Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hopeful for a New Year

The kids are at my parents' because we had plans to go stay in a cabin for several days for our anniversary... It fell through because we were going to have to get an inspection done on the house... then that house fell through.  We found another house that we loved, then found out today that that house has a contract on it.  So, we have decided that we will wait until our realtor gets back to town until we look at houses (or at least seriously!).  She'll be back in 2 weeks.
In the mean time we have been thinking through whether or not to continue looking in Oak Cliff.  We love the area, we love our church, and I love the closeness to my job... but we could get a bigger house and it seems like it would be easier if we were to look further north (closer to Robert's job).  I don't think that we're going to change the location that we're looking at, but it's an option.  Lots to think and pray through. 

I've just been missing my old life lately... I know that we are where we are for a reason, but some days are hard.  I miss my camp family, my old church family, my old job, my family, etc.  I know that God has great things in store here and I have been developing great friendships with people here... and I'm not saying that I would ever want to go back to the way life used to be; I just miss a lot of things about the way life used to be :).  I know that once we find our home and get settled, things will be much better... Until then, I'll just keep relying on God's grace and strength to get through... and just ask for His peace as I struggle with these emotions. 

Sometimes following God is tough because it's not about emotions.  It's not about what seems logical.  It's not about what we want.  It's not about being happy.  It's about doing what He says even when it's hard... and through those hard times He teaches me and is glorified.

As I look back at the past year, I see now how God used some things in my life to grow me and to give me the tools to be there for others.  As I have said many times, this has been the hardest year of my life, but I am hopeful for a good year in 2011!  God has completely changed our lives, and I only see good things to come... despite my current emotions :).  Luckily God is bigger than emotion!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Plans Have Changed

We worked hard to not get too attached to the house because we had a feeling that it wouldn't work out for some reason... and we were right.  The sellers were going to demand things that we didn't feel comfortable with.  We were starting to think that there was more wrong with the house than they led us to believe... they were being pushy and secretive about things. And they wanted to close a little bit earlier and put a cap on how much they would spend to get it "FHA ready."  So, we have moved on. 

I have since talked with another mortgage broker and decided to use this one for the long haul.  He is VERY friendly, helpful, and on top of things.  He approved us for more of a loan than what we have been approved so far and we are able to increase the amount that we can spend on a house.  We have decided that at this point in our lives it would be better to buy a more expensive house that doesn't need money put into it than it would be to buy a house and put a lot of money into it.  So, that's what we're doing.  And, realistically, we'll be paying about what we would (or less) if we were renting... and it'll be our own home... and not a 1100 square foot home in an awful neighborhood (which is the type of house we would find renting in the same price range).  So far we have found two houses that we love and one of them doesn't need any work!  It has been completely updated!  New kitchen, bathrooms, refinished hardwood floors, beautiful backyard,  and the elementary is the school that I have heard SO much about (Rosemont Elementary).  The other one we love probably even more (because of the neighborhood especially), but it needs a few things done to it to be FHA approved, and it is a foreclosure and banks won't make any improvements.  We're just going to wait a few weeks.  Our realtor is going out of the country for a couple of weeks, so we will just keep looking, pray, and think through things.  When she gets back we can move forward.  I think it's good that she'll be going out of town because it forces us to slow down a bit.  We will have more time to complete our downpayment and also to see if there's anything else that comes down in price or comes on the market. 
Here are a few pictures of the house that we might move forward with:

I'm excited about this time :).  Even if it takes us several months until we move into our home, I feel like we're finally on our way!  I never thought this day would come!!  I'm trying to just enjoy this process and take our time.  There's no need to hurry! 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reflecting and Dreaming

Christmas had a rough start, but it ended really well.  I'm so thankful for my family.  You can feel the love when we're all together. The house was full, but there was no stress... it was great.  I'm so thankful for a close family!  No matter how big the family gets, we're still close and enjoy being together. 
And today is so nice because my mom and dad are enjoying their grandkids, and I am able to spend some time going through my brother's music.  Listening to it is bringing back so many memories.  When we were in junior high and high school we had a very similar taste... and it is such great music.  Bush, Creed, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, Offspring, Nickelback, Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, etc.  He also has some great soundtracks and DVD's.  Again, it just brings back so many memories.  I'm at a point in the "grieving process" now in which I am enjoying the memories that we had.  I'm still sad that he's not here, but I am able to think about things and remember the good memories.  There are so many great ones.  We were so close as kids.  We did everything together.  We shared in everything.  I'm thankful for my childhood.  It couldn't have been any better :).  The older I get, the more I appreciate my childhood.  I want my kids to have the same kinds of memories when they grow up! 

I'm excited about owning a home that our kids can grow up in.  We feel that this is exactly why we moved to the Dallas area.  When we first felt that it was time to move on from the camp, we had NO idea what to expect.  And with-in 6 months, God has made it clear that we are following Him.  It's not easy many days, but life is just not easy... no matter where we are.  God has led us to our mission field and I'm excited about how God will use us.  One thing (that I've written about before) that might be interesting to get used to is the fact that the area that we will be living in has a reputation (and it's pretty unfair!).  What I have decided is that it doesn't matter what people think.  This is the area that God is moving us to and He has made that clear over the past 6 months... that's all that matters.  The area reminds us a LOT of the San Marcos/Austin area, and that area is SO us :).  We'll enjoy living there, and we will have so many opportunities to be the Light to people... I can't wait to be close to our church, my job, and a really fun part of Dallas :). 
The Bishop Arts district is very close... the whole area reminds us of a smaller town just 5 minutes away from Dallas.  Urban Acres is just down the road a bit, and it is an amazing whole foods store.  We will probably join their produce coop in the coming months.  Some things there are way too expensive, but it's nice that it's right there in town, and everything they sell is whole, organic, and/or grassfed/pastured.  But, we're pretty balanced in that area now... and we make decisions based on our budget at the moment :). 

We should hear something "official" about the house today... so it still may not work out, but if it doesn't, something else will... when it's time.  I'm excited about that house, but I'm realistic :). 

Friday, December 24, 2010

So Excited

I woke up this morning very excited.  Yesterday I was processing things more than being excited because I still had doubts.  But, I'm at the point now in which things are working out very quickly without forcing it so I'm realizing that this is going to happen. 

One thing that is kind of annoying (but I guess I need to get used to it) is the assumption that we're moving into gang territory.  Oak Cliff has a bad reputation, but many people don't know about the historic districts of Oak Cliff and how cool and nice they are.  Yes, a good amount of the area is Hispanic.  Is that a problem?  I don't think it is.  If we were missionaries in another country, we would probably be the only white people around.  That doesn't make it a bad area!  I think it will be good for our kids.  Kids don't need to grow up thinking that it is bad to live with other cultures... they need to grow up knowing that we are all God's children and we are all loved no matter what race we are.  I want them to have friends of other races and cultures.  We feel that God is calling us to this area as a mission field... and those things don't bother us.  Another thing that I keep hearing is how bad the schools are.  Well, the elementary that our kids will be going to is exemplary rated and has GREAT reviews.  The middle and high schools aren't wonderful, but we know that God is in control and will help us make those decisions when it's time.  They are only 4 and under right now.  And my opinion about my kids' education is that it is a team effort... I am a teacher and I know what my kids need to know.  If I am involved in my kids' education, they will be fine.  More importantly I want my kids to go to school with a mission: to share Jesus.  What better place to do that?  And if we really feel that it isn't working out, we will make decisions then.  There are lots of magnet schools in DISD that can be applied to, there are charter schools (like the one that I work for!), private schools, and if necessary, we can homeschool.  But again, we can make those decisions when it's time.  Right now I'm looking at the elementary and that it's a great school and we'll go from there :). 

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can't wait until things get worked out.  We have a lot of work ahead of us!  But I'm excited.  Things seem to be working out, and quickly!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good News

I got a call from my realtor today :).  We have been approved for a loan!  I am completely shocked and my immediate reaction was: "Really?  Approved?  So does that mean that we've been... approved?"  Hehe.  I know what she told me, but it took a while for it to set in.  There is always a chance of it not coming all together at the end, but underwriters have already gone through everything and we have been approved.  Now comes the long process... getting all of our paperwork together!  And, the contract hasn't officially been written yet, but that's the next step.  It's hard with it being the holidays because we are all busy.  It'll get written, but next week's plans are probably going to have to change.  We were planning to go to a cabin for several nights, but I'm not sure now if that will work because we have to get the inspection done, etc.  We'll see :). 

Now the work begins!  Wow!

Nervous! We'll Find out Soon!

Wow!  Things are moving quickly!  Today we find out for sure if we can get a loan!  I talked to a mortgage broker for about 30 minutes yesterday, and his ONLY concern is our lack of recent credit history.  We tried to stay away from credit cards for many reasons, and he said that isn't good for buying a house.  But, we have a little bit of recent history so it may work out anyway.  He said that he thinks it will be fine.  He's going to run everything this morning and let me know if we qualify!  I'm so nervous!

Okay... here's a bit about the situation with the house.  As I said before, when we walked in, our first reaction was that it needs more work than we thought just by looking at the pictures.  It didn't really surprise us because the price has dropped significantly in the past 2 months.  The price is significantly less than the other houses in the area.  The work that needs to be done is minimal, though, compared to what has already been done.  They have already put in a very nice, expensive kitchen (with a brand new gas stove/oven, dishwasher, microwave, silestone counter tops, a very nice tile backsplash, very good cabinets, etc), a new a/c, an addition, etc. Really everything just needs to be finished.  The tile needs grout, some painting needs to be done, the ceiling needs to be completed in the addition, a little bit of work outside, some electrical work (replacing the breaker panel), etc.  So because of that, we couldn't get an FHA loan (they are VERY picky about what houses they give loans for!).  And the owners aren't willing to put any more time or money into getting it finished (they have already significantly dropped the price to just get it sold quickly).  So, my realtor proposed an idea: we increase the loan amount a bit, and they hire a contractor to do the finish out (just enough for us to get a loan).  The sellers and their realtor were extremely happy with that idea and already have a contractor that would be willing to do it and get paid at closing!  They suggested that we use their mortgage broker because not only is he in the same building as their realtor, it would just be easier to do this type of transaction all at the same place (because it's a bit different- it would be much faster that way).  He knows their realtor very well and said that she always make sure things get done well, and in a good amount of time.  So from what I understand, she has been on top of him to make sure this gets done because they are all very excited about this.  They were expecting to get an investor to buy it, but are happy that we are a family that loves it a lot. I was a little nervous about using a specific mortgage broker (one that they wanted us to use), but I have been very happy so far and I think that this will make the loan push through.  I also trust my realtor and she seems to think it's all working out great.  So, we'll see!
All we're waiting on now is to hear that we have the loan.  Whew!  I'm SO nervous! 

Robert and I are expecting the worst but hoping for the best.  We know that if it doesn't work out, that it isn't the right house.  If it does, then it is!  We were having some fun last night just dreaming of actually owning the house, which rooms we will put which kids in, what work we want to do to it over time, etc.  It has SO much potential!  The only downfalls are that it only has one (small) bathroom and it doesn't have a garage (though it has a slab where a garage used to be).  The kids currently use our bathroom most of the time anyway :), so the one bathroom isn't a big deal; and we felt that we could add on over time.  Robert is generating ideas of how he would do that.  I'm thankful that he can do all of that work.  He has also been looking into how much it would cost to build a garage or get a storage unit temporarily until he can build one (we would need some kind of outside storage shed).  There's a good size yard with porch and the slab for a garage, so we have plenty of space outside.  Again, one of those things that we would just do slowly.
It's funny because most people look for a house that they don't have to touch... that is beautiful and updated.  We were looking for a house that needed some work so that we could put our personal touches into it (and it costs significantly less!).  If this house were already updated, it would probably be close to $175k (or more).  The most important things to us were the neighborhood and the house having great potential. 

I think what is so crazy about this whole deal is that I assumed we would never be able to buy a house.  And even if we can't get a loan right now, we will be able to get one soon (we would just have to establish some credit first).  I thought our credit score would inhibit us (because of stupid decisions that we made several years ago), but that doesn't seem to be a concern at all!  The concern is the fact that we haven't been using credit! 

Ultimately, God is in control, and if He feels that we are ready to buy a house we will; if He doesn't, then we won't :).  Is it weird that I almost feel bad about possibly buying a house?  I feel that we don't deserve it (which, no one really deserves anything, that's why we have Jesus!).  I am praying about it, but I feel bad to even ask for something to work out.  That probably doesn't make sense, but that's just my brain.  I know that if we do have a house that things will be much easier/better for our family because we'll have a place to call our own.  And I love that it's simple.  It's a cool, old house.  It's not expensive, but is just right for us.  Wow!  I could just go on and on, but I will stop for now.  I'll let you know when we hear something!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Update on the House

I don't really feel it's appropriate to give too much information online until we have worked something out with the owners, but I'll share about our experience at the house last night. 

Our first thought when we walked in is that it needs more work than we anticipated... but we weren't surprised at the same time since they had come down on the price so much in such a short period of time.  It's nothing major... just some finish out and a few other things.  It's nothing that we're scared of.  The only downfall is that because it's not finished, we can't even consider an FHA loan (and we don't have a downpayment, closing costs, etc for any other kind of loan).  So, we are going to try to work something out with the seller.  We came up with a few ideas with the realtor and she's planning to talk to their realtor today... so we'll see what happens.  It's ultimately in God's hands... if this is THE house, it'll work out.  If not, it won't :).  I hope it does, but I'm okay with whatever happens. 

After we spent some time looking at the house, we felt that it was a GREAT house once it is finished out.  It has 3 bedrooms, a living room, an extra room (not a bedroom), a dining room, and a nice (but small) kitchen.  The only downfall is that it only has one (small) bathroom.  But the realtor thinks that the house is closer to 1800 square feet, not the 1491 that is listed because they added on an additional room (which is right by the kitchen and is PERFECT for a playroom/office)!  We asked our realtor if it was worth pursuing further and she felt that it would be a great investment for our family.  Once it is updated completely, it would be worth up to about $175,000 (or more even) when compared to the other houses in the neighborhood.  So, it would be worth almost double.  And it's a really great house and really great neighborhood (she also went on and on about how great the neighborhood is!).  It's a quiet, clean, historic neighborhood.  I think it would be perfect for our family :). 

BUT, again, I'm not assuming that it'll work out... we'll just see :).  Hope to be able to update again tonight with more info!! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

God has Blessed Us :) I'm Undeserving!

Warning: This post is very random... many different thoughts all into one :)

Possible House :)
Well, even though we had decided to wait till summer to buy a house, we have found a house that we might go for.  We weren't intentionally looking to buy right now... we just look around sometimes for fun, and up until now we haven't found a house in our price range that we love, so we didn't think it would happen for a while.  Yesterday we found a house that IS in our price range AND we love it...
Tomorrow evening our realtor is going to take us to the house to really check it out.  We know that it needs a little bit of work, but it's nothing major, and we anticipated buying a house that needed a little bit of work.  In fact, we prefer to buy a house that is less expensive and needs some updating.  This house has been partially updated, but the bathroom still needs updating (and there's only one... which isn't a big deal to us), the yard needs quite a bit of help, etc.  BUT, that's all doable.  Of course, so far, we have only seen pictures and peeked through windows, so we will know more when we look at it tomorrow.  The price has gone down $40,000 in the past 2 months, so I'm assuming they are really trying to sell it quickly!  (or there's something wrong with it that we haven't seen yet!)
The house is 1491 square feet (the perfect size for us... not too small, not too big), 3 bed/1 bath, Tudor style (built in 1927!), is in a nice (historic) subdivision, has an updated kitchen (with silestone countertops, nice tile backsplash, and new appliances!), has a fireplace!, pretty good size backyard, has a separate dining room (which we would probably use part of it as a play area :), the elementary and middle schools are exemplary rated and have good reviews (despite the fact that they are in Dallas ISD), and supposedly has native and sustainable landscaping (just needs to be cleaned up a bit). 

Here are some pictures:

The Kids
Well, we have been having major sleeping issues (mainly with Ethan), and we thought it would never get better.  Since we moved here, Karis and Ethan have been sharing a room because I wasn't ready for Ethan and Levi to share (because of the fact that Ethan isn't a good sleeper!).  But, they weren't sleeping well because Ethan woke Karis up all the time.  And, Ethan screamed a lot before going to sleep everynight, which made things very difficult for Karis.  Well, last Sunday we decided to make a change and see how it goes.  We moved Ethan into his own room and we moved Karis and Levi together.  The first night was rough.  Ethan cried a lot, and ended up sleeping in the living room on the couch.  The next night, the crying didn't last as long, and he slept the whole night in his room.  The next night the crying didn't last long at all, and now he doesn't really cry :).  We have a new routine for him (we still read, sing, and pray with the kids), but when I take Ethan into his room, I rock him for 5 minutes (he knows it's only 5 minutes!), then I put him down.  He asks for daddy to come give him and hug and kiss, and then he's done for the night :).  Sometimes he starts crying for just a couple of minutes, but not the screaming and kicking the door that he once did.  We'll see if it continues!  But so far so good! 

The kids are so excited about Christmas this year, and I'm so glad that this Christmas season has been positive!  We are all enjoying the break and just love being together... spending quality time together, relaxing, etc.  I'm (trying) to potty train Ethan, though I'm not very good at it :).  The other night he woke Robert up telling him that he needed to go potty, and he actually went in the potty.  So the next morning we decided that it was time to go ahead and get him out of pull ups... and he hasn't gone in the potty since :).  Apparently he goes at day care all the time... but he has several boys at or around his age that do go, so it makes it easier.  I also think it's partly my fault because I'm not very good at being consistent... We'll get this done eventually :). 

New Way to Organize!
On one of my blogs, I had a spam comment that led to a great new discovery :).  Springpad!  When I first checked it out, I thought, what's the big deal?  It seemed a bit complicated... But after playing with it for just a little while I realized that it's a great, simple way to organize.  And, it's on my phone too!  You create notebooks for different things... I have a meal planning notebook (with a grocery list and meal plan for the week), a recipes notebook (that I need to spend some time putting my recipes in), bookmarks, to-do lists (one for home, one for school, and a today to do), etc.  I'm excited!  If you have a Springpad account, add me as your friend (username courtneycrosland)!  I have a lot of work to do with it still, but I've started :). 

Today's plan: cleaning and organizing, playing, and then dinner with my love for our anniversary!!  (and a little more Christmas shopping)

Here I go!

7 Years with my Love

Today is my 7 year anniversary with my love... I can't believe it's been 7 years in some ways, but in others, it seems like we have known each other forever. He is an amazing, godly husband. He is caring, helpful, loving, a great father, and a great leader of our household. I am blessed!! I can't imagine it any other way. Thank you Jesus for such an amazing blessing that I don't deserve!! 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Looking Forward to Things to Come

I had a pretty rough week (until about Thursday!).  I was exhausted and allowed Satan to scream lies into my ears... that I then allowed to infiltrate my thoughts and my heart.  It's very easy to do, isn't it?  I know that for me, I'm so caught up in myself (trying so hard to get everyone to like me, agree with me, think that I am doing a great job), that I allow words of people and perceived thoughts drag me down.  I am codependent on others.  I allow what they say or think (or what I think they think) to rule my life.  I'm sure that I will do this (to an extent) until I go Home.  But, my hope is that through the course of these next two weeks, through time with Him, through reading of an amazing book (that I wrote about here), and through some rest time with my love, those lies will continue to fade away.  This has been a battle that I have fought for YEARS (well, my whole life really!), but I feel like I'm on my way to having more peace through Jesus alone. 

This semester has been wonderful and exhausting all at the same time.  The charter school organization that I work for has very high expectations for their teachers (which is good for the students!), but they do give the support and education for the teachers to meet those expectations.  Me and my perfectionism (really it's pride) has made this semester tough because I have wanted to meet those expectations 100%, even though I'll never really get there (I would love to get close!)... an honestly, my family life has suffered.  BUT, I'm thankful now that I put that time in because I got an email yesterday that changed everything: I will be allowed to submit abbreviated lesson plans starting in January!  So because of working hard for one semester, it'll make everything much easier now.  The thing is, I really didn't have to write out every detail because I taught better when I didn't follow them to a "T."  And, it'll take maybe 30 minutes to an hour to write lessons now instead of HOURS.  And I will have more time to adequately do the prep work for the lessons instead of focusing on getting them written and struggle through the week to get things prepared (I always got things prepared, but many things were last minute!).  I just feel a huge weight lifted and I believe that I will be a much better teacher this coming semester.  I have learned SO much about teaching... more this year than ever before, really.  And I think now I will be able to put those things into place much better than ever before.  I really want to be an excellent teacher, not for myself, but for my students.  I love them and want the best for them.  I want them to become independent, self motivated learners who feel empowered!  I want them to feel confident in their ability to learn!  I think they are on their way.  There are some students that really struggled with certain things and I have seen great improvement.  They are the reason why I do this job... they are the reason why I care to do things 100%.  Despite some of the daily struggles (which seem bigger some days than others), I am very thankful for this job.  It is exactly what I envisioned myself doing. Some days I feel like it is just. too. hard.  But others I know that without those really hard times, I wouldn't grow as a person or as a teacher... and really many of those hard things are that I allow Satan to scream lies into my ear... And I know that as long as I scream truth back at him, he won't scream forever :). 
Robert always reminds me (when I feel like I can't do this) that when I taught part time I had the same struggles because I just want everything to be perfect... So I would spend hours looking for new ideas, writing lessons, prepping, etc in order to make everything come out perfectly.  So, honestly, I don't think it would help to teach part time because I would still be spending lots of time stressing and focusing on perfection.  I think if I actually stay in the same place for more than a year, that it will get easier over time (of course, there's always a chance that they won't invite me back, but I'm just going to plan on them inviting me back so that I will invest myself there!).  Ultimately I will be right where God wants me because He has a place for me.  And no matter what, I have learned so much this year and am so thankful for that opportunity!  I know that I have SO much more to learn... but I am excited about putting more of the new things in place.  Now that I have the curriculum down, I think I will be able to add more creativity to it!

2010 has been pretty rough... Joey died at the end of 2009, we moved 3 weeks after he died to a different house at camp, I had a new baby in February (the 3rd in 4 years), I went through postpartum depression, moved to a new city in June, I started a new job (full time for the first time in years!) in August, and we live with my in-laws :).  But I sense that 2011 will be a refreshing year for my family.  I feel that God has big plans to continue using us for His glory, we will be able to move into our own place, and things will just start to settle more.  Of course, one thing that I have learned is that ultimately God is in control and things change all the time (He is our only constant), so I'm open to whatever God calls us to!

"When People are Big and God is Small"

A friend and co-worker let me borrow this book (by Edward T. Welch), and I have only read two chapters and I am sucked in.  It is exactly what I needed at this time of my life.  I feel that God sent her into my life and I am thankful for our new friendship!

One thing that sticks out in my mind so far is the paradox of "low self-esteem."
"Low self-esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself.  I'm too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have.  The reason I feel bad about myself is that I aspire to something more."
"The massive interest in self-esteem and self-worth exists because it is trying to help us with a real problem.  The problem is that we really are not okay.  There is no reason why we should feel great about ourselves.  We truly are deficient.  The meager props of self-esteem teaching will eventually collapse as people realize that their problem is much deeper.  The problem is, in part, our nakedness before God."

Part one of this book explores Biblical perspectives on the fear of man in order to help do three things:
Step 1: Recognize that the fear of man is a major theme both in the Bible and in my own life
Step 2: Identify where my fear of man has been intensified by people in my past
Step 3: Identify where my fear of man has been intensified by assumptions of the world

Part two of this book explores biblical ideas to be free from the fear of man:
Step 4: Understand and grow in the fear of the Lord... the person who fears God will fear nothing else
Step 5: Examine where my desires have been too big.  When we fear people, people are big, our desires are even bigger, and God is small.
Step 6: Rejoice that God has covered my shame, protected me from danger, and accepted me.  He has filled me with His love.
Step 7: Need other people less, love other people more.  Out of obedience to Christ, and as a response to His love toward me, pursue others with love.

I am excited about God using this book to transform my heart and my mind.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I have always loved Christmas.  I start listening to Christmas music by September/October, and we have our tree up by mid-late November.  This year has been interesting.  Even though we have had our tree up for a while and I've been listening to the music for a while (the classical version at school :), I feel like in a lot of ways I'm just going through the motions.  This year is so weird in so many ways... between losing my brother right before Christmas last year, not having our own place, and being very busy, I'm afraid the season is just passing me by.  But, I think the benefit is that I will use this time to re-evaluate my thoughts/feelings about Christmas. 

My daughter also loves Christmas (as most kids do), and for her, this time of year is very magical for her.  Unfortunately, we started the whole Santa Clause thing with her, and I feel that she doesn't understand the whole point of Christmas (I mean, at 4 years old, who wouldn't be focused on the Santa and presents part?).  It's kind of hard to stop that now (she's at an age right now that it would be tough), so I will focus as much as we can on celebrating Jesus and giving to others, and we're trying to not even talk about Santa much with her.  We did the whole writing Santa a letter (actually email!), but that's about it.  We're not getting the kids many gifts because they don't need much junk, and we're planning to buy gifts through World Vision to help those in need in the kids' names (and put the cards in their stockings showing what we've done).  We've shown Karis the gift catalog, and she seems to be all about it.  She saw a baby in the catalog, and we've been praying for him/her every night before bed :).  We've talked about how people in other countries don't have food, clean water, clothes, and they can't even go to school.  She wants to help them :).  The cool thing about World Vision is that you can buy chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, cows, etc to give to families in other countries so they have food/milk year around!  We're also going today as a family to buy things (hats, gloves, etc) to fill gallon size ziploc bags to give to the homeless in Dallas. 

I hope it doesn't seem as though I'm "bragging" about our giving because that's not the case... (that actually drives me crazy... there was a lady at Target behind me in line telling everyone about all the things they were buying for people)... I'm just processing the change in my heart... it's been a long time coming.  In years past, even though we've said that we wanted to give, we never ended up giving... and we ended up getting the kids too much junk (and blowing money on other junk!).  I think I needed this off year to show me what Christmas is truly about... It's not about Santa, Christmas trees, presents, decorations, etc... it's about Jesus and giving.  And honestly, I want to have that view of life in general!  We spend too much money on eating out and on junk that isn't necessary... when there are people in this life that don't have what they need...

How do you balance?  I don't feel that the fun parts of Christmas should be stopped, but I want to balance, and I want to show my kids what's the most important.  I don't want them to think that everything is about them! 

I also don't want to have a judgmental attitude towards those that don't think this way.  Everyone is different, everyone has different convictions, and it drives me crazy when people think they are better than others so I don't want to be one of them.  The fact that I listen to Christmas music early is even an area for judgment and it doesn't make sense to me! 

For those that are interested, here are a few great ways to give... including actually buying things through some websites to give (which are great gifts for friends/families):

Punjammies by International Princess Project
World Vision Christmas Gift Giving Catalog
Bright Hope International

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Don't Know What to Title This :-)

When we woke up this morning I wasn't sure if we'd be able to go to church.  Karis was throwing up through the night, Robert was really sick (I think he got food poisoning), and because Karis was screaming because she hates throwing up, Ethan and Levi were awake a good part of the night.  After such a rough couple of days, though, I decided this was just one more way that Satan was trying to drag me down.  I didn't let him!  The kids and I ended up making it to church (Karis was fine this morning and is still fine), but we left Robert at home.  He's feeling better now.

Robert and I talked again about where we should live, and we feel that if we live in this area that we won't be able to be involved in the church there... so we would have to make a change again.  And honestly, we don't want to.  We feel that God led us there for a reason and we want to continue building relationships with people there, and serving there.  So, we're going to go with our original plan to move there whenever we get enough money saved up.  I don't know when that will be, but it will all work out in God's time!  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trying to Find Our Place

I had a very rough day yesterday and rough morning this morning.  I had somewhat of a nervous break down about mid-day today.  I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through the day.  Robert wasn't here because he was setting up/shooting a fireworks show with his friend and boss, and the kids struggle being here all day (because there is no yard), so they start throwing fits and getting very restless.  Between being exhausted still, feeling overwhelmed by the screaming going on, and just being stressed in general, I had a moment where I just had to cry.  It was a HUGE relief.  I haven't done that in a long time... and it was exactly what I needed.  I cried for a while, and then I was able to pick myself up, get myself and the kids dressed, and we got in the car to take a drive.  We went by Chick-Fil-A and had some lunch, and went into Walmart thinking I could buy a few gifts (BIG mistake... it was incredibly packed). 

Then I drove around and looked at some houses in a neighborhood somewhat close to here.  I saw many houses for rent/sale that are in our price range.  I looked up some of the houses and even though they are small, many of them are very nice on the inside with nice size back yards.  They are in a wonderful, quiet neighborhood.  The neighborhood school has an exemplary rating by the state.  As much as we want to live in Oak Cliff, I'm not sure that we'll be able to... for many reasons.  And I'm not sure that it would be the best choice.  I struggle mostly because I'm not sure where our kids will go to school there.  It is Dallas ISD, and I've only heard good things about one of the schools (all the others, not so much).  And I really don't feel that our kids are a good fit for the school that I work at, so I really don't want them to go there.  That has been the biggest worry for living there.  I love the area, but if our kids have to go to awful schools (or to a school where they aren't a good fit), I'm not sure that it is worth it.  I really like this area too (everything is a few minutes away!), and the neighborhood that I'm interested in is quiet and clean, and the houses are affordable.

At this point, I don't know where we're going to live.  I know that when I go to church tomorrow, just like every week, I'm going to want to live in Oak Cliff.  I love the area and the church.  All I know is that it's not time to move, for several reasons, and when it is time, God will make it clear where we're supposed to live.  I know that He brought us here for a reason and a purpose... and all we can do is wait and trust.  Who knows... maybe He'll move us somewhere else next year.  At this point, it wouldn't surprise me :).  Moving here was not what anyone expected to happen (including us)... so you never know.  I know that having this place to live has been a good transition for our family as we got away from camp, and me having the job that I do has taught me so much about teaching well.  And I'm always open to whatever God's plan is... I mean, I moved to a city that I said I would never live in :).  (don't ever say that, by the way!)  Here I am, just trusting that He knows better than we do.  No matter what, HOME is where my family is... so I just have to hold onto that! 


The one thing that is very difficult when working full time (and not having our own home) is simplicity.  I miss it.  I know that we are exactly where we are for a reason and a purpose, but it's very difficult to live a simple life if we're on the go all the time.  Dallas traffic, early mornings and coming home when it's almost dark, not having our own place, trying to save money but struggle because of the lack of organization, the house is constantly a mess, we can't keep up with laundry, we are all going in different directions all the time (Robert works North West and I work South West of here), etc.  And with three very young children, when we are home, we are constantly changing diapers, feeding someone, changing someone's clothes, cleaning up spills, and just doing all that it takes to physically take care of little ones (not including taking care of them emotionally, mentally, and spiritually).  I'm not trying to complain, but I'm just tired.  People ask me sometimes how I do it, and the only way I can do it is with the Lord's strength and power.  Some days I just feel like I can't go on.  Some days I wonder (just like others probably) why we are here.  Why I am working full time.  Why we left the security of camp.

And the only answer I can give is because God say so.  It doesn't logically make sense.  We had all we needed at camp.  But He said go, so we went.  We left just a few weeks later.
Being a Christ follower means giving up worldly securities to do His will.  It means stepping out on faith knowing that where He guides, He provides.  It means giving up things to be able to change lives. 

And as far as my job goes, I struggled with deciding to work full time.  I fought my husband with this for a few years really.  I ended up turning down a part time teaching position without even having a job offer from my current school because I just knew that He was calling me to what I am doing. I spent several hours on my face before the Lord, seeking His will, and He made it clear that this was it. 

So, mostly, this is a reminder post for myself that even though some things don't make sense, and even though things can be really tough, He made it clear that this was His plan.  So, I will just get through it with His power and strength, and know that He will be glorified.

Just last week I was so content, completely at peace, and I was so excited about all that God has been doing.  I know that my current emotional state is from Satan.  He doesn't want me to be content, peaceful, joyful, and excited about serving the Lord.  That's why I can't rely on emotions.  Emotions mean nothing in the great scheme of things.  I have to listen to the voice of truth and ignore the lies that I hear.

My goals to create a little more simplicity are:
  • Try to keep up with laundry... a load a day
  • Have the kids help clean up each evening before bed... I am going to create a chore chart for Karis so that she can help regularly and we can begin giving her an allowance and teach her about money (tithe, then savings, then spending money)
  • Try to come home as soon as I can, start on dinner, and have a little play time in the evenings before the kids have to go to bed... then work on school stuff (only two nights a week) and spend time with hubby
  • Try to keep things organized and cleaned up on a regular basis so that I don't have to spend hours cleaning and organizing.  Make a menu each Sunday.  File things away as bills are paid, etc. 
  • Have a house cleaning night and spend an hour or so cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, etc... This is what we did growing up, and as much as I hated it as a kid, it was really helpful for our family.  Karis is at an age now in which she can help.
  • Make sure to have our evening routine every night so that the kids will get back to going to bed easily at night... we have gotten away from this and the kids are stress-balls at night.  
Once we move into our own place, things will be a little bit easier because at least one of us will live where we work :).  Robert will have an interesting drive, but he doesn't mind it at all (still better than when we lived in San Marcos and he was driving to Austin).  We will have our own space to put things, to be more organized, and the kitchen will be on the same floor as our living space.  All of those things are more difficult than I anticipated, but we'll survive.  Again, I am very thankful to my in-laws for allowing us to take over a good portion of their house... It's just difficult to not have our own space... with a family of 5... and not having a yard for the kiddos to play in :).  

Okay... I'm off to start the process of organizing and cleaning.  I hope I can get this done rather quickly so I can just enjoy the rest of the day!!