Gratituesday – Refreshment

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Last weekend was the women’s retreat for our church. I really don’t like being away from my kiddo, so it’s not something I would normally consider. I occasionally have to go away overnight for work, but going away for me seemed selfish and unnecessary. But my church asked me to photograph the event. Then they offered to sponsor my weekend there. I love photography and love when I can do it to help someone, so I agreed.

As the weekend approached, I had no idea how I would make it 48 hours without my kid. And the evenings were a bit rough. I don’t know a lot of people yet, and I certainly don’t know them well. I wondered what I was doing there, so out of my element. Sometimes I wanted to be sitting at home, lonely, but comfortable.

Then came Saturday morning. My closest friend there caught me on my way in to breakfast. She had saved me a seat. We spent much of the day together and had a wonderful chance to catch up and just hang out. The teaching sessions that day were good and challenging and I felt much more connected. I want to bottle up the feeling of togetherness from Saturday afternoon and hold on to it when I am lonely.

At the core, I think one of the biggest problems single moms face is isolation. We’re lonely! Not necessarily for a man, but for time with other grown-up women. It was really hard to put myself out there this weekend, but I know it’s incredibly important. So I took a deep breath and jumped in. And I am so glad I did. I can feel the change in me. I have some goals and things I want to put in place from the weekend and I have some new friendships that are forming.

I find myself smiling a lot more. That is good for me and has to be good for my kiddo, too.

 

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Gratituesday – Moments of Joy

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This morning, my little one climbed in bed with me as the alarm went off. I ignored the alarm, at least for a few minutes and just enjoyed having her snuggled up to me. We started talking about random things and went off on a very silly tangent. Just because I love to hear her laugh. There are enough mundane or even hard moments in life. When we find ourselves in a moment of joy, I just want time to stop for a while so we can fully live in it. That’s what we did.

We won’t always remember what silly thing we were talking about or what we ended up having for breakfast today. But we will hold that moment of togetherness in our hearts. Just one more building block of this lovely life we get to live together.

 

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My Hand Shot Up

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I was talking to a dear friend of mine a few days ago. We found we both have such a hard time speaking up in Bible study. Even when we have something to contribute, something pressing on our hearts that needs to be said. I did it again last week. I sat there in Sunday School, with the words forming in my head again and again, but I couldn’t get my hand up. It just wouldn’t go. It’s so hard to put myself out there. It’s even hard to do it here, but at least you aren’t all looking at me. 🙂 I get to take my time and say it when I’m ready.

So imagine my surprise yesterday in Sunday School. Someone made a statement that I thought was totally off the mark. Suddenly, my hand shot up, high and strong. I actually glanced at it out of shock. But there it was. And I got called on. And my mind went blank. Then I just started talking. I don’t do monologues, I don’t give speeches. Just a few sentences that I feel need to be shared.

And when I was done, I was fairly certain my heart was going to pound right out of my chest. But it didn’t. It settled back down and the class went on. Apparently no one knew how difficult those 30 seconds were. Maybe the next ones will be easier.

I know this: I am learning some hard-won lessons. None of them are easy and I don’t want them to go to waste. If something God has taught me can be used by Him to help someone else, I can’t keep quiet. So I’ll just keep asking God to use me, and give me the courage I lack.

 


Our I Love You Day

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Valentine’s Day can be wonderful. Or it can be really hard. This year, I decided to stop ignoring it, hoping to get through the day unscathed and, instead, embrace a day of celebrating that we love each other and that God loves us, just as we are.

So I am starting a new tradition. We are celebrating I Love You Day today. It was an idea in Angela Thomas’ book, My Single Mom Life. Something she did with her kids to celebrate them. Something that built them up and made them feel loved.

DSC_0001I cut out big paper hearts in 3 shades of pink. I used smaller heart punches to decorate the big hearts. And on each one, I wrote something I love about my kiddo. After I got her to school this morning, I hung the 5 big hearts in the opening between our dining and living rooms. I taped tons of small paper hearts to the front door. I used purple and white curling ribbon to make everything fancy. I am going to make heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies before she gets home.

I have a few small items in the closet, from when I have over-bought for a holiday in the past and $3 bottle of purple glitter glue for a small present. The rest I did with things we already had at home. I want to save these hearts I made and add more every year until we have a house full of them.

I can’t wait to see her eyes light up when she sees our I Love You Day.

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Our Strength

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I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. It has become such a mantra in the world that has lost its meaning. And…are you ready for this? It’s wrong.

He absolutely allows more to come into our lives than we can handle. It’s those times when we come face to face with our weakness that we finally see and admit to our need for Him. Sometimes it takes us many times of getting to those places before we get wise enough to seek His help. But when we finally do, watch out. God doesn’t just give us enough strength to get through. He BECOMES our strength.

I have found that when I get to that place of my ultimate weakness, I am not leaning on Him, while still standing on my own power. It’s not my feet moving to propel me forward. It’s not my heart that survives another blow. It’s Him. He becomes the strength that holds me up and holds me together. What more could I ask for?

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. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

It’s what He is waiting for. He has the strength and the power. And He wants to share it with us.

If only we will learn to ask.


Gratituesday – Celebration

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Yesterday in church, we spent the morning celebrating how faithful God has been to our church over its 131 year history. One man whose mother first brought him to this church in 1925 spoke and told of God’s faithfulness throughout the years.

We celebrated that our church is now debt free, no mortgage at all after 17 years and several massive building projects. God has been faithful and has provided more than we could imagine. Now we get to look forward to what God is going to do with all of the money we will have to do more ministry with every month. It’s breathtaking.

The Bible is full of stories of celebration and God’s call to celebrate His mighty works. He wants us to remember His faithfulness. So we celebrated. Big Time. We had the privilege of being joined by Huntley Brown, an amazing pianist. No words are adequate. He played How Great Thou Art and we got to sing with him. While we could. But eventually the power and majesty of our Lord was just too much. There were very few dry eyes as we worshipped Him. The great I Am. The One who made us in His image. He gave humans the ability to compose these amazing hymns and the incredible gift of someone able to create music like we heard that day.

Now I sit here. Still able to be swept up in the memory of that moment beyond words. The moment when we weren’t worshipping just with our minds or hearts, but our very spirits. And I wonder. If we are created in God’s image and we are able to make music like this, what must God’s music sound like?

 

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Saving Time in the Kitchen

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In my effort to save money and time (as so many of us moms need to do), I have learned a few tricks that work wonders for me. I just finished a big one.

A client emailed and asked if I am available for a couple of months of work coming up. I may be swamped with work. (YAY!) So I am getting prepared. I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they are on sale. Lots of them. If they are on sale for less than $2 a pound, I try to go each day and buy the limit of 2 packs. Then I bake them all, cut them into small pieces and freeze them 2 cups at a time in Ziploc vacuum bags. I wanted a foodsaver for a long time, but couldn’t justify the price. This system is CHEAP and works so well. I have been using it for about 3 years. The bags can be reused several times (I wouldn’t reuse them if the chicken wasn’t cooked first).

DSC_0095 DSC_0096First, I bake the chicken, covered with aluminum foil. Then I cut it into small chunks and measure it into 2 cups portions. I found that many of my recipes call for 2 cups of chicken, so this portioning works for me.

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Then I use the Ziploc vacuum bags and seal all the bags up to be frozen.DSC_0101

So I now have a BIG stash of cooked and cubed chicken in my freezer (and some in my mom’s). This time, I ended up with 19 2 cup bags. It is so easy to pull it out, thaw overnight and throw it into whatever recipe I am making. I use it for my daughter’s favorite food (chicken pockets), chicken divon, quesadillas, etc. Really cuts down on my cooking time when I need it most.

Trust me, she eats her share of chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese. But I would much rather give her homemade meals whenever I can.

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Five Minute Friday – Bare

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People all over the world blogging on the same topic on the same day for just five minutes and linking up at Lisa Jo’s place. Today’s topic: Bare.

Five Minute Friday

 

GO.

My grandmother loved bare trees. She loved seeing all the branches in their interesting patterns. So do I. I love the bud of green leaves in the spring, the beautiful trees all full of leaves in summer and the amazing colors in the fall. But there is something about a bare tree in the winter. Especially if it is surrounded by and covered with snow. The starkness of the dark limbs against a blanket of white catches me every time. I could just stop and stare. And I usually do.

Today as I walked in the snow-covered woods, among all the beautiful bare trees a new thought hit me. Once all the leaves are gone, we can see what the tree REALLY looks like. What it’s made of. How strong it is.

Just like us. When earthly things we treasure are stripped away, we can see what a person is really made of. How strong they are. The curves and bends their lives have taken and how much they have grown anyway. There’s no more hiding. Our truest, simplest selves are shown to all. I pray that when that happens, the world will see a woman who follows after God with her whole heart.

 

STOP.

 

Want to know how Five Minute Friday got started and how to participate? All the details are here.


Gratituesday – The Soundtrack of My Life

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Doopa doopa doopa doopa doo. Doopa doopa doopa doopa doo. Doopa doopa doopa doopa doo.

My kiddo is noisy. Or so people tell me.

Zooooop Zoooooop Zooop  ooooop. Zooooop Zoooooop Zooop  ooooop. Zooooop Zoooooop Zooop  ooooop.

Sometimes, after spending a few hours with us, someone will ask, “Is she ever quiet?” Well, no. Now that I think about it, she isn’t. She is either talking (to me, to herself, to her toys) or singing, or making fun noises.

Da Da DaDuLaDo. Da Da DaDuLaDo. Da Da DaDuLaDo.

I am so used to it, I don’t really notice it much. And it doesn’t bother me. I love to hear all her little noises.

She has been sick the last few days, so we have been having lots of UNO marathons. And she sang these nonsense songs almost the entire time of our one and a half hour UNO sessions. At one point, I started laughing as I imagined what someone else would say if they could have heard us. She started laughing, too. Music to my ears.

I wouldn’t change my personal soundtrack for anything.

 

 

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Birthday Blessings

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I was not excited about my birthday this year. I used to love to celebrate birthdays, but the last few years, it’s been harder. I still want to celebrate the little one’s birthday, of course. We could have a week-long extravaganza for that and it might not be enough for me!

But I wasn’t looking forward to mine. I had a couple of ideas of things we could do. But I really wanted an adventure.

Then, on the morning of my birthday, my little one came running in, jumped on my bed and said “Momma! It’s time for your first present!” Who would not love waking up to that! She decorated a vase for me with pretty ribbons. I asked her why it was my “first” present. She said in case there were others she had forgotten about.

But the real gift was the whole day we got to spend together. We went to a winter festival, watched ice scuplting, did a craft. We went to McDonald’s for lunch, thanks to a gift card from my aunt. Then we went thrift store shopping and to my sister’s for dinner.

Not a grand adventure. But it turned out to be a wonderful day, just being together.