Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So Much to be Thankful For

I haven't written a post about what I'm thankful for because honestly I didn't want to be like everyone else :).  But, the more I thought about it, the more I feel like I want to share what I'm thankful for because the thankfulness in my heart is overflowing. 

The thing that I'm thankful for most of all is my relationship with Jesus Christ.  He loves me, accepts me, is my Savior and Creator, made me in His image, has a plan for my life so that He will be glorified, is my rock, my provision, my peace, my contentment, my sanity, my clarity, my joy; He's forgiving, strong, powerful, slow to anger, rich in love... My relationship with Him is what keeps me going even when I feel like I can't go on any more.  He is the only constant in a changing world.  I am undeserving of His grace and forgiveness, yet He abundantly blesses me anyway. 

I have been abundantly blessed with the most amazing family a girl could ask for :).  My husband is incredible.  He is godly, supportive, wise, loving, helpful, a leader, and he loves his family more than anything else in this world.  He takes care of us.  We are closer than ever before, and I thank Jesus for that... I attribute that to the move that we made almost 5 months ago.  That move changed our lives forever. 
My kids are beautiful.  They are sweet, full of life, funny, loving, smart, and just all that I could ever ask for.  They show me something new every day.  I am so excited about watching them grow up, and I pray that they become life-long servants of the Lord. 

My relationship with my parents has grown so much over the past year.  God has shown me how lucky I am.  They love us more than words could ever express, and they would do anything for us.  They raised me up to know Jesus, to love others right where they are, and they showed me (through how they have lived their life) that my family is more important than anything else that this life has to offer.  I'm so grateful to them for all that they have done in my life from the time I was born :). 
I'm so thankful for my in-laws who have provided us a place to live until God opens doors for us to move on.  What a sacrifice!  Our family of 5 has completely taken over their house, and I have not heard one complaint.  Without this provision, the transition would have been so much more difficult. 
It would be easy to sit and focus on the fact that we don't have our own place, but I know that God has us here for a reason and a purpose, and I'm thankful that He has made a way for us to come here without having to worry about finances for a season.  We will have our own place at the right time, and it will be just right for our family :).  And it will be our own home.  Without the provision of living with my in-laws we would probably never be able to own our own home. 

After years of trying to understand where I fit as a teacher, He has opened a door to teach at a school that wants their teachers to be "save the world teachers."  It is a perfect fit for me.  I feel like I make a difference every time I step foot into my classroom.  My students amaze me every day.  They overcome a lot of obstacles and desire to learn and grow.  They have passion.  They love others. 
I have learned more about good instruction in the past 3-4 months than I ever have.  I am so excited about the future at this school because I know that I will continue to grow as a teacher and continue to develop relationships with amazing people.  I can't imagine being anywhere else. 

I'm so thankful that God led me to Kessler Community Church.  I can't wait until we live closer and can be more involved :).  The church is an amazing group of people who love Jesus and others.  They are passionate about loving people so much that the moment I walked in I knew that was where we belonged.  I am excited about getting to know the amazing people in the church better and building life-long friendships.  I know that God will use us through the church to glorify Himself. 

For the first time in my whole life, I have complete peace about where we are, I am content even with the parts of life that aren't "perfect," and I know that God is in control and is sovereign.  I am excited about the future and what the Lord is going to do in and through my family. 

This Thanksgiving will be bitter sweet because it has been a year on the 30th since my brother died.  It is still pretty surreal to me that he isn't here anymore, and it is very hard some times... especially at nights when I have nothing else to think about.  But, I know that he isn't suffering anymore.  He has struggled with severe depression and OCD his whole life.  It tormented him.  He is in heaven with Jesus now, and I know that he is healed.  My goal this holiday season is to not focus on his death, but focus on the good memories that I have of him... of us growing up.  We were close as kids because we were only 18 months apart and it was just the two of us.  Some of my most vivid memories are of holidays... Every Christmas morning, we would sneak downstairs to look at what "Santa" brought us, then we would just sit in his room giggling out of excitement and anticipation of being able to wake up my parents.
I want to hold on to those good memories.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jesus, Jesus, At Your Feet

Just as a warning, I had some free time this morning, so there are lots of videos on here.  I wanted to share some songs that God has used in my life over the past year to either help heal my heart or show me who I am in Him.

Laying My Life Down...
"Here at Your feet, I lay my future down.  All of my dreams, I give to You now.  And I find peace, I find peace.
Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet; oh to dwell and never leave.  Jesus, Jesus, at Your feet; there is no where else for me."

After such a rough year, I have truly experienced Jesus' healing, peace, and joy in my heart and life. 

I have learned so much about who He has created me to be for His glory and my heart is becoming more like His.  I have a lloonnnggg way to go, but that's okay.  We all do :).  We won't be "there" until we are with Him in heaven.  I am okay with that. 

A year ago, I thought I knew what I wanted, but I didn't ask God what His plan was for my (his) life.  After a year of no choice but letting go, I am finally at peace.  I have spent my whole life trying to control everything.  I still struggle with it, but I'm thankful that God has made it clear that trying to control things doesn't do a bit of good. 
I am finally content with where God has us in life because I know that He has a plan for HIS glory.  I know that He has orchestrated our circumstances so that He can use us, and I am humbled.  I don't know why He would choose to use me, but I am so thankful that He would allow us to be a part of His work.

Knowing Him and Making Him Known
If you know Him, think about this:  the CREATOR of the world has chosen YOU to be a part of HIS work.  How amazing is that?  He could do it all without us, but He chooses to use us. 

If you don't know Him, won't you ask Him into your heart and life?  It won't be easy, but you will have a relationship with the CREATOR of the world!  He loves you more than any person could ever love you.  He's full of grace, mercy, love, peace, and joy.  He wants to use YOU to do His work.  He wants a close, intimate relationship with You.  We are all sinners, yet He loves us unconditionally and wants to change our lives.  He has died for those sins that we commit daily so that we don't have to. 
Romans 10:9-10 "...because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

Here are several songs that bring me to my knees in worship.  Spend some time worshipping our Creator and Lord.

Hosanna in the Highest!

How He Loves

Something Beautiful

My Brightness

Hookers and Robbers


God of this City

What Love Really Means

Save Me

Wedding Dress

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Becoming who HE has created me to be

Something that I have always struggled with is balance.  I always want to do things 100%, but since I am human, it's impossible, so I end up leaving something neglected. 
For so long I was so focused on natural living, that I didn't really spend time just enjoying my family... I spent so much time researching, blogging, and I spent a lot of money in pursuit of being completely natural.  Was it worth it?  I don't think so because the most important things were suffering.  I was so intent on staying home to "be with my kids," but I wasn't really with them.  I stayed home, against my husband's wishes, because that's what I thought I was supposed to do.  I had decided to homeschool, against my husband's wishes, because I thought that was best for us just because it was best for others.  I focused on having a spotless house, all foods cooked/baked from scratch (but ended up eating in the dining hall a lot anyway...), etc.  I spent so much time and money focused on things that didn't matter in the end.  Yes, eating healthy and natural is important, but it should never be a focus. 

Apparently it took me working full time to actually learn to find a balance.  Odd I know.  It took me completely blowing all of my perceptions of the perfect mom to realize that I will never be a perfect mom.  It took me being away from my kids during the day to find that spending time with my kids anytime I have the chance is way more important than anything else.  I appreciate my kids more than I ever have.  I appreciate my husband more than I ever have.  I have found a balance with natural living, and I have decided, that for my family, it isn't as high of a priority as I had made it in the past.  Yes, we still try to live naturally in certain aspects, but it isn't a focus at all anymore.  And I don't regret that. 

I am a (full time) working mom now.  Last year this time I never would have seen that coming.  But, of course, this past year has been way different than I would have ever planned myself.  And in most aspects, I'm thankful that things that I planned didn't happen, because God's plan is so much better than my own.  I've heard so many arguments against moms working... and that had kept me from even considering it, but I've realized that not every mom is meant to stay home.  I am not a stay at home mom as much as I tried to be.  Some people had this perception of me (through my blog) that wasn't really true... I honestly was not very nice to my kids because I was so stressed out by them.  I'm a much better mom now than I ever have been.  I love on my kids all the time.  We color, play, and cuddle.  I honestly didn't do that much before. But I did yell a lot, spank too much, and get angry a lot.  And, I've realized that "sticking the kids in daycare all day" isn't as bad as many people make it out to be.  The kids have grown so much from being with other kids, and being in "school."  Karis is writing like a first grader (in some aspects); she makes things and says things that blow me out of the water.  She has friends.  She talks about school all the time.  She was in a Thanksgiving program the other day.  She is flourishing.  I'm thankful that she has this opportunity!  Ethan talks in long sentences.  He isn't throwing fits near as much.  He gets to play with other boys.  He and Levi are loved on all day long.  They aren't being neglected.  They are flourishing. 

So, I'm here to say that being a working mom isn't bad... and for some families, it's good for the family.  I have a husband that is so supportive and loves that I love my job.  He helps in every aspect, including coming home and cooking dinner most nights!  He helps make menus, helps make grocery lists and we grocery shop as a family, he does the laundry most of the time, helps clean up, etc.  We work together as a family, play as a family, and enjoy each other when we are together. 

I have little glimpses of wanting to stay home with my kids, but it doesn't last long :).  I feel that where we are in life is where we are meant to be.  I'm thankful that God has used this extremely hard year to reveal who He has created me to be, for His glory.  Through the postpartum depression that I went through, I learned to let go of being the person that I thought everyone expected me to be, and truly find out who I am in Christ.  God has given me a passion for His people.  He has given me a passion for teaching my kids that this life isn't about us, it's about knowing God and making Him known.  He has given me a passion for teaching... not just to teach, but to be a part of changing lives.  I love my students, and they know that, and I feel like I am actually impacting their world for good.  When I was out because of being sick, I came back to lots of hugs, "I love yous," and cards and pictures.  It blessed my heart so much that God would use me in this way to love on His kids.  I'm not perfect, but no one is.  I am just a human in this crazy, messy, fallen world.  I'm thankful for a relationship with my creator, and that He has chosen to use ME when He doesn't have to. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Okay, Truly Waiting Patiently :)

I found out yesterday that I have strep... so I'm home one more day... and I'm ONLY staying home because the doctor said to.  I'm really starting to feel better, but supposedly I could still be contagious until the antibiotics have had 24 hours to take affect... so here I am... tired of sitting on my couch!  I am going to try to use this time wisely and get lesson plans finished... but I will start the day with a little blogging :).

Waiting to Buy a House...
As I have mentioned several times, technically, we could be ready to buy a house by January/February.  And I have enjoyed looking at homes and starting the process, but I have been very stressed about it.  The reason why is because even though we could "technically" and "potentially" move out then, and that's what I want, it doesn't mean that is best.  So, I think we will most likely spend some time saving, and just relaxing about the whole "house hunting" thing until it's truly more realistic for us to move out.  This way, we will move when I'm not working (summer!), we'll have less expenses because we won't be paying childcare (which will help with moving expenses and fixing things up as needed), and we will have a few months to get used to everything before school starts again.  I think it would be very difficult to move during the school year anyway!  AND, Karis won't be in childcare next year, so that will help a lot too!  We might be able to open up our options a little bit if we are more patient... and since this will be a place where we will live long term, I don't want to rush into anything. 
Also, if we wait, then Robert will be able to actually start school in the Spring (which would be hard to do if we were buying a house in February).  That is the whole reason we moved up here in the first place!

We'll see what happens.  If we find a place that we LOVE in April, and we have the means to go ahead and buy, we might do that.  But, as of now, our goal is to be patient and wait till summer :).  We'll see how that goes!!

Finding Ways to Save Money and Making Some Changes
In the mean time, we are trying to "reprioritize" our budget so that we are able to save a sufficient amount.  With being busy, we have started doing things more conveniently... which costs more... a LOT more.  We definitely eat out more than we should, and even going to the grocery store consists of finding ways of eating that are more convenient, yet still healthy... which makes it more expensive.  Another thing that happens is that we buy groceries for the week, then eat out a few times and not use the food, and it goes to waste.  So, Robert feels that it is best to just buy for a few days at a time (ONLY what we will need for a few days) since his job is right across the street from a Sprouts, he drives right by a Whole Foods, and Urban Acres is just a mile from my job.  That way, we don't buy more than we need... we ONLY buy what we need, and it will get used right away.  We will still make a menu for the week, but we won't buy a ton of food at once that will get wasted. 

We're also going to try to make some changes in our current living space to make it more organized and more liveable for us.  One of the reasons that it is difficult is that there is a lot of furniture crammed into a small space... And we are SO disorganized because the desk is kind of shoved in the far corner of our bedroom.  So, we are going to try to make some changes soon that will help us make our space more practical, usable, and organized!  Even though it isn't our own home, we have the whole upstairs with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a living room all to ourselves.  So, it isn't a bad arrangement... especially since it is temporary.  And with this arrangement, we are able to save up a lot faster to buy a house than we would if we were renting.  In fact, it would probably take us years to save to buy if we were renting.  So, I am very thankful to my inlaws for putting up with a family of 5 invading their house for a year!  For some reason I am able to see all of this so clearly now and see how God orchestrated everything so perfectly!  I'm just impatient :).  Good things come to those who wait!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Wonderful Kids!

Ethan at day care.

Karis decided to paint while I was asleep, sick on the couch :).  She did a GREAT job.

Bitter Sweet

Bitter Sweet Times...... I'm having many bitter sweet moments these days...

Holidays are such a bitter sweet time this year.  I have always loved holidays.  Typically by October, I'm thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas... Baking all kinds of fall treats... Doing fall crafts... Listening to Christmas music... Watching Christmas movies...

This year is just so different. Because of the fact that we're coming up on a year since my brother died, we don't have our own place to live, and I'm working full time for the first time in years, the "holiday season" just isn't what it usually is.  Some days I feel like I'm letting my kids down...

Again... bitter sweet.  I LOVE my job and can't imagine doing anything else, but this is the time of year in which I tend spend a lot of time doing fun projects with the kids, and it's just too hard right now.  Of course, I have plenty of time on a normal weekend, and they aren't here right now (they are at my mom and dad's).  So maybe next weekend?  I know that I just have to use the time wisely that we do have together, and I haven't been doing a good job of that.  I also keep reminding myself that we will have a whole week off for Thanksgiving and 2 weeks off for Christmas, which will be SO nice!  Benefits of being a teacher... holidays and summers :). 
I guess the hardest thing is that nothing is "normal" these days... It'll be so much better when we have our own place to live and have a normal routine.  And next year will be cake compared to this year!  I will have the whole summer to prepare for the next year.  It will make a huge difference. 

This has been a tough weekend in general because Thursday and Friday I was very sick.  I was in SO much pain between my throat and being achy.  Yesterday I wasn't feeling great either, and neither was Robert.  And so far today I feel better than I have in several days, but still not myself.  It was a good weekend for the kids to go to my parents'!  My mom needed it too.  It's just been a really hard year and all of the holiday things around us just remind us of what happened almost a year ago. 
I'm so thankful that despite what my mom's year has been like, she makes so much effort to make things normal for my kids.  When they are with her, she does everything she can to make it fun for them.  I'm so thankful for my mom!

House Hunting
One thing that is just sweet is that I talked to a loan officer on Wednesday, and she pulled our credit and ran some numbers... we can officially start house hunting in the next few months!  Technically, we could buy a house by January (the only thing that we're waiting for is that I have to be at my job for 6 months), but we won't have enough for a down payment by then (we're still catching up from not getting a check for a few months after I started)... So, we will most likely be in a house of our own by March.  Our goal is to start officially house hunting late December, early January.  Our realtor says that if we put a contract on a home by the beginning of January, we will be in our home by mid-late March.  It typically takes 45-60 days on an FHA loan.
Our goal is to get into a house with character, in a great neighborhood, that needs updating.  We have found one that is $99k that is an awesome old house that just needs updating, but it's on a busy street... so we're not sure about it right now.  It's a little early anyway, but it's just fun to look :).  We have found another house that we really like, in a great neighborhood, but we're not sure about it yet either because it will need some work and the price is at the top of our budget.  So, we'll see :).  The neighborhood might be worth it!
Whatever house we end up buying will most likely be the ugliest house on the block for a while :).  We will spend our time updating it so that we can make it our own... And the lower the payment, the better!  Interest rates are so low right now that we really want to jump in and buy before they go up.  Also, buying a house in the area that we're looking will only get more expensive the longer we wait, so we want to buy as soon as we possibly can!  The next several months are going to be very tight as we save!  It's worth it!

...such a tough place to be.  I know that we have so many things coming up that we can look forward to, and I know that God is working some amazing things out, but some days are just so hard.  Not having our own place to live with 3 small children is very tough (though still not as tough as having an amazing home and not having daddy around to enjoy it).  I am so very thankful that my in-laws have provided us a place to live, but I feel bad all the time because my kids leave it a mess, and we just don't have the time to clean it up.  And all being so close together upstairs is tough because it's hard to ever just sit and relax.  It's just been a challenge.  Again, I'm so thankful that my in-laws have allowed us to stay here as we figure out where we belong, but it's just getting to be time to move on. 

Good things are coming
I see visions of some normalcy, routine, and being right where we are supposed to be, serving God as a family.  Karis will be in school next year, which will open up our monthly budget quite a bit (she's the most expensive of the 3), and the boys will both be a year older.  Ethan will be 3 1/2 this time next year!  And Levi will be almost 2.  It's crazy.  As much as I want to enjoy every moment, I also can't wait until they are capable of doing a little bit more.  :)  Having three kids 4 and under has proved to be a huge challenge!
This time next year we will be in our own home, work won't be so crazy because I will know what to expect and will be ahead when the school year starts (so I'll be able to enjoy the time that I have at home with my family), and we will be able to be involved in our church and our community. 
The only thing I'm unsure about is how things will be for Robert.  He will have a long drive to and from work each day... So, we're still trying to decide if we want to live that far south.  We'll see :).  He seems to think that it'll be worth it because we both love the area so much, so most likely we'll stick with that!   

What a wonderful morning... hazelnut coffee, classical Christmas music playing in the background, the heater on, and quiet.  I think I needed this!