadn’t moved to Arizona, and I would have met all of you.
  • The truth is, if God hadn’t brought us to Arizona, we wouldn’t be leading or being blessed and challenged by the youth group.
  • The truth is, sometimes my greatest disappointments are blessings in disguise.

I’m still disappointed that I will miss out on half of my college experience. But, I know that I’m not missing out on the blessings God has planned for me this year, as I continue online.

It’s still hard to accept that God wants Brian to have this job. It’s still hard to be without friends our age and stage in life. But we have experienced God’s blessings.

534. Going to school online may mean that I can spend more time writing and blogging than I would otherwise.

535. Going to school online gives me the flexibility with my schedule to allow for working at my church one day a week.

536. Going to school online last year taught me a lot about writing, design, websites, and communication.

537. Going to school online gives me the opportunity to practice perseverance, patience, and endurance.

538. Going to school online reminds me that God has a plan, and is working everything out for my eventual good.

539. Living in Arizona has forced us to make friends by reaching out to other people instead of waiting to be reached out to.

540. Living in Arizona has made us appreciate the friendships we do have more.

541. Living in Arizona has helped us learn to deal with rejection.

542. Living in Arizona has given us the opportunity to make some wonderful relationships with couples who are more experienced in life.

543. Living in Arizona has provided us with opportunities to grow and stretch our faith.

544. Living in Arizona is where God wants us to be.

545. So many kind comments on my last post and prayers for me and this college situation. I appreciated it so much. I’m so grateful for you!

The Gift of Relationships

Today I’m practicing gratitude again, and many of things on my list seem to be related to relationships with others.

524. Brian got a smart phone at last! He wanted a Droid when we first got married, but I finally convinced him that it didn’t make sense to spend that much money on a phone and then say I couldn’t afford to fly back to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding. Plus, I knew that there would be a lot of hidden costs as we moved to Arizona and got settled in an apartment. Now, a year later, he finally has his Droid!

When he’s home from work, he’s hardly done anything other than mess with his phone, it seems. It’s that amazing, I guess!

 It has already come in handy for looking up Little Caesar’s Pizza in our area while we’re out driving.

But seriously, I’m grateful for the incredible technology we have today, and I know this new phone will be very useful. 
525. Date night at home! It was my week to plan our date, so I planned a dinner and movie, relaxed date. 
I fixed a pasta dish with Brian’s favorite: vodka sauce. I didn’t actually make the sauce, I just used stuff from the store, and added it to penne, along with some dried basil. I tried to make a salad like the ones at Olive Garden, with the onion rings on top. 
The hydrangea table cloth and the lace doily are both anniversary gifts from my mother-in-law, and the candle is the unity candle from our wedding. The fancy dishes were all wedding presents. I think this is the first time we’ve used them!
The pasta dish and salad were a hit!

526. The hot tub. I’m grateful that the people we’re renting the house from said that we were free to use the hot tub. We hadn’t taken advantage of it until Friday.

We waited until after dark, and I put candles around the edges. It was incredibly relaxing and romantic!

After we dried off and changed, Brian agreed to watch Emma with me. This was kind of a big deal, since he dislikes Pride & Prejudice (even the Keira Knightly one) and Sense & Sensibility.

Sadly, he fell asleep a few minutes into it. Sigh. I’ll keep working on him!
528. Brian fixed the electric problem we had with our car! This was a huge blessing. The dashboard and radio lights weren’t working, and after we got pulled over, we were told our tail lights weren’t either. There was a short somewhere, because it kept blowing fuses. Brian found the issue and fixed it, which saved us hundreds of dollars! I’m very grateful for a handy husband!
529. We are flying back to Iowa this week for a wedding! These are two good friends of ours, and we’re very happy for them. It will be great to see everyone again, especially some of our college friends that we didn’t get to see in May during our last trip. 

530. Speaking of friends, one of my best friends from college happened to be in Phoenix last Friday, and we got to have lunch together! I hadn’t seen her since my wedding, so it was so much fun to catch up!

531. Friends who enjoy hanging out with us, even if they have a penchant for children’s 80’s movies, like the one we watched Saturday…

532. My birthday is coming up! I’m excited, even though Brian will be gone on a business trip until 8 p.m. the day of. It’s ok though, because we’re planning to drive to LA that night and spend the weekend with my sister-in-law and celebrate with going to the beach and enjoying the cooler weather!

What are you grateful for today? Who are you thankful that you get to spend time with? 


The Gift of Getting Away

512. God knows that getting away from all the noise, the facebook notifications, the flagged emails, the twitter updates, is sometimes the perfect gift. 

513. And it’s even better with friends.

sidenote: these guys own the house we’re renting, and the dog belongs to them. 

 514. The gift of getting close up with nature.

 515. The gift of adventure. 

Two of the families on our trip are native Arizonians and grew up camping in this area. Because they knew some of us weren’t as experienced, they picked an easy trail for our hike.

Easy. Mmmhmm.

The views were breathtaking, but I didn’t get to look up often, I was too busy trying not to stumble and fall down the mountainside. 
the “easy” trail

It was grueling for me. Much of the trail going down was loose, sandy gravel. I was as slow as the 5 and 8 year old kids. God brought to mind several spiritual parallels, and I found that encouraging. For instance, the hike was difficult, but it was good for me. It was making me stronger physically. In the same way, God allows us to experience trials so that we grow stronger spiritually. 

516. He brings beauty from ashes.

 517. A strong partner
I depended on Brian to keep my balance much of the time, and to lead me in the best way down loose gravel slopes, around scorched fallen trees, and up rocky inclines. 

the “easy” path gets harder…

 518. A marked trail to follow.

When the path got rocky and hard to see, some hiker before us had marked the path with stones stacked on top of each other. When we feel like we’ve lost our way in life, God gives us reminders of His plan for us and His forgiveness and love. Sometimes, He uses people who’ve been there before.


519. Being held by His hands, seeing His glory revealed. 

We arrived at our destination, a cave that rail road makers had blasted out of the mountain, but never finished.  

Looking at the pictures now, it brings to mind when placed Moses in a cleft in the rock and covered him with His hand as He passed by, so that Moses could see the tail-end of His glory.

We were hidden in the rock, and beholding God’s glory revealed through nature. 

 And we were always in His hands.

518. The gift of stillness.

The water hurried past, but for a weekend, we didn’t hurry anywhere.

519. Light touching fallen things and making them golden and beautiful. 


520. The gift of growth. However painful it may be.

521. The gift of the small and the humble.

522. The gift of knowing that He knows what lies around the bend. So I don’t have to. 

523. The gift of peace, quiet, and rest. 

Are you taking time to “get away” this summer? Are you taking time to rest and renew? 

Finding Beauty in the Weekend

Multitudes on Mondays, counting the many ways God shows His love for me, always makes my Monday better!  I haven’t done very well at recording gifts in my journal lately, I’ve let business and stress crowd it out, not realizing that taking the time to slow down and reflect on God’s love towards me is the perfect antidote. But now, I’m back. 
370. School is over!!! I turned in my final project last Friday, and I’ve already received some of my grades- both A’s so far!
371. To celebrate, Brian and I had a wonderful date! Dinner and a movie at the two dollar theater, always a good choice. 
372. I got dressed up for our date, and really enjoyed wearing a skirt and feeling pretty.
373. We went to Old Chicago for dinner. I’d never been there before. The food was amazing! I had an Italian sausage stromboli, and Brian had the “meat me” calzone. So good!
374. Good conversation. During dinner, we worked through some questions to help us evaluate our family priorities, strengths, and goals for the purpose of writing a family missions statement. I’d been wanting to do this for a long time. We used the questions from Simplemom.net for creating a family mission statement. The idea is that having a purpose statement allows you to be intentional about how you spend your time, resources, etc. so that you can achieve your goals as a family.
375. Killing time at Barnes and Noble. We had several hours to kill between dinner and the movie, so we hung out at the bookstore and read magazines. I got to read all about the royal wedding, and browse In Style magazine. 
Hats worn to the royal wedding
376. White chocolate caramel Macadamia nut cheesecake. After reading for awhile, we had enough room for desert. We shared a piece from the Cheesecake factory. Even though we were both sharing only one piece, it was too rich for us to finish!
377. The movie we saw was “Unknown,” a Bourne Trilogy type movie. I really like the Bourne movies, but this was a little scarier. I spent much of the movie curled up in a ball in my seat with my sweater over my head, and Brian’s hands over my ears and eyes. So why is this a gift? I enjoyed Brian protecting me! 
378. Spending time by the pool Saturday and Sunday afternoon. It was great to finally have a weekend without any schoolwork to do! We are very blessed to have a swimming pool in our complex, and we really enjoyed working on our tans and cooling off. It’s been in the 100’s lately!
379. Mail! I love getting mail, and Saturday we got an invitation to my niece’s first birthday party, my younger sister’s graduation open house, and Brian’s cousin’s wedding. 
380. This is big news: we will be moving in July! I mentioned awhile back that a couple we’d just become friends with was moving in July. Well, they decided to rent their house, and our apartment lease happens to end in July also. We’d looked for a new apartment, but hadn’t really found anything. When we rent their house, they will leave a lot of their furniture for us to use, and their dog! They’ll be moving around a lot and can’t take him with them, and their company provides furnished apartments. Brian will get the garage he’s been wanting, and I’ll get a pet to keep me company! We are really excited, and I can’t wait so show you some pictures!
381. We signed the lease last night and enjoyed ice cream afterwards, and played with the dog. He is seriously the funniest dog I’ve ever seen. He’s also the best behaved!
382. I finished the Fashion 101 homework from the second week, the shopping your closet challenge. I’ve already referred to the pictures I took twice when looking for something to wear, so it’s been very helpful!
This is my accessorized outfit. I wore it to church yesterday 🙂
Same shirt, but this is the casual version.
383. A quiet, cloudy Monday morning. 

384. Talking to my mom on Mother’s Day. 
385. DaySpring’s e-cards. I didn’t get my Mother’s Day cards mailed in time to get there by yesterday, so I also sent e-cards! It worked really well! They have some wonderful cards, including cards you can send to friends who are moms to brighten their day.
386. On Saturday, we went to Walmart to look at eye glasses for me. After we finally decided on a pair, we found out that they don’t take our insurance. At least, now I know what style I like. 
387. While at Walmart, we picked out some paint color ideas for the house! 
388. The maintenance man came by and replaced light bulbs, fixed our shower drain, and replaced a broken outlet cover, little stuff we just hadn’t gotten around to getting taken care of earlier. 
How was your weekend? What gifts did God give you? (They’re there, you just have to look for them!)

What do a police helicopter, a rock concert, baseball and marmalade have in common?

They were all part of my weekend! And, I count them all as gifts from God.

175. Safety. Thursday night Brian and I went to a park and played some catch, then came home and had dinner on our patio. We sat out there, just enjoying the evening, and I commented on all of the airplanes going by. “No, there’s a helicopter circling our apartment….and it has a search light, Brian informed me. That made me a little….nervous. Brian wanted to stand on the front porch to see the helicopter from there, and I didn’t want to be left alone in the apartment, so I went with him.

As we were watching the helicopter overhead, a police car pulled up in front of our building. They had a search light too that they were shining around our building. I gasped as two police men with German shepherds rounded the corner and went past us. I really wanted to go inside, so I made Brian come in and look in all the closets and behind all the doors, and then I shut all the windows and blinds. Brian stayed outside on the front porch; he said he was watching for a dark scary guy to go running past, and then he’d call the police. I think he’s been watching too many crime shows lately!

I searched for news online, and discovered there had been an armed robbery not too far from us. The helicopter continued circling overhead for some time, but eventually moved on. I don’t know if they found who they were looking for. I’m just glad we were safe!

176. The Rock and Worship Roadshow. For $10, we got into the US Airways Center to see several top notch Christian rock and worship bands: Anthem, The Afters, Thousand Foot Crutch, Lecrae, Matt Maher, Jars of Clay, and Mercy Me. We had a blast! It was so much fun to sing and worship with thousands and thousands of other believers.

Brian got really excited when we saw Lecrae’s van

We were especially excited to see Lecrae. We’ve been fans of his music for a long time and he was the main reason Brian wanted to go to the concert. Neither of us enjoys rap usually, but Lecrae is something else. His hard hitting, truth filled lyrics make all the difference.

He ran and jumped and hit the cymbals. I caught it at just the right moment.

I was excited to see the Afters since “Light up the Sky” is one of my favorite songs. I was really glad they played it!

Light up the Sky 
The Afters

I love Jars of Clay too, and knew most of the songs they played.

During one of the songs, he walked around in the audience
He moved around a lot, so it was really hard to take pictures!

Matt Maher’s songs are always on the radio, and we enjoyed worshiping with him.

Matt Maher

Thousand Foot Crutch is not my style… they’re a little scary. They were sooooo loud too, I had to keep my fingers in my ears because it was just painful! I did enjoy taking pictures of the guitarist though.

He had dreadlocks past his waist, which he flipped around while playing
That blur is his hair

Mercy Me was amazing! They were my first favorite Christian band. They played for an hour, and it was awesome!

Here Bart is talking about the song “Beautiful” that he wrote for his daughters
Of course, they sang “I Can Only Imagine”

177. An answer to prayer. I don’t know if it had to do with the video shown at the concert and Mercy Me talking about how Compassion International has changed their lives, but Brian has agreed to sponsor a child. I’ve wanted to do this for several months, but Brian wasn’t willing to before, so this is a very exciting answer to prayer!

Compassion is very wise with their finances: 82% of Compassion’s funds go straight to their child development programs, which include education, food, medical care, clothing, and Biblical teaching. Their administration and fundraising costs are minimal, and as a result, they have been routinely given the highest ratings for a charity organization.

178. Spring Training Baseball Games. Brian and I both love baseball. I’ve never understood why some people think it’s boring! As a late birthday present, we went to the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds game. The weather was perfect. It was such a beautiful day and a good game, even though the Cubs lost.

179. The smells of popcorn, cotton candy, and lemonade.

180. Life in a plant I thought was dead.

181. Warm toast with orange marmalade.

182. No school over Spring Break!

183. Two days before my family comes to get ready for them.

184. Mercy Me’s new CD, which I bought at the concert for a mere $5.

The Generous Mr. Lovewell, MercyMe

185. Two more semesters of college. I registered for fall classes, so I guess I’m going to school online again.

186. Spring flowers.

187. Many prayers offered up all over the world for Japan.

Please take time to pray for Japan and the other places affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis, maybe right now as you read this sentence?

What gifts are you grateful for today?


Undeserved Gifts, Lessons Learned Again

“I feel like a failure.” I sobbed.
“You’re not a failure.” Brian said.

Easy for him to say, I thought.

I’ve been working on a new blog design for weeks. I wanted a lighter, fresher look for spring, and after hours of hard work, watching the same Photoshop tutorials ten times, and much frustration, the design was almost done. But I just realized that my design didn’t display correctly in Firefox browsers. The blog’s footer, the thingy I tried to make on this blog with the three sections on the bottom of the blog, it wasn’t staying at the bottom of the blog. It actually covered the entire area for posts and the sidebar- just about everything except the header. Here’s the design, try looking at it in Firefox to see what I mean. You’ll see a dark gray box over everything, but if you use Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, which is what I use, it displays correctly.

Brian tried to offer an explanation which just made me more frustrated. I slammed my laptop shut and went to turn off the lamp and go to bed.

Click,click,click. It’s a three way bulb, and in my anger I turned it too fast and clicked right past turning it off.

ClickClickClick.
ClickClickClick.
CLICKCLICKCLICK.

Brian started laughing. I started crying. I finally turned it off and pulled the comforter over my head.

“Babe, what’s wrong?” He was still chuckling.

“I’ve worked SO HARD on that design and now it won’t work!” I wailed.

“Well, just tell all your readers to use Google Chrome or IE.”

“But if I ever have new readers come to my blog, they won’t know to use chrome or IE,” I spat. “If they see a big gray box over everything they’ll never stay and read it! No one will want to read a blog with an ugly gray box on it! It’s ugly!” I don’t remember all I said, but I know I was more than a little hysterical.

I probably scared Brian, because he didn’t say anything for a long time. I continued sobbing into my pillow.

Finally, he asked, “What’s wrong babe?”

This wasn’t just about the blog design. I told him what I was really crying about, “I feel like a failure.”

“You’re not a failure.”

“But I’m not good at anything anymore!”

He just shook his head. It probably was an overstatement. I do that a lot. But the feeling that I’ve failed is something I can’t shake. It goes deeper than a failed blog design. It’s rooted in feelings of being overwhelmed and inadequate.

White Roses in the Rain
photo © 2009 John Morgan | more info (via: Wylio)

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to write papers and do other class work all afternoon Saturday and Sunday. Even when we went to Disneyland over President’s Day weekend, I had to write two papers before Sunday night. I’m getting them turned in on time, but I know I’m not doing them well most of the time. I hate turning in poor work. It doesn’t really matter to me if I get a good grade on it, I know it wasn’t my best and it’s not good enough for me. I feel like a failure as a student.

Because I’ve been so busy with school, I haven’t kept up with housework. The dirty floors and grey layer of dust are constantly nagging at me, keeping me from really relaxing. And it makes me feel like a failure as a homemaker.

When I said I wasn’t good at anything anymore, I was thinking about high school. Back in those “good old days,” I was at the height of my singing and artistic ability. Then ministry and school took over in college. To be honest with you, sometimes I miss high school for that reason. I wish I still had the time and means to devote to practicing and developing those talents. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a disappointment.

And I feel inadequate. I have a list of projects I want to do. There’s 17. Many of them are projects other people have asked me to do, like designing business cards, the youth group blog, and an instruction manual for the church secretaries, to name some of the bigger ones. I’ve agreed to do them, but I doubt my abilities. Can I really do it “good enough”? I have so little experience, am I really the right person for the job? And there’s the question of time; when will I have time to get it all done?

One of my new year’s resolutions was to make time for creating. It hasn’t really happened. And I feel the dryness inside that comes from the lack of expression. Not just arts and craft projects I’d like to create, but things I want to write. I’ve had ideas percolating, but no time to put them to paper, and when I try, I’m rusty and clumsy, and they disintegrate. I pick up a pencil and try to sketch an image or a thought, and I feel like I’ve lost my touch, lost my skill.

I didn’t say all of that to Brian. I was ashamed that I felt this way, when I know others are going through cancer, loss of loved ones, sick children, fear of losing a job, and much, much weightier things than my feelings of being overwhelmed and lacking in ability. I’m only telling you, because I don’t want to ever appear to be someone I’m not. I am selfish and foolish and petty.

I sat down to read my Bible the next morning, knowing I’d acted foolishly with my outburst the night before. I’d thrown myself a pity-party, when I didn’t deserve one.

I didn’t deserve what happened next either: a gift. Reading in Exodus 31, God speaking to Moses about building the tabernacle says:

 “I have called Bezalel…I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs…I myself have appointed him…in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded them.” 

He put skill in his heart, so that by creating what God commanded him, he would bring glory to God.

Building the tabernacle

How could I forget? My life is not about me. It doesn’t matter whether or not I feel like I have skill. God puts skill in the hearts of those whom he appoints. It doesn’t even matter whether or not I feel overwhelmed. God chooses the weak vessels to show His strength. Because it’s all about Him, about His name being glorified.

So I count gifts, to remember that everything is a gift, and it’s not about me, but about the Gift-giver.

101. Learning the same lessons over again.
102. It’s not about me.
103. God gives skill.
104. Time enough to do the important every day.
105. Brian laughing at my jokes.
106. Rest.
107. Brian’s new haircut.
108. The new recipe I tried turned out well.
109. Yogurt.
110. A new song on the radio.
111. The smell of my shampoo.
112. A cloudy day.
113. Learning patience.
114. Learning through loneliness, even without knowing what the lesson is yet.
115. Too many good ideas.
116. Pistachio ice cream.
117. Cuddling.
118. Toilets, even if they do need cleaning.
119. A new semester about to start.
120. Today.

The Weekend’s Gifts

81. Fridays. Arguably one of my favorite days of the week, when work ends and I can finally relax. It’s full of anticipation for the rest of the weekend. 
82. Sunlight shining warm on my face and making me blink by its brightness.
Cincinnati - Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum photo © 2010 David Ohmer | more info (via: Wylio)

83. The sound of a baby laughing nearby.

84. Green, green grass, smelling fresh and damp from the sprinklers. 
85. A single sprig of pink flowers blooming on a bush.
Free Green Grass in Morning Light Creative Commonsphoto © 2009 D. Sharon Pruitt | more info (via: Wylio)
86. As I walked back to my apartment, I passed a little girl playing with her mother. She pointed at me and talked excitedly in Spanish, and her mother laughed embarrassedly and answered her while smiling at me. I don’t speak Spanish, but thought I heard “muy bonita.” Or it might have been “muy gordita,” but I choose to believe the first. 
87. Beautiful words from Ann Voskamp. I’m two chapters into “One thousand Gifts,” and I don’t want to put it down! 

88. A fresh juicy orange.
Orange is the happiest color.photo © 2008 Nattu | more info (via: Wylio)
89. A tantalizing sewing machine, sparking creativity. It was tempting to give up on school and just go sew, but I restrained myself. 
90. Education. As a girl, living in America, I am very grateful for the opportunity to go to college. I know many women  around the world are not so blessed. 
91. Clean water to drink.
92. Cool breezes smelling of fresh laundry blowing through the screen porch door. 
on the line 2photo © 2010 Tabitha Blue | more info (via: Wylio)
93. Fresh peaches and pumkin pancakes. Surprisingly, they taste really good together.
94. Pizza. Do you ever get pizza cravings, or is it just me?
Pizza that makes you wanna cry!photo © 2007 Penny | more info (via: Wylio)
95. A clean house. I feel so much more relaxed and peaceful when the house is clean.
96. A soft nightgown and bathrobe.
97. Inspiring magazines. I’m reading my February edition of Better Homes and Gardens, which always inspires new decorating and crafting ideas, and last night I found a new online magazine called Matchbook. It’s very vintage, romantic, and girly. And if you’re style challenged like me, the pictures of what goes well together are very helpful. 
98. Free valentines! I posted a link to them in my Weekend Reading yesterday, so you can download them too.
99. February starts tomorrow! I’m excited for February, because Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays, and Brian’s birthday is in February!
Happy Heart's desirephoto © 2010 Shironeko Euro | more info (via: Wylio)
100. Watching the sunrise today.

How was your weekend? What gifts did God bless you with?