A Different Take on Giving This Christmas…

Ok. Before I get started, let me tell you what this is NOT. This is not some amazing philanthropic endeavor, or way to feed 10,000 families in a starving land. Honestly, I wish I was sharing that kind of news, but this is a much simpler idea I’d like to share to help spread the art of giving right in the four walls of your own home.

If your family is like mine, Christmas goes a little something like this: Mom pays careful attention to amazing details of her children. She has listened and taken stock of the desires of her family’s heart for the last 2-6 months. By the time the holidays roll around, she has an amazing list of all the great things she plans to buy. She then tells the hubby, who nods in appreciation and acceptance of these great ideas and after her thoughtful hunt and purchase, she then finds great wrapping paper, stockings and gift bags to present these lovely trinkets on Christmas day. Meanwhile, the kids are ESTATIC with anticipation for yet another joyful season of GETTING!!!! Christmas Day rolls around and Mom sits back and watches her successful gathering session pay off with excitement and happiness for a day where each member of the family feels like someone took the time to consider EXACTLY what THEY wanted, and made those wishes come true. Some amazing moms even yield the credit to a big man in a red suit as the benefactor of this great extravaganza… 🎅🏼🎅🏼🎅🏼

WELL… after watching that scene for the last 17 years, our family has agreed to switch things up a bit. First of all, I have really been into the idea of enjoying experiences vs. THINGS. As I get older, I have come to realize how short-lived the happiness of obtaining items can really be. It is a plight that sends many into debt and even depression after realizing once you get “IT”, there is always a desire for MORE… “IT” is never enough…  and “IT” never gives the lasting high created by memories or experiences that leave a lasting impression, a lifelong memory or moments for reflection and growth. Over the years, I have come to replace high ticket items, technology, and great trinkets, with opportunities of adventure and togetherness.

While our family will take another trip this holiday season, we will still attempt to give them the “gift under the tree” experience, but this year it will be with a bit of a twist. This year we have set a spending budget of $400. Each member of our family will pull a name from our family of four. They will keep that name a secret. For the next several days THEY will conduct research on their person. They will study them. Listen to them. Consider the desires of their heart. On December 15th, we will wake up early and venture out to the mall. Each family member will get $100 in cash. They will then be responsible for searching for great gifts for their selected family member. As the mom, I will be on hand for advice or guidance if necessary, but it is up to them to make this a memorable experience for their person to enjoy on Christmas day.

I love this idea because it does several things:

  1. It allows EVERY member of the family to appreciate the art of GIVING as well as receiving. I SOOOO love to give. Though our family is a family of givers, I hope our children will see how great the entire giving experience is and make it a part of everyday life.
  2. It helps everyone appreciate and understand the importance of a budget. Though we would LOVE to give a lot more, we must spend according to what we have. Apple can’t determine that amount, we must. There is no joy in giving when you have to pay for it for the next several months. I love that we can share this experience together. Look for deals! Find the sales… Make that money stretch!
  3. It requires everyone to consider another’s desires over their own. They will have to conduct the necessary research in order to be successful in their experience. Too many times we are so wrapped up in our own wishes, we fail to consider anyone else’s.
  4. It takes the weight off one person producing for everyone. Though I thoroughly enjoy the Christmas hunt, purchase, wrap and presentation session, it is a joy I would like my family to practice as well. Especially as my kids are getting older, it will be imperative for them to learn the art of giving for their current and future relationships.
  5. It is a reminder that we all get things throughout the year… All the time!!! We can’t possibly buy EVERYthing for EVERYbody in one month… (Whoever came up with such an idea??? 🤔🤔🤔 lol!)
  6. It helps highlight the idea that the family trip is our true Christmas present. Our undivided time together and the adventures we will share will supersede any thing we could wrap and place under a tree.

As a country, the secularization of Christmas has created a “get” mentality in many of us. A lot of our giving is out of obligation vs. the genuine desire to share. Many of us go into debt to meet unrealistic expectations and fail to see the true beauty in what this amazing time of year is all about. While we will still decorate the tree and enjoy the lights and holiday music, I am hopeful to help create experiences that spread love, joy, peace and the true beauty of cheerful giving, (within a budget of course) that will help produce memories that last a lifetime. Happy Holidays to you and your family. Here’s to all the wonderful ways you choose to celebrate God’s love this holiday season! 😊😊😊😊😘😘😘

Photo: Bplans

“I DON’T NEED TO BE FAMOUS…”

I was boutique shopping with a beautiful friend of mine the other day. She just so happens to be an awesome singer and a super favorite around our small town. The gal working the register, an obvious fan, noted “When are you gonna go on TV???!!! You are SOOOO good!!!!”

My friend responded with great modesty, true to her character, “I don’t need to be famous, I’m happy just playing my music here at home, with my people.”

I was so blessed by her response. I could TOTALLY relate. However, I could also understand how foreign her response was to the clerk. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be famous, right? Who wouldn’t want to be seen and adored by thousands, if not millions, right? Why not share your talent with as many people as you can, right?????

As a society, we’ve gotten to the place where more is better. Where all we do is measured by the number of likes, customers, product sold, people in the audience, etc. We crave acknowledgement, a certificate, pin, title, award, or some sort of notoriety for everything we do. We secretly want our content, our YouTube, blog post, picture, or even rant to go viral. We want to be discovered. We crave validation. Acceptance. And ultimately, love.

The problem with this is, in our plight to be noticed by the masses, we forfeit the journey of growing, learning and allowing God the chance to promote us in His timing. We spin our wheels and max out our resources to produce results, often times based on standards of another person’s success. We are so busy climbing ladders, grinding, and chasing a name, we miss out on the little opportunities to cultivate relationships that produce the lasting love that matters.

Within the last couple years, my singing friend retired from an awesome career in education to be at home full time with her family. Nope, she didn’t pack her bags and move to Hollywood, instead, she volunteers at the school, she helps her husband with his business, coaches her son’s basketball league and tends to her parents and elderly grandparents. When she gets a chance, she sings and plays guitar at local venues, festivals and weddings around town. But SHE is super ok with that. Currently, she doesn’t have a triple platinum album, she doesn’t have a Grammy on her wall, she won’t get Administrator of the Year this year, but in the meantime, her daughter has a friend she knows is always there when she needs her. She has a solid marriage of 17 years. She hasn’t missed a ballgame and is able to take her mom to her weekly check-ups at the doctor.

Perhaps if we get back to some of these things that really matter in this life, we will grow our character. We will develop the characteristics necessary to sustaining greater levels of success. We will have a true support system of people who love us and look out for our best interest along the way. We will have made major impact on individuals and created memories throughout.

I’m not saying give up the pursuit of greater or abort taking your talent and visions to their highest level possible. Go get your Grammy!!!! Just don’t let it be at the expense of the things that truly matter. Don’t let it be an attempted replica of someone else’s journey. Many of the people we all admire, follow on Instagram, and see adorned by millions, go to bed lonely with no one they can truly trust. When their career ends, they have no one by their side. No trusted companions or skills to help them sustain or recover their achievement.

As you pursue your purpose, trust in God’s ability to customize the experience for YOU. Put your best foot forward in everything you do because it will ALWAYS lead to greater. Be sure to enjoy the growth that happens during the journey and develop and cherish relationships with the people in your life right now. You will find, their love is better than the superficial love that comes from the masses. The mountaintop is so much better when you get their whole, with great people on your team, with true love in your heart, and with God leading the way. Until then, sing your heart out and enjoy each time you perform in your hometown, post your best blogs if only for an audience of 100, and rock out that business from the ground up … You’ll get your Grammy soon enough… While you’re at it… enjoy the journey!!!

Proverbs 16:9

Catalogue Your Journey… Capturing the Moments that Count.

Ok. So when we hear the word “souvenir” we all think of the 3 for $10 trinkets we buy when on vacation to let people know we were thinking of them, or perhaps an artifact to remind ourselves of the time we enjoyed while there. Unfortunately, most times, those items are bought without real thought and they ultimately collect dust for a few weeks before winding up in the garbage. I mean, how can we keep up with all that “junk” over the years anyway? Great point. However, I started looking at this souvenir thing in a different way. I had a desire to capture a bit of the joy, peace and memories that were happening throughout this awesome journey. And even though I carry them in my heart and mind all the time, there is something about the nostalgia of bringing your mind right back to that space in time which you held so dear.

Maybe because I have very few pictures or artifacts from when I was a child, but mostly because I am amazed with how the time is flying and how many miracles happen every single day, I just have the desire to catalogue my journey. I found that it is simply a way to bottle up that moment, that feeling, that memory, so that it can be relived in some small way. You can do this in so many ways. Perhaps by journaling, taking pictures and videos of the “highlights”, making playlists, marking your child’s growth progress on a wall, stamping their hands and feet, saving medals and trophies, making 1st day of school signs and pics for every year, collecting a pen for every hotel you visit, etc. Whatever the case, one of the greatest ways to keep gratitude in your heart is to recount the many blessings you experience on a day to day basis. A great way to slow down the time is to catalogue and take stock. Be intentional about it and customize it to make it meaningful to you.

One of the ways my family and I catalogue is by collecting a Starbucks coffee mug on every place we travel. Over the last 5 years or so, we have been successful. It was pretty cool when my husband and I added our collection to a space on our wall a couple weeks back. What a super conversation piece. What a great motivation to travel more. What a super way to enjoy and capture the journey and even share with others. I hope you find a way to capture the awesome moments during your adventures. And that you intentionally discover meaningful ways to recount the joy you experienced while there…

HOW TO TEMPER YOUR TURKEY TIME… Tips to Reduce Holiday Indulgence :-)

Ok. We are just a couple days away from the incredible holiday season!!!!! Awesome days filled with joy, peace, laughter, rest, and fun. Great memories are made with all our FAVORITE things to enjoy; football, family, friends; time off work, and the best of all… SHOPPING AND EATING of course!!!! I tell you, I am an AVID Black Friday shopper!!! I will be out there with the BEST of them searching for a super steal (yeah right… do they really exist???? But I WILL be out there nonetheless!!!) and of course will enjoy a wonderful FEAST on Thanksgiving and Christmas day!!! However, I have learned over the years the good old adage “a moment on the lips, equals a lifetime on the hips” to be SOOOO appropriate during this season. We can actually apply it to not only food, but spending as well. Here are a couple ideas to consider when making choices about eating and shopping during the holidays.

For the sake of establishing my point, let’s look up the definition of 2 words. 1st indulge. Indulge simply means “to take unrestrained pleasure in.” 2nd temper. Temper means to “restrain. To serve as a neutralizing or counterbalancing force to something.” Ok. So, the teacher in me is coming out. Lol.

Here’s the deal. Holidays are a time for great indulgence. We will all be tempted and most likely give in to eating without restraint and sometimes spending without restraint. We will be welcomed REGULARLY with treats, candy, cupcakes, muffins, lattes and other goodies each day. I mean, sugar is lurking on EVERY corner! At work, church, friends’ houses, school celebrations, holiday parties, etc… The Thanksgiving Day dinner alone will be loaded with DELICIOUS appetizers, meats, sides, desserts and drinks!!! HALLELUJAH!!! And we will commence to filling our bellies until we look like the stuffed turkey lying on the platter!!! We are quick to tell ourselves… “Oh, it’s the holidays… go ahead and indulge!!” FOR SURE!!! I get it!!! IT IS THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!

We do the same thing with spending. We have Secret Santa gifts to buy, Amazon is having super sales, phones have no more memory, everyone in the family needs a SUPER-DUPER gift, and shoot, while you were out looking for your mom’s present, they had a buy one get one 20% off sale, so you had to get one for yourself as well!!!! I KNOOOOWWWWW!!!! AND… It’s the break and the kids need something to do, so why not Disney, or at least the movies, dinner, a theatre production, and ALLLLLLLLL those great goodies. Everyone is coming over to your house, so you must UPGRADE your otherwise ANCIENT Christmas décor… I KNOOOOOOOWWW!!!

This has all become the beauty of the celebration. At this point, it wouldn’t be the same without it. However, we have to get real with ourselves. We run wild during this time only to spend the next few months cleaning up the mess we made, or even worse, ignoring it. Our credit cards are smashed full and our waist takes an unrepairable hit! I can admit, I have come back from many a holiday break weighing more than 5-8lbs more than when I started!!! We drudge through to New Year’s with yet another promise to get it all back in order… uuuggghhh.

Perhaps there is a better way. Simple temperance during this time can save us a ton of headache in the months to come. How can we do this? Here are some simple ideas to help temper your spending and eating during the holidays.

Temper your eating:

  1. Treat yourself, but limit yourself to one plate only. (No 2nd’s/No doggy bags!!!)
  2. Load your plate with double the amount of veggies, salad, soups over everything else.
  3. Commit to an extra workout regime during the month of December.
  4. Don’t arrive starved. Have a healthy snack or drink 2 big glasses of water before going to any holiday party (it’s tough to overeat when you are already full!!!)
  5. Bring your own favorite healthy option to the party… EAT THAT!!! 😊

Temper your spending:

  1. Make a holiday budget based on cash vs. credit.
  2. Get creative with your gifts, décor, and recreation (cook/bake/DIY-type gifts/board games/light viewing etc.)
  3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to commitments beyond your budget.
  4. Condense gift buying (Everyone pull a name. This is the person you will buy for this year.)
  5. BUY USED (You can always give gently used video games, books, toys etc. instead of the brand-new version)

I KNOW. I KNOW. This all seems to take the fun out of the experience, BUT ultimately, you have to get your mind, will and emotions in check. Let them know who’s in charge!!! If you make it a practice to operate in discipline during the most DIFFICULT of situations, there is no temptation you can’t completely obliterate!!! You can DO THIS!!! Trust me, your waistline and bank account will be much better off because you used wisdom and restraint. In the meantime, remember what this season is all about. Though you have a heart to give the most and best, though you want to enjoy great memories and times with loved ones, it will be much more enjoyable today and tomorrow when it is done with love and self-control.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU AND YOUR CREW!!! 🙂

 

Photo cred: Pinterest

The Most “Unloveable” People Need Love the Most…

I was watering my bushes a few days ago. I noticed that after a year and a half of planting and watering just about every day, some of the bushes were beginning to grow and the buds were actually blossoming! I was THRILLED at the SIGHT of life, because up until now, though I was diligent with their care, my flowers seemed pretty unresponsive. The new blooms motivated me to water more. I even watered the couple with the biggest blossoms a bit longer because they had become my prize. I then looked over to the four that were not blooming and I grew frustrated. I didn’t even want to waste my time watering them. Something must be wrong with them if they couldn’t produce the same results after the same care! THE NERVE!!!! I mean, they have given no evidence of even THINKING of blooming!!! I even considered uprooting them and planting something more “suitable” for success.

At that moment, the Lord showed me the correlation between my frustration about the non-budding bushes with how often times we as a society can become toward others that behave in a similar manner. Think about it. How easy is it to write a person off, to become offended, to hold a grudge or withhold mercy on a person who acts in an unbecoming manner that may be different from otherwise attractive behaviors. How often are we repelled by a co-worker, a neighbor, a child, even a spouse who seems to have missed the mark on seemingly obvious objectives. ESPECIALLY when you have gone out of your way to extend an extra amount of mercy toward them… THE NERVE!!!!!

I remember my last year teaching, I had a student in 1st period named “John.” Since I actually loved teaching and even more so, LOVED the students, I never had many discipline problems. My students could see my sincere care and determination for their success, it created a mutual relationship of love and respect. However, “John” was one of the toughest in all my career. He showed up late just about every day, he sat in the front row and attempted to sleep regularly; when he WAS awake, he sat there, unprepared and unmotivated to do ANYTHING, and often times became a MAJOR distraction. Though I had to continually redirect him, something in me could not give up on “John.” This kid challenged me to my CORE, but I knew he was capable of fulfilling the tasks put before him. It was his senior year, he had made it this far, and I was NOT about to let him FAIL. He required EVERY drip drop of my patience, but I wouldn’t accept less than his best and I encouraged him to get through.

I realize extending this kind of grace takes an enormous amount of tolerance, perseverance, and strength. People can be super- extra difficult at times! It is SO easy to just throw our hands up and quit. I mean, even if “John” MAKES it out of high school, even if those plants do get a little stronger, it is so much easier to devote the energy to a person/plant that appreciates the love, or at least shows PROMISE of success.

I remember my students asking me that same question… “Mrs. Harper, why do you keep working with “John,” you know he’s not even going to graduate! He doesn’t even care!” What they didn’t know, and what I didn’t even know until later, was that John’s dad walked out on their family the year prior. It had a devastating impact on them emotionally and financially. His mother had a to carry a weight that was too much for her. They lost their home, and were forced into some very unbearable living conditions. This certainly took its toll on “John” and he began to act out, lose interest in school and everything else.

From somewhere deep inside, without knowing this prior, I was devoted to seeing “John” win. I remember explaining to the class that if we all treated John the way he deserved to be treated based on his behavior, he would see frustration and annoyance from his teachers, his mother, his classmates, his family and everyone in his life. How would that make him feel? How could he POSSIBLY blossom in that case? But what if we treated him like we hoped he would be. What we wanted him to become? What if we loved on him. What if when he acted out, we didn’t retaliate with anger, but redirected him with compassion? Considering how challenging his behavior was, this seemed a near impossible task. But I was up for the mission and was sure to model it in front of my students.

I know this is not easy. I know. But what I have come to appreciate is the one who is the most challenging, the one who is the most unloveable, the one with the threat of failure, is the very one that needs love the most. We simply cannot give up on people who don’t have it all together, who present a challenge, even those who act out. That is the expected response. That is what they are used to. That won’t help promote a change or motivate them to rise higher. We must reach deep into our hearts… DEEP (lol) and find that compassion. Extend that mercy. Overlook that offense. I am convinced that love never fails. I am settled that if we rise to a higher place, we can win over the hardest of hearts.  We can inspire that tough individual to overcome.

I will never forget graduation 2014. I sat on the field during the commencement as a proud teacher of the graduates. We were to sit with them, help supervise, and escort them off the field after the ceremony. One of the proudest moments of my teaching career happened at the end as the graduates engaged in a procession off the field. “John” came up to me with tears streaming down his face, beaming with pride and gratitude. He looked me in my eyes, and with all sincerity told me, there was no way he would have made it to this moment without me. He apologized for being so difficult to handle and concluded his message with, “thanks for never giving up on me!!!” It was the last class of my career, but that lesson was one of the greatest of them all.

Though you may put forth great effort, though you may not always understand, though that difficult spirit may push you to your limit, somehow go to that place deep down in your heart and activate that compassion, extend that mercy, muster up that hope, water those plants and love the seemingly unloveable. It may just be the very ingredient necessary for them not to fail…

 

 

Photo: picturequotes

TIME DOES NOT HAVE TO FLY… A Back to School Reflection.

Ok, so both my kids are in high school!!!!! 😲😲😔 WHAATTT???!!! This blew me away!!! I mean, it seems like YESTERDAY I was nursing them and teaching them how to use the bathroom!!!! I remember waking up in the middle of the night to feed them, or getting them bundled in alllll their layers of clothing in order to weather the cold, and carrying them in their car seat and wondering “how in the world was I going to get through this????” I mean, it seemed SOOOOO hard and because they were only 19 months apart, it seemed there was no relief. Something as simple as getting ready for bed meant individual baths, and getting them dressed and keeping one entertained while the other was being attended to… it was literally EXHAUSTING!!!!

I remember some of the elders, (ie. WISE, BRILLIANT people we tend to ignore because they just don’t understand our specific situation) used to tell me, “enjoy these moments because they fly right by…” I remember WISHING they would… 😂😂lolol!!! Now that those beautiful babies have grown into amazing 14/16-year old’s right before my eyes, I’ve learned that time does indeed FLY by and I have come to appreciate allllll those tough times as fond moments in this AMAZING journey. Because I have come to value each phase of parenthood, I have also learned how to seize the moments and literally slow down the time.

How in the world can you slow down time, you say? It is actually quite simple: Make each moment count. BE PRESENT. Adjust your perspective and see the joy in that perfect place of the journey. Especially you new moms, or moms of toddlers, or moms of those goofy pre-teens, and OMG… MOMS OF TEENAGERS!!!! YIKES!!! Know that each phase brings about a new terrain. It can be tough, especially when you haven’t tread that path before. It completely sucks when they learn the word “no”, or when they THINK about talking back, driving, dating, or wanting to go on field trips, or getting a new cell phone, or starting HIGH SCHOOL!!!! OMG!!!! IT’S A LOT I KNOW!!!! Each phase brings new challenges indeed, but they are times you will never get back. Ask any empty-nester what they wouldn’t give to put that perfect part in their daughter’s hair with pigtails for the first day of school. How they wish they could sit through just ONE more basketball game. How they wish they could watch one more Disney movie together…

I remember my daughter being rushed to the hospital because her appendix ruptured. We had no idea, but it actually ruptured days before she was admitted, which put her in a critical position. Infection had spread through her body and we were in the hospital for several days. I was still working during that time. I remember actually wrestling with the idea that I had 150 final exams to grade and report cards to post while my daughter had a tube sticking out the middle of her stomach!!! 😦😦😦 It dawned on me then, that my job was taking WAAAAY too much of my attention. That it hindered me from fully focusing on the monumental moments of my children’s lives. I considered how much of my attention COULDN’T be on them, because I was trying to be excellent at my career. That was my last year of teaching. We downsized our lives, I retired from my job and am at home to fully serve my family. Now, I am by NO means suggesting anyone quit their job. For me, I HAD to, and it has made all the difference. But there is surely a way you can slow down the time in your life right now. Whatever way God leads you specifically to enjoy your journey, be sure to adhere. Realize that though we have our entire lives to indulge, chase after dreams, seek promotion, gain advanced education, get overtime hours, one thing we can’t get back is the time that passes and the events that happen throughout. Figure out how YOU can be present for your kids and get to it ASAP.

It doesn’t even have to be super deep. Being present in the moment looks like this: Attuning fully when they show you their 7,456th completed page from their coloring book, listening like you are at a concert when they ask you to hear that song they learned on the flute in band class today, sitting with them while they struggle through that English project, putting your phone down and talking to them in the car on the way to EVERY WHERE, turning off the TV and listening to them during dinner, helping them make that sign for their student council election and the like.

Parents have a tough job. We seem to constantly need relief from the weight it bears. However, if we adjust our perspective a bit and see each phase as a once in a lifetime moment on an amazing journey, we are sure to savor the time. When we purpose to enjoy each day of their childhood, we will never have to answer that horrible question, “Where did the time go?” Because we were right there in the middle of each one of those precious moments with them. Today is tomorrow’s “good old days…” so get out there and Carpe Diem!!!!

THE SLUMBER PARTY POOPER: A Quick MUST- READ for EVERY Parent…

It’s the end of summer… the kids are getting older, they want to kick it with a few friends on the weekend, or perhaps you just need some well-deserved RELIEF… Tis the season for a good old fashioned, harmless sleepover. I mean, you’ve known this family for years, or better yet, they ARE family, and your daughter has a cell phone in case of emergencies… AND you have equipped her well with “the talk!” Surely, all things will be fine right????… Not so fast.

For this blog post, I will address a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It may be difficult to receive, or even believe. But if it slows you down, or helps you consider your decisions more thoughtfully, well… mission accomplished.

As a friend, teacher, and parent I have counseled many young women who have been the victim of rape, molestation or sexual assault some time in their life. Studies show that 1 in 5 will have some experience in their lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a stranger off the street, will kidnap and violate his victims. But more so, it is the distant cousin, uncle, family friend, neighbor etc. at which the innocence is compromised. Too many times, it happens during the sleepovers/camps/weekend trips/family reunions, when our children are most vulnerable. When our guard is down because of the trust we have given to the people in our camp.

Here’s a typical example: You let your daughter go to her cousin’s house for the weekend. I mean, this is your sister!!! She would NEVER let anything happen to your daughter. Besides, her daughter is your daughter’s best friend. They are the same age and have grown up together. This situation seems completely harmless. However, you didn’t consider the fact that your nephew is now 16. It’s Friday, and he has a couple friends over. Maybe they aren’t perfect angels, but they are boys… they are teenagers… and… well… You get my point. Or perhaps your brother-in-law has a few guys over to play pool. They are drinking a bit, but nothing crazy. I mean, your sister is right there. TRUST ME… I get it.

But as a victim myself, I can tell you, it only takes 10 minutes to steal the innocence of a child. As a matter of fact, one touch, one look, exposure to sexual sin, can completely obliterate your child’s image of God’s holy, beautiful, sacred act forever. Furthermore, many former victims of a sexual violation/deviation, have changed their entire perception of themselves, others and their sexuality; leaving them with bouts of depression, low self-esteem, promiscuity, and a disgust for heterosexual relationships and intercourse all together.

With the level of pornographic images on TV, magazines, the Internet at an easy grab, it seems to only exploit the sexual appetite, which promotes a stronger drive for sexual deviance now more than ever. We must be super proactive in our awareness of this potential threat and let it govern our decisions regarding overnight/home-alone/babysitting experiences. I am certainly not trying to scare you. But perhaps increase your awareness to avoid potential unwanted behavior.

As a parent, here are some simple ideas to help:

  1. Of course, give your child “the talk.” No matter their age or gender, they should know that there are areas of their body that are OFF LIMITS!!! NO EXCEPTIONS!!! That if anyone were to EVER touch them there, they should get away and get help IMMEDIATELY.
  2. You should maintain an open line of safe communication where your child knows they can come to you and freely ask questions and seek advice at any time. Create this exchange by giving them your undivided attention, time and concern at will. A safe place where they can share their most sacred thoughts without judgement or penalty.
  3. Be mindful of your child’s whereabouts at all times. Not just where they are. But who else is there? Make regular check-ups to evaluate the security of this place. This includes after school practices, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
  4. Let your presence be made known. Your child and all parties involved should know and feel your presence. Be active in calling-in, asking questions, and showing up. Even if the kids are playing in the basement, there should be a natural understanding that you are on the scene and will make an appearance in some way shape or form. Of course, you shouldn’t be “Stalker-Mom” or anything, but you must be “there” if only through a FaceTime, phone call, drop-in exchange.

There are so many great benefits to giving our children some time away from home. There are so many great social experiences to be had and memories to create. Nevertheless, we as parents must be aware of the potential threats that can bring harm to our children and act accordingly. If we are mindful of these simple steps, we can help prevent a lifetime of heartache.

DIY #7: Treasure your Trunk

Looking for a great place to store toys in a playroom, blankets in a living room, games in a game room, sheets in a bedroom, or junk in a… well, not junk… 😘😘How about treasure in ANY room… Well, I have a super idea to help tuck away your treasures while adding a bit of style and function to the space. How about an old trunk? You can generally find these at any antique or thrift store, and often times, garage or estate sales. You can find them in all different sizes and conditions, but with a little bit of soap and water, paint and tape, you can restore and customize the trunk to fit your space and needs. In my last two houses, I used a different one for various functions, and did two very different looks for both with only two simple steps.

Step 1: Wash and disinfect your trunk. I used soap and water and even bleach to make sure the trunk was free of any unwanted elements. Once it is washed, put it out to dry thoroughly.

Step 2: Customize your trunk. You can get so creative with this. If it is going in a kids’ room, there are so many colors and designs you can add. Consider rustic, vintage, French, colorful, whatever fits your home/room. You can even include stencil or monograming. I used tape to add 3 different colors to one, while I used chalk paint and wax to add a vintage look to the other.

Whatever the case, you can’t mess up. If you don’t like it, simply start again. My trunk is multifunctional. We use it as a place to store blankets and coats for the winter, but we also use it for additional seating when we have company. It is a super conversation piece and has become a true treasure for our family.

 

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Clean and disinfect your trunk.

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Once it dries, begin painting.

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Painting with chalk paint.

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All white with dark wax for distressing.

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Adding tape to paint 3 different colors.

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I spray painted the metal parts black.

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Using tape for different colors.

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The finished product…

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The finished product…

Love the One You’re With…

Last weekend, my family and I ate at a Mexican restaurant in our small town. After being seated and placing our order, I immediately took out my phone to show my husband and kids an item I was interested in purchasing on EBay. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get reception. I became pretty frustrated, as I was eager to get their opinion and ultimately make the purchase. At that point, my eyeballs searched to inquire of some sort of Wi-Fi code or alternative, when I saw the sign that read “NO WIFI. Pretend it’s 1995 and talk to each other!”

WOW!!! REALLY???? At first, I admit, I was slightly annoyed by their attempt to “be the boss of me!!!” (Arms crossed, foot tapping… lol) BUUUUUTTTTT, I became immediately convicted at just how quickly I wanted to engage in online activity. It was easy to pridefully excuse my behavior, I mean, after all, I WAS communicating and sharing my search with all of them, RIGHT??? NOPE! Not right!

We are all guilty of this. We just need to finish this one little thing, look up a quick “this” or respond to a fast “that”. “I am working all day long, a little scroll on Facebook, or Instagram shouldn’t be a big deal…” We start off saying that, but that little “this” turns into searching while at the red light, while waiting in line at the grocery store, while in traffic, while lying in bed with our spouse, while sitting at our kids’ practices, and then ultimately, while at home during family time. I’ve even seen people “scrolling” during church!!!! YIKES!!!! 😨😨😨

Perhaps we need to implement the message from the restaurant sign more often. Our need to grab the phones, tablets and other devices is getting out of control. It is spilling onto our kids and even they can’t seem to temper their desire to be online.

At the end of the day, our desire to “be connected” can’t be to some WIFI system, but to the ones we love, the ones we are with during that time. This is a fairly new problem, so it calls for new rules. I’ve come up with a couple easy ways to combat the need to be online excessively:

  • Love the one you’re with: Whoever you are with during that time, give them your undivided attention. If you are lying in bed with your spouse, picking up your kid from school, riding in the car, watching a movie, cooking dinner, out at a restaurant… PUT THE PHONE AWAY!!!! Look at your people. Converse with them. Let them know you are truly interested in their conversation and the happenings of their life.
  • Have a device container: A good way to put this into practice at home is to have a device container. A friend of mine mentioned this idea and I thought it was FABULOUS! Perhaps everyone can put their device in a container/bowl upon entering the house and no one can get on their device until designated “device time.” During that time, you can all sit together and delve into the world-wide mess, I mean, web 😘 for 30 minutes (or whatever time works best for you).
  • TURN IT OFF: At bedtime, all devices are turned off or silenced. I wonder how many hours of sleep people miss out on during that late-night shopping venture, or that Facebook scroll, etc.… How many intimate encounters are spouses missing out on because one or both parties are more engaged online?

There is an infinite amount of data to search, a ton of seemingly important activity happening, news, shopping and sooooo much more that seem to call our name each day, all day. What a blessing it is to be able to access these things at the touch of a button. However, it cannot be at the expense of the precious moments we sacrifice with our loved ones. Though it is important to stay connected to all the people and affairs of the day, it’s most important to let the ones we are with know they are our top priority. At the end of the day, they are what matter most! Pretend it’s 1995… 😘😘😘

QUIT QUITTING…

My husband and I took our kids to the track at the high school this weekend to help get my son in shape for track season. After a great warm up and stretch, we challenged them to a timed race in the 100-meter dash. They started on the appropriate lines, took off at the command, and seemed to be pumped for what appeared to be a fair competition. Half way through the race, my daughter took the clear lead, at which my son slowed down and discontinued his attempt at winning. I stood at the finish line appalled. Though I was happy my daughter got the win, I was quick to encourage my son to finish the race. What was he thinking???? Sure, it LOOKED as if he would not be victorious in this race, but quitting insured that outcome.

Later I considered how many tasks we are quick to start, yet perform in a similar manner. We get distracted, see the outcome as overwhelming, too much to do, or impossible and quit before we experience the victory of completion.

I want to encourage you to finish your course strong. Stay focused. Though 100 meters can appear intimidating, there is victory in crossing that finish line. Every single small step toward that goal is a step closer to achievement. It’s not about “who gets there first,” or if we get there RIGHT NOW… but that we made it, and more importantly, that we didn’t give up. Know that with God, all things are possible. That He can provide the tail wind needed to lessen the load. Trust in His strength and finish strong!!! You are on the winning team!!! YOU GOT THIS!!!!

Quit Quitting on:

  • that healthy eating plan you started this year
  • the book you began and can’t seem to finish
  • That loved one who won’t seem to do “right”
  • your goals to stop smoking
  • The exercise routine you planned
  • Getting out of debt
  • Drinking more water
  • that degree you started but keep putting off
  • Going to bed earlier
  • Your marriage
  • Keeping up with your blog!!!! ☺☺😜😜😨😨😨😆😆
  • not eating at fast food restaurants
  • Controlling your temper
  • That tough project at work
  • Getting up earlier
  • Being on time

Perhaps your goal is not listed above, but you know what it is. See it through. Finish your race strong. That finish line is closer than you think and there is victory waiting on the other side!

WordPress is SO Much Better Than Facebook Right Now…

Ok. Many of you can agree that social media has gotten RIDICULOUS with all the political rants, conspiracy theories, social injustices and just divisive, opinionated vent sessions that actually resemble elements of virtual bullying. It is sad to see some of your “friends” (who are understandably frustrated) behave in ways that are foreign to their regular demeanor.  While I wait for the temporary adult temper tantrums to settle, I have recently taken a bit of a break from what was otherwise a great spot to reflect and share experiences, celebrations, pictures and great ideas. In the meantime, I have greatly enjoyed scrolling through my WordPress feed to read various blog posts. I have to admit, I find myself enthralled with the thoughtful, insight I am finding through various blogs. There are beautiful reflections of life experiences, helpful tips, recipes, DIY’s, poems, short stories and points of wisdom and motivation; actual depth. As a former English teacher, I am already accustomed to reading various forms of literature, so I feel right at home. If you find yourself needing a bit of a breather from your typical scroll through FB, Instagram or the like, scroll through your WordPress feed and check out all the goodies that lie in wait of great reflection. Don’t just “like” it. Give some feedback. Just as you love for others to stop by your page and reflect, they love for you to do the same. In the meantime, if you are looking for someone to read your awesome post, attach a link in the comment section. I will be sure to take some time to read and reflect!!! Blessings to you! #sharingthelove

SWIPER NO SWIPING!!!! A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion…

Looking for a great resolution for 2017????? What if: you decided that starting 2017 you will live debt free? What if you cut up your credit cards and decided to make all purchases with cash/debit/check only, got out of debt and stayed out???? Sounds difficult I know.

My awesome pastor taught a series at church WAAAAAY back in 1998 about living a life free of debt, maintaining a budget and basing your spending on one salary (after tithes and offering). Since 1998, my husband and I made the decision to tithe and give offerings faithfully, live on his salary alone and to not charge or finance another item ever again. With the exception of a mortgage, (we have a payoff plan for that too!!! Lol!!!) we have maintained those goals without compromise… not for a car, my master’s degree, furniture, vacations, jewelry, clothing… NOTHING. It took a TON of sacrifice, delayed gratification, buying used, and strategic budgeting… But I tell you, we have never missed a beat, never gone without and have gained the true freedom to do exactly what we are called to do.

Many people ask me how I retired at age 37? How we were able to pack up and build a home in the mountains, travel regularly, buy a brand-new car in cash, give generously, etc… It really doesn’t make much natural sense. My husband and I come from low income families. Both of us grew up on welfare. When people see us now, they would never know. I am careful to share our story with others because our success is not based on traditional methods of education, intellect, some great investing scheme. We didn’t collect an inheritance, win a settlement etc…

Simply put, His ways are higher than ours. We’re not perfect, and never claim to be. But He is… When we were led to live debt-free, we simply obeyed. And God simply provided. I dare you to trust Him with your finances… With EVERYTHING!!!! You will soar to places beyond your dreams!!! I hope this blesses someone today… Happy New Year!!!! 🙂

DIY #5: Create Your Own Picture Gallery: Our New Cure for Toilet Boredom. 😆😆😆

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Ok, before I begin, let me just say, I have no photography skills what so ever; and I don’t own some ridiculously priced professional camera. I am just a regular gal looking to furnish my new home as efficiently, and inexpensively as possible…All with a personal touch of course! So, if I can do this…SO CAN YOU!!! 🙂

My newest DIY project is a picture gallery wall. I’ve never seen this done before, but the idea stemmed from a contest my daughter and I had one weekend about a year ago.  My son was to return from a fieldtrip that evening. We weren’t too sure of his time of arrival, but we needed something fun to keep us occupied and we knew we needed to stay close to home. So, we decided to go get a cup of coffee, turn on some great music and have a “beautiful picture contest.” What is that you say? Well, we put my husband behind the wheel to do the driving, while Kennedy and I took out our phones and proceeded to take pictures of the scenes of beauty that fill our small-town community. Though we had never done this before, I found it easy discovering gorgeous elements large and small, significant and seemingly insignificant all around.  We had a BLAST!!!

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We took a TON of pics. According to my husband, Kennedy won the contest 😩😆; but it birthed yet another great idea. As we were looking for a large piece of art work to put on the empty space across from the toilet in our guest bathroom, it came to me that that very wall could pose as an AWESOME canvas for SEVERAL pieces of art: Our pictures!!!!! Thus the Gallery Wall was born!!!! I immediately dug into my archives from “the beautiful picture” contest and used those pictures, along with new additions I had taken, as well as a few I purposefully sought after. It was PERFECT!!!!

My first step was to collect 3 different frame sizes from Hobby Lobby. Of course, I went during the 50% off sale, so I got size 11″x14″, 8″x10″, and 5″x7″ frames, the largest costing $2.50 after the discount!!!! I decided that though the frames were beautiful as is, I wanted them to be a little darker in color, so I stained them.

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After staining the frames, I went to Walmart’s one hour photo lab to instantly print the pictures to fit the frames. This was a pretty neat experience because I could play with color, (black and white, sepia, bold etc…) zoom, and other editing features to ensure the look I sought. The prints ranged from $2.00 – $5.74 based on size. I took my time with this process, going back several times to preserve money as well as making the most of my experience.

Once all the pictures were printed, I decided I wanted to create a name and title sign for my photo gallery. After much consideration, Heavenly Grounds was PERFECT; thus HG Gallery for short.  We drilled four wooden boards together, added metal slats to the sides and a chain link for the top for esthetics more than anything. I even soaked the metal pieces in vinegar overnight to achieve more of a rusted look.

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Once my husband attached the sign to the wall, we continued to hang each picture frame. I considered forming a pattern for the pictures, but I went with a more random approach.

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At Home Depot, I found some metal plates ($.40 each) which seemed a perfect way to name-stamp each photograph. I’m not even sure what the metal plates are traditionally used for, but they were the perfect size and material to create an authentic “gallery” look.  I gave each photo a name, added the location and finally the photographer (which was either me or my daughter). I simply typed it up in a Word document, printed it on card paper, cut them out and attached them to the metal plates with hot glue.

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In total, I have 29 pictures. They sit right across from the toilet in our guest bathroom. I know it seems odd, but, so far, it has been the PERFECT cure for toilet boredom.😨😨Lolol! Though you may not need a magazine alternative for your bathroom, you can certainly use this idea in your hallway, stairway, bedroom, dining room or play room. Just another way to note super points while enjoying your journey…

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