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Monday, December 29, 2014

Paring Down

It's been nearly a week since I wrote anything.

Well, since I wrote anything "official," anyway. Since I wrote and added a picture and edited (okay, maybe not that one...) and hit Publish.

I've been doing a lot of thinking, though.

Thinking about what's important, about how my schedule and my priorities line up.

And I need to pare down.

Original image source-- http://www.frolic-blog.com

I have all of these "top priority" things that have been pushed to the side, either by blogging, by spending admittedly too much time watching stupid TV, or by turning myself into a walking womb and thinking of nothing else, too wrapped up in my own hurts to even consider those things I think are most important in life.

I need some time to revamp, you know? To wipe my daily schedule clean and add in only those important things for a while, until I learn to do those habits well and can build up, add in, move on.

This little corner of the internet will be quiet for a while.

Sometimes we could all just use a little quiet, right?

So thank you for your patience with me as I figure stuff out again. Have a wonderful beginning to your 2015- may God bless you in this new year!  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Love Dwelling with Us

In the final days of Advent, we're reminded that through the birth of Jesus Christ, love came to dwell with us.

Which is the way God designed humanity, isn't it? To be with Him, to be loved and intimately known by Him.

In fact, the entire epic story of the Bible points to that very fact. From Eden to the Ark, from the Tabernacle to Jesus Christ, the Bible points to one thing: that God wanted to be with us.

And humanity? Humanity fought (and fights) against Him and sought to control and overpower and have things our own way. But God kept pursuing us, kept loving us, until finally He sent His Son to live in human skin and then to die for us so we could be with Him forever.

It's an incredible story.

And its incredible love.

But somehow, I forget.

I forget how much He loved us, how much He loved me. I see those voids in my life and I think, Doesn't God love me? If He loved me, He'd give me this thing I desire. 

I don't believe that I can possibly understand God, in all of His majesty and glory and infinity... He's beyond what my limited human mind can figure out.

But He's also related some of His characteristics to us in a way we can understand... and He often calls Himself our parent, our Father.

As a little one, I had a sweet tooth (well, I still do!), and I really liked to eat sugar. Like, grab a spoon and get a spoonful of sugar. But my dad didn't let me do it. Not because he didn't love me, but because he loved me a whole lot. Would a spoonful of sugar be bad for me? It probably wouldn't hurt... but it wasn't the best thing.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what God's "No," or God's "Not now," is in my life.

The thing I want (right this very minute, in my own timing), may not be the best thing for me right now.

It doesn't mean God doesn't love me.

It doesn't mean that He doesn't care about my feelings or my struggles. God knows what's best for me- even in a fallen world, things still always work for good in His name.

The Challenge: 

I know, I know- its Christmas week! Everyone is so busy, myself included! 

But I wanted to give you just five verses this week- verses that share a little about God's love for us. Take just 5 minutes to read and reflect on these verses. and on how much God loves you! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Favorites, and January 2015 Planning Pages

1. My fireplace is finally functional! I think this is my favorite favorite of all- no leaving the best for last going on here. Zeke still has some finishing touches to do- we'll be removing some more of the woodwork (sad, but that's what the insurance company requires), and putting up some great tile, but we can actually use it! And we have been. Every night this week.

2. Once upon a time, I used to take figure skating lessons. I know, I know. I was pretty terrible- I was too scared to actually do any jumps, and my balance was laughable. so spins were pretty much out of the question, but I did skate a lot in high school- I would put in about 5 hours a week at the rink. So when Zeke suggested we go, I was so excited!

Of course, I'm very out of shape and it took a while to get my "ice legs," but it was so much fun.

3. Peppermint hot chocolate in a giraffe mug. Need I say more?

We can just pretend you can't see those cords in the background, kay?

4. My super-creative mother-in-law asked Zeke if he had any old mattresses... and then turned bed springs into Christmas trees. So cute.

5. And (I didn't take a picture of it), but my door of Christmas cards is filling up. I love Christmas cards. There's something so special about getting cards in the mail, and then the glitter and pictures and joy... it's wonderful. Growing up, my folks put all the cards up along the windowsills, and I would spend at least ten minutes a day looking at them. Now that I'm older, I appreciate the little extra burst of color in my house from all the cards, and I take a couple minutes to pray for friends and family a couple times a day. Ah, Christmas cards. I just love 'em. 


In other news, in printing out my December planning pages last month, I realized that I really jumbled the last few days of December... so I attached those days to my January 2015 daily planning pages for ya. Sorry about that!

A note about printing: These pages are 8.5 x 5.5 sized, so they should fit in Martha Stewart small format binders, A5 size binders, and Classic size binders. You may need to trim a little.

You will want to print these double sided, flipping on the short end of the paper (or top-to-bottom printing). They'll look a little crazy at first (i.e. the pages don't seem like they're in order) but it should work just fine. After printing, cut the pages in half, and three-hole punch the edge you cut.

Oh, and if you're looking for monthly calendars for 2015, my calendar pages are also available as a free printable!

This post is linked up with Jenna at Call Her Happy for 5 Favorites, today. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Unshakable Joy

Haha, okay. Can I be honest with all of you?

I planned out my blog post schedule for Advent a couple of weeks ago. So when I looked at my planner and saw that I scheduled myself to write about joy today, I couldn't help but feel like God was teasing me a little.

Because, once again, this cycle ended two days ago- without a pregnancy. Again.

Are you sick of me talking about that, yet?

I know that I am. I'm sick of talking about it, writing about it, charting it, thinking it, hoping it, planning it, praying for it... I'm just tired. Of the whole thing.

My infertility journey thus far has had seasons. I can be so positive, so grace-filled and faithful for months at a time... and then I crash and crash hard for a few weeks. For those of you out there who have been doing this for years and years... I pray for you. After a little less than two years, I'm feeling wrung out.


Let's talk about joy, shall we?

(See God's sense of humor, here?)

Here's the thing.

I believe that unshakable joy is real. I believe it. But I just haven't found that place, yet. I haven't found the place where I can rejoice in all things.

Because all things? Really? All things? Orphaned children, sex slavery, abortion, torture, divorce, broken families, pain, death? Infertility- hurt I hold close to my heart right now? How do we rejoice in that? How?

Honestly, I'm not sure, yet. But I do believe that it can be done. I'm clinging to that.

And I sometimes feel that I'm getting closer.

Counting my blessings has made a difference.

Even when my life has been sapped of joy, I have a notebook full of (currently) 322 blessings to prove to me just how full my life really is. How many things I have to be grateful for.

And I think that there's some power in that. When I'm busy giving thanks, I can't feel as sorry for myself. When I'm praising the One who gave me this moment, joy is so much easier to come by.

Of course, my little notebook full of blessings- it's missing a big one.

The ultimate gift, the ultimate blessing, is that Jesus was born. He was born to be Immanuel- God with us.

God. With. Us. 

That's what we're waiting for, isn't it? For God to come and be with us? For Him to fill up every corner of our lives that often echo with the emptiness of what could be, what should be, what we've always wanted.

That was God's design from the beginning, the dwelling with us. In the Garden of Eden, He was there. With us. And even though humanity fell, even though we so often push Him away, even though we think we know best, He's still desiring us. He still wants to be with us. So much so that His Son died for us.

There's joy in that.

The Challenge:

I... I don't have one for this week. Not a formal one, anyway.

I'm going to focus on counting those blessings this week- on listing each little thing, and giving thanks for it. For peppermint coffee creamer and the left-over chalk on the driveway. Those little, daily blessings. Because I'm convinced that giving thanks not only leads me closer to joy, but it also makes every moment sacred. And I could use some more sacred.


This post has some great biblical references about giving thanks and finding the joy in all things.

And if you're feeling particularly worn down in ministry, check out Philippians 1:12-26-- there's a great commentary for it here.

What helps you focus on joy, even in the hard times? 

This post is part of a little series for Advent- you can see the other posts here: Advent 2014

And, like always, Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss a post! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Prodigal Son

Most of us know the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

It's about a younger son, who demands his inheritance from his father (rude) and runs off, completely wasting all of it on partying. He ends up hungry and degraded, doing manual labor, feeding pigs. Finally, he decides to return home and ask his father if he can be a servant. The father runs outside when he sees his son coming and forgives him, giving him a welcome home party. If you wanna read the whole story, you can find it here.

It's a wonderful story of redemption and forgiveness.

I want to be the younger son. He's dumb and makes bad decisions, but realizes his mistakes, and comes home to be forgiven, welcomed back.

I'm definitely not the younger son, though. Yeah, I make mistakes and bad decisions, but...

I'm the older son in this story.

Continue at Blogs for Christian Women, where I'm being featured today! 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mid-December PHFR.

Not to be confused with a PHFT, which is the sound you make when someone says something preposterous. 


Last weekend, Zeke and I went "home-" back to our teeny tiny hometown where both sets of our folks live. 

My mom threw me a surprise birthday party (not on my birthday, which was part of the surprise), complete with presents and cupcakes and streamers and my little nephew and his "Happy Birthday"-"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" mash up. 

And the next day, my mother-in-law came over, got me in the car, and took me to a salon. 

I'm not really one for salons. I get my hair cut at the Walmart once every six months or so. But she decided it was time for me to get some pampering in, so I got an actual hair cut and then got my nails done. 

I'm a terrible nailbiter and I didn't know about the manicure thing, so I didn't have any nails to get done... so I got acrylics. They're kind of weird, but I actually like them, and they make my hands look so pretty! 


Despite all the birthday festivities that were planned unbeknownst to me, the purpose of the trip was to make a ton of Christmas cookies, which we did get around to eventually.

Molasses cookie dough. So, so happy. 


Zeke's been wanting to trade in one of our couches and put a recliner in its place for a couple of months now. 

I went to a ladies' group meeting on Monday, and came home to a changed living room. 

And, because he's tall and the recliner wasn't...


Hunky Husband Life Hack. 


Zeke's been battling a bit of a sore throat lately... 

... this was the little pile he made from dumping his pockets out last night. 

Linking up today with Like Mother, Like Daughter

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Perfect Peace

I've often heard the phrase, "the peace that passes understanding" or "the peace that makes no sense" as part of a benediction or a prayer.

I like that idea.

Of course, in my own life, "the anxiety that makes no sense" is much more a reality.

I'm a worrier. I worry about silly things, about unlikely things. Zeke doesn't answer his phone? He's obviously been in a horrific car accident and is probably dead in a ditch. I might have to move. What kind of information should I bring to the hospital? How will I tell his parents?

My mind goes immediately to ridiculous and extreme outcomes right away, for no reason. I've decided that my need to control every situation is to blame. If I don't expect something horrible to happen, then I won't be prepared if something does. Which, I do realize, makes very little sense.

But it's the way I do it. I've already thought through the possible outcomes, and made my little mental to-do list, so if it happens, I'm all set. I've got it under control.

Or so I think.

Peace isn't the result of having control over everything, of having detailed plans in place.

After all, God changes our plans pretty regularly, doesn't He?

In the first chapter of Luke, we're introduced to two characters who have their plans changed.

Zechariah is an old priest. He and his wife always expected to have children, prayed for them, but God had answered "No." Zechariah and Elizabeth had a painful life, but after many years, they had most likely found some acceptance.  He was probably toward the end of his ministry when the lot fell on him to pray in the temple, in the Holy of Holies. And he prayed, pouring out his heart to God one more time, that they would have a child.

We don't know, but personally, I think that Zechariah's prayer was less, "Please God, won't you give us a child?" and more, "God! Why?!? Why didn't you give us a child!?!" Well, that's the way the prayer would have gone if I was in Zechariah's sandals. I don't think his prayer was to ask for a child- he was old. He didn't think it could happen anymore. He had made other plans.

He had plans of retirement, of living out his quiet life in his quiet town. He was old- the excitement of his life was over.

But God changed those plans. God said "Yes" to the prayers of Zechariah's heart. And Zechariah became our example of what not to do.

"How can I be sure of this?" Zechariah asks the angel. Can you prove it? Because if I'm going to change my plans... I mean, we're really old, you know? I won't believe it til I see it. And he leaves the temple that day with not only a changed life plan and baby on the way, but also without a voice because of his unbelief.

And then we meet our second character- Mary.

Mary is a young lady who is betrothed- she's probably making wedding plans and working on preparing for her new life as a wife. She's got plans- a big wedding, marrying her Joseph, having lots of babies and living out a nice life in her little town of Nazareth.

And then, like Zechariah, she's visited by an angel. Suddenly, her plans are thrown out the window. She's now going to have a child, Joseph will probably divorce her, her family will be disappointed and hurt, she's even at risk of being stoned to death for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Nothing will be the way she had hoped, the way she planned.

She responds with a question- "How will this be?" (reminding us that it's okay to ask questions from a place of belief- she knows it will be, but she doesn't understand the mechanics of it all)- and then says...

“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” 

Now that's peace.

I don't want the peace that comes from rigid planning and holding on to control. I don't want peace that's dependent on my own emotions, my own actions, or my own expectations.

I want a Mary kind of peace.

Because, you know what? Even though we won't have our plans change the same way Mary's did, God changes our human plans. A lot. And we have to trust that God knows what He's doing, and that He will work all things for our good.

Advent is often a time of lots of planning, lots of expectations, and lots and lots of pressure for everything to be "just right." Not only that, but a lot of us have things we're praying for so desperately (like me and having a baby.)

Not only does the first chapter of Luke tell us the story of Jesus's birth, but it also has two very important lessons for us to learn.

1. God answers prayers in miraculous ways. The vulnerable heart that Zechariah presented to the Lord in prayer was answered. Not in the timing that Zechariah might have chosen himself, but God knew what He was doing, even when we can't see it. He has worked miracles before, and He will do it again.
2. God's plans are the best plans. Even when we can't see the reason, we have to trust His planning, His path for our lives. We know that He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place. Would He withhold any good thing from us? 

The Challenge:

The challenge for this week is more a challenge of changing a habit. It's such a habit for me to get all worked up and anxious this time of year- there's just so much going on!

I challenge you- whenever you're feeling the need to control, or whenever you start to worry about what's next- whenever your plans are changing- don't stress or get anxious or get out a pen and start making plan B. When you're feeling disappointed and let down because you're waiting for something that may never be, or you start to feel the threads of jealousy tugging your heart away from Him...

Stop. Pray.

That's the challenge. Instead of seeking to control, seek the God of miracles.

(A Note: This prayer was in part inspired by the St. Andrew novena, which is a prayer in the Catholic tradition. It is changed quite a bit... but I think that understanding the idea of a "novena" can be a great resource for even my non-Catholic friends. The St. Andrew novena is meant to be prayed 15 times per day every day of Advent, and has resulted in many miracles. 

Personally, I don't believe that the prayer itself is responsible for the miracles, but being in intentional, heartfelt prayer 15 times a day shows a real dedication and sincerity, and helps to center our souls on regular conversation with God. )

Other Resources:

We see examples of God disrupting human plans throughout the Bible. Some of these stories are more cautionary tales, telling us what not to do when God sends us a different direction, and some are great examples of steadfast faith. 

Reading through these has really made a difference to me- just look at what amazing things God has done through the lives of people who are willing (or a little less willing) to follow His plan: 

Noah: Genesis 6
Abraham: Genesis 17
Moses: Exodus 2 (and not only his story- think of the plans of his momma!)
Esther: Esther 1
David: 1 Samuel 16

What stories help remind you that His plan is the best plan?

How do you find peace, even in such an uncertain world?

This post is part of a little Advent series- you can see my post on Advent Hope here: 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Expectation and Hope

I've noticed that since beginning this infertility journey, Advent takes on a different feeling. Advent makes me almost... melancholy.

Which I realize seems very silly.

After all, this is the season of light! Of hope and peace and joy and love. Of Emmanuel come to earth, God with us. God with us.

But that doesn't change the fact that Advent is also, in the most human terms, the time when the world waits for a birth.

The whole season is centered around a baby, around maternity. A very special baby, and a miraculous maternity, but even so...

It's hard.

And then of course, this season is full of seeing lots of relatives, watching families grow (and, if you're in my family, at least one soon-to-be mama every year), of people asking when it will be your turn, the far-away relatives with another little smile added to the photo card...

This is a difficult season.

In fact, last December, I didn't put out a single post on this little blog. Not one. I would think that it was in part because things were busy, but I also know that I was dealing with an Advent of infertility for the first time, and those waters were hard to navigate.

This year, I decided that I want to be more intentional about not just surviving Advent, but celebrating it. Cherishing it. Growing through it.

The first week of Advent is often considered the week of Hope. 

Me and hope, we've had our hard times.

See, hope can hurt, can disappoint, and can devastate.

But often, that's when I know that my hope isn't in the right place. God never wants us to trust solely on the things of this earth. It can (and will) all be taken from us. That's the painful truth. I mean, just look at Elizabeth in the book of Luke. She was barren and her prayers were answered. She got the miracle. And thirty years later, her pride and joy and only son, her miraculous son, was beheaded by Herod. Not a happy ending. Life is painful, but we know that God's plan is worked out even in our pain.

Our hope shouldn't be a worldly hope, but should instead be the hope that comes from the knowledge that our God is good, and that He has died to save us.

I don't know that I'll ever have a child. I don't know. There are many who never have children, people more deserving and stable and wonderful and faithful than I am. It may never happen.

But whether or not I have a baby, the goodness of God won't change.

I can wait expectantly, because I know that He loves me and will work great things in my life, and will work great things through me. I know that what seems to be a closed door could very well be an amazing and unexpected opportunity. My expectations are often way off.

I'm going to go ahead and issue a challenge.

Because I'm just so challenging.

I can go on and on about hope (because it's been one theme that's resurfaced quite a few times this year). But I want to challenge you to go and spend some time in the truth this week- finding hope through God's word.

The Challenge:

This week, read the book of Romans. Yep, the whole thing. It's a long book, I know, but there's so much about hope in there.

And then to make it sink in even further...

I've found the SOAP method to be really influential for me in my Bible study. Of course, you can choose how intensive you want to make this study, but be intentional about it.

S-Scripture. If you have the time, you could write out all 16 chapters, or you could choose two or three verses that stick out to you to write down. Writing out the verses helps me to remember them even better.

O- Observations. Note anything that sticks out to you, anything you have questions about, anything that you notice.

A- Application. What can you apply from this section? How can you grow from what the Bible is saying here? What needs to change in your actions or attitude?

P- Prayer. Pray over what you've learned, over the challenges you found, and pray about how to apply the chapter or verse to your life.

Other Resources:

If you're struggling to conceive, I'd recommend reading what Sara says in this interview about hope (and while you're at it, check out her blog. She's got a firm foundation of faith in the midst of the storm. And you know what? Just consider it an early Christmas present to yourself and buy her book- Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet).

You can also check out some messages about hope here.

Edited To Include: Ann Voskamp posted this powerful message about hope, too... (my favorite quote? "Tears are never a sign of weakness. Tears are always the sign of an open heart."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell the Story

I think that most of us are familiar with Psalm 107- at least the beginning lines.

... but take a second to read the next verse-

That's what we're doing, isn't it?

Often, when people ask what I do for a hobby, or ask about things I really enjoy, I sort of mumble under my breath... "Well, and I have a little blog... it's nothing really."

Blogging is kind of a weird thing, isn't it? Sharing our lives with the world, spending time peering into the journals of other people and making friends you only see through screens? And for what, really? I know that I've spent tons of time finding just the right image, editing that post, planning that series, and the posts I'm proudest of often are read by all of twenty people and I think, was that really worth it? 


I think it is worth it.

This little piece of the internet- this little space where I share my thoughts and my struggles- it's a testament to the goodness of God in my life.

This is giving thanks, in a small way.

This is telling my redemption story, the story of how I'm messy and broken and fight hard against God but He holds me anyway, loves me anyway.

I'm telling the story.

Over Thanksgiving (well, and any holiday, really), I often find myself being tolerant. You know? Families are wonderful, but there are jagged edges. Tension. Disagreements barely under the surface. I tolerate these other messy, broken people, because family and holidays.

And when I'm just tolerating, I really don't feel anything akin to transparency. To vulnerability. I don't share my story because my story is messy and personal and... mine.

But isn't that part of giving thanks?

To say, "Here. This is how God has done a great thing in me,"- to show the broken parts and the "ongoing projects" and how God is love and human perfection isn't real but He loves us anyway- isn't that thanksgiving? The looking back?

Yeah, life is so messy and broken and has lots of jagged edges. I'm far from "there" yet. Still growing, still learning, clinging on to the little tiny bit of trust I've somehow found in my sinful heart. But God's done a great thing in me, and He'll keep doing great things in me, and He's given me this day to come closer to Him and try again.

And that is something to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Relationship Red Flags

Even though we're often surprised by the unexpected, and even though there isn't really such a thing as "The One," I do believe that there is such a thing as the wrong one.

There are red flags.

There are warning signs, things that should tip you off that maybe this person isn't right for you.

First and foremost, dating someone who isn't the same faith as you are, that's a big red flag. Your values will be different than his, your background and history and priorities and understanding of some fundamentals will be different. And trust me, it causes problems. Red flag. 

Our friends are often the reflections of ourselves. If his friends don't like you, it's a warning sign that he may be acting differently around you- that he's not being true to himself. And if your friends don't like him, find out why. If it's something superficial (he stepped on her toes in third grade and didn't apologize), that's one thing- but if it's something bigger, be open and receptive to what your friend has to say.

You decide how you allow yourself to be treated in a relationship. If he makes you feel bad about yourself, even in the guise of teasing or joking around, tell him. And don't tolerate it. You are a beautiful person on the outside and the inside, and you are a child of the Most High God. You deserve respect and to be treated with kindness.

... including his parents or your parents. Disrespect for authority shows immaturity, defiance, arrogance, and trouble submitting to God. None of those things are healthy in a relationship. Down the road, if you marry him, chances are that he'll start seeing you as some sort of authority figure and resent you, or he'll just act like a spoiled child. Going against "the man" might seem cool or socially informed or whatever, but it's a sign that there are underlying issues here.

We've talked about this already a bit- but seriously. Not being yourself around this guy is a red flag. It signals that you're not really meshing well- your personalities or senses of humor or conversational styles just don't match up. That's okay. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, or with him. But it does mean that pursuing this relationship probably isn't a great thing. You should be a better, more true version of yourself when you're with this person- but you shouldn't change into someone you're not.

And, of course, if he's violent, abusive, emotionally damaging, if he yells at you or hurts you, if he tries to violate the boundaries you've determined for yourself, stay away. I wish that it didn't need to be said, but unfortunately, we still live in a fallen world, and it happens. Don't think that it won't happen to you- be prepared, and get help if you need it.

I'm all for giving people chances- my life is one big huge second chance- but I also believe in guarding our hearts, in protecting ourselves. Here's the thing- you have to decide these things for yourself.

Maybe you see a red flag, but you're going to proceed. That's up to you and God. But I know that had I gotten some better advice as a young woman (or actually taken some of the advice I was given!), I could have avoided lots of experiences that took a long time to recover from.

What do you consider to be a Relationship Red Flag? 

-    -    -    -    -

Monday, November 24, 2014

How I Use My Cleaning Pages, and December 2015 Dailies {Free Printable}

The trouble with cleaning checklists, at least for me, is that they always make me feel so... defeated. See, in this stage of my little life, I don't always use the kitchen every day (or even every week!), there aren't any "kids rooms" to clean, and honestly, vacuuming every other day just doesn't need to happen. But then those unchecked boxes stare at me whispering, "Fail. Fail. Fail."

I dislike unchecked boxes.

So, instead of using a to-do list, I use a "cleaning record" system. This way, I have a list of what needs to be done, and a record of the last time I did it. I can see what hasn't been done in a while, and decide if it warrants some actual action on my part (ie, "is it bad enough?").

I copy-catted a DIYFish style chart, added in the cleaning tasks that should be done at least monthly, if not weekly, and folded it so it fits in the binder. Most daily tasks (like "start laundry" and "feed the turtle") go into my daily pages or are part of a routine, so I didn't need to add them here.

If I've done a task to completion, I put a dot in the box. For times when I just spot sweep or spot mop (or if I don't worry about moving furniture to sweep or vacuum), I put an "S" in the box- which usually means that I'll need to do a more thorough job later on. 

We have one bathroom upstairs and one downstairs, so if I get to one bathroom but not the other, I'll put a "D" or a "U" for "downstairs" or "upstairs." If I've done both, then I'll mark it with a dot. 

So, at a glance, I can see that I haven't done the entryway in a while (and it desperately needs to be done!), and I haven't dusted at all... but instead of feeling guilty, I can decide that whether or not it needs to be done. If not, no worries. 

My little chart also shows me that most of the time, I tackle a bunch of tasks all on the same day (mainly on my day off). It works well for me right now, but during the busy summer season, I may want to try to get one or two small chores done a day so that I can keep on track. 

Do you keep a cleaning list? What's your system?

In other planning news, I started actually using a schedule (I know!), so the daily printable pages for this month reflect that. And with December being such a busy month for most of us, I figured you wouldn't mind too much. 

A note about printing: These pages are 8.5 x 5.5 sized, so they should fit in Martha Stewart small format binders, A5 size binders, and Classic size binders. You may need to trim a little.

You will want to print these double sided, flipping on the short end of the paper (or top-to-bottom printing). They'll look a little crazy at first (i.e. the pages don't seem like they're in order) but it should work just fine. After printing, cut the pages in half, and three-hole punch the edge you cut.

Oh, and if you're looking for monthly calendars for 2015 (coming before we know it!) my calendar pages are also available as a free printable!

Happy planning!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Expectations: I Dumped My Husband After Our Third Date {Guest Post}

I dumped my husband, Tom, after our third date.

It was obvious from the first time I met him that he had a genuine love for God. My best friend's husband grew up with him and raved about his integrity and his involvement in the community. During our first few dates, I discovered he was also intelligent and fun. He made it clear that he was interested in me and that he wanted to pursue a relationship.

But he didn't look like the guys I was usually attracted to, and he didn't make me feel like the other guys, either. I'd spent years pining after guys who gave me that feeling of butterflies in my stomach. Sure, those guys were usually vague about their intentions, and very rarely committed to anything beyond coffee, but how I loved that butterfly feeling!

There were no butterflies with Tom. I liked super-tall, slender guys and he was 5'11 with an athletic build. He was loud. He had funny glasses. And he was bald! My hands didn't get clammy at the sight of him, and I didn't get that nervous feeling of anticipation around him. I immediately decided a relationship wouldn't work, and only agreed to go on the second and third dates to appease my best friend.

So when he asked me out for a 4th date, I said no. I felt confident in my decision until I told my friend Kate about it.

Kate looked me in the eyes and said, "You've been waiting 29 years for a godly guy who wants to pursue you. Now you've found one and you've dumped him because he doesn't look like you thought he would! Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the butterfly feeling you felt with the other guys was actually anxiety? You're not feeling that with Tom because he's made his intentions clear and you don't have to wonder what he's thinking."

Her words hit me hard and I knew she was right. I went home to pray and experienced one of the few times in my life where I clearly heard God speak to me. I knew 100% that I would regret it if I let this man walk out of my life.

Tom was gracious enough to give me another chance. Once I started looking at him for who he was (and not how he looked), he suddenly became extremely attractive and handsome to me. We were married 6 months later!

Since then, I've noticed that many of my single girlfriends are making the same mistake I almost did. They are praying for godly men to pursue them, but they immediately disqualify anyone who is not their "type." I recently watched a friend decline a match on an online dating service for the sole reason that the guy was too short at 5'7". He shared her faith, her interests, and they even had several real-life friends in common. But she wants a tall guy. (By the way, she's only 4'11").

Please understand me: I'd never imply that women should get involved in a long-term or serious relationship with someone they find unattractive. But I am suggesting that single women need to allow time for physical attraction to develop.

How much time is appropriate? That's between you and the Lord. In my case, the attraction didn't develop until I opened myself up to the possibility of a relationship with Tom on that 4th date. Someone women may need more time, and some may need a little less. My point is that you need to make sure you're approaching your time together with an open mind and open heart.

I realize that every situation is different. Not every man will be clear about his intentions like Tom was. Many of you have never had a man pursue you.

However, most women know at least one or two godly single men who, for whatever reason, aren't "boyfriend material." Maybe they're too geeky, too athletic, too short, too tall, or too whatever. You enjoy their friendship and you like hanging out in groups with them, but you are sending out a vibe that says "I'm not interested, so don't even think about asking me out."

Ladies, let me challenge you to make a conscious effort to take down those walls. This doesn't mean you start flirting or being forward. It means you show your interest in them as human beings, as fellow believers in Christ. You don't let your lack of romantic attraction color your interactions with them. It means that you give them a fair chance before you decide you're not interested in starting a relationship with them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How have you seen this play out in your life or in the lives of your friends? How do you decide when you've given someone a fair chance? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Lisa Newton writes over at Amateur Nester, where she provides support, encouragement, and awesome resources for couples going through infertility. I've really been blessed by her interviews with couples going through this infertility thing- I've found a great community and great hope there!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expectations: Giving God the Reigns {Guest Post}

 Marie* ran into Joey at a bookstore. They recognized each other from the Christian club on campus. The sparks were obvious, but when Joey asked Marie out on a date she wasn’t sure she should say yes. She knew he was a new Christian, and being mature Believer herself, she didn’t think he could offer her the Spiritual leadership she was looking for in a partner.
An online dating service matched Mitchell with Joy. He found her big smile and love for the Lord attractive and immediately began pursuing her. Joy thought Mitchell seemed like a great man. But, he was older than her self-imposed limit and he had a young daughter from a previous relationship. Joy wasn’t quite sure he lined up with her expectations.

Ryan and Christy had been friends for ages. Then, Ryan started to sense that Christy was interested in more. He thought she was beautiful and he genuinely enjoyed being with her, however, aspects of her personality and interests didn’t completely line up with the qualities he wanted in a wife. Yes, they shared a love for Christ, had common interests, and similar life goals, but she could be shy: more introverted and less outgoing then him. He wasn’t sure he wanted a wife of those qualities.

I've been married for ten years, so when Adrie asked me to do a guest post on dating I had to laugh a bit. Dating seems like eons ago. However, after reflecting on her request I realized that my married status has given me an interesting perspective on dating. Because I married young I've had the ability to watch my friends and my sister navigate the dating scene from the outside looking in. This perspective, I believe, has given me some insight that I may not have seen had I been dating myself these past few years.

The above scenarios are all real. They are just three examples of many I could have posted. The first story is actually the story of my husband and myself. The other two are couples that invited RJ (my husband) and I along on their dating journey. Both couples are now happily married (to each other). However, as I insinuated above, they almost weren't. All three of these relationships almost failed before they began. For one major reason: Unmet, Self-Realized Expectations. Let me explain.

Christians are hugely fond of the cliche: God moves in mysterious ways. We laugh as we say it, believing the words are true, but genuinely hoping they aren't necessarily true for us. Particularly when it comes to our love life.

I believe it’s easier for many of us to give up control of our education, of our living situation or even of our careers than it is to relinquish control of our dating life. Trusting the Lord with our hearts is scary. Giving the Lord control of our romantic relationships leaves us vulnerable. Because what if what He has for us is different than we anticipated?

How many of you, and be honest now, have a list that looks something like this:

  • He should be older than me, but no more than five years older.
  • She must love mountain biking and backpacking, otherwise we will have nothing in common
  • I know people make mistakes, but a divorce or children from an unwed union is an absolute no-go for me
  • She must be college educated; preferably have a Masters like myself
  • Etc., etc. etc.

We use these rules and guidelines to maintain control over our romantic relationships. Control feels good. But you know what control does – it keeps us from hearing the voice of the Lord. It keeps us from the one that He might have chosen for us.

If we are to believe the equally beloved cliché: The Lord wants His best for us. (And he does!) Than we need to relinquish that control. We need to allow Him to guide our romantic relationships.

Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Especially when it comes to dating. The Lord loves you – He will not match you with someone you’ll be miserable with. He may match you with someone different than you originally expected, but it will be the person that is best suited to you. Don’t miss that special person, the love of your life, because you’re chasing your own self-imposed expectations. (Psalm 143:8-10)

My husband may have been a young Christian but his fervor for the Lord impassioned me when I was dry. He still many not know much Scripture by memory but he did, and continues to, continually lead me to the cross. He is very much a spiritual leader albeit different type than I originally thought I needed.

As for the other stories I shared, Joy agreed to go out with Mitchell. She was skeptical at first but it took only three dates for her to know that he was right for her. They've been married for over a year now and are head-over-heels for each other. Ask her now about their age difference being a problem and she’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

Ryan almost didn't ask Christy out. He really thought he wanted someone with a bigger personality. Five years after their wedding vows he now knows a big personality would have been completely wrong for him. Two big personalities in one household can make things crowded. Ryan is smitten, devoted, and thankful for his strong, peace-loving wife who compliments his boisterous personality perfectly.

(One last thing, listening to the Holy Spirit takes practice. You’ll hear His voice in prayer, through the Word, and through the guidance of spiritual friendships. Part of learning to hear His voice also involves trail and error. So take risks and seek opportunities. Is a friend encouraging you to try online dating? Give it go! Does your mom want to set you up on a blind date? Why not! That awkwardly cute guy at Bible study is staring at you? Go say Hi. You never know whom the Lord may have in store.)

Anna is a wife to RJ, a mommy to two busy little blondie boys, an outdoor enthusiast, and a blogger over at Two Cent Sparrow. She writes about travel, camping, raising little guys, adoption, books, fashion, and more. If you're planning on doing any camping with little ones this summer, I strongly recommend that you head over and pin her posts on camping with kids- they're brilliant!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Day In The Little Life: A Fall Friday

So, I'm a bit behind (okay, very behind), but Team Whitaker is hosting a link-up of posts about regular ol' daily life. And since it's been a while since I last told you about a day in my little life and I'm a big tag-along-er, I figured, why not?

We actually went to bed at about 9:30 last night. Zeke was wiped and I was wiped and sleep sounded really, really good. I was up at 5:30 because Zeke flipped over in his sleep and whacked my shoulder, but I settled back in and slept until 7:30. With dreams of registration check-in dancing in my head.

The morning has started off really well- staff prayer, cup of coffee, the usual. To the office I go, and answer seven e-mails (my life is thrilling, I know.) Then get a call from a youth pastor saying that she's registering five campers online right now... for the retreat... that begins at 8 pm today. <Sigh>.

Coffee is gone. The guy on the radio says that the lake is now hard enough to walk on, which means that it's really really cold out there.

I spend some time looking at screens like this...

And it's lunch time. I get to sit next to Zeke at the long table, and we talk with the others about the day and the radio and which lake is frozen over and if we're going to send Christmas ornaments this year. More coffee and it's back to the office.

I answer some phone calls, check the e-mail, and remove a cancellation from the system. I make name tags for the adults coming for the retreat, print them out.

My desk starts looking more like this...

To be fair, three of these were here from yesterday.

We have some high school volunteers for the weekend, and they arrive in all their Axe-smelling, unwashed glory. I have them cut the name tags and put them into sleeves, then alphabetize by last name. I prep the counselor t-shirt bin, answer more e-mail, run a few more reports and print them.

I assign adult housing and make door signs.

I get a phone call that we had two cancellations, and an e-mail that we are adding three more campers. I run the reports again and print off new ones.

My little nephew (age 3) and his mama call me to tell me that he pooped on the potty today and where's "Un-el" Zeke? He at work? Why he work? Can he take me for da ride when I come to your house? I congratulate him on the bowel movement, tell him I love him and bye, and reluctantly hang up the phone.

I run upstairs to the main printer and pick up all the stuff I printed. I shred the first set of reports, cut door signs, grab a thing of tape, and head over to the adult housing building.

And see these guys in the parking lot. They barely glance at me.

I hang up door signs, then build a fire so I can light it quickly around 7:30, just before everyone arrives.

I find the name tags the kids finished, and re-cut about half of them that look like they were cut with a chainsaw. Apparently we need to work on fine motor skills in our high schools...

It's five o'clock, so I take a break to write all of this down, surf the web, and confer with the staff member doing housing assignments for the kids (because changes. I do not envy her that job).

I say "hi" to my mom over Facebook chat- she responds with a string of emojis. I say goodbye and sign out.

It's suddenly almost 6, and I have mucho to do yet. I run upstairs and grab the medic bin, replace the forms, and clean it out because how many Skittles can get into one Rubbermaid container carted around by the camp nurse? (Answer, 14.)

Supper time. Counselors are arriving (and reuniting- some haven't seen each other since summer), and the screeching and running and hugging is a little overwhelming but I have to get over that because dude. 130 middle schoolers in t-minus 2 hours. I sit next to Zeke, and we hold hands under the table. It's like a date!

Then it's back to the office. I do a little tidy up, file some paperwork, and suddenly it's 7. Almost show time.

A pastor shows up. He's very early. He brought five campers, and can they move in yet? I tell them nope, direct them to the board games. I get the medic check in ready- set up the table, lay out highlighters and sharpies and post-its, lists and medical forms- and set up the chairs. I stick the check-in report on my Welcome Center desk, and light the fire in the adult building.

7:20. Last cup of coffee, and I figure I'd better go pee before they all arrive and I can't get away. That finished, I get the medic for the weekend all settled in and ready to go- answer her questions, show her the binder and explain how we record everything.

30 kids show up at 7:50.

We had a youth leader expressly ask that she be the counselor for her bunch of kids, and they show up without her. She's not coming. I run back and tell the housing person that we'll need to divvy up 12 little girls into other cabins. I check my e-mail quick- the youth leader didn't e-mail me or call me to tell me she wasn't coming.

We get a rush of three "big churches" all at once, bringing 70 of the campers all at one time. And they are loud, and all want to know what cabin they're in and can they be in the same cabin as Suzy/Hallie, Jill???

Three extra adults show up- one who I should have known was coming but didn't register, one who I had no idea about, and a bus driver (surprise!)... none of them registered, but all expect a bed. I whip up a couple name tags and open up an extra room. Glad I saved that room.

A child gets his t-shirt and exclaims, "Oh my gosh! These shirts are so swag!!!"

There's a lull, followed by a group of 30, followed by a lull. A camper says to his counselor, "You're the best counselor ever!!" as he walks by with his group. So, bonding is going well, from the looks of it.

Check in is over, but we're waiting for 10 campers- I call them. Their group got lost, and I direct the bus to the entrance. They're all checked in.

I take a minute to take stock- added 5 "surprise" campers, had 4 more cancellations (1 sick and 3 just didn't come). I check on my medic, she's doing fine and getting organized, but has a deer-in-the-headlights look. I don't blame her.

The kids head to chapel, and after clearing it with my medic, I follow for about 10 minutes or so. Then it's off to bed for me, at 11:00 pm.

Just another day in paradise. Or ministry. Or at Camp. Whatever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Sick Day and Some Niblets.


I woke up with the beginnings of a cold sore (do you get those? awful.), and the headache and almost-like-a-fever symptoms that usually come with it. Oh, and outside looked like this...


Pretty, yes. But I'd rather just stay in bed all cozy and warm...

And since I didn't have any immediate things to do at work, I decided to take a sick day.

And really, I just wanted an excuse to lay on the couch all day and watch Gilmore Girls. So I did.

I actually napped for a lot of the day (while the stupid cold sore manifested itself in all it's nasty glory... yuck), until Zeke came home to keep me company.

He made me this...

It had three peppermints in it. Yum. Talk about happy!

And we watched this...

Yes. There is a "show" on Netflix (the Wii streaming kind, anyway) called "Fireplace for Your Home." You can choose a fireplace with festive yuletide music, or without music. And there's a fish tank one, too! Who knew?

Definitely a worthwhile sick day.

And now for something completely different...

Some Niblets

Around the blog lately...

I've been getting lots of comments/e-mails about my post about posting baby bump pictures on Facebook. Thank you all for your warm wishes and prayers- it means a lot.

We're still working through my series on singleness and dating from a Christian perspective. Somehow, what was planned to be a four-week series exploded... it's a huge topic, so I suppose I should have know that would happen...

Around the blog formerly...

I've been seeing lots of hits on my Budget Bride series recently! Looks like the wedding planning has begun!

And around this time a year ago, I used a carpet shampooer and thought deep thoughts about it. This year, I have a new vacuum cleaner- one with a clear canister, and the same philosophy still applies.

Around the web this week....

I'm notorious for apologizing for "the mess" when people come over... it drives Zeke crazy... so I loved this post.

And if you haven't seen/heard about Kim Kardashian's picture on the interwebs, don't go looking for it- I'll give you the Cliff Notes: Kim Kardashian posed mostly nude for a magazine cover, showing off her bottom and obviously Photoshopped waist. Now go read this awesome response - it's worth it.

This cold weather is reminding me that it won't be long until Advent, then Christmas... and I haven't thought of any co-worker gifts for this year! Last year I made cute little felt ornaments... they're somewhere in this post here...  And I think I'd like to do something similar. Any ideas?

And apparently I'm not the only one under the weather--- see more illness inspired PHFR over at

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Expectations: Thank God for Second Chances

Growing up, I had an image of how my life was going to go. How my marriage would look.

I would get up in the morning in the city, kiss my 5'10" husband good-bye as he headed to the office, briefcase in hand. We'd come home from work and he'd tell me about his day, with clients or business partners or the board or something to do with architecture... something "office-y." We'd have a pleasant life.

To put it simply, none of that happened.

My marriage looks completely different than I expected.

I get up in the morning to the sound of wild turkeys in the woods near my house. I kiss my 6'5" husband good-bye as he heads to the shop, and then we see each other again about 5 minutes later at morning prayer... because we work together. He tells me about his day, with Roto-Rooters and sockets and wrenches and boat hoists that needed a new cable.

And I don't have a pleasant life. I have an amazing, vibrant life.

See, I had expectations. Nothing about my marriage meets my old expectations. My marriage is nothing that I expected; it's more than I could ever have dreamed. 

God had more in store for me.

I think so many of us have lists of what we are looking for in a relationship. Whether the list is a mental one or a physical piece of paper, we have expectations. Some of these expectations are positive and often pretty obvious: we expect honesty, we expect loyalty. They might not even make "the list" because they're just a given. But then there are other expectations.

The trouble is, by asking people to measure up to our lists of qualities and qualifications, we miss out on amazing opportunities, on getting to know amazing people.

Zeke asked me to the prom when we were in high school.

I said no.

Because he didn't match my list.

Thank God for second chances.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Does "The One" Exist?

Destiny and star-crossed lovers and finding your soul mate. It all sounds so romantic and magical, right?

But is it real?

Is there really such a thing as "The One?" 

Often, when someone says that they're looking for "The One," or their "soul mate," what they're really saying is that they're looking for the perfect person. The one who "completes" them. The ideal man, the perfect woman. 

And I'm here to tell you- No. That doesn't exist. 

The trouble with seeking "The One" is that our expectations are often drastically different than what God places in our lives. No one is perfect. 

I also believe that had my life taken me in a different direction and I'd never met Zeke, I would probably be married now. To someone else. 

There's no one else in the world who is exactly the same as Zeke, but I'm sure there are other people out there whose personalities would compliment mine, whose values are similar, who I could have married. 

But I fell in love with and married Zeke. 

I firmly believe that when you get married, that person becomes "The One." 

Are they perfect? No. 

Do they "complete you?" No. 

But you have chosen to make that person "The One," your soulmate, forever and for always. That's what marriage is. 

When we put too much emphasis on finding our "soulmate," we run some pretty serious risks. 

The first is that we may miss out on a great relationship because of our own misguided expectations-- a good marriage doesn't consist of finding someone who fits all of our criteria.

The idea of "The One" also allows us to make excuses- if finding a soulmate is the ultimate goal, we can easily disregard marriage vows in search of that person. If our marriage becomes difficult or requires more work that we wanted, we can just chalk it up to the fact that he's not "The One." We thought he was, but he isn't, and can you really expect me to stay married to someone who just isn't my soulmate?! 

Yes. Because you decided who "The One" is in your life. 

You don't get married because you're soulmates, you become soulmates when you get married. 

It's a total shift from what our culture so often tells us. 

And it also puts a little less pressure on dating than we're used to. You're not out to find the one guy out of billions. You're just out to find one guy. 

It's not as romantic, is it? Not as dramatic, not as flashy. 

But marriage isn't flashy and dramatic. It's work and sacrifice. If your dating life is filled with drama, won't you be disappointed after being married a year, five years, or thirty years?

Drama only goes so deep. A lasting, loving, meaningful connection with another person- that's what you're looking towards.

And trust me, the drama isn't that great. You won't miss it.

So, in short, no, I don't think that "The One" is out there waiting for you. But I do think that you will find one who is right for you, even if he's different that what you expected.


This post is part of a series on dating and singleness for the young Christian.  To check out other posts in the series, click on the link above. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dear Friend Who Posted Bump Pictures on Facebook

Dear Friend,

You're expecting a little one, coming so soon. I'm sure that meeting that little baby simultaneously seems like a lifetime away for you, and like it's all happening so fast. I hope that you're really enjoying this pregnancy- I hope it hasn't left you feeling too tired or too yucky.

I asked a different friend, one who's also expecting, how she was feeling a couple of weeks ago, and she said, "I feel pregnant."

I smiled and listened to her complain just a bit, but it wasn't til I got home later that evening when the thought rolling around in my mind finally came to the surface.

I don't know what "feeling pregnant" means, really. I've never experienced it. What if I never know how that feels?

Today, you posted a smiling picture of yourself- two actually, to compare your baby bump now with the way you looked twelve weeks ago.

I took a moment to look at that picture, to notice the sparkle in your eyes and hand on your abdomen, right over the little one being knit together inside of you. What a miracle.

And if I'm being completely honest, yes. I felt a twinge of jealousy. The kind of jealousy that makes me feel like I've been knocked in the stomach after playing Red Rover on the playground. Because even though I'm working on finding the contentment in the moments now, even though I'm fighting hard to focus on my own path, I still think "When me, Lord?" in my confident moments, and "Ever me, Lord?" when I'm feeling less sure.

See, I don't know that I'll ever smile into a camera with my hand resting on a baby bump.

I know that God works incredible miracles every day, I know that I could live the next miracle. But I also know that God's ways aren't the same as my ways, and the miracle I'm waiting for may look much different than I expected.

Yes, there was pain in seeing that picture of you, friend- my heart aches just a little for the things that may never be in my life, for the plans that may never be, for the names that may never be spoken, for the family I may never have.

I hope you don't feel any guilt when I say that your announcement, that your celebration, hurt my heart a little. Pain is unavoidable, friend. It comes to us all. I know that you've lived your fair share of it, too, in ways that are different than mine, but you know those feelings of disappointment and loss as well as I do.

So please, post those pictures to Facebook. Show the world your joy at bringing new life into your family, your excitement.

My heart aches, right now, yes, but I'm aching because I know how immensely blessed you are. I'm sure you know that, too. Life is always good, always a gift.

And know that when I see those pictures, even though I hurt a little for myself and my circumstances right now, I treasure the fact that you've chosen to share a little bit of the little life inside of you with us. With me.

- Love, A Friend Still Waiting

This post is linked up with Amateur Nester

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