Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sneaky Kids and Real Estate. :)

Gracie is going through one of those wonderful awkward hair stages. Her little pixie strands poof out on the sides, earning her a new nickname: Willy Wonka Head.


You see the resemblance, yes? 

Of course, our Gracie girl is much much cuter than Gene Wilder. Especially in that purple get up. :)



Hehe. Love her and her ketchup stains. Pretty sure my children think that ketchup is its very own side dish. 

So this morning as I was sitting down to do my normal blogging thing, I heard the sound of rushing water coming from the bathroom. Grace is super stealthy, and both of my children are currently obsessed with hand washing. It's no surprise that Gracie discovered a way to help herself. If she puts the toilet seat down and uses it as a step, she can easily climb up onto the bathroom vanity, turn on the lights, and gain access to the world o' fun that is the guest bathroom countertop.

As soon as I heard that familiar sound I just assumed my baby girl was up to her usual antics and slowly made my way to rescue the bathroom from the great flood of 2012. But what I found was not the normal scene of my daughter leaning over to put her hands into the sink. No, simple hand washing is no longer good enough. She had decided to set up her own little spa experience. 


Create your own bubble bath, anyone?


And of course big sister was right there to cheer her on. Haha...Oh. Brother. With Evie's new ability to open any door and Gracie's fearlessness I am in for a loooong few years. 


I apologize to my third child for all that you will see and hear in your first months of life. It's a good thing that you won't remember any of it. :)

***
Last night was our second-to-last Financial Peace class. I'm not going to lie, I'm going to be a little sad when it's all over. It's probably my favorite small-group study ever. Give us a couple of years and I'm sure Eric and I will want to do it again, haha. Four times doesn't make us weird, does it? Promise we are not Dave Ramsey stalkers. 


Lesson 12: Real Estate and Mortgages

The title of last night's lesson was pretty straightforward! I've been looking forward to this lesson, because as many of you know, Eric and I are excited to be homeowners someday, and we intend to make our first home purchase a blessing and not a curse. Unfortunately, I had to miss the first half because my oldest child was missing her mommy and I had to come to the rescue. But I did get to sit in for part of it, and I was able to hear the reassuring words that Dave always says about why it can be a GOOD thing to rent for a time. Very few people in the world seem to realize this, so it's comforting to hear someone else say it, haha.

If I'm remembering correctly from the past, I believe what I missed was all of Dave's advice and tricks for when you are buying or selling a home. But I did get the meat of the lesson, which is all of Dave's guidelines for mortgages, and what is an acceptable amount of debt to take on. I'm sure by now you know that Dave is anti-debt. Period. While he doesn't encourage a mortgage at all, it is the one kind of debt that he lets slide. But how much house can someone really afford? Here's a hint: It's probably not as much as the bank tells you you can. You can afford a home if you can buy one within these guidelines:

*You have at least a 10% down payment - 20% is recommended to avoid any fees.
*You take out a 15 year fixed rate mortgage 
*Your monthly mortgage payment is not more than 25% of your take-home pay.

I don't have time to argue these points. But trust me. There were plenty of charts and figures and stories and sage advice as to why all of these things are crucial to insuring that the buyer does not become "house poor" someday. These are the guidelines Eric and I will be following in the future, and therefore, no...we can not afford a home right now. We haven't even BEGUN to save up for a down payment, because we are still on baby step 2: Paying off debt. If there is one thing we've taken from this class over and over again it's, "Patience, young grasshopper." :)

We are lucky that in our class we have people from all walks of life and in all stages of life who can share their personal experiences with us. One of the couples that has been going through this study paid off their home when they were in their mid-thirties and they are now retired. It was SO encouraging to hear their story last night! They have been debt free for YEARS, and they have certainly "changed their family tree" because of it. The gentlemen shared that throughout the rest of his working years he was able to work part time whenever he wanted, travel...pretty much do whatever he wanted. They were able to give each of their children a downpayment for their first homes. They have been able to help their family and others in times of need, all because they didn't owe anyone anything. . <-- THAT is exactly the reason that Eric and I want to be debt free. It can be done! It has been done, and it is being done. 

Next week's lesson ties it all together. It's the BEST lesson of all. It will remind us all of why we want to be good stewards of our personal finances and what we can do with it to help others. I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh The Places You'll Go

Kid feet totally slay me. 


I admitted my slight obsession with our kids' feet to Eric this weekend. I just find myself staring at them constantly and pondering things like, "I wonder where those little feet will take them...."

I can remember as a child looking down all the time to watch my feet kick up dust, dig into the sand, or even fly out in front of me after receiving a first class underdog on the swings. They were practically characters in the story of my life. I understand that this all probably sounds ridiculous once it's actually spelled out and not just a thought floating around in my brain. :)


But just where will those little feet go? Will they swim in the ocean? Climb a trail? Will they sit propped up against the backdrop of a sunset or slip into the sheets of a bed halfway around the world? I look at my babies' feet and realize that they are with them for life, not just following them wherever they go, but actually taking them from place to place. Those feet will see things even I won't see. They'll dangle from a classroom chair long after I've dropped my kids off for Kindergarten. They'll lead my children off to college and beyond someday. Is it weird to be jealous of feet? :)

So I'm enjoying wiggly toes today while they're still cute and kissable and with me most of the time. I just love those tiny tootsies!

This weekend those feet spent a lot of time with family. They splashed in baby pools, ran on country rock roads, and Evie hoofed it right on by a giant SNAKE at her great grandma's 80th birthday party. It looked just like this:


Evie ran past it without a care in the world, but her cousin Austin who was right behind her stopped in his tracks and starting pointing at the ground saying, "Snake! Snake!" Since none of the adults were near it we weren't sure what Austin was actually talking about, but sure enough, there was a huge snake coiled up right where Evie had just been. Yuck! We went into the house to get some backup from more experienced snake handlers in the family, and by the time we came back outside it was gone. Shiver. Not a fan. 

May I add that Eric and I walked right past a little snake in a subdivision about a week ago, and in three years of walking the same path I have never seen a snake before. What is going on? Now every stick I see in the dark is a slithering serpent trying to bite my ankles, haha. I'm super snake paranoid. I heard bugs were supposed to be bad this summer, but I could do without these creepy creatures, pleaseandthankyou.

In other news, I have some information that I promised to pass on to all of my local buddies! If you are from our own hometown and happen to stop into Casey's from time to time, make sure to buy a cookie or two while you are there! 



Sixteen hundred Casey's General Stores are competing to sell the most cookies by the end of May, and the top-selling store will win a city-wide pizza party for their town! Wahoo - free slices of pizza for one and all! When I last spoke to my friend, our city was number 24 (I believe) in the contest, which is AWESOME when you consider how many stores are participating. We still have a few days to boost their sales, so get yourself some yummy cookies from Casey's! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! We definitely took advantage of an extra day yesterday by getting done some much needed work around the house. Sigh...someday Eric won't have to work on Saturdays and we'll know what it feels like to have that extra day all the time! And thank you all for sharing yesterday's post on Facebook and for your encouraging words. We miss our friend dearly, but he left a lasting impression on many people. Eric helped me a lot with sharing John's story, so thanks my dear! 

Hope you guys are having a good day today! Treat your feet well. Watch out for snakes. And don't forget to eat some cookies. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam

Happy Memorial Day, America! Today we remember all who have journeyed a long road and sacrificed to give us freedom, and that freedom comes in many forms. Since 1776 the men and women of our country have given their lives to ensure that we could be free, but they weren't the first who sacrificed their lives for us. Two thousand years ago, there was another who died to give everyone ultimate freedom....

***

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

The Bradshaw family. Micaela, Kellie (mom), Wayne (dad), James, John, Natalie, Audrey, Aleaha, and Charis. :)

John Thomas Bradshaw was born on July 15, 1993 in the small, sleepy midwestern town of Chester, IL. His parents, Wayne and Kellie Bradshaw, raised him in a happy home along with seven brothers and sisters. In this household family was important, faith was essential, and daily adventures were encouraged. 

As the second oldest in a large family, John took it upon himself to pave the way of discovery and parental patience-testing for his younger siblings. Along with his older brother James, John began breaking bones and causing panic attacks for his mother at a very young age. His uncle recalls a time that he came to visit the Bradshaw family and noticed a couple of bikes lying aside with only melted rubber for tires. When Kellie was questioned about this phenomenon she explained that James and John wanted to try riding their bikes through fire. :)

John Bradshaw lived his life to the extreme. He was a roof jumping, sports playing, MMA fighting, gun shooting, avid hunting, machine fixing, military joining kind of guy. He took risks, because he could. And why not?

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” — T.S Eliot



Family friend Sheryl remembers some of John's childhood shenanigans, and they still make her laugh. One day John was standing on the roof of the family barn and there was a trampoline sitting innocently right below it. His mom Kellie walked out of the house and yelled that if he jumped down onto that trampoline, he was "GROUNDED!" John looked at it for a few seconds, and then he looked at his mom. "For how long?" Haha.

Some remember John for his over-the-top antics, and still others close their eyes and remember his winning smile and his servant's heart. If someone's grass needed to be mowed, he mowed it. If something needed to be fixed, he fixed it. Just ask his good friends Zach and Andrea Ingles. The Ingles had purchased a brand new lawn mower one year, and by the next summer it already wasn't working. Zach messed around with it on several occasions, but he just couldn't get the thing to start. They were so mad that their practically new mower was broken, but they didn't want to put any more money into it. Eventually they thought, "The Bradshaw boys know everything...let's have them take a look at it!" 

So one evening James and John came over to see what they could do. They knocked on the door and let Andrea know that they were there, and she went back inside thinking they were going to have to take the entire thing apart. Within 5 minutes they had it started! Andrea came outside and they were both just smiling and laughing. Apparently Zach had put too much oil in it, and they thought it was the funniest thing. Zach never lived that one down, of course. :) 

John and James. Hehe. :)

When I personally think of John the word "dependable" comes to mind. John was definitely a guy you wanted on your side, because you could rely on him for anything. In fact, he saved my wedding day. As a frantic young bride and novice wedding planner, I had completely forgotten until the last minute to find someone who could play the wedding music during our ceremony. Before having a breakdown, Eric and I looked at each other and without hesitation said, "John Bradshaw!" He was only 14 years old at the time, but we knew we could count on him to do this very important job. Sure enough, without a thought John agreed to be our sound man, and our wedding ceremony went off without a hitch. Now I will never be able to watch the tapes of our wedding day without thinking of John - the man behind the music. :)

John and his mom Kellie in the Czech Republic

John's servant heart stretched beyond the borders of his hometown and reached folks halfway around the world. He served on two mission trips to the Czech Republic, where he worked diligently to show God's love in a place where over 99% of the population did not share his own faith. Missionary Mike Young had this to say about John's first experience in the Czech:

"My family and I met John for the first time when he came on his first mission trip to the Czech Republic in 2010. During that mission trip I remember going to Kellie after the first day at English camp and telling her how impressed I was with John. I couldn't help but be impressed with a young man who had a true servant's heart. From teaching children, keeping rowdy boys entertained, sharing his testimony, etc. to tasting Kofola (Czech cola), John had a good attitude and a contagious excitement for life. Even more importantly, John had a contagious excitement for the Lord! As I worked with John, I noticed very quickly that people were drawn to him. I remember telling Kellie that God was going to do amazing things through her son. "

John's second trip to the Czech

Closer to home, John also served at Bright Life Farms, an organization in Princeton, Kentucky dedicated to assisting developmentally and mentally challenged adults. Pastor Dennis Morgan who accompanied John on these trips shared that he watched John's heart melt for these people as he helped and encouraged them. Many of the folks that John had the opportunity to work with were individuals with Down's Syndrome. Little did John know that soon someone very close to him would have an extra magic chromosome as well - his baby sister Aleaha. 


Holding sister Aleaha. She's ridiculously cute, by the way. :)

When someone has a truly good character, it doesn't take a handful of stories to convince anyone of it. It exudes from them. While close friends of John were quick to share their memories of him, those who only had the chance to meet him for a brief time wanted to share their stories as well. Melissa W is the cousin of John's fiancé Emily, and she shared her experience meeting John for the first and last time:

"I only had the pleasure of meeting John one time, at my little sister's wedding. (He and Emily arrived at the reception, and I immediately made a beeline for them, knowing that I just HAD to meet this guy - and what a guy he was.) I was so impressed by him even before I actually met him in person. I had gotten to know John only through Facebook and from what I had heard from my cousin. When I was finally able to meet him, he was so engaging. While we talked, he scooped up my month old baby girl and held her and cooed and played with her like it was second nature for him. We talked about his family and smiled together...I learned more about him and became more impressed by him every second. John was different. Good different. If I had known that this was the only time I was going to have the pleasure of being in his presence, I may have never let him leave...."

There are so many more testimonies that could be shared, and there are countless other examples of ways and places where John gave of his time and energy. He poured many hours into the new Baptist church building recently erected in his hometown. Local businessmen nicknamed John and his brother James "The Sons of Thunder" as they worked alongside them. They simply couldn't get over what diligent and hard workers they were.


In December of 2011, John was sworn into the United States Air Force. It was no surprise that a young man with his sense of adventure and love of country would want to serve his nation. And in true John fashion, he wanted to be right in the action by training to be an aerial gunner. He genuinely enjoyed his time in the service and took on each new challenge as he had always done in life: fearlessly. 

John Bradshaw lived an incredibly full 18 years on this earth. He had so many friends. He touched so many lives, and he is continuing to do so. Missionary Mike Young had more to say about our brother and friend:

"God has done amazing things through John. AND...He continues to do amazing things through John! During his life here on earth, John touched the hearts of countless people including the Czechs who he got to know while he was here. Our prayer is that many people will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior...Our family is honored that we had the opportunity to get to know John and to serve the Lord alongside him!!" 

John was also a man who was madly in love. He and his fiancé Emily were to be married this October.

We honor John and celebrate his life today not because he was perfect, but for who he was always striving to be: a man after God's own heart. When I think of all of the good things that John did with his life, and compare it to mine, I fall dismally short. I've never gone across the globe on a mission trip, joined the air force, served at Bright Life farms, or even run the soundboard at anyone's wedding. Compared to John, I'm practically a bad guy. 


What may surprise some of you is that John considered himself a bad guy. John was a committed believer in Jesus Christ, and he knew that the Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and "...the wages of sin is death...." He knew that there was nothing he could do to change the fact that he had sinned and that the punishment for that sin, even the smallest one, would sever his relationship with God. No amount of Sundays spent in a church service, hours spent volunteering, or money given to a charity could make up for the fact that he had ever sinned against God. 


The reason why John was so willing to go above and beyond was not because he thought he could fix his previous mistakes. It was because he knew that God had given him a gift he couldn't ever repay, and part of accepting that gift was receiving a changed heart that wanted to do good things. What is the gift? It's eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 




John didn't spend his time trying to appear holy to other people. His faith was part of him, not something that he did. He knew that compared to God, our "righteousness is as filthy rags." He helped the mentally disabled and the poor only because, when he was too poor to help himself, God helped him first. 
Many of us spend our lives trying to do good things in order to hope that someday we make it to Heaven. What John understood is that there is nothing you or I could do to earn freedom from our sins. The true freedom that I referenced at the beginning of this post, is freely available to you only through Jesus Christ. 


In Romans 10:9-10, the Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confess, resulting in salvation." In order to receive the gift of salvation you must first believe that Jesus was who he said he was. He was God sent as a man to live a perfect life and to die on our behalf. God raised him from the dead, proving that all he said was true. If you truly believe that, then confess it out loud in a prayer. Ask God to forgive you of your sins. Receive the gift that Jesus freely gave. Ask him to come into your heart and be your savior and Lord.


John traveled around the world to share this message, because he wanted others to have the same freedom that he had experienced. Maybe you still have some questions or you are unsure about how John's faith dramatically impacted his life. If so, please do not hesitate to contact me or Eric. We would be glad to answer any questions you have. :)




We celebrate John's life, and his family and friends have peace, knowing that he is spending eternity in Heaven. John lived his entire life with that hope, and THAT is what made him the young man he was. It caused him to live fearlessly, give tirelessly, and love endlessly. When your heart and life are filled with God's love, everything changes. I am thankful to have that same hope. Many, many of my friends and relatives have that hope. Do you?

Friday, May 25, 2012

We Call it Living

I confess that this is not an ordinary Friday post. :) I don't think I've gone without confessing on a Friday in a long, long time! I was up until 4:00 am this morning blogging. That's right. Four in the flipping morning. I am whooped! For real this time, there will be a special post about a very special person on Monday. I don't want to publish it until a few others get a chance to look at it first. So until then...Happy Friday!

Peek-a-boo! Gracie sees you. :)

Eric started his new class this week. We are now officially experiencing daddy-less Wednesdays. The day of the week changes with every semester these days. I have officially begun working on Evie's birthday party - woot! Kicking it into full gear this weekend. And we officially begin graduation party season tomorrow. Here's a big congratulations to a few lovely ladies we know who will be graduating this evening: To Crystal, Kimberly, Stephanie, and Emily - you are beautiful young women of God! Good luck in all that you do after high school and well beyond!

The girls had a lot of fun yesterday morning at our play date with the boys. :) I took a few pictures, but for whatever reason my computer isn't recognizing the files - lame. Luke, I am sorry that my daughter does not know how to properly play baseball. She is a mess. And Carson, Gracie's paci stealing is merely a flirting tactic. Homegirl doesn't even like paci's. :)

Excuse me, I am being heralded by my older daughter. Apparently her little sister is "fishing in the toilet!"

***

Alright, so I can't help myself. Here are a few confessions from this week that I need to get off of my chest.

I confess that we ate puppy chow aka: muddy buddies for breakfast this morning. Hey - chex, peanut butter, chocolate...can't be any worse than most sugar cereals out there. Right? Haha.

I confess that our carpets are so disgusting from little kids spilling everything under the sun that I am embarrassed to have Evie's party here in a couple of weeks. Ugh. How many times to I need to confess that I want my carpets cleaned before the cleaning fairy shows up?

I confess that spiders seriously give me the heebs - especially when they come creeping out of my dishwasher. For real. Dis. Gus. Ting.

I confess that the last time I shared my own faith on my own blog I got the cold shoulder from several people and hate mail for months afterwards. And guess what? I'm getting ready to do it again really soon. You know what I say to the haters - BRING IT. :)

And finally, I confess that I've been dancing in my underwear to this song for days. I can't think of any better way to sum up my feelings lately. Sometimes in this world the things you stand for, the things you believe in, and the things you would die for are not the most popular things. Sometimes you are a dark horse in this world. And sometimes, you need to hear this rally cry to keep you going through it. If you were a friend of John Bradshaw, make sure to take a listen. This song is for him today. He was definitely one of those dark horses:



What do you stand for?
Have a great weekend, friends!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Checking In

Hi, friends! I promise I haven't abandoned the old blog. On the advice of my husband, I've needed a break! We are still resting and reflecting on the past week. And after neglecting my house for far too long and being away from my kids for a lot of the past several days Eric suggested that I do nothing but focus on our family for a couple of days. :)

I do have blog posts that are in the queue, but my brain is mush and I really don't want to do a half-job. They deserve my best, which I wouldn't have been able to do lately. Luckily I was able to get good rest last night for the first time in a long time. I'm just now starting to feel my energy return - which is a good thing, because I have a lot to say!

We have a play date this morning, but I fully expect to catch up with everyone else's blogs this afternoon. I feel out of the loop! Things will for sure be back to normal next week. I just didn't want to let another day pass without making sure I let everyone know what was up. So now you know. :)

Have a good day. Later taters!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Keep Your Eye on the Grand Old Flag!

What. A. Weekend! We are running on fumes, and we're the best kind of tired there is. Exhaustion doesn't begin to cover it, but there are no signs of slowing down just yet.

**I mentioned last week that there would be a special post about our friend John today, but that is going to be published later this week. We are still collecting memories and there just wasn't enough time this weekend to do any justice to his story. Thanks for understanding!**

Our tiny town is abuzz this morning, and folks from all over are beginning to catch the same patriotic, honorable, good feelings that some of have have been experiencing for a few days now. With our streets lined with flags proudly waving, John Bradshaw is affecting the lives of people who didn't even know him. Messages like, "I didn't know John Bradshaw, but I do know that he was loved!" are cropping up all over Facebook. And there is no doubt about that - John was a special guy, and dozens and dozens of friends have come together over the last couple of days to show their honor and love for him and for his family.


Welcoming John Home

On Saturday, we welcomed John back to his hometown for the very last time. We know that this was only John's temporary home and that he has been promoted to his (much more awesome) permanent residence. God has said, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Even though we don't understand why he was taken from us when he was, we all know that God's mission for him was stamped: COMPLETE. Now he is experiencing his reward! So while there are still tears and still prayers being sent up for his family, we want to make sure that John is given the honorable send off that he deserves.



If you happen to live in the area and have seen all of the flags running on both sides of State Rt. 3, then you have a little appreciation for what was done well into the night last night, with rain drizzling and hammers pounding. Somewhere between 1500 and 2200 large flags (they lost count!) were manually driven into the ground by friends and family who volunteered to show their love and appreciation for our friend. What is seen in town is only a glimpse of what was done. From what I have been told, there are even MORE flags waving at the end of the procession where we will lay John to rest tomorrow.


Many people showed up to help post flags. 


And they worked well into the night...


Eric tried to get a picture on his way to work this morning, but if you've seen it for yourself, you know that pictures can't possibly have the impact of driving through them!


Thank you to everyone who gave of their time this weekend. Whether it was standing on a hillside to welcome John home on Saturday or working late last night to complete the huge task of lining the funeral procession with flags. Whether it was cleaning the church, cooking food, watching kiddos, or moving tables and chairs...so many of you have come together, and it is a truly beautiful thing. Also, a big thanks to the city of Red Bud for keeping up their flags all throughout the town in honor of John. There is so much truth in the idea that ONE person's life can effect so many others'. While John isn't physically present with us, God is still using him to bring unity and to draw others to himself.

I know that many of you did not know our friend, but his family would still love to see you and get to know you. If you are local and would just like to pay your respects to a fallen Airman and all-around good guy, you can find information on the visitation this evening and funeral tomorrow here:


There is still much work to be done. And we are happy to do it. I have a feeling that the impact this young man has had on so many is something our little city will be talking about for a very long time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Confession Friday 5-18!

Happy Friday! 

I am pooped. And my kids are kind of driving me insane. 

If the following words make no sense it's because I'm half asleep, my children are screaming in my ear and pulling at my clothes, and I am trying not to lose it. But it's Friday, so woohoo!

Gracie gives up! I feel ya, sister. 

I confess that I just about forget my manners when it comes to our wonderful cable provider and it's lack of ability to WORK every day. You can bet that if I'm ever MIA for a day it's because of Mediacom.

I confess that this time of the year gives me some serious gray hair. I LOVE all of the parties and fun things going on...but it seems like everything we have to do falls on the same day at the same time. Wish that I could be in three places at once!

I confess that Evie spilled milk on the carpet this week, and now our living room smells like cheese. Eric, can we PLEASE get our carpets cleaned now? :D

I confess that I thought only boys were obsessed with things like boogers. How mistaken I was. Now to teach Evelyn that her sister's hair is not a proper tissue alternative.

I confess that I'm ashamed for Gracie to wear shorts, because my little wild child has so many bruises on her legs they look like camouflage.

I confess that I watch Christmas movies all year long. Love them.

I confess that Eric and I might as well have a line in our budget dedicated just to Dairy Queen blizzards.

My brothers were "fighting" on the trampoline yesterday. The youngest got to set the rules.
John: Okay guys, here are the fight rules. NO wrestling! And NO rough-housing! Now go!
Baha. Fighting with no rough-housing. John John cracks me up. 

I confess that Evelyn might be a little confused when it comes to familial relationships. While watching all of her uncles yesterday, she decided to list them all out loud. "There is uncle Roger, and uncle Justin, and uncle John, and my uncle Benji and my uncle Teddy!" Benji and Teddy are the family dogs. :)

I confess that the ring tone on my phone kind of drives me crazy, but I don't know how to change it. If you know my husband then you realize how ridiculous this is.

I confess that I still have not been able to do a single thing to prepare for Evelyn's birthday. I have so many projects going on right now. I'm kind of freaking out.

I confess that Evelyn thinks her dad works at "Happy Meal School." Don't ask me!

I confess that I am looking at an extremely neglected house, but all I want to do is take a nap. I think today the nap might actually win.

***

Just wanted to let everyone know that our friend John will be coming home tomorrow, escorted by the Illinois Patriot Guard. Here is all of the information from the Guard website. Many of us will be standing at the new church building in town to wave flags and honor him as they drive by. Anyone is welcome to join us, and I'm sure there will be more specific information put out later today. 

Have a great weekend! Count your blessings and stay out of trouble. :)



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy Thursday!

Hello friends! I am smiling this morning, and I can honestly say that my spirit is in a much better place than it was just a few days ago. The true peace and comfort that I knew would come after losing a friend has arrived, and it has arrived in part due to a little task that our friend's family has set me and a few other lovely people to do.

I finally feel comfortable sharing that the friend we lost was 18 year old John Bradshaw. 

John with his beautiful fiancé Emily

John had a short, but FULL life. The stories people could tell about this young man would have you cracking up one minute and "awing" the next. He was truly one-of-a-kind! 

And his amazing family wants people to know about and focus on the LIFE of John. They want all of you to know about why John was who he was. They want you to know about the reason for his living. And that's what we are going to attempt to do over the next few days.

John has touched SO many lives, in this community, across the country, and even around the world. And we want to hear those memories. If you knew John or even just knew of him, and have something to share, please let us know! We are looking to compile as many of these stories as possible to pass along to his family. Even if it's just your impression of who John was or overheard someone talking about him in the grocery store. We want it all!

Then please make sure to check back here on Monday as we seek to do just a tiny bit of justice to his "wild and precious life" by honoring John through stories. Most importantly, John's family has a special message that they want everyone to hear. I feel super humbled to be able to share that message with all of you. To be honest, I am terrified and nervous to be writing what could be the most important thing I will ever sit down to write. 

There will be more opportunities to share memories of John at his memorial service, and we will give more information about that on Monday. Thank you all for your kind words, for your thoughts and prayers, and for being awesome over the past few days. Hope you guys have a great day, and don't forget to share those stories. :) And now...I can't think of a more appropriate way to describe John's wonderfully selfless but wild and adventerous personality:




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Working in Your Strengths

Wahoo!!! It's summer vacation, kids. :D Okay, so pretty much every day is summer vacation around here, BUT. We are so lucky that both my mom and mother-in-law work for the local school district, and today is report card day. Yay! When they get out of school, it feels like we get out of school, too. Just knowing we can pop in for a visit or go places with them during the day makes life so much more fun. Now if I could just shake this nasty sinus infection.

It never fails. With every pregnancy I always get some kind of terrible head cold, and it lingers on and on and on.... Eventually I will catch a break and just feel like a normal person again. :)

So, I'm not gonna lie. I am so ready to have this baby. Like, right now. I want a newborn to cuddle in my arms really bad. If I wasn't pregnant already, I would definitely be getting the itch to try again. With Evelyn, I was in some sort of state of shock and amazement the first time I laid eyes on her. I was super excited and so in love, but in rookie fashion, I just couldn't get over the experience I had been through and the fact that I was someone's mom. I just smiled like an idiot thinking, this is so neat. Haha.


 Early mommy moments in the hospital with Evie and Grace!

With Gracie, I knew a little more about what I was getting myself into. I knew all of the wonderful moments that I had ahead with my little precious bundle, and I surprised even myself when I welled up with tears the first time they placed her on my chest. I usually try to cover my emotions in front of people I don't know well, but I couldn't help the overwhelming surge of love I had for her right then.

With baby number three...seriously...I already burst into tears to rival Niagara Falls just thinking about laying eyes on our youngest family member. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if I'm a big 'ole puffy-eyed mess for the rest of the day. (I won't talk about the overwhelming fear I have about bringing that baby home and then having three children ages three and under. *Shudder.* Pray for me, friends.) But those first moments will be so precious, and I'm looking forward to them like a kid anxiously awaits their birthday.

Sigh...anyway...those are my baby thoughts today. Blissfully dreaming of newborn smells and tiny clothes. But enough Wednesday rambling. It's time to talk about how we plan to pay for all of these kiddos. :D


Lesson 11: Working in Your Strengths

I love love love this lesson. Love it! Most of Financial Peace University discusses the "outgo" of our personal finances - how we manage the way we spend and handle what we have. But this lesson focuses on income. And the main focus is on working in a job that we were meant to do. If you want to live not just a successful life financially, but an enriching life all around, then you should be doing something you love to do. THAT will make you a truly successful person. 

There are so many personality profiles out there that can help point you in the right direction of your strengths. Just spend a little time with Google and you can learn more about yourself than you ever dreamed. :) But most of us could probably already say what our dream job would be. For me, if money were no object and I didn't have children to care for, I would be a writer. I would novel away all day long. That is my dream. And Dave encourages everyone to find a way to make their dream work for them. 

Part of our discussion last night included everyone sharing how an employer could use our strengths. What special talents and abilities do we bring to the workplace? A great employer (which is usually indicative of a successful business) will understand that everyone on their team is different and has something unique to offer. It's not about just hiring the right people, but about putting the right people in the right position. It would be silly to put the shyest most reserved individual in the front office greeting people and answering phones. They're just not going to be good at it, no matter how hard of a worker they are. And on the other hand, it would a bad idea to put the life of the party in a back room by themselves all day. It won't be long before they are absolutely miserable. Being a motivated and hard worker means nothing if you can't be doing a job that plays to your strengths. 

If you're not sure about what you should be doing as a career, Dave recommends this book, and so do I!

As part of a real life application, and a little advice to parents out there, Dave uses the illustration of a trap that many of us have or will fall into someday. If your child came home with a report card with four A's and a big fat F, which grade are we naturally inclined to spend the most time talking about? For most of us, that would be the F. While no child should be failing in any subject, the mistake comes when we spend more time worrying about what the child isn't good at instead of fostering and growing what they ARE good at. Some people are just not cut out for math. They just aren't. When they grow up, they probably aren't going to be accountants and engineers. And that is FINE. 

Dave makes the point that being a "well-rounded" person may not be all that it's cracked up to be. Is it better to be mediocre/good at everything, or be GREAT at a few things? Which is going to make you stand out and which plays to your strengths? Instead of trying to mold ourselves into something we are not, we should plant ourselves and bloom in areas that we already enjoy and what we are naturally good at. We will be happier, more successful, and much more productive individuals when we work in our strengths. :)

We only have two more weeks of FPU to go! For as long as this study is, it sure went by fast for me! Eric and I are trying to think of another way to meet with a small group weekly. Another kind of study we can do for the summer. And this time we want to make sure it's family friendly, and probably centered around FOOD - at least for part of it :D So if you're interested in getting together once a week with friends and learning about something, let us know. We are open to suggestions! It's going to be a great summer. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Modest Girls are the Hottest Girls

I consider myself a very lucky young woman when I look around and see all of the other strong and godly women that I have in my life. Not only am I blessed with a wonderful mom and mother-in-law, but I have so many examples through friends (who might as well be family) of what it means to be "clothed with strength and dignity." And this weekend, before bad news was discovered and tears were shed, I was able to gather with so many of these women and with my oldest daughter to celebrate Mother's Day.


We attended a Mother-Daughter Tea at our church on Saturday, complete with floppy hats and real china. It was a starry-eyed, pretend playing, dream come true for any young girl in attendance. And the theme of this year's tea: Modesty.

To accompany the theme there was to be a fashion show, and Evelyn was asked weeks before to be a part of it. All I heard about from that time on was how "fashion-y" Evie was going to be. We practiced walking slowly and smiling, and Evelyn would bust into a room at any given moment with an, "Introducing, Evie!!" (To which her father or I would have to explain to a nonexistent audience what our lovely daughter was wearing. Even if that was just a diaper and party beads.)

We even came to the church the night before to practice on the runway so that Evelyn would know just what to do when it was time for the big event.

If any ladies didn't have a hat of their own there was a lovely display for them to choose from!

Unfortunately, Evelyn had chosen a few days before to start an ornery streak of defiance. As in, she was a champion button-pusher and boundary tester. I had decided to leave Grace at home for this event, because I knew she would be into everything. What I didn't count on was my normally great-in-public oldest to be bouncing off the walls.

And I mean...ugh...she was in true form. Running away, throwing forks, swiping her grandma's glasses, picking flowers, screaming. You name it, she did it. Yes, I know my child is nearly three. I know these things are typical of a little kid. But Evie did it all with a smirk on her face. She would stop, apologize, promise not to do it again...and then do it again, laughing her tiny hiney off. The kicker was when we had a quiet opening prayer, and my dainty darling daughter chose the exact moment before "Amen" to belch as loudly as she possibly could. Nice.


When it was time for the fashion show, I was so over her behavior. After weeks of practice, I had to coax her down the runway (let's just say Toddlers and Tiaras is not in our future) and then we called daddy to come and pick her up. I later learned that as they were driving away Evelyn put on the performance of a lifetime. While Eric was trying his best not to laugh from the front seat, Evie was cranking out the tears behind him and lamenting, "Oh daddy, I was so so naughty." Nothing like trying to gain a little sympathy vote in her favor. She's good. 

I was finally able to enjoy the last few moments of adult company. Hallelujah. :) 

There was so much yummy food. Sooo much. I'm really craving a cucumber sandwich and one of those cheesy crusty bread things in the foreground there.

Some of the ladies. I spy my sister smiling for the camera. :)

It was great to have a little bit of time with my own mom and sister without having to chase a hooligan around. :) I wish I had better pictures of everything, because mine do NOT do this beautiful event justice. There were gorgeous displays surrounding the seating area and beautiful table settings everywhere you looked. So much planning and time and hard work went into this afternoon, and I would personally like to thank everyone who was involved with putting it together. Despite my wild child, I had a really good time!

The next morning I felt pampered and loved by my family as I awoke to the girls being taken care of and Eric preparing breakfast before church. I got the familiar, "Wait, you can't come out yet!" as my husband put the last minute touches on the gift he had picked out for me, which included this:


Ah, the book I've been wanting since the day it came out a month ago. Eric did good. :) After the other events of this weekend which I shared yesterday, "Bloom" has been extremely therapeutic for me. It couldn't have come at a better time.

I had dreams of eventually passing on this lovely memoir someday to someone who might need a little pick-me-up. That is until Gracie unceremoniously ripped a page out then later gave herself the biggest gushiest paper cut I've ever seen and left bloody streaks all over the inside (and a bit on the cover.) I'm guessing no one is going to want this particular copy once I'm through with it. :)

We shared meals with both Eric's family and mine, and in between when I could feel the ominous beginning of a sinus infection setting in, Eric let me go into our room, shut the door, and take a NAP - a rarity with my little girls running around the house, let me tell ya.

Although there was sadness in our weekend, although I wasn't feeling well, and even despite having a rebellious child at the moment, I have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for my babies, for a loving husband, and a mom that I can call whenever I need and who still treats me to the occasional day of being one of the kids again. I am thankful for all moms everywhere, who while imperfect, are trying their best to carry what somedays feels like the entire world on their shoulders. 

This passage has been playing in my head all weekend, and since I'm having a kumbayah kind of moment right now, I thought I would leave you with this encouragement. At no other time in my life have these words been more appropriate for me, as I have tried to balance the blessings of my life with the grief that sometimes penetrates it. You may know it from the crooning of The Byrds, but the Lord said it first. :)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Everything Has Its Time

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.

Amen!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Comfort in Confusion

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." - Jesus


Hey, friends. I made some very happy memories this weekend, but today they are sharply contrasted by overwhelming grief. I don't mean to put a downer on your Monday, but I just need a place to put my thoughts today. (And before you read on, our baby, to my knowledge, is just fine.)

I have experienced losing people who are close to me many times throughout my life. So much so that sometimes, sadly, I almost think I have become desensitized to death. I have attended the funerals of countless family and friends of all ages...from children to great great grandparents, and while I have mourned the loss of each one, very few have left me feeling bitter and angry and confused.

Sometimes it's an illness or a tragedy, but in most cases at the end of the day those close to me that have passed were taken under the care of a doctor or in an accident. It is absolutely horrible when a young person who has so much life to live seems to be cheated out of that life in a tragic accident, and it leaves those who are left behind in shock and disbelief. It is, however, an entirely different feeling to know in your heart that someone's life was ended at the hand of another...on purpose. Out of deference to the family I won't share details here today, but that is exactly the feeling I'm left with on this Monday morning.

I had a wonderful weekend celebrating Mother's Day, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow to share it. I spent so much of the past two days crying while trying to put on a good face for the girls and lost so much sleep that, mixed with allergies, this morning I have a terrible sinus infection. I can't stand without my head throbbing in sharp pain. Yes, I have dealt with death of family and friends more than my share in my lifetime, but I haven't struggled with it like this until now.

I honestly don't know how I would be handling these feelings when they come if it weren't for my faith. I don't know where my peace would come from or how I could continue to function at all. I believe that God has never had an "aha!" moment. Nothing takes him by surprise. He doesn't make mistakes. I am under the care of a creator who has a plan, and who has always had that plan, and who offers a promise that ALL who call upon his name will spend eternity with him. So, the events of this weekend were only a shock to us. God called one of his children home, as he always planned to do.


John 14:1-2

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.


I take comfort in knowing that I don't live my life in chaos, but in order, even if I can't see that order from my prospective. I can look back on past circumstances and think "Whew! Glad I dodged that bullet" even that if that "bullet" was something I really really wanted at the time. I can only see the order from the prospective of time. So to a God that isn't limited by time or space, I am grateful that he has a plan for my life. It's not a feeling I have, but a promise He has made me.

He had a plan for our friend as well, and for his family and those closest to him. And that is the only thing keeping my head above water right now. I can't see it. I don't understand it. But I take comfort in knowing that someday it will make sense. I will see order in the confusion. I always do. And knowing that our friend was without a doubt a young man of God, I know that HE isn't sad at all today. He is walking streets of gold in paradise.

Today I am praying primarily for peace and strength for all of those closest to him that he left behind. But I am also praying fervently for truth to be revealed and justice to be served.

I hope that all of you were able to enjoy a fun and relaxing weekend. Among the tears were a lot of happier moments for us. So I hope you'll check back tomorrow for that. :) For now I am going to try to nurse my headache and try to keep my little ones as quiet as possible - a challenge, that's for sure! Have a good Monday, pals. I hope and pray that you, too, have a peace that surpasses all understanding. Hugs and love.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Confession Friday 5-11!

First of all - WAHOO!!! It's party time! For the past two days I have been feeling great. Barely any sickness at all, so I'm calling this one good. Praise. The. Lord. Now I can officially get excited about the rest of this pregnancy. Let's do this thing. :)

In honor of all of the moms this weekend. :)

I confess that I'm typing this thing up at night, because I think my babies need more attention from me in the morning. I've been feeling extremely guilty lately about not spending enough real quality time with the girls. If that means blogging while they sleep - so be it!

I confess that I just bought a big 'ole floppy hat to wear this Saturday for a tea with some lovely ladies. And I look like a big 'ole fruitcake wearing it.

I confess that I can't believe I'm saying this, but...I think I'm going to pass up a cute mom mobile for a minivan. It's just too practical. And no Eric, that does not mean we will have room for three more children. :)

I confess that pregnant people get a TMI pass, so I am not ashamed in the least to admit that I have hair growing in places that I didn't even know hair could grow. What in the world is up with that?

I confess that Eric and I have still have not agreed on where to go on a trip together. It's becoming a big pain the behind, to tell you the truth. What a first world problem to have, eh?

I confess that I've really got a hankering for some spaghettios right now. I could also use a taco. And some chocolate cake.

I confess that my oldest child thinks she is a power ranger, thanks to her uncle John. "Hi-ya! Hi-ya!"

I confess that a long time ago I mentioned a sunless tanner that I was in love with and then never told you what it was. That's because I secretly became pregnant and wanted to stop using it early in my pregnancy. But my sister used this to "tan" for prom with great results, so now I feel confident to share this stuff:



Fake Bake Flawless. It's a spray, not a lotion, and you put it on with a mitt. It's kind of awesome. You can get it at Ulta, but I found a great deal on amazon. (It goes as low as $13 sometimes. It's about $25 at Ulta.) 

I confess that my children are not always little angels. Shocker! :) I'm really looking forward to some one-on-one time with Evelyn over the next two days. I think she needs it, cause she's definitely been trying to push some buttons lately! 

Speaking of Evie, this conversation totally happened today:

Ev: Mom, I'm going to go talk to Rick.
Me: Who in the world is Rick?
Ev: He's a boy who lives in his house. And he has a mustache. And he has legs. And he's not dead. And he's not a dinosaur.
Me: Well, okay. :)

Evelyn is so my kid. (Do these kinds of conversations sound familiar, mom? Haha.)

***

Today a very special person has a birthday! My great aunt Brenda, one of my favorite people ever. :) My aunt Brenda was actually more like a grandma to me when I was growing up. I love her very much, and I hope she has a very great day!!! I'm calling you during nap time today, Brenda!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

I also want to wish all of the moms out there a Happy Mother's Day! Whether you've raised your children to adulthood, or if you've never been able to hold one of your babies in your arms, we all share the same heart. Have a great weekend!

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