Monday, July 14, 2014

Redefining Comfort

July 14, 2008. Life was good.  My husband had a steady job, we were settling into our California community and church, we had a nice little house where we were planning to raise our three daughters. We were comfortable and had no plans of changing anything.

God had other plans.  A few months later, my husband lost his job, beginning a domino-effect of changes.  He applied for every local job he knew of.  His brother and best friend started encouraging him to come work with them in Iraq as a contractor.  My mom offered to let us move into her basement (half a country away in Missouri). Someone offered to buy our house.  My mind raced at the possibilities and choices.  

I prayed and prayed for God to give us a way to stay.  Even after my husband and I made our plans for me to move our girls to Missouri while he was in Iraq earning the money that would get us back on our feet, I prayed to stay.  I knew that it seemed to be where God was leading us, but I liked comfortable.  I didn't like change.

As the date drew near for me to leave my home, I still did not have that "a-ha moment" when I just knew this was exactly right and I desperately wanted that moment.  Across the globe from each other, my husband and I chose to fast and pray together.  Late in the day, I felt no different than when I woke up that morning.  In the quiet darkness, I curled up on the couch with my Bible and Esther study guide.  My study led me to Esther 4:14 which reads, 
And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
Starting to feel like this was the moment I had been praying for, I read the verse several times.  This could be my time also, but for what?  The next verse from my study guide took me to my knees.  
For in him we live and move and have our being.   -Acts 17:28 (emphasis mine)  
Tears ran down my face as the realization came over me that God had just spoken to me in a very loud voice.  I know God does not always speak to us this way, nor should we expect Him to, but He did this time and I was compelled to move. On July 14, 2009, with the help of my family and friends, the girls and I moved from California to Missouri and started a new chapter in our lives.  

Five years in a foreign land has blessed our family beyond belief.  My husband came home from Iraq on leave and got a job nearby.  He is now self-employed and gets to take the kids with him to work.  Through our new church, we have been able to give to our community in a way we have never experienced.  Our family has hosted neighborhood movie nights and a car maintenance ministry.  We have participated in overseas mission trips, loved on kids at an orphanage, served meals at a shelter and volunteered at a pregnancy center.  Our kids have enjoyed living on a farm, getting to know my parents and helping to raise the animals.  The biggest change is that we have added a son to our family - a sweet boy that we adopted from the Taiwanese orphanage where we volunteered.  Although he's a big part of this God story, he has a pretty incredible story to tell another day.  

In the last five years, something has stood out to me over and over again. Comfortable is good, but being where God places us is better.  I have learned to redefine comfort as being in God's will for my life.  Do we miss what we left?  Certainly.  That's why we go back to visit.  But then we go home, ready for the next adventure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life's Not Fair. Neither is God.

A major revelation came to me recently.  Life's not fair.  Mind-blowing truth.  Life's not fair.  If you don't believe me, just take the past few weeks of my life.  A couple of weeks ago, I set out on a trip that was supposed to be the best week of my whole year. Just a few days before I left, I found out that my dad had cancer.  While gone, I received a message that I should hurry if I wanted to see him before he passed.  Then we got a call that our home had been broken into (false alarm, but worrisome nonetheless).  On the last day of our trip, I got the call that my dad had passed.  On the same day that we lost my grandma to cancer four years earlier.  The day after his funeral, I got the news that a close family member needs an urgent surgery. Really?  These days, it seems that I can't get passed one thing before another hits.  It's just not fair.  There's not enough of me for all of this.

But wait.  Before you bail on me because you think that I invited you to my pity party, I will share the real revelation.  God's not fair either.  He blesses us abundantly.  Daily. While we could never count all of His blessings, I am certain that they outnumber the instances when life isn't fair.  Many people have made a habit of counting blessings to increase their awareness of this truth.  I don't exactly keep such a list, but I do have a habit that I have passed to my kids.  When something happens that leads me don a path of self-pity, I deliberately turn my thinking.

Poor me, I didn't get to grow up in a home with my mom and dad.  Blessed me, I had grandparents who stepped in to give me a loving home.  I got to grow up with my cousins and have lots of wonderful memories with my family.  I have the best relationship with my mom and, as an adult, got to know my dad's family.

Poor me, my husband lost his very steady job.  Blessed me, someone bought our house and car and we were offered a temporary place to stay while we regrouped.  My husband got another job within a few weeks of our move and we have been able to serve our community in a whole new way.

Poor me, my daughter has special needs.  Blessed me, I have a background in special education and a friend whose son has the same conditions as my daughter.  My daughter's experiences have connected us to some amazing people.  My daughter is one of the best parts of my life and brings a smile to the face of anyone who knows here.

I could go on and on, but the point has been made.  For every unfair thing that comes our way, God throws a handful of unfair, undeserved love, grace, and mercy our way.  For that I am thankful.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Book Review - Callie’s Contest of Courage

My daughters and I were recently blessed with the opportunity to preview Jan May’s latest book, Callie’s Contest of Courage.  Both avid readers, my girls had high expectations for a story about a Christian girl’s life.

Annie’s Opinion (13 years old)

This was a touching story that I could easily relate to.  I liked how Ms. May incorporated scripture throughout the book.  I also appreciated that she showed a real picture of kids going through a rough time in their lives and showing good character though the experience.  As an oldest sister in a family with a military dad, I could sympathize with how Callie was feeling.  I would recommend this book to any girl, whether she’s going through a rough time or not. 

Cece’s Opinion (10 years old)

Twelve chapters was just the right amount to pack in a great story with a lot of information.  I loved that Callie was so much like me.  We both like nature and creatures.  We also both missed our dads while they was gone and our moms took us on road trips.  Even though I liked the story, my favorite part of the book was everything that came after it – the recipe and activities for me to do with my family.  It’s like I got to live the story even after it ended.  The town where Callie’s grandparents live reminds me of the little town that we moved to when my dad was in Iraq.  I’m looking forward to reading more books from Ms. May.

Mom’s Opinion

This is a story that most girls can relate to in some way.  Whether it’s having to give something up, missing someone they love, or just making the right choice in a difficult situation, we all face those circumstances throughout life.  The last thing I expected from Ms. May’s story was to cry, but it happened often (I also laughed and smiled in case you wondered).  This was our story a few years ago when my husband served in Iraq.  During that time, my girls and I packed up and moved from California to Missouri.  Ms. May perfectly captured our anxiety, fears, loneliness and joys during that experience.  She also gave us a great example of a family’s faith in God through a difficult time.

I also loved that Callie was a very real girl with a strong foundation.  Those don’t often come hand in hand, but it happens with this character.  Like my girls, she is passionate about the world around her and loves her family.  She also struggles with her faith and feelings and experiences a positive outcome that girls need to see.

The activities at the end of the book were a great bonus.  As a homeschooling mom, I’m always looking for ways to extend the story.  Ms. May gave us a wonderful variety of hands-on activities with something to please everyone in my family (the pie is super-yummy).
Eleven-year-old Callie Fleming is a passionate animal lover! She’s been waiting all year to enter photos in the I Love Nature Photo Contest. Her dad, who is the coolest dad in the world, is an award winning photographer and Marine Corps Reserves Sergeant. She is leaning on his help to win. But when her father is untimely deployed overseas and becomes strangely silent to her emails, she finds her whole world crashing down on her. Can she muster up the courage to step out on a journey that whisks her away from all the things she loves? Join Callie on a journey of hope, trust and the power of prayer.
Get Your Own Copy!
One reader will win a copy just for commenting below.  Winner will be announced June 1st here.  If you just can't wait, order your copy at
I received a free copy of Callie's Contest of Courage in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are our own.  We received no compensation other than a free copy of the book.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mother's Day Necklaces by Wal Center 4H

Support Wal-Center 4H and make your mom smile!  Get her a custom-made necklace with a card for only $15! 

Choose a chain: silver or antiqued gold
Choose a shape for your pendant: circle or square
Choose an image from below (scroll down for larger images):

Choose 2 charms from below:

And order below by April 27th.  Your necklace will be available for pick up by May 9th.  All proceeds ($5 per set) will be donated to Wal-Center 4H club.

What are you waiting for?
Pick Up or Ship
Choose 1 Image & 2 Charms


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Questions God Asks Review
"Adam, where are you?" It's a question so many of us have read and wondered where God was going with that.  Questions God Asks invites us to reflect on conversations such as this between God and several Old Testament personalities.  Though many of us are familiar with the stories presented in Israel Wayne’s latest book, he discusses this and several other questions God asks of His followers in the Old Testament.  As Mr. Wayne offers fresh insight, we are also given an opportunity to reflect on our own answers to the inquiries. 

Though this study is an easy read, there is a good amount of material to reflect on and revisit.  I frequently found myself marking the pages as I flipped so that I could share the information later with someone else or simply to remind myself.  Once again, Mr. Wayne does not disappoint in his offering.  Order your copy today of Questions God Asks, a publication of Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

Don't just take my word for it.  See what others have to say here.

Disclosure: I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. A positive review is not expected nor guaranteed. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Power of One

I’m just one person.  I don’t have a lot of money or power.  I don’t even have a lot of time.  What can I do?

I can be obedient.  Like my daughter who prayed with the faith of a child.  She heard God tell her that our family should adopt.  “Maybe God meant your family when you are older,” we would say.  After all, our family is complete with three daughters and God is not telling me to adopt.  We have been through so much with the loss of my grandma and medical issues with two of our sweet girls.  And that was just last year’s problems. We don’t have to go back far to count our struggles.  We’re just discovering normal again.  Please, no more change my heat would cry to God.  But I can follow wherever you lead.

I will follow.  Even if it means going to Taiwan to get my son.  I didn’t want to leave my girls, but it was so obvious that God was taking me to this boy so I could take him home.  After all, his mother signed her rights to us while sitting in a restaurant with my husband after only knowing him for a few hours.  We passed our home study and the process went so fast.  Four months!  I may be only one person, but I can lead my son to my King.

I will lead.  Although he was almost seven, that boy fought to be a part of our family like I had never seen.  It was like he was always one of us.  Still, we have maintained a connection with his birth family in hopes of one day telling them the truth.  Maybe one day, we could tell a few people.  

Our son didn’t wait for one day.  He started telling the truth as soon as he knew it.  But not to his family.  He wrote a letter to a woman who was visiting us from Taiwan.  He told her about his King and begged her to know Him too.  This boy was too young to know that he was only one person.  Like most boys, he was fearless and unaware of the consequences.  I knew.  And so I prayed the prayers of a person who believed that I was just one person who still thought so small.

That woman who read the letter from our son prayed too.  She prayed to know the truth and met the King before she went back to Taiwan.  How wonderful, I thought!  She could tell her family!

She did tell her family.  And she told thousands of women.  She told the story of our son.  She told the story of his letter.  And she told the story of her King.  Many of those women left that night knowing the King.

The next day, she told me.  And I cried.  How could I have questioned the power of one?  I was right that I didn’t have much power alone.  Neither did a little boy or a new believer.  The power was in one King. 

I am thankful that He allowed me to be a part of this story.  I am thankful that He allowed me to learn through this experience.  I am thankful for the growth that my mustard seed experienced in that one year.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

10 Things I LOVE About Spring

This white stuff all over the ground is really getting to me.  In an effort to stay positive, I'd like to share ten things I love about spring.  That sounds so much nicer than my original title of this post - ten reasons I wish winter would go away.

10. Cute sandals
9.   Open windows
8.   Longer days
7.   Butterflies
6.   Mowing the lawn
5.   Rain
4.   Eating outside
3.   Grilled vegetables
2.   Afternoon walks
1.   Wildflowers

What would be on your list?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Don't Just Watch the Winter Olympics

The Olympics always bring back sweet memories for me.  As a Los Angeles police officer, my mom worked the 1984 Summer Olympics and brought home many souvenirs.  My husband carried the Olympic torch through our town as a teenager. Most recently, our family had the pleasure of watching the last Summer Olympics with a former Olympic gymnast who taught our son to swim.  Of course there are countless memories of watching each year and rooting for our team.  This year our family will be watching the Sochi winter games and using some of these resources to add to our experience:

The official Sochi Olympic website -

The official Olympic website -

NBC's Olympics Page -

Olympics Lapbook -

Another Olympics Lapbook -

Oodles of worksheets -

Winter Olympics Bingo -

Opening Ceremony Bingo -

Movies about the Winter Olympics: Cool Runnings, The Cutting Edge, Miracle, and The Mighty Ducks.  *I strongly recommend that you screen or research any movie before showing it to your children.

What events are you looking forward to?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bucket List

I'm part of this crazy fun and inspiring group that encourages each other to set and accomplish goals 30 days at a time.  Every day we are given a topic to address regarding the goal we set and then the conversation explodes.  One of the guys in the group has a goal that involves helping people check things off of their bucket lists. 

In all honesty, I have never written a bucket list.  A few years back, when we knew that we were moving out of California, we allowed our daughters to make a bucket list.  It went something like this:
  1. Spend the night at Grandma & Papa's house
  2. Calico Ghost Town
  3. Rain Forest Café
  4. Go to the movies (apparently they were worried that Missouri didn't have movie theatres)
  5. Disneyland
  6. John's Incredible Pizza
  7. Visit Ms. Brenda's horses
  8. Victor Valley Mall playground
  9. Round Table Pizza
  10. Play with the neighbors at Grandma & Papa's house
Some of my friends do bucket lists with their kids, like a Christmas bucket list, summer bucket list or vacation bucket list.  For me, there's something about the term bucket list that makes me feel old and so I avoid making a bucket list.  I think it's because I never heard the term until I saw the movie The Bucket List

As I face another birthday this year (which is much better than not facing another birthday) and my kids are getting old enough that I feel like I'm running out of time to do everything with them before they move out, a bucket list is beginning to form in my head.  It's more of a list of things to do before the kids move out, but we'll call it a bucket list because that name is much shorter.
  1. Travel through New England in the autumn
  2. Take a cruise to Alaska (way better than flying or driving there)
  3. Take our family to Taiwan to visit our son's birth family
  4. Write a children's book (or five)
  5. Get all of our pictures scrapbooked/organized/labeled (this will be really simple now that I have Picture My Life)
  6. Share our family's story because someone needs to hear it
  7. Learn to play the guitar
  8. Be debt-free
  9. Organize my grandma's writings and drawings into a book
  10. Take my kids to all 50 states (preferably by car because you can see so much more, but train or plane would be ok too)
What is on your bucket list?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Don't Wait to Be Asked

Helping his sister cross the tightrope
When a mother was sick and father was unwilling to help, grandparents stepped in to care for a tiny baby that was in need of love.

When a student had potential but lacked direction, a teacher pulled him in at lunchtime to give him extra instruction and guide him into being the successful writer that he is today.

When a young woman was consumed with planning her wedding, several ladies invited her to Bible study to teach her how to be a Godly wife. 

When a family was hit by the loss of a job, another family from their church opened their freezer and shared the fish they caught the weekend before.

When a toddler came home from the hospital after an accident, she smiled at the sight of her front door covered with balloons and signs left by friends.

When a little boy needed a family, a girl told her mom and dad that she wanted him to be her brother.

What do these all have in common?  Someone saw a need and met it without hesitation.  No one called and asked for help.  No one received recognition for what they did.  It was simply done.  What can you do today to love someone?

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Infinitely Useful Washi Tape

Being a crafter, I have heard about Washi tape for a while.  It has only been recently that I realized how completely useful it could be. {insert HUGE smile}  If you're unfamiliar with Washi tape, it comes in a million or so colors and patterns and is kind of a cross between masking tape and Scotch tape.  The pattern is usually transparent so you can create lots of different looks with just one roll.  It is inexpensive and is sold at most retailers.  Close To My Heart is my favorite place to find this new essential item (an expanded selection is coming February 1st).

So, let me share some of the places you can find Washi tape in my home (or will soon find it):
  • Why write names on cups when people can decorate them with an assortment of colors?
  • Speaking of parties, give personality to boring cups, plasticware and other party supplies.
  • Give each family member a roll to mark their charging cords, flash drive, toothbrush, whatever!
  • In the living room or for a fun bedroom: create one-of-a-kind photo frames, lamp shades, coasters, furniture, wall art, ceiling fans, mini-blinds & vases.
  • In the kitchen: spice up boring utensils, serving dishes and bowls, cookie jars, and handles.
  • In the dining room: Create a fun place to eat with placemats, napkin holders, and a centerpiece.
  • Create coordinated sets for gift-giving or use it with plain paper to wrap gifts.
  • Electronics: decorate a laptop, keyboard or phone case. Easily identify flash drives, cords, and chargers.
  • Just for fun: Decorate lunch bags, baskets, containers or  watering cans.  Make flowers, jewelry or a card!
So where will Washi tape be appearing in your house?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Turning Chores into Wars

We are the mean parents who make our kids do chores.  For one thing, I learned how to cook and clean after I was married.  I don't want my kids to be that clueless.  If that isn't reason enough, I need help and I'm not afraid to admit it.  There is no way I could the schoolwork, cleaning, cooking and everything else done without everyone else pitching in.  So our kids do chores.  That doesn't mean that we all have to hate them.

From Monday through Thursday, our kids do typical chores - take out the trash, feed the animals, and load/unload the dishwasher.  They each have an assigned laundry day to wash their clothes.  This took some time to figure out, but it's so much easier to get laundry washed and put away this way.  The kids include their towels and washcloths and once a month we add their sheets and blankets on their day.  Friday is family laundry day for me to wash everything else.

Friday is the chore day that everyone looks forward to and it's not because anyone gets the day off.  On Friday we  have Zone Wars.  These are the chores that are more than I want to tackle through the week, such as cleaning bathrooms, dusting, mopping, etc.  Before we start, each chore is rated a 1 or 2 based on the time it should take.  We change up how we choose teams, sometimes it stays the same for the entire day and sometimes it changes for each chore on a given day.  Once the chores have been rated and the teams have been picked, a team chooses the first chore.   The other team must choose a chore with the same rating and I tell them the time allotment.  For example, one team chooses to clean the guest bathroom and the other team chooses to clean the laundry room.  I give them a time allotment, generally 10 minutes for a chore this size and then they run.  Their goal is to get the room as clean as possible before the timer buzzes.  (We've done this long enough that the kids know what I'm looking for, but I coached them when we started Zone Wars.)  When the buzzer sounds, everyone must come back to the kitchen table and wait while I judge their work.  They get up to five points added to their total for a job well done.  Points are awarded to the team if we keep the same team for the day and individually if they will be switching teams.  At the end of the Zone Wars, prizes are awarded based on points.  Sometimes the prize is to choose what's for dinner or what game we play that night.  Other times I have four of something and they get to choose theirs in order of their points ranking. 

On Saturday we do other bigger chores like cleaning my car or helping work on dad's semi and Sunday is a day of rest so each kid does one chore (load dishes, unload dishes, empty trash and feed the animals).

I'd love to hear how you get chores done in your house.

Friday, January 3, 2014

What is Your Why?

As part of my focused new year, I'm participating in a group called 30 Days of Hustle.  It's the brainchild of Jon Acuff.  On Day 1 we each listed our "what."  What are we planning to hustle?  Most of us know that we need to set goals (often called resolutions at this time of year) and then throw everything we have at them.  In the group, our "what" must be concrete and measurable.  With my kids, I tell them to make SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, rent, time) and it's the same basic idea.  While I want to be more organized, that's not a good goal.  I will have more success with a goal such as spending ten minutes per day filing and purging because I can know exactly when I've achieved this.  It's not ambiguous. 

Jon takes this a step farther to point out that we need to identify why we set these goals.  This is another tool to help us be more successful in achieving our "what."  If I identify why I'm doing it, then I'm more likely to continue doing it.  Back to my organization goal, I probably will not work towards that goal long if I'm only doing it to check it off of my list.  Remember, our goals are usually not things that happen naturally for us or they would already be happening.  When I identify that keeping my papers organized will help me at tax time, prevent losing things and save me from the rushed cleaning when company is coming, then I'm more likely to stay with it.

As you think about your resolutions, goals, words, themes, and the new year in general...take a moment to identify your why.  If you keep a journal or jot notes in a calendar or app, write down your why.  Go back to it when you are struggling or need to refocus.  This one extra step may be just what you need to stay on track.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Focused Year

Resolutions.  Goals. Themes.  Words.  It seems that every new year brings new demands.  Some with good intentions such as setting resolutions and goals or choosing a theme or word to guide us through the year.  There is something about starting new and having expectations of how it's going to go that brings out the ambitious spirit in us.  But sometimes it doesn't feel as good as it looks on paper.  Often it drags me down. All of these resolutions and goals and themes and words get muddled up into a mess of failure.  On January 2nd.  Maybe even January 15th if it's a particularly successful year.  Why does this happen?  Because, as wonderful as they are, these goals and resolutions and everything else are not usually cohesive.  I set goals for work and school and our house that do not work together. 

This year I decided to try something very different.  Before doing anything else, I chose a word.  Not a phrase or even a hyphenated word.  Drumroll, word is FOCUS.  I have a few, very specific goals for all aspects of my life that work together in 2014.  To do this, I chose the one area of my life that I want to focus on and the goal in that area is my number one overall goal.  The goals in all other areas of my life must work towards that one main goal to help me improve in that one area.  In doing this, I found that something that would have been a goal in other years hasn't gone away, but has a new place in my life.  A more appropriate place.  This new layout helps me become more FOCUSED and more productive in the coming year. 

When I latched onto this idea of having a word to guide me through the year, I didn't stop with me.  My kids and husband have also chosen words.  They chose grace, self-image, joy, and listen.  Here are some ways to help us FOCUS on our words throughout the year:

  • Prayerfully choose a meaningful word.
  • Keep a journal of your word.  Jot down scriptures, quotes, and sayings that use this word or remind you of the word.  This is a place to record anything that comes up regarding this word. 
  • Create a visual representation of the word and put it somewhere you will see it often.  Create several if you like for your car, desk, bathroom mirror, fridge, etc.
  • Invite someone to join with you on your journey.  Even if they choose a different word (there are countless choices, after all), you can encourage each other.
  • To get our journals started, we wrote down the definition, synonyms and antonyms.
  • Be on the lookout for your word throughout the year.

Here's to a focused new year!