Reflecting on my 2012 year




I saw this series of reflection questions on the (in)courage website and 
decided to give them a try...

Besides, I'm at home spending New Year's eve while my daughter sleeps (thankfully) as she battles a nasty cold.  Poor thing... I hate seeing my children sick, and it's even more heart breaking when your 17 month-old can't hardly breathe and eat due to some serious congestion...  :(

So, I have a few hours before the ball drops in NY... and yes, I'm a sucker for watching it on TV (every year)!!!  Since I'm sitting by my still-lit-Christmas-Tree, I thought it would be fitting to get reflective and think back on my 2012 year.  

Here it goes...

20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Having my mother move to the US at the end of March and seeing my siblings all together after many years of being apart.  It doesn't happen that often.  :)

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Going through the sale of our home in Cleveland.  It was a long... hard... expensive... frustrating process.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Joining Blessings Unlimited as an Independent Consultant and experiencing the blessing of sharing my story, my heart and passion to encourage others, and being able to meet some amazing women in the process.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Realizing I was battling post-partum depression and facing many days of emotional and spiritual darkness.

5. Pick three words to describe 2012.
Growth, prayer, giving.

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2012—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you. (If you’re not married, have fun guessing the answers from other friends and family, or just skip this question.)
Acceptance, reliance, prayer.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2012—again, without asking.
Discipleship, prayer, growth.

8. What were the best books you read this year?
Ephesians (in the Bible, of course!), Out of the Spin Cycle, Becoming More Than a Bible Study Girl, Divergent.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
My husband Joel, my children Joshua and Elsie, good friend Krysten, and sister Shirley.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
I'm definitely a more prayerful mother and wife.  God has given me a sensitivity to His Spirit to lift my children and husband up to Him throughout the day.  

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I've learned to be "okay" with my emotionally-charged times of the month, especially since dealing with my post-partum depression.  I've learned to identify my triggers and respond to them before having to face ugly consequences... but also allowing myself to truly deal with what I am feeling at the moment.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
Due to my amazing support group of women at MOTTTS, I was able to challenge myself to spend 40 straight days in prayer and in intentional times in the Word with the Lord.  I grew to understand how much God longs to spend time with me regardless of how much/little time I have in His presence.  God's desire to have an intimate relationship with me is due to His unconditional love for me as his daughter.  Isn't that what I long to have with my own children?  God taught me so much about how his relationship with me reflects the kind of relationship I want and need with my own children and husband.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
Hmmm, not sure on this one.  I'm drinking more water and learning that staying hydrated is key to healthy skin, hair, and nails.  

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
I made sure to let people know how much I appreciated them by sending them cards in the mail.  I made that a goal for this past year.  I hope I succeeded!  

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Since I only "work" at home, I think the most enjoyable part of my day was seeing my children develop new skills.  This year Elsie learned to crawl, walk, say her first words, and everything else that comes with her first years of life.  This year Joshua finally became more verbal, using his words to communicate with me.  He also attended his first "class" at the local library, going in "all by himself" for almost a full hour!  I saw him feeding chickens, driving a tractor, and helping dad in the garden.  

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Accepting my role as a full-time stay-at-home mom was a real challenge for me this year.  There were so many days I "wished" I could go back to work.  But I realized that this is truly a short season in my life, and that God has called me to stay in the home with my children.  And what a high calling this is!!!  

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Facebook and YouTube!

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Writing and sending cards in the mail.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
God knows me and cares for the details of my life.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2012 for you.
"Not for a moment, did You forsake me" - Meredith Andrews


What about you?
I encourage you to take some time and reflect on your year as well.
Some of you had a really blessed 2012, others of you had a rough one, I know.
But DO reflect.  
And look forward with expectation, for the Lord DOES have good plans for all us.

Happy New Year!

Grief




I know Grief.
Or, I THOUGHT I knew it.
If you're a parent, a teacher, a friend, a neighbor, or simply... 
and most importantly... a human being,
Your heart is breaking for the people in Newtown, Connecticut.
There is NO justification for such horrific actions,
But I believe that at the root of every crime, lies EVIL.

A few days ago I ended the 40-Day Prayer Challenge with another challenge.
The challenge to continue pursuing God with all of my heart, mind and soul.
During the 40-Day Prayer Challenge, I was able to memorize Ephesians 6:10-18, 
the known "The Armor of God" passage.
And OH HOW IT RINGS TRUTH right now!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people."  Ephesians 6:10-18

Yes, as a parent, I hugged my children a bit tighter today.  
But as a follower of Christ, my calling is to "put on the FULL armor of God",
not only for me and my children, but for my neighbors as well.
That means putting on Truth, and Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit, "which is the Word of God."
The more I see and experience God in my life, the more I am convinced that the Evil one is real, and frantically attempting to steal every soul toward destruction.
Evil is real, y'all!  
And that is exactly WHY we are called to "put on the full armor of God."

And as a parent... I am challenged to stand in the gap for my children.
I pray, intercede, and weep for them.
I love them with all my being... and then surrender them to the Lord.
HE is in control.

Today I grieve with the parents of the victims in Newtown.
I can't even get close to the full understanding and how they must be feeling.
So my heart breaks for them.
This Christmas won't be the same for them... 
... and I hope the birth of Christ brings a new meaning to all of us.
"Today in the town of David a SAVIOR has been born to you, he is CHRIST the LORD." Luke 2:11


HUGE Blessings Unlimited SALE!!!




Ok, yesterday I gave a quick shout out to DaySpring...


And today it's time to promote Blessings Unlimited.


I'm humbled by its mission: "To pursue the heart of God and bring blessings to others."
That's is EXACTLY what I wanna do, and especially during this season, where we CELEBRATE the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ!  
So, whether you're beginning to shop for Christmas gifts, or you're just needing to encourage a loved one during this Christmas season, here is your chance to get Blessings Unlimited products at RIDICULOUS prices!!!  
50-83% off!  
WHAT???


There are 3 ways to take advantage of this Sale:
1.  You can place your orders directly through my website.
2.  Contact me with your order and payment information.
3.  Host a Gathering (in house, open house, or 'catalog' party), and get hostess credit.

But HURRY!  Sale runs December 1-31, but items may sell out FAST!  
So, share away!  
Peace!

The miracle of incarnation




That the God of the Universe would send his ONLY Son to Earth... 
to save the world from their sins...
Wow...

I'm looking forward to Christmas this year.  

There's nothing more special than celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to earth, incarnated, to be the Savior of the world.  Wow!  And what a humble entrance...


Really looking forward to taking each day, starting on December 1, to REMEMBER and CELEBRATE the true reason for Christmas.  Jesus.  
Once again, I was fortunate to receive a few beautiful items from DaySpring to help me "beautify" my humble home.  And I mean... humble...  especially when it comes to holiday decorations.  
This beautiful Daily Devotional Advent journal is sitting on my piano (on this beautiful 2-sided table runner).  


And guess WHAT!  
It's on SALE for only $5.99!


There's a TON of products on sale and clearance right now!    today!
What a great place to begin and end your Christmas shopping.  


Until next time!
May you also look forward to His birthday :)

My Ongoing Journey




You all know I've been on a journey.
I'm a little over half way through my 40-Day Prayer Challenge, and I gotta say...  God is Faithful!
I didn't quite want to post a "Thanksgiving-type" post for the sake of posting one.  
I know a lot of people did, and I enjoyed reading every one of them.
But I wanted to SIT and REST in Him.
I wanted to soak in every ounce of memory I was creating with my family and friends.
And most of all, I wanted to pay attention to the everyday-type details, not just the ones that are usually worth mentioning on a Thanksgiving post.  Y'know what I mean?  

So here I am today... completely in AWE of God's goodness and faithfulness in my life.
Despite my lacks and failures, He is COMPLETE and PERFECT.
I've often heard that the remedy for anxiety, sadness, anger, discontentment or dissatisfaction is PRAISE.
And I have to agree with that.  
The Psalms is all about that!
And that is exactly where I've been meditating and resting every night.  
The Psalms.
"To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;" Psalm 25:1
"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6
"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5
"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD." Psalm 31:24

And also, as mentioned in my last post, I've been absolutely LOVING this book:
 by Jen Hatmaker


OH...MY...WORD!
Are you kidding me?  How can a book (or, actually, Jen Hatmaker) know EXACTLY what I'm thinking and feeling???  Are you serious???  Where have you been???
Here's a quick exerpt, but... be cautioned!  She is extremely transparent (funny) about certain issues that us, moms, may be facing...  ok, here it goes:

"There were so many elements of parenting I was unaware of when I signed up for it.  in the earliest stage, my romantic notion of motherhood was hijacked by such delights as breast pumps, sitz baths, and hemorrhoids.  Everyone forgot to tell me I'd still look six months pregnant after I delivered, and I'd need to wear adult diapers for three weeks.  I found it troublesome that my hair fell out in clumps and my nipples looked like ground beef... There is simply no end to the giving that motherhood requires... But that teensy-tiny part of me that is selfish (roll eyes here) asks, "How much can I possibly give before I burn out?" Jesus promised when we choos sacrifice and love - the fullest measure of giving - it will be returned, not like a half-filled bag of Doritos, but "pressed down, shaken together, and running over (Luke 6:38)"  

And here's some more:  "Your kids might act like shining angels dropped them straight into your arms from the bosom of heaven, and if so, the rest of us don't really like you.  But if you have a challenging child, or a stubborn child, or one who refuses to learn his lesson - okay, basically all kids - forgiveness is a peculiar discipline to practice as mothers... Do you have a child who tests the limits of your forgiveness?  Step OUT of the spin cycle: Talk to your child today and confess your mistakes (such as anger, yelling, or punishing silence).  Set a new tone and give your child a clean slate."

If you're a young (or not so young like me) mother, you need to check this book out!  I am borrowing it from the library at the moment, but I think I need my own copy (hint, hint...).  

Have you been RESTING in the Lord, even in the midst of a very busy season?  I'm trying... and by God's grace and mercy, my eyes are open to the here and now.  And my prayer for you is that He will show up in your small moments, too.  Enjoy today!

Prayer Challenge - Day 4




Just a quick update...

God knows what I need.
And today, I needed to be silent.  I'm sick.  Without a voice.
Literally... Losing my voice prevented me from yelling or complaining.
I'm pushing myself to NOT use my vocal cords, which is a challenge.
I stayed at home from church this morning, but God is FAITHFUL in meeting me where I am.

Here are some words I read from Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load by Jen Hatmaker.  


OH so true, and something that was said to us at MOTTTS this past week:

"Perhaps no service rendered to our children is more important than our intercession.  A mother's job is to pray for her children while they don't have the words, understanding, or insight to pray for themselves.  We stand in the gap, praying for their salvation, gifts, and lives, much like the Spirit prays for us.  What matters when we pray is not the lovely (or weird) words we use.  It doesn't matter if the prayer sounds pretty, if it flows right, if it's in the some perfect order, or if it was long enough.  You don't need to be an accomplished public pray-er or fluent in Christian lingo." (p.25) 

So today I'm resting my voice.  I'm letting the Lord speak.  And what a beautiful reminder that when my children have no words or understanding to pray for themselves, I CAN STAND IN THE GAP FOR THEM!  What a beautiful thing! 

40-Day Prayer Challenge




I'm in!

This morning at MOTTTS (and here), the moms group I attend weekly, a sweet fellow mom along with the entire leadership team challenged us, ME, to take a 40-Day prayer challenge.  I'm in!
During the next 40 days, starting today, I'm committed to setting aside an intentional time to "stop and pray". Not sure HOW that will happen, or WHAT it'll look like, 
but the CHALLENGE IS ON!
I truly believe that PRAYER is at the heart of a deep and living relationship with God, and I'm willing and EXCITED to hear from Him these next 40 days.  
What will He say?
What will I say?
How will this happen?
When will this happen?
I'm not sure...
... but I can't wait.


A few suggestions given to me:
Journal
Pray Scripture
Memorize Ephesians 6:10-18 (as a prayer for my family, my children, and myself)
Stop...
... and PRAY!

I felt truly compelled to begin a relentless pursuit.  
A pursuit towards desiring God's BEST for my children.
I felt compelled to stand in the gap for my children, especially while they're young...
I want to pray FOR them, WITH them, and despite my shortcomings.
I want to pray out loud!

If you remember, please pray for me...
OR
If you feel compelled, 
JOIN ME!

A Fall Day




This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24


Sometimes I think we get too busy with the mundane.  


Other times our circumstances are really out of our control.  


But there are specific times in our lives when all we are called to do is to ENJOY each breath we are given.



Last night I was tossing and turning in bed, trying to wind down after a full day.  It is during those moments that God reminds me that He IS in control, and all I need to do is to surrender my thoughts, worries, and hope to Him.  
So I prayed.  
I talked to Him.  
And in Him I rested.  


What has He said to you lately?


Monday Melodies (and a winner) :)




Those of you who know me well, know that I'm a huge Meredith Andrews fan.  She's one of the sweetest person I've crossed paths with.  God has truly gifted her with the ability to lead a crowd into His presence through music.  And I'm not gonna lie... her newest CD has been on rotation for the last 3 weeks!  



Not For A Moment (After All)

You were reaching through the storm
Walking on the water
Even when I could not see
In the middle of it all
When I thought You were a thousand miles away
Not for a moment did You forsake me
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

You were singing in the dark
Whispering Your promise
Even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
Carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my heart at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it's hard
You will never leave me
After all

Chorus:

After all You are constant
After all You are only good
After all You are sovereign
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Not for a moment will You forsake me

**************************************************************
And the winner of the DaySpring card set is:
Sarah Avila!

Sarah, email me with your contact info.  Congratulations!

Sharing the gift of Encouragement - Special Giveaway! (CLOSED)




I've been on a journey.

It's called ENCOURAGEMENT.
The Lord is stretching me to see the world - PEOPLE - through His eyes.
Those who celebrate... weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, or simply... life.
Those who mourn, hurt, and wait...
Those who wonder...
Those who wander...
And those who... ARE.
I've been encouraged, loved, created, comforted, and worked on BY Him who gives me breath!
And that is WHY I am CALLED to do the same for others.

I AM on this journey called ENCOURAGEMENT.
It's become my ministry, and I'm truly humbled by it. 
Thank you, Lord.

And here is my little secret:
I rely on card-writing to bring forth this mission.
I've said it before... it's almost a forgotten art.
PLEASE help me to bring it to LIFE!

Yes, I get cards from Blessings Unlimited...

And recently DaySpring sent me a set of their Redeemed cards... as a gift.
Thank you, DaySpring!  



Their Redeemed collection is SO beautiful...



There is so much detail involved...  


And as a GIFT to YOU, DaySpring offered to give one of my blog readers a set of their Redeemed cards as well (and an extra set of Encouragement cards)!!  

Wow!  

I can't wait for you to experience the gift of encouraging others!
I can't wait for you to feel the joy in sending out these beautiful cards!
You Are Loved!

Here's how to win!
(you can have up to 3 entries)

1.  Be a follower of my blog (1 entry).

2. Leave me a comment on this post, telling me who are some of the people in your life who need an extra word of encouragement (1 entry).
3.  Visit my Blessings Unlimited site HERE, and tell me what is your favorite item from the Fall catalog (1 entry).

Giveaway will be open until Sunday, September 30th, 2012 @ 11:59pm EST.


Blessings Unlimited: My New Endeavor






Hello!
I am officially a new Consultant for Blessings Unlimited.
Remember my commitment to make 2012 a year of encouraging others?
Remember my desire to bless others through sharing God's Unconditional Love?
Well, I'm merging my heart's desire with a new endeavor.
Blessings Unlimited.

Here's the mission of Blessings Unlimited:
To pursue the heart of God and bring blessings to others.
Could this be any more fitting?
Could this be any more... ME?

I WANT to pursue the heart of God.  I WANT to capture what He has for me, what He wants to do IN and THROUGH me.  And I'm excited to join Blessings Unlimited!


So, what is Blessings Unlimited?
Blessings Unlimited is a company that was started in 2006 by DaySpring, to share God's blessings to people by providing unique and special Christian products such as greeting cards, home decor and gifts at "parties" we call GATHERINGS.  DaySpring is the largest producer of Christian cards and gifts, and retails their products at Christian bookstores across the country.  It became a subsidiary of Hallmark in the late 1990s, but Blessings Unlimited extends these products to people's homes, in a more intimate setting.  


I am praying that Blessings Unlimited will open doors for me to share my faith in Jesus Christ to many who might not have a chance to hear about his unconditional love for us.  What a neat opportunity I'll have to open God's Word, and at the same time provide people with the chance to order beautiful products with a Biblical message!

Here are a few ways you could SUPPORT me in this new venture:
1.  Pray!  Pray for me.  Pray for protection, healthy boundaries, and that above all, I would represent Christ in the homes and lives of every person I come in contact with.
2.  Check out my Blessings Unlimited website, and let me know what you think.  I CRAVE feedback (positive and negative), so fire away!!!
3.  Share.  Spread the word about Blessings Unlimited.
5.  Be a hostess.  I would LOVE to share Blessings Unlimited with you and a bunch of your friends/family.  If you're driving distance from me, let me know and I'll be happy to pay you a visit.  Blessings Unlimited has an amazing Hostess Program, where you could receive a ton of FREE products!
6.  Join my team!  BECOME a Consultant WITH ME!  If you're thinking and praying about where God is calling you, what He has in store for you in the near future, or if you're just looking to do something for some extra income, TALK TO ME!!!  I would LOVE to have you join my team!  So easy! 

And now I'll leave you with some eye candy...  enjoy!  









Joshua is 3 years old!!!






Dear Joshua,

From the first moment I saw you, I knew my love for you would only grow.
You're THREE years-old now. 
Actually... you turned 3 on Monday... and as always, mommy is a little late posting "news" on her blog :)
Anyway, as a young, energetic, creative, full of life, and lover of all things with wheels and engines... 
Joshua, you ARE my son.  
Thank you for bringing life and joy into my life.
Thank you for mastering the potty the week before your 3rd birthday
(just like you mastered walking the week before your 1st birthday).
Thank you for being a caring and loving brother to your sister Elsie,
and for being such a big helper to your Daddy.
I might not always love reading the same book 7 times in a row to you... but I DO love your enthusiasm for books, Little Einstein DVDs, tractors, and chickens :)
I pray for you daily.
And my prayer will continue to be this: 
"Lord, prepare his heart to know You as His Lord and Savior, so that he will one day serve you and be a leader for his generation."  

Mommy loves you, Joshua!


Lessons from MOTTTS (Mothers of Tots To Teens)




Being the mother of 2 very strong-willed children isn't easy.  

I have my ups and downs when it comes to parenthood and today was one of those days...  I decided it was good and honoring to God to be intentional about parenting with grace, patience, and reliance on Him.

This morning I had the privilege of attending the last MOTTTS meeting of this 2011-2012 school year.  
WHAT AN AMAZING GROUP OF MOTHERS!
I am ALWAYS in awe of how real these ladies are.  And how God shows up weekly, faithfully, during these meetings.  God has used this group of ladies to teach me, challenge me, and encourage me during the most difficult times of my transition here.  There is no doubt that I am striving to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, neighbor, and sister in Christ to those around me, all because of the work God is doing in my life.  
So, this morning, being the last meeting of this school year, we walked down memory lane and reviewed the book (Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl) we studied this year, as well as shared some of the ways God stretched us this year, to become more than just a Bible study girl :)  We laughed (A LOT), we cried, we remembered, and praised God together.

Since I didn't share it during our meeting (I wasn't prepared to share... for some reason I had so much in my mind and was trying to be attentive to everyone else in that room), I thought I write them down here.  Besides, this is my blog and I can write/share whatever I want to, right?

Ok, lessons from this past year's MOTTTS meetings:

1. I am not equipped to handle other people's stuff... the good and the bad.  One of the things I learned was that I am not to covet other people's stuff... schedules, personalities, gifts, material things, relationships, etc.  God knows exactly what I am able and equipped to handle.  
2. My "uglies" come out and I am called to PRAISE and BE THANKFUL.  I get angry.  A LOT.  I get frustrated, irritated, short, mean, harsh... you name it.  I get IT.  It can happen in the morning, afternoon, or at night.  I get angry at my children, my husband, my family, friends, any random person who might cross my path that particular moment.  WHY?  Why do I do that?  My heart is not right with God when I forsake my times with Him.  I already know that I completely depend on His mercies, daily, so I can tell that when I'm angry, it's only because I denied and refused to be in His presence.   So, when my "uglies" come out, I am called to get on my knees and praise God for who He is and who I am in His eyes.  
3.  I was challenged to be a vessel and source of encouragement to those around me.  SO, when I hear someone share that they're going through a tough time, or if I sense that someone is in need of an encouraging word, I DO IT, right there and then, OR, by sending them a card.  I am committed to carrying that out for as long as I can.  
4.  God is preparing me now, to accomplish His purposes for my life in the future.  All I need to do is focus on Jesus and keep moving forward... one step at a time, one day at a time, one challenge at a time.  
5.  I'm not JUST a stay-at-home-mom.  I am the "manager" of my household.  

I'll need to get used to NOT going to MOTTTS every Thursday morning during the Summer.  
But I am looking forward to what God will do in all of our lives while we're apart.
So, ladies...  have fun!  
Be kind.
Be faithful.
Enjoy your children daily.
Enjoy your time with God.
Eats lots of chocolate covered strawberries (or pineapples... yum!)
Crave Jesus.
Love your husbands.
Dance with your little ones!
It's ok to be silly! :)