Tuesday, December 23, 2014

American Girl 2015 GOTY Sneak Peek!

She won't be available for another week but I've got a sneak peek of Grace, the 2015 Girl of the Year from American Girl!  And her amaaaaazing accessories!!!  I love her Paris story line and everything about her.  I can't wait until she's part of Gracie's collection!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Don we now our...what?

Don we now our...what?  Is this politically correct?  CAN WE EVEN SING THIS ANYMORE?!?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mary Knew.

                   And quite frankly, she's done with the whole interrogation. She's got stuff to do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

10 Minute Cranberry Caramel Popcorn

Oh. My. Gosh.  This stuff is delicious.  And easy.  I can envision myself making this for Falls and Winters to come.  People will probably invite me to parties with one of two requirements: either I MUST BRING the CCP or WE HAVE HAD YOUR CCP SEVEN TIMES THIS MONTH, BRING SOMETHING ELSE!  (That's a joke obviously.  You can never have too much Cranberry Caramel Popcorn.)  Anyhow, here's the recipe:

Pop four servings of popcorn.  (I typically use my hot air popper and these kernels, but I've used bagged or microwaved kettle corn before at Gracie's request and that tastes great too.)

On the stovetop, combine and continuously stir:

1 stick butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Karo syrup
tsp. vanilla

Stop stirring when it looks like caramel.  LOL

Pour over popped corn and add dried cranberries (like Craisins).  Voila!

Gracie likes to add mini marshmallows and John likes pecans.  You can add all sorts of stuff to this base recipe!

Makes five servings.  Unless you have a tween.  Then no promises.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Torn Between Two Duggar Petitions

"We were reaching the gays?" -Jim Bob

The Duggar family is in the news this week.  Nope, nobody's pregnant.  Yet.  There are two petitions out.  One calls for their show '19 Kids and Counting' to be canceled.  The other is one in support of keeping the show on the air.

This put me in a major predicament.  I say major, but I guess it wasn't all THAT major.  It did pull me in two directions though, not just personally because of my affinity for all things Duggar, but with people I care about.  There are strong opinions on both sides, from people I respect and love.

My Duggar fandom all started a few years ago while I was still working in the music industry.  While picking up some sweet swag one day at a conference (FREE GAITHER CDs?!?  HOLLA), I was gifted a DVD of the Duggars' first season.  I was hooked.

There's no swag like Duggar swag, amiright.

I loved the idea of a family living for Jesus in the spotlight. I wished that I could talk to my kids in the soft voice Michelle uses instead of the bellowing I tend to do up the stairs.  I was frustrated with their harsh critics.  I loved the idea of a big family.

And then the show kind of started bothering me.

There were things I didn't LOVE about the show or their lifestyle, but there really wasn't anything so heinous that I'd stop watching.   I couldn't put my finger on why the show was losing its appeal.  I realized eventually what bothered me the most.  The Duggar family has such a rare opportunity to show Jesus to the world.  Not only do they have an amazing outlet to spread the message of God's lavish love, they have finances and a ginormous posse at their disposal to be reaching the world...

But that's not what I was seeing.  I felt like what I started to see was a family turning into a corporation.  I saw that this family really keeps to themselves and doesn't have much to do with the world around them.  I saw so many missed opportunities.  They present such a narrow view of God and Christianity that I think sometimes it's actually harming the Kingdom.  They have all the answers and they know what's best for everyone.  They speak out on a lot of Christian 'pet sins' like abortion and homosexuality and not enough about radical love.  They have gotten louder and louder with the voice they've gained from being on television.

What are they doing with their voice?  They are discriminating, yet believe that they are being discriminated against and that they are the ones being targeted.  The problem isn't religious intolerance.  I don't think anyone out in the world cares if we love Jesus or Buddha, read our Bibles or don't.  They care about how they are treated.  The problem is that religion has been used as a weapon for so long against so many (minorities such as women, gays and African Americans) that there is a perceived need to protect the world from Christians.  Isn't that so backward?  Shouldn't we be treating people SO WELL that others want to follow Jesus?  And feel loved like crazy by us and God?  But that isn't what we are getting across at all and I believe the Duggars are a part of that.

The Duggars do not get to decide for the world what 'family values' are.  I do not think it's a family value to call people murderers.  To act as though homosexuals don't have a right to exist in your world.  To say that anyone is asking for 'special rights' when they don't enjoy the same freedoms you do.  Those things cloud the view of the Gospel.  It's majoring in minors and it is hurting people.  How can we reach people in Love if what they hear is hate?  If we don't even reach out to them at all, but shut them out?  The speech and actions of the Duggars only bring people like them closer and push different people further away.

There is a way to do things so that you are treating people well and showing love, even if there is a disagreement in how things should be done.  Above all, aren't we commanded to love each other?  People don't see love in a lot of the Christianity that is publicized.  They don't feel loved.  They feel condemned and they feel threatened.  How will anyone ever reach non-Believers if they slam the door in their face?  If their differences aren't welcome in their world?  Christians should have friends of all kinds.  We should be the first ones reaching out to anyone who feels marginalized.

If Jesus was a baker, would He bake a cake for a gay wedding?  I think He would.  He would get to know the couple and their family and treat them better than anyone else had ever treated them.    Would Jesus rather a child grow up in an orphanage in some poverty stricken or war torn country than be adopted by a gay couple?  I don't think so.

For the record, I didn't sign either petition.  I still enjoy the show, and I agree with a lot that they do.  To ask TLC to kick them off the air would be doing the very thing I want to change about the whole situation.  But to sign for them to stay on, especially with the phrasing used in the petition, also goes against my beliefs.

I am not asking for Christians or the Duggars to change their views.  The fact that I may hold different ones doesn't matter.  What I am asking for is a change in our conversation.  A change in what we show the world of Jesus and Love.  True  Love.

Monday, November 24, 2014

So apparently I'm a toddler...

So, after more than a decade of wanting my nose pierced, I broke down and got it double pierced a few weeks ago.  My piercer (who is now like family...I make close relationships with strangers really easily...) said DO NOT TOUCH IT.  At first I left it alone and it was healing up really well.  And then I started messing with it.  And it's been red and swollen ever since.  BUT I CAN'T SEEM TO STOP.

So I thought I'd try an "out of commission out of mind" solution with some clearanced Dora bandages I'd gotten.  Can I just say (off topic) that I don't like Dora?!.  She is always hollering!  Her clothes are too small and she has no supervision!  JTTW  Anyhow, here was the super hot look this resulted in...

Putting it on just let me know that I have zero ability to keep my hands off of what I shouldn't be touching.  Don't touch?  *touch touch touch* is my really mature response.  The bandaid lost all of it's stick within ten minutes because I'd readjusted it and played with it so much.

I have zero self control.  This is something Jesus and I will have to work on, I guess.  Now you know something else about me!  Where do you struggle with self control?

UPDATE 11/30/14  I have now been banned from the needlenose pliers after an incident. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Broken Cross? Peace out, man!

"Oooh, Gracie, your Mom _______!"

Fill in the blank with whatever- my kids get this a lot.  I've never been like the other girls and we all seemed to grow up in a way congruous to this and so now I am nothing like the other moms.  No matter how much I try, it just doesn't work out.  That's okay.  I've come to terms with it, and I'm used to their opinions and funny kid opinions coming home via my kids, but the other day I was surprised at the new outrage headed out direction- the peace sign sticker on my car had caused a big stink after it had been spotted at pick up.

"Mama, they say you have a broken cross on your car!" 

"______'s grandma reads the WHOLE BIBLE EVERY DAY and she says the Bible says your peace sign sticker is evil."

So I asked my little girl what she thought.  She pondered it for a minute and said "You read the Bible too, and I trust you.  You wouldn't put anything evil on our car."  Atta girl.  Not that I'm infallible; my kids know this more than anyone; but she thought it through for herself and came to a logical conclusion that wasn't swayed by the many opinions of the second grade.

Little did she know that I've had a dog in this fight for a long time.  It started in sixth grade, when I wanted peace sign shoe laces.  My grandmother wouldn't buy them for me.  "It's a broken cross!" she exclaimed.  I'd already learned my lesson to listen when my Nana talked about fashion/spiritual matters.  We'd had an incident earlier that year when I picked out a pair of gold cross earrings to wear to my Dad's wedding.  "No, those are SO GAUDY" she said.  "But it's IN A CHURCH" I countered.

I didn't get the laces or the earrings.

But I did get inspired to find out what the history of the peace sign was.  I didn't use it to signify a broken cross, and that was enough for me to think it was fine to wear...but if that's really what it was, I'd forgo it.  (I did end up finding out what gaudy meant BTW)

It turns out that it's pretty innocuous.

In 1958, British artist Gerald Holtom drew a circle with three lines inside, intending the design to be a symbol for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC). The design incorporates a circle with the lines within it representing the simplified positions of two semaphore letters (the system of using flags to send information great distances, such as from ship to ship). The letters "N" and "D" were used to represent "nuclear disarmament." (The "N" is formed by a person holding a flag in each hand and then pointing them toward the ground at a 45 degree angle. The "D" is formed by holding one flag straight down and one straight up.)

There are similar images that have various meanings, good and bad. And certainly, people will always find ways to try and corrupt what is good.  But I don't think we need to dig into everything so deeply.  Specifically, the peace sign wasn't intended for evil.  Specifically, I don't like the peace sign because of any mystic meaning.  To me, it is a great representation that everyone can recognize, of one of my favorite characteristics of Christ.

Every day, we make choices that either bring us closer to God or further away from Him.  I don't think the peace sign falls into either of those categories.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sharing soup...

You know those perfect weekday mornings?  Everyone woke up on time.  Nobody forgot their lunch or their jacket.  Everything is peaceful.  Everyone makes it on time to school, you feel rested and relaxed...you even had time to grab a banana as you headed out the door...

Yeah.  I didn't know those existed either.  I am the mom who is corralling everyone out the door usually five minutes later than I planned, wearing my pajamas and no bra (praying that I don't get pulled over or into a car accident), running back in the house three times to grab things that the kids or I forgot...turning into the school parking lot on two wheels.  We may or may not have eaten breakfast and there were probably already some tears.  From the kids usually, but moms aren't exempt in our house.  Mornings are hard.

But this morning was different.  It was the perfect weekday morning, complete with my banana.  I'm terrible about feeding myself, especially in the mornings when there is so much to do.  But on this morning, I had gotten everybody ready and out the door and where they needed to be- on time. I was even fully dressed WITH a bra on!  I even had time to grab everything I needed to take a swim class at the gym. I'd remembered that our Schnauzer Brinkley had a grooming appointment, and I'd even remembered to grab him.  It was glorious.  And rare.  Like observing a lioness give birth in the African savanna.  The fact that I had a) joined a gym in the first place b) planned to go c) made the dog an appointment and d) remembered was all momentous.  This will be a day to go down in history.

As I drove to the groomers, I was marveling in this morning.  What had happened?  It was like the Heavens had opened and a hand had been shoving me around all morning GETTING STUFF DONE.  I felt like a beast.  I also felt a little lost.  I had an hour until my class started and I wasn't about to haul myself home because I knew I would never make it to the gym if I got laundry rotated and then settled in with a cup of coffee and last night's Tonight Show.  What was I going to do with this time?  Free time?  What is that?

There's a Mexican mall that I pass on the way to the groomer.  I don't know if it's okay to call it that.  I'm sure non-Mexican people can go there, but it is painted with the Mexican flag and all the stuff is in Spanish and it never looked open.  This time there was a large FOR SALE banner across the front.  As I saw that, I noticed a bunch of bundles under the overhang of the mall.  I couldn't make out any people specifically, but I could see the shimmer of sleeping bags and I was pretty confident that this was a gathering of homeless people.

I live in Texas.  The weather is always unpredictable but it's usually a toss up between hot and hot/windy.  But it has been FREEZING here.  Like, I nearly cried it was so cold this morning in the car and my daughter said "You're whining like _____ in my class, Mama."  She was not impressed.  So of course, seeing this new congregation of homeless people in my neighborhood was shocking and instantly hit me in the feeler.  It is way too cold to be sleeping outside.

Suddenly I knew what I was going to do with my extra time.  I called John because I was alone and the mall is set back really far away from the road and is totally deserted.  He didn't answer and I took that as an opportunity to DO WHAT I WANT.  Don't get me wrong.  He isn't some lord and master over me.  This is 2014. I am a grown woman.  I do what I want.  I recognize though that I am really naive and I really  trust his judgment and so there are a lot of things I like to run by him.

I pulled up and I was right- there were people under those mounds of bedding.  One woman was too cold to come out from under her blanket.  I can't imagine being so torn between cold for the moment to have food or slightly warmer for a moment and hungry.  But that's what she was having to decide.  Thankfully a man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth was willing to speak for everyone.  I asked if they needed anything or would like some food or coffee.  They'd already eaten that morning but coffee sounded great, he said.  I got a head count and headed for the nearest gas station.

Now, I am not a regular visitor of gas stations.  I like the discount I get at the Walmart station for using my card and they don't have an indoor store.  Plus, I hate pumping gas.  So I wandered in feeling determined but a little unsure.  As I looked at the prices of everything, I was a little taken aback.  Yeesh.  The image of the cigarette hanging out of his mouth came to me as I shopped.  A little voice inside my head said "If Philip or Gracie were homeless, would you want that to keep someone from helping them as much as they could?  They are someone's kids.  They're people."  So I grabbed a basket and hunted for high protein, filling stuff. I grabbed some cough drops.  They only had little pocket tissues which was frustrating.  I don't know how YOUR nose runs, but mine is legendary.  That pocket pack would do nothing.   Did you know that gas stations have great deals on coffee?  It almost makes it worth it to go in there.  They had these ginormous insulated cups- you pay once for the cup and fill it up for free, and it comes with a bunch of coupons for more free fill ups.  I got a bunch of those and I asked the manager if I could load up on free creamers, etc. 'since I wasn't sure what my friends like in their coffee' and he said yes.  NO SHAME.  They're 'free'.  That's why a pocket pack of tissues costs as much as my mortgage payment, people. (This is a lesson I learned from John.  It goes back to the whole naive thing where I really think free means free. Thanks, John.  Consider me jaded/informed!)

I drove back up and delivered the goodies.  We exchanged names.  This is a big one that I learned from my Uncle Brian.  He taught me that even if you don't have anything to give, introduce yourself and talk if you have time.  So many homeless are treated like they aren't even human.  My new friend Joe noticed the Mary Kay stickers on my car.  He asked me why my car wasn't pink.  "You have to actually sell something to get a pink car!" I said, and we laughed.

For once I was glad that I hadn't taken that extra five minutes of sleep. I was glad that I was running early and had the spare time.  My day was set on a great course after that.  It was the 'perfect morning', if such a thing exists.

I have always had a yearning to help homeless people.  There are ways I have gotten involved, but never in the way or to the degree that I wanted.  Especially considering where I live.  It's been a sore spot with me for a long time.  I have dreams of opening a shelter or something like it some day.

The other evening, I joined my friends for a night out at a comedy club, and afterward we went to Starbucks.  Believe it or not, for a chubby girl, I have really weird and strict rules about eating.  Since I had just put minty gum in my mouth, I didn't want a coffee drink.  And water would be too cold with the minty flavor.  So I didn't get anything.  My friend saw a homeless woman in the Starbucks that she somehow knows, and she introduced us.  The woman was opening a can of soup and had a worn but clean bowl with her.  She noticed that I hadn't ordered anything, and asked me if I wanted to share her soup.  It was humbling and touching and just one of those moments you never forget.  It's been on my mind pretty regularly since.

I have a tendency to be an all or nothing person.  Part of me is so angry with myself that I haven't helped more people or couldn't help these particular people more.  But I learned a really valuable lesson from my friend at Starbucks that I try to keep in mind.  Perspective is important.  She didn't have much, but what she did have she was willing to share.  I can't beat myself up for the things that I haven't done or can't do.  I can only take the opportunities as they come and do what I can.  I won't reach the world.  But I can reach MY world.  And if we all do that, then the world will change.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How can a Christian celebrate Halloween?!?

For a long time, we didn't celebrate Halloween.  Philip's first October 31, we weren't going door to door with the other heathens!  No way!  BECAUSE WE DIDN'T CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN.  BECAUSE WE ARE CHRISTIANS.  I have a picture of him from that day, in a precious little lion costume (complete with adorable tail), firmly held in the arms of my church's youth pastor, who was dressed up in a costume at our church's "Harvest Festival" where there was candy and games.

Wait.  Candy?  Games?  Costumes?  ON OCTOBER 31st?!  That sounds like...HALLOWEEN!

It was a few years before I realized that I and anyone else who thought we were avoiding Halloween by attending Fallapalooza or the Harvest Festival or whatever were all kidding ourselves.  We were firmly entrenched in Halloween.

So what was a Christian Mom to do?  Eschew the church festivities?  Lock our doors and turn off the lights?  I was stumped.  So I researched Halloween.  I searched my heart.  I thought about what Jesus would do.

Remember this oldie but goodie?

Yeah, I know you had one.  If you were a true hardcore
Christian nineties kid like ME, you had one in every color.

What WOULD Jesus do about Halloween?  I don't think he'd hole up at home with the lights off and avoid His neighbors.  I don't think he'd go to church and have a pseudo celebration of Halloween with a lot of like minded people either.  I think He would be out in the community, lavishing love on everyone.  So that's what we decided to do.  

Last year, I opened my trunk and sat with a ton of candy and invitations to my church.  I met so many great people.  I asked them if they were looking for a church and wanted a flier.  I gave them all candy.  I hugged people and saw a bunch of cute costumes and tired parents.  One woman and I talked for a long time.  Do you know how weary most people are?  I know I am sometimes.  Parenting and marriage are hard work.  People have a lot on their plates.  If you don't make yourself available to hear them and meet them where they are, how will they see Jesus and know that He cares for them and will be there for them through good times and bad?  I didn't feel any unrest in my Spirit.  In fact, I felt good about what I was doing with this day- for the first time in a long time.  Thankfully handing out candy didn't turn me into a Satan worshiper.  Whew.

How many people have come to Jesus at a Fall Fun Fest?  I don't know any.  How many people have come to Jesus because someone took the time to get to know them and show Him to them right where they are?  All of us.  And you know where everyone is on Halloween?  Trick or treating.  So that is where I am.

Thankfully this year, our church is holding our Fall celebration on a different day.  I think that's a great way to really reach the community.  I'll be there with bells on.  I certainly don't mean to imply that church celebrations shouldn't happen.  But I don't think they should happen on Halloween night.

So there it is.  How this Christian family embraces and celebrates Halloween.

PS.  Get good candy.  You KNOW Jesus would have the best candy.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mitrofanoff Appendicovesicostomy Moms...Are You Out There?

I'm taking a break from the usual programming here (whatever that means) to reach out for help from anyone with a Mitrofanoff Appendicovesicostomy.

I need help.  My son had his first APV in 2013.  Shortly after he began gushing urine from his stoma.  So the APV was revised in August 2014.  It has begun gushing again.  It's interfering with his daily life.  I need advice from other APV peeps.  What worked for you?  What caused your leaking?  What fixed your leaking?  Did you find a pad of sorts that would keep you dry?

You can leave a comment or email me at victoriaekeen@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

But I Think It's About Forgiveness...

I sometimes joke that my life would make a good Lifetime movie.  It was one of the ways I avoided dealing with all the STUFF.  The sexual and emotional abuse.  The loneliness.  The bullying.  The disappointment and sometimes despair.  The depression and suicidal thoughts. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at age 14 and it ravaged my mind and body for years. I was physically and emotionally sick.

I suffered for years with the STUFF and the unforgiveness.    The details of my life are probably for other posts (or never), but are mentioned now for serving the purpose of giving you some background for my journey to forgiveness.

I fought dealing with my issues (and then forgiveness) tooth and nail for years. I felt that I had a right to be upset about things that had happened to me. I struggled with bitterness, betrayal and anger (to name a few things).

I embraced being a victim.  It brought me false comfort.

Until I realized that these things held me back from peace and joy.  I realized it was not about the people who had hurt me.  It was about who I was called to be.  And certainly, my anger was not holding anyone back but myself and those I loved.

Working through the STUFF was a slow journey for a while.

The giant leaps came when I had kids, and they started to get older.  By the time Philip was a toddler, I knew it was time to get to work HARD on these issues. I didn't know where else to start but to pray.  I prayed to get to the place of true freedom and forgiveness.  I prayed for love to enter my heart for those who had hurt me.  I needed the bitterness gone.  For me.  For my family.  For the future.

My husband John once pointed out to me that the Lord's prayer says something that we oftentimes overlook..."Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me." He said that most of us just want to be forgiven but we don't think about the fact that we have probably asked to be forgiven AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS. Ouch. If God were to forgive me the way I used to forgive others, I would be in a sad situation.

One day, I came to the realization that God loved the people who hurt me as much as He loved Philip or Gracie.  That thought knocked me to the ground the first time.  He loves me even when I hurt others.  The worst things I have ever done were not too much for Him.  He forgave me.  I asked God to show me how to love others the way He loves them.

I had to get rid of my thirst for revenge.  I had to trust that God is just, and has my best interests at heart.  I could not bring about this vengeance anyhow.  If I was working on justice or revenge, I could not be working on my peace at the same time.

I started actively praying for those who had hurt me.  I felt victory for the first time.  I slowly moved from a victim mentality to a victor mentality.

Nothing bad comes from forgiveness.  It is something that when done, brings good things like peace and restoration.  Joy.  For you.  For your family.  Don't let anyone tell you forgiveness is for the weak.  It is for the brave and the strong.

It is not something I have complete victory over.  Sometimes I will catch myself in a truly nasty thought towards someone.  Then I know that I have let my guard down and have not forgiven.  I try to make it right immediately.  I am on a constant path to peace and forgiveness.  Sometimes forgiveness has to happen fifteen times a day.

Don't be mistaken; forgiveness does not mean access.  It is important to remember this.  You can forgive someone and still realize that they are unsafe, and should not be part of your life.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn't mean being a target or a doormat.

Forgiveness means dwelling on the good in your life and not the bad in your past.  It means releasing someone's hold on your life because that will bring freedom and peace.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Sobering Moment Between an Atheist and Me (a Christian)

For all you pearl clutchers, there is nudity AND profanity in the following post.  Usually I eschew both, but I am hoping that others will be similarly shocked into deep thought by the image like I was.

I heard a story once (internet legend? true? either way, the point got to me) of a pastor who opened his sermon with the following quote:

"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."

Wow.  That hit home.  I am known as a bit of a goody two shoes (though I might be veering from that a little, which is a whole other blog post.)  I have not looked at Christianity the same way since.

This photo that a self proclaimed atheist posted to Twitter took my breath away.  I was trying to get recs for a church to visit while visiting family this summer out of state.  I don't know the person who posted this, personally, but it was a very personal moment for me.

I don't think money is bad.  I don't think God cries because I have a super schmancy 2011 Ford instead of a beat up Pinto.  But I do think I and the church at large are all ignoring major issues in favor of majoring on minors and sitting comfortably.  No longer am I okay with giving to ministries where the leaders live in multi million dollar homes and take their jets on 'missions trips' to London, Paris and other fancy locations while staying silent on issues that REALLY, REALLY matter and avoiding poverty stricken mission fields.  Yes, salvation is so, SO important.  But how can someone think of receiving Jesus when their body is shutting down from something preventable?  This is why I am such an advocate of feeding programs and other ministries that take care of practical physical needs as well as the spiritual ones.

This is really how the world sees the Church.  It's heartbreaking.  What can we do about it?  Not just to change the perceptions but to change our actions from the inside?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lars and the Real Girl

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever suggested a movie on here.  My critics (yes, I have them!) will have tearing of clothes and gnashing of teeth that it isn't Son of God or God is Real, Yo or some other deeply deep spiritual movie that I'm sure is great...

But this is a deeply spiritual movie that is great.  And I totally didn't see that coming:

A blogger that I love, (who may or may not see me as a stalker) tweeted that she'd watched this and loved it.  *AhemRachelHeldEvansILoveYou*  So I watched it.  Baaaaaaaah.  I'm a sheep.

I expected a slightly raunchy comedy.  It is about a sex doll after all.  But it isn't really about a sex doll.  And it isn't raunchy at all.  It's a love story.  Not your traditional love story.  But a "church and community in action" love story.  

Please, watch it.  Let me know what you think.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

...When Your Kid Drops The F-Bomb

Wow.  Okay.  So I was minding my own business, sewing costumes for Vacation Bible School, talking to the kids yesterday, when things took a turn I didn't expect.  A bomb was dropped.  THE F BOMB.  

I had just a moment to decide how to handle this.  I am working on not overreacting and not reacting too quickly.  I'm glad I paused, because if you had asked me last week how I would have handled it, the way I handled it would NOT have been what I'd say.  I was led in a different direction.

I calmly said "Where did you hear that word?"

What I wanted to say was, 

The response?  "Everywhere."

Lest you think I am a potty mouthed sailor, my children have never heard John and I say that word.  My usual utterance is "FLUFFERNUTTER PUMPKIN BUTT" or some other nonsense.

My mind flashed to things I say when I drive.  My kids hear me call people morons and idiots when I drive sometimes.  Why do I say those words?  Because I'm a person who has feelings that I don't always control well.  I wouldn't want my kids to use those words against someone else, but I do it.

The truth is, a word's meaning is the most important part.  Not the word itself.  If I call someone a moron with the same fervor and feelings someone else would put behind a "bad" word, does that make me a better person?  No.  An arrangement of letters isn't the issue here.  It's the heart.  

I had a child who was baring their soul to me in this moment, talking about really serious feelings- and they slipped.  I could see the look on my child's face, begging me to hear what was really being communicated.  

We talked for a while longer then went about our day.  That evening, I said "I know that you know that isn't a word I think you should use with frequency.  You aren't in trouble.  I'm glad you talked to me.  You are allowed to share anything with me.  You have some very serious things going on and lots of valid feelings."

That's it.  No long sermon.  My kids know how I feel.  I know how they feel.  Our goal is to speak life and love to each other.  Driving home a lecture would have shut down the lines of communication.  I have had and will continue to have opportunities to model and teach self-control, kindness and other positive attributes that should be the driving force behind our words.

I wasn't so collected about it the whole time though...when my kids weren't around that night, I texted a friend and fellow parent and said "OH MY GOSH MY KID DROPPED THE F BOMB."  

The response?  "Mazel Tov."

Phew.  The world didn't end.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Stop Trying To Impress People

Be yourself.  Because there are really only three types of people that you will encounter:

those who will never approve of you no matter what you do

those who will accept you with conditions

those who accept you unconditionally

So if you're beating your brains out trying to impress people, STOP.  It won't matter!  Be yourself.  Be constantly improving yourself for YOU.  It will effect other people but it won't change their perception of you.  They've likely already made their assumptions.

What kind of person will you be?  What kind of person will you surround yourself with?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Love Is For Everyone

Love is for everyone.  There is nobody excluded from it.  Not you.  Not the person who makes choices you disagree with.  Not the person who annoys you.  There is nothing that can make someone unworthy of love.  Maybe someone you know needs a little extra love this week.  Maybe it's you!  Be gentle.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Parenting Secret for Noobs

All of you highly experienced or perfect moms who have it all together all the time can skip this one because it is a total noob revelation.

Children were born with a radar system.

This radar alerts them to relaxation and/or you leaving them to their own devices.  The small crackle a book makes when you open it.  The sound of you tiptoeing into another room and gingerly opening and shutting the door.  The little static sound the television makes when you turn it on.  Even if you are hunched over the remote in a tiny ball in the dark, waiting to push MUTE as soon as it turns on so nobody will hear.  Even if you are just easing into a comfortable chair in a totally different room than your kids.  This radar sends them into a panic and they think "I need something NOW.  It doesn't matter what it is, but I need it NOW and ONLY MAMA CAN HELP ME!"

You're welcome.  Now you are armed and ready for the fact that you will probably never go to the bathroom alone again.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Raising Them Is Just Part Of The Journey...

I had a super wonky childhood.  It left me a totally crippled-by-fear-of-failure parent for a long time.  I've graduated to being a slightly neurotic parent.  Most days I can deal with my humanity, and the fact that I can't do everything for my kids, or protect them from the universe by keeping them in the Mommy Bubble.

My husband still needs to reassure me from time to time, "We are doing fine.  They are great kids.  Stop worrying so much!"

What it comes down to is, I'm an adult.  I cannot blame my shortcomings on my childhood.  I cannot ruin my marriage and my motherhood letting it make me so scared and nervous.  Because I make choices every day that make me responsible.  Yes, my life experiences may color my outlook and affect my decisions, but they cannot be the driving force in my life.  The time came a long time ago for me to decide who I was going to be.

I already knew this...but a light bulb moment came today when I realized that this will describe MY kids eventually.  I will have given them the foundation to make their choices already.  Then it is up to them.  I will have made mistakes.  Chances are I will not have ruined their lives though, and they will make the decisions each day to either build on the good things or be forever warped by the errors I made as I journeyed through parenting.  That will be their choice.

This took a load off of my shoulders.  I will still call older parents for advice.  I will never stop reading books that will help me develop as a parent.  I'll keep learning how to be a better Mom.  But I don't have to hook the next 80 years of their lives on what I do this minute, whether or not I made every second exactly what it should have been-I am a good Mom.  Overwhelmingly, I am teaching them what they need to know.  Then it's in their hands.

I have a feeling the more I grasp this concept, the better their lives will be.  My crazy never helped them have a better childhood, or taught them how they can be functioning adults.  It just made life harder.  I have them for such a short time, then the rest is up to them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Be Gentle With Yourself

Something that several people who love me have told me recently is 'be gentle with yourself'.  It is starting to really sink in.  I have a tendency to be too hard on myself; and also let others be too hard on me.  I told my husband recently that I feel like I have spent my whole life being a punching bag- for others but also for myself.  I expect so much out of myself and will agonize over the smallest thing, and worry about what others think.

I am learning to be gentle with myself.  In a way that seems backward to the whole concept, this also means finding my voice with others who are not being gentle with me.

I am letting myself be human.  No less like Jesus, who I want to be like, but a human like He created me.  I am not Super Woman.  I'm me.

I am going to treat myself like He would treat me.  Like I want others to treat me.

Being gentle with yourself doesn't have to be some huge action.  The time will come when you have the opportunities to do something major for yourself.  To take down the barriers and let someone in and love you lavishly. To have a moment where you get huge revelation of who you are.

This week there was small decision made to help me be gentle with myself.  I had a coupon for those laundry detergent pods.  If I bought them and used my coupon, I could get one of the ingredients I need for my homemade detergent free.  I've been sick and tired and I am still reeling from the time caring for my son.  I stood at the end cap in the store for ten minutes.  No exaggeration.  I was beating myself up for even considering the purchase.  But I have been SO tired and overwhelmed and my homemade soap is running low and this luxury was really wanted.   So I bought them and have really been enjoying them.

I probably won't buy them again, unless another tough period comes up.  But for this week, I was able to be gentle with myself.  I made the purchase, reveled in them, and did not beat myself up about it once I made the decision.

This may all sound selfish.  But it isn't.  After all, the Bible tells us to love others as we love ourselves- but if we don't love ourselves- the workmanship of God- how can we love others?

Monday, February 3, 2014

30 Day Water Drinking Challenge

It seems like I'm on a challenge kick this year!  Nothing keeps me going like accountability and public declarations!  I'm going to do a 30 day water drinking challenge.  My goal is 90 oz a day.

I read this great article recently, which is what kicked me into gear.

Here is what the Mayo Clinic has to say.

My hope is that this 30 day challenge will turn into a lifelong habit!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Einstein's Legs

I just had that awkward moment...when Einstein's legs are way hotter than yours.

And he's wearing sassy sandals.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Gays In Church

Philippians 2: 1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Do Everything Without Grumbling

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

No, the above verses aren't about homosexuality.  Usually on this subject, people refer to the 'clobber passages' (interesting name, huh?) But it is about how to be a Christian, and as I was reading it this morning, I found it applicable.

58% of Christians ages 18-24 call Christianity "anti-gay" and 79% of non-Christians in the same age bracket agree.  So, this age group in churches is shrinking.  About 1/3 choose to unaffiliate themselves with the church in general.

A 2011 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute shows  44% of white evangelicals aged 18-29 in support of marriage equality compared to only 12 percent of those 65 and older.   (I don't know why the white part is pertinent but I don't want to skew or misrepresent the facts I read, so I'm leaving it.)

According to the same survey, nearly 70% of young Christians also agree that religious groups are alienating young people because of gay and lesbian issues.

Why is the church's primary message that is reaching people a message of "anti" anything?  Why isn't it Christ's love?  Grace?  What are we doing wrong that we are most known for our rantings about politics, parties, policies and people?

I read recently that 84% of homosexuals were raised in a household of faith.  Where are those people now?  I don't see them in church.  Why?  Because the church has told them they can't be gay and have a relationship with the Lord.  I'm glad that all of the things about me that people find unacceptable haven't kept me from a relationship with Him, or joining His church.   Why don't we open our doors, our homes and our arms to all human beings, and let them work out their own salvation with fear and trembling like each of us had to, and let them live for Christ to the best of their ability like each of us do, and give them a shot of a faith filled life in a body of believers, instead of telling them they can't. By telling these children of God that they cannot be a Christian and gay at the same time, we have done our part to guarantee that they don't live for Him or make it to Heaven.

Are we showing humility in this area, or are we unmoving and overbearing?  Are we being real servants to others and messengers of His gift of salvation and light?  Are we doing things in vain?  Are we grumbling and arguing and isolating?

Here is a beautiful article about a group of Christians who went to a gay pride parade without protest signs.

The goodness of God calls men to Him!  Are we Christians known best for His goodness?  No, I'm sorry to say, we aren't.

"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."  John 13:35

PS.  This blogger says some of the things I think in response to the question "What if you're wrong" more indelicately than I would, but makes some good points.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Caring For Mental Health

I was talking with a friend recently who was hesitant to tell people that a loved one was getting mental health care.  During the conversation, this stuck out to me: "We treat our bodies when they aren't well, why is it so hard to admit sometimes our brains aren't well and need help too?"

Why is there such a stigma about treating mental health?  We treat our bodies.  We need to be sure to treat our brains too when they aren't working correctly.

I've been to therapy. There have been times I have needed medication.  Sometimes I just needed someone to use as an unbiased sounding board to help me sort out difficult situations.

I was talking to some therapists at the children's hospital, because Philip's long term special needs have really been taking a toll on us.  They said that there has been a big increase in people seeking therapy and mental wellness measures in my generation and the current generation.  They said they wished more people were willing to get help.

You might not need therapy...but maybe a loved one does.  Maybe someone you care about is already getting help but isn't confident in sharing.  So my advice is, get help if you need help, and be supportive when others do.  There is no shame!  Be proactive in fighting the stigma!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Boundaries vs Barriers

What's the difference between a boundary and a barrier?  Let's take a look...

  1. 1.
    a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

  1. 1.
    a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access.

The difference is, when it comes to relationships- one will protect you, and the other will hurt you.

It can be difficult, especially when you've been hurt, to open yourself up to people and new situations.  It feels easier to turn inward and put up barriers around yourself for protection.  But eventually, isolation will harm you.  You have needs and you are needed.  You need a community and a community needs you.  I feel so strongly about community.

For me, life had hurt me deeply.  I had every reason and bad experience in the book to convince myself that I was better off alone, in my little bubble.

It took me a lot of time to learn that I would've been better off learning to put up reasonable boundaries, versus what I had done- shut myself in and shut others out with barriers.

I learned how to put myself out there with appropriate boundaries.  It was hard, but I taught myself how to be honest and up front with my feelings and my expectations.  Doing this let me bring new people into my life, and let me step out into new situations, without fear of what would happen.  It was incredibly freeing.

I learned quickly that the people who were not comfortable with appropriate boundaries were not safe people to have in my life.  Communities are made up of safe people who recognize boundaries.  I shouldn't have unsafe people in my life anyhow, so these life lessons were a little painful but ultimately restorative.  Life was better and safer when my boundaries removed these people from being in a position to hurt me.

Here is a great example that happened recently.  Our son was just out of the hospital.  I was tired. Overwhelmed.  Everyone was stressed.  A good friend who has been like a mother/sister figure to me called and said she wanted to bring over some church friends to pray for us.  I told her no.  My house was a mess. I was tired and frustrated and didn't want the intrusion.  She was open with me.  She told me that she loved me and felt pride was getting in the way of receiving a blessing.  She offered to bring over a group of church ladies to clean up the house.  I was being prideful.  I accepted the help, even though it pained me to do it. Then we agreed to have the prayer night.  It was a blessing.

There are other people who wouldn't have respected my boundaries or listened to me or offered to help. They would have either ignored us completely in our time of need, or steamrolled me and my wishes and done what they thought was best instead of working it out for mutual satisfaction.

This situation showed me that I have also learned better to recognize and respect the boundaries that other people have put up, and to speak up for myself when I feel uncomfortable.  She was able to tell me how she felt without me attacking her, and vice versa.  It showed me that I had put up a barrier, not a boundary.  When I broke down the barriers, and put up appropriate boundaries instead, it turned out beautifully.  This was a safe relationship.  I could have kept up my barriers and been robbed of this relationship and the blessing of prayer and a good scrubbing of the floors if I hadn't been putting into practice this principle.

Boundaries are great.  They give you room to move around.  They give others room to reach you...but there is still protection there.

Barriers will imprison you and keep you isolated from a world that could hurt you but could also help you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Toothpaste Says A Lot...

So.  I was looking at our toothpaste yesterday.  I noticed that John's said "Great Regular Flavor."

GREAT REGULAR FLAVOR?  What kind of a description is that?  What is "regular flavor"?

It struck me that this is exactly how John would have described him if I'd asked him.

So I looked at MY toothpaste.  "Shinier, whiter, brilliant, LUSTROUS" are all descriptors on the tube.

This is men and women in a nutshell.  Or at least, it's me and John.  We use ten words when a man will use three.

Toothpaste actually says a lot about us.  That's my deep thought for today...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Forgive me if the following post doesn't always seem coherent- I have made countless phone calls this afternoon and typing up a blog post is a great 'I've been on hold all day' activity.  Along with Pinterest.

The past few months have been a whirlwind.  It all started with the kids having the opportunity to go to a great private school nearby, thanks to their loving grandparents.  They are thriving there.  No more homeschooling for us!  So, I decided to go back to school, and doing the sensible thing like I always do...I signed up for a full load of four classes.

A few weeks in, I started having exacerbated health symptoms that became worrisome- but like usual, I put those aside.  I had too much else to do.  I'd already been ignoring the small symptoms for years...until one day in class I thought I was having a heart attack.  I went straight to my doctor who probably thought "who are you?"  (PS. self care is going to be a big theme for me in 2014).  They listened to my heart and ran an EKG.  It turns out I have a pretty common heart condition.  (It isn't lost on me that the title of my blog involves the heart...and that currently the status is 'faulty')  Common but moderately severe in my case.  I am now on beta blockers which are relieving a few of my symptoms. 

My son, who has had genetic kidney problems since birth, has been in a really rough stage with his health for a few years now; growth is really really good most of the time; but is presenting new challenges to his already challenged body.  He has always had issues, but nothing like this.  He was in the hospital on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, etc.  He has had countless kidney infections and had major surgery in December.  Earlier this week, he was in the hospital again.  He goes in tomorrow for another small procedure followed by a few weeks of treatment. 

I bet you can guess that by the end of the semester the number of classes I was taking was a big fat ZERO.  I felt like a failure (and sometimes have moments where I still do) but I did what is best for my family.  If I want to go to school, there will be time when they are adults.  There's no way I could work or go to school right now, no matter how much I want to.

It has been a really challenging couple of months, which doesn't leave much room for blogging.  I love writing and sharing though, so I hope to spend more time here soon. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

52 Week Money Saving Challenge

A friend of mine brought this savings plan to my attention; I don't know the original source for credit, but it is an amazing idea and I wanted to share it here!

Most families can't just put a thousand bucks plus into savings on a whim, but you can put a dollar here and a dollar there...and over time, it adds up!

I set up a free interest earning Capital One 360 account (formerly ING).  I've used them for years with zero issues; and they have great customer service.  I set up automatic transfers from my checking account, one a week.  Every Thursday a small amount will go straight to savings and I won't miss it!

You can print up the chart above and tape it to a mason jar, but cash would be too tempting for me- I know everyone is different though, so there are many ways to do this that will fit your family best!

There are variations to this; some people alternate- small week, big week, so a hit isn't taken too big at the end of the year.  So, for example:

Week 1
Week 52
Week 2
Week 51

I like to do it this way to get a little more interest accruing.

Some double it so there is almost 3k in there at the end of the year!

What will YOU save for over the next year?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why I Will Never Buy Microwave Popcorn Again!

*links to Popper and popcorn below*
*links to articles from reputable sources about microwave popcorn concerns below*

We love popcorn.  I pretty much go to the movies for the popcorn.  My 11 year old son eats popcorn frequently.  He has significant health problems though, and I decided that I needed to watch what he ingests a little more closely- so as time has passed, we use the microwave less often, we eat less sodium, and try to eat fewer prepackaged foods. (Don't ask me if I just scarfed down some leftover Christmas cookies made from a boxed mix.  Just don't.)

But I still allowed the frequent treat of microwaved popcorn.  Until I read about the chemicals involved, and found out that there was an inexpensive, healthy and delicious way to do it differently.

This popcorn popper was recommended to me and I found it for a steal on Amazon.  The reviews are great- many people have had it for years and years and it is still going strong.  I like that I can customize our popcorn flavors by popping plain corn and adding toppings later.  There aren't unpopped kernels to deal with.  It takes 2-3 minutes, same as a bag of microwave popcorn!  It's pretty cost effective; I think it will be way cheaper for us than traditional microwave popcorn.

I couldn't lose!  We used it immediately and we loved it.  It is easy to use. It tastes better than microwave popcorn; more like movie theater popcorn!  Score!  I get the popcorn from Amazon through the Subscribe and Save program I already love.  An added bonus is that popcorn is naturally low calorie and high fiber!  As my wise Uncle told me when I was younger- the older you get, the more important fiber becomes to you.  And it is SO true!


You can buy the popcorn here.
You can buy the popper here.

Here's an article from the Huffington Post about the toxins in microwave popcorn.  
Discovery Health covered it too.
AARP is getting in on the action!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Sky's The Limit...

Howdy ho, neighbor.  I've been gone awhile.  That will be a whole other post.  But I thought I'd ring in the new year with this little nugget...