Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just Pray

This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart.

When my kids were little, all my friends with older children (e.g. older than mine were at the time) would always tell me how much harder parenting is as the kids get older.

"Yeah, right", I thought. Raising twins was never a cake-walk from the moment I became an immediate mother of two! I thought that surely nothing could be harder than two newborns, or two toddlers, or two pre-schoolers.

Well, here's what I think today: parenting the little ones is physically exhausting, while parenting the olders is emotionally exhausting.

Want to know when parenting is REALLY hard? When you see your childhood struggles rearing their ugly heads in the lives of your children. Ugh. It stinks.

Nothing can throw me back faster to my childhood hurts than when I see similar things happening with my kids. Talk about Momma Bear mode? This is like Momma Bear with a wounded paw mode. Not. Pretty.

Right now I see my kids walking through some things that I went through as a child - in fact some of the same things that still plague me today! Things that still hurt my feelings. Things that still sting - and they sting even worse when it's happening to my babies.

So where does that leave me? I'm trying to handle this the right way. Perhaps better than it was handled with me. I'm trying to choose my words & actions differently - so as not to impose some of the same secondary wounds that were once inflicted on me. I'm praying more. And more specifically.

While watching the Beth Moore video from the study of James last night, I heard God's voice speaking to my heart about this exact thing. He reminded me that no prayer is too hard for Him. He wants to direct my paths - and is thrilled when I actually ask Him. He is the One who I must first go to when life gets hard. Not my Mom. Not my husband. Not my friends. (Not Facebook.) My first go-to needs to be to God in prayer. Let Him settle my heart. Calm my fears. Heal my wounds. He gives direction. He gives clarity. He gives peace.

Today, my heart is heavy. God reminds me that His burdens are light.

Today I shed tears of frustration. God reminds me that His ways are always clear.

When I don't know the best plan of action - thank goodness God knows.

May we all remember this too (Beth Moore said it so well in last night's video): Jesus came to earth so that we might have life - and have it abundantly. Abundant life. Not life with abundant hurts. Not life with abundant worries. Abundant life.

As a parent, the only possible way to have an abundant life - the kind that Jesus offers - is to take our parenting to God in prayer. Daily. Every hour. Every minute if needed. God loves our children even more than we do. He knows exactly what they need. May we all take time each day to ask God to reveal that to us and to help us be the best parent we can be today. Oh how I want to get this parenting thing right. Don't you?!

If you're walking through some tough Mom moments, I hope you'll join me in prayer. We need lots of fellow sojourners on this journey called Parenthood.

Until next time -

Monday, August 13, 2012

Children Won't Wait!

Over the weekend, I managed to squeeze out enough quiet time to be able to read the August digital edition of my favorite homeschool magazine.

Note: "squeezing out quiet time" looks like this: me sitting in comfy chair with feet up; child #1: "Mom! I'm hungry!", me putting feet down, going to kitchen, making them food, returning to chair with feet up; child #2: "Mom! Will you move the truck out of the driveway so I can play basketball?!"; me putting feet down, moving truck, grabbing glass of water because I'm now thirsty, putting feet back up; phone rings; husband (on phone): "Whatcha doin'?"; me: "nothing". And THAT, my friends, is what I mean by "squeezing out quiet time." It's a miracle I did get it read. Anyway, back to my story...

One of the articles had a quote from a book that really touched me:
There is a time to treasure every fleeting minute of their childhood. Just eighteen precious years to inspire and train them. We will not exchange this birthright for a mess of pottage called social position, or business success or professional reputation. An hour of concern today may save years of heartache tomorrow, the house will wait, the dishes will wait, the new room can wait, but children don’t wait. There will be a time when there will be no slamming of doors, no toys on the stairs, no childhood quarrels, no fingerprints on the wallpaper. Then may we look back with joy and not regret. God give us wisdom to see that today is the day with our children. That there is no unimportant moment in their lives. May we know that no other career is so precious, no other work so rewarding, no other task so urgent. May we not defer it nor neglect it, but by Thy Spirit accept it gladly, joyously, and by Thy grace realize that the time is short and our time is now, for children won’t wait! (Helen Young ~ Children Won't Wait)
Isn't that precious?! It's the perfect reminder as I prepare to begin our 4th year of homeschooling. The perfect reminder as I look at my personal commitments and set realistic goals for myself. I needed to be reminded that children DON'T wait!

I have big dreams for myself. Large expectations. A very high  bar to try to live up to each day. The excerpt above helped me re-gain some great perspective. The Holy Spirit really gave me clarity in some areas I'd been praying about.

  •  As a homeschool Mom, besides maintaining a strong personal relationship with Christ (and a healthy relationship with my husband), my absolute #1 priority from now until my youngest graduates from high school is to train up my children. Not just teach them academics. Teach them God's Word. Teach them how to be respectful and honorable citizens. There is no greater calling than this.
  • Because of this choice to homeschool, other things that I may want to do in the future have to just stay on the back burner until the kids are grown. This is something I'm always having an internal struggle on. I have bigger dreams and goals for myself. But I also have to recognize my limits. Some homeschool moms can raise 10 kids while working from home on their dreams and changing the world with their children in toe. That's not me. I may at times WANT to do that. But I don't think it's how God built me. I get burned out on a fast-paced life really quickly. I am not one of those people who can be running 24/7, 365. I just can't do it. I HAVE to have times of calm. Have to. Well, motherhood in general, doesn't allow much calm unless you make it happen. Homeschooling in particular means you have to be very purposeful about setting a healthy pace. Trying to "fit in" my big dreams around those slower times, is not the answer for me. I think that after three years of homeschooling, I'm finally starting to get a handle on how to pace myself. (More on that later.)
  • Saying "not now" on some of my personal dreams is not giving up. Saying "not now" on some things right now, means I'm saying "yes!" to my kids. I do know how fast these years are going. I see how much my "tweens" are changing before my eyes. The parenting years for us are just starting to get to the hard stuff. Newborn years are easy. Teen years...I really need to get prayed up for that.
  • Just like the excerpt says, I don't want to look back on my kids' growing years with regret. I only get one chance to get this right. Sure. I'll make mistakes. But I am trying my best to be present, purposeful, and proactive. That takes time. It takes energy. It means that some things just have to wait.
  • God called us to homeschool. He will equip us (mentally, financially, spiritually) to do it. I get easily caught up in the panic that I NEED to do some of these other things right now because we NEED the money. I'm realizing that God has already worked out all those financial details. He has a plan for our family. I don't believe that me working on outside projects is part of that right now. He HAS called me to be good with a budget. To be wise with our food choices. Thankfully, trusting in God's provisions, budgeting, grocery shopping, and cooking can all be part of what I'm teaching my kids. See how this is all connected?
Saying not now to some of my personal goals and yes to my committment to my kids right now, also means I have to say yes to some more self-disciplined choices. Here's what it means to me to fully say yes to my family:
  •  I must be as physically and spiritually healthy as I can. That means: daily devotions, quiet time with God, taking my vitamins, continuing to lose weight and finally reaching my goal #, regular exercise. I have to take care of myself, or I have nothing to give my husband and kids. The only way to fit all this in is to get up, become more of a morning person, and get my devotions and exercise in before the kids are up.
  • I want my kids to know how to be good homemakers. Even my son. That means I am teaching them things like: how to keep a house clean (not spotless, mind you - clean), how to do laundry, how to make healthy meals, how to stay organized, how to take care of what God has blessed us with. This is not something I'm willing to let slide. This is some of the most important lessons I teach my kids each week. I'm always improving in this area, and I want them to all be proficient in it too.
  • Showing them how to be good stewards of their time. They need to learn how to be disciplined with their days. Teaching them how to set daily goals and fit them in is HUGE! I want them to be successful when they go off to college and have to manage all their responsiblities. They have to learn how to do that now. I can't teach them how unless I'm also a good steward of my time. We all have to learn to limit our time wasters. For them, it's the Wii. For me, it's Facebook. We are going to have "Technology Tickets" this year. I'm thinking of having a slot for myself and my husband too (he's big into playing games on his ipod touch). We're all given the same amount of time each day. I'm convicted to stop throwing it away so easily.
  • Along with the previous item, I also am teaching the kids the art of saying "no." Not just saying no to technology time wasters, but saying no to social invites. Not answering the phone during school hours. Not being busy every weeknight. Setting aside time on the calendar for family-only time. It's all about finding balance. Our kids are social. We're social. Finding balance isn't always so easy.
So on this note, it's time for me to get off the computer. This post isn't polished, but it's going to have to be good enough. That's another thing I'm learning to let go of: perfectionism.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me use this blog today to organize my thoughts. It's all just a work in progress. Stay tuned for updates on it all. I'm sure many "edits" are sure to follow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Let's Get Out of That Boat!

From one mom to another - guess what I got to have earlier this week...go ahead, guess!

One. Entire. Hour...

...of floating in the pool...

ALL
     BY
         MYSELF!

Can you even believe it?! The only sound I heard was the neighbor dog barking to be let in. But seriously. No children. No splashing. No one to bump into my float.

I went from: floating on my back in the sit-up raft, to floating on my stomach on the other one. (Very important not to get an uneven tan, you know.)

Then, when the heat got too much to bear - because we ARE having a heat wave here in Michigan - I just got off and swam a bit.

Seriously. Are you feeling it?

I was actually ALONE for an HOUR IN the POOL!

I know. I am still in disbelief as well.

But, don't worry. In case you fear that I just lied there wasting away my brain cells or something, I actually did a lot of praying and pondering.

Actually, I wish I didn't have one of those brains that won't stop thinking. But since I can't seem to stop thinking, I figured I should at least use my thinking time wisely. So I thought about what God wanted me to be gleaning from the current phase of my Mom-journey.

There isn't necessarily anything special about this phase. It's appreciatively rather serene (dare I say it).

The biggest thing that has happened recently is just my three days at my first writer's conference. I think I've been keeping myself conveniently too busy to have time to "address" the things I thought God was telling me there. That is, until I had that WHOLE HOUR in the POOL by MYSELF!

Maybe it was the fact that I was floating in water. But the story I kept referring back to was when Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat.
Matthew 14:25-33:
Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
 A few years ago I read John Ortberg's book If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Part of what he talks about is that Peter didn't just have faith. He also had action. He had to actually swing his legs over the side and stand his body up on top of the roaring waters. Wow. That's powerful.

One of the books I have been reading since the Speak Up! Conference is Carol Kent's book Speak Up With Confidence. At the beginning of the book, she lists several different Bible characters. She talks about the personalities of each one and how, even with all their inadequacies, God was able to use them in specific ways. Then she goes on to ask which one we can most relate to. As I read over the list of people again - David, Moses, Miriam, Jonah, Joseph, Paul, Joshua, Peter, Esther, etc. - I kept thinking that I related most to Peter.

Here's the two bullet points Carol lists to describe Peter:
  • A man who frequently acted and spoke before he thought
  • A man who learned self-control from the Master Teacher
Yep. I can relate.

As I was floating around in my pool (all ALONE, don't forget), I got to thinking about the fact that it was Peter who had the courage to get out of the boat. And I wondered: am I really like Peter? Do I have the courage to get out of my boat?

No, really. Do I have the courage to take the next step (whatever it may be) and just keep my eyes focused on Jesus? Follow the sound of His voice? To step out into the middle of something much bigger than me...and allow Him to make it something spectacular?

I sit here at my desk, and I say yes.

I say yes to the planning. The preparing. The studying. The safe stuff.

Do I say yes to the part where I have to actually swing my feet over the side of the boat and get out?!

I hope so.

Is God asking you to do something that is scary? Are you ready to get out of the boat? Come on. Let's do this. Let's say yes - not just to the sound of the Savior from the safety of the middle of the boat. Let's say yes to Him calling us to get our all-too-comfortable hineys out of this boat and into the middle of where He IS!

(Allow me to channel my old Bob the Builder days)

"Can we do it? Yes we can!"


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mom Moments

Mom. It's the title I'm most proud of. The biggest blessing I've ever experienced.

My daily prayer is that I don't screw this up.

Well, not exactly, but I most certainly want to get this right! Life is fleeting. Time with these precious beings living under our roof will be gone before we want it to be. God has given us these little blessings, and therefore we have a responsibility to train them up according to His will.

I do NOT recommend taking this motherhood thing lightly. God's Word has a lot to say about training up our kids and not leading them astray. Some days, the whole thing can feel pretty overwhelming!

Today, I'm just enjoying my kids. Preparing to spend time in the pool as the heat index reaches 100+ this afternoon. Thinking about some fun mom moments from the past week. Wanting to just savor some of the recent blessings just a little bit longer.

Here's one of my favorites: last Friday I was at the Speak Up! Conference and left the house around 8:15AM and did not return until after 10:30PM. On my way home I was thinking that even though the kids would be in bed, I was excited to go down to their rooms and just check on them before I went to bed myself. Well, I was in the house no more than one minute before all three of them came bounding up the stairs altogether to give me a hug and tell me about their day. Nevermind that Daddy had sent them to bed long before. They just had to have a couple of minutes with their Mom.

Awww. My heart melted. GREAT mom moment.

Yesterday, all three kids had a friend over in the afternoon/evening. I was especially struck, as I was listening to their interactions, just how much my twins are growing up. The boy/girl twin thing is starting to create some interesting dynamics when they each have a friend here. I don't think I'm ready for this. Remember 6th grade? Remember beginning to care about (and be nervous around) boys? I see some of that changing. What's funny to me is that I now have a son that age who is relaying things from his boy perspective. If only I knew when I was a 6th grade girl just how those 6th grade boys were thinking! I would have saved myself some embarrasment for sure. Hopefully what I learn from my son will help me teach my girls some of what I had to learn the hard way.

Take this interaction from youth group last night (where they were playing baseball with the bases in reverse order). Girl comes over to my son and says, "Are you into sports?" Luke: "(hesitation)...yeah" Girl: "Well, isn't 3rd base normally over there?" Luke: "(hesitation)....yeah" Girl: "I thought so! I tried to tell that to my friend. Thanks!"

Luke tells me this story and he's thinking: "what a dumb girl!" And I'm thinking: "that girl thinks my son is cute and just wanted a reason to go up and talk to him!" Thankfully. He still has no clue. Or interest.

Oh, but that day is coming.

So I write this today to ask you, how is this motherhood thing going? Are you living out these precious years with your kids with a God-focus? Are you enjoying these precious little beings and savoring your time togehter? They are going to be grown up and gone so soon - are you being purposeful about what you're teaching them?

I get a little anxious when I think about how quickly my kids are growing up. I love interacting with them. Teaching them what it means to live a life devoted to Jesus. Seeing them grow into some pretty amazing little people. Laughing with them. Hearing their hearts. Just enjoying their company!

But never forget: no matter how much you love your children, God loves them more.

And not only that: our love for our children doesn't even come close to God's love for us.

Wow. Let that one sink in.

No matter where you are today, if you have children, will you do one thing? Enjoy them. Love on them. Pour out encouragement and blessing onto them. Thank God for allowing you the privilege of being called their Mom.

Oh what a gift this Mom thing is. Oh that we would never take it for granted.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bashful Beginnings

"Lord, are You talking to ME?!"

I've been saying this a lot lately. Trying to discern if the promptings I'm feeling are actually God trying to direct my paths - or just me trying to create them.

It all started when I said "Yes!" to the Speak Up! Conference.

I love to write. I have a passion for God's Word and allowing it to make an impact in my life. I want to encourage others with the things God is teaching me.

But it might all just be a pipe dream. This might not really be anything God wants me to do.

Two summers ago is when all this really started. I was able to be part of Lysa TerKeurst's "Made to Crave" DVD filming. (You can read my initial thoughts on that here.) Having not even known when I said yes that the study was about turning our food issues over to God, is just one of the many reasons I knew God was up to something big. It was only THE biggest roadblock of my life.

Well, in a nutshell, that experience was the catalyst for major change. Not only did it help me flip the switch on my "overweight head stuff", but it introduced me to some ladies who were doing what I hadn't had the courage to do when it came to writing/speaking. And what would that be? They were actually attending writing conferences and allowing God to use their talents to His glory. They weren't just writing for fun or for their own personal processing, they were actually using their writing and speaking to encourage other women. It just hadn't occurred to me that was something I could do. I guess I thought only special people with specific degrees or upbringing or pastor's wives could do that.

Long story short - Cindy Bultema shared information with me on the Speak Up! Conference in Grand Rapids. I didn't make it there last year. Nor did I make it to She Speaks in North Carolina, but my heart just kept telling me this (attending a Christian writing/speaking conference) was something I wanted to do. So, this spring I finally did it. I signed up for my first writer's conference. Scariest thing I've done in a while. I really wasn't sure if I had any business calling myself a writer. Not sure if I was going to completely be out of my league. But I just felt I had to go.

And so I did.

Blessed. Inspired. Encouraged.

Scared. Out. Of. My. Mind.

Yep - that about sums it up!

I am now doing a lot of processing and praying about where God wants me to go from here. I very clearly know two things:
1. He doesn't want me to do anything unless it's first been covered in prayer (I am going to be asking some special prayer warriors if they'd like to join me on whatever this new journey will be)
2. He is always glorified and honored when we use our talents and passions for the betterment of His Kingdom.
I also know that whatever this entails has to fit around my calling as a homeschool mom of three kids.

And yet - I do feel called by God to do something. Something involving the words "speaker & author." Yikes! Did I just say that?!

I do not feel worthy of being used by God outside of my little family and circle of friends. In fact, I often wonder if I'm even doing what I should there. Yet I just can't deny the fact that I feel God is asking me to do more. To trust Him. To be bold enough to step outside of my little world and allow Him to use me for more. Even as I type this, I'm finding all kinds of reasons why this can't really be something God wants me to do. All kinds of reasons of why I must be mis-guided and naive.

This summer, along with preparing for our next year of homeschooling, I'll also be doing lots of praying, researching, writing, and more praying as I try to be obedient to the call I think I'm hearing. Trying to discern if I'm really hearing Him correctly - and just where in the world He first wants me to be bold enough to step out.

Will you pray for me? I would love prayer for specific direction. For peace. For courage. For confirmation that this is God's leading, and not my own idea. And, if this is really going to be part of my journey - prayers for time management would be wonderful too.

What about you? Have you felt God asking you to step out of your comfort zone in any specific areas this summer? I'd love to pray for you as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time...

Blessings Friends!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Friendships: Part 2

"Like a Garden"
by Anna Holden King
                   
Friendship is like a garden,
Of flowers fine and rare,
It cannot reach perfection,
Except through loving care,
Then, new and lovely blossoms
With each new day appear,
For friendship, like a garden,
Grows in beauty year by year.


I found this poem on friendship and thought it was good enough to share. Seems very insightful, doesn't it?  Friends are like a beautifully maintained garden. Such a great visual. Gardens, when given the proper time & care, are gorgeous! So is the promise of our well-invested friendships. Really the garden analogy could be carried on quite far. (I'm thinking of pesky weeds, and how the novelty of the garden can wear off once the hard work of the weeding sets in.)

So, even though my search through Scriptures on friendship was a fast one, I thought I'd share my insights so far.

Here's a smorgasbord of verses & my personal thoughts:
    Friends can cause great pain (Psalm 55:12–14)
    Friends love during difficult times (Proverbs 17:17)
    Faithful friends are not common (Proverbs 18:24)
    Friends influence you (Proverbs 22:24–25)
    Friendship is marked by sacrifice (John 15:13–15)
    We can be friends with God (James 2:23)
       
  • Friendship is a good thing. When we see Jesus living a certain way, we can always be certain that it is something we should try to emulate. Jesus had a close circle of 12 friends. The Bible references the extended families & circles of these 12, whom I imagine Jesus would also have considered His friends. We know about how much His relationship with Lazarus meant to Him. We know friendships were important to Him. It also seems like even Jesus had a smaller group of "best" friends.
  • Friendship is full of grace. Again, I go to Jesus' relationship with His disciples. He knew Judas would betray Him. Yet He befriended him. He knew Peter would deny Him. Yet He befriended him. He knew they were going to regularly screw up and disappoint Him. Yet...well, you get the idea. How quick can we sometimes be to write someone off as a true friend because they disappoint or hurt us?
  • God should be our best friend. I think that anytime I've gotten my nose out of joint over my friendships (or lack thereof), it has been because I have been trying to get my friends (or my husband) to fill a hole in my heart that only God can fill. When I have my relationship with God in the correct place, all my other relationships run much more smoothly. We see Jesus going off on his own to pray to God the Father. It's very important that we do the same.
  • Friendships are meant to be personal. Not electronic. Yes, this one is directly for all of us Facebook fans. Facebook has created such a false sense of relationship and I think it is really messing a lot of us up! I am trying really hard to limit my time on Facebook. And to limit my # of personal posts. I have also started narrowing down my friends list to those people I feel like I have an actual (non-Facebook) friendship with. Why are we friending people on Facebook that we wouldn't otherwise talk to?! Just to be nosey? Just to have a huge number of friends on our list?! As my kids are getting older, I'm realizing more and more that I need to set the tone of how we utilize technology in our home. I sure won't let my kids spend all kinds of time on the computer. Therefore I don't need to be either. I wouldn't want my kids friending all kinds of people just because. So I better not be doing it either. I think it's time to get off of Facebook and pick up the phone. Invite someone over. Go out for coffee. Invest in quality friendships instead of wasting time on superficial nosey-ness. (I'm preaching to myself here.) I think Facebook can have it's place...but I think many of us have allowed it to become first place.
  • Friendships should be uplifting. I know there are Scriptures on this, but I don't have a specific reference (search out Proverbs for some great ideas on true friends). Here's what I know for myself: life is too short and my time too precious to waste it on investing in people who are negative, sarcastic, demeaning, or just plain "downers." I believe I am called to be a light to all people who I interact with. HOWEVER, it doesn't mean I need to choose to spend my time around people who bring me down. Be a light...and then move on. Spend our time investing in those quality relationships that will have a forever value. Just like we shouldn't become unequally yoked with our spouses, I also believe we shouldn't be unequally yoked with our friends. Remember: friendships take time and energy. Let's surround ourselves with people who lift us up and encourage us. And, on the same note, let's do our best to be that same kind of friend (again, I sometimes need this reminder too).
  • Well, that's my initial mini-study on friendships. I know I'll continue to search and God will continue to reveal more. I guess what it boils down to (in reference to my previous post), is that I can only give to my friends what I have to give. So, if I currently have only enough time/energy for a smaller group of friends...then that is OK! My first responsibility really does need to be to God and my family.

    However, having said that, I believe I can't take the cop-out that I don't have to be "friendly" to everyone. I never know who I might be interacting with. How my level of friendliness might make a difference in their day. Even though I may be busy or tired or just not in the mood to be social, it only takes a little smile and friendly gesture to possibly make some one's day. I think this is the area I need to focus on a bit more. Forcing myself out of my inward focused tendencies and make a more concerted effort to reach out to others even in those "small talk" scenarios. Yep. That's an area I can certainly stand to improve in.

    In short, my opinion is: let's be friendly to everyone...but save our energy for investing in those relationships (no matter how few) that are the most healthy for us. After all, our friendship gardens take time and energy. I'd rather have a small & beautiful one than a huge one full of weeds.

    What do you think?

    Friday, June 1, 2012

    Friends

    I have a little time to reflect, on this cold & rainy June 1st day. Seems nice to actually have some time just to sit and think. The big kids are relaxing with Mikayla's friends downstairs, and lil' Squirt is at a sleepover. The house is clean. The dishes are done. That means I can write!

    I've been thinking a lot lately about friendships. I have realized that my outlook on "true" friendships has certainly evolved over the years.

    In school (I went to a tiny K-12 Christian school - with a graduating class of 18), since I wasn't part of the "in" crowd, I just assumed people didn't really like me. My closest friends constantly changed because people kept coming and going (moving away or just switching schools).  I couldn't wait to graduate and get away from feeling like an outcast. I was very surprised when nearly everyone in my class showed up at my graduation open house though. Turns out I must have been more well-liked than I thought I was.

    I couldn't wait to start college and have a fresh slate. Of course, it didn't take long to feel left out and lonely there too. My biggest regret from college is that I didn't have the courage to join a sorority. (Before you judge me, I think there were one or two that would have actually been a good experience...filled with good people that I could have really had fun with.) I was involved in orchestra and symphonette over my time there...but I have so few close friends from college that I really have no desire to ever go back for a reunion.

    My years PC (post-college) and BD (before Dave) were filled with lots more of the same old feelings. My social calendar was mostly empty. My biggest dream was to have the kind of friends like they did on the show of the same name. Oh what I wouldn't have given for close friends like that. Unfortunately, the television and food became my closest companions. I had lots of good talks with God during those years though, so at least that's a good thing.

    Finally, after about a year of being married, Dave and I joined a new church. Suddenly, I had friends. There was a Moms group that met regularly. I felt like I finally had that closeness I'd always wanted. We were at that church for 9 years. I tried to be social and outgoing. I tried to get over my shyness and insecurities and just be that fun person I thought would attract others. I thought I had lots of friends. But, when God moved us on to another church, I quickly realized those friendships were just as fleeting as all the ones before.

    It hurt. I cried. I clammed up. I decided that too many friendships just meant too many hurt feelings. I vowed not to let that happen again.

    Don't get me wrong. I do have some really close friendships now. A handful of people that I feel like I can be totally open and honest with. I treasure those friendships. And, I recognize just how much time and effort it takes to maintain them!

    But...

    I feel like just staying right where I'm at with those group of friends. No more. No less. Call me content.

    That's what has got me thinking. Is this really the way God wants me to look at friendships? Is He asking me to "get over it"? Am I being disobedient by trying to remain "protective" of my feelings?

    This isn't something I am going to try to answer in one post. (No time to sit and reflect THAT long!) But, I at least wanted to share my thoughts on it. I do feel justified in my friendship feelings. I mean, my relationship with God, my relationship with Dave, and my relationships with each of my children have to be priority. Then there is my growing extended family (another new niece-in-law to be added in September). Plus the parents of my kids' friends. I mean...all that takes time! It takes effort!

    But, I get the sense I need to not be closed off to new friendships. I get the sense that God is asking me to trust Him to bring some new people into my life. I'll be honest: I don't want to. I want to keep the circle of friends right where it is. I want to keep others at a distance. I really don't want to open myself up to the same old hurts again.

    What do you think? Have you had any of these similar friendship experiences? I really need to move on with my day for now, but I plan to keep contemplating this topic. I will make it my homework assignment to search the Scriptures for some of God's answers this weekend.

    "Talk" to you again next week...

    Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    Food for Thought

    Caught up in the mundane. Busy with the essentials. Blessed beyond measure. Yep. That about sums up my life. Yours too?

    Know this: I am not writing this post with a spirit of complaining. I look around and very quickly realize just how blessed I am. I am just busy keeping my plates spinning. Trying not to worry about which one will fall. Crossing my fingers that none of them really will.

    Such is the life of a Mom, right?!

    As I write this, I'm listening to a great talk by Andrew Kern (listen to it here). He is talking about the culture that we live in. He says that we are a culture full of anxiety. Yes. When I get caught up in the spinning plates, that's what I'm feeling. Anxiety.

    One of the things he challenges us to do (and which I want to make my personal "summer homework") is to take Philippians 4:8 and write each adjective onto an index card. Then, we are to take only 1 minute a day to write about what comes to mind when we think about living our lives according to those descriptive words: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, etc. Read the verse below to remind yourself of what we're commanded to think on:
    "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
     Just imagine how much dwelling on these words will impact us! Picture how our actions will reflect that change of thought! Powerful stuff!

    I guess I'll keep it short this time. Just know that as we're all finishing out the normal school routine and moving into summer's schedule, we're all in this thing together! (Motherhood, that is.) Let's challenge each other to keep thinking on the things of Philippians 4:8. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on how dwelling on those words has inspired you!

    If you think of me over the next three weeks, could you say a short prayer for my writing preparations? I'm heading to the Speak Up! Conference at the end of June and will be doing the Writer's Track. All writers will be given the opportunity for a 15 minute face-to-face with a publisher. Although I currently only have ideas in my head (and nothing on paper), I feel like I should try really hard to take advantage of this opportunity. We plan to finish the bulk of our schoolwork tomorrow, so after that I'm kicking into writing mode. I covet any prayers you can send my way from now until June 21st!

    Until next time...remember Philippians 4:8.

    Blessings Friends!



    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Non-Negotiables

    I do believe summer is around the corner! These warmer temps are making me get excited for the reality of a much slower schedule this summer. Summers are normally always slower for us (that is, compared to the school year), but this summer - we're working even harder than normal to keep lots of white space on the calendar. This Momma is burned out! Well, I'm feeling much better now that the roar of basketball season & CC are behind us. Even though Little League is also a busy time of year, having the more relaxed pace of school during the day makes them not feel so rushed. Plus, it's only 6 weeks of busy-ness instead of 6 months. Although, as I type this, Luke is having his guitar lesson and I've got fajita stuff simmering on the stove so we can have a quick bite to eat before we head out for Mikayla's game and Luke's team pictures. But, just the fact that I have brain cells left to blog means that things must be slower.

    As we finish out the school year (think lots of math, read-alouds from the library, journaling, and quiet reading time), I am strategizing ways to make this summer fun (yet carefree) and next school year even better than this last one. Plus, I want to make time to prepare for the Speak Up! Conference in June. Oh, and fit in some extra Shaklee time this summer. It will be about a different kind of schedule...with plenty of pool time for sure.

    It feels good to be on this side of the crazy. Besides reflecting on this last school year, I've also been thinking a lot about our family's non-negotiables. You know: the things that no matter what's going on in our lives, these things define who we are as a family. It's easy to lose sight of our personal non-negotiables and grab onto what's all around us. But, I don't want to do that. Life flies by too quickly to get our focus in the wrong place. So, here are some that I've been pondering :
    • #1: Our faith and each of our personal relationships with Christ need to positively affect every aspect of our day. Our faith doesn't have an off switch. That means, through school, through our relationships, and even through our daily choices...whether or not something is glorifying to God has to be one of the top questions we ask ourselves. Of course, we're human. We regularly screw up and disappoint God. But...we try to have a God-filter always in place. It's my biggest prayer for my kids. It's also a constant stumbling block for me personally. Oh to have others see Jesus when they see us. I pray that is becoming more and more true each and every day.
    • #2: Time with family is more important than our social lives. What do I mean by that? We could each have thriving social lives that kept our social calendar jam-packed every single day. But...sometimes we just need to stay home and enjoy each other's company. We need to be each other's best friend and supporter. We want our kids to be encouraging to one another, not putting each other down. Society sends the opposite message to siblings & the parent/child relationship. One rule at our house is "No Disney Channel shows on Netflix." They just don't send the right message...on SO many things, but especially on the attitude of kids towards their siblings and parents. A wise homeschooling friend told how they raised their children to be each other's best friends. It doesn't mean our kids don't have (and need) outside friendships. But it does mean that there is zero tolerance for disrespect of any single person in this household. Just not an option.
    • #3: All children will contribute to household chores on an ongoing basis and will do so with a good attitude. This is a hard one sometimes, but they are getting better. I've learned that I have to have a relatively clean & organized house or I just can't function. I mean truly. My brain shuts down and I just don't think clearly when there isn't some semblance of cleanliness. Mind you, my house is never spotless...nor do I even want it to be. It's lived in, but not embarrassing. Well, at least most of the time. I am trying to train the kids to have eyes that see clean the way I see clean (not the way their Dad sees clean...LOL). They are all getting very good at doing things to meet Mom's inspection.  That definitely makes for a smooth and efficient cleaning day!
    This isn't a complete list, by any means, but it certainly helps to set the framework for everything we do each day. Life is full of choices. Time flies. We have to determine our own family's non-negotiables and strive to live life within those parameters.

    Whew! On that note...time to feed the troops and head to the ball fields. Talk to you soon!

    Wednesday, March 28, 2012

    White Space Balancing Act

    So, I am realizing that I have a problem with over-booking myself. I mean a chronic problem. I'm not talking about double-booking either. I mean just plain putting too many things on the calendar each week.  I have heard from many people that creating white space on the calendar is one of the best things we homeschool moms need to do. It's really rather funny that this is an issue. I mean, after all, isn't lack of socialization a common reason non-homeschoolers list for why homeschooling wouldn't work for their kids? Right. I have yet to meet a homeschooler who has any problems in this area. The problem...is staying home!

    The reason I feel the need to blog about this today is that we've just reached one of those "it will be good when" moments in our schedule. You know, "It will be good when ____ is over. We'll have more time for ___." You probably have those too. For several weeks I've been thinking how much more time I'll have to: write, work on my at-home business, and organize my house when CC (Classical Conversations) is over. We had our CC End-of-year Showcase last night. That means I should have all this free time to do all these other things. Well, now we're in Little League season. My calendar that was FULL of white space a couple weeks ago, is now filled with both daughters' softball practices and games and my son's baseball. I want my white space back!

    Well, I really don't.

    Growing up, I had all kinds of white space. I knew what it was like to be bored. I knew what it was like to be lonely. But, I also knew what it was like to have an imagination and find ways to enjoy being alone.

    I had lots of time like that before I was married too. Those years of single life after college (AC) but before Dave (BD) were long! It was kind of a double-edged sword: I hated being alone so much, yet I enjoyed the opportunity to appreciate the quiet time.

    Then, I got married. Nine months later we became a family of four. Twelve years later, I would truly love to be able to utter the words "lonely" or "bored"! I occasionally see people post those words on Facebook as if we're supposed to feel sorry for them. But, sorry, that just doesn't sound bad to me!

    So now it is time to gain a fresh perspective. I don't want to wish away the busy times with my kids - they won't last. I also can't afford to put those other things on hold until the busy season of raising kids is through. I need ways to keep myself "in the zone" (that would be the: not too stressed, getting things done, yet still having some fun Mom zone).

    Here are my initial thoughts on how to achieve this (let me know your techniques):
    • Make sure I'm always praying and talking plans over with Dave before they find a space on the calendar. I have gotten better in this area, but I know it needs to be an ALWAYS thing. I still have room for improvement here.
    • Get more sleep. I have got to start getting to bed earlier if I'm going to be Super Mom each day. I think just one more hour of sleep a night would help me feel more refreshed and ready to be productive each day.
    • Start working out in the AM. I am NOT a morning person. I would love to do just about anything as long as it happens after lunch. But, in my busy life, waiting until then to workout means that it might not happen (And lately...it hasn't.). I know how much more alert & focused I am when I've gotten in my exercise first thing in the morning. Time to stop making excuses and start "gettin' 'er done"!!
    • Schedule my alone time. Now this is what I really want to do, yet it seems to never happen. I have realized that this cannot be an occasional thing. I NEED this. Some people are fueled by their "people time". I am fueled by my "alone time." Knowing how much of my growing up years were spent alone, it's no wonder that this is part of who I am. Yet, it has disappeared over the last twelve years. I need it back. Now to just figure out how. And when. I think that's my personal homework assignment for this week. Where do you go to be alone? How often do you do it? I'd love to hear what works for you.
    Well, it's about time to jump back into my Mom schedule. Stay tuned as I process this whole white space balancing act. It's definitely a re-occurring theme. Time to do some prayerful research and tweak the calendar a little bit. Oh, and I really want to completely re-arrange my office. Hmmm. I can tell there is a little more white space on the calendar...my creative juices are flowing again.

    Until next time...be blessed!

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Ready, Set, Write!

    Ahhh...a beautiful thing has transpired since my last post: another great season of homeschool basketball has come to an end.

    I always know that basketball season is going to be busy.  I try to mentally prepare myself. I do truly enjoy all the people and the places it takes us. But, by the time we get through four months of twice a week practices (times two), 30+ games between the two teams, and one ultra-intense two-day tournament to finish it all off...it's time to take a break!

    And, so we did. This basketball season was book-ended by a family vacation (on purpose). Shanty Creek before, and Florida after. The BEST vacation I get every year is when we head to Florida. There my Mom is waiting to spoil us rotten. Maybe me more than anyone. For one week, I don't have to worry about meal-planning, cooking, or even laundry. It's the best! Regardless of the weather, this trip is a hit.

    So here I am now, all refreshed and relaxed. Looking at more white space on my calendar than I have seen since October. Suddenly, I can breathe. I can think past tomorrow. I have the energy to do more than just "survive" the rest of the school year. I feel good!

    As life settles into a more comfortable pace, it's time for me to start focusing on a few things a little more. One of those is my writing. In June I'm attending a writing conference in Grand Rapids. I now feel this pressure to get some solid ideas and be ready to shine. But instead, I have too many ideas floating around in my head with no real sense of direction.

    Here's what I already know: it's time to shut out more of the world, and immerse myself in the Word. Facebook has to be a rarity. God's Book has to be my constant.

    God has a lot to say. It's best I pay attention!

    So...I hope you'll hear more from me on here as I spend less time caring about who's doing what elsewhere. If you think of it, could you pray for my writing/studying time over the next three months? Thanks in advance if you do.

    See you soon...

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    When God Answers

    It's January in Michigan and the sun is shining. That makes this a GLORIOUS day! I'm enjoying some quiet time and bursting with excitement about how the Lord is answering my prayers. I couldn't wait to share them with you!

    One of my 2012 goals was to: spend more regular time in prayer in the mornings after Dave leaves for work AND to reach a deeper level of connectedness with my "Tween" twins. I'm nearly in tears now thanking God for such swift & obvious answers to both of those. Let me back up...

    Even though we homeschool, I sometimes feel like my kids are growing up so fast that I don't even really get to fully "know" them. Life seems to be so constantly busy that weeks and months go by without me feeling like we're getting any quality 1-on-1 time. I found myself at the beginning of January feeling this overwhelming sense of urgency to re-connect with my kids. Particularly the twins. I know how important these "tween" years are, and I just don't want to waste a second of it! I often feel so overwhelmed being their teacher and their taxi driver and their cook (and all other "mom" jobs), that I don't make enough time to be their confidant. You know where I'm coming from? So this year I really want to take advantage of the fact that they still want to spend time with me...and to just do it!

    So this last week I really made it a point to use that hour from when Dave leaves for work and the kids wake up, to spend time in prayer & Bible reading. I think I fit it in 3 times this week. (A 300% improvement from the weeks before!) I was praying and meditating on many things, not just the kids...but (obviously, since this is high on my radar right now) the topic of connecting with them more came up each time.

    Already last night, I could tell a difference. From sharing more hugs and "I love you's" with Mikayla at her away game last night, to sharing belly laughs & some great conversation with Luke when I got home. I saw my tweens seeking me out. I saw God open the door to some great 1-on-1 connectedness. I felt my brain slow down just enough for those eye-to-eye (and ♥ to ♥) moments to occur. That's what it really is, you know. We can't say we're going to do it "when life slows down." Nope. I can tell that's not going to happen until the kids are grown & married. We have to MAKE time to slow our minds down long enough to experience those moments. Ask God to de-clutter our minds. To point out to us those opportunities to connect. Maybe it means we need to get away from the computer more. Maybe it means we need to get off our phones. Maybe we need to turn off the TV. Whatever it is...we need to make a conscious choice to connect. The kids are there. They WANT us to connect with them (especially if they're not teenagers yet). We just need to get our focus in the right place to make it happen! And most importantly? Daily ask God to open our eyes & ears.

    As I seek out resources this year, I'll share my favorites with you. The book I'm all excited about (and already planning excursions for) for my time with Mikayla is Dannah Gresh's 8 Great Dates for Moms & Daughters. You can check out Dannah's Secret Keeper Girl website for lots of great stuff. I'm still looking for a similar book for Dave and Luke to do together, but I'll let you know when I find something. (And please let me know if you already have a great resource you can share!) We also want to do Passport 2 Purity with them later in the year. That's part of why I want to do some of these other connected-ness activities now...I want the lines of communication TOTALLY open before we plan the P2P weekend get-aways.

    I say all this to remind each of us of something important: when we pray in accordance with God's Will, He says "YES!". If our hearts' desire is to have more quiet time with God and to connect more with our kids, of course God is going to make that happen! Let us never underestimate the power of prayer OR just how swiftly God's answers can come. Oh, and be prepared: if you want to spend more time with God in prayer, He will make it so you can't sleep. He'll make it so you are magnetically drawn to that quiet spot with your Bible. He'll make it so you really can't think of doing ANYTHING else until you've had your time with Him. Be careful what you ask for. He might just blow your socks off.

    Have a great weekend!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    When the Lord Speaks

    As I was reading through my personalized Verseability cards (see previous post), I came across this verse:

    "Jennifer, the Lord your God, will make up for the losses caused by those things in your past that have brought you disgrace and harm." Joel 2:25

    This verse resonated with me so much! One of the things that seems to weigh heaviest on my mind is our finances. I'm so thankful for the blessings and provisions that God provides us daily. I'm also never too far away from the pit of guilt and shame caused by some pretty poor financial decisions from the past. I'm working to stop that crazy cycle. We're working to become debt free. Progress is slow, but still progress. This week, though, I had a dream that was all about a scary financial place. I can tell that the enemy is trying to keep me in a bad place. Trying to keep me stuck in the rut of guilt, shame, and worry.

    And then God spoke to me through this verse. A verse I didn't even remember ever hearing.

    Praise You, Lord!!

    I just had to share how incredible it is when God's Word comes to life and says EXACTLY what we need to hear.

    Never underestimate the power of God's Word, friends!

    Read it. Meditate on it. Pray through it. Memorize. Ponder. Absorb.

    The more I'm in the Word, the more I want to be. It's so precious to me when the Lord takes time to reach out and touch me through it.

    May we all make God's Word an essential part of our daily lives. Nothing else is as important.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Check Out: Verseability!

    Just a quick note to let everyone know about a GREAT resource! After saying yes to my friend Cindy Bultema's A to Z Scripture Memory Challenge and sharing about it on here, I was blessed to be "introduced" to Versability and Darlene Dykstra. Yesterday Darlene surprised me with a special delivery (because we live so close) of my A to Z Versepack! AND, she even threw in an extra special surprise: a personalized versepack! I was so excited to open them up! What a blessing it was to me to open it up and see each Scripture personalized with my name. Talk about God's Word coming to life! I can't wait to add those verses to my morning quiet time. I know I'll be extra blessed by seeing my name in each verse.Thank you, Darlene!

    I just wanted to share this with you in case you are also participating in Cindy's 2012 Scripture Memory Challenge. Darlene has offered the amazing price of just $5 per Versepack (just mention She Sparkles for this special pricing). Each of you can have your own A to Z Versepack with 26 business card-sized memory verses in a handy custom box that fits easily in a purse or pocket. When you have a few extra moments, you can just grab your A to Z Versepack and work on storing away God's Word in your heart.

    I hope you'll check out Darlene's website and contact her today:
    616-669-5113 or darlenedykstra@verse-ability.net
    http://www.verse-ability.net/

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    The Wellness Challenge HAS Begun!

    How's the beginning of 2012 going? Have you taken time to reflect, prioritize, and plan? I know it's hard with our busy lives to find those quiet, reflective moments...but they're SO necessary. One of my big goals for this year is to make time each weekday morning for those quiet times. The few times I've done it so far, have blessed me abundantly. I truly love those quiet moments with my Heavenly Father. Makes me wonder why I ever leave them out of my day. Anyway...

    Here are some of my personal tips for each part of our 2012 Wellness Challenge:


    • Eating: We all know our bodies. And, as much as we'd sometimes like to deny it, we (probably) all know exactly what we should and should not be eating. In the old days (a.k.a. two years ago), I was the queen of making my food choices this big mystery. I never seemed to be able to string together enough days of good eating to see weight loss. But, what I learned this last year, is that all I really have to do is: STOP. MAKING. EXCUSES!  Just do what my brain knows I should. I started off by setting the rule to not eat past 7PM and to cut my portion sizes in half. I began to realize that I needed to "feel hungry" when I went to bed, or it was a sign that I had eaten too much during the day. The big thing? I realized that it's OK to feel a little hungry! It's actually a real novel idea to a chronic over-eater to allow yourself to GET hungry in the first place. Did you know that God makes your stomach growl for a reason? I know. Astonishing. Try not to eat until your stomach actually growls. And then...stop eating the moment you feel satisfied. Not full. Satisfied. My first hope for each of my Wellness Challenge friends is to get to a place right now where you're in tune with your body. Be able to recognize real hunger. Remember: you don't have to eat everything today! It will still be there tomorrow. I promise. 

    • Exercise: Have you started working out regularly? It's got to become part of our routine. As much as I tried to tell myself that exercise could come later...that's just simply not true. I happen to be someone who cannot lose weight unless I exercise. I know there are people who can, but it's still not the healthy way to go. You want to make sure you're losing fat and not lean muscle. The first way that I get help with that is through my eating plan of choice (Cinch from Shaklee ~ clinically proven to retain your lean muscle and lose the fat). But exercise IS crucial. When I started this journey, I felt old beyond my years. I now feel better than I've felt in over 10 years! I feel younger at 40 than I felt at 30! I'm seeing tone and muscle on my body that I never thought I'd ever see. I have energy to keep up with my 3 busy kids. I no longer want to sit on the sidelines and watch life. I want to be an ACTIVE participant! So, find your exercise of choice and do it at least 3 times a week. And don't be afraid to push yourself! Push the physical limits of what you ever thought you could do. You'll be amazed at what God designed your body to do. It's actually become quite fun for me to see myself doing things I never thought I could do...and wanting to do even more! Catch Lysa TerKeurst's blog post from today and you'll have even more motivation to get off the couch. (click here)

    • Emotional well-being: Oh, friends. This is so important! After spending my entire life being overweight, I had wracked up an amazing amount of emotional baggage regarding my size. I cannot tell you how much I despised myself. I cannot express how heavy the emotional baggage was that I was carrying around. Truly, the emotional baggage weighed FAR more than all the extra pounds I had. In order for me to begin to make good choices in the areas of food and exercise, I first had to convince myself that I was worth it (and not the big, fat loser that I kept telling myself I was). For about 6 weeks after I sat in on the Made to Crave DVD filming, I argued with God. I hated that He was trying to make my weight a spiritual issue. I hated that it had finally come down to something I couldn't just push under the rug and ignore. God was asking for obedience in this area. It was time to open the door and let Him into my most fragile place. So for about 6 weeks, He worked on my heart. He worked on showing me how to recognize my unhealthy thoughts (because it was so much of a part of my life that I didn't even know how stinking my thinking even was!), and then how to change them. It was finally after about 6 weeks of this that the light bulb went off. God clearly told me that as long as I was saying all these horrible things to myself and staying locked in this negative thought pattern, I was doing the enemy's work for him. It was time to stop. Praise the Lord, He set me free from the hugest emotional bondage a person can be in. I'm on the other side offering anyone still stuck in that rut a lifeline. You do NOT have to be stuck in those patterns. You CAN have freedom in this area. I want you to feel the freedom that I now feel. Oh, sweet sister. How I wish I could flip that switch for you. I pray that before another month of 2012 has gone by, your ah-ha moment comes. Don't let the enemy win this battle anymore. It's time to be free.
    Well, I am really excited for the next few weeks/months. I think that God has some BIG changes in store for everyone on this Wellness Challenge journey. My new motto for 2012 (thanks to Lysa's blog post today) is: 

    "Push Through Until You Breakthrough"

    Isn't that great? I look back on where God has brought me in the last twelve months, and I do see some major breakthroughs. But He ain't done with me yet. Praise the Lord!

    What about you? I can't wait to hear all about it.

    Blessings friends!

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    2012 Wellness Challenge

    Happy 2012 Everyone!

    As usual, this past year just flew by and a brand spanking New Year is upon us again. I have to admit: I have always loved that brand new year "mulligan" feeling. Yes, I know that God's mercies are new every morning. There's just something extra freeing about taking down last year's calendar and starting fresh with a new one. Of course, if you're a busy mom like me...there's no such thing as an "empty" calendar. I just printed out my January calendar page from Outlook and it has a whopping 4 days of white space! (For now.) Regardless...it IS a New Year!

    Now that the Christmas and New Years' Eve celebrations are behind us and we still have a couple of days of "holiday" left, it's time to ponder. Time to find a little quiet corner and enjoy some reflection on 2011 and some much needed mental preparation for 2012. I don't want my fast-paced life to mean that I'm just a passenger on this crazy ride. No, I want purposeful moments. I see how fast my kids are growing up, and I want to make the most of these precious years I still have them at home!

    Here are some of the 2012 Challenges I want to share with you:


    • The She Sparkles A to Z Memory Verse ChallengeThis is my friend Cindy Bultema's great idea for getting more of God's Word tucked away in your heart. AND, it's the perfect format to turn this into a total family Scripture-memory challenge! Check out Cindy's blog for all the details, but the idea is this: learn one new Scripture every other week for an entire year. The first scripture (the A verse) is listed in her blog right now. At the end of the year, you'll have all 26 of your A to Z verses memorized! I'm excited to take part in this fun challenge. 

    • Purposeful Prayer Partners: I have seen the power of prayer. I know how important it is to pray for my children and my husband. Yet somehow, in the craziness of our busy schedule, I don't take daily time to have purposeful prayer time. Oh sure. I pray regularly. I guess it's kind of like my on-going "conversation" with God. And yes, I hear God's voice and feel His hand in those moments. But I know that's just the tip of the prayer iceberg. I feel this sense of urgency to cover my children in purposeful prayer as much as I can before they hit their teen years. I know that I am going to have moments with the twins in the next couple of years that are going to help shape the teenagers they become. It's kind of like I'm right at the beginning of one of those "rubber meets the road" kind of moments. You know the ones. Those moments you contemplate as you're rocking your newborn baby back to sleep at 3AM. The ones you don't have time to think about as you're in the throes of potty-training, teaching them how to tie their shoes, or kissing boo-boos. All of a sudden you realize: our babies are growing up! Try to deny it all we want, the day is upon us. And I don't feel ready! I want to make 2012 the year that I'm purposeful about praying for my children...and my children's parents. Dave and I need to be covered in prayer if we're going to be ready to be the parents of TWO teenagers all at once! These moments are priceless. I want to make sure we're not slacking off on our parental duties. Time to be more purposeful in prayer. If you're ready to be purposeful in your prayer life too, I hope you'll join me!

    • My 2012 Wellness Challenge: 2011 was a year of many positive physical changes for me. But it was just the beginning. Time to get re-focused on weight loss and physical endurance and take my wellness goals to the finish line! If you're interested in joining me in this challenge, there are 3 parts:
      1. Cinch off the Inches: The Shaklee Cinch Plan is the eating plan that helped me lose 60 pounds in 2011 (I have 40 more to go in 2012). Whether you choose to also follow Cinch, or some other weight loss plan, part of my 2012 Wellness Challenge is focused on weight loss. Figure out how much weight you want to lose and choose your eating plan...and let's drop the pounds together!
      2. Fueled for Fitness: Running has become my exercise of choice. It's such a God-thing that I am even saying that (but that's an entire post in itself). I ran a 10K with my husband last May. My main goal from now until this May is to boost my running speed. I'm getting back into training mode and excited to see how much faster I can run that same 10K this year! You don't have to choose to run, but exercise really ought to be part of your 2012 Wellness Goals. So, make a plan for getting off that couch and working up a sweat. We'll also hold each other accountable for our level of exercise.
      3. Mind Matters: Anyone who has struggled with weight knows that the biggest part of the battle to lose it is to get our heads on straight. My turning point with my head was when I was chosen to be part of Lysa TerKeurst's audience for her "Made to Crave" Bible study. I still chuckle when I think back on the journey God took me on last year with MTC. He knew all along how much sitting in that audience at my old church was going to change my life. I was so clueless at the time. Anyway, Lysa is hosting another MTC webcast on January 9th and there is a MTC online Bible study this month too. If you are serious about losing weight, I encourage you to make "Made to Crave" part of your journey. It made all the difference in the world on mine.
    Whew! So much to ponder! I'll give you a chance to ponder all these challenges. I hope you'll take part in Cindy's Scripture Memory Challenge, join me in being purposeful in prayer, and even consider being part of my 2012 Wellness Challenge. If you decide to join me in the Wellness Challenge, please leave me a comment below. 

    For now, I'm off to find my quiet place and do some 2012 planning. Enjoy your New Year's Day and we'll talk again soon.

    Blessings Friends!