My Fab Fam

My Fab Fam
Photo by Thousand Hills Photography. Click on photo to visit their site.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Breakfast Bar Update

WHOA!  Four posts in one week!  Don't get used to it.  This is going to be a quickie, mostly copying/pasting from the Quaker Oats website because...

...I have abandoned my search for the perfect breakfast bar and reverted back to my old faithful breakfast standby:  chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  I thought I'd just throw it your way in case you're interested.  Or, if you buy Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, it's the recipe on lid of the box/canister.  Or you can find it, and lots of other oats recipes, here:

I use whole wheat flour and sub choc chips for the raisins.  I've also cut back on the butter, using only 1 stick and still had great results; they're not quite as soft and fluffy, but still taste good and are better for you.  Yes, it's still a lot of sugar, but of all the recipes I've tried (some of which I've thrown away), this is my favorite breakfast-on-the-fly.  If it makes you feel better, make them into bars (see "Variations" part of recipe) and then you can tell yourself you're eating an oatmeal breakfast bar.  It sounds better than cookie.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3  cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1  cup raisins


Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time Time: 08 min


Bar Cookies: Press dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered. 24 BARS. VARIATIONS: Stir in 1 cup chopped nuts. Substitute 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or candy-coated chocolate pieces for raisins; omit cinnamon. Substitute 1 cup diced dried mixed fruit. HIGH ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Increase flour to 1-3/4 cups and bake as directed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pictures I Promised

Here are those pix I promised yesterday.

First, a picture of Big Girl yesterday, BEFORE the hair cuts.  She was (happily) ready to walk out the door for her third day of preschool.

(I don't know what that face is about!)

And, here she is today, AFTER her hair cut.  We were sitting in the pick-up line, waiting for Ms. Donna to come out and get her.

She just got a little trim.
And, now for the big transformation that took place in my baby girl.
First, let me remind you how long and gnarly it was.

It's pretty stinkin' cute, but it would get so out of control after she slept on it.  Not to mention how much frustration it caused for momma when it came time to wash it.
(And, yes, she's sitting on the potty, but more about that later.)

And after...

She looks so grown up now.

Now, if she would only act so grown up.  And, by that I mean, if only she would potty train.  She is two and a half, and no closer to be being trained than when she came out of the womb.  She is fully capable.  She just has NO interest.  She is my humbling child.  Big girl was so easy.  Trained before she was two.  I thought I had the magic touch.  Then came baby girl.  And, just in case any of you think I'm not trying, let me assure you, I have tried EVERYTHING!  The other day she said, "I went in the other room to pee in my diaper so you wouldn't see me and you wouldn't change my diaper."  Really?  I said, "I hope you didn't just say what I think you said."  She said, "Yes, I did."  I then turned to her daddy and said, "Did you hear that?"  He didn't.  So I repeated it all for him.  He then asked her, "Did you say that?"  She replied a little too happily, "Yes, I did."  What am I to do with this child?

I just love her.

And here we are while Big Girl is at school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I overslept, had a picnic, and cut their hair.

This is gonna be quick, so sorry in advance for typos, grammar mistakes, etc.  It's late and I seriously need to be in bed, but I have to give a preschool update.

So, I woke up at 6 this morning.  No alarm.  Which tells me that my body is getting used to this time.  I laid there saying my verse, "I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids until I have found a place for the Lord."  I prayed for those of you that have shared your similar morning struggle, and then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  Yah me.

I woke up at 6:45 and the girls were already awake.  And big girls' first words, "I want biscotti."  What can I say?  She is my kid.  I poured coffee, got them milk, and we shared two long, chocolately, yummy bars of goodness.  Then we went outside for a reason I cannot recall and it felt so nice, I said, "Let's have a picnic!" I spread a blanket on the deck, laid two chocolate chip oatmeal cookies on it, and plopped in one of the deck chairs.  We had a cookie picnic for breakfast.  And I am not ashamed.

And, now for the report you've all been waiting for...

Big girl had an awesome day.  No tears this morning.  No whining.  She put on the clothes I picked out for her.  And we even brushed teeth at home.  Wow.  It was the cookies.  They set the tone for the whole day.

When I picked her up, I assumed my role of interrogator, and she barely let me ask any questions she was so chatty.  Good sign.  Later I asked her, "Do you like school a little, like school a lot, or LOOOOVE school?"  She said she loves it!  She loves it...she loves it not...she loves it...she loves it she loves it!

She also told me that another little girl said, and I quote, "You are going to be my very best friend."  I love it. I mean, why can't we be like that as adults?  "Will you be my friend?"  "Yes."  And then we just love each other.  No wonder God says we have to be like children to enter heaven.

So, I overslept, we had a cookie picninc, and, yes, I cut their hair.  I LOVE little bit's haircut.  It was all different layers from where it had grown out, but now it's a bit longer in the front and shorter in the back (a very cool accident, because I am not good enough to do that intentionally) and it looks completely adorable.  Pictures tomorrow, I promise!  But for now, I'm off to bed.  Because I desperately need to wake up at 6.  Pray for me!  I'm praying for you.  Night all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Answered Prayers

My little (big) girl started pre-K yesterday.  She has been so excited for weeks.  Really all summer.  She started counting down the days ten days before school started.  Six days before school started, there was an Open House, when all the kids and their parents visited the classrooms and the teachers even had a little sampling of activities for the kids.  Ms. Donna read a couple of books to the kids, had them make an Olympic torch, let them play in the centers, and then they had their pictures taken before leaving.  My princess stuck close to my legs, didn't want to sit on the rug, wouldn't say her name when asked, wouldn't talk to the other kids or play, asked multiple times if we could leave, and whined like a much younger kid while I literally pushed her up to the window where she was to have her picture taken.  (Picture this:  big girl stiff as a board, slanting backwards against my right hand, which I am using to push her forward into the picture spot, while baby is stretching me like Elastigirl from The Incredibles, as she is pulling on my left hand, so she can lean out the door to see what's going on in the hallway.  I'm sure we were quite a site!)

Needless to say, after this failed attempt to raise excitement about school, I was pretty confident we would encounter more whining and clinging when it came time to drop her off at the doors on the first day.  I prayed constantly, for six days, that she would be excited about school, that she would transition easily from car to teacher (the teachers come and get them out of the cars and walk them into school), that she would have a GREAT first day, and that her teacher would have all the energy, enthusiasm, and love that was needed to dote on all twelve little ones as they made such a big step towards independence.  In addition to praying on my own, I talked and prayed with my big girl daily about school.  We talked about what all they might do, about the friends that she would see at school, and about helping Ms. Donna.  We prayed that God would help her to have lots of fun, that He would help her to make new friends, and that He would help Ms. Donna too.

D-day came.  I woke early.  I needed serious prayer time.  God allowed baby girl to sleep in a little later than usual; so, after my quiet time, I had a few minutes one-on-one with my big preschooler.  And she admitted to me that she was "a little scared of all those kids."  I encouraged her as much as I could and then we prayed again.  I spent too much time in prayer and left too little time for breakfast.  A great breakfast plan dissolved into toast, grapes, and yogurt.  I had to brush hair at the table, and true to form, we rushed out the door with just enough time to get to school...with toothbrushes in hand.  Thank goodness for edible toothpaste that can be used on the go!

While waiting in the drop-off line, we chatted about how much fun she was going to have.  Right before it was our turn to unload, I let her unbuckle and she gave me a big hug.  And when Ms. Donna came to get her out of the car, big girl made me proud; in spite of being "a little scared," she got right out, held Ms. Donna's hand, and marched right on in that big school like the little over-comer that she is.  One big answered prayer.

Day two:

I woke up, had quiet time, and made another quick breakfast; this time it consisted of only toast and grapes.  (My good intentions are short-lived.)  We did at least have time for a Mommy and Me devotional and a quick prayer.  Then it was time to get dressed.  Whining began.  She did not want to wear what I had picked out for her the night before.  Because we were in a hurry, I made her wear it anyway.  She did not want to wear the shoes I suggested.  I gave in here and even assisted her in putting on the shoes of her choosing.  But she kept whining until I finally asked, "Is something bothering you?"  She shook her head yes.  "What?"  She pointed to her clothes.  Oh my.  We were on the downward spiral to a melt-down because she didn't want to wear what I picked out for her.

Moving out the door, she said she wanted me.  So, I picked up all 40-plus pounds of her and carried my big four-year-old to the car.  When I sat her down on the driveway so I could put my purse, my coffee, and her backpack in the Jeep, she said, "I want you."  I said, "You always have me."  She said, "I want you at school."  I, of course, explained that mommies can't go to school, but I would be picking her up in just a little while.  She then said she wanted to stay home with me.  Of course.  If mommy can't go to school, then just stay home with mommy.  Perfect logic.  I then began a lengthy explanation of all the reasons she should go to school...that it is good for her to get away from mommy for a little while, and make new friends, and that this is where God wanted her right now, and that sometimes He asks us to do things we don't want to do so we can share His love with people, and that He could use her to share His love with the kids and teachers at her school.  I'm finding this all very humorous as I type it because...she was beginning to cry quite loudly, so I'm sure she only heard about half of what I said.  And I'm sure what she did hear had very little effect on her since logic has very little influence on any of us when we are scared and upset.  The fact that my words had very little effect was made evident by her refusal to sit in her car seat and her struggle against my attempts to buckle her.  When she finally realized I was unbending, she quit fighting against me and just cried a real brokenhearted, heart-breaking cry.

I then walked around to buckle baby girl and get in my seat.  Big girl cried on and reached her little hands up from the back seat to me in the front.  I reached back and squeezed hers as I backed out of the driveway.  I explained that she was also probably tired and that made going to school harder for her, and that I didn't like to go anywhere when I was tired either.  That seemed to distract her, because she stopped crying long enough to say, "Really?"  I asked if she would like to call daddy and talk to him.  Yes.  Well, daddy (as I found out later) had left his phone in the truck and didn't answer.  How 'bout Nana?  Yes.  And she answered.  Big girl slowly started to talk a little bit, but about the time she was starting to recover, we got to school.  She got off the phone with Nana and started crying again.  She unbuckled and wrapped her little arms around my neck so tightly that when Ms. Donna came to get her, she had to pull her off me and carry her and her backpack into the school.  I looked at the director, who holds the door open each morning and mouthed, "Should I go?"  And she waved me on.

Poor baby girl.  I have neglected her in this story.  Because I pretty much neglected her throughout this whole morning fiasco.  She peeped from her seat, "Why didn't ---- want to go to school?"  I don't know, baby girl, I don't know.  I drove by daddy's work site to tell him about the morning and ask him to pray for our girl.  And I started praying.  Among other things, "Lord, please give her a good friend that she will be comfortable with, someone she will want to spend time with, someone that she will look forward to seeing each day at school."  I had already been praying that God would give her friends from good Christian homes.  So, I trusted He would marry those prayer requests into one.

Ms. Donna called me a few minutes later to tell me my big girl was fine and was comforting another child we knew.  What a strange turn of events to go from the one needing comforting to the one giving comfort.  Only God can do that for us.

So, noon came and brought a beautiful and smiling big girl back into my car.  As Ms. Donna helped her in, she said, "I asked if she would come back and see me tomorrow, without any tears, and she said she would."  Let's hope so, Ms. Donna.

Our usual recap of the day began, with me asking questions and big girl answering until I struck upon something in her day that was of particular interest to her and she ran on without any more prompting.  But it wasn't until we were home and eating lunch that another answer to my prayers became known to me.

"I made a new friend today," she said.

"You did?!  Who?"

"Macy.  She asked me."

"She asked you to play?"


"What did you all play?"

She shrugged and looked at me quizzically.  Then it was like she realized we were not talking about the same thing, as her face changed into a smile and she said, "She asked me to be her friend."

Ahhhh.  I had to get up and get another cookie so she wouldn't see my tears, because she had no idea I had just prayed for God to send her a friend today.  Macy may or may not be a life-long or even a year-long friend, but she was a friend today.  And that's what my girl


I am not one of those "together" moms that remembers to take pictures on the first day of school.  Who am I kidding?  I never remember to take pictures!  But I got "second day of school" pictures.  I could label them "first day of pre-K," and 15 years from now we'd never know the difference.  AND I'd look like a "together" mom.  But where's the fun in that?

My little princess is growing up.

Her baby sister was trying to crown her Princess, but she's just not quite tall enough.  Big girl made the crown at preschool, but she couldn't tell me why.  Every child came out of school that day with a crown on.  I'm just glad we have a school that realizes these little ones are princesses and princes, children of the MOST HIGH GOD.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Breakfast Bars

On a completely random note...I just read THE COOLEST thing.  On Kirk Cameron's blog, a lady described her family thus, "OUR family is my hubby of 31 years and my 4 kids, my son-in love and our 3 grand kids (and my 88 year old dad who lives with us)" (emphasis mine).  AWESOME!  I loved it!  My first thought was, "How would that change our attitudes towards our extended family members if we called them '-in loves' instead of '-in laws?'"  We are no longer under the law, but under a new covenant--of pure love.  We are not bound to those who come into our family by the law, but by love.  I have some awesome sisters- and brothers-in love, a father-in love, a step-mother-in love, AND a wonderful mom-in love.  They were given to me by God, in love.  Thank you, Lord, for using this woman to remind me of that.

And now for less important matters...

I'm on a mission to find good home-made breakfast/granola bar recipes.  I have been buying Clif Bars lately, and to be honest...YUCK!  I eat them because of all the breakfast bars on the market that are good for us, no not good, but at least a better option, these are the best of the worst.  If that makes sense.

And the girls will eat them.  And they are packed with vitamins and fiber and protein so I figure they are at least as good as giving the girls a Disney vitamin.  And they fill them up too.  Double whammy.  But, I'd rather do something a little more wholesome, even if it's not packed with vitamins.  Something that hasn't been processed to death.  Literally, dead.  Deadness going into our bodies.  I want live, real things.  I want whole grains, and unprocessed sugars, and fruits, and nuts, and...yeah, yeah, yeah, you get it.

So, the start of my mission started with a pretty good recipe that is LOADED with sugar.  Not really what I was looking for.  It was okay, but WAY too sweet.  And I didn't use all the sweetness it called for.  Here it is:


Five Ingredient Granola Bars

(Mine was more like 7, but oh well.)

2 cups quick-cooking oats (I used 3 cups old-fashioned oats.)
1/2 c. brown sugar (I used less.)
1/2 c. honey (I used less.)
1/2 c. peanut butter OR 1 stick butter, softened (Yep, I used butter since I have an irrational fear of eating peanuts, but no time to explain that now...)
3/4 cup raisins, dried cherries or cranberries, M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, sunflower sees, sliced almonds, or anything you like (Yes, the recipe really says that, and for some reason I find that funny.  I used prob 1/2 cup of semi-sweet mini choc chips, 1/2 c of pecan pieces, and had intended to use 1/2 c of craisins, but--weirdness--I was out.)

Mix and spread in a buttered 9x13 pan.  (That was WAY too big in my opinion).  Bake at 350 for 18 mins. (Too long.)  Cool five mins.  (Longer).  Cut into squares or rectangles and cool completely before serving.  (Yes, COMPLETELY.  Like maybe stick in the frig to get them hard or they crumble into pieces.)


They were a hit with all who tried them, but they didn't stick together very well.  AND, as I said before...WAY too sweet, even with cutting back on the sugar and honey.  AND, let's face it, this is more like eating a cookie for breakfast.  Good, but not so good FOR YOU.

So, I found this recipe on Jami Nato's blog.  Thought I would give this a try next.  Not lovin' all the sugar and condensed milk, but I'm not really finding a lot that's better out there.  Copying and pasting from her blog:

Chocolate Revel Bars
2 sticks butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups rolled oats(i don't use the quick kind, but any will work)
1 14-ounce can (1-1/4 cups) sweetened condensed milk
1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips(dark chocolate is fab!)
2 teaspoons vanilla

1.Set aside 2 tablespoons of the butter. In a large mixing bowl beat the remaining butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until well mixed. add in eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well incorporated. In another large bowl stir together flour and baking soda and oats. Gradually mix dry mixture into beaten mixture. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan combine the reserved 2 tbsp butter, the sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate chips. Cook over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla.

3. Press two-thirds (about 3-1/3 cups) of the oat mixture into the bottom of a grease 9X13 glass pan. pour chocolate mixture over the oat mixture. Using your fingers, dot(drop chunks over) remaining oat mixture over the chocolate.

4, Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned (chocolate mixture will still look moist). Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 2x1-inch bars and devour like a wild monkey.


Those were Jami's directions.  She cracks me up.

So, if any of you have any bar recipes that create pure breakfast ecstasy, please let me know.  I will not stop until I find a semi-healthy-yet-yummy cure for my breakfast-on-the-fly-kind-of-mornings.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Will Not Sleep, I Will Not Sleep, I Will Not Sleep

"I will not enter my house or go to my bed; I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, until I have found a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the mighty One of Jacob."  Ps 134

Yesterday and the day before I overslept.  I did not get up when my alarm went off and that means I had no quiet time before my beauties were up.  None.  Disastrous.  When will I learn that sleep is NEVER worth losing out on time with God?

I memorized the passage above several years ago, and yet I have failed to make it a reality in my life.  Years of knowing what was good for me and not doing it.

"He who knows the good he ought to do and does it not, that is sin to him" (my paraphrase of James 4:17).

I know that finding a place for God in my life is more important than sleep, but somehow in the dark and quiet of the morning, my physical desires override my spiritual desires and needs.  And I pay for it all. day. long.

This may seem a little unrelated, but bear with me for a minute.

I watched a little video clip by Beth Moore yesterday.  She was teaching on Uzziah.  Second Chronicles, chapter 26, tells us that "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD...He sought God...As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success" (verses 4 and 5).  Later in the same chapter, we are told that "His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.  But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.  He was unfaithful to the LORD his God..." (verses 15 and 16).  He assumed equality with the priests and entered the temple to burn incense to the LORD and the LORD struck Uzziah with leprosy.  He lived with leprosy until the day he died.

But you know what I found most fascinating in that story?  The way people remembered him.  He was incredibly powerful, having a large army and great military accomplishments.  We are told that at the peak of his power his fame spread far and wide.  Yet, after his pride caused him to fall, people forgot his great successes.  When he died, we are told that the "people said, 'He had leprosy.'"

He was a great king of Judah who brought his nation, himself, and his God fame.  And yet, people only spoke of his leprosy.  His failure.  His shame.

The story made me ask the question, "How do I want people to remember me?"  More than anything, I want people to be able to say of me, "She loved God and His love was evident in her life."  I want to love Him and show His love to others.  That, to me, is success.

Then I thought about the days I call "successful."  They are the days that I love my man and my kiddos the way I desire to love them, the way they desire to be loved.  I serve them with joy, enjoy their company, really listen, discipline out of love...on and on.  These are the days I work hard and hardly feel like I'm working; we are busy all day long, accomplishing a lot, and having fun doing it.  These are also the days that I have quiet time.

Do you see where I'm going?  If I want to be remembered as loving God and showing His love to others, I have got to get out of bed and let Him fill me up with some love first.  I have none, I mean none, to give on my own.  I am an epic failure on my own.  But just as Uzziah "sought the LORD" (verse 5) and was "greatly helped" (verse 15), I know that I will be greatly helped to do things that I can not do in my own strength if I seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).  Then He will give me everything I need.

And that word "first" in Matthew 6?  Yeah, it's important.  I'm just now starting to realize how important.  I used to occasionally have quiet time during the girls' naps, or after they went to bed.  And that was okay, but I've always known there is something about the first fruits.  The first and best of what we have is to go to God.  Look at Cain and Able. "Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil," just a random portion; while "Abel brought fat portions from the some of the firstborn of his flock" (Genesis 4, emphasis mine).  Abel knew God deserved the best he had to offer, which was the first of all God gave him.  

God started teaching me in the early years of my marriage that the first portion of our money is to go to Him.  I feel confident that He started teaching me that lesson then so that I could be a stay-at-home wife and momma today.  Because we started giving even when giving wasn't easy, God blessed us in unfathomable ways.  Our income was literally cut in half when I quit work to stay home with our first baby girl.  And, on paper, it looked impossible.  Yet, since that time, we have had another baby girl, purchased a home, and bought a car.  And I'm still staying home.  Impossible in our own power, but God gave abundantly more than all we asked or imagined over and over in the strangest and most awesome ways to make it possible.  (Side note:  Never underestimate what God can do through people.  Time and time again, God's blessings came to us through the filter of human hands who were willing to let His financial blessings flow through them and to us.)  Truly, with God anything is possible.  I started to say, "First lesson in first fruits learned," but then realized as soon as I say that, I set myself up to fall in that area again.  So, I think I've learned that one, and Lord willing, I won't forget it and have to relearn it again someday.  It's still not always easy, but giving our first financial fruits brought more fruit, and that consequential fruit has been SUCH a faith-builder.  In the area of finances.  But...

Time.  Now that's a different story.  This lesson seems to be a little harder for me to learn.  I used to say that God didn't care if I had my quiet time at night.  And, on one hand, He didn't and He doesn't.  When I first came to Christ in college, I only studied at night and my relationship with God was indescribable.  But, over time, as the lesson of first fruits has come up over and over, and as I've seen the results of giving our first fruits (in all areas), I have become convicted that evening quiet time is not the best for me.  It's good.  God is good to meet me wherever I am.  But it's not the best.  I miss out on some major blessings when I don't start my day with Him.  I don't want to miss out anymore.

I'm sure many of you have already learned this lesson and that is why I want to ask you...

Pray for me?

When you wake up at 4, 5, or 6, will you give a little shout out to God for me?  Ask Him to lure me out of bed.  I'll be eternally grateful.  Really.

Pray that I will not sleep.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Revelation Continues

I just closed the sweet book of Revelation and felt such finality that I nearly cried.  My three consecutive times through this book have brought such emotion.  I have wept, uncontrollably, over the horrific events that will take place some day.  I have wrestled with God until I received peace and reassurance that by the time His wrath is poured out on the earth, this planet will be in such a complete and unimaginable state of depravity, His saints will be begging for Him to bring justice (chapter 6).  I have been comforted by the fact that He withholds His wrath because He loves us so and desperately wants all to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:18).  I have stood in reverent fear of the God who sits enthroned above all authority, encircled by a rainbow and twenty four elders with crowns, harps, and bowls of incense, surrounded by innumerable angels, carried about by four awesome living creatures, emitting lightning and thunder, and eliciting non-stop praise from all who are in His presence (chapter 4).  I have joined in their praise as I've been reminded that He has freed me (yes, that is significantly past tense) from my sins by the blood of His precious Son, and made us all to be a kingdom and priests (chapter 1).  I have laughed in joyful anticipation of the day we find ourselves standing face to face with the One who loves us so and imagining some fellow sojourners finally experiencing enough freedom to let their praise and worship get physical.  I have danced in that freedom as I have grown increasingly anxious for the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  My anticipation has been fueled as I read about the great multitude that no one could count in chapter seven, and imagined the awesome worship time we will all have standing before the One Who deserves every ounce of every ounce we have to give.  I have become progressively home sick as I've been reminded that I am not home yet.  And I am ever-longing for the day that my Bride-groom rides in on His white horse (chapter 19) to whisk me away to the place He has prepared for me, the place where there will be no more crying or pain or death or mourning (chapter 21).

I have chewed on this Revelation of Jesus Christ for at least a year and I have barely sunk my teeth into the meat of this Word.  I am infatuated with this book.  And yet, I do not dig deep enough.  I know what He has to offer, and I settle for probably only one percent of it.  I know what God deserves and yet I don't give Him my all.

I wonder, tonight, as I end this third turn through this book...

Has it changed me?

And, just when pride, in one of its subtlest forms--insecurity--threatens to taunt me, to leave me wondering how I could spend so much time studying and still feel like the crazy Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes, God speaks a sweet reminder into my spirit...

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and is my word that goes out from my mouth.  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  Isaiah 55

Praise His Holy Name!  Even when we are faithless, He is faithful (2 Tim 2:13).  I am not bad enough to void His promise.  I may be a tasmanian devil, but as I chew on the words He sends forth, His purpose is being accomplished in my life.  He promises, IT WILL CHANGE ME.

And so, though the ladies in the Naomi class will end our study of Revelation tomorrow morning, His Word will continue to work on our hearts, changing us into His likeness, making us light as He reveals His light to us.  As Point of Grace sings, "Day by day, You're coming closer, makin' our way clearer and straighter, turnin' our faces into the Light."

It has changed me.  Is changing me.  He makes all things new as....

The Revelation continues.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Crazy Mom, Two Daughters, and...a Son?

A Crazy Mom...  

I'm the Crazy Mom.  Crazy Woman.  Crazy stalker, perhaps.

So, as I told you all Friday, I went to a Living Proof Live conference this past weekend.  AWESOME!  I have so much swimming in my head right now but until I really have some time to process it all, let it suffice for me to say this:  my man was right to make me go.  I really needed that.  But more on all that later.

Right after the conference, our group had reservations to eat at Calhoun's.  When we walked in, who should we see but Beth Moore!  I was on the phone with my man when I saw her and I said, "There's Beth Moore!" to my man like he was right beside me and could just spin around and see her.  I gave her a surprised smile like "OH! Good friend, I haven't seen you in years!" and waved furiously.  She was hugging someone and smiling at me over their shoulder.  Suddenly, reality overcame me and I realized she had absolutely no clue who I was.  I scurried away, so completely amazed at my own weirdness, that I burst into laughter.  Still on the phone with my man, I said, "I can not believe I just did that!  I just smiled and waved like I knew her.  That was weird."  His comforting reply, "Yeeeeeah, that's kinda' crazy."  What on earth was that?  Maybe my sister's right; maybe I am a stalker!  I felt like I knew her.  How can you feel like you have a relationship with someone you've never even met?  Again, weird.

Two daughters...

My Daughters are the Daughters.

I am starting to feel like I can not get enough of them.  Ever.  I know some people are just instantly head-over-heels in love with their kids.  I mean, some people are in love with their kids before they are ever conceived.  And some people are in love with kids they can not even have.  They so desperately long for and love their unborn children, that it leaves a hole of longing in their love-filled hearts.  I am somewhat saddened and ashamed to admit that I do not understand that feeling.  When I was expecting my first-born, it was surreal.  I did not have a deep bond to the baby growing in my belly.  And after she was born, I felt detached.  She was beautiful and I loved her but it wasn't a tidal wave of emotion that overcame me instantly.  My man's love for our firstborn was like a tsunami; it hit him with a surprising force that he could have never expected.  Tears--a very rare experience for him--filled his eyes.  For me, it was more like a spring rain.  The pregnancy was like the clouds rolling in.  The birth brought the first few sprinkles.  Over time the intensity of the rainfall has increased.  Until now, my heart feels like it is caught in a raging thunderstorm.  I love these girls to the point that it hurts sometimes.  Even by the time I was expecting my second baby girl, I knew this passionate love.  I was anxious throughout the entire pregnancy, afraid that something would happen to the precious little life in my belly before she could ever draw her first breathe.

One of the reasons I did not want to attend the conference this past weekend is because I did not want to leave my loves--all three of them.  I had such a looming dark feeling about leaving.  When my man made it very clear to me that he was not letting me back out of that trip, I had to do some serious spiritual battle with my fears.  They lost, thanks to Jesus.

I want to freeze time.  I can not get enough of them.  They can seriously bring me to tears just doing normal everyday things.  And it seems that just about the time I am starting to realize just how incredibly precious they are, I am starting to loose them.  My oldest starts Pre-K in exactly two weeks.  She will be gone every morning, four days a week.  That seems like most of the day because the hours between noon and bedtime fly by.  We eat lunch, take naps, play for maybe an hour, then it's time to start supper, my man comes home, we eat, they play, I clean up supper, then baths, books, Bible stories, prayers, and bedtime.  So, morning is my time with my babies.  And I'm about to lose it.  I have been on the verge of tears ever since we received our papers from the preschool telling us about orientation and open house.

A friend posted a picture of her little man heading off to 1st grade last week; her caption said, "Does this ever get easier?"  No.  No, I dare say, this will only get harder.  Because it seems that our love grows and we want to hold on tighter; yet, we have to loosen our grip.  True irony.

Before any of you assume that my friend's little man is the son I was referring to above, no, no it is not.  Now I'm sure many of you are wondering who is...

A Son?

This little family of four just "adopted" a little guy named Samuel this past weekend.  Samuel is from the west African country of Ghana.  He will turn ten next month.  He loves soccer, art, and running.  And he lives with his parents in the hillside community of Egotsia Kokodo.  Samuel will not be living with us.  We may never even meet him, but through an awesome organization, known as Compassion, we will be partnering with his parents to see that he gets the education and medical care that he needs.

I can not tell you how excited I am about this.  I have always wanted to adopt a child.  I have always wanted to go to Africa.  I have always wanted a little boy.  And I have always wanted to teach my girls that we are to reach out to others, that we can even impact lives far away, even the lives of people we may never meet. I can not think of a better way to do any of this right now.  We may not have the nearly $30,000 that is needed for an adoption right now, but we have $30/month.  We might not be able to go to Africa, but we can support the people that are there.  We might not be able to have a little boy, but we can help the parents who have one.

We have already been praying for Samuel.  The girls have already made pictures to send to him.  And today we will be writing a letter for him.  We can hardly wait to hear back from him!  He doesn't know us yet but we already love him.  Crazy little thing called love.

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Not-so-healthy Hermit and Her Charts

I just read the funniest post by Jami Nato and I have to share the link...

"I extroverted myself and went to the lake."

If you're an extrovert, you may not find this all that funny, but if I hadn't been sitting with the girls while they were falling asleep I would have been laughing so loud.  You see, I am such a hermit, as Jami calls herself, that I really don't ever want to do anything.  I love being home, keeping a clean house (yes, it's true, even though it's usually not clean, I love trying), hanging with my girls, and basically withdrawing from society.  But, life necessitates that I get out some.  Even if it's just to go to the grocery.

And this weekend, I will be going way outside of my comfort zone to jump on a bus (double-yuck) for a 12-hour trip (when in fact the drive should take less than half that time, but that's a whole other story that I don't have the time or energy to tell) with a bunch of ladies from my church (although I don't yet know who they are) to go hear Beth Moore.  Ahhhh, the Word makes it all worth it.  A good teacher will motivate me to do a lot of things I wouldn't otherwise do.  My sister says I'm really just a Beth Moore stalker.  Perhaps.  Perhaps she's right.

To be honest, I've tried to back out of this trip, but my man won't let me.  Of course, he knows that once I get going I'll be fine and in the end I'll even have a blast.  If nothing else, the worship time led by Travis Cottrell will make it all worthwhile.  My man just has to kick me out of the house first.

All of this reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my sisters recently.  I was doing the majority of the talking, as is usual for this conversation hog, and telling her about all my parenting struggles.  How I felt overwhelmed a couple of years ago by this daunting task of shaping these little ones into the people God designed them to be.  (Drop face into my hands.)  I thought part of my problem then was due to being over-committed.  So, I pulled out of everything.  This past year I have been at home.  Period.  Other than teaching a class on Sunday mornings, I have had no commitments.  Now I'm wondering if part of the problem is that I'm inside these walls nearly all the time and we don't get out enough.  So, I'm slowly reintegrating into society.  I have decided to take a very small role on the Steering Team of my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group.  This will force me to meet with other women two Tuesdays of each month.  Whew!  Baby steps.  Don't want to over-do it now.

Okay.  Now that I've thoroughly disturbed some of you and many of you will be praying for me since you think I'm a stalker that hides out in my house all day long with shifty eyes, let's move on to lighter subjects.

These are some of the things that I've been doing behind the closed blinds of my house.  Kidding about the blinds.  Okay, not really.  I have had them closed a lot but only because it's like 110 out there and we're trying to stay comfy in here.

First, paint, paint, paint...

When we moved in this house three years ago, everything was tan.  Tan is not bad, but tan is not me.  I couldn't justify painting newly painted walls, so I've waited not-so-patiently for an excuse to add some color to my life.  I must wait no more.  Enter reason numero uno:

Most of you already know we have been doing a lot of projects around here this summer.  In addition to new siding, new roof, and new AC, we have replaced both entry doors, which required replacing the trim around the doors, which required painting the walls.  Yippppeeeee!

Drum roll please....

May I present...Yellow!

Or gold.  Gold that looks green in this picture, but gold it is.  And my accent wall...

Ahhhh.  Color is so fun!

Also, in my kitchen, you will find a bit more evidence of the activity of the three hermits that live here.  (Yes, there are four people that live here, but my man is not a hermit.)  The evidence is on my frig, in the form of magnets, "Shrinky Dinks" magnets to be exact.  We had left-over "Shrinky Dinks" plastic from an art project with Aunt Sissa, and we were in need of some more magnets to hang my artistes' masterpieces.  Sooooo...with the help of some permanent markers, scissors, a toaster oven, and some seriously strong magnets from Hobby Lobby, we now have new magnets!  Voila!

And with our new magnets, we have hung some new charts:

Basically, these charts are designed to encourage good behaviors.  The pictures represent actions that I expect of them, such as...

Getting dressed by themselves
Brushing their hair
Making their bed
Helping fold laundry
Picking up toys
Putting up dishes
Getting their own toothbrush
Going to the potty (baby girl)
Practicing writing letters and numbers (big girl)
Saying their Bible verse

Each time they do one of the above, they can put a check on their chart.  When the chart is full, they get a reward.  (A very small reward, like candy or a quarter or...TBD.)  We have been using the chart for less than twenty-four hours and they have already become much more enthusiastic about doing what I ask.  Hope that sticks!

These hermits also have been eating very healthy.  Or not.  This was our breakfast one day this week:

Breakfast pizza and a cupcake.  Once again, superstar mom.  Sometimes you just have to eat fun food.

And if you notice the little book on the bottom left-hand corner of the picture, it is a devotional book.  Over the summer, I have fallen out of the habit of morning devos with my girlies.  I am trying to get back in that habit.  Not doing so well.  Hoping the consistency of preschool (which begins in two weeks--aaaack!) will aid in re-developing this habit.  Why are good habits so easy to break and so hard to re-establish?  As my man says, life gets in the way.

How We Go Out On the Town

There are 14 barrettes there, folks.  Fourteen.

And I'm pretty sure she would have put more in if I hadn't kicked her out of the bathroom (not literally of course) so I could get ready.

And this is how we rolled around town yesterday.
With the addition of clothes of course.

And again this morning...

Sweet girl has a barrette addiction.
And an aversion to clothes.

Sweet days I don't want to forget.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Oh! Now THIS is the coolest!

I love it when I get just a glimpse of God's love for me!  Even just a smidgen.  I'm so excited about it, and I DO NOT want to forget any of the details; so, I'm writing it all right now while it's fresh in my mind.  Even if it is 1:30 in the morn!!

So, I'm studying Revelation, chapter 19, preparing for tomorrow's Bible study lesson.  If you don't know, chapter 19 is about the wedding supper of the Lamb.  Beth Moore already had an awesome lesson on this with more than enough information for me to share with the ladies in my class, but I wanted more.  I wanted to know, what exactly did a wedding supper look like in Jesus' days?  When Jesus stated that he is the bridegroom and we are the bride, what thoughts did that conjure up in His Jewish listeners' brains?  What kind of things do I have to look forward to?  If there are details I'm missing by not knowing the Jewish traditions, then I want to know them!

Well, hang on to your hats, because this is goooooooood!

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."  (A little Sound of Music for ya.)  Betrothal.  This is when the young man basically draws up a contract (a ketubah) stating the particulars of his proposal, and most importantly, the price he is willing to pay for his bride.  Ah!  I get cold chills right there!  The man was expected to pay a high price for his bride, and after the proposal was made, he had to wait to see if the father and bride would accept it.  Can you imagine putting a price on your daughter??!!

"Um, no, I'm sorry, you can not pay me enough to have her.  But thanks for asking."

Jesus agreed.  No amount of money was enough to buy His bride.  So, he just offered his life.

Often times, the ketubah was submitted by a friend of the young man, rather than the young man himself.  One site I looked at during my "research" likened this friend to the Holy Spirit, who is sent by our Bridegroom to offer His proposal, which, in short, could look something like this...In reality, He has given us a whole book for a ketubah--the Scriptures--telling us all He has done for us, all He will do for us, and how He loves us.  But for our story's sake, we'll sum it up like this:

"I promise to always provide for you; my father has cattle on a thousand hills and He says what is His is mine.  I will share it ALL with you.  I will be with you every second of every day; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  I will give you comfort, strength, joy, peace, and you will live in the finest land, flowing with milk and honey.  I promise to love you with an ever-lasting love; I will be faithful.  Always.  I will always tell you the truth; I can not lie; it is not in my nature.  So, rest assured, you can trust me.  I will always listen.  I will always help you.  And I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.  I treasure you above everything.  You--you are worth far more than rubies!  No amount of money is enough to buy you.  So, I will die for you."

"Yes!  Yes, Daddy!  Pleeeeeease say yes!"  I can almost see the bride begging her father to accept this man's offer.  What young lady wouldn't jump into the arms of a man like this?

(And yet, he stands at the door and knocks.)

The bridegroom, or his representative, pours a cup of wine and sets it before his bride.  If the marriage proposal is accepted, she drinks.

Remind you of something?

"This cup is the new covenant between God and His people--an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you."  (Luke 22:20)  He has set the cup before us by way of the cross.  Will we accept it?

When the bride drinks her acceptance, she is betrothed to the bridegroom; they are in a binding agreement that can only be undone by divorce on proper grounds, such as the bride being found to not be a virgin.  (Remember Joseph and Mary?  See Matthew 1:18-24.)  If we accept Jesus' offer, it is extremely comforting to know that His contract, too, is unbreakable.  He can not break His promises; it's not in His nature.  We are sealed with His Holy Name.  We are His, and He is ours.

When the bridegroom leaves his betrothed, he tells her, "I am going to prepare a place for you and I will return for you when it's ready."  Jesus used the same words when he was speaking to his disciples.  (See John 14:2-3.)    He will come back for us.  Period.

So, the bridegroom goes to his father's house to build basically a honeymoon suite.  It has to be basic (it will only be used for 7 days) but exquisite and beautiful (to show his love for her).  The bridegroom has to get his father's approval of the room before he can go back to get his bride.  One site said the room usually took about a year to complete.  And if the bridegroom was asked when the wedding was to take place, he would have to reply, "Only my father knows."  Sounds familiar, huh?  "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  (Matthew 24:36)

While the bridegroom is building a room for his bride, the bride is preparing herself.  (Aren't we doing the same, as he changes us into His likeness?  He will come back for a bride who is spotless and blameless.  See 2 Peter 3:14.)  And, most importantly, she is ever-ready.  She doesn't know when her man will return; he could come at any time, day or night.  "Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."  (Matthew 24:42)  So, she keeps a lamp, a veil, and other necessities by her bed, just like the virgins in Jesus' parable.  (See Matthew 25.)  Her bridesmaids are also waiting with oil in their lamps.  (The friends in Song of Songs seem to fit the scene now that I know this!)

When the bridegroom gets close, he or one of his friends gives a shout so the bride knows to be ready.  And a shofar is sounded.  If you aren't sure what a shofar is, it is a ram's horn, used like a trumpet.  I have had the privilege of hearing one and it has a very distinct sound.  The sound would have been unmistakable for a bride who was eagerly awaiting her groom!  Just as Jesus says His coming will be unmistakable for those of us who await Him.  "And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect..."  (Matthew 24:31)

The bridegroom will give his bride her wedding garments (just as ours gives us "fine linen, clean and bright" Revelation 19:8) and take her back to his father's house.  The guests will follow.  Once there, the guests will enter the father's house, while the couple enters the room prepared by the groom for a 7 day honeymoon.  (Some believe this equates to a 7 year period with Christ in heaven during the 7 year tribulation on earth, before Christ returns to earth for His final victory battle and millennial reign.)  The groom's best friend will stand outside, waiting for the groom to tell him that the marriage has been consummated.  ("Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."  1 Corinthians 13:12)  And the bed sheet would be given to the bride's parents; the blood stained sheet would be kept to prove that their daughter had been a virgin.  Thankfully, it is Christ's blood that covers us; we do not have to shed blood to be acceptable to Him.

After the 7 day honeymoon, the couple would come out and the wedding supper would begin.  The Jewish feast would have been primarily focused on entertaining the couple.  There would have been dancing and great celebrating.  I love this quote from David Guzik:

In Jewish culture, the marriage supper was the best banquet or party anyone knew; it always was an occasion of tremendous joy.  According to Rabbinical teaching, obedience to the commandments was suspended during a wedding celebration if obeying a commandment might lessen the joy of the occasion.

First of all, can you imagine the entertainment that awaits us in heaven?  The music, the sights, the angels singing!  Then, to top it all off, I think we will all get to experience a little freedom there that we have denied ourselves here.  Obedience to self-imposed commandments will be thrown off as we come face to face with the One that proclaims, "It is for freedom that I have set you free!"  (Galatians 5:1) As we all partake of the fruit of the vine and join in "some raucous praise," as Beth says, we will finally know what it means to "rejoice and be glad!"  (Rev 19:7)  Hands high in the air, reaching up to the One who loves us, the One Who Is Love, we will be so excited that I dare say WE WILL NOT STAND STILL!

Go ahead!  I know you want to.  Rejoice and be glad now.  =)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oh James, how you pain me!

Can I just say that sometimes I don't like what God has to say to me?  
It is painful.
But then again, it is a very good reminder of just how much I need God.  
As Beth Moore says in this study (James: Mercy Triumphs), 
even when God confronts us, He is for us.

Today was all about being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
We were supposed to write those three imperatives in the margin of our books then star the one(s) that is most challenging to us.
I starred all three.

Then Beth talked about the dangers of public forums,
"where we can instantly voice our heated opinions...without the benefit of an editor or a permanent eraser."  
And I regularly open up Facebook and this blog and type out my thoughts.
Scary opportunities available to us.

Having had some healthy fear instilled in me today about the dangers of my tongue, I've decided to keep my mouth shut, or in this case restrain my fingers, and just toss some pictures your way.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to me since it's been nearly a week since I posted anything.  
Well, I have been celebrating my birth week!  
I'm smiling because for a gal who doesn't really get into birthdays, I always seem to have birthdays that go on and on for days.

I turned 34 last Saturday (28th), but the festivities began the day before.  
My man asked his momma to watch our beauties Friday night so we could go out.  
Here we are before hitting the road.

We drove to the nearest big city (and by that I mean someplace that actually has more chains than Cracker Barrel and Applebee's) and enjoyed some yummy food at Longhorn's.  
I have realized since being married that I actually like steak.  
Growing up in a family that scorched every type of meat, I used to think, 
"Steak?  What's the big deal?"  
Then I met my man.  
At first the pink meat disgusted me; now I love a medium steak.  
And, if you ask me, Longhorn's has the best.

So, Longhorn's, Hobby Lobby, and Starbucks on Friday...
Not to mention an awesome sunset with a big "spread of shine" as my big girl says (a.k.a. sunbeams)...

Time with my man on Saturday, doing various fun things like hanging downspouts on our house...  Really!  It was fun!  The house is progressing.  Slooooowly.

  Then church...
A family reunion...
With a huge inflatable water slide!  
I thought that was a little too much fun for my "babies," but they proved to be bigger than I thought.  Once again.

And a retirement party for a dear friend on Sunday...
Sprinkle in lots of texts, cards, and calls and you've got yourself an altogether very good birthday weekend.

But it didn't end there.  
My mom and one of my sisters came for a visit yesterday.  

They brought my birthday "cake," a chocolate covered Dunkin' Donut--mmmm!  
And they took me out for a lunch at a very fun little restaurant.

Before we headed out for lunch, the girls had to do a little modeling for their Aunt and Ma-ma...

Showing off her bloomers...

My other model...

So stinkin' cute!

My girlies got to celebrate my birthday by skipping naps and playing Hungry Hippos with Aunt Sissa.
And me.

And a couple random pix just for fun...  

Baby girl fell and bumped her nose a few days ago.  
She was fake crying the whole time she was getting a bandage and putting it on herself.  
One glance in the mirror turned her cries to smiles.  
This was just too cute not to share.

And later...
Daddy caught her trying to climb the cabinets to wash her hands.

Crazy Kid!