Friday, October 14, 2011

Plans for Fall Break

My husband is the fun-maker in our home. If I am home alone with the girls for a day, I think, "Oh good, we all get a day to relax." For me, it is a day of pajamas and movies and peanut butter sandwiches.

When my husband gets a day home with the girls, he thinks, "Awesome! We should ride our bikes and go to the zoo and end the day at Chuck E Cheese." (That last idea made me shudder. Ick!)

So next week is fall break. In the past, if we all have an entire week off, we head south to see family. But since Brandon just had surgery on his ACL, he is unable to ride that far.

Here's what I'm trying to say. Next week. All week. The whole family is home. Sweet Hubby - the fun-maker - is incapacitated. Oh, and did I mention that we have zero dollars in our budget for anything like the movies or museums? Yeah. I have been in a slight panic.

Since I'm not one to let panic "set in," I have devised a plan for each day next week. Here goes...

MONDAY - Decorate for fall day. I have several art projects with construction paper, finger paint, wax paper, etc. that the girls can do to decorate their room for fall. Chloe will love that she has some say in how her room is decorated, and Maple will love making a mess with all the paint.

TUESDAY - Library and blanket fort day. It's supposed to be rainy and yucky on Tuesday; so I thought we'd start the day (before the rain sets in) picking out fall books at the library. Then the girls can come home and build the biggest blanket fort EVER and read their books. (A movie might be included around nap time.)

WEDNESDAY - Pumpkin Pickin' Day. We're not going to a pumpkin patch this year because we don't want to do anything that leaves Sweet Hubby out of the festivities. So we're heading to the Farmer's Market to get our pumpkin supply. Since my girls are too little to carve the pumpkin themselves, we will get one big one for the whole family. Then we can get smaller pumpkins and gourds for them to color with permanent marker and/or paint.

THURSDAY - Ti-pi in the back yard day. I'm not really sure how this is going to work, but off the top of my head, I'm thinking a large sheet from Goodwill and my paint easel. I'm planning to spread the sheet on the ground and letting the girls paint it. Then I'll secure it to the easel and pile pillows and blankets under it for a fun play area outside.

FRIDAY - Cooking with mommy day. We'll start the day with pancakes (which Chloe would do by herself if I would let her). Then we'll make a batch of sugar cookies and make these fall leaves.

Each day will probably have some reading/study time with daddy and some down time in front of a movie. But it's nice to have some activities planned outside of the normal daily flow.

What about you? What are you planning for fall break?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Four Simple Things...

It's October 10th. Seriously. October. Tenth. Two Thousand and Eleven.


It's also 11:18am, and I have spent the majority of my morning making lists. They are titled things like: "THINGS I DON'T LIKE ABOUT MY HOUSE THAT I DO HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHANGE" and "THINGS I WANT TO REDUCE IN MY LIFE" and "THINGS I WANT TO INCREASE IN MY LIFE" and "THINGS THAT SMELL FUNNY." That last one was a joke. Just making sure you're still with me.

I have also hopped around different websites creating a cleaning schedule for myself and my kids. (I can't believe they are actually old enough to start helping me. Crazy!)

I would have also made a list for Sweet Hubby, but it's almost basketball season. He's a coach. I think he'll have enough on his hands.

I said AAAALLLLL that to say this: Today begins...


My final list is comprised of certain things that I know I can start doing RIGHT NOW and maintain for at least 21 days. I'm not saying these things will happen every day for the rest of my life, or even for the next 22 days. But I'm saying I can do them for 21 days, and I'm hoping that at least some of them will stick around longer.

So without further ado...


1. Reuse, re-purpose. When I kick off a new cleaning routine, I tend to use one foot to clean and the other foot to spend. (Get it? Kick? Foot? Hehe...) Not this time. This time, if I see an organization need, I will scour my house and storage for an item that can be reused or re-purposed to meet that need. My goal: to spend LESS THAN $10 in the next 21 days on organization items.

2. All things done by 3pm. As you can probably tell by now, I am a list person. Heck, I spent half my day today making lists and not actually accomplishing anything ON those lists. So I'm giving myself a deadline: Each day, that day's list MUST be completed by 3pm or it doesn't get done. No more surfing the web for two hours in the morning only to stay up past bedtime to complete my list. No more reading a good book during the day, only to ignore my family while I clean the house in the evening. If it's not done by 3pm, it's not getting done.

3. Goodbye, sweets! For the last several mornings, my breakfast/lunch/snack routine has been comprised of whatever delectable sweetness happens to be sitting on my counter. Donuts, pie, cookies, more donuts, more pie... and I'm thinking that might not be the most healthy of choices. Sweet Hubby cut out sweets on October 1st, which left even MORE sweets to be consumed in our house. Ick. So for the next 21 days, I will fall in line beside him and cut out sweets.

4. Clean as I go. I will pick up after myself. If I have a cup of coffee while sitting on the couch, I will take that empty cup to the sink when I get up. If I do my art on the coffee table, I will return all art supplies to the craft room when I'm done. It sounds simple, but I'm here to tell you that if this is the ONLY item on my list that I actually STICK with in the next 21 days, it will be life changing.

That's it. Four things. Reuse and Re-purpose, get everything done by 3pm, no more sweets, and pick up after myself.

More to come...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

10 Things That Happened Since We Last Talked

It seems that no matter how many blogs I start and stop, I always come back to this one. It's home, I suppose. My constant. No real theme, just life. And I like it that way.

So much has happened since I last wrote.

1. I lost my job. It was difficult, and hurtful, and I'm still reeling from the sudden change.

2. I decided to stay home for now, and it has been the BEST decision. I'm really loving it.

3. I took a 12-hour-per-week "job" at a Mom's Day Out program. It's basically a chance for Maple and I to get out of the house a couple times a week, and it's working really well. I love the kids/babies I work with, and the supportive and loving atmosphere of the ministry is exactly what I needed after the fallout with my previous job.

4. Hubby and I decided to do a part-time internship at our church. If you haven't heard, The Life Church is AWESOME! Here's a video that depicts exactly what we're about: video. Yeah, B and I are pretty stoked about being a part of changing this city. We (The Life Church) will be feeding over 1,000 children in our city by the end of the year. Yeah, you read that right. There is so much more to say about this. More to come...

5. Chloe started Kindergarten. She is soooo cut out for the classroom setting. Lots of routine. Lots of rules like, "You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit." Or, "Hand on your hips and finger on your lips." She goes around the house trying to get Maple to follow suit... Maple isn't as happy to comply as her older sister is.

6. I'm selling my art. Well, I'm attempting to. I have sold one piece of refinished furniture, and I have a festival coming up in a couple weeks. I'm a little bit super excited.

7. Hubby tore his ACL in a basketball game. I waited on him hand and foot for about a week; then I said, "Get your booty off the couch and do something with your life!"... Okay, the truth is that he is so eager to be self-reliant again that he's not going nearly as slowly as I would like. He pushes himself in physical therapy, and his bum knee has barely slowed him down at all. He's pretty awesome.

8. Chloe will be five soon. *sigh*

9. We got a dog. Her name is Sophie. At the Animal Shelter, they named her "Trouble." Now I know why. You can read more about Sophie here.

10. I suppose I'm blogging again. That's noteworthy, right?

Thursday, June 23, 2011


"Work/life balance."

"Have it all."

"The best of both worlds."

"Working mom."

What a load of crock.


It has been a rough week.

But honestly, are there any mom's in the world who are happy with this new "normal"? Get up early to get just a few minutes of quiet. Rush to get the kids clean, dressed, fed, and out the door. Oh, and they should probably be happy. Yeah. That's important.

Sit at a desk all day, working for a paycheck.

Go home, exhausted. Figure out what's for dinner. Play with the kids. Try to stay engaged and upbeat (at least until bedtime). Clean up after dinner. Make sure everybody has clean clothes for the morning. Take the dog for a walk. Maintain a decent conversational flow with the husband. Try to stay awake past 9pm. Have s*x (even if you're exhausted, because it's what good wives do). Close your eyes and then remember - forgot to let the dog out one last time. Get up, let the dog out. Check email, just in case. Fight the dog as she goes back in her crate. Crash into bed. Realize it's midnight, and you will only be getting 5 hours of sleep tonight.

Start it all over again the next morning.


This is the dream?

This is "having it all"?


Okay, in all fairness, I have it easy for a "working mom."

My office pays a nanny to watch the kids right down the hall from me. I get to see them whenever I want.

I have two beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted little girls who are (mostly) easy to parent.

Sweet Hubby does more than most men I know for the home and family. (I can't even remember the last time I had to wash dishes or do laundry.) Plus, since he's a teacher, he comes and gets the girls from work 2-3 days a week in the summer.

My job is from 8:30-4:30, with very flexible paid time off.

Our dog has a nice big back yard she can run around in (and burn off some energy).

But even more than that...

I have clean water to drink and bathe in.

I sleep in air conditioned comfort.

I have healthcare and doctors who are well trained.

I have food in my pantry.

I have a bed.

I have a roof.

I have a family who loves me.

I have friends who support me.

I realize. I do. That there is so much to be grateful for.

But I'm spent.

Every last penny of energy, ability, willingness - spent.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Here we go again...

I'm starting a new blog. Again.

I have actually been working on it for the past several weeks (hence, the lack of updates here), and I'm super excited about it.

No worries, folks. My12hats is sticking around for days when I want to write about family or spiritual stuff.

But I'm turning my focus to... well... cooking. Yum!

To hear about my new "friendship" with Paula Deen, go here:

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The late sleeper and the early riser.

It's 5:30am, and I'm just finishing my first cup of coffee. Maple stayed up late last night; so she won't be awake for a while.

Oh, nothing in our schedule changed.

Around 6:45pm we started putting on PJ's and washing hands and faces. Brushing teeth. Giving kisses. Quieting down.

By 7:15pm, both girls were in the bed. Lights out.

Around 7:30pm, I heard Maple singing and kicking the wall. Nothing new. She often sings herself to sleep (much to the chagrin of her older sister, with whom she shares a room).

Around 8:00pm, I heard a bump in the night. Since I was drowning in a sea of half-folded clothes, I yelled, "Get back in bed!" Silence.

A few more bumps. A few more threats. This is better than last night, I thought. Last night, I caught her sneaking out of her bedroom on all fours, flashlight in hand, crawling into the playroom.

Finally, around 10:00pm, I went to check on them before heading going to sleep myself. As part of our nightly routine, the girls and I tidy up their room. Books in place. Dirty clothes in the basket. Shoes in the closet.

Imagine my surprise when I open the door to this:

I left her there for a while. I knew daddy would come in soon and check on them, and I wanted to make sure he got the same chuckle I did. Ah, the joys of raising a toddler.

But now it's 5:33am. Not even the birds are stirring yet. It's 50 degrees outside, and there is a light breeze. I'm making hot chocolate and taking a few quilts outside to the lawn chairs.

I've been missing Chloe these days. I mean, we have been together, in location. But I'm feeling a bit disconnected from her. I want to know her little heart, and I want her little heart to know she is important to me.

So at 5:45, I'm going to sneak into her room and stroke her hair. I'm going to whisper for her to come down out of the top bunk. I'm going to help her slide her arms through her jacket sleeves and slide her little toes into a pair of pink socks.

And we're going to watch the sun rise.

Thank you, Jesus, for early mornings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Say THAT five times fast...

Lord, thank you for freedom. Thank you that I walk in victory. Thank you that, in you, I am the head and not the tail. I am above and not beneath. Thank you that, by your stripes I am healed and set free.

I am a daughter of the High King. A princess in the Heavenly royal court. My inheritance is eternity, freedom, power, victory.

I wear the Helmet of Salvation. My mind is protected from bondage, deceit, malice, judgment - anything less than the freedom that comes through salvation.

I wear the Breastplate of Righteousness. Christ is holy; therefore I am holy. Christ is righteous; therefore I am righteous. Accusations from my past, words and judgments and old reputations - they are powerless. They hit my breastplate - the righteousness I wear in Christ, my undeniable right-standing with God - and they dissipate, evaporate, like they never existed.

I wear the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace, leaving footprints of Jesus' blood - evidence of His love and mercy - everywhere I step. My footing is sure, my steps deliberate, and my path laid before me by the Holy Spirit. I do not fear a stumble or a fall, for whether I sit or stand, walk or crawl, run ahead or lag behind, I carry Christ's gospel - the power of grace, mercy, and forgiveness - with me.

I hold in front of me the Shield of Faith. I am not afraid to advance, to step onto the field of battle, to move forward into unknown territory. Because of faith, I am allowed to love without regret. Because of faith, I can hope without fear. Because of faith, I move forward in this knowledge - if God is for me, who can stand against me?

In my right hand, I hold the Sword of the Spirit - the Word of God. It is the double-edged sword that both pierces through my own masks and fears and assumptions, and also cuts off the heads of the giants and the serpents. The truth of this sword cuts to pieces the lies of my enemies. It changes my position from offense to defense. I am not a victim; I am a victor. I am no longer under attack; I am the attacker. I am no longer the prey; I am the hunter.

With this armor, I am victorious. As a daughter of the King, THIS is my inheritance. Through Christ, THIS is my right. I am free. I am free. I am free.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do I live a life that requires God?

This question has been haunting me over the past few weeks.

So much of my life is manageable. Doable. Acheivable. Feed the kids. Wash the clothes. Put gas in the car. Be nice at work. Be nice at home. Make the beds. Answer the emails. Cook the meals. Play the games.

Sure, there are days when that list seems overwhelming. Still, it's just... life.

I am not attempting anything daring or impossible. Nothing out of my comfort zone or beyond my own strength.

Out of obedience to the Lord, I am getting up early (most mornings), cleaning out the junk (except in my car), eating healthier (at breakfast), and shutting my mouth (except when I'm not).

These things seem so simple. Manageable. Doable. Acheivable.

Until they're not.

Until I forget that I need Him.

Until I stop spending my early mornings with him.

Until I think for one moment that I'm strong enough to do these manageable, doable, acheivable tasks on my own.

And the things is - from the outside looking in - a day when I rely on Him doesn't look much different from a day when I do.

My car still gets messy. I still fall asleep on the couch too early. I still down half a pan of monkey bread all by myself. Emails go unanswered. Things get said that shouldn't.

Technically speaking, my days with Him aren't very different from my days without Him.

Except for two things. Two things that, for me, make all the difference in the world.

Two things: grace and hope.

Grace reassures me of His love, despite my failures. Grace picks me up and dusts me off and tells me that all fall short. All. Everybody. Including me. Especially me.

Grace reminds me that I'm not known for my shortcomings. I'm known by His gift. His life. His sacrifice. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Grace tells me who I am, regardless of what I do.

And hope...

Hope lifts my head. Hope directs my sight. Hope shows me what is possible in Him. Hope reminds me that today is only a moment - and tomorrow has great promises.

Hope means I won't always be overweight. My home won't always be a wreck. My words won't always get me into trouble. My life won't always be an unfinished list.

The harsh truth is that without grace and hope, I fail. The harsher truth is that with grace and hope, I fail.

But with God's grace, today's failures don't define me. And with God's hope, tomorrow's successes are possible.

So, yes, I need God today. Even if it's just to organize a closet. Even if it's just to get dinner on the table on time. Even if it's just to live life.

Especially if it's just to live life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


It's Saturday morning, and I am awake at 5:45am. There was a time in my life that I would have thought such an early Saturday morning was downright ungodly.

But now... now I revel in the cool, dark, quiet house that eases me into the day. It's as if I have been transported to another dimension - one where adults are allowed to finish a cup of coffee, or a chapter in a book, or (oh Heaven!) a blog. In this world, house work is easy and quick. Time with the Lord and in the Word is uninterrupted. The soul is soothed by the sound of the clocks ticking, the fan whirring, and the deep breathing of little ones in their beds.

I love that when Maple (always the early riser) stumbles out of her room and shields her eyes from the lamp light, I am there to greet her with a smile and a cuddle. I love that I have had time to gather my wits and determine that today - this morning - will not be rushed or stressful.

Bags are often packed before little feet hit the carpet. Breakfast is enjoyed together at the table. Getting dressed becomes a game and an excuse to snuggle. Fixing hair (no longer a race to remove tangles) is a discussion about hair styles and which bow matches.

I feel like I can breathe. Like I can love. And it's all because of 5:45 on a Saturday morning.

Not every morning is like this. I still have morning when fight to get out of bed before 7:15am. I still have mornings where I hit the snooze button more often than I should. And I still have mornings that are full of "hurry up" and "why aren't you dressed yet?"

But those rushed and fitful mornings only make me more grateful for right now. For sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee. For blogging. For listening to the birds and the clocks and the deep breathing. For peace.

Psalm 143:8
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I know you've been holding your breath since my last post. What could Brandy possibly be leading up to? you ask yourself. I'm on the edge of my seat with the anticipation of reading her follow-up post.

I know, friends. I know.

Now brace yourselves because, alas, the follow up must be postponed.

Try to pull yourself together and be consoled by the fact that it will come soon.... Soon I can let you in on the project that has consumed so much of my time and energy... but not today.

Today I plan to blog about housekeeping and schedules and routines. Please try to stifle your collective groans.

So I have been attempting to wake up at 5am each morning. Honestly, most mornings, I am awake before that time anyways. However, there are some mornings when I am forced to drag my tired body and heavy eyelids out of bed so I can stumble into the morning.

Why would you choose to start your day so early? you ask. Especially when you don't have to be at work until 8:30am?

Good question. And one I can answer in three simple words: God said so.

Seriously. No, I can't find scripture to back it up. No, I will not commence a 12-point-sermon on the importance of being the Early Bird (trust me, I have enough worms already... more on that later).

Now you don't have to believe me on this. And maybe you've never experienced anything like this before. But the truth is this: God woke me up at 3am several weeks ago and said, "Get out your iphone. You're going to need to take some notes."


I have only heard the Lord's voice that clearly one other time in my life. The first time it was emotional, gut-wrenching, convicting, and life-changing.

This time it was gentle, almost professional, convicting, and life-changing.

I have held onto His words for several weeks now, debating whether or not I should share it with all of society (or, you know, the 7 people who read my blog). I have, to this point, only shared it with a handful of close friends. But for those who have heard it, they too have been impacted.

So, after prayerful consideration, here is (most of) what the Lord told me:

Your ministry to your home is priority. It is your energy tithe to me. I want the first 10% of your day spent focused on your home.

You are going to have to started getting up at 5am. [5:00am - 7:30am is 2.5 hours, approximately 10% of my day!] Use this time for loving your husband in housework and meal prep, and loving your children in your time and patience. Don't be afraid to read books, go outside and play, go for walks, talk about me, cook breakfast together, or leave the house early and go to the park. These times will become your cherished time with them. Be jealous of this time. Protect it. I will use it and bless it. This small amount of time, when dedicated in obedience to me, will be the greatest display of love to your children. They will grow in the knowledge that they are VIPs. They are loved first, and not fourth or fifth. This is your daily offering to me.

For Brandon, answer his phone calls. Listen to his day. Love and support his job because that is part of who he is. And show him that he is priority by preparing your home for peace.

This home will be a respite for you both. Take care of it. Love it as a symbol of love for each other. Don't keep score. Don't bicker over chores and things that don't matter. Do every chore as an offering to me, not a to-do list forced upon you in slavery. You are free to love me this way. You are designed to love me this way. It will bring you joy and peace and room for love. And I am pleased.

Go to bed on time. Your evenings will no longer be your time to clean or work on your home. Go to bed with a messy house. See it as a symptom of love and memories and a family full of life. Then wake up refreshed and ready to reset the stage in which you will perform the acts of love for your family.

You will set the tone for your home over the coming weeks. Schedules will change. Calendars will fill up. You will be busy. But - this is very important - you do not have to be hurried. You will be busy, but you do not have to be hurried. You will be busy, but you do not have to be hurried. Allow plenty of time for what you need to do. Be early. Start before you think you need to start. This will be crucial to the atmosphere of your home because - hear me on this - you cannot love in a hurry.

Remember to seek me and my Kingdom. Remember the bottom line - to love me and love others. Everything else. Every. Thing. Else. is temporary.

Know your worth. Know that you are called to more. I will set you free. That thing that holds you captive has lost its charm. I have disarmed it. You need only to walk away. Walk into my arms. Let me walk with you. I have given you the power of life and death; so speak love to yourself. Speak love to your body and your appetite. You are created for this - to glorify me with your temple. So speak love. Your tongue is the mighty weapon with which this battle will be won.

Know that I love you. Know that I am for you. Know that these offerings are pleasing to me. Your life is pleasing to me. Walk in that knowledge. Love in that knowledge. Bless in that knowledge. Worship in that knowledge. Live your life - full as it is - in that knowledge.

I. Love. You.

More to come...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dropping Anchor

I have called many places home in my last seven years. Although, I suppose, if my hubby and I ever talk about "home," we're referring to Athens, GA - the place we were raised and where most of our family still lives. But even when we were dating, and in our early months of marriage, we knew we wouldn't be in Athens forever.

All of our "homes" have been transient. For a season. Temporary.

And I have loved this life. I have loved knowing that my family is not called to plant roots in anything (or any place) except the Kingdom. I have reveled in the idea of a new horizon, a new city, a new landscape, a new me.

But the thing about being transient is that it's hard to lay claim to anything. It's difficult to invest in something that is fleeting, you know? I tend to maintain surfacey friendships if I know the person will be leaving me (or vice versa) in the near future. I don't hang pictures on the walls of a house if I have to patch the holes a few months later. I know it's temporary; so I wait. I know it's only for a season; so I watch the seasons change. I don't drop anchor; I just look for the next big wave to carry me away.

That's the safe thing to do, you know. It's easier to never hang pictures than mess with putty when you move. It's easier to leave the boxes upacked than to repack them later. It's easier to love a little than lose a lot.

It wasn't until my seventh month in Korea when I realized how much that mentality permeated every area of my home. My relationships. My life. It's as if the Lord opened my eyes to what I was missing - who I was missing.

I suddenly realized that, with my roots firmly planted in the Kingdom of God, I was free (and required) to love people and places with reckless abandon. It could never be wasted. I might be abandoned by people, but the love that I gave (and lost) would be invested in a far greater place and Person. I committed in those last three months that I would give 100% of myself in those relationships and people. And I have not regretted one moment of that investment.

Fast forward a year (give or take).

It's December 2010.

I'm living in Memphis, my new temporary home. Chick Nite at The Life Church. Minding my own business. Expecting to have some fun. Riding the waves.

Then the speaker began to throw out some random statistics:

"Memphis, TN was recently named the Hungriest City in America."

What's that?

"26% of people in Memphis could not afford to buy food for their families in the last 12 months."

Come again?

"83% of people who come to the Food Bank have to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities."

"32% had to choose between food and rent or mortage payments."

I feel like I can't breathe.

"One area of Memphis has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country - nearly twice the national average."

I'm heartbroken.

Then she told a story that haunted me - that night, and several nights since then.

For Christmas, our church gave out live Christmas trees (among other things) in one of the most impoverished areas of our city. They came complete with decorations and lights - as any Christmas tree should.

When they arrived at one home, the mother said, "We don't need the lights. We don't have any electricity."

Her little boy turned to her and said, "But Mom, can we please get them anyways? It will make it feel more like Christmas."

That night, it was 12 degrees in Memphis.

Twelve. Degrees.

And here is a family without heat.

Only 10 miles from my house.

Where I snuggled in a warm bed.

My heater turned on 70 degrees.

My pantry full of food.

Leftovers in the garbage.

My two healthy, happy children deep breathing in their beds.

I wouldn't have known that it was twelve degrees outside if I hadn't looked it up on one of my two laptops.


I didn't sleep at all that night.

I saw the anchor splashing into the waves.

I felt the ground shift beneath my feet as the roots began to creep their way through.

I knew I couldn't live in this place - in this city - without investing.

Fast forward to today...

(come back soon for Part 2)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A few days ago, Cindy Beall posted a recap of what the Lord has done in her life since her world fell apart 9 years ago. If you don't know her story, check it out here. (You can also check out her book, which will be on shelves soon.)

At the end of her post, she asked a simple question: What sort of amazing fruit have trials produced in your life?

I left a comment without thinking much about it. Then I went back to proofread my comment. Then I read it again. And again.

By my fourth time through it, I was crying as I realized how very good the Lord has been to me.

I whined and complained. I argued and bickered. I doubted His love, and I doubted His goodness. I asked him to save me from my circumstances. I bargained and begged. I didn't talk to Him for a while. Then I worked my tail off to "earn" the answer I wanted.

And he brought me to a place where I finally had to say, "I'd rather have you." Even if everything I believed about Him was a lie. Even if He wasn't good. Even if He only loved me a little bit. Even if I could never earn my way. Even if I would live in poverty and debt for the rest of my life. Even if my marriage and life was destined for mediocrity. I would still rather have Him.

And out of that moment - the moment when I realized He really is all that I have - He birthed a new desire. No longer all I have, He is truly and undeniably all I want.

See the comment I left on Cindy's blog below:

As Christians who attended (and volunteered at) church regularly, my husband and I had the same dream – to make a lot of money and retire early. We set about purchasing properties in our hometown, with the desire to either rent them or turn them over for profit. Right after we bought our second property, the economy went to pot, and we found ourselves $35k in debt (not including the mortgages) with very little income to live on.

That was when we finally turned to the Lord and said, “What do we do?” The Lord sent us to South Korea, where we taught English at a church and made less income than we had ever made in our lives.

He taught us to live on a budget, and to live a minimalist lifestyle. We realized that we didn’t need “stuff” in order to be happy. Actually, we realized the opposite. We learned that the “stuff” (and the financial burden that came with it) was preventing us from following God’s will for our life.

We have been back in the states for 13 months and, out of obedience to Christ, we are currently renting a small home, living TV- and Internet-Free, and using every extra penny to pay off our debt. We have never been more at peace, and we are looking forward to the day when all of our time and money can be dedicated 100% to the Kingdom (and not to our credit card bills).

I love love love that the Lord removes our support, leads us into the desert, and slays us with thirst – only to have us lean on Him, hide in His love, and drink of His goodness. (Hosea 2).

Thank you for sharing your life, Cindy, and for helping me remember what He has done in mine.


From Hosea 2...

She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them.

"Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her naked body. So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers; no one will take her out of my hands.

I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals.
I will ruin her vines and her fig trees, which she said were her pay from her lovers; I will make them a thicket, and wild animals will devour them.

I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,” declares the LORD.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of [Trouble] a door of hope. There she will respond (or sing) as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’

I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.

I will say to those called ‘Not my people’: ‘You are my people’;and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Boring Update or Two

First of all, I want to sincerely thank those of you who responded to my last post. I am reminded more and more every day that this Christian life isn't meant to be lived alone. What affects the part, affects the whole, and I am SO BLESSED to have such amazing women in my life who take time out of their own busy schedules to give advice and send encouragement across the miles.

I did delete that post, in case you're wondering. I mainly posted it as a way of asking for some much-needed advice, but I don't want it to cause any harm to anyone who may read my blog in the future. So I took it down.

Still, I very much appreciate those of you who read and prayed and commented. Your input meant more to me than words can say.

In other news, just a few updates today:

1. I have almost completed going through the girls' clothes. We went from 4 FULL laundry baskets to two (including towels and blankets). I have one last load to wash and sort before I take yet another run to Goodwill.

2. I plan to tackle the kitchen next. We have too many dishes, and the amount of time that we spend washing them is ridiculous. I plan to narrow us down to six dinner plates, six coffee mugs, six bowls, and that's it. I'll probably end up clearing out some mixing bowls and a few small appliances too.

3. I know this is a boring post... I'm bored writing it...

...But these small steps bring me closer to the lifestyle the Lord has called us to lead in this season of our lives.

Last night, I got home at 6:30pm. I put the girls to bed. I worked on organizing clothes until 10pm. And I went to bed. And I'm still not finished. And I probably won't be finished until this weekend. And then it will all start again on Monday.

All that time and energy put into things that don't matter - things that won't last.

Brandon and I covet our time. We want to invest in our children, in each other, in God's kingdom, in things that last and matter.

We don't want to waste our time arranging and rearranging things we don't need and things that don't last.

So, yes, we're in a boring phase. There is nothing fun or exciting about sorting through 12 pair of leggings and trying to figure out which three to keep.

But when we're done. When everything is combed through. When every area of our home is at maximum use with minimum maintenance. Then we can start talking about more important (and more exciting) things.

Until then, friends, I hope you're prepared for all the cliff-hanging, soul-searching, breath-taking excitement that can come from a mountain of laundry and a sink full of dishes.

2 Corinthians 5

1-5For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.

6-8That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we'll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Movin' and Shakin' and Groovin' and Bakin'

We moved this weekend.

Yup. Moved out of our apartment (which we have loved) into a house (which we love more).

We have a yard. We have enough bedrooms for our growing family. We have less square footage, which we actually kind of like. We have a sidewalk. We have a little humming neighborhood.

And we have stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.

You may remember my 2011 Resolution to prepare my life for whatever God has next for us. A huge part of that means weeding out all the unnecessary “junk” that’s cluttering up my life – in my car, in my house, in my heart.

Although I haven’t updated the progress here much, I have taken no fewer than THREE carloads of “stuff” to Goodwill, and I have a fourth awaiting my attention at the apartment right now.

I was quite proud of that accomplishment.


I was proud until, well, we moved.

Boxes upon boxes. Bags upon bags. Stuff. Stuff. And more stuff.

They guys (who were gracious enough to help us move) could barely fit all the stuff in my living room.

It was piled high. And two days later, I am still going through boxes and bags of – you guessed it – stuff.

Decorations. Dishes. “Might-use-this-someday’s.” And clothes. OH! The clothes!!!

My husband (who was oh-so-sick the day of the move) accidentally mixed the clean and dirty clothes into the same bags. We have no way of telling what’s what; so all of our clothes – every single article of what we currently wear – are piled in the hallway outside our laundry room.



We cannot see the carpet in our entire hallway. And the pile, at some points, is over 3 feet high.

I’m ashamed to say that doesn’t even include the BOXES of clothes that are stored away for spring and summer.


In Korea, we had one outfit for each day, a couple sets of play clothes, and one “nice” outfit for church. I had two pair of shoes. Two. Pair. Of. Shoes.

A white pair for spring and summer. A black pair for fall and winter.


Now, I can’t find room for my shoes. My hallway is full (FULL!) of clothes.
And I started thinking about all the time my hubby and I spend on laundry alone. The washing and drying (and the electricity bills that come with it). The folding. The ironing. The putting away. The sorting. The digging. The searching for something to wear amidst the umpteen stacks that fill our drawers and closets.

If you don’t see where this is going, lem’me spell it out for ya. We’re going all-out Korean style, and this seems as good a time as any. As we wash (and re-wash) our pile(s) of clothes, I will be choosing 7-10 “outfits” for the girls, 1-2 “church dresses,” and a couple sets of pajamas.

Hubby and I will have even less (since we often wear the same outfit to work/play/church).

I’m ditching the shoes.

Yup. I’ll probably end up with more than 2 pair, but definitely not more than 4 or 5 (goodbye, lovely shiny red pumps that I would love to wear again someday but don’t have anything to match you now).

Stay tuned, I might take some before/after pictures, if I can swallow my pride for a minute.

A few more updates:

1. We are still TV-free and loving it. When Chloe is tired, she will occasionally ask when we’re going to get a TV. Those moments are just that – moments. They last only a few seconds before she takes off into her imaginary world of talking butterflies and giants and heroines and damsels in distress. Maple doesn’t seem to notice a difference. (In the name of full disclosure, for a couple afternoons a week, we do have a DVD player in the car that the girls watch on our 30-minute commute.)

2. While we’re not all-organic, chemical-free… we’re getting there. I’m still poo free (for the most part). I make a couple loaves of whole wheat bread each week, along with a couple batches of healthy granola. The girls are snacking on raw fruits and veggies and only ask for chips/cookies/etc. if they know we have them in the house. Otherwise, they don’t seem to miss them.

3. I’m not losing weight. Like, at all. But I am eating healthier and binging less. Hubby and I started P90X (aka: Excersize created in the pit of Hell) last night. Progress is progress, yo. Don’t hate.

So that’s it. May your week be filled with smiles and bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Korean Adventurer

I find myself lost in nostalgia today. My dear friend Kathryn and her family are heading to South Korea in the next 24 hours to begin a year-long work that God has called them to.

I'm am so excited for them. More excited than words can say. Living overseas is one of those life-changing, soul-searching, faith-building, family-uniting, God-ordained things that cannot fully be put into words. It is impossible to walk away from an experience like that unaltered. And I know they will look back on these memories as precious, cherished, beautiful times.

As I read her blog and talk with her on the phone, I find myself reliving the 24 hours before our own departure.

I was in a panic. I had never been to Korea and had no idea what to pack. I was trying to fit our entire life (including a month's supply of diapers and toiletries) into 4 suitcases, and I was failing miserably.

I was saying what "goodbye's" had not already been said by that point. I was desperately grasping for some calm in the midst of chaos.

Then I think about the airport. My mother was crying. My husband was focused. My children were content. I was... excited.

For the 3.5 of us boarding the plane, our nerves were so jittery, none of us slept for the entire 16-hour flight. The flight attendant served my bi-bim-bap. This was my first Korean dish.

When we arrived in Seoul, Pastor Kim and his lovely wife picked us up. While we all wanted to be friendly and conversational, my family and I all fell sound asleep on the hour-long ride to our new home.

A crowd of kind-faced Samonims greeted us at the entrance to our apartment building. We were so amazed at how these little, happy women carried our massive luggage up three flights of stairs to our second story apartment. We opened the door to our wood-floor, large-window, brightly-lit apartment. There were balloons on the windows and "American style" bread on the table. A hand-made glittered poster board read: "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God." A few dishes, no doubt donated by the Samonims, were sitting on the kitchen counters. And several large bottles of water cooled in the fridge.

Our Korean-style bedding was lying on the warmed floor in the master bedroom. A dark burgundy leather couch sat against the wall of our living room.

I was exhausted. Completely foggy-brained. I remember looking at the Samonims, who were watching us with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation, and profusely repeating one of the few words I had learned on the plane ride over: Kam-sa-ham-ni-da. Thank you.

Chloe, exhausted and overwhelmed, cried herself to sleep that night.

We awoke early the next morning to a pink princess alarm clock Pastor Kim had given us: "Good morning, Princess. Good morning, Princess."

And the adventure began.

Our first visit to the church (where, in all my pregnant glory, I fell down an icy set of stairs).

Our first trip to the grocery store.

Our first unaccompanied trip to the grocery store.

The first snow fall.

The first time I met Easter.

The first time I was invited into a Samonim's house.

The first time an American friend visited us. (Shout out to Ansley!)

The first time we toured Seoul.

Our first meal at a restaurant.

Chloe's first Korean word.

Learning to bow.

Learning to read.

Learning to live.

Each memory could be an entire post all on its own.

We learned to love the adventure that was outside our front door. We learned to cherish the respite that was our warm apartment. We learned to let go of our agendas and cleave to the relationships that mattered most.

It was hard. It was challenging. It stretched me further than I ever thought I could go.

But it was beautiful. And it was dear. And it's an experience I will live over and over again in my heart and mind.

Kathryn, my dear friend, I'm so thrilled for you and your family. You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. May God's presence feel near, His direction clear, His works evident, and His heart revealed.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 - Part 2

I've been trying to decide how to tell you about my "resolutions" for 2011. You see, they're not true "resolutions." More ideas. Thoughts. Feelings. Beliefs.

I could tell you that I Resolve to Be More Organized. But the truth goes much deeper than that.

Two months ago, after receiving a heartbreaking bit of news regarding my lovely city of Memphis (more on that later), I could not sleep. I cried out to the Lord, "Use me! USE me! use MEEE! Use my car. Use my house. Use everything I have."

To which the Lord clearly, deliberately stated: "Your car is not ready to be used. Your house is not ready to be used. You are not ready to be used."

Ugh. Truth.

At that moment, my car was so full of trash and jackets and bookbags and makeup and Starbucks cups and sippy cups and teddy bears and scarves and hats and apple cores... that I couldn't fit another person in there if my life depended on it.

My house - full of more junk. Full. Bursting at the seams. Items that had little use and no place to call home floated through my house like ghosts, seeking a life they once possessed.

And myself. My heart. My life. Full. Full of good things, like love for, and time with, my children, husband, friends, family. That's supposed to be there. Time with the Lord? Eh. It was there, but not as much as it should be. But then there's that other space: that space that can be filled and emptied and refilled over and over again. It's the space most often occupied by TV, facebook, more TV, gossip, TV, movies, TV, magazines, TV, idle shopping, TV, music, and more TV. (Did I mention TV?)

With the plethora of cheap entertainment and empty space-fillers at my disposal (and in constant use), is it any wonder I had no time for anything else?

My car. My home. My life... all totally unprepared for use in God's Kingdom.

That thought led to a slew of emotions, resolutions, goals, projects, plans, and determinations.

That was two months ago.

But over the past two months, through prayerful consideration with my husband, that big pot of resolutions has simmered and boiled down to a concentrated, purposeful salve of resolve.

I am resolved...

1.) To remove mindless TV from my life. We sold the xbox. We sold the movies (all 341 of them). We sold the DVD player. We sold (gasp) the TV. There may still be evenings when hubby and I cuddle up to the glow of the laptop screen and enjoy a movie together. But it is no longer the constant hum of our home.

2.) To prepare my house and car and every area of my life for the "promised offering."
Two days after I cleaned out my car, and elderly lady (with a trunk full of Christmas presents) broke down right in front of me. I was able to comfortably fit her and all her packages (plus a few of my own) into my car to help her home. Confirmation, anyone?
My house will take much longer than the five hours spent on my car. But, as my verse for the year says, "I want you to have all the time you need to make this offering in your own way. I don't want anything forced or hurried at the last minute." I have time, and I plan to make the most of it.

3.) To do what I am supposed to do right now. I don't mean this in the "big-picture" way I have said it in the past... as in, "I'm living where I'm supposed to live, doing the job I'm supposed to do, etc." What I mean is right now. At this moment. Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? When I'm at work, I plan to work. When it's dinner time, I cook. When I should be with my children, I'm with my children. And when I should be folding clothes, I'm folding clothes. No more doing home from work or work from home. No more talking on the phone instead of talking with my daughter. No more resting when I should be busy or busyness when I should be resting. "For everything there is a season."

4.) Above all, to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that "all these things" will be added unto me. I tend to jump on bandwagons. All or nothing. That's my motto. "I'm eating 500 calories a day so I can lose a million pounds." OR ""Look how immaculately perfect my house can be when I spend a ka-jillion hours a day on it." OR "I can sew new wardrobes for everyone in our family plus some for the neighbors!" OR "Apple Pie, anyone? I baked 23 of them this week just so I could get the perfect crust."
When I'm on those bandwagons, they become priority over everything else. They become a god. And I am convicted.
So my plan is to have one true bandwagon this year: God's Kingdom. And I'm going to trust and believe that, if everything I do is with that purpose in mind, "all these things" will fall into place.

Happy 2011, y'all.

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood